Frank Penny.

The church in Madras : being the history of the ecclesiastical and missionary action of the East India Company in the Presidency of Madras in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries (Volume 2) online

. (page 2 of 39)
Online LibraryFrank PennyThe church in Madras : being the history of the ecclesiastical and missionary action of the East India Company in the Presidency of Madras in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries (Volume 2) → online text (page 2 of 39)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

Charles Grant went home in 1790, and was the right hand of
Wilbeiiorce during the year of charter contention in 1793.
Before he left India he had devised a scheme,^ with the assist-
ance of David Brown, Presidency Chaplain, for the estabHsh-
ment of a Government Missionary Establishment. The pro-
posals of Wilberforce in 1793, if they had been accepted by
Parhament and inserted in the Charter, would have enabled
Grant to carry out his original scheme. Sir John Shore doubt-
less saw the hand of his old friend in the proposals ; and as he
did not agree with them he wrote to him, and said ^ that ' if
the attempt [to disseminate Christian principles amongst the
natives of Lidia] were made with the declared support and
authority of Government, it would excite alarm by means of
misrepresentation.' His own plan was different ; he was not
averse to obtaining some assistance from the Government,
but he was opposed to the attempt to proselytise by means
of an official establishment. His plan was, as expressed in
the same letter, that ' the Company should erect chapels for
Christians, and appoint Chaplains on salaries not exceeding
Rs.l50 a month ' to minister to any Christian natives who
chose of their own accord to attend them. ' The natural
children of soldiers,' he added, ' will be the first to receive

Sir John Shore went home on the expiration of his term of
office in 1798, and took his opinions with him. He was created
a peer,* and advanced to a seat on the Board of Control.
Charles Grant became a Director of the East India Company ;
and in course of time occupied the position of Chairman and
Deputy Chairman of the Board of Directors. He still shared

' Afterwards Lord Teignraouth.

2 Charles Grant, by Henry Morris, S.P.C.K. 1898, pp. 30-31.

•' Memoir of the Life of Lord Teignmouth, i. 291.

* Lord Teignmouth.


the views of Wilberforce ; but there can be no doubt that his
views were modified by those of Lord Teignmouth.

When these two distinguished Bengal civihans went home,
they left behind them two Chaplains, David Brown and Claudius
Buchanan, who had taken part with them in the administra-
tion of local missionary matters. Both were keenly interested
in the question. Brown practically and Buchanan theoretically.
Brown ministered for many years at the old Society for Pro-
moting Christian Knowledge Mission Church and superintended
the affairs of the mission. Buchanan studied missionary
problems, and devised plans of missionary enterprise. The
question was allowed to rest, more or less, until 1805, when
Buchanan pubhshed, ^vith a dedication to the Archbishop of
Canterbury, his 'Memoir of the Expediency of an Ecclesias-
tical Estabhshment in Lidia.' He entered into no detail, but
with considerable abihty he advanced various arguments in
favour of the old Grant-Wilberforce scheme. In Part I of
his Memoir he pleaded for an establishment of European
clergy, such as would be adequate and useful to the large
number of British subjects, including soldiers, then in India.
In Part II he pleaded for an establishment of missionaries and
schoolmasters for the civilisation and moral improvement of
the natives of India living under the protection of the British
flag. Both estabhshments were to be organised, controlled
and financed by the Hon. East India Company. In the same
year were preached sermons before the University of Oxford
by the Rev. Dr. Barrow, and before the University of Cam-
bridge by the Rev. P. Wrangham,i which not only attracted
University attention, but, being published, helped to draw
attention to a subject which was beginning to cry out for

Buchanan's Memoir and the sermons, together with the
reports of the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge and
of the British and Foreign Bible Society pubhshed at the
begmning of the year 1807, showed that a fresh effort was
about to be made to insert the rejected clauses of 1793 in the
East India Company's Charter when application for its renewal

' Vol. 385, Tracts, India Office Library.


should be made in 1813. The rejection by Parliament of an
official missionary establishment had not caused Buchanan
and Wilberforce and their supporters to doubt the wisdom
of their plan. Their persistency raised up a new set of oppo-
nents, who called in question not only the expediency of having
an official missionary establishment in India, but the expedi-
ency of having any English missionaries in the country at all.
Major J. S. Waring pubHshcd his first pamphlet in 1807.^
Within a short time of its pubHcation the news of the Vellore
mutiny reached England ; this news increased his fear of the
danger of interfering with the religious beliefs of the natives of
India. He therefore published a new edition of the tract,
and added seventy-six pages of preface to accentuate his argu-
ments by means of what had taken place at Vellore. As a
matter of fact the Vellore mutiny was due to political and
social ^ causes. But the suggestion led to much acrimonious
controversy, which lasted through the whole of the year 1808.

