WHAT CAREY DID FOR LITERATURE AND FOR HUMANITY
The growth of a language–Carey identified with the transition stage of Bengali–First printed books–Carey’s own works–His influence on indigenous writers–His son’s works–Bengal the first heathen country to receive the press–The first Bengali newspaper–The monthly and quarterly Friend of India–The Hindoo revival of the eighteenth century fostered by the East India Company–Carey’s three memorials to Government on female infanticide, voluntary drowning, and widow-burning–What Jonathan Duncan and Col. Walker had done–Wellesley’s regulation to prevent the sacrifice of children–Beginning of the agitation against the Suttee crime–Carey’s pundits more enlightened than the Company’s judges–Humanity triumphs in 1832–Carey’s share in Ward’s book on the Hindoos–The lawless supernaturalism of Rome and of India–Worship of Jaganath–Regulation identifying Government with Hindooism–The swinging festival–Ghat murders–Burning of lepers–Carey establishes the Leper Hospital in Calcutta–Slavery in India loses its legal status–Cowper, Clarkson, and Carey.
LIKE the growth of a tree is the development of a language, as really and as strictly according to law. In savage lands like those of Africa the missionary finds the living germs of speech, arranges them for the first time in grammatical order, expresses them in written and printed form, using the simplest, most perfect, and most universal character of all–the Roman, and at one bound gives the most degraded of the dark peoples the possibility of the highest civilisation and the divinest future. In countries like India and China, where civilisation has long ago reached its highest level, and has been declining for want of the salt of a universal Christianity, it is the missionary again who interferes for the highest ends, but by a different process. Mastering the complex classical speech and literature of the learned and priestly class, and living with his Master’s sympathy among the people whom that class oppresses, he takes the popular dialects which are instinct with the life of the future; where they are wildly luxuriant he brings them under law, where they are barren he enriches them from the parent stock so as to make them the vehicle of ideas such as Greek gave to Europe, and in time he brings to the birth nations worthy of the name by a national language and literature lighted up with the ideas of the Book which he is the first to translate.
This was what Carey did for the speech of the Bengalees. To them, as the historians of the fast approaching Christian future will recognise, he was made what the Saxon Boniface had become to the Germans, or the Northumbrian Baeda and Wyclif to the English. The transition period of English, from 1150 when its modern grammatical form prevailed, to the fifteenth century when the rich dialects gave place to the literary standard, has its central date in 1362. Then Edward the Third made English take the place of French as the public language of justice and legislation, closely followed by Wyclif’s English Bible. Carey’s one Indian life of forty years marks the similar transition stage of Bengali, including the parallel regulation of 1829, which abolished Persian, made by the Mohammedan conquerors the language of the courts, and put in its place Bengali and the vernaculars of the other provinces.
When Carey began to work in Calcutta and Dinapoor in 1792-93 Bengali had no printed and hardly any written literature. The very written characters were justly described by Colebrooke as nothing else but the difficult and beautiful Sanskrit Devanagari deformed for the sake of expeditious writings, such as accounts. It was the new vaishnava faith of the Nuddea reformer Chaitanya which led to the composition of the first Bengali prose.22 The Brahmans and the Mohammedan rulers alike treated Bengali–though “it arose from the tomb of the Sanskrit,” as Italian did from Latin under Dante’s inspiration–as fit only for “demons and women.” In the generation before Carey there flourished at the same Oxford of India, as Nuddea has been called, Raja Krishna Rai, who did for Bengali what our own King Alfred accomplished for English prose. Moved, however, chiefly by a zeal for Hindooism, which caused him to put a Soodra to death for marrying into a Brahman family, he himself wrote the vernacular and spent money in gifts, which “encouraged the people to study Bengali with unusual diligence.” But when, forty years after that, Carey visited Nuddea he could not discover more than forty separate works, all in manuscript, as the whole literature of 30,000,000 of people up to that time. A press had been at work on the opposite side of the river for fifteen years, but Halhed’s grammar was still the only as it was the most ancient printed book. One Baboo Ram, from Upper India, was the first native who established a press in Calcutta, and that only under the influence of Colebrooke, to print the Sanskrit classics. The first Bengali who, on his own account, printed works in the vernacular on trade principles, was Gunga Kishore, whom Carey and Ward had trained at Serampore. He soon made so large a fortune by his own press that three native rivals had sprung up by 1820, when twenty-seven separate books, or 15,000 copies, had been sold to natives within ten years.
