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Full text of "Substance of the speech of Charles Marsh, esq. in a committee of the House of commons, July the 1st, 1813, in support of the amendment moved by Sir Thomas Sutton, bart. on the clause in the East-India bill, "Enacting further facilities to persons to go out to India for religious purposes.""

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g Substance of the Speech.,. in 
| Support of the Amendment . . .on the 
I Clause in the (vast-India Bill 

Charles T-'arsh 










JULY the 1st, 1813, 


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 
Religious Purposes." 


Published and Sold by 


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 : 

Mr. Lushington, 

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 

c 2 


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 

Mr. Stephen. 


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 
and happy. 

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 
own refutation. 

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 
religion ? 

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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from Madras, through the Countries of Mysore, Canara, and Malabar, per- 
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59- DUDLEY'S METAMORPHOSIS OF SONA. The Metamorphosis of 
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60. DUNDAS's LETTERS. Letters from the Right Hon. Henry Dundas 
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63. EAST-INDIA STATUTES. A Collection of Statutes relating to the 
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78. GO'D's LUCRETIUS The Nature of Things, a Didactic Poem, 

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81. GRANT'S MAURITIUS. The History of Mauritius, or the Isle of 
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86. HARDY's REGISTER OF SHIPS. A Register of Ships employed in 
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90. HOOKE's ROME. The Roman History, from the Building of Rome, 
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91. HOPKINS's DANGERS. The Dangers of British India, from French 
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92. HQRSBURGH's DIRECTORY, Directions for sailing to and from 
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99. JOHNSON'S WORKS The Works of Samuel Johnson, LL. D 
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100. JOHNSON'S LIVES. The Lives of the most eminent English Poets, 
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102. JONES^s (SIR W.) WORKS. The Works of Sir William Jones. 
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103. JONES's SHERIDAN'S DICTIONARY. Sheridan improved. A ge- 
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104. KERR's SERMON ON SWARTZ. A Sermon preached by Order of 
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105. KIRKPATRlCK's TIPPOO's LETTERS. Select Letters of Tippoo 
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106. LANGHORNE's PLUTARCH. Plutarch's Lives^ translated from 
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107. LETTER TO THE BISHOP OF LONDON. A Letter respectfully ad- 
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Young's Night Thoughts. ..26 

Rasselas 20 

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Dryden's Virgil 40 

Robinson Crusoe . . '. . . 5 O 
Chapone's Letters, and Gregory's 

Legacy 2 O 

Francis's Horace 36 

Roderick Random .,...50 

Death of Abel 20 

Falconer's Shipwreck ....10 

Gray's Poems - . 08 

Tales of the Genii . . . . . 40 
Milton's Poetical Works ... 4 6 

Vicar of Wakefield 26 

Cotton's Visions, and Moore's 

Fables ........ 2 6 

Seven Champions . . , f . . 46 
Hervey's Meditations .... 4 

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