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PREPARED SPEECH OF A NATIVE INDIAN ON JURIES.
To the Editor of the Oriental Herald.
London, June 15, 1828.
In your number for June, 1827, you quoted a letter from 'The Madras Courier,' written by a Native of that place, on the subject of Native juries. Soon after the period at which the letter was written, it was intended to have had a second meeting of Natives on the subject, but it was suppressed. The same Native that wrote the letter, had prepared a speech to deliver at their second meeting; and, as a copy of it has come into my hands, and appears to me to possess a good deal of sound reasoning, I send it to you, as you may, perhaps, think it worthy of publication in your journal. It is as follows:
"Gentlemen of this Assembly, Friends and Countrymen,-I trust to be favoured with your attention for a short time, while I deliver to you my sentiments on the subject for which we are now met, and I beg to say, that, in what I shall now state, I profess the sentiments, and exhibit the wishes, of a very considerable part of the respectable Natives of Madras, and its neighbourhood, by many of whom I have been requested to do so. But I assure you it is not without considerable reluctance that I thus intrude myself on your notice, as, from my retired manner of life and domestic habits, I am but little qualified for public speaking. It is, however, one of the many proofs of that boundless spirit of liberality which actuates the Government under which we live, that so obscure an individual as myself is permitted to address this numerous and respectable assembly on this interesting occasion.
'You are all aware that an Act of Parliament has recently been received in this country, authorising the Judges of the Supreme Court to frame such regulations as they may deem necessary for availing the Court of the services of such Natives as are found fit to serve as jurymen; and it is also known to you that a public meeting took place on the 25th of November last on that subject, but which assembly, having been abruptly broken up, led to nothing satisfactory. On the contrary, from what was published of its proceedings, an idea has gone forth, that it was the general wish of the Native community here to decline the boon thus graciously extended to them by the British Parliament, an idea which, I am proud to aver, is neither consonant with the wishes nor at all expressive of the sentiments of the greater part of those I now address, but directly opposite to them. I trust, by the proceedings of this day it will be shown to the world, that the Native community of Madras are neither insensible of the privilege, nor unworthy of the benefits, thus bestowed upon them, but that they are highly
flattered by it, and will unite heart and hand in forwarding its operations, in assisting, aiding, and executing the views of those gracious legislators who have shown so much anxiety for the future prosperity of British India, and who, in extending the benefits of trial by jury to the Natives thereof, show that they have the welfare of this country at heart; and I flatter myself this is but a prelude of the benefits that will yet flow to us from this fostering
I beg it to be understood, that I have no intention of making personal reflections on any individual, as every one is certainly at full liberty to express his opinions. After having done so, however, he must lay his account with those opinions being canvassed by others; and, if he is held up to public ridicule, let him bear it.
It has been urged by individuals, that on the score of religious scruples Hindoos are incapable of acting as jurymen. I blush as a Hindoo to hear such an assertion made; and it is painful to me to have to combat so futile a pretext. Do not Hindoos fill every situation both in the civil and military departments in India? And I have it yet to learn, if our duties as jurymen will be either so intricate, complicated, or half so troublesome, as the callings which many of us now follow are. Again, it has been said that our ignorance of the English language will preclude many from being fit jurymen ; but I think there are few amongst us that are not conversant with it: and, should there be one or two instances of individuals unacquainted therewith, is it just that the whole community should be deprived of so invaluable a privilege on account of their ignorance? Surely not: it was not such trifling, frivolous, and futile grounds, I suspect, that swayed the proceedings of the memorable meeting of the 25th of November. I have my suspicions it arose from worse motives, which I shall not name, but leave them with those with whom they originated, to enjoy the remarks they have called forth from various pens, in consequence of the publication of that day's work. If there is a man in this assembly who wishes to reject the boon now offered us of acting as jurymen, so sunk in hopeless degradation as to utter such a sentiment, we owe such a man no tie of brotherhood, and claim no fellowship nor community with him.
There is no principle which so strongly operates in human nature as the law of retaliation: this appears from the laws of all nations in their earliest state ; it appears also from our own feelings, when an injury is done us. We naturally long for revenge. Our very heart tells us that the person offending ought to suffer for the offence, and that the hand of him who was injured must return the blow. Such are the dictates of our natural temper; but pursue the principle to its full extent, and see where it will end. One man commits an action which is injurious to you; you feel yourself aggrieved and seek revenge. If you then retaliate upon him, he thinks
Oriental Herald, Vol. 18.
he has received a new injury, which he in his turn seeks to revenge; and thus a foundation is laid for reciprocal animosities without end. Did this principle and this practice become general, the earth would be one universal field of battle, life would be a scene of endless bloodshed, and hostilities would be immortal. Legislative wisdom hath provided a remedy for these disorders, and but for this havoc would be made of the human race. The right of private vengeance which every man is born with, by common consent, and for the public good, is resigned into the hands of the civil magistrate.
I will not hesitate to assert, (and I am sure every unbiassed Hindoo will go along with me,) that many of the writings among the Hindoos, which go by the name of laws, are so exceedingly vague, inconsistent, and unmeaning, that they are worse than useless in the administration of justice,—leaving the decision of the Judge almost always as arbitrary as if there were no law, and at the same time introducing the mischief of chicane with its endless quibbles and annoyances. But in the institution of trial by jury now extended to us, and where an individual has the advantage of being tried by a body of men to whom he is well known and who are acquainted with the habits, customs, and manners of the country, none of these difficulties occur: it has ever been looked upon as one of the brighest ornaments of the British Constitution, and proud indeed ought we to be in becoming partakers of it.