For nearly all these Serampore supplied the type. But all were in another sense the result of Carey’s action. His first edition of the Bengali New Testament appeared in 1801, his Grammar in the same year, and at the same time his Colloquies, or “dialogues intended to facilitate the acquiring of the Bengali language,” which he wrote out of the abundance of his knowledge of native thought, idioms, and even slang, to enable students to converse with all classes of society, as Erasmus had done in another way. His Dictionary of 80,000 words began to appear in 1815. Knowing, however, that in the long run the literature of a nation must be of indigenous growth, he at once pressed the natives into this service. His first pundit, Ram Basu, was a most accomplished Bengali scholar. This able man, who lacked the courage to profess Christ in the end, wrote the first tract, the Gospel Messenger, and the first pamphlet exposing Hindooism, both of which had an enormous sale and caused much excitement. On the historical side Carey induced him to publish in 1801 the Life of Raja Pratapaditya, the last king of Sagar Island. At first the new professor could not find reading books for his Bengali class in the college of Fort William. He, his pundits, especially Mritunjaya who has been compared in his physique and knowledge to Dr. Samuel Johnson, and even the young civilian students, were for many years compelled to write Bengali text-books, including translations of Virgil’s Æneid and Shakspere’s Tempest. The School Book Society took up the work, encouraging such a man as Ram Komal Sen, the printer who became chief native official of the Bank of Bengal and father of the late Keshab Chunder Sen, to prepare his Bengali dictionary. Self-interest soon enlisted the haughtiest Brahmans in the work of producing school and reading books, till now the Bengali language is to India what the Italian is to Europe, and its native literature is comparatively as rich. Nor was Carey without his European successor in the good work for a time. When his son Felix died in 1823 he was bewailed as the coadjutor of Ram Komal Sen, as the author of the first volume of a Bengali encyclopædia on anatomy, as the translator of Bunyan’s Pilgrim, Goldsmith’s History of England, and Mill’s History of India.
Literature cannot be said to exist for the people till the newspaper appears. Bengal was the first non-Christian country into which the press had ever been introduced. Above all forms of truth and faith Christianity seeks free discussion; in place of that the missionaries lived under a shackled press law tempered by the higher instincts of rulers like Wellesley, Hastings, and Bentinck, till Macaulay and Metcalfe gained for it liberty. When Dr. Marshman in 1818 proposed the publication of a Bengali periodical, Dr. Carey, impressed by a quarter of a century’s intolerance, consented only on the condition that it should be a monthly magazine, and should avoid political discussion. Accordingly the Dig-darshan appeared, anticipating in its contents and style the later Penny and Saturday Magazines, and continued for three years. Its immediate success led to the issue from the Serampore press on the 31st May 1818, of “the first newspaper ever printed in any Oriental language”–the Samachar Darpan, or News Mirror.
It was a critical hour when the first proof of the first number was laid before the assembled brotherhood at the weekly meeting on Friday evening. Dr. Carey, fearing for his spiritual work, but eager for this new avenue to the minds of the people who were being taught to read, and had little save their own mythology, consented to its publication when Dr. Marshman promised to send a copy, with an analysis of its contents in English, to the Government, and to stop the enterprise if it should be officially disapproved. Lord Hastings was fighting the Pindarees, and nothing was said by his Council. On his return he declared that “the effect of such a paper must be extensively and importantly useful.” He allowed it to circulate by post at one-fourth the then heavy rate. The natives welcomed their first newspaper. Although it avoided religious controversy, in a few weeks an opposition journal was issued by a native, who sought to defend Hindooism under the title of the Destroyer of Darkness. To the Darpan the educated natives looked as the means of bringing the oppression of their own countrymen to the knowledge of the public and the authorities. Government found it most useful for contradicting silly rumours and promoting contentment if not loyalty. The paper gave a new development to the Bengali language as well as to the moral and political education of the people.
