Sivut kuvina
[ocr errors]

property, and purchase wives, the general number of which varies from six to ten, until he has secured the requisite domestic establishment, when he “sits down (as they call it) for the remainder of his lifeguin. what he considers affluence and happiness. The process of wife-buying is remarkably curious. For the first wife they pay two bullocks, two brass kettles, one piece of blue 'baft, and one iron bar; but the terms upon which they obtain the rest depends entirely upon the agreement they make with the parents of the brides. A convenient condition is attached to the marriage articles, which secures the hus'band against any risk of being disappointed by the bargain. If, after marriage, he discovers in the lady any imperfection, or qualities that falsify the account given of her previously by her parents, he is at liberty to turn her away in disgrace, and the rejected bride is for ever after looked upon as an abandoned 'character.

At Cape Coast, Mr. Holman visited an English school for native girls, the expense of which is frayed by government. “ These children," he says, were not all black, for there were a few very pretty Mulattoes amongst them. A custom that must appear strange and immoral to my owh countrymen, but which is not held so at Cape Coast, prevails, in reference to these girls, when their education has been completed. Although none of them are regularly affianced, some of them are taken from the school into the household of resident English gentlemen, where they perform all the domestic duties, in an anomalous capacity, combining all the responsibilities of the married state, without its legal bond. A previous engagement, and clear understanding is entered into with the parents of the girls, to the mutual satisfaction of all parties, and their offspring is afterwards provided for according to circumstances.” A system of prostitution supported at the expense of government !

Mr. Holman was on board the Eden, Commodore Owen, who commanded the expedition, the object of which was to form a settlement on Fernando Po. The natives of this island are fine-looking, active, middle-sized men, with an agreeable and animated expression of countenance, and exhibited fewer ill-qualities and more good than on the continent, arising 'probably, from their non-contact with Europeans. They are a simple, 'unsophisticated race, feeling great terror at fire-arms, eager før iron, and not scrupulous in their attempts to procure it, which were sometimes punished, rather severely, by the British Commodore, by thirty-nine'lashes with the cat-o'-nine tails.

Mr. Holman's account of Rio Janeiro, and of the visit to the mines at Gongo Soco, occupies but a few pages and calls for no remark.

We shall look with some impatience for the succeeding volumes of Mr. Holman's work.


Asiat. Jour. N.S.Vol.14. No.53.




The obligation imposed on the British Government to protect the vast population of India subject to its allegiance, and to improve its condition, cannot be discharged with any degree of safety or success, without an accurate knowledge of its social and political institutions, and of the character and actual condition of the people. It would be a waste of time to comment op those speculative opinions which have been advanced on the singular structure of Hindoo society, at a time when their religious institutes and code of laws were unknown. The labours and researches of the learned having, however, unfolded their contents, and the rapid progress of our aggrandizement having enlarged our intercourse, we possess materials sufficient, though yet in many srespects defective, to legislate with a greater degree of certainty than formerly, for the improvement of the British empire in India.

It is contended by one class of those who have bestowed any attention on the affairs of India, that the Hindoos, the mass of the population, in their domestic and national character, have been stationary since the age of Menu. That, though conquerors have established themselves at different times, in different parts of India, yet the original inhabitants have lost very little of their original character.f The ancients, in fact, give a description of them which our early travellers confirmed and our own personal knowledge of them nearly verifies. The Hindoos have been confined to the same caste and way of life from sire to son. Their prejudices have been transmitted like instincts; and the same unvaried standard of opinion and refinement, have blended countless generations in its unprogressive, everlasting mould.“ The people are little different from what they were one thousand years ago. To their few wants, the uniformity and extreme siinplicity of their habits, their unsocial education, and the heat of the climate-to these causes, and not our laws, are to be ascribed the peculiarities of the people.” | The disadvantages under which they labour, are attributable chiefly, if not wholly, to the institution of castes.

The fact is admitted by an adverse party, as proved by the highest authorities, that the Hindoo castes are now the same as they have been for centuries ;”J. yet these contend that the constitution of their society would always have admitted their gratifying their tastes, and the natural bias of their minds, to the same extent as is now perceptible, and to much greater, if the gates of knowledge had been fairly opened, the means of attaining it honestly encouraged, and laws and regulations enacted, really calculated to improve their condition. But in these respects our system, both social and political, has unfortunately been fraught with obstructions and discouragement. That the error lies in supposing that the religion of the mass, as now constituted, is an absolute bar to the progress of improvement, or binds them down as slaves to the observance of minute ceremonies and rites, which no individual of the community dares, under the severest penalties, to violate. The great mass of Hindoos throughout India consists of mixed tribes of innumerable denominations, and tied down by no restraints, which are not imputable to an intolerable land-tax, to poverty, ignorance, and despotic power, which the diffusion of knowledge and liberal institutions would speedily dispel. That * Appendix (A) I. Public, to Report on East-India Affairs, 1833. + Orme.--Sir W. Jones. $ Hazlitt on the knowledge of characters. Sir W. Strachey's replies to queries, 1802... § Mr. Rickards.


the impressions which have so long and so generally prevailed, as to the superstition and prejudices of the Hindoos, and the unalterable simplicity of their food and habits, are erroneous, and a delusion, advanced by the servants of the Company to palliate their errors and their misrulc.

