Sixty years are but a short period in the life of an Institution, yet as we look back upon the eventful past of the Morris College and survey the heroic work done by the gallant founders of , the small beginnings, the numerous obstacles overcome and the opposition that had to be fought with and look at the college as it now stands proud of its record, strong in its numbers ad confident of its future, we feel that these sixty years have been a most momentous period. On this occasion of the Diamond Jubilee it behooves us to recall with gratitude the men who had the vision, love of learning and patriotism to establish in the capital town of this Province this premier College.
In 1882, the capital of this Province had no college. There was the Neill City High School and there was the Free Church Institution (Now called Hislop College). The latter was affiliated to teach up to F.A. There was also in the second city of the Province, Jubbulpore, the Government High School which also was affiliated to teach up to the F.A. Classes. At this time, the retirement of Sir John Morris from his offices as Chief Commissioner of the Province after fifteen years, offered an opportune moment for starting an educational institution in this city to commemorate his name.
Under the leadership of Sir Bipin Krishna Bose, Mukund Balkrishna Buti, Madhao Rao Gangadhar Chitanavis and other, the Committee of the Neill City High School proposed that “ a College for the Central Province was very desirable, that Nagpur was its appropriate home, that all the district should unite in providing the means for the establishment of such a College and that, should subscriptions not suffice for that purpose, an application may be made to Government for grant-in –aid by way of supplement .” At a public meeting held on the 4th December 1882, subscriptions amounting to Rs. 19,00 were promised for starting a college in Nagpur in memory of Sir John Morris.
Rapid progress was made in furthering this proposal; a society called “The Nagpur Morris College Association” was formed, with a governing council and they raised Rs. 1,55,289 to serve as the foundation endowment for a college. The Chief Commissioner was then approached to obtain through him from the Government of India a grant equal to the fund they had collected. They also hoped to get his help for a suitable building to be put up and properly furnished. Much water has flowed under the bridge since 1882, but the suitable building for Morris College is yet to be built.
At the very outset the pioneers of Morris College had to face the formidable opposition of the Free Church Mission, who, perhaps with legitimate apprehension, felt that a rival College a rival College might affect them adversely. How the mission authorities sought to prevent the starting of a college, how the sponsors of the Morris college combated it. How the local Government took a very balanced view on this question, pointing out that the Free Church mission was undoubtedly doing a very good work, it was desirable to keep “ the whole of the future development of private effort in education free from difficulties connected with religion ” –all these are familiar matter to any one who is acquainted with the history of education in this Province. Events have proved that the fears of the Mission authorities were unfounded – that there is room in this city not for two but for half a dozen Colleges and that educational institutions are not competitive but complimentary. Be that as it may, the Government of India was pleased to write on 5th June 1884, “ His Excellency in Council is pleased to further approve of your intention to accept the schemes which have been placed before you in connection with the establishment of an aided College at Nagpur and to make the grant-in-aid proposed to start the institution .” Upon this, the Local Government approved of the scheme for opening a College in Nagpur and a Society was formed for administering the College, with a Government Body and with Sir Bipin Bose as Secretary. Thus was born the Morris College in June 1885.
But the infancy of the College was by no means a smooth or peaceful period. Within two years of its birth it had to face an opposition for the highest official quarters, which might well have changed the whole complexion of the institution. Sir Alexander Mackenzie became the Chief Commissioner and in a memorandum written by him on 11th August 1887, characterized Morris College as “ a manufactory of superfluous B.A.`s and wanted it to be converted into an institution for training Overseers, Revenue Inspector , Agricultural workers and other skilled operators. He wrote, ” further contributions from Government and District or Municipal funds cannot be safely count down, and that there is already in Nagpur apart from the Morris College, sufficient provision made for high literary education.” His intention was to utilize the funds collected by the Morris College Society for an institution for technical education . He argued that “ The Hislop College cannot br turned into a Technical College. It is an old institution which has done much useful work in connection with the higher education of the Province…… On the other hand, the Morris College , though started as an Arts College, and undoubtedly so far successful I showing good result …… Is of quite recent origin and its constitution is not yet so finally settled that change to type would be injurious to its Future.”
A committee appointed by Sir Alexander Mackenzie drew up an elaborate scheme for making the Morris the College an institution intended to impart what he called Technical Education. The whole episode forms a very interesting chapter in the chequered career of the College . Sir Alexander`s arguments seem good in theory but unsound in practical application. The College Council seem to have thought deeply over this scheme of the Chief Commissioner and finally to have come to the conclusion “ that money specially subscribed by the people for the promotion of Collegiate education should not be diverted to any other purpose , specially as no Government College existed in Nagpur .” The rejection this scheme was answered by Sir Alexander by withdrawing all grant –in- aid to the College , with the exception of the Municipal grant which also, however, was considerably reduced.
The managing body of the College, and the professors faced this critically situation most manfully. The salaries were drastically reduced and economies were affected in all directions. Though the next chief commissioner, Sir Antony MacDonnell was more liberal and helped to ease the situation to some extent, the future appeared still very uncertain. But, nothing daunted , Sir Bipin Bose and his colleagues strove steadfast in their undertaking. The numbers of students were steadily increasing, as can be observed from the annual fee collection which was Rs. 165 in 1885 and became Rs. 1000 in 1892.
