Gentlemen--the British Empire!
BAD political judgments are usually not so much absurdities as anachronisms. Of all blunders committed by statesmen, history records none more monumental than the speech delivered some seventy years ago by Gladstone in which he hailed Jefferson Davis as the maker of a new nation. There was nothing inherently absurd in that idea; it was just hopelessly out of date and out of place. Out of date, because it assumed that secession from the Union in 1861 was more or less comparable with revolt against the British Parliament in 1776; out of place, because it attributed to Davis and Lincoln in America the same sort of nationalist and imperialist motives as were actuating Cavour and the Emperor Francis Joseph in Italy.
Most Americans to-day make much the same mistake about the British Empire. To them, the British Empire of 1930 is not very different from the British Empire of 1880, except for the position of the self-governing Dominions. Outside those Dominions it is assumed that Englishmen feel to-day about their Empire more or less as their grandfathers did and that their policy is the same in all parts of it, in Egypt as in India, in Kenya as in Iraq. The issue between Lord Irwin and Mr. Gandhi therefore appears as only one phase of an immemorial and universal issue between British rule and the aspirations of subject peoples.
Now all these assumptions are wrong, and they are especially wrong in regard to the feelings of the average Englishman. It is those feelings that, in the last analysis, direct British policy, and it is therefore important to examine them.
The Victorian Englishman (that is to say, the Englishman of Dickens and Tennyson, not the Englishman of Oscar Wilde) had a childlike confidence in his ‘civilizing mission.’ Whether, like Mr. Stiggins, he sold ‘moral pocket handkerchiefs’ by proxy to the little Negroes, or, like Livingstone, was driven forth to wander over the face of the earth by a queerly compounded missionary zeal, half-spiritual and halfmaterial; whether, like John and Henry Lawrence, he spent his life in laboring at the foundations of British rule in India, or, like Gordon, took service with foreign governments to fight Chinese rebels and Arab slave traders; whether he managed a cotton mill in Lancashire or presided over a Government Department in Whitehall — in short, whatever his incarnations, he had no doubt of his superiority or of his duty to bring enlightenment, commercial progress, and good government to the native races of the world. It is easy to satirize him; it is difficult not to admire him.
As a person Americans can understand him very well. He was emphatically not an aristocrat; he was the apotheosis of the middle classes, of the ‘ten pound householder’ enfranchised in 1832. His puritanism, the puritanism of soldiers like Havelock, was the puritanism of Stonewall Jackson. His faith in free trade in Manchester goods as a civilizing influence was the counterpart of the belief, cherished by many Americans to-day, that American business methods are the best cure for the ills of Europe. ‘British justice’ was a social gospel to him, as ‘Americanism’ is to Americans. And, be it remembered, he did not talk of ‘the white man’s burden’ or try to make a highsounding political philosophy out of his labors. ‘Imperialism’ of that kind was only a short-lived fashion of the eighteen-nineties, started by a weaker and more introspective generation.
What troubles Americans about this Victorian Englishman is not his curious mixture of altruism and materialism, but the strange political entanglements into which these qualities seem to have led him. As a trader he was all right, even if he packed a gun; as a soldier he may have been forced to intervene in West Africa or the Sudan to put an end to anarchy or tyranny; as a sailor he may even have been right in bombarding Alexandria; as a statesman by all means let him annex comparatively unsettled territory if he liked, as the United States annexed California. But why must he start conquering thickly populated countries and ruling strange races? This is where ‘Americanism’ parts company with ‘British justice.’ Most Americans still regard Porto Rico and the Philippines, to quote one of their leaders thirty years ago, as ‘the bitter fruits of the war’ of 1898; but the British seem to like these Dead Sea apples. Yet, even here, if Americans cannot sympathize with the Victorian as a conqueror, they may appreciate his methods as a ruler. Is there not something almost American about the picture, whether fair or unfair, drawn of John Lawrence by Bagehot?
