Mahatma Gandhi Community Forum

Prof. Dr. Yogendra Yadav

Gandhian Scholar

Gandhi Research Foundation, Jalgaon, Maharashtra, India

Contact No. – 09415777229, 094055338




Doke and Mahatma Gandhi



Mr. Reverend Joseph J. Doke was a close associate of Mahatma Gandhi. He met during the plague outbreak in South Africa. He was minister of Baptist Church. He reigned for participating in South Africa Satyagraha Movement. He and his wife nursed Mahatma Gandhi after assault on him in 1908. He was editor of Indian Opinion in 1911 during absence in jail of Mahatma Gandhi and Polak.

Mahatma Gandhi wrote, “When I came to somewhat, I was taken to Mr. Gibson’s office, opposite which I had been attacked. I was attended to by Mr. Lew and Mr. Gibson Junior. A doctor washed the wounds. They were thinking of removing me to hospital. Mr. Doke, a clergyman, who did a great deal of work for us during the later stages of our campaign, hurried to the spot on hearing news of the assault; he suggested that I should be taken to his place. After some deliberation, I agreed to his suggestion. Mr. Doke is a Baptist and nearly forty-six years old. He has travelled widely in New Zealand, India, Wellestown and other countries. He came here from Graham’s town three months ago. Judging from the way he looked after me and from his nature and that of his family, he must be a godly person indeed. He is not exactly a friend. I had met him barely three or four times before then, and that in connection with the campaign in order to explain the position to him. It was thus a stranger whom he took into his house. All the members of his family remained in constant attendance on me. His son’s room was put at my disposal, and the son himself slept on the floor in the library. While I was ill, Mr. Doke would not allow the slightest noise anywhere in the house. Even the children moved about very quietly. Mr. Doke took the sanitary part of the duties on himself, while I looked helplessly on. The work of bandaging me, of washing the bandages, etc., was taken on by Mrs. Doke. They would not allow me to do even what I could have well done myself. Both husband and wife sat up at my bedside through the first night. They came into the room every now and again to see if I wanted anything. In the mornings Mr. Doke was busy receiving people who came to inquire after me. Every day nearly 50 Indians called. So long as he was in the house, he would take every Indian, whether he appeared clean or otherwise, into his drawing-room, offer him a seat and then bring him to me. He would also gently remind everyone that I should not be disturbed much. This is how he looked after me. He did more than attend on me and attend to all those who came to see me. He also did whatever he could about the difficulties of the community. Besides, he would call on Mr. Cartwright, Mr. Phillips and others carry messages from me and do of his own accord whatever appeared necessary. It is small wonder that a nation which produces such men should march forward. And how can one say that a religion to which such gentle, kind-hearted and really noble persons belong is false in any way? His only object in doing all this was to please God. He also, as was his wont, prayed nightly sitting by my bed. In his daily life, too, he always said grace before and after a meal. His children were also made to take turns at reading from the Bible. I at any rate could see no selfish motive in him; in his conduct and in the education of the children, all that one could see was truth. I saw no touch of insincerity in anything that he did; neither did I feel that anything was done to please others. It is not often we come across such single-mindedness and nobility in Hindu or Muslim priests and grihasthas. These are not common even in Englishmen. Some nations have more of these qualities, others have less. Without entering into a discussion of that point, I would only pray that there might be hundreds of Indian families like Mr. Doke’s.”1

Mahatma Gandhi wrote, “My object in writing this account is not merely to tell a story or to fill the pages of this journal, but only that my experience may be of use to others. The lesson that every servant of India is to draw from the assault is this: if anyone wants to serve the community, and always do the right by it, he must be prepared for physical assaults. If we do not take these things to heart, we shall have more peace of mind and happiness and, to that extent, more strength to serve the community. Such assaults should really be looked upon as rewards. Mr. Doke’s conduct shows us all the path of goodness and the home remedies described here are worth noting. Mr. Doke received nearly 40 telegrams of thanks from different parts of the Colony and some Indians sent him fruits and other gifts as a mark of their gratitude.”2

