Imatges de pÓgina

Lord Metcalfe cited above, no valid right to name an heir without the consent of that Government. We should not, however, have felt disposed, had the adoption taken place, to scan too nicely our right to concede or to refuse it. It is better policy, on the whole, to err on the side of generosity; and we repeat, therefore, our hope that among the rights of the native princes henceforth never to be violated, the ancient and dearly-cherished right of adoption will be one.

Although we have ever had a deep, and, under the progress of time and the enlargement of our experience, a deepening conviction that the people of India are happier and more prosperous under British than under native rule, we have never been of the number of those who have insisted, therefore, upon the duty of neglecting no plausible opportunity for the assertion of the right of the paramount State to act the part of appropriatorgeneral in cases of lapse, or of forfeiture by misconduct. The out-and-out annexation policy of some thoroughgoing writers, with one or two notable exceptions of the anonymous class, we have ever held to be scarcely less foolish than wicked. But recent events have given some new and peculiar aspects to the question. It has become more clearly and unmistakably our duty- it has become more clearly and unmistakably our policy to maintain in their integrity the few remaining native states of India. That which has made the one, has clearly demonstrated the other. We are now bound to the native states of India alike by gratitude and by self-interest. They stood by us in the hour of need, and to turn against them in the day of our restored prosperity, would be as fatal to our empire as to our reputation. Humanly speaking, that empire was saved by the fidelity of the native states of India. Had the total annexationists had their way some years ago, the English in India, in that great crisis from which we have scarcely yet recovered, would have been swept into the sea.

There are some great lessons to be learned from this. Look, for example, at the conduct, throughout the crisis, of the Mahatajal of Putecalah,

and the Rajahs of Jheend and Nabha, the principal chiefs of the Cis-Sutlej

or, as they were formerly called, the "Protected" Sikh states. Fifty years ago, those states were on the verge of being swallowed up by the voracious maw of Runjeet Singh, then in an early stage of his career of conquest and usurpation. The British power in India would not suffer the absorption of these petty states; and so they survived, and in increasing prosperity, under the protection of the Company's government, until the great rebellion in Upper India found them with resources at their command which they were eager to employ in the support of their old protector. They gave all that they could give, unstintingly; they did all that they could do, unflinchingly. They furnished us with men, with munitions of war, with money, with supplies, with the means of transport. For half a century we had thought little of these chiefs but as humble clients and protegés. They were invariably associated in our minds and in our discourses with the word "petty. But the lion was in the toils; and the "petty" animal, which he might any day have crushed with one blow of his paw, was in a crisis


[ocr errors]

mighty to save. Our policy from the beginning, towards these Sikh states, was undeniably right. We do not say that it was anything more than policy. We claim for the conduct of the British Government half a century ago no higher motive than that of self-interest. But our duty and our policy were in accord; and the states which we protected, well satisfied with the fact, did not trouble themselves about the motive. They found themselves, indeed, bound to the British Government by common ties of self-interest ; and what ties, as this world unhappily goes, are more enduring? We are not to suppose that these Sikh or Jat chieftains have any pure abstract love for the British Government. They knew that if, at any time during the last half-century, the Government had been swept away, they would have been swept away with it. They knew that their security, their very existence, depended upon the permanence of Brit

[ocr errors]

ish rule; and they looked upon any calamity that could shake our power as the heaviest blow that could fall upon themselves. They rejoiced in our strength, and were true to us because we had been true to them. They knew that we had no thought of absorbing them ourselves, and that, if they were threatened by others, they could rely upon our protection. Doing their best to save us, they knew that they were putting forth all their strength to save themselves. And this is the feeling-not even now peculiar, be it said, to these petty states-that we should henceforth do all in our power to keep alive in the breasts of all the remaining princes and chiefs of India.

