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Art. 11.-EVOLUTION OF EUROPEAN POLITICAL AOI
TATION IN INDIA.
TWO wo schools of Political Thought have lately been
contending for the mastery of the non-official European mind of Calcutta and those portions of the Bengal Presidency that are dominated by mercantile firms holding the agencies of industries scattered about that Presidency. Both have been stirred up into unusual effervescence by the abandonment of Calcutta for Delhi as the capital of the Indian continent. It is not an easy thing to differentiate and define the mental attitudes of these two schools because, though varying in their essential principles, their expressions overlap on some important points, where they seem to play Into one another in a way which, in any moral region, might be called unprincipled, but in politics may perhaps be passed over by easy consciences as one of those compromises by which peace is sometimes procured. Both schools seem to agree that the Government of India has run counter to its own
many recent and emphatic professions of a desire and a determination to consult public opinion, by springing a wholly un. expected and unconsidered mine on the country ; but while one school attaches paramount importance to the departure from sound practice involved in this procedure, and desires to prevent any repetition of what it considers a grave public scandal, the other, without ignoring or minimising this feature of the matter, seems to attach greater weight to the political and administrative evil believed by it to be inherent in the abandonment of a prosperous Europeanised city, identified with the rise
and consolidation of British power and prestige in India, and the centre of political and commercial activity, for the site of the ruins of a decayed Moghal Capital.
The true view and proper estimate of an important meeting held at the Chamber of Commerce on the 3rd May can hardly be taken and formed outside of that body itself until the demands formulated in the resolutions passed at it have been answered by the Government and reviewed by the press in other parts of the country, and have thus receded into their correct perspective from the unavoidably sensational, if quite natural, atmosphere in which they originated. It ought to be clearly understood, in any case, that this article as a whole has no direct relation to those resolutions which, though starting from the privations inflicted by the Delhi Durbar, were based exclusively on purely commercial grounds, in regard to which the most influential Calcutta business concerns may safely count on the support of their parent firms at home. These latter, as is well known, have laid injunctions on their Calcutta branches not to engage in any political action not directly bearing on mercantile profit and loss. It nowhere appears in the perfectly justifiable movement of the Chamber of Commerce that its members in any way recall or cancel any report previously made to the Government accepting the political transfer of the capital to Delhi, but reserving comment on its commercial aspects for future consideration. The most forcible portions of the present movement, such as those relating to minimum railway rates and the like, have nothing to do with the transfer of the capital, and may have occurred even though the transfer had never taken place. As a matter of fact, the only point at which the meeting in the Chamber rooms touches the transfer of the capital from Calcutta
to Delhi lies in the resolution touching the method of meeting the cost of the scheme ; and here all sound public opinion will fall in with the Chamber in agreeing that that cost must be met from Capital raised by loans and not from Revenue.
The movement that has arisen out of the common feeling shared by both schools referred to above to establish a powerful European society which shall bind all Europeans in the country into a powerful political force in order to influence the future political evolution of the country, which has stood in some danger of being influenced to a larger extent than they think desirable or good for the country by Indian politicians, who have acquired some of the devices of European politics, but do not apparently represent or have much in common with the great unrepresented masses, in whose best interests the country must be governed. So far as opposition to Indian political agitation is concerned, it doubtless furnishes a substantial bond of union between all classes of Europeans, not excluding even the more far-seeing official. But an important point has been overlooked in the compact which it has been sought to call into being. That is that, while the Chamber of Commerce, beyond cavil the most influential and responsible nonofficial European representative society in India, partly from the personal convictions of its strongest members and partly under instructions and pressure from head firms in Britain, has been rather chary of leaving its own strictly commercial line of evolution for the sake of starting on the thin ice of political agitation. It has sent the Government a rather mild protest against the change of capital—a protest which the less reserved members of the general community and their organs in the press have loudly condemned. This is the section of the European body which is most violently opposed to recent changes altogether and has clamoured most loudly for a European political society which, without habitually opposing the Government, to which all Europeans in India are naturally loyal, will “ stand up "to Government on occasion and insist on what they consider justice being done. All this sounds excellent in its way ; but the way is not altogether a clear one. "On occasion " is in theory one of those captivating phrases which at once captures the imagination, and may secure any amount of abstract enthusiasm. Analysed, however, it means some crucial test, in which the actual wishes of individuals, and the meanings of their words, and the tendencies of their conduct, as considered by reasoning men, are found to be so mutually destructive as not only to render any agreement impossible, but also to rend in twain any body which may attempt to take action on any particular “occasion.” Take, for instance, the very occasion which has inspired the recent European agitation. The rank and file of European Society, possessing no definite responsibility in the country, even though backed by a violent press, have been in deliberate opposition to the course deliberately adopted by the responsible Chamber of Commerce in its representations to the Government. Suppose such a large political society as it is desired to conjure up with the provocation said to be
furnished by the present occasion," had been in existence and ready to act, the question which any man of common
sense will ask is, whether, considering the irreconcilable views held by responsible merchants as a body and irresponsible members of the general public, the members of the Chamber would abandon their deliberate attitude
and take up with the outside clamour, or the authors of the outside clamour would abandon their attitude and take up with the views of the Chamber? It has been observed that the Chamber of Commerce was not unanimous on this “ occasion," and that some of its members protested against the course adopted by it, and actually counselled it to adopt the course advocated by the Press. This is perfectly true ; and full weight must be given to such isolated incidents. Nevertheless, it is easy to see that the members of the Chamber who took up this attitude must have been in a hopeless minority, or the Chamber would not have cared or dared to ignore their advice. Now, too, that the first Aush of annoyance has died down, and the heads of leading firms have reminded less influential firms of the plain desire of parent firms at Home that their branches in India should not meddle too much in politics, it is to be inferred that, if a plebiscite were taken, the attitude adopted by the Chamber would be adopted by the majority, and the more violent course recommended by a small minority, even though applauded by an irresponsible press, would have been rejected. Supposing then that a large European political society had existed at the time, what must have been the result? It is certain that it would have found itself in fatal opposition to the Chamber of Commerce, unless, indeed, which is not at all improbable, this Independent society was so influenced by responsible merchants on it as to accept the course taken by the Chamber This is what the old European and AngloIndian Association, which excitable lawyers have endeavoured to revolutionize, invariably did ; and though, in times of special excitement, some violent spirits have inveighed against this Association for its alleged