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

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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 8 of 13)
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Seventh : The Revenue Surveys of Bengal seem to have been
originally set on foot for the use of those engaged in the collection
of revenue : they are not under my orders at all ; and it is clear to
my apprehension that so long at least as I am employed in a
confidential capacity by the E. I. Company, it would be highly
indecorous for me to offer to the public comments regarding the
proceedings of my masters, for which, in the meantime, I am
willing to assume that they have sufficient reasons. They are all
conducted by Officers either of Artillery or Infantry.

With respect to the operations on the Great Arc Series, it seems
to me superfluous in this place to offer any details to your Royal
Highness. It is plain from the Address of the thirty-eight
learned Fellows that even in the simplest and most obvious

85 , *

points, my pretension to discretion is at a very low ebb indeed in
their estimation ; for which instance of complaisance, the best
return that I can make is to say, that they are welcome to think
what they please. My work will, perhaps, if I live long enough,
be exposed to the blaze of daylight, when there will not be wanting
a thirty-ninth who will be able and willing to appreciate it, and,
if I am alive, to defend it.

Meantime, as the life of man is at all times precarious, and
particularly so in the dangerous career of the Great Trigonome-
trical Survey of India, I look with confidence to your Royal
Highness, if the time should intermediately arrive that I am laid
low and no longer able to defend myself and my pretensions, to
make it your especial care that my successor limits his claims to
what is executed after my departure; and that either of my
assistants, Lieutenants Waugh, Renny, or Jones, who have been
my companions and the sharers of my toils, may be received as
the historian of what has been performed by myself or under my

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




" And the king of Israel answered and said, Tell him, let not him that
girdeth on his harness boast himself as he that putteth it off." i KINGS.


IT will now be in place to consider that paragraph of the Address
in which the thirty-eight learned Fellows strongly recommend
Major Jervis's proposition for the organization of an establish-
ment of men and officers, under Colonel Colby, R. E., as well
worthy of the encouragement and favour of the E. I. Directors,
and state that they feel it their duty to make common cause
with the proposer, which, standing as it does in the pamphlet in
juxtaposition to that gentleman's letter to Mr. Secretary Mel-
ville of the 6th August, may in fairness be concluded to have
a kindred meaning with it, and therefore to give the unqualified
support of the Royal Society to the whole of that letter, which I
may accordingly cite as the thesis of my argument.

After eulogising the system of Colonel Colby and declaring
the universal assent of those most deservedly and highly honoured
for their judgment to its superiority over every other, the writer
proceeds to say, " To whomsoever the merit of the first idea or
principles of this admirable system be due, is quite irrelevant to
my present purpose. I should consider it trifling with this
important question, and with the patience of the Honourable
Court, to discuss a point of so little utility. It is sufficient to


say, that the system pursued on the Ordnance Survey of Ireland
is avowedly superior to others; but the credit of discovering and
pointing out its peculiar applicability to the wants and circum-
stances of India is indisputably and exclusively my own."

Now I submit to your Royal Highness that if to agitate the
question of originality of any design whatever be confessedly
trifling with the patience of the Court of Directors, d fortiori,
the claim for mere copying from that design must be a very
humble pretension indeed whereto to draw attention ; a position
which those who would deny must be prepared to maintain that
a modern copy of the Madonna di San Sisto, or Delia Seggiola,
is at least equally valuable with the original.

Wherein Major Jervis has displayed this discovery and point-
ing out of peculiar applicability I am not informed: certainly
not that I can discover in the pamphlet, nor in any of the docu-
ments bound up with it. But before speaking so roundly and in
terms so peremptory, it might have been quite as becoming to
ascertain whether this question had ever been brought to the
notice of the Court of Directors before ; for if the writer had
taken that trouble, he would have found reason to speak with
more caution, under the impression that I also might eventually
have something to say in the matter, although too far distant to
controvert the position on the instant of utterance.

