M. N. Roy Jawaharlal Nehru



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RAJA RAMMOHUN ROY (I 772-1 833)
Introductory Remarks

Raja Rammohun Roy was born at a time when India had iost touch with her great ideals and stood subjected to unreason and dogmatism. As Tagore put it, "In social usage, in politics, in the realm of religion and art, we had entered the zone of uncreative habit, of decadent tradition, and ceased to exercise our humanity. Through the dynamic power of his personality, his uncompromising freedom of the spirit, Rammohun Roy vitalized our national being with the urgency of creative endeavour, and launched it into the arduous adventure of self-realization. He is the great path-maker of this country, who has removed ponderous obstacles that impeded our progress at every step, and initiated us into the present era of world­wide co-operation of humanity."1 Indeed, he heralded a new era of social and religious reforms, persuading his countrymen to give up the gross superstitions and evil practices with which Hinduism had become associated during the preceding centuries and to realize the true spirit of ancient religion as taught in the Vedas and the Upani-shads. He also spearheaded the constitutional agitation in India.

At a time when the West knew very little about India, Ram­mohun Roy worked as a link between the East and the West, and for his work he was greeted by Jeremy Bentham as an 'intensely admired and dearly beloved collaborator in the service of mankind'. But his task as a religious and social reformer was not an easy one. He had to face the hostility of orthodox Hinduism on the one hand and aggressive Christianity on the other. The orthodox Hindus in India ridiculed him as an ecceutric innovator, while the English people suspected him because the rulers are instinctively distrustful of anyone who seeks to bring enlightenment to a subject nation. His friends were very few, and the value of his work was not acknow­ledged for a long time. But he was a man of self-confidence and firm determination. He was confident that a day would arrive when his endeavours would ultimately be recognized with gratitude.

Though Rammohun Roy remained constantly steadfast in his conviction, and it went against his grain to compromise on funda­mentals, he was completely free from personal bitterness in contro-



1 Quoted from Buch, M.A. : Rise and Growth of Indian Liberalism, Vol. I, pp. 80-81.





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verstes, resulting from social and religious reforms which he sought to bring about in the country. As Max Muller pointed out, "Ram­mohun never attempted to make his reforms more palatable by toning down his rejection of what was. He would not defend suttee because it was 'a time-hallowed custom' springing from a wife's true devotion to her husband ; he would not call idols 'symbols' of the God-head ; he would not say that he believed in three gods when he believed in only one ; he would not accept ritual because it 'helped the weak'. He would have no playing with words, no 'shifting of responsibility'."8 There had been many ardent leaders and reformers before htm, who tried to lay open the evils that had encumbered the religious and social life of India to grow further. But none of them had grasped so clearly the extent to which passivity and dogmatism had paralysed the Indian mind ; none had so clear a vision of the future direction which Indian thought was bound to follow, if it wanted to survive ; none had striven so patiently to study, assimilate and synthesize the varying traditions of all ages and all countries.

His Life, Works and Social Reforms

Rammohun Roy was born on the 22nd May, 1772 in an ortho­dox Brahmin family. His father, Ramakanta Roy, was an orthodox Hindu strictly following the Sastras, and his mother, Phulthakurani, was a woman of intelligence and considerable firmness of character. Both father and mother played a dominant role in moulding the character of Rammohun Roy. After finishing his school education, he was sent to Patna, the then seat of Islamic learning where he studied Arabic and Persian. He also studied there the Koran and Islamic theology, as also what could be had through Arabic trans­lations of Euclid and Aristotle. He was much impressed by the democratic teachings of the Koran and by the development of logic in Arabic thought and the rationality of some of their schools of thought, notably the Mutazitas'1 and the philosophy of the Sufis.

