Convocation Addresses of the Universities of Bombay and Madras/Part 2/The Hon. Sir Adam Bittleston

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search

NINTH CONVOCATION.

(By The Hon. Sir Adam Bittleston.)


Gentlemen, — Graduates of the University of Madras, I crave your attention for a few minutes, whilst, in accordance with the rule and practice of this University, and in obedience to the request of the Chancellor, I exhort you to conduct yourselves suitably to the position which you have now attained.

That is a position of which you may be justly proud. It is by no slight amount of industry and ability that this distinction can be achieved; it entitles you to, and, I believe, secures for you, a high place in the estimation of all your fellow-citizens of every rank and race; and it places you on a high vantage ground for the accomplishment of still greater things.

I would that I could expect, by any words of mine, to make you duly sensible of the responsibility which this position brings with it; for the University (I am persuaded) attaches some importance to this part of the day's proceedings. She by no means desires it to be regarded as a mere matter of form.

This University, gentlemen, has not, under existing circumstances, the means of exercising any of that domestic discipline which is a valuable feature of the Collegiate System in some other Universities, nor can she give to her students that kind of moral training which results from the free social intercourse of a large body of educated youths, living together as one community, and not only prosecuting common studies and striving after common objects of ambition, but sharing also in common recreations and amusements.

But not the less is the University of Madras anxious about the future character and conduct of her sons. She does not confer her degrees upon them without first taking from them a solemn promise by their future lives to justifiy her choice; and year by year, as she sends forth new men with her marks of honour into the world, she requires the same exhortation to be addressed to them, she requires them to be told what it is she expects of them, and what is the standard at which she desires them to aim. Bear in mind, then, gentlemen, I beg of you, that the reputation, nay, the life of your University, depends upon you and upon those who stand in the like relation to her with you. Unless she can point, year after year, to an increasing roll of distinguished names, the names of men who, by a career of honourable usefulness, have proved or are proving themselves benefactors of their country, she fails in her mission. The tree can only be judged by its fruits, and the University must be judged by the character and conduct of her sons. In vain she assumes to raise the standard of education to a high level ; in vain she strives to promote sound learning and to cultivate the growth of public and private virtue, if her graduates do not stand forth conspicuous amongst their fellow-countrymen both for learning and for virtue, living epistles read and known of all men, wherein the good effects of their early training are written in most legible characters.

As to yourselves, gentlemen, you have now reached a critical period of life, a critical point in your career. You are now exposed to some temptations which will probably never again attack you with so much force as now, and against which we call upon you to struggle with all your might. Perhaps the worst and strongest of these is the temptation to rest from your labours, satisfied with what you have already done.

It is often said that these educational honours are sought by the youth of this country not for the honour of them, nor from any love of learning, but for the sake of the appointments and the rupees which are supposed to follow pretty fast and with tolerable certainty upon the acquisition of a degree ; in fact, that the love of money is the moving cause which stimulates the intellectual activity of Hindu youth. Many hard things are said about the love of money; and when it is a form of mere selfishness, nothing too hard can be said of it, for all mere selfishness is very hateful; but the desire of wealth, if not too eager, may be rendered blameless or laudable by the motives from which, and the purposes for which wealth is sought ; and so, as to the desire for employment, whether in the service of the Government or in any other honourable and useful career, far be it from me to condemn it as a motive of exertion.

But, of course, gentlemen, it would be lamentable indeed, a very lame and impotent conclusion of all the exertions made on your behalf, if the ambition and the patriotism of the native youth of this country should end at this point, and should be limited to such objects as the possession of subordinate appointments in the service of Government; for then the University would have practically dwindled into an Institution for providing clerks for Government offices. Gentlemen, the University looks to its graduates to refute this aspersion by their conduct. We trust to them to show that they have acquired at least such a taste for learning that the further pursuit of it is no irksome task, but has become to them one of the cliief pleasures of life. The busiest man can find some leisure for congenial studies, and even old age delights in " a renewal of acquaintance with the favorite studies and favorite authors of youth." How many illustrations of the truth of this might be quoted from the lives of English Statesmen. Take one of the latest examples.

Look at Lord Derby, the Chancellor of the University of - Oxford, who for more than quarter of a century has ^^ ^' taken an active part sometimes in the administra- tion of public affairs, always in the busy turmoil of political life, yet has always found leisure to cultivate the classical studies of his youth, aud has in his old age given to the world an admirable translation of the Iliad, in the preface to which he assures us that the task has been his most delightful recreation. These, gentlemen, are the examples which we desire to hold up to our graduates for imitation. How great a triumph it would be for one of you, even though it were the work of a life, to produce a commendable translation in your mother- tongue of any one of our great English classics. How signal would be the benefit conferred upon your country. How proud would this University be of your achievement !