The same period of liberty to the press and to native advancement, with which the names of the Marquis of Hastings and his accomplished wife will ever be associated, saw the birth of an English periodical which, for the next fifty-seven years, was to become not merely famous but powerfully useful as the Friend of India. The title was the selection of Dr. Marshman, and the editorial management was his and his able son’s down to 1852, when it passed into the hands of Mr. Meredith Townsend, long the most brilliant of English journalists, and finally into those of the present writer. For some years a monthly and for a time a quarterly magazine till 1835, when Mr. John Marshman made it the well-known weekly, this journal became the means through which Carey and the brotherhood fought the good fight of humanity. In the monthly and quarterly Friend, moreover, reprinted as much of it was in London, the three philanthropists brought their ripe experience and lofty principles to bear on the conscience of England and of educated India alike. As, on the Oriental side, Carey chose for his weapon the vernacular, on the other he drew from Western sources the principles and the thoughts which he clothed in a Bengali dress.
We have already seen how Carey at the end of the eighteenth century found Hindooism at its worst. Steadily had the Pooranic corruption and the Brahmanical oppression gone on demoralising the whole of Hindoo society. In the period of virtual anarchy, which covered the seventy-five years from the death of Aurangzeb to the supremacy of Warren Hastings and the reforms of Lord Cornwallis, the healthy zeal of Islam against the idolatrous abominations of the Hindoos had ceased. In its place there was not only a wild licence amounting to an undoubted Hindoo revival, marked on the political side by the Maratha ascendency, but there came to be deliberate encouragement of the worst forms of Hindooism by the East India Company and its servants. That “the mischievous reaction” on England from India–its idolatry, its women, its nabobs, its wealth, its absolutism–was prevented, and European civilisation was “after much delay and hesitation” brought to bear on India, was due indeed to the legislation of Governor-Generals from Cornwallis to Bentinck, but much more, to the persistent agitation of Christian missionaries, notably Carey and Duff. For years Carey stood alone in India, as Grant and Wilberforce did in England, in the darkest hour of England’s moral degradation and spiritual death, when the men who were shaping the destinies of India were the Hindooising Stewarts and Youngs, Prendergasts, Twinings, and Warings, some of whom hated missions from the dread of sedition, others because their hearts “seduced by fair idolatresses had fallen to idols foul.”
The most atrociously inhuman of all the Brahmanical customs, and yet the most universal, from the land of the five rivers at Lahore to the far spice islands at Bali, was the murder of widows by burning or burying them alive with the husband’s corpse. We have seen how the first of the many such scenes which he was doomed to witness for the next thirty years affected Carey. After remonstrances, which the people met first by argument and then by surly threats, Carey wrote:–“I told them I would not go, that I was determined to stay and see the murder, and that I should certainly bear witness of it at the tribunal of God.” And when he again sought to interfere because the two stout bamboos always fixed for the purpose of preventing the victim’s escape were pressed down on the shrieking woman like levers, and they persisted, he wrote: “We could not bear to see more, but left them exclaiming loudly against the murder and full of horror at what we had seen.” The remembrance of that sight never left Carey. His naturally cheerful spirit was inflamed to indignation all his life through, till his influence, more than that of any other one man, at last prevailed to put out for ever the murderous pyre. Had Lord Wellesley remained Governor-General a year longer Carey would have succeeded in 1808, instead of having to wait till 1829, and to know as he waited and prayed that literally every day saw the devilish smoke ascending along the banks of the Ganges, and the rivers and pools considered sacred by the Hindoos. Need we wonder that when on a Sunday morning the regulation of Lord William Bentinck prohibiting the crime reached him as he was meditating his sermon, he sent for another to do the preaching, and taking his pen in his hand, at once wrote the official translation, and had it issued in the Bengali Gazette that not another day might be added to the long black catalogue of many centuries?
On the return of the Marquis Wellesley to Calcutta from the Tipoo war, and his own appointment to the College of Fort William, Carey felt that his time had come to prevent the murder of the innocents all over India in the three forms of female infanticide, voluntary drowning, and widow-burning or burying alive. His old friend, Udny, having become a member of Council or colleague of the Governor-General, he prepared three memorials to Government on each of these crimes. When afterwards he had enlisted Claudius Buchanan in the good work, and had employed trustworthy natives to collect statistics proving that in the small district around Calcutta 275 widow murders thus took place in six months of 1803, and when he was asked by Dr. Ryland to state the facts which, with his usual absence of self-regarding, he had not reported publicly, or even in letters home, he thus replied:–
“27th April 1808.–The report of the burning of women, and some others, however, were made by me. I, at his expense, however, made the inquiries and furnished the reports, and believe they are rather below the truth than above it. I have, since I have been here, through a different medium, presented three petitions or representations to Government for the purpose of having the burning of women and other modes of murder abolished, and have succeeded in the case of infanticide and voluntary drowning in the river. Laws were made to prevent these, which have been successful.”
