Cultural Studies, Education and Legality
What I would like to show is that an episode and transitory form, law itself is, rather, part of a much more general history of the techniques and technologies of practices of the subject with regards to himself, of techniques and technologies which are independent of law and have priority with regards to it.1
Here I want to emphasize the necessary contextuality of any meaningful study of legality, what Foucault above, terms “law itself”: the way in which “law itself”, is formed in specific societies. In the case of the United Kingdom, its ordering role was less limited and augmented by custom and the “moral economy” of the period studied by EP Thompson than increasingly by the slow development of education and civil administration It is clear from the above quotation from Foucault that, whilst their goals were very different, there is a certain convergence between the approaches of both Smith and Foucault toward the social place of law. Examining the place and the very form of law must, for both, await the study of a number of other social forces. Smith, like his Scottish contemporaries, was concerned first with the nature of particular kinds of society and, as we have seen, categorized these roughly into four types, from gatherer-hunter to commercial societies. His second interest was in how human beings came to be, or perform, in a manner consistent with the society of which they claimed membership, and he used the metaphor of the spectator, who is first of all external and then also internal in the formation of the subject. Only after these operations have been explored can we turn to the question of legality. Equally, Foucault sees law as effected by other governing principles, and as best understood as but one of many normative influences upon the construction of subjectivity. The word “transitory” as a qualifier of forms of law in the passage quoted suggests to me to convey fluidity rather than a temporary nature for the forms which will, at different times characterize law. There may always be law to study, but the manner and conclusions of its study must come after other study – this is the message from Smith and Foucault. Law in Aboriginal societies, for example, was discernible only when some knowledge of the societies in question was gained by Europeans.
This may seem obvious enough but, as I suggested in Chapter 1, and will return to, a powerful conviction arose after the mid-eighteenth century conquests in India that the ultimate cement of any particular social order is the law, constituted by its sovereign. In Chapter 1, we noticed the vicious circularity in which the sovereign, through which law must be identified in this model, can be identified only in terms of its unique capacity to authorize law. Australian courts were forced to confront the issue in relation to Aboriginal land rights. Enclaves remain, but for the most part, the people who had inhabited and managed their land for perhaps 50 millennia, found themselves stripped of entitlement to their country. The logic was that the British invaders had acquired political sovereignty and thus the legal right to redistribute property. The reasoning behind the logic, expressed in earlier legal reasoning, that Aboriginal people were rude and ignorant savages without government or institutions of property, was denied by judges of Australia’s highest federal court.2
The Australian judges were anxious to be humane and charitable (courts since have been equally polite, but have for the most part found one reason or another for rejecting Aboriginal land claims), but refused to answer the obvious question: on what basis, satisfactory to the present, could the British and their Australian successors have claimed sovereignty? Leave aside rudeness and savagery, which satisfied nineteenth century courts as justification, and was rejected as false by courts close to the twenty-first century, what now remains by way of justification of sovereign acquisition and subsequently land-theft, immiseration of indigenous people and self-righteous explanations of genocidal retaliations after Aboriginal defense of their land? In other words, serious cultural questions need to be asked before we come to the English common law. Fortunately for themselves, the judges did not need to ask those questions. Since the highest court in the land owed its existence to sovereign creation and endorsement, it could not, it felt, question the basis of its legitimacy.3 “Native title” – echoes of empire, of course – would have to be put into conformity with the law of the unquestionable sovereign without inquiring into the question of how that sovereignty came to claim Aboriginal subjects as its own. The usual mix of metaphors of expediency surfaced in Australian judgments, which generally affirmed Aboriginal title in the abstract, whilst rejecting its application in the case before them. The sovereignty that lay behind the highest Australian court was the “skeleton” upon which the state hung. Nothing but an amoeba or a jellyfish could, by implication, exist effectively without one and retain coherence. There was no going behind it, to discover the original government and property regimes on the continent. Or, Aboriginal claims had been washed away by the tides of history. Europeans, still less lawyers could no more influence tides than King Cnut. Nature here provided the “Pontius Pilate moments” with which we are familiar from Arendt’s reporting of the Eichmann case; nobody at Wannsee was responsible, save for the (absent) Jews, who owed their fate to their “natural” sub-humanity.
