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The Northern Highlands in the Nineteenth Century

The Anglo-Indian Grants
Charles Grant

Highlanders must excuse us for the heading of this note which treats of Charles Grant of Indian fame, and his sons, Lord Glenelg and Sir Robert Grant. They were genuine Highlanders by long descent, but the name Anglo-Indian has come into common use and has an understood meaning.

Charles Grant, the elder, was a man of remarkable talent and character, who carved out for himself a career of eminent usefulness and dignity. His portrait adorns the Court-House of Inverness Castle, painted by Raeburn at the cost of his admirers in the county which he long represented. In our Northern Notes Charles Grantís name repeatedly occurs during the first twenty-three years of the nineteenth century. As one of the Directors of the East India Company and for a time Chairman of the Board, he possessed an influence which he exercised for the benefit of the Eastern population under British sway, and for the promotion of religion. He was the friend of Wilberforce, of Zachary Macaulay (the father of Lord Macaulay), and of other eminent men. He would probably have been Governor-General of India if he had not been obliged by family reasons to return home in middle life. It was through his exertions that India was opened to missionary effort, a policy that the Company long opposed. He took an active part in promoting the construction of the Caledonian Canal and opening up the Highlands by the construction of roads, and he gave valuable assistance to the cause of education. Through his patronage many young Highlanders found openings in the East. He was a man of strict integrity and of indomitable purpose, broad-minded, clear sighted, and of great administrative ability. His life, unfortunately, has not been written at any length. There is an interesting account of him, however, in Dr George Smithís book, "Twelve Indian Statesmen," and another in the Dictionary of National Biography. References to his family are to be found in Mr William Mackayís History of Urquhart and Glenmoriston. Shortly after his death a sketch of his career appeared in a London magazine called the "Christian Guardian," which was partly reproduced in our columns at the time. Some of his speeches are reported in old newspaper files. We believe it is possible that a biography of him may yet be published, but meantime something may be said here of himself and his family in supplement to what has appeared in previous pages.

Charles Grant was born at the farm house of Aldourie on the 16th of April 1746, the day of the battle of Culloden. His father, Alexander Grant, fought at the battle on the side of Prince Charles and was wounded. It is sometimes said that he was killed, but this was not the case; on the contrary, he was very much alive and active during the retreat as well as on the battlefield. On account of his skill with his weapon, he was known as the Swordsman. Alexander was a scion of the Shewglie branch of the House of Grant, and tenant of the farm of Easter Inchbrine, or Balbeg, in Glen-Urquhart. He was an applicant for the post of forester on the Urquhart estate when the troubles in the Glen broke out, but forfeited his claim by joining a contingent for the Princeís army. The Chief of Grant favoured the Hanoverian side, but many of his clansmen in Glen-Urquhart acted against his wishes. The contingent above-mentioned was led by two of Shewglieís sons, Robert and Alexander, cousins of the Swordsman. The ardent tenant of Balbeg had a brother named James, who was so badly wounded at Culloden that he died in his auntís house at Cradlehall a few hours after his flight from the field. The Swordsman himself, though wounded in the head, not only escaped, but helped others on the way. Mr Mackay writes: ó"He [Alexander] saved Somerled Dubh Macdonald by severing a trooperís arm which was raised to strike him. Wishing to avoid the streets of Inverness, he and his companions passed by the town, and forded the Ness above the Islands. William Macmillan, from the Braes, was being hard-pressed in mid-stream by a trooper, when Grant stole behind, and with a stroke of his sword brought horse and rider into the water. His next stroke cleft the Englishmanís head in two."

Alexander made good his escape, but was obliged to remain in hiding for two years. His little property, says Dr Smith, was ruined by depredations. At a later date like many other Highlanders, he took service under the Government which he had resisted at Culloden. "As a Volunteer with the prospect of a commission, which he obtained, he joined one of two Highland regiments raised to reinforce the army in America, and at the siege of the Havana held a small fort through the extremes of famine till he was relieved. His solitary wife was helped to bring up her children by Grant of Shewglie, the head of the family, whose own father had died in prison, a victim of the rebellion." We have found no record of the death of Alexander Grant, which probably took place abroad. His wife, Margaret Macbean, removed to the house of her father, who was tenant of the farm of Aldourie, when her husband joined the Princeís army. There accordingly Charles Grant was born, as we have said, on the day of the battle of Culloden, and was named after the Prince. It may be mentioned that nearly twenty years afterwards Sir James Mackintosh was born in the neighbouring mansion-house of Aldourie.

