Front Page Titles (by Subject) Colonel Young to Bentham. - The Works of Jeremy Bentham, vol. 11 (Memoirs of Bentham Part II and Analytical Index)
Return to Title Page for The Works of Jeremy Bentham, vol. 11 (Memoirs of Bentham Part II and Analytical Index)
The Online Library of Liberty
A project of Liberty Fund, Inc.
Colonel Young to Bentham. - Jeremy Bentham, The Works of Jeremy Bentham, vol. 11 (Memoirs of Bentham Part II and Analytical Index) 
The Works of Jeremy Bentham, published under the Superintendence of his Executor, John Bowring (Edinburgh: William Tait, 1838-1843). 11 vols. Vol. 11.
About Liberty Fund:
Liberty Fund, Inc. is a private, educational foundation established to encourage the study of the ideal of a society of free and responsible individuals.
The text is in the public domain.
Fair use statement:
This material is put online to further the educational goals of Liberty Fund, Inc. Unless otherwise stated in the Copyright Information section above, this material may be used freely for educational and academic purposes. It may not be used in any way for profit.
Colonel Young to Bentham.
“Calcutta, September 30, 1828.
“My dear and venerated Friend,—
I failed not to send off to Rammohun Roy, my excellent friend the Brahmin, his portion of the package’s contents and your letter to him; and he tells me, in a note, that he will endeavour, to the utmost of his ability, to write to you on the subject of your letter, and thank you for your notice of him. He is a very sincerely modest man—far too diffident indeed for the remarkable and unique station he fills among his benighted countrymen. His whole time almost has been occupied for the last two years in defending himself and his son against a bitter and virulent persecution which has been got up against the latter nominally—but against himself and his abhorred free opinions in reality—by a conspiracy of his own bigoted countrymen, protected and encouraged, not to say instigated, by some of ours—influential and official men who cannot endure that a presumptuous ‘Black Man’ should tread so closely upon the heels of the dominant white class, or rather should pass them in the march of mind. Rammohun Roy, after an arduous and prolonged battle through a gradation of tribunals, has at length, by dint of talent, perseverance, and right, got the better in the last resort; but the strife, and the magnitude of the stake, and the long despair of justice, have shattered his nerves and impaired his digestion and bodily health, and his energies of mind. It is now over, and I hope most fervently that he will recover himself again. Not only has he no equal here among his countrymen, but he has none that at all approach to equality, even among the little ‘sacred squadron’ of disciples whom he is slowly and gradually gathering around him in despite of obstacles from his own and our people, which no one can rightly appreciate who has not seen and felt the difficulties which the condition of society here opposes to a reformer, and, above all, to a native reformer. But he perseveres, and does make a distinct and visible progress, slow as it is—very slow! It must increase in a geometric ratio, if he is only spared long enough to organize the elements he is gathering together of resistance to superstition and fanaticism, religious and political. His main efforts are directed, and judiciously so, to the primary step in the process of amelioration—of throwing off the yoke of priesthood and of caste. The diabolical genius who devised the separation of Hindoos into orders, who are cut off from all social and intimate connexion of what may be called a domestic nature with each other, set at work an instrument complete and effectual in its operation for the political as well as the religious prostration of mankind. Where men may not dwell with each other in domestic association—where they cannot eat or drink, intermarry, and intercommune together, because of difference of tribe and privilege—where this evil has been fixed and imprinted by many centuries of habitual acquiescence, and under horrible penalties of excommunication—where such is the frame of society, how can men combine for any useful purpose of improvement or resistance? No wonder that the Hindoos have always been enslaved and oppressed when they are thus effectually divided! Till these barriers can be weakened or broken down, nothing can be done by them, or perhaps for them. It is against this anti-social element of Hindoo society that Rammohun Roy directs his quiet—his secret—but his persevering endeavours; and by avoiding any public alarming of the Brahminical and higher orders of his countrymen—and, I may add, of our own jealous aristocracy of colour and of place, he is obtaining the slow but distinct progress to which I have adverted—he is gathering round him a secret society of Hindoos of various castes, whom he persuades by degrees to associate, and even eat together at his house: Those who go beyond this awful line of demarcation can never recede; that is, the higher orders (and he is himself of the very highest caste) of Brahmins, and others, who are committed by the act of degradation implied in domestic intercourse with inferior tribes.
