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Schuster, Sir George Ernest (1881–1982), knight, government adviser
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Letter from Sir George Schuster to F. W. Pethick-Lawrence

179 City Road, E.C.1.—Suggests holding another meeting of the informal all-party group that sent an open letter to India last December. Is concerned at the state of negotiations between the British Government and Indians.



179 City Road, E.C.1.
9th October, 1941.

Dear Pethwick-Lawrence†,

I believe that the time has come when it might be valuable to have another discussion among the small informal All Party Group that joined together to write an open letter to India last December.

I must confess that I am not happy about the Indian situation. It is quite possible to find logical grounds for comforting oneself and saying that the British Government has done everything possible and that it is for Indians to make the next move. Nevertheless all the time it seems to me that things are going in India in such a way that there is being built up beneath the surface a situation which will ultimately confront us with another Ireland on a much larger and more dangerous scale. By that I mean a situation which has deteriorated beyond repair. I think it is dangerous to be comforted by the mere outward signs of the declining Congress membership and the steady flow of recruits to the Colours. After the war public interest will swing back to internal political problems and it will be political extremists, embittered beyond repair, who will control the situation. On the British side there has clearly been a hardening recently. I need only refer to two such matters as the further extension of Linlithgow’s term of office by a year and the Prime Minister’s deliberate, pointed reminder that, so far as India was concerned, it was for the British Government to interpret the Atlantic Charter. I am not saying that either of these things is right or wrong; but I do feel that they represent—as I have said—a hardening on the British side and have been interpreted with a good deal of misgiving, even among our friends in India. Sir Sikander Hyat Khan’s comment on the Prime Minister’s interpretation of the Atlantic Charter was significant.

Hopeless as the situation seems I feel that it is still up to all those who have the time to be interested in India to consider without resting whether there are any constructive steps that can be taken which might result in breaking the deadlock.

Can you let me know whether it would be possible for you to attend a meeting? It seems to me most likely that we should be able to get everybody together if the time could be fixed at 5 p.m. on some day when Parliament is sitting. Can you suggest a day to me when such a time would suit you?

Yours sincerely,
George Schuster

The Rt. Hon.
F. W. Pethwick-Lawrence†, M.P.,
House of Commons, S.W.1.


† Sic.

Draft of a letter from Sir George Schuster to L. S. Amery

Outlines the points agreed on by an all-party group in the Commons in connection with constitutional reform in India. Asks him to consider the matter and obtain the opinion of the Viceroy (Linlithgow).

(Carbon copy of a typed original.)



Draft letter to Mr. Amery.


As you know there is widespread feeling among Members of all Parties in the House of Commons that, although the enlargement of the Viceroy’s Council and the setting up of the National Defence Council are to be regarded as most important and satisfactory steps, these do not in themselves afford a solution for the fundamental constitutional problem, and that it is necessary to continue making efforts to this end.

A small group met to discuss this matter in the House of Commons last week. There were present Wardlaw Milne, Edward Cadogan, Pethick Lawrence, Graham White and myself. There was general agreement on the following points.

1. The Indian problem is a matter on which Members of the House of Commons feel that they have a direct responsibility as Members.

2. The step most urgently needed at present is that a small body of Indians of experience, intellectual ability, and constructive ideas, should get together in India to consider what form of constitution can be devised which would be acceptable to the main Parties as a substitute for the 1935 Act.

The meeting fully appreciated the difficulties of the present situation, the essence of which is that, not only the leaders of Congress, but even the Liberal Party, seem to be asking the British Government to undertake a substantial immediate transfer of constitutional power to Indian Ministers without any prior agreement or even discussion as to the ultimate form of the new constitution. The problem is how to get representative statesmen away from this negative position and working together on the constructive planning work which is necessary. After full discussion those present agreed that the following line of action is worthy of consideration.

A representative group of all Parties in the House of Commons (which might very well be the group of Members who sent an Open Letter to India at the end of 1940) should send a communication to the leaders of the various Parties in India, making the following points:

(a) The feeling in the House of Commons is one of grave distress that progress is not being made towards a constitutional settlement, that such a settlement is deeply desired on the British side but that these Members do not see how it can be attained without agreement between the Parties on the form of a new constitution.

(b) It is important on the one hand that Parliament should understand what motives are holding the Indian leaders back from discussion on this matter and, on the other hand, that the leaders themselves should understand what are the feelings in the House of Commons.

