A Sketch: History of the Indian Press, by Sandford Arnot

"Science," the Greek word for knowledge, when appended to the word "political," creates what seems like an oxymoron. For who could claim to know politics? More complicated than any game, most people who play it become addicts and die without understanding what they were addicted to. The rest of us suffer under their malpractice as our "leaders." A truer case of the blind leading the blind could not be found. Plumb the depths of confusion here.

A Sketch: History of the Indian Press, by Sandford Arnot

Postby admin » Sat Apr 03, 2021 1:47 am

A Sketch of the History of the Indian Press, During the Last Ten Years: With a Biographical Account of Mr. James Silk Buckingham
by Sandford Arnot
Member of the Asiatic Society of Paris
Second Edition

“Is it British justice, for the faults imputed to one man to punish millions?

-- Memorial of the Natives of India to the King of England.


• Errata
• To the Conductors of the Public Press of Great Britain
• History of the British Press in India, viz.
• I. During the Administration of the Marquis of Hastings
• II. Under the Administration of the Hon. John Adam
• III. Under the Government of Lord Amherst
• Proceedings in England Connected with the Indian Press
• Discovery of reason to believe that Mr. B. had abstracted nearly £10,000 from the cause of the Indian Press
• Biographical sketch of Mr. James Silk Buckingham
• Causes of this Publication connected with the above Discovery
• Suppressed Defence of Mr. Arnot against the Calumnies invented by Mr. J.S. Buckingham, in revenge for the above Discovery
• Apology for him by his Agents in India, not denying the charge
• Reply to the same by "NO DUPE", maintaining it as proved
• Remarks on the Apology, showing its weakness
• History of his conduct to Mr. St. John, his literary Coadjutor in England
• Mr. Buckingham as an Itinerant Orator
• Peter the Hermit's Cave -- Description of the alleged "obscure Lodgings in the outskirts of London," to which the soi-disant [Google translate: Supposedly] Patriot and Martyr, "Peter the Hermit," retired to "drink the chrystal stream," as given out, while soliciting charitable relief, by boards pasted up all over London, begging for the smallest pittance to alleviate his distress
• Proofs and Illustrations, and Catalogue of Mr. B.'s Contradictions, being an Analysis of printed Notarial Documents annexed
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Re: A Sketch: History of the Indian Press, by Sandford Arnot

Postby admin » Sat Apr 03, 2021 1:47 am


Page / Line

14 / 15 / For “before," read “for. "
15 / 25 / For £4,500, read £4,000.
18 / 17 / For Sir, read Mr.
19 / 21 / For “ Shewing,” read “ Knowing."
-- / 22 / After which, read "at."
22 / 31 / For "Turlon," read "Turton."
30 / 1 / For "persons," read "previous."
59 / last line, / After "know" omit the semicolon.
80 /40 / For £500, read £1050.
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Re: A Sketch: History of the Indian Press, by Sandford Arnot

Postby admin » Sat Apr 03, 2021 1:48 am

To the Conductors of the Public Press of Great Britain

I know not to whom I can so appropriately dedicate the following brief history of the Indian Press, during the last ten years, as to you who have nourished it from your inexhaustible intellectual stores, stimulated it by your example, and sympathised in its misfortunes. The account of these you will not read with the less interest, that the author of it was him self a participator in the events which he describes; and may, therefore, with justice say in the words of the ancient: quæque miserrima vidi, et quorum pars fui. [Google translate: I saw the most miserable, the Jews established, and of which I was a part of.]

2, South Crescent,
Bedford Square.
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Re: A Sketch: History of the Indian Press, by Sandford Arnot

Postby admin » Sat Apr 03, 2021 1:48 am



As the publication of the following statement of facts arose out of circumstances beyond my control, I claim no merit in bringing it before the world. All that remains in my power is to render the publication as subservient as possible to the public good, and to the cause of truth, by accompanying it with such explanations as will place in a true light an important question with which it is connected.

It is, indeed, the duty of every man who has suffered in a public cause, to embrace every fair opportunity of stating to the world his reasons for supporting it and the dangers to which it is exposed, either from professed friends or open foes. No phrase is more commonly in every one's mouth than that the character of public men is public "property." If so, it is the duty of the public to ascertain with the greatest care what that character is, that they may know whether or not their property be a good one, and the tenure by which they hold it secure. It is, above all, the duty of those who are friendly to the same cause, to ascertain that they entrust its advocacy into the most trustworthy hands: for surely no wise people engaged in any contest would entrust the command of an important post to a person of whose honesty they were not perfectly secure; or, to come to more every-day transactions, no prudent merchant would leave his vessel in charge of a pilot, however expert and daring, if there was reason to apprehend that, from want of principle and to serve his own purposes, the pilot would run the vessel upon the rocks.

Just so has the cause of the Indian Press been already shipwrecked; and it is my painful duty to describe by whom, and by what means, it has been ruined: ruined for a time, at least; and if it should ever recover that shock, the best service I can render it is by a faithful account of the causes of its past misfortunes, to guard its friends against similar dangers in future. Ten years ago the censorship had been abolished by the Marquis of Hastings, the then Governor General of India. After he had concluded victoriously two important wars, and secured the country from foreign aggression and internal pillage, thereby placing the hundred millions under his sway in tranquillity and peace, to improve their condition still more, he gave them a press, through which they might explain their wants and wishes, free from the control of a censor. This act was applauded all over the East, and hailed as the commencement of a new and glorious era in India, as shewn by the address presented to his Lordship by "about five-hundred of the most enlightened Gentlemen of Madras," who manfully raised their voices in its favour, notwithstanding the Government of that Presidency was adverse to the measure. (Vide the Hon. Col. Stanhope's History of the Indian Press, p.82). These five hundred included the chief justice and judges, and law officers of his Majesty's Supreme Court for British law, the chief judge of the Company's Supreme Court for native law (Sudder Adawlut), the residents of Hyderabad and Nagpore, and the Company's principal Staff Officers, &c. &c. &c., men of as high rank and influence in that part of the world, as the ministers and members of the British Cabinet are in England. Nor was the measure without its powerful friends even in this country: what Lord Hastings had done in the East, there was here the immortal eloquence of a Canning ready to defend.

In less than four years from the brilliant period of which I have been speaking, all this had passed away like a refreshing summer cloud, and not a shadow of freedom was left to any press in India. A measure was enacted to silence public discussion, by placing all newspaper property at the mercy of the Government. No public meeting was called, and hardly ten voices were raised in all India against this measure; and when it was afterwards discussed in the Court of East-India Proprietors, the only public body in England likely to take a deep interest in the question, a body, too, into which every liberal man in England, possessed of property, may, if he chooses, enter and declare his sentiments, so low was the cause of the freedom of the Indian Press sunk, that at last hardly three hands were raised in its behalf!

What produced this remarkable and melancholy change? The opponents of the freedom of discussion in India attribute it to the badness of the cause itself; I, however, am prepared to prove that it arose from the lamentable conduct of a person who put himself forward as its advocate, and continued to pervert the energies of the Press to his own selfish purposes, by converting it into an instrument of gratifying his personal piques and vanity, and of levying contributions on the public. This, at least, is the judgment which I have formed, on an extent of experience and knowledge of the subject which few besides myself have had an opportunity to acquire. But the contents of the following pages will enable every reader to judge for himself; and, if I succeed in proving the justness of my opinion, it may be the means of rescuing the cause of the Indian Press from the obloquy which has been brought upon it by the misconduct of its professed friend and advocate: it may be the means of again obtaining for the principle of free discussion, as applied to India, a patient and impartial consideration at the approaching investigation regarding the best mode of governing that important division of the British Empire.

The Marquis of Hastings having been the great founder and patron of the freedom of the Press which existed in India, it is the duty of every friend to that measure to place his character and policy in their just point of view. His new regulation for the Press, dated the 12th of August 1819, which abolished the censorship, was to the following effect, viz.

That Editors of newspapers were prohibited from publishing, 1st. Animadversions on the measures of public authorities in England connected with the Government of India, or on the local administration, the Members of Council, Judges of the Supreme Court, or the Lord Bishop of Calcutta. 2dly, Any thing calculated to excite alarm or suspicion amongst the natives as to any intended interference with their religion. 3dly, Private scandal or personal remarks tending to excite dissention in society.

The consequence that would result from an infraction of these restrictions was stated in these words:

"Relying on the prudence and discretion of the Editors for their careful observance of these rules, the Governor General in Council is pleased to dispense with their submitting their papers to an officer of Government previous to publication. The Editors will, however, be held personally responsible for whatever they may publish in contravention of the rules now communicated, OR which may be otherwise at variance with the general principles of British law as established in this country, and will be proceeded against in such manner as the Governor General in Council may deem applicable to the nature of the offence, for any deviation from them."

Here two classes of offences are clearly pointed out; one class, offences against British law; another class, offences against the rules now laid down for the press. For the first class, the Government might proceed by an action at law in the usual form; for the second, it evidently could not, because they were rules unknown to that law. Some other mode of enforcing them must, therefore, have been in contemplation, or the enactment of Regulations, which there was no power to enforce, would have been an act of mere folly. But the Governor General of India is vested with a power of ordering any British subject (if a native of the United Kingdom) to quit India, and by this power a British editor who resisted the authority of these rules might, consequently, be punished by expulsion from the country. Therefore, in enacting these rules beyond the letter of the law, and announcing that any Editor disregarding them would be "proceeded against," Lord Hastings clearly announced (and could have meant nothing else) that he would exercise the power of "summary transportation without trial," when necessary, as a means of coercing the conductors of the Indian Press, and enforcing the above restrictions after the abolition of the censorship. This is the true character of the act for which he received the applauses of the five hundred enlightened and distinguished residents of Madras, to which he is stated to have returned the following memorable, thousand-times quoted, reply:--

"My removal of restrictions from the Press," (by which his Lordship clearly meant the censorship, a most galling restriction, which he had removed for something far less grievous), "has been mentioned in laudatory language. I might easily have adopted that procedure without any length of cautious consideration, from my habit of regarding the freedom of publication as a natural right of my fellow subjects, to be narrowed only by special and urgent cause assigned. The seeing no direct necessity for these invidious shackles might have sufficed to make me break them. I know myself, however, to have been guided in the step by a positive and well-weighed policy. If our motives of action are worthy, it must be wise to render them intelligible throughout an empire, our hold on which is opinion. Further, it is salutary for supreme authority, even when its intentions are most pure, to look to the control of public scrutiny. While conscious of rectitude, that authority can lose nothing of its strength by its exposure to general comment: on the contrary, it acquires incalculable addition of force.

That Government which has nothing to disguise, wields the most powerful instrument that can appertain to sovereign rule. It carries with it the united reliance and effort of the whole mass of the governed: and let the triumph of our beloved country in its awful contest with tyrant-ridden France speak the value of a spirit, to be found only in men accustomed to indulge and express their honest sentiments."

Previous to this, under the Censorship, no one had the power of publishing any sentiment, however honest, except what the censor pleased to permit: whereas, under Lord Hastings's new regulation, every one had the power of saying everything, as in England, subject only to punishment afterwards, if he contravened the laws or regulations. By the former, the liberty of the press is to this day narrowed in England; by the latter, it was still farther narrowed in India: and to this his Lordship must have alluded, in saying that it was to be narrowed "only by special and urgent cause assigned."

The motives for these limitations on the freedom of discussion may be easily perceived. Censures passed on the Court of Directors, or other public authorities in England, might be supposed incapable of influencing men at such a distance, who, most probably, would never see or read them, or of altering measures already passed; while they might excite a local ferment and opposition abroad, where it could be of no avail, and thereby create alarm at home, and raise up powerful enemies to the very freedom of discussion which the Noble Marquis was so desirous to establish. The same reasoning might be applied to animadversions on the Lord Bishop of Calcutta, Members of Council, Judges of the Supreme Court, &c., viz. that the Press might sting and wound the feelings, but, in the present state of society in India, where so few are independent, could not exercise an efficient control over persons holding the highest rank and authority. Would it be wise, then, to begin by making enemies of those whose opposition might so soon prove fatal to an institution yet in its infancy.* [Vide the Hon, Col. Stanhope's History, p. 54.] Lord Hastings knew that the far-famed Press of England did not attain to its present strength and importance in a day, nor in a century. By prudent and moderate management, he saw that the Press of India might also be gradually nursed into maturity; that the alarms felt on account of its novelty would subside, the benefits of its operation be experienced, and men's minds, by degrees, become accustomed to its controul.

It is lamentable to think that a scheme so full of hope and promise, so enlightened and beneficent, could be thwarted by the turbulent conduct of one man. But,

"The reckless hand which fired th' Ephesian dome,
Outlives in fame the pious sage that raised it,"

and the firebrand, in the present case, was Mr. James Silk Buckingham. No difficult matter was it to excite a flame, if any one was found so imprudent or unprincipled as to apply the torch of discord: for the experiment of introducing freedom of discussion among a hundred millions of Asiatics, was, of itself, of a nature to excite distrust, if not alarm, in the minds of the many whose principle of policy it is to hold fast by that which is established and shun all innovation.

Mr. Buckingham, who conducted a Paper called the "Calcutta Journal," began by extolling the Marquis of Hastings, his character and government, in such terms of adulation, as to excite first jealousy and ultimately disgust; since others, holding a less prominent place in the administration, might justly feel that they had as much merit in the measures adopted as its head, on whom these praises were so extravagantly lavished. From this he gradually proceeded in his praises more pointedly to contra-distinguish the noble Marquis from the rest of the administration, which Mr. B. now taught the public to view as consisting of a good and an evil principle; Lord Hastings representing the former, and his Council, Secretaries, &c. the latter. This personal court to the great man might serve a temporary purpose. Mr. Buckingham, it has since been stated, was then making interest for a situation under the Government. He did not succeed in his object; perhaps the flattery was too gross for the refined sentiments of Lord Hastings. But these crafty artifices did not fail to excite jealousy between him and his Council and official advisers; and these latter being the most permanent elements of the government, who rise successively into power as its heads drop off, their opposition to Lord Hastings' policy, in the end, proved fatal to the liberty of the Press.

They seem to have said to themselves:

"Is any lord or lordling from England to come and reap the benefit of our long-earned experience, and then set up a sycophant to flatter himself as the author of every good thing done, and sneer at us, who have borne the burden and heat of the day, as insignificant underlings?"

The manner in which Mr. Buckingham contrived to create enemies to the freedom of the Press in other quarters, will be best shewn by a brief summary, accompanied with a few extracts from his correspondence with the Government, as published by himself.

1stly. Attack on the highest law authority in India.
-- The feelings of his Majesty's Chief Justice were deeply wounded by a severe animadversion on a transaction, necessarily of a very distressing kind to him, which occurred in his family, allusion to which in a public newspaper was the leas called for, as the affair was of a domestic and private, not of a public or political character; and the less excusable, as the affair, having happened, was such as no censure or regret could remedy or recal. No journalist, therefore, was justified in laying hold of such an opportunity to wound the feelings of a father; and by personal injury, probably render hostile to the Press a person who might have been its most powerful friend, from holding the highest legal office in India. Sir Edward Hyde East had notwithstanding the virtue to speak in favour of the liberty of the Press, if properly used, when it came afterwards under discussion in a case wherein Mr. Buckingham himself was the defendant. His successor in authority, however, avenged his cause by sealing its destruction.

2dly. Attack on the Governor of Madras. On the 18th of June 1819, the Lord Hastings caused the following letter to be addressed to Mr. Buckingham, respecting an attack on Governor Elliott:

Sir, 1. The attention of Government having been drawn to certain paragraphs, published in the Calcutta Journal of Wednesday the 26th ult. I am directed by his Excellency the Most Noble the Governor General in Council, to communicate to you the following remarks regarding them.

2. The paragraphs in question are as follows:-- "Madras. We have received a letter from Madras of the 10th instant, written on deep black-edged mourning post, of considerable breadth, and apparently made for the occasion, communicating, as a piece of melancholy and afflicting intelligence, the fact of Mr. Elliott's being confirmed in the government of that Presidency for three years longer!! It is regarded at Madras as a public calamity, and we fear that it will be viewed in no other light throughout India generally. An anecdote is mentioned in the same letter, regarding the exercise of the censorship of the press, which is worthy of being recorded, as a fact illustrative of the callosity to which the human heart may arrive; and it may be useful, humiliating as it is to the pride of our species, to show what men, by giving loose to the principles of despotism over their fellows, may at length arrive at."

[Then, after stating that the Censor there had prevented the publication of a letter from the Princess Charlotte to her mother, Mr. Buckingham concluded by saying] "that it tended to criminate, by inference, those who were accessory to their unnatural separation, of which party the friends of the DIRECTOR of the Censor of the Press unfortunately were!

3. The Governor General in Council observes that this publication is a wanton attack upon the Governor of the Presidency of Fort St. George, in which his continuance in office is represented as a public calamity, and his conduct in administration asserted to be governed by despotic principles and influenced by unworthy motives.

4. The Governor General in Council refrains from enlarging upon the injurious effect which publications of such a nature are calculated to produce in the due administration of the affairs of this country. It is sufficient to inform you that he considers the paragraphs above quoted to be highly offensive and objectionable in themselves, and to amount to a violation of the obvious spirit of the instructions communicated to the Editors of newspapers, at the period when this Government was pleased to permit the publication of newspapers, without subjecting them to the previous revisions of the officers of Government.

