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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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and instruction.' For the purpose of benefiting the native
Christian community his proposed estabhshment " included a
certain number of native Chaplains, catechists, and school-
masters ; and three seminaries — one in each Presidency —
where these persons were to be taught and trained for their
work. He went very thoroughly into the detail of his proposal,

' Hough's Christianity in India, iv. 188.

- Colonial Ecclesiastical Establishments, published 1813, pp. 91-200.


and produced u scheme whose excellence it is difficult to deny ;
but it was not one which the Directors could with wisdom
adopt. They ruled over Christians of several kinds, and the
great majority of them were Eoman Catholics ; the scheme
would in no wa}^ have benefited them, nor the Syrians of the
Malabar coast, nor the Armenians, nor even, perhaps, the
Lutherans of the Tranquebar Mission ; for it was the essence of
the scheme that the native agents should be of the Church of

After the sad death of Percival, Lord Liverpool became
Prime Minister. Li July 1812 a deputation consisting of
Wilberforce, Babington, Grant, and others waited upon him
and found him prepared to accede to the more important of
their modified wishes and to go a little beyond them. He
undertook to include in the Government measure :

(i) The establishment of the seminaries.

(ii) The licensing of missionaries by the Board of Control
over the heads of the Directors.

(iii) The consecration of Bishops.

It is evident that Lord Liverpool had not studied the
question in all its bearings, and that he did not realise the
importance of the principle for which Lord Teignmouth and
the Company were contending. But he realised it later on and
withdrew the undertaking he had given.

The Earl of Buckinghamshire was at this time President of
the Board of Control. As Lord Hobart he had been Governor
of Fort St. George and its dependencies ; he knew of the mission-
ary work in that Presidency, of the great respect in which the
missionaries were held, and of the perfect liberty and toleration
they enjoyed ; so that when the Baptist Missionary Society sent
a deputation to him to ask for the legal toleration of mission-
aries in India, he inquired what further toleration they required
than they enjoyed. The same deputation waited upon Lord
Liverpool and Lord Castlereagh, and asked for the abolition
of the Company's power to grant and recall licences to reside
in India in the case of missionaries. Lord Liverpool replied :
' We cannot allow you to send out persons without leave.
When there, they must be, like all other Europeans, subject
to the control of the local Governments.'

c 2


111 October 1812 the Quarterly Beview took up the
question, and pubHshed an article which had more than a
httle intiuence in its determination. The writer regretted
that so few and feeble endeavours had been made to accomplish
the moral and rehgious improvement of the Hindus. He
suggested the institution of public schools, in which the Enghsh
language should be exclusively used, as a means which would
scarcely fail to mfuse into their minds Enghsh feelings. ^ ' But
the legislature will do well to pause before it complies with
wishes of some well-meaning and pious persons who petition
for the introduction of a clause in the new Act in favour of
missions to the East. The dissemination of the Gospel will
not be accelerated by Act of Parhament missionaries.' In
^March 1813 the JRevieiv published another article on the
same subject. ' With respect to chartered missionaries we
trust that such will be excluded. Let them go as heretofore, or
let them go under those restrictions which it may be necessary
to impose on all ; let them have full scope to preach the gospel,
translate the Scriptures, and establish schools on their own
account and at their own risk.' The writer deprecated any
official connection between them and the Government, and
continued : ' For our own parts we are fully persuaded that there
are only two ways which hold out any hopes of effectual
success in the conversion of the Hindus :

' (i) A Church establishment, served by sensible, zealous and
discreet ministers, " not by such as talk of coercing the proud
and contemptuous spirit of the Natives."

