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The Empire and the century/Our True Relationship with India

< The Empire and the century


II.-REALMS IN TRUST


OUR TRUE RELATIONSHIP WITH INDIA[1]

By COLONEL SIR FRANCIS YOUNGHUSBAND


At the beginning of the last century there were among the great founders of our Indian Empire many who had the most intimate knowledge of the people, and had been most successful in dealing with them, who conceived that our part was so to train and educate the people of India that they would eventually be able to rule themselves. Such great Anglo-Indians as Sir Mountstuart Elphinstone and Sir John Malcolm held this view. They were men of marked ability, and distinguished in a special degree for sympathy with the people, and they thought that by the end of a century we should make our bow, and leave India to be governed by the Indians. Yet now that a century has gone by there seems a less, not a greater, probability that this will happen. We hear it is true of men who very rightly advocate giving the people a greater share in the government of the country. But I know of no one with such an intimate knowledge of present India as Sir John Malcolm possessed of India a century ago, even advocating, as he did, that we should deliberately work towards setting up an independent India ruled by Indians. And, as a matter of hard fact, we find that the tie between India and England, instead of loosening during the last century, has year by year become closer. And with the increasing pressure of Europe upon Asia, and the competition for its markets, it seems impossible to look forward to a time when India could, with advantage to the Indians or anyone else, be left to govern itself. Say that in a fit of sentimentality we were tomorrow to announce that in ten years' time we would withdraw, and leave the people of India to rule themselves, and defend their country as best they could, not only by land but by sea, which, I ask, would be the most unhappy, the heterogeneous races of India, who would have to settle all differences of religion, of race, and of character, so as to present a united front against the avarice of the Afghan and Afridi tribesmen, and the pressure of European nations urged on by the rivalry of competition—these, or the unfortunate Foreign Ministers in Europe, who could only look on this new object of rivalry as furnishing one more risk of igniting a general European conflagration?

I do not think anyone who is conversant with the conditions at present prevailing in India could conceive that, even if we were to leave, the people would be able to hold themselves together. Three hundred millions is a large number for such cohesion. These three hundred millions are composed of races of various religions, and more different from one another than Spaniards are from Highlanders. We cannot imagine the Hindu majority consenting to be ruled by the Mohammedan minority, and still less can we imagine the masterful Mohammedans sitting down peacefully under Hindu rulers. A very prominent Indian Mohammedan, Sir Sayad Ahmad Khan, a few years ago said: 'Suppose that all the English were to leave India, who would be the rulers in their place? Is it possible that under those circumstances Mohammedans and Hindus could sit on the same throne and equal in power? Most certainly not It is necessary that one of them should conquer the other, and thrust it down.… Until one nation had conquered the other and made it obedient, peace could not reign in the land. This conclusion is based on proofs so absolute that no one can deny it.'

And supposing the whole of India were at last combined, does it seem likely that people who are totally unaccustomed to sea life would be able to organize such a navy as would be required to defend their coasts against the great sea forces of the other European and Asiatic nations who would be pressing on it? It seems impossible to conceive of India standing alone, and the longer we stay there the more difficult does it become to leave.

In regard to Egypt, a similar view was held that we should train the Egyptians to stand by themselves, and then depart. The leaders of both political parties made most solemn announcements, and sincerely meant what they said, that we intended to leave Egypt as soon as we were able to leave there a stable native government. But when I passed through Cairo last December, I did not observe British officials packing up their trunks in readiness to go, nor any signs of their handing over their offices to Egyptians. On the contrary, I saw many indications that the Egyptians themselves had come to regard our permanent stay there just as inevitable as the Indians regard our stay in India; and certainly investors in Egyptian enterprises did not anticipate that we would leave the country within any measurable time.

In both India and Egypt we have to take account of great forces operating on the whole of mankind, and cannot regard the question as simply between us and the Indians, or between us and the Egyptians. India has need of some strong outside influence to give it cohesion. To train to stand by themselves a people who would almost certainly fall to pieces directly they were left alone is an altogether unreasonable proceeding. Noble as is the idea, it is not one which for some tune to come it would be possible to carry out in actual practice, and the announcement of it gives rise to hopes which cannot be fulfilled, and, when not, fulfilled, lays us open to charges of hypocrisy and bad faith.