The family seems to have soon returned to Glen-Urquhart. Young Charles received the first part of his education at the school of Milton, in Urquhart, founded by the Society for the Propagation of Christian Knowledge. He was next sent by a relative to a school at Elgin, and had just left it, at the age of fourteen, when he was recommended to William Forsyth, a merchant and shipowner in Cromarty, who happened to pay a visit to his Elgin kinsmen. The life of Forsyth has been written by Hugh Miller. He had served for a short time in a counting house in London, but returned on the death of his father to Cromarty, where he carried on an extensive business and exercised considerable influence in the district. Forsyth himself had experiences in connection with the rising of the Ď45. He had been taken prisoner by a party of Highlanders who visited Cromarty, and kept for a day or two at Inverness before being liberated. From a neighbouring hill he witnessed the smoke of Culloden. Mr Forsyth was a man of capacity and education, and treated his young assistant with great kindness. Miller says that Mr Forsyth furnished Charles Grant with books, introduced him to his more intelligent and influential friends, and helped him with his purse and his advice. In this situation he remained for about five years. Then at the age of nineteen Charles went to London to enter the counting house of Alexander Grant one of the Shewglie brothers who fought by the side of his father at Culloden. In the interval Alexander had been in India serving under Clive, and had returned to London to carry on business as an East India merchant in Bedford Row. In 1767, at the age of twenty-one Charles set out for Bengal, with what object is not clearly told; but no doubt bearing recommendations from his London relative. His character and talents appear to have impressed those with whom he came into contact at every period of his life. Soon after his arrival in Bengal he was selected for employment by Richard Becher, a member of the Indian Council, who was anxious to obtain qualified and trustworthy subordinates. Grantís services were of immense value in the terrible famine of 1769-70, which taxed to the utmost all the resources of the Government. Here we may quote a passage in which Dr Smith sets forth the chief points of his career:ó

"Charles Grant saw and mitigated the greatest famine on record, which swept off four millions of human beings in Bengal, Behar, and Orissa. He purged the Companyís government of abuses at the worst period of its history. A friend of the great missionary, Schwarts, and succourer of Kiernander, the first Protestant missionary to Bengal, he helped William Carey to Serampore, he sent out the evangelical chaplains through Simeon, he founded Haileybury College, he was the chief agent in the institution of the Church Missionary and Bible Societies, he fought for the freedom of the African slave as wisely as for the enlightenment of the caste-bound Hindu. He was the authority from whom Wilberforce derived at once the impulse and knowledge which gained the first battles for toleration in the East India Companyís Charters of 1793 and 1813. Above all, Charles Grant wrote in 1792 the noblest treatise on the Asiatic subjects of Great Britain, and the means of improving their moral condition, which the English language has even yet seen. Printed by the House of Commons in 1813, that, too, is forgotten like its author. But in both the historian of the civilisation of our Indian Empire will recognise the most remarkable factors of the progress and the "happiness of a population amounting a century later, to two hundred and eighty-six millions of human beings."

