John Morley’s Speech in the House of Lords (1909)

Introduction: John Morley, Viscount Morley of Blackburn (1838-1923), was a prominent Liberal statesman and a prolific writer. He was editor of the „ Fortnightly Review“ and then of the „ Pall Mall Gazette“. He became a Member of Parliament in 1883 and was appointed as Chief Secretary of Ireland by Prime Minister Gladstone in 1885 and again in 1892. Morley was a supporter of  Irish Home Rule. He wrote biographies of  Voltaire, Rousseau. Diderot, Burke and Walpole. In 1903 he published a voluminous biography of  Gladstone and also a biography of John Stuart Mill. After the victory of the Liberal Party in the elections of 1906 he became Secretary of State for India. This raised high hopes among moderate Indian nationalists. Gokhale went twice to London to discuss constitutional reforms with him. Morley was raised to the peerage and thus gave his great speech on Indian constitutional reform in the House of Lords on 23 February 1909.
(see also AHOI, Ch. 6, section: The Morley-Minto Reform and separate electorates)

....Neither repression on the one hand nor reform on the other could possibly be expected to cut at the roots of anarchical crime in a few weeks, but with unfaltering repression on the one hand and vigor and good faith in reform on the other we all see good reason to hope  that we shall weaken, if not destroy these baleful forces.
            There are, I take it, three classes of people that we have to consider in dealing with a scheme of this kind. There are the extremists, who nurse fantastic dreams that some day they will drive us out of India. In this group there  academic extremists and physical force extremists, and I have seen it stated .... that they do not number... more than one-tenth ... or even three per cent of what is called the educated class of India. The second group nourish no hope of this sort, but hope for autonomy and self-government of the colonial species and pattern. And then the third section of this classification ask for no more that to be admitted to co-operation in our administration, and to find a free and effective voice in expressing the interests and needs of their people. I believe the effect of the reforms ... will be to draw the second class, who hope for colinial autonomy, into the third class, who will be content with being admitted to a fair and full co-operation.......
            The bill is a short one and will speak for itself. I shall be brief in referring to it for in December last I made what was practically a second-reading speech.....
There is one very important chapter in these regulations which I think now on the second reading of the Bill, without waiting for Committee, I ought to say a few words to your lordships about – I mean the Mahomedans. That is a part of the Bill and scheme which has no doubt attracted a great deal of criticism and excited a great deal of feeling in that very important community. We suggested to the Government of India a certain plan.... It was the plan of a mixed or composite electoral college, to which Mahomedans and Hindus should pool their votes, so to say. The wording of the recommendation in my dispatch was, as I soon discovered, ambiguous.... But, to the best of my belief, under any construction the plan of Hindus and Mahomedans voting together in a mixed and composite electorate would have secured to the Mahomedan electors, wherever they were so minded, the chance of returning their own representatives in their due proportion. The political idea at the bottom of that recommendation which has found so little favour was that such composite action would bring the two great communities more closely together, and the idea of promoting harmony was held by men of very high Indian authority and experience who were among my advisers at the India Office. But the  Mahomedans protested that the Hindus would elect a pro-Hindu upon it, just as I suppose in a mixed college of say 75 Catholics and 25 Protestants voting together, the Catholics voting for the Protestant would choose what is called a Romanizing Protestant......
At any rate the Government of India doubted whether our plan would work, and we have abandoned it. I do not think it was a bad plan, but it is no use, if you make an earnest attempt in good faith at a general pacification, to let paternal fondness for a clause interrupt that good process by sitting obstinately tight.
            The Mahomedans demand three things. .... They demand the election of their own representatives  for those councils in all the stages, just as in Cyprus, where , I think, the Mahomedans vote by themselves ... Therefore we are not without a precedent and a parallel for the idea of a separate register. Secondly they want a number of seats in excess of their numerical strength. These two demands we are quite ready and intend to meet in full. There is a third demand that, if there is a Hindu on the  Viceroy’s Council ... there should be two Indian members on the Viceroy’s Council and that one should be a Mahomedan.... I see no chance whatever of meeting their views on that way to any extent at all.
            To go back to the point of the registers, some may be shocked at the idea of a religious register at all, of a register framed on the principle of religious belief. We may wish, we do wish – certainly I do – that it were otherwise. Only let us not forget that the difference between Mahomedanism and Hinduism is not a mere difference of articles of religious faith. It is a difference in life, in tradition, in history, in all the social things as well as articles of belief that constitute a community. Do not let us forget what makes it interesting and even exiting. Do not let us forget that, in talking of Hindus and Mahomedans, we are dealing with,,,,, vast historic issues, dealing with some of the mightiest forces that through all the centuries and ages have moulded the fortunes of great states and the destinies of countless millions of mankind. Thoughts of that kind are what gives to Indian politics and to Indian work extraordinary fascination and at the same time impose the weight of no ordinary burden...............

(A. B. Keith (ed.), Speeches and Documents on Indian Policy 1750- 1921(London, 1922), Vol. II, p. 81 f.)


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