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| Support of the Amendment . . .on the
I Clause in the (vast-India Bill
UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA
AT LOS ANGELES
THE SPEECH -
CHARLES MARSH, ESQ.
IN A COMMITTEE
THE HOUSE OF COMMONS,
JULY the 1st, 1813,
IN SUPPORT OF
The AMENDMENT moved ly Sir THOMAS SUTTON, Bart.
Clause in the East- India Bill,
Enacting further Facilities to Persons to go out to India for
Published and Sold by
BLACK, PARRY, & CO. LEADENHALL-STREET.
R. WATTS, Printer, Broxbourne.
IT has been lamented that such imperfect
reports of the following Speech, which
is said to have made great impression,
c have hitherto appeared in the Public
Papers. It is for the purpose of pre-
serving its principal heads that I have
undertaken the task of editing it. My ma-
terials were derived from the collation of
the different Newspaper Reports, and an
ample copy taken in short-hand of the
whole debate on this interesting question.
Mr. MARSH having kindly consented to
revise it, I now venture to offer it as a
faithful statement of his reasonings, if not
of the language in which they were con-
Mr. MARSH spoke to the following effect :
I SHOULD have adhered to the prudent silence
on the subject of this clause, recommended to us
by the Noble Lord who has just sat down, had it
not been for the alarming exposition of it which has
been given by the Honourable Member* opposite.
He has fairly spoken out; and the natives of
India cannot mistake the meaning of the proposed
enactment. I am anxious, therefore, to offer my
feeble protest against it. It appears to me a
most portentous novelty in Indian legislation. In
all former modes of polity for the government
of India, the inviolability of the religious feelings
and customs of the natives was considered a sacred
and undisputed axiom. And although a resolution
* Mr. Wilberforce.
was voted in 17Q3, that it was desirable to promote
their moral and religious improvement, it was a
mere abstract proposition, wholly inoperative, and
unembodied in any legislative shape ; and therefore
did not . disturb (as this enactment must do, if it
is not a mere dead letter) that wholesome policy,
which has hitherto preserved India to us, of ab-
staining from all interference with the religion of
its inhabitants. A departure from that policy will
shake our empire in that part of the world to its
centre. Not that there can be any danger of an
avowed or systematic departure from it; or that
on a sudden we should become so weak, or mad,
or fanatical, as to renounce all the wisdom which
history and experience and common sense have
imparted to us. But the real danger is this ; that
the actual attempt, by Parliamentary enactment, to
convert the natives of India ; and the mere suspicion
on their part, however wild and visionary, that
such schemes are in contemplation ; will -pro-
duce the same degree of mischief and disorder.
No man can dream, that such a project could
be soberly entertained, or deliberately discussed
in this H*>use. But it has unfortunately hap-
pened, that enough has been said to diffuse this
alarm in India: and the clause now inserted in
the Bill, combined with certain resolutions and
speeches at public meetings, and the petitions which
cover the tables of both Houses of Parliament
(all of which, without any squeamish or affected
delicacy, profess the conversion of the natives of
India to be their object), are but little calculated
to dissipate or appease it. Here is at once the text
and the commentary; the doctrine, and its ex-
It is true, Sir, that all this may be said to
proceed from the over-heated speculations of a
certain class of persons, who have worked them-
selves up to a diseased degree of enthusiasm
upon this subject. But my apprehensions are,
that the natives of India, contemplating the
matter through optics peculiar to themselves,
will not distinguish between the projects of these
gentlemen, and plans countenanced by the
authority, and intended to be effectuated by the
power of the State. For they are not only most
tremblingly sensitive to alarm on the subject of
their religion; but they are so little schooled in
our political usages, and the genius and form of
polity under which they have been nurtured are so
dissonant from the genius and frame of ours, that
they will not readily separate the acts and opinions
of a large portion of the country acting permissivery
under the State from the authentic and solemn act
of the State itself. That which is permitted, they
will hastily infer to be sanctioned. The time,
the great legislative question now pending relative
to the renewal of the Company's Charter, will cor-
roborate this inference. What other conclusions
can they draw from the numerous meetings
convened for the avowed purpose of deliberating
about the means of converting and civilizing them ;
the petitions for the same objects from every
part of the country ; and, above all, the opinions
avowed by the Honourable Member, and urged
with all the ardour and zeal of his eloquence ;
opinions, of which it is the fundamental maxim,
that our subjects in the East are sunk in the grossest
ignorance and the lowest debasement of moral and
social character ?
In confirmation of the jealousy which must
be awakened amongst them by so extraordinary
a zeal for their conversion, comes this pre-
amble; evidently emanating from the petitions
on the table ; framed to promote the prayer, con-
ceived in the spirit, and almost expressed in the
language of those addresses. And although it is
followed by a proviso, " that the authorities of the
" local Governments respecting the intercourse of
" Europeans with the interior, and the principles
" of the British Government, on which the natives
" of India have hitherto relied for the free exercise
" of their religion, shall be inviolably maintained,"
it is plain, that such a proviso will be nugatory and
unavailing. The principle is violated, and then you
declare it inviolable. You determine that facilities
shall be afforded by law to the Missionaries who
are desirous of proceeding to India, with an affected
reservation of powers in the local Governments
to send them back ; without adverting to this
obvious consequence, that those powers, if not
wholly repealed, will be considerably impaired
by the licences granted them by law to go
out. For if the control, under which Missionaries
have-been heretofore permitted in India, was the
general power inherent in your Governments
abroad to send them home as unlicensed persons, is
it not pretty clear that such a control will be greatly
enfeebled by the licences antecedently granted them
at home ? Hitherto, if a Missionary misdemeaned
himself, the remedy was at hand. His commorancy
being under the connivance and permission of the
local Government, it was no longer connived at or
permitted. The nuisance was instantly abated.
But now, he will be enabled to set up his licence at
home against the revocation of it abroad ; the
sanction of the British Government against the
jurisdiction of the Colonial Governor. To be sure,
the local Governor, if he is determined to execute
his duty, must prevail in the controversy, and the
Missionary will be sent to England. But is there no
risk incurred of giving offence to those through
whose patronage or recommendation the Missionary
was sent out? Is not the very circumstance of
sending him back an implied censure on the dis-
cernment, or good sense, or vigilance of those who
permitted him to go out? Besides, it is a discre-
tion which must be exercised by the local Governor
at the hazard of drawing down on himself, at home,
the clamours and resentments of a body of per-
sons, who are every day acquiring fresh accessions
of influence and numbers ; who are knit toge-
ther by the strongest sympathy which can unite,
and the closest confederacy that can bind a party of
men subsisting within the bosom of a community.
The slightest affront offered to any member of their
fraternity, vibrates as a blow to every one of them.
It demands no great effort of fancy to conceive the
spiritual denunciations with which every conventicle
will ring at the persecution of Brother Carey, or
Brother Ringletaube, should the jurisdiction, which
is still nominally left to the local Governments over
the Missionaries, happen to visit those pious gentle-
men. So that, in effect, though not in form, that
control will be removed, certainly impaired ; and
the Governments of India will be disarmed of
the means of coercing them, when their zeal
becomes licentious and dangerous. This, too,
in the veiy teeth of ample and unanswerable
documents now upon the table of this House,
which demonstrate that this control, even in
its fullest extent and vigour, was insuf-
ficient to repress the evil arising from the in-
creased number and unguarded conduct of
these persons. I refer to Lord Minto's Letter
from Calcutta, addressed to the Secret Com-
mittee of the Court of Directors, dated the
2d of November 1807- That letter states several
alarming instances of misguided and intemperate
zeal; and of low and scurrilous invective,
circulated in the native languages, against the
feelings, prejudices, and religions of the natives:
and it concludes with this impressive admoni-
tion : " On a view of all the circumstances
" stated in this despatch, your Committee will
te admit the expediency of adopting such measures
(t as your 'wisdom' will suggest, for (he purpose of
"discouraging any accession to the number of
" Missionaries actually employed under the pro-
" tection of the British Government, in . the work
" of conversion." I will not shock the ears of
the House by reading any extracts from these
publications. They must be offensive to the moral
taste of every cultivated mind : and to the people
of that country they exhibit a picture of Chris-
tianity, by no means clothed in those alluring
colours, which can alone win over their hearts or
understandings; but displaying a fearful and
disheartening system of terrors, from which the
affrighted reason of man would gladly fly to the
most barbarous of superstitions for refuge and
On what grounds, then, is it proposed to grant
these gentlemen the further facilities which are
claimed for them? Is it upon any recommendation
from those who are on the spot, in high stations
there ; and whose testimony ought to carry with it
no slight authority, not only as spectators of the
movements of the native mind, but personal wit-
nesses of the procedures and character of the
Missionaries ? Is any case of grievance, of hard-
ship, of persecution made out, which calls for any
new provisions in their favour ? Quite the con-
trary. The Governor-General sends home a strong
complaint of their misconduct, with a solemn warn-
ing against any augmentation of their numbers.
