The Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi/Volume I/1894
- 1 1894
- 1.1 Guide to London (1893-94)
- 1.2 Fragment of a Petition (1894)
- 1.3 Diary (1894)
- 1.4 An Experiment in Vital Food (24-3-1894)
- 1.5 Letter to "The Vegetarian" (28-4-1894)
- 1.6 Vegetarianism and Children (5-5-1894)
- 1.7 Questions on Religion (Before June 1894)
- 1.8 Petition to Natal Legislative Assembly (28-6-1894)
- 1.9 Deputation to Natal Premier (29-6-1894)
- 1.10 A Circular Letter to Legislator (1-7-1894)
- 1.11 Deputation to Natal Governor (3-7-1894)
- 1.12 Petition to Natal Legislative Council (4-7-1894)
- 1.13 Extract from Letter to Dadabhai Naoroji (5-7-1894)
- 1.14 Petition to Natal Legislative Council (6-7-1894)
- 1.15 Letter to "The Natal Mercury" (7-7-1894)
- 1.16 Petition to Natal Governor (10-7-1894)
- 1.17 Petition to Lord Ripon (Before 14-7-1894)
- 1.18 Letter to Dadabhai Naoroji (14-7-1894)
- 1.19 Letter to Dadabhai Naoroji (27-7-1894)
- 1.20 Letter to Mrs. A. M. Lewis (4-8-1894)
- 1.21 Constitution of the Natal Indian Congress (22-8-1894)
- 1.22 Letter to "The Times of Natal" (25-10-1894)
- 1.23 Books for Sale (Before 26-11-1894)
- 1.24 Letter to "The Natal Mercury" (26-11-1894)
- 1.25 Open Letter (Before 19-12-1894)
- 1.26 Letter to Europeans (19-12-1894)
Guide to London (1893-94)
Fragment of a Petition (1894)
An Indian member of the British House of Commons, should he come here, would not be fit for becoming a voter. We thank your Honour for receiving this deputation, and the patience and courtesy shown us, and implore you to use your Honour's powerful influence to see full justice is done to Indians. It is justice we want, and that only.
From a photostat: S.N. 881
Drafted a petition regarding the Franchise Law Amendment
- 1 ^ 1894 a Franchise Law Amendment Bill, which deprived British Indians of any voting rights, had been introduced in the Natal Assembly (vide Vol. I). The petition of which this fragment formed part was presumably submitted in that year to someone in authority, who cannot be identified.
An Experiment in Vital Food (24-3-1894)
Before describing the experiment, if it may be called one, I would mention that I gave the vital food a trial in Bombay for a week; that I left it off only because at the time I had to entertain many friends, and because there were some other social considerations; that the vital food agreed with me very well than; and that, had I been able to continue it, very likely it would have suited me. I give the notes as I took them while I was conducting the experiment.
- August 22nd, 1893. Began the vital food experiment. I have been having a cold for the last two days, with a slight cold in the ears too. Had two tablespoonfuls of wheat, one of peas, one of rice, two of sultanas, about twenty small nuts, two oranges, and a cup of cocoa for breakfast. The pulses and cereals were soaked overnight. I finished the meal in 45 minutes. Was very bright in the morning, depression came on in the evening, with a slight headache. For dinner had the usual things --bread, vegetables, etc.
- August 23rd. Feeling hungry, had some peas last evening. Owing to that I did not sleep well, and woke up with a bad taste in the mouth in the morning. Had the same breakfast and dinner as yesterday. Though the day was very dull and it rained a little, I had no headache or cold. Had tea with Baker . This did not agree at all. Felt pains in the stomach.
- August 24th. In the morning woke up uneasy, with a heavy stomach. Had the same breakfast, except that the one spoonful of peas was reduced to half. The usual dinner. Did not feel well. Had feeling of indigestion the whole day. August 25th. Felt a heaviness in the stomach when I got up.
- During the day, too, did not feel well. Had no appetite for dinner. Still I had it. There were undercooked peas for dinner yesterday. That may have to do with the heaviness. Got headache in the latter part of the day. Took some quinine after dinner. The same breakfast as yesterday.
- August 26th. Rose up with a heavy stomach. For breakfast I had half a tablespoonful of peas, half of rice, half of wheat, two and a half of sultanas, ten walnuts, and one orange. The mouth did not taste well throughout the day. Did not feel well either. Had the usual dinner. At 7 p.m. had an orange and a cup of cocoa. I feel hungry (8 p.m.), and yet no desire to eat. The vital food does not seem to agree well.
- August 27th. In the morning got up very hungry, but did not feel well. For breakfast had one-and-a-half tablespoonfuls of wheat, two of raisins, ten walnuts and an orange (mark, no peas and rice). Towards the latter part of the day felt better. The cause of yesterday's heaviness was perhaps peas and rice. At 1 p.m. had one teaspoonful of unsoaked wheat, one tablespoonful of raisins, and fourteen nuts (thus, the usual dinner was replaced by vital food). At Miss Harris's had tea (bread, butter, jam and cocoa). I enjoyed the tea very much and felt as if I was having bread and butter after a long fast. After tea felt very hungry and weak. Had, therefore, a cup of cocoa and an orange on returning home.
- August 28th. In the morning the mouth did not taste well. Had one and a half tablespoonfuls of wheat, two of raisins, twenty nuts, one orange and a cup of cocoa; except that I felt weak and hungry I felt all right. The mouth, too, was all right.
- August 29th. Woke up well in the morning. For breakfast had one-and-half tablespoonfuls of wheat, two of sultanas, one orange and twenty nuts. For dinner had three tablespoonfuls of wheat, two of currants and twenty nuts and two oranges. In the evening had rice, vermicelli and potatoes at Tyab's. Felt weak towards evening.
- August 30th. For breakfast had two tablespoonfuls of wheat, two of raisins, twenty walnuts, and one orange. For dinner had the same things with an addition of one more orange. Felt very weak. Could not take the usual walks without fatigue.
- August 31st. When I got up in the morning the mouth was very sweet. Felt very weak. Had the same quantity of food both for breakfast and dinner. Had a cup of cocoa and an orange in the evening. Felt extremely weak throughout the day. I can take the walks with much difficulty. The teeth, too, are getting weaker, the mouth too sweet.
- September 1st. Got up in the morning quite tired. Had the same breakfast as yesterday, the same dinner. Feel very weak; teeth are aching. The experiment must be left off. Had tea with Baker as it was his birthday. Felt better after the tea.
- September 2nd. Woke up fresh in the morning (the effect of last evening's tea). Had the old food (porridge, bread, butter, jam and cocoa). Felt ever so much better.
Thus ended the vital food experiment.
Under more favourable circumstances it might not have failed. A boarding-house, where one cannot control everything, where it is not possible to make frequent changes in the diet, is hardly a place where food experiments can be conducted successfully. Again, it will have been noticed that the only fresh fruit that I could get was oranges. No other fruits were to be had in the Transvaal then.
It is a matter of great regret that, although the Transvaal soil is very fruitful, the fruit cultivation is very much neglected. Again, I could not get any milk, which is a very dear commodity here. People generally use condensed milk in South Africa. It must, therefore, be admitted that the experiment is entirely useless to prove the value of vital food. It were sheer audacity to venture any opinion on the vital food after an eleven days' trial under adverse circumstances. To expect the stomach, used for twenty years and upwards to cooked food, to assimilate, at a stroke, uncooked food, is too much, and yet I think the experiment has its value. It should serve as a guide to others, who would embark upon such experiments, attracted to them by some of their charms, but have not the ability, or the means, or the circumstances, or the patience, or the knowledge to carry them to a successful issue. I confess I had none of the above qualifications. Having no patience to watch the results slowly, I violently changed my diet. From the very start, the breakfast consisted of the vital food, while four or five days had hardly passed when the dinner, too, consisted of vital food. My acquaintance with the vital food theory was very superficial indeed. A little pamphlet by Mr. Hills, and one or two articles that recently appeared from his pen in The Vegetarian were all I knew about it. Anyone, therefore, not possessing the necessary qualifications, is, I believe, doomed to failure, and will hurt both himself and the cause he is trying to investigate into and advance.
