The Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi/Volume I/1895

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Letter to "The Natal Advertiser" (21-1-1895)[edit]

January 21, 1895
The Editor,
The Natal Advertiser


You will oblige me by letting me draw the attention of your readers to the notice that appears in your advertisement columns about the Esoteric Christian Union and the London Vegetarian Society.

The system represented by the Union establishes the unity and common source of all the great religions of the world, and points out, as the books advertised will amply show, the utter inadequacy of materialism which boasts of having given the world a civilization which was never witnessed before, and which is alleged to The Natal Advertiser have done the greatest good to humanity, all the while conveniently forgetting that its greatest achievenments are the invention of the most terrible weapons of destruction, the awful growth of anarchism, the frightful disputes between capital and labour and the wanton and diabolical cruelty inflicted on innocent, dumb, living animals in the name of science, “falsely so called”.

There seem to be, however, signs of reaction setting in—the almost phenomenal success of the Theosophical Society, the gradual acceptance by the clergy of the doctrine of holiness, and what is more, the acceptance by Professor Max Muller of the doctrine of reincarnation so conclusively demonstrated in The Perfect Way, his statement that it was gaining ground among the thinking minds in England and elsewhere, and the publication of The Unknown Life of Jesus Christ. It is not possible to secure these works in S. Africa. My knowledge of them is, therefore, confined to their reviews. All these and many such facts are, I submit, unmistakable signs of a return from the materialistic tendencies, which have made us so cruelly selfish, to the unadulterated esoteric teachings of not only Jesus Christ, but also of Buddha, Zoroaster and Mahomed, who are no longer so generally denounced by the civilized world as false prophets, but whose and Jesus's teachings are beginning to be acknowledged to be complementary of one another.

I regret that I am unable yet to advertise books on vegetarianism, as they have, by mistake, been forwarded to India, and will, therefore, take some time before they arrive in Durban. I may, however, state one valuable fact with regard to the efficacy of vegetarianism. There is no more potent instrument of evil than drunkenness, and I may be allowed to say that all those who suffer from the craving for drink, but would like really to be free from the curse, have only to give a trial for at least one month to a diet chiefly consisting of brown bread and oranges or grapes, to secure an entire freedom from the craving. I have myself carried on a series of experiments, and can testify that on a vegetarian diet, without any condiments, and consisting of a liberal supply of juicy fresh fruits, I have lived comfortably, without tea, coffee, or cocoa, and even water, for days together. Hundreds in England have become vegetarian for this reason, and having once been inveterate tipplers, have now reached a stage when the very smell of grog or whisky is an offence to their tastes. Dr. B. W. Richardson, in his Food for Man, recommends pure vegetarianism as a cure for drunkenness. In a comparatively hot country like Natal, where there is a plentiful supply of fruits and vegetables, a bloodless diet should prove very beneficial in every way, apart from its immeasurable superiority to flesh foods on grounds scientific, sanitary, economic, ethical and spiritual.

It is, perhaps, needless to mention that the sale of E.C.U. books is not at all a money-making concern. In certain cases the books have even been given away. They will be gladly lent in some cases. I shall be very happy to correspond with any of your readers who may want any further information, either about the E.C.U. or the L.V.S., or to have a quiet chat on these (to me at any rate) momentous questions.

I would conclude with what Rev. John Pulsford, D.D., has to say with regard to the teaching of the E.C.U.:

It is impossible for a spiritually intelligent reader to doubt that these teachings were received from within the astral veil. They are full of the concentrated and compact wisdom of the Holy Heavens, and of God. If the Christians knew their own religion, they would find in these priceless records Lord Christ and His vital process abundantly illustrated and confirmed. That such communications are possible, and are permitted to be given to the world, is a sign, and a most promising sign, of our age.

I am, etc.

M. K. Gandhi

Agent for the Esoteric Christian Union


The London Vegetarian Society

Letter to Dadabhai Naoroji (25-1-1895)[edit]

328 Smith Street
Durban, Natal
January 25, 1895
Dadabhai Naoroji, ESQ., M.P.


Though the Government is silent, the papers have been informing the public that the Franchise Bill has been disallowed by Her Majesty. Can you give us any information on the point? The Indian settlers cannot thank you and the Congress Committee too much for the trouble taken on their behalf.

I remain,


Your faithful servant,

M. K. Gandhi


I venture to send the enclosed for perusal.

M. K. G.

From a photostat of the original : S.N. 2253

Books for Sale (2-2-1895)[edit]

The following books by the late Dr. Anna Kingsford and Mr. Edward Maitland, introduced for the first time in South Africa, are offered for sale at their published prices :

The Perfect Way, 7/6
Clothed with the Sun, 7/6
The Story of the New Gospel of Interpretation, 3/6
Bible's Own Account of Itself, 1/-
The New Gospal of Interpretation, 1/-
It is like listening to the utterances of God or arch-angel. I know of nothing in literature to equal it (The Perfect Way).
— The Late Sir F. H. Doyle
We regard The Perfect Way as the most illumined and useful book published in the nineteenth century.
—Gnostic (U.S.A.)

M. K. Gandhi

Agent for the Esoteric Christian Union and the London Vegetarian Society

The Natal Advertiser, 2-2-1895

Letter to "The Natal Witness" (23-3-1895)[edit]

March 23, 1895
The Editor
The Natal Witness


I trust, in the interests of justice, you will allow me to make a few remarks on your report of the conversation that took place between Sir Walter Wragg and Mr. Tatham with regard to a point of Mahommedan Law, in your issue of the 22nd instant.

I have ventured to trespass upon your courtesy, not because I want to defend myself, but because of the decision of the Supreme Court, which, I believe, with all due respect to Sir Walter Wragg, is based upon an erroneous view of the Mahommedan Law, and would vitally affect a large portion of the Indian Colonists.

Were I a Mahommedan, I should be very sorry to be judged by a Mahommedan whose sole qualification is that he is born a Mahommedan. It is a revelation that the Mahommedans know the law intuitively, and that a non-Mahommedan never dare give an opinion on a point of Mahommedan Law.

The decision (if your report is correct) that the brother will be entitled to his 5/24ths only after he “can show that he represents the poor”, is, I am afraid, according to the Mahommedan Law administered in India and revealed in the Koran, subversive of that law. I have carefully gone through the chapters on “Inheritance” in Macnaughten's Mahomedan Law (which, by the way, is edited by a non-Mahommedan Indian and which Messrs Binns & Mason, in their report published after their return from India, say is the book considered to be one of the best on that law), and have also gone through that portion of the Koran which relates to the subject, and in them I find not one word with regard to the poor being entitled to any part of the inheritance of a deceased Moslem. If the Koran and the book above mentioned are any authority on that law, then not only is there no portion to which the poor are entitled in the case in question, but under no circumstances are the poor entitled to any part of an intestate estate. I hope to be able to show that the brother (it should really be the half-brother), when he takes anything under that law, takes it in his own right, and takes it because he is a brother.

It is likely that His Lordship, when he was talking about an inheritance, was actually but unconsciously thinking of almsgiving, which is incumbent upon every Mahommedan. It is one of their articles of faith. But the principle that guides almsgiving during life does not obtain in cases of distribution of inheritance. A Mahommedan, by giving alms during his lifetime, earns for himself heaven or a respectable place therein. Alms given out of his estate by the State after his death can surely do him no spiritual good, because it is not his act. After a Moslem's death it is the relatives who have a prior, nay exclusive, claim upon his estate.

Says the Koran :

We have appointed unto everyone kindred to inherit part of what their parents and relations shall leave after their deaths.

The law says :

There belong to the property of a person deceased four successive duties : first, his funeral ceremony and burial without superfluity of expense, yet without deficiency; next the discharge of his just debts from the whole of his remaining effects; then the payment of his legacies out of a third of what remains after his debts are paid; and lastly, the distribution of the residue among his successors.

The successors are thus described :

1. Legal sharers; 2. residuaries; 3. distant kindred; 4. successors by contract; 5. acknowledged kindred; 6. universal legatee; 7. Crown.

“Legal sharers” are defined as “all those persons for whom specific shares have been appointed or ordained in the sacred text, the traditions, or with general assent”, and according to the table enumerating the 12 classes of sharers, include half-brothers also. “Residuaries” are “all persons for whom no share has been appointed, and who take the residue after the sharers have been satisfied, or the whole estate when there are no sharers”. It should here be noted that some legal sharers are as such, under certain conditions, excluded, and then rank as residuaries. “Distant kindred” are “all relations who are neither sharers nor residuaries”. “After the sharers are satisfied, if there remains a residue of the property left by the deceased, it is to be divided among the first class of heirs called residuaries. If there be no residuaries, the residue will revert to the sharers in proportion to their shares.”

I would not occupy your valuable space by giving definitions of the other successors. Suffice it to say that they do not include the poor at all, and that they can “take” only after the first three classes are exhausted.

