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if, when everything that could tempt and facilitate presented itself to his ambition, when even procrastination could not destroy-nay, served to improve—the opportunity, and his prominence was secured and authority pre-established by the delay of his appearance, when private as well as public circumstances goaded him on all sides to come forward--if then, and with such advantages, he abandoned the task, what is there to expect from solitary exertion now ?

He must join some party; the day of struggle and combat is past. I have written to him, advising him strongly to join Wellesley, and I do not hesitate to say that, if the Prince would bring him in, with the express understanding that such was the line he intended to adopt (which the Prince might be more ready to acquiesce in than you may imagine), I see nothing disreputable to my Father in the transaction; on the contrary, the independence of his political life is so generally acknowledged that the Prince would gain credit for not having abandoned one friend at least-nay, I would go still farther: if the Prince will bring him in ivith the understanding generally that he is not to support the present Ministers, I see no reason why he should not accept the offer. To say truth, my only fear isit may not be made. 10

The only offer of an independent seat to Sheridan was made by the Duke of Norfolk in 1815, and the Duke died before the arrangements were completed. Nothing was done for him by the Prince Regent, and I affirm this, despite the story about Wootten Bassett, which, when King, he narrated to Mr. Croker, and Mr. Croker prepared for publication, along with many other fictions from the same august lips.

To use Mr. Gladstone's well-chosen and effective words, Sheridan was 'a true, brave, and also wise politician.' He was a patriot whose only price was his country's welfare. He was devoid alike of selfish greed and personal claims. His dominant passion at the last, whether in Parliament or out of it, whether in office or in a private station, was the advancement in the world of the remarkable son whom he dearly loved, and who honoured and rewarded him with true filial devotion.

W. FRASER RAE.

16 From boyhood Tom Sheridan took a keen interest in his father's parliamentary conduct. He was fourteen and under Dr. Parr's tuition when the debates on the Regency excited the country. He then added this postscript to a letter to his father: • Both the D: and I think you ought to have laid by till Pit had spoke, for as you all spoke first you had Nobody to answer anything that Pit chose to say, the D' says tho' you had all the argument on your side and I think so too.'

Vol. XLIII-No. 252

T

THE NATIVE PRESS IN INDIA

It was once said deliberately by the late Sir Henry Maine that there was no such thing as a workable law of seditious libel in India. The Government would appear to have resigned itself to that belief, seeing that for the last sixteen years, with one isolated exception, it has been content to leave the native newspapers to themselves, to publish what they chose unchallenged. This abstinence cannot have arisen from any want of provocation, for there has probably never been a week during this period when some paper or another could not have been reasonably made the subject of a State prosecution ; nor can it be explained on the ground of a consistent conviction that it was best to leave the mischief alone. The Government of India has never sincerely believed that it did not matter what the native press said ; it has merely endeavoured to believe that it did not matter very much. And so when the country in the course of last summer began to show some signs of disquiet, under the pressure of famine and plague regulations, the Government's philosophy forsook it at once. The diffidence about coming to close quarters with the uncertainties of the now celebrated Section 124 had to be put aside, and a whole series of prosecutions were instituted in quick succession against the editors and publishers who appeared to be fanning the agitation. the result, all doubts as to the efficacy of the law as it stood were cleared up, at the expense of the journalists selected for the experiment, and it was taken for granted by most people that the trouble

The Government had had no difficulty in securing its convictions, the most important of which had been confirmed on appeal by the High Courts. Native editors are not as a rule cast in the mould of Wilkes or of Cobbett, and the air was full of apologies from those who had offended, and disclaimers from those who imagined themselves to have gone too near the verge. It might well be supposed that, with these proofs obtained of the strength of its own position, and of the docility of its critics, the Government would have been satisfied to fall back on its old position. But it was evident that a reaction had set in at Simla, and that the authorities were now as anxious to go on as they had formerly been to avoid a conflict. It soon began to be rumoured that they were meditating a decisive stroke. We have it on the authority of Mr. Chalmers, the Legal Member, that one of the courses proposed was a press law, on the lines of Lord Lytton's Act, giving large powers of control to the executive, and it is very little of a secret that this was the expedient most favoured in some quarters. Under the influence, however, as we may presume, of the India Office, more moderate counsels have prevailed ; and the result is the project embodied in certain amendments of the Indian Codes that have recently been laid before the Legislative Council at Calcutta.

was over.

To note another Jubilee coincidence, the freedom of the press in India is practically commensurate with the Queen's reign. It was in the