Putting Lawyers’ Law Back into Culture
But how does one locate an appropriate context for “law itself” in order to decide what “itself” is? My theme has been that, as Burke put it, lawyers’ law misses law’s potential “grandeur” with politically unfortunate results, and to the extent that lawyers’ law prescribes legal theory, or jurisprudence, the “wisdom” of law, the prescription produces a crabbed, instrumentalist and exclusivist discipline. We can put an alternative, a contemporary search for context in a way not inconsistent with Adam Smith and Foucault by considering “cultural studies” as it has developed since the second half of the twentieth century. Munns and Rajan open their Introduction to a collection of essays on cultural studies with a quotation from a 1986 lecture by Raymond Williams, entitled “The Future of Cultural Studies”, in which he says, “you cannot understand an intellectual or artistic project without also understanding its formation; that the relation between a project and a formation is always decisive and … the emphasis of Cultural Studies is precisely that it engages with both”.4 If the Scots of the enlightenment did not describe their work in quite this way, it is nevertheless what they were doing. Contextualization, although they would have abhorred the word, opening out their beloved English school to and toward other disciplines with humane hope, was what the Leavises were doing in the twentieth century, as we shall see.
In their Introduction, Greenblatt and Gunn define the interdisciplinarity of cultural studies thus:
It is tempting to believe that every time borders are crossed at the level of disciplines one automatically enters the domain of the interdisciplinary, but this assumption confuses the desire to see from different sides of the same border with the desire to reconceive the relation between various borders. The disciplinary gives way to the interdisciplinary only when changes in interpretive frames actually manage to produce changes in what can be seen with their assistance and only when reconceptions of the question also change what can be represented as an answer.5
In Greenblatt and Gunn’s view, this new notion of literary studies results from three changes in higher education, each leading to the others. Greater access to universities has brought a greater mix of students (and faculty) in terms of “ethnic, racial, social, cultural and religious” backgrounds. They have sought answers to different questions than those posed by an earlier and more homogenous elite. Their search, of course, draws more texts into the purview of literary studies and since the act of searching is a form of demand for greater breadth of textual study by readers, forces more attention on to the reader as an active agent engaging with texts.6 Again, as we have seen, there was evidence of some of these changes in Presbyterian schooling and Scottish universities from early in the eighteenth century, developments that crossed the Atlantic but were somewhat delayed in crossing the Tweed. The liberating nature of cultural studies thus conceived – and I would add, its sympathy for a democratic politics – is noticed in yet another introduction. Quoting John Frowe, Greenblatt and Gunn argue that “the social order constrains and oppresses people, but at the same time offers them resources to fight those constraints”. Quoting Stuart Hall, they add that “culture means ‘the actual, grounded terrain of cultural practices, representations, languages and customs of any particular society’”,7 terrain which can always be contested. Theoretical awareness of these cultural tools, their provenance, effects and potential is what Frowe regards as the resources necessary to use them and overcome their oppressive dimensions. The study of how law is, in “itself” must, in my argument include an awareness of these resources.
Purged of its cultural studies content, jurisprudence loses its implication of “wisdom” concerning law and becomes a dry catalog of the desiccated technicality given it by legal practice. (Much the same can be said of all vocational instruction masquerading as academic activity.8) We must return to Burke, in the last decades of the eighteenth century. He was undoubtedly sympathetic toward both Americans and Bengalis and what he saw as their outrageous treatment by British governments following the Seven Years’ War of 1756–63. But the principal apprehension he expressed was associated with the missed “grandeur”; if law was not understood as based in a constitution in turn grounded in the habits and expectations of a people, it was simply a tool available for oppression. And oppression in one part of the empire would inevitably, in Burke’s opinion, return home to inform the practices of its authors there. Empire and pettifogging9 legal theory, narrowing horizons, corroding responsibility for decisions taken, and ultimately hostile to inclusivist, democratic politics, were close cousins. Burke was not himself democratically inclined, but he was firmly of the view that it was the duty of Parliament to put the good of the people, commons included, before its own interests, or those of its members.