The residuaries in their own right include, among others, “the 'offspring' of the father of the deceased, i.e., brothers, consanguine brothers, and their sons, how low soever”. Rule 12 of Section 1 says: “It is a general rule that a brother shall take double the share of a sister. The exception to it is in the case of brothers and sisters by the same mother only, but by different fathers.” And Rule 25, Section 11, says: “Where there are daughters or son's daughters and no brothers, the sisters take what remains after the daughters or son's daughters have realized their shares, such residue being half should there be only one daughter or son's daughter, and one third should there be two or more.” The two rules read together help us materially to determine the share the brother gets in the case in point.

In the typical examples given in the book I have been quoting from, I find the following with its solution : “Example 7. Husband, daughter, brother and three sisters.” The solution need not be given fully. The brother as a residuary in his own right gets 2/20ths.

It will then be seen from the above that brothers, and in their absence, half-brothers, rank either as sharers or residuaries in their own right, and, therefore, with the greatest deference to Sir Walter's opinion in the case in question, the brother “takes”, if he does at all, in his own right and not as representing the poor, and if he does not “take” (a thing that cannot happen in such a case if the law is to be respected), the residue “reverts” to the sharers.

But the report says that the priest and I differ. If you eliminate the “I” and put “the law” instead (for I simply said what the law was), I would venture to say, the priest and the law should never differ, and if they do, it is the priest and not the law that goes to the wall. In this case, however, the priest and I do not differ if the distribution in the report sent to me by Mr. Tatham was the one approved by the priest, as it seems to have been, according to his letter of advice. The priest says not a word about the half-brother taking as representing the poor.

Lastly, after I saw the report, I saw purposely some Mahommedan gentlemen who ought to know the law according to Sir Walter, and they were surprised when I told them about the decision. They, without even taking time to consider—the thing appeared to them so plain and clear—said, “The poor never take anything from an intestate estate. The half-brother as such should have his share.”

The decision then, I submit, is contrary to the Mahommedan Law, the priest's opinion, and other Mahommedan gentlemen. It will be a manifest hardship if the portions rightly belonging to the relations of a deceased Mahommedan are to be locked up until they can show that “they represent the poor”—a condition never contemplated by the law or sanctioned by Mahommedan usage.

I am, etc.,

M. K. Gandhi

The Natal Witness, 28-3-1895

1^  This was with reference to the following report in The Natal Witness, 22-3-1895 :
Mr. Tatham applied to the Supreme Court yesterday for confirmation of the Master's report in the intestate estate of Hassan Dawjee, and remarked that a plan of distribution, prepared by Mr. Gandhi, barrister, had been embodied in the report, and was framed according to Mahommedan Law.
SIR WALTHER WRAGG : The only thing about this is that Mr. Gandhi knows nothing of Mahommedan Law. He is as great a stranger to Mahommedan Law as a Frenchman. For what he has stated he would have to go to a book as you would; of his own knowledge he knows nothing.
Mr Tatham said that a plan of distribution had been obtained from the priests and from Mr. Gandhi. Where else they were to go he did not know. They had exhausted all the expert evidence available.
SIR WALTHER WRAGG : The portion which Mr. Gandhi states should go to the brother of the deceased, should, according to Mahommedan Law, go to the poor. Mr. Gandhi is a Hindu and knows his own faith, of course, but he knows nothing of Mahommedan Law.
MR. TATHAM : The question is whether we shall take Mr. Gandhi's view or the priests'.
SIR WALTHER WRAGG : You must take the priests'. When the brother can show that he represents the poor he will be entitled to 5/24ths, as stated by Mr. Gandhi.

Memorial to Agent, Pretoria (16-4-1895)[edit]

April 16, 1895




We respectfully request Your Honour to place yourself in communication with His Excellency the High Commissioner, in order to ascertain whether Her Majesty's Government will be satisfied with the Award given by the Arbitrator in the recent arbitration held at Bloemfontein in the Orange Free State, between Her Majesty's Government and the Government of the South African Republic, on the Indian question. As Your Honour is aware, the Arbitrator has decided that Law 3 of 1885[4], as amended by Volksraad's[5] besluit of 1886, must be enforced by this Government, and that in the event of any dispute or difference as to the interpretation of that law, the High Court of this Republic must decide such difference.

In one of the Green books, No. 21894, pages 31 and 35, put in at the above-mentioned arbitration by the Government of this Republic, statements are made to the effect that His Honour the Chief Justice, in giving judgment in a certain application before the High Court by Ismael Suliman and Co.,[6] held that no difference could be made between places where business is carried on and where Indians reside. In view of these facts, we respectfully submit, without in any way impugning the High Court, that it would be a foregone conclusion, if the statements referred to above as to the judgment of the Chief Justice be correct, that the judgment of the Court in any case submitted to it under the above quoted law would be against the Indian subjects of Her Majesty in this Republic. As, therefore, the Arbitrator did not decide the question submitted to him in terms of the Deed of Submission, but practically left it to the decision of the High Court of this Republic, we would respectfully submit that the Arbitrator did not decide the question in terms of the reference to him. We, therefore, respectfully request Your Honour to communicate with her Majesty's Government and ascertain whether they will be satisfied with the above Award and acquiesce therein.




Colonial Office Records No. 417, Vol. 148

2^ This was enclosed with Despatch No. 204 of April 29, 1895 from the High Commissioner to the South African Republic to the Principal secretary of State for the Colonies.
3^ Partner and manager of the firm of Mahomed Cassim Camroodeen in Johannesburg
4^  A Transvaal law; this applied to “the so-called Coolies, Arab, Malay and Mahommedan subjecs of the Turkish Empire”. It rendered them incapable of obtaining extended citizenship rights and of owning fixed property in the Republic.
An exception was later made in the case of the “Coolies” who could, as sanctioned by Volksraad resolution of January 1887, own fixed property in specified streets, wards and Locations on grounds of sanitation. A further Volksraad resolution, in 1893, laid down that all Asiatics should be enforced to live and trade in the Locations. Trade could be carried on by registration and payment of a fee of £3. The law was considered to be in contravention of the London Convention.
5^ Sometimes abbreviated to Raad, South African (Dutch) word for National Legislative Assembly in the Transvaal and the Orange Free State.
6^ In this case Ismail Suliman, an Arab trader, in August 1888, was denied a trading licence to carry on business except in a Location. Arbitration by the Chief Justice of Orange Free State recognized the right of the South African Republic to enforce Law 3 of 1885 subject to interpretation by the country's Tribunals. The Supreme Court of the Transvaal however reversed the judgment later, and held that the Government had no power under that law to withhold licences from Asiatics.

Petition to Natal Legislative Assembly (Before 5-5-1895)[edit]


[Before May 5, 1895]


The Honourable the Speaker and Members of the Legislative Assembly of the Colony of Natal

The Petition of the Undersigned Indians Residing in the Colony of Natal

Humbly sheweth that :

Your Petitioners, as representing the Indians in this Colony, hereby respectfully approach your Honourable Assembly with regard to the Indian Immigration Law Amendment Bill now before you for consideration.

Your Petitioners respectfully submit that so much of the Bill which provides for re-indenture and imposition of a tax in default of re-indenture, is manifestly unjust, entirely uncalled for and in direct opposition to the fundamental principles upon which the British Constitution is based.

That the Bill is manifestly unjust, does not need, your Petitioners submit, many words to prove. To raise the Maximum term of indenture from five years to an indefinite period is in itself unjust, because it puts in the way of the masters of the indentured Indians greater temptations to oppression or harshness. No matter how humane the masters may be in the Colony, they will always remain human. And your Petitioners need hardly point out what human nature is when selfish considerations guide one's actions. Moreover, the Bill, your Petitioners venture to say, is an absolutely one-sided arrangement, for, while it shows every consideration to the employer, it gives practically nothing in return to the employee.

The Bill is, your Petitioners submit, uncalled for because no reasons exist for its introduction. It is not meant to help the Colony out of a pecuniary crash or help forward any industry. On the other hand, it was because it was recognized that the industries, for which the Indian labour was specially required, no longer required any extraordinary aid that the £10,000 vote was abolished only last year. it is then evident that there is no real need for such legislation.

To show that Bill is in direct opposition to the fundamental principles of the British Constitution, your Petitioners humbly refer your Honourable Assembly to the whole course of the great events during the last century in which Britain has played a prominent part.

Forced labour, from the grossest form of slavery to the mildest form of veth[8], has always been repugnant to the British traditions, and has everywhere, so far as practical, been abolished. Indentured labour exists in Assam as it does in this Colony. It was only a short time ago when it was admitted by her Majesty’s Government, in reference to such labour in that country, that the indentured labour was an evil to be countenanced only as long as it was absolutely necessary to support or promote an important industry, and to be removed at the first suitable opportunity. Your Petitioners respectfully submit that the Bill under consideration violates the above principle.

