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Review of Books.
A Letter to His Grace the Duke of Devonshire, on the State of Ireland, and
the general Efects of Colonization. By John WHÉATLEY, Esq. Calcutta: printed at the Baptist Mission Press, 1824. Pp. 143.
It is an old remark, that there are very few books from the perusal of which some advantage may not be gained. Among the very few from whence nothing can be derived to repay the trouble of reading, the work above quoted may, we think, be safely reckoned. The truths it contains are such manifest truisms, that no person capable of understanding can need to be told of them; and whatever is false, is so glaringly false, that it demands no' mental effort to perceive the errors. Juvenile learners of Latin may, indeed, amuse themselves in trying to interpret the quotations from that tongue, which are profusely introduced into this pamphlet, by sentences written apparently for no other purpose than to serve as introductions; and those who have never read Gibbon, “the great master of history,” may amuse themselves with some fifteen or twenty of his pages in the pamphlet of Mr. Wheatley.
Our attention was directed to the work because of its being printed in India, and because it professed to treat of colonization. As others may be seduced by similar reasons, we think it our duty to give a brief report of its contents.
The author sets out with a disquisition on the agriculture of Ireland, the miserable condition of which he ascribes to over-population; and proposes to reduce the number of people in that country to three millions, by sending out a colony of four millions to the back settlements of Canada. He admits that
moving so large a portion of the Irish poor,” is apparently a difficult measure; and he therefore suggests that 200,000 be sent out every year till the whole " exportation” be completed. This colony is to be supported for five years by the state, at a cost of £2,625,000 per annum ; the
of their conveyance, establishment, &c., would amount to £1,375,000 more. The bogs of Ireland are then to be drained, and the five millions of acres gained thereby are to be divided into 1,250 estates of 4,000 acres each, and 10,000 farms of 500 acres each. These two objects effected, Ireland would present a different scene :
Instead of a poorly cultivated country~" et lamentabile regnum"-whose ragged aspect spoke volumes of wretchedness, the whole face of the island — Gazâ lætus agresti ”—would be covered with substantial farm houses, and buildings that proclaimed the ease and confort of their owners; while here and there a sequestered spot would betray the snug, warm, and well-sheltered cottage of the contented labourer, “ looking tranquillity.” — Then, indeed, might Ireland boast of the perennial green of her Elysian fields, where spring ever reigns and happiness never dies,
Locos letos, et amana vireta
Fortunatorum nemorum sedesque beatas. Mr. Wheatley combats the absurd notion that the non-residence of proprietors of estates in Ireland is productive of injury to that country: “ The prosperity of the landed interest of Ireland entirely depends on the prosperity of (what?) the manufacturing towns of England, and their well-being [i. e. the well-being of the landed interest of Ireland) has nothing to do with the establishment of manufacturing towns in Ireland, or with the residence of
absentees-notwithstanding the common but inconsiderate belief.” The measures proposed in Parliament to remedy the miseries of Ireland, such as Catholic emancipation, commutation of tithes, and the establishment of a public system of education, in short any measure that does not decrease population, can be of no more use than “ so much waste paper.” They are not the lapsis oracula rebus which Ireland requires.”
From Ireland (after a digression on the corn laws) the reader is transported, like the poor Irish peasant, whether he will or no, to Canada ; from whence Mr. Wheatley moves him to India, from the colonization of which country
new system of public wealth ” would (in his felicitous phraseology) receive nourishment. Fortunately for the Hindoos, he does not threaten them with a flood of Irish paupers. He considers that, “in India, the population is already far too great." Improvements in agriculture and manufactures might, however, he thinks, be introduced by European skill; but“no benefit can arise from any system of colonization (in India) unless permission be given to British subjects to become proprietors of land." The acquisition of land he thinks a measure so necessary as to authorize an act of consummate iniquity. He first speaks of acquisition as arising from purchase; “ but,” he proceeds, “the acquisition of the land by British subjects, even without purchase, could not be considered an act of injustice ! According to Hindoo law, the fee simple of the soil of India has always been held to be vested in its government !" He modestly proposes, therefore, to abrogate the permanent settlement in Bengal, which its most determined enemies conceive should be now regarded as a sacred engagement; to turn out the zemindars, and fill their places with English colonists, or British zemindars, as he terms them. After this, he breaks out into a rhapsody of puerile declamation on the effects of this measure, which would, in his opinion, convert the ryots into such beings as Paul and Virginia ;" oblige the “wide waste of waters that now deluge the country" to retire; dispel the gloomy superstitions of the natives, and produce“ an age of light and happiness," the mention of which is the prelude to a quotation from Virgil.
