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Scots in India
Sir John Malcolm

SIR JOHN MALCOLM, 1769-1833.

JOHN MALCOLM was born in Scotland, and it is of interest to note that the Great Duke, who was destined to become one of his greatest friends, was born in the same month and the same year, and almost on the same day. He was an active-minded boy and full of innocent mischief while at school ; and it is recorded that, whenever anything mischievous out of the common occurred, the head master used to say, 'Au! Jock's at the bottom of it.' In after years, when Malcolm had become a distinguished man, he sent his old schoolmaster a copy of his history of Persia, with 'Jock's at the bottom of it', written on the title-page.

In order to qualify for a cadetship in the East India Company's service, which he was anxious to get, he had to appear before the Board of Directors at the early age of twelve. This was the usual procedure in those days, just as in these, candidates for a cadetship in the Royal Navy have to appear before a special Board of Naval Officers. This system of inspection of candidates has many advantages. Personality may begin to stamp itself on the features at an early age: a boy wears no mask and his face is often an index to his character. A judge of character, therefore, may often in this way get some idea of a boy's pregnant capacity, and the boy, for his part, has some chance of showing some side of himself which reveals latent characteristics that may appeal to his judges. Thus John Malcolm's bearing made a very favourable impression on the Board. One of the members of the Board put this question to him '"My little man, what would you do, if you were to meet Haidar All?' 'Do,' replied the boy, nothing daunted, 'I would out with my sword, and cut off his head.' The Directors were delighted and at once passed him as a. cadet. He was too young to be sent out to India at 011cc, and so was sent to school for another year or so. He was only fourteen when he eventually proceeded to India. In the following year, fifteen was fixed as the minimum age for entrance into the Company's military service.

When he first arrived in India war was in progress, not only between the English and the French, but also between the English and Tipu Sultan, the Ruler of Mysore. He was too young to be sent on active service. The war with the French ceased soon after his arrival : and the war with Tipu was brought to a conclusion the year after. An exchange of prisoners had been arranged for, and Malcolm, young as he was, was entrusted with the mission. An amusing story is related relative to this ' The British officer, a Major Dallas, who was deputed to escort the prisoners out of Tipu's territories, and to hand them over to the British detachment sent to the frontier, seeing a slight rosy healthy-looking English boy astride on a rough pony, with some English troops, asked him for his commanding officer. "I am the commanding officer," said the boy, drawing himself up in the saddle. The Major smiled, the boy was John Malcolm.' He was only fifteen at the time: he and the Major became life-long friends. Like many other youngsters on first arriving in India, John Malcolm was not long in getting into debt: in these early days there was some excuse for this, as pay was so small. In Bengal there was an expression in common use to illustrate the extent to which some young civilians used to become involved: it used to be said of such a one, 'He has turned his lakh.' John Malcolm, fortunately for himself, did not get very heavily involved, and having once got in, he determined to get out again, and eventually he managed to do so, though as he said he had to stint and starve himself. A story has been told to illustrate the hardships he suffered while thus extricating himself:  'An old native woman in the regimental bazaar, taking compassion upon his youth, implored him to receive supplies from her, to be paid for at his Convenience. He was for ever grateful for this act of kindness and humanity, and in after years he settled a pension on her for the rest of her life.

On war again breaking out with Tipu, an opportunity came to Malcolm of seeing active service. His regiment was ordered to co-operate with the troops of the Nizam of Haidarabad. This proved to be the turning-point in his career. His biographer has recorded how his meeting with some celebrated political officers in the Nizarn's camp caused a new ambition to stir within him. He made up his mind he also would become a great political. He was now a man of twenty-one, and was noted as a crack shot, and a gymnast: he was always so active and fond of sport that the sobriquet 'Boy Malcolm', given him in his youth, stuck to him till late in life, even after he had become a distinguished public servant. Up to this time he had been regarded as 'a careless, good-humoured fellow, illiterate, but with pregnant ability'. And, considering that he had entered on the active business of life at an age when most boys are at school, it was no reproach to him to be styled so: but he was soon to remove the stigma of illiteracy, and his pregnant ability was soon to manifest itself to the world in the field of thought, as it had already begun to do in the field of action. He no longer confined his attention to physical exercises, but began seriously to devote himself to study. He took steps to acquire the native languages, and especially a knowledge of the courtly Persian, acquaintance with which is to this day a passport to influence at many an Oriental court. It was, indeed, his speaking acquaintance with Persian that made the visits of the diplomatist, Earl Dufferin, so welcome to Indian princes. Malcolm also applied himself to the study of Indian history. The philosopher, Bacon, has remarked in one of his essays on worldly wisdom: 'Reading maketh a full man; conference a ready man; and writing an exact man.' Much conference with the world of books had made of Malcolm a full man: much writing had made him an exact man: reading and writing ever went hand in hand with him, and he ever wrote with a ready pen. He would record on paper his meditations on the principles on which the great Indian Empire has been ever administered, by the observance of which it was founded and on which alone it can be maintained; and his observations have ever been regarded as most sound. His biographer gives an account of Malcolm exceeding keenness to obtain a political appointment, and of his great disappointment when he one day only missed getting such an appointment by being only half an hour too late in his application.

