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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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apprehension of the consequences which such a belief would
produce upon the minds of the people.' He maintained i that
missionaries ought not to be allowed ' to preach publicly with a
view to the conversion of the native Indians that Mahomed
is an impostor, or to speak in opprobrious terms of the Brahmins
and their religious rites. It would not be consistent with the
security of the British Empire in India to treat the religions
established in the countries of their dominion with contempt
and opprobrium ; nor with common humanity.' He reminded
the committee that there had occurred in the course of history
such things as religious riots and massacres and wars ; ' our
government is not exempt from the chances of their recurrence.'

With regard to the proposed establishment he could not
conjecture in what way it could affect the peace of the country
without knowing the religious use to which it was proposed to
put it. And he proceeded :

' May I say, without offence, that I wish any other time

' Minulefi of Evidence, Commons Committee, 1813, p. 13.


had been chosen for it. A surmise has gone forth of an inten-
tion in this Government to force our rehgion upon the consciences
of the people of India, who are subjected to the authority of
the Company ; it has pervaded every one of the three estabhsli-
ments of Bengal, Fort St. George, and Bombay ; and has un-
happil}' impressed itself with peculiar force upon the minds of
our native Infantry, the men on whom we must depend in the
last resort for our protection against any disturbances which
might be the effect of such surmises. Much would depend upon
the temper, conduct, and demeanour of the person elevated
to that sacred ofhce.' I dare not say all that is in my mind
upon this subject ; but it is one of great hazard.'

Warren Hastings was not opposed to a Church establish-
ment, but he thought the present time inopportune ; it being
too soon after the minds of some had been disturbed by
Buchanan's unfortunate use of the word coercion. He was
also in favour of the licence and in the power of restraint as
to missionary method.

Lord Teignmouth was examined next, and at some length.
The Committee wished to know if his experience and opinion
tallied with those of Warren Hastings, with regard (i) to
indiscreet missionary methods, and (ii) to the present danger of
the proposed establishment. He agreed with his eminent
predecessor as to (i), and to a certain extent as to (ii). In
reply to a question about indiscreet public preaching, he said
that it would be attended with danger, but that it was not
necessary to adopt such a course for converting purposes ;
that public preaching was different from private conferences,
and that what might properly be said in private might not
necessarily be said with propriety in public ; that the early
Danish missionaries proceeded largely by means of private
conferences, and that he had never heard of any dangers or
inconveniences attending their efforts .^ ' The discreet and
well-regulated efforts of missionaries, as they have generally
conducted themselves hitherto in India, would not be dangerous
to the peace and security of the British dominions in India.'

' He meant the office of J3ishop.

- The Ro^al Danish Mission at Tranqucbar was patronised and linaucially
supported by the King of Denmarli.


He testified that the character of a missionary was not offen-
sive to the people of India ; and that if his conduct was prudent
and pious, he would be highly esteemed by them. But he
repeated that the dangers attending an indiscreet zeal would
be considerable, and that it would be advisable to leave the
control of teachers of Christianity at the discretion of the
Government, who are better judges of the kind of prudence

Lord Teignmouth was then asked a question on the other
matter upon which Warren Hastings had pronounced an
opinion, namely, on the wisdom of sending out a Bishop if
there were such a widespread idea as Warren Hastings men-
tioned. He gave his opinion that the sending out of a Bishop
would be viewed with perfect indifference by the natives ;
that the empowering of missionaries or others by Act of Parlia-
ment to go from England to India for the purpose of converting
the Hindus would not form a handle by which the enemies of
England would be able to set the country of India in a tlame.
He explained that the Hindus and Mahomedans knew by
experience that the Government paid every attention to their
prejudices, civil and religious, and that the freest toleration
was allowed ; that by regulation the Government left them
free in their religious ordinances, and that molestation was
punished. He added : ' I do not apprehend that they would
be brought to believe ^ that this Government ever meant to
impose upon them the religion of this country.' Being further
pressed with the opinion of Warren Hastmgs, he said : ' If a
law were to be enacted for converting the natives of India to
Christianity in such a manner as to have the appearance of
a compulsory law upon their consciences, I have no hesitation
in saying that in that case it would be attended with very

' Minides of Evidence, Commons Committee, pp. 20, 31.

