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In close imitation of the mighty Lama of the West, he has exercised his right as Censor of heretical pravity. Had this Madras Censor been the illegitimate progeny of some fiery Celibate—the spurious offspring of an illustrious Inquisitor—the magni Jovis excrementum, we should not have been surprised at his conduct, but it is lamentable to find an English Protestant gentleman assuming arbitrary sway over consciences.
The Censor of heretical pravity at Madras prevented the printing in Tamul, the Prayer Book of the Christian Unitarians, (which was a translation of the Liturgy of the Church of England with the omission of the Trinitarian Forms,) and thereby deprived them, to the extent of his power, of the means of carrying on their public worship. Thus he surpassed the Inquisition. The Doctors of the Holy Office prohibited free discussion on religious topics, but, except in the worst times, they never prevented any sect from publishing their Prayer Book. With equal justice the Censor of heretical pravity might suppress the works of the Presbyterians, of the Methodists, and of the Roman Catholics—the Koran, the Shastres, or the writings of any other sect disagreeing with that infallible judge of orthodoxy. A dangerous assumption of power this, ill suited to the spirit of the times, and standing in odious contrast with the tolerant principles which characterize the Hindoos. The Censor of heretical pravity at Madras may consider that the Unitarians are not orthodox Christians. That was matter of opinion.* Perhaps no sect that ever existed might be orthodox to the letter of the law, or according to the notions of a Licenser. Be they orthodox or not, Priestley, a zealous patron of that sect, was one of the most powerful defenders of Christianity at a time when it was so rudely attacked by Paine and others. On whatever side we view this subject, the Censor's conduct appears equally unjustifiable. As a Protestant, he was not warranted in suppressing the Prayer Book of the Unitarians. For the Protestant holds that the Scriptures are the only rule of faith, and this rule is to be interpreted by the exercise of private judgment. As an Englishman, whose constitution is founded on the wise principles of religious freedom, he had no more right to suppress the Prayer Book of this sect, than he would have had to suppress the Old Testament of the Jews, or the Institutes of Menu of the Hindoos. As a religious man, looking to the conversion of idolatrous nations to the pure worship of God, the Censor might have had sufficient penetration to discover that it could only be effected by education and discussion; and that the Unitarians were, of all sects of Christians, the most likely to effect that object. Wilkins, speaking on this subject, says, that " the most learned Brahmins are Unitarians according to the doctrine of Krushna; but at the same that they believe in but one God, an universal spirit, they so far comply with the prejudices of the vulgar, as outwardly to perform all the ceremonies inculcated by the Feds, such as sacrifices, ablutions, &c." Like the Hindoos, the Unitarians profess to be pure theists. The marked difference between them is, that the former do not believe in the divine authority of the Jewish and Christian Scriptures.
* Bishop Warburton, during a debate in the House of Lonh, being asked by a Peer to define the terms Orthodoxy and Heterodoxy, which had frequently occurred, replied Orthodoxy, my Li-rif, is Ib; doxy, and Heterodoxy is your Lordthip's doxy.
Some years since the Baptist missionaries suffered from the same spirit of persecution. They were prevented from settling at Calcutta. They then established themselves in the vicinity, at the Dutch settlement of Serampore. There they have ever since been engaged in acts of benevolence, and have devoted from their own funds upwards of .£50,000 to charity ; and especially to that most comprehensive charity, the promotion of general education. As for converts, they make few or none. A Free Press is the only English missionary which laughs at and reasons with fanatics, and, by degrees, wins over their followers to the side of truth.
"The conduct of our lives, and the management of our great concerns, will not bear delay."—Locke.
The great delay of justice in British India was an evil of the greatest magnitude. The Court of Directors, speaking on this subject, observe, that "to judge by analogy of the courts in Europe, they would be induced to think so great an arrear would scarcely ever come to a hearing. We should be sorry," they add, "that from the accumulation of such arrears there should ever be room to raise a question, whether it were better to leave the natives to their own arbitrary and precipitate tribunals, than to harass their feelings, and injure their property, by an endless procrastination of their suits, under the pretence of more deliberate justice." To these delays a Judge of Circuit ascribes numerous commitments for breaches of the peace. "Since by protracting for years the decision of suits, it frequently drove the suitors to despair, and induced them to run the risk of taking justice into their own hands, by seizing the object in dispute, rather than to await the tardy issue of a process which threatened to exceed the probable duration of their own lives." These delays were noticed by the House of Commons, ably detailed in the Fifth Report, and exposed by the masterly pen of Mr. Mill.
In consequence of these discussions, a system of native
agency has been established, which has relieved the files of the courts of the arrear of business, and the grievance to a great extent has been remedied. There are, however, other delays of vast injury to the public service, unknown to the Legislature, to him who framed the Fifth Report, and to the great historian of British India. In the silence which pervades despotism, especially where it asserts its influence over the mind, as under the Madias Censorship, there is an endless catalogue of wrongs that never come to the knowledge of the Government or the people. Among others, there are the delays of office.
The present Censor of the Press at Madras was formerly Military Secretary. The duties of that office hung heavy on him. Notwithstanding his great industry, it was feared by the army that the time required to settle all the arrears of business, then on his file, threatened to exceed the probable duration of human life, especially in a climate where, during the years 1817 and 1818, one fourth of the officers had actually died. To obtain from the Military Secretary an answer to a common note, often required as much paper, ink, and time, as the decision of a deep chancery suit. The case of Captain Monteith, a Madras officer of Engineers, employed by the King of Persia, will shew the rate at which the worthy Secretary's business proceeded. The Captain in an evil hour wrote the Secretary a letter. For three long years he was kept in a state of feverish suspense, and he continued from time to time, but in vain, to solicit an answer. Meanwhile the learned Secretary brooded over the papers in silence, and his patience triumphed. Off started the active soldier from the lofty Caucasus for Madras. On the day of his arrival there, he received an answer, and