(c) It is possible that personal discussion between British M.P.s and Indian leaders might help to a better understanding in both these directions, and, further, that a joint discussion of the constitutional problem itself might be helpful. Although difficulties of travel and the great preoccupation of all those engaged in public life with urgent issues at home are serious obstacles, the feeling in the House of Commons on the matter is so strong that it could probably be arranged that a small representative group, say not more than three or four, representing all Parties in the House of Commons, should pay a visit to India. This visit would be entirely unofficial in the sense that it would be in no way connected with the Government. Its object would be:

1st. to assure the Indian leaders of the great interest of the House of Commons in finding a constructive solution and of the general feeling in the House as to the way in which such a solution could be found;

2nd. to give the M.P.s concerned a chance of appreciating the Indian position and of giving a true account of this to the House;

3rd. To† afford such help as these Members could to the Indian Parties in dealing with the problem itself.

Having explained these points the communication would end with a definite request to be informed by the leaders of each of the main Parties whether, in the event of this small mission visiting India, they would be prepared to enter into discussion with the British M.P.s either alone or jointly with the representatives of the other Indian Parties.

The Members present at the meeting were under no illusions as to the difficulties of finding any sort of accommodation with the extreme Party leaders, and they recognised the probability that both Mr. Gandhi and Mr. Jinnah would refuse to enter into joint discussions. They saw also a number of other possible difficulties. On the other hand they felt that action on the lines suggested could not do any harm and might do a considerable amount of good in convincing Indians of British interest in the problem and of Parliament’s desire to find a constructive solution. The general view also was that, even if a solution cannot be found, anything that can be done now to keep the situation fluid and to prevent permanent estrangement growing up would be of value. They have in mind the situation which will arise after the war when, after the period of war prosperity and excietment† is over, political leaders will almost certainly resume their sway over the masses.

Some of the Members present were more hopeful as to the possibilities than others but all were agreed in desiring me to ask you to consider this matter and, if you thought fit, to send a copy of this letter by Air Mail to the Viceroy, asking him to inform you by telegram of his own views on the proposal. Although the essence of the idea is that the visit is a completely spontaneous gesture by the House of Commons and in no sense a move which has been suggested or encouraged by Government, it is of course rully {1} recognised that it would be most undesirable that it should be undertaken if it were actively disapproved of by yourself or the Viceroy.

There will doubtless be considerable difficulties in finding Members of the right qualifications to go, and the provision of money for the expenses of some of the Members will also have to be considered. It was, however, generally felt that these difficulties could be overcome and were certainly worth overcoming if there were even a small hope that some good might be achieved.

An important point is that there should be some sounding of the position and possibly some private approaches to individuals before the proposal is made public. This is a matter for careful consideration.

In the course of the discussion it was suggested that such a visit might perhaps be arranged through the Empire Parliamentary Association and be represented as a gesture made by that Association. While it was recognised that there might be certain advantages in this, the general feeling was that it would tend to blunt the sharpness of the impression which it is desired to convey, viz: an impression of the great interest felt on the subject in the House of Commons and of the earnest desire of the House of Commons, as such, to help in finding a solution.


{1} A slip for 'fully'.

† Sic.

Carbon copy of a memorandum by Sir George Schuster headed ‘India. Note on action taken as a sequel to the meeting of the All-Party Group of M.P.s on Tuesday, October 21st’

While the draft letter to Amery (see 3/200) was being circulated, he submitted a copy of it to Amery himself, who, contrary to the group’s original agreement, communicated the substance of their suggestion to the Viceroy (Linlithgow).




Note on action taken as a sequel to the meeting of the All-Party Group of M.P.s on Tuesday, October 21st.

As arranged at the meeting I circulated a draft for a letter to Mr. Amery. Simultaneously, in order to save time, I sent a copy of the draft to Mr. Amery explaining clearly that this was only my own draft and had not yet received the approval of the other members. I sent it to him be-cause I thought it would be valuable if he could let me have his own private reactions before the final form of letter was settled. As I did not receive any acknowledgment to my letter from Mr. Amery I asked him to see me on November 5th. He then told me that he had actually communicated the substance of the suggestion to the Viceroy, but, as a matter of fact, when he saw me he was not quite clear in his memory as to whether he had telegraphed to the Viceroy or included a paragraph in an Air Mail letter. I explained to him that this was not in accordance with what I had settled with my colleagues as I had intended to communicate with them again before a letter was actually sent in to him. In the result, however, it does not make much difference, and we must now await the Viceroy’s reply.


Carbon copy of a letter from L. S. Amery to Sir George Schuster

India Office.—The Viceroy (Linlithgow) does not think this the time for the kind of good-will mission suggested. Explains why he agrees with this view, and points out other methods which might be used to ease the deadlock.