And after all, is it worth while for an ordinary vegetarian to devote his attention to such pursuits--a vegetarian who enjoys good health and is satisfied with his diet? Would it not be better to leave it to the adepts who devote their lives to such researches? These remarks apply especially to those vegetarians who base their creed on the grand basis of humanitarianism--who are vegetarians because they consider it wrong, nay, even sinful, to kill animals for their food. That the ordinary vegetarianism is possible, is conducive to health, he who runs may see. What more, then, do we want? Vital food may have its grand possibilities in store; but it will surely not make our perishable bodies immortal. That any considerable majority of human beings would ever do away with cooking does not seem feasible. The vital food will not, cannot, as such, minister to the wants of the soul. And if the highest aim, indeed, the only aim of this life, be to know the soul, then, it is humbly submitted, anything that takes away from our opportunities of knowing the soul, and therefore, also playing with the vital food and other such experiments, is playing away, to that extent, the only desirable aim in life.
If we are to eat that we may live to the glory of Him, of whom we are, then, is it not sufficient that we eat nothing that, to Nature, is repulsive, that requires the unnecessary spilling of blood? No more, however, of this while I am yet on the threshold of my studies in that direction. I simply throw out these thoughts, which were passing through the mind while I was conducting the experiment, so that some dear brother or sister may find, perchance, an echo of their own in this.
The reasons which led me to try the vital food were its extreme simplicity. That I could dispense with cooking, that I could carry about my own food wherever I went, that I should not have to put up with any uncleanness of the landlady or those who supplied me with food, that, in travelling in such countries as South Africa, the vital food would be an ideal food, were charms too irresistible for me. But what a sacrifice of time and trouble to achieve what is after all a selfish end, which falls short of the highest! Life seems too short for these things.
The Vegetarian, 24-3-1894
- 2^ A. W. Baker, attorney and preacher, who discussed Christianity with Gandhiji and introduced him to Christian friends in Pretoria
Letter to "The Vegetarian" (28-4-1894)
To the Editor
My Dear Brother,
If you are a vegetarian, I think it is your duty to join the London Vegetarian Society, and to subscribe to The Vegetarian if you have not done so already.
It is your duty because --
- (1) You will thereby encourage and aid the creed you profess. :
- (2) That will be an expression of the bond of sympathy that should exist between a vegetarian and a vegetarian in a land where there are so few of them.
- (3) The vegetarian movement will indirectly aid India politically also, inasmuch as the English vegetarians will more readily sympathize with the Indian aspirations (that is my personal experience).
- (4) Looking at the question even from a purely selfish point of view, you will thereby be able to have a large circle of vegetarian friends who ought to be more acceptable than others.
- (5) Your knowledge of the vegetarian literature will enable you to remain firm in your principles in a land where you are exposed to so many temptations, which have in very many cases proved irresistible, and you will, in case of illness, be able to get the aid of vegetarian doctors and drugs, whom and which you will know very easily, having joined the Society and subscribed to its paper.
- (6) That will help your fellow-brothers in India a great deal, and be also a means of dispelling the doubt that still lingers in the minds of our parents as to the possibility of existence under a vegetarian diet, and thus facilitate the way of other Indians to visit England a great deal.
- (7) If there were a sufficient number of Indian subscribers, the Editor of The Vegetarian may be induced to devote a page or a column to India, which, you will admit, cannot but result in benefit to India.
Many more reasons can be given to show why you should join the Society and subscribe to The Vegetarian, but I hope these will be sufficient to induce you to view my proposal with favour.
Even if you are not a vegetarian, you will find that many of the above reasons will apply to you also, and you can subscribe to The Vegetarian, and who knows but you may, in the end, consider it a privilege to join the rank of those who never depend for their existence on the blood of their fellow-creatures.
Of course, there is also the Manchester Vegetarian Society and its organ The Vegetarian Messenger. I have pleaded for the L.V.S. and its organ simply because it is so very handy, being in London, and because its organ is weekly.
I do trust that you will not excuse yourself from joining and subscribing on the score of economy, for the subscription is so small, and it is sure to more than repay your money.
Hoping you will not consider this an impertinence on my part.
Yours in brotherly love,
M. K. Gandhi
The Vegetarian, 28-4-1894
- 3^ This was published along with the note reading: "Mr. M. K. Gandhi has sent round the following letter to the Indians in England and we reproduce it here to show what active work is still being done in our midst by Mr. Gandhi, in spite of the distance which separates him from us. And yet our opponents say that vegetarian Indians have no persistence of purpose like the sons of "Honest John Bull"! Ed., Veg."
Vegetarianism and Children (5-5-1894)
Mr. M. K. Gandhi, in a private letter, writes:
Recently a grand convention of Keswick Christians was held in Wellington, under the presidency of Rev. Andrew Murray. I attended it in the company of some dear Christians; they have a boy six or seven years old. He came out with me for a walk one day during the time. I was simply talking to him about kindness to animals. During the talk we discussed vegetarianism. Ever since that time, I am told, the boy has not taken meat. He did watch me, before the above conversation, taking only vegetables at the dinner table, and questioned me why I would not take meat. His parents, though not themselves vegetarians, are believers in the virtue of vegetarianism, and did not mind my talking to their boy about it. I write this to show how easily you can convince children of the grand truth, and induce them to avoid meat if their parents are not against the change. The boy and I are thick friends now. He seems to like me very much. Another boy, about 15, I was talking to, said he could not himself kill or see a fowl killed, but did not object to eating it.
The Vegetarian, 5-5-1894
Questions on Religion (Before June 1894)
[Pretoria, Before June, 1894]
What is the Soul? Does it perform actions? Do past actions impede its progress or not?
What is God? Is He the Creator of the universe?
What is moksha ?
Is it possible for a person to know for certain, while he is still living, whether or not he will attain moksha?
It is said that after his death, a man may, according to his actions, be reborn as an animal, a tree, or even a stone. Is that so?
What is Arya Dharma? Do all Indian religions originate from the Vedas?
Who composed the Vedas? Are they anadi ? If so, what does anadi mean?
Who is the author of the Gita? Is God its author? Is there any evidence that He is?
Does any merit accrue from the sacrifice of animals and other things?
If a claim is put forward that a particular religion is the best, may we not ask the claimant for proof?
Do you know anything about Christianity? If so, what do you think of it?
The Christians hold that the Bible is divinely inspired and that Christ was an incarnation of God, being His son. Was He?
Were all the Old Testament prophecies fulfilled in Christ? Can anyone remember his past lives or have an idea of his future lives?
If yes, who can?
You have given the names of some who have attained moksha.
What is the authority for this statement?
What makes you say that even Buddha did not attain moksha?
What will finally happen to this world?
Will the world be morally better off in the future?
Is there anything like total destruction of the world?
Can an illiterate person attain moksha by bhakti alone?
Rama and Krishna are described as incarnations of God. What does that mean? Were they God Himself or only a part of Him? Can we attain salvation through faith in them?
Who were Brahma, Vishnu and Siva?
If a snake is about to bite me, should I allow myself to be bitten o r should I kill it, supposing that that is the only way in which I can save myself?
Shrimad Rajachandra, pp. 292 et seq.
