HL Deb 27 September 1909 vol 3 cc361-83

*LORD REDESDALE rose "to ask the Secretary of State for India what steps have been taken towards giving effect to the recommendations of the Committee appointed by the Government to inquire into the possibility of affording better means of instruction in Oriental languages in London."

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I beg leave to ask my noble friend the Secretary of State for India the Question which stands in my name. In doing so I may, perhaps, be allowed to allude to the circumstances which have given rise to this Question, and I am afraid that I shall be accused of taxing your Lordships' credulity when I tell you that whereas in Paris, Berlin, St. Petersburg, Vienna, Italy, and Holland there are well-organised, well-equipped, and well-endowed schools of Oriental languages, in London, which is the capital of the country which, apart from its paramount interest in India, in the Malay Archipelago, and in Africa, has larger dealings, and has had dealings, extending over a larger period of time, with the Far East, with China, Japan, and Korea, than any other country—in London there is no school of Oriental languages. It is true that in London University and in King's College there is some teaching of those very important languages, but whereas there are twenty-five teachers in London University and in King's College, their united salaries amount to only £1,300 a year—that is to say, an average of £52 a year for teachers qualified to teach in Chinese, in the Indian languages, in Japanese, in Hausa, in Malay, and all the various languages with which such a school as we now contemplate will have to deal.

The University of London deals chiefly with Hebrew and with the Indian languages, and from the India Office it receives an annual grant of £300. King's College receives an annual grant of £100 from the Colonial Office for the teaching of Hausa; and these miserable pittances, which are really an insult to educated men, are all that is given by Governments in London at the present time for Oriental teaching. Imagine going out to Africa and making yourself an expert in the Hausa language in order to have the supreme hope of coining home to a professorship of £100 a year! It is really incredible. Compare with this the way in which those establishments are treated abroad. In Berlin you have grants of something like £10,000 a year spent on these schools; in Paris and St. Petersburg, £7,000; in Italy, £4,000, and if we consider the position of our men as compared with the teachers in Berlin or in Paris it is really a pitiable aspect of things.

This dearth of teaching led in January, 1906, to a deputation representing the leading men who had occupied important positions for the last thirty or forty years in political, in missionary, and in commercial work, which waited upon the then Prime Minister, Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman. With Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman were the present Prime Minister, then Chancellor of the Exchequer, and my noble friend opposite. The Prime Minister gave us a most patient and sympathetic hearing; the Chancellor of the Exchequer was also obviously struck by the arguments which were placed before him that day; and I need hardly say that the Secretary of State for India, whose interest in all matters literary and educational is so well known, was not behindhand in the kindliness with which he received us. In his hands I believe was left the nomination of the Committee which was appointed to consider the organisation of Oriental studies in London. Lord Reay presided over that Committee, and the members, in addition to myself, were Sir Alfred C. Lyall, Sir Thomas Raleigh, Mr. A. R. Guest. and Sir Montagu Turner. We sat for the best part of two years, and examined no fewer than seventy-three witnesses. Among those witnesses were men of great distinction who have made their names widely known in official, missionary, and commercial life. We had Lord Cromer, Sir Ernest Satow, Sir Frank Swettenham, Sir Donald Mackenzie Wallace, and a number of other witnesses, and, in addition, we had the advantage of having before us the professors from Paris and Berlin, who very kindly came over to this country on purpose to give us the benefit of their experience.

There was, I think I can honestly say, a Unanimity of opinion, or almost a unanimity of opinion, on the part of those witnesses as to the desirability of giving the young men who are being trained for the East a preliminary instruction in London before going out to their posts. The one exception was certainly a very eminent one. Sir Ernest Satow thought that a man might easily learn the language of the country he was sent to in the country itself without any preliminary training, and that is the view taken by the Foreign Office. It is not our view. We think that a great deal of unnecessary labour and great waste of time might and would be saved if there were such a school as that which we have adumbrated. Sir Robert Douglas, who was one of our chief witnesses in regard to the Chinese language, went so far as to say that six months study in England would save two years work in Pekin. That sounds, perhaps, an exaggerated statement, but to anybody who has gone through the mill it is by no means an exaggerated statement. I will tell you why.

