Search just our sites by using our customised search engine

Unique Cottages | Electric Scotland's Classified Directory

Click here to get a Printer Friendly PageSmiley

Scots in India
Lord Dalhousie

Lord Dalhousie, 1812-1860

THE most striking feature in Lord Dalhousie was his strong personality: this trait lie owed to his descent strength of character had always been a characteristic of the family to which lie belonged.

Lord Dalhousie was born in Canada, where his father was at the time Governor-General. He was sent to school at Harrow. One incident of his schoolboy days made a marked impression upon him, as it was well calculated to do this was a visit paid to his old school by the Marquess of Hastings, on his return from ruling India for nine years, and his generosity in presenting each boy with a couple of sovereigns.

From Harrow he proceeded to Oxford, where among his contemporaries were Gladstone, Canning, and Elgin, the two latter, like himself, destined to be Rulers of India. He took an ordinary degree, but the examiners, recognizing his splendid abilities, and in consideration of certain special circumstances that had interfered with his reading for Honours, gave him an Honorary Fourth, which was then regarded as equivalent to a Second in Greats.

In 1835, lie made an attempt to enter Parliament, but was unsuccessful. He married in the course of the following year. His second attempt to enter Parliament, in 1837, was successful, but his Parliamentary career was destined to be a very short one, for in the following year he succeeded to the Earldom of Dalhousie. He now proceeded to devote himself to whatever local work came to his hand. In 1842 he had the honour of receiving a visit from the young Queen. It is recorded of him, as characteristic of the haughty courtesy which in later years grew upon him, that he playfully reminded Her Majesty that the last English Sovereign who had approached DJhousie Castle was Henry IV, and he had remained outside for weeks, and never succeeded in gaining admission. A few years after this he held office as President of the Board of Trade, and in that capacity laid before the Prime Minister a scheme of railway development: he treated it entirely as a concern of the State, thus anticipating his later work in India. His scheme provided that no new line of railway should be sanctioned, except on some clear ground of public advantage, commercial or strategic. This system was not accepted in England, but it formed the basis on which the railway system of India has been elaborated. He devoted much time and thought to the subject : indeed his persistent overwork in connexion with it is thought to have laid the foundation of future disease. English statesmen now began to recognize his eminent qualities, and in 1847, at the early age of thirty-five, he received the offer of the Governor- Generalship of India. He accepted the offer with some hesitation, as a promising political career in England seemed to be opening out before him.

He proceeded to India at the end of the same year. At the very outset he was called on to experience that penalty of an Indian career that so many have to undergo, for, though his wife accompanied him, he had to leave his two little daughters behind in England.

Before handing over charge of his office to Lord Dalhousie, his immediate predecessor, Lord Hardinge, had remarked that, so far as human foresight could predict, it would not be necessary to fire a gun in India for seven years to come. Similarly, the English Press had written, 'Everything seems to favour the new ruler; India is in the full enjoyment of a peace, which, humanly speaking, there seems nothing to disturb.'

Events, however, were destined speedily to falsify these predictions: the seven years of peace Lord Hardinge had predicted ultimately proved to be seven years of war. Indeed, within a short three months after Lord Dalhousie's arrival in India, an event occurred which opened the eyes of the new ruler to the actual state of things. Two British officers, Lieutenant Anderson and Mr. Vans Agnew, were murdered at Multan by the treachery of Mulraj, Governor of the town. This man had been removed from office by the influence of the British Resident at Lahore, and the two officers had been sent to take over the government from him, and to install a Sikh Governor in his place.

These young officers had had to take refuge in a Muhammadan mosque from a sudden attack made on them by a fanatical soldier, and Mulraj directed his guns upon this place. It is to the credit of the Sikh soldiers in the pay of Mulraj, and of the better sort of the people of the town, that they refrained from taking any part in the murder of the defenceless men; it was left to the city rabble, who were not Sikhs at all. Vans Agnew's last words were: 'We are not the last of the English.' A marble tablet to the memory of the young officers was afterwards erected in the Cathedral at Calcutta.