There seems, then, little prospect of our voluntarily leaving India, and little wisdom in contemplating such a step. But there are among those who have most profoundly studied Asiatic problems some who hold that as we won India in a day we shall lose it in a night; that there will be some kind of combination among Asiatics generally to spew Europeans out of Asia. Great latent forces now surging beneath the surface will suddenly burst forth, and Europe will be rolled back from Asia. Asiatics do not fear death as do Europeans, and will sacrifice any numbers to drive them away. I am not concerned here with this argument so far as it relates to the rest of Asia; but, in my view, it is inapplicable to India. I would not pretend to be infallible in this matter, for I am aware now many mistakes we Anglo-Indians make in estimating situations, and I always remember Lord Palmerston's dictum, that if you want to be thoroughly misinformed about a country you should go to a man who has lived there thirty years and speaks the language. Still, as I have been in India only twenty-three years, and speak the language very badly, there may yet remain a particle or two of sense in what I say, and my opinion, for what it is worth, is that India and England will be bound together for many days and nights to come, so long as we do not hold India simply from pure pride of possession, but with the strong faith that it is our appointed task in the development of mankind to preserve peace where we had found anarchy, to enforce the eternal principles of justice, to help forward those primitive races who are still far behind, and to quicken into new life those highly-cultured peoples who for long centuries have been numbed in sleep.

Most of those who work in India have this faith, and because we believe in ourselves the people believe in us, and I cannot bring myself to think that among the masses of the population there exists any general desire to rid themselves of the British. Even if in a momentary ebullition we were evicted from India, I would still believe the people would, after their mad freak was over, be only too thankful to welcome us back. In the Mutiny many officers were shot dead by their men because, relying on their loyalty, they still went down among them. Some there are who would argue from this that the officers were foolish in showing such confidence in their men. But they were perfectly and absolutely right. They knew this by the instinct of their race, and it is because officers have trusted, and do, and will trust their men, even to death, that their men trust them. How seldom has the confidence been misplaced! how often and often has it proved right! Speaking from my own personal experience, I can say that my life has frequently and entirely depended on the loyalty of Indian troops, and but for their devotion I should not be living now.

And as with the Indian troops, so with the Indian people as a whole. As long as we have that faith in their loyalty which we are amply justified in holding, they will be true to us; and this I say not as the expression of a pious hope, but as the conclusion drawn from practical experience. I know, indeed, that immature Indian youths, drawing false inferences from the rise of Japan, talk about political emancipation, rising against their oppressors, and driving them out of the land; and I have even heard of a Hindu gentleman saying in an after-dinner speech that though the idea of blood was repulsive to educated men like himself, it was only by blood that India could be freed. But these are words, and words of exotically-educated young men, without weight or influence. I look rather to facts and deeds. At the time of our worst reverses in South Africa I was in a very typical part of India where there were only two or three other Englishmen, and where I could be in touch with real Indian feeling in regard to these events. At home men were talking of the decay of the Empire, and were in the deepest depths of gloom. But in India, though Lord Curzon was sending troops away not only to South Africa, but also to China to rescue the beleagured Legations, and though we were suffering from the most terrible famine and the severest visitation of plague in modern times, there was not the slightest sign that the people intended to take advantage of the occasion to turn us out of India. In many a European country, if there had been plague and famine as severe as they were in that year in India, serious riots would have broken out every-where; and if the Government were at the same time weakened by the despatch of its forces on two distant expeditions, the people would have dangerously shaken the fabric of Government. To satisfy ourselves on this point, we have only to look at what is happening in a European country at the present moment But the people of India, far from seeking to cause the Government embarrassment, sought in many ways to strengthen their hands. They had almost more faith in us than some of us had in ourselves. A disaster or two at the beginning of a war was nothing new in their reading of British history. That was merely according to precedent. But the further precedent was that we always pulled through our disasters and came out victors in the end, and so instead of trying to embarrass us they came forward with offers of assistance. Chiefs offered their troops, money, horses, anything that might be useful. Our own Indian troops were deeply disappointed they were not allowed to fight side by side with us. And even those whom shallow observers had thought disloyal came forward with the rest. One chief, who was certainly not believed to be among the most loyal, offered the whole of the resources of his State to the Queen. He frankly told me, when I met him later, that he hated the Government of India in general and us political residents in particular, but he added that he was unswervingly loyal to the Sovereign. And this loyalty towards the Sovereign is, I believe, the strongest tie by which we now hold India, and the supreme influence which will always preserve India from drifting from us.

