C. J. (Charles James) O'Donnell.

The failure of Lord Curzon, a study in imperialism; online

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and have apparently a natural outfall. It is not,
therefore, a question of either an immense outlay
of money or of insuperable physical difficulties. There
are no physical difficulties in the way and the out-


The Failure of Lord Curzon

lay of money apparently has already been made.
What is in evidence is the most culpable neglect.

" The locality of which we are speaking is bounded

on the north-west by the new Presidency General

Hospital. The hospital has been built on

surroundings t ^ ie most modern lines. No expense has

of an been spared. It is idle for the local

Hospital. .

Government to spend its money freely in
building a hospital, if the locality is left by the
Municipality to breed disease. And, as we have
said, it is not a question of money. It is merely a
question of energy. The drains are there. They
only need to be properly cleansed. A few thousand
rupees and a few score men would do the business in
a week. Thereafter a very small establishment, if
properly supervised, would suffice to keep the drains
in order." Again, it is the Municipal executive and
not the Council-men who are at fault.

Capital is, as I have stated before, the principal
commercial journal of Calcutta and absolutely English

in every respect. In last June it wrote :
"Confusion "The plain truth is that the administra-

Worse ,. f \ ** \ * r

confounded." tion of the Calcutta Municipality is confusion
worse confounded, because we have not a
responsible business man at the head. As a con-
sequence the executive is needlessly worried, work is
needlessly piled up, and every one is dissatisfied.

"Now this is not a healthy state of affairs. It is
certainly not in the interests of this City that it should
continue. Our information is that most of the depart-
ments of the Municipality are a seething mass of
dissatisfaction and discontent."


The Uprooting of Self-Government

The native Press is equally outspoken. One journal
sums up the position in these words :

" That the feeling against the Corporation
is very bitter, is a stubborn fact ; and we
state it not to bring any opprobrium upon
that body. The general impression is that the
Corporation was placed in the hands of the European
Commissioners, so that they might lord it over the
Indian ratepayers and fill the Municipality with
European and Eurasian employe's. This impression
may or may not have any foundation in fact ; but
there is no doubt of it that the vagaries and high-
handed proceedings of the Corporation have created
alarm and consternation, and it is seething discontent
from one end of the town to the other."

It cannot be said that this is a satisfactory state of
things after a three years' trial of the new administra-
tion, and whom have we to thank for
The Most playing the mischief with the affairs of a

Ill-balanced r .

Mind. Capital City of a million inhabitants? It
cannot be the natives, on whom blame is
so readily thrown, if it is at all possible to do so.
They have been extruded from the management of
their own town, with which they were so intimately
acquainted. Or is it the meddlesome Viceroy, who,
after a bare three months in India, contrary to the
advice of his experienced predecessor, Lord Elgin,
set to work to harass the wealthiest and most
progressive inhabitants of Calcutta ? His expecta-
tions of reform have been as " dismally belied " as
were his pronouncements on Persian railways after a
" six months' journey to the country concerned."


The Failure of Lord Curzon

Impatient or neglectful of advice, short-sighted and
impetuous, Lord Curzon's cleverness only leads him
into a morass of failure. Yet it is extremely probable
one of these days, if the Conservatives continue in
power, that the most active and ill-balanced mind
now in the service of the State may be chosen to
guide the affairs of our vast empire in some great
department of administration, War or Foreign Affairs.



THE destruction of Municipal Self-Government was
the initial bfaise of Lord Curzon's Indian career. The

latest display of his worritting activity has
Tdea. ' been quite as fatal to the good relations of

Government with the educated classes of
India. One of His Excellency's idiosyncrasies is
that he thinks himself quite fitted to be an Educa-
tional Reformer. It is a common weakness of your
high and dry Tory, with a wide knowledge of ancient
literature and a narrow acquaintance with the modern
conditions of progress. The educational system of
India has been the slow growth of a century of
careful development by good and great men, by
pious scholars like Duff and real statesmen like
Canning. The amusing egotist, who now governs
India, immediately dashed to the opinion that in
education as in municipal administration his great
predecessors were quite backward folk and that the
educational millennium was only awaiting the advent
of a certain superior person. The far-fetched idea
that got into his unstable head is summarised and
rejected in a few words in a leading article in the
Pioneer of the 8th of August of last year, and it must


