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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

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Buchanan's report to the Government of Fort William was
afterwards published by the Bishop. It was an original and
scholarly effort, and had deservedly a very wide circulation.
Both the investigations were made with the consent and at the
expense of the East India Company.

The decision of the Directors to increase the number of
Chaplains^ led the Governor in Council to consider the expediency
of dra%\ing up some rules for their guidance. Lord William
Bentinck therefore wrote the following minute, and submitted
it to his colleagues : ^

' The clergy of the different Presidencies being under the
solo direction and superintendence of the local Governments,
we are called upon to watch with vigilant attention this part of
our charge. The late orders from home are particularly urgent
on this subject. I cannot take upon myself to say that the
service of the Church at outstations is or is not regularly per-
formed. But I am of opinion that much good might arise if
a code of regulations were framed in which the various duties
required of every clergyman might be exactly defined.

' This object would be further answered by the trans-
mission of periodical reports, specifying the duties done, and
such other particulars as might be required.

' If these sentiments should meet with the concurrence of
the Board I would beg leave to propose that the Senior Chaplain
be directed to draw up a code of regulations for the guidance
of the clergy and to submit them for the approbation of the
Governor in Council. W. Bentinck.'

'April 29, 1806.'

• See The Church in Madras, i. 684.

- Despatch, Jan. 11, 1809, 84-86, Public,

••' Despatch, June 5, 1805, 7-18, Public.

' India Office Record.'s, Homo Series, Misc., vol. 59.


The Council acquiesced. The Rev. Dr. Kerr drew up forth-
with sixteen rules, and these were approved by the Government,
with some slight alterations, and promulgated on July 3, 1806.
Briefly they were as follows : ^

1. Every Chaplain to conduct divine service every Sunday
morning for the Europeans, civil and mihtary, residing in the
garrison to which he is appointed ; saying the whole of morning
prayer and preaching a sermon.

2. If there is no church the Chaplain to apply to the CO. or
the Chief Civilian to allot a room for the purpose ; if no room is
available the Chaplain to apply to the CO. for a range of tents.

3. In case of hindrance, or non-attendance, or the opening
of shops, he is to complain in writing to the CO. or Senior
Civilian (as the case may be) ; if no redress, to forward copy of
complaint to the Senior Chaplain, to be laid before the Right
Hon. the Governor in Council.

4. Christmas Day and Good Friday to be kept holy, and the
usual solemnities of the Church to be duly observed.

5. If through illness or other cause any service of the Church
is omitted a letter of explanation is to be sent to the Senior

6. Private baptisms in houses to be discouraged except in
cases of necessity.

7. Sacrament of the Lord's Supper to be administered four
times a year, Christmas, Easter, Whitsunday, and the thirteenth
Sunday after Trinity.

8. Marriages : (1) to obtain the Governor's permission to
marry those in the higher ranks ; or the permission of the chief
civil or military officer in the case of those of the lower ranks ;
(2) to perform the ceremony in canonical hours in the Church
or building usually used for divdne service. Any deviation of
this rule to be reported to the Senior Chaplain.

9. Women to be Churched only in the face of the congrega-
tion, and at the time of public prayer.

10. Funerals at 6.30 a.m. or 5 p.m.

11. Chaplains to observe the fasts and festivals of the
Church, and to use their influence to prevent public amusements
in Holy Week.

' Approved by the Court of Directors, Despatch, Sept. 7, 1808, 119, Mil.


12. To visit frequently the sick in hospital, to pray by
those who wish such consolation, and to administer the sacra-
ment of the Lord's Supper.

13. Not to carry on any trade or traffic directly or indirectly.

14. The Order of Government of March 27, 1805, regarding
returns of sacred offices in oat-garrisons to be strictly observed.

15. The junior clergy to make quarterly reports to the Senior
Chaplain on the state of religion, pointing out any irregularities
tending to disturb the peace of society or to subvert the
principles of true religion and virtue.