If the proposed extension of the term of indenture is thus (your Petitioners hope they have shown to your Honourable Assembly’s satisfaction) unjust, uncalled for, and opposed to the fundamental principles of the British Constitution, the proposed imposition of a tax is more so. It has long been acknowledged as an axiomatic truth that taxation is meant only for the purposes of revenue. It will not for a moment be said, your Petitioners humbly think, that the proposed tax is meant for any such purpose. The proposed taxation is avowedly meant to drive the Indian out of the Colony after he has finished his indenture. It will, therefore, be a prohibitive tax, and conflict with the principles of Free Trade.

It will moreover inflict, your Petitioners fear, an unwarranted wrong on the indentured Indians, because for an indentured Indian, who has severed all connection with India and come down to the Colony with his family, to go back and hope to earn a livelihood is almost an utter impossibility. Your Petitioners crave leave to mention from their own experience that, as a rule, it is only those Indians who cannot find work to keep body and soul together in India who come to the Colony under indenture. The very fabric of the Indian society is such that the Indian, in the first place, does not leave his home, and when once he is driven to do so, it is hopeless for him to return to India and expect to earn bread, much less to make a fortune.

It is an admitted fact that the Indian labour is indispensable to the prosperity of the Colony.If so, your Petitioners submit that the indentured Indians, who so materially help forward the prosperity of the Colony, are entitled to better consideration.

It need hardly be mentioned that the Bill is a piece of class legislation and that it accentuates and encourages the prejudice that exists against Indians in the Colony, and thus would widen the gulf between one class of British subjects and another. Your Petitioners, therefore, humbly pray that your Honourable Assembly will come to the conclusion that that portion of the Bill which contemplates reindenture and the imposition of a tax in default of re-indenture is not such as could be considered favourably by your Honourable Assembly, and for this act of justice and mercy, your Petitioners shall for ever pray, etc., etc.

Abdulla Haji Adam and Several Others

From a photostat : S.N. 434

7^ The petition was published in The Natal Advertiser, 5-5-1895.
8^ Forced, unpaid labour

Petition to Lord Ripon (Before 5-5-1895)[edit]

Petition to Lord Elgin (Before 5-5-1895)[edit]

Letter to M. C. Camroodeen (5-5-1895)[edit]

P. O. Box 66
May 5, 1895

I have received from you the signatures of the Indians. I hope [9]you have obtained those of the Dutch and promptly sent them to Pretoria. There should be no delay in this, as the work is very urgent. I have wired to Pretoria also to send a copy of the Dutch petition there. All this should be completed by Wednesday. Please write to me in detail as to what you have done.

It is very necessary that every Indian should exert himself to the utmost in this work. Otherwise, we shall have to repent.[10]

Yours sincerely,


From a photostat of the Gujarati: S.N. 317

9^ This petition, too, was ineffective. Dadabhai Naoroji led a deputation to Chemberlain at the Colonial Office on August 29. It presented the case of the Indians in the four States of South Africa.
10^ On May 8, Camroodeen wrote back (S.N. 39) reporting that he had not been able to collect a single signature to the petition to be presented to Lord Ripon.

A Band of Vegetarian Missionaries (18-5-1895) [edit]

Extracts from Letter to "The Natal Advertiser" (Before 22-5-1895)[edit]

[Before May 22, 1895][11]

The report states that the Indians were observed “with portions of sleepers on their heads”.[12] The evidence was that. . . seven charged had on their heads portions of sleepers together with. . .{ref|13}} Although the sleepers were called for they were never produced. The report says, “On attempting to arrest them 71 of their number turned round with sticks, tins, pieces of iron and cooking utensils and plied them freely on the police making them fly for safety. P. C. Madden arrived on the scene with further assistance.” The evidence went to show that the seven charged turned round with sticks, and two of them incited to oppose. There was only one policeman at first and that was the Native constable. Then P. C. Madden alone, not with any assistance, came on the scene. While the Native constable is alleged to have been resisted, P. C. Madden distinctly said he was not resisted at all. The report goes on: “The rest followed by a body. . . saying they would not leave until their colleagues were discharged.” The uncontradicted evidence of Mr. Mason, who knew what he was talking about, went to show that “the rest” were under arrest and were, Mr. Mason was informed by Mr. Madden, going to be charged by the Railway Department with desertion. They have gone now for the second time to Mr. Mason to complain that they were starving. The report says, “Three or four constables appeared in the court with their faces bruised and their clothes torn.” The facts are that there was only the Native constable who said he was beaten with sticks. When asked if he could show any marks, he said it was”somewhere” on his head that no one could see. He had no bruises. His clothes were neither torn, nor did he complain that they were. So far as my memory can be trusted, I believe there was not a single word about “utensils and irons”. And if all had bundles of sticks on their heads it is not easy to understand how they could carry utensils, etc. P. C. Madden was the only other constable who gave evidence. But he was not interfered with and he could give no evidence of his own knowledge as to the Native constable having been beaten. . . .[14]

This is not the first occasion on which I have found the facts in your reports mis-stated or exaggerated, and I am sorry to say whenever this has happened, they have been mis-stated and exaggerated much to the disadvantage of the Indian community.[15]

The Natal Advertiser, 22-5-1895

11^  Referring to a report in The Natal Advertiser, 20-5-1895, Gandhiji wrote “a long letter”, pointing out its inaccuracies. The original not being available, the extracts as published in the Advertiser, 22-5-1895, are reproduced here.
12^  According to the report a large number of Indians, leaving the railway yard, were noticed in possession of portions of sleepers. Earlier the railway authorities had ordered that coal instead of firewood be supplied to them which they resented.
13^  Some words here are undecipherable.
14^ The report here says that “some further evidence” recapitulated by Gandhiji has been omitted.
15^  The report concludes : Mr. Gandhi implies that any alleged “mis-statements”or “exaggerations” have been knowingly made with a view to prejudicing the Indian community in the eyes of our readers. Such however is not the case. If they have occurred it has been quite unwittingly. In reporting court cases the evidence has almost always to be condensed, and the summary may not satisfy certain of the interested parties. The reports, however, whether accurate or inaccurate are written without the slightest desire or intention to prejudicially affect one side or the other.

Petition to Natal Legislative Council (Before 26-6-1895)[edit]

[Before June 26, 1895]





Your Petitioners, as representing the Indian community in the Colony, venture hereby to petition Your Honourable Council with regard to the Indian Immigration Law Amendment Bill[17], so far as it affects the present term of indenture, and proposes a yearly licence of £3 to be taken out by every immigrant wishing to stop in the Colony as a free Indian, after finishing his term of indenture.

Your Petitioners respectfully submit that both the clauses above referred to are entirely unjust and uncalled for.

Your Petitioners humbly draw the attention of this Honourable House to the following from the report of the delegates, Messrs Binns[18] and Mason, who were commissioned to go to India in connection with this matter:

So far no second term of indenture has been agreed to in the case of any country to which Coolies emigrated, although the consent of the Government of India had frequently been asked for; and in no instance had the condition of compulsory return at the end of the indentures been sanctioned.
Thus the clauses in the Bill are a total departure, your Petitioners submit, for the worse, from the practice prevalent throughout the British Colonies.

Assuming that the average age of an indentured Indian at the time of his entering into the contract of indenture is 25, under the clause which expects the Indian to work for 10 years, the best part of the life of the indentured Indian would be simply spent away in a state of bondage.

For an Indian to return to India after continuous 10 years’ stay in the Colony would be pure fatuity. All the old cords and ties will have been broken up. Such an Indian will be comparatively a stranger in his motherland. To find work in India would be almost impossible. The market is already overcrowded, and he will not have amassed sufficient fortune to enable him to live on the interest on his capital.

The total of the wages for 10 years would amount to £87. If the indentured Indian saves £50, allowing only £37 for clothing and other expenses during the whole 10 years, that capital will not give him interest sufficient to keep body and soul together, even in a poor country like India. Such an Indian, therefore, even if he ventured to return to India, would be compelled to return under indenture, and thus his whole life would be spent in bondage. Moreover, during the 10 years the indentured Indian would be entirely neglecting his family, should he have any. And a family man will not be able to save even £50. Your Petitioners know several instances of indentured Indians with families having saved nothing.

As to the 2nd Clause, about the £3 licence, your Petitioners submit that it is calculated to create wide discontent and oppression. Why one class of Her Majesty’s subjects, and this the most useful to the Colony, should be singled out for such taxation, it is, in the humble opinion of your Petitioners, difficult to understand.

Your Petitioners most respectfully venture to submit that it is not in accordance with the principles of simple justice and equity to make a man pay heavily for being allowed to remain free in the Colony after he has already lived under bondage for 10 years.

The fact that the clauses will apply only to those Indians who would come to the Colony after the Bill has become law, and that they would know the terms under which they may come, does not free the clauses from the objections sought to be raised against them. For both the contracting parties, your Petitioners submit, will not have the same freedom of action. An Indian hard-pressed by pangs of poverty and finding it impossible to support his family can scarcely be called a free agent when he signs the contract of indenture. Men have been known to consent to do far worse things in order to be free from immediately pressing difficulties. Your Petitioners, therefore, humbly hope and pray that the clauses above referred to will not meet with the approval of this Honourable House, and for this act of justice and mercy, your Petitioners shall for ever pray, etc., etc.


