Nothing can be kinder than Nancy's conduct has been. She proposes that we should form one family; and Trevelyan, (though, like most lovers, he would, I imagine, prefer having his goddess to himself,) consented with strong expressions of pleasure. The arrangement is not so strange as it might seem at home. The thing is often done here; and those quarrels between servants, which would inevitably mar any such plan in England, are not to be apprehended in an Indian establishment. One advantage there will be in our living together of a most incontestable sort; we shall both be able to save more money. Trevelyan will soon be entitled to his furlough; but he proposes not to take it till I go home.
I shall write in a very different style from this to my father. To him I shall represent the marriage as what it is, in every respect except its effect on my own dreams of happiness—a most honourable and happy event; prudent in a worldly point of view; and promising all the felicity which strong mutual affection, excellent principles on both sides, good temper, youth, health, and the general approbation of friends can afford. As for myself, it is a tragical denouement of an absurd plot. I remember quoting some nursery rhymes, years ago, when you left me in London to join Nancy at Rothley Temple or Leamington, I forget which. Those foolish lines contain the history of my life.
"There were two birds that sat on a stone; One flew away, and there was but one. The other flew away, and then there was none; And the poor stone was left all alone."
Ever, my dearest Margaret, yours
T. B. MACAULAY.
A passage from a second letter to the same person deserves to be quoted, as an instance of how a good man may be unable to read aright his own nature, and a wise man to forecast his own future. "I feel a growing tendency to cynicism and suspicion. My intellect remains; and is likely, I sometimes think, to absorb the whole man. I still retain, (not only undiminished, but strengthened by the very events which have deprived me of everything else,) my thirst for knowledge; my passion for holding converse with the greatest minds of all ages and nations; any power of forgetting what surrounds me, and of living with the past, the future, the distant, and the unreal. Books are becoming everything to me. If I had at this moment my choice of life, I would bury myself in one of those immense libraries that we saw together at the universities, and never pass a waking hour without a book before me." So little was Macaulay aware that, during the years which were to come, his thoughts and cares would be less than ever for himself, and more for others, and that his existence would be passed amidst a bright atmosphere of affectionate domestic happiness, which, until his own death came, no accident was thenceforward destined to overcloud.
But, before his life assumed the equable and prosperous tenor in which it continued to the end, one more trouble was in store for him. Long before the last letters to his sister Margaret had been written, the eyes which were to have read them had been closed for ever. The fate of so young a wife and mother touched deeply all who had known her, and some who knew her only by name. [Moultrie made Mrs. Cropper's death the subject of some verses on which her relatives set a high value. He acknowledges his little poem to be the tribute of one who had been a stranger to her whom it was written to commemorate:
"And yet methinks we are not strange: so many claims there be Which seem to weave a viewless band between my soul and thee. Sweet sister of my early friend, the kind, the singlehearted, Than whose remembrance none more bright still gilds the days departed! Beloved, with more than sister's love, by some whose love to me Is now almost my brightest gem in this world's treasury."]
When the melancholy news arrived in India, the young couple were spending their honeymoon in a lodge in the Governor-General's park at Barrackpore. They immediately returned to Calcutta, and, under the shadow of a great sorrow, began their sojourn in their brother's house, who, for his part, did what he might to drown his grief in floods of official work. ["April 8. Lichfield. Easter Sunday. After the service was ended we went over the Cathedral. When I stood before the famous children by Chantrey, I could think only of one thing; that, when last I was there, in 1832, my dear sister Margaret was with me and that she was greatly affected. I could not command my tears and was forced to leave our party, and walk about by myself."—Macaulay's Journal for the year 1849.]
The narrative of that work may well be the despair of Macaulay's biographer. It would be inexcusable to slur over what in many important respects was the most honourable chapter of his life; while, on the other hand, the task of interesting Englishmen in the details of Indian administration is an undertaking which has baffled every pen except his own. In such a dilemma the safest course is to allow that pen to tell the story for itself; or rather so much of the story as, by concentrating the attention of the reader upon matters akin to those which are in frequent debate at home, may enable him to judge whether Macaulay, at the council-board and the bureau, was the equal of Macaulay in the senate and the library.
Examples of his Minute-writing may with some confidence be submitted to the criticism of those whose experience of public business has taught them in what a Minute should differ from a Despatch, a Memorial, a Report, and a Decision. His method of applying general principles to the circumstances of a special case, and of illustrating those principles with just as much literary ornament as would place his views in a pictorial form before the minds of those whom it was his business to convince, is strikingly exhibited in the series of papers by means of which he reconciled his colleagues in the Council, and his masters in Leadenhall Street, to the removal of the modified Censorship which existed in India previously to the year 1835.
"It is difficult," he writes, "to conceive that any measures can be more indefensible than those which I propose to repeal. It has always been the practice of politic rulers to disguise their arbitrary measures under popular forms and names. The conduct of the Indian Government with respect to the Press has been altogether at variance with this trite and obvious maxim. The newspapers have for years been allowed as ample a measure of practical liberty as that which they enjoy in England. If any inconveniences arise from the liberty of political discussion, to those inconveniences we are already subject. Yet while our policy is thus liberal and indulgent, we are daily reproached and taunted with the bondage in which we keep the Press. A strong feeling on this subject appears to exist throughout the European community here; and the loud complaints which have lately been uttered are likely to produce a considerable effect on the English people, who will see at a glance that the law is oppressive, and who will not know how completely it is inoperative.
"To impose strong restraints on political discussion is an intelligible policy, and may possibly—though I greatly doubt it—be in some countries a wise policy. But this is not the point at issue. The question before us is not whether the Press shall be free, but whether, being free, it shall be called free. It is surely mere madness in a Government to make itself unpopular for nothing; to be indulgent, and yet to disguise its indulgence under such outward forms as bring on it the reproach of tyranny. Yet this is now our policy. We are exposed to all the dangers—dangers, I conceive, greatly over-rated—of a free Press; and at the same time we contrive to incur all the opprobrium of a censorship. It is universally allowed that the licensing system, as at present administered, does not keep any man who can buy a press from publishing the bitterest and most sarcastic reflections on any public measure, or any public functionary. Yet the very words 'license to print' have a sound hateful to the ears of Englishmen in every part of the globe. It is unnecessary to inquire whether this feeling be reasonable; whether the petitioners who have so strongly pressed this matter on our consideration would not have shown a better judgment if they had been content with their practical liberty, and had reserved their murmurs for practical grievances. The question for us is not what they ought to do, but what we ought to do; not whether it be wise in them to complain when they suffer no injury, but whether it be wise in us to incur odium unaccompanied by the smallest accession of security or of power.
"One argument only has been urged in defence of the present system. It is admitted that the Press of Bengal has long been suffered to enjoy practical liberty, and that nothing but an extreme emergency could justify the Government in curtailing that liberty. But, it is said, such an emergency may arise, and the Government ought to retain in its hands the power of adopting, in that event, the sharp, prompt, and decisive measures which may be necessary for the preservation of the Empire. But when we consider with what vast powers, extending over all classes of people, Parliament has armed the Governor-General in Council, and, in extreme cases, the Governor-General alone, we shall probably be inclined to allow little weight to this argument. No Government in the world is better provided with the means of meeting extraordinary dangers by extraordinary precautions. Five persons, who may be brought together in half an hour, whose deliberations are secret, who are not shackled by any of those forms which elsewhere delay legislative measures, can, in a single sitting, make a law for stopping every press in India. Possessing as we do the unquestionable power to interfere, whenever the safety of the State array require it, with overwhelming rapidity and energy, we surely ought not, in quiet times, to be constantly keeping the offensive form and ceremonial of despotism before the eyes of those whom, nevertheless, we permit to enjoy the substance of freedom."
Eighteen months elapsed; during which the Calcutta Press found occasion to attack Macaulay with a breadth and ferocity of calumny such as few public men, in any age or country, have ever endured, and none, perhaps, have ever forgiven. There were many mornings when it was impossible for him to allow the newspapers to lie about his sister's drawing-room.
The Editor of the Periodical which called itself, and had a right to call itself, the "Friend of India," undertook to shame his brethren by publishing a collection of their invectives; but it was very soon evident that no decent journal could venture to foul its pages by reprinting the epithets, and the anecdotes, which constituted the daily greeting of the literary men of Calcutta to their fellow-craftsman of the Edinburgh Review. But Macaulay's cheery and robust common sense carried him safe and sound through an ordeal which has broken down sterner natures than his, and embittered as stainless lives. The allusions in his correspondence, all the more surely because they are brief and rare, indicate that the torrent of obloquy to which he was exposed interfered neither with his temper nor with his happiness; and how little he allowed it to disturb his judgment or distort his public spirit is proved by the tone of a State paper, addressed to the Court of Directors in September 1836, in which he eagerly vindicates the freedom of the Calcutta Press, at a time when the writers of that Press, on the days when they were pleased to be decent, could find for him no milder appellations than those of cheat, swindler, and charlatan.