After his return from Patna, Rammohun Roy wrote a book calling in question the validity of idolatry and superstitions pre­vailing in the Hindu society. Being orthodox in his views, his father did not like the sentiments of his son against the Hindu practices, and asked him to leave the house. Rammohun Roy wandered from place to place. During his wanderings he visited Tibet, where he incurred the displeasure of the Tibetan Lamas by his criticism of the idolatry that had crept into Buddhism.



At the end of some years' wanderings, Rammohun Roy went to Varanasi wiiere he studied Sanskrit. Within a few years, he had all

  1. Max Muller, F. : Biographical Essays, Longmans, London, 1884.

  2. The rationalistic school of Mutazila was founded by Wasil b. Ata and Amr. b. Ubaid in the 18th century A.D. at Basra.



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  1. the scriptures at his finger-tips, particularly the Upanishads and the Gita. His knowledge of ancient religious, secular and philosophical literature was so comprehensive that he could easily enter into pole­mical discussions with the pundits.

  2. A short while after the death of his father in 1803, Rammohun Roy went to Murshidabad and renewed his Arabic studies. There he wrote Tuhfat-ul-Muwahhidin (a gift to the monotheists) in Persian with an 'Introduction' in Arabic. In his introduction to the book, he attempted to show the general unity of thought among mankind regarding the existence of One Being. The differences among them appear only when they start giving peculiar attributes to that Being. Condemning the sectarianism, he wrote in the Tuhfat: "I travelled in the remotest parts of the world. . . ., and I found the inhabitants thereof agreeing generally in believing in the existence of One Being who is the source of creation and the Governor of it. . . .1 have come to the conclusion that turning generally towards One Eternal Being is a natural tendency in human beings and is common to all indivi­duals of mankind equally." He thus tried to bring out the fact that faith in the unity of Reality and recognition of human values are the cardinal principles of all religions. Subsequently, the acceptance of the fundamental unity of all religions becomes a leading feature of the Indian thought. This is evident in the writings of Vtveka-nanda, Tagore and Radhakrishnan.

  3. Rational Approach to Religions

  4. In his Tuhfat, while pleading for the existence of One Being, Rammohun Roy dealt with the question of rational approach to reli­gions and religious experience. His argument was : "Happy is the State of thoSe persons who are able to discriminate between what is the result of habit and frequent association, and those intrinsic quali­ties which are the results of cravings of nature in species and indivi­duals, and try their utmost to make an enquiry into the truth and falsehood of the different principles of religion held by different people, unbiased in favour of any one, and scrutinize even those propositions which are admitted by all without looking into the position of those persons by whom they have been asserted."

  5. Rammohun Roy strongly advocated the necessity of a compara­tive study of religions and drew attention to the achievement of monotheism throughout the world. Out of our ignorance, the world, according to him, seems to be divided into various communities and religions. Blind belief and the inability to make enquiry into the sequence between the cause and the effect are responsible for the existence of superstitions and ignorance, thereby taking the people away from the reality of One Being.

  6. Advancing his line of thought, Rammohun Roy came to the dogma of the supernatural power or miracle. He remarked : "It is customary with common people labouring under whims that when



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  1. they see any act or thing done or found, beyond their power of com­prehension, or for which they cannot make out any obvious cause, they ascribe it to supernatural power or miracle. The secret lies in this, that in this world where things are mutually related to one another by a sequent relation of cause and effect, the existence of everything depends opon a certain cause and condition, so that if we take into consideration the remote causes, we may see that in the existence of any one thing in nature, the whole universe is connected. But when for want of experience and through the influence of whims, the cause of a thing remains hidden to anyone, another person having found it a good opportunity for achieving his object ascribes it to his own supernatural power and thereby attracts people to himself."

  2. Rammohun Roy thus challenged the dogma of supernatural power which was in vogue in the Hindu society. He asked the people to understand a sequent relation of cause and effect and thereby to comprehend the mysteries in nature. Rejecting the argument and claim in favour of miracles, he maintained that even God had no power to transgress laws. As he himself put it: "It is an admitted fact that the Creator has no power to create impossible things : for instance, co-partnership with God or non-existence of God or existence of two contradictories, etc." As a safeguard against erroneous belief in supernatural powers, Rammohun adovcated the cultivation of inductive reasoning.

