1902 Encyclopedia > James Broun-Ramsay, 1st Marquess of Dalhousie, a Governor-General of India (1812-60)

James Broun-Ramsay, 1st Marquess of Dalhousie
A Governor-General of India
(1812-60)




JAMES ANDREW BROUN-RAMSAY, MARQUIS OF DALHOUSIE (1812-1860), in the peerage of the United King-dom, the great administrator who was the last of the his-toric governors-general under the East India Company, and may be ranked with his two most distinguished predecessors, Warren Hastings and the Marquis Wellesley. The family was founded by Sir John Eamsay, who rescued James VI. in the Gowrie outrage ; but there is mention in 1140 of Simon de Eamsay as witness to the grant of Livingston Church in West Lothian; and Sir Alexander Eamsay, whom David II, made sheriff of Teviotdale, was starved to death by the Douglas. The grateful King James made Sir John Lord Eamsay of Barns and Viscount Haddington, and his son obtained a change of the title to Baron Eamsay of Dalhousie. His son was created earl of Dalhousie. The ninth earl was a distinguished Waterloo officer, held high command in Canada, was commander-in-chief in British India previous to 1832, and was created a peer of the United Kingdom as Baron Dalhousie of Dalhousie. He married Miss Broun, the heiress of Coalstoun near Haddington, a woman of remarkable ability and force of character, which she transmitted to her distinguished son, who closely resembled her in features also. He was their third son, but the early death of his brothers, followed by that of their father, made him the tenth earl while yet a youth. For his long and brilliant services in India he received the thanks of Parliament, and the Crown made him marquis, a dignity that passed away with him, his only issue being two daughters, the Lady Susan, married to the Honourable R. Bourke, M.P., brother of the sixth earl of Mayo, and the Lady Edith, first wife of Sir James Fergusson.

Born in 1812, the boy was educated at Harrow, and entered at Christ Church, Oxford, where he gave bright promise of his future career. The two most remarkable of his fellow-students were Lord Canning and Lord Elgin, who both succeeded their college rival in the viceroy's seat, and more than once in their public career alluded to the friendship that had united the three. When Lord Eamsay, he attempted, as a follower of Sir Eobert Peel, to snatch the representation of Edinburgh from Sir John (afterwards Lord Chancellor) Campbell, and James Abercromby, afterwards Speaker and Lord Dunfermline. He was afterwards elected for the county of Haddington, which he represented for a short time till called to the House of Lords on his father's death. The duke of Wellington was soon attracted by the industry and ability of the young peer, in whom, moreover, he felt an interest for his father's sake. When the Whigs went out of office under Lord Melbourne, Sir Eobert Peel came into power with three colleagues who were successively to be governor-general,—Lord Ellen-borough as president of the Board of Control, Sir H. Har-dinge as secretary at war, and Lord Dalhousie as vice-presi-dent of the Board of Trade under Mr Gladstone, and in 1844 as president. It was in the Board of Trade that he sowed the seeds of that disease which carried him off in the prime of life. The time was that of the corn-law struggle and, still more to him, of the railway mania. Night and day the president had to work. In


he organized that railway department of the Board of Trade, through which in one year he passed, after detailed personal study, 332 projects, involving a capital of £271,000,000, besides many foreign schemes which appealed to the English money-market. At the last hour of November for lodging applications no fewer than 600 schemes were deposited on his table. To him, more than any other man, Great Britain owes its railway system, and if the experienced warning of the over-worked president had been heeded, the disasters of 1847-48 would never have taken place. At the same time the duty of leading the corn-law debates in the House of Lords fell upon the wearied official. The defeat of Sir Robert Peel at the end of June 1846 gave him no respite, for Lord John Russell asked him to remain in office, and again the Whig premier offered the young Conservative peer the office of governor-general of India, from which Lord Hardinge was returning after the first Sikh war.

