British Aims in India
MANY PROBLEMS TO OVERCOME
By LORD HALIFAX, British Ambassador to the United States
Delivered at Town Hall, New York City, April 7, 1942
Vital Speeches of the Day, Vol. VII, pp. 390-395.
I DO not speak about India tonight only, or even mainly, as a representative of the British Government. I speak as an Englishman, who served for five years as Viceroy and who learned to love India and her people. That is now ten years ago, but ten years is a short span in the life of India, and I do not think the permanent elements of the Indian scene have greatly changed.
At this time especially, India deeply engages the interest and the emotions of your country, even though many may know but little of all the background of race, religion, custom and history, that have together made the India of today.
Britain's Task in India
What is India? How did the British get there? What have they been trying to do there? How far have they succeeded?
First of all, what is India? It is the size of the continent of Europe without Russia. Two thousand miles from north to south, and over 2,000 miles from east to west. In North America is would roughly stretch from Hudson's Bay to Key West and from New York City to the Great Salt Lake. Americans speak of crossing the continent when they travel from coast to coast, and you should think more of a continent than of a country when you think of India.
India, too, has all the variety and contrasts of a continent. The cities, with their crowded bazaars and busy life of large industrial communities; tiny villages—and India is preeminently a land of villages—still living on and by the soil, as the forefathers of the present owners and cultivators have
done from time immemorial; great mountains reaching snow-tipped fingers to the sky; rich fertile valleys and plains watered by some of the world's greatest rivers; wide deserts transformed into productive lands by modern irrigation; thick jungles, scarcely trodden by the foot of man, the home of elephants, tigers, peacocks, monkeys, a vast crowd of wild creatures, great and small. Truly it is not easy to generalize about India.
200 Languages Spoken
In this great and diverse land live more than 389,000,000 people, nearly one-fifth of all God's creatures, three times the population of the United States. They come from many racial stocks. Some are tall and light of skin, others are short and dark. Some races are naturally hot-tempered, fierce and warlike; others more kindly, intellectual and industrious; some receptive of new ideas; others with small desire to depart from the habits and practices that have been the traditional way of life of their kind for centuries. And so one might add almost indefinitely to the tale of contrasts and variety.
More than 200 languages are spoken in India; the government uses no fewer than fifteen for official purposes, and though one of them called Urdu, has gained wide currency in Northern India in modern times, the only language which all educated Indians know in addition to their own is English.
India is a land of many religious faiths, and the influence of religion in India is much wider, deeper and more pervasive than in the West. And the name of religion is often invoked for causes that have scant right to claim it. In consequence religious feeling is constantly aroused on questions which we should feel free to determine on quite other, and more prosaic, grounds.
Perhaps the nearest parallel that we can find in Europe —and that is only partial—is in the time of the great Crusades, seven or eight hundred years ago, when religion was still the force controlling every aspect of life, and when the preaching of a wandering friar, or the summons of a King or Pope, could bring thousands from their homes in England, France and Germany, to die in Palestine, righting to set free for Christendom the Holy City of Jerusalem.
That age is past: but something like that unquestioning spirit is still very much a living force today in India for Hindus, Moslems, Jains, Sikhs and men of many other faiths.
Through its long history India has been fashioned as a strange mosaic of humanity, of races, of religions, all of which go to make up that single unit that you and I think of as India. The old belief in the uniform simplicity of India before the coming of the Mohammedans has vanished in the light of modern knowledge, and history has exposed to view many layers of human material, left by the successive invasions of which India has been the object.
The latest before the British, and that which has had most to say to modern Indian history, was the great incursion of the Moslems, who founded what is known as the Mogul Empire. They governed not indeed the whole of India but a large part of it through the fourteenth, fifteenth, sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, and were responsible for such buildings as the Taj Mahal at Agra, and the Fort at Delhi. Any one who has ever visited Northern India knows how rich it is in architectural legacies of the Mogul Empire. But the Moslem invasion has meant far more than that.
