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The Macaulay nobody reads: second thoughts and "Warren Hastings".

Differences between Macaulay's writings on Indian education, the compatible 1840 essay "Lord Clive," and the less sanguine 1841 essay "Warren Hastings" have been overlooked. Macaulay's evaluation of Hastings' Indian career and the English national response to it is a likely factor in his inability to finish his History of England. The more familiar "Lord Clive" declares Clive's offenses to have been redeemed by his reform of the civil service. But "Warren Hastings" describes the later governor-general's transgressions as having produced enduring stains on England's record. The essay traces colonial misgovernment to defects in domestic institutions and practices, including ongoing ones. Macaulay aligns himself with Hastings' antagonist Burke, whom he praises for exercizing imagination to grasp that injustice abroad is as disturbing as at home. The account of Hastings' impeachment trial begins with celebration of English culture and institutions but proceeds to describe the audience as shallow, the Peers as biased, and the procedure as compromised. The essayist observes that England still has no adequate means of dealing with great state crimes. Macaulay acknowledges that Hastings will be perceived as flawed by posterity, which in 1833 he had envisioned as including colonial or post-colonial Indians. The fiasco of Hastings' trial, described as within living memory, conflicts with the vision of England Macaulay wished his History to display.


Macaulay's 1835 "Minute on Indian Education" has replaced the third chapter of his History of England as the text by which his most deplored ideas are best known. (1) But other aspects of his reputation have altered less. Walter Bagehot's judgement, three years before Macaulay's death, that "his mind shows no trace of change," remains influential (2: 201). Shortly before Macaulay's Indian concerns assumed greater prominence within colonial studies internationally than his domestic ones retained at home, William Madden asserted that his "basic conceptions" were "already fixed by the time he had reached the age of twenty-five" (127-28), and George Levine observed that "he was throughout his life extraordinarily unchanging" (96). Moreover, in Levine as in Bagehot, unchangeableness was associated with "complacency" (81; cf. Bagehot 2: 213), and the obtuseness of an "inexperiencing nature" (89; quoting Bagehot 2: 201, emphasis in original).

None of these writers considered Macaulay's 1841 essay "Warren Hastings" at length. And even since the paradigm shift, there has been a tendency to overlook "Warren Hastings" or not sufficiently distinguish it from the earlier "Lord Clive" of 1840. Saree Makdisi, for example, defines Macaulay as exemplar of a "fundamental political and epistemic shift" from Burke in discourses of Orientalism on the basis of passages from the 1833 speech on the "Government of India" and the 1835 "Minute" exclusively among Macaulay's writings (117), whereas consideration of "Warren Hastings" as well may be judged to reveal a converging relationship between Macaulay's and Burke's responses to Indian affairs. Patrick Brantlinger, while sustaining the attribution of complacency to Macaulay, considers his essays "on Clive and Warren Hastings" together as not significantly different (79). Uma Satavolu Rau describes the two essays as comparable in the way each "exonorates the colonial agent" without discussing the last two-thirds of the later one (111). Even B. Rajan, while offering more perceptive observations regarding "Warren Hastings" than other writers, does not distinguish between the essays when he claims that Macaulay's candor regarding effects of the British profit motive in India involves the assumption that to "confess one's failings is to put them behind one," though, as I hope to show, the claim is not applicable to the essay on Hastings (184). The endurance of Bagehot's idea of a static and opaque Macaulay helps account for these uncharacteristic relaxations of discrimination by deservedly influential writers: if "Lord Clive" and the earlier parliamentary and bureaucratic texts on India are compatible, how could "Warren Hastings" be significantly different? It is little wonder that Macaulay's final Indian essay has been under-read.

"Warren Hastings," however, to an extent remarkable among Macaulay's essays, is characterized by change--from "Lord Clive" and earlier essays, from the "Speech on Government" and "Minute on Education," and within itself. The differences are related to a substantially less affirmative evaluation of Hastings than was provided for Clive, and a less confident view of the Empire in India and its future than was manifested in the essay devoted to the earlier leader. In addition to their implications for Macaulay's overall contribution to colonial discourse and counter discourse, the changes may be shown to suggest an unrecognized connection between colonial and domestic concerns in Macaulay's writing. "Warren Hastings" should be considered in relation to explanations of why he did not finish his last major project, The History of England. Levine and others attribute the lack of closure to inhibitions about facing the present deriving from extravagant attachment to his sisters and depression after separation from them. (2) Macaulay did express traumatic grief regarding Margaret's death and Hannah's marriage in 1834 (Letters 3:114; 129). But while writing "Warren Hastings" in 1841, he described himself as content to be living at the Albany with Hannah and her husband as near as Clapham (Letters 3: 385). And while Macaulay did not fulfill the intention stated in the "Introduction" to the History to bring his story "within the memory of men still living" (Works 1:1), he did so in "Warren Hastings." The essayist recalls there having during his own early years in Parliament observed the elderly former co-manager of Hastings' prosecution Charles Earl Grey, still alive at the time of writing (Works 9: 529-30). He also identifies his father Zachary Macaulay's colleague William Wilberforce, a trial observer, as one of his own informants (Works 9: 521). The Impeachment of Hastings is the latest English historical event to which Macaulay devotes an extended narrative in his Edinburgh Review essays. A consideration of the essay on Hastings, then, may suggest reasons for not completing the History that concern public subject matter rather than the writer's emotions regarding private relationships.