"I regret that on this, or on any subject, my opinion should differ from that of the Honourable Court. But I still conscientiously think that we acted wisely when we passed the law on the subject of the Press; and I am quite certain that we should act most unwisely if we were now to repeal that law.
"I must, in the first place, venture to express an opinion that the importance of that question is greatly over-rated by persons, even the best informed and the most discerning, who are not actually on the spot. It is most justly observed by the Honourable Court that many of the arguments which may be urged in favour of a free Press at home do not apply to this country. But it is, I conceive, no less true that scarcely any of those arguments which have been employed in Europe to defend restrictions on the Press apply to a Press such as that of India.
"In Europe, and especially in England, the Press is an engine of tremendous power, both for good and for evil. The most enlightened men, after long experience both of its salutary and of its pernicious operation, have come to the conclusion that the good on the whole preponderates. But that there is no inconsiderable amount of evil to be set off against the good has never been disputed by the warmest friend to freedom of discussion.
"In India the Press is comparatively a very feeble engine. It does far less good and far less harm than in Europe. It sometimes renders useful services to the public. It sometimes brings to the notice of the Government evils the existence of which would otherwise have been unknown. It operates, to some extent, as a salutary check on public functionaries. It does something towards keeping the administration pure. On the other hand, by misrepresenting public measures, and by flattering the prejudices of those who support it, it sometimes produces a slight degree of excitement in a very small portion of the community.
"How slight that excitement is, even when it reaches its greatest height, and how little the Government has to fear from it, no person whose observation has been confined to European societies will readily believe. In this country the number of English residents is very small, and, of that small number, a great proportion are engaged in the service of the State, and are most deeply interested in the maintenance of existing institutions. Even those English settlers who are not in the service of the Government have a strong interest in its stability. They are few; they are thinly scattered among a vast population, with whom they have neither language, nor religion, nor morals, nor manners, nor colour in common; they feel that any convulsion which should overthrow the existing order of things would be ruinous to themselves. Particular acts of the Government—especially acts which are mortifying to the pride of caste naturally felt by an Englishman in India—are often angrily condemned by these persons. But every indigo-planter in Tirhoot, and every shopkeeper in Calcutta, is perfectly aware that the downfall of the Government would be attended with the destruction of his fortune, and with imminent hazard to his life.
"Thus, among the English inhabitants of India, there are no fit subjects for that species of excitement which the Press sometimes produces at home. There is no class among them analogous to that vast body of English labourers and artisans whose minds are rendered irritable by frequent distress and privation, and on whom, therefore, the sophistry and rhetoric of bad men often produce a tremendous effect. The English papers here might be infinitely more seditious than the most seditious that were ever printed in London without doing harm to anything but their own circulation. The fire goes out for want of some combustible material on which to seize. How little reason would there be to apprehend danger to order and property in England from the most inflammatory writings, if those writings were read only by Ministers of State, Commissioners of the Customs and Excise, Judges and Masters in Chancery, upper clerks in Government offices, officers in the army, bankers, landed proprietors, barristers, and master manufacturers! The most timid politician would not anticipate the smallest evil from the most seditious libels, if the circulation of those libels were confined to such a class of readers; and it is to such a class of readers that the circulation of the English newspapers in India is almost entirely confined."
The motive for the scurrility with which Macaulay was assailed by a handful of sorry scribblers was his advocacy of the Act familiarly known as the Black Act, which withdrew from British subjects resident in the provinces their so-called privilege of bringing civil appeals before the Supreme Court at Calcutta. Such appeals were thenceforward to be tried by the Sudder Court, which was manned by the Company's judges, "all of them English gentlemen of liberal education; as free as even the judges of the Supreme Court from any imputation of personal corruption, and selected by the Government from a body which abounds in men as honourable and as intelligent as ever were employed in the service of any state." The change embodied in the Act was one of little practical moment; but it excited an opposition based upon arguments and assertions of such a nature that the success or failure of the proposed measure became a question of high and undeniable importance.
"In my opinion," writes Macaulay, "the chief reason for preferring the Sudder Court 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. If it is fit to administer justice to the great body of the people, why should we exempt a mere handful of settlers from its jurisdiction? There certainly is, I will not say the reality, but the semblance of partiality and tyranny in the distinction made by the Charter Act of 1813. That distinction seems to indicate a notion that the natives of India may well put up with something less than justice, or that Englishmen in India have a title to something more than justice. If we give our own countrymen an appeal to the King's Courts, in cases in which all others are forced to be contented with the Company's Courts, we do in fact cry down the Company's Courts. We proclaim to the Indian people that there are two sorts of justice—a coarse one, which we think good enough for then, and another of superior quality, which we keep for ourselves. If we take pains to show that we distrust our highest courts, how can we expect that the natives of the country will place confidence in them?
"The draft of the Act was published, and was, as I fully expected, not unfavourably received by the British in the Mofussil. [The term "Mofussil" is used to denote the provinces of the Bengal Presidency, as opposed to the Capital.] Seven weeks have elapsed since the notification took place. Time has been allowed for petitions from the furthest corners of the territories subject to this Presidency. But I have heard of only one attempt in the Mofussil to get up a remonstrance; and the Mofussil newspapers which I have seen, though generally disposed to cavil at all the acts of the Government, have spoken favourably of this measure.
"In Calcutta the case has been somewhat different; and this is a remarkable fact. The British inhabitants of Calcutta are the only British-born subjects in Bengal who will not be affected by the proposed Act; and they are the only British subjects in Bengal who have expressed the smallest objection to it. The clamour, indeed, has proceeded from a very small portion of the society of Calcutta. The objectors have not ventured to call a public meeting, and their memorial has obtained very few signatures. But they have attempted to make up by noise and virulence for what has been wanting in strength. It may at first sight appear strange that a law, which is not unwelcome to those who are to live under it, should excite such acrimonious feelings among people who are wholly exempted from its operation. But the explanation is simple. Though nobody who resides at Calcutta will be sued in the Mofussil courts, many people who reside at Calcutta have, or wish to have, practice in the Supreme Court. Great exertions have accordingly been made, though with little success, to excite a feeling against this measure among the English inhabitants of Calcutta.
"The political phraseology of the English in India is the same with the political phraseology of our countrymen at home; but it is never to be forgotten that the same words stand for very different things at London and at Calcutta. We hear much about public opinion, the love of liberty, the influence of the Press. But we must remember that public opinion means the opinion of five hundred persons who have no interest, feeling, or taste in common with the fifty millions among whom they live; that the love of liberty means the strong objection which the five hundred feel to every measure which can prevent them from acting as they choose towards the fifty millions, that the Press is altogether supported by the five hundred, and has no motive to plead the cause of the fifty millions.
"We know that India cannot have a free Government. But she may have the next best thing—a firm and impartial despotism. The worst state in which she can possibly be placed is that in which the memorialists would place her. They call on us to recognise them as a privileged order of freemen in the midst of slaves. It was for the purpose of averting this great evil that Parliament, at the same time at which it suffered Englishmen to settle in India, armed us with those large powers which, in my opinion, we ill deserve to possess, if we have, not the spirit to use them now."
Macaulay had made two mistakes. He had yielded to the temptation of imputing motives, a habit which the Spectator newspaper has pronounced to be his one intellectual vice, finely adding that it is "the vice of rectitude;" and he had done worse still, for he had challenged his opponents to a course of agitation. They responded to the call. After preparing the way by a string of communications to the public journals, in to which their objections to the Act were set forth at enormous length, and with as much point and dignity as can be obtained by a copious use of italics and capital letters, they called a public meeting, the proceedings at which were almost too ludicrous for description. "I have seen," said one of the speakers, "at a Hindoo festival, a naked dishevelled figure, his face painted with grotesque colours, and his long hair besmeared with dirt and ashes. His tongue was pierced with an iron bar, and his breast was scorched by the fire from the burning altar which rested on his stomach. This revolting figure, covered with ashes, dirt, and bleeding voluntary wounds, may the next moment ascend the Sudder bench, and in a suit between a Hindoo and an Englishman think it an act of sanctity to decide against law in favour of the professor of the true faith." Another gentleman, Mr. Longueville Clarke, reminded "the tyrant" that
There yawns the sack, and yonder rolls the sea.
"Mr. Macaulay may treat this as an idle threat; but his knowledge of history will supply him with many examples of what has occurred when resistance has been provoked by milder instances of despotism than the decimation of a people." This pretty explicit recommendation to lynch a Member of Council was received with rapturous applause.