5. The Governor General in Council regrets to observe, that this is not the only instance in which the Calcutta Journal has contained publications at variance with the spirit of the instructions above referred to. On the present occasion, the Governor General in Council does not propose to exercise the powers vested in him by law; but I am directed to acquaint you, that by any repetition or a similar offence, you will be considered to have forfeited all claim to the countenance and protection of this Government, and will subject yourself to be proceeded against under the 36th section of the 53d Geo. III., cap. 155."

To this letter from Lord Hastings his magnanimous and liberal protector, Mr. Buckingham, in reply, concluded with the following sentence:

"The very marked indulgence which his Lordship in Council is pleased to exercise towards me, in remitting on this occasion the exercise of the powers vested in him by law, will operate as an additional incentive to my future observance of the spirit of the instructions issued before the commencement of the Calcutta Journal, to the editors of the public prints of India, in August 1818, of which I am now fully informed, and which I shall henceforth make my guide."

The next attack on the same Government of Madras related to the transmission of his journal by post, which Mr. Buckingham insinuated was impeded in that presidency by the Government, from hostility to its principles. On this Lord Hastings thus commented, in an official letter dated January 12th 1820:

"2. The observations alluded to are clearly intended to convey the impression that the Government of Fort St. George had taken measures to impede the circulation of the Calcutta Journal, which measures were unjust in themselves, and originated in improper motives.

"5. Your remarks on the proceedings of the Government of Fort St. George are obviously in violation of the spirit of those rules to which your particular attention, as the Editor of the Calcutta Journal, has been before called; and the unfounded insinuations conveyed in those remarks greatly aggravate the impropriety of your conduct on this occasion.

"6. The Governor General in Council has perceived with regret the little impression made on you by the indulgence you have already experienced; and I am directed to warn you of the certain consequence of your again incurring the displeasure of Government. In the present instance, his Lordship in Council contents himself with requiring, that a distinct acknowledgment of the impropriety of your conduct, and a full and sufficient apology to the Government of Fort St. George, for the injurious insinuations inserted in your paper of yesterday, with regard to the conduct of that Government, be published in the Calcutta Journal."

In reply, Mr. Buckingham informed Lord Hastings that as he had received an address from Madras complimenting him on his abolition of the Censorship, by the substitution of the more lenient restrictions before mentioned, to which he had replied as above quoted, therefore he (Mr. B.) considered these restrictions as no longer existing!

"I conceived," he says, "that the regulations or restrictions of August 1818, were as formally and effectually abrogated by that step (the reply to the address) as one law becomes repealed by the creation of another, whose provisions and enactions are at variance with the spirit of the former."

This was, in fact, to maintain that an Act of Parliament or an order in Council might be annulled by a speech of the Duke of Wellington at Apsley House, or the City of London Tavern: and that a speech, too, which declared that the liberty of the Press was to be "limited by special cause assigned," must be held to signify and declare, that this liberty was to be quite unlimited! On these grounds the Marquess of Hastings was most disingenuously and ungratefully accused of professing one thing and meaning another. His Lordship, however, magnanimously passed over the imputation on himself, and rested satisfied with an apology being published by Mr. Buckingham, expressing his regret at "having worded the original notice so carelessly as to bear the appearance of disrespectful notice on the Governor of Madras."

3dly. Attack on the highest ecclesiastical authority, the Lord Bishop of Calcutta. This was published on the 10th July 1821, as follows:--

"It is asserted (but I conceive erroneously) that the Chaplains have received orders from the Lord Bishop of Calcutta, not to make themselves amenable to any military or other local authorities; and, therefore, when a young couple at an outpost prefer going to the expense of making the clergyman travel 250 miles to go and marry them, he is at perfect liberty to accept the invitation, and to leave 3000 other Christians, his own parishioners, to bury each other, and postpone all other christian ordinances until his tour is completed, which, in this instance, occupies, I understand, more than three sabbaths.

In consequence of one of these ill-timed matrimonial requisitions in December last, the performance of divine service, and other religious observances of the season, were entirely overlooked at Christmas, which passed by for some Sundays in succession, and Christmas-day included, wholly unobserved,

It would appear, therefore, to be highly expedient, that no Military Chaplain should have the option of quitting the duties of his station, from any misplaced power vested in him by the Lord Bishop, unless he can also obtain the express written permission of the local authorities on the spot to do so, and provided, in all such cases, the season is healthy, and no one dangerously ill, and that he shall unerringly return to the station before the Sunday following, that divine service may never be omitted in consequence of such requisition."

On the name of the author of this statement being asked for by the Government, Mr. Buckingham replied that he did not know any thing about him, as it was anonymous, but that he thought publishing it might be productive of good. To this Lord Hastings sent the following reply:

"It was to have been hoped, that when your attention was called to the nature of the publication in question, you would have felt regret at not having perceived its tendency, and that you would have expressed concern at having unwarily given circulation to a statement which advanced the invidious supposition that the Bishop might have allowed to the Chaplains a latitude for deserting their clerical duties, and disregarding the claims of humanity.

Instead of manifesting any such sentiment, you defend your procedure, by professing that you 'published the letter under the conviction, that a temperate and modest discussion of the inconveniences likely to arise from a want of local control, in certain points, over Military Chaplains, might be productive of public benefit.'

It is gross prostitution of terms to represent as a temperate and modest discussion an anonymous crimination of an individual, involving at the same time an insinuated charge, not the less offensive for being hypothetically put, that his superior might have countenanced the delinquency.

With these particulars before your eyes, and in contempt of former warnings, you did not hesitate to insert in your Journal such a statement from a person of whom you declare yourself to be utterly ignorant, and of whose veracity you consequently could form no opinion. Your defence for so doing is not rested on the merits of the special case. But as your argument must embrace all publications of a corresponding nature, you insist on your right of making your Journal the channel for that species of indirect attack upon character in all instances of a parallel nature.

When certain irksome restraints, which had long existed upon the press in Bengal, were withdrawn, the prospect was indulged that the diffusion of various information, with the able comments which it would call forth, might be extremely useful to all classes of our countrymen in public employment. A paper conducted with temper and ability, on the principles professed by you at the outset of your undertaking, was eminently calculated to forward this view. The just expectations of Government have not been answered. Whatsoever advantages have been attained, they have been overbalanced by the mischief of acrimonious dissensions, spread through the medium of your Journal. Complaint upon complaint is constantly harrassing Government, regarding the impeachment which your loose publications cause to be inferred against individuals. As far as could be reconciled with duty, Government has endeavoured to shut its eyes on what it wished to consider thoughtless aberrations, though perfectly sensible of the practical objections which attends these irregular appeals to the public. Even if the matter submitted be correct, the public can afford no relief, while a communication to the constituted authorities would effect sure redress; yet the idleness of recurrence to a wrong quarter is not all that is reprehensible, for that recurrence is to furnish the dishonest conclusion of sloth or indifference in those bound to watch over such points of the general interest. Still the Government wished to overlook minor editorial inaccuracies. The subject has a different complexion when you, Sir, stand forth to vindicate the principle of such appeals, whatsoever slander upon individuals they may involve, and when you maintain the privilege of lending yourself to be the instrument of any unknown calumniator. Government will not tolerate so mischievous an abuse. It would be with undissembled regret that the Governor General in Council should find himself constrained to exercise the chastening power vested in him; nevertheless he will not shrink from its exertion, where he may be conscientiously satisfied that the preservation of decency and the comfort of society, required it to be applied. I am thence, Sir, instructed to give you this intimation: should Government observe that you persevere in acting on the principle which you have now asserted, there will be no previous discussion of any case in which you may be judged to have violated those laws of moral candour and essential justice, which are equally binding on all descriptions of the community. You will at once be apprized that your license to reside in India is annulled, and you will be required to furnish security for your quitting the country by the earliest convenient opportunity."

From the indignant tone of this letter, and the expressions with which it concludes, respecting the necessity of adhering to the laws of "moral candour and essential justice," it is plain that Lord Hastings now had become convinced that he had been trifled with, by promises never meant to be fulfilled, and that his liberal and generous forbearance and protection were met with quibbling sophistry and hollow professions, only made to be broken as soon as they had served the temporary purpose of averting immediate punishment; that, in short, he was not dealing with a man who had a mind impressed with those principles of rectitude, or that standard of action called "conscience," which might have guided him to observe common candour and fairness in his dealings.

In reply, Mr. Buckingham tacitly admitted that, in forming this judgment of him, Lord Hastings was not far from correct. The old censorship had been bad; the new restrictions were bad; but that the conductors of the press were to be guided by the rules of common honesty, he held to be worse still.

"I must now (he says), I fear, consider your letter of the 17th as establishing a new criterion, in lieu of the former, more safe, because more clearly defined guides for publication." Common honesty and justice, a new and severe criterion for him, though the judge were one of the most pure and magnanimous of men! But, indeed, he might think that the more upright the judge, so much the worse for the transgressor. In conclusion, Mr. Buckingham says:

"If so severe a punishment as banishment and ruin is to be inflicted on a supposed violation of the laws of moral candour and essential justice, of which I know not where to look for any definite standard, I fear that my best determinations will be of no avail."

Lord Hastings might have replied, that all good men look in their own breasts to the standard of honesty, which God has planted there. That it is to this standard, under heaven, all human actions must ultimately be referred, whether it be applied in the form of trial by jury, decision by a single judge, by a bench of justices, by a Governor, or by a Council: therefore no Government has yet enacted laws to define or determine what honesty and truth are, because they are supposed to be known to all; and the man who has them not implanted in his mind by nature, is unfit to live in human society. Pontius Pilate, indeed, once asked, "what is truth?" The divine founder of Christianity made no reply. When it was now asked, in the same sneering manner, "what are the rules of honesty and justice?" the good and virtuous Lord Hastings felt that it would be unworthy of him to reply. Consequently the following note was addressed to Mr. Buckingham:

"Sir: I am directed by his Excellency the most noble the Governor General in Council, to acknowledge the receipt of your letter of the 27th ultimo, and to inform you, that the letter in question has produced no change in the sentiments and resolutions of Government, already communicated to you on the 17th ultimo."

4thly. Attacks on Lord Hastings' Administration. -- The following extracts, of another letter from the Government, and Mr. Buckingham's reply to it, are an apt illustration of his confessed unacquaintance with the rules of "moral candour and essential justice:"

To Mr. J. S. Buckingham, Editor of the Calcutta Journal.

Sir: The attention of the Governor General in Council has been called to a discussion in the Calcutta Journal of the 31st ultimo, respecting the power of Government to forbid the further continuance within the British territories in India, of any European not being a covenanted servant of the Honourable Company.

With a suppression of facts, most mischievous, as tending to betray others into penal error, you have put out of view the circumstance that the residence alluded to, if it be without a license, is criminal by the law of England; while, if the residence be sanctioned by license, it is upon the special recorded condition, not simply of obedience to what the local Government may see cause to enjoin, but to the holding a conduct which that Government shall deem to merit its countenance and protection; a breach of which condition forfeits the indulgence, and renders it liable to extinction.

This provision, which the legislature of your country has thought proper to enact (53 Geo. IIII. cap. 155, sect. 36), you have daringly endeavoured to discredit and nullify, by asserting that 'transmission for offences through the press is a power wholly unknown to the law;' that 'no regulation exists in the statute book for restraining the press in India;' and that 'the more the monstrous doctrine of transmission is examined, the more it must excite the abhorrence of all just minds.'

No comment is requisite on the gross disingenuousness of describing as a tyrannous authority that power, the legality and justice of which you had acknowledged by your voluntary acceptance of a leave, granted on terms involving your express recognition to that effect. Neither is it necessary to particularize the many minor indecencies in the paper observed upon, since you have brought the matter to one decisive point.

Whether the act of the British Legislature, or the opinion of an individual shall be predominant, is now at issue. It is thence imperative on the duty of the local Government to put the subject at rest. The long-tried forbearance of the Governor General will fully prove the extreme reluctance with which he adopts a measure of harshness; and even now, his Excellency in Council is pleased to give you the advantage of one more warning. You are now finally apprized, if you shall again venture to impeach the validity of the statute quoted, and the legitimacy of the power vested by it in the chief authority here, or shall treat with disregard any official injunction, past or future, from Government, whether communicated in terms of command, or in the gentler language of intimation, your license will be immediately cancelled, and you will be ordered to depart forthwith from India."

In replying to the above, Mr. Buckingham gave the following piece of an argument between him and a cotemporary journal:

"With the most wilful blindness to all that had been passing for the last four years in India, the editor of John Bull opened his dissertation with the following singular confession: 'In the first place, then, we must begin by acknowledging candidly, that till Thursday last, when the matter was announced in the Calcutta Journal, we had not the most remote idea that a free press was established in India;' and then goes on to insinuate that the professions of the Governor General were of no value whatever, and that that freedom of the press for which he had so justly received the thanks and admiration of his countrymen from all quarters of India, not only did not exist now, but never had, and never was intended to have, any force or meaning whatever.

On the following day (August 27), I noticed these ungenerous, and, as they appeared to me, unwarranted assertions of my opponent, by saying that I believed the wish of the Governor General was in unison with his professions, that the press should be held amenable to the courts of law for its offences (that being the process observed by his Lordship in the majority of the cases in which he had thought proper to interfere, and in the most recent instances also); and that if this were the case, the press must be considered free; for all that was ever meant by me in using that term, was, free from any other restraint or control than that imposed by a court of law and a jury."

Here Mr. Buckingham alleges, that by all that had occurred during the last three years, Lord Hastings must be held to have declared that the press was to be free from any restraint but "a court of law and a jury;" and that if his lordship did not mean this, it is insinuated that he was an arrant hypocrite and a deceiver. What is the fact? That the whole of Lord Hastings' declarations, even in the reply to the Madras address itself, were the very reverse of what Mr. Buckingham here pretends. They were that the liberty of the press was to be narrowed by "special and urgent cause assigned," and to be restrained, therefore, both by the laws of England, and by the further limitations specified in Lord Hastings' regulation, enacted expressly for the Indian press.

But the most singular thing is, that a little afterwards, in the very same letter, Mr. Buckingham asserts that the laws of England imposed no legal restraint on the Indian press. His words are:

"I beg distinctly to state, that so far from having suppressed the fact of its being unlawful for Englishmen to reside in India without license, I have admitted and reiterated that fact times beyond number, always making it the ground of my argument for saying that the fear of having this license withdrawn, and being therefore sent to England as a person unauthorized to remain in India, is the most powerful as well as the only legal restraint even now exercised over the Indian press."

What an admirable and consistent advocate of free discussion, to discover and point out to the Government, that the exercise of the power of "summary transportation without trial" was "their only legal mode of regulating the press!" Then the recourse which had been had "in the most recent instances" (as he had a little before stated), to a court of law, must have been highly illegal and improper! In the next paragraph he goes on to say:

"Neither on the statute book of England nor the statute book of India, by which I mean the printed and public regulations of the Government, issued and passed in the usual form, am I aware of any law for restraining the Indian press."

Here then, in the same letter, were three propositions maintained:--

1st. That the press was free from any other restraint than that imposed by a court of law and a jury.

2dly. That the legal, and the ONLY legal restraint existing, was that of summary transportation without trial.

3dly. That there was no law, either in England or in India, for restraining the press there, which was consequently more free than the English press itself.

These three were brought forward to prove the truth of a fourth proposition, namely, his former assertion which had been condemned by the Government, viz.

4thly. That transmission (to England) for offences through the press, was a power wholly unknown to the law.

The man who could assert in the same letter these different and diametrically opposite propositions, might well think it a grievous hardship to be tried by the rules of "moral candour and essential justice," and say, he knew not where to look for any definite standard of them!

It would be useless to pursue further such a maze of endless contradictions. It is enough to state that Mr. Buckingham continued to follow the same course, and employed the whole energies of the press, invigorated as it had become by the degree of liberty conferred upon it by Lord Hastings, to cast a shade on the character and closing administration of this nobleman: its generous, and now almost only protector, to whose magnanimity and indulgence Mr. Buckingham himself owed his good fortune and even existence in Bengal; but for which he must have been expelled (as he had before been from Bombay), and thrown upon the world again, a needy adventurer, to live by his wits or the precarious bounty of his friends.

It is now clear enough that Mr. Buckingham was secretly of this same opinion, and felt conscious that as soon as Lord Hastings, now the object of his revilings, left the country, all hopes of farther protection or impunity were at an end. This event was to take place in the beginning of the year 1823, and in the latter part of 1822 Mr. Buckingham prepared for the coming storm. He resorted to the following notable plan of selling out the property he had in his Journal.

He proposed to convert the concern into a sort of joint-stock company, by selling it in shares of 1,000 rupees (or about £100) each. As an inducement to purchase these shares, he informed the public, that the concern was worth four lacs of rupees (or about £40,000 sterling); that this amount was made up one-half of copyright, one-fourth of property on the spot, and the remaining fourth of property, types, presses, &c. ordered from Mr. Richardson, (28, Cornhill,) his agent in England.

"These [says the prospectus, from which I quote the words] will all leave England before the end of this year (1822), and some portions are now on their way out; all of which being to be paid before, out of my funds, by a credit on Fletcher, Alexander, and Co.* [Then of Devonshire Square, now of King's Arms Yard, Coleman Street.] to cover insurance and every risk, must be added to the dead stock of the concern, which will make its whole value amount to 2,00,000 rupees, as the security on which the shares taken are to be held."

