Political and Literary essays, 1908-1913
by Evelyn Baring
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I have to thank the editors of The Edinburgh and Quarterly Reviews, The Nineteenth Century and After, and The Spectator for allowing the republication of these essays, all of which appeared originally in their respective columns.

No important alterations or additions have been made, but I should like to observe, as regards the first essay of the series—on "The Government of Subject Races"—that, although only six years have elapsed since it was written, events in India have moved rapidly during that short period. I adhere to the opinions expressed in that essay so far as they go, but it will be obvious to any one who has paid attention to Indian affairs that, if the subject had to be treated now, many very important issues, to which I have not alluded, would have to be imported into the discussion.


September 30, 1913.














"The Edinburgh Review," January 1908

The "courtly Claudian," as Mr. Hodgkin, in his admirable and instructive work, calls the poet of the Roman decadence, concluded some lines which have often been quoted as applicable to the British Empire, with the dogmatic assertion that no limit could be assigned to the duration of Roman sway. Nec terminus unquam Romanae ditionis erit. At the time this hazardous prophecy was made, the huge overgrown Roman Empire was tottering to its fall. Does a similar fate await the British Empire? Are we so far self-deceived, and are we so incapable of peering into the future as to be unable to see that many of the steps which now appear calculated to enhance and to stereotype Anglo-Saxon domination, are but the precursors of a period of national decay and senility?

A thorough examination of this vital question would necessarily involve the treatment of a great variety of subjects. The heart of the British Empire is to be found in Great Britain. It is not proposed in this place to deal either with the working of British political institutions, or with the various important social and economic problems which the actual condition of England presents, but only with the extremities of the body politic, and more especially with those where the inhabitants of the countries under British rule are not of Anglo-Saxon origin.

What should be the profession of faith of a sound but reasonable Imperialist? He will not be possessed with any secret desire to see the whole of Africa or of Asia painted red on the maps. He will entertain not only a moral dislike, but also a political mistrust of that excessive earth-hunger, which views with jealous eyes the extension of other and neighbouring European nations. He will have no fear of competition. He will believe that, in the treatment of subject races, the methods of government practised by England, though sometimes open to legitimate criticism, are superior, morally and economically, to those of any other foreign nation; and that, strong in the possession and maintenance of those methods, we shall be able to hold our own against all competitors.

On the other hand, he will have no sympathy with those who, as Lord Cromer said in a recent speech, "are so fearful of Imperial greatness that they are unwilling that we should accomplish our manifest destiny, and who would thus have us sink into political insignificance by refusing the main title which makes us great."

An Imperial policy must, of course, be carried out with reasonable prudence, and the principles of government which guide our relations with whatsoever races are brought under our control must be politically and economically sound and morally defensible. This is, in fact, the keystone of the Imperial arch. The main justification of Imperialism is to be found in the use which is made of the Imperial power. If we make a good use of our power, we may face the future without fear that we shall be overtaken by the Nemesis which attended Roman misrule. If the reverse is the case, the British Empire will deserve to fall, and of a surety it will ultimately fall. There is truth in the saying, of which perhaps we sometimes hear rather too much, that the maintenance of the Empire depends on the sword; but so little does it depend on the sword alone that if once we have to draw the sword, not merely to suppress some local effervescence, but to overcome a general upheaval of subject races goaded to action either by deliberate oppression, which is highly improbable, or by unintentional misgovernment, which is far more conceivable, the sword will assuredly be powerless to defend us for long, and the days of our Imperial rule will be numbered.

To those who believe that when they rest from their earthly labours their works will follow them, and that they must account to a Higher Tribunal for the use or misuse of any powers which may have been entrusted to them in this world, no further defence of the plea that Imperialism should rest on a moral basis is required. Those who entertain no such belief may perhaps be convinced by the argument that, from a national point of view, a policy based on principles of sound morality is wiser, inasmuch as it is likely to be more successful, than one which excludes all considerations save those of cynical self-interest. There was truth in the commonplace remark made by a subject of ancient Rome, himself a slave and presumably of Oriental extraction, that bad government will bring the mightiest empire to ruin.[2]

Some advantage may perhaps be derived from inquiring, however briefly and imperfectly, into the causes which led to the ruin of that political edifice, which in point of grandeur and extent, is alone worthy of comparison with the British Empire. The subject has been treated by many of the most able writers and thinkers whom the world has produced—Gibbon, Guizot, Mommsen, Milman, Seeley, and others. For present purposes the classification given by Mr. Hodgkin of the causes which led to the downfall of the Western Empire has been adopted. They were six in number, viz.:

1. The foundation of Constantinople.

2. Christianity.

3. Slavery.

4. The pauperisation of the Roman proletariat.

5. The destruction of the middle class by the fiscal oppression of the Curiales.

6. Barbarous finance.

1. The Foundation of Constantinople.—It is, for obvious reasons, unnecessary to discuss this cause. It was one of special application to the circumstances of the time, notably to the threatening attitude towards Rome assumed by the now decadent State of Persia.

2. Christianity.—That the foundation of Christianity exercised a profoundly disintegrating effect on the Roman Empire is unquestionable. Gibbon, although he possibly confounds the tenets of the new creed with the defects of its hierarchy, dwells with characteristic emphasis on this congenial subject.[3] Mr. Hodgkin, speaking of the analogy between the British present and the Roman past, says:

The Christian religion is with us no explosive force threatening the disruption of our most cherished institutions. On the contrary, it has been said, not as a mere figure of speech, that "Christianity is part of the common law of England." And even the bitterest enemies of our religion will scarcely deny that, upon the whole, a nation imbued with the teaching of the New Testament is more easy to govern than one which derived its notions of divine morality from the stories of the dwellers on Olympus.

From the special point of view now under consideration, the case for Christianity admits of being even more strongly stated than this, for no attempt will be made to deal with the principles which should guide the government of a people imbued with the teaching of the New Testament, but rather with the subordinate, but still highly important question of the treatment which a people, presumed to be already imbued with that teaching, should accord to subject races who are ignorant or irreceptive of its precepts. From this point of view it may be said that Christianity, far from being an explosive force, is not merely a powerful ally. It is an ally without whose assistance continued success is unattainable. Although dictates of worldly prudence and opportunism are alone sufficient to ensure the rejection of a policy of official proselytism, it is none the less true that the code of Christian morality is the only sure foundation on which the whole of our vast Imperial fabric can be built if it is to be durable. The stability of our rule depends to a great extent upon whether the forces acting in favour of applying the Christian code of morality to subject races are capable of overcoming those moving in a somewhat opposite direction. We are inclined to think that our Teutonic veracity and gravity, our national conscientiousness, our British spirit of fair play, to use the cant phrase of the day, our free institutions, and our press—which, although it occasionally shows unpleasant symptoms of sinking beneath the yoke of special and not highly reputable interests, is still greatly superior in tone to that of any other nation—are sufficient guarantees against relapse into the morass of political immorality which characterised the relations between nation and nation, and notably between the strong and the weak, even so late as the eighteenth century.[4] It is to be hoped and believed that, for the time being, this contention is well founded, but what assurance is there—if the Book which embodies the code of Christian morality may without irreverence be quoted—that "that which is done is that which shall be done"?[5] That is the crucial question.

There appear to be at present existent in England two different Imperial schools of thought, which, without being absolutely antagonistic, represent very opposite principles. One school, which, for want of a better name, may be styled that of philanthropy, is occasionally tainted with the zeal which outruns discretion, and with the want of accuracy which often characterises those whose emotions predominate over their reason. The violence and want of mental equilibrium at times displayed by the partisans of this school of thought not infrequently give rise to misgivings lest the Duke of Wellington should have prophesied truly when he said, "If you lose India, the House of Commons will lose it for you."[6] These manifest defects should not, however, blind us to the fact that the philanthropists and sentimentalists are deeply imbued with the grave national responsibilities which devolve on England, and with the lofty aspirations which attach themselves to her civilising and moralising mission.

