society, rather than to construct that society anew.
Metcalfe had been schooled in Wellesley’s haughtiness towards the Indian
aristocracy, and hated sharing with it, “the aristocracy of office”. But his
vision was of a benevolent paternalism founded on the unchanging “village
republics”, and he never considered a system of direct rule that would rebuild
India in the image of the West. He never stopped to acknowledge Munro as
master, and to pursue Munro’s ideal of a prosperous society of yeoman
farmers enjoying a freehold property right.
Malcolm and Elphinstone disliked the notion of sacrificing the aristocracy in
the interests of the peasantry, and wanted to preserve the Indian society in all
its rich variety. Apart from this difference of emphasis, the group was drawn
together by the feeling of having to wage a common struggle against alien
forces which were bent on sweeping away the old India they loved.
But, against the Cornwallis system, the four men spoke with one voice. They
saw it as a system of abstract principles inapplicable to India, as an
impersonal bureaucracy instead of a personal, human and tangible form of
government. Government managed from the office, rather than from the tent
and the saddle, necessarily proceeded by forms and precedents.
In contrast to the abstractions of the rule of law, and the blind, automatic
operation of an impersonal bureaucracy, Munro’s school preferred a
continuation of the Indian tradition of personal government. Apart from the
reservations of Metcalfe, they saw in the preservation of the Indian states,
one method of pursuing their aim, and, at the same time, of providing a
possible haven for the culture and higher graces of Indian life.
While aware of the irregularity and frequent oppressiveness of princely
governments, they recognised that ultimately, these were closer to their own
ideal. To the ryot, government must be represented simply; not by a
multiplicity of officers and a multiplicity of written forms, but by a single
officer, who had powers to inquire, to judge and to punish, without the delay
and intricacies of the Western legal process. This officer was not to be a
distant and awful figure, presiding like a deity in his temple, but a familiar
lord, visiting and speaking with them of their quarrels and their crops, and
looked up to as ma-bap, father and mother. In practical terms, this meant a
union of powers, at least at the district level.
None but Metcalfe had the logical nerve to propose their absolute union and