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Gandhi, Mohandas Karamchand (1869–1948), Indian political leader and religious and social reformer
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Script of a radio interview with Lord Pethick-Lawrence

Pethick-Lawrence recalls his meetings with Gandhi.

(Carbon copy of a typed original.)



An interview with Lord Pethick Lawrence.

Interviewer: It is a great privilege, Sir, to welcome you to this country after a lapse of nearly eleven years and to recall those days when you and Gandhiji used to be together. Would you kindly tell me when your first acquaintance with Gandhiji took place.

Lord Pethick: I forget the precise year, but when my first wife, Emily†, was fighting for women to get the vote in my own country, Mr Gandhi was in London and he took a great interest in our fight because it was non-violent, and on one occasion one of the women, who had been arrested for technical breaches of the law began a hunger strike in order to secure proper treatment in prison. Now shortly after that Mr K. Hardy introduced Mr Gandhi personally to my wife and myself, and I remember very well that he came to our flat in Clements Inn in London and told me about the work he had been doing in South Africa. He told us of his relationship with General Smuts and how he had acted on behalf of the Indian community and had made a compromise decision with General Smuts. This did not please all his followers, and he told us how one of them met him in the street and said that he had betrayed the rights of Indians and he was going to attack him. Mr Gandhi offered no resistence†, and I understand he was struck down, but his supporters rallied round him and saved the attack from being mortal. It is rather interesting, in this connection, to recall that in years later, I think it was in 1942, General Smuts issued a statement about Mr Gandhi in which he praised Gandhiji in every way and said that he was an honourable and worthy debater and discusser in matters concerning them in those old days.

Interviewer: The Pathan, who attacked him, afterwards became a bodyguard to Gandhiji.

Lord Pethick Lawrence: Yes, I think, that is true. Mr Gandhi said the man who struck him was one of his most faithful supporters. I remember his telling us that.

Interviewer: When did you meet Gandhiji next?

Lord Pethick Lawrence: Well, I may have met him in London again, but I have no definite recollection. But I certainly met him in 1926. In that year the Congress was holding its annual gathering in Gauhati, in Assam, where I am interested to note it is holding it again this year, and Mr Gandhi attended that gathering. My wife and I had the pleasure of meeting him when he was having a frugal lunch somewhere in the neighbourhood of the site where the Congress was held. We had discussions on a great number of things including non-resistence† and, subsequently, we met him again at the full gatherings of the Congress. Also, although we did not meet Gandhiji himself, we went to his Ashram in Ahmedabad and we had the pleasure of seeing [his] {1} work.

Interviewer: Gandhiji was not there at that time, I think.

Lord Pethick Lawrence: He was not in Ahmedabad when we went there.

Interviewer: A long period of nearly twenty years, I think, elapsed before your next meeting with him took place.

Lord Pethick: I don’t think it is quite correct. I met him at the Round Table Conference which was held in London. I was not a member of the first Round Table Conference, but I was a member of the second Round Table Conference that was held, I think, in 1930, and Gandhiji was a regular attendant at that and he sat on one side of the Chairman, Lord Chancellor, and I sat about two or three on the other side of the Chancellor. I was only a very subordinate member. I was not a member of the Cabinet then. But I do remember talking to Gandhiji and of hearing the speeches that he made at the Conference. I had also the privilege of making a short speech myself. My principal meeting with him was in 1946 when I led the Cabinet Mission to this country to discuss the future of India. In the meantime, I have had a letter from Gandhiji, congratulating me on being Secretary of State and hoping that we should do business together. I had replied and in particular I do remember his birthday, October 2, because that was a very important day in my own life, being the day when I married my first wife.

Interviewer: Well, that is very interesting.

Lord Pethick: When I came here Gandhiji came specially to meet me, and one of the first things he said to me was that he believed in my sincerity, and I am happy to think that he never changed his view on that matter. I do believe the fact that Gandhiji recognised my sincerity in wishing to see freedom coming to the people of the country and that not only I was sincere myself but I was entitled to present that position as that of the Government of the day, my Government, and in that way, I feel sure that negotiations and discussions, though they were long drawn-out and often not always entirely amicable, nevertheless they were conducted, all through, in the knowledge and certainty that the British were sincere and that I as a representative was entitled to represent the views of the Government in that matter and that sincerity was one of the causes for the settlement which has now come to be recognised and the independence of the people on this Peninsula is now an accomplished fact.