- 4^ Gandhiji put Raychandbhai some questions in a letter written sometime before June 1894. The original being untraceable the questions have been extracted from Raychandbhai's reply. The source indicates that a few more questions asked were omitted and hence their text is not available. For Raychandbhai's answers, vide Vol. XXXII, Appendix I; also An Autobiography, Pt. II, Ch. I.
- 5^ The supreme goal of spiritual life, liberation from phenomenal existence
- 6^ Without origin or beginning
Petition to Natal Legislative Assembly (28-6-1894)
June 28, 1894
the Petition of the Indians Resident in the Colony of Natal
1. Your Petitioners are British subjects, who have come from India and settled in the Colony.
2. Your Petitioners are many of them registered as electors duly qualified to vote at the election of members to your Honourable Council and Assembly.
3. Your Petitioners have read with feelings of unfeigned regret and alarm the debate as reported in the newspapers on the second reading of the Franchise Law Amendment Bill.
4. Your Petitioners, with the greatest deference to your Honourable House, beg to dissent entirely from the views of the various speakers, and feel constrained to say that the real facts fail to support the reasons adduced in justification of the passing of the unfortunate measure.
5. The reasons, as reported in the newspapers, brought forward in support of the measure, your Petitioners understand, are:
- (a) that the Indians have never exercised the franchise in the land they come from;
- (b) that they are not fit for the exercise of the franchise.
6. Your Petitioners respectfully beg to press on the notice of the Honourable Members that all the facts and history point the other way.
7. The Indian nation has known, and has exercised, the power of election from times far prior to the time when the Anglo-Saxon races first became acquainted with the principles of representation.
8 . In support of the above, your Petitioners beg to draw the attention of your Honourable Assembly to Sir Henry Sumner Maine's Village Communities, where he has most clearly pointed out that the Indian races have been familiar with representative institutions almost from time immemorial. That eminent lawyer and writer has shown that the Teutonic Mark was hardly so well organized or so essentially representative as an Indian village community until the precise technical Roman form was engrafted upon it.
9. Mr. Chisolm Anstey , in a speech delivered before the East India Association in London, said:
We are apt to forget in this country, when we talk of preparing people in the East by education and all that sort of thing for Municipal Government and Parliamentary Government, that the East is the parent of Municipalities. Local Self-government, in the widest acceptation of the term, is as old as the East itself. No matter what may be the religion of the people who inhabit what we call the East, there is not a portion of the country from East to West, from North to South, which is not swarming with municipalities; and not only so, but, like to our municipalities of old, they are all bound together as in a species of network, so that you have, ready-made to your hand, the framework of the great system of representation. Every caste in every village or town has its own rules or regulations, and elects representatives, and furnishes an exact prototype of the Saxon Witans, from which have sprung the present Parliamentary institutions.
10. The word Panchayat is a household word throughout the length and breadth of India, and it means, as the Honourable Members may be well aware, a Council of Five elected by the class of the people to whom the five belong, for the purpose of managing and controlling the social affairs of the particular caste.
11. The State of Mysore has at the present moment a representative parliament, called the Mysore Assembly, on the exact model of the British Parliament.
12. The trading Indian community now residing in Durban have their Panchayat, or Council of Five, and in case of matters of pressing importance their deliberations are controlled by the community at large, who can, according to the constitution of the body, overrule their decisions by a sufficient majority. Here is, your Memorialists submit, a proof of their capabilities as regards representation.
13 . Indeed, so much has the Indians' ability to understand representative institutions been recognized by Her Majesty's Government that India enjoys municipal local self-government in the truest sense of the term.
14. There were, in 1891, 755 municipalities and 892 local boards in India, with 20,000 Indian members. This would give some idea of the magnitude of the municipalities and the electorate.
15. If further proof be needed on this head, your Petitioners draw the Honourable Members' attention to the recently passed India Councils Bill, whereby the system of representation has been introduced even into the Legislative Councils of the various Presidencies of India.
16. Your Honourable Assembly will, your Petitioners trust, see, therefore, that the exercise of the franchise by them is no extension of a new privilege they have never before known or enjoyed, but on the contrary, the disqualification to exercise it would be an unjust restric tion which, under similar circumstances, would never be put on them in the land of their birth.
17. Hence, also, your Petitioners submit that the fear that they may, if they were allowed to exercise the privilege of franchise, "become propagandists of agitation and instruments of sedition in that great country they come from", is, to say the least of it, without ground.
18. Your Petitioners deem it unnecessary to dwell upon the minor points and the needlessly harsh remarks made in the course of the debate on the second reading. They would, however, crave leave to give some extracts which bear on the subject under consideration. Your Petitioners would rather have been judged by their works than have sought to justify themselves by quoting what others have thought of their race; but, under the present circumstances, they have no other course left open to them, since, owing to want of free intercourse, there seems to prevail much misunderstanding about their capabilities.
19. Speaking at a meeting at the Assembly Rooms, Kennington, Mr. F. Pincott said:
We have heard a great deal in this country about the ignorance of the Indian people and their unfitness for appreciating the great advantages of representative government. All that is really very foolish, because representative government has nothing to do with education. It has a great deal to do with common sense, and the people of India are gifted with as much common sense, as we have; we exercised the right of election and we had representative institutions many hundreds of years before we possessed any education whatever. Therefore, the educational test goes simply for naught. Those who know the history of our country know very well that two hundred years ago the grossest superstition and ignorance prevailed, and yet we had our representative institutions.
20. Sir George Birdwood , writing on the general character of the people of India, thus sums up:
The people of India are in no intrinsic sense our inferiors, while in things measured by some of the false standards, false to ourselves, we pretend to believe in, they are our superiors.
21. Says Sir Thomas Munro, one of the Governors of Madras:
I do not know what is meant by civilizing the people of India. In the theory and practice of good government they may be deficient; but if a good system of agriculture, if unrivalled manufacture... if the establishment of schools for reading and writing, if the general practice of kindness and hospitality... are amongst the points that denote a civilized people, then they are not inferior in civilization to the people of Europe.
22. Professor Max Muller thus speaks of the much abused and more misunderstood Indian:
If I were asked under what sky the human mind has most fully developed some of its choicest gifts, has most deeply pondered on the greatest problem of life, and has found solutions of some of them which well deserve the attention even of those who have studied Plato and Kant, I should point to India.
23. To appeal to the finer feelings, your Petitioners respectfully venture to point out that the Franchise Law Amendment Bill, if passed, would have a tendency to retard, instead of hastening, the process of unification the flower of the British and the Indian nations are earnestly striving for.
24. Your petitioners have purposely let the English authorities speak on their behalf, without any comments to amplify the above extracts. It is yet possible to multiply such extracts, but your Petitioners confidently trust that the above will prove sufficient to convince your Honourable Assembly of the justice of their prayer, and they earnestly beseech your Honourable Assembly to reconsider your decision; or to appoint a Commission to enquire into the question as to whether the Indians resident in the Colony are fit to exercise the privilege of franchise, before proceeding further with the Bill. And for this act of justice and mercy, your Petitioners, as in duty bound, shall for ever pray, etc., etc.
Colonial Office Records, No. 179, Vol. 189: Votes and Proceedings of Parliament, Natal, 1894
- 7^ First it was addressed to both the Council and the Assembly, Then it was amended and addressed only to the Assembly, and a separate petition was addressed to the Council; vide "Petition to Natal Legislative Council", 4-7-1894.
- 8^ 1822-88; eminent jurist whose works include Ancient Law and Early History of Institutions. He was a member of the Indian Council, 1862-69 and 1871.
- 9^ 1816-73; lawyer and politician; Member of Parliament, 1847-52
- 10^ 1832-1917; served in the Bombay Medical Service in 1854, and later for thirty years in the India Office, London, Author of Report on the Miscellaneous Old Records of the India Office and The Industrial Arts of India.
