Convocation Addresses of the Universities of Bombay and Madras/Part 2/Honorable Sir Charles A. Turner

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search


(By The Hon. Sir Charles A. Turner, Kt., C.I.E.)

"Gentlemen,—The statutes of the University prescribe that the ceremony of admission to Degrees shall conclude with an address to the newly admitted graduates, inviting them to con- duct themselves suitably to the position they have attained. It is the pleasure of His Excellency the Chancellor to depute that duty on this occasion to me. Seeing that you have served faithfully an apprenticeship to this guild of learning, and now present yourselves for a public recognition of your merits, it may appear incongruous that you should not be allowed to depart without words of advice or warning, The incongruity disappears when you call to mind it is a condition of admission to member- ship in this guild, that the candidate should not only produce proof of his diligence in the past, but undertake obligations as to his conduct in the future. You have pledged yourselves in your life and conversation to conduct as becomes members of the University : to the utmost of your opportunity and ability to support the cause of morality and sound learning : to uphold and advance social order and the well-being of your fellow-men. These obligations are not the less binding on your consciences, because they are ratified by no oath, nor will their infraction be devoid of consequences to you. A University degree is not to be regarded as a mere certificate that the graduate has under- gone a certain course of instruction, or has acquired a certain amount of knowledge; it is an assurance he has undertaken responsibilities to society which will accord or refuse him dis- tinction in proportion to the fidelity with which his obligations have been observed ; not even a barren honor will any one of you derive from the ceremony of to-day, if his life is undistin- guished by the conscientious performance of those duties which the education imparted under the auspices of this University was designed at once to inculcate and enable him to discharge. In an address recently delivered to the University of Calcutta, the Vice- Chancellor, Mr. Justice Wilson, has disposed of the erroneous notion that a system of education is to be valued only in proportion to its peonniary results. "The true value of education," said he, "consists not in the wordly profit it may enable you to make, but in this, that it awakens the love of truth as a motive of action, that it stimulates and gratifies the desire for knowledge : that it calls into activity the dormant powers of the mind ; trains and strengthens them by exercise ; teaches you to know the relative strength and value of your several faculties, and to subordinate all to the control of your judgment ; that it accustoms you to observe and to reason, and so to know good from evil, the true from the false, and thus leaves you stronger, wiser and better men than it fonnd you.'* In the Southern as in the Northern Presidency, the schoolmaster may, I fear, sometimes complain that his lot is cast

  • Among a people of children

Who thronged me in their cities And asked, not wisdom, Bat charms to charm with. Bat spells to matter.'

Yet another objection is taken. The instruction imparted under the auspices of Universities not being certainly productive of pecuniary results, there will be created a class of discontented men who will abuse their education to subvert social order. It cannot be denied there have been men educated probably in our schools, whose writings suggest,

  • You tanght one language, and the profit on't

Is, I know how to curse.'

But if our education, as is asserted by the Vice-Chancellor of Calcutta, and as it certainly should do, makes men stronger, wiser, and better than it found them, the men who give a semblance of foundation for the objection are, such as they are, not in consequence of but m spite of the education they have received. The Government of British India, conscious of the integrity of its motives, and impatient of no honest criticism of its measures, has gained far more than it has risked in educating the intelligence of the country to take an interest in, and apprehend its measures. There are, in every Presidency, professional exponents of native opinion, and gentlemen of independent position, who, in virtue of the education they have received, are enabled to render substantial assistance to the Government. May they long

' survive To frustrate prophecies, and raze out Rotten opinion.'

If the sole end of education were the intellectual benefit of the individual student, and still less if it were his pecuniary benefit, the Government would have no justification for expending on higher education a larger sum than would be necessary to produce each year the small supply of trained men required to fill vacancies in the several departments of the public service. The justification for the present expenditure by the State on such education is to be found not in any pretension on the part of the State to provide a remunerative career, or an intellectual training, for a select few of its subjects, but in the avowed purpose, by giving, as far as it can do, a thorough education to the few, to benefit, influence, and elevate through the instrumentality of the educated few those, whom higher education cannot reach. The pledges which have been demanded of you range themselves under two categories, according as they bind you to duties to yourselves, and duties to others, and they are conformable to the aim of the State in the foundation of this and of other kindred institutions. To secure to yourselves the intellectual benefit resulting from education, you must necessarily cultivate many faculties which serve the larger purpose of rendering you useful citizens, and enabling you to benefit your fellow-men. Although I know that the first impulse of many a student, when he has completed the educational test, for which he proposes to offer himself, is to say as Prospero said,

  • Deeper than did ever plummet sound

I'll drown my books.'

I also know that, when the thirst for knowledge has been excited, and the irksomeness of compulsory study withdrawn, there are few who do not feel,

  • He that made us with such large disoonrse

Looking before and after, gave us not That capacity and god-like reason To fust in us unused.'