He went back to his tent, flung himself down on his couch, and gave way to a flood of tears. But he lived, as many a man before and since has lived, to see in his first crushing miscarriage the crowning mercy of his life. The officer who carried off the prize so coveted by him was murdered on his first appearance at the native court to which he had been accredited. This made a deep impression on Malcolm's mind, and was ever after gratefully remembered. He often spoke of it in later days as an illustration of the little that man knows of what is really for his good, and he taught others, as he himself had learnt, "never to repine at the accidents and mischances of life, but to see in all the hand of an all-merciful Providence, working benignly for our good."

His opportunity arrived at last: he was appointed Persian interpreter to a detachment of the British army serving with the Nizam at Seringapatam. He wrote that Lord Cornwallis had appointed him 'because he considered him the officer with that corps best qualified for the station'. At this crisis in his career his health unfortunately failed, and he had to seek health again in England. He returned to India as military secretary to the Commander-in-Chief of the Madras Army, and he retained this office under General Clarke's successor, General Harris, who was also for a time Governor of Madras. He was holding the appointment of Town-Major of Madras when an opportunity presented itself to him which he was not slow to avail himself of. The new Governor-General, Lord Mornington, afterwards the Marquis Wellesley, touched at Madras on his way to take up his appointment in Calcutta. John Malcolm was introduced to him in the course of his historical studies, Malcolm had drafted certain reports on British relations with the Native States, and especially with the State of Haidarabad: he sent these to the Governor-General. His reward was an appointment as assistant to the Resident at the court of the Nizam. He had now obtained what he had long coveted, definite employment in the political department. He was, moreover, fortunate in receiving a mission, the successful issue to which was to prove his capacity. A strong body of troops in the Nizam's service was officered by Frenchmen, who had French revolutionary colours, and wore French revolutionary symbols on their uniforms. This corps was to be disbanded, and it was Malcolm's business to effect this. The story is thus told: 'The Sepoys at first refused to listen to him and threatened to treat him as they had their own officers: at this juncture some of the Sepoys who had been in the Company's service recognized him, and remembering the kindnesses they had received from him when he was their company officer, went to his rescue they lifted him up above the crowd and bore him on their heads to a place of safety, out of the reach of the exasperated mob of mutinous Sepoys.' Eventually the corps was disbanded, and without bloodshed. Malcolm was summoned to Calcutta, and took with him the colours of the disbanded regiment. From the date of Malcolm's interview with the Governor-General in Calcutta, his future was assured. The Marquis Wellesley, like the great Pitt, knew a man when he saw him, and as the historian remarks: He saw in Malcolm a man to be trusted and employed.'

The time had now come for the final struggle for supremacy in Southern India between the British and the Mysore Power. Tipu Sultan was offered peace, but on English terms. The negotiations failed, and there was no alternative but war. The Governor-General, when once he had decided what was the right thing to do, was not the man to delay, and he proceeded in person to Madras to expedite matters. He took Malcolm with him as his political assistant, giving him, at the same time, the appointment of military commander over the troops of the Nizam that were to co-operate with the British in the military operations against Tipu. Malcolm's first duty was to quell a dangerous mutiny among these troops, and this he did to the admiration of the Nizam's officers: at the same time he attracted the attention of Sir Arthur Wellesley, who was in command of the British troops attached to the Nizani's contingent ; this proved the commencement of that friendship between the two distinguished mdi that lasted till Malcolm's death. General Harris was in supreme command of the operations, which in the end were completely successful, though there was a time oil eve of the final assault on the great fortress when matters looked very serious for the British. The story is thus told by the historian ' The storming party had been told off, and the hour for their advance had nearly arrived, when Malcolm entered the tent of the Commander-in-Chief. The General was sitting alone very gravely pondering the important work before him, and the great interests at stake. "Why, my Lord, so thoughtful," cried Malcolm, congratulating him, by anticipation, on the peerage within his reach. The lightness of his tone was not pleasing to the over-burdened General, who answered sternly, 'Malcolm, this is no time for compliments. We have serious work in hand don't you see that the European sentry over my tent is so weak from want of food and exhaustion, that a Sepoy could push him down. We must take this fort, or perish in the attempt." There was similar anxiety in Tipu's camp; only a short time before, finding he had been out generalled by the British, he had summoned his principal officers, and had exclaimed, "We have arrived at our last stage: what now are we to do? what is your determination?" The officers had replied. "We will all die with you." And it was a fight to a finish. Seringapatani fell, and with it fell its chief with his fall ended the great Muhammadan usurpation of Southern india." ' John Malcolm was joint-secretary, with Thomas Munro, of the Commission appointed by the Marquis Wellesley for the partition of the Mysore territories.