On this security, to which he bound himself by legal contract, he sold by his own account 100 shares, obtaining for the same gross sum of 1,00,000 rupees or nearly £10,000 sterling. Now, though the purchasers might have formed a rough estimate of the value of property on the spot, or the copyright of a paper, provided the accounts were fairly stated, it is evident they could form no judgment of the value of goods stated to be on the way from England. These they must have taken on the confidence that the individual who said he had commissioned and sent funds to pay for them was acting with good faith; and that if he sold property which had no existence, in order to put the price thereof into his pocket, he would come within the provisions of the useful statute enacted against the obtaining of money on false pretences.

Though it may be anticipating, it is proper to state here, in connection with this project, that the agent referred to in England has since stated that he did not send goods to any thing near the amount specified, or even so much as a fifth part of the sum, at the period to which this contract applies. And there is no evidence yet produced of the funds having been remitted to obtain them. It is no marvel, therefore, if in India no proofs appeared of their ever having arrived; and the whole materials of the concern were soon after sold by public auction (the ordinary mode of disposing of property in Bengal, and adopted in this case, therefore, by Mr. Buckingham's agents as the most advantageous), for less than two thousand pounds, a tenth part of the amount contracted for as "the security on which the share taken were to be held!" The reader may form his own judgment as to the causes of this most extraordinary discrepancy.

The real value of the copyright of the Journal, allowing it to be worth six months' produce of the gross receipts, or two years of the net profit, would have been about £8,000; but this is a very high calculation, considering that it was a Journal of such ephemeral standing, and liable to be suppressed daily by the arbitrary banishment of its conductors. Adding to this the above sum of £2,000 for actual tangible property, we have a total value of £10,000, just equal to the sum Mr. Buckingham had raised by the sale of shares.

The condition on which these shares were held made them a kind of mortgage over the concern; as the holder of each became entitled to a daily paper of sixteen quarto pages free of charge (except postage), costing sixteen rupees per mensem, and amounting in all, for 100 shares, to Sa. Rs. 19,200 per annum, or nearly £2.000 sterling yearly. Besides this, as the whole concern was conceived to be divided into 400 shares, each of which was to be entitled to a corresponding proportion of the profits, the 100 shares sold would absorb one-fourth of the whole net receipts or profits. Supposing these to be, as Mr. Buckingham has so often since asserted, £8,000 per annum, the fourth of this added to the above £2,000 would render the annual charge upon the concern £4,000. But his own printed estimate of the actual receipts and disbursements for the last six months of 1822, which he published at that time in Bengal, made the net profit to be no more than 25 per cent on the receipts, or about £4,500 in all. The same estimate represented the shareholders as drawing an interest of 308 rupees per annum on each share, which for 100 shares is equal to 30,800, or in round numbers about £3,000 yearly.

Such was the weighty consideration which Mr. Buckingham had bound himself, "his heirs, executors, and administrators," to make good for seven years, to the purchasers of shares (or mortgagees, as they may well be called). He had also bound himself to give his own personal services for three years; and not voluntarily to leave the country under a penalty of 50,000 rupees. He had further contracted to export to the concern property to the amount of 100,000 rupees as above shewn. Now he knew that if the government could only be provoked to remove him from the country he would, in the first place, be relieved of the above 50,000 rupees penalty. 2dly, He would be removed from the severe exposures of his character to which he was now subjected, on account of his previous conduct in Egypt and Syria.

3dly, He would be out of hearing of any clamours that might be raised about the fulfilment of his contract, as to the promised exportation of the property to the value of £10,000. Lastly, if others in his absence should by possibility succeed in carrying on such a concern, with a burden upon it of above £3,000 per annum, the labour, and anxiety, and waste of health, would fall upon them. If they failed, or sunk under it, and the concern with them, then he would get rid of all his remaining obligations, and have his £10,000 snug in his pocket! Under these circumstances, the following is the contumelious stile in which he wrote of the venerable Marquis of Hastings, at first his patron, and to the last, notwithstanding so many years of misrepresentation, contumacy, and insolence, his magnanimous protector against the numerous and powerful enemies his controversies, turbulence, and slanders, had raised against him. He tauntingly told his Lordship, now on the eve of his departure, and adopting the figure of speech which he thought would be most galling to an aged military chief:--

"The banners by which the free press of India was first protected, have been since unhappily abandoned, deserted, fallen, and IGNOMINIOUSLY furled, by the very hands that were the first to unfold and wave them in pride and exultation over our heads."

This self-confuted invective was directed against a Governor-General of India in the plenitude of his power. With one word he might have banished his defamer to the ends of the earth, -- from Bengal to the shores of Europe; knowing that every member of his government would have applauded the deed. But he neither punished, nor expressed the resentment. Yet persons were found so unjust and ungrateful, as to employ that freedom which the Marquis of Hastings had bestowed on the Indian press, to accuse him of basely deserting his principles, and covering himself with ignominy! That very press, whose tongue he had unshackled, employed its liberty to load him with insult; and the very man whom his protection had saved from beggary and ruin, and fostered into consequence, employs it to tarnish his name, and, if possible, dim the lustre of that well-earned fame, which had been consecrated, and rendered venerable, by the accumulated honours of nearly half a century.

Lord Hastings soon after took his departure for Europe. And when the influence of his benignant character ceased to shine upon India, the liberty of the press which he had established, and all the hopes of improvement associated with it, soon sunk with him into the darkest night. This will be more fully illustrated in the following chapter.
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Re: A Sketch: History of the Indian Press, by Sandford Arnot

Postby admin » Sat Apr 03, 2021 1:49 am


LORD HASTINGS took his departure for Europe on the 1st of January 1828, and was succeeded in his authority by Mr. John Adam, as Senior Member of Council. Affairs went on very quietly for some weeks, till a satirical attack was made in the Calcutta Journal, on the appointment of Dr. James Bryce, head of the Presbyterian Church in Bengal, to the situation of clerk to the committee for controlling the expenditure of Government stationery. An old feud existed between this gentleman and Mr. Buckingham, which arose from some skirmishing between them soon after the latter established his Journal. On the return of Dr. Bryce from Europe, after an absence of some years, this feud was revived with increased bitterness. A series of letters appeared in the Calcutta newspaper called "John Bull," under the signature of "A Friend to Mr. Bankes," attacking in the severest possible manner the conduct of Mr. Buckingham to that gentleman while they were fellow travellers in Palestine; and of these letters, which from being anonymous, and from their great power, severity, and effect, were regarded as the productions of an Indian Junius, Dr. Bryce, from his known talents, was supposed to be the author. It was insinuated, therefore, that the situation given him by the Government was a reward for his services, in writing down a person so obnoxious to those in authority; Mr. Buckingham could not resist so favourable an opportunity for balancing an old account by an attack on the parson: as by ridiculing the appointment, he could at once avenge his private grudge, and put another thorn in the side of the Government.

The Rev. Dr. James Bryce as a Chaplain on the Bengal Ecclesiastical Establishment arrived in Calcutta on 28th November 1814 to begin his duties as a clergyman of the Church of Scotland at the Presidency.

-- Historical Church of the Lord Jesus, Kolkata, by navrangindia.wordpress.com

Mr. Adam did not imitate the forbearance of his much-reviled predecessor. Lord Hastings had gone on from month to month, and from year to year, admonishing Mr. Buckingham to obey the laws, warning him of the consequences of disobedience. In order to avert these consequences, with a sort of paternal solicitude over the infant liberty of the press he had created, he employed alternately the language of menace and indulgence. Notwithstanding he possessed the power at once to command obedience, and crush opposition to his will, he shewed himself willing to expostulate and reason with the conductors of the press as a friend. If you proceed in this violent and' forbidden course, he argued, you will thereby bring into question and disrepute the policy of the measures I have adopted in favour of the press, and ruin the very cause you profess to advocate.

What had been the answers made to this friendly caution? First, Mr. Buckingham says: this is the first time your regulations have been effectually brought to my notice: I shall henceforth make them my guide. Next time, when reminded that he had broken this promise, he says: "O, my Lord, I thought all the laws and regulations of Government on the subject were abolished by the fine speech you made one day in reply to the Madras address." Being given to know that this was not the case, he again promises amendment. But by and bye, he finds another excuse, and a most notable one it is for justifying every transgression. He tells Lord Hastings, "I and others have been violating one or other of your regulations every day; and, therefore, I thought they were no longer in existence!"

How admirably this argument would apply at Bow Street, if stated thus, after the manner of Sir Jeremy Bentham in a late production. A culprit might say to Sir Richard Birnie, "My good fellow, you have praised the liberty of acquiring wealth which exists in this country; you know very well, that I and a hundred others have been living with daily commission of theft for many years; I therefore thought the laws against taking other people's property no longer existed. On these grounds I hope you will let me off!"

Mr. Adam seemed resolved to cut short this line of argument, and save himself from being taunted, as Lord Hastings had been, with his humanity and indulgence. He at once passed an order that Mr. Buckingham should quit the country without delay. Whether or not that measure was strictly called for at the time is not the question. The only point worthy of consideration is, whether or not the whole tenour of Mr. Buckingham's conduct was not such as to lead inevitably to this result, and to all the consequences which followed, of a nature, still more fatal to the press.

The readiness -- I may say alacrity -- of Mr. Buckingham to comply with the order to quit the country -- the saucy and flippant style of his replies to it; formed a remarkable contrast with his long and laboured explanations to the Government on former occasions, when the danger was much less imminent.
In fact, he now did not so much as condescend to ask the Government to mitigate his sentence, or even to grant him a few weeks' indulgence to arrange his affairs. This at the time was attributed to magnanimity. The reader, however, who is now better informed than we were as to the real state of his affairs, will judge whether the £10,000 he had raised as above shewn, under a contract to export his co-proprietors' property to that amount and deliver goods to the value of £2,000 per annum, &c., may not have contributed somewhat to reconcile him to the idea of being off with what he had got, and of leaving such troublesome obligations behind him!

Had the mischief ended here, it would have been comparatively very trifling indeed; but the idea of some hundreds of individuals, of all ranks and conditions in and out of the service, being leagued together in a sort of "Joint Stock Company" to support an organ of public opinion, exerting an extensive and powerful influence over the public mind, seems to have alarmed the Government. As Sir Francis McNaghten afterwards forcibly expressed it, in giving his fiat from the Bench, he and others appear to have regarded it as a kind of public funds, which were to be raised by the downfall of the Government, and they therefore resolved, in his words, "to put an end to such stocks and such stock-jobbing." At the same time, being myself of opinion that the Indian press was ever too feeble and inefficient instead of being too strong, so long as I believed that the share scheme had only the fair and honest motive in view of rendering the press more stable and permanent, I should have been the last to condemn it. Shewing now, however, that the scheme was founded in delusion, and had in all respects quite a contrary tendency from that which it professed to aim, I cannot but regard it as one of the most pernicious and disgraceful impositions ever practised on the public; for it was the immediate cause of a new and fatal Regulation being enacted for the press, evidently framed with the views of putting down such combinations.

The principle of the New Regulation for the Press (which bears the signatures of Mr. Adam, Sir Edward Paget, Mr. Fendall, and Mr. Harington, and is dated 15th of March 1823) was, that no newspaper or other periodical work, containing public intelligence or political discussion, could be published or carried on without a license from the Government; and that after a periodical had obtained such license, the same might be recalled, and the publication suppressed, whenever the Government might think proper to do so.

It being necessary that any regulation issued by the Government of Bengal affecting the rights of British subjects or others within the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court of English Judicature established there, shall have the sanction of that Court before it can have the force of law, some of the friends of free discussion resolved to enter their protest, and state their reasons in that Court against the confirmation of the law proposed. Sir Francis McNaghten, the only Judge at that time on the bench, being well known to be a man of high and independent mind, as well as of the most liberal and generous feelings, and a lover of popularity, there was still reason to hope that the obnoxious law might be arrested, in its progress; suspended during a reference to England; or, if sanctioned, at least considerably modified in its provisions.

On the matter being moved in Court, Sir Francis readily consented to hear all that could be said against the law; and on that occasion dropped the following encouraging expressions:

"I am not compelled to register it at all: there are precedents for refusal by this Court: I think it would be better if in the mean time the parties would apply to the Government. The business is yet hardly before the Court, for the Government could recall the ordinance if they chose."

The legal discussion of it in court was fixed for the last day of March (1828); and the following parties prepared to oppose the registration. 1st. On the part of the native inhabitants a memorial was drawn up by the justly-celebrated Rammohun Roy and others, which, in a spirit of mild and respectful remonstrance, besought the Government not to deprive its many millions of native subjects of the right of stating their grievances, and making their true condition known to it -- a right which they had never been charged with having abused, and had done nothing to forfeit. 2dly, On the part of the British inhabitants, Counsel were retained by the proprietors of the newspaper press. And, 3dly, on the part of the Indo-British community, Counsel, were instructed by some of this body to oppose the rule with the whole force of their legal arguments.

Mr. Fergusson (Robert Cutlar Fergusson, Esq., now M.P. for the county of Galloway) and Mr. Turton, as being two of the most eminent counsel then at the Calcutta bar, were chosen to advocate the rights of the people of India on this important occasion. The ground of argument would, a priori, have seemed to be within a very narrow compass; namely, whether the new law proposed was, or was not, repugnant to the laws of England: for by Act of Parliament the Government of India is prohibited from enacting any such rule, regulation, or by-law, which shall be contrary to commonsense, or "repugnant to the laws of England." Now if it were referred to the British Parliament, or to an English court of' justice, whether a law enabling the Duke of Wellington, or any other minister, and his colleagues, to prohibit the publication of any newspaper, &c. without their license, and to recall such license at pleasure when granted; in ether words, to suppress, if they chose, any or all the newspapers in the United Kingdom whenever they thought fit, without any form of trial, would the question be entertained for a moment; or would any man be so bold as to stand up and say that this was not repugnant to the laws of England?

Sir Francis McNaghten, however, decided the question on political rather than on legal grounds. By the following extract from his speech, it will appear that he considered Mr. Buckingham as having formed himself and his friends into a joint-stock company, to make their own fortunes, by wielding the energies of the Press in the hands of an unprincipled man for the destruction of the Government.

"If the papers (said be) are like the prices of stocks, to depend for their value upon the defeat of the enemy, and to rise and fall accordingly, and if the Government is to be considered as that enemy, I would put an end to such stocks and such stock-jobbing."

With respect to Mr. Buckingham his Lordship observed that after having been openly bearded by him, after every means of defiance had been made use of by him, the Government had acted very leniently.

"Now had I," said his Lordship, "been in the situation of Government, I would not have allowed a copy of that paper to have left Calcutta by my post."

But that such outrages as those contained in Mr. Buckingham's paper, rendered it the bounden duty of Government to put them down.

Sir Francis urged other reasons in favour of the new law, but that on which he laid most stress was the fact that Mr. Buckingham, on being expelled from the country, had substituted in his stead, as editor of the Calcutta Journal, a Mr. Sandys, a person of Indian birth, and partly of Asiatic extraction, consequently not liable to be removed, like a British subject, by a mere firman of the Governor-general; and that the Government had then, he said, been insolently told, that its attempts to restrain the Press would be of no avail; that it would now be between two fires -- that of Mr. Buckingham in England, and his East-Indian editor in Calcutta. His Lordship spoke with great indignation of what he called Mr. Buckingham's manifesto to this effect; and avowed, that had he been in the place of the Government, he would have disregarded all forms of law, and have suppressed that paper by main force.

"To what purpose (he asked) could the Legislature have empowered this Government to send every British subject out of the country who might be supposed to have misconducted himself, if those who were certainly not higher in the contemplation of Parliament might resist and insult the authorities with comparative impunity? It was his opinion, that the name of that gentleman (Mr. Sandys) had been used in such a manner as a Government like this could not endure. If he had been a British subject, and had committed an offence against the British Government to-day, he might be ordered to depart from the country to-morrow. Yet what is the insolent boast? That he is free from all control of the Government, and amenable to this Court alone. There is no man," continued his Lordship, "in the use of his reason, who can believe that the Legislature intended to secure the Government against assaults from British subjects, and lay it open, at the same time, to the outrages of men, who cannot be supposed to have the interests of England so much at heart as British subjects."

The best precaution had been taken to prevent the possibility of any such injurious consequences arising from the appointment of an East-Indian editor, supposing them to be probable. This editor was restricted from publishing any thing without the previous sanction of two British subjects, who were associated with him in the management of the paper. And neither of them, I may venture to say, was of a temperament to suffer the insertion of what he deemed hurtful to the interests, or derogatory to the honour of the land of his nativity. Whether it was wise to conjoin with its conductors an individual whose name could afford them very little advantage or protection, and whose legal privileges only served to irritate the Government into more violent measures, is another question.

