LEADENHALL STREET, Aug. 31, 1858
My DEAR JOHN,—In this solemn hour of my dissolution, as Time, the traveller, crosses the bridge between two great epochs, I bequeath to you, in a few hasty, but I trust coherent, sentences, the legacy of my advice.
What I have written to you, John, since that great conflict commenced, which has ended, as I ever foreboded it would, in my destruction, has not been written in vain. I never hoped to save myself, John; but I strove mightily to save you—to save you from a dreadful blunder, from which there would have been no redemption—to save you from the criminal folly of committing the destinies of India to the hands of a few presumptuous novices, who, in their zeal of party and their lust of place, would have sacrificed the interests of millions of fellow-subjects to the necessities of a Parliamentary majority. You were drifting into that, John, at one time. You were well-nigh persuaded to commit the government of India to the charge of a struggling Minister and a handful of English placemen. I told you that there was a paramount necessity for the erection of a strong independent administrative body between India and the Government of the day. I told you that, if you take from me my governing powers, you must substitute some administrative agency nearly resembling my Court of Directors. I told you that you must have a mixed body, composed partly of the nominees of the Crown, and partly of elected members independent of the Crown. I told you that the Indian element must preponderate in that body; that you must have knowledge, and experience, and freedom from political influences: and I hope that these objects have been obtained. A Council has been created, composed mainly of men of Indian experience and Indian reputation. There is enough of knowledge in the new administration to govern India with success; and I believe that there is enough of independence. Nothing can be said against the men whom you have chosen. I have confidence in them all. If the Council break down, as I am not sure that it will not, the fault will lie in the system, not in the men. I believe that you will have a fair start, John, and that everything will go smoothly at first. You have many things in your favour. You have a young and promising Minister, with excellent intentions, more than ordinary ability, and a devotion to the public service which renders him unremitting in his attention to business. A statesman, and the son of a statesman, he will know how to turn the knowledge and experience of his colleagues to good account; and he is little likely with arrogance and impetuosity to over-ride the deliberate decisions of a council of fifteen practical men. Left to himself John, I believe that the First Secretary of State for India would run little risk of coming into violent collision with his council. But will he be left to himself? Can he be left to himself? Will Parliament leave him alone? Are there not men interested in the failure of the present experiment, and therefore determined to accomplish it? Are there not parties, or subdivisions of parties, who, irrespective of the predominance of Whig or Tory (to use the old-fashioned words, John), have opinions to enforce, or objects to attain, and who will bring all the pressure they can to bear upon the Minister in furtherance of their views? In such cases, it will not be for the Minister, but for the Ministry, to decide in what manner the assault is to be met. The necessities of party, not the merits of the question, will shape their course of action. It may be Manchester to-day—it may he Exeter Hall to-morrow. Any powerful section of the House, representing some particular interest, may, by uniting itself with the standing Opposition, upset even a strong Government. But, in the present state of public opinion, a strong Government is an unattainable blessing. If the country is not now governed by concessions, I fear that it cannot be governed at all.
Now, John, I exhort you, with my dying breath, to beware of Parliamentary interference. I have told you already that, in what you have been wont to call the "absence of direct responsibility" to Parliament, there were peculiar advantages under the old, now expiring, system of Indian government. In my time, John, the Indian Minister, under the name of President of the Board of Control, was as directly responsible to Parliament for everything done, and everything left undone, as, under the new order of things, will be your Secretary of State for India. But the business of administration was carried on in my name, and you were wont to regard it as my concern. If you understood the responsibility of the Minister, you were rarely or never inclined to exact it. If things went wrong, I was always to blame. And as I was never a political character, Parliament was content to know little, and to care less, about my doings. But the work of Indian government is now to be carried on in the name of the Secretary of State. Not only the "secret" business, but the common work of administration, is to proceed ostensibly under his hand. His actual responsibility for, or rather his real personal identification with, this or that measure, may be no greater, John, than it was when I ruled in Leadenhall Street. The measure may be shaped by the Council of India as entirely as by the Court of Directors. But it will be outwardly stamped with the Secretary's name, and will be his, therefore, in the eyes of the public. The process will differ but little under the new system, from that which has so long endured under the old. But, though the change may be little behind the scenes, on the stage there will be a mighty difference. Ministerial responsibility will exist, not merely as a constitutional theory, but practically as a living fact. It will be exacted, John. Instead of a growl at John Company, there will be an organised attack upon the Government of the day. Not merely the Secretary of State, but the entire Ministry of which he is a member, will be held responsible for all that goes wrong, or all that is supposed to go wrong, or all that, for party purposes, any one may declare to be going wrong. It ought to be an immense support to him to be able to stand up in his place and say, "I have acted in accordance with the opinions of a Council composed of fifteen experienced men possessing more knowledge of India than both Houses of Parliament." But will Party admit the plea? Will Party ever listen to reason? The Council in such a case will be ignored. However substantial its reality, it will be held to be a mere sham. The inefficiency of the Ministry is the point to be established. Every effort of the Opposition will be directed to that point; and Government must either fight it out, or submit to an ignoble concession. And which is the likelier course of the two? I am afraid, John, the latter. In the greater number of cases, when the Minister sees danger ahead, he will not appeal to the wisdom and experience of his Council, and declare that he is strong in their support; it will be an easier, and, for the nonce, a safer course, to fling his Council overboard, and say, "I had the advice of fifteen practical men. It was natural that I should value that advice. But, perhaps, I accepted it too hastily. I am willing to reconsider the matter in deference to the opinions of the House." I am afraid, John, it is too probable that we shall often hear explanations of this kind. Such explanations will often be forced upon the Indian Secretary by his colleagues. In the old times the President of the Board of Control was, perhaps, less a component part of the Ministry than any other member of the Cabinet. He went about his business very independently; and his colleagues concerned themselves little about his doings, because Indian affairs rarely came before Parliament, and were, I might almost say, never subjects of party debate. But this sort of independence of his colleagues will never again be a characteristic of an Indian Minister. Henceforth if, in the face of threatened opposition, he should talk about adhering to his opinions, and maintaining his policy, because he believes it to be right, there will be such an outcry from his alarmed colleagues as must stagger his resolution. "Consider our position, think of our places! You surely would not sacrifice us all." Every man has not the courage and the self-devotion to answer, in such a case, "No, I will only sacrifice myself; choose my successor." Nor is it desirable that such sacrifices should be made. The individual Minister, in all probability, will yield to the pressure of the collective Ministry which has yielded to the pressure of Parliament, and so the Secretary of State will be brought, against his will, into violent collision with his Council.
