The Empire and the century/India: Past, Present, and Future< The Empire and the century
INDIA: PAST, PRESENT, AND FUTURE
By SIR CHARLES CROSTHWAITE, K.C.S.I.
What is India? I make no apology for answering the question in the words used by Lord Dufferin at the St. Andrew's dinner, Calcutta, on November 80, 1888, for they give the most vivid picture of what we mean by India that has been drawn in a few lines. 'It is an Empire,' he said, 'equal in size, if Russia be excluded, to the entire Continent of Europe, with a population of 250,000,000 souls. This population is composed of a large number of distinct nationalities, professing various religions, practising diverse rights, speaking different languages … while many of them are still further separated from each other by discordant prejudices, by conflicting social usages, and even antagonistic material interests! Perhaps the most patent peculiarity of our Indian cosmos is its division into two highly political communities: the Hindus, numbering 100,000,000, and the Mohammedans, a nation of 50,000,000, whose distinctive characteristics, whether religious, social, or ethnological, it is, of course, unnecessary for me to refer to before such an audience as the present. But to these two great divisions must be added a host of minor nationalities, though "minor" is a misleading term, since most of them may be numbered by millions, who, although some of them are included in the two broader categories I have mentioned, are as completely differentiated from each other as are the Hindus from the Mohammedans; such as the Sikhs, with their warlike habits and traditions, and their theocratic enthusiasm; the Rohillas, the Pathans, the Assamesi, the Biluchees, and the other wild and martial tribes on our frontiers; the Hillsmen dwelling in the folds of the Himalayas; our subjects in Burma, Mongol in race and Buddhist in religion; the Khonds, Mairs, and Bheels, and other non-Aryan peoples in the centre and South of India; and the enterprising Parsees, with their rapidly-developing manufactures and commercial interests. Again, amongst these numerous communities may be found at one and the same moment all the various stages of civilization through which mankind has passed from the prehistoric ages to the present day. At one end of the scale we have the naked savage hillman, with his stone weapons, his head-hunting, his polyandrous habits, and his childish superstitions; and at the other the Europeanized native gentleman, with his refinement and polish, his literary culture, his Western philosophy, and his advanced political ideas; while between the two lie layer upon layer, or in close juxtaposition, wandering communities, with their flocks of goats and moving tents; a collection of undisciplined warriors, with their blood feuds, their clan organization and loose tribal government; feudal chiefs and barons, with their picturesque retainers, their seigneurial jurisdiction, and their medieval modes of life; and modernized country gentlemen, and enterprising merchants and manufacturers, with their well-managed estates and prosperous enterprises.'
And what are the territorial limits of the Empire which contains this microcosm, this history, like the growth of the embryo in the womb—of the development of the human race from primitive savagery to twentieth-century civilization? It is in form a huge triangular peninsula, the base resting on the great ranges of the Himalayas and the Hindu Kush, and the apex stretching far down into the Indian Ocean, and dividing the Arabian Sea from the Bay of Bengal. To this must be added the great Province of Burma, which takes our boundaries up to the higher reaches of the Mekong, and to the limits of Western Yunnan. From the base of the triangle to the apex at Cape Comorin the length may be taken at 2,000 miles; and the greatest breadth, from the western boundary of British Beluchistan to the eastern limit of the British Shan States, lying on the Mekong, is not less than 2,500 miles. Then there is a land frontier of some 6,000 miles on the west and north, marching with Persia and Russia, for we have made ourselves responsible for the Afghanistan frontier; on the east with China, with France, and with Siam. A seaboard of close on 4,000 miles has to be guarded by the navy of Great Britain—a seaboard boasting many great ports, of which Calcutta, Bombay, Rangoon, Madras, and Karachi alone are worth a nation's ransom, and represent many millions, not only of British, but of European capital. Such is the Great British Dominion in India—an object of envy and admiration to foreign nations, viewed with indifference and neglect by our own people. The great majority of the nation, by whose voice Great Britain is ruled and her destinies swayed, know little and care less about their Indian Dependency. As to the means by which this Empire has been won, there may be still some foreign politicians who believe in deep-laid schemes of colonial expansion, worked out by a succession of British Governments for the past three centuries. Here, in England, the popular idea would probably be found in the opposite direction. The result would be attributed to a series of fortunate chances and inexplicable accidents. There is some justification for both views. Until a long time after our power was established beyond dispute there was no settled plan of expansion in the minds either of the leading men in India or of the statesmen at home. They drifted on the currents which direct human affairs, and the great influences at work in the world, the predisposing conditions and favouring impulses, led them into port.
British power in India had its beginning in 1588, in the reign of Queen Elizabeth—a reign which laid the foundations of so much of England's greatness. The seed from which the tree sprang was as a grain of mustard-seed. The success of the Portuguese in their commerce with the East had roused the envy of the merchants of London. Ralph Fitch, with five others, started overland on an expedition to India to gather information as to the value of trade with that country. He carried letters of introduction from the Queen to the Emperor Akbar, and returned, after travelling through Hindustan, with a knowledge of the possibilities of Eastern commerce which satisfied the London merchants that money was to be made in it. The Queen, however, from motives of political caution, probably for fear of annoying Spain, would not sanction their modest proposal to equip three ships for the East. For the time the design had to be laid aside; but it was not forgotten. In 1599, more than ten years after Fitch's return, an association—a syndicate it would now be called—was formed, and capital subscribed for opening up trade with the East Indies; and in 1600 a charter was obtained from the Crown, giving the association a monopoly of commerce with the East for fifteen years if it should prove advantageous to the nation, but liable to cancelment at two years' notice if it should not answer that condition. The capital was a sum of £88,000—a sum that in these days, even allowing for the difference in the value of money, would be thought insufficient for the establishment of a few penny steamers on the Thames.