The Failure of Lord Curzon

be remembered that this very capable journal is
generally so pro-Government as to be practically the
organ and often the mouthpiece of the Viceroy.
" Lord Curzon's ideal," it wrote, "seems to be to
bring the Indian University into line with the system
at Oxford and Cambridge. This is an idea, which is
alluring to all Englishmen, but it is quite impracticable
in the present stage of education in India, even if it
were really desirable a very wide question. Colleges
cannot be rooted out of the localities, in which they
have grown and from which they have drawn their
support, and be planted down hundreds of miles away
round a University. The absence of means alone is
sufficient argument against this scheme." " Rooted
out" are very significant words, but they are the only
effective description of the Viceroy's attempt to
destroy the indigenous colleges that have grown up
all over India in nearly every big town.

Lord Curzon's procedure was thiswise : He made
a clever speech, based on a very imperfect knowledge
of his subject and indicating various crude
indJgSion. v i ews - He then appointed a commission
of inquiry, consisting of seven members,
five being Europeans, mostly officials from the
entourage of the Viceroy, one Musulman a nobody
and one Hindu of distinction. This unrepresenta-
tive body in due course produced a majority report,
which, considering its constitution, was naturally only
a lengthy exposition of Lord Curzon's expressed ideas
and utterly subversive of the existing system of higher
education in India. How intense was the indignation
aroused amongst the progressive section of Indians it


The Uprooting of Popular Education

would be difficult to exaggerate. I give the words of
three men of distinction, who have all been chosen by
Government at different times to be members of the
Legislative Councils. The Hon. Dr. Mahendra Lai
Sarcar, the foremost native scientist in India and the
most senior member of the Senate of the Calcutta
University, uses language that must appeal to every
right - minded Englishman. There is downright
pathos in the old man's words :

" I have told you," he said, " often and often that

we are enjoying under the rule of this nation more

liberty, more freedom of thought and

"Striking at . }

the root of action, than we ever enjoyed under our
own. But alas ! that I should live to see
this liberty ominously being threatened in a matter,
which has been the greatest blessing under British
rule. Without imputing any motives to anybody, I
cannot but observe, and it breaks my heart to do so,
that the recommendations of the Commission seem to
me to strike at the root of general education and to
discourage the study of science."

The Hon. Raja Piari Mohan Mukherjea, the
chairman of a great meeting of protest at the

Calcutta Town Hall, remarked :
the Popular "All that I desire to say is that the
recommendations of the Commission being
admittedly such as to greatly narrow the popular basis
of high education, it is the duty of every well-wisher
of the country to avail himself of all constitutional
means to get those recommendations set aside."

The Hon. Norendra Nath Sen, the Editor of the
Indian Mirror, said : " The matter under discussion


|, failure of L

ord Curzon

to-day may, without exaggeration, be fitly described
as one of life or death to the aspirations and

" A Matter of r ,,

Life or progress or our countrymen. 1 he recom-
mendations of the Universities Commission
may spell life to a few, but they mean death to count-
less aspirants after not only fame and fortune, but for
very subsistence. They threaten the existence of
more than half the colleges in India."

It would be easy to quote from a score of Indian

journals in condemnation of Lord Curzon's policy. It

would be impossible to find even one

" Revolu-
tionary vernacular journal defending it. I will

Proposals." . , .. i i

quote only two. Ihe Bengali, which is
edited by a most capable educationalist, himself the
Principal of a very successful indigenous college, the
Hon. Surendra Nath Banerjea, a member also of
the Bengal Legislative Council, in very moderate
language condemns the crudity of the new policy.

