The Passing of Empire
PASSING OF EMPIRE
AUTHOR OF "THE SOUL OF A PEOPLE"
"THE HEARTS OF MEN," ETC.
"Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word
that proceedeth out of the mouth of God"—that
is to say by ideas
HURST & BLACKETT, LTD.
PATERNOSTER HOUSE, E.C.
Most people when they talk of India,most books when they treat of India,are concerned with its differences fromthe rest of the world. It is the appearance andthe dress of its peoples, their customs and habits,their superstitions and religions, that are explainedand wondered at.
That is not so here. In this book little ornothing is said of any of these matters; they donot interest me; they are superficial, and I donot care for surface things; they are what divide,and truth is what unites.
It is of the humanity which India shares with therest of the world, the hearts that beat always thesame under whatever skin, the ideals that cannever be choked by no matter what customs orreligions, that this book is concerned with.
India sees life through different windows thanwe do; but her eyes are as our eyes, and she hasthe same desires as we have. She has beennearly dead or sleeping for long, but at last shemoves. She is awake or waking. Should it notbe our task, our pleasure and our pride, to helpher early steps along the path of consciousstrength that leads to a national life such as thatwe have been proud of? And to do so must wenot try to understand her?
Have we ever tried?
I do not think we have; but the time is comingwhen, unless we can go hand in hand with heralong her path to nationhood, she will desert us.Her destiny is calling her; shall we keep herback?
We cannot keep her back. "No one can bemore wise than Destiny." And if we stand in herway, who will suffer like we shall? For her sakeand for ours should we not try to understand?
This book is an attempt at a beginning.
THE OLD INDIA
COUNSELS OF DESPAIR
A NEW INDIA
THE OLD INDIA
We do not hear so much of thediscontent in India now as we did threeor four years ago. There are noreports of seditious meetings, incendiarypropaganda, or disloyal tendencies. The attemptupon the Viceroy is declared to be an isolatedact, springing from no general cause; a sporadicoutbreak of crime which has no importance.No special measures have to be taken, norspecial legislation passed, though the oldrepressive legislation is not repealed. In the Englishdaily papers there is little said of India, and nonews is said to be good news. Therefore inpublic estimation India has fallen back fromher temporary fever into the immemorial apathyof the East. She is content, and no one needtrouble himself about her. The sedition wasbut a froth upon the surface, it had nodeep-lying causes; it was temporary, local,unimportant. We need trouble ourselves no moreabout it.
There could be no greater nor more fatal mistake.
There may have been outbursts of irritationlike that over the Bengal partition which havepassed because the cause was removed; wemay be now in the trough and not upon thecrest of a wave, but that is all that can be said.The discontent has not passed, nor will it, norcan it pass. It is deep-rooted in the very natureof things as they are now. It is not local, noris it confined to one or two strata of society, noris it directed against one or two acts of Government.It is universal, in all provinces, in allclasses, directed not against this act or that act,but against the Government as a whole. Thisis very evident to those upon the spot, has beenevident for many years. The reason more hasnot been said about it is the absurd notion thattalking of the discontent will tend to increaseit, as if real discontent ever arose from words,or as if it could be understood unless it weretalked about. It should also be evident to thosenot upon the spot who reflect on causes andeffects. For instance, could the partition ofBengal have raised such a sudden flame hadthere been peace before? People in neither theEast nor the West are roused into such suddenand fierce anger by an administrative changeeven if the change is not to their tastes. Forthere was no real change of government, norsubstantive hardship. The hardship was sentimentalhardship at the worst, not the less a realhardship for that.
No. There was discontent before, and thepartition only fanned it into flame.
And that discontent is not sudden. It hasgrown slowly for many years. It is not local;in one province it may be more apparent than inanother, but it is universal. It is not temporary,but increases. So much is admitted by thosewho know. Yet no one thinks of diagnosing it.They shut their eyes, they sit upon thesafety-valve, they give measures which they hope willcause relief but which cannot do so; they merelyaccentuate the difficulty and emphasise theignorance that is behind it on both sides. Howcan you cure a fever unless you diagnose thecause or causes? To administer a drug atrandom is not likely to succeed, yet what are theCouncils but a random drug? How can theyact? No one knows what the patient suffersfrom; she herself least of all, I think. No onecan truly diagnose his own illness nor prescribehis remedy. India feels uncomfortable, andclamours for anything she can get. The IndianGovernment gives her what it can, offeringprofusest condolence, which is sincere; and forthe rest sitting upon her chest.