Malcolm had been able to give his chief fresh evidence of his capacity. He was now to be employed on a mission requiring the exercise of more tactful and delicate diplomacy than he had hitherto been called upon to display. The Governor-General, having in view the necessity of checking the intrigues of the Ruler of Afghanistan, Zaman Shah, and of checkmating suspected designs of France on India, resolved on the dispatch of a mission to Persia, and to place John Malcolm at the head of it. The mission left India for the Persian Gulf in 1799. After a visit to Muscat, Malcolm landed at Bushire, and proceeded to Teheran. Englishmen were not so well known in the East in those days as they are now, and it was a good thing for the prestige of England that the young Englishmen who represented her at the courts of Eastern sovereigns were men whose personality was in every way calculated to make a good impression. The historian has recorded the impression Malcolm's personal appearance made on the court of the Shah: 'His fine stature, his commanding presence, and the mixture of good-humour and of resolute prowess with which he conducted all his negotiations, compelled them to form a high estimate of the English people. He was in their eyes a Rustain, or hero of the first magnitude.' Similarly, it has been recorded, young Metcalfe compelled the admiration of the great Sikh Maharaja, Ranjit Singh. The Governor-General considered Malcolm's conduct of the negotiations to have been eminently praiseworthy; and on his return to India he was summoned to Calcutta for an interview, and was most cordially received. The Marquis promised him the next high appointment in the political service that he had at his disposal. His letters home at this period had kept his family acquainted with the variety of his work, and his father wrote to him in reply: 'The account of your employments is like fairy tales to us; your filial effusions brought tears of joy to the eyes of your parents. A good head will gain you the esteem and applause of the world, but a good heart alone gives happiness. It is a continual feast.'

Malcolm had been temporarily appointed private secretary to the Governor-General, and he accompanied him on a tour up-country in that capacity. Upon their reaching Allahabad, the Governor-General received the serious news that the envoy of the Persian court had been shot in the course of an affray in the streets of Bombay. Malcolm was sent on a special mission to put matters straight with the Persian court. The work took him about six weeks and he succeeded so well in his mission by the letters of explanation he wrote from Bombay to the Shah, and by his liberal expenditure of money, that it was said afterwards in Persia that 'the English might kill a dozen ambassadors if they would always pay for them at the same rate'.

On his return from Bombay he was appointed Resident of Mysore. He did not take up the appointment at once as he paid a short visit to Madras, and then proceeded to join the camp of Sir Arthur Wellesley, who was engaged in military operations against. the Mahrattas, and he was able to be of some assistance to Wellesley in restoring the Peshwa, Baji Rao, to the throne of Puna. He had the misfortune to be absent when the great victory of Assaye was won: he had been obliged to run down to Bombay, to pick up after a serious illness. A visit, to Bombay, in order to get a breath of sea-air, was at this time regarded as a panacea for all the ills that English flesh is heir to in the East.

The next political work Malcolm was engaged on was the negotiation of a Treaty with the young Daulat Rao Scindia. Oriental Darbars are usually very solemn ceremonials indeed. The Darbar, which was held to receive Malcolm, appears to have been at one stage a lively scene enough, from the description that has been given of it: 'A hailstorm suddenly came on and hailstones were brought in and presented in all quarters, and all began to eat, or rather to drink them. For ten minutes the scene more resembled a school at the moment when the boys have got to play than an Eastern Darbar.' In one of the best novels of travel ever written, Eothen, a statement is made that the character that appeals most to the Oriental is that of the frank and hearty sailor-man, however bluff he may be. There is much truth in this, and it is similarly true that the character that least appeals to them is that of the man who is always studiously polite in his dealings with them. Orientals have ever a keen perception of character and they can quickly detect the false ring that often accompanies an attitude of studied politeness. The one character attracts; the other repels. Malcolm's frank and hearty geniality, which he displayed on all occasions, soon completely captivated the imagination of the young Maharaja. He invited Malcolm to go tiger-shooting with him, and on another occasion he invited him, and this perhaps was the greatest mark of favour he could show, to play Holi with him. The incident has been thus recorded in Malcolm's own words: 'I am to deliver the Treaty to-day and afterwards to play Holi, for which I have prepared an old coat and hat. Scindia is furnished with an engine of great power, by which he can play upon a fellow at fifty yards' distance. He has, besides, a magazine of syringes, so I expect to be well squirted.' There are two sides to the celebration of the festival known as 'The Holi Festival'. On its more boisterous side it consists in throwing red powder and squirting water in which red powder has been dissolved at everybody within reach: and with the more ignorant masses of the population it is often accompanied with much unrestrained licence and revelling; under this aspect it approaches to the Roman Saturnalia. This is the side that is most often seen, especially by Englishmen, and it is this side of it that meets with not altogether undeserved reproach. But there is another side that only reveals itself to those who take the trouble to know something about the intimate life of the people, and who are honoured by their confidence. Under this aspect it is marked by the exchange of very pleasant civilities and courtesies. An Englishman who is fortunate enough to be so honoured may congratulate himself that he has to some extent won the goodwill of his Indian friends. The Treaty which Malcolm had been sent to negotiate was at last signed and dispatched to Calcutta. Malcolm was a little doubtful as to how it would be received by the Governor-General; but he was not a man be afraid of responsibility: his views on this subject have been thus recorded: 'A man who flees from responsibility in public affairs is like a soldier who quits the rank in action: he is certain of ignominy and does not escape danger.' The Governor-General, after a certain amount of correspondence, eventually wrote his full approval.