"If a number of persons," it writes, "deputed to
perform an important public duty, had deliberately
set themselves to the task of framing revolutionary
proposals, they could not have done better or worse
than the Universities Commission. With all possible
respect for these gentlemen, we are bound to say that
they proceeded as if they had a tabula rasa upon
which they might inscribe anything they pleased.
The great middle class of England are wealthy, and
can afford the heavy educational expenses of the
Public School and of the University. The middle
class in India are poor, and for reasons, which it is
needless to inquire into, are poorer now than they
were fifty years ago. To transplant the English


The Uprooting of Popular Education

system into their midst, without reference to existing
conditions and the totally different circumstances of
the two countries, would be a piece of political
unwisdom, which we trust the present rulers of India
will permit us not to associate with their names."

New India, an organ of the most educated class,

that is, of men who have generally completed their

studies in Europe, plainly accuses Lord

Apolitical , r j L

Motive Curzon of the intention of reducing the
number of educated Indians for political

" Since some time past," it states, " the Government
of India has been seeking to do something to check
the ' unhealthy over-growth ' of University education
in India. This education, they think, is a source of
political danger. It turns out the official exponents
of this policy have repeatedly said an army of dis-
contented young men every year. It is creating an
army of half-educated, unemployed, and consequently
disaffected persons in the country."

New India makes a very important point by

showing that the policy of educational starvation

would hit not the lower classes as it would

D?or S A?aSt in Europe, but the high castes, who supply

the Higher n i ne teen - twentieths of the University

Castes. ^ > t

students in India.

" However," it remarks, "we may condemn it and
try to break it down, caste is still a potent factor in
India; and nothing is likely to create deeper and
more widespread discontent than interference, direct
or indirect, with the inborn caste sentiment of the
people. Education alone will, we think, some day


The Failure of Lord Curzon

pull this barrier down. Where the sentiment has
already been weakened, it is education that has done
it. To close the doors of this education against the
people of the higher castes, and to compel them
through pressure of economic forces, to seek occupa-
tion not in harmony with their caste feelings, would
be to sow the seeds of a mighty revolution in the
peaceful Indian soil. Let the Government understand
this, before they make any attempt to curtail the
present educational opportunities of the people."

In this connection I would ask your Lordship to

pardon a long quotation from the dissent of the Hon.

Justice Guru Das Banerjea, a great lawyer,

The use of who has been Chief Justice of the High

Fees to Choke ^ r /- i 11 i T T

Education. Court of Calcutta and the solitary Hindu
member of this University Commission,
which has been playing ducks and drakes with the
educational future of a couple of hundred millions of
his co-religionists. The most egregious of the pro-
posals of this body, the one believed to be dearest to
Lord Curzon and his retrograde appointees, ran thus :

" Fees must not be fixed so low as to tempt a poor
student of but ordinary ability to follow a University
course, which it is not to his real interest to

I commend this wisdom to Mr. Andrew Carnegie's
notice. It is pitiable that it should be left to a native
of India to refute it.

"Speaking," wrote Mr. Justice Banerjea, "with all
respect, I must say I am wholly unable to accept the
reason as sound. Whether it is to the real interest
of a poor student of but ordinary ability to follow


The Uprooting of Popular Education

a University course, it is for him and for those

immediately interested in him to decide.

The Exclusion Others may give him proper advice : but

of the Poor TT . '. L - -r i

student, no University would be justihed in im-
posing any restriction, such as a prohibitive
fee, for the sole purpose of preventing him from
entering it, if he satisfies all other ordinary tests of fit-
ness. Youths of ordinary ability are often found to
develop considerably their mental powers later and by
slow degrees. The principle of excluding students
from University education by a fee limit is open to the
further objection that it will, on the one hand, exclude
not only the undeserving but also the deserving poor
students, while, on the other hand, it will fail to exclude
the undeserving rich students."

One more quotation and I am done. Speaking at

the Town Hall meeting, Moulvi Abul Kasim, B.A.,

delegate from the Burdwan Muhamadan

"mow t?" Association, thus referred to an important

Muhamadan aspect of the question :

Progress." r *

" In the resolution, gentlemen, you call
attention to some of the most prominent recommenda-
tions of the Commission as being open to the gravest
objection. All these recommendations mean in one
form or other the closing of the door of high education
against the middle classes. If these recommendations
would seriously affect the progress of the Hindu boys,
they would be ten times more injurious to the Moslem
youth. Poverty, you have been told, gentlemen, is
no crime, and it is an admitted fact that the Indian
Mussulmans are a very poor community ; I may warn
you, gentlemen, that if these recommendations are

The Failure of Lord Curzon

given effect to, it would be a death-blow to the spread
of high education among the Mussulmans and to
Muhamadan progress in general."