It is not, I believe, a rare experience that the student applies himself more diligently to study after he has completed the course for his degree, than he did before, and if I did not fear you might find some difl&culty in mastering the peculiarity of his diction, I should recommend you to give some of your leisure to the study of the writings of a great man, who has lately passed to his rest. It is somewhat difficult to assign to Thomas Carlyle his just place in literature. He was an idealistic philosopher, but it is said his philosophy does not admit of systematic exposition, and I believe it to have been imperfect, because he did not fully accept the only possible solution of the phenomena he observed. He was a poet deeply touched with the beautiful in nature, but using this power and sense only to illustrate and enforce his philosophy. He was a minute investigator of the facts of history, but wanting the impartial judgment of a true historian. Preeminently he was a moralist, he employed his vast and varied gifts of thought and expression, his humour, irony and pathos to inculcate truths he felt to be eternal, and insist on the practice of virtues of which it seemed to him the nation needed urgently to be reminded. It is an often mooted question how far great men are formed by the age in which they live, and how far they form their age. They cannot be insensible to the influences which surround their youths ; and those influences, if of a national character, must be operating at the same time on thousands. The minds of men are moved unconsciously by the events around them, and the more sympathetic minds are the readiest to formulate their thought. At last the thought finds utterance, and the first to give it voice is hailed as the founder of a new philosophy. His teachings receive the imme- diate assent of those who are pre-disposed for their acceptance, and supported by the apparent logic of facts, convince others who had theretofore reached only the stage of speculation. The philosopher is recognised as a power. In Carlyle's youth and middle age, the nation was passing through a period of profound change. It was his mission to convince his fellow-countrymen, neither through a blind conservatism to prop up institutions which had survived their utility, nor, through an unreasoning radicalism to deny principles surviving the institutions by which at one time they had been truly expressed. Truth and justice are eternal verities ; in the long run, these will triumph not only over all that is mittedly opposed to them, but over all that enjoys authority as admere counterfeit of them. Government is but a means to an end and even the most absolute form of Government is to be approved,if for the timebeing,it alone can secure truth and justice. There is a brotherhood among men and it is a universal duty to recognise it ; but this does not imply an equality in the faculties with which each man is endowed that he may co-operate for the good of all. The equality which in fact subsists is the equal dignity of all honest labour. 'All true work,' wrote Carlyle, 'is sacred ; in all true work, were it but hand labour, there is some- thing of divineness. Labour wide as the earth has its summit in heaven.^ And again : ' There is a perennial nobleness and even sacredness in work ; were he ever so benighted, forgetful of his high calling, there is always hope in a man that actually and earnestly works.^ To do his work well, the self in man must be annihilated. And when the work is done, ay, and done nobly, the worker is not to look for his reward here. ' The wages of every noble work do yet lie in heaven or else nowhere.' The true worker will not necessarily be rewarded with happiness, for what is our 'whim of happiness V 'By certain valuations and averages of our own striking, we come upon some sort of average terrestrial lot : this we fancy belongs to us by nature and of indefeasible right. Simple payment of our wages, our deserts, requires neither thanks nor complaint ; only such surplus as there may be, do we account happiness; any defect is misery. Now, con- sider that "vo have the valuation of our own merits ourselves, and what a I'und of self-conceit there is in each of us, do you wonder that <>he balance should so often dip the wrong way, and many a blockhead cry, See- there — was ever worthy gentle- man so used/ Nor will any political panacea procure for man happiness. Man's unhappiness comes of his greatness. 'Will the whole Finance Ministers, upholsterers and confectioners in modern Europe, undertake in joint stock company to make one shoe-black happy ? They cannot accomplish it above an hour or two, for the shoe-black has a soul quite other than his stomach — the shoe-black is infinite/ ' But there is in man a higher than love of happiness, he can do without happiness, and in lieu thereof find blessedness/ To attain this, he must devote him- self to the service of truth and justice, substitute for every selfish motive benevolence, and apply himself to the work he finds at hand with manliness the Roman virtus. We cannot shut our eyes to the fact that great social changes are in progress in this country, 'The old order changeth, yielding place to new. The intercourse of Europeans and Hindus in official, commercial and public life, I would fain add also in social life, cannot but act and re-act on those who come within its influence, and that nationality will certainly be the most affected, which has least kept pace with the progress of ideas. Education too opens the literary stores of modern thought to a people who have been ever fertile of imagination and not timid in speculation. Though the past of each nationality precludes for many centuries what, were it possible, may not be desirable, a complete harmony of ideas, it is certain that, sooner or later, the conservatism of India must give ground at all those points of the battle-field where it cannot bring up to its support the eternal verities by which the fate of all civilizations must be decided. Men's minds are already stirred, some with apprehension, some with desire of change, and it may be there is even now preparing himself an Indian Carlyle who, with the like intolerance of the false, the like earnestness for the true, and with equal fertility of thought and power of expression, will persuade his countrymen to preserve all that is worthy of preservation in their principles and their institutions, and to yield without regret what- ever reason proves must sooner or later be surrendered. Modern India has proved, by examples that are known to and honoured by all in this assembly, that her sons can qualify themselves to hold their own with the best of European talent in the Council Chamber, on the Bench, at the Bar, and in the Mart ; the time cannot be far distant when she will produce her philosopher, her moralist, her reformer. Meanwhile, in the great social changes that are in progress, some of the lessons of Carlyle may be as useful to you as they were to your fellow-subjects, my countrymen. It is impossible but that there should be change. Do not then by any prejudice obstruct reforms commanded by truth and justice : do not, on the other hand from unreasoning desire of innovation, abolish, in favour of some foreign fashion, institutions or customs appropriate to your country, or still subserving a worthy purpose. The emancipation of your wives and sisters from what is at present almost a condition of bondage is a reform that time will surely bring about. Prepare them by education to be at once the companions of your intellectual life and the ornaments of your homes. Let the sanctity of your hearths be secured by the example of your own continence and temperance. Preserve the pristine virtue of respect for parents which has survived so many centuries. If in the interests of your children, or from a prudent regard for the welfare of the family, it becomes necessary to dissolve community of property, be ever beforehand in offering in brotherly love what can no longer be claimed as of right. In your intercourse with your neighbours, observe the rules of caste so far only as is demanded by a generous interpretation of the tenets of the religion still imperative on your conscience. In the transactions of commerce, revive the times when a merchant's word was his bond and debt regarded not only as a disgrace but as a sin. If you would serve yourselves or your countrymen in your conversation with those whose good will you desire to conciliate, seek it by the honest avowal of your convictions rather than the unappreciated flattery of inconsiderate assent; never demean yourselves by condescending to that pitiful weapon of the coward, the anonymous slander of a neighbour. If, after due inquiry, you have satisfied yourselves that there is an injustice that calls for remedy, denounce it openly, but in terms that evince just resentment and mot vindictiveness. Though you may have no direct part in the administration of the State^ it is within the power of any subject of our Sovereign to offer his counsel, and it will be respected if he can show it merits respect. Deem no honest work beneath you, and do whatever work you have to do thoroughly ; you will rarely find that there is no work for you. Whatever the nature of the labour, the market is seldom over- stocked with men who are qualified and willing to do good work. It is the men with the ungirt loin that can find no work. If you are tempted to discontent (and at times who may not be) — the irony of the moralist may recur to your memory, and set you with better heart to seek and to overcome the cause. In the prosecution of your studies, let me give you this counsel. Believe that all you know is but a tithe of what you may know ; but, while craving further knowledge, do not be too ready to accept as truths infal- 20 lible the opinions of those who seem a little wiser than yourselves,