By their religion Hindus are taught to be loyal and obedient to their chief as appointed by Heaven, and of the strength of their attachment to the chief few who have not actually lived in a Native State can fully realize. A chief may be indolent, oppressive, and cruel to a degree which would shock outsiders, but the patient loyalty and simple affection of the people remain unshaken. Attempts on the lives of rulers in Europe and America are frequent. In India they are almost unknown. Through evil report and good report the people remain touchingly and immovably loyal to their chiefs. It is a wonderful trait in their character, and what is equally remarkable is that this same loyal attachment to their own chiefs is given to the chief of their chiefs—our Sovereign. Even if our Sovereigns had been rough, careless, and unsympathetic, I think this feeling of loyalty would still have existed to a very considerable degree. But when they have been thoughtful of the interests of the people, sympathetic, kindly, and dignified, they have a hundredfold increased this feeling of attachment; so that one of the biggest chiefs in India informed me that he sincerely believed there was in the late Queen some Divine light, for whenever he entered her presence he felt as though he were in a temple.

Indians believe—and I would challenge anyone who has studied not merely the evolution of plants and animals till man arose, but also the evolution of man from the primitive savage packs and hordes to the most civilized races of the present day, to show that they are wrong in their belief—that our Sovereign has been divinely appointed to rule them. The great preacher Keshub Chunder Sen, who created such a powerful impression in England some thirty years ago, and became the leader of the most advanced section of Indian religious thinkers, was profoundly impressed by our late revered Sovereign. His successor and biographer records that 'the gracious reception given to Keshub by the Queen, and the kind interest which Her Majesty ever afterwards showed in his welfare, had a most profound and moral effect upon his mind. His loyalty had the colour of romance in it, and became part of his religion. The books and pictures which Her Majesty presented he treasured up, and regarded almost with superstitious honour.He beheld the hand of God in the sceptre swayed by the Empress of India. … He was an uncompromising champion of justice and equality, yet he was equally uncompromising in maintaining the highest standard of loyalty to the Imperial throne.' So wrote Mazoomdar, his biographer, and Keshub himself, in his injunctions to his followers, wrote of Her Majesty: 'She represents law, order, and justice, and is appointed by Providence to rule over us as a mother is appointed to look after her children. Therefore we love her and honour her. A man who hates his Sovereign is morally as culpable as he who abhors and maltreats his father and mother. Sedition is rebellion against this authority of God's representative, and therefore against God. It is not merely a political offence, but a sin against Providence.'

These are the feelings with which a great religious reformer regarded the Sovereign; and the mere sight of a member of the Royal Family, showing, as each one of them who has visited India has, by many a sign which Orientals are more quick in detecting than we are, a real kindliness of heart, has done more to attach India to us than whole lives of labour which we hum-drum officials may devote to its service. The Government of India and its officials are attacked without remorse and without cessation in the native press, but the Sovereign never. And it would be a hard strain indeed which would cause this tie to snap—of mere sentiment though it be.