If Major Jervis had taken this essential precaution, he would
have learned, that in a Memoir which I drew up and submitted
to the Court in November 1829, 1 entered into an explanation of
the system pursued by Col. Colby, having by express desire of
the chairman, and at the expense of the E. I. Company, made a
journey to Ireland in the preceding summer, and accompanied
Col. Colby in a tour of inspection, with the object of making
myself acquainted with its working.

On the occasion in question I recommended that system
strongly to the notice of the Court ; and since my arrival in India
in 1830, hardly a year has elapsed without one or more endeavours
on my part to draw the attention of the Supreme Government to


the propriety of its introduction ; but I never thought of founding
a pretension to originality or distinction on such a support as this,
nor should I have ever deemed it becoming me to say so much as
I now do, had it not been wrung from me by the necessity of
meeting this unqualified assertion by an appeal to facts which
are on Ae spot, and will appear on search.

I do not know whether it is perfectly legitimate to cite as au-
thentic the reported occurrences at public meetings as delivered
by the English newspapers ; but the Agra Akhbar, which may
be safely relied on for its fidelity in making extracts from such
papers, contains a singular account of the same speech which
forms the basis of Major Jervis's pamphlet, and which I here
take the liberty of inserting, in order that it may be denied if

The following is an extract, as delivered in the Agra Akhbar
of the 7th February, 1839, from the Report of the Eighth Meet-
ing of the British Association for the Advancement of Science :

" We hear of famines, of over-taxation, of insurrections, of
idolatry, of the impediments to steam navigation, of the stagna-
tion of commerce. We hear of this here, and many persons
conclude that the E. I. Company and the Government of India
are at no pains to obviate them : far from this, they deeply
deplore the existence of these evils, and would gladly resort to
any expedient to remedy them. Such remedy, I conceive, is but
to be found in a complete and good survey, accompanied with
every sort of useful, statistical, and geological information, which
can throw light on that country ; and such survey, with proper
aid and proper confidence, I think it possible to accomplish in
seven years, and I hope to live to perfect it."

Now, if in this case the reporters have done their duty and
truly delivered to the public what was uttered on that occasion, 1
submit to your Royal Highness that Major Jervis has by impli-
cation pronounced the most severe censure on this very system
pursued in Ireland which in his letter to the Court he so vehe-
mently eulogises, and the mere reflected lustre of which he so


eagerly covets ; for it is very clear that, cceteris paribus, the rate
of progress of such operations ought at least to be common to
both Ireland and India ; in which case, the time required for the
completion of an accurate topographical survey must be in the
direct ratio of the areas of the two, and in that ratio only.

Now, according to the Distribution Map which I caused to be
constructed in my office at Calcutta in 1832, the area of India
Proper (not including therein the territories acquired from
Birma since the war of 1824-5-6, nor Penang, Malacca, Sinka-
pur, &c.) is as follows :

Territory actually subject to the E. I. Company, square miles... 626,745'6
Area subject to native states in alliance or influence of diverse

shades 449,845-1

Total area in square miles 1,076,591

With this amount we are to compare the area of Ireland,
which I have not the means of knowing so accurately, though of
course the able Superintendent of the Great Trigonometrical
Survey of that country will find no difficulty in doing so; where-
fore it is of the less consequence if I should err in assuming it at
30,369 square miles, because that is, I presume, very near the
truth, and those who desire a closer approximation can easily
make it for themselves.

. Hence ^^ = ^.fa. is the ratio sought, and if we take the year
at 365-25 days, and multiply that quantity by 7, we shall obtain
2556-75 days, which multiplied by the ratio will give 71 days,
23 hours, 43 minutes, 7-003 seconds, nearer than which it will
perhaps be needless to carry the operation : but I am willing to
concede the odd seconds, though, as I shall hereafter show, the
concession of however small amount ought, from local consider-
ation, to be entirely made from the opposite quarter ; and there
will then result the round period of 72 days, within which (bating
errors in the premises), it is clearly Major Jervis's opinion that
the survey of Ireland ought to have been completed c&teris


1 do remember me well of the school-boy lines, which I learned
in my early days,


Is a vexation,

Division is as bad ;

The Rule of Three

Doth puzzle me,

And Practice makes me mad.

