Formation of the Chamber of Princes

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Editor's note: The source is SPEECHES & DOCUMENTS ON INDIAN POLICY 1750-1921, ed. A. Berriedale Keith, Vol. II

 

One rupee coin with George VProclamation by the King-Emperor on the Government of India Act, 23 December 1919

GEORGE THE FIFTH, by the Grace of God of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, and of the British Dominions beyond the Seas, King, Defender of the Faith, Emperor of India.

To My Viceroy and Governor-General, to the Princes of the Indian States, and to all My subjects in India, of whatsoever race or creed, Greeting.

1.               Another epoch has been reached to-day in the annals of India. I have given My Royal Assent to an Act which will take its place among the great historic measures passed by the Parliament of this Realm for the better government of India and the greater contentment of her people. The Acts of 1773 and 1784 were designed to establish a regular system of administration and justice under the Honourable East India Company. The Act of 1833 opened the door for Indians to public office and employment. The Act of 1858 transferred the administration from the Company to the Crown, and laid the foundations of the public life which exists in India to-day. The Act of 1861 sowed the seed of representative institutions, and the seed was quickened into life by the Act of 1909. The Act which has now become law entrusts elected representatives of the people with a definite share in the government and points the way to full responsible government hereafter. If, as I confidently hope, the policy which this Act inaugurates should achieve its purpose, the results will be momentous in the story of human progress; and it is timely and fitting that I should invite you to-day to consider the past and to join me in My hopes of the future.

2.               Ever since the welfare of India was confided to Us, it has been held as a sacred trust by Our Royal House and Line. In 1858 Queen Victoria, of revered memory, solemnly declared Herself bound to Her Indian subjects by the same obligations of ditty as to all Her other subjects; and She assured to them religious freedom, and the equal and impartial protection of the Law. In His message to the Indian people in 1903, My dear Father, King Edward VII, announced His determination to maintain unimpaired the same principles of humane and equitable administration. Again, in His Proclamation of 1908, he renewed the assurances which had been given fifty years before, and surveyed the progress which they bad inspired. On My Accession to the Throne in 1910, I sent a message to the Princes and peoples of India, acknowledging their loyalty and their homage, and promising that the prosperity and happiness of India should always be to me of the highest interest and concern. In the following year I visited India with the Queen-Empress and testified my sympathy for her people and My desire for their well being.

3.               While these are the sentiments of affection and devotion by which I and My predecessors have been animated, the Parliament and the people of the Realm and Myofficers in India have been equally zealous for the moral advancement of India. We have endeavoured to give to her people the many blessings which Providence has bestowed upon ourselves. But there is one gift which yet remains, and without which the progress of a country cannot be consummated--the right of her people to direct her affairs and safeguard her interests. The defence of India against foreign aggression is a duty of common imperial interest and pride. The control of her domestic concerns is a burden which India may legitimately aspire to take upon her own shoulders. The burden is too heavy to be borne in full until time and experience have brought the necessary strength; but opportunity will now be given for experience to grow and for responsibility to increase with the capacity for its fulfillment.

4.               I have watched with understanding and sympathy the growing desire of My Indian people for representative institutions. Starting from small beginnings, this ambition has steadily strengthened its hold upon the intelligence of the country. It has pursued its course along constitutional channels with sincerity and courage. It has survived the discredit which at times and in places lawless men sought to cast upon it by acts of violence committed under the guise of patriotism. It has been stirred to more vigorous life by the ideals for which the British Commonwealth fought in the Great War, and it claims support in the part which India has taken in our common struggles, anxieties and victories. In truth, the desire after political responsibility has its source at the root of the British connexion with India. It has sprung inevitably from the deeper and wider studies of human thought and history which that connexion has opened to the Indian people. Without it the work of the British in India would have been incomplete. It was therefore with a wise judgement that the beginnings of representative institutions were laid many years ago. Their scope has been extended stage by stage until there now lies before us a definite step on the road to responsible government.

5.               With the same sympathy and with redoubled interest I shall watch the progress along this road. The path will not be easy, and in the march towards the goal there will be need of perseverance and of mutual forbearance between all sections and races of My people in India. I am confident that those high qualities will be forth- coming. I rely on the new popular assemblies to interpret wisely the wishes of those whom they represent, and not to forget the interests of the masses who cannot yet be admitted to the franchise. I rely on the leaders of the people, the Ministers of the future, to face responsibility and endure misrepresentation; to sacrifice much for the common interest of the State, remembering that true patriotism transcends party and communal boundaries; and while retaining the confidence of the legislatures to co-operate with My officers for the common good in sinking unessential differences and in maintaining the essential standards of a just and generous government. Equally do I rely upon My officers to respect their new colleagues and to work with them in harmony and kindliness; to assist the people and their representatives in an orderly advance towards free institutions; and to find in these new tasks a fresh opportunity to fulfill, as in the past, their highest purpose of faithful service to My people.

