WHAT CAREY DID FOR SCIENCE–FOUNDER OF THE AGRICULTURAL AND HORTICULTURAL SOCIETY OF INDIA
Carey’s relation to science and economics–State of the peasantry–Carey a careful scientific observer–Specially a botanist–Becomes the friend of Dr. Roxburgh of the Company’s Botanic Garden–Orders seeds and instruments of husbandry–All his researches subordinate to his spiritual mission–His eminence as a botanist acknowledged in the history of the science–His own botanic garden and park at Serampore–The poet Montgomery on the daisies there–Borneo–Carey’s paper in the Asiatic Researches on the state of agriculture in Bengal–The first to advocate Forestry in India–Founds the Agri-Horticultural Society of India–Issues queries on agriculture and horticulture–Remarkable results of his action–On the manufacture of paper–His expanded address on agricultural reform–His political foresight on the importance of European capital and the future of India–An official estimate of the results in the present day–On the usury of the natives and savings banks–His academic and scientific honours–Destruction of his house and garden by the Damoodar flood of 1823–Report on the Horticultural Society’s garden–The Society honours its founder.
NOT only was the first Englishman, who in modern times became a missionary, sent to India when he desired to go to Tahiti or West Africa; and sent to Bengal from which all Northern India was to be brought under British rule; and to Calcutta–with a safe asylum at Danish Serampore–then the metropolis and centre of all Southern Asia; but he was sent at the very time when the life of the people could best be purified and elevated on its many sides, and he was specially fitted to influence each of these sides save one. An ambassador for Christ above all things like Paul, but, also like him, becoming all things to all men that he might win some to the higher life, Carey was successively, and often at the same time, a captain of labour, a schoolmaster, a printer, the developer of the vernacular speech, the expounder of the classical language, the translator of both into English and of the English Bible into both, the founder of a pure literature, the purifier of society, the watchful philanthropist, the saviour of the widow and the fatherless, of the despairing and the would-be suicide, of the downtrodden and oppressed. We have now to see him on the scientific or the physical and economic side, while he still jealously keeps his strength for the one motive power of all, the spiritual, and with almost equal care avoids the political or administrative as his Master did. But even then it was his aim to proclaim the divine principles which would use science and politics alike to bring nations to the birth, while, like the apostles, leaving the application of these principles to the course of God’s providence and the consciences of men. In what he did for science, for literature, and for humanity, as in what he abstained from doing in the practical region of public life, the first English missionary was an example to all of every race who have followed him in the past century. From Carey to Livingstone, alike in Asia and Africa, the greatest Christian evangelists have been those who have made science and literature the handmaids of missions.
Apart from the extreme south of the peninsula of India, where the Danish missionaries had explored with hawk’s eyes, almost nothing was known of its plants and animals, its men, as well as its beasts, when Carey found himself in a rural district of North Bengal in the closing decade of the eighteenth century. Nor had any writer, official or missionary, anywhere realised the state of India and the needs of the Hindoo and Mohammedan cultivators as flowing from the relation of the people to the soil. India was in truth a land of millions of peasant proprietors on five-acre farms, rack-rented or plundered by powerful middlemen, both squeezed or literally tortured by the Government of the day, and driven to depend on the usurer for even the seed for each crop. War and famine had alternated in keeping down the population. Ignorance and fear had blunted the natural shrewdness of the cultivator. A foul mythology, a saddening demon-worship, and an exacting social system, covered the land as with a pall. What even Christendom was fast becoming in the tenth century, India had been all through the eighteen Christian centuries.
The boy who from eight to fourteen “chose to read books of science, history, voyages, etc., more than others”; the youth whose gardener uncle would have had him follow that calling, but whose sensitive skin kept him within doors, where he fitted up a room with his botanical and zoological museum; the shoemaker-preacher who made a garden around every cottage-manse in which he lived, and was familiar with every beast, bird, insect, and tree in the Midlands of England, became a scientific observer from the day he landed at Calcutta, an agricultural reformer from the year he first built a wooden farmhouse in the jungle, as the Manitoba emigrant now does under very different skies, and then began to grow and make indigo amid the peasantry at Dinapoor. He thus unconsciously reveals himself and his method of working in a letter to Morris of Clipstone:–
“MUDNABATI, 5th December 1797.–To talk of continuance of friendship and warm affection to you would be folly. I love you; and next to seeing your face, a letter from you is one of my greatest gratifications. I see the handwriting, and read the heart of my friend; nor can the distance of one-fourth of the globe prevent a union of hearts.
“Hitherto I have refrained from writing accounts of the country, because I concluded that those whose souls were panting after the conversion of the heathen would feel but little gratified in having an account of the natural productions of the country. But as intelligence of this kind has been frequently solicited by several of my friends, I have accordingly opened books of observation, which I hope to communicate when they are sufficiently authenticated and matured. I also intend to assign a peculiar share to each of my stated correspondents. To you I shall write some accounts of the arts, utensils, and manufactures of the country; to Brother Sutcliff their mythology and religion; to Brother Ryland the manners and customs of the inhabitants; to Brother Fuller the productions of the country; to Brother Pearce the language, etc.; and to the Society a joint account of the mission.”
He had “separate books for every distinct class, as birds, beasts, fishes, reptiles, etc.” Long before this, on 13th March 1795, he had written to the learned Ryland, his special correspondent on subjects of science and on Hebrew, his first impressions of the physiography of Bengal, adding: “The natural history of Bengal would furnish innumerable novelties to a curious inquirer. I am making collections and minute descriptions of whatever I can obtain; and intend at some future time to transmit them to Europe.”
