Alexander Burnes is going to dominate my thoughts and my time for a few months. I am going to continue to post my transcripts as I make them so they are more readily available to other researchers.
There is a syndrome at play in this letter that I very much recognise from my own days as an up and coming diplomat. Burnes gets carpeted for suggesting Karachi should become the major regional trading centre by an old hand who knew better from his thirty years experience in the field! Burnes was of course proved right about Karachi, but did not live to see it.
NLS MS 5899 f 151 Inv
From Colonel Pottinger Bhooj Residency
Apr 15 1837
To the Honourable Sir Charles Metcalfe
My Dear Sir Charles,
I have been so very busy of late that I have not had time before to thank you for your letter of 21 February last with the two accompanying Indus reports which has been at last got up in a very complete and businesslike form – I was glad to find from Corless when he was here with me last month, that his examination and survey of this year go decidedly to support the opinion that I have entertained from the first, that the Indus affords the greatest facilities for navigation.
The last time I was at Hyderabad, the native agent who came from Calcutta was was with me and he had travelled a great deal on the Bengal rivers – his opinion was strongly in favour of the Indus, but if people expect that they are to ascend a superb river like it against the current without difficulty (I mean of course when they have not steam or a fair wind) they will be disappointed. I went up at the worst period of the year (in December) without any particular exertion at the rate of 14 miles a day with a fleet of seven boats abd when the southerly wind blows fresh a boat will often clear 50 miles between sunrise and sunset.
I have nothing to do with Capt. Burnes’ reports except to pass them on to the supreme government, but I have seen enough of them to satisfy me that his information is incorrect. He asserts in one of them that Karachee has been – I think his expression is – “for ages” the sea port of Scinde and dwells on the “beaten path” thence to Tattoh as the desirable one for a passage – so far from this being the case, Karachee was only taken from the Khan of Khelat (Beloochistan) by the present family of the Emirs in 1795 and previous to that the whole trade of Scinde went into and came out of the Indus and goods that are now landed at Karachee are chiefly conveyed thence over the range of mountains into the small district of [Lus?] of which [Sommeam?] is the seaport and out of it by the “Kohunwat” or “mountain road” by which Captain Christie and myself travelled to Kelat in 1810.
The boats of Cutch ply to and from the Indus from the 15th September to the 15th April and I see no good reason why our merchant’s boats should not do the same. The agreement however which I have made with the Ameers for warehousing goods will overcome every difficulty in the way of trade, so far as Scinde is concerned. It is quite clear at the same time, that we cannot hope for any great extension of it until the countries to the northward are tranquillized.
Believe me etc.,