Imagens das páginas

quoted as applying to their actual situation. It is affirmed that they have neither improved nor retrograded; and we are referred to India as to a country in which the institutions and manners that prevailed three thousand years ago, may still be found in their pristine purity! The President de Goguet lays it down distinctly in his learned and invaluable work on the Ori. gin of Laws, Arts, and Sciences, that in India 'every trade is .confined to a particular caste, and can be exercised only by ' those whose parents professed it.'* Dr Robertson says, that

the station of every Hindoo is unalterably fixed; his destiny is 'irrevocable ; and the walk of life is marked out, from which he

must never deviate.'t The same opinions are maintained by later authorities. Dr Tennant says, that the whole Indian • community is divided into four great classes ; and each class

is stationed between certain walls of separation, which are impassable by the purest virtue, and most conspicuous merit.' This unalterable destiny of individuals has been repeatedly assumed in the despatches and official papers put forth by the East India Company; and has been referred to on all occasions by them and their servants, as a proof that the depressed and miserable condition of the natives is not owing to misgovernment, or to the weight of the burdens laid upon them; and that it is in vain to think of materially improving their condition, or of making them acquainted with new arts, or giving them new habits, so long as the institution of castes, and the prejudices to which it has given rise, preserve their ascendancy unimpaired.

But notwithstanding the universal currency which the opinions now referred to have obtained, and the high authority by wbich they are supported, they are, in all the most essential respects, entirely without foundation! The books and codes of the Hindoos themselves, and the minute and careful observations that have recently been made on Indian society, have shown that the influence ascribed to the institution of castes by the ancients, and by the more early modern travellers, has been prodigiously exaggerated. In the work now before us, Mr Rickards has established, partly by references to the authoritative books of the Hindoos, and partly by his own observations, and those of Mr Colebrook, Dr Heber, and other high authorities, that the vast majority of the Hindoo population may, and, in fact, does engage in all sorts of employments. Mr

* Origin of Laws, &c. Eng. Trans. vol. iii. p. 24.
+ Disquisition on India, p. 199.
† Quoted by Mr Rickards, p. 6.

Rickards bas farther shown, that there is nothing in the structure of Indian society to oppose any serious obstacle to the introduction of new arts, or the spread of improvement; and that the causes of the poverty and misery of the people must be sought for in other circumstances than the institution of castes, and the nature of Hindoo superstition.

The early division of the population into the four great classes of priests, (Brahmins,) soldiers, (Cshatryas,) husbandmen and artificers, (Vaisyas,) and slaves, (Sudras,) was maintained only for a very short period. The Hindoo traditions record that a partial intermixture of these classes took place at a very remote epoch ; and the mixed brood thence arising were divided into a vast variety of new tribes, or castes, to whom, speaking generally, no employments are forbidden.

"The employments,' says Mr Rickards, allowed to these mixed and impure castes, may be said to be every description of handicraft, and occupation, for which the wants of human society have created a demand. Though many seem to take their names from their ordinary trade or profession, and some have duties assigned them too low, and disgusting, for any others to perform, but from the direst necessity; yet no employment, generally speaking, is forbidden to the mixed and impure tribes, excepting three of the prescribed duties of the sacerdotal class; viz. teaching the Vedas, officiating at a sacrifice, and receiving presents from a pure-handed giver ; which three are exclusively Brahminicali'

Mr Colebrook, who is acknowledged on all hands to be one of the very highest authorities, as to all that respects Indian affairs, has a paper in the fifth volume of the Asiatic Researches on the subject of castes. In this paper, Mr Colebrook states that the Jatimala, a Hindoo work, enumerates forty-two mixed classes springing from the intercourse of a man of inferior class with a woman of a superior class, or in the inverse order of the classes. Now, if we add to these the number that must have sprung from intermixture in the direct order of the classes, and the hosts further arising from the continued intermixture of the mixed tribes amongst themselves; we shall not certainly be disposed to dissent from Mr Colebrook's conclusion, that

the subdivisions of these classes have farther multiplied distinctions to an endless variety.'

