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A History of the Nineteenth Century, Year by Year

The heir apparent of old Bahadur Shah


[Sidenote:

Affair of "The Arrow"]

[Sidenote: British reprisals on China]

[Sidenote: Canton bombarded]

[Sidenote: Insufficient British forces]

In October, the Chinese Emperor, beset as he was by the victorious Taiping rebels, was made to feel the heavy hand of Great Britain. A Portuguese lorcha, "The Arrow," flying the British flag though without British register, was overhauled by the Chinese authorities while at anchor near Dutch Folly. One of her crew had been recognized as one of a band of pirates who had committed some recent outrages. The Taotai of Canton had the offender arrested. Sir John Bowring at Hong Kong at once protested. The Chinese Imperial Commissioner Yeh replied that "The Arrow" was not a foreign vessel, and therefore declined to enter into any discussion about her. As a first step toward obtaining reparation the British seized a Chinese imperial junk and held her in reprisal. As this failed to bring the Chinese to terms, Sir Michael Seymour with a British squadron bombarded and seized the barrier forts of Canton. The fleet proceeded up the river, and, after capturing the Chinese fort of Macao Passage, came to anchor before Canton. An ultimatum was addressed to Yeh, stating that unless he at once complied with all English demands they would "proceed with the destruction of all the defences and public buildings of the city and of the

government vessels in the harbor." No reply was vouchsafed. The Canton forts were seized by the British and their men-of-war trained guns on the city. All able-bodied Chinamen were called upon by the Viceroy of Canton to rally for the defence of their city. The British bombarded Canton and sunk a large fleet of Chinese war junks up the river. A fort at French Folly was reduced, and the Bogue forts on both sides of the river were captured. The Chinese retaliated by burning the whole foreign settlement, and by chopping off the heads of all the Englishmen who came into their power. Sir Michael Seymour found his force inadequate to capture Canton, and had to withdraw from his positions while he sent home a request for reinforcements. The urgency of the request opened the eyes of the British Foreign Secretary to the gravity of the situation. A force of 1,500 men was at once sent from England, another regiment from Mauritius, and a division from the Madras army. The situation in India shortly became such that this force never reached China.

[Sidenote: British war with Persia]

New difficulties had arisen with Persia respecting Herat. The death of Yar Muhammad Khan in 1852 was followed by intrigues in Herat. The province became a bone of contention between the Shah of Persia and the aged Dost Muhammad Khan. This ruler's hostility to England during the second Sikh war had been condoned, and a treaty of friendship concluded between him and Lord Dalhousie. In virtue of this treaty the British sided with Dost Muhammad. When the Shah moved an army into Herat and captured the capital, England declared war on Persia. Arms and munitions in great quantity were presented to Dost Muhammad, together with a subsidy of ten thousand pounds a month so long as the Persian war should last. An expedition under Sir James Outram was sent from Bombay to the Gulf of Persia. The capture of Bushire by the English and their victory at Mohamrah brought the Shah of Persia to withdraw his troops from Afghanistan. Herat was relinquished. While the war lasted a new danger to the British Indian Empire arose at Delhi. In July, the heir-apparent of old Bahadur Shah, the reigning King of Delhi, suddenly died. A younger queen was believed to have poisoned him. She persuaded Bahadur Shah to proclaim her son heir to the throne. Lord Canning withheld Great Britain's recognition. An elder brother was recognized as successor by Lord Canning, on condition that he should leave Delhi upon his succession to the throne and take up his abode at Kutut. The young Queen was moved to wild wrath. She was a daughter of the House of Nadir Shah, burning with the traditional ambitions of her family. Forthwith she took a part in all manner of intrigues against the English on the side of Persia as well as of the Afghans. The remarkable outbursts of anti-British feeling that followed have been credited to her.


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