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Art. VI.-1. Papers connected with the Petition of Missionaries
residing in and near Calcutta. 2. The Government Gazette. 3. Revenue Hand-book. By J. H. YOUNG, Esq. 4. The Land Revenue of India. By the late F. H. ROBINSON,
Esq. London. Thacker and Co., 87, Newgate Street.
social reform. The Government and the public have, for the last few months, had something to occupy them more urgent than the claims of the Ryot, or the interests of the Zemindar. These fearful mutinies, their origin, progress, and termination, will, we hope, in due time, be fully described in this Review and elsewhere ; for there is, indeed, in society, an uncontrollable desire to possess the minutest facts, the amplest details, of the successive outbreaks, by which so many fair marts and rich treasuries have been sacked, so many valuable lives lost to their country, so many homes rendered desolate, a partial revolt has been converted into a general rebellion, and a disciplined and fertile kingdom, held up as an example to the other Presidencies of India, been turned into a battle field or an Alsatia, overrun by marauders, a scene of present desolation and misery, and, in all probability, of future famine and disease. We all more or less know what nameless atrocities have been perpetrated on women and children : by what acts of consummate treachery the remembrance of the massacre at Patna in the last century has, as it were, been effaced ; to what new tales of havoc the story of the Black Hole must for ever give way: what old ideas have been ruthlessly discarded; what cherished traditions have been scattered to the winds. There is an end for ever, we hope, of the tyranny of caste in the army, and of the fulsome praise, and the excessive indulgence, by which the sepoy has been spoiled. On this and on other questions, by which society in India has been long divided, there will be, henceforth, some little unanimity of opinion. While we have, on the one hand, never thought lightly of the huge amount of individual suffering, and of the loss to the state, we have, on the other, never for one moment thought the empire in danger, and we are already beginning to look forward, out of a long account of deaths and disasters, to the Government of India on sounder and stronger principles than some statesmen have ventured to act on, and others have hardly thought fit to avow. We shall hear little more in the way of comparison between the virtues of the Anglo-Saxon and those of the Asiatic. There is an end of men of the old school
who have an enthusiastic admiration for Rajpoots, and who hymn the chivalry, the fidelity, and the bravery of the sepoy. The oriental, emancipated from discipline, flushed with the hope of plunder, or mad with excitement, has sunk himself far lower than he would have been placed by his most avowed enemy. The many instances of kindness and protection to beleaguered and hunted Englishmen, which are constantly coming to light, are scarce a set-off to the unparalleled villanies, by which our countrymen and country-women have been butchered. While then we shall take a just estimate of native character in future, we shall hope for a change in regard to our foreign and exterior policy likewise. The invasion of Persia, the occupation of Affghanistan, the exact position of Herat, the rise and fall of the Euphrates, should cease to form stock subjects for discussion. We should begin to feel now that our proper and only sphere of action lies between the Himalayas and the sea. Pensions to dethroned royalty will be adjusted on a fairer scale, and debauched and worthless specimens of Kings and Nawaubs will no longer command a morbid sympathy in London drawingrooms, or distract the attention of the senate from more important affairs. The king of Delhi and his ridiculous grievances, the sovereign of Oude and his preposterous claims, supported by hireling adventurers, will, if they escape the trial awaiting them, at once be consigned to oblivion. We shall reserve our rewards and our honours for those faithful sovereigns and petty chiefs, who have cast in their lot with ours, and to whom we are bound by every consideration of gratitude, of policy, and of honour, to assure a permanent independence. We shall not be sorry to hear of summary retributions, of signal vengeance, of the cord and the scourge effectively plied : and also, on the other hand, of liberal grants in land and in money to the deserving, of renewed assurances of protection and of friendship to the faithful, and of strong and telling measures in behalf of the masses of our subjects. The aroused feelings of British statesmen and of real philanthropists should find vent in prompt action, not only by dealing out terrible punishment to the rebellious, but by greater vigour and determination in every social or internal question that may be discussed in any department of the state. We do not, for a moment, advocate the slightest interference with religion, with caste, or with prejudices common to many classes of our subjects; and indeed, it can hardly have escaped the most careless observer, that the czy of danger to the Hindu religion, and of destruction to caste, was taken up from convenient motives, and was soon drowned or extinguished in the roar of selfish and violent passions suddenly let loose. There has been no direct interference with Krishna or with Mohammad on the part of our governors, and there will be none. But when we advocate additional energy and vigour everywhere, when there shall be no more mutinies to quell, we mean that no symptom of weakness should ever again be shown in the extermination of robbers, or in the extinction of crime : that no dilatoriness should be suffered to interfere with the prosecution of great public works : that larger powers should be conceded at once to local functionaries : and that no respect for fancied rights or vested interests should be suffered to come between the practical benevolence of government, and the happiness of the largest number of its subjects. Thus with the roar of cannon in the distance, with a disorganized presidency, requiring all the care and attention of government, with great projects of reform held in abeyance, and with the blood of our countrymen calling on us for vengeance, we still even now turn to a more peaceful subject, and shall make our modest contribution to the stock of knowledge which is requisite to deal successfully with so vast a question as that of the well-being and progress of the rural population of lower Bengal.
