|[1 -- Introduction: we know too little about our Indian empire]||*NOTES BY VINCENT A. SMITH,
|We have always thought it strange that, while the history of the *Spanish empire in America* is familiarly known to all the nations of Europe, the great actions of our countrymen in the East should, even among ourselves, excite little interest. Every schoolboy knows who imprisoned Montezuma, and who strangled Atahualpa. But we doubt whether one in ten, even among English gentlemen of highly cultivated minds, can tell who won the *battle of Buxar*, who perpetrated the massacre of Patna, whether Sujah Dowlah ruled in Oude or in Travancore, or whether *Holkar* was a Hindoo or a Mussulman. Yet the victories of *Cortes* were gained over savages who had no letters, who were ignorant of the use of metals, who had not broken in a single animal to labour, who wielded no better weapons than those which could be made out of sticks, flints, and fish-bones, who regarded a horse-soldier as a monster, half man and half beast, who took a harquebusier for a sorcerer, able to scatter the thunder and lightning of the skies. The people of India, when we subdued them, were ten times as numerous as the Americans whom the Spaniards vanquished, and were at the same time quite as highly civilised as the victorious Spaniards. They had reared cities larger and fairer than Saragossa or Toledo, and buildings more beautiful and costly than the cathedral of Seville. They could show bankers richer than the richest firms of Barcelona or Cadiz, viceroys whose splendour far surpassed that of Ferdinand the Catholic, myriads of cavalry and long trains of artillery which would have astonished the Great Captain. It might have been expected, that every Englishman who takes any interest in any part of history would be curious to know how a handful of his countrymen, separated from their home by an immense ocean, subjugated, in the course of a few years, one of the greatest empires in the world. Yet, unless we greatly err, this subject is, to most readers, not only insipid, but positively distasteful.||
Every schoolboy does not know so much as Macaulay gave him credit for. The essayist makes too much display of his vast reading, and assumes that everybody has read as much as he had done.
Montezuma, the last King of Mexico in Central America, was defeated and imprisoned by Hernando Cortes, the Spanish conqueror, and died in 1520.
Atahualpa, the last Inca, or King, of Peru in South America, was treacherously captured and executed by Francisco Pizarro, another Spanish adventurer, in 1533.
The allusion is to the *massacre of Patna* in Oct. 1763, when Mr. Ellis and 147 others were slain by a German adventurer, Walter Reinhardt, nicknzmed Sumroo or Sombre, under the orders of the Nawab Mir Kasim (Cossim). The crime was avenged by the battle of Buxar in the following year, and Mir Kasim died in exile and poverty.
The Mexicans cannot justly be described as 'savages'; they had a peculiar civilization of their own, disfigured, it is true, by certain horrible customs; and they used a system of picture-writing or hieroglyphics.
A harquebusier (arquebusier) was a soldier armed with an old-fashioned gun (harquebuse) placed on a forked rest.
Macaulay expects his readers to understand allusions to the history of Spain. Ferdinand the Catholic, originally king of only the province of Aragon, had become master of all Spain before his death in 1516. During his reign America was discovered by Christopher Columbus. Ferdinand expelled from his dominions both Musalmans and Jews. Gonsalvo of Cordova, the Great Captain (d. 1515), was his most successful general. The essayist names five cities of Spain.
|Perhaps the fault lies partly with the historians. Mr. Mill's book, though it has undoubtedly great and rare merit, is not sufficiently animated and picturesque to attract those who read for amusement. Orme, inferior to no English historian in style and power of painting, is minute even to tediousness. In one volume he allots, on an average, a closely printed quarto page to the events of every forty-eight hours. The consequence is, that his narrative, though one of the most authentic and one of the most finely written in our language, has never been very popular, and is now scarcely ever read.||
James Mill, of the India Office, father of John Stuart Mill, the philosopher and economist, wrote the History of British India (1817).
Robert Orme, of the E. I. Company's Civil Service, was author of the History of the Military Transactions of the British Nation in Indostan from the year 1745 (publ. 1763, 1778), and other excellent historical works.
|We fear that the volumes before us will not much attract those readers whom Orme and Mill have repelled. The materials placed at the disposal of Sir John Malcolm by the late Lord Powis were indeed of great value. But we cannot say that they have been very skilfully worked up. It would, however, be unjust to criticise with severity a work which, if the author had lived to complete and revise it, would probably have been improved by condensation and by a better arrangement. We are more disposed to perform the pleasing duty of expressing our gratitude to the noble family to which the public owes so much useful and curious information.||
[This essay is officially a review of The Life of Robert Lord Clive: collected from the Family Papers, communicated by the Earl of Powis, by Major-General Sir John Malcolm, K.C.B. (3 vols. 8vo., London, 1836). --fwp]
Sir John Malcolm, of the E. I. Company's Civil Service, became Governor of Bombay in 1827. His Life of Robert Lord Clive, which Macaulay reviewed, still is the best book on the subject. He wrote several other important works. Clive's son, the second Baron of Plassey, was created Earl of Powis in 1804.
|The effect of the book, even when we make the largest allowance for the partiality of those who have furnished and of those who have digested the materials, is, on the whole, greatly to raise the character of Lord Clive. We are far indeed from sympathising with Sir John Malcolm, whose love passes the love of biographers, and who can see nothing but wisdom and justice in the actions of his idol. But we are at least equally far from concurring in the severe judgment of Mr. Mill, who seems to us to show less discrimination in his account of Clive than in any other part of his valuable work. Clive, like most men who are born with strong passions and tried by strong temptations, committed great faults. But every person who takes a fair and enlightened view of his whole career must admit that our island, so fertile in heroes and statesmen, has scarcely ever produced a man more truly great either in arms or in council.||.|
-- on to Section 2 -- "Lord Clive" index page -- Macaulay index page -- Glossary -- fwp's main page --