George Everest.

A series of letters : addressed to His Royal Highness the Duke of Sussex, as president of the Royal Society, remonstrating against the conduct of that learned body. online

. (page 10 of 13)
Online LibraryGeorge EverestA series of letters : addressed to His Royal Highness the Duke of Sussex, as president of the Royal Society, remonstrating against the conduct of that learned body. → online text (page 10 of 13)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

cering of their military corps ; supplying the field batteries of
artillery with horses instead of oxen ; making roads of commu-
nication and canals for irrigation and internal traffic, and more
effectual provision for the protection and accommodation of tra-


vellers ; establishing a letter-post which should travel at a greater
average rate than four miles per hour ; together with many other
matters of a like kind, very humdrum no doubt, but which some
people have a peculiar propensity for attaching weight to, and
amongst which we must not forget to include the education of
the people.

Now though I have not a word to say in favour of those in
high places, and their herd of followers, who openly avow a con-
tempt for science and its votaries, arid insist on the primd facie
profit and loss as the only criterion by which the ultimate utility
of that or any thing else is to be tested, yet I am so simple as to
think that it does not savour of sound judgment to quarrel with
the conscientious views of others, who disinterestedly give the
preference to improvements bearing more obviously and imme-
diately on the actual wants of this country and its inhabitants ;
and again, as to the fact which I have above stated, of the reason
which chiefly induces my countrymen to come to India at all,
though I am not by any means prepared to enter into a laboured
defence of a principle which is so totally at variance with what
we are used to call the virtuous days of Rome, when Cincinnatus
and Regulus tilled the ground one day and commanded an army
the next, yet it must be remembered that the

" Quid non mortalia pectora cogis

Auri sacra fames,"

or, in other words, the doing any thing to get money, seems to
have been one of the most indelibly-marked features of the human
race since the earliest authentic records ; and, in fact, in spite of
all that philosophers may say to brand the habit with the terms
" mercenary," " hireling," and " selfish," it will, I apprehend,
generally be found that those who most advocate that extreme of
purity and disregard of self-interest in the case of others, are not
precisely the very people who practise their own virtuous doc-
trines the most.

In addition to what I have said respecting the Honourable


E. I. Company's armies at their three Presidencies, there are, as
your Royal Highness is aware, several regiments of cavalry and
infantry of the Royal Army, but none of Royal Artillery or En-
gineers ; for which two last-mentioned services the Officers are
educated at an academy near Croydon, at a place called Addis-
combe, where a large and suitable establishment of Superinten-
dents, Professors, Examiners, and so forth, analogous to those of
Sandhurst and Woolwich, is maintained by the E. I. Company.

Now by existing usage the Officers of Her Majesty's corps so
circumstanced are habitually excluded from all staff situations in
India whatsoever, except those of Commander-in-Chief ; com-
mands of divisions and brigades, in which all are competent to
share alike ; and such as are purely military, and relate to their
own internal economy : and though there are instances of ex-
ception in days gone by, and truly honourable ones, in support
whereof I need but pronounce the names of Lambton, Warren,
Kater, yet now so strict is the exclusion, that an Officer of Her
Majesty's army serving in India*, however high his talent and
however palpable his fitness, could not overstep the boundary.
It is yet to be shown, however, that the system of education pur-
sued at the Royal Military College of Sandhurst, at which many
of those Officers are brought up, is inferior to that of Addis-
combe, and this more especially in pursuits like Geodesy in
India, where activity of mind and body, hardihood, patience of
toil, conciliatory deportment and inventive genius, are more
needed than profound scientific lore, although even in the latter
respect the pretensions of an institution that can boast of having
in its day numbered the names of Ivory, Wallace, and Dalby
amongst its Professors, should not be needlessly set aside.

The Officers of the Honourable Company's army in India may
however be considered as having succeeded in securing this field
entirely to themselves ; and without stopping to consider whether
this be right or wrong, it will illustrate the subject to examine the
ingredients of which that body is composed, and their applica-
bility to the objects enumerated in the Address of the thirty-eight


learned Fellows ; in order to which, it is proper to begin with the
Engineer corps of the three Presidencies, as those denominated
scientific par excellence.

