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address in which it was stated that his action in the matter was one among other recent proofs that the Government of India is wisely and safely entrusted to those who are intimately acquainted with the course of its administration, and with the manners, opinions, and feelings of its people.”
In his reply, which is given below, Metcalfe explained the nature of the new Act and the motives for its introduction.
The Freedom of the Press L
J. W. Kaye. (Richard Bentley.) If the argument be, that the spread of knowledge may eventually be fatal to our rule in India, I maintain that, whatever may be the consequence, it is our duty to communicate the benefits of knowledge. If India could only be preserved as a part of the British Empire, by keeping its inhabitants in a state of ignorance, our domination would be a curse to the country, and ought to cease.
But I see more ground for just apprehension in ignorance itself. I look to the increase of knowledge with a hope that it may strengthen our Empire ; that it may remove prejudices, soften asperities, and institute a rational conviction of the benefits of our government; that it may unite the people and their rulers in sympathy, and that the differences which separate them may be gradually lessened and ultimately annihilated. Whatever, however, be the will of Almighty Providence respecting the future government of India it is clearly our duty, as long as the charge be confided to our hands, to execute the trust to the best of our ability for the good of the people. The promotion of knowledge, of which the liberty of the Press is one of the most efficient instruments, is manifestly an essential part of that duty. It cannot be that we are permitted by Divine authority to be here merely to collect the revenues of the country, pay the establishments necessary to keep possession, and get into debt to supply the deficiency. We are, doubtless, here for higher purposes, one of which is to pour the enlightened knowledge and civilisation, the arts and sciences of Europe over the land, and thereby improve the condition of the people. Nothing, surely, is more likely to conduce to these ends than the liberty of the Press.
In addition to the motives which must have existed, on general principles, for giving the fullest freedom, there were circumstances in the state of the Press in India which rendered the measure now proposed almost unavoidable. The Press has been practically free for many years, including the whole period of the administration of the late Governor-General, Lord William Bentinck; and although laws of restriction existed in Bengal which gave awful power to the Government, they had ceased to operate for any practical purpose. They were extremely odious. They gave to the Government arbitrary power, which British subjects in any part of the world detest. No Government could now have carried them into effect without setting universal opinion at defiance. After the liberty given by Lord William Bentinck's forbearance, no Government could have ventured to enforce these laws unless it had been gifted with a most hardy insensibility to ridicule and obloquy. Even supposing these to be good, they were utterly useless; and as they brought necessary odium on the Government, it would have been absurd longer to retain them.
In speaking of those laws, I cannot refrain from adverting to the individual? who, having been at the head of the Government when they were passed, bears all the blame of being their author. He was one of the best and purest and most benevolent men that ever lived. In proposing those laws he must have been actuated, as he always was, by the most upright and conscientious motives. Had he been now alive, and at the head of this Government, he would probably have been among the foremost to propose the abolition of those laws which he formerly thought necessary, but would now have seen to be useless and odious. To what a degree popular opinion prevails against them cannot be more strikingly shown than by the detraction which they have brought on the memory of one who was eminently deserving of all praise, distinguished by great talents and the most important public services, the soul of honour and virtue, admired, beloved, revered by all who knew him, but condemned by the public, who knew him not, solely on account of these laws which they abhor.
In the Bengal and Agra Presidencies the question was, whether these laws should be retained or abolished ; laws, be it observed, too unpopular to be executed, and whose practice had in every respect become obsolete. In the provinces subordinate to Bombay there was the same question; but that was not the question in other parts of India. The question then was, shall such laws be introduced where they have not been known ? Shall odious restrictions be imposed where there is already perfect freedom ? Shall despotic power be substituted in the place of law, or shall liberty be restrained even by law?