From a photostat of a printed copy : S.N. 435

16^ The Petition was published in The Natal Mercury, 26-6-1895.
17^ The Bill which was introduced in the Natal Council on June 25 had its second reading the next day and was passed.
18^ Sir Henry Binns (1837-99); Premier of Natal 1897

Letter to Pherozeshah Mehta (9-8-1895)[edit]


August 9, 1895

M.R.C. & C. & C.


By direction of the Indian community I beg to send by registered book [-post] four copies of the petitions to Home Government[19] and the Indian Government[20] regarding the Immigration Law Amendment Bill passed by the Natal Parliament. I have to request you to extend your active sympathy to the Indians in South Africa.

I am,

Yours faithfully,


From the original: Pherozeshah Mehta Papers. Courtesy: Nehru Memorial Museum and Library

19^ Memorial to J. Chamberlan, 11-8-1895
20^ Memorial to Lord Elgin”, 11-8-1895

Memorial to J. Chamberlain (11-8-1895)[edit]

Memorial to Lord Elgin (11-8-1895)[edit]

August 11, 1895]






Your Memorialists, who are Her Majesty’s Indian subjects, crave leave to draw Your Excellency’s attention to the humble Memorial[21] addressed to Her Majesty’s Government with regard to certain clauses of the Indian Immigration Law Amendment Bill which was recently passed by the Hon. the Legislative Assembly and the Hon. the Legislative Council of Natal, and which is partly based upon Your Excellency’s Dispatch to His Excellency the Governor of Natal on the subject thereof, a copy of which is annexed hereto.

Besides drawing Your Excellency’s attention to the above memorial, your Memorialists beg respectfully to state as follows with regard to the Bill:

Your Excellency’s Memorialists have noticed with regret that Your Excellency is disposed to sanction the principle of compulsory re-indenture, or compulsory return.

Your Memorialists also regret that they did not send a representation at the time the Delegates set out for India.[22] It will be idle to discuss the causes that prevented such a course from being adopted. Your Memorialists, however, confidently hope that the wrong inflicted would be so great, in case the Bill became law, that the above omission will not come in the way of its being averted.

Your Memorialists, with the greatest deference, venture to point out that, if the non-compliance with the condition as to compulsory return could not set the criminal law in motion, the insertion in the contracts of such a clause is absolutely useless, if not actually harmful, in as much as it might encourage the contracting party to break his contract, and the law would connive at such a breach. And since such extreme precaution pre-supposes the injustice of the contract, your Memorialists respectfully submit that the reasons adduced for inducing the sanction are absolutely insufficient, if any reasons could justify it.

As has been hinted at in the annexure, your Memorialists implore Your Excellency not to sanction any of the clauses objected to, but, in accordance with the emphatically expressed opinions of Mr. J. R. Saunders and the Hon. Mr. Escombe quoted in the annexure[23], to stop immigration to Natal.

Your Memorialists respectfully beg to protest against any section of Her Majesty’s subjects, be they the poorest, being practically enslaved or subjected to a special, obnoxious poll-tax, in order that a body of Colonists, who already have been deriving the greatest benefits from such subjects, may be able to satisfy their whims or desire to exact more from the same men without any return whatsoever. In calling the idea of compulsory re-indenture, or in lieu thereof, of a poll-tax, a whim, your Memorialists believe they have used the right expression. For, your Memorialists firmly believe there would be no cause for alarm even if the Indian population were trebled in the Colony.

But, your Memorialists humbly submit that, in a matter like the above, the wish of the Colony cannot guide Your Excellency’s decision, but that the interests of the Indians affected by the clauses should also be considered. And your Memorialists have no hesitation in submitting, with all due respect, that the clauses, if ever sanctioned, will be a grave injustice and wrong to the most helpless of Her Majesty’s Indian subjects.

Five years’ indenture, your Memorialists submit, is long enough to undergo. To raise it to an indefinite period would mean that an Indian who cannot pay a poll-tax of £3 or return to India must for ever remain without freedom, without any prospect of ever bettering his condition, without ever even thinking of changing his hut, his meagre allowance and ragged clothes, for a better house, enjoyable food and respectable clothing. He must not ever think of educating his children according to his own taste or comforting his wife with any pleasure of recreation. Your Memorialists submit that a life of semistarvation in India, but of freedom, and among friends and relations in the same state would certainly be better and more desirable than the above. In this case the Indian may expect and get the chance to better his lot, in that, never. That, your Memorialists submit and believe, never was the object of encouraging immigration.

In conclusion, therefore, your Memorialists earnestly pray and confidently hope that, if the Colony does not want the Indian immigration without the arrangement objected to being sanctioned, Your Excellency may be graciously pleased to stop future immigration to Natal, or grant such other relief as may seem just. And for this act of justice and mercy, your Memorialists, as in duty bound, shall for ever pray, etc., etc.[24]


From a photostat of a printed copy: S.N. 432

21^  Vide the preceding item.
22^  Vide the preceding item.
23^  Vide “Memorial to J. Chamberlain”, 11-8-1895
24^  The appeal was infructuous. The Government of India's feeble protest about the authority and functions of the Protector of Immigrants as provided for in the new Immigration Amendment Bill was ignored. The Secretary of State sought the Viceroy's reconsideration of the Bill in the light of the Natal petitions pending Royal assent to it. Lord Elgin only reiterated his earlier view. (Vide The Early Phase, pp. 521-2). The Bill received Royal sanction and became Law on August 18, 1896.

Report of the Natal Indian Congress (August 1895)[edit]

August, 1895
During the month of June in the year 1894 the Natal Government introduced a Bill called the Franchise Law Amendment Bill in the Legislative Assembly. It was recognized that it threatened the very existence of the Indians in the Colony. Meetings were held on the premises of Messrs Dada Abdulla & Co. to consider what steps should be taken to prevent the Bill from passing. Petitions were sent to both the Houses, Members of which were interviewed by a representative who went from Durban to P.M. Burg. The Bill, however, passed both the Houses. The effect of the agitation was that all the Indians recognized the absolute necessity of establishing a permanent institution that would cope with the legislative activity, of a retrograde character, of the first Responsible Government of the Colony with regard to the Indians, and protect Indian interests.

After a few preliminary meetings had been held on Messrs Dada Abdulla’s premises, the Natal Indian Congress was formally established on the 22nd August amidst great enthusiasm. All the leading members of the Indian community joined the Congress. Seventy-six members subscribed on the first evening. The list gradually rose to 228. Mr. Abdulla Haji Adam was elected president. Other prominent members were made vice-presidents. Mr. M. K. Gandhi was elected Hon. Secretary. A small committee, too, was formed. But, as the other members of the Congress expressed a wish to attend the committee meetings during the early days of the Congress, the committee was tacitly abolished and all the members were invited to the meetings.

The minimum monthly subscription was 5/-. There was no maximum limit. Two members subscribed £2 each monthly, one 25/-, ten 20/-, twenty-five 10/-, three 7/6, three 5/3, two 5/1, and one hundred and eighty-seven subscribed 5/- each, monthly. The following table shows the various classes of members with the subscriptions paid by them, the deficiency, etc.[25]

Class No. £ s d Actual Receipts Deficiency
40/- 2 48- 0-0 £ 48- 0-0 Nil
25/- 1 15- 0-0 £ 15- 0-0 Nil
20/- 10 120- 0-0 £ 93- 0-0 £ 27- 0-0
10/- 22 132- 0-0 £ 88- 5-0 £ 43-15-0
7/6 3 13-10-0 £ 8-12-6 £ 4-17-6
5/3 2 6- 6-0 £ 3- 8-3 £ 2-17-9
5/1 2 6- 2-0 £ 5- 6-9 £ 0-15-3
5/- 187 559-10-0 £ 273-5-0 £ 286-15-0
228 900 - 8-0 £ 535-17-6 £ 366- 0-6

It will be seen from the above that, out of a possible income of £900-8-0, the Congress has been so far successful in collecting only £500-17-6 or nearly 50%. The 5/- subscribers have been the greatest defaulters. The causes are many. It should be borne in mind that some joined at a very late stage and, naturally, have not paid for the whole year. Many have left for India, a few are too poor to pay. The most potent cause, however, it is regrettable to mention, has been the unwillingness to pay. It is possible to collect over 30% of the remainder if some workers came forward and exerted themselves. The following is a list[26] of donations, general and special, for the Bennett case, as also the subscriptions from Newcastle and Charlestown. The list has been given in full because these names do not appear on the printed lists. Thus the total receipts are:

Subscriptions £535-17-6
Donations £ 80-17-0

The above is worked on the basis of the printed list.

Now the deposits in the Bank amount to £598-19-11. In order to arrive at the above sum the cash expenses and the transfers have to be added.

