Convocation Addresses of the Universities of Bombay and Madras/Part 2/Honorable Mr. Justice Innes
(By The Honorable Mr. Justice Innes.)
Gentlemen,—By desire of His Grace our Chancellor, and in his name and on behalf of the Fellows of the University in general, I have the pleasure of congratulating you on the honours you have won, and of expressing our hope that your future career will not be without a rich fulfilment of so fair a promise. You have, as it were, entered a quiet haven at the close of a successful but anxious voyage. The troubles and difficulties of it you can now look back upon with a calm indifference, added to a not unworthy pride that yon should have so completely overcome them. Believe me that we have sympathized with you in your long labours, and experience, in common with all who value education, a heartfelt delight in being thus able to congratulate you. While some of your body will no doubt enter upon a fresh academical course, with a view to further honours, others of you will probably at once enroll yourselves in some honourable profession. But whatever your future may be, you this day enter upon an independent career; and remember that the manner in which you comport yourselves will affect the estimation in which the teaching of this University will be regarded.
By illustrating in yo«r lives the advantages of the higher education you have the opportunity afforded you of removing, or at least diminishing, the prejudices which in some quarters, unfortunately, it still encounters. Many of the grounds for condemning it have in the course of years been shown to be devoid of foundation; but it has been admitted to be open to criticism in some respects. Thus one who has had great experience in tuition, and whose opinion would on other grounds, always claim respectful attention, has said, "I believe it is true, looking to the great body of our students, that while there is plenty of industry, there is too little thought." He traced this defect in some measure to the amount of time devoted to teaching, which left the students little leisure for considering the parts of a subject in their several relations to each other and to the whole, and digesting and jissiniilating what they had learnt. This defect is probably not peculiar to the teaching of the graduates of this University. After a good deal of labour spent in the mere reception of know- ledge, there is a very natural shrinking from the further mental task of taking that thorough survey of the subject which is suggested as necessary to the proper comprehension of it ; and the requisite habit of mind is not very readily acquired. The study of Physical Science now made compulsory for the Matricula- tion, and which I hope will henceforward be more generally pur- sued in the University course, is calculated I think, though indi- rectly, to supply this defect in some degree, as it must tend to arouse and stimulate the mental faculties, and endow with reflec- tive activity minds which are now only too content with a mere passive reception of what they are taught.
I look upon the study of Physical Science as very important on account of the mental discipline which it necessitates. It entails steadfast labour and accurate observation, and the development of the perceptive faculties is one of its most prominent results. But what is its most distinguishing feature as a study, is that it is based on freedom of thought and opinion ; and insists upon verifying all its conclusions by original research. It may indeed be said that this is necessary for the full and complete prosecution of every branch of learning, though not perhaps for elementary studies, and that Physical Science offers therefore after all no such excep- tional advantages as those attributed to it. But in fact, very few pursue their studies in other branches of science to the point at which original research requires to be resorted to, and the superiority that Physical Science claims in this respect is that from the very first rudiments of the study it allows you to take nothing on trust. You stand at once face to face with the forces of nature. Every step taken must be verified, and fami- liarity with its secrets is closed except to immediate contact and experiment. It is to Physical Science that we owe the greatest triumphs of man over inanimate nature ; and to it is mainly due the vast expansion which civilization has attained in the last hundred years. It has been successfully applied to the advance- ment of innumerable industries, and has especially opened to us a better knowledge of our mineral resources and of the means of multiplying the eartVs productive powers.
To Physical Science is also due the faculty which we now possess of the rapid transmission of thought, which makes bo account of distance, and which has linked together into one vast market the farthest-severed trade centres of the world. This power is every day tending to a widespread diffusion among the masses of the fruits of the earth and the products of industry, and therewith to the increase of the general welfare of mankind. The bonds of human brotherhood are drawn closer by daily and hourly intercourse. Misunderstandings become less frequent ; differences are more easily composed. There appears to be no limit to the possible conquests of Physical Science. Nor does it seem presumptuous to hope that it may yet disclose to us a method of compelling the atmosphere to do our bidding and to disgorge those stores of fertilizing moisture which it often pennriously withholds from a thirsty soil, and a famine-stricken people ; and even of controlling atmospheric disturbances in their most violent and destructive forms.