Examination of the Clive essay's conclusion will help make the Hastings essay's essential differences from it clear. It is not sufficient to describe "Lord Clive" as asserting that its subject's crimes are forgiveable "if we keep such heroism in mind" that he manifested as one of those few Englishmen who subjugated India (Brantlinger 79). Macaulay does declare Clive's achievements in arms and diplomacy to be among his compensating actions. But ultimately it is by "a battle far harder than that of Plassey" that Macaulay describes him as redeeming himself (Works 9: 260). This was his reform of civil service and army abuses by which Englishmen of the Nabob era enriched themselves while abroad. Macaulay repeatedly uses heroic, martial imagery to describe Clive's "dauntless and unsparing war on that gigantic system of oppression, extortion, and corruption" (Works 9: 284-85). Clive's opponents retaliated by initiating an inquiry into his career by a committee of Commons, which, however, noted his errors but concluded that "he had rendered eminent services both to his country and the people of India" (Works 9: 278). Thus Macaulay, agreeing with the judgement of Commons, asserts that the faults of Clive's earlier days "were nobly repaired," the natives' yoke lightened, and the civil service inspired by what one may presume Weber would have considered an exemplary routinization of Clive's charisma (Works 9: 285). "Clive's name stands high on the list of conquerors," the essay concludes, but "it is found in a better list ... of those who have done and suffered much for the happiness of mankind" (Works 9: 285). History will not deny a share of veneration to Clive "the reformer" (Works 9: 285).

"Warren Hastings" abandons the claims in "Lord Clive" that the disgrace of earlier English crimes "has been taken away" by reformations of the perpetrators or the merits of recent administrators (Works 9: 285). The emphatic distinction between early and late standards does continue into the later essay. While describing English misgovernment of Bengal when Hastings was first a member of the council, Macaulay insists upon this difference: "The only protection which the conquered could find was in the moderation, the clemency, and the enlarged policy of the conquerors. That protection, at a later period, they found. But at first English power came among them unaccompanied by English morality" (Works 9: 416). In both essays, Macaulay celebrates the "integrity" of the Indian Civil Service in his own time (Works 9: 285 and 503).

Nevertheless, in direct contradiction of the moral accounting in "Lord Clive," the period between Clive's first and second administrations in Bengal is now described as having "left on the East India Company a stain not wholly effaced by many years of just and humane government" (Works 9: 415-16). Distress produced by the Supreme Court under Chief Justice Impey during Hastings' administration is also declared to have had indelible effects: "the lapse of sixty years, the virtue and wisdom of many eminent magistrates who have during that time administered justice in the Supreme Court, have not effaced from the minds of the people of Bengal the recollection of those evil days" (Works 9: 470). Also, the subjugation of the Rohillas by Shuja-ud-Daula, enabled by Hastings' sale of the English army's services, "even at this day" causes "a bitter remembrance of the great crime of England" among "that noble Afghan race" (Works 9: 439). Nor is it only the resentment of victims that the essayist identifies as enduring: a letter "by a British resident to a British soldier" authorizing torture of the aged eunuchs of the Begums of Oudh "remains on the records of Parliament" (Works 9: 492).

The later Indian essay also differs from its predecessor in expressing diminished confidence that an adequate basis for government of India is provided by English domestic or colonial institutions and practices and the assumptions that underlie them. There is a judgement that the revision of voting rights in the Governor's Council sponsored by Pitt and Dundas was a major improvement (Works 9: 423). But otherwise time, which has not redeemed eighteenth-century English crimes in India, is also seen as not having overcome tendencies toward some kinds of defects that are characteristically English. In its failure to define the limits of the powers it established, exploited by Impey, Lord North's Regulation Act of 1793 represents "a carelessness scandalously common in English legislation" (Works 9: 467).

The effects of remoteness are conceived as more pervasive and persistent than was acknowledged in "Lord Clive." Therein, English functionaries in India fall into bad practices because they are separated by a vast distance from the authority of the Company and the influence of traditional English standards. The problem is seen as solved when a strong emissary representing the will of the Company and the public, Clive, during his second period as Governor-General transports English values and reimposes them on the Company's servants--when thus transported, they work. In "Warren Hastings," however, remoteness affects the English both abroad and at home. Fantasies similar to those that seduced Indian civil servants prior to Clive's reforms are described as having subsequently befuddled the City and Westminster:

Palaces of porphyry, hung with the richest brocade, heaps of pearls and diamonds, vaults from which pagodas and gold mohurs were measured out by the bushel, filled the imagination even of men of business.... It was confidently believed by lords of the treasury and members for the city that Bengal would not only defray its own charges, but would afford an increased dividend to the proprietors of India stock, and large relief to the English finances. These absurd expectations were disappointed.... (Works 9: 427-28)

The result is contradiction within messages to Hastings:

"Be the father and the oppressor of the people; be just and unjust, moral and rapacious."... We by no means accuse or suspect those who framed these dispatches of hypocrisy. It is probable that, writing fifteen thousand miles from the place where their orders were to be carried into effect, they never perceived the gross inconsistency of which they were guilty. (Works 9: 432) (3)

The situation in "Clive" is here reversed; the crimes of an English official in India are fostered not by absence of domestic influence but by its pressure.

Nor is the ignorance promoted by distance automatically dispelled by proximity; the gap in knowledge and understanding affects recently arrived English administrators in India as well. Serious new members of the Council sent out under the Regulating Act appropriately inquired into Hastings' dealings with Chait Singh and the Rohilla War. But they also "attacked the whole fiscal and judicial system, a system which was undoubtedly defective but which it was very improbable that gentlemen flesh from England would be competent to mend. The effect of their reforms was that all protection to life and property was withdrawn, and that gangs of robbers plundered and slaughtered with impunity in the very suburbs of Calcutta" (Works 9: 445). Much of the discord created by the new Council members Macaulay attributes to the extreme arrogance and malevolence of their leader, Hastings' inveterate enemy Philip Francis. But he also describes Francis as one who, "profoundly ignorant of the native languages and of the native character, took on himself to regulate every department of the administration" (Works 9: 448-49).