Many Examples of Absorption
History offers many examples of the peaceful subjugation of the invader, but none surely is more remarkable than that in which Hinduism, in face of this recurring introduction of new forces, exhibited a capacity to cast all comers into its own mold. This has been always one of the secrets of its strength. But when it met the Moslem faith, Hinduism was itself confronted by a virile, conquering people, intensely conscious of their own individuality, and determined to maintain it. For in those early days Islam was a church militant in the literal sense, and the first duty of its sons was to spread the true faith by evangelization, or, if necessary, by the sword. The outlook of Islam, practical though intensely religious, realist, democratic, is poles asunder from that of Hinduism, mystic, introspective, and bringing all the institutions of life under rigid regulation. Hinduism decrees that in whatever station of life a man be born, there during his present incarnation shall he remain. That view is no longer universal. Many influences, religious as well as secular, are at work in Hindu society for the uplift of the depressed classes. But it is a view still held by the more orthodox.
That is what I mean by saying that Hinduism—I do not think I misjudge it—represents a static conception of society, which may or may not be altered in some future reincarnation, but which it is neither in the power, any more than it is the duty, of men in this life to reform.
Islam, on the other hand, is completely out of sympathy with a system that seems to fetter human freedom, and its own more vigorous approach to the riddle of life cannot readily find meeting-ground with a philosophy which elevates the passive, deep brooding ascetic into the highest exemplar of human conduct.
Conscious of this fundamental antipathy, Hinduism wasdriven back upon itself, seeking in the development of its distinctive thought and practice a defensive armor against the strong proselytizing enemy within its gates. But as Hindu thought strove to find salvation in a self-contained and self-sufficient rule of life, the gulf that divided its ideals and values from those of its unwelcome neighbor grew inevitably deeper.
For long the tide of Mohammedan invasion ebbed and flowed, but always the invaders consolidated their position, until all but the far south was brought under their dominion. Their rule reached its highest point under the renowned Akbar. He was one of the world's great rulers in an age of great rulers, for he was contemporary with Henry the Fourth of France, Philip the Second of Spain, and our own Queen Elizabeth.
His successors lacked the consummate statecraft with which he had welded together a mighty empire, and in their hands, the Mogul power gradually weakened. Governors in the outlying parts began to win independence, and India fell victim at the same time to disruptive forces from within and to the savage hosts of the Persian invader, Nadir Shah.
British Had to Intervene
From such a contest for the body of a stricken empire, it fell to the British to re-establish peace by force of arms. The East India Company, already peacefully trading in India for 150 years, gradually found itself driven by increasing lawlessness into the assumption of more direct responsibility for government.
When peace at length came, India lay disrupted and despoiled; in many parts of the country nature, through famine and disease, threatened to complete the destructive work of man; and over wide areas the machinery of government no longer functioned. A long period of intensive reconstruction faced the British traders, upon whose shoulders now rested the mantle of the Mogul Emperors, and unremittingly they worked, laying deep the foundation of that system of administration which was to remake the life of India.
That is the story of how the British came to be in India.
British Aims Explained
What we are, and have always been, trying to do, can be stated very simply:
Since the latter half of the eighteenth century we have been trying, firstly, to give unity to India where there was, and still to a great extent persists, disunity.
Secondly, we have been trying to give security to India.
Thirdly, we have tried to raise the general level of social and economic standards.
Lastly, though not lastly in point of time or value, we have tried to develop India's political life.
In other words, we have been trying within the British Empire to foster the creation of a United India, sufficiently at one within herself in respect of those fundamentals, on which every nation-state must rest, to permit us to devolve upon her people the control of their own affairs.
And if the outcome of our efforts was to endure, it has been plain that this outcome must evoke not only the respect but the loyalty of the whole of India, content, as I would hope, to realize its full destiny through Imperial partnership. We have always thought that, if and when that unity could be achieved, our work in India would be finished.
