§ VISCOUNT MIDLETON rose to call attention to the Report on Indian Constitutional Reforms, and to move that it is desirable that a Joint Committee of both Houses be appointed to consider and report thereon.
§ The noble Viscount said: My Lords, in view of the discussion which your Lordships had on this subject on the Motion of Lord Sydenham, who made an admirable speech on August 6, I should hardly have ventured to bring this question forward after so short an interval. But a great deal has developed during that interval; and, above all, the further action of the Government, which was adumbrated by the noble Lord the Under-Secretary on August 6, and which I think has complicated the position very much. Whatever we may feel as to the wisdom of the original pronouncement made on August 20, 1917, which pledged the Government to very drastic action, I do not propose to say anything about it this evening, especially after the observations made by the Leader of the House on a previous occasion, in which he practically said that if any member of your Lordships' House had had access to all the information which had come to the Government he would not have felt justified in taking a less forward step than that which was taken by the Government when they made that great pronouncement. On the other hand, one must remember that the effect of that pronouncement has 774 been a great deal enhanced by the fact that it came from the lips of a Secretary of State whose opinions were pretty well known to be in favour of a very great measure of reform.
§ For the purpose of the Motion which I propose to submit, I think it would not be inappropriate that I should say a word upon the procedure which the Government have adopted. I think that even to themselves that procedure can hardly at present seem to have been fortunate. The ordinary procedure with regard to any measure, apart from a measure of this magnitude, is something of this kind. You have a considerable public expression of opinion, public meetings and the like, which draw attention to it. You then have a private examination of the question by experts under the auspices of the Cabinet; and, finally, you have the production of Cabinet scheme for consideration by the two Houses of Parliament. But obviously the public examination of the question beforehand could never be given in the case of India in order to show what is the opinion of the great mass of the people. I believe it is claimed that at the outside the Home Rule movement has affected 250,000 people out of the 250,000,000 in India; therefore those opinions, as representing the people of India, must be discounted to some extent. But then came in this case the decision of the Government that a great step forward must be made—"a substantial step towards responsible government" That, before the examination by the Secretary of State and the Viceroy, really was like sentence before trial. Still, we then had the examination, semi-private, by the two distinguished officials.
§ What was the next step? Surely the next step after that was that public opinion here should be made aware whether the Government did or did not approve, not merely the principle of progress, but in some degree the principle adopted or suggested by the Secretary of State and the Viceroy. But that is not done. To this day, owing to the preoccupations of the Government on other even more serious matters, we have had no indication of whether the principle of this scheme commends itself to the Government or whether it does not. And meantime I submit that step by step every day the scheme of Mr. Montagu and Lord Chelmsford, whether it is going to be accepted by the Government or not, is being stereotyped, and public opinion in India and in this country is 775 being fixed upon it as if it were the only scheme which it is possible for the Government to consider. I am appalled at the announcement which we read in the papers that the Committees have gone to India to consider two points. The first—the franchise—is obviously a point which, as the Viceroy and the Secretary of State were unable to deal with it during their tour, requires careful examination by experts and by a Committee. That would be necessary for any scheme which was largely to develop the franchise. But when you come to the other portion of the inquiry—the inquiry as to what subjects should be transferred to a democratic Assembly, and what should be reserved to be dealt with by some other authority—you are, I submit, entering on an investigation which is not common to all schemes, but which is for the development of this scheme of the Viceroy and the Secretary of State, and this scheme alone, which has not yet been accepted by the Government. And what I apprehend is now taking place is that the Government are putting themselves in a position in which, before they have made up their minds as to whether the position is a sound one or not, they will have to occupy it because they will not be able to go back. And that is the reason why I have troubled your Lordships this afternoon.
§ Already this procedure has had what I think we shall all agree is a disastrous effect—all of us who are anxious to back the Government in whatever measure of progress they think it necessary and desirable to set on foot in India. As is almost certain to happen in every country, and still more in India where bargaining is the essence of all proceedings, they have already advanced their demands and have left far behind the proposal which a few months ago one would have believed they would readily have accepted. That means of course, that delay, which in other Oriented matters is usually considered not of great importance, is in this instance fatal to giving the satisfaction which such a scheme is intended to give, and really leaves it almost certain that even if to-morrow His Majesty's Government were fully to recognise the Montagu-Chelmsford arrangement they would find that the opinion in India of those who are most forward would be such that it would strangle their infant before it came into the world.
§ I cannot help thinking that we have reached the point when we have a right to press upon the Government one of 776 two courses. Either that they should take into consideration at once the principle of this scheme and declare that it is the only one by which they mean to abide, and which they can recommend to Parliament; or (and this is the alternative which I venture to present to them) that they should allow a public Inquiry to take place in this country—which was almost foreshadowed by the speech of the noble Earl the Leader of the House in winding up the discussion on August 6—and make it possible for such an authority as a Select Committee of both Houses, having considered this scheme, to suggest modifications or alternatives so that before the decision of the Government takes place they may have all the possible alternatives before them.
§ There is one thing which I think we must all admit—namely, that Governments as a rule are forced by the exigencies of Parliamentary support to make good their case without a very long delay. At this moment by the exigencies of the war they are properly and naturally absolved from that; but the effect of their failure to do so is the same. Let me take an illustration from Ireland, which, however, I am not going to argue. Six months ago His Majesty's Government took two decisions of the most serious and formal character with regard to Ireland and announced them to Parliament as a policy from which they could not possibly go back. Well, neither of those decisions, after six months, has been advanced a step; we are exactly where we were; and if I were a betting man I should be prepared to lay my money that neither of them will eventuate, and that we shall go back to the status quo. I am sure I shall have the support of the many members of the House who know India far better than I can pretend to know it, if I say that after you have announced a great policy of progress, and after you have dangled before the people of India, either wisely or unwisely, so very great a measure as that foreshadowed in the Report to Parliament, it is not possible for you to contemplate going back to the status quo. I believe that to be absolutely impossible. If that be so then surely when you have so great a mass of Anglo-Indian opinion, and to some extent of Indian opinion, already expressed which is not wholly satisfied with these proposals, you must admit the right of the Government to vary them. The least you can do is to give the Government the opportunity and give 777 Parliament the opportunity of suggesting such variations as may be most likely to facilitate the course which the Government desire and which are least likely to leave a feeling of disappointment in India.
§ I should like to be allowed to give, without discussing the details, one or two reasons why I cannot believe that the Government have said their last word on this question as regards the Montagu scheme. The fault found with this scheme by the lovers of India is that it is an attempt to adopt Western methods where they are inapplicable to Eastern sentiment and habit. If I may criticise for one moment a State Paper which everybody recognises to be most ably and untiringly wrought, I would say that I do not think your Lordships need be very much impressed, when difficulties are arrived at in framing some means of carrying out the policy, by such statements in the Report, as, "We are confident that means can be found from the faith which is in us" The "faith which is in us" is a faith in democratic institutions—a faith, as the Report goes on to say, in nationhood within the Empire. It surely is useless to talk about genuine democratic institutions in the case of a people numbering 250,000,000 of whom only 6 per cent. are literate in their own tongue. It is well known that you could not possibly treat the franchise there as you would treat in it a Western State. Again, as regards nationhood, did anybody over hear of a collection of peoples with fifty different languages and 150 different dialects—differing in class, in caste, in creed, in national sentiment, in personal sentiment; differing as widely as it is possible for the East to differ from the West—did you ever hear of such a collection of congeries of mortals being called a nation? Surely India, whatever it is, can never be a nation.
§ What is it that you are seeking to do in the name of democracy? To get rid of what is so constantly alluded to in this Report as "the bureaucratic predominence of a small body of Europeans" But are these going to be democratic representatives who will replace this small body of Europeans? Will they not really be a body of educated oligarchs of Indian extraction, but possessing no more touch with the countless millions whose horizon is narrowed by their pursuit of daily bread, and who will not even have their votes at the back of them? When the authors of the scheme 778 thought of the faith that was within them, I looked to see with regard to the franchise how far they were prepared to go, and I must say that I thought they were amusingly vague. The first reference said that they were desirous of sweeping away indirect representation. Again, they wished to broaden the franchise without regard to welfare and education, which are usually the two prominent features. In the third paragraph they came to the conclusion that; a direct franchise may be impossible, and election by non-official members of Provincial Councils far more acceptable to Indian opinion. Surely that gives away the whole case; at all events, it reduces the democratic element to the shadow of a shade.
§ Then take the speeches by which they are supported. I might quote the speech of my noble friend behind me (Lord Crewe), who put the point in very succinct language when he said t hat not improbably I he change would result in a sacrifice of efficiency, in waste of money, and in these. Assemblies making their own mistakes, in which, he added, so long as they were not serious, the Government would have to concur. My Lords, where is the seriousness going to begin? It is a very doubtful expedient, when you have to give your blessing to a new system, to assume that it may lead to a certain amount of inefficiency and waste; and I think Lord Curzon on one occasion said that most Orientals would prefer to be misgoverned by Orientals than well-governed by Europeans. I venture, hew-ever, to say that this country can hardly look on where, in a country in which there can be no genuine popular franchise, a helpless people are to be sacrificed to an electorate which they cannot really influence; or, in other words, that in order to promote a national spirit and growth of character we should acquiesce in the restoring of abuses which we have spent a century and a half in stamping out. I look upon that as an impossible position for this Parliament to take. Therefore I cannot help hoping, now that these subjects have been so far threshed out, the Government will allow a Parliamentary Committee to consider whether there is no means of achieving an equivalent result without the same sacrifice.
§ I am not here to advocate any particular scheme. I would not venture, with the inexperience of a single individual or even of a number of individuals who have not 779 examined the question in the way that the Secretary of State and the Viceroy have examined it, to do so; but I suggest that there are a number of means by which we may avoid the features of this scheme which have been criticised hitherto and which no one is able genuinely to support. Surely it is possible, in the first instance, to consider whether in an Empire like India you should not keep the central power unimpaired in the hands of a British majority, even if you give a strong Indian selection to assist the Viceroy, and draw a distinction between the central power and the Provincial Assemblies. I believe that in the Provincial Assemblies you might go a long way in the direction of associating Indians, even giving them the control of districts and ultimately of provinces, but there is a great deal which the central authority must do and which you cannot avoid. You cannot avoid the extension of a democratic franchise on all questions connected with municipal effort; but if you want to make a success of this, ought you not to remember that you must preserve for the Governor and the civil servants that degree of power which is necessary to make good the work which they are undertaking—a power which Lord Sydenham showed on a previous occasion was so largely going to be taken from them. I do not take so gloomy a view as he does of the power of finding such men in the future, but I think we are all agreed that you cannot strain the authority responsible for law and order, and cannot continuously govern by veto.