Mahatma Gandhi wrote, “Mr. Cartwright, Rev. Mr. Phillips, Mr. Doke and other eminent Englishmen who have helped us a great deal have been invited to a dinner on Saturday; some Indians will also be present. We can claim that this is perhaps the first occasion of its kind in South Africa. I shall send a detailed report next week.”3 Mahatma Gandhi wrote, “Mr. Doke said in his speech that Satyagraha was a true battle that the Indians had fought. He hoped that they would preserve the good name that they had earned.”4 Mahatma Gandhi wrote, “I received your note at Phoenix. The expected has happened. I think it is well. I have arrived just in time. There were serious differences between two sections here. They are by no means over yet. You will say I have accepted the hospitality before the ‘settings’ were finished. I think it was better that I should do that than that the invitation should be rejected for the sake of the ‘settings’. And after all I have done nothing. For six days I may carry on correspondence. If you think I should answer any questions, you may write. I must now stop as I have been called away to give digit impressions. Please excuse me to Olive for not writing.”5

Mahatma Gandhi wrote, “I am writing this from the Court House. I had hoped to be able to send you something before I was fixed up. But I have been too busy otherwise. I thank you very much for your good wishes. My sole trust is in God. I am therefore quite cheerful.”6 Mahatma Gandhi wrote, “Mr. Doke’s book is still unpublished; it is likely to be in the first week of October. For reasons I need not go into this week, I am thinking of buying out the whole of the edition, more for the sake of Mr. Doke than anything else. He will be very much cut up if there is a fiasco, and there might be. The publisher has not put his heart into it, and as many copies will have to be distributed free of charge, I thought I should pocket my own personal feelings and deal with the thing myself. I fancy that Dr. Mehta will guarantee any deficit. I have already corresponded with him in the matter. You may, therefore, be on the lookout for any bookseller who would care to take up the book. The best thing will be, perhaps, for Kaliandas or Chhaganlal’s cousin, or both of them, to take the book personally to many people. In any case, there should be no credit given to any booksellers on whom you cannot rely implicitly.”7

Mahatma Gandhi wrote, “Everyone will admit that Mr. Doke has done much for the Indians and the Chinese. Both the communities have expressed their appreciation of his services, and thereby maintained their own good name. The Chinese have presented an address. The Indians are giving a dinner. Mr. Doke has made a thorough study of the Satyagraha campaign. He will spend some time in England. While there, he will meet Lord Crewe and others. They cannot but attach weight to his words. Mr. Doke wields no small measure of influence in Johannesburg. Many Indians have experienced Mr. Doke’s goodness and simplicity. We can never give him too much praise for his work. During the Deputation’s absence in England, he worked very hard.”8

Mahatma Gandhi wrote, “It is well that both the Indian and the Chinese communities have honoured Mr. Doke on his impending departure for America. Mr. Doke has rendered very great and fearless service to the cause of passive resistance. The world will perhaps never know what Mr. Doke and those Europeans who, like him, have espoused the unpopular Asiatic cause have suffered for it. But, if we may do so, without disparagement of the other members of the European Committee, we should like to say that Mr. Doke has made an accurate study of the whole question. He has read up all the literature there is on the subject. During the absence of the deputation in England, Mr. Doke constantly conferred with leaders and encouraged them, giving them the benefit of his mature experience. Indeed, Mr. Doke had treated the work as part of his mission as a minister of Jesus and has held that he served his own congregation in serving the Asiatic cause. To him it is not a merely political battle, but it is a religious battle a battle of and for humanity. If there were more like Mr. Doke in our midst, we would probably have no unnatural inequalities between man and man. Mr. Doke will pass a short time in London. He holds full credentials from the two Asiatic communities. He has been urged to see the Imperial authorities and submit the case to them as it appears to him from his personal experience. If Mr. Doke gets the opportunity of seeing them, we doubt not that he will command a respectful hearing. We congratulate both the communities upon having such an able champion of the cause. Our good wishes accompany Mr. Doke on his mission in America.”9

