Macaulay returns, this time as a high-ranking official of the East India Company, and an excerpt from his text opens the section “Empire and National Identity”. It is a “minute”, or a rather long memorandum presenting Macaulay’s views on the language of instruction in Indian schools and it’s breathtakingly, unabashedly racist. The question under discussion was whether the language of instruction should be Sanskrit and Persian, as until then, or English. Macaulay’s argument is: all the “dialects” (by which he means the mainly oral languages of India, I suppose) are so “poor and rude” that of course they are not fit for the purpose. But literature in “Sanscrit” as he spells it, and Persian is just vastly inferior to English literature, which Macaulay feels pretty confident about, even though he frankly admits he doesn’t know either of these languages and makes his sweeping statements on the basis of his conversations with Western scholars. The best part of it is poetry, which is still inferior to Western poetry, and as for academic literature, there is simply no comparison. So summing up, Indians cannot be educated in their own native language, so why not English, which is simply the best. Here Macaulay does some patriotic drum-beating, although it has to be admitted that his statement that whoever knows English has access to all the “intellectual wealth” of all nations is even more true now, when English is practically the lingua franca of world science. Moreover, in India English is already the language of the ruling class, and teaching English to Indians will help the commerce with Australasia and South Africa. He dismisses the argument about Sanskrit and Persian being the languages of sacred books, because of course these are sacred books of false religions, and while the government has to be tolerant of them, it doesn’t have to support them – as he writes ironically “we are to teach false history, false astronomy, false medicine, because we find them in company with a false religion.” And all that from the man who calls Persian “Arabic” because it is written in Arabic script and I think confuses the two languages in general (does he mean the Quran in his reference to sacred books?)
The final excerpt foreshadows the creation of what Spivak would call the “subaltern” – Macaulay agrees that it’s impossible to educate the whole population of the subcontinent in English, so they have to create “a class of persons, Indian in blood and colour, but English in taste, in opinions, in morals, and in intellect” who in turn are going to work on enlightening and elevating their native cultures to the level of the English one.