A certain number of youths between the ages of fourteen and
eighteen are annually nominated by the gentlemen of the Di-
rection for their army, as Cadets ; of which number, according to
the state of existing vacancies, a portion, selected by no other
standard than that of patronage, is sent to Addiscombe to be
educated; another portion similarly chosen is destined to the
Cavalry regiments ; and the remainder is appointed to the In-

The great prize held out to stimulate the exertions of the stu-
dents at Addiscombe is to get into the Engineer corps, because
the number of lucrative situations in India to which the Officers
of those corps are exclusively eligible, and wherein the remune-
ration is more than proportionate to the exertion called for, sur-
passes nearly tenfold that of the advantages within reach of the
rest of the army.

A public examination takes place half-yearly at Addiscombe,
and the spectacle, like all its kindred, is sufficiently interesting.
It is amusing to see the young aspiring stripling go away, bend-
ing, as it were, underneath the load of prizes awarded ; but we
must be careful not to confound two things utterly distinct. The
distribution of those prizes, following so immediately on the ex-
amination, leads the spectator to consider the two in the light of
antecedent and consequent, as the prizes were decreed to the
victor at the Olympic games, or at a tournament. But it is not
so : the prizes depend on the standing on the half-yearly list,
and have no reference to the result of that public display. The
event once over, each eleve may or may not throw aside for ever
and anon all the burdensome harness and trappings which he
has borne to suit his purpose : they are no longer indispensable
elements to the prosperity of his career ; and unless the successful
candidate have a sincere attachment to scientific pursuits, it is
most probable he will follow the former course a result which
generally ensues.


In order to estimate the relative amount of the qualifications
of those eleves who are nominated to the Engineer corps, it is
necessary to examine into the method of making the final selec-
tions, which, as I understand, is as follows: At the time of each
half-yearly examination, it has been decided beforehand, in Leaden-
hall-street, by a reference to the returns from India, what number
of Cadets shall be taken from the Institution, and how they shall
be distributed. The reports of qualifications made by the Professors
are then laid on the table before the Court, and those who head
the list are taken for the Engineers, the next portion for the Ar-
tillery, and the remainder for the Infantry.

Nothing can apparently be fairer than this ; but there is one
result deserving notice, which I will endeavour to elucidate. Let
n be the number of Cadets required for the Engineer corps, m
for the Artillery at any half yearly period A ; (O , m (n , the like
quantities at another such period A w ; P, P u) two individuals
who have both crammed quantum suff. of lore to pass the pre-
scribed examination, but of whom P (1) is as remarkable for
natural genius and intelligence as P is for the absence of those
qualities. Now it may happen that because n > w (o> P will suc-
ceed in getting into the Engineers at the period A, and P (1) fail
at the period J 4 (1) , and moreover if the standing which P (o hap-
pens to have on the list of eligibles at the period A w , be less
than W(o+Z(i), which may have arisen from the more than ordi-
nary celerity of his progress bringing him within the vortex, he
will, in spite of his superiority, be put into the Artillery list, with
which, when once entered, he must abide to the end of his
career. This is a case of which I am assured there are many
instances ; and my experience goes to prove that it is so, whence
it follows as a necessary consequence, that ofttimes very stupid
people are found in the Engineers, and very clever people in the

It is also to be remarked, that the instruction at Addiscombe
is purely elementary, and, as far as Geodesy is concerned, in no
wise practical ; as also that Cadets of the Infantry and Cavalry


who do not pass through that institution, are sometimes better
instructed in this branch of science than those who do, a fact
which will appear the less difficult to conceive when I mention
that amongst the former are sometimes found persons who have
passed through Sandhurst or Woolwich ; whilst it is a well-
known truth that many of those whose intellects do not develope
themselves at the early age of fourteen to eighteen, evince at a
later period far more capability than those who are more pre-

From these causes the consequence naturally flows that the
Engineer corps in India are peculiarly remarkable for being
divided into two distinct classes, those who sustain the character
of the corps, and those who lean on the corps for a character ;
and it is the result almost inevitable of the prevailing system,
that there are many Officers of eminent talent and attainment in
the mass, who would hold a distinguished place in the public
estimation of any country, as also a respectable proportion of
quiet well-educated gentlemen who combine to constitute the
former class ; whilst of the latter the less that is said the better,
because it is solely the injudicious attempt to clothe them in
the mantle of preeminence and exclusive right which could
have authorized my intruding an allusion to them.