Interviewer: You will be interested to learn that one of the proofs of your sincerity which he always wished to mention was that you took your wife’s name instead of your wife taking your name.

Lord Pethick Lawrence: We took the double name. My wife was Pethick and I was Lawrence, and we decided to unite the two names to represent the quality of our union.

Interviewer: That was in his eyes a more important indication than any indications could have been. What was your reaction when you got the news of his assassination.

Lord Pethick: Well, I had of course ceased to be Secretary of State at that time, and not only that but India had won its independence and I was just a private citizen. But I was quite unprepared for the news of Gandhiji’s death, and it came as a very severe blow to me. I heard it in the country and was greatly grieved. It was a great loss to the people and greatly as I mourn the manner of his death, I feel his name must live enshrined for ever in the annals of humanity.

Interviewer: Thank you, Sir, for giving us very interesting reminiscences, and I hope you will again be able to visit our country and carry the good wishes of the 300 million people of India.

Lord Pethick: Thank you very much for your kind words. I am certainly having most interesting time, and I am delighted at the friendliness of every one I meet from the highest to the lowest.



{1} Omitted by mistake.

† Sic.

Letter from Hasan Shahid Suhrawardy to R. C. Trevelyan

28, Rue de la Tourelle, Boulogne sur Seine. - Thanks Trevelyan for his kind letters; does not know what he would do at this uncertain time if he did not have Trevelyan's 'affection and kindness enveloping... and guarding' him. Very grateful for the days he spent at the Shiffolds; asks Trevelyan to thank Mrs Trevelyan for him, as he cannot express himself adequately in a letter. Had a good crossing and found Rex [his dog] well. Has been looking after the old Indian he met in London, who has had 'three successive strokes of paralysis' and is in a bad state; he has a wife, just emerged from purdah, two illiterate servants, and two small children; he is now a little better and will be leaving for India at the beginning of next month. Suhrawardy is also helping another family of Indians, 'very fine, khaddar-clad, orthodox, gentle & fat', and Ellen [Vinaver?] jokes that he is the 'unpaid consul in Paris of Nationalist India'. Has had no time to look for flats, and cannot make any decisions, since Madame Germanova wishes to spend the three months she will be in France outside Paris, then he will go to India in October for at least three months. Is waiting for her husband [Kalitinsky] to return from Prague before he make a decision; meanwhile Rex is with Ellen and the flat is cold and empty without him. Does not know what will come of Gandhi's action [the Salt March to Dandi] but is moved to tears by it. Asks Trevelyan to write to say he has recovered from his accident, and tells him to take care when crossing roads and getting on buses. He failed, but Ellen passed, the test.

Printed copy of a telegram from Lord Reading to Edwin Montagu

Quiet prevails at Bombay. Gandhi has made a press statement in which he does not dispute the seriousness of the violent outbreaks or deny that they constitute a breach of his injunctions to refrain from harm or insult to the Prince, and admits that he finds himself unable to control the spirit of revolt and that the hope of reviving mass civil obedience has once more been dashed. Reading believes that the non-co-operationists have suffered a great defeat and that the majority at Bombay have shown themselves loyal to the Crown. There have been hartals in several big cities and intimidation has been resorted to, particularly in Calcutta. The Government of Bengal has declared the volunteer corps unlawful. Practically all shops were shut in Delhi, but despite the success of hartals he believes that the general public are now anxious for Government to assert its authority. Will discuss the situation in Council tomorrow. Urges Montagu to oppose the institution of autonomous rule at Adrianople under the Greek flag, and asks whether it is impossible that autonomy should be under Turkish suzerainty, though under international control.

(Cuttings from a larger document, pasted to a sheet of paper.)

Copy of a telegram from Lord Reading to Edwin Montagu

Council have not yet decided whether to arrest Gandhi, as replies have not yet been received from the Bombay Government. Inquiries are also being made as to the effect of the Ali brothers’ speeches on the army. They are anxious not to be precipitate, but Reading believes that Gandhi will be arrested. It is possible that the prosecution will take place during the Prince’s visit.