But great as are the advantages which do and may arise out of the study of Physical Science, I do not wish to undervalue the other branches of learning which you have pursued, which are no less a desirable part of a liberal education, and no less important to the purpose of fitting you for taking your place in the great world of men, and exercising the unfailing influence of minds better and more highly instructed than the generality. You have so mastered the English tongue that you can use it as a clear and graceful interpreter of thought, and if by further study you so assimilate it as to make it part of your nature, you will find that it will serve to create and animate thought as well as to interpret it. English opens to you a treasury of literature which no other nation can offer, and with it the entire philosophy of the Western world. The currents of European and of Indian thought are essentially conflicting, and by reason of your educa- tion you are, as it were, tossed about by the contending forces of these two opposing currents. But you are in a better posi- tion than your English brethren for observing, the extent to which the measures of the English Government are accepted and become naturalized on the soil of India; and your capability of estimating the advantages of European civilization necessarily surpasses that of your uneducated fellow-countrymen. This your position in relation to the Rulers and the great body of your fellow -subjects imposes upon you an honourable burden as citizens of a great community. For it points to a duty in you to afford your Rulers information and tender them advice, wlienever a proposed legislative or political course, though prospectively beneficial, would be attended with too great a disturbance of the public mind to admit of its being safely followed ; and also to soften prejudices and allay apprehensions with respect to measures, which, emanating from a foreign race, by whom they are often conceived from a widely different standpoint to that of your fellow-countrymen, may well be regarded by the latter with a certain amount of honest though ill-founded suspicion.
In an education which ranges over a variety of subjects, that of constitutional government will not unuaturally have received some attention from you ; and your study of it will enable yon to exercise a beneficial influence upon a class of your countrymen, who condemn the system of government in India and demand that India should enjoy the freedom of England. Now your reading will enable you to comprehend that freedom in the sense in which it is so used is, for the most part, a set of results which in England have been brought about by the gradual efforts of several generations. Of some of the most important of these results you are already in the fullest enjoyment, as Equality before the Law, Liberty of Speech, Liberty of the Press. There is no country in Europe whose condition in these respects is in advance of that of India. But no nation can impose upon another a fully matured system of Representative Government. To be effective, it should be the fruit and outcome of a tendency, natural or acquired, by which the individuals of a nation identify themselves with surrounding 'interests and willingly take part in the duties and burdens of local affairs. Such institutions are not indigenous in this country. But if there is one more over-mastering determination of the national mind in England than any other, it is that everyone of her dependencies shall, as far as is consistent with good and orderly government, be placed in a position to enjoy the freedom she herself enjoys. The national determination finds expression in periodical movements. History shows that at certain intervals decided steps in advance are taken, always in the direction of improved government. What has from time to time been done in India is this. First of all provision was made for the collection of revenue, not for the purpose of putting the hard- earned gains of the poor into the coffers of the. wealthy and great, but to provide the means of guaranteeing the security of property, and for the purposes of orderly administration. Extortion, violation of the liberty of the person, and oppression of every kind had, by generations of misrule, come to be regarded as the normal exercise of authority. Slavery and various cruel and murderous practices existed in many parts of the country as institutions sanctioned by human and divine laws. General and equal laws have been enacted by the British Government, the habit of official tyranny has to a great extent been extinguished, inhuman practices have been repressed. Slavery is no longer recognized by law, and though in the relations between the agricultural labourers and their employers in some parts of the country, the spirit of it may still be seen at work, it survives no longer as an institution. A system- of education, with the Universities to guide it in their several Presidencies, has been initiated with a successful effect upon the administration of the territory under the British Govern- ment, and of not a few of the Native Principalities. , The national mind is also being brought into familiar contact with a class of ideas which may facilitate the eventual introduction of further constitutional measures. Juries, Municipalities, the management of local affairs, Honorary Magistracies, and seats in the Legislative Council are all means to this end. It is rather a process of naturalizing than mere sowing, and your rulers are no doubt compelled to proceed cautiously on a path which may abound with pitfalls, a path to which history affords no guide, and which the light of political science fails to irradiate. A constitution is most efficacious, when, like branch from trunk, or like fruit from tree, it issues from the natural or acquired ^'tendencies, the general belief and the collective con- sciousness of the people." To obtain a hold on the popular mind the growth of the fundamental institutions must be slow and gradual. Those who are impatient for changes of a more crucial and obvious character, should not forget what has been already effected. While bearing in mind the advance in social order and well-being which they have themselves witnessed in their own day, they should not lose sight of the condition of anarchy into which the country had fallen when first the Eng- lish took upon themselves the functions of Government.
