Copyright
Charles Rathbone Low.

The life and correspondence of Field Marshall Sir George Pollock ...(constable of the Tower) online

. (page 36 of 40)
Online LibraryCharles Rathbone LowThe life and correspondence of Field Marshall Sir George Pollock ...(constable of the Tower) → online text (page 36 of 40)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


India," and the British Government, considered him,
so far as they were concerned, amply compensated by
the ribbon of the Bath. This was a reward which,
despite his humble extraction, could not in decency
have been withheld from him ; but there can be little
doubt that the home military influences of those days
grudged him the barren honour, as his known honesty
and keen resentment of injuries had created him many
enemies at the Horse Guards.

But the man who had maintained the credit of the
country, and the efficiency of the army under his
command who had won the respect and admiration
of the Afghans themselves, who had fought on every
occasion when advantage could come of it, and with
success, and who had earnestly, though sometimes
fruitlessly, exhorted others to do the same could
not, as a writer said in the Times, be " fobbed off



Life of Sir George Pollock. 489

a second-class distinction ; and Nott, to the disgust of
many military aristocrats and tuft-hunters, became a
G.C.B." Though his townsmen in Wales have erected
a statue to his memory, no " monumental marble "
has been placed in St. Paul's or elsewhere by his
country, or the army he so gallantly led. The same
unworthy influences were brought to bear against the
proper recognition of Sir George Pollock's claims,
and thirty years he was "fobbed off" with a G.C.B.

On General Nott proceeding to England, Lord
Ellenborough offered Sir George Pollock the appoint-
ment of Acting Political Eesident at Lucknow. This
he consented to accept, provided the allowances of the
acting appointment were made up to 5,000 rupees
per month, which was the salary attached to the
office.

Sir George used to tell an anecdote of the circum-
stances attending the proposal, which is eminently
characteristic of Lord Ellenborough, who was never
backward in manifesting his sense of the autocratic
powers vested in him as Governor-General of India ;
and who probably on this occasion was actuated by an
uncomfortable feeling that not enough had been done
for the man who had gained him his earldom. On
informing his secretaries of his desire that steps should
be taken to increase the emoluments of the Acting
Eesidentship at the Court of Oude, to the scale held
by the " pucka " incumbent of the appointment, those
gentlemen pointed out chapter and verse in the regu-
lations against such a course.



49 Life of Sir George Pollock,

" Then make him also General of the Cawnpore
Division," said the Governor- General.

" Impossible ; General is senior to Sir George

Pollock," replied the official, whose rule of conduct
was guided solely by " red tape " principles.

" Then send General to Meerut," broke in His

Lordship, impatient of being thwarted.

" But there is the staff, my lord."

" Then send the staff too," replied the irascible
Earl ; and he straightway wrote on a scrap of paper
a laconic order, signed with his initial "E.," that the
thing must be done ; and of course the thing was done,
for in the days of old John Company the power of a
Governor-General was well-nigh as unlimited as that
of the " Autocrat of all the Eussias."

The duties of Envoy to the Court of Oude were of
a very delicate and responsible character. The rulers
of the country originally owed a nominal obedience to
the Grand Mogul, as the Emperor of Delhi was called ;
but in 181 9 the reigning sovereign, Nusseer-ood-deen-
Hyder, threw off his allegiance, and in place of the
title of Vizier and Soubahdar, assumed that of King
of Oude, and caused himself to be crowned. The East
India Company recognized this act of usurpation in
consideration of the many loans and advances that had
been made them from the coffers of Oude, particularly
in 1825, during the Burmese war. They agreed to
guarantee the defence of his rich territory against all
external enemies, and undertook to pay various pen-
sions of the Crown in consideration of the loans, and



Life of Sir George Pollock. 491

generally to support the King with their advice and
influence whenever considered necessary.

A writer on Indian affairs describes as follows the
difficulties of the task before Sir George Pollock;
these hindrances to progress were moreover vastly
increased by the corruption, intrigue, and chicanery
which permeated every grade of officials, from the
Prime Minister downwards :

"Without absolutely interfering in the details of the native
Government, it is the object of the Indian authorities to persuade
the independent princes so to manage their territories that the
people may enjoy all the advantages which are possessed by those
who live under the enlightened rule of the East India Company.
This is an extremely difficult task. The watchful jealousy of the
native ministers renders them keenly susceptible of intervention
of any kind. They see, in the slightest innovations upon their
understood prerogative, the germ of an enroachment which gene-
rally terminates in the extinction of the independence of the native
prince, and the absorption of his dominions into the overgrown
empire of the British. Yet the apprehension of this catastrophe
seldom operates as a stimulus to good government."

