Thomas Babington Macaulay
See also Speech on the Government of India .
“I believe that no country ever stood so much in need of a code of laws as India; and I believe also that there never was a country in which the want might so easily be supplied. I said that there were many points of analogy between the state of that country after the fall of the Mogul power and the state of Europe after the fall of the Roman empire. In one respect the analogy is very striking. As there were in Europe then, so there are in India now, several systems of law widely differing from each other, but coexisting and coequal. The indigenous population has its own laws. Each of the successive race of conquerors has brought with it its own peculiar jurisprudence: the Mussulman his Koran and the innumerable commentators on the Koran; the Englishman his Statute Book and his Term Reports. As there were established in Italy, at one and the same time, the Roman Law, the Lombard Law, the Riparian Law, the Bavarian Law, and the Salic Law, so we have now in our Eastern empire Hindoo Law, Mahometan Law, Parsee Law, English Law, perpetually mingling with each other and disturbing each other, varying with the person, varying with the place. In one and the same cause the process and pleadings are in the fashion of one nation, the judgment is according to the laws of another. An issue is evolved according to the rules of Westminster and decided according to those of Benares. The only Mahometan book in the nature of a code is the Koran; the only Hindoo book, the Institutes. Everybody who knows those books knows that they provide for a very small part of the cases which must arise in every community. All beyond them is comment and tradition. Our regulations in civil matters do not define rights, but merely establish remedies. If a point of Hindoo law arises, the Judge calls on the Pundit for an opinion. If a point of Mahometan law arises, the Judge applies to the Cauzee. What the integrity of these functionaries is, we may learn from Sir William Jones. That eminent man declared that he could not answer it to his conscience to decide any point of law on the faith of a Hindoo expositor. Sir Thomas Strange confirms this declaration. Even if there were no suspicion of corruption on the part of the interpreters of the law, the science which they profess is in such a state of confusion that no reliance can be placed on their answers.”
Lord Thomas Babington Macaulay: Speech on the Government of India , July 10, 1833.
Lord Macaulay (Thomas Babington Macaulay) was born on October 25, 1800, and died on December 28, 1859.
Zachary Macaulay, who had worked in Jamaica as a young man and had witnessed at first-hand the way slaves were treated, became active in the attempts to make the trade illegal. He became editor of the Christian Observer and in 1823 joined with others to form the Anti-Slavery Society.
Thomas was an extremely intelligent child he began writing poems about historical characters at the age of eight. Thomas Macaulay went to Trinity College, Cambridge in October 1818. Macaulay became friends with other students who held progressive political views including Lord Grey and Charles Austin. Macaulay became very interested in utilitarianism and was influenced by the ideas of Jeremy Bentham and Joseph Priestley. One of Macaulay’s campaigns at university was to bring an end to the rule that forbade a discussion of public affairs at the Student Union later than those of the last century.
Macaulay became a lawyer after he left university. He continued to be interested in politics and in 1824 received publicity for an impressive speech at a meeting of the Anti-Slavery Society. Macaulay also became a regular contributor to the Edinburgh Review, a journal formed by Whig politician, Henry Brougham. Lord Lansdowne was impressed by Macaulay’s articles and in 1830 offered him the seat of Calne, a pocket borough under his control.
On 2nd March 1831, Macaulay made a speech in support of the parliamentary reform measures being proposed by Lord John Russell. It was claimed that Macaulay’s speech was one of the most impressive heard in the House of Commons. Even Sir Robert Peel who was leading the campaign against the Reform Act, praised Macaulay’s contribution to the debate.
He arrived in India (Madras) on 10th June 1834 as a member of the Supreme Council of India. William Bentinck was the then Governor General. He returned to England early 1838, and resumed his writing career there. Macaulay was in India, thus, only for nearly four years, but he was destined to impact the lives of millions of Indians forever.
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