Now this is the state of things, John, into which I am afraid you will drift, if you do not keep a tight rein upon the caprices of Parliament. The position of the Secretary of State, between his colleagues in the Council and his colleagues in the Cabinet, will often be painfully embarrassing. Of the practical result of this antagonism there can be little doubt. The Council, caring not at all for Parliamentary majorities, will at first resist with some firmness the encroachments of Parliament and the concessions of the Minister. If this resistance be obstinate, the Council will be branded as an "impracticable" institution. If, as will more probably be the case, the futility of resistance should suggest the adoption of a more passive course, the Council will eventually subside into a nonentity, and be abandoned as an useless encumbrance. Then the direct action of Parliament upon the government of India will greatly increase. Unaided by a Council of experienced and independent men, the Minister will be more open to attack. He will he more personally identified than ever with the measures of the Indian department of the State, and there will be greater gain to the Opposition in attacking them. In all probability the Indian department will be the weak point of every Government, and will therefore be the standing butt of Faction, whatever party be in the ascendant. And then, John, you will be in a fair way to fulfil the prophecy, that India will be lost to you in the House of Commons.
Discourage, therefore, sternly and resolutely, John, all unnecessary interference in Indian affairs. Remember that the measures of the Government are not the measures of a single despotic Minister; that they are the results of much careful deliberation and discussion; that they are, in fact, well sifted by two Parliaments before they come before you. Take the Council of India (as now established) and the Council of the Governor-General of India, and you have twenty senators, each one capable of forming a correct opinion with respect to the matter before him. Select any twenty men you like from your House of Commons, and then see how lamentably inferior they are, in point of Indian knowledge and experience, to the twenty men which compose the two great Indian Councils. Those Councils may not be unanimous, it is true, but I am speaking not so much of their decisions as of their discussions; and I wish you to understand that measures of Indian government are discussed, before they come before the Parliament of Great Britain, as the measures of no other department; in fact, that they have already been not only submitted to Parliamentary investigation, but to the investigation of a Parliament selected with especial reference to the peculiar qualifications of its several members. Think of all this, John, and say whether there is any necessity, save in rare exceptional cases, for Parliamentary interference?—and tell me whether, if it be not necessary as a safeguard against rashness and ignorance, it can be anything else but a source of peril to our Indian Empire?
Another difficulty, John, with which you will have to contend, is the electric telegraph. I recommend you, in all earnestness, to think seriously of this matter. The new system will not, in all human probability, be much more than a year old, before, in the course of a few hours, a message will be flashed from Calcutta to London, or from London to Calcutta. The "lightning post," as the natives of India felicitously call it, will be in full operation, and if you are unscathed by it you will be happy indeed. In any great crisis, which demands prompt action on the part of the governing country, this rapid intercommunication will necessarily be a source of strength. The resources of England will be brought to bear upon any part of India four or five weeks sooner than under existing circumstances. But the ordinary work of Government, at either end of the wire, will be greatly complicated and embarrassed by this frequent intercommunication of ideas. I do not envy, John, your future Governors-General. The Council of India, composed as it is, and as I trust it ever will be, of experienced men, will never be prone to interference. The Indian Minister will, perhaps, be equally disinclined to send curt sentences of advice or remonstrance to the distant viceroy. But do you think that Parliament will suffer him to exercise a wise forbearance? I shudder, John, when I think of the not very distant period when India will be governed by the electric telegraph. The telegraph is the great agent of interference; and it is by too much interference from England that India will, if ever, be lost to you, John. You cannot stop the progress of science any more than the progress of time; but to be forewarned, the proverb says, is to be forearmed; and I warn you, that if you do not exert yourself to restrain Parliament from continual interference in Indian affairs, the electric telegraph will cost you more than a Sepoy mutiny or a Russian invasion. In truth, I hardly see how India is to be governed under such evil influences, or who will undertake to govern it. A sensitive Governor-General may be worried to death by the electric telegraph in the course of a few months, and an irritable one may be stung into indignant resignation after the experience of a fortnight. Ask Lord Dalhousie, John; ask Lord Ellenborough what he thinks about this matter;—does he think that, if there had been an electric telegraph sixty years ago, India would now be a dependency of the British Crown?