Why have we been impelled to so great a venture of faith, so difficult and of such uncertain issue? The question goes to the root of the whole matter, and drives us for reply to search out deeper causes than appear upon the surface of events.
The American Revolution was based expressly on the doctrine, propounded by Locke and other English thinkers, that the powers of Government must derive from the consent of those it governs. In the eighteenth century, however, few men of European race thought it even desirable, let alone a duty, to apply this principle to their government of non-Europeans. Fewer still foresaw that European rule itself would make this development inescapable.
Yet, in fact, while Great Britain was laboring throughout the last century to restore stability to India, Great Britain, herself was the principal, and often the unwitting agent in transforming many of the conditions which had dictated the character of her earlier administration, and made possible the old system of paternal rule.
Influences on Development
The long process of constitutional development must alone have presaged vast changes in the relations between India and Great Britain. But its influence has been immeasurably strengthened by the spread of two other things: English law, and English education. In personal matters Hindu and Moslem laws remain undisturbed: but the criminal and contract law of India is English.
This fact, with English education, has greatly stimulated the diffusion of Western thought. The English language has opened to India a rich storehouse of experience, science and learning. It has also given her a common medium without which that degree of national unity which exists today would have been impossible. Above all, English literature is the literature of freedom, and India has drunk her fill of this life-giving spring.
In countless directions the outlook of her sons and daughters has been not only changed, but formed, by what they have read in the tongue which Shakespeare and Milton spoke. "Things and actions are what they are," said Bishop Butler, "and the consequences of them will be what they will be: why, then, should we desire to be deceived?" Human thought once stirred from sleep does not soon return to rest. And thus by degrees we ourselves created the necessity of making adjustment in the spirit and form of government.
From the Regulating Act of 1773, which was the first step towards the assumption by His Majesty's Government of responsibility for the rule of India, down to the comprehensive scheme of settlement, upon which Sir Stafford Cripps has lately been engaged, there stretches a long course of political development.
And the important thing to observe is that this development is, definitely and demonstrably, an integral part of that wider process of evolution, by which the present self-governing parts of the British Commonwealth have moved from dependence to autonomy, in free association with sister nations, which we now call Dominion Status.
The great Act of 1833, which asserted for India the principle of equal status for all British subjects, the Council Acts of 1861 and 1892, which introduced representation and popular election, and the Reforms of 1909, which increased the size and widened the scope of all representative bodies, can each and all be shown to be linked to developments in Great Britain and elsewhere in the Empire, as effect is linked to cause.
The latest and the greatest of these enactments was the Act of 1935 and its importance today is this. Under it, five Provinces of British India are virtually governing themselves. Six more could do the same if they wished. The whole act represents the constitutional position that obtains in India today, and will continue until and unless agreement is reached upon some other scheme such as that now linked to the name of Sir Stafford Cripps. Let me, therefore, sketch the main features of the 1935 Act.
That statute proposed that for the functions of government covering the whole of India—functions which, roughly speaking, would belong to the Federal Government here-there should be a federation, consisting of the Indian States and British India.
From this federation should be formed under the Viceroy a cabinet of Indian members, drawn in fixed proportions from the provinces of British India, and from the Indian States. The Viceroy would retain the final responsibility for defense, for foreign policy and for certain aspects of finance, but all other subjects of a federal nature would be handled, by the Indian Cabinet.
Reasons for Delay
That part of the Act of 1935 had not come into force at the outbreak of the war, because it had not yet been possible to reach an agreement between the Indian States, the Moslems and the Congress Party, as to the relative position and strength of each in the new federal order. No American familiar with the birth-pangs of his own Constitution will be surprised at the difficulty of establishing a similar system in the complex Indian world.
But the Act of 1935 had another part which set up new constitutions for the provinces of British India. In each of these eleven provinces—and some are of the size and population of France—the act established an Indian Legislature, elected by Indian voters, and an Indian Cabinet under an Indian Premier.