- The reference to the enemies of England and to the possibility of some one
inducing the natives to believe as above was a reference to a real danger at the
time, but which is now mostly forgotten. ^Ve were still at war with France,
and there were many Frenchmen in India who had been for some time past
using every means to undermine British authority and power in the country.
If there had been any deliberate intention on the part of the Government to
convert the natives of India, these French emissaries would have used the
intention as an argument to further their designs.


great danger. If an enactment goes only to allow persons to
reside in India for the purpose of instructing the natives in the
doctrmes of Christianity, I mean as far as they are willing
to receive them, I should see no danger in it.'

Lord Teignmouth was then asked what the effect upon the
native mind would be if it apprehended that the Govern-
ment were secretly favourable to the propagation of Christian-
ity among them ; and he replied, none ' as long as they were
convmced that no forcible attempts would be made to con-
vert them.' By the word secretly the questioner probably
referred to a possible sympathy not openly declared nor acted
upon, a tacit co-operation with missionary action. He stated
that he had never heard of any discontent in consequence of
the missionary work of Schwartz and his fellows ; nor in con-
sequence of the existence and work of Koman Catholic Bishops
in India ; and it did not occur to him that the appearance of
English Bishops and Archdeacons would encourage any appre-
hension among the natives that force would be used to establish
Christianity among them.i Being asked if the Government
had ever shown any discouragement of a fair and judicious
attempt on the part of discreet persons to introduce Christian-
ity, he replied that when he was in India the question never
occurred for them to show either encouragement or discourage-
ment ; and that he had never heard, since he left India, that
they had shown any discouragement. ^

The next witness was William Cooper. The value of his
evidence consisted in its corroboration of that of Lord Teign-
mouth and Warren Hastings. He did not know as much as
they did about the mission work that had already been done
in India ; he confessed that he had never heard of the S.P.C.K.,
nor of its work in the south ; '^ that though he knew Schwartz
by name and reputation, he had never heard of Gericke or any
others ; and that he knew nothing about the numbers of their
converts. The only missionary he knew was Kiernander ; he
testified that no evil consequences had arisen from his proceed-
ings, and gave an opinion that none would arise at any time
provided the influence of Government were not employed to

' Minvies of Evidence, 1813, pp. 31-34.

■ P. 33. •' Pp. 58-60.


aid them. Several times he declared that if an Act of Parlia-
ment indicated any intention on the part of the British Govern-
ment to attempt the conversion of the people of India to
Christianity, or to encourage such attempts, the greatest alarm
would be created in their minds. He was most decidedly
against any official assistance or official recognition of mission-
ary endeavour ; and he thought that the plan before the public,
and the resolutions passed at many pubhc meetings, including
that in the City of London, pressed for both.i He thought
that the agitation to make the Company into a missionary
Company, and to press the resolution of 1793, had been made use
of by the fomentors of the Vellore mutiny in 1806.3 At the
same time he knew of no measures having been taken officially
in consequence of that resolution ; ' had any measures been
taken which could have induced the smallest suspicion on the
part of the natives that any interference whatever with their
religious tenets was intended, I am satisfied that the most
dangerous effects would have been produced by it.' Mr.
Cooper was not in any way hostile to missionaries ; but to
their being trained or encouraged or officially assisted by the
Company. He said, as Lord Teignmouth said,^ ' If the mission-
aries came and worked as hitherto without authority no mis-
chief would be done ; if they were sent with the authority of
Government the utmost danger to our dominion would be the

