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
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
any 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 press.
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 80 acres which had many more fruit trees and a
dilapidated cottage. We purchased this too, the total cost being a
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 Manganlal Gandhi's name.
The others went back to business. Manganlal 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
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 chapter.