Vans Agnew had sent off a pencilled note for aid to the British Resident at Lahore, and another to the Commissioner of Bannu ; this latter reached the hands of Lieutenant Herbert Edwardes as he was sitting in his solitary tent on the banks of the Indus. The letter was addressed in Persian 'To General Courtland in Bannu, or wherever he may be'. Edwardes, thinking the letter might be urgent, opened it, and realizing the gravity of the situation from its contents, at once rushed to the rescue with his District escort, and a few local companies of Sikhs, in all some 400 men. Mulraj met him with 4,000 men and eight guns. Edwardes could do little without reinforcements, which unfortunately never came. He remarked, 'I am like a terrier barking at a tiger.' Nevertheless, the plucky little terrier kept barking at the tiger all through the hot weather of 1848, and actually, with the help of some native allies from the Muhammadan State of Baha\valpore, succeeded in driving Mulraj back into the fort with the loss of his eight guns. The British commander, however did not see the urgency of a hot-weather campaign, 'as if,' wrote an indignant officer from Multan, 'the rebellion could be put off, like a champagne tiffin, with a three- cornered note to Mulraj to name a date more agreeable.' The local revolt soon extended into a general rising of the Sikhs, and the second Sikh war was thus precipitated. It ended in the annexation of the Punjab to the British Empire.

Lord Dalhousie had expressed his determination to make the last battle of the war a final and decisive one. He wrote to the commander: 'The war must be prosecuted now to the entire defeat and dispersion of all who are in arms against us, whether Sikhs or Afghans: and a final and decisive one it was accordingly made. Of the Afghan horsemen who had been engaged, a native writer wrote in picturesque language: 'They had ridden down through the hills like lions, and they ran back into them like dogs.'

Before the second Sikh war, Lord Dalhousie had been averse from annexation, but after it he realized that this was the only feasible policy. 'There never will be peace in the Punjab,' he wrote, ' as long as its people are allowed to retain the means and the opportunity of making war: there never can be now any guarantee for the tranquillity of India until we shall have effected the entire subjection of the Sikh people and destroyed its power as an independent nation.' it is interesting to note how the difference in the character of the two advisers whom Lord Dalhousie had consulted in the matter came out in their respective answers: Henry Lawrence had said that annexation was just but not expedient; John Lawrence had said that it was just, and that its expediency was undeniable and pressing. The country was therefore annexed: the boy prince was deposed, and was granted a very handsome provision for life, with the titular dignity of Prince. In making his final decision, Lord Dalhousie used these solemn words: 'While deeply sensible of the responsibility I have assumed, I have an undoubting conviction of the expediency, the justice, and the necessity of my act. What I have done, I have done with a clear conscience, and in the honest belief that it was imperatively demanded of me by my duty to the State.'

The natural corollary to conquest was the settlement and consolidation of the country. Lord Dalhousie personally dealt with each question as it came up, and personally inspected each part of the Province: he also took up his residence for many months of the year at Simla, so as to be near. With Lord Dalhousie as the controlling power, and with such agents as the Lawrences, Herbert Edwardes, and John Nicholson, the success of the measures that were taken to settle the Province was assured.

That even the chiefs were ultimately satisfied by the arrangements made may be illustrated by the remark of one of them : 'We have got more than Ranjit Singh would ever have given us, and that free of all military service.' Not the least important of the measures taken was the settlement of the Land Tax on a fairer basis than before, and the establishment of a record of rights. The two instruments of the revenue system of the old Sikh Governments had been the soldier and the tax-gatherer: the taxes were often collected, indeed, at the point of the bayonet: just so in Oudh, its Kings were in the habit of collecting the taxes at the cannon's mouth. A new moral life was stirred up in the country by the introduction of an educational system; that this was so, may be illustrated by the action which the Sikh Sardars took in resolving to reduce their heavy marriage expenses ; the old financial difficulty of providing dowries for their daughters 'had been one of the principal causes that led to the crime of female infanticide formerly so rife in the Punjab. It was this successful administration that made of the Punjab what it became in the troublesome days of the Mutiny: The Saviour Province of India.'

Lord Dalhousie was next involved in war with the Raja of Sikhirn, who had treacherously seized the British political officer, and the great botanist, Sir Joseph Hooker. This war resulted in the annexation of an outlying tract of the country: it was only a fitting punishment for such an act of treachery.

