Imágenes de páginas
[ocr errors]

cers,and adventurers, feel an easy complacency at this last vieil', it only proves that they are not persons with whom any religious, any Christian argument can be held.' A moral sense that belongs to complete man is wanting to them; so that infinitely the most important of ihe elements and phenomena of the moral world are unapparent and impalpable to them : just as much so, as that class of things and properties are, to our present five senses, which might, as Locke'observes, hare be. come percepeible to us by means of a sixth or seventh sense, which the Creator could no doubt have given us. To these pien, all the concerns and interests designated by the terms divine, spiritual, immortal, are nearly the same as non-existent. And as, with their bare half of that perceptive faculty which is essential to complete rational man, they cannot for their lives make themselves see the millions of a vast nation in any character more important than that of consumers of exported commodities, or growers of rice and indigo, or fabricators of manufactures, or the materials for recruiting regiments ----Dor comprehend how any greater evil can exist or arise among them than their consuming or producing less of marketable commodity, or their choosing to be governed by one set of their fellow-mortals rather than another,--they are most violently angry at a class of men who must needs pretend to see these millions in a far different and infinitely more important light, as beings that have souls, accountable to their Creator, but merged in the post melancholy ignorance of themselves and of him; as hideously degraded by a hateful superstition; and therefore as objects whose condition calls mightily for the compassion and assistance of their more favoured brethren. But it is this latter class of men, who can perceive the moral, reliligious, and eternal, interests of mankind, and of any portion of mankind, as inconceivably more momentous than all their political and conimercial ecomony; who cannot behold without horror a countless population prostrating themselves before idols, and who think a government that does not do all it can do to reduce the evil will incur the vengeance of God,-it is only this class of men that can be admitied as competent of miód to reason on our obligations respecting the religious co:dition of India. Among these Mr. Cunningham stands conspicuous. We will give a brief sketch of his work, too brief, on account of that length of general reflections into which we have been unwarily betrayed : but this is of no consequence, since all who take an interest in the question will soon read the book, if indeed they have not done it already.

After asserting, in very few words, the general duty of Christians to endeavour to extend the knowledge of their religion, he argues the special duty of introducing it in India, on

the ground of the exclusive power which Great Britain holds there, of the compensation which we owe to India for the wrongs we have done her, of the benefits, we have derived from her, of the strict relation existing between us and the Hindoos as governors and subjects, and, above all, of the malignant and pernicious character of the superstition of which they are the victims. This last topic, of course, forms the main ground of argument, and occupies haif the essay. The materials supplied for this argument, from the books of the Hindoos, from their character, at length, and not till of late, clearly unfolded to the inquisitive public, from their customs, and from the estimates and descriptions given of them by many intelligent and honest Europeans, who have been among them, ---were only not infinite. Mr. Cunningham has shewa very great judgement in his selection, and has at cach step turned facts into arguments with distinguished acuteness and success.

Some sensible persons, who, in consequence of so many facts made familiarly known by nieans of the recent religious discussion concerning India, have found themselves suddenly surprised into a totally different opinion of the Ilindoos from that which they had lately entertained with the generality of their countrymen, have inquired how such a prodigious de ception ever came to be so prevalent. A little while since, when they happened to look toward the plains and cities of Hindostan, they saw a meek peaceful race, too kind and tender to hurt even the most despised animals, innocent of cruelty and deceit almost as babes, and rising occasionally from this tim mid gentleness only to become heroically sublime in the endurance of sufferings preparatory to a final beatitude; a me lancholy superstition indeed, but still partaking much of grandeur, as an ultimate union with the divine nature was represented as the object to which they aspired in these voluntary

An interval has elapsed; they have looked toward that country again, and the plains and cities exhibit nothing but a crowd of deceitful, ignorant, and cruel, though inert barbarians. The deception was imposed, in a very considerable degree, by, that hatred of Christianity which influenced several visitants to India, during the former half of the last century, to make false representations of the Hindoo character, in aid of the infidel philosophers who were zealously trying to establish that there was no need of the Christian religion to make human society virtuous and peaceful. In further explanation of this strange deception, Mr. Cunningham makes the following sensible observations.

