(45) Orphan Institution [[207-212]]
[] Very few European women are to be seen with the regiments in India. Such as adventure thither soon fall victims to the climate, which nothing but the most vigorous constitutions, backed by temperance and uncommon prudence, can enable them to resist. Hence the few that survive, though they present rather a masculine appearance, find it expedient to confine themselves much within the barracks; keeping out of the sun, and avoiding the use of strong liquors. The children of such women usually prove remarkably hardy; whereas the issue of an European father by a native woman is usually of an effeminate, weakly constitution.
It is peculiarly unfortunate, that a very great portion of [] these Creoles, mestees, &c. cannot be provided for in some manner serviceable to the state. Their numbers are considerable, especially females, who are allowed to remain with the orphan institution, often to a very mature age. Some indeed become attendants, or ladies' maids, in respectable families; but for the most part they have no certain provision.
It is probably owing to reflection, as much as to their arriving at puberty, that so many of these unfortunate girls become insane. This does not occur among the boys; who are either apprenticed to some good business, if of the upper school (in which only the children of officers are admitted); or, if of the lower school (wherein the children of the non-commissioned officers and privates are brought up), are draughted, at a proper age, to the several regiments, both native and European, there to serve as drummers and fifers.
This Orphan Institution is now intimately blended with the military establishments throughout India; the Company making it a part of their regulations for all persons admitted into their military service, to become, ipso facto, subscribers to the fund. It originated from the assiduity of a few officers who, in 1782, framed a code, after entering into a voluntary subscription, to provide for the children of such deceased officers as had not left sufficient property to maintain their children, whether legitimate or otherwise. Among the gentlemen who suggested this undertaking, Colonel William Kirkpatrick was conspicuous. He was at that time secretary to the late General Giles Stibbert, who then commanded the Bengal army, and aided the institution by every public means, as well as by his private influence and bounty.
Though the institution was placed under the guidance and control of men highly respectable and perfectly qualified for the charge, and the officers (with very few exceptions) [] subscribed towards its support, the object would have been defeated, had not the Company contributed liberally. After all, it would certainly have been subject to diminution, if not to entire failure, about the year 1796, had not the army been newly modelled, and thus an immense addition been made to the funds by an unprecedented promotion, and the assent of the superior ranks to subscribe in proportion to their pay; otherwise, all above the rank of major would have been exempt.
The Company had formerly allowed for each child born to an European soldier the sum of five rupees monthly; but that indulgence was at one period wholly done away. Afterwards, when the institution was extended to the non-commissioned officers and privates, three rupees were allowed monthly for every child retained with the parents, according to the liberty granted of retaining them till the completion of their third year. After this, they were peremptorily taken to the lower school, where the Company at first allowed for them, monthly, at the rate of three, but subsequently at five, rupees each.
It is not easy to describe the affecting scenes when the children are taken from their parents, to be sent to the foundation. The latter, indeed, know that every justice will be done to their offspring, and they cannot but express their sense of the kind intention of their benefactors; but to part from a child, whatever may be its complexion, is a most painful struggle between duty and nature.
The good policy of making some provision for the children of the soldiery is obvious, as the expense of sending them to Europe would be disproportionate to the means of their parents. The boys are now amply provided for; but the situation of the girls is lamentable. It is remarkable that the Society have never established [] any factory, in which their minds, as well as their hands, could be employed, while their maintenance would be defrayed by the produce of their industry. It has been urged that, the price of labour being so cheap throughout India, there could arise but little profit from the exertions of the orphans. Yet where labour is cheap, so are provisions; consequently, under proper guidance, enough might be earned to provide for the whole establishment.
If the refuse, or ferret, cloths, manufactured for the Company, were to be handed over, in such quantities as might be in demand, to the female orphans, for the purpose of being worked up into wearing apparel, there would always be a sale so extensive, especially among the lower classes of inhabitants, the sea-faring people, and the fresh arrivals from Europe, that no stock would remain on hand. It is a notorious [=notable] fact that if raw silk, after being wound off from the cocoons or pods, were given to the orphans to finish, and to reel properly for the European market, there would be an immense saving of the article itself, and of the expenses in every part of the adventure; while the institution could not fail to derive the most solid advantages.
But in Calcutta, a city carrying on so large a trade, there must be a variety of speculations open to the choice of the managers. The lighter kind of sails for shipping and small craft, hammocks, beddings, &c., dresses for patients in the hospitals, sheets, pillow-cases, bookbinding to a certain extent, and a number of other employments, might be peremptorily claimed for the orphans as exclusive privileges. Every cartridge-case, and the greater part of the army clothing, together with all excepting the leather and heavy canvas-work of tents, might be performed at the orphan-school; the Company of course making due remuneration.
If, with such extensive [] concerns, requiring so much manual labour, the Company do not give employ to five or six hundred girls, from three to twenty years of age, the fault must assuredly lie rather among the managers than with the government; to which the making some provision for the maintenance of that portion of the establishment dependant entirely upon the Company for support, must be a desideratum.
The Directors very prudently objected to some of the original articles, wherein the founders appear to have been rather too sanguine; and to have waived several considerations of a political nature. Thus, the Company declined to warrant admission into their service of such boys as might appear eligible as cadets; the measure being incompatible with the patronage of the Court; and, as indefinitely expressed, would have subjected the Company to a pledge, even respecting the sons of the native women. It was therefore prudently resolved, that "the children to be sent to Europe for education, should be the legitimate offspring of European parents only."
Of making provision for the sons of officers, there seems but little doubt. The great increase of mercantile establishments in Calcutta, and in general throughout the country, has opened a wide field for the employment of numbers conversant with the Hindui and Bengallee languages (which the orphans acquire habitually) and with common accounts. It is to be lamented that so few, if any, are sent on board the pilot-schooners, according to a clause in the original institution, or as mates on board the country-traders. They certainly would be far better qualified for such situations than Europeans totally ignorant of the vernacular tongue, and whose constitutions are ill adapted to the climate.
As to placing Creoles of any description in authority, whether civil or military, there can be but one opinion; since their admission, into either the [] one or the other, could not fail to lessen that respect and deference which ought most studiously to be exacted, on every occasion, from the natives of every rank.
The expenses of sending children from India to Europe are very
Few commanders of Indiamen will take a child for less than 800 sicca
rupees, equal to £100; and even then, some attendant must be
whose passage will probably amount to as much more. The best mode is
several parents to hire a small cabin between decks, and to send a
in charge of their united families, to the number perhaps of five or
little ones; all of whom may be thus duly attended, at far less expense
than if each were sent under a separate charge. Few Europeans' children
are kept in India beyond their third or fourth year; and it is
an object that the small-pox, or vaccination, the measles, and the
should have been passed previous to embarkation; lest infection should
take place on board, from the seamen, &c., having been among
labouring under those complaints.