Ever since the Burmese War in Lord Amherst's time, Rangoon had remained an integral part of the Burmese Empire. A British Resident had been originally stationed at Ava, and during the lifetime of the ruler, with whom the Treaty of Yandabu had been made, it had been faithfully observed. On the succession of a new ruler, a change had taken place in the position of the British: no representative had been allowed at the Burmese capital: and all diplomatic relations had ceased. The pretensions of the Emperor of Burmah of the time may be illustrated from such high-sounding titles as : 'The Elder Brother of China,' 'The Lord who is the greatest of Kings.' The immediate cause of the action of Lord Dalhousie was a petition of British merchants at Rangoon, which stated that the Burmese Governor had granted his dependants permission to rob the inhabitants, as he had no money to pay them ; they were to get money as best they could. A British naval officer was sent to interview the Governor in order to obtain redress. He could get no reply at all to his repeated requests for an interview; he was kept waiting in the sun, and then was informed that the Governor was asleep, and could not be disturbed. It became evident that redress could not be obtained by peaceful means, and that there was no other alternative but war. The result of the war that ensued w-as the conquest and annexation of Lower Burmah. From the very commencement of the campaign, Lord Dalhousie had laid down the principle that, with a nation so ridiculously and mischievously self-conceited and arrogant, whatever was conquered must be annexed; any other course would be regarded as a sign of weakness.

The chief incident in the campaign was the storming of the great temple-citadel of the Shwe Dagon Pagoda at Rangoon. On the occasion of a visit which Lord Dalhousie paid at a later date to Rangoon, he remarked to the British General: 'I cannot imagine, General, how your men ever got in at this place.' The chief constituents of the garrison were the picked guards, known as 'The Immortals of the Golden Country', whose discipline compelled them to die at their posts: on this occasion, however, they were the first to flee, and they were in such a hurry that they forgot to unloose some women and children who had been fastened up among the guns as pledges for the valour of the defenders. The curious device by which the courage of the ordinary troops used to be ensured also proved of no avail on this occasion: the king used to keep the wives and children of the married soldiers as hostages, while all bachelor soldiers were chained up to the guns and embrasures of the forts. While he foresaw the necessity of an ultimate annexation of the whole Burmese Empire, Lord Dalhousie was content to stay his hand after the capture of the city that commanded the approach to the capital by river: his reasons for thus acting were given in a private letter: 'To march to Ava will give no peace unless the army remains at Ava; in other words, unless we absorb the whole Burmese Empire: that necessity may come some day; I sincerely hope it will not come in my day.'

As had been the case with the Punjab, so now with Burmah, Lord Dalhousie devoted much time and thought to the question of the administration of the newly annexed territory, and he personally controlled the measures taken. He paid altogether four visits to see that his policy was properly carried out. The nature of the problems to be solved was distinct. For one thing, there was an entire absence of any ruling class in Burmah, below the King and the King's officials ; these latter were only the instruments of the King's oppression—the attitude of the people towards them was naturally, therefore, one of distrust and dislike, and disorder was the natural atmosphere in which they moved. The change that took place under British administration was naturally slow, but the final results were good: a conviction was created among the people that under British rule peaceful industry yielded an easier livelihood than crime.

By the conquest and consequent annexation of the Punjab, Lower Burmah, and the outlying tracts of Sikhim, Lord Dalhousie had added to the British dominions in India territories equal to nearly twice the area of England and Wales.

The annexations which were made by Lord Dalhousie were forced on him by circumstances just as conquest had been. It was becoming increasingly evident that the old system of ruling, through the make-believe of sham royalties, could exist no longer side by side with the object- lesson which was being shown the people of India of the very different system under which the Government of India itself was administering its own territories. If the Government of India itself recognized, as it undoubtedly did, that it existed only for the benefit of the governed, and not for the profit of the rulers, it was only natural that it should insist on the same policy for the Dependent Native States. The Times, in an article written in the year 1853, on the results of the old system, under which native rulers, no matter what the character of their rule, had been bolstered up by British support, had thus expressed itself : 'We give many of these princes power without responsibility: our hand of iron maintains them on the throne despite their imbecility, their vices, and their crimes.' Even Sir Henry Lawrence had been obliged to acknowledge of many of the native Indian rulers of the time that, if they could not plunder strangers, they must harry their own people. The time seemed ripe then for a change, and Lord Dalhousie determined to apply to the Dependent Native States of India the principle that already actuated the Supreme Government, namely, that government is not designed for the profit of princes but for the welfare of the people.