My own connexion with the Indian press at this period, enables me to reply satisfactorily to this part of the political argument of the learned Judge. The general intimidation produced by the order for Mr. Buckingham's expulsion was such that very few British subjects would have consented to place themselves in the dangerous position of his ostensible successor. A young barrister (Mr. Turlon) was stated to have declined it, though offered above £1,000 a year for only an hour or two's attendance daily. Being unlicensed myself, I knew that assuming such an office would have served no useful purpose, and have been only provoking a sentence of expulsion. Having pledged myself, however, to support the paper, I considered myself bound to fulfil that pledge to the utmost of my power, and at any risk, whoever else might be appointed editor. But as Mr. Sandys was a gentleman of whose character or principles I had no personal knowledge, I deemed it proper to stipulate that I should have the power of objecting to the insertion of any thing which I might regard as repugnant to the feelings or inconsistent with the duty of a British subject.* [This stipulation, which in happier times might have been considered honourable to all parties, and praiseworthy to its originator, has, as will appear in the sequel, been a principal cause of all the misfortunes I have suffered during the last seven years.][/b]

I am happy to state, to the credit of Mr. Buckingham, that in this he acquiesced in my views; and the following was accordingly inserted in the printed rules framed for conducting the Journal:

"Though Mr. Sandys, as editor, will have the task and responsibility of exercising his censorship on all that is to be published, I desire also that Mr. Arnot and Mr. Sutherland" (our English coadjutor) "shall equally exercise the right of wholly rejecting, or partially correcting, softening, and amending, any thing intended for publication. Each must have the right of striking out any portion of what is written by the other, whenever he may think it objectionable in any point of view. I shall thus be as well assured as I could desire, that nothing calculated to inflict unnecessary pain on any class will be permitted to be published."

But Sir Francis McNaghten's argument that the British Legislature could not have intended to place natives of the United Kingdom inhabiting India in a worse situation than natives of India living in their own country, was to the last degree untenable. The fact is indubitable, that the British Legislature did intend, and expressly enacted, that it should be so. [b]When this law took its origin, the Indo-British class had not yet sprung up. By birth-right, they are justly entitled to all the privileges of other natives; and it would have been more worthy of a judge to demonstrate by his reductio-ad-absurdum method the inconsistency and impolicy of withholding any longer from a handful of British subjects, the rights and privileges enjoyed by the mass of the native population and their descendants, than to argue that the disabilities of the few ought to be extended to the many. When it is considered, also, that the many had done nothing to forfeit their rights, and had uniformly exercised the liberty of the press in the most modest and inoffensive manner, as feelingly pleaded in the memorial of the natives of India to the King of England, how hard and unjust it must appear (to adopt their own words), "FOR THE FAULTS IMPUTED TO ONE MAN, TO PUNISH MILLIONS!"

This, however, was the lamentable result; and the indignation evinced by Sir Francis McNaghten at what he termed the insolence of Mr. Buckingham in bearding the Government, and his scheme of raising a system of stock-jobbing on its downfall, was evidently the predominating reason operating on the mind of the learned judge when he sanctioned the measure.

It having thus become law, the Government then founded on it a new set of restrictions for the press, prohibiting animadversion or censure on the following topics: 1st. The King and the Royal Family. 2dly, The Court of Directors, and other authorities in England connected with the Government of India. 3dly, Allied or friendly Native Powers, their ministers or representatives. 4thly, The Governor-General, Governors, or Commanders in-Chief, Members of Council, Judges of His Majesty's Courts, and the Lord Bishop of Calcutta; ALSO "libellous or abusive reflections and insinuations against the public officers of Government." 5thly, Statements calculated to alarm or offend the native population on the subject of religion. 6thly, The re-publication from English papers of any thing coming under these heads. 7thly, Remarks calculated to disturb the harmony and good order of society. 8thly, Anonymous appeals to the public respecting professional or official grievances.

On these the native memorial to the King justly remarks as follows:

"The above restrictions, as they are capable of being interpreted, will, in fact, afford the Government, and all its functionaries, from the highest to the lowest, complete immunity from censure or exposure respecting any thing done by them in their official capacity, however desirable it might be for the interest of this country, and also that of the Honourable Company, that the public conduct of such men should not be allowed to pass unnoticed." The real object of the restriction, they add, "is associated with a number of other restraints totally uncalled-for, but well calculated to soothe the supreme authorities in England, and win their assent to the main object of the rule -- the suppression of all remark on the conduct of the public officers of the Government in India."

Periodical publications were now liabIe to be suppressed at any time the Government chose. To have any thing to do with the conducting of a public journal, subjected to such galling fetters, was a task from which I would gladly have been relieved. Its irksomeness was rather aggravated by the triple censorship above explained. But being pledged to it, I resolved to persevere, with the earnest desire to give no just ground for the suppression of the journal; no ground, at least which would justify that measure in the eyes of the public, or even of the Court of East-India Directors, or of the British Parliament, should it ever deign to bestow its attention on the fate of the Indian press. Notwithstanding the utmost care, however, the local authorities did not cease to censure, carp, and cavil, from time to time, at various little things which are totally unworthy of mention.

One good property, it was reasonably expected, the new rule would possess, viz. As it had professed to place native editors on a level with British-born subjects, it was to be hoped that the latter would not now be subjected to any arbitrary penalties not inflicted on the former. A short period dispelled this idea; but as new lords are said to have new laws, this will more properly fall under the head of Lord Amherst's administration.
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Re: A Sketch: History of the Indian Press, by Sandford Arnot

Postby admin » Sat Apr 03, 2021 1:50 am

Part 1 of 2


The Right Hon. William Pitt, Lord Amherst (since created Earl of Arracan, as a reward for his having acquired and encumbered the revenues of Bengal with that useless and pestilential province at the cost of the flower of the Indian army, and a perpetual debt, it is calculated, of about £500,000 per annum,) arrived in Bengal as Governor General, about the 1st of August 1823. Very soon afterwards, viz. on the 30th of that month, there was published in the Calcutta Journal a long defence of his Majesty's Supreme Court of Justice at Calcutta, against an attack of a cotemporary publication upon a decision of one of its judges -- Sir Anthony Buller. As the judges were, by the new law, protected from animadversion equally with the Government itself, it was reasonably believed that the same power which permitted them to be attacked, would permit them to be defended. To the astonishment of every one, however, the following passage in the defence was fixed upon as sufficiently culpable to justify the suppression of the paper, or the transportation of its conductors.

"Our readers cannot but recollect the subject of the paper for which Mr. Buckingham was removed from India. The mention of this event is essential to our present argument, and we hope we may speak of it as a matter of history without offence, as we shall express no opinion on it either one way or another. If it were not absolutely necessary, we should not even allude to it; but in doing so, we shall not, for a moment, forget the respect due to the established laws and government of the country. The article in question, related to the appointment of Dr. Bryce, as clerk to the Stationery Committee, and the part of it which is understood to have been so offensive to the Government as to determine Mr. Buckingham's transmission, was an allusion to the report of Dr. Bryce being the author of those letters, placed in connection with his appointment to his secular office. Thus, it appears, Dr. Bryce's reputed authorship and pluralities, were the cause of Mr. Buckingham's removal; and of the new laws which are in consequence established for the press. But for him, this society might have continued in the enjoyment of all its former privileges, nor have been deprived of one of its members. When those who watch with anxious expectation the progress of improvement in this country, and the spread of that Gospel which Dr. Bryce is commissioned to preach, consider the effects of these measures, it will be for them to award him the praise or censure which they think he has deserved."

The above paragraph was called a gross violation of the laws for the press, though they contained the following apparently very liberal qualifying clause: viz.

"The foregoing rules impose no irksome restraints on the publication and discussion of any matters of general interest relating to European or Indian affairs, provided they are conducted with the temper and decorum which the Government has a right to expect from those living under its protection; neither do they preclude individuals  from offering, in a temperate and decorous manner, through the channel of the public newspapers, or other periodical works, their own views and sentiments relative to matters affecting the interests of the community."

Notwithstanding the kind assurance and encouragement, I may almost say temptation, here held out to every one to discuss, and offer his own views and sentiments on any matters of public interest, &c., an individual was now sentenced to suffer banishment from the country for being merely connected with a paper, which contained the foregoing highly decorous, temperate, and respectful paragraph. I was not even charged with having written it; but the Government declared "Mr. Sandys and Mr. Arnot" to be "the avowed conductors of the paper," and therefore "clearly and personally responsible;" and that, as they were unwilling to suppress the journal, and as Mr. Sandys, being a native of India, could not be arbitrarily banished, Mr. Arnot should be so, as being an unlicensed British subject, for a warning and example to others.

My answer to this has been, that the mere want of' a license or passport to reside in Bengal had not, from time immemorial, been considered a sufficient ground for removing anyone from that country; far less, especially, after be had resided for several years with the tacit consent of the Government as I had done; and far less since the opening of the trade to India, at the last renewal of the East-India Company's Charter. 2dy. That I could not consider it a political offence to support with my pen a journal which was published by the express license of the Government, so long as that license was unrecalled. 3dly. That the paragraph objected to was not, in fact, a violation of the rules for the press, by any fair or just interpretation of them. 4thly. If it had been so, I was not by any means personally responsible for it as conductor of the paper; this responsibility having been openly and avowedly undertaken by Mr. Sandys. It is unnecessary to multiply reasons against the measure, as it was so utterly indefensible that no person, either in Asia or Europe, in so far as I know, ever stood up publicly to defend it. And as Lord Amherst's administration never were able to justify it, either to the public in India, or to the satisfaction of their official friends and supporters in England, its true causes must perhaps be sought for in other than public or political grounds.

It is well known that the East-India Company have ever regarded with a peculiar degree of jealousy the growth of a British community in India, independent of their government. To guard against this, persons were to be forbidden to proceed to reside in India without the license of the Court of Directors; and military officers or others resigning the service, were to be required to proceed to Europe without delay. The former restriction was intended to prevent a sudden influx of British settlers; the latter, to guard against the influence of men who, after having risen, during a series of years, to a high rank in the public service, and having thereby formed extensive connexions in every branch of it, as well as acquired a thorough knowledge of the resources of the country and policy of the state, with its points of strength or weakness, might, it was supposed, by connecting themselves with great mercantile houses, and thereby obtaining the command of large funds, and becoming the bankers or agents of the numerous military and other officers who were indebted to such houses, wield an influence formidable to such a Government as that of India, which is itself composed of the agents of a commercial body. Most of the great houses of Calcutta were fortified by the influence of such civil and military servants of the Company who had retired from its service, to connect their interests with those of the body of free-traders and private merchants; and the jealousy of the Directors at home must have been still more roused, by the marked support which some of these houses had given to the efforts of the press to inculcate and extend the principles of free trade and colonization.

There is little doubt, therefore, that this subject must have been frequently pressed on the attention of the Bengal Government in the despatches from home. But it would have been an ungracious thing for the Company's officers to put such laws in force against their old friends and fellow-servants, nearly of the same rank and standing with themselves, who had now also the means of being eminently useful to them, and might probably have conferred great obligations on the very persons who were expected to assist in effecting the ruin of their prospects. For example, Dr. Ballard, of the house of Messrs. Alexander and Co. the agent of Mr. Buckingham, and managing proprietor of the Calcutta Journal, had been a surgeon in the Company's service; had established a bank in the interior; and had at last become a member of that respectable firm. He exercised a controlling power over the Calcutta Journal by means of a legal instrument -- could sanction the removal of its conductors -- occasionally contributed editorial articles, and wrote the paragraph for which it was finally suppressed; as was elicited in evidence before the Committee of the House of Commons (not the paragraph above quoted). But then he was the intimate friend of Mr. Butterworth Bayley (since member of the Supreme Council, and for some time Governor General), then chief secretary and supervisor of the press. They were, besides, of the same religious party it is said, and attended prayer-meetings, and sung psalms together. To this pious party Mr. Sandys, the East-Indian editor, I believe also belonged. How it happened I know not; but certain it is, that Dr. Ballard was allowed to remain in the country for years after, accumulating a fortune to return at his leisure, and enjoy it in England. It was natural, perhaps, that the Government should endeavour to take credit to itself, with the authorities in England, by selecting an isolated individual, as a substitute for more powerful men!

By our private agreement, then known only to those immediately concerned, it was stipulated that I should have the power of objecting to the insertion of any thing which I conceived hurtful to the feelings, or inconsistent with the duty, of a British subject. To avoid offence, perhaps, this power was expressed in the most general terms. Unless this private agreement had been made known to the Government some way or other, it could have had no grounds for assuming as it did, that "Mr. Arnot" was, jointly with "Mr. Sandys," "the avowed conductor "of the paper," and "clearly and personally responsible" for any article "professedly editorial;" No such thing had ever been asserted; but quite the reverse. Mr. Sandys had always been distinctly avowed as the sole responsible editor; and to undertake that responsibility he had contracted for a high reward.

Let me here make one reflection. Were a native of these islands to engage to conduct a public political journal, in conjunction with an American, or a Frenchman, or a person of any other nation, known, or supposed, to regard British subjects with jealousy, and were he to stipulate in consequence that nothing should be inserted without his previous approval; I should conceive such a reservation to be praiseworthy, and only a proof of strictly conscientious and patriotic feelings. What should be thought, then, of a British Government, which would make such a clause, when surreptitiously discovered, a ground for visiting a British subject with banishment and ruin? Such was the first public act of Lord Amherst's government.

The result of this measure I shall narrate as concisely as possible. On the 12th of September 1828 I was taken into custody on a warrant of the Governor-General, and lodged in the strong room (as it is called) of the Royal Barracks, Fort William, to be detained there until a Company's ship should be ready to convey me to England; which might probably involve a preliminary confinement of several months, there being no such vessel likely to sail for that period. Having ascertained that this was illegal, I authorized Mr. Hogg, attorney-at-law, to make application on my behalf to the Supreme Court for my release by habeas corpus. A writ having been issued accordingly, and a return made by the Fort-major, Col. Vaughan, the case was discussed on the 19th before the Hon. Sir Francis Macnaghten and Sir Anthony Buller. Mr. Turton (son of Sir Thomas Turton). before-mentioned, as advocating the cause of the press, took up the case for "the prisoner" in the most disinterested manner. The gentlemen of the law vied with each other in offers of gratuitous assistance; and the result was expected with deep interest; for had the legality of the arrest been affirmed by the court, almost every jail in India might have been filled, next day, with unlicensed British subjects.

After a full discussion of the question by Mr. Turton and Mr. Fergusson, who appeared as advocate-general on behalf of the Government, it was decided by Sir Francis Macnaghten, the senior judge (his junior dissenting), that the act empowering the Government to arrest, and embark on board a ship bound for England, did not authorize any person's confinement. The following memorable sentiments uttered by the learned Judge on this occasion, shew how much the state of feeling on the subject of the press had been improved since the removal of Mr. Buckingham.
Then it was regarded as a public enemy, and the court of law emulated the council of state in establishing laws to put it down. Now, however, by moderate conduct a revulsion of feeling had been produced in its favour; and the same judge who formerly denounced its errors, had now become the firm and patriotic defender of its conductors.

Sir Francis Macnaghten began by:

"regretting that there was little hope of a concurrence of opinion between him and his colleague in office on the subject before them. But (said his Lordship) I think there must be something plain and distinct -- something clear and express in the Act of Parliament -- something which admits of no other construction, before the subject can be deprived of his liberty. If this principle be not adhered to, and preserved without any reservation, then I know of no security from the laws on which the subject can place reliance. I am well aware that, if the Governor-General, acting under 33d Geo. III., or the 53d, send to England British subjects found here without a license, we have no right to interfere -- he is authorized to do so by Act of Parliament; and whether that be a constitutional or unconstitutional act, with that, sitting here as judges, we have no concern. Nor have we any thing to do with the discretion, or indiscretion, with which he may exercise that authority; nor with his regard to liberty or his regard to tyranny. Therefore I put this entirely out of the question. But the Act of Parliament conferring such authority, gives no power of imprisonment. The word is not found, nor the idea conveyed in it at all. If the word "detain" even had been used, it might have afforded some shadow of an argument for this imprisonment; but we do not find even such a word in the act. Therefore the obvious and necessary conclusion is, that the act has only one object; it gives the power to seize and remit to England persons found here without a license; but confers no power whatever of imprisoning them. Many things have been introduced which were not necessary for the argument; as the 104th section of the 53d of Geo. III. (on which the warrant of commitment is founded) is alone necessary, and must by itself decide the question. I do not deny that other acts may be referred to for illustration or analogy, but on this the question depends.

"Although, sitting here as judges, we have no right to inquire whether an act be constitutional or unconstitutional, yet we are bound, as British Judges, to put upon it a constitutional rather than an unconstitutional interpretation; and were it liable to two constructions, where the right of the subject is concerned, we are bound to give it an interpretation in favour of liberty.

"On this point I wish to be clearly understood. To say that we enjoy here the full privileges of the British constitution, is absurd. But the fewer the privileges we do enjoy -- the more numerous and heavy the restraints imposed upon us -- the more our liberty is narrowed; the more, I say, does it become incumbent on the Judges to guard with greater strictness that portion of liberty which remains to us; for we have the less to spare.

