Convocation Addresses of the Universities of Bombay and Madras/Part 2/Duke of Buckingham and Chandos
(By His Grace The Duke of Buckingham and Chandos.)
Gentlemen,—In addressing myself to the task of impressing on those who have this day received their degrees, the duties which they owe to the University, and to society, I would first shortly notice the position of education, secondly, the influence of the University thereon, and thirdly, the prospects of those who have attained the rank of graduates.
First.—As regards the present position of education : I am not here speaking of the mere elementary knowledge of reading and writing the Native tongue, but of that higher training and more extended learning which should constitute an educated mind and fit its recipient for guiding and controlling others to the advantage of society and the good of the State. That there is an ample desire for education in this Presidency must be admitted; whether that desire springs from a thirst for knowledge, for knowledge sake, or whether it may not largely, perhaps more largely than is to be wished, spring from a desire of gain, time only can decide; but the desire existing, without which all educational efforts would be comparatively barren and futile, is that desire well directed?—so directed as to encourage a sound and well-grounded knowledge, rather than a showy, but superficial teaching. In the extended acquisition of the first by its people, there is safety to the Commonwealth. In the spread of the latter is danger. He who has acquired the first will judge calmly, and weigh with care the consequences of changes proposed and consider with thoughtful judgment the measures to be taken or modification of laws or customs necessary to meet the ever- varying phases of a nation's life. He will be no unchanging laudator temporis acti, but he will bring the facts, and experiences of bye-gone historic times to aid him in judging the events of the present, and the prospects of the future. In such men are found strong and decided convictions, but it is among such that we must look for those whose counsels should guide Governments and direct and influence the people. Does then the present education of this Presidency tend to produce such men ? I have no doubt in answering this question in the afiirma- tive and to say that although there is no doubt much of the mere showy and superficial sort of learning easily recognizable, pretentious in style, unsound in argument, ever displaying carefully-culled phrases, gathered from the pages of a glossary, not by study of the author ; frequently misused from utter ignorance of the context, although there are many such yet there are also a large proportion of sound and well-taught men doing honor to the Presidency from which they have sprung and to its University. The most powerful influence of an University on learning and knowledge must ever be an indirect rather than a direct influence : depending on the value attached by the country and the people to the stamp of its degrees, by a careful maintenance of its standards of test of admission, at a point obtainable with certainty by reasonable ability combined with fair diligence in study. It doubtless exercises a direct influence, sifting out the idler and the dunce and fixing a standard below which at least the affiliated and other schools must not fall if they would maintain their usefulness and character and retain their pupils. But in the maintenance of the standards of admission and of degrees, it is upon the atten- tion and ability of the Examiners in their different duties no less than upon the ability of its professorial teaching that the University depends, and thus the care displayed in their selec- tion will ever be a mainspring of the direct influence which the University exercises on the education of the Presidency, If the standards are allowed to fluctuate uncertainly a depreciated value will attach to the examinations, and the influence for good will be more or less lessened.
What are the prospects for its graduates? Many an able man, trained to weigh facts dispassionately and able to maintain his opinion in argument, will be needed to aid Government with advice and counsel. For essential as it may be for the good, for the safety of the people that executive power be wielded with promptness and decision at times even perhaps with dictatorial power, restrained only by the restraints of the law and the powerful influence of the country's voice, so will it be yearly more and more essential 1that for its advancing legislation Government shall gather to its councils, in increasing numbers, men who can worthily repre- sent and stoutly advocate the interests and the wants of the people. For such duties are needed men, who have studied the liistory, not only of their own country, but of the nations of the world ; who have weighed the various causes which have made Governments to fall and nations to prosper or decay and who have traced in the annals of the past the dangers to be feared either from encroaching despotism or unbridled liberty. In the faculty of law there is apparently no need to dwell upon the nature of the prospect, for the ranks of the law seem to swell rapidly, even perhaps too rapidly, for the good of the people, but there are open to the graduates of the law the honorable position of judges of the various courts, and thus distinctions are perhaps more readily attainable in that faculty. In the faculty of medicine the demand is rapidly overtaking the supply. The services of good men for Local Dispensaries, now numbering 170 in our 20 districts, are every day more appreciated in the districts. Hospital accommodation, which is already being supplemented in several places by special subscriptions with accommodation congenial to the customs of caste privacy, must be increased. The old-fashioned village doctors must give way before the higher education, the skill and trained ability of the graduate ; while as hospitals and dispensaries develop the opportunities of medicine and surgical instruction will increase ; and that skill which can only result from the experiences of constant practice will increase also the benefits of an educated and skilful treatment in alleviating pain and mitigating diseases being naore widely spread will bring sufferers in increasing numbers for relief, demand additional dispensaries and addi- tional officers, and thus open a wide field for the student in medicine. In the faculty of Civil Engineering, I confess I have been surprised that so small a number comparatively appear for degrees therein. In a country where from its climate and its circumstances, engineering knowledge is essential to the management with profit and safety of almost every farm where the one problem of the cul- tivator is how to economise, and how best to utilise the essential fertilising element of water ; to confine the streams to supply the tanks, to arrest and detain the maximum quantity of the periodi- cal floods, and only allow a minimum to pass away to the ocean at the same time guarding against disastrous flood damage, there is a field for engineering science hardly elsewhere to be found. The science of irrigation should be almost indeed the monopoly of the Indian races. But while I point to the conduct of irrigation, and to hydraulic engineering as one prominent field for the Indian engineer, yet it is by no means the only one. The line