The whole question practically centred round the privilege of adoption. Under Hindu Law, every man has the right of adopting a son on failure of a male heir, to allow of the proper discharge of all due religious ceremonies, on which the welfare of the deceased parent depends in his future state in the other world ; the adopted son thus became the spiritual persona of his adoptive father, and succeeded to his property. This was recognized by the Government as a right to succession to property, but not to government. As regards the right, of succession to government, the principle had been laid down by law that, where the government of a State was in question, the consent of the paramount power was necessary to confirm such an adoption; it was further recognized that the paramount power had full legal right to withhold its assent if it thought fit; a recognition of adoption was to be regarded, moreover, as a special mark of favour.

A poet has well expressed the principle on which the Sovereign Power is bound to act in such cases:-

Are crowns and empire,
The government and safety of mankind,
Trifles of such light moment to be left
Like some rich toy, a ring, or fancied gem,
Like pledge of parting friends?
Can kings do thus,
And give away a people for a legacy?

On this principle Lord Dalhousie proceeded to act. Thus the doctrine of lapse became, by force of circumstances, the deliberately formulated policy of the Government of India at this time. One of the earliest examples of the application of the new policy was the Principality of Satara. This had been created by the British on the general breakup of the Mahratta power in the early part of the nineteenth century. The ruler of the State had adopted a successor on his death-bed. As far back, however, as 1841, the principle had been laid down that it was inexpedient to reconstitute a subordinate State by recognizing a death-bed adoption. Lord Dalhousie and his responsible advisers decided that in this particular case the principle must be adhered to; Satara therefore lapsed to the British Government, and thus became an integral part of the British dominions. In the next case, that of Samnbalpur, the chief had deliberately refused to adopt an heir, with the express view that his people, after his death, might enjoy the security of English administration: here the question of adoption did not come up at all : it was a case of a childless chief practically bequeathing his territory to the British Government. Jhansi had been ceded by the Peshwa to the British so far back as 1817 : in 1832, a Raja had been created out of the local Subandar: he had died childless a few years later, after a weak and oppressive administration. The Government of the day selected a great-uncle to succeed him; he also died childless after a similar oppressive rule. The Government again selected a successor, but, owing to the country having fallen into disorder, had for a time to assume the administration itself, the management being afterwards restored to the Baja. He proved a fair ruler as judged by native standards; lie died in 1853, leaving no natural heir, but only an adopted child. The question then arose whether the child was to be allowed to succeed to the sovereignty of the State: the Government, having in view the misrule of the previous thirty years, and the calamities that had befallen the people in consequence, decided in the negative. Lord Dalhousie held that sound policy combined with duty in urging the British Government to refuse to recognize the adoption and to take possession of Jhansi as an escheat. An ample pension was given to the widow, and the territories were brought under the direct administration of the Government of India. Some other smaller States lapsed in the same way. In one case, that of a certain Amir of Scinde, it was discovered that he had obtained possession of certain British districts under a forged document; these, therefore, naturally reverted to their rightful owners. In another ease that occurred in Orissa, the persistent practice by the ruler of the rite of human sacrifice formed an all-sufficient ground for the forfeiture of his territories. Even in these days evidence every now and again crops up to show that this practice has not entirely died out in some of the more remote hill tracts.