Deputation to Natal Premier (29-6-1894)
- June 29, 1894
- To Sir John Robinson, K.C.M.G.
- Premier and Colonial Secretary
- Colony of Natal
May it please Your Honour,
We have to thank Your Honour very much for sparing some of Your Honour's valuable time to receive this deputation.
We beg to present this petition of the Indians residing in the Colony to Your Honour and beg you to give it Your Honour's earnest attention.
We would not trespass longer on Your Honour's courtesy than is absolutely necessary. We, however, regret that we have not at our disposal time enough to lay our case as thoroughly as possible before Your Honour.
Sir, we have been taunted with having woken up almost too late. It is only necessary to put before you the peculiar circumstances to convince Your Honour that we could not possibly have approached the honourable Houses earlier. The two chief leading members of the community were away from the Colony on urgent business and were shut out from all communication with people in the Colony. Our very imperfect knowledge of the English language materially prevents us from keeping ourselves in touch with important matters as we should like to be.
With greatest respect to Your Honour, we beg to point out that both the Anglo-Saxon and the Indian races belong to the same stock. We read Your Honour's eloquent speech at the time of the second reading of the Bill with rapt attention and took great pains to ascertain if any writer of authority gave countenance to the view expressed by Your Honour about the difference of the stocks from which both the races have sprung up. Max Muller, Morris, Greene and a host of other writers with one voice seem to show very clearly that both the races have sprung from the same Aryan stock, or rather the Indo-European as many call it. We have no wish whatever to thrust ourselves as members of a brother nation on a nation that would be unwilling to receive us as such, but we may be pardoned if we state the real facts, the alleged absence of which has been put forward as an argument to pronounce us as unfit for the exercise of the franchise.
Your Honour has, moreover, been reported to have said that it would be cruel to expect Indians to exercise the privilege of franchise. We humbly submit that our petition is a sufficient answer to this.
It has given us no small satisfaction to know that, however unjust Your Honour's speech may have appeared to us from our point of view, it breathed truest sentiments of justice, morality and, what is more, Christianity. So long as such a spirit is noticeable among the chosen of the land, we would never despair of right being done in every case.
It is therefore that we have ventured to approach Your Honour, fully believing that, in the light of the new facts disclosed by our humble petition, a display of the same sentiments will result in substantial justice being done to the Indians in the Colony.
We believe that the prayer of the petitioners is very modest. If the newspaper reports are trustworthy, Your Honour was pleased to acknowledge that there were some respectable Indians who were intelligent enough to exercise the precious privilege. That alone, in our humble opinion, is a sufficient reason for granting a Commission of enquiry into the momentous question. We are willing to face, nay, we court such a Commission, and, will it be asking too much if we ask that the Indians should be allowed to exercise the privilege, if the impartial judgment of an impartial Commission pronounced the Indians fit for such an exercise? If we have understood the Bill rightly, the Indians would, in the event of its becoming law, rank lower than the lowest native. For, while the latter can educate himself into fitness for the power of election, the former never can. The Bill seems to be so sweeping that even the Indian Member of the British House of Commons, did he come here, would not be fit for becoming a voter.
Did we not know that other matters of equal importance seriously engage Your Honour's attention, we could go on showing the injurious consequences that would flow from the interpretation of the Bill, consequences perhaps never contemplated by its illustrious authors. If we were given a week's time we could put our case more exhaustively before the House of Assembly. We would then leave our cause in Your Honour's hands, imploring Your Honour with all the earnestness at our command to use Your Honour's powerful influence and to see that full justice is done to the Indians. For it is justice we want and that only.
We thank your Honour for receiving this deputation and the patience and courtesy shown to us.
We beg to subscribe ourselves on behalf of the Indian community,
Your Honour's obedient servants,
M. K. Gandhi and three others
Colonial Office Records No. 181, Vol. 41
- 11^ Enclosure No. 1 in Schedule of Correspondence published by order of the Legislative Assembly of Natal on April 21, 1896
A Circular Letter to Legislator (1-7-1894)
DURBAN, July 1, 1894 TO
SIR, We, the undersigned, have sent copies of this letter under registered cover to the Honourable Members of both the Honourable the Legislative Council and the Honourable the Legislative Assembly, with a request to answer the questions asked in the enclosed. You will lay us under deep obligation, if you would be good enough to fill in the reply column of the enclosed memorandum, with any remarks that you may choose to make in the remarks column, and sign and send the same back to the first undersigned at the above address.
We beg to remain,
M. K. Gandhi and Four Others
1. Do you conscientiously say that the Franchise Law Amendment Bill is a strictly just measure without needing any modification or change?
2. Do you think it just that those Indians, who have not been able, from some cause or other, to have their names on the Voters' List, should ever be debarred from voting in the Parliamentary Elections, no matter how capable they may be or what interests they may have in the Colony?
3. Do you really believe that no Indian British subject can ever acquire sufficient attainments for the purpose of becoming a full citizen of the Colony or of voting?
4. Do you think it just that a man should not become a voter simply because he is of Asiatic extraction?
5. Do you wish the indentured Indian who comes and settles in the Colony to remain in the state of semi-slavery and ignorance for ever, unless he chooses to go back to India for ever?
Colonial Office Records No. 179, Vol. 189
- 12^ The letter and the questionnaire are referred to in paragraph 8 of “Petition to Lord Ripon”, before 14-7-1894.
Deputation to Natal Governor (3-7-1894)
July 3, 1894 To His Excellency the Honourable Sir Walter Francis Hely-Hutchinson, K.C.M.G., Governor and Commander-In-Chief In and over the Colony of Natal, Vice-Admiral of the same, and Supreme Chief Over the Native Population
May it please your Excellency,
At a meeting held on the 1st July, 1894, of leading Indians in Durban, we were requested to await Your Excellency’s pleasure with regard to the Franchise Law Amendment Bill, which was read a third time last evening in the Honourable the Legislative Assembly of the Colony of Natal.
The Bill as it stands, disqualifies every Indian, whether a British subject or not, not already on the Voters' List, from becoming a voter.
We venture to say that, without any further qualification, the Bill is manifestly unjust, and would work very harshly at any rate upon some Indians.
Even in England, any British subject having the proper qualifications is entitled to vote, irrespective of caste, colour, or creed.
We would not deal at length with the question here lest we should trespass too much upon Your Excellency's courtesy, but would beg leave to present Your Excellency with a printed copy of the petition addressed to the Honourable Assembly and request Your Excellency to persue it carefully.
To us our cause seems to be so just that it should not need any arguments to support it.
We trust that Your Excellency, representing Her Most Gracious Majesty the Queen Empress, will not sanction a measure that would seem to lay down that an Indian British subject of Her Majesty can never become fit to exercise the franchise.
We hope to send a proper petition1 to Your Excellency through the regular channels about the matter.
We thank Your Excellency very much for granting the deputation an interview in Durban and for Your Excellency's courtesy and patience.
