Page images
PDF
EPUB

temper.

SS

The last circumstance of this sort we shall mention is, Indolence of “ that extreme listlessness of spirit which marks their temper.” According to all writers, the vis inertia seems to be a radical principle of the Hindoo constitution. Mild and effeminate by nature, they are prone to become inactive: patient and unambitious, nothing, except the calls of necessity, or the impressions of fear, will rouse them to strenuous exertion : depressed by the institutions of an unequal policy, they have no generous motives even to laudable emulation : habituated, from age to age, to the state and feelings of a conquered people, the Gentoos have contracted a certain torpor of mind, and a total carelessness about futurity, which are exceedingly unfavourable to every plan of improvement. Unless mankind take interest in those schemes which are formed for their civilisation; unless they co-operate actively in their execution, it were vain to expect their success. It is the running stream, not the stagnant pool, that diffuses fertility and verdure, improves the country, and purifies the atmosphere. But in Hindostan we see only the stagnation of human genius, a state of society perpetually stationary. There is beheld the “ waveless calm” of the mind, the still scene of life, a lethargic people listlessly submitting to their lot, under all its painful vicissitudes: a simple race of men,

content to vegetate on the soil of their ancestors, to be as they have been, and do as they have done, without one effort to rise in the scale of nations, or advance in the career of improvement. How insensible must they be to all the ordinary excitements, which arouse mankind, and impel them to action! In vain you speak to them of an increase of the comforts of this life: they have already enough to satisfy their very limited wants or desires, and more would only invite the plunderer. In vain you represent to them the objects of an honourable distinction: these have no attractions for men who have been always precluded from aspiring after an elevation of rank, and are trained from earliest life to acquiesce in their humble condition, as the unalterable decree of heaven. In vain you would allure them by displaying the charms of science, or speaking of the sublime excursions of philosophy ;

Lo the poor Indian-
His soul proud science never taught to stray
Far as the solar walk, or milky way *.

-“ Knowledge, to his eyes, her ample page, Rich with the spoils of time, did ne'er unrol,” The ’numbing cast, with frost, from age to age,

Enchains “the genial current of the soul 4."

* Pope.

+ Gray.

Facilities.

Partial refinement.

To compensate for these discouraging considerations, there are others, of a nature peculiarly inviting, which the preceding abstract may also suggest, and which ought not to be overlooked.

The inhabitants of Hindostan are greatly removed from the state of barbarism ; are settled in fixed abodes ; collected into cities ; accustomed to regular government; and acquainted, in a considerable measure, with the arts of civilised life. But to improve further those who have already made considerable advances in civilisation, is a work obviously of much greater ease than to refine those who are altogether savage.

Their character is extremely mild ; their temper submissive to an extreme. They are not, like many other nations, particularly like the Mahometans mingled with them, irascible, turbulent, vengeful. Now, this circumstance suggests the hope, that wise and moderate plans of improvement may be crowned with success, or, should they prove abortive, will not excite insurrection, or produce those disastrous con

Temper.

[ocr errors]

sequences, which might be apprehended in almost every

other case. Similarity of A striking uniformity of institutions and manners prevails

throughout the whole of the conquered territories. Thus, while a variety of plans would distract the attention of government, and probably interfere with one another in operation; one general scheme of improvement will suit the ex

tended empire. Coincidence The written language of Hindostan is universally the of languages.

same: the spoken dialects are few, and easily acquired. Hence the means of communication are greatly facilitated : a circumstance which may be highly conducive to union

of plan, as well as to steadiness and security of execution. History.

Long have the Hindoos been a vanquished people; often have they been united under one head; for ages they have been trained, by a severe discipline, to habits of subordination; and, if their prejudices be not rudely shocked and their ancient policy violently assailed, it does not seem that they will feel or resent, as an injurious innovation, any systematic plan of reform, which may tend slowly to revolu

tionise even their whole state of society and of manners. Character The dignified position which the British power now holds and authority of our go- in the eyes of the world, its commanding attitude among the

verument.

states of Hindostan, will cause all its measures to be received with respect; and, if they are (what they ought to be) adapted to the genius and circumstances of the natives, most probably obeyed by them with readiness.

In fine, the present crisis, when the splendid victories lately achieved must have increased the impression of the British name, and heightened those ideas of the skill and prowess of our countrymen, which the Hindoos had been taught to entertain, seems peculiarly favourable for the commencement of this glorious undertaking, and for putting into operation those plans of improvement, which, at any prior period, the natives might have been more apt to resist.

Thus, encouraged by a variety of concurring circumstances, of a permanent or incidental kind, Britons would be wanting to themselves, undutiful to their eastern subjects, and insensible to the highest considerations, if, notwithstanding the obstacles already adverted to, they did not embrace with ardour the very favourable opportunity now offered them by “ the Governor among the nations," and, to the utmost of their ability, endeavour to promote the improvement and happiness of so many millions “ of their fellow men, inhabiting those Indian territories, which

« PreviousContinue »