Produced by Josephine Paolucci, and the Online Distributed Proofreading Team.
BY VISCOUNT MORLEY
_The modern and Western spirit is assuredly at work in the Indian countries, but the vital question for Indian Governments is, How far it has changed the ideas of men_?–SIR HENRY MAINE.
A signal transaction is now taking place in the course of Indian polity. These speeches, with no rhetorical pretensions, contain some of the just, prudent, and necessary points and considerations, that have guided this transaction, and helped to secure for it the sanction of Parliament. The too limited public that follows Indian affairs with coherent attention, may find this small sheaf of speeches, revised as they have been, to be of passing use. Three cardinal State-papers have been appended. They mark the spirit of British rule in India, at three successive stages, for three generations past; and bear directly upon what is now being done.
I. ON PRESENTING THE INDIAN BUDGET. (House of Commons, June 6, 1907)
II. TO CONSTITUENTS. (Arbroath, October 21, 1907)
III. ON AMENDMENT TO ADDRESS. (House of Commons, January 31, 1908)
IV. INDIAN CIVIL SERVICE. (London, July, 1908)
V. ON PROPOSED REFORMS. (House of Lords, December 17, 1908)
VI. HINDUS AND MAHOMETANS. (January, 1909)
VII. SECOND READING OF INDIAN COUNCILS BILL. (House of Lords)
VIII. INDIAN PROBATIONERS. (Oxford, June 13, 1909)
THREE STATE-PAPERS: 1833, 1858, 1908
ON PRESENTING THE INDIAN BUDGET
(HOUSE OF COMMONS. JUNE 6, 1907)
I am afraid I shall have to ask the House for rather a large draft upon its indulgence. The Indian Secretary is like the aloe, that blooms once in 100 years: he only troubles the House with speeches of his own once in twelve months. There are several topics which the House will expect me to say something about, and of these are two or three topics of supreme interest and importance, for which I plead for patience and comprehensive consideration. We are too apt to find that Gentlemen both here and outside fix upon some incident of which they read in the newspaper; they put it under a microscope; they indulge in reflections upon it; and they regard that as taking an intelligent interest in the affairs of India. If we could suppose that on some occasion within the last three or four weeks a wrong turn had been taken in judgment at Simla, or in the Cabinet, or in the India Office, or that to-day in this House some wrong turn might be taken, what disasters would follow, what titanic efforts to repair these disasters, what devouring waste of national and Indian treasure, and what a wreckage might follow! These are possible consequences that misjudgment either here or in India might bring with it.
Sir, I believe I am not going too far when I say that this is almost, if not quite, the first occasion upon which what is called the British democracy in its full strength has been brought directly face to face with the difficulties of Indian Government in all their intricacies, all their complexities, all their subtleties, and above all in their enormous magnitude. Last year when I had the honour of addressing the House on the Indian Budget, I observed, as many have done before me, that it is one of the most difficult experiments ever tried in human history, whether you can carry on, what you will have to try to carry on in India–personal government along with free speech and free right of public meeting. This which last year was partially a speculative question, has this year become more or less actual, and that is a question which I shall by and by have to submit to the House. I want to set out the case as frankly as I possibly can. I want, if I may say so without presumption, to take the House into full confidence so far–and let nobody quarrel with this provision–as public interests allow. I will beg the House to remember that we do not only hear one another; we are ourselves this afternoon overheard. Words that may be spoken here, are overheard in the whole kingdom. They are overheard thousands of miles away by a vast and complex community. They are overheard by others who are doing the service and work of the Crown in India. By those, too, who take part in the immense work of commercial and non-official life in India. We are overheard by great Indian princes who are outside British India. We are overheard by the dim masses of Indians whom, in spite of all, we shall persist in regarding as our friends. We are overheard by those whom, I am afraid, we must reluctantly call our enemies. This is the reason why everybody who speaks to-day, certainly including myself, must use language that is well advised, language of reserve, and, as I say again, the fruit of comprehensive consideration.
The Budget is a prosperity Budget. We have, however, to admit that a black shadow falls across the prospect. The plague figures are appalling. But do not let us get unreasonably dismayed, even about these appalling figures. If we reviewed the plague figures up to last December, we might have hoped that the horrible scourge was on the wane. From 92,000 deaths in the year 1900, the figures went up to 1,100,000 in 1904, while in 1905 they exceeded 1,000,000. In 1906 a gleam of hope arose, and the mortality sank to something under 350,000. The combined efforts of Government and people had produced that reduction; but, alas, since January, 1907, plague has again flared up in districts that have been filled with its terror for a decade; and for the first four months of this year the deaths amounted to 642,000, which exceeded the record for the same period in any past year. You must remember that we have to cover a very vast area. I do not know that these figures would startle us if we took the area of the whole of Europe. It was in 1896 that this plague first appeared in India, and up to April, 1907, the total figure of the human beings who have died is 5,250,000. But dealing with a population of 300,000,000, this dire mortality, although enormous, is not at all comparable with the results of the black death and other scourges, that spread over Europe in earlier times, in proportion to the population. The plague mortality in 1904 (the worst complete year) would only represent, if evenly distributed, a death-rate of about 3 per 1,000. But it is local, and particularly centres in the Punjab, the United Provinces, and in Bombay. I do not think that anybody who has been concerned in India–I do not care to what school of Indian thought he belongs–can deny that measures for the extermination and mitigation of this disease have occupied the most serious, constant, unflagging, zealous, and energetic attention of the Indian Government. But the difficulties we encounter are manifold, as many Members of the House are well aware. It is possible that hon. Members may rise and say that we are not enforcing with sufficient zeal proper sanitary rules; and, on the other hand, I dare say that other hon. Members will get up to show that the great difficulty in the way of sanitary rules being observed, arises from the reluctance of the population to practise them. That is perfectly natural and is well understood. They are a suspicious population, and we all know that, when these new rules are forced upon them, they constantly resent and resist them. A policy of severe repression is worse than useless. I will not detain the House with particulars of all the proceedings we have taken in dealing with the plague. But I may say that we have instituted a long scientific inquiry with the aid of the Royal Society and the Lister Institute. Then we have very intelligent officers, who have done all they could to trace the roots of the disease, and to discover if they could, any means to prevent it. It is a curious thing that, while there appears to be no immunity from this frightful scourge for the natives, Europeans enjoy almost entire immunity from the disease. That is difficult to understand or to explain.
Now as to opium, I know that a large number of Members in the House are interested in it. Judging by the voluminous correspondence that I receive, all the Churches and both political Parties are sincerely and deeply interested in the question, and I was going to say that the resolutions with which they have favoured me often use the expression “righteousness before revenue.” The motto is excellent, but its virtue will be cheap and shabby, if you only satisfy your own righteousness at the expense of other people’s revenue.
Mr. LUPTON: We are quite ready to bear the expense.
Mr. MORLEY: My hon. friend says they are quite prepared to bear the expense. I commend that observation cheerfully to the Chancellor of the Exchequer. This question touches the consciences of the people of the country. My hon. friend sometimes goes a little far; still, he represents a considerable body of feeling. Last May, when the opium question was raised in this House, something fell from me which reached the Chinese Government, and the Chinese Government, on the strength of that utterance of mine, made in the name of His Majesty’s Government, have persistently done their best to come to some sort of arrangement and understanding with His Majesty’s Government. In September an Imperial decree was issued in China ordering the strict prohibition of the consumption and cultivation of opium, with a view to ultimate eradication in ten years. Communications were made to the Foreign Secretary, and since then there has been a considerable correspondence, some of which the House is, by Question and Answer, acquainted with. The Chinese Government have been uniformly assured, not only by my words spoken in May, but by the Foreign Secretary, that the sympathy of this country was with the objects set forth in their decree of September. Then a very important incident, as I regard it, and one likely by-and-bye to prove distinctly fruitful, was the application by the United States Government to our Government, as to whether there should not be a joint inquiry into the opium traffic by the United States and the other Powers concerned. The House knows, by Question and Answer, that His Majesty’s Government judge that procedure by way of Commission rather than by way of Conference is the right way to approach the question. But no one can doubt for a moment, considering the honourable interest the United States have shown on previous occasions, that some good result will come with time and persistence.
I will not detain the House with the details, but certainly it is a true satisfaction to know that a great deal of talk as to the Chinese interest in the suppression of opium being fictitious is unreal. I was much struck by a sentence written by the correspondent of _The Times_ at Peking recently. Everybody who knows him, is aware that he is not a sentimentalist, and he used remarkable language. He said that he viewed the development in China of the anti-opium movement as encouraging; that the movement was certainly popular, and was supported by the entire native Press; while a hopeful sign was that the use of opium was fast becoming unfashionable, and would become more so. A correspondence, so far as the Government of India is concerned, is now in progress. Those of my hon. friends who think we are lacking perhaps in energy and zeal I would refer to the language used by Mr. Baker, the very able finance member of the Viceroy’s Council, because these words really define the position of the Government of India–
“What the eventual outcome will be, it is impossible to foresee. The practical difficulties which China has imposed on herself are enormous, and may prove insuperable, but it is evident that the gradual reduction and eventual extinction of the revenue that India has derived from the trade, has been brought a stage nearer, and it is necessary for us to be prepared for whatever may happen.”
He added that twenty years ago, or even less, the prospect of losing a revenue of five and a half crores of rupees a year would have caused great anxiety, and even now the loss to Indian finances would be serious, and might necessitate recourse to increased taxation. But if, as they had a clear right to expect, the transition was effected with due regard to finance, and was spread over a term of years, the consequence need not be regarded with apprehension.
When I approach military expenditure, and war and the dangers of war, I think I ought to say a word about the visit of the Ameer of Afghanistan, which excited so much attention, and kindled so lively an interest in great parts, not only of our own dominions, but in Asia. I am persuaded that we have reason to look back on that visit with entire and complete satisfaction. His Majesty’s Government, previously to the visit of the Ameer instructed the Governor-General in Council on no account to open any political questions with the Ameer. That was really part of the conditions of the Ameer’s visit; and the result of that policy has been to place our relations with the Ameer on an eminently satisfactory footing, a far better footing than would have been arrived at by any formal premeditated convention. The Ameer himself made a speech when he arrived at Kabul on his return, and I am aware that in this speech I come to a question of what may seem a Party or personal character, with which it is not in the least my intention to deal. This is what the Ameer said on 10th April–
“The officers of the Government of India never said a word on political matters, they kept their promise. But as to myself, whenever and wherever I found an opportunity, I spoke indirectly on several matters which concerned the interests of my country and nation. The other side never took undue advantage of it, and never discussed with me on those points which I mentioned. His Excellency’s invitation (Lord Minto’s) to me was in such a proper form, that I had no objection to accept it. The invitation which he sent was worded in quite a different form from that of the invitation which I received on the occasion of the Delhi Durbar. In the circumstances I had determined to undergo all risks (at the time of the Delhi Durbar) and, if necessary, to sacrifice all my possessions and my own life, but not to accept such an invitation as was sent to me for coming to join the Delhi Durbar.”
These thing are far too serious for me or any of us to indulge in controversy upon, but it is a satisfaction to be able to point out to the House that the policy we instructed the Governor-General to follow, has so far worked extremely well.