Mahatma Gandhi wrote, “We congratulate the Transvaal Indians on the function they organized in honour of Mr. Doke. Rarely does one come across men of Doke’s sincerity and influence and readiness to help. He has served the community well indeed. He is prepared to go to jail if by doing so he can secure our freedom. The Indians who were present at the function must have seen that such a gathering would have been impossible three years ago. Whites who would formerly have been ashamed to sit with us now come together to honour us and dine with us. We do not want to say that this is something extraordinary; we only want to draw attention to our previous degradation. It is the power of Satyagraha which has changed all this. If people exert still greater strength, we can rise much higher. We wish the Indian community takes from this gathering the lesson that there is no help like self-help. We shall grow strong in proportion to the suffering we go through.”10

Mahatma Gandhi wrote, “In accordance with my promise, I reduce to writing the conditions that appear to me to be essential to stopping passive resistance. The demands, as you know, are the repeal of Asiatic Act No. 2 of 1907 and the legal equality of educated Asiatics as to immigration, reduced in practice to the entry into the Transvaal of at least six highly educated Asiatics per annum. The first demand is granted by the Bill, in that the schedule substantially repeals Act 2 of 1907. The second demand also appears to have been granted. But it is the opinion of a well-known barrister that the Bill does not make it possible for educated Asiatics to enter the Transvaal under the education clause of the Bill. In his opinion, as in my own, the existence of the second Registration Act, passed in 1908, blocks the way. It is, therefore, necessary to so amend the Bill as to exempt educated Asiatics who may enter under the education test from the operation of the Registration Act. A new disability seems also to be contemplated by the Bill. The wives and minor children of non-prohibited immigrants are not protected as they have been hitherto. I can only hope that this is an oversight. There should be no difficulty in securing the necessary amendment, at least so far as the status of educated Asiatics is concerned, because General Smuts, in a telegram received on Saturday last, in reply to my query says that educated Asiatics are not to be subjected to the registration laws of either the Transvaal or the Orange Free State. If, therefore, the Bill is amended in Committee as to the points I have raised above, passive resistance can immediately end and the sufferings of conscientious objectors can be avoided.”11

Mahatma Gandhi wrote, “I fear that for a little thing, little, that is, from the European standpoint, the struggle will have to be prolonged. Mr. Ritch telegraphs, saying that General Smuts will introduce an amendment exempting future immigrants from the operation of the Asiatic Act of the Transvaal, that is to say, they will still be liable to the Asiatic Ordinance of the Orange Free State, and, therefore, the colour bar will still remain in the Immigration Law. I feel that we cannot possibly accept such a concession. The removal of the colour bar throughout the Union so far as the new immigrants are concerned means nothing for the Orange Free State, because the local disabilities may and will still remain, but, unless the exempting clause is put in, an educated Indian immigrant will have no foothold at all in the Free State. In practice, no educated Indian can exist in the Free State, because there are very few Indians for whom he could cater. I am sending you copies of the correspondence bearing on this point, and am anxious to know how the whole thing strikes you. I feel that, if it is wrong to accept the colour bar in the Transvaal Immigration Law, it is wrong to accept it in the Union Immigration Law which replaces it. I do not want to leave the office just now. Otherwise, I would have come down.”12

Mahatma Gandhi wrote, “You will have received copies of the telegrams exchanged between General Smuts and myself, as also between Mr. Hosken and General Smuts. They portend evil. I am, therefore, going to Cape Town by the Diamond Express. I had intended to call on you before I went away, but there has not been a moment to spare. Mr. Kallenbach is now backing from Potchefstroom, and he will keep himself in touch with you. I think that vigorous action on the part of the Committee will be necessary to counteract the effect of, if I may use the proper term, General Smuts’ lies in his telegram to Mr. Hosken. If he dared to mislead a friend of the cause in this manner, how much more must he not have done with reference to the others who have not even taken the trouble of informing themselves on the question. I have suggested a public letter signed by the members of the Committee, giving their opinion as to what has been the demand from the start. His threat about exasperating the European community reminds me of what the demonstrators did in Durban to inflame the crowd in the December of not exasperated, but General Smuts is, and he wants to impart his own exasperation to the community.”13

