« ZurückWeiter »
43. Experience, however, was not needed to prove this utter worthlessness of such checks; that was sufficiently evident, à priori. (See par. 40.) But some who disapprove of public discussion in India, whether from dislike or fear, and who also admit the proved inadequacy of the English public press, will nevertheless say that the check exercised by the East-India Company and Board of Control would still continue to be sufficient, as it has been heretofore, for watching and checking misrule abroad, without the aid of any public or press, here or there. This merits examination.
44. As to the Board of Control, its share in the expected operations of watching and checking may be speedily discussed and easily measured. Whatever may have been the wishes of the political parents of that Board, it is notorious, and scarcely denied in Parliament, that the only Member of the Board, permitted to work at all, is the Cabinet Minister at its head. But it is not less notorious that the Presidentship is looked on as one of the lowest in rank and consequence of the ministerial ladder, and as a mere stepping-stone to a higher position in the Cabinet, or not unfrequently to the place of Governor-General, that very functionary whom, by our hypothesis, (par. 43) the President of the Board is supposed to watch so vigilantly, and to curb in his undue tendencies to stretch authority! At all events, the Presidentship is deemed a second-rate and temporary office. He who obtains it, applies himself unwillingly, or not at all, to acquire knowlege and discharge duties of a strange, new, and painful sort; he languishes to escape from the office by translation to some other if abroad, more lucrative and influential; if at home, more congenial and elevated. In the weary interim he virtually resigns his important functions (save only in the vital concerns of patronage) into the hands of some officious and shrewd leading member of those whom it should be his proper and jealous office to control. Is this an exaggerated delineation? Is it little warranted by the experience of twentythree years since LORD MELVILLE resigned the Presidentship? How then should such an Indian Zero, as a President, with all his attendant cyphers, ever acquire political integrity sufficient to qualify him for figuring as representative substitute for free public discussion in overawing Indian misrule? Ex nihilo nil.
45. But are the East India Company able and willing to discharge efficiently this great duty, in substitution for the public press in England or India, or both? Who are to undertake the office? The Proprietors or the Directors? Not the former; for they cannot practically stir a step; they cannot know any thing, or see any paper, if the Directors choose to keep them in the dark, andby juggles with the governments abroad, the committees of secrecy and correspondence, and the Board of Control-to baffle their inquiries, or lay their jealousy asleep. Neither can it be justly said, that
the Proprietors, generally, are very well fitted, whether from previous habits and actual pursuits, from the constitution of their body, or the nature of their prescribed forms-for meddling often, or with effect, in the details of administrative business abroad. Thus, then, we have only the Court of Directors, or rather its efficient Council of Nine, and more efficient Council of Three, left us to represent the Company, and to perform the part of a jealous, vigilant, and disinterested Public, eager to detect and make known delinquency-directing public and general scrutiny to every abuse in a system, or fault in those who administer it,-having no interest in public exactionsdeeply penetrated with sympathy for the poor, distant, and unrepresented native Indian, when suffering under the pillage of extortion, or the hard gripe of fiscal and monopolising rapacity;-in fine, free from all fellow-feeling or undue bias towards servants abroad, whether arising from esprit du corps, the love we all bear to our own creations, or reluctance, as the coarse Napoleon expressed it, to let our neighbors see us wash our dirty linen! Alas! for India; if she have no more zealous and effective guardians than such substitutes for public opinion, quis custodiet ipsos custodes? The Court of Directors have essentially and naturally an interest distinct from that of their unfortunate subjects,-a particular interest, counter to the general interest. It is not their fault, but their fate. They cannot sincerely seek the greatest good of the greatest number, if they would. They are urged on by an incessant craving for "surplus revenue,❞—for taking without giving in return; and the financial annals of India, for some years back, show how perseveringly such a ruinous system may be acted on for a time. What its end will be
time must show.
46. But if there were no other reasons that effectually and, à priori, prove the Court of Directors to be peculiarly disqualified from acting alone and unchecked in that task of controling their governments abroad, which some men would assign to a Free Press, one reason, sufficient in itself, remains to be noticed; it is their hostility, as a body, to the existence of an unshackled Press in India. If they had no interests to follow out, distinct on the one hand from the general interest of the Proprietors, on the other hand from that of their subjects in India, how could it possibly have happened that so unheard-of an unanimity should have taken place among thirty or forty gentlemen, (OUTS and INS, during several years,) who are apt enough to split into parties on all other questions? In this case of the Press, it is said, they have all been of one mind for the first time on record! But the Proprietors are not so unanimous on the question; and it might be supposed the Directors were a faithful extract enough from the constituent body,-a tolerably exact image and representative of the shades of opinion prevailing in the "Lower House!" Not so. On this single question of the Press,
all differences appear to be sacrificed at the approach of danger snuffed from afar, and all come forward, like so many life-and-fortune addressers in other epidemic times, to devote themselves to the sacred duty of keeping down, if even for a time only, the monster Free Discussion,-of stifling, while yet in his cradle, the infant Hercules, who is prophesied to go forth at maturity purging the world of beasts of prey in every shape!