(Mechanical copy of typed original. A duplicate of A3/24/4.)

Extract from a letter from Lord Reading to Edwin Montagu

They do not know what Gandhi intends to do at the Conference at Bombay. If he adopts the same position he put forward at Congress meetings they will not have advanced, though it is possible that some influential people will stand against him; on the other hand, it will also hinder their plans if he compromises with some of the moderates. However, Reading does not think he will moderate his demands, as he has committed himself to them too publicly and is obsessed with the notion that he can paralyse Government. The crowding of jails has created numerous problems, and Reading hopes the desire to court arrest will abate. The Budget may cause serious trouble, since the impending rise in taxation will lead to resentment of the presence of British troops, which represent a large proportion of expenditure.

Telegram from Edwin Montagu to Lord Reading

Has just had an interview with the King, and has done his best to allay his anxiety at reports that action is being taken against the innocent dupes of the non-co-operators in India rather than the ringleaders, particularly Gandhi. He also reassured him with regard to the Prince of Wales’s safety. Asks whether there is any truth in the report that, when no students attended the degree ceremony attended by the prince at Benares, high school boys were brought in to fill the vacant places. The King urged that the prince should omit Lahore from his tour.

(Typed. Used for transmission.)

Copy of a telegram from Lord Chelmsford to Edwin Montagu

Continues his telegram of the 15th [A2/1/7]. Has sent a communication to Lloyd, based on Montagu's suggestion [in A2/1/6]. Lloyd has replied that action against Horniman cannot be delayed, and he will probably be deported today or on Friday. Lloyd prefers deportation to trial, since there are signs that students and others are attempting to tamper with the military and the police, and thinks it best, if there is to be trouble, to have it now; he adds that the situation is so complex to diagnose that it is impossible to be certain of the better course of action, but that they have decided to deal with Horniman first, leaving the others till they see the general mood. Chelmsford has advised in reply that he also prefers deportation. Lloyd, who will address a meeting of leading citizens tomorrow, advises that Gandhi seems 'genuinely perturbed' by recent events, but although his statement may allay the feeling somewhat, Gandhi 'intends to pursue the methods whose results he so easily deplores', and that his actions will not affect the revolutionists, of whom he is merely a tool. Gait [Lieutenant-Governor of Bihar and Orissa] is concerned by the situation in his province, where Hasan Iman has taken the satyagraha vow. Calcutta seems to have settled down. The security of Amrita Bazar Patrika has been forfeited owing to inflammatory articles. Delhi is in a state of nervous tension, and shops are still unopened. In the Punjab, the action by the military at Amritsar appears to have had a good local effect, but the effect on the rural population is still unknown. Sporadic outbreaks of different intensity have occurred across the Punjab, and martial law has been extended to the Gujrunwala district. The Seditious Meetings Act has been brought into operation in the districts of Multan and Jullundur. [The Maharaja of] Patiala sent his Imperial Service Troops to help the patrol line in Bhatinda. Chelmsford is writing to the chiefs in the vicinity of the disturbed areas to urge them to co-operate.

(Carbon copy.)

Extract from a letter from Lord Reading to Edwin Montagu

It is difficult to predict the results of the Congress meeting at Ahmedabad and the Khil-afat Committee of the All-India Moslem League. Hazrat Mohani’s speech in favour of elimi-nating the doctrine of non-violence from the Congress resolution and declaring for complete independence and a republic was well received, though defeated. Gandhi opposed it, but pos-sibly from mere expediency, and some consider he may be preparing eventually for revolution with violence. Lloyd is strongly opposed to a conference, and wishes to arrest Gandhi. The question is to be discussed in Council. Reading believes they should wait until he takes a defi-nite step, and points out that Gandhi’s speeches at Congress concentrated on the enrolment of volunteers sworn to non-violence and to meeting peacefully to promote the cause of the Congress volunteers and to protest against a law which leads to the arrest of those whose only offence, as Gandhi’s supporters say, is non-co-operation. This is the view of Congress, which Reading does not accept, pointing out that intimidatory acts are common amongst the volun-teers but that it is very difficult to obtain evidence against the offenders. In view of the resolu-tion in favour of civil disobedience, they will watch events carefully. ‘Gandhi is appointed Dic-tator and can do as he pleases.’ And if he is arrested another will take his place, with the stimu-lus that Gandhi, ‘the saint’, is in prison. The visit of the Prince of Wales would not prevent him from arresting Gandhi, if necessary. He could not give the assurance requested by Lloyd, but believes he is right in thinking that Malaviya, etc., are working to get Gandhi to assent to a conference. He cannot see any alternative to either pursuing the present line of prosecutions, etc., or meeting in conference.

