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THE ORIENTAL HERALD
No. 5.- MAY 1824.-Vol. 2.
NECESSITY OF A CONTROLLING POWER IN INDIA AS A SECURITY
In entering on the Second Volume of our Work, we take 'occasion to express the satisfaction with which we have witnessed its reception in the circles, where its merits or defects could alone be adequately estimated; we mean, among those formerly resident in India and the Colonies, and others, whose connexions with these quarters have induced them to turn their attention to the affairs of the Eastern and Western world.
The difficulty of creating an interest in the fate of distant countries, or of rousing a sympathy in distant sufferings, has been felt and acknowledged in all ages : nor is there less reason to lament this at present, than there has been at all former periods. It appears to be a truth, illustrated by universal experience, that whatever is near, excites our feelings most powerfully, and whatever is remote, operates on them less effectually, in proportion to the distance of time and space through which the information has to pass before it can reach us. We do not complain of this, any more than of other laws of nature. All that we desire is, to see the knowledge of this fact applied to the lesson which it ought evidently to teach ; namely, that the superintendence and control of affairs in any one country, ought never to exist beyond that country itself; and that it becomes less and less efficient, in proportion to the distance at which the seat of such control is placed from the scene of action.
This indifference to Indian and Colonial affairs, which is observed in all classes of English society, except those immediately connected by former residence or present intercourse with the countries themselves, ought to convince all who consider the subject worthy of a moment's attention, that nothing can be more pernicious, than the prevailing idea of men in power in our distant possessions being responsible to Public Opinion in the mothercountry; and nothing more mischievous, than their being permitted to rid themselves of all responsibility to Public Opinion in the countries they govern, on the plea that they acknowledge submission to its influence in another hemisphere. Orient, Herald, Vol 2.
All who have read Mill's History of British India, must have seen, in almost every chapter of that instructive work, instances of the ill effects of having a country professedly governed by a power, at an immense distance from all the transactions which it attempted to regulate and superintend; but actually tyrannized over by men, bowing with affected submission to the orders of their masters at home, yet contriving, whenever it suited their purpose, to counteract the will of their superiors, by so ordering affairs, that events should apparently plead an excuse for their taking all power into their hands. Yet, if no such. History had been written, and not a single instance of the evils of such a system could be found on record, it ought, still, to be sufficiently apparent to every thinking being, that distant superintendence and control is of infinitely less force and value than the exercise of a supervision on the spot.
This one fact—which all must acknowledge and most men must have experienced the lively interest taken by mankind in whatever occurs within the range of their personal observation and touches their immediate interests, and their indifference to what is at once remote and entirely unconnected with their past recollections, their present enjoyments, or their future hopes,-is enough to establish it as an indisputable truth, that good government can never be effectually secured, without the governors being made responsible to Public Opinion, exercised by the community over which they rule; and that all pretended submission to the inAuence of Public Opinion elsewhere, is utterly nugatory, and consequently mischievous wherever it is credited, as its only effect must be to lull mankind into a security which is fatal to their best interests.
This doctrine, we are aware, would lead to the conclusion, that all Colonies and distant Dependencies must be worse governed than countries which are independent, and manage their own affairs without reference to other states. The fact is, we believe, too well supported by experience, to be denied. America has been infinitely better governed since her independence than before it; while Canada and our West India possessions remain nearly stationary. The South American States, though but in their infancy, are already better governed than when they were dependencies of Spain and Portugal; and we doubt not, but that a day will come, when the independence of India will make that country what it never can become while it remains a mere dependency of such a distant country as England. If there be any truth in the maxim, that civilized nations are rarely or stationary, but either retrograde or advance, such an event as this, however remote it may be, must happen; and all who desire the progressive improvement and happiness of the human race, must hope for its being accelerated rather than retarded.
No man can entertain a doubt, but that the affairs of Britain are better managed while the Ministers are responsible to Public Opinion in England, than they would be if the English Press were entirely silenced, and Public Opinion on their
conduct could only be freely exercised in New South Wales. To bring the point within a narrower compass : most men are persuaded, that the strictures of the Press are more influential on the conduct of those who fill the offices of state in the metropolis, when made immediately after the measure to which they relate, and on the very spot where the affair in question originates, than they would ever be, if the Metropolitan Journals were all silenced, and no papers could comment on the proceedings in Parliament or the Courts of Law, except the Provincial ones published in the obscure parts of Scotland, Ireland, and Wales. If it be true to this extent, how much more important is it that in a country so little known, so remote, and altogether possessing such slender holds on the attention or sympathy of the great mass in England, the conduct of men in office should be scrutinized on the spot, and not referred to the expression of Public Opinion here, where it never can be exercised with any
effect? The speed and certainty with which disgrace and punishment attend on the commission of misdeeds, is the surest check to their commission. The delay and uncertainty of both, operate almost as a bounty on the commission of crime: added to which, a Ruler may be guilty of almost any enormity, in India, without dread of the consequences, when he knows that there no one around or near him dare even express an opinion on his conduct : that there is, therefore, a hundred chances to one in favour of his guilt never being known beyond the country itself; that even if known, a year must elapse before it can be told with effect in England; that here it has little chance of being listened to beyond a day, when it may serve to fill up the gossip of an idle hour ; that after all, supposing an impression to be made against him in England, there are a thousand chances to one against his heing visited with punishment from hence; and that, admitting even this to be ordered, it will be another year before the authority to do so will reach him, when, perhaps, both himself and the victim of his oppression may be numbered with the dead; or if both are living, means will be always at hand still to evade the mandate, pending a reference to the mother-country, which may be repeated to the end of time, until the wnole affair sinks into oblivion, to give place to some new object of interest and attention, which will have to pass through the same stages in search of a redress, that, however ardently hoped for, is never likely to be attained.
These are but a few of the evil consequences of countries being governed by laws made at a distance, and by rulers made responsible, not to the public opinion of the people over which they