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Convocation Addresses of the Universities of Bombay and Madras/Part 2/Honorable D. F. Carmichael


(By The Honorable D. F. Carmichael.)

Gentlemen, Graduates of 1883,—I now rise to discharge the duty, which the Right Hon'ble the Chancellor has entrusted to me, of delivering the annual address, in this the last year of my service amongst a people I have known so long and have (if you will believe me) loved so well. With the exception of two distinguished educational officers, who still labor in our midst, and who were created fellows by the Act of Incorporation in 1857, I am, I think, the oldest member of this University now in India. In the year following the Incorporation Act, there was, so far as I recollect, no addition made to the Senate; in 1859, or four and twenty years ago, I was the last of five appointed to it by Sir Charles Trevelyan, whom I had the honor of serving as his Private Secretary.

I am to exhort you, gentlemen, "to conduct yourselves suitably unto the position, to which by the degrees conferred upon you, you have attained." Can I doubt that you will do so? The knowledge you have acquired during long years of study, has called into daily exercise your perseverance, your watchfulness, and self-control. These habits must have excluded a host of follies and vices. In the morning of life, when the blandishments of passion take the reason prisoner, these habits, I persuade myself, have sustained and invigorated your mind, have imparted a freshness and a healthful tone to its enjoyments and fitted it for the more arduous purposes of your work in the world.

And, my young friends, the knowledge you have gained is to be prized not only for the qualities and serene pleasures which it directly tends to excite, but also for the material blessings which it confers upon society. Look back to the days of the old system of education, under which the students of British India were delivered up to the Moulvi and the Pandit, and you will admit that it is possible for knowledge, when wisdom has not guided her impulses, and false systems have arrested her progress, to damp the ardour of invention, to repress the nobler energies of the understanding, and to result in moral apathy and a stagnant civilisation.

Let me tell you how education in India was emancipated. It is now exactly seventy years ago that Parliament directed the East India Company to set apart a lac of rupees a year "for the revival and promotion of literature, and the encouragement of the learned natives of India and for tlie introduction of a knowledge of tlie sciences among the inhabitants of the British territories." Such was the general apathy on the subject amongst Indian administrations, that nothing was done, nothing attempted, till ten years had expired. At the end of that time a General Committee of Public instruction was formed in Calcutta, whose first step in the direction of progress — as they supposed it to be — was the estab- lishment of a Sanskrit College in that city, in addition to the Sanskrit College established thirty years previously at Benares. That enlightened Brahman, Ram Mohan Roy, vigorously protested, pointing out that it was "English literature and science" that the people, when left to themselves, desired for their sons, as was manifested in the foundation, by the zemindars and merchants of Bengal, of the Hindu College of Calcutta for such pursuits in the year 1816. To Sanskrit literature and its more diligent culti- vation. Ram Mohan Roy, himself an eminent scholar and the translator into English of the Upanishads or speculative portion of the Vedas, was willing to give every reasonable encourage- ment, but if the improvement of the native population was the object of the Government, let it promote, he entreated, a more liberal and enlightened system of education.

What a Government College was in those days the journal of Bishop Heber at Benares in the same year shall tell us : —

"The Vidyalaya is divided into a number of classes, who learn reading, writing, and arithmetic (in the Hindu manner), Persi-an, Hindu Law and sacred literature, Sanskrit, astronomy according to the Ptolemaic system and astrology ! There are 200 scholars ; the. astronomical lecturer produced a terrestrial globe, divided according to their system and elevated to the meridian of Benares. Mount Meru he indentified with the North Pole, and under the Southern Pole he supposed the tortoise to stand on which the earth rests. The southern hemisphere he apprehended to be uninhabitable; but on the concave surface in the interior of the globe he placed Patalam or hell. He then shewed me how the sun went round the earth once every day and how by a different but equally continuous motion he visited the signs of the zodiac."

