WE had confidently believed, from certain semi-official announcements in the columns of the leading journal of the day, that the Queen's speech on the opening of the session would have announced, in clear and unequivocal language, the impending fall of the double government for India, and the consequent extinction of the East India Company. The document which is supposed to dimly reveal the ministerial future, and set forth the programme of the parliamentary year, disclosed, however very little of the policy of the government on this vital and absorbing subject. It is now understood that considerable difference of opinion for some time existed in the cabinet on the form which was to be given to our future administration of India. A sufficient degree of unanimity appears to have been subsequently attained to enable the government to give formal notice to the Court of Directors of the intention of the ministry to bring in a bill for the extinction of their functions; but nothing more definite can be inferred from what has already been done, and it is questionable whether the administration is even yet agreed upon the principles of a measure which must, before long, excite very general discussion. The reconstruction of the Indian government will soon form the subject of earnest debate, and, doubtless, of practical legislation, and it is one that will tax to the utmost the patience and wisdom of parliament. Let it not, however, be forgotten, that while the British arms are employed in reasserting our supremacy in the plains and cities of Hindostan, a work of equal urgency and importance is to be done at home. We have to watch the development, sift the principles, and, scrutinise the details of this forthcoming measure, which may be destined to work immense changes both in India and England—to prevent, by the exercise of free discussion, a scheme framed for the better government of our great dependency from becoming a mere bureaucratic institution, and to guard against such a deviation from a noble plan of political improvement as shall convert the intended erection into a colossal edifice of parliamentary jobbery and corruption. We propose, therefore, to consider the present position of the question; but we must, in the first place, briefly pass in review a few of the changes which the government of India has undergone, from our first connexion with it as simple traders until the final consolidation of its wide-spread and magnificent territories under the imperial say or protection of Great Britain.
The East India Company is, or rather was, an anomaly without a parallel in the history of the world. It originated from sub-scriptions, trifling in amount, of a few private individuals. It gradually became a commercial body with gigantic resources, and by the force of unforeseen circumstances assumed the form of a sovereign power, while those by whom its affairs were directed continued, in their individual capacities, to be without power or political influence. This extraordinary commercial body was first formed in London in 1599. In the following year it [111/112] obtained a charter from the Crown, and was formed into a corporation for fifteen years under the title of "The Governor and Company of Merchants trading to the East Indies." The clear profits of the trade were said to have reached, in a few years, from 100 to 200 per cent. In 1611 the Company obtained permission from the Mogul to establish factories on several parts of the coast of India, in consideration of a moderate export duty upon its shipments. The success of its commerce was so great, that its capital was from time to time augmented, and its exclusive privileges renewed, for which the state received due equivalents in the shape of large pecuniary payments and loans without interest, and many leading statesmen, it is believed, more direct advantages. A Duke of Leeds, who was charged in the reign of Charles II with receiving five thousand pounds from the Company, was impeached by the House of Commons, and it is said that the prorogation of parliament, which occurred immediately afterwards, was caused by the tracing of the sum of ten thousand pounds to a much higher quarter.
In 1661 a new charter was granted to the Company, in which all its former privileges were confirmed, but with the portentous addition of a clause enabling it "to make peace or war with or against any prince and people not being Christian!" From that moment the East India Company was no longer merely a mercantile company, formed for the extenstion of British commerce; it more nearly resembled a delegation of the whole power and sovereignty of Great Britain sent into the East. It, in fact, ought from that time to be considered a subordinate sovereign power. The constitution of the Company thus began in commerce and ended in empire. "By possession of these great authorities," to quote the admirable summary of Burke, speaking in 1788, "the East India Company came to be what it is—a great empire carrying on subordinately a great commerce. It became that thing which was supposed by the Roman law irreconcilable to reason and propriety— cundem negotia torem et dominum: the same power became the general trader: the same power became the supreme lord. In fact, the East India Company in Aisa is a state in the disguise of a merchant."