Among other Englishmen in the subcontinent, remoteness from England generates indifference rather than zeal. Macaulay criticizes the Indian judicial system for the delay and expense he terms characteristic of English judicial process "in spite of modern improvements" (Works 9: 467). These defects are those of the domestic government exaggerated: "English law, transplanted to that country, has all the vices from which we suffer here.... Dilatory here, it is far more dilatory in a land where the help of an interpreter is needed by every judge and every advocate. Costly here, it is far more costly in a land into which the practitioners must be imported from an immense distance" (Works 9: 467). Even if, as "Lord Clive" asserts, Clive reduced exploitation motivated by greed through reforming the civil service, "Warren Hastings" describes the survival of English venality in another way harmful to the Indian people:

No English barrister will work, fifteen thousand miles from all his friends, with the thermometer at ninety-six in the shade, for the emoluments which will content him in chambers that overlook the Thames. Accordingly, the fees at Calcutta are about three times as great as the fees at Westminster Hall; and this, though the people of India are, beyond all comparison, poorer than the people of England. (Works 9: 468)

Bagehot declared that Macaulay's writing revealed little trace of his having been in India, but surely this passage reflects his experience and observation there. Opposition to delay and expense is an important element in Bentham's principles of jurisprudence, which Macaulay praised in "Utilitarian Theory of Government" and hoped to facilitate in India. (4) But this comment on the indifference of men of his own profession, so unlike the "disinterestedness" of the civil service officers praised in "Lord Clive," indicates that at this point he no longer has hope for improvement on this front (Works 9: 285).

Another area of difference between the two essays is in the attitude toward Indians--particularly those of Bengal. Without seeking to extenuate ongoing insensitivities, one may note an increase in expressions of respect. B. Rajan is correct that "Warren Hastings" contains a passage extending the caricature of Bengali "effeminacy" begun in "Lord Clive," (5) but even this ends with acknowledgement of capacity for "a certain kind of courage which is often wanting to his masters.... An European warrior who rushes on a battery of canon with a loud hurrah will sometimes ... fall into an agony of despair at the sentence of death. But the Bengalee" who might passively watch country, home, or family destroyed, "has yet been known to ... mount the scaffold with the steady step and even pulse of Algernon Sydney" (Works 9: 426). Thus Nand Kumar, at his execution contrived by Hastings and Impey, faced the gallows with "unaltered serenity" and "iron stoicism" (Works 9: 453).

More remarkable is the increase in number and urgency of passages eliciting readers' compassion for suffering Indians. The most powerful of such passages in "Lord Clive" concerns effects of the drought of 1770: "Tender and delicate women, whose veils had never been lifted before the public gaze, came forth from the inner chambers in which Eastern jealousy had kept watch over their beauty, threw themselves on the earth before the passers-by, and, with loud wailing, implored a handful of rice for their children" (Works 9: 273). In England,

All men of common humanity were touched by the calamities of our unhappy subjects; and indignation soon began to mingle itself with pity. It was rumored that the Company's servants had created the famine by engrossing all the rice of the country;.... The outcry which was raised against them on this occasion was, we suspect, as absurd as the imputations which, in times of dearth at home, were once thrown ... on the corn factors. (Works 9: 273-74)

Nothing more than genteel sympathy is called for here. The universality of maternal affection notwithstanding, the veils, the specifically Oriental--and gratifyingly thwarted--mode of sequestration, and the presumptively alien (to English ears) strident wails distance the Indian mothers from English readers. Even the degree of compassion that the passage does generate is contained by the warning against the clouding of judgement by excessive concern and the disclaimer of English responsibility.

To examine corresponding passages in "Warren Hastings" is to open the question of the later essay's relation to Burke. Bagehot's observation that Macaulay's "picturesque style" is inherently vulnerable to critics (2: 230) anticipates Sara Suleri's assertion that Macaulay had a "need to turn Burke's sublime into the picturesque" (67). But Suleri gives no example of this transmutation; she does consider the "multitude of ... vivid pictures" that Macaulay describes Burke as forming, and that Macaulay does represent in images that resemble cliches of tourism (Works 9: 513). He provides these, however, to illustrate an early, interior stage in Burke's creative process, not its written or spoken product. It will be more pertinent to consider Macaulay's account of the "evil" that the importation of English law into India could not fail to produce:

The strongest feelings of our nature, honor, religion, female modesty, rose up against the innovation.... Oaths were required at every stage of every suit; and the feeling of a Quaker about an oath is hardly stronger than that of a respectable native. That the apartments of a woman of quality should be entered by strange men, or that her face should be seen by them, are, in the East, intolerable outrages, outrages which are more dreaded than death, and which can be expiated only by the shedding of blood.... Imagine what the state of our own country would be, if a jurisprudence were on a sudden introduced among us, which should be to us what our jurisprudence was to our Asiatic subjects. Imagine what the state of our country would be, if it were enacted that any man, by merely swearing that a debt was due to him should acquire a right to insult the persons of men of the most honorable and sacred callings and of women of the most shrinking delicacy, to horsewhip a general officer, to put a bishop in the stocks, to treat ladies in the way which called forth the blow of Wat Tyler. (Works 9: 468-69)

The universality invoked by "our nature" is a standard by which the English reader's responses are to be judged, not the Indian victims'. However facile the phrase "apartments of a woman of quality" may be, it attempts to foster identification, in contrast with the alienating exoticism of the harem as described in "Lord Clive." The succeeding insults share with the picturesque the characteristic of surprise, but they enliven no common scene more specific (or visualizable) than "our country," and their effects, unlike most considered picturesque, are not due to extended temporal process. (6) The effect achieved in the next paragraph is delayed by the group context of social moralizing in this one, where the combined presence of addressed reader, mentoring narrator, and suffering victims precludes the sense of isolation that Burke considered essential to the sublime. Nevertheless, the ensuing paragraph does convey four definitive elements of Burke's sublime--power, terror, the helplessness of the observer, and the indefineableness of the observed: (7)

