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ART. I. -ALLEN AND MORRIS ON THE HISTORY
1. India, Ancient and Modern, Geographical, Historical, Poli
tical, Social, and Religious ; with a particular Account of the State and Prospects of Christianity. By DAVID O. ALLEN, D.D., Missionary of the American Board, for twenty-five years in India; Member of the Bombay Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society, and Corresponding Member of the American Oriental Society. Boston: John P. Jewett & Co. Cleveland, Ohio : Jewett, Procter, and Worthington. New York : Sheldon, Lampart, and
Blakenham. London : Trübner & Co.; 1856. Pp. 618.
Madras : Printed and published for the Madras School-
INDIA presents an attractive yet dangerous field to the historian. Its historical seems vaster than its geographical area. Its mythological rival its geological periods. Amid a monotonous sameness, there is a variety, which makes the description of one part disappoint those acquainted with another. Narrative and descriptive statements scarcely ever rise to the level of reality ; yet to European ears they sound strangely of romance, and this romantic tone is not caused so much by any extravagances of
VOL. V.-NO, I.
the writers, as by the imagination of the readers. India is a name associated with fable, to the wildness of which there is no limit and no parallel. Hence springs a feeling that its modern as well as ancient history, and even its topography, should be read in the light of myth and romance.
Why it is that almost every one who feels the impulse to enlarge, if not enrich, our literature by a volume on India, should set about re-writing its history, is a question we pretend not to solve. Is it because the unsatisfactory nature of its history is felt? Is it that each hopes to redeem ancient India from the everlasting gloom of monster gods, immeasurable eras, and geographical absurdities? Do they forget that some of the foremost in the walks of Indian Antiquities have pronounced her destitute of history? or that men grown hoary in the examination of genealogies and inscriptions, have given their opinion that nothing of any value remains to be elicited ? Be this opinion sound or not, still, out of all that Societies and savans have achieved, the ascertained facts are few and far between. The dove in her search finds so few points of safety on which to rest her wearied wing, that she may well turn with panting desire to the less boastful, but more solid ground of inspired and of classic history.
In judging of many such cases, we doubtless make large allowance for an author's circumstances as directing his aims. . Our transatlantic historian may have found the current works on India but little known in the Western World, and may have set himself to supply a desideratum. Hence, without meeting anything more attractive, or any more effulgent historical light than we had previously beheld in Mill, Murray, and others, we can well admit that the author may have done his country a service, in presenting a plain and smooth, though somewhat unanimated and repetitive copy, of the pictures that have been many times reproduced to the British public. As we presume the author's ambition may not have risen higher, so we hope he will feel no disappointment. We have no wish to disparage his labours ; and we must remind our readers that though the weighty part of his book is historical, the latter part of it, as will be seen, treats of numerous topics respecting the present state of Indian society, and thus secures a large amount of matter of varied interest.
Our Madras author seems to have had a distinct object in view, apart from any ambition of authorship. His performance is a school-book, -as such printed and sold. This must have checked any tendency to write currente calamo; and the result has been
The authors' objects ; commencement of their works.
the condensation of the leading facts of Indian history, during the Mohamedan and English periods, into the compass of less than three hundred pages. Finding his concise style to flow easily on the whole, the reader may lay down the little book, as we did, with more satisfaction than if it had been twice the size. Commencing with little promise, and aiming at nothing lofty, the author has made a good and useful contribution to the cause of education.
Etymology may be often ingeniously, but to little purpose, expended on proper names. We pretend not to say
how far any one has explained the word Hindu, except that it is the proper name of a people, as are Chinese, Egyptian, English, and other names. Whether the Sinim, mentioned by Isaiah, be China or India, or both together, is a question. But Dr. Allen has made one of the least successful attempts to reduce the name “ Hindu' to a significant root. He tells us “it is from a Persian word sig
“ nifying black.” What Persian word ?