William Cooper could only look at the proposed additions
to the Church establishment through the same spectacles. He
said that two days ago he should have answered in favour of
the increased establishment, provided that the right person
were chosen as Bishop, that it was intended to support the dignity
of our own Church, and that there was no intention to inter-
fere in any form with the religion of the natives. But that in
consequence of som.e reports of meetings, at which resolutions
were passed in which the religions of. India were abused as

1 P. 48.

- Pp. 52-53. He was then told that the resolution of 1793 had never received
the sanction of Government. This fact is hardly remembered in the present

=* P. 42.
VOL. n. p


inhuman and degrading, and a bar to the progress of the people
in civihsation, which would ultimately find their way to India,
he apprehended that the people of India would associate the
proposal with an effort to interfere with their customs and
prejudices by force, and that the appointment of a new ecclesi-
astical establishment of a Bishop and Archdeacons would at
the present time cause a ferment. No alarm, he said, would be
excited by the addition of a few dignitaries, if such addition
were stated to be necessary to supply the spiritual wants of the
Company's European servants in India.

By means of these two inquiries before committees of the
two Houses of Parliament, the Government found out exactly
what it wanted to know. The Lords' committee confined
itself almost entirely to trade and the licence question. They
wanted to Imow especially if and why the licence was necessary
in the case of Europeans not in the Company's service. By
the evidence of some of the best of the Company's servants they
discovered that the licence in those unsettled times was still
necessary, that it was no greater hardship for a missionary to
take the quasi oath of allegiance to the Company than for any
other person, and that it was not in any way a bar to mission-
ary labour to be under the government and control of the local
authorities. One hundred years of quiet missionary work in
the south by well-ordered men, who obeyed the rules and
regulations of the higher powers, were sufficient evidence to
convince the Government that the contention was groundless.

The Commons' Committee asked no questions on this point.
They wanted to know if there was any good reason why a
complete Church establishment should not be given to India
for the better care of religion and morals ; and if there was any
good reason why the Company's local governments should
not take a part in the mission work which the bulk of the
religious-minded people of England wished to see done. The
answers to their searching questions, by those whom they
esteemed to be the fittest witnesses, decided them as to what
was best. The missionary seminaries must be left out of
account ; they plainly meant official co-operation ; and this
was unanimously condemned by the Directors themselves and
by their individual servants. As for the estabhshment they


contemplated, none of the witnesses thought that it would be
a source of political danger if detached from official missionary
co-operation. The Government now knew what ecclesiastical
provisions to introduce into their Bill, and what to omit.

If there was any triumph in this conclusion i it was a triumph
for the Company against both sets of their opponents ; one
set wishing them to do more than was wise, the other wishing
them to do less than was right. Wilberforce, Buchanan, and
the Clapham set " were full of Christian zeal, but wanting in
discretion. Scott Waring, Twining, and their set were full of
discretion and the caution bred of experience, but were wanting
in Christian zeal. The best of the Company's Directors and
servants were full of both, and contended from the beginning
to the end of the controversy for the settlement that was finally
decreed. Hough describes^ the contest as one 'between the
friends and enemies of Indian missions ; the one party seeking
to have the door opened wider for the missionary's entrance
into the country ; the other desiring to see it shut more closely
against them.' This statement is not without truth ; but to
guard against coming to wrong conclusions, it is necessary to
add that the Company was neither on the side of the latter
party, nor opposed to the former.

On March 22, 1813, Lord Castlereagh, the leader of the
House of Commons, submitted a number of resolutions to the
House, indicating what the Government proposed to include
in the Bill for granting an extension of the Charter to the
Company. The principal resolutions related to administration,
trade monopol}^ and mihtary matters. The twelfth and
thirteenth were as follows :

' That it is expedient that the Church establishment in the
British territories in the East Indies should be placed under
the superintendence of a Bishop and three Archdeacons, and
that adequate provision should be made from the territorial
revenues of India for their maintenance.

* Kaye's Christianity in India, 1859, pp. 257-60.

- Not sect ; their historic title is the Clapham set, but somehow the word
became changed into sect before the middle of the nineteenth century. Sir J.
Stephen uses it {Essays in Eccl. Biog.).