Mahatma Gandhi wrote, “Mr. Doke is no more! The thought is terrible. He who was seen only the other day by a host of friends, when he set out on his journey to the North-western border of Rhodesia, close to the Congo border, full of hope and buoyancy, has gone to his reward. And he quitted this mortal frame without any of his relations by his side. Even his son Clement, who accompanied him, was sent home. But in a death like this is summed up Mr. Doke’s life. He claimed no exclusive relationship with anybody. To him every human being was truly a friend and brother. He, therefore, died surrounded by newly-made friends. His life preached the gospel of work. He died in harness, doing his duty. His life preached love to his fellowmen. He died whilst finding further fields for his loving activity. And as he loved, so is his death today mourned by not only his European congregation, not only by Englishmen, but also by many of his Native, Chinese and Indian friends. In a place where even men of religion are not free from the local prejudice against colour, Mr. Doke was among the few who know no distinction of race, colour or creed. Though dead, Mr. Doke lives through his work of love and charity in the hearts of all who had the privilege of coming in contact with him. Mr. Doke’s energy was inexhaustible. He was a man of many activities. In his own department that of preaching—he was eloquent and earnest. He said nothing he did not mean. He advised no rules of conduct for which he was not himself prepared to die. His preaching, therefore, was effective. He was an able writer. He wrote a memoir of his own grandfather. He contributed to magazines. He wrote An Indian Patriot in South Africa a popular history of the story of Indian passive resistance. Lord Ampthill wrote a very flattering introduction to it. To Mr. Doke it was purely a labour of love. He believed in the Indian cause and the book was one of the many ways in which he helped it. Only a short time ago was published his book, The Secret City a romance of the Karoo. It is a wonderful piece of imaginative work. The book has already passed through the second edition and has been translated into Dutch. He was so impressed with the Indian campaign of passive resistance that he was engaged in writing an elaborate treatise on passive resistance as a rule of conduct. For writing it, he had specially studied a number of books bearing on the subject. He was an artist of no mean order. Some of his paintings are worth treasuring. His irrepressible humor can be traced in many cartoons he drew for a New Zealand paper. Mr. Doke had a frail body but a mind of adamant. His jaws showed the determination of the owner. He feared no man because he feared God so. He believed in his own religion with a burning passion, but he respected all the other great faiths of the world. He detested lip Christianity, but he considered that final salvation was possible only through heart Christianity. His special work for Indians during practically the whole of his stay in Johannesburg is too well known to the readers to need recapitulation here. But it is not known to many that he came to the Indian cause uninvited. He was ever a seeker, ever a friend of the weak and oppressed. As soon, therefore, as he came to Johannesburg, he set about finding out the problems that engaged people’s attention. He found the Indian problem to be one of them, and immediately sought out the leaders, learnt the position from them, studied the other side of the question and, finding the Indian cause to be wholly just, allied himself to it with a rare zeal and devotion. He risked loss of popularity among his congregation. But that was no deterrent to him. When the Editor of this journal was in India, Mr. Doke’s was the guiding hand, and never did a week pass during a period of nearly six months, but Mr. Doke sent his ably-written and well-informed leading articles. He guided, too, the deliberations of the British Indian Association, jointly with Mr. Kallenbach, at a most critical period of its history. When he went to America in connection with his Church, a grateful community held a banquet in Mr. Doke’s honour at which Mr. Hosken presided. Mr. Doke’s words then uttered still ring in the ears of those who heard him. It may truly be said of Mr. Doke that he lived well and he died well. He is mourned by many more than the members of his family, and may that thought comfort and sustain them in a loss which is just as much that of those who had learnt to love Mr. Doke as of the members of his family. The late Rev. Joseph J. Doke was born at Chudleigh, Devonshire, on the 5th November, 1861. He was the younger, by some two and a half years, of a family of two. His father was the