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security, and happiness of all the members of the community over which they presided. And this system, though extremely repugnant to the ideas which we, by being placed in a very different state of society, have formed, will be found, upon attentive inspection, better adapted to attain the end in view, than a careless observer is, on a first view, apt to imagine.” From the judgment of such a man we cannot dissent without diffidence: his opinions ought not to be combated without modesty. Yet no name, it is apprehended, can sanction such an institution; and we cannot but suppose, that the venerable divine has been seduced by ex. cess of candour; or by an imposing love of paradox, from which the greatest minds are perhaps least of all exempted ; or by overweaning partiality for a favorite subject of study, to become the advocate of a system, which condemns, irretrievably, the largest portion of the community, whatever be the abilities and excellence of individuals, to ignorance and to abasement; which opposes itself to the benevolent designs of the great Creator, and estranges man from man ;
virtue, and of industry, to prevent them from rising to their proper ascendancy; which entails a monopoly of honour, of science, of power, and of piety, upon certain classes of the community exclusively, not as the reward of superior endowments, or of more sanctified conduct, but as their birthright inheritance, as the capricious allotment of human laws. Than this, what can be conceived more arbitrary and unnatural; more unjust or impolitic? It is even unfriendly to those classes whom it unduly elevates ;. for it is calculated to engender a certain esprit du corps, in its utmost strength, inciting them to divide their interests from those of the community; fostering pride; and operating against that candour which, while it adorns the character, is necessary to promote illumination and moral improvement. With respect to the inferior ranks, as it chains them down to a certain routine of drudgery; so, by withdrawing all the public rewards of diligence and of goodness, it represses exertion. Who would think of instituting a cast of mathematicians ? Yet the Hindoo legislation has instituted a class of philosophers. Admitting that “ the arrangements of civil government are made not for the few but for the many,” does it not deserve notice, that, upon individual genius, the illumination, the improvement, and the happiness of the body of a nation will often depend? and ought not that to be sedulously cherished, which may prove a public blessing? But, absurd and injurious as this distribution of society is, having originated in the earliest antiquity, and maintained itself unchanged amid all the revolutions of their nation ; being incorporated essentially with the constitution of their society; familiarised continually to their view by its effects ; forming the complexion of all their manners; associated with all their prejudices; sanctioned by all their religious feelings ; recommended by whatever has been wise, or venerable, or pious in their history or mythology, it must be admitted to present an obstacle, the most formidable that can be conceived, to the progressive improvement and elevation of the great body of the people.
To it we may impute, in a great measure, that wonderful permanency of Hindoo manners, which may be regarded as another impediment. The descriptions of the remotest classical antiquity may be applied, with equal precision, to the present times. On the costume of society in India, the lapse of ages, and all the revolutions of their history, have made no impression. “ The same cast of manners has always prevailed in Hindostan, and is likely still to continue," says the learned historiographer lately quoted. “ Neither the ferocious violence, nor the illiberal fanaticism of its Mahometan conquerors, nor the power of its European masters, have effected any considerable alterations.” “ Except,"
says another elegant historian, “ the single circumstance of the pure primeval religion of India, which descended from their patriarchal ancestors, having, in some melancholy instances, degenerated into idolatry, no perceptible vicissitude has taken place among this celebrated people, from the commencement of their empire to this day. Whatever is true of them at one period, is equally true of them at another. The laws of the Medes and Persians were not more unalterable. From age to age, from father to son, through an hundred generations, the same uniformity of manners, and cast of character prevail, inexterminable by the sword, incorruptible by the vices, and unalterable by the example of their conquerors.” This circumstance, it must be admitted, is as discouraging as it is extraordinary. Nor can the attempt to alter long-established manners, be accounted less hazardous than difficult. “ Nations,” as Montesquieu observes, “ are more tenacious of their manners than of their laws." They read and hear the one; they feel and see the other. But though the fact, to which we have been adverting in relation to the Hindoos, be unpromising, the case ought not to be accounted desperate. Some slight deviations in dress, and in their household economy, with reference to the seclusion of women from public society, there
is some reason to think have been borrowed from their Mahometan governors. And, since our countrymen have acquired the decided ascendancy, some instances of conformity in the natives to their new masters, in furniture and equipage, have appeared *: nor can there be a doubt, that this spirit of imitation, if it be judiciously fostered by government, will continue to be prompted by several circumstances, and to operate in an increasing degree. Indeed the experiment, how far the manners of this singular people might be changed, has never been fairly made. “ Customs ought to be changed by customs +;" but their ferocious tyrants sought to revolutionise them by law and by force. Milder treatment, the influence of other practices in their superiors, and the power of persuasion, have not yet had time fully to operate. Besides, have this neglected people ever enjoyed the means of intellectual illumination, of moral improvement, or even of domestic enjoyment in a suitable degree ? After all, however, although the amazing permanency of their manners ought not to be regarded as an insuperable, it may well be accounted a very formidable, obstacle to their political progress.
* Robertson's India, App, note 2.