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No European nation, in modern times, has ever possessed a dependency comparable with British India :-vast in extent, rich in its productions, abounding in objects to excite curiosity; claiming attention from its moral, as well as from its physical character ; displaying manners, arts, literature, and peculiar institutions of high antiquity. In spite of these recommen

ons, however-eager as the pursuit of knowledge has become—and concerned as we ought to feel regarding a portion of our dominions, the preservation of which involves, to such a serious extent, the political and commercial interests of Great Britain, the mass of our countrymen evince an unaccountable degree of ignorance in matters relating to India and to Indian affairs. ' It is not merely in ordinary conversation that this deficiency is apparent, but in the transactions of serious business, and even amongst public writers. A few months back, a description was given in one of our courts of justice, of a voyage from Bombay to England, in which the vessel was stated to have touched, on its way, at the port of Canton !—The speaker might, with equal propriety, have represented that a ship visited New South Wales in its passage from Falmouth to Gibraltar.

Seven years ago, a dealer in dress dolls at Calcutta, having received a consignment of these commodities from Europe, advertised them at that presidency in the following humourous strain : ! Females Raffled for.—Be it known, that six fair pretty young ladies, with two sweet and engaging children, lately imported from Europe, having the roses of health blooming on their cheeks, and joy sparkling in their eyes, possessing'amiable tempers, and highly accomplished, whom the most indifferent cannot behold without expressions of rapture, are to be raffled for next door to the British Gallery. Scheme, twelve tickets, at twelve rupees cach; the highest of the three throws, doubtless, takes the most fascinating

So much ignorance and credulity existed in England, that this advertisement was gravely appealed to as an evidence that a trade in women was really permitted Asiatic Journ. Vol. XXI. No. 122. U

in

in British India !* To carry the farce to the utmost bounds of absurdity, and to prove

what

gross dupes they can be made who greedily open their ears to the nonsense preached to them by ignorance or malice, a work of extensive circulation + adopted the egregious blunder, and prefaced the terrific advertisement with this preposterous statement:

While Britons deplore the traffic in negroes, and have abolished the slave trade, IT IS A FACT that there are persons who actually import beautiful women to the British settlements in India, in order to sell them to the rich Nabobs or Europeans who may give a good price for them; but what is worse, they are sometimes played for at a game of chance. The following advertisement on this subject appeared in Grimsby's (Greenway's] Daily Advertiser, of the 3d of September 1818, a paper printed at Calcutta.

Then came the dreadful annunciation, to which were appended the following remarks, furnishing a tolerable specimen of the virulent language employed by certain writers of the present day, whose professed object is to enlighten the public on the subject of Indian affairs :

What a specimen of Calcutta morals does this advertisement exhibit ! Surely a more abominable outrage upon morality and virtue has never been heard of than this, which is openly practised in a settlement under British laws and British government !

Such a sample of culpable ignorance and credulity was not necessary to con. vince men of reflection that poverty of information exposes them to intentional deception. That motives to misrepresentation exist on subjects relating to India must be pretty notorious; and that deliberate misstatements have been made has been amply demonstrated. The newspapers of India teem with refutations of statements put forth in England which operate as calumnies.

It must be evident that the circumstances of a country situated like British India, at an immense distance from the paramount government; under the immediate control of a corporate body, obnoxious to all the odium attaching to monopolists; and the inhabitants of which are remarkable for habits and institutions repugnant to European notions, must afford a wide scope for mis, apprehension as well as misrepresentation. The theorist, who disregards the peculiarities of the Hindu society, and applies to India the rules and maxims which are recognized in Europe, confidently concludes that the country is misgoverned, and that the people are, or ought to be, supremely wretched, Though innocent of fraud, he grossly deceives others. The disappointed adventurer, who rashly tempts the power with which the British legislature has clothed the executive government of India, may have recourse to a multitude of common-place topics calculated to work upon the passions of the public, and make the credulous believe that he suffers by the cruelty of others, and not by his own folly. He cannot be acquitted of a design to deceive.

Materials supplied from such sources are, perhaps, wrought up by writers; of talent abroad, who are unsuspicious of their rottenness; and thus ignorance and malice co-operate with apathy and indifference in fabricating an image which bears as little analogy to the truth, as the production of the Modern Prometheus (in Mrs. Shelley's novel), a hideous and distorted figure, animated with a spirit of malevolence, bore to human nature.

