Karl Marx in the New-York Tribune 1857

Indian News

Source: New-York Daily Tribune, August 14, 1857;
Transcribed: by Tony Brown.

London, July 31, 1857

The last Indian mail, conveying news from Delhi up to the 17th June, and from Bombay up to the 1st of July, realizes the most gloomy anticipations. When Mr. Vernon Smith, the President of the Board of Control, first informed the House of Commons of the Indian revolt, he confidently stated that the next mail would bring the news that Delhi had been razed to the ground. The mail arrived, but Delhi was not yet “wiped out of the pages of history.” It was then said that the battery train could not be brought up before the 9th of June, and that the attack on the doomed city must consequently be delayed to that date. The 9th of June passed away without being distinguished by ally remarkable incident. On the 12th and 15th June some events occurred, but rather ill the opposite direction, Delhi being not stormed by the English, but the English being attacked by the insurgents, the repeated sorties of whom were, however, repulsed. The fall of Delhi is thus again postponed, the alleged cause being now no longer the sole want of siege-artillery, but General Barnard’s resolution to wait upon re-enforcements, as his forces — about 3,000 men — were totally inadequate to the capture of the ancient capital defended by 30,000 Sepoys, and possessed of all the military stores. The rebels had even established a camp outside the Ajmer gate. Until now, all military writers were unanimous ill considering an English force of 3,000 men quite sufficient for crushing a Sepoy army of 30,000 or 40,000 men; and if such was not the case, how could England — to use an expression of The London Times — ever be able to “reconquer” India?

The British army in India amounts actually to 30,000 men. The utmost number they can dispatch from England within the next half year cannot exceed 20,000 or 25,000 men, of whom 6,000 men are to fill up vacancies among the European ranks in India, and of whom the additional force of 18,000 or 19,000 men will be reduced by loss from the voyage, by loss from the climate, and by other casualties to about 14,000 troops able to appear on the theater of war. The British army must resolve upon meeting the mutineers in very disproportionate numbers, or it must renounce meeting them at all. Still we are at a loss to understand the slowness of the concentration of their forces around Delhi. If at this season of the year, the heat proves an invincible obstacle, which it did not in the days of Sir Charles Napier, some months later, on the arrival of the European troops, the rains will afford a still more conclusive pretext for a standstill. It should never be forgotten that the present mutiny had, in fact, already begun in the month of January, and that the British Government had thus received ample warning for keeping its powder dry and its forces ready.

The prolonged hold of Delhi by the Sepoys in it) face of an English besieging army has, of course, produced its natural result. The mutiny was spreading to the very gates of Calcutta, fifty Bengal regiments had ceased to exist, the Bengal arms, itself had become a myth of the past, and the Europeans, dispersed over an immense extent of land, and blocked up in insulated spots, were either butchered by the rebels, or had taken up position of desperate defense. At Calcutta itself the Christian inhabitants formed a volunteer guard, after a plot, said to have been most complete in its detail, for surprising the seat of the Government, had been discovered, and the native troops there stationed had been disbanded. At Benares, an attempt at disarming a native regiment was resisted by a body of Sikhs and the Thirteenth irregular cavalry. This fact is very important, as it shows that the Sikhs, like the Mohammedans, were making common cause with the Brahmins, and that thus a general union against the British rule, of all the different tribes, was rapidly progressing. It had been an article of faith with the English people, that the Sepoy army constituted their whole strength in India. Now, all at once, they feel quite satisfied that that very army, constitutes their sole danger. During the last Indian debates, Mr. Vernon Smith, the President of the Board of Control, still declared that

“the fact cannot be too much insisted upon that there is no connection whatever between the native princes and the revolt.”

Two days later the same Vernon Smith had to publish a dispatch containing this ominous paragraph:

“On the 14th of June the ex-King of Oude, implicated in the conspiracy by intercepted papers, was lodged in Fort William, and his followers disarmed.”

By and by there will ooze out other facts able to convince even John Bull himself that what he considers a military mutiny is in truth a national revolt.

The English press feigns to derive great comfort from the conviction that the revolt had not yet spread beyond the boundaries of the Bengal Presidency, and that not the least doubt was entertained of the loyalty of the Bombay and Madras armies. However, this pleasant view of the case seems singularly to clash with the fact conveyed by the last mail of a mutiny of the Nizam’s cavalry having broken out at Aurungabad. Aurungabad being the capital of the district of the same name which belongs to the Bombay Presidency, the truth is that the last mail announces a commencement of revolt of the Bombay army. The Aurungabad mutiny is, indeed, said to have been at once put down by General Woodburn. But was not the Meerut mutiny said to have been put down at once? Did not the Lucknow mutiny, after having been quenched by Sir H. Lawrence, make a more formidable reappearance a fortnight later? Will it not be recollected that the very first announcement of mutiny in the Indian army was accompanied with the announcement of restored order? Although the bulk of the Bombay and Madras armies is composed of low caste men, there are still mixed to every regiment some hundred Rajpoots, a number quite sufficient to form the connecting links with the high caste rebels of the Bengal army. The Punjaub is declared to he quiet, but at the same time we are informed that “at Ferozepore, on the 13th of June, military executions had taken place,” while Vaughan’s corps – 5th Punjaub Infantry – is praised for “having behaved admirably in pursuit of the 55th Native Infantry.” This, it must be confessed, is a very queer sort of “quiet.”