Like most Englishmen who have risen to any eminence in India, Malcolm had always kept up his home ties. He experienced about this time the greatest loss that a man can experience: his father died, and it seemed to him, as, indeed, a similar bereavement has seemed to others similarly situated, as if his chief stimulus to exertion had been removed: the sudden cessation of a regular correspondence and interchange of sympathy seems to have temporarily a paralysing effect upon the mind: and most men, living a. life of distant exile in the East, have at some period or other of that life experienced this feeling. Filial affection was deeply engraved in Malcolm's heart, and it is characteristic of him that, he at once placed all his resources at the disposal of his mother and sisters. 'This domestic trouble, and a return of his old malady, compelled him again to go to the sea-coast to recruit his health, this time he went to Vizagapatam on the East Coast.

On regaining his usual health, and with it his buoyancy of spirits, he proceeded to rejoin his appointment at Mysore. On the way he stayed at Madras to bid farewell to Sir Arthur Wellesley, who was now leaving India for good. He had just settled down, and was engaged on the history of Persia, when he received a summons to Calcutta, where he found that he was again wanted to go on a special mission to the court of Scindia. Complications had arisen owing to Scindia having become reconciled to Holkar, who was still in arms against the British, and having moved his troops up to support Holkar. It was to be Malcolm's delicate mission to detach Scindia from his new alliance and to get the Mahratta Brahman, who had been his evil counsellor, dismissed. His instructions were that if negotiations failed, and Scindia committed any hostile act, he was to be at once attacked. Malcolm had to proceed at the hottest time of the year to Upper India to join the camp of Lord Lake, who was operating against Holkar. What a journey in the hottest season of the year meant in the days when the present amenities of travel did not exist, may be judged of by a visit to any old cemetery in the interior of India: in one such, perhaps the oldest of its kind, which the author of this sketch well remembers being visited by the late Sir W. W. Hunter, when searching for materials for his interesting pictures of life and work in India, it is no uncommon thing to see an inscription engraved on the headstone of a grave to this effect  'Died on palki journey during the month of May.' Even now men are often struck down by heat apoplexy when travelling at the height of the hot weather. On reaching Lord Lake's camp, Malcolm found the army temporarily halted perforce on account of the fierce scorching winds, then prevalent. Meanwhile his old chief, the Marquis Wellesley, had been succeeded by Lord Cornwallis, who had come out as Governor-General for a second term of office with instructions to reverse the policy of his predecessor. Lord Lake received orders to bring the operations against Holkar to as speedy a close as possible. Lord Lake decided that Holkar's various aggressive acts required reprisals on his part, and the army continued its advance. Holkar retreated and crossed the Sutlej. It looked at one time as if the Sepoys of the British army would not cross this river. The incident has been thus told: 'There were signs of wavering, and the leading companies sat down on the banks, when Malcolm rode up to them, spoke in his brave hearty manner a few cheering words to them reminding them that the holy shrine of Amritsar was in advance, and asking them if they would shrink from such a pilgrimage. And the story runs that such was the magic effect of these words, that the Sepoys started up to a man, crossed the river, and soon, followed by their comrades, were in full march into the Punjab.' Holkar submitted, and sent his envoys to treat for peace. A Treaty was made with him and a new one with Scindia. Amongst others who sent envoys at the same time were certain Sikh chiefs. A characteristic story is told of an incident that occurred one day when Malcolm was giving an audience in his tent to some of their envoys: 'Two of his friends suddenly burst into the tent with the news that there were two large tigers in the neighbourhood. Malcolm at the moment had been in some perplexity what reply to give to the envoys, so the interruption was not unwelcome. Starting up and seizing his ever-ready gun he cried out to the astonished Sikhs, "Bagh! Bagh!" (a tiger! a tiger!), and ordering his elephant to be brought round rushed out of the tent. Joining his friends, he shot the tigers, returned with the spoil, and replacing the gun in the corner of his tent, he resumed his seat, and took up the thread of the conversation as if nothing had happened. The envoys in the meanwhile had been declaring that the English gentleman was mad. But there was method in such madness. He had done more than shoot the tigers. He had gained time. He returned with his mind fully made up on an important point which required consideration. And the envoys received a different and a wiser answer than would have been given if the tiger-hunt had not formed an episode in the day's Council.' The task of disbanding the Irregular Levies proved a more onerous task than that of Treaty-making; and though not altogether pleased with the new policy of non-interference in the affairs of Native States so recently inaugurated, he worked loyally in carrying it out, and remained in Upper India as long as anything remained to be done.

