afghan content ready
GOVERNMENT. - Afghanistan is now, and has been before, under one prince, but it is hardly a monarchy as we are used to understand the term. It is rather the government of a dictator for life over a military aristocracy, and within this a congeries of small democracies. Elphinstone compares it with Scotland in the middle ages; some things suggest a comparison with Poland, in spite of difference of physical geography; but in neither was there the democratic constitution of the Afghan ?this. The sirdars govern in their respective districts, each after his own fashion; jealous, ambitious, turbulent, the sovereign can restrain them only by their divisions. There is no unity nor permanence; everything depends on the pleasure of a number of chiefs bound by no law, always at variance, and always ready to revolt when they have the slightest interest in doing so - almost always ready to plunge into strife with a wild delight in it for its own sake. In war, as in peace, chiefs and soldiers are ready to pass from one service to another without scruple. It is a matter of speculation, and no disgrace.
The spirit of Afghan character and institutions was tersely expressed by an old man to Elphinstone, who had urged the advantages of quiet and security under a strong king: " We are content with discord, we are content with alarms, we are content with blood; but we will never be content with a master."
11EvENTEs. - The revenues of Dust Mahommed Khan were estimated in 1857 at 4,000,000 rupees, or about £400,000. This included Afghan Turkestan, but not Herat, which he did not hold. The Herat revenue was estimated some years before (probably too low) at £80,000. In the later years of Dost Mahommed the net revenue is stated to have amounted to £710,000, of which the army cost £430,000.1 Information on this subject is very imperfect, and not always consistent. There seems to be a tax on the produce of the soil, both in kind and in money, and a special tax on garden ground. A house-tax of about 5 rupees is paid by all who are not Pathans. The latter pay a much lighter tax under another name; and the Hindus pay the separate poll-tax (jazeya). Taxes are paid on horses, &c., kept, and on the sale of animals in the public market.
The aggregate of taxation is not great, but the smallest exaction seems a tyrannical, violence to an Afghan. Nor does payment guarantee the cultivator from further squeezing. In many parts of the country collections are only made spasmodically by military force. The people are let alone for years, till need and opportunity arise, when a force is marched in, and arrears extorted.
Customs dues at Kabul and Kandahar are only 21 per cent. nominally, but this is increased a good deal by exactions. There is a considerable tax on horses exported for sale, and a toll on beasts of burden exporting merchandise, from 6 rupees on a loaded camel to 1 rupee on a donkey.