Telegram from Lord Reading to Edwin Montagu

(Official.) Continues A3/25/8. The Commissioner, Northern Division, reports that at a meeting at Bardoli [on 29 January], attended by Gandhi and other leaders, a resolution was passed for the non-payment of taxes. This will take effect if approved by an All-India Congress Committee meeting at Surat on 31 January and if no round-table conference is arranged. It is believed that an ultimatum to the Viceroy will be sent on 1 February.


(i) Memorandum from Edwin Montagu to S. K. Brown, with (ii) Brown's reply

(i) Directs him to consult Sir William Duke about sending a telegram to Lord Reading. He does not want Reading to say that he suggested sending for Gandhi. Refers to his own ‘hasty draft’ [A3/14/9].

(ii) The draft seems to be superseded by a telegram just received [A3/15/1–3]. He has sent Sir Edward Grigg a copy and told him that Montagu may wish to see the Prime Minister on it urgently.

Telegram from Edwin Montagu to Lord Reading

Refers to A3/22/4–6. He thinks Reading was wise to receive the deputation, but doubts whether a conference would have been beneficial. Gandhi could not have emerged from the conference with any reputation as a practical politician, and would have been shown to have an anachronistic view of development in India as still being based on concessions by a benevolent Government to clamour, rather than on the Indians achieving their goals by their own efforts. Criticism at home has been based on comparisons with the Irish situation. The Government of India Act, which was intended as the first step of a settled method of progress, was based on hypotheses which make immediate vital amendments impossible. If the Indians would throw themselves into industrial development and the political education of the electorate, their demands would be unanswerable in a year or two.

(Typed, with handwritten alterations. Used for transmission.)

Copy of a telegram from Lord Reading to Edwin Montagu

Council have postponed their decision about prosecuting Gandhi till they have received the views of the Bombay Government and reports on the effect of Gandhi’s propaganda on the army. These inquiries will take two or three weeks.

(Mechanical copy of typed original. A duplicate of A3/24/3.)

Telegram from Edwin Montagu to Lord Reading

Refers to A3/12/6. He is not suggesting that they should attempt to define political prisoners or allow it to be known that rigorous imprisonment would not be applied in any case, but is concerned that the world should think that they allow political prisoners to undergo rigorous imprisonment. At some time peace must be restored between the Government of India, and it is not right that eminent men like Das, who have acted without criminal intent, should suffer what is regarded as the analogy of hard labour. If Gandhi is arrested and sentenced to rigor-ous imprisonment the world would regard the treatment as unfitting and foolish. It is neces-sary to prevent the [political] activities of such prisoners by secluding them from the outside world, but they should be treated with dignity. Harsh treatment only embitters them and their friends against the Government. To his mind the secret mitigation of the Ali brothers’ treat-ment gives them a martyrdom to which they are not entitled. Congratulates him on his speech at Calcutta.

(Typed. Used for transmission.)

Carbon copy of a letter from Lord Pethick-Lawrence to Clement Attlee

Reports on the progress of the Cabinet Mission, and alludes to the possible arrest of Aung San in Burma.



7th April, 1946.

Secret and Personal

My dear Clem,

I expect you will like me from time to time to send you a letter reviewing the situation.

As I think you know, we have arranged a programme of interviews covering the 1st–15th April. The representatives include the Premiers and Leaders of Oppositions from all Provinces and also representatives of the principal political parties. By giving an additional two or three days to these interviews and by allowing some of the minor parties to come and be heard by Cripps and Alexander only, we have managed to meet all claims to be heard which have any reasonable substance. This is a lengthy process, but I think it is proving of value even though all we are doing at this stage is to hear the statement of existing views.