“MUDNABATI, 26th November 1796.–I observed in a former letter that the beasts have been in general described, but that the undescribed birds were surprisingly numerous; and, in fact, new species are still frequently coming under my notice. We have sparrows and water-wagtails, one species of crow, ducks, geese, and common fowls; pigeons, teal, ortolans, plovers, snipes like those in Europe; but others, entirely unlike European birds, would fill a volume. Insects are very numerous. I have seen about twelve sorts of grylli, or grasshoppers and crickets. Ants are the most omnivorous of all insects; we have eight or ten sorts very numerous. The termes, or white ants, destroy everything on which they fasten; they will eat through an oak chest in a day or two and devour all its contents. Butterflies are not so numerous as in England, but I think all different. Common flies and mosquitoes (or gnats) are abundant, and the latter so tormenting as to make one conclude that if the flies in Egypt were mosquitoes, the plague must be almost insupportable. Here are beetles of many species; scorpions of two sorts, the sting of the smallest not mortal; land crabs in abundance, and an amazing number of other kinds of insects. Fish is very plentiful, and the principal animal food of the inhabitants. I find fewer varieties of vegetables than I could have conceived in so large a country. Edible vegetables are scarce, and fruit far from plentiful. You will perhaps wonder at our eating many things here which no one eats in England: as arum, three or four sorts, and poppy leaves (Papaver somniferum). We also cut up mallows by the bushes for our food (Job xxx. 4). Amaranths, of three sorts, we also eat, besides capsicums, pumpkins, gourds, calabashes, and the egg-plant fruit; yet we have no hardships in these respects. Rice is the staple article of food…
“My love to the students. God raise them up for great blessings. Great things are certainly at hand.”
But he was also an erudite botanist. Had he arrived in Calcutta a few days earlier than he did, he would have been appointed to the place for which sheer poverty led him to apply, in the Company’s Botanical Garden, established on the right bank of the Hoogli a few miles below Calcutta, by Colonel Alexander Kyd, for the collection of indigenous and acclimatisation of foreign plants. There he at once made the acquaintance, and till 1815 retained the loving friendship, of its superintendent, Dr. Roxburgh, the leader of a series of eminent men, Buchanan and Wallich, Griffith, Falconer, T. Thomson, and Thomas Anderson, the last two cut off in the ripe promise of their manhood. One of Carey’s first requests was for seeds and instruments, not merely from scientific reasons, but that he might carry out his early plan of working with his hands as a farmer while he evangelised the people. On 5th August 1794 he wrote to the Society:–“I wish you also to send me a few instruments of husbandry, viz., scythes, sickles, plough-wheels, and such things; and a yearly assortment of all garden and flowering seeds, and seeds of fruit trees, that you can possibly procure; and let them be packed in papers, or bottles well stopped, which is the best method. All these things, at whatever price you can procure them, and the seeds of all sorts of field and forest trees, etc., I will regularly remit you the money for every year; and I hope that I may depend upon the exertions of my numerous friends to procure them. Apply to London seedsmen and others, as it will be a lasting advantage to this country; and I shall have it in my power to do this for what I now call my own country. Only take care that they are new and dry.” Again he addressed Fuller on 22nd June 1797:–
“MY VERY DEAR BROTHER–I have yours of August 9, 16, which informs me that the seeds, etc., were shipped. I have received those seeds and other articles in tolerable preservation, and shall find them a very useful article. An acquaintance which I have formed with Dr. Roxburgh, Superintendent of the Company’s Botanic Garden, and whose wife is daughter of a missionary on the coast, may be of future use to the mission, and make that investment of vegetables more valuable.”
Thus towards the close of his six years’ sacrifice for the people of Dinapoor does he estimate himself and his scientific pursuits in the light of the great conflict to which the Captain of Salvation had called him. He is opening his heart to Fuller again, most trusted of all:–
“MUDNABATI, 17th July 1799.–Respecting myself I have nothing interesting to say; and if I had, it appears foreign to the design of a mission for the missionaries to be always speaking of their own experiences. I keep several journals, it is true, relating to things private and public, respecting the mission, articles of curiosity and science; but they are sometimes continued and sometimes discontinued: besides, most things contained in them are of too general or trivial a nature to send to England, and I imagine could have no effect, except to mock the expectations of our numerous friends, who are waiting to hear of the conversion of the heathen and overthrow of Satan’s kingdom.
“I therefore only observe, respecting myself, that I have much proof of the vileness of my heart, much more than I thought of till lately: and, indeed, I often fear that instead of being instrumental in the conversion of the heathen, I may some time dishonour the cause in which I am engaged. I have hitherto had much experience of the daily supports of a gracious God; but I am conscious that if those supports were intermitted but for a little time, my sinful dispositions would infallibly predominate. At present I am kept, but am not one of those who are strong and do exploits.
“I have often thought that a spirit of observation is necessary in order to our doing or communicating much good; and were it not for a very phlegmatic habit, I think my soul would be richer. I, however, appear to myself to have lost much of my capacity for making observations, improvements, etc., or of retaining what I attend to closely. For instance, I have been near three years learning the Sanskrit language, yet know very little of it. This is only a specimen of what I feel myself to be in every respect. I try to observe, to imprint what I see and hear on my memory, and to feel my heart properly affected with the circumstances; yet my soul is impoverished, and I have something of a lethargic disease cleaving to my body…
“I would communicate something on the natural history of the country in addition to what I have before written, but no part of that pleasing study is so familiar to me as the vegetable world.”
His letters of this period to Fuller on the fruits of India, and to Morris on the husbandry of the natives, might be quoted still as accurate and yet popular descriptions of the mango, guava, and custard apple; plantain, jack, and tamarind; pomegranate, pine-apple, and rose-apple; papaya, date, and cocoa-nut; citron, lime, and shaddock. Of many of these, and of foreign fruits which he introduced, it might be said he found them poor, and he cultivated them till he left to succeeding generations a rich and varied orchard.
While still in Dinapoor, he wrote on 1st January 1798: “Seeds of sour apples, pears, nectarines, plums, apricots, cherries, gooseberries, currants, strawberries, or raspberries, put loose into a box of dry sand, and sent so as to arrive in September, October, November, or December, would be a great acquisition, as is every European production. Nuts, filberts, acorns, etc., would be the same. We have lately obtained the cinnamon tree, and nutmeg tree, which Dr. Roxburgh very obligingly sent to me. Of timber trees I mention the sissoo, the teak, and the saul tree, which, being an unnamed genus, Dr. Roxburgh, as a mark of respect to me, has called Careya saulea.”
The publication of the last name caused Carey’s sensitive modesty extreme annoyance. “Do not print the names of Europeans. I was sorry to see that you printed that Dr. Roxburgh had named the saul tree by my name. As he is in the habit of publishing his drawings of plants, it would have looked better if it had been mentioned first by him.” Whether he prevailed with his admiring friend in the Company’s Botanic Garden to change the name to that which the useful sal tree now bears, the Shorea robusta, we know not, but the term is derived from Lord Teignmouth’s name. Carey will go down to posterity in the history of botanical research, notwithstanding his own humility and the accidents of time. For Dr. Roxburgh gave the name of Careya to an interesting genus of Myrtaceœ. The great French botanist M. Benjamin Delessert duly commemorates the labours of Dr. Carey in the Musée Botanique.