I could say much on this subject; but time presses. I am rapidly drifting into the great sea of history—a few more hours, and I shall be only a record of the past. I can do little more than give you, John, a general idea of the difficulties before you. The good sense for which you are so distinguished must fill in the details. Perhaps one of your own Crimean generals may give you a hint. Ask General Simpson, for example—he has been in India, and may apply to the specialties of that country some of the lessons which he learnt at Sebastopol. There are two great sources of interference—measures and men. You are continually talking about the advantages of responsibility. I tell you, John, that it was irresponsibility—or responsibility so remote as very closely to resemble it—that won for us our Indian empire. There can he nothing heroic, John, where there is a continual sense of responsibility. Heretofore, our Indian statesmen have said to themselves: "I can consult no higher authority— I am thrown upon my own resources—I will do the best I can, and with a clear conscience—and, at all events, I shall have a clear stage. No one can attempt to arrest my measures, until they have gone too far to be recalled." If what he does provokes censure at home, the censure comes when the work is done. But the censure does not often come! The lapse of time between the act and the commentary upon it renders it almost useless to comment upon individual measures, except in so far as the comment may affect the future. Hence it is much the custom to say, "It is done now; it cannot be undone; and, after all, there may have been reasons for doing it, of which, at this distance, we cannot judge." I admit that this may be carried too far. Like everything else, the remoteness of which I speak has its evils. But it has this very great advantage, John, that we take more comprehensive views of that which is passing at a distance, and of which we are only informed at intervals of time; that we are not wont to interfere in details with respect to which we can be but imperfectly informed. But the electric telegraph will bring everything before us piecemeal. We shall be tempted to criticise parts, and even minute parts; we shall never have a whole brought at once bodily before us. And whilst there will be, in nearness of time, an irresistible temptation to criticise passing events in detail, there will be, in remoteness of place, a necessary source of imperfect information. Prompt judgment on passing events may be advantageous, but rash judgment is a mighty evil; and where ignorance abounds, rashness is sure to be the concomitant of promptitude. We must remember, John, that whatever the electric telegraph may do for us, it does not place us on the spot. This mighty agent is said to "annihilate space." But this is a figure of speech which will not bear much sifting; and what I am most afraid of, with respect to the electric telegraph, is a state of things which will encourage interference, and vastly increase your presumption, without at the same time increasing your knowledge. For God's sake, John, resist the temptation to bring public opinion to bear on passing events, with which the electric telegraph can make you only imperfectly acquainted. As soon as you place the government of India in the hands of the House of Commons or of the Times newspaper, you have signed the death-warrant of our Anglo-Indian Empire.
This much with regard to measures. A few words now with regard to men. I believe, John, that future generations of your children will use, without knowing their origin, as household words, that celebrated telegram, "Take care of Dowb." If there had been no electric telegraph to the Crimea, we should never have heard of that kindly exhortation. Now, with my dying breath I warn you to beware of aristocratic influences. I am not prejudiced against the aristocracy. The aristocracy of England has sent forth some of the best and ablest public servants which the world has ever seen. But my empire, John, was won by the middle classes, and by the middle classes maintained, and I have never yet found them wanting. I have never sought, I do not seek, to uphold any exclusiveness of caste; I only contend for a clear stage and no favour. I have been charged with nepotism, I know. But what have I done? I have sent my friends, or my friends' friends, to India, and have left them there to take their chance. I have sent out writers and cadets to India, but they have owed nothing to me but their initial appointments. I have not interfered with their subsequent promotion. It has been my standing rule, John, to leave to the authorities in India the distribution of the loaves and fishes. If the sons, the nephews, the grandsons, and other relations, of my directors have succeeded better than other men (I merely put the case hypothetically), it is for reasons on which I shall presently enlarge. They take a deeper interest in India; they are less strangers and foreigners in the land than men of other antecedents. But men of this class have never owed their advancement to the interest of Leadenhall Street. If Elphinstone and Metcalf had come, like Munro or Malcolm, from a counting-house or a sheep-farm in Scotland, they would have made their way to the same eminence. Say what you will about my nepotism, John, the best men under my rule have ever found their way to the best places. Has the world ever before seen such services as the civil and military services of the East India Company? Alas, John, I must ask, is the would ever likely to see such services again? Never; if you once suffer the Treasury or the Horse-Guards to look upon the great field of Indian patronage as a source of Parliamentary strength or aristocratic provision; if Dowb is to be taken care of, or India is to be Hayterised, the pith and marrow of the Indian Services are gone forever. Think seriously of this, John. The electric telegraph, if you are not watchful, and are not resolute, will mightily promote that kind of interference which is known by the name of jobbery. The loaves and fishes are now distributed in India before we know at home that they are in the market. But before long, if you do not take heed, John, the telegraph will be continually flashing to India such messages as this—"A Suddur Judgeship is vacant—take care of Dowb." But time is fleeting; my hours are few; I must pass on to other matters.
There is one thing, among others, John, against which I would warn you—and that is, what you are wont sometimes to call your "good English spirit." I like your patriotism, John—I like your pluck. You have many good and noble qualities, and I would not wish you to think meanly of yourself. The self-respect of nations is a great thing, but it has a tendency to inflate itself into presumption; and there is often an arrogance in your tone, and an exclusiveness in your manner, which would be ridiculous if they were not dangerous. You sometimes think, I am afraid, John, that all the world was made for you. You go among a strange people, and you are angry because their ways are not your ways; you think that they are little better than brute beasts, because their customs differ from your own. If you carried a hump upon your back, John, you would think every man deformed without a similar excrescence. If you had but one eye, John, you would treat binocular vision as a national offence. If you wore a tail, you would regard it as the type of an exceptional civilisation.
