Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

defeats even the niost-astute adversary; and with great cleverness he always conceals his actual intents. He loves intrigue and moves in the dark, and is ready to do anything which may enable him to accomplish his selfish purposes.

Conscious of his weakness, he scruples not to stoop to the meanest subterfuge, and he makes up by his wile what he wants in power. As a' fox, therefore, a Native should always be distrusted, and treated with contempt and hatred. Such are the notions of many a European in India about native character. Many Natives, on the other hand, liken the European to & wolf (laughter) - vindictive, wrathful, ferocious, and bloodthirsty. He is born and bred & wolf, and is destined to live and die a wolf. (Laughter.) Meekness, forbearance, and mercy are unknown to him. The least provocation ruffles his temper, kindles his wrath, and makes him rush blindly to vengeance. Once out of temper, he rants and raves, and inflicts the most cruel and bárbarous tortures on his enemy to gratify his ire, and is even sometimes so far carried away by his passions as to commit the most atrocious murder. Insult he cannot bear ; he cannot forgive his enemies. Hotheaded and ferocious, he takes delight in exercising violence, and often he does so without any plea or reason whatsoever.

His combative propensity is strong, and few can reckon their lives safe if they have once excited his wrath. (Cheers.) As a wolf, therefore, he is to be dreaded and shunned. Indeed, many a Native is so

afraid of an European, that he would

never, if he could avoid it, travel in the same railway-carriage with him. (Laughter.) And this fear, be it said, is not the fear due to a superior nature, but that which brutal ferocity awakens. Thus, while the European hates

[ocr errors]

the Native as a cunning fox, the latter fears the former as a ferocious wolf. (Cheers.)

These are no doubt extreme cases of the infirmi. ties in the national character of the Europeans and Natives. But there is some truth in these carícatures, and let us see what that is. The Native heart is, I believe, exceedingly narrow and selfish. Its views and sympathies and aspirations are contracted. There is too much of exclusiveness about a Native, which limits his thoughts and feelings within a small compass, beyond which he can hardly extend them. His life is a round of selfish pursuits, and selfinterest is generally the motive of his actions. I will not deny that perjury and forgery, lying and dishonesty, prevail to an alarming extent in our country ; but I cannot believe they are traits of our national character. (Applause.) For there arė, striking and numerous instances of honesty and veracity and fair dealing among the Natives which none can dispute. Any special aptitude for lying it is absolutely impossible to discover in the charačter of my countrymen. All that I can say is, that it is the reckless pursuit of selfish ends, in which God is forgotten and conscience unheeded, which drives not a few of my countrymen to sacrifice truth and honesty on the altar of avarice. Selfishness, I say, is a characteristic of our nation, and into this many of our national defects may resolve themselves. But this selfishness may be accounted for by the circumstarces under which we live. For it is an admitted fact, that national character is determined by the peculiar circumstances which govern and influence it. We are a subject 'race, and have been go for centuries. We have too long been under foreign sway to be able to feel anything like independence in our hearts. Socially and religiously

[ocr errors]

we are little better than slaves. From infancy 'up we have been trained to believe that we are Hindoos : only so far as we offer slavish obedience to the authority of the Shasters and the priests, and that any amount of disobedience would be so much want of our nationality. Not only in the important; concerns of life, but even in the trivial details of our social and domestic economy-iņ matters of eating and drinking-we are fettered by a rigid routine of action, invested with the inviolable sanctity of religion. If ever any individual gets a spark of moral independence, the surrounding atmosphere would soon extinguish it. Under such circumstances, all the higher impulses and aspirations of the soul must naturally be smothered ; and hence is it that, though educated ideas rebel, and organized communities of enlightened men often protest, the general tenor of Native life is a dead level of base and unmanly acquiescence în tradition, al errors. Then, again, we are physically cribbed and confined. Travelling is not only opposed to our habits, but is religiously interdicted. A Native lives and moves in his little house, and knows no world beyond the boundaries of his country. Homeloving and untravelled, his notions of men and things must needs be narrow, and his heart contracted. Even in his patriotism and benevolence there is too often a cast of narrow selfishness. The European, on the contrary, has a large and cosmopolitan heart. He can call the world his home, meet a distant call of charity, and offer his symupathy to all men, without any distinction of caste, creed, or colour. He enjoys and loves freedom, which gives full scope to all the nobler instinets and sentiments of his heart, and leads him to follow, consistently and fearlessly, certain

high principles of action from which he thinks it unmanly and mean to swerve. (Hear, hear.) On reversing the picture, we find the Hindoo has certain excellences in which his European brother is rather deficient. The Hindoo is mild and meek. (Cheers.) He is intensely fond of peace, and would rather put up with insult and oppression than engage in a battle of recrimination. There is more of the woman in him than of the man. He is meekspirited even to effeminacy. His patience and cool self-possession are remarkable. He is slow to anger and. not easily provoked ; he is ever anxious to avoid a quarrell and keep clear of troubled waters. His highest ambition is to glide tranquilly along the placid stream of life, under a clear and cloudless sky, undisturbed by any hostile influence. (Applause.) He is conciliating and forgiving, and would do all he can to enjoy the el viable felicity of having no enemy on earth. It is true that not unfrequently this love of peace is carried to an extreme. Among the Bengalees we often see it manifest itself in the shape of indolence, lethargy, and aversion to activity and enterprise. Talk to a Bengalee of war, and his flesh would creep on his bones. (Laughter.) The art of effecting a clever retreat from the scene of danger he seems to have well studied. (Laughter.) Talk to him of reform and innovation, he trembles and shudders at the idea. He cannot bear to see the established order of things upset, and all social arrangements thrown into confusion and disorder ; he would fondly cling to ancestral institutions, and would have no reformation which is likely to take away his peace, and expose him hardships and inconveniences. He lives with imagined security in the old and dilapidated house of his ancestors, and would not quit it albeit it is about to crumble into atoms.

(Laughter and cheers.) But, however deplorable. the abuse, I believe that if native meekness be sustained and regulated by sound moral principles, it would prove an honourable virtue, and shed lustre on our national character. On the other hand, the European is full of energy and activity, and dislikes a quiet smooth life. He seems to love the hurricane and the boisterous sea. He rejoices in the danger which brings his energies into full play. He seeks honour and glory in the free and full use of his indomitable power, and nothing short of the discomfiture of his enemies will satisfy him. In fact, the European nature is rough, stern, impulsive, and fiery ; it thinks meekness to be cowardice ; it rejoices and glories in violence and vengeance. (Cheers.) How often do such qualities overstepping all legitimate bounds, and defying all higher im. pulses, become frightful sources of mischief ! And, alas ! how sadly manifest.is this in India ! Many a European adventurer in this country seems to believe that he has a right to trample upon every unfortunate nigger with whom he comes in contact. (Cheers.) This he believes to be hervism, and in this he seeks glory! But he forgets that to kick and trample upon one who is inferior in strength is not heroism, but base cowardice. (Deafening applause.) What glory is there in abusing and maltreating a poor Native ? What glory is there in whipping and scourging a helpless Native to death, under the infatuating influence of brutal anger ? Is this military prowess, or is it Christian zeal ? (Applause,—cries of “ Neither.") Evidently it is neither. If the European is at all anxious for the glory of his country and his God, he ought to seek it in a better and more generous treatment of the Natives. If he is conscious of his superiority,

« AnteriorContinuar »