But even with this tie to keep England and India bound together, some still dream of a Yellow Peril, which may sweep us from India. China may be rejuvenated as Japan has been, and the Chinese millions, led on by Japanese generals, may come surging on to India, and bear British rule away on the flood of new-born Asiatic energy. I would not like to assert too positively that such a stretch of imagination is not justified. But I would draw 'attention to two great barriers which have always stood in the way of invasion from the East—the one is the range of the Himalayas, and the other is the sea. Our north-west frontier is difficult enough, but our north-east is impregnable. There is no other route across it which can compare, in point of facility, with the route by which we went to and returned from Lhasa the other day. That route is the very easiest along the whole length of the Himalayas, but even that is not one which such an army as would be required to turn us out of India could ever come by. The other barrier is the sea, and no one can seriously contend we cannot hold our own on that element.

I am not, therefore, one of those who dread the Yellow Peril. Just as the Japanese have learnt much from us, we have much to learn from them. But they have probably common-sense enough to know that they have much to gain by keeping on good terms with us, and risk losing much by any such rash enterprise as tilting against us in India.

In the space at my disposal I have been unable to go very deeply into these two great questions—whether we should voluntarily leave India, and whether we are likely to be turned out by force. I trust, however, I may have said enough to show that the contingency of our either being turned out under compulsion or leaving voluntarily is sufficiently remote to justify us in proceeding to consider our relationship with India under the assumption that we are to remain there for many a long day to come.

But if we are to retain our connection with India the feeling of the British people certainly is that we must regard not merely our own selfish interests, but the good of the people as well. This is, at any rate, the feeling of the agents in India. I am not sure indeed that some of us have not an even keener feeling in this regard than many a home-staying Englishman. Contact with the warm-hearted people of India brings sympathy with them. From one cause or another—international rivalry and the weakness of the native Governments surrounding our original factories—we were driven into using force against them; and though a commonly accepted theory is that those who use force become brutal and tyrannical, much actual experience leads me to form a precisely opposite conclusion. There were no more sympathetic Anglo-Indian administrators than those of a century ago, who had been engaged in actual war with the people. They were, no doubt, severe against men who had recklessly brought the horrors of war upon the whole population, but for the innocent majority they had nothing but sympathy. And as one who has had himself, in a lesser degree, to employ the might of the British Empire against a weaker race, I can testify to the ardent desire which such an experience awakens in one to make up to the innocent people, in any way one can, for the punishment which the wickedness, or maybe incapacity, or even merely ignorance, of their rulers has brought upon them. As a boy I could never believe the master who said when he caned me that he was hurting himself much more than he was hurting me. And I know that the Tibetans thoroughly disbelieved my assertions that it was with the utmost reluctance that we used force against them. Yet, if they could have seen all the official and private correspondence which took place between the Indian Government and the Home Government, and between the Indian Government and me, and could have overheard conversations that had taken place, they would have been convinced that the last thing we wished was to inflict pain or cause trouble.

Those who have had any experience of the Government of India know that nothing is less congenial to them than spending their hard-earned savings in costly military expeditions. Government will go on for years—often to what we agents, who have to bear the brunt of the injury, think an exasperating degree—putting up with affronts from the weaker peoples on our border, hoping against hope to settle a question without resorting to force. And so it was in Tibet. They tried, and I, their agent, tried to effect a settlement by every conceivable means, and the exercise of a patience and forbearance such as can only be equalled by that which a Minister of the Crown has to maintain in the House of Commons of the present age. For this end I even risked my life by riding over, unescorted, into the camp at Guru to reason quietly with the Tibetans, and I did what was harder still, I instructed other men to risk their lives by advancing against their position without firing, so that we might give them a chance up to the very last possible moment. But when, in the end, in spite of every effort to avoid hostilities, we had to use force, and when, as a result, we saw the terrible injury inflicted not on the real originators of all the trouble, but upon the innocent people, who were driven along like sheep, there was not an Englishman who went to Tibet who did not earnestly desire to make up in every possible way to the country people for the injury which, in the exercise of their duty, they were bound to inflict. And this is the feeling which evidently animated those soldier-administrators who, a century ago, had been engaged in actual fighting with the people whom they afterwards so successfully governed. In the development of the human race the use of force seems inevitable. But the fact that we have had in the past to use force in India will make us all the more ready and determined in the present and future to insure that the good the Indians will receive from us will in the end far outweigh the injury done. To benefit the people is the inspiring thought of every British Administrator in India.