There is all the difference in the world between learning a European language and learning an Oriental language. Take the most difficult of European languages—Russian. There are so many peculiar points of contact between all Europeans that learning a European language becomes child's play compared with the learning of an Oriental language. It is easy enough to learn a smattering of any language; it is easy enough to learn to ask for food and drink and all the small wants of daily life, but to learn to converse with educated people is a very difficult matter, because in order to converse with an educated Oriental you must, in the first place, have some sort of knowledge of his order of thought and of the genius of the language. What happens is this. A young man goes out, we will say, to Pekin or Tokio, and is put with a Chinese or Japanese teacher. Neither of them can speak the other's language. They are hopelessly at sea, and long weeks pass before any means of communication is set up between them, and at last when they do come more or less in touch with one another there is that great gulf which exists in the different order of ideas. We Europeans, no matter what language we speak, draw almost all our imagery from the ancient classics and from the Bible. We talk about a woman being as beautiful as Venus, of a man being as strong as Samson, of the fall of the Walls of Jericho, and we compare a person to Achilles sulking in his tent, and by all Europeans we are understood; but when you talk with an Oriental gentleman you must understand what takes the place of those familiar images in his language. I do not say that that degree of perfection would be attained in six months by preliminary teaching in London, but I do say that it would save the long weary time of trying to acquire some sort of knowledge of the teacher's languages and of getting, as it were, behind his ideas.

But even then your difficulties only begin, because even when you have learnt enough to take in a certain amount of linguistic knowledge from the teacher, you are still met by the want of any preliminary training in the ideas, religion, and customs of the people. All those are things which could be acquired in London before the young man went out to the East; and, perfectly easy to acquire in London, they are enormously difficult to acquire in the country itself because, as I have said, you have not the means of communication, nor does the teacher understand what are the difficulties of the student. I could labour that point, but I do not wish to take up your Lordships' time unnecessarily. I would point out that our present system is wasteful. We send out young officers to China and Japan to study the language and fit themselves for interpreters. They remain for two years, and at the end of that time return and go back to their regiments. It is impossible for them to have acquired such a knowledge of the language which they have been studying as would amount to more than the merest smattering, and a very few months suffice for them to forget that little; whereas if they had been previously trained in London and had then gone out with the knowledge that when they returned they could pursue in London the studies they had already begun, there would be a very different state of things. The young officer would have gained an interest in the subject, and that interest would lead him to follow up his work.

The Foreign Office sends out its student interpreters to China or Japan, men who have passed the ordinary examination of the Civil Service Commission. They spend two years at Pekin or at Tokio under the Chinese or Japanese Secretary, and their time is devoted entirely to learning the language. Their case, though I do not think it is economical or wise, is different from that of the military officer, because the student interpreter on concluding his time at Pekin or Tokio goes off to one of the Consulates, where he is continually practising the language he has learnt, and, as the French proverb says, "It is by working at the forge that a man becomes a smith." But in the case of the military officer the work is, I venture to say, thrown away, and neither he nor the country derives the slightest benefit from the time he has spent abroad. All the evidence that was put before the Committee went to show that foreigners are cutting the ground from under our feet. The Germans are learning Chinese in a way that our men will not. We were told that among some of our young men in the Treaty Ports to learn Chinese was even a bad mark among their fellows. The Germans, on the contrary, are learning all the time. I am old enough to recollect the time, more than forty years ago, when at Pekin there was one German interpreter and he had been trained in the British Legation.

We have always been pulling the chestnuts out of the fire for the foreigner in the Far East. The Opium War, the Arrow War, the war of 1860 in which the French joined us, and other movements in which we have taken a leading part and in which hundreds of lives and millions of money have been spent, have all been for the benefit of other countries as much as our own. I do not quarrel with that, but I do quarrel with the fact that whereas we have spent all this money, we have grudged the small sum that would be necessary to take the best advantage of it. The sum that we think would properly equip a school of Oriental studies in London would be something over £12,000 a year, and I venture to think that the time has come when we should spend that comparatively small amount to enable our people to take advantage of the great sacrifice in money and lives that has been made in the past. I leave the matter with the greatest confidence in the hands—I think I may say the sympathetic hands—of my noble friend the Secretary of State for India, believing that he, at any rate, will do all that lies in his power to relieve this country from what is little short of a national disgrace.


My Lords, I have very little doubt that His Majesty's Government will give a sympathetic hearing to the very strong case which has been made out by the noble Lord in favour of doing something to encourage the study of Oriental languages in this country; and I hope and believe that we shall hear more than an expression of sympathy from the noble Viscount, and that we shall be told that some definite and practical steps will shortly be taken to insure the object in view. It is difficult to exaggerate the importance of this subject. I believe that the authority of Lord Palmerston may be quoted in the opposite sense. Lord Palmerston is alleged to have once said— Never pay the least attention to a European who has lived in the country a number of years and speaks the language like a native. Do not believe him: he is always wrong. But even if Lord Palmerston ever said that, I imagine he did not intend to deprecate the study of Oriental languages, but to indicate that he thought the man on the spot was apt to get rather into a groove and that his views had to be tested and corrected by those of wider and more general experience.