Removing Local Culture in India from British Administration
It was never clear whether the British rule over India was to be force backed by pedagogy or pedagogy backed by force. Semantically and practically, the two practices are often not dissimilar. Schoolteachers until recently carried canes to beat, as they saw them, recalcitrant children. I remember. Professors fail students, which is a kind of violence. With the best of intentions, academics can hope to follow Leavis’s injunction to work with students in a mutual learning process. But, as the British lost respect for Indian scholarship, and, viewing the poverty they had contributed to, although not created, authoritarianism took hold.
Cornwallis and Wellesley could, as Burke feared, in the India of the end of the eighteenth century, justify schemes for controlling Indian natives on the grounds of Indian incompetence and British sovereign authority to act as conquerors. Indians, not being proper English subjects, were not entitled to participate officially or effectively in their fate. Similarly, then it came to seem natural to centralize the administrative control of the English poor three decades later. If natives overseas were not entitled to participate in their government, was it not anomalous that indigent Englishmen should have a participatory role in the organization of poor relief, as was sometimes the case under the old Poor Law? Did not the British government, in the understanding and misunderstanding that had prompted the American war, exercise sovereignty over the English poor as well as over Indians? Cornwallis’s Anglicization of administration in British India, his exclusion of local inhabitants, has a direct parallel in the transfer of Poor Law administration from the parish vestry, in which the poor themselves were often involved in one way or another10 to the “Three Kings of Somerset House” in London by the Poor Law Amendment Act of 1834. Local cultures of mutual obligation, where they existed, were plainly rejected amid hysteria about the apparently rising cost to the privileged of maintaining the poor.
It was indeed, according to a recent study,11 the political economy of Thomas Malthus, lecturer to (British) Indian Civil Service students at Haileybury College, which informed the gradually forming new doctrines about the poor, rationalized the hysteria about the growing cost of the poor law to landowners, and justified the national imposition of workhouses (some poor law unions of parishes had through the eighteenth century constructed their own). The governing principle of the new poor law was “less eligibility”, a phrase associated with the 1834 Act, the doctrine that forced the poor who had no means of earning, largely because they had been made unemployed by the very people who would, in effect, punish them, “indoors”, into the workhouse. There they were to be physically separated from spouses and children in circumstances in which they were all to be subject to living conditions deliberately made harsher than conditions outside, had there been remunerative work for the poor to do. The poor were to be forced to pay for their immiseration by the better off, whose poor rates would be reduced. From the point of view of the better off, the poor were henceforth to take responsibility for themselves, ultimately to become “good” English subjects or accept their exclusion from the positive consciousness of the polity. If we think of Malthus’s observations in 1803, quoted above, that the poor had no place “at nature’s mighty feast”, they should be grateful of the opportunity to make do with gruel in the workhouse, to display, in the Reverend Milman’s words, humility and the acceptance of degradation. The law, like the schoolmaster with his cane, was to reject even the slight allowance made to the customs and participation of the governed.