But, please your Royal Highness, there is nothing like coming
down to the vulgar rules of arithmetic, and Mr. Cocker, after all,
is the most sturdy and irresistible of demonstrators ; there is no
evading his stern uncompromising logic.

Such being the case cateris paribus, if the Irish Survey, instead
of 72, has taken actually n days, the excess must be clearly at-
tributable to the circumstance that the superintendents and
agents employed in that work are inferior in the celerity and
activity of their movements to Major Jervis, the mainspring that
is to be, and the agents whom he purposes to act withal in the
ratio of ^; but if for the terms c&teris paribus we are now to
substitute omnibus imparibus, even this ratio will not suffice,
small as it is.

I have for my own part ever felt the most unfeigned and
unbounded admiration of Col. Colby's system, which was in no-
wise diminished by my visit to Ireland in 1829 ; for the cordiality
and kindness with which that Gentleman and all his Officers
received me could only be equalled by that manifest air of
frankness and candour which reigned through the whole depart-
ment, and showed at a glance that they courted publicity and
had no secrets to hide no nakedness of the land to keep
strangers from spying into no mystification no affectation of
secrets of trade : besides which, the gentlemanly style of subor-
dination, whereby the Chief was absolutely at ease amongst his
Officers who looked up to him as a friend, and whom he treated
as such; the total absence of all mean weak-minded jealousy,
and of all external pomp and pretence of ill-timed state, through


all which it was still to be seen, that in matters where duty was to
be done the law was potent and effectual.

These things convinced me that Col. Colby was a person very
fit to be entrusted with power, and so it seems the Duke of Wel-
lington thought also, with his Grace's usual foresight; but it
does not follow as a necessary consequence that every person is
fit who seeks that perilous position ; and of the very few who are
so when tried, least of all are those likely to prove so who evince
the greatest avidity to possess it.

But though Col. Colby's system was excellent in theory, and
had proved no less excellent in its practical working in Great
Britain and Ireland ; yet, please your Royal Highness, if I may
be allowed the expression, it was but the solution of an equation,
with particular values to the coefficients : it was not intended for
universal application, and to take that system without modifica-
tion, and attempt to introduce it into practice in a country
where the whole circumstances and features were entirely differ-
ent, would be no less absurd than to apply the relative nume-
rical values of the ordinates and abscissas, determined by the
equation ax = y z , to those of the equation px = y\ because
they both came under the fundamental form a m ~ n x n = y m , or to
make mango trees and gooseberry bushes change situations with
each other.

I may be mistaken certainly, but it seems to me that the
merit claimed by Major Jervis is that of a proposal to copy
servilely from Col. Colby's system, of which, if that be the case,
I have no disposition to deprive him of any portion ; for it has
always been my opinion that the wit is shown rather in endea-
vouring to trace the principles of the fundamental equation, as
they stand involved in its solution, and after separating the ef-
fects of the arbitrary coefficients, to obtain a new solution with
coefficients derivable from the new conditions.

To this latter object my attention has been uniformly directed,
but with what success it would, for most obvious reasons, be un-
becoming in me to say, because no man can speak impartially of


what relates to himself. In the fulness of time the truth will no
doubt make its appearance, but whether it should or not, I value
a quiet life a great deal too much to make any effort upon a sub-
ject to which I attach so little importance ; and I only hope that
if my successor should ultimately find it necessary to avail him-
self of the system which I have introduced, in order to make
some show of amends for the too certain abortion of his own, he
will have the candour to avow that he then also only plumes
himself on shining by secondary rays.