In seven years the Punjab was transformed from a native state, in which anarchy was universal and careers numberless, into a British province in which order was as settled as in Kent and nobody was allowed to do anything but make money. The hill had been bored, the swamp had been filled, and there was the engine on a level road. . . . There was a great foresight in him and great incisiveness of vision, but he wanted the aristocratic quality — a certain largeness of field and the quality of the highest genius for government, that of evoking new power. He was in fact a middle-class ruler, a workman in politics rather than a thinker, an administrator rather than a politician.
Americans can surely trace in that portrait some familiar features. In any case, there is a Roman quality in it which Americans and Englishmen must alike respect, and which many of them may be tempted in these days to envy, for we shall hardly look upon its like again.
That is the important point about the Victorian Englishman; he is dead, as dead as Washington and John Adams in 1861. Whatever may have been his virtues or his faults, he is gone forever, taking with him his serene self-confidence, his clear but narrow views, his faith in the universal applicability of his own standards, his contentment with equal justice strictly administered, and his Roman simplification of the issues of government. To him has succeeded a generation of Englishmen who dislike conquest quite as much as any American and are quite as inclined to doubt their right or their capacity to govern subject peoples. They are not a little weary of their existing responsibilities and are very anxious to avoid new ones. In this mood they survey their Empire, they seek a principle to guide them, and they try, by the application of that principle, to discriminate between their responsibilities in different territories.
In this survey, the first territory on which their eyes light is Egypt. Here, before the war, Britain had carefully avoided assuming any formal responsibility for the government of the country. She had officered the Egyptian army, she had maintained a few troops of her own, she had permeated every branch of government by ‘advisers’ and junior officials under the control of a High Commissioner, but she had recognized the suzerainty of Turkey and the authority of the Khedive, and her only formal status was that of a trustee for the foreign bondholders and a protector of foreign citizens in Egypt. She had, in fact, set the example which, broadly speaking, the United States has followed in Santo Domingo, in Haiti, and in Nicaragua.
This informal control could not, perhaps, have continued in any case, but war with Turkey forced her to regularize her position. Egypt became an independent kingdom under a British protectorate. But this assumption of a new responsibility was speedily reversed. In 1922 the protectorate was abolished; since then the advisers have taken a back seat and most of the British officials have left. Britain has returned, in effect, to her pre-war position in Egypt, but with a difference. Before the war she prided herself on the reforms of justice, irrigation, and the like which she had introduced and administered, though always informally through Egyptian Ministers. Now she has formally committed herself to the recognition of Egypt’s sovereign independence, and she has, therefore, been obliged to renounce even informal control over the Egyptian Government. She remains in Egypt only as the protector of foreign citizens and of the Suez Canal as a vital link in her Empire’s communications. Within the last three years she has twice offered, once through a Conservative and once through a Labor Government, still further to regularize the position by a treaty of alliance, and on the second occasion she even offered to withdraw her troops from Cairo to the Canal itself and to hand over to the King of Egypt her responsibility for the protection of foreign citizens. She has thus practically reached the position of the United States in Cuba, reserving to herself a military instead of a naval base, but otherwise withdrawing from all responsibility and contenting herself with a purely diplomatic position. This is what Englishmen of the present generation have done where they had assumed no formal responsibility. They are not quite comfortable about it. They feel they are deserting the Egyptian peasant cultivator and acquiescing in much political corruption and petty misrule. They do not think that a corporal’s guard, even withdrawn to the Canal, is a satisfactory substitute for a judicial adviser and inspectors of irrigation. They would prefer that the British High Commissioner should still be a power behind the throne, even a dictatorial power. Hence some fluctuations in their policy. But on the whole they are disposed to regulate their conduct by the principle that, in a country where Britain has assumed no formal responsibilities, the right of that country to self-government must outweigh all other considerations.
They have, therefore, felt little, if any, hesitation in following that principle in the far easier case of Iraq, where their hold has been both much more recent and much slighter. By a recent treaty they have undertaken to support Iraq’s application for full membership of the League of Nations and to withdraw their air squadrons, their only occupying force, to a base in the neighborhood of the Persian Gulf.