An immense advantage is gained by any Oriental administrator if he can once get rid of the interpreter, or, if he cannot get rid of the interpreter altogether, if he can learn enough of the language to be able to correct the interpretations which the interpreter gives to it. Interpreters in the East hold positions of very great importance, and unless they are very much belied they sometimes are inclined to abuse their positions of trust. For my own part, I have very little doubt that the rather fanciful accounts of Eastern affairs which are occasionally laid before the English public by tourists are due to the fact that they have been obliged to employ interpreters and those interpreters have not been well chosen. The interpreters very often have views of their own, and even if that is not the case, they are amazingly quick at catching any bias on the part of those employing them. The result is that the European, who generally asks leading questions—a fatal form of asking questions if you want reliable answers—only hears what the interpreter wants him to know, or else what rather tallies with his own preconceived opinions. I need not, however, labour this point. The importance of the question is obvious.

I should like to say a word or two about the methods of giving instruction, to which allusion has been made by the noble Lord. There are, in fact, two rival methods. One is to give no tuition in this country, but to leave the young man engaged in Oriental affairs to study on the spot; the other is to ground him in the Oriental language before he leaves this country, and then let him perfect his knowledge of the language when he arrives in the East. I cannot pretend to such proficiency in Oriental languages as to be able to speak with great personal authority on this matter, but I have seen both systems at work, and I have no hesitation in saying that the second of the two systems is infinitely superior to the first. It is quite true that a colloquial knowledge of an Oriental language cannot be acquired in this country. I have known cases of excellent Arabic scholars who came out to Egypt and were able to read the Koran and to talk to well-educated natives, but who at the same time could not give intelligible directions to a Cairo cabdriver.

Another point is that if a young man delays his studies till he goes to the East he never studies at all. He is plunged into a quantity of work and has no time for study, and although he gets a smattering of the language he never learns enough to be able to discuss a difficult political or administration question with an educated man. On the other hand, if he once gets grounded here he readily picks up colloquial knowledge when he gets on the spot. That was the course adopted in the case of the young men sent out to Cairo and Khartoum. That system has been eminently successful, and I am very glad to know that the Committee have adopted its general lines. As the noble Lord has said, it is amazing that we should have done nothing on this subject up to the present time, and should have allowed ourselves to be outdistanced by other nations. Not only have we done nothing, but as far as India is concerned during the last thirty or forty years we may be said to have retrograded. I have not had an opportunity of reading the Committee's Report, but I gather from the extracts which I have seen that they have intimated something of the kind. The reason is not far to seek. The old East India Company's system was very defective in many ways, but it had this one enormous advantage, that the young men who went out there lived very much with the natives; they obtained a thorough knowledge of the language, and, therefore, understood the habits of the natives much better than we do at the present time. Now the Englishmen are rather chained to their desks. Moreover, if they have any leave, the means of loco- motion are such that they rush off to England. Thus the know-ledge of the language has rather gone downhill than uphill.

It is not to be supposed if this college is established that it will only be of value to the official classes. I believe a great deal of evidence was laid before the Committee from unofficial commercial people testifying to the very great want of such a college in their interests. I have occasionally been asked to recommend young men for commercial employment in Egypt and elsewhere, and I can assure your Lordships that unless you have been through that experience and found out how extremely difficult it is to get linguistic knowledge in this country you cannot realise how very much behindhand we are in this branch of intellectual activity. I hope when this college is established it will not be wholly confined to the teaching of languages. I hope it will also, as far as that is possible, teach something of Oriental history, religion, manners, and customs. Indeed, if such a thing be at all possible I should be very glad to see lectures given by qualified people on Oriental character and mental processes. Everybody who has been in the East knows well that one of the great difficulties he has to encounter is to make himself thoroughly understood. Language is a very important point, but it is not everything. The Eastern and Western reason in an entirely different manner, and arguing from the same premises would often arrive at different conclusions.

Let me give your Lordships one or two instances. I remember talking to an Oriental in a very high position in Egypt on an important political point, and I laid before him my arguments, which were, I thought, of a nature to influence a Western mind. I found, however, that they produced not the least effect. Then it occurred to me in the course of conversation to introduce an apologue from the "Arabian Nights," which I found produced a much more clear effect than all my Western logic. Then I remember Lord Wolseley sending me a proclamation which he was about to issue in the Soudan, and which he wished translated into Arabic. It seemed to me so very Western that I asked an Oriental friend of mine who was a great scholar if he would look over it and tell me what he thought of it. He told me that the grammar was perfect and that he understood what Lord Wolseley meant, but he thought that to the Soudanese the proclamation would be high Greek. I asked him to put the ideas into his own language, and in a couple of days he produced a document which read much more like a chapter of Isaiah than an ordinary official document. If Lord Wolseley had ever issued that proclamation—it was never issued, by the way—I have no doubt he would have been rather criticised by the Press of this country; but I have not the smallest doubt that a document of that character was much more calculated to influence the Soudanese mind than the incisive language of the document which Lord Wolseley originally drew up. I will not detain your Lordships longer, but I hope His Majesty's Government will take active steps to remedy what is a great national defect.


