| 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 |
 IN 1839, while the British were fighting in
Afghanistan, the brave and wicked old ruler of the
Punjab, the Lion of Lahore, died. After his death the
Punjab was torn with civil wars. Plots and murders
followed fast upon each other, until the whole country
was seething with misery and bloodshed.
The people of the Punjab were called Sikhs. They were
not a nation like the Maráthás or the Ghurkas, but a
religious body. Under Ranjit Singh, however, they had
grown into a nation. He had formed an army which he
called the Kalsa or "Saved ones." These "saved ones"
were fierce, brave men, splendidly armed, perfectly
drilled, and so full of a kind of wild, religious zeal
that they were ready to fight any one, or do the most
desperate deeds, in the name of God.
The Kalsa was now the greatest power in the Punjab and
a terror to all. After much fighting among themselves,
they suddenly marched across the river Sutlej, and
invaded British India.
The British were in a manner prepared, for seeing the
unruly state of the Punjab, they knew that war must
come sooner or later. But they had not expected it so
soon, nor had they expected to have to fight such a
great army as now marched into Hindustan. So secure,
 did they feel, that the Commander-in-chief was going to
give a grand ball, when the news of the invasion
arrived. The ball was given up, and soon the army was
marching in hot haste towards the frontier.
In a few weeks four great battles had been fought.
Never before had the British in India had to fight such
stern foes. In each battle the British loss was very
great, and if the Sikh leaders had been as wise as the
Sikh soldiers were brave, things might have gone ill.
But their leaders were cowardly or foolish.
In the last battle of the campaign, which is called the
Battle of Sobraon, the Sikhs were utterly defeated and
driven back across the Sutlej with great slaughter.
Lord Hardinge, the Governor-General, then marched to
Lahore, the capital of the Punjab. The country was now
quite conquered, and, had he wished, Hardinge might
have added it to the possessions of the Company. But
he did not wish to do this, and Dhulip Singh, a
supposed son of Ranjit Singh, was set upon the throne.
He was, however, only a boy of eight, so had not much
real power. A great part of the famous Kalsa army was
disbanded, a British resident and garrison were left at
Lahore, the Sikhs were made to pay all the expenses of
the war, and lastly, the famous Koh-i-nur diamond was
sent as a present to the Queen Victoria. Koh-i-nur
means mountain of light. This famous diamond has had
many adventures. It had belonged to the Great Mogul,
it had been carried off by the Shah of Persia, and
after its many wanderings it came at last to our own
little island, and was the largest diamond belonging to
the British crown, until the great South African
diamond was presented to King Edward.
Having arranged matters in the Punjab, Lord Hardinge
marched home to Calcutta in triumph, and it
 was hoped that the Punjab would soon settle down in
For about two years all was quiet. Then suddenly two
Englishmen were treacherously murdered at the town of
Multan. It was the first spark. Soon the whole Punjab
was ablaze again with war.
"The Sikh nation has asked for war," said Lord
Dalhousie, the Governor-General, "and upon my word,
they shall have it with a vengeance."
But once again the British found that they had stern
work in front of them. The famous Kalsa soldiers
gathered again, and fought with all their old courage.
Chillianwalla, the great battle of the war, was almost
a defeat. It began late in the afternoon. The Sikhs
fought furiously, the air was thick with flying
bullets, and dark with smoke, and when night put an end
to the awful struggle, eighty-nine British officers,
and nearly two thousand five hundred men, were among
the killed and wounded.
It was a day of disaster. The British had lost both
standards and guns, and once at least their horse had
fled before the foe. Yet they claimed it as a victory.
So did the Sikhs, and that same evening the men
rejoiced, and their leader fired a salute in honour of
the victory over the British.
But a month later the memory of Chillianwalla was wiped
out by the great victory of Gujerat. Upon the battle
morning the sun rose clear and bright, and under a
cloudless blue sky the fight began. But soon the air
was thick and the sun darkened with smoke from the
fearful cannonade which thundered and roared from both
sides. So tremendous was the firing that the battle
was known as the battle of the guns.
The Sikhs fought with all their old fury and courage.
 The British, too, fought with a fierce determination to
win. And win they did. At last the Sikh ranks broke,
and fled. For fifteen miles the British chased the
fleeing foe. The famous Kalsa army was utterly
shattered. Cannon, standards, camp baggage of every
sort, fell into the hands of the British. Resistance
was at an end. The Punjab was conquered, and this time
it was added to the Company's possessions. Maharaja
Dhulip Singh, who was now a boy of ten, was given a
pension, and his lands passed into the hands of the
British. After a little time Dhulip Singh came to
England, where he lived for nearly all his life, like
an English gentleman, and died in Paris a few years
There was still another war during Lord Dalhousie's
rule in India. This was the second Burmese war. The
Burmese began to ill-treat the British traders and
settlers at Rangoon, so Lord Dalhousie sent an army
As before, the sepoys refused to go over the sea. But
this did not matter so much now, for many of the Sikhs,
who had quite lately been enemies, had joined our army
and were willing to go anywhere. Now they fought for
the British with the same fiery courage as they had
fought against them. This second Burmese war was very
different from the first. It was soon over, and the
province of Pegu was added to British Burma.
Lord Dalhousie was one of the great rulers of India.
He, like Lord William Bentinck, thought of the good of
the people. He has been blamed for adding so much to
British possessions, but he did it often to make the
people happier. Many of the native princes, who were
independent, ruled badly. They tyrannised over their
people, and treated them with great cruelty. Lord
Dalhousie warned these princes again and again. But as
 would not listen, and try to rule better, he took their
lands from them. In this way Oudh, Nagpore, and some
smaller states were peacefully added to British
But although Lord Dalhousie enlarged British India very
much, he is to be remembered most for the great
improvements that he made there. He made good roads,
and cut canals. he laid down railways and stretched
telegraph wires over thousands of miles. He brought in
a halfpenny post over all India. Towns were lit with
gas, and steamers plied up and down the rivers.
Schools, colleges, and hospitals were built. In fact,
Lord Dalhousie found the great peninsula a collection
of many states, of many tribes, and he tried to bind
them into one great Empire, one great People. And in
this work railways and telegraphs were of the greatest
help, for they bring distant places near, and bind
together those that are far apart.
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