So far from having been visited with persecution,
the tolerance they have so long enjoyed is not
withdrawn from them, even on the strongest proof
of their delinquency. The offensive publications
are suppressed, but the authors and circulators of
them are still permitted to exercise their callings in
India. Nay, the very clause which is now under
discussion, gives the Court of Directors, subject to
the control of the Board of Commissioners, the
general discretionary powers of licensing all per-
sons whatsoever to go out to India. The words of
the preamble, therefore, which are exclusively
applicable to persons going out for religious pur-
poses, are superfluous, with this evil belonging to
them ; that they indicate a deliberate intention, on
the part of the British Government, to send out
persons for the express object of proselytism and
conversion. ^ .
The Noble Lord*, indeed, tells us not to be,
alarmed, either at the undue increase of Mis-
* Lord Castlereagh.
sionaries, or the kind and description of those,
who are likely to go out under the new provisions,
by reminding us of the salutary control, which the
Board of India Commissioners will have over their
appointment. I confess that my apprehensions
on this head would be put to rest, if the
Noble Earl * who now presides at that Board were
always to remain there, or if his successors were
necessarily to be influenced by his prudence and
good sense. No man is less infected than my
noble friend with the cant and fanaticism of the
day. No man is inspired with a more philosophi-
cal and dignified contempt of it. But here is the
inconvenience of making a law, which, to be bene-
ficial or noxious, depends on a personal discretion.
The law is permanent ; the discretion is transitory.
The Noble Earl's successor may have a different
set of opinions on this subject. He may be of the
new Evangelical school ; careless of the mischiefs
which may result from premature schemes of con-
verting the Hindoos ; or taught, by contemplating
only the end which is to be attained, to con-
sider those mischiefs as light and evanescent.
So far, therefore, from pursuing a cautious and
* Earl of Buckinghamshire.
restrictive policy with regard to the Missiona-
ries, he may be of the number of those, who think
that the fulness of time is arrived for Hindoo con-
version ; and that every inspired cobler, or fanatical
tailor, who feels an inward call, has a kind of
apostolic right to assist in the spiritual siege, which
has been already begun, against the idolatries
and superstitions of that degraded and barbarous
What rnan, that has rendered himself by study
or observation competent to pronounce upon the
subject, will not deprecate a provision so well
calculated from the time at which it is introduced,
and the explanations with which it is ushered in to
accelerate the calamities, which folly and fanaticism
have been long preparing for us in that country, and
of which all that we have experienced in the horrors
of Vellore may be considered only as the type and
forerunner ? The Noble Lordt himself does not
appear quite at ease as to the harmless or
beneficial quality of the measure. He has re-
peatedly suggested to us, with somewhat indeed
of paradox, but with great earnestness, that it
was a subject too delicate for debate, and too
important for deliberation. Hitherto, indeed,
t Lord Castlereagh.
we had been in the habit of considering, that, in a
ratio to the delicacy or importance of a legislative
proposition, it became matter for grave delibe-
ration and anxious discussion. But with regard
to the policy of sending out an enactment which
may probably undermine an empire, the course is
to be inverted. We are required to enact a secret ;
to whisper a legislative provision ; and to convey
it clandestinely and without noise into the Statute
Book. This, I say, looks like somewhat of diffidence
in the Noble Lord as to the safety or propriety of the
measure. That which it is expedient to adopt, it
can never be unwise to discuss. But I know the em-
barrassments of the Noble Lord's situation. I know
that this measure must be considered to have been
rather wrung from his good-nature, than to be the
legitimate fruit of his understanding ; and that it
has been reluctantly conceded by way of compro-
mise, to brush off as it were the importunities
that have so long assailed him. However, as it will
be no easy matter to make a law affecting the
feelings, the rights, and the happiness of so many
millions of men, without letting them into the
secret ; I am disposed to suspect, that the enact-
ment, when it reaches India, will inspire the more
alarm, from the very mystery and concealment in
which the noble Lord has endeavoured to envelope
it. I cannot therefore shrink from the discussion.
Reasoning only a priori, and with the total oblivion ^ &
and disregard of all facts (if those facts could be
forgotten or overlooked), I should entertain strong
apprehensions of this clause, from what I myself
know concerning the irritable feelings both of the
Hindoos and Mussulmauns,upon the subject of their
religions. But all a priori reasonings would be ab-
surd, with the fatal occurrences of Vellore, in 1 806,
staring us in the face, and preaching volumes of ad-
monition against the folly or rather the madness of
reviving an alarm in India, of which those occurrences
have bequeathed us such mournful illustrations.
It is a transaction which has been much misunder-
stood. It was a religious mutiny, in the strictest
sense of the expression. It originated from a
belief artfully instilled by the emissaries of
the * Mussulmaun Princes into the minds of
the Seapoys, that the British Government in-
tended to convert them gradually to Christianity.
If any one affects to doubt concerning the origin to
which I have traced it, let him read Lord William
Bentinck's proclamation of the 3d of December
* They were confined in the fortress of Vellore.
following, nearly six months after the mutiny ;
an interval which had been employed in a minute
and accurate investigation into the causes which
led to it. The fact is distinctly stated in that
paper. It was issued by the Government of
Madras, to dispel the apprehensions which had
worked up the native mind to that dreadful carnage.
That proclamation is among the papers on your table.
There is also among the same papers, the recorded
opinion of Lord Minto, given nearly two years after-
wards, of the same tenor, and deduced from the
same materials. I know it has been the fashion
amongst some reasoners to narrow the causes of this
event to the injudicious orders, which had been issued
about that time, respecting the shape of the turban,
and prohibiting the distinctive marks of caste on
parade. But they confound what in human affairs are
so frequentlwunconnected and disjoined ; I mean,
the cause and the occasion. The cause ivas in the
inherent and fixed antipathy of the natives to any
change of their religion. The occasion was, the pro-
posed alteration in their dress, with the prohibitions
against wearing their marks of caste ; which unhappily
furnished a powerful topic to awaken and inflame
that antipathy, to those who, being implacably ad-
verse to the British authority, were naturally eager
to seize every opportunity of seducing the native
soldiery into their own schemes of alienation and
resistance. The orders, though highly obnoxious,
would under other circumstances have been sub-
mitted to. Similar orders had been cheerfully
obeyed, because they had been unconnected with
any religious purpose. In truth, much unmerited
obloquy has been thrown on a most gallant and
honourable officer, now holding a high colonial
station, (Sir John Cradock,) for having issued those
orders. But it is a justice due to my highly-valued
friend, to state, that he had satisfied himself, by the
reports of the most experienced official men, that
those orders were not at variance with the feelings
and prejudices of the natives ; and these reports
were confirmed by the testimony of some of
the oldest native officers, and the opinions of
Brahmin and Mahommedan doctors. We must
therefore look to the specific circumstances which
made the orders in question offensive. They were
these. The seapoys were taught to consider them
as exterior signs of that gradual conversion to
Christianity, which other circumstances had given
them reason to suspect was meditated by the
British Government. Unfortunately, those circum-
stances were of a kind most likely to strengthen this
misconception: for it did happen, that, for some time
before the massacre of Vellore, an unusual degree
of countenance had been shewn to the various Mis-
sionaries who had insinuated themselves into India.
They had been permitted to circulate, with extra-
ordinary industiy, in different parts of the Carnatic,
translations of the Scriptures into the native lan-
guages ; and had exerted much inconsiderate zeal in
the commentaries and expositions which accom-
panied them. The ecclesiastics, too, at the principal
Presidencies happened at this time to be of the Evan-
gelical school ; Mr. Buchanan at Calcutta, and
Doctor Kerr at Madras. These gentlemen were
zealous patrons of the Sectarian Missionaries. Of
course, these persons, thus patronised and caressed,
sent home . accounts of the flattering reception
they had met with. Those accounts induced the
Societies in Europe to send out fresh exportations.
