- The Empire Club of Canada Addresses (Toronto, Canada), 3 Mar 1921, p. 88-99
- Morison, Prof. J.L., Speaker
- Media Type
- Item Type
- The Indian question as the most important question before the British Empire today, and how that is so. India's contribution to the war. Seeing to it that we are not failing in generosity and gratitude to India. A review of the Indian problem and its history. Faults of the British Government used as grievances by the Indian politicians; one or two specific instances. Issues of Land Tax, education, and military expenditure. Outside events which further complicated the Indian situation, such as the appearance in 1904-05 of Japan as a primary power in the world. The resulting sense of Asiatic self-consciousness, acutely felt and still felt in India. Lord Curzon's vice royalty and the resulting unrest. A tremendous awakening of India that came with the War. Two ways open to Britain in India today; one leading to partition and separation, the other to mutual development. Support for Mr. Montague's reforms. The programme of possible constitutional development in India. The alternative. Faced with a determined challenge to the British experiment in India. India revolution and wild nationalism spreading like wildfire in India. The role of Mr. Gandhi in India. The speaker's view of Mr. Gandhi as a highly destructive political force. What Britain may do. Governing India so that they may ultimately govern themselves.
- Date of Original
- 3 Mar 1921
- Language of Item
- Copyright Statement
- The speeches are free of charge but please note that the Empire Club of Canada retains copyright. Neither the speeches themselves nor any part of their content may be used for any purpose other than personal interest or research without the explicit permission of the Empire Club of Canada.
- Empire Club of CanadaEmailinfo@empireclub.orgWWW address
Agency street/mail address
Fairmont Royal York Hotel
100 Front Street West, Floor H
Toronto, ON, M5J 1E3
- Full Text
- WILL BRITAIN RETAIN INDIA?
AN ADDRESS BY PROF. J. L. MORISON, M.A.
Before the Empire Club of Canada, Toronto,
March 3, 1921
THE PRESIDENT, GENERAL MITCHELL, after some humorous comments on the speaker's nationality and his method of spelling his name, briefly and happily introduced him to the large audience.PROFESSOR MORISON
Mr. Chairman and Gentlemen,--Your Chairman took me at a disadvantage because I do not deny the existence of Morrisons with two "R's" or even of those who spell their name with a "U", but what I say is, we spell it right. (Laughter) However, I think his information was right. But one thing no Scotsman ever finds any difficulty in being, and that is a complete and bigoted and fanatic Scot, and at the same time a whole-hearted Canadian-the two things are absolutely the same. When I refer to the Scottish Empire, I always like to paint the Canadian Dominion very largely in Scottish colors. The trouble is that you have annexed Scotland and not that
Professor Morison is a graduate of Glasgow University with first-class honours in English language, literature and history. He did post-graduate work at Oxford, was assistant professor of history in Glasgow University and since 1907 has been professor of history in Queen's University, Kingston, Ontario. He has carried on a series of studies connected with the Renaissance and Reformation in England and is the author of a number of bulletins published by the Departments of History and Political Science in Queen's University, e.g., Modern British Foreign Policy, British Supremacy and Canadian Autonomy, Nationality and Common Sense, etc.
Scotland has annexed you, and I shall look in the future to see that the Canadian rule over Scotland is better than the Scottish rule has been over Canada.
You are an Empire Club: Now, let us get right into this Indian question. Very few of us within the Empire, seem to realize that the Indian question is the most important question before the British Empire today. The other question that seems to dispute pre-eminence is the Irish question. You are dealing in the one case with five millions; you are dealing in the other case with three hundred millions. Now I don't care what the relative value of an Indian and an Irishman is; what I have to say today is general. Three hundred millions is the population, and the government of these three hundred millions is a terrific problem. There is one other reason why I ask you to consider this matter. India was one of our allies in the war. There has been an undisputed and whole-hearted support of the Allied cause from India. They freely gave in combatants and non-combatants one million men to the war. They contributed F- 135,000,000 or more to the running of the war and I remember, in Palestine, that when my Division was doing a very difficult job on the advance on Jerusalem, that it was an Indian Battalion that came to our help and Scotsmen and Ghurkas carried the position, cheering together. There was real co-operation, if not unity, between the peoples. Whatever India is to have as a future, we of the Commonwealth must see to it that we are not failing in generosity and gratitude. (Applause) Now, Gentlemen, the Indian problem began to become a really serious problem with the twentieth century. There were very many reasons for that. For one, of course, the Indians and ourselves are of widely separate racial stock. There always must be a certain restlessness and friction when two peoples are closely connected in one government. We have empire and we pay for empire the price of that friction; they have peace and for that peace they pay the price of the friction, and that friction always is there, just a little. Just so, for example, in Canada there always will be a little difficulty in British and French get many details. The normal running of a government produces grievances, always produces grievances everywhere. These grievances were used and are still being used by agitators to create a certain friction. The most obvious point about these grievances is that they have been specific. When you know what you are driving at, it is easy to defend or attack, but when you don't, you are rather in a fix. Now many things occurred in India in the last twenty years to cause an extraordinary unrest.