Such was the small origin of the East India Company, which in olden times tradition might have consecrated by some picturesque legend. The Company, since it acquired territorial sovereignty, had exercised its great powers with wisdom, justice, and consideration for the subject races committed to its charge. It was gradually brought under the control of the Crown, and when, in 1858, after the meeting of a portion of its native army, it was commanded by Parliament to hand over to Her Majesty Queen Victoria the dominion which it had acquired under charters first granted under Queen Elizabeth, it could surrender its powers with a good conscience, and with the proud knowledge that it had played a chief part in the raising of Great Britain from a small insular to a world-wide Power, and had won a great Empire for the Crown.
In the inception of the undertaking there had been no idea of acquiring sovereignty or territorial possessions. Trade and trade alone was the object. To export bullion or such goods as the East would take, and to bring back cargoes of spices and other produce which would fetch large prices in the London market, was the purpose for which the Company existed. It was not until 1615 that the Company, in which the Sovereign had hitherto manifested little interest beyond exacting as great a share as possible in the profits, received the first substantial assistance from the Government. James I. acceded to its petition that an ambassador should be sent from the Crown to the Great Mogul. Sir Thomas Roe was selected for the duty, and proved himself to be a worthy predecessor of the great diplomatists who have aided in building up the British power. He obtained substantial concessions—in the way of trade facilities—for the Company. His advice to those in whose interests he had been deputed is remarkable, as showing that leaning against territorial acquisition which has marked the policy of so many of the men who have governed India and who have added provinces to it under the Company and the Crown: 'To seek their profit at sea and in quiet trade, and not to affect garrisons and land wars in India.'
Such was Sir Thomas Roe's advice, which for the first half-century and more of its existence the Company, with short spasms of ambition, obviously inspired by Dutch example, studiously followed, striving after dividends, and setting its face against military enterprises.
How the rivalry of the several national companies and the utter absence of any respect for international law forced the associations, ostensibly formed for peaceful trade, to become the masters of armed fleets and military forces; how the necessary acquisition of sites for trading stations and warehouses on land led to war on shore as well as on sea, and to the gradual extension of the area of occupation; how the inevitable collision with the native powers followed, to be succeeded in turn by fresh acquisitions of territory with rights of sovereignty, is an interesting story, and has been admirably told by Sir Alfred Lyall in his fascinating essay on 'The Rise and Expansion of British Dominion in India,' and also less brilliantly, but well, by Marshman in his 'Short History of India.' To their hands I would confide the reader who seeks to inform himself on the subject.
It is only necessary for my present purpose to mention briefly the main conditions and movements in the tide of affairs which led to the establishment of our dominion in India as it stands to-day.
The first condition obviously necessary to the establishment of commerce between the countries of Western Europe and the regions which for convenience we may call the East Indies was maritime power. Hence, we find the Portuguese and Dutch the first in the field, after them the English, and later still the French. As soon as it became a question of armed rivalry between the Companies representing these countries, the issue resolved itself into a fight for command of the sea. The Portuguese fell out early in the struggle. Their ships were very roughly handled in 1611 by our vessels, and the reputation of the British Company as a sea power was established. Subsequently their people were cleared out of Ormuz and the Persian Gulf. In 1662 the island and dependencies of Bombay were received by Charles II. as part of the dower of the daughter of the King of Portugal. By him they were handed over to the Company, and thus a firm settlement was obtained on the West Coast.
The Dutch had been long established in the East India trade, and were backed by all the power of their Government. They paid more attention, however, to the islands of the Malay Archipelago than to the establishment of settlements on the mainland. In Bengal their only station at first was Balasore, but afterwards they obtained permission from the Mogul's Government to establish themselves at Chinsura, a few miles from Hugli. Their power at sea was broken by their long wars with France and Spain. In 1759 they were foolish enough to listen to the overtures of Nawab Mir Jaffir, and to send a fleet of seven vessels with a mixed force of Europeans and Malay troops to attack the British in the Hugli. This attempt ended in the complete destruction both of the naval and land forces, and put an end to any further attempts on the part of the Dutch to molest the British Settlements on the continent of India.
The French were last in the field, but proved more formidable rivals. The French Company was established by Colbert in 1664, and formed a settlement at Chandernagore, and afterwards at Pondicherry. They were ably led by Labourdonnais, Dupleix, and Bussy, and entered upon schemes of much larger ambition than their rivals had conceived. Their idea was to form a military force, and take part in the quarrels of the native princes, giving their aid to the side that would pay them best. The English followed suit, and five years of hostilities almost exhausted the power of both Companies. There is no doubt that Dupleix came very near to founding a large French dominion in Southern India. But the French leaders were at variance among themselves, and were not backed up from home. Under Bussy the French maintained their own, and made considerable way until peace was established between France and England in 1788. When war broke out again the French lost command of the sea, and the maritime supremacy of England was established. The end of the French dominion in India followed of course.
Thenceforth the history of the growth of British power is the familiar story of the results of the contact of an organized government with semi-barbarous neighbours. That natural process has been going on ever since, and is still going on. As regards the interior of India, we appear to have reached a condition of firmness and stability which nothing is likely to affect But can any man tell when, and in what direction, and how far, we may be compelled to advance our political, perhaps even our administrative, frontier?