This week our interviews have included Gandhi, Maulana Azad, Jinnah, and the Sikhs, and also a meeting with a deputation of the Chamber of Princes.

There is, I am afraid, no sign of any accommodation at present as between the Congress and the Muslim League. The Congress are, however, prepared to consider the widest provincial autonomy. Their proposal is that there should be a minimum list of compulsory federal subjects which might be foreign affairs, defence, communications and probably customs. There would then also be an optional list of federal subjects which in practice only the Hindu provinces would be likely to adopt, but they appear to set great store on immediately setting up an Interim Government which will be responsible for bringing into being a constitution-making body charged with making a constitution on these broad principles. Their proposal is that this Interim Government should be formed by inviting the eleven Provincial Governments to nominate one person each. These nominees need not be drawn from the Province itself, or be members of legislatures. In reply to a question, Azad said that he thought that if it were desired, more than one nominee could be put forward by each Province and that he personally would not be opposed to a panel of nominees being put forward. The Minorities would be represented by selection to the extent of three seats in a total of fifteen.

I put it to Azad that, in view of the results of the elections, the Muslim League would under this procedure not have more than two or possibly three representatives in a Council of fifteen. Azad seemed to admit the force of this and thought, speaking personally, that arrangements may be made whereby four Muslim League representatives would be included. He said definitely that Congress would not under the present constitution agree to parity with the Muslim League. Cripps asked Azad whether, in view of the fact that the Hindu Provinces only would in fact take optional federal subjects, the Congress would agree to a separate list of optional subjects for the Muslim Provinces which would enable them to come into closer co-operation among themselves for subjects within the special list. At first Azad seemed wholly opposed to this idea but subsequently said that it was a matter which might be considered.

Jinnah, on the other hand, in a three-hour interview insisted that eastern and western Pakistan must be sovereign States and that there could be no relations between those States and Hindustan except by way of treaty or agreement. Anything else would be a surrender of sovereignty. On the question of areas, he made it clear that he was willing that substantial Hindu areas in Bengal and the Punjab should go into Hindustan, but he insisted that limitation of Pakistan to the areas in which Muslims constitute 50 per cent or more would be quite unacceptable since such a Pakistan would not be economically viable. In particular, he said that Calcutta must be in Pakistan. We put to him the possibility that Calcutta might be a free port and, while he did not reject this positively, he raised no objections to it. Jinnah made a fairly good case for Pakistan on cultural and religious grounds, but he was completely unyielding and showed no signs of any intention of making a proposition to meet the Congress. We went for him on the question of defence and, although Cripps made a strong attempt to pin him down as to what he contemplated should be the subject matter of a treaty between Hindustan and Pakistan, we got very little out of him.

The Sikhs were, of course, opposed both to Hindustan and Pakistan. They wanted a united India but in the event of a divided India a separate autonomous state for Sikhs. They based their case for that on the high proportion of land revenue paid by the Sikhs in a substantial area of the Punjab even though nowhere are they in a majority of the population.

We also had a satisfactory meeting with the Chancellor of the Chamber of Princes and four other members of the Standing Committee of the Chamber. I gave them full replies to a series of questions they had put to me and in the course of doing so I made it clear that Paramountcy was coming to an end when a fully self-governing constitution came into operation in British India. I also made it clear that in those circumstances we should not be able to provide troops for the internal protection of the States and that therefore the States on their part would be liberated from their obligations under the treaties. They took this quite well. I was a good deal impressed with Bhopal and I think he may be a helpful factor though there is no sign of the States showing any desire to take an initiative which might ease the British Indian situation.

You will see from this that so far as interviews go we are getting on, but from the point of view of reaching any solution we have not really yet got started. In addition to the official interviews we have had a number of private talks including Gandhi, Jinnah, Vallabhai Patel, Nehru and many others, but these have only served to dot the “i”s and cross the “t”s of the official discussions. Gandhi is at the moment inclined to be generally helpful but I never feel sure what line he may adopt. The Indian Press has ceased to be actively hostile.