Condemnation could not be more widespread or
more vigorous. Mussulmen and Hindus, Buddhists
and Sikhs, there is no one to say a word of approval
for the Balliol -cum- Eton policy of restricting educa-
tion to the rich, the good old Tory policy of keeping
the people in ignorance.

There could be no better index of the fatuity of the
Government policy, which the Indian people interpret
into a deliberate intention to kill the exist-
To Make ing seats of education, than a suggested
Expensive, rule that no college should be affiliated to
the University unless it was possessed of a
chemical laboratory, in all countries a highly expensive
adjunct to an educational establishment. Although
the University of Cambridge includes as many as
seventeen Colleges, only two of these are supplied with
a chemical laboratory. Expensive as the institution
of a laboratory is, its up-keep is still more so. It is
only human that the Bengali Press regard this sugges-
tion as only a minor device in the plan to make educa-
tion so expensive as to be brought within the reach
only of the few and the wealthy.

I am glad to say that since the foregoing paragraphs
were written Lord Curzon has climbed down, an
operation which, when performed by a
cUmbs Cl ?own. Viceroy, is not as balm of Gilead to a sen-
sitive British subject. Still, it is a pleasure
to be able to say that our thoughtless, off-at-a-tangent
Satrap has found grace and, it is generally believed,


The Uprooting of Popular Education

will do little harm and less good to the cause of educa-
tion in India. The indigenous colleges will not be
'destroyed and the fees will not be raised. Lord
Curzon's connection with this all-important subject has,
in fact, been flighty and weak where it has not been
also mischievous. It is impossible for him to ride off
on the apology that he is not responsible for the
recommendations of the Commission. No one attempts
this futile excuse in India, where there is no shirking
the fact that the Viceroy had clearly indicated his
views and that the five salaried official members did
little but reproduce and expand them. Such pro-
ceedings sap the loyalty of a conquered people, and
the loyalty of the Indian people is a thing worth pre-
serving. It is of that intelligent, practical order
that we are striving to instil into the Boer nation.
The Indian peoples have long known that it is a good
thing to live under the British Crown. I do not think
many Englishmen who try to appreciate the facts set
out in these pages will be quite satisfied that this
healthy loyalty can long survive a few doses of such
disorganising statesmanship.

It would be unjust to conclude this chapter without

expressing my own personal belief that Lord Curzon,

far from wishing to injure education in

"Let Art and India, was filled with the best intentions-
Learning Die." paved throughout with them and glowing
with eagerness to raise the Universities of
the East to some distant approach to the "superior"
culture and exclusiveness of his beloved Balliol.

Let art and science learning die,
But leave us still our old futility.



THE few people in England, who take an interest in

such things, were amazed a couple of years ago by the

announcement that Lord Curzon had issued

Great Feuda- an edict to the Native Princes of India,

tories as

schoolboys, forbidding them to visit Europe without
His Excellency's permission ! That ukase
never saw the light of public print and has, it is
believed, been secretly withdrawn, but it also was
typical of the spirit, in which Lord Curzon approached
his great task, the flightiness, with which he offends
great and powerful classes under the influence of some
whim, some sudden idea, some ill-conceived, ill-
thought-out policy. That pressure should be put,
if necessary, on our great feudatories not to with-
draw themselves often or for long from their wide and
populous dominions, is quite right, but there are
certain courtesies usual between grown-up gentlemen.
One cannot help asking what idea had Lord Curzon
of his office, great as it undoubtedly is, that could
justify him in requiring puissant princes, like the
Maharaja of Gwalior, or the Nizam of Hyderabad,
truly the sons of kings, to ask for permission, like
schoolboys, before taking a holiday or visiting an


The " Imperialist " and Ancient Princes

European surgical specialist. Such conduct is no
more calculated to rouse loyalty in high places, than
did the knocking of Calcutta Self-Government about
their ears awaken gratitude in the minds of some of
our most educated fellow-subjects in Bengal.