My Lords, I am sure your Lordships will feel that you owe a debt to my noble friend for bringing this subject before the House. Lord Redesdale's account of the proceedings of the Committee and the circumstances of its establishment relieve me from going over that story again. We certainly owe—not only the Government, but the country owe—a great debt to the noble Lord and his colleagues on the Committee for the attention and the labour they bestowed upon the inquiry that was committed to them. As my noble friend said, they collected evidence from authorities of the utmost competence and the widest experience, and what was not the least remarkable part of their proceedings was that they secured evidence of great value from the directors of the Oriental institutions in Berlin and in Paris. It has never been my fortune to study a Report more intelligent, if I may use the word, and more practically useful.

It is true that the Report is rather ambitious, and I doubt whether any Government could accept and carry out all the recommendations of the Committee; but, after all, every Committee may be assured that when it makes a Report, anything that I is over-ambitious in its recommendations will not do any harm. There can be, I am sure, no two opinions in the minds of any who have given or will give attention to this Report, as to the serious and direct importance of the subject which the Committee discussed, not only to the public service and the standard of official competency, but more than that, in the sphere not only of political administration but in that of commerce and our material prosperity. The importance of the subject was pointed out by a deputation which waited upon the late Prime Minister, and he characteristically accepted the spirit of the memorial with generous alacrity, and said he was satisfied that the request of the memorialists would fill up a lamentable gap.

Then the Committee was appointed. I am not sure that the Indian Secretary is necessarily the person who may be expected to move in the matter, because, as the noble Earl, Lord Cromer, has pointed out, the subject can go a great deal wider than Indian interests. But though a Prime Minister may receive important and interesting proposals with generous alacrity, there arises always the financial question. "There comes the question when all is o'er, the dreadful reckoning when men smile no more;" and we are now confronted with the question how we are to procure £12,750 a year, as the Committee recommends. I know there are those in Whitehall who take an exclusively Treasury view of every proposal constituting what they think a raid on public funds, and who consider that there is no reason in any of the arguments brought forward why British taxpayers should contribute a single halfpenny, and argue that if there were a demand for better opportunities for commercial students to acquire a knowledge of Oriental languages, that ought to be met by the mercantile community itself.

In the domain of Indian finance I am a most parsimonious person, and in Indian affairs I always take what I call a Treasury view. I sympathise, as far as it goes, with this objection to raise money from British taxpayers; but after all, I entirely agree with the language of my noble friend and the language and spirit of the Report when they urge us to consider whether, in view of what is being done in Berlin and Paris and in the countries named, it is not to our national honour and credit as well as to national policy—as to which I may say a word or two later—that a great school of this kind ought to be founded, and whether, if provision can be made on a reasonable scale—and I confess I do not think the demand of the report is unreasonable—there ought to be any objection in principle to a contribution from the public revenues. If Germany spends £10,000 a year and France thinks the importance of the subject sufficient to justify an expenditure of £7,000 a year, when you consider the enormous pre- ponderance of our interests in the East over the interests of either of those two great countries, we ought to be warranted in spending many times more than those countries.

On the occasion when Sir H. Campbell-Bannerman met the deputation, he turned to Mr. Asquith, then the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and said— Though he is the stern guardian of the public purse, I do not believe that be will be very hardhearted if the proposals are on a reasonable scale and are likely to confer upon this country the enormous benefits which you [the deputation] expect to accrue. The then Chancellor of the Exchequer, now the First Lord of the Treasury, does not show himself hard-hearted; and though I am not yet able to name the specific sum, it will certainly not be less than one quarter of the demand, and it may be a little more. When the time comes we shall submit a Vote on this subject to the House of Commons if it still retains its financial control. That, however, will not be enough, nor will the contributions which the Committee expect from the University of London and from the India Office out of the revenues of India; and if you want to make this a great institution you will have to persuade the great mercantile bodies in the City of London and in Manchester and elsewhere what interests they have in the establishment of such a source of education.

