INDIA AS CAREY FOUND IT.
Tahiti v. Bengal—Carey and Thomas appointed missionaries to Bengal—The farewell at Leicester—John Thomas, first medical missionary—Carey’s letter to his father—The Company’s "abominable monopoly"—The voyage—Carey’s aspirations for world-wide missions—Lands at Calcutta—His description of Bengal in 1793—Contrast presented by Carey to Clive, Hastings, and Cornwallis—The spiritual founder of an Indian Empire of Christian Britain—Bengal and the famine of 1769-70—The Decennial Settlement declared permanent—Effects on the landed classes—Obstacles to Carey’s work—East India Company at its worst—Hindooism and the Bengalees in 1793—Position of Hindoo women—Missionary attempts before Carey’s—Ziegenbalg and Schwartz—Kiernander and the chaplains—Hindooised state of Anglo-Indian society and its reaction on England—Guneshan Dass, the first caste Hindoo to visit England—William Carey had no predecessor.
Carey had desired to go first to Tahiti or Western Africa. Pearce preferred the Pelew Islands, whence Captain Henry Wilson had brought the kings son to England. The natives of North America and the negroes of the West Indies and Sierra Leone were being cared for by Moravian and Wesleyan evangelists. The narrative of Captain Cook’s two first voyages to the Pacific and discovery of Tahiti had appeared in the same year in which the Northampton churches began their seven years’ concert of prayer, just after his own second baptism. From the map, and a leather globe which also he is said to have made, he had been teaching the children of Piddington, Moulton, and Leicester the great outlines and
LIFE OF WILLIAM CAREY.
thrilling details of expeditions round the world which roused both the scientific and the simple of England as much as the discoveries of Columbus had excited Europe. When the childlike ignorance and natural grace of the Hawaiians, which had at first fired him with the longing to tell them the good news of God, were seen turned into the wild justice of revenge, which made Cook its first victim, Carey became all the more eager to anticipate the disasters of later days. That was work for which others were to be found. It was not amid the scattered and decimated savages of the Pacific or of America that the citadel of heathenism was found, nor by them that the world, old and new, was to be made the kingdom of Christ. With the cautious wisdom that marked all Fuller’s action, though perhaps with the ignorance that was due to Carey’s absence, the third meeting of the new society recorded this among other articles "to be examined and discussed in the most diligent and impartial manner—In what part of the heathen world do there seem to be the most promising openings?"
The answer, big with consequence for the future of the East, was in their hands, in the form of a letter from Carey, who stated that "Mr. Thomas, the Bengal missionary" was trying to raise a fund for that province, and asked "whether it would not be worthy of the Society to try to make that and ours unite with one fund for the purpose of sending the gospel to the heathen indefinitely." Tahiti was not to be neglected, nor Africa, nor Bengal, in "our larger plan," which included alone four hundred millions of our fellow men, among whom it was an object "worthy of the most ardent and persevering pursuit to disseminate the humane and saving principles of the Christian Religion." If this Mr. Thomas were worthy, his experience made it desirable to begin with Bengal. Thomas answered for himself at the next meeting, when Carey fell upon his neck and wept,
SET APART AS A MISSIONARY.
having previously preached from the words—"Behold I come quickly, and My reward is with Me." "We saw," said Fuller afterwards, "there was a gold mine in India, but it was as deep as the centre of the earth. Who will venture to explore it? ‘I will venture to go down,’ said Carey, ‘but remember that you (addressing Fuller, Sutcliff, and Ryland) must hold the ropes.’ We solemnly engaged to him to do so, nor while we live shall we desert him."
Carey and Thomas, an ordained minister and a medical evangelist, were at this meeting in Kettering, on 10th January 1793, appointed missionaries to "the East Indies for preaching the gospel to the heathen," on "£100 or £150 a year between them all,"—that is, for two missionaries, their wives, and four children,—until they should be able to support themselves like the Moravians. As a matter of fact they received just £200 in all for the first three years when self-support and mission extension fairly began. The whole sum at credit of the Society for outfit, passage, and salaries was £130, so that Fuller’s prudence was not without justification when supported by Thomas’s assurances that the amount was enough, and Carey’s modest self-sacrifice. "We advised Mr. Carey," wrote Fuller to Ryland, "to give up his school this quarter, for we must make up the loss to him." The more serious cost of passage money was raised by Fuller and by the preaching tours of the two missionaries. During one of these, at Hull, Carey met the printer and newspaper editor, William Ward, and cast his mantle over him thus—"If the Lord bless us, we shall want a person of your business to enable us to print the Scriptures; I hope you will come after us," as he did in five years..
The 20th March 1793 was a high day in the Leicester chapel, Harvey Lane, when the missionaries were set apart like Barnabas and Paul—a forenoon of prayer; an afternoon of preaching by Thomas from Psalm xvi. 4; "Their sorrows
LIFE OF WILLIAM CAREY.
shall be multiplied that hasten after another god"; an evening of preaching by the treasurer from Acts xxi. 14, "And when he would not be persuaded, we ceased, saying, The will of the Lord be done;" and the parting charge by Fuller the secretary, from the risen Lord’s own benediction and forthsending of His disciples, "Peace be unto you, as My Father hath sent Me even so send I you." Often in after days of solitude and reproach did Carey quicken his faith by reading the brave and loving words of Fuller on "the objects you must keep in view, the directions you must observe, the difficulties you must encounter, the reward you may expect."
