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posing of the riches which Providence has blessed them with. No: along with the capacity for enjoying European literature, and becoming intimate with the endless resources of European science, we trust they will imbibe a love for what is worthy of being cherished in European institutions and manners, and acquire that general regard for veracity and determination to uphold it, which is the grand foundation of European honour and virtue.
Those most interested in the subject will, on Saturday, have an opportunity of judging for themselves, whether our remarks on the progress of education and its probable effects be well-founded or the reverse. We have more than once witnessed the surprising improvement of the students of the Hindoo College, and adverted to it with satisfaction, which we should not have done had we not been convinced that what we observed was not a routine, or apparent acquirement of knowledge more by rote than by intellectual capacity, but a real, solid, and well-grounded inbibing of knowledge.
We are happy to say, that there are also other institutions where equally gratifying results are observable.
THE CASE OF MR. ERSKINE OF BOMBAY.
To the Editor of the Asiatic Journal. Sir: As the editors of the newspapers at Bombay still persist in refusing to publish my letters, I am induced to address you again ; and in order that I may not be accused of misrepresenting their reasons for adopting this line of conduct, I will quote their own words. In the Gazette of the 9th instant occur the following amongst other editorial remarks :
In few words then, Vindex has been repeatedly told that we could not prolong the discussion of Mr. Erskine's case; that there was a Government order against it; and that we were exposed to the greatest danger in publishing letters like his, which reflect upon the honourable judges of this court.-- The tone of these remarks may perhaps be thought harsh, but we are assured that such an opinion will entirely vanish when it is remembered, that we have been at the trouble to publish Vindex's letters after his favou. rite, the Courier, would have nothing more to say to him, and that in so doing we have incurred considerable personal risk, and subjected ourselves to great anxiety of mind.
And in the Courier of the 12th inst., the editor observes :
We do not see why the John Bull should have taken so much pains to prove the Governınent " guiltless " of what was never laid to its charge.- No restriction of any kind has been placed on the Erskine controversy beyond what is dictated by the good taste of society. To that we bowed on taking charge of the Courier, and so far are we from wishing to remove the guilt of refusing Vindex's letters from our shoulders, that we are rather proud to bear it. And what does this amount to ? Not, as the Bull says, to the allowing Mr. Erskine's character to be impeached through the press, and preventing vindication by his friends. No; it amounts solely to' a' determination to exclude tedious personal controversies from a paper intended for priblic gratification. The gist of the wordy war carried on so long in the Bengal Hurkaru, the Bull, and the Bombay Gaxette, is, so far as we can understand it, whether or not Mr. Erskine deserved dismissal from office. To say that he did is to offend his friends, and in no wise benefit his reputation ; to say that he did not is to impugn the character of an high authority, to which proceeding we are not in any way disposed. Either alternative is disagreeable, and cannot be attended with any good result.
