One of the most tragic of all spectacles is that of a man with a magnificent idea which cannot succeed, because the world is not in a fit condition to receive it. The latest of these glorious failures is Mahatma Gandhi, who for the last few years has made the power of British rule in India tremble to its foundations. Now finally comes the news that he has withdrawn into retirement, broken in health and broken in spirit.
Gandhi's "soul force", which appeared to be the secret of his extraordinary influence, might be described at the risk of seeming pedantic as "non violent coercion by methods of nonparticipation." Briefly, he wished to free India from foreign domination, and to bring this about he initiated his famous triple boycott, urging all his followers to ignore British courts keep their children out of British schools, and refuse to take pare in governmental assemblies. The immediate disruption of civil affairs which the continuance of this program brought about moved the local authorities to seize the Mahatma and confine him in prison, after one of the most extraordinary trials in English judicial history.
Once their leader was incarcerated, however, the enthusiasm of his followers broke the bonds provided by the visual example of his personal restraint, and the original "soul force" degenerated into mob violence. Gandhi, in prison, was helpless, and watched with a breaking heart the falling ruins of his ideal, as the swaragists exceeded his carefully planned limits and began a campaign of civil disobedience which has apparently ended in at least temporary failure.
Gandhi himself knew that this would be so. He realized that India was still too deeply in the clutches of a national slave mentality to compete successfully with the organization of the British government. Even still the prophet, unlike so many others, is not without honor. Even though his plans failed and he himself was shattered, the faith of his people in him and his principle remains unshaken.