which separates architecture from Civil Engineering is but indistinctly drawn. Indeed, in all structural work the combined skill of both branches is essential to perfection. Without a considerable amount of engineering knowledge the architect will find himself in constant difficulty, while a shapelessness and absence of all grace in the outlines will mark the works of an engineer devoid of architectural skill and taste. Well, now in India, new buildings of various sorts from palatial residences and courts to the humbler buildings of an elementary school, or Tahsildar's cutcherry are constantly needed. How is it that we have to seek designs from European architects ? Not because the Indian races by nature, are deficient in taste or skill ; we have but to turn to the relics of the past, to the works of the latest age, for a contradiction to such a suggestion. Whether we look at the now unearthed relics of Buddhist architecture at Amaravati, at the beautiful monoliths now adorning the esplanade of Pondicherry, at the pillared halls of Chelembram, Srirungum and Tripatty, the highly finished sculpture of the ruined temples of Humpi, the grotesque phantasies of the Southern Indian carver as exemplified in the still advancing aisles of the Madura temples, with their vast and massive structures and granite roofs or the almost ruined halls of Thirumal Naick's palace, now being I trust secured from destruction. In all we see works vast in conception, beautiful in outline, graceful in execution. From such models at hand for instruction, architects should spring forth who should hold their own in competition certainly for any Indian buildings. Architects are not taught in a day, the more reason for commencing study therein. The recent changes in the Public Works offices, the placing of local fund expenditure under the officers of the local fund boards, opens to you a large field of future employment, and to my mind a more healthy field for the development of the ability of professional men, than the cramped field of ordinary duty in a public service. The most efficient engineers of England who have made her railways, her canals, her harbours, have earned their character, their position in private employment and been trained in youth in hard struggles for their daily bread. The harbours growing under our eyes in this very port are under the guidance and on the design of engineers trained equally in private work and selected for their experience in marine work. The chances of independent employ are now opening to you, and as you rise there should develop a healthy rivalry, not in magnitude of works or in expenditure, but in their substantial nature, aptness of design, and economy of cost. Such should ere long produce efficient engineers, and although as in the most advanced Euro- pean countries, special talent or special experience will be ever sought for some great works in which a false step cannot be risked, yet all ordinary work should fall to the people of the country and may, I believe, do so with efficiency and economy if they only seek to qualify for the duty.
Now I come to the duties which yon owe to the University and to the State. First, To the University which has fostered your education and stamped you with the mark of learning, you owe every support that you can give. From the graduates must hereafter be sought members of the Senate of the future. To some of you therefore must in time be entrusted the guidance of Univer- sity matters, in fact the maintenance of its influence. Recollect then this feature in your studies, ever bear in mind that everything which tends to exalt the status, to increase the influence of the University, increases also the value of the degrees, you have yourselves this day obtained. To society, to the State you owe the duty of making the best use of your acquired knowledge, and of the various positions in which your degrees may place you. For the doctor to heal the sick, the lawyer to win his client's case, the engineer to bring to a successful end the work entrusted to him, no doubt may seem plain andsimple duties, but each in your several faculties will find other and important duties to be performed before you can really say with truth that you have given to the State the best use of your talents, and each will find that he may and will frequently be required by his duty to act at variance with that which may seem his apparent interest. The doctor's duty in a fever-stricken village is not merely to cure disease in a stricken patient. He has a higher duty yet which will bring no pecuniary reward, to prevent the healthy from being stricken, to seek out, to remove or to eradi- cate the causes of disease, and take as much or greater pride in the continued health and good sanitary condition of his station or village as in the number of his cures. His preventive duties are due to the State as well his curative duty to his patients. Then if we turn to the young lawyer struggling through with difficulties to attain a practice. Let him remember while his duty to his client to argue the case entrusted to him to the best of his ability and to do his utmost to win his cause, yet his duty to the State and to society requires that he shall set himself steadily against any thing" approaching to corruption, to repel false evidence or evidence which he believes to be false although rendered on his own side; remember that his calling, his duty, is to procure justice not to foster litigation. The engineer must remember that if his work be brought to a successful issue, a part only of his duty to his employer is thereby performed. If in carrying out that work he has allowed waste or overlooked peculation he has failed in a most important duty. A careless estimate, lax supervision by the engineer are as direct frauds upon the employer as false accounts or the abstraction of money.
I have now pointed out some of your duties. I have pointed out to you the class of men that the country needs — statesmen, judges, physicians and engineers. Have we them now ? Yes ; while I have held the post of Governor when statesmen or judges have been needed they have been ready to my hand. And in nominating the Hon'ble Sashia Sastri to the Council of the Viceroy, in placing the Hon'ble Mr. Justice Muthusawmy Iyer on the Bench of our own High Court, and in adding, as I hope in a few days to do, the name of another learned man, Mr. Ranganadha Sastri, who has this day completed a long and honourable service, to our own Legislative Council, I know that I have advanced them to no honor which was not well deserved or to a post which would not be well filled. Such are the men of whom we shall hereafter need many more — keep them in your minds as studies for your emulation. This vast globe on which we live is rolling through space with all its human freight bearing us all from the days that are, to the days that are to be — aye, carrying us all alike whatever our creed, whatever our race, from the world that is to the mysteries of the world that is to come. We cannot delay its revolution or stay its progress, but we can take measures to ensure that ever as needed there shall be men fit and trained for every station, a ready supply of sound-thinking, right-minded and learned men, whose councils shall strengthen Government with that strength which the concurring support of the people can alone give and shall guide legislation for the people's welfare.