I am conscious I have trespassed too long on the patience of this meeting; but I cannot conclude without drawing your notice to the numerous blessings the Native population of India now enjoys, under the influence of the British Government, compared with what it ever did in any former age. Did time permit, I might exhibit to your view the horrid cruelties exercised over the poor Hindoos during the long and bloody sway of the Mogul dynasty; particularly the horrid acts of oppression exercised on religious devotees, to induce them to embrace the Musulman faith. The acts of rapine, destruction, and plunder, committed on our ancestors, are well known to many whom I now address, as well as the devastation and pillage which befel our ancient and sacred places of worship. Compare those days with our present happy situation, and say, are we not blessed in our rulers, when every one is permitted to exercise his own religious opinions free from all terror or fear.
I trust this meeting will not break up until an appropriate address is framed to the Honourable the Judges of the Supreme Court, stating fully our sense of the privilege now bestowed upon us, and our readiness to come forward to afford every information that may be required from us on the subject. And, after the address is framed, I would suggest the propriety of a committee of respectable individuals being chosen to carry the objects of this
day's meeting into effect, and that they also be instructed to pub lish the same in the Madras newspapers. In conclusion, I hope there are many now present ready to favour us with their sentiments on the subject, and to elucidate it fully, which I regret my inability to do.
ORDNANCE DEPARTMENT IN INDIA.
To the Editor of the Oriental Herald.
SIR, I am an humble member of the Ordnance Department, and, in consequence, was some time ago requested to affix my name to a letter intended to be presented by the conductors of Ordnance, to the proper authorities, entreating that the smalness of our pay and allowances might be taken into the humane consideration of our Honourable masters here, and that they would be pleased to grant us such relief as, to their wisdom, our case appeared to require.'
That letter stated, that, in point of fact, we suffered a reduction, instead of obtaining an increase, in our allowances, on our being promoted, from the circumstance that many of our department came from staff situations, where they had enjoyed from 80 to 130 rupees monthly, arising from pay, staff, and writing allowances, so that the object kindly intended by Government became thereby unintentionally frustrated!
A conviction that Government has ever extended its attention and support to all deserving thereof, produced the letter above alluded to; nothing doubting but that we, in common with all other supplicants, should eventually succeed in interesting and calling forth the sympathy of our Honourable masters!
Now, Sir, my present motive for troubling you is, in the first place, to rouse the memory of him into whose hands our letter has passed, and to entreat that it may be brought from darkness to light,' in order that the matter therein contained may be laid before those who are alone competent to judge whether our requests are founded in justice or not, and where alone we can expect impartial views of our case to be taken, and hope for a redress commensurate with our privations.
In the second place, I wish to observe that I have, in common with many others, felt anxious that some person might be induced to attempt rescuing the members of our department from various hardships, which they are at present suffering under, and which, very unfortunately, seem to be increasing, particularly since the lamented death of that distinguished and inestimable officer, MajorGeneral Sir John Horsford!
None having appeared desirous of such an undertaking, I shall attempt the task, and for this purpose will commence with the hardship we feel ourselves more particularly subjected to, by the
introduction of so many commissioned commissaries to take charge of magazines, thereby superseding older and more experienced Ordnance officers; and for no other reason than because they are— warrant-officers.
As many reductions have lately taken place in several branches of the Service, consequent on a peace-establishment, it may probably appear necessary to apply some reduction to the Ordnance Department. In the contemplation of such a measure, or even otherwise. I would, with due deference, presume to offer a few remarks, as well in this view as to afford an impartial disclosure of the state of our department. Nothing but a firm conviction of the good likely to be produced by this exposition, would have urged me to the fulfilment of a task which, I feel confident, will meet with a very ungracious reception in a certain quarter; but, actuated as I am by a well-matured determination of being, if possible, the humble instrument of rescuing the class of individuals I have the honour to belong to, from no ordinary stamp of obloquy and privation, I shall persevere, leaving to the judgment of those whose judgment we seek, to determine how far I have justified my cause.
There are in our department at present eight commissioned commissaries and deputy-commissaries, who together receive monthly 3,200 rupees, for being in charge of magazines, and signing the monthly papers of their respective establishments. If they have a more ostensible duty to perform, I rather think it falls to the lot of a deputy, as I have known a commissioned commissary in charge of a certain magazine, who, during a period of ten or twelve months, was not more than half a dozen times in his magazine: where he was, I know not. Be this, however, as it may, it frequently happens that commissioned commissaries, in charge of magazines in the field, apply for, and obtain, leave of absence to visit the Presidency, making over their charge, ad interim, to the senior warrantofficer, who thereby has to perform a duty gratuitously, for a period of ten or twelve months, for which another person is in the receipt of 400 or 500 rupees monthly! But suppose the commissioned commissary to be at his magazine station, what has he to do? Virtually nothing! Whatever is to be done, is done by his drudge, alias the warrant-officer. Thus it is that an expense of 3,200 rupees monthly, or 38,400 yearly, is incurred without a shadow of benefit being derived by the State; and eight valuable officers in their own department are kept from their regiment; and at times too, when the charge of two or three companies at head-quarters falls to the lot of one subaltern officer.
I do not mean to attach much importauce to the circumstance of commissioned commissaries obtaining leave of absence; but merely to inquire, if the duties of such and such magazines can be carried on, (and that they can I believe none will doubt,)—if, I say, the duties can be carried on for such a period, and during the absence of the commissioned commissary, where then exists the ne