The condition of India at the time when we had established ourselves in Bengal and removed our European rivals was eminently favourable to the advance of our power. If the Mogul Empire had been in full life and strength, the task might have been too difficult for us, and our expansion must have been less rapid. Even before the death of Aurungzebe in 1707 the central authority had been greatly weakened. His lieutenants had begun to usurp authority, and the Mahratta force was rapidly rising in the Deccan. The disintegration became rapid when the Emperor's sons fought for the throne. The invasion of Nadir Shah completed it. The power of the Mogul was dissolved. Anarchy and brigandage held sway in the land, and the peaceful portion—by far the majority of the people—were ready to come under any flag that could protect them.
The British dominion in India was the result, then, of great movements in the tides of human affairs in the West as well as in the East. It is noteworthy that both the Government and the men in power on the spot, so far from taking advantage of the favourable currents, set themselves to resist them. In 1784 Mr. Pitt stated that his first and principal object in his India Bill was 'to prevent the Government of Bengal from being ambitious,' and from aiming at further extensions. Hastings had no designs of the kind. At one time he wanted to relinquish all the Northern Circars. Clive, after conquering Oudh, in a war wantonly provoked by the Nawab Wazir, gave the province back to him. He opposed any extension beyond the Karamnassa. Lord Cornwallis wished to withdraw from the Malabar Coast, and to reduce Bombay to the status of a mere factory. In 1782 Lord Shelburne, Prime Minister, proposed to give up everything except Bombay and Bengal. 'The dread of territorial expansion was, in fact, the prevailing bugbear of the day' (Marshman, vol. i., p. 468). There have been some indications in late events that the dread has still an active influence on the India Office and the Cabinet.
Before passing from the past to the present and the future, I would note the importance of remembering that we never conquered India in the sense that Rome conquered Gaul or Great Britain. There was no nation to conquer. Nor did we, as some appear to think, uproot ancient dynasties, and ruthlessly destroy old historical monarchies. Passing over the time when the various East India Companies were occupied in rending each other or in the occasional peaceful rivalry of trade to the period when the English Company had come out victorious and began to expand, there was not a power or principality of any sort in the whole peninsula which had been fifty years in existence. I revert to this point with the object of making it clear why there was not and is not, and, I might venture to say, never can be, without cause given on our part by insane maladministration, any sort of general feeling against us such as exists in Finland or in Poland against Russia, or as there was in the Netherlands against Spain.
In considering how our policy should be framed in order to maintain our dominion, it is well to bear this in mind. We have not to fear or to conciliate a spirit of racial hostility to the British Government on the part of the peoples of India, and such a spirit could only be created by such acts of folly on our part as would unite against us the heterogeneous races, castes, and religions of the peninsula. At the same time it must be remembered that we are in India a handful of aliens, ruling nearly 800,000,000 of people, most of them willing, indeed, to be ruled, and only asking to be protected in their peaceful pursuits, and to be left in undisturbed exercise of their religious and social customs inseparably connected in their minds. It need hardly be said that in such a vast conglomeration of people of such diverse races and tempers there must be here and there strata of unruly spirits who would gladly exchange the plough for the sword and peace for pillage and rapine.
In every province of India with which I am acquainted there is scattered about a considerable element of this kind—the vultures waiting for the death of their prey. In British India proper there are few large landowners or chiefs who, in case of any accidental paralysis of the paramount power, could hold in check the forces tending to anarchy even within a fractional area of one of our provinces. Hence, I would lay down the provision of an adequate British army as the first and indispensable condition to the maintenance of the dominion. Fifty years ago Lord Dalhousie wrote to the Board of Control: 'Our Raj is safe from risk only while we are strong. We have not, like the Colonies, anything to fall back upon. We must be strong, not against our enemy only, but against our own population, and even against possible contingencies connected with our native army.' Writing to Vernon Smith in 1855, the same Viceroy said: 'I have told you that India is tranquil, and you have repeated my words in Parliament. But I repeat also again and again what I have said before (and I would that I could cut it into the flesh of Her Majesty's Ministers), that India is tranquil only because, comparatively speaking, we are strong. Weaken us, and India will be neither tranquil nor secure.' Such a warning at the present day would, I am happy to say, seem uncalled for and superfluous, not because the proposition is less true, but because the Mutiny burnt Lord Dalhousie's words into the minds of all men. I doubt if there is any thoughtful man, much less any responsible politician, who would propose to weaken the British force in India by a single rifle.
I do not forget that the great works which Lord Dalhousie began in India—the railways and telegraphs—have multiplied our power of maintaining order. When I began my service in India in 1868, there were only three short and disconnected pieces of line completed, and to reach any of the outlying districts was a work of time and difficulty even for an active man travelling alone. Now there are thirty thousand miles of railway, and each year sees a further extension, while the country is served by telegraph lines almost as well as Great Britain itself. The improvement in arms of precision still further multiplies the effective value of every soldier. The forces making for disorder are less; there are no independent and possibly hostile Powers. There are no provinces restive under recent annexation. There are no arsenals in the hands of native garrisons. There is not even a field battery manned by Indian gunners. The population from one end of the country to the other is effectually disarmed.
On the other side of the account may be recorded several items of increased responsibility. The same extension of railways that multiples our forces means so many thousand miles of line, so many great bridges, so many hundreds of white women and children, the families of the employés, to protect in time of trouble. Above all, the danger which fifty years ago was foreseen, but hardly called for action, and which even thirty years ago could be made, by a Secretary of State for India, the subject of a somewhat melancholy pun, is now the thing on the threshold. The frontier of the Empire is now the frontier of Afghanistan, and we might at any time be called to defend it I recognise the admirable spirit of the great feudatory chiefs and their fidelity to the King-Emperor, nor do I doubt the loyalty and peaceful character of the people of India. Nevertheless, I am forced to believe that the foundation of our dominion is the maintenance of an adequate force of British soldiers in India, and the absolute command of the sea. If anyone disputes this proposition, let him consider what would happen to Indian securities, public or private, if the Prime Minister announced in the House his intention to follow in India the precedent of Canada, and to recall the British forces. Or let him imagine a case more easily conceivable—the advent of a new army reformer whose ingenuity had contrived a scheme under which no reinforcements for India could be obtained.
