Pagina-afbeeldingen
PDF
ePub

It is surely contrary to constitutional usage that such an enormous change should be made without the Viceroy's Council being consulted; and if they were consulted, and their disapproval was overruled by the Viceroy, the public are entitled to know it and to have the minutes and the despatch before them. We already have some premonition of the danger of announcing such a step in a speech in Parliament, without an official record of the conditions under which it is to be carried out. Expectations have been raised to the highest point in India of the speedy elevation of an Indian to this dignity. In an article in the January number of this Review Mr. Mitra, generally a careful student of his texts, wrote, “Lord Morley has given us his assurance that a native of India will be appointed on the Executive Council of the Viceroy.' What Lord Morley actually said, according to the Times report, was, “If during my tenure of office there should be a vacancy on the Viceroy's Executive Council I should feel it my duty to tender to the King my advice that an Indian member should be appointed, but it is conceivable that the Government may have resigned before a vacancy occurs. It is greatly to be hoped that before such an appointment is made the question may be examined in all its branches, and opportunities given to the highest authorities in India to record their views.

The proposal has already given rise to a multitude of protests. It has been urged that no single native of India can possibly represent the feelings of the whole country. If he is a Hindu he will be distrusted by the Mahommedans, if a Mahommedan by the Hindus. The precedent created by Lord Morley in his own Council supports the argument that there should at least be two men appointed, a Hindu and a Mahommedan. Furthermore, it is felt that any such appointment

, should be made as an addition to, not in diminution of, the small number of Englishmen who now share the office. A member of the Executive Council is not only an adviser of the Viceroy, he is the head of a great Administrative Department, in which he exercises the authority, and passes orders in the name, of the Government of India; and to be the head of a Department it is necessary to have passed through an elaborate training and to have risen to a high position in the Administration. It can hardly be asserted that there is at present, or is likely to be for some time, any native of India who fulfils these conditions and is fit to rule over the Home, the Revenue, the Financial, or the Public Works Departments. It is true that there have been and are great and able Indian judges, and that one of those might be capable of presiding with success over the Legislative Department. But even here such an appointment could only be made occasionally. When we recall how much the legislation of India owes to such men as Macaulay, Fitzjames-Stephen, and Sir Courtenay Ilbert (to name no others) it is evident that it would be impossible to cut off from this Department the influence which the best thought of England

a

[ocr errors]

can bring to bear on the improvement of the Indian Codes, and to confine it permanently to the guidance of Indians. It can hardly be supposed that the intermittent appointment of a single judge to be legal member of Council would do much to satisfy Indian aspirations or to give to the Viceroy that insight into Indian feeling which is desired.

We may heartily agree, however, that the admission of a Hindu and a Mahommedan to the Whitehall Council has done much to strengthen Lord Morley's hands, and that similar appointments would be very valuable to the Viceroy of India, besides giving general satisfaction to the country. But let it be understood that their presence there is mainly for advisory purposes. There is always plenty of work to do on Committees and Commissions in which they might be utilised, or new Departments might be created in which their general knowledge of the country, even without special training, would justify their appointment, such as agriculture and sanitation. But whatever is done, I trust that the number of English members will be maintained, and that Lord Morley's words will be strictly and literally enforced, ' that the merits of individuals are to be considered, and to be decisive, irrespective and independent of race and colour.'

I have already observed that the lofty tone of the debate was unfortunately marred by an untoward incident towards its close. Lord Macdonnell, after stating that he approved generally of the proposed measures, with one exception, went out of his way to attack the partition of Bengal as the greatest administrative blunder which had been committed in India since Clive conquered at Plassey,' and said that if they did not retract and correct it the great scheme of reform which had been launched that night would fail of the success which it ought to command.' No more mischievous or uncalled-for speech was ever made, and it was the more improper because Lord Macdonnell had lately been employed by Lord Morley to assist on the Committee which sat to elaborate the scheme, where he might have urged his view, and learned that it was unacceptable to his chief; and yet with that deplorable want of discipline and proper feeling which has been evinced by other retired and pensioned members of the Indian Civil Service he took the first opportunity to strike a blow at the measure he professed to approve, and to do all in his power to destroy its beneficial effect. The cue thus given has been at once taken up in India, and the party of discontent are everywhere loud in declaring that the offered olive-branch is insufficient, and that no eirenicon can be reached till the two provinces of Bengal are reunited. And yet Lord Morley had declared over and over again that the step taken cannot be recalled, and the agitation had begun to die down which has now been revived by this disastrous utterance.