India has, of course, an immense interest in the subject; but I should like to read to your Lordships the views of the Committee on the commerical side of this matter, which is certainly not its least important aspect. They say in their Report— There now exists a very strong feeling that, if the British are to maintain and improve their commercial position in the East and the Far East, a knowledge of Oriental languages must be regarded as indispensable to the business man doing business with Oriental peoples. Sir James Mackay, in the course of his evidence, said— A knowledge of the vernacular language by young men going out to join business firms in India would be of the greatest possible advantage in that it would lead to their getting to understand the natives much more quickly than is now the case without such knowledge. Were young men properly taught in this country before going out, and were they to obtain a good grounding in the language of the place where they are to reside they would have every opportunity of improving their knowledge after arriving in India. I want those engaged in business with Orien- tal nations to see what an immense gain it will be to them if young men pass through a course of preliminary training before they go out to the East to represent commercial houses. The contribution of India to teaching Oriental languages is £1,750 a year—that is, £500 each to Oxford and Cambridge, £300 to London, £300 to Dublin, and £150 to the India Institute at Oxford. The opinion of the Government of India is that India fully pays the cost of meeting the essential demand for a knowledge of Oriental languages, as far as the needs of the Indian Government are concerned; and therefore I do not think it would be very easy for me, or that it would be right that I should press the India Council or that the Government of India should assent to any large contribution to the spread of that kind of knowledge, which is quite as important to a good many other operations in India as it can be to those of the Indian Government.

The Indian case is an excellent illustration of how important it is that we should not embark on this with a definite and practical scheme, such as Lord Cromer has asked for—and as to which I hope to satisfy him to some considerable extent—until we have considered all the difficulties that lie before us. There is a reference made in the Report to the Indian probationers and the question whether more time ought not to be given to the study of Oriental languages and of law by those probationers in England, with an alteration of the age of going out to India. I can only say on that subject that any alteration of the age or duration of the period of probation is one of the most important changes, if change be desirable, that could take place in the system. It has occupied my attention for more than a year, and you cannot effectively deal with the recommendations of the Committee until you have come to some sort of conclusion, which I hope to do before very long, on that particular question.

There is one Indian point I should not excuse myself if I omitted. Lord Cromer said, and I was extremely glad to hear him say it, that he hoped this School of Oriental Languages, when it was founded and set working, would not merely be a school of language, but would also be a school for the study of the ideals, the customs, the habits, the religions, and all that gives a character, in truth, to the populations concerned. I very heartily agree with every word that fell from the noble Earl on that subject. In Indian administration, I often wonder how, in Courts of law, justice is done. It is done; I am not in the least impugning that, but there must be difficulty in the doing of it from the ignorance of the judicial authority of all the niceties and nuances of the language of the parties concerned in the suits and proceedings. It is overcome, and I trust and hope that justice is adequately and satisfactorily administered, but I am sure that any one of us who was asked to decide a case, the parties to which and the advocates in which spoke a language which we only knew in an extremely smattering way, would shrink from accepting a post of that kind. Therefore, from the point of view of the difficulty from which the Indian Judge or magistrate labours, the advantage of a more thorough grounding in the languages of the people among whom he lives and administers justice is very obvious.

I would ask your Lordships to allow me to read a few lines from a man well known to the most rev. Primate—the Bishop of Lahore, one of the most remarkable students of Indian matters it has ever been my fortune to come in contact with. The Bishop of Lahore said— A thoroughly good knowledge of an Eastern language is a primary condition that must be satisfied if a man is to come into easy and healthy contact with the people of the East, and to exercise a useful influence over them. I feel perfectly certain that one cause of the difficulties that we are encountering in the present time in India is the failure on the part of so very many Englishmen out there to attain to any in the least accurate or scholarly knowledge of the vernaculars of that land, and the consequent impossibility of getting into close touch with the people. Many of your Lordships will be able to understand what is under that language. It is very easy to talk, and we all of us talk, of the necessity of sympathy in dealing with the people of India. But sympathy means a good deal more than politeness and good manners, though that is something. Sympathy carries you far further than that if it is to be an effective and genuine sympathy. It means a knowledge and comprehension of the ideals and traditions of the people concerned. That is the point of view to which, I confess, I attach the highest value in the establishment of a college of this kind. I have told your Lordships that we shall propose, by and by, when the thing has been thoroughly settled, a grant from public funds. We shall hope that the mercantile community will also contribute. Perhaps I should mention the points in which the Govern- ment are in entire accord with the recommendations of the Committee.

We believe, in the language of the Report, that the evidence of the need for preliminary training in this country, in spite of Lord Palmerston, if he ever used that language, is "overwhelmingly great." The Government agree with the Committee that the seat of this great school should be in London for geographical, topographical, and some other reasons. The Committee say— As the metropolis of the British Empire, with its great mesh of relations with the Near East, the Middle East, and the Far East, and with Africa, London ought, in our view, ultimately to be the seat of a greater Oriental school than exists to-day in any other country. And they point out that the establishment of a school in London would make it accessible to Indian military and civil officers home on furlough, and that it would be within easy reach of the great military centres of Camberley, Sandhurst, Woolwich, and Chatham.

