Mountstuart Elphinstone.

Selections from the minutes and other official writings of the Honourable Mountstuart Elphinstone, governor of Bombay. With an introductory memoir online

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Online LibraryMountstuart ElphinstoneSelections from the minutes and other official writings of the Honourable Mountstuart Elphinstone, governor of Bombay. With an introductory memoir → online text (page 6 of 41)
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classes, and insisted on seeing everything. He was
fond of the land in which he laboured, and took an
interest in its antiquities, amd would go out of his way
to visit an ancient river or celebrated temple. He
thoroughly enjoyed Bijapur, and thought it Avell worth
the pains of a journey even after Delhi and Agra. He
was fond of sport ; and the Under-Secretary, who ac-
companied him during his tour, writes : ' We always
had in the camp a Shikaree, whose business it was to
inquire for hog ; and whenever he brought in intelli-
gence of game, Mr. Elphinstone would proclaim a holi-
day, and go hunting for one or perhaps two days ; and
he was fond of the chase at any time. In the midst
of many striking excellences, that which placed him
far above all the great men I know of, was his forget-
fulness of self, and thoughtfulness for others.'

The eight years of Elphinstone's rule passed away
without any epoch-marking event, but it was a period of
consolidation and improvement. The best testimony of
the success of his government is the address presented
to him by the native inhabitants of the Presidency on
the eve of his departure. The address is headed by
the name of the very princes and chiefs whom he
helped to conquer a few years previously, and opens as
follows :

' We, the native princes, chiefs, gentlemen, and
inhabitants of Bombay, its dependencies, and allied
territories, cannot contemplate your approaching de-


parture from the country without endeavouring to
express, however faintly, the most profound and lasting
regret which has been occasioned in our minds hy your
resignation of the government of this Presidency ; for
until you became Commissioner in the Deccan and
Governor of Bombay, never had we been able to
appreciate correctly the invaluable benefit which the
British dominion is calculated to diffuse throughout the
whole of India. But, having beheld with admiration
for so long a period the affable and encouraging
manners, the freedom from prejudice, the consideration
at all times evinced for the interest and welfare of the
people of this country, the regard shown to their
ancieut customs and laws, the constant endeavours to
extend amongst them the inestimable advantages of
intellectual and moral improvement, the commanding
abilities applied to ensure permanent amelioration in
the condition of all classes and to promote their
prosperity on the soundest principles, by which your
private and public conduct has been so pre-eminently
distinguished, has led us to consider the influence of the
British Government as the most important and desirable
blessing which the Supreme Being could have bestowed
on our native lands.'

Besides presenting him with the above address, the
native community subscribed the handsome sum of
^620, 000 for the foundation of professorships for the
purpose of teaching the natives the English language
and tlie arts, sciences, and literature of Europe ; to be
held in the first instance by learned men to be invited
from Great Britain, until natives of the country should
be found perfectly competent to undertake the office.
The European community of Bombay were not less
emphatic than their native brethren in expressing their


regard for the departing ruler. In this address they
dwelt upon the noble qualities by which he had attached
the people to his sway, and they concluded it by asking
him to allow a marble statue of himself to be erected in
Bombay and to accept a service of plate which w^ould
be prepared and presented to him in England. The
Bombay Literary Society, founded by Mackintosh and
fostered b}^ Elphinstone, voted a memorial bust to be
placed in the Society's rooms.

