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This is a characteristic of India to be empha-
sized and to be remembered. No other country


is so mute, so unconscious, so deaf in the midst
of turmoil and bloodshed. The American must
school his imagination to this situation. A fire
in Chicago, a flood in Texas, an earthquake in
California is a fire, a flood, an earthquake for
the whole country. Not so in India. There were
people peacefully at work within fifty miles of the
fighting who knew nothing of it; and even now,
flood, plague, or famine slays hundreds of thou-
sands in one part of India, and the rest of India
is ignorant and undisturbed. When one hears
of unrest in India, or when one hears that India
wants this, or needs that, all such statements
must be put into this enormous crucible where
they are ground exceeding small, and prove to
be after all only the unrest, the need, or the want
of a minute fraction of the unwieldy whole. It
is like one of the huge zoological reconstructions
of another age, whose hide is so thick, whose ex-
tremities are so far apart, that unlike any other
bodies known to us, what touches or hurts or
heals one part has no effect upon the others.

At Cawnpur was a large native garrison, and
W'hen they mutinied Nana Sahib put himself at
their head. The Europeans, including more
women and children than fiohting; men, were be-
sieged for two weeks, and then trusting to a safe-
conduct from Nana Sahib, they surrendered.


They embarked in boats on the Ganges, the
boats were set fire to and shot at by the natives
from both banks, and only four escaped. The
women and children were massacred a few days
later, some of them being pitchforked living
upon the bayonets of their murderers.

Delhi w^as besieged for months from the sur-
rounding ridge, over which I have walked and
driven, but it was only in September that the
Kashmir Gate was blown in, and Nicholson fell
at the head of the storming party.

The chief commissioner of Oudh was a Law-
rence, and not a Lawrence for nothing. He pre-
pared for a siege in the Residency at Lucknow,
and was mortally wounded there, but his intelli-
gent prevision saved his companions till at last
Lucknow was relieved.

It is one of the ghastly nightmares of history
to see that Black Hole of Calcutta, that well at
Cawnpur, that cellar in the residency at Luck-
now, that grave-dotted ridge at Delhi. Women
and children outraged, suffocated, pitchforked
on bayonets, burnt, stabbed, starved, and stran-
gled : it is a horrible tale. Say what one will of
all that, it is British business, British vengeance,
not ours, but it is a disgrace to the whole white
race that British callousness, and lack of taste
and reverence, should permit these graves to be


overgrown with weeds, should suffer that miser-
able little graveyard on the ridge above Delhi,
should allow the lettering on the Kashmir Gate
to become defaced. The only monument in all
India that is not a travesty is the statue of John
Nicholson, and more than one of the statues of
the white empress and the wdiite emperor of
India are black! With all their splendid quali-
ties and achievements, to which I have tried
without prejudice to do justice, their stupid-
ity is at times as criminal as their attempts at
artistic commemoration are grotesque. If taste
is not indigenous, we can and do supply them
with a West, a Wliistler, a Sargent, a La Farge,
a St. Gaudens. Let them knight their painters
of marble baths, and Greek maidens, and bridge
problems, and over-decorated wooden sover-
eigns, and sentimental scenes of bourgeois do-
mesticity, but let them turn over their monu-
ments, in w^hich we are all interested, to the real
craftsmen of the arts.

The East India Company, its first charter
signed and sealed in 1600 by Queen Elizabeth,
came to an end in 1858 after the Mutiny. The
administration of India w^as handed over to the
crown. Queen Victoria, later, on January 1, 1877,
to be proclaimed empress of India, issued the fol-
lowing proclamation when India was taken over:


"We hold ourselves bound to the natives of
our Indian territories by the same obligations of
duty which bind us to all our subjects ; and these
obligations, by the blessings of Almighty God,
we shall faithfully and conscientiously fulfil.
And it is our further will, that so far as may be,
our subjects, of whatever race or creed, be fully
and impartially admitted to offices in our ser-
vice, the duties of which they may be qualified,
by their education, ability, and integrity, duly
to discharge."

I quote these words for my readers because
they were quoted many times to me by the dis-
contented natives of India. The British went
further with words of promise than they find it
easy to go in actual practice. Intentions have
lungs, breathe, and are communicative. The
English are forever intending things for India,
which when they are done are already ungrate-
fully received as things long ago deserved; and
when they are not done, and compromise is sub-
stituted, the Indian sees nothing but hypocrisy
and broken promises.

A distinguished Indian gentleman, wTiting of
the reforms just introduced by Lord Minto, says:
*'Why is there so little enthusiasm among the
educated classes about them ? ^Vhy are some
even beginning to fear that they may fail to heal


the existing distemper? Because a certain fa-
tality seems to clog the steps of the government,
that whenever it does anything useful for the
people it knows not how to do it with good grace.*^
The italics are mine, for there in a nutshell is the
ever-present criticism of British rule. It is just,
honest, but unsympathetic and ungracious. It
is a delicate and a difficult problem. One must
tread softly both physically and metaphorically.
We ourselves have not won such laurels by our
dealings with the ten million negroes in America
that we can afford to be censorious, or to offer
easy, ready-made solutions for the problem. In-
effable cocksureness might be tempted to shout:
Get on or get out! were it not for the possibility
of a despatch the next morning announcing a
l}Tiching-bee in one's own country, to emphasize
one's fallibility.

If you and I had taken over the government
of a distracted country, which for centuries had
dated passing events from the last raid, the last
massacre, the last famine, the last deluge, the
last plundering ride of a foreign invader; and if
we had laid there 30,000 miles of railway, 100,000
miles and more of telegraph wire; if we had wa-
tered 17,000,000 acres with canals of our own
construction; if we had arranged that one in
every seven acres of the whole country were ir-


rigated; if we had built schools, nursing homes,
dispensaries, hospitals, where 8,000,000 chil-
dren are vaccinated and 25,000,000 people re-
ceive relief annually, and post-offices and police-
stations; if school attendance had increased from
500,000 to 6,000,000; if the letters carried had
increased from none to 700,000,000 annually;
if we had policed the country from end to end,
administered justice w ithout fear or favor; spent
millions of money and thousands of lives in the
country's defence; protected the people from
brutal customs, protected the widow and the
orphan ; secured to every man, woman, and child
his rights, his property, and his earnings; if out
of nearly 29,000 offices of the government draw-
ing salaries ranging from £60 — no small in-
come for a native of India — up to

Online LibraryPrice CollierThe West in the East from an American point of view → online text (page 10 of 29)