Convocation Addresses of the Universities of Bombay and Madras/Part 1/The Hon. Mr. Justice Gibbs (Fourteenth Convocation)

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(By The Honorable James Gibbs, C.S., F.R.G.S.)

Gentlemen of the Senate,—Owing to His Excellency the Chancellor's absence in Kattywar, it falls to me to address you at the present Convocation.The report just read offers several topics on which I may be expected to comment. You will be happy to find that the Chancellor's Medal, which was instituted by the late Chancellor, Sir S. Fitzgerald, has for the first time been awarded to a gentleman who has successfully passed the M.A. Examination in the first class. N. N. Vaslekar's departure to England. It has been noted that the Munguldass Nathoobhoy Travelling Fellowship had been conferred Nanaji Narayan Vaslekar. This gentleman left for England with the intention of entering the University of Edinburgh, and proceeding to the degree of Doctor of Science in Engineering; I am happy to state that news has just been received that Mr. Vaslekar has successfully passed his first examination, and, moreover, was the only successful candidate out of eight who presented themselves. I think this is a fair subject for congratulation. The report also notes the loss the University has sustained by the death of the late Registrar, Mr. Taylor, and one of the original Fellows, Dr. Bhau Daji, and informs you of the resolutions passed thereon by the Senate. I am in hopes that before the next Convocation memorials of both these gentlemen will form part of the endowments of the University. But besides these facts, there is one prominent feature in the report which calls for special observation, viz., the very small number of candidates who have passed the Matriculation Examination—only 262 out of 1,084. I have noticed that the press have commented on this, and in some of the communications they have published, attacks have been made, unfairly, in my opinion, on the Examiners. The Syndicate, with whom rest the arrangements for the examination, have made it a point to abstain from frequent changes in the Examiners in order that the standard of examination may differ as little as possible from year to year; and they feel sure that more painstaking and conscientious Examiners than those who examined this year could not be chosen. But I may be asked, how do you account for this result? Causes for large failure in Matriculation. I have given the matter much thought, not only now but for some time past, and I have arrived at an opinion, which a comparison of the results of the examinations for the past ten years seems to confirm, that the increasing number of failures is in a great measure to be accounted for by the fact that Government make the Matriculation Examination a test for admission into the Government service. Hence numerous youths, on arriving at 16 years of age, who have no intention of entering on a Collegiate education, go up, many very imperfectly prepared, on the chance of passing; and if they fail they return again and again, until they scrape through or retire from the contest. I find from the returns of the past ten years that, for the first six, eighty per cent, of the passed candidates entered Colleges, while during the following three years, subsequent to its being made a test of Government service, the percentage of those entering Colleges to the total passed has fallen a little below sixty. I think some remedy should be applied, and the simplest that occurs to me would be to have a separate examination what in England would be called a middle class examination—as a test for the public service, and I would have this of a less severe nature, and of a more practical character, than the Matriculation Examination. I say I would make this public examination less severe; and I have come to this opinion because I feel sure that the mass of the rising generation are being educated at too high a pressure. They are, in fact, having too many subjects crammed into them, injuring if not wearing out their powers of mental digestion. It cannot be good for a growing lad, after a day^s hard schooling, to be obliged to work at home until nine or ten o'clock at night, and sometimes later, to be ready for the next day, as I am assured is ordinarily the case. At all events such an amount of labour cannot be needed for the greater portion of our youth. Poor physique of the students. I have been in the habit of noticing the candidates for the Matriculation Examination during the past few years, and I was much struck on the last occasion to see crowding out of the pandal in the Town Hall compound such numbers of thin, pallid and sickly-looking youths. I have also been told by some of the older class of educated natives that they can now easily tire out their sons and other young relations in ordinary walking exercise. I do not go so far as one of the greatest benefactors to educational establishments in this Presidency, who said to me some time ago:—"In this generation you are destroying the bodies to strengthen the minds; in the next generation both mind and body will fail if you press them so hard." But I do think that it is a matter deserving the greatest consideration at the hands of those at the head of the Educational Department, whether we are not, by the excess of our educational training, injuring the bodily physique of the rising generation. They say at home that 'all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.' I believe the same holds good out here as regards Bappoo and Krishna and Ahmed and Nowrojee. I have been told that the native mind, particularly the Hindoo, is so peculiarly constituted that, once set in motion in any one direction, it will work on and on as in a groove and not feel the need of a change, and that in consequence, unless bodily exercise is actually made a part of the educational course,it will not be spontaneously engaged in. If this be true, and I am inclined to think it is, Importance of gymnastic exercise. it behoves those who direct the course of education to provide some sort of gymnastic exercises to be undertaken as part of the system. His Excellency the Governor has just been visiting the Rajkumar College in Kattywar, and his account of the way in which the bodies as well as the minds of the young Chiefs are there trained is most cheering. Manly exercises form a part of the curriculum, and if such be necessary for Chiefs and Princes whose future lot will be one of comparative ease and affluence, how much more necessary is it for those who will have to buffet about the world for their living? I take this opportunity of venting these ideas because I feel sure, after more than a quarter of a century's experience, that on some change of this nature in the educational course depends the future health, and therefore the prosperity, of the natives of this country. Lifelong devotion to learning. There is another topic, one which has been before alluded to by those who have occupied this chair, that we do not find those who succeed in their educational career, and become our graduates, following up their education after they leave College. As I told the students at the Grant College a few days ago, they do not consider the important fact that their real education only then commences, that unless they are content simply to exist and do not desire to grow, they must ever continue 'apt to learn'! I am told that in some of the examinations in the higher grades the Examiners find men coming up time after time, and failing on each successive occasion more signally than before. Those who enter on the liberal professions and have to earn their bread by their skill, are obliged in some degree to keep pace with the times; but those who enter the service of the State are too apt to rest content with their lot and find, in their daily office routine sufficient for them. Let me warn all against leading such lazy lives. Take example from the late Dr. Bhau Daji; look what he has done for his country; how he studied its early history and its ancient languages, and gave the results of his enquiries to the scientific world; how he made deep research into the hidden mysteries of Sanskrit lore and culled therefrom additional benefits for his fellow countrymen! He studied and searched the past for the benefit of the present and future. Let all take example from this distinguished man's career, not the Medical graduate only, but the lawyer and the civil engineer. Looking at the records of old, both writings and buildings, we may indeed say, "there were giants in those days". Let it be the pride and satisfaction of this University to find its graduates not, as was ably pointed out by one of the leading Anglo-Vernacular papers a few months ago, permitting their exclusively English education to lead them to deny the existence of science and art among their ancestors; not falling behind the alumni of the older educational institutions of the Presidency, but following diligently those pioneers of the study of the past. Let it be said that they perfected what others began, and that the University of Bombay has sent out not mero pedants, much less conceited half-educated striplings, but men who in the State, on the bench, or at the bar, as architects or as physicians, prove themselves, as Dr. Bhau Daji did, worthy of their education, beloved and respected in their lives, and in their deaths honoured and deplored.