To engender this feeling of security the Proclamation is designed. That it has not hitherto universally existed, we are bound to admit. Every now and then the native courts have been thrown into paroxysms of restlessness and fever by vague reports, perhaps ignorantly, perhaps maliciously circulated, of new annexations. It was reported at one time that the British Government intended to absorb the dominions of the Guicowar; at another, that they intended to annex the ancient Rajpoot states. These reports were very rife after the annexation of Oude; and it is wonderful, all things considered, that the native states have been so true to us in the hour of peril. Holkar, Scindiah, the Nizam, and the Guicowar, have all, to the best of their ability, and with more or less success, supported the British Government. The great Rajpoot chiefs have been true to their allegiance. The time is coming-nay, is now come-when we should testify our national gratitude by substantial rewards to our allies. Fortunately, we have the means of doing this without giving back to the native princes territory which has been for any time, or at least for any length of time, under British rule. We have qualified the expression, because it might be advisable to give Jhansi to Scindiah. The defection of the ruler of Jhujjur and other small chiefships in Upper India has opportunely afforded the means of rewarding the

princes of Puteealah, of Jheend, and of Nabha. It is no secret that the reward which the Guicowar most covets is the remission of the annual payment of three lakhs of rupees for the support of the Guzerat Irregular Horse; and it is believed that this will not be grudged to him. What is to be done for the Nizam, it is less easy to determine. We owe everything to bis Highness's able and rightminded minister, Salar Jung. But for his exertions the Nizam himself would in all probability have been led astray by evil counsellers, and cast in his lot with the enemy. But Salar Jung is only a servant; and a substantial proof of the gratitude of the British Government would excite jealousies which in all probability would tend to his downfall. To be rewarded to his advantage, he must, in some way or other, be rewarded through the Nizam. We do not believe that he is an ambitious or self-seeking man, but that, on the contrary, his wishes are very much bound up with the public interests; and that anything contributing to advance the welfare and dignity of the State would be a greater boon to him than any personal advancement. The existing arrangements with respect to the "Hyderabad assigned districts" are known to be a source of continual vexation to the minister, and nothing, it is believed, is so near his heart as some modification or readjustment of them that will place them on a footing more honourable to the Nizam. The unconditional restoration of the districts is not, we believe, sought; neither, if sought, are we, in the present state of our information, prepared to counsel it ; but it is possible that some new arrangement might be made with respect to them, which, whilst not tending to weaken our administrative tenure of the districts, would give to the Nizam something more of a nominal sovereignty over them, and so render the compact less obnoxious to himself, and less degrading to him in the eyes of others.

We have neither time nor space in which to pursue the subject; nor, indeed, have we the necessary amount of information. We have abundant faith, however, in the generous inten

tions of the Secretary of State for India in council, and we feel assured that the claims of not one of the princes and chiefs who have rendered us good service in the day of our trouble will be eventually disregarded. In the fulfilment of the promises of the Proclamation will be their ulterior reward. The words of the manifesto may be vague; but of the spirit which animates it there can be no doubt. Virtually, indeed, there is an end of annexation. Events, as we have said, have proved it to be our policy, and have made it our duty, to maintain the independence of those states who have rendered us such good service against a powerful internal enemy; nay, who, humanly speaking, have been the salvation of our empire. Henceforth we are bound to each other by community of interests; the safety of each is dependent on the maintenance of the other.

We have dwelt upon the subject of the Native States at greater length than we had intended, or than, we fear, is consistent with the more general requirements of such a commentary as this, but still in a manner incommensurate with its importance. We must turn now to the other prominent topics of the Proclamation. "We hold ourselves bound," says the Queen, "to the natives of our Indian territories by the same obligations of Duty which bind us to all our other subjects; and those obligations, by the blessing of Almighty God, we shall faithfully and conscientiously fulfil." Unless the paragraph next in order is intended to explain and to qualify this, it must be taken as a more general profession of the benevolent designs of VICTORIA BEATRIX. It is not to be scanned too nicely, or too strictly interpreted, without raising a question as to whether a Christian sovereign is bound by "the same obligations of duty" to her Christian and to her heathen subjects. Is it not one of the first duties of a Christian sovereign to provide religious instruction for the people of a Christian country, according to the popular faith? And is it not held that the same obligation exists with regard to those subjects who quit the mother country to reside in the distant colo