But there was a crime nearer home, committed in the river flowing past his own door, and especially at Sagar Island, where the Ganges loses itself in the ocean. At that tiger-haunted spot, shivering in the cold of the winter solstice, every year multitudes of Hindoos, chiefly wives with children and widows with heavy hearts, assembled to wash away their sins–to sacrifice the fruit of their body for the sin of their soul. Since 1794, when Thomas and he had found in a basket hanging on a tree the bones of an infant exposed, to be devoured by the white ants, by some mother too poor to go on pilgrimage to a sacred river-spot, Carey had known this unnatural horror. He and his brethren had planned a preaching tour to Sagar, where not only mothers drowned their first born in payment of a vow, with the encouragement of the Brahmans, but widows and even men walked into the deep sea and drowned themselves at the spot where Ganga and Sagar kiss each other, “as the highest degree of holiness, and as securing immediate heaven.” The result of Carey’s memorial was the publication of the Regulation for preventing the sacrifice of children at Sagar and other places on the Ganges:–“It has been represented to the Governor-General in Council that a criminal and inhuman practice of sacrificing children, by exposing them to be drowned or devoured by sharks, prevails…Children thrown into the sea at Sagar have not been generally rescued…but the sacrifice has been effected with circumstances of peculiar atrocity in some instances. This practice is not sanctioned by the Hindoo law, nor countenanced by the religious orders.” It was accordingly declared to be murder, punishable with death. At each pilgrim gathering sepoys were stationed to check the priests and the police, greedy of bribes, and to prevent fanatical suicides as well as superstitious murders.
The practice of infanticide was really based on the recommendation of Sati, literally the “method of purity” which the Hindoo shastras require when they recommend the bereaved wife to burn with her husband. Surely, reasoned the Rajpoots, we may destroy a daughter by abortion, starvation, suffocation, strangulation, or neglect, of whose marriage in the line of caste and dignity of family there is little prospect, if a widow may be burned to preserve her chastity!
In answer to Carey’s third memorial Lord Wellesley took the first step, on 5th February 1805, in the history of British India, two centuries after Queen Elizabeth had given the Company its mercantile charter, and half a century after Plassey had given it political power, to protect from murder the widows who had been burned alive, at least since the time of Alexander the Great. This was the first step in the history of British but not of Mohammedan India, for our predecessors had by decree forbidden and in practice discouraged the crime. Lord Wellesley’s colleagues were still the good Udny, the great soldier Lord Lake and Sir George Barlow. The magistrate of Bihar had on his own authority prevented a child-widow of twelve, when drugged by the Brahmans, from being burned alive, after which, he wrote, “the girl and her friends were extremely grateful for my interposition.” Taking advantage of this case, the Government asked the appellate judges, all Company’s servants, to “ascertain how far the practice is founded on the religious opinions of the Hindoos. If not founded on any precept of their law, the Governor-General in Council hopes that the custom may gradually, if not immediately, be altogether abolished. If, however, the entire abolition should appear to the Court to be impracticable in itself, or inexpedient, as offending any established religious opinion of the Hindoos,” the Court were desired to consider the best means of preventing the abuses, such as the use of drugs and the sacrifice of those of immature age. But the preamble of this reference to the judges declared it to be one of the fundamental principles of the British Government to consult the religious opinions of the natives, “consistently with the principles of morality, reason, and humanity.” There spoke Carey and Udny, and Wellesley himself. But for another quarter of a century the funeral pyres were to blaze with the living also, because that caveat was set aside, that fundamental maxim of the constitution of much more than the British Government–of the conscience of humanity, was carefully buried up. The judges asked the pundits whether the woman is “enjoined” by the shaster voluntarily to burn herself with the body of her husband. They replied “every woman of the four castes is permitted to burn herself,” except in certain cases enumerated, and they quoted Manoo, who is against the custom in so far as he says that a virtuous wife ascends to heaven if she devotes herself to pious austerities after the decease of her lord.