Under date four days after we find this entry in the Church Book—"Mr. Carey, our minister, left Leicester to go on a mission to the East Indies, to take and propagate the Gospel among those idolatrous and superstitious heathens. This is inserted to show his love to his poor, miserable, fellow creatures. In this we concurred with him, though it is at the expense of losing one whom we love as our own souls." When Carey’s preaching had so filled the church that it became necessary to build a front gallery at a cost of £98, and they had applied to several other churches for assistance in vain, he thus taught them to help themselves. The minister and many of the members agreed to pay off the debt "among ourselves" by weekly subscriptions,—a process, however, which covered five years, so poor were they. Carey left this as a parting lesson to home congregations, while his people found it the easier to pay the debt that they had sacrificed their best, their own minister, to the work of missions for which he had taught them to pray.
John Thomas, four years older than Carey, was a surgeon who had made two voyages to Calcutta in the Oxford Indiaman, had been of spiritual service to Charles Grant, Mr. George Udny, and the Bengal civilian circle at Malda, and had been supported by Mr. Grant as a missionary for a time until
BENGAL HIS FIELD.
his temper, eccentricities, and debts outraged his friends and drove him home at the time of the Kettering meetings. Full justice has been done to a character and a career somewhat resembling those of John Newton, by his patient and able biographer, the Rev. C. B. Lewis.1 John Thomas has the merit of being the first medical missionary, at a time when no other Englishman cared for either the bodies or souls of our recently acquired subjects in North India, outside of Charles Grant’s circle. He has more; he was used by God to direct Carey to the dense Hindoo population of Bengal—to the people and to the centre, that is, where Brahmanism had its seat, and whence Buddhism had been carried by thousands of missionaries all over Southern, Eastern, and Central Asia. But there our ascription of merit to Thomas must stop. However well he might speak the uncultured Bengali, he never could write the language or translate the Bible into a literary style so that it could be understood by the people or influence their leaders. His temper kept Charles Grant back from helping the infant mission, though anxious to see Mr. Carey and to aid him and any other companion. The debts of Thomas caused him and Carey to be excluded from the Oxford, in which his friend the commander had agreed to take them and their party without a license; clouded the early years of the enterprise with their shadow, and formed the heaviest of the many burdens Carey had to bear at starting. If, afterwards, the old association of Thomas with Mr. Udny at Malda gave Carey a home during his Indian apprenticeship, this was a small atonement for the loss of the direct help of Mr. Grant. It was the epistles of wrong-headed zealots like Thomas and Fountain, their first colleague, which called forth the ridicule of wits like Sydney Smith who were unworthy to be named with Carey, Marshman, and Ward, and gratuitously obstructed Fuller and Wilberforce in
1London: Macmillan and Co., 1873.
LIFE OF WILLIAM CAREY.
their lifelong efforts for toleration to Christianity in India. If Carey proved to be the John among the men who began to make Serampore illustrious, Thomas was the Peter, so far as we know Peter in the Gospels only.
Just before being ejected from the Oxford, as he had been deprived of the effectual help of Charles Grant through his unhappy companion, when with only his eldest son Felix beside him, how did he view his God-given mission? The very different nature of his wife, who had announced to him the birth of a son, clung anew to the hope that this might cause him to turn back. Writing from Ryde on the 6th May he thus replied with sweet delicacy of human affection, but with true loyalty to his Master’s call:—
"Received yours, giving me an account of your safe delivery. This is pleasant news indeed to me; surely goodness and mercy follow me all my days. My stay here was very painful and unpleasant, but now I see the goodness of God in it. It was that I might hear the most pleasing accounts that I possibly could hear respecting earthly things. You wish to know in what state my mind is. I answer, it is much as when I left you. If I had all the world I would freely give it all to have you and my dear children with me; but the sense of duty is so strong as to overpower all other considerations; I could not turn back without guilt on my soul. I find a longing desire to enjoy more of God; but, now I am among the people of the world, I think I see more beauties in godliness than ever, and, I hope, enjoy more of God in retirement than I have done for some time past...You want to know what Mrs. Thomas thinks, and how she likes the voyage...She would rather stay in England than go to India; but thinks it right to go with her husband...Tell my dear children I love them dearly, and pray for them constantly. Felix sends his love. I look upon this mercy as an answer to prayer indeed. Trust in God. Love to
SELF-DEVOTED TO THE SERVICE OF GOD ALONE.
Kitty, brothers, sisters, etc. Be assured I love you most affectionately. Let me know my dear little child’s name.—I am, for ever, your faithful and affectionate husband,
"My health never was so well. I believe the sea makes Felix and me both as hungry as hunters. I can eat a monstrous meat supper, and drink a couple of glasses of wine after it, without hurting me at all. Farewell."
