Imatges de pÓgina
PDF
EPUB

nations were formed again by the splitting up of the Roman World, and Egypt ceased to paralyse Italy with her ruinous competition. Then alone with the rise of prices agriculture slowly revived all through the Peninsula, more land came under cultivation, and the inhabitants gradually became more numerous in the poorer parts of the country. But an evil which is the consequence of an error lasting through centuries can only be wiped out through many more centuries of slow and steady evolution.

Italy, as is proved by the present state of the country round Rome, in Sicily and elsewhere, principally in the south of the Peninsula, has not yet completely revived-even after seventeen centuriesfrom the pernicious effects of Free Trade under Imperial Rome. The Bills voted by the Italian Parliament in these last few years for the agricultural improvement of the Campagna Romana are a plucky experiment of the twentieth century to remedy the evil consequences of an economical error of the builders of the Roman Empire.

I need not add any further comments. Every Englishman who has had the leisure to peruse this brief and incomplete description of one of the most important phases of the world's history, will know how to draw from it those conclusions most useful for the material and moral development of his great country.

TEANO.

THE PRESS IN INDIA, 1780-1908

The English Press did not appear suddenly in India, fully developed, like Minerva from Jupiter's head. Before the English appeared on the scene, civilisation had long existed, and the necessities of the native Government had evolved a system of obtaining and publishing information. In Hindu times the rulers of the country relied upon the reports regularly transmitted to them by their agents at home and abroad. During the rule of the Moguls there was an organised department under State regulations (as set forth in the Ain-i-Akbari) both for the recording, in writing, of events at headquarters and for the collection of reports from newswriters at different stations. There was a waqianavis, or ' recorder,' in each Subah, or province. In their early days in Bengal the English utilised these newsagents to act as their intermediaries with the Mogul Emperor. The Portuguese printed books at Goa in the sixteenth century. There was a printing press at Bombay in 1674. There was printing at Madras in 1772, and an official printing press was established at Calcutta in 1779 (while Warren Hastings was Governor-General). Mr. Bolts, an ex-servant of the Company, had proposed a printing press in 1768, but he had been, as an interloper, deported. "The Life and Death of the First Indian newspaper,' 1780-1782, are described at full length by Colonel Busteed, C.I.E., in his well-known and fascinating book, Echoes from Old Calcutta. The proprietor, editor, and printer was Mr. James Augustus Hicky, an illiterate man, probably a printer by trade, who had suffered losses at sea and been in jail. On the 29th of January 1780 he brought out Hicky's Bengal Gazette or Calcutta General Advertiser as a weekly political and commercial paper open to all parties but influenced by none,' the first newspaper printed or published in India. At first dull and vulgar, and on the whole harmless, it descended to indecency, personalities, and scurrilous attacks, often directed at Warren Hastings and Sir Elijah Impey; but it avoided attacking Sir Philip Francis. On the 14th of November 1780 its circulation through the channel of the General Post Office was stopped, because it contained ‘several improper paragraphs tending to vilify private characters and to disturb the peace of the Settlement.' But its circulation in Calcutta and the neighbourhood

continued. The worst features of the paper became exaggerated : personality assumed intolerable licence, private individuals were held up to derision. Hicky slandered everyone and anyone alike; even young ladies were most offensively indicated under different sobriquets which could not be mistaken. In June 1781 Hicky was arrested under Impey's order at the suit of Hastings, imprisoned, and fined, but he continued the paper without any change in its style. In January 1782 he was again tried by Impey on the same indictment as that on which Hastings had previously had him tried; he was fined, and sentenced to one year in jail. In March 1782 his types were seized, so that his paper was closed. He is described as a worthless man, but as the pioneer of the Indian Press. Of this paper Kaye remarks in his Christianity in India, “Society must have been very bad to have tolerated such & paper. . . . It is difficult to bring forward illustrative extracts. The most significant passages are too coarse for quotation.' Other papers were established about this time; the most important of them were the India Gazette, in November 1780, and the Calcutta Gazette (a semi-official organ, under the avowed patronage of Government), edited by Mr. Francis Gladwin in 1784. Kaye has stated in his Life of Lord Metcalfe, that with the improved moral tone of society during the administration of Lord Cornwallis (1786–1793) and Sir John Shore (1793–1798) the respectability of the Indian Press necessarily made steady progress. The papers had little or nothing to say against Lord Cornwallis and his Government. It would appear that, therefore, they were left very much to themselves. There is other testimony to the general improvement in journalism between 1788 and 1798.

In 1791 William Duane, an Irish American, was arrested by the Bengal Government and ordered to be sent to Europe in consequence of an offensive paragraph in the Bengal Journal reflecting upon Colonel de Canaple, Commandant of the affairs of the French nation and his countrymen in Calcutta. Mr. Duane applied to the Supreme Court for a writ of Habeas Corpus, which was granted. On the trial of the case the Court unanimously decided that the Governor-General in Council possessed the legal right to order Mr. Duane's arrest and have him sent to Europe. On the intercession of M. Fumeron, the French Agent, the Government revoked their order for Mr. Duane's embarkation. But, later, as editor of the Indian World, he published a number of improper and intemperate articles, and particularly an inflammatory address to the army; he was therefore put under arrest (of which an amusing account is extant) and sent to Europe in 1794 : the Court of Directors approved of these proceedings. The Bengal Harkaru came out as a weekly journal in 1795. In 1796 proceedings were taken against the editors of the Telegraph and the Calcutta Gazette respectively for articles considered objectionable by the Government, but no resort to extreme measures was required.