Never, since Clive, had any man so young been called to bear such vast responsibilities, and yet, like Clive, he nearly doubled the empire, and adorned his rule with the blessings of peaceful and material reform. Lord Dalhousie was only thirty-five years of age when, on the 12th January 1848, he assumed at Calcutta that high office which he held for upwards of eight years, or almost as long as the period during which Lord Hastings had been led by troublous times to fill it. Had he remained a cabinet minister, it is not difficult to predict what he might have become in the annals of British statesmanship, but he had even higher work to do in India. Lord Hardinge, guided throughout his policy by the good and great Henry Law-rence, had left the Punjab nominally at peace under a Sikh regency, but really seething with discontent and con-fusion. To use Lord Dalhousie's own words in reviewing the situation, the spirit of the whole Sikh people was influenced by the bitterest animosity against us, chief after chief deserted our cause, nearly the whole army and council of regency were openly arrayed against us, the Sikhs courted an Afghan alliance, and the question was no longer one of policy but of national safety. Moolraj, at Mooltan had, in April, murdered the British officers Vans Agnew and Anderson ; Herbert Edwardes had in June shown how disaster could be retrieved ; by September General Whish was before Mooltan with an avenging force ; and on the 5th October the governor-general announced, at a military ball at Barrackpore, a general war against the Sikh Sirdars. Proceeding to the spot like another Clive he conquered, annexed, and reorganized the Punjab in six months. The crowning victory' of Gujerat, on the 21st February 1849, followed by the fall of Mooltan, avenged the drawn battle of Chillianwalla; and on the 29th March the Punjab became a British province. Borrowing from administra-tive experiments on a small scale in Tenasserim and Sind, the governor-general created that non-regulation system, under which military officers and civilians combined have ever since brought up to the ordinary level of our civilized administration the warlike peoples of Northern and the more savage tribes of Central and Eastern India. In the brothers Henry and John Lawrence, assisted by Sir Robert Montgomery and Sir Donald Macleod, Lord Dalhousie found men to work out his plans with such success as to convert the Punjab into the base from which, in 1857, Delhi was taken and the empire was reconquered. He returned to the capital by Bombay, the Straits Settlements, and Burmah, surveying the coast-line of the magnificent dependency which he had thus carried up to its natural boundaries, to the Himalayas from the sea. The experience he thus gained was soon to be used. The king of Upper Burmah violated the treaty of Yandaboo by a gross outrage on certain British traders in the portof Rangoon, and refused atonement. Quoting Lord Wellesley's maxim, that an in-sult offered to the British flag at the mouth of the Ganges would be resented as promptly and as fully as at the mouth of the Thames, after every peaceful effort had failed, the Government of India fought the second Burmese war ; and, as reparation was still scorned, took possession of the king-dom of Pegu, thus uniting the territories of Arakan and Tenasserim taken in the first war into what is now the compact and prosperous coast province of British Burmah.
From that time, in 1852, the completed empire has been at peace, save for the Mutiny and little frontier campaigns.

Its consolidation now became the great work of the young and triumphant governor-general, who showed on as great a scale as history can present, in a few years, that peace has greater victories than those of war. While in the minute review of his 8£ years' administration Lord Dalhousie devotes 177 paragraphs to these, he records in only 3 the conquest of territories and populations as large as those of France. With the foresight and caution that marked all his statesmanship he thus closes the narrative of his wars :—

" Experience—frequent, hard, and recent experience—has taught us that war from without or rebellion from within may at any time be raised against us, in quarters where they were the least to be expected, and by the most feeble and unlikely instruments." The rising of the tribe of Sonthals, a non-Aryan race of simple and now half-Christianized savages in the Rajmahal hills, due to the oppression of Hindu usurers and landlords, illustrated this. But the mutiny, to which we shall afterwards allude, has still more light thrown on it by this warning.