She was woman and wife enough, in the end, to do as Mrs. Thomas had done, but she stipulated that her sister should accompany her.
By a series of specially providential events, as it seemed, such as marked the whole early history of this first missionary enterprise of modern England, Carey and Thomas secured a passage on board the Danish Indiaman Kron Princessa Maria, bound from Copenhagen to Serampore. At Dover, where they had been waiting for days, the eight were roused from sleep by the news that the ship was off the harbour. Sunrise on the 13th June saw them on board. Carey had had other troubles besides his colleague and his wife. His father, then fifty-eight years old, had not given him up without a struggle. "Is William mad?" he had said when he received the letter in which his son thus offered himself up on the missionary altar. His mother had died six years before:—
"LEICESTER, Jan. 17th, 1793.
"Dear and Honoured Father—The importance of spending our time for God alone, is the principal theme of the gospel. I beseech you, brethren, says Paul, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable, which is your reasonable service. To be devoted like a sacrifice to holy uses, is the great business of a christian, pursuant to these requisitions. I consider myself as devoted to the service of God alone, and
LIFE OF WILLIAM CAREY.
now I am to realise my professions. I am appointed to go to Bengal, in the East Indies, a missionary to the Hindoos. I shall have a colleague who has been there five or six years already, and who understands their language. They are the most mild and inoffensive people in all the world, but are enveloped in the greatest superstition, and in the grossest ignorance...I hope, dear father, you may be enabled to surrender me up to the Lord for the most arduous, honourable, and important work that ever any of the sons of men were called to engage in. I have many sacrifices to make. I must part with a beloved family and a number of most affectionate friends. Never did I see such sorrow manifested as reigned through our place of worship last Lord’s-day. But I have set my hand to the plough.—I remain, your dutiful son, WILLIAM CAREY."
When in London Carey had asked John Newton: "What if the Company should send us home on our arrival in Bengal?" "Then conclude," was the reply, "that your Lord has nothing there for you to accomplish. But if He have, no power on earth can hinder you." By Act of Parliament not ten years old, every subject of the King going to or found in the East Indies without a license from the Company, was guilty of a high crime and misdemeanour, and liable to fine and imprisonment. Only four years previously a regulation had compelled every commander to deliver to the Hoogli pilot a return of the passengers on board that the Act might be enforced. The Danish nationality of the ship and crew saved the missionary party. So grievously do unjust laws demoralise contemporary opinion, that Fuller was constrained to meet the objections of many to the "illegality" of the missionaries’ action by reasoning, unanswerable indeed, but not now required: "The apostles and primitive ministers were commanded to go into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature; nor were they to stop for the per-
HIS JOURNAL ON THE VOYAGE.
mission of any power upon earth, but to go, and take the consequences. If a man of God, conscious of having nothing in his heart unfriendly to any civil government whatever, but determined in all civil matters to obey and teach obedience to the powers that are, put his life in his hand, saying, ‘I will go, and if I am persecuted in one city I will flee to another,’ . . . whatever the wisdom of this world may decide upon his conduct, he will assuredly be acquitted, and more than acquitted, at a higher tribunal."
Carey’s journal of the voyage begins with an allusion to "the abominable East Indian monopoly," which he was to do more than any other man to break down by weapons not of man’s warfare. The second week found him at Bengali, and for his companion the poems of Cowper. Of the four fellow-passengers one was a French deist, with whom he had many a debate. He sorely missed the preaching in which he had delighted.
"Aug. 2.—I feel myself to be much declined, upon the whole, in the more spiritual exercises of religion; yet have had some pleasant exercises of soul, and feel my heart set upon the great work upon which I am going. Sometimes I am quite dejected when I see the impenetrability of the hearts of those with us. They hear us preach on the Lord’s-day, but we are forced to witness their disregard to God all the week. O may God give us greater success among the heathen. I am very desirous that my children may pursue the same work; and now intend to bring up one in the study of Sanskrit, and another of Persian. O may God give them grace to fit them for the work! I have been much concerned for fear the power of the Company should oppose us. . . .
"Aug. 20.—I have reason to lament over a barrenness of soul, and am sometimes much discouraged; for if I am so dead and stupid, how can I expect to be of any use among
LIFE OF WILLIAM CAREY.
the heathen? Yet I have of late felt some very lively desires after the success of our undertaking. If there is anything engages my heart in prayer to God, it is that the heathen may be converted, and that the society which has so generously exerted itself may be encouraged, and excited to go on with greater vigour in the important undertaking...
"Nov. 9.—I think that I have had more liberty in prayer, and more converse with God, than for some time before; but have, notwithstanding, been a very unfruitful creature, and so remain. For near a month we have been within two hundred miles of Bengal, but the violence of the currents set us back when we have been at the very door. I hope I have learned the necessity of bearing up in the things of God against wind and tide, when there is occasion, as we have done in our voyage."