But in working out this idea we must be careful not to let our old virility evaporate into washy sentimentality. Really to help the people is a difficult, anxious, and often thankless task, and requires deep study, wide experience, and delicate sympathy. I have already said that the noble ideal of teaching Indians to govern themselves, which men like Sir John Malcolm held a century ago, is not one which nowadays would be either practicable or beneficial. But we can at least train the Indians up to take a larger share in the administration, and this is what we are doing.

During the last century there has been a steady tendency to admit Indians more and more into the government of the country. A hundred years ago the employment of natives of India in any of the highly administrative posts was unknown. They were simply used as clerks. But in 1888 it was enacted that no native of India should, by reason only of his religion, place of birth, descent, or colour, be disabled from holding any place under the Company—the old East India Company—and Indians were then for the first time employed by the British authorities in positions of trust and responsibility. Greater attention was now given to the education of the people. Universities were later on established in each of the Presidency towns, and, as more and more educated men became available, a still larger share in the administration was given to the people, and when, in 1858, the Government of India by the East India Company was transferred to the Crown, a proclamation was issued declaring it to be the will of Her Majesty that so far as may be, her subjects, of whatever race or creed, be freely and impartially admitted to officers in her services, the duties of which they may be qualified by their education, ability, and integrity to discharge. Competitive examinations for admission to the Indian Civil Service had already been opened to Indians as well as Britons, and in 1870 it was further declared to be expedient that additional facilities should be given for the employment of natives of India of proved merit and ability in the Civil Service. Provincial services for sub-judges, deputy-magistrates, sub-engineers, etc., were, in consequence, formed, and almost entirely manned by natives of India. So that now the number of Britons in the Civil Service is so small that, as Sir John Strachey remarks, it is not the least extraordinary fact connected with our Indian Dominion that we should be able, with such a handful of men, to control the administration of so vast an Empire. Roughly speaking, less than 1,000 Englishmen are employed in the civil government of 230,000,000 of people, and in the partial control of 70,000,000 more. There is only about one British civil officer to every 800,000 of the population, and to every 1,200 square miles of country. Notwithstanding the constantly increasing demands for improved administration, the strength of the Civil Service recruited in England has been reduced during the last thirty years by over 80 per cent During the same period the number of Indians employed in the executive and judicial service has gone on constantly increasing. Indians manage most of the business connected with the revenue and land administration; they dispose of the greater part of the magisterial work. The duties of the civil courts, excepting the Courts of Appeal, are almost entirely entrusted to Indian judges; an Indian judge sits on the Bench in each of the High Courts. For many years past Indian judges have exercised jurisdiction in all classes of civil cases over Indians and Europeans alike. Eight Indians sit on the Legislative Council of the Viceroy, ten on the Council of the Governor of Madras, and eleven on the Council of the Governor of Bombay. Nearly every year three or four Indians pass into the Civil Service, and on two occasions Indians have been elected by English constituencies as Members of Parliament. Municipalities and local boards, manned almost entirely by Indians, have been established for the administration of local affairs, and now in our local affairs Indians have obtained, at the hands of the British Government, almost the same privileges as are enjoyed by the people of this country in the management of their local concerns.

When viewed over a long period, a vast amount has then been done towards admitting the natives of India to a share in the government of their own country. But the main service we can do them may, after all, prove to lie, not so much in training them for Government offices, and fitting them to take a part in political life, nor yet in carrying out material improvements in the country, intersecting it with irrigation canals, threading it with roads and railways, tying it together with telegraph lines, fostering its industrial development, and yearly increasing the volume of its trade; nor yet, again, in educating the people, in opening to their minds the gateways leading to all the wealth of Western science and Western culture—not so much in these directions may lie the chief service we may do the people of India as in affording them, by the peace and order we preserve, the opportunity for developing along those spiritual lines to which by nature they are best adapted.