Lord Dalhousie made additions to those portions of the empire under direct British administration, however, not only by conquest but by annexing native states which lapsed to the suzerain power on the failure of natural and even adopted heirs, or, as in the case of Oudh, for outrage-ous and hopeless misrule. No part of his policy has been more misrepresented than this. His own narrative of it, written as simple history and long before it was attacked, bears the stamp of the unflinching honesty which was the basis of his nature,—the sympathy with the people and horror of oppression which influenced all his career, and the strict regard for justice which made his Government the strongest India ever had, before or since. He has been charged with the lack of imagination ; but he had that as Cromwell had it, where he cared for the many rather than for the self-seeking and self-pleasing few. The question ia twofold—Is it the duty or the right of the paramount power (1) to escheat states the chiefs of which persist in anarchy that not only ruins their own people but threatens their neighbours, or (2) to allow states to lapse when the chiefs leave no natural heirs and have refused to adopt a successor 1 The first was illustrated in the case of the kingdom of Oudh, which for the crimes of its kings, committed in spite of all warnings, was ordered to be annexed by the British Cabinet contrary to the recom-mendation of Lord Dalhousie, who would have again tried the policy that failed after the first Sikh war. The second is the real point at issue in his case. Now the despatch of the 30th April 1860, in which Lord Canning urges the concession to the 153 Hindu and Mahometan princes who actually govern their estates of a distinct law of adoption and feudatory right, is based on the fact that no such law or certain usage was in existence before. Lord Dalhousie acted for the good of the natives and for the interests of the British Government, solely as their trustee, when he annexed states according to what has been called the doc-trine of lapse. His regard for purely historic claims which could not affect the happiness of the people for evil is shown by his refusal to carry out the consent of the court of directors to extinguish the dynasty of Timur on the death of the king of Delhi. He rather perpetuated the titular sovereignty by recognizing the grandson of the king as heir-apparent, on the two conditions that he should reside at the Kootub palace, outside Delhi, and " should as king receive the governor-general at all times on terms of perfect equality." To the two kingdoms of the Punjab and Pegu, won by conquest, and to the kingdom of Oudh, annexed for misrule worse than that of the Ottoman Turks, Lord Dalhousie hence added the fourth of Nagpore, " in the absence of all legal heirs," refusing to bestow the territory in free gift upon a stranger. So also he added the province of Berar, ceded by the Nizam for the permanent main-tenance of the Hyderabad contingent. In Nagpore and Berar, one day to be united to Bombay, he gave Lancashire the finest cotton field under the British Crown. So also the principality of Sattara and the chiefship of Jhansi reverted to the Indian Government. Writing in 1856 he showed that these four kingdoms and three provinces had raised the revenue of India from 26 to 30 millions sterling a yeai. In the twenty years since, no revenue-paying addition has been made to the empire as Dalhousie left it, for he reached the boundaries fixed by nature. But the income of the 12 provinces of British India, with the 153 native states, which cost the rest of India far more than the small tribute they pay and spend nothing on the people, has risen to 52 millions sterling a year. It has doubled since Lord Dalhousie landed at Calcutta. But, while caring for the people, he was not indifferent to the welfare and good-will of their chiefs. Himself a sincere Christian, while singularly reticent as to his personal faith, and strictly neutral as the ruler of millions of alien and opposed creeds, he thus wrote of the adoption of Christianity by Maharaja Dhuleep Singh, the last of the rulers of the Punjab :—_" The act was voluntary on the part of the boy, and, under the guidance of God's hands, was the result of his own uninfluenced convictions. It is gratifying to be able to state that his life hitherto has been strictly con-sistent with the injunctions of the faith he professes." So he records the baptism of the Queen's ward, the princess of Coorg, at the desire of her father the ex-raja. And in his time there was passed the Toleration Act,which, completing the good work begun by Lord William Bentinck, removed from the statute book the last traces of the persecution of converts to Christianity, who had suffered the loss of all their goods as a penal consequence.

The catalogue of Lord Dalhcusie's reforms is as interest-ing as it is long, but we must be content with a mere state-ment of those which remind us of Olive's work in his third visit to India. The Civil Service was opened to the com-petition of all the natural-born subjects of the Crown, black and white, and at the same time the civil and military services were reorganized in India itself to supply the new territories. In Bengal, the boards which had acted as " screens " for inefficiency were abolished or simplified, and personal government was introduced in a way which made the force of the governor-general's energy and influence felt throughout the empire. The Public Works Department, separated from the military administration, was organized in a style which has enabled it to grapple with the vast needs of the whole Peninsula. A legislative council was created which, far more effectually than the sham introduced by Lord Halifax afterwards, promised to represent both British and native opinion. Bengal, with its sixty millions, received a lieutenant-governor for itself. In a thousand details life was substituted for apathy or obstructiveness, till among all classes the genius and force of the " boy " governor-general were gratefully eulogized as had never before happened in the history of India. There was not a hostile critic. But these were small matters compared with the introduction of the four potent forces of the railway and the telegraph, cheap postage and the primary school. The triumph of physical and educational progress went hand in hand. The quondam president of the Board of Trade felt himself at his old work, but on a vaster scale, and with far more magnificent results. Every word he spoke or wrote, every act that he ordered or sanctioned, told on the civilization of the country. His it was, too, to push on and open the great Ganges Canal which has since saved Hindustan from famine; his to make roads from Delhi through the Punjab, from Simla and the frontier to Tibet, from Assam to Pegu. Trade and agriculture were ever before him as if he had no other work to do ; cotton and tea, iron and coal, salt and other resources were carefully developed by him; and he created a forest department. When he did not think it politically expedient to make female education a care of the state, any more than even the early missionaries were prepared to attend to it, he supported the Bethune school out of his own pocket. Suttee in native states, and thuggee or strangling in our own, he kept down with an iron hand; femaleinfanticide, and meriah or human sacrifice, he vigilantly suppressed; slavery and the slave-trade he made treaties from the Somalee coast of Africa to the Euphrates and the Ira wad dy to put down Finally, his care for the British soldier in a tropical climate was matched only by the improvement which he caused in the physical condition of the sepoys. No less a military than a civil administrator, his last act was to send home a series of minutes pressing for a reorganization and an in-crease of the army, in language not only unheeded, but deliberately repelled, with consequences which the mutiny soon displayed.

