MORLEY, JOHN (1838–1923), British Liberal secretary of state for India (1906–1910). John Morley launched a number of significant Constitutional reforms during his half decade at the helm of Whitehall's India Office. Liberal Prime Minister William Gladstone's biographer and his Irish secretary, strongly in favor of Home Rule, "Honest John" Morley's reputation as a man of courage and sterling principles raised nationalist India's hopes too high as soon as his appointment was announced. Unfortunately, the previous Tory government had so recently sent Conservative Lord Minto to India as viceroy that to recall him was hardly a viable option. A few months before Morley's appointment, moreover, Lord Curzon had inaugurated the ill-considered partition of Bengal.
Impact of Bengal's Partition
That partition divided Bengal's province into West Bengal and Eastern Bengal and Assam, provoking heated opposition from the Bengali-speaking leaders of India's National Congress, who viewed it as imperial "divide and rule" with a vengeance. The line divided the Bengali-speaking majority just east of Calcutta, the heart of long-united old Bengal, leaving its Hindu Bengali-speakers as a minority to Bihari- and Oriyya-speakers in West Bengal, while elevating its Muslim Bengali-speakers to majority control over their own province. British India's first Muslim-majority province thus emerged with its new capital of Dhaka, where the Muslim League was born in December 1906. When Morley was pressed by Congress leaders like Gopal Krishna Gokhale to reverse that "cruel partition," he refused, calling it "a settled fact." He hoped that would silence opposition, permitting him to move on to what he considered more important reforms. But Congress's antipartition forces only grew louder throughout Morley's tenure, its extremist "New Party," led by Bal Gangadhar Tilak, introducing bombs to add explosive emphasis to their petitions and pleas. Before leaving office in 1910, Morley drafted Bengal's reunification announcement made by King George at his Delhi Durbar in 1911.
India Council Reforms
Morley introduced several major reforms in British India's Constitution, enacted as the Indian Councils Act of 1909, less accurately termed "Morley–Minto Reforms," since Minto's role was primarily to delay and undermine the effectiveness of the original bill Morley had proposed. Great Liberal that he was, Morley pressed for and achieved the introduction of two Indian members, the first in 1907, to his own India Office Council in Whitehall, the second, Satyendra P. Sinha (1864–1928), to the Viceroy's Administrative Council of the Government of India in 1910. Expanded Legislative Councils under Morley's act all had many new directly elected Indian members, another principle doggedly opposed by Minto and his die-hard British civil servants. Another of Morley's gifts to India was to prevent the appointment of Lord Kitchener, whom he considered an arrogant racist, to the job Kitchener coveted: viceroy of India.
Das, Manmath Nath. India under Morley and Minto: Politics behind Revolution, Repression, and Reforms. London: G. Allen and Unwin, 1964.
Morgan, John H. John, Viscount Morley: An Appreciation andSome Reminiscences. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1924.
Sirdar, Ali Khan Syed. Life of Lord Morley. London: I. Pitman, 1923.
Staebler, Warren. The Liberal Mind of John Morley. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1943.
The English statesman and author John Morley, Viscount Morley of Blackburn (1838-1923), was one of the principal Victorian expositors of the ideas of the Enlightenment. He was a leader of the Liberal party, which drew nourishment from those ideas.
John Morley was born at Blackburn on Dec. 24, 1838. He left Lincoln College, Oxford, in 1859 to pursue a literary career in London. He was editor of several periodicals and was known as an incisive reviewer with radical sympathies. His major achievement in journalism was his conduct of the Fortnightly Review, which he edited with great distinction from 1867 to 1883. He was also editor of Macmillan's Magazine for a short time. For Macmillan's, Morley also edited the "English Men of Letters Series," starting in 1878. To it he contributed the volume on Edmund Burke (1879), one of the best of the series.
Morley's career as a critic generally either preceded his election to Parliament in 1883 or filled up the intervals between office thereafter. His chief works were the books Voltaire (1872), Rousseau (1873), Diderot and the Encyclopaedists (1878), and Walpole (1889). His Life ofCobden (1881) was primarily a defense of the ideas of that radical politician. After the death of William Gladstone, Morley undertook to write his biography. The Life, which appeared in 1903, drew on a vast collection of materials and presented the life of the eminent Liberal prime minister with sympathy and perceptiveness. The book is Morley's major work.
His career in politics overshadowed Morley's literary life. He entered Parliament at a by-election in Newcastle-on-Tyne in 1883, and his capacities soon earned him a prominent position in the Commons. He became secretary for Ireland in Gladstone's governments of 1886 and 1892 and was an ardent supporter of Irish home rule. He also sided with the Liberals in their anti-imperialist policies. In 1895 he lost his Newcastle seat but found another in Scotland for the Montrose Burghs.
Morley became secretary of state for India in Henry Campbell-Bannerman's Cabinet of 1905. He was firm in his handling of seditious tendencies in India but was a sympathetic advocate of Indian participation in government administration and he helped to decentralize the operations of the government. He retained his post in Herbert Asquith's Cabinet of 1908, and then, in 1911, he became lord president of the council. From 1908 he sat in the upper house as Viscount Morley of Blackburn. In the Lords he was active in persuading the house, much against its will, to pass the budget of November 1909.
At the outbreak of World War I Morley, who was a well-known pacifist, resigned his office. During his retirement he wrote his Recollections (1917), a valuable late defense of Victorian liberalism. At the time of his death on Sept. 23, 1923, he was accounted one of the venerables of English letters.
Useful biographical and critical works are Francis Wrigley Hirst, Early Life and Letters of John Morley (2 vols., 1927, 1978), and Frances Wentworth Knickerbocker, Free Minds: John Morley and His Friends (1943). See also the chapter on Morley in Basil Willey, More Nineteenth Century Studies: A Group of Honest Doubters (1956). Two studies of Morley's period in India are Manmath Nath Das, India under Morley and Minto: Politics behind Revolution, Repression and Reforms (1965), and Stanley A. Wolpert, Morley and India, 1906-1910 (1967). Recommended for general historical background are George Macaulay Trevelyan, British History in the Nineteenth Century, and After, 1782-1919 (1937; new ed. 1962), and Walter Houghton, The Victorian Frame of Mind, 1830-1870 (1959). □