What Persian word? He will find only what is really the proper name Hindu itself, -as if the word 'Moor, a black, were taken to mean black in English. With as much propriety he may say
Abyssinian” or “ Mauritanian” means
Mr. Morris has indulged in no more than half a page when stating what India was previous to the Persian and Grecian invasions. Yet in that concise statement, he has assigned a cause for India's lagging behind in the march of national improvement, which appears by no means tenable" This was because her people have for the most part been peaceable, quiet (italics ours) and inactive, without strength either of mind or body.” With the latter part of the statement we do not quarrel. But if peaceableness and quietude can be truly predicated of the ancient Indians, what mean their vast Epics,—the Mahabharat, or great war epic, and the Ramayan or Indian Iliad? And what means the extinction of the whole Kshatrya caste by Purusha Ram ? And what mean Manu's laboured directions to kings, as to the maintenance of their armies, such as to make a desert of twenty miles in radius round their capitals, that the enemy, from want of forage, may be unable to approach? Why does he make it a maxim that a king's peculiar duty is “conquest"? In a
” word, what means the military caste? Surely this tells more significantly of a martial disposition than any modern standing army can do. True, they entered not on foreign conquest,-foreign to the collection of countries
India. No, they had not the powers for that, and their religious system made it a pollution for them to go beyond it. But now, apart from all poetic and mythological authorities, what means the comparative paucity of India's population in all periods? Paucity! has she not fifteen or twenty crores? We will admit, with Dr. Allen, that “ India had probably as large a population 1500 or 2000 years ago, and even before that time, as for the 200 or 300 years past, since it became known to the nations of Europe." But what follows? Is it not a marvellous fact, that in a peaceful country two or three thousand years should simply leave the population stationary, while many other countries, supposed to be much more addicted to war, have vastly augmented their population ?—while Britain, for example, with all her wars, has approximated thirty millions, and become the mother of nations rivalling, or soon to rival, her in numbers? Assume that Dr. Allen's statistics are perhaps as near the truth as any other that the area of India is 1,280,000 square miles; population 150,000,000. This gives for the average of all India, only 117 to a square mile; and this in a great continental tract much more accessible to primitive humanity than the remote and partly insular lands of the West. Why should the population of the fertile province of Katiawar, as appears from Colonel Jacob's able Report, be only 74 to the square mile, while the British Isles, even after Ireland's devastating famine of 1847, and Scotland's paucity, contain an average of 229 to the square mile? If we take no account of the wars celebrated in the Hindu legends, we shall be necessitated to suppose infanticide, parricide, and other forms of murder to have prevailed far beyond any extent hitherto supposed. It is no answer to say that the average of all Europe, including Russian steppes, Aratic wastes, Alpine regions, &c., is only 70 to the square mile; for that of all Asia is only 25 to the square mile. We dismiss as unsustained the allegation of the peaceful character of the ancient Hindus. It is now an admitted fact that the Hindus proper emigrated from the West and North, and drove the aborigines to the mountains and forests, where, in villages and detached handfuls of people, they are still found,—a very peaceful proceeding truly!
Another assumption, that might require to be received with at least much explanation, is the high estimate sometimes made of Indian civilisation, whether ancient or modern. Mr. Morris, in limine, informs his readers that "the little we do know (of ancient India) proves that the nation was in very early times prosperous and rich, and highly civilised." We should like a definition of “ci
vilisation." Here is that of Webster: "Reclaimed from the savage or barbarous state instructed in the arts: polished: cultivated." This helps us but a little way; for-not at present to cavil at the word "reclaimed," as if Noah and other patriarchs had been at first savages, we must know what a writer means by "barbarism," what and how many are the "arts," what the nature of the polish and cultivation," before we can admit his description of high civilisation as applicable to any people. A few points we dispute not if ingenuity in weaving with rude machinery-the knowledge of ship-building, in a very inferior style, and without natural science, the rude pottery of the country, with no porcelain, and no glass, the construction of costly buildings, with exceedingly little architectural skill, as exemplified in the mountain temples, and of houses ill-lighted, ill-ventilated, with dangerous stairs, surmounted by trap-doors, with walls exquisitely plastered but daubed with barbarous paintings, the imperfect cultivation of a circle of land round each village, with rude implements of culture and irrigation, the use of bullocks instead of horses, even by a people who worship the genus bos, and the almost total want of roads and canals,-if these be unequivocal marks of high civilisation, we grant it to India ancient and modern. If the cleansing of the teeth in the open air, the almost total exposure of the person of bávas, sáddhus, fakirs, and numerous other monks, the adorning of naked children with "pearl and gold," naked feet and covered crowns, daubed foreheads and tattooed breasts, ears and nose dragged far from nature's formation by heavy pendants, hook-swinging and rigid arms, hair many feet, and nails many inches, in length,-if such things, numerous and popular, be refinement and cultivation, then India verily casts Europe into the shade now; and Manu amply shows that in his days she was equally high in such refinements. If the holding of woman and of sudras universally in grinding slavery, the enactment of tortures and obscene* punishments and mutilation, the punishment of a soni stealing gold, by cutting him piecemeal with razors, superstition of all forms, as witchcraft, omens, charms, and the belief that disembodied souls are malignant beings tormenting their former dearest friends-if these and many such things be civilisation, India will stand much higher than England. Certain points of civilisation, in grotesque combination with the above, are granted. Of these the chief is the Sanskrit language,-rich in its flexure for compounds, in its prosodial rules, and grammatical
* Manu, chap. ix. shlok 237-8, 282, &c.