  3. He also questioned the common belief that God's benediction and guidance can be obtained only through the medium of prophets. Arguing his standpoint, he tried to prove that "the advent of prophets and revelation, like other things in nature, depend upon external causes without reference to God, i.e., they depend upon the invention of an inventor."

  4. Advocacy for Monotheism

  5. Rammohun Roy expressed all these ideas in his Tuhfat-ul-Muwah­hidin. By the time he wrote this book, he had already arrived at the idea of a universal religion based on monotheism, which gained maturity in the coming years. From 1809 to 1814 he lived at Rang-pur (a town in northern Bengal) ; and there he came into contact with the Jains and studied Kalpasutra and other religious books of the Jain philosophy. While at Rangpur, he also took a keen interest in the political development in England and Europe. He studied all the journals and newspapers that could be made available to him, and was attracted towards political liberalism prevailing in Europe at that time.

  6. In 1814 Rammohun Roy resigned from the service and settled down in Calcutta. By that time he was fully equipped with the knowledge of philosophy and religions of the world. He, therefore, decided to take up his life's mission—to salvage India's deepest reali­zations covered up for centuries by ritualism, superstitions and



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  1. customs, and to harmonize them with the living thought currents of the world. With that purpose in view, in 1815 he founded Atmiya Sabha—a sort of discussion club for scholars of religion and philo­sophy. Its members were soon drawn into social and religious con­troversies, and Rammohun Roy started his campaigns against the evils of Hindu society, particularly against the custom of Sati. A year later, he published his Vedanta Sara, in which he pleaded for the adoption of monotheism in place of the prevailing religion which was largely polytheistic and ritual-ridden.

  2. In 1821, he established the Calcutta Unitarian Association, the object of which was to work for an all-round development of the Indian masses. Such an object was amazingly modern, and also strikingly indicative of the fact that although Rammohun was a deep­ly spiritual man, be did not ignore the material and economic as­pects of life. According to him, a perfect life cannot be possible without an inherent unity of its different aspects. Likewise, the salvation of man cannot be piecemeal but has to be total.

  3. About this time he also came into conflict with the Christian missionaries and answered their criticism in a series of pamphlets. He published The Precepts of Jesus, Appeal to the Christian Public. The Ideal Humanity of Jesus and Samvada Kaumudi* the last named being a satirical work based on an imaginary conversation between a mis­sionary and three Chinese converts.

  4. Brahmo Saniaj


    1. AH these pamphlets were published in or near about 1823.

    2. The Trust Deed of the Sabha was drawn up by Rammohun on January s, 1830. It is a remarkable document, unique for its catholicity and uni-versalism.

    The most important event which biuught fame to Rammohun Roy was the establishment of Brahmo Samaj in 1828. AfV- the failure of the Unitarian Association, the followers of Rammonun felt the urgent necessity of establi(.hing an institution solely devoted to unita­rian and monotheistic worship. As a result, the Brahma Sabha, later known as the Brahmo Saniaj. came into being on August 20, 1828. It is clear from the text of the Trust Deed of the Sabha'' that Rammohun did not contemplate the Brahma Sabha as an institution of a new reli­gious sect. He wanted the monotheists of all religious to use the premises of the Sabha as their own. He also wished this institution to be a meeting ground of the people of all religious denominations who believed in one God, who is formless, eternal, unsearchable and immutable. Rammohun called himself a follower of the Universal Religion. He told one of his friends that after his death the Hindus would claim him as their own. the Muslims would do the same, and as also the Christians, but he belonged to no sect as he was the devotee of Universal Religion.