Most of what is mentioned in this passage was to come at later stages of his life, but Charles Grant became early acquainted with the horrors of famine on an unexampled scale. A young man of three and twenty, still new to his post in Bengal, he was called upon to assist his chief in the terrible calamity which fell upon the province. Night and day they laboured for the relief of the people, saving many lives, though many also perished. Painful as the task was, the experience no doubt played an important part in developing Grantís administrative powers. His health broke down under the strain and in the end of 1770 Grant sailed for England. On his return he wrote a defence of Becher, who had been traduced by the French rivals of the Company for his conduct in connection with the famine. During his stay at home Grant married Jane, daughter of Thomas Fraser, a younger son of the Balnain family. As a writer on the Bengal establishment, he returned with his wife to India, arriving at Calcutta in June 1773. On his way out a friend who accompanied him, Lieutenant Fergusson, was killed in a duel which he was forced to fight at Cape Town, and Grant insisted on an investigation, which made the case famous. The next seventeen years of his life were spent in India. During the greater part of the period Warren Hastings was Governor-General, and placed high value on his services. As Factor and Secretary to the Board of Trade, Grant showed so much ability that Hastings, in course of time, gave him the prize of the service as commercial resident in charge of the Silk Manufactory at Malda. Here he not only enjoyed a large salary, but was entitled to certain commissions which enriched him so rapidly that he became sensitive on the subject. To satisfy his own feelings, he asked the Governor-General to have his private books examined along with his public accounts. Lord Cornwallis, who was now at the head of affairs, made a careful investigation and returned the books with an official expression that he wished all servants of the Company were equally scrupulous. At the same time his lordship promoted him to the direct superintendence of the whole trade of the Company in Bengal. In this position Grant detected and exposed a series of fraudulent practices, which were highly injurious to the interests of the Company. In 1790 the state of his wifeís health obliged him to return home. Dr Smith says that unless he had taken this step, he would certainly in a few years have been made Governor-General instead of his friend and junior, Shore, afterwards Lord Teignmouth. "Lord Cornwallis declared his services to be so essential to the interests of the Government that for any less urgent reason he would have insisted on his remaining in India."

Having settled at Clapham, near London, Grant, in 1792, wrote an essay entitled "Observations on the State of Society Among the Asiatic Subjects of Great Britain." For a time he kept it beside him in manuscript as an expression of his mature convictions and a guide to his conduct. In 1793 he was elected a Director of the East India Company, and in 1797 laid his treatise before his colleagues. Though they did not share his views they availed themselves of his talent as an administrator. By his knowledge of business he introduced reforms which saved the Company large sums in freightage. An effort was made by some interested persons to prevent his return to the Directorate; but they failed so completely that the attempt was not renewed. In 1802 Grant was elected Member of Parliament for his native county of Inverness. In 1804 be was chosen Deputy-Chairman of the Court of East India Directon, and Chairman in 1805. Four times he was chosen to one or other of these offices. In 1813, in connection with the renewal of the Companyís Charter, Grantís treatise on Indian affairs was laid before the House of Commons, by whose orders it was printed. His policy was to introduce light and civilisation to India through four channels; viz., by the English language and literature; by the mechanical science of the West; by improved modes of agriculture; and by the diffusion of the Christian religion. He was entirely opposed to the anti-missionary spirit which had characterised the Company. In previous years he had checkmated their intolerance by encouraging the Danish missionaries at Serampore, and by having chaplains of an evangelical spirit sent out to Bengal. "In 1813 he triumphed in the Charter which not only organised a double establishment of bishops and chaplains for the British settlers in India, but practically allowed missionaries and teachers tree access to the natives and granted funds for the enlightened education of the people." Years, however, had to pass before some of his ideas were carried into practice.

The religious character of Charles Grant is apparent from what has been written above. Hugh Miller traces his piety to early impressions received at Cromarty. However this may be, his character seems to have received its final stamp on his second voyage to India in 1773, when be made the acquaintance of the Danish missionary, Schwartz, followed soon afterwards by communication with a Swedish evangelist named Kiernander. Grantís piety was of that deep and pervading kind which influences the whole life and conduct. So far as it was possible to do so he fostered religious work during ins residence in India. The "Christian Guardian" in 1824 says: ó"He contributed 500 rupees towards the building of St Johnís Church in Calcutta, and assisted in procuring valuable materials from a distance. When the Protestant Mission Church was in 1787 placed under sequestration by the Sheriff of Calcutta to answer for the debts of its proprietor, Mr Grant nobly stepped forward, advanced from his purse the sum of 10,000 rupees [about £1250], at which the church was valued, and immediately placed the property, thus secured from desecration, in trust for sacred and charitable purposes for ever, constituting Mr W. Chambers, the Rev. David Browne, and himself as the first trustees. But for this large pecuniary sacrifice, the services of Mr Browne would very probably have been lost to India; and the great and effectual door opened to the labours of a Buchanan, a Thomason, and many others might have remained effectually closed." The Mr Browne here mentioned was an earnest and devoted chaplain of the Church of England. On his return home, Mr Grant associated himself with the religious and philanthropic work of Wilberforce and his friends, to whom he was an inspiring and directing force. In the same spirit he encouraged and assisted religious work and the planting of new churches in the Highlands. The late James Suter states that Sunday schools were first established in Inverness by Charles Grant. Another authority says that "he introduced Sunday schools in Scotland, and for 20 years personally supported two of them." There may be some confusion in the latter sentence between Scotland and the Highlands. Grant for many years attended St Johnís Chapel, Bedford Bow, the head-quarters of the evangelical party in London. The incumbent, the Rev. Daniel Wilson, who preached his funeral sermon, dwelt specially on his friendís uprightness, his love of justice, his diligence and activity, his spirituality of mind and consistency of conduct. In 1832 mainly through the influence of Mr Grantís sons, Lord Glenelg and Sir Robert, Mr Wilson was appointed Bishop of Calcutta. Both in this country and in India Bishop Wilson had a high reputation for eloquence, zeal, and usefulness.

