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Art. I.—TJte Works of John Robinson, Pastor of the Pilgrim Fathers. With a Memoir, and Annotations. By Bobert Ashton, Secretary of the Congregational Board, London. 3 vols. London: John Snow. 1851.
The story has been recently well told of the success which attended the efforts of Major Ludlow, a political agent of the British government, to procure the voluntary abolition of' widowburning' among the Rajpoots of India. The movement that led to it is described, and justly, as ' one of the most remarkable recorded in Eastern annals.' The method adopted would have appeared, to any other person than the agent himself, as unsuitable and absurd as in the end it proved to be efficacious.
For a period of two thousand years the rite of Suttee had been observed by the Hindoos. It was, therefore, at the time when Major Ludlow assailed it,' a rite strong in remote antiquity, in venerated records, in a hierarchy at once ignorant and unscrupulous, and in the associations with which innumerable traditions of womanly courage and constancy had ennobled it in the eyes of the Hindoo people/ Notwithstanding this imposing array of obstacles, the astute and philanthropic agent was wholly resolved to make the attempt. He felt himself strong enough to cope single-handed with the hoary superstition. Anned with truth and reason, and with these alone—for the government and his superiors in office knew nothing of his intentions or his measures until they had been crowned with success—he patiently and
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skilfully instituted his plans for the destruction of this enormous evil. All that he did, however, was to bring the Rajpoot mind round to the truth, that for a period of two thousand years the Hindoo people had been deluded by superstition, and had run counter to reason and religion. Working from a centre of influence outward, and using his opportunities well, Major Ludlow convinced the high priest of Jypore that the rite of Suttee was unsanctioned by the earliest and most authoritative Hindoo scriptures; that the code of Menu prohibited it inferontially in the denunciations contained in that work against suicide, while it promised eternal felicity with their husbands to those widows who lived chastely,—whereas the later writings, which countenanced the sacrifice, limited the duration of the recompence to the comparative bagatelle of forty-five millions of years; that the Suttee did but mock the Deity with the unclean sacrifice of a selfish bargain; and that the rite itself was the evident invention of some degenerate race whose women were worthless, and whose widows, if they survived, would bring reproach upon the memory of their lords. The high priest not only listened to and adopted these arguments, but put forth a document in which he declared authoritatively that the selfimmolation of widows was less meritorious than their practising the living Suttee of chastity and devotion. The battle was thus half gained. The influence of this decision spread in everwidening circles, and in the course of a few months the council of regency at Jypore led the way among the great independentRajpoot states, in declaring Suttee penal on all parties engaged in it, principals as well as accessaries.
This narrative, of which we have given only the bare outline, is fraught with the deepest interest to every benevolent mind, for its own sake, and simply as the record of one of the most remarkable conquests ever effected over superstition. What British authority dare not even attempt, moral suasion, well concerting its plans and skilfully and patiently hoarding up and applying its successes, accomplished in a comparatively short period of time. And when the work was thus done, it was done effectually, without possibility of reaction or reversion, because done through the operation of the convinced, and therefore willing minds of the Rajpoots themselves.
But who can fail to perceive the great moral lesson of many aspects, involved in this remarkable event? Let our readers understand that it is no fiction, though possessed of more than all the charms of fiction, but a well accredited fact. It is an 'ower true story,' and worth telling, with its many applications, for a long time to come. We turn to it—as these beautiful volumes of John Robinson's works lie before us, on the same