It was in Serampore that the gentle botanist found full scope for the one recreation which he allowed himself, in the interest of his body as well as of his otherwise overtasked spirit. There he had five acres of ground laid out, and, in time, planted on the Linnæan system. The park around, from which he had the little paradise carefully walled in, that Brahmani bull and villager’s cow, nightly jackal and thoughtless youth, might not intrude, he planted with trees then rare or unknown in lower Bengal, the mahogany and deodar, the teak and tamarind, the carob and eucalyptus. The fine American Mahogany has so thriven that the present writer was able, seventy years after the trees had been planted, to supply Government with plentiful seed. The trees of the park were so placed as to form a noble avenue, which long shaded the press and was known as Carey’s Walk. The umbrageous tamarind formed a dense cover, under which more than one generation of Carey’s successors rejoiced as they welcomed visitors to the consecrated spot from all parts of India, America, and Great Britain. Foresters like Sir D. Brandis and Dr. Cleghorn at various times visited this arboretum, and have referred to the trees, whose date of planting is known, for the purpose of recording the rate of growth.
For the loved garden Carey himself trained native peasants who, with the mimetic instinct of the Bengali, followed his instructions like those of their own Brahmans, learned the Latin names, and pronounced them with their master’s very accent up till a late date, when Hullodhur, the last of them, passed away. The garden with its tropical glories and more modest exotics, every one of which was as a personal friend, and to him had an individual history, was more than a place of recreation. It was his oratory, the scene of prayer and meditation, the place where he began and ended the day of light–with God. What he wrote in his earlier journals and letters of the sequestered spot at Mudnabati was true in a deeper and wider sense of the garden of Serampore:–“23rd September, Lord’s Day.–Arose about sunrise, and, according to my usual practice, walked into my garden for meditation and prayer till the servants came to family worship.” We have this account from his son Jonathan:–
“In objects of nature my father was exceedingly curious. His collection of mineral ores, and other subjects of natural history, was extensive, and obtained his particular attention in seasons of leisure and recreation. The science of botany was his constant delight and study; and his fondness for his garden remained to the last. No one was allowed to interfere in the arrangements of this his favourite retreat; and it is here he enjoyed his most pleasant moments of secret devotion and meditation. The arrangements made by him were on the Linnæan system; and to disturb the bed or border of the garden was to touch the apple of his eye. The garden formed the best and rarest botanical collection of plants in the East; to the extension of which, by his correspondence with persons of eminence in Europe and other parts of the world, his attention was constantly directed; and, in return, he supplied his correspondents with rare collections from the East. It was painful to observe with what distress my father quitted this scene of his enjoyments, when extreme weakness, during his last illness, prevented his going to his favourite retreat. Often, when he was unable to walk, he was drawn into the garden in a chair placed on a board with four wheels.
“In order to prevent irregularity in the attendance of the gardeners he was latterly particular in paying their wages with his own hands; and on the last occasion of doing so, he was much affected that his weakness had increased and confined him to the house. But, notwithstanding he had closed this part of his earthly scene, he could not refrain from sending for his gardeners into the room where he lay, and would converse with them about the plants; and near his couch, against the wall, he placed the picture of a beautiful shrub, upon which he gazed with delight.
“On this science he frequently gave lectures, which were well attended, and never failed to prove interesting. His publication of Roxburgh’s Flora Indica is a standard work with botanists. Of his botanical friends he spoke with great esteem; and never failed to defend them when erroneously assailed. He encouraged the study of the science wherever a desire to acquire it was manifested. In this particular he would sometimes gently reprove those who had no taste for it; but he would not spare those who attempted to undervalue it. His remark of one of his colleagues was keen and striking. When the latter somewhat reprehended Dr. Carey, to the medical gentleman attending him, for exposing himself so much in the garden, he immediately replied, that his colleague was conversant with the pleasures of a garden, just as an animal was with the grass in the field.”
As from Dinapoor, so from Serampore after his settlement there, an early order was this on 27th November 1800:–“We are sending an assortment of Hindoo gods to the British Museum, and some other curiosities to different friends. Do send a few tulips, daffodils, snowdrops, lilies, and seeds of other things, by Dolton when he returns, desiring him not to put them into the hold. Send the roots in a net or basket, to be hung up anywhere out of the reach of salt water, and the seeds in a separate small box. You need not be at any expense, any friend will supply these things. The cowslips and daisies of your fields would be great acquisitions here.” What the daisies of the English fields became to Carey, and how his request was long after answered, is told by James Montgomery, the Moravian, who formed after Cowper the second poet of the missionary reformation:–
THE DAISY IN INDIA
“A friend of mine, a scientific botanist, residing near Sheffield, had sent a package of sundry kinds of British seeds to the learned and venerable Doctor WILLIAM CAREY. Some of the seeds had been enclosed in a bag, containing a portion of their native earth. In March 1821 a letter of acknowledgment was received by his correspondent from the Doctor, who was himself well skilled in botany, and had a garden rich in plants, both tropical and European. In this enclosure he was wont to spend an hour every morning, before he entered upon those labours and studies which have rendered his name illustrious both at home and abroad, as one of the most accomplished of Oriental scholars and a translator of the Holy Scriptures into many of the Hindoo languages. In the letter aforementioned, which was shown to me, the good man says:–‘That I might be sure not to lose any part of your valuable present, I shook the bag over a patch of earth in a shady place: on visiting which a few days afterwards I found springing up, to my inexpressible delight, a Bellis perennis of our English pastures. I know not that I ever enjoyed, since leaving Europe, a simple pleasure so exquisite as the sight of this English Daisy afforded me; not having seen one for upwards of thirty years, and never expecting to see one again.’
“On the perusal of this passage, the following stanzas seemed to spring up almost spontaneously in my mind, as the ‘little English flower’ in the good Doctor’s garden, whom I imagined to be thus addressing it on its sudden appearance:–
“Thrice welcome, little English flower!
My mother-country’s white and red,
In rose or lily, till this hour,
Never to me such beauty spread:
Transplanted from thine island-bed,
A treasure in a grain of earth,
Strange as a spirit from the dead,
Thine embryo sprang to birth.