Charles Grant became proprietor of the estate of Waternish, and represented the county of Inverness from 1802 till 1818, retiring in the latter year in favour of his eldest son. He promoted the scheme for the construction of the Caledonian Canal and roads and bridges in the Highlands, and was active in every public movement for the welfare of the district. He was a friend of Sir J. P. Grant of Rothiemurchus, who was then an active politician (he sat for Grimsby), and took a prominent part in county affairs. Sir Johnís daughter saysó"The North country owed Charles Grant much; we got canals, roads, bridges, cadetships, and writerships, in almost undue proportion." It may safely be said, however, that no one received any appointment whose qualifications would not bear scrutiny. Grant naturally favoured the people whom he knew and respected. In Parliament he favoured the Catholic claims for emancipation, and opposed the warlike policy of Lord Wellesley in India. His practical sagacity seems to have been his most conspicuous intellectual feature. With the insight and wisdom of a statesman, he left his mark on the conduct of Indian affairs. Dr Smith says that he anticipated men like the Lawrences and their school, making it possible for them to become what they were. Grant also possessed no small share of literary power, though he did not aspire to be a writer. His last years were spent in a house in Russell Square, London, where he died in October 1823. He left three sons, of whom two, Charles and Robert, became eminent. One of his daughters was married to Samuel March Phillips, some time Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department and the other to Patrick Grant of Lochletter and Redcastle. Charles Grantís widow died in 1827.


The sons of Charles Grant, senior, who acquired distinction were Charles and Robert, the elder born in 1778 and the younger in 1779. They were born in India, and came home with their father in 1790. Together they were entered as students of Magdalene College, Cambridge, in 1795. In 1801 Charles was fourth wrangler and senior Chancellorís medallist; Robert was third wrangler and second Chancellorís medallist. It was a singular distinction for two brothers to be so closely associated in the honoursí list of the same year. The senior wrangler was Henry Martyn, afterwards the famous missionary.

Let us follow, in the first instance, the career of Charles Grant. In 1802 he gained the Membersí Prize for a Latin essay, and was elected to a fellowship at his College. In 1805 he won a prize offered by Claudius Buchanan, of the Fort-William College in Bengal, for a poem on "The Restoration of Learning in the East." It is in the style of Dryden and Pope, in the heroic couplet, and much above the average of prize poems. All his life Charles indulged in poetical composition, often scattering original verses in playful form in his letters to his friends. In 1807 he was called to the bar at Lincolnís Inn, but did not practice. He was an early contributor to the "Quarterly Review," and mixed in literary and political circles. The sources of information for his career are the Dictionary of National Biography, and memoirs which appeared at the time of his death which occurred in April 1866. One of these memoirs was in the "lnverness Courier," written by the late Dr Carruthers, who was a supporter of Grant in the contests for the representation for the County in the thirties. The sketch which follows is to a considerable extent a summary of this article. It may be desirable, however, at this point to give a few facts and dates so as to avoid details in subsequent paragraphs. Charles Grant entered Parliament as representative of the Inverness Burghs in November 1811. He retained the seat until 1818, when he succeeded his father as member for the County, and continued to represent the constituency until his elevation to the peerage as Lord Glenelg in 1835. In 1813 be was made a Lord of the Treasury. under Lord Liverpool; in 1819. Chief Secretary for Ireland and a Privy Councillor; in 1823, Vice-President of the Board of Trade; and in 1827, President of the Board of Trade and Treasurer of the Navy in Canningís administration. In June 1828 he resigned office with other members of the Canningate party. In 1830 he became President of the Board of Control, under Earl Grey, and held the same office in Lord Melbourneís first Ministry till its resignation in November 1834. In 1835 he was appointed Colonial Secretary in Lord Melbourneís second Ministry, being at the same time raised to the peerage. The period of his administration was, however, marked by troubles in South Africa and in Canada, and in February 1839 he resigned office, and spent the remainder of his life in retirement.