The College was, during all these years, affilitaed to Calcutta University, But When the University Act of 1904 delimited the territoral jurisdiction of the different universities, the colleges in Central Provinces came under Allahabad University. The Act of 1904 also laid down minimum conditions of efficiency, fund control and direction which every affiliating college had to satisfy. In view of the already strained circumstances in which Morris College was, it found impossible to satisfy the conditions of the University Act unless the public could raise a fund of at least Six lakh rupees. The College Council recognized that it was impossible to rasie this large sum by public subscription. The only way to ensure the continuance of the College was to seek Government aid; and Government aid meant in whose hands lay the management of the College and particularly Sir Bipin Krishna Bose, had the courage to seek the remedy that the emergency demanded and accept both Government aid and Government control. SA Sir Bipin put it, “ The College itself was the outcome of the combined efforts of the people and Government officials. We thus felt no hesitation in seeking and accepting Government help at this crisis in the history of the College…….. The College remains as before, in charge of its Government council, the only concession which has been made in return of these very substantial aids is so far to alter its consitiution as to equalize the number of official and non official members, in substitution of the old rule in which the latter had a majority of one over the former. ” Much thoughtless condemnation this bold act was expressed in the press and on the platforms in those days and Sir Bipin came in for much unfair criticism and even abuse. But we today, looking back across the gulf of forty years can see that Morris College was served well and wisely by those men. The tardiness of public money is equaled only by the promptness of public criticsm. But for this expeditious seeking of aid from government , Morris College may not have existed today. In the face of public condemnations, Sir Bipin said, “ I and the Institution , I am connected with have survived many such attacks, and I have no reason to think that the science student of the College were taught in the Victoria Technical Institute which was run by Government.
The Provincialisation of the College was the logical consequence of such large Government expenditure on the College . Soon after the move to its new abode in the Residency building was made, the question of the Government taking over the College was seriously discussed. At first it was suggested that even after the College came under the Department of Instruction, The college society should continue to exercise considerable power in the management of the Institution. But the secretary of the State rightly pointed out that such dual control might cause serious administrative difficulties and impair the efficiency of the College. Upon this, the local Government suggested to the College society that the institution should be handed over unconditionally . He added , “ The foundation of the unversity having become parctial politics, the popluar view appears to be that Government should make the Morris College a really effective institution, ” It would appear from this, that even at the very start it was envisage that Morris College should play a really effective part in the making of the University. L ater events have not belied that expectation. On the 28th February 1914 the College society met and decided to hand over the College unconditionally to government ; the final sanction from the secretary of State was obtained and the College passed into the hands of the Government in March 1914.Looking back upon the forty one years of its administration by Government, when it increased rapidly in popularity , efficency and success and created for itself a great tradition who can say that the members of the College Society acted unwisely in handing over their precious creation into the more competent care of Government ? As in 1904, so also in 1914 the action of the college society was marked by Courage and Foresight. The great men who managed the College in those days earned for themseleves the title,"the old guard" They were Mahamahopadhyaya K.G. Tamhan, Professors N.N. Ganguli, S.C. Roy, P.N.Mukerjee and S.P.Banerjee. They set up a standard of devation to duty and love of learning which has served as an inspiration to succeeding generations future will in any wise be unlike the past . Government gave the College, by this arrangement, an annual grant of Rs. 2000 to raise the salary of the staff, two Europens Proessors whose salaries were met buy Government and a sum of Rs. 13,000 to improve building, the library and the laboratory.
The finding of a suitable building to house the College has been and still continues to be , a problem that does not offer a solution. After wandering about from one tentative home to another the College was located, in 1894, in the building now occuped by the Neil City high School. But even this was inadeuate as part of it was used by the school and part as a hostel for the students of the Government Normal School. The Unversity Act of 1904, and the consequent affilition to Allahabad University, brought home insistently the need for an approriate building.From 1905 the College Concil was in correspondenece with Government for obtaining “ the old Residency Building with its extensive building and compound. ” This is a historic edifice built about 1807 for the Resident at the Court of the Raja, and in later times it was used as the Government House before the present Government was built . This ancient building was repaired at Government cost some necessary alterations were made and Morris College was Shifted to this building in July 1911; and there it remains to this day with the added possession of another bugalow few hunderd yards across the road which is now called the the Annex which became part of the College building in 1919.
With the moving of the college to the Old Residency Building, it grew rapidly in streght and importance. It was a matter of urency to provide a hostel for students whose homes were not in Nagpur. The present hostel inside the College compound was built at a cost of Rs. 60,000, half of it being given by Government and half raised by the College Council. During these years it was the good fortune of the College to recevie from Government most liberal and sympathetic treatment. A major share of the annual expenditure of the college was being borne by Government . In 1991, out of a annual expenditure of Rs. 48,000 Government paid over 39,000. Besides this, the of professors. Standing on the thershold of 1946, on the eve of vast and far reaching changes affecting education in this country, we cannot do better than remember with gratitude the services to education rendered by all these professor and their sucessors and most of all that great pinoeer in education in this province, Sir Bipin Bose but for whose untiring zeal, stouthearted idealism and love of his mother country, this College could never have been. We cannot close this brief account than with his words:
“ It is to be hope that the future students of the College will remember that it owes its origin to exertions of their own people and that it is these exertions continued for thirty years that have made possible the present state of things under which it has matured into a first class institution of its kind. It is further hoped that they will be proud of their alma matter and so comfort themselves I their after lives as to establish and maintain for it a high reputation for building up a disciplied mind and character and turning out good and useful citizen of this great country who, by their thoughts and actions, will add to the moral energy of the nation. ”