At length arose a Captain Biden, who spoke as follows: "Gentlemen, I come before you in the character of a British seaman, and on that ground claim your attention for a few moments. Gentlemen, there has been much talk during the evening of laws, and regulations, and rights, and liberties; but you all seem to have forgotten that this is the anniversary of the glorious Battle of Waterloo. I beg to propose, and I call on the statue of Lord Cornwallis and yourselves to join me in three cheers for the Duke of Wellington and the Battle of Waterloo." The audience, who by this time were pretty well convinced that no grievance which could possibly result under the Black Act could equal the horrors of a crowd in the Town Hall of Calcutta during the latter half of June, gladly caught at the diversion, and made noise enough to satisfy even the gallant orator. The business was brought to a hurried close, and the meeting was adjourned till the following week.
But the luck of Macaulay's adversaries pursued them still. One of the leading speakers at the adjourned meeting, himself a barrister, gave another barrister the lie, and a tumult ensued which Captain Biden in vain endeavoured to calm by his favourite remedy. "The opinion at Madras, Bombay, and Canton," said he,—and in so saying he uttered the only sentence of wisdom which either evening had produced,—"is that there is no public opinion at Calcutta but the lawyers. And now,—who has the presumption to call it a burlesque?—let's give three cheers for the Battle of Waterloo, and then I'll propose an amendment which shall go into the whole question." The Chairman, who certainly had earned the vote of thanks for "his very extraordinary patience," which Captain Biden was appropriately selected to move, contrived to get resolutions passed in favour of petitioning Parliament and the Home Government against the obnoxious Act.
The next few weeks were spent by the leaders of the movement in squabbling over the preliminaries of duels that never came off, and applying for criminal informations for libel against each other, which their beloved Supreme Court very judiciously refused to grant; but in the course of time the petitions were signed, and an agent was selected, who undertook to convey them to England. On the 22nd of March, 1838, a Committee of inquiry into the operation of the Act was moved for in the House of Commons; but there was nothing in the question which tempted Honourable Members to lay aside their customary indifference with regard to Indian controversies, and the motion fell through without a division. The House allowed the Government to have its own way in the matter; and any possible hesitation on the part of the Ministers was borne down by the emphasis with which Macaulay claimed their support. "I conceive," he wrote, "that the Act is good in itself, and that the time for passing it has been well chosen. The strongest reason, however, for passing it is the nature of the opposition which it has experienced. The organs of that opposition repeated every day that the English were the conquerors, and the lords of the country, the dominant race; the electors of the House of Commons, whose power extends both over the Company at home, and over the Governor-General in Council here. The constituents of the British Legislature, they told us, were not to be bound by laws made by any inferior authority. The firmness with which the Government withstood the idle outcry of two or three hundred people, about a matter with which they had nothing to do, was designated as insolent defiance of public opinion. We were enemies of freedom, because we would not suffer a small white aristocracy to domineer over millions. How utterly at variance these principles are with reason, with justice, with the honour of the British Government, and with the dearest interests of the Indian people, it is unnecessary for me to point out. For myself, I can only say that, if the Government is to be conducted on such principles, I am utterly disqualified, by all my feelings and opinions, from bearing any part in it, and cannot too soon resign my place to some person better fitted to hold it."
It is fortunate for India that a man with the tastes, and the training, of Macaulay came to her shores as one vested with authority, and that he came at the moment when he did; for that moment was the very turning-point of her intellectual progress. All educational action had been at a stand for some time back, on account of an irreconcilable difference of opinion in the Committee of Public Instruction; which was divided, five against five, on either side of a controversy,—vital, inevitable, admitting of neither postponement nor compromise, and conducted by both parties with a pertinacity and a warmth that was nothing but honourable to those concerned. Half of the members were for maintaining and extending the old scheme of encouraging Oriental learning by stipends paid to students in Sanscrit, Persian, and Arabic; and by liberal grants for the publication of works in those languages. The other half were in favour of teaching the elements of knowledge in the vernacular tongues, and the higher branches in English. On his arrival, Macaulay was appointed President of the Committee; but he declined to take any active part in its proceedings until the Government had finally pronounced on the question at issue. Later in January 1835 the advocates of the two systems, than whom ten abler men could not be found in the service, laid their opinions before the Supreme Council; and, on the and of February, Macaulay, as a member of that Council, produced a minute in which he adopted and defended the views of the English section in the Committee.
"How stands the case? We have to educate a people who cannot at present be educated by means of their mother-tongue. We must teach them some foreign language. The claims of our own language it is hardly necessary to recapitulate. It stands preeminent even among the languages of the West. It abounds with works of imagination not inferior to the noblest which Greece has bequeathed to us; with models of every species of eloquence; with historical compositions, which, considered merely as narratives, have seldom been surpassed, and which, considered as vehicles of ethical and political instruction, have never been equalled; with just and lively representations of human life and human nature; with the most profound speculations on metaphysics, morals, government, jurisprudence, and trade; with full and correct information respecting every experimental science which tends to preserve the health, to increase the comfort, or to expand the intellect of man. Whoever knows that language has ready access to all the vast intellectual wealth which the the wisest nations of the earth have created and hoarded in the course of ninety generations. It may safely be said that the literature now extant in that language is of far greater value than all the literature which three hundred years ago was extant in all the languages of the world together. Nor is this all. In India, English is the language spoken by the ruling class. It is spoken by the higher class of natives at the seats of government. It is likely to become the language of commerce throughout the seas of the East. It is the language of two great European communities which are rising, the one in the south of Africa, the other in Australasia; communities which are every year becoming more important, and more closely connected with our Indian Empire. Whether we look at the intrinsic value of our literature or at the particular situation of this country, we shall see the strongest reason to think that, of all foreign tongues, the English tongue is that which would be the most useful to our native subjects.
"The question now before us is simply whether, when it is in our power to teach this language, we shall teach languages in which, by universal confession, there are no books on any subject which deserve to be compared to our own; whether, when we can teach European science, we shall teach systems which, by universal confession, whenever they differ from those of Europe, differ for the worse; and whether, when we can patronise sound philosophy and true history, we shall countenance, at the public expense, medical doctrines, which would disgrace an English furrier—astronomy, which would move laughter in the girls at an English boarding-school—history, abounding with kings thirty feet high, and reigns thirty thousand years long—and geography made up of seas of treacle and seas of butter.
"We are not without experience to guide us. History furnishes several analogous cases, and they all teach the same lesson. There are in modern times, to go no further, two memorable instances of a great impulse given to the mind of a whole society—of prejudice overthrown—of knowledge diffused—of taste purified—of arts and sciences planted in countries which had recently been ignorant and barbarous.
"The first instance to which I refer is the great revival of letters among the western nations at the close of the fifteenth and the beginning of the sixteenth century. At that time almost everything that was worth reading was contained in the writings of the ancient Greeks and Romans. Had our ancestors acted as the Committee of Public Instruction has hitherto acted; had they neglected the language of Cicero and Tacitus; had they confined their attention to the old dialects of our own island; had they printed nothing, and taught nothing at the universities, but chronicles in Anglo-Saxon, and romances in Norman French, would England have been what she now is? What the Greek and Latin were to the contemporaries of More and Ascham, our tongue is to the people of India. The literature of England is now more valuable than that of classical antiquity. I doubt whether the Sanscrit literature be as valuable as that of our Saxon and Norman progenitors. In some departments—in history, for example—I am certain that it is much less so.
"Another instance may be said to be still before our eyes. Within the last hundred and twenty years a nation which had previously been in a state as barbarous as that in which our ancestors were before the Crusades has gradually emerged from the ignorance in which it was sunk, and has taken its place among civilised communities. I speak of Russia. There is now in that country a large educated class, abounding with persons fit to serve the state in the highest functions, and in no way inferior to the most accomplished men who adorn the best circles of Paris and London. There is reason to hope that this vast Empire, which in the time of our grandfathers was probably behind the Punjab, may, in the time of our grandchildren, be pressing close on France and Britain in the career of improvement. And how was this change effected? Not by flattering national prejudices; not by feeding the mind of the young Muscovite with the old woman's stories which his rude fathers had believed; not by filling his head with lying legends about St. Nicholas; not by encouraging him to study the great question, whether the world was or was not created on the 13th of September; not by calling him 'a learned native,' when he has mastered all these points of knowledge; but by teaching him those foreign languages in which the greatest mass of information had been laid up, and thus putting all that information within his reach. The languages of western Europe civilised Russia. I cannot doubt that they will do for the Hindoo what they have done for the Tartar."
This Minute, which in its original shape is long enough for an article in a quarterly review, and as businesslike as a Report of a Royal Commission, set the question at rest at once and for ever. On the 7th of March, 1835, Lord William Bentinck decided that "the great object of the British Government ought to be the promotion of European literature and science among the natives of India;" two of the Orientalists retired from the Committee of Public Instruction; several new members, both English and native, were appointed; and Macaulay entered upon the functions of President with an energy and assiduity which in his case was an infallible proof that his work was to his mind.