To the Society he writes for a Polyglot Bible, the Gospels in Malay, Curtis’s Botanical Magazine, and Sowerby’s English Botany, at his own cost, and thus plans the conquest of the world:—
"I hope the Society will go on and increase, and that the multitudes of heathen in the world may hear the glorious words of truth. Africa is but a little way from England; Madagascar but a little way farther; South America, and all the numerous and large islands in the Indian and Chinese seas, I hope will not be passed over. A large field opens on every side, and millions of perishing heathens, tormented in this life by idolatry, superstition, and ignorance, and exposed to eternal miseries in the world to come, are pleading; yea, all their miseries plead as soon as they are known, with every heart that loves God, and with all the churches of the living God. Oh, that many labourers may be thrust out into the vineyard of our Lord Jesus Christ, and that the gentiles may come to the knowledge of the truth as it is in Him!"
On the 7th November, as the ship lay in the roads of
CONTRASTED WITH CLIVE AND WARREN HASTINGS.
Balasore, he and Thomas landed and "began our labours." For three hours the people of the bazaar listened with great attention to Thomas, and one prepared for them a native dinner with plantain leaf for dish, and fingers for knives and forks. Balasore—name of Krishna—was one of the first settlements of the English in North India in 1642, and there the American Baptist successors of Carey have since carried on his work. On the 11th November, after a five months’ voyage, they landed at Calcutta unmolested. The first fortnight’s experience of the city, whose native population he estimated at 200,000, and of the surrounding country, he thus condenses:—"I feel something of what Paul felt when he beheld Athens, and ‘his spirit was stirred within him.’ I see one of the finest countries in the world, full of industrious inhabitants; yet three-fifths of it are an uncultivated jungle, abandoned to wild beasts and serpents. If the gospel flourishes here, ‘the wilderness will in every respect become a fruitful field.’"
Clive, Hastings (Macpherson, during an interregnum of twenty-two months), and Cornwallis were the men who had founded and administered the empire of British India up to this time. Carey passed the last Governor-General in the Bay of Bengal as he retired with the honours of a seven years’ successful generalship and government to atone for the not unhappy surrender of York Town, which had resulted in the independence of the United States. Sir John Shore, afterwards Lord Teignmouth, who had been selected by Pitt to carry out the reforms which he had elaborated along with his predecessor, had entered on his high office just a fortnight before. What a contrast was presented, as man judges, by the shy shoemaker, schoolmaster, and Baptist preacher, who found not a place in which to lay his head save a hovel lent to him by a Hindoo, to Clive, whose suicide he might have heard of when a child; to Hastings, who for seventeen years
LIFE OF WILLIAM CAREY.
had stood before his country impeached. They were men described by Macaulay as of ancient, even illustrious lineage, and they had brought into existence an empire more extensive than that of Rome. He was a peasant craftsman, who had taught himself with a skill which Lord Wellesley, their successor almost as great as themselves, delighted publicly to acknowledge; a man of the people, of the class who had used the Roman Empire to build out of it a universal Christendom, who were even then turning France upside down, creating the Republic of America, and giving new life to Great Britain itself. The little Englishman was about to do in Calcutta and from Serampore what the little Jew, Paul, had done in Antioch and Ephesus, from Corinth and Rome. England might send its nobly born to erect the material and the secular fabric of empire, but it was only, in the providence of God, that they might prepare for the poor village preacher to convert the empire into a spiritual force which should in time do for Asia what Rome had done for Western Christendom. But till the last, as from the first, Carey was as unconscious of the part which he had been called to play as he was unresting in the work which it involved. It is no fanatical criticism, but the true philosophy of history, which places Carey over against Clive, the spiritual and secular founders, and Duff beside Hastings, the spiritual and secular consolidators of our Indian Empire.
Carey’s work for India underlay the first period of forty years of transition from Cornwallis to Bentinck, as Duff’s covered the second of thirty years to the close of Lord Canning’s administration, which introduced the present era of full toleration and partial but increasing self-government directed by Parliament.
Carey had been sent not only to the one people outside of Christendom whose conversion would tell most powerfully on all Asia, Africa, and their islands—the Hindoos; but to
BRITISH INDIA A CENTURY AGO.
the one province which was almost entirely British, and could be used as it had been employed to assimilate the rest of India—Bengal. Territorially the East India Company possessed, when he landed, nothing outside of the Ganges valley of Bengal, Bihar, and Benares save a few spots on the Madras and Malabar coasts and the portion just before taken in the Mysore war. The rest was desolated by the Marathas, the Nizam, Tipoo, and other Mohammedan adventurers. On the Gangetic delta and right up to Allahabad, but not beyond, the Company ruled and raised revenue, leaving the other functions of the state to Mohammedans of the type of Turkish pashas under the titular superiority of the effete Emperor of Delhi. The Bengali and Hindi-speaking millions of the Ganges and the simpler aborigines of the hills had been devastated by the famine of 1769-70, which the Company’s officials, who were powerless where they did not intensify it by interference with trade, confessed to have cut off from ten to twelve millions of human beings. Over three-fifths of the area the soil was left without a cultivator. The whole young of that generation perished, so that, even twenty years after, Lord Cornwallis officially described one-third of Bengal as a jungle inhabited only by wild beasts. A quarter of a century after Carey’s language was, as we have seen, "three-fifths of it are an uncultivated jungle abandoned to wild beasts and serpents."
