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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.)

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Transcript

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.

*****
HS;BLM
1645

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{1} Omitted by mistake.

† Sic.

Script of a farewell message by Lord Pethick-Lawrence, recorded at All India Radio, Calcutta, on 21 Dec. 1957

Encourages the Indian nation in their efforts towards social reform. Is pleased that India has decided to continue as a member of the Commonwealth.

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Transcript

Farewell Message by Lord Pethick Lawrence
recorded at All India Radio, Calcutta on
21. 12. 57

My wife and I have spent a wonderful month in India. Kindness has been showered upon us in overflowing measure. The treasures of the past have been opened to us to see; and most interesting treasures they are! But what is even more important we have been given opportunities to learn what is beginning to be done to create the India of the future.

In the long years during which I have had close associations with India I have known much of your many problems. During this visit I have realised more than ever how great they are. I can well understand how easy it would be for you to sit down and say, “The obstacles to change and progress are too great. Let us not try to overcome them. Let us continue to live as we did in the past.”

But you are not saying this. You are saying instead “Now that we are in charge of our own destiny we must set our house in order and we must not lag behind other nations in getting rid of the evils in our midst.”

I come from a country where we have full employment and the Welfare State. As a result, the standard of life of our people is higher today than it has ever been before. There is no need for anyone to go hungry or to be without shelter and if he or she is taken ill or has an accident, skilled medical attention is available.

You have much unemployment and you have not the resources today to create the Welfare State. But in your five year plans you are taking steps to deal with both these things; and the best that I can do is to wish you well in your labours. Both you and I realise that it is an uphill task that will take all your resources and all your energies. You are getting, and, I am confident, you will continue to get help from other parts of the world on the material side but of course most of the energy and the skill must increasingly come from yourselves.

That is why I have been so heartened to learn of the great drive you are making to educate your children. The vastness of your population and the remoteness of many of your villages make this a stupendous task but it is an essential element of your progress.

I would like to tell you how strong is the pleasure in my country that you decided to stay a member of the Commonwealth. Many of us view with deep apprehension the hostile alignment to one another of the Great Powers. While we intend to remain loyal members of the United Nations none of us feel that it is wholly satisfactory. We believe that in the Commonwealth we have a society which is nearer to the pattern of the righ relationship of one country to another.

Of course even in the Commonwealth we do not always see eye to eye. But at any rate we consult together and we are in a position to discuss our differences in a friendly spirit. In Britain we naturally tend to look at the world from a European point of view. You as a great Asian Power have quite a different view point and the other members of the Commonwealth have theirs. We feel that that is a great source of strength not only for ourselves but for the world as a whole. Long may it continue!

But the prevailing impression which I carry back home with me is the very real friendliness that you have in India here towards me and my countrymen. This is something much warmer and much more enduring than mere courtesy and good manners. I know it represents your real feelings and because of that I go home very happy that I have come and that I have experienced it. I thank you from the bottom of my heart.

Letter from Mark Guy Pearse to F. W. Lawrence

28 Gordon Mansions (W.C.).—Is delighted by the news of his engagement to Vechan (Emmeline Pethick), and looks forward to meeting him.

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Transcript

28 Gordon Mansions.
June 13: 1901

Dear Mr. Lawrence

Vechan has asked me to meet you at 20 Somerset Terrace on Tuesday {1} at four o’clock. I want just to say how great a pleasure it will be to me.

You know something of our relationship—how all her life she has shared with me her thoughts, and her heart. I am glad that this has come to her & to you. I know that she has but one thought, one purpose, one prayer—it is that she may help you live to the highest and largest fulfilment of your best purposes. She accepts her position with almost an awe, seeing the greatness of your life’s possibility. Vechan can never be to me other than she has ever been,—a kind of holy trust. And to me it will be more than a joy, my blessedness if I can serve her still & serve you for her sake.

I am glad you are going to see her amongst the children. You wont know her until you have seen [her] there & amongst the old people of the workhouse. These children, brought up amidst all that tends to hardness & suspicion, find in her such a boundless trust, the atmosphere of such a gladness & sunshine that they are transformed as by a miracle of love.

God bless you. Take care of her whom I call still my Vechan. There is not in the round world another so strong yet so sensitive, so utterly independent yet so glad to be dependent where love is,—holding so much that is counted everything as so little, but all that makes the true life unutterably dear. God made you the happiest of men that she may be the happiest of women.

Yours heartily
M. Guy Pearse

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{1} 18th.

Letter from Vijaya Lakshmi Pandit to Lord Pethick-Lawrence

India House.—Pethick-Lawrence’s message has been forwarded to her brother (Nehru). Indians have been heartened to realise that many people in Britain did not support the actions of their Government in the Middle East. She thinks her brother has made it clear that India would not wish to leave the Commonwealth. Invites him to lunch for a quiet talk.

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