The post was no sinecure. It was an arduous task to plan, found, and construct, in all its grades, the education of such a country as India. The means at Macaulay's disposal were utterly inadequate for the undertaking on which he was engaged. Nothing resembling an organised staff was as yet in existence. There were no Inspectors of Schools. There were no training colleges for masters. There were no boards of experienced managers. The machinery consisted of voluntary committees acting on the spot, and corresponding directly with the superintending body at Calcutta. Macaulay rose to the occasion, and threw himself into the routine of administration and control with zeal sustained by diligence and tempered by tact. "We were hardly prepared," said a competent critic, "for the amount of conciliation which he evinces in dealing with irritable colleagues and subordinates, and for the strong, sterling, practical common sense with which he sweeps away rubbish, or cuts the knots of local and departmental problems." The mastery which a man exercises over himself, and the patience and forbearance displayed in his dealings with others, are generally in proportion to the value which he sets upon the objects of his pursuit. If we judge Macaulay by this standard, it is plain that he cared a great deal more for providing our Eastern Empire with an educational outfit that would work and wear than he ever cared for keeping his own seat in Parliament or pushing his own fortunes in Downing Street. Throughout his innumerable Minutes, on all subjects from the broadest principle to the narrowest detail, he is everywhere free from crotchets and susceptibilities; and everywhere ready to humour any person who will make himself useful, and to adopt any appliance which can be turned to account.
"I think it highly probable that Mr. Nicholls may be to blame, because I have seldom known a quarrel in which both parties were not to blame. But I see no evidence that he is so. Nor do I see any evidence which tends to prove that Mr. Nicholls leads the Local Committee by the nose. The Local Committee appear to have acted with perfect propriety, and I cannot consent to treat them in the manner recommended by Mr. Sutherland. If we appoint the Colonel to be a member of their body, we shall in effect pass a most severe censure on their proceedings. I dislike the suggestion of putting military men on the Committee as a check on the civilians. Hitherto we have never, to the best of my belief, been troubled by any such idle jealousies. I would appoint the fittest men without caring to what branch of the service they belonged, or whether they belonged to the service at all." [This, and the following extracts, are taken from a volume of Macaulay's Minutes, "now first collected from Records in the Department of Public instruction, by H. Woodrow, Esq., M.A., Inspector of Schools at Calcutta, and formerly Fellow of Caius College, Cambridge." The collection was published in India.]
Exception had been taken to an applicant for a mastership, on the ground that he had been a preacher with a strong turn for proselytising.
"Mr. —— seems to be so little concerned about proselytising, that he does not even know how to spell the word; a circumstance which, if I did not suppose it to be a slip of the pen, I should think a more serious objection than the 'Reverend' which formerly stood before his name. I am quite content with his assurances."
In default of better, Macaulay was always for employing the tools which came to hand. A warm and consistent advocate of appointment by competitive examination, wherever a field for competition existed, he was no pedantic slave to a theory. In the dearth of schoolmasters, which is a feature in every infant educational system, he refused to reject a candidate who mistook "Argos for Corinth," and backed the claims of aspirants of respectable character who could "read, write, and work a sum."
"By all means accept the King of Oude's present; though, to be sure, more detestable maps were never seen. One would think that the revenues of Oude, and the treasures of Saadut Ali, might have borne the expense of producing something better than a map in which Sicily is joined on to the toe of Italy, and in which so important an eastern island as Java does not appear at all."
"As to the corrupting influence of the zenana, of which Mr. Trevelyan speaks, I may regret it; but I own that I cannot help thinking that the dissolution of the tie between parent and child is as great a moral evil as can be found in any zenana. In whatever degree infant schools relax that tie they do mischief. For my own part, I would rather hear a boy of three years old lisp all the bad words in the language than that he should have no feelings of family affection—that his character should be that which must be expected in one who has had the misfortune of having a schoolmaster in place of a mother."
"I do not see the reason for establishing any limit as to the age of scholars. The phenomena are exactly the same which have always been found to exist when a new mode of education has been rising into fashion. No man of fifty now learns Greek with boys; but in the sixteenth century it was not at all unusual to see old Doctors of Divinity attending lectures side by side with young students."
"With respect to making our College libraries circulating libraries, there is much to be said on both sides. If a proper subscription is demanded from those who have access to them, and if all that is raised by this subscription is laid out in adding to the libraries, the students will be no losers by the plan. Our libraries, the best of them at least, would be better than any which would be readily accessible at an up-country station; and I do not know why we should grudge a young officer the pleasure of reading our copy of Boswell's Life of Johnson or Marmontel's Memoirs, if he is willing to pay a few rupees for the privilege."
These utterances of cultured wisdom or homely mother-wit are sometimes expressed in phrases almost as amusing, though not so characteristic, as those which Frederic the Great used to scrawl on the margin of reports and despatches for the information of his secretaries.
"We are a little too indulgent to the whims of the people in our employ. We pay a large sum to send a master to a distant station. He dislikes the place. The collector is uncivil; the surgeon quarrels with him; and he must be moved. The expenses of the journey have to be defrayed. Another man is to be transferred from a place where he is comfortable and useful. Our masters run from station to station at our cost, as vapourised ladies at home run about from spa to spa. All situations have their discomforts; and there are times when we all wish that our lot had been cast in some other line of life, or in some other place."
With regard to a proposed coat of arms for Hooghly College, he says
"I do not see why the mummeries of European heraldry should be introduced into any part of our Indian system. Heraldry is not a science which has any eternal rules. It is a system of arbitrary canons, originating in pure caprice. Nothing can be more absurd and grotesque than armorial bearings, considered in themselves. Certain recollections, certain associations, make them interesting in many cases to an Englishman; but in those recollections and associations the natives of India do not participate. A lion, rampant, with a folio in his paw, with a man standing on each side of him, with a telescope over his head, and with a Persian motto under his feet, must seem to them either very mysterious, or very absurd."
In a discussion on the propriety of printing some books of Oriental science, Macaulay writes
"I should be sorry to say anything disrespectful of that liberal and generous enthusiasm for Oriental literature which appears in Mr. Sutherland's minute; but I own that I cannot think that we ought to be guided in the distribution of the small sum, which the Government has allotted for the purpose of education, by considerations which seem a little romantic. That the Saracens a thousand years ago cultivated mathematical science is hardly, I think, a reason for our spending any money in translating English treatises on mathematics into Arabic. Mr. Sutherland would probably think it very strange if we were to urge the destruction of the Alexandrian Library as a reason against patronising Arabic literature in the nineteenth century. The undertaking may be, as Mr. Sutherland conceives, a great national work. So is the breakwater at Madras. But under the orders which we have received from the Government, we have just as little to do with one as with the other."
Now and then a stroke, aimed at Hooghly College, hits nearer home. That men of thirty should be bribed to continue their education into mature life "seems very absurd. Moghal Jan has been paid to learn something during twelve years. We are told that he is lazy and stupid; but there are hopes that in four years more he will have completed his course of study. We have had quite enough of these lazy, stupid schoolboys of thirty."
"I must frankly own that I do not like the list of books. Grammars of rhetoric and grammars of logic are among the most useless furniture of a shelf. Give a boy Robinson Crusoe. That is worth all the grammars of rhetoric and logic in the world. We ought to procure such books as are likely to give the children a taste for the literature of the West; not books filled with idle distinctions and definitions, which every man who has learned them makes haste to forget. Who ever reasoned better for having been taught the difference between a syllogism and an enthymeme? Who ever composed with greater spirit and elegance because he could define an oxymoron or an aposiopesis? I am not joking, but writing quite seriously, when I say that I would much rather order a hundred copies of Jack the Giant-killer for our schools than a hundred copies of any grammar of rhetoric or logic that ever was written."
"Goldsmith's Histories of Greece and Rome are miserable performances, and I do not at all like to lay out 50 pounds on them, even after they have received all Mr. Pinnock's improvements. I must own too, that I think the order for globes and other instruments unnecessarily large. To lay out 324 pounds at once on globes alone, useful as I acknowledge those articles to be, seems exceedingly profuse, when we have only about 3,000 pounds a year for all purposes of English education. One 12-inch or 18-inch globe for each school is quite enough; and we ought not, I think, to order sixteen such globes when we are about to establish only seven schools. Useful as the telescopes, the theodolites, and the other scientific instruments mentioned in the indent undoubtedly are, we must consider that four or five such instruments run away with a year's salary of a schoolmaster, and that, if we purchase them, it will be necessary to defer the establishment of schools."
At one of the colleges at Calcutta the distribution of prizes was accompanied by some histrionic performances on the part of the pupils.