Baptist Minister of Chudleigh. His brother, the late Mr. William H. Doke, died as a missionary at the end of 1882 on African soil. The late Rev. Doke had very little schooling, owing to delicate health. At the age of 16 he lost his mother. At the age of 17, on the resignation of his father from the pastorate, he became pastor. At the age of 20 he came to South Africa, where he was in Cape Town for a short time. Later, he was sent by the South African Baptist Union to open up a new cause in Great Reinet. Here he met and married Miss Biggs, in 1886. Shortly after, he returned to Chudleigh. From Chudleigh Mr. Doke was called to the pastor’s hip of the City Road Baptist Church, Bristol, where, with the exception of a visit to Egypt, Palestine and India, he remained until 1894. In 1894, Mr. Doke removed with his family to New Zealand. Here he was Minister of the Oxford Terrace Baptist Church, Christchurch, for a period of seven and a half years, returning to England in 1902. In addition to the duties connected with his pastors hip, Mr. Doke conducted a class for Chinese, which was greatly appreciated and which is still being continued by his successors. Towards the end of 1903, Mr. Doke received a call to the Grahams town Baptist Church, and took up his work in South Africa again. After four years in Graham’s town, he came to the Rand as Minister of the Central Baptist Church. He remained Minister of this Church until his death. All his life, more especially since the death of his brother, Mr. Doke’s ambition was for missionary work, but owing to his health and family circumstances, the way was not clear, until, just at the end of his life, it seemed to open up. Together with his son, Clement, he decided to visit a lonely mission station in North-western Rhodesia close to the Congo border, and on the 2nd July they set out on this trip, which was to take about six weeks. Mr. Doke was also entrusted by the South African Baptist Mission Society to visit a mission station near Umtali, they taking advantage of his being in Rhodesia to secure particulars which they wanted. Mr. Doke enjoyed the trip to the ’Ndla District immensely, and maintained good health throughout. He suffered, however, from footsoreness the distance to be traversed was some 350 miles—and he travelled most of the way by “machilla” a hammock slung on a pole and carried by two natives, but despite this he was in the best of spirits and had the greatest hope for the success of his mission. Through an interpreter he spoke at numerous villages, and he did a great deal of writing and took many photographs with a view to lecturing on his return. On the 4th August, Broken Hill was reached, and on the 7th August, Mr. Doke parted from his son at Bulawayo, the latter being called home by business duties. Mr. Doke then proceeded to Umtali, after a few days’ waiting at Bulawayo, reaching the end of his train journey on the morning of the 9th instant. Here the Rev. Woodhouse met him and the greater part of the day was spent in the discussion of missionary matters. In the afternoon the party preceded to the residence of Mr. Webber a friend just outside the town, where, owing to Mr. Doke’s feeling too unwell, they remained for the night. The next morning, Mr. Doke was up before sunrise, feeling very ill, and all thought of going to the mission station then was abandoned. Mr. Doke complained of severe pains in the back and had to take to his bed again. The usual remedies for fever were applied, but, as there seemed to be no temperature, it was concluded that the malady was not fever, and a doctor was sent for, who at once ordered him to the Umtali Hospital, and whither he was conveyed by “machilla”. Here he was under the best doctors and nursing supervision possible. On the 12th a telegram was sent to Mr. Doke’s family, saying that he had a slight attack of pleurisy, but that there was nothing serious and no one was to come. On Friday evening, the 15th, a further telegram was received by Mrs. Doke saying that Mr. Doke was seriously ill with enteric. Mrs. Doke at once made preparations to leave by Saturday night’s train, but on the morning of that day a telegram was received that Mr. Doke had passed away at 7 o’clock the previous evening. Owing to the great distance, the remains were not conveyed to Johannesburg, but the funeral took place at Umtali at four o’clock on Sunday last, a service being held at the Baptist Church, Johannesburg, at the same hour. During his sojourn on the Rand, Mr. Doke was prominently connected with many religious organizations. Besides the widow, the deceased has left three sons: Willy, Clement, and Comber, and one daughter, Olive. The eldest boy, Willy, is training in America as a medical missionary.”14

