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ART. VIII-1. Remarks on several recent Publications regarding the Civil Government and Foreign Policy of British India. By THOMAS CAMPBELL ROBERTSON, Esq., Bengal Civil Service. 8vo. London: 1829.
2. An Enquiry into the Causes of the long-continued Stationary Condition of India and its Inhabitants; with a brief Examination of the Leading Principles of two of the most approved Revenue Systems of British India. By a Civil Servant of the Hon. East India Company. 8vo. London: 1830. 3. A brief Vindication of the Honourable East India Company's Government of Bengal, from the Attacks of Messrs Rickards and Crawfurd. By Ross DONNELLY MANGLES, Esq., Bengal Civil Service. 8vo. London: 1830.
TH HERE is no necessary connexion between the government of British India and the monopoly of the tea trade. Accident alone has placed them in the same hands; and any endeavour to try the pretensions of the Merchants who have enjoyed the one, in the same issue with the merits of the Princes who have conducted the other, can tend but to ravel both questions. For it must be obvious to the meanest capacity, that our empire in the East may have been wisely and benevolently administered, though it be proved to demonstration, that the exclusive commercial privileges of the Company have cost the community two millions per annum; or, on the other hand, that justice and humanity may cry aloud for a revision of our whole system of Indian policy, though it should be found that any interference with those privileges would recoil upon us in that fearful shape, which comes home to every man's business and bosom, in the privation of an habitual luxury.
Leaving, therefore, the question of monopoly to be decided on its own merits, and waving for the present any reference to the Company's commercial relations with India-which have become of late years very unimportant-we propose to restrict our enquiries and speculations, in this article, to the conduct of that body in its Sovereign capacity, and to the future prospects the great and motley population subjected to its rule. The field, though thus circumscribed, is vast in its extent, and the subject, considered in all its bearings, is too important to be lightly handled, even at a moment when the storms that are gathering more immediately around us, demand all our judgment and energy. Whilst such dangers are impending, indeed,
wisdom would counsel us to improve the breathing time that is permitted, by strengthening the outworks of our empire, before the body of the place be invested, and the struggle, foreign or domestic, draws every mind into its absorbing vortex.
It behoves us, then, to remember, that the legislature will shortly be summoned to decide, as far as man can dispose of man, or the interests of the present generation are involved, upon the moral and political destinies of millions, who must receive from our hands the cup of good or evil. The time, therefore, is fully come, when that private reason, which always prevents or outstrips public wisdom,' should inform itself, both with respect to the deserts of those delegated rulers, who are now about to render an account of their stewardship, and concerning those measures which enlightened policy, philanthropy, and the highest and holiest obligations may concur (for where are they really at variance?) in dictating for our adoption. We may neglect or slur over the duty; but the responsibility is one from which we cannot escape, and which, in that event, would be heavy and disgraceful on us and on our children. We may reap from our Indian empire-the most magnificent appendage that any modern kingdom ever annexed to itself by conquest-an almost boundless harvest of wealth and power;-of that noblest, most stable power, which stands on the broad basis of character; and we may render our dominion an inestimable benefit to the nations that have submitted to our sway. But the path of supineness and indifference is also open before us. The concerns of India have at no time been a welcome subject in English society, or before an English parliament. Nor is this the only risk of error; for selfishness, prejudice, and angry passions, have long since taken up their usual posts at either extreme; the one denouncing all change as pregnant with inconvenience or danger; the other including every scheme of revenue, every plan for the administration of justice, and the whole policy of our Anglo-Indian government, under one sweeping denouncement of folly and misrule. Misrepresentation has not been spared, and large drafts have been drawn upon the credulity of the British public, with a degree of audacity, which nothing but a calculation of impunity, founded on its presumed ignorance, could have generated. Meanwhile, the eyes of envious Europe are upon us-vastly over-estimating the direct advantages which we derive from our Oriental dominions, but equally prepared to exaggerate any indications either of selfishness or apathy, which jealousy may detect in our conduct; and eager to brand Englishmen of the present age with the same foul stains which all the waters of the inter
mediate ocean can never efface from the characters of those to whose valour and talents we are indebted for our present ascendency in the East. The wrongs which they perpetrated have long slept in the grave with the ambition of the conqueror, and the sorrows of the victim. Restitution, were it practicable, would be productive of evils infinitely greater than those which attended the original acts of injustice and spoliation, which are now, to all practical purposes, only historical events. But a glorious course is before us. We may yet redeem, in some measure, the memory of those great men, to whom we owe so large a debt of national gratitude, by making a righteous use of the noble legacy which they have bequeathed us; and by placing ourselves, as humble but willing instruments, in the hands of that great Architect, who alone can make partial moral deformities contribute to the symmetry and excellence of the universal plan.
