Montagu Declaration 1917

Edwin Samuel Montagu served as Secretary of State for India between 1917 and 1922. On 20 August 1917, he made a historic declaration in the House of Commons defining the goal of British policies in India. In the previous month, he had made a scathing attack on the whole system by which India was being administered in a debate in British House of Commons. It is also known as August Declaration of 1917

Title of Montague Declaration

The Montague declaration is titled:

“Increasing association of Indians in every branch of administration, and the Gradual development of self governing Institutions with a view to the progressive realization of responsible governments in India as an Integral part of the British Empire”.

The Keyword was Responsible Government; the rulers must be answerable to the elected representatives. In November 1917, Montagu visited India to ascertain the views from all sections of political opinion from India. He discussed with Gandhi, with Jinnah and others. On the basis of the above discussions, a detailed report on Indian Constitutional Reforms was prepared. This report was published in July 1918. This report became the basis of Government of India Act 1919. Montague declaration, again after a gap of more than half a century of Queen Victoria’s proclamation 1858, was called the “Magna Carta of India“.

Reaction of Indians

The nationalists criticized it, as it lacked their legitimate expectations. The declaration was criticized in the December 1917 Calcutta session, in which Annie Besant as president – pleaded for establishment of Self Government in India. Tilak characterized the Montague reforms as “unworthy and disappointing- a sunless dawn“. Mrs. Besant said that it was something “unworthy of England to offer and India to accept“.

But the moderates led by Surendranath Banerjee supported the Montague declaration in November 1918 in a separate conference. Thus Congress again got split. The extremist remnants crated another front All India Liberal Federation, which soon disappeared from the scene.

The Duke Memorandum

Duke Memorandum is associated with Sir William Duke, a member of the English Round Table Group and he had formulated a scheme which eventually became the basis of Joint Report of Montague and Chelmsford. “The Duke Memorandum” became the basis of Mont-Ford Reforms.

Committee under Montague Chelmsford

Three committees were appointed to give the Montague Chelmsford report a Constitutional form viz. Franchise Committee, Functions Committee and Committee on Home Administration. They were as follows:

  1. Franchise Committee – Lord Southborough
  2. Functions Committee – Richard Feetam
  3. Committee on Home Administration- Lord Crewe (Marquess of Crewe)

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