General Caulfield, the Eesident at Lucknow, and
subsequently his able successor, Colonel Low,*
strove to the best of their ability to purge the
Government of the frightful abuses which reigned
in every department; but, notwithstanding their
efforts, discontent had risen to such an height in
the kingdom, that, in 1841, Colonel Low proposed

* Now General Sir John Low, fought at Mahidpore, may be re-

K.C.B., the most distinguished liv- garded as the type of this school,

ing representative of the old school as Sir Henry Lawrence was of

of soldier- diplomatists. Sir John the Edwardes, the Abbotts, and

Malcolm, whose favourite political the Nicholsons of the succeeding

pupil lie was, and under whom he generation.



49 2 Life of Sir George Pollock.

that the Supreme Government should take a portion
of the most disorderly districts of the country under
its direct and exclusive management, accounting only
to the King for the surplus revenues, or that British
officers should be deputed to superintend the revenue
settlements, and to see that the engagements to the
people were not broken. The Government of Lord
Auckland, however, was averse to any immediate
change, and had determined to allow a further proba-
tionary period to develop the practical effect of inter-
ference by advice on all important measures.

Colonel Low, speaking of the condition of affairs
during the time immediately preceding the incum-
bency of the office by Sir George Pollock, writes, in
a letter to General Nott, dated 29th October, 1842 :

"During the ten months which followed July, 1841, consider-
able improvements took place in the general management of
affairs ; but since the accession to the throne of the present
King (May last) the condition of several districts has become
manifestly worse, owing to his present Majesty's marked inferiority
to his father, both in natural talents and in knowledge of his
duties ; and, again, in consequence of the present King having
selected as his Prime Minister a man who had no previous expe-
rience in state affairs."

As may be supposed, this state of things rendered
the duties of the Envoy onerous and troublesome.
However, these acted only as incentives to Sir George
Pollock to further the ends his predecessors had in
view, viz., to cleanse the Augsean stables of corruption
and maladministration, though the short period during



Life of Sir George Pollock. 493

which he filled the office of Envoy prevented the
possibility of his effecting much in the way of
reform.

It is not our province to dwell here upon the diffi-
culties which awaited his successors in this task ; but
suffice it to say, notwithstanding the efforts of Lord
Dalhousie and successive Envoys, the debauched
monarch of Lucknow, and his no less effete and cor-
rupt ministers, would listen to no advice, and turned
a deaf ear to all warnings, until, under the firm hand
of Major- General James Outram, the government was
transferred to the East India Company, and order and
law have since reigned throughout the province, with
the exception of those stormy days between June,
1857, and the final capture of Lucknow by Sir Colin
Campbell, in March of the following year.

Sir George Pollock remained at Lucknow from
December, 1843, until appointed by the Court of
Directors, in the latter part of 1844, military member
of the Supreme Council of India.

On his arrival at Calcutta to take up his new
appointment, the inhabitants of the "City of Palaces"
presented him with an address, and also paid him a
graceful tribute by raising a subscription with the
object of perpetuating the memory of his great ser-
vices, by instituting a medal, to be presented twice a
year to the most distinguished cadet at the East
India Company's military seminary at Addiscombe,
on passing the biennial examination for a commission.
The address of the inhabitants of Calcutta places in



494 Life of Sir George Pollock.

their true light Sir George Pollock's achievements in
Afghanistan.

" Honourable Sir, Your recent nomination to a seat in the
Supreme Council of India was hailed with expressions of no
common satisfaction by all classes throughout the empire. It
was regarded as reflecting honour on those who conferred honour,
and came in grateful unison with those feelings which your great
and well-timed services had universally excited. If by others
this was so appreciated, with us it had a peculiar value and more
immediate interest, as involving your presence and permanent
residence amongst us ; and we now bid you welcome as a mem-
ber of our community, with that sincerity and cordiality which
your merits and our obligations are calculated to inspire. It
were a superfluous trespass here to recapitulate the services to
which we have alluded as constituting the basis of our professions
towards you ; but as this is a public exposition of our sentiments,
it behoves us publicly to declare the source they spring from.
The shortest abstract will suffice to satisfy inquiry, why it was
that the inhabitants of this capital so greeted your arrival, and
rejoiced to enrol you as a fellow-citizen.