Macaulay’s purpose in rejecting the legacy of local, in this case, Indian, culture and substituting that of the British had some resemblance to this, Malthusian, project save, importantly, that it had a positive goal. It had the same justification as that of the Malthusians, that of controlling populations, the same refusal to recognize the equal subjectivity of those over whom it is possible to exercise power unless they either conform with the expectations of their English masters or learn their abject inferiority. But it offers, however paternalistically, a way forward that does not have the possible destruction of subjects, rather, their recreation, as its alternative. This is clear from his speech to the Commons on the Charter Act in 1833, before Macaulay went to India and the year before the Poor Law Amendment Act. It is worth quoting a crucial passage:
To have found a great people sunk in the lowest depths of slavery and superstition, to have so ruled them as to have made them desirous of all the privileges of citizens, would indeed be a title to glory all our own. The scepter may pass from us. Unforeseen accidents may derange our most profound schemes of policy. Victory may be inconstant to our arms. But there are victories which are followed by no reverse. There is an empire exempt from all causes of decay. Those triumphs are the pacific triumphs of reason over barbarism; that empire is the imperishable empire of our arts and our morals, our literature and our laws.12
Macaulay’s background was that of Christian evangelism, (not to be confused with twentieth and twenty-first century Christian evangelism in the United States) of Wilberforce and Zachary Macaulay. Wilberforce’s English subject could not accept the slave trade, but it is far from clear that he would have accepted the implications of the inscription on Wedgwood’s ceramic ware during the campaign to abolish the slave trade, the famous depiction of a chained African man, appealing to his masters, “Am I not a man and a brother?”, Macaulay’s mission was not particularly Christian, but his sense of Englishness, which is clear from his History, and his evangelism on behalf of this version of Englishness, was clear from Clive. It is clear from his 1833 speech, quoted, in part, above. There is, I have argued throughout some similarity of purpose between the two lines of thought about control, that required by the Benthamite/political economy-inspired legislation and that implied by Macaulay’s 1835 Education Minute. It was, after all, under the utilitarian, Governor-General Bentinck, that Macaulay’s educational proposals for “a suitable class of Indians”, to render them English subjects with brown skins, were accepted. Because of the near-convergence of Macaulay and the utilitarians on this issue, John Clive has observed that the decisiveness of Macaulay’s intervention in 1835 is not quite as straightforward as it is sometimes made to appear. The victory of English language schooling advocates over those who favored an educational policy pursued through local languages, which was signaled in the famous Minute to the Supreme Council of India, had been all but won before Macaulay wrote and then addressed the Council.
The policy of teaching Indians in the English language, inevitably importing and inculcating values from Britain, had indeed been proposed from the late eighteenth century as a means of undermining “the Hindu fabric of error” and eventually propagating Christianity. Charles Grant, later East India Company Chairman, had written in 1797, “the English language … is a key which will open to them (Hindus, but also Muslims) a world of new ideas, and policy alone might have impelled us long since to put it into their hands”.13 His aim was to spread the benign influence of Englishness – and to enhance commercial relations with the Company. By 1823, John Clive suggests, a number of trends were indeed coming together. A wealthy middle class of Hindu merchants who traded with the British favored both British rule and the teaching of English language and culture; and, given the impossibility of educating the mass of Indians within British India into the belief, shared by British administrators and Hindu merchants, in the inherent superiority of British culture, a process of downward diffusion to the “mass” from the colonial rulers and native elite was the generally agreed course of action by men like Charles Trevelyan, Macaulay’s future brother in law, and William Bentinck, Governor of Madras earlier in the century, where both had been energetic proponents of English language education. As Governor-General of all British India from 1827, Bentinck was in thorough agreement with James Mill’s view that Hindu and Muslim literature was “mischievous” and largely useless,14 and with Trevelyan, that only in English, a language surely at the apogee of European rationality, was a “tolerable education” to be obtained.
Company servants were now well-paid (and, therefore, expensive) – one of Macaulay’s motives in becoming a member of the Supreme Council was to finance a subsequent life of politics and letters in England. The reason for paying generous salaries was to remove the temptation for the private looting of local wealth associated with the Company’s reign in the late eighteenth century. Some years after Cornwallis’s Anglicization of the administration of India, Bentinck was now charged with the task of reducing Company costs. British employees were expensive and enabling Indians fluent in the English language to perform lowranking administrative tasks which would otherwise have to be undertaken by the higher-paid British, would, it was hoped, assist in the endeavor to retrench Company expenditure.