"With regard to guarding against the mischief a party may do before a vessel is ready for his conveyance to England, let us see what the Legislature has done in another case very nearly related to this. When a person is residing in the country with a license, it can, of course, only be recalled on account of his own misconduct. Therefore in such case, it is to be presumed, that there must be some cause which renders his removal a matter of public expedience. But even then, did the Legislature empower the Governor-General to seize and immediately imprison this public enemy, to keep him from doing more extensive mischief until he could be conveyed out of the country? No such thing; he is allowed to roam at large for two months! Then in the other case, if any idle person happen to have come here from England, not knowing perhaps that a license was necessary, or without thinking about the matter, and thus be caught in the trap, and ordered out of the country without perhaps having committed any offence, or what is a mere parliamentary offence, can it be contended with any shadow of reason, that he is to be imprisoned without any express authority.* [With reference to the supposed danger of persons ordered to quit India being allowed to go at large in the intermediate time before their embarkation, Mr. Turton observed, in one part of his address to the Judge, that he was well aware the Government did not apprehend any danger at all in the present case. Indeed, his client was punished for the fault of another person. -- Cal. Journal.] I say, without having committed any offence, not with reference to the particular circumstances of this case, which have induced the Government to order Mr. Arnot's removal from the country; for I declare I know nothing about them, and have nothing to do with them. But the Government, by this mode of proceeding, have declined prosecuting him for a misdemeanor, and rested satisfied with his being removed. It is to be presumed, therefore, that he has committed no offence which call for prosecution, and is removed merely for not having a license. In such a case, are we justified in considering him a dangerous man, who must be secured, right or wrong, legally or illegally? Am I sitting here as a British judge, to put words in an Act of Parliament and supply its supposed deficiencies? And for what? why, to invade the liberties of the subject. Am I to say that such an expression was inadvertently omitted, or such a power was meant to be given; and, on such ground, agree to this person's being imprisoned, without any express authority from the statute? Sitting here as a British judge (and I hope I am not obliged to lay aside my feelings as a man), and viewing the case, as I hope I do, both as an English lawyer and as a gentleman, I declare that my understanding and my conscience will not suffer me to send back this person to the cell, or prison, or whatever it may be, in the fort, where they have confined him. I hope judges of this court will never be swayed in their decisions by any respect of persons; nor, if in construing the laws they find two roads, pursue that most agreeable or convenient to men in power, merely because they know it to be so. I trust they will never, in any case, truckle to the Government, as I fear those judges have done. [As his Lordship pronounced these words in a very emphatic manner, he laid his hand upon the MS. book of cases from which the Advocate-General had quoted that of Mr. Duhan.] If such ever were the case, it would afford a cloak for every species of oppression. I would infinitely rather see the court abolished, for it would then be a nuisance rather than a protection to the subject. I declare I should hope, in such a case, to see a public meeting of the inhabitants of Calcutta to join in a petition to Parliament to recall its charter and put an end to it at once. This court is supreme, and the moment one particle of this supremacy is forfeited, I trust the Court will be annihilated.

"Suppose we were to remand this gentleman again to the fort, I should like to know how long he is to be kept in custody. By this return, on the extraordinary nature of which I must now remark, the Government assumes a power to act as it pleases -- to imprison him with anyone it likes: and by what authority? I know of none. The words "to detain or imprison" are not once used in the act; and am I to put a word into the act to construe it by implication? I confess it would be some comfort, some sort of satisfaction to me to find it stated in this return how long he is to be kept in durance, and whether for weeks or months? But the return does not favour us with any information on this subject; it does not say when he is to be put on board a ship, or how long he is to remain confined in the fort. Lord Holt refused to know that the city of London returned members to Parliament; and on the same grounds, the judges of this court have no right to know that a ship will ever sail to England, and thus, he may be confined for any indefinite length of time. Good God! is it to be tolerated that a British subject, after being shut up in this manner without any authority, is to be kept all this time, and as long as the Government may think proper to keep him in prison, without bail or mainprize? Can this be done under English laws, for any thing but felony or treason? But the act which is assumed as the warrant for this, applies equally to Bombay, whence the Company never have a ship bound directly to England. Then are we to put a forced and unwarranted construction upon the act, by which a British subject, for merely being in India without a license, is to be condemned to perpetual imprisonment? The idea is monstrous. But if the Governor-General ever had the power to imprison him, I should say that he might be bailed; because of they prosecuted him, even at home, then he is to be committed, only if not bailed.

"I do not know what feeling this person's release may excite, but if a general feeling of satisfaction or congratulation should prevail at his release, I see no reason why the Government should not participate in it. The Governor-General himself, in my opinion, will not be offended at not meeting with unlimited submission to his will, knowing that such blind compliance must necessarily impart weakness and instability to his own power. Convinced, by the experience of living under a constitutional government, of the eminent advantage of every one being secured in tile full enjoyment of his rights, he must rather be pleased at seeing the liberty of the subject protected. I am not intimately acquainted with his Lordship who has lately arrived amongst us; but I naturally ascribe these sentiments to him as a British nobleman.

"My principle is, that if the words of the Act of Parliament are not clear beyond a doubt in conveying the power to imprison, then we ought not, by so stretching its meaning, to curtail the liberty of any man. We ought (though I do not speak of this as a constitutional act: I care not whether it is so or no -- but this I do say) we are bound to give it a constitutional, rather than an unconstitutional construction. It does not empower the Government to imprison: and although it may be said that in the fort, in the care of such a gentleman as Col. Vaughan, this individual will experience all the indulgence which that officer can extend to him, and no one who knows him can doubt it; yet, in depriving a man of his liberty, you take away that from him which is necessary for his happiness. It is in vain to talk of the pleasantness of this place, or the other; he is no longer master of himself: and this alone is enough to make him miserable. What more, I ask, can any tyrant do, than make his victims miserable? It is true, you may put him on board ship, and keep him there in charge of the captain: but I should think the wooden walls of the vessel a sufficient prison. They could not confine him to his cabin, or keep him in fetters. Nay, I think him entitled, by the terms of the Act which provides for him a good and sufficient vessel -- one of the Company's ships -- to the best treatment and accommodations. And when the ship reaches England, this gentleman is immediately entitled to his discharge from the vessel at the first place where she is safely moored, and is at liberty to go where he chooses. No conditional term of imprisonment is to be tacked to the end of the voyage. And is imprisonment less a hardship in the East-Indies than in England? Is it of less consequence to a British subject here? Is the society in this country less consoling to his feelings, or less necessary to his happiness, than in Europe, that we should thus trifle with his liberty? On every principle of law -- of reason and of justice, then -- I declare it to be my decided opinion, that Mr. Arnot be discharged."

The opinion of the learned judge on this case was still more decidedly expressed in two letters published soon after, under the signature of Z (in reply to some factious newspaper attacks made on his decision); from which the following is an extract:

"What is this case? A gentleman who had nothing but education for his patrimony, -- nothing but merit for his recommendation, -- nothing but industry for his maintenance: qualified, by having learned the languages of this country, to make his way towards a competency, he inevitably incurred debt; yet, moderate in his desires, he had before him, what he dwelt upon as a cheering prospect. He is suddenly ordered from the scene of his fancied prosperity; and having forsaken his pursuits in Europe, his fond hopes, his national expectations, the fruits of his labours and of his studies, are blasted and destroyed in a moment. The world, so far as it concerns him, is now a desolate wilderness. In the dismal gloom, he cannot discover a single object upon which his talents, or his toils, may be employed. Surely, this might satiate malignity, and bring the iron tears down Pluto's cheeks." That two men so obdurate, so implacable, so regardless of rule, decency, and moral sentiment, should be seen coming forward to calumniate a judge, who, for aught we know, acting with the approbation of government itself, liberated Mr. Arnot from imprisonment, is utterly unaccountable, and can hardly be explained by the worst principles of evil. Can human nature be so insatiable in cruelty, as not to be contented even with the undoing of a fellow creature? Will the exclusion of hope not satisfy them, if it be not shut out by the bars of a prison? What can glut their vengeance, if the resignation of distress is enviable in their eyes? or must distress be aggravated, for their delight, into the torture of despair?"

On being thus released by order of the Supreme Court, I applied to the Government for time to settle my affairs; and received an answer from the Chief Secretary, dated the 2d of October, to the following effect: "I am directed to state, that your letter of the 22d ultimo was duly submitted to the Right Hon. the Governor-General in council, and that his Lordship in council does not think fit to return any reply to it." I then resided quietly in Calcutta during that and the succeeding month. On the 8th of December I proceeded to Chandernagore, a French settlement at some distance up the river Hooghly, and took up my abode under the hospitable roof of a friend and countryman, Capt. Allan Cameron, in the hope that I might remain unmolested till I had completely arranged my affairs in India, and in the meantime a license to reside in Bengal, which had been promised me from England, might arrive, or the violent temper of the local government might subside.
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Re: A Sketch: History of the Indian Press, by Sandford Arnot

Postby admin » Sat Apr 03, 2021 1:51 am

Part 2 of 2

Since the only technical or "parliamentary" offence (as Judge Macnaghten termed it), which could be urged against me was, the want of a license to reside in the Company's territory, when I left this and passed over into the territory of France, the ground of complaint having ceased, I had a right to consider myself secure from further annoyance. Notwithstanding this, however, two days had not elapsed when a British magistrate, Capt. Paton, arrived with a warrant from Lord Amherst, by which I was arrested in the presence of the French governor, and carried back by force into the Company's territory, where his Lordship had just before said I had no right to be. To illustrate this proceeding by an example, let us suppose that the Dutch government had objected to my residence in Brussels without a passport, and that I had in consequence removed myself to Paris -- what would be thought if his Netherlands Majesty were to have me arrested in the French capital and carried down to Holland, to be embarked on board one of his whaling vessels at Rotterdam, and forcibly sent back to England by way of Greenland or Kamschatka? Just so -- Lord Amherst and his advisers -- embarked me on board a ship chartered on a trading voyage to the island of Sumatra to collect pepper; authorized to touch at Singapore, and expected ultimately to reach England by this circuitous course. There were several other vessels at that very time in the port bound direct to England, on which I might have been embarked; and even supposing me to have been justly and legally arrested (which was not the case), the Act of Parliament would only have authorized my being sent in one of those, it having expressly specified, a ship bound to the United Kingdom.

The illegality of this mode of procedure was aggravated by many minor circumstances of unmerited hardship. For instance, the sum of 800 and odd rupees being allowed from the public treasury professedly for my reception into the third mate's mess, a ship was selected which had no third mate's mess, as Lord Amherst was expressly informed, and the captain consequently obliged me to pay 2,000 rupees additional for a cabin and a seat at his table. Although he had now received nearly 3,000 rupees (about £300) for my passage, he determined, as the Governor-General was officially apprized, to deprive me of my cabin, as soon as he could let it to another person, and remove me to the worst cabin in the vessel. This resolve he afterwards actually put in practice, as I had no means of resisting it; but this person being since dead, I have no wish to make any further remark on his conduct.

Under these circumstances, I sailed (in Dec. 1828) as a state prisoner on board the ship Fame, to Bencoolen, in the island of Sumatra. I there recovered from a dangerous illness, resembling the Java fever, produced by long bad treatment and climate. After a delay of a few weeks, having taken on board Sir Stamford Raffles, the Lt.-Governor, we again set sail on the morning of the 2d of February (1824). About twelve hours afterwards, when thirty or forty miles at sea, the vessel was set on fire by the negligence of the steward in drawing off brandy. Being chiefly loaded with saltpetre, pepper, cloves, nutmegs, and other articles very liable to combustion, in little more than a quarter of an hour the principal part of the vessel was in flames. Fortunately for me the passengers and crew were able to save themselves in two small boats, which we had suspended from the quarters, ready to launch at a moment's notice. For the long boat would have been too unwieldy for that sudden emergency, and had besides been most culpably left behind to make room for a Malay canoe, intended to be brought home for the amusement of the curious.

By this appalling accident, Sir Stamford Raffles lost his valuable collection of natural history, which he had been many years in forming, comprizing many of the rarest plants and animals of the Indian Archipelago. His lady was exposed all night in an open boat, in the same state as she had been driven from her bed by the danger of destruction, with only such additional covering as could be afforded by the gentlemen surrendering their coats for her protection from the inclemency of the nocturnal atmosphere. After pulling all night, we reached shore about noon next day; happy that we had all escaped with our lives, though with the loss of every particle of property we possessed.

Lord Amherst's warrant for my deportation, with the means of carrying it into execution, being now both at an end, I returned to Bengal to inform his Lordship of what had happened -- to represent the hardship of being sent to England after the destruction of all my property by his measures, and ascertain whether his Lordship might not consider the sufferings by sickness, the risk of life, and loss of effects to which he had already subjected me, a sufficient penalty for the technical or "parliamentary" misdemeanor of being without a passport, or the political offence of supporting a liberal journal. His Lordship, in his supreme wisdom, decided that none of these circumstances afforded any ground for a mitigation of punishment, or alteration of the sovereign firman already pronounced, that I should evacuate his dominions; threatening that if I failed to do so, "measures would be taken," &c. &c. Having already had a sufficient sample of the regard to law, justice, and humanity, displayed in his Lordship's "measures," I some months after proceeded to England, to submit his conduct to the judgment of his superiors. The case was brought before the Hon. Court of Directors by a memorial addressed to the secretary, as I had no personal knowledge of any individual in the court, and had to rely solely on the justice of my case. I knew also that their minds had been prejudiced against any complainant connected with the cause of the Indian press by the proceedings of Mr. Buckingham, who since his arrival in England, had succeeded in keeping alive the spirit of hostility to that cause, and rendering it as obnoxious at home as he had formerly made it in India. In my memorials, I also embraced the opportunity of placing his case in the most favourable point of view (from the facts which have since come to my knowledge, I am now aware that I placed it in a much more favourable one than it will justly bear), and thus drew on myself part of the odium attaching to him.

Notwithstanding all these circumstances bearing against me, and the torrent of prejudice which had for years been rising in the minds of the influential classes here against the Indian press and its conductors, such was the justice of my case, that my simple unvarnished statement of the facts (without the aid of legal rhetoric, or more than a few lines of alteration by the advice of friends) turned the tide of prejudice, and impressed conviction on the mind of the East-India Directors that their servants were now in the wrong, and the conductors of the press at last in the right. A severe censure, I learnt, was sent out to Lord Amherst; and to shew that their displeasure was sincere -- that it was not merely an empty profession of counterfeited regret, for the injustice done -- they voted me the sum of £1,500, as a compensation for my losses and sufferings by the destruction of the ship Fame.

Those who understand how governments are constituted, and how the spirit of party in this country is ready to palliate any injustice, and defend every oppression, nay, almost to confound the distinctions of right and wrong, of virtue and vice, when politics interfere; so that an artful man, supported by a powerful party, may commit the grossest acts of injustice, and yet feel assured that thousands will be ready to defend him and to vindicate his worst deeds as deeds of patriotism and virtue; those who understand this, will perceive how much it redounds to the honour of the East-India Company to have given an impartial judgment between a humble individual and the Governor-General of India, backed as he was by the Ministers and the East-India Board, which suspended the confirmation of it for nearly twelve months, and at last gave a reluctant assent on finding that Lord Amherst had nothing to urge in self-defence. This decision was consequently formally passed and sanctioned by the Court of Directors, by the Board of Control, and by two successive public votes of the Court of East-India Proprietors without a single dissentient voice.

Let us now return to see what effect this successful issue had on the state of the press in India. A few weeks after my connexion with it had been broken off by the above measures, the "Calcutta Journal" being now conducted with less caution than before, was suppressed by the Government. I strongly urged an application being made for a new license, and the re-establishment of it under the editorship of my former coadjutor, Mr. James Sutherland, considering him the most competent person in Bengal. The managing proprietors, however, preferred Dr. Muston, a son-in-law of the late Mr. John H. Harington, the member of council; and the Government consented to renew the license. Something however in the new prospectus (written by Dr. Ballard) displeased Lord Amherst, who therefore commanded the renascent journal to be strangled before its second birth was complete. After a tedious negociation, a successor to it was licensed under the name of the Scotsman in the East, to be conducted by the same editor named above, as having been selected by the managing proprietors, probably because they knew him to be a most conscientious and independent spirited man; and because they conceived that his alliance with a member of council, in fact or expectancy, might afford greater security to their property. But the hostility of the Government was still so strong, that it at last refused to allow any portion of the property of the new journal to belong to any one of the proprietors of the old one. It was to be printed therefore at their press, but to be considered the sole property of Dr. Muston, who was guaranteed a certain minimum of income, and agreed in return to deliver to them free copies of the paper, and to surrender, I believe, any profits above a certain sum.

The impolicy and injustice of the Government in compelling recourse to be had to such an arrangement are worthy of remark. A person had engaged with a hundred co-proprietors for a certain sum paid down to deliver to them, free of cost, a daily publication costing 192 rupees per annum, had stipulated his own personal services to the concern, and contracted to send from England property to the value of £10,000 to assist in carrying it on. By and bye Mr. Adam says, "He shall not give you his personal services, for I will send him to England." Then comes Lord Amherst, who says, "You shall not have your daily paper, for I will not suffer any paper to be published in which he or you have a pecuniary interest." Thus with the idea of opposing an enemy, they actually play into his hands, relieve him from one obligation, then another, and aid him in injuring the parties to whom he was under contract, by interdicting its fulfilment in a most essential particular, as if unlawful.