On the 14th November, 1827, Mountstuart Elphin-
stone quitted Bombay, and no statesman ever left the
shores of India more beloved by all classes of the
community. Having no near ties at home, he made
no haste to reach England, but travelled slowly through
Egypt, Syria, Palestine, Greece, and Italy. During
all his years of hard official life he had read much of
the classic lands ; and the unhappy gift of ' beauty,'
which has attracted men of all ages to the Italian
peninsula, exerted a strong influence on his cultivated
mind. Poetic and historical associations guided his
steps, and the two years spent in wandering must have
been years of sunshine to the weary statesman. It
was not until the spring of 1829 that he reached Eng-
land, at the age of fifty, after having spent thirty years
in India. His health was shattered, but his abilities
were not at all impaired. But a man who returns to
England after a thirty years' residence in India will
find, be his talents what they may, that he has much
to learn. ' When I met them,' said Elphinstone of his
intercourse with the literary lions of the day, ' I used to
find myself constantly out of my depth.' To remedy the
defects caused by a long exile from the world of letters,
the great Indian statesman retired to a roadside inn to
study the Greek grammar. He also, by close reading,
advanced the boundary of his knowledge of European


history and historical antiquities. With the same zeal
that he had qualified himself to be a great administrator,
he laboured to fit himself for the vocation of historian.
During his residence in India he had always devoted
much attention to the history of the land, and collected
much valuable material, and in 1835 he commenced
writing his great book. For five years he laboured
hard inweaving it into form, and in the spring of 1841
the ' History of India ' was published. The book is
one of great merit and value, but it must not be
measured by the standard of criticism of the present
day. Since it was written German erudition has
opened up unexplored wilds of Indian history and
mythology. Mr. Elphinstone brought to his task a
mind familiar with Oriental modes of thought, but he
was unfortunately no Sanscrit scholar, and consequently
the Hindu period is the most unsatisfactory portion of
his book. Whether the Hindu period could ever be
written thoroughly by one scholar is doubtful. The
historian of ancient India has to form his narration at
one time out of the legends of a mythical age not more
historical than that of Theseus, at another out of the
bewildering records of co-existing dynasties, more num-
erous and as shifting as those of the Saxon heptarchy.
In the Mohammedan period Mr. Elphinstone was tread-
ing on firmer historical ground, and one more familiar
to him. No part of the history is more worthy of atten-
tion than his estimate of Akber, or of the virtues and
faults of Baber. The book has been called dull, and it
may be to those who regard history as mere canvas for
word-painting ; but the scholar will always admire the
calm and equitable style, free from all inaccuracy of
language or statement. Mr. Elpliiustone spoke diffi-
dently of his history as a contribution to the great
subject he had taken in hand that might aid the work


of some future men of genius. The volume published,
it must be borne in mind, formed only a part of a
greater undertaking, embracing the rise of the British
power in India, which failing health compelled him to

The last fifteen years of Mr. Elphinstone's life were
passed in the delicious retirement of Hookwood, in
Kent, in alternate communing with books and old
friends. He had always loved books, and they were
now necessary to him. At times he would throw aside
his books, and then to his friends he was delightful
company through a flood of subjects and an unaffected
cheerfulness and civility. Though he had retired from
the world he was not forgotten by the world, and his
opinion regarding matters of Indian policy was often
sought by the leading statesmen of the day. The
letters written by him to his friends from his retirement
are charged with wisdom and foresight. To Lord
Mayo and the Marquis of Ripon is due the credit of
having introduced local self-government into India;
but upwards of thirty years ago Elphinstone wrote,
' Leave the inferior presidencies independent on all
matters that do not affect the general politics or im-
perial legislature of India.' Mr. Elphinstone viewed
with regret and alarm Lord Dalhousie's policy of stealing
other men's lands under the specious pretence that it
was for the good of the people. His alarms were
justified by the events of 1857, when the taking of
Oude and the confiscation of Jhansi was avenged by