I will go back to the Army. Last year when I referred to this subject, I told the House that it would be my object to remove any defects that I and those who advise me might discover in the Army system, and more especially, of course, in the schemes of Lord Kitchener. Since then, with the assistance of two very important Committees, well qualified by expert military knowledge, I came to the conclusion that an improved equipment was required. Hon. Gentlemen may think that my opinion alone would not be worth much; but, after all, civilians have got to decide these questions, and, provided that they arm themselves with the expert knowledge of military authorities, it is rightly their voice that settles the matter. Certain changes were necessary in the allocation of units in order to enable the troops to be better trained, and therefore our final conclusion was that the special military expenditure shown in the financial statement must go on for some years more. But the House will see that we have arranged to cut down the rate of the annual grant, and we have taken care–and this, I think, ought to be set down to our credit–that every estimate for every item included in the programme shall be submitted to vigilant scrutiny here as well as in India. I have no prepossession in favour of military expenditure, but the pressure of facts, the pressure of the situation, the possibilities of contingencies that may arise, seem obviously to make it impossible for any Government or any Minister to acquiesce in the risks on the Indian frontier. We have to consider not only our position with respect to foreign Powers on the Indian frontier, but the exceedingly complex questions that arise in connection with the turbulent border tribes. All these things make it impossible–I say nothing about internal conditions–for any Government or any Minister with a sense of responsibility to cancel or to deal with the military programme in any high-handed or cavalier way.
Next I come to what, I am sure, is first in the minds of most Members of the House–the political and social condition of India. Lord Minto became Viceroy, I think, in November, 1905, and the present Government succeeded to power in the first week of December. Now much of the criticism that I have seen on the attitude of His Majesty’s Government and the Viceroy, leaves out of account the fact that we did not come quite into a haven of serenity and peace. Very fierce monsoons had broken out on the Olympian heights at Simla, in the camps, and in the Councils at Downing Street. This was the inheritance into which we came–rather a formidable inheritance for which I do not, this afternoon, attempt to distribute the responsibility. Still, when we came into power, our policy was necessarily guided by the conditions under which the case had been left. Our policy was to compose the singular conditions of controversy and confusion by which we were faced. In the famous Army case we happily succeeded. But in Eastern Bengal, for a time, we did not succeed. When I see newspaper articles beginning with the preamble that the problem of India is altogether outside party questions, I well know from experience that this is too often apt to be the forerunner of a regular party attack. It is said that there has been supineness, vacillation and hesitation. I reply boldly, there has been no supineness, no vacillation, no hesitation from December, 1905, up to the present day.
I must say a single word about one episode, and it is with sincere regret I refer to it. It is called the Fuller episode. I have had the pleasure of many conversations with Sir Bampfylde Fuller since his return, and I recognise to the full his abilities, his good faith, and the dignity and self-control with which, during all this period of controversy, he has never for one moment attempted to defend himself, or to plunge into any sort of contest with the Viceroy or His Majesty’s Government. Conduct of that kind deserves our fullest recognition. I recognise to the full his gifts and his experience, but I am sure that if he were in this House, he would hardly quarrel with me for saying that those gifts were not altogether well adapted to the situation he had to face.
[Footnote 1: An unhappy lapse took place at a later date.]
What was the case? The Lieutenant-Governor suggested a certain course. The Government of India thought it was a mistake, and told him so. The Lieutenant-Governor thereupon said, “Very well, then I’m afraid I must resign.” There was nothing in all that except what was perfectly honourable to Sir Bampfylde Fuller. But does anybody here take up this position, that if a Lieutenant-Governor says, “If I cannot have my own way I will resign,” then the Government of India are bound to refuse to accept that resignation? All I can say is, and I do not care who the man may be, that if any gentleman in the Indian service says he will resign unless he can have his own way, then so far as I am concerned in the matter, his resignation shall be promptly and definitely accepted. It is said to-day that Sir Bampfylde Fuller recommended certain measures about education, and that the Government have now adopted them. But the circumstances are completely changed. What was thought by Lord Minto and his Council to be a rash and inexpedient course in those days, is not thought so now that the circumstances have changed. I will only mention one point. There was a statement the other day in a very important newspaper that the condition of anti-British feeling in Eastern Bengal had gained in virulence since Sir Bampfylde Fuller’s resignation. This, the Viceroy assures me, is an absolute perversion of the facts. The whole atmosphere has changed for the better. When I say that Lord Minto was justified in the course he took, I say it without any prejudice to Sir Bampfylde Fuller, or the slightest wish to injure his future prospects.
Now I come to the subject of the disorders. I am extremely sorry to say that some disorder has broken out in the Punjab. I think I may assume that the House is aware of the general circumstances from Answers to Questions. Under the Regulation of 1818 (which is still alive), coercive measures were adopted. Here I would like to examine, so far as I can, the action taken to preserve the public interests. It would be quite wrong, in dealing with the unrest in the Punjab, not to mention the circumstances that provided the fuel for the agitation. There were ravages by the plague, and these ravages have been cruel. The seasons have not been favourable. A third cause was an Act then on the stocks, which was believed to be injurious to the condition of a large body of men. Those conditions affecting the Colonisation Act were greatly misrepresented. An Indian member of the Punjab Council pointed out how impolitic he thought it was; and, as I told the House about a week ago, the Viceroy, declining to be frightened by the foolish charge of pandering to agitation and so forth, refused assent to that proposal. But in the meantime the proposal of the colonisation law had become a weapon in the hands of the preachers of sedition. I suspect that the Member for East Nottingham will presently get up and say that this mischief connected with the Colonisation Act accounted for the disturbance. But I call attention to this fact, in order that the House may understand whether or not the Colonisation Act was the main cause of the disturbance. The authorities believe that it was not. There were twenty-eight meetings known to have been held by the leading agitators in the Punjab between 1st March, and 1st May. Of these five only related, even ostensibly, to agricultural grievances; the remaining twenty-three were all purely political. The figures seem to dispose of the contention that agrarian questions are at the root of the present unrest in the Punjab. On the contrary, it rather looks as if there was a deliberate heating of the public atmosphere preparatory to the agrarian meeting at Rawalpindi on the 21st April, which gave rise to the troubles. The Lieutenant-Governor visited twenty-seven out of twenty-nine districts. He said the situation was serious, and it was growing worse. In this agitation special attention, it is stated, has been paid to the Sikhs, who, as the House is aware, are among the best soldiers in India, and in the case of Lyallpur, to the military pensioners. Special efforts have been made to secure their attendance at meetings to enlist their sympathies and to inflame their passions. So far the active agitation has been virtually confined to the districts in which the Sikh element is predominant. Printed invitations and leaflets have been principally addressed to villages held by Sikhs; and at a public meeting at Ferozepore, at which disaffection was openly preached, the men of the Sikh regiments stationed there were specially invited to attend, and several hundreds of them acted upon the invitation. The Sikhs were told that it was by their aid, and owing to their willingness to shoot down their fellow countrymen in the Mutiny, that the Englishmen retained their hold upon India. And then a particularly odious line of appeal was adopted. It was asked, “How is it that the plague attacks the Indians and not the Europeans?” “The Government,” said these men, “have mysterious means of spreading the plague; the Government spreads the plague by poisoning the streams and wells.” In some villages the inhabitants have actually ceased to use the wells. I was informed only the other day by an officer, who was in the Punjab at that moment, that when visiting the settlements, he found the villagers disturbed in mind on this point. He said to his men: “Open up your kits, and let them see whether these horrible pills are in them.” The men did as they were ordered, but the suspicion was so great that people insisted upon the glasses of the telescopes being unscrewed, in order to be quite sure that there was no pill behind them.
See the emergency and the risk. Suppose a single native regiment had sided with the rioters. It would have been absurd for us, knowing we had got a weapon there at our hands by law–not an exceptional law, but a standing law–and in the face of the risk of a conflagration, not to use that weapon; and I for one have no apology whatever to offer for using it. Nobody appreciates more intensely than I do the danger, the mischief, and a thousand times in history the iniquity of what is called “reason of State.” I know all about that. It is full of mischief and full of danger; but so is sedition, and we should have incurred criminal responsibility if we had opposed the resort to this law.
I do not wish to detain the House with the story of events in Eastern Bengal and Assam. They are of a different character from those in the Punjab, and in consequence of these disturbances the Government of India, with my approval, have issued an Ordinance, which I am sure the House is familiar with, under the authority and in the terms of an Act of Parliament. The course of events in Eastern Bengal appears to have been mainly this–first, attempts to impose the boycott on Mahomedans by force; secondly, complaints by Hindus if the local officials stop them, and by Mahomedans if they do not try to stop them; thirdly, retaliation by Mahomedans; fourthly, complaints by Hindus that the local officials do not protect them from this retaliation; fifthly, general lawlessness of the lower classes on both sides, encouraged by the spectacle of the fighting among the higher classes; sixthly, more complaints against the officials. The result of the Ordinance has been that down to May 29th it had not been necessary to take action in any one of these districts.
I noticed an ironical look on the part of the right hon. Gentleman when I referred with perfect freedom to my assent to the resort to the weapon we had in the law against sedition. I have had communications from friends of mine that, in this assent, I am outraging the principles of a lifetime. I should be ashamed if I detained the House more than two minutes on anything so small as the consistency of my political life. That can very well take care of itself. I began by saying that this is the first time that British democracy in its full strength, as represented in this House, is face to face with the enormous difficulties of Indian Government. Some of my hon. friends look even more in sorrow than in anger upon this alleged backsliding of mine. Last year I told the House that India for a long time to come, so far as my imagination could reach, would be the theatre of absolute and personal government, and that raised some doubts. Reference has been made to my having resisted the Irish Crimes Act, as if there were a scandalous inconsistency between opposing the policy of that Act, and imposing this policy on the natives of India. That inconsistency can only be established by anyone who takes up the position that Ireland, a part of the United Kingdom, is exactly on the same footing as these 300,000,000 people–composite, heterogeneous, with different histories, of different races, different faiths. Does anybody contend that any political principle whatever is capable of application in every sort of circumstances without reference to conditions–in every place, and at every time? I, at all events, have never taken that view, and I would like to remind my hon. friends that in such ideas as I have about political principles, the leader of my generation was Mr. Mill. Mill was a great and benignant lamp of wisdom and humanity, and it was at that lamp I and others kindled our modest rushlights. What did Mill say about the government of India? Remember he was not merely that abject and despicable being, a philosopher. He was a man practised in government, and in what government? Why, he was responsible, experienced, and intimately concerned in the government of India. What did he say? If there is anybody who can be quoted as having been a champion of representative government it is Mill; and in his book, which, I take it, is still the classic book on that subject, this is what he says–
“Government by the dominant country is as legitimate as any other, if it is the one which, in the existing state of civilization of the subject people, most facilitates their transition to a higher state of civilization.”
Then he says this–
“The ruling country ought to be able to do for its subjects all that could be done by a succession of absolute monarchs, guaranteed by irresistible force against the precariousness of tenure attendant on barbarous despotisms, and qualified by their genius to anticipate all that experience has taught to the more advanced nations. If we do not attempt to realize this ideal we are guilty of a dereliction of the highest moral trust that can devolve upon a nation.”