We shall probably be seeing the main parties again in about 8 or 9 days time and may lay before them some suggestions for agreement but I think that the critical phase will come in the week after Easter {1} and we may then formulate some definite course of action, and lay it before you.

I am keeping very well in spite of the heat, and the doctor here gives me a clean bill of health. Alexander has been slightly indisposed but is now fully recovered. We have decided definitely not to go to Simla though we may go away for the Easter week-end to Kashmir.

With all personal wishes,

Sincerely yours,

From telegrams I have received I am afraid Burma is giving you anxiety especially on the question of the possible arrest of Aung San on a murder charge. My personal feeling is that if we start probing into what happened during the Japanese occupation we shall stir up mud which may well give us a lot of trouble.

The Rt. Hon. The Prime Minister. {2}


{1} 21 April.

{2} This direction is at the foot of the first sheet.

Telegram from Lord Reading to Edwin Montagu

Continues his message for the Prime Minister, the first part of which was on the subject of railway finance. Thanks him for his support. Will take all necessary precautions for the Prince of Wales’s visit. Refers to A3/11/3, and points out that Gandhi’s action has apparently had little effect. Acknowledges the necessity of taking up his challenge to Government, but hopes he is still free to make his own decision. Draws attention to the necessity of gathering evidence before arrest, the opposition of pro-British newspapers to arrest, and the divisions between the Hindu and Moslem parties.

(Typed. Marked '3'.)

Copy of a telegram from Lord Reading to Edwin Montagu

(Official.) Continues A3/46/6. Gandhi has left Ahmadabad for Ajmer. As the Ajmer authorities are apprehensive of the results of arresting him there, it is proposed to arrest him at Sabarmati station, Ahmedabad, where he is expected to arrive on the afternoon of the 10th.

(Mechanical copy of typed original.)

Telegram from S. R. Hignell to S. K. Brown

Sends in full the ‘agreed statement’ as given to the press: Lord Reading has been advised that his conversations with Gandhi about the Ali brothers have been inaccurately reported in the press, and he has therefore authorised the publication of an agreed statement on the following lines. The interviews resulted from conversations between Reading and Malaviya in which the latter was advised of the Government’s decision to begin criminal proceedings against the Ali brothers for making speeches inciting to violence. Malaviya and Andrews suggested that Reading should speak with Gandhi. The proposed interview was intended to have reference to the general situation, but it is acknowledged that in inviting Gandhi to Simla Malaviya made no reference to the intended proceedings against the Ali brothers. In due course Gandhi came to Simla and an interview was arranged. At the first interview no mention was made of the proposed prosecutions. At the next, Reading expressed the belief that responsible non-co-operators had made speeches inciting to violence, and Gandhi replied that, if he was satisfied that such were the case, he would publicly repudiate them and their teachings unless they withdrew their statements. Reading read to Gandhi passages in speeches by the Ali brothers that he believed were calculated to incite to violence, and Gandhi acknowledged that they were capable of bearing that interpretation; but he asserted that he did not believe that the Ali brothers had intended to incite their audience to violence, and said that he would advise them to express public regret for the unintentional incitement in these passages. Reading asked to see a draft of this statement, and at this point he mentioned the intended prosecutions, stating that, if he was satisfied with the statement, he would try to prevent the prosecutions being carried out. Gandhi, in due course, showed the statement to Reading, who pointed out that certain passages, particularly the reference to the Ali brothers’ religious creed, gave it the appearance of a manifesto, and that it did not contain a promise to refrain from speeches inciting to violence. Reading pointed out that, after publication of the statement, the Ali brothers could give any explanation by means of speeches, provided they did not infringe the law. Gandhi agreed to make the requested alterations. Reading advised him that, if the Ali brothers signed the amended statement, the proceedings would be suspended, reserving the right to take them up again if the promises in the statement were not observed, and noted that it would be necessary to issue a communiqué explaining the Government’s position. Reading advised Gandhi that he might not be able to prevent the commencement of proceedings if the statement was not published quickly, and Gandhi agreed that this would be done. Some days later, Gandhi telegraphed that the Ali brothers had signed the [revised] statement with an immaterial alteration. The Government then issued an official communiqué, the terms of which were not settled till just before its issue, though its substance had been communicated to Gandhi. The main part of the interviews between Reading and Gandhi concerned the various causes of discontent in India, including the disturbances in the Punjab, the Khilafat agitation, and the Treaty of Sèvres. Gandhi did not submit any scheme of swaraj, nor was any such scheme discussed.

