Settlement in India by Europeans
Remarks on Settlement in India by Europeans (1832), by Raja Rammohun Roy
Much has been said and written by persons in the employ of the Hon. East India Company and others on the subject of the settlement of Europeans in India, and many various opinions have been expressed as to the advantages and disadvantages which might attend such a political measure. I shall here briefly and candidly state the principal effects which, in my humble opinion, may be expected to result from this measure.
2. I notice, first, some of the advantages that might be derived from such a change.
First.-European settlers in India will introduce the knowledge they possess of superior modes of cultivating the soil and improving its products (in the article of sugar, for example), as has already happened with respect to indigo, and improvements in the mechanical arts, and in the agricultural and commercial systems generally, by which the natives would of course benefit.
Secondly.- By a free and extensive communication would gradually deliver their minds from the superstitions and prejudices, which have subjected the great body of the Indian people to social and domestic inconvenience, and disqualified them from useful exertions.
Thirdly.- The European settlers being more on a par with the rulers of the country, and aware of the rights belonging to the subjects of a liberal Government and the proper mode of administering justice, would obtain from the local Governments, or from the Legislature in England, the introduction of many necessary improvements in the laws and judicial system; the benefit of which would of course extend to the inhabitants generally, whose condition would thus be raised.
Fourthly.-The presence, countenance and support of the European settlers would not only afford to the natives protection against the impositions and oppression of their landlords and other superiors, but also against any abuse of power on the part of those in authority.
Fifthly.- The European settlers, from motives of benevolence, public spirit and fellow-feeling towards their native neighbours, would establish schools and other seminaries of education for the cultivation of the English language throughout the country, and for the diffusion of a knowledge of European arts and sciences; whereas at present the bulk of the natives (those residing at the Presidencies and Borne large towns excepted) have no more opportunities of acquiring this means of national improvement than if the country had never had any intercourse or connection whatever with Europe.
Sixthly.-As the intercourse between the settlers and their friends and connections in Europe would greatly multiply the channels of communication with this country, the public and the Government here would become much more correctly informed, and consequently much better qualified to legislate on Indian matters than at present, when, for any authentic information, the country is at the mercy of the representation of comparatively a few individuals, and those chiefly the parties who have the management of public affairs in their hands, and who can hardly fail therefore to regard the result of their own labours with a favourable eye.
Seventhly.-In the event of an invasion from any quarter, east or west, Government would be better able to resist it, if in addition to the native population, it were supported by a large body of European inhabitants, closely connected by national sympathies with the ruling power, and dependent on its stability for the continued enjoyment of their civil and political rights.
Eighthly.-The same cause would operate to continue the connection between Great Britain and India on a solid and permanent footing; provided only the latter country be governed in a liberal manner, by means of Parliamentary superintendence, and such other legislative checks in this country as may be devised and established. India may thus, for an unlimited period, enjoy union with England, and the advantage of her enlightened Government: and in return contribute to support the greatness of this country.
Ninthly.-If, however, events should occur to effect a separation between the two countries, then still the existence of a large body of respectable settlers (consisting of Europeans and their descendants, professing Christianity, and speaking the English language in common with the bulk of the people, as well as possessed of superior knowledge, scientific, mechanical, and political) would brim that vast Empire in the east to a level with other large Christian countries in Europe, and by means of its immense richer, and extensive population, and by the help which may be reasonably expected from Europe, they (the settlers and their descendants) may succeed sooner or later in enlightening and civilizing the surrounding nations of Asia.
3. I now proceed to state some of the principal disadvantages which may be apprehended, with the remedies which I think calculated to prevent them, or at any rate their frequent occurrence.
First.-The European settlers being a distinct race, belonging to the class of the rulers of the country, may be apt to assume an ascendancy over the aboriginal inhabitants, and aim at enjoying exclusive rights and privileges, to the depression of the larger, but less favoured class; and the former being also of another religion, may be disposed to wound the feelings of the natives, and subject them to humiliations on account of their being of a different creed, colour and habits.
As a remedy or preventive of such a result, I would suggest, 1st, That as the higher and better educated classes of Europeans are known from experience to be less disposed to annoy and insult the natives than persons of lower class, European settlers, for the first twenty years at least, should be from among educated persons of character and capital, since such persons are very seldom, if ever, found guilty of intruding upon the religious or national prejudices of persons of uncultivated minds; 2nd. The enactment of equal laws, placing all classes on the same footing as to civil rights, and the establishment of trial by jury (the jury being composed impartially of both classes), would be felt as a strong check on any turbulent or overbearing characters amongst Europeans.