nies and dependencies of the Crown? For the Christian residents in India, indeed, the Queen is bound to provide places of worship and ministers of religion; and the obligation is practically admitted. But is she bound to the natives of her Indian territories to provide them with places of worship and ministers of religion according to their popular faith? What she conceives that she is bound to do is set forth in the next clause of the Proclamation. "Firmly relying ourselves on the truth of Christianity, and acknowledging with gratitude the solace of religion, we disclaim alike the right and the desire to impose our convictions on any of our subjects. We declare it to be our royal will and pleasure that none be in any wise favoured, none molested or disquieted, by reason of their religious faith or observances, but that all shall alike enjoy the equal and impartial protection of the law; and we do strictly charge and enjoin all those who may be in authority under us, that they abstain from all interference with the religious belief or worship of any of our subjects, on pain of our highest displeasure." There is no passage in the Proclamation which has been more discussed, or which is still likely to be more discussed, than that which contains the above important words.

In framing this part of the Proclamation, her Majesty's Government, aware of the existence of a mighty conflict of opinion agitating the educated classes of English society, had no common difficulties to grapple with no common task to perform. They had, in the selection of words to be employed, to reconcile, as far as possible, widely discordant sentiments; and, if not to win general consent to the declaration of policy, at all events to avoid giving such offence to any party as would elicit strong expressions of disapprobation. And we cannot help thinking that they have shown very great sagacity in the selection of the words of the Proclamation. These words are sufficiently distinct for the purpose, and yet they leave much room for private interpretation. Knotty questions may, at some future time, arise, as to the practical application of some of these words; but there

can be no doubt of the spirit in which the entire passage is conceived. What we have said in the early part of this article, about the advantage, in such State papers, of a certain studied vagueness of expression, is peculiarly applicable to this passage. As it stands, whatever a man's opinions may be, he need not possess a very elastic conscience to reconcile him to the declaration. There is nothing more in it than has, time after time, been declared and enjoined by the East India Company. The doctrine is that of an open, fearless manifestation of our own Christianity, with the fullest toleration of the different religions of the country. It has long been a settled point that we may openly assert our own religion, without offence to the natives, or danger to ourselves. At one time we were afraid of building churches, of appointing bishops, of licensing missionaries, of distributing Bibles; but all these groundless apprehensions have been worn away by the attrition of experience. Neither Hindoos nor Mohammedans have in any way resented the assertion of our national faith; and if they did, we should be bound to assert it in every way not savouring of aggression. But here the duties of the Christian Government end. They are not called upon-we are glad now to use the words of Mr Baptist Noel, who at all events upon the subject of toleration will be considered an important authority-"They are not called upon to persecute Mohammedans or Hindoos, because it is the will of Christ that His religion should be extended by instruction, reasoning, and persuasion, and because man is answerable for his belief to God alone; so that no man may interfere with another man's creed, as long as he does not violate his neighbour's rights, or offend against public decency. They must not, as Christians, prohibit heathen worship, nor interfere with its advocates when they preach or write in its behalf; because truth is always the strongest, when it is left to contend with falsehood by itself. If error is silenced by authority, its advocates may always say that it would have conquered by fair


play; but when truth prevails by argument alone, its victory is complete. They are not, therefore, permitted to bribe heathens to profess faith in Christ by the offer of office, or by attaching any honour or emoluments to that profession; for this may create hypocrites, but cannot make men Christians. They should not tax the Hindoos for the purpose of maintaining Christian preachers, because this, by extorting their money for the purpose of destroying their faith, would exasperate them rather than convert them to Christ; nor are they called, as Christians, to pass any laws for the promotion of Christianity, nor to make any grants of money for this object, nor to employ any missionaries; for this work is not their office, nor are they fitted to discharge it. But it is their duty to confess Christ, and to serve him both as individual Christians aud as a Government." *

