Convocation Addresses of the Universities of Bombay and Madras/Part 1/Sir James Fergusson, Bart., K.C.M.G., D.C.L. (Twenty-Third Convocation)
(By H. E. Sir James Fergusson, Bart., K.C.M.G., C.I.E.)
Mr. Vice-Chancellor and Gentlemen of the Senate,—At this great annual gathering, which marks another year that has passed in the history of this University, it is most gratifying to admit to the degrees and licence so many young men who to-day receive the reward of their industry and their self-denial, and I trust they will advance to-day another step in their career with higher hopes and increased aspirations to public usefulness. I trust that the interest—the enduring and increasing interest—which is taken in these annual meetings, will tend to increase in their minds the importance of a University degree, seeing that it is the hall-mark of their scholarship, and that it not only qualifies them for admission to the highest employment open to their ranks in this country, but will so stimulate them, I trust, to rise still higher in the career which they have chosen for themselves. I need not, I hope, caution them against supposing that the success which has so far attended their efforts is all that they ought to aspire to. Too many suppose that the knowledge which they have gained entitles them to criticise and dogmatise; true knowledge should always be modest, because, as the searcher proceeds, he sees how much there remains behind to attain. It should stimulate the modest and thoughtful mind rather to diffidence than to self-confidence. I hope that the idea, which some years ago was deprecated, of the right of those who attain to degrees in the University to public State employment is fast disappearing. It would be, indeed, unfortunate if neither learning was loved for itself or its possession was held to render a humble occupation unworthy of the holder. In the countries where learning has been most widely diffused—take, for instance, the Kingdom of Prussia, it is thought by no means derogatory for those who obtain successes in the Universities to pursue humble callings. Not only should knowledge respect labour, but it should seek to produce increased discoveries for the benefit of its profession and of mankind. Gentlemen, the year has not been an eventful one in the sense of any extraordinary occurrence in the history of this University. We have pursued the even tenor of our way without any very extraordinary event having marked the year 1883; but yet we can congratulate ourselves on the increased numbers of those who have offered themselves for the Matriculation Examination, and the increased proportion of those who have been successful is shown by the larger number of those who have attended to take degrees, whereby I am sorry to say the seats provided for the graduates have proved insufficient. But, gentlemen, in the history of a University we cannot always look for startling events. We must be contented in this, as in other phases of our career, to lay one more stone of the edifice which we hope to raise to solid and enduring usefulness. It is thus that in the little span of our lives, which seems to us important, but which is soon forgotten by our fellow-men, we must be satisfied that we have maintained the standard of the past and contributed something little to the cause in which we are all interested. On this great annual occasion I should do wrong if I forgot the memory of one who was well known to us, but a few days since passed away. The Hon'ble John Marriott. I refer to the Honorable John Marriott, who on several occasions had filled an important office in this University. That one so eminent in his profession, so entirely respected in his private life, enjoying the regard of so many, should in the full enjoyment of his intellect have passed away from us with startling suddenness, is an event which must cause us regret and sorrow. But, gentlemen, it must be a satisfaction to us to know that his memory will be cherished amongst us. He was one who raised himself from the threshold of his profession to the front by his own industry, and one against whose memory no man can cast a stone.
Then, too, gentlemen, during the past year we have had to congratulate ourselves on fresh contributions to the means of reward to our diligent students. Scholarships. The four fresh scholarships which have been announced to-day testify to the public spirit of our citizens and to the interest which they take in this useful institution. I am sure no more pleasing tribute can be paid to the memory of past members of the Service who have gone from us than that their names should be perpetuated by the encouragement of academical distinctions in those branches in which they themselves took an interest.