Waring's tract was followed by one from the pen of Mr.
Thomas Twining,'^ a Director of the Company, who voiced
the opinion of many of his fellow Directors and Proprietors
that there was a real danger in interfering with the religious
opinions of the natives of India in the way suggested by

Buchanan had founded his argument in favour of a mission-
ary establishment on the degraded nature of some of the
worship and some of the social customs of the Hindus ; he
made the most of their ignorance, their foolish superstitions,
their unreliability, and other characteristics, and he left the
impression that these qualities were common to all Hindus.
This gave occasion to a Bengal officer to vindicate their char-
acter,* and to explain that though it was true of some it was
not true of all, and that Hindus had, as a people, many good
qualities as well.

In view of the hard things which have been said of these

' Observations on the. Present State of the East India Company, 1807, 2nd
ed. 1808.

- Military intci-ference with caste practices.

•* A Letter to the Chairman of the East India Company, 1807.

■• Vindication of the Hindus, part i. 1807 ; part ii. 1808.


and other opponents of missionary enterprise in India at the
beginning of the nineteenth century, it is only bare justice to them
to call attention to their point of view. Thomas Twining was
a Bengal civilian, who was shocked at some of the methods of
the Serampore missionaries, and at Buchanan's suggestion
that ' we should use every means of coercing the contemptuous
spirits of our Native subjects,' and of ' chastising the enormity
of their superstitions at the fountain head.' There is hardly
any doubt i that the means Buchanan referred to were educa-
tional, but he did not make this plain ; and the result was
that he created opposition by the seeming intolerance of his
views. It was to Twining's personal interest, as well as his
interest as a member of the East India Company, that there
should be a complete absence of all religious strife in the
Company's settlements. This was the danger he foresaw
in Buchanan's proposals ; and he pleaded that the natives of
India should be let alone in their own religious prejudices and
absurdities ' until it shall please the omnipotent power of
Heaven to lead them into the paths of Light and Truth.' He
was not opposed to the first part of Buchanan's scheme.

The Bengal officer and others who wrote to vindicate the
character of the Hindus were engaged in a generous attempt
to do justice to a race of men from whom they had received —
like many before them and hke many since — the most loyal
and faithful service. Thoughtlessly they have been called
' Brahminised,' whatever that may mean, and there is no
reason to suppose that it was meant to be anything but offen-
sive, but really they spoke the language of justice and gratitude ;
English gentlemen could hardly do less, when they to whom
they were so much indebted were being for a purpose abused.

Major Scott Waring's attitude is more difficult to under-
stand ; he was a prolific writer and was continually changing
his ground. In his first pamphlet he combated the view that
it was the duty of the Church of England to preach the gospel
abroad, he urged that it was limited by law to exercise its
activities in England, and he pleaded that interference with
the religions of other countries was no lousiness of ours. He

' Cursory Remarks on Twining's Letter, India Office Tracts, vol. 96.