The indiscreet activity of these persons, and their
increased numbers, confirmed the suspicions which
had been infused into the minds of the Seapoys con-
cerning the late innovations in their dress. The result
was, that dreadful massacre to which it is impossible
to look back without trembling. If it is imagined
that the plot, which broke out, indeed, only at Vel-
lore, was confined to that garrison, the matter
is much under-rated. It was to have been a gene*
ral rising on the same day at every principal station
in the Peninsula : Nundydroog, Cannanore, Quilon,
and even at Madras. And had it not been pre-
maturely executed about a week before the appointed
day (in consequence of information given by a na-
tive officer, which however was not regarded, but
the informer actually confined as a madman), the
British name would now have been a mere matter
of history in India.
Is it possible, that this House will go off into c
such a fit of absurdity and fanaticism, or be visited
with so fatal a fatuity, as not to keep so awful ai;
event before them, in the grave discussion of mat-
ters . affecting the religion of that country ? That
event has interposed the warning of sobriety and
wisdom to this headlong, precipitate, busy, med-
dling, gossipping, officious, interference with mat-
ters, which the laws of God and Nature have placed
beyond our jurisdiction. What is the lesson it
has left . us ? Why, that our subjects in India, im-
moveably passive under our political domination,
are wakefully sensitive to all attempts at a religious
one ; that while they are upholding our empire by
the steady and willing services of a patient and
unwearied attachment, there are still limits to their
allegiance, however firm and enduring, in those
unconquerable feelings, and unbending habits, which
bind them, as by links of adamant, to the religion
and laws of their country. Surely, Sir, we need
not the acting over again of that dreadful drama,
to be taught, that all attempts on their religion,
however cautiously and covertly made, must not
only be unavailing, but calamitous; and if the
change in the shape of a turban, or the temporary
disuse of the marks on their forehead, drove that
most passive and obedient soldiery into the bloody
revolt of Vellore, what may we not dread from
grave discussions at meetings convened for the
avowed purposes of converting them ; those purposes
avowed in petitions from every town in England, and
countenanced by a large portion of the Legislature
of Great Britain, while the great question relative
to the civil and political administration of. that
country is still under its deliberation ? If the
atrocities of Vellore were prompted by unfounded
suspicions, or causeless jealousies, I fear, should
that dreadful scene be again acted, we shall be
deprived even of that consolation: for we are
now administering to their religious fears, some-
thing more than mere pretexts to feed on. I feel,
therefore, most unaffected apprehensions on this
subject; so much, that if my Honourable friend
(Sir Thomas Sutton) had not moved his amend-
ment, I should have proposed a clause of a very
opposite character from the Noble Lord's ; prohi-
bitory, instead of permissive, of the ingress of
Missionaries into India; and accompanied with
a solemn declaration, that the inviolability of the
religion of the natives ought to be the basis of
whatever political system it may be expedient to
provide for them.
It is by this policy that India has hitherto been
governed. The Court of Directors, I trust, are not
unmindful, that it is the only policy, which can keep
the native mind tranquil. Were they not so, with
the ample communications they have had from
India on this most delicate subject, they would
exhibit a memorable proof of their unfitness for
any share in its government. It would be their
own attestation to their own incompetency. But
is there not already a most fatal oblivion of that
policy ? The opinions of more than one member
of that Board who scarcely lag behind the wildest
enthusiasts in the great work of conversion, have
filled me with apprehension. They are omens
of the most alarming kind. They convince me,
that the powers granted by this clause will be most
unsparingly exercised. But should that not be
the consequence, those opinions will corroborate
the fears already prevalent amongst the natives,
who have so long and habitually contemplated the
Court of Directors as the chief depositary of their
interests, and the organ in which the political
power of Great Britain in India chiefly resides.
Mr. Cowper, in his evidence, furnished us with
a most important aphorism, when he told us, that
" an expression of the most distant recom-
" mendation on the part of persons in power, is
te received by the Hindoos and Mussulmans as a
" kind of order."
When I see, therefore, that this spirit of religious
enthusiasm, which has so long been at work amongst
ourselves, is likely to be let loose on a people not
more disjoined from us by their customs and pre-
judices, than by the ocean that divides us ; and that
ultimate success is problematical, while intermediate
mischief is inevitable ; it can be no difficult matter
to find out the genuine deductions of duty and
reason and common sense. And are these deduc-
tions overturned by setting up * the general, vague,
indefinite duty of imparting the Christian religion
to every country and people, whom the mysterious
* Mr. W. Smith.
ordinances of Heaven have hitherto deprived of
it? For, as all human duties lie within certain
lines of expediency and practicability, it is plain, that
the alleged duty is destroyed and negatived by the
inexpediency and danger of bringing it into action.
In these cases, then, it is our business first to
inquire, Whether morality and right reason pre-
scribe any, and what mode of action ; or (which is
a still more important question) impose on us the
obligation of acting at all? Whether, to put it
into a form more developed and precise, the alleged
duty of acting is not overpowered by the opposite
and antagonist duty of not acting at all ? For it
would be absurd, in any problem of civil or moral
duty, to shut from our contemplation the proba-
bilities of success or failure. It would be worse
than absurd to overlook the dangers of the ex-
periment; and of an experiment, which, in this
instance, is to be tried on a machine so delicate,
so complex, and so easily deranged as our empire
in India. This appears to me the point we are to
decide ; remembering at the same time, that the
Hindoo religion is not only to be overthrown, but
the Christian planted: and taking care to discover,
whether we may not eradicate the religion of India
without advancing at all nearer to the establishment
of our own : and in so doing, get rid of a system
which is beneficial to a certain extent, without
being able at last to replace it with a better. The
faintest probability of our stopping short of the full
accomplishment of our project, of preaching down
the Hindoo religion (the first step only in the
process), and getting no further, ought of itself
to make us wary and cautious in undertaking
it. Neither reason nor history tells us, that the
adoption of a new religion is a necessary consequence
of the abdication of the old. It is one thing to
dispel the charm that binds mankind to established
habits and antient obligations ; and another, to
win them over to the discipline of new institutions,,
and the authority of new doctrines. In that dread-
ful interval, that dreary void, where the mind is
left to wander and grope its way without the props
that have hitherto supported, or the lights that
hitherto guided it, what are the chances, that they
will discern the beauties, or submit to the restraints
of the religion, you propose to give them? What then
will have been done ? You will have extinguished
a system, which, with all its demerits, has been the
very foundation of your empire in India. You will
have destroyed that peculiarity of national character,
that singular contexture of moral properties, which
has given you an immense territory, an immense
revenue, and sixty millions of subjects ; while you
will have done nothing more towards the realization
of your own schemes, than the destruction of
those institutions, that have for ages kept^the vices
and passions which overrun the Western world from
that favoured country. Such may be one result of
our experiment. The Missionaries, it seems, from
the papers on the table, have begun at this end of the
project. Their efforts have been directed to the pious
object of disgusting the natives with their religion,
their laws, their customs, and every thing that is
venerable and authoritative amongst them.
There is no controversy about ends. No man
can be more unaffectedly solicitous than myself for
the diffusion of Christianity. I should be undeserv-
ing of an audience in a Christian assembly, were I
cold or indifferent to its blessings. But there are
questions, desirable as it may be to infuse Chris-
tianity into India, which will give pause to delibe-
rate minds in attempting it. Have I the means of
accomplishing my purpose ? If I have not, will not
the mere attempt be attended with calamities, that
constitute an opposite duty to abstain from it ? Not
that this is the sort of reasoning which will go down
with those who are so hotly engaged in the work
of conversion ; and who (such is the nature and
character of all religious enthusiasm) are little likely
to be startled or appalled by the difficulties they
will have to encounter, or the miseries they may
produce, in the glorious object of making sixty
millions of men Baptists or Anabaptists. But,
seeing the dangers, and difficulties, and suffering,
that must result from the experiment, the conversion
of that immense population seems, for the pre-
sent at least, out of the course of things. It is only
through the circumstances that surround him, that
Providence deigns to confer with man- For as
Providence condescends to act by human instru-
ments and human agencies, it can be no impiety in
us, who can calculate only on the efficacy of human
means as applied to human objects, to pronounce
a purpose discountenanced by so many impe-
diments, and exposed to so many evils, to be
out of his destinations. The power of working
miracles is not assumed. The conversion of In-
dostan by an instantaneous effusion of grace is not
expected. Force is disclaimed. Not that there is
any great magnanimity in disclaiming force ;
since no force could be effectually applied to an
object so incommensurate with all physical means
of obtaining it. If, therefore, it is probable that
the mere attempt, though unaccompanied with
force, will be both abortive and mischievous, I
confess that my understanding is driven into this
inference (no doubt a gloomy one), that the mere
attempt ought to be discountenanced.