' (ii) The estabhshment of public schools with the English

These articles were only two of several signs that public
opinion was being led along more reasonable channels than in
previous years. The merchants and tradesmen of the City of
London knew the opinion of the Directors of the East India
Company ; it was the common talk of the city where most of
them lived ; and they recognised the justice of their contention

' Like the Sullivan-Schwartz schools established in 1785. See The Church
in Madrm, vol. i. p. 518. The Rev. C. S. John of the Royal Danish Mission,
Tranquebar, established similar schools in his district twenty years later
in 18U3. See bis letter in vol. 95, Trucls, India OflBce.


that it would be dangerous to their interests to do what Wilber-
torce wanted them to do. The clergy of the country, who were
still looked upon as the proper persons to take the lead in their
several parishes in matters of religion and morals, must have
been influenced by the pamphlet of Lord Teignmouth, the
learned history of Robert Chatfield, or by some similar means.
For when meetings were held in the early part of the year 1813
all over the country, for the purpose of passing resolutions,
and signing petitions to both Houses of Parliament, it was
found that Lord Teignmouth's views prevailed, and that there
was a universal silence on the subject of compelling the
Company to establish and maintain a Government Missionary

The City of London meeting was one of great importance,
for the citizens led the way in laying down principles of action
which were at once wise, just and prudent, and which they
knew the Companj^ would not oppose. They passed their
resolutions and petitioned in accordance with them as
follows : 1

' That your petitioners are deeply impressed with the moral
degradation of the immense population of the British dominions
in India, and lament that so little has hitherto been done to
remove it, although the Hon. House of Commons was pleased
in the year 1793 to resolve " that it is the peculiar and bounded
duty of the Legislature to promote by all just and prudent
means the interest and happiness of the inhabitants of the
British dominions in India ; and that for these ends such
measures ought to be adopted as may gradually tend to their
advancement in useful knowledge, and to their religious and
moral improvement." That your petitioners most cordially
concur in the just and humane sentiments contained in the
above resolutions.

' Your petitioners therefore implore your Lordships that
such provisions may be inserted in the new Charter to be granted
to the East India Company as shall afford sufficient facilities to
those benevolent persons who shall be desirous of going to
India for the purpose of communicating to its population the
blessings of useful knowledge and moral and spiritual religious
improvement ; and also such provisions as shall prevent the

' MimUes of Evidence, taken before the House of Commons, 1813, p. 45;


obstruction of their endeavours for promoting their object in
tliat countr3% so long as they shall conduct themselves in a
peaceable and orderly manner.'

The 1703 resolutions meant that the desired measures should
be adopted by the East India Company, The 1813 petition
meant that the Company should allow measures to be adopted
by private persons, in association or othermse, and should
not hinder them as long as they conformed to regulations for
the good government of the whole community.

There was in London at the time a Protestant Society for
the Protection of Religious Liberty, who thought that the
principles they lived to uphold were at stake. They also met
and passed resolutions, and sent them not only to the Houses
of Parliament but to the Directors of the Company as well.i
They esteemed the power possessed and exercised by the
Company to exclude unlicensed and undesirable persons from
their dominions as the greatest impediment to the progress of
Christianity in India, and inconsistent with the religious liberty
they must defend. They contended that this power should
not be renewed to the Company, but that Christians of every
sect should be permitted unlicensed to reside in India for their
missionary purposes.

The question of licensing had nothing to do with that of
religious liberty. The Company at the time ruled over Hindus,
Mahomedans, and Christians of several kinds, including
Roman Catholics, Armenians, Syrians, Lutherans, Baptists,
Congregationalists, English Churchmen, and perhaps others ;
they held the scales of justice between all, and gave to all
the most complete toleration and liberty. The necessity of
licensing those who were not in their service, and only permitting
those who were thus licensed to reside in their settlements
arose from a different cause, which can easily be understood
by anyone who has knowledge of colonial settlements and
adventurous Europeans, and is gifted with imagination. If
it be pleaded that no such precaution was necessary in the
case of missionaries, whether priests or laymen, the reply is

' A^aira of the En-it India Company/, vol. 57, Record Dept. India OflSce,
pp. 275, 312.


that it ought not to have been, but that in the experience of
the Company it was.i

The Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge '^ were
' prompted to take part in the pubhc soHcitude regarding the
spiritual welfare of the East,' as they had been so long engaged
in efforts to extend the knowledge of the truth there. Indi-
vidually and collectively they knew better than any other men
or body of men in England what the East India Company and
the Government of Fort St. George had done for the mission
cause in India. They confessed in their series of resolutions
that they were ' sensible of the anxious care the Rulers have
for the ruled in India,' and that they did not ' pretend to have
a greater care.' The intention of their resolutions was to ' add
another motive to the various inducements pressed upon the
authorities ' to establish pastoral superintendence in India,
as the only means of putting upon a proper foundation the
spiritual interests of British subjects. They thanked the
Hon. Company for many aids in their designs, and for the
favour shown to their missionaries and missions, ' the recruit
of which is now almost entirely cut off.' And they expressed
a respectful hope ' that the permanent foundations of the
Christian Church according to its best form be laid in India by
the settlement of Bishops in the Presidencies, by the foundation
of seminaries, by the building of Churches, &c., the want of all
which has been felt and acknowledged for more than a century.'

Nine hundred petitions were presented to the Houses of
Parhament between March and July 1813 from various towns
and parishes all over the country. A great number of these
were expressed in a similar manner to the petition of the
meeting in the City of London. And a great number went
further and asked for a Church establishment as well.

The publication of Buchanan's modified scheme, which

' The \n'iter does not Avish to be misunderstood in this matter. The Chap-
lains and the missionaries in India in the eighteenth century v^eve a highly
respectable body of men, some of them eminent. But some of them disregarded
the Company's rules as to trading, as to lending money on mortgage to native
landowners, and as to prompt submission to all local regulations pending appeal
against them to higher authority. See Parochial Annals of Bengal, by H. B.
Hyde ; The Church in Madras, 1904 ; and Buchanan's Apology, passim.

- Report for 1812, Appendix IV.


included the establishment and maintenance of three seminaries
for training native mission agents, had the effect of producing
more controversial literature. The most important of the
pamphlets was one i by Mr. John Bebb, who from a long ex-
perience of India knew how unwise it would be for the Govern-
ment to take any part officially in missionary enterprise. He
drew attention to the fact that meetings were being held and
petitions presented in favour of obtaining the co-operation
of the East India Company in the scheme of converting the
natives of India. He begged the Directors to have nothing
to do with the scheme. He reminded them of the proselytising
efforts of the Portuguese in the old days ; their missionary
establishments at Goa ; their loss of native confidence, and
their consequent loss of political power. He evidently had a
great distrust of the whole scheme, for he even deprecated
the consecration of a Bishop for India.

Some of the petitioners and agitators had asked for complete
liberty of action, freedom from all control and interference.
Others had asked for the financial co-operation of the Company.
The very extremity of the demands created the extreme oppo-
nent ; so that many of the pamphleteers dealt with the question
whether Christianity ought to be propagated in India at all,
and not whether it should be done in any particular way.

At the assembhng of the Parliament, in which this great
question was to be decided, there were three contending
parties carrying on a triangular fight. There was the Company,
which for nearly ninety years had shown a very practical
sympathy with the mission work in India, and which had quite
recently affirmed in a despatch to Bengal - the desirability
of imparting the knowledge of Christianity to the natives, but
which was steadily opposed to taking any official part in the
work. There were the zealous friends of missionary endeavour,
good Christian men, who wanted the work done, and saw no
reason why the Company, the Rulers of British India, should
not co-operate and partly pay for it. And there were the friends
of the Company, many of them distinguished old servants,

' Letter from John Jiebb, Esq., to the Co^irt of Directors, vol. 110, Tracts,
iDclia Office.

