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usage, nor attribute to a local custom, limited to a single class and a narrow tract of country, the influence which belongs to a rite, recognised by every order of society, and prevailing, more or less, from one end of India to the other. The feelings of the Hindoos, when they are not turned aside by the force of any peculiar prejudice or institution, run in the same channel with the feelings of all other people. They view the practice of infanticide as we ourselves view it; and if, from their constitutional apathy, and the indolent spirit of a religion which admits no proselytes, they have not gone actively with us, at least their jealousy was not alarmed, their own superstitions were not touched, and they had no inducement to go against us.
It has also been argued, as a proof of the facility with which the practice of self-burning might be abolished, that it' prevails chiefly, if not exclusively, among the lowest and most ignorant, and is discountenanced by the upper and educated classes. '* We do not see any reason to believe that the practice is discountenanced by the upper classes: the other position, that it prevails chiefly among the lower classes, is true in fact, but the principle which has been deduced from it is erroneous. The lower orders are nowhere those who are most easily wrought upon to abandon old or adopt new usages; on the contrary, they cling to their ancient modes with much more tenacity than their betters. Improvement of every kind makes its way slowly among them; and in all countries the vestiges of remote customs, like the terms and idioms of obsolete language, are to be sought among the uneducated classes. Superstition is always powerful in proportion to the ignorance of its professors. Not only, therefore, the basis, on which this usage stands, is strong, but it is strong for the very reason for which the argument now under consideration alleges it to be weak.
To the argument founded upon the fact of the practice of selfimmolation having been successfully prohibited by the Danes at Serampore, the Dutch at Chinsura, the French at Chandernagore, and by our own supreme court within the city of Calcutta, it has been obviously replied, that
' no just inference can be drawn from this circumstance in favour of a general interdiction, as the inhabitants of the foreign settlements, and Calcutta, are at liberty to perform the act in the vicinity of those places respectively; and the magistrate of the suburbs of Calcutta has accordingly noticed, that his report of twenty-five women burned on the funeral piles of their husbands, in the year 1815, includes those who were not permitted to burn within the jurisdiction of the supreme court.' †
To which may be added, that a particular instance of prohiIbid, July 10, 1821, p. 109.
Papers, May 17, 1827, p. 29.
bition may very well be referred by the natives to a particular cause; and that it is only from an alarm, among them, of a general systematic design to alter their religious customs, that solid and extensive danger is to be apprehended.
No reasoning is more liable to error than that which, founded on the opinions and observances of one time or country, is applied to the opinions and observances of another. Men are the creatures of the circumstances by which they are surrounded: even those feelings and instincts which belong to our common nature, and are inherent in us all, are modified and restrained by local institutions. The Hindoo has the same filial and parental affections, the same dread of pain, and the same love of life that we have, and the prevalence of this horrid rite only proves the force of the impulse by which those instincts are subdued. In estimating that force, we must consider it with reference, not to our own opinions and belief, but to the opinions and belief of those among whom this usage prevails. The Hindoo widow implicitly believes, that by burning herself on the death of her husband, she redeems him from a state of torment, and secures instantaneous admission with his spirit into the bliss of heaven; and she knows that, if she survives him, she is doomed to a life of hopeless degradation, spurned by the world, and an outcast, even from her own family. She is incited, therefore, by two of the most powerful motives by which human actions can be influenced, the desire of happiness, and the dread of infamy; nor is she, perhaps, insensible to the reputation of a sacrifice, which is glorious in proportion to the horrors by which it is surrounded. The woman who has wrought up her mind to the resolution of destroying herself by fire, is already beyond the reach of any penal enactment.
But it may be urged, that penal prohibition, though futile in the case of the victim, would be efficacious in deterring others from assisting at the sacrifice. It is alleged that the relations of the widow are, in some cases, actuated by a selfish view in stimulating her resolution, and that the Brahmins promote the same end for the sake of the fees which they expect. Mr. Ewer says, the family are anxious to get rid of an encumbrance, and the Brahmins are desirous of a feast and a present.' * The benevolent and accomplished author of the Elements of Hindoo Law also speaks of designing priests, and interested relations.' And Dr. Marshman, the excellent missionary, speaks largely in the same tone to Bishop Heber. But we doubt the fact as to the relations, and are disposed to believe that they endeavour to prevent, in many more instances than to promote, the sacrifice. Even in those cases where it is not so, similar considerations to
* Papers, July 10, 1821. p. 227.
those which influence the widow, extends also to the members of her family. What is honourable to her, is honourable to them; what is disgraceful to her, is digraceful to them. Her death, in. the discharge of what they hold to be her highest duty, sheds a lustre upon them all; and it is the vice of the tenets in which they have been bred, that her life, if she survives, must be a perpetual reproach to them as well as to herself. With respect to the Brahmins, thinking as ill of them as it is reasonable to think of any class of men collectively, still there are obvious motives, sufficient to account for their conduct in this particular, without resorting to the violent supposition of a mercenary purpose. They are priests, with all the feelings of the priesthood for the honour and influence of their religion. By a law peculiar to their creed, they are debarred from making proselytes; and their zeal, thus confined within a narrower channel, runs, perhaps, with a stronger current. Believing as they believe, it is not surprising that they encourage a sacrifice which they hold to be acceptable to the Deity, meritorious in the sufferer, and honourable to the faith of which they are the ministers.