(By The Honorable James Gibbs, C.S., F.R.G.S.)

Gentlemen of the Senate,—Owing to the absence of His Excellency the Chancellor from Bombay, I have again the honour of presiding at the Annual Convocation of this University. The year 1875 will undoubtedly be famous in the annals of Indian History from its having witnessed for the first time the arrival on our shores of the Heir-Apparent of the British Crown, while our island had the honour of being the first soil on which he trod, and our city the first place in which he sojourned. The welcome he met with, not only from the Native Princes and Chiefs who came to do him homage, but from the vast crowds of loyal subjects which thronged the streets, is still, as it were, present to us, while the many fetes and ceremonies in which he took part, seem as yet hardly to have become things of the past. One of these will certainly long remain fresh in the memories of those connected with this University—the visit of His Royal Highness to this Hall to receive the address voted by the Senate; and the kind words of hope and encouragement for our future, which fell from his lips in reply to our welcome, will not be readily forgotten, while the more tangible memorial of his visit in the shape of valuable books and the portrait of our Queen, which he presented to the University, will long remain objects of our choicest care. He has honoured our elder sister at Calcutta by accepting the degree of Doctor of Laws, and thus permitting his name to stand first on that roll which it is to be hoped may include many distinguished statesmen, scholars, and promoters of education, recipients of a like honour, the power to confer which will, I trust, before long be extended to the Universities of Madras and Bombay.