I will now ask the attention of the House for a moment while I examine a group of communications from officers of the Indian Government, and if the House will allow me I will tell them what to my mind is the result of all these communications as to the general feeling in India. That, after all, is what most concerns us. For this unrest in the Punjab and Bengal sooner or later–and sooner, rather than later, I hope–will pass away. What is the situation of India generally in the view of these experienced officers at this moment? Even now when we are passing through all the stress and anxiety, it is a mistake not to look at things rather largely. They all admit that there is a fall in the influence of European officers over the population. They all, or nearly all, admit that there is estrangement–I ought to say, perhaps, refrigeration–between officers and people. There is less sympathy between the Government and the people. For the last few years–and this is a very important point–the doctrine of administrative efficiency has been pressed too hard. The wheels of the huge machine have been driven too fast. Our administration–so shrewd observers and very experienced observers assure me–would be a great deal more popular if it was a trifle less efficient, a trifle more elastic generally. We ought not to put mechanical efficiency at the head of our ideas. I am leading up to a practical point. The district officers representing British rule to the majority of the people of India, are overloaded with work in their official relations, and I know there are highly experienced gentlemen who say that a little of the looseness of earlier days is better fitted than the regular system of latter days, to win and to keep personal influence, and that we are in danger of creating a pure bureaucracy. Honourable, faithful, and industrious the servants of the State in India are and will be, but if the present system is persisted in, there is a risk of its becoming rather mechanical, perhaps I might even say rather soulless; and attention to this is urgently demanded. Perfectly efficient administration, I need not tell the House, has a tendency to lead to over-centralisation. It is inevitable. The tendency in India is to override local authority, and to force administration to run in official grooves. For my own part I would spare no pains to improve our relations with native Governments, and more and more these relations may become of potential value to the Government of India. I would use my best endeavours to make these States independent in matters of administration. Yet all evidence tends to show we are rather making administration less personal, though evidence also tends to show that the Indian people are peculiarly responsive to sympathy and personal influence. Do not let us waste ourselves in controversy, here or elsewhere, or in mere anger; let us try to draw to our side the men who now influence the people. We have every good reason to believe that most of the people of India are on our side. I do not say for a moment that they like us. It does not come easy, in west or east, to like foreign rule. But in their hearts they know that their solid interest is bound up with the law and order that we preserve.
There is a Motion on the Paper for an inquiry by means of a Parliamentary Committee or Royal Commission into the causes at the root of the dissatisfaction. Now, I have often thought, while at the India Office, whether it would be a good thing to have the old-fashioned parliamentary inquiry by committee or commission. I have considered this, I have discussed it with others; and I have come to the conclusion that such inquiry would not produce any of the advantages such as were gained in the old days of old committees, and certainly would be attended by many drawbacks. But I have determined, after consulting with the Viceroy, that considerable advantage might be gained by a Royal Commission to examine, with the experience we have gained over many years, into this great mischief–for all the people in India who have any responsibility know that it is a great mischief–of over-centralisation. It seemed a great mischief to so acute a man as Sir Henry Maine, who, after many years’ experience, wrote expressing agreement with what Mr. Bright said just before or just after the Mutiny, that the centralised government of India was too much power for any one man to work. Now, when two men, singularly unlike in temperament and training, agreed as to the evil of centralisation on this large scale, it compels reflection. I will not undertake at the present time to refer to the Commission the large questions that were spoken of by Maine and Bright, but I think that much might be gained by an inquiry on the spot into the working of centralisation of government in India, and how in the opinions of trained men here and in India, the mischief might be alleviated. That, however, is not a question before us now.
You often hear people talk of the educated section of the people of India as a mere handful, an infinitesimal fraction. So they are, in numbers; but it is fatally idle to say that this infinitesimal fraction does not count. This educated section is making and will make all the difference. That they would sharply criticise the British system of government has been long known. It was inevitable. There need be no surprise in the fact that they want a share in political influence, and want a share in the emoluments of administration. Their means–many of them–are scanty; they have little to lose and much to gain from far-reaching changes. They see that the British hand works the State machine surely and smoothly, and they think, having no fear of race animosities, that their hand could work the machine as surely and as smoothly as the British hand.
And now I come to my last point. Last autumn the Governor-General appointed a Committee of the Executive Council to consider the development of the administrative machinery, and at the end of March last he publicly informed his Legislative Council that he had sent home a despatch to the Secretary of State proposing suggestions for a move in advance. The Viceroy with a liberal and courageous mind entered deliberately on the path of improvement. The public in India were aware of it. They waited, and are now waiting the result with the liveliest interest and curiosity. Meanwhile the riots happened in Rawalpindi, in Lahore. After these riots broke out, what was the course we ought to take? Some in this country lean to the opinion–and it is excusable–that riots ought to suspend all suggestions and talk of reform. Sir, His Majesty’s Government considered this view, and in the end they took, very determinedly, the opposite view. They held that such a withdrawal would, of course, have been construed as a triumph for the party of sedition. They held that, to draw back on account of local and sporadic disturbances, however serious, anxious, and troublesome they might be, would have been a really grave humiliation. To hesitate to make a beginning with our own policy of improving the administrative machinery of the Indian Government, would have been taken as a sign of nervousness, trepidation, and fear; and fear, that is always unworthy in any Government, is in the Indian Government, not only unworthy, but extremely dangerous. I hope the House concurs with His Majesty’s Government.
In answer to a Question the other day, I warned one or two of my hon. friends that, in resisting the employment of powers to suppress disturbances, under the Regulation of 1818 or by any other lawful weapon we could find, they were promoting the success of that disorder, which would be fatal to the very projects with which they sympathise. The despatch from India reached us in due course. It was considered by the Council of India and by His Majesty’s Government, and our reply was sent about a fortnight ago. Someone will ask–Are you going to lay these two despatches on the Table to-day? I hope the House will not take it amiss if I say that at this stage–perhaps at all stages–it would be wholly disadvantageous to lay the despatches on the Table. We are in the middle of the discussion to-day, and it would break up steady continuity if we had a premature discussion _coram populo_. Everyone will understand that discussions of this kind must be very delicate, and it is of the utmost importance that they should be conducted with entire freedom. But, to employ a word that I do not often use, I might adumbrate the proposals. This is how the case stands. The despatch reached His Majesty’s Government, who considered it. We then set out our views upon the points raised in the despatch. The Government of India will now frame what is called a Resolution. That draft Resolution, when framed by them in conformity with the instructions of His Majesty’s Government, will in due course be sent here. We shall consider that draft, and then it will be my duty to present it to this House if legislation is necessary, as it will be; and it will be published in India to be discussed there by all those concerned….
The main proposal is the acceptance of the general principle of a substantial enlargement of Legislative Councils, both the Governor-General’s Legislative Council and the Provincial Legislative Councils. Details of this reform have to be further discussed in consultation with the local Governments in India, but so far it is thought best in India that an official majority must be maintained. Again, in the discussion of the Budget in the Viceroy’s Council the subjects are to be grouped and explained severally by the members of Council in charge of the Departments, and longer time is to be allowed for this detailed discussion and for general debate. One more suggestion. The Secretary of State has the privilege of recommending to the Crown members of the Council of India. I think that the time has now come when the Secretary of State may safely, wisely, and justly recommend at any rate one Indian member. I will not discuss the question now. I may have to argue it in Parliament at a later stage, but I think it is right to say what is my intention, realising as we all do how few opportunities the governing bodies have of hearing the voice of Indians.
I believe I have defended myself from ignoring the principle that there is a difference between the Western European and the Indian Asiatic. There is vital difference, and it is infatuation to ignore it. But there is another vital fact–namely, that the Indian Asiatic is a man with very vivid susceptibilities of all kinds, and with living traditions of a civilisation of his own; and we are bound to treat him with the same kind of respect and kindness and sympathy that we should expect to be treated with ourselves. Only the other day I saw a letter from General Gordon to a friend of mine. He wrote–
“To govern men, there is but one way, and it is eternal truth. Get into their skins. Try to realize their feelings. That is the true secret of government.”
That is not only a great ethical, but a great political law, and we shall reap a sour and sorry harvest if it is forgotten. It would be folly to pretend to any dogmatic assurance–and I certainly do not–as to the course of the future in India. But for to-day anybody who takes part in the rule of India, whether as a Minister or as a Member of the House of Commons, participating in the discussion on affairs in India–anyone who wants to take a fruitful part in such discussions, if he does his duty will found himself on the assumption that the British rule will continue, ought to continue, and must continue. There is, I know, a school,–I do not think it has representatives in this House–who say that we might wisely walk out of India, and that the Indians would manage their own affairs better than we can manage affairs for them. Anybody who pictures to himself the anarchy, the bloody chaos, that would follow from any such deplorable step, must shrink from that sinister decision. We, at all events–Ministers and Members of this House–are bound to take a completely different view. The Government, and the House in all its parties and groups, is determined that we ought to face all these mischiefs and difficulties and dangers of which I have been speaking with a clear purpose. We know that we are not doing it for our own interest alone, or our own fame in the history of the civilised world alone, but for the interest of the millions committed to us. We ought to face it with sympathy, with kindness, with firmness, with a love of justice, and, whether the weather be fair or foul, in a valiant and manful spirit.
(ARBROATH. OCTOBER 21, 1907)
It is an enormous satisfaction to me to find myself here once more, the first time since the polling, and since the splendid majority that these burghs were good enough to give me. I value very much what the Provost has said, when he told you that I have never, though I have had pretty heavy burdens, neglected the local business of Arbroath and the other burghs. The Provost truly said that I hold an important and responsible office under the Crown; and I hope that fact will be the excuse, if excuse be needed, for my confining myself to-night to a single topic. When I spoke to a friend of mine in London the other day he said, “What are you going to speak about?”, and I told him. He is a very experienced man and he said, “It is a most unattractive subject, India.” At any rate, this is the last place where any apology is needed for speaking about India, because it is you who are responsible for my being the Indian Minister. If your 2,500 majority had been 2,500 the other way, I should have been no longer the Indian Minister. There is something that strikes the imagination, something that awakens a feeling of the bonds of mankind, in the thought that you here and in the other burghs–(shipmen, artificers, craftsmen, and shopkeepers living here)–are brought through me, and through your responsibility in electing me, into contact with all these hundreds of millions across the seas. Therefore it is that I will not make any apology to you for my choice of a subject to-night. Let me say this, not only to you gentlemen here, but to all British constituencies–that it is well you should have patience enough to listen to a speech about India; because it is no secret to anybody who understands, that if the Government were to make a certain kind of bad blunder in India–which I do not at all expect them to make–there would be short work for a long time to come, with many of those schemes, upon which you have set your heart. Do not dream, if any mishap of a certain kind were to come to pass in India that you can go on with that programme of social reforms, all costing money and absorbing attention, in the spirit in which you are now about to pursue it.
