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HEINRICH ABEKEN (1809-1872)

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Originally appearing in Volume V01, Page 39 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
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HEINRICH ABEKEN (1809-1872), German theologian and Prussian official, was born at Berlin on the 8th of August 1809. He studied theology at Berlin and in 1834 became chaplain to the Prussian embassy in Rome. In 1841 he visited England, being commissioned by King Frederick William IV. to make arrangements for the establishment of the Protestant bishopric of Jerusalem. In 1848 he received an appointment in the Prussian ministry for foreign affairs, and in 1853 was promoted to be privy councillor of legation (Geheimer Legationsrath). He was much employed by Bismarck in the writing of official despatches, and stood high in the favour of King William, whom he often 38 and the forcible seizure of some debateable frontier lands was an untoward incident; but it was no sufficent reason for calling upon the British, although they had guaranteed his territory's integrity, to vindicate his rights by hostilities which would certainly bring upon him a Russian invasion from the north, and would compel his British allies to throw an army into Afghanistan from the south-east. His interest lay in keeping powerful neighbours, whether friends or foes, outside his king-dom. He knew this to be the only policy that would be sup-ported by the Afghan nation; and although for some time a rupture with Russia seemed imminent, while the Indian government made ready for that contingency, the amir's reserved and circumspect tone in the consultations with him helped to turn the balance between peace and war, and substantially conduced towards a pacific solution. Abdur Rahman left on those who met him in India the impression of a clear-headed man of action, with great self-reliance and hardihood, not without indications of the implacable severity that too often marked his administration. His investment with the insignia of the highest grade of the Order of the Star of India appeared to give him much pleasure. From the end of 1888 the amir passed eighteen months in his northern provinces bordering upon the Oxus, where he was engaged in pacifying the country that had been disturbed by revolts, and in..punishing with a heavy hand all who were known or suspected to have taken any part in rebellion. Shortly after-wards (1892) he succeeded in finally beating down the resistance of the Hazara tribe, who vainly attempted to defend their immemorial independence, within their highlands, of the central authority at Kabul. In 1893 Sir Henry Durand was deputed to Kabul by the government of India for the purpose of settling an exchange of territory required by the demarcation of the boundary between north-eastern Afghanistan and the Russian possessions, and in order to discuss with the amir other pending questions. The amir showed his usual ability in diplomatic argument, his tenacity where his own views or claims were in debate, with a sure underlying insight into the real situation. The territorial exchanges were amicably agreed upon; the relations between the Indian and Afghan governments, as previously arranged, were confirmed; and an understanding was reached upon the important and difficult subject of the border line of Afghanistan on the east, towards India. In 1895 the amir found himself unable, by reason of ill-health, to accept an invitation from Queen Victoria to visit England; but his second son Nasrullah Khan went in his stead. Abdur Rahman died on the 1st of October 1901, being succeeded by his son Habibullah. He had defeated all enterprises by rivals against his throne; he had broken down the power of local chiefs, and tamed the refractory tribes; so that his orders were irresistible throughout the whole dominion. His government was a military despotism resting upon a well-appointed army; it was administered through officials absolutely subservient to an inflexible will and controlled by a widespread system of espionage; while the exercise of his personal authority was too often stained by acts of unnecessary cruelty. He held open courts for the receipt of petitioners and the dispensation of justice; and in the disposal of business he was indefatigable. He succeeded in imposing an organized government upon the fiercest and most unruly population in Asia; he availed himself of European inventions for strengthening his armament, while he sternly set his face against all innovations which, like rail-ways and telegraphs, might give Europeans a foothold within his country. His adventurous life, his forcible character, the position of his state as a barrier between the Indian and the Russian empires, and the skill with which he held the balance in dealing with them, combined to make him a prominent figure in contemporary Asiatic politics and will mark his reign as an epoch in the history of Afghanistan. The amir received an annual subsidy from the British government of 184 lakhs of rupees. He was allowed to import munitions of war. In 1896 he adopted the title of Zia-ul-Millat-ud- accompanied on his journeys as representative of the foreign office. He was present with the king during the campaigns of 1866 and 187o—71. In 1851 he published anonymously Babylon and Jerusalem, a slashing criticism of the views of the Countess von Hahn-Hahn (q.v.). See Heinrich A beken, ein schlichtes Leben in bewegter Zeit (Berlin, 1898), by his widow. This is valuable by reason of the letters written from the Prussian headquarters.
End of Article: HEINRICH ABEKEN (1809-1872)
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