Turning from this subject of congratulation and satisfaction to one of a diametrically opposite nature, it becomes my duty to allude to the great loss which this University has sustained by the death of the Rev. Dr. Wilson, who from its foundation had been a great, if not the leading, spirit of the Institution. Distinguished not only as a linguist and an antiquarian and honoured by the diploma of the Fellowship of the Royal Society, but possessing a cosmopolitan reputation as a man of letters, this venerable missionary brought all his powers, tempered by a most truly catholic spirit, to the service of this University; and in every branch of its government, including the office which I have now the honour to hold, gave it not only his best and warmest support, but also the incalculable benefit of his great experience as a teacher and a guide of the native youth of this Presidency. He has gone, in the fullness of the age allotted to man, to his reward and his rest. The regret we entertain for his loss is sincere, though perhaps selfish; but all will, I think, concur in the applicability to him of the often- quoted sentiment of the Prince of Denmark:-

"He was a man, take him for all in all,
We shall not look upon his like again."

The Senate at its last meeting decided that Dr. Wilson's memory should be perpetuated in the University; and the Syndicate, to whom the matter was referred, has determined that a bust be placed in these buildings at the expense of the Fellows. The first Lectureship attached to the University. By his death a change of some moment takes place in the system of the University; hitherto it has been a purely examining body, it will now commence its career as a teaching one. It will be remembered that a large sum of money was raised in honour of Dr. Wilson in 1869, the interest of which was payable to him for his life, and after his death the principal was to form an endowment for a Philological Lectureship in this University; and the Syndicate is now taking the necessary steps for the first series of lectures under this endowment which yields about Rs. 1,000 per annum, and I would express a hope that this may not long remain the only lectureship attached to this University.

The memorial in honour of our late Registrar is now complete, and the sum of Rs. 2,500 has been tendered to found a James Taylor Prize for proficiency in those branches of knowledge in which he took a special interest. It rests with the Senate to accept the terms. There has, I believe,been some difficulty in arranging the memorial in honour of the late Dr. Bhau Daji, of which I spoke last year, but it is hoped that at the next Convocation mention may be made of the means adopted to perpetuate the memory of one who from its foundation was a warm supporter and able administrator of this institution.

I will now turn to the statistical portion of the report, and the first fact which strikes us is the great increase over the previous year in the percentage of passed candidates at the Matriculation Examination, and the great falling off in the number of successful candidates in the examination for the B.A. Degree. Of the former in 1874, out of 1,084 only 262, or 24 per cent, passed, while in 1875, out of 1,240, 434, or 35 per cent, were successful; and of the latter in 1874 out of 64, 30, or 46 per cent, were successful, while in 1875, out of 84 only 18, or 21 per cent, passed.

