The Restoration of the Peasantries

With especial reference to that of India

by G.T. Wrench

"Only that is good for a nation which comes from its own core and from its own seed, without aping of another. For what is beneficial to one people at a certain historical stage, may perhaps show itself as poison to another. All attempts to introduce foreign novelty to a people in whom a need for the same is not deep within its heart are foolish, and all devices with this revolutionary intention are without success; for they are without God, who holds Himself aloof from such blundering."

-- Goethe's Talks with Eckermann, January 4th, 1824.

Chapter 1

British and Native Systems of Government in India

As a living being, man's first object is to preserve himself, and therefore he intuitively values his accustomed means to that end more highly than he does the means by which differing peoples strive for a like aim. This is his subjectivity. His good is the good. His customs are better than those of others. His country is better than others. His laws and his outlook generally are sound. The framework in which his own particular life is set is made admirable in his eyes because it is his life that is set in it.

Hence, when his capacity leads him to dominate other peoples, he carries with him this subjectivity. He believes that what is attached to himself is superior to that which he meets in the strange country. Then, if he is a man of good intentions, he feels it incumbent on him to give to those other peoples his good, which, compared to their superstitions and habits, is the good. More particularly must this be so at a time when scientific invention has, in many respects, tremendously enriched the world and he belongs himself to the nation which has taken the lead in this invention.

His good then takes on proportions which are almost superhuman, certainly superhuman compared to the human achievements of primitive peoples and previous centuries. So there comes to be one settled purpose to his life upon its earnest side of good intent, the furthering of progress, to give such practical help as he can to the rapid transition of a people from the old to the new. The speed of progress has been and is so prodigious, the material successes are so stupendous, that he forgets to note the trail of uprooted customs and wrecked lives that is left. Only when these begin to clog the wheels of progress, when they accumulate upon the ways, when they in their wastage begin to threaten a breakdown, does he feel the impinging of doubt upon his buttressed faith. Only when wars, revolutions, slumps, failures, bankruptcies, and other disasters are recorded in his daily press, does his mood of faith change, and he begins to wonder if, after all, what he bestowed upon other peoples in the intoxication of his strength, will really prove in the course of time for their ultimate good. Such questions must have arisen time and again in the minds of many Englishmen -- and especially in the recent years of Reform -- when concerned actually or imaginatively with the teeming peoples of India.

Fortunately such questions have forced themselves upon many great Englishmen throughout the period of their close connection with India, and so one is able to gather, as the generations pass, the opinions of men of objectivity, that is, men who were able to form opinions as little influenced as possible by their own desires and their own prejudices.

One of the greatest objective minds amongst public men of the last century was that of Lord Salisbury. Lord Salisbury did not believe that imposing things on others for their good was necessarily good. He believed that there was something deeper, something more personal and more related to time in a people's good, and so on occasions, from his objective recess, so to speak, he flung questions like bombs into the proud procession of progress.

One of these was on May 24th, 1867, in the House of Commons. He was then Lord Cranborne and in the last year of his membership of the Lower House. At the time when he asked the question, he had but recently resigned from being Secretary of State for India in Lord Derby's Cabinet. He was, he wrote to a friend, near to abandoning public life for the reason that "his opinions were of the past." I do not think that, with the one exception of Disraeli, such an obstinate questioning would have occurred to any other member of the House of Commons, which then lodged the uttermost success of an unparalleled period in its midmost career. Lord Salisbury felt himself forced to ask it, and it led to one of the most valuable and interesting self-searchings in the history of the Government of India.

The question he put to the House was whether a number of small, well-governed Native States in India would not be more conducive to the political and moral advancement of the people than the British Government. He did not deny the British mission to civilize, but he certainly demurred to the wholesale condemnation of that native system, which, though it would be intolerable to a people of British habit, nevertheless, having grown up amongst the people subjected to it, had a fitness and geniality which compensated in some degree for the material evils which its rudeness often induced.