6.               It is My earnest desire at this time that, so far as possible, any trace of bitterness between My people and those who are responsible for My government should be  obliterated. Let those who, in their eagerness for political progress, have broken the law in the past respect it in the future. Let it become possible for those who are charged with the maintenance of peaceful and orderly government to forget the extravagances which they have had to curb. A new era is opening. Let it begin with a common determination among My people and My officers to work together for a common purpose. I therefore direct My Viceroy to exercise, in My name and on My behalf, My Royal clemency to political offenders, in the fullest measure which in his judgement is compatible with the public safety. I desire him to extend it, on this condition, to persons who, for offences against the State or under any special or emergency legislation, are suffering imprisonment or restrictions upon their liberty. I trust that this leniency will be justified by the future conduct of those whom it benefits, and that all My subjects will so demean themselves as to render it unnecessary to enforce the laws for such offences hereafter.

7.               Simultaneously with the new constitution in British India, I have gladly assented to the establishment of a Chamber of Princes. I trust that its counsels may be fruitful of lasting good to the Princes and States themselves, may advance the interests which are common to their territories and to British India, and may be to the advantage of the Empire as a whole. I take the occasion again to assure the Princes of India of My determination ever to maintain unimpaired their privileges, rights and dignities.

8.               It is My intention to send My dear son, the Prince of Wales, to India next winter to inaugurate on My behalf the new Chamber of Princes and the new constitution in British India. May he find mutual goodwill and confidence prevailing among those on whom will rest the future service of the country, so that success may crown their labours, and progressive enlightenment attend their administration. And with all My people I pray to Almighty God that by His wisdom and under His guidance India may be led to greater prosperity and contentment, and may grow to the fullness of political freedom.

GEORGE, R. I.

 

The King-Emperor's Message to the Rulers of the Indian States on the Inauguration of the Chamber of Princes, February 1921

GEORGE THE FIFTH, by the Grace of God of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, and of the British Dominions beyond the Seas, King, Defender of the Faith, Emperor of India.

To My Viceroy and Governor-General, and to the Princes and Rulers of the Indian States Greeting.

1.               In My Royal Proclamation of December, 1919, I gave earnest of My affectionate care and regard for the Ruling Princes and Chiefs of the Indian States by signifying My assent to the establishment of a Chamber of Princes. During the year that has since passed My Viceroy and many of the Princes themselves have been engaged in framing for My approval a constitution for the Chamber and the rules and regulations necessary to ensure the smooth and efficient performance of its important functions.

This work is now complete, and it remains for Me to take the final steps to bring the Chamber into being, in the confident hope that the united counsels of the Princes and Rulers, assembled in formal conclave, will be fruitful of lasting good both to themselves and their subjects, and by advancing the interests that are common to their territories and to British India, will benefit My Empire as a whole. It is in this hope that I have charged My revered and beloved Uncle, His Royal Highness the Duke of Connaught and Strathearn, to perform on My behalf the ceremony of the inauguration of the Chamber of Princes.

2.               It is My firm belief that a future full of great and beneficent activities lies before the Chamber thus established. To the Princes, long versed in the arts of government and statesmanship, it will open still wider fields of Imperial Service. It will afford them opportunities, of which, I am convinced, they will be prompt to avail themselves, of comparing experience, interchanging ideas, and framing mature and balanced conclusions on matters of common interest. Nor will less advantage accrue to My Viceroy and the officers serving under him, to whom the prudent counsels and considered advice of the Chamber cannot fail to be of the greatest assistance. The problems of the future must be faced in a spirit of co-operation and mutual trust.

It is in this spirit that I summon the Princes of India to a larger share in My Councils. I do so in full reliance upon their devotion to My Throne and Person, proved as it has been both in long years of peace and in the terrible ordeal of the Great War, and in the confident anticipation that by this means the bonds of mutual understanding will be strengthened and the growing identity of interest between the Indian States and the rest of My Empire will be fostered and developed.

3.               In My former Proclamation I repeated the assurance, given on many occasions by My Royal predecessors and Myself, of My determination ever to maintain unimpaired the privileges, rights, and dignities of the Princes of India. The Princes may rest assured that this pledge remains inviolate and inviolable. I now authorize My Viceroy to publish the terms of the Constitution of the new Chamber.

My Viceroy will take its counsel freely in matters relating to the territories of the Indian States generally, and in matters that affect those territories jointly with British India, or with the rest of My Empire. It will have no concern with the internal affairs of individual States or their Rulers or with the relations of Individual States to My Government, while the existing rights of the States and their freedom of action will be in no way prejudiced or impaired. It is My earnest hope that the Princes of India will take regular part in the deliberations of the Chamber; but attendance will be a matter of choice, not of constraint. There will be no obligation upon any member to record his opinion, by vote or otherwise, upon any question that may come under discussion; and it is further My desire that, at the discretion of My Viceroy, an opportunity shall be given to any Prince who has not taken a part in the deliberations of the Chamber to record his views on any question that the Chamber has had under its consideration.

4.               I pray that the blessing of Divine Providence may rest upon the labours of the Chamber; that its deliberations may be inspired by true wisdom and moderation; and that it may seek and find its best reward in promoting the general weal and in increasing the strength and unity of the mighty Empire over which I have been called upon to rule..

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