The contempt with which Mr. Wheatley speaks of “public instruction,” as an expedient to improve the condition of the Irish poor, prepared us for the following dissuasive from attempts at converting the Hindoos :
The wealth of a nation, and the temporal happiness of its people, entirely depend on the magnitude of its produce, and the comparative smallness of its population ; and where the political institutions of a country conduce to this end, the stream of its prosperity will flow regularly onwards, uninfluenced by the ebb and flow of its religious opinions. But where public policy points to an opposite result, and population is great, and produce comparatively small, let the creed of the country be the purest of all the different sects of Christianity, poverty and wretchedness must be the lot of the people. Why our happiness in this life, on which nature impels us to set so much value, which has so earnestly engaged the attention of the best, the ablest, and greatest men of all ages, and which it seems to be so peculiarly the province of benevolence to promote, particularly that of the poor, whose condition is most affected by the spirit of the laws, should have been entirely overlooked by the inspired teachers of our religion, is one of those mysteries which it is impossible for us to explain. It is remarkable, indeed, that so far from their proclaiming any doctrine that would conduce to the happiness of the poor, the indefinite increase and multiplication of mankind, which must have a contrary effect, and lead to their interminable misery, is inculcated, rather than restriction of numbers. It may even be said, that not only were no precepts delivered that indicated a benignant spirit to relieve the world from the ills of poverty, but no disposition was manifested to mitigate the cruelties of the age in which they lived, by any enlarged
or liberal views relative to the abolition of slavery, the dereliction of torture, or the forbearance of the frequent infliction of the punishment of death. That benevolent philosophy, which seeks to effect the practical happiness of man by the improvement of his worldly condition, was a stranger to their minds and bosoms, or foreign to the pur. poses they were destined to fulfil.
Neither were we unprepared (owing to the boldness of his preceding propositions) for a project to take possession of Egypt; although he assigns no other reason to justify this act of aggression on our part than the following:
Not only is she (Egypt) the key to India, and the intermediate connecting point between that country and England, but no territory offers more resources for the augmentation of our wealth, or presents a wider scope-'tantum campi jacet !—to our energy and ambition."
Having got possession of Egypt (for the writer seems to think that to imagine the thing done is to do it), he then insists that we should possess ourselves of the whole continent of Africa, by means of colonization. The reasons for this undertaking, and the ground upon which the occupation of the country by us would be justified, are concisely summed up in the following sentence : “It is for the interest of the natives and for the interest of the civilized world, as well as our own, that we should colonize and convert to a happier fate that interesting tract of country through which the mysterious stream of the Niger flows, and which the adventurous spirit of Parke (Park) and Burkhardt (Burckhardt) has already virtually made our own !"
Thus, according to the notions of the selfish class of speculative theorists to which this writer belongs, so long as there is some plausible ground for regarding the end as beneficial to ourselves, we are to indulge no scruple about the means by which it is to be attained.
His description of the present condition of India (“our maxima cura," which, blessings on his learning ! means, we presume, chief care) is as destitute of truth as his projects are devoid of honesty. He says :
Though the sarcasm of Burke" that if we quitted India to-morrow, not a vestige would remain, from any works we had raised, or any improvements we had introduced, of our ever having had possession of the country"-will apply with the same force now, that it did forty years ago, yet we may trust, if the name of England is to have any claim to the esteem of posterity, and the good of mankind is to be an object worthy of the attention and zeal of a British parliament, that it will not be equally applicable forty years hence.
He proceeds to tell us that “all things remain precisely as they were before we had footing in the country;" that the “interior navigation is as nature made it;" that "no cities, bridges, roads, canals, or public works of any kind are constructed,” &c. Such, he adds, must continue to be the state of things, without colonization ; which, we have already seen, signifies ejecting the landed proprietors from their estates, and giving them, without purchase, to English colonists! But can it be believed, that, in Calcutta, the palaces,” three years after the splendid administration of Lord Hastings, during which alone the public works accomplished by Government almost changed the aspect of British India, a writer could venture such a statement as the preceding? Is it possible that an individual could be of so obtuse an intellect as to fancy that even the change in the judicial system of Government which the natives of India have experienced, is no change at all ? Or does he think that the amelioration of the moral condition of millions is nothing in comparison with the erection of an useless pyramid, raised perhaps at the expense of thousands of human lives? Asiatic Journ. VOL. XXI. No. 126. 5 E
The style of this writer, at once pedantic and slovenly, is on a par with his other qualities; of his pedantry ample proofs have already been given; of his slovenliness one example will suffice: he speaks of the people of Canada “ breathing a sigh of discontent at the sight of their corn-fields rotting on the ground for want of a vent.” A field rotting upon itself must be a sight calculated to provoke a hearty laugh instead of a sigh of discontent, especially when this extraordinary effect is produced by—want of a vent!