It may be well to consider what that condition was. From the commencement of the sixteenth century we see the process of absorption of the less by the more powerful Governments in a gradual but constant state of progression. In the North, the Afghan dynasty succumbed to the Mogul. The territory of the Bahmani dynasty of the Deccan became apportioned between three States, of which the Mogul was the acknowledged superior. To the allied armies of these three States fell the celebrated Hindu Kingdom of Vijiyanagar. In the middle of the seven- teenth century Sivaji commenced his course of organized robbery. and his race divided for a while with the Mogul the competition for India. At what was practically the fall of his dynasty in 1760 and the wreck of the aspiration of the Mahrattas for a Hindu empire, there remained, except Tanjore and the ancient kingdoms of Travancore and Cochin, no independent sovereign but the Mogul. For Orissa had been absorbed by the Mogul armies late in the seventeenth century, and Mysore was being ground under the heel of Hyder, who himself avoided assuming the position of royalty. The Mogul was sovereign of India from the Himalayas to Cape Comorin ; but the best energies of the dynasty had long been spent, and when strength was put forth at the seat of Government, the extreme boundaries of the empire, if they felt it at all, were sensible of but a feeble vibra- tion. The imbecility of the Government let loose the license of the Governors of Provinces, and the country was patrolled from end to end by bands of pitiless marauders. As Macaulay said in one of his speeches, " The people were ground down to the dust by the oppressor without, and the oppressor within ; by the robber from whom the Nawab was unable to protect them ; by the Nawab who took whatever the robber had left to them. All the evils of despotism and all the evils of anarchy pressed at once on that miserable race. They knew nothing of Govern- ment but its exactions. Desolation was in their imperial cities, and famine along the banks of their broad and redundant rivers. It seemed that a few years would suffice to efface all traces of the opulence and civilization of an earlier age."
It was at this juncture that the English entered upon that career which has resulted in the union of most of the numerous peoples of this vast empire under one strong and orderly Government. Four generations have passed away since then, and I believe that the tales of the lawlessness and misery of the preceding period are beginning to live but faintly in oral tradition. But in all its appalling features History still hands it down to us. The picture is fore-shortened, indeed by the perspective of time, but still conveys to imagination a sufficiently expressive contrast between those days and the present. The system which the English Government is cautiously pursuing may eventually disclose a considerable aptitude for local self-government which, duly fostered, may lead in time to the fullest development of representative institutions. But what that sagacious Historian, Mill, when examined before the Committee of the House of Commons in 1832 thought then " utterly out of the question, can scarcely even after the lapse of 44 years be very neai* at 15 hand. Now the Government is in this position, that while it is not possible for it to withhold from the young a knowledge of the principles of free Government, it may for a long period be incapable of bestowing in its completeness what the students of history find held up to such well-founded admiration.
To you who have enjoyed the advantages of the higher education, the State may well look to dissemiuate just views on these matters, and to make it clear that if slowly, yet surely, England will impart to her great dependency of which she is so justly proud, all that measure of freedom which is compatible with orderly Government. And your education will not be in vain if you employ the knowledge you have acquired in dispelling the suspicion and jealousy which ignorance upon this subject may engender ; and so add strength to that Government which alone is capable of preserving to you the security of person and pro- perty. Now, gentlemen, the University has stamped you with its approval, has testified to your qualifications, and sends you forth as its representatives of this year to the many millions of India. You have solemnly promised to comport yourselves as becomes members of this University. See that you do so. The honor of the University is committed to your keeping. See that your life and conduct reflect those high principles, that lofty tone of thought, which the instruction you have received is designed to engender ; and show that your education consists not merely in the acquirement of a certain limited amount of knowledge which may be useful in procuring a means of livelihood or may recommend itself by an intellectual display, but is an active principle bent on further conquests and ever seeking to enlarge the boundaries of the domain of science. And this not solely * for the gain it gets ' ; still less ^ for the praise it brings, or the wonder it inspires'; but ^for the relief of man's estate' — the promotion of the welfare of our common humanity. Surely, gentlemen, you have an admirable field for your exertions, whether they lie in legislation, in disentangling and illustrating the mazes of the law ; in administering justice ; in taking part in the executive government ; in clothing the parched landscape with a network of fertilizing and wealth-gathering agencies ; or in that noble profession which addresses itself to the relief of physical suffering. To all of you I would say in conclusion work well and earnestly in your several professions. Much that is attractive and absorbing will be found in every vocation by an earnest worker. And it is a mistake to suppose that it is not given to the men of this day to eugage in heroic contests and take part in venturous toils such as enchant us in ancient story. The Present —the living Present—abounds in opportunities for heroic self-sacrifice such as a demi-god might envy, and you will find ready at hand much work that is alike arduous and honorable; much of chaos that still waits to be reduced to order; many an Augean stable that still calls for no unworthy hands to cleanse it.
But time presses, Your work is waiting for you. You go forth as a fresh detachment of the army of human progress in India, and we wish you God-speed.