On the conclusion of his mission Malcolm returned to Calcutta; and after a short stay there he proceeded to Madras on his way to Mysore. While in Madras he was again taken ill. His popularity was so great that he was never left for long alone in his sickness: he was still in the prime of life, but he did not lack 'that which should accompany old age, as honour, love, obedience, troops of friends'; and he speaks of his sick-room being turned into a chamber levee. Soon after he returned to Mysore he married, and then definitely gave up the intention he had had of retiring from the service; he had already had twenty-four years of service, but he was still a comparatively young man, and was destined not to finally sever his connexion with the country till he had completed in all forty-seven years' service.

Persian affairs had again come to the front. The Sovereigns of Russia and France had but recently formed an alliance; and they were suspected by the British Government of designs against the possessions of the East India Company. The dispatch of an ambassador to the court of Persia had been determined on. Malcolm's friends in England, and among them Sir Arthur Wellesley, had not been successful in getting him nominated to that office. Sir Harford Jones, who was appointed, had, however, taken what Lord Minto, now Governor-General, had thought such an unconscionable time upon the way, that he determined to send a special mission, with Malcolm at its head, from Calcutta. The French already had a magnificent mission at Teheran, and it was thought expedient that England should be represented in an equally magnificent manner. In making his arrangements, therefore, Malcolm had practically a free hand. He left Bombay one April morning in 1808, just as the King's ambassador was in close proximity to that port. Sir Harford Jones received instructions from Lord Minto to remain in Bombay. Meanwhile, Malcolm duly arrived in Persia. The messenger he had sent on with dispatches to the Shah was not allowed to proceed beyond Shiraj the Persian authorities there ordered him to negotiate with the Prince-Governor of the Province. This was all due to the intrigues of the French, whose influence was all-powerful at Teheran. Malcolm regarded it as a direct insult to England, to be met only by his withdrawal from Persian soil, and he determined to return to India to consult with Lord Minto. This he did, leaving a representative at Bushire, who was ordered ' to hold on as best he could'.

He was very cordially received by the Governor-General, and, as a result of his conferences with him, he was directed to return to the Persian Gulf and establish himself with a small force on an island in the Gulf, from which he could threaten the Persian seaboard. The wording of the instructions he received from Lord Minto was a measure of the confidence reposed in him: 'Your duties are not to be defined. All I can say is you are placed in a situation where you are as likely to go wrong from prudence as from the want of it.' This again gave him a free hand, and was just such a roving commission as suited his temperament. He had only just left Calcutta, and was still in the river, when he was recalled by Lord Minto, who had received the news that Sir Harford Jones had given them the slip and had set sail suddenly for Persia. Meanwhile, Malcolm had to remain in Calcutta in more or less enforced inactivity. An amusing incident that occurred during this time is thus recorded in his own words: 'One day Lord Minto caught me employing myself with John Elliot and other boys in trying how long we could keep up two cricket-balls. He says he must send me on a mission to some very young monarch, for that I shall never have the gravity of an ambassador for a prince turned of twelve.

He, however, added the well-known and admirable story of Henry IV of France, who, when caught on all fours carrying one of his children, by the Spanish envoy, looked up, and said, "Is your Excellency married?" "I am, and have a family," was the reply. "Well then," said the Monarch, "I am satisfied, and shall take another turn round the room." And off he galloped, with his little son flogging and spurring him, on his back.' At last, the Council of the Governor-General came to the decision to practically ignore the King's ambassador; and once again Malcolm started for Bombay: he had just completed his arrangements there when he received fresh orders from the Governor-General to suspend his operations. Sir Harford Jones had got the start of them, and had already left Bushire for Teheran, when Lord Minto's dispatches ordering him to return reached that port. There was therefore no help for it; Lord Minto did not wish to complicate matters by a hostile expedition while the King of England was negotiating, through his ambassador, with the King of Persia. This seemed to be the end of all hope of Malcolm's conducting a second mission to Persia but, as it turned out, it was only a postponement.

On the receipt of his orders to suspend operations in Bombay, Malcolm decided to return to his charge in Mysore. On the way there he was detained in the Madras Presidency, upon the invitation of the Governor of Madras, to assist him in the delicate and difficult task of restoring discipline amongst the European officers of the Madras army. He had most difficulty with the European regiment at Masuhipatam, for in this case there was the additional danger of the men of the regiment following the lead of their officers and becoming insubordinate in their turn. The story of how he helped to bring the officers back to their allegiance is thus told: 'He met the officers, talked the matter over freely and candidly with them, admitting as much as he safely could, and afterwards joined them at mess. After dinner, a young officer, flushed with wine, proposed as a toast "Our Common Cause"; with characteristic readiness of address, Malcolm rose and said, " Aye! the Common Cause of our country." The amendment was received and dunk with enthusiasm, and soon afterwards his own health was toasted with universal applause.' This policy succeeded at least in gaining time until the difficulties gradually disappeared, and discipline was eventually restored. Malcolm's special characteristics were never shown to better advantage than on this occasion, much criticized as his conduct was at the time. He believed thoroughly in the innate goodness of human nature, and that it only required the exercise of a little common sense combined with tact and temper to bring it out. The well- known line:

There is some soul of goodness in things evil

represented to him not a mere poetic fancy, but a living and ever-present truth.