The case expenses are £7-5-1. The transfers amount to £10-10-0, being £8, rent to Mr. Naidoo which was remitted in lieu of subscriptions, £2, rent not charged by Mr. Abdul Kadir and 10/-, rent not charged by Mr. Moosa H. Adam in lieu of his subscription. Thus

£ 7- 5- 1
£ 10- 10- 0
£616- 15- 0

Thus, on comparing the deposits with the printed list, we have a difference of six pence which represent 6d received but not specified in the list. This happens because one member once paid 2/6 and another time 3/-. The 3/- could not be well represented on the list.

The expenses by cheque up to date amount to £151-11-11/2. A full statement[27] is annexed hereto. This leaves a credit balance at the Bank of £447-8-91/2. The liabilities are not yet discharged and the expenses of the Immigration petition and the tickets referred to below.

The rules as to drawing cheques have been strictly adhered to. Although the Hon. Secy. has the power to sign cheques, alone, up to £5, the power has never been availed of. They are signed by him and Mr. Abdul Karim and, in his absence, by Mr. Dorasamy Pillay and Mr. P. Dowji and, in his absenceZKathrada, Mr. Randeri, Mr. Hoosen Cassim, Mr. Peerun Mahomed, Mr. G. H. Miankhan and Mr. Amod Jeewa have, at one time or another, striven to get in the subscriptions. All, or most of them, more than once went round for subscriptions. Mr. Abdul Kadir alone, at his own expense, went to P. M. Burg and collected nearly £50, but for which most of the sum might have been lost to the Congress. Mr. Abdul Karim at his expense went up to Verulam and collected nearly £25.

There was also a difference among the prominent members as to signing the cheques. The rule originally was to have them signed by the Hon. Secy. and countersigned by one of the following: Mr. Abdulla H. Adam, Mr. Moosa Haji Cassim, Mr. P. Dowji Mahomed, Mr. Hoosen Cassim, Mr. Abdul Kadir and Mr. Dorasamy Pillay. A suggestion was made that more should sign. At one time this difference threatened the very existence of the Congress, but the good sense of the members and their anxiety to prevent such a catastrophe ultimately dispelled the cloud. And the change above mentioned was agreed to unanimously.

As soon as the Congress was fairly started in Durban, Messrs Dowd Mahomed, Moosa Haji Adam, Mahomed Cassim Jeeva, Mr. Parsee Rustomjee, Mr. Peerun Mahomed and the Hon. Secy. went up, each at his own expense, to canvass for members in P. M. Burg. A meeting was held there and about 48 subscribed. A second similar meeting was held at Verulam where about 37 subscribed. Mr. Hoosen Cassim, Mr. Haji, Mr. Dowd, Mr. Moosa Haji Cassim, Mr. Parsee Rustomjee, and the Hon. Secy. went up there. Messrs Amod Bhayat, Haji Mahomed and Camroodeen rendered active help in P. M. Burg and Messrs Ebrahim Moosaji, Amod, Amod Meter and P. Naidoo, in Verulam.

Mr. Ameerodeen, although not a member of the Congress, did much needed work for the Congress. Mr. N. D. Joshi has been good enough to make a fair copy of the report in Gujarati.

Mr. Somasundram, in the earlier part of the Congress year, helped it by interpreting at the meetings and distributing circulars. Work has also been done in Newcastle and Charlestown. Members have subscribed for the second year.

Mr. Mahomed Sidat and Mr. Suliman Ebrahim and Mr. Mahomed Meer worked indefatigably in Newcastle. They and Mr. Dowd Amla went also to Charlestown at their expense. The Charlestown people responded splendidly. Within an hour all the available men subscribed. Mr. Dindar, Mr. Goolam Russul and Mr. Vanda rendered much help. Nearly 1,000 letters have been written to the friends of the Indians in England and India in connection with the Franchise petition, Transvaal petition and the Immigration petition to the Home Government.

The Immigration law, which contemplates imposition of a £3 tax in lieu of indenture, has been strenuously opposed. Petitions were presented to both the Houses.

The Transvaal petition, though not sent directly under the auspices of the Congress, cannot but be referred to in a review of the Congress work.

According to the spirit or the object of the Congress, an open letter was written to members of both the Houses and widely circulated in the Colony and South Africa. It was widely noticed by the papers and gave rise to much sympathetic private correspondence. Letters, too, occasionally appeared in the newspapers on the position of the Indians in Natal. A correspondence was carried on by the late President with the Government in connection with the separate entrances for the Europeans and Natives and Asiatics at the Post Office.

The result has not been altogether unsatisfactory. Separate entrances will now be provided for the three communities. Work has also been done among the indentured Indians. Balasundram, who was badly treated by his master, was transferred to Mr. Askew.

The Congress interfered on behalf of the indentured Indians in the Railway department, in connection with the Mohurrum festivals as well as supply of wood instead of coal. Much sympathy was shown by the Magistrate presiding.

The Tuohy case is also worthy of mention. Judgment was recorded for Ismail Amod whose hat was taken off forcibly in a public place and who was otherwise ill-treated.

The famous Bennett case cost the Congress a great deal, but it is believed that the money has not been thrown away. That we should not get judgment against the Magistrate was a foregone conclusion. We went to court in spite of Mr. Morecom’s opinion to the contrary. It has, however, made the position much clearer and we know exactly what we should do should a similar case occur in future. While the Indian cause has not received much active support from the Europeans in the Colony, much sympathy has been evoked both in India and England. The London Times and The Times of India have actively supported the Indians in South Africa. The British Committee of the National Congress has been very vigilant. Letters of sympathy have been received from Sir W. W. Hunter, Mr. A. Webb[28], the Hon. Pherozeshah Mehta, the Hon. Fazalbhai Visram and others. Other Indian and English papers have also viewed our complaints favourably.

Mr. Askew was the only European who attended the Congress meetings. The Congress has not yet made itself officially known to the public because it was thought advisable not to do so unless it was assured of a permanent existence. It has worked very quietly.

This review of the work of the Congress may close fittingly with a mention of the address that was presented to Mr. Abdulla Haji Adam, the late President, on his departure for India.

These have been quite varied and numerous. Mr. Parsee Rustomjee stands foremost in this respect. He has supplied it with three lamps, tablecloth, a clock, a door-blind, inkstands, pens, blottingpaper, flower-pot and also oil throughout the year. He has sent his men to sweep and light the hall on every meeting day with extraordinary punctuality. He has also supplied the Congress with 4,000 circulars. Mr. Abdul Kadir had the list of members printed.

Mr. C. M. Jeewa had 2,000 circulars printed gratis, paper for which was supplied partly by Mr. Haji Mahomed and partly by Mr. Hoosen Cassim.

Mr. Abdulla Haji Adam has made a gift of a carpet. Mr. Manekji provided a table.

Mr. Pragji Bhimbhai gave 1,000 envelopes.

The Hon. Secretary got the rules printed in India in Gujarati and English and supplied stamps, papers, etc., for the normal fortnightly circulars.

Mr. Lawrence, a non-member, has been doing the work of distributing circulars with quiet zeal.

The attendance has been very poor and painfully unpunctual. The Tamil members have not shown much zeal in the Congress work. They might, at any rate, have made up for the laxity in paying by attending punctually and regularly. In order to facilitate canvassing for small donations, tickets for one shilling, two shillings and two shillings and six pence, initialled by Mr. A. H. Adam, Mr. Abdul Kadir, Mr. D. Pillay and the Hon. Secy., have been issued, but no forecast can yet be made as to the results of the plan.

A resolution has also been passed to the effect that medals should be awarded to active workers in order to encourage them. They have not yet been prepared.

It has to be noted with regret that Mr. Dinsha died a few months ago.

About 10 members have left for India, among whom may be mentioned, besides the late president, Mr. Haji Mahomed, Mr. Haji Suliman, Mr. Haji Dada, Mr. Manekji. Mr. Muthukrishna and Mr. Ranjitsingh have resigned.

About 20 members never paid any subscription at all, who also may be considered as having never joined the Congress.

The most important suggestion that has to be made is that, whatever the subscription, it must be made payable for the whole year in advance.
It should be noted that some expenses though voted by the Congress have not been incurred. Economy has been strictly observed. At least £2,000 are needed to put the Congress on a sure foundation.

From a copy

25^  The table does not tally with the figures given above and the totals also are not all correct.
26^  Not reproduced here
27^  Not reproduced here
28^ Alfred Webb: Member of Parliament. Contributed frequently to India and other periodicals on South African Indian topics; was President of the Congress at its Madras session (1894) and a member of the British Committee.

Letter to "The Natal Mercury" (2-9-1895)[edit]


September 2, 1895


The Natal Mercury


I would take the liberty to make a few remarks on your leader letters on the recent cables about the Indians in South Africa. It is not for the first time that you have said that the people in South Africa object to give the Indians equal political rights because they do not enjoy them in India, and that you would not object to give them the same rights as they enjoy in India. As I have said elsewhere, I repeat here that, in theory at any rate, the Indians do enjoy equal political rights with the Europeans in India. The Charter of 1833 and the Proclamation of 1858 guarantee the Indians the same rights and privileges as are enjoyed by Her Majesty’s other subjects. And the Indians in this Colony, as well as in other parts of South Africa, would be quite satisfied if they could only enjoy the same rights that they would enjoy under similar circumstances.

