Thoughts on economics and liberty

Macaulay’s षड़यंत्र?

I'm not Macaulay's apologist at all! Nor do I support the oppressive British colonialists. But I'm not sure that there was any Macaulay "shadyantra" to destroy India. Instead, Macaulay (no matter what his delusions), wanted to make India a great, free nation. We can definitely call it the shadyantra of OTHER British rulers, but Macaulay's shadyantra? Perhaps No.

Let me quote:
"We are free, we are civilised, to little purpose, if we grudge to any portion of the human race an equal measure of freedom and civilisation." (Macaulay)
"It may be that the public mind of India may expand under our system till it has outgrown that system; that 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. To have found a great people sunk in the lowest depths of slavery and superstition, to have so ruled them as to have made them desirous and capable of all the privileges of citizens, would indeed be a title to glory all our own." (Macaulay)
"no native of our Indian Empire shall, by reason of his colour, his descent, or his religion, be incapable of holding office" (Macaulay)
"It would be on the most selfish view of the case far better for us that the people of India were well-governed and independent of us, than ill-governed and subject to us" (Macaulay)
Macaulay's hopes for India were so great that of all the British rulers in India, Dadabhai Naoroji singled him out for praise. His only regret was the OTHER British rulers did NOT follow Macaulay's advice. And so Naoroji wrote: "had these pledges and policy been faithfully followed, now, after forty years, great blessing would have been the result both to England and India."

His grievance was not against Macaulay – who was a beacon of hope for all of India in the midst of other oppressive British rulers, but against these OTHER British rulers. 
It is therefore surprising that the British person who most wanted India to become free (that too in the 1830s) – as soon as possible – is now said to be the one who had a "shadyanta" against India!
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Sanjeev Sabhlok

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11 thoughts on “Macaulay’s षड़यंत्र?
  1. Dr. O. P. Sudrania

    Mr Sabhlok,

    I am amazed that a person like you could be in Macaulay’s praise. I am sorry to seriously disagree with your contention including the praise by Dadabhai Naurowji. Parsees ame here before British on the coast of Gujarat when the ruler gave them unflinching support but later on in British period, their loyalty waxed towards their new ruler. It is on record and I have put matters on record on my series on Caste problems in India.

    You have taken out the same passages what Macaulay loyalists in India often quote. It is sad the same is being preached by people like you. I would have rather thought that you did not dig out the burried grave as it will only lead to serious polemics. You will extend another soft arm to the fellows who you have decided to battle against. Please do not consider it a personal attack. Please read more before you leap in this dirty occean of Macaulay.

    The still unproved contentious quote of Macaulay has been the most unfortunate quote that has helped the Raj supporters still plenty in and out eating the same bulldogs and criticising their mother. Very unfortunate. I did a long painstaking research on this fellow relating to the quote that I first saw in 2007 in Freedom Express to my consternation, the entire bagfull material is still with me but I desisted in posting and replying his admirers, it is a futile waste of energy, your post reminded me, “How correct is my decision”? Let us try to engage in better ideas to build the already lost heritage. With my kindest regards especially to all those who wish to disagree with me. Happy New Year 2013 to all of you here. God bless.

  2. Dr. O. P. Sudrania

    Third line in first para: “Parsees ame here before British …” Please read “Parsees came here before British..”. Sorry for inconvenience.

  3. Sanjeev Sabhlok

    Dear Dr Sudrania

    I’m a student of the truth, and I tend to study history in its overall perspective – i.e. I place events in their time and place, not in today’s time and place.

    I’m perfectly happy if someone says that there was a British “shadyantra” to override India’s culture, and that Macaulay had many significant misunderstandings about India’s culture and history. But it is clearly important to distinguish good things from bad. Macaulay was pivotal to human history through his work on the 1832 Reform Act, and various other contributions to liberty.

    Throwing out the baby with the bathwater is what concerns me. Not that the bathwater was not dirty.

    Do please spend time to read all my blog posts. I’ve NEVER consulted with anyone in forming my opinion. I always read original sources myself. I only trust MY mind. So if you find errors in my blog posts, please raise them there.


