Thursday, May 17, 2012

John Bright addressing the Indian delegates: January 6 1886

A group of Indian delegates visited England around the beginning of January, 1886, and their movements and doings were closely watched in the Anglo-Indian press, including the Civil & Military Gazette in Lahore.

The most controversial event for the delegates was an address by the radical / liberal MP John Bright, who effectively called for a kind of home rule or independence for India (at just the moment that the Liberal party had recently lost the elections, slowing down the chance for home rule in Ireland). Several columns in early January in the CMG denounce John Bright's comments as irresponsible and dangerous. Here is the text of most of John Bright's speech to the delegates. I haven't included the whole speech, but there's more than enough here to get a sense of Bright's reasoning.

One key passage is near the beginning:

"We are not precisely the persons, but we are the children of those who conquered and who subjugated India; and we now, through our representatives in Parliament and our leaders in statesmanship, are doing, I will not say our best, but something in order to govern them in a rational manner. (Hear, hear.) I cannot help feeling as I stand here and these distinguished Indian gentlemen sit by me, I cannot but think that there must pass over their minds some slight feeling of humiliation in the position in which they are placed. 
Another key passage is in the third image pasted below:

When the Government determined, as far as was in its power, to promote the education of the natives of India, when schools were established, colleges were founded ,universities were planted, and the natives of India, the most intelligent of them, were invited to educate themselves just as freely and as fully as the most educated class here, then it seemed to me the question was practically decided what should be the future policy of England to her great dependency in Asia. (Cheers.) [...] Among these [millions] you must know that there are great numbers who are capable, intellectually capable, who like literature, like learning, like scholarship, like to know everything that the most educated men in this country know. You will know, for instance, that they learn our language. (Cheers.)  [...] They have a free Press now, and they are permitted to hold great meetings, and this, I say is something to the lasting honour of this country, and something that must lead necessarily to a more advanced freedom. (Cheers.) I think it was during the Governor-Generalship of Lord Ripon that the shackles which were fastened upon the native Press were removed (hear, hear); and it is not to be wondered at that the people of India should feel for Lord Ripon that sympathy and enthusiasm which were exhibited to such an extraordinary extent as he passed from Calcutta to the port from which he started for England. (cheers)
Interesting to see the reference to the "unshackling" of the native press under Lord Ripon. Perhaps this might explain something of the beleaguered tone that arises in the CMG whenever one sees references to the "Native Press."

The images from John Bright's column are pasted after the break.

Civil & Military Gazette
January 6, 1886

No comments:

Post a Comment