Tuesday, February 26, 2013

The rebel bureaucrat: Frederick John Shore

Following once again the trail that begins in Reginald Reynolds' "The White Sahibs in India", arrive at Notes on Indian Affairs (1837) by Frederick John Shore, in two volumes, only the first of which is available in Google books.  If there is a Wiki page for Frederick John Shore,  I've missed it.  There is this out-of-print title on amazon.com, The rebel bureaucrat: Frederick John Shore (1799-1837) as critic of William Bentinck's India.  { His brother, John Shore, 1st Baron Teignmouth (1751-1834), was a governor-general of India; a friend of Sir William Jones, and a prominent member of the Clapham sect that included the Macaulays.   Per Wiki, "towards the close of 1768 he sailed for India as a writer in the East India's Company's service".   When Macaulay wrote that about his time, when a fortune such as Clive's was no longer possible, but a writer could expect to amass a fortune of £30,000, I wonder if he was thinking of Baron John Shore. }

One arrives then at the Eclectic Review, Vol VII, January-June 1840, page 304, where four works dealing with India are reviewed, the third one being Notes on Indian Affairs, by aforementioned Frederick John Shore.  It turns out to be quite a damning indictment of British rule in India.

Some excerpts, emphasis added.   {On the English ignorance of India}, "....let him go tomorrow into society and ask the best informed people that he can find what they know of the real condition of British India; or let him ask any member of parliament what attention Indian questions obtain in the House of Commons.   The first will tell you that they know nothing, but that they hear that India is a rich country.  The other will shrug his shoulders and say, 'Oh, nobody troubles himself about things so far off."

{ The first of the four works reviewed is "Chapters of the Modern History of British India" by Edward Thornton, Esq., the third is the work by Shore, and the last is Edinburgh Review for  January 1840, The Revenue System of British India.}

"In the work placed first on the list at the head of this article, we are told that 'India has yet to boast of being incomparably 'the best governed of the dependent possessions of Great Britain.'—p. 603. We wish most earnestly that that were true!.......Here is Mr. Thornton, a clerk to the Court of Directors, who has never been in India at all, and who yet coolly undertakes to tell the public, that 'India is incomparably the best governed of all our dependent possessions;' but the highest and most unexceptionable authorities,—gentlemen who have stood high in office and moral character in India itself; who have served there for many years, tell, as we shall show, a very different story : and even the Edinburgh Review of the other day, in an article written expressly to vindicate and perpetuate the present state of things in India, confirms unequivocally this statement."

{On the sad state of India} What says the Honorable Frederick John Shore on this subject?  This gentleman, the brother of Lord Teignmouth, was, for more than fifteen years, resident in India.  He filled various offices in the police, revenue and judicial departments of the country, the last being the Judge of the Civil Court and Criminal Sessions of Furrukhabad.  In every one of these he was highly respected  by all classes of men, native and English.  He is since deceased,  leaving behind him a character for uprightness, intimate acquaintance with the condition of India, general intelligence and benevolence of disposition which have made his memory revered both in that country and this. His statements no one has dared to call in question; nay, the very writer in the Edinburgh Review quotes him as unexceptionable authority."

...."Here, then are some of Mr. Shore's notions of the excellency of our government, and of the happiness produced by it.  He tells us that he went to India with the most settled conviction of the blessing which our sway was to the Indian people; but he had not been long there before very different and disagreeable impressions were forced upon him.  He looked in vain for that scene of  wealth and prosperity, which he had always been told that India was under our auspices.

'I perceived," he says, 'a strong 'feeling of disaffection towards the English government, and a 'dislike to the English themselves as a nation.'

Inquiring carefully into the real cause of this, he found that 'Well-founded 'complaints of oppression and extortion on  the part of both government and individuals, were innumerable.' Asking why, with all our high professions, such evils were not redressed, he was told that it was impossible under the present system—the system, be it understood, in full operation at this moment.

Mr. Shore's work was published here only in 1837.  With all the concern of an honorable mind, Mr. Shore pursued the inquiry thus opened to him into the principles and practice of the British Indian administration; and soon, he says, found himself at no loss to comprehend the feelings of the people both towards our government and ourselves.  He then says—
'It would have been astonishing, indeed, had it been otherwise.  The fundamental principle of the English had been to make the whole Indian nation subservient in every possible way to the interests and benefits of themselves.  They had been taxed to the utmost limit; every successive province, as it fell into our hands, had been made a field for higher exaction, and it has always been our boast how greatly we have raised the revenue above that which the native rulers were able to extort.  The Indians have been excluded from every honor, dignity or office which the lowest Englishman could be prevailed upon to accept; while our public offices, and, as we have been pleased to call  them, courts of justice, have been sinks of every species of villany, fraud, chicane, oppression, and injustice, to such extent that men who have been robbed of their property, and whose relations have been murdered, will often pay large sums to the police to prevent investigation from the dread of being compelled to attend one of our courts, even in the character of a prosecutor or witness.'—Vol ii, p. 518, 519.
That we think, is a pretty comprehensive sentence to begin with in an authority which is quoted as authority by a writer in the Edinburgh Review in defence of a system which is at this moment in operation; but we beg our reders to understand that this is but one passage out of two large octavo volumes of the most astonishing details of our oppressions, rapacity, cruelty, haughtiness, and iron insensibility to the miseries which more than half a century we have heaped on one of the most ancient, refined and inoffensive nations in the world.