Meanwhile news of Sir Harford Jones's progress in Persia had reached Lord Minto at Calcutta: it seemed to him, to say the least, undignified, and not consonant with the traditions of the country whose representative he was. He decided that the situation demanded an ambassador of a different type, and one who would maintain those traditions with the dignity that befitted them. He looked to Malcolm to do this, and he worded his invitation to him in these flattering terms: 'I entreat you to go and lift us to our own height, and to the station that belongs to us once more.' He summoned Malcolm to meet him at Madras, and arranged with him the final details of the business in hand. Malcolm eventually sailed for the Persian Gulf early in 1810, nearly two years after his first start. Things were done more deliberately in those 'spacious times' of Anglo-Indian History. On his arrival at Bushire, he again sent his messenger on in advance with the letter of which he was the bearer to the Shah; while waiting for an answer, he finished the Political history of India, that he was engaged on, and then began to enjoy his unwonted leisure in his congenial sports of hunting, shooting and riding: he had learnt one secret of retaining buoyancy of spirits at a more or less advanced age by enjoying the companionship of youth, and he was always attended on excursions by his numerous staff of young officers.

At last he received orders to advance. The Persian officials on the route showed themselves eager for English gold and English gifts. The King's ambassador who had preceded him had been distributing largesse with a lavish hand. To the Oriental mind such lavishness is only considered an imitation of Oriental ways, and any such imitation brings with it only contempt: it brings no respect. This attitude of the Oriental mind is well illustrated in the history of Lord Macartney's mission to China. It is recorded that 'the English mission had taken no presents with them expressly for the purpose of presentation: indeed, Lord Macartney was hard put to it to eke out the few valuables he had taken with him, when he was asked for presents for the court'. The English mission, moreover, declined to perform all the elaborate and obsequious ceremonial customary at the court of Pekin. The Dutch mission that followed were laden with presents, and outdid even Chinese officials in their servility and obsequiousness: and yet the English mission, though in the enigmatical Oriental way they received polite hints that their room was preferable to their company, were at any rate treated with respect: the Dutch mission, on the other hand, were treated with contumely and contempt. On this occasion the lavish presents of Sir Harford Jones were regarded by Persian officials in the light of bribes, and so Malcolm found it. They were as ready to bribe, moreover, as to be bribed themselves. The story is told how, ' whilst Malcolm was at Shiraz, it was intimated to him by the minister that a costly present of jewels had been prepared as a gift to his wife. Checking his first feeling of indignation, Malcolm replied, "Tell your master that when I was at Mysore, the minister there would gladly have heaped costly presents upon us; but instead of this, on my persuasion, he made a fine new road that was much wanted and dedicated it to Mrs. Malcolm. Such are the presents I like."' It was a wise policy on the part of the Government of India to interdict its officials from receiving presents from the people. Fruit and flowers may alone be accepted. The most acceptable gift that the author of this sketch used to receive from a Hindu gentleman who used to visit him ceremoniously at all great festivals, was a single flower plucked out of his own garden: it showed real genuineness of feeling without display. Malcolm succeeded, but not without some trouble, in getting the King's ambassador to work with him. He was well received by the Shah, who instituted for his special honour the decoration of the Lion and the Sun: he expressed a wish also to retain Malcolm as his military adviser. Though the actual results of the mission were not great—indeed, one writer has recorded that 'the creation of a new Order, and the introduction of potatoes, was the sole result of this long and costly expedition '—still, the part that Malcolm had taken in it had only enhanced his great reputation.

On his return from Persia, Malcolm remained for some time in Bombay, previous to taking furlough to England. On arriving in England he felt half inclined to remain there for good: but he was only forty-eight, and he felt that he still had many years of active and vigorous life before him, and he finally made up his mind that, if the opportunity presented itself, he would return to India. On his way home he had had the misfortune to lose his mother. And one of the first things lie did after his return to England, was to visit the graves of his parents in Scotland. His visit has been thus recorded: 'Visited the graves of my parents, and heard the noblest praise of them from the aged, the infirm, and the poor that they had aided and supported; and to whom the aid and support of the family are still given.' This last sentence was characteristic: one of Malcolm's most marked traits was his openhanded generosity. His chief occupation during this period of leisure was the completion of his History of Persia, which he was at length able to publish: it was at once most favourably received in England, and when, at a late period, he visited France, it was as the Historian of Persia that he was welcomed. He was called upon to give evidence before a committee of the house of Commons at the time when the Company's charter was about to be renewed. lie would have liked nothing better than active military employment under his old friend, Sir Arthur Wellesley, now the Duke of Wellington, but the Peninsular War was near its end, and when the Duke visited England for a spell, in 1814, he advised Malcolm to enter Parliament, if he could, as one chance of bringing himself into notice, and so of obtaining the high public employment he was in search of. He had been knighted some time before and he received the still greater distinction, mainly, it is believed, through the influence of the Duke, of a Knight-Companionship, or as it became later styled, a Knight-Commandership, of the Bath. After the entry of the Allies into Paris, on the morrow of the battle of Waterloo, he saw the great Duke again, in Paris, and enjoyed many conversations with him. One such is recorded: the conversation had turned on the Duke's great victory 'People ask me,' said Wellington, 'for an account of the action. I tell them it was hard pounding on both sides, and we pounded the hardest.' Before Malcolm returned to India, in 1816, he received yet another high distinction. The University of Oxford conferred upon him the honorary degree of Doctor of Civil Law.

