Officer at the Royal Gem City of Mandalay, and three other officers with their escort and establishment, without any special reason, suddenly and precipitately quitted the Royal Gem City of Mandalay, and in consequence the merchants and common people who live within both empires have become uneasy in their hearts and minds, and their trading and trafficking had been interrupted and ruined." Therefore, a as a testimony to make manifest the Excellent Royal desire,a the Embassy had been sent with his royal letter and gifts. The communication concluded with the expression of the belief of a the Sovereign of the Rising Sun, the Excellent Burmese Ruler,a that the Viceroy would duly receive the Ambassadors. The mission, by order of the
Chief Commissioner (Mr. C. U. Aitchison), who had been apprised of its despatch by the Foreign Secretary, was stopped at Thayetmyo, pending the receipt of instructions from India. The Government of India on November 18, 1879, announced its decision, which was that ait would be useless and impolitic to permit the mission to proceed beyond Thayetmyo.a Mr. Aitchison was instructed to inform the envoys briefly and generally that the Viceroy had been seriously dissatisfied with the position and treatment of the British Resident at Mandalay, and that in such circumstances a it appears at least incongruous and premature to send to Calcutta a complimentary mission or to assume that the mission can be received in a friendly
and honourable manner in Calcutta by the Government of India, whose representative has been treated with habitual discourtesy at Mandalay.a This, of course, settled the fate of the mission. It had been despatched no doubt in apprehension of an attack and with the object of conciliating the British authorities if possible by the use of smooth language. When it became clear that the Government of India had no intention of following up the diplomatic withdrawal by overt measures, Thebaw, or, perhaps, more correctly speaking, the dominant clique, dropped back into the old savage ways of the Burmese Court. News brought down from Mandalay was a jumble of plots and counterplots, intrigues, and wholesale execu-
tions. There was some talk at this period of putting pressure upon Thebaw by declaring treaties void and revising fiscal arrangements exclusively in British interests, but when the scheme took concrete shape the Home Government put its veto upon it. Meanwhile, the Burmese Embassy was eating the bread of idleness at Thayetmyo, in the hope, vain as it proved, that the Government of India would so far relent as to receive it. After four months' sojourn at the frontier station at the expense of the British exchequer, the Embassy submitted to the Government of India a sketch treaty containing provisions so utterly impossible from the British point of view that it seemed impossible that the Burmese
Government could be in earnest in submitting them. No allusion was made in the letter to the various points at issue between the two Governments, nor to the position and treatment of the Resident. In the circumstances the Government of India declined to entertain the overtures, and as the protracted residence of the mission at Thayetmyo was causing embarrassment, a plain intimation was given them that if they had no better proposals to submit they might return to Upper Burma. Afterwards the Ambassador, having referred to Mandalay for instructions, forwarded to the British an application that he might be permitted to proceed to Rangoon to discuss the situation with the Chief Commissioner. As, on inquiry, it did not appear that the Burmese Government had any fresh proposals to make, the request was declined. Finally, after six monthsa sojourn under agreeable conditions at Thayetmyo the Embassy returned to Mandalay. The new Government which had come into power at home, with Mr. Gladstone at its head, was disposed to question the wisdom of the rejection of the Burmese overtures. But there seems no ground for thinking that their estimate of Burmese good faith was an erroneous one. No doubt Thebaw was thoroughly frightened at the withdrawal of the British Resident, but that he was in the frame of mind to make amends for past excesses and offer the necessary guarantees for the protection of British interests in his dominions is extremely problematical. The mission was in the nature of a fishing inquiry into British intentions. The Burmese Government wanted to ascertain what they had to expect in order to be prepared. When it was discovered that the withdrawal of the Resident implied nothing more than the displeasure of the Government of India they let matters drift into that easy channel of procrastinating negotiation in which Oriental diplomacy finds itself so much at home.
The failure of the British Government to follow up their Mandalay conference with definitely coercive measures was perhaps inevitable in view of the slender grounds that existed for a casus belli, but at the same time it had distinctly unfortunate results.
When Thebaw found himself freed from British surveillance, and that no overt act had followed Mr. St. Barbeas withdrawal from his bloodstained capital, he gave himself up with new ardour to every kind of excess. The maladministration of the country, bad as it had been before, became worse. Practically throughout a great tract of the country no real authority existed. Bands of marauding Burmese swept through
THE LILY THRONE ROOM, MANDALAY.THE LILY THRONE ROOM, MANDALAY.