« EelmineJätka »
NATIVE INDIAN JUDGES: MR. ILBERT'S
THE indifference of Englishmen to Indian subjects has been the subject of long and repeated remark. It is of course the result of distance and ignorance. But it is also the parent of ignorance, which, on the rare occasions when interest is excited, produces results partly grotesque and partly alarming. We are just now witnessing a phaenomenon of this kind. A proposal made by the Government of India for the further utilization of Natives in their service is distasteful to many of the English community there, who utter an exceeding bitter cry; upon which a number of writers in newspapers and speakers on platforms rush to the conclusion that what really is a small portion of an old well-established and thoroughly discussed policy, has had its origin in the brain of some speculative politician who wanted to strike out something new. Because the thing is a novelty to them, they treat it as though it were a novelty to men who know Indian politics.
"When I sat down to write this paper I had selected some passages from newspaper articles and reports, as illustrations of my meaning. But on opening the Times of the 30th of March, I found a speech delivered by Lord Salisbury at Birmingham, which I take as reported there. And I prefer to take his speech as a starting-point, not for the sake of personal controversy with him, but because his position gives to his utterances a great importance. If an able and experienced statesman like Lord Salisbury, who for several years held the reins of Indian administration, can, after time for inquiry, so misconceive an Indian problem as he appears to have done, misconception by others sinks into comparative insignificance.
It is true that there has since been a debate in the House of Lords on Lord Ripon's policy, which was attacked by the Conservative leaders. But the main assault was directed to the point of local self-government, which I do not propose to discuss in this paper. For though the encouragement of local self-government rests on the same hroad grounds of policy as the employment of Natives in the Civil Service, it has a different history, which would take space to exhibit. I will only say of it here, that Lord Ripon's policy seems to me to be nothing but a cautious advance in the direction indicated by Lord Lawrence, and followed by Lord Mayo and Lord Northbrook.
It is remarkable that Lord Lytton, who led -the attack in a very temperate and thoughtful speech, treated the excitement over the Jurisdiction Bill as being due not so much to the demerits of that Bill as to its having come on the back of "other and more sweeping measures," meaning those which relate to local government. In fact, I do not find in the debate any new argument against the Jurisdiction Bill. Lord Salisbury, as reported by the Time*, repeated what he said at Birmingham, though not so pointedly or fully. He therefore remains the most prominent assailant of the measure, and his Birmingham speech remains the most important of his arguments upon it, and therefore a proper and indeed necessary guide for those who wish to defend it against misconception.
His Lordship is reported to have spoken thus :—
"There is only one other matter with respect to which I wish to point out to you the importance of a truly national policy as opposed to the various theories and sentiments which are. suggested now. I do not know if you have looked at the papers lately sufficiently to be aware that a great and vital question has been raised in India .... the question whether Englishmen in that part of the empire shall or shall not be placed at the mercy of Native Judges.*
Then, after referring to the protection given to English litigants in Turkey and other countries, he continues:
"What would your feelings be if you were in some distant and thinlypopulated land, far from all English succour, and your life or honour were exposed to the decision of some tribunal consisting of a coloured man? . . . .
"What will be the effect of this ill-advised measure, which has been adopted in defiance of national interests and for the sake of those sentiments and theories of which I spoke?"
And he then answers his question by saying that capital will flee away from India, and the prosperity of the country, and our trade with it, will be destroyed.
There is not a sentence of this speech which is not pregnant with misconceptions of the small measure now pending, as I expect to make apparent before I have done. But though the measure is / small, it rests on the broadest and deepest principles of policy. The suggestion that a question has just been raised for the sake of novel sentiments and theories has no basis in fact. The question raised, not by the Government of India, who are only moving on well-marked lines, but by the non-official English community and their abettors in England, is between two methods of governing India. What goal shall we aim at? What ideal shall we set before our eyes?" Our own supremacy/' says one set of thinkers. "The welfare of the Indians," says another.