The Marquis of Hastings was now Governor-General of India. He had certain operations in view against the free-booting levies of the Pindaris, who were so closely bound up with the Mahrattas, being, it was generally supposed, largely subsidized if not actively supported by the Mahratta Princes of Central India, that it was thought possible that the operations against them would involve the British in war with the Mahrattas. And so eventually indeed it proved. Malcolm was known to know more about the Central India States than any man in India at the time. The Governor-General summoned him to Calcutta, and entrusted him with a twofold mission: he was to be Brigadier-General in Command of the most advanced force, and at the same time the Governor-General's agent in supreme control of all political work. The remark he made on the occasion has been recorded, and is eminently characteristic: 'What is really delightful, from the Governor-General down to the lowest black, or white, red or brown, clothed or naked, all appear happy at my advancement.' In his capacity as political officer, he visited the Residencies of Mysore, Haidarabad, Puna, and Nagpur. His journeys were generally made on horseback or by Palki. He gave some excellent advice to the Peshwa, Baji Rao, at Puna, which that prince promised to follow, but history has recorded that., when the hdr of trial came, he failed to keep his promise. Active operations against the Pindaris having commenced, his political duties had to give way to military exigencies. He took command of his own division of the army, and proceeded to join the main body of the army of the Deccan. News soon arrived in the camp of the revolt of the Peshwa, and of the Bhonsla, and of the march southwards of the army of Holkar. Malcolm had first tried what diplomacy he could do with the envoys from Indore, but as this had failed, hostilities could not be averted. The result was the defeat of Holkar's army at Mahidpur. The battle was mainly won by Malcolm's division, spurred on, as they were, to enthusiasm by Malcolm's own example, who rarely displayed his military qualities of fearlessness and courage to better advantage than on this occasion. An anecdote is told in illustration of this: 'The officers of his staff were often alarmed for his safety, but he had no thought for himself: on one occasion he was so far in front, having gone forward to rectify some error in the advancing line, that he was in danger of being shot by his own men. His native aide de camp rode up to one of his officers, and said, "Look at the general! he is in front of our men who are firing: for God's sake bring him back." The officer rode forward to bring his chief back, but he only returned when he had done his work.' Sir John Kaye has said of Malcolm that 'he was one of those soldier-statesmen of the first class, whose vocation it was to pass rapidly from the command of an army to the negotiation of a Treaty, and to be equally at home in camp and in council.' Military operations having come to a close, Malcolm now resumed his political duties. He concluded a Treaty with the Mahratta envoys from Indore, and spent some time with the young Maharaja. He has recorded his experiences at the court: 'All the chiefs of Holkar are in good humour. The boy himself is at present delighted with a small elephant, which he had lost and I recovered and sent back to him, which dances like a dancing-girl, and a little Pegu pony of which I made him a present, and which ambles at a great rate. I went out to hunt with him the other day, and we had great fun. The little fellow, though only eleven, rides beautifully. He expressed grief at my going away, as he discovered that I was very fond of play arid hunting.' He had far greater difficulty with the Peshwa; but he succeeded at last by dint of great tact and judgement in effecting what the British Government desired, his complete and unconditional submission to the British terms. He was to become for ever a pensioner of the British Government. The terms which Malcolm offered were exceedingly liberal, and included the handsome provision for life of an annuity of £80,000. This liberal provision was much criticized at the time; and the Governor-General himself, though he wisely accepted the arrangements made by his agent, thought that they erred on the side of liberality. It is of interest to note that the adopted son of the Pesliiva, known to all time in Anglo-Indian records as 'The infamous Nana Sahib', made it the basis of his vindictive hate of the British Government of his time that this annuity was not continued to him on his adoptive father's death.