16. The Senior Chaplain to communicate to Government all
matters relating to the Church. All communications from the
junior clergy to the Government to be addressed to the Senior
Chaplain, in order that he may make such remarks thereon as
he may think proper. The Senior Chaplain is not hereby
authorised to keep back any letter which may be forwarded to

For some time before this the Chaplains, and even the
Lutheran missionaries in the employ of the S.P.C.K., had been
much exercised in their minds as to the validity of the baptisms
and marriages performed by the civil and military officers
in the out-garrisons, under the sanction of the Government.
The Senior Chaplain, Dr. Kerr, seems to have addressed the
Government on the subject ; for in 1807 the Government issued
some regulations for the performance of the different offices of
the Church in the absence of a clergyman, hmiting baptism and
marriage to the Civil Magistrates and the Commanding Officers
of stations and corps, and in the same year permitted Dr. Kerr
to address the Archbishop of Canterbury on this and other
perplexing questions.

The Government informed the Directors of their new regu-
lations,^ and the Directors approved of the limitation mentioned.^
Dr. Kerr's letter to the Archbishop was dated July 21, 1807.
It reached the India House in December, and was at once sent
to His Grace with a letter signed by Edward Parry and Charles
Grant, the Chairman and Deputy Chairman of the Company.^

1 Letter, Oct. 21, 1807, 817-19, Mil.

2 Despatch, April 25, 1810, 315, Mil.

^ India Office Records, Home Series, Misc. vol. 59.


Dr. Kerr informed the Archbishop of the existence of St.
Mary's Church. He said that the first Chaplain

' tried to assimilate the parish regulations at Madras as much
as possible to the usages in England. A Vestry was therefore
appointed &c. The authorities took an interest in its concerns
and attended it until about three years ago when the Vestry
had in its possession for charitable use about £25,000.

' Now a legal opinion has declared that Madras is no parish,
the inhabitants no Vestry, nor had they a right to hold funds ;
the clergy were merely Chaplains, neither Rectors nor Vicars ;
and the Church a private Chapel.

' On the declaration of these legal opinions I declined to
take any further responsibility on myself with regard to the
appropriation of public money, thus declared to be dispensed
in an illegal manner. I recommended to a meeting of the
inhabitants that the Supreme Court of Judicature at Madras
might be requested to appoint trustees for the management of
our funds.'

He added that this suggestion was adopted two years before,
that nothing had been done since, that the funds were locked
up, which was unfortunate, as the scarcity in the Carnatic had
greatly increased the number of poor in the last twenty-five
years .^

He asked for rehef , suggesting that Madras should be made
a parish, that the Ministers and Churchwardens and others
(either elected by vote or nominated by Government) should
be incorporated for the purpose of holding and administering
funds, and that the former acts of the Vestry should be

As to baptism and marriage by laymen in the absence of a
lawful minister, he enclosed a copy of an opinion of Sir James
Macintosh, which ' if it be correct will produce many distressing
inconveniences.' He suggested a private Act of Parhament
legitimating the marriages performed by laymen, and asked for
guidance as to the future.

Dr. Kerr enclosed the opinion of the Advocate-General at

Dr. Kerr was still thinking of bis native Workhouse scheme, which was
at the bottom of all the dissension in the Vestry. See The Church in Madras,
1. 541-51.


Madras,^ date November 20, 1804 ; also the opinion of Sir
James Macintosh on (1) the status of Chaplains ; (2) the St.
Mary's Yestry, Fort St. George; and (3) on the validity of certain
marriages. Tliis opinion is dated April 15, 1803.- He says :

' (a) The Chaplains of the factories abroad are subject to the
Archbishop of Canterbury.

' {h) A parish properly so called cannot exist in India. The
Vestry of ]\Iadras is a voluntary body, not corporate ; it
cannot sue nor be sued.

' (c) The marriage Act 26 George II, cap. 83, does not extend
to India. Marriages solemnised beyond the seas are expressly
excepted in section 18 of the Act. But I apprehend that the
law of England requires certain formalities to constitute a
valid marriage, I do not know that a marriage so solemnised
by a Layman was ever allowed to be vahd between English
subjects residing in any place to which the laws of England
extend. It is necessary, I think, that a clergyman should
officiate ; and it is at least in the highest degree fit that banns
should be proclaimed, and all those precautions taken which are
calculated to prevent fraud and surprises.

' Within the settlement of Madras I am of opinion that no
declaration made by parties before a layman can amount to
a marriage.'