To evade this interdict, an anomalous sort of a compact was contrived, by which, after calling the "editor" the "proprietor," and the "proprietors" the "printers," and guaranteeing to the former a minimum of profit instead of salary, and to the latter the surplus profits in the name of rent, matters were left pretty much as they stood before all this change of names took place. So long as the journal went on, the purchasers of shares in it might receive their daily paper free of cost, to which they had a clear right, while there remained the means of producing it, from the £20,000 of property guaranteed to them by Mr. Buckingham, as the security on which the shares taken were to be held! His agents now discovered, however, that carrying on a paper which had received so severe a shock, and was encumbered with such heavy pecuniary obligations to so many shareholders, or mortgagees (before calculated at nearly £2,000 per annum for free papers alone, and now even at the reduced price not less than from £1,000 to £1,500), so far from yielding any profits was a source of loss. Had the hundred thousand rupees paid by the purchasers been left in deposit with Messrs. Alexander and Co., as I think was at first promised, or had the value of it been exported from England and paid for by a credit on their agents in London, as was expressly contracted, this sum must have enabled that house to carry on the concern for a number of years. This source of superior stability which the share-scheme promised to secure to the press, was an advantage which reconciled me and others to its objectionable qualities in other respects.

Now was the time to ascertain whether the scheme did secure this advantage. What was the result? That this was the first newspaper press in Calcutta to sink for want of funds to carry it on!! What then had become of the £20,000 sterling money said to be invested in the concern, the 100,000 rupees worth of property on the spot, the 100,000 on the way from England or the 100,000 paid into it by the purchasers of shares? This will be partly explained by the following extract from Mr. Buckingham's printed statement, shewing that on surrendering the personal management of the journal, and leaving his all to his agent, Mr. Sandys, to carry on the concern, the monthly disbursements of which were nearly 10,000 rupees, the balance he left for this purpose was only 8,000 rupees (£800), only sufficient for three or four weeks' expenses; and even for this scanty supply a note of hand was to be given payable on demand!

"I shall leave in the bank of Hindoostan a balance of eight thousand rupees floating cash, in return for an acknowledgment by note of hand from Mr. Sandys, payable on demand, but without interest, from which balance the necessary expenses of the office sirkars, for postage and current expenses, as well as printing establishment and all minor disbursements, may be paid by Mr. Sandys' check on the banks as the case may require. As, however, all receipts will be at a date of two months after they are actually due, so all payments of salaries and other expenses must be made whenever practicable, at a date of two months also, in which case the 8,000 rupees floating balance will amply cover all cash advances that can be required in the month."

That is, to meet two months expenses (at an average from 16,000 to 20,000 rupees), which must be borne before any receipts become payable, only the sum of 8,000 rupees is left, and this, too, is repayable on demand, so that unless it were "practicable" to induce creditors to accept payment one or two months in arrear, the concern must either become bankrupt within four weeks after his departure, or borrow funds to pay its current expenses!

Such was its precarious state in March 1823, and no wonder, therefore, that after all our struggles to uphold it, after a new license had been granted by the Government, and the concern had been strengthened in some respects by the accession to its management of a son-in-law of a member of council, yet long before the end of 1824, Mr. Buckingham's agents, Messrs. Alexander and Co., refused to carry it on any longer. The hive having been so effectually stripped of its honey, and the ample supplies promised from England having never arrived, except in sweet words, no wonder the labourers were obliged to abandon the work in despair. They offered the remains of the property for sale, and as 30,000 rupees (about £3,000) was the highest private offer for it, including the good-will of the concern: less than a sixth of the reported amount of the actual tangible property embarked in it, they were advised to dispose of it by public auction, the usual mode of selling property in India, that it might have the fairest chance of fetching its utmost value. The result was that the whole disposable property, stated by him to be worth £20,000 sold for less than £2,000 (see Notarial Documents.) If the reader ask whence this sudden decrease in the value of the concern from £40,000 to £2,000, it is thus to be explained. The £20,000 assigned for copyright ceased with the publication of the Newspaper which Mr. Buckingham's agents, for want of funds, now declined carrying on. The £10,000 of goods which Mr. B. sold, as being on the way from England in 1822, either never left England or may be on the way still, as there is no evidence of their ever having arrived in India. The remaining £10,000 on the spot, miraculously sunk under the auctioneer's hammer to about £2,000, and this then was all the security remaining to the simple and credulous purchasers of shares for their £10,000.

Thus ended the Calcutta Journal, and its successor the Scotsman in the East (which soon after, notwithstanding the generous efforts of Dr. Muston, Mr. Loch, and Mr. Sutherland, sunk for want of pecuniary means). The Hon. Mr. Adam, the patriotic Mr. Buckingham, and the victorious Earl of Arracan, may share the glory of the achievement between them; the greatest share of fame undoubtedly belonging to the man who carried off the funds. After this brief statement of the facts (which are proved by extracts from irrefragable documents), I think no one will have the assurance to repeat again that the liberty of the press in India (which was now reduced to the lowest ebb) owed its downfal to the inconsistency of the Marquis of Hastings; or, in the words of Mr. Buckingham already quoted, to its banners having been "abandoned, deserted, and IGNOMINIOUSLY furled, by the very hands that were the first to wave them in pride and exultation over our heads!"

We have now traced the history of the Indian Press to the beginning of the year 1825, when, as I have stated, it was reduced to its lowest ebb, and the only daily paper considered as the advocate of the liberal party, namely, "the Scotsman in the East," sunk from pecuniary distress, aggravated by the intimidating system of Lord Amherst. In the end of the preceding year (November 1824), his Lordship obliged me to leave Bengal the second time for the harmless paragraph before quoted (p. 26). I arrived in England the March following, and by my Memorial to the Court procured a censure, both direct and implied, to be passed by his Lordship's official superiors, and the British public, on his unnecessarily harsh, oppressive, and impolitic severity to the press. The accounts of this must have reached India in the August or September following. Hitherto the government of Bengal had been encouraged to greater and greater acts of severity by the applause bestowed at home on the measures they adopted to check Mr. Buckingham. Now, however, they found that I had turned the tide against them, and they were consequently checked in their career.

Though there was no public intimation of this, its effects were not the less clearly perceived. The liberal conductors of the Indian press, who had for nearly three years groaned under the yoke, now of a sudden felt that the hand of oppression was lightened. They felt that their heavy chains had dropped off, but as they could not account for it, they wondered what invisible hand had worked their deliverance; and, like the prisoner in the Gospel, were almost afraid to enjoy their liberty, doubting if it were not a vision. One of the most conscientious and zealous friends of free discussion ever connected with the Indian Press, Mr. James Sutherland (now editor of the Bengal Hurkaru), thus writes in a letter, commenced the 27th of October and terminated on the 20th of November 1825.

"While I am on the subject of the press, I must not omit to mention a fact that will, I dare say, surprise you: I mean that we have of late enjoyed a latitude of discussion here unsurpassed by any thing admitted in the time of Lord Hastings. But then we exercise it in danger and enjoy it by sufferance, and it affords a most striking proof of the injustice and tyranny of suppressing the journal for what, compared with what is now tolerated, was a most venial offence against the restrictions."

From this time the Indian Press began to resume its wonted energy. A periodical called the Columbian Press Gazette, originally only an obscure advertiser, was gradually raised by Mr. Sutherland into a powerful public journal. Its name was then changed to that of the Bengal Chronicle, but for some offence or other its license was some time after cancelled, and only allowed to be renewed on condition of a change of editor. This deserves to be remarked as another of the inconsistencies acted towards the press. Its first alleged offence at the commencement of Lord Amherst's administration (in September 1823) was punished by the expulsion from India of one of its contributors (myself); the second (in November 1823) by the instant suppression of the publication; now, however, a third, and certainly a more just mode of procedure was adopted, exactly as had been pointed out in paragraph 12 of my Memorial to the Court of Directors of April 1825. (Oriental Herald, vol. vii. p. 176.) I there said --

"Although Mr. Sandys (the East-Indian editor) could not be banished without trial, it is far from true that he could not be subjected to any direct mark of the displeasure of the Government, which would not equally injure the sharers in the property [the flimsy excuse made by Lord Amherst for punishing me in his stead], since the Governor-General, when displeased with his mode of conducting the Calcutta Journal, might have ordered it to be transferred to the hands of a new editor; an intimation with which all concerned would have found it necessary to comply, suppression being the well-known penalty of disobedience; and his Lordship might thus at once have spared the proprietors, and deprived the editor of a situation of both profit and respectability -- a punishment of no small amount. But this obvious course was not pursued, neither on this occasion nor a few weeks afterwards, when the paper was entirely suppressed for an act of this very conductor -- who was still not singly punished. And so far from any anxiety being evinced to save the sharers of the property from loss, because they had not committed the offence (much the largest proprietor being, in fact, many thousand miles distant at the time), they were not allowed to re-establish the publication at all, even under an unexceptionable editor, expressly approved of by the Government."

The adoption, on the very next occasion, of the principle here pointed out in my Memorial as less harsh and unjust, is another proof of the deep impression it had made. A disagreement soon after, among those interested in the Bengal Chronicle, led to the establishment of another journal, under the title or the Calcutta Chronicle. It was edited by the Rev. William Adam, a gentleman of talent and learning, who originally proceeded to India as a missionary of the Baptist Society, but afterwards, from the difficulty he experienced in his efforts (in co-operation with that body) to convert the natives of India to the Trinitarian doctrines of Christianity, he began himself to doubt the correctness of these doctrines, and ultimately adopted those of Unitarianism. From the attention he had bestowed in studying the character of the native inhabitants, their languages, literature, and moral and political condition, he was highly qualified for the task of editing an Indian journal. He also enjoyed the benefit of the valuable assistance and long experience of his predecessor Mr. Sutherland, and others, who now again began to venture to make their sentiments known through the press. The Calcutta Chronicle was consequently conducted with greater power and ability, in my judgment, than any journal which had preceded it. It consequently soon reached a high degree of popularity, and an extent of circulation, which promised soon to reward its meritorious conductors for all their former toils, losses, and disappointments. For both had suffered much already, and had families to provide for, whose future support must depend on their present exertions. They were beginning to reap that honest meed of fame which was justly due to the public utility of their labours, and might reasonably look forward to the tranquil enjoyment of the fruits of them in their native land, when suddenly the paper was suppressed by order of the Government, by a letter dated the 31st of May 1827. The reason assigned was, that "the general tenor of its contents had been for some time highly disrespectful to the Government and the Hon. Court of Directors." This was not the act of Lord Amherst, but of the Vice-President in Council.

It is remarkable that in this case again, the mode of procedure was quite different from what it had been in all former cases of suppression under the present regulation. Hitherto, ample warning and repeated cautions had been given to the offending editor, before recourse was had to the extreme measure of suppression; now, however, no warning whatever is allowed. Formerly the particular matter of offence was pointed out: now the charge is confined to vague generality. Formerly a journal was allowed to be re-established, provided the offending editor resigned his charge to another who was unexceptionable: here this appears to have been totally refused: "Rude times (says the historian of India) give no reasons." If so, he must place the Government of Bengal very low in the scale of civilization. "If our motives of action are worthy," said Lord Hastings, "it must be wise to render them intelligible throughout an empire, our hold on which is opinion." How widely, then, had the principles of government in India been altered since his Lordship uttered that noble sentiment!

Some time after the destruction of the Calcutta Chronicle, a public subscription was opened for its unfortunate proprietors and conductors, who were nearly ruined by this blow to their fortunes. No men ever deserved more of the Indian public. They had directed the energies of the press solely to public objects, not as it had formerly been directed, to the personal interests of an individual wielding its power to serve his own purposes, and avenge his own quarrels. Formerly the leading topics of discussion had been, whether Mr. James McKenzie, or Mr. James Silk Buckingham, or Dr. James Bryce, or Mr. James Somebody else, was the cleverest fellow in the opinion of himself and of his own party, or the greatest rogue in the opinion of others. This style of writing had been long enough cultivated by the first editor of the Calcutta Journal (Mr. Buckingham), the greatest part of whose compositions related entirely to himself -- his own unparalleled merits, and wrongs, and sufferings, and personal quarrels. These hardly left room for the productions of others, who wrote most of what was really valuable in his Journal, and were better qualified to do so by their knowledge and long experience of the country, of which he was (and is still) very ignorant. This reign of egotism had passed by, though the evils that sprang from it were still felt; and the Calcutta Chronicle, by devoting itself really to the cause of the public, shewed what a public-spirited journal could do by the firm opposition it maintained to the stamp act. This probably was the cause of its suppression; and, whether justly or not, the public, in whose cause the sacrifice was incurred, ought to have done something to indemnify the sufferers. The proposed subscription, however, seems to have failed; the public having been recently imposed upon by the quackery and pretended losses of one editor, appear to have regarded the real sufferings of the present conductors of the press with little sympathy.

Since the fall of the Calcutta Chronicle, the history of the Press in India may be summed up in a few words. There being no longer any security for newspaper property, editors, who are but too often poor men, must become entirely subservient (except in rare instances) to the views of those who adventure funds in such a hazardous speculation. A rich individual, or great mercantile house, will get hold of a poor literary man, and set him to work with a printing press; the poorer the better, and if in debt, better still, as it renders him the more thoroughly dependent. His daily bread and personal liberty, perhaps, depend on his giving satisfaction to his monied patron; and the existence of his paper, on avoiding offence to the Government. Thus placed between the Scylla of power, and the Charybdis of a gaol, he is glad for security's sake to submit his compositions to the censorship of his commercial governor, before be venture to submit it to the public and the judgment of the Hon. Company's political governor. Thus is the press subject to all the evils, 1st. of a secret censorship; 2dly, a law of arbitrary suppression; 3dly, the English law of libel; and 4thly, summary transportation without trial. I hope that the mere statement of these facts will be sufficient to convince even the greatest alarmist, that the Press in India is now subjected to an accumulation of restraints that must be superfluous for any purpose of good government; and that the rulers of India will yet take into consideration the following humble and reasonable prayer of the petition of the natives of Bengal to the King of England.

"Granting that the Company's servants were almost infallible in their judgment, and their systems nearly perfect, yet your Majesty's faithful subjects may be allowed to presume, that the paternal anxiety which the Court of Directors have often expressed (or the welfare of the many millions dependent upon them, in a country situated at the distance of several thousand miles, would suggest to them the propriety of establishing some other means besides, to ascertain whether the systems introduced in their Indian possessions, prove so beneficial to the Natives of this country as their authors might fondly suppose, or would have others believe; and whether the rules and regulations which may appear excellent in their eyes, are strictly put in practice.

"The publication of truth, and the natural expression of men's sentiments through the medium of the Press, entail no burden on the state: and should it appear to your Majesty and the enlightened men placed about your throne, that this precious privilege, which is so essential to the well-being of your faithful subjects, could not safely be intrusted to the Natives of India, although they have given such unquestionable proofs of their loyalty and attachment, subject only to the restraints wisely imposed upon the press by the laws of England, your faithful subjects entreat on behalf of their countrymen, that your Majesty will be graciously pleased to grant it, subject to such severer restraints and heavier penalties as may be deemed necessary; but legal restraints, not those of arbitrary power -- and penalties to be inflicted after trial and conviction, according to the forms of the laws of England, -- not at the will and pleasure of one or two individuals, without investigation, or without hearing any defence, or going through any of the forms prescribed by law, to ensure the equitable administration of justice."

I conclude the History of the Press in India, with a fervent hope that attention will yet be paid to this humble and earnest prayer, addressed to the King of England by and on behalf of a numerous faithful and unoffending class of British subjects -- that, in their own words, it may be no longer believed in our Indian territories, "that it is British justice to punish MILLIONS for the fault imputed to ONE INDIVIDUAL."
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Re: A Sketch: History of the Indian Press, by Sandford Arnot

Postby admin » Sat Apr 03, 2021 1:52 am


ON the 28d of May 1825, the new rule and regulation for the press in India, passed by the Hon. Mr. Adam and Sir Francis Macnaghten in March 1823, was discussed on appeal before the Lords of the Privy Council. Mr. Denman and Mr. John Williams appeared as counsel for Mr. Buckingham, the appellant; and Mr. Sergeant Bosanquet, Mr. Sergeant Spankie (some time Advocate-General in Bengal), Mr. Henry Brougham. and Mr. Tindal, as counsel for the East-India Company. Mr. Denman and Mr. Williams were heard against the laws -- Mr. Bosanquet and Mr. Spankie spoke in reply. As only two speakers were permitted on each side of the question, Mr. Brougham fortunately, as being a junior counsel, had not an opportunity of exerting his eloquence against the liberty of the press in India. The decision of the Privy Council, however, which was a confirmation of the new laws for licensing the press, supplied whatever was wanting to render them fatally permanent and immovable.

This result is the more to be deplored, as it is well known that in the British constitution, from the complication of its parts, the numerous checks it presents against alteration, whatever once becomes law, partakes of the worst quality of "the laws of the Medes and Persians." Let an act once be passed to exclude a third of the empire from their rights, the struggles of a whole nation and the labours of centuries will hardly be sufficient, as the Catholics of Ireland experienced, to cancel the pernicious statute. While the legality of the law for the Indian press rested solely on the decision of one Indian judge, it could hardly be considered as established, and would always have been open to question and revisal. But the result of Mr. Buckingham's appeal fixed upon it the solemn approval and stamp of authority of the highest court in the British empire. Yet I am willing to believe that the appeal was meant to do good: that he had a higher object in view than the selfish vanity of being a conspicuous object in such a proceeding, or the factious pleasure of opposing "the Lords of Leadenhall Street." A wise and good man, however, would first ascertain that there is a well-founded probability of success, and none of mischief, before he hazarded the decision of a nation's rights.
O'Connell did not attempt to take his seat in Parliament until the time came when he knew that it could not endanger the cause of his countrymen. Only Cobbett, and such-like lovers of mischief and of notoriety, urged the trying of the question at all hazards, without regard to time or consequences. By following wiser and honester counsels, Ireland has been delivered from its bonds.

