Page images

remarkable sort of transition state of society, formed in one province of Rajasthan by one of the most extraordinary characters that have appeared in modern India-Zalim Sing, the regent of Kotah. Under his protectorate, for he ruled but as regent in the name of the legitimate sovereign, the feudal system of his district has been annihilated, and the whole province advanced to a state of prosperity and wealth, which excites the universal wonder. Colonel Tod, indeed, who was well acquainted and had constant intercourse with Zalim Sing, augurs but ill of the event of this extraordinary revolution, which has been brought about by the destruction of all that was valuable and original in the institutions and character of the Harouti; and, like all political systems entirely dependent on the energy of the single mind which has called them into existence, is liable to the common lot of mortality, to which sooner or later that creative master mind must submit. The polity of Kotah has indeed enjoyed a longer date than most kingdoms, which thus hang by the thread of a single life; for in 1821, when he had to defend his authority in arms against his legitimate sovereign, Zalim Sing had attained the age of eighty-two, and he lived five years after that perilous crisis. Yet this man, who, by the vigour of his character, effected this total revolution-who wound the subtlest thread of policy in all his relations with the neighbouring powers, and conducted his internal government with a minuteness and nicety of regulation scarcely conceivable-who was at once the protector of his sovereign, holding his authority, not merely against the open attacks of rival factions, but against the secret dagger and the poison cup-(eighteen plots against his influence and his life were detected and baffled by his watchfulness)-and the foreign minister of a weak state, maintaining itself in precarious peace and envied prosperity, while all around was war and desolation; the chief fiscal manager of a most complicated and vexatious system of taxation; the head of a police, the activity and vigilance of which might have moved the jealousy of M. Fouché himself; the great practical farmer of a whole province, where every barren rock was forced into a productive corn-field;-this man was, nevertheless, during several years of the latter but not least active part of his life, totally blind. Zalim Sing attained his power by the old legitimate Rajpoot title, valour and success in war. After he became regent, and had established his ministerial despotism, he still knew the people over whom he ruled :

Aware of the danger of relaxing, "to have done," even when eighty-five winters had passed over his head, was never in his thoughts, He knew that a Rajpoot's throne should be the back of his steed; and when blindness overtook him, and he could no longer lead the chase

on horseback, he was carried in his litter to his grand hunts, which consisted sometimes of several thousand armed men. Besides dissipating the ennui of his vassals, he obtained many other objects by an amusement so analogous to their character; in the unmasked joyousness of the sport he heard the unreserved opinions of his companions, and gained their affection by thus administering to the favourite pastime of the Rajpoot, whose life is otherwise monotonous. When in the forest he would sit down, surrounded by thousands, to regale on the game of the day. Camels followed his train, laden with flour, sugar, spices, and huge cauldrons for the use of his sylvan cuisine: and amidst the hilarity of the moment he would go through the varied routine of government, attend to foreign and commercial policy, the details of his farms or his army, the reports of his police; nay, in the very heat of the operations, shot flying in all directions, the ancient regent might be discovered, like our immortal Alfred or St. Louis of the Franks, administering justice under the shade of some spreading peepul tree; while the day so passed would be closed with religious. rites, and the recital of a mythological epic: he found time for all, never appeared hurried, nor could be taken by surprise. When he could no longer see to sign his own name, he had an autograph facsimile engraved, which was placed in the special care of a confidential officer, to apply when commanded. Even this loss of one sense was with him compensated by another, for long after he was stone-blind it would have been vain to attempt to impose upon him in the choice of shawls or cloths of any kind, whose fabrics and prices he could determine by the touch; and it is even asserted that he could in like manner distinguish colours.'

Such, however, was not his free and fearless intercourse with his nobles, before he had humbled the proudest of them at his feet. In earlier days, when insurrections were breaking out in the face of day and conspiracies walking by night, he was accustomed to sleep in an iron cage.' It was not till his complete system of police had extended its ramifications through the whole country, and the bonds of fearful respect were firmly riveted on the minds of his stern vassals, that he could venture to appear in his nobler character. Of the external policy of Zalim Sing it is sufficient to state, that among all the desolating wars which ravaged the adjacent countries during his administration, Kotah alone gathered in her harvests without being trodden down by the marauder. Of these harvests the regent was the farmer-general, and our murmuring agriculturists will be astonished by the intelligence, that in one year the regent of Kotah made a profit of a million sterling. The manner in which, like another Joseph, but with a sterner hand, he made the crown the lord of the soil, and the direct receiver of the profits of this vast speculation, can scarcely be made intelligible, without the whole detail wherein our author developes his plan of policy.


Yet, it was from the sequestrated estates of the valiant Hara chieftains, and that grinding oppression which thinned Harouti of its agricultural population, and left the lands waste, that the regent found scope for his genius. The fields, which had descended from father to son through the lapse of ages, the unalienable right of the peasant, were seized, in spite of law, custom, or tradition, on every defalcation; and it is even affirmed, that he sought pretexts to obtain such lands, as from their contiguity or fertility he coveted, and that hundreds were thus deprived of their inheritance. In vain we look for the peaceful hamlets which once studded Harouti: we discern instead the orie or farm-houses of the regent, which would be beautiful were they not erected on the property of the subject; but when we inquire the ratio which the cultivators bear to the cultivation, and the means of enjoyment this artificial system has left them, and find that the once independent proprietor, who claimed a sacred right of inheritance, now ploughs like a serf the fields formerly his own, all our perceptions of moral justice are shocked.'

The whole of this system was actually superintended, in its most subordinate details by this extraordinary man, even at eighty years of age, and blind and palsied.