It seems no easy matter, however, to persuade
Gentlemen of the impracticability of their project;
and having, by some rapid process of reasoning,
made up their minds to its practicability, they seem
to laugh at its dangers. But they are ignorant of
the very elements of their experiment; of the raw
material they have to work upon ; in one word, of
the Hindoo mind and character. They appear
never to have reflected, that this artificial being,
moulded and fashioned, I had almost said created,
by his religious institutions, (and all his institutions
are religious ones,) is distinguished by properties,
that give him no affinity to the proselytes who
crowd their tabernacles and conventicles. They
apply to this most singular people the same
reasonings that are applicable to mankind in
general ; wholly unmindful of that deep colour
of character which has divided them, almost since
the foundation of the earth, from the common
family of the world. For the same peculiarity
which the philosophical Historian attributed to the
antient Germans, might with equal truth be attri-
buted to the Hindoos : " Propriam atque synceram,
et tantum sui similem gentem" Rendering there-
fore full homage, as I am disposed to do, to the
purity and benevolence of the motives which actuate
the advocates for conversion, I am convinced, that
had they been sufficiently skilled in the genius and
moral constitution of the Hindoos to appretiate
the temporal misery which every Hindoo convert
must suffer, their humanity would long ago have
taken the alarm, and probably dissuaded them from
the further prosecution of their scheme. Can it be
necessary then to remind them of the stupendous
moral effects produced in that countiy by the divi-
sion of castes ? The loss of caste is the immediate
consequence of conversion ; and it is the most
dreadful ill with which an Hindoo can be visited.
It throws upon him every variety of wretchedness.
It extinguishes all the wholesome charities and
kindly affections. His very kindred desert him.
It becomes an abomination to eat with him, or even
to speak to him. The hand is accursed that
ministers to him. All mankind fly from him, as
from an infection. His only refuge from this
overwhelming force of misery is death ; a solitary,
friendless, uncomforted death, amid the scoffs, and
scorn, and revilings of his species. I am drawing
no 'fancied picture. The reports of the Missiona-
ries themselves have given more than one instance
of it. The very few converts, whom they have
made among those who are entitled to the privilege
of caste, have endured all this : a circumstance that
will account satisfactorily, I should think, for this
most curious and important fact ; that amongst
persons of caste, that is, amongst those who essen-
tially are and alone ought to be denominated Hin-
doos, they have hardly made any converts at all.
The great mass of their proselytes, scarcely exceed-
ing eighty in seven years, are drawn from the
Chandalahs, or Pariars, or out-casts ; a portion -of
the population who are shut out from the Hindoo
religion, and who, being condemned to the lowest
poverty and the most sordid occupations, are glad
to procure, by what the Missionaries call conversion,
whatever pittance they are enabled to dole out for
their subsistence. As to the Church of Syrian
Christians, which has so long subsisted in the pro-
vince of Travancore, let us be on our guard against
the ingenuity with which it is made to form a part of
the argument. They are not descendants from the
original inhabitants of Hindostan ; of course, there-
fore, they can never be said, in fairness, to have been
converted from the Hindoo religion to Christianity.
They are the remnant of a Church planted there
in the early ages of Christianity ; where they have
remained, without any material increase of numbers,
from their primitive institution ; tolerated and de-
spised by the successive Rajahs. They are an inde-
pendent community amongst themselves ; and are
not only too narrowly watched to make converts ;
but, I believe, from the influence of mutual habi-
tudes and intercourses between them and the
community in the bosom of which they are per-
mitted to reside, wholly indisposed to molest them
by any unseasonable or indiscreet attack on their
feelings or prejudices.
This division of caste has always erected an in-
vincible barrier to the proselytism of the Hindoos.
A Gentoo considers the privileges of his caste as
exclusive and incommunicable. It is this that im-
parts to him the highest prerogatives of his nature.
Man is not separated by a wider discrimination from
the inferior world, than that which the pride and
dignity of caste have interposed in that country be-
tween the several orders of mankind. He acquires
a class of emotions incident to the character that
elevates him. He breathes, as it were, a more
etherial element. Taught to revere himself by the
same standard which secures to him the esteem
and reverence of others, he considers the loss, or
even the pollution and degradation of his caste, as
evils worse than death. The same feelings descend
through each successive gradation ; each caste cul-
tivating the same spirit of an exclusive character :
all of them united in one common sentiment of
contempt of the Pariars, or out-casts, amongst whom
they class the Christian Missionary and his convert ;
the Pastor and his disciple. Some new power,
therefore, hitherto undiscovered in the moral world,
and equivalent to that which the old philosopher
required in the physical, will be requisite to pull
down this consolidated fabric of pride and super-
stition, which has stood, unmoved and undecaying,
the sudden shock of so many revolutions, and the
silent lapse of so many ages. If you begin with
one caste, you have to fight in another against the
same host of feelings, motives, and affections, which
render place and homage and distinction despotic
over the heart of man. Your struggles are only be-
gun when you have converted one caste. They are
perpetually to be renewed. Never, never, will the
scheme of Hindoo conversion be realized, till you
persuade an immense population to suffer, by whole
tribes, the severest martyrdoms that have yet been
sustained for the sake of religion; to tear them-
selves from every habit that sways in the human
bosom ; from the sweets of social communion; the
ties of friendship; the charities of -kindred ; from
all that life contains to support or adorn it; and all
this to embrace a new religion proffered them by
polluted hands ; a religion on the threshold and in the
very vestibule of which are planted all the appalling
forms of penury, contempt, scorn, and despair:
Vestibulum ante ipsura
Luctus et ultrices posuere cubilia corse,
JEt raetus et male-suada fames, et turpis egestas.
And are the Missionaries, whom this Bill is to let
loose upon India, fit engines to accomplish the
greatest revolution that has yet taken place in the
history of the world? With what weapons will
they descend into the contest with the acute, intel-
ligent Hindoo, prepared to defend his religion by
reasonings drawn from the resources of a keen
and enlightened casuistry, and wielded with all the
vigour of a sharp and exercised intellect ? Will
these people, crawling from the holes and caverns
of their original destinations, apostates from the
loom and the anvil, and renegades from the lowest
handicraft employments, be a match for the cool
and sedate controversies they will have to encounter,
should the Brahmins condescend to enter into the
arena against the maimed and crippled gladiators
that presume to grapple with their faith ? What
can be apprehended but the disgrace and discom-
fiture of whole hosts of tub-preachers in the
conflict ? And will this advance us one inch nearer
our object? ^ \
In whatever aspect I view the question, the
impracticability of converting India by such means
to Christianity looks me in the face. The advo-
cates for the scheme have scarcely favoured us
with one argument, that shews it to be practi-
cable. In some of the papers, however, published
by the Baptists, there appears a faint historical
analogy, from which they infer the probability of
success ; and a learned and Honourable Gentleman
near me* put it in the shape of an interrogatory
to one of the witnesses at the bar. He asked
Mr. Graham, " Whether the natives of India were
more attached to their superstition, or more under
the influence of the Brahmins, than our ancestors in
this island were to their superstitions under the influ-
ence of the Druids ? " The witness, it may be recol-
lected, very modestly declined speaking of the Druids
from his own personal knowledge; but expressed
himself pretty strongly as to the folly and danger
of interfering with the religion of India. Does
the learned and Honourable Gentleman think that
there is the slightest analogy between the two
religions ? The religion of the Druids was extir-
pated from this island by the antient Romans,
because its institutions were too intractable and
unyielding, to give them quiet possession of their
conquest. But it was not extirpated till their
priests were slaughtered, their sacred groves and
temples destroyed, and their population ravaged,
with every species of bloody and ferocious violence.