We have, etc., M. K. GANDHI AND SIX OTHERS
Colonial Office Records No. 179, Vol. 189
13^ Enclosure No. 2 in Despatch No. 62 of July 16, 1894 from the Governor of Natal, Sir Walter Hely-Hutchinson, to Lord Ripon, Secretary of State for the Colonies
Petition to Natal Legislative Council (4-7-1894)
July 4, 1894
The Petition of the Undersigned Indians Resident in the Colony of Natal
Humbly sheweth that :
Your Petitioners have been appointed by the Indian community resident in this Colony to address this humble petition to your Honourable Council with regard to the Franchise Law Amendment Bill which was read a third time on the 2nd July in the Hon. the Legislative Assembly. Your Petitioners, instead of setting forth herein their grievances at length, respectfully beg to refer your Hon. Council to the petition made by the Indians to the Hon. the Legislative Assembly regarding the Bill, a printed copy of which is annexed thereto for ready reference by the Hon. Members. The petition has been signed by nearly 500 Indians. This was done in the short space of one day. Had the Petitioners been given more time, from all the reports received from the various districts, they fully believe that at least 10,000 Indians would have signed it. Your Petitioners were in hopes that the Hon. the Legislative Assembly would see the justice of their prayer and grant it, but their hopes have been frustrated. Your Petitioners, therefore, have ventured to approach your Hon. Council with a view to inducing the Hon. Members to give close attention to the petition hereinbefore referred to, and to use your correctional power in consonance with justice and equity. Some of your Petitioners undersigned had the honour to see some of the Hon. Members of the Lower House in connection with the petition aforesaid, and they all seemed to admit the justice of the prayer contained in the said petition, but the general feeling seemed to be that it was addressed too late. Your Petitioners, without going into the question, would respectfully submit that, assuming that it was so, the consequences of the Bill becoming law would be so grave, and the prayer is so just and modest, that being too late should not have weighed with the Hon. Members at all in considering the petition. Instances of Bills being thrown out or modified, under less imperative circumstances, by the Parliaments of civilized countries, after they have passed through the committee stage, would not be difficult to find. Your Petitioners need hardly mention the instance of the House of Lords having thrown out the Irish Home Rule Bill, and the circumstances under which it was so treated. The Franchise Law Amendment Bill as it stands is, your Petitioners submit, so sweeping a measure, that no Indian who is not already on the Voters' List, no matter how capable he may be, can be come a voter if the Bill becomes law. Your Petitioners trust that your Hon. Council will not endorse such a view, and will, therefore, send the Bill back again to the Legislative Assembly for its reconsideration.
And for this act of justice and mercy, your Petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray.
- 14^ No further petition to the Governor of Natal was, in fact, sent. Evidently Gandhiji and his associates intended to do this, but events over took them. Even this petition was rejected and the Bill was rushed through the House in all its stages, for submission to Lord Ripon, for the Queen's approval. A second petition had, therefore, to be submitted through Sir Walter Hely-Hutchinson; vide "Petition to Lord Ripon", before 14-7-1894.
- 15^ This was presented to the President and members of the Legislative Council by Hon. Henry Campbell, advocate and chief agent for British Indian merchants in the Transvaal who drafted and presented petitions for them.
- 16^ This was introduced by Gladstone in 1886 in the British Parliament. It sought to transfer Irish administration to an executive appointed by an Irish Parliament but left the power of taxation largely to the British Government. It met with furious opposition in the House of Commons. In 1893, Gladstone, again in office, introduced a Home Rule Bill which was passed in the Commons, but was rejected in the Lords by an overwhelming majority.
The Natal Advertiser, 5-7-1894
Extract from Letter to Dadabhai Naoroji (5-7-1894)
July 5, 1894
The first Parliament of Natal under Responsible Government has been pre-eminently an Indian Parliament. It has for the most part occupied itself with legislation affecting Indians, by no means favourably. The Governor, in opening the Legislative Council and Assembly, remarked that his Ministers would deal with the Franchise which was exercised by Indians in Natal, although they never exercised it in India. The reasons given for the sweeping measure to disfranchise Indians were that they had never exercised the Franchise before, and that they were not fit for it.
The petition of the Indians seemed to prove a sufficient answer to this. Hence they have now turned round and given out the real object of the Bill, which is simply this: “We do not want the Indians any more here. We want the coolies, but they shall remain slaves here and go back to India as soon as they are free.” I earnestly request your undivided attention to the cause and appeal to you to use your influence that always has been and is being used on behalf of the Indians, no matter where situated. The Indians look up to you as children to the father. Such is really the feeling here.
A word for myself and what I have done. I am yet inexperienced and young and, therefore, quite liable to make mistakes. The responsibility undertaken is quite out of proportion to my ability. I may mention that I am doing this without any remuneration. So you will see that I have not taken the matter up, which is beyond my ability, in order to enrich myself at the expense of the Indians. I am the only available person who can handle the question. You will, therefore, oblige me very greatly if you will kindly direct and guide me and make necessary suggestions which shall be received as from a father to his child.
- 17^ Dadabhai Naoroji (1825-1917); statesman, often called. “the Grand Old Man of India”. Thrice presided over the Congress session, in 1886, 1893 and 1906. Enuniciated, for the first time, Congress goal as one of swaraj or independence. Member of the British Committee of the Congress in London.
Dadabhai Naoroji : The Grand Old Man of India, pp. 468-9
Petition to Natal Legislative Council (6-7-1894)
July 6, 1894
The Honourable the President and Members of Honourable the Legislative Council of the Colony of Natal
The Petition of the Undersigned Indians Resident in the Colony of Natal
Humbly Sheweth that :
(1) Your Petitioners have been appointed by the Indian community resident in this Colony to approach your Honourable Council with regard to the “Franchise Law Amendment Bill”.
(2) Your Petitioners regret sincerely that their petition presented on 4th July, 1894, through the Honourable Mr. Campbell, being not in order, they have again to trespass on your Honourable Council's valuable time.
(3) Your Petitioners, as trusted and responsible members of the Indian community, beg to draw your Honourable Council's attention to the fact that the Bill under discussion has created a widespread feeling of dissatisfaction and disappointment among the Indian community. The more the provisions of the Bill become known among the Indians, the more your Petitioners hear the following expressions of opinion : “ Sarkar Mabap is going to kill us, what shall we do?”
(4) With the greatest respect to your Honourable Council, your Petitioners submit that this is no mere idle expression of opinion, but a sincere one, which is worthy of the most serious consideration by the Honourable Council.
(5) It is not, your Petitioners venture respectfully to submit, a fact that the Indians do not know what voting means, as was attempted to be shown during the debate on the second reading of the Bill in your Honourable Council. They know very well what privilege a right of voting confers, and feel also the responsibility such a privilege carries with it. Your Petitioners only wish that your Honourable Council could personally witness the excitement and the anxiety with which every stage in the progress of the Bill is watched by the Indian Community.
(6) Your Petitioners would not, for one moment, say that every member of the community has such a knowledge and, therefore such a feeling, but they may be permitted to say that it is general. Nor would your Petitioners hold that there are not Indians who should have no right to vote, but your Petitioners submit that that is no reason why the Indians should be excluded wholesale from the privilege.
(7) Your Petitioners venture to submit for your Honourable Council's consideration some of the anomalous results that would follow the operation of the Bill :
- (a) The Bills arbitrarily keeps on the Voters' List those who are already there, while it forever shuts the door against any new addition of a person who has not chosen to exercise the privilege hitherto.
- (b) While some Indian fathers will be able to vote, their children never can, although the latter may surpass the former in every respect.
- (c) It practically puts the free and indentured Indians in the same scale.
- (d) Taking out for a moment the question of policy as the principle of the Bill, which seems to have developed but lately, the Bill seems to lay down that India has not at the present moment any Indian who is fit to exercise the privilege of franchise and that there is such a wide difference between a European and an Indian that contact with the former, even for any length of time, does not fit him for the exercise of the precious privilege.
8) Is it fair, your Petitioners humbly ask, that, while the father is a voter, he has to see his son, on whom he has lavished enormous sums of money to educate him so that he may become a public man, unable to possess a right that is now recognized as the birthright of all really educated persons born in civilized countries where representative institutions prevail?
