I am fully conscious of having made mistakes in that part of the conduct of these affairs which fell to me to discharge. The exactly true adjustment of diplomatic with military requirements, and of the wishes of men in England with the necessities of the situation in Tibet, could only be made by a human being arrived at perfection. Not yet having arrived there, I doubtless made many errors. I can only assume that, if I had never made a mistake, I should never have made a success. Likewise, in my recommendations for the future, I may often be in error in detail, but in the main conclusion of substituting intimacy for isolation and effecting the change by personality, I would fain believe I shall prove right.
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India & Tibet
By Francis Younghusband
Dover Publications, Inc.Copyright © 2014 Dover Publications, Inc.
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BOGLE'S MISSION, 1774
IT is an interesting reflection for those to make who think that we must necessarily have been the aggressive party, that the far-distant primary cause of all our attempts at intercourse with the Tibetans was an act of aggression, not on our part, not on the part of an ambitious Proconsul, or some headstrong frontier officer, but of the Bhutanese, neighbours, and then vassals, of the Tibetans, who nearly a century and a half ago committed the first act— an act of aggression—which brought us into relationship with the Tibetans. In the year 1772 they descended into the plains of Bengal and overran Kuch Behar, carried off the Raja as a prisoner, seized his country, and offered such a menace to the British province of Bengal, now only separated from them by a small stream, that when the people of Kuch Behar asked the British Governor for help, he granted their request, and resolved to drive the mountaineers back into their fastnesses. Success attended his efforts, though, as usual, at much sacrifice. We learn that our troops were decimated with disease, and that the malaria proved fatal to Captain Jones, the commander, and many other officers. "One can hardly breathe," says Bogle, who passed through the country two years later— "frogs, watery insects, and dank air." And those who have been over that same country since, and seen, if only from a railway train, those deadly swamps, who have felt that suffocating, poisonous atmosphere arising from them, and who have experienced that ghastly, depressing enervation which saps all manhood and all life out of one, can well imagine what those early pioneers must have suffered.
Fortunately there was at the head of affairs the greatest, though the most maligned, of all the Governors-General of India, who was able to turn to profit the advantages accruing from the sacrifices which had been made. Fortunately, too, in those days a Governor-General still had some power and initiative left, and was able, without interminable delays, debates, correspondence, and international considerings, to act decisively and strongly before the psychological moment had passed.
Warren Hastings resisted the aggression of the Bhutanese, and drove them back from the plains of Bengal into their own mountains ; but when the Tashi Lama of Tibet interceded on their behalf, he at once not only acceded, but went further, and made a deliberate effort to come into permanent relationship with both the Bhutanese and Tibetans. Nor did he think he would gain lasting results by any fitful effort. He knew well that to achieve anything effort must be long, must be continuous, and must be persistent, and that the results would be small at first, but, accumulating in the long process of years, would eventually amount to what was of value.
The Bhutanese, I have said, when they found themselves being sorely punished for their aggression, appealed to the Tashi Lama of Tibet to intercede for them with the Governor of Bengal; and the Tashi Lama, who was then acting as Regent of Tibet during the infancy of the Dalai Lama, wrote to Warren Hastings a very remarkable letter, which is quoted both by Turner and Markham, and which is especially noteworthy as marking that the intercourse between us and the Tibetans was started by the Tibetans. The Tibetans have stated on many a subsequent occasion to the Government of India, and on innumerable occasions to myself, that they are not permitted to have intercourse with us. But originally, and when they wanted a favour from us, the intercourse was started by themselves, and in a very reasonable, dignified, and neighbourly manner.