“Thrice welcome, little English flower!
Whose tribes, beneath our natal skies,
Shut close their leaves while vapours lower;
But, when the sun’s gay beams arise,
With unabashed but modest eyes,
Follow his motion to the west,
Nor cease to gaze till daylight dies,
Then fold themselves to rest.
“Thrice welcome, little English flower!
To this resplendent hemisphere,
Where Flora’s giant offspring tower
In gorgeous liveries all the year:
Thou, only thou, art little here,
Like worth unfriended and unknown,
Yet to my British heart more dear
Than all the torrid zone.
“Thrice welcome, little English flower!
Of early scenes beloved by me,
While happy in my father’s bower,
Thou shalt the blythe memorial be;
The fairy sports of infancy,
Youth’s golden age, and manhood’s prime.
Home, country, kindred, friends,–with thee,
I find in this far clime.
“Thrice welcome, little English flower!
I’ll rear thee with a trembling hand:
Oh, for the April sun and shower,
The sweet May dews of that fair land.
Where Daisies, thick as starlight, stand
In every walk!–that here may shoot
Thy scions, and thy buds expand
A hundred from one root.
“Thrice welcome, little English flower!
To me the pledge of hope unseen:
When sorrow would my soul o’erpower,
For joys that were, or might have been,
I’ll call to mind, how, fresh and green,
I saw thee waking from the dust;
Then turn to heaven with brow serene,
And place in GOD my trust.”
From every distant station, from Amboyna to Delhi, he received seeds and animals and specimens of natural history. The very schoolboys when they went out into the world, and the young civilians of Fort William College, enriched his collections. To Jabez, his son in Amboyna, we find him thus writing:–“I have already informed you of the luckless fate of all the animals you have sent. I know of no remedy for the living animals dying, but by a little attention to packing them you may send skins of birds and animals of every kind, and also seeds and roots. I lately received a parcel of seeds from Moore (a large boy who, you may remember, was at school when the printing-office was burnt), every one of which bids fair to grow. He is in some of the Malay islands. After all you have greatly contributed to the enlargement of my collection.”
“17th September 1816.–I approve much of Bencoolen as a place for your future labours, unless you should rather choose the island of Borneo…The English may send a Resident thither after a time. I mention this from a conversation I had some months ago on the subject with Lord Moira, who told me that there is a large body of Chinese on that island.” They “applied to the late Lieut.-Governor of Java, requesting that an English Resident may be sent to govern them, and offering to be at the whole expense of his salary and government. The Borneo business may come to nothing, but if it should succeed it would be a glorious opening for the Gospel in that large island. Sumatra, however, is larger than any one man could occupy.” As we read this we see the Serampore apostle’s hope fulfilled after a different fashion, in Rajah Brooke’s settlement at Sarawak, in the charter of the North Borneo Company, in the opening up of New Guinea and in the civilisation of the Philippines by the United States of America.
To Roxburgh and his Danish successor Wallich, to Voigt who succeeded Wallich in Serampore, and hundreds of correspondents in India and Germany, Great Britain and America, Carey did many a service in sending plants and–what was a greater sacrifice for so busy a man–writing letters. What he did for the Hortus Bengalensis may stand for all.
When, in 1814, Dr. Roxburgh was sent to sea almost dying, Dr. Carey edited and printed at his own press that now very rare volume, the Hortus Bengalensis, or a Catalogue of the Plants of the Honourable East India Company’s Botanic Garden in Calcutta. Carey’s introduction of twelve large pages is perhaps his most characteristic writing on a scientific subject. His genuine friendliness and humility shine forth in the testimony he bears to the abilities, zeal, and success of the great botanist who, in twenty years, had created a collection of 3200 species. Of these 3000 at least had been given by the European residents in India, himself most largely of all. Having shown in detail the utility of botanical gardens, especially in all the foreign settlements of Great Britain, he declared that only a beginning had been made in observing and cataloguing the stock of Asiatic productions. He urged English residents all over India to set apart a small plot for the reception of the plants of their neighbourhood, and when riding about the country to mark plants, which their servants could bring on to the nursery, getting them to write the native name of each. He desiderated gardens at Hurdwar, Delhi, Dacca, and Sylhet, where plants that will not live at Calcutta might prosper, a suggestion which was afterwards carried out by the Government in establishing a garden at Saharanpoor, in a Sub-Himalayan region, which has been successfully directed by Royle, Falconer, and Jameson.
On Dr. Roxburgh’s death in 1815 Dr. Carey waited to see whether an English botanist would publish the fruit of thirty years’ labour of his friend in the description of more than 2000 plants, natives of Eastern Asia. At his own risk he then, in 1820, undertook this publication, or the Flora Indica, placing on the title-page, “All Thy works praise Thee, O Lord–David.” When the Roxburgh MSS. were made over to the library of the Botanic Garden at Calcutta, the fourth and final volume appeared with this note regarding the new edition:–“The work was printed from MSS. in the possession of Dr. Carey, and it was carried through the press when he was labouring under the debility of great age…The advanced age of Dr. Carey did not admit of any longer delay.”
His first public attempt at agricultural reform was made in the paper which he contributed to the Transactions of the Bengal Asiatic Society, and which appeared in 1811 in the tenth volume of the Asiatic Researches. In the space of an ordinary Quarterly Review article he describes the “State of Agriculture in the District of Dinapoor,” and urges improvements such as only the officials, settlers, and Government could begin. The soils, the “extremely poor” people, their “proportionally simple and wretched farming utensils,” the cattle, the primitive irrigation alluded to in Deuteronomy as “watering with the foot,” and the modes of ploughing and reaping, are rapidly sketched and illustrated by lithographed figures drawn to scale. In greater detail the principal crops are treated. The staple crop of rice in its many varieties and harvests at different seasons is lucidly brought before the Government, in language which it would have been well to remember or reproduce in the subsequent avoidable famines of Orissa and North Bihar. Indigo is set before us with the skill of one who had grown and manufactured it for years. The hemp and jute plants are enlarged on in language which unconsciously anticipates the vast and enriching development given to the latter as an export and a local manufacture since the Crimean War. An account of the oil-seeds and the faulty mode of expressing the oil, which made Indian linseed oil unfit for painting, is followed by remarks on the cultivation of wheat, to which subsequent events have given great importance. Though many parts, even of Dinapoor, were fit for the growth of wheat and barley, the natives produced only a dark variety from bad seed. “For the purpose of making a trial I sowed Patna wheat on a large quantity of land in the year 1798, the flour produced from which was of a very good quality.” The pulses, tobacco, the egg-plant, the capsicums, the cucumbers, the arum roots, turmeric, ginger, and sugar-cane, all pass in review in a style which the non-scientific reader may enjoy and the expert must appreciate. Improvements in method and the introduction of the best kinds of plants and vegetables are suggested, notwithstanding “the poverty, prejudices, and indolence of the natives.”