In India, whenever the Europeans are allowed to vote, the Indians are not excluded. If the former have votes at the municipal elections, so have the latter. If the former can elect or become elected members of the Legislative Council, so can the latter. If the former can walk about freely after 9 p.m., so can the latter. The latter cannot possess themselves with arms as freely as the former. The Indians in South Africa also have no very great anxiety to arm themselves. There is no poll-tax in India. Will you be good enough to protest against the recent Immigration Act and earn the gratitude of the helpless indentured Indians? It is the same recognized principle of political equality that enabled Mr. Naoroji to enter the House of Commons. If you object to the Indian having the same rights because “British energy and money” have built up this Colony, you should clearly object to the Germans and the French also. On the same principle, the descendants of the pioneers who shed their blood may well object to even those coming from England and pushing them out. Is this not a narrow and selfish view of the matter? At times I read in your leaders expressions of very lofty and humanitarian sentiments. Unfortunately for the poor Indian, these sentiments are set aside when you deal with the Indian question. And yet, whether you like it or not, he is your fellow-subject. England does not want to let go her hold of India, and at the same time she does not want to rule her with an iron rod. Her statesmen say that they want so much to endear the English rule to the Indians that they would not have any other. Would not views such as those expressed by you retard the fulfilment of those wishes?

I know very few Indians who, though they may be earning £1,000, live as if they were earning only £50. The fact is that, perhaps, there is no Indian in the Colony who alone earns £1,000 per year. There are some whose trade would lead others to believe that they must be “making a pile”. The trade of some of them is certainly very large; not so the profit, because it is shared by many. The Indian loves trade, and so long as he can earn a decent living, he does not mind sharing his profit largely with others. He does not insist upon the lion’s share. Just like the European, the Indian also loves spending his money, only not so recklessly. Every merchant who has amassed a fortune in Bombay has built for himself palatial buildings. The only palatial building in Mombassa has been built by an Indian. Indian merchants have earned much in Zanzibar, and consequently have built palaces, and, in some instances, pleasure houses also. If no Indian has done so in Durban of South Africa it is because he has not earned sufficient to enable him so to do. Sir, if you will only study the question a little more closely (pardon me for so saying), you will find that the Indians spend in this Colony quite as much as they can without coming to grief. To say that those earning well sleep on the floors of their shops is, I venture to say, rather incorrect. If you would undeceive yourself, and if you will leave your editorial chair for a few hours, I would escort you to some Indian stores. Then, perhaps, you would think much less harshly of them than now.

I humbly believe that the Indian question, at any rate for the British Colonies, has a local as well as Imperial significance, and I submit that to lose temper over it, or to shut one’s eyes to actual facts, in order to form preconceived ideas, is not exactly the way to solve it satisfactorily. It behoves responsible persons in the Colony not to widen the gulf between the two communities, but, if possible, to bridge it. Having invited the Indians to the Colony, how can the responsible Colonists curse them? How can they escape the natural consequences of the introduction of the Indian labour?

I am, etc.,


The Natal Mercury, 5-9-1895

Letter to "The Natal Mercury" (15-9-1895)[edit]

September 15, 1895


The Natal Mercury


I would venture to make a few remarks in reply to Mr. T. Marston Francis’s letter on the Indian question.

I believe your correspondent’s description of the Indian municipalities, as also of the Legislative Councils, is not quite accurate.

To mention only one instance, I do not think that the chairman of an Indian municipality must be a covenanted civilian. The present president of the Bombay Corporation is an Indian solicitor.

I have never contended—nor do I contend now—that the franchise is as extensive in India as it is here. It would also be idle for me to say that the Legislative Councils in India are as representative as the Legislative Assembly here. What I do contend, however, is that, whatever the limits of the franchise in India, it is extended to all without distinction of colour. The fact that the Indian’s ability to understand representative government has been recognized cannot be gainsaid. What Mr. Francis says, viz., that the qualifications for the franchise are not the same in India as in Natal, has never been denied. Under such a test no one coming from even Europe would be entitled to the franchise, for the qualifications in the different European States are not surely the same as here.

This week’s mail brings the latest proof that the Indians have never failed in the real and only test, viz., whether or not they understand the principle of representation. I quote from the article on “Indian Affairs” in The Times:

But if the gallantry of the native soldiers who obtained recognition stirs within us a pride in having such fellow-subjects. . . . indeed, nothing could exceed their magnificent self-devotion to their comrades in that deadly pass. . . The truth is that the Indians are earning the right to be regarded as worthy fellow-subjects in more ways than one. The battle-field has always formed the short cut to an honourable equality among races. But the Indians are also proving their title to our respect by the slower and more difficult methods of civil life. There was a greater experiment made in the constitutional government of dependencies than the expansion of the Indian Legislative Council on a partially elective basis three years ago. . . Many of the discussions have been most helpful, and so far as Bengal is concerned—the province in which the elective system seemed fraught with the greatest difficulty—the experiment, after a severe trial, has proved a success.

This, as is well known, is from the pen of a historian[30] and Indian officer who has served in India for 30 years. Disfranchisement by itself may seem to some to be very insignificant. But its consequences to the Indian community are too dreadful to contemplate. Its corresponding advantages to the European Colonists, I am convinced, are nil, unless there be anything gratifying in degrading or keeping under degradation a race or nation. There is no question of “the white man or the yellow man ruling”, and I hope to be able to show, on a future occasion, that the fears entertained on that score are entirely groundless.

There are passages in Mr. Francis’s letter which would, perhaps, show that he must have left India very long ago. There are very few posts more responsible than that of a civil commissioner, and yet the Secretary of State for India only recently thought it prudent to appoint an Indian to that post. Mr. Francis knows what jurisdiction a Chief Justice in India enjoys, and an Indian has occupied that position both in Bengal and Madras. Those who wish to bind the two races— the British and the Indian—with “the silken cord of love” will not find it difficult to notice innumerable points of contact between the two. Even the three religions of the two, in spite of their apparent antagonism, have much in common, and would not form a bad unity in trinity.

I am, etc.,


The Natal Mercury, 23-9-1895

29^ Controverting Gandhiji's plea for granting the franchise to Indians in South Africa, Mr. Marston T. Francis, who had lived several years in India, wrote in The Natal Mercury, 6-9-1895, that though Indians in India could vote at municipal elections and become members of the Legislative Council, things were so constituted that they could never outvote the European members or arrogate to themselves supreme authority. The chairman of a municipality, he said, was always a covenanted officer of the Indian Civil Service, and the Commissioner of the Division, the Governor, the Viceroy, the Secretary of State for India, and ultimately the British Parliament could impose checks on the municipalities and legislative bodies of India.
30^  Sir. W. W. Hunter

Letter to "The Natal Advertiser" (23-9-1895)[edit]

September 23, 1895

The Natal Advertiser


Your remarks in your Saturday’s issue on the “Indian Congress”, or more correctly, “The Natal Indian Congress”. are premature, seeing that the case[31] in which the name has been used is not yet over. Were I not afraid of running the risk of committing contempt of court I would make a few remarks on the circumstances under which the Congress has been connected with the case. I am, therefore, obliged to postpone any remarks on the matter till the case is over.

In the meanwhile, in order to remove any misimpression your remarks may create, I would with your kind permission, set out the objects of the Congress. They are:

“(1) To bring about a better understanding, and to promote friendliness between the Europeans and the Indians residing in the Colony.
“(2) To spread information about India and the Indians by writing to newspapers, publishing pamphlets, lecturing, etc.
“(3) To educate the Indians, especially [those] born in the Colony, about Indian History, and induce them to study Indian subjects.
“(4) To ascertain the various grievances the Indians are labouring under, and to agitate by resorting to all constitutional methods for removing them.
“(5) To enquire into the condition of the indentured Indians and to help them out of special hardships.
“(6) To help the poor and the needy in all reasonable ways.
“(7) And generally to do everything that would tend to put the Indians on a better footing morally, socially, intellectually, and politically.”

The very constitution of the Congress prevented it from dealing with private grievances, unless they have a public significance.

To say that “it has been quite through accident that the existence of the ‘Indian Congress’ has been discovered” is hardly in accordance with known facts. While the Congress was yet in process of formation, The Natal Witness announced the fact, and, if I am not mistaken, the paragraph announcing it was copied by you. It is true that it has not been officially made known before. This was not done because its organizers were not, and are not yet, sure of its permanent existence. They thought it prudent to let time alone bring it to the public notice. No attempts have been made to keep it secret. On the other hand, its organizers even invited those Europeans who were considered to be sympathetic either to join it or attend its fortnightly meetings. It is only because it has begun to be misrepresented in private conversation, and has now been publicly misrepresented (no doubt, unconsciously) by you, that the above explanation has been deemed necessary.

