Since Macaulay: 'To never teach subjects to rebel’

Macaulay’s minutes were accepted by Bentinck readily and the government resolution of 7th March 1835 plainly stated

His Lordship in Council is of opinion that the great object of the British government ought to be the promotion of European literature and science among the natives of India and that all the funds appropriated for the purposes of education should be best employed on English education alone.

Bentinck’s plans were not to close any pre-existing institutions,but to stop funding new ones, abolish the unprofitable translation projects and withdraw the stipends granted at Calcutta Madrasha and Sanskrit Colleges. But this ‘all destroying’ edict met strong resistance, from just from powerful Orientalist scholars in the General Committee but also through petitions from Muslim and Hindu communities. James Mill passed away in June 1836 and Bentinck left India soon after issuing the legislation, on 20th March 1835. While Macaulay continued as the President of the General Committee of Public Instruction until his own departure from India in 1838, and Bentinck’s immediate successor and acting Governor General, Charles Metcalfe, was generally sympathetic to Bentinck’s resolution, it would fall upon Lord Auckland to pen yet another education minute in 1839 to clarify policy and seek a middle way that would define the administration approach until the time of Wood’s despatch of 1854.

However, the period immediately following the 1835 resolution saw rapid expansion of English schools, both under private and government initiative. From the funds released from cessation of publishing project, six new seminaries were opened, including those in Patna and Dhaka. Six more seminaries opened in 1836. When Hoogly College, in the outskirts of Calcutta, opened in 1836, 1200 students sought admission in the English department in the first three days. Hindu College, which offered instructions in English and was funded by the government, far outstripped other government institutions in Calcutta, and had more than 500 students by 1842. The missionary colleges, Alexander Duff’s General Assembly preeminent among them, also expanded rapidly, and when it started its Collegiate department in 1840, it attracted more than 800 students within a year. In this phase of extraordinary expansion, Lord Elphinstone, after he took over the Governorship of Madras Presidency in 1839, established a college to offer liberal arts and sciences education, and this college, from its very inception, would be called Madras University.

Lord Auckland’s education minutes, recorded on 24th November 1839, were designed to be an attempt to reconcile the warring parties in General Committee and set the course for action. Drawing back from ‘ultra anglicism’ of Bentinck resolution, Auckland restored the funds to Oriental colleges that were withdrawn after 1835, making these available for general improvement of the college rather than student stipends, allowed the use of these funds for offering English instruction if and when sufficient improvements had been achieved and mandated that these funds could not be redirected without prior government approval. Furthermore, he instituted a system of scholarships, available for study at Oriental or English colleges, to meritorious students. Auckland’s minutes also rejected William Adam’s proposals of setting up networks of vernacular schools and followed the well-established tradition of ‘downward filtration’ through education of the elite classes, through ‘engraftment’ of advanced education in the existing network of district schools. The most significant part, for the purpose of the present discussion, of the Auckland minutes was placed right at the end - the plans to create a network of ‘central colleges’

I would have the places fixed, with reference to the extent of the population or convenience of locality at which it should be the aim gradually to build up these efficient central Colleges.  

While Lord Auckland’s minutes settled the debates for a decade and the expansion of Government education system continued, the contours of a new debate were already visible in the objections of Alexander Duff, a leading voice among the missionaries, to the secular system of education that was being established with government funding and encouragement. Dr Duff’s criticisms were incited by, and indeed directed primarily towards, the culture of scepticism and questioning entertained at Hindu College. He would observe

..the whole of these lads would go to Government and other schools where science is taught divorced from religion; and thus, while their intellect became enlightened, their moral nature would be left in its depravity; while taught to see the follies of Hinduism, they would find no religion to supply its place; they would lose all the restraints which even the religion of their ancestors contains, and become destitute of religious principles altogether.

Alexander Duff broke away from the established Church of Scotland to join the Free Church to preserve religious freedom from government intervention and his objections to the spread of secular education would shape his engagements, and given his preeminence, Indian educational policy-making for a generation. His educational vision had Christianity at its core, more so for a subject people as in India, based on the formulation, “As Christianity has never taught rulers to oppress, so will it never teach subjects to rebel”. While Lord Auckland’s central colleges would germinate the idea of universities in India, Dr Duff’s objections to the secular nature of knowledge would play a critical role in shaping the form it would eventually take.

Lord Auckland’s Governor Generalship, however, was marked by a resumption of wars after the relative peace of Lord Amherst and Lord Bentinck’s tenure. British armies would get involved in wars in Afghanistan, a campaign that ended disastrously and resulted in his resignation. Wars would continue for more than a decade, as campaigns in Afghanistan, Sindh and Punjab under Lord Ellenborough and Lord Hardinge, Auckland’s successors, would be followed by Lord Dalhousie’s transformational tenure, which would unite the Indian peninsula under British rule and also bring it to the brink of the 1857 mutiny.


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