When the East India Company, which had reared
the stately fabric of our Indian Empire, fell by the
mutiny of its soldiers, Mr. Elphinstone took a keen
interest in the reconstruction of the Home Government.
He did not look kindly on the innovations, and time


has proved liow shrewd and just his criticisms were.
Writing about the Indian Bill he said : ' The great
point of course is the Council, and I think that proposal
will furnish a body of excellent advisers for an honest,
able, and moderate secretary (such as Lord Stanley
appears to be), and that it will supply the deficiencies
of a lazy or indifferent one much better than the
ordinary clerk of a Board of Control would do ; but that
it will afford very little protection against a rash, fanci-
ful, and self-willed chief, and none at all against one
who shall combine with a ministry in a deliberate plan
to appropriate the patronage of India, or to make use
of that country in any other way favourable to then*
own power or stability.' Events have proved that
Elphinstone's fears were not purely imaginary. He
desired that the Council of the Secretary of State for
India should retain the special knowledge and exclusive
devotion to Indian interests which characterized the old
Directors. Above all things, he desired that Indian
questions should be removed from the platform of party
politics, and that the welfare of our Indian subjects
should never be sacrificed to the exigencies of political
strife. * It is more astonishing,' he wrote, ' considering
how much our safety depends on the contentment of
our Indian dependents, that in all the late discussions
there has not been a single speaker of note, except
Gladstone, that has laid the least stress on this part of
the subject. They probably rely on the Indian Govern-
ment for looking to public opinion among the natives ;
but what could the strongest Indian Government do
against a clamour for levying a new tax (say an income
tax) on India to make up for the deficit occasioned by
its oivn expenses, including the Persian and Chinese
Wars, and many other charges in which the people of
India take quite as little concern.'

DEA TH. 75

Mountstuart Elpliiustone did not live long enough to
see the working of the new system. On the 20th of
November, 1859, in the eightieth year of his age, death
came to him suddenly. Before men heard he was ill,
news reached them that the great Indian statesman was
dead. To the quiet parish church of Limpsfield was
borne the coffin of a great man. In war he had shown
the abilities and courage of a great commander, and in
peace the virtues of a successful ruler of men. He
possessed the two great elements of all social virtues —
respect for the rights of others, and sympathy for the
trials and sufferings of all men. These qualities have
caused the descendants of the brave Mahrattas whom
he conquered to cherish the memory of Mountstuart










1. I HAVE the honour to lay before the Board a letter
from the Secretary to the Education Society, enclosing
a report from a Special Committee of that Association.

2. As it is principally at my recommendation that
the Society has come to solicit the aid of Govern-
ment, I am bound to afford every support I can to
their application. I have, however, some suggestions
to offer in addition to those of the Committee ; and the
late order of the Court of Directors against the founda-
tion of a Native College at Bombay, obliges me to
advert to topics which I did not mean to have con-
nected with the Society, and to give a wider range to the
discussion than is required by the letter now before us.

3. I have attended, as far as was in my power since
I have been in Bombay, to the means of promoting
education among the natives, and from all that I have
observed and learned by correspondence, I am perfectly
convinced that without great assistance from Govern-
ment, no progress can be made in that important
undertaking. A great deal appears to have been
performed by the Education Society in Bengal, and


it may be expected that the same effects should be
produced by the same means at this Presidency. But
the number of Europeans here is so small and our
connection with the natives so recent, that much greater
exertions are requisite on this side of India than on the

4. The circumstance of our having lately succeeded
to a Brahmin Government likewise, by making it dan-
gerous to encourage the labours of the missionaries,
deprives the cause of education of the services of a
hodj of men who have more zeal and more time to
devote to the object than any other class of Europeans
can be expected to possess.

5. If it be admitted that the assistance of Govern-
ment is necessary, the next question is, How it can
best be afforded ? and there are two ways which present
themselves for consideration. The Government maj'-
take the education of the natives entirely on itself, or it
may increase the means and stimulate the exertions of
the Society already formed for that purpose. The best
result will probably be produced by a combination of
these two modes of proceeding. Many of the measures
necessary for the diffusion of education must depend on
the spontaneous zeal of individuals, and could not be
effected b}" any resolutions of the Government. The
promotion of those measures, therefore, should be
committed to the Society ; but there are others which
require an organized system, and a greater degree of
regularity and permanence than can be expected from
any plan the success of which is to depend upon
personal character. This last branch, therefore, must
be undertaken by the Government.