I may be accused of tilting against an imaginary foe, and with some truth, for no responsible person, as I have said, has proposed, or would propose, to reduce the garrison of India. On the contrary, the Premier has declared that the work of the British army is the defence of Afghanistan. But I have noticed in some quarters a disposition to treat India in the case of an emergency as these islands were dealt with in the Boer War, and to trust everything to the civil police and a sprinkling of troops.
In maintaining that British power in India is founded on British bayonets, I am far from suggesting that force is its only support. It rests, if not primarily, at least equally, on its character for justice, toleration, and careful consideration of native feeling. I believe that if we turned aside from the path we have followed so long and consistently; if we adopted methods of religious propaganda or outraged caste prejudices—for example, if we enforced the reading of the Bible in the schools or let loose upon the country a body of enthusiastic sanitary experts from Europe—all the rifles that England could maintain would not suffice to keep the people down. We have had warnings of late years in these directions. In the early stages of the plague the Government of India pressed their measures of sanitation, especially in connection with police interference, beyond the limit of prudence. Fortunately, when they felt something hard they withdrew their hand and relaxed their pressure. The people were wonderfully patient under it—more patient than they would have been a quarter of a century ago. But a sore, and among the ignorant a dangerous feeling prevails, as those working amongst them will, I think, admit.
If I am asked if there is no measure which can be taken in order to give our Government a deeper hold on the people, I reply that we cannot do better than go on as we have begun. Some may think that the time has come for broadening the foundations of our rule and basing it on a system of representation by election. This is one of the main objects of the Congress, a gathering of persons supposed to represent the different provinces, which has been held yearly for the last twenty years or more. Their platform is almost the same now as it was in the beginning: employment of natives of the country in all the higher posts (they already occupy all the lower); a representative body, elected by the people, with some power of financial control; the repeal or the Arms Act; liberty to everyone to become a volunteer. But there is one thing they have not thought fit to propose—the abolition of the British army, although they think that if they were allowed to volunteer it might be reduced. They know well that British rifles are required to defend the country and keep the peace while they practise their statesmanship upon it. They know also that if they were left to their own resources they would be speedily hunted out of their legislative palace, wherever they might have established it. It is impossible to take such a Congress seriously. The unsoundness of their proposals will be apparent to anyone who has realized the diverse and multitudinous elements to which British dominion alone has given any sort of unity. Their doings serve mainly to show the political immaturity, of the present generation of educated Indians. If they refrained from sedition and exciting race hatred, one might laugh at them. But they have not always so refrained. Their loyalty is ostentatious, but somewhat one-sided. 'God bless the King, but look on every British soldier as a wild beast and on every English official in India as a tyrant, to be removed as soon as may be.'
Lord Dufferin, before he left India in 1888, indicated his desire to extend and place upon a wider and more logical footing the political status, so wisely given a generation ago by Lord Halifax, to such Indian gentlemen as by their influence, their acquirements, and the confidence they inspired in their fellow-countrymen were marked out as useful adjuncts to our Legislative Councils. During Lord Lansdowne's viceroyalty practical effect was given to this policy, and a certain number of members, elected subject to the approval of the Government, were appointed to the Legislative Councils, always retaining an official majority. The difficulty lay in devising constituencies to whom the nominations should be given. To the Universities, the Chambers of Commerce, groups of Municipalities, groups of District Boards as representing the land interest, this power was entrusted. At the same time, it was arranged that a statement of the provincial finances should be laid before each of the .Councils, Perhaps the most important change, however, was the power given to members of asking questions under carefully framed regulations, designed to prevent its abuse by the mischievous. That the Government has derived much advantage from this reform, which enables it to explain its policy and prevent misunderstanding, is certain. And it is believed that the wise and reasonable amongst the leading men of all classes are gratified and pleased with this reform.
The question is whether the time has come for making further progress in the same direction. There are two possible courses. The number of non-official members may be increased so as to give them the majority, or the Councils may be enlarged by adding to the numbers of both classes without endangering the official majority. I do not think the first proposal can be entertained for a moment. We cannot, without repudiating our responsibility for the good government of the country, put it into the power of a small number of men, who after all is said could not be held to represent the peoples of India, to control our powers of legislation, or dictate to us what laws we should or should not pass. If ever a time shall come, which I very much doubt, when such a measure of representative Government can be established in India, it certainly has not come yet, and is, in my judgment, very far distant. The second course is not open to the same objections, but it has little to recommend it The Legislative Councils are large enough at present for the convenient transaction of business. A seat on one of them is rare enough to be valued as a distinction by men of position. If the numbers were increased there would be a danger of diminishing the value. I may add that in considering the question of taking any further step in the direction of an elected council, it should be remembered that to every man in India of high birth and old-established rank, whatever may be his race or religion, the idea of canvassing inferiors for votes, or even of proposing himself as a candidate for their choice, is repugnant
I would say, then. Let alone any further searching after a more popular foundation of our rule. Confine our efforts to improving the administration in all its branches, search out the places in. which it annoys and pinches the people, and make the working of the machine as little felt as may be. Above all, avoid increase of taxation, especially in new forms, even if improvements have to be foregone. The Finance Minister we desire in India is a man thoroughly acquainted with the details of the administration, who can tell where economies can be effected or improvements in existing sources of revenue made. A great financier, full of theoretical notions of the best way of raising the revenue, and bent on putting them into practice if he can, is a man by all means to be avoided.