The result of the appeal to the Privy Council by Mr. Buckingham, namely, a decision against the liberty of the press in India, was only another proof that wherever he has interfered, be his intentions good or bad, the result was still the same -- evil to the cause he professed to advocate. He had now procured a sentence of condemnation to be recorded against it by the Supreme Government of India -- by the Supreme Court of Judicature in Bengal -- by the Courts of East-India Directors and Proprietors; and, lastly, by the Privy Council of the realm. There remained one authority more whose decision would be of importance, namely, that of the British Parliament. I shall therefore pass over slightly his various appeals to the East-India Company, and attempts to extort a grant of money by the most false and exaggerated accounts of pecuniary losses, and of reduction from grandeur to poverty the most abject and humiliating --- from all the luxuries of eastern affluence to obscure lodgings in the neighbourhood of London, with nothing to drink but the crystal stream! This piteous tale was repeated so long as nine persons could be found good-natured enough to sign a requisition for a meeting at the East-India House. If half as much pains had been taken to obtain a free press for India under reasonable and moderate limitations, the point might long ere this have been gained; and that the well-told tale of "virtuous misfortune" produced so little effect, even for the purpose intended, could only have arisen from the inconvenient circumstance of its being untrue. The fact was, that instead of Mr. Buckingham being a martyr to the cause of freedom in India, the cause of freedom there had been a martyr to him. Instead of having lost by his connexion with the press -- he had thereby gained all he possessed. He had almost begged his way to India, as appears by his loans from Burckhardt, &c.; and from living in two small apartments over his printing-office in Calcutta,* [Except for a few months.] was now occupying a splendid residence, first in Regent's Park, then in Grove-end Road, of which his own description will be subjoined. And instead of leaving any thing behind, him, when he made this removal, he was and is justly indebted to the press to the extent, as I firmly believe, of £8,000 or £10,000, and this sum at least he must have carried to England -- to assist him in telling his pathetic tale of suffering virtue!

Property of the Week: An £11.5m ambassadorial mansion in Regent’s Park

He now resolved to tell this tale once more to the House of Commons, which was done by a petition, presented on the 9th of May 1826. It was embellished with the following paragraph, among numerous others equally veracious --

"That the most valuable portion of this (newspaper property), the copyright of the journal, was actually taken from your petitioner and his co-proprietors, without any consideration being tendered for the same, and then presented as a free gift to the son-in-law [meaning Dr. Muston] of one of the members of the very Government under which this very extraordinary transfer of property took place.

"That in consequence of these measures, the ruin of your petitioner has been so completely and entirely effected, that instead of being possessed of an income of £8,000 per annum, from a property of the saleable value of £40,000, which he enjoyed at the period of his banishment from India, he has been utterly deprived of both income and capital, and is moreover now involved in debts to the extent of at least £10,000 more, from the measures pursued towards his property in his absence," &c.

These bold assertions having been made, the House of Commons very properly offered Mr. Buckingham an opportunity of proving them. Any man really robbed and plundered, in a manner so very monstrous as above represented, could have desired nothing better than all opportunity to prove his alleged wrongs. This however, it will be found, did not suit Mr. Buckingham. He had allowed the session to be very near a conclusion before he presented his petition, and knew that if a committee called upon him to produce evidence, he could stave off the proceedings till the session closed, when they would of course fall to the ground. Had his statements been true, however, there was still sufficient time, and the best opportunity, to make them good: his agent in India, Mr. H. C. Sutherland, a member of the house of Alexander and Co., happened to be in London at the time, and could have spoken to the remittance of the £10,000 to their correspondents here for the purchase of the goods as stipulated, and their export in 1822, and arrival in Bengal, if such really had been the case. Mr. Richardson, the exporting agent, was also on the spot, and in attendance on the committee of the House, ready with his accounts in his hand, to prove the amount he had exported. Why did not Mr. Buckingham get these two gentlemen to attest the allegation that he had exported such a quantity of property (£10,000) to the concern in 1822? Why did he not get Mr. Sutherland, who was present, to attest that he had invested £10,000 more in the concern in India, and that it actually yielded him an income of £8,000 per annum?

For the strongest reason in the world, as I now discovered. Mr. Richardson, his agent, being in attendance, as I myself was, from day to day on the committee of the House of Commons, to give evidence, if called on, came prepared with an abstract of his accounts; and as the things to be proved naturally became the topics of conversation, he informed me, and shewed by a written statement, that instead of £10,000 in 1822, he never had exported to Mr. Buckingham more than £2,000 in that or any one year; and never to the extent of £10,000, during the whole period of the existence of the Calcutta Journal.

From the moment this fact came to my knowledge, I felt that I could no longer place reliance in any statement or profession of Mr. Buckingham. I had before this met with several things to shake my confidence; but all personal injuries and minor errors of every kind I had determined to overlook and forgive, so long as I thought he acted fairly by the public cause. His ingratitude and injustice to the Marquis of Hastings, I was willing to attribute to excess of zeal for liberty;-- his inconsistencies, mis-statements, and contradictions, I supposed might arise from mis-recollection or confusion of ideas: such errors might admit of friendly correction, and his future conduct might, I hoped, atone for them. But the mysterious disappearance of a large mass of property (£10,000), which ought to have been devoted, and legally belonged to the cause of freedom -- the scheme so ruinous to that cause which had been contrived to raise this sum -- the subsequent abandonment of' the Journal there for want of funds -- the setting up in the mean time of splendid establishments in Regent's Park, &c., were symptoms that could not longer be misunderstood. It now seemed impossible to resist the conviction, that

"Though his tongue dropped manna, and could make
The worse appear the better reason, all was false and hollow."

To do away however, if practicable, with this painful idea, I applied formally to his agent, Mr. Richardson, for more precise information on the subject. This I had every right to do, having myself contracted for a proprietary share in that property, as a return for my exertions in supporting it; which had entailed upon me several years of persecution, the loss of my all, and more than once the risk of life itself. Mr. Richardson applied to Mr. Buckingham for permission to give me information regarding this property, for which I had paid so high a price; but it was withheld from me! "No one, (wrote Mr. Buckingham, whose letter I preserved), has a right to know any thing on that subject without my consent!" -- He afterwards represented it as most atrocious, if not criminal, to make the inquiry. He sells us a property alleged to be on the way from England; and after we have paid the heavy price, tells us we have no right to know what became of it!

More than this, I soon after learnt that he had represented to his friends and dupes, that I was the person who ought to have proved to the committee of the House of Commons, that property to the amount stated, (£20,000), had been invested by him in his Journal; and that his failure to prove this must therefore be attributed to my "treachery" in refusing to attest the truth! It is therefore a duty I owe my own character, to shew the real causes of his failure.
He knew well, that by a regulation laid down for his agents in Calcutta, the secret and mysterious nature of which he best knew the cause of, I, and others interested, were prevented from having any precise information regarding the state of the concern. It was as follows:--

"On the accounts of the month being made up by Mr. Heckford, and examined and revised by Mr. Sandys, (but by no other person) who may desire explanation on any part seeming to require it," &c.

He therefore preferred examining me as to the state of his concerns, to examining his agents Messrs. Richardson and Sutherland, who were personally cognizant of the facts. I could only have spoken from the vague reports and statements of what was told me by others, or from his own assertions, which Mr. Richardson had taught me to estimate at their true value. I might have informed the Committee, with perfect truth, that if' I might rely on what I had just been told by a gentleman of great respectability, who had the best means of knowing the fact (viz. Mr. Richardson), the whole of Mr. Buckingham's statements as to his property were an imposition. His previous cruel and unjustifiable conduct to myself, as will afterwards be seen, might have warranted me in taking that course. My regard, however, for the honourable men with whom he was then connected, and the cause which they advocated, enabled me to smother my indignation at the disgraceful impositions which were now threatening to come to light. To avoid being instrumental in their exposure, I took refuge within my privilege as a witness, of not being compelled to speak to facts that did not come within my own personal knowledge. I considered his agents and his books (which were both beside him) as the proper evidence. He knew, however, that these would not make out his fallacious case, and therefore contrived to waste the time of the committee from day to day, in reading his interminable correspondence with the Bengal Government. Though often urged to come to the fact, (or no facts) of the petition, he wandered farther and farther from them, till evasion being hardly possible any longer, he most conveniently became indisposed, which wasted a few days more, when the session, fortunately for him, concluded; and the committee therefore broke up, leaving every thing unsettled as before (unless it be the fact that he was unable to prove his statements). This is the way in which quackery trifles with the public institutions of the country, which were meant to afford protection to the really oppressed and unfortunate. It is such mockeries as these, practised upon the constitutional bodies forming the barriers of our liberties, which make them often turn a deaf ear to the claims of redress presented by the really deserving, whose honest tale of suffering is not garnished with the trappings of fiction and imposture.
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Re: A Sketch: History of the Indian Press, by Sandford Arnot

Postby admin » Sat Apr 03, 2021 2:09 am


Mr. B. (As Dr. Cantwell). Are you also among the conspirators?

The Hon. Mr. ___ (as Mawworm). He is a Saint -- and a Patriot. -- If ever there a Saint, he is one. But you (Bankes, Burckhardt, Briggs, Barker, Boog. &c.) will all go to the devil!

HAVING now explained to the reader some of the circumstances that gave me so thorough an insight into the character of this person, I think it my duty to the public to give here a brief sketch of his history. In doing so, I shall not travel far out of the record furnished by himself; and as, for many years past, he has been chiefly occupied in detailing and retailing accounts of himself -- his sayings and doings -- he cannot surely object much to being assisted for once in this laborious task by a neutral pen. If the biographies of the dead are useful to posterity, a knowledge of the true character of the living might be still more so, as it may enable their cotemporaries to anticipate the good or guard against the mischief they may still do.

As I have nothing to do with his private character, but merely that part of his conduct which affects the public directly or indirectly, it is hardly worth while to go back to his early life, over which he himself has thrown a veil. All that I have to do with is the fact, that he was not lowered in the world by his connexion with the Indian press. It may be just stated, therefore, that he appears to have begun the world with a small printing-office in Falmouth. There are persons who still recollect the words "James Buckingham, Printer," stuck up over his door there; and thus commenced his connection with the press. He is supposed to have previously obtained some knowledge of naval matters from some of his relations being connected with a packet-boat, which probably led to his being made a prisoner, as he says, in Portugal; and of law, from the wisdom to be learnt in an attorney's office. But whether it was from having too many trades, or from inattention to one, his business in Falmouth, it is said, failed. After this we are informed, having some movings of the spirit, he took up the trade of methodist preacher, and Plymouth is mentioned as the scene of his sacred functions. From these he appears to have soon desisted, in order to "cast his bread upon the waters." Having engaged in the Mediterranean trade, he thus had an opportunity of forming connexions in Egypt, and was employed by a commercial house there, Messrs. Briggs and Co. as an agent to establish a trade between that place and Bombay. The funds furnished him by his employers for this purpose, he spent in travels in Palestine, and having in the mean time left their business to take care of itself, he was consequently compelled to refund one-half of the money so acquired. But, lest I should go wrong, in stating the delicate matters connected with this part of his life, I shall take the account of them published by Mr. Buckingham himself, in his report of the trial of his fellow-traveller, Mr. Bankes, whom he, prosecuted for libel for having stated his view of them. As the most impartial and authentic record of the case, I shall take the summing-up of the learned Judge (Mr. Justice Park), stripped of the distortions of either party. The reader has only to deduct from the assertions of Mr. Bankes the portions of them which the learned Judge considered as not proven; the large balance then remaining must be considered as standing against Mr. Buckingham.

The Lord Chief Justice having stated the nature of the action, and made some general observations as to defendant having failed to prove his justification, is reported (Oriental Herald, vol. xi. p. 448) to have given the following summary of the evidence:

It appears from the evidence, that the plaintiff and defendant travelled together from Jerusalem, to visit a place called Jerash: and I think it may be assumed that, until they met at Jerusalem, the parties were unacquainted. The plaintiff there introduced himself to the defendant, and requested to be allowed to accompany Mr. Bankes, and was ultimately permitted to do so. This journey having been thus taken, some considerable time afterwards the defendant sees an advertisement, published, as it appears, by the plaintiff, at Calcutta, announcing his intention to publish a work, to be entitled 'Travels in Palestine.' This being part of the country he had travelled with Mr. Bankes, and the journey having been taken under circumstances which, it is alleged, required Mr. Buckingham to forbear to publish an account, and assuming, not incorrectly perhaps, that this work would contain some narrative of that journey, Mr. Bankes was exceedingly irritated to think this should take place, and he was induced, under that irritation, to write the letter of which the plaintiff complains.

I think I cannot do better than read to you the libel of which the plaintiff complains -- directing your attention generally to such parts as may, in the evidence, be considered as proved, or on which evidence has been offered, by the defendant, fit for consideration, and pointing out those parts of it, in which it appears he has altogether failed. The letter begins thus:
MR. BUCKINGHAM, -- After some anecdotes respecting your conduct, which you cannot but suspect must have come, however late, to my knowledge before this time, you cannot suspect that I should address you otherwise than I should the lowest of mankind. It is indeed with reluctance that I stoop to address you at all. It will require, however, no long preface, to acquaint you with the object of this letter, since your own conscience will point it out to you, from the moment that you shall recognise a hand-writing which must be familiar to you, since you have copied it, and are about to turn the transcript to account. You have hoped that the distance of place would befriend you -- you have hoped that I should shrink from proclaiming that I have been imposed upon: it would have been far more politic in you to have shrunk from being proclaimed the man who has imposed.

In that advertisement by which you announce as your own the works of another, you have at least spared me the humiliation of being named in the list of your friends. Though the motive of this is sufficiently obvious, and it furnishes in itself both a proof and an aggravation of your culpability, yet some of those who are made to appear in that list would rather, I am persuaded, that you had invaded their property, as you have mine, than have subjected them to so unmerited a stigma. One amongst the number (whom you would not have dared even to allude to had he been alive) is unhappily unable to repel the imputations in his own person -- I mean the late Mr. Burckhardt, whom you so imprudently cite as your bosom friend. The boast is rash and ill-timed.

Are you not aware that copies of a letter are extant, in which he styles you a villain -- in which he says that the rogue can be brought to a sense of duty only by a kick? Do you wish, then, to publish your own disgrace, by letting the world know how well you were known to that excellent person, who, during the last two years of his life, lost no opportunity of testifying his contempt and aversion for your character.

I pause here, to state that the defendant has pleaded in justification of this part of the libel, that there does exist a copy of a letter, in which Mr. Burckhardt styles the plaintiff 'a villain,' and says that the plaintiff 'can be brought to a sense of his duty only by a kick.' Some letters, written by Mr. Burckhardt, proved to be in his hand-writing, are in evidence before you. They certainly are letters in which the writer speaks of Mr. Buckingham in unmeasured terms, disgraceful to the person thus spoken of; but there is no letter, or copy of a letter, in which he styles the plaintiff 'a villain,' or in which he says 'he can be brought to a sense of duty only by a kick.' In that justification, therefore, the defendant has failed. He has proved a letter existing, containing very considerable imputations on the plaintiff's character; but as to testifying his 'contempt and aversion for his character,' that also is not proved in the terms in which it is alleged in the libel. In this, also, the defendant has failed in the proof. I now go on with the letter:
Do not imagine that these sentiments were confined to the page of a single letter. Sheik Ibrahim was too open and too honourable to wish others to be deceived, as he had been for a time himself. Had his letter to me reached me sooner than they did, I should have had timely warning to beware how I trusted you, and you would never have had that opportunity which you have seized of abusing my kindness and confidence.

It is beneath me to expostulate with you; but I will state some facts to yourself, which I have already stated to others -- that the journey beyond Jordan to Dgerask and Oomkais was arranged, and the Arabs under engagement to conduct me thither, before I ever saw you; that you introduced yourself to me by a letter, stating that you were intimate with some of my best friends, and studiously concealing from me (both then and afterwards) that you were in any person's employ.'

The introduction by letter is proved; the contents are not proved, because the letter is torn as soon as it is read; nor does it appear to have been read by the servant.
That it was at my invitation (I being always under the supposition that you were a free agent) that you went with me, having previously agreed to take down my notes and the journals when I should wish it; that the whole expenses of that journey were upon me; that the notes and journal were in great part taken down from my mouth (especially what relates to Dgerash), with the exception of that of the two or three last days, which were written with my own hand, and afterwards copied fair by you; but, above all, that the plan of the ruins at Dgerash was constructed and noted with my own hand, and that all the assistance that I derived from you, even in collecting the materials for it, was in your ascertaining for me the relative bearings of some of the buildings with my compass; that, as to the plan of the theatre, you did not even know that I had made it, till you saw it at Nazareth.

It is hardly necessary to remind you, that you neither copied a single inscription, nor made a single sketch on the spot.

From the testimony of the witnesses for the defendant, it appears he did not, at the time, copy any inscription, or make any sketches. He goes on to say,
Since you are, I know, incapable of the one, and your ignorance of Latin and Greek must, I should suppose, unfit you for the other, add to which, you had not a single sheet of paper on which you could have done either, if I except a pocketbook about four inches square.