It is this intense self-appreciation, John, which makes you so indifferent a citizen of the world. Whilst your unappeasable enterprise and your indomitable energy make for you new homes in every corner of the globe, you can seldom make yourself at home without first expelling the old inmates of your new dwelling-place. Where you colonise, the aborigines disappear. In India, you do not attempt to colonise; and you never make yourself at home. But you carry the same exclusive, absorbing spirit of self-assertion with you. The millions by whom you are surrounded exist in your imagination only for your use. There they are, so many "niggers," John—so many "black fellows" to work for you, to fight for you, to die for you, to render up their substance to you, to be shaped according to the rule and plummet of your home-bred notions. All that belongs to them is wrong, all that belongs to you is right. You cannot for a moment divest yourself of your individuality, and look at the questions before you from any other than your own point of view. "India for the English" is your cry. The children of the soil have long been in your estimation so many stocks and stones. Men fresh from England, with hot English blood in them, are prone to violence; and hundreds, who would not lift up their hands against an English beggar in the street, have been wont to strike their Mohammedan and Hindoo servants as though they were beasts of burden or mere insensate machines. They who are ordinarily considerate in their language and their demeanour towards the natives of India, are men who have resided long in India, who know the people, and who speak their language; or those who, lacking much Indian experience, are moved by the traditions at which, John, you are prone to sneer. You talk about offices in India being heirlooms in certain families; you say that you wish to see new names in the lists of the Indian services; and that you would fain see those services overborne by an independent European community. My exclusiveness has often excited your vehement indignation. Your theory was right, John. But, practically, this exclusiveness had its uses. There was a traditional interest in India—a traditional kindness for the people kept alive in many families. It was no uncommon thing for a young civilian or a young soldier, on landing in India, to he met by one of the native servants who had dandled him in his boyhood, eager to see "Harry baba," and, perhaps, to follow his fortunes. Youths of this stamp, born in India, and taught to look to India as their future home, if not somewhat denationalised, John, were at all events less encumbered with the national self-love of which I have been speaking. Their good English spirit did not teach them to hate or to despise the "niggers." They had learned better thoughts and better feelings from their parents. It is not from the mouth of the "old Indian," even now, that you will hear the people of India, as a nation, sweepingly condemned.
Now, what I am afraid of, John, is, that under the new system a new race of men, without any of these old traditions and family ties, will make their way to India, with new English notions, and that of these notions one of the most prominent will be that a common detestation of the natives is the paramount duty of every Englishman. It is true that many dire atrocities have been committed during the past calamitous year. It is natural that we should hate these iniquities, or even the perpetrators of these iniquities; but to hate a whole nation is a very different thing. When we consider the immense population of India, and the small proportion that has actually risen against us, we cannot but regard the active hostility, out of which these atrocities have proceeded, as of an exceptional character—why, then, should it influence our feelings towards the great mass of the people? I confess, John, that, in spite of all that has happened, I have a kindness towards the people of India and a profound conviction that, if you do not entertain similar feelings of kindness, you will never be able to govern the country. You must look to this, John. You have first to tread out the smouldering fires of rebellion, and then it must be your great work to quench the animosities which have been awakened, and restore the confidence which has been broken, by the unholy strife of the past year. Your message to all your children, John, must be simply this—"Let love abound." But it cannot abound so long as you entertain, and teach your sons to entertain, this ridiculously exalted opinion of your own merits. At the bottom of all true charity there must needs be a well-spring of humility. Mistrust yourself, then, John. Think whether all this would have happened in India if you had been the faultless monster which you believe yourself to be.
But I am not going to open old sores, John. You many have been to blame—I may have been to blame. What it most behoves us now to regard is the Future. There is an evil and a remedy must be applied. But what is that remedy to be? I know that you are ready with an answer, John—"Anglicism;"—on a large scale, Anglicism;—English troops; English law; English language; English religion; English everything. Turn your millions of Hindostanee subjects into Englishmen, and all will go well. My dear John, you cannot turn them into Englishmen. You must be content, for many a long year, to see them what they now are. Keep back from Anglicism. The less obtrusive, in the present state of affairs, that you make it, the better. English troops you must have; but you can never hold India by the brute force of English troops. It is not the physical strength, it is the moral impression of the dominant race to which you must trust for the retention of your hold upon the country. Nobly, John—gloriously, John—have you shown them, during this last calamitous year, what a handful of this dominant race can do against teeming thousands of subject mutineers. Never have the fortitude, the perseverance, the indomitable energy, the mighty patience of the Anglo-Saxon race been so signally demonstrated in the face of such gigantic difficulties. And the triumph, which, under Providence, will ere long be complete, may make you, if you use the opportunity wisely, even stronger than before.