The question of the recent Secretary of State for India was sent to the first Viceroy, as the head of the government of British India was termed after the Mutiny, Sir John Lawrence, who instituted an enquiry to thirty leading British officials in India. The result of the enquiry was printed by order of the House of Commons, 25th February, 1868, under the title of "Correspondence respecting British and Native Systems of Government in India."

This correspondence must be almost unique amongst state papers on India. The setting of one system against another constitutes its exceptional character. It should exhibit a valuable consideration of the first principles which inspire the systems. Actually such a consideration is implied rather than stated in the correspondence. British officials were not then, nor are they now, given to the discussion of first principles, but are rather concerned to limit their answers to questionnaires to the facts and practical conclusions of their own experience. Nevertheless this correspondence does mark a halt in the course of official routine and action. It is unique in that it causes the officials, like artists standing back from their pictures to view them as a whole, to stand back from their multitudinous duties and view their picture as a whole.

The time of Lord Salisbury's question, it must be noted, was the post-Mutiny period. The immediate pre-Mutiny period had been one of the rapid westernization of India, as seen in the spread of railways, telegraphs, education. It was also a time of such continued annexations and spread of the British "Chakravartin" or supreme monarchy, more particularly under Lord Dalhousie, that it must have seemed as if the whole of India was destined to a form of rapid anglicization. In the belief that the Mutiny was a revolt against a foreign civilization, British post-Mutiny policy became cautious and moderate; particularly no further annexation of the territory of Native States was allowed; only a general supervision of their governments was maintained, and carried out by such officials as those selected to reply to the Viceroy's questionnaire.

The replies of the officials have a general resemblance to each other, as would be expected. The writers were a body of Civil Servants trained to certain principles of duty and conduct, to which standards they were expected to adhere. It was by these standards that they tended to measure the rulers of the Native States, who, within certain limits of established custom, were free to rule according to their personal wills. Consequently the officials found that, in comparison with British India, the Indian-governed States exhibited religious intolerance, financial confusion and corruption, intrigue and distrust amongst ministers, and sometimes outrages by those in authority upon the people such as seizure of women or of personal property. The facts were definite and the officials drew the conclusion that British methods of governing were definitely more equitable than those of the Native States.

That the native system of that time "would be intolerable to people of British habit," Lord Salisbury already knew. It was even intolerable to many of its subjects as was shown by their migrations into British territories. Indeed, Lord Salisbury would have received no answer that justified his question, had it not been that Sir Richard Temple, of Hyderabad, Deccan, was one of the officials who were questioned. Sir Richard replied to Lord Salisbury as one objective man replies to another, as rare men, that is, who understand one another.

Lord Salisbury had suggested that the native system of government, in spite of defects obvious to the British, might, nevertheless, be more suitable and congenial to the natives than that of the British. Yes, replied Sir Richard, in many ways that is so. To start with, however, it had to be made clear that, after the fall of the Moghul Empire, native rule had deteriorated and in many parts of India had become absolutely bad. But, in course of time, improvement had set in, and, at the time of the enquiry, in better ruled Native States, such as Bhopal, Scindia, Mysore and others, the native system of rule was more pleasing and genial, on the whole, to the Indians than was that of the British. Further, it must be remembered that the feeling and attitude of the natives to the British rule was relative; they liked or disliked it according to what they were in life.

The classes which were partial to British rule were those who suffered most from capricious native rulers and got fair treatment under the British. In Native States, for example, in the neighbourhood of the powerful and avaricious, rich commoners had to be very careful not to display their wealth, for to display wealth was to invite plundering. Under the observation of such men of power, it was, indeed, advisable to follow the example of the weaker animals of the adjacent jungle and be as much twilight animals as possible, so as to avoid conspicuity. Anything conspicuous was like an ermine's fur, one might be skinned for it.