• We contend then, that the general practice of the writers upon this subject has been to adorn the Hindus with virtues, which by no means


belong to them. If it is asked what account can be given :of such use merited panegyrics ; it would not be difficult to reply to the question. Every man who has discovered, or conquered, or assisted to conquer, a remote country, feels that he himself gains something from the rank, which this country occupies in the scale of nations. Hence it arose that the illustrious kaleigh tells us, the elixir of life is found upon the continent of America ; and Ctesias hat there are fountains of liquid gold in India. Or if such persons really conceive that solid advantages must accrue to their country, from the interconimunity between their discovery or con quest, and their own nation, being encreased, they esteem their own exaggeratiuns a kind of holy lie which the expediency of the case may warrant. Added to this, there is a feeling of superiority in seeing others blindly admit what we know to be false, which is the source of much spurious intelligence from distant lands. Since then it is from persons thus situated that our first impressions concerning Hindustan were principally derived, we are certainly at liberty to look that evidence in the face which we have received. There are two circumstances of a less general. nature than these that should be specified, and have a similar bearing on our argument. The first is grounded on the peculiar history of Hindustan, and the next upon a peculiarity of philosophic opinion, which has for some time prevailed. The Hindus, it is to be considered, are anjinjured people. Their country,


near a century, has been made a stage, upon which the Western nations have disputed for the empire of the world ; their population has been drain d'to fill the ranks of the contending parties ; and whoever has conquered, the Indians have bled. These wrongs have ac, tually given them an interest in the eyes of those who have not immediate ly profited from the spoils ; and those who pitied them have justified their commiseration by elevating the objects of it. Their cause has moreover been pleaded before a most august assembly, and by the first orátors of the age. It was the business of these men to take the ground of argument most favorable to the Hindu character, and in the moment of enthusiasm they have sometimes gone beyond the truth. The influence of such pleadings has naturally been felt throughout Europe, and has done much to give the Hindus a higher place in the gereral opinion, than they deserve. The second specific cause at which we hinted, a peculiarity in the opinions of the tiines, is indebted for its celebrity to the school of Geneva. It is that of degrading the virtues of civilized society, or allowing nothing to be good which is not barbarous. The result of this notion is a profuse and universal panegyric upon every people who are without the confinement of cloathing and beyond the grasp of law. India, perhaps, did not quite de serve the homage of these modern -philosophers, and she will be little thankful for it. She has however been placed in the singular situation of receiving, as in the two cases specified, the pity of the good for her imaginary virtues, and the applause of the bad for the supposed barbarism,"

p. 13.

Our author advances, successively, against the Hindoes, the charges of treachery, indolence, and cruelty ; and amply establisbes them by an accumulation of the host precise and striking testimonies from Halled, Holwell, Verelst, Orme, Scrafton, Nieucamp, Tennant, Lord Teignmouth, and the Baptist nuissionaries, Some of these testimonies having been given very many years since, it is wonderful that the delusion respecting the Hindoo character should have been so extensive, and lasted so long. Several of the charges are sustained by citations from the laws of the Hindoos, as exhibited in Halbed's Code, and from some of their sacred books; as for instance, under the charge of indolence, this sentence is brought from the Geeta; “Man's wisdom is confirmed when, like the tortoise, he can draw in all his members, and restrain them from their wonted purposes.” As the accusation least to be expected, against a people so long celebrated for mildness and humanity, was that of cruelty, this accusation is substantiated at considerable length by direct testimony from the most decisive authorities, corroborated by references to the religious ceremonies, the laws, and the customs, of the Hindoos. The summary judgement on their moral character is justly given in the following passage.