Perhaps the greatest of all Malcolm's achievements in India, and that for which he has won undying fame, was his pacification and settlement of a country that had long been given up to anarchy and confusion. He had hitherto had opportunities of showing his capacity as a statesman and as a soldier he was now to shine forth as an administrator. Maiwa was the Province entrusted to him to reduce to order and prosperity. It has been recorded that the three secrets of his successful administration were: trusting to time, keeping people in a good humour, and accessibility to all'. He once wrote to a friend: 'The fault I find with the younger politicians is that they are too impatient of abuses, and too eager for reform. I do not think they know as well as we old ones what a valuable gentleman Time is how much better work is done when it does itself than when done by the best of us.' Of his accessibility it is recorded, 'He had a word for every one, high and low' ; he once wrote to a friend: 'I wish I had you here for a week, to show you my Nawabs, Rajas, Bhul Chiefs, Patels, and Rvots. My room is a thoroughfare from morning to night. No Munshis, Diwans, Dubashes, or even Chobdar's, but 'Char Daewaze khole ', all four doors open, that the inhabitants of these countries may learn what our principles are at the fountain-head.' The subordinate officials about his tents were never allowed to block access to the presence of the Sahib Bahadur, as they so well know how to do. Cicero, in one of his famous letters to the Governors of Roman Provinces, has counselled similar principles of conduct. No one who does not know his India well, and the ways of subordinate officials, can realize the extent to which they can open or bar the way at their pleasure to the presence of the Hakim, or at any rate accelerate, or retard, access: the only 'Open Sesame' known to them is the magic watchword 'Bakshish'. The historian has recorded that 'when Bishop Heber travelled through Central India, he found everywhere indications of the affectionate remembrance in which Malcolm and his good deeds were held by the people of the country. The name of Malcolm on an amulet was regarded as a charm to protect the wearer of it from the powers of evil.' Malcolm himself also has recorded how a custom prevailed among the Bhil ladies of tying a string upon the right arm of their children, whilst the priest pronounced the name of Malcolm three times, as a sovereign cure for a fever'. The author of this short sketch can also testify to the esteem and honour in which the name of Malcolm is still held in Central India. He received a visit one day from an old Muhammadan gentleman, who brought with him a package: he proceeded to unroll the numerous foldings of cloth in which Indians ever wrap their most cherished treasures, and brought to light a document hearing the signature 'John Malcolm': it set forth the services rendered by the grandfather of its possessor in coming to the aid of the British at the time of the Pindari operations with a contingent of 2,000 horsemen. When his work of pacification and settlement was over Malcolm determined to proceed on furlough to England: this time he thought he was really leaving India for good.

He left Bombay towards the end of 1821, amid universal demonstrations of respect. On his way home, he travelled through Egypt, and was most hospitably entertained by its then ruler, Mehemet Ali. Literary work occupied a good deal of his leisure time while he was at home, but his temperament demanded a life of action. The Duke of Wellington at his request tried to get him the Governorship of Madras, but was not successful, and he again recommended Malcolm to give up all thought of further employment in India, and to enter Parliament. At last, however, came the offer of the Governorship of Bombay; and he at once accepted it. Mr. George Canning was at the time Prime Minister of England, and it was to his recognition of Malcolm's great services in India that he owed his elevation to a Governorship.

Malcolm took up his office at the end of 1827 and he remained in office for some three years: these were years of comparative tranquillity in India, and Malcolm's duties assumed more of a routine nature than had hitherto been the case. He still retained his old characteristic of accessibility to all. He has described the system he adopted whereby all might have easy access to his presence: 'I hold a public breakfast at Government House for six days in the week, to which every one can come that likes. It is a social levee, without formality or distinction. I am down half an hour before breakfast, and stay as long after it. Every human being who desires it, from writer to judge, from cadet to general, has his turn at the Governor. At half-past ten I am in my own room, have no visitors, and am entirely given up to business.' Malcolm had just made up his mind to leave India for good, when he received the offer of the newly created Lieutenant-Governorship of Agra, from Lord William Bentinck. In declining the offer, he informed the Governor-General of his wish to return to England: he was sixty-two years of age, and had been connected with India in one capacity or another for forty-seven years: his hopes were now centred on entering Parliament where, he told Lord William Bentinch, he still hoped to work for his country and for India. He left India finally at the end of 1830.

He died three years after his return home. A monumental statue by the celebrated sculptor, Chantrey, was erected to his memory in Westminster Abbey. At that great banquet that was given him on the eve of his departure from England to take up his office as Governor of Bombay, the Prime Minister of England, Mr. Canning, used these eloquent words, which, while intended at the time specially to apply to Sir John Malcolm, were also meant to include the long roll of distinguished men who have done conspicuous public service for their country in India.

There cannot be found in the history of Europe the existence of any monarchy, which within a given time has produced so many men of the first talents in civil and military life, as India has first trained for herself, and then given to their native country.' Similarly, the Duke of Wellington said 'it is now thirty years since I formed an intimate friendship with Sir John Malcolm. During that eventful period there has been no operation of consequence, no diplomatic measure, in which my friend has not borne a conspicuous part. Alike distinguished by courage and by talent, the history of his life during this period would be the history of the glory of his country in India.'

With these words from two men so qualified to speak, this sketch concludes.

The Life and Correspondence of Major-General Sir John Malcolm, G.C.B.
By John William Kaye in 2 volumes
Volume 1  |  Volume 2

History of Persia
By Sir John Malcolm in 2 volumes
Volume 1  |  Volume 2


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