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parliamentary control had usually taken the form of emphatic approval, he sums up as follows:
The main moral is this : what you really want is not merely the improvement of the machinery by which the central authority controls its extraneous agents, it is the improvement of the central authority itselt, the formation of just habits of thought; it is that we should be more modest and less arrogant; it is that we shall uniformly regard every other State and every other people as standing upon the same level of right as ourselves. It is that, in the prosecution of our interest, we shall not be so carried away by zeal as to allow it to make us for one moment forgetful of the equal claims and rights of others. That is a very grave question indeed, and one upon which I am bound to say I believe the central authority is quite as much in need of self-discipline and self-restraint as its extraneous agents.
The moral to be drawn is that even the British Parliament, being neither infallible nor always impartial, nor even always well informed, should beware of interfering arbitrarily or unnecessarily between the governments and the people of distant dependencies; and that in proportion as the edifice of local self-government is built up, step by step, in India, the greater is the necessity for discretion in the exercise of the indisputable prerogative of arbitrary control. Before the Irish Union many able statesmen upheld the doctrine that the Irish Legislature must be maintained in a condition of permanent and unvarying subjection to the English Executive; but that doctrine was soon seen to be incom. patible with the reform or strengthening of the provincial body; and the discovery had much to do with its abolition. There can be no doubt that the fairest prospect of solving the prodigiously difficult problem of retaining India in a state of contented subordinate relation to England lies in allowing to the Indian legislative bodies free scope within the limitations imposed upon them by statute, except always in those cases where a full survey and fair balancing of the interests of the whole British Empire lead to the conclusion that paramount imperial considerations must prevail. Upon any other view the expediency of strengthening these councils, and adding to the number of their members, is by no means so clear as it ought to be; for in proportion as their functions and machinery are brought into closer accord with representative institutions they become less suited for the registry of decrees, especially when those decrees are
Speech by Mr. Gladstone, April 29, 1881.
passed by a popular chamber elsewhere. The duty of supporting their governments sits awkwardly upon the official members; the non-official members cease to represent the views or voice of the community; nor can such incongruities fail in time to affect the influence and character of the legislative bodies.
That the material advantages accruing to India from the stable and enlightened government established by England are immense is of course beyond doubt or dispute ; but these things are very imperfectly realised by the mass of the Indian people. On the other side we have to take into account certain economical and social changes which, however natural or necessary they may seem to economists, do undoubtedly affect the natives with a vague sense of uneasiness. The multiplication of quick and sure communications between Europe and Asia has drawn in upon the Eastern countries a flood of cheap manufactures; the adventurous capital and commerce of the West, backed by steam, coal, and the tremendous pressure of population, are overwhelming the weaker, more backward, and less concentrated crafts and arts of India. All the petty manufactured articles of universal consumption, all the supply of those luxuries that are demanded by tastes which Europe has created, are exported from the West into India, and the country is inundated by goods of third-rate quality that easily displace commodities hitherto produced by slow handiwork. It is easy enough to prove that our railways, factories, and public works find employment for a very great number of labourers and artisans. Nevertheless the decay of ancient callings and the shifting of population are painful processes unless they take effect gradually; and as for the higher forms of Indian art, these delicate organisms run great risk of being trampled under foot in the rough competition of the markets.
We have to understand in England that these economical changes are necessarily modifying the whole structure of native society, and producing a disintegration of the antique groups which marked off trades, professions, and industries into separate communities under the form of hereditary castes. It is true that caste rules have never in reality been the stiff, insuperable barriers which they are commonly supposed to be, and that men have always passed without much difficulty from one circle to another; nevertheless they lie at the base of religious and family life in India. And the gospel of individualism, which up to the last five-and-twenty years had been preached in England with such success that it was accepted
as a necessary truth, never took any root in India until it was propagated by the English, who are now themselves on the high road towards forsaking it at home. Thus the influx of European produce loosens the framework of Indian industries, while in Western Europe the workers are fast organising themselves into exclusive unions with socialistic tendencies, whose influence upon their governments increases yearly, and whose subsistence depends upon forcing open new outlets for their wares. So that we may possibly behold soine day the curious spectacle of collectivism in Europe exporting to India its old-fashioned individualism, among other articles that have become obsolete and superfluous at home. The pure economist will point out that Indian factories are springing up, and that if Manchester undersells the Indian weaver the Indian cultivator can aid Russia and America in deluging England with cheap wheat to his own profit and the English farmer's damage; but for the politician who lives in the present it is enough that the period of transition is a period of perceptible unrest.