Such was the Indian government for a long course of years, during which it carried on, simultaneously with its commerce, extensive wars, and subdued and annexed to its dominion some of the finest and most fertile provinces in Asia. These conquered territories, by a strange and indefensible policy, were long considered as a portion of the stock in trade of a commercial company, and were committed, with all their population and revenues, to the administration of a host of needy adventurers, who year after year left the shores of England, to return, after a short career of plunder, "laden with odium and riches," to enjoy the envied fruites of their oppression with very little disturbance from the governing classes of this country. At length, however, the notorious corruption of the Indian government, and the tyranny of its agents, aroused public attention, and towards the close of the last century the impeachment of Warren Hastings proved that the nation had been thoroughly awakened to a sense of its duties and responsibilities. Remedial measures were then first seriously thought of and discussed in parliament. The first great and comprehensive measure which resulted from this improved state of public feeling was the celebrated East India Bill of Mr. Fox. In 1783, [112/113] that great statesman, burning with indignation at the unparalleled mass of iniquity which the investigations of a committee of the House of Commons had just brought to light, introduced, in a speech worth of the subject and of himself, his plan for regulating the commercial concerns of the Company at home, and for the better government of their territories abroad. He proposed to supersede the two courts of proprietors and directors by vesting the whole of the territories, revenues, and commerce of India in seven commissioners, to be chosen by parliament, and they were to have the power of appointing and dismissing all persons in the service of the Company; nine assistant commissioners, being proprietors of India stock, were to be named by the legislature to assist in the details of commerce, and to be under the authority of the superior board. The soundness of the principle upon which Mr. Fox proceeded in bringing Indian affairs so directly under the control of parliament may well be questioned. The bill was vehemently opposed by the government of the day, and not receiving a very effectual support out of doors, was defeated in the House of Lords by a considerable majority, composed chiefly of peers who were personally subservient to the reigning monarch, to whom the great India Reform Bill was in the highest degree distasteful.
But public opinion was too powerful, even in those days, to be entirely disregarded, and Mr. Pitt having pledged hiself to remedial measures, and having really at heart, we believe, the interest and happiness of India, brought forward, in the following year, his bill for the better administration of India affairs, and established the existing Board of Control. We conceive this measure, however objectionable Mr. Fox's may have been, to have been and unstatesmanlike effort to evade, rather than grapple with, the real difficulties of the question. The East India Company had been proved to be utterly cor-rupt and incorrigible; it had lost its capital over and over again. As a commercial body it was bankrupt, and on every principle of justice all political power should have been then taken from it, and its affairs "wound up." But Mr. Pitt, unprepared for the task of governing India from Downing-street, and bewildered by conflicting schemes and interests, found himself compelled to recommit the government of Hindostan to a company which had often managed with the grossest ignorance and ill-success even its own legitimate business. He continued the government of India in the Court of Directors, but he restrained their political action by a number of, as he thought, salutary regulations, and by a permanent Board of Control, composed chiefly of ministers high in the service of the Crown. The East India Company had, until then, been one of the most corrupt and destructive tyrannies that probably ever existed in the world. He allowed, however, to use Burke's figure, "the wolf to continue the guardian of the flock, but inserted a curious sort of muzzle by which the protection wolf should not be able to open his jaws above and inch or two at the utmost." The scheme of reconciling a direction nominally independent with an office substantially controlling was a machinery that could not of course work smoothly if both should affect activity and independence. One must of necessity become subordinate, and the Board of Control soon became supreme, and the direction sank into a merely subservient council; and into immediate connexion with the Crown. [113/114] In 1793 the British territories in India, together with the exclusive trade, were continued to the "Company" for twenty years. In 1814 the charter was again renewed for another twenty years; the trade was, however, opened under certain restrictions, but the monopoly of the China trade and all the territorial revenues of India were continued until 1834. It was in this year that the East India Company, as a commercial body, may be said to have become, in fact, extinct, and from thenceforth it can only be said of it, "stat magni nominus umbra." Its privileges were entirely abolished, but the government of India was continued in the Court of Directors—a practical anomaly of the most extraordinary kind, there being really no company to direct. The only reason that could be assigned for this arrangement was the difficulty of framing an entirely new government for India, and the supposed necessity of putting up with a temporary makeshift until greater attention could be bestowed on Indian affairs, or public opinion should demand a total change in the system. The capital of the defunct company was guaranteed a fixed rate of interest by the government, and a provision was made for paying it off at a stated period. It became, in short, virtually a government stock. The proprietors of this stock have therefore no more special interest in the affairs of India than in those of Canada or New Zealand, although the farce of a Court of Proprietors is still kept up, which is the ridicule of the well-informed, but the source of many absurd and mischievous delusions.