criticised the unwise language of Buchanan, the unwise methods
of the Serarapore Baptists, and the action of the Bengal and
Madras Governments in calling for reports on the history and
nature of the Christian religion on the coast of Malabar. And
he referred to Buchanan's plan as wild, impracticable and
impossible — a suggestion of bigotry. When this tract had been
replied to, he wrote another ^ and took up a fresh attitude, in
which he vigorously denounced the sectarians,^ their revolt
against authority, and their independent methods, and especially
the sectarians of Bengal. He gave long extracts from the
reports <^ of the Baptist Missionaries in order to show the
absurdity of their arrogant attitude towards the natives of
India. He said that he was not hostile to Christian missions,
if carried on by means of foreigners, as in the case of the Society
for Promoting Christian Knowledge, but he was against the
work being done by Englishmen, whether Churchmen or sect-
arians, on the ground that the natives would look upon every
English missionary as the emissary of the British Government.
He urged that the Chaplains should do what they were paid to
do — European work only — that the distribution of vernacular
tracts should be stopped, and that every English missionary
should be recalled. When this tract had been duly replied
to ho wrote another,^' in which he again effected a change of
ground. In this he showed that he had been converted to
some extent by the arguments of some of his opponents, such
as Dr. Barrow, Lord Teignmouth, and the Eev. John Owen.
He said : ' If it be practicable to convert the natives of India to
Christianity, it ought to be made a national concern.' He
agreed with Dr. Barrow and others in authority that the
work should be done; by the National Church, under the
authority and regulations of the Legislature. He said : ' I
concur entirely with the Jacobin Review that the Government
and the Church should do all that in prudence can be done for

' Letter to the Conductors oj the Chririian Observer, 1808.

- Scott Waring uses the Moid sectarian as it Mas used in his day, meaning
one separated irom the Churcli.

•'' Thepc differ considerablj' from J. C. Marshman's history in his Lives of
Carey, tt-c.

'' Remarks on the General Question, 1808.


the propagation of the Gospel in India.' He praised the
Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge for having acted
in co-operation with the Company and kept the rules ; and he
denounced as before the sectarian societies i for acting against
all rules and violating the law of the land. Incidentally he
defended the character of Europeans in India against the ' vulgar
abuse ' bestowed upon them by the ' sectarian bigots ' ; he
cited the testimony of Buchanan himself that ' where the
service of the Church is performed, it is well attended and
seriously listened to ' ; and he mentioned that he had heard on
every side of the ' liigh respect in which the clergy were held.'

There is nothing offensive in any of these arguments.
There is nothing in them to show a combination of infidels
which, to use the language of Buchanan, ' rages against genuine
vital Christianity in India, in order to destroy it in its infancy.'
Scott Waring repudiated the charge of any such combination.
The chief thing they show is their general weakness as argu-
ments against the prosecution of mission work. The plan
before the public was that the Company, which already had
at each Presidency a civil, military, ecclesiastical and medical
estabhshment, should add one more, namely, a missionary
estabhshment, and bear the cost of its maintenance. The
opponents should have made more of the undesirability of
an official establishment. They lost sight of the main principle
they were opposing in the discussion of the details of Hinduism
and of missionary action at Calcutta.

These pamphlets were quickly answered by others,^ most
of which exhibited the same fault as those to which they were
rephes. The Rev. John Owen, formerly a Bengal Chaplain
and afterwards Chaplain-General of His Majesty's Forces,
contented himself with defending the Bible Society, its policy
and its work ; and with criticising Twining's opinions with

' The London and the Baptist Missionary Societies.

- Address to the Chairman, East India Company, by the Rev. J. Owen, on
the letter of Thomas T^vining, 1807 ; Letter to the President, Board of Control,
on the Letter of Thomas Tivining (anonymous), 1807 ; A Few Cursory Remarks on
the same (anonymous), 1807 ; Review of Twining's letter in the Christian
Observer, 1808 ; Vindication of the Hindus, by a Bengal oificer, 1808 ; Consider-
ations on the Practicability, dc. of Communicating the Knowledge of Christianity
to the Natives of India, by a late resident in Bengal, 1808.