An Englishman who associates in his idea of comfort or social happiness, a provision for what mere habit leads him to consider as wants; who con coives that such a system of law and government as is established in his OWIV

country

* It is surprising that the price of the ladies (£3. each) did not lead to a discovery of the joke. + The s Percy Anesdotes," part 9. Artecdotee of Women.

country is indispensable to the enjoyment of existence; and who sees no insurmountable barrier obstructing his access to the highest station which a subject can fill, must be shocked when he is told, and truly told, that he has fellowsubjects in one of the richest countries in the world, who subsist solely upon rice, and who can never, by the most transcendant talents, exalt themselves above the station in which they are born; that many of them are in the abject condition of outcasts, and upon a level with brutes.

He is prone to believe that such a country must be misgoverned; and is not easily persuaded that these circumstances are altogether independent of government, and in the structure of society and state of opinion existing in Hindostan must remain eternally the same, Such is, nevertheless, the fact; and it is even credible that comfort and happiness may be found in this anomalously constituted society, as well as in England.

No subject of inquiry has divided speculative writers more than the question as to which form of government is best calculated to promote human happiness. The Abbé Raynal is of opinion that the Chinese system is the very perfection of government. The fact is, that no specific mode of government is fit for every climate and people. That which communicates the greatest amount of good to the greatest number, is, doubtless, the best; but in applying this principle to a dependent country, acquired like that of British India, gradually conquered and held by a handful of Europeans, the natives of which were in a forward state of civilization, in possession of codes of civil and criminal law, to the former of which they are firmly attached by religious ties, tenacious, even to death, of peculiar superstitions-are we not in danger, by precipi. tancy, of creating evil where we intend to produce good ? Such a country cannot adapt itself to a new form of government, founded upon the truest principles, with the same facility as an infant state ; though it may, eventually, be ever so great a gainer by the change. Security must, likewise, be provided for a ruling power unconnected with the governed in language, habits, religion, in short, every element of which human character is compounded. In the present circumstances of Hindostan, it is not the form of government, so much as the administration of it, which is essential to the happiness of the people. A person who maintains that, in the existing circumstances of British India, subject as it is to a foreign yoke, the people should possess all those securities against misrule which are enjoyed in the independent states of Europe, and especially in our own country, does not deserve a reply.

The grand bulwark against oppression in such a country is found in a wellregulated judicial establishment, especially if this branch be severed from the legislative and executive powers. Where courts are established for the redress of wrongs, and where justice is impartially administered, a people cannot be oppressed but by such open and flagrant acts as would excite universal attention, and could only be perpetrated by a government released from all control, not amenable to successive tribunals of revision and appeal as that of British India. Now, it would be extremely difficult to show that justice is not administered to the inhabitants of that country, under British rule, in as ample, pure, and impartial a manner as possible. Except that the judges are not, as latterly in England, irremoveable at pleasure,* the administration of justice is as unexceptionable in one country as in the other. A few words of explanation upon this point may be acceptable to the uninformed.

The

This improvement in our system cannot be regarded as of much value, since judges can be prod moled, although not removed..

The system of jurisprudence established in British India is founded on the judicial institutes and local constitutions of the natives, Hindu and Mahommedan, attempered and ameliorated by the mild spirit of the British law; being incorporated into a code prepared by persons of great erudition, experience, and local knowledge, and studiously adapted to the peculiar sentiments and customs of the people, printed and published, with translations, in the several dialects of the country, for the general information of its inhabitants. The criminal law is Mahommedan, modified and corrected by the regulationsa mild and equitable codes. Both the civil and criminal codes are gradually improved wherever improvement appears practicable.

About twelve years ago, the East-India Company, anxious to ascertain what beneficial changes could be introduced, not merely into the codes themselves, but into the mode of dispensing justice to their subjects, took steps to obtain the genuine sentiments of all persons qualified by local experience or study to give an opinion upon these important points. The queries they proposed included the following :

What is your opinion of the fitness, efficiency, and general effects of the system of judicial administration established in Bengal ?

Do you conceive that any system of ancient Hindoo institution could now; either in whole or in part, be with advantage substituted for the system, or any part of the system, introduced by the British Government ?

If the system introduced by the British Government is, in your opinion, to be preferred, do you conceive it to be susceptible of any meliorations that would accelerate the decision of causes-would render the access of the natives to justice more easy-would simplify the proceedings, and abridge the expense of suitors; and in general, what, in your opinion, are the best means of remedying any existing defects in the system?

Would the natives, in your opinion, confide more in the uprightness of European judges, than in judges appointed by their own people ?

