Classic History Books


Great Britain and Her Queen - by Anne E. Keeling

upon it. He came in time to save many a brave life that should yet do good service; but the noblest
Englishman of them all, the gentle, dauntless, chivalrous Sir Henry Lawrence, Governor of Oude, had

died from wounds inflicted by a rebel shell many weeks before, and lay buried in the stronghold for

whose safe keeping he had continued to provide in the hour and article of death. His spirit, however,

seemed yet to actuate the survivors. Havelock's march had been one succession of victories won against

enormous odds, and half miraculous; but even he could work no miracle, and his troops might merely

have shared a tragic fate with the long-tried defenders of Lucknow, but for the timely arrival of Sir Colin

Campbell with five thousand men more, to relieve in his turn the relieving force and place all the

Europeans in Lucknow in real safety. The news was received in England with a delight that was mingled

with mourning for the heroic and saintly Havelock, who sank and died on November 24th. A soldier

whose military genius had passed unrecognised and almost unemployed while men far his inferiors were

high in command, he had so more than profited by the opportunity for doing good service when it came,

that in a few months his name had become one of the dearest in every English home, a glory and a joy

for ever. It is rarely that a career so obscured by adverse fortune through all its course blazes into such

sunset splendour just at the last hour of life's day.

Those months which made the fame of Havelock had been filled with crime and horror. The first reports
of Sepoy outrages which circulated in England were undoubtedly exaggerated, but enough remains of

sickening truth as to the cruelties endured by English women and children at the hand of the mutineers to

account for the fury which filled the breasts of their avenging countrymen, and seemed to lend them

supernatural strength and courage, and, alas! in some instances, to merge that courage in ferocity. Delhi

had been deeply guilty, when the mutineers seized it, in respect of inhuman outrage on the helpless

non-combatants; but the story of Cawnpore is darker yet, and is still after all these years fresh in our

memories. A peculiar blackness of iniquity clings about it. That show of amity with which the Nana

Sahib responded to the summons of Sir Hugh Wheeler, the hard-pressed commanding officer in the city,

only that he might act against him; those false promises by which the little garrison, unconquerable by

any force, was beguiled to give itself up to mere butchery; the long captivity of the few scores of women

and children who survived the general slaughter, only, after many dreary days of painful suspense, to be

murdered in their prison-house as Havelock drew near the gates of Cawnpore: all these circumstances of

especial horror made men regard their chief instigator rather as one of the lower fiends masquerading in

human guise than as a fellow-creature moved by any motives common to men. It was perhaps well for

the fair fame of Englishmen that the Nana never fell into their hands, but saved himself by flight before

the soldiers of Havelock had looked into the slaughter-house all strewn with relics of his victims and

grimly marked with signs of murder, or had gazed shuddering at the dreadful well choked up with the

corpses of their countrywomen. It required more than common courage, justice, and humanity, to

withstand the wild demand for mere indiscriminating revenge which these things called forth. Happily

those highest in power did possess these rare qualities. Lord Canning earned for himself the nickname of

"Clemency Canning" by his perfect resoluteness to hold the balance of justice even, and unweighted by

the mad passion of the hour. Sir John (afterwards Lord) Lawrence, the Chief Commissioner of the

Punjaub, who, with his able subordinates, had saved that province at the very outset, and thereby in truth

saved India, was equally firm in mercy and in justice. The Queen herself, who had very early appreciated

the gravity of the situation and promoted to the extent of her power the speedy sending of aid and

reinforcement from England, thoroughly endorsed the wise and clement policy of the Governor-General.

Replying to a letter of Lord Canning's which deplored "the rabid and indiscriminate vindictiveness

abroad," Her Majesty wrote these words, which we will give ourselves the pleasure to quote entire: -

 

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