Well—yet another ten years drag on, and the question is still undecided whether the people of India, whose mother- tongues are generally poor and rude, should have the means of pursuing higher studies by acquiring the Arabic and Sanskrit languages or the English. In 1835 that question was settled as it now stands, by the advocacy of one, who, having already embellished the literature of Europe, came to its aid when doubt- ing Orientalists weighed its claims with the literature of Asia. I allude to Macaulay, then the legal member of the Governor- GeneraVs Council. Listen to- his glowing eulogy on the claims of his own language and be thankful for the glorious heritage which his pen secured for you : —

"It stands pre-eminent even among the languages of the West. It abounds with works of imagination not inferior to the noblest which Greece has bequeathed to us; with models of every species of eloquence ; with historical compositions, which considered merely as narratives, have seldom been surpassed, and which, considered as vehicles of ethical and political instruc- tion, have never been equalled; with just and lively representa- tions of human life and human nature ; with the most profound speculations on metaphysics, morals, government, jurisprudence and trade ; with full and coiTect information respecting every experimental science, which tends to preserve the health, to increase the comfort or to expand the intellect of man. Whoever knows that language has ready access to all the vast intellectual wealth which all the wisest nations of the earth have created and hoarded in the course of ninety generations.^'

The next twenty years witnessed considerable advancement, including in our presidency the advent of Mr. Powell from Cambridge and the establishment of the High School, which nurtured so many distinguished men. Towards the close of the same period the sanction of the Court of Directors was received for the creation of Universities. Then came the Rebel- lion of 1857 ; the fate of Universities, the fate of Public Instruc- tion in India trembled in the balance ; but Lord Canning was firm ; he felt that it was not liberal education, but the want of it that had raised the storm. Like Columbus, in spite of the mutiny of his crew and the remonstrances of some of his lieuten- ants, he refused to delay, much less to turn back from his course ; but, unlike Columbus, he was not amongst the sea weed nor were the birds fluttering over his head ; with the eye of faith he pierced the gloom and discerned the haven where he would be. I recollect that his assent to the Act establishing our own Univer- sity was given on the 5th September 1857, a time when the seige of Delhi still proceeded under the most disadvantageous conditions.

It was in 1859 that the degree of Bachelor of Arts was for the first time conferred on students educated in this presidency. Taking the five quinquennial periods that may be counted from 1859 to the present year, I find that the rate of success has been uniformly about fifty per cent, of the whole. In the professional degrees the rate of success has fluctuated to a remarkable extent^ as is too well known, for instance, to recent candidates for the degree in law. Having worked with and watched the work of men, some of whom are proficients of the pre-University High School and others are Graduates of the University, I gratefully acknow- ledge that I have found both classes equally efiicient and equally honorable. The proficients in their day had an advan- tage which graduates cannot share. They were so few in number that there was a perfect scramble amongst the heads of departments to secure them. Once caught, they were rapidly promoted to be Tahsildars, Deputy Collectors and District Mun- siffs. Now — so strong is the general competition — that a Bache- lor of Arts is often very glad to get a clerkship on four or five pagodas a month, in which situation he may languish without advancement, for years. But there is more than this to account for the poor prospects of graduates. They would be far more numerous and far better remunerated, but for a direct check, which I trust will be shortly removed, after the consideration which it is about to receive from the Governor in Council. It is the admission of men, without any connection with the Uni- versity beyond the Matriculation — sometimes not even that — to the Special Test, by passing which the candidates become qualified to hold the more important oflBces in the country. This system has been injurious to education, the University, and the public service itself. Look at the hundreds and hun- dreds of young men, who annually matriculate or pass what is best known as the Uncovenanted Civil Service Examination. What becomes of them? Do they go on to F.A., and B.A., and B.L. ? Not at all ; they have now reached the goal of their miserable ambition as students; they take a petty post as a copyist and set to work to cram, in their scanty hours of leisure, the Special Tests for the Judicial and Revenue De- partments. Now, a Matriculate has just begun his educa- tion, and of what value to the State is the occupation of the higher appointments by half-educated men ? I would say to those, who are satisfied to stop at the Matriculation stage, that they shall get no further than petty clerkships, that they shall remain "hewers of wood and drawers of water." They may cram the Special Tests in time, but it is not good for the country that any but really educated men should become Magistrates, Tahsil- dars, and Munsiffs, Now that the University has stood and prospered for a quarter of a century, it is surely high time that we promoted to the more responsible offices in the public service none but those who have taken complete advantage of the education now offered to all ; each high official would then be a beacon on a hill, whence should radiate the glorious influences of Western civilisation. There are some twelve hundred gra- duates in Arts of this University; yet there are only two or three per cent, of the number holding responsible offices in the general administration.