§ One thing I would urge as a matter of caution. This attempt to hand over certain subjects entirely, if they are not actually of an Imperial character, seems to me to be fraught with the greatest danger. May I take two instances? Among the transferred subjects or subjects proposed to be transferred are education and sanitation. Now there are many educationists in this House, but I would ask, Are there any subjects on which, until he is himself educated in political life, the lower class of elector is so incurious as education and sanitation? One involves sacrifice of labour and the other the sacrifice and frequent invasion of habits and caste prejudices, which in India are particularly rife. I cannot think of any two subjects in which India more requires to go ahead. Elementary education for fifty years has lagged behind more than any administrator in India would have desired. You are now to take a great step, and if you are going 780 to make the franchise a success you must educate those who are going to use it.
§ So with regard to sanitation. I incurred censure some years ago from a friend behind me for putting too strongly the lapses, as I considered them, in sanitation progress, of the India Government. All who have known what has been the saving in armies during this war, and especially in our Army, by the enormous progress of sanitary skill—not merely medical skill but sanitary knowledge and sanitary science—must know also that in so vast a continent as India there is enormous scope for the development of sanitation; and I am perfectly confident that, unless the Indian public are going in the face—and they are not likely to—of all previous experience in other countries, you must deal with this question of sanitation and begin from the top. You cannot leave it to the scrambling of different provinces and to the possible prejudices of different castes.
§ One thing is quite certain—that if you make this distinction of transferred and reserved subjects the whole effort of every agitator in India will be directed, from the time the decision is once made, in order that at the next division more subjects are transferred and fewer reserved. I think it is very hard to subject your new institutions to such a test as that. Therefore what I would suggest is that you should allow a Committee to consider whether some of the steps which you desire to take forward may not prove to be reactionary. Let them consider whether there is no other means, without imperilling the authority of the central power, by which they can associate Indians in a larger degree with their own institutions.
§ May I say, before I sit down, one word of protest against the manner in which this Report treats the question of the India Office and also the personality of the Secretary of State? I agree with every word of the suggestion that you should reconsider by the light of 1918 many of the questions which are reserved or referred to the Secretary of State, on which he is by the Constitution forced to decide, and which it was wise to refer to him sixty years ago. Modernise procedure, take the advice of the foremost men, if you will, as to what may be properly left to India to decide; but when you have done all that, I undertake to predict there is no Committee that you can appoint which will not advise this House and the House 781 of Commons that the most delays take place not between the Secretary of State or Parliament here and India but between Delhi and the Provinces. That is where the shoe pinches the most. It is true you have to send out the best men you can to the Provinces, and give them far fuller scope and far fuller authority.
§ If I wanted an instance I could call as witness my noble friend behind me. I say that there is nothing which the Secretary of State at the India Office cannot drive at headlong speed if he desires to do so. So far from being obstructed, he always meets with the most loyal support. My noble friend himself, who, I believe, settled the whole question of the transfer of Delhi in about an hour and a half with his Council, ought to be the first witness to go into the box and say that there is nothing which the Secretary of State who possesses the confidence of his Council cannot do. If it were necessary I could go into the box also to remind Parliament of one or two incidents in which this House even protested that the India (office had not taken sufficient time in deliberation of matters referred to it by the Government of India.
§ All this is a question of procedure, which can be dealt with; but when you come to ask the Secretary of State to rule India, and to withdraw from his ken all those questions which are to be regarded as settled by democratic Ministers—including education and sanitation, and, I think, agriculture—I ask. How is he to lie responsible to Parliament? What is the position going to be? If any noble Lord opposite finds that Parliament carries a Resolution or a Bill which he considers fatal to his office, is the Secretary of State to resign? He is not responsible to those Indian Ministers. How is the matter going to be dealt with? Or is he to remain and carry out behests with which he entirely disagrees? The position is impossible.
§ And then they proceed further. Having reduced the Secretary of State's power and authority in this manner and put him in this false position, there is to be a Committee of the House of Commons. Why a Committee of the House of Commons? Has this House no experience of India? Is this House not a House of Parliament? Is the authority of Parliament in Indian matters to be wielded only by the House of Commons, where it is well known that on Indian affairs the very few men who 782 have ever served in India and have come home—many of them before their time—may, and almost certainly will, be placed as experts on a Committee, in which the majority of Members will probably take very little interest? Here is this House, with an immense amount of talent, unrivalled knowledge of the Government of India, which it is proposed to exclude from this very necessary Committee. I do not see how you can ask the Secretary of State to give perhaps two days a week for twelve or fourteen or fifteen weeks, according to the wishes of Members of Parliament, to be cross-examined on points of detail, over the majority of which he has no control whatever. That is one of the points I earnestly think that a Select Committee of both Houses ought carefully to investigate, in order at the same time to produce the maximum of speed and efficiency and delegation to India, and also to preserve the necessary control of Parliament and the status of the Secretary of State. I will also ask His Majesty's Government to consider whether this is the moment for pluming themselves on replacing by other institutions, bureaucratic institutions in India which have worked well, merely because they can be called bureaucratic.
§ Everybody admits that after the war is over there must be great development in this country—I hope there may be great development in India also—but in order to ensure that development in this country the Government, about once a fortnight or once a month, discover that some new subject, which has hitherto been considered entirely n matter for public and private action, must be brought under a Government Department. Our bureaucracy is increasing day by day. Yet at this very moment when India also requires development—a far more difficult process—at this very moment, simply because it can be called a bureaucracy, it is proposed to undermine practically the while of the Departments in India, which, if they were in this country, it would be considered necessary to prop up, buttress, and develop. That seems to me to be an anomaly.
§ Another and still greater anomaly seems to be this. On the plea that India is to be made a nation, you are going to set up there institutions which ought to be a pattern to the whole of India which is not under British rule, including the native States. So far as we can judge, the proposals made by the Secretary of State are not such proposals as are likely to be 783 accepted by the great rulers of the native States, who, after all, do rule one-third of the territory and one-fourth of the population of India. I think that that alone, to those who hold the doctrine of the homogeneity of India, ought to make them pause before they establish institutions which Indian sentiment will not allow them to develop in the native States. In the last resort you have to keep British control. The noble Earl, Lord Curzon, made a very spirited speech, which I had the good fortune to hear, about three months ago in which he urged upon his hearers—and I think he was fully justified by subsequent events—that it was quite possible that we might win the war in the West, but that had we not developed our attacks in Mesopotamia, in Palestine, and in Salonika, we might have lost the whole effects of the war in the East.
§ I should regard it as a tragedy that, after we win the war of freedom in the West, we might be twitted that we had ourselves failed to give freedom in the East. But in order to give freedom, I would say this. We must proceed with such caution that we do not give up what is really the greatest heritage of government which our forefathers or any forefathers have handed down to any nation, and that is, as was expressed by a great Indian writer, that they have turned in a century the greatest bear-garden in the world into a fairly prosperous community. It is because I desire to see the development and prosperity of that community, without the loss of those great qualities which have for so long been the pride of all of us, that I venture to ask the Government to reconsider the situation, which seems to me to be at present an impasse, and not to base themselves solely on the scheme which has come from the Secretary of State, but to allow an examination by a Select Committee. For that reason I beg to make the Motion standing in my name.
§ Moved, That it is desirable that a Joint Committee of both Houses be appointed to consider and report upon the Report on Indian Constitutional Reforms.—(Viscount Midleton.)
§ THE MARQUESS OF LANSDOWNE
My Lords, whether I vote with my noble friend opposite, if he goes to a Division, will depend a good deal on what is said on the part of His Majesty's Government from this bench. But I desire to support him 784 as strongly as I can in the earnest plea which he has made to your Lordships for further consideration before we allow ourselves to be carried further along the road to which this Report points. The case for further consideration seems to me to be irresistible. These proposals spell, in effect, revolution in India. What we are asked to agree to is no mere development of a system which is already in existence, no mere natural progress along the path of reform, but an abrupt transition from the old to the new. And this is admitted in terms by the authors of the Report.
My Lords, these proposals are made at a very critical time in the history of India—at a moment when, as recent events have shown us, the margin of safety in that country is none too wide. And they are presented to us while we are still in ignorance of many important facts, and without information upon a number of points which have a vital bearing upon the questions at issue. That last argument I need not press, because what I have suggested has been frankly admitted by the spokesmen of the Government. My noble friend who represents the India Office, when this question was last before you, spoke of the scheme as a skeleton; it has not yet been clothed. We were told of Reports from the Local Governments, which we have not yet seen. We know-that there is a great mass of documentary evidence collected by the Secretary of State during his visit to India, to which we have not yet had access. Indeed, upon all these points nothing could have been, to my mind, more satisfactory than the attitude of the noble Earl who leads the House, who told your Lordships very frankly, in the month of August last, that the scheme had not then been considered by His Majesty's Government, and, in fact, that there was at that time no scheme to consider.
The authors of the Report themselves invite criticism, and asked for its prompt publication in order that such criticism might be elicited. May I, in passing, compliment the authors of the Report upon the manner in which they have handled their work? I have never read a more interesting document, one compiled with greater skill, or one which contained more interesting suggestions. And to me one of the most attractive characteristics of it is the absolute frankness and sincerity with which, in many passages, they admit 785 the great difficulties which lie in the way of the execution of their design. We naturally ask ourselves how far we are committed to this scheme. Much has been said about the memorable announcement made by the Secretary of State in the month of August of last year. There is no doubt that, technically, no one has been committed by that announcement. But I agree with what was said just now by the noble Viscount opposite when lie dwelt upon the great risk which attends the holding out of hopes of this kind, particularly when you are dealing with a country like India. Anything like the appearance of a breach of faith in dealing with that country is the one thing which, I take it, all your Lordships would earnestly desire to avoid.
I may, perhaps, be permitted to take some personal interest in this question, for it was at a time when I had the honour of being connected with the Government of India that the first attempt was made to let "a breath of fresh air" into the Indian Legislative Councils. The reforms of that time look very timid and insignificant when you examine them to-day; but those who were in India then will, I am sure, bear me out when I say that the task of "living effect to them and of framing the details, and, above all, of obtaining their acceptance both here and in India, was by no means a light one. I remember distinctly how we were warned against any language suggestive of the idea of election. Our scheme did contain the element of election, but a very homeopathic dose of it. As; the authors of this Report point out, the word was carefully eschewed in the course of the argument, and we had to wrap up our proposals in language that was as far as possible from suggesting the idea of election as we understand it in this country. I do not suppose that any of those who were concerned in those changes imagined for a moment that we should stop there; nor was I altogether surprised when, not very long afterwards, we were called upon to consider the reforms connected with the names of Lord Minto and Lord Morley. Those reforms took a long stride along the road on which we had taken a very short step a few years before. But, although the stride was a long one, I should like to remind the House that Lord Morley, when he was defending his proposals, was very careful to explain that he, at any rate, had no idea of introducing anything like 786 responsible government in our sense of the term. Here is what Lord Morley said—If it could be said that this chapter of reforms led, directly or indirectly, to the establishment of a Parliamentary system in India, I, for one, would have nothing at all to do with it.If your Lordships will compare Lord Morley's language which I have quoted with the language of the Report you will see that the Report, on the contrary, from beginning to end, has for its keynote that it is our duty to introduce responsible Parliamentary government in India in the sense of the words which we are in the habit of attaching to then. You find, in the Report before your Lordships, phrases like this—that the Morley-Minto reforms were the filial outcome of the old system; that the old structure of Government is to be done away with and replaced by a new one; that there is no half-way house in these matters. I own that these metaphors seem tome to be rather unconvincing and rather dangerous. I am by no means convinced that the old structure was wholly bad, nor am I convinced that it is beyond our power to improve it by certain changes which have been mentioned.