The elaborate parliamentary inquiries of 1852-3 resulted only in a trifling modification of the old system. After an investigation extending over two sessions and the examination of numberless witnesses, the united wisdom of the two Houses of Parliament was able to devise nothing more satisfactory than a trifling modification of the Board of Directors, by admitting the principle of government nomination to the extent of six members of that body, giving it thereby rather more the character of government council, and indicating, by an approach towards a correct system, the direction which future and more important changes would probably take.
Thus, by the last legislative arrangement for the government of India, the antiquated and obsolete system was almost entirely retained, a system not only theoretically absurd, but, we are convinced, practically mischievous, and such as no statesman would ever have originated, or could consistently retain one hour beyond the necessities which gave in existence. And one of the most censurable portions of the arrangement thus prolonged for another term of years, was that of retaining the fiction, or even assuming the reality, of an East India Company, by permitting periodical meetings of the proprietors of East India stock, and recognising their corporate action. The Court of Proprietors is even a greater fiction than the direction; nevertheless, a few pompous and insignificant individuals have been permitted to assemble half-yearly to propound their views and discuss the interests of an empire which they affect to take under their especial protection. This is, perhaps, the grossest error that has been committed. It has been the cause of those misconceptions which exist to a very great extent not only in this country but throughout Europe and Asia. Who does not frequently observe in the public prints of this country, as well as of France [114/115] and Germany, allusions to "the Hon. the East India Company" as a still existing body, possessing territorial rights, and a political and commercial organisation? On the continent of Europe this misapprehension is very general, nor can we feel surprised at the mistake, when even public men of some repute in this country have been observed to labour under similar delusions. It was but the other day that a gentleman,1 who' had for a considerable period a seat in the legislature, declared at a public meeting that it was unjust to permit the people of India to be ruled by a few commercial gentlemen, whose only object must necessarily be to obtain the highest dividends for their constituents! If a public man, living in the clear atmosphere of English public life, and with access to all the sources of correct information, can labour under such extraordinary misapprehensions, what sort of idea must be formed of the British government in the untutored mind of the Hindoo, or by the fierce and fanatical Mussulman? They never hear of any other power than that of the "Company." They regard it as the source of all authority. From it alone the governor-general receives, as they suppose, his commission, and to it he is responsible, and their highest conception of sovereign power must be a grasping and avaricious mercantile association draining India of its wealth to swell its enormous gains. What sort of allegiance could the people of India justly owe to such a government, and what attachment could a native soldiery entertain for a power supposed to maintain them out of the very spoils of their country? It is certainly not in human, far less in Indian, nature to venerate a power which it conceives as ruling not for the righteous purposes of protection and justice, but for its own selfish and mercenary ends.
Mr. Halliday, a gentleman who had filled very high offices in India, speaking in the presence of his employers, the Court of Directors, stated that the charter of 1833, giving a twenty years' lease to the East India Company, was considered by the natives of India as farming them out. "You used the expression," was one of the questions put to him by a directory, " 'farming the government;' do you believe the people of India think the government of India is farmed out to the Company in the same sense that the taxes were farmed at the period you allude to?" "They use precisely the same word in speaking with the renewal of the charter. They will talk with you as to the probability of the 'jarch,' or farm, being renewed, and, as far as I know, they have no other term to express it."