I am, etc.,

For your information I enclose copies of the rules, the list of members during its first year, and the first annual report.

M. K. G.

The Natal Advertiser, 25-9-1895

31^  The Natal Indian Congress leaders were said to have had a hand in intimidating an Indian witness from giving evidence in a trial for assault. The charge was actually against Padayachi, a member of the Natal Indian Congress, and it was stated that he did so at the instigation of leaders of the Congress. It was further alleged that under Gandhiji's leadership the Congress was conspiring to fight the Government, that it set up Indian labourers to agitate against their grievances, that Gandhiji extracted money from them and from Indian traders promising to help them obtain relief and used the funds for his own purposes. Vide also"Letter to Colonial Secretary", 21-10-1895.

Letter to "The Natal Mercury" (25-9-1895)[edit]

September 25, 1895
The Natal Mercury


Your correspondent “H” has evidently been misinformed as to the genesis of the Natal Indian Congress, as also with regard to other matters. The Congress was formed chiefly by the efforts of Mr. Abdulla Hajee Adam. I have been present at all the meetings of the Congress, and I know that no Civil Servant has taken part in any of the meetings. The responsibility for drafting the rules and the several memorials rests entirely on my shoulders. Not one Civil Servant ever saw the memorials before they were printed and ready for distribution among the Congress members and others.


The Natal Mercury, 27-9-1895

32^ A correspondent, "H", in The Natal Mercury, 21-9-1895, referred to a report that a member of the Civil Service, an Indian interpreter in a magistrate's court, was behind the Congress and its work and demanded that he should be prevented from doing such "mischief".

Speech at Natal Indian Congress (29-9-1895)[edit]

September 29, 1895

Mr. Gandhi addressed the meeting at great length. He said now that the existence of the Natal Indian Congress had become fully known, it was necessary they should be punctual in paying their subscriptions. They had now £700 in hand, being about £100 more than the last time he met them. They wanted quite £4,000 to meet their requirements, and he said everyone should sign to promise a subscription in a given time; every merchant who sold £100 of goods should endeavour to give 5s to the Congress.

Mr. Gandhi said they had succeeded so far in England but they were now awaiting the good results which will come from India. It was very likely that he (Mr. Gandhi) would leave them in January to go to India, and he would then endeavour to persuade a number of good Indian barristers to come to Natal.

The Natal Advertiser, 2-10-1895

33^ Under the auspices of the Natal Indian Congress, Gandhiji addressed a large gathering of Indians, numbering between 800 and 1,000, at Rustomjee's buildings.

Letter to "The Natal Mercury" (30-9-1895)[edit]

September 30, 1895
The Natal Mercury


Were the matter referred to in “H” ‘s letter in your Saturday issue concerning myself only, I would not have taken any notice, but as this letter affects Civil Servants I am obliged to trespass further upon your courtesy. I am not a paid Secretary of the Congress. On the other hand, in common with other members, I also contribute my humble share to its funds. No one pays me anything whatever on behalf of the Congress. Some Indians do pay me yearly retainers. They are paid to me directly. There is nothing that the Congress has to conceal; only it does not blow its own trumpet. Any enquiries about it, whether public or private, will be answered as promptly as possible. I beg to enclose herewith some papers in connection with the Congress which would throw some light on its working.

I am, etc.,


The Natal Mercury, 4-10-1895

34^  "H" had written again in The Natal Mercury, 28-9-1895, that it was the Indian interpreter that had framed the rules of the Congress, that he was mainly responsible for the submission of the Memorial to Her Majesty and also for Gandhiji's election as Congress Secretary on an annual salary of £300.

Letter to "The Natal Advertiser" (9-10-1895)[edit]

October 9, 1895
The Natal Advertiser


No Indian can take exception to the general tenor of your leader in your yesterday’s issue.[35]

If the Congress has attempted, even in an indirect manner, to tamper with a witness, it will certainly deserve suppression. I will, for the present, content myself with repeating the statement that it has not made any such attempt. As the judgment in which the Congress has been condemned is under appeal, I do not feel free to deal with the evidence at length. The only witness who was asked questions about the Congress denied that it had anything to do with the matter. If the doings of men in their private capacity were to be fathered upon the association they may belong to, then I venture to think that almost any charge could be proved against any association.

The Indians do not claim “one Indian one vote”, nor is any vote claimed for the “Coolie” pure and simple. But then the “Coolie” pure and simple, so long as he remains one, cannot get it even under the existing law. The protest is only against colour or racial distinction. If the whole question were studied coolly there would be no occasion for any display of bad feeling or warmth by anybody.

The Indians have in no part of the world attempted to gain political supremacy. In Mauritius, where they are in such large numbers, they are said to have shown no political ambition. And they are not likely to do so in Natal, even though they may number 4,00,00 instead of 40,000.

I am, etc.,

The Natal Advertiser, 10-10-1895

35^ The paper had observed that if the Indian Congress could be proved to have resorted to "wrong and suspicious practices", then "swift and decisive action for its punishment would be justified". The judge in the Padayachi case had said that the Congress was "of the nature of an association of conspiracy, pernicious and fraught with danger to the whole community in this Colony of whatever race". Taking note of this adverse judgment, The Natal Advertiser had in an earlier issue observed that if that was really the case, the judge's censure "will not be regarded as a whit too severe".

Letter to Colonial Secretary (21-10-1895)[edit]

October 21, 1895


Certain remarks in the newspapers[37] and the judgment of the Durban Resident Magistrate in Regina v. Rungasamy Padayachi recently tried before him render it necessary for me to write to you, in my capacity as Honorary Secretary for the Congress, in connection with the remarks and the judgment referred to above.

The judgment lays down that the Congress summoned an Indian named Asgara before it on a certain day in August and attempted to intimidate him from giving evidence in a case, and that it is an association of conspiracy, etc.

I have to submit that not only has the Congress never summoned the above-named person or any other person before it with a view to prevent him from giving evidence, but that the presiding Magistrate had absolutely no grounds for making such remarks.

The judgment in which the remarks occur is under appeal. That has prevented me from dealing with the matter at any length in the Press. Unfortunately, the remarks being merely obiter dicta of the Magistrate, may not be fully dealt with by the judges. During the examination, cross-examination and re-examination of the witness Asgara, the Congress was not even so much as mentioned. After the re-examination was finished, the Magistrate asked the witness questions about the Congress. It was made clear from the questions and answers that there was no meeting of the Congress during the week during which the intimidation is supposed to have taken place. Two printed circulars were produced, one of which was dated the 14th August, the other the 12th September, inviting members of the Congress to attend the meetings on the Tuesdays following the prospective dates, i.e., on the 20th August and 17th September.

The intimidation was alleged to have happened on the 12th August. The witness is said to have been sent for by Mahomed Camroodeen to Moosa’s office that day, where there were present M. C. Camroodeen, Dada Abdulla, Dowd Mahomed and two or three strangers. Here, it is alleged, he was asked certain questions about the case. And this the magistrate has connected with the Congress, in spite of the witness’s evidence to the effect that the Congress meetings are not held in Moosa’s office, that there was no circular inviting him to the meeting at Moosa’s office, that he did not attend the meetings convened in terms of the circulars, that the Congress meetings are held in the Congress Hall, that the circulars had nothing to do with the case, and that he was not present at the actual Congress meetings.

The only point that could in any way be used to support the Magistrate’s conclusion was the fact that three out of the six or seven men alleged to have been present at Moosa’s office were members of the Congress.

I beg to enclose herewith the extracts from the evidence bearing on the matter.

I venture to submit that, in some way or other, the Magistrate was biased. In the case of Poonoosamy Pather and three others, without a particle of evidence, he has remarked in his reasons for judgment that the defendants are members of and have been backed up by the Congress. As a matter of fact, all of them are not members of the Congress and the Congress had nothing whatever to do with the matter. As a great deal has been made of my instructing Mr. Millar in the Rungasamy case, I may mention that I had no connection whatever with the case of Poonoosamy and others, nor did I know, till after the case had far advanced towards the final stage, that there was such a case at all. My intervention was sought when Rungasamy was charged for the same offence for the second time and then, too, not in my capacity as Hon. Secretary of the Congress but as a lawyer.

I beg to assure the Government that the intention of the organizers of the Congress is to make the Congress an institution useful to both the communities in the Colony and a medium of interpretation of the feelings of the Indians on questions affecting them, and thus to help the existing Government and not to embarrass it, if it could embarrass it at all.

Holding such views, they naturally resent any remarks made about the Congress that may curtail its usefulness. Nothing, therefore, will be more welcome to the members of the Congress than a thorough enquiry as to its constitution and working, should the Government be inclined to attach any weight to the Magistrate’s remarks.