To illustrate what I mean by the coefficients, equations, general
and particular values, and all this seeming jumble of hard terms,
for the benefit of the country gentlemen, I must remark, that
there are certain general principles which seem to pervade man-
kind universally, which form, as an elegant French writer tells
us, " the base of the human edifice, a real genuine and immu-
table world, but which appears fictitious and foreign to the
society of convention, the political society ." Of the first of
these, with the introduction of general coefficients, I consider the
general equation to be formed ; and of the latter, the particular
values of the coefficients, which are functions only of the ex-
isting circumstances by which the society is surrounded and

Now, in the first place, there is the most marked contrast
between the natives of India, their habits, their moral code, their
manners, their customs, their traditions, their religion, as also
the climate of the country they inhabit, and those of any Euro-
pean nation, or in fact of any other people of this planet. The
English and Hindus are the very antipodes of each other in their
national characteristics : of all races on earth they present the
fewest points of similitude. A Hindu is taught to deem it the
greatest crime on earth to kill a cow. An Englishman likes no
better fun than to kill a cow and eat it afterwards, especially if
it is fat and plump, and in good stall-fed case. A Hindu of high
caste, a Brahmin for example, is taught to believe that putting a
low caste man to death is a mere venial offence, to be compounded


for, when the lew rascal has not by his impudence provoked his
death, by a small fine : reverse the picture, and let the low man
strike or even look impudently at the Brahmin, it is death or mu-
tilation. I need not tell your Royal Highness how differently
Englishmen view such a matter as this.

Amongst Mohammedans, eating pork is considered the vilest
act of sin and impurity that can be committed on earth ; and the
codes both of this race and the Hindus run into so many diver-
gent ramifications, founded on like false notions, that none of
either tribe will eat what a white man may have touched, who
will not subscribe to their rules.

Gentlemen who desire to inform themselves more particularly
on matters of this sort, (and those who do not are, I submit to
your Royal Highness, in a false position when they claim a right
to dogmatize about India,) must consult Mr. Mill, Mr. Ward,
M. Dubois, Sir William Jones, and Mr. H. Colebrooke, for I
have not time or space to do more than skim lightly over facts ;
but from these differences it arises, that when an Englishman
arrives in India, and finds himself accosted by a set of people,
whom he looks on as Niggers and Infidels, and who are gene-
rally as naked as Adam and Eve were after they had become
used to the application of fig-leaves, and as dirty and offensive
withal as cow dung, cow urine, coconut oil, and other filth can
make them, but who, nevertheless, look upon themselves as pure
par excellence, and the White arrival as impure by convention :
an Englishman under such circumstances very often gets wroth
at so preposterous and impertinent a pretension, and having no
means of expressing himself, and conveying a clear notion of his
impressions viva voce, the fist is very commonly applied in such
cases to communicate them to the aggravating pretender a
remedy which would have a better chance of being effectual, if
the numbers were nearer on a par ; but as the Natives have it
all their own way in that respect, is not so good a remedy as
patience and good humour.

I do not know so aggravating, so quarrelsome a people to


strangers as the Natives of India are, especia^y to those who
cannot speak to them in their own language. I have seen them
in Java, in Malacca, in Penang, on board ship ; and every where
the same pretence of imaginary superiority makes them objects
of dislike and abhorrence to strangers. Yet they are conscious
of the superior rectitude of Englishmen, and come to us to settle
their disputes, in preference to their own kindred folks ; and
when we come to understand enough of their language to be
able with safety to be jocose, and talk to them in their own way,
in sounds that do not jar on their ears, without the prospect of
making ourselves objects of ridicule and mockery by our blunders,
we find that at the bottom there is a deep-rooted and sincere
reverence for the English character, almost approaching to

This is, as I take it, the hold which Great Britain has on her
Indian possessions; and gentlemen who know nothing more
about the matter than the Frenchman who has been captive on
board a prison ship knows of Great Britain, may talk as they
please ; but it is my conclusion, and few persons have had
better opportunities of informing themselves of the truth, that
if the general voice were taken to-morrow about who should
reign, there would not be 10,000 dissenting voices opposed to
the English, of the large population of India.

When, however, we reprobate the idle clamour and calumny
which is as frequently as causelessly poured forth against the
Government of India, and see their best measures distorted into
the causes of famine and insurrection, by perverse or interested
men, we must at least in candour admit that there is as much
reason and logic on the side of the promulgators of these absurd
slanders, as on the part of those who propose a complete and good
survey as a general panacea for earthly ills and visitations of
nature ; so that, if we denounce the former, as spouters of froth,
venom, and untruth, we must at least concede to the latter a
claim to fair and equal rank with the learned gentleman who
sells his universal nostrums and specifics to the country bump-
kin, and other frequenters of rareeshows.