(Carbon copy of a typed transcript.)




India Office, | Whitehall.
21st. November, 1941.

My dear Schuster,

I have just heard from the Viceroy that he does not think that this is really the time for the kind of good will mission suggested. He does not think it could do any good in the present situation and might even do harm. I am afraid I must agree with his conclusion. I fear that there might be every danger of the leaders of the main parties, short of a Government decision to accord Dominion status now, giving a public rebuff to the visit. As you will remember, your very friendly and helpful open letter last year met with a cool reception and Miss Rathbone’s earnest and sincere appeal only provoked the most violent criticism.

I imagine that both Gandhi and Jinnah might not only ignore the mission, but order their followers to do so.

On top of all this there is the terrific difficulty about securing priority for air passages.

Isn’t the best chance under present conditions of easing the deadlock to give Indians themselves the opportunity of creating credit for any constructive move—assisting them entirely sub-rosa, which might be done to some extent by people like Wint or Hodson or Coupland, and by reading your book {1}, but not by a Parliamentary mission which could not but attract attention, and might very well be suspected of being really a disguised official mission?

I don’t think you should assume that because the major deadlock is unsolved, and likely to be unsolved for some time to come, we are pursuing a purely negative policy. On the contrary, I cannot but hope that in actual working the new Executive and the National Defence Council will begin to exercise a very real influence on the outlook of India, and be increasingly contrasted with the purely negative attitude both of Gandhi and of Jinnah. In all these things one has, after all, to take time into one’s counsels. Incidentally time, in the shape of a German advance in the Caucasus or a Japanese invasion of Burma, may help the process of reflection.

I have telegraphed to Wint saying that we both think he had better go on with his investigations into Pakistan.

Yours sincerely,
(Sgd) L. S. AMERY


{1} George Schuster and Guy Wint, India and Democracy: A Summary (1941).

Letter from Sir George Schuster to F. W. Pethick-Lawrence

179 City Road, E.C.1.—Since the deputation to Amery was ineffective, a deputation should be sent to the Prime Minister (Churchill). Sets out the points to be made, drawing particular attention to the question of the strategic position of India after the war.


179 City Road, E.C.1.
6th April, 1943.

Personal and strictly confidential

Dear Pethick-Lawrence

Reflecting on our deputation to Amery and the Indian debate in the House, I feel strongly that we in the House of Commons ought not to be content to leave matters where they are. It seemed to me that our deputation to Amery showed clearly that it is little use for us to talk to him. We really need to get right through to the Prime Minister. I therefore feel that we ought to ask the Prime Minister to receive a deputation about India.

I do not want to bother you with a long letter so I will put as briefly as possible the three points which I think we should make to him.

First: To impress on him the value of showing the Indian public—
that he is personally interesting himself in the Indian problem;
that he is determined to go ahead (in spite of his pre-war attitude); but that British action will be governed by certain clear principles which we consider to be right and that threats of political disturbance will not force us to abandon these.

Second: To impress on him our view as to the vital importance of getting the right man to India as Viceroy and not to allow this matter to drift on further.

Third: To raise with him the whole question of the strategic position of India in the post war world.

Whatever may be the political outcome one has to face the fact that India is not likely to attain great political stability in the early years of the new constitution. On the other hand India occupies a strategic position which represents one of the key points in the security structure of the world. It is a point which cannot be left open or as an invitation to new trouble-makers to step in. Presumably if, as contemplated in last year’s declaration, the British Government is to make a treaty with the new Indian Union, the provision of the necessary measures for the strategic security of the United Nations (naval bases, military garrisons, equipment for production of munitions, etc. etc.) will be one of the terms to be covered by the Treaty. I think we ought to ask whether these matters are receiving consideration (I have the case of the Irish ports very much in my mind) {1} and also particularly whether their significance is appreciated by the United States. United States opinion may criticise us for our handling of the Indian political situation because it is so easy to adopt high standards for other people’s problems; but, when it comes to strategic security, their interests will be identical with ours.

I will not develop this last point further. I am sure you will appreciate its significance. I touched upon it in my own speech in the India debate, but I did not want to say too much. It seems to me to have a vital bearing on the whole Indian Problem.

If you think there is any force in my line of argument perhaps we could have a few words about the matter in the House. I had already last week mentioned to Ammon my idea that some of us ought to try and see the Prime Minister. If you agree with this view it would then be a question of what sort of deputation should go, and this is also a matter on which I should like to have a few words with you.

Yours sincerely,
George Schuster

The Rt. Hon.
F. W. Pethick Lawrence, M.P.