And then there is the University in London. This is delicate ground, because we must be careful—no one will be more anxious to be careful than I shall—not to do any wrong to, or place at any disadvantage, either the older Universities, which have done the best they could with the funds at their disposal, or the new Universities in provincial centres. These provincial Universities have shown a local patriotism, they have produced liberal funds, and, therefore, I should be very sorry if we were to be a party to the establishment of any educational institution which could be shown to be disadvantageous to these new, and, if you like to call them so, humbler Universities than Oxford, Cambridge, Dublin, and Edinburgh. The exact relations that ought to exist between the new School of Oriental Languages and the University of London are not very definitely specified in the Report of the Committee, but they do say positively, after weighing carefully all the arguments for and against incorporation with the University of London, that the balance of argument was decidedly in favour of incorporation. So far, His Majesty's Government are in accord with them, but, so far as my own opinion goes, it ought to be a school with a home of its own, a name of its own, an educational scheme of its own, and with control over its own specified funds.

The organisation of the University of London is, I understand, at present undergoing some examination by a Commission over which Mr. Haldane presides, and when that Commission concludes its labours we shall be better able to understand the precise position that the new school will hold in respect to that University; but I for one should always bargain that it should have its own home and name, and control over its own scheme and funds. Though disclaiming the duty, as head of the Indian Administration, to preside over its future operations, carried out by the Government in conformity with the recommendations of the Committee, I have a very great interest in the subject, and a very earnest desire that we should after all these years of rather culpable delay—I believe it is impossible not to call it culpable delay—now proceed, whether by inviting two or three gentlemen interested in the subject constituting themselves into a sort of executive committee, collecting funds, and drawing out in proper shape the outlines of the relations between this proposed school and the existing institutions or not I cannot say. But I may assure my noble friend and Lord Cromer that the Government are in full sympathy with the object and with most of the detailed recommendations of the Committee which has done such an admirable piece of work.


My Lords, perhaps as one who has spent a good many years of his life in one way or another in the Eastern parts of the world, I may be allowed to make a few remarks on this subject. I entirely concur in everything that has fallen from the three previous speakers as to its importance. It is scarcely possible to imagine a subject that is better qualified to arrest the attentions of your Lordships than a subject such as this. Our familiarity, not merely with the languages of the peoples of the East, but with their customs, their feelings, their traditions, their history and religion, our capacity to understand what may be called the genius of the East, is the sole basis upon which we are likely to be able to maintain in the future the position we have won, and no step that can be taken to strengthen that position can be considered undeserving of the attention of His Majesty's Government or of a debate in the House of Lords.

I concur also entirely in what has fallen from the noble Viscount the Secretary of State for India as to the value of this Report. By his courtesy I was permitted to have a copy of the Report a day or two ago, and I have studied not merely the Report but the greater part of the evidence. I think it is quite clear that the Government committed the case to the hands of a very competent body, and that these gentlemen were singularly well advised in the witnesses whom they decided to examine. Indeed, if I may say so in the presence of a member of the Committee, I think the evidence of the witnesses was even more interesting than the Report of the Committee. But, however that may be, the Committee give us a Report equally concise and businesslike, and most useful for the purposes of the action which the Government have in view.

The noble Viscount the Secretary of State for India modestly remarked that he was not the man to move in the matter. If I may say so, I think it would be the opinion of your Lordships' House, not only that he is the man, but that he is the only man to move in the matter, and for two reasons: Firstly, because, as Lord Redesdale has pointed out, we are fortunate in having as Secretary of State for India at the present moment a Statesman possessing a great reputation for scholarship and for literary ability; and secondly, because this matter is really one affecting India more than any other part of the Empire. A good deal of the discussion to-night has turned upon the advantage to merchants, upon the facilities that are required in China, Japan, Korea, and the countries of the Far East. To my mind the question of Oriental studies is far more important in its bearing on India and our position there than on any other part of the world, and no man can be better qualified to take up the case and to carry it through to a successful issue than the Statesman who is for the time being the custodian of our interests in that part of the Empire.

I am sure we were very glad to learn that His Majesty's Government view with a favourable eye this scheme. May I say one word upon finance? The Secretary of State told us that he thought the estimated cost would be between £12,000 and £13,000 a year, and he put the question, "Is this not a sum to which the British taxpayer may reasonably be asked to contribute?" Most certainly. Do let us be quite clear upon the point that it is not fair to go to India and to other parts of the Empire and ask them to pay this small sum to train our officers who go out to the East. The Secretary of State told us that India gives a contribution of about £1,700 a year for the purpose of studies in Indian languages for officers who go out there. That is ample. After all, do let us remember what I think is often lost sight of in this country, that it is the taxpayers of India who pay the whole cost of the India Office—£160,000 a year. India bears the whole of that burden. She pays the cost of the Civil servants whom we appoint to administer that country, not only their salaries while there, but their pensions and allowances when gone. She pays the whole cost of that portion of the British Army we send to India. Is it not reasonable and moderate, therefore, that this country should out of its great wealth make some slight return in the education of the officers it sends out to India? Then the noble Viscount came to the question of how we are to get the money. He told us that his powers of persuasion with the Prime Minister, which I believe to be great, have not yet exceeded the point of being able to squeeze more than £4,000 a year from him; but I understood him to say that if the House of Commons still continue to maintain the financial control in future which they have largely exercised in the past, he may get a larger sum. I think His Majesty's Government will find that a much larger sum than £4,000—


I must be very accurate in reciting the promise of other people. One-fourth of £12,000 odd is nearer £3,000 than £4,000.


