Slike strani
PDF
ePub

So when India was conquered, the same principles were again applied. Every free Indian subject of the Crown soon became entitled to the private civil rights of an Englishman, except so far as his own personal law, Hindu or Musulman or Parsi or Jain, might modify those rights; and if there was any such modification, that was recognized for his benefit rather than to his prejudice. Thus the process which the Romans took centuries to complete was effected almost at once in India by the application of long established doctrines of English law. Accordingly we have in India the singular result that although there are in that country no free institutions (other than those municipal ones previously referred to) nor any representative government, every Indian subject is eligible to any office in the gift of the Crown anywhere, and to any post or function to which any body of electors may select him. He may be chosen by a British constituency a member of the British House of Commons, or by a Canadian constituency a member of the House of Commons of Canada. Two natives of India (both Parsis) have already been chosen, both by London constituencies, to sit in the British House. So a native Hindu or Musulman might be appointed by the Crown to be Lord Chief Justice of England or Governor-General of Canada or Australia. He might be created a peer. He might become Prime Minister. And as far as legal eligibility goes, he might be named Governor-General of India, though as a matter of practice, no Indian has ever been placed in any high Indian office. Neither birth, nor colour, nor religion constitutes any legal disqualification. This was expressly declared as regards India by the India Act of 1833, and has been more than once formally declared since, but it did not require any statute to establish what flowed from the principles of our law. And it need hardly be added that the same principles apply to the Chinese subjects of the Crown in Hong Kong or Singapore and to the negro subjects of the Crown in Jamaica or Zululand. In this respect at least England has worthily repeated the liberal policy of Rome. She has done it, however, not by way of special grants, but by the automatic and probably uncontemplated operation of the general principles of her law.

As I have referred to the influence of English constitutional ideas, it is worth noting that it is these ideas which have led the English of late years not only to create in India city municipalities, things entirely foreign to the native Indian mind, but also to provide by statute (in 1892) for the admission of a certain number of nominated non-official members to the legislative councils of the Governors in Bengal, Bombay, Madras, the NorthWest Provinces and Oudh, and the Punjab. These members are nominated, not elected, because it has been found difficult to devise a satisfactory scheme of election. But the provision made for the presence of native nonofficials testifies to the wish of the English Government to secure not only a certain amount of outside opinion, but also a certain number of native councillors through whom native sentiment may be represented, and may obtain its due influence on the conduct of affairs.

The extension of the civil rights of Englishmen to the subjects of the Crown in India would have been anything but a boon had it meant the suppression and

a

extinction of native law and custom. This of course it has not meant. Neither had the extension of Roman conquest such an effect in the Roman Empire; and even the grant of citizenship to all subjects did not quite efface local law and usage. As the position and influence of English law in India, viewed in comparison with the relation of the older Roman law to the Roman provinces, is the subject of another of these Essays, I will here pass over the legal side of the matter, and speak only of the parallel to be noted between the political action of the conquering nations in both cases.

Both have shown a prudent wish to avoid disturbing, any further than the fixed principles of their policy made needful, the usages and beliefs of their subjects. The Romans took over the social and political system which they found in each of the very dissimilar regions they conquered, placed their own officials above it, modified it so far as they found expedient for purposes of revenue and civil administration generally, but otherwise let it stand as they found it and left the people alone. In course of time the law and administration of the conquerors, and the intellectual influences which literature called into play, did bring about a considerable measure

a of assimilation between Romans and provincials, especially in the life and ideas of the upper classes. But this was the result of natural causes. The Romans did not consciously and deliberately work for uniformity. Especially in the sphere of religion they abstained from all interference. They had indeed no temptation to interfere either with religious belief or with religious practice, for their own system was not a universal but a strictly national religion, and the educated classes had begun to sit rather loose to that religion before the process of foreign conquest had gone far. According to the theory of the ancient world, every nation had its own deities, and all these deities were equally to be respected in their own country. Whether they were at bottom the same deities under different names, or were quite independent divine powers, did not matter. Each nation and each member of a nation was expected to worship the national gods: but so long as an individual man did not openly reject or insult those gods, he might if he pleased worship a god belonging to some other country, provided that the worship was not conducted with shocking or demoralizing rites, such as led to the prohibition of the Bacchanalian cult at Rome? The Egyptian Serapis was a fashionable deity among Roman women as early as the time of Catullus. We are told that Claudius abolished Druidism on account of its savage cruelty, but this may mean no more than that he forbade the Druidic practice of human sacrifices. There was therefore, speaking broadly, no religious persecution and little religious intolerance in the ancient world, for the Christians, it need hardly be said, were persecuted not because of their religion but because they were a secret society, about which, since it was new, and secret, and Oriental, and rejected all the gods of all the nations alike, the wildest calumnies were readily believed. The first religious persecutors were the Persian Fire-worshipping kings of the Sassanid dynasty, who occasionally worried their Christian subjects.

Neither, broadly speaking, was religious propagandism known to the ancient world. There were no missions, neither foreign missions nor home missions. If a man did not sacrifice to the gods of his own country, his fellow citizens might think ill of him. If he was accused of teaching that the gods did not exist, he might possibly, like Socrates, be put to death, but nobody preached to him. On the other hand, if he did worship them, he was in the right path, and it would have been deemed not only impertinent, but almost impious, for the native of another country to seek to convert him to another faith, that is to say, to make him disloyal to the gods of his own country, who were its natural and timehonoured protectors. The only occasions on which one hears of people being required to perform acts of worship to any power but the deities of their country are those cases in which travellers were expected to offer a prayer or a sacrifice to some local deity whose territory they were traversing, and whom it was therefore expedient to propitiate, and those other cases in which a sort of worship was required to be rendered to the monarch, or the special protecting deity of the monarch, under whose sway they lived. The edict attributed to Nebuchadnezzar in the book of Daniel may in this connexion be compared with the practice in the Roman Empire of adoring the spirit that watched over the reigning Caesar. To burn incense on the altar of the Genius of the Emperor was the test commonly proposed to the persons accused of being Christians.

1 Constantine prohibited the immoral excesses practised by the Syrians of Heliopolis.

3 Druidarum religionem apud Gallos dirae immanitatis et tantum civibus sub Augusto interdictam penitus abolevit.'-Sueton. Vita Claud. c. 25.

All this is the natural result of polytheism. With the coming of faiths each of which claims to be exclusively and universally true, the face of the world was changed. Christianity was necessarily a missionary religion, and unfortunately soon became also, forgetting the precepts of its Founder, a persecuting religion. Islam followed

« PrejšnjaNaprej »