The other is the commercial school. Pitt once said that "British policy is British trade." The general correctness of this aphorism cannot be challenged, but, like most aphorisms, it only conveys a portion of the truth; for the commercial spirit, though eminently beneficent when under some degree of moral control, may become not merely hurtful, but even subversive of Imperial dominion, when it is allowed to run riot. Livingstone said that in five hundred years the only thing the natives of Africa had learnt from the Portuguese was to distil bad spirits with the help of an old gun barrel. This is, without doubt, an extreme case—so extreme, indeed, that even the hardened conscience of diplomatic Europe was eventually shamed into taking some half-hearted action in the direction of preventing a whole continent from being demoralised in order that the distillers and vendors of cheap spirits might realise large profits. But it would not be difficult to cite other analogous, though less striking, instances. Occasions are, indeed, not infrequent when the interests of commerce apparently clash with those of good government. The word "apparently" is used with intent; for though some few individuals may acquire a temporary benefit by sacrificing moral principle on the altar of pecuniary gain, it may confidently be stated that, in respect to the wider and more lasting benefits of trade, no real antagonism exists between commercial self-interest and public morality.[7]

To be more explicit, what is meant when it is said that the commercial spirit should be under some control is this—that in dealing with Indians or Egyptians, or Shilluks, or Zulus, the first question is to consider what course is most conducive to Indian, Egyptian, Shilluk, or Zulu interests. We need not always inquire too closely what these people, who are all, nationally speaking, more or less in statu pupillari, themselves think is best in their own interests, although this is a point which deserves serious consideration. But it is essential that each special issue should be decided mainly with reference to what, by the light of Western knowledge and experience tempered by local considerations, we conscientiously think is best for the subject race, without reference to any real or supposed advantage which may accrue to England as a nation, or—as is more frequently the case—to the special interests represented by some one or more influential classes of Englishmen. If the British nation as a whole persistently bears this principle in mind, and insists sternly on its application, though we can never create a patriotism akin to that based on affinity of race or community of language, we may perhaps foster some sort of cosmopolitan allegiance grounded on the respect always accorded to superior talents and unselfish conduct, and on the gratitude derived both from favours conferred and from those to come.[8] There may then at all events be some hope that the Egyptian will hesitate before he throws in his lot with any future Arabi The Berberine dweller on the banks of the Nile may, perhaps, cast no wistful glances back to the time when, albeit he or his progenitors were oppressed, the oppression came from the hand of a co-religionist. Even the Central African savage may eventually learn to chant a hymn in honour of Astraea Redux, as represented by the British official who denies him gin but gives him justice. More than this, commerce will gain. It must necessarily follow in the train of civilisation, and, whilst it will speedily droop if that civilisation is spurious, it will, on the other hand, increase in volume in direct proportion to the extent to which the true principles of Western progress are assimilated by the subjects of the British king and the customers of the British trader. This latter must be taught patience at the hands, of the statesman and the moralist. It is a somewhat difficult lesson to learn. The trader not only wishes to acquire wealth; he not infrequently wishes that its acquisition should be rapid, even at the expense of morality and of the permanent interests of his country.

Nam dives qui fieri vult, Et cito vult fieri. Sed quae reverentia legum, Quis metus aut pudor est unquam properantis avari?[9]

This question demands consideration from another point of view. A clever Frenchman, keenly alive to what he thought was the decadence of his own nation, published a remarkable book in 1897. He practically admitted that the Anglophobia so common on the continent of Europe is the outcome of jealousy.[10] He acknowledged the proved superiority of the Anglo-Saxon over the Latin races, and he set himself to examine the causes of that superiority. The general conclusion at which he arrived was that the strength of the Anglo-Saxon race lay in the fact that its society, its government, and its habits of thought were eminently "particularist," as opposed to the "communitarian" principles prevalent on the continent of Europe. He was probably quite right. It has, indeed, become a commonplace of English political thought that for centuries past, from the days of Raleigh to those of Rhodes, the position of England in the world has been due more to the exertions, to the resources, and occasionally, perhaps, to the absence of scruple found in the individual Anglo-Saxon, than to any encouragement or help derived from British Governments, whether of the Elizabethan, Georgian, or Victorian type. The principle of relying largely on individual effort has, in truth, produced marvellous results. It is singularly suited to develop some of the best qualities of the vigorous, self-assertive Anglo-Saxon race. It is to be hoped that self-help may long continue to be our national watchword.

It is now somewhat the fashion to regard as benighted the school of thought which was founded two hundred years ago by Du Quesnay and the French Physiocrates, which reached its zenith in the person of Adam Smith, and whose influence rapidly declined in England after the great battle of Free Trade had been fought and won. But whatever may have been the faults of that school, and however little its philosophy is capable of affording an answer to many of the complex questions which modern government and society present, it laid fast hold of one unquestionably sound principle. It entertained a deep mistrust of Government interference in the social and economic relations of life. Moreover, it saw, long before the fact became apparent to the rest of the world, that, in spite not only of some outward dissimilarities of methods but even of an instinctive mutual repulsion, despotic bureaucracy was the natural ally of those communistic principles which the economists deemed it their main business in life to combat and condemn. Many regard with some disquietude the frequent concessions which have of late years been made in England to demands for State interference. Nevertheless, it is to be hoped that the main principle advocated by the economists still holds the field, that individualism is not being crushed out of existence, and that the majority of our countrymen still believe that State interference—being an evil, although sometimes admittedly a necessary evil—should be jealously watched and restricted to the minimum amount absolutely necessary in each special case.

Attention is drawn to this point in order to show that the observations which follow are in no degree based on any general desire to exalt the power of the State at the expense of the individual.

Our habits of thought, our past history, and our national character all, therefore, point in the direction of allowing individualism as wide a scope as possible in the work of national expansion. Hence the career of the East India Company and the tendency displayed more recently in Africa to govern through the agency of private companies. On the other hand, it is greatly to be doubted whether the principles, which a wise policy would dictate in the treatment of subject races, will receive their application to so full an extent at the hands of private individuals as would be the case at the hands of the State. The guarantee for good government is even less solid where power is entrusted to a corporate body, for, as Turgot once said, "La morale des corps les plus scrupuleux ne vaut jamais celle des particuliers honnetes."[11] In both cases, public opinion is relatively impotent. In the case of direct Government action, on the other hand, the views of those who wish to uphold a high standard of public morality can find expression in Parliament, and the latter can, if it chooses, oblige the Government to control its agents and call them to account for unjust, unwise, or overbearing conduct. More than this, State officials, having no interests to serve but those of good government, are more likely to pay regard to the welfare of the subject race than commercial agents, who must necessarily be hampered in their action by the pecuniary interests of their employers.

Our national policy must, of course, be what would be called in statics the resultant of the various currents of opinion represented in our national society. Whether Imperialism will continue to rest on a sound basis depends, therefore, to no small extent, on the degree to which the moralising elements in the nation can, without injury to all that is sound and healthy in individualist action, control those defects which may not improbably spring out of the egotism of the commercial spirit, if it be subject to no effective check.[12]

If this problem can be satisfactorily solved, then Christianity, far from being a disruptive force, as was the case with Rome, will prove one of the strongest elements of Imperial cohesion.

3. Slavery.—It is not necessary to discuss this question, for there can be no doubt that, in so far as his connexion with subject races is concerned, the Anglo-Saxon in modern times comes, not to enslave, but to liberate from slavery. The fact that he does so is, indeed, one of his best title-deeds to Imperial dominion.

4. The Pauperisation of the Roman Proletariat.—This is the Panem et Circenses policy. Mr. Hodgkin appears to think that in this direction lies the main danger which threatens the British Empire.

"Of all the forces," he says, "which were at work for the destruction of the prosperity of the Roman world, none is more deserving of the careful study of an English statesman than the grain-largesses to the populace of Rome.... Will the great Democracies of the twentieth century resist the temptation to use political power as a means of material self-enrichment?"