"I have no partiality," writes Macaulay, "for such ceremonies. I think it a very questionable thing whether, even at home, public spouting and acting ought to form part of the system of a place of education. But in this country such exhibitions are peculiarly out of place. I can conceive nothing more grotesque than the scene from the Merchant of Venice, with Portia represented by a little black boy. Then, too, the subjects of recitation were ill chosen. We are attempting to introduce a great nation to a knowledge of the richest and noblest literature in the world. The society of Calcutta assemble to see what progress we are making; and we produce as a sample a boy who repeats some blackguard doggerel of George Colman's, about a fat gentleman who was put to bed over an oven, and about a man-midwife who was called out of his bed by a drunken man at night. Our disciple tries to hiccup, and tumbles and staggers about in imitation of the tipsy English sailors whom he has seen at the punch houses. Really, if we can find nothing better worth reciting than this trash, we had better give up English instruction altogether."
"As to the list of prize books, I am not much better satisfied. It is absolutely unintelligible to me why Pope's Works and my old friend Moore's Lalla Rookh should be selected from the whole mass of English poetry to be prize books. I will engage to frame, currente calamo, a better list. Bacon's Essays, Hume's England, Gibbon's Rome, Robertson's Charles V., Robertson's Scotland, Robertson's America, Swift's Gulliver, Robinson Crusoe, Shakespeare's Works, Paradise Lost, Milton's smaller poems, Arabian Nights, Park's Travels, Anson's Voyage, the Vicar of Wakefield, Johnson's Lives, Gil Blas, Voltaire's Charles XII., Southey's Nelson, Middleton's Life of Cicero.
"This may serve as a specimen. These are books which will amuse and interest those who obtain them. To give a boy Abercrombie on the Intellectual Powers, Dick's Moral Improvement, Young's Intellectual Philosophy, Chalmers's Poetical Economy!!! (in passing I may be allowed to ask what that means?) is quite absurd. I would not give orders at random for books about which we know nothing. We are under no necessity of ordering at haphazard. We know Robinson Crusoe, and Gulliver, and the Arabian Nights, and Anson's Voyage, and many other delightful works which interest even the very young, and which do not lose their interest to the end of our lives. Why should we order blindfold such books as Markham's New Children's Friend, the juvenile Scrap Book, the Child's Own Book, Niggens's Earth, Mudie's Sea, and somebody else's Fire and Air?—books which, I will be bound for it, none of us ever opened.
"The list ought in all its parts to be thoroughly recast. If Sir Benjamin Malkin will furnish the names of ten or twelve works of a scientific kind, which he thinks suited for prizes, the task will not be difficult; and, with his help, I will gladly undertake it. There is a marked distinction between a prize book and a school book. A prize book ought to be a book which a boy receives with pleasure, and turns over and over, not as a task, but spontaneously. I have not forgotten my own school-boy feelings on this subject. My pleasure at obtaining a prize was greatly enhanced by the knowledge that my little library would receive a very agreeable addition. I never was better pleased than when at fourteen I was master of Boswell's Life of Johnson, which I had long been wishing to read. If my master had given me, instead of Boswell, a Critical Pronouncing Dictionary, or a Geographical Class book, I should have been much less gratified by my success."
The idea had been started of paying authors to write books in the languages of the country. On this Macaulay remarks
"To hire four or five people to make a literature is a course which never answered and never will answer, in any part of the world. Languages grow. They cannot be built. We are now following the slow but sure course on which alone we can depend for a supply of good books in the vernacular languages of India. We are attempting to raise up a large class of enlightened natives. I hope that, twenty years hence, there will be hundreds, nay thousands, of natives familiar with the best models of composition, and well acquainted with Western science. Among them some persons will be found who will have the inclination and the ability to exhibit European knowledge in the vernacular dialects. This I believe to be the only way in which we can raise up a good vernacular literature in this country."
These hopeful anticipations have been more than fulfilled. Twice twenty years have brought into existence, not hundreds or thousands, but hundreds of thousands, of natives who can appreciate European knowledge when laid before them in the English language, and can reproduce it in their own. Taking one year with another, upwards of a thousand works of literature and science are published annually in Bengal alone, and at least four times that number throughout the entire continent. Our colleges have more than six thousand students on their books, and two hundred thousand boys are receiving a liberal education in schools of the higher order. For the improvement of the mass of the people, nearly seven thousand young men are in training as Certificated Masters. The amount allotted in the budget to the item of Public Instruction has increased more than seventy-fold since 1835; and is largely supplemented by the fees which parents of all classes willingly contribute when once they have been taught the value of a commodity the demand for which is created by the supply. During many years past the generosity of wealthy natives has to a great extent been diverted from the idle extravagance of pageants and festivals, to promote the intellectual advancement of their fellow-countrymen. On several different occasions, at a single stroke of the pen, our Indian universities have been endowed with twice, three times, four times the amount of the slender sum which Macaulay had at his command. But none the less was he the master-engineer, whose skill and foresight determined the direction of the channels, along which this stream of public and private munificence was to flow for the regeneration of our Eastern Empire.
It may add something to the merit of Macaulay's labours in the cause of Education that those labours were voluntary and unpaid; and voluntary and unpaid likewise was another service which he rendered to India, not less durable than the first, and hardly less important. A clause in the Act of 1833 gave rise to the appointment of a Commission to inquire into the jurisprudence and jurisdiction of our Eastern Empire. Macaulay, at his own instigation, was appointed President of that Commission. He had not been many months engaged in his new duties before he submitted a proposal, by the adoption of which his own industry and the high talents of his colleagues, Mr. Cameron and Sir John Macleod, might be turned to the best account by being employed in framing a Criminal Code for the whole Indian Empire. "This Code," writes Macaulay, "should not be a mere digest of existing usages and regulations, but should comprise all the reforms which the Commission may think desirable. It should be framed on two great principles, the principle of suppressing crime with the smallest possible amount of suffering, and the principle of ascertaining truth at the smallest possible cost of time and money. The Commissioners should be particularly charged to study conciseness, as far as it is consistent with perspicuity. In general, I believe, it will be found that perspicuous and concise expressions are not only compatible, but identical."
The offer was eagerly accepted, and the Commission fell to work. The results of that work did not show themselves quickly enough to satisfy the most practical, and, (to its credit be it spoken,) the most exacting of Governments; and Macaulay was under the necessity of explaining and excusing a procrastination, which was celerity itself as compared with any codifying that had been done since the days of Justinian.
"During the last rainy season,—a season, I believe, peculiarly unhealthy,—every member of the Commission, except myself, was wholly incapacitated for exertion. Mr. Anderson has been twice under the necessity of leaving Calcutta, and has not, till very lately, been able to labour with his accustomed activity. Mr. Macleod has been, till within the last week or ten days, in so feeble a state that the smallest effort seriously disordered him; and his health is so delicate that, admirably qualified as he is, by very rare talents, for the discharge of his functions, it would be imprudent, in forming any prospective calculation, to reckon on much service from him. Mr. Cameron, of the importance of whose assistance I need not speak, has been, during more than four months, utterly unable to do any work, and has at length been compelled to ask leave of absence, in order to visit the Cape for the recovery of his health. Thus, as the Governor-General has stated, Mr. Millett and myself have, during a considerable time, constituted the whole effective strength of the Commission. Nor has Mr. Millett been able to devote to the business of the Commission his whole undivided attention.
"I must say that, even if no allowance be made for the untoward occurrences which have retarded our progress, that progress cannot be called slow. People who have never considered the importance and difficulty of the task in which we are employed are surprised to find that a Code cannot be spoken of extempore, or written like an article in a magazine. I am not ashamed to acknowledge that there are several chapters in the Code on which I have been employed for months; of which I have changed the whole plan ten or twelve times; which contain not a single word as it originally stood; and with which I am still very far indeed from being satisfied. I certainly shall not hurry on my share of the work to gratify the childish impatience of the ignorant. Their censure ought to be a matter of perfect indifference to men engaged in a task, on the right performance of which the welfare of millions may, during a long series of years, depend. The cost of the Commission is as nothing when compared with the importance of such a work. The time during which the Commission has sat is as nothing compared with the time during which that work will produce good, or evil, to India.
"Indeed, if we compare the progress of the Indian Code with the progress of Codes under circumstances far more favourable, we shall find little reason to accuse the Law Commission of tardiness. Buonaparte had at his command the services of experienced jurists to any extent to which he chose to call for them; yet his legislation proceeded at a far slower rate than ours. The French Criminal Code was begun, under the Consulate, in March 1801; and yet the Code of Criminal Procedure was not completed till 1808, and the Penal Code not till 1810. The Criminal Code of Louisiana was commenced in February 1821. After it had been in preparation during three years and a half, an accident happened to the papers which compelled Mr. Livingstone to request indulgence for another year. Indeed, when I remember the slow progress of law reforms at home, and when I consider that our Code decides hundreds of questions, every one of which, if stirred in England, would give occasion to voluminous controversy and to many animated debates, I must acknowledge that I am inclined to fear that we have been guilty rather of precipitation than of delay."
