Page images
PDF
EPUB

barbarity was not to end here, however. The severed head was thrown into a rice-mortar, the pestle was placed in the hand of the unfortunate mother, and she was told that if she refused to use it, she should be disgracefully tortured. The poor woman stood for a moment in irresolution, but disgrace was worse than any inward struggle. She lifted the pestle up and once she let it fall. One by one the same harrowing scene was repeated, until all were gone, and at last tbe poor infant at her breast was torn from its resting place, where, in unconscious innocence, it knew nothing of the awful scene that was transacting around it. It too was beheaded, and the milk which it had just received, flowed forth to mingle with its blood.”

What an awful recital !-- who can portray to themselves the poor mother standing irresolute under such a dreadful trial, without feeling the liveliest pity at her fate, and the strongest resentment against her heartless persecutor ?- what must have been the agony of that temporary irresolution which was only ended by her inflicting a blow upon the lifeless and bleeding head of her own son ! Whatever may be the evils of the British power in Ceylon, we may yet congratulate ourselves with the certainty that it can never sanction cruelty such as this.

In the latter part of 1814, the barbarous treatment of some merchants from the Coast by the Kandian tyrant caused an interruption of the amicable relations between the two powers in possession of Ceylon. Compensation was again refused, and in January of the succeeding year a considerable force was again moved towards Kandy. In the proclamation sent forth by the British Government at the commencement of this final invasion a very just distinction was drawn between the tyrant himself and the population (noble as well as plebeian) of the districts he governed. In that document it was distinctly declared that the expedition was against the tyrant and his power, not against the people whom he called his subjects. Numbers of the more influential chiefs came over to the British on the occasion, and every thing portended the conclusion of the authority of the Singha race in Ceylon. Even Molligoddle the King's prime minister, and the only general of ability whom he possessed, as soon as he had succeeded in placing his family beyond the reach of Wikrama, came over to the invading force and lent his utmost exertions to second their intentions. On the 14th February the head quarters of General Brownrigg were established in Kandy, no resistance was attempted, -deserted by his own subjects and only defended by his Malabar body-guard, the King was obliged to fly without having even the hope of effectual resistance to cheer him. Measures for his immediate pursuit were instantly taken -two days after the entrance of the British force into Kandy his wives and treasure were captured, and two days afterwards (on the 18th) a party of Eheylapola's followers discovered the King himself. His guard fought bravely in his defence but were overpowered by numbers, and finally Wikrama fell into the hands of that man whom of all others he had most deeply injured.

Eheylapola was not backward in shewing his enmity to his conquered oppressor. The King was bound hand and foot and treated with every indignity, till rescued by the British, who released him from his bonds and shewed in their subsequent conduct towards him, something of the courtesy of civilized warfare. The following year he was conveyed to Madras, and thence to Vellore where he died on the 30th January 1832, of a dropsy. Such was the fate of the last independent King of Ceylon, the last scion of a family which had governed the island for 2,300 years !

No time was lost by General Brownrigg in taking measures for an immediate settlement of the Government of the country. A conference was held in the audience hall of the palace of Kandy on the 2d March, between the British General and the late Prime Minister together with the other principal officers of Kandy, at which Sri Wikrama Rajah Singha was formally deposed, his family and relations for ever debarred from the throne, and all the claims of his race declared to be extinguished. The country was declared to be henceforth under the Government of the British sovereign-the laws of the country still in force—and the usual royal dues and revenues still to be levied for the support of Government. Such were the principal heads of the treaty, by virtue of which, the British power was recognized throughout the entire of the island. The Kandian chiefs were not yet prepared however, thus peaceably to surrender their authority. For two years they silently made preparations for a final struggle, and in 1817 the standard of rebellion was unfurled ; a priest of the royal family became the competitor for the crown, and in a few months, it was evident, that the British must either relinguish their authority or reconquer the country. Every district of the interior was soon in open insurrection—the small detachments of the British forces scattered over the interior were cut off-and but for dissension amongst the Singhalese chiefs, Kandy must have been evacuated. When this measure was in contemplation, news was brought of another aspirant for the throne having appeared —the former one was captured by his opponents, and thus disunited and destroying each other, the British found little difficulty in gradually winning back their lost ground. Nothing could be more destructive to the country than the state of things in 1818. A war of extermination was carried on in every quarter by the three contending powers. Districts were laid waste-villages burnt-the inhabitants slaughtered and the crops destroyed, and this, not in one quarter alone, but over nearly two-thirds of the extent of the island. At length the principal native chiefs on both sides were captured--the war became fitful and irregular, until an event occurred, which at once put an end to the contest. This was the capture of the Dalada relic, the sacred tooth of Buddha, and in Singhalese estimation, not only the most precious thing in the world, but also the palladium of their country. Resistance was immediately at an end, and in a new convention, held at Kandy, shortly afterwards, by Sir R. Brownrigg, some material changes in the internal administration of the Kandian provinces, were effected. Of these, the principal were the substitution of a tax of one-tenth of the produce of the paddy-lands for the uncertain revenues of the native princes--the abolishment of compulsory labor except in the making of roads and bridges; and the appointment of a Board of Commissioners, with agents in the different provinces to administer justice. Such was the result of the last struggle for independence of any importance made by the Kandians.