9) Your Petitioners would very much like to have dwelt upon the fear that the permission to allow the Asiatic to vote would ultimately result in a Government of Natives by coloured people, the Indians. But your Petitioners are afraid that this is not the occasion on which your Petitioners may lay their humble views before your Honourable Council on the question. They would rest content with saying that, in their opinion, such a contingency can never happen, and certainly the time is not ripe to provide against it, were it even possible in the remote future.
(10) Your Petitioners beg respectfully to submit that the Bill makes an invidious distinction between one class of British subjects and another. But it has been said that, if Indian British subjects are to be treated equally with the Europeans, the same treatment should be accorded to other British subjects, e.g., the Natives of the Colony. Without entering into odious comparisons, your Petitioners would venture to quote from the Royal Proclamation of 1858, which would show on what principles the British Indian subjects have been and should be treated :
- We hold ourselves bound to the Natives of our Indian territories by the same obligations of duty which bind us to all our other subjects, and those obligations, by the blessing of Almighty God, we shall faithfully and conscientiously fulfil. And it is our further will that, so far as may be, our subjects, of whatever race or creed, be freely and impartially admitted to offices in our services, the duties of which they may be qualified by their education, ability and integrity, duly to discharge. In their prosperity will be our strength, in their contentment our security and in their gratitude our best reward.
(11) On the lines laid down in the above extract, and also the Charter of 1833, the Indians have been admitted to the most responsible posts in India, e.g., that of Chief Justice. And yet here, in a British Colony, an attempt is being made to deprive your Petitioners or their brethren or their children of the commonest right of an ordinary citizen.
(12) It has now been said that the Indians know the Municipal Self-government but not the Political. Your Petitioners submit that this, too, is not now strictly true. But granting that it is strictly so, should that be any reason for barring the door to Political Franchise to Indians in a country where a Parliamentary Government prevails? Your Petitioners submit that the real and only test should be whether your Petitioners, and those on whose behalf they plead, are capable or not. A person coming from under Monarchical Government, e.g., Russian, may not have been able to show his capabilities to understand or appreciate Representative Government, and yet your Petitioners venture to believe your Honourable Council will not condemn such a one as unfit, if he is otherwise capable and fit.
(13) Before concluding, your Petitioners beg to draw your Honourable Council's attention to the following memorable words of Lord Macaulay : “Free and civilized as we are, it is to little purpose, if we grudge to any portion of the human race an equal portion of freedom and civilization.”
(14) Your Petitioners fervently trust that the above facts and arguments, if they prove nothing else, will prove to the satisfaction of your Honourable Council that a real necessity exists for a Commission of enquiry as to the fitness or the unfitness of the Indians to exercise the Franchise, as also to ascertain whether there is any ground for the fear that, in case of the Indian being allowed to exercise the privilege of Franchise as heretofore, their vote will swamp the European vote, and that they will have the reins of Government in their hands, and also to report upon such other important questions. Your Petitioners pray, therefore, that your Honourable Council will send the Bill back for reconsideration by the Honourable the Legislative Assembly, with such just andequitable recommendations as your Honourable Council may think fit.
And for this act of justice and mercy, your Petitioners, as in duty bound, shall for ever pray, etc., etc.
- 18^ This was presented by the Hon. Mr. Campbell to the Legislative Council of the Natal Parliament on July 6, 1894, on behalf of Hajee Mahomed Hajee Dada and seven other Indians.
- 19^ Government considered as “mother-father”
- 20^ Based on the findings of a Parliamentary Commission of Enquiry, the Act abolished the East India Company's trading rights in India and confined its function to ruling its possessions. Reaffirmed in 1853, the Charter Act provided that no Indian shall be disabled from holding any place, office or employment under the East India Company by reason of his religion, place of birth, descent or colour.
Colonial Office Records No. 181, Vol. 38
Letter to "The Natal Mercury" (7-7-1894)
July 7, 1894
The Natal Mercury
It was a treat to read your learned and able leader in today's issue. It was not expected that there would be nothing to be said against the franchise petition. That would be a wondrous—I was almost going to say, superhuman—thing that would not have its two sides, in these modern times. On the same principle, Sir George Chesney is not the only writer who would serve your purpose. Sir Henry Sumner Maine was also, after all, a mortal. It is, therefore, only natural that his theories and conclusions should be contested. There seems to be no escape for a mortal from “the pairs of opposites”. I would, however, without for the present presenting the other aspect of the case, beg leave to revert to the matter on some future occasion.
The object of writing this letter is to “surprise” you. The State of Mysore, I am glad to say, has given the political franchise rights to its subjects. I take the following from a newspaper report :
- Under the system now expounded by the Dewan, all landholders paying a revenue of Rs. 100 or more, or mohatarfa of Rs. 13 and upwards, are entitled to vote for members of the Representative Assembly, and are eligible to become members themselves. Besides, all non-official graduates of any Indian University, ordinarily residing in the taluk, have been given the privilege of electing, as well as of being elected. Thus property as well as intelligence will be represented in the Assembly. Further, it has also been specified that public associations, municipalities and the local boards may also elect members. The total number of members fixed is 347, and these members are elected by nearly 4,000 electors.
Sir, I appeal to your good sense, and ask you, will you not better serve humanity by collecting and pointing our points of resemblances between the two peoples than by holding out to the public gaze points of contrasts, often far-fetched or merely imaginary, that can but arouse the worst feeling of a man, while they can do nobody any real good? I hardly think it can be to your interest to sow the seeds of jealousy and animosity between the two nations. That, I doubt not, is in your power, as it is in anybody's, more or less. But a thing far higher and far nobler, too, lies within your reach—a thing that would bring you not only greatness, but goodness, and what is more, the gratitude of a nation that has not been crushed under 1,200 years' tyranny and oppression, a fact by itself a miracle,—and that thing is to educate rightly the Colony about India and its people.
I am, etc.,
M. K. GANDHI
- 21^ This was in reply to an article entitled "Indian Village Communities" in The Natal Mercury, 7-7-1894, commenting on the petition presented to the Natal Legislative Council by the Indian community in connection with the Franchise Law Amendment Bill. It was argued that Parliamentary Government was very different from any form of representation known to the village communities of India. The Bill excluded Indians from the franchise on the ground that they had not exercised the franchise in their own country. The Indians pleaded that they had done so from ancient times in their village communities. But The Natal Mercury contested this view, and that of Sir Henry Sumner Maine, in his Village-Communities in the East and West, that Indian had been familiar with representative institutions almost from time immemorial. It maintained that Indian village-communities had nothing to do with political representation but only with the legal question of land tenure. It argued that villagecommunity life was common to all primitive peoples and, if anything, proved the backwardness of a people, and quoted General Sir George Chesney's views in The Nineteenth Century to the effect that Indians were still in their political infancy.
- 22^ Trade-tax, a word of Persian origin
The Natal Mercury, 11-7-1894
Petition to Natal Governor (10-7-1894)
July 10, 1894
His Excellency the Honourable Sir Walter Francis Hely-Hutchinson, K.C.M.G., Governor and Commander-In-Chief in and over the Colony of Natal, Vice-Admiral of the Same, and Supreme Chief Over the Native Population
The petition of the undersigned Inidians respectfully sheweth that :
- 1. Your Excellency's Petitioners, representing the Indian community residing in the Colony of Natal, beg hereby to approach Your Excellency with regard to the Franchise Law Amendment Bill.
- 2. Your Excellency's Petitioners understand that Your Excellency will send the Bill, above referred to, to the Home Government for Royal assent.
- 3. Such being the case, a petition is being prepared for the Home Government regarding the Bill.
- 4. Your petitioners will send the said petition to Your Excellency as soon as possible.
- 5. Your Petitioners respectfully request Your Excellency to postpone sending Your Excellency's Dispatch to the Home Government with regard to the matter, till the petition hereinbefore mentioned is sent to Your Excellency to be forwarded to the Home Government.