This paper is most remarkable, however, for the true note which its writer was the first to strike on the subject of forestry. If we reflect that it was not till 1846 that the Government made the first attempt at forest conservancy, in order to preserve the timber of Malabar for the Bombay dockyard; and not till the conquest of Pegu, in 1855, that the Marquis of Dalhousie was led by the Friend of India to appoint Dietrich Brandis of Bonn to care for the forests of Burma, and Dr. Cleghorn for those of South India, we shall appreciate the wise foresight of the missionary-scholar, who, having first made his own park a model of forest teaching, wrote such words as these early in the century:–“The cultivation of timber has hitherto, I believe, been wholly neglected. Several sorts have been planted…all over Bengal, and would soon furnish a very large share of the timber used in the country. The sissoo, the Andaman redwood, the teak, the mahogany, the satin-wood, the chikrasi, the toona, and the sirisha should be principally chosen. The planting of these trees single, at the distance of a furlong from each other, would do no injury to the crops of corn, but would, by cooling the atmosphere, rather be advantageous. In many places spots now unproductive would be improved by clumps or small plantations of timber, under which ginger and turmeric might be cultivated to great advantage. In some situations saul…would prosper. Indeed the improvements that might be made in this country by the planting of timber can scarcely be calculated. Teak is at present brought from the Burman dominions…The French naturalists have already begun to turn their attention to the culture of this valuable tree as an object of national utility. This will be found impracticable in France, but may perhaps be attempted somewhere else. To England, the first commercial country in the world, its importance must be obvious.”
Ten years passed, Carey continued to watch and to extend his agri-horticultural experiments in his own garden, and to correspond with botanists in all parts of the world, but still nothing was done publicly in India. At last, on 15th April 1820, when “the advantages arising from a number of persons uniting themselves as a Society for the purpose of carrying forward any undertaking” were generally acknowledged, the shoemaker and preacher who had a generation before tested these advantages in the formation of the first Foreign Mission Society, issued a Prospectus of an Agricultural and Horticultural Society in India, from the “Mission House, Serampore.” The prospectus thus concluded:–“Both in forming such a Society and in subsequently promoting its objects, important to the happiness of the country as they regard them, the writer and his colleagues will be happy in doing all their other avocations will permit.” Native as well as European gentlemen were particularly invited to co-operate. “It is peculiarly desirable that native gentlemen should be eligible as members of the Society, because one of its chief objects will be the improvement of their estates and of the peasantry which reside thereon. They should therefore not only be eligible as members but also as officers of the Society in precisely the same manner as Europeans.” At the first meeting in the Town Hall of Calcutta, Carey and Marshman found only three Europeans beside themselves. They resolved to proceed, and in two months they secured more than fifty members, several of whom were natives. The first formal meeting was held on 14th September, when the constitution was drawn up on the lines laid down in the prospectus, it being specially provided “that gentlemen of every nation be eligible as members.”
At the next meeting Dr. Carey was requested to draw up a series of queries, which were circulated widely, in order to obtain “correct information upon every circumstance which is connected with the state of agriculture and horticulture in the various provinces of India.” The twenty queries show a grasp of principles, a mastery of detail, and a kindliness of spirit which reveal the practical farmer, the accomplished observer, and the thoughtful philanthropist all in one. One only we may quote:–“19. In what manner do you think the comforts of the peasantry around you could be increased, their health better secured, and their general happiness promoted?” The Marquis of Hastings gladly became patron, and ever since the Government has made a grant to the Society. His wife showed such an interest in its progress that the members obtained her consent to sit to Chinnery for her portrait to fill the largest panel in the house at Titigur. Lord Hastings added the experimental farm, formed near Barrackpore, to the Botanic Garden, with an immediate view to its assisting the Agricultural Society in their experiments and pursuits. The Society became speedily popular, for Carey watched its infancy with loving solicitude, and was the life of its meetings. In the first eighty-seven years of its existence seven thousand of the best men in India have been its members, of whom seven hundred are Asiatics. Agriculturists, military and medical officers, civilians, clergy, and merchants, are represented on its roll in nearly equal proportions. The one Society has grown into three in India, and formed the model for the Royal Agricultural Society of England, which was not founded till 1838.
Italy and Scotland alone preceded Carey in this organisation, and he quotes with approbation the action of Sir John Sinclair in 1790, which led to the first inquiry into the state of British agriculture. The Transactions which Carey led the Society to promise to publish in English, Bengali, and Hindostani, have proved to be only the first of a series of special periodicals representing Indian agriculture generally, tea, and forestry. The various Governments in India have economic museums; and the Government of India, under Lord Mayo, established a Revenue and Agricultural Department expanded by Lord Curzon. Carey’s early proposal of premiums, each of a hundred rupees, or the Society’s gold medal, for the most successful cultivation on a commercial scale of coffee and improved cotton, for the successful introduction of European fruits, for the improvement of indigenous fruits, for the successful introduction from the Eastern Islands of the mangosteen or doorian, and for the manufacture of cheese equal to Warwickshire, had the best results in some cases. In 1825 Mr. Lamb of Dacca was presented by “Rev. Dr. Carey in the chair” with the gold medal for 80 lbs. of coffee grown there. Carey’s own head gardener became famous for his cabbages; and we find this sentence in the Society’s Report just after the founder’s death:–“Who would have credited fifteen years ago that we could have exhibited vegetables in the Town Hall of Calcutta equal to the choicest in Covent Garden?” The berries two centuries ago brought from Arabia in his wallet by the pilgrim Baba Booden to the hills of Mysore, which bear his name, have, since that Dacca experiment, covered the uplands of South India and Ceylon. Before Carey died he knew of the discovery of the indigenous tea-tree in its original home on the Assam border of Tibet–a discovery which has put India in the place of China as a producer.