In British India it was different. There it was safe to enjoy the wealth one had. So the more urban classes, the business men, the large and small merchants, the bankers and capitalists, the traders and carriers "do greatly prefer our rule to any other they have known." Similarly, the newer, mainly urban, intellectual classes, though they carped at and criticised the British, were in favour of their rule; indeed, in Native States they did not exist at all. Large landowners and even certain independent princes liked the British rule because it brought peace and security. These same qualities of peace and security also provoked hatred. The adventurers, men of restless ambition and capacity, to whom the disorder of the post-Moghul period brought opportunities of attaining power through boldness and courage, as well as their hangers-on, felt cooped up, cramped, and shut out from all chance of advancement under the British rule, so they hated it. So also did the priests, who rightly saw religion endangered by the British paramountcy and the introduction of foreign ways of thought.

Lastly, the mob, the canaille, not partial to any government, hated in particular the disciplinary severity of the British to their type.

What of the great mass of the people, the agriculturists and village craftsmen? Sir Richard testified that "the members of the village communities of all Northern India, the village proprietors of all central India, and the ryots [peasants] of all Southern and Western India (residing) in our territories, on the whole, and with certain and occasional exceptions, decidedly and undoubtedly prefer our rule to any other."

Such, then, was the attitude, according to Sir Richard Temple, of the mass of the Indian people, the people on the land, towards British rule in the early post-Mutiny period. It was definitely favourable. The reason was greater protection and certainty. For example, the official who replied from Kandeish stated that the peasant's taxes were not only "heavy, but they were uncertain, varying from year to year, and composed of many different items, and were nearly equalled by additional illicit exactions." Moreover, the taxes generally flowed only one way, from the peasants to the ruler. Except that the peasants were exempted from military duty, little or nothing was returned to them in the way of public benefits, such as roads and bridges, which now began to appear under the British. Similar uncertainty with regard to their holding of the land in Native States was, under the British, changed to security by the grant of fixed tenures of land for a definite period of years.

The outlook for the peasants, under the widening British influence and rule, was, therefore, apparently favourable and full of hope at the time of this enquiry. It could be said that it was definitely favourable, provided always that there was a dominant objectivity on the part of the British rulers through which they understood and valued not only the habits and values of the Indian peasants, but also their own British habits and values.

But objectivity is unfortunately rare amongst men, even such picked men as were the British officials in India. As is the case with any body of nationals, to the majority of the British that which was national or British was unquestionably the best. To them, therefore, the improvement of the Indian peoples consisted of an advance upon British lines. Very few realised the truth, which Goethe announced and which I have made my preliminary quotation, that "what is beneficial to one people at a certain historical stage, may perhaps show itself as poison to another." Very few meditated upon and grasped the profound difference of the Indian and English life-outlook, the conflict of dominant ideas, one of those conflicts which makes what is wisdom to the occidental folly to the oriental, and what is wisdom to the oriental folly to the occidental.

Chapter 2

Conflicting Dominant Ideas

PROFESSOR WILLIAM ROSCHER, the famous German economist, began his monumental work on Political Economy (1878) with these words: "The starting point, as well as the object-point of our science is Man. Every man has numberless wants (zahllose Bedürfnisse) physical and intellectual ... Every advance in culture made by man finds expression in an increase in the number and in the keenness of his rational wants."

Now the immediate obviousness of this statement in the western world could scarcely be disputed. Co-operation, laws, regulations, division of labour, education, increased traffic, in short all the outward organisations of man have for their object the satisfaction of his desires. One has only to walk down one of the principal streets of a western city to see what an infinite number of desires western civilized human beings have, and, in watching the mechanism of their satisfaction, to be impressed by the civic sense of general adaptation upon which it depends.

One of the difficulties, however, of getting the natives of the tropics to supply the wants of the west with such products as coffee, tea, sugar, indigo, and spices, has been that the natives on their part do not desire to advance in culture by increasing the number of their own wants. They have few wants, which are easily satisfied by work on their fertile soils. More wants cannot be injected into them so that they willingly work harder and longer to satisfy them. There seems, indeed, to be something in them that does not fit in with Roscher's Der Mensch (Man), as if they were a species of humanity which cannot be got to believe in the life-object of climbing up the ladder of culture by continually increasing the number of the rungs of one's wants.