{1} ‘I have … mind’ added in the margin. Brackets supplied.

Letter from Sir George Schuster to F. W. Pethick-Lawrence

179 City Road, E.C.1.—Raises the questions of the appointment of a new Viceroy and the future security of India. Suggests that Clark Kerr might make a capable Viceroy.



Private and Personal

179 City Road, E.C.1.
11th May, 1943.

Dear Pethick-Lawrence,

I promised that I would let you have a note about India. There are really two distinct points:

A. The appointment of the Viceroy.

B. The need to bring a new reality into the discussions about the future of India by facing up to what will be required for the war security of that country and for preventing her from being a fatally weak piece in the structure of world security which the United Nations must want to erect. Facing up to what this means is needed—
1st. In India itself.
2nd. In the United States and other countries and
3rd. In this country.

I had meant to prepare a note on B. during the week-end, but I had to be in my constituency and had no time to complete it. **I will let you have it shortly.

A. and B. are closely interconnected. The urgent need is for a statesman as the British representative in India. If we had a man like Cromer in Linlithgow’s place history would have been quite different.

On both matters Winston’s attention is required. It may be that the decision is about the Viceroy has already been taken. I sincerely hope not, if the selection has been from those mentioned in the Press.

We have no ideal man available; but I have a feeling that Clerk-Kerr might be much better than any of these that have been mentioned. He was a very great success in China and has the reputation of having done well in Russia. That could mean a lot in India.

George Schuster

The Rt. Hon.
F. W. Pethick-Lawrence, M.P.,
House of Commons.

Letter from Sir George Schuster to F. W. Pethick-Lawrence

House of Commons.—Agrees that certain points need to be settled before an approach is made to the Prime Minister (see 3/221). Will try to write a note shortly and arrange a meeting with two brigadiers with Indian Army experience. Thanks Pethick-Lawrence for his contribution.

Letter from Sir George Schuster to F. W. Pethick-Lawrence

Nether Worton House, Middle Barton, Oxon.—Congratulates him on his appointment as Secretary of State for India, and expresses his mixed feelings at being out of Parliament.



Nether Worton House, Middle Barton, Oxon.
4. Aug. 1945

My dear Pethick.

(as I hope I may call you, since you used so to sign yourself to me) I congratulate you most sincerely. When I say ‘congratulate’ I mean many things. I am glad for the happiness which your appointment must bring to you, for I am sure that, in spite of the heavy thankless responsibility which anything to do with India involves, it must bring you happiness that your life’s work should have been crowned by your selection for one of the great offices of State. But I am more glad for the fact that it is you with your wisdom and integrity of mind who have been chosen for this task. I have always said that the man to be Secretary of State for India, or Viceroy, should be one who has neither a name to make nor a heart to break—(not of course meaning that he should be heartless, but one who is a philosopher, who will be satisfied to strive for the right and not worry about the outward appearance of success or be affected by personal ambition). You come nearer to that than anyone of whom I can think.

I write to you without reason, because I flatter myself with the feeling that you are one of those who understood what I was trying to do in Parliamt, and who will regret the fact that I am out of it. I am in many ways sorry to be out, but I am unreservedly relieved to feel that I no longer have a party label tied round my neck. I know that the working of our democracy depends on there being two parties contending with each other; but I think there is room for a few detached individuals “who find in neither faction fair scope for the effort that is in them”. Those words, which Winston once used, apply to me—or so I think. I did genuinely believe that the best thing for the country for the next two or three years would be a National Governmt of all Parties, and I felt it right to go on fighting for that to the last. But the people have otherwise decided, and though there are many things in the realm of methods on which I do not agree with your party, I so strongly sympathise with their ultimate objectives that I am relieved not to have been returned by voters who would expect me to contend as a partisan against the Labour Party. These are very critical years and I want to see a successful British Governmt—whatever its party.

I need hardly say that if ever you should feel it useful to talk over Indian problems with me I should be honoured and delighted. But I hesitate to say more, as I do not want to appear to be pushing myself forward—and I know that I am not very popular with the India Office!

Anyhow I shall think much of you and you will have my constant prayers for your success. It is really noble of you to have taken on this task. I think specially of you and your wife and your companionship together. I trust that by being in the House of Lords you can do the work without extra interruption to that companionship, and that for you Browning’s words may have a new meaning

—Grow old along with me
The best is still to be— {1}

Ever yours
George Schuster


{1} A slight misquotation from ‘Rabbi ben Ezra’, which, as printed, has ‘yet’ instead of ‘still’.

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