I am not particularly fond of talking of myself, but there is one single personal word that I would like to say, and my constituency is the only place in which I should not be ashamed to say that word. You, after all, are concerned in the consistency of your representative. Now I think a public man who spends overmuch time in vindicating his consistency, makes a mistake. I will confess to you in friendly confidence, that I have winced when I read of lifelong friends of mine saying that I have, in certain Indian transactions, shelved the principles of a lifetime. One of your countrymen said that, like the Python–that fabulous animal who had the largest swallow that any creature ever enjoyed–I have swallowed all my principles. I am a little disappointed at such clatter as this. When a man has laboured for more years than I care to count, for Liberal principles and Liberal causes, and thinks he may possibly have accumulated a little credit in the bank of public opinion–and in the opinion of his party and his friends–it is a most extraordinary and unwelcome surprise to him, when he draws a very small cheque indeed upon that capital, to find the cheque returned with the uncomfortable and ill-omened words, “No effects.” I am not going to defend myself. A long time ago a journalistic colleague, who was a little uneasy at some line I took upon this question or that, comforted himself by saying. “Well, well, the ship (speaking of me) swings on the tide, but the anchor holds.” Yes, gentlemen, I am no Pharisee, but I do believe that my anchor holds, and your cheers show that you believe it too.
Now to India. I observed the other day that the Bishop of Lahore said–and his words put in a very convenient form what is in the minds of those who think about Indian questions at all–“It is my deep conviction that we have reached a point of the utmost gravity and of far-reaching effect in our continued relations with this land, and I most heartily wish there were more signs that this fact was clearly recognised by the bulk of Englishmen out here in India, or even by our rulers themselves.” Now you and the democratic constituencies of this kingdom are the rulers of India. It is to you, therefore, that I come to render my account. Just let us see where we are. Let us put the case. When critics assail Indian policy or any given aspect of it, I want to know where we start from? Some of you in Arbroath wrote to me, a year ago, and called upon me to defend the system of Indian Government and the policy for which I am responsible. I declined, for reasons that I stated at the moment. I am here to answer to-night, when the time makes it more fitting in anticipation all those difficulties which some excellent people, with whom in many ways I sympathise, feel. Again, I say, let us see where we start from. Does anybody want me to go to London to-morrow morning, and to send a telegram to Lord Kitchener, the Commander-in-Chief in India, and tell him that he is to disband the Indian army, to send home as fast as we can despatch transports, the British contingent of the army, and bring away the whole of the Civil servants? Suppose it to be true, as some people in Arbroath seem to have thought–I am not arguing the question–that Great Britain loses more than she gains; supposing it to be true that India would have worked out her own salvation without us; supposing it to be true that the present Government of India has many defects–supposing all that to be true, do you want me to send a telegram to Lord Kitchener to-morrow morning to clear out bag and baggage? How should we look in the face of the civilised world if we had so turned our back upon our duty and sovereign task? How should we bear the smarting stings of our own consciences, when, as assuredly we should, we heard through the dark distances the roar and scream of confusion and carnage in India? Then people of this way of thinking say “That is not what we meant.” Then what is it that is meant, gentlemen? The outcome, the final outcome, of British rule in India may be a profitable topic for the musings of meditative minds. But we are not here to muse. We have the duty of the day to perform, we have the tasks of to-morrow spread out before us. In the interests of India, to say nothing of our own national honour, in the name of duty and of common sense, our first and commanding task is to keep order and to quell violences among race and creed; sternly to insist on the impartial application of rules of justice, independent of European or of Indian. We begin from that. We have got somehow or other, whatever the details of policy and executive act may be, we are bound by the first law of human things to maintain order.
There are plenty of difficulties in this immense task in England, and I am not sure that I will exclude Scotland, but I said England in order to save your feelings. One of the obstacles is the difficulty of finding out for certain what actually happens. Scare headlines in the bills of important journals are misleading. I am sure many of you must know the kind of mirror that distorts features, elongates lines, makes round what is lineal, and so forth. I assure you that a mirror of that kind does not give you a more grotesque reproduction of the human physiognomy, than some of these tremendous telegrams give you as to what is happening in India. Another point is that the Press is very often flooded with letters from Indians or ex-Indians–from _Indicus olim_, and others–too oftened coloured with personal partisanship and deep-dyed prepossessions. There is a spirit of caste outside the Hindu sphere. There is a great deal of writing on the Indian Government by men who have acquired the habit while they were in the Government, and then unluckily retain the habit after they come home and live, or ought to live, in peace and quietness among their friends here. That is another of our difficulties. Still, when all such difficulties are measured and taken account of, it is impossible to overrate the courage, the patience and fidelity, with which the present House of Commons faces what is not at all an easy moment in Indian Government. You talk of democracy. People cry, “Oh! Democracy cannot govern remote dependencies.” I do not know; it is a hard question. So far, after one Session of the most Liberal Parliament that has ever sat in Great Britain, this most democratic Parliament so far at all events, has safely rounded an extremely difficult angle. It is quite true that in reference to a certain Indian a Conservative member rashly called out one night in the House of Commons “Why don’t you shoot him?” The whole House, Tories, Radicals, and Labour men, they all revolted against any such doctrine as that; and I augur from the proceedings of the last Session–with courage, patience, good sense, and willingness to learn, that democracy, in this case at all events, has shown, and I think is going to show, its capacity for facing all our problems.
Now, I sometimes say to friends of mine in the House, and I venture respectfully to say it to you–there is one tremendous fallacy which it is indispensable for you to banish from your minds, taking the point of view of a British Liberal, when you think of India. It was said the other day–no, I beg your pardon, it was alleged to have been said–by a British Member of Parliament now travelling in India–That whatever is good in the way of self-government for Canada, must be good for India. In my view that is the most concise statement that I can imagine, of the grossest fallacy in all politics. It is a thoroughly dangerous fallacy. I think it is the hollowest and, I am sorry to say, the commonest, of all the fallacies in the history of the world in all stages of civilisation. Because a particular policy or principle is true and expedient and vital in certain definite circumstances, therefore it must be equally true and vital in a completely different set of circumstances. What sophism can be more gross and dangerous? You might just as well say that, because a fur coat in Canada at certain times of the year is a truly comfortable garment, therefore a fur coat in the Deccan is just the very garment that you would be delighted to wear. I only throw it out to you as an example and an illustration. Where the historical traditions, the religious beliefs, the racial conditions, are all different–there to transfer by mere untempered and cast-iron logic all the conclusions that you apply in one case to the other, is the height of political folly, and I trust that neither you nor I will ever lend ourselves to any extravagant doctrine of that species.
You may say, Ah, you are laying down very different rules of policy in India from those which for the best part of your life you laid down for Ireland. Yes, but that reproach will only have a sting in it, if you persuade me that Ireland with its history, the history of the Rebellion, Union and all the other chapters of that dismal tale, is exactly analogous to the 300 millions of people in India. I am not at all afraid of facing your test. I cannot but remember that in speaking to you, I may be speaking to people many thousands of miles away, but all the same I shall speak to you and to them perfectly frankly. I don’t myself believe in artful diplomacy; I have no gift for it. There are two sets of people you have got to consider. First of all, I hope that the Government of India, so long as I am connected with it and responsible for it to Parliament and to the country, will not be hurried by the anger of the impatient idealist. The impatient idealist–you know him. I know him. I like him, I have been one myself. He says, “You admit that so and so is right; why don’t you do it–why don’t you do it now?” Whether he is an Indian idealist or a British idealist I sympathise with him. Ah! gentlemen, how many of the most tragic miscarriages in human history have been due to the impatience of the idealist! (Loud cheers.) I should like to ask the Indian idealist, whether it is a good way of procuring what everybody desires, a reduction of Military expenditure, for example, whether it is a good way of doing that, to foment a spirit of strife in India which makes reduction of Military forces difficult, which makes the maintenance of Military force indispensable? Is it a good way to help reformers like Lord Minto and myself, in carrying through political reform, to inflame the minds of those who listen to such teachers, to inflame their minds with the idea that our proposals and projects are shams? Assuredly it is not.
And I will say this, gentlemen. Do not think there is a single responsible leader of the reform party in India, who does not deplore the outbreak of disorder that we have had to do our best to put down; who does not agree that disorder, whatever your ultimate policy may be–must be with a firm hand put down. If India to-morrow became a self-governing Colony–disorder would still have to be put down with an iron hand; I do not know and I do not care, to whom these gentlemen propose to hand over the charge of governing India. Whoever they might be, depend upon it that the maintenance of order is the foundation of anything like future progress. If any of you hear unfavourable language applied to me as your representative, do me the justice to remember considerations of that kind. To nobody in this world, by habit, by education, by experience, by views expressed in political affairs for a great many years past, to nobody is exceptional repression, more distasteful than it is to me. After all, gentlemen, you would not have me see men try to set the prairie on fire without arresting the hand. You would not blame me when I saw men smoking their pipes near powder magazines, you would not blame me, you would not call me an arch coercionist, if I said, “Away with the men and away with the pipes.” We have not allowed ourselves–I speak of the Indian Government–to be hurried into the policy of repression. I say this to what I would call the idealist party. Then I would say something to those who talk nonsense about apathy and supineness. We will not be hurried into repression, any more than we will be hurried into the other direction. This party, which is very vocal in this country, say:–Oh! we are astonished, and India is astonished, and amazed at the licence that you extend to newspapers and to speakers; why don’t you stop it? Orientals, they say, do not understand it. Yes, but just let us look at that. We are not Orientals; that is the root of the matter. We are in India. We English, Scotch, and Irish, are in India because we are not Orientals. We are representatives, not of Oriental civilisation, but of Western civilisation, of its methods, its principles, its practices; and I for one will not be hurried into an excessive haste for repression, by the argument that Orientals do not understand patience or toleration.
You will want to know how the situation is viewed at this moment in India itself, by those who are responsible for the Government of India. This view is not a new view at all. It is that the situation is not gravely dangerous, but it requires serious and urgent attention. That seems for the moment to be the verdict. Extremists are few, but they are active; their field is wide, their nets are far spread. Anybody who has read history knows that the Extremist often beats the Moderate by his fire, his heated energy, his concentration, by his very narrowness. So be it; we remember it; we watch it all, with that lesson of historic experience full in our minds. Yet we still hold that it would be the height of political folly for us at this moment to refuse to do all we can, with prudence and energy, to rally the Moderates to the cause of the Government, simply because the policy will not satisfy the Extremists. Let us, if we can, rally the Moderates, and if we are told that the policy will not satisfy the Extremists, so be it. Our line will remain the same. It is the height of folly to refuse to rally sensible people, because we do not satisfy Extremists. I am detaining you unmercifully, but I doubt whether–and do not think I say it because it happens to be my department–of all the questions that are to be discussed perhaps for years to come, any question can be in all its actual foundations, and all its prospective bearings, more important than the question of India. There are many aspects of it which it is not possible for me to go into, as, for example, some of its Military aspects. I repeat my doubt whether there is any question more commanding at this moment, and for many a day to come, than the one which I am impressing upon you to-night. Is all that is called unrest in India mere froth? Or is it a deep rolling flood? Is it the result of natural order and wholesome growth in this vast community? Is it natural effervescence, or is it deadly fermentation? Is India with all its heterogeneous populations–is it moving slowly and steadily to new and undreamt of unity? It is the vagueness of the discontent, which is not universal–it is the vagueness that makes it harder to understand, harder to deal with. Some of them are angry with me. Why? Because I have not been able to give them the moon. I have got no moon, and if I had I would not part with it. I will give the moon, when I know who lives there, and what kind of conditions prevail there.