Mahatma Gandhi wrote, “In the death of Mr. Joseph J. Doke, the Indian community of South Africa has lost one of its truest friends. This is not the place to recount Mr. Doke’s general public work, great and substantial as it was. But, paying our humble tribute to the memory of the deceased, we cannot help contemplating Mr. Doke’s noble work for us. When Mr. Doke came to the cause, he threw himself into it heart and soul and never relaxed his efforts in our behalf. It was usual with Mr. Doke to gain complete mastery over the subject he handled. He, therefore, became one of the best informed men on the subject in South Africa. He loved passive resisters as they were his own congregation. The poorest Indian had free access to this pious Englishman. His pen and his eloquence were continually used by him during the troublous times through which the community has passed. He missed no opportunity of visiting passive resistance prisoners in jail. And at a critical period in the history of the community and this journal, he magnanimously and at no small inconvenience to himself, took charge of our editorial department, and those who came in contact with him during that period know how cautious, how painstaking, how gentle and how forbearing he was. It is such a noble soul whose withdrawal from this transitory world we, the Indian community, mourn in common with his family and his congregation. We tender our respectful sympathy to Mrs. Doke and family.”15

Mahatma Gandhi wrote, “This great and altruistic man has given up his earthly life. The writer’s pen shakes in his hand even in writing this sentence, and various are the thoughts surging in his mind. As a human being, Mr. Doke was full of nobility; as an Englishman, his conduct was such that, had all Englishmen been like him, there would be no bitterness between them and the Indians. As a priest, he was a man of faith in God and, although he was very zealous in his religion, he never vilified other religions. Not only that, but he did his best to understand the importance of other religions. However, it is for his excellent services to the Indian community of South Africa that it will forever cherish the name of Mr. Doke. In 1907, when preparations for the Satyagraha campaign were in full swing, Mr. Doke had recently come to the Transvaal from New Zealand. He began taking a keen interest in the Indian problem from the very day he arrived, and continued to help till he died. With the exception of one or two, no other Englishman, and hardly any Indian, had such clear grasp of our problem as Mr. Doke. He had gone through all the documents and laws having a bearing on it and equipped himself to meet anyone or, the subject. He never concealed his sympathy for the Indians. In his house, every Indian, whether rich or poor, was given the same consideration. One of his many hopes was to see a satisfactory solution to our problem, and for achieving this he was ever ready for any sacrifice. Who will not grieve over the loss of such a friend and well-wisher? We had learnt to look upon Mr. Doke as our shield. That shield is now gone. Our duty is clear. After the death of a friend, we must not forget his kith and kin. We must show our sympathy for them. But the most important duty is to live up to Mr. Doke’s ideas of us. Mr. Doke believed that we were true satyagrahis, that we were ready to sacrifice our lives for the sake of our honour and our religion, that we would not wish ill of anyone who might injure us but, leaving justice in the hands of God, would love even those who bore us ill-will and fight them with the sword of love. Maybe all of us cannot be so good or behave so well but we can all make an effort. Even if a few of us succeed, we shall have honoured his memory aright and God will send us another Doke. It is not as if one becomes a saint on meeting a saint; it is rather that on becoming a saint one finds a saint.”16




  1. Indian Opinion, 22-2-1908
  2. Indian Opinion, 22-2-1908
  3.    Indian Opinion, 14-3-1908
  4. VOL. 8 : 14 DECEMBER, 1907 - 22 JULY, 1908 214
  5.    LETTER TO J. J. DOKE, Thursday October 8, 1908
  6.   LETTER TO J. J. DOKE October 14, 1908
  7.    VOL. 10 : 5 AUGUST, 1909 - 9 APRIL, 1910 96
  8.    Indian Opinion, 19-2-1910
  9.   Indian Opinion, 19-2-1910
  10.   Indian Opinion, 26-2-1910
  11. LETTER TO J. J. DOKE, March 7, 1911
  12.   LETTER TO J. J. DOKE, March 17, 1911
  13. LETTER TO J. J. DOKE, March 25, 1911
  14. Indian Opinion, 23-8-1913
  15. Indian Opinion, 23-8-1913
  16.   Indian Opinion, 23-8-1913



Views: 769

Add a Comment

You need to be a member of GandhiTopia to add comments!

Join GandhiTopia

GandhiTopia is a free service by GandhiServe Foundation. You can support GandhiTopia by a donation or by buying our GandhiTopia products.

Thank you!

GandhiTopia Store



© 2019   Created by GandhiServe Foundation.   Powered by

Badges  |  Report an Issue  |  Privacy Policy  |  Terms of Service