Free Traders or Classical Economists—Adam Smith
Utilitarians—Jeremy Bentham & James Mill
Evangelists—William Wilberforce & Charles Grant
New Intellectual Currents and Free Traders Around 1800, the Industrial
Revolution in Britain created new economic conditions and requirements.
There were also many new intellectual currents in Britain, which preached
the idea of improvement and thus pushed forward the issue of reform both at
home and in India. While the free traders lobbied at home for the abolition of
the Company’s monopoly over Indian trade, Evangelicalism and
Utilitarianism strove hard for a fundamental change in the nature of the
Company’s administration in India. Both these two schools of thought held
that the conquest of India had been done by acts of sin or crime; but instead
of advocating the abolition of this sinful or criminal rule, they advocated its
reform, so that Indians could get the benefit of good government in keeping
with the “best ideas of their age”. Ironically, it was these two intellectual
traditions that eventually gave rise to “the conviction that England should
remain in India permanently”.
Role of Evangelists Evangelicalism launched its crusade against Indian
barbarism and advocated the permanence of British rule with a mission to
change the very nature of India. In India, the proponents of this idea were the
missionaries located at Serampore (Srirampur) near Calcutta; but at home, its
chief exponent was Charles Grant. The main problem of India, he stated in
1792, was the religious ideas that perpetuated the ignorance of Indian people.
This could be tackled only through the dissemination of Christian light,
which in his opinion, should be the noble mission of British rule in India.
Grant’s ideas were forcefully acknowledged by William Wilberforce in the
Parliament, before the passage of the Charter Act of 1813, which allowed
Christian missionaries to enter India without restrictions. The idea of
improvement and change was simultaneously being advocated by the free-
traders for realising their economic objectives. Essentially, there was hardly
any difference between the Evangelist and the free-trader positions as regards
the policy of assimilation and Anglicization. Indeed, it was the Evangelist
Charles Grant who presided over the passage of the Charter Act of 1833,
which finally abolished the Company’s monopoly rights.