I want, if I may, to make a little literary digression. Much of this movement arises from the fact that there is now a large body of educated Indians who have been fed, at our example and our instigation, upon some of the great teachers and masters of this country, Milton, Burke, Macaulay, Mill, and Spencer. Surely it is a mistake in us not to realise that these masters should have mighty force and irresistible influence. Who can be surprised that educated Indians who read those high masters and teachers of ours, are intoxicated with the ideas of freedom, nationality, self-government, that breathes the breath of life in those inspiring and illuminating pages. Who of us that had the privilege in the days of our youth, at college or at home, of turning over those golden chapters, and seeing that lustrous firmament dawn over our youthful imaginations–who of us can forget, shall I call it the intoxication and rapture, with which we strove to make friends with truth, knowledge, beauty, freedom? Then why should we be surprised that young Indians feel the same movement of mind, when they are made free of our own immortals. I would only say this to my idealist friends, whether Indian or European, that for every passage that they can find in Mill, or Burke, or Macaulay, or, any other of our lofty sages with their noble hearts and potent brains, I will find them a dozen passages in which history is shown to admonish us, in the language of Burke–“How weary a step do those take who endeavour to make out of a great mass a true political personality!” They are words much to be commended to those zealots in India–how many a weary step has to be taken before they can form themselves into a mass that has a true political personality! My warning may be wasted, but anybody who has a chance ought to try to appeal to the better, the riper, mind of educated India. Time has gone on with me, experience has widened. I have never lost my invincible faith that there is a better mind in all civilised communities–and that this better mind, if you can reach it, if statesmen in time to come can reach that better mind, can awaken it, can evoke it, can induce it to apply itself to practical purposes for the improvement of the conditions of such a community, they will earn the crown of beneficent fame indeed. Nothing strikes me much more than this, when I talk of the better mind of India–there are subtle elements, religious, spiritual, mystical, traditional, historical in what we may call for the moment the Indian mind, which are very hard for the most candid and patient to grasp or to realise in their full force. But our duty, and it is a splendid duty, is to try. I always remember a little passage in the life of a great Anglo-Indian, Sir Henry Lawrence, a very simple passage, and it is this, “No one ever ate at Sir Henry Lawrence’s table without learning to think more kindly of the natives.” I wish I could know that at every Anglo-Indian table to-day, nobody has sat down without leaving it having learned to think a little more kindly of the natives. One more word on this point. Bad manners, overbearing manners are disagreeable in all countries: India is the only country where bad and overbearing manners are a political crime.
The Government have been obliged to take measures of repression; they may be obliged to take more. But we have not contented ourselves with measures of repression. Those of you who have followed Indian matters at all during the last two or three months are aware there is a reform scheme, a scheme to give the Indians chances of coming more closely and responsibly into a share of the Government of their country. The Government of India issued certain proposals expressly marked as provisional and tentative. There was no secret hatching of a new Constitution. Their circular was sent about to obtain an expression of Indian opinion, official and non-official. Plenty of time has been given, and is to be given, for an examination and discussion of these proposals. We shall not be called upon to give an official decision until spring next year, and I shall not personally be called upon for a decision before the middle of next Session. One step we have taken to which I attach the greatest importance. Two Indians have for the first time been appointed to be members of the Council of India sitting at Whitehall. I appointed these two gentlemen, not only to advise the Secretary of State in Council, not only to help to keep him in touch with Indian opinion and Indian interests, but as a marked and conspicuous proof on the highest scale, by placing them on this important and ruling body, that we no longer mean to keep Indians at arm’s length or shut the door of the Council Chamber of the paramount power against them. Let me press this important point upon you.
The root of the unrest, discontent, and sedition, so far as I can make out after constant communication with those who have better chances of knowing the problem at first hand, than I could have had–the root of the matter is racial and social not political. That being so, it is of a kind that is the very hardest to reach. You can reach political sentiment. This goes deeper. Racial dislike is a dislike not of political domination, but of racial domination; and my object in making that conspicuous change in the constitution of the Council of India which advises the Secretary of State for India, was to do something, and if rightly understood and interpreted to do a great deal, to teach all English officers and governors in India, from the youngest Competition wallah who arrives there, that in the eyes of the ruling Government at home, the Indian is perfectly worthy of a place, be it small or great, in the counsels of those who make and carry on the laws and the administration of the community to which he belongs. We stand by this position not in words alone; we have shown it in act and shall show it further.
There is one more difficulty–there are two difficulties–and I must ask you for a couple of minutes. I only need name them–famine and plague. At this moment, when you have thought and argued out all these political things, the Government of India still remains a grim business. If there are no rains this month, the spectre of famine seems to be approaching, and nobody can blame us for that. Nobody expects the Viceroy and the Secretary of State to play the part of Elijah on Mount Carmel, who prayed and saw a little cloud like a man’s hand, until the heavens became black with winds and cloud, and there was a great rain. That is beyond the reach of Government. All we can say is that never before was the Government in all its branches and members found more ready than it is now, to do the very best to face the prospect. Large suspensions of revenue and rent will be granted, allowances will be made to distressed cultivators. No stone will be left unturned. The plague figures are terrible enough. At this season plague mortality is generally quiescent; but this year, even if the last three months of it show no rise, the plague mortality will still be the worst that has ever been known, I think, in India’s recorded annals. Pestilence during the last nine months has stalked through the land, wasting her cities and villages, uncontrolled and uncontrollable, so far as we can tell, by human forethought or care. When I read some of these figures in the House of Commons, a few perturbed cries of “Shame” accompanied them. These cries came from the natural sympathy, horror, amazement, and commiseration, with which we all listen to such ghastly stories. The shame does not lie with the Government. If you see anything in your newspapers about these plague figures, remember that they are not like an epidemic here. In trying to remedy plague, you have to encounter the habits and prejudices of hundreds of years. Suppose you find plague is conveyed by a flea upon a rat, and suppose you are dealing with a population who object to the taking away of life. You see for yourselves the difficulty? The Government of India have applied themselves with great energy, with fresh activity, and they believe they have got the secret of this fell disaster. They have laid down a large policy of medical, sanitary, and financial aid. I am a hardened niggard of public money. I watch the expenditure of Indian revenue as the ferocious dragon of the old mythology watched the golden apples. I do not forget that I come from a constituency which, so far as I have known it, if it is most generous, is also most prudent. Nevertheless, though I have to be thrifty, almost parsimonious, upon this matter, the Council of India and myself will, I am sure, not stint or grudge. I can only say, in conclusion, that I think I have said enough to convince you that I am doing what I believe you would desire me to do–conducting administration in the spirit which I believe you will approve; listening with impartiality to all I can learn; desirous to support all those who are toiling at arduous work in India; and that we shall not be deterred from pursuing to the end, a policy of firmness on the one hand, and of liberal and steady reform on the other. We shall not see all the fruits of it in our day. So be it. We shall at least have made not only a beginning, but a marked advance both in order and progress, by resolute patience, and an unflagging spirit of conciliation.
AN AMENDMENT TO THE ADDRESS
(HOUSE OF COMMONS. JAN. 31, 1908)
DR. RUTHERFORD (Middlesex, Brentford) rose to move as an Amendment to the Address, at the end to add,–“But humbly submits that the present condition of affairs in India demands the immediate and serious attention of his Majesty’s Government; that the present proposals of the Government of India are inadequate to allay the existing and growing discontent; and that comprehensive measures of reform are imperatively necessary in the direction of giving the people of India control over their own affairs.”
MR. DEPUTY-SPEAKER, I think the House will allow me in the remarks that I wish to make, to refer to a communication that I had received, namely, the decision arrived at by the Transvaal Government in respect to the question of Asiatics. Everybody in the House is aware of the enormous interest, even passionate interest, that has been taken in this subject, especially in India, and for very good reasons. Without further preface let me say, this is the statement received by Lord Elgin from the Government of the Transvaal last night:–“Gandhi and other leaders of the Indian and Chinese communities have offered voluntary registration in a body within three months, provided signatures only are taken of educated, propertied, or well-known Asiatics, and finger-prints of the others, and that no question against which Asiatics have religious objections be pressed. The Transvaal Government have accepted this offer, and undertaken, pending registration, not to enforce the penalties under the Act against all those who register. The sentences of all Asiatics in prison will be remitted to-morrow.” Lord Selborne adds, “This course was agreed to by both political parties.” I am sure that everybody in the House will think that very welcome news. I do not like to let the matter drop without saying a word–I am sure Lord Elgin would like me to say it–in recognition of the good spirit shown by the Transvaal Government.
In reference to the Amendment now before the House, I have listened to the debate with keen, lively, and close interest. I am not one of those who have usually complained of these grave topics being raised, when fair opportunity offered in this House. On the whole, looking back over my Parliamentary lifetime, which is now pretty long, I think there has been too little Indian discussion. Before I came here there were powerful minds like Mr. Fawcett and Mr. Bradlaugh and others, who constantly raised Indian questions in a truly serious and practical way, though I do not at all commit myself to the various points of view that were then adopted. But, of course, this is a vote of confidence. I am not going to ask members to vote for the Government on that ground. But I must submit that His Majesty’s present Government in the Indian department has the confidence both of the House and of the country. I believe we have. An important suggestion was made by my hon. friend now sitting below the gangway, that a Parliamentary Committee should sit–I presume a joint committee of the two Houses–and my hon. friend who spoke last, said that the fact of the existence of that committee would bring Parliament into closer contact with the mind of India. Well, ever since I have been at the India Office I have rather inclined in the direction of one of the old Parliamentary Committees. I will not argue the question now. I can only assure my hon. friend that the question has been considered by me, and I see what its advantages might be, yet I also perceive serious disadvantages. In the old days they were able to command the services on the Indian committees, of ex-Ministers, of members of this House and members of another place, who had had much experience of Indian administration, and I am doubtful, considering the preoccupations of public men, whether we should now be able to call a large body of experienced administrators, with the necessary balance between the two Houses, to sit on one of these committees. And then I would point out another disadvantage. You would have to call away from the performance of their duties in India a large body of men whose duties ought to occupy, and I believe do occupy, all their minds and all their time. Still it is an idea, and I will only say that I do not entirely banish it from my own mind. Two interesting speeches, and significant speeches, have been made this afternoon. One was made by my hon. friend, the mover, and the other by the hon. Member for East Leeds. Those two speeches raise a really important issue. My hon. friend the Member for Leeds said that democracy was entirely opposed to, and would resist, the doctrine of the settled fact. My hon. friend tells you democracy will have nothing to do with settled facts, though he did not quite put it as plainly as that. Now, if that be so, I am very sorry for democracy. I do not agree with my hon. friend. I think democracy will be just as reasonable as any other sensible form of government, and I do not believe democracy will for a moment think that you are to rip up a settlement of an administrative or constitutional question, because it jars with some abstract _a priori_ idea. I for one certainly say that I would not remain at the India Office, or any other powerful and responsible Departmental office, on condition that I made short work of settled facts, hurried on with my catalogue of first principles, and arranged on those principles the whole duties of government. Then my hon. friend the Member for Brentford quoted an expression of mine used in a speech in the country about the impatient idealists, and he reproved me for saying that some of the worst tragedies of history had been wrought by the impatient idealists. He was kind enough to say that it was I, among other people, who had made him an idealist, and therefore I ought not to be ashamed of my spiritual and intellectual progeny. I certainly have no right whatever to say that I am ashamed of my hon. friend, who made a speech full of interesting views, full of visions of a millennial future, and I do not quarrel with him for making his speech. My hon. friend said that he was for an Imperial Duma. The hon. Gentleman has had the advantage of a visit to India, which I have never had. I think he was there for six whole long weeks. He polished off the Indian population at the heroic rate of sixty millions a week, and this makes him our especially competent instructor. His Imperial Duma was to be elected, as I understood, by universal suffrage.