Such is the conception very generally formed in the native mind of the nature of the English rule, and as long as such a misapprehension exists—and it cannot but exist while the phantom of the East India Company is permitted still to hover over the territories of India—so long will a spirit of hostility be engendered against England, and conspiracies organised to shake off the ignominous, although imaginary, yoke.2
"If," Mr. Halliday continued, "you were to change the system, and [115/116] to govern India in the name of the Crown, you would enormously add to the reverence which the people of India would have for your government, and increase the stability of your empire."
It is impossible that this miserable political fiction, the source of so much misconception and, we doubt not, of such disastrous alienation of the native mind, can be permitted any longer to exist. The utter hollowness and rottenness of the whole system have been shown and recorded in our previous numbers. The time has arrived for it to be utterly condemned and cast aside as the relic of a past age and an exploded policy. The veil which has hitherto concealed the Crown from the eyes of the people of India must now be rent asunder, and the glorious symbol of British sovereignty revealed to the eyes of every inhabitant of our Indian dominions.
The precise form of administration must necessarily be a subject of great consideration. It is clearly essential that the functions of the Court of Directors, should be utterly, and as speedily as possible, extinguished, and the Court of Proprietors abolished. We have no wish to deny the merits of some of the gentlemen now composing the direction, but their services may be secured to the government in a different form. The Board of Control must undergo the same dissolution as the little senate of Leadenhall-street.
A Council of State for Indian affairs, presided over by a cabinet minister, and composed of a limited number of persons most eminent for their Indian services, nominated by the Crown for a definite period, and their offices exempt from the fluctuations and uncertainty of political life, is, we conceive, the nearest approximation to a satisfactory government for India that we can hope to attain. India, to adopt Lord Macaulay's aphorism, "must be governed in India." A supreme council sitting in London could only define the general policy to be pursued in India, correct errors, reform abuses, and make satisfactory appointments. The proceedings of a council such as we have suggested would not be above the reach of public opinion, and all its measures would be subject to the free criticism of parliament. It might be a desirable arrangement to require the opinions of any members of the council who should dissent from the president to be recorded in the form of written protests or minutes, similar to the system adopted in the supreme council at Calcutta. The necessity of such formal and solemn assertions of opinion would check any tendency to minute and captious objection, and, in the event of any serious difficulty arising between the chief of the council and his subordinates, the detailed reasonings of all the members of the board would be preserved in a form easily presentable to parliament. We should desire to see this council elevated to the rank of a great, responsible, and dignified department. Let distinctions be conferred on its members corresponding to the importance of their functions. Let it be divided into committees for the more convenient transaction of business, and let each department be provided with its appropriate staff. On special occasions, or on stated days, the whole council would naturally assemble for deliberation, and the president would state the general views of the government, as advice, and receive trustworthy and important information from those most competent to give it, and be prepared to advise his colleagues in the cabinet, and to either mature or modify his Indian policy in accordance with the judg- [116/117] ment of able, disinterested, and enlightened men. The choice of the Crown should be strictly confided to those civil and military functionaries who have served a definite period in India, and the government may then be safely entrusted with their selection. Distinguished ability and success in Indian administration will establish irresistible claims to a seat at the India board. A considerable salary should be attached to the office, so as to make it an object of desire as well as of laudable ambition to eminent Indian statesman. We anticipate the happiest effects from this future prospect upon the Anglo-Indian community, and public men, instead of looking forward to a degrading and often unsuccessful canvass for a seat in nominal direction, will carry with them throughout their Indian career the conviction that proved ability and distinguished services cannot fail to attract the notice of the home government, and to secure for them a reward of great dignity and importance. All parliamentary jobbing would necessarily be excluded by this arrangement, and the right men would be selected because no others would be eligible. Recommendations from the Governor-General of Viceroy of India, in whichever name the government may be carried on, should be allowed great weight. It might be expedient to give him the power of nominating one or more members of the board, and retired governors-general should be entitled, by virtue of their rank and services, to seats at the board.