The Tashi Lama wrote to Warren Hastings, after various compliments: "Neither to molest nor to persecute is my aim.... But in justice and humanity I am informed you far surpass.... I have been repeatedly informed that you have been engaged in hostilities against the Deb Judhur, to which, it is said, the Deb's own criminal conduct in committing ravages and other outrages on your frontier has given rise. As he is of a rude and ignorant race (past times are not destitute of instances of the like misconduct which his own avarice tempted him to commit), it is not unlikely that he has now renewed those instances, and the ravages and plunder which he committed on the skirts of the Bengal and Behar provinces have given you provocation to send your avenging army against him. However, his party has been defeated, many of his people have been killed, three forts have been taken from him, he has met with the punishment he deserved, and it is evident as the sun that your army has been victorious, and that, if you had been desirous of it, you might in the space of two days have entirely extirpated him, for he had no power to resist your efforts. But I now take upon me to be his mediator, and to represent to you that, as the said Deb Raja is dependent upon the Dalai Lama ... should you persist in offering further molestation to the Deb Raja's country, it will irritate both the Lama and all his subjects against you. Therefore, from a regard to our religion and customs, I request you will cease all hostilities against him, and in doing this you will confer the greatest favour and friendship upon me. I have reprimanded the Deb for his past conduct, and I have admonished him to desist from his evil practices in future, and to be submissive to you in all matters. I am persuaded that he will conform to the advice which I have given him, and it will be necessary that you treat him with compassion and clemency. As for my part, I am but a Fakir, and it is the custom of my Sect, with the rosary in our hands, to pray for the welfare of mankind and for the peace and happiness of the inhabitants of this country; and I do now, with my head uncovered, entreat that you may cease all hostilities against the Deb in future."
On receipt of this letter, Warren Hastings laid it before the Board at Calcutta, and informed them that, in reply, he had written to the Tashi Lama, proposing a general treaty of amity and commerce between Bengal and Tibet. The letter of the Lama, he said, had invited us to friendship, and the final arrangement of the disputes on the frontier had rendered the country accessible, without danger either to the persons or effects of travellers. He had, therefore, written for and obtained a passport for a European to proceed to Tibet for the negotiation of the treaty, and he now purposed sending Mr. Bogle, a servant of the Company, well known for his intelligence, assiduity, and exactness in affairs, as well as for the "coolness and moderation of temper which he seems to possess in an eminent degree." Warren Hastings, with great wisdom and knowledge of Asiatic affairs, adds that he "is far from being sanguine in his hopes of success, but the present occasion appears too favourable for the attempt to be neglected."
This latter is precisely the point which we who have dealt with Asiatics can appreciate so well—taking the opportunity, striking while the iron is hot, not letting the chance go by, knowing our mind, knowing what we want, and acting decisively when the exact occasion arises. It is hard to do nowadays, with the Provincial Government so subordinate to the Government of India, with the Government of India so governed by the Secretary of State, with Cabinet Ministers telling us that the House of Commons are their masters, and members of the House of Commons saying they are the mouthpieces of their constituents. Nevertheless, the advantages of such a method of conducting affairs must not be forgotten. Decision and rapidity of action are often important factors in the conduct of Asiatic affairs, and may save more trouble than is saved by caution and long deliberation.
Warren Hastings' policy was, then, not to sit still within his borders, supremely indifferent to what occurred on the other side, and intent upon respecting not merely the independence but also the isolation of his neighbours. It was a forward policy, and combined in a noteworthy manner alertness and deliberation, rapidity and persistency, assertiveness and receptivity. He sought to secure his borders by at once striking when danger threatened, but also by taking infinite pains over long periods of time to promote ordinary neighbourly intercourse with those on the other side. Both qualities are necessary. Spasmodic action unaccompanied by steady, continuous efforts at conciliation produces no less bad results than does plodding conciliation never accompanied by action. It was because Warren Hastings possessed this capacity for instantly seizing an opportunity, because he could and would without hesitation or fear use severity where severity alone would secure enduring harmony, but would yet persistently and with infinite tact, sagacity, and real good-heartedness work for humane and neighbourly relationship with adjoining peoples, that he must be considered the greatest of all the great Governors-General of India.
But to be successful a policy must be embodied in a fitting personality. And to appreciate Warren Hastings' Tibetan policy we must know something of the agent he chose to carry it into effect. What was the character of the man who was to lead the first Mission ever sent to Tibet? We learn from Markham that he was born in 1746, and had at first been brought up in a business office; but on proceeding to India had been given a post in the Revenue Department. His letters to his father and sisters show him to have been a man of the strongest home feelings, and his conversations with the Tibetans indicate that he was a man of high honour and strict rectitude. Warren Hastings himself not only had a high opinion of his abilities and official aptitude, but also entertained for him a warm personal friendship.