" From the records of the day, we learn that the reverses and
calamities of the close of 1841 had thrown a deep gloom over the
land ; and that when, at the commencement of J 842, you pro-
ceeded to assume the command of the army destined for the
relief of Jellalabad, sickness to an alarming extent, seventy of
season, and deficiency of carriage, with daily increasing numbers
flocking to the ranks of the enemy, combined to oppose your pro-
gress. The Khyber Pass, through which only the object of your
advance was accessible, was fortified and manned by the enemy,
as they believed impregnably ; they greatly exceeded you in num-
bers, strength, and with thorough knowledge of the intricacies
and capabilities of the defile, were animated by recent success,
and bold in reliance of safety in their stronghold. Yet, with all
this array of obstacles to thwart and discourage, we learn with
admiration that, on the 5th of April, 1842, the pass was carried
by a masterly display of skill and bravery ; and that, on the 16th
of the same month, the garrison of Jellalabad was relieved, and
gave its strength to support your future operations."



Life of Sir George Pollock. 495

After recapitulating the services which ended with
the capture of Cabul, the address goes on to say :

" We honour you for the reluctance you evinced to return to
the provinces from Jellalabad ; a return with that unattempted,
which by your perseverance was at last accomplished, would have
left a stain upon your country, that nor time nor circumstances
could ever have effaced. Your address to the Government of the
13th of May, 1842, had been mislaid, it seems ; and it is only
recently that we have been made aware, through the medium of
the press, of this addition to our obligations to you.

" The remainder of this, your short but glorious career of ser-
vice in Afghanistan, now assumed a character of intense and
painful interest, requiring the most cautious discretion, combined
with an energy and decision that seemed scarcely compatible with
its exercise. Too much or too little of either, in however slight
a degree, and we had still to mourn how many of our country-
men, women, and children, held in hopeless captivity by an ex-
asperated enemy, who had every motive to insult the humble, and
none to spare them ! It were tedious to you, the chief actor in
it, to listen to the repetition of the many changes of doubt, and
hope, and failure, and eventual success which marked the pro-
gress of this memorable transaction. It is probably that portion
of your past life which you look back upon with most com-
placency. The courage and ability demanded and displayed were
in the cause of humanity a cause which was hallowed and ap-
proved of by Heaven ; and those who, abandoned, had pined and
sunk to an untimely grave, live to bless the name of him who
restored them to freedom and to life.

""We think there is enough exhibited in this brief sketch,
imperfect as it is, to show that, on this occasion, we have per-
formed a duty to ourselves. We are aware of your former services
in Ava, and of your having there won distinction at the hand of
your sovereign ; but those services have been eclipsed by these
we now so gratefully acknowledge, and that distinction we rejoice
to lose in the lustre of those greater honours which you have
earned so worthily. It only remains for us to assure you, that
nothing on our part shall be wanting to render your residence



496 Life of Sir George Pollock.

amongst us as much a matter of choice as of official necessity ;
and, as the guarantee of this, we point to the pledge you hold
of the respect and admiration with which we regard you."

Sir George Pollock returned a modest reply to this
address, claiming for himself " but little credit " for
the success which attended the campaign of 1842 in
Afghanistan, but attributing it all "to the indomitable
bravery, devotion to the service, and indefatigable
perseverance of the officers and men (European and
Native) under his command/' He then proceeded to
say, " My debt of gratitude to them, and my recol-
lection of their unshaken heroism under many trying
circumstances, will never be obliterated from my
memory ; nor shall I ever forget it is to their determi-
nation to conquer, and vindicate their country's cause,
I am indebted for the enviable station to which I
have attained."