It is a necessary condition of our parliamentary government that an Indian council should be presided over by a minister of the Crown, and be thus directly connected with the administration of the day. An elective or independent council for Indian affairs is an impossibility with our form of government. An imperium in imperio would be created of a most anomalous and dangerous description. The disadvantages of a frequent change in presidentship of the council are obvious enough, but they are unavoidable. But the minister for Indian affairs would, we may assume, always be a statesman of the first rank, possessing the confidence of the cabinet, representing their views, and instructed to carry out their measures. For minute and accurate knowledge he must rely on his council, and to it may be safely entrusted the general administration of details. It may, however be objected, that a council for Indian affairs would be found impracticable in its working, that its time would be occupied in constant discussion, to the obstruction of business and derangement of the machinery of government. We would give the President of the Indian Council a power of overruling the decisions of his colleagues in every instance, and he would, in the rare occurrence of a collision, be obliged to defend his policy in parliament. Nor do we discover any reason why an India board more than a cabinet, or any other council, should be exposed to the inconvenience of frequent differences of opinion; and we have never heard it objected to our government that a cabinet council is a focus of political dissension.
In framing a new government for India, and ministry must be prepared to encounter the old objection of a design to accumulate power in its own hands. The danger of vesting the patronage of India in the ministers of the Crown will of course be urged by political opponents, whether sitting on one side of the Speaker's chair or the other. Mr Fox was assailed by a similar cry, although he proposed to rule India by a parliamentary commission. His reply was decisive. "If," he said, "the [117/118] reform of the government of India is to be postponed until a scheme be devised against which ingenuity, ignorance, caprice, or faction shall not raise objections, the government will never be reformed at all." And a yet greater man3 said, on the same occasion, "If we are not able to contrive some method of governing India well which will not of necessity become the means of governing Great Britain ill, a ground is laid for their eternal separation, but none for sacrificing the people of that country to their constitution." The system of open competition for civil and military appointments has already done much, and will do more, to check the abuses of patronage. Indian appointments may be largely distributed among our best public and private schools as prizes for merit; and the test of a rigid examination be in all cases enforced upon candidates nominated by the council, in the hands of which a large portion of the patronage may, we should hope, be safely lodged. An increase of the patronage of administration must, however, be accepted as one of the necessary conditions of parliamentary government. It is not an addition to the power of the Crown so much as an augmentation of the means of influence which must always be possessed by a minister. We must accept our free institutions with their necessary and inevitable drawbacks. The disadvantages of parliamentary government may be considerable; a certain amount of corruption must always be one of the greatest, but we look for its correction not to any impracticable abnegation of patronage, but to the increased and increasing power of public opinion, the free criticism of the press, and an improved tone of political morality among all orders and descriptions of public men.
It may be instructive, in the present transition state of our Indian government, to cast a retrospective glance upon the policy of other states, but more particularly that of Spain in the government of her distant dependencies. It may appear extraordinary to refer to that country in her state of decadence of degradation, but there was much in the colonial administration of Spain that is worthy of our attention. Making due allowance for the difference in the character of the two nations, they had much in common during certain periods of their history. The same spirit of enterprise, and the same indomitable perseverance, marked the Spanish as it did the English conquests. Both nations exhibited the same marked ascendancy over the subject races, and those races both possessed a very ancient civilisation. But it is to the policy of the Spanish government when it was under the necessity of constituting an administration for its colonial empire that we wish to direct attention. There is one peculiarity in the Spanish conception of government, as applied to its dependencies, that, in a most important particular, distinguishes it from our own. Zeal for the propagation of the Christian faith was with that country more than an ostensible motive for encouraging the spirit of enterprise and discovery in the New World. A missionary establishment was an institution of the state. The success in diffusing Christianity was great in proportion to the means employed, and if the benevolent intentions of the supreme government had not been counteracted by the iniquitous conduct of delegated power, the noble efforts of missionary enterprise would have been crowned with success, and a [118/119] Pagan would perhaps have been converted into a Christian community. Widely different has been the policy of England towards her distant and idolatrous dependency. There the light of Christianity was for a long period studiously hidden from the native mind, or was seen, if at all, only as a thin veil thrown over the general profligacy. There was never even a pretence to any higher motive than mercantile gain in our original connexion with India, and a Christian missionary who had dared to set his foot in the land dedicated to the worship of Vishnu and Mammon was expelled with contumely from the soil. Here the policy of Spain stands out in bright contrast to that of England, for, however unsuccessful in results, and inapplicable as a precedent, her noble effort to christianise her subjects by imparting to them the light, such as it was, that she herself possessed, must for ever give her a claim to respect.
