Abbildungen der Seite
[ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small]

inference naturally followed, from this gloss of the Governor-Gea neral, that the regulations were not according to his taste, and should remain as a dead letter. In point of fact, they did so remain for several years, notwithstanding the unceasing exertions of the minority in council.

26. This then is the actual state of things with regard to the Press in India. 1st. All intercommunication of thought by printing, or circulating of things printed, is prohibited by law, save under revocable license, within the Bengal provincial jurisdiction.2d. All periodical printing or circulating is prohibited by law, save under revocable license, within the jurisdiction of the King's Court at Calcutta.-3d. Printing in the Madras and Bombay provincial jurisdictions is not yet restrained by any known law.-41h. Within the cities of Madras and Bombay there is no legal restraint, and the King's Courts affect knowlege of none other than the libel laws of England. Nevertheless a previous censorship is inforced on British-born subjects only, through the fear of summary banishment. But Natives, foreigners of whatever country, Indo-Britons, are all, in short, except British-born subjects, free from other restraint than that of the English law: they are really as well as legally free.

27. The Indo-Briton and various classes of Native inhabitants of Calcutta complain, that the revocable License-Act deprives them of the most valuable of their privileges and birth-rights, secured by repeated royal and parliamentary charters, since the first settling of Fort William, and, therefore, inherited from the remote ancestors : of existing generations. They maintain, that they cannot lawfully be deprived, through the machinations of an unconstitutional judge and arbitrary governor, of their privilege to be governed, in all things, by English law, and bye-laws strictly consonant thereunto. They affirm, that if any political or other expediency requires that the law be changed to their detriment, such change can only be judged of and determined by the British Legislature; before which they can safely plead, and be fully heard in defence of liberties, immunities, and properties, without fear of offending or of being intimidated into silence and submission to arbitrary power. They expect that the King in Council will be advised, by his servants, to use his power in quashing an irregular or improper Indian bye-law, without putting the aggrieved to the charges and risk of a judicial appeal in so flagrant a case.

28. The unfortunate natives in the province of Bengal have no channels of judicial form through which to appeal against the more sweeping new law of prohibition and confiscation, to which their intercommunication of thought and opinions is subjected. They have no right to assemble or petition collectively, and individuals are afraid to offend power, unprotected as they are by any institu


tions, or even by any tribunals essentially independent of a Government which pays, appoints, and removes at pleasure. They try to hope that the Directors of the Company, or the Board of Control, who have the power in their hands, will annul a regulation that destroys their privilege of intercommunicating, and bars all speedy and substantial improvement of their minds or condition.

29. The British-born inhabitants of Calcutta join in the protest of their non-British fellow-citizens against the licensing system, which deprives them, also, of their right, even more undoubted, to be governed by English law only. They further expect, in common with Englishmen at Madras and Bombay, that their property and persons will be protected, in future, by the abolition or narrowing of the arbitrary power of discretionary banishment; since without this, no real freedom or equal justice can be secured, however much the semblance of administering equal English laws may be kept up in vain forms. The same intimidation that silences a printer, or forces him to submit to censorial restraints not acknowleged by the laws of England, might be employed in any other injustice which those in power chose to inforce by this omnipotent

Crimes might be shielded as easily as legal innocence punished. Men might be intimidated from prosecuting just but unwelcome claims, or resisting wrongs and demands productive of collision with those in authority. The very institution itself of a supreme King's Court--they maintain-set up, though it be declaredly, to do equal justice between high and low, may be thus virtually defeated and nullified, or reduced to an expensive mockery, by a system of unavowed, but well understood intimidation, at the mere pleasure of an intemperate or unwise ruler, with courage to incur local odium or reliance on powerful protection at home. SECTION 11.- Arguments bearing on the Question of the

Indian Press. The argument on the expediency of allowing free intercommunication of thought (see par. 3 and 4) among the inhabitants of British India, may be thus stated, setting out as a basis from certain points on which all men profess to be agreed.

31. England has publicly declared, by the organ of her Parliament, in 1813, her resolution to forward the intellectual, moral, and religious improvement of India as a primary and bounden duty. From this national pledge few will be found to dissent avowedly, however much they may practically act in contravention of a praiseworthy sentiment that virtually binds the governing power to consider the good of the governed as its primary object.

32. The enemies of free intercommunication either do or do not desire the good of the governed as the primary end of our Indian Government.


33. FIRST. If they do not, then they must consider some other good as primary, and that can only be the good of the governors ; for every man who has attended to the science and bistory of government is aware that there can be no honest compromise of goods, no middle course between pursuing the separate good of the governing and that of the governed: one or other must be primary; the true benefit of the governors, in an enlarged sense, will surely follow the good of the governed; but not the converse : for no separate good can be wrought to the governors that is not at the expense of the governed. Hence it follows, that if the opponents of free intercommunication declare their primary desire to be the good of the governing power, they must hold that the English Company having conquered India, maintain it as a pure conquest; that the chief object of England is to extract all the profit or tribute in its power from that conquest ; and only to do so much good to the conquered as shall be prompted by the fear of losing or rendering less productive this profitable milch-cow.

34. If such sentiments be confessed, and they have been often hinted at second-hand, as an argument against the improvement of India—the avowal should at least be made openly, and the policy, which undeniably follows from the premised seeking of the good of the governors, defended. All Europe would then know, that what has so often been said of our Indian policy, by Napoleon and other foreign rivals, is unblushingly admitted and openly justified. There would be an end of canting about our Indian administration, our humanity, beneficent sway, love of civilisation, pure religion, morals, &c. All these complacent self-attributions are wholly incompatible with the idea of our holding India as a profitable despotism ; such gratulations only serve to betray great ignorance or greater hypocrisy.