Macaulay looked beyond the Indian elite with an aim, one now widely shared by the colonizers:
to do our best to form a class who may be interpreters between us and the millions whom we govern; a class of persons, Indian in blood and colour, but English in taste, in opinions, in morals and in intellect.15
Stokes, in the 1950s and a number of more recent writers such as Pennycook and Viswanathan have remarked that India provided a social laboratory from which, by virtue of the sovereignty exercised there, experiments could be attempted whose results might then find their way home. This educational invitation to collude in apparently universal values was a principal attempt. For Bentham and James Mill, law reform and codification were to be the primary tools in the civilizing mission. For Trevelyan and, to an increasing extent, Macaulay, beneath law and a condition of its acceptability and regular application – hence the security of liberty and property – lay culture and its ability to draw a society otherwise diverse and unequal, together.16 But here we find a tension noticed by several authors (and of course one embodied in Macaulay himself). On the one hand, GO Trevelyan, Macaulay’s nephew and biographer, remarks that Macaulay’s intervention, in marking the defeat of the Orientalists and commencing the diffusion or “filtration” of Englishness downward, was “the turning point of (India’s) intellectual progress”.17
Somewhat earlier, we find the administrator quoted earlier, directly linking education and the utility to efficient government that would, he considered, be served by imparting English culture. He is worth re-quoting in order to draw attention to the fine line between the several uses of the practice of discipline:
… the natives must either be kept down by a sense of our power, or they must willingly submit from a conviction that we are more wise, more just more humane and more anxious to improve their condition than any ruler they could have.18
Since the moral authority of an established Christian church was not likely to be generally accepted in India, even after Christian missionary activity was permitted in 1813, the greater wisdom of the colonizers was to be the heritage transmitted in English literature. Bearing in mind Pennycook’s comment that “colonialism needs to be seen as a primary site of cultural production whose products have flowed back through the imperial system”,19 we notice in this emphasis on the pacifying effects of education an anticipation of Matthew Arnold’s emphasis on producing governability among the “brawling” masses of the English working class by spreading the “sweetness and light” of culture. Here he is, of course, echoing Coleridge, but missing Coleridge’s insistence that a person not merely be taught the manner of his customary circumstances, but taught to bring about the best in himself, which might be much more than conformity, and takes us back to the Putney Debates, of which Coleridge would have been unaware.
But here is one of the tensions noticed by Viswanathan’s chapter, “The Failure of English”.20 A previous chapter in her book gives us Nobinchunder Dass and Mahendra Lal Basak, two students so “attached” to the colonizer that the first can see his fellow Indians in British terms, as “natives”; and the second is convinced that “the British government (of India) was a fair one promoting national prosperity and justice” which Indians, “still sleeping the sleep of death” could not themselves achieve.21 The “failure of English” is later explained by Viswanathan as one of the “conflict between producing greater equality through the diffusion of western culture and western ideas and western knowledge and reproducing inequality through the occupational structure”.22 The ambition contained in the project to create brown Englishmen was continually thwarted. I quoted Hume’s remark, that government must be by opinion. When that opinion is culturally solicited, it invites cultural refusal in this kind of context, or at least provides the tools for such refusal.
The second tension concerned the law. I suggested a divergence, or at the very least a significant difference in emphasis, between those who sought to govern principally by cultural assimilation through education – and Viswanathan elsewhere repeats the argument that this had some successes until it collapsed under the weight of its own contradictions – and those for whom the law, as, if not a command, then a demand – was the predominant tool. In this essay in the collection edited by Anne McLintock et al, Viswanathan writes of the attempt, ultimately unsuccessful, to use the British identity revealed in selected literature to dissociate the rapacious conqueror from the best European minds, to provide “a surrogate Englishman in his highest and most perfect state”.23 This anticipates the Arnoldian solution for the social ills caused by his “brawling” and smashing working class, namely the re-education of the middle class. It is from them that “sweetness and light” might be downwardly transmitted, allowing, presumably, a more peaceful context for the continued economic exploitation of the working class, even if Arnold did not put it thus. Elsewhere, Viswanathan remarks on other problems with the rule-by-pedagogy policy in part being embraced. One was that whilst Indian literature was closely associated with, for the most part, either Muslim or Hindu spirituality, the neutral note sounded in British education could seem disrespectful, or unmindful of religious values.