A better evidence of the High and Mighty Policy
now in favour is afforded by a document, of
which the leading provisions are quoted
below. It is rather lengthy, but any cur-
tailment would spoil the picture of the beau
ideal of an Indian chief, as limned by the master-
hand that is now consolidating our Empire in the

"Whereas" it runs, "the status and position with
reference to the British Government of the Political
State of Seraikella in Chota Nagpore has hitherto
been undefined and doubts have from time to time
arisen with regard thereto, His Excellency the Viceroy
and Governor-General in Council is pleased to grant
to you Raja Udit Narain Singh Deo Bahadur
the following Sanad with a view to assuring you
that the British Government will continue, as long
as you remain loyal to the Crown and abide by the
conditions of the Sanad and of your other engage-
ments with the British Government, to maintain you
in the position and privileges which you have here-
tofore enjoyed or which are now conferred upon
you :


" You Raja Udit Narain Singh Deo Bahadur, son
of Raja Chakradhar Singh Deo Bahadur, are hereby

75 G

The Failure of Lord Curzon

formally recognised as the Feudatory Chief of the
Seraikella State, and you are permitted as heretofore
to generally administer the territory of the said
Seraikella State, subject to the conditions, herein-
after prescribed. In like manner your heirs and
successors shall become entitled to your privileges
and liable to your obligations, provided that no succes-
sion shall be valid until it has been recognised by
His Excellency the Viceroy and Governor-General in

" You shall conform in all matters concerning the
preservation of law and order and the administration
of justice generally within the limits of your State
to the instructions, issued from time to time for your
guidance by His Honour the Lieutenant-Governor of
Bengal. You will appoint such officers and pay them
such emoluments as, on full consideration of the cir-
cumstances and of such representations as you may
wish to make, may, from time to time appear
necessary to His Honour the Lieutenant-Governor
of Bengal, for the proper hearing of cases and
administration of justice in your State.

" You shall levy no tolls or duties of any kind
on grain, merchandise, or other articles passing into
or out of or through your State without the per-
mission of His Honour the Lieutenant-Governor
of Bengal.

"You shall consult the Commissioner of Chota
Nagpur in all important matters of administration,
and comply with his wishes. The settlement and the
collection of the land revenue, the imposition of taxes,
the administration of justice, arrangements connected


The " Imperialist " and Ancient Princes

with excise, salt and opium, the concession of mining,
forest, and other rights, disputes arising out of any
such concession, and disputes in which other States
are concerned, shall be regarded as specially im-
portant matters, and in respect to them you shall
at all times conform to such advice as the Com-
missioners may give you.

" The right to catch elephants in your State is
granted to you as a personal concession and as
a matter of favour ; but this concession is liable
to withdrawal whenever it may seem desirable
either on account of abuse or for other reasons,
and it will not be necessarily granted to your


" Viceroy and Governor-General
of India."

The nobleman to whom this "letter of appoint-
ment " is addressed is one of the minor feudatories
of Chota Nagpur, in East Central India,
gfth'er^n- and is the legitimate heir of chiefs, who
ex ?oiic ent " held absolutely independent sway centuries
before the British conquest of India.
There is something ludicrous as well as impo-
litic in Lord Curzon's supercilious "permission" to
this princelet "to generally administer" his own
State and property. The policy of interference and
control, set out in such detail in this document, is
in entire conflict with our policy in the past, and
sets at nought our solemn engagements. In a letter,
addressed by the Foreign Secretary to the officer, who


The Failure of Lord Curzon

was sent in 1818 to settle the affairs of the Chota
Nagpur Chiefs, the Government of India observed :
" It is the decided opinion of the Governor-General
that any attempt to introduce the direct authority
of the British Government into the internal administra-
tion of these provinces will be altogether inexpedient,
and indeed not quite free from question in point of
equity." In the same communication, the Govern-

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Online LibraryC. J. (Charles James) O'DonnellThe failure of Lord Curzon, a study in imperialism; → online text (page 6 of 8)