I am free to confess that I belong to the former class of disputants. I attribute the stationary condition of the Hindoos, and the disadvantages under which they labour, to their religion, and, above all, to the institution of castes, which bas maintained and continues to maintain the most powerful influence in perpetuating prejudices, the influence of which is fatal to the best interests of the country.

Had the original code of the Hindoos been more generally diffused, it would not have been difficult to have reformed many of its absurdities, and the improvement in the condition of its followers would have been more rapid. Unfortunately, however, as the knowledge of the code was confined to the libraries of the priesthood, and was inaccessible to the numerous subdivisions into which the original divisions branched forth, each caste formed its own rules for its moral discipline, prescribing the observance of minute ceremonies, regulating its food, dress, manners, and social intercourse with other castes, infinitely more rigid than the original text, which no individual of that community dares violate under the severest penalties; and throughout the whole of India, each separate caste has its own assembly of elders, who enforce its laws with the most arbitrary severity. The Hindoo religion admits of na proselytes. The same principle, and it is a principle of degradation, pervades each of the grand and minor divisions of Hindooisin. Each of the four grand divisions was, and each of their respective and numerous subdivisions is, in a spiritual sense, stationed between certain walls of separation, which are impassable by the purest virtue and the most conspicuous merit. Purity of food and a rigid observance of ridiculous forms and ceremonies, constitute the standard of moral excellence and superiority of character. The commission of crime is not viewed as so heinous an, offence as a breach of the rules of caste. An eater of fish, though the purest of all food, is excluded from the hospitality of those who live on a vegetable diet; and the consumer of animal food is held in a still lower scale of degradation. The purest virtue and the highest personal merit, cannot wipe off this stamp of caste degradation.

I do not mean to contend that the institution of castes opposes any obstacles to agricultural pursuits and improvements. The raw products of the soil may be carried, to any extent, in promotion of the external commerce of the country. It is as it affects its internal prosperity that the system is to be deprecated. The simple wants of the Hindoos, even of the wealthiest, oppose serious obstacles to the improvement of the resources of India. " Their laws of inheritance, also, obliging men to divide their property, not only contribute to split the whole country into potatoe fields, but essentially diminished one of the highest motives to action, and, at all events, effectually prevent the growth of an aristocracy of wealth.”* The custom of the country too, which renders so many offices hereditary, and authorizes a division of official emoluments, by circumscribing the field of competition for official employment, checks every motive to intellectual improvement, and reduces situations of honourable independency to a standard not affording a maintenance to the holders among whom the emoluments may be divided, and compels them to resort to acts of corruption and peculation.

* Sir Thomas Munro.

: The prejudices of the great mass of the population, morever, being uns favourable to the consumption and increase of cattle, it is of little comparative value ; and only a small portion of the land is reserved for pasture, or appropriated to the cultiyation of products for their food. Were those prejudices destroyed, the price of cattle, as an article of consumption, trade, and manufacture would rise, and bear some proportion to that of corn, and the value of land and the wages of labour would increase. But this is hopeless, so long as Hindoo prejudices predominate against the consumption of animal food. They are stubborn obstacles to the raising the value of a commodity, of which the high price is, according to Adam Smith, so very essential to improvement. Io India, more than nine-tenths of the land in tillage are appropriated to the cultivation of grain for the support of man. In England it is the reverse, the larger portion of land is appropriated to the support of cattle.

What I mean to illustrate by these observations, is this :—that from the simplicity of Hindoo habits, controlled by the institution of castes, the pro. portion of the population employed in raising food being annually increased, and the proportion every thing else being annually diminished, the labour of a man" upon the land is just sufficient to add as much to the produce as will maintain himself and raise a family. Men have food, but they have nothing else. The human race becomes a mere multitude of animals of a very low description, having only two functions, that of raising food and that of consuming it.*

Notwithstanding its poverty, however, there is scarcely an individual in India who has not his daily food and a hut to shelter him at night. There is more general comfort and happiness than in other countries; and the cultivators .contrive to save money to expend in marriages and other ceremonials enjoined by their religion. So long, however, as the wants and habits of the Hindoos continue unchanged, so long must the internal state of India continue depressed.