The Premier and the Cabinet were to be responsible, as they are in Britain, to a Legislature elected by the people. The Governor of each province was still to be appointed by the Crown, and to have certain personal responsibilities for which the act gave him special powers. These powers were designed solely for the protection of minorities, for use in cases of grave emergency, and for securing the statutory rights of the civil services.
But apart from these special powers, the Act of 1935 put Indian Ministers in charge of all the things that most closely affect Indian daily life. It is the responsibility of an Indian Minister to preserve law and order, and to manage the provincial finance; it is in his power, as it is his duty, to promote the development of agriculture, to extent irrigation and bring water to the thirsty land; with an Indian Minister it lies to develop the great social services of health and education.
"No Mean Thing for India"
That is a pretty short summary of an act that took seven years to draft and which covers 235 pages of print. But I think I have given you enough to show you that the degree of self-government which India can enjoy under the act of 1935 is no mean thing. Compare it, and its promise for the future, with what India enjoyed a hundred, or even fifty years ago, or with what she might expect today from the Nazis or Japanese, and you will see what India at the present moment has at stake.
At this point I should like to pull the threads together, and remind you of the main stages by which we have reached the present Indian situation.
You will remember, first, the successive invasions of India since the dawn of history. The invasion of the Moslems, which was the last, was also by far the most important, because it left Hindu India with a huge minority belonging to the Moslem faith.
In the time of Queen Elizabeth, Englishmen of the East India Company went to India, and there traded peacefully for a century and a half. About the middle of the eighteenth century the Moslem Empire began to collapse. Lawlessness everywhere increased, and the East India Company founditself obliged, with its own Indian troops and Indian allies to take a hand in restoring order. And so began the slow growth of British Government in India. First, the company in control; then the company more and more supervised by the Parliament in England; finally the company taken over by the Crown.
Benefits of India
Since that day, in 1858, India has derived great material benefits from the British connection. She has obtained security, justice, education, a heightened standard of living and of health, great modern industries, 42,000 miles of railroads, ports, highways and telegraphs, 75,000 miles of irrigation canals bringing water, more precious than fine gold, to make the desert bloom, and prevent the famines that used to kill Indians by the millions.
For all this she pays not a cent to England except the interest earned by British loans and ordinary commercial investments, and the cost of the small British Army of 60,000 men that in peacetime, along with the Indian Army, has constituted the land forces of British India.
And all this modern equipment that is part of what we call civilization, serving more than 300,000,000 people in British India, is run by a body of men in which there are only about 6,000 Britishers to over 1,000,000 Indians. And even the political directorate at the top, which we call the Indian Civil Service, now contains more Indians than British, of which the actual number two months ago was short of 600. A remarkable figure!
Through the last eighty years—a short time in the history of India—we have been associating Indians more and more closely with the government of the country, and Parliament has passed a series of great acts to give India, first, representation, and then democratic responsibility.
Full Self-Government Impends
Now that long series has almost completed its appointed task and India stands on the threshold of full self-government. If we have not crossed the threshold, it is not because we have not wished to do so. The record of our rule in India may stand to prove that this has always been our goal, whatever views there may have been as to the time necessary for its attainment, or of the safest and quickest means of reaching it. The thing that has made us anxious not to go too fast has lain not in our hearts nor in our heads but in the head and heart of India herself.
Let us therefore for a moment look at the Indian scene today as it must have appeared to Sir Stafford Cripps.
India is at war. Her exertions have been voluntary and they have been magnificent. Her army has expanded by voluntary enlistment from a force 170,000 strong to an army of about 1,000,000. This will soon be more than the total Indian enlistment in the last great war. Further expansion will go on just as fast as weapons and equipment become available. The same with the Indian Navy and the Indian Air Force.
Industrial expansion has been constant, and the output of steel, munitions and equipment is now impressive. There has been no strike in India of any consequence since the war broke out, and on the record up-to-date it would be hard to point to any field of India's war effort in which expansion has been limited for lack of patriotic zeal.