But the British peace, in Bengal at least, had allowed abundant crops to work their natural result on the population. The local experience of Shore, who had witnessed the horrors he could do so little to relieve, had united with the statesmanship of Cornwallis to initiate a series of administrative reforms that worked some evil but more good all through Carey’s time. First of all, as affecting the very existence and the social development of the people, or their capacity for being educated, Christianised, civilised in the highest sense,
LIFE OF WILLIAM CAREY.
there was the relation of the Government to the ryots ("protected ones") and the zameendars ("landholders"). In India, as nearly all over the world except in feudalised Britain, the state is the common landlord in the interests of all classes who hold the soil subject to the payment of customary rents, directly or through middlemen, to the Government. For thirty years after Plassey the Government of India had been learning its business, and in the process had injured both itself and the landed classes, as much as has been done in Ireland. From a mere trader it had been, more or less consciously, becoming a ruler. In 1786 the Court of Directors, in a famous letter, tried to arrest the ruin which the famine had only hastened by ordering that a settlement of the land-tax or revenue or rent be made, not with mere farmers like the pashas of Turkey, but with the old zameendars, and that the rate be fixed for ten years. Cornwallis and Shore took three years to make the detailed investigations, and in 1789 the state rent-roll of Bengal proper was fixed at £2,858,772 a year. The English peer, who was Governor-General at once jumped to the conclusion that this rate should be fixed not only for ten years but for ever. The experienced Bengal civilian protested that to do that would be madness when a third of the rich province was out of cultivation, and as to the rest its value was but little known, and its estates were without reliable survey or boundaries. We can now see that, as usual, both were right in what they asserted and wrong in what they denied. The principle of fixity of tenure and tax cannot be over-estimated in its economic, social, and political value, but it should have been applied to the village communities and cultivating peasants without the intervention of middlemen other than the large ancestral landholders with hereditary rights, and that on the standard of corn rents. Cornwallis had it in his power thus to do what some years afterwards Von Stein did in Prussia with the result seen in
LANDLORDS AND TENANTS.
the present German people and empire. The dispute as to a permanent or a decennial settlement was referred home, and Pitt, aided by Dundas and Charles Grant, took a week to consider it. His verdict was given in favour of feudalism. Eight months before Carey landed at Calcutta the settlement had been declared perpetual; in 1795 it was extended to Benares also.
During the next twenty years mismanagement and debt revolutionised the landed interest, as in France at the same time, but in a very different direction. The customary rights of the peasant proprietors had been legislatively secured by reserving to the Governor-General the power "to enact such regulations as he may think necessary for the protection and welfare of the dependent talookdars, ryots, and other cultivators of the soil." The peasants continued long to be so few that there was competition for them; the process of extortion with the aid of the courts had hardly begun when they were many, and the zameendars were burdened with charges for the police. But in 1799 and again in 1812 the state, trembling for its rent, gave the zameendars further authority. The principle of permanence of assessment so far co-operated with the splendid fertility of the Ganges valley and the peaceful multiplication of the people and spread of cultivation, that all through the wars and annexations, up to the close of the Mutiny, it was Bengal which enabled England to extend the empire up to its natural limits from the two seas to the Himalaya. But in 1859 the first attempt was made by the famous Act X. to check the rack-renting power of the zameendars. And now, just a century since the first step was taken to arrest the ruin of the peasantry, the legislature of India has again tried to solve for the whole country these four difficulties which all past landed regulations have intensified—to give the state tenants a guarantee against uncertain enhancements of rent, and against taxation of improvements; to minimise
LIFE OF WILLIAM CAREY.
the evil of taking rent in cash instead of in kind by arranging the dates on which rent is paid; and to mitigate if not prevent famine by allowing relief for failure of crops. As pioneering the work of Carey and his colleagues all through was distinctly hindered by the treatment of the land question, for it at once ground down the mass of the people and created a class of oppressive landlords destitute for the most part of public spirit and the higher culture. Both were disinclined by their circumstances to lend an ear to the Gospel, but these circumstances made it the more imperative on the missionaries to tell them, to teach their children, to print for all the glad tidings. Carey, himself of peasant extraction, cared for the millions of the people above all; but his work in the classical as well as the vernacular languages was equally addressed to their twenty thousand landlords. The time of his work—before Bentinck; and the centre of it—outside the metropolis, left the use of the English weapon against Brahmanism largely for Duff.
