Separate and Unequal

Table of Contents | Preface | An Indian Childhood | Genealogy | Colonialism and The Raj


[Genealogy] [IndoEuropeans] [Separate and Unequal] [Mum and Dad] [Dad] [Mum] [William  Blanchette] [Thomas Blanchette II] [Thomas Blanchett 1] [Mum Paternal] [Robert Roberts] [Dad Maternal] [Mum Maternal]

Blanchette_Roberts Family Tree
"The Sanskrit language, Whatever be its antiquity, is of a wonderful structure; more perfect than Greek, more copious than Latin, and more exquisitely refined than either..." -- Sir William Jones 1786  India Judge, Founder of Asiatic Society
"The Hindoo appears a being nearly limited to mere animal functions and even in them indifferent. Their proficiency and skill in the several lines of occupation to which they are restricted, are little more than the dexterity which any animal with similar conformation but with no higher intellect than a dog, an elephant or a monkey, might be supposed to be capable of attaining."  Lord Moira GG of India ~1813
A creature manifestly between the Gorilla and the Negro is to be met with in some of the lowest districts of London and Liverpool by adventurous explorers. It comes from Ireland, whence it has contrived to migrate; it belongs in fact to a tribe of Irish savages: the lowest species of Irish Yahoo...  It is, moreover, a climbing animal, and may sometimes be seen ascending a ladder laden with a hod of bricks." London "Punch" ~1860
"It is characteristic of the blacks that their consciousness has not yet even arrived at the intuition of any objectivity, as for example, of God or the law, in which humanity relates to the world and intuits its essence. ...He [the black person] is a human being in the rough." -- Hegel
"It is, no exaggeration to say, that all the historical information which has been collected from all the books written in Sanskrit language is less valuable than what may be found in the most paltry abridgments used at preparatory schools in England". Thomas Babington Macaulay 1835 -- Macaulay knew no Indian language.
"Free institutions in the full sense of the term must for generations to come be wholly unsuitable to countries such as India and will probably never be possible to make a Western silk purse out of an Eastern sow's ear."   Lord Cromer, Governor of Egypt ~1885
I do not understand the squeamishness about the use of gas. I am strongly in favour of using poisonous gas against uncivilised tribes.  Winston Churchill --Writing as president of the Air Council, 1919
I do not admit... that a great wrong has been done to the Red Indians of America, or the black people of Australia... by the fact that a stronger race, a higher grade race... has come in and taken its place.
Churchill to Palestine Royal Commission, 1937

The Separation of Societies

19th Century British Government of India

Prior to 1785, all British governance of, and trade with, India was carried out by Englishmen who had spent a lifetime in India with the HEIC and who, for better or worse, understood and (usually) emulated Indian customs.  The Parliamentary trial and persecution of Warren Hastings (GG 1773 - 1784), the first Governor General, and the last of these "Indiaphiles" in high places, sent a clear message that Indian ways were no longer to be tolerated.  (Warren Hastings trial lasted in Parliament for ten years.  He was eventually cleared, but was financially ruined and his reputation was destroyed).  A quote from Sir William Jones, one of Warren Hastings "bright young men" is in the sidebar.

By the early 19th century, after several centuries of Western European military and economic dominance, Europeans had convinced themselves of their own superiority.  None more so than the British, particularly after they defeated Napoleon early in the century.  In the 18th century, Britain had generated  vast amounts of wealth for individual Britons from the profits on slave trading in the Atlantic, from the profits on West Indies sugar produced by slave labor, from the taxes levied on all colonial commerce, and in the last 50 years of the 18th century, from the looting of Indian wealth.  By about 1820 there was hardly a wealthy family in Britain who had not profited massively from one of these four sources.   The entire ruling class of Britain depended on the fruits of slavery or on massive theft of "native" wealth of one form or another.  It was only a matter of time before the offspring of slave traders and absentee slave owners bought respectability by purchasing Peerages, Parliamentary seats and Royal Army commissions.  