The result of the University examinations has often been a topic for discussion in the public prints, and last year there was a great deal of correspondence regarding the very unfavourable result of the Matriculation Examination. Not only was the system of the examination attacked, but even the Examiners themselves did not escape. This year, owing apparently to the percentage being much higher than last, no comments have appeared; but I mention this subject, because I wish to draw attention to the following result of an examination of the returns of the past five years and a comparison between the Matriculation and B.A. Examinations, viz., that whenever the percentage of successful candidates at the former is high, we find that at the corresponding B.A. Examination, three years after, the percentage of successful candidates is low, and that the converse also holds good. I will take the following extract to prove what I mean:-— In 1868, 41 per cent., and in 1872, 43 per cent. passed the Matriculation, and in 1871 only 28 per cent., and in 1875 only 21 per cent. passed the B.A.; while in 1869 only 17 per cent., and in 1870 only 16 per cent. were successful at Matriculation; and at the B.A. Examination of 1872, 45 per cent., and in 1873, 42 per cent. passed. It would seem from this that when a large proportion are successful in the Matriculation Examination it is more owing to the leniency of the Examiners than the fitness of the students, and I venture to think that such leniency is a mistake if we are to maintain the high standards for honours which has ever been the aim of this University. We have this year to congratulate the Principals and Professors of the Medical and Civil Engineering Colleges on the success which has attended their labours. From the former we have the first M.D. of the University, and also the satisfactory results of thirty successful candidates out of 43 in the first L.M. and 16 out of 19 in the final L.M., and of these six in the first class; while from the latter institution we have 21 out of 24 passing in the first C.E. and 9 out of 12 in the L.C.E., of whom 3 were in the First Class. As regards the other examinations, it is to be noted that 4 out of 5 of the M.A's were successful, but none acquired a First Class. In law, however, 50 per cent. passed, a percentage not previously attained for the degree of LL.B., although none attained to the First Class. It is still a doubtful question whether a large return of successful students is really a proof that the mass of the pupils are better prepared than in those years when only few pass, or whether they will do as much credit to the University as those who come out in smaller numbers from the final ordeal. I am not one of those who think our examination system perfect, or that alterations in this, as also in the subjects required for the various degrees, may not be desirable. If Oxford and Cambridge, after the great advances they have made during the last half century, still find they must further increase their borders and reform their systems, to meet the requirements of the times, we must not think our infant University can remain as it is. So fully alive is the Syndicate to this fact, that it has appointed a Committee of its most experienced members to consider and report on these subjects, and I doubt not but the results of their deliberations will be highly beneficial, not only to the University, but to the cause of education generally in the Presidency.

Attain perfection in some one subject.And now, having reviewed the past year's proceedings, I will, in conclusion, say a few words to the graduates and under-graduates of the University. Gentlemen, I have on previous occasions warned you that your real education only commences when your Collegiate course ends. It is after that has closed that it depends on yourselves whether you will make any true use of the educational benefits you have received or not. There must be much which you have to acquire for the purpose of your examinations, which remains, as it were, undigested, and which to become of any real use must be absorbed in your intellectual system. Doubtless with many this latter process cannot take place owing to the mind being overcrowded, and so assimilation is impossible. My advice to you is, do not attempt too many things; settle on one definite object for your future study, and strive to perfect yourselves in it as far as possible. I fear, what I see, that the old saying," a little learning is a dangerous thing" is not sufficiently borne in mind. Too many young men seem to think that when once they can put B.A. or even F.A. after their names, they are equal to discuss almost any subject, and to criticize and censure any authority, be it the Government of the country or the local head of the village. A smattering of many subjects can only be useful when there is one great fixed object of life, round which such scintillations of knowledge may sparkle, and to which they may perhaps add lustre; but a mere smattering of many subjects without such support can only mislead and deceive the possessor, and render him weak if not despicable in the eyes of all true men. Study you must if you wish to become men. Let me commend, to your careful perusal the speech of the new Lord Rector of the University of Edinburgh, so full of sound advice to all students, and in which there is one caution which seems to me so peculiarly appropriate to the mass of the educated youth in this country, that I feel I cannot do better than conclude these observations with it. Lord Derby's words are:—"There is nothing more common among those who have read a little and thought a little than the union of strong convictions with very narrow intelligence ; and next to the absence of conviction altogether, there is no mental condition that is socially less desirable or politically more dangerous."


(By The Honorable James Gibbs, C.S., F.R.G.S.)

Gentlemen of the Senate,—I have been quite unexpectedly called on to preside over the present Convocation. His Excellency the Chancellor had expressed his intention of so doing, but the press of work which the sad scarcity in the Deccan and Southern Mahratta country has thrown upon him, added to the hasty visit of the Governor of Madras, with whom he has had to confer, has rendered it at the last moment impossible for His Excellency to take the chair on the present occasion. I will read a letter to my address which I received on Saturday evening from the Chancellor, announcing his inability to attend, and at the same time communicating to the Senate his good wishes for the prosperity of the University:-

"Parell, 13th January 1877.