When Cornwallis, following Warren Hastings, completed the substitution of the British for the Mohammedan civil administration by a system of courts and police and a code of regulations, he was guilty of one omission and one mistake that it took years of discussion and action to rectify. He did not abolish from the courts the use of Persian, the language of the old Mussulman invaders, now foreign to all parties; and he excluded from all offices above £30 a year the natives of the country, contrary to their fair and politic practice. Bengal and its millions, in truth, were nominally governed in detail by three hundred white and upright civilians, with the inevitable result in abuses which they could not prevent, and oppression of native by native which they would not check, and the delay or development of reforms which the few missionaries long called for in vain. In a word, after making the most generous allowance for the
HINDOOISM A CENTURY AGO.
good intentions of Cornwallis, and conscientiousness of Shore, his successor, we must admit that Carey was called to become the reformer of a state of society which the worst evils of Asiatic and English rule combined to prevent him and other self-sacrificing or disinterested philanthropists from purifying. The East India Company, at home and in India, had reached that low depth of opposition to light and freedom in any form which justifies Burke’s extremest passages—the period between its triumph on the exclusion of "the pious clauses" from the Charter of 1793 and its sullen defeat in the Charter of 1813. We shall reproduce some outlines of the picture which Ward drew:—1
"On landing in Bengal, in the year 1793, our brethren found themselves surrounded with a population of heathens (not including the Mahometans) amounting to at least one hundred millions of souls.
"On the subject of the divine nature, with the verbal admission of the doctrine of the divine unity, they heard these idolaters speak of 330,000,000 of gods. Amidst innumerable idol temples they found none erected for the worship of the one living and true God. Services without end they saw performed in honour of the elements and deified heroes, but heard not one voice tuned to the praise or employed in the service of the one God. Unacquainted with the moral perfections of Jehovah, they saw this immense population prostrate before dead matter, before the monkey, the serpent, before idols the very personifications of sin; and they found this animal, this reptile, and the lecher Krishnŭ and his concubine Radha, among the favourite deities of the Hindoos...
"They found that the immense population had no knowledge whatever of the Divine government ; that they supposed the world to be placed under the management of beings ignorant, capricious, and wicked; that the three principal deities, the creator, the preserver, and the destroyer, having no love of righteousness, nor any settled rules of government, were often quarrelling with each other. . . .
"Through their ignorance of the divine law, of the corruption of the heart, and of the deep turpitude of sin, these people imagined that the waters of the Ganges had virtue enough in them to purify the mind from its earthly stains; and hence they saw the whole popu-
1Farewell Letters on Returning to Bengal in 1821.
LIFE OF WILLIAM CAREY.
lation residing in the neighbourhood, morning and evening crowding to the river; they saw this holy water carried for religious uses to the most distant parts, and the dying hurried in their last moments to receive their last purification in the sacred stream. Under the delusion, that sin is to be removed by the merit of works, they observed others undertaking long and dangerous pilgrimages in which thousands perished; while others were seen inflicting on their bodies the most dreadful tortures, and others were sitting through the day and through the year, repeating the names of their guardian deities. . . .
"Respecting the real nature of the present state, the missionaries perceived that the Hindoos laboured under the most fatal misapprehensions; that they believed the good or evil actions of this birth were not produced as the volitions of their own wills, but arose from, and were the unavoidable results of, the actions of the past birth; that their present actions would inevitably give rise to the whole complexion of their characters and conduct in the following birth; and that thus they were doomed to interminable transmigrations, to float as some light substance upon the bosom of an irresistible torrent. . . .
"Amongst these idolaters no Bibles were found; no sabbaths; no congregating for religious instruction in any form; no house for God; no God but a log of wood, or a monkey; no Saviour but the Ganges; no worship but that paid to abominable idols, and that connected with dances, songs, and unutterable impurities; so that what should have been divine worship, purifying, elevating, and carrying the heart to heaven, was a corrupt but rapid torrent, poisoning the soul and carrying it down to perdition; no morality, for how should a people be moral whose gods are monsters of vice; whose priests are their ringleaders in crime; whose scriptures encourage pride, impurity, falsehood, revenge, and murder; whose worship is connected with indescribable abominations, and whose heaven is a brothel? As might be expected, they found that men died here without indulging the smallest vestige of hope, except what can arise from transmigration, the hope, instead of plunging into some place of misery, of passing into the body of some reptile. To carry to such a people the divine word, to call them together for sacred instruction, to introduce amongst them a pure and heavenly worship, and to lead them to the observance of a Sabbath on earth, as the preparative and prelude to a state of endless perfection, was surely a work worthy for a Saviour to command, and becoming a christian people to attempt."
The condition of women, who were then estimated at
HINDOO WOMEN LAST CENTURY.
"seventy-five millions of minds," and whom the census shows to be now above 124,000,000, is thus described after an account of female infanticide:—
"To the Hindoo female all education is denied by the positive injunction of the shastrǔ, and by the general voice of the population. Not a single school for girls, therefore, all over the country! With knitting, sewing, embroidery, painting, music, and drawing, they have no more to do than with letters; the washing is done by men of a particular tribe. The Hindoo girl, therefore, spends the ten first years of her life in sheer idleness, immured in the house of her father.
"Before she has attained to this age, however, she is sought after by the ghutuks, men employed by parents to seek wives for their sons. She is betrothed without her consent; a legal agreement, which binds her for life, being made by the parents on both sides while she is yet a child. At a time most convenient to the parents, this boy and girl are brought together for the first time, and the marriage ceremony is performed; after which she returns to the house of her father.