There is one other territory in this part of the world where Britain’s responsibilities are very recent — namely, Palestine; but this obviously cannot be treated in the same way. Here Britain is the formally appointed agent of the League of Nations, not, as in Iraq, for the purpose of guiding an existing State toward self-government, but for the purpose of creating a new kind of society, a Jewish national home. The United States, no less than the League, expects her to discharge that difficult and thankless task. Palestine is so peculiar a problem that we cannot discuss it here, but of all their problems it is the one that Englishmen of the present generation approach with the least self-confidence. And here let it be observed that Palestine is not a strategic asset to the British Empire, but a strategic weakness. In a war, its possession would substitute a land frontier more difficult to defend than the desert which separates Palestine from the Suez Canal. Egypt will always remain the strategic point for the defense of the Canal. Above all, the Palestine mandate is a weakness to the British Empire because its duties must inevitably render the mandatory unpopular with all Arab peoples and with their Mohammedan coreligionists.
Britain’s responsibilities in the exGerman Colonies in Africa and Oceania for which she or her Dominions have received ‘mandates’ from the League are also recent, but these are not territories to which the idea of self-government in its ordinary meaning can be applied. They must, in practice, be ruled by some European power. They are part, therefore, of a wider problem, the general problem of ‘ backward ’ races. For our present purposes, we may confine ourselves to Africa. How do Englishmen of this generation look at their African colonies, protectorates, and mandates?
They feel, first, that the partition of Africa in the last quarter of the nineteenth century was not a pretty story, but they recognize that the progress of discovery, commercial penetration, and (in South Africa) white immigration left the European nations only two practical alternatives — partition or (so to speak) sterilization under international regulations. The white man cannot be trusted in any country where the white man’s law does not run; that is the lesson taught by the history, for instance, of the American and European sandalwood trade in the New Hebrides. Theoretically it might have been possible for all nations to combine in restricting the activities of their traders, and therefore the contact between Europeans and natives, within narrow limits. But such an effort of international organization,which would have required the cooperation of the United States, was too difficult for those days. Partition was therefore the only course, coupled with an agreement between the partitioning powers as to certain measures to be enforced by all in Central Africa.
This being so, the partitioning powers must do the best they can. A redistribution of territories among them would certainly not help the natives. As it is, change from German to French or British rule has been a distinct, though temporary, setback to the territories concerned. This change has brought to the new mandatories no strategic or commercial advantages worth a moment’s consideration by serious people, and there are probably few Englishmen who do not rather regret it. But another change would be even worse for the natives. Continuity is, after all, the essence of government.
Our Englishmen, therefore, look round for a principle on which to base their responsibilities in this region and they find it in the conception of ‘trusteeship.’ Space forbids a detailed explanation of this principle, but the main point on which it turns is the native right to the soil and the native right to preference as against nonAfrican traders or settlers. There are infinite difficulties in carrying out this principle effectively, especially where, as in Southern Rhodesia, Europeans have been in contact with natives for long periods and in considerable numbers. But the principle does really control British policy, not only in territories wholly inhabited by natives, such as Nigeria and the Gold Coast, but also in Kenya, where there has been not only European settlement, but also Indian immigration on a large scale.
Now, however, the Englishman of the present generation, turning from Africa, faces his greatest problem. He has found certain principles. Government must be continuous. Where Britain has established her rule over peoples who cannot, by any stretch of imagination, be regarded as candidates for self-government, she must maintain her rule, but in doing so she must regard herself as their trustee, not merely in the vague figurative sense of being a trustee for posterity, but in the actual physical sense of holding their land and its assets in trust for their benefit. For their benefit, be it noted, not for the benefit of the world at large, still less for her own benefit. On the other hand, in territories where Britain has not already deeply committed herself to responsibilities of government, and where the inhabitants have developed a political organization more or less capable of assuming those responsibilities without serious breach of continuity, she will not scrutinize too carefully their fitness for self-government, but will withdraw, reserving by treaty such bases as are essential to imperial communications, but resigning all political control.
