TOPICS OF THE DAY.
THE languid debates to which motions for Committees on Indian affairs have given rise in both Houses of Parliament, are but too exactly typical of the general apathy regarding them which per- vades the public out of doors. This apathy is the normal, not an exceptional state of the public mind. Jealousy of the undue in- fluence of the Crown, or of a political party in England, through the distribution of Indian patronage, may have been awakened, once ; sympathy for degraded Begums or deported journalists may have been kept alive for a time ; anger at the blunders and dis- asters of an Afghan war, may have alternated with pride in the triumphs of Scipde and the Punjaub ; but India itself has always been a secondary and remote consideration-7a kind of abstract idea.
Perhaps this is scarcely to be regretted. The measures recom- mended by those sections of the home public which have been animated at times by an intermittent interest in India have rarely been characterized by breadth or sagacity. To speak of recent instances only, the Manchester Chamber of Commerce has proposed to regenerate India by promoting the cultivation of cotton ; and sun- dry capitalists (and non-capitalists) have recommended railway speculations for the same purpose. With regard to the former scheme, it may be observed that the cultivation of indigo has been introduced and rapidly extended in India without adventitious aid; the presumption therefore is, that the backwardness of cotton- cultivation is mainly owing to natural obstacles. With regard tee the latter, the idea of developing a railway system in a country where the art of constructing common roads has scarcely made any progress, is offering men the luxuries before they have got the necessaries of life. The truth is, that care for India has been with either class of projectors little better than a pretext: the men of Manchester want more cotton, the railway, speculators want an extension of the share-market. It is to be feared that any inter- ference of a wider home public in Indian affairs would be quite as selfish, crotchety, and useless.
To trust to any pressure of home opinion upon Government or the Legislature for administrative improvements in India, would' be to lean on a broken reed. Yet that administrative improve- ments are urgently needed there, is unquestionable. Granted that in many complaints we hear of the treatment of native princes there may be the exaggeration of interested agents ; granted' that what is put forth respecting the retrograde condition of the general population is the language of imaginative senti- mentalists ; still there are facts which prove that India ender English rule is not what it could and ought to be made.
The total revenue of British India in 1834-5 was upwards of eighteen millions; in 1851-2 it exceeds twenty-four millions. This shows an increase of six millions in the course of seventeen years ; but it must be recollected that Scinde, the Punjaub, and other territories, contribute to the greater sum, which contributed no- thing to the smaller. In the same period, the annual expenditure has risen from eighteen millions to twenty-five millions. The ex- penditure has increased more rapidly than the income : nor is that the worst. In 1834-5 there was a surplus revenue ; of late years there has been an increasing deficit ; and during the seventeen years twenty, millions have been added to the Indian debt. The financial condition of India is bad, and growing worse ; an une- quivocal symptom of mismanagement, and certain cause of op- pression and suffering to the people. Daring the seventeen years, the annual imports and exports of British India have been doubled. But in the same time 165,000 square miles with at least nine millions of inhabitants have been added to our territory. The increase, too, has taken place subse- quently, to the entire abolition of any restrictions on trade, and the removal of the East India Company from all interference with commerce except through its financial monopolies of opium and salt. Looking to the natural capabilities of India for a profitable commerce with England and Europe, and looking to the ratio in which our trade with America has increased during the same pe- riod, it must be conceded that the augmentation of Indian exports and imports is lesi than might have been expected.
And when we look into the local details of Indian industry and trade, the reasons why commerce has extended so tardily, and finance become deteriorated, are apparent. There is corruption in the local administration, and corruption in the local courts of law. The progress of steam navigation, the construction and mainte- nance of roads and canals and of works of irrigation, are neglected. The posts are ill organized, slow and irregular. The local govern- ment is desultory and injudicious in its attempts to promote these objects, and discourages and represses all attempts to supply its neglect by private enterprise. The tenure of property is vague and uncertain ; corrupt law courts and an inadequate police render persons and property insecure ; improved commercial arrangements are discouraged and impeded. Such being the condition of India under British rule, all contro- versy as to whether it is better or worse than under Mogul, Mah- ratta, or Scinde rule, is worthless and irrelevant. Enough that the condition of India is not what the natives have a right to de- mand that it should be, and a just and right-feeling government should wish to contribute all in its power to make it. Enough that the condition of India is such that this country does not derive the full advantage it might from the possession of such a dependency. In speaking of India, the extent and varied social condition of the country ought never to be lost sight of. Some districts have unquestionably improved under British sway ; others have re- mamed stationary ; with regard to others it is to be feared that they have retrograded. In the indigo districts, for example, there has been improvement; in the opium districts of Bengal there ap- pears to have been little change ; around Dacca there is desertion and desolation. The truth seems to be, that the British Govern- ment has been more powerful and more disposed to be just and be- nevolent than any of its predecessors ; but that it has benefited In- dia less than it might or ought to have done. To this two causes appear mainly to have contributed : there have been at once too many and too few officials ; and the growth of self-dependence and a healthy public opinion in India have been repressed.
