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depends on the qualifications, moral and intellectual, of the individual functionaries.
It cannot be too often repeated that in a country like India everything depends on the personal qualities and capacities of the agents of government. This truth is the cardinal principle of Indian administration. The day when it comes to be thought that the appointment of persons to situations of trust from motives of convenience, already so criminal in England, can be practised with impunity in India will be the beginning of the decline and fall of our Empire there. Even with a sincere
intention of preferring the best candidate, it will not do to rely on chance for supplying fit persons. The system must be
calculated to form them. It has done this hitherto; and because it has done so, our rule in India has lasted and been one of constant if not very rapid improvement in prosperity and good administration. As much bitterness is now manifested against this system, and as much eagerness displayed to overthrow it, as if educating and training the officers of government for their work were a thing utterly unreasonable and indefensible, an unjustifiable interference with the rights of ignorance and inexperience. There is a tacit conspiracy between those who would like to job in first-rate Indian offices for their connections here, and those who being already in India, claim to be promoted from the indigo factory or the attorney's office to administer justice or fix the payments due to government from millions of people. The monopoly of the Civil Service, so much inveighed against, is like the monopoly of judicial offices by the Bar; and its abolition would be like opening the bench in Westminster Hall to the first comer whose friends certify that he has now and then looked into Blackstone. Were the course ever adopted of sending men from this country or encouraging them in going out to get themselves put into high appointments, without having learnt their business by passing through the lower ones, the most important offices would be thrown to Scotch cousins and adventurers, connected by no professional feeling with the country or the work, held to no previous knowledge, and eager only to make money rapidly and return home. The safety of the country is, that those by whom it is administered be sent out in youth, as candidates only, to begin at the bottom of the ladder and ascend higher or not, as after a proper interval they are proved qualified. The defect of the East India Company's system was, that though the best men were carefully sought out for the most important posts, yet if an officer remained in the service, promotion though it might be delayed came at last in some shape or other, to the least as well as to the most competent. Even the inferior in qualifications among such a corps of functionaries consisted, it must be remembered, o
men who had been brought up to their duties and had filled them for many years, at lowest without disgrace, under the eye and authority of a superior. But though this diminished the evil, it was nevertheless considerable. A man who never becomes fit for more than an assistant's duty should remain an assistant all his life, and his junior should be promoted over him. With this exception, I am not aware of any real defect in the old system of Indian appointments. It had already received the greatest other improvement it was susceptible of, the choice of the original candidates by competitive examination; which, besides the advantage of recruiting from a higher grade of industry and capacity, has the recommendation that under it, unless by accident, there are no personal ties between the candidates for offices and those who have a voice in conferring them.
It is in no way unjust that public officers thus selected and trained should be exclusively eligible to offices which require specially Indian knowledge and experience. If any door to the higher appointments without passing through the lower be opened even for occasional use there will be such incessant knocking at it by persons of influence that it will be impossible ever to keep it closed. The only excepted appointment should be the highest one of all. The Viceroy of British India should be a person selected from all Englishmen for his great general capacity for Government. If he have this he will be able to distinguish in others and turn to his own use that special knowledge and judgment in local affairs which he had not himself had the opportunity of acquiring. There are good reasons why (saving exceptional cases) the Viceroy should not be a member of the regular service. All services have, more or less, their class prejudices from which the supreme ruler ought to be exempt. Neither are men, however able and experienced, who have passed their lives in Asia so likely to possess the most advanced European ideas in general statesmanship, which the chief ruler should carry out with him and blend with the results of Indian experience. Again, being of a different class, and especially if chosen by a different authority, he will seldom have any personal partiality to warp his appointments to office. This great security for honest bestowal of patronage existed in rare perfection under the mixed government of the Crown and the East India Company. The supreme dispensers of office, the Governor-General and Governors were appointed in fact, though not formally, by the Crown, that is by the general Government, not by the intermediate body, and a great officer of the Crown probably had not a single personal or political connexion in the local service which the delegated body, most of whom had
themselves served in the country, had and were likely to have such connexions. This guarantee for impartiality would be much impaired if the civil servants of Government, even though sent out in boyhood as mere candidates for employment, should come to be furnished in any considerable proportion by the class of society which supplies viceroys and governors. Even the initiatory competitive examination would then be an insufficient security. It would exclude mere ignorance and incapacity; it would compel youths of family to start in the race with the same amount of instruction and ability as other people; the stupidest son could not be put into the Indian service as he can be into the Church; but there would be nothing to prevent undue preference afterwards. No longer, all equally unknown and unheard of by the arbiter of their lot, a portion of the service would be personally, and a still greater number politically, in close relation with him. Members of certain families and of the higher classes and influential connexions generally, would rise more rapidly than their competitors, and be often kept in situations for which they were unfit, or placed in those for which others were fitter. The same influences would be brought into play which affect promotions in the army; and those alone, if such miracles of simplicity there be, who believe that these are impartial, would expect impartiality in those of India. This evil is, I believe, irremediable by any general measures which can be taken under the present system. No such will afford a degree of security comparable to that which once flowed spontaneously from the so-called double government.