I think I rather intentionally gave a round sum, with a view, if possible, of committing His Majesty's Government to something beyond their present intention. But, however that may be, I hope His Majesty's Government will see their way to give more than £4,000, because the partition would not be fair if the Government were only to give between £3,000 and £4,000, and you were to look to merchants for the balance. I hope, therefore, that the Secretary of State may use his influence to get better terms for this scheme in the future. I am not denying for a moment that mercantile bodies are interested. I think they are very seriously interested, and more particularly in those parts of the world with which the noble Lord (Lord Redesdale) is most familiar, and where he made his name. In my travels in all parts of Asia, from Yokohama in the East to Baghdad in the West, I have been struck with mingled admiration and dismay at the success which is attending German efforts at the expense of our own, largely owing to the indomitable industry and the command of native languages possessed by the clerks and assistants, and, indeed, most of the members of that great nation. It is not only a warning to us but it is a stimulus to us, and from that point of view I earnestly hope that the mercantile bodies will give the noble Viscount the support which he desires.

But, after all, the chief interest in this question is an Imperial interest. And here may I add one or two words to what has been said on the question of India. The noble Earl, Lord Cromer, expressed some fear that in India the movement is in a backward direction, and from the passage which the Secretary of State read out from the Bishop of Lahore your Lordships might derive the same impression, that our officers in that country have not that familiarity with the language and literature of the land which they formerly possessed. I believe that to be perfectly true. I state with regret that I believe the number of British officers, whether civil or military, in India who do not speak the vernacular with any facility or fluency is immensely greater than it was fifty years ago, and decidedly and regrettably greater than it was when I first visited India twenty-five years ago. I believe that the number of British officers in the country who devote themselves to anything like a serious study of the literature of the country is diminishing year by year. I can give your Lordships proof of that. When I was in India I did my best to ascertain, when the annual distribution of honours came round, by an appeal to all the heads of Government in different parts of the country, the names of any English scholars who had devoted themselves either in the discharge of their official duties or in their leisure time to writing works connected with Eastern studies. The number whom I was able to recommend for honours in seven years could be counted on the fingers of the two hands. That was not so fifty years ago, and even less was it so 100 years ago.

We all know the reasons. They are written large on the face of Indian society. The noble Earl, Lord Cromer, himself alluded to them. In the first place, life is much more complex and busier than it was. Officers are overwhelmed with work and have no time for study, and even this Parliament—I do not say this House—adds very considerably to the labours that are placed upon them. Secondly, as your Lordships know so well, our officers out there maintain much closer and more constant connections with home. Their thoughts lie in England much more than they do in India. In the third place, there is an increasing tendency, not merely on the part of Englishmen in India, but even on the part of cultured and highly educated Indians in India, to lead the European rather than the Oriental life in that country. All these are barriers that stand in the way of intimate study of native languages and customs, and, above all, there is the crowning reason, which has not been alluded to—namely, the enormous and ever-increasing number of natives in that country who speak English just as well as we do ourselves. Around every official in India there now exists a sort of zeriba or rampart of natives doing his work for him, talking English as well as himself, polite, obliging, attentive to their work—a great advantage to him, but a terrible snare to our administration, because this rampart of competent natives of whom I speak are standing between us and the hearts and minds of the people. It is all very well to deprecate that; it is inevitable. You cannot get away from it. But if that be so, is it not all the more important to take every step we can to improve the position?

I do most heartily agree with what fell from the noble Viscount on that aspect of the case. He said it is all very well to talk about sympathy. Sympathy is a feeling which we all possess with the people of India, but sympathy must rest upon some concrete foundation, and when you are brought in contact with them it is no use to say you feel for them in a foreign tongue; you must show that you feel for them in their own language. It is important, therefore, that our officers in India should not only know the language of the people, but should pursue those ancillary studies into their history and customs to which reference has been made. If I may give my own opinion, I would most certainly say that the best officers—I am referring more particularly to district officers—whom I met in India were those who had the best command of the vernacular, and I could quote instances of trouble which arose in cases where that knowledge did not exist.