The redtmdanee of officials is principally apparent in the higher departments of government. There is a local supreme government in Calcutta, there are two supreme governments in London. The main business of these multiplied boards appears to be to neu- tralize each other and to correspond. " The government of In- dia," says an intelligent writer, " is emphatically a government of record : even the most minute transaction is not unfrequently re- corded two or three times in India; copies of these voluminous records are made in duplicate for the use of two departments in England; all despatches from the India House, as well as copies of despatches received from India, must be sent to the Board of Con- trol;. these despatches are accompanied by such a mass of docu- ments as cannot even be examined without considerable labour and timef—they amount to 2, 3, 4, 5000 and occasionally to 20,000 pages. The disputes which arise between two departments are carried on in writing: from the first establishment of the Board of Control in 1784 down to the year 1820, no less than 20,000 com- munications in writing passed between these two bodies, some of which were of vast length; no less than 21,508 folio volumes of records were sent from India to England between the years 1793 and 1829; there has been a vast increase in this number since that time."' These men of pen and ink could have no time left to go- vern the country. It may be added, that the apparent power rests with the Directors, all the real power with the President of the Board of Control; thus relieving the Minister of State for Indian Affairs from almost all responsibility.
The deficiency in the ranks of the subordinate officials is as ap- parent as the redundancy in the ranks of the higher. The Presi- dencies of Bombay and Madras have each their local government ; but the local affairs of Bengal—more than double the size of either of the otherii—have been left to the local administrators who are charged with the affairs of all India. The civil covenanted servants of the country are isolated and scattered over a wide region, so far beyond their capacity to administer that the greater part of their work is done by unaccredited and irresponsible native agents. The diplomatic service—essentially a civil service—is almost exclusively discharged by military men ; whose engagement in such pursuits often leaves their regiments inadequately officered. Even if subjected to the pressure of a healthy public opinion, such a government would be incompetent to the discharge of its - duties. But the growth of a public opinion is effectively pre- vented ; in the first place, by the subordinate position in which the natives are kept; in the second place, by the discouragement of independent European settlers. No European is allowed to ac- quire landed property in India; no Europeans are tolerated there but such as aim at making a fortune as speedily as possible and returning to Europe. The natives are only allowed to aspire to a few subordinate employments, and have no inducement to culti- vate their minds or study affairs of public concern. The press, with the exception of a few native journals of limited circulation and 'no influence, is conducted exclusively by the official classes, civil and military, and addressed to those classes. Its influence has tended to relax the bands of official discipline, but not to create or enlighten a public opinion. Breaches of confidence have ena- bled enemies to learn the military plans of Government prema- turely; factitious opposition to the appointment of natives, and to legislation for the benefit of natives, has sometimes paralyzed the civil power.
Everything in India tends to increase the power and irrespon- sibility of the official class—the European bureaucracy ; for there are not 3000 natives who hold administrative employments, and of those who do, 1147 hold appointments under 201. per annum. The European employes are sent out raw lads from college, and appointed as soon as they arrive in India to manage the affairs of remote districts, free from any control of European opinion, at the mercy of native agents, speaking languages which they understand imperfectly or not at all. The consequence is, that they are at first hoodwinked, and ultimately too often corrupted. Little is known of life in India, but the tales which reach this country from time to time, of peculation in administrative and malversa- tion in judicial office—of gambling, violation of domestic ties, and ungentlemanly conduct—prove the prevailing rottenness of the all- powerful European bureaucracy. These facts make out a clamorous case for reform : and there are circumstances which seem to show that reform only, not revo- lution, is required. The steady progress of English power in India ineontestibly bespeaks the existence of high talent there. Men like Munro, Metcalfe, Elphinstone, Outram, and a host of others, show that some do escape the prevailing moral contagion. It is certain, too, that the success of the English in India has been owing mainly • Remarks on the Affairs of India. By a Friend of India. London : 1852. to two causes,—the superiority of the public morality of their lead- ers to that of the native rulers, however lax it may appear whin compared with European standards ; and the punctuality of the Company in paying its troops. The Anglo-Indian Government has grown up under natural exigencies, and been adapted to our peculiar position in that country. The elements of a good system of government—honest men and some useful though imperfectly developed institutions—do exist in British India ; it is only re. quired to eradicate abuses and supply deficiencies. This is a task worthy of a true statesman.