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tradition had united in throwing the glare of a strange and undefined magnificence. And all, from the monarch on the throne down to the humblest citizen, were now suddenly seized with a new and unwonted ardour, -a restless, boundless, insatiable ambition to share in the gorgeous commerce of diamonds and pearls, embroideries and perfume.
But how could this be obtained ? From priority of discovery and settlement, the Portuguese claimed an exclusive right to the passage of the Cape ; and were determined, by an appeal to arms, to vindicate and enforce their pretended claim. What then was to be done! Proclaim war against Portugal ! No. England was not then prepared to provoke and defy so formidable a foe. What then? Abandon the pursuit of the golden prize? No. The spirit that had been raised was not partial, local, or isolated : it was not the moving pulse of an individual or of a company: it was not the animating breath of one particular rank or class. It pervaded all classes, all ranks, and all districts of the land. It had been so cherished and fed that no obstructions could arrest its flow, and no blighting disappointments extinguish its vitality. Pent up for a season, it only gathered fresh materials for ignition and explosion. Impatient of control, it at last broke forth. Is it asked, in what direction? Let the narration of the wondrous series of voyages that figure so conspicuously in the annals of the sixteenth century, furnish the reply ;-voyages, which all must have read with the thrilling interest of romance, -voyages, which added more to our knowledge of the surface of the globe, than all that have since been undertaken, ---voyages, which threw fresh lustre round the name of Britain ; and helped to train and discipline her sons for afterwards wielding the sceptre of the ocean! For, what was the leading and most prominent object of them all? Is it not memorable ?- Is it not worthy of everlasting remembrance, that they all had for their grand, and almost exclusive object, the discovery of some new passage to India ?—some new channel through which the stream of wealth from that never-failing fountain, might, without let or hindrance from the Crown of Portugal, flow in direct upon the British Isles.
Why, in the time of Henry VIII. (1527,) were two attempts made to double, by the north-west, the American continent? It was to open up, if possible, a pathway of communication with India, that might be undisputed by the jealousy of the Portuguese, and wholly independent of their exclusive pretensions to the passage of the Cape. When these first attempts failed, what was it, in the reign of Edward VI., that led an adventurous squadron along the coasts of Norway, and Russian Lapland, as far as the harbour of Archangel? It was the anticipation of realizing, by the north-east, those dazzling prospects which the north-west had refused to yield. It was the eager desire of reaching India! Notwithstanding the calamitous issue of an expedition in which almost all who had embarked, perished miserably amid cold and famine, what led to renewed efforts in the same direction, in the face of perils and of deaths ? It was the ardent hope of being able to effect a north-east passage to India! And when the frozen barriers of the Northern seas could not be forced, what led to the bold project of preparing a highway of three or four thousand miles across Russia by the Caspian? It was still the inextinguishable ambition to grasp the riches of India !
The whole of these north-eastern schemes having failed, what turned the attention of private adventurers, and of government itself, a second time, to the north-west? What prompted Frobisher, Davis, Hudson, and other intrepid commanders, to make those discoveries which have enstamped their names on all the creeks, and straits, and gulphs, and bays of Greenland and Labrador? It was the unconquerable wish to effect a landing on the wealthy shores of India !
All these persevering efforts, so far as the main object was concerned, having been signally crowned with disaster and defeat, were the ardours of the national mind cooled, its energies crushed, its hopes annihilated ? No: the original taste and desire had grown into an insatiable craving-a universal passion—which nought but the actual possession
of the coveted prize could gratify or assuage. Baffled in all these enterprises, the longing of the national mind is still unquenched. Where can it find for itself another outlet? Let the new and splendid series of voyages to the southwestern hemisphere furnish the reply. Hemmed in by the impassable barrier of the Northern Ocean ; scared away by the trackless deserts of Central Asia ; debarred, by a threatened appeal to arms, from attempting a south-east passage by the Cape ;—they next conceived the bold idea of endeavouring to compass the grand design by the south-west, around the extremity of the American continent. For, what mainly led to the celebrated voyages of Drake and Cavendish, who circumnavigated the globe,-discovering new regions, “the stateliness and riches of which they feared to make report of, lest they should not be credited,”—and causing the whole kingdom, on their return, to ring with songs of applause? It was to obtain for their country a share of that aygrandizing traffic with India and the East, the Portuguese monopoly of which so long continued to be the envy of all Europe.
