Classic History Books


Great Britain and Her Queen - by Anne E. Keeling

English royality, the Prince Consort had retained an undisturbed perception of much that was not quite
satisfactory in the qualifications of the despotic chief of the French State for his difficult post. Thus it is

without surprise that we find the Queen writing in 1859, as to a plan suggested by the Emperor: "The

whole scheme is the often-attempted one, that England should take the chestnuts from the fire, and

assume the responsibility of making proposals which, if they lead to war, we should be in honour bound

to support by arms." The Emperor had once said of Louis Philippe, that he had fallen "because he was

not sincere with England"; it looked now as though he were steering full on the same rock, for his own

sincerity was flawed by dangerous reservations.

England remained an interested spectator, but a spectator only, while the French ruler played that
curiously calculated game of his, which did so much towards insuring the independence of Italy and its

consolidation into one free monarchy. It was no disinterested game, as the cession of Nice and Savoy to

France by Piedmont would alone have proved. It was daring to the point of rashness; for as a French

general of high rank said, there needed but the slightest check to the French arms, and "it was all up with

the dynasty!" Yet the "idea" which furnished the professed motive for the Emperor's warlike action was

one dear to English sympathies, and many an English heart rejoiced in the solid good secured for Italy,

though without our national co-operation. There was a proud compensating satisfaction in the knowledge

that, when a crisis of unexampled and terrible importance had come in our own affairs, England had

perforce dealt with it single-handed and with supreme success.

Those who can remember the fearful summer of 1857 can hardly recall its wild events without some
recurrence of the thrill of horror that ran through the land, as week after week the Indian news of mutiny

and massacre reached us. It was a surprise to the country at large, more than to the authorities, who were

informed already that a spirit of disaffection had been at work among our native troops in Bengal, and

that there was good reason to believe in the existence of a conspiracy for sapping the allegiance of these

troops. Later events have left little doubt that such a conspiracy did exist, and that its aim was the total

subversion of British power. Our advance in Hindostan had been rapid, the changes following on it

many, and not always such as the Oriental mind could understand or approve. Early in the reign, in 1847,

an energetic Governor-General, Lord Dalhousie, went out to India, who introduced railways, telegraphs,

and cheap postage, set on foot a system of native education, and vigorously fought the ancient iniquities

of suttee, thuggee, and child-murder. Perhaps his aggressive energy worked too fast, too fierily; perhaps

his peremptory reforms, not less than his high-handed annexations of the Punjaub, Oude, and other native

States, awakened suspicion in the mind of the Hindoo, bound as he was by the immemorial fetters of

caste, and dreading with a shuddering horror innovations that might interfere with its distinctions; for to

lose caste was to be outlawed among men and accursed in the sight of God.

Lord Canning, the successor of Lord Dalhousie, entered on his governor-generalship at a moment full of
"unsuspected peril"; for the disaffected in Hindostan had so misread the signs of the times as to believe

that England's sun was stooping towards its setting, and that the hour had come in which a successful

blow could be struck, against the foreign domination of a people alien in faith as in blood from

Mohammedan and Buddhist and Brahmin, and apt to treat all alike with the scorn of superiority. A trivial

incident, which was held no trifle by the distrustful Sepoys, proved to be the spark that kindled a vast

explosion. The cartridges supplied for use with the Enfield rifle, introduced into India in 1856, were

greased; and the end would have to be bitten off when the cartridge was used. A report was busily

circulated among the troops that the grease used was cow's fat and hog's lard, and that these substances

were employed in pursuance of a deep-laid design to deprive every soldier of his caste by compelling

him to taste these defiling things. Such compulsion would hardly have been less odious to a Mussulman

 

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