About the time when Malthus was teaching that "Man's self-interest is God's providence," to be followed by Cobden and Bright teaching that "economic freedom was a law of God, eternal and immutable," permitting each man to acquire, within the law, such private property and satisfaction of desire as he could, Sir Thomas Munro of Madras, in one of his most discerning minutes, showed how difficult it was to fit the Hindu to the British traders' heaven-blessed self-interest. He pointed out that what the wealthier Hindus actually bought from the British, such as household ornaments and furniture, was bought only for the purposes of display before their British friends. When no such friends were present or expected, the articles were stowed away as useless encumbrances. "Their simple mode of living," he continued, "dictated both by caste and climate, renders all our furniture and ornaments for the decoration of the house and the table utterly unserviceable to the Hindus: living in low mud houses, eating on the bare earth, they cannot require the various articles used among us. They have no tables; their houses are not furnished, except those of the rich, which have a small carpet, or a few mats and pillows. The Hindus eat alone, many from caste in the open air, others under sheds, and out of the leaves of trees in preference to plates. But this is the picture, perhaps, of the unfortunate native reduced to poverty by European oppression under the Company's monopoly? No, it is equally that of the highest and richest Hindu of every part of India. It is that of a Minister of State. His dwelling is little better than a shed: the walls are naked, and the mud floor for the sake of coolness, is every morning sprinkled with a mixture of water and cowdung. He has no furniture in it. He distributes food to whoever wants it, but he gives no grand dinner to his friends. He throws aside his upper garment, and, with nothing but a cloth around his loins, he sits down half-naked, and eats his meat alone, upon the bare earth, and under the open sky. These simple habits are not peculiar to the Hindu. The Mahomedan also, with few exceptions among the higher classes, conforms to them."

This simplicity amongst Hindus was, therefore, not due merely to the fertility of the soil and the ease with which simple wants could be satisfied. It had another cause, namely the dominant idea of Hinduism, which, strangely enough, was the precise opposite to that of Professor Roscher. No Hindu would agree that culture increases by means of an increase of the number of man's wants and desires, and their satisfaction.

The Hindu creed is not merely that simplicity is desirable, it is not merely the maxim of Seneca, that if you want to help a man to be rich, do not increase his riches but decrease his wants. It is far more profound in conception. It is that desire binds one to the wheel of existences in never ceasing successions upon this earth in varying forms of life, and that the only release from the earthly to the divine is the path of control and, eventually, of the abolition of desire.

This is the creed of the Hindu Scriptures. Its most popular exposition is in the revered and beloved Bhagavadgita. This sacred discourse was first translated into English from the Sanskrit by Sir Charles Wilkins, and Warren Hastings himself wrote an introduction to its publication in 1785. With his characteristic objectivity, Hastings warned English readers how different this teaching would be found to be from. anything they had ever read before. He asked them to "exclude, in estimating the merit of such a production, all rules drawn from the ancient or modern literature of Europe." His own opinion of the Gita he expressed with caution, but he found in it "a sublimity of conception, reasoning, and diction, almost unequalled."

A more modern translator, in the Sacred Books of the East, Mr. K. T. Telang, used a like language: "It contains," he wrote, "the essence of the most spiritual phases of Brahminical teaching; and is expressed in language of such depth and sublimity, that is has been deservedly known as the Bhagavadgita or Divine Song."

Here is a passage out of the first pages of the Gita : "Arguna said: 'What are the characteristics, O Kesava! of one whose mind is steady, and who is intent on contemplation? How should one of steady mind speak, how sit, how move?'