35. Secondly, but few men will boldly avow this doctrine with its unavoidable sequences. If then, the opponents of free discussion in India profess that they do desire the greatest good of the greatest number, then they are agreed with the friends of the Press, as to the object of our Indian domination, differing only as to the nieans of best attaining what is the sum and end of all good government; namely, the most perfect administration of cheap justice, and the lightest possible taxation, compatible with complete security to person and property from foreign or domestic danger.

36. Even as to the means of compassing this common object, both parties are so far of one mind as to agree that free public scrutiny and the control of public opinion (to be exercised somewhere) are legitimate and necessary means towards keeping the Indian Government, like every other, in the right path of duty. Even Mr. Adam fairly admits this, in a printed Indian appeal to



his countrymen at home; and no one has yet denied that in the Indian Governmeut, as in all other polities, there must be a constant struggle between the generat interest and the particular interests of individuals and classes of the rulers.

37. But the two parties professing this same end of good government, and agreeing as to the means of influencing its attainment, differ utterly as to the time when, and place where, control of public opinion can be best exercised; one party would only have it exercised in England, the other (approving, likewise, of its employment in England) is of opinion that it can only be exercised with the greatest vigor and benefit on the spot where its effects are to operate, and near the time when the evils may be supposed to happen, which it is proposed to correct by this influence. One party would limit this avowedly desirable control to the authorities in the mother-country the English Parliament, the English Press-in short, the Public in England; the other party would place reliance on those authorities also, but only as auxiliary to the best and proximate check of this description; namely, the public voice in India itself.

38. Whether this control be esercised in India, or in England, it is evident to all, that two essential conditions are implied in a right notion of such a check.-SAFETY and Efficacy are those conditions. An efficient check attended with danger-or one that, being safe, should be without efficiency, are equally unsuitable to the desired purpose of promoting the interests and happiness of the body of the governed.

39. By SAPETY is understood reasonable secureness of the general interests in this case represented by the Government) against external violence and unjustifiable internal convulsion. By EFFICACY, of course, is meant the power of stimulating the Government to good, and deterring it from evil, to such a degree as may balance the natural proclivity of all men intrusted with authority to prefer particular before the general interests.

40. If the control of public opinion through the Press on our Indian government takes place in England only, such control will indeed be, in one sense, quite sAFe, precisely because it will be INEFFICACIOUs. This impotevce arises, first, from remoteness of time; second, from remoteness of place; third, from the slender degree of interest which the British public takes in Indian affairs; fourth, from the inveterate party habits of English statesmen; fifth, from the peculiar circumstance that India is leased to an exclusive Company. The affairs of, and events occurring in, that country, do not, therefore, become generally known, in course, as heretofore, to individuals at home; especially since the annual budget has been discontinued, and party destinies no longer hang on India bills and the mockeries of impeachment; nor are Indian'occurrences necessa

[ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors]

rily known in any detail to the Ministers or Parliament, except where special occasions arise to call forth party attention.

41. Any control, hampered with so many clogs and disadvantages, must be quite inefficacious for purposes of general usefulness, and therefore no doubt safe enough in one sense, and in the direct ratio of its impotence; but how long will this SAFETY continue ? Only a limited time; and for this reason; that if the supposed control (exercised only in England) be, for the five reasons here assigned, inefficient to correct the evil tendencies admitted to exist, [par. 36] then it follows that the Government in India will go on acting precisely as if no such popular check or corrective at all existed. The tendency to misrule, conimon to every human Government, will be aggravated by distance and feebleness of responsibility; our Indian system of governing will not anieliorate. Surplus revenue, beyond all the wants and expenses of the State, will continue to be exacted, till the country becomes more and more prostrate, and every day less able to take English products, because less able to give any in exchange. Justice will be taxed higher and higher, and become less accessible, and dearer, too, inversely with the means of paying; old monopolies of necessaries and luxuries will extend and become daily more rigorous and penal, as in proportion poverty and temptation to violate become more powerful; new monopolies and extortions, in different shapes, will be devised; confiscations and sales will inultiply, until property shall almost completely shift hands, and the old extruded landholders, poor and ignorant, but proud and influential, inflamed with rage against their official despoilers, are ready to head the general revolt, which must, sooner or later, follow this national course and progress of misrule in a dependency, the administration of which is relieved from apprehension of vigilant and hourly scrutiny.

42. This picture is not imaginary: such a course and progress of internal misrule, followed by such revolt, did occur in a province at no great distance from the seat of Government, only a very few years ago : and although it cost so much blood and treasure, at a most critical period of general war, to subdue the rebellion which was not thoroughly got under for years, the story has scarcely ever transpired to the notice of that English public, in which some profess to see a fit and sufficient organ for controling and guiding the Indian governments! How such remarkable events as this, and other recent affairs of a like nature, came to be kept from public notice, from the newspapers, from Parliament, even from the Court of Proprietors, does indeed seem a mystery. Such, how-' ever, is the fact, and it speaks volumes as to the utter inefficacy of the English Press and English Public, (uriaided by those on the spot,) as checks on men or measures in India. The censorship was then in full vigor, and this very Mr. Adam was the censor.



« ZurückWeiter »