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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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' Christians in India were not converts but the descendants
of Christian settlers.' * Attempts to mtroduce Christianity
had never succeeded.' He then compared the morals of India
with those of England to the great disadvantage of the latter.
He admitted that missionaries were not the cause of the mutiny
at Vellore, but that if the missionaries were allowed to act
without restriction ^ m India, there would probably be a repeti-
tion of it in other parts ; and he was ' more anxious to save the
lives of 30,000 of his fellow-countrymen in India than the souls
of all the Hindus.' In this last sentence is afforded possibly
a glimpse of what was at the back of his mind. It can hardly
be said that his arguments could be described as Brahminised
or as Philo-Hindu ; they were founded upon ignorance of
mission work, ignorance of what the Government proposed
to do, and they mvolved the mischief of an inference from a
false premise. But their very badness resulted in a great
good ; for they mspired William Wilberforce to make his
famous reply. ^

Li this reply he took pains to let it be known that he was
no longer of opinion that the regular clergy in India should
be employed as missionaries ; nor that the appointment and
maintenance of missionaries should rest with the Government
or the Company ; he said ' it ought to be left to the spontaneous
zeal of individual Christians, controlled of course by the dis-
cretion of Government ' ; and further ' that the missionaries
should be clearly understood to be armed with no authority,
furnished with no commission, from the governing power of the
country.' He assured the House that in this matter he ab-
horred compulsion, disclaimed all use of the authority and
influence of the Government, and trusted altogether to the
effects of reason and truth. In this matter he had clearly
modified some of his earlier views, had forsaken Buchanan for
Lord Teignmouth, and was enunciating the views of the
Directors of the East India Company. Then he proceeded to
reply to Sir Henry Montgomery ; this he did without passion
or reproach, unerringly, justly and temperately, so that in

' It was not proposed that they should.

- Hansard's Parliamentary Debates ; and it is bound up in one of the volumes
of Tracts at the India Office.


his argument he carried the House with him. His speech is
one of his several monuments.

Ten other members spoke on the same day, five supporting
and five opposing the clause. One of the five opponents had
no objection to missionaries going to India as heretofore, but
disliked a legislative enactment in their favour, on the ground
that it might be misunderstood in India. i Another objected
on the ground that the enactment would defeat its own object
by the declaration of its purpose, believing that everything
that was desirable to be done could be done under the licensing
clause as in times past.2 Two others opposed apparently on
purely party grounds. The one genuine opponent of all
missionary endeavour m India was Mr. Prendergast, who had
had the unpleasant experience of witnessing, and assisting to
quell, the riot in Calcutta caused by the indiscretion of the
Serampore Baptist missionaries. Without being either Brah-
minised or a Philo-Hindu he was whole-hearted in his opposi-
tion because of his experience. The resolution that clause
xiii. stand part of the Bill was carried that night by 89 to 36.
The Bill was then read a second time without further division.

On June 26 there was another meeting of the Court of
Proprietors. The discussion 3 was principally on the subject
of trade, but six of the speakers referred to clauses xii. and xiii. ;
of these four were in favour of them. Mr. Joseph Hume de-
precated the increase of the Church establishment on the score
of expense ; he did not oppose it from a religious point of view,
but because the Company could not afford it ; he thought it
would be oppressive to the Company's means ; he was sure
the hierarchy could do no more than the Company's Chaplains
had done or could do. He accused the Government of wishing
for the increase in order to have another source of patronage,
and suggested that if H.M.'s Ministers had this plan so much
at heart, they should pay for it themselves. As to mission-
aries, he would not forbid them to go ; it was the poHcy of the
Company to permit every man to go who obeyed the laws
and conducted himself properly, and he saw no reason for
making an exception in the case of missionaries provided they

1 Mr. Forbes of Bengal. - Sir T. Sutton,

• ^ Debates on the East India Charter, vol. ii.