[Footnote 1: The Secretary of State had on an earlier occasion spoken of the Petition of Bengal as a settled fact.]
Dr. RUTHERFORD: No, not universal suffrage. I said educational suffrage, and also pecuniary suffrage–taxpayers and ratepayers.
Mr. MORLEY: In the same speech the hon. Gentleman made a great charge against our system of education in India–that we had not educated them at all; therefore, he excludes at once an enormous part of the population. The Imperial Duma, as I understood from my hon. friend was to be subject to the veto of the Viceroy. That is not democracy. We are to send out from Great Britain once in five years a Viceroy, who is to be confronted by an Imperial Duma, just as the Tsar is confronted by the Duma in Russia. Surely that is not a very ripe idea of democracy. My hon. friend visited the State of Baroda, and thought it well governed. Well, there is no Duma of his sort there. I will state frankly my own opinion even though I have not spent one single week-end in India. If I had to frame a new system of government for India, I declare I would multiply the Baroda system of government, rather than have an Imperial Duma and universal suffrage. The speech of my hon. friend, with whom I am sorry to find myself, not in collision but in difference, illustrates what is to my mind one of the grossest of all the fallacies in practical politics–namely, that you can cut out, frame, and shape one system of government for communities with absolutely different sets of social, religious, and economic conditions–that you can cut them all out by a sort of standardised pattern, and say that what is good for us here, the point of view, the line of argument, the method of solution–that all these things are to be applied right off to a community like India. I must tell my hon. friend that I regard that as a most fatal and mischievous fallacy, and I need not say more. I am bound, after what I have said, to add that I do not think that it is at all involved in Liberalism. I have had the great good fortune and honour and privilege to have known some of the great Liberals of my time, and there was not one of those great men, Gambetta, Bright, Gladstone, Mazzini, who would have accepted for one single moment the doctrine on which my hon. friend really bases his visionary proposition for a Duma. Is there any rational man who holds that, if you can lay down political principles and maxims of government that apply equally to Scotland or to England, or to Ireland, or to France, or to Spain, therefore they must be just as true for the Punjab and the United Provinces and Bengal?
Dr. RUTHERFORD: I quoted Mr. Bright as making the very proposal I have made, with the exception of the Duma–namely, Provincial Parliaments.
Mr. MORLEY: I am afraid I must traverse my hon. friend’s description of Mr. Bright’s view, with which, I think, I am pretty well acquainted. Mr. Bright was, I believe, on the right track at the time, when in 1858 the Government of India was transferred to the Crown. He was not in favour of universal suffrage–he was rather old-fashioned–but Mr. Bright’s proposal was perfectly different from that of my hon. friend. Sir Henry Maine, and others who had been concerned with Indian affairs, came to the conclusion that Mr. Bright’s idea was right–that to put one man, a Viceroy, assisted as he might be with an effective Executive Council, in charge of such an area as India and its 300 millions of population, with all its different races, creeds, modes of thought, was to put on a Viceroy’s shoulder a load that no man of whatever powers, however gigantic they might be, could be expected effectively to support. My hon. friend and others who sometimes favour me with criticisms in the same sense, seem to suggest that I am a false brother, that I do not know what Liberalism is. I think I do, and I must even say that I do not think I have anything to learn of the principles or maxims or the practice of Liberal doctrines even from my hon. friend. You are bound to look at the whole mass of the difficulties and perplexing problems connected with India, from a common-sense plane, and it is not common sense, if I may say so without discourtesy, to talk of Imperial Dumas. I have not had a word of thanks from that quarter, in the midst of a shower of reproach, for what I regard, in all its direct and indirect results and bearings, as one of the most important moves that have been made in connection with the relations between Great Britain and India for a long time–I mean, the admission of two Indian gentlemen to the Council of the Secretary of State. An hon. friend wants me to appoint an Indian gentleman to the Viceroy’s Executive Council. Well, that is a different thing; but I am perfectly sure that, if an occasion offers, neither Lord Minto nor I would fall short of some such application of democratic principles. In itself it is something that we have a Viceroy and a Secretary of State thoroughly alive to the great change in temperature and atmosphere that has been going on in India for the last five or six years, and I do not think we ought to be too impatiently judged. We came in at a perturbed time; we did not find balmy breezes and smooth waters. It is notorious that we came into enormous difficulties, which we had not created. How they were created is a long story that has nothing whatever to do with the present discussion. But what I submit with the utmost confidence is that the situation to-day is a considerable improvement on the situation that we found, when we assumed power two years ago. There have been heavy and black clouds over the Indian horizon during those two years. By our policy those clouds have been to some extent dispersed. I am not so unwise as to say that the clouds will never come back again; but what has been done by us has been justified, in my opinion, by the event.
Some fault was found, and I do not in the least complain, with the deportation of two native gentlemen. I do not quarrel with the man who finds fault with that proceeding. To take anybody and deport him without bringing any charge against him, and with no intention of bringing him to trial, is a step that, I think, the House is perfectly justified in calling me to account for. I have done my best to account for it, and to-day, anyone who knows the Punjab, would agree that, whatever may happen at some remote period, its state is comparatively quiet and satisfactory. I am not going to repeat my justification of that strong measure of deportation, but I should like to read to the House the words of the Viceroy in the Legislative Council in November last, when he was talking about the circumstances with which we had to deal. He said, addressing Lord Kitchener–
“I hope that your Excellency will on my behalf as Viceroy and as representing the King convey to His Majesty’s Indian troops my thanks for the contempt with which they have received the disgraceful overtures which I know have been made to them. The seeds of sedition have been unscrupulously scattered throughout India, even amongst the hills of the frontier tribes. We are grateful that they have fallen on much barren ground, but we can no longer allow their dissemination.”
Will anybody say, that in view of the possible danger pointed to in that language of the Viceroy two or three months ago, we did wrong in using the regulation which applied to the case? No one can say what mischief might have followed, if we had taken any other course than that which we actually took.
Let me beseech my hon. friends at least to try for some sense of balanced proportion, instead of allowing their wrath at one particular incident of policy to blot out from their vision all the wide and durable operations, to which we have set firm and persistent hands. After all, this absence of a sense of proportion is what, more than any other one thing, makes a man a wretched politician.
Now as to the reforms that are mentioned in my hon. friend’s Amendment. It is an extraordinary Amendment. It–
“submits that the present condition of affairs in India demands the immediate and serious attention of His Majesty’s Government.”
I could cordially vote for that, only remarking that the hon. member must think the Secretary of State, and the Viceroy, and other persons immediately concerned in the Government of India, very curious people if he supposes that the state of affairs in India does not always demand their immediate and very serious attention. Then the Amendment says–
“The present proposals of the Government of India are inadequate to allay the existing and growing discontent.”
I hope it is not presumptuous to say so, but I should have expected a definition from my hon. friend of what he guesses these proposals are. I should like to set a little examination paper to my hon. friend. I have studied them for many months, yet would rather not be examined for chapter and verse. But my hon. friend after his famous six weeks of travel knows all about them, and the state of affairs for which our plans are the inadequate remedy. I do not want to hold him up as a formidable example: but in his speech to-day he went over–and it does credit to his industry–every single one of the most burning and controversial questions of the whole system of Indian Government and seemed to say, “I will tell you how far this is wrong and exactly what ought to be done to put what is wrong right.” I think I have got from him twenty _ipse dixits_ on all these topics on which we slow dull people at the India Office are wearing ourselves to pieces. When it is said, as I often hear it said, that I, for example, am falling into the hands of my officials, it should be remembered that those gentlemen who go to India also get into the hands of other people.
Dr. RUTHERFORD: I was in the hands both of officials and of Indians.
Mr. MORLEY: Then let me assure him, perhaps to his amazement, that he came out of the hands of both of them still with something to learn. I wonder whether, when this House is asked to condemn the present proposals of the Government of India as being inadequate to allay the existing and growing discontent, it is realised exactly how the case stands. I will repeat what I said in the debate on the Indian Budget. The Government of India sent over to the India Office their proposals–their various schemes for advisory councils and so forth. We at the India Office subjected them to a careful scrutiny and laborious examination. As a result of this careful scrutiny and examination, they were sent back to the Government of India with the request that they would submit them to discussion in various quarters. The instruction to the Government of India was that by the end of March, the India Office was to learn what the general view was at which the Government of India had themselves arrived upon the plans, with all their complexities and variations. We wanted to know what they would tell us. It will be for us to consider how far the report so arrived at, how far these proposals, ripened by Indian opinion, carried out the policy which His Majesty’s Government had in view. Surely that is a reasonable and simple way of proceeding? When you have to deal with complex communities of varied races, and all the other peculiarities of India, you have to think out how your proposals will work. Democracies do not always think how things will work. Sir Henry Cotton made a speech that interested and struck me by its moderation and reasonableness. He made a number of remarks in perfect good faith about officials, which I received in a chastened spirit, for he has been for a very long time a very distinguished official himself. Therefore, he knows all about it. He went on to talk of the great problem of the separation of the executive and judicial functions, which is one of the living problems of India. I can only assure my hon. friend that that is engaging our attention both in India and here.
Another of the subjects to which the attention of the Indian Government has been specifically directed has regard to the mitigation of flogging, the restriction of civil flogging, and the limitation of military flogging to specific cases. In this we are making a marked advance in humanity and common sense,–which is itself a kind of humanity.
My hon. friend appeals to me saying that all will be well in India, if the Secretary of State will make a statement which will show the Indian people that, in his relations with them, his hopes for them, and his efforts for them, he is moved by a kindly, sympathetic, and friendly feeling, showing them that his heart is with them. All I have got to say is that I have never shown myself anything else. My heart is with them. What is bureaucracy to me? It is a great machine in India, yes a splendid machine, for performing the most difficult task that ever was committed to the charge of any nation. But show me where it fails–that it is perfect in every respect no sensible man would contend for a moment–but show me at any point, let any of my hon. friends show me from day to day as this session passes, where this bureaucracy, as they call it, has been at fault. Do they suppose it possible that I will not show my recognition of that failure, and do all that I can to remedy it? Although the Government of India is complicated and intricate, they cannot suppose that I shall fail for one moment in doing all in my power to demonstrate that we are moved by a kindly, a sympathetic, a friendly, an energetic, and what I will call a governing spirit, in the highest form and sense of that sovereign and inspiring word.
