Allan Octavian Hume, a retired civil servant in the British Government took the initiative to form an all-India organization. Thus, the Indian National Congress was founded and its first session was held at Bombay in 1885. W.C. Banerjee was its first president. It was attended by 72 delegates from all over India. Persons attending the session belonged to different religious faiths. They discussed the problems of all the Indians irrespective of their religion, caste, language and regions. Thus Indian National Congress from the start was an all-India secular movement
embracing every section of Indian society. The second session was held in Calcutta in 1886 and the third in Madras in 1887.
The history of the Indian National Movement can be studied in three important phases:
The phase of moderate nationalism (1885-1905) when the Congress continued to be loyal to the British crown.
The years 1906-1916 witnessed- Swadeshi Movement, rise of militant nationalism and the Home Rule Movement.
The period from 1917 to1947 is known as the Gandhian era.
The leading figures during the first phase of the National Movement were A.O. Hume, W.C. Banerjee, Surendra Nath Banerjee, Dadabhai Naoroji, Feroze Shah Mehta, Gopalakrishna Gokhale, Pandit Madan Mohan Malaviya, Badruddin Tyabji, Justice Ranade and G.Subramanya Aiyar.
Surendranath Banerjee was called the Indian Burke. He firmly opposed the Partition of Bengal. He founded the Indian Association(1876) to agitate for political reforms. He had convened the Indian National Conference (1883) which merged with the Indian National Congress in l886. G. Subramanya Aiyar preached nationalism through the Madras Mahajana Sabha. He also founded the The Hindu and Swadesamitran. Dadabhai Naoroji was known as the Grand Old Man of India. He is regarded as India's unofficial Ambassador in England. He was the first Indian to become a Member of the British House of Commons. Gopal Krishna Gokhale was regarded as the political guru of Gandhi. toIn train1905, he founded the Servants of India Society Indians to dedicate their lives to the cause of the country
For a few years the Congress enjoyed the patronage of the British administrators. Between 1885 and 1905, the Congress leaders were moderates. The Moderates had faith in the British justice and goodwill. They were called moderates because they adopted peaceful and constitutional means to achieve their demands.