It must, however, be particularly observed that this discussion has not been in reality occasioned by the letter of Vindex, which was inserted in the Bombay Courier of the 1st September last ; but that it actually originated in a letter signed Giovanni, which appeared in the - Bombay Gazette of the 17th October last, and in which that writer alleged that Mr. Erskine was a swind
ler-that his robberies on the publie exceeded 2,000 rupees monthly—that monies had been wrung from the suitors of the court over which Mr. Erskine presided by extortion, fraud, and false pretences — that he had rifled the pockets of the people by wholesale-and that he had skulked from trial. It is the refutation of such gross and groundless calumnies, expressed in such vulgar and ungentlemanlike language,* that the editor of the Courier has declined to publish, and which the editor of the Gazette has only partially and imperfectly admitted into his journal. Fortunately, therefore, I can appeal to the only two letters of Vindex which the latter has published, and to those inserted in the Calcutta John Bull, to prove that I entered into no personal controversies whatever, but restricted my remarks entirely to the vindication of Mr. Erskine's character. The excuse, consequently, offered by the editor of the Courier for rejecting my letters fails in every respect ; because Mr. Erskine's character was impeached through the press, and the affording an opportunity through the same medium of exposing the total groundlessness of the imputations alleged against it, so far from being incompatible with the good taste of society, would most certainly have accorded with that sense of justice which is entertained by every British community,
It is true that the letters published by Giovanni during the last three months abound in the most low and illiberal personalities, and are in every respect so utterly contemptible, that they would not have deserved notice, had it not been evident that they contain the arguments by which Sir Edward West attempts to defend the justice of Mr. Erskine's dismissal from the situations which he held in the late Recorder's Court., I cannot, indeed, suppose for a moment that Sir Edward West, perused these letters previous to publication; because he is a gentleman and a scholar, and he could not, therefore, have approved of a style of composition which in every line betrays a vulgar and uncultivated mind, and an intimate conversancy with the manners and language of Billingsgate and the Old Bailey. But it cannot be doubted that they have been written, if not under his dictation, at least under his instructions as to every essential point. Of this nothing can be a stronger proof than the interval which elapsed between the appearance of Vindex's first letter and Giovanni's pretended reply—a period of six weeks-which, as there is every reason to believe, was occupied in considering whether the editor and proprietors of the Courier might not be prosecuted for a libel for the publication of that letter, and it was not until the impracticability, of instituting any criminal proceedings was admitted, that recourse was had to the press.
But it is in Giovanni's last letter, inserted in the. Gazette of the 26th ultimo, that the feelings and motives of Sir Edward West appear with the least dis, guise; and it is on this account, and because the editor of the Gazette has refused to publish my answer to that letter, that I am now particularly induced to address you, for in it Giovanni obseryes, in his usual polished and urbane style:
How lucky, indeed, for these dishonourable men, and how unfortunate for the cause of justice and public exposure, that that high and distinguished personage [Mr. Elphinstone], who has presided over us during his tour of service with so much wis. dom and splendour, has not an opportunity of perusing, in contrast, the absurd productions of Vindex, and the simple statements of Giovanni! Had he done 30, would
not * It may, also, be observed that, throughout his letters, Giovanni has assumed that Vindex's letters are written by "a little despicable faction," to which he applies the epithets of “ impostors "-"idiots" _" knaves "_" fools "--" wretches "cum multis aliis. And such gross personalities are published by the editor of one Bombay newspaper, while the other refuses to allow his columns to be the medium of chastising so vulgar and scurrilous a writer.
not his indignation have been terrible at the deceptions and trickery which that faction have all along practised upon him? He would have remembered the time when the false, the crouching, the fawning Vindex stole into his presence, and contrived to put the foul and libellous case of Mr. Erskine into his hands. He would hurl Vindex and his unprincipled associates, with merited opprobrium, from bis presence, into those sinks of disgrace and infamy which are their natural habitation. It has, indeed, been said, that Mr. Elphinstone had lately his suspicions of their knavery, and had already repented he had ever attended the meeting at the Literary Society.
Here the real speaker is at once betrayed; for it is well known that the principal, if not sole cause of Sir Edward West's animosity towards Mr. Elphinstone, originated in the latter having presided at a meeting of the Literary Society, held on the 30th July 1823, six weeks after Mr. Erskine's dismissal, which concurred in voting a public address to Mr. Erskine ; and, though this ostensibly related to literary topics only, it most unequivocally evinced the regard and esteem in which he was held; as not a gentleman present would have consented to such a resolution, had he been of opinion that Mr.Erskine's moral character had been in the slightest degree affected by the decision of the Recorder's Court. But at this time the case of Mr. Erskine had not been written, and its perusal, therefore, could not have had any influence in inducing Mr. Élphinstone to preside at this meeting. Sir Edward West, however, seemed to think that, since he had thought proper to asperse Mr. Erskine's character from the seat of justice, every person was bound to believe that these aspersions were well-founded. But as the previous inquiries had been conducted in a secret and inquisitorial manner, and the grounds for imputing culpability to Mr. Erskine, which the Recorder himself publicly assigned, were futile in the extreme; it would have been the height of injustice had any person concluded, without the slightest tittle of proof being adduced, and in opposition to a long public career of unimpeached purity and integrity, that Mr. Erskine had actually been guilty of extortion, fraud, corruption, and oppression, as was alleged by the Recorder.
