« AnteriorContinuar »
on journalism were thus knocked off in 1836. Criminal laws were further modified.
The same spirit of reform, and the same desire to promote the happiness of the people, marked the policy of England and of India during this progressive age; and the noble and liberalminded statesmen who guided the destinies of England during this age worked side by side with statesmen, equally great and large-hearted, who ruled the destinies of India. To try to read Indian history apart from English history would be an endeavour to understand a result without knowing the cause.
The same moving force determined events in both countries ; the extension of privileges to the people of India during this period is the counterpart of the Reform Act in England, and Munro, Elphinstone, and Bentinck were inspired by the same reforming spirit as Canning, Grey, and Lord John Russell.
It was during this period of peace that British rulers applied themselves to the arduous task of beneficent government and to the formation of what may be called an Indian policy. The great figures of that age were men such as Bentinck and Munro, Mountstuart Elphinstone and Metcalfe, who were confronted with the difficult problem of giving satisfaction to many millions of human beings, widely different from themselves in almost every respect and dominated by social customs and political traditions which often seemed to the Western mind meaningless and sometimes inhuman. They discarded at once all ideas of denationalising India by the imposition of Western conceptions of religion and social polity. Even in the maintenance of law and order and in the general administration of the country they proceeded slowly and cautiously. They refrained as far as possible from abrupt innovations, but sought rather to establish a system which departed little from Indian traditions and under which the Indians would be able to develop in accordance with their past history and to maintain their own customs and religious beliefs. The path which they determined to tread was perilous indeed. There was the danger, on the one hand, of internal discontent and, on the other, of censure by the Court of Directors in London or by the English inhabitants of Calcutta. The British rulers of those days, however, rose above the difficulties which surrounded them and reached a very high level of statesmanship. They maintained peace; they established a workable system of orderly government ; they cared for the material needs of the country; but at the same time they kept almost intact the old social and religious organisation of the people. On the other hand, they were quite prepared to eradicate customs which were manifestly evil and inhuman. When the happiness of the people was at stake, they did not shrink from bold measures, nor did they take refuge in the faint-hearted excuse that interference with social practices was dangerous to the continuance of British rule and therefore to be deprecated. Patience and forbearance on the one hand and courage and determination on the other were the leading characteristics of their policy. M. Chailley, an astute critic of British rule in India, has explained the nature of that policy as it appeared to him, and Sir John Malcolm, in his instructions to the civil servants placed under his control, has shown in what spirit he expected that policy to be carried out. And in a following excerpt Mr. Holt Mackenzie has expounded the ideals of that policy.
✓ The Meaning of an Indian Policy
M. Chailley. (Macmillan & Co.) The Government must have the will and the power to free itself from European prejudices, and to repudiate, if found to be mistaken, administrative and political doctrines which it has hitherto accepted. It must discard commonplace solutions, and must be prepared to abandon what seems to be a straight road in favour of untried paths. A native policy, too, often requires a Government to renounce the pleasant rôle or the easy part as so many people believe nowadays-of an earthly providence; to abandon the habit of continual intervention; to wait, it may be for long, until it can intervene expediently. It must keep silent while men act and events occur, must remain apparently inactive, and must let itself be suspected and attacked. It must occasionally even side against its own countrymen, like the mother who, in a group of turbulent children, only ventures to chide her own. It must know that a law is faulty, and yet resist the temptation to alter it; it must bear for a time with untrustworthy or incapable officials. And yet it
must not allow non-intervention to become a fixed rule ; it must seize the fitting opportunity for inaugurating desirable changes. 1 It will realise that the subject peoples are firmly attached to their old customs and institutions; that they find our civilisation cold and repellent, and that they must be led to it very gradually, gently, and patiently by evolution from their own traditions. Their eyes cannot be opened forcibly ; they must be persuaded to see for themselves. I do not say that the English have been the first or the only people to see the necessity for a native policy of this description; nor, again, that they have made no mistakes in treading this perilous ground-their history abounds with such. But they have practised as well as theorised; they have carried out a definite native policy, as I understand the term, at intervals for over a century, and continuously during the last fifty years.
Aristocrats themselves, their first relations in India were with the princes and nobles, but as they progressed and came to understand the structure of Indian society, they gradually got down to the mass of the people. Their new connections, however, never led them to break off the old ones. Even when the native princes seemed useless to them they were maintained and protected, and were often restored to territories which they had lost. They made use, too, of recently conquered enemies. Thus, in Burma the ministers of King Thibaw were utilised by the new British Government, and those of them who still survive are in receipt of pensions, and are from time to time consulted.