What is accounted so great an advantage in the case of the English system of government at home has been its misfortune in India-that it grew up of itself, not from preconceived design but by successive expedients and by the adaptation of machinery originally created for a different purpose. As the country on which its maintenance depended was not the one out of whose necessities it grew, its practical benefits did not come home to the mind of that country. It has been the destiny of the Government of the East India Company to suggest the true theory of the government of a semi-barbarous dependency by a civilised country, and after having done this to perish. It would be a singular fortune if at the end of two or three more generations this speculative result should be the only remaining fruit of our ascendency in India; if posterity should say of us that having stumbled accidentally upon better arrangements than our wisdom would ever have devised, the first use we made of our awakened reason was to destroy them, and allow the good which had been in the course of being realised to fall through, and be lost, from ignorance of the principles on which it depended.
It is not necessary to discuss the details of the three Acts which were proposed in 1858 for the better Government of India. It is sufficient for our purpose to give the more important clauses of the third and final Act which was passed by Lord Derby's Government with the approval of most politicians of both parties. We have also included a portion of a speech delivered by John Bright in which he expounded a somewhat unorthodox but interesting policy by which the conduct of the Indian Government might be improved.
The Future Government of India
Source.-Speech of John Bright in the House of Commons,
June 24, 1858. (Hansard.)
What we want with regard to the Government of India is that which in common conversation is called a little more daylight." We want more simplicity and more responsibility. I objected to the scheme originally proposed by the Chancellor of the Exchequer1 because it did not provide these requisites; that scheme so closely resembled the system we were about to overthrow that I could not bring myself to regard it favourably.
I would propose that instead of having a Governor-General and an Indian Empire we should have neither the one nor the other. I would propose that we should have Presidencies and not an Empire. If I were a Minister-which the House will admit is a bald figure of speech-and if the House were to agree with me-which is also an essential point-I would propose to have at least five Presidencies in India, and I would have the Governments of these Presidencies perfectly equal in rank and salary. The capitals of these Presidencies would probably be Calcutta, Madras, Bombay, Agra, and Lahore. I will take the Presidency of Madras as an illustration. Madras has a population of some 20,000,000. We all know its position on the map, and that it has the advantage of being more compact, geographically speaking, than the other Presidencies. It has a Governor and a Council. I would give to it a Governor and a Council still, but would confine all their duties to the Presidency of Madras, and I would treat it just as if Madras was the only portion of India connected with this country. I would have its finance, its taxation, its justice, and its police departments, as well as its public works and military departments, precisely the same as if it were a State having no connection with any
other part of India; and recognised only as a dependency of this country. I would propose that the Government of every Presidency should correspond with the Secretary for India in England, and that there should be telegraphic communications between all the Presidencies in India, as I hope before long to see a telegraphic communication between the office of the noble lord (Lord Stanley) and every Presidency over which he presides. I shall no doubt be told that there are insuperable difficulties in the way of such an arrangement, and I shall be sure to hear of the military difficulty. Now, I do not profess to be an authority on military affairs, but I know that military men often make great mistakes. I would have the army divided, each Presidency having its own army, just as now, care being taken to have them distinct; and I see no danger of any confusion or misunderstanding, when an emergency arose, in having them all brought together to carry out the views of the Government. There is one question which it is important to bear in mind, and that is with regard to the Councils in India. I think every Governor of a Presidency should have an assistant Council, but differently constituted from what they now are. I would have an open Council. The noble lord, the Member for London,1 used some expressions the other night which I interpreted to mean that it was necessary to maintain in all its exclusiveness the system of the Civil Service in India. In that I entirely differ from the noble lord. What we want is to make the Governments of the Presidencies Governments for the peoples of the Presidencies; not Governments for the Civil Servants of the Crown, but for the non-official mercantile classes from England who settle there and for the 20,000,000 or 30,000,000 of natives in each Presidency.
Now, suppose the Governor-General gone, the Presidencies established, the Governors equal in rank and dignity, and their Councils established in the manner I have indicated, is it not reasonable to suppose that the delay which has hitherto been one of the greatest curses of your Indian Governments would be almost altogether avoided. Instead of a Governor-General living at Calcutta, or at Simla, never travelling over the whole of the country, and knowing very little about it, and that little only through other official eyes, is it not reasonable to suppose that the action of the Government would be more direct in all its duties and in every department of its service than has been the case under the system which has existed until now? Your administration of the law, marked by so much disgrace, could never have lasted so long as it has done if the Governors of your Presidencies had been independent Governors. So with regard
1 Lord John Russell.