Grant, Charles

Grant, Charles (1746-1823) East India Company chairman, director, statesman, promoter of evangelicalism in the east. Charles Grant, a Scotch highlander, came to Bengal in 1767 and began his career as a factor in the East India Company's covenanted service. He successively occupied the positions of secretary to the board of trade, commercial resident at Malda, senior merchant and finally member of the Board of Trade. Charles Grant was one of those 'nabobs' who returned home with an immense fortune made in Bengal and are known to have converted their wealth into power by holding parliamentary and other positions of influence. He returned home in 1790 and entered parliament in 1802. He also became a director of the court of directors (1804) and then its chairman (1805). He promoted evangelical organisations like the British Bible Society, the Foreign Bible Society, and the Propagation of Gospel and Church Missionary Society.

Charles Grant was an influential member of the famous Clapham Sect, a philosophical and evangelical group, which included philosophers and celebrities like Zachary Macaulay, the Thorntons, John Venn, John Shore and Wilberforce. Many of the reformist ideas of the sect came from Grant. In 1792, Grant wrote a pamphlet entitled Observations on the State of Society among the Asiatic Subjects of Great Britain. He distributed the pamphlet among members of the Court of Directors, board of control and parliament. Its purpose was to persuade the company to lift its ban on the coming and operating of missionaries to British India. In the pamphlet Grant tried to portray Indian society as not only heathen, but also “immoral, dishonest, corrupt, licentious, profligate, depraved, lascivious and wicked”. He argued that it was the moral responsibility of the company government to rescue the depraved Indian society from the labyrinth of moral degradation. He argued that this goal might be achieved if the company government allowed the Christian missionaries to operate in India. It was due to Grant';s persistent lobbying that the company and Parliament raised the prohibition on European missionaries (1813) coming to India for evangelical purposes.

Charles Grant's ideas about the British presence in India were different from lord wellesley's who believed in physical annexations for building the British Empire in India. Charles, as a Member of Parliament and Chairman of the Court of Directors was opposed to Wellesley's policy of conquests and instead advanced the idea of moral conquest of India through missionary activities. Grant sided with those parliament members who tried unsuccessfully to impeach Wellesley. The Court of Directors refused to endorse Wellesley's project for the College of fort william and instead proposed to set up a similar college for the education of the company's civilians in England. Charles Grant had played the most direct and decisive role in the Court and in parliament in the termination of Wellesley's governor generalship, dismantling of the College of Fort William, establishment of the East India College at Haylebury and most importantly, permitting missionary activities in India. Grant's idea was to conquer India ideologically, not politically. [Sirajul Islam]