INDIAN CIVIL SERVICE
(LONDON. JULY 1908)
GENTLEMEN,–I have first of all to thank you for what I understand is a rare honour–and an honour it assuredly is–of being invited to be your guest to-night. The position of a Secretary of State in the presence of the Indian Civil Service is not an entirely simple one. You, Gentlemen, who are still in the Service, and the veterans I see around me who have been in that great Service, naturally and properly look first of all, and almost altogether, upon India. A Secretary of State has to look also upon Great Britain and upon Parliament–and that is not always a perfectly easy situation to adjust. I forget who it was that said about the rulers of India in India:–“It is no easy thing for a man to keep his watch in two longitudes at once at the same time.” That is the case of the Secretary of State. It is not the business of the Secretary of State to look exclusively at India, though I will confess to you for myself that during the moderately short time I have held my present office, I have kept my eye upon India constantly, steadfastly, and with every desire to learn the whole truth upon every situation as it arose.
But there must be a thorough comprehension in the mind of the Secretary of State of two things–first of all, of the Indian point of view; and, secondly, the point of view as it appears to those who are the masters of me and of you. Do not forget that adjustment has to be made. It would be impertinent of me to pay compliments to the Civil Service, to whom I propose this toast–“The Health of the Indian Civil Service.” You might think for a moment, that it was an amateur proposing prosperity and success to experts. I have had in my days a good deal to do with experts of one kind and another, and I assure you that I do not think an expert is at all the worse when he gets a candid-minded and reasonably well trained amateur.
Now, this year is a memorable anniversary. It is fifty years within a month or two, since the Crown took over the Government of India from the old East India Company. Whether that was a good move or a bad move, it would not become me to discuss. The move was made. (A voice, “It was a good move.”) My veteran friend says that it was a good move. I hope so. But at the end of fifty years we are at rather a critical moment. I read in _The Times_ the other day that the present Viceroy and Secretary of State had to deal with conditions such as the British in India never before were called upon to face. (A voice, “That is so.”) Now, many of you sitting around me at this table are far better able to test the weight of that statement, than I can pretend to be. Is it true that at the end of fifty years since the transfer to the Crown, we have to deal with conditions such as the British in India never before were called upon to face? (“Yes.”) I cannot undertake to measure that; but what is clear is that decidedly heavy clouds have suddenly risen in our horizon, and are darkly sailing over our Indian skies. That cannot be denied. But, gentlemen, having paid the utmost attention that a man can in office, with access to all the papers, and seeing all the observers he is able to see, I do not feel for a moment that this discovery of a secret society or a secret organisation involves any question of an earthquake. I prefer to look upon it, to revert to my own figure, as clouds sailing through the sky. I do not say you will not have to take pretty strong measures of one sort and another. Yes, but strong measures in the right direction, and with the right qualifications. I think any man who lays down a firm proposition that all is well, or any man who says that all is ill–either of those two men is probably wrong. Now this room is filled, and genially filled, with men who have had enormous experience, vast and wide experience, and, not merely passive experience, but that splendid active experience which is the real training and education of men in responsibility. This room is full of gentlemen with these qualifications. And I will venture to say that the theories and explanations that could be heard in the palace of truth from all of you gentlemen here, would be countless in their differences. I hear explanations of the present state of things all day long. I like to hear them. You think it may become monotonous. No: not at all; because there is so much, I will not say of random variety, but there is so much independent use of mind upon the facts that we have to deal with, that I listen with endless edification and instruction. But, I think, and I wish I could think otherwise with all my heart–that to sum up all these theories and explanations of the state of things with which we have to deal, you can hardly resist a painful impression that there is now astir in some quarters a certain estrangement and alienation of races. (“No no.”) Gentlemen, bear with me patiently. It is our share in the Asiatic question.
A DIFFICULT PROBLEM.
I am trying to feel my way through the most difficult problem, the most difficult situation that a responsible Government can have to face. Of course, I am dependent upon information. But as I read it, as I listen to serious Indian experts with large experience, it all sounds estrangement and alienation even though it be no worse than superficial. Now that is the problem that we have to deal with. Gentlemen, I should very badly repay your kindness in asking me to come among you to-night, if I were to attempt for a minute to analyse or to prove all the conditions that have led to this state of things. It would need hours and days. This is not, I think, the occasion, nor the moment. Our first duty–the first duty of any Government–is to keep order. But just remember this. It would be idle to deny, and I am not sure that any of you gentlemen would deny, that there is at this moment, and there has been for some little time past, and very likely there will be for some time to come, a living movement in the mind of the peoples for whom you are responsible. A living movement, and a movement for what? A movement for objects which we ourselves have all taught them to think desirable objects. And unless we somehow or other can reconcile order with satisfaction of those ideas and aspirations, gentlemen, the fault will not be theirs. It will be ours. It will mark the breakdown of what has never yet broken down in any part of the world–the breakdown of British statesmanship. That is what it will do. Now I do not believe anybody–either in this room or out of this room–believes that we can now enter upon an era of pure repression. You cannot enter at this date and with English public opinion, mind you, watching you, upon an era of pure repression, and I do not believe really that anybody desires any such thing. I do not believe so. Gentlemen, we have seen attempts, in the lifetime of some of us here to-night, attempts in Continental Europe, to govern by pure repression. Has one of them really succeeded? They have all failed. There may be now and again a spurious semblance of success, but in truth they have all failed. Whether we with our enormous power and resolution should fail, I do not know. But I do not believe anybody in this room representing so powerfully as you do dominant sentiments that are not always felt in England–that in this room there is anybody who is for an era of pure repression. Gentlemen, I would just digress for a moment if I am not tiring you. (“Go on,”) About the same time as the transfer, about fifty years ago, of the Government of India from the old East India Company to the Crown, another very important step was taken, a step which I have often thought since I have been concerned with the Government of India was far more momentous, one almost deeper than the transfer to the Crown. And what do you think that was? That was the first establishment–I think I am right in my date–of Universities. We in this country are so accustomed to look upon political changes as the only important changes, that we very often forget such a change as the establishment of Universities. And if any of you are inclined to prophesy, I should like to read to you something that was written by that great and famous man, Lord Macaulay, in the year 1836, long before the Universities were thought of. What did he say? What a warning it is, gentlemen. He wrote, in the year 1836:–“At the single town of Hooghly 1,400 boys are learning English. The effect of this education on the Hindus is prodigious…. It is my firm belief that if our plans of education are followed up, there will not be a single idolater among the respectable classes in Bengal thirty years hence. And this will be effected merely by the natural operation of knowledge and reflection.” Ah, gentlemen, the natural operation of knowledge and reflection carries men of a different structure of mind, different beliefs, different habits and customs of life–it carries them into strange and unexpected paths. I am not going to embark you to-night upon these vast controversies, but when we talk about education, are we not getting very near the root of the case? Now to-night we are not in the humour–I am sure you are not, I certainly am not–for philosophising. Somebody is glad of it. I will tell you what I think of–as I have for a good many months past–I think first of the burden of responsibility weighing on the governing men at Calcutta and Simla and the other main centres of power and of labour. We think of the anxieties of those in India, and in England as well, who have relatives in remote places and under conditions that are very familiar to you all. I have a great admiration for the self-command, for the freedom from anything like panic, which has hitherto marked the attitude of the European population of Calcutta and some other places, and I confess I have said to myself that if they had found here, in London, bombs in the railway carriages, bombs under the Prime Minister’s House, and so forth, we should have had tremendous scare headlines and all the other phenomena of excitement and panic. So far as I am informed, though very serious in Calcutta–the feeling is serious, how could it be anything else?–they have exercised the great and noble virtue, in all ranks and classes, of self-command. Now the Government–if you will allow me for a very few moments to say a word on behalf of the Government, not here alone but at Simla–we and they, for after all we are one–have been assailed for a certain want of courage and what is called, often grossly miscalled, vigour.
We were told the other day–and this brings us to the root of policy–that there had been a momentary flash of courage in the Government, a momentary flash of courage when the Government of India and we here assented to the deportation of two men, and it is made a matter of complaint that they were released immediately. Well, they were not released immediately, but after six or eight months–I forget exactly how many months–of detention. They were there with no charge, no trial, nor intention of bringing them to trial. How long were we to keep them there? Not a day, I answer, nor one hour, after the specific and particular mischief, with a view to which this drastic proceeding was adopted, had abated. Specific mischief, mind you. I will not go into that argument to-night: another day I will. I will only say one thing. To strain the meaning and the spirit of an exceptional law like the old Regulation of the year 1818 in such a fashion as this, what would it do? Such a strain, pressed upon us in the perverse imagination of headstrong men, is no better than a suggestion for provoking lawless and criminal reprisals. (“No.”) You may not agree with me. You are kindly allowing me as your guest to say things with which perhaps you do not agree. (Cries of “Go on.”) After all, we understand one another–we speak the same language, and I tell you that a proceeding of that kind, indefinite detention, is a thing that would not be endured in this country. (A voice of “Disorder.”) Yes, if there were great and clear connection between the detention and the outbreak of disorder, certainly; but as the disorder had abated it would have been intolerable for us to continue the incarceration.
Last Monday, what is called a Press Act, was passed by the Government of India, in connection with, and simultaneously with, an Explosives Act which ought to have been passed, I should think, twenty years ago. What is the purport of the Press Act? I do not attempt to give it in technical language. Where the Local Government finds a newspaper article inciting to murder and violence, or resort to explosives for the purposes of murder or violence, that Local Government may apply to a Magistrate of a certain status to issue an order for the seizure of the Press by which that incitement has been printed; and if the owner of the Press feels himself aggrieved, he may within fifteen days ask the High Court to reverse the order, and direct the restoration of the Press. That is a statement of the law that has been passed in India, and to which I do not doubt we shall give our assent. There has been the usual outcry raised–usual in all these cases. Certain people say, “Oh, you are too late.” Others say, “You are too early.” I will say to you first of all, and to any other audience afterwards, that I have no apology to make for being a party to the passing of this law now; and I have no apology to make for not passing it before. I do not believe in short cuts, and I believe that the Government in these difficult circumstances is wise not to be in too great a hurry. I have no apology to make for introducing executive action into what would normally be a judicial process. Neither, on the other hand, have I any apology to make for tempering executive action with judicial elements; and I am very glad to say that an evening newspaper last night, which is not of the politics to which I belong, entirely approves of that. It says: “You must show that you are not afraid of referring your semi-executive, semi-judicial action to the High Court.” This Act meddles with no criticism, however strong, of Government measures. It discourages the advocacy of no practical policy, social, political, or economic. Yet I see, to my great regret and astonishment, that this Act is described as an Act for judging cases of seditious libel without a Jury. It is contended by some–and I respect the contention–that the Imperial Parliament ought to have been consulted before this Act was passed, and ought to be consulted now. (Cries of “No, no.”) My veteran friends lived before the days of household suffrage. Well, it is said that the voice of Parliament ought to be heard in so grave a matter as this. But the principles of the proposals were fully considered, as was quite right, not only by the Secretary of State in Council, but by the Cabinet. It was a matter of public urgency. I stand by it. But it is perfectly natural to ask: Should the Imperial Parliament have no voice? I have directed the Government of India to report to the Secretary of State all the proceedings taken under this Act; and I undertake, as long as I hold the office of Secretary of State, to present to Parliament from time to time the reports of the proceedings taken under this somewhat drastic Act.