Assuming, however, that the forms of Indian society are undergoing ineritable modifications, there arises the question whether and to what extent the Anglo-Indian Government should endeavour to meet and facilitate impending chavges, moral and material. One or two high-minded and disinterested Indian gentlemen have applied themselves, to their peculiar credit, to the promotion of social reforms, among which the condition of women has been given a prominent place. The importance of the subject cannot be overestimated ; nor can it be denied that infant marriages and perpetual widowhood of young girls are incompatible with Western notions of reason, justice, hygiene.
“What could you expect of a nation whose mothers have to live in perpetual in-amy, married in their early teens, often to become widows before they are out of their teens? Can these be the mothers of heroes and patriots and statesmen? .... When will Government practise the neutrality which they preach, by simply declining to give their sanction to infant marriages ? When will they refuse to entertain the claim for “restitution of conjugal rights, " or at least leave the matter to the discretion of the courts"? A wife at 10, a widow at 12, a mother at 13– these are monstrosities in the face of which it is madness to think of a consistent, progressive public life.' Thus writes a prominent native reformer, with all the fervour and boldness of a man who is in advance of the ideas
and convictions of his generation. Finding that the great majority of his fellow-countrymen are adverse or inert, and that even his supporters lack initiative, he calls upon the Government to lead the way, or at least to remove all legal obstacles that forbid departure from the ancient paths.
When the English Government in India proclaimed Religious Neutrality as the basis of their policy, they probably imagined that at least this side of their position would be sheltered from attack. On the contrary, it has been repeatedly assaulted by those who accept the principle but differ widely as to the application-by Christian missionaries, who summoned the Government to withdraw absolutely from any kind of protection or guarantee to the endowments made by heathen rulers to temples or shrines; by English Nonconformists, who demanded that no allotment of revenues paid by a non-Christian people should be made to Scotch or English chaplains; by the extreme ritualistic Hindus, who insist that the State has no right to interfere with the car of Jaggupâth or with religious self-immolation; and finally by the pioneers of Hindu liberalism, who desire that the law and the law courts shall no longer give their sanction to social usages which fetter the emancipation of women in India. The fact is that, in a country where everything depends on the State's initiative, neutrality pleases no ardent controversialist, and yet it is plain that the State can only act on the broadest view of political considerations, lest in giving way to one party it should expose itself to a much more formidable attack from another party. In the matter of women's rights Lord Lansdowne's Government has already gone quite as far as was prudent by passing what is called the Age of Consent Act, by which the limit of age up to which girls, whether married or unmarried, are absolutely protected is raised from ten to twelve years. In the discussion upon the measure it was contended, unreasonably, that the Queen's proclamation of religious neutrality barred any such interference with marriage customs; nor is it certain that the passing of even so slight and obviously justifiable an amendment did not excite suspicious disapproval in the centres of Hindu orthodoxy. At any rate the present
. time can hardly be opportune for going further in the same direction, when religionis feeling among the Hindus has been extensively stirred by the agitation against the slaughter of kine, when there seems to be abroad a wholly unfounded impression that British officers have shown a leaning towards the side of the Mahomedans, and when the sanitary pre
cautions taken to prevent great fairs from breeding fatal epidemics are thought by ignorant folk to indicate an intention to meddle with religious pilgrimages.
In short, the English Government in India has so many difficult duties to perform, so many possible misunderstandings to face, that they cannot undertake the risk of anticipating public opinion upon the road of social reform, except in the cases expressly reserved by Lord Lansdowne, where demands ‘ preferred in the name of religion would lead to practices
inconsistent with individual safety and the public peace, anil condemned by every system of law and morality. What, then, is the upshot of the criticisms and observations which in the foregoing pages we have laid before our readers? It is that while we may regard with legitimate satisfaction the evidence of moral and material progress contained in the official papers which we have quoted, and while much honour is due to Lord Lansdowne as a strong and successful governor, there are certain aspects of the situation within and without India which should arrest our attention and induce us to walk warily. The rapid extension of our frontiers in the direction of other European Powers in Asia involves fresh problems in politics and strategy, which are not altogether unconnected with the condition of our finances; and while the new wine of political aspirations and intellectual enlightenment is working among the educated classes, there appears to be going on simultaneously a fermentation of the earlier ideas and religious antipathies which still dominate extensively the religious mind of India. In such circumstances the Indian Government has need of all its statecraft, foresight, and penetration; and the English Parliament should take care that its control is not only vigilant but disinterested. From a reference in an English journal to the travels of the present Tsar through India it may be gathered that in his judgement the fault of our rule, meritorious in many respects, is its mechanical character, its want of insight into and sympathy with those spiritual factors which have in the long run always determined the destiny of India. The best way of taking the criticism is to consider what truth there may be in it. Our position will in no event be improved by sudden undignified alarms; and on the whole England may regard her vast interests in India as tolerably secure if the country is administered with prudence and thrift, if fair dealing in financial transactions is strictly observed, and if in matters social and religious the Indian people are left as much as possible to their own ways and traditions.