Slike strani
PDF
ePub

that the government of subject-races is to be regarded as a trust to be discharged with a sense of responsibility to God and to humanity at large has become generally accepted. Probably the action of the Emperors, or at least of such men as Trajan and his three successors, raised the standard of opinion in the Roman Empire also. It was, however, not so much to that opinion as to their sovereign master that Roman officials were responsible. The general principles of policy which guided the Emperors were sound, but how far they were applied to check corruption or oppression in each particular case is a matter on which we are imperfectly informed. Under an indolent or vicious Emperor, a governor who had influence at Court, or who remitted the full tribute punctually, may probably have sinned with impunity.

The government of India by the English resembles that of her provinces by Rome in being thoroughly despotic. In both cases, whatever may have been done for the people, nothing was or is done by the people. There was under Rome, and there is in British India, no room for popular initiative, or for popular interference with the acts of the rulers, from the Viceroy down to a district official. For wrongs cognizable by the courts' of law, the courts of law were and are open, doubtless more fully open in India than they were in the Roman Empire. But for errors in policy or for defects in the law itself, the people of a province had no remedy available in the Roman Empire except through petition to the sovereign. Neither is there now in India any recourse open to the inhabitants except an appeal to the Crown or to Parliament, a Parliament in which the Indian subjects of the Crown have not been, and cannot be, represented. This was, and is, by the nature of the case, inevitable.

In comparing the governmental systems of the two Empires, it is hardly necessary to advert to such differences as the fact that India is placed under a Viceroy to whom all the other high functionaries, Governors, Lieutenant-Governors and Chief Commissioners, are subordinated, whereas in the Roman world every provincial governor stood directly under the Emperor. Neither need one dwell upon the position in the English system of the Secretary of State for India in Council as a member of the British Cabinet. Such details do not affect the main point to which I now come.

The territories conquered by the Romans were of three kinds. Some, such as Egypt, Macedonia, and Pontus, had been, under their own princes, monarchies practically despotic. In these, of course, there could be no question of what we call popular government. Some had been tribal principalities, monarchic or oligarchic, such as those among the Iceni and Brigantes in Britain, the Arverni in Gaul, the Cantabrian mountaineers in Spain. Here, again, free institutions had not existed before, and could hardly have been created by the conqueror. The third kind consisted of small commonwealths, such as the Greek cities. These were fitted for self-government, which indeed they had enjoyed before they were subjected by Rome. Very wisely, municipal self-government was to a large extent left to them by the Emperors down till the time of Justinian. It was more complete in some cities than in others; and it was in nearly all gradually reduced by the equalizing pressure of the central authority. But they were all placed under the

governor of the province; most of them paid taxes, and in most both the criminal and the higher civil jurisdiction were in the hands of imperial officials. Of the introduction of any free institutions for the empire at large, or even for any province as a whole, there seems never to have been any question. Among the many constitutional inventions we owe to the ancient world representative government finds no place. A generation before the fall of the Republic, Rome had missed her opportunity when the creation of such a system was most needed and might have been most useful. After her struggle against the league of her Italian allies, she consented to admit them to vote in her own city tribes, instead of taking what seems to us moderns the obvious expedient of allowing them to send delegates to an assembly which should meet in Rome. So it befell that monarchy and a city republic or confederation of such republics remained the only political forms known to antiquity?

India is ruled despotically by the English, not merely

· The nearest approach to any kind of provincial self-government and also the nearest approach to a representative system was made in the Provincial Councils which seem from the time of Augustus down to the fifth century to have existed in all or nearly all the provinces. They consisted of delegates from the cities of each province, and met annually in some central place, where stood the temple or altar to Rome and Augustus. They were presided over by the priest of these divinities, and their primary functions were to offer sacrifices, provide for the expense of the annual games, and elect the priest for next year. However they seem to have also passed resolutions, such as votes of thanks to the outgoing priest or to a departing governor, and to have transmitted requests or inquiries to the Emperor. Sometimes they arranged for the prosecution of a governor who had misgoverned them: but on the whole their functions were more ceremonial and ornamental than practically important; nor would the emperors have suffered them to exert any real power, though they were valued as useful vehicles of provincial opinion (see Marquardt, Römische Staatsverwaltung, vol. i, and an article in Eng. Hist. Review for April, 1893, by Mr. E. G. Hardy.

because they found her so ruled, but because they conceive that no other sort of government would suit a vast population of different races and tongues, divided by the religious animosities of Hindus and Musulmans, and with no sort of experience of self-government on a scale larger than that of the Village Council. No more in India than in the Roman Empire has there been any question of establishing free institutions either for the country as a whole, or for any particular province. But the English, like the Romans, have permitted such self-government as they found to subsist. It subsists only in the very rudimentary but very useful form of the Village Council just referred to, called in some parts of India the Panchayet or body of five. Of late years municipal constitutions, resembling at a distance those of English boroughs, have been given to some of the larger cities as a sort of experiment, for the sake of training the people to a sense of public duty, and of relieving the provincial government of local duties. So far the experiment has in most cities been only a moderate success. The truth is that, though a few intelligent men, educated in European ideas, complain of the despotic power of the Anglo-Indian bureaucracy, the people of India generally do not wish to govern themselves. Their traditions, their habits, their ideas, are all the other way, and dispose them to accept submissively any rule which is strong and which neither disturbs their religion and customs nor lays too heavy imposts upon them.

Here let an interesting contrast be noted. The Roman Emperors were despots at home in Italy, almost as much, and ultimately quite as much, as

[blocks in formation]

in the provinces. The English govern their own country on democratic, India on absolutist principles. The inconsistency is patent but inevitable. It affords an easy theme for declamation when any arbitrary act of the Indian administration gives rise to complaints, and it may fairly be used as the foundation for an argument that a people which enjoys freedom at home is specially bound to deal justly and considerately with those subjects to whom she refuses a like freedom. But every one admits in his heart that it is impossible to ignore the differences which make one group of races unfit for the institutions which have given energy and contentment to another more favourably placed.

A similar inconsistency presses on the people of the United States in the Philippine Isles. It is a more obtrusive inconsistency because it has come more abruptly, because it has come, not by the operation of a long series of historical causes, but by the sudden and little considered action of the American Republic itself, and because the American Republic has proclaimed, far more loudly and clearly than the English have ever done, the principle contained in the Declaration of Independence that the consent of the governed is the only foundation of all just government. The Americans will doubtless in time either reconcile themselves to their illogical position or alter it. But for the present it gives to thoughtful men among them visions of mocking spirits, which the clergy are summoned to exorcize by dwelling upon the benefits which the diffusion of a pure faith and a commercial civilization will confer upon the lazy and superstitious inhabitants of these tropical isles.

« PrejšnjaNaprej »