"The Deity said: 'When a man, O son of Pritha! abandons all desires of his heart, and is pleased in his self only and by his self, he is then called of a steady mind. He whose heart is not agitated in the midst of calamities, who has no longing for pleasures, and from whom the feelings of affection, fear and wrath have departed, is called a sage of steady mind. His mind is steady, who, being without attachments anywhere, feels no exaltation and no aversion on encountering the various agreeable and disagreeable things of the world. A man's mind is steady, when he withdraws his senses from all objects of sense, as the tortoise withdraws its limbs from all sides. Objects of sense withdraw themselves from a person who is abstinent; not so the taste for those objects. But even the taste departs from him, when he has seen the Supreme. The boisterous senses, O son of Kunti! carry away by force the mind even of a wise man, who exerts himself for final emancipation. Restraining them all, a man should remain engaged in devotion, making me his only resort. For his mind is steady whose senses are under control. The man who ponders over objects of sense forms an attachment to them; from that attachment is produced desire and from desire anger is produced; from anger results want of discrimination; from want of discrimination, confusion of the memory; from confusion of the memory, loss of reason; and in consequence of loss of reason he is utterly ruined. But the self-restrained man who moves among objects with senses under the control of his own self, and free from affection and aversion, obtains tranquillity. When there is tranquillity, all his miseries are destroyed, for the mind of him whose heart is tranquil soon becomes steady.'"

The Gita is held to have been written at about the time of Gautama, the founder of Buddhism, the creed which passed on Hindu conceptions to the countries east of India, namely Burma, Siam, China, and Japan. The spirit of the Gita and that of Gautama's teachings are identical as regards the "numberless wants" and desires of man. For example, in one of the great discourses of the Buddha, "The Four Inner Contemplations," translated by Henry Warren, the subject of misery is discussed. What is the cause of misery? The Buddha answered in these words: "It is the desire leading to rebirth, joining itself to pleasure and passion, and finding delight in every existence -- desire, namely for sensual pleasure, desire for permanent existence, desire for temporary existence.

"But where, O priests, does this desire spring up and grow? Where does it settle and take root?

"Where anything is delightful and agreeable to men, there desire springs up and grows, there it settles and takes root."

The sources of desire were then given, the senses, objects of sense, contacts, perceptions, thoughts of desire and so on, and followed by the summary: "This, O priests, is called the noble birth of the origin of misery."

The Brahminical and Buddhistic way of attaining freedom from desire is by a watchful and trained self-control, but it is a self-control so constant, so radical, and so profound that no westerner has probably ever comprehended it. It is only reached by a series of what are usually translated as "trances," forms of visionary-realisation, which no western method probably attains. Gautama himself spoke of it as: "This doctrine to which I have attained is profound, recondite, and difficult of comprehension, and not to be reached by mere reasoning." But the end is the same. It is the freeing of the Ego or Consciousness of Self from the thraldom of desire.

Something of the same conception, though without its intensity or profundity, seems to have arisen in China at approximately the same time as the Gita was written and Gautama discoursed.

Laotze was the contemporary of Gautama and Confucius and, in the Tao Teh King, he taught that if rulers were imbued with the Tao "they would constantly keep the people free from desires." The Tao itself was "not to act from any personal motive, to conduct affairs without feeling the trouble of them, to taste without being aware of the flavour."

But five centuries later, Buddhism itself reached China, and from China spread to Korea and Japan, in which latter country it had a profound influence. It is true that in both China and Japan, in political and social thought and fact, Buddhism has always been secondary to Confucianism. Nevertheless it penetrated all ranks of society and took its share in the principles of self-control and refined simplicity which characterized Chinese and Japanese art, manners and civilization.

The theory, put in the cruder form of science, might be thus expressed. The wants of men are so "numberless," in accordance with the profligacy of nature that, if given vent, they would produce, not a general satisfaction, but an immense dissatisfaction. Their freedom would lead to a society of ceaseless struggle and endless competition, in which life would be absorbed by the few who attained a relative success, whereas the many would still have desires, which, being suppressed by circumstances but not by self control, perverted the mind and provided misery. Hence nature, with her profligacy, has to be controlled and disciplined.