That the plaintiff is unacquainted with Latin and Greek was, I think, admitted by the Learned Counsel in the outset. There is, in his book, a plate, which purports to contain some copies of Greek inscriptions, and it has been proved that, upon that plate, the character intended to denote the letter r, is mistaken; and, instead of finding the Greek character, you find the Latin character. I think that a person well acquainted with the Greek language was not likely to have fallen into such a mistake: but the plaintiff's ignorance of Greek and Latin, and any mistake which has occurred in the plate containing these inscriptions, are really matters of very small importance to this cause.
The great ground-plan was traced at a window of the convent of Nazareth (as both my servants can testify), and you have copies from my drawings at the tombs at Oomkais, taken at the same time. These last are, probably, to furnish the vignettes and appropriate engravings which are announced.

Surely you must laugh at the simplicity of your subscribers when you are alone, with whom you are to pass for a draughtsman, being ignorant of the very first principles of design; (or an accurate copier of inscriptions, being ignorant of all the ancient languages; and, for an explainer of antiquities, being incapable of even distinguishing between the architecture of the Turks and the Romans.

This is another part in which the defendant has failed. He has taken on himself to say, that the plaintiff was incapable of distinguishing between the architecture of the Turks and the Romans, of which he has offered no proof.
I have said enough. -- It is in vain to attempt to make a man sensible of ingratitude who has been guilty of fraud.

What I demand is, the immediate restitution of those copies from my papers, without exception, and without your retaining any duplicates of them. Let them be put into the hands of Sir Evan Nepean, whom I have begged that he will do me the favour to take charge of them; and let all that portion of the work advertised that treats of a journey made at my expense, and compiled from my notes, be suppressed. I leave you, otherwise, to take the consequence: should you persist, the matter shall be notified in a manner that shall make your character as notorious in England and India as it is already in Egypt and Syria.

Here the defendant has undertaken to prove that the character of the plaintiff was notorious in Egypt and Syria. In that also he has failed.
You will find that you have not duped an obscure individual, who is obliged to bear it and hold his tongue.


When this letter was written, I did not know that the person to whom it is addressed was editor of the paper in which his long-winded advertisement appeared, but supposed him to be still at Bombay.

I have pointed out to your attention some parts of this libel, in which the defendant has certainly not made out the proof of his justification. I have now to mention to you some other parts in which, perhaps, you may think he has; namely, that the journey was taken at the expense of the defendant, and that preparations were made for it by the defendant before he met the plaintiff. In some parts of this libel the plaintiff is accused of having copied the notes which had been taken by the defendant, or by himself under the defendant's own direction; and of having also copied the plan which had been taken by the defendant; and the defendant has called witnesses to prove, (you are to judge of their credit)* [The Judge added, "I see no reason why they should not be believed," The omission of this in the Report, convinces me that other parts of it were coloured to favour Mr. Buckingham.] that during the journey, the plaintiff did not himself take any drawings or prospects; that on one occasion he wrote from the dictation of the plaintiff; that he was seen to make a copy of something contained in some book, and that he traced the plan that had been made. Whether the notes that are contained in this little book, are the notes from which Mr. Buckingham's book is taken, does not appear, because the contents were not read; probably they are not, and cannot be precisely the same. They would, no doubt, be very concise and short. Mr. Buckingham's book certainly professes to give a narrative of a journey taken in company with Mr. Bankes to Jerasb; and, if it be true,* [As was most distinctly sworn in evidence. This too is omitted in the Judge's charge.] that he took the journey under a stipulation that he was not to make writings or drawings, I think that, as a man of delicate honour, he would have abstained from giving any narrative of a journey so taken. Whether all contained in the book is taken from the notes of Mr. Bankes is another thing.

A great deal has been said, and a great deal of time consumed in examining this plan of the town of Jerasb. It is said, on the part of the plaintiff, in his preface, that his plans were taken at one time, and afterwards corrected and improved at two subsequent visits. Now, the plaintiff has not been able to give evidence of any journey except that in company with Mr. Bankes; and the publication, if I am correctly informed, does not contain a narrative of any other journey except that. It is argued before you, that if he had been on any other journey, you would have found a narrative of it. On the other hand, on behalf of the defendant, great part of the examination of this plan was with a view to find whether or not Mr. Buckingham had made any subsequent visit, and corrected the first plan by what he saw on that subsequent visit. The evidence on that head runs into very great detail, and I do not know that I should render you any material assistance by giving you that detail again. I can only say this, that as far as the evidence goes, I should say, the matter was left in very considerable doubt or uncertainty, one way or the other. I myself could not either draw a conclusion, that the plaintiff had corrected the drawings from his own observations, nor could I draw a conclusion that he had not been there, and that the alterations were made merely by the way of colour, and not as the result of a second visit.

The plaintiff has also offered, in evidence, his own manuscript of the printed book. When it first came over, it came accompanied by two drawings, which were not given up at the time, which Mr. Murray says he had inadvertently kept; and, by several engravings which have now been produced. The two drawings are produced, which, as they appeared in the work, are shown to be copies of some prints then in existence. These drawings appear to be copied from existing prints. The prints sent over certainly are existing prints; but there is written upon each of them some directions, in pencil, for alterations: and you are desired to infer, that if these had been published, they would have been published as engravings from drawings prepared purposely, which in fact they would not have been. That would only show that this gentleman contemplated that which many other persons have done -- giving to the world, as drawings made by themselves, those which had been, in a great measure, copied from other drawings, and putting a great deal into books as being that which they had seen with their own eyes, which, in fact, they had taken from the narrative of the persons who had gone before them. That is a very common art of book-making. Whether that applies to the plaintiff's publication I do not mean to say.

I do not know any other material matter for me to direct your attention to. I have directed it to those points which appear to me to be the prominent parts of the case, and the evidence on one side and the other. I have already stated to you, that if the publication is proved, the justification is not; and the plaintiff is therefore entitled to your verdict. Then comes the question of damages, which is for your own consideration. You will take into your view the mode in which the original letter was written; that there was more excuse for writing it, than for the delivery of a copy a considerable time afterwards. It is due, however, to the defendant to say, that it was all done under a strong impression that the plaintiff was about to give to the world some account of a journey taken by the defendant, which the defendant at least conceived the plaintiff ought not to publish, but which he should have left to the defendant to usher to the world as his own.

Having made these remarks, you will consider the case; find your verdict; and give such reasonable and temperate damages as may appear the result of sober and correct judgment, and not the result of angry feeling.

Mr. Buckingham then gave out (see the same vol. of this book, p.459)
"that it was this letter of Mr. Bankes which led to his removal from India, and the loss of an actual property of £40,000, and an income of £8,000 per annum.

If so, the reader may judge how large a portion of the letter the jury considered to be unproved, when it awarded to Mr. Buckingham only a hundredth part of that sum, namely £400. Having been present at this trial, there is one omission in the charge of the Judge, which I deem it a duty to supply. It was that, "he saw no reason why Mr. Bankes's witnesses should not be believed." From the manner in which they gave their evidence, I was certainly of the same opinion. But had they been able to prove much less (and I do not see how it was possible for them to prove more), it would be shallow reasoning to conclude that a man must lie innocent because another fails to prove him guilty. When you are robbed of your handkerchief in the streets of London, if you were to charge the thief without having witnesses to prove the fact, you would both fail in recovering your property, and be liable to damages for slander. How much more difficult your situation, if this occurred in Palestine or the Deserts of Arabia! And such must be the result of any trial for libel, when many of the facts of it lie beyond the reach of evidence -- be the party innocent or guilty.

Thus a striking feature in this case was a deficiency of conclusive evidence, besides the character of the parties. But there is one expression in a letter of Mr. Bankes, written while he and Mr. Buckingham were friends, (April 12th, 1816), and retained by the latter contrary to promise, which seems to imply very strongly, that it had been agreed on between them, that the information they jointly collected should belong to the book of travels which Mr. Bankes was to publish; that Mr. Bankes was to execute the drawings himself, but had put the information which he gleaned into the hands of Mr. Buckingham, to compose the description which was to accompany the drawings; that Mr. Bankes, in consequence, agreed to mention Mr. Buckingham's name in the title or preface of the book. For he says in a long letter, addressed to Mr. Buckingham:

"I have been careful and exact in my drawings, which are in great number, and I do not think you will be ashamed to have your name associated to what I may one day or other throw together into form. Do me the favour to keep this letter, not for your use, but my own. You know how indolent I am about writing, and I have thrown here many things upon paper, which I may perhaps never do again."

This aversion to writing is sufficient to account for his employing Mr. Buckingham as a secretary or amanuensis. Why else should he have sent him information, avowedly not for his own sake, but to be preserved for the benefit of the sender? And why else should a person so "indolent about writing," have put himself to the superfluous trouble to write this very long letter, for such it is, to Mr. Buckingham?

This view of the case, however, is founded on my present knowledge of the character of one of the parties. So long as I knew nothing otherwise to shake my confidence in Mr. Buckingham's veracity, I was willing to believe his declarations of innocence; rather than Mr. Bankes's charges of guilt. I leant in favour or the person I knew, rather than of the person I did not know. But though the latter is now as much a stranger to me personally as then, taking him merely at the average of human honesty, I cannot hesitate for a moment in believing his statement, rather than that of his opponent, whom I do know. It would, I think, be an insult to common sense to hesitate a moment between them.

The effect produced by Mr. Bankes's letter in India is thus described by Mr. Buckingham:
The subject was first taken up in an anonymous letter signed "A Friend of Mr. Bankes;" and this was followed up (he states) by "a series of others, of the most malignant and murderous description that ever appeared in print. They ended (he says) in calling on all the public associations of India, and on every family or individual who had the least regard for their honour, to expel from among them, to shun, to detest, and to point the finger of scorn, at the man whom this abandoned and anonymous assassin declared to be a convicted liar, robber, swindler, impostor, thief, and monster of iniquity, and all on the authority of these slanders of Mr. Bankes, now (he says) so completely exposed."

He intimates that the writer at these', "the anonymous assassin," was the Rev. Dr. Bryce. Having named this gentleman, I must observe, that though I dissent from his politics, and dislike his mode of advocating them, yet when it comes to private character, I feel bound to admit that he is a man of talent and learning, who has raised himself by his own abilities to the high situation be holds as head of the Presbyterian Church in Bengal; and from all I can learn he is sincerely beloved in the circle of those who do know him.

Mr. Buckingham goes on to state (Oriental Herald, vol. ii. p. 469), that for questioning the propriety of the appointment given to that gentleman he was banished from India, robbed of a property of £40,000, and of an income of £8,000, &c., and then
"That all this sprung originally from the calumnies of Mr. Bankes being believed to be true, and as such depriving Mr. Buckingham of the sympathy and support of honorable men, no one acquainted with the fact can doubt."

Enough has now been stated to show that Mr. Buckingham, before he became connected with the Indian Press, was a man tottering in fortunes and ill fame. A powerful party having then taken him by the hand, he was enabled for some years to resist the flood of indignation which rolled after him from his old associates in the scene of his former wanderings. That at last it became so strong as to bear him down, and at the same time make a total shipwreck of the cause of the Indian press, which had unfortunately become linked with his ill-fated name.

Whatever a needy adventurer might have done, whatever shifts and expedients he might have had recourse to, of hiring his services to one, trespassing upon the rights of a second, or living upon a third, it was to be hoped that being now engaged in a noble cause, and liberally supported by a generous public, he would adopt principles becoming his situation. After the discovery of the affair of the ten thousand pounds, I, for one, despaired of any such regeneration. So far from seeing any ground to hope that the future would make atonement for the past, I perceived a settled determination to do what has been too often done before, greatly to the public detriment, by artful men making use of a profession of patriotism as means of levying contributions on the public. Whether or not this love of money be the actuating motive of Mr. Buckingham, the reader may judge -- first from his incessant changes in the prices of his publications: secondly, his Calcutta Journal share scheme, with its results: thirdly, his entering so warmly into the bubble companies of 1825, after his services had been so strongly pledged to the cause of the Indian press. To sum up his pretensions -- having travelled, as he tells us, towards India, sometimes with a bag of dates on his back, at other times sleeping with "his sword for a pillow, and his shield for a coverlid," sometimes borrowing ten dollars from Mr. Bankes, or his servant, and larger or smaller sums as be could get them, from Mr. Burkhardt and others; or in failure of money, food to support him: and having returned from India a few years afterwards with at least £10,000 (more probably £20,000), instead of describing himself as a martyr, he might, with greater justice, compare himself to a poor Irishman, travelling over to England, with only a bag of potatoes on his back for his sustenance, and sent home to his own country four or five years afterwards with more wealth than ever had been possessed by all his generation! If it be more honorable to acquire wealth by the honest exertion of talent and industry, than by bubble schemes and delusions, I do not know; but the poor Irishman should be considered a more respectable character than any Benfield or Buckingham that ever came from India, though loaded with all the riches of the East. With these remarks I conclude my account of the mariner, -- printer, -- Methodist preacher, -- merchant; -- traveller, -- editor, -- Egyptian trading company, and Tywarnhale mining director, -- public lecturer, and stone-quarry man -- the professions which have at last become the object of his mature and enlightened choice.
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Re: A Sketch: History of the Indian Press, by Sandford Arnot

Postby admin » Sat Apr 03, 2021 2:09 am


WHEN I first saw reason to be dissatisfied with Mr. Buckingham's conduct, I deemed it my duty first to submit it to the judgment of some of his private friends in England, that he might have an opportunity of clearing himself. Finding that I could obtain no satisfaction, and that he refused to explain the fact of the £10,000, I deemed it necessary to take measures to obtain information from Bengal on the subject. In consequence of this I was accused, first, of being the cause of the failure of his case before the House of Commons; secondly, of having promoted the destruction of his property in Bengal, the very property which I had risked my life and fortune to save; and lastly, according to his usual practice, he invented a tale of romance, distorting every action of my life which he had before spoken of with such applause, and representing it as a tissue of baseness and treachery. As this defamatory romance, however, was merely private, I was content to reply to it in private, rather than hurt the feelings of the persons with whom he was connected, who intreated me, for the sake of a common cause, to overlook his conduct. He having, however, disregarded this consideration, and attacked me in a public paper, I sent a reply. As he did not venture to publish this, several written copies of it were made at the time, to satisfy my friends; and there it might have rested for me. But one of them thinking that it ought to be published, sent a copy to the editor of a Calcutta newspaper with whom he happened to be personally acquainted, as he was perfectly justified in doing. It thus became public. This having exposed me to fresh attacks, I take this mode of vindicating my own character, of placing the causes which led to the present degradation of the Indian Press in their true light, and explaining the motives of those who have for years past subjected me to the most vindictive persecution, for having dared to tell the truth. They will now find that, though Lord Amherst excluded me from his dominions because I adhered firmly to what I considered the cause of truth and justice, and although I have suffered so many years of persecution for this cause, I am still the same person, and will publish whatever I consider useful to the world to know, in defiance of the threats and oppressions of corrupt and interested men, however strongly they may be leagued together to destroy me. My defence, circulated in MS. as above explained, was introduced in the Calcutta John Bull, with the following among other remarks: --
"It is historically valuable, for it throws a light on more than one transaction, which at the period of its occurrence was made to bear the aspect of the most disinterested patriotism and regard for public rights; and if it places these, as we ourselves verily believe it does, in their true and proper bearing, it is important as a lesson to honourable and upright men, incapable themselves of such conduct, and unwilling to believe in its existence in others, to be upon their guard, when again besieged by the insinuating tale and insidious address of the "artful adventurer." It is moreover due to the gentleman,* [Here John Bull is mistaken: it was sent him, not by me, but by a friend, who had got a copy.] who has requested the room we have given to his statement. This gentleman fell a martyr to his services in the cause of those, who have indeed most scurvily requited him: his appeal to the free press of England -- at least that part of it in the hands of our old "Palladium" -- has been rejected, and it is not the least curious feature in the story, that from the fettered Press of India Mr. Arnot should obtain the publicity to his defence, to which the publicity of the attack on his integrity undoubtedly entitles him. Against this publicity, the Oriental Herald, the Sphynx, and the Athenaeum have been closed -- the Calcutta John Bull has been opened!! Let the friends of Liberty of the Press blush for themselves, if they have a blush to spare, but let us hear no more of our being the enemies of "free discussion" -- the complaint of pernicious publicity comes at length from the enemies' quarters. On the subject of the sale of the late Calcutta Journal in shares there are many here -- and our co-temporary of the Hurkaru among others -- who can set Mr. Arnot right, if he is wrong: he tells a story, which if true, renders it a difficult matter to determine, whether more to reprobate the roguery on the one side, or the foolish silliness on the other. If the John Bull, and those who stood by it, when it opposed itself so stoutly to this roguery, should feel an honest pride at the establishment of its positions, now afforded by one of the principal actors in the drama, no one will be surprised, who recollects the abuse which the radical press was once so lavish, on all who withstood its great champion, or dared to doubt that he was the disinterested and honest patriot he pretended to be. It is long since the curtain dropped on the Indian part of the play; it is clear from Mr. Arnot's statement of facts, that it will soon fall, if it has not already fallen, in the after-piece got up at home.
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