This Minute was dated the end of January, 1837; and in the course of the same year the Code appeared, headed by an Introductory Report in the shape of a letter to the Governor-General, and followed by an Appendix containing eighteen notes, each in itself an essay. The most readable of all Digests, its pages are alive with illustrations drawn from history, from literature, and from the habits and occurrences of everyday life. The offence of fabricating evidence is exemplified by a case which may easily be recognised as that of Lady Macbeth and the grooms; ["A, after wounding a person with a knife, goes into the room where Z is sleeping, smears Z's clothes with blood, and lays the knife under Z's pillow; intending not only that suspicion may thereby be turned away front himself, but also that Z may be convicted of voluntarily causing grievous hurt. A is liable to punishment as a fabricator of false evidence."] and the offence of voluntary culpable homicide by an imaginary incident of a pit covered with sticks and turf, which irresistibly recalls a reminiscence of Jack the Giant-killer. The chapters on theft and trespass establish the rights of book owners as against book stealers, book borrowers, and book defacers, with an affectionate precision which would have gladdened the heart of Charles Lamb or Sir Walter Scott. ["A, being on friendly terms with Z, goes into Z's library, in Z's absence, and takes a book without Z's express consent. Here, it is probable that A may have conceived that he had Z's implied consent to use Z's books. If this was A's impression, A has not committed theft."
"A takes up a book belonging to Z, and reads it, not having any right over the book, and not having the consent of any person entitled to authorise A so to do. A trespasses.
"A, being exasperated at a passage in a book which is lying on the counter of Z, snatches it up, and tears it to pieces. A has not committed theft, as he has not acted fraudulently, though he may have committed criminal trespass and mischief."] In the chapter on manslaughter, the judge is enjoined to treat with lenity an act done in the first anger of a husband or father, provoked by the intolerable outrage of a certain kind of criminal assault. "Such an assault produced the Sicilian Vespers. Such an assault called forth the memorable blow of Wat Tyler." And, on the question whether the severity of a hurt should be considered in apportioning the punishment, we are reminded of "examples which are universally known. Harley was laid up more than twenty days by the wound which he received from Guiscard;" while "the scratch which Damien gave to Louis the Fifteenth was so slight that it was followed by no feverish symptoms." Such a sanguine estimate of the diffusion of knowledge with regard to the details of ancient crimes could proceed from no pen but that of the writer who endowed schoolboys with the erudition of professors, and the talker who, when he poured forth the stores of his memory, began each of his disquisitions with the phrase, "don't you remember?"
If it be asked whether or not the Penal Code fulfils the ends for which it was framed, the answer may safely be left to the gratitude of Indian civilians, the younger of whom carry it about in their saddle-bags, and the older in their heads. The value which it possesses in the eyes of a trained English lawyer may be gathered from the testimony of Macaulay's eminent successor, Mr. Fitzjames Stephen, who writes of it thus:
"In order to appreciate the importance of the Penal Code, it must be borne in mind what crime in India is. Here, in England, order is so thoroughly well established that the crime of the country is hardly more than an annoyance. In India, if crime is allowed to let to a head, it is capable of destroying the peace and prosperity of whole tracts of country. The mass of the people in their common moods are gentle, submissive, and disposed to be innocent; but, for that very reason, bold and successful criminals are dangerous in the extreme. In old days, when they joined in gangs or organised bodies, they soon acquired political importance. Now, in many parts of India, crime is quite as uncommon as in the least criminal parts of England; and the old high-handed systematised crime has almost entirely disappeared. This great revolution (for it is nothing less) in the state of society of a whole continent has been brought about by the regular administration of a rational body of criminal law.
"The administration of criminal justice is entrusted to a very small number of English magistrates, organised according to a carefully-devised system of appeal and supervision which represents the experience of a century. This system is not unattended by evils; but it is absolutely necessary to enable a few hundred civilians to govern a continent. Persons in such a position must be provided with the plainest instructions as to the nature of their duties. These instructions, in so far as the administration of criminal justice is concerned, are contained in the Indian Penal Code and the Code of Criminal Procedure. The Code of Criminal Procedure contains 541 sections, and forms a pamphlet of 210 widely printed octavo pages. The Penal Code consists of 510 sections. Pocket editions of these Codes are published, which may be carried about as easily as a pocket Bible; and I doubt whether, even in Scotland, you would find many people who know their Bibles as Indian civilians know their Codes."
After describing the confusion and complication of the criminal law of our Indian Empire before it was taken in hand by the Commission of 1834, Mr. Stephen proceeds to say:
"Lord Macaulay's great work was far too daring and original to be accepted at once. It was a draft when he left India in 1838. His successors made remarks on it for twenty-two years. Those years were filled with wars and rumours of wars. The Afghan disasters and triumphs, the war in Central India, the wars with the Sikhs, Lord Dalhousie's annexations, threw law reform into the background, and produced a state of mind not very favourable to it. Then came the Mutiny, which in its essence was the breakdown of an old system; the renunciation of an attempt to effect an impossible compromise between the Asiatic and the European view of things, legal, military, and administrative. The effect of the Mutiny on the Statute-book was unmistakable. The Code of Civil Procedure was enacted in 1859. The Penal Code was enacted in 1860, and came into operation on the 1st of January 1862. The credit of passing the Penal Code into law, and of giving to every part of it the improvements which practical skill and technical knowledge could bestow, is due to Sir Barnes Peacock, who held Lord Macaulay's place during the most anxious years through which the Indian Empire has passed. The Draft and the Revision are both eminently creditable to their authors; and the result of their successive efforts has been to reproduce in a concise, and even beautiful, form the spirit of the law of England; the most technical, the most clumsy, and the most bewildering of all systems of criminal law; though I think, if its principles are fully understood, it is the most rational. If anyone doubts this assertion, let him compare the Indian Penal Code with such a book as Mr. Greaves's edition of Russell on Crimes. The one subject of homicide, as treated by Mr. Greaves and Russell, is, I should think, twice as long as the whole Penal Code; and it does not contain a tenth part of the matter."
"The point which always has surprised me most in connection with the Penal Code is, that it proves that Lord Macaulay must have had a knowledge of English criminal law which, considering how little he had practised it, may fairly be called extraordinary. [Macaulay's practice at the bar had been less than little, according to an account which he gave of it at a public dinner: "My own forensic experience, gentlemen, has been extremely small; for my only recollection of an achievement that way is that at quarter sessions I once convicted a boy of stealing a parcel of cocks and hens."] He must have possessed the gift of going at once to the very root of the matter, and of sifting the corn from the chaff to a most unusual degree; for his Draft gives the substance of the criminal law of England, down to its minute working details, in a compass which, by comparison with the original, may be regarded as almost absurdly small. The Indian Penal Code is to the English criminal law what a manufactured article ready for use is to the materials out of which it is made. It is to the French 'Code Penal,' and, I may add, to the North German Code of 1871, what a finished picture is to a sketch. It is far simpler, and much better expressed, than Livingstone's Code for Louisiana; and its practical success has been complete. The clearest proof of this is that hardly any questions have arisen upon it which have had to be determined by the courts; and that few and slight amendments have had to be made in it by the Legislature."
Without troubling himself unduly about the matter, Macaulay was conscious that the world's estimate of his public services would be injuriously affected by the popular notion, which he has described as "so flattering to mediocrity," that a great writer cannot be a great administrator; and it is possible that this consciousness had something to do with the heartiness and fervour which he threw into his defence of the author of "Cato" against the charge of having been an inefficient Secretary of State. There was much in common between his own lot and that of the other famous essayist who had been likewise a Whig statesman; and this similarity in their fortunes may account in part for the indulgence, and almost tenderness, with which he reviewed the career and character of Addison. Addison himself, at his villa in Chelsea, and still more amidst the gilded slavery of Holland House, might have envied the literary seclusion, ample for so rapid a reader, which the usages of Indian life permitted Macaulay to enjoy. "I have a very pretty garden," he writes, "not unlike our little grass-plot at Clapham, but larger. It consists of a fine sheet of turf, with a gravel walk round it, and flower-beds scattered over it. It looks beautiful just now after the rains, and I hear that it keeps its verdure during a great part of the year. A flight of steps leads down from my library into the garden, and it is so well shaded that you may walk there till ten o'clock in the morning."