On the other hand, we have not had the cooperation of the Indian National Congress, the largest and best organized political party in India. The name is sometimes apt to cause confusion and lead people to think of the Indian Congress party as being something akin to an elected legislature like the Congress of the United States.
It is of course nothing of the kind. It is a party, predominantly Hindu, comprising something like 2,000,000 members; a large figure, but yet only a small proportion of the whole of India. It is, therefore, not surprising that the exclusive claim of the Congress party to speak for the whole of India is rejected, as I shall show in a moment, by other bodies of Indians numbering almost one-half of the total population.
Now, to our Western way of thinking, the party which controls the majority of the people ought to control their government. And the reason why this works reasonably well with us is that behind our political differences there is a fundamental community of thought upon all essential values.
In India that is not yet so. There, the difference of religious faith and the consciousness of a political supremacy —the Moslem—that lasted nearly 700 years prevent a minority feeling assured of fair treatment at the hands of the majority, and render that minority unwilling to accept a share of political power determined by the sole test of numbers.
One has, I suppose, only to remember that Nevada and New York are equally represented in the Senate of the United States to realize that numbers cannot always be the only test.
Although the Congress party has many Moslem members, the great mass of the 90,000,000 Indian Moslems are outside it. For these the organization called the Moslem League would claim to speak. Its president is Mohamed Ali Jinnah. In Mr. Jinnah's eyes, if the Congress party were to gain control of the Central Government of India, the certain result must be that the Moslem minority would be permanently subject to Hindu rule.
Describes Moslem Fears
This is not the time or the place to examine the reality or otherwise of Mr. Jinnah's fears. Whatever others may think of them, they are real enough to him and to his followers and they are now a part of Indian politics. Let me try and give you some idea of their nature as it shows itself in that field.
I have already had occasion to say something of the contrast between the outlook on life of the Moslem and the orthodox Hindu. It is not unnatural that in India, where religion still profoundly influences the conduct of the individual, this fundamental difference should make the Moslem minority apprehensive of the consequences, to its life and culture, of Hindu dominance based on pure majority rule. But to this opposition on religious grounds is added a deep-seated unwillingness to discard history as a factor which should determine the Moslem's share of power in Indian policy.
The leaders of this community have proud memories of the might and splendor with which for centuries Moslem dynasties ruled over India. They claim that the historical importance of their community, and not only its numbers, should be weighed in fixing their share in India's future government. The claim may be imponderable, but its psychological significance can be ignored only at the sacrifice of the unity and peace of a self-governing India.
There are also large numbers of Hindus who would reject the claim of the Congress to speak on their behalf. For at the bottom of the Hindu ladder are what used to be called the Depressed Classes and Untouchables. Their strength is in the neighborhood of fifty millions, and their spokesman is Dr. Ambodkar. Although they are Hindus, they have hitherto refused to give their assent to any system that would leave the Congress party free to perpetuate throughoutIndia the present status, which the Hindu religion imposes on them.
Princes to Be Considered
Congress party, Moslems, Depressed Classes: these are the three main groups in British India. But outside British India we also have to take account of another large political section in the shape of the ruling princes. They are rulers of the 560 odd Indian States which do not form part of British India. These Indian States cover one-third of the surface and one-fifth of the population of India. Their subjects number 93,000,000 and their peoples are not British subjects, but their rulers acknowledge the general overlord-ship of the British Crown, with which their relations are fixed by a series of individual treaties.
The quality of government in those states, of course, varies, and the British Crown has the responsibility and the right to check misrule. But taken as a whole, the ruling princes and their Ministers are by no means lacking in enlightened and progressive spirit, and many have done much in recent years for the welfare and prosperity of their subjects. They are certainly no Sultans from the Arabian Nights. But they and their States do not fit at all easily into the picture of India as the Congress party would like to draw it.