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  1. The ideas of the Brahmo Samaj gradually spread far beyond Bengal and created an atmosphere of liberalism, rationalism and modernity which greatly influenced Indian thought. "If there is ever to be a new religion in India," said Max Muller about half a century later when the Brahmo Samaj was already being shaken to its foundations by schisms, "it will, I believe, owe its very life-blood to the large heart of Rammohun Roy and his worthy disciples, Debendranath Tagore and Keshab Chundra Sen."' But Max Muller's prophecy could not be fulfilled, because the condition attached to it—the emergence of a 'new religion' in India—was impossible of realization. Hinduism proved strong enough to counteract the growing influence of Brahmoism as it had done in the case of Buddhism. In other words, Hinduism gradually rose superior - to Brahmoism.

  2. However, the philosophy of Brahmo Samaj left its decisive influ­ence on the Indian thought. Today its followers are few in number, but that is because the needs that necessitated its origin and growth have been fulfilled. Since its mission has been accomplished during the course of time through the efforts of many distinguished persons and devout social reformers, it has now lost its importance. But about a century back it did a commendable service to the Hindu society and to the country at large.

  3. Raja Rammohna Roy's Ideas on Educational, Economic and Political Problems

  4. Rammohun Roy '"as not only the pioneer of religious reform and the first advocate of social reconstruction in India, he also laboured on the educational, economic and political problems of his time and for the valuable contributions, which he made to the intellectual and poY 'cal development in the country, he is known as the father of all progressive movements in modern India.


    1. 6 Max Muller : op. clt., p. 83.

    Rammohun Roy rendered a great service to the cause of educa­tion in India. He realized that without a radical reform of the educational system prevailing in India at that time, it would not be possible to awaken the nation from the slumber of centuries. The entire educational system needed to be overhauled. What was needed was a rational and scientific education of the Western type, so that India could once again occupy her rightful place in the comity of nations. He had an immense respect for the immortal treasures contained in ancient Indian philosophy and religion. He also realized the great necessity c? placing them within the easy reach of the common man and to that effect he undertook the arduous task of translating the Vedas and Upanishads into Bengali and English. Nevertheless, he came to believe that m order to uplift the people the education must be practical and useful. He thought that the superior position of the Western nations was due to their education



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  1. in useful sciences like Mathematics, Chemistry, Physics, Anatomy and Natural Philosophy. He, therefore, pleaded that if India wanted to advance on the road to progress, it was incumbent on her to abandon the medieval and scholastic system and adopt education in the methods, spirit and ideas of modern science.

  2. Rammohun Roy was very keen that scientific education be introduced in India, so that people by the study of science might throw off superstition, bred of ignorance, and take to the path of enlightenment as was being done in the countries of Europe where scientific education was replacing the educational system of the Church. When the Company Government decided to establish a Sanskrit School under Hindu pundits to impart such knowledge as was already current in India, Rammohun protested against this deci­sion. Instead, he pleaded for the teaching of natural sciences. But when the Hindu College was established in 1816, he joined hands with David Hare and others. Besides rendering yeoman's service in the establishment of the Hindu College, Rammohun helped the cause of Western education in other ways also. It was largely due to his timely intervention that the scales were tilted in favour of the Western system in the controversy between those who supported it and those who wanted the Government to continue their support to the oriental system. He was also instrumental in drawing the Christian missionaries in the field of Indian education. He wrote to several Christian missions in Europe and America to 'send as many serious and able teachers of European learning and science and Christian morality unmingled with religious doctrines to spread knowledge gratuitously among the native community.'1' Although the pleading for the introduction of the teaching of scientific education bore fruit long after his death, there is not a ray of doubt that it was he who initiated the movement for the introduction of the Western education in India.


    1. 7 Collet, Sophia Dobson : Life and Letters of Raja Rammohun Roy, A. C. Sarkar & Co., Calcutta, 1913, 'Introduction', p. xlii.