But that will avail nothing—how can it? Thefever is deep-seated, it is remittent, it affects thewhole system. It is becoming dangerous bothto the patient and her physician. For their lotsare bound together. India cannot yet do withoutus. She has not got the organism to governherself yet. She has no structure, but is an inchoatemass of people. Did we part, India could notprotect herself against her neighbours by sea orland. She would be a prey to any enterprisingPower. Internally she would dissolve intoanarchy. No one, I think, doubts this. Someclaim to doubt it—do they?
And as to England, what would we be wereIndia reft from us?
Further, there is this: you cannot hold Indiaby force alone. Force has its place, but it cannotstand alone. We conquered and have governedIndia by the consent of the people. In fact, sheconquered herself and gave herself to us. Wenever had to fight peoples, except in UpperBurma, but only Governments—effete, discreditedand weak. The peoples accepted us: if not withgladness, yet they did accept. Without thatacquiescence we could have done nothing. Thismust be thoroughly realised, for it is an essentialtruth. Anyone can see it for himself. Givenany superiority you like to assume of Englishmanover Indian, could a handful of English officialsand seventy thousand or less British troopsconquer and rule three hundred-and-fifty millionsof people, living in a climate suitable to thembut deadly to us, against their will? It isimpossible, incredible, absurd. There has beenalways a tacit and generally an active consent.Now that consent is disappearing. Why? Andwhat is to be done? It must be discovered.Therefore what I propose to do in this book is:First, to show what our rule was at first andwhy it was so successful.
To explain how these factors of successgradually disappeared, while at the same timethe people progressed.
To show briefly the state of thingsto-day—how widely Government and the peoplehave drifted apart, and how unsuitableGovernment has become.
To examine the cures proposed andindicate how useless they must be.
Finally, to show how alone Government andthe people can be brought into harmony and thelegitimate desires of both be fulfilled.
Let us go back on history, and recount thepast so that we may explain the present.
Some hundreds of years ago—it varies fordifferent places—there were in India kingdomsthat were stable and strong and free. Thepeoples were enterprising, active and intelligent,and a high degree of civilisation was commonthroughout all classes. I don't think it isgenerally realised that five or six hundred years agoIndia was ahead of Europe in most matters.
Gradually all this decayed. How and why itdecayed this is not the place to explain; therewere several causes, the principal being religion;but these systems of government all crumbledinto dust. It was not merely dynasties or rulingclasses that passed, but that the whole fabric ofits civilisation became weakened and lifeless.The organisms that held the people togetherdissolved, and instead of kingdoms India becamesimply a mass of village communities, with noorganism above that.
Into this more or less anarchical country camethe Moguls from the north, and established anempire. This Empire was accepted for the samereason that ours subsequently was accepted—becausethe people wanted first of all peace;and as peace could only be found under a stronggovernment, and the Mogul was the only strongpower, they accepted it. They had, moreover,no organisations to enable them to resist.
But this Mogul power had no root in the soil,not in any soil. It had cut itself away from itsbase, and it could not become rooted in India.It had, therefore, never any real vitality. TheNormans in England coalesced with the peopleafter a time, and drew strength from them andtheir institutions, but the Mogul Empire didnot.
Nevertheless, it did to a certain extent enlistthe people on its side, accept them into itsorganism. There was in the early Emperors nofanaticism. "As tolerant as Akbar" almostbecame a proverb. Hindus and Mussulmans workedtogether in harmony for the benefit of the Empire.That is why it succeeded at all, because the lineof division was almost ignored. Then came thefanatic Aurungzebe, who by his zeal for religionbegan the destruction of the Empire, which camevery quickly. And when the ruling power wasweakened and began to pass, nothing remained.It was simply a government from above. It hadbuilt up no system; it was the head of noorganism. When its rulers weakened there wasnothing to support them. A king in Englandmight be weak or be deposed, but the nation'slife went on because the organism was notdependent entirely on the head. Its strengthcame from below, not above.
Very rapidly the government was dissolved inall but name, became effete, corrupt, anduseless.
Then came the East India Company andoverthrew it, establishing a new domination.This again was actively or passively acceptedby the people because they wanted peaceand order, which are the first wants of allhumanity.
This English government was still moreforeign than the Mogul domination, but it hadone great advantage, it was rooted in the soil.Not in the soil of India, of course, but in thatof England. It was a branch of the Englishtree of government which