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Convocation Addresses of the Universities of Bombay and Madras/Part 2/Honorable P. O'Sullivan


(By The Honorable P. O'Sullivan.)

Gentlemen, — I have been deputed by His Excellency, the Chancellor, to address a few words to you on behalf of the Senate; to congratulate you upon the diplomas you have just obtained, to measure the prospects before you, and to indicate the course you should take, the better to enable you to fulfil and keep the promises you have made. I do heartily congratulate you upon the success which you have gained, and upon your adoption as sons of the University of Madras. That success implies the possession by you of qualities which give no Small assurance of fitness for the various callings to which you are destined. Apart from special studies to qualify yourselves for particular avocations, you must have applied yourselves with ardour and earnestness to the acquisition of knowledge, and you have given proof that you are sufficiently intelligent to use and apply the knowledge so acquired. You have proved that you are capable of sustained application to scholastic work, that yon have an aptitude for intellectual studies and are not unwilling to have your knowledge examined and tested. You have measured yourselves with your equals in age, and have reason to be satisfied with the result. You have shewn that you can subject your inclination to discipline and control. You will go into the world with advantages of intellectual and moral preparatory equipment which ought to prove serviceable in your future career; but in order to maintain your vantage ground you will need to shew that you are equal to the constantly recurring demands upon your mental powers and resources which active employments require. You will be frequently confronted with practical difficulties which you must meet and overcome, and as your experience will grow with your responsibilities, you will gradually acquire the requisite skill and confidence to enable you to discharge the several duties which will devolve upon you, as others before you have done.

It is frequently said the number of persons trained under the auspices of this University exceeds the number of suitable employments within their reach. So far as I can judge, this is not more true as regards this University than most other Universities. In England the commercial value of a University Degree is not highly appraised. The number of persons who have graduated in the University of Madras, since its foundation in 1857, not including the accessions of to-day, is about 1,355, which gives an annual average of not more than 50. Only twenty-seven persons took degrees in medicine during that period. It may be true that many persons are not yet prepared to employ a high class of medical advisers, and that the great bulk of the people cannot afford to do so. It is also found that practitioners in the Subordinate Medical Department under Government are resorted to for advice in the various localities where they perform their duties. Making all reasonable allowance for these impediments, it is evident that, under more favourable conditions, a greatly increased number of persons of high attainments ought to be in practice in various parts of the country to minister to the ailments of a population numbering upwards of thirty millions. It may, I think, be expected that the extension of the area of education, the increase in material prosperity which has begun, and is likely to continue, the development of agricultural, manufacturing and commercial industries and the increasing wants of the people, who are entering upon a higher phase of civilisation, will open careers for an increasing number of the educational classes. There is also a growing tendency to restrict the conditions upon which the right of access to some of the professions is founded, and the Government of Madras is disposed to reserve some at least of the more important public offices for graduates. After May of this year no persons will be permitted to appear for the Tests in the Revenue Higher Grade who have not passed the First in Arts Examination, or who are not graduates of an Indian University, except persons now in the service of Government who will be allowed to appear for examination in the Revenue Test Higher grade up to and including the year 1889. And it is the declared policy of the British Government, of whatever party, Tory or Liberal, Whig or Radical, to avail itself of the services of natives of this country to a greater extent in future than it has or perhaps could have done in the past. If you take these circumstances into consideration—and many others might be mentioned leading to the same conclusion—I think yon will have no reason to regret that upon merely practical grounds you have elected to pass into the world of work and action through the portals of the University.

You will each of you adopt some profession or calling.Attend to details Whatever that calling may be, you should devote to it your highest powers and best energies. Do not consider mere details unworthy of your attention. There are few occupations which do not require a close and intimate acquaintance with details which it is needful to master in order to be prepared for the unexpected which so frequently happens. The Duke of Wellington said he had passed a considerable part of his life guessing what was on the other side of a hill. In the exercise of your callings you should bear yourselves with fidelity to those who employ you, with candour and consideration to those who are associated with you, and with integrity to all, always maintaining a high standard of honour and rectitude, and always disdaining by unworthy acts to obtain advantages for yourselves to push yourselves forward in the general struggle. A habit of introspection will enable you to perceive wherein you have deviated, and help you to keep in the prescribed course.

