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SIR CHARLES FORBES, BART., M.P.,
· · THE ACTING GOVERNOR-GENERAL, MR. ADAM.
A PROPRIETOR OF INDIA-STOCK.
As I perceive by the papers that the subject of the Press in India is to undergo another discussion at the India-House at an early day, I am desirous of following up, without loss of time, the observations I had the honor to address to you in my former letter, by making the application of the arguments therein stated, and offering some illustrations on the great value of a Free Press, as it regards the good government and happiness of the natives of India.
SECTION III.- Safety of the Press in India, as it regards the
permanence of our empire. . 53. The conclusion being obtained that the exercise of scrutiny and indirect control over the Indian governments by the press and public of England only would be without EFFICACY, although SAFE for a time, till misrule should ripen, and the proscribed races feel their growing strength; let us proceed to inquire whether free discussion through the press IN INDIA would be SAFE and EFFICAcious for the desired purpose of influencing the government to pursue good and avoid evil.
54. The ablest philosophers, and best writers on legislation and historical politics, are agreed that there is never any strong tendency among the governed of mankind to rise against their governors; but, on the contrary, a disposition to bear misrule long beyond the point when resistance to oppression would be justifiable in the eyes of God and man, at least, of all men, except those concerned in the oppressions resisted. Revolt is hazardous in its issue,--destructive to person and property during its progress, even should it succeed, but still more should it not ;-it is further aggravative of the evils resisted if it fail. Men will bear very much before they become all of one mind to “ rise and be doing ;" and it is only when they are almost all of one way of thinking that rebellion has any tolerable chance of success against the fearful odds of disciplined and organised authority. No presses, no harangues, no examples will be of the smallest power in persuading poor and peaceful peasants that they are ill used, if they do not really feel the scourge of oppression at their backs : if they do feel it to be beyond endurance, no one is needed to tell them so. Writers and haranguers against abuses starve or thrive in proportion only as rulers furnish them with texts. If the good considerably preponderates over the bad in any government there cannot be unfeigned apprehension of revolt (see par. 42). The public, I repeat, never rise in general resistance without good cause.
55. But there are those who sincerely think, and those who affect to think, (from whatsoever motives,) that some special exception exists, in respect to India, to these great truths, collected by wisdom from the lessons of history, and admitted to the rank of political axioms, on the subject of revolt long before the days of Montesquieu. The first of the above classes of thinkers deserves every patience and attention, for it consists of men sincere and worth converting ; but, unhappily, none are so hard to be persuaded by reason as those who are under the dominion of fear. · 56. It is truly of the utmost consequence to the cause of civilis. ation, of sound religion, and of humanity, that the thinking and sincere portion of the English public should be undeceived in this fatal idea, imbibed by many, because so sedulously and earnestly inculcated, that there is a disposition in India to revolt, an aptness in the Indians to throw off our “ foreign yoke," as it is vulgarly called, which proneness does not depend, as everywhere else it does, on the goodness or badness of the system of government, but on causes altogether extrinsic to any notion of merit or demerit on the part of those who rule over our Indian fellow-subjects. If this position were true, it would, indeed, be fatal to the happiness and melioration of more than sixty millions of human beings, for it would afford the tyrant's ever-ready plea, necessity, in one of its most plausible shapes, as a prompt defence of every positive act of violent misrule, and every negation of improvement. If the people of India are not to be acted on by means of those ordinary feelings, or of those balancings of motives and chances, that actuate other men, in determining the great home-questions of resistance or submission, they must be scarcely better than brute animals; and it signifies but little, indeed, who is the driver of such cattle, or by what method they are kept to work and food.
,57, But, happily for an unfortunate and undefended people, there is no truth in the position,---not even the shadow of truth
It is incumbent, in the first place, on those who take that distorted view of our Indian subjects to burden themselves with the proof of. a position so unnatural and contrary to all experience. But let us. sift this matter somewhat closer.
