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Allan Octavian Hume, C.B.
Father of the Indian National Congress 1829 - 1912 by Sir William Wedderburn, Bart.


The purpose of this brief memoir is to set forth the work and teaching of a man experienced in Indian affairs, who combined political insight with dauntless courage and untiring industry. The problem before him was, Can the continuance of British rule be made conformable to the best interests of the Indian people? And his answer was full of hope. Being firmly convinced that the interests of the Indian people and the British people were essentially the same, he believed that under a government in touch with popular feeling, the administration of India, within the British Empire, might be conducted with equal benefit to East and West, developing all that was best in the two great branches of the Aryan race.

But at the same time he realized with increasing anxiety, that the existing government, administered by foreign officials on autocratic lines, was dangerously out of touch with the people. He did not blame the men : the fault was in the system. There existed no recognized channel of communication between the rulers and the ruled; no constitutional means of keeping the official administrators informed regarding the condition, and feelings, and grievances of the people. There was therefore a great gulf fixed between the foreign bureaucracy, self-centred on the heights of Simla, and the millions painfully toiling in the plains below. And about the years 1878 and 1879, economic, in combination with political, troubles were actively at work throughout India ; the physical suffering of the many, acted on by the intellectual discontent of the few, was rapidly bringing popular unrest to the danger point. For the masses of the peasantry, scourged by poverty, famine, and pestilence, were beginning to give way to despair ; they could not make their voices heard, and they saw no hope of relief; while, in the schools and colleges, the leaven of Western education was working among the intellectuals, teaching lessons of political history, and showing them how it was only through storm and stress that the British people had won for themselves the blessings of freedom. Hence the mind of the younger generation was stirred by vague- dreams of revolutionary, and even violent, change. ,This critical condition of affairs was clearly understood by Mr. Hume. He had exceptional knowledge of what was going on below the surface ; and he knew that there was imminent risk of a popular -outbreak, destructive of that peaceful progress upon which the welfare of India depends. The new wine was fermenting in the old bottles, and at any moment the bottles might burst and the wine be spilled. What was to be done? Happily the solution of this fateful problem was ready to his hand. It was to be found in the simple formula of “Trust in the People." The Indian people, intelligent, law-abiding, the heirs of an ancient civilization, are worthy of the fullest trust; and his urgent message to the British nation was this, that the path of safety lies in trusting them, and in associating them in the management of their own affairs.

The record of such a life must be of value to political thinkers among the British people, as teaching them how to fulfil a trust, such as never before has fallen to the lot of any nation. But specially it has seemed to me a duty to place before the youth of India the example of Mr. Hume's strenuous and unselfish life, and to bring into fresh remembrance the stirring words he uttered of encouragement and reproof, both alike prompted by his love of India, and his anxious care for her future. “Excelsior!” was his motto. His ideal was indeed a high one—the regeneration, spiritual, moral, social, and political, of the Indian people. But he taught that such a consummation could not be attained without the solid work-a-day qualities of courage, and industry, and self denial.

Allan Octavian Hume, C.B
Father of the Indian National Congress 1829 - 1912 by Sir William Wedderburn, Bart.


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