Your Majesty,

I am aware that it is not terribly likely that you will be in receipt of this missive. One of your correspondents will receive this letter and forward it to some sort of parliamentary authorty or some other in order that they may locate me and bring me into custody. It does not matter. It is the truth, and you should hear it. It will be on their consciences, not mine, should this letter fail to reach your hands.

The great Civilizing Mission in East India is a sham.

I wish to support this accusation in two ways. First, I shall address in the abstract the nature of our endeavors. Then, I shall illustrate it with an anecdote, a singular event that I found quite personally illuminating.

The Mission

We Englishmen imagine ourselves to be the inheritors of the great Empire of Rome, the bearers of a providential mandate to civilize and enlighten lesser peoples—or else subjugate them and make them useful. From the conquests of Julius to the reign of King Arthur to our current hegemony over the Mediterranean, Atlantic, and Indian oceans, our achievement of which was presided over by such luminaries as Nelseon and the Duke of Wellington, we elevate our orderly competence and discipline to be the forces that will arrange this new industrial world.

I will not mince words. This is rubbish.

The story of human history is grand and much more difficult to fathom than we grant it credit for. In it, we see empires rise and be cast down, and we pull through these straight ropes, which, winding through the crests and valleys of history, become quite taut and strained with our efforts. These are the stories we tell of ourselves. But we grasp only on the ropes, and we blind ourselves to the grand landscape they wind through.

Why should we be the Inheritors of Rome? Why not the Greeks, who toil now in a lengthy struggle with the Ottomans? As Rome fell, Byzantium stood, and the Lords of Greece carried on in the Empire’s tradition. Or indeed, if we should be the Inheritors of Rome, why not the Turks themselves? Just as London changed hands from Julius to the Saxon and from the Saxon to the Norman and from the Norman to the House of Hanover, Constantinople has changed hands from the Greek to Augustus and from Augustus to the Turk.

So it is with all of our imperial aspirations. This Empire carries not Julius’ torch, excepting for that we imagine it to. And thus, the real heart of the Empire lies not in visions of marbled Rome, but in gunpowder and steel. The Empire is made the Empire by conquest, not by an inherited providence.

Now imagine it so for the Indian. The Indian has a storied and noble history much alike the Englishman. The ancient Guptas and the Kings of Tamil are their forebears, much alike our Caesar and our William of Normandy. They, too, tug on the strands of history, pulling them through the Mughal warrior-kings just as ours wind through mighty James and Henry.

How, so, should we imagine to bring them civilization? They have known it. Whyfor need they enlightenment? Their people speak of traditions of spirituality and intellect that we have barely come to know of.

It is madness that we should allow the East India Company to land soldiers in India and lay fire upon men and women—to “quell the mutiny”, they might say—in the name of “bringing civilization” to a people who have already nobly achieved such.

The People

But it is not merely the effort of tugging on the lines of history that causes us to be blind to the truth of the past. It is as well the sin in the hearts of men that allows it to happen.

I sailed to the East Indies to inspect a property of the Northbrook estate, arriving in the port of Calcutta on the HMS Charming. When we arrived at the pier, a nearby Brig, the HMS Atlas, I believe, was taking on supplies for its journey across the Cape. The Baron of Hornhollow, Calvert II, was on the maindeck supervising the action. This was already quite a shock to myself—a ship of that size must surely have a Boatswain or a Master to handle such matters. But as the channel pilot and our helmsmen made the final maneuvers to bring us into port, we passed close by the Atlas and I discovered the truth of the matter. We passed the ship’s quarter and the maindeck came into plain view from our quarterdeck, and upon it, Lord Calvert stood with a whip, driving the local haulers under its lash.

I felt confusion and anger swell up in myself. What sort of Peer brandishes the whip himself? The Lord’s business is to bring order by his words, to inherit the rule his forefathers and spread it. The labor is best left to those who have inherited the yoke. The only way to interpret his presence on the maindeck is that he was indulging in a moral perversion. He wished to inflict pain upon the Indians.

As soon as our ship was secure, I informed her captain of my imminent departure and made for the Atlas. When there, I demanded to know what the Lord Hornhollow was doing. I have thought daily about his reply, ever since. He told me, matter of factly, that “These men are for us to lash. It is how we bring them order; it is the only way they will know civilization.” I saw, as he said this, that many of the shirtless, swarthy haulers were bleeding from open wounds on their backs, and many others suffered with sores and scars.

It was in my rage that I demanded he yield his whip to the Boatswain and told him that if he wishes to labor to bring about civilization, he should haul his cardamom himself. He took that as an insult, a grave one indeed, and challenged me to a duel. We conducted it on the maindeck, and Lord Calvert yielded after receiving a wound from my blade. The wound, regrettably, festered (as they often do in the humid Indian clime), and he died the next week.

I will not submit to any Parliamentry punishment for the offence of dueling. My conscience is clear on that matter. However, as ever, I shall honor without hesitation any decree from your Royal House.

I do not wish to have relayed this news along with my observations of the East India Company and the Raj. However, I feel I must, or else I should be held dishonest in the eyes of any who may read this letter. I hope that it will not distract from my plea that this madness, this “mission of civilization,” receive the scrutiny it deserves, and that the farce may be ended so that the Indian may be treated with the dignity he deserves.

Your Loyal Vassal,
Lord William Cornelius Northbrook