Page images
PDF
EPUB

ceremony, a high cap of black velvet, with a top of a quadrangular form.

From a want of vigour in the government, a thin population, and the aversion of the Afghans to civil occupations, the revenue of Timur Shah bears an inadequate proportion to the extent of his dominion. In Mr. Dowe's History of Hindostan, it is said that Ahmed Shah possessed a revenue of three millions sterling, and maintained a standing body of one hundred thousand cavalry. If such was the state of that prince's power and resources, it hath greatly decreased in the reign of his successor, whose whole force, according to the information I procured in the country, does not exceed thirty thousand men, or his revenue a million of our money.

Cavalry constitutes the chief military strength' of Afghanistan, which, as well as from its ow n districts, as its contiguity to Tartary and Pers" fa procures good horses,* at a moderate rate. corps of infantry, armed with matchlocks, ( :omposes also a part of the Afghan army; but, as m countries where cavalry is formed of the higher classes of the people, and denominates military honour and rank, this body is held in ]0w account, and is little superior to the unc Jisciplined .»

* A serviceable horse is procured at Ka'ioui> from five ta six pounds sterling.

. Vol. Ii. H

soldiery of India; and the Afghan artillery may, without depreciating it, be estimated by the same scale of comparison. Certain of the brothers of Timur Shah have raised occasional commotions in the government; and one of them, named Sicunder, was in open rebellion, but it was quelled without producing any violent effect. This prince, who hitherto experiences the obedience and filial duty of his own family, has appointed two of his sons, grown to manhood, to the separate charge of Kandahar and Herat: both of them live in harmony with their father, and are esteemed by the people. The remains of a colony of Armenians, which Nadir Shah had captured in his Turkish war, and established in the northern parts of Persia, whence it was removed by Ahmed Shah into Afghanistan, are now residing at Kabul. They ntermarry with their own women, and are alowed the free use of the Christian religion, which is administered by a national priest. They were attached to the body-guard of the late Shah, whom they attended in his various expeditions; and those who survived, amounting to about one hundred, were some time employed by Timur in the like capacity; but since this Prince has personally relinquished the pursuits of a military life, and neglected the maintenance of

his army, the Armenians have fallen into great

penury. They reside with their families in the precincts of the Balau Sir, and are permitted, within a prescribed limit, to exercise discretionary occupations. Yet with all the industry which the tribe so abundantly possesses, they earn but a scanty pittance. In despite of this grievance of the gloomy sorrow pressed on them by poverty, by a condition of bondage, to which on this side of mortality the most sanguine hope can fix no termination, they evince an unremitting activity in propagating their species: and would seem determined to entail on their race an equal portion of that misery which has so largely fallen to their lot. From what has been already noticed, it were almost superfluous to say, that Timur Shah possesses little enterprize or vigour of mind. For the last seven years, he has shewn little inclination to military action, or the aggrandisement of his Empire. It is true, that, allured by the hope of acquiring an easy possession of one of the best cities now remaining in Persia, he sent a body of troops to besiege Muschid, the capital of Khorasan ; but the wretched equipment of his army, and the slow progress of the siege, which was commenced in the preceding year, equally shew a want of spirit and ability. THE Afghan government, when viewed as standing on a general basis of despotism, and compared with that of other Asiatic states, is not pregnant with injustice or cruelty. Its edicts are seldom accompanied with bloodshed, nor is it inimical to any sect of strangers. The foreign and native merchants, enjoy at Kabul an ample protection, and maintain their rights, with a spirit rarely scen in a Mahometan country. Capital punishments are seldom inflicted, and though the kinsmen of the prince have formed frequent conspiracies against the state, his hands are not stained with the blood of his family. Such are the virtues of Timur Shah, which were exemplified in various instances, during my residence at his capital. The ruling vice of this prince is avarice; from a dread of the fierce and untractable spirit of the Afghans, its effects are not severely felt in the collection of the territorial revenues; but it presses hard on the soldiery and household servants; on artificers, and on those merchanta who unwarily vend their wares to the court without prompt payment. The facts, however desultory, that have been adduced, do not warrant. the opinion that Timur Shah is an object of dread to the bordering states, or that he is justly entitled the comet of the east, who we have been taught to believe, will, at some unexpected moment, shoot across the Indus and the Ganges, and consume even our remote province of Bengal.

The chief strength of the Afghan prince, I presume to say, is derived from the weakness and discord of his neighbours. Were the Sicque chiefs not more apprehensive of a domestic increasing influence, than desirous of subduing a constitutional enemy, they would, it may be fairly inferred, speedily extinguish the Afghan government in India; and should the Persian force be thrown into a body, under the conduct of an able leader, it is' not only probahle, that the dismembered division of Khorasan would revert to its ancient possessors, but that the Afghans would again feel a foreign yoke. With an earnest apology for this long letter, I remain,

[ocr errors]
« PreviousContinue »