Of the applicability of this latter class to the promotion of the
objects enumerated in the Address of the thirty-eight learned
Fellows, it would seem to me unnecessary to take up your
Royal Highness's time by speaking further ; wherefore the only
elements which I shall consider effective are those who support
the character of the corps. But high talent will not long consent
to act a subordinate part where it can fill a principal one ; and as
there is a vast field of employment in a country like India, which,
as I have before remarked, is in a state of rapid transition, there
is no hope for the active and continued co-operation of the first-
rate men to the attainment of those ends, otherwise than as ama-
teurs, because they have higher prospects to direct their at-
tention to.



Young men, when they originally come to India in the
Engineer corps, have a wide range before them. The building
department is theirs, to the almost entire exclusion of every body
else ; they are eligible to the survey department in common with
all their brother Officers of the army ; they may, if they have
interest with the head of the Government, obtain employment in
the diplomatic line ; and there is no law to prevent their rising to
the highest offices of the state, whether military or political.

With these prospects it is not matter for marvel that few
should direct their attention to the Great Trigonometrical Sur-
vey, because it is really one of the hardest modes of life in any
part of the world ; the worst relatively paid ; and therefore the
least recommendable by the dictates of that sound philosophy
which teaches us to seek happiness as the main end of existence.

Hence is derived an easy solution of the difficulty why, consi-
dering the advantages given by the Institution at Addiscombe, so
few Officers of Engineers have ever been distinguished or even
employed in the survey department ; for the answer is this, few
people have an inclination to martyrise themselves and their
interests in the cause of science ; and as those who read their
Bibles may have learned from the Preacher, that better is an
handful with quietness, than both hands full vjith travail and
vexation of spirit, so, if we transpose the singular and plural
terms, ci fortiori, the dictate of wisdom applies to regulate our
actions, whence it happens that of the whole body but a very
limited number is available, and of that number only a small
portion can be spared from the other duties for which they are

Hence too is apparent the inexpediency of any measure what-
ever tending to contract resources already confined within limits
too strict to meet the occasion ; and hence we see the impolicy of
the thirty-eight learned Fellows combining to pledge themselves
to make common cause with a schemer who avowedly proposes to
introduce Col. Colby's system into operation in India, unmodified
to meet the new conditions of locality ; for that system has for


one of its most distinctive features, to employ Officers of the
Engineers, and of the Engineers only ; and by a parity of reason-
ing would, in its application to India, go to create a close,
invidious, and hitherto unknown monopoly in favour of a parti-
cular branch of the E. I. Company's army, to the overthrow of
the more enlarged principle which has left scope for a Lambton,
a Kater, a Warren, and many others, myself included, not one of
whom could have ever come forward to notice, if the theory now
advocated and sought to be established had been in force at the
commencement of our careers.

I must contend that it is the palpable aim of that pamphlet
throughout to close the door of entrance to all but those bearing
the designation of Engineer Officers, who, but for the utter im-
possibility of the plan succeeding, would have matters all their
own way. But there is still an under-current to which I wish to
draw the attention of your Royal Highness. The writer is
manifestly alive to the fact, that the establishment of Engineers
is, as I have pointed out, numerically insufficient for the new
demand that his plan would make ; wherefore he sagely enough
proposes that the strength of the establishment should be
increased. Now, as promotion is by seniority in all corps of the
E. I. Company's army, the effects of such an increase on the
identical prospects of the mover of this scheme are too evident
to need that I should waste time in unveiling the ingenuity and
cleverness of the manreuvre : and thus, by a dexterity and adroit-
ness worthy of a better fate than this exposure of its nakedness,
thirty-eight learned Fellows, some of them most celebrated of
their day for their scientific attainments, have actually been
drawn into lending the sanction of their names and influence to
the introduction of a measure calculated to serve no other end
than that of accelerating the promotion of Major Jervis to the
rank of Lieut.-Col., whilst it would inflict the severest injury on
the cause of science, by effectually excluding, even from the
vestibule, all other votaries than the would-be self-elected minis-
tering priests of the temple.