It soon became "obvious" to the wealthy Briton, that God must have chosen White Anglo Saxon Protestants as his chosen people.  How else to explain the massive shifts in money and power in favor of Britain?  It was then but a short step to develop a theory of innate racial superiority where the Anglo Saxon was at the top of the racial pyramid with other (inferior) races born to serve.  Another short step to believe certain "races" to be "sub-human".  From here it was obvious to commercial and military (Tory) British minds that the colonies were designed to serve "fitter" civilizations like the British.  The "Enlightened" Briton (Whig) on the other hand emphasized Britain's Christian duty to bring the light of Christianity (Protestant, of course) and the benefits of Western Civilization to his (generally) darker brethren.  The British governance of India during the 19th and early 20th century was a constant tug of war between the extreme ideas of  Tory commercial exploiters and the more moderate ideas of  Whig reformers.  There was, of course, complete agreement among Whigs and Tories on the fitness of Britons to govern India and, from about 1810 onwards,  on the necessity of imposing British ideas of  law and religion on the "teeming masses of India".      

I have pulled four quotes (on the left) from the literature of the time to show the extent of the racial bias.  Note the change in tone from Jones quote in 1786 and Moira's quote in 1816.   It was not just "color" based, witness the comment on the Irish.  The groundwork for legitimizing the ideas of Nazi "eugenics", Aryan Brotherhood White Supremacy, and Zionist ethnic cleansing is clearly enunciated in Hegel, and obviously accepted by the others quoted here.     

From 1785 onwards, all Governors General of India were drawn from the society which held these opinions.  These people were the cream of British society, educated in the best British schools and Universities which reinforced their innate belief that they were born to rule.  In addition to the general atmosphere of British superiority, other factors were in play which would affect India.  Cornwallis (GG 1786- 1793), and Moira (GG 1813 - 1822) were (military) Generals who had seen action (and defeat) in the colonial (revolutionary) war in America.  They, in particular, were extraordinarily afraid of empowering settlers and "natives".  Wellesley (later Lord Mornington GG 1797 - 1805) with his personal agenda of self aggrandizement, was the most aggressive of the Empire builders among all the Governors General, and the man who most set and enforced the policy of separation of Britons from all others.

Disenfranchisement of "Domiciled Europeans"

By 1830 Britain had control of nearly all of India and the Calcutta society practices began to proliferate throughout India.  The "Anglicists" led by Macaulay won the battle of education in 1835.  Orientalists like Sir William Jones and Sir Charles Wilkins and other Britons who respected and studied Indian cultures retired or were otherwise removed.  English, helped by progressive Indians like Ram Mohan Roy became the medium of education and  Sanskrit became a third class language.  "Native" Indian cultures were considered "corrupt".  All taint of "Hindoo" or "Mussulman" practices were abhorrent.  By about 1850  country born British genealogical history began to be rewritten and records of any Indian heritage began to be expunged. 

Between about 1810 and 1860 as the full weight of the new rules regarding employment in the army and the government began to pervade India, the country born Britons, by any name, fell on hard times.  This community included the children of the highest and mightiest in the Army and the HEIC on the high social end, the children of British soldiers on the lower end, and the children of the marriage of the two in the middle.  It is very likely that our direct female ancestors include the daughters of high born Englishmen and high born Indian women.   These people would have been caught in this no-man's land of nationality.  Traditionally the males would have found employment in the HEIC army or the army of Princely states.  Both were now theoretically banned.  Land ownership was denied since, for land ownership purposes, they were considered "British".  Farming and any occupation involved with land ownership was therefore out of the question.  Senior jobs in the HEIC were reserved for Englishmen born in England, and as more and more Indians learned English the lower level clerical jobs began to go to Indians who were paid less by statute.

Essentially two kinds of jobs were left open to less well educated country born British -- plantation managers for tea and indigo plantations owned by absent Englishmen, and non-combatant jobs in the HEIC army.  This is precisely where the majority of the country born British went.  The majority of non combatant jobs in the army were bandsmen -- I wonder if this is where the Anglo Indian proficiency in music comes from?

The other avenue was teaching.  For the educated, English speaking, locally born, male and female British, the move to set up English schools in India was a Godsend.  Our first generation ancestor in India, Edward Roberts the son of Robert Roberts, was born in 1809.  Edwards father died in South India on campaign when Edward was nine.  Somehow Edward got an education and became the headmaster of an institution called Islamia College.  I would guess he would have started teaching in about  the late 1820's, at a time when British missionaries (Carey) had translated the Bible into native languages and were in the process of setting up Christian schools.  The demand for educated bi-lingual personnel would have created opportunities for local Britons.

And then, three decades later, in 1857, came the "Mutiny", and the rapid build up of road, rail, telegraph and general infrastructure in India. 