The importance of the matters submitted to the judgment
of the Archbishops of Canterbury is unquestionable. What
advice His Grace gave or what steps he took cannot be known,
for there is no record of any reply. But there is some indirect
evidence that the Archbishop took some steps in the matter,
for in 1812 the Government of Madras issued an Order pre-
cluding laymen from celebrating marriages and baptisms. They
informed the Directors of this Order in their Public Letter of
March 5, 1813 y' but in their Military Letter of the same date^
they said :

' It has been our desire that the ceremonies of baptism and
marriage at the different stations of European troops should
cease to be performed by laymen in any instance ; but in the

' See The Church in Madras, i. 54.'5.

- India Office Records, Home Series, Misc., vol. 59.

^ Paras. 43, 44. ■* Paras. 165, 166.



present state of the Ecclesiastical Establishment it has been
found impracticable to carry our intention into full effect, and
we have been obliged to modify the Order which we issued for
confining the discharge of these duties to the military Chaplains.
' It appears desirable to make a better provision for the
solemn duties of the Church, and that the present irregular
practice should not continue longer than necessary. So we
have asked the Senior Chaplain to state the number of clergy
who ought to be added to the establishment. We enclose his
[Mr. Vaughan's] reply and recommend the addition of six

In the margin of the letter are these references, which show
that there was a good deal of thought and consultation on the
subject before the Order of October 1812 was suspended,

1. Gov. Order, Oct. 23, 1812.

2. Consultations, Jan. 19 and 26, 1813.

3. G.O., Jan. 26, 1813.

4. Consultations, Feb. 5 and 9, 1813.

5. G.O., Feb. 9, 1813.

6. Consultations, Feb. 19 and 26, 1813.

In their reply i the Directors noted the contradiction of the
two letters, and accepted what the Government of Fort St.
George had done without comment.

The Government issued the order with good intentions in
October 1812, and on the recommendation of the military
authorities rescinded it in February 1813. There appeared to
the latter some reasons m morals why the old sj^stem should
be allowed to continue till it was rendered unnecessary by the
appointment of more Chaplains ; and there did not appear to
the Government any valid reason why it should not. The
Company's earliest Charter gave them complete power to
administer their affairs, and to appoint officials to rule over
their factories according to the ordinary rules of civilised
society. This had always been held to include the power of
civil marriage. The commanders of their ships had the power,
and occasionally exercised it. When the local Governments
delegated the power to their subordinate officials, they did so
in the belief that they were within their rights. The marriages

1 Despatch, June 3, 1814, 271, Public.


were certainly irregular, but their validity was covered by the
Charter rights of the Company.

In the year 1783 the Government ordered that all such
marriages were to be reported to the Chaplain of St. Mary's,
Fort St. George, for registration in a book to be kept for the
purpose.^ There is evidence, however, that many up-country
marriages were effected by Magistrates and Commanding Oificers
before that date. There is a letter in the ' Report of the Histor-
ical Manuscripts Commission ' ~ from Mr. Thomas Hughes to Sir
Llo3'd Kenyon dated Windsor, December 26, 1785, mentioning
that his sister was married at Ganjam in 1778 by the chief
local magistrate at a private house, and asking if the marriage
were legal for all purposes in England, as his sister had some
doubts about it. He added that there were many similar
marriages both before and at about the same time that the one
m question took place. No reply has been found, but the
letter indicates that the system was being pursued some time
before any registrations were made.

In the Marriage Register Book of St. Mark's, Bangalore,
the following entry shows that sometimes these civil marriages
were afterwards solemnised and blessed in Church :

' John Hughes and Elizabeth his wife were reunited in
matrimony this March 29, 1815, having been before so united
on board the Hon. Co.'s Ship Carnatic by the Captain of
the same ship, Archibald Swinton, May 16, 1811, the clerical
ceremony having been performed by me, W. Thomas, Chaplain.'

The old practice of giving poAvcr to legalise marriages to
certain lay ollicials in either civil or military or naval authority
has its counterpart in the universal practice of giving such
power to national representatives in foreign countries. Our
consuls abroad have had these powers for many a long year.