Soon after entering the House of Commons, Charles Grant distinguished himself by several brilliant speeches, which attracted the attention of Lord Liverpool, and secured him his first post in the Government. Though all his life a shy, diffident man, he had an ambition to excel as a speaker. To his friend, Lady Hood, afterwards Mrs Stewart Mackenzie of Seaforth, he writes of one of his early appearancesó"You advise me to speak and not be shy. The papers will show you that I have followed your advice, and, to say the truth have succeeded better than I expected. I spoke in favour of the Catholics, and received many compliments, but from no person more agreeable than from your friend Lady Spencer." Grant was the first Secretary for Ireland who sought to carry out conciliatory measures. He endeavoured to suppress Orange demonstrations, to secure the impartial administration of justice, and to devise a system of national education adapted for Catholics as well as Protestants. He drew attention also to the defects in the police and the magistracy, and proposed important reforms which were carried out at a later date. Some of his colleagues in the Irish administration did not approve of his liberal views, and friction arose. Transferred to the Board of Trade, Grant supported the policy of Huskisson for the relaxation of restrictions on commerce, on shipping, on silk manufactures, and other articles. The rupture which took place after Canningís death affected the future of political parties and the fortunes of political personages. Grant was out of office when the Duke of Wellington and Sir Robert Peel passed the Act for the Emancipation of Catholics, but he approved of the measure, and gave it his cordial support. When he returned to office as President of the Board of Control, he took a leading part in the revision of the Charter of the East India Company, and was able to carry a compromise which settled for a period the relations of the Company to the Imperial Government.

For many years Mr Grant sat securely as member for the County of Inverness, but the introduction of the First Reform Bill disturbed all existing political relations. He had then to defend his change of opinion in favour of Reform, but he did so manfully, by an open, explicit acknowledgment of the fact. Some of his oratorical utterances are worthy of note. "My reading of the constitution," he said, "is that it contains within itself a principle of self-renovation, that as in early periods it was suited to the petty wants and minor exigencies of an infant people, so it has grown with their growth and strengthened with their strength, and is capable, by the fulness and freeness and stability of its movements, to meet all the capacities and exigencies of a great and Imperial nation." Speaking of the term "Destructives" hurled against the Whigs, he said ó"The true Conservative principle is wise and seasonable improvement. The true Destructive principle is resistance to all improvement till you become the victims of innovation. It is easy for a statesman to fold his arms and sayóíI take my stand upon the institutions of the country; I will admit of no alteration.í But all is change around him. Nature changes, the seasons change, time and circumstances change; mind and manners change; the relations of States, the interests and obligations of nations, the wants and feelings and habits of mankindó all change. Yet the statesman resists! In the meantime the waters gather round him, the storm beats over his head, and he is engulfed in the abyss which his folly had dug under his feet. The true sagacity of the statesman is to observe the nature and course of coming events, to calculate their dimensions by the shadows they cast before; to observe what the progress of society and the variation of circumstances may require, and thus in some sense to mould the future to his purposes, and to control what appears to be uncontrollable."