behaved discreetly, peaceably, and without violating the
people's prejudices. All who read the correspondence between
the Government of Bengal and the Board of Control would be
satisfied that the Company were disposed to afford every
facility for the propagation of Christianity, as long as the
effort was consistent with public tranquillity, and that they
interfered only when opposite measures were taken. He
trusted that every rational being in this country would set his
face against any attempt to convert the natives by the force of
official authority. If the business of conversion were left to
the pious zeal of private persons he saw no harm in their being
allowed to do the work ; but he deprecated all ostensible
countenance of such proceedings by the Company's Govern-
ments, and therefore deprecated the appointment of a Bishop
and Archdeacons. He concluded by conjuring the Court of
Directors not to venture on a proceeding which involved so
much risk.

Mr. Thomas Lowndes spoke ^ in much the same way as at
the last Proprietors' meeting. He was called to order twice.
Nobody seemed to pay any serious attention to what he said,
so there is no reason why anyone should now. He was opposed
to an increased establishment because of the expense — because
the love of power was so inherent in a Church dignitary that the
Government of India would be made uneasy and uncomfortable
— and because if once a Bishop were admitted, they would have
in a few years a Bishop in every province of the Indian empire.
He had no objection to a proper supply of clergy, Anglican,
Roman, and Scotch ; ' Anglican and Roman were monarchy
men, whose principles were congenial with the government and
principles of the British Constitution ; Scotch Presbyterians
were a decent orderly set of men ; as to Sectarians ' — ^ho
objected to them all, and said some hard things, and was called
to order. His opinions would not be noticed here, if it were not
that they seem to include the worst that could be said against
the clauses.

Mr. Villiei-s brought the discussion back to the plane of reason
and argument." He said that it was not a question of forcing

' Debates on the East India Charter, ii. 217.
- Ibid. 1813, ii. 227.


Christianity on the country, or of proceeding by fraud to do it ;
it was a question whether a person who vokmteered bis services
to communicate his feehngs to those who, chose to hear him
should or should not be permitted to go to'India. He would
vote against power or force or violence of any kind ; as he
understood it, the intention was to urge the doctrines of Christ-
ianity by the influence of persuasion and the conviction of
truth ; he would vote for allowing the piety and zeal of individ-
uals under proper control to do what they could, Mr. Howarth
urged caution. Mr. Bacon supported the clauses. Mr. Eobert
Grant expressed the general view of the Directors and of the
authorities in India, when he said that ' it would be impossible
to permit any free circulation of missionaries of any persuasion
whatever, without having them completely under the power and
control of the local Governments ' ; as the clause stood this
control was provided for ; therefore there was no occasion to
oppose it, nor to put any impediment in the way of their
going out.

On June 28 Lord Castlereagh in the House of Commons
moved the order of the day for going into conmiittee preparatory
to the third reading. It was on this day that the Grants,
father and son, both spoke ; they said little about the twelfth and
thirteenth clauses ; both were at pains to vindicate the Court of
Directors from some imputations which had been deliberately
cast upon them in the course of the discussion. Lushington
was decided in his opposition ; his experience on the west coast
of India was that conversions were possible, but that they
created ill-feeling and quarrellmg among the people. William
Smith saw and said that * gentleman of equal respectability
and knowledge had given evidence on each side of the question ' ;
he asked how were they then to act ? and suggested they should
take the side to which the precepts of Scripture leaned. He
was moderate in his demand ; for he did not contend for the
employment of any force or official influence, but only that
Christianity should not be prevented from taking root in a soil
calculated for its reception.

On July 1 the House again went into committee. Lord
Castlereagh asked that the clause regarding the propagation of
Christianity might be allowed to pass without discussion, as it


could be discussed at the report stage if further discussion
was necessary. But the opponents— neither they who were
opposing the Government for party reasons, nor they who
feared missionary enterprise in India, nor they who thought
the attempt ridiculous — would not allow the thirteenth clause
to pass without further opposition.

