authoritarian tendencies. According to Jeremy Bentham, the high priest of
Utilitarianism, the ideal of human civilization was to achieve the greatest
happiness of the greatest number of people. Good laws, efficient and
enlightened administration, in his opinion, were the most effective agents of
change. With James Mill, the most prominent Benthamite, coming to the East
India Company’s London office, Indian policies came to be influenced by
such doctrines. In The History of British India, published in 1817, Mill first
disproved the myth of India’s economic and cultural riches, propagated by
the “susceptible imagination” of men like Sir William Jones. What India
needed for her development, he contended in a typical Benthamite fashion,
was an effective schoolmaster, i.e., a wise government undertaking good
legislation. In fact, it was his efforts that largely ensured the appointment of a
Law Commission in 1833 under Lord Macaulay, which drew up an Indian
Penal Code in 1835 on the Benthamite model.
The Utilitarians disagreed with the liberals in several important aspects,
especially with regard to the question of Anglicization. While the liberal Lord
Macaulay in his famous Education Minute of 1835, strongly argued for the
introduction of English education, Utilitarians like Mill still backed
vernacular education as more suitable to Indian needs. In other words,
dilemmas in imperial attitudes towards India continued to persist in the first
half of the nineteenth century.
This predicament was epitomised by Lord Bentinck himself. A zealous
follower of Mill, he abolished sati and child infanticide through legislation.
But at the same time, he retained his faith in Indian traditions and nurtured a
desire to give back to the Indians their true religion. That is why the official
discussion on the proposed reform of sati was based on the argument that its
abolition was warranted by ancient Hindu texts.
Further, the Indian Penal Code, drafted as early as 1835, could not become an
act until 1860. The dilemmas definitely persisted even in the mid-nineteenth
century, in spite of Lord Dalhousie’s determination to pursue Mill’s vision of
aggressive advancement of Britain’s mission in India.
Victorian Liberalism and Paternalism In post-1857 India, it was the
liberalism of the Victorian variety that definitely made paternalism the
leading ideology of the British Raj. The distressing experience of the revolt
made many Englishmen realise that reform was “pointless as well as