The youth of Warren Hastings' agent is the first point to note: he was only twenty-eight. Nowadays we use men who are much too old. It is when men are young, when they are still crammed full of energy, when their faculties are alert, that they are most useful and effective. I often doubt whether the experience of maturer age possesses all the advantages which are commonly attributed to it, and whether young men act more rashly or irresponsibly than old men. The former have their whole careers before them, and their reputations to make. They are no more likely, therefore, to act rashly than "old men in a hurry." Warren Hastings was therefore wise, in my opinion, to choose a young man, and he was equally wise to choose an agent of good breeding and with great natural kindliness of disposition. Asiatics do not mind quickness or hotness of temper, or severity of manner, as long as they can feel that at bottom the man they have to do with has a good, warm, generous heart. He need not wear it on his sleeve, but they will know right enough whether he possesses one or not. And that Warren Hastings' agent had such a heart his home correspondence, his friendship with Hastings himself, and his eventual dealings with the Tibetans amply testify.
Having determined his policy and selected his agent, Warren Hastings gave him the following instructions, dated May 13, 1774: "I desire you will proceed to Lhasa.... The design of your mission is to open a mutual and equal communication of trade between the inhabitants of Bhutan [Tibet] and Bengal, and you will be guided by your own judgment in using such means of negotiation as may be most likely to effect this purpose. You will take with you samples, for a trial of such articles of commerce as may be sent from this country.... And you will diligently inform yourself of the manufactures, productions, goods, introduced by the intercourse with other countries, which are to be procured in Bhutan.... The following will be also proper objects of your inquiry: the nature of the roads between the borders of Bengal and Lhasa, and of the country lying between; the communications between Lhasa and the neighbouring countries, their government, revenue, and manners.... The period of your stay must be left to your discretion. I wish you to remain a sufficient time to fulfil the purposes of your deputation, and obtain a complete knowledge of the country and the points referred to your inquiry. If you shall judge that a residence may be usefully established at Lhasa without putting the Company to any expense, but such as may be repaid by the advantages which may be hereafter derived from it, you will take the earliest opportunity to advise me of it; and if you should find it necessary to come away before you receive my orders upon it, you may leave such persons as you shall think fit to remain as your agents till a proper resident can be appointed.... You will draw on me for your charges, and your drafts shall be regularly answered. To these I can fix no limitation, but empower you to act according to your discretion, knowing that I need not recommend to you a strict frugality and economy where the good of the service on which you are commissioned shall not require a deviation from these rules."
Did ever an agent despatched on an important mission receive more satisfactory instructions ? The object clearly defined, and the fullest discretion left to him as to the manner of carrying it out. Hastings, having selected the fittest agent to carry out his purpose, leaves everything to his judgment. Whatever would most effectively carry out the main purpose, that the agent was at perfect liberty to do, and time and money were freely at his disposal. "I want the thing done," says Warren Hastings in effect, "and all you require to get it done you shall have."
The only equally good instructions I have personally seen issued to an agent were given by Cecil Rhodes in Rhodesia. I travelled up to Fort Salisbury with Major Forbes, whom Rhodes had summoned from a place two months' journey distant to receive instructions, for he did not believe in letters, but only in personal communication. After dinner Rhodes questioned Forbes most minutely as to his requirements, as to the condition of things, as to the difficulties which were likely to be encountered, and as to his ideas on how those difficulties should be overcome. He said he wanted to know now what Forbes required in order to accomplish the object in view, because he did not wish to see him coming back later on, saying he could have carried it out if only he had had this, that, or the other. Let him therefore say now whatever he required to insure success. All that he asked, and more than he asked, Rhodes gave him, and then despatched him, saying, "Now, I don't want to hear of you again till I get a telegram saying your job is done."