Nagpur was perhaps the most important of the States, taking extent of territory into consideration, that were thus annexed. This State comprised four-fifths of the existing Central Provinces, excluding Berar. It had been originally Gond territory, and had been conquered by the Mahrattas in 1781. Years of terrible suffering had followed this conquest. When Mahratta rule disappeared, as it did in 1818, a portion of the old State was reconstituted by the Marquess of Hastings as a subordinate Native State. This was placed under the nominal rule of an infant descendant of the second Raja; an English Resident, Sir Richard Jenkins, was appointed to administer it. The long minority of the young Baja under the able administration of Jenkins extended for some twelve years. This period has been called 'the golden age of Nagpur'. A change of scene occurred when the young Baja attained his majority, and was put in charge of the administration of his territory: lie at once proceeded to dissipate the treasure that had accumulated during his long minority, and recommenced the old Mahratta extortions upon his people. In 1853 the Resident wrote of him: 'One of his choicest amusements is an auction sale, when some unfortunate widow is ruled not to be entitled to her deceased husband's estates.' His sole idea of the treaty that had secured him the chief- ship was that it secured for him British protection against the vengeance of his subjects: 'See,' he had remarked to a newly appointed minister, that the provisions of the Treaty are enforced to protect me in the enjoyment of those pleasures of dancing and singing that I have loved from my boyhood.' He died in 1853, leaving no male heirs and no legitimate daughters; he had persistently refrained, moreover, from adopting an heir. The question then arose whether an adoption by one of his widows should be consented to. Lord Dalhousie decided against the State being thus artificially re-created. 'We set up a Raja at Nagpur,' he wrote, 'we afforded him every advantage a native prince could command: his boyhood was trained under our own auspices : an able and respected princess was his guardian and the regent of the State. For over ten years, while he was yet a youth, we governed his country for him we handed it over to him with an excellent system of administration in full and practical operation, with a disciplined and well-paid army, with a full treasury, and a contented people. Yet, after little more than twenty years, this prince, descending to the tomb, has left behind him a character whose record is disgraceful to him alike as a sovereign and as a man: so favoured and so aided, he has, nevertheless, lived and died a seller of justice, a drunkard, and a debauchee. What guarantee can the British Government now find for itself, or offer to the people of Nagpur, that another successor will not imitate and emulate this bad example? And if that should be the case, what justification could the Government of India hereafter plead for having to exercise the power which it possessed, to avert for ever from the people of Nagpur so probable and so grievous an evil?' The private rights of the family of the deceased Baja were scrupulously respected by Lord Dalhousie. The Court of Directors had declared that the possessions of the Baja were fairly at the disposal of the Government, but, in his regard for all private rights, he himself took a different view: he had the personal effects of the late Baja realized, and thus created a fund called 'The Bhonsla Fund', for the benefit of the family: pensions to the various members of the family and their dependants were assigned out of the large revenues that thus accrued. Lord Dalhousie further ordered that the widows should be treated with the greatest courtesy, in consideration of their rank, their sex, and their changed condition. This treatment of the widows presented a marked contrast to that which the late Raja himself had served out to the widows of his own subjects who happened to die possessed of wealth that he coveted.

In Southern India, the last Nawab of the Karnatik had died, 'of dancing girls and of ennui,' wrote Sir Edwin Arnold, in 1855, after some thirty years of misrule : he had left no natural heirs : as far back as 1819, the definite conditions had been laid down that the title was not to be regarded as an hereditary one. It was therefore now decided by the Court of Directors that the title of Nawab should be placed in abeyance: liberal pensions were awarded to the members of the family, and the rank of premier nobleman in Madras was assigned to the leading representative of the family.

Another ease of lapse, but not of territory, was that of the pension that had been originally granted, as far back as 1818, by the Government of the Marquess of Hastings, to the deposed Mahratta Prince, Baji Rao. It had been distinctly stated at the time, that it was to be a life pension only. Baji Rao only died in 1851. The pension was not continued to his adopted son, the Nana Sahib, as he has been generally styled: at the same time, the Government treated him very liberally by granting him the land, where his father had been residing, as a Jaghir for life. The Secretary to the Government, in explaining the ample provision that had been made for him, thus wrote: 'For twenty-three years the Peshwa received an annual clear stipend of eighty thousand pounds, besides the proceeds of the Jaghir: in that time he received the enormous sum of more than two millions and a half sterling. He had no charges to maintain, he has left no sons of his own, and he has bequeathed property to the amount of two hundred and eighty thousand pounds to his family. Those who remain have no claim whatever on the consideration of the Government : neither have they any claim on its charity, because the income left to them is amply sufficient.' History records how the Nana Sahib made it a grievance that the pension was not continued to him, and how he took the first opportunity that presented itself, in the troublous times of the Mutiny, to avenge himself, leaving a name behind him that no one can envy, 'the infamous Nana Sahib.'