    Rammohun Roy also felt unhappy to see the miserable economic plight of the Indian people under the rule of the East India Company. In his evidence before the Pailiamentary Committee in 1832, he said that the condition of the cultivators was very miserable. He pointed out that while the zamindars had greatly benefited by the Permanent Settlement of 1793, the poor peasants were not better off at all. The rent was exorbitantly high and it left hardly any surplus for the cultivators. Rammohun Roy, therefore, demanded not only the prohibition of any further rise in rent but also a reduction of rent. He suggested that the decrease in revenue due to a permanent fixation of the rent might be remedied by tax on luxury goods, and by the employment of Indians as collectors in place of high-salaried Euro­peans.



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  1. Besides, Rammohun Roy fought against the monopoly of the salt trade by the servants of the East India Company. They used to enhance the price of salt a thousand per cent above its natural price. About one Jakh twentyfive thousand labourers, or Molunghees as they were called, were engaged in the manufacture of salt in Bengal, and they were in a state of virtual slavery. The entire business was in the hands of a few rich Indians who used to corner salt and adulterate it before selling. The Company had imposed heavy import duty on foreign salt. Hence he argued against salt monopoly and suggested that English salt, being cheaper and better, should be imported.

  2. About a century after, the Indian National Congress under the leadership of Gandhi and Nehru rasised its voice and fought against the economic exploitation of the Indian people by the British rulers. But Rammohun Roy was the first to draw the attention of his country-nec to the economic drain of India carried on systematically by the British rulers. It was in the natuie of a tribute taken from India by her conquerors. In his answers to questions on the 'Revenue System of India' Rammohun said that colossal sums of money were being taken out of India by Europeans after their retirement from services in India. And he prepared some tables to prove this economic drain.

  3. At that time a great tussle was going on in England between the Free Traders and the Monopolists. RammohunRoy sided with the Free Traders against the Monopolists, and in this he was whole-heart­edly supported by Dwarkanath Tagore. Both of them realized that through the occupation of India by the British, history was doing the remarkable job of lifting India out of the stagnation in which she found herself in the last decade of Muslim rule. An industrial revo­lution was being started in India under the British rule, and this meant an economic development of the country. Both Rammohun Roy and Dwarkanath Tagore supported the setting up of industries by the British people in Bengal's countryside, so that the peasants groaning under the constant tyranny of the zamindars could find the way out. In this manner, Rammohum Roy, who is mainly known as the pioneer of religious and social reforms in India, also thought and worked for the economic revolution in the country and that too at a period when the Indian people could hardly think about it.

  4. At the same time, Rammohun Roy had not the slighest doubt in his mind that the changes that he wanted to bring about in the religious, social and educational systems of his country would exert beneficial influence on the political advancement of India. He fully recognized the inter-relation between religious reformation and poli­tical and social progress. Although he was not a politician like Dada-bhai Naoroji, Gopal Krishna Gokhale and Smendranath Banerjee who were to shine in the Indian firmament after him, he was a keen student of politics and thoroughly understood the politics of Europe, particularly of Engiand. His contribution to the political awakening of India was immense.



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  1. Rammohun Roy was the first to enunciate the rights and pri­vileges of the people and in the name of the nation to speak to the government of their duties and responsibilities as the Sovereign power. The first stand made by the people of India in defence of the civil rights was when Raja Rammohun Roy in his own name and in the name of five of his friends submitted a memorial to the Supreme Court in Calcutta on the 31st March, 1823 against the Ordinance of the then acting Governor-General, Mr. John Adam, prescribing that thenceforth no one should publish a newspaper or other periodical without first having obtained a licence from the G.-G.-in-Council. The petition was, however, rejected by the Supreme Court, and as a protest Rammohun Roy stopped the publica­tion of his Persian Weekly Mirat-uI-Akhbar. Although he could not succeed in getting the Ordinance repealed, the consciousness of the Indian intellectuals was awakened against the discriminatory policy of the East India Company in regard to the native press.