Use it, then, wisely. Throw away utterly the thought of ever ruling such a country by an overawing display of military force. Having exhausted your mother country, John, you may indent upon your colonies for the raw material of soldiers; and you may exert yourself to keep up an unextinguishable hatred between race and race; but, relying upon this, John, you must at last be driven into the sea. Keep up such an European force in India as the exigencies of your own country will allow you to do, but only that your clemency may not be misinterpreted into weakness. You can best afford to be merciful, you can best afford to be tolerant and conciliatory, when you stand in such an attitude of strength that mildness cannot be mistaken for cowardice, or forbearance for indecision. Having shown what you can do, John, you may gain credit for not doing it any more. Therefore, I say, keep up your military strength, but use it only under great provocation. I say this, not without a pang. An European army of forty or fifty thousand men, not sustained by the excitement of active service, must needs be a mighty evil. Physically and morally it must deteriorate. But great as is the evil, in such a state of things it is a hundred times better than the alternative, which is simply that fifty thousand Europeans should be kept in India, like cheetahs in a cage, to hunt down the frightened children of the soil. I know that there are Englishmen boasting of their true English spirit, who would rub their hands with delight at such a spectacle, and exclaim exultingly, "See how the black beggars run!" But I cannot too often repeat, that the encouragement of such a spirit as this would do more to sacrifice our dominion in India than anything that could possibly be named.
Now, after your English hatred, John, I must talk to you of your English greed. This is of two kinds—national and personal. I grieve to say, that of late years, under my rule, there has sprung up a class of Anglo-Indian politicians, hot for the annexation, the absorption of the native states, who believe that the security of England in India lies in the continual extension of her frontier. Unhappily, John, many of the members of this school are very able men, and some, too, are very good ones. But, believe me, it is a bad school. Its theories must be exploded, its practice must be reversed, if you would long retain your empire in the East. If the wishes of this school had been fulfilled—if its advice had been followed—no human power would have enabled you successfully to resist the mutiny of the Bengal army. Humanly speaking, John, you have been saved by your alliances with the few remaining native states. Let the few which now remain, remain for ever. Do not seek to weaken, but to strengthen them. Let them feel that the main source of their stability is the permanence of your rule. Respect their rights; tolerate their failures; and, above all, do not test them with the gauge of your own exclusive theories. Do not think that whatever you do is best, because you understand it best. There are different roads towards the same goal; and it does not follow that the only safe one is that which you are accustomed to travel. Shoes and stockings are doubtless commendable institutions; but there may be conditions of society in which they are only intolerable bores.
Stifle that cry of "India for the English." Do not suffer the doctrine which it expresses to make way, any more in its personal than in its national acceptation. Do not think that the country was given to us only as an outlet for English enterprise and a field for English industry. These things, in due moderation, may be advantageous to India; but your first care should ever be, John, the employment of the people. I see that your present notion, however paradoxical, is, that whilst depriving the upper and middle classes of India of all lucrative employments, you should extend by every possible means the market in India for your own wares; in other words, that you should find purchasers among the very people whom you are depriving of the means of purchasing. If you want to open out new markets in India for your manufactured goods, you must elevate, not depress, the upper and middle classes. But what is now the cry, John? More Englishmen. Everywhere, more Englishmen in the public service; more Englishmen in the law-courts; more Englishmen to develop the commercial resources of the country, and even to become possessors of the soil. But do you think, John, that the people of India are more likely to reconcile themselves to your rule, when they find that the recent crisis has only given an increased impulse to the usurpations of the white man; that the subsiding of the waters of rebellion will be followed by a flooding in of hungry Englishmen? At any period this would be viewed with anxiety and alarm by the people of the country; but at the present time, when the animosity between the two races is at its height, it cannot but be regarded as a menace, and in all human probability will practically be much more than a menace. Be sure, John, that this animosity must be allayed before any new influx of Europeans into India can be otherwise than perilous in the extreme. Send out more of your children if you will, John; but be sure that they go forth in a spirit of peace and good-will towards men, whatsoever their colour, and whatsoever their creed. Teach them that their true interest lies in the elevation, not in the depression of the people, and that they can rule them better by love than by fear. Send them forth as friends and coadjutors, not as enemies and usurpers; and if they cherish in their hearts the lessons which you have taught them, you may find that there is room enough for all. But I fear that the national mind, John, is not yet in a fit state for such an experiment. I fear that some years must elapse before any influx of independent Europeans into India can be anything but a new source of difficulty and danger.
And now, for time presses, to another and a still graver matter. Our own blessed religion is very dear to us. Our hearts tell us that it is right, John—our heads tell us that it is right; but the false gods of the heathen are dear to them too. Their grotesque idols of wood or stone are not, in their eyes, monstrous abominations of folly or impiety. They reverence their ancestral faith after their kind. In the very cruelties and barbarities of their dreadful superstitions, they see the grandeur of the hero and the martyr above all the folly and the crime. It is very right that we should pity them for this; it is not right that we should loathe or condemn them. There is a sincerity in some falsehoods greater than in many truths; and this sincerity, at all events, we may respect. We know that the greatest service that we can render these people, individually and nationally, is to substitute a living saving faith for the falsehoods to which they so blindly cling. And what is thus said primarily of the Hindoos, as of the great bulk of the people, may be said with equal truth, mutatis mutandis, of the smaller body of Mohammedans. There is no question upon this point, John. The question to which I desire to draw your attention is simply whether it is in accordance either with justice or with policy that the British Government in India should in any way use its authority for the conversion of the people, by direct or indirect means, to the religion of Christ.