As regards the more important Sovereign States, the policy of the Government had been to maintain the succession as far as was practicable it was considered a matter of the highest political importance that an orderly devolution of the succession should take place on the demise of each prince the Government had accordingly directed its efforts to secure that an heir should be invariably forthcoming, whether by public declaration, or by testamentary provision, or by adoption. Lord Dalhousie did not depart from the principle thus laid down. In the case of the two principal States that circumstances compelled him to deal with, Hyderabad and Oudh, two different questions were involved. As regards Hyderabad, the Nizam was bound by Treaty to pay for the contingent of troops maintained by the Government in his territories : the payments had, however, fallen considerably into arrear; in order, therefore, to ensure more punctual payment in the future, a Treaty was made in 1853 between the Nizam and the Government of India whereby certain districts, comprising the territory known as The Berars, were ceded to the British. This territory is now included in the administration of the Central Provinces, having been leased practically in perpetuity from the Nizam by a Treaty made with him by the Government of Lord Curzon. For all practical purposes this cession of territory may therefore be styled an annexation.

As regards the important State of Oudh, far more important questions were involved. Repeated warnings against misrule and tyranny had been conveyed to the rulers of Oudh, both by dispatch and by personal advice tendered by successive Governor-Generals, on their visits to the State on various occasions. The King had been given every chance of reforming his administration. In 1847 Lord Hardinge had visited Lucknow, and had solemnly warned the King that, unless His Majesty reformed his administration within two years, the British Government would be forced to interfere by assuming the direct government of Oudh. In 1851, Colonel Sleeman, who was at the time Resident at the Court of Lucknow, made such a report of the state of things as compelled the Governor- General to ask himself whether he could any longer be responsible for such a spectacle of human misery and callous misrule. In 1854 he asked Colonel Outram for a report: this showed that matters, instead of improving, had been steadily growing from worse to worse. The country, Outram reported, was completely delivered over to anarchy and the cruelest forms of oppression. Lord Dalhousie realized that the time for action had now come, and in sending his report of the state of affairs to the Home Government he wrote: ' I respectfully submit that the time has come when inaction on the part of the British Government in relation to the affairs of the Kingdom of Oudh can now be no longer justified, and is already converting our responsibility into guilt.'

He suggested that, while the King should be permitted to retain his royal title and rank, lie should be required to vest the whole civil and military administration of Oudh in the lands of the Company, and that its power should be perpetual in duration, as well as ample in extent. The Home Government decreed the sterner policy of complete annexation, a policy which involved the deposition of the King. Though Lord Dalhousie himself had not advocated this complete measure, lie loyally carried out the orders. This annexation of Oudh was the last and at the same time the greatest of the annexations of territory made by the Government, and the carrying it out was practically Lord Daihousie's last public act.. The minute he wrote on the occasion contained these solemn words: 'The British Government would be guilty in the sight of God and man, if it were any longer to aid in sustaining by its countenance an administration fraught with suffering to millions: with this feeling on my mind, and in humble reliance on the blessing of the Almighty, for millions of His creatures will draw freedom and happiness from the change, I approach the execution of this duty gravely, and not without solicitude, but calmly and altogether without doubt.'

Conquest and annexation only formed one part, and that perhaps not the most important part, of the rule of Lord Dalhousie. Great works of internal organization also formed a very conspicuous feature of it. Owing to the recent vast accession of territory, many changes in administration had become necessary. The measure of time changes effected by Lord Dalhousie in the map of India may be gauged by the fact that he left to his successors to administer a country whose area was a third and a half larger than the country he had himself received charge of from his predecessor. The first change in administration made was to relieve the Governor-General of the charge of Bengal, for the administration of which lie was still responsible, and the burden of which, with his other responsibilities, had become intolerable. Bengal was for the future to be ruled by a Lieutenant-Governor. In order that the Governor-General might be in a position to maintain watch and ward over provinces so far apart as the new Provinces were, and to exercise supervision generally over the whole Empire, the location of the Imperial Government for the greater part of the year at Simla was decided on. Hitherto the command of India had been held by the British, as became a great ocean power, from the sea: on the land side India had been isolated from all her powerful neighbours by intervening States : under the new condition of things created by Lord Dalhousie, India had practically been converted into an inland Asiatic realm. A redistribution of military power had thus become necessary, and the head quarters of the Army was removed from Calcutta to a station one thousand miles inland. Calcutta thus ceased to be the political and military head quarters of time Government.