Religion is the backbone of their national life. 'If there is any land on this earth,' says the religious reformer, Swami Vivekenanda, 'that can lay claim to be the land where humanity has attained its highest towards gentleness, towards generosity, towards purity, towards calmness, the land above all of introspection and spirituality, it is India. Hence have started the founders of religion from the most ancient times, deluging the earth again and again with the pure and perennial waters of spiritual truth. And here, again, must start the wave which is going to spiritualize the material civilization of the world, … Here spiritual activity existed when even Greece did not exist, when Rome was not thought of, when the very fathers of the modern Europeans lived in the German forest, painting themselves blue, … 'Each race has a peculiar bent,' continues the Swami; 'each race has a peculiar mission to fulfil in the life of the world. Political greatness or military power is never the mission of the Hindus. But there has been the other mission given to us: to accumulate, as it were, into a dynamo all the spiritual energy of the race, and that concentrated energy is to pour forth in a deluge on the world whenever circumstances are propitious. Let the Persian, or the Greek, or the Roman, or the Arab, or the Englishman march his battalions and conquer the world, and link the different nations together, and the philosophy and spirituality of India is ready to flow along the new-made channels into the veins of the nations of the world. The calm Hindu's brain must pour its own quota to give to the sum total of human progress. India's gift to the world is the light spiritual.'

These are the views of an Indian sage, only recently dead, spoken on his first return to India from a three years' mission in America and England, and they seem to me full of wisdom and insight. The ways of Nature are mysterious, and her ends are often accomplished by means for which they seem at first never intended. We were driven originally to India for nothing better than trade, to find the wherewithal to supplement our food and dress, and the adornment of our dwellings. But, having gone there, we now find ourselves the means of affording a highly spiritual people the opportunity to develop their peculiar genius, just as the Jews were able to develop their special gift under the Pax Romana, when they had that leisure and freedom from absorption in political affairs which enabled them to develop to the full their spiritual tendencies and found Christianity, while the communications the Romans established facilitated the spread of the new ideas throughout the Roman world. The same conditions for spiritual development, and even greater facilities for the spread of spiritual ideas when developed, are afforded by the Pax Britannica in India, by the perfecting of intercommunication achieved by us, and by the spread of the English language, which not only puts the many varied races of India in touch with one another, but puts the whole of them in contact with the entire English-speaking world—with the United States as well as Great Britain, and with those numerous learned men of other European countries who speak our language. Great spiritual leaders are thus enabled to address audiences in England and America, and, through their published works, reach numbers who, except through the medium of the English language, would have been inaccessible. This opportunity for spiritual development may yet prove to be the greatest of all benefits we can possibly confer on India.

And in yet another way we may benefit the people. We pride ourselves on being men of action rather than of contemplation; of deeds rather than of words. We may, then, give the contemplative Hindus high, living examples, acted out in the flesh, of ideals as admirable to them as to us. The history of the British in India furnishes many a bright example of Englishmen honestly striving to practically work out in their lives the high ideals which were in them, and contact with such men may prove of more effective aid to a contemplative people than many a well-reasoned-out page of argument. Already the effect upon native Indian officials in Government employ, where they are brought much in contact with Englishmen, is very marked. Indian judges are acquiring the highest character for integrity, and I know of native States who, when they wish to employ an Indian official who can really be relied on and trusted, will seek him among those trained in the Government service.

