Page images

Munnoo's success, appears to have been largely promoted by the interference of his minister Khorah Mul, who being himself a Sicque, naturally became a trusty advocate of the sect; and 'who, it is said, completed his ascendancy over the Mahometan, by a considerable donation. But the distracted state of Ahmed Shah's Afghan and Persian dominion, which urgently called on a perfonal administration, afforded the Sicques the most favourable occasions of accomplishing the conquest of the Punjab; and it is probable, that, had the Afghan prince been enabled to prolong his campaigns in Hindoftan, the Sicques would not, during his life, have attained any extensive degree of national consequence.

I FIND an embarrassment in applying a distinct term to the form of the Sicque government, which, on the first view, bears an appearance of aristocracy; but a closer examination discovers a large vein of popular power branching through many of its parts. No honorary or titular distinction is conferred on any member * of the state, and the chiefs are treated with a deference that would seem to arise only from the military charges they may at the instant be invested with, and from a felf-preserving regard to the subordination necessarily required in conducting an armed body. Though orders are issued in a Sicque army, and a species of obedience observed, punishments are rarely inflicted; and the chiefs, who

* The posterity of the ten priests are occafionally denominated purgadabs, that is, descendants of a faint, or prophet.


often command parties of not more than fifty men, being nume-
rous, its motions are tumultuous and irregular. "An equality of
rank is maintained in their civil society, which no clafs of men,
however wealthy or powerful, is suffered to break down. At the
periods when general councils of the nation were convened, which
consisted of the army at large, every member had the privilege of
delivering his opinion; and the majority, it is said, decided on
the subject in debate. The Khalsah Sicques, even of the lowest
order, are turbulent people, and possess a haughtiness of deport-
ment which, in the common occurrences of life, peculiarly marks
their character. Examples of this disposition I have myself wit-
nessed, and one of them I think merits a distinct notice. In tra-
velling through the Siringnaghur country, our party was joined by
a Sicque horseman, and being desirous of procuring his acquain
tance, I studiously offered him the various attentions which men
observe to those they court. But the Sicque received my advances
with a fixed reserve and disdain, giving me, however, no individual
cause of offence; for his deportment to the other passengers was
not less contemptuous. His anfwer, when I asked him the name
of his chief, was wholly conformable to the observations I had
made of his nation. He told me (in a tonc of voice, and with
an expression of countenance, which seemed to revolt at the idea
of servitude) that he disdained an earthly superiour, and acknow-
ledged no other master than his prophet!
The civil and military government of the Sicques, before à


[ocr errors]

common interest had ceased to actuate its operations, was conducted by general and limited assemblies, which presided over the different departments of the state. The grand convention, called in their language Goorimotta, was that in which the army met to tranfact the more important affairs of the nations as the declaration of war or peace, forming alliances, and detaching parties on the service of the year. The amount of the contributions levied on the public account was reported to this assembly, and divided among the chiefs, proportionably to the number of their troops. They were at the same time obliged to distribute a certain share of this property to their soldiers, who, on any cause of dissatisfaction, made no hesitation in quitting their service, and following a more popular leader. Subordinate officers were established for registering the political correspondence of the state, and for providing warlike stores ; and the administration of ecclesiastical affairs was entrusted to a certain society of religeuse, composed chiefly of the descendants of their original priests, but they did not possess any influence in the temporal regulation of the state. These were the principal ordinances enacted by the first chiefs, when the people were united, and a common object governed their public conduct. The dominions of the Sicques, now widely extended, have been since divided into numerous states, which pursue an independent interest, without a regard to general policy. The grand assembly is now rarely summoned, nor have the Sicques, since the Afghan war, been embarked in any united cause.

Their military force may be said to consist essentially of cavalry; for though some artillery is maintained, it is auxwardly managed, and its uses ill understood ; and their infantry, held in low estimation, usually garrison the forts, and are employed in the meaner duties of the service. A Sicque horseman is armed with a matchlock and sabre of excellent metal, and his horse is strong and well formed. In this matter I speak from a personal knowledge, having in the course of my journey seen two of their parties, each of which amounted to about two hundred horsemen. They were clothed in white vests,* and their arms were preserved in good order : the accoutrements, consisting of priming horns and ammunition pouches, were chiefly covered with European scarlet cloth, and ornamented with gold lace. The predilection of the Sicques for the match-lock musquet, and the constant use they make of it, causes a difference in their manner of attack from that of any other Indian cavalry; a party, from forty to fifty, advance in a quick pace to the distance of a carabine shot from the enemy, and then, that the fire may be given with the greater certainty, the horses are drawn up, and their pieces discharged; when, speedily retiring about a hundred paces, they load and repeat the same mode of

annoying the enemy.

The horses have been so expertly trained to the performance of this operation, that on receiving a stroke of

* A long calico gown, having a close body and deeves, with a white skirt.


the hand, they stop from a full career. But it is not by this mode of combat that the Sicques have become a formidable people. Their successes and conquests have largely originated from an activity unparalleled by other Indian nations, from their endurance of exceflive fatigue, and a keen resentment of injuries. The personal endowments of the Sicques are derived from a temperance of diet, and a forbearance from many of those sensual pleasures which have enervated the Indian Mahomctans. A body of their cavalry has been known to make marches of forty, or fifty miles, and to continue the exertion for many successive days.

The forces of this nation must be numerous, though I am not possessed of any substantial document for ascertaining the

A Sicque will confidently say, that his country can furnish three hundred thousand cavalıy, and, to authenticate the assertion, affirms that every person, holding, even a small property, is provided with a horse, match-lock, and side-arms. But in qualification of this account, if we admit that the Sicques when united can bring two hundred thousand horse into the field, their force in cavalry is greater than that of any other state in Hindoftan. A passage which I extracted from a memoir, * written at Dehli in 1777, exhibits a lively picture of this people in their military capacity. “ The Sicques,” it represents,



* I believe it was written by Colonel Tolier,



sc in

« PreviousContinue »