I advert to the finishing stroke given to that reli-
gion in Britain, under Suetonius Paulinus. To
make the analogy, however, at all an approximation
to an argument, the Honourable Member is bound
also to contend, that the Roman procedure towards
the Druids is to be followed as a precedent by us
with regard to the Hindoos. The Honourable
Member's humanity starts at the suggestion. Why,
then, fhe argument drawn from the analogy is
destroyed. But whatever points of resemblance
there may be between the two religions, they will
be found to furnish an argument against our inter-
ference with that of the Hindoos. Those points
of resemblance are these : the exclusive character
common to both; the domination of the priest-
hood ; the indissoluble and adamantine strength
with which the soul and all its faculties were
bound to the Druidical, as they are now to the
Brahminical system ; the jealousy, with which the
Druids once preserved, and the Hindoos still pre-
serve, the inviolability of their faith. Why then, if
the civilized conquerors of antient Europe, deeming
it expedient to get rid of the Druidical superstition,
and not, as it may be presumed, ignorant of the
most efficacious means of effecting it, found that
there was no other mode but extirpation, the
matter is settled. The means of extirpating the
Hindoo religion are not in our hands ; extirpation
is out of the question ; and we must endure the
evil. But here the resemblance stops. The points
in which these religions differ, will supply much
stronger illustrations (if they were wanted) of the
danger and folly of interfering with that of the
Hindoos. The superstition of the Druids inspired
a spirit of resistance to the civil and military yoke
of their conquerors. That of the Hindoos makes
them the passive, unresisting subjects of theirs. It
is of the very essence and nature of the Hindoo
religion to extinguish and subdue the spirit of civil
resistance. Accordingly, the natives of Hindostan
have borne with the most unrepijiing acquiescence
from their Patan, Tartar, and Mahommedan invaders,
every shape and mode and alternation of oppression,
But neither the Tartar nor the Mahommedan sword
^ could subdue their religion.
Well then, let us survey the ground we occupy,
before we advance further. We have a mighty
empire in India, from which a great revenue has
hitherto been derived, and an exuberant tide of
wealth may hereafter flow in upon us ; a civil and
a military government cheerfully and quietly obeyed
by many millions of its inhabitants, disciplined and
nurtured to that obedience by the peculiar genius
and character of the religion we are anxious to
destroy. It is required of us, in defiance of all
that experience and reason have taught us, that we
should throw away what we have acquired, or at
least incur the hazard of losing it, in order to erect
a spiritual ascendancy on the ruins of our political
dominion. Such, also, are the inconsistencies and
contradictions that beset us in this extraordinary
discussion, that the very Gentlemen*, who are the
mo,st eager for this Evangelical project, alarmed at
the perils that threaten their exclusive privileges,
and in defence of those privileges imploring us
* Mr. Grant, and Mr. Thornton.
jealously to shut the door of India, even on those
who, being invited thither by commercial enterprize,
must have an obvious interest in carrying on a
quiet, prudent, and conciliatory intercourse with the
natives feel no scruple to tell us, that there is
no danger in opening every port to swarms of
Missionaries, and hosts of fanatics ; men, whose
nature and character it is, to consider them-
selves absolved from, all human restraints, and
free from all human motives, in effecting the
objects of their calling. Nay, the same rea-
soners, while they would convince us that so
fixed and immutable are the prejudices and cus-
toms of our subjects in the East, that it is absurd
to expect that they will consume our woollen
cloths and hard-ware manufactures, have no com-
punction, in the same breath, to contend that those
prejudices and customs, fixed and immutable as
they are, would by no means impede the reception
of the coarsest texture of theology, that can be
dealt out from the shops of the Anabaptists, or
woven in the loom of their fevered and fanatic
fancies. It is in vain to tell them, that every
European throat will be cut, if the Missio-
naries are encouraged, and the attempt at conver-
sion persisted in. The answer is These are
ridiculous fears ; bugbears (to use the * Honourable
Member's pbrase) tbat haunt the imaginations of
that part of the House, who, having been in India,
are the least competent to pronounce on the sub-
ject. It savours indeed somewhat of paradox,
that we should be disqualified from bearing testi-
mony by the only circumstance that can entitle us
to credence. It is our fate, however, to hear things
pushed still nearer to the brink of absurdity. For
the Honourable Gentleman, to shew that no danger
is to be apprehended from Missionaries, assures us
that they have carried their zeal so far, as to pub-
lish and circulate the most indecent attacks upon
the customs and opinions of the natives, and that
no commotion has yet followed: a fact which
suggests a strong argument for recalling those who
are now in India, or preventing any more from
going out ; but which is not quite so clear in favour
of granting them fresh facilities. The fact itself, how-
ever, is questionable. The conduct of the Missio-
naries has already excited much disquietude amongst
the natives. The papers on the table, particularly the
letters from the Bengal Government, shew it. But
had they been wholly passive and silent, whilst these
* Mr. Wilberforce.
persons were reviling their institutions, would it be
good reasoning to suppose, that there was no point
of endurance beyond which they would cease to be
the contemptuous witnessess only of the folly and
phrenzy of the Missionaries ? It is comparatively
but yesterday that we became the dominant power
in that country. When we had no political ascen-
dancy there, they were not alarmed at the pro-
spect of a religious one. It is not so, now. Every
other power in India has been gradually absorbed
into our own. They can bear that. They are
unmoved spectators of your rapid strides to terri-
torial conquest and political power. But when,
with all this territorial influence and political power,
you begin to make laws, and preach parliamentary
sermons about their religion, they will begin to
connect your politics and your religion together,
and endeavour to shake off the one, to secure them-
selves from the other. * s
What matters all this to a finished and graduated
doctor in the new Evangelical academies ? He is not
disturbed by the prospect of a little mischief. The
end sanctifies the means. The people of India are
sunk into such gross heathenism ; their superstitions
are so brutal ; their national character is such a cdm*-
found of fraud, falsehood, perjury, cunning, arid I
know not what vices, that the duty of converting them
takes the lead of every other in importance, and is in-
fluenced neither by those times, seasons, or opportu-
nities which regulate and controul the other duties of
life. Such is the senseless cant of the day. I have no
scruple in saying, that this cant is founded on the
falsest assumptions . I say nothing of the total want of
philosophical precision in comprehending the mixed
character of an immense population covering an
immense territory within the terms of one general
national description. But this I will say ; that if
such is our opinion of our fellow subjects in India,
we are unfit to govern them. It is a mischievous
hypothesis, corrupting the very fountains of pure
and beneficent administration. Hatred and con-
tempt for those whom you govern, must, in the very
nature of things, convert your government into a
stern and savage oppression. On the other hand,
a favourable estimate of the character of this very
people (it is a striking passage in their history)
softened even the rugged features of a Mahommedan
government into a paternal and protecting policy.
The Emperor Akber, a name dear to Oriental stu-
dents, under the influence of an enlightened vizier
(Abulfazel) who had learned to form a correct
estimate of the Hindoo virtues, governed them, as
we are told, with such equity and moderation as to
deserve and obtain the title, which has alone trans-
mitted his memory to posterity, of "guardian of
mankind." ^ -
I hope therefore that I heard not aright, when an
Honourable Member* discoursed of the Hindoos as
a people destitute of civilization, and degraded in the
scale of human intellect. Is it possible that such
things can be imagined ? Whence has the Honourable
Member, whose learning in their customs and history
I am bound by the courtesy of the House not to call
in question, whence has he derived this theory of their
moral and intellectual inferiority ? Is it in the re-
mains to be traced through that vast continent, of
a system of law and polity, which shews them to
have been a people abounding in all the arts which
embellish life, and all the institutions which up-
hold it, from an sera long before the dawn of our
most venerable establishments, and before the pri-
maeval silence of our forests had been broken by the
voice of man ; professing also the great principles of
natural theology, the providence of God, and the
future rewards of virtue, before our ancestors had
arrived at the rudest elements of a religion ? Is it,
* Mr. W. Smith.
in that habitual government of the passions, that
absolute subjugation of the will to the reason, which
would shame the Stoic doctrine, and falls little
short of that purity and perfection of the Christian
discipline which the best of us rather hopes, than ex-
pects to attain ? Indeed, when I turn my eyes either
to the present condition or antient grandeur of
that country; when I contemplate the magnifi-
cence of her structures ; her spacious reservoirs
constructed at an immense expence, pouring
fertility and plenty over the land, the monu-
ments of a benevolence expanding its cares over
remote ages ; when I survey the solid and em-
bellished architecture of her temples ; the elaborate
and exquisite skill of her manufactures and fabrics ;
her literature, sacred and profane; her gaudy and
enamelled poetry, on which a wild and prodigal fancy
has lavished all its opulence : when I turn to her phi-
losophers, lawyers, and moralists, who have left the
oracles of political and ethical wisdom, to restrain the
passions and to awe the vices which disturb the com-
monwealth ; when I look at the peaceful and harmo-
nious alliances of families, guarded and secured by
the household virtues ; when I see amongst a cheer-
ful and well-ordered society the benignant and soften-
ing influences of religion and morality ; a system of
manners, founded on a mild and polished obeisance,
and preserving the surface of social life smooth
and unruffled; I cannot hear without surprise,
mingled with horror, of sending out Baptists and \
Anabaptists to civilize or convert such a people, at
the hazard of disturbing or deforming institutions,
which appear to have hitherto been the means
ordained by Providence of making them virtuous
Where is the evidence to support the bill of >U$
indictment which the Honourable Member has
drawn up against the natives of India ? Here we
are, as usual, treated with general and unmeaning
invective. But it seems, that the Hindoos are
addicted to perjury ; and Sir James Mackintosh is
cited as an authority, because he lamented, in pretty
strong language, the prevalence of judicial perjury,
from the numerous instances of it which fell under
his own observation, as Judge of the Recorder's Court
at Bombay, a jurisdiction, by the bye, scarcely
exceeding five miles. And what judge in this country
has not made the same complaint ? But is this a
fair sample of the national character of Hindostan ?