These are, of course, ideal methods of conveying instructions to an agent, which it is not always possible for a high official to give. Lord Curzon would, I know, have liked to give similar instructions to me, and, as far as providing money, staff, military support, etc., he did. But, with the closer interconnection of public affairs, public business is now so complicated that it is not, I suppose, possible to leave to an agent the same amount of discretion that Warren Hastings did to Bogle. Still, great results in many fields, and, what is more, great men, have been produced by the use of Warren Hastings' method of selecting the fittest agent, and then leaving everything in his hands. I do not see that any better results have been obtained by utilizing human agents as mere telephones. If the conduct of affairs has become complicated, that does not appear to be any reason in itself for abandoning the method. It appears only a reason for principals and agents rising to the higher occasion while still pursuing the old successful method. Ease of communication has brought nations more closely together and complicated affairs, but it has also made possible readier personal communication between principal and agent. And therefore there is need not so much for curtailing the discretion of the agent while he is at work as for utilizing the greater facility for personal intercourse now possible. In conversation the agent will be able to impress his principals with whatever local and personal difficulties he has to contend with, and the means required for carrying out their object, and they will be able to impress him with the limits outside which it is impossible to allow him to act. It is a clear certainty that the present tendency to concentrate, not merely control, but also direction, in London, cannot go on for ever. An Empire like ours, immense in size and immensely complicated, cannot be managed in detail from headquarters. The time must come when the House of Commons and the constituencies, overburdened with the great affairs with which they have to deal, will, by the sheer force and weight of circumstances, see the advantages of leaving more to the men on the spot. They will probably insist on agents being more carefully selected. They will require them to keep in much closer personal contact with headquarters. They will expect, too, that politicians who control should already be personally acquainted, or make themselves personally acquainted, with the countries they control. But with these conditions fulfilled they will, it may be hoped, be able to leave more to the men on the spot, removing them relentlessly if they act wrongly, but while they are acting, leaving them to act in their own way. Bogle, with these free instructions and this ample support, set out from Calcutta in the middle of May, 1774, that is, less than two months from the date of the despatch of the Tashi Lama's letter from Shigatse, so that Warren Hastings, if he had left ample leisure to his agent to carry out his purpose, had himself acted with the utmost promptitude, even in so important a matter as sending a mission to Lhasa with the possibility of establishing there a permanent resident. Rapidity of communication has not resulted in the rapidity of the transaction of public affairs, and the consideration of despatching a mission to Lhasa nowadays takes as many years as weeks were occupied in the days of Warren Hastings.
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Table of Contents
ContentsCHAPTER I WARREN HASTINGS' POLICY: BOGLE'S MISSION-1774,
CHAPTER II WARREN HASTINGS' POLICY (continued): TURNER'S MISSION-1782,
CHAPTER III MANNING'S VISIT TO LHASA-1811,
CHAPTER IV THE BENGAL GOVERNMENT'S EFFORTS-1873-1886,
CHAPTER V THE CONVENTION WITH CHINA-1890,
CHAPTER VI SECURING THE TREATY RIGHTS-1899-1903,
CHAPTER VII NEGOTIATIONS WITH RUSSIA 1903,
CHAPTER VIII A MISSION SANCTIONED-1903,
CHAPTER IX SIMLA TO KHAMBA JONG-1903,
CHAPTER X KHAMBA JONG-1903,
CHAPTER XI DARJILING TO CHUMBI-1903,
CHAPTER XII TUNA-1904,
CHAPTER XIII GYANTSE-1901,
CHAPTER XIV THE STORMING OF GYANTSE JONG-1904,
CHAPTER XV THE ADVANCE TO LHASA-1904,
CHAPTER XVI THE TERMS-1904,
CHAPTER XVII THE NEGOTIATIONS,
CHAPTER XVIII THE TREATY CONCLUDED-1904,
CHAPTER XIX IMPRESSIONS AT LHASA-1904,
CHAPTER XX THE RETURN-1904,
CHAPTER XXI RESULTS OF THE MISSION,
CHAPTER XXII NEGOTIATIONS WITH CHINA-1905-1910,
CHAPTER XXIII ATTITUDE OF THE TIBETANS SINCE 1904-1904-1910,
CHAPTER XXIV SOME CONCLUSIONS,
CHAPTER XXV A FINAL REFLECTION,