Yet the independence of the princes is enshrined in solemn treaties between them and their King-Emperor. Such treaties can only be altered by negotiation. For surely to scrap them unilaterally would be to scrap one of the principles for which we went to war with Germany.
There are several other minority groups whose rights or opinions are entitled to respect, but there four groups—Congress, the Moslem League, the Depressed Classes and the princes—are the four major factors which must combine if your object is to create a United India.
Let us see how in recent years successive British Cabinets and Parliaments have tried to meet and solve these problems.
I often see it said that in the last war the British Government promised the Indian people their independence as soon as the war was over—and then failed to make their promise good. Neither in fact nor in substance is that true. What we announced for the first time in 1917 was this: that the object of British policy was—and I quote—"the granting of self-governing institutions with a view to the progressive realization of responsible government in India as an integral part of the British Empire." That was in 1917.
In 1919 Parliament accordingly passed an act by which partial responsible government in the British sense—that is to say, government by Ministers responsible to Legislature—was introduced for the provinces, which correspond roughly to your States.
We further promised to re-examine the whole question within ten years and within eight years that promise was being fulfilled. Meanwhile, in 1925, the Imperial Conference had taken place which resulted in the Statute of Westminster and in the first definition of what is now known as Dominion Status. Arising out of that, it was my privilege as Viceroy, in 1929, to announce the view of His Majesty's government—and I quote again—"that it is implicit in the Declaration of 1917 that the natural issue of India's constitutional progress, as there contemplated, is the attainment of dominion status."
By that time the re-examination promised in 1919 was in progress, and that enquiry and debate lasted seven years: and the Act of 1935 was the result. Its proposals were not lightly made, nor lightly accepted by the British Parliament.
Act of 1935 in Deadlock
That act, as you may remember, proposed an all-India federation, covering States and provinces, with an all-IndianCabinet under the Viceroy, who would simply retain final responsibility for defense and foreign policy and certain aspects of finance. All other federal subjects would be Indian hands. That part of the act is not yet in force.
At the same time the act set up new and liberal constitutions for the eleven British Indian provinces. Indian voters Indian Legislatures, Indian Cabinets and Indian Premiers were given entire control over all the things that touch the life of India most closely—law and order, finance, health and education, and, perhaps most important of all, irrigation, on which so much life and happiness depends.
The Act of 1935 came into force in the provinces of British India on April 1, 1937. Elections were held, and in the majority of the eleven provinces the Congress party was successful. Indian ministries then took office.
After that came the war, and India, in accordance with the law, was proclaimed belligerent. The Congress party, however, marking its disapproval of the fact that the Viceroy had not specially consulted the Legislatures of British India, ordered all the Congress Ministries in the provinces to resign. The government of six of the seven Congress provinces therefore lapsed into the hands of the Governors, and since then in the political field there has been a deadlock.
The British Government have made repeated attempts to find the way through these difficulties, but so far without success.
Meanwhile, the savage onslaught of the Japanese has carried the struggle deep into Burma and up to the very gates of India. In these circumstances, and in order to remove any doubt of British purpose, the British Government, as you know, have laid down in precise terms the steps by which they would propose the complete fulfillment of British undertakings.
The object that the British Government wish to see accomplished is stated in the preamble to the draft declaration, which Sir Stafford Cripps has lately been discussing with Indian leaders. It is "the creation of a new Indian Union which shall constitute a dominion, associated with the United Kingdom and the other dominions by a common allegiance to the Crown, but equal to them in every respect, in no way subordinate in any respect of its domestic or external affairs."
To this end, His Majesty's Government undertake, immediately the war is over to set up an Indian constitutional convention, charged with the task of framing a new Indian constitution.
The British Government pledge themselves to accept the constitution so framed, subject only to two conditions:
First, that any province of British India, which is not willing to accept the new constitution, should retain its present constitutional position, with the right of acceding later.
