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WHITENESS, MISCEGENATION, AND ANTI-COLONIAL REBELLION IN RUDYARD KIPLING’S THE MAN WHO WOULD BE KING

  • Sharleen Mondal (a1)
Extract

In 1827, Josiah Harlan, a Quaker from Chester County, Pennsylvania, set up camp just south of the border of the Punjab region of India. He rummaged up a ragtag army of Muslim, Hindu, Afghan, and Akali Sikh mercenaries, and with Old Glory flying above him, he and his army started their journey, along with a caravan of saddle horses, camels, carriage cattle, and a royal mace bearer to announce the coming of the would-be American king. With Alexander the Great's march through the same lands twenty-one centuries earlier very much on his mind (Macintyre 40), Harlan set out – under the auspices of restoring the exiled Afghan monarch Shah Shujah to the throne – determined to win power and fame for himself. Disguising himself as a Muslim holy man and at times using brute force, he crossed the Afghan border and ultimately became the Prince of Ghor under secret treaty (227). By 1839, loyal not to Shah Shujah but to his enemy, Dost Mohammed Khan, Harlan returned to his Kabul home to find that the British had seized his property “by right of conquest” (252). Harlan left Kabul, fully intending to return and reclaim his princely title. Once back in the United States, Harlan proposed various schemes to the U.S. government (for which he would be the emissary, of course), including an Afghanistan-U.S. camel trade and grape trade, neither of which succeeded. Harlan penned a memoir that the British lambasted – unsurprisingly, for it sharply criticized the British presence in Afghanistan. In 1862, at the age of sixty-two, with no formal rank or U.S. military experience, Harlan became the colonel of Harlan's Light Cavalry, fighting on the side of the Union in the Civil War (Macintyre 275). Too weak to perform his duties, he left the army the same year, wandered the U.S. aimlessly, and died in 1871, buried “after a funeral without mourners” (286).

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Victorian Literature and Culture
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