We, of course, learn much, too, from the imperturbable suavity and unfailing politeness of the Indian. We are not immaculate patterns, with everything to teach and nothing to learn. But we undoubtedly put the vigour and strenuousness of action into a people rather too prone to spin logic, and the sight of stolid men practically working out their ideals has not failed to inspire the impressionable Indians. Spurred on, too, by the frank criticisms which in the rôle of candid friends we are often too free in offering, the Indians have during the last three-quarters of a century—since the time of Raja Ram Mohun Roy—shown a remarkable tendency to purify their religious ideals, to cast out the dross which their religion has accumulated in the centuries, and to get back to the true, pure ideas of the original founders. India is now quickening into an altogether fresh religious life. The materialism, which is already being discounted in the West, has never satisfied the Indian; movements are everywhere on foot to reawaken religious life. The Brahmo Somaj, founded by that real hero, Ram Mohum Roy, who braved all the persecution of social disfavour and bitter religious animosity in his efforts to purify his religion, and who died in a foreign land among the first Indians to visit England, has been carried forward by the eloquent Keshub Chunder Sen, pronounced by many competent men to be second only to the great Athenians as an orator. This movement represents the ideas of the Indians educated in English modes of thought, who, while unable to accept Christianity as a whole, are ready to absorb its essential spirit, whole at the same time they reject all that is worse in Hinduism. Another strenuous moment is that inaugurated by the Swami Dyananda, resulting in the founding of the Arya Samaj. Dyananda was of the more typically Hindu stamp. He sought his religion alone in the Indian jungle. His only possessions were a loin-cloth, a wooden staff, and a begging bowl. He probably did not know a single word of English, and his religion was of what in a Christian country we would call the Old Testament type; he tried to get back and to lead others back to the simple lives and me simple ideals of the old Fathers. The Vedas, the oldest sacred book of the Hindus, were infallible, and by them and by no other book must conduct be guided. He has recently died, but the movement has great vitality, and finds favour both with English educated clerks and old-fashioned chiefs.

These are some of the religious movements among the Hindus which have been in part aroused by their contact with the English, and facilitated by the peace and order which we have preserved in India during the last century. The reformers I have mentioned, and others besides, have infused new vitality into a religion which had long lain torpid; and if such men have arisen in the just immediate past, we may well expect that as great and greater will appear in the future to purify the religious life of the people.

By preserving order, by giving the people of India full opportunity to develop along the line most natural to them, and by ourselves affording them practical examples of well-worked-out lives, we shall best help the spiritually-minded Hindus. What, then, is to be our relationship with them? It is most important that we should have a clear view on this point, for this is the governing idea by which all our actions should be guided and tested. It is what we should have at the back of our minds whenever Indian questions are under consideration, and upon the clearness, accuracy, and intensity of it will depend our success in the management of India. For years we had the idea in regard to our relationship with the Colonies that they were like the fruit of a tree which must soon ripen and then drop off, and having this idea rooted in our minds, we thought it useless to make any effort to attach the Colonies to us. We can realize, then, how important it is in the case of India to avoid falling into a similar error through having in our minds a false conception of our true relationship with the people. What, then, is it to be?

No one in the present day would like it to be that of conqueror and conquered. We did not conquer India for the sake of conquest. We entertained no such design. We acquired it in spite of ourselves because circumstances, or, as some would rather put it, an all-guiding Providence was stronger than we were. And having thus won it, as it were, almost against our will, we have no desire that our relationship with the people should be that of conquerors to conquered, of master to servant. A more evident wish is that a paternal relationship should subsist between us, that we should be in a position of a wise, kind-hearted father looking after his children. But however appropriate this relationship may be in the case of young colonies, who really are the sons of the fatherland, it is scarcely fitted to the case of India. Our method of government is often paternal, sometimes even grandmaternal; but the people are not our children, except by adoption. Nor, again, are they our brothers. They may be very distant cousins, but it is at least unscientific to call them Aryan brothers.