I may state that the Congress has never yet interfered in any court matters between Indians and Indians and has refused to take up private grievances unless they have a public significance. No individual member or members can do anything on behalf of, or in the name of, the Congress without the sanction of a majority of the members of the Congress assembled in accordance with the rules of the Congress, which can only meet on a written notification from the Honorary Secretary.

If the Government are satisfied that the Congress had nothing to do with the case in question, I, on behalf of the Congress, humbly beg to ask for some public notification of the fact; if, on the other hand, there be any doubt as to the matter I venture to ask for an enquiry.

I beg to enclose herewith a copy each of Congress rules, the list of members for the year ending 22nd August, 1895, and the first Annual Report.

I shall be very happy to supply any further information that may be required.[38]

I have the honour to remain,
Your obedient servant,

Colonial Office Records No. 179, Vol. 192

36^ This was Enclosure No. 1 in Despatch No. 128 of November 30, 1895, from the Governor of Natal to the Principal Secretary of State for the Colonies.
37^ Vide The Early Phase
38^ Soon after, the Supreme Court quashed the conviction in the case of Regina v. Poonoosamy Pather and others as it was based on untenable evidence. A month later, on November 27, the judgment in the Padayachi case also was set aside by the Supreme Court on the ground that there was "not a particle of evidence". Vide The Early Phase,

Memorial to J. Chamberlain (26-11-1895)[edit]

November 26, 1895




Your Memorialists, representing the Indian community in the South African Republic, hereby venture respectfully to approach Her Majesty’s Government with regard to the resolution passed by the Honourable Volksraad of the South African Republic on 7th October, 1895, ratifying the treaty entered into between Her Majesty’s Government and the Government of the South African Republic exempting all British subjects residing in the Republic from personal military service with the reservation that by “British subjects” shall be understood “White persons”.

Your Memorialists, on reading this resolution, ventured to telegraph to you on 22nd October, 1895, protesting against the distinction made between white and coloured British subjects.[40]

The reservation is evidently aimed at the Indian British subjects residing in the South African Republic.

Your Memorialists would draw your attention to the fact that the treaty itself does not qualify the words “British subjects” at all, and submit that the resolution, instead of accepting the treaty in toto, modifies it and on that ground alone your Memorialists feel sure the modified ratification will not be accepted by Her Majesty’s Government.

Your Memorialists will not dwell upon the indignity to which the resolution unnecessarily subjects the Indians.

The reason put forward for exemption of British subjects from commando was chiefly that, as the British subjects were not entitled to full Burgher Right and were subjected to disabilities in the Republic, they should not be compelled to render military service with the Burghers. It was openly avowed at the time the commotion was going on that the Uitlander population of the Republic would gladly serve in the Malaboch campaign[41], if only they were treated as citizens and given the franchise.

If, therefore, the European or, as the resolution puts it, “White” British subjects should be exempt because of the political disabilities they labour under, much more, it is respectfully submitted, should the Indian British subjects, who not only do not enjoy any political rights in the South African Republic but are treated as little more than chattels, of which fact the resolution is another indication.

Your Memorialists, in conclusion, earnestly pray and confidently hope, that in view of the general persecution that is incessantly being meted out to the Indians throughout South Africa, whether in the Colonies or in Independent States (even in the newly opened-up territories of Bulawayo and other parts), and in view of the magnitude of the already exiting restrictions placed upon the Indians in South Africa generally and your Memorialists’ and their fellowbrothers’ attempts to get them removed by the intervention of Her Majesty’s Government, this fresh attempt to yet further restrict the freedom of the Indians on the part of the Government of the South African Republic will not be countenanced by Her Majesty’s Government.

And for this act of justice and mercy, your Memorialists, as in duty bound, shall for ever pray, etc.,


Colonial Office Records No. 417, Vol. 152

39^ This was an enclosure in despatch No. 692 of December 10, 1895, from the High Commissioner to the South African Republic to the Principal Secretary of State for the Colonies. It was presented to the Home Government on May 14, 1896; vide The Early Phase.
40^ This telegram is not available. It stated that a Memorial would follow. The telegram was, however, acknowledged by H. O. Arnold Foster, M.P., who observed :". . . I regard the action taken by Boers with regard to the British Indian subjects in the Transvaal, as not only gross indignity but likely if pressed in to raise very serious questions far outside the limits of the Boer State." Vide The Early Phase,
41^ War by the South African Republic against the Malaboch tribe in Northern Transvaal, in 1894

The Indian Franchise (16-12-1895)[edit]

Vegetarianism in Natal (21-12-1895)[edit]

It is an uphill battle to fight in Natal, and, indeed, in South Africa. Yet there are few places where vegetarianism would be more conducive to health, or more economical or practicable. Of course, at present, it is hardly economical and it certainly requires a great deal of self-denial to remain a vegetarian, To become one seems almost an impossibility. “It is all very well in London, where there are scores of vegetarian restaurants, but how can you become or remain a vegetarian in South Africa, where you find very little nourishing vegetarian food?” has been the invariable reply to my enquiries, in the course of conversation on the matter with scores of men. One would have thought such a reply would be impossible in South Africa, seeing that it enjoys a semi-tropical climate, and its vegetable resources are inexhaustible. Nevertheless, the reply is entirely justifiable. In the best of hotels you find, as a rule, potatoes the only vegetable at lunch-time, and that badly cooked. At dinner-time you find, perhaps, two vegetables, and the vegetable menu is hardly ever changed. It is little short of a scandal that in this Garden Colony of South Africa, where, at the proper time, you can get fruit for a song, you find very little fruit at the hotels. Pulses are conspicuous by their absence. A gentleman wrote to me to ask if it was possible to buy pulses in Durban; he could not procure them in Charlestown and the neighbouring townships. Nuts can only be bought at Christmas time. Such are the present circumstances. Vegetarian friends, therefore, need not wonder if I can report very little perceptible progress as a result of nearly nine months’ advertising and quiet persuasion. Nor are the above the only difficulties in the way of vegetarian propaganda. People here think of very little else than gold. The gold fever is so infectious in these regions that it has smitten the highest and the lowest, the spiritual teachers included. They find no time for higher pursuits of life; they find no time to think of the beyond.

Copies of The Vegetarian are supplied regularly every week to most of the libraries. Occasional advertisements are inserted in the newspapers. Every opportunity is availed of to introduce the subject of vegetarianism. So far this has given rise to some sympathetic correspondence and enquiries. A few books have also been bought. Many more have been distributed. Correspondence and conversation have not been devoid of humour. A lady, who corresponded with me in connection with Esoteric Christianity, became angry on finding that Esoteric Christianity had anything to do with vegetarianism. She was so disgusted that she returned the books lent to her without reading them. One gentleman thought it disgraceful for a man to shoot or slaughter an animal. “He would not do it for the life of him.” But he had no compunction in eating the meat prepared for him.

The possibilities of South Africa, and particularly of Natal, from a vegetarian standpoint, are too numerous to mention, only there are no vegetarian workers. The soil is so fertile that it would grow almost anything. Vast tracts of land await only a skilful hand to turn them into real mines of gold. If a few men could be induced to turn their attention from the Johannesburg gold to the quieter method of earning money by cultivation, and to get rid of their colour prejudice, there is no doubt that every variety of vegetable and fruit could be grown in Natal. The climate of South Africa is such that the Europeans alone will never be able to work the soil as much as is possible. They have got the Indians to help them, but they simply would not make use of them owing to the colour prejudice, which is so strong in South Africa. Even in Natal, where the prosperity of the Colony admittedly depends upon the Indian labour, the prejudice is very strong. I have a letter from a gardener who, much as he would like to employ Indian labour, is handicapped owing to this prejudice. Vegetarians, therefore, have a scope for patriotic work. The line of marriage between white British subjects and Indians is getting thicker day by day in South Africa. The best English and Indian statesmen are of opinion that Britain and India can be indissolubly united by the chain of love. The spiritualists anticipate good results from such a union. The South African white British subjects are doing their utmost to retard, and, if possible, to prevent such a union. It may be that some vegetarians may come forward to arrest such a catastrophe.

I would venture to make one suggestion and then close this hurriedly written resume of the work in Natal. If some men of means, and well up in vegetarian literature, were to travel in different parts of the world, explore the resources of the different countries, report upon their possibilities from a vegetarian standpoint, and invite vegetarians to migrate to those countries which they may consider suitable for vegetarian propaganda, and, at the same time, worth settling in from a pecuniary point of view, much vegetarian work can be done, openings can be found for poor vegetarians, and real centres of vegetarianism can be established in various parts of the world.

But then vegetarianism, in order to do this, should be a religion, and not merely a hygienic convenience. The platform will have to be shifted much higher.

The Vegetarian, 21-12-1895.

This text is in the public domain in the United States because it was published before 1923. It is also in the public domain in countries and areas where the copyright term is the author's life plus 60 years or less, including India, its source country, since 1 January 2009, sixty years after Gandhi's death, pursuant to s. 22, Copyright Act, 1957 of India. This work may also be in the public domain in countries and areas with longer native copyright terms that apply the rule of the shorter term to foreign works.