There is, at least, no levity in this custom. To ascend the pile, the daughter must sever herself from her parents, the mother must abandon her children, the female must forget the timidity of her sex, and brave death in the most frightful of all the aspects it can assume. The force that can break down barriers like these, that can rend asunder the strongest ties, and subdue the most powerful propensities of our nature, is not to be arrested by any human ordinance. It is the effect of a cause which lies deep in the religious practice and usages of the people. We say religious practice, because it is contended that this rite is not enjoined by any original precept of the Hindoo faith; and on this ground an argument has been built in favour of the facility of abolition. Unquestionably the Hindoo law does not require the widow to burn herself on the death of her husband; nor, although it prohibits her from marrying again,* and prescribes a life of austerity and privation,+ does it condemn her to that abject condition, to which she is degraded by the usage of the people. The law respects her rights, as well during her widowhood, as during her coverture. She is the heir to her husband's property, in default of male, and to the exclusion of female issue. (Elements of Hindoo Law, p. 154.) She is enjoined to reside, after his death, with the son or sons of her husband, if he have left any; if not, with his other relations, among whom guardians are to be selected for her.' (Ibid. 243.) 'Failing relations of her husband, she is to reside with her own, enjoying their protection, and being sub+ Ibid. p. 243.
Elements of Hindoo law, vol. i. p. 240.
VOL. XXXVII. NO. LXXIII.
ject to their control.' (Ibid.) But, though not prescribed as a duty, burning is strongly inculcated as a virtue:to burn with her deceased husband,' says Sir T. Strange, is inculcated upon the Hindoo widow, not out of respect to his memory merely, but as the means of his redemption from the unhappy state into which he is believed to have passed, and as ensuring, in consequence, to herself (not everlasting indeed, but) long continued felicity.' (Ibid. 236.) 'Her virtue expiates whatever crimes he had committed, even to the "slaying a Bramin, returning evil for good, or killing his friend." And, for this proof of it, a kind of Mahometan paradise is promised her.' (Ibid. 237.) By the Hindoo law, as well as by ours, suicide is a crime; but the contrary is declared in this instance, the motive sanctifying the act.' (Ibid. 240.) But this part of the inquiry is one rather of curiosity than of importance. Where a custom is of long standing, and the people, among whom it prevails, believe that it has the sanction of religion, it is futile to reason with them on a mere question of degree.
Let us not undervalue the obstacles against which we have to contend. All measures directed immediately to the practice will be unavailing. It must be opposed, not in its progress, but at its source. Superstition, ignorance, delusion, must be dispelled; new rights, and new duties, must be inculcated; motives, charities, affections, hitherto unknown, must be imparted; mountains must be removed; a moral reformation must be wrought in the character of the people of India. To effect this, or even to undertake it with any prospect of success, time, temper, discretion, judgment, all, in an eminent degree, are indispensable. In whatever light this subject may be viewed, it is beset with difficulties;— In darkness, and with dangers compass'd round;'
and he must be endowed with more than ordinary sagacity, who can discern his way to a successful and secure result. At present, we seem to have a choice of evils. If we do too little, we only provoke a resistance which we are not prepared to suppress. If we do too much, we raise a question to be solved, certainly in the blood of our countrymen, and possibly in the summary subversion of that power, on the continuance of which, every rational hope of civilizing, and ultimately Christianizing the Indian continent must depend.
We have, perhaps, wandered too widely from the work of Bishop Heber; but we must not conclude without noticing that it is edited by his widow, to whose notes we cannot pay a higher
Elements of Hindoo Law, vol. i. p. 237. See also the opinions of the pundits at the three presidencies, in various parts of the printed papers, and the summary of the law in the papers, July 10, 1821, p. 137.
compliment than in saying that they might, in most cases, be taken for parts of the bishop's text. It is illustrated throughout with engravings on copper and wood-cuts, all after his lordship's sketches, many of which are highly spirited and elegant. It may not be improper to add, that no publisher has any concern in the property of this book, the profits of which will go entirely to the family of the lamented author.
ART. VI.-1. Report on the Criminal Law of England. (Ordered by the House of Commons to be Printed, April 2nd, 1824.) 2. A Treatise on Crimes and Indictable Misdemeanors. William Oldnall Russell, Esq., of Lincoln's-Inn, Barrister-atLaw. Second Edition. 1826.
3. A Treatise on Criminal Pleading. By Thomas Starkie, Esq., of Lincoln's-Inn, Barrister-at-Law. Second Edition. 1822. 4. A Supplement to all the Modern Treatises on the Criminal Law; containing the Alterations by Statute to the Prorogation of Parliament in 1827. By F. A. Carrington, Esq., Barristerat-Law. 1827.
VHEN Mr. Peel, in bringing forward in the House of Commons his plans for amending parts of the criminal law, hinted that a more splendid name might attend the originator of a new code, than could ever be hoped for by any cautious improver of an old system of law, we were pleased to hear it asserted by Mr. J. C. Hobhouse, and other members, that no fame more truly valuable could be acquired than by steadily pursuing the course in which Mr. Peel himself had hitherto proceeded. We confess, we prefer the plan of inquiring into defects in our legal system productive of actual mischiefs, and remedying these by simple and practical corrections, to any bolder attempts at a general change of system-and this for two reasons: 1st, because we believe that, considering the long-established and deep root of our legal system in all our institutions and habits, and its many and acknowledged excellences, no general speculative plan of innovation could really be so productive of good, still less be so satisfactory to the public at large,—as improvements and corrections of the existing system, contrived so as to leave its main basis and character untouched; and 2dly, because, whatever may be the merits or demerits of the system, we are convinced that gradual correction is the only practicable plan likely to be productive of any speedy results, and carrying with it any prospect of certain success unattended with danger. The confusion, perplexity, and volume of our criminal code