Lord Curzon has done grand work in the direction I am advocating. He has examined nearly every part of the administrative machine, and has been able to inaugurate measures for remedying its defects. Owing to the adoption of the Currency Commission's recommendations, he has enjoyed an overflowing treasury. The prosperity of the last few years has raised the revenue of India to a sum that ten or fifteen years ago would have been looked upon as impossible. His predecessors have hankered after police and other reforms, but an empty exchequer made it impossible for them to realize their wishes. Lord Curzon fell on happy times and took advantage of them. But it must be remembered that the ample surpluses which enabled him to remit taxation and to improve the administration in much-needed directions are absolutely dependent on the agricultural prosperity of the country—in other words, on the continuance of seasons of abundant and well-distributed rainfall. For that reason I look with some apprehension on the great increase of recurring expenditure which some of the measures, especially on military reorganization, impose on the people. It will not do for every Viceroy to come out with a series of costly reforms which he pledges himself to execute. The financial question is the main one.
Seeing, then, that we have made ourselves responsible for the happiness and prosperity of this great territory, it may be asked. What have we done for India? In the first place, I would answer. We have given her peace. For the past century the King's peace has been established over the area under our dominion, extending with that area until now it overshadows the whole peninsula. The people were rending each other in pieces before the rise of the British dominion. Hindus against Mohammedans, province against province, chief against chief. Gangs of mercenaries and brigands were living on the peasantry, fighting on whichever side paid them best. The state of the country in the middle of the eighteenth century, after the invasion of Nadin Shah, about the time when the British Dominion began to take form, is thus described by Marshman. The prestige of the Mogul Empire 'was irrevocably lost, and the various provinces ceased to yield any but a nominal obedience to the throne of Delhi. In the extreme south the Mogul authority was extinct—in the principalities of Tanjore, Maduza, and Mysore. The Nawab of the Carnatic recognised no superior. The Government of the Deccan was shared between the Nizam and the Mahrattas, and the Mahrattas had recently extended their ravages to the gates of Delhi. In the provinces of Guzerat and Malwa the authority of the Emperor was trembling in the balance. The Rajas of Rajputana had ceased to be the vassals of the throne. The Subahdars of Oudh and Bengal acknowledged the Emperor as the source of authority, but yielded him no obedience. Even in the immediate vicinity of the metropolis new chiefs were, as the Mohammedan historian remarks, beating the drum of independence.' Contrast this picture with the peace that now reigns over the whole face of the land, broken occasionally, it may be, by local squabbles of rival religions, which are easily and promptly suppressed, and are important only as indicating that the fire of fanaticism is not extinct, and might blaze out again if our hand were removed.
In the second place, to this dust-cloud of people who from time to time have suffered so much from persecution and intolerance we have given religious freedom. Every one is at liberty to follow his own form of religion, no matter what its nature may be, provided always that the great laws of morality and humanity are not outraged. All missionaries are free to preach and teach their doctrines, but no form of religious teaching has the support of the State, except for the needs of its own servants.
In the third place, we have established civil liberty and justice, as between man and man, to the best of our ability. I speak conditionally, because it has been necessary from the first to employ the people of the country in all but the highest posts. It was not to be expected that habits of corruption and partiality could be eradicated at once. These defects, however, have been gradually removed by the spread of English education, by a more liberal adjustment of salaries, and by throwing open the road to higher advancement to the judges. Speaking of the provinces with which I am personally acquainted, with the exception of Burma, which has not been long enough under our influence, cases of corruption amongst the judicial and magisterial officers are rare. At the present time there is an Indian judge on the Bench of each of the High Courts, and they have amply justified the trust reposed in them by their uprightness, industry, and ability.
As to civil liberty, I believe there is no country in the world, certainly there is none in the East, in which a man can live his own life with greater freedom than in India, unmolested by officials of any sort. If he likes to indulge in a certain amount of sedition, he can enjoy that amusement without much fear of interference. Freedom of speech and writing is unfettered within the bounds of a very generous law. It may be asked how this view is reconcilable with the statements of the Police Commission, whose report has lately been published. With a police so oppressive and corrupt, how can real liberty and freedom exist? My reply is that, although each instance of oppression or corruption brought forward by the Commission may be true, yet the result is an exaggerated picture, which gives a very misleading view of the true state of affairs. These iniquities undoubtedly occur. But over what area are they spread? over what period of time? how many of the vast population do they affect? What police in many parts of Europe would come better out of such an ordeal? If it were announced that a Commission was to be appointed to hear evidence of complaints against any branch of the administration—the land revenue, for instance, or the courts of justice—it is probable that in India, where people are much influenced by private enmities and grudges, and are not particularly accurate in what they say, a similar case might be made out I do not for a moment deny the need of police reform. There are few of the recommendations of the Police Commission that have not been before the Imperial and Provincial Governments for years past They have had to be laid aside owing to want of funds. Lord Dufferin certainly would have carried out many reforms, but a falling exchange deprived him of the means. India and Lord Curzon may be congratulated that the money is now forthcoming, and that these measures are now possible. I have only referred to the matter here because I wish to make it plain that, in my opinion, the freedom and happiness of the people have not been seriously affected by faults in the police administration.