Lord Dalhousie organized for his new Provinces a mixed system of government by which lie endeavoured to unite military strength and promptitude with civilian exactitude of justice and vigilance in administrative details. Local usages and customs were to form the groundwork of the whole system of judicial and revenue administration, and the simple class only of British Laws, Enactments, and Regulations, as culled from the systems at work in the older Provinces, was to be introduced. Under such a system as this, the affairs of native life proceeded upon their previous footing with scarcely a perceptible change. In matters of revenue or criminal law there was of course a change; thus, if a man committed a crime, he found himself dealt with by a stricter judicial procedure, and fined or sent to prison, instead of having his hand or foot chopped off. This system was known as 'The Non-Regulation System', and was itself a striking testimony to the genius of Lord Dalhousie. It proved to have within itself the capacity of adaptation to the new wants and requirements of the people, as they prospered and multiplied under British rule. With the further development and progress of the Provinces, other changes have become necessary, and these have been introduced from time to time, as circumstances have permitted.

All these administrative changes were but preliminary to the great work of consolidation and development which forms one of the distinguishing characteristics of Lord Dalhousie's rule in India. He has been styled the father of the railway and the telegraph systems, as the introduction of both was entirely his work. In his usual picturesque language, Sir Edwin Arnold has said of the railway system in India as devised by Lord Dalhousie: 'Railways may do for India what dynasties have never done: what the genius of Akbar the Magnificent could not effect by government, nor the cruelty of Tippu Sultan by violence: they may make India a nation.' It is interesting to note that, as a corollary to the development of railways, Lord Dalhousie took every precaution to encourage freedom of trade at the chief ports of India.

It is hard in these days to realize the immense difficulties that the pioneers of the telegraph system had to encounter in India, and for that matter throughout the East. Science and perseverance, however, triumphed in the end over all difficulties. The casual remark of a mutineer as lie was being led out to execution, 'It is that accursed string that strangles us,' affords a remarkable illustration of the utility of the telegraph in India at the time of the Mutiny.

Another great factor in Lord Dalhousie's work of consolidation was his introduction of cheap postage. One writer goes so far as to say: 'It has done more than perhaps his telegraphs or his railways, in revolutionizing the old, stagnant, and self-isolated life in India.' In old days, the postmaster was often the station doctor, or some subaltern who had plenty of spare time on his hands; in the present day village schoolmasters are found in the remotest districts acting in the same capacity.

The Public Works Department was the creation of Lord Dalhousie; he specially encouraged the training of skilled engineers, and instituted Engineering Schools in the three leading Presidencies, while at the same time he urged on the Home Government the training of young men in England for an Indian career in the Department.

Apart from the material benefits which Lord Dalhousie conferred on the people of India, he laid India under an eternal obligation by the inestimable moral benefits which followed in the train of his educational system; he laid the foundations of a national system of Education. To him was due the development of that system of vernacular instruction which Mr. Thomason had inaugurated among the masses of the population in the Upper Provinces. The celebrated dispatch of Sir Charles Wood in 1854 laid down the lines which were to be followed: 'Indian Education was to be founded neither on English nor on Sanscrit or Arabic, but on the modern vernacular languages of the Indian peoples.' Under the system thus developed by Lord Dalhousie, a network of educational institutions was spread over India; this was his crowning act of consolidation. New forces, both intellectual and political, have been set in motion by the liberal educational policy of the Government. 'It is to the credit of Lord Dalhousie,' writes an authority, 'that he was the first to begin that process of binding together the Indian races, both by a common system of education, and by a community of interest, mercantile and political, which was altogether unknown in Ancient India, and which forms the most significant feature of the India of to-day.' What the issue will be it is impossible to foresee. Sir Edwin Arnold, in summing up the results of Lord Dalhousie's rule, has said: 'We are making a people in India, where hitherto there have been a hundred tribes, but no people.'

