The Era of Moderates (1885- 1905)

The Era of Moderates 1885-1905

  • Dominated by moderates: Leaders like Dadabhai Naoroji, Pherozshah Mehta, D.E. Wacha, and W.C. Bannerji dominated the congress policies in the early period during 1885- 1905.
  • These leaders believed in British justice and were loyal to the Britishers.
  • They believed in ‘liberalism’ and ‘moderate’ politics. They showed Slow but orderly political progress. They thought that the British were not aware of the real condition of Indians, so if public demands are presented to the government by petitions, resolutions, etc. the Go government would gradually concede these demands.

Some Prominent Moderate Leaders:

Dadabhai Naoroji: “Grand old man of India.”

  • Naoroji became the first Indian selected as a member of the House of Commons in Britain.
  • He had a great understanding of economics and politics.
  • He wrote ‘Poverty and Un-British Rule in India’.  The book focused on the economic drain of India because of British policies.

Womesh Chandra Bonnerjee:

  • Womesh Chandra Bonnerjee was the first president of the Indian National Congress.
  • He was a great lawyer.
  • He was the first Indian to act as Standing Counsel.

G. Subramania Aiyer:

  • He was the founder of ‘The Hindu’ newspaper. A critic of British imperialism.
  • Tamil newspaper ‘ Swadesamitran’.
  • He Co-founded the Madras Mahajana Sabha.

Gopal Krishna Gokhale:

  • Mahatma Gandhi’s Political Guru.
  • He also founded the ‘Servants of India Society’.

Sir Surendranath Banerjee:

  • Surendranath Banerjee also called ‘Rashtraguru’.
  • He founded the Indian National Association which later merged with Indian National Congress.
  • Surendra Nath Banerjee cleared the Indian Civil Service but because of racial discrimination, he was discharged.

Contributions, Aims, and Demands of the Nationalists of the Moderate Era:

  • Leaders like Dadabhai Naoroji analyzed the political economy of British rule in India and found the ‘Drain Theory’ in which the exploitation of India by the British was explained.
  • They found the main cause of poverty and economic backwardness in India is British rule.
  • They demanded the development of an independent economy of India with its own capital and enterprise.
  • Indian representation in the Executive Council and in the Indian Council in London.
  • They also demanded a reduction of land revenue.
  • Abolition of salt tax, Improvement of conditions of workers, etc.
  • They raised the slogan “No taxation without representation’ after 1892.
  • The ICS exam should be held in India along with England.
  • Freedom of speech and expression.
  • They focused on educating the masses and organizing public opinion, making people aware of their rights.

Constitutional Reforms in the Era of Moderates 1885-1905

  • Under the Indian Council Act (1861) The Imperial Legislative Council was constituted, in this council, Indian members were few in number.
  • The Nationalists demanded constitutional reforms between 1885 to 1892.
  • They demanded Expansion in the council, in which greater participation of Indians in council, and more powers to the council.
  • Their demands were conceded in 1892 in the form of the Indian Council Act.
  • After that, the demand came like this;
    • Majority of elected Indians,
    • Control over budget,
    • No taxation without representation.

The Indian Council Act 1892

Indian Council Act of 1892 was the first success of INC.

The main provisions of this Act were:

  • Raised the number of members in the imperial legislative council and provisional legislative council.
  • Now instead of 6 to 10, the governor-general could have 10 to 16 non-officials.
  • The budget could be discussed and questions could also be asked.
  • There were many limitations also imposed on the council as such the budget could not be voted on, nor amendments could be done to it.

Dadabhai Naoroji, Gopal Krishna Gokhale, and Lokmanya Tilak demanded self-government.

For the protection of Civil Rights including the right to speech, thought, association, and a free press, there were campaigns, and nationalists spread democratic ideas. They trained people and created the National awakening of Indians.

Limitations of the Moderates:

  • This phase of the INC movement was not included the masses, it was the only group of elites.
  • The moderates did not demand complete independence from British rule.
  • They took most of their ideas from Western thinkers and did not understand the real condition of the country and masses,
  • They did not understand the value of a mass movement, so did not use its power.

Important Views- 

  1. Congress is tottering its fall, and one of my great ambitions while in India is to assist it to a peaceful demise.  (Lord Curzon- 1900)
  2. It was at best an opportunist movement. It opened opportunities for treacheries and hypocrisies. It enabled some people to trade in the name of patriotism. (Lala Lajpat Rai)


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