Mr Colebrook has given the following distinct and accurate account of the professions and employments of the several classes at the present day. It forms a curious commentary on the irrevocable destiny' of Dr Robertson, and the • impassa• ble walls' of Dr Tennant.

‘A Brahman, unable to subsist by his duties, may live by the duty of a soldier ; if he cannot get a subsistence by either of these cmploy

ments, he may apply to tillage and attendance on cattle, or gain a competence by traffic, avoiding certain commodities. A Cshatrya in distress, may subsist by all these means ; but he must not have recourse to the highest functions. In seasons of distress a further latitude is given. The practice of medicine, and other learned professions, painting, and other arts, work for wages, menial service, alms, and usury, are among the modes of subsistence allowed both to the Brahman and Cshatrya. A Vaisya, unable to subsist by his own duties, may descend to the servile acts of a Sudra : and a Sudra, not finding employment by waiting on men of the higher classes, may subsist by handicrafts ; principally following those mechanical operations, as joinery and masonry, and practical arts, as painting and writing, by which he may serve men of superior classes ; and although a man of a lower class is in general restricted from the acts of a higher class, the Sudra is expressly permitted to become a trader, or a husbandman.

Besides the particular occupation assigned to each of the mixed classes, they have the alternative of following that profession, which regularly belongs to the class, from which they derive their origin on the mother's side; those at least have such an option, who are born in the direct order of the classes. The mixed classes are also permitted to subsist by any of the duties of a Sudra, that is, by menial service, by handicrafts, by commerce, and by agriculture. Hence it appears, THAT ALMOST EVERY OCCUPATION, THOUGH REGULARLY IT BE THE PROFESSION OF A PARTICULAR CLASS, IS OPEN TO MOST OTHER CLASSES ; and that the limitations, far from being rigorous, do in fact reserve only the peculiar profession of the Brahman, which consists in teaching the l'eda, and officiating at religious ceremonies.'

We bave thus,' says Mr Rickards, 'the highest existing authority for utterly rejecting the doctrine of the whole Hindoo community“ being divided into four castes ;” and of their peculiar prerogatives being guarded inviolate by “ impassable walls of separation.” It is also clear, that the intermixture of castes had taken place, to an indefinite extent, at the time when the Dherma Sastra was composed, which Sir William Jones computes to be about 880 years B. C. ; for the mixed classes are specified in this work, and it also refers, in many places, to past times ; and to events, which a course of time only could have brought about. The origin of the intermixture is therefore lost in the remotest and obscurest antiquity; and having been carried on through a long course of ages, a heterogeneous mass is everywhere presented to us, in these latter times, without a single example in any particular state, or kingdom, or separate portion of the Hindoo community, of that quadruple division of castes, which has been so confidently insisted upon.

I have myself seen carpenters of five or six different castes, and as many different bricklayers, employed on the same building. The same diversity of castes may be observed among the craftsmen in dock-yards, and all other great works; and those, who have resided for any time in the principal commercial cities of India, must be sensible, that every increasing demand for labour, in all its different branches and varieties, of old and new arts, has been speedily and effectually supplied, in spite of the tremendous institution of castes; which we are taught to believe

dustrie supposedom fleste tiens, arts, cu

forms so impassable an obstruction to the advancement of Indian industry.'

