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Swayne - India and British Honduras

Swayne - India and British Honduras

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Address by BRIGADIER-GENERAL E. J. E. SWAYNE, C.B., before the Empire
Club of Canada, on January 4th, 1909.

Mr. President and Gentlemen,

This is the second time I have come to Toronto. The first time was in the summer, when I
had the opportunity of seeing the Golf Club, the Yacht Club, the Hunt Club, and all those
beautiful places around Toronto which make it so well-known in England. The country
around about reminds me of Devonshire. This time I have the honour of being invited to
this Club, an honour which I very much appreciate, because I know that the men of
Toronto who come here are men of weight in business, and men who can ill spare the
time. I was sent to Canada by the Imperial Government owing to its having heard that a
large number of British subjects from India, who have a special claim upon the
Government as being British subjects, were destitute, or likely to become destitute this
winter in British Columbia. On my arrival in the country I found the trade conditions had
so improved on the Pacific Coast and they had become practically absorbed, and that all
or nearly all were receiving good wages.

As regards the political question which is involved in the presence of this East India
Colony in British Columbia, I do not propose to say anything. I am in the position of
British Governor of a small Colony, and it would be best if I left that question aside; but I
may say that, so far as the East India Colony is at present concerned, the question has
solved itself. As regards the advent of more people, I do not know what will be done. The
people there have work, they are satisfied, are loyal and able to do the work required of

Naturally, in the wake of the better men have come a number of riff-raff, as is always the
case, but on the whole the colony there is able to do that portion of the work which all
industries, at their commencement, require in the way of some cheap form of labour,
cheaper than can be got under the employment of a restricted class of labour. Whether
they are to remain or not, I have nothing to say. All I can say is that they are British
subjects, and I know Canadians will always give British subjects fair play.

Moreover, the men there belong to the fighting races of India, at least the greater part of
them; for instance, the Sikhs, who come from the northern part of India. In religion these
people have not progressed as far as Buddhism, but they have had their day in India, and
a great and brilliant day it was. They aimed at making themselves a position in the Punjab
and they did so. They managed to get together a band of men who were devoted to their
objects of purity of life and steadfastness of resolve. These are what now mark the Sikhs
out for our notice. They at one time fought us in a way that no other Indian peoples have
fought us. We met men whom we found it was an honour to fight, men whom we only
subdued owing to internal dissensions. In one case, one regiment had twenty-four officers
lying dead on the mess table after the action was over. Since that day the Sikhs have been
absolutely loyal to us. During the days of the Mutiny, when we had such a struggle to
regain our position in India, it was the Sikhs who gave us their support; not only the

Sikhs of our own provinces, but the native chiefs who were in alliance with us; they
threw in their lot with us, and it was chiefly due to that assistance that we were able to
regain our position in North-western India.

The Sikhs have not got the same class prejudice as the rest of the natives of India, and
therefore when it was desirable to employ British Indian troops outside the limits of
India, it was the Sikhs who were called upon. In olden days the nations of India looked
upon it as a penal thing to have to go out of India. It was against their caste to cross the
ocean. We employed Sikhs, who had no class prejudice, and the rest of the people have
followed. We have had no difficulty in employing the Indian army outside of India, and it
is due to the Sikhs that this has come about. They have a special claim upon our
protection, and I trust that those who are now in British Columbia will receive that fair
play which I know Canadians will give them.

Regarding our position in India today, a great deal has been said in the press, and a great
deal of exaggeration has been uttered. At the same time, undoubtedly, elements of unrest
exist, but as long as our native army is loyal, and the Sikhs are probably the most loyal
portion of it, I am certain that we are able to cope with any situation that may come up.
The agitation is due to our beneficent rule. We have given to India our Western ideas of
education; we have tried to give them the advantages of the education which we have in
Europe; and knowing, as we do, that representation must follow education, we have tried
to train the people of India to District Boards and Municipal Councils, so as to take their
part in self-government when the time is ripe. The process must be a slow and difficult
one. When you realize the enormous distances, the differences in religion, in race, even in
colour, between the different parts of India, you will see how difficult it is to apply
representative institutions to that country. You find difficulty in many countries where
there is a division of race or even of language.

