« PreviousContinue »
and, till the year 1813, its exclusive patrons, the Court of Di
In establishing the college, the Directors afforded such a proof of enlarged and statesman-like views as eminently became their station, and justified their pretensions to the national confidence. What they thus created, it was of course presumable that they intended to preserve; nor could it be supposed that they were incompetent to the task, or that the edifice could not be kept in repair by the same hands by which it had been erected. It does not, however, convey the remotest reflection on the Directors to
observe, that here, as in other parts of this undertaking, difficulties | were found to occur, and indeed seem to have been scarcely avoidable, which, at the outset, had not been contemplated. The Directors, it must be remembered, and we believe that, with reference to their primary functions, this is generally thought one of the specific excellences of their constitution,) are a body popularly chosen, and, therefore, variously composed. They are distinguished by considerable diversities of tempers, talents, habits, and opinions. What pleases one, may displease another of equally good intentions. "What pleases both as to the end, may displease one as to the means.
However highly we may rate the general steadiness, energy, and efficiency, of such a cabinet, yet, amidst the chances and changes of events, we cannot but suppose it subject to occasional fluctuations of counsel, even if it always consisted of the same members, and were under the same presidents. position, then, must be still more natural in the case of the Court of Directors, who annually renew a part of their number, so as to make a complete rotation in four years, and who change their presiding authorities from year to year.
In the discharge of their important duties, as forming a constituent and a very considerable part of the government of British India, the Directors are allowed, for many past years, to have acted, on the whole, both ably and successfully. Whatever may have been their occasional inconsistences, arising from the causes already mentioned, the broad and grand results have been good. Discordant notes may at times have been heard; but, altogether, their counsels, like sounds that mingle by distance, have produced in the East the effect of a blended and conspiring harmony. The Court, however, found itself invested with a new office, when from the government of provinces and kingdoms, it was called to the management of a place of education. Questions now arose about systems of instruction, and systems of discipline, --questions, with which men formed chiefly in the field of active li fe, could hardly be expected to feel very familiar, and respecting which the different individuals of the court could not, probably, a lways have principles in common. It was impossible in such a
case, but that the proceedings of the aggregate should occasionally be a little uncertain. But, to rear an infant establishment like the college, requires so uniform a mixture of caution, firmness, and delicacy, that even a single instance, and even a slight degree, of iudecision or inconstancy may sometimes prove seriously detrimental. Far from needing a smaller portion of address than the conduct of a state, the truth is that it may often need a greater. Vacillations of counsel, which would be nothing when measured on the scale of a great empire, may be fatal to a college; as the billows of the ocean overwhelm the small bark, while the imperial ship over-rides them in triumph.
In the original constitution of the college, there was one peculiarity, which, though not absolutely unavoidable, was a very natural one, and which is highly deserving of mention. According to that constitution, the power of expulsion, the last penalty of collegiate law, was not conferred on the collegiate authorities; but, in all cases of heavy delinquency, those authorities were enjoined to report to a standing committee of the Directors, called the Committee of College, and to await their decision. Nothing, certainly, could be more natural than that the Directors should anxiously retain, in their own hands, the dispensation of a punishment, involving the loss of an honourable provision for life to those whom they had patronized, perhaps to their personal friends, relations, or even children. But the arrangement was not very fortunate. It wholly precluded that prompt and instant recoil of penal justice, which, in extreme emergencies, is of the last moment to the peace of society. It adjourned questions, which would far better have been decided by observers constantly on the spot, to a tribunal at a distance, a tribunal which had every thing to learn, and to learn by means of elaborate researches, and the reports of third persons. It placed the professors, whose task, in the conduct of an institution of so peculiar a character, was, at all events, sufficiently difficult, in a situation of additional and most uncalled-for embarrassment;--putting them, in fact, as well as their offending pupils, on their trial, in every strong case; and impairing their consequence in the eyes of the students in general ; for no coutrivance will ensure undeviating reverence to a government without
These were the certain effects of the measure, even assuming that the decisions of the ultimate tribunal should always be marked by a stern impartiality. But, when it is considered how deeply and painfully the Directors might themselves be interested in the points submitted to their determination, it will be perceived that, of all the parties concerned, the directorial body was the most hardly treated by the arrangement in question. They were to adjudicate cases vitally affecting the interests, the character, the prospects, of their own connexions, their own relatives, their own offspring. On most of these occasions, they might act firmly; in point of fact, we happen to know that highly honourable examples of firmness occurred; but it would be extravagant to expect this always. Where such claims and demands are set in conflict, it must be a steady hand indeed, which can hold the scales without trembling.
Such is the best sketch we are able to give of the leading peculiarities in the nature of the India College and in the incidents that attended the formation and were likely to influence the fate of that institution. The account has been collected, not without considerable pains, from what we deemed authentic sources, under an impression that a real knowledge of circumstances like these was indispensably requisite to a due examination of the question under review.
