Imperial Citizenship: Nation,
Empire, Narrative
Does imperialism mean Canada for the Empire, Australia for
the Empire, India for the Empire, or can there be two defini-
tions for subjects of one and the same Empire? If there is but
one recognized definition under the flag over which the sun is
supposed never to set, then it is for us to see that no injustice
shall minimise the rights or privileges of that citizenship, whether
that holder is black or white (emphasis in the original).—Memo-
randum from Hindu Friend Society, Victoria, British Colum-
bia, 19111
[Moolchand] is and has been a quiet inoffensive law-abiding
citizen, and can in no sense be deemed to be a danger to the
State of Western Australia . . . His rights as a British subject
were secured to him by the Mutiny Proclamation of 1859 [sic],
and by the Proclamation of His Majesty at the Delhi Durbar
in 1901, and it is not within the competency of the Australian
legislature or executive to override those proclamations . . . the
Magna Charta [sic] of the rights and privileges of the people
of India.—Petition on behalf of Moolchand Shivcharan Dass,
Australia, October 30, 19052
We are not Englishmen or men of English race or extrac-
tion, but we are British subjects, the citizens of a great and
free empire; we live under the protecting shadows of one of
the noblest constitutions the world has ever seen. The rights of
Englishmen are ours, their privileges are ours, their constitu-
tion is ours. But we are excluded from them.—Surendranath
Banerjea, Calcutta, January 14, 18933
Uttered at different moments across the British Empire by Indian sub-
jects of the Crown, the lines quoted above posit a relation with the im-
perial polity that strains against the Indians’ status as subject. If political
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