Here, book in hand, and in dressing-gown and slippers, he would spend those two hours after sun-rise which Anglo-Indian gentlemen devote to riding, and Anglo-Indian ladies to sleeping off the arrears of the sultry night. Regularly, every morning, his studies were broken in upon by the arrival of his baby niece, who came to feed the crows with the toast which accompanied his early cup of tea; a ceremony during which he had much ado to protect the child from the advances of a multitude of birds, each almost as big as herself, which hopped and fluttered round her as she stood on the steps of the verandah. When the sun drove him indoors, (which happened sooner than he had promised himself, before he had learned by experience what the hot season was,) he went to his bath and toilette, and then to breakfast; "at which we support nature under the exhausting effects of the climate by means of plenty of eggs, mango-fish, snipe-pies, and frequently a hot beefsteak. My cook is renowned through Calcutta for his skill. He brought me attestations of a long succession of gourmands, and among them one from Lord Dalhousie, who pronounced him decidedly the first artist in Bengal. [Lord Dalhousie, the father of the Governor-General, was Commander-In-Chief in India during the years 1830 and 1831.] This great man, and his two assistants, I am to have for thirty rupees a month. While I am on the subject of the cuisine, I may as well say all that I have to say about it at once. The tropical fruits are wretched. The best of them is inferior to our apricot or gooseberry. When I was a child, I had a notion of its being the most exquisite of treats to eat plantains and yams, and to drink palm-wine. How I envied my father for having enjoyed these luxuries! I have now enjoyed them all, and I have found like much greater men on much more important occasions, that all is vanity. A plantain is very like a rotten pear,—so like that I would lay twenty to one that a person blindfolded would not discover the difference. A yam is better. It is like an indifferent potato. I tried palm-wine at a pretty village near Madras, where I slept one night. I told Captain Barron that I had been curious to taste that liquor ever since I first saw, eight or nine and twenty years ago, the picture of the negro climbing the tree in Sierra Leone. The next morning I was roused by a servant, with a large bowl of juice fresh from the tree. I drank it, and found it very like ginger-beer in which the ginger has been sparingly used."
Macaulay necessarily spent away from home the days on which the Supreme Council, or the Law Commission, held their meetings; but the rest of his work, legal, literary, and educational, he carried on in the quiet of his library. Now and again, a morning was consumed in returning calls, an expenditure of time which it is needless to say that he sorely grudged. "Happily, the good people here are too busy to be at home. Except the parsons, they are all usefully occupied somewhere or other, so that I have only to leave cards; but the reverend gentlemen are always within doors in the heat of the day, lying on their backs, regretting breakfast, longing for tiffin, and crying out for lemonade." After lunch he sate with Mrs. Trevelyan, translating Greek or reading French for her benefit; and Scribe's comedies and Saint Simon's Memoirs beguiled the long languid leisure of the Calcutta afternoon, while the punkah swung overhead, and the air came heavy and scented through the moistened grass-matting which shrouded the windows. At the approach of sunset, with its attendant breeze, he joined his sister in her drive along the banks of the Hooghly; and they returned by starlight,—too often to take part in a vast banquet of forty guests, dressed as fashionably as people can dress at ninety degrees East from Paris; who, one and all, had far rather have been eating their curry, and drinking their bitter beer, at home, in all the comfort of muslin and nankeen. Macaulay is vehement in his dislike of "those great formal dinners, which unite all the stiffness of a levee to all the disorder and discomfort of a two-shilling ordinary. Nothing can be duller. Nobody speaks except to the person next him. The conversation is the most deplorable twaddle, and, as I always sit next to the lady of the highest rank, or, in other words, to the oldest, ugliest, and proudest woman in the company, I am worse off than my neighbours."
Nevertheless he was far too acute a judge of men to undervalue the special type of mind which is produced and fostered by the influences of an Indian career. He was always ready to admit that there is no better company in the world than a young and rising civilian; no one who has more to say that is worth hearing, and who can say it in a manner better adapted to interest those who know good talk from bad. He delighted in that freedom from pedantry, affectation, and pretension which is one of the most agreeable characteristics of a service, to belong to which is in itself so effectual an education, that a bore is a phenomenon notorious everywhere within a hundred miles of the station which has the honour to possess him, and a fool is quoted by name throughout all the three Presidencies. Macaulay writes to his sisters at home: "The best way of seeing society here is to have very small parties. There is a little circle of people whose friendship I value, and in whose conversation I take pleasure: the Chief Justice, Sir Edward Ryan; my old friend, Malkin; Cameron and Macleod, the Law Commissioners; Macnaghten, among the older servants of the Company, and Mangles, Colvin, and John Peter Grant among the younger. [It cannot be said that all the claims made upon Macaulay's friendship were acknowledged as readily as those of Sir Benjamin Malkin. "I am dunned unmercifully by place-hunters. The oddest application that I have received is from that rascal —, who is somewhere in the interior. He tells me he is sure that prosperity has not changed me; that I am still the same John Macaulay who was his dearest friend, his more than brother; and that he means to come up, and live with me at Calcutta. If he fulfils his intention, I will have him taken before the police-magistrates."] These, in my opinion, are the flower of Calcutta society, and I often ask some of them to a quiet dinner." On the Friday of every week, these chosen few met round Macaulay's breakfast table to discuss the progress which the Law Commission had made in its labours; and each successive point which was started opened the way to such a flood of talk,—legal, historical, political, and personal,—that the company would sit far on towards noon over the empty teacups, until an uneasy sense of accumulating despatch-boxes drove them, one by one, to their respective offices.
There are scattered passages in these letters which prove that Macaulay's feelings, during his protracted absence from his native country, were at times almost as keen as those which racked the breast of Cicero, when he was forced to exchange the triumphs of the Forum, and the cozy suppers with his brother augurs, for his hateful place of banishment at Thessalonica, or his hardly less hateful seat of government at Tarsus. The complaints of the English statesman do not, however, amount in volume to a fiftieth part of those reiterated out pourings of lachrymose eloquence with which the Roman philosopher bewailed an expatriation that was hardly one-third as long. "I have no words," writes Macaulay, very much under-estimating the wealth of his own vocabulary, "to tell you how I pine for England, or how intensely bitter exile has been to me, though I hope that I have borne it well. I feel as if I had no other wish than to see my country again and die. Let me assure you that banishment is no light matter. No person can judge of it who has not experienced it. A complete revolution in all the habits of life; an estrangement from almost every old friend and acquaintance; fifteen thousand miles of ocean between the exile and everything that he cares for; all this is, to me at least, very trying. There is no temptation of wealth, or power, which would induce me to go through it again. But many people do not feel as I do. Indeed, the servants of the Company rarely have such a feeling; and it is natural that they should not have it, for they are sent out while still schoolboys, and when they know little of the world. The moment of emigration is to them also the moment of emancipation; and the pleasures of liberty and affluence to a great degree compensate them for the loss of their home. In a few years they become orientalised, and, by the time that they are of my age, they would generally prefer India, as a residence, to England. But it is a very different matter when a man is transplanted at thirty-three."
Making, as always, the best of everything, he was quite ready to allow that he might have been placed in a still less agreeable situation. In the following extract from a letter to his friend, Mrs. Drummond, there is much which will come home to those who are old enough to remember how vastly the Dublin of 1837 differed, for the worse, from the Dublin of 1875, "It now seems likely that you may remain in Ireland for years. I cannot conceive what has induced you to submit to such an exile. I declare, for my own part, that, little as I love Calcutta, I would rather stay here than be settled in the Phoenix Park. The last residence which I would choose would be a place with all the plagues, and none of the attractions, of a capital; a provincial city on fire with factions political and religious, peopled by raving Orangemen and raving Repealers, and distracted by a contest between Protestantism as fanatical as that of Knot and Catholicism as fanatical as that of Bonner. We have our share of the miseries of life in this country. We are annually baked four months, boiled four more, and allowed the remaining four to become cool if we can. At this moment, the sun is blazing like a furnace. The earth, soaked with oceans of rain, is steaming like a wet blanket. Vegetation is rotting all round us. Insects and undertakers are the only living creatures which seem to enjoy the climate. But, though our atmosphere is hot, our factions are lukewarm. A bad epigram in a newspaper, or a public meeting attended by a tailor, a pastry-cook, a reporter, two or three barristers, and eight or ten attorneys, are our most formidable annoyances. We have agitators in our own small way, Tritons of the minnows, bearing the same sort of resemblance to O'Connell that a lizard bears to an alligator. Therefore Calcutta for me, in preference to Dublin."
He had good reason for being grateful to Calcutta, and still better for not showing his gratitude by prolonging his stay there over a fourth summer and autumn. "That tremendous crash of the great commercial houses which took place a few years ago has produced a revolution in fashions. It ruined one half of the English society in Bengal, and seriously injured the other half. A large proportion of the most important functionaries here are deeply in debt, and accordingly, the mode of living is now exceedingly quiet and modest. Those immense subscriptions, those public tables, those costly equipages and entertainments of which Heber, and others who saw Calcutta a few years back, say so much, are never heard of. Speaking for myself, it was a great piece of good fortune that I came hither just at the time when the general distress had forced everybody to adopt a moderate way of living. Owing very much to that circumstance, (while keeping house, I think, more handsomely than any other member of Council,) I have saved what will enable me to do my part towards making my family comfortable; and I shall have a competency for myself, small indeed, but quite sufficient to render me as perfectly independent as if I were the possessor of Burleigh or Chatsworth." [Macaulay writes to Lord Mahon on the last day of December 1836: "In another year I hope to leave this country, with a fortune which you would think ridiculously small, but which will make me as independent as if I had all that Lord Westminster has above the ground, and Lord Durham below it. I have no intention of again taking part in politics; but I cannot tell what effect the sight of the old Hall and Abbey may produce on me."]
