Edwin Samuel Montagu, was a british politician who helped introduce the Government of India Act of 1919, a legislative measure that marked a decisive stage in India’s constitutional development. Montagu was the third British Jew to enter the Cabinet, the inner circle of government.
He entered British Parliament as a Liberal in 1906 and became secretary to Herbert Henry Asquith, prime minister of Britain from 1908 to 1916 and leader of the Liberal Party.
As parliamentary undersecretary to the India Office from 1910 to 1914, Montagu had the task of explaining Indian matters to the House of Commons.
He became secretary of state for India in 1917 and began work on a declaration of British policy to provide for “progressive realization of responsible government” in India.
As head of a delegation to the Indian provinces in the winter of 1917–18, he collaborated with the Indian viceroy, Lord Chelmsford, in preparing the Montagu-Chelmsford Report on the Indian government and administration.
Its main recommendations were embodied in the Government of India Act of 1919, by which, for the first time, control over some aspects of provincial government passed to Indian ministers responsible to an Indian electorate.
Differences of opinion over Prime Minister Lloyd George’s policy toward Turkey forced him to resign in 1922.
It is known that, Edwin Montague joined Prime Minister H. H. Asquith his daughter violet and her close friend Venetia Stanley on a trip to Sisily. Both Edwin and Asquith fell madly in love with Venetia on this trip. Venetia and Asquith exchanged letters in the years to come.
In 1913, Edwin proposed marriage to Venetia. Venetia liked Montagu but did not reciprocate his love. Also, Montagu had to marry within his Jewish faith to keep his inheritance.
Venetia and Asquith continued to exchange letters over the years. Although Venetia was keenly interested in politics, she apparently felt overwhelmed by Asquith’s demands.
As a result, she finally accepted Montagu’s proposal on 28 April 1915 and wrote to Asquith of her decision on 12 May. After converting to Judaism, Venetia married Montagu on 26 July.