"Before the marriage is consummated, in many instances, the boy dies, and this girl becomes a widow; and as the law prohibits the marriage of widows, she is doomed to remain in this state as long as she lives. The greater number of these unfortunate beings become a prey to the seducer, and a disgrace to their families. Not long since, a bride, on the day the marriage ceremony was to have been performed, was burnt on the funeral pile with the dead body of the bridegroom, at Chandernagore, a few miles north of Calcutta. Concubinage, to a most awful extent, is the fruit of these marriages without choice. What a sum of misery is attached to the lot of woman in India before she has attained even her fifteenth year!
"In some cases as many as fifty females, the daughters of so many Hindoos, are given in marriage to one bramhǔn, in order to make these families something more respectable, and that the parents may be able to say, we are allied by marriage to the kooleens...
"But the awful state of female society in this miserable country appears in nothing so much as in dooming the female, the widow, to be burnt alive with the putrid carcase of her husband. The Hindoo legislators have sanctioned this immolation, showing herein a studied determination to insult and degrade woman. She is, therefore, in the first instance, deluded into this act by the writings of these bramhǔns; in which also she is promised, that if she will offer herself, for the benefit of her husband, on the funeral pile, she shall, by the extraordinary
LIFE OF WILLIAM CAREY.
merit of this action, rescue her husband from misery, and take him and fourteen generations of his and her family with her to heaven, where she shall enjoy with them celestial happiness until fourteen kings of the gods shall have succeeded to the throne of heaven (that is, millions of years!). Thus ensnared, she embraces this dreadful death. I have seen three widows, at different times, burnt alive; and had repeated opportunities of being present at similar immolations, but my courage failed me. . . .
"The burying alive of widows manifests, if that were possible, a still more abominable state of feeling towards women than the burning them alive. The weavers bury their dead. When, therefore, a widow of this tribe is deluded into the determination not to survive her husband, she is buried alive with the dead body. In this kind of immolation the children and relations dig the grave. After certain ceremonies have been attended to, the poor widow arrives, and is let down into the pit. She sits in the centre, taking the dead body on her lap and encircling it with her arms. These relations now begin to throw in the soil; and after a short space, two of them descend into the grave, and tread the earth firmly round the body of the widow. She sits a calm and unremonstrating spectator of the horrid process. She sees the earth rising higher and higher around her, without upbraiding her murderers, or making the least effort to arise and make her escape. At length the earth reaches her lips—covers her head. The rest of the earth is then hastily thrown in, and these children and relations mount the grave, and tread down the earth upon the head of the suffocating widow—the mother!" Why, my dear friend, the life of the vilest brute that walks upon the earth is never taken away by a process so slow, so deliberate, so diabolical as this. And this is the state of your sex in British India!—In how many situations, where we expected it not, are we reminded of the testimony of the Divine word: in every part of the heathen world, in the miserable state of woman, what a confirmation of the denunciation, ‘To the woman he said, I will greatly multiply your sorrow.’ . . .
"Every year more than seven hundred women (more probably fourteen hundred) are burned or buried alive in the Presidency of Bengal alone. How many in the other parts of India?"
Before Carey, what had been done to turn the millions of North India from such darkness as that? Nothing, beyond the brief and impulsive efforts of Thomas. There does not seem to have been there one genuine convert from any of the
THE COAST MISSION IN SOUTH INDIA.
Asiatic faiths; there had never been even the nucleus of a native church.
In South India, for the greater part of the century, the Coast Mission, as it was called, had been carried on from Tranquebar as a centre by the Lutherans whom, from Ziegenbalg to Schwartz, Francke had trained at Halle and Friedrich IV. of Denmark had sent forth to its East India Company’s settlement. From the baptism of the first convert in 1707 and translation of the New Testament into Tamil, to the death in 1798 of Schwartz, with whom Carey sought to begin a correspondence then taken up by Guericke, the foundations were laid around Madras, in Tanjore, and in Tinnevelli of a native church which now includes half a million. But, when Carey landed, rationalism in Germany and Denmark, and the Carnatic wars between the English and French, had reduced the Coast Mission to a state of inanition. Nor was Southern India the true or ultimate battlefield against Brahmanism; the triumphs of Christianity there were rather among the demon-worshipping tribes of Dravidian origin than among the Aryan races till Dr. Miller developed the Christian College. But the way for the harvest now being reaped by the Evangelicals and Anglicans of the Church of England, by the Independents of the London Missionary Society, the Wesleyans, and the Presbyterians of the Free Church of Scotland and America, was prepared by the German Ziegenbalg and Schwartz under Danish protection. The English Propagation and Christian Knowledge Societies sent them occasional aid, the first two Georges under the influence of their German chaplains wrote to them encouraging letters, and the East India Company even gave them a free passage in its ships, and employed the sculptor Bacon to prepare the noble group of marble which, in St. Mary’s Church, Madras, expresses its gratitude to Schwartz for his political services.
LIFE OF WILLIAM CAREY.