■* Hough's Christianity in India, iv. 252-53.



' That it is the duty of this country to promote the interest
and happiness of the native inhabitants of the British dominions
in India ; and that such measures ought to 1)6 adopted as may
tend to the introduction among them of useful knowledge and
of religious and moral improvement. That in the furtherance
of the above objects sufficient facihties should be afforded bj^
law to persons desirous of going to and remaining in India for
the purpose of accomplishing those benevolent designs.

* Provided always that the authority of the local Govern-
ments respecting the intercourse of Europeans with the interior
of the country be preserved ; and that the principles of the
British Government, on which the natives of India have hitherto
rehed for the free exercise of their religion, be inviolably main-

On March 24, 1813, the General Court of Proprietors of East
Indian Stock met to consider the propositions. It must be
understood that this meeting was a shareholders' meeting ;
that the Directors were in no way responsible for the opinions
expressed ; and that when those of the shareholders who wished
to express an opinion had done so, the General Court approved
of the policy of the Directors. The debate was principally on
the subject of the trade clauses.^ Mr. Handle Jackson was the
first to touch upon the ecclesiastical clauses. He deprecated
the proposed additions to the Church establishment on the
ground that they would be a temptation to the present estab-
lishment to aspire to place, power, and authority. He desired
to preserve spiritual humility among the Company's Chaplains,
uninfluenced by temporal ambition. He did not want to
introduce into India ' that sort of high vaulting ambition
which he knew to be inseparable from the possession of Church
dignity.' He repeated the same sentiments in slightly different
language over and over again. Mr. Joseph Hume also
deprecated the additions, but on different grounds. He was
anxious that there should be no want of religious instructors
in India ; he thought that there were at present enough of them
to satisfy all needs, and he opposed the increase on the ground
of economy. He questioned the political wisdom of sending
out such high dignitaries. It would be impossible to keep them

1 Debates on the East India Charter, 1813, vol i.



from interfering with the poHtics of India, and consequently
affecting the councils of the Government. He deprecated the
poHcy of attempting to convert natives ; when converted they
were outcasted and rendered miserable in every way by their
own people, so that conversion was not calculated to make them
happy. Mr. Thomas Lowndes also opposed the additions. i
He objected to them on the ground of reHgion, politics, and
economy. He never knew, he said, a Bishop or an Archdeacon
to forward religion, and he was called to order. He had the
highest respect for the Church estabhshment of England ; but
' the moment a Bishop was sent to India he would be at once
placed in a situation higher than the Governor-General himself.
Hitherto the Company had had humble, meek and unassuming
pastors, who discharged their duties in a humble, meek and
unassuming manner. But if they were to send out a high priest
the consequence would be that the mild spirit and the unassum-
ing character of the present priesthood would vanish, the cause
of rehgion would suffer, and rehgious dissensions and rehgious
animosities would arise.' The Eev. Mr. Thirlwall warmly sup-
ported the clauses, citing America, Nova Scotia, and Scotland
as places where episcopacy existed without temporal power.
He reminded the Proprietors that episcopacy was on the side
of civil liberty, and brought forward the example of the six
bishops at the Eevolution. He spoke equally warmly in favour
of giving Hindus the benefit of the superior knowledge of divine
things Christians possessed.

These four were all who spoke on ecclesiastical matters at
this meeting. The opinions of the three opponents are given
to show that they can hardly be described as Philo-Hindus
contending against Christians,^ nor their opinions as Brah-

On April 9 Lord Wellesley ^ in the House of Lords moved
for certain papers and spoke unreservedly in favour of the

' Mr. Lowndes, an Oxford graduate, was generally recognised by the
Proprietors at this and subsequent debates to be wanting in seriousness ; he
was witty and whimsical, quaint in his metaphors and turns of speech ; he
frequently caused laughter, and was frequently called to order.

- Kaye's Christianity in India, p. 274.

^ J. C. Marshman's Lives of Carey, dhc, 1859, pp. 38-40.

