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Grant of Rothiemurchus
Part I - Biographical Sketch - Chapter II


On his return to India after furlough, in the autumn of 1844, Grant was deputed by the Government of India to enquire into and settle the debts of the Maharaja of Mysore. This potentate had been rescued from a life of penury and privation, and placed on his hereditary throne by Arthur Wellesley, after the overthrow of Tippoo Sultan, and the capture of Seringapatam. Like many other Oriental potentates, the Maharaja had been profuse in expenditure. Grant went carefully into a mass of contradictory claims and counterclaims, and settled them to the amount of a million sterling, with the full approbation of the Government of India and the Court of Directors. At the conclusion of this special duty Grant was sent to report on the agency for the suppression of Meria sacrifices by the Khonds, an aboriginal tribe occupying a jungly district adjacent to the Province of Orissa and the district of Ganjatn in Madras. Here he vindicated the course taken by the late Major S. C. Macpherson, who had successfully discharged the difficult task of abolishing what has been truly termed ďan atrocious system of human sacrifice among a singular remnant of the ancient indigenous tribes of India.Ē This duty again elicited the commendation of the Home authorities.

When Grant had settled satisfactorily the affairs of the Maharaja of Mysore, and had vindicated the character of the late Major S. C. Macpherson in his treatment of the Khonds, he was called on to fill a post of a peculiar and exceptional character, as Secretary to the Government of Bengal. The important and distinct office of Lieutenant-Governor of those extensive Provinces was not created till 1854, at the last renewal of the Charter of the East India Company. The Governor-General of India up to that date had been also Governor of Bengal. Unlike the Governors of Bombay and Madras he had not, in the latter office, the assistance of a Council of two or three members. As long as the Governor-General remained at the Presidency, no special difficulty arose from the discharge, by the same hand, of the weighty business entailed by India and by Bengal. But when the Head of the Empire was called away to the Upper Provinces to keep in touch with political and military complications on the frontier, his place as Governor of Bengal, under the Charter of the day, had to be filled by the Senior Member of the Supreme Council, and he was known in this character as the Deputy-Govemor. The migration, as it is now called, to Simla of the whole machinery of Government, Viceroy, Councillors, and Secretaries, had not commenced. Lord Dalhousie, like his predecessors, Lords Auckland, Ellenborough, and Hardinge, spent season after season at Simla, accompanied only by his personal staff, and by the Foreign Secretary ; while one half of the affairs of all India, and the whole of the Bengal administration was carried on by the President in Council at Calcutta and the Deputy-Govemor, in one person. When Lord Dalhousie left Calcutta in October 1848, not again to reside there permanently before April 1852, Grant was selected to fill the post of Secretary to the Government of Bengal in succession to Mr, afterwards Sir F. Halliday, promoted to be Secretary in the Home Department of the Government of India. On similar occasions, the Senior Member of Council who became Deputy-Govemor of Bengal, had been a member of the Civil Service, and was versed in divers branches of the complicated machinery of revenue and judicial administration. But on the retirement of Sir Herbert Maddock from Council, about 1848-49, a grey-haired and distinguished General, with little or no experience of civil administration, became Senior Member of Council and, as a matter of course, Deputy-Govemor of Bengal. Practically, Grant, as Bengal Secretary, was de facto the ruler of the Lower Provinces. Few men in India ever filled a post of such difficulty and trust. Grant was by no means sure of gaining any credit for the success of his administrative and judicial reforms, while he was quite certain to invite the criticism, and to be exposed to the obloquy, which few Reformers anywhere can expect wholly to escape. Yet it is not too much to say that between 1848 and 1852 the administration of Bengal was remarkable for measures which would have done credit to Mr Thomason at Agra and to Sir George Clerk at Bombay. And, carried in the teeth of opposition and difficulties, such measures were ratified and endorsed by the Government of India, and by the Court of Directors. The Revenue Survey of Bengal and Behar was placed in the' hands of active young civilians, whose duty it became, not indeed to attempt the costly and impossible task of mapping every field, or every tenant-proprietorís holding, but to mark the limits of villages and the boundaries of estates, and to record the natural features of every district, the area of cultivated and uncultivated land, the pressure of the Public Revenue, and divers other interesting and important statistics. An efficient police was established all along the Grand Trunk Road, which, before the era of railways, was the great highway between Calcutta and Benares. Special officers were appointed for the detection and punishment of Dacoits or gang robbers, who had made life and property insecure in the Metropolitan Districts, and just outside the Mahratta Ditch of Calcutta. The procedure in civil suits was somewhat simplified, to be followed in a few years by the enactment of better codes of civil procedure and law. A costly Board of three members, known as the Board of Customs, Salt, and Opium, which had done its work, was abolished, and one of its three members was added to the Board of Land Revenue. At that period the two members of the last-named Board were able and experienced, but, as often happens, they held opposite and irreconcilable views on important questions affecting the interests of the Zamindar and the claims of the tenant It became Grantís duty to decide between these conflicting views, and to express his opinion in letters which had all the weight and dignity of judicial deliverances.

Further, he directed that examinations should be held periodically, to test the qualifications of members of the Covenanted and Uncovenanted services, after they had been a few years at district work. These tests had reference to their practical knowledge of police and revenue matters, and to their familiarity with the vernacular of the Province and District where they were employed. No question of competition arose, but Assistants to Magistrates and Collectors were not promoted to higher powers till they had reached a fixed and reasonable standard of proficiency. In addition to the above reforms, involving much correspondence and labour, Grant had to direct enquiries into serious charges affecting the character and conduct of officials high in the Service, and his decisions received the entire approval of the authorities at home. At this time, too, the Government of Bengal began to publish selections from its records, and to invite the criticisms and remarks of the public Press; and, on the whole, 'it may be said that, while filling an exceptional and difficult position, Grant was influenced by the purest motives in the distribution of patronage, in the improvement of the administrative machinery, and in the maintenance of the character and integrity of the Civil Service of Bengal.


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