Important Role of former Nazis in Eastern Germany." 

November 21, 1950
Central Files Decimal Number 762B.00

Hindu Conspiracy Cases: Activities of the Indian Independence Movement in the U.S., 1908-1933

Date Range: 1908-1933
Content: 2,796 pages
Source Library: U.S. National Archives and the Justice Department Library

Description

During World War I, Indian nationalists used Great Britain’s preoccupation with the European war to attempt to foment revolution in India to overthrow British rule. Their activities were aided politically and financially by the German Government. Indian nationalists in the U.S. were active in the independence movement effort through fundraising, arms buying, and propagandizing through the Hindustan Ghadar newspaper published in San Francisco.

The Justice Department and U.S. Attorney records within Hindu Conspiracy Cases: Activities of the Indian Independence Movement in the U.S., 1908-1933 primarily concern the U.S. government’s prosecution of these nationalists in the “Hindu Conspiracy Case” (as it was called in the press and Department of Justice correspondence) for violations of the Espionage Act (40 Stat. 217-231) arising from two major incidents.

In the first incident, the German Government provided funds with which the nationalists purchased arms for shipment to Indian rebels. The arms were shipped from San Francisco, California, on the Annie Larsen, which then sailed to Mexico where the arms were transferred to the Maverick, which then sailed to the East Indies. The British Government arrested some of the Maverick’s personnel in Singapore.

In the second incident, several Indians (some of whom were U.S. citizens) and others were arrested for attempted fraud involved in soliciting funds for, and calling themselves representatives of, the “Nationalists Government” of India.

In the spring of 1918, the “Hindu Conspiracy Case” trial was held in San Francisco, at which 29 people were convicted in indictments arising from the arms shipment. Indictments arising from the fraud case were dismissed.  Despite attempts to focus on the machinations of the German agents, the Indians presented their position in terms of the ideals of the American Revolution.

The defense attorney attempted to argue that the accuseds’ beliefs placed them squarely within American ideals. The opening address to the jury denounced the British Government's rule in India, declaring that the whole case was being tried at the initiation of Great Britain. Copies of Ram Chandra's Ghadar Party paper were produced quoting liberty appeals by Patrick Henry, George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, and President Woodrow Wilson.

The trial ended with a sensational climax when Ram Chandra was shot to death in the courtroom by fellow defendant, Ram Singh.

A range of primary source documents are included:

  • Surveillance and informant reports and correspondence
  • U.S. Immigration Service correspondence and memoranda from offices in Vancouver, British Columbia, Seattle, and San Francisco
  • Local California correspondence, memoranda, and reports
  • Justice Department memoranda, correspondence, and analyses; Newsclippings and articles
  • Newsclippings and articles
  • Copies of handbills, pamphlets, and newsletters
  • U.S. Consular Service reports
  • U.S. Attorney for Northern California correspondence, memoranda, reports and analyses
  • Asian exclusion organizations correspondence
  • Trial transcripts

The Immigration and Naturalization Service records in The Hindu Conspiracy Cases: Activities of the Indian Independence Movement in the U.S., 1908-1933 relate to efforts to revoke the citizenship of certain Indians naturalized as U.S. citizens, as well as to general efforts to exclude Indians from admission to the United States and Canada.

This collection provides a wealth of information necessary for research in Asian and South Asian Studies, International Affairs, Diplomatic History, Law and Legal History, Global Studies, Conflict Studies, and Political Science.

Possible research/dissertation topics inlude:

  • Indian Nationalist movement in the U.S.
  • Asian exclusion
  • Neutrality and harboring revolutionaries
  • South Asian American support for the Independence Movement
  • Hindu nationalism
  • Anglo-American relations and Indian nationalism

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