But, on the other hand, gentlemen, this one thing is certain, that you cannot stand still where you are. If you do^yourstudfeT. abandon your studies now, you will assuredly this time next year be less worthy of your degrees than you are now ; and, the following year, less worthy still ; and, in a few years, probably not worthy of those degrees at all. The very title you have now won may suffice to suggest to you that this is but a step in your career, and that unless you are content to retrograde you must be prepared to make the necessary effort to ensure further progress. Do you remember that Bacon, in his Advancement of Learning,'^ points out this continual effort at self-improvement as constituting the essential difference between the learned and the unlearned man ? He says that

  • ' Learning disposeth the. constitution of the mind not to be fixed

or settled in the defects thereof, but still to be capable and susceptible of growth and reformation. For the unlearned man knows not what it is to descend into himself or to call himself to account ; nor the pleasure of that suavissima vita indies sentire se fieri meliorem. The good parts he hath, he will learn to show to the full and use them dexterously, but not much to increase them : the faults he hath, he will learn how to hide and colour them, but not much to amend them : like an ill-mower that mows on still and never wLets his scytlie. Whereas with th.e learned man it fares otherwise, that he doth ever intermix the correction and amendment of his mind with the use and employment thereof.^'

Our words, then, to you, gentlemen, are '^Onward and Upward;" and permit me to remind you that immediately in front of you there is a height which has never yet been reached_, a prize never yet won by any of your countrymen in this Presidency, the degree of M.A.

I pause here for a moment to name, with the respect which Liberality of ^® ^^^^ *° ^^^ exalted rank and still more to his the First Prince enlightened liberality, one of the Fellows of this of Travancore. University, His Highness the First Prince of Tra- vancore, whose public spirit and love of learning have led him to hold out to you an additional inducement to advance to that degree, and whose presence here this day we hail with sincere gratification.

But whilst we urge you to further progress, be on your guard, gentlemen, also, I pray you, against another e tno es . temptation to which at your age, and surrounded by admiring friends, you are now more than usually exposed, the temptation to think of yourselves more highly than you ought to think. Be not boastful nor too proud of your own doings j bear your success with modesty, which is ever the com- panion of real merit, and avoid all appearance of arrogance and self-conceit, which are both offensive to others and injurious to yourselves — serious obstacles in the way of usefulness and self -improvement. To this end it is only necessary that you should '^descend into yourselves^' as Bacon has it, and call yourselves to an account by comparing the little you know with the more which others know, and the much more which remains to be known. Depend upon it, you will find cause enough for modesty, as well as for continued and strenuous application.

But, now, gentlemen, a few words as to your duty towards others. You are well aware that, in the matter of The career of national education, it is still very early dawn with us in this country. The sun has hardly begun to gild the hill tops, but we desire to see its light and warmth shed into the lowest valleys ; and in no way can you so well show how highly and justly you appreciate the real value of the education which you have received (for the value does depend upon the use you make of it), as by endeavouring to extend as far as you can the like advantages to others. This you may do by devoting yourselves directly to the work of teaching as the business of your lives ; you may find more lucrative, you can find no nobler em- ployment ; and in the interests of education it is much to be hoped that ere long the inducements to enter upon that career will be greater than they are at present, that the labours of the school- master will be more highly rewarded, and that both in public and private more heed will be given to the injunction of the poet — " Respect, as is but rational and just, The man deemed worthy of so dear a trnst."

But, gentlemen, there are other ways also in which the Wage war tTiiiversity looks to you for aid in the work to which against igno- she is committed. By the excellence of your own ranee and vice. yq^ you may be the teachers of your countrymen ; and not only in the circle of your own families, but wherever your influence extends, you are called upon to maintain, by your words, as well as by your deeds, an uncompromising warfare against igno- rance and vice, in whatever shape they may present themselves ; you are bound to use the weapons, with which education has armed you honestly and consistently for the uprooting of prejudice and the correction of error, wherever and whenever you may encounter them. This is a great responsibility, but it is one from which you cannot escape. Your position as graduates of this University will give weight and influence to your opinions, whether you desire it or not ; and it behoves you, therefore, to take care that your own opinions upon all the many questions of social and national imporfcance, which must come under your consideration, are formed with a due sense of the responsibility attaching to those who are guides and leaders of their fellow-men ; but if you do act under this sense of responsibility, if you are ever ready to listen to the voice of reason, if you never shut out any light which you can get, if you resort to all the means within your reach for the solution of any difiiculties which occur to you, and if you give the whole mind anxiously and unreservedly to the ascertainment of truth, you may justly hope to arrive at sound conclusions, and feel a reasonable confidence that your influence upon your fellow-countrymen will be honourable to you, and beneficial to them.

There is, no doubt, in native society and amongst the masses of the native population, an undercurrent of feel- Press ^^^""^ ^^oS and opinions about which we know little or nothing. Partially, and but partially, these feelings and opinions find expression through the medium of the Native Press, and thus occasionally they come to light. But the glimpses thus obtained are very far from satisfactory either as to the course or purity of the stream, which, nevertheless, is thus carrying health or disease, life or death, into the very heart of the population. Here, then, gentlemen, I think is a field in which you, and such as you, may do good and laudable service. Your influence can extend where ours cannot reach, and you may know of evils of which we are ignorant. Glentlemen, I would say in particular that it belongs to you and those educated like you to raise the character of the Native Press, to render it a certain instrument of good instead of a too probable instrument of evil.