Possibly Mr. Hodgkin is right. The manner in which the leaders of the Paris Commune dealt with the rights of property during their disastrous, but fortunately very brief, period of office in 1871, serves as a warning of what, in an extreme case, may be expected of despotic democracy in its most aggravated form. Moreover, misgovernment, and the fiscal oppression which is the almost necessary accompaniment of militarism dominant over a poverty-stricken population, have latterly developed on the continent of Europe, and more especially in Italy, a school of action—for anarchism can scarcely be dignified by the name of a school of thought—which regards human life as scarcely more sacred than property. It may be that some lower depth has yet to be reached, although it is almost inconceivable that such should be the case. Anarchy takes us past the stage of any defined political or social programme. It would appear, so far as can at present be judged, to embody the last despairing cry of ultra-democracy "Furens."

It is permissible to hope that our national sobriety, coupled with the inherited traditions derived from centuries of free government, will save us from such extreme manifestations of democratic tyranny as those to which allusion has been made above. The special danger in England would appear rather to arise from the probability of gradual dry rot, due to prolonged offence against the infallible and relentless laws of economic science. Both British employers of labour and British workmen are insular in their habits of thought, and insular in the range of their acquired knowledge. They do not appear as yet to be thoroughly alive to the new position created for British trade by foreign competition. It is greatly to be hoped that they will awake to the realities of the situation before any permanent harm is done to British trade, for the loss of trade involves as its ultimate result the pauperisation of the proletariat, the adoption of reckless expedients based on the Panem et Circenses policy to fill the mouths and quell the voices of the multitude, and finally the suicide of that Empire which is the offspring of trade, and which can only continue to exist so long as its parent continues to thrive and to flourish.

5. The Destruction of the Middle Class by the Fiscal Oppression of the Curiales.—Leaving aside points of detail, which were only of special application to the circumstances of the time, this cause of Roman decay may, for all purposes of comparison and instruction, be stated in the following terms: funds, which should have been spent by the municipalities on local objects, were, from about the close of the third century, diverted to the Imperial Exchequer, by which they were not infrequently squandered in such a manner as to confer no benefit of any kind on the taxpayers, whether local or Imperial. Thus, the system of local self-government, which, Mr. Hodgkin says, was, during the early centuries of the Empire, "both in name and fact Republican," was shattered.

It does not appear probable that an attempt will ever be made to divert the public revenues of the outlying dependencies of Great Britain to the Imperial Exchequer. The lesson taught by the loss of the American Colonies has sunk deeply into the public mind. Moreover, the example of Spain stands as a warning to all the world. The principle that local revenues should be expended locally has become part of the political creed of Englishmen; neither is it at all likely to be infringed, even in respect to those dependencies whose rights and privileges are not safeguarded by self-governing institutions.

There may, however, be some little danger ahead in a sense exactly opposite to that which was incurred by Rome—the danger, that is to say, that, under the pressure of Imperialism, backed by influential class and personal interests, too large an amount of the Imperial revenue may be diverted to the outlying dependencies. If this were done, two evils might not improbably ensue.

In the first place, the British democracy might become restive under taxation imposed for objects the utility of which would not perhaps be fully appreciated, and might therefore be disposed to cast off too hastily the mantle of Imperialism. It is but a short time ago that an influential school of politicians persistently dwelt on the theme that the colonies were a burthen to the Mother Country. Although, for the time being, views of this sort are out of fashion, no assurance can be felt that the swing of the pendulum may not bring round another anti-Imperialist phase of public opinion.

In the second place, if financial aid to any considerable extent were afforded by the British Treasury to the outlying dependencies, a serious risk would be run that this concession would be followed at no distant period by a plea in favour of financial control from England. The establishment of this latter principle would strike a blow at one of the main props on which our Imperial fabric is based. It would tend to substitute a centralised, in the place of our present decentralised system. Those who are immediately responsible for the administration of our outlying dependencies will, therefore, act wisely if they abstain from asking too readily for Imperial pecuniary aid in order to solve local difficulties.

These considerations naturally lead to some reflections on the principles of government adopted in those dependencies of the Empire, the inhabitants of which are not of the Anglo-Saxon race. Colonies whose inhabitants are mainly of British origin stand, of course, on a wholly different footing. They carry their Anglo-Saxon institutions and habits of thought with them to their distant homes.

Englishmen are less imitative than most Europeans in this sense—that they are less disposed to apply the administrative and political systems of their own country to the government of backward populations; but in spite of their relatively high degree of political elasticity, they cannot shake themselves altogether free from political conventionalities. Moreover, the experienced minority is constantly being pressed by the inexperienced majority in the direction of imitation. Knowing the somewhat excessive degree of adulation which some sections of the British public are disposed to pay to their special idol, Lord Dufferin, in 1883, was almost apologetic to his countrymen for abstaining from an act of political folly. He pleaded strenuously for delay in the introduction of parliamentary institutions into Egypt, on the ground that our attempts "to mitigate predominant absolutism" in India had been slow, hesitating, and tentative. He brought poetic metaphor to his aid. He deprecated paying too much attention to the "murmuring leaves," in other words, imagining that the establishment of a Chamber of Notables implied constitutional freedom, and he exhorted his countrymen "to seek for the roots," that is to say, to allow each Egyptian village to elect its own mayor (Sheikh).

It cannot be too clearly understood that whether we deal with the roots, or the trunk, or the branches, or the leaves, free institutions in the full sense of the term must for generations to come be wholly unsuitable to countries such as India and Egypt. If the use of a metaphor, though of a less polished type, be allowed, it may be said that it will probably never be possible to make a Western silk purse out of an Eastern sow's ear; at all events, if the impossibility of the task be called in question, it should be recognised that the process of manufacture will be extremely lengthy and tedious.

But it is often urged that, although no rational person would wish to advocate the premature creation of ultra-liberal institutions in backward countries, at the same time that for several reasons it is desirable to move gradually in this direction. The adoption of this method is, it is said, the only way to remedy the evils attendant on a system of personal government in an extreme form; it enables us to learn the views of the natives of the country, even although we may not accord to the latter full power of deciding whether or not those views should be put in practice; lastly, it constitutes a means of political education, through the agency of which the subject race will gradually acquire the qualities necessary to autonomy.

The force of these arguments cannot be denied, but there should be no delusion as to the weight which should be attached to them. It has been very truly remarked by a writer, who has dealt with the idiosyncrasies of a singularly versatile nation, whose genius presented in every respect a marked contrast to that of Eastern races, that from the dawn of history Eastern politics have been "stricken with a fatal simplicity."[13] Do not let us for one moment imagine that the fatally simple idea of despotic rule will readily give way to the far more complex conception of ordered liberty. The transformation, if it ever takes place at all, will probably be the work, not of generations, but of centuries.

So limited is the stock of political ideas in the world that some modified copy of parliamentary institutions is, without doubt, the only method which has yet been invented for mitigating the evils attendant on the personal system of government. But it is a method which is thoroughly uncongenial to Oriental habits of thought. It may be doubted whether, by the adoption of this exotic system, we gain any real insight into native aspirations and opinions. As to the educational process, the experience of India is not very encouraging. The good government of most Indian towns depends to this day mainly, not on the Municipal Commissioners, who are generally natives, but on the influence of the President, who is usually an Englishman.

A further consideration in connection with this point is also of some importance. It is that British officials in Eastern countries should be encouraged by all possible means to learn the views and the requirements of the native population. The establishment of mock parliaments tends rather in the opposite direction, for the official on the spot sees through the mockery and is not infrequently disposed to abandon any attempt to ascertain real native opinion, through disgust at the unreality, crudity, or folly of the views set forth by the putative representatives of native society.