A reign of terror began, of terror heightened by mystery; for even that which was endured was less horrible than that which was anticipated. No man knew what was next to be anticipated from this strange tribunal. It came from beyond the black water, as the people of India, with mysterious horror, call the sea.... Its records were kept in unknown characters; its sentences were pronounced in unknown sounds. (Works 9: 469)

Moreover, in the repeated exhortation to "imagine," the essayist takes it upon himself to engage the reader in an activity he describes as exceptionally characteristic of Burke. Herein lies change on another scale, relative to essays and other documents by Macaulay even earlier than "Lord Clive." The description of Burke's mental processes in "Warren Hastings" includes the most affirmative statement of the function of the imagination in Macaulay's writing up to this point. The generally accepted view of Macaulay's idea of the mind is well represented by Madden, who describes as among his "basic conceptions" that
 the imagination, contra Wordsworth and the other Romantics,
 was essentially uncreative, having but two functions--either to
 lie by inventing fictions, or to make more vivid and telling
 truths already known on other grounds.... In place of
 imaginative intuition he proposed the method of induction
 working upon observed facts--the "common sense" reasoning
 used by man from time immemorial--as the single source of
 knowledge in moral as well as physical science. (129) (8)

These terms are applicable to Macaulay's essays prior to "Warren Hastings" but are transcended there. Burke's knowledge of India, "such as certainly was never attained by any public man who had not quitted Europe" (Works 9: 513) was not achievable by the familiar processes of induction and common sense reasoning but only in "the manner in which Burke brought his higher powers of intellect to work on statements of fact, and on tables of figures," which "was peculiar to himself" (Works 9: 513). Reason and imagination, both "higher powers of intellect," interact to produce Burke's knowledge, here attributed to the dual source rather than reason alone. The imagination does "vivify," but simultaneously with reason's operation rather than after truth has already been discerned. The partnership is essential to the complete penetration and organization of the data:

In every part of those huge bales of Indian information, his mind, at once [italics added] philosophical and poetical, found something to instruct or delight. His reason analyzed and digested those vast and shapeless masses; his imagination animated and colored them. Out of darkness and dullness, and confusion, he formed a multitude of ingenious theories and vivid pictures. (Works 9: 513)

An ensuing paragraph devoted to Burke's excesses seems at first likely to join with its predecessor to form a characteristically Macaulay-like paradoxical antithesis regarding imagination. Early in this paragraph Macaulay does write that Burke's "imagination and passions" led him into excess (Works 9: 514). But this is the only occurrence of the word "imagination" in the long paragraph, which as it unfolds deals instead with the initially paired term "passions." Although in the earlier (1831) essay "John Bunyan" Macaulay described Bunyan's mind as being under imagination's "despotic power" (Works 7: 616), in "Warren Hastings" it is "feelings" rather than imagination that Burke's reason "became the slave of" (Works 9: 514). The conclusion of this paragraph is more in keeping with its actual content than the beginning: Burke was "led into extravagance by a sensibility which domineered over all his faculties" (Works 9: 515). Moreover, the elements of sensibility dealt with are not described as produced by Burke's specifically imaginative activity related to the Hastings prosecution or as unique to that event. "Indignation," "personal adversion," "irritable" and "almost savage" temper, "virulence" and "vehemence" are attributed to advancing age, poverty, the hostility of court and public, and diminished influence among predominately younger colleagues (Works 9: 514-15).

Of Burke and his imagination Macaulay also writes that "He had, in the highest degree, that noble faculty whereby man is able to live in the past and in the future, in the distant and in the unreal" (Works 9: 513). This echoes a passage in a letter to Margaret written seven years before while Macaulay was distressed by the marriage of their sister Hannah: "I still retain, not only undiminished, but strengthened by the very events which have deprived me of everything else, ... my power of ... living with the past, the future, the distant, and the unreal" (Letters 3:115). But for all the gratitude Macaulay expresses for his own imagination, he does not call the faculty "noble" until attributing it to Burke. However much he has enjoyed or depended on it in the past, imagination has long been associated by Macaulay with children and primitive or simple people, as in the first of his famous paradoxes in the essay on Milton, "the vocabulary of an enlightened society is philosophical, that of a half-civilized people is poetical" (Works 7: 6) an antithesis which Burke, with his mind "at once philosophical and poetical" (Works 9: 513) transcends in "Warren Hastings," the terms being synonymous with reason and imagination in the account of Burke's mental activity. Most important, Macaulay now perceives imagination, which he had admitted to Margaret had been escapist in his own case, as having been given an active moral and political role by Burke: "India and its inhabitants were not to him, as to most Englishmen, mere names and abstractions, but a real country and a real people.... Oppression in Bengal was to him the same thing as oppression in the streets of London" (Works 9: 513-14). It is the ability to live "in the distant" that is the key. Macaulay perceives Burke's imagination as enabling him to overcome the effects of remoteness that have hitherto prevented Company directors and the English public generally from grasping Indian reality. Accordingly, he chooses to emulate Burke's appeal to the public's imagination in his own accounts of such events as the execution of Nand Kumar, the torturing of the eunuchs, and the incursions of the Supreme Court. However convincing a case one may judge Macaulay to have ultimately made for Hastings' greatness, no reading of the essay should overlook its identification of Hastings' adversary Burke as "the greatest man then living" or Macaulay's sense of kinship with Burke in attempting to invoke a morally adequate imaginative response to oppression (Works 9: 508).

