Kolkata, Bengal, British India
|Died||15 January 1868
Kolkata, Bengal, British India
|Dakshinaranjan Mukherjee Hara Chandra Ghosh Krishna Mohan Banerjee
Peary Chand Mitra Radhanath Sikdar Ramgopal Ghosh
Ramtanu Lahiri Rasik Krishna Mallick Sib Chandra Deb
Ramgopal Ghosh (Bengali: রামগোপাল ঘোষ) (1815 - 1868) was an Indian businessman, social reformer, orator and one of the leaders of the Young Bengal group. He was called the Indian Demosthenes. Ghosh was one of the persons who helped John Elliot Drinkwater Bethune to establish his girls school.
The family hailed from Bagati, near Mogra in Hooghly District. His father, Gobinda Chandra Ghosh had a small shop in Kolkata’s China Bazar. His maternal grandfather, Dewan Ramprasad Singha, used to work in the office of King Hamilton & Co. in Kolkata. Ghosh was born in his maternal grandfather’s house.
There are two opinions about his childhood. The first says that he initially joined Sherburne’s School and started learning English. At that time Hara Chandra Ghosh, then a student of Hindu College and later one of the leading Derozians, married a relative of his. Observing the keenness of young Ramgopal, Hara Chandra pestered the former’s father to get him admitted in Hindu College. His father did not have the means to pay for his education at Hindu College. However, one Mr. Rogers of King Hamilton & Co. agreed to pay the fees and he was admitted to Hindu College. The second opinion is that Mr. Rogers got him admitted in Hindu College right from the beginning.
Ghosh did not have to continue that way for long. His brilliance attracted the attention of David Hare and soon he was on the latter’s free student list. In time he joined the class of Derozio. He became friendly with Ramtanu Lahiri and the other Derozians. His dedication attracted Derozio’s attention and he used to coach him in English philosophy and poetry outside class hours.
When Derozio established the Academic Association, Ghosh became one of its leading members. It was in the meeting of the Association that Ghosh learnt to express himself fluently in English. The meetings of the Academic Association were attended by such people as Sir Edward Ryan, who was a judge of the Supreme Court and W.W.Bird, who later became lieutenant governor of Bengal. They warmly appreciated Ghosh’s talent and openly encouraged him.
Ghosh had to leave his studies unfinished and get on in working life. On the recommendation of David Hare, he started working with a Jewish businessman named Joseph. Later, another businessman name Kelsall joined the firm, Ghosh served them as a middle-man. When the two fell out, Ghosh formed a jointly owned firm Kelsall, Ghose & Co., and still later, around 1848, he floated his own firm, R.G.Ghosh & Co. In the process he accumulated fabulous wealth.
One of the great qualities of Ghosh was that he never forgot his old friends. Even as he went up the financial and social ladder he kept close contact with them and helped them whenever they were in need. There were occasions when he helped his old friends such as Ramtanu Lahiri and Rasik Krishna Mallick.
When his grand father died, there was a hue and cry in society that he was opposed to Hindu religion and there was possibility of his being ostracised. His father appealed to him to declare publicly his faith in Hindu religion but he turned to his father and said, “I am ever willing to obey you and bear any pains for that but I cannot tell a lie.” When this spread around, he gained in the esteem in society. On another occasion his business had nosedived and there was possibility of his becoming bankrupt. His friends advised him to transfer his assets to others but he refused to follow an illegal path. His personal integrity has been acknowledged even by more recent historians.
His speeches on the Black Acts (1850), which aimed at bringing disputes between Europeans and Asians under the jurisdiction of the Company’s courts and those criticising the European protests against a well-intentioned government move to bring Europeans on par with the natives in judicial treatment were a landmark. He was the first, as early as 1853, to demand the eligibility of Indians in the civil service examinations. In 1854, he was the first Indian to propose the establishment of universities in India. He supported the move of Dwarkanath Tagore to send four students to England for higher medical studies.
Ghosh not only delivered fiery speeches but also wrote effectively. His publication of a booklet A Few Remarks on Certain Draft Acts, Commonly Called Black Acts so angered the English that he was forced out of his position as vice-president of the Agri-Horticultural Society. He was closely associated with the publications of the time, such as Jnananwesan and Bengal Spectator. He took an active part in the establishment of the British Indian Association and was a member of its committee.
He not only indulged in politics but also other causes. It was at his initiative that a decision was taken to erect a statue of David Hare. He was the first to offer one month’s income for the purpose; others followed and the statue stands to this day in the compound of Presidency College.
In his last days, he wrote off loans totalling Rs. 40,000 given to his friends.
- Sengupta, Subodh Chandra and Bose, Anjali (editors), 1976/1998, Sansad Bangali Charitabhidhan (Biographical dictionary) Vol I, (Bengali), pp 480-481, ISBN 81-85626-65-0
- Sengupta, Nitish, 2001/2002, History of the Bengali-speaking People, p 228, UBS Publishers’ Distributors Pvt. Ltd., ISBN 81-7476-355-4
- Acharya, Poromesh, Education in Old Calcutta in Calcutta, the Living City, Vol I, edited by Sukanta Chaudhuri, pp 87, Oxford University Press, ISBN 0-19-563696-1.
- Sastri, Sivanath, Ramtanu Lahiri O Tatkalin Bangasamaj, (Bengali)1903/2001, p 76-80, New Age Publishers Pvt. Ltd.
- Sengupta, Nitish, p232.
- Sastri, Sivanath, pp 115-116,