Sir Thomas Sutton repeated his former objections, not to
the principle of the clause, but to the impolitic way in which,
in his opinion, it was sought to carry it out. Lord Castlereagh
defended the terms of the clause in a manner which showed that
he was in sympathy with the views of Lord Teignmouth, Charles
Grant, and the Directors of the East India Company. Then a
remarkable thing happened. Mr. Charles Marsh,-^ a barrister,
rose and replied to the speech which Wilberforce had made in
favour of the second reading. He advanced no argument
which had not been advanced before ; but he clothed all the old
arguments with logic and orderly sequence, and launched them
with the power of eloquence. He mentioned the probability
of alarm among the natives when the text of the clauses reached
India, with the speeches, resolutions, petitions, all couched
in no uncertain language, to serve as commentaries upon them.
He pointed out the imprudence of altering the licence system
in such a manner that persons would be able to set at defiance
the local Governments. As a matter of fact this contingency
was provided against. He brought forward the argument of
the Vellore mutiny, as the direct result of an unwise order
which interfered with a caste practice, and the indirect result
of Christian activity. He denounced Buchanan and Kerr as
* zealous patrons of sectarian missionaries.' He praised the
policy of non-interference, on the ground that though our sub-
jects in India uphold our empire by the willing service of attach-
ment, still there are limits to their allegiance. He pointed out
the danger of making experiments on a machine so delicate and

' Charles Marsh went to Madras in 1809 to practise his profession in the
High Court there. Apparently he did not find sufficient scope for the exercise
of his undoubtedly great powers as an advocate and special pleader, for he
returned home in 1810. His exceedingly clever speech was published in pam-
phlet form (vol. 7~), Tracts, India Office), and he made a reputation by it. At
Madras he defended with conspicuous abihty the officers who were prosecuted
in connection with the officers' mutiny.


complex as our empire in India. The question, he said, was
not of the duty of diffusing Christianity, but of the time, place,
and opportunity. His opinion was that the time had not come,
the place was not ready, and that the opportunity was being
made instead of waited for. He then referred to the difficulty
of the task, and the impenetrability of the caste barrier, which
only they who have been to India realise ; and he took occasion
to rebuke Wilberforce for speaking of the difficulties as ' bug-
bears that haunt the imagination of that part of the House,
who having been to India are the least competent to pronounce
on the subject.' That was the only vulnerable part in Wilber-
force's speech ; it was of course a foolish thing to say, especially
as he had on his side some of the most famous Anglo-Indian
administrators and politicals. Marsh replied : ' It savours
somewhat of paradox that we should be disqualified from
bearing testimony by the only circumstance that can entitle
us to credence.'

Marsh referred to the missionary as quite undisturbed as to
what might be the political result of his action ; the missionary
simply argued that the Hindus were sunk in gross heathenism,
their superstitions were brutal, their characters were contempt-
ible, and that therefore the duty of converting them was over-
whelming. He then defended the Hindus against some
accusations that had been brought against them. This was not
difficult, for they had been represented as little better than
savages and barbarians for controversial purposes. Finally
he attacked the missionaries, and regretted that they were
to be sent out from all sects and persuasions and opinions.
* No one cares whether the Christianity to be taught is the
genuine language of its author or the dream of mysticism and
folly.' And he asked if the blessings of a corrupted Christianity
could outweigh the evils of a tolerably enlightened heathenism.
He drew a mental picture of the jarring and contradictory
doctrines of the missionaries themselves, and said that there
seemed to be no anxiety to introduce that unity of faith on which
the mind of man could rest and repose. ' The Parliament of
Great Britain is called upon to grant facilities for the diffusion
of dissent and schism from every doctrine which the law and
the civil magistrate have sanctioned.'