In 1798 an officer was suspended and compulsorily retired for writing in the Telegraph a letter tending to excite discontent and disaffection in the Indian Army; and another person was deported for writing a letter to the same paper animadverting on the official conduct of a magistrate, and for contumacy in declining to apologise. In 1799 the editor of that paper was required to apologise for a very improper reflection on an official. During these years the attitude of the Government of the Madras and Bombay Presidencies towards the editors of papers was the same as that of the Government of Bengal : several editors were warned, and the Press generally was officially supervised. Thus, previously to 1799, there were no uniform and consistent rules established at the three Presidencies to guide the editors of newspapers, or to restrain and punish their excesses. But the frequent abuses in the Calcutta and other Presses before 1799 seem to have satisfied the Government that checks were required.

When Lord Wellesley (then Lord Mornington) arrived in India as Governor-General on the 18th of May 1798, the Government were engaged in a great contest with the French, who were still endeavouring to establish a dominant influence in India and intriguing with the principal native dynasties for the destruction of the British power in the East. It was a great crisis. The unwary publication of items of intelligence might have been fraught with pernicious results. Lord Wellesley believed that it was necessary to subject the Press to a rigorous supervision. A censorship was established. In 1799 Lord Wellesley was in Madras, to supervise the fourth Mysore war against Tippoo. The Bengal Government, under his instructions, issued the following Regulations for the public Press : they bore date the 13th of May 1799 (Seringapatam was stormed, and Tippoo killed, on the 4th of that month) -First.–Every printer of a newspaper to print his name at the bottom of the paper. Second. -Every editor and proprietor of a paper to deliver in his name and place of abode to the Government. Third.—No paper to be published on Sunday. Fourth. -No paper to be published at all until it shall have been previously inspected by the Secretary to the Government, or by a person authorised by him for that purpose. Fifth.—The penalty for offending against any of the above regulations to be immediate embarkation to Europe. These Regulations were communicated to seven English papers then published, and were extended to others as they started. This system obtained, with some additions to the rules, until the censorship was abolished in 1818.

Lord Wellesley is said to have been at this time exasperated beyond measure against the Press of Calcutta. He regarded with extreme sensitiveness any remarks in the public journals which appeared in any degree likely to compromise the stability of British rule in the East. In his Life and Times of Carey, Marshman and Ward, Mr. J. C. Marshman has written how Mr. Bruce, the editor of the

Asiatic Mirror, a Calcutta newspaper, and one of the ablest public writers who have ever appeared in India, had indulged in some speculative opinions on the comparative strength of the European and native population, written in all simplicity and good faith and without any factious design. But Lord Wellesley considered the article mischievous, and in his anxiety that the public security, as he said, might not be exposed to constant hazard he directed Sir Alured Clarke, whom he had left in charge of the Government of Calcutta during his absence at Madras, to embark the editor of that paper for Europe in the first ship which might sail from Calcutta, adding, 'If you cannot tranquillise the editors of this and other mischievous publications, be so good as to suppress their papers by force, and send their persons to Europe. At the same time he established the very rigid censorship of the Press, and authorised the Secretary to Government, who was appointed censor, to expunge whatever appeared to him likely to endanger the public tranquillity. Immediate deportation to England was the penalty for breach of any of the regulations. These rules, on reaching Leadenhall Street, received the cordial approbation of the Court of Directors, and a despatch was promptly prepared for transmission to India. But the President of the Board of Control, before whom the despatch had to be placed, declined to concur with the sentences which expressed approval of Lord Wellesley's rules, and reserved the question for further consideration. At a subsequent period, after his return to England, Lord Wellesley directed the Regulations to be excluded from the collection of his official despatches, published under his own superintendence. But in November 1799 his feelings of animosity and alarm regarding the Press were in full force, and it was at that inauspicious juncture that the missionaries in Bengal sought to establish a press in the interior of the country, two hundred miles from Calcutta. To this proposal the GovernorGeneral gave the most decided and peremptory refusal.

When Lord Wellesley's Government in 1801 prepared a plan for the establishment of a Government printing press it was proposed to print an official Gazette, accompanied with a newspaper, the latter to be published under Government inspection, but not to be considered as an official communication. The proposition was based on the following grounds :

In a political viow, a powerful motive arises in favour of the proposed establish. ment. The increase of privato printing presses in India, unlicensed, however controlled, is an evil of the first magnitude in its consequences; of this sufficient proof is to be found in their scandalous outrages from the year 1793 to 1798. Useless to literature and to the public, and dubiously profitable to the speculators, they serve only to maintain in needy indolence a few European adventurers, who are found unfit to engage in any creditable method of subsistence. The establishment of a press by the Supreme Government would effectually silence those which now exist, and would as certainly prevent the establishment of such in future. Voi. LXIV--No. 378

0

« AnteriorContinua »