Is this the accepted language of evangelical Christendom? Speaking with no great knowledge of the intricacies of English sectarianism, we should say that Mr Baptist Noel has as good a right to be heard as the mouthpiece of Exeter Hall as any other Christian minister in the country. We devoutly hope that such is the case, and that these really are the views of Exeter Hall; for nothing can be more moderate-nothing, on the whole, more sensible. Expressing, we believe, the sentiments of the majority of educated gentlemen in Great Britain, we should say, however, that Mr Baptist Noel, in giving up altogether, as one of the means of asserting our Christianity in India, the avowed obligation on the part of the State to provide Christian instruction for its Christian subjects, has erred on the side of excessive toleration, and conceded more to the opposite party than would be generally thought necessary or wise. Perhaps the secret of this is to be found in the peculiar views of the writer with respect to ecclesiastical endowments, and the maintenance of a State Church. It is impossible to close one's eyes to the apparent injustice to the natives of

England and India: An Essay on the duty of Englishmen towards the Hindoos. By BAPTIST WRIOTHESLEY NOEL, M.A. Nisbet, 1859.

India, of" extorting their money for the purpose of destroying their faith." But this is only a part of the gigantic anomaly of Indian government. Do we not extort their money, not by thousands, but by millions, for the purpose of destroying their independence? If the one exasperates them, why not the other? Does not the larger part of the revenues of India go towards the support of the military establishment, which is maintained for the purpose of extinguishing the liberties of the people, and holding them in perpetual subjection to a foreign power? These things will not bear looking at too closely. Meanwhile we may be satisfied with the fact, that the natives of India do not resent the payment of a few thousands a-year for the support of the Christian Church in India; and that, on the whole, the least offensive manner of asserting our Christianity, is by maintaining the dignity of a Government Church Establishment. We might maintain a National Church by national subscription; but the very chapter of Mr Noel's book from which the above passage is taken, is headed "The Confession of Christ by the East Indian Government." But the Government, as a Government, can very inadequately assert its Christianity, if it does not support a Government Church. Nothing makes Christianity in the eyes of the people more respectable than this Government support; and nothing at the same time that can be devised for the same purpose is less calculated to irritate and to alarm them.

Whilst we thus proudly assert our own blessed religion, we are, says the Proclamation, to leave the natives of the country in the undisturbed possession of their ancestral faiths; and the servants of the Government are strictly charged and enjoined "to abstain from all interference with the religions, belief, or worship," of any of her Majesty's subjects. The actual meaning of the word "interference," in this manifesto, who knows? But how much better that no one should know. If it were known, or if-for probably not even the writer of the Proclamation knows what was really meant-an ex post

facto meaning were attached to it, what a world of contention there would be! As it is, time and circumstance must supply the interpretation. For the present, let every one interpret it in his own way, and be satisfied that the meaning is what he would desire to attach to it. Practically, it will be found that the prohibition extends only to official interference. We know how difficult it is in India to separate the acts of the individual from those of the public functionary; but it must be left for every man to draw, by his own conduct, the line of demarcation; and if he be found wanting in discretion he must answer to Government for the error he has committed. We trust that no servant of Government will ever be denied the common Christian privilege of contributing to the support of efforts for the diffusion of the gospel; and that nothing that he does, in furtherance of this great object, will ever be considered an official offence, so long as he abstains from investing what he does with the prestige of authority, and does nothing to alarm or to irritate the public mind. We are convinced that as soon as such a prohibition is autho ritatively issued, a considerable number of the servants of the State-including some of the best and ablest of them-will refuse to serve under so ungodly a Government, and retire, with ruined hopes, into the Christian liberty of private life.

But it does not appear to us that Christianity calls for any active "interference" on the part of the servants of the State, or that any public officer can do violence to his conscience by aiding missionary efforts in a manner only that can give no offence to the Government or to the people of the country. To every man there is an appointed duty; and it is not the duty of the judge of a district, or the colonel of a regiment, to take any active part in the evangelisation of Mohammedans or Hindoos. We may feel perfectly assured that, if money is abundant, labour will not be wanting. Let the judge or the colonel give his money-the more freely the better-and leave the work to be done by the missionary. If, however, either judge or colonel feel that he is especially called to gird

« AnteriorContinua »