A fundamental maxim of the Spanish jurisprudence with respect to America was to consider whatever had been acquired there as vested in the Crown. That state never committed the preposterous mistake of perpetuating a gigantic monopoly, bartering its territorial rights for money to a company of merchants, and delegating to them the awful and almost incommunicable attributes of peace and war. The Spanish government became instantly, in fact as well as in theory, the absolute proprietors of whatever soil had been conquered by the arms of its adventurous subjects. The colonists who established infant settlements were entrusted with no privileges independent of their sovereign, or that could serve as a barrier against the power of the Crown.
When the conquests of Spain in America were completed, she divided her enormous territories into three distinct and independent viceroyalties, which may suggest a comparison with our three Indian presidencies. Each viceroy possessed almost regal prerogatives. The civil business of the various provinces and districts was committed to magistrates of various orders and denominations, and the administration of justice was entrusted to tribunals formed after the model of those of Spain and to judges of Spanish blood; and a power of appeal was given first to the viceroy, and in the last resort to the Great Council of the Indies.
It is on the constitution and functions of this celebrated department of Spanish administration that we wish to briefly remark, as affording an example of the policy of a nation placed in circumstances somewhat analogous to our own. It was composed of the most eminent statesmen of the Spanish nation, well acquainted with the colonies, eminent for the purity of their characters, and illustrious for their public services. These men, celebrated even in the age of great characters, were selected by their sovereign to assist him in arduous task of ruling his distant empire, and in them was vested the supreme government of all the Spanish dominions in America. The jurisdiction of the council extended to every department—ecclesiastical, civil, military, and commercial. All the laws and ordinances relative to the government and police of the colonies originated there, and required the approval of two-thirds of the members before they were issued in the name of the king. To it every person employed was made responsible, and every plan originated or suggested by the viceroys fro improvising the administration or police of their governments was submitted to its decision. "From the first institution of the Council of the Indies," says Robertson, "it has been the constant habit [119/120] of the Catholic monarchs to maintain its authority and to make such additions from time to time, both to its power and splendour, as might render it formidable to all their subjects in the New World. Whatever degree of public order and virtue still remains in that country, where so many circumstances conspire to relax the former and to corrupt the latter, may be ascribed in a great measure to the wise regulations and vigilant inspection of this respectable tribunal."
A presiding and regulating council such as this, but constituted in the way that we have suggested, is, we conceive, the description of government adapted for our great East Indian dependency. The statesman to whom the great powers for ruling India are delegated must necessarily be supreme and irresponsible in India, his policy receiving only its general direction from the great council at Whitehall, and he should be aided by a local council appointed by the Crown. We believe it to be generally felt that the governor-general, while he might enter into wars entailing the expenditure of millions, has been restricted from initiating any public improvements costing more than 5000l. a year. All works requiring a larger outlay have been referred to the home authorities. A governor-general and his council sitting at a Calcutta must be far better judges of the immediate economical requirements of India than a body of gentlemen, however able, whether sitting in Leadenhall-street or Whitehall. An apprehension of future censure from the home council would, we need not add, be one of the worst of errors, and could result only in confusion.