"The rainy season of 1837 has been exceedingly unhealthy. Our house has escaped as well as any; yet Hannah is the only one of us who has come off untouched. The baby has been repeatedly unwell. Trevelyan has suffered a good deal, and is kept right only by occasional trips in a steamer down to the mouth of the Hooghly. I had a smart touch of fever, which happily stayed but an hour or two, and I took such vigorous measures that it never came again; but I remained unnerved and exhausted for nearly a fortnight. This was my first, and I hope my last, taste of Indian maladies. It is a happy thing for us all that we are not to pass another year in the reek of this deadly marsh." Macaulay wisely declined to set the hope of making another lac of rupees against the risk, to himself and others of such a fate as subsequently befell Lord Canning and Mr. James Wilson. He put the finishing stroke to his various labours; resigned his seat in the Council, and his Presidentships of the Law Commission and the Committee of Public Instruction; and, in company with the Trevelyans, sailed for England in the first fortnight of the year 1838.
To Mr Thomas Flower Ellis.
Calcutta: December 16, 1834.
Dear Ellis,—Many thanks for your letter. It is delightful in this strange land to see the handwriting of such a friend. We must keep up our spirits. We shall meet, I trust, in little more than four years, with feelings of regard only strengthened by our separation. My spirits are not bad; and they ought not to be bad. I have health; affluence; consideration; great power to do good; functions which, while they are honourable and useful, are not painfully burdensome; leisure for study; good books; an unclouded and active mind; warm affections; and a very dear sister. There will soon be a change in my domestic arrangements. My sister is to be married next week. Her lover, who is lover enough to be a knight of the Round Table, is one of the most distinguished of our young Civilians.
I have the very highest opinion of his talents both for action and for discussion. Indeed, I should call him a man of real genius. He is also, what is even more important, a man of the utmost purity of honour, of a sweet temper, and of strong principle. His public virtue has gone through very severe trials, and has come out resplendent. Lord William, in congratulating me the other day, said that he thought my destined brother-in-law the ablest young man in the service. His name is Trevelyan. He is a nephew of Sir John Trevelyan, a baronet; in Cornwall I suppose, by the name; for I never took the trouble to ask.
He and my sister will live with me during my stay here. I have a house about as large as Lord Dudley's in Park Lane, or rather larger, so that I shall accommodate them without the smallest difficulty. This arrangement is acceptable to me, because it saves me from the misery of parting with my sister in this strange land; and is, I believe, equally gratifying to Trevelyan, whose education, like that of other Indian servants, was huddled up hastily at home; who has an insatiable thirst for knowledge of every sort; and who looks on me as little less than an oracle of wisdom. He came to me the other morning to know whether I would advise him to keep up his Greek, which he feared he had nearly lost. I gave him Homer, and asked him to read a page; and I found that, like most boys of any talent who had been at the Charterhouse, he was very well grounded in that language. He read with perfect rapture, and has marched off with the book, declaring that he shall never be content till he has finished the whole. This, you will think, is not a bad brother-in-law for a man to pick up in 22 degrees of North latitude, and 100 degrees of East longitude.
I read much, and particularly Greek; and I find that I am, in all essentials, still not a bad scholar. I could, I think, with a year's hard study, qualify myself to fight a good battle for a Craven's scholarship. I read, however, not as I read at College, but like a man of the world. If I do not know a word, I pass it by unless it is important to the sense. If I find, as I have of late often found, a passage which refuses to give up its meaning at the second reading, I let it alone. I have read during the last fortnight, before breakfast, three books of Herodotus, and four plays of Aeschylus. My admiration of Aeschylus has been prodigiously increased by this reperusal. I cannot conceive how any person of the smallest pretension to taste should doubt about his immeasurable superiority to every poet of antiquity, Homer only excepted. Even Milton, I think, must yield to him. It is quite unintelligible to me that the ancient critics should have placed him so low. Horace's notice of him in the Ars Poetica is quite ridiculous. There is, to be sure, the "magnum loqui;" but the great topic insisted on is the skill of Aeschylus as a manager, as a property-man; the judicious way in which he boarded the stage; the masks, the buskins, and the dresses.
["Post hunc personae pallaeque repertor honestae Aeschylus et modicis instravit pulpita tignis, Et docuit magnumnque loqui, nitique cothuruo."]
And, after all, the "magnum loqui," though the most obvious characteristic of Aeschylus, is by no means his highest or his best. Nor can I explain this by saying that Horace had too tame and unimaginative a mind to appreciate Aeschylus. Horace knew what he could himself do, and, with admirable wisdom, he confined himself to that; but he seems to have had a perfectly clear comprehension of the merit of those great masters whom he never attempted to rival. He praised Pindar most enthusiastically. It seems incomprehensible to me that a critic, who admired Pindar, should not admire Aeschylus far more.
Greek reminds me of Cambridge and of Thirlwall. When you see Thirlwall, tell him that I congratulate him from the bottom of my soul on having suffered in so good a cause; and that I would rather have been treated as he has been treated, on such an account, than have the Mastership of Trinity. [The subjoined extract from the letter of a leading member of Trinity College explains Macaulay's indignation. "Thirlwall published a pamphlet in 1834, on the admission of Dissenters to the University. The result was that he was either deprived of his Assistant Tutorship or had to give it up. Thirlwall left Cambridge soon afterwards. I suppose that, if he had remained, he would have been very possibly Wordsworth's successor in the Mastership."] There would be some chance for the Church, if we had more Churchmen of the same breed, worthy successors of Leighton and Tillotson.
From one Trinity Fellow I pass to another. (This letter is quite a study to a metaphysician who wishes to illustrate the Law of Association.) We have no official tidings yet of Malkin's appointment to the vacant seat on the Bench at Calcutta. I cannot tell you how delighted I am at the prospect of having him here. An honest enlightened Judge, without professional narrowness, is the very man whom we want on public grounds. And, as to my private feelings, nothing could be more agreeable to me than to have an old friend, and so estimable a friend, brought so near to me in this distant country.
Ever, dear Ellis,
Yours very affectionately
T. B. MACAULAY.
Calcutta: February 8, 1835.
Dear Ellis,—The last month has been the most painful that I ever went through. Indeed, I never knew before what it was to be miserable. Early in January, letters from England brought me news of the death of my youngest sister. What she was to me no words can express. I will not say that she was dearer to me than anything in the world; for my sister who was with me was equally dear; but she was as dear to me as one human being can be to another. Even now, when time has begun to do its healing office, I cannot write about her without being altogether unmanned. That I have not utterly sunk under this blow I owe chiefly to literature. What a blessing it is to love books as I love them;—to be able to converse with the dead, and to live amidst the unreal! Many times during the last few weeks I have repeated to myself those fine lines of old Hesiod:
ei gar tis kai penthos egon neokedei thumo aksetai kradien akakhemenos, autar aoidos mousaon therapon kleia proteron anthropon umnese, makaras te theous oi Olumpon ekhousi, aips oge dusphroneon epilethetai oude ti kedeon memnetai takheos de paretrape dora theaon.
["For if to one whose grief is fresh as he sits silent with sorrow-stricken heart, a minstrel, the henchman of the Muses, celebrates the men of old and the gods who possess Olympus; straightway he forgets his melancholy, and remembers not at all his grief, beguiled by the blessed gift of the goddesses of song." In Macaulay's Hesiod this passage is scored with three lines in pencil.]
I have gone back to Greek literature with a passion quite astonishing to myself. I have never felt anything like it. I was enraptured with Italian during the six months which I gave up to it; and I was little less pleased with Spanish. But, when I went back to the Greek, I felt as if I had never known before what intellectual enjoyment was. Oh that wonderful people! There is not one art, not one science, about which we may not use the same expression which Lucretius has employed about the victory over superstition, "Primum Graius homo—."
I think myself very fortunate in having been able to return to these great masters while still in the full vigour of life, and when my taste and judgment are mature. Most people read all the Greek that they ever read before they are five and twenty. They never find time for such studies afterwards till they are in the decline of life; and then their knowledge of the language is in a great measure lost, and cannot easily be recovered. Accordingly, almost all the ideas that people have of Greek literature, are ideas formed while they were still very young. A young man, whatever his genius may be, is no judge of such a writer as Thucydides. I had no high opinion of him ten years ago. I have now been reading him with a mind accustomed to historical researches, and to political affairs; and I am astonished at my own former blindness, and at his greatness. I could not bear Euripides at college. I now read my recantation. He has faults undoubtedly. But what a poet! The Medea, the Alcestis, the Troades, the Bacchae, are alone sufficient to place him in the very first rank. Instead of depreciating him, as I have done, I may, for aught I know, end by editing him.