Time was, pethaps, when a scientific assembly in our glorious
England would hardly have suffered the dignity of their presence
to have been trenched on by the unquestioned utterance of such
empiricism ; and some one or more of the audience would have
stepped forward to advise the speaker to consult the pages of
Adam Smith, of Malthus, of Godwin, of Sadler, of Jones, of
Place, to search for the occult causes of the evils which he laid
to the absence of Topography : but now the moral lessons which
were read to us in our youth appear to have been discarded by
the learned and wise of our nation, and we seem, in the pomp
and pride of the march of intellect, to have trodden under foot
the fable which must once have been familiar to us all, that

" A town was besieged, and held consultation,

Which was the best mode of fortification.

A grave skilful mason gave in his opinion,

That nothing but stone could secure the dominion.

A carpenter said, that that was well spoke,

But 'twas better by far to defend it with oak.

A currier, wiser than both these together,

Said ' Try what you please, but there's nothing like leather.'"

But believe me, your Royal Highness, the simple truths are,
after all, the most deserving of our attention, for they constitute
the chief materials of what M, Chauteaubriand has taught me in
his elegant similie above referred to, to call the base of the
human edifice, the real genuine and immutable world.

That this is digressing, however, I am aware, wherefore we
will return to the main subject ; and first of all we must come to
the conclusion, that the necessity of learning the languages of
India, such as they are spoken by the cultivators, is absolutely
indispensable to those who desire to obtain accurate statistical
information, or even to save themselves from starvation in utter
helplessness to ward it off.

When I speak of the languages of India, I do not mean that
sort of dog language which is acquired at Addiscombe Seminary,
by the youths who are to show off at the half-yearly exhibitions ;


for the choicest and best Hindustani or Urdu, which is what is
taught there (the word Urdu meaning an encampment or Horde),
is of as small use in the villages in any part of India, as the best
French would be in Berlin or Naples. Now, what is acquired at
the Addiscombe Seminary is not the best or even an approxima-
tion to the best Hindustani, but is so indifferent that a gentleman
of the Direction whom I had known in India, and who sat next to
me by accident amongst the spectators at one of those examina-
tions, asked me with pure bonhommie, what language the gen-
tlemen Cadets were reading in ? I replied, that " it was intended
for Hindustani, for by a little pains and stretch of imagination,
I could trace an affinity." " Well ! that is very odd," said my
friend; " I used to speak the Hindustani fluently and constantly
enough when in India, but I have not been able to make out
one word."

Now if this be the case with respect to the gentlemen for the
teaching of whom some pains are avowedly taken, what may be
expected from the seventy Sappers and thirty Civilians to be
instructed by Col. Pasley, into whose system of tuition the lan-
guages of India do not enter at all as an element? Is it not
evident to your Royal Highness that they will come out to
India as little able to officiate in the Surveying Department as
men dropped from the moon would be ?

This subject of language therefore is, I submit to your Royal
Highness, an essential item of difference, one of the omnia im-
paria of which I spoke e'en now, and which will go vastly to dimi-
nish the ratio last found of ; for though the Court of Directors
may, in the plenitude of urbanity and complaisance, concede this
mighty wonder-working machinery, yet their local Government
of India are far too clear-sighted to admit of the close contact
of raw Englishmen with the inhabitants. Perhaps his Lordship
in Council may, as is not uncommon, consult me and then
and then he will certainly not do so without expecting to hear
the plain straightforward expression of my opinion, in the man-
ner becoming my countrymen.


I will, with your Royal Highness's leave, now proceed to
examine another bearing of this difference of language ; for the
slightest inspection of Col. Colby's system will show that the
language used in all the records and proceedings, of any sort
whatever, is intelligible to each and all of those employed in the

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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 8 of 13)