The mischief occasioned by writers of this character, who treat of Indian affairs, is inconceivable. Their preposterous representations and extravagant assertions too frequently pass current in England (owing to the ignorance and indifference of the people generally respecting the concerns of our eastern empire), even if they are too absurd, as in the present case, to be used and defended by writers in this country, whose private views impel them to take advantage of whatever misrepresentations are propagated respecting the condition of British India. But the most pernicious consequence which these pamphlets produce, is that of misleading writers of respectability on the continent of Europe, who, not suspecting the possibility of publications in England, much less in India, on the politics of our eastern possessions, containing statements inconsistent with the facts, become necessarily the assailants of a system of government, which, if they were well-informed, they, or at least liberal-minded men of all countries, would, under the circumstances of the case, see reason to admire rather than censure or condemn.
Scenery, Costumes, and Architecture chiefly on the Western Side of India. By
Capt. Robert MELVILLE Grindlay, Member of the Royal Asiatic Society, and of the Society of Arts, &c. Part I. London, 1826.
If there has been any foundation for the complaint that the splendid scenery and the gorgeous architecture of India have never yet been adequately pourtrayed by the pencil, it will vanish when this work shall be known, which certainly equals, if it does not transcend, any antecedent production of the graphic art.
Capt. Grindlay tells us, that the subjects of the plates form part of a collection of sketches and drawings made by him in India, whilst he was in the service of the East-India Company; that he possessed peculiar advantages* for collecting materials for such a work as this (tending to illustrate a large portion of the country hitherto undescribed); that he pledges himself to the fidelity of the representations, and that he has spared neither labour nor expense (which we can readily believe) in the execution of the work.
The number of plates in the First Part, now published, is six, besides a superb vignette, representing a Hindoo girl, drawn with surprising taste, and displaying a figure of such exquisite beauty, that every one who looks upon it incurs the danger of Pygmalion's fate.
The first plate represents the “Green,” as it is called, at Bombay, an area surrounded by various public buildings; in the centre are divers figures in appropriate costume, such as a Parsee merchant, a Bunneea or Banyan, Hamauls, Coolies, &c.
Plate the second represents the Approach of the Monsoon; the scene is Bombay Harbour and town, taken from a part of Malabar hill, near the Parsee cemetery, which forms a most delightful foreground to a picture of great beauty.
The Capt. Grindlay was associated with the late Col. Monier Williams in a survey of an extensive tract of country on the northern and western confines of Guzerat, access to which is very difficult, owing to **: superstitious jealousy of the natives.
The third plate possesses a high degree of merit: the subject is the Shaking Minarets of the magnificent mosque erected in Ahmedabad by Sultan Ahmed, whose remains are therein deposited, in a splendid mausoleum. The distinguishing title given to these minarets, or towers, is owing to an architectural phenomenon, as Capt. Grindlay terms it; namely, the vibration produced in them by a slight exertion of force at the arch in the upper gallery, which is communicated from one to another, although there is no perceptible agitation of the part connecting the two on the roof of the building. Col. Monier Williams found that every perfect pair of stone minarets throughout the city of Ahmedabad possessed the same peculiarity.
The rich and highly finished style of architecture exhibited in this structure is displayed in the picture with a beauty and fidelity which could not easily be surpassed.
The subject of the next plate is an ancient temple at Hulwud, in the northern part of Kattyawar. It is perhaps the best of the whole : to acquire a correct idea of the extraordinary success with which the artists employed, namely the drawer (Capt. Grindlay), the painter, the engraver, and the colourer, have represented the singular architecture of the building, the deli, cate foliage in its vicinity, and the flood of golden light brightening the effect of buiiding, landscape, and figures—the picture must be seen.
The next plate represents the Rajah of Cutch at the head of his vassals, dressed in various costume, of a very gorgeous and imposing character. One of the attendants wears a species of hauberk mail, or chain armour, covering the person entirely.
The subject of the last plate is a picturesque representation of the mountains of Aboo, in Guzerat, with the source of the river Suruswuttee, a moun, tain-torrent, dashing with impetuosity into a small lake, the Aboo-gurh, a spot held in the highest veneration by the Hindoos, and surrounded by religious edifices of great antiquity. Major Tod states that “there are no teme ples in India which can for a moment compete with these, whether in costliness of materials or in beauty of design.” The lofty mountains in the background, the clouds of foam in the centre, and the romantic scenery in the front, compose a subject which few artists could do equal justice to.
As we have had the gratification of seeing some of the subjects which will compose the succeeding parts of this work, we feel ourselves justified in stating that, in our opinion, the present views, splendid as they are, will be eclipsed by comparison with those which are to follow them. There is no reason, therefore, for apprehending that the work will fall off in its progress; on the contrary, the purchasers will probably find that this too common incident in publications of such a nature as the present, is reversed.
This is a work, in short, which bids fair not merely to establish the fame of Capt. Grindlay, but to do honour to the British arts; and if it meets with but small encouragement, we shall think it disreputable to the public taste, the improvement of which has, tardily, become an object of some solicitude to the state.