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first dawn of an improving society begins to be visible; the accus mulated knowledge existing in any country becomes common property; the human intellect is stimulated by the creation of new wants, and by the anxious desire of ministering to their satisfaction; sterility of soil is remedied by improved methods of cultivation; the imperfection of climate is no longer felt, for now we have the whole world open to furnish us with those commodities denied to us by the inclemency of our own; while the ocean, that seemingly impassable barrier, affords the readiest means for the conveyance and mutual exchange of the superfluous produce of every realm. Without an intercourse of this kind, the inherent powers of the richest and most fertile soils would, for the most part, remain dormant ; nature, indeed, might furnish us with the bare necessaries of life, but it is commerce, which not only gives us a great variety of what is useful, but, at the same time, supplies us with every thing convenient or ornamental, in brief, with all, the possession and enjoyment of which distinguish civilized man from the same being when roaming in the savage state.
Commerce, in its real essence, rejects with scorn the protection which governments, in their rage for interference, have not unfrequently, and with such mischievous consequences, attempted to bestow upon it. It requires no treaties for its maintenance and support ; for the principle which regulates its operations is the communication of mutual benefits; it contains, naturally, no element of strife or disunion; for it aims at a compensation and remedy for respective disabilities; and thus, while rendering one country prosperous, the interest of every other is in an equal degree promoted. “In fixing, by laws as immutable as those by which the level of the ocean is preserved, that nations, in different climates, and in different stages of society, shall each possess a something which the others want, the Almighty Ruler of the universe has established a principle of harmony, of union, and of concord, to counteract the brutal ferocity and savage enmity of man; it mitigates the horrors of war; it heightens the blessings, and prolongs the duration of peace. It is the balm poured into the bitter cup of that dissension, and anger, and jealousy, which separate one nation from another : it is the tie, disregarded often by the careless observer, or mere politician, but of adamantine strength, by which, in a worldly point of view, man is linked to his fellow-man.' *
Hic segetes, illic veniunt felicius uvæ :
Imposuit natura locis.'
* Whitinore's Letter on the Corn Laws.
character still, for the furtherance of which the same instrumentality has been strikingly effective. By the philosophical inquirer into the state of human manners, and the circumstances from which they have received their peculiar mould and disposition, commerce has invariably been pointed out, as affording powerful means for the acquisition and dissemination of knowledge, and for the overthrow of those long established and pernicious customs and opinions which, in every age and in every country, have retarded the improvement of society. In England, the decline and final extinction of feudal barbarity and disorder is, in an especial degree, to be attributed to the extension of commerce, and the establishment of manufacturing industry in different parts of the country. In the northern portion of our island, the whole clan system, with its habits of predatory warfare and private revenge,—habits, which the direct influence of the law was incompetent to reacb, gradually sunk under the silent but progressive operation of the same cause. In the middle ages, the trading republics of Italy were not less remarkable for the extent of their commerce, than for the learning and intelligence of their citizens, and the aptitude by which they were distinguished for the reception of new impressions. The custom, now superseded by the progress of society, of resorting personally, for commercial purposes, to the great fairs holden in various parts of Europe, lasting for eighteen or twenty days in succession, and, whilst they lasted, giving to an unenclosed waste the appearance of a well-ordered and populous city—afforded excellent opportunities for the dissemination of knowledge, and, by giving general publicity, for the correction of local abuses. In the total absence of all those means, by which, at the present day, the circulation of intelligence is quickly extended to parts the most remote, there is every reason to believe that commerce thus, indirectly, presented a ready channel for the conveyance of general information ; that, in this manner, the perversion of Christianity, and the vices, ignorance, and apathy of the Romish clergy, became the subject of debate to inquiring minds in every country; the personal commercial intercourse, rendered necessary by the circumstances of the times, contributing powerfully to cherish and keep alive that spirit of investigation and resistance to ecclesiastical oppression, which, gathering strength in each succeeding year, finally enabled Luther to accomplish such important, memorable, and happy changes.*
India has, for more than two centuries, been brought into moral contiguity with, and, for a considerable portion of that period, been under the guidance and direct control of this highly intellectual and commercial nation : but any thing like the full benefit to be derived from such a connection is yet to be experienced. We dwell
* See on this subject a most interesting article in the Quarterly Review, No. 73.
like strangers in the land, into which, step by step, we have advanced, from the coast to the interior. From the Himalayah chain to Cape Comorin, we have long ruled, with almost undisputed sway, over one hundred millions of people, occupying a soil teeming with fertility, and placed under every variety of climate ; and yet, so little has been effected commercially, politically, or, as regards the moral improvement of the inhabitants, that the reproach of Burke, uttered long ago, is equally apposite at the present moment; and, were the British power in India now suddenly to terminate, scarcely a vestige would remain by which future inquirers could trace its once paramount existence throughout the land.
" That the commercial intercourse betwixt Great Britain and India—two portions of the globe differing widely in soil, climate, and productions, and accessible to each other by a moderate sea voyage, should not, long ago, have given rise to a trade of vast importance and extent, is, certainly, matter of reasonable surprise. While every other branch of our commerce has been progressively advancing, this, which offers a scope for increase almost unlimited, has alone continued almost stationary. What other causes can be assigned for this anomaly than these?-that our Indian trade has been carried on under the withering influence of a monopoly; that the principle of free competition has been unknown, and British energy, enterprize, and capital, almost excluded from all communion with the inhabitants of the interior of Hindoostan. That these are the two causes is evident from the start which the trade has made since the restrictions were partially removed in 1814, when the last renewal of the Company's Charter took place. In 1814, the total value of our exports to India and China was as follows:-Company's trade,1,117,515l.; private trade,578,8891.; totalexports, 1,696,4041. Such was the height which the trade had reached after a painful struggle of two hundred years !