The speech, whose eloquence was acknowledged by Wilber-
force in his reply, had a considerable influence upon the House ;
and had it not been for the spiteful attack upon the mission-
aries, who were not commonly regarded as dangerous but only
as harmless lunatics, the effect would probably have been
greater. Wilberforce took advantage of the blunder in his
reply, and made the most of it. He admitted that there was
a risk in attempting even by reasonable and prudent methods
to introduce into India the blessings of Christian truth and
moral improvement ; but he thought the risk ought to be
taken. He was evidently fearful lest the eloquence of Marsh
should have had a greater effect than it really had, for he
pleaded for the clause as if it were in danger. His anxiety was
quite unnecessary ; the eloquence and logic of Marsh were
manifestly a pleasure to the listeners, but the speech had no
true ring of truth and conviction in it ; it was a great forensic
display, a clever piece of special pleading, an able and artistic
placing of a case before a jury. The House admired but was
not moved as it had been by Wilberforce a fortnight before.
Wilberforce had to reply ; he might have done this without
either anxiety or resentment.

M'. Prendergast opposed the clause and repeated his old
arguments. It was on this occasion that he said ^ that ' the
attempt to convert the Hindus was the most absurd infatuation
that ever besotted the weakest mind.' Seven other speakers
repeated their old arguments, and then the clause was carried
by 54 to 32.

On July 12, 1813, the report of the Bill was brought up.
Mr. Whitshed Keene made a solemn protest against the measure,
as containing a clause which was full of danger, because appear-
ing to identify the Government with the missionary cause.
Mr. Forbes was opposed to the introduction of Christianity
into India in the manner suggested. He had been a Bengal
civilian. He was neither Brahminised nor an indifferent
Christian. He said that he was the son, the brother, and the
father of a clergyman, and that he had assisted to translate the
Gospels into the Hindu language. It may be taken that he,
like several other Anglo-Indians, was opposed to the method

' Hansard's Debates, 1813, May to July, p. 1080.


rather than to the principle of the clause. Like Mr. Tierney,
who spoke subsequently, he had no objection to Christianity
being propagated, but he objected to the intention being
proclaimed aloud and incorporated in an Act of Parliament ;
he had no objection to missionaries going to India as heretofore,
but objected to such facilities being made the object of legis-
lative enactment.

Wilberforce answered objections ; Mr. Stephen pleaded
that the mere permission given to go was innocuous ; Lord
Castlereagh warmly supported the clause ; the amendment
was defeated by 48 to 24, and the Bill was read a third time on
July 13, 1813.

The House of Lords went into committee on the East
India Resolutions on June 21. The Earl of Buckinghamshire i
moved them. An amendment to postpone their reception was
defeated by 49 to 14, and on June 22 they were agreed to.
On July 16 the Bill came up for second reading. Very little
was said about Eesolations xii. and xiii. Lord Lauderdale
trusted that the aid of the civil power would not be called in to
attempt to give effect to the propagation of Christianity in
India ; he was reassured by Earl Stanhope and by the Earl of
Buckinghamshire, the latter of whom pointed to the clause
in the Bill which made it imperative on the Government of
India to secure to the natives the free exercise of their religion.
The Bill was then agreed to, and it received the royal assent

On July 15 and 21 it was minutely considered by a Com-
mittee of the whole Board of Directors. Some provisions were
objected to, but not those which related to ecclesiastical and
missionary matters. Finally the Board resolved to accept it,
and to try to fulfil all the new duties it imposed. The Bill
was a lengthy one. It embodied the substance of the resolu-
tions proposed m the House of Commons on February 22,
1813 ; but in the process of dealing with the prmciples in
detail, the resolutions had grown into about sixty clauses or
chapters." The first thirty-two of these referred to trade and

1 Formerly Lord Hobart, Governor of Fort St. George.
■^ For convenience I have referred to the two main ecclesiastical and mission-
ary provisions as Resolutions or clauses xii. and xiii, throughout.


administration and militaiy matters. The thirty-third referred
to persons proceedmg to India. It finally received the royal
assent in this form : i

' 33. And whereas it is the duty of this country to promote
the interest and happiness of the Native inhabitants of the
British Dominions in India, and such measures ought to be
adopted as may lead to the introduction among them of useful
knowledge and of religious and moral improvement ; and in
furtherance of the above objects sufficient facilities ought to
]je afforded by law to persons desirous of going to and remaining
in India for the purpose of accomplishing those benevolent
designs ; so as the authority of the local Governments respecting
the intercourse of Europeans with the interior of the country
be preserved ; and the principles of the British Government
on which the natives of India have hitherto relied for the free
exercise of their religion be inviolably maintained : And whereas
it is expedient to make provision for granting permission to
persons desirous of going to and remaining in India for the
above purposes, and also to persons desirous of going to and
remaining there for other purposes ;