This opinion would have been sufficient to give the requisite native excuse to Government for the abolition, but the Nizamat Adawlat judges urged the “principle” of “manifesting every possible indulgence to the religious opinions and prejudices of the natives,” ignoring morality, reason, and humanity alike. Lord Wellesley’s long and brilliant administration of eight years was virtually at an end: in seven days he was to embark for home. The man who had preserved the infants from the sharks of Sagar had to leave the widows and their children to be saved by the civilians Carey and he had personally trained, Metcalfe and Bayley, who by 1829 had risen to Council and become colleagues of Lord W. Bentinck. But Lord Wellesley did this much, he declined to notice the so-called “prohibitory regulations” recommended by the civilian judges. These, when adopted in the year 1812, made the British Government responsible by legislation for every murder thereafter, and greatly increased the number of murders. From that date the Government of India decided “to allow the practice,” as recognised and encouraged by the Hindoo religion, except in cases of compulsion, drugging, widows under sixteen, and proved pregnancy. The police–natives–were to be present, and to report every case. At the very time the British Parliament were again refusing in the charter discussions of 1813 for another twenty years to tolerate Christianity in its Eastern dependency, the Indian legislature legalised the burning and burying alive of widows, who numbered at least 6000 in nine only of the next sixteen years, from 1815 to 1823 inclusive.
From Plassey in 1757 to 1829, three quarters of a century, Christian England was responsible, at first indirectly and then most directly, for the known immolation of at least 70,000 Hindoo widows. Carey was the first to move the authorities; Udny and Wellesley were the first to begin action against an atrocity so long continued and so atrocious. While the Governor-Generals and their colleagues passed away, Carey and his associates did not cease to agitate in India and to stir up Wilberforce and the evangelicals in England, till the victory was gained. The very first number of the Friend of India published their essay on the burning of widows, which was thereafter quoted on both sides of the conflict, as “a powerful and convincing statement of the real facts and circumstances of the case,” in Parliament and elsewhere. Nor can we omit to record the opinion of Carey’s chief pundit, with whom he spent hours every day as a fellow-worker. The whole body of law-pundits wrote of Sati as only “permitted.” Mritunjaya, described as the head jurist of the College of Fort William and the Supreme Court, decided that, according to Hindooism, a life of mortification is the law for a widow. At best burning is only an alternative for mortification, and no alternative can have the force of direct law. But in former ages nothing was ever heard of the practice, it being peculiar to a later and more corrupt era. “A woman’s burning herself from the desire of connubial bliss ought to be rejected with abhorrence,” wrote this colossus of pundits. Yet before he was believed, or the higher law was enforced, as it has ever since been even in our tributary States, mothers had burned with sons, and forty wives, many of them sisters, at a time, with polygamous husbands. Lepers and the widows of the devotee class had been legally buried alive. Magistrates, who were men like Metcalfe, never ceased to prevent widow-murder on any pretext, wherever they might be placed, in defiance of their own misguided Government.
Though from 4th December 1829–memorable date, to be classed with that on which soon after 800,000 slaves were set free–“the Ganges flowed unblooded to the sea” for the first time, the fight lasted a little longer. The Calcutta “orthodox” formed a society to restore their right of murdering their widows, and found English lawyers ready to help them in an appeal to the Privy Council under an Act of Parliament of 1797. The Darpan weekly did good service in keeping the mass of the educated natives right on the subject. The Privy Council, at which Lord Wellesley and Charles Grant, venerable in years and character, were present, heard the case for two days, and on 24th June 1832 dismissed the petition!
Though the greatest, this was only one of the crimes against humanity and morality which Carey opposed all his life with a practical reasonableness till he saw the public opinion he had done so much to create triumph. He knew the people of India, their religious, social, and economic condition, as no Englishman before him had done. He stood between them and their foreign Government at the beginning of our intimate contact with all classes as detailed administrators and rulers. The outcome of his peculiar experience is to be found not only in the writings published under his own name but in the great book of his colleague William Ward, every page of which passed under his careful correction as well as under the more general revision of Henry Martyn. Except for the philosophy of Hindooism, the second edition of A View of the History, Literature, and Mythology of the Hindoos, including a Minute Description of their Manners and Customs, and Translations from their Principal Works, published in 1818 in two quarto volumes, stands unrivalled as the best authority on the character and daily life and beliefs of the 200,000,000 to whom Great Britain had been made a terrestrial providence, till Christianity teaches them to govern themselves and to become to the rest of Asia missionaries of nobler truth than that wherewith their Buddhist fathers covered China and the farther East.
