Claudius Buchanan, LL.D. (1766-1815)

Rev. Claudius Buchanan, LL.D.

Memoir of the Expediency of an Ecclesiastical Establishment for British India;

both as a Means of Perpetuating the Christian Religion among our own Countrymen;

and as a Foundation for the Ultimate Civilization of the Natives


Second Cambridge Edition

Cambridge, Mass.: Hilliard and Metcalf, 1811

Born in a small village, Cambuslang near Glasgow, Scotland, Claudius Buchanan (1766-1815) distinguished himself as chaplain and Vice Provost of Fort William College, Calcutta, India.  Marquis of Wellesley and the officers of the East India Company established The College at Fort William, April 10, 1801, to instruct the Company's English junior civil servants for three years in the languages of the Far East.   As evident from a book published at the Serampore Mission Press, the College had a bookplate and stamp.

At the age of sixteen, Buchanan had entered the University of Glasgow, but left two years later.  After working in various positions from age eighteen to age twenty-five, Buchanan enrolled in Queens College, University of Cambridge in 1791.  At the age of twenty-nine in 1795, he earned his B.A. degree and became an ordained deacon in the Church of England that same year.  Though he studied theology as his primary subject at Queens College, he earned prizes in both mathematics and classics.  Queens College regards Buchanan as an eminent graduate as "author of Christian Researches in Asia, and for ever memorable for his unceasing efforts to propagate Christianity in the east."  

In 1796, Buchanan was ordained as a priest in the Church of England and received an appointment as an East India Company chaplain to Bengal.  Later, Buchanan received two Doctor of Divinity degrees: one from the University of Glasgow and another from the University of Cambridge.  Buchanan died in 1815 at Broxbourne, Hertfordshire, England.  In 1817, Hugh Pearson, M.A., of St. John's College, Oxford, published Memoirs of the Life and Writings of the Rev. Claudius Buchanan, D.D.

In India, Buchanan served as Vice Provost of Fort William College.  He and William Carey became friends, and Buchanan and the Fort William College Provost, Rev. David Brown, recommended that Carey be appointed as a professor at Fort William College in 1801.  In a letter to Dr. Ryland on June 15, 1801 (recorded in Eustace Carey, Memoir of William Carey, D.D., Boston, 1836; Page 302    Page 303    Page 304    Page 305    Page 306), Carey rehearsed his appointment to the College as a lecturer in Bengalee and Sanscrit.  Carey's work at Fort William began on May 4, 1801.

In 1807 at Fort William College, the position of Vice Provost, along with several faculty appointments, was discontinued.  As a chaplain in the East India Company, Buchanan could participate in direct religious efforts.  During 1807-1808, he toured south and west India during which time he investigated Hindu social practice and the Christian churches already established in those areas.  Of particular interest to Buchanan was the translation of the Bible into the languages of India for the purpose of missionary outreach.  Returning to England in 1808 after an eleven year residence in India, Buchanan, in 1811, published the notes of his travels in India.   The similarity of Buchanan's theology to William Carey's theology is evident particularly through Bible translation as a means of Christian missions.  A significant difference between Buchanan and Carey was the fact of Buchanan's identity as an Anglican Establishment minister while Carey remained a Dissenter.

Buchanan was a contributing figure in the 1813 Parliamentary struggle over the conditions of the East India Company's charter renewal.  Buchanan and others, including William Wilberforce an eminent social reformer and member of Parliament, 1780-1825, were leading voices for the establishment of an Anglican episcopate in India and freedom for missionary outreach in India apart from the East India Company's control.

From his position in 1805 as Vice Provost at Fort William, Buchanan wrote the essay, Memoir of the Expediency of an Ecclesiastical Establishment for British India; both as a Means of Perpetuating the Christian Religion among our own Countrymen; and as a Foundation for the Ultimate Civilization of the Natives.  In the essay, Buchanan sets forth a rationale for an Anglican Establishment in India as follows (p. 22):


Let us first establish our own religion among ourselves, and our Asiatic subjects will soon benefit by it.  When once our national church shall have been confirmed in India, the members of that church will be the best qualified to advise the state as to the means by which, from time to time, the civilization of the natives may be promoted.


On p. 54, Buchanan names William Carey once in regard to teaching Sanskrit at Fort William College, and in at least two other places, Buchanan alludes to Carey (p. viii; p. 35).



Memoir of the Expediency of an Ecclesiastical Establishment for British India

by Claudius Buchanan, LL.D., 1805


Title Page   

Table of Contents, iii    iv    v   

Preface to the American Edition    vi

Letter to the Archbishop of Canterbury    vii    viii    ix    x   

Introduction    xi    xii   


Part I.  On the means of preserving the profession of the Christian religion among our countrymen in India.

Chapter I.  Present state of the English church in India    13    14   

Chapter II.  Of the establishment of the Romish church in the East    14    15    16

Chapter III.  Of the extent of the proposed ecclesiastical establishment for British India    16    17

Chapter IV.  Considerations deduced from the propriety or necessity of an ecclesiastical establishment    17    18    19

Chapter V.  Objections to an ecclesiastical establishment considered    19    20    21    22   


Part II.  Civilization of the natives.

Chapter I.  On the practicability of civilizing the natives  23    24    25    26   

Chapter II.  On the policy of civilizing the natives  26     27    28    29    30    31    32    33   

Chapter III.  On the impediments to the civilization of the natives.  The philosophical spirit of Europeans formerly an impediment to the civilization of the natives    33     34    35    36

Chapter IV.  The sanguinary superstitions of the natives an impediment to their civilization     36    37    38

Chapter V.  The numerous holydays of the natives an impediment to their civilization    38    39   


Part III.  Of the progress already made in civilizing the natives of India.

Chapter I.  Of the extension of Christianity in India, under the influence of episcopal jurisdiction    40    41    42    43    44

Chapter II.  Of the extension of Christianity in India, by the labours of protestant missionaries     44    45    46    47    48    49    50    51    52    53    54    55    56    57    58   



A.  Record of the superstitious practices of the Hindoos, now subsisting, which inflict immediate death, or tend to death; deducted from the evidence of the Pundits and learned Brahmins in the College of Fort William  59    60    61    62   

B.  Notes on the practicability of abolishing those practices of the Hindoos, which inflict immediate death, or tend to produce death; collated from the information and suggestions of the Pundits and learned Brahmins in the College of Fort William  62    63    64

C.  A. D. 1802.  Regulation VI.    64    65   

D.  Report of the number of women, who have burned themselves on the funeral pile of their husbands within thirty miles round Calcutta, from the beginning of Bysakh (15th April) to the end of Aswin (15th October), 1804    65    66    67

E.  Religious mendicants    67

F.  Different Hindoo sects in Bengal    67    68

G.  Ancient civilization of India    68    69    70    71   

H.  Excessive polygamy of the Koolin Brahmins    71    72

I.  Testimonies to the general character of the Hindoos    72    73    74

[J. sic]

K.  Jewish Scriptures at Cochin    74    75    76 

L.  Shanscrit testimonies of Christ    76    77

M.  Chinese version of the Scriptures; and Chinese literature    77    78    79    80



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Created:    June 10, 2003            Updated:    June 17, 2003