But, on the contrary, there was a danger already referred to, and certainly not foreseen by Macaulay, that, armed with the skills of that rationalism, Indians could re-write and re-create their own myths of origin in opposition to that of the colonial power. This was understood by Sir Henry Maine as the “insurrectionary power of German Romanticism”, the insurrectionary power of Whig Romanticism plainly now forgotten. The child’s reflection in the mirror conceals a rather different actuality; what seems just to be the case substitutes for experience, and one might say the same of the Whigs’ view of the world, which came to stand for the world itself. Lurking behind Maine’s remark, too, is the perhaps unrecognized suspicion that rationality was not the simple projection of a single line of European thought, with its apotheosis in the English subject. Finally, there was the purely practical difficulty noted above, that there were insufficient jobs for educated Indians in the world of British colonialism. If the recipients of a more advanced education in Europe were intended to live the lives of gentlemen, as well as to pursue careers, similar spaces were greatly outnumbered by the candidates for such outcomes in India. And if education, moreover, held out the promise, or at least the possibility, of equality, Viswanathan argues, its failure to do so in the context of a colonial economy linked to world capitalism exposed, she argues:
the moral pretensions of British colonialism. At one level, education as part of the state is complicit with the reproduction of an economic and cultural order. But because education is also expected to provide opportunities for advancement, it becomes an arena of social conflict, and this tension ultimately reduced the British administration to a position of acute vulnerability and paralysis.24
We shall later on see in the fears of rulers in some parts of the Anglophone world paralleling this anxiety about the paralysis and loss of traditional moral authority in the culture wars, where we find protagonists occupying positions we would not always have predicted. The Leavisites, whom we could not characterize otherwise than as “elitists”, occupying a terrain of the necessary criticism or opposition to any government in order, as it were, to defend pluralism, were nothing but the cultural studies precursors of those whom twentieth and twentieth-first century Euro-American governments see as impediments to a new imperialism.25 Here is the origin of the “culture wars”, still, so unhappily waged in the United States.
That nineteenth century colonial legalist and culturalist policies of assimilation were not completely divided is again illustrated by the pedagogical overtones in this statement from James Fitzjames Stephen, for two years and a half law officer on the Supreme Council of India:
… our law is, in fact, the sum and substance of what we have to teach them. It is, so to speak, the gospel of the English, and it is a compulsory gospel which admits of no dissent and no disobedience.26
Stokes’ remark, that Bentham and his followers were more interested in authority than liberty, is nevertheless, quite obviously illustrated by James Fitzjames Stephen.27 Stephen was a Hobbesian positivist, a utilitarian, as opposed to Indian self-rule as he was to democracy in Britain on the ground that the English subject (which must have for him excluded women and the working class in Britain) belonged to a “superior” and “belligerent” race, and like an Englishman in his own home, had obtained sovereignty in India by right of conquest.28 Colonialism and marriage were clearly, in his view, similar. As a lawyer, however, he was committed to notions of impartiality and fair hearing. The white husband should presumably give all parties, natives, wife, children and servants, an opportunity to present their cases before he gave judgment.
The tension generated by the stress on law as the basis of government was becoming evident in mid-century as the numbers of Indian students reading law in India increased. It is a point made about white settlement in New South Wales. Englishness, however rudimentarily grasped by convicts in NSW, meant the protection of property and a certain degree of liberty. In the absence of a Parliament as the arena for political expression, politics takes where it can be taken, to courts.29 What we learn if we take understanding law in the broad sense, is that law, in this sense, forms part of a cultural terrain on which struggle can take place. It took legal positivism in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries to blinker understanding to an unimaginative focus on rules. Perhaps Indians were more creative, again, in the absence of a Parliament in which political struggle takes place directly.