In the Society’s Proceedings for 9th January 1828 we find this significant record:–“Resolved, at the suggestion of the Rev. Dr. Carey, that permission be given to Goluk Chundra, a blacksmith of Titigur, to exhibit a steam engine made by himself without the aid of any European artist.” At the next meeting, when 109 malees or native gardeners competed at the annual exhibition of vegetables, the steam engine was submitted and pronounced “useful for irrigating lands made upon the model of a large steam engine belonging to the missionaries at Serampore.” A premium of Rs. 50 was presented to the ingenious blacksmith as an encouragement to further exertions of his industry. When in 1832 the afterwards well-known Lieutenant-Governor Thomason was deputy-secretary to Government, he applied to the Society for information regarding the manufacture of paper. Dr. Carey and Ram Komal Sen were referred to, and the former thus replied in his usual concise and clear manner:–
“When we commenced paper-making several years ago, having then no machinery, we employed a number of native papermakers to make it in the way to which they had been accustomed, with the exception of mixing conjee or rice gruel with the pulp and using it as sizing; our object being that of making paper impervious to insects. Our success at first was very imperfect, but the process was conducted as follows:–
“A quantity of sunn, viz., the fibres of Crotolaria juncea, was steeped repeatedly in limewater, and then exposed to the air by spreading it on the grass; it was also repeatedly pounded by the dhenki or pedal, and when sufficiently reduced by this process to make a pulp, it was mixed in a gumla with water, so as to make it of the consistence of thick soup. The frames with which the sheets were taken up were made of mat of the size of a sheet of paper. The operator sitting by the gumla dipped this frame in the pulp, and after it was drained gave it to an assistant, who laid it on the grass to dry: this finished the process with us; but for the native market this paper is afterwards sized by holding a number of sheets by the edge and dipping them carefully in conjee, so as to keep the sheets separate. They are afterwards dried, folded, and pressed by putting them between two boards, the upper board of which is loaded with one or more large stones.
“In the English method the pulp is prepared by the mill and put into cisterns; the frames are made of fine wire, and the workman stands by the cistern and takes up the pulp on the frames. The sheets when sufficiently dry are hung on lines to dry completely, after which they are sized, if sizing be required.
“We now make our paper by machinery, in which the pulp is let to run on a web of wire, and passing over several cylinders, the last of which is heated by steam, it is dried and fit for use in about two minutes from its having been in a liquid state.”
Since that reply the Government of India, under the pressure of the home authorities, has alternately discouraged and fostered the manufacture of paper on the spot. At present it is in the wiser position of preferring to purchase its supplies in India, at once as being cheaper, and that it may develop the use of the many paper-making fibres there. Hence at the Calcutta Exhibition of 1881-82 the jurors began their report on the machine and hand-made paper submitted to them, with a reference to Carey and this report of his. The Serampore mills were gradually crushed by the expensive and unsatisfactory contracts made at home by the India Office. The neighbouring Bally mills seem to flourish since the abandonment of that virtual monopoly, and Carey’s anticipations as to the utilisation of the plantain and other fibres of India are being realised nearly a century after he first formed them.
Carey expanded and published his “Address respecting an Agricultural Society in India” in the quarterly Friend of India. He still thinks it necessary to apologise for his action by quoting his hero, Brainerd, who was constrained to assist his Indian converts with his counsels in sowing their maize and arranging their secular concerns. “Few,” he adds with the true breadth of genius which converted the Baptist shoemaker into the Christian statesman and scholar, “who are extensively acquainted with human life, will esteem these cares either unworthy of religion or incongruous with its highest enjoyments.” When Carey wrote, the millions of five-acre farmers in India were only beginning to recover from the oppression and neglect of former rulers and the visitation of terrific famines. Trade was as depressed as agriculture. Transit duties, not less offensive than those of the Chinese, continued to weigh down agricultural industry till Lord W. Bentinck’s time and later. The English Government levied an unequal scale of duties on the staples of the East and West Indies, against which the former petitioned in vain. The East India Company kept the people in ignorance, and continued to exclude the European capitalist and captain of labour. The large native landholders were as uneducated as the cultivators. Before all Carey set these reforms: close attention to the improvement of land, the best method of cropping land, the introduction of new and useful plants, the improvement of the implements of husbandry, the improvement of live stock, the bringing of waste lands under cultivation, the improvement of horticulture. He went on to show that, in addition to the abundance which an improved agriculture would diffuse throughout the country, the surplus of grain exported, besides “her opium, her indigo, her silk, and her cotton,” would greatly tend to enrich India and endear Britain to her. “Whatever may be thought of the Government of Mr. Hastings and those who immediately preceded him for these last forty years, India has certainly enjoyed such a Government as none of the provinces of the Persian or the Roman Empire ever enjoyed for so great a length of time in succession, and, indeed, one almost as new in the annals of modern Europe as in those of India.”
Carey found one of the greatest obstacles to agricultural progress to be the fact that not one European owned a single foot of the soil, “a singular fact in the history of nations,” removed only about the time of his own death. His remarks on this have a present significance:–
“It doubtless originated in a laudable care to preserve our Indian fellow-subjects from insult and violence, which it was feared could scarcely be done if natives of Britain, wholly unacquainted with the laws and customs of the people, were permitted to settle indiscriminately in India. While the wisdom of this regulation at that time is not impugned, however, it may not be improper to inquire whether at the present time a permission to hold landed property, to be granted by Government to British subjects in India, according to their own discretion, might not be of the highest benefit to the country, and in some degree advantageous to the Government itself.