But what, of the territories where she is deeply committed by the active exercise of the powers of government over long periods? In such territories there may be elements in the population quite as capable of self-government as the educated Egyptian or Iraqi; under British guidance representative institutions may have been developed through which those elements already take a considerable part in government; yet the character and standards of British rule may have been so built into the structure of the whole social system that uncontrolled self-government cannot, for some time to come, be substituted for that rule without a breach of continuity, a more or less abrupt change of methods and policies which would certainly disturb and probably injure every class of the population. In such a change it is the weakest and poorest who suffer first and most. Englishmen may disclaim responsibility, however reluctantly, for the effect of Egyptian independence on the Egyptian fellah, but they would be ashamed to make any such disclaimer in the case of the Indian ryot. For it is India that furnishes the crucial example of the conditions we have described. It is in India that our Englishman feels most need to formulate the principles upon which British policy is based.
In his search for these principles he is not much helped by any considerations of self-interest. Economically, India has already, in practice, independent control over her tariff and her industrial policy; misgovemment following a British withdrawal would damage a valuable market for British goods, but would also diminish India’s growing power as an industrial competitor. Strategically, India does not defend the Empire; on the contrary, the aim of almost the whole of imperial strategy is to defend India.
Nor is our Englishman much helped by his knowledge of the sheer impossibility at the present moment of giving India self-government in the Western sense. An independent Indian government of India, created tomorrow, would certainly not be a democratic or even a representative government; it would not, moreover, be self-government as Englishmen and Americans understand that term; it would, in fact, hardly be a government at all in their sense of the word. This is really admitted by every Indian in India, for the force behind the so-called nationalist movement is not a political aspiration to nationhood; it is rather a rejection of Western ideas of nationality and government and a desire to substitute for them the old social organization of Hinduism which has survived so many systems of government and has been equally indifferent or equally hostile to them all. An independent India would certainly not fare better than China; it would probably fare much worse. But, as we say, these considerations do not much help us. No government can justify itself satisfactorily by the mere plea that there is no present alternative to it. In democratic countries that plea is always the sure sign of a weak administration and the sure prelude to its fall. Government must be based on principles, and principles are timeless, however their application may vary at given moments.
Now, our Englishman is, of course, a legal fiction. There are many schools of thought in England and many talkers, conservative and radical, who dispense with thought altogether. Yet it is true that the general sense of the English people is working down to a fairly clear political philosophy on these matters and, strange as it may seem to Americans, that philosophy is pretty much the philosophy of Abraham Lincoln, making due allowances for difference of time and place. Lincoln, of course, invented no philosophy; his ideas were roughly the characteristic ideas which, throughout history, have enabled the British and American peoples to reconcile the love of liberty and the love of law. But he stated those ideas with extraordinary simplicity, in the language of the ordinary citizen, and his influence has permeated the political thinking of the English-speaking democracies to an extent which most of us little realize.
Many Americans seem to think that Lincoln’s philosophy presupposed a democratic form of government, that he would not have applied the same reasoning to an imperialist government ruling over subject peoples. But in fact he was, if anything, too prone to ignore such distinctions. For instance, he compared John Brown’s raid ‘with the many attempts related in history at the assassination of kings and emperors,’ and it never seems to have occurred to him to claim that rebellion against a republic or a federation of republics (for he did not hesitate to call it rebellion) was more heinous than rebellion against a monarch. The distinctions which he recognized were not the constitutional or the political, but the practical and the moral; all others he was inclined to dismiss as ‘merely pernicious abstractions.’ To him what justified the rebellion of 1776 was not any abstract political right of secession, but ‘the sentiment in the Declaration of Independence which gave liberty, not alone to the people of this country, but I hope to the world for all future time.’
What, on the other hand, led him to deny to the Southern states any right to secede from the Union was not any theoretical worship of democracy, but his conviction that ‘nothing will content the South but an acknowledgment that slavery is right.’ No one, in fact, can have a political right to secede from the state of which he is a citizen, whatever its form of government may be, for it is only by citizenship of that state that he has acquired any political rights at all. Anyone, on the other hand, may have a moral right to secede from any state for the purpose of securing some moral end, such as personal liberty, which is incompatible with citizenship of that state.
