They had faith in the British sense of justice and fair play. The Moderates believed in orderly progress and constitutional agitation. They believed in patience, steadiness, conciliation and union.
They aimed at being moderate in their demands, just in their criticism, correct in their facts and logical in their conclusions. The Moderates believed in constitutional agitation within the four corners of law.
They believed that their main task was to educate the people, to arouse national political consciousness and to create a united public, opinion on political questions. For this purpose they held meetings.
They criticized the Government through the press. They drafted and submitted memorials and petitions to the Government, to the officials of the Government of India and also to the British Parliament. They also worked to influence the British Parliament and British public opinion.
The main object of the memorials and petitions was to enlighten the British public and political leaders about the conditions prevailing in India.
In fact Dadabhai Naoroji spent a major part of his life and income in Britain doing propaganda among its people and politicians.
Moderates demanded wide employment of Indians in higher offices in the public service and the establishment of representative institutions.
The economic and political demands of the Moderates were formulated with a view to unifying the Indian people on the basis of a common political programme.
They organized a powerful all-India agitation against the abandonment of tariff-duties on imports and against the imposition of cotton excise duties.
This agitation aroused the feelings of the people and helped them to realize the real aims and purposes of British rule in India.
They urged the Government to provide cheap credit to the peasantry through agricultural banks and to make available irrigation facilities on a large scale.
They asked for improvement in the conditions of work of the plantation labourers, a radical change in the existing pattern of taxation and expenditure which put a heavy burden on the poor while leaving the rich, especially the foreigners, with a very light load.
They complained of India’s growing poverty and economic backwardness and put all the blame on the policies of the British Government.
They criticized the individual administrative measures and worked hard to reform the administrative system.
The Moderates opposed tooth and nail the restrictions imposed by the Government on the freedom of speech and the press.
They condemned the arrest of Tilak (in 1897) and many other leaders who were later sentenced to long terms of imprisonment for spreading disaffection against the Government through their speeches and writings.
The moderate era was not without limitations. The basic weakness of the moderates being their narrow social base. Their movement did not have a wide appeal.
The area of their influence was limited to the urban community. As they did not have the support of the masses, they declared that the time was not ripe for throwing out a challenge to the foreign rulers.
To quote Gokhale, “You do not realise the enormous reserve of power behind the Government.
If the Congress were to do anything such as you suggest, the Government would have no difficulty in throttling it in five minutes.
“However, it must not be presumed that the Moderate leaders fought for their narrow interests.
Their programmes and policies championed the cause of all sections of the Indian people and represented nation-wide interests against colonial exploitation.
What they wanted was to reform or liberalize the existing system of government through peaceful, gradualist and constitutional means.
The influence of the moderates, however, declined with the rise of the militants who did not believe in gradualism and who criticized the moderates for their great faith in Britain and British political institutions.