Naturally, Maine saw things differently, as if, almost in a mirror of what may have been happening. In 1866, he expressed concern about the attraction of the “native bar” to the “young educated native”. The bar offered both independence and a lucrative living, but carried also the danger of appealing to the Indian students’ ability, delight, even, in “developing a grasp of fine detail and a remarkable capacity for subtle argument”, without appreciating the breadth necessary for mature and rounded legal argument.30 Now, there were pockets of “rounded legal argument” in the British Empire, but by the time Maine was complaining, they were hard to find.31 This is, as we would expect, little more than a prejudice arising from cultural antagonism and a resentment that, from presumed “racial” inferiors, should emerge litigators of ingenuity and effectiveness, taking on the English at their own game and often winning. Also, Maine was reluctant or unable to see what was happening as a political-cultural struggle. Quite clearly, articulate and intellectually and financially independent Indian professionals were able to use both the courts and the publicity they attracted to develop the cause of national independence. “Law was”, as Cocks writes, “an obvious instrument of colonial politics”,32 a situation not necessarily avoided by encouraging those Indians who could afford it to attend an Inn of Court in London instead of Calcutta or Cape Town, as the later example of Mohandas Gandhi was to demonstrate.
The Separation of Local Culture from Administration “Back home”
If we bear in mind Pennycook’s point about imperial practices of government returning “home”, we notice also that Charles Trevelyan – convinced of the connection quoted above, from Farish, the East India Company official – and Sir Stafford Northcote, were charged in 1853 by WE Gladstone, then Chancellor of the Exchequer in the Aberdeen Administration, with recommending the more rapid and systematic advancement of British civil service reforms. The Indian Civil Service was the paradigm, for many enthusiasts for change. One objective was bureaucratic efficiency. As a former Indian civil servant, an organization that for long excluded those “served” from its ranks – although an administrator of the Irish famine crisis “noted more for his logic than humanity”33 – Trevelyan, the senior figure, had a background in the paternal practices of the “servant’s” setting agendas for both political masters and the public ostensibly – no doubt conscientiously – being served.34
Gladstone’s goal was that of “strengthening and multiplying the ties between the higher classes and the possession of administrative power”,35 in an era of threatening democracy. This directly parallels the hope that Indian elites might be used to redirect any ambitions they might entertain for independence into British cultural practices, and, after 1858, into the administration of the masses, subject to British supervision. In Britain, Robert Lowe, who, we saw, claimed, that he had learned of the perils of democracy during his membership of the Assembly in New South Wales, urged the new British service when it finally appeared some two decades later “to develop the kind of freemasonry that developed between the old boys of the great public schools and Oxbridge”.36 Something like this, although less tactlessly made public, was Gladstone’s intention. Rule by law, which is implied by the utilitarian sovereign required some agenda-setting qualification in case the power of making law fell into the wrong hands in consequence of extensions to the right to vote. Among progressive rulers a deft strategy was evident. The new civil service would provide “responsible” advice to a potentially radical government elected by working class voters. The most responsible advice about what was possible and what would be ruinous would emerge from the service’s senior branch, the Treasury, closely connected to the financial heart of the capitalist economy, the City. At more or less the same time a “suitable (i.e. the middle) class”, if we follow Arnold, would learn how to be English subjects of the Shaftesburian kind, and teach the “brawling” masses how to exercise their vote when they gained it. The civil service changes were partially, but not fully implemented until Orders in Council were passed with Gladstone as Prime Minister in 1872 because mid-century Whigs and Whig-Liberals objected to what they correctly termed a paternalist “mandarinate”.
The new civil service was strictly hierarchical, with no possible promotion from the lower grades to the highest. The latter were initially accessible by examination in subjects – ancient Greek, classical Latin – available in the great public schools and Oxford and Cambridge.37 The class agenda behind meritocracy is often not hard to find. Benjamin Jowett, Master of Trinity, underwrote the administration of home and imperial law by his immense influence of placing his graduates in authority across a quarter of the globe, eventually providing an impetus to English literary studies by encouraging its importance in the Indian civil service curriculum to spread to Oxford and Cambridge. But we get ahead of ourselves and must return to Matthew Arnold, noticing, on the way TB Macaulay’s change of heart on education in England.