Would Protect Minorities
And secondly, that a treaty should be drawn up between Great Britain and India, which among other things should provide for the protection of minorities, but which would impose no restriction upon the right of the Indian Union to decide in future its relationship to the other members of the British Commonwealth.
That is the contribution of the British Government at this critical time to the solution of what many know as the Indian problem. The most severe critic would not I think charge it with either ambiguity or lack of courage. Indian leaders have often said that British proposals were vague, and not sufficiently precise. There is nothing vague about this. It lays down a perfectly definite plan for the satisfaction of India's claim to the free management of her own affairs. The only conditions of the plan are conditions that are plainly necessary for its own fulfillment. The recognition of the right ofMoslem provinces, that for the present at all events may hesitate to join the union, to remain outside it, and provision by treaty for the due protection of minorities.
I do not know what judgment the Indian parties may form, or may have formed, of these proposals. Those familiar with the story of your own Constitution, or that of every British Dominion, will realize that no one of them would have led, as they have, to the growth of free nations, unless they had been firmly founded on agreement and consent. Sir Stafford Cripps has gone to India to win this necessary agreement. He is a man of integrity and ability, and if any Englishman, apart from the Viceroy, can help Indians to merge their differences, it is he.
And 1 should be reluctant to think that the leaders of Indian thought would fail to grasp the opportunity that now lies wide open to them. If they can now reach the necessary measure of agreement, the last obstacle to India's full self-government will be gone. That day will be a proud day for India: but it will also be a proud day for the British Commonwealth.
It may be that in denial of these hopes those who speak for India will reject this opportunity. The trend of the news suggests that this is not at all impossible. But my information is not complete, and I still would hope that wiser counsels may prevail.
I can well understand the distaste with which many Indians are likely to regard particular features of the scheme proposed by the British Government. But, as I have already said, if any scheme is to be successful, it must carry the broad agreement both of the minorities and of the rulers of the Indian States. For the ideal of a United India would be more surely destroyed at this stage by ignoring the claims of those essential parties to it than in any other way.
And one thing is surely clear. If the demand of the Indian leaders in the defense field were such as to involve division of responsibility in this vital subject, it would be contrary to all that experience has taught the United Nations in this war.
If, our best efforts fail, the British Government would find itself obliged to do its own duty, without the assistance or cooperation of the larger organized Indian parties. Should this be so, many of the best friends of India, here and elsewhere, would deplore the fact. But, sad as they would be, they would not find it difficult to decide where the responsibility lay.
Will Not Lose Hope
The sincerity of the British Government has I think been proved. No one any longer will be able to fool an audience by accusing Britain of bad faith to India. We for our part shall not lose hope.
We shall, I doubt not, continue to have the cooperation and goodwill of millions of Indians not less devoted than the accredited political leaders to the cause of Indian freedom. There is no Englishman today who would deny that in the past we have made mistakes in India.
We should admit these mistakes in all candor and regret them. It is fair to remember that the standards of administration of the eighteenth century were not those of the nineteenth, nor were these in their turn the standards of the twentieth—neither in India nor, for that matter, anywhere else. But, in a democracy, the final test of any country's conduct lies with the public conscience of its citizens as a whole.
We can truly say—as you can of your people—that the tests applied by our public conscience have steadily been rising. And by the light of the standards of today we see plainly that, in the past, things have been done in the name of England which have brought that name no honor.
But freedom for all beneath the British flag has been and will remain the aim of our endeavor. Yesterday, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and Ireland; tomorrow, I most earnestly pray, India may join their ranks. Over two thousand years ago the great King Asoka set up columns in different parts of India, on which he carved these words: "For what do I toil? For no other end than this, that I may discharge my debt to living beings." We, too, have toiled in India, for past and future generations. The issue of our toil lies in other than human hands. But if, when the time comes that we can lay upon India's shoulders the full burden of responsibility that has rested upon us—if then a like verdict might be recorded, I do not think that the British race could desire any higher commendation.