Such was the creed of the control of desire, a creed most stringent in the case of the devout Brahmins and reflecting from them throughout the people as their gift to the social system. The struggle for material prizes of the Kshatriyas was in some sense a safety-valve to its stringency, by which an extreme license to volition and desire was permitted to luck and daring. But even this struggle was shut away from the people, not only by caste and custom but actually by those great walls, which surround the palaces and court buildings of Delhi and other cities, and within which the strife for precedence and power was carried on. Within these walls the Hindu creed itself was scarcely seen but outside it was waiting for those who were weary of the game, for those who were disillusioned, for those who had failed. Such men could always return to the creed. It was always awaiting them, to enwrap them, if they adopted it, not only with its own peculiar calm but with the reverence men showed to those who adopted it. I myself have known Indians of great wealth lose all their material possessions, but, nevertheless, though being forced to adopt poverty, losing none of their calmness of mind and dignity, nor the respect of their fellow men.

There ran through India then, and to a lesser degree through the East, a dominant idea which had a profound effect on its economics. For of all things influencing the fate of man, the dominant idea, the life-outlook, is the most potent, and so-called economic laws, supposed to be irresistible, are really but sub-genera of some dominant idea.

The western dominant idea of civilization being the consequence of the progressive endeavours of man to satisfy his "numberless wants," was, and has been said, the exact opposite of the Hindu conception, but it had in the nineteenth century all the backing of northern and racial vigour, enhanced by the creation of new and powerful slaves to serve man's desires, the steam-driven machines. So much stronger had the British dominant idea become that one of its most intellectual devotees, Lord Macaulay, characteristically failed entirely to get any inkling of the "sublimity" which Warren Hastings found in the Gita and in the sacred doctrine which it propounds. When in India, in 1835, he wrote a Minute on Education in which, with almost sublime subjectivity he declared that "a single shelf of a good European library was worth the whole native literature of India and Arabia"; and, as the contemporary Principal of the Mohamedan College in Calcutta declared, he, "Macaulay, looked upon the languages and literature of the East as a diseased limb, which he proposed to cut off."

Such short shrift to the philosophical and religious literature of India shows the vigour, but also the intense subjectivity of the faith of what Munro termed, "downright Englishmen anxious to make Anglo-Saxons of the Hindus."

Such Englishmen were in the very large majority. Their purposes were described with picturesque irony by a French traveller in India. "They civilize," wrote Monsieur André Chevrillon, in Romantic India, 1897, "and this not only for their own advantage but from a sense of duty towards the native population. To cover India with railways, to enlarge and multiply its seaports, to increase tenfold its commerce, to convert it to Protestant Christianity, to suppress its castes, to enfranchise its women, to open its Zenanas, to give it -- with a liking for trousers, black coats, cricket, football, English music and poetry -- 'a practical and sensible education': in this, say the English, consists their mission in India, being persuaded, with Addison, with Sidney Smith, with Macaulay, that the augmentation of human well-being, a decent, reasonable, comfortable civilization, in a word, English civilization, is the chief end and aim of humanity."

In their subjectivity, strengthened by the astounding success of their machines and science, these many downright Englishmen were not really aware of the Indian system, based upon the opposing dominant idea of the control of men's desires. Nor were they aware that owing to this idea, the numerous peasants of India had established a system which, though it offered no encouragement to the "increase in the number and keenness of man's rational wants," yet was eminently serviceable in supplying the simpler necessities of social and individual life.