But let me go back for a moment to the famous announcement of August, 1917. The policy indicated in that announcement falls under three heads. In the first place, it suggests the increased association of Indians in the administration of the country. With that sentiment I entirely associate myself, and I think we may indeed say that the admission of Indians has been carried out with no niggard hand. Virtually the whole of the lower appointments are held by Indians, and in the higher grades you will find Indians are well represented. Their number tends to increase steadily, and I hope it will increase because I believe we are all ready to welcome the assistance of Indians when their capacity has been proved and it is possible to say that they are really fitted for the more responsible duties of administration. The second limb of the policy of 1917 is the development of self-governing institutions. In that, again, I cordially concur; I am quite prepared to take further steps and to entrust municipal and local government to elected bodies. There may be some difference of opinion as to the success which has attended the experiment in the past; but that we shall do right to transfer all local and municipal govern- 787 ment to Indian hands I do not feel any doubt whatever.
It is when I come to the third limb of the policy of 1917 that my doubts begin. We find at the end of the announcement an intimation that the goal at which we are to aim is the earliest realisation of full representative government. I own frankly that this is an intimation which seems to me full of danger. And there is no doubt about the intentions of those who made it. India is to have full representative government which will entitle her eventually to be on an equal footing with the other self-governing units of the British Commonwealth. The aim is the status of full partnership in the Empire. Then, as part of the scheme, machinery is to be set up by which at intervals of time the whole system is to be examined and overhauled in order that it may be tested by democratic standards, and, if necessary, tuned up to the proper democratic pitch. This goal, say the authors of the Report, can never be lost sight of. All this seems to me to amount to an invitation that we should place ourselves at the top of an inclined plane with the full knowledge that at the bottom of it we shall find unmitigated democracy. I view with the utmost apprehension the prospect thus offered to us. I profoundly distrust the idea of imposing Western democratic institutions on a motley congeries of peoples who really have-nothing in common, or very little in common, except that they are Eastern and not Western people. They are, to use a phrase which is not my own, Asiatic at heart, and dominated by Asiatic ideas.
Towards the conclusion of this Report you will find a very attractive picture of a great British Empire in whch eventually India is to find her place alongside the self-governing British Dominions. That seems to me to be a dream. The self-governing Dominions are British to the backbone, and will remain British. India is Eastern to the backbone, and will remain Eastern, She will remain a country to be judged by Eastern standards and compared with other Eastern countries, and she will remain, I believe, unmoved, except upon the surface, by Western democratic ideas It may be because I have not perused the pages of the Report with sufficient care, but I have not been able to find in it any passage taking into sufficient account what appears to be at any rate one of the greatest difficulties which Indian reformers have to encounter—I mean the 788 prevalence of caste in India. Caste is almost omnipresent. The whole of the social life of many parts of the country is pervaded by caste despotism. It is one of the most formidable political factors with which administrators have to reckon, and I ask your Lordships whether you can conceive the self-governing institutions which prevail, let us say, in Canada or Australia working as they do in those countries if you had there anything like the analogue of the caste system as we know it in India.
Another weak point in the scheme seems to be the manner in which the native States are dealt with. We have given them a large measure of independence. We endeavour to respect—I hope that we always shall—their individuality. I have no reason to believe that any of the Indian States, or at any rate the more important Indian States, is likely to take kindly to the kind of democracy which the authors of the Report have in their minds. I believe, on the contrary, that some of the best elements regard democratic institutions with more repugnance than affection. We are told that this great boon is to be given to India as a reward for her magnificent co-operation in the war which is now in progress. I yield to no one in my admiration of the manner in which India has played her part in this great struggle, but I am not quite convinced that the way to reward those who have been fighting so gallantly for us is to offer them democratic institutions. I feel pretty sure, at any rate, that so far as the fighting men who have been serving at the Front are concerned, they look very much more to liberal compensations, good pay, and allowances, above all to being given the chance of settling on the, land, rather than to being rewarded by a right of access to the ballot box, where they will give a vote which may influence the appoinmtent of a Minister charged with, let us say, sanitation or education, in both of which subjects they perhaps do not take a very overwhelming interest.
I cannot help being afraid that in the pursuit of this great democratic goal we run the risk of losing sight of a very different goal, the goal for which the great Indian administrators of the past have always striven—I mean the goal at which you find peace and prosperity, contentment, freedom from the risk of invasion, freedom from pestilence, protection against the tyranny of the usurer. That was the goal 789 of the old Indian administrators; that was the goal which to my mind mattered most. And I do not believe that we shall get any nearer to that goal by attaching broad patches of European veneer to an Oriental system. While I greatly admire Much of what is said in the Report, I cannot help regretting that those who are responsible for it should have suggested that "the placid and pathetic contentment of the masses is not the soil on which the ideal of nationhood should grow" and might therefore be disturbed "for the highest good" of the country. I do not know why the contentment should be described as "pathetic." I see nothing pathetic about it at all, and I, for one, should be very sorry to disturb it merely in the hope that by raking up the soil we might get a ranker crop of European institutions. We have seen something in this country of the practice of breaking up old pasture land, but this is a form of political agriculture which I own fills me with the greatest possible misgiving.
I have spoken thus far of general principles, and I do not intend to take up much of your Lordships' time by examining the details. But there are one or two danger points in these proposals on which I should like to say one or two words. The outstanding danger point seems to me that the whole object of the Report is to convert these Legislative Councils, armed as they are now with the power of discussion and criticism, into Parliaments on the European model, Parliaments to which the Executive Government will be responsible. I was reading the other day a collection of the Minutes recorded by Sir Henry Maine when he was in India. I do not know whether they have ever been published, but they are an extraordinarily interesting collection of documents. In one of these, written in the year 1868, he deals with the question of the Legislative Councils in India, and he speaks not really with much alarm, but with a certain amount of apprehension of the danger of allowing the Legislative Councils to assume "the airs" of European Parliaments. But under this scheme it is not a question of the airs of British Parliaments; it is the attributes, the solid attributes, of British Parliaments which you are going to confer upon the Legislative Councils, thus altogether overstepping the limits laid down by Lord Morley in 1909.
In the Governor-General's Council—and I entirely agree with my noble friend in 790 what he said as to the great importance of leaving the powers of the Governor-General in Council as little impaired as possible—you are to have an overwhelming elected majority. Two-thirds are to be elected. They will be mainly Indian, and they will be masters of the political situation. There will be a nucleus of officials of less than one-third, who will obviously be quite at the mercy of the elected majority. Then as a counterpoise to this risk there is to be set up a brand new institution called the Council of State. On that Council there will be a small, and, I should think, very unreliable official majority. I doubt extremely whether that device will prove effective as a check upon the vagaries of what I suppose we should call the Lower House. The other check that remains is the veto of the Governor-General. Of all odious and dangerous and unpopular checks that is the most odious and the most unpopular. A wise Governor-General who is armed with that weapon will allow it to rust in the scabbard as long as he possibly can. I own that I place no great confidence in these safeguards. This plan of giving safeguards always means the same thing. It means that you give something with one hand and try to take back a good deal of it with the other. If you succeed in taking a good deal back you create general indignation, find are liable to a charge of breach of faith. If you do not get it back your safeguards are not worth the paper upon which they are written.
In the Provincial Legislative Councils again you have a substantial elected majority drawn from the educated classes, who are the best organised and—I am afraid one must say, if one is to speak frankly—the least friendly classes to British rule. There is this extraordinary provision, that if the subject under discussion before the Council happens to be one of the transferred subjects then the official members are not allowed to vote—the official members, who probably know more about the question in their little fingers than the unofficial members do, are not allowed to vote.
Then we come to that most astounding provision—the dual Executive; a thing I really believe for which no precedent can be found and no analogy suggested. There are to be two Executives. First, what you may call the Inner Executive, consisting of the Governor and one or two members of his Council who are to deal with the reserved subjects; and then 791 the Democratic Executive Council, consisting of the same Governor with Ministers holding office during the life of the Legislative Council, and no doubt liable to be out-voted in that Council. Here again, the authors of the scheme, realising the great risks by which their proposals are attended, suggest safeguards. What are they? The Governor may withdraw the Bill and send it up to a Grand Committee, or, per contra, the Legislative Council, if it is displeased, may appeal to the Viceroy against the Governor. These are what the authors of the Report well describe as "potentialities of friction;" and I cannot conceive an arrangement more likely to lead to the general embarrassment of all concerned, from the Viceroy to the local Ministers and the Legislative Council itself.
There are other difficulties which remain unsolved, and which notoriously remain unsolved; because we are to have two Committees to inquire into them. There is the question of the distinction between transferred and reserved subjects. I gather that the list need not always be the same; that it may vary in one Province from another. But what I believe firmly is that the greatest difficulty will be found drawing a scientific frontier between the subjects which ought to lie transferred and those which ought to remain reserved. I referred just now to a Minute of Sir Henry Maine; let me read another extract from it. He says—The boundaries of Departments in India are to a great extent artificial;and he dwells upon the great value of the Council system which enables members of Government occasionally to overleap those boundaries. I believe that what Sir Henry Maine wrote fifty years ago is perfectly true to-day. You will find it extremely difficult in my view, to rail off certain questions and say, "These go to you, the Provincial Governments; and those, on the contrary, are reserved and withheld" Take as an illustration one matter. What about law and order? Law and order clearly must be a reserved subject; yet anybody who has had any experience of India will, I am sure, tell you that there is scarcely an important subject in any Department which may not at a given moment raise questions of law and order. I give that merely as an illustration.