For these reasons it is important that, in our well-intentioned endeavours to impregnate the Oriental mind with our insular habits of thought, we should proceed with the utmost caution, and that we should remember that our primary duty is, not to introduce a system which, under the specious cloak of free institutions, will enable a small minority of natives to misgovern their countrymen, but to establish one which will enable the mass of the population to be governed according to the code of Christian morality. A freely elected Egyptian Parliament, supposing such a thing to be possible, would not improbably legislate for the protection of the slave-owner, if not the slave-dealer, and no assurance can be felt that the electors of Rajputana, if they had their own way, would not re-establish suttee. Good government has the merit of presenting a more or less attainable ideal. Before Orientals can attain anything approaching to the British ideal of self-government they will have to undergo very numerous transmigrations of political thought.

The question of local self-government may be considered from another, and almost equally important point of view.

When writers such as M. Demolins speak of the "particularist" system of England and of the "communitarian" system prevalent on the continent of Europe, they generally mean to contrast the British plan of acting through the agency of private individuals with the Continental practice of relying almost entirely on the action of the State. This is the primary and perhaps the most important signification of the two phrases, but the principles which these phrases are intended to represent admit of another application.

It is difficult for those Englishmen who have not been brought into business relations with Continental officials to realise the extreme centralisation of their administrative and diplomatic procedures. The tendency of every French central authority is to allow no discretionary power whatever to his subordinate. He wishes, often from a distance, to control every detail of the administration. The tendency of the subordinate, on the other hand, is to lean in everything on superior authority. He does not dare to take any personal responsibility; indeed, it is possible to go further and say that the corroding action of bureaucracy renders those who live under its baneful shadow almost incapable of assuming responsibility. By force of habit and training it has become irksome to them. They fly for refuge to a superior official, who, in his turn, if the case at all admits of the adoption of such a course, hastens to merge his individuality in the voluminous pages of a code or a Government circular.

The British official, on the other hand, whether in England or abroad, is an Englishman first and an official afterwards. He possesses his full share of national characteristics. He is by inheritance an individualist. He lives in a society which, so far from being, as is the case on the Continent, saturated with respect for officialism, is somewhat prone to regard officialism and incompetency as synonymous terms. By such association, any bureaucratic tendency which may exist on the part of the British official is kept in check, whilst his individualism is subjected to a sustained and healthy course of tonic treatment.

Thus, the British system breeds a race of officials who relatively to those holding analogous posts on the Continent, are disposed to exercise their central authority in a manner sympathetic to individualism; who, if they are inclined to err in the sense of over-centralisation, are often held in check by statesmen imbued with the decentralising spirit; and who, under these influences, are inclined to accord to local agents a far wider latitude than those trained in the Continental school of bureaucracy would consider either safe or desirable.

On the other hand, looking to the position and attributes of the local agents themselves, it is singular to observe how the habit of assuming responsibility, coupled with national predispositions acting in the same direction, generates and fosters a capacity for the beneficial exercise of power. This feature is not merely noticeable in comparing British with Continental officials, but also in contrasting various classes of Englishmen inter se. The most highly centralised of all our English offices is the War Office. For this reason, and also because a military life necessarily and rightly engenders a habit of implicit obedience to orders, soldiers are generally less disposed than civilians to assume personal responsibility and to act on their own initiative. Nevertheless, whether in military or civil life, it may be said that the spirit of decentralisation pervades the whole British administrative system, and that it has given birth to a class of officials who have both the desire and the capacity to govern, who constitute what Bacon called[14] the Participes curarum, namely, "those upon whom Princes doe discharge the greatest weight of their affaires," and who are instruments of incomparable value in the execution of a policy of Imperialism.

The method of exercising the central control under the British system calls for some further remarks. It varies greatly in different localities.

Under the Indian system a council of experts is attached to the Secretary of State in England. A good authority on this subject says[15] that there can be no question of the advantage of this system.

No man, however experienced and laborious, could properly direct and control the various interests of so vast an Empire, unless he were aided by men with knowledge of different parts of the country, and possessing an intimate acquaintance with the different and complicated subjects involved in the government and welfare of so many incongruous races.

On the assumption that India is to be governed from London, there can be no doubt of the validity of this argument. But, as has been frequently pointed out,[16] this system tends inevitably towards over-centralisation, and if the British Government is to continue to exercise a sort of [Greek: pantokratoria] to use an expressive Greek phrase, over a number of outlying dependencies of very various types, over-centralisation is a danger which should be carefully shunned. It is wiser to obtain local knowledge from those on the spot, rather than from those whose local experience must necessarily diminish in value in direct proportion to the length of the period during which they have been absent from the special locality, and who, moreover, are under a strong temptation, after they leave the dependency, to exercise a detailed control over their successors. It is greatly to be doubted, therefore, whether, should the occasion arise, this portion of the Indian system is deserving of reproduction.

There is, however, another portion of that system which is in every respect admirable, and the creation of which bears the impress of that keen political insight which, according to many Continental authorities, is the birthright of the Anglo-Saxon race. India is governed locally by a council composed mainly of officials who have passed their adult lives in the country; but the Viceroy, and occasionally the legal and financial members of Council, are sent from England and are usually chosen by reason of their general qualifications, rather than on account of any special knowledge of Indian affairs. This system avoids the dangers consequent on over-centralisation, whilst at the same time it associates with the administration of the country some individuals who are personally imbued with the general principles of government which are favoured by the central authority. Its tendency is to correct the defect from which the officials employed in the outlying portions of the Empire are most likely to suffer, namely, that of magnifying the importance of some local event or consideration, and of unduly neglecting arguments based on considerations of wider Imperial import. It enhances the idea of proportion, which is one of the main qualities necessary to any politician or governing body. Long attention to one subject, or group of subjects, is apt to narrow the vision of specialists. The adjunct of an element, which is not Anglo-Indian, to the Indian Government acts as a corrective to this evil. The members of the Government who are sent from England, if they have no local experience, are at all events exempt from local prejudices. They bring to bear on the questions which come before them a wide general knowledge and, in many cases, the liberal spirit and vigorous common sense which are acquired in the course of an English parliamentary career.

It may be added, as a matter of important detail, that it would be desirable, in order to give continuity to Indian policy, to select young men to fill the place of Viceroy, and to extend the period of office from five to seven, or even to ten years.

Although over-centralisation is to be avoided, a certain amount of control from a central authority is not only unavoidable; if properly exercised, it is most beneficial. One danger to which the local agent is exposed is that, being ill-informed of circumstances lying outside his range of political vision, he may lose sight of the general principles which guide the policy of the Empire; he may treat subjects of local interest in a manner calculated to damage, or even to jeopardise, Imperial interests. The central authority is in a position to obviate any danger arising from this cause. To ensure the harmonious working of the different parts of the machine, the central authority should endeavour, so far as is possible, to realise the circumstances attendant on the government of the dependency; whilst the local agent should be constantly on the watch lest he should overrate the importance of some local issue, or fail to appreciate fully the difficulties which beset the action of the central authority.

To sum up all that there is to be said on this branch of the subject, it may be hoped that the fate which befell Rome, in so far as it was due to the special causes of decay now under consideration, may be averted by close adherence to two important principles. The first of these principles is that local revenues should be expended locally. The second is that over-centralisation should above all things be avoided. This may be done either by the creation of self-governing institutions in those dependencies whose civilisation is sufficiently advanced to justify the adoption of this course; or by decentralising the executive Government in cases where self-government, in the ordinary acceptation of the term, is impossible or undesirable.

6. Barbarous Finance.—Mr. Hodgkin says that the system of Imperial taxation under the Roman Empire was "wasteful, oppressive, and in a word, barbarous." He gives, as an instance in point, the Roman Indiction. This was the name given to the system under which the taxable value of the land throughout the Empire was reassessed every fifteen years. At each reassessment, Mr. Hodgkin says, "the few who had prospered found themselves assessed on the higher value which their lands had acquired, while the many who were sinking down into poverty obtained, it is to be feared, but little relief from taxation on account of the higher rate which was charged to all."