Fourthly, it may be claimed that the British Dominion has given India the blessing of light taxation. 'There is certainly,' writes Sir John Strachey in 'India' (p. 119, third edition, 1908), 'no country in the world possessing a civilized Government in which the public burdens are so light. The taxation falling annually on the population of British India is about Is. 9d. per head. If we were to include the land revenue, it would be less than double that amount, but this would be no more reasonable than, in a similar calculation for our own country, to reckon as taxation a large proportion of the rent paid to private landholders.' The land revenue for 1905-1906 is estimated at £19,468,700. This represents the share of the produce of the land which belongs of ancient right to the Government The land of India is a national asset the possession of which saves the people from taxation. Some of our modern patriotic politicians in India endeavour to make out that the British Government takes more than was exacted by its predecessors. At first our assessments, as we had no guide but the rent rolls of the Governments we succeeded, were excessive. As soon as experience taught us, the assessments were reduced. Increase in the area under cultivation and in the value of agricultural produce and in irrigation, has justly led to an increase in the total land revenue. But the tendency has been to reduce rates. There has been, as the Government of India reported in 1902, 'a progressive reduction of assessments extending throughout the last century and becoming more instead of less active during its second half' (see 'India,' by Sir John Strachey, p. 125, third edition). What was the state of things before our rule under the potentates whose example is held up to us? The revenue was, as a rule, farmed, and there was no limit to the exactions of the farmers but the ability of the peasants to pay. They were often stripped of everything and left without food. This is what Bernier says in his letter to Colbert written about 1650: 'The country is ruined by the necessity of defraying the enormous charges required to maintain the splendour of a numerous Court and to pay a large army maintained for the purpose of keeping the people in subjection. No adequate idea can be conveyed of the sufferings of that people. The cudgel and the whip compel them to incessant labour for the benefit of others, and, driven to despair by every kind of cruel treatment, their revolt or their flight is only prevented by the presence of a military force.' This is the description of a foreign eye-witness who had no motive to exaggerate. When we began to establish our rule a century later things were not much better.
Fifthly, I would point to what has been done for the material advancement of the country. We found it without roads—much in the state of China at the present time; nothing but ordinary cart-tracks, difficult and heavy at all times, in the rains impassable. There are now good roads (although still too few) in every district. There are 30,000 miles of railway, well and economically made, and paying, on the whole, more than 5 per cent. on their capital cost. They have been constructed partly from revenue, but mainly from funds borrowed by, or on the guarantee of, the Government of India. It cannot be pretended that these undertakings are any addition to the burdens of India. It is true that the interest on the capital borrowed in England has to be remitted, and therefore adds to the excess of exports from India, which some persons consider to be a drain on her resources and a tribute paid to England. So far, at least, as the interest on the railway capital is concerned, no argument should be needed to show that it is merely payment for value received, and is only a small fraction of the profits accruing to the country from the cheapening of carriage and the opening up of markets, and the hundred ways in which railways, directly or indirectly, contribute to comfort and wealth.
Next to the railways may be ranked the great irrigation works which have done so much to enrich the country, more especially the northern provinces and the Madras Presidency. Up to the end of 1904-1905 the capital expenditure on productive irrigation works, which are expected to pay at least the interest on the capital outlay, was, in round numbers, £24,000,000. The interest on that sum at 4 per cent. is £960,000. After paying that interest and all working expenses, the net profit on these canals in 1908-1904 was £975,800. To the end of 1908-1904 there had been constructed 8,790 miles of main canals and 26,286 miles of distributaries, commanding and protecting 29,000,000 acres of culturable land. The direct net return to the public revenues amounted to 7·99 per cent. on the capital outlay. The profits to the peasantry who cultivate the irrigated land and to the country generally are very great. Take, as a notable example, the Chenab Canal, which cost something under £2,000,000. The value of the crops raised annually by irrigation from this canal is estimated at more than £3,000,000, almost the whole of which is directly due to the canal, for the land previously was of very poor quality and used mostly for grazing goats and camels . The Irrigation Commission has recommended a large outlay on new works. Three grand projects in the Punjab, which will cost about £5,500,000, have already been sanctioned, and the Government of India are ready to grant money freely to carry out the Commission's reconsiderations. Besides these productive works, nearly £2,000,000 have been spent on irrigation for protective purposes without expectation of a return, and some of the Irrigation Commission's proposals are of this character. On these works there is, and must be, a heavy loss. As a rule the water they supply is not wanted in good seasons, and, having no perennial source, is liable to run short in drought Expenditure on irrigation projects that will not pay at least the interest on the capital cost does not appear to me to be wise. At any rate, while there are profitable schemes to be carried out, all the money at the disposal of the Government should be reserved for them.
Space does not permit me to enlarge on what has been done in the way of legislation to protect the peasant from eviction and exactions when he holds from an intermediary landlord, and not directly from the Government. Suffice it to say that from 1859 to the present time there has been a succession of measures for the protection of the cultivator. Security of tenure and a fair rent have been recognised as no less important for the prevention of famine than irrigation, Hardly a Viceroy has left India without an addition to the Statute-Book in this direction.
What we have done for India in the way of postal and telegraphic communication must be known to everyone. I do not think that there is any Post-Office better administered than that in India. There is certainly none which carries letters for a halfpenny. The postal-order system is admirable, and is the greatest boon to the people. The person to whom money is sent has not to travel to the Post-Office to get payment The money is handed to him at his door by the postman. As there are hundreds of thousands of men serving or working away from their homes and sending remittances to their families, often in out-of-the-way villages, the convenience of this system, which has the full confidence of the people, is obvious. Besides this there is the Post-Office Savings' Bank, the deposits in which increase yearly, and now amount to nearly £9,000,000. It should be added that this great administrative system is carried on by an establishment of natives of the country, with only a few Europeans at the head. The work is done with extraordinary efficiency, honesty and economy. The Post-Office officials of India need fear comparison with no similar body of men. They are an honour to their country.