Lincoln fought to preserve the Union and to prove that a ‘government which is not too strong for the liberties of the people can be strong enough to maintain itself,’ but he could not have done so consistently with the Declaration of Independence which he revered if the South had asserted a moral claim overriding their political obligations. To him, the right of secession depended in the last resort on the rightness of the seceders. In the absence of a real moral ground for rebellion, existing political obligations must be paramount, and the mere assertion of a desire for political independence is not a moral ground. The whole course of the Douglas debates is an argument against political ambition disguised under the name of political liberty, whether the disguise be called ‘popular sovereignty’ or ‘self-determination.’
Lincoln would certainly have felt, and in regard to the Negro question did in fact feel, the greatest repugnance to the government of an ‘ inferior’ by a ‘superior’ race. He did not deny the inequality, but for that very reason he considered that a political relationship between two races separated by a ‘physical difference broader than exists between almost any other two races’ must be ‘a great disadvantage to us both.’ He would have avoided any such political relationship, but, the relationship once having been created, both his moral convictions and his practical sense obliged him to accept its responsibilities and to discharge them, not according to any preconceived theory, but as best he could. His moral convictions as a ruler of men may be summed up in that phrase which, in one form or another, was so often on his lips: ‘If this must be done, I must do it.’ He did not believe in the exercise of personal authority in any circumstances; ‘as I would not be a slave, so I would not be a master. Whatever differs from this, to the extent of the difference, is no democracy.’
Yet few men have ever wielded more absolute power or wielded it with a firmer faith in the divine right (in the best sense of that much-misused phrase) of those who find themselves charged with the duties of government. And his practical sense led him to think about matters like the race problem not in years but in centuries. Before the war he wished ‘ to put slavery back where the fathers placed it, where the public mind could rest in the belief that it was in the course of ultimate extinction ... in the best way for both races in God’s own good time.’ After the war he proposed to confer the elective franchise only on those colored people who were ‘very intelligent and on those who serve our cause as soldiers.’ In that spirit he set himself slowly to work out a tolerable solution, guided only by the desire, somehow and in the most practical way possible,
‘ to keep the jewel of liberty within the family of freedom.’
Now, no one can understand British policy unless he first realizes that the Englishman feels about the British Commonwealth of Nations very much as Lincoln felt about the American Union. If the Union was an experiment in reconciling liberty in unity, the Commonwealth is still more so. It is for the most part a far looser political association, and this applies not only to the Dominions but also to selfgoverning colonies like the West Indies, Southern Rhodesia, and Malta, and to the independent Indian States. Moreover, it applies even to British India, for the government of India, whatever its relation to the peoples it rules, is in great measure autonomous in its relation to the government of Great Britain. If it was doubtful whether the Union ‘could long endure,’ that doubt may be even more justly entertained of the Commonwealth. And if seventy years ago it was of vital importance to the future of free government throughout the world to demonstrate the capacity of the Union for self-preservation, is it not perhaps even more vital to-day to demonstrate the same for the Commonwealth ?
The task of the nineteenth century was to work out the problem of democratic government for great populations; the task of the twentieth century is to work out the problem of peaceful coöperation between nations so governed, and also between them and other nations of different race and different traditions. The British Commonwealth is already a league of nations whose essential unity is the more striking because of their infinite diversity. It may be said to have already proved its success, though not yet its permanence, in so far as it unites nations of predominantly European stock, and to a less degree also in so far as it exercises the function of trustee for definitely inferior races. It can hardly, however, claim to have solved the more difficult problem of bringing into active partnership in the Commonwealth those Eastern races whom no one regards as intrinsically inferior, but who, for one reason or another, have not yet found themselves politically.
But if it were tempted or forced to abandon that problem as insoluble, how great, perhaps even irretrievable, would be the loss to the world in general! For there will be no peace till it is solved; Europe and America cannot establish the reign of peace and international cooperation without Asia. If India cannot endure partnership in the British Commonwealth, or refuses to face the gradual process of political development necessary to make that partnership effective and permanent, what real hope can other nations have of establishing a satisfactory system of coöperation either with her or with China? This, at any rate, is how the Englishman regards his Commonwealth, as the great pioneering venture of international peace and racial reconciliation.