This policy has borne fruit. It was no doubt rudely tested by the Sepoy mutiny in 1857 ; but military and political errors explain that formidable incident. And though the English were, for the moment, discouraged by it (both civil and military officers had been so sure of their men), they once more concluded that it was possible to conciliate the natives, and resumed their native policy. They extended it, in fact, to a larger area; they improved it and rendered it more methodical and more kindly.
✓ The Methods of an Indian Policy Source.-Sir J. Malcolm, “ Instructions to Officers acting under his
orders in Central India.” (W. K. Allen & Co. 1821.)
Almost all who, from knowledge and experience, have been capable of forming any judgment upon the question are agreed that our power in India rests on the general opinion of the natives of the comparative good faith, wisdom, and strength of their own rulers. This important impression will be improved by the consideration we show to their habits, institutions, and
1 As was done by Lord Bentinck in the suppression of sati.
religion-by the moderation, temper, and kindness with which we conduct ourselves towards them; and injured by every act that offends their belief or superstition, that shows disregard or neglect of individuals or communities, or that evinces our having, with the arrogance of conquerors, forgotten those maxims by which this great empire has been established, and by which alone it can be preserved.
Our success and moderation, contrasted with the misrule and violence to which a great part of the population of India have for more than a century been exposed, have at this moment raised the reputation of the British nation so high that men have forgotten, in the contemplation of the security and prosperity they enjoy under strangers, their feelings of patriotism; but these are feelings which that very knowledge that it is our duty to impart must gradually revive and bring into action. The people of India must, by a recurring sense of benefits, have amends made to them for the degradation of continuing subject to foreign masters, and this can alone be done by the combined efforts of every individual employed in a station of trust and responsibility to render popular a government which, though not national, has its foundations laid deep on the principles of toleration, justice, and wisdom. Every agent of Government should study and understand the above facts. He should not content himself with having acquired a knowledge of the languages and of the customs of those with whom he has intercourse. All his particular acts (even to the manner of them) should be regulated by recurrence to the foundations of our rule and a careful observation of those principles by which it has been established and can alone be maintained. Of the importance of this I cannot better state my opinion than by expressing my full conviction that, independent of the prescribed duties which every qualified officer performs, there is no person in a situation of any consequence who does not, both in substance and manner of his conduct, do something every day in his life which, as it operates on the general interests of the empire through the feelings of the circle he controls or rules, has an unseen effect in strengthening or weakening the Government by which he is employed.
You are called upon to perform no easy task; to possess power, but seldom to exercise it; to witness abuses which you think you could correct; to see the errors, if not crimes, of superstitious bigotry, and the miseries of misrule, and yet forbear, lest you injure interests far greater than any within the sphere of your limited duties, and impede and embarrass, by a rash change and innovation that may bring local benefit, the slow but certain march of general improvement. Nothing can keep you right on all these points but constant efforts to add to your knowledge, and accustoming your mind to dwell upon the character of the British power in India and that of the empire over which it is established. The latter, comprehending numerous tribes and nations, with all their various institutions and governments, may truly, though metaphorically, be viewed as a vast and ancient fabric, neither without shape and beauty, but of which many parts are in a dilapidated state, and all more or less soiled or decayed; still it is a whole, and connected in all its parts; the foundations are deep laid, and to the very summit arch rests upon arch. We are now its possessors; and if we desire to preserve, while we improve it, we must make ourselves completely masters of the frame of the structure to its minutest ornaments and defects; nor must we remove the smallest stone till another is ready, suited to fill the vacant niche, otherwise we may inadvertently bring a ruin on our own heads, and those of others, on the spot where we too eagerly sought to erect a monument of glory.
The Ideals of an Indian Policy
Board of Control and reported to the House of Commons in 1832.
Looking to no very distant time in the history of a nation, we might, I think, increase the wealth of the country or secure a better distribution of it, and consequently raise more revenue, if wanted, by all or some of the following measures : by a settlement of the amount to be paid by the owners of land for a long term of years, the assessment being so adjusted as to leave them a valuable property in the surplus rent beyond the Government demand, and with a survey and record such as to remove all doubt with regard to the subject matter of settlement; by encouraging the settlement of Europeans and the children of Europeans, and the application of their energy, skill, and capital to agriculture ; by educating the natives to European knowledge and habits; by admitting natives to a larger share in the advantages of office; by constant but gradually urged efforts to give a more popular character to the administration of the country ; by a liberal but economical and strictly watched expenditure in facilitating internal intercourse; by removing all artificial impediments to the extension of trade in India, or between England and India ; by abolishing the usury law in India and providing generally a good system of mercantile law, and courts to administer promptly and cheaply.