It was Clive himself who brought to Calcutta the first missionary, Kiernander the Swede, but he was rather a chaplain, or a missionary to the Portuguese, who were nominal Christians of the lowest Romanist type. The French had closed the Danish mission at Cuddalore, and in 1758 Calcutta was without a Protestant clergyman to bury the dead or baptize or marry the living. Two years before one of the two chaplains had perished in the tragedy of the Black Hole, where he was found lying hand in hand with his son, a young lieutenant. The other had escaped down the river only to die of fever along with many more. The victory of Plassey and the large compensation paid for the destruction of Old Calcutta and its church induced thousands of natives to flock to the new capital, while the number of the European troops and officials was about 2000. When chaplains were sent out, the Governor-General officially wrote of them to the Court of Directors so late as 1795:—"Our clergy in Bengal, with some exceptions, are not respectable characters." From the general relaxation of morals, he added, "a black coat is no security." They were so badly paid—from £50 to £230 a year, increased by £120 to meet the cost of living in Calcutta after 1764—that they traded. The Rev. John Owen, a friend of Cecil, retired with £25,000 in ten years, and that was only a modest half of what some of the colleagues released chiefly from shares in Clive’s monopolies. Preaching was the least of the chaplains’ duties; burying was the most onerous. Anglo-Indian society, cut off from London, itself not much better, by a six months’ voyage, was corrupt. Warren Hastings and Philip Francis, his hostile colleague in Council, lived in open adultery. The majority of the officials had native women, and the increase of their children, who lived in a state worse than that of the heathen, became so alarming that the compensation paid by the Mohammedan Government of Moorshedabad for the
HE HAD NO PREDECESSOR.
destruction of the church was applied to the foundation of the useful charity still known as the Free School. The fathers not unfrequently adopted the Hindoo pantheon along with the zanana. The pollution, springing from England originally, was rolled back into it in an increasing volume, when the survivors retired as nabobs with fortunes, to corrupt social and political life, till Pitt cried out; and it became possible for Burke almost to succeed in his eighteen years’ unjust impeachment of Hastings. The literature of the close of the eighteenth century is full of alarm. Professor Seeley is within the truth when he emphasises the two dangers as these—lest the English character should be corrupted, and lest the balance of the constitution should be upset.1
Kiernander is said to have been the means of converting 209 heathens and 380 Romanists, of whom three were priests, during the twenty-eight years of his Calcutta career. Claudius Buchanan declares that Christian tracts had been translated into Bengali—one written by the Bishop of Sodor and Man—and that in the time of Warren Hastings Hindoo Christians had preached to their countrymen in the city. The "heathen" were probably Portuguese descendants, in whose language Kiernander preached as the lingua franca of the time. He could not even converse in Bengali or Hindostani, and when Charles Grant went to him for information as to the way of a sinner’s salvation this happened—"My anxious inquiries as to what I should do to be saved appeared to embarrass and confuse him exceedingly. He could not answer my questions, but he gave me some good instructive books." On Kiernander’s bankruptcy, caused by his son when the father was blind, the "Mission Church" was bought by Grant, who wrote that its labours "have been confined to the descendants of Europeans, and have hardly ever embraced a single heathen, so that a mission to the
1The Expansion of England, 1883.
LIFE OF WILLIAM CAREY.
Hindoos and Mohammedans would be a new thing." The Rev. David Brown, who had been sent out the year after as master and chaplain of the Military Orphan Society, for the education of the children of officers and soldiers, and was to become one of the Serampore circle of friends, preached to Europeans only in the Mission Church. Carey could find no trace of Kiernander’s work among the natives six years after his death.1 The only converted Hindoo known of in Northern India up to that time was Guneshan Das, of Delhi, who when a boy joined Clive’s army, who was the first man of caste2 to visit England, and who, on his return with the Calcutta Supreme Court Judges in 1774 as Persian interpreter and translator, was baptised by Kiernander, Mr. justice Chambers being sponsor.
William Carey had no predecessor in India as the first ordained Englishman who was sent to it as a missionary; he had no predecessor in Bengal and Hindostan proper as the first missionary from any land to the people. Even the Moravians, who in 1777 had sent two brethren to Serampore, Calcutta, and Patna, had soon withdrawn them, and one of them became the Company’s botanist in Madras—Dr. Heyne. Carey practically stood alone at the first, while he unconsciously set in motion the double revolution, which was to convert the Anglo-Indian influence on England from corrupting heathenism to aggressive missionary zeal, and to change the Bengal of Cornwallis into the India of Bentinck, with all the possibilities that have made it grow, thus far, into the India of the Lawrences.
1In the only reliable life of Kiernander, in the Calcutta Review for 1847, vol. vii. Pp. 124-184, the Rev. James Long, of the Church Missionary Society, claims for Carey and his colleagues "all the credit due to an original attempt in devising and carrying out three excellent plans which have laid so broad a foundation on which to build the native churches" of North India.
2Plütschau in 1711 took one of his converts, Timothy, home to Halle to be educated as a missionary.
Go back to: CHAPTER II. THE BIRTH OF ENGLAND'S FOREIGN MISSIONS
Go forward to: CHAPTER Iv. SIX YEARS IN NORTH BENGAL—MISSIONARY AND INDIGO PLANTER
Back to Table of Contents
Carey Center Home Page
Created: March 8, 2006 Updated: June 23, 2006