acuteness and vigour. The anonymous writer of the letter
to the President of the Board of Control argued in favour of
mission work being attempted in India, without touching upon
Buchanan's plan or suggesting any other method. He was an
optimist as regards the result of such work ; and pleaded that
missionaries of peaceable disposition and gentle manners, who
were not controversialists, would not be the cause of any
embarrassment to the rulers of British India. The anonymous
author of ' A Few Cursory Remarks ' confined himself to the
task of defending Buchanan, and explaining the meaning of
the coercion he advocated. The article on Twining's letter in
the Christian Observer was a vigorous defence of missionary
work in any heathen country, and especially of the work of the
Serampore missionaries in Calcutta. The writer drew atten-
tion to the growth of the desire in England to spread the know-
ledge of Christianity abroad, and urged the wisdom of giving
way to the rising clamour lest they who clamoured should vote
for the abolition of the Company's privileges. This veiled
threat was a tactical blunder. No man nor body of men likes
to be threatened. Lord Teignmouth was the author of the
' Considerations,' though he published anonymously. They
were a reply to Waring and Twining at the same time. It was
by far the most notaljle of all the pamphlets on the subject.
The author retained his old opinion about an official estabhsh-
ment ; and though he said that his anxiety was that the
natives of India should become Christians by persuasion, not
by violence, nor by Government influence, he did not show
with sufficient clearness that he was opposed to Buchanan's
plan. As to the alarm which it was apprehended would be
felt in India, if more missionaries were allowed to go there, he
said :

' It will require something more than opinions and assertions
to convince the puljlic that the natives of a country who have
known missionaries for more than a century,i among whom
the Scriptures have been so long circulated, and where a
Schwartz was revered, should take alarm at proceedings to
which they have been so long famiharised. If these circum-

1 They bad actually known them for more than three centuries.


stances be fairly considered it will by no means appear probable
that any increase of missionaries would alarm the apprehension
of the natives.'

As to Twining's and Scott Waring's suggestions that
missionaries should be excluded from India, he said that the
effect of exclusion would be to annihilate what had been done
during the last hundred years. And he concluded with a
solemn appeal that the religion of God should not be banished
from India and its debased inhabitants ; adding that ' to teach
them higher and better things than they know will be no
invasion of their civil and religious rights.'

The unwisdom of a portion of the article in the Christian
Observer and the vigour of Owen's criticisms were the joint
cause of a number of fresh pamphlets ^ of a militant type.
Lord Teignmouth's weighty words, on the other hand, were
as oil on troubled waters. One more pamphlet " was published,
one which showed a partial conversion to better views ; and
then for a time the controversy ceased.

The discussion of the missionary problem was not confined
to a limited number of essayists. Missionary reports, addresses,
and sermons reached a larger audience than the pamphlets.
These were spoken or written from the missionary point of
view. In them were detailed the actions, the hopes and the
experience of the various ^ English societies at work in India.
The Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge always spoke
gratefully of the long series of kindly acts of sympathy and
assistance on the part of the Company, The London Mission,
whose earhest agents had fortunately gone to Madras and had
been impressed by the missionaries already there with the
importance of strict obedience to the rules and regulations of
the Company and its local Government, were able to report also
the kindly reception of their workers, and the liberality of the
Government and of the servants of Government in providing
them with allowances for their maintenance. The Baptist

• Letter to the Rev. J. Owen, by J. S. Waring, Jan. 1808 ; Letter to the
Conductors of the Christian Observer, by Waring, Nov. 1808,

" Remarks on the General Question, by Waring, 1808.

•^ The Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, the London and the
Baptist Societies.


Society, though it could record with some pride that its earhest
agents had become Oriental professors and were employed by
the Government of Bengal at high salaries to teach and to
translate, was the only societ_y which at this period had com-
plaints to make against the official treatment of their agents.
It was represented by them, bj^ their agents, and by their
friends that the local Government was hostile to their work,
qua mission work, and to their agents qua missionaries. ^
This representation was quite sufficient to stir up among an
important class of Englishmen a zeal for the liberty of pro-
phesjdng which took no account of methods and mere political

Claudius Buchanan arrived in England in August 1808.
The governing bodies of the various mission societies received
his account of the Calcutta occurrences, and were established
in their views of them by his. In the following February he
preached at Bristol a remarkable mission sermon on the text
' We have seen His star in the East,' which was printed by
request and had an immense sale all over the country. The
enthusiasm kindled by his sermon was one of the causes of the
widespread acceptance of his views on this subject, and of his
proposal for an official missionary estabhshment.