This sketch, so far as it has gone, has delineated the born ruler of commanding personality: a portrait of the man, as he appeared to his contemporaries, may well be presented in conclusion. Speaking of Lord Dalhousie's general characteristics, one authority has written: 'Small of stature, but with a noble head, a most penetrating glance, and a noble demeanour, the little man of Government House first inspired awe in those with whom he came in contact, then trust, and finally an ardent admiration, in which loyalty to the master mingled strangely with personal love. During eight years of trials, and sorrows, and successes, ho presented to our countrymen in India the loftiest type, I had almost said the apotheosis, of the great qualities with which we in distant lands love to associate the name of Englishman.'

Lord Daihousie's administrative qualities were of no mean order; he possessed an enormous capacity for work, and rarely allowed himself less than eight hours' continuous brain-work at his desk: sitting down at half-past nine in the morning, he never quitted it, even while he ate his lunch, till half-past five in the afternoon. Nothing was allowed to interfere with his daily tale of work, neither weariness, nor heat, nor the fatigue of an Indian march. Sir Richard Temple, himself at one time a notable administrator, wrote thus of him: 'Every man who had business with him felt that intercourse to be a pleasure : the harder the affair the greater the satisfaction, so completely trained was his capacity for administration.' Of his ordinary routine work, the Chief Clerk of the Foreign Department once remarked that, if Lord Dalhousie had been a writer paid by the sheet, he would have earned a considerable income. Towards his subordinates ho was always scrupulously polite: when it did become necessary to administer a rebuke, he always did so in writing, and toned its severity down in the act.

He exacted from all under him that same austere conscientiousness in the performance of duty that characterized himself. All who served him loyally, and there were few who did not do so, regarded him as a trustworthy friend, while at the same time looking up to him with a certain awe. One of the principal factors that succeeded in winning the allegiance and loyalty of his lieutenants, was their recognition of the fact that he owned time truest right to command, the right of personal knowledge gained by personal work.

Yet another factor was his great power of sympathy: the knowledge that all those who worked immediately under hi had, that he watched with interest every incident in their lives, naturally drew from them the best that they had to give in return. He possessed great strength of will, which was especially conspicuous in the resistance he offered to the inroads of disease and ill-health, the results of his devotion to duty; he never gave himself rest till he had completed the task he had set himself to do. He suppressed as much as possible, we are told, any manifestation of his distress or suffering, and the public was scarcely aware that his strength and life were gradually, but surely, ebbing away. The only occasion on which he is ever known to have broken down was on the receipt of the news of his wife's death at sea, on her homeward voyage, in 1853. It is recorded of him that lie fell to the ground as if stricken dead, and for two days he shut himself up with his grief. But his old fortitude returned, and he again had recourse to work as his sure and only consolation in his grief. The contrast that was presented between the man when he first came to India, and the man who left India, must have struck everybody; he came to India more or less in the plenitude of youthful vigour and activity: he has himself left on record what he felt like when he was leaving India. The occasion was the installation of Lord Canning as his successor in office: Sir John Lawrence had asked him a certain question to which he had replied: 'I wish I were in Canning's place, and he in mine, and then wouldn't I govern India; but no, I could not wish my worst enemy to be the poor, miserable, broken-down, dying man I am now.'

The crowds that assembled to witness the departure for his native land of 'the glorious little invalid', as a contemporary writer styled him, were swayed with but one feeling, a deep sense of regret, combined with admiration they realized that they were losing a man, the key-notes of whose career in India had been devotion to duty and self-sacrifice, and they now also realized that he had practically given his life for India. So indeed it proved: within a short five years, which were years of suffering borne with exemplary patience and fortitude, the first Marquess Dalhousie passed away in his own home, at the early age of forty-nine.

The Marquis of Dalhousie's Administration of British India
By Edwin Arnold in 2 volumes (1862)
Volume 1 | Volume 2


This comment system requires you to be logged in through either a Disqus account or an account you already have with Google, Twitter, Facebook or Yahoo. In the event you don't have an account with any of these companies then you can create an account with Disqus. All comments are moderated so they won't display until the moderator has approved your comment.

comments powered by Disqus