  2. In 1827 Rammohun Roy again made a spirited protest against the illiberal policy of the Government. The occasion was provided by the passing of the Indian Jury Bill by the British Parliament on May 5, 1826. There was a discrimination against the Indians in the Act. The Indians were allowed to sit on the Petty Jury only, not on Grand Juries, and not at the trials of Christians. In fact, the Act sought to introduce religious distinctions in the administration of jus­tice in the country by denying to both Hindus and Muslims any seat on a jury even in a trial of fellow Hindus and Muslims. The nationalist aspirations of Rammohun Poy were aroused, and he started ceaseless propaganda against this discrimination against the Indians.

  3. He sponsored a petition to the British Parliament signed by both Hindus and Muslims, which he forwarded with a covering note written by himself. The petition was presented to the Parliament on June 5, 1829, and on June 18, 1832, Grant's East India Justice of Peace and Jury Bill was passed. Samachar Darpan, the Serampore paper of the missionaries, congratulated Rammohun Roy on the pass­ing of this Act.

  4. Further, in his evidence before the Select Committee of the House of Commons in 1831, on the occasion of the renewal of the Charter of the East India Company, Rammohun Roy suggested the appointment of Indians as Judicial Assessors and Joint Judges. He pleaded for regular public registers, and for the establishment of the Codes of Civil and Criminal laws. He also pleaded for the reduc­tion of government expenditure, abolition of the standing army and the formation cf a militia by the peasants, as well as the separation of the.Executive from judicial functions. He also suggested invest­ing of the Village Panchayats or Councils with the powers of the Jury.



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  1. As a champion of freedom and democratic rights and a believer in parliamentary democracy, Rammohun Roy whole-heartedly sup­ported the Reform Bill agitation in England. In his opinion the struggle between the reformers and anti-reformers was nothing but a "struggle between liberty and tyranny throughout the world ; bet­ween justice and injustice, and between right and wrong. But. . . .we clearly perceive that liberal principles in politics and religion have been since long gradually but steadily gaining ground, notwithstand­ing the opposition and obstinacy of despots and bigots.''* And he was very happy to see the Bill finally passed by the Lords in June, 1832.9

  2. Rammohun Roy championed the struggle for freedom and demo­cratic rights, not for India alone but for every country of the world. In 1823, when the news of the liberation of the Spanish colonies of South America from the tyranny of Spain reached him and he gave a dinner to his friends, someone asked him why he celebrated the occasion. He said, "What ? Ought I to be insensible to the suffer­ings of my fellow-creatures, wherever they are, or howsoever un­connected by interests, religion or language ?" An English friend of Rammohun Roy wrote in the Edinburgh Magazine in September, 1823 : "The lively interest he took in the progress of South American emancipation eminently marks the greatness and benevolence of his mind."

  3. Similarly, Rammohuu Roy felt quite happy to hear the news of the introduction of constitutional government in Portugal. And he supported the struggle for freedom of the Greeks against the Turks. But the news that the citizens of Naples, who had been able to im­pose constitutional restraints upon their ruler, were crushed back in­to servitude to despotic rule by the forces of Austria made him exceedingly unhappy. This news pained Rammohun Roy so much that cancelling an engagement he had with Mr. Buckingham, the editor of the Calcutta Journal, he wrote to him on August II, 1821 : "I am afraid I must be under the necessity of denying myself the pleasure of your party this afternoon ;. . . .my mind is depressed by the late news from Europe. . . .1 am obliged to conclude that I shall not live to see liberty universally restored to the nations of Europe, and Asiatic nations, especially those that are European colonies. . . . Enemies to liberty and friends of despotism have never been and never will be ultimately successful."'0


    1. Ibid., p. 203.

    2. The Reform Act of 1832 liberalized the parliamentary suffrage and in some degree adjusted representation to population. It made the House of Commons a representative body in fact as in name, thereby enhancing its strength and prestige.

