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either to discern or avow the futility of their attempts, it would be sufficient to repel the charge, as assertion without proof: but I can do more; I can quote cases in which there is no room for the suspicion at all. I refer to Europeans, who, in India, have deliberately given themselves up to the work of missionaries to the Hindoos, after a residence among them of many years. Two such instances occurred in connexion with my own mission. The individuals in question had lived many years in the midst of the Hindoos, before they formed the design of becoming preachers to the Brahmins and other natives of Hindostan. They had enjoyed full opportunities, and had embraced them, of examining minutely all that was transacting with reference to the missions; and the result was a full conviction, that the work of converting the Hindoos to Christianity was practicable. Many more instances of a similar kind might (were it necessary) be adduced, connected with other missions in different parts of India.
In further corroboration of what has been advanced, I would add that a great number of Europeans, who have been resident for many years in Calcutta and other parts of India, all so unhesitatingly deem the work to be practicable, not only to say so in word, but very
liberally to subscribe of their substance to its prosecution.
We see from hence, that hopes of converting the Hindoos are, in fact, not "mere dreams formed within the precincts of European closets," that they do not vanish upon arrival in India, and that the Abbé's assertion is unwarranted.
Reply to the Abbé's insinuation, that the increase of Suttees is in a great measure chargeable upon the Missionaries themselves, and to his opinion that the suppression of Suttees by the interposition of Government, is a measure too dangerous to be attempted.
I NEXT proceed to notice an assertion, made by the author of the work in question, involving a serious charge against the missionaries, and calculated to render them odious in the eyes of the British public. It is an accusation of their having been, in a great measure, the cause of an increase in the number of Hindoo widows who are annually consumed on the funeral pile of their husbands. The Abbé thus brings forward this heavy charge:
returns again to the stale subject of the burning of the Hindoo widows,
on the pile of their deceased husbands, and quotes the lamentable fact of seven hundred and six victims having devoted themselves to that barbarous superstition, in the course of the year 1817, in the presidency of Bengal. It is a well-known fact, (as I observed in a former letter,) that these nefarious sacrifices have increased of late years; but the reverend gentleman is not perhaps apprized, that many persons of good sense, who have made inquiries about the causes of this increasing evil, have been of opinion, that its aggravation was in a great measure owing to his intemperate zeal, and that of many of his associates in the work of reform. He is not, perhaps, aware, that owing to their abrupt attacks on the most deep-laid prejudices of the country, the zeal of the Hindoos had been roused to a determined spirit of opposition and resistance, when they saw their most sacred customs and practices publicly reviled, laughed at, and turned into ridicule, by words, and in writing, in numberless religious tracts, circulated with profusion, in every direction, all over the country." (pp. 197, 198)
Perhaps the best reply to the author's representation, that the religious tracts, circulated by the missionaries, have had a considerable influence in exciting the Hindoos to a determined spirit of
opposition and resistance, and induced them to burn their widows with greater zeal than ever, is the assertion which he himself has elsewhere made, and which has already been noticed in a preceding chapter*, that these tracts are perused by no one, and are above the comprehension of all." (pp. 207-8.)
How, it is inquired, can tracts, which no one reads, and which no one can understand, be capable of producing such an effect as that ascribed to them by this author?
But it may be further noticed, that the accusation which the Abbé has brought forward refers especially to Bengal, and to districts north of that province; and it is worthy of regard, that the accuser, whose exclusive sphere of labour was the southern part of the Indian promontory, more particularly Mysore, is not laying his indictment upon facts which he can aver have passed under his own observation, but either upon reports devoid of truth, or upon surmises devoid of foundation.
Having adverted to the inconsistency of the Abbé's own statements, and his incompetency as a witness, I will now beg the reader's attention to a proof of such a nature as will, I apprehend,