Then what is the other question which is to be inquired into by the Committee? 792 The question of settling the electoral system, and devising constituencies. That is an enormously difficult question. The authors of the Report dwell very properly upon the immense difficulties which were encountered in dealing with the question of constituencies when the Minto-Morley reforms were being carried out, and those difficulties will certainly not diminish in the present case. I note that a member of this House for whom I am sure we ail entertain the greatest respect—I mean Lord Southborough—is to have charge of these Committees. Those of us who have had the good fortune to find ourselves cooperating with Sir Francis Hopwood in old days will know that it would be impossible to find anybody of greater ability or of shrewder judgment than the present Lord Southborough.
§ THE MARQUESS OF LANSDOWNE
But it is a singular thing that, while Lord Southborough's experience appears to cover an extremely wide range, India teems to be the one subject with which he has never had anything to do; therefore he will have to undertake these two Committees suffering that disability which all Englishmen suffer who have to take up Indian questions for the first time.
One other matter only I should like to mention. I am very much afraid that the adoption of these proposals means the destruction of the Indian Civil Service as we have known it in the past. I will not dwell upon the debt which the Empire owes to the Civil Service of India. There has been no more splendid asset, there has been no Service of which the record has been more distinguished; and the Report itself bears striking witness to the great work which it has done in the past. But I think it is quite clear that the authors of the Report know in their hearts that there is no room in this scheme for the Indian Civil Service that we have known in past years. In future 33 per cent. of the superior posts are to be filled by Indians; that is an advance upon the 25 per cent. which my noble friend Lord Islington suggested when he had change of this matter. The number is to be increased by one and a-half per cent every year; and, of course, to that total are to be added the Indians who may be recruited in England.
But while the Indian Civil Service will be whittled away numerically, I think it is 793 very likely to be done to death politically. The strength of the Indian Civil Service has lain in the fact that its authority was unchallenged. The district officer knew that he depended on the support of his Government, and he knew that he would get that support as long as he did his duty. Will he be equally sure of support when his Departmental chief may be an Indian, when the greater part of his colleagues are Indians, when the whole of that wonderful esprit de corps by which the Service was penetrated has been allowed to evaporate? I doubt it. I am afraid that that the supply of first-rate men is likely to dwindle. The noble Marquess who leads on the other side (Lord Crewe) has left the House, but I remember that when he spoke upon this subject the other day he endeavoured to find hope in imagining that, although there might be what he called "a definite elimination of the British element," some new kind of Indian Civil Service might arise out of the ashes of the old. I confess that I cannot look forward to the future with the same confidence as the noble Marquess did. I can conceive no greater misfortune to India than that in that country British rule should no longer be interpreted by British agents.
I apologise to your Lordships for the length at which I have spoken. I quite realise that my views are very likely somewhat coloured by the fact that the India of to-day is not quite the same India that I knew when I had to do with it in an official capacity. It is, I think, very likely that I may not have taken sufficient account of the great changes which have occurred in India since that time. But while the changes that take place are on the surface and catch the eye, I firmly believe that below the surface there run strong and dangerous currents which do not change very much as the years go by. We are reminded of their existence from time to time, not always in the pleasantest manner, and I feel very strongly that we ought never to allow ourselves to forget that they are there.
§ LORD SYDENHAM
My Lords, I cannot help feeling that it is somewhat unfortunate that a debate of this kind should be held during what may be the final crisis of this great war, but it has really been forced upon us by the false position in which we have been placed and which the noble Viscount so admirably explained. I do 794 not wish to find any fault whatever with the policy announced by the Secretary of State in August of last year—it is a policy which I believe everybody who has had the honour of serving in India in recent years has always striven to carry out—but I maintain that the occasion of the announcement of that policy was peculiarly inopportune.
The fortunes of the war were then very critical. We hardly knew what was going to happen, and both in India and at home there must surely have been ample work to tax the full energies of both the Viceroy and the Secretary of State. Indian troops were fighting most gallantly in nearly every theatre of the war and bearing their full share in the military burdens of the Empire; but the advanced politicians had taken the opportunity of our intense preoccupation in the work of the war, and had originated and carried on a wild propaganda of detraction and slander, which had the effect of raising a ferment throughout India. More than that, a very dangerous revolutionary movement, with German support, was in full operation, and a serious organised rising had only been discovered and frustrated just in time.
That was the situation when it was decided that the Secretary of State should go to India and tour all the great towns in order to ascertain what could be done to meet the movement of the new Home Rule Party started by Mrs. Besant. It would not have been difficult to say "Until the war ends we cannot consider any political change in India, and meanwhile attacks on British rule and British officials and non-officials must cease." Instead of that, however, the Indian malcontents were given to understand that some great concessions were in near prospect; and, as we remember, attempts were made to create a favourable atmosphere for the tour of the Secretary of State by showing special consideration to Mrs. Besant, who had just before grievously offended against the law.
The tour was accomplished, and a Report, which I cannot help thinking was of a revolutionary character, was issued. So far as I can see, the Report really pleased no one, except the members of the entourages of the Secretary of State and the Viceroy, and other people who look up to them. It was published for criticism, while the Rowlatt Report, which throws a really lurid light upon the condition of India, 795 was at the same time held back by some curious mistake. That Report, which was presented to the Government of India in April, was not published in India until July, and in October it is not even yet available for Parliament. An excellent summary appeared in The Times this morning, and it shows that a very dangerous organisation did exist in India, and I am sorry to say I do not trace in the Report of the Secretary of State and the Viceroy any appreciation of the danger which this Report must have revealed to them.
The main Report has not been accepted by the Government, and cannot be completed for another six months at least; but it has raised, and it is bound to raise, most extravagant hopes among agitators who see complete Home Rule in the near future. It has created widespread alarm among the people who really do all the work of India, who furnish most of the revenue, and who are beginning to be afraid that we are about to abandon them. In dealing with political reform in India, surely the first question should have been what was best for the people of India as a whole, and what will safeguard the interests of those vast masses who do not agitate and make speeches, and who have not the slightest idea of what a vote may mean. That was not the course which was taken. Any one who studies the Report must see that the main object of the authors was to find the means of placating the little body of intelligentsia by applying, as the noble Marquess said, the principle of Parliamentary government in a country where 94 per cent. of the people are illiterate. I think that is further shown by the negotiations entered into with Mrs. Besant and other extremists after the tour of the Viceroy and the addresses and deputations had ended, and when the draft of the Report was in hand. As these Indian Parliaments could be composed only of the very small body of persons who speak the English language, and as they must exclude some of the shrewdest men in India who cannot speak our language, surely a country more unfit for the application of democratic principles than India at the present moment cannot be imagined.
Rousseau is not generally regarded as a political reactionary. In his Contrat Social he lays down plainly that there can be no universal form of government, and he further says that forms of government 796 must depend on the condition of the people and even on climate. He goes so far as to intimate that democracy is not suited for hot climates. In his chapter de la démocratie he says—S'il y avoi[...] un peuple de dieux, il se gouvernoit démocratiquiement un gouvernment si parfail ne convient pas à des hommes."The people of India and most other countries are still very human. In the words of H. H. Aga Khan—It would be a disaster to be forced into these narrow forms of constitutionalism.by which I suppose he means forms such as exist in Western countries. That disaster is actually courted by the Secretary of State and the Viceroy. They propose to force upon India a form of government absolutely foreign to her whole past history and her traditions, customs, genius, and dominant religion. They select as their model the English Cabinet system, which has been gradually built up by long accumulative experience under conditions not one of which exist in India. They seem to forget that that system might well have caused us to lose the war if it had not been modified just in time.
My Lords, we have no right to force upon the masses of India a form of government which they would not tolerate for a moment if left to themselves, merely because what the Report calls a "limited intelligentsia," largely denationalised, town dwelling, and out of sympathy with the vast masses of agriculturists, demands to take our place in ruling India. That is not evolution, but, as the noble Marquess pointed out, it is revolution. The most startling feature of the Report is the admission of pregnant facts, and the complete ignoring of those facts when we come to the substantive proposal. The authors say that they were confronted by two difficulties. "One is that the immense masses of the people are poor, ignorant, and helpless, far beyond the standard of Europe; and the other is that there runs through Indian society a series of cleavages—of religion, race and caste—which constantly threaten its solidarity and of which any wise scheme must take account." This unwise scheme rejects the only method of giving proper representation to the non-Brahmin population, and it instals in power a narrow oligarchy composed of the classes which in all times have oppressed them.
A very slight study of the experience of the last twenty years would have shown that 797 practically every great measure for ameliorating the conditions of the agricultural masses has been violently opposed by the very classes on which it is now proposed to confer a very large measure of power. The Councils which were set up under the very statesmanlike scheme of Lord Morley and Lord Minto suffered from one great defect—that the basis of representation was far too narrow. We all laboured hard in working out the details of the scheme, but we had nothing to guide us at the time, and therefore we made mistakes. Now we have gained more experience upon which we can build One result of this narrow basis of representation was that no less than 48 per cent. of the seats in the Legislative Councils in India are held by lawyers. I hope that noble and learned Lords will forgive me if I say I think that would be a misfortune in any country in the world, but it is really a disaster in India, because in India the interests of the legal profession and the interests especially of the agricultural masses are always in violent conflict. Most of the super-abundant litigation of India, by which large numbers of poor people are ruined or thrown into debt, is instigated by the lawyers, some of whom oven work in with money-lenders in depriving the ryots of their much-loved lands.
Let me take the case of the Council of Madras to show how far misrepresentation can go. There are about 41,500,000 people in Madras. They include one and a third millions of Brahmins, one and a third millions of native Christians, and 35 millions non-Brahmin Hindus. In the non-special or what I may call the open electorates of Madras no Indian Christians can get a seat at all, and non-Brahmin Hindus, who are 87 per cent. of the whole population, secure one seat, while the little Brahmin minority gets nine seats. That is the reductio ad absurdum of representative institutions, and unless communal representation is adopted non-Brahmin Hindus have no chance whatever of upholding their interests or of playing any part in the affairs of their country. But that question has already been decided in the negative by the Report. Yet the Report proposes to grant communal representation to about three million Sikhs in the Punjab, because they are fine fighting men, but denies it to Rajputs and Mahrattas and other important communities of India. Is it to be wondered that the non-Brahmin 798 population and the lower classes generally are beginning to be most seriously alarmed?
My noble friend the Under-Secretary of State said that this point is going to be left an open one for the Committee. It is really a vital point, which should be decided by Government and not by any Committee. The work of this Committee is sufficiently difficult. It is nothing less than this. It has to carve out constituencies and dictate franchises for a subcontinent as large as Europe without Russia, and infinitely more diversified than is Russia. The Viceroy and the Secretary of State deliberately decided that the Chairman was to be somebody who was to know nothing about India, and the Indian members of these Committees have been chosen from person who either support the Report or who go a great deal further than the Report. I am quite certain that if Parliament could be made to understand this question it would decide that there must be communal representation; but if they did so decide, and if Lord South-borough's Committee, acting under the influence of the Report, decided against it, then the work of that Committee would have to be done again. I do beg the Government to consider whether they could not, to save time, send out instructions that communal representation is to be the basis of the representation that the Committee is to lay down. It would not commit them in any way as regards the details of the Report, because the Councils must in any case be thoroughly reconstructed.
