37. Nearly a month before the battle of Meeanee

Lieut.-Col. Outram’s views about the conquest of Sind and his own defence.

I not only clearly foresaw the said events that were to follow, but I declared to Sir Charles Napier my conviction, “that every life which might hereafter be lost in consequence would be a murder.” Admiring him as a gallant soldier, and giving him credit for his professed anxiety to maintain peace, I could not disguise my regret at his persisting in what I deemed unjustifiable proceedings, and my sorrow that his should be the hands to work results so disastrous—disastrous, I mean, not in a military, but in a political and moral sense. . . . .————Even had the wretched captives been guilty of all the atrocities charged upon them, but of which I knew them to be innocent, their treatment was, I considered, unnecessarily harsh and contrasted strangely with that of the family of Tippoo Sultan on the fall of Seringapatam. . . . ——— … I was employed amicably to control, not to subvert, the Ameers and did so for three years. Sir Charles Napier had ostensibly the same duty to perform for his Government; in less than as many months he picked a quarrel with them and commenced hostilities; drove them from their habitations; hunted them until compelled to resist; hurled them from their thrones; sacked their capital; and seized their country! … —— … Little did he (Sir Charles Napier) know of Ali Morad’s character, if he believed that prince would wait till his brother’s death, when he had himself shown him how it might be earlier obtained. He flattered himself that, by detaching Ali Morad from the other Ameers, he had diminished the chance of bloodshed! Grievous and fatal delusion! while he thus fancied he was treading the highway of an honourable and peaceful diplomacy, he had been beguiled into the tortuous paths which ultimately led to the bloody fields of Meeanee and Dubba! … ——— … Not a single act of the Ameers, from the commencement of his adroit and firm policy, gave him the slightest grounds for suspecting that the Ameers could have been guilty of such foul treachery. Men who had, from an overwhelm­ing sense of their utter helplessness, submitted to all our aggressions, were little likely to invoke destructions on themselves by the assassination of the English General. . . . . —— . . . . The Ameers did not delay to sign the draft treaty; they signed it on the 12th, and subse­quently I made known to him that they had done so, still it availed them nought—it did not relieve them at once, or at all, from the presence of the troops, but they were “confident of victory,” and “wanted to fight.” The refusal of aid or refuge to the fugitives of Khyrpoor until compelled by Sir Charles Napier to admit them: their vakeels deputed to accept the treaty long before the British army entered their territory, thereby obviating the necessity for its coming in contact with the stiff Beloochees, and depriving the British General of any plea for war: their repeated protestations against the advance of the British troops when they were ready to comply with all our demands: their repeated warnings that the approach of the British army to the capital would force the Beloochees to hostilities: their formal acceptance of the treaty by deputy, when first tendered to them on the 8th February, and their solemn ratification of the same in person on the day promised (12th February), while it was still in the power of Sir Charles Napier to avoid collision,—all prove how eager the Ameers were for battle—how confident of victory!! the forbearance of the British General—his aversion to war—are rendered equally apparent by his steady prosecution of the very measures he had been assured would cause all the Beloochees of the nation to assemble in opposition—his continued advance against the capital, to protect which they had congregated—his disregard of the Ameers’ com­pliance with the treaty—of the warnings of the consequence of advancing further when they had done so—and of the Ameers’ solemn protestations! The reader will judge whether the acts and words of Sir Charles Napier, or those of the Ameers of Sinde were most consistent…——… The punishment which had been inflicted on the Ameers in the battle of Meeanee, and the lesson it read to them of the hopelessness of any attempt of resistance, was quite adequate for the emergency, even had any guilt attached to them; and they, at least the majority of the Ameers, were guiltless of aught save culpable forbearance. Had we remained satisfied with our success, and restored the Ameers to their thrones, we should now be holding Sinde in as peaceable subjection as any other province in India; and with little, if any, expense. Nay, more—our forbear­ing to enhance, by