NATIONAL LANGUAGE AND NATIONAL CHARACTER.
PREMINENCE OF VERNACULARS.
"OURS is" the poor man's Raj." It is so really such that the truth has already passed into a proverb. The few hate and fear us with and without cause. Let us then bind the many to ourselves by community of language. Let us Vernacularize ourselves and our knowledge for their and our common benefit."
So say Mr. Hogson, with whose paper we have not yet finished. The arguments we summarized in our last number, related to what is contained in his first letter and regard merely the question as to the value of communicating knowledge in the Media of the Vernacular language. The second paper devotes itself to considering the value of the Vernacular literature as a means of intellectual and moral training; and the following letters give additional reasons for the reforms proposed and an outline of the reforms themselves. In the earlier part of these papers, he controverts the view, which is now really antiquated, that the Vernacular literature do not contain sufficient wealth in it to afford moral training, and it requires now no proof that moral distinctions are immutable and universal and there is a consequent harmony in the moral precepts derived by the sages of all nations and of all times – "Have not the mass of mankind," he asks, "in all ages and countries by the general tenor of their lives demonstrated the practical indisputableness of morals? Conscience! Does it speak one Language at Benares and another at Canterbury?" And he further points out that in other departments of life, it is impossible it should not have left its record in its literature, and should have failed "to gather ample materials for the just illustration in some way or other, of most, if not of all parts of the philosophy of life,", seeing how high-dated and literary is the character of Indian Civilization. Anglicists unduly exaggerate the importance of the physical sciences and technical education, seeing what small part in actual life these pursuits will occupy and to what a small fraction of the society, it will be confined. And after all what is the highest object and end in view in acquiring the knowledge of the physical sciences. It cannot be denied that the modern cry in India and elsewhere for science and technical education is all based on that struggle for material existence, for the bare acquiring of power and pelf. Leaving this department alone, our author points out that the people have an all sufficient literature in every other respect and if in many respects, a change in national ideals and sentiments, and ways of life, in the ideas regarding law of population, the philosophy of wealth, the general principle of Jurisprudence and of reformative police are desirable and necessary, then he contends that the best and surest means of effecting this needed change is not by ignoring their past life and past literature which are inseparably intertwined and inter reflected, not by destroying the warp and woof of their national existence, but by a process of preparation, conciliation and compromise, by finding the means, - "of closing that gulf which separates European and Indian affection and intellect – in the use of that literature, which, I shall venture to say, cannot be dispensed with." He thinks that any other attempts to remove the woof and warp of Indian society would disorganize society and "insure our own destruction." And he therefore proposes to use the indigenous literature already existing, by obtaining its countenance and support, real or seeming in regard to the new knowledge and reforms proposed to be introduced.* [* Indian Social Reformers] Here and elsewhere, he insists upon the great necessity that exists in seeking and enlisting the sympathy – a fact by the way which seems entirely forgotten and whose importance, recent events clearly indicate – of the natives of the country, by learning their languages a great honor to themselves in the eye of the oriental as he points out –by speaking to them in their own Vernacular, and he instances the great success which has attended his efforts and the efforts of his missionary friends in this direction. And we make no apology for quoting the following. "Yes! I have spent so many, many years,"* [* Alas! How soon our Europeans friends try to retire and fly off to their Home, and how few try to make this land their Home even in their short stay!] during which I solemnly declare that the only unequivocal voluntary testimonies I have received of influence over their hearts or heads of the people have been owing entirely to some little knowledge on any part of their literature! With this Instrument I have warmed hearts and controlled heads of men utterly impassive to kindness, to reason, and to bribery, and deeply am I persuaded by experience and reflection, that the use of this instrument is indispensable in paving the way for any general, effective and safe measures of educational regeneration."
It is a splendid compliment we pay to the people to master their difficult literature. The memory of better days connected with it elevates their lowliness to something like a communicable distance from our loftiness. Their shy and shrinking affections, to which we have no direct access of any description, may be poured out to us through this indirect and modest channel which carries the whole waters of their hearts, reflecting from its tranquil bosom, every rite and custom, thought and feeling of the land! Hence its influence with the many in our hands."
And we have already quoted the sentence which heads our article, to show its great importance, especially in view to passing events, which indicate conclusively what little success the Government of our country has achieved in enlisting the sympathies of the masses; and how the whole people look upon with suspicion and resent the most innocuous reforms and regulations, however well meant and absolutely essential for their health and safety they might be; and especially in view to the great suspicion with which the English-educated Indians and the Vernacular press is regarded by the Government. It is thought of in some quarters (we do not agree with this view in toto; we only think that English education has made them unfit for everything, for nerve and for action and they have absolutely no control over the hearts and heads of the people who regard them as a mere travesty of the European) that English education for the last half of a century or more has not achieved the glorious results which were expected of it. If so, whose fault is it? Our author thinks that sound knowledge may be accepted and taught and studied for ages without "awaking the strong man" – without stirring the deep waters of a nation's intellect; and that universal experience strongly indicates the entire dependence, in a national sense, of this vivifying power of knowledge upon that complete fusion of its precepts with a nation's familiar experiences and wants* [* The italics are ours.] which neither hath been nor can be without a Vernacular medium." Again, "to enable the people to think, have not the great minds of Europe forced themselves to think with the people? To induce them to think, have not those minds, in all ages, deferred to prejudice? Christ Himself and His favorite disciples were "all things to all men." And finally "It (the use of the Vernacular literature) is necessary – it is indispensable; it sways all interest; it hallows all opinions; and the Babel of 30 centuries resting upon its foundations will stand for ever, in despite of our knowledge unless that knowledge be worked into the People's hearts and undertaking, with the precepts and examples of this omnipotent make way."