Lord Macdonnell boasted that he spoke with all the authority

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

of his long experience in India.' But there are many others of equal authority and experience who disagree with him and who hold that the division of Bengal into two provinces was essential to secure good government and the proper care of the interests of the people. It has been proved to demonstration that the task of governing that enormous area of about 80 millions of people is far beyond the capacity of any one man, and it has been agreed by all the responsible authorities in India that the best way to lighten the load is to divide it between two Lieutenant-Governors. The only alternative suggestion of assisting the one Lieutenant-Governor by the addition of an Executive Council was carefully considered by the Government of India, and unanimously rejected by them on the grounds (as above stated) that such a Council was likely to do as much harm by friction between the members as it did good by a division of work. The objections urged against the partition, so far as they put forward any tangible and material injury to any one, have been shown to be flimsy and trivial in the extreme ; so far as they are based on the sentimental grievance of a loss of national unity it has been shown that the feeling was to a great extent unreal and manufactured, the very words of the protests sent up by various districts and associations being dictated from the centre of disaffection in Calcutta. And while this soreness still rankles in that centre, the Mahommedans of Eastern Bengal have welcomed the creation of a separate Government as a relief from the neglect and oppression under which they had so long suffered. It was not till an independent authority came to study their condition that the extent of this neglect and oppression came to light. When Sir Bampfylde Fuller was appointed the first Lieutenant-Governor of the new province, he discovered how impossible it was for the Government officers in those vast districts (one of which contains 7 millions of inhabitants), so badly provided with roads and any kind of communications, to fill the rôles which their fellows fill in other parts of the country. He found that the landowners (mostly Hindus) were in the habit of exacting from their tenants (mostly Mahommedans) illegal and oppressive cesses, exceeding sometimes the entire amount of the rents they were legally entitled to collect, and among those cesses was in some cases one for the support of Hindu temples and idols, an exaction peculiarly galling to a race of monotheists. He found that the landowners had to a large extent usurped the functions of the scanty and distant courts of law, that they tried cases both civil and criminal, inflicted fines and penalties, and even sometimes kept private prisons, in which their victims were incarcerated. In the schools nothing had been done to adapt the curriculum to the special wants of the Mahommedans, and there was a far smaller proportion of their boys at school than of Hindus, so that for want of education they were yearly falling more and more backward. Similarly they obtained a much smaller share than they were entitled to of such Government appointments as are suitable to them, and Sir Bampfylde Fuller found that, while they number about two-thirds of the population, 90 per cent. of all posts in the Police Department superior to that of constable were filled by Hindus. It has always been the glory of the British Government of India that it has protected the weaker classes against the stronger, and the appointment of a separate LieutenantGovernor for Eastern Bengal has made this possible. Would the addition of two members of Council to the one Lieutenant-Governor in Calcutta have done as much ? Certainly not, and the work which has been done can never be undone so long as the Government is true to its traditions, whatever Lord Macdonnell and the discontented agitators who shelter under his name may say.

How far the promulgation of these reforms will go towards allaying disaffection and rallying round the Government the best elements in Indian society it would be rash to prophesy. As far as Mahommedans are concerned we may assume that the mistake made regarding their representation will be corrected, or else the new measures will bring not peace but a sword. As to the Hindus, many leaders welcomed them at first with exuberant satisfaction, recognising perhaps the blow given to the Mahommedans, but already the tone has begun to alter, and they begin to talk, like the Irish, of accepting this instalment as a step towards further concessions. Independently of the cry for the revocation of the Bengal partition, we hear it urged that the deported men must be restored to their homes and the prisoners convicted of sedition must be released, if a treaty of peace is to be signed. We ought not to look only or mainly to the measures of reform themselves to achieve the ends we desire. It will soon be felt that there are very few points at which they touch the daily life of the educated classes, who long to make their influence felt. It is no great gain to the 'middle professional classes,' of whom the district and other boards are composed, to be able to place eight members on the Bengal Council instead of three, as before. What really will tell is, as I wrote at the beginning of this article, the spirit of the debate rather than the text of the reform--the pure sympathy with the aspirations of the new generation, the just appreciation of the high qualities of the natives of India, the determination to maintain the steady resistless march of British rule, unresting, unhasting, towards the goal of admitting them to a larger and larger share in the government of their country. These will, if anything can, allay discontent and ensure the co-operation of the real leaders, and compel all men to agree with the claim of Fitzjames-Stephen, some fifty years ago, that the Government of India is a Government of great ideas.

[ocr errors]

C. A. ELLIOTT.

1909

THE TAXATION OF LAND VALUES

THERE is grave reason to fear that some attempt will be made in the forthcoming Budget to raise additional revenue by the system known as the taxation of land values. Ever since the election of 1906 a large section of the Liberal party has been pressing the Government to tax land values, and during the last few months a vigorous agitation to secure this object has been maintained by prominent Liberal newspapers. Moreover, the agitation has behind it a great deal of popular feeling. In the last Parliament even some Tory members felt constrained to vote in favour of various schemes for the taxation of land values, and there can be no doubt that quite a large number of people really believe that not only can additional revenue be raised by this means, but that also many social problems will be solved or brought nearer to solution. Under such conditions any Government is liable to be driven against its better judgment to try and do something to satisfy the popular clamour.

Before giving the reasons why I hold that this popular clamour is based upon a series of delusions, it is worth while briefly to trace the history of the agitation. That the idea of taxing land values originated, so far as this country is concerned, with the late Mr. Henry George no honest apostle of that idea would for a moment deny. Indeed, many of the leading advocates of a tax upon land values openly avow that they regard this as only the first step towards Mr. George's ideal of the complete appropriation by the State of the whole annual value of land, apart from the improvements upon it. For proof of this statement-if proof be needed it is sufficient to turn to the evidence given before the Royal Commission on Local Taxation by members of the Glasgow Corporation. The late Bailie John Ferguson, who may be regarded as the parent of the present movement, said that he was in favour of an immediate tax of 10 per cent. on the value of the land, rising to 100 per cent., with the object of obtaining the entire land value for the service of the community.' Ex-Provost Chisholm expressed a similar opinion, but laid stress upon the necessity of proceeding slowly, only increasing the tax 1 per cent. per annum.

Ex-Bailie Burt said that he wished to

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
« VorigeDoorgaan »