From all parts of India I am receiving telegrams and letters from non-Brahmin bodies saying they really feel alarmed, and latterly that they feel resentment against this rather peculiar composition of the Committees. I will venture to read two telegrams only. One is from the Zemindar's Association of Madras—Madras Zemindars Landowners Association strongly protests against appointment of purely Congressmen having no stake to Franchise Subjects Committees. Landed interests are jeopardised. Indignation prevails. Discontent spreading among loyal Zemindars. Prays to interfere and avert serious situation by cancelling or adding representation landed aristocracy.The other telegram is this—Non-Brahmins, 97 per cent. of the population, with great stake, resent and view with alarm composition Reform Committees, Hindu members 799 being Home Rulers and opposed to communal representation. Placation of mere agitators is sure to produce acute discontent. Pray set this matter right.I am absolutely powerless to set right any matter of any kind, but I strongly press on the Government that this is a most serious matter, and that a dangerous feeling is being aroused among the classes who are really the most important people in India, because they do all the work, and the classes who are absolutely dependent upon us for their welfare.
I will not say a word in repetition of what I said last August about the diarchy. The noble Marquess dealt with that so fully that I need not say anything more. I am quite certain that it is a very dangerous device which has never been tried in any country in the world, and must bring, as the noble Marquess said, acute conflict into every Legislative Council of India. It will place the Governor in quite an impossible position, because he may have to enforce measures of which he thoroughly disapproves and which may be repugnant to British principles, or he may have to veto them when it may be too late and when the veto will be made the occasion of a most violent agitation. I think we ought to have pity for a Governor who may have to preside at a long series of debates on a Bill of which he and his European advisers thoroughly dissapprove and may have to watch that Bill pass through its stages and come into law—a Bill on which, as the noble Marquess said, the official members, who really know far more about the matter than any other member of the Council, may not vote—and who will have at the end only a power of veto which may be in many instances most difficult to exercise.
I think that the authors of this scheme feel that their checks and counter-checks, their vetoes and their certifications, are futile. They say that their plan can only work with the help of "devices that can have no permanent abiding place," and then they go on to say that their plan is "charged with potentialities of friction." It is indeed so charged. Bat they go further. They say that the basis of the whole system—that is, I suppose, the new situation in India—is a lively and effective sense of other people's rights. My Lords, there is not too much of this "lively and effective sense" in any country that I know, but in India the foundation of the dominant religion is the denial of the rights of the great majority.
800 It really is very difficult to take some parts of this Report seriously, but one must remember that behind there may stand tragedy. As dangerous, to my mind, as the diarchy are the proposals which, as the noble Marquess said, must in a short time cause the deterioration of all the great Public Services of India. If India is to continue to progress on Western lines and on Western standards of life, then European officials and European standards must be maintained in India for many years to come. But the Report proposes what is, in effect, to destroy both; and when the Indian Civil Service is reduced to 40 per cent. of superior appointments, as it will be in a very few years, and its quality has steadily deteriorated, as it must deteriorate, then you may find that India is not governable. The work of the district officer in India in maintaining order and in winning and holding the confidence of the vast masses of India is ignored in this Report. There are very few days in India when somewhere or other one fearless Briton is not putting an end to or smoothing away some little disturbance which might very easily lead to most serious riots; and these men, working at their lonely posts, have, I think, been very badly treated. They have often been made the targets of very unjust criticism, in which persons who ought to know better have joined; they have been allowed to be violently attacked in the Indian Press, and especially by Mrs. Besant. And no one has stood up to defend them.
Some of your Lordships remember the great Mutiny, and you probably associate it in your minds with the revolt of the Bengal Army and with those military operations which, thanks to the few great men who held the Punjab, were brought to complete success. But there is another aspect, of which we have only occasional glimpses. In some parts of India, where the revolt never extended, the country people believed that British power was at an end, and therefore the authority of the district officers disappeared for the time. In one of Sir Alfred Lyall's most interesting letters he describes this curious situation. This is what he saw—Every man does what is right in his own eyes; villages are righting against villages, Hindu Rajputs against Mussulmans, and petty chiefs starting in every direction.He tells of a pitched battle between 3,000 Jats and 2,000 Mahomedans, and he says the victors were on perfectly good terms with the district officers, who remained 801 at their posts but found their whole authority had gone My Lords, that is exactly what would happen to-morrow if our prestige and power and the authority of the district officers were to disappear. All the violent and dangerous antagonism which only our rule has kept in check will break out as soon as it is believed throughout India that our authority has gone, or is going to be weakened. Can anybody believe that the little intelligentsia which it is proposed to put into power would be able to hold India for a week if our power were to be removed? And it is easy to conceive what must happen if this little English speaking section is able to make the masses if the people believe that our control is passing away or that we no longer control.
It is impossible for most people to read the 300 difficult pages of this Report, and they must be largely unintelligible to those who have not lived in India. Therefore it seems to me essential that, as the noble Viscount has proposed, there should be a careful examination of the Report by a competent Select Committee; and I venture to urge that the Rowaltt Report and the Report of the Select Committee of the Viceroy's Legislative Council may also be considered by this Committee at the same time. The Rowlatt Report is really a revelation of the wide extent and of the important ramifications of the revolutionary movement in India, and it shows plainly that some of the very politicians who are now clamouring for Home Rule have, at least indirectly, helped the revolutionists, and some of them have certainly condoned assassination. In 1908 two English ladies were killed by a bomb which was thrown into their carriage at Muzafferpore. This is what the young assassin said at his trial—I came of my own initiative, having read in various papers things which incited me to come to this determination. … They wrote of great zoolum done to Indians by the British Government. Besides reading the papers I heard the lectures of Bepin Pal, Surendranath Banerjee, Gisputty, Kabyatirtha, and others.Can any words show more clearly the danger of such slanders as have been permitted to be freely issued in Indian papers and in speeches in recent years? In disseminating those slanders Mrs. Besant has taken what may be called a prominent part. The activities of Bepin Chandra Pal bore evil fruit, and had the effect of stirring up a ferment in what used to be 802 the tranquil province of Madras. The Rowlatt Report says—But for the influence of Bepin Chandra Pal and the revolutionaries plotting in Paris and in Pondicherry there would have been no trouble in Southern India.Mr. Surendranath Banerjee has been appointed by the Secretary of State to one of the Committees, and he has pronounced strongly against communal representation. Mrs. Besant was summoned to Delhi for consultation with other extremists after the deputations had ended.
I mention the Report of the Select Committee of the Viceroy's Council because it is a very ominous document. That Committee has added very largely to the concessions which have been given or offered by the Report. They have decided that the diarchy, which is really a triarchy, should be enshrined in the Supreme Government of India. They propose that there shall be complete fiscal autonomy for India, exactly on the footing of the Dominions. They wish that 50 per cent. of the Civil Service should be recruited in India, and that 25 per cent. of the commissions in the Indian Army should be reserved for Indians, and they finally decide that the increase of pension and allowance which has long been duo to the Indian Civil Service and which the Report held out to them should be disallowed. That shows, my Lords, the attitude of these moderate extremists, because they have come to think that almost anything can be obtained if they give sufficient trouble to the Government.
The Joint Committee which it is proposed to set up will have plenty to study, and must have power to draw any papers and any opinions it desires to have. It will have to investigate one or two rather curious points of law. I will only mention two or three. Do the conditions of the convenanted service of India permit of its members being treated as the Report proposes? Can they be forced to take their orders from a Minister who is not responsible to Parliament? Can orders any longer issue in the name of the "Governor in Council" when part of the Council is responsible only to the elected majority and not to the Governor, and is only controlled by some sort of veto, which may be too late? I hope I am not a reactionary, and I do think that the Report omits some quite essential reforms and some other very important matters. It does not seem to 803 give any consideration whatever to the interests of such very important bodies as the non-official British residents, or to the Eurasians, now wrongly called the Anglo-Indians. The Indo-British Association has formulated alternative and quite definite proposals, and they are proposals, I maintain, of orderly evolution, and not of revolution. I do not think that a single practical or technical objection can be raised to any of them, because they are all based upon experience. We are on ground that we know well. But they will not in any way placate the Home Rule Party or those extremists who are at the moment masquerading as moderates. I am afraid that nothing but our complete disappearance from India will ever satisfy these people. Though that cannot be done, still I think that our alternative proposals would give a very large increase of powers and responsibilities to Indians, and would certainly afford them much-needed training in the management of affairs. I hope that these proposals also may be considered by the Joint Committee.
The noble Marquess who leads the Opposition said last August that my view was one of "almost unrelieved gloom." I really think that no one who has carefully followed events in India during recent years can possibly escape feelings of very grave anxiety. We are standing at the parting of the ways, and I am not sure that we have not already taken the wrong turning, and stand at the top of that decline to which the noble Marquess referred. My fears are based upon what I believe to be fundamental principles enshrined in all history. A vast population in most varying stages of civilisation, some of it turbulent, and 94 per cent. of it illiterate, must be governed. Until late years we have governed India, and on the whole with wonderful success in advancing her prosperity. We have kept the peace in spite of some small outbreaks, because our authority has been everywhere respected and looked up to; but latterly we have shown increasing signs of weakness, and, I am afraid, some signs of incompetence. In the East nothing counts, believe me, my Lords, except strength either actual or strength believed to exist, and our strength has depended mainly upon moral forces—that is the justice, the uprightness, and the fearlessness of a small handful of British officials.
A short time ago one of the ablest men in India wrote these warning words— 804Do anything to weaken the authority of Government, and you will be appalled to find how small is the margin of safety.That is exactly what we are doing, and if the proposals in this Report are adopted we shall wake some day to find that our authority has gone. The Censor prevents us from knowing a great deal that is now going on in India, but it is quite clear from what I gather that inter-racial ill-feeling is increasing, that in some parts of India the relations of Mahomedans and Hindus were never worse, and that there is a further source of unrest in the non-Brahmin movement to which the Report has inevitably and naturally given rise. The authors of the Report say this extraordinary thing—that it is their object deliberately to disturb the contentment of the masses. They have some very strange allies, and I think they can count upon success. Reading between the lines of the Report, and viewing some of the proceedings connected with it, it is difficult not to see the symptoms of fear, and in the East a Government which shows fear is certain to lose its best friends, and as certainly can it count upon trouble. An Indian Chief wrote to me a few weeks ago—The wonder is Government, I am inclined to believe, is afraid.If that belief is allowed to spread through the bazaars of India then all those great latent forces which we have hitherto kept in restraint will break loose, and we shall see outbursts of violence and anarchy.
