Item 1 - Copy of a letter from Edwin Montagu to the editor of The Times

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MONT II/A/4/12/1


Copy of a letter from Edwin Montagu to the editor of The Times


  • 7 July 1914 (Creation)

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Treasury Chambers, Whitehall, S.W.—Defends himself against the criticism made by Lord Curzon in moving the rejection of the Council of India Bill in the Lords, namely that the Bill is well-known to be mainly the product of the late Under-Secretary of State [Montagu], who, finding during his time at the India Office that the existing machinery did not suit his purposes, set about to destroy it. Points out, in passing, that the Secretary of State, by introducing the measure in the Lords, has full identified himself with it, though he himself is unashamed of any part he took in its origin. His main motive in helping to adapt to modern conditions a system based on a Statute founded on the conditions of fifty years ago was as follows. The lack of sympathy existing between the Government of India and the India Office is not due to the Secretary of State’s exercising of those functions of revision and determination of policy defined by John Stuart Mill in the passage quoted by The Times on 29 June, but to the unavoidable procrastination of the [present] India Office system, and a tendency from home to interfere in minutiae of administration. This interference comes not from the Secretary but from his Council, whose energies are naturally turned in this direction by their ‘Indian-formed and regularized habit of mind’. He has therefore always felt that there should be a smaller, more up-to-date and more adaptable advisory body. He is not surprised that Lord Curzon is not in favour of this policy, whose pronouncements since he resigned have supported the remark in the Times of India that ‘India is moving so fast that it is dangerous for those who have been long absent to venture on dogmatic opinions regarding current politics’. He appreciates Curzon’s continuing efforts to improve efficiency, but does not think it impossible to exceed the ‘high-water mark’ of Curzon’s achievements. In considering details of a scheme to meet the needs of 1914 it is difficult to be convinced by arguments based on speeches made by Lord Stanley in 1858, the experience of an Under-Secretary in 1891, and the pronouncements of a Viceroy of 1899–1905. Curzon is inconsistent to appeal on behalf of voiceless Indian taxpayers, but to describe a proposal to give them a voice as indefensible. He agrees with Curzon’s view that autocratic behaviour by the Government of India is not a blunder but a crime, but regrets that this statement was unaccompanied by any note of personal repentance.

(Typed transcript.)

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