There are also reversals within the essay on Hastings itself. The description of the opening of the impeachment trial, anthologized by Saintsbury, parodied by Joyce, and more recently quoted at length by O'Brien in lieu of any other account, is no doubt the most familiar passage in the essay. (9) Macaulay presents the event as an exemplary occasion for the representation of English greatness:

All the talents and all the accomplishments which are developed by liberty and civilization were now displayed.... The High Court of Parliament was to sit, according to forms handed down from the days of the Plantagenets, on an Englishman accused of exercising tyranny over the lord of the holy city of Benares and over the ladies of the princely house of Oude.... There were gathered together, from all parts of a great, free, enlightened, and prosperous empire, grace and female loveliness, wit and learning, the representatives of every science and of every art.... There the Ambassadors of great Kings and Commonwealths gazed with admiration on a spectacle which no other country in the world could present. (Works 9: 525-27)

One must ask why Macaulay wrote this passage in a way that puts so much of English culture and so many English institutions on trial, and implicitly himself, as career-long spokesperson for them. Apparently his assumption of "success" in "Lord Clive," which represents the Parliamentary committee as adequate to the test of judging Clive, encouraged him to undertake a celebration of Parliament's and the public's adequacy to the more complex task of judging Hastings (Letters 3: 362). To have done so effectively would have been to refute Burke, to whose Jeremiads regarding the consequences if England did not punish Hastings Macaulay seems to have felt it necessary to respond, though he does not mention them overtly. (10) In any case, the elevation of the opening day tableau leads instead to a descent so precipitous that only the power of the myth of an unchanging Macaulay can explain the absence of scholarly discussion of the bathos.

Initially, the tableau attributes moral, intellectual, and political seriousness to audience members both male and female: Gibbon thought of Cicero pleading on behalf of Sicily, and Tacitus denouncing the oppression of Africa; Mrs. Siddons "looked with emotion on a scene surpassing all the imitations of the stage" (Works 9: 527)--and it is to be presumed that she knew it did. Even among ladies of fashion there were those who had exercised political influence. Nevertheless, to this audience the spectacle at Westminster becomes insufficiently unlike those at Drury Lane that they more frequently attend: Regarding Sheridan, "The curiosity of the public to hear him was unbounded. His sparkling and highly finished declaration lasted two days; but the hall was crowded to suffocation during the whole time. It as said that fifty guineas had been paid for a single ticket" (Works 9: 531-32 italics added). This co-manager of the impeachment himself exploits the audience's appetite: "Sheridan, when he concluded, contrived, with a knowledge of stage effect which his father might have envied, to sink back, as if exhausted ..." (Works 9: 531-32). But the sophisticated audience soon loses interest in the complicated subject, as the younger Macaulay had anticipated concerning fashionable readers of Milton's De Doctrina Christiana, which he predicted would "For a month or two ... occupy a few minutes of chat in every drawing room" among people whom it "would not much edify or corrupt," and would then, "to borrow the elegant language of the playbills, be withdrawn, to make room for the forthcoming novelties" (Works 7: 3-4). By July of the first year of the impeachment, the public's "excitement went down fast. The spectacle had lost the attraction of novelty" (Works 9: 532). The remaining business of examinations, financial details, and points of law, however essential for serious consideration of the case, "was not of a nature to entice men of letters from their books in the morning, or to tempt ladies who had left the masquerade at two to be out of bed before eight" (Works 9: 532). The motivation and intellectual ability of the absent audience suffer by comparison with the penetrating and synthesizing researches of Burke described earlier. From this point, the "great procedure" is sparsely attended until the final day, when, the verdict being beyond doubt, a crowd attends merely from "curiosity," and a desire to "see the pageant" (Works 9: 356).

The essay also insists that the trial's length requires criticism of the proceeding itself. It is, indeed, another instance of the delay and expense described earlier, during discussion of litigation in India, as still, "in spite of modern improvements," characteristic of the English legal system, even at home (Works 9: 467). By 1789, it already "was clear that the matter would be protracted to a length unprecedented in the annals of criminal law" (Works 9: 533). And here again, the essayist expresses his commitment to the Benthamite principle that proper legal machinery should "bring the greatest delinquent to speedy justice or relieve accused innocence by speedy acquittal" (Works 9: 534). The Peers, like the audience, are described as insufficiently serious, in the Lords' case contributing to prolongation: "To expect that their Lordships would give up partridge-shooting" for the sake of speedy justice "would be unreasonable indeed" (Works 9: 534). But this flash of bourgeois hostility is less important than the hardly compatible charge regarding the Peers that "no man has the least confidence in their impartiality, when a great public functionary, charged with a great state crime, is brought to their bar. They are all politicians. There is hardly a one among them whose vote may not confidently be predicted before a witness has been examined;" it is not "possible to rely on their justice" (Works 9: 534).

The proceeding itself is also flawed in allowing for an option exercised in Hastings' case:

The result ceased to be a matter of doubt, from the time when the Lords resolved that they would be guided by the rules of evidence which are received in the inferior courts of the realm .... Those rules, at every assizes, save scores of culprits whom judges, jury, and spectators firmly believe to be guilty. But when those rules were rigidly applied to offenses committed many years before, at the distance of many thousands of miles, conviction was, of course, out of the question. (Works 9: 534-35)

This is the most far-reaching of the criticisms of the procedure in its identification of a feature that, unlike the role of the upper house, is not unique to impeachment but links it to the rest of the criminal justice system. The criticisms of the Peers and the process are in the present tense, as is the overdetermined claim they are adduced to support: "In truth, it is impossible to deny," writes Macaulay, repudiating his earlier assertion of the worthiness of the trial, "impeachment, though it is a fine ceremony, and though it may have been useful in the seventeenth century, is not a proceeding from which much good can now be expected" (Works 9: 533). Once again, as in the earlier account of English law in India, the narrative of past events on the Imperial periphery leads to an uncharacteristic acknowledgement of defects that are still present at the national center: the English did not at the time of Hastings' trial and do not at the time of the essay's composition have an adequate institution for Justice "when a great public functionary, charged with a great state crime"--here the governor-general of a colonial possession--"is brought to their bar" (Works 9: 534). If a just verdict on Hastings is to be delivered, it must come from another, higher source: "We do not blame the accused and his counsel for availing themselves of every legal advantage in order to obtain an acquittal. But it is clear that an acquittal so obtained cannot be pleaded in bar of the judgement of history" (Works 9: 535).

