David Hare biography

David Hare (1775-1842)


david hare
David Hare
       The East India Company had little in common with the long line of India’s traditional invaders from West Asia. Revolutionary changes were gradually introduced in administration as well as in the socio-economic structure. The important agent for these changes was the new educational system; first in Bengal and gradually in other parts of the country.
The Company did not make any conscious efforts as such to spread English education and western sciences. But the Christian missionary schools taught these subjects and gained popularity among the middle-classes. The advantages of learning English and western sciences were becoming apparent to the Indian intelligentsia. The first decade of the nineteenth century saw a number of schools, apart from missionary schools, coming up, teaching English and western sciences. It culminated in the establishment of the famous Hindu College in Calcutta. David Hare was the founder of this great institution. He was supported by men like Ram Mohan Roy, who became his lifelong friend. Besides Hindu College, Hare was instrumental in the establishment of several other educational institutions in Calcutta. With the de-recognition of Persian as an official language in 1835 by the Company and giving the status of official languages to English and vernacular languages of each province, the spread of English and Bengali was accelerated. David Hare, along with Ram Mohan Roy, played a leading role in making these languages popular.
David Hare was born in Scotland on 17 February 1775. He did not have a college education and adopted the profession of his father - watch-making. He came to India in 1800 and spent the remaining forty two years of his life in Calcutta. He compensated for his lack of good education by reading widely and had even built his own Small library. But he was no intellectual like Ram Mohan.
Within a short time of his arrival in Calcutta, he built up a prosperous watch-making business. Though he had become a successful businessman, his heart was not in this profession. After making a small fortune, he voluntarily transferred his business to his assistant E. Gray, who was perhaps his relative, early in 1820, and devoted the rest of his life doing social work mainly in the sphere of education in Calcutta.
He soon earned the friendship of Ram Mohan Roy, as both of them believed in the diffusion of English education and western sciences among Indians if India had to progress. When Ram Mohan Roy visited England in 1830-33, David had written to his relatives in England to look after him and Ram Mohan stayed with them for some time. A niece of David Hare attended to the needs of Ram Mohan during his last illness at Stapleton Grove where he died. All the members of the Hare family were present during Ram Mohan’s last rites. David himself was, however, a lifelong bachelor.
  Even before David Hare said good-bye to his watch-making business; he was active in spreading English education. In 1814, he proposed to his friend Ram Mohan for the establishment of an English school in Calcutta. Consequently, the first English school by a native came into existence. The establishment of the Hindu College on 20 January 1817 was the result of the proposal Hare had sent to justice Sir Edward Hyde East of the Supreme Court. The college is located on a piece of land owned by David Hare on the north side of College Square. Thus David is considered to be the founder of Hindu College. Whether as a superintendent of the School Society’s meritorious boys studying in the Hindu College or as a director of the College Managing Committee from 1925, he was a constant source of inspiration for the teachers and students. When in 1818 the School Society was formed to look after vernacular and English schools, Hare was the European secretary. Apart from taking special interest in the activities of the students at Arpuli Vernacular School and the Pataldanga English School, he kept a close watch on the progress of the poor but meritorious students selected for study at the Hindu College by the School Society. Due to financial stringency the two schools had to be merged and are now called Hare School and are still perpetuating the hallowed memory of the Scottish pioneer.
From the beginning Hare stressed the importance of Bengali education in his schools, along with English. In the fitness of things, he was asked to lay the foundation of the Bengali pathshala (Hindu College Pathshala) near the Hindu College on 14 June 1839.
Hare played a leading role in the establishment of the first medical college in India on 1 June 1835. He was asked by the principal to be the secretary to the Calcutta Medical College, a post he held from 1837 to 1842, because of his influence over Hindu homes. Hindu families were reluctant to send their children to the medical college because of the deep-rooted prejudice against dissecting dead human bodies. Hare had succeeded in convincing the friendly families of the necessity of knowing the human body for doctors and thus helping them to overcome the prejudice. When in January 1836 some students mustered enough courage to shake off their prejudice to dissect dead bodies, guns boomed from the Fort William, virtually welcoming the opening of a new chapter in the history of renascent Bengal."
Though a Christian himself, Hare abhorred the proselytisation activities of the missionaries who were active in the educational institutions in his schools who will spoil my boys, he used to say. He was termed as an atheist by the orthodox Christians. His inveterate hostility to the Gospel cost him the goodwill of orthodox Christians and he was denied burial in a consecrated Christian cemetry and was buried near his beloved Hindu College in his own land.
As there was a dearth of books in English as well as Bengali, Hare founded the Calcutta School Book Society in 1818, for printing and publishing English and Bengali books. These books were distributed free to the needy students. The Young Bengal Address (1831) spoke of Hare as the man who has breathed a new life in Hindu society, who has voluntarily become the friend of a friendless people, and set an example to his own countrymen and ours".

Hare worked hard, along with Ram Mohan Roy, for the repeal of regulations against the press which ultimately led to the restoration of the freedom of the Press by Act XI of 1835. He also took active part to secure trial by jury in civil cases in the Supreme Court. He was at the forefront of the agitation against the British practice of collecting Indian coolies (indentured labour) for emigration to Mauritius, British Guyana, Trinidad and Ceylon.
Hare,s many generous benefactions, small and large, put him in financial difficulties towards the end of his life. To help him in his distress, Lord Auckland appointed him as the third commissioner in the Court of Requests in March 1840, in recognition of his services for the cause of native education, on a salary of Rs. 1000 per month. His appointment to this post was not liked by many. The Friend of India paper commented, He has laid the country under a debt of gratitude by his labours in the cause of education, which even the salary of a Commissioner does not repay. By the present appointment the cause of education has lost much, while the cause of justice has gained nothing."
But he did not live long to serve as commissioner and died on 1 June 1842, of cholera at the age of sixty-seven. His funeral, on a soggy day, was attended by at least two thousand grateful students and staff of Hindu College and Medical College along with many European dignitaries. His memory is cherished and is kept alive to this day. The street, on which he lived with his relative Mr. Gray, is called Hare Street. The Government of India has put a memorial tablet at his residence; a full-sized marble statue was erected by public subscription between Presidency College and the Hare School; and in the Hare School a beautiful portrait of his, which was commissioned by his students, adorns the wall of the room used by him.

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