The supposed unalterable simplicity of the Hindoo habits, their aversion from flesh mcat, and their imagined contempt for or aversion to the productions, arts, customs, and habits of other countries, are circumstances that have been dwelt upon by almost all writers on Indian affairs, and by the modern rulers of India, as opposing the most formidable obstacles to any attempts at melioration or change. The Court of Directors, in a Report published by them in 1813, for the information of the proprietors, quote with much approbation a passage of Montesquieu, wbere it is stated, “The climate of India neither

requires nor permits the natives to use almost any of our

commodities. Accustomed to go almost naked, the country • furnishes them with the scanty commodities they wear; and • their religion, to which they are in absolute subjection, instils

into them an aversion to that sort of food which we consume. • They, therefore, need nothing from us but our metals. Ancient

authors, who have written upon India, represent the country • such as we now find it, as to police, manners, and morals. India has always been, and India always will be, what it now is; ' and those who trade to India, will carry money thither, and • bring none back.'* After making this quotation, the Court go on to say, “May not the attention of manufacturers of wool

lens, metals, cotton fabrics, potteries, &c. be still called to the • habits of the Indian people, the bulk of whom live all their • days upon rice, and go only half-covered with a slight cotton

cloth, -the rice and cotton both produced by their own soil ? • The earnings of the common labouring classes, and conse

quently their expenses, may be estimated, on an average, not 'to exceed L.4, 10s. per man, per annum. They are indolent • by nature, frugal by habit, under manifold religious restric• tions. What demand for the manufactures of Europe is to be • expected from them?' And the same doctrines bave been repeated in a thousand different shapes, and were given in evidence by the late Sir Thomas Monro and others, at the bar of the House of Commons, when the charter was renewed in 1813, to show the fallacy of the expectations entertained by the advocates of free trade. It is pleasing, however, to have to state, that

* Esprit des Loix, liv. xxi. chap. 1. The Directors have a peculiar talent for quotation, though they sometimes forget to refer to authorities. We beg to thank them for the honour they have done us, in transferring some of our paragraphs to their despatches.

notwithstanding these sinister auguries, and notwithstanding the restraints laid on private enterprise, the official accounts of the exports and imports to and from India and China, since 1814, show that the exports by private traders to India alone, are more than double the Company's exports to India and China together; and that the whole of the private trade to India alone, exceeds the whole of the Company's trade to India and China together, by about one million sterling per annum !

The real truth is, that the unalterable simplicity of the Hindoo habits is about as imaginary as their “irrevocable destiny' to the professions of their fathers. The condition of the common people is so very depressed, that they are, in most instances, obliged to support themselves by living exclusively on the cheapest sort of food; but it is their poverty, and not their willthe situation in which they are placed, and not the influence of religion or habit, that makes them live on rice and water.

The Brahmins entertain a superstitious aversion to the flesh of cattle; but, when they can obtain them, they daily consume all other sorts of meat and fish.

* It is true,' says Mr Rickards, that owing to their poverty, grain, and other vegetables, constitute the common food of the great bulk of the people of India ; but it is an error to suppose that nature, in that climate, permits not the use of animal food, or that the religion of the people requires them to abstain from it; and it is surprising that a prejudice should have gained so much credit and currency, in the western world, when the European residents in India have had almost daily proofs before their eyes of its being absolutely belied by the ordinary practice of Mussulmans, Portuguese, &c., and even of the Hindoos themselves.

• It has been already observed how very conveniently the castes, prejudices, and religion of the Hindoos serve, in difficult encounters, to repel attacks upon the Indian system. Upon all occasions, too, where these formidable allies are called forth, and arrayed for the contest, it is customary to argue, as if the whole population of India were Hindoo; the fifteen millions or more of other inhabitants, who have neither caste, nor aversion, (save that of the Mussulman to pork,) being placed hors de combat, and as much overlooked, as if they belonged to another world.

• But in a question of this nature, so large a mass of the Indian population must not be neglected. In the first place, then, we have from fif. teen to twenty millions of persons, whose use of animal food is avowedly habitual ; and as free from religious denunciation (with the exception above noticed) as our own; whose appetite for every description of sensual gratification is almost proverbial; and whose monuments of former grandeur prove that their taste for luxuries, when their means were more ample, were not despicably indulged. To this very numerous portion of the community, the arguments deduced from assumed simplicity of food and habits, are therefore utterly inapplicable. Their expensive

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