The second probable disadvantage is as follows: the Europeans possess an undue advantage over the natives, from having readier access to persons in authority, these being their own countrymen, as proved by long experience in numerous instances; therefore, a large increase of such a privileged population must subject the natives to many sacrifices from this very circumstance.
I would therefore propose as a remedy, that in addition to the native vakeels, European pleaders should be appointed in the country courts in the same manner as they are in the King’s courts at the Presidencies, where the evil referred to is consequently not felt, because the counsel and attornies for both parties, whether for a native or a European, have the same access to the judge, and are in all respects on an equal footing, in pleading or defending the cause of their clients.
The third disadvantage in contemplation is, that at present the natives of the interior of India have little or no opportunity of seeing any Europeans except persons of rank holding public offices in the country, and officers and troops stationed in or passing through it under the restraint of military discipline, and consequently those natives entertain a notion of European superiority, and feel less reluctance in submission; but should Europeans of all ranks and classes be allowed to settle in the country, the natives who come in contact with them will materially alter the estimate now formed of the European character, and frequent collisions of interests and conflicting prejudices may gradually lead to a struggle between the foreign and native race till either one or the other obtain a complete ascendancy, and render the situation of their opponents so uncomfortable that no government could mediate between them with effect, or ensure the public peace and tranquillity of the country. Though this may not happen in the interior of Bengal, yet it must be kept in mind, that no inference drawn from the conduct of the Bengalese (whose submissive disposition and want of energy are notorious) can be applied with justice to the natives of the Upper Provinces, whose temper of mind is; directly the reverse. Among, this spirited race the jarrings above alluded to must be expected, if they be subjected to insult and intrusion—a state of things which would ultimately weaken, if not entirely undermine, the British power in India, or at least occasion much bloodshed from time to time to keep the natives in subordination.
The remedy already pointed out (para. 3rd, art. 1st, remedy 1st), will, however, also apply to this case, that is, the restriction of the European settlers to the respectable intelligent class already described, who in general may be expected not only to raise the European character still higher, but also to emancipate their native neighbours from the long standing bondage of ignorance and superstition, and thereby secure their affection, and attach them to the government under which they may enjoy the liberty and privileges so dear to persons of enlightened minds.
Some apprehend, as the fourth probable danger, that if the population of India were raised to wealth, intelligence, and public spirit, by the accession and by the example of numerous respectable European settlers, the mixed community so formed would revolt (as the United States of America formerly did) against the power of Great Britain, and would ultimately establish independence. In reference to this, however, it must be observed that the Americans were driven to rebellion by misgovernment, otherwise they would not have revolted and separated themselves from England. Canada is a standing proof that an anxiety to effect a separation from the mother country is not the natural wish of a people, even tolerably well-ruled. The mixed community of India, in like manner, so long as they are treated liberally, and governed in an enlightened manner, will feel no disposition to cut off its connection with England, which may be preserved with so much mutual benefit to both countries. Yet, as before observed, if events should occur to effect a separation, (which may arise from many accidental causes, about which it is vain to speculate or make predictions), still a friendly and highly advantageous commercial intercourse may be kept up between two free and Christian countries, united as they will then be by resemblance of language, religion, and manners.
The fifth obstacle in the way of settlement in India by Europeans is, that the climate in many parts of India may be found destructive, or at least very pernicious to European constitutions, which might oblige European families who may be in possession of the means to retire to Europe to dispose of their property to disadvantage, or leave it to ruin, and that they would impoverish themselves instead of enriching India. As a remedy I would suggest that many cool and healthy spots could be selected and fixed upon as the head-quarters of the settlers (where they and their respective families might reside and superintend the affairs of their estates in the favourable season, and occasionally visit them during the hot months, if their presence be absolutely required on their estates), such as the Suppatoo, the Nielgherry Hills, and other similar places, which are by no means pernicious to European constitutions. At all events, it will be borne in mind that the emigration of the settlers to India is not compulsory, but entirely optional with themselves.
To these might be added some minor disadvantages though not so important. These (as well as the above circumstances) deserve fair consideration and impartial reflection. At all events, no one will, I trust, oppose me when I say, that the settlement in India by Europeans should at least be undertaken experimentally, so that its effects may be ascertained by actual observation on a moderate scale. If the result be such as to satisfy all parties, whether friendly or opposed to it, the measure may then be carried on to a greater extent, till at last it may seem safe and expedient to throw the country open to persons of all classes.
On mature consideration, therefore, I think I may safely recommend that educated persons of character and capital should now be permitted and encouraged to settle in India, without any restriction of locality or any liability to banishment, at the discretion of the government; and the result of this experiment may serve as a guide in any future legislation on this subject.
(Sd.) RAMMOHUN ROY.
LONDON, July 14th, 1832.