    3. Ibid., pp. 42-43.

    Further, Rammohun Roy was opposed to the British occupation



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  1. of Ireland, and in his Mirai-ul-Akhbar he wrote angrily against this. He collected funds for the relief of the famine-stricken people of Ire­land. Conversely, the news of the French Revolution stirred him to the depth, and he hurt his leg badly while he was getting down from the boat to salute the tri-colour flag of the French Revolution. All this shows that Rammohun Roy had a boundless love for freedom and it served as the mainspring of all his activities—religious, social and political. His love of freedom embraced the entire mankind. In other words, he regarded freedom as one and indivisible, he felt grieved at its loss everywhere and in every sphere. This idea of the indivisibility of freedom gave bis writings a trait of universalism, which one may find in the teachings of Vivekananda, Tagore and Aurobindo. Perhaps, it was due to his vision of universalism that Rammohun Roy strongly pleaded for the abolition of the passport system and initiated the idea of a super-national organization for settling the disputes amongst nations in a letter which he addressed to Prince Talleyrand on the 26th December, 1831 from London. This letter, which is a document of unique importance, was written by him to ihe French Foreign Minister in crder to obtain a passport for France.

  2. His Interest in the Subjects of Law and Morality

  3. The subjects on which Rammohun Roy reflected and wrote, were varied. His interests were confined not only to the problems relat­ing to freedom and democratic rights of the individuals and peoples throughout the world, but he also expressed his views on the subjects like law, custom and morality. Although Rammohun Roy was not a jurist, he had a clear grasp of the fundamental principles of law and its relation to custom on the one hand and to morality on the other. This grasp is revealed at its best in his papers on Modern Encroachments on the Ancient Rights of Females According to the Hindu Law of Inheritance and. the Rights of Hindoos over Ancestral Property According to the Law of Bengal. He seems to have main­tained that both custom as well as command of the sacred writings constitute the sources of law. But he did not identify either with law itself. To explain further, he upheld the view of the historical jurists about the origin of law in custom and tradition, but also agreed with the analytical school that what gives it force is the will of the sovereign. He admitted the right of the supreme authority to make changes or alterations in customs necessitated by altered conditions.

  4. In his paper on the Rights of Hindoos over Ancestral Property, Rammohun Roy made a broad distinction between the spheres of law and those of morality. He asked, "How shall we draw a line of distinction between those immoral acts that should not be considered invalid and those that should be regarded as null in the eyes of the



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  1. law",11 and replied, "we must refer to the common law and the established usages of every country, as furnishing the distinctions admitted between the one class and the other."18 His conclusion was that the father had an absolute right to sell or mortgage the ancestral property without consulting his sons even though such an act might sometime cause distress to the family and thus become morally inde­fensible. To explain, all laws are legally binding, though some of them may be morally bad. The law legalizing the sale of liquor in the public is morally wrong : it is nevertheless not open to the law-abiding citizens to violate it. Conversely, some practices may be morally sound, but they cannot be given legal force (e.g., obedience to parents and teachers and showing of gratitude to benefactors). In this way, Rammohun Roy tried to make a clear distinction between law and morality.

  2. Here it will not be out of place to make a mention that he was against the proposal to invest the authority in the Governor-General of India to make laws for the good government of the territories of the East India Company. He said that the power of legislation belonged to the supreme or sovereign authority which, in the case of India, was the King-in-Parliament. He also argued that the Governor-General-in-Council might not be able to act with a requi­site degree of disinterestedness and goodness while enacting laws. Realizing the difficulties involved in vesting the legislative power in the distant King-in-Parliament, he suggested several methods for ensuring enactment of good laws for India. The most important of them were a free press, the appointment of commissions of enquiry from time to time and the ascertainment of opinion of the aristocracy of wealth and talent in India in regard to proposed laws.1*

  3. As a Progressive and Liberal Thinker


    1. Rights of Hindoos over Ancestral Property According to the Law of Bengal, p. 145.

    2. Ibid.
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