You know the trouble that has been caused in Turkey by the fact that Mohammedans 'and
Christians are under one rule. To bring representative institutions, therefore, to a country
like India, which possesses people as radically different from each other as the North of
Scotland is from the South of Turkey, is a matter of extreme difficulty. You cannot talk
about representative institutions in connection with a country like India as if it were one
country having one race and one people in it. It has dozens of races absolutely different
from each other, races only kept from cutting each other's throats by the dominance of
British power. If England were to leave India tomorrow, of which there is no probability,
these races would be cutting each other's throats and anarchy would result. This the
Princes of India know perfectly well, and in any difficulty we may now have we know
that we shall have the Princes of India with us. They have independent States. Practically
half the acreage of India is under their control. They have millions of subjects and their
position is secure simply because we keep an even balance of justice between the
different hatreds of the people. If we were to leave, these hatreds would break out, and
those Princes would be insecure. We can count upon their co-operation. Also, this
agitation has been chiefly confined to the Hindus, and the Mohammedans absolutely
oppose the Hindus in matters of religion and would therefore not join in with them.

We can count on their co-operation. In India we have 75,000 British troops, 158,ooo
native troops, 30,000 reserves and 20,000 Imperial service troops. We also have 130,000
native police and some 30,000 volunteers, some of whom are pure white and some
coloured. They chiefly comprise railway volunteers and people in the civil department,
employed under the Government of India; so that we have altogether some 420,000
natives in our employ under arms, whether as police or as troops, and on the other hand
we have 75,000 British troops. The strength of our civil administration and the loyalty of
our native army cannot be over-rated. The latter may be wholly depended upon to cope
with all situations which may turn up. The present agitation is an educative result. I am
sorry to say that in nine cases out of ten an education is gone in for because the men
acquiring it wish to obtain some government position. It is only in the case of the native
Princes that they go in for education because they want to raise themselves intellectually.
The average man goes in for it because he hopes to get a government billet, or else
because he hopes to go to the bar, or on the native press. In ninety-nine cases out of a
hundred these men must be disappointed. There is only one position in a hundred which
these men can hope to get. We govern the country as a dependency, and we must do so as
long as we are there. We did not give the scope to educated men of ability which is given
in other countries. This must naturally be so. In the native States such scope is given, and
at present I can see no agitation in the native States, owing to the fact that education has
not yet been extended on the scale that we have extended it because of the knowledge
that the native chiefs have that such extension, without proper scope to which it can be
applied, would be harmful in their States. It is partly due to this cause that the agitation
has not developed in the native States, and partly to the fact that they have more scope in
the government of those States than is the case under direct British rule.

I think I have perhaps said enough as regards the East Indies and our position there. I will
turn now to British Honduras, the needs of which Colony brought me to Canada to see
whether I could obtain a number of your East Indian labourers. We are satisfied that the
East Indians would meet our needs, because we have had them in British Honduras
before, in the palmy days of sugar. When that industry was gone, most of these natives
returned to their homes. A few remained, were given land grants, and are settled
peaceably in the country. They are too few, however, for our needs, and besides these
small communities we have only the mahogany-cutting population to depend upon.
Mahogany, hitherto, has been the mainstay of the country. The logs are cut in the forest
and floated down the rivers, and at the mouth of the rivers they are chipped and squared
for the English market, and sent away. Where the chips settle in the mud of the delta and
the sea coast, there solid land is formed. As I told the people in Ottawa, and it is a fact,
when the mahogany cutters are chipping the logs, they have been in the habit of drinking
their tot of rum, and in the course of time the mahogany chips and rum bottles settled,
and now a city is solidly built upon mahogany chips and rum bottles. You may dig down
a well 50 to 100 feet, and you will still find mahogany chips and rum bottles. It shows
with what solidity our work is dope!

The original settlers were buccaneers. The many creeks, and islands, and rivers and
lagoons gave most happy retreats to the buccaneers, and there are many stories of
treasures being buried on the outlying reefs. Sometimes we hear of an American party

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