Page images

The middle part of this paragraph seems to us no less than an acknowledgement, that those wars were prosecuted on such a scale of expence as would have destroyed the British empire in Asia, by giving the final victory to its enemies, if the course of the war had not proved shorter and more decisive than it was right to reckon upon before the experiment. It is not easy to conceive a more emphatical condemnation of the conduct of a government.--To help the reader to some distant guess at the unparalleled pitch of that extravagance, which, besides consuming the regular resources, could bring such a debt in such a space of time, it is worth while to cite an ill constructed but intelligible sentence from another part, where, speaking of the Mahratta empire while in its full power, he says, "Its known revenue has been found to amount to upwards of seventeen millions sterling. These resources, however ample, are in India far more efficient than in Europe, for they have been, on experiment, found adequate to the establishment, and constant support of an army of upwards of 300,000 men!' p. 6. Now we are not informed of the extent of the force employed in the war with Tippoo, but Dr. T. says, 'the army brought into the field against the Mahrattas, amounted to 55,000, after providing for the defence of the interior!'

The main substance of the work before us does not require much comment. Whatever be the good or evil arising to this country from the possession of India, (the evil, at least, is palpable and flagrant, in the depravation of our moral principles and political institutions,) no one doubts that the people of Hindostan are deriving great and growing advantage from our ridding them of the detestable oppressors and ravagers, who have been so long exercising their royal right of devouring them. Putting out of the question the mischievous influences on our own nation, we cannot but earnestly wish, whatever may become of the Indian sovereigns, and their royal divine right of playing the game of Nimrod across a few hundred thousand square miles, that the British government may become ten fold more consolidated over that country than it is. It appears the only chance for civilization, including under the term whatever knowledge is the most conducive to the introduction of the true religion, that has ever, in the whole lapse of time, been afforded to an immense multitude of most wretched slaves of tyrants and superstition. The work before us supplies much valuable information of the measures already adopted in favour of that degraded population, and of the beneficial effect which has become apparent even within the very short period since the termination of our recent wars. The grand advantage which was to be sought, as antecedent VOL. VI.


and introductory to all others, the putting an end to the state of constant war among the native powers, appears to have been in a great measure secured. Many of them indeed have been pacified by an expedient of the most infallible efficacy, the annibilation of their power, and the absorption of their dominions by the British empire; which would appear to them a more marvellous monster than any in their whole mythology, if nature had not been very parsimonious to them in the article of thinking faculty. Those whose turn is not yet come for making this complete surrender, have been bound to keep the peace by the contrivance, very justly applauded by our author, of a Eritish subsidiary force stationed within their territories, at all times exercising the vigilance, and in readiness to exercise the power, necessary to keep the crowned imps of Moloch in proper order.-The state of the police, and of the administration of justice, has been greatly reformed; and a short extract will shew that it was quite time, and that, saving always the respect due to the regal personages who permitted or promoted the abuses, no measure ténding to effect that reform could well be too violent.

When it is asserted that the police of the native governments, and the whole system of their judicial establishments, is corrupt and defective, it is not meant that this fact should rest on general averments. Every step the traveller advances actual proof of the assertion presents itself; he must every where meet the corpus delicti in a substantive form. Beyond the limits of European jurisdiction, you can no where pass without almost daily beholding some marauding parties engaged in acts of plunder, robbery, or assassination; and, to an European, the punishment of these enormities might appear almost equally lawless and irregular with their commission. The culprit, on suspicion, is hurried away before the aumildar, and after a few loose questions regarding his criminality, (perhaps without even the semblance of a trial) he is mutilated, trod with elephants, or beheaded; not so much to satisfy justice, as to appease the vengeance of an infuriated chieftain, on his progress through the country, with an armed rabble, who assist him to monopolize in his own person the trade of rapine and oppression.' p. 110.

The author describes, at great length, the former condition of the ryuts or cultivators, the new system which has been introduced as to the tenure of lands, and the beneficial results which have already appeared. It is stated that, universally, the sovereign was the absolute proprietor of the land, that it was held in allotments by officers named zemindars, and that, between the claims of the prince and the villanies of the zemindar, the cultivator was reduced to the most miserable reptile that crawled on the ground. The wisdom of the new system, which has vested the property in the zemindars,

making them at the same time accountable to the British government for their treatment of the ryuts, is argued, pro and con, by our author, who decides that experience has declared in its favour. The ryut, however, after all that has been done for him, is not a person who would appear with any great advantage among the portly farmers of Devizes market.

The state of the country, as well as the small capital of the farmer in the East, has limited the possession of each occupant to the pitiful extent of about ten or twelve acres ; a space of ground so limited, even admitting the profits to be at the same rate as in England, must at once reduce the emoluments of a ryut to that of a most scanty subsistence. The fact is so there neither is, nor ever was, any thing like wealth or even general plenty among that class of men in any part of India.' p. 111.

