« PreviousContinue »
the original dozen contain some of the most striking as well as the most important, and from amongst them most of our instances may be drawn.
Foremost in importance-according to the Viceroy's own classification, which no one is likely to dispute was "the creation and pursuit of a sound Frontier Policy." Every one will remember that in 1897 several years of almost continuous disturbance and warfare on the Punjab frontier culminated in an outbreak which extended from Waziristan in the west to Swat and Buner in the north, which was prolonged for a period of nearly nine months, and was so serious as to necessitate the employment of a very large proportion of the available field army of India. fanaticism and fury of this outbreak were undoubtedly the direct consequence of the policy with regard to Chitral, but beyond this was the equally fatal fact that for years the Government of India had had no definite or continuous policy at all with regard to the frontier. The advocates respectively of the "forward policy" and the "Lawrence policy" argued interminably and prevailed by turns. When the former were in the ascendant, the British soldier "trailed his coat" in isolated outposts, from the Black Mountain to the Gomal Valley; when the other side in turn obtained the upper hand, a general scuttle from all outlying positions proclaimed to the tribesmen the nervousness of the party
in power. When Lord Curzon assumed the Viceroyalty, the "forward policy was the order of the day, and he found that small British garrisons were holding isolated positions, all all more or less untenable against serious attack, in the Swat Valley, in the Khyber, in Kurram, on the Samana, and in Waziristan. As he himself put the case when revising his policy last year: "We seemed likely once more to tread the vicious circle that has beguiled us so often before." One of his first cares was to inaugurate the policy on which he had already set his heart, and which he has summed up in these principles: "Withdrawal of British forces from advanced positions; employment of tribal forces in the defence of tribal country; concentration of British forces in British territory behind them, as a safeguard and a support; and improvement of communications in rear." The novel and striking feature of this policy was the employment of tribal forces to hold that tribal country which had hitherto been occupied only by small detachments of British troops. It was the application to the frontier of the principles of conciliation, of treating the frontier tribes with sympathy and with confidence, "as if they were men of like composition with ourselves," to which Lord Curzon had already expressed his adherence. It was
experiment not without risk, and many were found to prophesy its failure. But, nothing daunted by gloomy prog
nostications, the Viceroy proceeded to carry out his scheme. Frontier levies and tribal militias were raised, officered by Englishmen, and gradually replaced the British garrisons all along the frontier. Of course there were difficulties and checks here and there, but there has been no serious breakdown in the pursuance of the policy. For seven years there has been no tribal outbreak, nor any military operations worthy of the name, and when it is stated that between 1852 and 1898 scarcely any consecutive two years passed without such outbreaks or operations, it will at least be conceded that Lord Curzon's frontier policy bids fair to prove more successful than what went before it.
Closely connected with that policy was the partition of the Punjab, and the creation of the North-West Frontier Province -a measure which was strongly opposed at the time, and the necessity for which is still denied by many. Lord Curzon's object was to bring the question of the defence of the frontier more directly under the Government of India than could be the case when the authority of a local administration intervened, and this object has successfully been attained, and with good political results. His opponents declare that the new province has too small an administration to give opportunities for healthy life, and that internal development will be sacrificed to the more interesting duties of political charge. The point is not one
which need be argued here, nor is it of an importance at all comparable with the question of the preservation of peace on the Indian borders and the establishment of good relations with the frontier tribes. If, as seems likely, Lord Curzon's policy shall prove to have solved this difficult problem, it may be counted as one of his principal triumphs.
Another reform which is prominent amongst the measures of the last seven years, in view of its effect upon the prosperity of India, is the establishment in that country of a gold standard. Most people at home have heard something more or less vaguely- of the depreciation of the rupee and the consequent losses to India, but no one who was not in the East some twelve to eighteen years ago can at all realise what these words mean. The continuous and incalculable fluctuations in the value of the rupee from day to day were not only fraught with incessant inconvenience to traders and even to private persons in the relations of daily life, than this, they resulted in an atmosphere of uncertainty and instability in all commercial matters which was fatal to economic progress; and, above all, this unfortunate instability so discredited India in the eyes of owners of capital at home that it was impossible to induce them to put money into undertakings in that country, however profitable, and all industrial and commercial development was starved for
want of funds. Then, in 1893, came the closing of the Indian mints, which up to that time had been open to the free and unlimited coinage of silver. This measure, undertaken by Lord Lansdowne on the advice of his able finance minister Sir David Barbour, was the first step towards the recovery of the situation, and paved the way for Lord Curzon's legislation of 1899, by which a gold standard was established and
the currency system started that, in the course of a few months, practically fixed the exchange value of the rupee at 16d. Since that time Lord Curzon has gone further, and has created a gold reserve fund which has risen from three millions in 1900 to nearly seven millions in 1904; while the currency reserve fund,
which is intended to secure the stability of the Indian note circulation and to meet any demand for gold, has now reached the considerable total of upwards of ten and a half millions sterling. No measures or reforms have done more than these to improve the credit and the financial position of India. The distrust which formerly existed has not yet been wholly laid to rest, and British capitalists have not yet come to appreciate what a rich field for enterprise exists in our great dependency. In no quarter is that "colossal ignorance" concerning India, concerning India, about which Mr George Wyndham spoke last session, more marked than amongst our financiers; but that this ignorance will ere long be dispelled
cannot be doubted, and to this end the financial policy of Lord Curzon has already largely contributed.
