Edwin Montagu’s announcement of " Responsible Government" (1917)

Introduction: Edwin Montagu (1879- 1924), a prominent Liberal,  was Secretary of State for India from 1917 to 1924. He was the co-author of the Montagu-Chelsmford Reform of 1919. As Secretary of State in the war cabinet, he advocate self-government for India but the former Viceroy, Lord Curzon, who was also a  member of that cabinet, objected to "self-government" and argued that Indians had first to learn to accept responsibility for their political work.  He therefore insisted on this term which Montagu gladly included in his statement because he knew that the technical meaning of "responsible government" implied the control of the executive by the legislative part of government – which Curzon did not have in mind. This principle meant a departure from the Morley –Minto Reform which was based on the juxtaposition of an irremovable executive and a legislative which could only criticize the actions of the executive.
(see also AHOI, Ch.6, section: The Montagu-Chelmsford Reform and Responsible Government)

The policy of His Majesty’s government with which the Government of India are in complete accord, is that of increasing the association of Indians in every branch of the administration and the gradual development of self-governing institutions with a view to the progressive realization of responsible government in India as an integral part of the British Empire. They have decided that substantial steps in this direction should be taken as soon as possible, and that it is of the highest importance as a preliminary to considering what these steps should be there should be a free and informal exchange of opinion between those in authority at home and in India. His Majesty’s Government have accordingly decided, with His Majesty’s approval, that I should accept the Viceroy’s invitation to proceed to India to discus these matters with the Viceroy and the Government of India, to consider with the Viceroy the views of local governments, and to receive with him the suggestions of representative bodies and others.

            I would add that progress in this policy can only be achieved by successive stages. The British Government and the Government of India, on whom the responsibility lies for the welfare and the advancement of the Indian peoples, must be judges of the time and measures of each advance, and they must be guided by the co-operation received from those on whom new opportunities of service will be conferred and by the extent to which it is found that confidence can be reposed in their sense of responsibility.

(A.B. Keith, Speeches and Documents on Indian Policy  1750- 1921 (London, 1922) Vol. II, p. 133 f.)


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