My career in India and connexion with the E. I. Company
are so near their termination that I am not personally interested
in this question, which cannot affect me in whatever way it is
decided ; but as it is not natural that I should have been so long
allied to my present department without feeling some regard
more or less for those who have given me so much satisfaction,
I will briefly explain to your Royal Highness the principles of
the comprehensive scheme which it has been my unceasing effort
to introduce.

First : A clear and free road open to competitors of all kinds,
and no favour.

Second : Let talents and fitness form the sole standard by
which candidates are to be judged.

Third : Whenever a person is found who possesses these requi-
sites undeniably, let no man have the right to gainsay his en-
trance into the survey department, or inquire whether he belong
to this or that branch of the E. I. Company's or Her Majesty's

When, in 1817, I was originally nominated as first assistant to
Lieut.-Col. Lambton, no Engineer Officer stood forward to com-
pete with me; Capt. Garling, of the Madras Infantry, was my
only rival.

When, in 1823, at the death of Lieut.-Col. Lambton, the situ-
ation of Superintendent of the Great Trigonometrical Survey of
India fell vacant, no claimant of any sort appeared to contest
with me.

When, in 1825, I was about to quit India and return to Eng-
land ; when in fact most men looked upon the close not only of
my connexion with the Great Trigonometrical Survey, but of
my earthly career, as inevitable and at hand, the Government
of Bengal, in resolving to keep the situation open during my
absence on sick leave, were not actuated by private regard or
affection to me, for I had no interest with my Lord Amherst,
and had never acquired the art of paying my court to the
great, or gaining their favour by other means than deserving it.


It was the difficulty of finding a competent successor that
induced the step; and if a suitable person could have been met
with, he would have been put in nomination immediately. Why
did not Major Jervis step forward then, and offer himself as
willing to enter the arena, and grapple with a task which had
well nigh put an end to me ? He would have been accepted if
he could have established his fitness; and the fair presumption,
from his shrinking from so fair an occasion, is that he distrusted
the powers of which he now so unsparingly vaunts.

Again, in 1828, when the local Government of Bombay and
that of Calcutta coincided in the propriety of forming an estab-
lishment for carrying on a series of principal triangles to connect
with mine of 1 822-3, intended to unite Bombay with the Great
Arc of India, they sought in vain for a qualified Officer of
Engineers. Major Jopp of the Bombay Engineers was then
looked up to as the ablest and most promising Officer of that
branch of the Military Establishment on that side of the Penin-
sula ; but though he was actually in the survey department, yet
his pretensions were set aside as inferior to those of Captain
Shortrede, an Officer of Infantry ; and at a subsequent period,
1833, Major Jopp himself publicly avowed in an official letter
now amongst my records his inability to prosecute trigonome-
trical operations on the great scale.

Here was another opportunity for Major Jervis to step forward,
offer himself as a candidate, and show what he could do ; yet
there is no record of his having availed himself of this or any
other during my administration or that of my precursor in office ;
though I have, in conformity with the principles detailed above,
been constantly on the search for men of talent and suitable
persons, and should have eagerly coveted the occasion to bring
them forward.

In fact, please your Royal Highness, before this pamphlet
was ushered into birth, Major Jervis's name was unknown on
this side of India except in my office, and then only in connexion
with one of the many minor surveys in progress, under the general


superintendence of the Surveyor-General of India, amongst which
it ranked but as a second or third-rate performance ; and the
astonishment of all men at seeing a production of the kind
coming forth backed by the Address of the thirty-eight learned
Fellows protesting and vowing that they would make common
cause with the proposer, may be better imagined than described.