6. It would, however, be requisite, w^hen so much
was entrusted by Government to the Society, that all
the material proceedings of that body should be made


known to Government, and that it should be clearly
understood that neither religion nor any topic likely to
excite discontent among the natives should ever be
touched on in its schools or publications.

7. The following are the principal measures required
for the diffusion of knowledge among the natives : 1st,
to improve the mode of teaching at the native schools,
and to increase the number of schools ; 2nd, to supply
them with school-books ; 3rd, to hold out some en-
couragement to the lower orders of natives to avail
themselves of the means of instruction thus afforded
them ; 4th, to establish schools for teaching the
European sciences and improvements in the higher
branches of education ; 5th, to provide for the prepara-
tion and publication of books of moral and physical
science in native languages ; 6th, to establish schools
for the purpose of teaching English to those disposed
to pursue it as a classical language, and as a means of
acquiring a knowledge of the European discoveries ;
7th, to hold forth encouragement to the natives in the
pursuit of these last branches of knowledge.

8. First, the improvement of schools must be almost
entirely left to the Education Society, with such
pecuniary assistance as Government may think it
expedient to afford. The constant and minute superin-
tendence which will be requisite over the schools in all
parts of the country, is such as can only be expected
from a very general spirit of anxiety to promote the
object. Any attempt to produce it on the part of
Government would require a large and expensive estab-
lishment, and, after all, would have very little chance
of success.

9. The establishment now recommended by the
Committee for teaching schoolmasters may be sanc-
tioned. It will be some time, perhaps, before properly



qualified persons are found, but no slackness should
appear on the part of Government in providing the
means of securing their employment. It ought at the
same time to be communicated to the Committee that
Government would be gratified by receiving occasionally
accounts of the progress made, and of the number of
schoolmasters to whom instruction had been afi'orded.
In the meantime it appears probable that a very bene-
.ficial effect would be produced if an attempt were made
to disseminate the improved method of teaching by
means of the press. For this purpose a very concise
treatise* might be prepared in each of the native
languages, containing a few rules for the management
of schools in the modern W' ay, along with a short exposi-
tion of the advantages which would accrue both to
masters and scholars from the adoption of these im-
provements. The same tract might contain a noti-
fication of the persons from whom school-books might
be procured, and likewise of the manner in which
prizes might be obtained by persons property qualified
in this stage of education. The circulation of these
tracts, and a few corresponding ones in English, to-
gether wdth the superintendence and assistance which
might be voluntarily bestowed by gentlemen throughout
the country, and the aid from the vaccinators which
will presently be explained, would probably effect much
towards the improvement of common schools, and
would pave the way for the employment of those
schoolmasters who are to be trained under the institu-
tion proposed by the Committee.

10. The means by which the direct exertions of
Government can be best applied to promote schools
is by endeavouring to increase their number, and on
this I am of opinion that no pains should be spared.

* Or rather two treatises, as proposed by Mr. Farish.


The country is at present exactly in the state in which
an attempt of the sort is likely to be most efifectnal.
The great body of the people are quite illiterate ; yet
there is a certain class in which men capable of read-
ing, writing, and instructing exist in much greater
numbers than are required, or can find employment.
This is a state of things which cannot long continue.
The present abundance of people of education is owing
to the demand there was for such persons under the
Mahratha Government. That cause has now ceased,
the effect will soon follow, and unless some exertion is
made by the Government, the country will certainly be
in a worse state under our rule than it was under the
Peshwa's. I do not confine this observation to what
is called learning, which, in its present form, must
unavoidably fall off under us, but to the humbler acts
of reading and wTiting, which, if left to themselves, will
decline among the Brahmins without increasing among
the other castes.

1 1 . The advantage of the present time is not con-
fined to the facility of finding masters. The funds are
more easily obtained at present than they will be here-
after. The Gram Kharch (village expenses), except in
the old districts, have not yet undergone regulation,
and many Warshasans,* Nemnuks,f allowances to
fakirs, etc., might now be turned to this useful purpose,
that will soon be lost altogether.