It is, however, pleasing to contrast the vivifying and exhilarating effect already resulting from the partial breaking down of the monopoly. In 1826, only twelve years after the confident assurance of the Company's servants that, from the unvarying and peculiar nature of the Hindoo character, it was visionary to expect any increase in our traffic with India, the trade had attained the following amount : Company's trade, 1,292,833l. ; private trade, 3,584,3001.; total exports, 4,177,1331. Thus, while the Company's trade continued nearly stationary, the spirit and enterprise of private adventure had increased the export of British produce to the amount of more than three millions sterling.
Since we ruled over India, as the sovereign deputies of the Mogul Emperor of Delhi, what has been effected, or rather, it might be asked, has any thing been undertaken for the improvement, civil and moral, of the condition of our subjects, the numerous inhabitants of that country! We bave, it is true, lodged our governors and their subaltern functionaries in sumptuous modern palaces; but we have suffered the ancient edifices and monuments of that country-structures which taste and good feeling labour every where to preserve, as the records of generations passed away-to fall to ruin and perish. Have we endeavoured to impart to the Natives of India any portion of that varied knowledge and those scientific attainments of which we are the possesscrs ? It is a melancholy fact, but not the less true, that in India, science and knowledge have derived little advantage from our sway; they still only shine with a faint and dubious light; while a native Hindoo, who, in spite of every disadvantage, steps beyond his accustomed sphere, and manifests a spirit of inquiry, and a desire of improvement, even though that spirit and desire should lead within the pale of Christianity, is almost certain to draw down upon himself the displeasure of the Government, and become the object of its suspicion and dislike. Have we applied any portion of the territorial revenue we draw from the inhabitants, in improving the arts of social life, or in promoting the domestic trade of the country, by an increased facility imparted to the transit of goods through our dominions ? General testimony declares the agriculture of India still to be as rude-manual labour to be equally as unassisted by the more refined process of machinerythe whole land to be as strange to roads, bridges, and canals, to every thing which facilitates the march of internal commerce, as it was five hundred years ago.
But a deeper reproach yet remains : have we done any thing, not to say to put down, but only officially to discountenance the horrid system of superstition by which the Natives of India have so long been enthralled? Have we even attempted, in the plenitude of a sway never before witnessed in Hindoostan, to do that which the Portuguese, with a power, trifling as compared with ours, effected with the most perfect ease and sccurity ? Alas! the suttee, under English rule, still calls in vain to England for help, though so piercingly, that her cries will occasionally be heard above the loud sounds of the Brahminical music, and the shouts of a besotted multitude; the gurgling stream yet frequently proclaims, though Britain refuses to listen, that unnatural parents, impelled by a sanguinary fanaticism, are sacrificing their tender offspring : yet how should Britain array her power against enormities like these, while Juggernaut continues to ride triumphant on his car, and to receive the yearly homage of his votaries, and to flourish under the protection of an English government, which even dares to replenish its coffers, and draw a revenue from the polluted source afforded by the worshippers of that Moloch?
While the government of India has displayed so glaring an indifference to the cause of Christianity, the reflection is consoling, that this inertitude has been, in some degree, compensated, and the national character redeemed, by individual exertion emanating from home. Missionaries, sent out by various societies in this country, are now, and have long been, engaged in the dissemination of truth throughout India, and in translating the Scriptures into the numerous vernacular and learned dialects of that extensive country. A project like this, it might have been supposed, could scarcely be expected to meet with opposition from a Christian government. Experience proves that the temporal advantages which originate and follow in the train of Christianity are striking and evident ; through all the world, wherever it has prevailed, it has been indirectly, of course, for its objects are of a far higher nature) the great instrument of civilization ; in the countries where it is established we witness progressive improvement, while those which are deprived of its benign influence present a melancholy spectacle of ignorance, barbarity, and decay. On such a ground as this, the lowest ground on which Christianity advances a claim for attention and support,--the tendency to improve the civil condition of all who embrace its doctrines, it is singular that the East India Company and their agents should not have eagerly lent their assistance, countenance, and protection, to those meritorious individuals, who devoted themselves to labour in this important and hitherto neglected field. Yet, strange to say, the very contrary was the case ! instead of support, they met with opposition; and the present generation will scarcely believe, though the circumstance inust be fresh in the recollection of all who remember the controversy excited by the Missionary question, twenty-five years ago, that an attempt should have been made to prove, by argument, that it was wrong to make known the revelation of the true God to our fellow-men ; or if, in some instances, it might be permitted, (as in the case of remote nations,) that we ought not to instruct that people, who were affirmed to be the most superstitious, and most prejudiced, and who were, moreover, our own subjects.
* The want of a free expression of public opinion, through the medium of the press, has evidently tended to perpetuate and support the various abuses, religious, civil, and commercial, which, up to the present day, bave continued to infest our system of rule in India, Where freedom of speech and publication are unknown, even good laws are of little avail, for their dictates will be set aside: it is easy to conceive, then, what must be the effect of the absence of these immunities, where arbitrary power, in its fullest extent, so completely prevails. The East India Company still claims and exercises a power, which was originally given for the protection of their commerce, at an early period of their career, when, with the permission of the Mogul, and trembling at his beck, they had planted factories in two or three insulated positions on the Indian coasts. This power, the right of sending all British subjects, whatever may be their business or occupation, without cause alleged, or specified crime, out of the country, while foreigners, of every description, are free from its operation—the Company now uses in