What becomes of our graduates ? The Educational Department readily absorbs some of them ; others join the Native Bar, and the remainder, wherever they go to, are not to be found in the higher ranks of the public service. And yet it is just there that they should be found. Those who take their notions from England, can have no conception what an immensely powerful engine, either for good or evil, an Asiatic Government is. Time will bring its changes, but in India we know that the Grovernment is everything ; its establishments are on the largest scale, and nearly the whole rental of the country passes into its coffers. The mercantile, medical, sacerdotal and other professions, which absorb the greater part of our English youth of the middle class, are either held in comparatively low esteem, or are confined, at present, to particular castes : and except when he becomes a pleader, almost the only idea which a liberally educated native has of rising in life is by attaching himself to the public service. In the early years of British rule in India, the system of Govern- ment was based on the principle of doing every thing by European agency ; the wheels became clogged ; more than half of the business of the country remained unperformed, and at last it became necessary to abandon a plan, which, after a fair trial, had completely broken down ; substituting in its stead the present system of transacting the public business by native agency under European superintendence.

Having opened such preferment to the natives, is it not the duty, the plain policy of the Government to see that the men whom it appoints to be interpreters between itself and the rude millions whom it governs, shall come from a class which, if Indian in blood and color, shall be English in taste, in opinions, in morals and in intellect ? And down the rolls of the Native public service amongst the subordinate Judges I find a single graduate only; one in the first grade of Munsifs; one in the second; a few in the third class, as many as fourteen ; while the Deputy Collectors, and other high revenue officials, who are Bachelors of A.rts, can be counted on the fingers. We have been hearing lately, gentlemen, of a coming Convocation of Graduates to be incorporated for the very reasonable purpose of considering matters affecting the well-being of the University and making suggestions to the Senate regarding them. Would to heaven we could see another Convocation consisting of those amongst you — an immense majority they are who are Hindus — formed for the more reasonable and beneficent purpose of exploding the innovations in the ritual and usages of your sacred Vedas, which however brought in, have now unhappily, for centuries prevailed; innovations involving the degradation of the female sex, ruin to the moral virtues and the intellectual energies of the man, and the hopeless postponement of national advancement and domestic felicity. Already I seem to see a handwriting on the wall, that the end of this and other old superstitions is at hand. Shall they be driven not by the winter storm in its overwhelming fury, or shall they be removed by the gentle and peaceable means, which an united body of educated men, actuated by the purest patriotism, should well know how to use? How long will you hang back undecided and desponding? Whom and what do you fear, you who have sworn to-day, as far as in you lies, to support and promote the cause of morality, and to advance the well-being of your fellow men? Take courage as you take this solemn pledge, given in the presence of an august University which then and not till then decorated you with the insignia of the order to which you have so worthily attained. Graduates, farewell! May happiness and prosperity be yours in your course through the world. But however onerous and important your work in life may be, let the pleasures which arise from intellectual pursuits return to you at every vacant interval. The great reformer of philosophy has beautifully declared, that in all other pleasures, after they be used, "their verdure departeth, which showeth that they be deceits of pleasures;" but in these, "satisfaction and appetite are perpetually interchangable." These indeed are the only pleasures, which, fraught with unalterable delight and interest, outlive the fervent years of youth, and grow still stronger in the decay of age.