| Our Empire Story|
|by H. E. Marshall|
|Vivid and picturesque account of the principal events in the building of the British Empire. Traces the development of the British colonies from days of discovery and exploration through settlement and establishment of government. Includes stories of the five chief portions of the Empire: Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, and India. Ages 10-16 |
SATI AND THAGS
 NOW at length there came to India a time of peace, and
Lord William Bentinck, the next Governor-General, could
spend his time in trying to make the lives of the
One of the first things he did was to forbid Sati or
When a Hindu died, his body was not buried but laid on
a great pile of wood and burned. It was the custom for
his widow to throw herself upon the burning pile and be
burned too. Sometimes she did it willingly, being
carried along by a kind of religious madness, and
believing that she was doing a great and noble deed.
Sometimes the wretched woman had to be forced into the
flames with threats and blows, sometimes she was
drugged with opium until she knew not what she did.
Now Lord William made this horrible deed a crime, and
anyone who helped in it was punished with death. It
was thought at the time that the Indians would be very
angry with this new law which seemed to interfere with
their religion. But there were no riots. Sati soon
died out even in provinces not under British rule.
Lord William also put down the Thags. These were
stranglers and thieves by trade. They were born
thieves. The fathers and mothers were thieves, and
 their children to be thieves, as naturally as a father
who was a tailor, taught his son to be a tailor too.
Dresses as ordinary people they went about the country.
They made friends with those they met upon the road.
Often they would travel for days in seeming
friendliness, making the journey pass pleasantly with
talk and laughter. But suddenly, one evening, perhaps,
as the whole party was resting under the cool shade of
trees or making ready an evening meal by some village
well, the chief would give a sign. Quick as lightning
each Thag would draw a rope from its hiding-place.
Whirling through the air came the noose, and in a
moment it was drawn tight round the neck of his victim.
In a few minutes the wretched unsuspecting travellers
lay dead. They were robbed of all they possessed, and
buried at once. For the Thags always carried a kind of
pick-axe with them with which to dig holes for the
graves of their victims.
They had many tricks, too, with which to deceive
travellers. Sometimes a rich young man would come upon
a beautiful lady weeping by the roadside. Full of pity
for her, he would stop to ask what was the matter. In
a moment the noose would be round his neck. And when
he lay dead the beautiful lady, wiping her pretended
tears, would be among the first to rob him.
The Thags had a secret language of their own. The
children were trained when they were quite young as
scouts and spies. The cleverest were chosen to use the
lasso, and so skillful did they become that no traveller
whom they attacked ever escaped.
It was not easy to put down the Thags, for although
they wandered all over Central India, their ways were
so secret that it was hard to find them. But Lord
William was very determined to root them out, and in
 ways two thousand of them were caught in about six
years. Some were hanged, some put in prison, and some
were pardoned and settled down into peaceable citizens,
and at last the Thags quite disappeared.
Lord William Bentinck ruled in India for nearly eight
years. He not only fought against evil customs but he
tried to bring good into the lives of the people. He
was perhaps the first British ruler who saw that India
must be ruled for the good of the Indian people, and
not just to put money into the pockets of the British.
It was during Lord William's rule in 1833 that another
great change in the Company took place. In that year
the Company was made to give up all trade, and made to
attend only to the ruling of India. The trade of India
was made quite free to all, and people of any country
were allowed to live there, if they wished, without
first asking leave from the Company.
It was while Lord William Bentinck was Governor-General
that Lord Macaulay went to India as law member of the
Council. And when the people raised a monument in
memory of Lord William, it was Lord Macaulay who wrote
the words carved upon it. Among many things which a
man might be proud to know were said of him were the
words. "Who never forgot that the end of government is
the happiness of the governed."
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