  4. Sanjeev Sabhlok

    May I add that none of this academic study of the facts detracts from my commitment that we should extract the best we can from India’s past, and the best from anything modern.


  5. Shiela

    Macaulay’s periods are finely balanced but there was nothing balanced about his views. It is characteristic of such English political writers as were nurtured entirely in the Classics that the wrought iron of their Ciceronian prose style consigns them to, and weighs them down in, the oubliette of an already anachronistic Political Economy.
    Enoch Powell, who proposed the reconquest of India to R.A. Butler in 1949, but who during the 60’s was the sole voice against the ‘Butskellite’ Center-Left consensus- which inspired Mrs. Thatcher’s embrace of the Free Market- is a case in point. Aurobindo, whom Gandhi and Nehru and so on were ready to follow in the early 20’s, is another example of a mind stunted rather than expanded by the rigors of a Classical education.

    Macaulay had little impact on Indian history- the Occidentalists would have held sway in any case till the 1880’s when, for entirely endogenous reasons, the pendulum swung the other way and the Orientalists oversaw the newer Universities in Punjab etc. True, Macaulay’ss essay on Milton inspired the post Mutiny generation of compradors- but his impact on English History was negative. His praise of William of Orange and failure to see that the Irish Catholics suffered from more than mere Civil disabilities, poisoned late Victorian politics. Enoch Powell, similarly, split the Tory vote and condemned the U.K to the miseries of its ‘lost decade’- the Seventies. Aurobindo’s Romantic Nationalism- already anachronistic in view of the Sociological turn in Ranade, Gokhale and even Shyamji Krishna Verma- literally went nowhere, He fulfilled the Imperial game-plan by which each subject nation would have its own face-saving specialism- the Irish were to be the playwrights, the Indians were to be the ‘Mahatmas’, the Blacks were to be the good-hearted, childishly loyal, ‘muscle’, etc. etc.
    These are all great writers. Powell was the best Classicist of his day. Aurobindo was the outstanding student of the finest Classical minds of his day. Macaulay’s prose and some of his verse will command attention, indeed admiration, wherever the English language is relished- but, whatever adventious service they may have done the cause of Classical Liberalism, it is to the Tiber that they return for, indeed, Cicero is their fons et origo.
    There is no harm in praising a man for his scholarship or prose style or quoting such of his lapidary formulations as best illumine or render attractive one’s own political or moral beliefs.
    Hafiz himself appropriated a hemistich from the reviled Yezid and even the Ayatollahs haven’t yet stifled that ‘Voice of the Unseen’!

  6. Sanjeev Sabhlok


    My preference is to seek the author directly, and from my judgement to date (subject to change, as facts emerge), Macaulay remains firmly in the classical liberal tradition. No one is suggesting he was perfect or that he was unbiased. However, I suggest that among the range of British opinions in his time, his was as pro-Indian liberty as was perhaps possible in his time.

    As you note: “Macaulay’s essay on Milton inspired the post Mutiny generation of compradors”. Also, Naoroji felt he represented the best in British opinion and liberalism.

    We need to find other enemies of India from among the British. Macaulay is not enemy enough. That’s my suggestion.

  7. stalin

    Dear Sanjeev Ji,

    Great post.Many people does not go deep through to find first hand information or clear truth,before getting into conclusion and they prejudice their opinions that leads to all misunderstandings about the good from bad.Like wise still there are many fools who does not understand mahatma clearly makes many derogatory comments which is some times quite pity to hear among our own people.

  8. Dr. O. P. Sudrania

    Mr Stalin,
    In fact I can see a fool here wh understands too much to call others fool. It is pity that simply because someone does not agree to a view point, he must be a fool. What nonsense are you talking about Mahatma and which Mahatma. Don’t be overly pedantic. I have read some history and I do know what I am talking about. Simply because I have no time for such topic and to avoid unnecessary waste of my valuable time, I retracted and it is not my habit to indulge in useless polemics.

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