I submit, therefore, to your Royal Highness, that considering
the entire contrast presented by the local features and circum-
stances under which the Great Trigonometrical Survey of Ireland
operates, when compared with those under which that of India
must be carried on, Major Jervis would have better promoted
the interest of science and his employers by coming out to India,
and there making himself acquainted with the working of my
system, of which it is clear that he as yet knows nothing, and
has every thing to learn. He need not deem it subject of morti-
fication, or derogatory to his dignity, to put himself under the
tuition of an Officer of Artillery, for there is example for it, Col.
Colby having done as much during the lifetime of the late Gen.
Mudge ; and unless the complimentary terms in which he speaks
of us both be mere unmeaning words, (which it is to be hoped is
not the case,) he may look on this as the fairest prospect of
becoming efficient in the actual field of his labours in the shortest
time, with the additional advantage of being able to experiment
practically on his theories, without fear of committing irreparable

Amidst so many candidates for the situation of Surveyor-
General of India, which I am so anxious to vacate, Major Jervis
ought to consider himself a very fortunate person in having been
selected by the Court of Directors; and I hope one of the lessons
he will learn from Col. Colby will be to eschew putting in print,
and making exposures to the public gaze of, letters to his em-
ployers, bearing on points in which he happens to differ from
them. I do not observe that this is the practice of the Officers
of the Great Trigonometrical Survey of Ireland ; nor did I ever
remark when in Ireland any thing which warranted the conclu-


sion that such a paragraph as that under-mentioned could ever
have emanated from a responsible member of that department.

" In appointing me to this arduous and responsible office, the
Honourable Court may rest satisfied they have made no injudicious
choice. I ask their confidence therefore with all frankness, as a
tried and upright public servant, who has no private ends, nor
prejudices of any sort to affect or warp his understanding."
P. 4, letter dated August 6, 1838.

Certainly we carry on things differently here, and one of our
maxims is, that " he who desires willing obedience from those
under his authority, must set them the example by a cheerful
and respectful acquiescence in the behests of his superiors in

Amidst the divers letters bound up with Major Jervis's pam-
phlet, some proving nothing, and others but little more, to the
immediate purpose of India, it is, I, submit to your Royal High-
ness, to be regretted, that a letter which Col. Pasley seems to
have written should have been omitted. From the high character
of that gentleman, and from the well-known station which he
holds in public estimation as a practical man, it might in reason
have been expected, that he would in such a question as this
have been one of the first consulted. There is reason to suppose
that he was consulted, and that his opinion was set aside, a
conclusion which gains force from the circumstance, that his
name occupies not a place amongst the thirty-eight learned Fel-
lows. In my next letter I will take leave to examine into that

I have the honour to be, &c. &c.




" Nullum numen habes si sit Prudentia : sed te
Nos facimus, Fortuna, Deam, caeloque locamus."


IN my last letter I proposed to examine into the question of the
omission of Colonel Pasley's letter, to which a reference is made
in the following paragraph of Major Jervis's letter to the Court
of Directors, dated 6th August :

" I annex their answers for the Honourable Court's informa-
tion, and content myself with submitting what I represented to
Colonel Pasley when at Chatham that the entire responsibility
of the Survey, more especially if conducted on this novel princi-
ple, would rest exclusively with me that my reputation and
judgment were staked upon its issue, both in a financial and
public point of view ; that any measure, therefore, which I sug-
gested for the promotion of such undertaking, ought not to be
considered as any disparagement of his admirable system of
instruction ; nor could I see what useful purpose or ultimate
benefit could be gained by his advising the contrary, and thus at
the outset thwarting those measures I had contended for, and
debarring me from that confidence which is so generally and
particularly advocated."

Now before entering into an immediate examination of the
particular bearing of this paragraph, it may be, I presume,
allowed me to compare the pretensions of the two parties thus
brought before the public, namely, the gentleman who writes,

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 10 12 13

Online LibraryGeorge EverestA series of letters : addressed to His Royal Highness the Duke of Sussex, as president of the Royal Society, remonstrating against the conduct of that learned body. → online text (page 10 of 13)