The petition of the missionaries, familiar to nearly all our readers, and discussed in parliament lately, was presented in the autumn of last year, to the lieutenant governor of Bengal. Among those who thereto appended their signature are the names of many earnest, eloquent, and disinterested men who, labouring for the spiritual conversion of the natives, are yet keenly alive to their secular comforts and their various physical trials. Some of the reverend gentlemen are men whose long residence in Calcutta will perhaps have made them more familiar with the feelings of the higher and middle, than with those of the lower classes. Some, however, are men who have enlarged their experience by periodical visits to the mofussil ; some are mofussilites; and all, so far from having private objects in view, could gain nothing, if the prayer of the memorial were granted, beyond the gratification, or the hope, of contributing to the welfare of persons, not their dependents. This advocacy of the wants of others, apart from all self-interest, is indeed a striking fact in the controversy. Other bodies can take care of themselves, and can bring wealth, experience, energy, and untiring zeal, to the removal of special grievances, or the attainment of particular ends. The Indigo-planters' association numbers amongst its members many determined and enterprising individuals, commands the sympathies of a large portion of the press, and has the powerful support of the mercantile interest. The British-India association is more wealthy, more numerous than the former body, and at least as loud and earnest in proclaiming its wants. With regard to the planters, there is, at least, no humbug. They want the permanence of their rights as Britons : the facilities for the collection of their rents as farmers of estates : their summary processes against faithless cultivators who receive advances for indigo and refuse to sow: their speedy justice, their improved communication, the bridges that will bear hackeries and elephants, and the roads that shall not "melt ” away. They stand up boldly and avowedly for the interests of their order; and, however impartial men may differ from their remedies, there can be little difference of opinion as to the straightforwardness and absence of sham with which those remedies are propounded. We wish we could say the same of the association of zemindars, the protectionists of Bengal, the landed aristocracy; for they are indeed nothing else. Why do not these gentlemen, who write pamphlets against the sale law, and who opposed the revenue survey, find for themselves some less ambitious and more appropriate title? Or why do they not, some of them, figure in the Revenue Board Report, like Priti Ram Choudari, the Mechparah zemindar, a large landholder in the permanently settled district of Goalpara, who has really fulfilled the visions in which Lord Cornwallis too liberally in. dulged? When they can deserve an honourable mention, like that accorded to the above gentleman in the Board's report for 1855-56, or when they can show estates on which the rents have been reduced, or drafts of laws specially made at their suggestion, to protect or to restore the rights of the agriculturists, it will be time enough for them to wonder that their objects are mis-represented, and that their claim to stand forth as the exponents of all classes, is not generally recognised. Till they do, the most solemn averment of the catholic' objects of their close league and alliance, will only call forth a smile.
The planters and zemindars then have their organs and mouthpieces, by which their antagonistic interests, as Natives and Europeans, and their similar rights and privileges as holders of large estates, are fully vindicated and discussed. The native merchants and shop-keepers are in that comfortable position which leaves them little to complain of, or have only those occasional grievances, such as want of communication or partial insecurity to property, which are sure to be remedied at the motion of others, in the general progress of the empire. But the ryots, who cover the ground with the food of thirty millions of people, who sow the indigo which enriches the European, and who pay the rent which maintains in comfort, not to say in opulence, all who live by the perpetual settlement, from the great land-owner to the lowest middleman, have literally no one advocate to set forth their case. This want has been supplied by the prayer of the missionaries, and however men may differ as to the statements contained in the petition, or refuse assent to the picture given of the condition and feelings of the population, or to the fitness of the remedy proposed, no one can refuse to admire the earnest, unselfish, spirit, by which so much moral excellence is made to serve the thousands who are sunk in vice and in ignorance, and so much thoughtfulness and eloquence is brought to the aid of those, who are unable to think out the real remedies for their social evils, or if they had, have not the tongue to make their wants heard.
Yet we are glad that the enquiry proposed by the petitioners was deliberately refused, and was not acceded to by Parliament; for the simple reason, if for no other, that the very nature of the enquiry would have resulted in the deferment of remedial measures, and thus in perpetuating the state of things which the memorialists justly deplore. But whoever wants to become possessed of the reasons for the refusal, has only to study the minutes of the lieutenant-governor, of the governor-general, and of the members of council. Mr. Halliday wrote well on the subject, with the confidence engendered by familiar intercourse with men of all classes, and by long study of the revenue system and general government of Bengal. Lord Canning took the view of an English statesman, not long resident in the country, and unacquainted with the language, but who based his conclusions on “information and testimony within his
reach,” and who applied principles gradually matured in England, to practical Indian questions of the last importance, in a manner which augurs well for the difficult tasks of remodelling or reforming large bodies that assuredly await him now; and Mr. J. P. Grant dealt with the petition in his usual clear and concise style, and with his accustomed soundness both in principles and details. The result of a perusal of the minutes shows clearly that, on one point, the sale of ardent spirits, the memorialists had been to some extent mis-informed : that several of the most crying evils which they represented to government, were fully known, needed no further enquiry, and were being gradually removed : that some were such as neither councils, nor governors, nor positive enactments could mend or cure : that the accuracy of the picture of discontent and sullenness said to be the state of feeling of the peasantry, was not admitted : and that a commission of enquiry would, if possible, which was not probable, be a serious mistake. We should, with this avowal of our concurrence in the views enunciated by the members of Government, be somewhat inconsistent, if we took up the several questions in such a manner as to set privilege against labour, and each class of society in opposition to the one directly above it : the more so as we think some of the evils under which agricul