All the crimes against humanity with which the history of India teems, down to the Mutiny and the records of our courts and tributary states at this hour, are directly traceable to lawless supernaturalism like that of the civilised world before the triumph of Christianity. In nothing does England’s administration of India resemble Rome’s government of its provinces in the seven centuries from the reduction of Sicily, 240 B.C., to the fall of the Western Empire, 476 A.D., so much as in the relation of nascent Christianity to the pagan cults which had made society what it was. Carey and the brotherhood stood alone in facing, in fighting with divine weapons, in winning the first victories over the secular as well as spiritual lawlessness which fell before Paul and his successors down to Augustine and his City of God. The gentle and reasonable but none the less divinely indignant father of modern missions brings against Hindoo and Mohammedan society accusations no more railing than those in the opening passage of the Epistle to the Romans, and he brings these only that, following Paul, he may declare the more excellent way.
As Serampore, or its suburbs, is the most popular centre of Jaganath worship next to Pooree in Orissa, the cruelty and oppression which marked the annual festival were ever before the missionaries’ eyes. In 1813 we find Dr. Claudius Buchanan establishing his veracity as an eye-witness of the immolation of drugged or voluntary victims under the idol car, by this quotation from Dr. Carey, whom he had to describe at that time to his English readers, as a man of unquestionable integrity, long held in estimation by the most respectable characters in Bengal, and possessing very superior opportunities of knowing what is passing in India generally: “Idolatry destroys more than the sword, yet in a way which is scarcely perceived. The numbers who die in their long pilgrimages, either through want or fatigue, or from dysenteries and fevers caught by lying out, and want of accommodation, is incredible. I only mention one idol, the famous Juggernaut in Orissa, to which twelve or thirteen pilgrimages are made every year. It is calculated that the number who go thither is, on some occasions, 600,000 persons, and scarcely ever less than 100,000. I suppose, at the lowest calculation, that in the year 1,200,000 persons attend. Now, if only one in ten died, the mortality caused by this one idol would be 120,000 in a year; but some are of opinion that not many more than one in ten survive and return home again. Besides these, I calculate that 10,000 women annually burn with the bodies of their deceased husbands, and the multitudes destroyed in other methods would swell the catalogue to an extent almost exceeding credibility.”
After we had taken Orissa from the Marathas the priests of Jaganath declared that the night before the conquest the god had made known its desire to be under British protection. This was joyfully reported to Lord Wellesley’s Government by the first British commissioner. At once a regulation was drafted vesting the shrine and the increased pilgrim-tax in the Christian officials. This Lord Wellesley indignantly refused to sanction, and it was passed by Sir George Barlow in spite of the protests of Carey’s friend, Udny. In Conjeeveram a Brahmanised civilian named Place had so early as 1796 induced Government to undertake the payment of the priests and prostitutes of the temples, under the phraseology of “churchwardens” and “the management of the church funds.” Even before the Madras iniquity, the pilgrims to Gaya from 1790, if not before, paid for authority to offer funeral cakes to the manes of their ancestors and to worship Vishnoo under the official seal and signature of the English Collector. Although Charles Grant’s son, Lord Glenelg, when President of the Board of Control in 1833, ordered, as Theodosius had done on the fall of pagan idolatry in A.D. 390, that “in all matters relating to their temples, their worship, their festivals, their religious practices, their ceremonial observances, our native subjects be left entirely to themselves,” the identification of Government with Hindooism was not completely severed till a recent period.
The Charak, or swinging festival, has been frequently witnessed by the present writer in Calcutta itself. The orgie has been suppressed by the police in great cities, although it has not ceased in the rural districts. In 1814 the brotherhood thus wrote home:–
“This abominable festival was held, according to the annual custom, on the last day of the Hindoo year. There were fewer gibbet posts erected at Serampore, but we hear that amongst the swingers was one female. A man fell from a stage thirty cubits high and broke his back; and another fell from a swinging post, but was not much hurt. Some days after the first swinging, certain natives revived the ceremonies. As Mr. Ward was passing through Calcutta he saw several Hindoos hanging by the heels over a slow fire, as an act of devotion. Several Hindoos employed in the printing-office applied this year to Mr. Ward for protection, to escape being dragged into these pretendedly voluntary practices. This brought before us facts which we were not aware of. It seems that the landlords of the poor and other men of property insist upon certain of their tenants and dependants engaging in these practices, and that they expect and compel by actual force multitudes every year to join the companies of sunyassees in parading the streets, piercing their sides, tongues, etc. To avoid this compulsion, many poor young men leave their houses and hide themselves; but they are sure of being beaten if caught, or of having their huts pulled down. The influence and power of the rich have a great effect on the multitude in most of the idolatrous festivals. When the lands and riches of the country were in few hands, this influence carried all before it. It is still very widely felt, in compelling dependants to assist at public shows, and to contribute towards the expense of splendid ceremonies.