It is somewhat unpleasant to reflect that the system which Mr. Hodgkin so strongly condemns, and which he even regards as one of the causes of the downfall of the Roman Empire, is—save in respect to the intervals of periodical reassessment—very similar to that which exists everywhere in India, except in the province of Bengal, where the rights conferred on the zemindars under Lord Cornwallis's Permanent Settlement are still respected in spite of occasional unwise suggestions that time and the fall in the value of the rupee have obliterated any moral obligations to maintain them. Nor are the results obtained in India altogether dissimilar from those observable under Roman rule. The knowledge that reassessment was imminent has, it is believed, often discouraged the outlay of private capital on improving the land. More than this, it is notorious that, at one time, some provinces suffered greatly from the mistakes made by the settlement officers. These latter were animated with the best intentions, but, in spite of their marked ability—for they were all specially selected men—they often found the task entrusted to them impossible of execution. Unfortunately political or administrative errors cannot be condoned by reason of good intentions. Like the Greeks of old, the natives of India suffer from the mistakes of their rulers.

The intentions of the British, as compared with the Roman Government are, however, noteworthy from one point of view, inasmuch as from a correct appreciation of those intentions it is possible to evolve a principle perhaps in some degree calculated to avert the consequences which befell Rome, partly by reason of fiscal errors.

In spite of some high-sounding commonplaces which were at times enunciated by Roman lawgivers and statesmen, and in which a ring of utilitarian philosophy is to be recognised,[17] and of the further fact that, as in the case of Verres, a check was sometimes applied to the excesses of local Governors, it is almost certainly true that the rulers of Rome did not habitually act on the recognition of any very strong moral obligation binding on the Imperial Government in its treatment of subject races. The merits of any fiscal system were probably judged mainly from the point of view of the amount of funds which it poured into the Treasury. The fiscal principles on which the Emperors of Rome acted survived long after the fall of the Roman Empire. They deserve the epithet of "barbarous" which Mr. Hodgkin has bestowed upon them.

The point of departure of the British Government is altogether different. Its intentions are admirable. Every farthing which has been spent—and, it may be feared, often wasted—on the numerous military expeditions in which the Government of India has been engaged during the last century would, in the eyes of many, certainly be considered as expenditure incurred on objects which were of paramount interest to the Indian taxpayers. Moreover, a whole category of British legislation connected with fiscal matters has been undertaken, not so much with a view to increase the revenue as with the object of distributing the burthen of taxation equally amongst the different classes of society. Much of this legislation has been perfectly justifiable and even beneficial. Nevertheless, it should never be forgotten that it is generally based on the purely Western principle that abstract justice is in itself a desirable thing to attain, and that a fiscal or administrative system stands condemned if it is wanting in symmetry. It was against any extreme application of this principle that Burke directed some of his most forcible diatribes.[18] It has been already pointed out that the commendable want of intellectual symmetry which is the inherited possession of the Englishman gives him a very great advantage as an Imperialist agent over those trained in the rigid and bureaucratic school of Continental Europe. But the Englishman is a Western, albeit an Anglo-Saxon Western, and, from the point of view of all processes of reasoning, the gulf which separates any one member of the European family from another is infinitely less wide than that which divides all Westerns from all Orientals. Even the Englishman, therefore, is constrained—sometimes much against his will—to bow down in that temple of Logic, the existence of which the Oriental is disposed altogether to ignore. Indeed, sometimes the choice lies between the enforcement on the reluctant Oriental of principles based on logic—occasionally on the very simple science of arithmetic—or abandoning the work of civilisation altogether. From this point of view, the dangers to which the British Empire is exposed by reason of fiscal measures are due not, as was the case with Rome, to barbarous, but rather to ultra-scientific finance. The following is a case in point.

The land-tax has always been the principal source from which Oriental potentates have derived their revenues. For all practical purposes it may be said that the system which they have adopted has generally been to take as much from the cultivators as they could get. Reformers, such as the Emperor Akbar, have at times endeavoured to introduce more enlightened methods of taxation, and to carry into practice the theories upon which the fiscal system in all Moslem countries is based. Those theories are by no means so objectionable as is often supposed. But the reforms which some few capable rulers attempted to introduce have almost always crumbled away under the regime of their successors.[19] In practice, the only limit to the demands of the ruler of an Oriental State has been the ability of the taxpayers to satisfy them.[20] The only defence of the taxpayers has lain in the concealment of their incomes at the risk of being tortured till they divulged their amount.

Nevertheless, even under such a system as this, the wind is tempered to the shorn lamb by the fact that Oriental rulers recognise that they cannot get money from a man who possesses none. If, from drought or other causes, the cultivator raises no crop, he is not required to pay any land-tax. The idea of expropriation for the non-payment of taxes is purely Western and modern. Under Roman law, it was the rule in contracts for rent that a tenant was not bound to pay if any vis major prevented him from reaping.

The European system is very different. A far less heavy demand is made on the cultivator, but he is, at all events in principle and sometimes in practice, called upon to meet it in good and bad years alike. He is expected to save in years of plenty in order to make good the deficit in lean years. If he is unable to pay, he is liable to be expropriated, and he often is expropriated. This plan is just, logical, and very Western. It may be questioned whether Oriental cultivators do not sometimes rather prefer the oppression and elasticity of the Eastern to the justice and rigidity of the Western system.

Various palliatives have been adopted in India with a view to giving some elasticity to the working of the Land Revenue system. In Egypt, where the administration is much less Anglicised than in India, and where, for various reasons, the treatment of this subject presents relatively fewer difficulties, it is the practice now, as was the case under purely native rule, to remit the taxes on what is known as Sharaki lands, that is to say, land which, owing to a low Nile, has not been irrigated. It is not, however, necessary to dwell on the details of this subject. It will be sufficient to draw attention to the different points of view from which the Eastern and the Western approach the subject of fiscal administration. The latter urges with unanswerable logic that financial equilibrium must be maintained, and that he cannot frame a trustworthy Budget unless he knows the amount he may count on receiving from direct taxes, especially from the land-tax. The Eastern replies that he knows nothing of either financial equilibrium or of budgets, that it has, indeed, from time immemorial been the custom to leave him nought but a bare pittance when he had money, but to refrain from any endeavours to extort money from him when he had none.

Another instance drawn, not from the practices of fiscal administration, but from legislation on a cognate subject, may be cited.

Directly Western civilisation comes in contact with a backward Oriental Society, the relations between debtor and creditor are entirely changed. A social revolution is effected. The Western applies his code with stern and ruthless logic. The child-like Eastern, on the other hand, cannot be made to understand that his house should be sold over his head because he affixed his seal to a document, which, very probably, he had never read, or, at all events, had never fully understood, and which was presented to him by a man at one time apparently animated with benevolent intentions, inasmuch as he wished to lend him money, but who subsequently showed his malevolence by asking to be repaid his loan with interest at an exorbitant rate.

Here, again, many palliatives have been suggested and some have been applied, but many of them sin against the economic law, which provides that legislation intended to protect a man against the consequences of his own folly or improvidence is generally unproductive of result.

In truth, no thoroughly effective remedy can be applied in cases such as those mentioned above, without abandoning all real attempt at progress. Civilisation must, unfortunately, have its victims, amongst whom are to some extent inevitably numbered those who do not recognise the paramount necessities of the Budget system, and those who contract debts with an inadequate appreciation of the caveat emptor principle. Nevertheless, the Western financier will act wisely if, casting aside some portion of his Western habit of thought, he recognises the facts with which he has to deal, and if, fully appreciating the intimate connection between finance and politics in an Eastern country, he endeavours, so far as is possible, to temper the clean-cut science of his fiscal measures in such a manner as to suit the customs and intellectual standard of the subject race with which he has to deal.