“I fear I may have failed in impressing you with the same notions which I entertain, of the infinite importance of this line of conduct. As I have said before, one must have personal experience of the abominations of this sort of politico-religious aristocratical frame of society, to appreciate it. Without that it is natural that philanthropists, at a distance, should think Rammohun Roy wastes his time and expends his valuable life and labours in work of an inferior sort,—and you may fancy that he moves too slowly, and does not come forward with sufficient boldness, to strike at greater evils, and attack men and measures of a higher order. But to what end should he labour at such works if the ground be not prepared to receive the seed? As yet there are none or next to none fit to comprehend the more lofty imaginings which his master-mind can grasp, and on which he loves to expatiate in the confidential society of some three or four heterodox Europeans. But he is ploughing, and harrowing, and planting, and our ‘after-comers’, if he lives long enough, will see the fruits. It is strange, you will think, that such a man should be looked upon coldly, not to say disliked, by the mass of Europeans,—for he is greatly attached to us and our régime. Not that he loves our churches, or priests, or lawyers, or politicians; but because he considers the contact of our superior race with his degraded and inferior countrymen, as the only means and chance they have of improving themselves in knowledge and energy. But it is one of the thousand curses inflicted by the Company’s régime in India, that nineteen in twenty, or rather ninety-nine in a hundred, of the only Europeans who are allowed to come to this country, are employés, civil or military, who resort hither to scrape up and carry away all they can, and as soon as they can, without heed, or care, or concern in the prosperity of India. A dominating race thus encamped in a conquered country, and an infinitesimally and small minority in numbers, naturally looks with the extreme of jealousy on all improvements, physical and mental, of the Indigines, or even of their own mixed descendants; nor will it ever be otherwise till resort is free to all who can bring with them or obtain the means of supporting themselves, settling, colonizing, and amalgamating, and identifying themselves and their posterity with the natives.
* * * * *
“To the evil of general jobbing and general distrust, there is a remedy fully and universally applicable,—Public opinion. If independent Europeans were not kept out, and being here, if they could speak freely through the press, and were not liable to deportation at will, then there would be such a check on the proceeding of secretaries, and boards, and councils, as would deter them from jobbery and injustice. Then the supreme authority might safely and satisfactorily leave nine-tenths of its trumpery avocations to inferior functionaries. Then there would be time to legislate and improve, and, before all things, to codify, while our statute-book is yet manageably small, and our corps of the law have not yet maintained a strong and separate interest, powerful enough to put down all improvement! Publicity,—a free press would thus prevent our minds from stagnating, and our local government would gradually assume its proper functions, and would take much of its tone from the opinions of those it ruled. There would be time to do good.
“Lord William Bentinck seems very frank and plain, very inquisitive, and endowed with considerable sagacity; his temper is excellent, I hear. I think he will encourage the press, because he is honest and diligent; clean hands and clear head, ’tis not such who fear publicity. I think he will promote education, and do away the murder of women and children. I think he will admit natives to higher offices of trust, and do away the exclusion of black and coloured men from the administration of justice. He is the only man I have yet seen in power, who seemed to think as if he thought Patronage was not private property but a trust. Already he has delivered himself very considerably from the trammels of clique, and the bureau here, who usually possess themselves of a new comer, and never leave him till they bring him down to their own level, as opposers of all that is liberal.
“These are no slight éloges, but they are rather prognostics than predications.
“All happiness attend you, my venerable and dear master.—Yours affectionately and sincerely.”