« AnteriorContinuar »
the ministers of the Crown were constantly taking steps to
curb the increasing licence of the newspapers. The The press in
measures which they brought forward with this Wellesley.
object culminated in the legislation of 1795-1799. While Pitt, unhappily for his reputation, was pressing forward these laws, his friend Wellesley was assuming the government of India. It was natural that Wellesley should desire to transplant to the autocratic soil of the East the institutions which he had seen his friend and leader engrafting on the free constitution of England. He consequently determined on placing the press of India under considerable restrictions, and of imposing a strict censorship on Indian newspapers.
The restrictions which Wellesley instituted were to a great extent removed by Hastings. In his Governor-Generalship
the first native newspaper was published, the censorUnder Hastings. ship was abolished, and the press within certain limits was free. Even Hastings, however, thought it necessary to prevent its handling certain subjects and criticising certain persons; and he not only entrusted the Supreme Court with the power of punishing a refractory editor, but he reserved to the executive the right of banishing journalists. In Hastings' time, however, no use was made of these powers. The Supreme Court declined, on one occasion, to grant a criminal information against a newspaper ; Hastings abstained from acting ministerially in a case where the Court had hesitated to act judicially; and the press remained practically uncontrolled. Its freedom caused great indignation in Leadenhall Street, and the Directors of the Company drafted a despatch reprobating the abolition of the censorship and directing its reimposition. But Canning, though he was sitting in the Cabinet which was passing the six Acts, declined to interfere with the free publication of opinion in India, and the despatch was suppressed.2
1 Pearce's Wellesley, vol. i. pp. 282, 288; Malcolm's Political History of India, vol. ii. p. 295.
2 Marshman, vol. ii. p. 359, from whose account the preceding paragraph is ummarised,
In the interval between Hastings' resignation and Amherst's arrival in India, Adam, a distinguished servant of the Company, succeeded to the post of Governor-General. He had not approved the measures which Hastings had adopted to liberate the press. He found time, in the short interval during which he held office, to deprive it of its freedom. Mr. Silk Buckingham had arrived in Calcutta in 1818, and had established a paper, called the Calcutta Journal, which soon gained repute from the ability of its articles and the independence of its criticisms.
In April 1823, Adam, who had been three months in office, annoyed at the manner in which this newspaper spoke of the Governor of Madras and of his own secretaries ingham's at Calcutta, issued a regulation extinguishing the freedom of unlicensed printing. Silk Buckingham neither moderated his language nor forbore from his criticisms. Dr. Bryce, a Presbyterian clergyman, the editor of a rival paper which was the warm supporter of the Government, was rewarded by an appointment in the Stationery Office. The Calcutta Journal attacked the nomination and ridiculed the choice; and Adam had the folly to punish this slight offence by banishing Silk Buckingham from India.1
Leadenhall Street warmly approved Adam's action; and his example was, in the first instance, imitated by his successor. But Amherst soon pursued a more generous policy; and, with rare exceptions, no press prosecutions were attempted during his tenure of office.2 Bentinck’s whole training and disposition were in favour of freedom, and the press was practically free during his administration. It was reserved, however, for Metcalfe to remove from the newspapers even the appearance of control. With the aid of Macaulay, who had become the new Member of Council under the Act of 1833, he repealed the regulation which Adam had framed in 1823, and the Indian press thenceforward became not merely practically but literally free.3
i Marshman, vol. ii. p. 380; Hansard, N. S., vol. xi. p. 858 seq.; Arnould's Denman, vol. i. p. 228.
2 Marshman, vol. ii. p. 411. 3 Ibid., vol. iii. p. 91; Kaye's Life of Metcalfe, vol. ii. pp. 134 157 ;
Metcalfe and a free press.
This decision was received in Leadenhall Street with the severe displeasure which the Directors reserved for all liberal administrators. The distinguished officer under whose rule the reform had been accomplished found thenceforward that he had nothing to hope from the patronage of the Company, and soon afterwards retired from a service in which he had lost the confidence of his employers. By a singular chance, moreover, while the liberation of the press cost the liberators their popularity at home, another measure equally liberal in its conception cost them the support of the English press in The right of India. Up to the time of Macaulay's arrival in appeal for
India, English residents had the privilege of appealEnglish and
ing in civil cases to the Supreme Court at Calcutta instead of to the Sudder Courts in the provinces, while the native could only carry his appeal to the Sudder Courts. Macaulay decided on abolishing this distinction. "The chief reason for preferring the Sudder Court,” he wrote, “is this, that it is the court which we have provided to administer justice, in the last resort, to the great body of the people. If it is not fit for that purpose, it ought to be made so. But this argument carried no weight with the English residents in India. A native was eligible for appointment to the Sudder
art. A Native judge might possibly, therefore, be called on to aid in deciding an appeal brought by an Englishman against a native. Such an appeal, the Anglo-Indian hastily assumed, was sure to be decided by the native against the Englishman, and the conquerors of the country could not safely trust their rights and property to the justice of those whose race they had subdued.2
Trevelyan's Macaulay, ch. vi. Oddly enough, Kaye does not mention Macaulay, and Sir G. Trevelyan does not mention Metcalfe. Surely such a policy as the liberation of a press is large enough to reflect credit on both the Governor who accomplished it and the Councillor who assisted him.