spoliation, the guilt of our repeated acts of injustice, might have been accepted by the world as magnanimity! Such a course I recommeded Sir Charles Napier to adopt; and I had little doubt that, by his representations, such was the course which the Governor General would have been inclined to adopt. … Had the Ameers not been induced, by Sir Charles Napier’s assurances, to expect a far different fate from that which has overtaken them, they would not have surrendered. They would, like all Asiatics of their creed, rank and character, rather have buried themselves and their wives beneath the ruins of their fortress …——… I have, I trust, already satisfied the reader that no intention of massacering myself or my escort ever entered the minds of the Ameers. The General’s advance compelled the Beloochees to march out in defence of the capital; a necessary military preliminary was to expel me from their rear; and, as the evidence adduced by Sir C. Napier against the Ameers proves, my expulsion was all that they desired. “If they fight, kill them: but if they run away, never mind” were the bloodthirsty instructions issued by those who “in dark council” had resolved to “massacre” my escort and myself! Farther, not the most frivolous evidence is sought to be adduced to prove that Meer Sobdar sanctioned the measure, or was even privy to its adoption. … ——… No mention is made of the arrest of the young Hoossein Ali. The deed was too dark to be recorded—it must have originated in Sir C. Napier’s fixed resolution to make no exception—but to involve in one common ruin, the aged Roostum, the youthful Hoossein Ali, the peace-loving Meer Mahommed, the urbane though intriguing Meer Nusseer, and the old and faithful ally of the British Government, the bed-ridden Sobdar, and his youthful sons, for whom marriage preparations were actually in progress in the hall of their fathers, when Sir C. Napier advanced towards the capital in hostile array. The Talpoor dynasty of Sinde was to be exterminated, root and branch—never was a vow more religiously fulfilled—nor does any allusion to Hoossein appear in the parliamentary papers, beyond the insertion of his petition. To that petition no reply is given. . . . . —— . . . . None of the prize agents reply to these complaints, and Major MPherson makes no mention of the assault on him by Meerza Khoosroo, a venerable old man, most highly respected by all the Ameers, as having been the confidential friend of their grandfather the late Meer Kuram Ali. . . . No wonder! Would not the Duke of Wellington feel, and perhaps give vent to, indignation, were similar occur­rences to be transacted before his eyes in Windsor Castle? The Ameer’s faithful followers have feelings as well as the most faithful of Her Majesty’s servants. . . . . —— … Shere Mahomed sought not to molest us; but assuredly he would have fought, if attacked by us, as gallantly as he did fight when subsequently assailed. His strength my reader has just seen; his own valour, and the devotion of his warriors, are imperishably recorded in the bloody records of Dubba. . . . But even assum­ing that the slaughter of Shere Mahomed and his army was practicable, was it necessary, desirable, or justifiable? Surely, enough of blood had already been shed! The Meerpur chief had done nothing in violation either of treaty or international law. The sense of self-preserva­tion had compelled him to collect troops; and had a right appeal to him been made, the same powerful feeling would have caused him to disband them. . . . Those Amirs who, not personally in the battle, were told to fear nothing, were captives and despoiled; what reason had Shere Mahomed to imagine that Sir C. Napier’s promises made to himself would be more scrupulously regarded? … —— … Ridiculously alive to reports of treachery and contemplated massacres, he (Sir C. Napier) was made the tool of Ali Morad’s artful agents, who, trembling for the stability of their master’s power, while a chance of the Ameer’s restoration existed, sought to exasperate the General against them to the last degree. . . . The battle of Dubba followed, and I defy any impartial man to deny that it was the result of our conduct to the other Ameers after our first victory,— not of any sincerity on the part of Meer Shere Mahommed. It issued in further slaughter, and in the seizure of Shere Mahomed’s town and territory. . . . . —— … The Ameers of Sinde were, as men, singularly free from the vices which prevail in Mahommedan communities; more intellectual than their compeers in other eastern countries,—temperate, and strongly averse to bloodshed, —affectionate, kind, and gentle almost to effiminacy. As sovereigns they were mild and little oppressive in their sway, and ruled with an unity of design.