Previous Index Next
Page 147
(previous) (Page 000147) (next)

two independent powers, the one judicial, the other political; and,

with a carelessness scandalously common in English legislation,

had omitted to define the limits of either. The judges took advan-

tage of the indistinctness, and attempted to draw to themselves

supreme authority, not only within Calcutta, but through the
whole of the great territory subject to the Presidency of Fort
William. There are few Englishmen who will not admit that the
English law, in spite of modern improvements, is neither so cheap
nor so speedy as might he wished. Still, it is a system which has
grown up among us. In some points, it has been fashioned to suit
our feelings; in others, it has gradually fashioned our feelings to
suit itself. Even to its worst evils we are accustomed; and there-
fore, though we may complain of them, they do not strike us with
the horror and dismay which would be produced by a new griev-
ance of smaller severity. In India the case is widely different.
English law, transplanted to that country, has all the vices from
which we suffer here; it has them all in a far higher degree; and
it has other vices, compared with which the worst vices from which
we suffer are trifles. Dilatory here, it is far more dilatory in a
land where the help of an interpreter is needed by every judge and
by every advocate. Costly here, it is far more costly in a land into
which the legal practitioners must be imported from an immense
distance. All English labour in India, from the labour of the
Grovernor-General and the Commander-in-Chief, down to that of
a groom or a watchmaker, must be paid for at a higher rate than
at home. No man will be banished, and banished to the torrid
zone, for nothing. The rule holds good with respect to the legal
profession. N 0 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 of Westminster Hall; and this,
though the people of India are, beyond all comparison, poorer than
the people of England. Yet the delay and the expense, grievous
as they are, form the smallest part of the evil which English law,
imported without modifications into India, could not fail to pro-
duce. The strongest feelings of our nature, honour, religion,
female modesty, rose up against the innovation. Arrest on mesne
process was the first step in most civil proceedings; and to a native
of rank arrest was not merely a restraint, but a foul personal in-

Previous Index Next