'Give every man tliine ear but few thy voice, Take each man's censure but reserve thy judgment.'

Advance by cautious steps in the acquisition of knowledge, lest you should stray into the wrong path and hopelessly lose your way ; and, as a last word of counsel, let me repeat to you a saying of the present Lord Derby, that education to be worth having must aim at accuracy of thought, and accuracy of expression. Without accuracy of thought, your knowledge is dangerous to yourselves and to others, without accuracy of expression, however profitable your knowledge may be to yourselves, you may but confuse the judgment of others by endeavouring to impart your Make your knowledge to them. If a man sets out in the morning to walk from the East to the West, his shadow is projected before him but constantly grows less till at midday it disappears, and thereafter, till the sunset, his shadow again lengthens, but it lengthens behind him. So is it with us, as we and the works we do which are part of our substance, take our ways through life. In our youths there is projected the shadow of the hopes we are destined never to realise; they are the shadows of ourselves, they will be noble if we are unselfish and true. In our middle age, this shadow has departed with the fervid generosity of youth, but as yet no other has appeared; we have given up too sanguine hope, but are still conscious of capacity for action. But thereafter, as we plod on with steps growing more and more feeble, that other shadow lengthens out behind us, the memory of the opportunities we have lost or failed to make the most of, the memory of what we might have done, or have done better, and this too will be the shadow of ourselves. It may be an ignoble shadow of anger at what we choose to term our want of luck, or it nray be an ennobling shadow^ of consciousness of, and contrition for, our failings. Your shadows are before you, to make them what you please, aim at high and unselfish ends; though you may not achieve them, the effort has become apart of your very selves ; and when the shadows lengthen behind you, though they be, as all men's must, shadows that tell of failure, you will be able to lay this comfort to your hearts : —

'I take to witness That I loved no darkness Sophisticated no wisdom Nursed no delusion, Allowed no fear, And therefore, I know . • • It hath been granted me Not to die wholly, not to be all enslaved I feel it at this hour— the numbing cloud Mounts off my soul."