It is, also, supremely ridiculous in Giovanni to praise Mr. Elphinstone for wisdom, and at the same time to affirm that he was led to believe in Mr. Erskine's innocence by“ deception and trickery.” Giovanni forgets that it was not the latter's innocence, but his culpability, that required proof; and until this was produced, it would have been most singular if Mr. Elphinstone had altered the high opinion of Mr. Erskine's character which he had entertained for so many years. ' As, however, the Recorder's speech, delivered in open court on the 18th June 1823, might have had a tendency to occasion doubts, Mr. Erskine's case, when its composition was finished, was submitted to the perusal of Mr. Elphinstone, solely for the purpose of fully satisfying him that the imputations contained in that speech were totally unfounded; and not with the slightest intention of consulting him with regard to the propriety of its being printed, or of requesting his assistance in procuring its publication. For had he even disapproved of this measure, his advice would have been, for obvious reasons unattended to; and I have in my first letter sufficiently evinced the utter groundlessness of these assertions of Mr. Buckingham respecting the printing of this case, that " the chain of evidence in this case completely establishes the fact of a connexion between Mr. Elphinstone, Mr. Adam, and the Calcutta John Bull, and is equally creditable to them all. Mr. Elphinstone has the libellous manuscript in his possession before it is published; it afterwards appears in the John Bull of Calcutta, the secret organ of the Bengal Government; whilst Mr. Adam (who was Mr. Elphinstone's first cousin, and whose acts towards the Indian press Mr. Elphinstone has so extravagantly praised) was
a member of the Bengal Government; and this at a period when the press
there was under his own severe restrictions, and could not dare to publish any thing in contravention of these restrictions, unless it was ascertained before-hand that it woull be agreeable to those in authority.”*
In my former letter I mentioned that Mr. Erskine, previous to his dismissal, had been examined on interrogatories for a contempt of court; and such at the time was universally supposed to have been the nature of that examination. Even in the speech above referred to, the Recorder said: “ the court might certainly in the case proceed summarily to punish Mr. Erskine for his misconduct as an officer of the court by fine or imprisonment. The issuing subpoena tickets without subpænas is alone such a contempt of court as would justify such proceedings.” “But in his last letter, Giovanni says that "Mr. Erskine was examined under the rules and constitution of this court-a most sensible rule, approved of by his Majesty in Council - which required the clerk of the Small Cause Court to be examined on oath, whenever the court thought fit to examine him touching his fees as clerk.” Yet in the authenticated copy of this examination, furnished to Mr. Erskine, there is not a single question put to him respecting his fees, with the exception of the fee paid to the sealer, and, consequently, this was not the object of the interrogatories on which he was then examined.
Nor could this, possibly, have been the object, for no inquiry into the fees received by Mr. Erskine, as clerk of the Small Cause Court, took place until four months after his dismissal, and three months after his departure from Bombay. Giovanni, also, has never explained on what principle or rule Mr. Erskine's bills of costs were at that subsequent period subjected to taxation by the master in equity. But Mr. Erskine must be considered either as an officer of the court, or as an attorney, and the suitors in the Small Cause Court as his clients : in the first of which cases his charges for fees were not liable to taxa. tion, though if he had taken any unauthorized fees, he might have been proceeded against either summarily for a contempt of court, or he might have been prosecuted by indictment for extortion; and in the latter Tidd lays it down as the established rule, that "though an attorney's bill has been settled and paid, yet the court, under special circumstances, will refer it to be taxed; for the client may, by affidavit, shew that the business charged was never performed, or that the charges are fraudulent.”+ But, as no suitor in the Small Cause Court made a complaint, far less an affidavit, that any fees had been improperly charged to him by Mr. Erskine, it must necessarily follow that there were no special circumstances which justified the Recorder's Court in ordering his bills to be taxed. In whatever light, therefore, Mr. Erskine may be considered, this order was unprecedented and illegal.