Believing this, he has no doubt that it is his imperative duty to retain within the Commonwealth any territory for whose government he is responsible and so to direct its government as to bring its people into active partnership in the Commonwealth. He feels that a quite special duty lies upon him in India, for here he is responsible, not only for Indian partnership in the Commonwealth, but for Indian unity itself. Whatever doubts he may feel about the achievements or omissions of British rule in India, it has given India all the political unity that she possesses; without it India would be a mere ‘geographical expression,’ without common nationality or common language or common political institutions. He will, therefore, unhesitatingly put down rebellion and will oppose to ‘civil disobedience’ the same sort of moderate but steadfast policy as was outlined in Lincoln’s first inaugural. When rebellion has broken out, he will countenance such informal attempts at mediation between government and the rebels as Lincoln countenanced toward the end of the war, but if he is asked to negotiate a settlement with Mr. Gandhi, he will take Lincoln’s ground: ‘There is no authorized organ for us to treat with — no one man has authority to give up the rebellion for any other man.’ He is sorry if this attitude leads earnest ministers of religion to regard him, as their predecessors regarded Lincoln on one occasion, as ‘wholly inaccessible to Christian appeals’; but he will be inclined to reply, as Lincoln replied on another occasion: ‘If it is probable that God would reveal His will to others, on a point so connected with my duty, it might be supposed He would reveal it directly to me; for, unless I am more deceived in myself than I often am, it is my earnest desire to know the will of Providence in this matter.’
In this attitude he will be wholly unaffected by the commercial losses of a boycott, for the duties of government must override every consideration of self-interest. He will also be undeterred by such accusations of militarism as Greeley’s assertion that Americans ‘would not be citizens of a republic of which one part was pinned to the other part with bayonets.’ Nor can he consider the spiritual character or teaching of the rebel except so far as it may define the moral aims which would be attained by a change in government. Where it confines itself, as in effect Mr. Gandhi’s teaching does on its political side, to advocating political independence as in itself a spiritual aim and inculcating political disobedience as in itself a moral duty, he will recognize in it only a new form of that old issue which history has long ago judged — the attempt to wage a ‘holy war’ with temporal weapons. And, under the fire of criticism, he will perhaps console himself with the belief that his attitude may after all be more liberal and charitable than that of his critics. ‘Some men,’ says one of Lincoln’s biographers, ‘would have been glad to hang Jefferson Davis as a traitor, yet would have been ready to negotiate with him as with a foreign king. Lincoln, who would not have hurt one hair of his head . . . would have died rather than treat with him on the footing that he was head of an independent confederacy.’ But though rebellion not only justifies but demands the utmost exertion of personal authority, the day of personal authority as the basis of government, in India as elsewhere, is past. It is, be it remembered, the Englishman of the present generation who has pledged himself and his successors for all time to ‘the progressive realization of responsible government’ as the aim of British policy in India. That pledge he has carried out and is carrying out. He provided the training ground of the Montague-Chelmsford reforms; now after only ten years the Simon Commission has proposed to supersede these tentative reforms by a constitution providing provincial autonomy in a federal India. An imperfect scheme, perhaps; but can the attitude of its opponents be more accurately summed up than in Lincoln’s description of the attitude of some of his contemporaries: ‘This cup of liberty which these, your old masters, hold to your lips we will dash from you and leave you to the chances of gathering the spilled and scattered contents in some vague and undefined when, where and how’? Certainly our Englishman would ask for no praise beyond Lincoln’s counter-statement: ‘Concede that the new government is only to what it should be as the egg is to the fowl, we shall sooner have the fowl by hatching the egg than by smashing it.'