In India it did not long survive the advent of the Bishop
of Calcutta and the increase of the three establishments of
Chaplains. As soon as it was no longer necessary that the
civil and military ojQicers should possess such powers they were
withdrawn. But something just as irregular as far as the

> fSee Marriwjes at Fort St. George, by F. E. Penny, 1907.
' Appendix, part iv. C. 7571 of 1894.


letter of the law is concerned remained. The difiiculty of the
officiant was got over by increasing the estabhshment of
Chaplains. But it was hardly possible to build a Church in
every small station. Consequently the difficulty of the
licensed building remained. Many marriages between 1813
and 1863 were solemnised by Chaplains in the drawing-
rooms of magistrates without any special hcence. They were
irregular, but no one would venture to contend that they were

The legal opinion of Sir. James Macintosh was without
doubt correct with regard to marriage in England. It was
based on the Clandestine Marriage Act of George II, but this
Act had no reference to India. Sir James was not the legal
adviser of the Hon. East India Company. If the Directors
had required legal advice on the matter they would have
referred to their own standing Counsel. The inference is
that the opinion was obtained by the Rev. Dr. Kerr for his
own purpose, which was the submission of the whole question
to the judgment of the Archbishop of Canterbury.

It is pleasing to be able to record some instances in which
the Chaplains, the local Government, and the Directors co-
operated for the spiritual, moral and intellectual good of the
British soldiers of the Madras army. It was highly advan-
tageous to the men when they were relieved of the necessity of
living in the bazaars, and were housed in commodious barracks
of their own. By degrees their surroundings and circumstances
were improved. In 1812 mess tables and benches were sanc-
tioned and introduced. Up to that time the men had been
accustomed to eat their meals seated on their cots. It was
probably an oversight that tables and benches were not pro-
vided when the barracks were built. But the men had not to
wait long after the omission became known.

The Directors had been for many years hberal in the supply
of Bibles and Prayer-books. In the year 1812 they despatched
144 of each for the use of the soldiers at the Presidency, and 520
of each for the use of soldiers at the out-garrisons, i.e. forty of
each kind for each of the military Chaplains.^ In fixing the
number they took as their guide the indents of 1803 and 1805.

1 Despatch, Oct. 28, 1812, 67, Mil.

X 2


Li the year 1816 they sent out 400 Bibles in the Gaehc language
for the use of the Scotch soldiers ou the Madras establishment at
the request of the Eev. Dr. Ball, then stationed at St. Thomas'
Mount. 1 In the year 1827 they resolved ~ that the system
which prevailed in H.M.'s Service of furnishing a Bible and a
Prayer-book to every soldier who could read should be extended
to the European soldiers of their own regiments in India.
After this date the supplies of religious books were perhaps a
little more regular, but not more generous than they were
before the Directors imposed upon themselves the obligation of

Something more than religious Ijooks was, however, required.
A small number of the Company's civil and military officers were
highly intellectual men. They were inclined to study the
philosophies, the religions, the history, the fauna, the flora, and
generally speaking the productive possibilities of the country.
Such names as those of Sir W. Jones, Chambers, Anderson, Sir
Edward Colebrooke, Roxburgh, Jerdon, Harris, &c., suggest
study and research of the best kind. One can see from the
Government gazettes and the newspapers of the period that a
great number of books were imported into India at the end of
the eighteenth and the beginning of the nineteenth century.
The literati of Bengal formed the Asiatic Society and published
the Asiatic Journal in the first decade of the century. Their
example was soon followed in Madras, where other literati
pursued similar studies. When Bishop Middleton made his
first visitation tour in the south in 1816, he found this literary
activity much in evidence in Madras itself, which seemed to be
w^ell supplied with good books of all kinds. But when he arrived
at Trichinopoly, the headquarters of the Southern Command,
there was neither a public library nor a private literary society.
He determined, therefore, to supply the literary need by
founding a local library of standard works in connection with
St. John's Church in the cantonment. His gift comprised
about 200 volumes of well-bound books on various philosophical,
scientific and theological subjects. The remnant of it is still in
existence, but many of the volumes have been lost.

» Despatch, Feb. 9, ISKi, 5, Public.
2 Despatch, July 25, 1827, 10, Mil.