In the remainder of the text there are sentences that read in isolation might suggest that the essayist himself aspires to convey a precise assessment of Hastings. But the effect of each is blurred as the essay proceeds. The result is not characteristic of Macaulay's "art of narration" as described by Bagehot: "The principle consists in making the appropriate thought follow the appropriate thought, the proper fact the proper fact; in first preparing the mind for what is to come, and then letting it come" (2: 226). Instead, the ensuing sequence of thoughts and facts produces less clarity rather than more regarding evaluation of the central figure.

After reporting the official verdict, Macaulay writes that

At the commencement of the trial there had been a strong and indeed unreasonable feeling against Hastings. At the close of the trial there was a feeling equally strong and equally unreasonable in his favor. One cause of the change was ... what seems to us to be merely the general law of human nature. Both in individuals and in masses violent excitement is always followed by emission, and often by reaction. We are all inclined to depreciate whatever we have overpraised, and, on the other hand, to show undue indulgence where we have shown undue rigor. (Works 9: 537)

The reader may wonder whether this "general law" has applied to the essayist's own shift from affirmation to misgivings regarding English culture as manifested through the trial in the preceding nineteen paragraphs, or whether it will be overcome during the remaining fifteen.

Regarding the two opinions next reported, the essayist identifies himself with the first but not the second:

It was thought, and not without reason, that even if he was guilty, he was still an ill-used man, and that an impeachment of eight years was more than a sufficient punishment. It was also felt that, though in the ordinary course of criminal law, a defendant is not allowed to set off his good actions against his crimes, a great political case should be tried on political principles, and that a man who had governed an empire during thirteen years might have done some very reprehensible things, and yet might be on the whole deserving of rewards and honors rather than of fine and imprisonment. (Works 9: 537-38)

The phrase "not without reason" applied to disapproval of the length of the trial is not made to cover the disposition to allow services to compensate for faults. Thus that inclination remains associated with public opinion in a phase of unreasonable reaction. Most noteworthy is that the set-off principle, endorsed in "Lord Clive" and restated in the present essay between the narratives of Hastings' career in India and of the trial, is mentioned without endorsement at this point. Instead, most of this long paragraph touches briefly on reasons why people did favor the principle and the inadequacy of those reasons: Hastings' exploitation of the press, the domestic public's naivete in trusting the claims of India hands who praised him, and the worthlessness of written praise by native Indian correspondents. None of this supports the position of Hastings' deserving awards or honors, but that is less disconcerting than the item that concludes the paragraph:

It was said that at Benares ... the natives had erected a temple to Hastings.... Burke's observations on the apotheosis were admirable.... He knew that as they worshipped some gods from love, so they worshiped others from fear. He knew that they erected shrines, not only to the benignant deities of light and plenty, but also to the fiends who preside over small-pox and murder. Nor did he at all dispute the claim of Mr. Hastings to be admitted into such a pantheon. This reply has always struck us as one of the finest that ever was made in Parliament. It is a grave and forcible argument, decorated by the most brilliant wit and fancy. (Works 9: 538-39)

The conclusion of the paragraph thus undermines the earlier statement that "Hastings was beloved by the people whom he governed" (Works 9: 538) and does nothing to support the reported public view of his eligibility for rewards and honors.

There follows a series of five paragraphs regarding Hastings' life after the trial in which details that initially seem affirmative are somehow undercut or qualified. He is described as "safe," but "ruined" by legal expenses and the cost of bribing the press and subsidizing propagandists. Hastings' life-long wish to regain the family seat at Daylesford was accomplished as the trial commenced, but he was imprudently extravagant and ostentatious in restoring the neglected estate. The Directors of the Company wished to confer a substantial reward upon him, but Dundas resisted; a compromise compensation package would have been sufficient if "the retired governor ... had been a skillful manager. But he was careless and profuse" (Works 9: 541). Nor did he obtain the "power and dignity" he had had reason to expect when he returned from India; after the trial he was too old to turn his mind to a new kind of public affairs, and marks of royal favor were blocked by Pitt until Hastings was nearly seventy (Works 9: 541). His only intervention in politics after the trial was "not much to his honor"; his support of Addington versus Fox and Pitt was based on partiality and involved misjudgement or disregard of the nation's need for high ministerial quality during the Napoleonic threat (Works 9: 541).

Hastings "amused himself" with trying to domesticate Indian plants and animals, mostly without success (Works 9: 542). He also wrote polished verses that family and guests are reported to have enjoyed hearing, and which the essayist declares himself glad to have been spared, indicating that Hastings is not one of those imagined mentor figures such as Milton, Hampden, or Johnson in whose circles Macaulay declared he would have liked to dwell in filial discipleship forever. (11) And in offering mock consolation to the "admirers of Hastings" for revealing his vanities and affectations the essayist further dissociates himself from their number (Works 9: 543).

Similarly, the now aged Hastings is described as receiving respect at the time of the renewal of the Company's charter in 1813. His appearances at Westminster and at Oxford were marred only by the refusal of a few former impeachment managers to join in the ovation in Commons. He received marks of royal favor, and statements from the King indicated that more were forthcoming. But the rise and fall pattern of the second half of the essay occurs again: "Hastings now confidently expected a peerage; but, from some unexplained cause, he was again disappointed" (Works 9: 545).