'The summary,' continues Mr. Shore, 'is that the British-Indian government has been practically one of the most extortionate and oppressive that has ever existed in India; one under which  injustice has been and may be committed, both by the government and by individuals, provided the latter be rich, to an almost unlimited extent, and under which redress from injury is almost unattainable; the consequence of which is that we are abhorred by the people,  who would hail with joy, and instantly join the standard of any power whom they thought strong enough to occasion our downfall....How is it possible, after the treatment they have received, that our government, or ourselves, should be popular with them?  And yet we are pleased to assert that they rejoice in a government by which they are trodden to the dust, and oppressed more than by any of their foreign rulers.' {emphasis in the original} —vol ii, pp. 521, 522.

....England has fastened on India as a vampyre fastens on its living victim and that its sole, ceaseless, and remorseless business has been to drink its life-blood and drain its strength, to the last stage of exhaustion, in  the shape of gold.  For this sole purpose our conquests have been made; and a dreadful history is the history of those conquests,—a dreadful history of every fraud, every violence, every crime which can shock and disgrace humanity.
....Can a more dreadful fact be laid open to the eyes of the English public than that this has been the great and only object of our conquering and holding that vast and fine country?.....Yet, the whole of Mr. Shore's volumes demonstrate this dreadful truth, and no other; and not only the works of Shore, but of every other writer of character who has ventured to tell what he knew of India.   What say Mr. Thornton and the Edinburgh Review to this? .........it is lamentable to see the Edinburgh Review, which should be the advocate of political justice and all necessary forms, lending its pages to the humiliating purpose of throwing dust in the eyes of the English nation on a subject which, perhaps, more than all others involves the national interests, as it certainly does its character for honor and humanity.

The motto of the Edinburgh Review is a fine motto—'Judex damnature cum 'nocens absolvitur', but the editor has a son in the India House, and nothing blinds the 'Judex' so much as interest, however, and another of equal moment, that the article in question is pretty well known to be  written, on behalf of the India House, by the very man at whose (chief) suggestion they have attempted the iniquitous 'Land resumption' of Bengal, it is only proper the public should be aware of in order to estimate the advocacy of the Edinburgh, in this case, at its true value.

'There can be little pleasure,' says Mr. Shore, 'in detracting from one's own countrymen and associates, but no man, thinking and feeling as I have done, could remain silent, unless his sense of duty were blunted; no man could contemplate the immense mass of misery and ruin which will infallibly  result from the infatuation in which  we are enveloped relative to the nature of the British-Indian government and our tenure in this country, without lifting up his hand or his pen to avert, if possible, such awful consequences.'—Ib. p  . 525.

There is a lot more in the review, may for some other time.  Regarding Frederick John Shore's work, the introduction to his work does tell us that "they were first published anonymously, under the signature of "A FRIEND TO INDIA" in the India Gazette, one the Calcutta daily papers", and that "there is one advantage, however, attached to their appearance in their present order—that they mark  the progress of public feeling on the subject of British-Indian government.  Ten or twelve years since, had  any man in India ventured to publish such strictures on the Indian administration, he would most undoubtedly have been banished the country; and even as it is, the cautious and guarded tone in which the first papers were written displays a strong contrast to the openness and freedom of those which follow".

The editor of the Edinburgh Review 1829-47 was Macvey Napier (see here). Napier had seven sons and three daughters, which one was in India House, I do not know.  Macaulay was a contributor to the Edinburgh Review.  The Land Resumption Act adopted in Bengal in 1818 (1828?) taxed vakif (charitable endowment)  and miri (princely) lands formerly exempt from taxation, collecting about £ 1.1 million a year - these were lands held by Muslims and this utterly ruined them.  We are told by other, modern, authors that Muslim fundamentalism arose as a reaction to "the havoc created by the land policies of the British."  "The very man at whose (chief) suggestion they have attempted the iniquitous 'Land resumption' of Bengal" I haven't figured out yet.