You must not misunderstand me, John. Upon this greatest of all great questions, we know what we mean better, perhaps, than we are able to express it. "Neutrality in matters of religion" is a common phrase in our state papers, and to this neutrality it has been said that the British Government in India is pledged. This neutrality is called my traditionary policy—"the traditionary policy of the East India Company;" but only so far as neutrality implies non- interference, can it be said that the British Government in India is neutral. The British Government in India supports a state church. From the revenues of India it pays a large number of Protestant and some Roman Catholic chaplains. It gives large salaries to bishops and arch-deacons, and contributes to the building of Christian churches. So far as the assertion of its own Christianity goes, the Government is demonstrably a Christian government. Ever let it remain so, John. Never have a church less, or a chaplain less, than you have now. Worship your own God in your own way. The natives of India, whether Hindoo or Mohammedan, will not grudge you that privilege. They will neither respect you less, nor love you less, for demonstrating that you have a religion of your own, and are not ashamed to acknowledge it; but beyond this you cannot, as a Government, proceed with justice, and you cannot proceed with safety. In every other respect than in the maintenance of a church for your own Christian people, you are bound to be wholly passive.
It is easy to enunciate propositions of this kind; but they require a large amount of explanation, if one would not be misunderstood. I concur in the opinion, which Lord Stanley meant to express, when he told a missionary deputation, a few weeks ago, that there are certain universal and immutable principles older than any forms of existing belief. Taken literally, this may not be theologically correct; for Revelation assures us that "In the beginning was the Word." But the "primal duties shine aloft like stars," and the brightest of them are Justice and Truth. Now, assuredly it is not just to play the part of the iconoclast, literally or figuratively, in the dominions which we have acquired in India; and it would be egregiously false to do so after the declarations we have made. We have pledged ourselves, as a Government, to leave the people in the undisturbed exercise of their several religions. What can be more emphatic than the declaration in the preamble to one of the regulations of 1793, which says that "The many valuable privileges and immunities which have been conferred upon the natives of these provinces, evince the solicitude of the British Government to promote their welfare, and must satisfy them that the regulations which may be adopted for the internal government of the country will be calculated to preserve to them the laws of the Shaster and the Koran in matters to which they have been invariably applied, to protect them in the free exercise of their religion, and to afford security to their persons and property." This has not been revoked, John and the new Act under which you are about to govern India in the Queen's name, declares that "all acts and provisions now in force under charters or otherwise shall continue in force" until otherwise enacted. But it is not upon any especial enactment that I take my stand, John. The people of India have, in a variety of ways, directly and constructively, been told that they are to be left by the British Government in the free exercise of their several religions; and any sort of interference by the State, for the suppression of the popular faith and the substitution of its own, would be a revolution of a solemn engagement which nothing could justify.
Of the danger, at any time, of a departure, on the part of Government, from the system of neutrality, not a doubt can be entertained. But a hundredfold greater the danger in such a conjuncture as this. I am almost ashamed, John, of enunciating such a commonplace. Yet the conduct of a large number of most respectable people at the present time, demands that this most palpable fact should be iterated and reiterated in the most unmistakable manner. There is a loud cry from Exeter Hall for a more demonstrative assertion of Christianity in India on the part of the State. I do not know very precisely what it is that these good people require. Perhaps they do not know themselves. But I do know that not only have designing persons in India—the fosterers and agents of the great rebellion—assiduously endeavoured, by means of proclamations and circulars, widely distributed among the people, to influence their passions by declaring that the British are intent on the destruction of their ancestral faith, but that the belief thus encouraged has taken deep root, and that one of our most solemn duties, at the present time, is to extirpate it. That those who have already disseminated false reports of the intentions of the British Government, and have watched the terrible success of such dissemination, will take advantage of the transfer of the government from my hands to those of the Crown, to spread alarming reports of the intentions of the new Sircar to convert the people to Christianity, is a conjecture that may be safely entertained. Beware then, John, lest you do anything to countenance the lies which your enemies are spreading. The change of government is to be proclaimed to the people with all convenient despatch. If that proclamation does not contain a distinct and emphatic declaration that the people are to be left as heretofore to the free and undisturbed exercise of their several religious, I tremble for your future, John.
Your own good sense tells you this. Do not be turned away from your purpose by the exhortations even of those whom you properly respect. I do not sneer at the people who tell you otherwise; I in no wise condemn them. Doubtless they are sincere. Doubtless they are moved by the best and purest intentions. I should be ashamed of myself, John, if I questioned or doubted it for a moment. But many excellent and pious men, whose devotion to the Christian cause has been seldom or never equalled, have held that it is the duty of the British Government in India to abstain from interference in matters connected with the conversion of the people. This was the opinion of the late venerable Bishop Wilson, a man of a truly apostolic nature. "I would not have you," he wrote to Sir Charles Metcalfe, with reference to that statesman's address on the freedom of the press— "I would not have you, as a Government, say a word more than your reply does on Christianity, involved as it is inseparably in the European knowledge, civilisation, and improvement, which you so justly extol and put forward. Christianity is the affair of the ministers of religion, under the general eye of the civil Government." He knew that Government would only defeat its own object—the object of every Christian Government and of every Christian man—by making any display of its desire to see the people converted to Christianity. In the eyes of a people so habituated to despotism, the expressed wishes of a government are nothing less than their avowed intentions. They cannot, in such matters, associate an idea of forbearance with the declared will of a powerful government. In the sic volo they hear the sic jubeo. You must, therefore, John, not only be careful in what you do, but in what you say. Do not deny your religion— honour it by all possible means; but proclaim to the people everywhere, and let your servants proclaim it wherever they go, that the British Government in India adheres to its ancient principles, and that the people of India are to be allowed to remain in the free exercise of their religions, without an attempt being made by the State to convert them, either by open or insidious attacks upon their faith.