And for this act of justice and mercy, Your Excellency's Petitioners shall for ever pray, etc., etc.
M. K. GANDHI
AND SEVEN OTHERS
- 23^ Enclosure No. 6 in Despatch No. 62 of July 16, 1894 from the Governor of Natal, Sir Walter Hely-Hutchinson, to Lord Ripon, Secretary of State for the Colonies
- 24^ Vide the succeeding item.
Letter to Dadabhai Naoroji (14-7-1894)
July 14, 1894
- THE HON. MR. DADABHAI NAOROJI M.P.
In continuation of my letter dated the 7th instant, I have to inform you of the progress of the movement against the Franchise Law Amendment Bill as follows :
The Bill passed the 3rd reading in the Legislative Council on the 7th instant. The other petition to the Council was accepted. One Hon. Member moved the postponement of the 3rd reading till the petition was considered by the House. The motion was rejected. The Governor has given his assent to the Bill subject to its being disallowed by Her Majesty. The Bill has a proviso in it that it shall not become law until, by a proclamation or otherwise, the Governor signifies that it is not Her Majesty's wish to disallow the Bill.
I send you herewith a copy of the petition1 to the Home Government that will be sent to the Governor here probably on the 17th instant. It will be signed by nearly 10,000 Indians. Nearly 5,000 signatures have already been received.
I regret to say that I am unable to send you a copy of the petition to the Council. I however beg to send a newspaper cutting which gives a fairly good report.
I do not think there remains anything more to be added. The situation is so critical that if the Franchise Bill becomes law, the position of the Indians 10 years hence will be simply intolerable in the Colony.
Your obedient servant,
M. K. GANDHI
From a photostat of the original : S. N. 2251
- 25^ This letter is not available.
- 26^ "Petition to Natal Legislative Council", 6-7-1894
Letter to Dadabhai Naoroji (27-7-1894)
July 27, 1894
- THE HON. MR. DADABHAI NAOROJI, M.P.
In continuation of my letter of the 14th instant I have to inform you as follows :
The petition to the Home Government, a copy of which has already been sent to you, was sent, I hear, last week.
Mr. Escombe, the Attorney-General, has made a report to the effect—if the informant is right—that the only reason for passing the Bill is to prevent the Asiatics from controlling the government of the Natives. The real reason, however, is simply this. They want to put the Indians under such disabilities and subject them to such insults that it may not be worth their while to stop in the Colony. Yet, they do not want to dispense with the Indians altogether. They certainly do not want those Indians who come on their own means and they want the indentured Indians very badly; but they would require, if they could, the indentured Indian to return to India after his term of indenture. A perfect leonine partnership! They know very well that they cannot do this at once—so they have begun with the Franchise Bill. They want to feel the pulse of the Home Government on the question. One member of the Assembly writes to me that he does not believe that the Home Government would sanction the Bill. I need hardly say how important it is for the Indian community that the Bill should not receive the sanction.
Natal is not a bad place for the Indians. Good many Indian traders earn a respectable living here. The Bill, if it became law, would be a very great blow to further Indian enterprise.
Of course, I may state again, as I have done once, that there is not the slightest probability of the government of the Natives passing from the Europeans to the Indians. This is simply meant to frighten the Home Government. Those who live here—including the Government—know very well that such a thing will never happen. They do not want the Indians to elect white members—2 or 3—who may look after their interests in the Parliament, so that the Government may work their way towards the destruction of the Indians without any opposition whatever.
I have sent copies of the petition to Sir W. Wedderburn and others there and also some copies to Indian newspapers.
Please excuse the length of my letters. You will very much oblige me by giving hints as to the way of working.
- I beg to remain,
- Your faithful servant
- M. K. GANDHI
From a photostat of the original : S.N. 2252
- 27^ Sir Harry Escombe (1838-99); Premier of Natal in 1897. He pleaded for Gandhiji's admission to the Bar of the Natal Supreme Court.
- 28^ Spent 25 years in India as member of the Bombay Civil Service; on his retirement, member of Parliament till 1900. Chairman of the British Committee of the Congress in 1893; president of the Congress in 1910.
Letter to Mrs. A. M. Lewis (4-8-1894)
P. O. B. 253,
August 4, 1894
DEAR MRS. LEWIS,
I thank you for your kind letter of the 27th June.
After I wrote to you last, I had occasion to come in contact with a doctor in Pretoria. He seemed to be the only gentleman in addition to another who took interest in theosophical subjects. I gave him The Perfect Way to read. He liked it so much that he wished me to get another copy for him. I made him a present of my copy. I would therefore thank you if you will kindly send me a copy of The Perfect Way. I would send you the money next time. I have no time to do so this time.
I have settled in Durban for practice as an advocate. More of this you will know from Mr. Oldfield.
During my stay here I intend to spread as much as possible information about theosophy. (To me there is little difference between Theosophy and Esoteric Christianity). I have therefore sent out letters to the President of the Vegetarian Society and Mrs. Besant.
I propose that the E.C.U. should send me a selection of books to be sold here. I would sell the books at cost price plus the postage and 5% commission to be kept by me. As to the price, however, I should be left free to use my discretion. I would send up the sale proceeds of the books every three months. The advertisement charges will be borne by me. If at the end of one year nothing is sold, I would return the books at my cost. I give my personal guarantee for the safe keeping of the books and the sale proceeds. 5 copies of The Perfect Way, 5 of Clothed with the Sun and 10 of The New Gospel of Interpretation and other books may be sent to me. If sufficient interest is evoked, I would add on the advertising charges also to the cost price. The cost price of the books should be stated in each case in the letter of instruction.
If it is necessary to read this letter or a portion thereof to the Union, you can do so. I hope you will be able to persuade the Union or those in authority to accede to the above proposal.
If you do not think much of the Souls, what position is the book to occupy in respectable literature? If the author has written what is absolutely true from personal observation, the book cannot be lightly treated. If it is an attempt to delude the people into a belief in real truths by fascinating falsehoods, the book deserves the highest condemnation possible. For we will not learn truth by means of falsehoods. Of course I write this without meaning the slightest disrespect for the author of whom I know nothing. She may be a lady of the highest probity and truth. I only repeat that to appreciate the Souls, acquaintance with the author's character is absolutely necessary.
I could get many signatures to the petition you enclosed. But I am afraid the Natal signatures would be quite useless. Is it not a sad commentary on the morality of the age that a most important, and yet most harmless and elevating, movement should not receive good support? At times when I think of these things, I thoroughly despair of fruits of works. A verse from the Bhagavad Gita saves me from utter despair and consequent inaction—a verse which enjoins freedom from attachment to fruits of works.
M. K. GANDHI
Please note change of address
M. K. G.
From a photostat of the original : Courtesy: E. S. Hart
- 29^ An admirer of Anna Kingsford, author of The Perfect Way, etc., and friend of Edward Maitland, President of the Esoteric Christian Union; she was a founder of the Union. Gandhiji appears to have come into close contact with her while studying for the Bar in England.
- 30^ The letter is not available.
- 31^ These are not available.
- 32^ Dr. Annie Besant, the theosophist leader
- 33^ Esoteric Christian Union.
- 34^ For an advertisement in Gandhiji's name, vide "Books for Sale", before 26-11-1894.
Letter to "The Times of Natal" (25-10-1894)
DURBAN,  October 25, 1894
The Times of Natal
I would, with your permission, venture to make a few remarks on your leader, entitled “Rammysammy”, in your issue of the 22nd instant.