Without pursuing the subject any farther, we may conclude with some corroborative remarks by the historian of British India. "The tide of maritime adventure," says he," which these splendid voyages were so calculated to swell, flowed naturally towards India, by reason of its fancied opulence, and the prevailing passion for the commodities of the East. The impatience of our countrymen had already engaged them in a circuitous traffic with that part of the globe. They sailed to the eastern shores of the Mediterranean Sea, where they found cargoes of Indian goods conveyed over land ; and a mercantile company, denominated the Levant Company, was instituted, according to the policy of the age, to secure to the nation the advantages of so important a commerce.” Accidental causes, we are told, also “ contributed to enliven the admiration excited by the Indian trade.” Amongst these was the capture of some of the largest of the Portuguese merchant vessels, laden with " spices, calicoes, silks, gold, pearls, porcelain, ebony," &c. ;—the value of which “inflamed the imagination of the merchants, and stimulated the impatience of the English generally to be engaged in so opulent a commerce."
While “ the general current of enterprise now ran so vehemently toward India,” and the English, for fear of the Portuguese, still “fluctuated between desire and execution, the Dutch, in 1595, boldly sent out four ships to trade with India, by the Cape of Good Hope. This exploit added fuel at once to the jealousy and the ambition of the English.” In 1599, accordingly, an association was formed—funds were subscribed to a considerable amount the Queen was petitioned for a warrant to fit out three ships, and also for a royal charter of privileges. After some delay, towards the end of 1600, the first charter was obtained ; and in May, the following year, the first fleet of the East India Company set sail for India, direct by the Cape of Good Hope. As the result of a series of vicissitudes unexampled in the history of the world, not only did the commerce but the territory of India fall into the hands of British merchants. And has not the historic law, by which prosperity has been ever found coincident with the exclusive possession of the resources of India, been eminently verified and realized in the case of Britain? Oh that British rulers and British subjects felt the responsibility which the briefest retrospect of the past must attach to our uncontrolled supremacy over Indian territory and Indian commerce! From a view of that grand historic law, which has hitherto proved uniform and universal in its operation for the last three thousand years, may we not, as patriots, well contemplate with solemn awe, the day that shall sever India from Britain, and transfer the stewardship thereof into other hands? For if, weighed in the balance on that day, we shall have been found wanting in our national management of so sublime a trust, what can we expect from the analogy of the past, but to see the sun of Britain set,—to rise no more for ever?
Thus great and paramount has been the influence which India has successively exerted on the prosperity of different nations of the West :--and proportionally great, sustained, and long continued, has been the mercenary interest excited in its behalf, on account of the prodigious worldly advantages which, for ages, have been reaped from it. But India has, at different times, awakened towards itself a peculiarly vivid interest, on grounds wholly, or in great part, unconnected with mercenary ends,-an interest varied and distinguished in its character, according to the nature of the objects that called it forth.
In glancing over the past, we may thus mark three distinctive eras or epochs, of peculiar interest in India. There is first what may be termed, The era of romantic imaginative interest. Secondly, The era of romantic literary interest. Thirdly, The era of vivid religious interest. These have been successive; and in the arrangements of an allwise Providence, manifestly preparatory one for the other.
The era of romantic interest commenced long before the successful voyage of Vasco De Gama. The truth is, that it must be traced to the times of the Crusades; and will be found, amid various ebbings and flowings, to extend itself through many centuries. The spirit of the Crusades had never died. Having been deprived of its primary object, it soon fabricated or formed to itself another and then manifested itself, as a new apparition, under the form and garb of the spirit of chivalry. Deprived a second time of its leading object, by the breaking down of the system of feudalism, it might seem that the spirit of chivalry, which was essentially the spirit of the Crusades, must be extinguished. But it was not go. The spirit still fraught with vitality only lapsed into a state of dormancy. Its smouldering embers were ready to blaze forth the instant that new fuel was supplied by the presence of a proper object or exciting cause. That object at length presented itself. India, bursting upon the view in all its novelty and splendour, was enough to feed and fan into a flame the slumbering fires of a less romantic and sentimental age.
To discover a new inlet to that fairest of the regions of the East, became a raging passion