This difference of view underlies controversies, not only as to the employment of Natives, but as to their education, as to the freedom of their press, and occasionally as to the treatment of neighbouring f States. My wish is to take a wider range than is afforded by a mere i criticism on the pending measure and its assailants; and to show \that from the time when our position as Rulers of India became (thoroughly realized to the minds of Indian statesmen, they have had the two theories of government well in view; that men of great eminence have insisted on the nobler and more generous principle of government for the welfare of the Indians; that the English Parliament has always recognized that principle as its guide; that important steps have been taken in pursuance of it; and that the wisdom of those steps has hitherto been justified by experience. I am fully aware that an opponent will reply that of course he desires the welfare of the Indians, but that their welfare depends on the maintenance of our supremacy. That, however, is only another mode of stating the essential difference between the two schools of statesmen. Those who put our supremacy in the foreground would not admit that it is for the welfare of the Indians to attain such mental and political stature as would enable them to manage their own affairs. Moreover, the statesmen of what I call the more generous school have their retort even on the lower ground. Their contention is that nothing will bring our rule to a brief and disastrous end so certainly as persistence in excluding the Natives from mental and political growth; and that nothing is so likely to secure for our rule a long duration—and when the inevitable change comes, an euthanasia—as a hearty endeavour to give them the best training we can. I will now show what has been thought and said on this subject, though I must be more sparing of my quotations than I could wish. I suppose that nobody on the roll of Indian statesmen has a higher reputation for wisdom, for profound knowledge and experience of the country, or for administrative ability, than Sir Thomas Munro. He was never weary of insisting upon our duty to employ the Natives of India in the government of India, as those may learn who will read Sir A. Arbuthnot's selections from his writings. I subjoin some passages from a minute written by him in the year 1824:—
"Unless we suppose that they are inferior to us in natural ability, which there is no reason to believe, it is much more likely that they will be duly qualified for their employments than Europeans for theirs, because the field of selection is so much greater
"We profess to seek their improvement, but propose means the most adverse to success. The advocates of improvement do not seem to have perceived the great springs on which it depends; they propose to place no confidence in the Natives, to give them no authority, and to exclude them from office as much as possible; but they are bent in their zeal for enlightening them by the general diffusion of knowledge. No conceit more wild or absurd than this was ever engendered in the darkest ages; for what is in every age and every country the great stimulus to the pursuit of knowledge, but the prospect of fame, or wealth, or power? Or what is even the use of great attainments if they are not to be devoted to their noblest purpose, the service of the community, by employing those who possess them, according to their respective qualifications, in the various duties of the public administration of the country
"Our books alone will do little or nothing; dry simple literature will never improve the character of a nation. To produce this effect it must open the road to wealth and honour and public employment
"Even if we could suppose that it were practicable without the aid of a single Native to conduct the whole affairs of the country both in the higher and in all subordinate offices by means of Europeans, it ought not to be done, because it would be both politically and morally wrong
"There is one great question to which we should look in all our arrangements: What is to be the final result on the character of the people? Is it to be raised, or is it to be lowered? . . . .
"We should look upon India not as a temporary possession, but as one which is to be maintained permanently until the Natives shall in some future age have abandoned most of their superstitions and prejudices, and become sufficiently enlightened to frame a regular government for themselves, and to conduct and preserve it. Whenever such a time shall arrive, it will probably be best for both countries that the British control over India should be gradually withdrawn
"We shall see no reason to doubt that if we pursue steadily the proper measures, we shall in time so far improve the character of our Indian subjects as to enable them to govern and protect themselves."
On a par with the name of Munro for Indian statesmanship stands that of Mountstuart Elphinstone. He gave an opinion to the Committee of the House of Commons which sat prior to the passing of the Charter Act of 1833. And he spoke as follows of the natives of India:—
"The great peculiarity in their situation arises from the introduction of a Foreign Government. This at first operated beneficially, by establishing tranquillity and introducing improvements in administration. Its next effects were less beneficial. Under a Native Government, independent of the mutual adaptation of the institutions and the people, there is a connected chain throughout the society, and a free communication between the different parts. Notwithstanding the institution of castes, there is no country where men can rise with more ease from the lowest rank to the highest"
He gives instances, and continues :—
"Promotions from among the common people to all the ranks of civil and military employment, short of sovereignty, are of daily occurrence among Native States, and this keeps up the spirit of the people, and in that respect partially supplies the place of popular institutions. The free intercourse of the different ranks also keeps up a sort of circulation and diffusion of such knowledge and such sentiments as exist in the society. Under us, on the contrary, the community is divided into two perfectly distinct and dissimilar bodies, of which the one is torpid and inactive, while all the sense and power seem concentrated in the other. The first object therefore is to break down the separation between the classes, and raise the Natives by education and public trust to a level with their present rulers."
He then shows the difficulty of doing this by the hands of a foreign government, and the necessity for great caution as well as constancy in the effort, and continues :—" It seems desirable gradually to introduce them into offices of higher rank and emolument, and afterwards of higher trust. I should see no objection to a Native member of a Board, and should wish to see one district committed experimentally to a Native Judge, and another to a Native Collector."
These men were not theorists, except in the sense in which every one who proposes a change of policy is a theorist. They were hardheaded, practical men, who had gone through perilous times, whose work has been tried as by fire and found excellent. And even sixty years ago Elphinstoue was for trying an experiment in administration by Natives bolder than any which the Government of India has yet propounded.
I pass on to the important Charter Act of 1833, which took away the trade of the East Iudia Company, which gave large legislative powers to the Government of India, and which provided for the free admission into the country of Europeans who had previously been placed under severe restrictions by the Company. It should be explained here that great difficulties had been found in bringing Englishmen under the dominion of regular law. It has been supposed by some recent speakers that the Supreme Court, manned not by the Company's judges but by the King's judges, was erected for the protection of Englishmen as against Natives. Its object was precisely the reverse. It was to protect Natives from the oppressive conduct of Englishmen, and to subject the latter to some kind of law. It is true however that, owing to the ignorance of English statesmen, they made mistakes iu detail when they tried to govern India beyond laying down the broadest principles of policy; and that the constitution of the Supreme Court was so illadapted to its circumstances that it long proved the source of great oppression to the Natives, and of impunity to lawless Englishmen. One great object of the Act of 1833 was to restore the character of the Supreme Court as protector of the Natives simultaneously with the freer admission of Englishmen into the country.
In the debate of June, 1833, Mr. Charles Grant, then President of the Board of Control, quoted the opinions of eminent Indian officers, such as Mr. Bailey and Mr. Holt Mackenzie and Sir Charles Grey, in favour of the principles which he proposed to enact, and which he expressed as follows:—" It should be laid down as an inflexible
VOL. XL1II. 3 II