47. Whence, then, arises this sort of instinctive and universal feeling among all Directors, past and present? If their interest coincided with the general interest, they would naturally desire to obtain all the information they could, from every available source, as to the proceedings of all their Masters' (the Proprietors) servants abroad, high and low. The Press of India would certainly seem, at first sight, to have a claim naturally to the particular favor of the Directors; and one would have expected to see them supporting it with almost intemperate zeal against the very natural efforts of the servants of every class abroad, to put down an obnoxious tell-tale. The unanimity against the Press, of which the Directors boast, does seem, to the eye of unprejudiced reason, the very reverse of a merit, at least, as far as the Proprietors and English nation are concerned, and is altogether a circumstance so suspicious, as at least to bar their claim to be thought competent to watch over their Indian government, unwatched themselves by a jealous Public here and in India. It must not be forgotten, that if a Free Press had existed in India, the revolts in Cuttack, Rohilkund, Bundelkund, and elsewhere, could not have happened so completely without the knowlege of Government in India, nor could the Proprietors and Public of England have been kept in ignorance of them to this day.
48. But even if the unchecked tendency to misrule should not produce among the Natives the dangerous effects here supposed, or if the danger shall appear so distant as not to be an object of dread with those small-minded persons who live only for their own times, another alternative subject of uneasiness presents itself in the half-European population, who are not likely, to submit much longer to be kept down in a state of political Helotism. Experience has abundantly shown the convulsions to which European dependencies are every where subject, from the just pretensions of this race, and the arrogant claims of the whites to the privileges of a superior order of beings.
49. But it is proverbial that governments never profit by the lessons of history, and experience has taught no wisdom in this matter: the Indo-Britons are multiplying to a degree unknown to indolence in a country where no accurate census of any considerable portion of the population exists. They are rising in talent, education, and wealth; yet they all labor under a greater or less degree of tacit social and moral proscription. The males, at least, are scarcely
associated with by the proud European; are hunted out of all high and honorable public employment by the Directors at home; denied important civil rights by the Judges abroad; shut out, by Government in India, from beneficial and coveted stations in the judicial and other administrative branches of the public service; yet often treated as Natives where that distinction is felt as invidious: in fine, these men have been lately defrauded, through a political collusion of the protector with the oppressor of their BIRTH-RIGHT of free printing; heretofore the only counterbalancing privilege in their favor against the otherwise overwhelming superiority of their white fellow-citizens.
50. From the evils to be apprehended, sooner or later, if unchecked misrule be allowed to bear down the natives, or half-castes, the English Press alone affords no real safeguard; nor is it easy to see how that engine is to be brought to bear on Indian misgovernment, for want of information as to passing events and measures of authorities abroad. The whole frame of our governments in India seems contrived as if their subjects abroad, and fellow-citizens at home, were intended to have no knowlege whatever of any thing that is going on, save when the Councils choose to speak their oracles in proclamations and general orders. Their despatches to their superiors at home may abound in garblings and glossings, suppressions and misrepresentations: no one can contradict them in England, for no one can know what is true and what is not, if the liberty to those on the spot to speak freely be taken away. But even those despatches, such as they are, the Directors habitually keep to themselves, and communicate them to the British public on rare occasions, and in a cooked-up state. The English Press, therefore, unassisted by a Press abroad, to collect facts and opinions, is utterly worthless for any primary purposes of giving publicity to Indian affairs.
51. In this INEFFICIENCY those only will imagine they see SAFETY who delude themselves into the belief that all must be well within when all looks smooth without, and that it is less dangerous to govern the Natives badly than to let them suppose any one thinks they might be governed better. That SAFETY is only immediate, not durable. To ensure PERMANENT SAFETY the very reverse of the favorite hood-winking policy must be followed up in the present advanced and progressing condition of society in British India : namely, a system of internal rule, that is honest, fearless, open as light, "having nothing to conceal."-No people so governed ever yet revolted, for no people ever yet rose, as one man, against their rulers without good cause.