England made up her mind that India should be educated. There have been many faults in that system of education; many of the policies pursued were wrong. But, remember this, that the English Government, from the first, understood that education would quicken Indian self-consciousness, would make British control more difficult, and yet they maintained the educational system. Go back to the beginning of the nineteenth century. It is one of the most outstanding incidents of that day when Sir Thomas Manley said, "We are trying an experiment never yet tried in the world-maintaining a foreign dominion by means of a native army and teaching that army through a free press that they ought to expel us and deliver their country." Free press! free education! We frankly and fairly faced that situation. Now education has been operating, you may say, since Lord Macaulay's time in 1835 and everywhere throughout India education has created a political class and the ideas they got were ideas they got through their education-British political ideas of freedom, independence, of responsible government-and the Indian people quickened to the impulse of education and government became more difficult.
While all this was going on, outside India great events were taking place which still further complicated the Indian situation. In 1904 and 1905 Japan suddenly appeared as a primary power in the world. Now, no Anglo-Indian with whom one speaks ever shuts his eyes to that great victory of Japan. It taught the Asiatic he could be as good a man as the European. In those days, Russia was second only to Germany as a military power. Suddenly an Asiatic state brought the pride of Russia down and all over the continent of Asia a sense of Asiatic self-consciousness sprang up, which was acutely felt and is still felt in India. Again, a little later than the Japanese war, there came great constitutional changes in Turkey, Persia and China. Take the Young Turk movement in Turkey. There, the Turkish nation seemed to be on the verge of a great era of democracy. As a fact, it was commencing a new period of bitter autocracy at the hands of Enver Pasha and his men, but the Indian mind failed to grasp this-they looked to the beginning, and they said what Turkey has, India must have also. These Asiatic movements made English government very difficult indeed.
Then came Lord Curzon's vice royalty. Now Lord Curzon is a man of whom it is difficult to speak quite fairly. He is a singularly irritating politician. No place where he has gone speaks very well of Lord Curzon. He has a curiously irritating manner, but he is one of the best informed politicians within the Empire and I venture to say if you examine the administrative record of Curzon in India, you will find very few measures that were not highly beneficial. It is a tragedy that two of the greatest reforms in modern India's history-the attempt to make the Province of Bengal a more efficient Province and the attempt to change .and better the whole university life of India-should be taken up by the nationalists and made, as it were, oil on the fire of nihilism, and yet both measures were justified, although highly irritating to the Indian public. The consequence was that Lord Curzon went home and Lord Minto went out to India in 1905 but India was seething with an unrest, the causes of which were partly specific and definite and partly also indefinite and very difficult to meet. Lord Morley did his best to face the situation. Morley's reforms filled in a gap. There are men that say that Morley and Minto did things that were not much use. The fact was simply this-the situation was startling; no remedy was quite possible for all the troubles. Lord Morley and Lord Minto with perfect patience and caution and wisdom introduced a palliative measure, and so things were until the war.