(Typed. Formally issued in the name of the Viceroy.)

Telegram from Edwin Montagu to Lord Reading

Since today is the day fixed for the start of civil disobedience, he believes he must take to Cabinet Reading’s correspondence with Lloyd regarding the arrest of Gandhi. He wishes therefore to have an immediate answer to A3/27/5, and asks what action is to be taken about Mohani and whether arrangements have been made to prevent meetings to discuss civil diso-bedience.

(Typed. Used for transmission.)

Copy of a telegram from Lord Reading to Edwin Montagu

Quotes passages from an article by Gandhi in 'Young India' urging Indians not to serve the Government, and refers to a letter by him in the 'Bombay Chronicle' stating that, if the rumours of his imminent arrest were true, it would confirm that the Government was waging war not against violence but against the principle of non-co-operation. The question of prosecuting Gandhi will be considered in Council on the 10th.

(Mechanical copy of typed original.)

Copy of a letter from M. K. Gandhi to Sir Stafford Cripps

Camp: Gauhati (‘as from’ Sevagram, Via Wardha).—Acknowledges the receipt of his letter, and expresses the hope that ‘this time there is determination to do the right thing in terms of Indian thought’.

(Typed transcript.)



As from Sevagram, | Via Wardha (India)

Camp: Gauhati,
12th January, 1946.

Dear Friend,

I was delighted to receive your letter of 19th December ’45. As I am touring Bengal and Assam, your kind greetings were received only yesterday. The Rajkumari {1} had described her talks with you and told me how affectionate you were towards me. I am hoping that this time there is determination to do the right thing in terms of Indian thought. I well remember what King Edward had said about right dealing. I was then in South Africa. The question was of interpreting the treaty between the British and the Boers, and the King had gently insisted on the Boer interpretation being accepted in preference to the British. How I wish that the admirable canon be repeated this time.

I hope with you that this New Year will bring to the thirsting earth the much needed shower of peace and goodwill for which the “Prince of Peace” lived and died.

Yours sincerely,
(sgd) M. K. GANDHI

Sir R. Stafford Cripps,
Board of Trade,
London, S.W.1.


{1} Amrit Kaur.

Letter from Godfrey Nicholson to F. W. Pethick-Lawrence

House of Commons.—Comments on an enclosure (a copy of 5/61?), observing, with regard to Father Joseph and Gandhi, that ‘self-annihilation may lead to a frame of mind in which not only one’s own sufferings appear insignificant and unimportant, but also the sufferings of others’.

Carbon copy of a letter from F. W. Pethick-Lawrence to Aldous Huxley

Praises his book Grey Eminence, and discusses the involvement of mystics in politics. Refers to Gandhi’s inflexibility on certain subjects, and suggests that his policy may result in calamities comparable to those created by Father Joseph.



29th. November, 1943.

Dear Huxley,

A colleague M.P. {1} who had read my autobiography insisted that I should read your book “Grey Eminence” {2}, and I have now done so with absorbing interest. The double riddle that you set yourself to solve, first as to why a mystic should engage in politics at all and secondly, why if he did so he should play such an abominable part, is in itself a most fascinating one; and your solution appears to me as nearly satisfactory as any appreciation of somebody else’s pyschology† can possibly be.

I agree broadly with you that it is not the function of a mystic to engage in “activities” at all and that he is wise to refrain from so doing until he has reached a degree of spiritual discernment which enables him to discriminate between good and bad action. I think you are also right in pointing the danger of that school of Christian mystics who transfer their attempt at union with the Central Life to union with Christ (though no doubt some of them believe that this is the same thing). It seems to me moreover that if Father Joseph had concentrated his mind on Christ the Lover of men who suffered little children to come to Him and told us that we must enter the Kingdom as little children, he might not have been so regardless of human suffering as he became in contemplating the sufferings of Christ on the Cross.