• In suniming up our evidence, it may be observed that freachery and indolence furnish the decisive traits by which an Indian may be recognized, whilst his cruelty often takes a more terrible aspect than that of any other people. It

may also be remarked, that these master passions, as they subdue every thing else, so sometimes they mitigate each other. In some cases the excessive apathy of these people bids them prefer inaction to treachery or revenge. In others, the vindictive spirit renders then too furious to sluniber, and too incautious to deceive. In almost every case, when they do act, or where they would revenge, they einploy the weapon of treachery. They are sedately cruel

, mischievously idle, and scientifically perfidious. Such a mixture of vices will not surprize those who have any acquaintance with the constitution of man. They will remember that disease also has its moments of vigour, and that the mind which generally does nothing, most frequently displays its temporary energy in doing wrong. They will consider also, that as harmonious arrangement is one of the qualities of a perfect mind, so it is the property of a bad one to reconcile discordances.'

A few pages are employed in proving that the character of the Mahometans in India contains about tlie same quantity of depravity, with a slight difference of modification. Perfidy anal sensuality, accompanied by an habitual promptitude 10 niurder, are assigned as the distinguishing qualities, hy Mr. Scraften, in a most pointed and odious description which he has given of that character.

Our author next reviews the civil and political institutions of Hindostan, illustrating their bad principles and pernicious ope. ration. After noticing that despotism, in its most unqualified and unlimited form, is guarded by a peculiar and transcendant sanction in the Hindoo institutions, -a circumstance that sufficiently béspeaks their origin,-he proceeds to the consideration of polygamy, slavery, and the castes. This last execrable in

p. 43.

stitution is examined at great length, and with admirable discrimination and force of reasoning, aided by a knowledge of the most important principles of political economy. And it is impossible, in reasing these pages, to help wondering how any philosopher, or professed Christian, or even civilized man, can ever have been found to attempt a justification of such an enormous violation of the laws of nature, morality, and policy, or even to employ, like Dr Robertson, a language of reluctance and hesitation in reprobating it. This able disquisition is followed by a short notice of the universal systematic corruption in the Hindoo and Mahometan administration of justice, of the trial by ordeal, of the infanticide, of the legal sanction (under the form of regulation) of robbery, and of some other among the inany iniquitous and debasing institutions of a people which seems to have been, beyond all others, the sport of the genius of evil..

The examination is carried forward from the civil institutions to the religion of the Hindoos, of which the depraved practices and pernicious appointments thus far enumerated are to be considered partly as effects, and partly as portions ; very much as portions, for that superstition far surpasses all others in comprehensiveness, extending its monopoly of sanction and prohibition, as appears in the Institutes of Menu, to every arrangement in the social economy, and to the most triffiirg actions of life. A Hindoo, if competently read in the prescriptions of his own system, could not so much as eat a spoonful of rice but under the check of perhaps dozens of religious regulations. Those of the people, who are the most faithful to the superstitio.), owe it to their extreme ignorance of the astonishing extent and minuteness of its appointments, that they are not ac'tially starved to death in the prison of their own consciences, It may well be supposed, that the more important concerns would not escape the religious regulation of lawgivers, who could find in the smallest natters so much that could be tursed to the account of despots, priests, and wooden or demon gods.

From the pernicious institutions and usages being thus all set in the ground-work of the superstition, Mr. C. justy argues that no expedient short of the introduction of a new religion can inuch avail, even toward the civilization, not to mention the highest moral interests, of India.

• Justice and benevolence in this case demand of us the use of every mean for the subversion, not only of existing institutions, but of the moral system in which they originate. In such an attempt, it would be wild to oppose acts to principles, and to aim at changing the heart by municipal regulations. But if we had no moral object, and proposed to let the virtue of the people shift for itself provided we could not reform their manners, we niust come to the same conclusion. Corrupt måpners indicate a diseased habit. Any attempt therefore to change them, may drive in the

« AnteriorContinuar »