■• Governor-General of Bengal 1798-1805.


proposed addition to the Church estabhshment in India,
provided that care was taken by Hmiting the powers of the
Bishop to avoid colhsions between him and the Government
as to their respective aiitliorities. He thought the Bishop's
position would be a dehcate one, and that there was a possibihty
of its causing at first, owing to recent events ^ which had taken
place in India, some alarm among the natives. As to mission-
aries he generously praised those whom he knew in Calcutta ;
described them as learned men, quiet, orderly and discreet
(luring his time, who were engaged with his unofficial encourage-
ment in the translation of the Scriptures, As to the encourage-
ment given to them, ' a Christian Governor could not have
done less,' and * a British Governor ought not to do more.'

On May 18 Mr. Wilberforce, in presenting a petition from
the Baptist Missionary Society to the House of Commons,
endeavoured to correct a misapprehension that the members
of this sect had petitioned for leave to propagate their peculiar
tenets ; he stated that their object was to promote Christianity
generally without reference to sectarian doctrines. He then
bore witness to their high character and their linguistic
attainments, and read the testimonies of Lords Wellesley and
Minto in their favour. He added that one of them had been
appointed a language Professor in the college at Calcutta.^
This testimony was necessary at the time, and did the cause
in which Wilberforce was interested good service, because it
helped to soften the widespread prejudice against the mission-
aries in consequence of their being dissenters.

On May 31 the House of Commons went into Committee
to consider the clauses of the proposed Bill. The discussion
circled round the first three clauses, which referred to the
constitution of the Company, its jurisdiction, its privileges,
monopolies, and trade. On the third day these were passed ;

' It is not certain what he referred to ; it may have been the attempt on the
part of the enemies of England to create disaffection among the natives by
spreading a report that the Company contemplated interference with their
religious liberties.

- The pay was £1000 a year. Carey imitated the German missionaries in
the south by adding the money he thus earned to the common stock for the
extension of his missionary ^^ork.


the rest were passed in block ; and the resolutions of the
Committee were reported to the House on June 3.

On June 11 and 14 amendments were brought forward
with a view to abolish the sovereign power of the Company in
India, and their monopoly in trade; but these were negatived. i
On June 16 the first twelve clauses of the Bill were passed,
and the thirteenth came on for discussion. Lord Castlereagh,
in introducing it, said that it was not intended to encourage
an unrestrained and unregulated resort of persons to India for
religious purposes, as this would not be consonant with the
tranquillity and security of the British dominions ; but that no
danger would arise if a certain number of persons were allowed
to proceed to India under the cognisance of the Court of
Directors. The thirteenth clause provided control both as
regarded the number and the character of the persons sent.
He saw no ground for apprehending any alarm or adverse feeling
on the part of Hindus by the appearance of more missionaries
in India ; he thought that under proper control no evil was
likely to follow the movement ; and he said that the work should
rather be done by such persons than by the Government.

Sir Henry Montgomery made a provocative speech in opposi-
tion. He had no knowledge of the mission work in the south,
but spoke as if he had. He said that during a residence of
twenty years in India he had never known an instance of any
convert being made to Christianity. This was quite possible,
as he had not been near to any centre of evangelistic work.
He added that he had never heard of any, ' except one, who was
converted by that very respectable individual, Mr. Schwartz.'
He continued : ' It was said that that gentleman, who, by-the-
bye, was a politician, had many converts ; it was true that he
was followed by several persons of the lowest class in the
scarce season ; these were called rice Christians.' ' None
had ever succeeded in making, converts except by force.'

' Quite apart fi'om the ecclesiastical proposals was the opposition to the whole
Bill on the part of various members. Some desired to see the sovereignty of
India transferred from the Company to the Crown, and the trade thrown open.
Others (including Thcnas Creevy) objected to renewing the Charter without
some monetary consideration from the Company in return for monopoly, as
on all former occasions of renewal.


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 4 of 39)