The opinion of Governor Duncan, than whom no one knew India better, is important on this subject. Mr. Rickards, one of his council, remarked on the poverty, absence of comforts, and insecurity, which ages of oppressive govern. ment had so . universally established, and disarmed death of all its terrors among the natives. Indifferent to it from fatalism, it was from these and other causes, sometimes not unacceptable, and sometimes even desirable. Mr. Duncan observed, that he should be sorry, were the impression, as to the great mass of the inhabitants of India being less happy than those of Europe, likely to become the received opinion by those who are to legislate for them in England. From the wealthier classes of inhabitants downwards, and the more so in proportion as we descend, are the means of comfortable subsistence, according to the edueation and consequent habits of the several classes, of more easy attainment in the various parts of India Mr. Duncan had seen and acted in, than he understands them to be in Europe ; whence the alleged indifference to life in the former country ought perhaps to be sought for (as far as it may really subsist) in the moral and religious institutions of the Hindoos and Mahomedans, rather than in their inherent disregard of life, which in most societies on earth is with the general mass not far from a level.”+

I will, however, appeal to facts,-to the condition of the population of Boma bay, the oldest European settlement in India, having been under the Portuguese and British rule for three centuries. On its cession to the crown of England, * Mill Colony'-Sup. Encyclopæd. Brit. +- Bombay Jud. Consultations, 17th Feb. 1810.

[ocr errors]

the population did not exceed 15,000 souls, “ the outcasts of the natives of

India.” It now contains 15,474 houses, valued at £3,606,424, and a population exceeding 229,000 souls. There are many natives of great wealth, great intelligence, and of liberal principles. There is a numerous class of native fugctionaries, with salaries ranging from £500 a-year downwards. The wages of labour are higher than in any other part of India. There is no greater portion of poverty nor ignorance than prevails among the same number of individuals in the most civilized part of Europe; there is no intolerable lands tax, no despotic power, except that of summary deportation of Europeans ; knowledge is widely diffused ; liberal institutions are encouraged and exist; and a spirit of independency prevails among the people, which they freely assert in the maintenance of their rights and privileges. The custom duties are very low. There is an entire freedom of trade. It is the land of universal toleration; and in no part of the world are the inhabitants so lightly taxed. Of the population, excluding European troops, the English amount to 938, and the native - Christians to 8,020. There are 10,738 Parsees, and 25,920 Mahomedans, and the rest are Hindoos. Now, in what degree do tbe wants of such a population contribute to encourage industry, and augment the resources and the revenues of a country? The annual consumption of the native portion of that populous and wealthy island, of articles the produce of Europe, amounts to £115,240. The chief articles are enumerated. * The consumption of articles, the produce of India, amounts to £657,698, of which £210,000 is of grain, and of piece goodst £25,000. The opinions recently urged, of the extent to which the custom of eating animal food at Bombay is carried, is also erroneous. The number of bullocks, sheep, and kids daily slaughtered on the island scarcely suffices, for the consumption of the Christian and Parsee portions of the community, including the European troops and seamen; and it is well known that Europeans stationed in the interior obtain animal food with the greatest difficulty.

These facts are sufficient to prove the few and simple wants of the Hindoos. It is a mistake to suppose that the influence of castes has diminished, even at Bombay. Among the Parsees (who were also originally classed into four orders, the athornés or sacerdotal order, the military, the cultivators of the land, and the working people), the power of punchayets has become nearly obsolete, and a great revolution has occurred in that class of the population within the last twenty years. Those wbo first came to Bombay, were, chiefly workmen seeking employment in the dock-yard and shipping. Several of them acquired wealth by their industry. Those who followed, regarding the men of established wealth as their patrons and protectors, received assistance from them in their difficulties, and in return yielded them a willing respect, as their benefactors and protectors. It is the spirit of all small and isolated eastes, and of sects established in the midst of larger communities of a different nation or religion, to consider themselves as more intimately connected with each other, and as forming persons of one family. This was origioally strongly felt by the Parsees, while they continued a small and humble body. As their numbers increased, the chief Parsees had each his tribe of dependents, whom he pushed on in various lines of life, and supported at considerable expense. £15,000 Eatables

£290 Copper, of sorts... ............. 12,000

Beer, brandy, gin, and wines, consumed

18,000 by the Parsees and native Christians 16,440 Piece goods 20,000 Wearing apparel

1,500 Printed cotton sand calicoes .$..., 10,000 Cutlery and hardware ... as: | The demand for the manufactures of India being still more than double the demand for the manus factures of the United Kingdom.

Broad cloth



« EdellinenJatka »