I have no wish to defend the article in The Times of India noticed by you; but is not your very leader its sufficient defence? Does not the very heading “Rammysammy” betray a studied contempt towards the poor Indian? Is not the whole article a needless insult to him? You are pleased to acknowledge that “India possesses men of high culture, etc.” and yet you would not, if you could, give them equal political power with the white man. Do you not thus make the insult doubly insulting? If you had thought that the Indians were not cultured, but were barbarous brutes, and on that ground denied them political equality, there would be some excuse for your opinions. You, however, in order to enjoy the fullest pleasures derived from offering an insult to an inoffensive people, must needs show that you acknowledge them to be intelligent people and yet would keep them under foot.
Then you have said that the Indians in the Colony are not the same as those in India; but, Sir, you conveniently forget that they are the brothers or descendants of the same race whom you credit with intelligence, and have, therefore, given the opportunity, the potentiality of becoming as capable as their more fortunate brethren in India, just as a man sunk in the depth of ignorance and vice of the East End of London has the potentiality of becoming Prime Minister in free England. You put upon the franchise petition to Lord Ripon an interpretation it was never meant to convey. The Indians do not regret that capable Natives can exercise the franchise. They would regret if it were otherwise. They, however, assert that they too, if capable, should have the right. You, in your wisdom, would not allow the Indian or the Native the precious privilege under any circumstances, because they have a dark skin. You would look to the exterior only. So long as the skin is white it would not matter to you whether it conceals beneath it poison or nectar. To you the lip-prayer of the Pharisee, because he is one, is more acceptable than the sincere repentance of the publican, and this, I presume, you would call Christianity. You may; it is not Christ's.
And in spite of such opinions held by you, a respectable newspaper in the Colony, you impute falsehood to The Times of India. It is one thing to formulate a charge, it is another to prove it. You end with saying that “Rammysammy” may have every right a citizen can desire, with one exception, viz., “political power”. Are the heading of your leader and its tenor consistent with the above opinion? Or is it un-Christian, un-English to be consistent? “Suffer little children to come unto me,” said the Master. His disciples (?) in the Colony would improve upon the saying by inserting “white” after “little”. During the children's fete, organized by the Mayor of Durban, I am told there was not a single coloured child to be seen in the procession. Was this a punishment for the sin of being born of coloured parents? Is this an incident of the qualified citizenship you would accord to the hated “Rammysammy".
If He came among us, will he not say to many of us, “I know you not”? Sir, may I venture to offer a suggestion? Will you reread your New Testament? Will you ponder over your attitude towards the coloured population of the Colony? Will you then say you can reconcile it with the Bible teaching or the best British traditions? If you have washed your hands clean of both Christ and British traditions, I can have nothing to say; I gladly withdraw what I have written. Only it will then be a sad day for Britain and for India if you have many followers.
M. K. GANDHI
The Times of Natal, 26-10-1894
35^ This was published under the title "Rammysammy".
Books for Sale (Before 26-11-1894)
[Before November 26, 1894]
The following books by the late Mrs. Anna Kingsford and Mr. Edward Maitland are offered for sale at their published prices. They are introduced in South Africa for the first time :
- The Perfect Way, 7/6
- Clothed with the Sun, 7/6
- The Story of the New Gospel of Interpretation, 2/6
- The New Gospel of Interpretation, 1/-
- The Bible's Own Account of Itself, 1/-
The following are some of the opinions concerning the books:
- A fountain of light (The Perfect Way) interpretative and reconciliatory. . . . No student of divine things can dispense with it.
- —Light, London
- Unequalled as a means of grace amongst all the English books of the century.
- —Occult World
Some pamphlets bearing on the subject can be had free of charge at my office.
AGENT FOR THE ESOTERIC CHRISTIAN UNION AND
THE LONDON VEGETARIAN SOCIETY
The Natal Mercury, 28-11-1894
- 36^ This appeared as an advertisement; vide "Letter to Mrs. A. M. Lewis",4-8-1894
- 37^ Edward Maitland (1824-97): Writer on mystical subjects and devoted to vegetarianism; established the Esoteric Christian Union in 1891. Gandhiji corresponded with him and was considerably influenced by his books.
- 38^ The price given in a subsequent advertisement is 3/6; vide "Books for Sale", 2-2-1895.
Letter to "The Natal Mercury" (26-11-1894)
November 26, 1894
The Natal Mercury
You will greatly oblige me by allowing me to draw the attention of your readers to an advertisement that appears in your advertisement columns with regard to the Esoteric Christian Union. The system of thought expounded by the books advertised is not, by any means, a new system but a recovery of the old, presented in a form acceptable to the modern mind. It is, moreover, a system of religion which teaches universality, and is based on eternal verities and not on phenomena or historical facts merely. In that system, there is no reviling Mahomed or Buddha in order to prove the superiority of Jesus. On the other hand, it reconciles the other religions with Christianity which, in the opinion of the authors, is nothing but one mode (among many) of presentation of the same eternal truth. The many puzzles of the Old Testament find herein a solution at once complete and satisfactory.
If there is anyone of your readers who has found the presentday materialism and all its splendour to be insufficient for the needs of his soul, if he has a craving for a better life, and if, under the dazzling and bright surface of modern civilization, he finds that there is much that is contrary to what one would expect under such a surface, and above all, if the modern luxuries and the ceaseless feverish activity afford no relief, to such a one I beg to recommend the books referred to. And I promise that, after a perusal, he will find himself a better man, even though he may not thoroughly identify himself with the teaching.
If there is anyone who would like to have a chat on the subject, it would afford me the greatest pleasure to have a quiet interchange of views. In such a case, I would thank any such gentleman to correspond with me personally. I need hardly mention that the sale of the books is not a pecuniary concern. Could Mr. Maitland, the President of the Union, or its agent here, afford to give them away, they would gladly do so. In many cases, the books have been sold at less than cost price. In a few, t hey have even been given away. A systematic distribution for nothing has been found impossible. The books will be gladly lent in some cases.
I would try to conclude with a quotation from a letter of the late Abbe Constant to the authors : “Humanity has always and everywhere asked itself these three supreme questions: Whence come we? What are we? Whither go we? Now these questions at length find an answer complete, satisfactory, and consolatory in The Perfect Way.”
I am, etc.,
M. K. GANDHI
The Natal Mercury, 3-12-1894
Letter to Europeans (19-12-1894)
December 19, 1894
I venture to send you the enclosed for perusal, and solicit your opinion on the subject matter of the Open Letter.
Whether you be a clergyman, editor, public man, merchant or lawyer, the subject cannot but demand your attention. If you are a clergyman, inasmuch as you represent the teaching of Jesus, it must be your duty to see that you are in no way, directly or indirectly, countenancing a treatment of your fellow-beings that would not be pleasing to Jesus. If you are an editor of a news-paper, the responsibility is equally great. Whether you are using your influence as a journalist to the evolution or degradation of humanity will depend upon whether you are encouraging division among class and class or striving after union. The same remarks will apply to you as a public man. If you are a merchant or lawyer, you have then too, a duty to discharge towards your customers and clients from whom you derive a considerable pecuniary advantage. It is for you to treat them as dogs or fellow-beings demanding your symapathy in the cruel persecution that they are put to owing to the prevalent ignorance about the Indians in the Colony. Coming as you do in comparatively close contact with them, you have, no doubt, the opportunity and incentive to study them. Looked at from a sympathetic standpoint, they would perhaps show themselves to you as they have been seen by scores and hundreds of Europeans who had the opportunity to study them, and who used it alright.
Your opinion is solicited with a view to ascertaining if there are many Europeans in the Colony who would actively sympathize with and feel for the Indians in the Colony, assuming that their treatment is not all that could be desired.
I am, Sir,
Your faithful servant,
M. K. GANDHI
From a copy : S.N. 201
39^ A printed circular letter sent by Gandhiji to Europeans in Natal