The Doctor sensibly discusses several general expedients for the amelioration of the condition of the people, though we rather question with what right, after having (p. 181.) declared against all rash and untried experiments among the natives of Asia.' He suggests, however, various methods. for promoting their agriculture, manufactures, and knowledge. It was natural for him to take some notice of Missions, which, however, he had better have let alone, till he had become. sufficiently informed on the subject to avoid the folly of passing a sweeping sentence of ignorance' on our missionaries in India, (p. 280.) of asserting that 'experience has proved a good education bestowed on youth to be the only expedient that has hitherto gained a single rational and sincere convert to our faith,' and of invidiously contrasting schools with the labours of the missionaries, with a supercilious contempt of the latter, just as if schools were things of which no missionary had ever dreamed, as if every mission had not been partly and earnestly directed to their formation, and every missionary glad to assist in the management. When the Doctor, with that peculiar air of self-complacency which always accompanies him, speaks of the transient impressions made on their minds (those of the Hindoos) by the loose discourses of ignorant missionaries,' the simple reader would fully conclude that nothing like the glimmer of knowledge or learning is to be seen about any missionary in India; but what would he think of the Doctor, when he found out the state of the fact? It is not, however, to be understood, that our author is one of the enemies of the introduction of Christianity in India; on the contrary, he is sincerely anxious for such a consummation of all we have done for the people there; but he rests his expectations on the operation, in the first instance, of more secular means than those which have been chiefly contemplated by the friends of Indian conversion.

ART. VIII. The British Flora, or a Systematic Arrangement of British Plants. By John Hull, M. D. Second Edition, 2 Vols. 8vo. Vol. I. Monandria-Polygamia. pp. 330. price 9s. Bickerstaff. UNCONNECTED fragments of knowledge, though they flatter the vanity of the possessor, are seldom found to increase his happiness or enlarge his powers. To enjoy the pursuits of science, we must not only add to our stock of facts, but know in what manner each new addition is related to our former stock. The fatiguing dulness of elementary learning, is chiefly owing to the difficulty of introducing into the mind a new train of ideas, which we are as yet incapable of connecting with what we already possess. Crude incoherent facts, however important in themselves, are nevertheless, till their bearing on ascertained points of science is determined, till they are properly arranged in the system of the understanding, mere blots on the map of memory, as useless as they are unsatisfactory.

If this is true with respect to the general acquisition of knowledge, it is still more so in its particular branches. A transient view of the starry heavens may delight and elevate our minds; but how much is our pleasure increased, when introduced by astronomy to a personal acquaintance with the individuals of the splendid company; when our reason can exercise itself upon their connexion and their motions, rendering our knowledge at the same time subservient, not merely to the amusement, but to the welfare of mankind; and when we apply the calculations of analysis to the examination of their courses, and prove, by methods which exert the most exalted ingenuity of the human mind, that the cause of every apparently accidental deviation from obvious regularity is as simple as the fiat which called the system into existence. Even the merest trifles, when duly connected, afford a pleasure, (though in some cases at the expence of more valuable improvement) which they never could furnish while contemplated only as distinct individuals. A rusty medal, a worm-eaten manuscript, a black-letter missal, a tattered etching, a smoky painting, a non-descript moth, afford a gratification to the connoisseur which gold or jewels cannot supply; and which arises not from their intrinsic value or beauty, but from the information they convey immediately arranging itself amidst a system of ideas with which he is conversant, and in which he precisely knows its place. It is in a manner not very dissimilar, that the most exquisite paintings in mosaic are composed of individual pins or particles, which taken separately are inconsiderable and unsightly. Whether the collector, however, be a proper object for the lash of the satirist,

the sneer of the philosopher, the blame of the moralist, and the reproof of the Christian, is a question to be determined. by the comparative value of the effect produced and the powers expended. The hours, days, and weeks, which would be most unprofitably spent in embroidering a piece without harmony, keeping, or effect, or in mimicking Chinese ugliness with all the diligence necessary to decypher a manuscript of Herculaneum, might have been laudably employed, no doubt, in the more agreeable recreation of drawing. We can hardly approve the labours of the Dutch collector, who devotes all the energies of his mind to distinguishing and naming the varieties of a single species of tulip, or genus of shells; but it would be unjust to class with him, the scientific botanist, who endeavours to obtain a general view of the whole vegetable creation of his country, or to study its connexion with that of foreign climes.

Formerly, indeed, this required so much labour, and was so imperfectly effected, for want of the assistance of a system to facilitate the arrangement and union of observations, that the extension of botanic knowlege beyond the flower garden appeared rather a toil, than a pleasure; and, unfortunately, the greater the progress the more intricate the maze. We are not afraid of being contradicted by those, who are conversant with the vague and perplexing arrangements of the earlier botanists, when we assert, that it required more labour to discriminate and classify a plant among the number then discovered, than it does, at present, among the infinitely greater number with which the science, since that period, has been enriched. Teaching or learning botany without system, or with a mere outline of the Linnean or any other system, instead of being a compendious way, is mere waste of time and labour; and instead of procuring pleasure, utility, and enlargement of mind, most generally ends either in vanity or disgust, the usual results of superficial knowledge. It is with regret we have seen it produce these effects,-instead of becoming a pleasing relaxation from severer studies; a powerful enticement to exchange unnecessary confinement for air and exercise; the means of rescuing many a vacant hour from listless indolence, or busy trifling; the soother of melancholy, and the preventive of corruption. Convinced as we are that it fails of affording these benefits, principally, because it is not systematically pursued at first, we welcome a work calculated to promote the study of botany on rational principles with a pleasure, and esteem it of an importance, not measured by its typographical elegance, its high price, or its originality. Considering the probable utility of Dr. Hull's little volume, we esteem it a far more valuable addition to the works pub

« PreviousContinue »