For the first time in the history of the English dominion in India, its power has been shaken from within its own possessions, and by its own subjects. Whatever attacks have been made upon it heretofore have been from without, and its career of conquest has been the result to which they have led. But now no external enemy threatens it, and the English in India have found themselves suddenly and unexpectedly engaged in a hand-to-hand struggle with a portion of their subjects, not so much for dominion as for life. There had been signs and warnings, indeed, of the coming storm; but the feeling of security in possession and the confidence of moral strength were so strong, that the signs had been neglected and the warnings disregarded.
No one in our time has played the part of Cassandra with more foresight and vehemence than the late Sir Charles Napier. He saw the quarter in which the storm was gathering, and he affirmed that it was at hand. In 1850, after a short period of service as commander-in-chief of the forces in India, he resigned his place, owing to a difference between himself and the government, and immediately afterwards prepared a memoir in justification of his course, accompanied with remarks upon the general administration of affairs in that country. It was written with all his accustomed clearness of mind, vigor of expression, and intensity of personal feeling, — but it was not published until after his death, which took place in 1853, when it appeared under the editorship of his brother, Lieutenant-General Sir W. F. P. Napier, with the title of “Defects, Civil and Military, of the Indian Government.” Its interest is greatly enhanced when read by the light of recent events. It is in great part occupied with a narrative of the exhibition of a mutinous spirit which appeared in 1849 in some thirty Sepoy battalions, in regard to a reduction of their pay, and of the means taken to check and subdue it. On the third page is a sentence which read now is of terrible import: “Mutiny with [among?] the Sepoys is the most formidable danger menacing our Indian empire.” And a few pages farther on occurs the following striking passage: “The ablest and most experienced civil and military servants of the East India Company consider mutiny as one of the greatest, if not the greatest danger threatening India, — a danger also that may come unexpectedly, and, if the first symptoms be not carefully treated, with a power to shake Leadenhall.”