Is it a rational ground upon which criminal judg-
ment ought to be pronounced on the aggregate
population of that vast territory ? What would be
thought of that reasoner on the manners and moral
qualities of the people of Great Britain, who, hap-
pening to be present at the trial of a horse-cause
at Nisi Prius, and hearing twenty witnesses swear-
ing flatly to the soundness and perfection of the
animal when he was sold, and as many on the other
side swearing that he was spavined or wind-galled
and a mass of defects, should jump into the con-
clusion, that perjury was the general characteristic
of her enlightened and cultivated inhabitants ? Is it
candid, or just, or correct, to dip your hands into
the feculence and pollution of a great empire for a
specimen of its general character ? The Hindoos,
like every mixed portion of mankind, are infected
with the great and lesser vices, which disfi-
gure human society: fraud, theft, perjury, and
the other offences, which it is the province of
law and police to keep down. But is that enough
for the Honourable Gentlemen, who are so intent
on the conversion of the Hindoos ? Will that
chequered state of virtue and crime, which with
different modifications is the moral condition of
every civilized nation, authorise a wild and visionary
attempt to pull down antient establishments which
have struck their root deep into the hearts and affec-
tions of a people ? At any rate, these revolutionary
projectors have a tremendous burden of proof
thrown upon them. They are bound to prove that
the people, whose habits, laws, and religion they
are about to break up, is so far depressed beneath
our own level in morals and civilization ; so bru-
talized by their superstitions ; so regardless of that
universal law of nature which holds together the
common confederation of man ; so loose from the
yoke of manners, and the restraints of moral disci-
pline, and, by consequence, incapable of holding
those relations which pre-suppose and require some
progress in culture and refinement ; in one word,
is in so helpless and savage a condition, as to con-
stitute it a duty on our part to give them a religion,
in order to raise them to an equality with the species
to which they nominally belong.
But these are reasonings, which however ap- ' \
plicable to the savages that roam along the
river Niger, or the Caffres and Hottentots who
people the south of that continent, are not
quite so applicable to the natives of India.
They, Sir, are under the guidance of a religious
system, favourable in the main to morality and
right conduct ; mixed indeed with superstitions
which dishonour, and absurdities which deform it ;
but many of which are already worn out ; and many
will hereafter give way to more enlightened habits
of thinking in the progress of that gradual march
of human societies, which reason and philosophy
!tell us is never stationary or retrograde in the affairs
of mankind. As to their civilization (it is almost
J ridiculous gravely to argue the question), let it not
be forgotten what Colonel Munro, not the least
intelligent of the witnesses who have been exami-
ned upon the state of India, told us with so much
emphasis : that, " if civilization was to become an
" article of trade between the two countries, he was
" convinced that this country would gain by the
" import cargo." The same witness has distinctly
pointed out to us in the Hindoos one of the most in-
fallible indications of refinement which can charac~
terize a cultured people. It is a maxim which history
and philosophy have established, that no nation can
be barbarous or uncivilized, where the female con-
dition is respectable and happy. That gentleman,
among the most striking of the Hindoo cha-
racteristics, has enumerated the deference and
respect which is paid to the women ; the obeisance
which usuriously pays back what it receives in
the grace and splendour which it throws over
social life, and which, producing and reproduced,
is at once the parent and the fruit of good insti-
tutions. The Honourable Member for Nor-
wich, however, not unmindful of the obvious
effect of that testimony, triumphantly quotes
from the Institutes of Menu, the great lawgiver
of India, a passage in which I think six cardinal
vices are attributed to women : and then he asks
us, whether the influence of that religion can be
beneficial, when it appears, from such high authority,
that the female condition is so despicable and de^
graded ? Those vices were, an inordinate love of
finery, immoderate lust, anger, and other propen-
sities, which I will not enumerate. Now, the
Honourable Member appears to me strangely
inconclusive in his argument. The lawgiver,
like other moral teachers, denounces the frail-
ties and infirmities to which the heart is in-
clined. Looking into the female bosom, he found
what the female bosom, in every state of society,
would furnish ; a fluttering, busy group of vanities,
of desires, of passions ; the theme of satirists and
moral writers in all ages and countries. Pope said,
that " Every woman is at heart a rake." Would it not
be more than nonsense to adopt it as the criterion of
the manners or morals of our countrywomen ? But
the denunciation of failings to which we are prone by
the very law and condition of our existence^ is ne
proof of their undue or excessive prevalence. It
is legitimate reasoning to infer the defective mo-
rality of a country, from its immoral practices ; but
not to prove its immoral practices by the moral
admonitions against them. It is unfair to infer a
debauched and vicious state of female manners,
from the precepts of moralists, or the denunciation
of lawgivers against female vice and debauchery,
or to deduce the existence of the offence from the
existence of the propensity. Religion, law, and
morality are barriers between propensities and
vices. To say that women are by nature subject
to the impulses of lust, is to say nothing more, than
that they are subject, by the laws of Nature, to an
instinct which she ordained for the conservation of
the species ; an instinct, which,
" Through some certain strainers well refined,
Is gentle love ;
and against the unhallowed or unlawful indulgence
of which the warning of morality and wisdom is
wisely interposed. The inference deducible from
the passage is not that the morals of the women are
defective, but that the system of moral precept is
perfect. It shews a pure and finished moral law,
which, winding itself into all the labyrinths and
recesses of the heart, anxiously shuts up every crevice
and avenue through which vice or passion may pol-
lute it. The same observations will apply to the
rest of the catalogue. If Menu said that the women
of India were prone to anger, does it prove that
every woman in India is a scold ? But I will dwell
no longer on an argument which carries with it its
The natives of India are a sober, quiet, inoffen-
sive, industrious race; passive, courteous, faithful.
I fear, were we to descend for an illustration of their
national character to the lowest classes of their popu-
lation, that an equal portion of our own countrymen,
taken from the same condition of life, would cut
but a despicable figure in the comparison. To be
sure, we have heard much declamation on the im-
moral exhibitions of the dancing girls; a class
of women dedicated most undeniably to pro-
stitution, but, at the same time, not to shameless
open prostitution, and by no means obtruding
themselves upon public observation. Yet, in
striking the balance of national character, it would
be rather unjust to overlook the disgusting spec-
tacles of vice and brutality exhibited in the streets
of the metropolis of this country, from which we
are to send out Missionaries to reform the dancing
girls of Hindostan ; spectacles; which choke the public
way, and shock the public eye with all that vice
has in it of the loathsome, polluted, or deformed.
Is it uncandid to observe, that these victims of de-
pravity afford at home, at our own doors, and under
our own eyes, a much more ample harvest for the
spiritual labours of our Evangelical reformers, than
that which they are seeking abroad ? With what
colour of reason, or good sense, or consistency, can
we send out crusades against the same vices in
distant countries, with which our own is overrun ?
With what face can we impute those vices to their
defective morality or pernicious superstitions,
while, in the very bosom of Christendom, among
the most polished states and the most enlightened
communities, they are shooting up with still ranker
luxuriance ? There is however one relation of life,
on which all its comfort and most of its security
depends, and in this the Hindoos are punctiliously
faithful ; I mean that of servants. I cannot help
demanding the testimony of those who have resided
in India, to this fact ; a fact, which pleads for them,
I should hope, with the more efficacy, from the
dreadful occurrences which have of late destroyed
the confidence, and impaired the safety of that
most important of the social connexions in this
country. You entrust your servants in India, with-
out apprehension, with money, jewels, plate. You
sleep amongst them with open doors. You travel
through remote and unfrequented countries, and
your life and property are safe under their protec-
tion. Can all this be the fruit of a superstition,
which morality and right reason require us to ex-
tirpate, as a nuisance and an abomination ? I know
not, whether the Hindoo virtues are the offspring
of their religion, or their nature. Those virtues
have been remarked by all who have resided there.