The question of the amount of taxation levied stands apart from the method of its imposition. It may be laid down as a principle of universal application that high taxation is incompatible with assured stability of Imperial rule.[21]

The financier and the hydraulic engineer, who is a powerful ally of the financier, have probably a greater potentiality of creating an artificial and self-interested loyalty than even the judge. The reasons are obvious. In the first place, the number of criminals, or even of civil litigants, in any society is limited; whereas practically the whole population consists of taxpayers. In the second place, the arbitrary methods of administering justice practised by Oriental rulers do not shock their subjects nearly so much as Europeans are often disposed to think. Custom has made it in them a property of easiness. They often, indeed, fail to appreciate the intentions, and are disposed to resent the methods, of those whose object it is to establish justice in the law-courts. On the other hand, the most ignorant Egyptian fellah or Indian ryot can understand the difference between a Government which takes nine-tenths of his crop in the shape of land-tax, and one which only takes one-third or one-fourth. He can realise that he is better off if the water is allowed to flow periodically on to his fields, than he was when the influential landowner, who possessed a property up-stream on the canal, made a dam and prevented him from getting any water at all.

These principles would probably meet with general acceptance from all who have considered the question of Imperial rule. They are, indeed, almost commonplace. Unfortunately, in practice the necessity of conforming to them is often forgotten. India is the great instance in point. Englishmen are often so convinced that the natives of India ought to be loyal, they hear so much said of their loyalty, they appreciate so little the causes which are at work to produce disloyalty, and, in spite of occasional mistakes due to errors of judgment, they are in reality so earnestly desirous of doing what they consider, sometimes perhaps erroneously, their duty towards the native population, that they are apt to lose sight of the fact that the self-interest of the subject race is the principal basis of the whole Imperial fabric. They forget, whilst they are adding to the upper story of the house, that the foundations may give way.

This is not the place to enter into any lengthy discussion upon Indian affairs. It may be said, however, that the Indian history of the last few years certainly gives cause for some anxiety. Attention was at one time too exclusively paid to frontier policy, which constitutes only one, and that not the most important, element of the complex Indian problem.

That the policy of "masterly inactivity," to use the phrase epigrammatically, but perhaps somewhat incorrectly, applied to the line of action advocated by Lord Lawrence in 1869, required some modifications as the onward movement of Russia in Asia developed, will scarcely be contested by the most devoted of Lawrentian partisans and followers. That those modifications were wisely introduced is a proposition the truth of which it is difficult to admit. The portion of Lord Lawrence's programme which was necessarily temporary, inasmuch as it depended on the circumstances of the time, was rejected without taking sufficient account of the further and far more important portion which was of permanent application. This latter portion was defined in an historic and oft-quoted despatch which he indited on the eve of his departure from India, and which may be regarded as his political testament. In this despatch, Lord Lawrence, speaking with all the authority due to a lifelong acquaintance with Indian affairs, laid down the broad general principle that the strongest security of our rule lay "in the contentment, if not in the attachment, of the masses."[22] The truth of this general principle was at one time too much neglected. Under the influence of a predominant militarism acting on too pliant politicians, vast military expenditure was incurred. Territory lying outside the natural geographical frontier of India was occupied, the acquisition of which was condemned not merely by sound policy, but also by sound strategy. Taxation was increased, and, generally, the material interests of the natives of India were sacrificed and British Imperial rule exposed to subsequent danger, in order to satisfy the exigencies of a school of soldier-politicians who only saw one, and that the most technical, aspect of a very wide and complex question.

Neither, unfortunately, is there any sure guarantee that the mistakes, which it is now almost universally admitted were made, will not recur. Where, indeed, are we to look for any effective check? The rulers of India, whether they sit in Calcutta or London, may again be carried away by the partial views of an influential class, or of a few masterful individuals. It is absurd to speak of creating free institutions in India to control the Indian Government. Experience has shown that parliamentary action in England not infrequently degenerates into acrimonious discussion and recrimination dictated by party passion; in any case, it is generally too late to change the course of events. Still less reliance can be placed on the action of the British Press, which falls a ready victim to the specious arguments advanced by some strategical pseudo-Imperialist in high position, or by some fervent acolyte who has learnt at the feet of his master the fatal and facile lesson of how an Empire, built up by statesmen, may be wrecked by the well-intentioned but mistaken measures recommended by specialists to ensure Imperial salvation. The managers of the London newspapers afford, indeed, be it said to their credit, every facility for the publication of views adverse to those which they themselves advocate. But it is none the less true that, during the years when the unwise frontier policy of a few years ago was being planned and executed, the voices of the opposition, although they were those of Indian statesmen and officials who could speak with the highest authority, failed to obtain an adequate hearing until the evil was irremediable. On the other hand, the views of the strategical specialists went abroad over the land, with the result that ill-informed and careless public opinion followed their advice without having any very precise idea of whither it was being led.

It would appear, therefore, that there is need for great care and watchfulness in the management of Indian affairs. That same inconsistency of character and absence of definite aim, which are such notable Anglo-Saxon qualities and which adapt themselves so admirably to the requirements of Imperial rule, may in some respects constitute an additional danger. If we are not to adopt a policy based on securing the contentment of the subject race by ministering to their material interests, we must of necessity make a distinct approach to the counter-policy of governing by the sword alone. In that case, it would be as well not to allow a free native Press, or to encourage high education. Any repressive or retrograde measures in either of these directions would, without doubt, meet with strong and, to a great extent, reasonable opposition in England. A large section of the public, forgetful of the fact that they had stood passively by whilst measures, such as the imposition of increased taxes, which the natives of India really resent, were adopted, would protest loudly against the adoption of other measures which are, indeed, open to objection, but which nevertheless touch Oriental in a far less degree than they affect Western public feeling. The result of this inconsistency is that our present system rather tends to turn out demagogues from our colleges, to give them every facility for sowing their subversive views broadcast over the land, and at the same time to prepare the ground for the reception of the seed which they sow. Now this is the very reverse of a sound Imperial policy. We cannot, it is true, effectually prevent the manufacture of demagogues without adopting measures which would render us false to our acknowledged principles of government and to our civilising mission. But we may govern in such a manner as to give the demagogue no fulcrum with which to move his credulous and ill-informed countrymen and co-religionists. The leading principle of a government of this nature should be that low taxation is the most potent instrument with which to conjure discontent. This is the policy which will tend more than any other to the stability of Imperial rule. If it is to be adopted, two elements of British society will have to be kept in check at the hands of the statesman acting in concert with the moralist. These are Militarism and Commercial Egotism. The Empire depends in a great degree on the strength and efficiency of its army. It thrives on its commerce. But if the soldier and the trader are not kept under some degree of statesmanlike control, they are capable of becoming the most formidable, though unconscious, enemies of the British Empire.

It will be seen, therefore, that though there are some disquieting circumstances attendant on our Imperial rule, the general result of an examination into the causes which led to the collapse of Roman power, and a comparison of those causes with the principles on which the British Empire is governed, are, on the whole, encouraging. To every danger which threatens there is a safeguard. To every portion of the body politic in which symptoms of disease may occur, it is possible to apply a remedy.

Christianity is our most powerful ally. We are the sworn enemies of the slave-dealer and the slave-owner. The dangers arising from the possible pauperisation of the proletariat may, it is to be hoped, be averted by our national character and by the natural play of our time-honoured institutions. If we adhere steadily to the principle that local revenues are to be expended locally, and if, at the same time, we give all reasonable encouragement to local self-government and shun any tendency towards over-centralisation, we shall steer clear of one of the rocks on which the Roman ship of state was wrecked. Unskilful or unwise finance is our greatest danger, but here again the remedy lies ready to hand if we are wise enough to avail ourselves of it. It consists in adapting our fiscal methods to the requirements of our subject races, and still more in the steadfast rejection of any proposals which, by rendering high taxation inevitable, will infringe the cardinal principle on which a sound Imperial policy should be based. That principle is that, whilst the sword should be always ready for use, it should be kept in reserve for great emergencies, and that we should endeavour to find, in the contentment of the subject race, a more worthy and, it may be hoped, a stronger bond of union between the rulers and the ruled.