At Madras there was no local law, and there was no means of making any person responsible for what was published. At the Presidency of Bombay there was a law already existing, as free as that now proposed for all India. At Madras and Bombay to have made any law short of perfect freedom would have been to impose restrictions which did not before exist. Such a course would surely have been wrong, and was certainly unnecessary. A law was urgently required at Madras, where liberty existed without responsibility. We could not legislate partially on such a subject; and the truth of our deliberations was, that what is now proposed was the safest and the best law that could be devised. It gives perfect liberty, and all its subordinate provisions aim only at proper responsibility. Things could not remain as they were, and any law of restriction would have been sad retrogression in legislation, and totally opposed to the spirit
of the age.
Whatever may have been the indirect results of Metcalfe's action, the immediate effect was a distinct improvement in journalistic enterprise. Mr. Marshman, who had worked for many years as a Christian missionary in Serampore College, was the editor of the weekly Friend of India ; and Captain, afterwards Sir John, Kaye edited the Hurkuru. These, together with Alexander Duff, decided that a great need for educated society in Calcutta was a magazine to which thoughtful men, whatever might be their opinions on politics and religion, could contribute. The result was the Calcutta Review, the first number of which appeared in May, 1844
The First Publication of the “Calcutta Review'
Source.--"Life of Alexander Duff.”
Vol. II., p. 92. George Smith. (Hodder & Stoughton.) Shortly after spending the evening at his (Kaye’s) house I received a long letter from him, in which he stated his views about the desirableness of having a first-rate quarterly review for India ; that the only parties whom he had consulted were Sir Henry Lawrence, Mr. John Marshman, and Captain Marsh; and that now, having ascertained they were favourable to the project, he wished to learn whether I would join with them and become a regular contributor. I had long felt very strongly the need of a powerful periodical to do justice to the weighty
affairs of our Indian Empire. I therefore had no hesitation in replying at once, expressing a sense of the extreme desirableness of such a periodical. Only, I added, all will depend on the principles on which it is conducted. If these be sound in all
. departments-political, civil, social, theological, religious, and moral, the good accruing therefrom may be pre-eminent. On the contrary, if the principles be unsound on these and other leading subjects, the evil will be proportionately great. I promised I would gladly join them in a close partnership to carry on the new review, if he would pledge himself in the first place that nothing would appear in it hostile to Christianity or Christian subjects generally; and secondly, that whenever proper occasion naturally arose, clear and distinct enunciations should be made as to sound Christianity and its propagation by missionaries in India. Mr. Kaye promptly assured me that these substantially expressed his own views, and if I would write an article for the first number he would leave me entirely free to choose the subject. Having a number of odd documents in my possession relative to the first Indian or Danish mission, I wrote a very elaborate article on the whole subject of missions, in which no important part was omitted.
THE LAST DAYS OF THE COMPANY
The last of the Charter Acts was passed in 1853 during the rule of Lord Dalhousie. It was fairly clear that the days of the Company were numbered in that the Charter was not renewed, as had been the case in the past, for a period of twenty years, but "only until Parliament shall otherwise provide.” The power of the Crown was increased by the provision that six of the Directors should be appointed by the Crown and that “the right of patronage to Indian appointments was taken away from the Court of Directors and directed to be exercised in accordance with regulations framed by the Board of Control. These regulations threw the Covenanted Civil Service open to general competition.” The Government of India was relieved from the direct control over Bengal by the appointment of a LieutenantGovernor for that province, who was to exercise powers similar to those of the Lieutenant-Governor of the NorthWestern Provinces.
The most important departure introduced by the Act of 1853 was the extension of the Council of the GovernorGeneral for the purpose of making laws and regulations. It has already been noticed that the Law Member? originally had not the right to sit and to vote at ordinary meetings of the Council, but only at meetings which were concerned with matters of legislation. This principle was now extended by the inclusion of the Chief Justice of Bengal, a puisne judge, and a member nominated by each of the local governments of Bengal, Madras, Bombay and the North-Western Provinces. A very considerable degree of independence
1 The full privileges were given to the Law Member in the Act of 1853