They will not be denied, but tfy those, in whom a
selfish and fanatical pride has extinguished eveiy
spark of charity or candour'. But their religion, im-
perfect as it is when compared with the purer
morality and more efficient sanctions of our own,
must not be excluded from the influences which
have moulded the Hindoo character. Their sacred
books unquestionably contain the leading principles
of morality imparted in all the varied modes of
fable, apophthegm, and allegory, and clothed, in
the characteristic graces of Oriental diction. The
duties of conjugal life, temperance, parental af-
fection, filial piety, truth, justice, mercy, reverence
for the aged, respect for the young, hospitality even
to enemies, with the whole class and category of minor
offices; these are not only strongly enforced, but
beautifully inculcated in their Vedas and Purahnas.
The immolation of widows, however, on the
funeral pile of their deceased husbands, and the
dreadful custom of infanticide are made the prin-
cipal charges in the Honourable Member's bill of
indictment against the Hindoos. As to the former
practice, it is right to observe, that it is enjoined
by no positive precept of the Hindoo religion.
On the contrary, one of the most authoritative
of their sacred texts declares, " that a wife,
" whether she ascends the funeral pile of her
" lord, or survives for his benefit (that is, to perform
certain expiatory ceremonies in his behalf), " is still
" a faithful wife." I cite from the text of Mr. Cole-
brooke's Digest of the Hindoo law. It is, in truth, a
species of voluntary martyrdom, meritorious, but
by no means obligatory. Shocking as it is to the
moral taste, I know not, whether it is strictly
chargeable on the Hindoo religion. It is a species
of overstrained interpretation of its duties; and
the offspring of that fanaticism which will inevitably
grow up, and has more or less grown up, under every
system of religion. But let us not look at the
frequency of the sacrifice abstractedly from the im-
mense population of India. For it is not a correct
mode of making the estimate, to take the number
of these immolations in one particular province,
and then multiply them by the whole extent of
India ; a criterion, by which Mr. Chambers has
unfairly computed their prevalence. In many
provinces instances of this superstition have
never, in others very rarely, happened. But it
may safely be affirmed, that the custom itself is
wearing away even in the northern provinces.
Yet conceding, to their fullest extent, the state-
ments of those Gentlemen who have given us
such warm pictures of the horrors of this dreadful
rite, the evil could not, with any precision,
be attributed to the Hindoo religion. It may be j
an erroneous interpretation of its ordinances,
an aberration from its principles, but by no means
a necessary consequence from its precepts. What
would be said of the candour and fairness of' that
enemy of the Christian faith, who should array
against Christianity all the absurdities, nay, the
cruelties practised by persons calling themselves
Christians, in obedience, as they imagine, to its ordi-
nances ? With what affecting pictures might he not
embellish the controversy? What dark and gloomy
shades might he not throw over that pure and per-
fect dispensation of happiness to man! Might he
not, for instance^ describe the horrid sacrifice, still
practised in the greater part of Christendom, which
dooms youth and beauty to the walls of a Convent ?
With what nice strokes of art might he not
describe the lingering torments of that living death,
compared to which the flames which consume the
Hindoo widow, are almost mercy and benevolence
itself? How might he not dilate upon the suffer-
ings of the victim, as all the scenes of youth and
the visions of hope first recede from her eyes ;
when the feverish devotion, which lifted her for a
while above the world, begins to subside, and all its
beloved scenes of friendship, of paternal endear-
ment, its loves, its gaieties, throng again upon her
remembrance ? I know the argument, with which
a Protestant reasoner would defend his faith. We
have reformed all this. We have brought Chris-
tianity back to its original purity. And is the
Hindoo, in whose religious code the self-devotion
of the widow is no more to be found, than the
dedication of nuns to celibacy and confinement is
to be found in the gospel is he to be denied the
benefit of the same argument ? The same kind of
reasoning is applicable to the other crime, that of
infanticide, on which the Honourable Member*
. . - -. ..i j
* Mr. W. Smith.
also enlarged. So far from its being an injunction
of the Hindoo religion, it is strongly inhibited by
their law. Nay, the horror of this practice seems
to have been so present to the mind of the law-
giver, that it is the standard both of the guilt and
punishment of acts, which have the remotest
tendency to prevent the birth of the offspring. For
it is declared by Menu, that a woman who bathes
immediately after conception, commits a crime
equal to infanticide. Infanticide did indeed pre-
vail in one or two provinces, and superstition and
ignorance clothed it in the garb of a religious
duty. But by what legitimate reasoning can
a practice be charged on their religion, which
that religion has not only not enjoined, but
absolutely inhibited; and which so far from being
prevalent through Hindostan, (as it has been most
unfairly stated,) has scarcely been heard of, but
amongst the inhabitants of a very few provinces,
bearing scarce any proportion to the general
population of the country? Granting, however,
the existence of the evil, are there no means of
subduing it, or of bringing a people back to the
instincts of nature and of affection, but by letting
loose amongst them a description of reformers,
who will iu all probability drive them into a more
obstinate adherence to the very crimes, and errors
they pretend to correct ? The evil, however, has
been extirpated, and without the aid of Mission-
aries, by Mr. Duncan, the late governor of
Bombay, in one of the countries under his govern-
ment ; and Lord Wellesley, in the same manner,
abolished the unnatural custom of exposing children
at the Island of Sauger. How did they proceed ?
They proclaimed to the natives, upon the authority
of their own Pundits and Brahmins, that the prac-
tice was unlawful, and as much at variance with the
injunctions of the Hindoo religion as with uni-
versal law and natural reason ; at the same time
denouncing the punishment of murder on those
who should hereafter commit the offence. Here
then is an instance in which that religion inhibits
and corrects the very evil of which it is supposed
to have been the parent.
So much then for the vices of the Hindoo cha-
racter, and the brutal superstitions (such is the
polished eloquence of the London Tavern) of the
Hindoo religion. But, Sir, it is a singular symptom
of this epidemic enthusiasm for the conversion of the
Hindoos, that Missionaries are to be sent out of
all sects and persuasions and opinions, however
diversified and contradictory. No matter^ what
sort of Christianity is imparted, so that it goes
by that name : Calvinists, Unitarians, Methodists,
Moravians. Provided India is supplied with a plen-
tiful assortment of sects, no one seems to feel the
least solicitude whether the Christianity that is
to be taught there, be the genuine language of its
author, or the dream of mysticism and folly. I
own, that to me it does not appear quite a matter
of indifference, if Missionaries must be sent out,
what the doctrines are, that they are to teach.
I am disposed to think, that Christianity may be
imparted in such forms as to render it something
more than problematic, whether it would be an
improvement on the religion it supplanted ; that
it may be so denied and adulterated in the vessels
from which it is administered, as to lose all its re-
storing and healthful virtues. Are there not nominal
systems of Christianity, which are at an equal
distance from its primitive perfection with the very
superstition which we are striving to abolish ? It
might, therefore, become an important investiga-
tion, whether the blessings of a corrupted Chris-
tianity so far outweigh the evils of a tolerably
enlightened heathenism, as to make it worth
while to exchange that which is appropriately
Hindoo, for that which, after all, is not Christian.