It is unlikely, even if it be desirable, that you should be indifferent as to the political and social results ofOffer sound advice to the Governemntand the people. public measures submitted for general consideration. It is not Only the desire but also the interest of the Government that the people should be well governed, and that they should be contented, happy and prosperous. This is also your interest and your wish, and the Government is therefore entitled to rely upon the assistance and co-operation of all enlightened men, and especially of such as have received a high educational training, in its efforts to promote good administration. All the best efforts of all classes are needed to render the resources of the country sufficient for the expanding wants of the population, to prevent the recurrence of famine, to mitigate the rigours of epidemics, to conserve the public health, and to promote civilizing influences. Your duty will be, whenever fitting opportunity offers, to give honest and sound advice, so far as your knowledge and observation enable you to do, to the Government as well as to your fellow-countrymen. It is important on the one hand, that the Government should be informed of the wants and feelings of the people, and, on the other, that the intentions of the Government should be fairly and truthfully represented to the governed. In dealing with political questions there is always the danger of being misled by words and phrases and of allowing them to exercise an undue influence. You should endeavour to get at Think straight and see clear the root and substance of the matter in controversy from time to time. Endeavour, to use the words of an eminent living writer, "to think straight and see clear," and, having formed your opinion after a careful exercise of your judgment, abide by that opinion until you see reason to change it. Recent legislation has conferred large powers upon local Management of local bodies bodies. If these powers are exercised in an enlightened spirit the problem of Local Self-Government will be, in a great measure, settled, but the difficulties in the way are so numerous and formidable that nothing short of the strenuous and zealous exertions of the intelligent and wealthy classes of the community, acting in concert for the public welfare, will render Local Government an immediate success. If the duties now entrusted to Municipal and District Boards are performed in a satisfactory way, doubtless other and larger powers will be added, and the governing authorities will be left at liberty to devote more attention than they can now do to other departments of administration. In the development of education the Local Boards have taken a warm and increasing interest. There were in the year 1883-84 about 106,000 pupils receiving education in schools maintained in Municipalities in this Presidency, and about 342,000 pupils under Local Fund Boards.

There are three questions which at present excite considerable attention Three important questions in the Hindu community in this part of India, namely, the education of females, the education of the poorer classes, and the remarriage of widows. Female education has, in recent years, made noteworthy progress in this Presidency, and Female Education something has been done towards educating the poor. There is no difference of opinion, I believe, as to the expediency of these reforms, and what is henceforth wanted is more energetic action. The number of Hindu girls who attended the various Schools in the Madras Presidency for the year 1883-84 was, in round numbers, 47,000; of these 31,000 were Hindus and nearly 2,000 Mahomedans. Upon the re-marriage Marriage of widows. question there are strong differences of opinion; there is the party of reform which is desirous of removing all impediments, social and legal, to the marriage of widows; and there is the party of resistance, which is opposed to change and adheres to the old ways. It is estimated that upwards of twenty millions of human beings are directly concerned in the settlement of the marriage question. They are now, by the pressure of prevailing opinion and usage, doomed to an ungenial, if not an ascetic existence, from which many Hindus would wish to save them. The party of reform includes many of the most distinguished Native gentlemen in the Presidency; a large if not preponderating proportion of the educated class support it, and some of the most eminent of graduates of this University have placed themselves at the head of the movement for reform. The matter is undergoing discussion and examination and time, which finally determines the result of examinations and discussions, seems to have already taken part with the innovators. Many other questions will, no doubt, engage your attention from time to time as you advance in life. If you take the part which, from your education and antecedents, may be expected, you will have numerous opportunities of rendering valuable services to your countrymen, many of whom will be glad to be guided by your counsel and example. A group of earnest, educated, high-minded men working in union for the advancement of the people and enforcing upon all classes prudence, thrift, uprightness and fair dealing in the conduct of their affairs, would exercise an influence for good upon the people beyond what is possible, I believe, in most other countries by like means. Some of you will probably, in the course of time, attain to positions of power and influence; as your power extends so will your responsibilities. If your lives are pure and your aims lofty, you will find not only admirers but imitators; and you will thus contribute to raise the general standard of morality and civilization. Such of you as may not be destined to keep pace with your contemporaries in the race for distinction will nevertheless be called upon to discharge honourable and useful functions, and a good example set by you is not likely to be disregarded. Some of you will probably devote yourselves to the education of youth,—an occupation which demands the highest qualifications and the successful exercise of which will be attended with feelings of satisfaction and pleasure exceeding those to be derived from most other callings. Many of your predecessors, past graduates of this University, have, I believe, amply fulfilled the expectations which had been formed respecting them. The improvements in the social, economical and political condition of the people which have taken place during the last twenty years may, to some extent at least, be traced to their labours. Some of them have given much time, sometimes snatched from professional and official work, to the discharge of Municipal and other local duties, and a still greater number have taken a creditable part in social movements designed to promote the general happiness. Many of them have, directly and indirectly, contributed to the formation of a public opinion which is, on the whole, directed to moderate, wise and wholesome purposes. But a vast deal remains to be done to improve the condition of the people. To accomplish this, railways and other means of communication will have to be made anl extended, irrigation works constructed, agricultural and manufacturing products stimulated, and facilities provided for exporting the produce of the country. All efforts in this direction will, I doubt not, have your sympathy and support.

Whatever your future lot may be, do not be unmindful that reputation of the University, no less than your own and that of your relatives and friends, is involved in your behaviour. Be careful to do nothing tending to tarnish that reputation or to lower the good name which you have hitherto maiutained. It is not in the ordinary course of events likely that you can all attain to eminence or distinction, but it is within the power of all of you to be useful, faithful and trustworthy in your respective callings in life.