Do not sneer, John, at my "traditionary policy." If I had observed any other policy, far less would have been done in the way of conversion to the Christian faith. The neutrality of Government is the best safe-ground of private missionary enterprise. Every wise missionary, John, will desire the Government to be perfectly quiescent. I have always felt this in my heart of hearts. When people were reproaching me for throwing impediments in the way of the conversion of the heathen, I always consoled myself with the reflection that no other course would do so much as that which I had marked out for myself, to promote the eventual success of missionary operations. With the same hope, nay, in the same belief, I have adhered to my original policy; and I solemnly exhort you, John, to adhere to it, as that which of all others will tend most surely to the eventual spread of the kingdom of Christ. I look upon those who offer you different advice, John—whatever may be their intentions, and I repeat that I do not question their purity—as the real enemies of Christianity. I have nothing to say against private missionary enterprise, wisely conducted. If no indiscreet, over-zealous efforts irritate the minds of the people, so as to bring about a dangerous state of public feeling, I have nothing to say against their operations. On the other hand, I shall ever rejoice in the success of their laudable endeavours. But unless the Almighty works a miracle in our behalf, and inclines the hearts of the people to receive the truth meekly and gladly, we must trust to gradual advances, and look for slow successes, and be content for a while with such harvests as have hitherto blessed our efforts. You must remember, John, that caution, at all times desirable, has been rendered a hundredfold more desirable by recent events. But there are many who appear to think that this is the time for throwing aside all caution. It would seem, from some recent demonstrations, that as soon as ever the great mutiny is quelled, a vast flood of Christian missionaries is to be poured over the land. At any other time I might not have regarded this with much anxiety; but I am afraid that such a movement, John, will be identified in men's minds with the change of Government, and that the whole will be regarded as a vast design for the destruction of the national faiths. Let me entreat you, therefore, to endeavour to moderate for a time the missionary ardour of your children. If they yield to their impulses, however holy, rashly, and unreflectingly, they will assuredly overleap themselves, and fall on the other side into a sea of calamitous failure. And then, John, alas! for Christianity; alas! for India; alas! for England.
The subject is so important, John, that you must bear with me yet a little longer. You will have to consider, on taking charge of my old empire, not only whether, in the assertion of your Christianity, you shall go further than I have gone, but whether you shall go so far. I have all my life been exposed to charges of a very opposite kind. It has been said, on the one side, that I have brought on the great disaster in India by disregarding my Christian obligations; and it has been maintained, with equal force of diction on the other side, that I have precipitated the calamity by the indiscreet zeal with which I have attacked the religious and social institutions of the people. I have at the same time done too little and too much; but I am used to this two-handed abuse, and I can brave it as patiently as I bear all the rest. Now, on calmly thinking over the past, John, it appears to me that if I have erred on either side, it has been on the side of innovation. It is very probable that some of the things which I have done in the cause of humanity or the cause of truth—or rather the aggregate of all that I have done—may have excited the alarm of some of the influential classes, and so, directly or indirectly, helped to evolve the late terrible crisis. But I do not counsel you to go back; I only counsel you to go forward, slowly and warily. The mighty trouble which has fallen upon us, John, must necessarily retard the progress which I had hoped, two years ago, would advance more rapidly than ever. But what has been done, John, do not think of undoing. Do not yield to any kind of clamour. Cling to your own course of neutrality as a State, but do not be tolerant only of evil. I know the difficulty of your position. Whilst one party is tugging at your gown, eager, in effect, to persuade you that it is your duty to deprive all idolatrous institutions of the endowments which they enjoyed before we set foot in the country, others are vehemently exhorting you to deprive all the Christian servants of the State of liberty of conscience, by passing a bill of pains and penalties against all the officers of Government who outwardly connect themselves with missionary institutions. Do neither, John. Be just alike to heathen and to Christian men. Let the people enjoy undisturbed their temple property; let them perform their religious ceremonies without let or hindrance; let them know that the British Government allows them the amplest freedom of religious action; but let Christian men, whether servants of the State or not, so long as they do not in any way identify the State with their measures, or use the weight of their official authority, follow the guidance of their own consciences, and as private members of the great Christian commonwealth serve their God in their own way. Let your language be as that which the wondrous Atlantic Telegraph used in its first ever- memorable message —"Glory to God in the highest, on earth peace and good-will towards men." You may glorify your God, John, and maintain peace and good-will among men, if you will refuse to listen to the advice thrust upon you from either of these two extremes. Then some wise people will tell you, John, that you must "abolish caste." They might as well tell you to abolish colour. Caste, I know well, is a gigantic evil; too gigantic to be put down by a stroke of the pen. What you have to do is to render it as harmless as possible. Now, this is to be done not my Force, but by Tact. They will tell you that you "must not recognise caste in the army." Some mean by this that you are to enlist no high-caste men; others, that you are to compel high-caste men to do things in violation of their caste. But this will never do, John. When you reorganise the Bengal Army—and reorganise it you must, for you can never hold India without it—you may declare positively and specifically what you intend to exact from every soldier entering your ranks. If high-caste men (and you must not be led away by the outcry against them to believe that they are not excellent soldiers)—if high-caste men, I say, then choose to enter your service, to rub shoulders with men of low caste, and do whatsoever they are called upon to do within the sphere of their military duty, take them, in fair proportion with others, mix them all up judiciously together, and do not fear the result. Let every soldier know, before he enlists, what he many have to do, and where he may have to go; tell him that such and such are the conditions of his service, and that you will only enlist men on such conditions. If, then, he subsequently