But behind all these political controversies, the Englishman is well aware that there is one far more vital issue. Indians have one moral claim which, if unsatisfied, might justify rebellion: the claim to that personal self-respect and dignity which can only be assured by a recognition of their equal standing with men of European stock, with the very men with whom they are asked to enter into partnership in the Commonwealth. This is the element in Mr. Gandhi’s teaching which appeals to Americans, and it appeals equally to Englishmen. It is useless in this connection to ask inconvenient questions, cheap however true, as to whether Indians themselves recognize the equal standing of the Brahman and the ‘untouchable,’ for the existence of such abuses rather supplies a reason why the Englishman should grant to Indians what he criticizes them for withholding from one another. And the Englishman has granted it in the only way he can. The formal recognition of Dominion status as India’s goal is a recognition that, while Indians may need a long course of political education before they can exercise corporately the functions of equal partnership in the Commonwealth, they are essentially and personally qualified for such partnership. Moreover, the Englishman has long ago sought to give this recognition in practical ways by the steady ‘Indianization’ of the government services. He has made up his mind, with deep regret and self-condemnation, that the leadership of Indians by Europeans through personal contact, while it has achieved order and justice, has not achieved progress — it has not, in Bagehot’s words, ‘evoked new power.’ Moreover, for reasons into which we cannot enter here, it seems to become less effective and less natural the longer it continues. That is why, twenty years ago, Britain decided — to quote the most notable example — to let the British Education Service die out and to hand over education to the Indians themselves. That decision was perhaps premature and has had serious, even terrible, disadvantages, but could the moral claim to equality have been more significantly recognized?
As soon, however, as the claim of the Indian nationalist goes beyond this aspiration to equal standing and asserts a right to immediate and complete political control over his own destinies, the moral issue seems to the Englishman to be reversed. He must then point out, with all proper respect for the beliefs and habits of other people, that the main social features of that orthodox Hinduism which provides the driving force of the nationalist movement — caste, the position of women, the virtual denial of education to the masses, and so forth — not only are quite as morally indefensible as slavery, but are an even more insurmountable obstacle to national unity and free government. They are profoundly inimical to the very idea of personal dignity and equality, and the assertion that an independence designed to perpetuate them is the only way in which Indians can attain to a real sense of personal dignity and equality is therefore a contradiction in terms. Britain’s attitude toward these social standards has been almost exactly Lincoln’s attitude toward slavery in the slave states, an attitude verging on the illogical, but nevertheless sound in the circumstances. Respect for such rights is due ‘ in a sense to freedom itself’ and in any case it is ‘so nominated in the bond.’ Queen Victoria promised respect for religious customs, just as the fathers ‘yielded to slavery what the necessity of the case required.’
But it is another thing to recognize a political movement which, in reality, holds that this state of society ‘is morally right and socially elevating’ and consequently ‘demands a full national recognition of it as a legal right and a social blessing.’ So far from recognizing it, the Englishman feels bound to reply that, even apart from the moral issue, a movement inspired by these views, so long as it is inspired by them, can never become national; it has already proved that it cannot win the assent or the coöperation of Indian Mohammedans, it has even served to embitter the religious conflict between the two creeds, and it is debarred by its very nature from including the despised masses of the Hindu people themselves. To shut out these facts from one’s sight by binding over one’s eyes the bandage of ‘self-determination’ is surely just one of those ‘sophistical contrivances’ which Lincoln attacked, ‘a policy of “don’t care” on a question about which all true men do care.’
But we have said enough, perhaps more than enough. If we were to try to describe our Englishman’s philosophy further, we might falsify the picture. It is by no means yet a complete philosophy, but its main lines are becoming clearly drawn. Above all, incomplete though it is, it rests upon that deep instinct which underlies all Lincoln’s utterances: the sense of the moral nature of government, of the courageous common sense with which its problems must be faced, of the humility and charity with which its duties must be discharged, and of its consistent devotion to the fulfillment of the ‘promise that in due time the weight shall be lifted from the shoulders of all men.’ To such a standard few can live up, and some lighthearted critics may dismiss it as hypocrisy. But it is a standard common to England and America, and the two nations may yet recognize in this philosophy, — in what may fitly be called the Doctrine of Commonwealth and Union, — not an invitation to mutual criticism, but a joint inheritance in the guardianship of which each must bear its own part in its own sphere.