Gentlemen, with the War, which after all has changed history in a way that few of us today are aware of, came a tremendous awakening of India, a period of overdevelopment, by generations, and made the task of the government very difficult indeed. Lord Money's reforms, increasing the number of councils in India and the number of Indian members in these councils, taught the Indians something of politics, and the Indians wanted more to say in the political world of India. A class which represents the Hindus and the old Indian Moslems, representing seventy million Mohammedans, organized themselves and began to define what they wanted. Meanwhile, there were other and more serious factors in the situation. Mrs. Besant and some Indian assistants started a highly mischievous home rule campaign. They were crying to a very large extent for the moon, and the trouble is when people do that they sometimes think they are crying for what they can get. Mrs. Besant has recanted from her heresies, but too late; the mischief has been done. Then there was the Mesopotamian campaign and the Indians tell us that the publication of the inquiry into that first disastrous campaign created a great deal of disquiet in India. We were fighting the figurehead of the Mohammedan world and every stroke we struck was a stroke that disquieted India and created a curious sort of revolt in the hearts of our Mohammedan fellow-subjects there; and then came the momentous day, August 20th, 1917, when Mr. Montague in the House of Commons made a promise of self-government to India and promised that in gratitude for the Indian services in the War that that unrest would be made the subject of legitimate constitutional claims. Gentlemen, let me say this, there are men in the Empire today who are talking Hindi Semitism; you had one in Toronto recently; you have another one in London, Mr. Belloc. I think we have had quite enough of that tomfoolery. (Hear, hear) Gentlemen, the British Empire stands for absolute inclusiveness. We are prepared to take the services of any man who will be faithful to our King and Commonwealth and I count him a traitor, a knave, who will bring in racial differences in the service of the Empire. (Applause) You will find the less worthy organs of British opinion finding fault with the fact that Mr. Samuel is in Palestine, that Mr. Montague is in the Indian Office and that Lord Reading has gone to India to govern the country. I say that the Empire that found Benjamin Disraeli-with whose opinions I do not at all agree hat the Empire that permitted him to take care of the honour of our House of Commons is prepared with many more important places for as many such Jews as the Empire can provide.
Well, Gentlemen, here we are today, first of all with a promise of Mr. Montague, secondly with a scheme by Lord Chelmsford and next with an irritating and provocative Viceroy. There are two ways open to Britain in India today. One leads to partition and separation; the other, to my mind, to mutual development. I have no hesitation in saying my whole support and I think your support must be given to the reforms that Mr. Montague introduced. What is the programme of possible constitutional development of India? It is this: First of all, the Montague reform has determined that all over India there shall be local councils, little local councils, corresponding to the old village community, and that these shall have very large local powers. From these councils, England hopes to create an educated political body. Secondly, India is divided into provinces. The British Government has selected these provinces, which might correspond in a way to the Canadian Provinces, as a constitutional experiment. At present, the idea is that the matters of government shall be divided into certain subjects controlled by direct responsible ministers--ministers responsible to elective assemblies. Other subjects will be controlled by the Governor, who is an Englishman. As the Indian proves his capacity for government, subjects that were reserved to the British Governor will be handed over to the Indian public, so that after the Indian proves that he can govern himself, the day will come, and that day will be welcomed by the British Government, when every Provincial subject shall be disposed of by an Indian responsible minister. That is, as it were, the centre of the whole matter. Thirdly, in order to maintain order and peace during this period of experiment, there will be at the centre, that is at the Viceroy's court, the strongest possible superintendency of the control of the three hundred million men, women and children. You cannot play fast and loose with so great a body of humanity. And the British Government asks--and I think asks rightly--that during this exciting moment of experiment the Viceroy and his Executive Council shall have full powers. In order that Indian opinion may not be excluded, the new reforms have grouped round that central power a Legislative Council representing the provincial opinion, a Council of native Princes and a Privy Council, and when the day comes that India has proved herself fit for complete self government, that central government will respond to the claim and Britain will give her full responsibility. Fourthly, in order to make India as Canada is today, an independent and really autonomous unit, the Secretary of State in India, that is the Parliamentary Secretary, I should say, in the House of Commons, is to have his powers very largely modified. India is to governed by a Viceroy with his Council, by the Provincial Council, and by these local boards. The whole emphasis of Mr. Montague, and I take it the whole emphasis of Lord Reading, will be ever on the side of giving the Indian more and more control of his own affairs, and the only thing that can prevent the Indian people from ultimately possessing autonomous rule will be their own unfitness, which I believe does not exist.
What is the alternative? Let me say first of all the scheme has faults. Every scheme has. The point is, not that it has faults, but will it work? Look back to your own history in 1841. The 1841 scheme in Canada was a bad scheme, but it has worked. Between 1841 and 1867, Canada discovered what she wanted. An experiment was made. Canadians have gained my respect more and more as men of commonsense and practical purpose. You do not go in for nationalist follies, you mean business and generally get what you want. Now just as 1841 was followed by 1867, so I take it in India the reforms of Montague will be followed by a more accurate scheme evolved by men seriously playing the political game. If a man tells you there are faults in it, never mind the faults. We want a working scheme, and I believe that if we get a working scheme with men working that scheme, the result cannot be anything but happy. In India we are faced with a determined challenge to the British experiment. Everywhere throughout India revolution and wild nationalism has spread like wildfire. The head of that world is Mr. Gandhi, a very high-minded, spiritual, and--it seems to me--highly destructive political force. You will remember that while the purely constitutional movement was going on we were inactive, and from the schools and colleges little bands of boys and students were going out trained to hate England, to make English government impossible, to break up the existing system. There is a letter from a school boy which I have read. He had no hate of the English, he had no grievance, he said that specifically, but he was, as it were, so filled up with nationalism as to want to go out. and bomb people, just as the ladies at present adopt the latest disfigurement of Paris as the custom. These boys are being fed up with this, the first step in which is crime.