- Despatch, Sept. 7, 1808, Public (see Appendix IV).


who had some right also to the title of friends of India, who
sided with the Company in their opposition to the proposed
missionary estabhshment, but who used some arguments in
their contention which the Company would not have endorsed.
One more pamphlet must be noticed ; i it was so carefully
expressed in well-rounded, nervous English sentences that it
attracted a good deal of attention, and passed through three
editions, the last being pubHshed in 1815, long after the conten-
tion was settled. But it must be noticed simply because it
was one of those which misled the public. Mr. Hall was only
like other stay-at-home Englishmen in failing to understand
the necessity of a licence from the governing authorities for all
Europeans not in the service of the East India Company.
It was a permission to reside which was granted after taking
a kind of oath of allegiance to the Company ; an undertaking
not to transgress its rules and regulations, and not to call in
question its decisions. The hcence was the only possible
bond of subordination of a private individual to the governing
power ; it was the chief testimony of nationality for those
who went beyond the Company's borders ; and it was the
ground of their clann to protection if they got into any trouble
with the country powers. Some friends of the mission cause —
not Teignmouth nor Grant nor Buchanan, who knew better —
thought and wrote as if the licence were an engine of oppression
invented by the Company to exclude missionaries. It was
intended to exclude all who could not undertake under a penal
bond to be of good behaviour during their residence in India.
A number of would-be missionaries, both from England and
America, tried to evade this undertaking, and to insist upon
the right of Christian evangelists to go where they pleased for
the purpose of preaching the gospel, without asking any man's
permission, just as it seemed to them that the apostles must
have done at the beginning. In their eyes it was an unreason-
able, not to say an unchristian, claim.^ Mr. Hall, regretting
the ' obstructions ' placed in the way of the missionaries, and

1 Address by the Rev. Robert Hcdl, M.A., vol. 66, Tracts, India Office.

" Before ordination in the Church of England, every candidate still has to
take the oath of allegiance and the oath of supremacy, and is not allowed to
minister till he has done so. Rom. xiii. 1-8.


the vexatious prevention of their ' quiet efforts to plant the
Christian faith,' proceeded to say : ' It must surely be considered
an extraordinary fact that, in a country under the government
of a people professing Christianity, that religion should be the
only one that is discountenanced and suppressed.' This is
the underlying fallacy of the whole address. The implication
of persecution, hostilit}^ suppression was an argument that
appealed very strongly to English people, and probably won
for the petitions which were presented to Parhament more
signatures than all the other arguments put together. Yet
it was not strictly true. The whole address was written
without an accurate knowledge of the facts.

The begiiming of the year 1813 saw the commencement of a
straggle between persons and bodies of persons holding different
views on two completely different subjects : (i) the Company's
monopoly of trade ; (ii) the promotion of Christianity in the
Company's territories. The Company considered the former
subject much more important than the latter, for the reason
that their very existence as a trading company was bound up
with it. An attempt was being made by some of the most
important manufacturing towns, and by some of the largest
ports in England, to abolish the monopoly of the port of
London in the East Indian carrying trade, and the monopoly
of trade itself possessed by the Company. This important
question was growing more and more ready for settlement.
Twenty years later it was settled in favour of free commercial
intercourse. Tlie reason why it was not ready for settlement
in 1813 was the unsettled state of political affairs at the time.
The battle of Waterloo, which gave peace to Europe, made the
way easy for the inevitable change. The bulk of the questions,
when evidence was being taken before the Committees of the
two Houses of Parliament, were on the subject of trade. When
the Houses debated the provisions of the Bill, the greater part
of the discussion was taken up with the same subject. The
ecclesiastical provisions, which seem so important from the
ecclesiastical point of view, were adequately discussed ; but
there can be no douljt that the Court of Directors and the
members of both Houses of Parliament considered them of less
importance than the others.