1 Trevelyan's Macaulay, ch. vi.
2 It is needless for a modern historian to recapitulate the arguments which were used by Anglo-Indian newspapers in 1835. The reasoning which was. urged at that time was repeated nearly fifty years afterwards when another Governor-General decided on supplementing the work which Macaulay had commenced, and on conferring on Native judges of eminence the right of
While these two reforms were exciting debate, another controversy was being decisively settled. Little had been done by the English in India to promote the education of the natives; but since 1813 a small sum had been annually devoted to the encouragement of Hindoo learning. A few men remonstrated against the application of money towards the promotion of an obsolete, imperfect, and useless culture; and from 1813 to 1833 an Indian and an English party prevailed in Calcutta, and carried on a controversy respecting the rival merits of education in Hindoo and English. In 1835 the arrival of Macaulay at Calcutta, and his appointment as President of the Committee of Public Instruction, brought the dispute to an issue. Macaulay found the Indian and English party evenly balanced on the Committee. He threw his whole weight into the scale of the English party, and the Committee was reconstructed under his supervision. English books were substituted for the bad vernacular literature which had previously been used in the schools; and the people of India received for the first time an opportunity for acquiring a sound elementary instruction in English.
These three reforms were practically accomplished by Bentinck, Metcalfe, and Macaulay in the short interval which succeeded the announcement of Bentinck's resignation and the arrival of a new Governor-General from England. But for them, indeed, it is possible that Metcalfe's provisional appointment might have been confirmed. The Directors of the Company, in the first instance, were in favour of this arrangement. The ministry, however, had inherited a dictum of Canning, that the highest office in India ought always to be conferred on an English statesman; and the Directors, apprised of Metcalfe's liberal policy towards the press, modified their own views, and concurred in his supersession by an English nobleman.2 trying Europeans criminally. The old prejudices which had been aroused by Macaulay were stirred afresh by Lord Ripon and Mr. Ilbert, and the inherent Conservatism of the British people was again afforded an opportunity of rallying in the defence of privilege.
1 Marshman, vol. iii. p. 65; Trevelyan's Macaulay, ch. vi. 2 Marshman, vol. iii. p. 89.
It chanced that the vacancy which Bentinck's resignation had caused became officially known during Peel's earlier and shortLord Hey
lived administration. The choice of the minister tesbury
fell upon the first Lord Heytesbury, a nobleman nor-General. who was a good representative of the old system of government which was terminated by the Reform Act. The owner of a borough, he had placed it at the disposal of the ministry, and had received in exchange profitable employment in his early life, and a peerage in his maturity. Successively minister at Naples, at Madrid, and at St. Petersburg, he had varied diplomatic experience; while, during his residence at the Russian Court, he had formed a high opinion of the
noble and chivalrous nature”? of the sovereign who sat on the Russian throne.
To the eye of any impartial critic this circumstance made Heytesbury peculiarly eligible for the Governor-Generalship. The Whig
But, unfortunately, in the opinion of the Whig objection to the appoint
statesman who was returning to the Foreign Office,
it disqualified him for the appointment. From 1835 to 1840 the distinguishing feature of Palmerston's policy was a distrust or dread of Russia. The conditions under which the treaty of Unkiar Skelessi was framed, the arrangements which it made, and the manner in which its stipulations were kept secret, indicated, as he thought, an elaborate attempt on the part of Russia to make her influence supreme on the Bosphorus. William IV. both shared and encouraged the feelings of his Foreign Minister, and, towards the close of his reign, the temperament of the sovereign, the views of the Secretary of State, and the language of the Radicals in the House of Commons all pointed to the possibility of a Russian war. It could hardly have been expected that the Russian Court would have remained inactive while Britain was increasing her armaments and British politicians were abusing the Czar. Long experience had shown that there was one method by which Russia could create embarrassment and alarm in the
1 Ante, p. 57. 2 ante, vol. iv. pp. 284, 311. Cf. Greville, Memoirs, Part ii. vol. i. p. 119.