תמונות בעמוד
PDF
ePub

do so? We may assert, that the whole of the interior of the Andes is composed of pure gold. When asked for proof, we may reply, In some mines gold has been discovered. Indeed, retorts our opponent, Suppose I admit that your universal assertion may be true, how does its truth appear from the limited evidence adduced ? Because gold has been found to exist in some mines, therefore, it exists to the extent of composing the whole of the interior of this vast mountain range! If such reasoning prove any thing at all, it is this, that sound reason has nothing to do with it.

But we not only deny the absence of all evidence ; we negative the assertion altogether. In regard to 999 out of a 1000, is there a single circumstance of a positive nature, beyond vague analogy and conjecture, to shew that they are either favourable or unfavourable ; —if not; then, as to the remaining fraction, if it be said that some oppose our scheme, we assert, without fear of contradiction, from our own individual experience, that some do not oppose it, yea, that many highly approve of it.

After all, supposing what it is utterly impossible to grant, yet, for argument's sake, supposing that it was proven that the whole population of India” were opposed to the change, what inference should we draw?-That because there is “ a national prejudice” against it, therefore, it should not be attempted! He who would argue thus, must surely have mistaken the age in which he lives. He must have been dreaming of the times when interested men lazily fattened on ignorance and prejudice, and dreaded all change, as they would the hurricane or the pestilence. And if this master-piece of selfish reasoning, by which the struggle has been maintained to preserve the accumulated prejudices, corruptions, and abuses of ages, and have them consolidated into one imperishable mass of deformity, is to be still echoed and re-echoed in our hearing, the only reply which we can deign to make is, that we are drawing towards the middle of the 19th century, and that such time-serving arguments are fit only to be tossed, like the ravings of the Sibylline oracle, to the four winds of heaven. The grand question with us is :-may the change be pronounced a good oneone, exuberant with blessings to the deluded people of India ? If 80, regardless of abuse, and fearless of difficulty, let us arouse our inmost energies to enforce it on the attention of all around us, and so labour to banish venerated follies, and extinguish for ever “ national prejudices.”

2. It is said, that as the system “can be adopted (only) on a limited scale at first,” those who learn the Roman characters must acquire a knowledge of the native alphabets too, in order to communicate with their countrymen ; hence, it is added, “much time will be lost for nothing."

Admitting these premises, we must fatly deny the conclusion. Much time will not be lost for nothing. Almost all those who at

first learn the new system are the boys and young men already engaged, or about to engage, in the study of the English language; and most palpable it is that these must learn the Roman alphabet at any rate ; so that to them there can be no additional loss of time. Now those who study English will be daily increasing in number and respectability; and these assuredly are the individuals who will give the tone to Hindú society. And through their influence and example, hundreds and thousands will gradually become acquainted with the Roman character, who have not studied, nor intend to study the English language; and the necessity for communicating in the native character will be proportionately diminishing. In this way, a knowledge of the system will necessarily overspread every corner of the land, till the number that has mastered the new character, will equal that which has not, and ultimately become preponderant :-then, will the necessity for acquiring the native character wholly evanish.

But let us freely and frankly admit that those who live, during the transition process, must labour under disadvantages from which their descendants will be exempt : yea, more ; let us suppose the disadvantages to be vastly greater than they ever can be : and what of all this? Because, the securing of certain lasting benefits, must be attended with temporary disadvantages, shall we therefore sit down in ignoble repose, and make no attempt to secure them at all? To compare great things with small, what should we have been now, had our forefathers acted in this despicable spirit? What perils by land and by water, what ceaseless anxieties