year 1835, more precisely, that Sir Charles Metcalfe, being then temporarily Governor-General, suddenly repealed the existing press regulations, to the no small dismay of his masters, the Court of Directors, when they eventually got the news. After a lapse of sixty years the existence of a free press in a country so circumstanced as India must still strike every observer of politics as such an extraordinary and unparalleled phenomenon that one is tempted to a few remarks as to its origin. The absolute liberty of the press in India to-day might be described as an accident, the result of another accident. It was not a concession granted to the native newspapers, for it preceded their existence. It not only preceded the newspapers, but it came in advance of the system of State education, with its universities, colleges, and schools, which alone could have made a native newspaper press possible, except on the most insignificant scale. Those who rescinded the Indian press regulations in 1835 were not thinking of a future which would in any case have seemed to them indefinitely remote, but of the English journals in Calcutta, whose squabbles with the Government had given them far more importance before the public than they could have gained by any other means. It was no doubt felt that to leave them to themselves would be to leave them to obscurity; and the idea that the newspaper press generally might attain to any general influence throughout the country could scarcely, in that land of distances, have entered into the calculations of the most far-sighted before the time of railways. Yet we need not at all suppose that the lofty sentiments which were uttered over the liberation of the Indian press were insincere. It was altogether a notable and well-marked period. Having pretty well completed the processes of acquisition and pacification, the Anglo-Indian was turning his attention to questions of the moral and material elevation of the country. Most of the aspirations and ideas of these latter days are to be found springing to light during this brief breathing space, soon to be interrupted by the fresh cycle of troubles that set in with 1838, and only to reappear, sadly sobered and modified, after the revelations of the Mutiny. But in the thirties there was a general mood of robust belief in the speedy regeneration of India by the grace of British influence and the political maxims of the English Whig party. Mr. Macaulay had just gained his great victory for Western over Oriental education; and he confidently foresaw the spirit of Bacon informing the new seats of learning which the State was now to be setting up. The ardent missionary discerned in the spread of knowledge and enlightenment the inevitable collapse of Hinduism, and began to look forward to the wholesale conversion of a people thus shattered in their own beliefs. The liberal-minded official, anxious for economic progress, was beginning to place his hopes in the introduction and example of British capital and enterprise. Hence a more tolerant feeling everywhere towards the non-commissioned European, whether he were merchant, planter, lawyer, or journalist. Under these circumstances Metcalfe, while he may have been primarily consulting for the dignity of Government in forestalling the deportation of any more struggling editors, no doubt gratified his own inclinations and felt that he was moving with the times when he decreed the freedom of the press. What he did, of

course, speaking literally, was simply to remove a body of special regulations that had previously been in existence. But the liberty of the press, the privileges of the fourth estate, the freedom of discussion, are phrases so constantly used as if to denote some specific and fundamental right of the British citizen that the majority of those who thought that the way to bring the natives of India to the level of their own countrymen was to give them identical institutions probably felt that this was a great step of assimilation. But as Mr. Chalmers found it necessary to point out once more the other day at Calcutta, the law of England knows nothing affirmatively of the liberties or privileges of the press. A man is free to write and publish what he pleases, as he is free to walk the streets and join his fellows there, whether half a dozen in number or as many thousands. It is an indifferent act. But if the thousands get uproarious and begin to menace the peace and property of the neighbourhood, the law becomes cognisant of that gathering as an unlawful assembly, and the members are responsible for participating therein. In the same way does printed matter come into the constitutional field of view only when it is a question of some supposed offence, sedition, blasphemy, or libel. Nor does it admit of being affirmed that the English legislature ever considered it desirable, as an abstract proposition, that printed opinion and discussion should be left unregulated. On the contrary, the emancipation of the press was effected at a time when the Government was very far from having renounced responsibility for the opinions of its subjects. It was no longer at the end of the seventeenth century a persuasion that the beliefs of the minority must be burnt out at the stake or cut down by the sword; but it was still taken for granted that the holding of heterodox tenets disqualified a man as a good citizen ; and public opinion, less tolerant than the Government, was constantly calling for increased penalties against Catholics, Jacobites, and Dissenters. In characteristic English fashion, the Parliament of William the Third, as every reader of Macaulay remembers, removed all restraints upon the press, not out of any regard for the principle, but because the licensing laws as they stood were working badly. That the liberties obtained in 1694 were in fact much in advance of public sentiment is indicated by the frequent procedure against press offenders by General Warrant,' which, in spite of its illegality, seems to have been accepted without protest, till challenged and overthrown in 1763 by the dauntless editor of the North Briton. And if we think that the unfettered liberty of the press was one of those things that were bound to come sooner or later in a free State, as probably it was, let us remember after all how apt we are to take the what is for the what must have been. Had some similar stroke of fortune removed all restrictions from the theatre, we might ere now have seen a new development of Aristophanic comedy in England. As it is, everyone looks upon the strictest prohibition of political subjects on the stage, side by side with absolute license to the caricaturist, as part of the natural and necessary order of things in a rightly constituted commonwealth. The great Continental nations have not yet arrived at the belief that the formation of public opinion is a matter to which governments can or should be indifferent. But, owing to the largely fortuitous circumstance that Anglo-Indian legislators had an example of more than a century's standing before them, a liberty which would seem preposterous to a German or Russian statesman dealing with his own countrymen was hastily surrendered to the subjects of an alien and isolated Government, separated from them in ideas, race, and religion, in the cheerful belief that the results of the experiment must necessarily answer to the excellence of its intentions.

When one comes, therefore, to consider the character of the press thus suddenly bidden into existence, no reflecting person should be disposed to judge it over-harshly. It comes in naturally for many hard words from exasperated and misrepresented Anglo-Indians. Its uses may be hard to discover, and its mischiefs obvious, but it is after all the creature of circumstances. An English journalist has only to take the position of his Hindu or Mussalman contemporary, and imagine himself put in charge of a native newspaper, with a free hand and orders to go ahead, to realise how difficult it would be to make his mark. The fact that there is no Government to overthrow, and none to substitute, takes half the salt out of politics, and tends to bring their discussion down, if temperately handled, to essay writing. The field of advice and criticism is certainly open : but the majority of Indian public affairs are of a very technical and unstimulating character, and even if the laboriously minded journalist were to apply himself to study, to the extent of being able to meet professional experts on their own ground, he would long

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