It is indeed to me a matter of congratulation that the most important step has been taken of admitting women to public to public examination. Admission of women to public examinations. There are many steps that will have to be taken before they will have the full benefit of the University. They cannot yet, for example, without proceedings being taken by Government, be admitted to the enjoyment of our colleges, and no doubt many matters will have to be considered before such a step can be taken; but I do not think that the warmest advocate of female education can object to one step being taken at a time; and it is well that ladies should, I trust, present themselves in no small numbers at first and show their capacity for these examinations. Gentlemen, for myself I can see no ground why women should be excluded from the educational advantages which are extended to men. I will not insult the female good sense by wishing that they should be placed in all respects on an equality with men. They have their career—and a very high career of duty it is—which must always be entirely distinct from ours, but their intellects are as acute, their power of assimilating knowledge as great, and means of usefulness open to them by the acquisition of knowledge not inferior to those of men. In all countries the education and development of the female character must rest with female teachers. It may be that instruction in arts and sciences can best be conferred by men, but the formation of character must always rest with female teachers. How can female teachers be qualified to a due extent if they have not educational advantages open to them? Therefore I cannot see myself why the whole benefit of an University should not be extended to women; but in this country, until society greatly changes, we cannot hope—we cannot expect if we do hope—that women expect in their young years, can be present at mixed places of education. The education which they must receive after years of childhood, and many of them who have not had any educational advantages in childhood at all, must be derived, if at all, from female instructors. Therefore, I say in this country it is peculiarly advantageous that female education should be encouraged to the utmost extent; and that no advantages which this society can offer, should be denied to women, I have sometimes thought that we may be rash in judging what may be best for races and people and religions so different from our own as are those in this country: but I cannot be wrong in thinking that as we in old time derived all our knowledge and civilization from the East, so we should bring to the East and offer as a debt of gratitude the fruits of that which we derived from them; The result must be in the hands of your own people; and we must look to the leaders of society that what we think reforms shall have their support to be judiciously carried out. No greater bond can exist between the Natives of this country and their foreign rulers than the common desire for their future advantage. Gentlemen, finally, the Supreme Government have empowered this University, with those of Calcutta and Madras, to confer honorary degrees. This power will enable the University to reward merit in many quarters in which at present no recognition is possible. It will, I doubt not, be exercised with discretion and reserve, for, as in the case of fellowship, the value of such degrees depends upon their judicious distribution. With regard to fellowships, I may say that it is a matter as much of regret as it is a bounden duty to Government to confer that honor only in the case of academical and literary distinction, while a degree may be not inaptly given in recognition of service which would not qualify for a fellowship. I thought when I rose that I had little to say, and that my observations would not be long, yet there is one more consideration I would offer, which I trust will not be out of place, and which I cannot reconcile to myself to omit. In the year 1883 the country has been greatly distracted by political strife. The Illbert Bill controversy. Animosities have been excited, as they must always be excited by a political difference, which has been greater than we can remember for many years. The University has the privilege of sitting high above the waves of faction. Those—and there may be some amongst us—who have taken part in the controversy of the past year never ought to carry it into their academical life. What occurs to me, gentlemen, is this. We have in such an institution as this a healing element which may go far to soothe the difficulties which political controversy has raised, because in this Senate sit men of different races and countries, actuated simply by the one common desire, to benefit the people of this country of whatever races in one and the same way. With us there is only that desire to impart to them to the utmost the knowledge which we ourselves prize, and this consideration, which seems to me to rise to the highest stage of Catholicism, must, I think, so heal dissensions that they will endure but for a day and in a few years be forgotten. Gentlemen, I trust that this is one of those institutions, which will bring home to the people of this country the true and deeply-seated desire of England to use her great mission in this country for the highest benefit of India; and that it may be seen that Englishmen, and Muhammadan, and Hindu, and Parsi may sit on the same benches to co-operate, not only without jealousy, but with one motive and aspiration,—the advantage of our fellow countrymen.
THE FIRST SPECIAL CONVOCATION.
A Special Convocation of the Bombay University was held on the 18th December 1884, to confer the Honorary Degree of LL.D. on the Marquis of Ripon. Sir James Fergusson, Bart., K.C.M.G,, C.I.E., Governor and Chancellor, was present. The Honorable Mr. Justice West, the Vice- Chancellor, said:—
Gentlemen,—By an Act of the Indian Legislature, No. 1 of 1884, this University has been vested with the power of