27(6 Parliamentanj Struggle

Committees of both Houses of Pai-liament examine witnesses. Sir John
Malcohn. Warren Hastings. Lord Teignmouth. William Cooper.
Thomas Graham. The result of the inquiry. Lord Castlereagh's resolu-
tions of March 22. The opinions of the General Court of Proprietors in
favour of the policy of the Directors. The debate. Randle Jackson.
Joseph Hume. Thomas Lowndes. The Rev. Mr. Thirh\aU. Lord
Wellesley in the House of Lords, April 9. Wilberforce in the House of
Commons, May 18. House of Commons in committee, May 31 to June 3.
First twelve clauses passed, June IG. Debate on clause xiii. Lord Castle-
reagh. Sir Henry Montgomery. Wilberforce, &c. Passed June IC.
The Court of Proprietors, June 26. Joseph Hume. Thomas Lowndes.
Mr. Villiers, &c. House of Commons Committee preparatory to third
reading, June 28. Lord Castlereagh. Charles Grant. William Smith.
House of Commons Committee, July 1. Lord Castlereagh. Sir Thomas
Sutton. Charles Marsh. Wilberforce. Prendergast and his much-quoted
opinion. Report Stage, July 12. Solemn protest by Mr. Whitshed Keene
and Mr. Forbes. Wilberforce. Bill passed Commons, July 13. Bill
passed Lords, July 16. Accepted by Court of Directors, July 21. The
clause as passed. The other ecclesiastical clauses. The character of the
clauses. The honours of victory divided.

Early in 1813 the two Houses of Parliament resolved them-
selves into committees for the pm-pose of hearing evidence on
the various points connected with the renewal of the Charter
raised by the Company, the pamphleteers, the petitioners, and
the deputations. About forty witnesses were examined by .
the Lords ; of these twenty had resided in India and two in
China ; eight were in the marine service, and the rest were
connected with commerce and trade in England. Only two
of these were examined on the ecclesiastical proposals, Warren
Hastings and Sir John Malcolm. In considering their evidence


it must l>e borne in mind that the ecclesiastical proposals before
the public included a Government missionary seminary in each
Presidency. Sir John Malcolm, who served in the Madras
army before he entered the political department, and who
appears to have known something of the mission work in the
south of India, said ^ that ' attempts to introduce the Christian
religion among the natives [in the way proposed] would bo
attended with dangerous political consequences ' ; that ' in
a government so large there must be many who desire its sub-
version, and who would be ready to employ any means they
could to effect that object. Such [persons] would find those
means in any attempt that was made to convert the natives
of India upon a scale that warranted them in a belief [that it]
had the encom'agement of the British Government.' He
added : ' The missionaries sent to India by nations who have
not established any political power in that quarter have a
much better chance of effecting their object than those under
other circumstances.' Warren Hastings said " that ' in con-
sequence of the fermentation there appears to be in the minds
of the natives that the Government is in some way going to
encroach on their religious liberties, and endeavour to effect
their conversion, it would be unwise at present to introduce
a Church establishment,'^ considering the question at present
a political one.' He added : ' But I can conceive that in a
proper time and season it would be advantageous to the
interests of religion, and highly creditable to the Company
and the nation, if the ecclesiastical establishment in India were
rendered complete in all its branches.'

The Committee of the House of Commons examined about
twenty witnesses, seventeen of whom had resided in India.
Only four witnesses were examined on the ecclesiastical ques-
tion : Warren Hastings, Lord Tcignmouth, and Messieurs
William Cooper and Thomas Graham, who had all served on the
Bengal estaljlishmont. The Committee wanted the experience
and the opinion of those whom it esteemed most capable of
forming a reliable judgment. They made a mistake in calling

' Minnte-H of Evidence, Lorda' Committee, 1813, p. 25.

-' Ibid. p. 10.

■* Such as the one proposed.


Thomas Graham ; for though he had travelled in the south
and seen Schwartz's work, he knew very little about it. They
ought to have called John Sullivan, the former Resident at
the Court of Tanjore, and the originator of English education
in India for natives of the higher classes. The Committee
wanted to know if the plan before the country as to a Church
establishment in India (including, as it did, the Government
seminaries) were a wise plan or otherwise. They wanted
expert opinions on the subject of the licence, which the Seram-
pore missionaries and their friends wished to have abolished ;
and they equally desired the opinions of experts on the subject
of the official restraint and control of method which the same
missionaries resented.

Warren Hastings declared himself to be in favour both of
the licence and of the control. He said : ' If missionaries had
demeaned themselves properly when I held the first place in the
government of India, I should have taken no notice of them ;
but if they had given occasion to the belief that the Govern-
ment tacitly encouraged their designs, I should certainly have
checked the attempt and withdrawn them to Calcutta from an

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 3 of 39)