This long, desultory account of Hastings' life after the trial does nothing to help the reader assess his true stature or the perceptiveness or seriousness of the public's or the Crown's views regarding it. Nor does it make Macaulay's opinions concerning these questions clearer. When the essayist now declares that only Westminster Abbey was worthy of containing the remains of the "illustrious accused" (Works 9: 546), the reader may recall that only nine paragraphs earlier Macaulay had paid tribute to Burke's brilliance in assigning Hastings to a Hindu shrine for a fiendish spirit.

Summing up, the essayist lists the major possible grounds for praise so far considered. He rehearses these baldly, without the qualifications provided at mid-point or in the account of Hastings' trial or post-trial years. Some of the items in this summation do not ring true. Any reader of the preceding seven pages of the essay might be expected to balk at the tone of the subsequent claim that, Hastings having been attacked by exceptionally formidable enemies, "after a struggle of ten years he had triumphed" (Works 9: 546), the heroic note seeming inappropriate to a process that has been termed predictable in outcome upon adoption of the rules of evidence and that involved the defendant having stooped so low "as to court the aid of that malignant and filthy baboon ... Anthony Pasquin" (Works 9: 539-40). Similarly, the unctuous attribution of patriarchal venerability to Hastings as one who "had at length gone down to his grave in the fullness of age, in peace, after so many troubles, in honor, after so much obloquy" (Works 9: 546) jars after the so recent account of the pretentious ineffectuality of Hastings in retirement.

The concluding paragraph contains its own ambivalences:

Those who look on his character without favor or malevolence will pronounce that, in the two great elements of all social virtue, in respect for the rights of others, and in sympathy for the sufferings of others, he was deficient. His principles were somewhat lax. His heart was somewhat hard. But though we cannot with truth describe him either as a righteous or a merciful ruler, we cannot regard without admiration the amplitude and fertility of his intellect, his rare talents for command, for administration, and for controversy, his dauntless courage, his honorable poverty, his fervent zeal for the interests of the state, his noble equanimity, tried by both extremes of fortune, and never disturbed by either. (Works 9: 546-47)

There is a question as to how many groups' or individuals' attitudes toward Hastings are being represented. Are "those" who look objectively upon his character and "we" who admire his abilities the same, or at most partially overlapping? Does "we" signify any group or is it the editorial "we" of one? The strength of the essayist's own commitment to the moralistic stance of "those" fluctuates. Having stressed the primacy of "the" two "great" elements of "all" social virtue in which Hastings is deficient, he trivializes the degree of the deficiency through the repeated word "somewhat" (an egregious verbal choice after his own narratives of the Rohilla War and the persecution of the Begums' eunuchs); then he proudly or self-consciously calls attention to his honesty in not disregarding the ethical or humanitarian issues.

But it is clear that for "we" the admiration, though it exists, does not finally subtract from the censure, and that no attempt is being made to assert that it should for anyone else. In the Oxford English Dictionary entry for "set off," the example closest in time to the essay, from W. Bell, Dict. Law. Scot. (1838), defines it as "a counter-claim, which extinguishes or modifies the pursuer's claim." In the final paragraph of "Hastings," the relationship of admiration to disapproval is not a deduction but at most a standoff. The idea of guilt being mitigated or redeemed has been abandoned. (12)

The temporal relationship between "we" and "those" is also provocative. "We" exist at the time of writing; "those" will continue to. The "'judgement of history" (Works 9: 535) that Macaulay earlier predicted would supersede the bar of the House of Lords, turns out to be not the judgement of any particular historian but that of posterity. "We" may dwindle in number or disappear, while "those" may increase as time goes by. "Those" may include colonized or formerly colonized people who in a future state of enlightenment fostered by English culture have come to assess English heroes by what they recognize as being the best English values, which is to say people envisioned in the conclusion of Macaulay's 1833 speech on the government of India as citizens of" the imperishable empire of our arts and our morals, our literature and our laws" (Works 11. 586). "Those" may also include people formerly within the empire who have not assimilated those values. To any such imagined members of posterity, as well as the rest of his readers, the essayist's words cannot confidently be interpreted as saying more than "I don't suppose it will matter to you, but I can't help admiring Hastings' abilities, even if I should not." This is not a repetition of the conclusion of "Lord Clive."

Whether while concluding his essay on Hastings Macaulay perceived the article to be unsuitable as educational reading for future citizens of England's imperishable empire is uncertain; his opinions varied as to whether his essays were literature and thus subject to such judgment. (13) "Westminster Hall in the paper on Hastings," however, is exceptional in his having initially considered it potential material for his History of England itself, which he certainly hoped would consolidate his position as an English writer (Letters 4: 17). But the lameness of the final paragraph of the essay suggests he has lost faith that he or anyone else could honestly write a celebration of Hastings' career or the nation's response to it. Burke declared in his opening Impeachment speech that "public guilt and national ignominy" would result if Hastings were acquitted (Works 9:331). Macaulay does not contradict that prediction in his own account of such atrocities as the torture of the Begums' eunuchs, about which he admits that "even at this distance of time, we cannot speak without shame and sorrow" (Works 9: 491). Nor could Macaulay's capacity to conclude his History of England triumphantly with the passing of the first Reform Bill have been strengthened by his recognition in the essay of the fiasco of Hastings' trial only thirty-seven years before the great event--particularly in view of his consciousness that the institutional and procedural defects he identified as contributing to the 1795 verdict were not altered by the legislation of 1832 or subsequently during his lifetime. (14)

Bagehot, to illustrate his assertion that Macaulay learned nothing from experience, declares that he wrote better about India in his 1833 speech than after he had been there. But Bagehot, like too many later readers, did not consider "Warren Hastings." Whether or not this last of Macaulay's published writings on the British Empire in India should be described as "better" than its predecessors depends on whether the reader considers decrease in complacency an improvement.