In letter No. IV, he makes his suggestions for the end in view;
(1) to institute a Normal College, giving first and second place to the mother tongues of the people, and the third place to English.
(2) to have the alumni equally well versed in both tongues,
(3) to locate therein a set of able men from the West, who shall be competent to give to India, 'the essence of our indisputable knowledge,'
(4) to associate with them other men of this land – English and Indian, who together with them, shall transfer this essence into the vulgar tongues of India in the most attractive and efficient manner,
(5) while both classes, as professors and originators of a great change, shall have under them, a set of pupils, chosen from the best alumni of all our seminaries, for the express and perpetual purposes of diffusing the labors of the professors, in the capacities of teachers and of translators, and of replacing those professors gradually as heads of colleges,
(6) these alumni to have scholarships and to be devoted for their lives as the pioneers of a new literature; bound to translating within the college and to teaching abroad; giving their undivided time and talents to indigenate European lore; and being to the usual educational establishments, a perpetual fount for the supply of good books and good teachers.
These are his suggestions and valuable suggestions they are, and they stand good today as they stood 50 years ago; and he points to the absurdity of expecting from our ordinary alumni of our colleges such work, without furnishing them with the leisure and means of provision for life and to expect that such avocations (as translators &c), will be remunerative without Government aid, until the public has become their patrons and he also points out that the public will never become so, "till a close reference to life and its active aims govern letters and education; * [* We know what rage there is now for school books and annotations and Mr. R. S. Sheppard, with all his failings (poor man) and Mr. R. Vencata Subba Row are the idols of the publishers.] a result we are just (1848) reaching in Europe slowly and painfully. But yesterday, these men of letters and teachers were poor and despised!" He, in another place, asks what is the use of turning out hundreds of graduates, for the sake of regenerating their country and if it us expected that they should do this feeding on air. The struggle for bread occupies now the whole time and energy of our modern graduate, and yet it is complained that he does no good to his uneducated brethren, that he does not try to lift them from their low position and that they do not engage themselves in original work! Don't the few who have so worked paid the penalty with their precious life and with their emptied purse. We heard from our publishers, how the only man who has done anything to improve the Vernacular literature by infusing into it all that is best and valuable in English, has to disburse largely from his own salary month after month, for his publisher's and printer's bills, here and in England. Since these letters were written, none of these proposals have been carried out, except by adopting the Vernacular in the curricula of Government and University studies and now even the Government examinations, solely in Vernacular which qualified men from entering Government posts sometime ago, has been done away with. In the matter of translations, little or nothing has been done; except by producing a few Vernacular text books and readers. There are no foundations for Vernacular scholarship and no Professional chair, and the salaries paid the pandits are the lowest in scale and the few Vernacular Superintendantships here and there have been done away with. There are no University honors for pure Vernacular scholarship. The richer classes are quite unprogressive and illiterate and wanting in public feeling and patriotism, and the rest of the people who care for education are extremely poor. Goddess Saraswathi is said not to dwell with Goddess Lakshmi, being daughter-in-law and mother-in-law. Under these most discouraging circumstances, will it not be surprising if the Vernacular is not despised and dying out. All things considered, it is fir that this question should occupy our minds and those of the respected head of the Educational Department and our foremost countryman. We draw our reader's attention to the suggestions serially enumerated above and to consider its adoption in its entirety or with modification. It will be idle to expect our Government to embark on large schemes involving great financial expenditure in their present embarrassed condition. We would therefore make the following suggestions:-
(1) For the University, to open an oriental faculty, admitting its alumni to High degrees in pure Vernacular literature insisting on a minimum standard of knowledge in English, if necessary, you may call the degrees F. A., B. A., or any other two letters. To admit to University Honorary degrees, men of undoubted native scholarship, on whom the Government is bestowing titles of honor.
(2) For the colleges and schools to provide chairs in Vernacular languages with decent salaries attached to them.
(3) To provide scholarships and foundations in connection with particular colleges and schools, from Government, University and private sources, to enable the best of their alumni to turn out as teachers and translators, providing them with work and means, as soon as their period of scholarship tenure is over and they have fully qualified and equipped themselves.
(4) To aid fully and partially, from any and all these sources, the work of translating and publishing in Vernacular, approved books in English or on approved subjects, both original and otherwise.* [* It will be easy enough to find scholars to translate any book on a technical subject, but who will buy them, with the present curricula all in English. How many books are everyday being translated into English from German and French, by English people themselves? And they pay because of their universal medium in English and not Greek and Latin.]
(5) To add gradually such books into the curricula for the higher degrees in the Vernacular.
(6) To admit to post of pandits, persons possessing such Vernacular degrees.
(7) To make such degrees sufficient for the entrance into Government service which are mostly clerical and up to a pay of Rupees fifty.
(8) To institute some of the examinations in special tests in the Vernacular as was done before.
A friend of ours asked us, that if these things are necessary and are carried out, what necessity there was for adding the Vernacular to the ordinary University curricula, and burdening the students with their special study. But this will be ignoring the whole line of our argument and the past history of Education in this country. We say that Vernacular education is absolutely essential for any and every one and we cannot afford to take away this instrument of knowledge, however imperfectly used, from the large class, of school-going population, having regard to the fact again, that all the reforms proposed now could not possibly be carried out all at once and they may not bear fruit all so soon as we may desire, and that a very large class may not be attracted all at once by the inducements and facilities. Such a thing must all be a work of time; and as such, the question of doing away with Vernaculars from the ordinary curricula need not be entertained for a moment for the present.