Not the least remarkable of the many astonishing characteristics of the recent revolt has been the complete secrecy in which its origin and organisation are shrouded. The government, notwithstanding the tens of thousands of intelligent and educated natives in its pay and employment, and, without doubt, more or less cognisant of the gigantic conspiracy for the extinction of the British rule and race, never received from any official the slightest intimation of the approaching danger. The history of the world cannot furnish another instance of such complete and wide-spread treachery. A complete reorganisation of the police, revenue, and native judicial establishments would appear to be inevitable. No native can, we fear, for a long period, be trusted even in subordinate offices. Great reforms are called for in the general administration of justice throughout India. The multiplication of tedious written forms and the oppression of stamps are evils of great magnitude, and require speedy redress. A commission is now engaged in the labour of reforming the civil code, and much may be expected from it; therefore we entertain strong hopes of improvements in this direction. Brevity of process, rapidity of decision, and a restricted right of appeal, are the objects to be aimed at in this as in all other legal reforms.
Next in importance to the necessity of providing a competent council [120/121] for the transaction of Indian business is the great question of the Indian debt. Now this debt represents the sums of money which have been spent for the two purposes of carrying on the Indian trade during the time that the Company was a commercial association, and of conquering the country. For the former of these objects we have spent a sum redeemable at twelve millions sterling, representing the capital of an extinct company, of which the imperial government has thought proper to guarantee the interest and provide for the repayment. The interest of this debt is charged upon the revenues and raised by the taxation of India. The people of India, therefore, are paying interest at the rate of ten per cent. per annum upon a capital which the government has, with the grossest injustice, fixed as an incumbrance upon their country. The government of England has, moreover, charged upon the natives of India a debt of fifty millions sterling, incurred not in wars of defence but in wars of aggrandisement, and undertaken for carrying out its imperial policy. What can be said for the paternal character of the British government while such a blot as this remains conspicuous to the world? How do such acts differ in principle from the very worst proconsular exactions of the Roman Empire? We capitalise the money that we have spent in extending our empire, and to secure interest upon this we impose taxes upon India, which are remitted to England, and we send out collectors and an army to gather in these taxes for the relief of British finance. Until we have removed from ourselves the reproach of such injustice let us cease to proclaim our anxiety for the christianisation of India. Our hands are not clean; our conscience is not clear. Every rupee raised in India should, after providing the ordinary expenses of government, be expended for the benefit of India. We may then without hypocrisy, and in self-denying earnestness, address ourselves to the task of enlightening and converting the population which we rule.
When justice to India has been proclaimed and acted on as the basis of our future government, we may direct our thoughts to the relation in which we stand to our idolatrous fellow-subjects, and to the responsibilities of our position in reference to their religion. Our policy in this particular will probably, before long, undergo some modification. The task of governing India has hitherto been relegated to as clique of superannuated and often effete officials, with no views beyond the interests and exigencies of the hour. Nor has the legislature bestowed more than a passing thought on Indian affairs, because the public itself evinced a profound indifference to the subject. All this has now passed away, we believe, for ever, and the most fearful shock that the sensibilities of a nation ever received has recalled it to a sense of its duty. The religious question seems to have been more generally dwelt on than others, and the government will have at least to reconsider its policy on this momentous subject. A higher tone will be required to be taken both as regards Christianity and the popular superstitions. The degree of government interference will be a problem to solve of great difficulty and delicacy. It cannot, in this age, follow the example of Spain, and all modern theories of government are opposed to direct religious action by the state. It will be difficult to resist the popular demand for a government interposition, but it will be more perilous to yield to it. No government can, in the nineteenth century, undertake the propagation of [121/122] religious truth without departing from its first principles; nor can the legislature, of this country at least, invest any religious body with an exclusive commission for the conversion of the heathen. A general support and encouragement of missionary enterprise appears to be all that can be reasonably expected from it. State assistance may, perhaps, be afforded to every religious denomination supporting a missionary establishment; more, we think, cannot be demanded. A strong sense of public duty and responsibility will probably show itself in a vast augmentation of the means of missionary labour, to bear, we trust, at no distant day, abundant fruit.