"My dear Mr. Vice-Chancellor,—I am sure you will fed that I would not lightly, for many reasons, make the request I am about to do. But i must assure you that from the time of my leaving Bombay for Delhi up to the present moment, I really have been, and am still too much occupied to give sufficient attention to the approaching Convocation of the University at which you had kindly suggested that I should preside. I should be very sorry to think, after quitting Bombay, that I had discharged this duty in an imperfect and unsatisfactory manner, such as would have afforded the members of the University just ground of complaint, and subjected me to well-merited censure. I do not hesitate, therefore. to ask you to do me the favour of presiding, as Vice-Chancellor, at this Convocation, and to offer my excuses to the members of the University. They at least must be gainers by the exchange. You have always taken so lively an interest in all its operations, and are so thoroughly conversant with all their details that a review of them coming from you must be in all respects more interesting and instructive than any statement of the views of one who will soon cease to possess the means of affording useful support to an institution of which he trusts the importance and influence for good may steadily increase to the full satisfaction of those who, like yourself, are at all times ready to use their best efforts for its welfare.

"Yours ever truly,


I personally may perhaps be permitted to testify to the great amount of labour which His Excellency has taken upon himself since September last, The famine of 1876. when it appeared clear to this Government that we had to face a most severe calamity. Sir Philip Wodehouse set himself from the first to direct all the movements, and to arrange all the details. How well he has done this may be understood from the very warm commendation he received from the lips of the Viceroy at Delhi, while the fullest approbation, I am happy to state, of his judgment and ability in this important crisis has been received from the Home Government, judgment and ability which have hitherto prevented the disastrous results which might otherwise have ensued; for be it remembered that to scarcity of food from failure of the usual monsoon, was added scarcity of water, and scarcity of fodder, each tending greatly to increase the distress pervading nine of the largest districts of the Presidency. All these difficulties have met with the utmost attention, and we trust that the results will prove that the Governor's forethought and energy will, under Providence, reduce the distress of the people and their concomitant loss of health and property to the smallest amount. To have to arrange for such an important crisis, added to the fact that all this additional labour is thrown on him at the close of his Governor. ship, will, I feel sure, be accepted as a just ground of excuse by the Senate for the absence of the Chancellor to-day.