We are not without our misgivings that neither Trojan nor Tyrian will be altogether satisfied with the conclusions at which we have arrived with regard to the past, or our views of future policy; but we know that all honest arbiters have been equally unsuccessful in their endeavours to please either party, from the earliest ages, down to the late decision upon the Canadian boundary. As respects the existing condition of British India, and the progress that has been made of late years in developing its resources, and ameliorating the condition of its population, we shall presently adduce our reasons for submitting an estimate calculated upon data that would seem to have been sedulously kept out of sight by some, and strangely disregarded by others. In so doing, we shall lay ourselves open to a charge of over-refinement from the philosophers who allow little influence to any moral causes, but those which address themselves immediately to physical condition, and who regard defective political institutions as almost the exclusive sources of social evil. Our opinions regarding future arrangements are equally remote from those of partisans. The horror of reform under which some writers of conservative principles are suffering, seems as absurd as the assumption that to alter is necessarily to amend. We are no more desirous of being the organ of the party which is always, like the Athenians of old, desiring some new thing-in utter ignorance of the nature and character of the political structure into which it proposes to dovetail its figments-than we are of falling in with the prejudices of those who deem it most wise and fitting that their own halting steps should give time to the great onward-march of knowledge and improvement.
When the newspapers announce that a horse has trotted a certain number of miles in a given time, the multitude, indeed, gape and wonder incontinently, if the mere figures bear such a relation as to seem to justify astonishment; but the initiated suspend their opinion, till they have ascertained what weight the animal carried. In like manner, when the effects of chemical or mechanical powers are to be estimated, we make allowance for all unavoidable friction and resistance. The rapidity of the stream against which the steam-boat makes way, and the nature of the surface upon which the locomotive engine travels, together with their respective burdens, enter, of course, into our calculations. On the same principles, we esteem the traveller who advances ten or twenty miles a day through the trackless deserts of central Africa, at least as active and energetic as another who bowls along the turnpike road from York to London in an equal space of time.
If it be our desire to arrive at truth, and not merely to make out a plausible case, we must pursue an analogous course when moral efforts and moral success are the questions at issue. In the nature of things, there is not, there cannot be, any fixed or absolute standard to which the labours of the statesman, the lawgiver, or the practical reformer, can be brought for admeasurement and valuation. It is difficult for those who live in the centre of progressive civilisation, to do justice to others who are employed in opening a new road towards political regeneration in distant regions. In such a case, the combined energies of many good and great men may only suffice to prevent further moral deterioration. It must be often left to successive generations to afford an impetus to society in an opposite direction. A thousand circumstances, beyond the mensuration of the advance made in a given period, must be taken into our calculations when we speculate upon the government of nations, and the effects of political institutions upon human happiness. Before we enter upon enquiries of the nature in question, one of the most important points is to ascertain with the utmost accuracy the exact point from which the rulers, whose conduct we are about to investigate, were compelled to start. It is evident that without such preliminary data, we shall, for the most part, be talking at random, since no man, however acute, can possibly pronounce upon the length of a string till he see both ends of it. These observations, unfortunately, are not so superfluous as they may appear. If our readers had waded through as many party pamphlets upon the vexata questio of Indian government, as it has fallen to our lot to read, they would have come in contact with more than one writer whose understanding is
darkened by the fallacies which we are taking so much trouble to brush
What, then, was the moral and political condition of the natives of Hindostan,-to use the word as it is employed in European geography,-at the time when our countrymen began to play a prominent part upon that distant stage of enterprise and action? In what degree were the people wise, free, intelligent? what were their laws, institutions, religion, and morals? and how far were they prepared or disposed to profit by intercourse with more enlightened strangers?
Despotism, intense and unmitigated, compared with which the autocracy of the Peters and Pauls of Russia may be called liberty and license, had overshadowed the whole continent of India, and bowed down every mind and spirit to the very dust, beneath the accumulated pressure of centuries. During all this period, with only very partial and temporary exceptions, the people had enjoyed none of that protection from foreign or domestic spoilers, which absolute governments have sometimes afforded to their subjects in other quarters of the world. Even their poets and romancers have been compelled to place their golden age in times the most remote; since history could tell no tales but those of war, revolution, anarchy, and rapine. We have the best authority for asserting that the higher the stream is traced, the more frequent, wild, and bloody do these scenes of misery appear. Under such inflictions, the bonds of social order were almost entirely dissolved. Society hung together, indeed, but its constituent parts could not be said to coalesce; and the community rather resembled the state of beasts of prey, on one hand, with timid and defenceless animals, on the other, dwelling in the same wilderness,-the former sometimes fighting desperately among themselves, sometimes uniting to hunt down their common quarry,―than an association for purposes of mutual protection and advantage. There is this unhappy exception to the verisimilitude of our illustration: Providence has ordained that no degree of injury shall produce a change in the instincts and habits of the feebler animals; but the case is very different with human nature in India, as elsewhere. In that wretched country, those classes whom circumstances had placed at the mercy of the great and powerful, were not only rendered callous and indifferent to suffering, but having been made use of as tools, they became corrupted by example-they learned to value their own lives and those of their brethren in general at the meanest rate, and to regard blood as water.
A few facts, selected from the mass, will suffice to prove that this picture, however frightful, is not over-coloured. Colonel