On the other hand there were wiser men who counselled
the necessity of submission to authority, and deprecated the
use of any Idnd of official pressure or coercion. The Arch-
bishop of Canterbury wrote in 1809 to Buchanan, and approved
the former part of his scheme for ' maintaining the Christianity
of Christians ' ; ^ and added, ' if it shall please God through
these means to spread the blessings of Christianity, it is a
result devoutly to be wished, but not impatiently pursued.'
The eminent author of the ' Historical View of Hindustan,' ■'
in the chapter relating to Christianity in India, considered
Buchanan's proposals, and condemned any kind of compulsion
or coercion as against reason and justice ; he admitted that it
was the plain duty of the Church to promote the knowledge of

' This wag not really the case ; the Government of Bengal principally
objected to their method of doing the \\ ork.
- Pearson's Life of Buchanan, 1817, ii. 198.
■' By the Rev. Robert Chatfield, pubhshed 1808,


Christianity in India, but by patient independent work, not
by force nor by authority. Dr. Barrow in his University
sermon in 1805 laid down the same great principle.

The general public, however, sided with Buchanan. They
were partly influenced by the belief that the East India Company
were hostile to missionaries in general ; partly by the long-
standing jealousy of the Company, which pervaded the trading
and mercantile classes by reason of the Company's monopoHes
and exclusive privileges ; and partly by the boldness of the
proposals themselves. These were so romantic, they were
urged with so much genuine earnestness, that it was quite
forgotten whether they were politically possible or expedient
from the missionary and Christian point of view.

During the next three years public controversy languished.
Buchanan's scheme was accepted by his party as the one to
be put forward when the proper time came. At the same
time the Court of Directors of the East India Company, under
the influence of Lord Teignmouth and the guidance of Charles
Grant, had made up their minds as to how much of this plan
it was expedient to accept, and how much it was expedient
in the truest interest of the missionary cause to reject. Wilber-
force and Buchanan must have come in contact with these
eminent men and known their views ; but they maintained their
beHef in the clauses of 1793, and in the necessity of making
them operative by Act of ParHament.

Early in 1812 Wilberforce waited upon Percival, the Prime
Minister, and put before him the scheme which was near to his
heart. Percival, who, like the Directors of the East India
Company, was favourable to the policy of introducing Chris-
tianity into India, saw difficulties in the scheme presented to
him. Wilberforce consulted with his friends, who were mostly
on the Council of the Church Missionary Society, and they
consulted with Buchanan. It was plain to afl of them that it
was not practicable to press a scheme which the Prime Minister
and the Government could not endorse. Buchanan then drew
up a modified prospectus of what was required, omitting the
clauses which were considered impossible by the Company
and by their servants abroad and at home, namely, those which
would have obhged the Company to create a missionary


establishmont und to maintain it. This modilied scheme was
submitted by the Church Missionary Society to the ministers
of the Crown, and was then printed and pubhshed.i The Church
^lissionar}' Society was at this period only fourteen years old ;
but as some of the members were persons of considerable social
and religious influence, the Society plaj^ed an important part
in the negotiations. They relied to a large extent upon
Buchanan for information and guidance. He tried to modify
lus scheme in such a way as to make it acceptable to the pubhc
opinion he had so largely helped to create, and at the same
time acceptable to the Directors of the Company. But the
compromise still contained a provision which was not accept-
able to the latter. He was in favour (i) of a State-translated
and a State-distributed Bible, and (ii) of a State-Pastoral
and a State-missionary establishment. x\s to the latter, he
said : ' It is not intended to urge the legislature to adopt any
du'ect means in the way of expensive establishment for prose-
lytising ' the natives. All that is expected at present in
regard to the Natives is that the Governing Power would {sic)
not show itself hostile to the measure of instructing them,
which certainly, with some exceptions, has hitherto been the
case.' He then admitted that the instruction of the natives
of India was not a primary duty, and that England owed her
primary obhgations to her own children. ' Let us first give
religious advantages to our own countrymen ; ' and he thought
that the other would follow in due time.

Buchanan meant the State-missionary establishment to
be for the benefit of native Christians only. He acknowledged
their ignorance, and said that they must remain ignorant
' till the British Parliament shall be graciously pleased to
afford them the advantage of Christian superintendence

Online LibraryFrank PennyThe church in Madras : being the history of the ecclesiastical and missionary action of the East India Company in the Presidency of Madras in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries (Volume 2) → online text (page 2 of 39)