“The objections which have been urged against any measure of this nature are chiefly that the indiscriminate admission of Europeans into the country might tend to alienate the minds of the inhabitants from Britain, or possibly lead to its disruption from Britain in a way similar to that of America. Respecting this latter circumstance, it is certain that, in the common course of events, a greater evil could scarcely befall India. On the continuance of her connection with Britain is suspended her every hope relative to improvement, security, and happiness. The moment India falls again under the dominion of any one or any number of native princes, all hope of mental improvement, or even of security for person or property, will at once vanish. Nothing could be then expected but scenes of rapine, plunder, bloodshed, and violence, till its inhabitants were sealed over to irremediable wretchedness, without the most distant ray of hope respecting the future. And were it severed from Britain in any other way, the reverse felt in India would be unspeakably great. At present all the learning, the intelligence, the probity, the philanthropy, the weight of character existing in Britain, are brought to bear on India. There is scarcely an individual sustaining a part in the administration of affairs who does not feel the weight of that tribunal formed by the suffrages of the wise and the good in Britain, though he be stationed in the remotest parts of India. Through the medium of a free press the wisdom, probity, and philanthropy which pervade Britain exercise an almost unbounded sway over every part of India, to the incalculable advantage of its inhabitants; constituting a triumph of virtue and wisdom thus unknown to the ancients, and which will increase in its effects in exact proportion to the increase in Britain of justice, generosity, and love to mankind. Let India, however, be severed from Britain, and the weight of these is felt no more…
“It is a fact that in case of outrage or injury it is in most cases easier for a native to obtain justice against a European, than for a European to obtain redress if insulted or wronged by a native. This circumstance, attended as it may be with some inconvenience, reflects the highest honour on the British name; it is a fact of which India affords almost the first instance on record in the annals of history. Britain is nearly the first nation in whose foreign Courts of Justice a tenderness for the native inhabitants habitually prevails over all the partialities arising from country and education. If there ever existed a period, therefore, in which a European could oppress a native of India with impunity, that time is passed away–we trust for ever. That a permission of this nature might tend to sever India from Britain after the example of America is of all things the most improbable…
“Long before the number of British landholders in India shall have become considerable, Penang and the Eastern Isles, Ceylon, the Cape, and even the Isles of New South Wales, may in European population far exceed them in number; and unitedly, if not singly, render the most distant step of this nature as impracticable, as it would be ruinous, to the welfare and happiness of India…
“British-born landholders would naturally maintain all their national attachments, for what Briton can lose them? and derive their happiness from corresponding with the wise and good at home. If sufficiently wealthy, they would no doubt occasionally visit Britain, where indeed it might be expected that some of them would reside for years together, as do the owners of estates in the West Indies. While Britain shall remain what she now is, it will be impossible for those who have once felt the force of British attachments, ever to forego them. Those feelings would animate their minds, occupy their conversation, and regulate the education and studies of their children, who would be in general sent home that they might there imbibe all those ideas of a moral and intellectual nature for which our beloved country is so eminent. Thus a new intercourse would be established between Britain and the proprietors of land in India, highly to the advantage of both countries. While they derived their highest happiness from the religion, the literature, the philanthropy and public spirit of Britain, they would, on the other hand, be able to furnish Britain with the most accurate and ample information relative to the state of things in a country in which the property they held there constrained them to feel so deep an interest. The fear of all oppression being out of the question, while it would be so evidently the interest not only of every Briton but of every Christian, whether British or native, to secure the protecting aid of Britain, at least as long as two-thirds of the inhabitants of India retained the Hindoo or Mussulman system of religion, few things would be more likely to cement and preserve the connection between both countries than the existence of such a class of British-born landholders in India.”
It is profitable to read this in the light of subsequent events–of the Duff-Bentinck reforms, the Sepoy mutiny, the government of the Queen-Empress, the existence of more than three millions of Christians in India, the social and commercial development due to the non-officials from Great Britain and America, and the administrative progress under Lord Curzon and Lord Minto.
There is one evil which Carey never ceased to point out, but which the very perfection of our judicial procedure and the temporary character of our land assessments have intensified–“the borrowing system of the natives.” While 12 per cent. is the so-called legal rate of interest; it is never below 36, and frequently rises to 72 per cent. Native marriage customs, the commercial custom of “advances,” agricultural usage, and our civil procedure combine to sink millions of the peasantry lower than they were, in this respect, in Carey’s time. For this, too, he had a remedy so far as it was in his power to mitigate an evil which only practical Christianity will cure. He was the first to apply in India that system of savings banks which the Government has of late sought to encourage.
At a time when the English and even Scottish universities denied their honorary degrees to all British subjects who were not of the established churches, Brown University, in the United States–Judson’s–spontaneously sent Carey the diploma of Doctor of Divinity. That was in the year 1807. In 1823 he was elected a corresponding member of the Horticultural Society of London, a member of the Geological Society, and a Fellow of the Linnæan Society. To him the latter year was ever memorable, not for such honours which he had not sought, but for a flood of the Damoodar river, which, overflowing its embankments and desolating the whole country between it and the Hoogli, submerged his garden and the mission grounds with three feet of water, swept away the botanic treasures or buried them under sand, and destroyed his own house. Carey was lying in bed at the time, under an apparently fatal fever following dislocation of the hip-joint. He had lost his footing when stepping from his boat. Surgical science was then less equal to such a case than it is now, and for nine days he suffered agony, which on the tenth resulted in fever. When hurriedly carried out of his tottering house, which in a few hours was scoured away by the rush of the torrent into a hole fifty feet deep, his first thought was of his garden. For six months he used crutches, but long before he could put foot to the ground he was carefully borne all over the scene of desolation. His noble collection of exotic plants, unmatched in Asia save in the Company’s garden, was gone. His scientific arrangement of orders and families was obliterated. It seemed as if the fine barren sand of the mountain torrent would make the paradise a desert for ever. The venerable botanist was wounded in his keenest part, but he lost not an hour in issuing orders and writing off for new supplies of specimens and seeds, which years after made the place as lovely if not so precious, as before. He thus wrote to Dr. Ryland:–
“SERAMPORE, 22nd December 1823.
“MY DEAR BROTHER–I once more address you from the land of the living, a mercy which about two months ago I had no expectation of, nor did any one expect it more than, nor perhaps so much as, myself. On the 1st of October I went to Calcutta to preach, and returned with another friend about midnight. When I got out of the boat close to our own premises, my foot slipped and I fell; my friend also fell in the same place. I however perceived that I could not rise, nor even make the smallest effort to rise. The boatmen carried me into the house, and laid me on a couch, and my friend, who was a medical man, examined my hurt.–From all this affliction I am, through mercy, nearly restored. I am still very weak, and the injured limb is very painful. I am unable to walk two steps without crutches; yet my strength is sensibly increasing, and Dr. Mellis, who attended me during the illness, says he has no doubts of my perfect recovery.