alleges the existence of caste as a reason for not fulfilling these conditions, he breaks his engagement with you; and, in fact, resistance to your orders is mutiny. You will be perfectly justified then in saying that you will hear nothing about caste; that he entered your service with his eyes open to the consequences; and that if he has brought himself into trouble, he has only himself to thank for the dilemma. Now, so far as you may call this abolishing caste, do it but you can do no more. Do not, therefore, attempt to do more. Above all, do not look upon caste as something which henceforth you are to consider it either a virtue or a pleasure to outrage. It may be foolish—it may be mischievous—it may be the source of much difficulty and much danger; but you must remember, John, that you have something very much like caste in your own country; and what would some of your high-caste children say if they were to be told that they could never again wear the uniform of her Majesty without first of all serving so many years in the ranks, or so many years before the mast. It sometimes seems to me, John, as though caste were made more of in your army than in mine. You must remember that the whole tendency of our rule in India has been to lower the position and the influence of the upper classes; and that men who enter the ranks of our army in India are, many of them, far higher relatively in the social scale than the people who recruit our regiments in England. If we are to adopt measures for the exclusion of high-caste men from the army, what are we to do with the men thus excluded? Every year as our empire has extended, it has become more and more difficult for the upper classes to obtain honourable and profitable employment; and now you are talking of making even high caste a bar to military service. Now, my notion is, John, that henceforth, instead of being more a leveller than you have been, you ought to endeavour to be less. I know that my servants, with the best possible intentions, have for many years endeavoured to raise the many by degrading the few. Their sympathies have been with the millions, not with the oligarchy; and the upper classes have been generally depressed. I am not sure, John, that this system has answered even in the manner intended; that it has increased the happiness and the prosperity of the great amass of the people more than if due regard had been paid to the interests of all classes. This suggests a large question, John, upon which I cannot now enter; I only caution you not to feel sure that the ruin of the few will advance the prosperity of the many. This is in some sort a digression; for I am speaking now more immediately of caste. But the same spirit, John, which makes you a leveller in one case makes you a leveller in the other. You have a general grudge against the upper classes. Take heed how you indulge it. It is out of the bitterness which this feeling excites that sanguinary mutinies arise, John. Caste is an evil which you must prepare yourself to tolerate. Obviate its inconveniences as best you can, by inoffensive measures; but long years must elapse, John, before it will cease to be a motive power too strong for you to resist, and too strong for you to attempt to resist without precipitating a sanguinary failure.
And now, John, hear my last words. I commit to your hands a mighty trust, a gigantic responsibility. The task which lies before you is self-imposed; and therefore the greater the disgrace of failure. You have forcibly wrested from me the empire which I won in spite of myself. No one, with any knowledge of my antecedents, believes that I ever desired to be the master of two hundred millions of Asiatics. In the old times, my instructions ever were, "Do not fortify, do not fight." Circumstances over which I had no control compelled my servants to fortify and to fight, and so, little by little, my empire has sprung up, and my Government has been the growth of circumstances. If I did not rule my empire successfully, there was little shame in any want of success. I did my best as a ruler, though it was my ambition to be simply a trader. You took from me my trade, and told me only to govern. For a quarter of a century I have given myself up undividedly to the work of government; and now, because that has happened to me which has happened to every Indian Government, you have been pleased to say that I have failed. If I had failed, we should not now be masters of India. You have been pleased also to say, that when my troubles came upon me I was found wanting, that I was incompetent to grapple with the difficulties which stared me in the face. Well, John, that charge has been investigated. One of your own Parliamentary tribunals has sifted it to the bottom; and the result is, that I have not only been honorably acquitted, but that I have left the court carrying with me the commendations of my judges. I believe that a vast army has never been shipped to, and landed on a foreign shore, and never pushed up to the scene of action, with such a wonder ful display at all points of the highest administrative efficiency. Be candid, John; think of the past, and tell me whether your servants would have done it better.
But now that I commit to your hands the empire which Providence committed to me, I do so, hoping, praying for your success. I have done my best—do now your best. May the Almighty bless your efforts, and may your best be better than mine. I have given you my most solemn advice. I have pointed out to you the rocks on which you are most likely to go to pieces. I have indicated the peculiar difficulties which will beset the new system of Indian government which you have been pleased to inaugurate—difficulties partly the growth of that system, and partly the growth of the circumstances out of which the great change has arisen. Ponder diligently and earnestly what I have said. They are the last words of one who has done great things in his day, and to whom history will do ample justice. I do not ask you, John, to think kindly of me when I am gone. I know the place which I shall hold in the great chronicle of nations. My fame, proudly and confidently, I bequeath—
"To Memory, and Time's old daughter, Truth."
You may regret me when I am gone, John—perhaps not; but whatsoever may be in the great womb of the Future, nothing can take from me the glory of my Past. The empire of the East India Company is a great fact, which generation after generation, in every quarter of the globe, will contemplate within reverential wonder. You may keep it, or you may lose if, John; but you cannot take from me the glory of having been, under Providence, the founder of that empire. The Past is everything to me; the Future is everything to you. Think solemnly upon that Future. Be resolute; be calm. Above all, resist popular clamours—or rather, the clamours of selfish classes. Do not suffer India to be governed by a series of concessions to interested cries. You have a hard part to play, John. Play it bravely. Your work, for some time to come, must be a work of continued resistance. Think, in quiet hours, of what I have said to you; and if you regard my counsel as honestly as it is given to you, be sure that some day you will bless the memory of
Last modified 15 October 2007