Nor was his currency reform the only direction in which Lord Curzon assisted the commercial development of India. The attainment of this object has been constantly prominent amongst his schemes of improvement as well as amongst his less public acts during his tenure of office. He spared no pains to bring the mineral and commercial wealth of the country to the notice of a wider public than that existing in the East. By personal effort he facilitated relations between the Government and the commercial community, he quickened the somewhat ponderous procedure of Government offices, and laboured "to purge the administration from the reproach of dilatoriness or indifference to commercial development." More than this, by the imposition during the first few months of his Viceroyalty of countervailing duties on imported sugar in order to protect the indigenous sugar industry from the overwhelming competition of State-aided beet sugar from continental Europe; by the passing of an Act for the better control and regulation of mines; by the institution of a Mining Department, and the issue of more liberal mining rules; by the development of the coal industry and by measures for facilitating its carriage; and by various efforts to open up new trade relations between India and her neighbours, or to improve those al
ready existing,-by all these measures has Lord Curzon evinced his sympathy with the commercial classes of India and endeavoured to assist and develop its industries. Finally, the present year has witnessed the accomplishment of a reform for which he has laboured for some time past, namely, the constitution of a new department of Government, under a separate Member of Council, for the special purpose of dealing with all matters connected with Commerce and Industry. This measure promises to have important results. "We must have special departments," Lord Curzon declared in 1903, "and special men over them, to deal with special jobs, instead of allowing technical subjects to be dealt with at the end of a day's work by a tired-out civilian."
This enlistment of the services of specialists is a noticeable feature of the late Viceroy's policy. It has been applied to Education, Architecture, Archæology, and most important of all-to Agriculture. It has already been remarked that Lord Curzon's enthusiastic and active sympathy was shown to none more warmly than to the vast masses of the agricultural population. No one also recognised more clearly than he how much the prosperity of those classes, "the bone and sinew of our strength" as he called them, means to the prosperity of India. During his first year in India he was confronted with a famine which, within the range of its incidence, was the severést that the
country had ever known. We cannot here go into the statistics of this terrible visitation, but an idea of its extent and its severity may be gathered from the statements that it affected an area of 400,000 square miles, and a population of 60 millions. "It was not merely a crop failure, but a fodder famine on an enormous scale, followed in many parts by a positive devastation of cattle-both plough cattle, buffaloes, and milch kine. In other words, it affected, and may almost be said to have annihilated, the working capital of the agricultural classes." Moreover, it followed so closely upon the prolonged famine of 1896-97, and in so many cases affected the same area, that the distress, destitution, and disease which it occasioned were greatly aggravated. Coming as it did when the eyes of English people all over the world were fixed with deep anxiety and concern upon the war in South Africa, it attracted less attention and enlisted less sympathy at home than would at any other time have been the case; but in India it engrossed the whole attention of Government, and placed a terrible strain upon Indian resources and officials. That it was combated with a success and an energy unsurpassed - nay, more, unprecedented-in Indian history, was due no less to the personal efforts of the Viceroy than to the experience gained from the unhappy lessons of the previous few years. It hardly needs to be added that this energetic action was fully
equalled by the heartfelt sympathy of the rulers of India. In a statement of extraordinary interest, in which at the end of the famine Lord Curzon reviewed its statistics and described the relief
which had been taken, there occur these memorable passages:
"Every man, woman, and child who has perished in India in the present famine has been a burden upon my heart and upon that of the Government. Their sufferings have never been absent from our thoughts.
There has never been a famine
when the general mortality has been less, when the distress has been more amply or swiftly relieved, or when
Government and its officers have given themselves with a more wholehearted devotion to the saving of life and the service of the people. . . . It is with the object of demonstrating to the Indian public that, in the administration of the recent famine, we have not been unworthy of our trust, and that the year of strain and suffering will not have passed by without our profiting by its lessons, that I have made this speech."
That these words contained no empty boast is proved by, the statistics of the famine. That their promise for the future was equally real has been shown in many ways during Lord Curzon's Viceroyalty. Immediately after the famine a commission of inquiry was appointed under Sir Antony MacDonnell, to examine the methods of famine prevention and relief, and to put forward proposals for future guidance. As a result
"There is no branch of the subject of famine relief, famine administra
tion, and still more famine prevention, which has not been diligently is no portion of the recommendations ransacked and explored; and there submitted to us by the able chairman and his lieutenants which has not been discussed with the local governments, and been already made, or, if not, is about to be made, the subject of definite orders. . The value of the revised [famine] codes will only be seen when the next struggle comes. Then they will be found to provide the armament with which each local government in India will fight the battle."1
Closely allied to this problem of famine prevention, and equally important in the interests of the agricultural population, is the great question of the extension of irrigation-a question which involves not only the safety of millions of the people in years of drought, but also the extension of agricultural enterprise and the expansion of agricultural production in India by converting thousands of acres of hitherto barren waste into fertile fields. The extension of canal irrigation has been favoured by the Government of India for many years past. It was a subject in which Lord Elgin displayed special interest, but to which he was unable to devote as much pecuniary support as he would have liked, owing to the constant drain of military operations and of famine, which added so greatly to the difficulties of his administration. Lord Curzon, after the first terrible experience of 18991900, was fortunate in experiencing in India years of prosperity and plenty, and he
1 Lord Curzon's speech in the Budget debate, 29th March 1905.