Our relationship with the people of India should not be that of conqueror and conquered, and it cannot strictly be paternal or fraternal, but it can be, and it should be, that of manly comradeship. When we talk of having conquered India, it would be ungenerous of us to forget that it was with the aid of Indian soldiers, and it is with their aid that we now hold it, while we furnish the cohesive power which enables the Indian people to hold together and hold India, not only for us, but for themselves. On many a hard-fought battle-field Indian soldiers have proved themselves true comrades. No officer who has served with Indian troops in time of war looks upon the native officers as anything else but comrades. There is no civil official who, at the end of his period of service, does not look back upon his time in India without recollections of many an affectionate friendship formed with a chief, a great landholder, or a high native official. Even those faithful Indian servants we get to look upon as real companions. They have stood by us in many a difficulty, and sympathized with us in many a private trouble. The hospitality of the people of India is unbounded and never failing. The great chiefs have always shown themselves ready to stand by us, even in the dark days of the Mutiny, and whenever there has been a scare of a Russian invasion, trouble in China, or disaster in South Africa, they have come forward with generous offers of assistance; while in times of great national sorrow both chiefs and people have shown a depth of sympathy such as could only come from a people having in them the essence of real comradeship. During the South African War, alike in Hindu temple and Mohammedan mosque, prayers were offered for the success of our arms. On the death of the late Queen the grief of the people was quite poignant, and throughout India was expressed with an intensity of feeling not surpassed, perhaps not even equalled, in our own country. How the Indian soldiers, on hearing of the illness of our King, straight-way knelt down and prayed in the Bishop of London's garden, is well known. And as in times of sorrow, so in times of joy, Indian people are equally sympathetic. On each victory in South Africa telegrams poured in upon Lord Roberts from every part of the Indian Empire. There is no officer who has served there who will not relate how warmly he is congratulated whenever some distinction comes to him. And, speaking from my own experience, I can say that there are few moments in my life when I have felt as deeply moved, and which I shall remember with such ever-fresh gratification, as the moment when, leaving my escort on the return from Lhasa, the whole of the 82nd Pioneers came pouring out from their camp to cheer and shake me by the hand. I felt then, and many another officer has felt the same, that these Indian soldiers were real comrades, and they deserve to be acknowledged and treated as such.

The people of India, with their warm, responsive natures, are essentially a people who may be so regarded. Who that has met that fine old Rajput Chief, Sir Pertab Singh, would ever think of treating him in any other way? Who that has served with Indian troops in time of war would look upon them in any different light? And in working, as we must, towards greater efficiency in our civil and military administration, we must be careful not to blight in the bud this delicate flower now just slowly developing, lest, when the race is run, we find in our hands the mere stalk only, while the fair petals have withered away. Efficiency is most necessary, but it is not an end in itself. It is merely a means, and only one of many, to an end. And if to attain it we sacrifice the feeling of comradship, we shall find India only loosely bound to us in the day of trouble; the zest and spring in the life of the people will be gone, and the fairest blooms of intellectual and spiritual development will never unfold themselves.

The idea, then, which I would venture to suggest as governing all other ideas regarding our management of India is this fundamental idea of treating the relationship between us and the people of India as one of hearty comradeship. And with this idea in our minds, let us realize the grandeur and sublimity of the task which lies before us in India, and when we have devoted a sufficiency of time to considering how best to improve our material position here at home, how to get our food and clothing cheapest and house ourselves most comfortably, and when we have likewise trained our minds sufficiently—then, when we find some leisure to think of what we intend actually to do in the world, what practical contribution we are going to make towards the general welfare of mankind, let us turn our thoughts to India and those three hundred millions of people whose destinies lie in our hands, and let us so act that when, in the dim distant ages, the final history of our race is written we may be known to posterity not merely as the nation which was most clever at buying in the cheapest and selling in the dearest markets, nor even as the most cunning inventors and mechanicians, nor yet as writers and thinkers only, but, in addition to and above all these, as the nation which most truly translated high thought into generous action, which infused a fresher, a healthier, and a more strenuous life into the millions of India, which brought out all the latent good that for centuries had lain dormant in them, and gave them such an impulse and initial guidance as had started them fairly along the path which leads to the highest pinnacles of human glory and attainment. We sought them merely for trade. We found them immersed in strife. If ever we leave them, may it be in that attitude most natural to them, with their arms stretched out to the Divine.


  1. When the Senate of Cambridge University honoured me with an invitation to deliver the Rede Lecture this year, they asked me to select my own subject, and I chose the question of 'Our True Relationship with India,' because I thought that the views of one who had for many years worked in close contact with the people of India might be of interest to those who from the heart of the Empire insensibly, but profoundly, influence the actions of us their agents on the outskirts. By the kindness of the authorities of the University I have been permitted to include this lecture in the present series of articles on Imperial subjects.