I would even go further and say that I think the Viceroy would be all the better if he had some knowledge of the vernacular. When I went out to India I was told that it was useless for me to devote any time to the matter as I should be so overwhelmed with work, that I should be surrounded by competent assistants, and that any knowledge of Hindustani would be unnecessary. I believe that to be wrong. If I had known that I was to stay in India five years, still more if I had known that my stay would have extended to seven years, I would have got the most competent man I could and devoted the first three months of my leisure time to acquiring some knowledge of the vernacular. I should have found it most useful to me in going round the villages on famine tours. I should have found it important also in that it would have enabled me to speak to the natives by whom I was surrounded in my own house, and to converse with the native officers when I went to inspect a native regiment. As it was I could only touch the handles of the swords of these men and not say a word to them. It would also have enabled me to speak to native chiefs ignorant of the English language who came into my room, and with whom I had to converse through an interpreter.

What is true of the Viceroy, who is only a transient phantom in India, applies much more to the members of the Civil Service, who spend a third of a lifetime there. The same considerations apply in a not inferior degree to the case of the Army in India. The noble Lord in his opening remarks alluded to only one branch of this question. He talked about the prizes of money that are given for passing certain standards in foreign languages to officers of the Army in different parts of Asia. I agree with every word he said as to the small value to be attached to those examinations, not merely for the reasons he gave, but because of the ludicrously low standards that are maintained. Standards are being lowered from year to year and are almost worthless. Just as it is important for a civilian to be a master of the language for his work in India, so, but perhaps even in a greater degree, it is important that the military officer should be able to talk in their language to his men.

In the whole of this Report the passage which filled me with the greatest dismay appears in the evidence of Colonel Ranking, who conducted the examinations in Hindustani and other languages of British officers in India. He stated that within his time—during the last twenty or thirty years—the knowledge of native languages possessed by British officers in native regiments had diminished by thirty or forty per cent., and he made a bitter complaint about the constant lowering of the standard. This is largely due to the fact that the superior native officers now understand English as well as themselves, and, of course, it is a great temptation to an officer to communicate his orders and do his work through them instead of doing it with his own lips. But the outlook is a serious one. It is upon the contentment of the Army that if an emergency ever arises the stability of our position in India must in the main depend, and, therefore, any means that you can adopt by which the officer can know his men and win his way to their hearts is a matter which ought not to be lost sight of. If this proposal were put forward in the interests of the British Army alone and if it were claimed that the money necessary should be voted from that point of view only, I should say the case was proven without any reference to the Civil Service in India.

The noble Viscount alluded to the passage in the Report in which the Committee make the recommendation to the India Office that one year's probationary training in this country is inadequate to give the Indian Civil servant the knowledge of languages which he ought to possess before going to India, and they express the hope that the regulations for the Indian Civil Service will be revised to meet this criticism. That raises a most important issue. It raises the whole question of the age at which it is desirable that your Civil servant should go out from this country to undertake his work in India. The present system has not existed very long. The regulations were altered a few years ago reducing the two years probationary period to one, in order to draw into your mesh the best men from the Universities. To some extent that has succeeded. A man is now able to go through a University course. He may have taken his First or Double First or possibly may be a Fellow of his College, and if he decides to go into the Indian Civil Service you are able to get him for that purpose. You therefore obtain a more developed kind of character and a finer type of intellect for the Service. But the question arises whether at that time of life, because he may be twenty-three or twenty-four when he goes out to India—his character may not be too fixed and stereotyped, whether he may not have lost some of the elasticity and receptivity of youth, rendering it more difficult for him to adapt himself to Oriental surroundings. Those are serious matters, and I hope the noble Viscount will not hurriedly or prematurely make any change in the present system. It is a matter that needs the most earnest consideration.

But there is one change I hope he will make. The Committee go on to urge upon the India Office the view that selected candidates for the Indian educational, medical, and police services should in future be required to undergo a probationary training in Indian vernacular languages and kindred subjects before they proceed to India. That is most important. Conceive the position in which you send out a well-educated man from England to serve in the Educational Department in India who has to commence his work by giving lectures to Indian students with whom he cannot, except in a foreign tongue, exchange a word. Conceive still more the police officer going out to delicate duties, brought in contact every day, not with the highly-educated sections of the community who talk English, but with people who know nothing but their own language. How can you expect such a man to be of any use at all? How can he avoid the most disastrous mistakes? I hope, therefore, that the recommendations of the Committee as regards the educational and police services may receive the careful attention of the Secretary of State. In conclusion, I wish to say that I entirely agree with the noble Viscount in the proposition that this is a matter in which the honour and credit of the Government of this country are involved, that I warmly welcome the decision at which the Govern- ment have arrived, and that I think the greatest champion of economy could not possibly resent even a larger contribution than that which, on behalf of His Majesty's Government, the Secretary of State has held out.









Read 3a (according to order), and passed.