58. Who are « the people” of India that are so prone to learn, as the first result of their lessons from us, that they are bound, by their own interest and duty, to throw off a foreign yoke? The IndoBritons ? their hour is not yet come! The other insulated small bodies of Portuguese, Parsees, Armenians, and so forth ? --they are not as a drop in the sea of our Indian population. The Mahomedans ?---they are no pupils of ours : they have « learnt nothing," if they have « forgotten nothing,” in the course of the eventful revolution that has cast them down for ever in the extreme East, and strip-.. ped them of the conquests of seven centuries. Doubtless, the dreaming and arrogant remnant of their Hidalgo chiefs (if any such remnant there be under a politico-religious system, that is essentially hostile everywhere to the establishment of an aristocracy, or the perpetuation of great families) would gladly recover, if they could, so bright a gem as India in the trophies of Islam. But have they needed us, and our presses, and instructions, to teach them this? Have they profited aught, or is it in the genius of their sept to profit by enlightenment so readily ? Admitting, then, that their desire to throw off our “ foreign yoke” be as strong as the advocate for darkness and retrogradation assures us it is among all the Indian : people, generally, does it follow that their hopes are as lively as their desires ? or that they are not tolerably capable of calculating their chances of success in a struggle against the united mental superiority of the English and physical outnumbering of the Hina. doos? With such a tremendous struggle before them, and against such fearful odds, will they not weigh well the inducements to remain tranquil ? and will they reckon for nothing in the balance: of inducements and motives that the English, who thrust their Indian Colossus off its political base, have not trampled in pieces the scattered members; but, besides conferring on all ranks equal rights of property and person with other subjects of the state, have preserved to their middling and better classes the monopoly of.. office in their criminal law, and a full proportion of public employ-' ment and promotion in the army of the conquerors ? . .?
59. But the Hindoos, the infinite majority of the population; will the first-fruits of their eating of our tree of knowledge lead : them to discover that it is their duty and their interest to rise against their instructors, and throw off a “foreign yoke ?” So. far from it, that they only learn, from intercourse with us, their , own nakedness, and cling the closer to a protection which, whatever lesser evils it may involve, and however defective in com-! ,
theninst their instehey only learnloser to app
parison with what it might be, and should have been, at this time of day, is still for the Hindoos a substantial benefit, when placed by the side of any one in the infinite series of foreign dominations, to which the Hindoo nations, or tribes, appear to have been successively subjected, almost from the days of ALEXANDER of Macedon. • 60. The body of the Hindoos are likely to quarrel with us, when the sheep shall disclaim connexion with the protecting shepherd's dog in presence of the wolf! We are their natural allies against their old enemies the Mussulmans, who have not abated one jot of their pretensions to recover their empire, if any turn of the cards should chance to put an end to the English supremacy, and leave the field free to Mahomedan energy and unity of effort. In such a strife the Hindoos, excepting, perhaps, a very few of the ruder warlike septs, thinly scattered in the north and west, would have no chance. A long course of passive submission to successive conquerors, and the debilitating influence of a superstition, at once the most barbarous and abject the world ever saw, have politically, if not physically, cnervated almost all the Hindoo nations. To the influence, indeed, of their contemptible system of a religion without morality, resting its monstrous fabric mainly on the division into castes, may be ascribed, without much hesitation, the remarkable circumstance, that they have been unceasingly a prey to less civilised nations. This fatal authority of their priests, and all the destructive divisions of castes, still prevail in unshaken strength; and it may be doubted, notwithstanding the strange rise and fall of a solitary Hindoo power (the Mahrattas), within little more than a century, whether any Hindoo kingdom could possibly stand, in the present day, against the superior energy of the Mussulmans, who are all as one nation and one faith, while the Hindoos are split into innumerable sections of tribé, caste, and country, united by no common bond. In the extravagant case of a successful revolt of the Hindoos being supposed to clear the field of the English, there is no doubt that à Mahomedan power would rise on their ruins; and, however distracted by civil wars and successive contests, still the crescent, backed by shoals of needy recruits from the northern and western hives of Islam, would keep its hold, till some second invasion should take place from sea, under extraordinary circumstances of desperate courage, talent, and good fortune, such as distinguished our early efforts in India, and once more push the faithful from their stools.
61. The more intelligent and cultivated of the Hindoos are perfectly aware of the common interest subsisting between them and us: they feel and admit that their Mogul conquerors have