Their system gave them the possession of the land, which, except when all suffered from famine, provided them with food and shelter. Through its joint family and village organizations it provided food and shelter to self and family even if one was incapacitated by injury or disease, or, on more grudging terms, if one was just lazy and did not want to work. It arranged marriage for every individual. It was a system unaffected by the outer world, by bumper crops or the price of gold in other countries. It had no Old Age Question, no Sickness Insurance Question, no Sex Question, no Unemployment Question. It was the peasants' own system, shaped by themselves to give them a mode of life suitable to their surroundings. It was, in short, a type of the only real freedom that exists for peasants, that which enables them to follow their particular calling on their own lines with a large, to almost complete, amount of independence from outside influences and authority.

This was the traditional framework of the peasant's system. It was a framework which put into being the dominant idea in its simplicity of wants and desires, and in its self-sufficiency. But there was something further needed to ensure its success, something to act as the foundation of that framework, and that was the earth and the soil and the fertility of the soil. Upon the quality and the quantity of the fertility of the soil, the peasants' capacity to fill this framework with success in health and welfare was based.

According to Professor Radharaman Gangopadyay and Professor Rao Bahadur K. V. Rangaswami Aiyanger, whose words will be found quoted in Chapter 9, in the past this foundation was adequate in ancient India. The first professor states that the degradation of Indian agriculture began with the extinction of the Guptas; the second epitomises the fullness of ancient Hindu agriculture as found in the writings of the sages, Kautilya and Sukra, and in the Smriti literature.

Whether the Indian peasantry ever reached the efficiency of the Chinese peasantry is a question that cannot be answered, but, if at the time of their sages they had reached it, in later periods they certainly failed to maintain it. When the British became paramount, the condition of the peasantry in some parts, for example in peninsular India, was very low. For about three months of the year, according to the Abbé Dubois (Hindu Manners, Customs and Ceremonies), almost three quarters of the Peninsula were on the verge of starvation. This was not due to the indolence or fault of the peasants, but was the inevitable result of the degradation of their partner through life, the soil. "Let no one venture to assert," wrote the Abbé "that the unfortunate Hindus can, if they choose, find a recompense in the fertility of the soil. The sight of the vast plains lying fallow and waste," that was the companion picture to the starving peasants. Simplicity of controlled life had degenerated, under destructive agriculture, to wastage of life itself, soil and peasants alike dying. Nor was there peace, in which to enable them to effect some small improvement. It was a time of greedy and impermanent governments, of revolts and invasions, and of degradation of all the liberal arts and other alleviations of the trials of humanity.

Under such conditions the establishment of the British authority, though powerless to bring with it the lost soil-fertility, was an immediate blessing. But, even though well-meaning, just, and equitable, one immeasurably important question to the future fate of a peasantry lay beneath the change, as yet undiscovered and unconsidered. What agricultural values did the British of that time bring with them to the vast agricultural sub-continent of India?

Such values can be divided into two main classes. In the first, the agricultural values stand very high. The maintenance and prosperity of the peasantry and the fertility of the soil are, under them, made the basis of the State, and this is rendered factual by placing and keeping the simpler, primal necessities of social and individual life in a healthy condition. In the second, the values are those so ably defined by Professor Roscher.

The progress of a peasantry depends upon which of these two sets of values is adopted. History affords many examples of the two different paths they build, along which the destinies of the peasants pass. Two such historical paths stand out from the others, because of our greater knowledge of them. Upon the first of these, China pursued her course from the dawn of her history to the last century; upon the second passed the plentiful dominion of Rome to its final extinction.

An enormous weight of fate for the peasantry of India and for many other peasantries, therefore, hung upon the question as to which set of values the British brought to India and to other parts of their dominions. Were the British upon the first or second path, when they became paramount in India? Before that question is answered, let us look well at these two historic paths, along which so many empires and nations have marched, and are now marching.

Next chapter

Table of Contents
1. British and Native Systems of Government in India
2. Conflicting Dominant Ideas

3. The First Agricultural Path
4. The Second Agricultural Path
5. The Degradation of the Peasants
6. The Ascendancy of the Town
7. The Degradation of the Soil
8. The Village System
9. The Restoration of the Peasants

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