Such work as this, following the still greater strain of the Board of Trade during the railway mania, began to show itself even before Lord Dalhousie had completed the usual five years' term of service. He recorded, at the time, the bitter pang it was to him to be so ill as not to be able to accompany the first railway train which he officially sent forth in its course Bombay-wards from Howrah, the suburb opposite Calcutta. In 1855 the physicians solemnly warned him to leave, but as Her Majesty's Government laid on him the duty of annexing Oudh, he deliberately accepted the responsibility. " The ministry have asked me to stay, and I will do my duty," he replied to all remon-strances. He had, too, lost his wife, to whom he was devotedlyattached—a daughter of the marquisof Tweeddale, who had been governor of Madras—and was soothed by the arrival of his eldest daughter. The hot season of 1855 he spent in the Neilgherry hills. It was on the 6th March 1858 that he left Calcutta, amid the tears of many, both natives and Europeans, who accompanied the great proconsul, as he was lovingly called, to the Ghaut. He knew he had no more health to look for. Sadly did he write, in his formal reply to the citizens of Calcutta— " Nearly thirteen years have passed away since first I entered the service of the Crown. Through all those years, with but one short interval, public employment of the heaviest responsibility and labour has been imposed upon me. I am wearied and worn, and have no other thought or wish than to seek the retirement of which I stand in need, and which is all I now am fit for."

Lord Dalhousie retired not only amid the regrets of the people he had ruled so well, and of the services, civil and military, which he had attached to himself at once by the splendour of his administrative genius and by the kingly fascination of his personal character. He was honoured by Parliament and the Crown, while the press exhausted the terms of eulogy in reviewing the career of one who, like Clive, had proved equally great in peace and in war. The many months spent in Malta before he could brave the rigours of his native climate he devoted to a defence of his whole administration, which, unfortunately, is not now to be found. For already the outburst of the Bengal mutiny had led thoughtless or prejudiced and certainly ignorant persons to demand a victim, and they sought it in the dying governor-general. He could not take his place in the House of Lords and explain his acts and policy to unthinking and excited critics who personally knew nothing of either. In India itself, where the facts were known and he was known, he was defended as, on much less and lower grounds, Warren Hastings had been. So, appealing from his contemporaries to posterity, and moved at the same time by the unauthorized publication of other family papers, he dictated the following addition to his will, which we are permitted to publish for the first time:— "Secondly, It is my wish that on my decease the whole of the letters and private papers of every description, wherever found, belonging to me, and not being legal documents connected with the Dalhousie family, should be delivered to my daughter Susan. I enjoin that at her decease, or sooner if she should think fit, all documents, journals, and letters illustrating the history of the Dalhousie family, or the career of those who have been successively its head, shall be delivered to the holder of the title of Dalhousie. —And as it has been the practice of my father and of myself to keep a full private journal during our lives, and to preserve papers of personal interest, and as there prevails in these days a mania for giving publicity to the correspondence of public men, however slight may have been their real importance in the annals of the period, or however valueless may be their written remains, I desire if possible to preserve these papers in privacy within the family to which they refer.—I direct, therefore, that when these documents shall be delivered to him who shall then be Lord Dal-housie, the delivery of them shall be accompanied by a request from me (to which I am confident he will conform, as to a request issuing from the grave) that no portion of the private papers of my father or of myself shall be made public until at least fifty years shall have passed after my death."





The papers are carefully preserved in Coalstoun till the year 1910. Lord Dalhousie retired to his old boy home, in Dalhousie Castle, to die, affectionately tended by his daughter, and on the 19th December 1860 he passed peacefully away. He was not forty-nine years old, an age when in England statesmen only begin their career, yet in England and India he had done a life work surpassed by none, if equalled by any of his contemporaries. His marble statue, long opposite Wellesley's in the hall of Government House, Calcutta, now adorns the public institute in the public square, which both bear his name. His portrait by Sir John Watson Gordon, at Coalstoun, recalls the fine head, the brow of massive breadth and height, the large and lustrous eyes, the flexible and sensitive lips, the commanding attitude which made his middle-size look like the tallness of bigger men.