'What will the European farmer think of the tenacity of memory which bears graven thereon, as on a tablet, an account of all these vast depositories of grain, with their varied contents, many of them the store of years past; and the power to check the slightest errors of the intendant of this vast accumulation; while, at the same time, he regulates the succession of crops throughout this extensive range? Such is the minute topographical knowledge which the regent possesses of his country, that every field in every farm is familiar to him; and woe to the superintendant havéldar if he discovers a fallow nook that ought to bear a crop.'

Zalim Sing's system of taxation was equally immitigable and ubiquitarian. A tax was laid on widows who re-married-the gourd of the mendicant paid a tithe-the fiscal officer visited the cell of the ascetic. Yet so deeply rooted was the power of the regent, that when the legitimate sovereign attempted to throw off the yoke, and, excited by a formidable conspiracy in his favour, appealed to the first indelible feeling in the heart of a Rajpoot, that of hereditary loyalty, Zalim Sing stood the shock-though, according to his own expression, the very clothes on his back smelt of treason'—and finally obtained a complete triumph over his king and the majority of his feudal aristocracy. This crowning act of his policy will, however, excite less astonishment, when we find that he was backed by British troops. Bound by the strict letter of a treaty, and summoned by the regent to stand to their bond, from the impracticable tenacity of the Maharao on one side, and the determination of Zalim Sing on the other to risk any hazard rather



than consent to the least diminution of his powers, which in fact would have been fatal to his authority if not to his life: unable to mediate in the civil conflict, the British were obliged to maintain their plighted faith; and, however the despotism of the regent might originally have been at war with the institutes and character of the people-however precarious the wealth and prosperity of the country under his sway-the restoration of the weak and misguided Maharao would probably have been destructive of this prosperity, without securing any of the advantages of a more legitimate and national government. At all events, the intervention of the British secured a less sanguinary termination of the civil conflict, enforced a general amnesty, and tempered with European clemency the counsels of the triumphant regent. In a few weeks all was tranquillity and peace.'

Zalim Sing had claims on British support; he had early embraced and adhered with unshaken fidelity to our alliance. To this course he was led perhaps by far-sighted policy rather than inclination; for his sagacious mind penetrated from the first the secret of European superiority; he was never deceived by our disclaiming all views of aggrandizement; he descried the necessity under which we lay of further conquest, and foresaw that to that necessity we should submit with no reluctant acquiescence. A smile would play over the features of the orbless politician, when the envoy disclaimed all idea of its being a war of aggrandizement. To all such protestations he would say,- Mahraja, I cannot doubt you believe what you say; but remember what old Zalim tells you-the day is not distant when only one emblem of power will be recognized throughout India.' Yet sometimes other visions would cross the old man's thoughts, and once, but once only, he uttered a distinct and menacing oracle: If twenty years could be taken from his life, Delhi and Dekhan should be one.' Zalim would scarcely have attempted to array the native against the European powers, except under circumstances which would promise success ;-and had such occasion thrown him into the anti-British league, the wily chieftain of Kotah might have been a more formidable antagonist even than Scindia, Hyder, or Tippoo.

The reader will have discovered from our copious extracts, not only that Colonel Tod deserves the praise of a most diligent and industrious collector of materials for history, but that his own narrative style in many passages displays great freedom, vigour, and perspicuity. Though not always correct, and occasionally stiff and formal, it is not seldom highly animated and picturesque. The faults of his work are inseparable from its nature: it would have been almost impossible to mould up into one continuous history the distinct and separate annals of the various Rajpoot races. The patience

patience of the reader is therefore unavoidably put to a severe trial, in having to reascend to the origin, and again to trace downward the parallel annals, of some new tribe-sometimes interwoven with, sometimes entirely distinct from, those which have gone before. But, on the whole, as no one but Colonel Tod could have gathered the materials for such a work, there are not many who could have used them so well. No candid reader can arise from its perusal without a very high sense of the personal character of the author-no scholar, most certainly, without respect for his attainments, and gratitude for the service which he has rendered to a branch of literature, if far from popular, by no means to be estimated, as to its real importance, by the extent to which it may command the favour of an age of duodecimos.

ART. II.-On Political Economy, in Connexion with the Moral State and Moral Prospects of Society. By Thomas Chalmers, D.D., Professor of Divinity in the University of Edinburgh, Glasgow. 8vo. 1832.


AS a preacher, a Christian pastor, a man of enlightened virtue and untiring benevolence, there is perhaps no one who occupies a more elevated place in the estimation of the public, or for whom we wish to be considered as entertaining deeper respect and veneration than Dr. Chalmers; but we cannot pretend to rate him so highly as a political arithmetician. It must have been remarked by all who are acquainted with his various productions, that the mind of this eloquent person is deeply imbued with one strong master-principle, eminently suited to the station and professional calling which he has so long adorned -a sincere, earnest, ardent spirit of Christian charity, and a vivid sense of the supreme efficacy of religion in promoting the happiness of mankind. But it is the very intense and absorbing character of this feeling which, by leaving no room for other impressions, and shutting out every minor consideration, unfits him for an umpire in all those mixed questions as to the influence of other and more trivial circumstances on human welfare, which it is the province of the economist to determine.

We shall not be suspected of undervaluing the efficacy of a Christian education, when we hesitate to believe that this is the only desideratum in our civic and national economy, or the only remedy for the existing evils of our social condition capable of affording us the least glimpse of hope. Acknowledging the paramount importance of those objects which it is the duty as well as the happiness of this eminent divine to promote with all his strength, and mind, and eloquence, we yet cannot renounce, like him, the aid of other


« PreviousContinue »