But it is time that I should say a few words specially to the Bachelors of Law. I infer from the degree which la^erf ^^fhould ^^^ ^^^^ chosen that your intention is to devote act upon. yourselves to the law as a profession, and that you desire to serve your country either as Advocates or as Judges. It would ill-become me, gentlemen, to say anything in disparagement of that choice. It is a profession which holds out to you many substantial rewards; but be assured, it yields its prizes only to those who fairly win them by industry, ability, and integrity. It was a great satisfaction to the Judges of the High Court when they found themselves at liberty to admit the Bachelors of Law of this University to prac- tice generally in that Court, requiring them only first to devote a short time to the task of making themselves familiar with its practice and procedure ; and though this has not hitherto been done at the other Presidencies, we trust to the good conduct of the Yakeels whom we have already admitted, and the Advocates and Vakeels who may hereafter be admitted, to justify the step. Gentlemen, in the practice of this profession you must neither forget your duty to your clients, nor your duty to yourselves. The one demands of you that you should give to your client the full benefit of your knowledge, experience, and judgment, sparing no pains to render these as perfect as you can ; the other demands of you, that you should never, even from zeal for your client, still less from any motive of self-interest, stoop to any dishonourable or unworthy practice. As to zeal for the client, I am afraid that it is not generally in this country a very strong feeling ; and it would not, I think, often be sufficient in itself to tempt the practitioner far astray from the right path, as it has sometimes done elsewhere; but, alas ! the baser motive of self-interest is strong enough everywhere; and in this country litigation is generally so interwoven with fraud and falsehood, that you will need to be ever on your guard against involving yourselves in any complicity with the mis- deeds of your clients. There are, I believe, some persons who can hardly persuade themselves that the profession of advocacy can ever be consistent with personal honour ; but this opinion is probably influenced mainly by a mistaken notion of what the Advocators duty is, or by the recollection of some par- ticular instance or instances, rare and exceptional, in which the individual Advocate has forgotten his duty and abused his privilege. So easy is it, gentlemen, for a very small number of evil-doers to bring discredit on any brotherhood to which they belong ! But I am convinced that it is enough to appeal to the character of the English Bar as a body, in refutation of the opinion to which I have referred. There is no doubt what tho view is which that body now entertains of the Advocate's duty. On a recent occasion it was exhibited in a very marked manner. The English Bar were entertaining an illustrious French Advo- cate, M. Berry er, and in the ancient hall of the Middle Temple there was a very large assembly of English Advocates and Judges to do honour to their guest. Amongst those present was one venerable in age and laden with honours, who had presided over the deliberations of the House of Lords and sat in the chief seat of Justice, and who, in the midst of a life of marvellous activity, both in Parliament and at the Bar, had found time for voluminous authorship in many departments of learning ; but on this (as he had on other occasions) he gave expression to a sentiment which met with no response from that great meeting. Not even the admiration and respect felt for Lord Brougham could extract any token of assent to his opinion, when he said that the first great quality of an Advocate was *' to reckon everything subordinate to the interests of his client.^

But when the present Lord Chief Justice of England rose shortly afterwards, and in terms of eloquent indignation repu- diated the notion that the Advocate was under an obligation to sacrifice everything to the interests of his client, the hall rang with cheers ; and 1 cannot do better than read to you the words which met with such cordial assent : — " Much as I admire (he said) the great abilities of M. Berryer, to my mind his crowning virtue, as it ought to be that of every Advocate, is, that he has throughout his career conducted his cases with untarnished honour. The arms which an Advocate wields he ought to use as a warrior, not as an assassin. He ought to uphold the interests of his clients j^^er fas, but not per nefas. He ought to know how to reconcile the interests of his client with the eternal interests of truth and justice." Act, gentlemen, upon these principles. Remember that your vocation is to aid in the administration of justice, and equally whether you are Advocates or Judges, let your motto be " Fiat Jiistitia,^'

I have already detained you too long, but perhaps I may be excused on this occasion, the last on which our present Chancellor will preside over our meetings, for stepping aside from the direct path of this exhortation, to say that we bid him farewell with great regret, and with a grateful sense of the active and liberal interest which he has manifested in the cause of education during the period of his Governorship. There is, I am persuaded, no man here who will join more heartily than he, in the wish with which I now conclude. May yours be that suavissima vita which consists mainly in the consciousness of daily growing better; and may the Almighty Ruler of the Universe so guide and prosper all our efforts that the plants of learning and of virtue which we plant may strike deep into the soil and become healthy and vigorous trees, stretching forth their branches in all directions over the length and breadth of the land, and yielding abundantly all manner of wholesome and pleasant fruit to a nation continually increasing in prosperity, and happiness, and wisdom.