Much might be said of the efforts of the Government in the cause of education. I have referred to their success in raising the standard of honesty and duty in the public services. The subject, however, will be dealt with separately in this volume, and I have not enlarged upon it for that reason, not because I do not reckon it among the great benefits conferred on the country by British rule.
On the whole, I think it may fairly be claimed for the Government of India that it has worked hard and successfully, and with a single mind for the good of the people. The old gibe that if the English left India nothing but broken beer-bottles would remain to commemorate their rule has become mere foolishness, if it was ever anything else. If a peaceful and well-administered country, if thousands of miles of railways and of fertilizing canals, can afford a monument of our dominion, we may rest content. But if we were to be driven out of India to-morrow, and no European Power were ready to take our place, it is sad to think that these great works might soon fall to ruin and pass away, and that strife and anarchy might reign instead of peace. What we may hope would not altogether pass away would be the teaching inculcated by centuries of good and humane laws, and by their just administration to poor and rich alike. That teaching must have some lasting effect and influence on whatever Government might be set up in our room. It is impossible, however, to contemplate a catastrophe of this kind, so long as Great Britain and Ireland have any life left in them.
As to what we can do for India in the future, we must go on, as I said in dealing with the aspirations for political progress, as we have been going, not attempting any great novel or heroic reforms, but watching, mending, improving in every direction. The greatest reproach that can be brought against us by our most hostile critics is the recurrence of famines. Why has not this powerful and prosperous Government prevented the constant return of famines, with the ruin and mortality they involve? Simply because the Government is not omnipotent and is unable to cause the heavens to open and the rain to fall. The prosecution of irrigation works can do comparatively little, as the areas that suffer most are not provided by Nature with snow-fed rivers that can be depended on for a supply of water in years of drought It must be borne in mind that India is an agricultural country. There are cities with famous names that attract attention, and to the cursory observer obscure the great fact that the country rests on agriculture alone for its life and prosperity, and that this agriculture is dependent, and must be dependent, on the seasons. More than 90 per cent. of the total population is rural. If a man could sail in a balloon from Cape Comorin to Peshawar he would see, broken by tracts of forest and hills, a vast cultivated plain, dotted over with villages a mile or two, seldom as much as three or four, apart. The towns would hardly attract his eye. There are reckoned to be 2,035 towns in all India, of which 1,401 do not contain as many as 10,000 inhabitants. Over the whole area of 1,560,160 square miles, in which much waste and forest land is included, there are 184 persons to the square mile. In the more populous parts the number of persons to the square mile is from 400 to 600, and even more. It is impossible to hope that, under such conditions, and with a population always marrying and giving in marriage, famine will not follow drought as surely as night follows day. No Government can do more than spend the resources at its command, including the lives and energies of its officers, in relieving and feeding the people. This the Government of India has done and will do, and the British servants of the Crown have given themselves with a devotion beyond praise to the humane task.
If it is desired to prevent famines in such a country the remedy is either to supply the people with means of employment and livelihood other than the tilling of the soil, or to induce them to emigrate until the population falls to a number that the land under all circumstances can support. The latter remedy, which has worked automatically in Ireland, must be ruled out as impracticable in India. There remains the former. Have we done all that is possible in this direction? Technical education is talked of, and has to some extent been provided. No doubt it is a good and necessary thing. But works and manufactures on which the technically educated are to find employment must be provided. Capital will not come to a country to establish ironworks, to build mills, to introduce new industries, merely because a certain number of persons have received some education in these matters. Is there an example of a poor agricultural country succeeding in establishing its own manufactures and industries, in the face of the organized competition of richer and older nations, without a certain amount of Protection? The success with which cotton-mills have been established and worked in more than one industrial centre in India under absolutely Free-Trade conditions may be quoted against me. But, after all, they afford a mere drop of industrial employment in the ocean of agriculture.
I have no desire here to enter upon the vexed fiscal question. But it is my belief that famines will not be prevented until industrial employments have been provided for large numbers of the people; and the question whether this can be accomplished without a certain degree of Protection needs to be very seriously examined.
If Mr. Chamberlain's scheme for tariff reform and for preferences to our Colonies and Dependencies ever comes to anything, India will have to be dealt with on the same terms as the Colonies. That is to say, she must enjoy equal fiscal freedom with them, and be allowed to work out her own salvation. Moreover, should a council or conference of the Empire be called hereafter, she cannot be excluded from it.
There are men in India of high birth and sober, reflecting statesmanship who would adorn a seat in such an assemblage, and whose advice would be of real value. It may be added that by such means more could be done to tie the people to us, and to make their natural leaders feel that they were regarded as having a rightful voice in affairs of State, than by any measures of so-called self-government and premature representative institutions, which would only spell conflict and disaster.
If we turn to the other side of the account, and ask what India has done for the United Kingdom, there will be little difficulty in showing that she has paid her debt. The possession of India has converted England from a small island Power into a world-wide Empire. In India we have the main links of our commerce with the Far East We have the complement of that great chain of naval and coaling stations which give us a command of the sea which no other nation can boast. Our dominion in India, moreover, makes us much more powerful as a military nation than we should be without it. The 70,000 British troops and 200,000 Indian soldiers do not count for nothing. It is true that they are for the most part tied to India and set apart for her service, but in case of emergency they can be drawn upon with effect. Witness the 10,000 British troops sent by India to Natal in the Boer War, and the 20,000 Indians despatched to Pekin during the Boxer riots, at a time when England could hardly have found a man for this service. Everyone knows what an incomparable field India has afforded for the training of our army. Without this field our officers and men would have lacked much war experience. Even when there is no actual fighting the circumstances of the army of occupation require it to be in a state of readiness and efficiency that makes Indian service of greater value as a training for the soldier than ordinary duty in England, even under the present active conditions.