For instance, if a Christianity is sent out to them,
attributing to the beneficent Author of nature the
same morose, capricious, revengeful passions which
agitate the human tyrant, but with infinity to his
power, and endless duration to his inflictions ; if
it was the primary tenet of that doctrine that the
same Being had made a fanciful and arbitrary des-
tination of a large portion of his creatures, without
blame or delinquency, nay, before their birth, to
everlasting misery; and to have as fancifully and
capriciously destined the rest to an eternal happi-
ness, unearned by one real merit, or one virtuous
aspiration ; and if, in this gloomy creed, an assent
to mystical propositions was the chief claim to
salvation, while it pronounced the purest and most
exalted morals to be equivalent to the most
abandoned wickedness*;; reason and common sense
might be allowed to throw out a few scruples
against the subversion of the established morals or
theology of India, 'however absurd or supersti-
tious, if such was the system by which they were to
be superseded. Suppose, then, that the Mis-
sionaries of this persuasion were to establish their
* These consequences have been unanswerably traced to
the Calvinistic scheme by the Bishop of Lincoln, in his learned
Refutation of Calvinism, p. 258.
creed amongst the natives of Hindostan. It is
obvious that they will have lost all the excellencies i
of the Hindoo system ; but who will say that they ?
will have got the advantages of the Christian :
Compute their gains. Amongst other prominent
peculiarities of their religion, its severe and invio-
lable prohibitions against the use of intoxicating
liquors will have been overthrown. It is scarcely
possible to estimate the complete revolution, which
this single circumstance will produce in their
manners and morals. It will destroy every shade
and tint of their national character. It will over-
turn the mounds, by which they have been secured
from the whole rabble of vices, which scourge the
Western world ; vices, of which drunkenness is the
prolific parent, and which render the mass of the
population of our own countiy the most profligate
and abandoned in Europe. It is not that other
religions do not prohibit this species of intem-
perance ; but the Oriental are the only ones that
render it impossible. I really believe, that if the
foundations of your power in India were accurately
explored, you would find that it was to this national
peculiarity (which must be destroyed, if you disturb
the sanctions of their law and their religion) you
chiefly owed the discipline of your native army,
and the obedience of your native subjects. In
exchange for this, they will have been initiated into
the mysteries of election and reprobation. I leave
it to those who are versed in moral calculations,
to decide, what will have been gained to ourselves
by giving them Calvinism and fermented liquors ;
and whether predestination and gin will be a com-
pensation to the natives of India, for the changes,
which will overwhelm their habits, and morals, and
Can we overlook, also, the difficulties which will
be interposed to the progress of conversion by the
jarring and contradictory doctrines of the Missio-
naries themselves ? For there seems to be no kind
of anxiety to introduce into India that unity of
faith, on which the mind of man may find settle-
ment and repose. The Church of England is to
send out no Missionaries at all. She is provided
indeed with her Bishop and her Archdeacons ;
and is to loll, in dignified ease, upon her epis-
copal cushions. But the supporters of the Clause
have reserved all their zeal for the Secta-
rians. The whole task of conversion is aban-
doned to them ; and the Parliament of Great
Britain is called upon to grant new facilities to the
diffusion of dissent and schism from every doctrine
which the Law and the Civil Magistrate have
sanctioned. It is a most ingenious scheme for the
dissemination, on the widest scale, of every opinion
and dogma that is at variance with the National
Church. But is it the best way of communicating
Christianity to a people hitherto estranged from its
blessings, to start among them so many sects and
doctrines ? You will have Calvinists, Independents,
Presbyterians, Moravians, Swedenborgians, Uni-
tarians, and other tribes and denominations. It is
not, of course, proposed to give them an Eclectic
Christianity composed of a little of each ; or a
piebald, incongruous, patchwork Christianity, that
is to combine all the varieties into which the Chris-
tian world is divided. Has it, however, never oc-
curred to these Gentlemen, that although schisms
and sects may, and in the nature of things must,
arise subsequently to the establishment of a new
religion, it is in vain to think of beginning a religion
with these contrarieties and divisions ? The Hindoo
may fairly enough be permitted to ask : " Gentlemen,
" which- is the Christianity 1 am to embrace ? You
" are proposing to us a religion which is to sup- \
" plant the rites, the doctrines, the laws, the man-
lt ners of our fathers ; and you yourselves are not ;
" agreed what that religion is. You require us to
" assent to certain mysteries, of an incarnation, a
" miraculous conception, and to other tenets, which
" some of you hold to be of the vital essence of your
" creed. But others amongst you deride these
" mysteries : and the very passages in your Shasters,
" to which you refer for the testimony of your doc-
*' trines, they tell us are forged and interpolated."
Surely such perplexities as these must create doubts
and distractions, which will frustrate the whole
scheme of conversion.
It will be perceived, that I have chiefly confined
my remarks to the Hindoos, who, in all questions
relative to India, must occupy the principal share
of the discussion. They will of course apply with
equal force to the Mahommedans. Bernier,
who travelled into India during the Moguf govern-
ment, who has been cited as an authority in this
debate, and whose writings -were admitted by the
House of Lords, on the trial of Mr. Hastings, as
good evidence of Oriental customs, and who, be-
sides, evinces no inconsiderable portion of zeal for
the introduction of Christianity into the East,
having witnessed the efforts of the Capuchin and
Jesuit Missionaries at the courts of Delhi and Agra,
ispeaks most despairingly as to the practicability
fcf converting the Mussulmaun population. He
cautions his readers against the stories that other
travellers had spread of the progress of Christianity
in the Mogul states, and against too easy a credulity
in the facility of diffusing it. The sect, he says, (I
quote from memory) is too libertine and attractive to
be abandoned. It is the necessary tendency of doc-
trines which have been propagated originally by the
sword, afterwards to spread of themselves ; nor do I
see, he adds, that they can be overthrown or extirpated,
but by the means by which they have been propagated
unless by one of those extraordinary interpositions
of Heaven, which we may occasionally look for, and
of which striking appearances have been exhibited
in China and Japan. Now, Sir, need I refer the
House to the result of the attempt in China and
Japan, which M. Bernier did not live to witness?
But I am aware, that these reasonings would be
entitled to little weight, if there were not absolute
peril in the attempt. Perhaps any kind of Chris*
tianity, even the gloom of Calvinism, or th
impoverished and scanty creed of the Unitarian, j
would be an improvement on the ancient religion \
of India. That, unfortunately, is not now the
question. It is one of the necessities of human
affairs, that the choice of man is for the most
part placed betwixt evils. The preservation of an
empire is delegated to us. No matter how it was
obtained. It is in our hands. Of all tenures, it
is the most delicate. The threads and ligaments
which hold it together are so fine and gossamery,
that one incautious movement may snap it asunder.
It is a chain which no artificer can repair. But
we hold it on this simple condition abstinence
from all aggression on the religions of the
country. If the existence of those religions
be an evil, it is one which we must endure. The
alternative is the loss of our empire. It is
idle casuistry to set ourselves about gravely ba-
lancing and computing these evils, as if they
were arithmetical quantities. It is, in truth,
only with the political question, that the House
ought to concern itself. Political considerations
in this place have an acknowledged ascendancy.
All the dignity of our character, and the efficiency
of our function, would be destroyed, if our theology
was admitted into a partnership with our policy;
and religious enthusiasm, the most intractable of
all passions, should disturb us in our legislative
duties. In this view of the subject, it is
enough for us, that the religious revolution
which is proposed, involves in it political
changes which must destroy our Eastern establish-
merits. Without tracing all its consequences, it is
sufficient to keep before our eyes, this direct and
primary one ; the abolition of castes, that astonish-
ing and singular institution, which, compressing
the restlessness of ambition and the impatience of
subjection by the united weight of an irreversible
law and an inveterate habit, gives you sixty millions
of passive, obedient, industrious citizens, of whom
the great mass are by that very institution, which
you propose to abolish, irrevocably disarmed, and
destined to the pursuits and arts of peace. It is
enough for that practical, sober wisdom, which
has hitherto presided over our councils, that the
overthrow of such an institution would let loose all
the elements of strife, and discontent, of active and
robust rebellion, before which your dreams of em-
pire, of commerce, of revenue, would be scattered
as vapour by the blast. I ask you, then, whether it
is worth while to make an attempt, which must be
subversive of our existence in India ? The moral
obligation to diffuse Christianity, binding and autho-
ritative as it is, vanishes, when it is placed against the
ills and mischiefs of the experiment. There, never
was a moral obligation to produce woe, and blood-
shed, and civil disorder. Such an obligation would
not exist, were the wildest barbarians the subjects of
the experiment. But, when, in addition to these
considerations, which are sanctioned by justice, and
policy, and virtue, it is remembered, that the people
we are so anxious to convert, are, in the main, a
moral and virtuous people ; not undisciplined to
civil arts, nor uninfluenced by those principles of
religion which give security to life, and impart
consolation in death ; the obligation assumes a con-
trary character ; and common sense, reason, and
even religion itself, cry out aloud against our inter-
ference. I shall therefore vote for the amendment.
I am sensible, Sir, that the matter is not ex-
hausted. But I feel too deeply the indulgence of
the House, to abuse it with any farther observa-
tions on a subject, which unfolds itself as I ad-
vance, and to which I feel, the more I think of it,
my own incompetence to render even imperfect
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Young's Night Thoughts. ..26
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Robinson Crusoe . . '. . . 5 O
Chapone's Letters, and Gregory's
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Francis's Horace 36
Roderick Random .,...50
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