, what painful watchings by night and by day, what cruel persecutions, did they not endure? And for whom did they endure them? Chiefly for us. Boldly did they encounter a thousand difficulties and dangers, which, when overcome, ensured to us the charter of numberless inestimable privileges. And is not the circumstance, that they submitted to such sacrifices, in order to bequeath so rich and noble a legacy to their children, part of their chiefest glory? Is it not this that encircles their brows with the halo of an earthly immortality ? Now, in a cause far inferior, it may be, and encompassed with far fewer difficulties, may we not be permitted to emulate so splendid an example? Though destined, we fear, to follow these at an immeasurable distance, still we should not hesitate thus to address the present generation of Hindoos :- A change has been proposed, which promises to secure for you, and especially those that follow after you, unspeakable benefits. other ameliorating change, it cannot be effected without subjecting you to certain temporary inconveniences. One monitor has arisen

suggests, and by inference, seems to exhort you, not to adventure on the change, because of the great personal trouble with which it may be attended; will you listen to the suggestion—will you brook the exhortation ? Long have the Hindoos been charged with selfishness and cowardice : will you still perpetuate the grounds

But like every

who

1

of this charge ? Rather, will you not arise, and demonstrate to your accusers that you can acquit yourselves like men ? Will you not arise and disclaim the imputed baseness of not adopting what is beneficial, merely because it may occasion some additional trouble? Will you not arise, and prove that you are capable of forming disinterested resolutions, and achieving generous deeds—deeds of unfading renown? If the great change now proposed cost you some trouble, and subject you to the ordeal of opposition and contumely, will it not confer blessings that cannot be numbered, on millions of your countrymen, down to latest posterity ? And in viewing this magnificent prospect, is there not to you a large and ample reward? Is not the very thought enough to inspire your bosoms with the fire of patriotism, stronger and purer far than the glow of heroic chivalry ? And as future ages reap the golden fruits of your labour, will they not look back with exulting joy to the present æra ; and will not your memories be enshrined, not in “ tablets of marble or of brass,” but in the far more enduring tablets of the hearts of a grateful and enlightened people ?

3. It is asked, “ What guarantee have we for the permanency of the system to be introduced? It may happen that a few years hence, an individual holding an entire sway over the Education Committee will dislike the measure, and re-establish the native characters."

Much more importance is here attached to the Public Instruction Committee than it possesses or deserves. Its influence at best can only extend a certain length. But let that pass.

pass. Times are now changed. Formerly the

Committee acted on the vilest close borough system. Its proceedings were about as well known as those of the court of the king of Timbuctoo in Central Africa. Hence the silence and apparent acquiescence of the Indian public. But once exposed to view, these proceedings have called forth a cry of indignation throughout the land. And if the veriest despot that ever tyrannized over it with his iron sceptre were once moreto attempt to usurp supreme authority, he would be hurled from his throne by the shout of public opinion. If the projected plan succeed now, i. e. if a sufficient number of Europeans resolve to support it, backed by the most influential part of the press ; if it be, on rational grounds, embraced by numbers of intelligent natives; if it take firm root in some of the most popular seminaries in the country,—we have every possible guarantee, of which such a case can admit, that its demolition is beyond the reach of any future Committee, public or private. In the event of general success, no Committee would dare to interpose its veto; or, if it did, its efforts would prove abortive, and its appeals would be drowned amid the expostulations of an incensed community.

If the measure should be approved of by the present enlightened Committee, and its approbation confirmed by a Government pledge not to sanction any future radical innovation or subversion

of it; all good and well. But we repeat it, that the cause is inde, pendent of such approbation or pledges. For, if it be as beneficial to India, as we believe it to be, it will ultimately succeed by the inherent, irresistible force of those advantages which it so liberally offers.

4. It is supposed to be impossible to establish “one fixed and uniform mode of representing the Indian alphabets in the Roman characters ;" because, “there are now several systems, and some stick to this, and some to that, and so on.”