These sentences may give some idea of the style of Mr Grantís oratory in the days of the Reform controversy. It was more florid than the taste of the present day sanctions, but with his fervid delivery, his evident sincerity, and his commanding appearance, the effect was electrical. It was interesting, says Dr Carruthers, to see how he could blend business details with these figurative bursts and that ornate language, and how sound sense and sagacity underlay all. Election contests gradually weakened Mr Grantís hold on the county, and his majority having sunk to seven, he consented at the suggestion of Lord Palmerston, to withdraw from the Commons and accept a peerage. For some time he hesitated between the titles of Lord Grant, Lord Arnisdale, and Lord Glenelg, but finally adopted the last, to the amusement of some of his sarcastic opponents, who did not fail to remark that the name read the same backwards as forwards! In Inverness his friends gave the new peer a splendid banquet, at which most of the county magnates of Inverness and Ross were present; and thus terminated a connection honourable alike to the representative and the constituency.

Lord Glenelg was a member of the Government when slavery was abolished in the West Indies, and as Colonial Secretary he had the pleasure of witnessing its final extinction. In connection with South Africa, he disapproved of the proclamation of Sir Benjamin DíUrban extending the boundaries of Cape Colony to the river Kei. Sir Benjamin accordingly resigned, and the question led to warm discussion. The great crisis in Canadian affairs came in Lord Glenelgís administration. He had to face the difficulties which culminated in the rebellion of 1837. Lord Durham, who was sent out as a special Commissioner in 1838, issued an ordinance sentencing the rebels who had surrendered to perpetual banishment to the Bermudas. Lord Glenelg at first approved of the proclamation, but Lord Melbourne subsequently announced its partial withdrawal, and the brunt of the storm fell on the Colonial Secretary. His colleagues, Lord John Russell and Lord Howick, joined in blaming his administration, and Lord Glenelg felt himself obliged to retire. Dr Carruthers says that if Lord Glenelg had been allied to any of the great political families, no Minister would have dared to slight his merits or overlook his claims. He had the misfortune, however, to take up the work of the Colonial Office at a time when novel and complicating conditions arose. His experience and training lay in connection with domestic and Indian affairs. The Government at one time were willing to appoint him Governor-General of India in succession to Lord George Bentinck, and in this sphere he would have been more at home. Lord Glenelg was conscientious to a degree, and assiduous in his attention to details. Lord Brougham pronounced him to be "the purest statesman he had ever known." Some of his despatches vindicating the rights of natives in the Colonies, repressing idolatry, and abolishing slavery throughout the British possessions in South Africa, are models of elevated and just thought, and of fine, impressive English.

After his retirement from office, Lord Glenelg withdrew in a great measure from public affairs. He rarely went to the House of Lords, or took any active part in Parliamentary business. He was unmarried, but books, society, visits to the country and the Continent, relieved the monotony of bachelor life. His kindness of heart showed itself in many unostentatious acts of benevolence. Late in life he set himself to the study of German that he might be able to read Goethe in the original. His last days were spent in the companionship of Lord Brougham at Cannes, where he died on 23rd April 1866, in the eighty-eighth year of his age.

Robert Grant had a shorter and less exciting career. He was called to the bar the same day as his brother, 30th January 1807, and entered on practice, becoming Kingís Sergeant in the Court of the Duchy of Lancaster, and one of the Commissioners in Bankruptcy. He was elected Member of Parliament for the Elgin Burghs in 1818, and for the Inverness Burghs in 1826. The latter constituency he represented for four years. In 1830 and 1831 he was returned for Norwich, and in 1832 for Finsbury. Robert Grant was a strenuous advocate for the removal of the disabilities of the Jews, and twice carried bills on the subject through the House of Commons. They were, however, rejected in the Upper House, which did not yield on the question until 1858, twenty years after Grantís death. In 1832 he became Judge Advocate-General, and in 1834 was appointed Governor of Bombay, receiving the honour of knighthood. He died in India in 1838. In his younger days, Sir Robert published an essay on the trade and government of India, and a sketch of the early history of the East India Company. He was the author of a volume of sacred poems, which was edited and published after his death by his brother, Lord Glenelg. This volume includes some beautiful hymns, which have found their way into modern collections. Sir Robert married Margaret, only daughter of Sir David Davidson of Cantray, with issue two sons and two daughters, namely, Sir Charles Grant, K.C.S.I, formerly a Member of Council in India; Colonel Robert Grant, R.E., Deputy Adjutant General; Sibylla Sophia, married to Granville Ryder, Esq., and Constance Charemile, who died in childhood.

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