However great may have been the anomalies and shortcomings of the imperial government of India, the affairs of no country were ever administered by a more able class of public servants than those selected for ministerial offices in the East. The local administration of India has been distinguished by an amount of ability of which this nation may well be proud. Let us do justice, too, in the hour of its inevitable dissolution, to the merits and services even of the East India Company. If it perpetrated great crimes it performed great actions. It governed India with energy, and generally with success. It sent into the East, as the representatives of its power and the instruments of its will, some of the most extraordinary men that ever took upon themselves the direction of public affairs or wielded the terrible energies of war, and the circumstances by which they were surrounded often developed the characters of these men into heroic proportions. Whether their actions were always regulated by the principles of street justice, may be unhappily questioned. The vigour of their policy, and possibly the necessities of their position, have undoubtedly, even of late years, tempted them to the commission or approval of acts both shocking to humanity and derogatory to a Christian people. We must here quote from a speech but recently delivered by Sir John Pakington at a provincial public meeting:
"After the victory should have been gained, let them bear in mind that their own hands were not clean; India had not been governed as it ought. It was only yesterday that he had submitted to the astonished eyes of a large party in a country house official proof that in collecting the revenues of India there had been practised in the name of England—he would not say by the authority, but, he feared, not without the knowledge of Englishment—there had been practised tortures little less horrible than those which we now deplore."4
In conclusion, we have only to make a few remarks on the recent revolt in our great Indian Empire. It appears to be now accepted as a fact that it was the result of a vast Mahomedan conspiracy long organised, and having for its object the re-establishment of its ancient dominion. The Brah-minical element in Indian society combined with the Mahomedan for one common purpose, namely, the extermination of the British race. The rapid progress which European civilisation has made of late has been viewed by the Brahmin, indeed, with more alarm than by the Mahomedan. The one may have been actuated by ambition, but the other was impelled by the instinct of self-preservation. [122/123]His traditional faith had received several severe shocks, some of its oldest customs had been authoritatively suppressed, and the diffusion of secular knowledge, and improvised education, and an active press threatened to undermine the very basis of the religious edifice. Both races probably viewed the extension and consolidation of British power with dismay. The fears of both for the future must naturally have been great. The progress of railways and the mysterious electric wire aroused undefined apprehensions, and it must have appeared that the alien race had, indeed, resolved to establish itself permanently in the land. A conspiracy at such a crisis, among such a people, and for a common object, cannot be considered an unnatural, if it was an unexpected, event. Advantage was taken of a period of supposed weakness of the British government to bring it to maturity. The well-known spirit of insubordination existing in the Bengal army was an excellent instrument for revolt, and an unintentional shock given to its religious prejudices afforded the wished-for opportunity. Such we conceive to be the rationale of the Indian rebellion.
The great minister who personifies the good sense and practical earnestness, not less than the spirit, of the British people, will not, we are confident, neglect the great opportunity which now offers itself for remodelling the Indian government. He may accomplish that for which other statesmen, less favoured by circumstances, have toiled and striven in vain. Immortalised in European history, he may now earn an imperishable name in the future annals of India as the statesman who first conferred on that long-neglected country the blessing of a stable and uniform government. This great act of justice and policy will throw all his former services and diplomatic triumphs into the shade, and light up the evening of his life with all the "sunset glories" of a prolonged and brilliant career. His countrymen have unbounded confidence in his firmness and virtue, and he may rely upon their sympathy and support. He may rest assured that this great convulsion has been fraught with much instruction, and that it has taught many lessons which they are not likely to forget. It has taught us the necessity of a radical change in our whole system of government, and the propriety of an immediate assertion, throughout India, of the sovereignty of the British Crown. It has taught us the fatuity and wickedness of our former indifference to the interests of the vast territories committed to our care, and may it teach us, in the words of that great man to whose capacious mind the affairs of British India were almost as intimately present as those of his own country or parish, that "it is not a predilection for mean, sordid, home-bred cares that will aver the consequences of a false estimation of our interest, or prevent the dilapidation into which a great empire must fall by mean reparations upon mighty ruins!"
Last modified 6 April 2010