This, we verily believe, to be a most groundless assertion. It involves a most dishonourable insinuation. It is built on the hy. pothesis that numbers of upright men will prefer their own little peculiarities to the securing of national benefits. It supposes, therefore, a compound of pride, selfishness, and infallibility, to the possession of which few, we trust, would have the ambition to aspire. It is, in fact, a libel on the good sense and fair character of many who are not less distinguished as oriental scholars, than as the best friends of the species. The authors of four different systems have been named, viz. Sir William Jones, Dr. Gilchrist, Dr. Carey, and Mr. Yates. The first of these has long siuce paid the debt of nature ; the second is in Europe, far removed from the arena of contest; the third, through the gradual decay of nature, is fast hastening to the close of a glorious career of benevolence; and the fourth, with the genuine feelings of a philanthropist, has voluntarily and cheerfully signified his purpose of abandoning any thing peculiar in his own system, for the sake of the public good, and the establishment of the necessary fixedness and uniformity. A fixed and uniform scheme has, accordingly, been propounded, and it is with no ordinary satisfaction that we refer to the fact, that all who are favourable to the substitution have announced their determination to adhere to it; -and those who are not favourable are not likely soon to trouble us with conflicting representations of the Indian in Roman characters. That, therefore, which has been pronounced impossible, has already been accomplished.

But, continues our indefatigable objector, “supposing a new system to be established by common consent, a few years after, some learned persons may find fault with it and make several alterations in it. In this manner, innumerable difficulties will be thrown in the way of the learner.”

There is nothing perfect under the sun : and if in the time to come, some slight alterations should be proposed and adopted by common consent, such alterations can no more interfere with the general system, or embarrass the minds of the learner, than the substitution of i for e in inquirer, or of o for ou in labor, &c. can be said to throw “innumerable difficulties in the way of the learner” of English orthography.

5. It is urged, that "in case of the substitution of the Roman characters, there must be two sorts of letters, one for printing and

and the other for writing, and that this is a great inconvenience."

If this be an “inconvenience” in a certain sense, it is one that repays itself with compound interest. What is the perfection of a printed character? Is it not a vivid obtrusive legibility ;—such a legibility that an experienced eye could devour, as it were, at a single glance, the contents of a whole page ? In this respect, the Roman character, as exhibited in the most improved modern type, is unimitated and inimitable,

And no doubt much of this perfect legibility arises from the use of capitals. This topic has been thus noticed by the intelligent Editor of the Inquirer : “ We are still thinking of the new scheme to represent the native sounds by the Roman alphabet. One very great advantage will be gained from the capital and small letters with which the latter abounds. The reading of Sanskřit, Bengali, Persian, &c. would not receive an inconsiderable facility if all proper names were to begin with capital initials. This would contribute to render the reading of the native languages much easier than it at present is ; and of course this circumstance is, in proportion to the advantage, favourable to the new plan.” This is a sound practical observation. Let the reader open the first oriental work that comes in his way, and he will perceive its appositeness. From the first page to the last it will be found to exhibit one continued sheet of homogeneous uniformity. Without being over-fanciful we may compare its internal aspect to that of the plains of Bengal. Here are no undulations of soil -no elevations—no “ crags, knolls, or mounds,” to diversify the scene, to serve as boundaries to the lords of the soil, or protrude as land-marks to aid the traveller in acquiring a topographical knowledge of the country. Go where you may, it is one wearisome unvaried sameness-one interminable interchange of flat paddy fields and close dingy jungle. Similar is the appearance of an oriental work. It looks like one dull monotonous mass, without beginning, middle, or end. There is nothing prominent to point out the commencement of new sentences or paragraphs-nothing pro minent to distinguish the proper names of persons, places, objects, or events. Wearied and unaided, the reader travels onward. And if he wish to refer to some particular passage, or the account of some particular person, place, &c. he is left in his search without a clew. "In a work printed in Roman characters, he would, by the aid of the capitals, at a single glance discover what he wanted: in a work printed in oriental characters, he must patiently waste his precious time in plodding through almost every line of every page. Indeed, so great is the inconvenience, that it has been sorely felt; and various have been the attempts, by means of asterisks, &c. to apply a remedy. But, as yet, every attempt has only turned out a ludicrous failure. Have we not then a right to demand of our mighty Philologists, what expedient their imagination, expanded as it must be by its familiarity with the boundless flights of orien

« הקודםהמשך »