Allan Octavian Hume, C.B. by William Wedderburn
Allan Octavian Hume,C.B-1829 TO 1912
“Father of the Indian National Congress”
Farewell to India, 1894
In 1894 Hume bade farewell to India, and on the 18th of March of that year an address expressing affection and gratitude was presented to him by the Bombay Presidency Association, signed with the honoured names of Pherozeshah Mehta, President, and Dinsha Edalji Wacha, N. G. Chandavarkar, and A. M. Dharamsi, Honorary Secretaries. Replying to this address, Mr. Hume gave a forecast of world politics, as affecting India: at that time the forces of militarism and reaction in every country seemed to be gaining strength; in England the party opposed to Indian aspirations would probably come into power; a great European war was possible, with the most disastrous consequences.
There were black clouds darkening the horizon; and Mr. Hume exhorted his hearers to be courageous and steady fast : ” Let nothing discourage you/’ he said, ‘ hold fas to that conviction which all the best and wisest share that right must, and ever does triumph in the end, an( that nations have only to deserve, to secure all that thej aspire to. Checks to progress may come — alas, I feai must come — as I have warned you, and many years ma] pass during which apparently you gain no single inch- nay, it may be, even lose ground ; but throughout it all work on dauntlessly, preparing for the good time as- suredly coming — work on ceaselessly, and India shall one day reap a glorious harvest of your labours. Let nothing — no temporary checks, no temporary losses — dishearten you. The spirit of the age is behind you, and win you must before the end comes. . . . No matter how impossible immediate progress may, owing to the tyranny of circumstances, appear, you are bound as true men to hammer on — hammer, hammer, hammer — never relaxing your efforts, and so gradually acquiring that habit of unwavering persistence that as a nation you so sadly lack. You can work at high pressure for a week, but to run at low pressure, uniformly and unwearyingly for a year, is beyond most of you ; and yet this power of sustained continuous exertion is the very first requisite for political success, and if these anticipated checks only teach you this, they will prove not misfortunes but blessings in disguise.” If unhappily a great European war broke out, and England was involved, he adjured them to give united and ungrudging support to the British people, who with all their defects were a noble nation, that has ever sounded the advance to all the listening peoples of the world along the paths of freedom — the nation to which you owe most of what you now most highly prize ” : they should ‘ rally as one man to the side of those little isles which have been justly designated Freedom’s last stronghold — Freedom’s keep I Yes, in the nobler sense of the words, a great war will be India’s opportunity — opportunity for proving that if in periods of peace she clamours — at times somewhat angrily — for equal civil rights, in the hour of war she is ever ready and anxious to accept equal military risks.” After this stirring appeal, which was greeted with “prolonged applause,” Mr. Hume turned from politics to social admonition, urging his hearers to raise the general level, physical, mental, and moral, of the people, in order that India might become great, and free, and happy. For while, with the boldness of a Hebrew prophet, Mr. Hume rebuked the rulers, no less faithfully did he deliver his message to the people, warning them against the sins which most easily beset them.
This he did from a compelling sense of duty, speaking “as a father parting for ever from his children that he loves, and whose future he fears for.” ” I am an old man,” he said, ” I have lived my life amongst you, and perhaps know as much of India as a whole as any one living ; but for all that I do not pretend to dogmatize — I only tell you what I who love you believe to be essential to your ultimate success.” First, he warned them — you must reform your marriage laws ; you must prevent the marriage of immature persons ; racial degeneracy is the inevitable consequence of such marriages. You must have the sound body for the sound mind : ” Herein lies the first foundation-stone of that national greatness which we fondly hope will hereafter clothe, as with a robe of glory, old India and her regenerated sons.” Secondly, you must educate the boys of the whole nation — and also the girls : “Assuredly there is no greater, grander, or more glorious work before you than the reinstatement of India’s women on the exalted pedestal which is their due, and which your wiser forefathers, thousands of years ago, when India was great and glorious, accorded to them.” Finally, with reluctance, he touched on two moral shortcomings, sadly prevalent: no adequate conception of the sanctity of the spoken word; and jealousy among fellow-workers—feelings which prevent effectual combination in the national cause. I would ask the attention of Indian friends to the full text of what Mr. Hume said on this occasion with regard to these shortcomings. The faults referred to are not of a heinous order; but, with fatherly anxiety, he spoke strongly regarding them, because he believed that such defects seriously barred the progress of those whom he regarded as his children.