The panic which sought to fasten on Lord Dalhousie re-sponsibility for the mutiny has long since been pronounced unreasonable. All the charges against the last of the Company's governors-general may be summed up in two, political and military,—he conquered and annexed many states ; he ignored or misunderstood the condition of the sepoy army. As to the first, the despatch of Lord Canning, already alluded to—and he is identified with the opposite, or non-annexation policy, which Lord Dalhousie alone made possible for his successor—shows that there was no law or regular usage on the subject. Lord Dalhousie had certainly no passion for annexation, as the Oudh case proves, and. each instance must be dealt with on its own merits. It is difficult to obtain reliable evidence to support any statement as to native opinion or feeling, even after the event, and we have none for the assertion that the series of acquisitions of territory had alarmed the native chiefs. But even if it had, we may maintain that it was the governor-general's duty to complete the empire, to care for the people, and to do this at all fair risks. To all such assertions we may reply that it was conquests like the Punjab that saved the empire when the crisis came, that it was annexations like Nagpore and Sattara which removed centres of discontent. Oudh, for which he was not responsible, and little Jhansi, which had a mad ranee, were the only malcontents. All the other native chiefs were loyal, actively or passively. The military argument is still less defensible, and has been abandoned ever since Sir Charles Jackson exposed it.

Lord Dalhousie foresaw trouble in India as much as any man has ever done in a country where it is the unforeseen that happens. We have already quoted an instance of this. But these words in his farewell to India might, as has been said, have been written after the mutiny. " We have learned by hard experience how a difference with a native power, which seems at first to be but the little cloud no bigger than a man's hand, may rapidly darken and swell into a storm of war, involving the whole empire in its gloom. We have lately seen how, in the very midst of us, insurrection may rise like an exhalation from the earth, and how cruel violence, worse than all the excesses of war, may be suddenly committed by men who, to the very day in which they broke out in their frenzy of blood, have been regarded as a simple, harmless, timid race, not by the Government alone but even by those who knew them best, who were dwelling among them, and were their earliest victims. Eemembering these things, no prudent man will venture to give you assurance of continued peace."

The first authority on the subject, Lord Lawrence, pro-nounced the cause of the mutiny purely military, and found it in the greased cartridges. It was social, not political,—an assault on caste, not on princes, though doubtless Mahometan and other intriguers took advantage of the mutinous spirit. But the opportunity for the mutiny was found in the reduction of the British garrison, already too low, to a point of danger which had led to Lord Dal-housie's alarmed but unheeded protests. When he wanted more troops to meet the increase of territory he found him-self denuded of two cavalry and two infantry regiments for the Crimea. The strength of the white garrison was thus reduced to 22 regiments. That reduction completed what the Afghan policy of the home authorities had begun, by placing success within the grasp of the native army. In 1854 Lord Dalhousie thus wrote:—"We are perfectly secure so long as we are strong and are believed to be so; but if European troops shall now be withdrawn from India to Europe, and if further we should be called on to despatch an army to the Persian Gulf then, indeed, I shall no longer feel, and can no longer express, the same confidence as before that the security and stability of our position in the East will remain unassailed." That is prophetic enough. But it is nothing to the nine minutes which, on the last day of his office, he laid before his council and sent home, all of which were pigeon-holed, and two of which cannot be found in the records, In spite of these admirable and earnest state papers, the two infantry regiments sent to the Crimea were not replaced, and five or six of the minimum of thirty-one on the India establishment were in the Persian war, as his excellency had feared. He sought to raise the number to thirty-seven, and to reduce the sepoy force by upwards of 14,000 men, but in vain. Had he been able to carry out his own military policy as he did in the case of purely political and administrative affairs, is it too much to say that there would have been no mutiny t In spite of the passing away of the school of political and military officers whom Lord Dalhousie created, represented now only by the venerable Lord Lawrence, every year's progress in the history of India reveals new reasons for recalling with gratitude and admiration the eight or nine years' administration of the last of the gover-nors-general.

The detailed events of this period will be found in the volumes of the Friend of India and the Calcutta Review from 1848 to 1856 in-clusive. Other and more compact sources are Marshman's History of India, volume iii., Sir Charles Jackson's Vindication of the Marquis of Halhousie's Indian Administration, and the Duke of Argyll's India under Dalhousie and Canning. The "Minute by the Most Noble the Governor-General of India," dated the 28th of February 1856, was published as No. xiv. of the Selections from the Records of the Government of India in the Home Department in 1856. Those who are interested in that controversy with Sir Charles Napier, in which the Duke of "Wellington supported the Marquis of Dalhousie, will find the facts in Minutes of the Resignation of the late
General Sir Charles Napier of the Command of the Army in India, (John Murray, 1854). (G. SM.)



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