Reed College

Works Cited

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Bagehot, Walter. "Thomas Babington Macaulay." Literary Studies. Vol. 2. Everyman's Library #521. London: Dent, 1911. 198-232.

Beatty, Richmond Croom. Lord Macaulay: Victorian Liberal. 1938. Hamden: Archon Books, 1971.

Bhabha, Homi K. The Location of Culture. London: Routledge, 1994.

Brantlinger, Patrick. Rule of Darkness: British Literature and Imperialism, 1830-1914. Cornell UP, 1988.

Burke, Edmund. A Philosophical Enquiry into the Origin of our Ideas of the Sublime and Beautiful. Ed. James T. Boulton. U of Notre Dame P, 1958.

--. The Works of the Right Honorable Edmund Burke. 4th ed. Vol. 9. Boston: Little, Brown, 1871.

Clive, John. Macaulay: The Shaping of the Historian. New York: Knopf, 1973.

Edwards, Owen Dudley. Macaulay. London: Weidenfeld, 1988.

Firth, Charles. A Commentary on Macaulay's History of England. London: Macmillan, 1938.

Gandhi, Leela. Postcolonial Theory: A Critical Introduction. Columbia UP, 1998.

Joyce, James. Ulysses. Corrected Edition. New York: Random, 1961.

Levine, George. The Boundaries of Fiction: Carlyle, Newman, Macaulay. Princeton UP, 1968.

Macaulay, Thomas Babington. The Letters of Thomas Babington Macaulay. Ed. Thomas Pinney. 6 Vols. Cambridge UP, 1974-81.

--. The Complete Works of Lord Macaulay. 12 Vols. London: Longmans; New York: DeFau, [1898].

Madden, William. "Macaulay's Style." The Art of Victorian Prose. Ed. George Levine and William Madden. Oxford UP, 1968. 127-51.

Makdisi, Saree. Romantic Imperialism: Universal Empire and the Culture of Modernity. Cambridge Studies in Romanticism 27. Cambridge UP, 1998.

Millgate, Jane. Macaulay. Routledge Author Guides. London: Routledge, 1973.

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Morison, J. Cotter. Macaulay. English Men of Letters. London: Macmillan, 1889.

O'Brien, Conor Cruise. The Great Melody: A Thematic Biography and Commented Anthology of Edmund Burke. U of Chicago P, 1992.

Otten, Terry. "Macaulay's Critical Theory of Reason and Imagination." Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism 28 (1969): 33-43.

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--. The English Utilitarians in India. Oxford UP, 1959.

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(1) The "Minute" is termed "notorious" by Anderson (91) and is said to represent Macaulay's filtration model of hybridity "most notoriously" by Moore-Gilbert (195). The document is described as "infamous" by Suleri (22 and 33); Gandhi (30 and 44); and Spivak (268). It is labeled both "infamous" and "notorious" by Ashcroft, Griffiths, and Tiffin (63 and 94). Disparaging evaluations of Macaulay's work focusing on Chapter 3 of the History include Morison (170-71); Roberts (13); Beatty (296-97); and Firth quotes and concedes Morison's strictures but emphasizes other aspects of Chapter 3 as more worthwhile (118-19).

(2) Levine (87); Madden (149); Stokes, "Macaulay" (46-50). The strains of separation are acknowledged but situated within a more general decline of health and spirits by Edwards (26-28) and Millgate (68-70).

(3) Bhabha (95) quotes from this paragraph to support a claim that inconsistency was inherent in colonial application of the British code of political ethics itself, as discussed in turn by Moore-Gilbert 119-20. The complete paragraph, however, describes the antithesis not as inevitable but as being between the code and particular messages that Macaulay attributes to the Directors' ignorance fostered by remoteness. Later in the essay, as I hope to show, he asserts that such ignorance can be overcome--though his confidence in the benefit may be diminished by the end of the essay.

(4) As discussed by Stokes, English Utilitarians (219-33); Clive (428 29 and 452-53).

(5) Rajan (181), quoting Macaulay, Works (9: 425).

(6) These attributes of the picturesque are identified by Trott (75-77).

(7) These familiar characteristics are discussed, respectively, in Enquiry (64-70, 57, 131, 58-59).

(8) Madden's statement is compatible with Otten (42) and Weber (216); Neither Otten nor Weber mentions "WH."

(9) Saintsbury (371-74); Joyce (417-18); O'Brien (359-61).

(10) According to Burke, "the credit and honor of the British nation itself will be decided by this decision" (Works 9: 331).

(11) Re Hampden, Works (8:115); re Milton, Works (7: 61); re Johnson, Works (8: 110-11).

(12) In History Chapter 13, Macaulay writes that Viscount Dundee's name is "mentioned with respect by that large class of persons who think that there is no excess of wickedness for which courage and ability do not atone" (Works 4: 127-28). This is quoted by Edwards (146-47) as reflecting Macaulay's differentiation of his opinion of Dundee from that of Sir Walter Scott. I suggest it may also reflect Macaulay's own experience of undertaking and abandoning an attempt to justify Hastings on comparable terms.

(13) On 26 June 1838 Macaulay wrote to Edinburgh Review editor Macvey Napier that "I have written several things on historical, political, and moral questions of which, on the fullest reconsideration, I am not ashamed, and by which I would be willing to be estimated" (Letters 3: 25). On 24 June 1842 after "Warren Hastings" had been published, he wrote to Napier that "I will not found any pretensions to the rank of a classic on my reviews" (Letters 4: 41).

(14) On 20 July 1838 Macaulay conceived of bringing his History down to the first Reform Bill (Letters 3: 252). On 12 July 1841 while "WH" was underway, Macaulay changed his anticipated terminal date for the History to 1714 (Letters 3: 382). On 5 November 1841, a month after completing "WH," Macaulay wrote of bringing the History to the French Revolution, which began six years before Hastings' acquittal (Letters 4: 15).
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