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Roman Empire. India contains that one group. She is fitter for our purpose than either of the other two groups, because the self-governing colonies are not subject territories administered from England, but new Englands planted far away beyond the oceans, reproducing, each in its own way, the features of the constitution and government of the old country, while the Crown colonies are so scattered and so widely diverse in the character of their inhabitants that they cannot profitably be dealt with as one body. Jamaica, Cyprus, Basutoland, Singapore, and Gibraltar, have little in common except their dependence on Downing Street. Neither set of colonies is sufficiently like the dominion of Rome to make it possible for us to draw parallels between them and it. India, however, is a single subject territory, and India is compact, governed on the same principles and by the same methods over an area not indeed as wide as that of the Roman Empire but more populous than the Roman Empire was in its palmiest days. British India (including Burma) covers about 965,000 square miles, and the protected States (including Kashmir, but not Nepal and Bhotan), about 600,000 square miles, making a total of (roughly) 1,565,000 square miles, with a population of nearly 290 millions. The area of the territories included in the Roman Empire at its greatest extent (when Dacia and the southern part of what is now Scotland belonged to it) may have been nearly 2,500,000 square miles. The population of that area is now, upon a very rough estimate, about 210 millions. What it was in ancient times we have no data even for guessing, but it must evidently have been much smaller, possibly not 100 millions, for although large regions, such as parts of Asia Minor and Tunisia, now almost deserted, were then filled by a dense industrial population, the increase in the inhabitants of France and England, for instance, has far more than compensated this decline.
The Spanish Empire in America as it stood in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries was still vaster in area, as is the Russian Empire in Asia to-day. But the population of Spanish America was extremely small in comparison with that of the Roman Empire or that of India, and its organization much looser and less elaborate?. Both the Spanish and the Russian Empires, however, furnish illustrations which we shall have occasion presently to note.
Of all the dominions which the ancient world saw, it is only that of Rome that can well be compared with any modern civilized State. The monarchies of the Assyrian and Egyptian conquerors, like those of the Seleucid kings and of the Sassanid dynasty in Persia, stood on a far lower level of culture and administrative efficiency than did the Roman. Neither was there in the Middle Ages any far stretching dominion fit to be matched with that of Rome, for the great Ommiad Khalifate and the Mogul monarchy in India were both of them mere aggregates of territories, not really unified by any administrative system, while the authority or suzerainty of the Chinese sovereigns over Turkistan, Mongolia, and Tibet presents even fewer points of resemblance. So when we wish to examine the methods and the results of British rule in India by the light of any other dominion exercised under conditions even remotely similar, it is to the Roman Empire of the centuries between Augustus and Honorius that we must go.
1 The total area of the Russian Empire exceeds 8,000,000 square miles, and the population is about 130,000,000.
When one speaks of conditions even remotely similar one must frankly admit the existence of an obvious and salient point of contrast. Rome stood in the middle of her dominions, Britain stands, by the Red Sea route, six thousand miles from the nearest part of hers. She can reach them only by water, and she conquered them by troops which had been sent round the Cape over some thirteen thousand miles of ocean. Here there is indeed an unlikeness of the utmost significance. Yet, without minimizing the importance of the contrast, we must remember that Britain can communicate more quickly with the most distant part of her territories than Rome could with hers. It takes only twenty-two days to reach any part of British India (except Kashmir and Upper Assam) from London. But it took a nimble, or as Herodotus says, a 'well girt traveller,' perhaps forty days from Rome to reach Derr on the Nile, the last fortress in Nubia where Roman masonry can be seen, or Gori, at the foot of the Caucasus, also a Roman stronghold, or Old Kilpatrick (near Dumbarton) where the rampart of Antoninus touches the Clyde ; not to add that the sea part of these journeys might be much longer if the winds were adverse. News could be carried not much faster than an official could travel, whereas Britain is, by the electric telegraph, in hourly communication with every part of India : and the difference in speed between the movement of an army and that of a traveller was, of course, greater in ancient times than it is now.
Thus, for the purposes both of war and of administra
tion, England is better placed than Rome was as respects those outlying parts of the Roman empire which were most exposed to attack. Dangers are more quickly known at head quarters; troops can reach the threatened frontier in a shorter time; errors in policy can be more
a adequately corrected, because explanations can be asked, and blundering officials can be more promptly dismissed. Nevertheless the remoteness of India has had results of the highest moment in making her relation to England far less close than was that of Rome to the provinces.
This point will be considered presently. Meantime our comparison may begin with the points in which the two Empires resemble and illustrate one another. The first of these turns upon the circumstances of their respective origins.
Empire is retained, says a famous maxim, by the same arts whereby it was won. Some Empires have been won easily. Spain acquired hers through the pertinacity and daring of a Genoese sailor. She had comparatively little fighting to do, for the only opponents she encountered, who added to valour some slight tincture of civilization, were the Mexicans.
Russia has met with practically no resistance in occupying her vast territories in Northern Asia; though she had some sharp tussles with the nomad Turkmans, and tedious conflicts both with Shamyl and with the Circassians in the Caucasus. But both Rome and England had to fight long and fight hard for what they won. The progress of Roman and British expansion illustrates the remark of Oliver Cromwell that no one goes so far as he who does not know whither he is going. Neither power set out with a purpose of conquest, such as Alexander the Great, and perhaps Cyrus, had planned and carried out before them. Just as Polybius, writing just after the destruction of Carthage in B.C. 146, already perceived that Rome was, by the strength of her government and the character of her people, destined to be the dominant power of the civilized world, so it was prophesied immediately after the first victories of Clive that the English would come to be the masters of all India. Each nation was drawn on by finding that one conquest led almost inevitably to another because restless border tribes had to be subdued, because formidable neighbours seemed to endanger the safety of subjugated but often discontented provinces, because allies inferior in strength passed gradually into the position first of dependants and then of subjects.
The Romans however, though they did not start out with the notion of conquering even Italy, much less the Mediterranean world, came to enjoy fighting for its own sake, and were content with slight pretexts for it. For several centuries they were always more or less at war somewhere. The English went to India as traders, with no intention of fighting anybody, and were led into the acquisition of territory partly in order to recoup themselves for the expensive efforts they had made to support their first allies, partly that they might get revenue for the East India Company's shareholders, partly in order to counterwork the schemes of the French, who were at once their enemies in Europe and their rivals in the East. One may find a not too fanciful analogy to the policy of the English in the days of Clive, when they were drawn further and further into Indian conflicts by their efforts to check the enterprises