Of course it is in general true that a man of some eminence in his own sphere should hesitate before entering a sphere other than his own. I have noticed the unfortunate result of neglecting this in many cases and I have noted also that the most eminent are usually too wise to fall into this mistake.

But for those whose sphere is religion and who have attained to {3} some measure to union with the Central Life the danger is much greater, both for themselves and also for the public who are wont to assume that their saintly life has given them a discernment in worldly af[f]airs which they do not necessarily possess. I was reading in The New Statesman a few weeks ago a remark which it is said was used by Oliver Cromwell to a number of Northern Ireland Divines “I beseech you in the bowels of Christ to think that ye may be mistaken”. The religieus† i4} is apt to assume that he is never mistaken and the words that fall from his lips belong to the category “Thus saith Zoroaster”.

I expect your mind has turned, as mine has done, from the mystic politician of the 17th century about whom you write to the Mahatma politician of our own day. I wonder whether it has occurred to you to write a companion volume dealing with his “activities”? If not, perhaps some future writer a century or two hence will write up the story and sum up the result in somewhat the same way that you have done with regard to Father Joseph.

I do not of course attribute to Gandhi the political malpractices performed by Father Joseph which seem so disreputable to us and even to his contemporaries. I have known Gandhi personally for a great many years and have been a great admirer of him; and I know his meticulous care to be fair and just. Nevertheless the result of his policy may bring upon India and indeed upon the whole world calamities comparable to those which Father Joseph created. I will give you three examples:—

1) Gandhi feels deeply the spiritual wrongs inflicted by Hindu castes on the untouchables and has his own approach to this question. But the untouchables must be saved his way and this makes him very intolerant of Ambedkar the leader of the untouchables. I saw this myself on the Round Table Conference and its sequel.

2) Gandhi preaches the spiritual view of continence. Therefore he will have nothing to do with birth control. But Gandhi’s spiritual doctrine is quite above the heads of the vast mass of his fellow countrymen. Therefore we have the appalling picture of an India already over populated, having some 50 million extra souls to its population in the course of the last ten years.

3) Gandhi has a spiritual conception of the independence of India. This makes him intolerant of any compromise and I think there is no doubt that it was his influence which caused the Cripss† olive branch to be rejected in the summer of 1942. This has resulted in the further drawing apart of the Hindus & British, of the Moslems & British, and the Hindus & Moslems; and though one can never predict the final closing of the gates of mercy, it may prevent a peaceful solution of the Indian problem for many years to come. I think that Gandhi himself has envisaged the breaking out of civil war.

In conclusion may I say once more what a great service I think you have rendered in writing such an amazingly interesting and penetrating book.

I remain,

Yours sincerely,


{1} Godfrey Nicholson. See 5/62.

{2} A study of François Leclerc du Tremblay (1577–1638), a French Capuchin monk more commonly known as ‘Père Joseph’ or ‘l’éminence grise’ (the grey eminence). He was the confidant and agent of Cardinal Richelieu, ‘l’éminence rouge’.

{3} Altered from ‘in’. ‘to’, the next word but two, should have been altered to ‘of’.

{4} Typed ‘religieuse’ and altered by hand to ‘religieus’.

† Sic.

Copy of a telegram from Lord Chelmsford to Edwin Montagu

With the previous approval of the Government of India, the Bombay Government have ordered that Horniman, editor of the Bombay Chronicle, should leave British India and proceed to England. He was placed on board the S. S. Takada, which sailed from Bombay on the 27th. This action was taken in view of the inflammatory propaganda being conducted by him, which was likely to cause a recrudescence of recent trouble and to foment discontent among the troops, to whom his paper was distributed freely. All is quiet in Bombay. Gandhi has issued a manifesto enjoining moderation.

(Mechanical copy of typed original.)

Telegram from Lord Reading to Edwin Montagu

According to a bulletin issued by the Indian News Agency, the principal feature of the All-India Congress Committee meeting at Bombay is the personal ascendancy of Gandhi, who has threatened to sever all connections with the movement if his demands are not met. Malaviya opposed a boycott of the Prince of Wales’s visit, and it appears that the boycott will be confined to abstention from official rejoicings and that no hartals will be observed. Gandhi’s concentration on the boycott of foreign cloth has led to much discussion.


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