I care for nothing but for the good of the people of India, and I well understand the feelings of the intelligentsia which wishes to take our place. They are quite natural. If I were one of them I should have exactly the same feelings. But we must remember that the responsibility for the welfare of the helpless masses of illiterates rests wholly upon us, and we cannot hand it over to any one else, because there is no one who can accept it, and if we now set up in every Provincial Government this little oligarchy which the Report advocates, then we shall abandon our authority in every Province and put nothing in its place. And when troubles arise, as they will, we shall quickly discover that the masses have nothing left to look up to with respect, and we may find ourselves obliged either to restore our paramount power or to look on and watch the ruin and the undoing of our marvellous work in India.
§ THE UNDER-SECRETARY OF STATE FOR INDIA (LORD ISLINGTON)
My Lords, it may be to the general convenience of the House if I intervene at this stage of the debate after your Lordships have had the advantage of listening to the three speeches of the noble Lords who have taken part in it. We have had the advantage of hearing observations from three noble Lords than whom there is no one more competent to give opinions on questions in regard to India in this House, and I am sure that all the observations that have been made by them will have been listened to with that respect which their past careers in connection with India so entirely justifies.
In attempting to deal this afternoon with the proposal made by my noble friend Lord Midleton, that a Joint Committee of both Houses of Parliament should be set up to consider and report on the Secretary of State's and the Viceroy's Indian constitutional reforms, I desire at the outset to say that I do not propose to follow in any detail the discussion which has ranged over a wide field on the part of all three of the noble Lords who have spoken, and especially in regard to that part of their observations which deals with detailed criticisms of the Reforms Report. Noble Lords will appreciate my reasons for not doing so. I venture to set forward a few of the main points. In the first place, I would like again to remind the House that the Report which has been under close analysis and discussion this evening is quite incomplete at present, and therefore it is difficult to judge of it as a whole until the material has been inserted in it to fill up the necessary gaps. As noble Lords have themselves mentioned in the course of their remarks this afternoon, the two Committees which have been recently appointed and are new about to arrive in India to commence their work are instructed to deal with questions of such paramount importance in connection with this scheme as, first of all, the franchise which is to be established for these new electorates; and, secondly, the question of demarcation of subjects between Provincial Governments and the Government of India, and the drawing up of the list for each Province of the subjects that it is proposed should be placed under the control of the Governor and his Indian Ministers.
The main charge, as I understand it, that the noble Viscount and the noble 806 Marquess and Lord Sydenham made in regard to the procedure is that the appointment of these two Committees, and their Inquiry in India, should not have taken place until His Majesty's Government had considered and approved of the Report. My answer to that—and I think it may be regarded as a reasonable one, and, I venture to say, a conclusive one—is that these Committees have been instructed to go to India and to report on subjects which are really an integral part of the scheme. Had time permitted last year, the Secretary of State and those who were associated with him in his mission to India would have dealt in detail with the questions. But, as your Lordships will understand, they are both questions of extreme intricacy and of great delicacy and difficulty, and require constant and concentrated attention for a protracted period of time. And it would have been quite impossible, along with the other work in which they were engaged, for them to have attempted adequately to undertake it last year.
It may be said, therefore, that these Reports are merely essential appendices to the main Report, and I think the course of the Government is a perfectly clear and consistent one, because they require the whole scheme to be submitted for their consideration before they are prepared to give a considered opinion upon it. What would be the good of instituting at this period a Joint Committee of both Houses to deal with a scheme which I have already shown is quite incomplete, and which has not yet obtained the authority of His Majesty's Government? It is objected that these Committees that have gone to India have been appointed by the India Office—I have both read this in the public Press and heard the criticism outside—and that this has been done far too much departmentally without the authority of the Government. To allay any misapprehension in that direction I would say that, whilst of course the personnel of the Committees has been arranged in consultation with the Secretary of State and the Viceroy, both Committees have been appointed upon the definite authority of the Government. I would also point out—because I think there might be a misconception after a remark that my noble friend let fall just now in regard to the personnel of the Committee—that they have been very carefully selected. They have, as far as possible, upon them the representatives of varying opinion of Indians, but they have also a very strong 807 representation of Europeans, and especially of British officials. The Franchise Committee, numbering in all six members, has three Europeans upon it. One is a British non-official, two are officials, and three are Indians. The Functions Committee, of seven members, has upon it four Europeans and three Indians. So that I do not think it can be suggested that the Committees are in any way lop-sided, or that they will of necessity come to conclusions of a biased character, or that the British point of view will not be represented upon them.
I fail, therefore, to discover any grounds for the objection that is being advanced in regard to the procedure which has taken place so far as it has gone. I note the objection—an objection which has been repeated in the debate—of the noble Viscount that this procedure of, first of all, a Report, and then the sending of Committees to India, to complete the work of the Report, will commit Government, and Parliament, and possibly the country, to a particular line of policy from which it will be difficult to withdraw. But again I say that the elaboration of a particular scheme in detail does not necessarily commit Government, Parliament, or the country to it, if hereafter it is found, when close and further investigation is made, that an alternative scheme is preferable and Parliament is satisfied that that is so. Apart from the argument that I have advanced, and which I feel is a strong one, I would remind your Lordships that it would be quite unreasonable to expect or to ask the Cabinet within the past few weeks, now, or in the weeks to come to devote their time to this question. I think that every one in this country, every one throughout the Empire and throughout the Alliance, is demanding of them their undivided attention to the war and its daily developing problems.
There is another aspect of the scheme vital to its completion which still awaits consideration, and that is in regard to the future organisation of the India Office, the relation it should bear to the Central and Provincial Governments in the future in India, and the extent to which and the method by which it should bear relation to the Imperial Parliament. These questions, which are of the first importance, will require the most careful consideration and investigation, and a Committee is now being appointed to deal wish them and to report.
§ LORD ISLINGTON
No, an outside Committee. I have no doubt there will be a representative of the Department upon it to bring to bear the necessary technical information, but it will be an outside Committee with an outside chairman. I hope that this Committee at an early date will commence its work, and that it will thus be enabled to report the result of its labours at a time which will coincide as nearly as possible with the Reports of the two Committees that are now about to commence in India. This will then constitute a complete and comprehensive scheme, and then, and not till then, it will be possible for Parliament and the country to form a really considered opinion on the proposed reforms.
In order that noble Lords may be in a position to judge properly the Motion for the immediate setting up of a Joint Parliamentary Committee to consider the Report, I would remind your Lordships of one or two facts which led up to the production of this Report, Your Lordships will remember that the announcement of policy by the Government was finally made public on August 20, 1917, and it took shape when Mr. Montagu became Secretary of State, succeeding Mr. Chamberlain, who had already begun and got on with a great deal of the preparatory work. The announcement stated that substantial steps in the direction of the gradual development of self-governing institutions should take place. To obtain the necessary material to submit to Parliament, the Secretary of State was by instruction of the Cabinet sent out with a considerable number of gentlemen of very intimate experience in regard to Indian matters. I would remind the House once more that the work of this Report, although it is under the names of Mr. Montagu and Lord Chelmsford, is in essence the collaborated work not only of those gentlemen who proceeded with Mr. Montagu to India, but is also the result of long consultation with the Government of India, with Local Governments, and with all classes of the community in India. It is clear that if the Committee which the noble Viscount proposes were set up it would mean that the whole work which I have described, of those so competent to elaborate it in India, would have to begin de novo, and that this work would in 809 essence be set aside to a great extent. It would be doing once again what the Secretary of State's mission did—only I think, in circumstances far less favourable than those which I have already described, and far less likely to produce a scheme suited to the difficult and complex conditions of the problems to which they had to address themselves.
Those who object to the main principles underlying the Report also object, I cannot help feeling, to no small extent to the policy which was enunciated on August 20 last year; and I think, however much there may be objection in that connection, your Lordships are agreed that it in unthinkable at this juncture that we should go backward. If, on the other hand, a Committee is now to be constituted to criticise and to amend where necessary proposals in the Report, then I think that this work will be done at the wrong time and at the least suitable moment. The Committee would be doing work which would have to be done all over again when the Bill is introduced into Parliament, spending time on details which, after all, may never appear in the Bill in which the Cabinet eventually put forward their proposals. I would urge very strongly upon your Lordships, and especially upon the noble Viscount who has brought this matter forward, that the right moment to set up a Parliamentary Committee is after, and not before, the Bill is introduced. The Report of the Secretary of State and the Viceroy is still before the Cabinet, and His Majesty's Government in due course will submit their proposals to Parliament. I think it would be highly unusual—I am not sure that it would not be almost unconstitutional—to set up a Parliamentary Committee to criticise, or to comment, upon, a document which is the result of an inquiry instituted by the Government in order to furnish them with material for legislation, when His Majesty's Government have themselves not formulated their views on the material so furnished.
A minor point, and one which I think must be taken into consideration, is that if a Select Committee of both Houses were appointed at this stage, and Parliament (as possibly may be the case) were to come to an end and a General Election were held in the course of the next few months, there is no machinery, as your Lordships are aware, for continuing its works, and the labour that has taken place in connection 810 with that Committee would have to begin all over again.
§ VISCOUNT MIDLETON
The noble Lord will find that there are precedents for the re-appointment of the Committee. While I am on my legs, may I also say that there is no reason whatever why the terms of reference to the Committee should not be such as would oblige them to work within the declaration of the Government of August 20 last year, and have referred to them, for their consideration or amendment, all the work of the Secretary of State.
§ LORD ISLINGTON
I would say, with all deference to the noble Viscount and to others who have interrupted me, that I am correct in my statement. I still affirm that there is no machinery. It is possible that half the members—it is not impossible that all the members—might either be rejected at the next Election, or might not stand, and therefore would not be in the new Parliament. Again, owing to the stringent war restrictions—and this is a point which I would specially bring to the attention of your Lordships—passports have been refused by the Viceroy to Indians in India who wished to put before Parliament and the public their views on Indian reforms. It would be highly unfortunate if a Select Committee were sitting in this country in the next few months while that restriction remained in force. The Viceroy, with the approval of His Majesty's Government, promised only the other day in the Legislative Council that, when circumstances permitted, every facility would be given next year, or whenever the time may arrive, to deputations and to representatives of different schools of opinion in India, who so desired, to visit this country and to lay their views before representative people here. Therefore I think that it would cause a great deal of misunderstanding if a Committee were appointed now and were to take evidence and to sift the whole question, if Indian deputations, under the emergencies of the war, were unable to come and take their share in those proceedings.
