Page:Dictionary of National Biography volume 07.djvu/396

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gradually surmounted, and in the Punjáb he met with a cordial welcome from the maharájá. In 1832 he was sent on another mission to explore the countries bordering upon the Oxus and the Caspian. An interesting account of his travels, which included the Punjáb, Afghanistan, Bokhára, the Turkoman country, the Caspian, and Persia, was published in 1834.

Returning to England in 1833, Burnes was well received in London, whither his fame as an adventurous traveller had preceded him. He received the gold medal of the Geographical Society of England, and the silver medal of the Geographical Society of Paris, and the Athenæum Club admitted him as a member without ballot. According to his biographer Kaye, ‘the magnates of the land were contending for the privilege of a little conversation with Bokhára Burnes. Lord Holland was eager to catch him for Holland House. Lord Lansdowne was bent upon carrying him off to Bowood. Charles Grant, the president of the board of control, sent him to the prime minister, Lord Grey, who had long confidential conferences with him; and, to crown all, the king, William IV, commanded the presence of the Bombay lieutenant at the Brighton Pavilion, and listened to the story of his travels and the exposition of his views for nearly an hour and a half.’

Burnes returned to India in 1835, rejoining for a time his appointment as assistant to the resident in Cutch. In November 1836 he was sent by Lord Auckland on a commercial mission to Cabul, where he was received by Dost Mahomed, the de facto amír, whose acquaintance he had made on the occasion of his previous visit in 1832. Burnes's commercial mission was speedily converted into a political one. Writing to a private friend shortly after his arrival at Cabul, he observed: ‘I came to look after commerce, to superintend surveys, and examine passes of mountains, and likewise certainly to see into affairs, and judge of what was to be done hereafter; but the hereafter has already arrived.’ He had discovered that Russia was intriguing, through the agency of the Persian government, with the Afghans, and this discovery was soon followed by the arrival of a Russian agent at Cabul. At this time the amír was eager for an alliance with England, and was quite prepared with the slightest encouragement to reject the overtures of Russia. Burnes urged upon the government of India that Dost Mahomed's wishes should be gratified; but Lord Auckland and his advisers held different views. The amír's requests, which included the restoration of Pesháwar, formerly an Afghan province, but lately conquered by the Sikhs, were pronounced to be unreasonable, and it was decided, instead of supporting and strengthening Dost Mahomed, to replace the deposed amír, Shah Sujah, on the throne of Cabul. Burnes, having failed to obtain sanction for his recommendations, and finding that the amír, in despair of obtaining British support, was throwing in his lot with Russia, returned to Simla, and was shortly afterwards sent to Sind and Beluchistán, to smooth the way with the amírs of Sind and with the khán of Khelát for the passage through their territories of a British army which was about to be despatched to Afghanistan to aid in the restoration of Shah Sujah. Burnes accompanied the army to Cabul as the second political officer, Sir William Hay Macnaghten, who, as secretary to the government of India, with the governor-general, had had a large share in shaping Lord Auckland's policy, being the first. Burnes was knighted, and received the brevet rank of lieutenant-colonel. From the latter part of 1839 until his death in November 1841 he remained at Cabul, with but little to do, and with no power or responsibility, offering advice which was seldom acted on, and thoroughly dissatisfied with the state of affairs. In the meantime Macnaghten was appointed governor of Bombay, and Burnes had every expectation of taking his place at the head of the British mission, when, in November 1841, the outbreak, which had for some time been threatening, occurred, and Burnes, who with his younger brother and his assistant, Lieutenant William Broadfoot, occupied a house in the city, was one of the first victims. He had been warned of the approaching danger, and urged to take refuge in the cantonments; but, believing that he could quell the tumult, he declined to move, and on 2 Nov. 1841 he was killed by the Afghán mob, at the early age of thirty-six, his brother and Broadfoot perishing at the same time.

The career of Burnes, short as it was, was a very remarkable one. Even in India it is not often that a young military officer has achieved the position which Burnes occupied at the time of his death. His energy and talents were undoubted. His judgment with reference to Central Asian affairs has often been called in question, and it may be that he attached undue importance to the efforts then being made by Russia, and steadily pursued ever since, to acquire influence in Afghanistan, and to the value of a forward policy on the part of the government of India; but there can be no doubt that the advice given by him in favour of an alliance with Dost Mahomed was far sounder than that