When I am told that an Act of this kind is a restriction on the freedom of the Press, I do not accept it for a moment. I do not believe that there is a man in England who is more jealous of the freedom of the Press than I am. But let us see what we mean. It is said, “Oh, these incendiary articles”–for they are incendiary and murderous–“are mere froth.” Yes, they are froth; but they are froth stained with bloodshed. When you have men admitting that they deliberately write these articles and promote these newspapers with a view of furthering murderous action, to talk of the freedom of the Press in connection with that is wicked moonshine. We have now got a very Radical House of Commons. So much, the better for you. If I were still a member of the House of Commons, I should not mind for a moment going down to the House–and I am sure that my colleagues will not mind–to say that when you find these articles on the avowal of those concerned, expressly designed to promote murderous action, and when you find as a fact that murderous action has come about, it is moonshine to talk of the freedom of the Press. There is no use in indulging in heroics. They are not wanted. But an incendiary article is part and parcel of the murderous act. You may put picric acid in the ink and pen, just as much as in any steel bomb. I have one or two extracts here with which I will not trouble you. But when I am told that we should recognise it as one of the chief aims of good Government that there may be as much public discussion as possible, I read that sentence with proper edification; and then I turn to what I had telegraphed for from India–extracts from _Yugantar_. To talk of public discussion in connection with mischief of that kind is really pushing things intolerably far.
I will not be in a hurry to believe that there is not a great body in India of reasonable people, not only among the quiet, humble, law-abiding classes, but among the educated classes. I do not care what they call themselves, or what organisation they may form themselves into. But I will not be in a hurry to believe that there are no such people and that we can never depend on them. When we believe this–that we have no body of organised, reasonable people on our side in India–when you gentlemen who know the country, say this–then I say that, on the day when we believe that, we shall be confronted with as awkward, as embarrassing, and as hazardous a situation as has ever confronted the rulers of any of the most complex and gigantic States in human history. I am confident that if the crisis comes, it will find us ready, but let us keep our minds clear in advance. There have been many dark and ugly moments–see gentlemen around me who have gone through dark and ugly dates–in our relations with India before now. We have a clouded moment before us now. We shall get through it–but only with self-command and without any quackery or cant whether it be the quackery of blind violence disguised as love of order, or the cant of unsound and misapplied sentiment, divorced from knowledge and untouched by any cool consideration of the facts.
ON PROPOSED REFORMS
(HOUSE OF LORDS. DECEMBER 17, 1908)
I feel that I owe a very sincere apology to the House for the disturbance in the business arrangements of the House, of which I have been the cause, though the innocent cause. It has been said that in the delays in bringing forward this subject, I have been anxious to burke discussion. That is not in the least true. The reasons that made it seem desirable to me that the discussion on this most important and far-reaching range of topics should be postponed, were–I believe the House will agree with me–reasons of common sense. In the first place, discussion without anybody having seen the Papers to be discussed, would evidently have been ineffective. In the second place it would have been impossible to discuss those Papers with good effect–the Papers that I am going this afternoon to present to Parliament–until we know, at all events in some degree, what their reception has been in the country most immediately concerned. And then thirdly, my Lords, I cannot but apprehend that discussion here–I mean in Parliament–would be calculated to prejudice the reception in India of the proposals that His Majesty’s Government, in concert with the Government of India, are now making. My Lords, I submit those are three very essential reasons why discussion in my view, and I hope in the view of this House, was to be deprecated. This afternoon your Lordships will be presented with a very modest Blue-book of 100 or 150 pages, but I should like to promise noble Lords that to-morrow morning there will be ready for them a series of Papers on the same subject, of a size so enormous that the most voracious or even carnivorous appetite for Blue-books will have ample food for augmenting the joys of the Christmas holidays.
The observations that I shall ask your Lordships to allow me to make, are the opening of a very important chapter in the history of the relations of Great Britain and India; and I shall ask the indulgence of the House if I take a little time, not so much in dissecting the contents of the Papers, which the House will be able to do for itself by and by, as in indicating the general spirit that animates His Majesty’s Government here, and my noble friend the Governor-General, in making the proposals that I shall in a moment describe. I suppose, like other Secretaries of State for India, I found my first, idea was to have what they used to have in the old days–a Parliamentary Committee to inquire into Indian Government. I see that a predecessor of mine in the India Office, Lord Randolph Churchill–he was there for too short a time–in 1885 had very strongly conceived that idea. On the whole I think there is a great deal at the present day to be said against it.
Therefore what we have done was in concert with the Government of India, first to open a chapter of constitutional reform, of which I will speak in a moment, and next to appoint a Royal Commission to inquire into the internal relations between the Government of India and all its subordinate and co-ordinate parts. That Commission will report, I believe, in February or March next,–February, I hope,–and that again will involve the Government of India and the India Office in Whitehall in pretty laborious and careful inquiries. It cannot be expected–and it ought not to be expected–that an Act passed as the organic Act of 1858 was passed, amidst intense excitement and most disturbing circumstances, should have been in existence for half a century without disclosing flaws and imperfections, or that its operations would not be the better for supervision, or incapable of improvement.
I spoke of delay in these observations, and unfortunately delay has not made the skies any brighter. But, my Lords, do not let us make the Indian sky cloudier than it really is. Do not let us consider the clouds to be darker than they really are. Let me invite your Lordships to look at the formidable difficulties that now encumber us in India, with a due sense of proportion.
What is the state of things as it appears to persons of authority and of ample knowledge in India? One very important and well-known friend of mine in India says this–
“The anarchists are few, but, on the other hand, they are apparently prepared to go any length and to run any risk. It must also be borne in mind that the ordinary man or lad in India has not too much courage, and that the loyal are terrorised by the ruthless extremists.”
It is a curious incident that on the very day before the attempt to assassinate Sir Andrew Fraser was made, he had a reception in the college where the would-be assassin was educated, and his reception was of the most enthusiastic and spontaneous kind. I only mention that, to show the curious and subtle atmosphere in which things now are at Calcutta. I will not dwell on that, because although I have a mass of material, this is not the occasion for developing it. I will only add this from a correspondent of great authority–
“There is no fear of anything in the nature of a rising, but if murders continue, a general panic may arise and greatly increase the danger of the situation. We cannot hope that any machinery will completely stop outrages at once. We must be prepared to meet them. There are growing indications that the native population itself is alarmed, and that we shall have the strong support of native public opinion.”
The view of important persons in the Government of India is that in substance the position of our Government in India is as sound and as well-founded as it has ever been.
I shall be asked, has not the Government of India been obliged to pass a measure introducing pretty drastic machinery? That is quite true, and I, for one, have no fault whatever to find with them for introducing such machinery and for taking that step. On the contrary, my Lords, I wholly approve, and I share, of course, to the full the responsibility for it. I understand that I am exposed to some obloquy on this account–I am charged with inconsistency. That is a matter on which I am very well able to take care of myself, and I should be ashamed to detain your Lordships for one single moment in arguing about it. Quite early after my coming to the India Office, pressure was put on me to repeal the Regulation of 1818, under which men are now being summarily detained without trial and without charge, and without intention to try or to charge. That, of course, is a tremendous power to place in the hands of an Executive Government. But I said to myself then, and I say now, that I decline to take out of the hands of the Government of India any weapon that they have got, in circumstances so formidable, so obscure, and so impenetrable as are the circumstances that surround British Government in India.
There are two paths of folly in these matters. One is to regard all Indian matters, Indian procedure and Indian policy, as if it were Great Britain or Ireland, and to insist that all the robes and apparel that suit Great Britain or Ireland must necessarily suit India. The other is to think that all you have got to do is what I see suggested, to my amazement, in English print–to blow a certain number of men from guns, and then your business will be done. Either of these paths of folly leads to as great disaster as the other. I would like to say this about the Summary Jurisdiction Bill–I have no illusions whatever. I do not ignore, and I do not believe that Lord Lansdowne opposite, or anyone else can ignore, the frightful risks involved in transferring in any form or degree what should be the ordinary power under the law, to arbitrary personal discretion. I am alive, too, to the temptation under summary procedure of various kinds, to the danger of mistaking a headstrong exercise of force for energy. Again, I do not for an instant forget, and I hope those who so loudly applaud legislation of this kind do not forget, the tremendous price that you pay for all operations of this sort in the reaction and the excitement that they provoke. If there is a man who knows all these drawbacks I think I am he. But there are situations in which a responsible Government is compelled to run these risks and to pay this possible price, however high it may appear to be.
It is like war, a hateful thing, from which, however, some of the most ardent lovers of peace, and some of those rulers of the world whose names the most ardent lovers of peace most honour and revere–it is one of the things from which these men have not shrunk. The only question for us is whether there is such a situation in India to-day as to warrant the passing of the Act the other day, and to justify resort to the Regulation of 1818. I cannot imagine anybody reading the speeches–especially the unexaggerated remarks of the Viceroy–and the list of crimes perpetrated, and attempted, that were read out last Friday in Calcutta–I cannot imagine that anybody reading that list and thinking what they stand for, would doubt for a single moment that summary procedure of some kind or another was justified and called for. I discern a tendency to criticise this legislation on grounds that strike me as extraordinary. After all, it is not our fault that we have had to bring in this measure. You must protect the lives of your officers. You must protect peaceful and harmless people, both Indian and European, from the blood-stained havoc of anarchic conspiracy. We deplore the necessity, but we are bound to face the facts. I myself recognise this necessity with infinite regret, and with something, perhaps, rather deeper than regret. But it is not the Government, either here or in India, who are the authors of this necessity, and I should not at all mind, if it is not impertinent and unbecoming in me to say so, standing up in another place and saying exactly what I say here, that I approve of these proceedings and will do my best to support the Government of India.
Now a very important question arises, for which I would for a moment ask the close attention of your Lordships, because I am sure that both here and elsewhere it will be argued that the necessity, and the facts that caused the necessity, of bringing forward strong repressive machinery should arrest our policy of reforms. That has been stated, and I dare say many people will assent to it. Well, the Government of India and myself have from the very first beginning of this unsettled state of things, never varied in our determination to persevere in the policy of reform.
I put two plain questions to your Lordships. I am sick of all the retrograde commonplaces about the weakness of concession to violence and so on. Persevering in our plan of reform is not a concession to violence. Reforms that we have publicly announced, adopted, and worked out for more than two years–how is it a concession to violence, to persist in those reforms? It is simply standing to your guns. A number of gentlemen, of whom I wish to speak with all respect, addressed a very courteous letter to me the other day that appeared in the public prints, exhorting me to remember that Oriental countries inevitably and invariably interpret kindness as fear. I do not believe it. The Founder of Christianity arose in an Oriental country, and when I am told that Orientals always mistake kindness for fear, I must repeat that I do not believe it, any more than I believe the stranger saying of Carlyle, that after all the fundamental question between any two human beings is–Can I kill thee, or canst thou kill me? I do not agree that any organised society has ever subsisted upon either of those principles, or that brutality is always present as a fundamental postulate in the relations between rulers and ruled.
My first question is this. There are alternative courses open to us. We can either withdraw our reforms, or we can persevere in them. Which would be the more flagrant sign of weakness–to go steadily on with your policy of reform in spite of bombs, or to let yourself openly be forced by bombs and murder clubs to drop your policy? My second question is–Who would be best pleased if I were to announce to your Lordships that the Government have determined to drop the reforms? Why, it is notorious that those who would be best pleased would be the extremists and irreconcilables, just because they know well that for us to do anything to soften estrangement, and appease alienation