India Post Mutiny

In 1857 the "Indian Mutiny" or "The Sepoy Rebellion" or, as many Indians call it, "The first War of Independence"  occurred.  A portion of the sepoys in East India rebelled, killed their European officers and other Europeans, including the British who had lived in India for some generations.  Edward Roberts, my  great grandfather was killed at this time.  Most of the country born British allied themselves with the "covenanted British" and became targets of the mutineers wrath.  The aftermath of the Mutiny was a bloodbath of vengeance perpetrated by British soldiers.    The gulf between Indian and Briton became unbridgeable. 

Our other first generation ancestor born in India, Thomas Blanchett2, son of the soldier Thomas who emigrated,  was married in 1860 -- three years after the Mutiny.  This Thomas was my great grandfather    He ended up with a job on the railway, as did his son my grandfather, and his grandson my father.  Edward Roberts was my great grandfather on the Roberts side.  Every one of Edward's offspring in a direct line to me worked on the railway.

The mutiny emphasized the fragility of the Raj, and the importance of rapid communication and troop movement across India in times of crisis.  The previously planned road, rail and telegraph building program begun under GG Dalhousie was accelerated and the demand for literate, English speaking, "loyal" employees suddenly mushroomed.  The "Domiciled European" came into his own.

The Railway Community Evolves

The second class Britons, despised and frozen out of all senior jobs and the armed forces early in the 1800's, now again became a valuable resource.  The community responded immediately.  For about seven decades from the mid 19th century this community had the exclusive privilege of providing every middle level railway, and post and telegraph employee in India.  Every engine driver, every guard, every station master, every permanent way inspector, every boiler maker, every skilled railway tradesman came from this community.  Modestly educated Anglo Indians and retired British soldiers were almost guaranteed a job in the 1870's and 1880's and beyond as the communication and transport systems boomed.   Only in the 1930's were a few Indians reluctantly allowed into middle level railway jobs--despite Queen Victoria's pledge in xxx and Parliament motions of yyy.

The government provided the railway community with housing in "railway colonies" a mile or so away from the teeming bazaar life of India.  Indians were banned from living in these communities.   The Anglo Indian community, as it came to be called in the early 20th century, was provided with a job floor above which it was relatively easy to stay, and with a ceiling which proved impossible to penetrate. The Anglo Indians developed their own schools, their own clubs (the Railway Institute), and their own unique "British" culture--modeled on the culture of the "covenanted employees".  The community was self contained.  It got stuck in the Victorian era, with Victorian values.  It was in this community that my parents and I grew up. 

The "Civil Lines" Develop

The covenanted employees--the British who came out from England on contract--were also provided with communities. These communities were called "cantonments" for the military and "civil lines" for government employees.  These communities were palatial by any measure.  Hundreds of servants kept the parks and lawns free of weeds.  Dozens of servants served the needs of the individual British families.  The "British Club" provided all the amenities deemed necessary for these British families--including polo, tennis, lawn bowls and so on.  At about the age of six or so the children would typically be sent to Britain to boarding school and then to be trained for a career in India.  Only covenanted employees were permitted to live in these communities, which meant that only Englishmen of a certain class lived there.  No soldiers, no merchants (box-wallahs) and certainly no Indians or Anglo Indians!  By the 1860's the three communities already separated by opportunity, now became separated by location, by myth and by wealth.  The "civil lines" provided the model which the Anglo Indian community emulated.

After the mutiny of 1857 Britain's grip on India tightened.  The ratio of British soldiers to Indian soldiers was increased.  The Suez canal opened (1869), British women came out in increasing numbers and the move to "elevate" the British from all things Indian became a crusade.  Social Darwinism was now on the scene and pseudo Darwinism was used to emphasize the natural superiority of Europeans in general and Anglo Saxons in particular.   "Memsahib" morality was the order of the day.  The noble Englishman taking up the "white man's burden" was the theme.  Western historians began pontificating about the  "inevitability" of European world domination and the moral imperative of the western conquest of "backward peoples". 

This was the climate in the early 20th century in which my father and mother were born and grew up. On to Mum and Dad

Table of Contents | Preface | An Indian Childhood | Genealogy | Colonialism and The Raj

[Genealogy] [IndoEuropeans] [Separate and Unequal] [Mum and Dad] [Dad] [Mum] [William  Blanchette] [Thomas Blanchette II] [Thomas Blanchett 1] [Mum Paternal] [Robert Roberts] [Dad Maternal] [Mum Maternal]