If any more sweeping generalisation than this is required, it may be said that the whole, or nearly the whole, of the essential points of a sound Imperial policy admit of being embodied in this one statement, that, whilst steadily avoiding any movement in the direction of official proselytism, our relations with the various races who are subjects of the King of England should be founded on the granite rock of the Christian moral code.

Humanity, as it passes through phase after phase of the historical movement, may advance indefinitely in excellence; but its advance will be an indefinite approximation to the Christian type. A divergence from that type, to whatever extent it may take place, will not be progress, but debasement and corruption. In a moral point of view, in short, the world may abandon Christianity, but can never advance beyond it. This is not a matter of authority, or even of revelation. If it is true, it is a matter of reason as much as anything in the world.[23]

[Footnote 1: Italy and Her Invaders. Thomas Hodgkin, D.C.L. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1892.]

[Footnote 2: Male imperando summum imperium amittitur.—PUBLIUS SYRUS.]

[Footnote 3: Decline and Fall, chap. xx.]

[Footnote 4: Any one who wishes to gain an insight into the fundamental principles which governed those relations cannot do better than read the opening chapters of Sorel's L'Europe et la Revolution Francaise.]

[Footnote 5: Ecclesiastes i. 9.]

[Footnote 6: Life and Letters of Sir James Graham, vol. ii. p. 328.]

[Footnote 7: Lord Farrer says: "It is the privilege of honourable trade that, like mercy, it is twice blessed; it blesseth him that gives and him that takes; each of its dealings is of necessity a benefit to both parties. But traders and speculators are not always the most scrupulous of mankind. Their dealings with savage and half-civilised nations too often betray sharp practice, sometimes violence and wrong. The persons who carry on our trade on the outskirts of civilisation are not distinguished by a special appreciation of the rights of others, nor are the speculators, who are attracted by the enormous profits to be made by precarious investments in half-civilised countries, people in whose hands we should desire to place the fortunes or reputation of our country. When a difficulty arises between ourselves and one of the weaker nations, these are the persons whose voice is most loudly raised for acts of violence, of aggression, or of revenge."—The State in its Relation to Trade, p. 177.]

[Footnote 8: It should never be forgotten that, in Oriental countries, whatever good is done to the masses is necessarily purchased at the expense of incurring the resentment of the ruling classes, who abused the power they formerly possessed. Seeley (Expansion of England, p. 320) says with great truth: "It would be very rash to assume that any gratitude, which may have been aroused here and there by our administration, can be more than sufficient to counterbalance the discontent which we have excited among those whom we have ousted from authority and influence."]

[Footnote 9: Juvenal, xiv. 176-8.]

[Footnote 10: "La superiorite des Anglo-Saxons! Si on ne la proclame pas, on la subit et on la redoute; les craintes, les mefiances et parfois les haines que souleve l'Anglais l'attestent assez haut....

"Nous ne pouvons faire un pas a travers le monde, sans rencontrer l'Anglais. Nous ne pouvons jeter les yeux sur nos anciennes possessions, sans y voir flotter le pavilion anglais." A Quoi tient la Superiorite des Anglo-Saxons?—Demolins. This work, as well as another on much the same subject (L'Europa giovane, by Guglielmo Ferrero), were reviewed in the Edinburgh Review for January 1898.]

[Footnote 11: Vie de Turgot, i. 47. In the debate on the India Act in 1858, Sir George Cornewall Lewis, whose views were generally distinguished for their moderation, said: "I do most confidently maintain that no civilised Government ever existed on the face of this earth which was more corrupt, more perfidious, and more capricious than the East India Company was from 1758 to 1784, when it was placed under Parliamentary control."]

[Footnote 12: "It still remains true that there is a large body of public opinion in England which carries into all politics a sound moral sense, and which places a just and righteous policy higher than any mere party interest. It is on the power and pressure of this opinion that the high character of English government must ultimately depend."—Map of Life, Lecky, p. 184. It will be a matter for surprise if the ultra-bureaucratic spirit, coupled with a somewhat pronounced degree of commercial egotism, do not prove the two rocks on which German colonial enterprise will be eventually shipwrecked.]

[Footnote 13: Butcher, Some Aspects of the Greek Genius, p. 27.]

[Footnote 14: Essays. "Of Honour and Reputation."]

[Footnote 15: Sir Charles Wood's Administration of Indian Affairs, 1859-66. West. 1867. Sir Algernon West was Private Secretary to Sir Charles Wood, afterwards Lord Halifax, who was the first Secretary of State for India appointed after the passing of the India Act of 1858, and, therefore, inaugurated the new system.]

[Footnote 16: See, inter alia, Chesney's Indian Polity, p. 136.]

[Footnote 17: Perhaps the best-known example is "Salus populi suprema lex esto," a maxim which, as Selden has pointed out (Table Talk, ciii.), is very frequently misapplied. See also the advice given by the Emperor Claudius to the Parthian Mithridates (Tacitus, Ann. xii. 11).]

[Footnote 18: "The idea of forcing everything to an artificial equality has something, at first view, very captivating in it. It has all the appearance imaginable of justice and good order; and very many persons, without any sort of partial purposes, have been led to adopt such schemes, and to pursue them with great earnestness and warmth. Though I have no doubt that the minute, laborious, and very expensive cadastre, which was made by the King of Sardinia, has done no sort of good, and that after all his pains a few years will restore all things to their first inequality, yet it has been the admiration of half the reforming financiers of Europe; I mean the official financiers, as well as the speculative."—Memoirs of Sir Philip Francis, ii. 126.]

[Footnote 19: Mill, History of British India, vi. 433.]

[Footnote 20: Elphinstone, History of India, p. 77.]

[Footnote 21: Lord Lawrence said: "Light taxation is, in my mind, the panacea for foreign rule in India." Bosworth Smith, Life of Lord Lawrence, vol. ii. p. 497.]

[Footnote 22: The essential portions of this despatch, in so far as the purposes of the present argument are concerned, are given in Sir Richard Temple's work (p. 185), and in Bosworth Smith's Life of Lord Lawrence, vol. ii. p. 186.]

[Footnote 23: Goldwin Smith, Lectures on the Study of History, p. 154.]



"The Edinburgh Review," July 1913

When Emerson said "We like everything to do its office, whether it be a milch-cow or a rattlesnake," he assumed, perhaps somewhat too hastily in the latter case, that all the world understands the functions which a milch-cow or a rattlesnake is called upon to perform. No one can doubt that the office of a translator is to translate, but a wide difference of opinion may exist, and, in fact, has always existed, as to the latitude which he may allow himself in translating. Is he to adhere rigidly to a literal rendering of the original text, or is paraphrase permissible, and, if permissible, within what limits may it be adopted? In deciding which of these courses to pursue, the translator stands between Scylla and Charybdis. If he departs too widely from the precise words of the text, he incurs the blame of the purist, who will accuse him of foisting language on the original author which the latter never employed, with the possible result that even the ideas or sentiments which it had been intended to convey have been disfigured. If, on the other hand, he renders word for word, he will often find, more especially if his translation be in verse, that in a cacophonous attempt to force the genius of one language into an unnatural channel, the whole of the beauty and even, possibly, some of the real meaning of the original have been allowed to evaporate. Dr. Fitzmaurice-Kelly, in an instructive article on Translation contributed to the Encyclopaedia Britannica quotes the high authority of Dryden as to the course which should be followed in the execution of an ideal translation.

A translator (Dryden writes) that would write with any force or spirit of an original must never dwell on the words of his author. He ought to possess himself entirely, and perfectly comprehend the genius and sense of his author, the nature of the subject, and the terms of the art or subject treated of; and then he will express himself as justly, and with as much life, as if he wrote an original; whereas he who copies word for word loses all the spirit in the tedious transfusion.