But I stated in my last letter, that this taxation was discontinued, and its result allowed to remain inoperative, as soon as it was opposed by Mr. Erkine's constituted attornies; and I thence argued that this retractation of its order was an undeniable proof that the court itself had become sensible of its injustice and illegality. To this conclusive and irrefutable argument Giovanni has replied by asserting, with the utmost falsity, that Mr. Erskine's attorneys, on application, obtained from the Recorder's Court, a suspension of the taxation and of the repayment of the charges for fees disallowed, until they could communicate with Mr. Erskine; and that the delay in resuming the taxation and the liquidation of the surcharges has proceeded from Mr. Erskine's attorneys not having yet acquainted the court with the result of this communica
tion. * Oriental Herald for May 1827, p. 307.
† Tidd's Practice, p. 284.
tion. But never was there a more unfounded calumny, as these gentlemen never requested the slightest indulgence from the court, and never admitted in any manner that Mr. Erskine's case required it; but simply demanded, aš à matter of right, that they might have free access to the public records of the Small Cause Court, in order to procure the evidence requisite for proving that every fee charged by him was actually due in conformity to the long-established practice of that court. One of these gentlemen is now in England, as well as Mr. Erskine's solicitor in the case; and should this letter come under their notice, they can fully confirm the truth of what I now assert, and also detail, if they think proper, many curious circumstances relating to this singular taxation. But with respect to the principles on which it was conducted, I have entered into them at sufficient length in my preceding letter.
It was, nevertheless, on this iniquitous and illegal taxation that the attack against Mr. Erskine's character, inserted in the Gazette of the 17th October last, was founded, and a document exhibiting its result triumphantly published by Giovanni, the advocate of Sir Edward West, as incontrovertible proof of the justice of Mr. Erskine's dismissal. But zeal here overstepped discretion, and it did not occur to him that a circumstance, the alleged existence of which was not known until the following November or December, could not possibly justify an act which had taken place on the 18th of the preceding June. If, also, this document proved any thing, it merely evineed the unceasing industry with which Sir Edward West persevered in endeavouring to discover matter of accusation against Mr. Erskine, even in his absence. For it could not even tend to affect his moral character, because the leading principle on which it was conducted was to disallow all charges made during nearly ten years, which Mr. Erskine's solicitor was not able to support by proof. But neither Mr. Erskine, nor any preceding clerk of this court, had ever before been required to produce such proof, and consequently, as such a requisition had not been anticipated, the necessary vouchers had not been preserved in Mr. Erskine's office. This want, however, had he himself been present, imight have been in a great measure supplied by his recollection of ciréumstances; but it must be self-evident that it was perfectly impossible for any third person, unacquainted with the details of the officè, to adduce proof in support of each iteni contained in nearly 6,000 bills, and after so much time had elapsed. The law, at the same time, requires that in the taxation of costs the onus probandi shall be imposed on the client, and not on the attorney; and consequently, as all the charges made by Mr. Erskine ought to be considered just until the contrary is established on oath by sufficient evidence, which has never yet been produced, no conclusion prejudicial to his character ought to be formed from the result of a taxation so arbitrarily and illegally conducted.
But if this be admitted, it necessarily follows that the merits of this case remain precisely as they stood on the 18th June 1823; and it is very remarkable that, during the last four months, Giovanni has not been able to adduce, with this single exception, a single circumstance either in addition to the allegations contained in the Recorder's speech of that date, or in proof of their correctness. In all his letters he assumes that extensive frauds and extortion were committed in the Court of Small Causes; but when he descends to particulars, he can specify no other instances than those discussed in my first letter. To evince, however, the extreme futility of such grounds, I may advert to the very great importance which the Recorder in his speech, and Giovanni'in his letters, have attached to Mr. Erskine's having on one occasion taken a fee of
Asiatic Journ. Vol. 26. No.151. H