I say again that as soon as these three Reports—the two from India and the 811 one here—have been completed, the Cabinet will then be in a position fully to investigate the whole of this scheme, and to take those necessary steps for the formulation and the completion of a Bill. I suggest to the noble Viscount that the course which will be the most convenient and which I cannot, help feeling will meet his desires, and also fulfil that for which he asks in regard to a close inquiry, will be to wait until that Bill has been introduced and read a second time in one of the Houses of Parliament, and then that it should be referred to a Select Committee of the character that he suggests, consisting of members of both Houses especially appointed for the purpose with power to take evidence. The Select Committee could then take evidence from the Indian deputations and from all groups of people who desire to advance their views. I trust that this proposal which I make to your Lordships will meet the case of the proposal which the noble Viscount has put forward.
As I said just now, I do not intend to make—and at this juncture I think your Lordships will see that it would indeed be difficult for me to attempt to do so—anything in the nature of a detailed analysis of the points that have been raised by noble Lords who have spoken in this debate. They have each and all of them covered a very large field. They have warned your Lordships of the dangers that they apprehend in the proposals submitted by the Secretary of State and the Viceroy. We have had warnings from the noble Marquess, who speaks, of course, from great experience, of the dangers of any interference with the Central Government in India. We have had warnings from ether noble Lords of the difficulties that will arise in connection with the proposal for a diarchical system of government in the Provinces. I do not propose to go into any of these questions this afternoon, and I hope it will not be misunderstood in India, because I must remind your Lordships that this question is one which is interesting the minds of all Indians very deeply. I hope it will not be misunderstood by those who will read this debate hereafter, that because I do not enter into any attempted defence of the Report of the Secretary of State and the Viceroy, therefore I in any way accept the criticisms which have been made on many of the proposals within that Report in the debate this afternoon.
812 I would point out to your Lordships that it is incumbent upon the Government and this country faithfully and with sincerity to interpret the announcement of August 20 of last year, and I venture to believe myself, without going into detail, that the more exhaustive the inquiry which is made by your Lordships and which is made elsewhere, the more it will be found in the end that, with all its imperfections and with all its shortcomings and possible dangers of friction, the scheme embodied in this Report probably presents less objections than any other scheme that is put forward.
Before I sit down, without saying a word about the proposals in the Report, I would like to say one word as to the only existing counter proposal which I have had an opportunity of discovering. It is a scheme which has been put forward by the Indo-British Association, with which my noble friend Lord Sydenham is closely associated, and it is to place one or two districts in each Province wholly under the Indian members of different services, and to extend the system to other districts if, after a period of trial the experiment is justified. This is, roughly speaking, a proposal to carve out a number of areas in India and introduce into them territories on the analogy of the native States; and I would mention, if I may, a few of the arguments which convince me that a scheme of this character is highly unsatisfactory.
In the first place, in the native States the Princes and Chiefs have, generally speaking, tradition behind them which makes their rule acceptable to and unquestioned by their subjects. In an area as proposed by the Association, with an officer placed in charge of it, that officer would have no tradition and no prestige to help him to maintain his authority. Indians who have resided in British India have become accustomed to certain standards and customs associated with our rule, the continuance of which could not be guaranteed if such a drastic change were made as that suggested in this scheme. Again, there is no suggestion as to how these areas for experiment are to be selected. It would be an extremely invidious task. What would happen if the inhabitants objected? Would it not be necessary to consult them before an area was laid out on those lines? What is to happen to the rest of India—and this I ask very forcibly—who would be anxiously expectant and 813 waiting while this experiment was in process Is it to stand still and look on? Would an experiment of this limited character comply with any sincerity with the announcement of August of last year? As I understand the proposal—and I lay emphasis upon it because it is the only one that I have seen put forward—it would involve the withdrawal of European guidance from the districts selected for experiment. But, my Lords, the need of continued co-operation between Europeans and Indians is recognised by every one, and is one of the chief conditions laid down by those who have tried to submit reforms. Any scheme which purposes to give complete Home Rule to particular districts is, I venture to say, in advance of the country and in advance of the most advanced opinion in the country, except of those who are really irreconcilable.
§ LORD SYDENHAM
There is no question of Home Rule at all. There is not the slightest analogy between the scheme and the native States. The proposal is that officers of certain districts shall be all Indian. That experiment was tried in Bengal, but I do not know with what result, and of course it cannot be conclusive. There is no question of setting up independent areas; it is simply proposed that the officers in these districts shall all be Indians, learning therefore and showing what they can do. They are all under the Government of India, and there is no question of Home Rule.
§ LORD ISLINGTON
I am sorry if I have been misrepresenting the noble Lord. If that is the scheme it seems to me to be a very inadequate interpretation of the announcement of August 20, because it merely means an extension of the staff of Civil Servants in a district, while the Executive Government and the Legislative Council is to remain the same as now. That is an entirely different scheme from the one which has been proposed in compliance with, and as far as possible in faithful interpretation of, the announce-of last year.
I would like to say one more word with regard to the remark of the noble Marquess in connection with the Morley-Minto scheme established some ten years ago. I have seen it stated, and I think it was intimated in this debate, that it would be better to advance, on the lines of that scheme, and it has been suggested that we should 814 develop and extend the Morley-Minto scheme. That would be to give larger representation in the Councils to Indians, but would continue to refrain from clothing them with authority and with responsibility. I am the last to utter any disparagement of the Morley-Minto scheme. It has been in operation for ten years.
§ LORD ISLINGTON
Well, for nearly nine years, and it his served a very useful purpose in educating Indians towards a Parliamentary system. It has lasted long enough to show beyond question that the system itself requires development and extension, but certainly in my judgment different from that which is suggested by the noble Lord. You cannot leave Assemblies for an indefinite period with an important elective element confined merely to criticism and opposition. The time must come when responsibility must be provided, and I think that the time has arrived now in India. I would also suggest that if that extension were to take place it would not take place without placing the Government in a minority in the Legislature, because you could not increase with the elective Members a corresponding number of officials. You could neither find them nor would they find the time to take part in the proceedings.
What is proposed now, and what I hope will at any rate take place whatever the result may be of future investigation, is to build logically and consistently upon the Morley-Minto scheme, to clothe the Councils, already possessed with extensive criticial powers, with a moderate and partial amount of responsible duty. The war has shown us tragic illustrations of the effect on a country where autocratic power has been in existence alongside a democratic Assembly bereft of the power of responsibility but having facilities for criticism. Russia surely is an example in this connection. We are also in process of witnessing the same scheme and the same results in Germany and Austria. I venture to say that to confine a reform to the increase in the Councils of their representatives merely for critical purposes without giving them responsibility would be fatal to the future good government of India.
I have put forward only one or two remarks on alternative schemes, and I 815 repeat once more that I have purposely refrained from attempting to discuss the merits of the whole scheme because I do not feel that I could with propriety do so until His Majesty's Government has definitely given its sanction to the scheme. But I would say this, that when these Committees have reported and when the Cabinet have given thorough consideration to the matter and a Bill has been matured, there will be ample opportunity for this House and the country to give the scheme in its entirety a full consideration. I think that the surest method by which that consideration can be secured, the most practical manner in which it can be given, is to ask the noble Viscount to allow his Motion to be amended to the extent of setting up a Select Committee, which he now proposes, to consider a Bill when it has been formed, and not merely a Select Committee of both Houses to criticise a Report of officials which has not at present been approved by His Majesty's Government.
§ VISCOUNT BRYCE
My Lords, it is now many years since I travelled in India, and I have no doubt a great many changes have passed upon it since that time; but still there are certain features, permanent in India, which no one can travel through that country without observing and remembering them when any schemes for the improvement of Indian government comes to be considered. I therefore venture to offer a few remarks upon one branch, at any rate of the scheme before us, and I do so because I have gathered, from what has been said by my noble friend who has just sat down, that this scheme is still incomplete. It is incomplete not only because the two Committees which have gone to India have to report, but because everything is still open for the consideration of His Majesty's Government, and suggestions that may come from any quarter as to amendment or development will have an ample opportunity of being regarded before it begins to be passed into law.
The scheme is a very interesting one. It has been framed with great ingenuity. The Report is excellently written, and as the noble Marquess, Lord Lansdowne, observed, one can read it with a pleasure unusual in the case of Parliamentary Papers. And it comes to us with the very great authority, not only of the Secretary of State but of Lord 816 Chelmsford, who, as all your Lordships know who have the pleasure of his acquaintance, is not only a very experienced man but a man of cautious temperament, with, a very sound judgment, whose opinion in these matters, matured as it has been by three years during which he has held the Viceroyalty, is entitled to great respect. And, as was said by my noble friend, if we were to be told the names of all those-who have collaborated in the preparation of the Report, the authority which it carries would be still further increased. Some of them are amongst the most capable-and influential of Indian administrators.
Before I come to say a word or two about, the Motion of my noble friend Lord Midleton, I want to make a few criticisms on some part of the Report. There is a passage in it which says that this is one, of the greatest political experiments that have ever been tried in the history of the world. That is no exaggeration. This is an extraordinary experiment, and I am bound to-day that if it had been talked of in the-now distant days when I travelled in India I should have thought it an extraordinarily wild proposal. But things have changed. They have changed in the capacity of the Indian people themselves, at any rate of large sections of them, to work institutions bearing a Western colour, and they have changed still more in the necessity that lies upon us now to endeavour to satisfy aspirations which we ourselves, have nourished.
When we gave University education, with modern European ideas to the people of India, it was inevitable that demands like those made of recent years should spring up, that there should be a movement like that of the national Congress, and that we should have the results—I mean in the way of legitimate constitutional demands—that we have to-day. Of course, I do not include for a moment the seditious-action which unfortunately, under malign, influence, has occasionally followed, but that constitutional action which the Government of India have repeatedly declared to be of some value to-day for their guidance. What is it that this greatest experiment in the history of the world, as the Report describes it, is to do? It is to entrust many millions of people with functions and duties which it took the process of centuries to enable the peoples of Europe to discharge—duties relating to legislation, to finance, and to administra- 817 tion—and these duties are to be given over to a population the large majority of whom is not only uneducated, as has been several times remarked in these debates, but also untrained. We need not attach so much importance to the question of what we call education. Illiterate peoples, uneducated in our sense—that is to say, people who had no literature and knew nothing of science—have very often worked Government successfully. We overrate the importance of book education for political purposes. I can well imagine a community governing itself successfully which has very little of that sort of education. But that is not the trouble with the people of India; it is not the trouble with what we call backward races. Their trouble is in their mental habits and the absence of the experience which is needed for working political institutions.
