19. THE PHOENIX SETTLEMENT
I talked over the whole
thing with Mr. West, described to him the effect Unto This Last
had produced on my mind, and proposed that Indian Opinion should
be removed to a farm, on which everyone should labour, drawing the same
living wage, and attending to the press work in spare time. Mr. West approved
of the proposal, and £3 was laid down as the monthly allowance per
head, irrespective of colour or nationality.
But it was a question whether
all the ten or more workers in the press would agree to go and settle on
an out-of-the way farm, and be satisfied with bare maintenance. We therefore
proposed that those who could not fit in with the scheme should continue
to draw their salaries and gradually try to reach the ideal of becoming
members of a settlement.
I talked to the workers in the
terms of this proposal. It did not appeal to Sjt. Madanjit, who considered
my proposal to be foolish and held that it would ruin a venture on which
he had staked his all; that the workers would bolt, Indian Opinion
would come to a stop, and the press would have to be closed down.
Among the men working in the
press was Chhaganlal Gandhi, one of my cousins. I had put the proposal
to him at the same time as to West. He had a wife and children, but he
had from childhood chosen to be trained and to work under me. He had full
faith in me. So without my argument he agreed to the scheme, and has been
with me ever since. The machinist Govindaswami also fell in with the proposal.
The rest did not join the scheme, but agreed to go wherever I removed the
I do not think I took more than
two days to fix up these matters with the men. Thereafter I at once advertised
for a piece of land situated near a railway station in the vicinity of
Durban. An offer came in respect of Phoenix. Mr. West and I went to inspect
the estate. Within a week we purchased twenty acres of land. It had a nice
little spring and a few orange and mango trees. Adjoining it was a piece
of eighty acres which had many more fruit trees and a dilapidated cottage.
We purchased this too, the total cost being a thousand pounds.
The late Mr. Rustomji always
supported me in such enterprises. He liked the project. He placed at my
disposal second-hand corrugated iron sheets of a big godown and other building
material, with which we started work. Some Indian carpenters and masons,
who had worked with me in the Boer War, helped me in erecting a shed for
the press. This structure, which was seventy-five feet long and fifty feet
broad, was ready in less than a month. Mr. West and others, at great personal
risk, stayed with the carpenters and masons. The place, uninhabited and
thickly overgrown with grass, was infested with snakes and obviously dangerous
to live in. At first all lived under canvas. We carted most of our things
to Phoenix in about a week. It was 14 miles from Durban, and two and a
half miles from Phoenix station.
Only one issue of Indian
Opinion had to be printed outside, in the Mercury press.
I now endeavoured to draw to
Phoenix those relations and friends who had come with me from India to
try their fortune, and who were engaged in business of various kinds. They
had come in search of wealth, and it was therefore difficult to persuade
them; but some agreed. Of these I can single out here only Maganlal Gandhi's
name. The others went back to business. Maganlal Gandhi left his business
for good to cast in his lot with me, and by ability, sacrifice, and devotion
stands foremost among my original co-workers in my ethical experiments.
As a self-taught handicraftsman, his place among them is unique.
Thus the Phoenix Settlement
was started in 1904, and there in spite of numerous odds Indian Opinion
continues to be published.
But the initial difficulties,
the changes made, the hopes and the disappointments, demand a separate