Eegarding the Pollock Medal, he said :

" I feel it impossible adequately to express my sense of the
obligation you have conferred on me, by the desire you have
shown to perpetuate in my native country your too flattering
estimation of my military services, by the presentation of medals
to students at Addiscombe. Though not educated at Addis-
combe, I concur most unreservedly in the very high respect and
estimation justly bestowed on this institution by public opinion.
Two of my sons * have there received their military education, and
I cannot but look forward to their career with confidence when I
reflect on the many highly gifted soldiers that institution has
prepared for the Indian armies. You have thus conferred on me

* Frederick, the present baronet, born in 1812, who entered the Bengal
Engineers, and Robert, who served on his staff in 1842.



Life of Sir George Pollock. 497

a lasting distinction, at once delicate and far beyond my deserts.
I must conclude, gentlemen, by assuring you that, though
sensibly aware of my inability fully to express how very deeply I
feel the generous eulogium you have passed on me, neither time
nor distance will ever diminish my sense of the obligation, nor
the fervency of my wishes for your uninterrupted prosperity."

The subsequent history of the Pollock Medal is one
not very creditable to some in authority. The cir-
cumstances connected with its institution, which have
come to our knowledge in the form of a memoran-
dum communicated to a friend by the late Major-
General Duncan Macleod, of the Bengal Engineers,
are briefly these :

The Court of Directors, with whom General
Macleod put himself in communication at the request
of the subscribers, the inhabitants of Calcutta, agreed*
to allow five per cent, in perpetuity on the amount
contributed about 10,000 or 11, 000 rupees, in round
numbers 1,000 or 1,100 sterling, which was
formally made over to them. With the approbation
of Mr. St. George Tucker, the very eminent chair-
man of the Court of Directors, General Macleod
designed the medal, which is, or rather was for the
medal as originally designed may now be classed
among the numismatic treasures of the past a very
handsome and creditable combination of design and
workmanship. Besides a medallion portrait of Sir
George Pollock, there was engraved on the rim a
record of all his military services, commencing with
Deig and ending with Afghanistan. The manufacture
of the die was placed in the hands of Mr. Wyon, and

32



49 8 Life of Sir George Pollock.

the price of the gold medal charged to the public was
16; and as it was not probable that the cost to
the East India Company could have been higher, the
annual charge for two medals would range at about
32, a sum which would be at the rate of little more
than three, and not five, per cent. Of course there
must be taken into consideration the original cost of
the die, but, as the East India Company had the
difference of the interest of the money between five
and three per cent, for thirteen years, it must have
been paid for over and over again. No sooner did
Her Majesty's Government take over the government
of India, in 1858, than some one ordered a new die to
be made, of much smaller size, and omitting alto-
gether the services, engraved round the rim, of the
veteran officer in whose honour the original was
struck. Not only was this step little less than a
pointed insult to Sir George Pollock, but, in point of
fact, it involved a breach of faith with the subscribers ;
for whereas over 1,000 had been subscribed, and five
per cent, guaranteed on the amount in perpetuity,
the intrinsic value of the new medal is now only 1 2,
or 24 for the two annually distributed, which is a
rate of interest not amounting to more than two and
a half per cent. As this was at the time the only
hereditary token of the gallant General's services to
the State, though rendered by private individuals, it
is certainly a little hard that the State should step in,
and, from a pitiful motive of cheese-paring economy,
or worse, rob this memorial to merit of much of its



Life of Sir George Pollock. 499

value. Though the saving, if annually applied, will,
doubtless, materially assist in lessening the National
Debt, we know that the late Field-Marshal often
spoke with bitterness of the proceeding.

Sir George Pollock held, for rather more than two
years,* the office of military member of the Governor-
General's Council, and, in 1846, was compelled to
leave India in consequence of a very serious attack of
illness. While holding his seat in the Supreme
Council, during the latter part of 1845, the first Sikh
war broke out, and Sir Henry Hardinge, who had
succeeded Lord Ellenborough on the 23rd of July of
the previous year, proceeded to the seat of war, and
gave Sir Hugh Gough the benefit of his great
military experience. Before setting out, the Governor-
General expressed to Sir George Pollock his extreme
regret that the rules of the service precluded his
nominating him to a high command in the army
formed to resist the Sikh invasion.