The people of India seem to me, taking the mass of them, to be in that respect very far behind indeed. To begin with, they are not a people who are naturally adapted to what we call political life. There are some races which have not got political life of whom you feel, when you travel among them, that I hey have a capacity for it. Take, for instance, the Chinese. I do not know if many of your Lordships have, travelled in China, but you cannot travel in that country without being struck, not only by the high intelligence of The Chinaman, but by the independent character of the average Chinaman, and not only by his independent character and power of initiative, but also by his power of co-operation. The Chinaman forms associations very easily; he knows how to work with other people for political and wordly purposes. The Chinamen is a man of the world, a man of this life, as compared with the native of India, who is largely "other-worldian." His life, or a great part of it, is coloured by religion. There is no race in any part of the world, I suppose, where religion tells so much upon the life of the individual; covers it, moves it, guides it, is in its rites and ceremonies the vein and central stream as religion does in India. Therefore you have to deal with a people who do not seem, at least to the traveller, to possess those qualities which specially fit them for political life. That is not; to say that they will not be capable sometime; it only means that at present you have this difficulty to face, that they have a great want of experience, and that it will take some considerable time before 818 the masses of the people can be habituated to what seem to us to be habits which are necessary to enable political life to be adequately and usefully carried on.
Now, what is it that men want for politics? They want to form the habit of knowing how to choose people to administer their affairs, and the habit of foreseeing the results of their joint action. You may sum up what is needed in politics by saying two things—to know how to choose the men, to carry out your wishes, fulfilling any directions you give them; and to foresee the consequences of your own legislation, however simple it may belt may help us, too, if we consider how that capacity grew. That capacity has grown up in certain races and been developed to a very high point of efficiency. How did it grow? It grew up in exceedingly small areas, in very small populations, where the areas were so small that all the members of the community knew, and were judges of, their own wants, and where the population was so small that they knew one another and knew who were the men fittest to be chosen to make and to carry out regulations. That is the way in which self-government began and succeeded. The best example of the success of self-government, conducted in small areas and and populations, is that of Switzerland, which has been the only successful democracy in the world; it is one which has attained extraordinary success, when you think of the difficulties, of human government. And that is because it has been based, more than has any other Government, upon the communes, the small local areas. The people in one area know one another and how to govern one another. The next best example is in the towns of early New England, which succeeded in producing an extraordinarily high capacity for self-government. It is the working of self-government in small areas, where everybody knows everybody else and knows what he wants and why he wants it, that is the foundation of democracy, and that is the only foundation on which stable and honest democracy has ever been erected.,
What is the moral of this for India? That you ought, if possible, to do your very utmost to try to develop local self-government in India. And, of course, you have great difficulties. At the same time you have this advantage, that the people are naturally intelligent. It is true that they are rather wanting in initia- 819 tive; they have lived so long under despotisms that they have contracted the habit of blind obedience and deference to authority. But still, the latent faculties are there, and I do not think any one can doubt, if you are able to give self-governing institutions of the right kind, that the capacity for self-government will soon develop. It does exist, I think, in the Indian village and in the institution which I think is called the panchaiyat, or council of five, just a rudimentary small form of local government.
The Report recognises very briefly, but still in an appreciative sense, the value of self-governing institutions and the value of beginning at the bottom. But I am a little disappointed to see that the Report contains very few proposals as to how self-government is to be developed. They just give a passing mention to the panchaiyat, but say hardly a word about the village or the other local bodies, and they go straight to the district council. The district is a large area. A district, if I remember rightly, might be on the average as large us three-fourths of Yorkshire. We cannot have in such a large area what we call local self-government. There is not enough knowledge among the people in any area like that to enable them to choose the men who are fittest to constitute their legislature or their executive. Therefore I respectfully submit to His Majesty's Government that when they come to work out this scheme they should try, if they possibly can, to see whether more may not be done to create or develop and turn to account small local self-governing areas, with small councils. They might use the panchaiyat and see whether it and other larger local authorities would be capable of working a system of indirect election.
And this brings me to the subject of indirect election. The Report passes it by rather slightingly. And without, as it seems to me, giving quite sufficient ground for disapproval, it says that it has not worked properly. I speak, of course, with great diffidence on the subject; even years ago. I had only the slightest knowledge on the matter, and I do not pretend to offer any opinion upon it now. But I should have thought that for a country like India the system of indirect election did offer considerable advantages. I should have thought you could have used the institution of the village headmen, that you might bring them together from a local area of some size and ask them to choose people to sit on a district council, 820 and that you might perhaps succeed in getting better men in that way than you will by the method of direct election. What would direct election amount to in a large population uneducated and inexperienced? Would you not have very considerable danger of the play of caste influence, religious influence, and all the different forces that could be brought to bear upon people who know nothing about political methods? Would you not have a good deal of local demagogy and intrigue? Your Lordships can easily imagine many difficulties arising among an ignorant population.
That, of course, leads one to the subject of the franchise. We cannot profitably discuss what the franchise should be until we know what the Reports of these Committees will be, but I suggest that it is very desirable not to be too bold in making experiments on a large franchise. If you could allow a carefully-limited franchise, with perhaps some addition of the method of indirect election, I should think that you would be more likely to get good results, judging from what has happened in other countries whose conditions are more or less similar to those of India—such, for instance, as some of the parts of the New World where there is a native population to deal with. I think that you will get better results in that way than you will by trying to apply directly our British or European methods. There is great opportunity, in the action of this Committee of which Lord Southborough is chairman, for trying different experiments in different parts of the country. Those of your Lordships who have travelled in India know how very great are the differences between the different parts of the country. That, at any rate, has the advantage of enabling us to try different methods in different places, and we can await the results of those experiments and see what is likely to succeed best. You have, of course, always this dilemma. If you have a very restricted suffrage you give power into the hands of the few—that is to say, of a class which has its own interest to serve. If, on the other hand, you have a wide suffrage you give power into the hands of persons who may know their interests but who do not know how to secure them. Of the two evils I should think that it was on the whole better to start by having a pretty limited suffrage and to extend it thereafter, rather than to begin by having a suffrage so wide that the people do not know how to use it. 821 However, these are matters which we shall have an opportunity of considering further when the report of the Committee comes to be discussed.
My noble friend Lord Lansdowne remarked that Lord Southborough, though he had had a great many posts to fill and much experience, had never had any connection with India. But I should like to remind your hardships that Lord Southborough was sent out to discharge a very difficult task in South Africa, of which he had had no previous knowledge, and I think that those who know what happened there will agree that Lord Southborough acquitted himself exceedingly well. I can say from a long and intimate knowledge of him that I do not know any person who brings a more open or fair mind to any question that he has to consider than Lord Southborough. That is practically all that I have to say upon the subject of the scheme except one point.
The councils which are to come next below the Viceroy's Council are to be the Provincial Councils. Now the Province in India is a gigantic affair, and the differences between the different parts of the Province are enormous, and any system of direct election in a Province will be attended with the difficulty that if the franchise is wide a very large number of the people will know nothing at all about the persons for whom they are asked to vote. I would, therefore, suggest, if it be in any way possible, that His Majesty's Government should consider the propriety of creating small areas for the Provincial Council. I know the difficulties which attend the division of Provinces. I know the controversies that have arisen over the question of uniting or dividing Provinces, and how attached very often a Province is to its unity, and how unwilling it is to have itself cut up. But this experiment would have a better chance if you made the area smaller than is that of most Provinces. You would be much more likely to succeed in getting the elections to work well, and in showing that there was a watchful care exercised and a due vigilance shown in observing the conduct of the members of Councils if the members of Councils could be better known, and if the Provincial area were not so large. However, I make that suggestion with the utmost diffidence, because I am well aware of the difficulties which surround the subject.
I have only one or two words to say about 822 the Motion of my noble friend Lord Midleton. I do not know whether he intends to persevere with it, but I rather hope that he will not do so, for this reason. It seems to me that we are now so definitely and distinctly committed to take some formal step in this direction that anything which could be represented as unnecessary postponement, anything which looked like a dilatory policy, would be sure to be misrepresented in India and might do harm. I feel the force of many of the criticisms that were made by the noble Viscount, and by the noble Marquess and by Lord Sydenham. At the same time I could not help feeling, while listening to those criticisms, that they did not fully regard the other side of the matter—namely, that when you have got to a certain point you must go forward. You cannot continually excite hopes and lag behind in endeavouring to meet the demands which you have yourselves created. We all know that progress must be made in the direction of giving more self-government to India, and we may well believe that it is better to go on steadily, to be always making, if we can, some advance—a small advance, a cautious advance, but at any rate an advance—sufficient to guarantee our good faith.
Here we have made promises and have raised hopes. We have talked a great deal about what will be done alter the war. We have acknowledged in the amplest manner the way in which India has come forward in the war, and I think that the disappointment would be very serious if there was any impression spread abroad in India that we were now failing to live up to the promises that we have made. Disappointment might pass into discontent, and discontent might puss into disaffection. It is said with perfect truth that the demand for these reforms comes from an exceedingly small percentage of the population of India, but at the same time that small percentage has it in its, power to go on making trouble; and in a case like this, where we have given our promise, it is not wise to stand still. I am afraid that the demand for a Committee now might even be taken as amounting to a turning back. I hope, therefore, after what has been said by the Under-Secretary of State for India, that my noble friend, recognising the other opportunities that will be open to him of calling the attention of this House at a later stage to this matter and having a full discussion upon it, may not think it necessary to persevere with his Motion.
§ LORD LAMINGTON
My Lords, I am in full accord with the terms of the Motion on the Paper, but I quite recognise the force of the argument of Lord Islington that it would be quite premature to appoint a Joint Committee, as proposed in the Motion, before we have before us the Reports of those two Committees who are now starting their work in India. Those Committees will deal with two subjects of vital concern in connection with the so-called reform proposals. I am also equally convinced that it is far too late for appointing any such Joint Committee, and that it would be better to await the time when the Government have formulated, their proposals to deal with this matter and put them in the form of a Bill. Whatever might happen with regard to your Lordships' House, if the present House of Commons, or a future one after the next General Election, approved of the proposals of the Government, the Report of any Joint Committee would be almost valuless. It might have some effect upon minor points, but it would not have any effect upon the main features of the Government Bill.
The noble Lord said that appointing a Joint Committee was unconstitutional. I do not know whether that is the cape or not. It was denied by some noble Peers, and certainly it is not more unprecedented than the fact that the Secretary of State for India should tour through India hand in hand with the Viceroy in connection with these proposals. I do not believe for a moment that it is unconstitutional. What I should like to see is, when these two Committees have sent in their representations and they have been laid before Parliament, that the Government should then appoint a Joint Committee which might give their valuable opinion and help to the Government in formulating their own proposals. That would be the proper time to do it. You might have a House of Commons elected who knew nothing about India. If you appoint a Joint Committee you would have those who have a real, practical, working knowledge of all that concerns Indian affaire, and I should have thought the Government would have welcomed a Committee of that character which would help them to formulate their proposals on a safe basis.
§ On Question, Motion agreed to, and debate adjourned accordingly until tomorrow.