The report which has just been read by the registrar refers very shortly to several very important matters which have engaged the attention of the Syndicate during the past year. When presiding in this place last January I mentioned that the Syndicate was not only aware that changes must be made, but. had appointed a Committee for the purpose of considering all the questions which had been started in connection with the management of the examinations. This Committee was presided over by Mr. Justice West, than whom it would have been difficult to find a gentleman who, from his experience in educational matters and from the great interest he has always taken in the affairs of the University, was more capable of leading the discussions to a practical result. The Committee considered all the suggestions which had been made to the Syndicate, including those put forward by Mr. Jacob, and finally laid down 26 separate questions for discussion, of which 18 resulted in modifications being made in the present system, while as regards the remaining 8 it was decided to make no change. The deliberations of this Committee lasted from January to April, during which they held 10 meetings; and their report, after having had those points of which the advice of the Faculties was required, submitted to them, was finally discussed by the Syndicate who, after obtaining the consent of the Senate on the matters which by the statutes required your decision, adopted nearly all the proposals made. Before alluding to these in greater detail, I must draw your attention to the great labour and thoughtful care exhibited by the Committee, and for which our best thanks are eminently due; it forms another instance of the "unbought exertions of those who direct the action of the University"; to which Sir Bartle Frere alluded in his Convocation address in 1867, and of which he said, "Government attach a double value to whatever it does, because the progress it achieves affords an excellent practical refutation of the doctrine that no good or useful service to the State can be expected unless directly paid for in money or money's worth The principal changes consist in having the Pass qualification for Matriculation, viz., the English paper, sent to the educational centres, so that the students who do not wish to come to Bombay unless they pass this test, may be saved the expense and trouble of a long journey. It is an experiment of which time alone can prove the worth; but I venture to think that if successful it must end in a further extension of the principle which will eventually include the entire examination in English being carried out at centres. The abolition of the viva voce in the second language is also another modification, the effect of which will have to be carefully watched. The change is decidedly an economical one as regards the cost of the examinations, and it is the opinion of the majority of those consulted that it will do no harm, as the results of the two papers will be a sufficient test. No one can, I think, question the wisdom of the modification in the M.A. Examination, which is strictly in accordance with the well-known maxim " Poeta nascitur non fit." The double qualification in medicine and surgery which the University has always required for its degree is now more clearly defined in the change approved of from L.M. to L.M. and S. The alterations to be made in the future lists of successful candidates at the various examinations will tend to distinguish more clearly the personal merits of each student. The above are the principal modifications which have been determined on a consideration of the report of Mr. Justice West's Committee. They are experimental, tentative as all our rules must be for some years to come; but they will, I trust, be beneficial to the students and tend to uphold the status that this University wishes should be attained by all the recipients of its honours. I have not had time to dissect the returns of this year's examinations and compare them with those of previous years; but with regard to the results of the Matriculation and the surmised cause for the falling off which has appeared in some of the newspapers, I would state that three out of the four Examiners in English are the same as those who examined last year, when an exceptionally large number passed; and that, so far as the Syndicate is concerned, it strives as much as possible to keep the same persons as Examiners from year to year. Changes are always occurring from one cause or another which necessitates the appointment of fresh Examiners; but on referring to the past years, I find that from 1872-73 to 1874-75, that is, for three years, the same gentlemen examined in English at the Matriculation, with one single exception, viz., Mr. Best succeeding Mr. Wordsworth, who had gone on leave. Changes in appointments necessitated a new arrangement in 1875-76 which has held good in the present year, with the exception of Mr. Peterson taking Mr. Oxenham's place, owing to that gentleman having joined the Deccan College. I think that those, therefore, who wish to find reasons for such an unfortunate result as has occurred this year, must look beyond the mere change of Examiners. The subject of endowments again receives prominent notice in the report. This University has from its commencement overstepped its sisters under this heading. At Calcutta I believe the number is 5, of which the largest was the gift of a Bombay merchant—the donor of our noble library and clock-tower; Madras 8; while we now possess 28, three of which have been added during the year under review. Two of these—the Merwanjee Framjee Panday and the Kahandas Muncharam Scholarships—are attached to the Civil Engineering College, which opens a road for the study of a science which will be of the greatest importance in developing the industry of the country. As an instance of this, I would mention that the late Munguldass Nathoobhoy Travelling Fellow took the advantage of his residence in England to perfect his studies in Civil Engineering, especially in that branch which applies to the mechanism of spinning mills, and has since his return been appointed to the independent charge of a large mill at Surat . We have now been in possession of this splendid hall for some years. I trust before another Convocation to find that the library is in our hands and our collection of books, including the principal portion of Dr. Wilson's library and that of the Law Classes, deposited on its shelves, while the flow of time will be marked by the harmonious music of the joy-bells in the Rajabai Tower. I may here mention that the subscription for the Bust of the late Dr. Wilson has been nearly filled up, and we hope shortly to send the commission for it home. Our late Chancellor, Sir Seymour Fitzgerald, concluded his last address with the words "Floreat Academia." Sir Philip Wodehouse to-day, though absent, echoes the same wish. Ere we meet again, a new Governor will have come to this Presidency, and a new Chancellor will preside over the University,—one who has been my friend for many years, with whom I studied at College, and whose brilliant career every member of his service has watched with admiration; and I feel sure from his training under the great Arnold, and from the high classical attainments which enabled him to carry away from the Haileybury of old the numerous medals and prizes which he did, that he will, while he rules over this Presidency, ever extend a fostering hand to this our University. May we not then look forward to the future without doubt that the wish of our late and departing Chancellors may not only prove true, but that each successive year will give us greater cause for exclaiming "Floreat Academia."