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fter simplifying the official documents Lord Curzon started his wider reforms. That superb machine, composed of permanent officials, our great staff in India, up till then had been a little apathetic, rather stagnant. The Viceroy began to move it. Some people said he did so too rapidly; but Lord Curzon knew better. Any movement at all would have been resented by a machine which had settled down as this one had. One might liken it to a ship anchored on a rock in still water and suddenly boarded by an energetic commander who meant to move. Every one aboard was sick. Even the officers were sick. They were not used to such movement. It was comparatively gentle itself; but by contrast to the former stillness it appeared violent.

This action of Lord Curzon in India was absolutely necessary. Only a bold man could have attempted such a tremendous work. Only a bold reformer, and no one who has not visited India, can comprehend the magnitude of it. For example, Lord Curzon attacked the Caste Question. Englishmen in India have supremacy over the natives, and Englishmen have abused it The Viceroy announced in his speeches that equal justice must be meted out to native and to European. Up to a very recent period, before Lord Curzon came to India, it was almost impossible to obtain capital punishment for a white soldier who had murdered a native. I know perfectly well that the theory of Empire is based on the supremacy of the white man over the black; but there is a right and a wrong way of demonstrating this supremacy, and in the past the wrong way predominated.

Here are two instances which actually occurred not long ago in the Bombay presidency. One day a subaltern got into a first-class railway carriage and found sitting there a "coloured gentleman." In a fit of rage, he seized the poor man by the shoulders, and, shouting out to him, " Out you go, you black beast!" pitched him and his portmanteaus on to the platform. This, to his great astonishment, caused a considerable disturbance; and when he inquired what the people meant by putting themselves out over a black man, an Englishman who was passing by answered : "Well, perhaps you don't know it, but you have just thrown one of Her Majesty's judges out of the train." On another occasion Lord R , a great governor, had a big dinner-party, at which were present a certain Anglo-Indian official of some importance and his wife. Lord R, with a “coloured gentleman” at his side, walked up to the lady and said, "Will you allow me to introduce my friend Mr. S? He will take you into dinner." She, without taking the slightest notice of the "coloured gentleman," threw up her head, walked up to her husband, and the two marched out of the room together. The whole of Anglo-India was on her side! It is easy to understand, then, the vast importance and magnitude of the task that Lord Curzon set himself to do. He set his face as a flint against the many outrages which were being perpetrated by Anglo-Indians [English people living in India, not those of mixed race — the more recent meaning] against native Indians. It required much courage; but he carried on his crusade logically. It did not help to make him popular with the military out there; and, as these are the people who surround him socially, whom he must live with day after day, it is obbvious that only a courageous and strong man could have pursued this course.

Then, he says that if we are to retain India we must respect the native prejudices and traditions, religious, social, and other. With a view to carrying this out, he has turned his attention to the shooting. Certain birds, such as the peacock, are sacred; but Tommy went out shooting pea- cocks galore. Now Lord Curzon has laid down strict and stringent laws. Soldiers must not go out shooting unless they are able to speak the language, which practically means that Tommy cannot shoot at all. This doesn't exactly help to make Lord Curzon popular with the army; but, after all, was ever a great reformer universally popular ?


Menpes, Mortimer. The Durbar. Text by Dorothy Menpes. London: Adam & Charles Black, 1903. Internet Archive version of a copy in the University of California at Los Angeles Library. Web. 27 May 2017.

Last modified 31 May 2017