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RULERS OF INDIA
CLIVE · HASTINGS · MUNRO · MALCOLM
ELPHINSTONE · METCALFE
THOMASON · COLVIN
G. D. OSWELL
THE NEW YORK
ASTOR, LENOX AND
HENRY FROWDE, M.A. PUBLISHER TO THE UNIVERSITY OF OXFORD
In that memorable Apologia for his seven years' administration of India which the late Viceroy of India, Lord Curzon, delivered at a farewell banquet given in his honour at Bombay on the eve of his embarkation for England, occurs this noble utterance: ‘A hundred times have I said to myself that to every Englishman in this country as he ends his work might be truthfully applied the phrase : “ Thou hast loved righteousness and hated iniquity.” No man has, I believe, ever served India faithfully of whom that could not be said. All other triumphs are tinsel and sham. Perhaps there are few of us who make anything but a poor approximation to that ideal. But let it be our ideal all the same, to fight for the right, to abhor the imperfect, the unjust, or the mean, to swerve neither to the right hand nor to the left, to care nothing for flattery, or applause, or odium, or abuse—it is so easy to have any of them in India-never to let your enthusiasm be soured, or your courage grow dim, but to remember that the Almighty has placed your hand on the greatest of His ploughs, in whose furrow the Nations of the future are germinating and taking shape, to drive the blade a little forward in your time, and to feel that somewhere among these millions you have left a little justice, or happiness, or prosperity, a sense of manliness or moral dignity, a spring of patriotism, the dawn of intellectual enlightenment, or a stirring of duty where it did not before exist. That is enough. That is the Englishman's justification in India. It is good enough for his watchword while he is here, for his epitaph when he is gone. I have worked for
ds over helations ofcontiner
no other aim. Let India be my judge. As one who has himself felt the impress of a great personality, and the stimulus of an ardent enthusiasm, I only voice the opinion of those conversant with the work that the author of these words accomplished in India, when I say that, so far as he himself is concerned, they convey the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. And as they are true of him, so will they be found to be equally true of all those servants of the Empire who have possessed the same inspiring energy, the same high ideals, and the same enduring enthusiasm, and of none will they be found to be more true than of those men whose lives and characters are briefly portrayed in the following pages.
The period covered by the careers of these eight early administrators is one of the most remarkable and the most interesting periods of the history of the British connexion with India. It extends over exactly one hundred years, from the laying of the first foundations of British supremacy in one remote corner of the Indian Continent, onwards throughout its gradual expansion, till it spread practically over the whole country, and down to the determined attempt that was made at the end of that period to overthrow it.
The special interest of these biographical studies will be found to be in the fact that the men therein portrayed were some of the principal actors in the great scenes that were enacted during the progress of the great drama. Though they were all in the position of public servants, the two first in the series, Clive and Warren Hastings, being the most faithful servants of the Company, and the others the agents of the Company's representatives, the remarkable feature about them all was that they were no mere puppets controlled by wire-pullers, but were all conspicuous for an independence of character which enabled them, not once or twice only, but on many occasions, to take the initiative, when the great interests
entrusted to them seemed to demand that such initiative should be taken : and they were usually able to command the assent of their chiefs; and even where that assent was not forthcoming, 'Time, the great wonder-worker,' more often than not confirmed the wisdom of their action, so that, when, as not unfrequently happened, orders arrived disallowing particular action, they could often point triumphantly to the accomplished fact. But their thus taking the initiative into their own hands did not by any means imply a spirit of insubordination : they never deliberately set up their own judgement as superior to that of their chiefs. On the contrary, there were occasions when, even though they may not have approved of the particular policy enjoined on them, they loyally co-operated in carrying it out. Thus they proved their possession of the most valuable qualities that public servants can possess, initiative combined with a proper sense of duty and responsibility to their chiefs.
These men represented both the Civil and Military Services, and another remarkable feature about them was that they one and all rose from the lowest grades of those services to the highest office they could command. They all rose to be Governors of Provinces : and two indeed to the rank, in one case substantive, in another provisional and acting, of Governor-General; and this without patronage and without undue favouritism. Sir John Kaye has remarked of those officers whose lives he has recorded in his most interesting and instructive work, Lives of Indian Officers : 'Self-reliance and self-help made them what they were. The nepotism of the Court of Directors did not pass beyond the portico of the India House. In India every man had a fair start and an open course. The son of the Chairman had no better chance than the son of the Scotch farmer or the Irish squire.' These words are especially true of the men who are dealt with in these pages.