The improvements made in the civil Government of the commercial provinces previously, and of the whole island subsequently, remain to be briefly noted. In 1802 a court of judicature was established at Colombo to relieve the Governor of judicial superintendence. This measure was completed in 1808, by the appointment of a Chief Justice and Puisne Justice, who, three years later, were the means of introducing trial by jury. The grent charter whereby compulsory labour was abolished, and the judicial establishment placed on a respectable foundation, was granted in 1833-by this, minor courts of Civil Jurisprudence and Criminal Jurisdiction were established, in which minor causes were tried by the District Judge and three assessors—from these an appeal lay to the Supreme Court consisting of the Chief Justice and two Puisne Justices, whence an ultimate appeal lay to the Queen in Council. Recently the

cases in the District Courts have became so numerous as to render necessary the institution of Police Courts and Courts of Requests which, there can be little doubt, will prove of immense benefit to the poorer natives, if properly conducted. We say, if properly conducted, for the salaries of the Police Magistrates and Commissioners of the Courts of Requests (the two offices being generally combined) are but £ 250 per annum, a sum inadequate te secure the services of men with any smattering of legal knowledge.

In 1834, the Legislative Council, consisting of the principal officers of Government with two unofficial members, held its first sitting. The unofficial members have since been increased to six, not too great a proportion certainly, considering that the council consists of fifteen individuals. Into this the Governor introduces what measures he considers necessary, assisted in doing so by the Executive Council, consisting of the Governor, the Commander-in-Chief, the Colonial Secretary, the Queen's Advocate, the Auditor General and the Treasurer, all of whom are distinguished by the title of honorable.

The collection of the revenue is entrusted to an agent of Government in each province (of which there are now six) with assistants in the more populous and extensive districts. These agents reside generally in the chief town of their province, occasionally visiting the other districts—those of Colombo and Kandy, or rather of the western and central provinces, being members of the Legislative Council.

That Ceylon has made a rapid progress in the race of improvement cannot be doubted, if we but compare its present condition with its condition in 1815, when it was first freed from the evils of domestic warfare and contending powers-the question still remains to be answered, however, whether this improvement is the consequence of its natural capabilities and the consequent exertions of private and energetic individuals, or whether it is the consequence of the excellence of that

system of Government by which it is ruled. Popular outcry and the Home Government appeared lately to be equally convinced of the defects of the latter, attributing nameless evils (because innumerable are we to presume ?) to the vices and defects of its civil servants without once calling in question the system under which these evils (if they were ever more than imaginary) grew. But however this question be settled, we may affirm, without much fear of contradiction, that at no previous period,

ince Europeans first became connected with the island, have the inhabitants enjoyed the same liberty and means of improvement which they now enjoy-nor have the immense capabilities of the island been ever before in a state of development so rapid. With respect to that peace which it has now enjoyed for nearly thirty years, and which has produced so wonderful a revolution in its condition, we are sure every well-wisher to the island will exclaim-esto perpetua.

We cannot conclude this brief outline of Ceylonese History, without once more adverting to the superior merits of the work which is placed at the head of this article. Many and elaborate have been the publications on the History and Antiquities of Ceylon; but to the general reader, these are, for the most part, inaccessible, if not unintelligible. Valentyn's great work on Ceylon and other Asiatic territories, written in the Dutch language and extending to five folio volumes, has never been translated into English, and, in the original, is very rarely to be met with. Somewhat similar remarks may be made respecting other elaborate treatises, in different languages, ancient and modern, eastern and western. Even the recent researches of Turnour and Upham are comparatively little known, beyond the limited pale of a learned orientalism. Now, the grand design of Mr. Knighton appears to have been, carefully to consult all available authorities on the subject, and from a collation of their various statements, conjectures, and inferential conclusions, to compile a popular and intelligible digest of all that has with certainty, or a high degree of probability, been established. And it is no small praise to say, that in the realization of this important object, our author has been eminently successful. His work may not abound with those vividly graphic portraitures which dazzle, or those profound reflections which startle and amaze; but it is written throughout in a pleasing, elegant, unambitions style, and exhibits a flow of thought and remark at once easy, natural, and suited to the particular topics discussed. He has made the history of Ceylon accessible, intelligible, and attractive to the ordinary reader; while he has furnished materials fitted to gratify the curiosity of the learned, and call into exercise the contemplative powers of the philosophic sage.

« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »