Convocation Addresses of the Universities of Bombay and Madras/Part 1/Sir P. E. Wodehouse, K.C.B.

Convocation Addresses of the Universities of Bombay and Madras  (1892)  by K. Subba Rau
Twelfth Convocation Address of the University of Bombay by Philip Edmond Wodehouse


(By H. E. Sir P. E. Wodehouse, K.C.B.)

Mr. Vice-Chancellor and Gentlemen of the Senate,—It affords me much pleasure, on this the first occasion of my having the honour to take part in the proceedings of this University, to think that in the report we have just heard read, there is much that must be satisfactory as regards the past, and as regards the future very encouraging to those by whom I am surrounded to persevere in the efforts they have long been making to spread the benefits of education among the people of this Presidency. A generous donation. And first I will notice, though indeed it stands last in the report, the very generous donation which in the course of last year the University received from His Highness the Rao of Kutch. I do not forget that the thanks of the University were duly tendered with their acceptance of the gift, but standing here as I do on the occasion, and being as it were for the time the mouthpiece of the Government, and in this case, of those whom I have the honour to address, it would ill become me to pass over in silence this generous donation. It is not alone for the money that the gift is so valuable. It is still more acceptable as the indication of the interest taken by the Rao in the efforts which Her Majesty's Government is making to extend education, as the pledge that he is anxious to assist his own subjects in obtaining education, and finally as a proof that he will be ready to give protection and encouragement to those who after the satisfactory completion of their studies may return to his territories. Our best thanks are therefore due to His Highness, and we may trust that his example may well find willing followers. Turning to the statement given in this report of the result of the Matriculation Examination, it is very gratifying to observe the greatly increased proportion which the successful candidates bear to the whole number examined, when contrasted with the results of former years. It may be assumed as good evidence of the increased assiduity of the teachers, and of their desire to save their pupils from the expense and mortification of an unsuccessful competition, by imparting to them a sound and good elementary education. It is satisfactory also to notice the gradual but decided increase in the number of schools whence students are sent for Matriculation, an increase tending to show that the means of obtaining good education are not confined to the few great towns, but are being gradually extended to the remote parts of the Presidency. Indeed candidates have been admitted from beyond those limits, from Akola in Berar and from Indore, and we may hope that in future years our institutions may extend their usefulness to an increasing number of the educated classes of Central India and of Nagpur and Berar. The report also mentions another fact, from which I hope we shall be justified in drawing a favourable augury. It shows that a very fair number of the successful candidates was educated by means of private tuition. It may be hoped that this is in some degree to be accepted as a sign that the wealthier classes, those who can afford to provide their children with private tuition, are becoming more alive to the value of education, and are disposed to meet the cost of it. Advice to the wealthy. It has been represented to me that hitherto the main bulk of those who seek education in our schools and Colleges are young men of very limited circumstances and that the wealthy and independent sections of society have regarded the improvement of their minds with indifference. This is much to be regretted and cannot fail to be most discouraging to those whose best efforts are exerted for promoting the spread of learning. They must feel that the success of their endeavours is very limited, as long as the affluent and independent classes choose to remain wholly indifferent to the attractions of literature. It must make them fear that literature and education are not sought for their own selves. But for myself I would go further, and warn such classes that their indifference is not only illiberal but suicidal. One hears much of the immutability of things in India, and no doubt the impediments to serious changes are very great; but I cannot bring myself to believe that they are insuperable,—I cannot think that rail-roads, telegraphs and this very education which we are striving to promote, will altogether fail to effect changes. The wealthy and independent may out of apathy neglect the opportunities offered to them, but other resolute and energetic spirits will eagerly snatch at them, nay, will make them the means of their own advancement. It is but a few weeks since the Governor-General stated his conviction that the British Government fully desired to maintain the position and independence of the native princes. I think there may with equal truth be enunciated a similar desire on our part to see the wealthy and influential members of native society preserving their ascendancy and independence. But it mast be done by themselves, the Government cannot do it for them. If they persist in permitting their inferiors to pass them on the career of learning, they will have but themselves to blame, and when too late they will have cause to regret their apathy and indifference. With the advantages with which their historical position and social connexions surround them, it becomes them to take the lead in self-advancement and education and fit themselves for dealing with difficulties which the advance of education amongst the masses will bring with it. There is one feature in the report which strikes me as being very singular, and that is the apparent unpopularity of the study of law. I had always thought that in this country a recourse to law was the most popular of remedies, but certainly the study of it seems to occupy the attention of very few students, for only one Degree has been conferred in that Faculty. It is to be regretted very much that such should be the case. I have heard it stated that a year or two ago the examination for law was made somewhat hard, but even if it should be the case, I cannot accept it as a reason for the abandonment of the study. The case of the medical profession is very different; the students are much more numerous and they have obtained a singular degree of success. Out of the comparatively limited number of those who came up for examination, a very large proportion have obtained their degrees. With regard to Civil Engineering I think the Government is at present placed in a somewhat singular position. It seems to be thought the business of Government to provide employment for those who acquire the theory in our schools. There are certain circumstances connected with the Civil Engineering College at Poona which, without any disrespect to such institutions, give it something of the nature of a school of industry; and the industry there inculcated is one which in the present state of demand can only find an outlet for its application in the Government Department of Public Works—works carried on more or less under the control of Government. I believe there is a feeling among the heads of the College and those interested in it, that there is not sufficient encouragement given by those who represent the Government in the Department of Public Works to those who distinguish themselves at the Civil Engineering College. But, on the other hand, I for one, cannot wonder that there should be some objections on the part of our Public Works officers to entrust to theoretic students who have no practical experience important works throughout the country. They will not naturally risk their own reputation upon the efforts of those who^ however cleverly taught at the College, cannot possibly have any real practical acquaintance with the works to be constructed. I hope it may be found practicable to follow up this theoretical training by a practical instruction in the lower grades of the Department, after which there might be an examination as to what they can really do. I hope the Government will see its way to adopting something of this kind; for without it there will be a great deal of dissatisfaction and discouragement given. Employment of Indians and Englishmen. On this occasion, if you will permit me, I will in a few words explain my views, my personal views, as to the position that I consider the Government to hold in respect to education in this country, and more particularly as to the position in which the Government stand towards those who take advantage of that education. It is a matter of great importance and one which it is very desirable we should clearly understand before matters proceed further. It appears to me that some of those who take advantage of the education afforded them by Government entertain the belief that they rather confer a favour upon us by availing themselves of the instruction offered to them, and that we are bound at once without farther question to take care of them and provide them with maintenance when they have finished their education. It must be clear that, if education spreads, as we all hope it will, and if the number of schools increases every year, it is impossible for us to offer employment to all who look forward to it. But there is another point. At present, and for some years past, it has pleased Providence to entrust the affairs of India to the British nation. The area of our territory in this country, and the extent of our responsibility have been gradually increasing, whether we desired it or not. We are bound to keep in view that we are the Government of the British nation, and that we are placed here to regulate, control, preserve harmony, and, as far as we possibly can, promote the happiness of all the many races and classes who inhabit this country. In time we, like all that has preceded us, must pass away. But so long as we remain, and so long as the Government continues in our hands, it must ever be a British Government, conducted on British principles. Our acts must be such as are considered sound, and wise, and honest in England. It follows therefore that while we ought to avail ourselves freely of the services of able and distinguished natives of India, we cannot cease to introduce and promote to high office a certain proportion of our countrymen from England adequate to sustain the national spirit of our Government. In the matter of salaries also it is very essential that at the Why Englishmen are paid higher salaries. outset we should guard against misapprehension and disappointment. To me it appears to be most improbable, that if the admission to the higher posts of native gentlemen should become general, the present scale of salaries could be maintained; nor would it be reasonable. We are here no doubt about it—we are here now, and to my mind we ever shall be. as foreigners. The climate and other circumstances make it impossible for us, English, at any time to become what is commonly called naturalized in this country. We cannot have therefore in India most of those enjoyments and advantages which exists in our own country, and which the Natives of this country in Government employ can rely upon. We cannot have our children educated here, we cannot maintain the same style of living as we are accustomed to at the cost which we can in your own country. In the ordinary domestic life of an English public servant, separation from children is commonly the first incidence of importance. Sickness probably follows. Sickness which at home serves to draw closer all family ties, becomes here in most cases the signal for separation; in not a few the separation is final. The ordinary termination to the official career in India is to return to England with moderate means to commence life anew. For all these drawbacks the only remedy has hitherto been money—a poor one no doubt, but a better probably will not be found,—and so it has happened that the salaries of the principal public servants have been fixed at the present rates. In what way then do these considerations apply to the natives of India serving in their own country? I cannot see that they have any application whatever. Their case should be compared to that of our own countrymen similarly employed at home. We shall do no injustice if we apply the same principles to both. It may be that the position of the permanent servants of the Crown at home is imperfectly known here. The mass of public servants on entering the service of the Crown in England receive a salary commencing with £100 per annum or less than Rs. 100 per mensem. They work on for forty years, rising to the highest stations in their respective departments. They are entrusted with business affecting the whole world—most confidential and intricate—and at the end of the forty years they arrive at a salary of £1,000. That is a fair description of the position of public servants of the best ability and education in England. Therefore, it is naturally quite unreasonable to suppose that the British Government here would be justified in imposing upon the people of the country for the payment of their own fellow-countrymen higher salaries than we charge our own people at home for the maintenance of those who serve them. I hope, Mr. Vice-Chancellor, that those who can hear me among the Native gentlemen present will fully see that it is their duty and their interest to take advantage of the education offered at this University. And so far as Government is able to make use of their services, it will not fail to do so. But no exaggerated notion of the salaries to which they may be entitled should be drawn from comparison of the payments made to Englishmen who are serving the Crown in a foreign country. I trust that those educated here may not be content with the instruction afforded to themselves, but will endeavour to spread it amongst all the people of this land. By so doing they will hasten the advent of the return of self-rule, if that is to be desired. I would add one word more. I have shown that no exaggerated notions of the salary to which Native students are entitled in the Government service ought to be entertained; but there is a further mistaken notion which I believe is not uncommon amongst those to whom we have offered the advantages of education to which I wish to advert. Many of you, gentlemen, are inclined to think that the close of your College career closes at once the necessity for further effort on your part for further instruction. This is not so. The education given you here is but the basis on which you should build your own self-improvement. General enlightenment the precursor of national Government. We cannot carry on the status pupillaris for ever. It rests with you to complete the work begun here, and if you look forward to the day when the Government of this country is to be in your hands, it is not only necessary that the governing classes should be educated and enlightened, but that the governed should be as a nation so improved as to co-operate with you in accepting honestly and intelligently the principles of administration upon which the fabric of society and Government is built. When that day of general enlightenment shall come, and not till then, we shall be ready to wish you adieu and leave these shores with the consciousness that our work is done.


(By His Excellency Sir P. E. Wodehouse, K.C.B.)

Gentlemen of the Senate,—I can assure you it affords me University University buildings—liberality of Sir Cowasjee Jehangier. sincere pleasure to be able to preside this day on the occasion of the dedication of this noble Hall to purposes to which I hope it may be dedicated for many generations to come, forming as it does but a portion of the many magnificent buildings, in connection with the education of the people of this country which are now in the course of erection in this vicinity. It has been the fortune of Bombay, whenever it felt in want of institutions adapted to the advancing civilization of the age, to find among its own citizens those who were both ready and proud to devote to the supply of these wants large contributions from the wealth which their energy and ability and experience have enabled them to accumulate. In connection with the present building I may make a few remarks. As soon as it was found that the University of Bombay could be called into existence, and that a suitable building should be provided for it, a gentleman, distinguished by his great generous liberality, Sir Cowasjee Jehangier, at once came forward and tendered to the Government of the day the sum of £10,000 on the condition that they should supply what further sums might be needed for completing the buildings, and also that no other private subscriptions should be admitted in aid of the undertaking. Government unreservedly accepted the terms, and the result is before you this day. The first step addressed to the accomplishment of the design was to obtain from Sir Gilbert Scott, the eminent architect, proper designs and plans for the building in 1864 ; but, from various difficulties which arose in respect of the total sum wanted, and other arrangements, it appears that no real progress was made with the undertaking until near the close of the year 1868, the then Governor, Sir Seymour Fitzgerald, in the presence of the late lamented Viceroy of India, Lord Mayo, laid the foundation-stone of the University Hall of Bombay. From that time to the present, as the work has gone on, the whole charge of its construction and superintendence has been in the hands of officers of our own Presidency. The working drawings were contributed by Mr. Molecy, of the Architectural Engineer's Department of Public Works ; the detailed superintendence throughout has been in the hands of Mr. Makund Ramchandra, Assistant Engineer in the Public Works Department, who as many here can testify, devoted himself with the greatest assiduity to the completion of the building. The general charge of the whole has been of course in the hands of Colonel Fuller, the Architectural Engineer to the Government of Bombay. Of the good work which he has been able to render in that capacity it is hardly necessary for me now to speak. All these gentlemen whom I have mentioned must feel proud and delighted at the conclusion of their labours in connection with this building, and they have, I consider, the strongest possible claim upon your gratitude and your thanks. Before closing my remarks upon this part of the subject, I hope that the Senate and those connected with the University will feel disposed to join me in proposing that this building henceforth be called the Cowasjee Jehangier Hall of the University of Bombay. Other buildings will spring up around it, no doubt, but the Hall will stand alone; and having regard to that gentleman^s well-directed beneficence I think my request is a fair and moderate one. The other buildings on the front of Bombay are now advancing to completion, and when that time comes there will be few cities in the world able to present an equally magnificent spectacle. There is, however, one building not yet begun, although the Government is pledged to the building of it. I think we ought to feel great regret because of the absence of this building—perhaps even feel we have acted rather unworthily by not carrying out our pledges in regard to it. Gentlemen, I allude to the School of Arts. Very many years ago—indeed, before the Queen's Government was established here—a gentleman well known to this community. Sir Jamsetjee Jejeebhoy, undertook to endow a School of Arts in Bombay in a fit and proper manner, on the condition that Government should provide a suitable building. The endowment has been drawn from many years, yet the Government has done nothing respecting its part of the bargain. I hope, gentlemen, that this reproach will not long attach fairly to us; but that in the course of a short time the School of Arts will take its place among the other educational buildings of the City of Bombay. When that time arrives I think the City of Bombay may fairly pause in its career of architectural adornment; its inhabitants may well consider that sufficient has been done for many years to come—more, at all events, than many of the present company will live to see. It has been my fortune to see many of the largest cities in India, but I think that though others may boast of greater antiquity, and have more interesting objects to show in them, yet I consider that there is no city in India which can take precedence of Bombay in respect of public buildings of superior architecture. I am aware, gentlemen, that it is customary on these occasions for the Chancellor of the University to review, as it were, the educational operations of the past year. But it seems to me but the other day when I had a similar opportunity of addressing the Convocation of this University, and of expressing my views upon some of the more prominent points connected with education in India. I feel, therefore, that I should be unnecessarily intruding upon your patience if I were again to enter into details of opinions upon these points. You have just heard the report which Mr. Taylor has read, and as you can all draw your own inferences from what has taken place, I may be spared from making any comment upon it.