The answers to these questions are printed, and compose a body of valuable evidence (to which, however, none of the defamers of our Indian government think fit to resort) upon this essential branch of Anglo-Indian policy. The testimonies in favour of the existing judicial system are highly satisfactory. All the witnesses concur in declaring that the natives, would prefer European judges to their own countrymen : “I know," says one,

" that the people of India look to the stern integrity of our judges, to the rigid impartiality of their decisions, and to the inflexible equity of our laws, with surprise, respect, and gratitude.” The same person* sums up the advantages of the system in these terms :

Among the numerous advantages of the British judicial system in India, I reckon the more prominent to be: Ist, the admirable adaptation of its legal code to the diversified objects, laws, and usages incident to its operation; the active principle inherent in itself of amelioration; the simultaneous impulse of judging and acting communicated by it to all the different tribunals, and, by the successive gradations of reference, the comparative certainty afforded of preventing contradictory decisions, and eliciting sụbstantial justice : 2dly, the benignant and paternal regard and toleration which it exhibits towards the harmless institutions and inoffensive superstitions and prejudices of the people, combined with the wise and cautious, but firm and teinperate attempts to meliorate and reform unreasonable, pernicious, and inexorable laws and usages : 3dly, the uprightness, integrity, and impartiality of the judges; the publicity, regularity, and precision of their proceedings; the purity, solidity, and propriety of their judgments and de.. crees; the checks and guards established against bribery, rapacity, and corruption; the

security * A. Falconar, Esq. Selection of Papers from the Records at the East-India House, vol. ii, p. 148.

security afforded for the probity, assiduity, and honour of them all, and especially the native functionaries : '4thly, the egis, I may say, the panoply, of protection afforded by it to the lives, property, and liberty of a population who, for preceding ages, having been exposed to all the evils and perils of tyranny and misrule, must esteem this boon as an unappreciable blessing : 5thly, and lastly, I esteem, as no mean advantage, the exclusion and independence which have been established between the judicial, legislative, and executive branches of the state, and the leisure consequently afforded to the local government to attend, with greater effect, to the more appropriate functions of their administration.

So intent were the rulers of India upon perfecting the judicial system, that Lord Cornwallis, besides separating the judicial from all other functions, giving high salaries to those entrusted with the discharge of them, and fixing severe penalties on derelictions of duty, endeavoured to realize the idea of administering justice gratuitously; and abolished the judicial fees,* whereby suitors were relieved from all expenses, except the pleader's fee and the expense of summoning witnesses. This measure had the effect which other speculative plans would probably have; it led to a greater evil than it was designed to remedy. The stimulus it gave to litigation, the malice and animosity it excited, and the oppressive weight of frivolous causes with which it incumbered the courts, rendered it necessary to re-establish the fees; and in one court no less than 14,000 causes were struck off in a single day! In all countries, under any system, as it has been well observed, justice, to be well administered, must be dear, as well as slow.

The system thus eulogized, has since been still further improved, particu, larly in the inferior branches of adıninistration, whereby the forms have been simplified and the expense of suitors moderated. It may still be defective, but what institution is otherwise ? “Perfection,” says a great moral writer, “is not attainable in human institutions; if good predominate it is all we can expect.” Its outline seems almost perfect; it is distinct from the executive and legislative authorities; its courts are open ; its transactions are recorded; and it admits of a gradation of appeals from the zillah courts to the King of Britain in Council. Above all, it recognizes a principle of equality, which is unavoidably obnoxious to the higher classes of the people. A powerful zemindar may now be sued as defendant by the meanest ryot, and a summons from the judge served by a peon will bring him into court, which formerly required a military force.

It is remarked by Sir Henry Strachey, ą practical judicial servant of the Company, and one of known ability, that "the Eastern people have had wise kings and just judges. We have heard, no doubt, of particular acts of signal equity, and of great skill in detecting injustice amongst them ; but never had they a consistent, uniform, judicial system, set of tribunals to which the people might resort, and, without regard to the personal chạracter of the judge or ruler, depend upon obtaining justice. This great blessing may be said, with strict truth, to have been unknown in India till conferred upon

them by the English East-India Company."

Here, then, we see one grand ingredient of political happiness amongst the Hindus, one powerful security against wrong. They can, in fact, possess no

greater The grounds of this measure are thus stated by his Lordship : “ This tax, which the people are obliged to pay for having justice administered to them, at the same time that it debars many from recovering their rights, and fails of its intended effect, has a further oppressive operation, by punishing equally all suitors, whether their causes be litigious or not.” Minute, February 11, 1793.

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