Open main menu

Convocation Addresses of the Universities of Bombay and Madras/Part 1/Lord Ripon

Lord Ripon expressed his acknowledgments as follows:—

Mr. Chancellor, Mr. Vice-Chancellor, and Gentlemen,—I have seldom had a task in some respects more difficult than that which falls to my lot at the present moment. When I entered this hall, I knew that a distinction was about to be conferred upon me which I highly valued, because I saw in it a proof of the approval of a body which had devoted itself for many years to the advancement of the cause of education in India. But I was little prepared to find that I should have, if I may be pardoned the word, to encounter so appreciative a review of my public life as that which has fallen from my friend, your Vice-Chancellor. I only wish that I could think that his friendly judgment rightly described the course of that life, but I may perhaps be permitted to claim for it that there has at least been about it a certain unity. Throughout more than thirty years that I have now taken part in public affairs in England, and now here, I have been actuated by the same general principles of policy, and I may say that I have adhered to them without wavering, I will not venture to occupy your time by following in any degree the observations which have been made upon the details of my public course either at home or in India ; but I will say this, that I esteem it an honour of the highest kind that a body such as this should have given such an unmistakable intimation of their approval of the policy which I have pursued. I should be the last man to take an unfair advantage of the signs of esteem which you have given me to-night, and to interpret them as meaning that all the members of this University approved of each indi- vidual measure of my Government. That of course is impossible, but at least I hope that I may interpret the meaning of this degree as indicating that this distinguished body has followed with its sanction and with its approval the educational policy of the Government of India since I have been connected with it. You, Mr. Vice-Chancellor, have reminded me that a large portion of my public life has been given to the promotion of education in my own land—of education in the widest and the broadest sense, of education for the most enlightened and of education for the masses. And that same policy which I endeavoured to apply when I had the honour to be connected with the Department of Education at home I have pursued in India. Gentlemen, it would have been indeed strange if I had not taken an interest in Indian education, for I have sat for many years at the feet of Lord Halifax, and I am proud to count him among my warmest friends, and to call him my honoured master. The principles of that great Despatch of 1854 were those which I sought to apply and develop when I came out to this country; but I knew that, however sound these principles might be, it would not be wise after a lapse of thirty years to take measures for practically applying them to the existing circumstances of India without first ascertaining exactly what these circumstances were and what was the best means by which the principles of that Despatch might be applied to them at the present time. I therefore thought it wise to institute a searching inquiry into the condition of education in India. That inquiry was conducted with great ability by those to whom it was entrusted, and it has resulted in the suggestion of measures which have been in the main adopted by the Government of India, and adopted, I think I may say, with general acceptance. I found, gentlemen, ever from the first moment that I accepted the office of Viceroy, that those who were interested in the progress of education in India were keenly desirous for its extension among the masses of the people. But the question of primary education in India is beset by many difficulties, the chief of which arise from the very common perhaps, but very vital, difficulty—want of funds. There were those who in their zeal for elementary schools would have been prepared to see secondary and higher education imperilled and its advance delayed, but the Government of India never yielded to views of that description—and they were always determined that, whatever measures they might take to spread primary education throughout the length and breadth of the land, they would do nothing which could endanger the advance of higher instruction. It is true that we made an appeal to private aid, and that appeal has already received many responses which are, I trust, only the first fruits of that noble harvest which will be gathered hereafter by those who come after us. For my own part, gentlemen, An explanation of Lord Ripon's policy. I can truly say that the more I have studied this question in India itself the more convinced I have become that it would be a very serious mistake to do anything which could interfere with the onward progress of higher culture—or which could tend to place it beyond the reach of youths of limited means. The resolution which has been recently issued by the Government of India, and which constitutes almost my last political act in this country, has been framed upon these lines, and inspired by that spirit. But, gentlemen, I am very strongly impressed with the conviction that the spread of education, and especially of Western culture, carried on as it is under the auspices of this and the other Indian Universities, imposes new and special difficulties upon the Government of this country. It seems to me, I must confess, that it is little short of folly that we should throw open to increasing numbers the rich stores of Western learning; that we should inspire them with European ideas, and bring them into the closest contact with English thought; and that then we should, as it were, pay no heed to the growth of those aspirations which we have ourselves created, and the pride of those ambitions we have ourselves called forth. To my mind one of the most important, if it be also one of the most difficult, problems of the Indian Government in these days is how to afford such satisfaction to those aspirations and to those ambitions as may render the men who are animated by them the hearty advocates and the loyal supporters of the British Government. It is in such considerations that those who care to seek for it may find the explanation of much of the policy which I have pursued in this country. Gentlemen, at this late hour I will detain you no longer, but I will assure you that the deep interest which I have felt, and ever shall feel, in the progress of education in India makes me esteem very highly indeed the honour which you have conferred upon me to-day. My best wishes will ever accompany the onward progress of this University, which is doing in India for England work so noble, and is binding together the two lands and their numerous races with cords more powerful than the strength of armies and more enduring than the craft of Statesmen. Gentlemen, I thank you heartily.