In the first engagement, the General lost his son,
Lieutenant Eobert Pollock of the Bengal Artillery, a
promising young pfficer, who had acted as his aide-de-
camp in the Afghan war. At the battle of Moodkee,
fought on 18th December, 1845, his leg was carried
off by a round shot, and he sank from the effects of



* During this period he was the and varied attainments as one of

trusted and valued adviser of Lord the first soldiers of the day, might

Hardinge in all military matters, have been utilized for the service

and, but for red-tapeism and the of his country.
" rules of the service," his great

32 *



500 Life of Sir George Pollock.

amputation. His father, to the last, never spoke but
with sadness of this domestic affliction.

On the arrival of Sir George Pollock in England he
was visited by Mr. Tucker, chairman of the Court of
Directors of the East India Company, who summoned
a meeting of the proprietors of India Stock for the
purpose of conferring upon him a pension of 1,000
a year. This was unanimously voted by the pro-
prietors, and thus, five years after the Afghan war, his
services were rewarded by those whom he had more
immediately benefited by them. Other public bodies
came forward to express their appreciation of his
eminent career. The Corporation of London, ever
foremost in such graceful acknowledgments, voted him
their thanks, and presented him with the freedom of
the City in a gold box of the value of one hundred
guineas. The Merchant Taylors also conferred upon
him the freedom of their Company. Deputations
from the United Service and Oriental Clubs waited
upon him with a request to be allowed to nominate
him an honorary member, and expressed a desire to
give him a public dinner, but the state of his health pre-
cluded the possibility of his accepting the latter honour.
Sir George Pollock sat for his likeness at the request
of the committee of the United Service Club, a high
honour as emanating from this, the chief military club
of the country. The East India Company, proud of a
General belonging to their own service, also requested
him to give sittings for a portrait to Mr. Grant.* This

* Now Sir Francis Grant, President of the Royal Academy.



of Sir George Pollock, 501



picture, which represents him as ordering the advance
on the Khyber Pass, is a noble work of art, and, after
hanging for years in the old India Office at Leaden-
hall Street, can now be seen in the splendid building
at Westminster in which is conducted the business of
our vast Eastern empire.

Her Majesty, also, was not backward in her recog-
nition of the merit of one of the most distinguished
of the band of soldiers whose achievements have
rendered her reign so glorious. On his health being
somewhat restored, Sir George received an invitation,
or rather, to speak more correctly, " a command," to
dine at Windsor Castle. Her Majesty was graciously
pleased to invite the Duke of Wellington, and his
brother Sir Frederick Pollock, to meet him. On Sir
George presenting himself at the castle, he was most
affably greeted by the hero of Waterloo, whom he
had first met forty-four years before at Government
House at Calcutta, when his brother, the Marquis of
Wellesley, was Governor- General of India. What
vast changes had been wrought in the world's history
since that now distant period ! The Duke's still
mightier rival, the master of the destinies of Europe,
was then in the very heyday of his glory and suc-
cess ; while the " Sepoy General," whom he at first
affected to despise, but subsequently learnt to recog-
nize as his conqueror, was engaged in a life-and-
death struggle with the Mahratta chieftains, Holkar
and Scindiah. In those days the frontiers of British
India extended no farther than Meerut, but at the



502 Life of Sir George Pollock.

date when these soldiers met once more in the castle
of Windsor, the sway of its royal mistress extended
up to the gorge of the Khyber Pass, for it was after
the first Sikh war ; and though we had not absolutely
annexed the Punjaub, that province was governed
by British officers, and a British force garrisoned
Lahore.

The Duke of Wellington presented Sir George
to Her Majesty, who, according to her wont, was
most gracious, though doubtless the veteran was
relieved when the banquet, with its irksome restraint,
was concluded.

We have already laid before the reader the letter
from Lord Hardinge, shortly after his return from
India, to Sir Frederick Pollock, in which he ex-
presses his ignorance, before his appointment to the
post of Governor- General, of the fact that "the
whole merit of the advance from Jellalabad to Cabul
is due to him " (Sir George). His Lordship returned
to England in 1848, in company with Sir Henry
Lawrence, and, soon after his arrival, addressed a
letter, now lying before us, to the subject of this



Online LibraryCharles Rathbone LowThe life and correspondence of Field Marshall Sir George Pollock ...(constable of the Tower) → online text (page 36 of 40)