Mr. Gandhi says he is for passive resistance. He says he is pacific, but we all know that sort of pacifist who causes more destruction in the world than any fighting man you come across. Notice what happens. Mr. Gandhi started his great agitation for peace as he called it. He excited the whole Punjab, which was the heart of the spirit of India. We passed certain restrictive measures; Mr. Gandhi pushed on with his agitation still further and through that agitation, the situation that occurred at Amritzar became possible, and Dyer put it down in his vigorous way. I think General Dyer made the mistakes that the Hunter report said he did, but he did proclaim his presence and he did repeat his prohibition before he fired. I think when General Dyer fired on the gathering he fired too long, but, mark you, the man who caused the situation which came to a crisis in Amritzar was Mr. Gandhi, through his passive resistance movement. _
Today, all over India, there are non-cooperating organizations headed by the Gandhi movement; in other words, they have made up their minds they are going to bring the British government to an absolute standstill. The schoolboy has to leave his school if it is a British school, the student has to leave his university, the lawyer has to cease pleading at the Courts, no one is to appear as a candidate for the elections under the Montague scheme. Well, Gentlemen, it is a very easy thing to upset a government, a very much easier thing than to make a good, new government-and the talk of Gandhi now is to free India of the Montague-Chelmsford Scheme which has to be operated in the face of the most bitter cruelty, of wild revolutionary and Bolshevistic nihilism. Are they to have their way? Are we, as we have been called by Mr. Peacock, the biggest tyranny in the world, a race of traitors and brutes and Prussians? Gentlemen, upon examining my own heart, and I am sure you are doing the same, I fail to discover the brutality and the tyranny that people tell us are inherent in every British breast; in fact it is not there.
What are we to do? I think there is one thing in front of the British as an obvious duty, so that the Indian public may ultimately govern itself. I think we believe that the Indian public can govern itself and should be educated to do so and as many of us believe, the Montague reform was like the Durham report, the beginning of a self-governing Indian world. Gentlemen, if we believe that and if we trust our own motives sufficiently,-I think we do-and if we are determined we will not use force when force should not be used, the one thing for us to do is to say this: we are governing over three hundred million souls in India and we are governing so that they may ultimately govern themselves. We will give them step after step towards complete autonomy but we will not be hurried; we will not be terrorized into any rapid process, of development; we will take our time which is also their time. That seems the proper thing. It means possibly the use of force. I am almost sorry, sometimes, that the Prussians have spoiled force as a moral thing, for there are times when force is a moral thing. I think General Dyer must have used force in his case, but I say this, if we have the cold world to face that we have to face and come into contact with forces of dissension, Bolshevism, and revolutionism, we have got to use force; and if we have enough moral character, we will in this case of India, hold on to our programme of right, and determine that no one side of that programme shall be omitted, and will challenge the revolutionists and say we intend our way to be carried out and that their way must break if it stands in the way of ours.
One last word. In conducting our great constitutional experiment-and, Gentlemen, I am proud to belong to a commonwealth that is doing more for the science of government and the development of liberty than any other government I see in the world-I say in pursuing our experiments in this great political laboratory of the British Empire, we will have no outside interference. (Hear, hear) There are a great number of anxious friends outside (laughter) who are not only inviting us to adopt their ideas but who are going behind our back to assist these nationalistic movements, which they misread as being steps to liberty. Gentlemen, the time is coming and has nearly come when we as the British Empire will be worthy to be thought of as a League of Nations. We believe in developing every member of our commonwealth within, but we will have no interference whatever with a scientific experiment, the end of which is British liberty, and that is the final word I will say on the Indian question. (Cheers)
THE PRESIDENT expressed on behalf of the members their hearty thanks to Professor Morison for his illuminating address on conditions in India, the members giving the Professor three rousing cheers.