I trust, however, that I may be permitted to depart a little—or perhaps Local Disturbances. to a great extent—from the ordinary traditions of these Convocations, and to address myself to what I believe is at present the prominent and absorbing topic of interest in this community. I allude to the disturbed state of the city of Bombay. I am anxious that it should be known that Government is in no way indifferent to the character of the city, is in no way indifferent to the sufferings and losses of life and property which some of the community have sustained. But I confess that I needed some experience of the actual course of these events in order to arrive at a clear understanding as to the position of Government, and as to what were the powers immediately within its reach in dealing with these disturbances. And I say that it finds there is no simple and efficient and practical punishment which can be instantly applied to those creating riots in this city. I say further that there is no power in the Legislature of this Government to provide, off-hand, full legal powers to do what is necessary on the spot for keeping down such disturbances. I believe prompt punishments to be the essence of dealing with disturbances of this nature. I find also that there is apparently a general disinclination to take an active part in the operations of the established police of the city; that there is a disposition to leave them to cope as they best can with all the disturbances—disturbances breaking out first in one quarter and then in another! Yet, wherever they may be, the police are expected to do all the work! Such being the case, and when they have been harassed from morning till night, so that they have no rest whatever, yet they find themselves subjected to bitter and ungenerous criticisms for what they cannot possibly help. And, moreover, they feel their labours prolonged and increased by exaggerated statements of what has occurred, and which only tend to keep up the sensation in the town. I believe that the events of the past few days have proved that such is the case. Then turn to the aid which Government can give the police under such circumstances—I mean the legal aid. What does it appear to be? It appears to be that Government must have recourse to what in England, and, so far as I have seen, to what in other countries governed on English principles, is always approached with the greater caution—with the fullest possible consideration for what may be the result, that is, the interposition of the military aid to support the police! No step more serious can be taken, and no such step ought to be taken without a thorough conviction of the consequences that may ensue. At the same time, gentlemen, feeling that such is the case—feeling that this is the assistance to which alone the police must look, and being fully aware that the festival termed the Mohurrum is close at hand, the Government is sensible that it cannot possibly expect the police to sustain for many days together their prolonged exertions, and to alone preserve the public peace. We feel we must support them, and therefore, after full consideration, it has determined that upon this occasion—I say "on this occasion" distinctly,—the processions usual in the Mohurrum festival are not to take place. I hope and trust that we shall have, as we have a right to expect, the assistance of all honest and good men, of all classes, to put an end to these disturbances. But we do not trust to the efforts of independent people outside. We yesterday decided that troops must be sent for in such numbers that further attempts at violence will be put an end to. The consequence is as the result of yesterday's orders, that one regiment is now in Bombay, half a European regiment will be here this evening, and cavalry will be here tomorrow. The movement of the military has been effected with the greatest promptitude by the authorities. I feel there may be some here who will say that this is not the proper place for such observations as I have addressed to you, but if such be your opinion I must beg your forgiveness. My object has been to satisfy the people of this country, here in the presence of the leading members of every class of society, that the Government was fully alive to its duty of protecting life and property, while fully commiserating with those who have suffered, and was prepared to do its duty to the utmost during these disturbances.

I shall not trespass on your patience further upon this occasion, but, reverting to the business of the day, invite you to join in the hope and prayer that, under Providence, this building, with the aid of the enlightened Professors who are likely to be engaged on it, may for many generations to come be regarded as an honour to the city, and that it will long tend to assist in the moral and social improvement of the people of India.