' Be it therefore enacted that when and as often as any
application shall be made to the said Court of Directors for or
on behalf of any person or persons desirous of proceeding to the
East Indies for permission so to do, the said Court shall, unless
they shall think fit to comply therewith, transmit every such
application within one month from the receipt thereof to the
said Board of Commissioners for the affairs of India ; and in
case the said Commissioners shall not see any sufficient objection
thereto, it shall and may be lawful for the said Commissioners
to direct that such person or persons shall, at his or their own
special charge, be permitted to proceed to any of the said
principal settlements of the said Company, and that such
person or persons shall be furnished by the said Court of
Directors with a certificate or certificates, according to such
form as the said Commissioners shall prescribe, signifying that
such person or persons hath or have so proceeded with the
cognisance and under the sanction of the said Court of Directors ;
and that all such certificates shall entitle the persons obtaining
the same, so long as they shall properly conduct themselves,
to the countenance and protection of the several Governments

' Affairs of the East India Company, Ivii. 425.


of the said Company in the East Indies and parts aforesaid in
their respective pursuits ; subject to all such provisions and
restrictions as are now in force, or may hereafter be judged
necessary with regard to persons residing in India.'

It was enacted that all such persons should be subject to
the regulations of the local Governments ; ^ and that the local
Governments might declare the licences to be void if it should
appear to them that the persons to whom they had been granted
had forfeited their claim to countenance and protection ; -
and that the local Governments should retain their power of
sending home persons, licensed or unlicensed, whose presence
in India was for any good reason undesirable.

Then followed the clauses establishing a Bishop and three
Archdeacons for the better superintendence of ecclesiastical
matters, — the clauses relating to their jurisdiction, the power
of recalling them, their pay and pension, — the clauses relating
to the visitatorial power of the Bishop of London over the
Company's civil and military colleges of Haileybury and
Addiscombe, — and a clause directing that all payments for
ecclesiastical purposes should be made out of the Company's
territorial revenues. This clause was put in to satisfy those
proprietors of East Lidia stock whose objections were based
on the supposition that the expense of the new establishment
would be paid out of trade profits. It also satisfies those of
later times, who, since the introduction of imperial taxes,
might on principle object to the payment of an ecclesiastical
department out of taxes raised from people of the several
different religions of India. -^

^ Clause or chapter 35. - Clause or chapter 36.

^ The East India Company were, like the British Government are now,
the landlords of British India. They derived an income from ground rents as
well as from trade. The profits from trade, after paying the expenses of the
same, were the legitimate property of the proprietors of shares. Out of the
territorial revenues were paid the cost of the civil, military, naval, ecclesiastical
and medical establishments, the administration of justice, the making and
maintaining of roads and other means of improving and developing the country
which had undesignedly come under British rule. As landlords of India the
Company calculated their rent year by year according to the yield of the crops,
taking a definite proportion of the profit and leaving a definite proportion for
the cultivator. This just system of calculating rent is still pursued in the
Madras Presidency.



Li order that there might be no risk of the Bishop's authority
clashing with that of the civil Government, it was si^ecially
enacted that the Bishop's jmisdiction was to be limited by
the Letters Patent which gave him authority to act. And
to satisfy the doubts of those who professed to think that the
new Church officials would only be new free merchants under
another name, it was further enacted that the Bishop and Arch-
deacons were neither to take fees nor perquisites, nor to trade.

The passing of the Act was a triumph for the British Govern-
ment of the day, for they carried a measure through Parliament
which has been of the greatest service to the causes of religion
and morals in Lidia among all classes of residents, European,
Eurasian, and native. It was a triumph also for the Hon. East

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 5 of 39)