All, however, was not so unpropitious in the outset of this institution; nor, in adverting to the peculiar difficulties by which it was opposed, must we forget what has already been intimated, that it had also its peculiar advantages. These consisted, not merely in its exemption from the incumbrance of those antiquated forms and methods which oppress older institutions of the same kind in their attempts to keep pace with modern improvement,--nor in the benefit of learning from the example, and profiting by the experience, of its numerous predecessors,—but in the use actually made of these opportunities. It was supplied with very able professors; with an excellent course of study; with a very well devised system of lectures and examinations; and with very effective rules for the maintenance of discipline in ordinary cases. This assemblage of means bas not been thrown away. All competent testimonies agree that the literary proficiency of the students has, on the whole, been very eminent. We do not make this statement lightly or without much examination; but, even were there no other authorities on the subject, we should not know how to withhold credence from the plain, explicit, and deliberate assertions of Mr. Malthus, speaking not only in his own name but in that of his brother professors. From a belief that the book is very widely known, we have hitherto spared citation; but sball now make room for a single extract.
• These means of exciting emulation and industry have been attended with great success. Though there are some, unquestionably, on whom motives of this kind will not, or cannot, operate, and with whom, therefore, little can be done; yet, a more than usual proportion seem to be animated by a strong desire, accompanied by corresponding efforts, to make a progress in the various studies proposed to them. • Those who have come to college tolerably good scholars have often, during their stay of two years, made such advances in the classical department as would have done them great credit if they had devoted to it the main part of their time; while the contemporary honours which they have obtained in other departments have sufficiently proved that their attention was not confined to one study: and many, who had come from public and private schools at sixteen with such low classical attainments as appeared to indicate a want either of capacity or application, have shewn by their subsequent progress, even in the classical department, and still more by their distinguished exertions in others, that a new field and new stimulants had wrought a most beneficial change in their feelings and habits, and had awakened energies of which they were before scarcely conscious.
• There are four or five of the Professors thoroughly conversant with University examinations, who can take upon themselves to affirm that they have never witnessed a greater proportion of various and successful exertion in the course of their academical experience than has appeared at some of the examinations at the East India College.'-pp. 49, 50.
Among the branches of study, however, that are cultivated at Hertford, there is one, the successful prosecution of which is established by evidence of a peculiar kind. It will be remembered that the College of Calcutta still subsists as a seminary for oriental literature; in fact, all the writers destined for Bengal pass through this College and complete there the oriental studies they have commenced at Hertford. The question then may fairly be asked, what effect, generally speaking, have the oriental studies at Hertford produced on the oriental studies at Calcutta? In reply to this question, Mr. Malthus, we perceive, lays no stress on the fact that some of the Hertford students have, on their arrival at Calcutta, undergone examinations in the oriental languages, and even in three or four of them, with the most brilliant success. His good sense and candour shewed him that these were single cases; valuable indeed as illustrating the capabilities of the system at Hertford, but by no means safe as tests of its ordinary operation. His reliance, therefore, is exclusively placed on the effect which the College in England has produced in abridging the average term of residence at the Calcutta College; and, from authentic documents, he clearly proves that this average abridgment has been very considerable, reducing the period, in fact, from about three years to about one.
Occupied indeed as the students are at the English College with the simultaneous pursuit of several branches of European learning and science, and compelled as they are to accomplish their whole course within the short compass of two years, it would be preposterous to expect that their acquirements in the oriental languages should, for the most part, be considerable, or, with reference to the extent and difficulty of those languages, should even reach mediocrity. We hesitate not to say that, in the sense described, they
ought ought not to reach this limit. They should, as was observed in an early part of these observations, be purely rudimental. Oriental literature, at any seminary established for the Company's servants in England, is to be considered rather as an appendage, though an important one, than as a principal, and should be pursued in care'ful subservience to those European studies which constitute the proper and primary business of such a place. In this view we cannot help unequivocally disapproving of what has been established at the present College under the name of the Oriental Test, though it appears to have been originally suggested by Mr. Malthus bimself. As an indispensable condition of leave to proceed to India, the students are required to attain a certain given degree of proficiency in oriental learning, and in this alone. But let there be a general test, or none at all. There is no reason why one particular branch of study should thus be promoted in preference to the rest; and if one must be preferred, there are good reasons why that one should not be oriental literature. The truth is, that oriental literature has already sufficient encouragement,-- from the prospect of the distinctions conferred on it in the College at Calcutta; and this is precisely the argument against distinguishing it by peculiar honours in the College at Hertford.
On the whole, however, there can be no doubt that, as a seminary of general literature, this Institution has succeeded in a very considerable degree. But it must be confessed that a more important point remains behind, and that the literary prosperity of the society would be of little avail, if unaccompanied by success of a higher species. Considering it, indeed, as the peculiar aim of the India College to form youth to habits of early self-controul, the moral character of the bulk of the students becomes a more than usually interesting subject of investigation. Has the experiment answered as well in this department as in that of letters ? Or have accomplishments purely intellectual been cultivated at the expense of those nobler qualifications which are beyond all mysteries and all knowledge ?
This mode, however, of stating the question, implies an opposition, which, perhaps, has seldom any existence: for moral excellence is not so radically distinct from literary proficiency as by some persons it may be esteemed. The youth who is industrious in the pursuit of intellectual accomplishments, and particularly of that class of them specifically denominated learning, affords a fair presumption that he has not been altogether negligent of the still higher attainment of moral culture. It is the very argument used by the greatest of advocates; “Scitote, Judices, eas cupiditates quæ objiciuntur Cælio, atque hæc studia de quibus disputo, non facile in eodem homine esse posse.' The orator, indeed, has very pro