The books were manifestly intended for the civil and military
officers of the station. On his return to Calcutta Bishop
Middleton pursued the scheme and extended it so as to
embrace the needs of the British soldier. After a time he
approached the Govern or- General of Bengal and put the
scheme before him. The Governor- General, when reporting
on the state of the regimental schools, took the opportunity of
suggesting that it would be advantageous to oljtain a certain
number of books adapted to the formation of soldiers' libraries.
The Directors considered the suggestion, and agreed that the
establishment of such libraries would have considerable influence
on the condition, conduct, and morals of the men ; they went
beyond the request, and with praiseworthy liberality directed
that seven sets of books, comprising fifty in each set, should
be sent to Bengal to form soldiers' libraries at the principal
stations of the army.

Some time afterwards the Directors wrote i to the Govern-
ment of Fort St. George suggesting the formation of similar
libraries in the chief military stations of the southern Presi-
dency. They informed the Government of what had been done
in Bengal, and sent a list of the fifty books recommended.
On receipt of this despatch the Governor in Council sent ~ the
suggestion with the list of books to the Commander-in-Chief
of the Madras army for his opinion and remarks.

After due inquiry the Commander-in-Chief replied : ^

' The European soldiery in India certainly require resources
and means of amusement and instruction more than those in
any other part of the globe.

' Much of their time is necessarily passed in the barracks
owing to the pernicious and destructive consequences of
exposure to the sun and the easy procurement of deleterious
liquors, if they are suffered to go abroad. Severe measures
are frequently resorted to to enforce obedience to this indis-
pensable regulation. If the men can be kept within the
prescribed limits without coercion, and if the means of rendering
their confinement less irksome can be found, nothing should be

1 Despatch, March 6, 1822, Mil.

- Sec. to Go\i;. to the Mil. Sec. C.-in-C, July 23, 1822.
•* Mil. Sec. to C.-in-C. to the Sec. to Govt., Jan. 16, 1824. [Bishop's Office
Records, Madras.] The C-in-C. was General Sir Alexander Campbell.


left untried to effect it. The question is how their health can
be watched on the one hand, and their idle liabits can be
resisted on the other.

' His Excellency considers that the establishment of small
libraries at the different stations is well adapted to answer
the desirable end. He is of opinion that they should be com-
posed of books calculated to afford amusement both to the
grave and the gay ; and that such expensive theological works
as those of Paley, and such abstruse ones as the " Homilies of
the Church of England " with a few others noted in the
Catalogue should be omitted, and that others better suited to the
capacities of the soldiers should be substituted.

' There can be but Uttle expectation of reclaiming the
habits of the old offenders by this or any other institution ;
but the future benefits arising from it may be important,
as it will afford opportunity to the well disposed and to the
young men on first joining their regiments to look for amuse-
ment and instruction at home. Most of them fall into the
habits of the bad from w^ant of occupation or employment ;
and this is the great if not the principal source of the evils
into which the soldiers are betrayed.'

The Commander-in-Chief proposed that the following
stations should each receive a set of books : Fort St. George,
St. Thomas' Mount, Wallajahbad, Poonamallee, Cuddalore,
Vizagapatam, Masulipatam, Bangalore, Triehinopoly, Secun-
derabad, Bellar^^ and Cannanore. He continued :

' At each of these stations there is a Chaplain, and as the
institution [i.e. the Library] is connected with the regimental
schools, from the reports of which it originated, and which it
is the duty of the Chaplains to visit occasionally, it ma}^ tend
to ensure all the good that can be expected from the establish-
ment, if the libraries were placed under the superintendence of
the Chaplains aided by a steady non-commissioned officer, to
wdiom a small allowance may be granted for the preservation
of the books.'

The list of books sent out l)y the Directors to Bengal was
as follows. It affords some proof of the high opinion the}^
entertained of the taste and the mental capacity of the British
soldiers in India.


1. Religious and Moral

A Family Bible. Harvey's Meditations.

Osterwald's Abridgement of Economy of Human Life.

the Bible. Cooper's Sermons.

Homilies of the Chm'ch of Sterne's Reflections.

England. Paley's Theological Works.

2. Histonj and Travel
Robertson's America. Goldsmith's Roman History.

Robertson's Scotland. Goldsmith's Grecian History.

History of England. Mayor's Voyages and Travels.

3. Natural History
Ray's Wisdom of Creation. Goldsmith's Animated Nature.

Abridgement of Buffon.

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 28 of 39)