If it is an advantage to a nation to have before its eyes the example of brave and devoted men (and what else can raise us from the parochial dust in which most of us grovel?), then we owe much to India. Since the days of Lord Clive, and even before that, 'India,' as Mr. Pitt said in eulogizing Clive, 'has been fertile in heroes.' If we were to wipe out from the scroll of English history the men who have made great names as soldiers or administrators in our Indian service, the list of our heroes would be meagre indeed. The names of Stringer Lawrence, Ford, Eyre Coote, Clive, Warren Hastings, Thomas Munro, Baird, Ochterloney, Mountstuart Elphinstone, Malcolm, and a shoal of others; and, in more recent times, Charles Napier, Henry and John Lawrence, John Nicholson, John Jacob, Herbert Edwardes, Donald Stewart, and Lord Roberts, who is still with us, might have been unknown to fame. And then there are the great Viceroys, who could have found nowhere else a field fitted for the exercise of their abilities. Men like Lord Wellesley, Lord Dalhousie, Lord Canning, could have shown their capacity as rulers of men nowhere so well as in the Government of our great Dependency. It may seem a paradox to say that we are indebted to India for the great Mutiny, which has been well called the 'Epic of the Race.' The Mutiny has proved to us what our countrymen can do in the face of great odds and terrible hardships. More especially it reminds us that the women of these islands can be at least as brave and heroic as the men. When we are sickened by the pictures of the women of England drawn by the modern novelist—especially the female novelist—it is good to be able to turn to the scenes of fifty years ago within the battered defences of the Lucknow Residency, and to know that our wives and daughters are of the same blood, and that the women of Shakespeare and Walter Scott still live amongst us.
But to turn to more sordid considerations. The employment in the civil administration which India offers to some of our best young men is not without its value to the nation from a pecuniary point of view. But in that respect it is not a matter of much concern. The whole Indian Civil Service consists of about eleven hundred members. If it were closed, the competition in the home professions would be keener, but the class that provides the successful candidates would not be left without careers possibly more remunerative than service in India. In other directions the nation would suffer, although it might not be conscious of its loss. It is a gain, I think, to the whole country to have a number of capable men sent yearly to India, where they are not only trained in the best administrative school in the world, but have their minds opened by contact with wider conditions, with greater problems, and with a variety of races and religions. Although when they retire on their pensions some of them may be bores, and a few may be little better than Jos Sedleys, yet the greater number are men improved by discipline, by responsibility of a character hardly understood in England, and by long experience in the work of ruling men. The little leaven must have some appreciable effect on English character and opinion.
If we seek to appraise the purely pecuniary value of India to England, we must look at the trade returns. Everyone in England knows that no tribute, direct or indirect, is derived from India. She recovers from her Dependency all expenditure on the upkeep of the British forces in India and a contribution towards the cost of the East India Squadron. But if it is taken into consideration that the maintenance of seventy thousand men in India makes recruiting for the British army generally more difficult, and that the responsibility of reinforcing the army in the East and of keeping open the sea communications necessitate a larger military and naval budget, it might be argued that the balance was not in favour of the ruling nation.
But when we turn to the trade, the enormous value of the Indian dominion from an economic point of view becomes apparent. Of a gross trade which now approaches two hundred millions in value, the share of the United Kingdom was 40·5 per cent., exclusive of the very large supplies from Government departments and State railways, which are a British monopoly. Of the import trade, the United Kingdom accounted for 64·9 per cent., the nearest competitor being Germany, with 8·9 per cent. Our merchants and manufacturers do not need to be reminded of the value of this great market Nor are they forgetful that if another Power held the door it would be promptly closed to them. In India they have a fair field and no favour. If even a small preference were given to them they might monopolize the trade. Whether it would be for India's benefit to give an advantage to British trade is another matter. It is not my intention to offer an opinion on the question, which could not be discussed within the limits of this paper.
In conclusion, I would observe that in any scheme of Imperial federation India is bound to take a conspicuous place. Dependency though she is, she is a great country—a country whose greatness is growing. Although necessarily subordinate to the Home authority, the Governor-General in Council, which is the legal description of the Government of India, will, I am convinced, become yearly more independent as Indian interests are more clearly defined and public opinion, not only of the educated Indians, but of the resident Europeans and of the great English services, gains strength. It will become more and more impossible to impose on the Government of India any measure which is not conceived in her interests, or to over-rule, without reference to Parliament, its deliberate and well-considered judgments.
Nor need such a result be viewed with apprehension. The greater her independence, the more she will be able and willing to do for the Empire at large. Her fighting men will be at the disposal of the Crown, and I am certain that we could always raise a considerable force of the best military races for service abroad. Our Indian troops were eager to take part in the Boer War, and they would readily go to China, or Egypt, or Africa if they were called upon. It is for us to see that the rightful position of India is recognised, and frankly accorded to her. Let her grow on her. own lines. Decentralize the Government as much as possible, looking forward to the time when each of the great Provinces will be more and more independent—governed and directed, indeed, by the Viceroy, but freed from interference in all matters not of great importance in principle or policy. An India thus constituted will be divided, as it were, into water-tight compartments, and will form in the future one of the strongest links in the great British Empire.