The Ghat murders, caused by the carrying of the dying to the Ganges or a sacred river, and their treatment there, continue to this day, although Lord Lawrence attempted to interfere. Ward estimated the number of sick whose death is hastened on the banks of the Ganges alone at five hundred a year, in his anxiety to “use no unfair means of rendering even idolatry detestable,” but he admits that, in the opinion of others, this estimate is far below the truth. We believe, from our own recent experience, that still it fails to give any just idea of the destruction of parents by children in the name of religion.
One class who had been the special objects of Christ’s healing power and divine sympathy was specially interesting to Carey in proportion to their misery and abandonment by their own people–lepers. When at Cutwa in 1812, where his son was stationed as missionary, he saw the burning of a leper, which he thus described:–“A pit about ten cubits in depth was dug and a fire placed at the bottom of it. The poor man rolled himself into it; but instantly, on feeling the fire, begged to be taken out, and struggled hard for that purpose. His mother and sister, however, thrust him in again; and thus a man, who to all appearance might have survived several years, was cruelly burned to death. I find that the practice is not uncommon in these parts. Taught that a violent end purifies the body and ensures transmigration into a healthy new existence, while natural death by disease results in four successive births, and a fifth as a leper again, the leper, like the even more wretched widow, has always courted suicide.” Carey did not rest until he had brought about the establishment of a leper hospital in Calcutta, near what became the centre of the Church Missionary Society’s work, and there benevolent physicians, like the late Dr. Kenneth Stuart, and Christian people, have made it possible to record, as in Christ’s days, that the leper is cleansed and the poor have the Gospel preached to them.
By none of the many young civilians whom he trained, or, in the later years of his life, examined, was Carey’s humane work on all its sides more persistently carried out than by John Lawrence in the Punjab. When their new ruler first visited their district, the Bedi clan amazed him by petitioning for leave to destroy their infant daughters. In wrath he briefly told them he would hang every man found guilty of such murder. When settling the land revenue of the Cis-Sutlej districts he caused each farmer, as he touched the pen in acceptance of the assessment, to recite this formula–
“Bewa mat jaláo,
Beti mat máro,
Korhi mat dabao”
(“Thou shalt not burn thy widow, thou shalt not kill thy daughters, thou shalt not bury thy lepers.”)
From the hour of Carey’s conversion he never omitted to remember in prayer the slave as well as the heathen. The same period which saw his foundation of modern missions witnessed the earliest efforts of his contemporary, Thomas Clarkson of Wisbeach, in the neighbouring county of Cambridge, to free the slave. But Clarkson, Granville Sharp, and their associates were so occupied with Africa that they knew not that Great Britain was responsible for the existence of at least nine millions of slaves in India, many of them brought by Hindoo merchants as well as Arabs from Eastern Africa to fill the hareems of Mohammedans, and do domestic service in the zananas of Hindoos. The startling fact came to be known only slowly towards the end of Carey’s career, when his prayers, continued daily from 1779, were answered in the freedom of all our West India slaves. The East India answer came after he had passed away, in Act V. of 1843, which for ever abolished the legal status of slavery in India. The Penal Code has since placed the prædial slave in such a position that if he is not free it is his own fault. It is penal in India to hold a slave “against his will,” and we trust the time is not far distant when the last three words may be struck out.
With true instinct Christopher Anderson, in his Annals of the English Bible, associates Carey, Clarkson, and Cowper, as the triumvirate who, unknown to each other, began the great moral changes, in the Church, in society, and in literature, which mark the difference between the eighteenth and the nineteenth centuries. Little did Carey think, as he studied under Sutcliff within sight of the poet’s house, that Cowper was writing at that very time these lines in The Task while he himself was praying for the highest of all kinds of liberty to be given to the heathen and the slaves, Christ’s freedom which had up till then remained
By poets, and by senators unpraised,
Which monarchs cannot grant, nor all the powers
Of earth and hell confederate take away;
A liberty which persecution, fraud,
Oppression, prisons, have no power to bind:
Which whoso tastes can be enslaved no more.”