In the application of Dryden's canon a distinction has to be made between prose and verse. The composition of good prose, which Coleridge described as "words in the right order," is, indeed, of the utmost importance for all the purposes of the historian, the writer on philosophy, or the orator. An example of the manner in which fine prose can bring to the mind a vivid conception of a striking event is Jeremy Collier's description of Cranmer's death, which excited the enthusiastic admiration of Mr. Gladstone.[24] He seemed [Collier wrote] "to repel the force of the fire and to overlook the torture, by strength of thought." Nevertheless, the main object of the prose writer, and still more of the orator, should be to state his facts or to prove his case. Cato laid down the very sound principle "rem tene, verba sequentur," and Quintilian held that "no speaker, when important interests are involved, should be very solicitous about his words." It is true that this principle is one that has been more often honoured in the breach than the observance. Lucian, in his Lexiphanes,[25] directs the shafts of his keen satire against the meticulous attention to phraseology practised by his contemporaries. Cardinal Bembo sacrificed substance to form to the extent of advising young men not to read St. Paul for fear that their style should be injured, and Professor Saintsbury[26] mentions the case of a French author, Paul de Saint-Victor, who "used, when sitting down to write, to put words that had struck his fancy at intervals over the sheet, and write his matter in and up to them." These are instances of that word-worship run mad which has not infrequently led to dire results, inasmuch as it has tended to engender the belief that statesmanship is synonymous with fine writing or perfervid oratory. The oratory in which Demosthenes excelled, Professor Bury says,[27] "was one of the curses of Greek politics."

The attention paid by the ancients to what may be termed tricks of style has probably in some degree enhanced the difficulties of prose translation. It may not always be easy in a foreign language to reproduce the subtle linguistic shades of Demosthenic oratory—the Anaphora (repetition of the same word at the beginning of co-ordinate sentences following one another), the Anastrophe (the final word of a sentence repeated at the beginning of one immediately following), the Polysyndeton (the same conjunction repeated), or the Epidiorthosis (the correction of an expression). Nevertheless, in dealing with a prose composition, the weight of the arguments, the lucidity with which the facts are set forth, and the force with which the conclusions are driven home, rank, or should rank, in the mind of the reader higher than any feelings which are derived from the music of the words or the skilful order in which they are arranged. Moreover, in prose more frequently than in verse, it is the beauty of the idea expressed which attracts rather than the language in which it is clothed. Thus, for instance, there can be no difficulty in translating the celebrated metaphor of Pericles[28] that "the loss of the youth of the city was as if the spring was taken out of the year," because the beauty of the idea can in no way suffer by presenting it in English, French, or German rather than in the original Greek. Again, to quote another instance from Latin, the fine epitaph to St. Ovinus in Ely Cathedral: "Lucem tuam Ovino da, Deus, et requiem," loses nothing of its terse pathos by being rendered into English. Occasionally, indeed, the truth is forced upon us that even in prose "a thing may be well said once but cannot be well said twice" ([Greek: to kalos eipein hapax perigignetai, dis de ouk endechetai]), but this is generally because the genius of one language lends itself with special ease to some singularly felicitous and often epigrammatic form of expression which is almost or sometimes even quite untranslatable. Who, for instance, would dare to translate into English the following description which the Duchesse de Dino[29] gave of a lady of her acquaintance: "Elle n'a jamais ete jolie, mais elle etait blanche et fraiche, avec quelques jolis details"? On the whole, however, it may be said that if the prose translator is thoroughly well acquainted with both of the languages which he has to handle, he ought to be able to pay adequate homage to the genius of the one without offering undue violence to that of the other.

The case of the translator of poetry, which Coleridge defined as "the best words in the best order," is manifestly very different. A phrase which is harmonious or pregnant with fire in one language may become discordant, flat, and vapid when translated into another. Shelley spoke of "the vanity of translation." "It were as wise (he said) to cast a violet into a crucible that you might discover the formal principle of its colour and odour, as seek to transfuse from one language into another the creations of a poet."

Longinus has told us[30] that "beautiful words are the very light of thought" ([Greek: phos gar to onti idion tou nou ta kala onomata]), but it will often happen, in reading a fine passage, that on analysing the sentiments evoked, it is difficult to decide whether they are due to the thought or to the beauty of the words. A mere word, as in the case of Edgar Poe's "Nevermore," has at times inspired a poet. When Keats, speaking of Melancholy, says:

She lives with Beauty—Beauty that must die— And Joy, whose hand is ever on his lips, Bidding adieu,

or when Mrs. Browning writes:

... Young As Eve with Nature's daybreak on her face,

the pleasure, both of sense and sentiment, is in each case derived alike from the music of the language and the beauty of the ideas. But in such lines as

Arethusa arose from her couch of snows, etc.,

or Coleridge's description of the river Alph running

Through caverns measureless to man Down to a sunless sea,

it is the language rather than the idea which fascinates. Professor Walker, speaking of the most exquisitely harmonious lyric ever written in English, or perhaps in any other language,[31] says with great truth: "The reader of Lycidas rises from it ready to grasp the 'two-handed engine' and smite; though he may be doubtful what the engine is, and what is to be smitten."

It may be observed, moreover, that one of the main difficulties to be encountered in translating some of the masterpieces of ancient literature arises from their exquisite simplicity. Although the indulgence in glaring improprieties of language in the pursuit of novelty of thought was not altogether unknown to the ancients, and was, indeed, stigmatised by Longinus with the epithet of "corybantising,"[32] the full development of this pernicious practice has been reserved for the modern world. Dryden made himself indirectly responsible for a good deal of bad poetry when he said that great wits were allied to madness. The late Professor Butcher,[33] as also Lamb in his essay on "The Sanity of True Genius," have both pointed out that genius and high ability are eminently sane.

In some respects it may be said that didactic poetry affords special facilities to the translator, inasmuch as it bears a more close relation to prose than verse of other descriptions. Didactic poets, such as Lucretius and Pope, are almost forced by the inexorable necessities of their subjects to think in prose. However much we may admire their verse, it is impossible not to perceive that, in dealing with subjects that require great precision of thought, they have felt themselves hampered by the necessities of metre and rhythm. They may, indeed, resort to blank verse, which is a sort of half-way house between prose and rhyme, as was done by Mr. Leonard in his excellent translation of Empedocles, of which the following specimen may be given:

[Greek: ouk estin pelasasthai en ophthalmoisin ephekton hemeterois e chersi labein, heper te megiste peithous anthropoisin hamaxitos eis phrena piptei.]

We may not bring It near us with our eyes, We may not grasp It with our human hands. With neither hands nor eyes, those highways twain, Whereby Belief drops into the minds of men.

But Dr. Symmons, one of the numerous translators of Virgil, said, with some truth, that the adoption of blank verse only involves "a laborious and doubtful struggle to escape from the fangs of prose."[34]

A good example of what can be done in this branch of literature is furnished by Dryden. Lucretius[35] wrote:

Tu vero dubitabis et indignabere obire? Mortua cui vita est prope iam vivo atque videnti, Qui somno partem maiorem conteris aevi, Et vigilans stertis nec somnia cernere cessas Sollicitamque geris cassa formidine mentem Nec reperire potes tibi quid sit saepe mali, cum Ebrius urgeris multis miser undique curis, Atque animi incerto fluitans errore vagaris.

Dryden's translation departs but slightly from the original text and at the same time presents the ideas of Lucretius in rhythmical and melodious English:

And thou, dost thou disdain to yield thy breath, Whose very life is little more than death? More than one-half by lazy sleep possest, And when awake, thy soul but nods at best, Day-dreams and sickly thoughts revolving in thy breast. Eternal troubles haunt thy anxious mind, Whose cause and case thou never hopest to find, But still uncertain, with thyself at strife, Thou wanderest in the labyrinth of life.

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