“During my confinement, in October, such a quantity of water came down from the western hills, that it laid the whole country for about a hundred miles in length and the same in breadth, under water. The Ganges was filled by the flood, so as to spread far on every side. Serampore was under water; we had three feet of water in our garden for seven or eight days. Almost all the houses of the natives in that vast extent of country fell; their cattle were swept away, and the people, men, women, and children. Some gained elevated spots, where the water still rose so high as to threaten them with death; others climbed trees, and some floated on the roofs of their ruined houses. One of the Church missionaries, Mr. Jetter, who had accompanied Mr. Thomason and some other gentlemen to Burdwan to examine the schools there, called on me on his return and gave me a most distressing account of the fall of houses, the loss of property, the violent rushing of waters, so that none, not even the best swimmers, dared to leave the place where they were.
“This inundation was very destructive to the Mission house, or rather the Mission premises. A slip of the earth (somewhat like that of an avalanche), took place on the bank of the river near my house, and gradually approached it until only about ten feet of space were left between that and the house; and that space soon split. At last two fissures appeared in the foundation and wall of the house itself. This was a signal for me to remove; and a house built for a professor in the College being empty, I removed to it, and through mercy am now comfortably settled there.
“I have nearly filled my letter with this account, but I must give you a short account of the state of my mind when I could think, and that was generally when excited by an access of friends; at other times I could scarcely speak or think. I concluded one or two days that my death was near. I had no joys; nor any fear of death, or reluctance to die; but never was I so sensibly convinced of the value of an ATONING Saviour as then. I could only say, ‘Hangs my helpless soul on thee;’ and adopt the language of the first and second verses of the fifty-first Psalm, which I desired might be the text for my funeral sermon. A life of faith in Christ as the Lamb of God who taketh away the sin of the world, appeared more than ordinarily important to my mind, and I expressed these feelings to those about me with freedom and pleasure.
“Now, through the gracious providence of God, I am again restored to my work, and daily do a little as my strength will admit. The printing of the translations is now going forward almost as usual, but I have not yet been able to attend to my duties in College. The affairs of the Mission are more extended, and I trust in as prosperous a state as at any former time. There are now many of other denominations employed in Missions, and I rejoice to say that we are all workers together in the work. The native churches were never in a better state, and the face of the Mission is in every respect encouraging. Give my love to all who know me.–I am very affectionately yours, W. CAREY.”
Still more severe and disastrous in its effects was the cyclone of 1831. The former had desolated the open garden, but this laid low some of the noblest trees which, in their fall, crushed his splendid conservatory. One of his brethren represents the old man as weeping over the ruin of the collections of twenty years. Again the Hoogli, lashed into fury and swollen by the tidal wave, swept away the lately-formed road, and, cutting off another fourth of the original settlement of the Mission, imperilled the old house of Mr. Ward. Its ruins were levelled to form another road, and ever since the whole face of the right bank of the river has been a source of apprehension and expense. Just before this, Dr. Staughton had written from America that the interest on the funds raised there by Ward for the College would not be sent until the trustees were assured that the money was not to be spent on the teaching of science in the College, but only on the theological education of Hindoo converts. “I must confess,” was Carey’s reply, “I never heard anything more illiberal. Pray can youth be trained up for the Christian ministry without science? Do you in America train up youths for it without any knowledge of science?”
One of Dr. Carey’s latest visits to Calcutta was to inspect the Society’s Garden then at Alipore, and to write the elaborate report of the Horticultural Committee which appeared in the second volume of the Transactions after his death. He there records the great success of the cultivation of the West India arrowroot. This he introduced into his own garden, and after years of discontinued culture we raised many a fine crop from the old roots. The old man “cannot but advert, with feelings of the highest satisfaction, to the display of vegetables on the 13th January 1830, a display which would have done honour to any climate, or to any, even the most improved system of horticulture…The greater part of the vegetables then produced were, till within these last few years, of species wholly unknown to the native gardeners.”
When, in 1842, the Agri-Horticultural Society resolved to honour its founder, it appropriately fell to Dr. Wallich, followed by the president Sir J. P. Grant, to do what is thus recorded:–“Dr. Wallich addressed the meeting at some length, and alluded to the peculiar claims which their late venerable founder had on the affection of all classes for his untiring exertions in advancing the prosperity of India, and especially so on the members of the Society. He concluded his address by this motion:–‘That the Agricultural and Horticultural Society of India, duly estimating the great and important services rendered to the interests of British India by the founder of the institution, the late Reverend Dr. William Carey, who unceasingly applied his great talents, abilities, and influence in advancing the happiness of India–more especially by the spread of an improved system of husbandry and gardening–desire to mark, by some permanent record, their sense of his transcendent worth, by placing a marble bust to his memory in the Society’s new apartments at the Metcalfe Hall, there to remain a lasting testimony to the pure and disinterested zeal and labours of so illustrious a character: that a subscription, accordingly, from among the members of the Society, be urgently recommended for the accomplishment of the above object.’”
One fact in the history of the marble bust of Carey, which since 1845 has adorned the hall of the Agricultural Society of India, would have delighted the venerable missionary. Following the engraving from Home’s portrait, and advised by one of the sons, Nobo Koomar Pal, a self-educated Bengali artist, modelled the clay. The clay bust was sent to England for the guidance of Mr. J. C. Lough, the sculptor selected by Dr. Royle to finish the work in marble. Mr. Lough had executed the Queen’s statue for the Royal Exchange, and the monument with a reclining figure of Southey. In sending out the marble bust of Carey to Calcutta Dr. Royle wrote,–“I think the bust an admirable one; General Macleod immediately recognised it as one of your much esteemed Founder.”
The Bengal Asiatic Society, on the motion of the Lord Bishop and Colonel Sir Jer. Bryant, entered these words on their Journal:–“The Asiatic Society cannot note upon their proceedings the death of the Rev. W. Carey, D.D., so long an active member and an ornament of this Institution, distinguished alike for his high attainments in the Oriental languages, for his eminent services in opening the stores of Indian literature to the knowledge of Europe, and for his extensive acquaintance with the sciences, the natural history and botany of this country, and his useful contributions on every hand towards the promotion of the objects of the Society, without placing on record this expression of their high sense of his value and merits as a scholar and a man of science; their esteem for the sterling and surpassing religious and moral excellencies of his character, and their sincere grief for his irreparable loss.”