12. Mr. Chaplin formerly suggested an allowance of
from three to ten rupees from the Gram Kharch should
be oflered to any properly educated master who would
undertake to teach a village; and if the smallest of

* An annual allowance or stipend given for charitable purposes
to priests, pandits, etc.

t Allowance or appointed provision given to Government servants;
a salary or pension.

G— 2


these sums should seem too little for the poorest village,
it may be increased by consolidating the funds in all
cases where villages are sufficiently near each other.
It would not, however, be politic (as Mr. Chaplin has
since remarked) that this expense should fall directly
on the village ; such a measure would too closely con-
nect the ideas of education and taxation, and the Kayats
might endeavour to bring about the failure of the
school in hopes that they might thus get rid of the
impost. The school -money, therefore, should be taken
from the gross income of the village before the Govern-
ment share is separated, and the amount should be
made good by reductions in the Gram Kharch. If the
saving does not cover the expense, the loss will still be
very small either to Government or the Eayats when
compared with the advantage gained.

13. The schoolmasters should be allowed to take
the usual fees from their boys besides this allowance,
and should receive a certain degree of assistance in
printed tables and books of the cheapest description.

14. An important addition to the resources appli-
cable to the maintenance of schools might be obtained
by diverting towards that purpose other funds derived
from the Government Treasury, and not from villages,
which are at present employed on objects of no utility,
and which are equally lost to the State and to the
people. Occasions continually occur in which Haks,
Warshasans, Inams, and other lands and allowances are
granted unconditionally, from humanity or policy, to
persons claiming them on doubtful titles ; in all such
cases the grantee might be obliged to submit to a small
annual payment towards a fund for maintaining schools.
There are also many religious allowances which it
would be impolitic to resume, but which might by
proper management be diverted to this purpose. Lands


and allowances are also often held on condition of
performing religious or other services ; it would be
unpopular to exact a payment in commutation for those
services if the benefit went to Government, but it
might easily be levied for an object so advantageous to
the people themselves. In most cases, however, the
purpose for which any deduction is made from an
allowance should be kept entirely out of sight, to avoid
raising odium against our plans of education. It at
first seemed to me to be practicable by giving a small
addition in money to the allowances enjoyed by village
priests, astrologers, etc., on condition of their teaching
a certain number of boys, to induce them to undertake
a more useful profession, which might gradually super-
sede their original one ; but many objections presented
themselves to the arrangement, of which the most
important was that it necessarily rendered the situation
of schoolmaster hereditary in all instances where it was

15. Even if funds were provided for the support of
schools, we should still feel the difficulty of securing
the useful employment of them. If we could at all
depend either on a judicious selection of schoolmasters
in the first instance, or on a moderately careful super-
vision afterwards, there could be no doubt of the entire
success of the proposed measure ; but the over-employ-
ment of the Europeans and the indolence and indif-
ference of the natives make both of most difficult
attainment. The object, however, is too important to
be given up without an effort. The collector might
have the general charge of all schools which derived
any aid from Government, and a power to resume the
allowance in all cases of gross neglect. At stations
where many Europeans reside, some might probably
be found to undertake the care of the schools in the


neighbourhood. The Education Society might perhaps
induce some to charge themselves with this task, and
all officers, of whatever description, who had any share
in the management of schools, should he encouraged
to correspond with the Society and to promote its

16. In all subordinate villages a great deal may be
probably expected from the vaccinators. If these
gentlemen should enter with zeal into the promotion of
education, there are none hy whom so much assistance
could be afforded. They belong to a learned and
liberal profession, and are selected for their activitj^ and
humanity. Their duties lead them on tours precisely
of the nature of those required for the superintendence

Online LibraryMountstuart ElphinstoneSelections from the minutes and other official writings of the Honourable Mountstuart Elphinstone, governor of Bombay. With an introductory memoir → online text (page 6 of 41)