October 13, 2010
Misrepresentation of Macaulay’s entire work through a single private letter to his father
We all know the story of the five blind men who made the wildest descriptions of an elephant by feeling its trunk, leg, tail, and so on. We now have a phenomenon in India of armchair blogsphere historians who use not even ONE HAIR of the elephant to determine what that creature is! Not only that, they use FALSE HAIR! to determine the nature of that creature.
I am talking specifically about the VERY SHAMEFUL saga of thousands of bloggers in India (particularly on Hindutva blogs) using a statement that Macaulay NEVER MADE to not only misrepresent him but to go off on all kinds of tangents about history.
Historians would hang their head in shame at such 'scholarship' in the Indian blogsphere.
But there is another statement that Macaulay DID make which was first brought to my notice here and Shantanu Bhagwat has mentioned it on his blog here. Yes, the following statement is TRUE. In a letter to his father in October 1836, Macaulay wrote:
FIRST THIS: "In a few months,–I hope, indeed, in a few weeks,–we shall send up the Penal Code to Government. We have got rid of the punishment of death, except in the case of aggravated treason and wilful murder. We shall also get rid indirectly of everything that can properly be called slavery in
A most devoted son, he ends the letter by looking forward to meeting his family: "some days of intense happiness I shall surely have; and one of those will be the day when I again see my dear father and sisters"
And he also wrote, in between these two portions, the following "offensive" lines:
"Our English schools are flourishing wonderfully. We find it difficult, indeed, in some places impossible, to provide instruction for all who want it. At the single town of Hoogly fourteen hundred boys are learning English. The effect of this education on the Hindoos is prodigious. No Hindoo, who has received an English education, ever remains sincerely attached to his religion. Some continue to profess it as matter of policy; but many profess themselves pure Deists, and some embrace Christianity." [Source]
So, after getting rid of slavery, and all unnecessary death penalties, and after having worked assiduously to bring about a system of honest good governance, he is now known only as a Christian fanatic who was intent on changing Hindus WITHOUT proselytisation – through education in science! Was Hinduism so weak that it would die merely through slight exposure to English and science. HAS IT DIED? Was his assumption true? No!
He did not ATTACK Hindus. He did not even preach.
Note that he did not set up English schools – these had been set up BY INDIANS.
And he had, in 1831, well before this letter, looked forward to the day when India will become independent (below for more details).
And so, this fine fighter for freedom (an enemy of slavery, a commoner who was active in the Reform Act of 1832 which took down the aristocracy in England many notches, and who advocated liberty for women at a time when that was unheard of anywhere in the world) – is today HATED by many Indians!!
I find this really AMAZING AND DISAPPOINTING.
Well before Macaulay came on the scene, people like Raja Ram Mohun Roy had advocated the opening of English schools. Thus, “Ram Mohun Roy appeared in 1831 before a parliamentary committee in England studying the renewal of the company’s charter. While giving testimony on the question of free European emigration to India, Roy expressed the opinion that English emigration should be unrestricted since English settlers in India “from motives of benevolence, public spirit, and fellow feeling toward their native neighbours, would establish schools and other seminaries of education for the cultivation of the English language throughout the country, and for the diffusion of a knowledge of European arts and sciences.”" (Elmer H. Cutts, “The Background of Macaulay’s Minute”, The American Historical Review, Vol. 58, No. 4 Jul., 1953, p. 828).
Further, Macaulay is GROSSLY over-rated for his influence on Bentick (Bentick did not need Macaulay’s minute to make up his mind on something he had already decided based on extensive consultation).
Finally, acaulay is surely entitled (as are many Hindus today who oppose Madrassas) to his religious views in a PRIVATE letter to his father. Show me one Hindu who in his PRIVATE conversation with his family members (say, father) hasn’t railed against Muslims or Christians and said that we must stop their Madrassas and give them MODERN EDUCATION so they can reduce their fanaticism.
I don’t understand why we forget the many good things that Macaulay said about India. He was the FIRST Britisher to look forward to the independence of India: “by good government we may educate our subjects into a capacity for better government; that, having become instructed in European knowledge, they may, in some future age, demand European institutions. Whether such a day will ever come I know not. But never will I attempt to avert or to retard it. Whenever it comes, it will be the PROUDEST DAY IN ENGLISH HISTORY.” (see here) [Macaulay was 33 years old when he said this]
Macaulay was one of GREATEST fighters for freedom in the 19th century, and his contributions are on par with J.S. Mill’s. Let us assess people based on their ENTIRE contributions and avoid misjudging them, or judging them by our modern standards.
Yes, he was a Christian, and did not have the highest regard for alleged Indian 'science' (which is highly questionable, anyway). But how many Hindus have a high regard for Christianity or its cosomology? Can our regard for other religions that be a standard of assessment of others?
But he DID have a high regard for freedom. To me that is a crucial thing that many Indians don't have even today.
Note that Macaulay was 36 when he wrote that letter. Now compare the writings of one of the MOST POISONOUS WRITERS THAT INDIA HAS PRODUCED: Gowlalkar. At age 33 (the age that Macaulay was when he gave his brilliant speech on India), Golwalkar wrote the following POISON:
"The non-Hindu peoples in Hindusthan must either adopt the Hindu culture and language, must learn to respect and hold in reverence Hindu religion, must entertain no ideas but those of glorification of the Hindu race and culture, i.e. they must not only give up their attitude of intolerance and ungratefulness towards this land and its age long traditions but must also cultivate the positive attitude of love and devotion instead – in one word, they must cease to be foreigners, or may stay stay in the country, wholly subordinated to the Hindu nation, claiming nothing, deserving no privileges, far less any preferential treatment – not even citizen’s rights"
"our Race spirit has once again roused itself,' thus giving Hindus the right of excommunicating Muslims"
"'Germany has also shown how well-nigh impossible it is for Races and cultures, having differences going to the root, to be assimilated into one united whole, a good lesson for us in Hindustan to learn and profit by".
WHICH MAN OF AGE 33 WAS BETTER? ONE MAN LOVED LIBERTY, THE OTHER HATED IT. One man who was non-violent and wished to educate India, the other who was violent and wanted to kill a large chunk of Indians?