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memoir, in which occurs the following passage : -

" You have the -fullest liberty to assert in any quarter the high
sense I entertain of your public services, which, although per.
formed before I became Governor-General of India, were so
eminently distinguished by their importance to the State, and
their ability in a professional point of view, that I have always
considered myself justified in pronouncing a strong opinion of
their transcendent merit."

About this time Sir George Pollock sustained a

Life of Sir George Pollock. 503

heavy bereavement by the death of his wife, with
whom he had lived in unbroken happiness for a
period of nearly forty years. By this lady he had a
family of four sons and two daughters.

In 1852, after three years of widowhood, Sir
George married Henrietta, daughter of G. H. Wol-
laston, Esq., of Shirley, near Southampton, who
survives him. The union was dictated by mutual
feelings of affection, and was productive of twenty
years of unalloyed happiness.

Sir George Pollock, in due course of seniority, was
appointed Colonel Commandant of the C Brigade of
the Eoyal Horse Artillery, and on the initiation of
the volunteer movement in 1861, consented to accept
the honorary colonelcy of the 1st Surrey Bifles.

To this corps he gave not only the eclat of his
great name, but was a liberal supporter of the prize
fund, and attended almost every annual meeting for
the distribution of prizes, which Lady Pollock usually
presented to the fortunate winners. Sir George
would then say a few words ; his speeches were never
lengthy, nor were they eloquent, for he never boasted
any great command of words, but his expressions
were kindly and cheery; and the very encouraging
remarks regarding their efficiency, he addressed to the
corps on the last occasion he met them, only very
shortly before his death, will doubtless be remem-
bered with pride by the 1st Surrey Bifles.*

* Major Irvine (who recently death of the late Colonel Mac-
succeeded to the command on the donald, an old Indian officer and


Life of Sir George Pollock.

In April, 1854, Sir George Pollock was, without
any solicitation on his part, appointed by Sir Charles
Wood,* the President of the Board of Control, the
senior of the three Government directors of the East
India Company, under the Act of Parliament "to
provide for the Government of India," passed in the
previous year. Sir Charles Wood's letter offering
the appointment, is couched in the most nattering
terms. It is as follows :

"My DEAE SIR GEORGE, The time for the nomination of three
directors of the East India Company by the Crown having arrived,
it becomes my duty to recommend to Her Majesty the persons

friend of Sir George Pollock's)
only gave expression to the feel-
ings unanimously entertained by
the corps, when he issued the fol-
lowing regimental order on the
occasion of the death of their
honorary colonel :

"Major Irvine regrets again to
have to record in Orders the re-
moval by death of one dear to the
1st Surrey, Field-Marshal Sir
George Pollock, the honorary
colonel of the regiment, who de-
parted this life on the 6th instant
at Walmer. Of his services to
his Sovereign and country it is
unnecessary here to speak, form-
ing, as they must ever do, a glori-
ous volume in the history of the
British empire, a lasting monu-
ment of British prowess and
valour; but Major Irvine desires
to. record the deep debt of grati-
tude under which the regiment
lies to the late honorary colonel
first, for having honoured them
by accepting that post ; and, se-

condly, for the great interest he
so continually took in the welfare
of the corps. It must ever be
matter of gratification to members
of the 1st Surrey to remember
that for eleven years they had as
their chief one of England's brav-
est and best, who now, full of
years, and in the enjoyment of the
highest honours his Sovereign
and a grateful nation could bestow,
having secured to himself the per-
sonal regard and esteem of all
. who had the privilege of being
associated with him, has been re-
moved from us. All officers, non-
commissioned officers and mem-
bers will wear usual military
mourning for a period of six
weeks from this date."

* Now Viscount Halifax, Lord
Privy Seal, who has filled the
offices of Chancellor of the Ex-
chequer, First Lord of the Admi-
ralty, and Secretary of State for

Life of Sir George Pollock. 505

whom I believe to be most capable of discharging the important
duties of directors, and to possess such qualifications as will
complete the court in full efficiency for the performance of the
various functions entrusted to them in reference to the govern-
ment of India. Amongst those duties one of the most important
is the superintendence of the large military force of the Company,
and I am anxious to see a tried soldier amongst the directors,
well acquainted with the requirements of the military service of
India. No one has more triumphantly led that army, and under
most trying circumstances, than yourself; and I shall have great
pleasure in marking my sense of your services in that army by
recommending you to the Queen as one of the directors to be
named by Her Majesty.

" You will be the senior of the three whom I shall recommend,
and according to the course adopted by the Court as to the
directors whom they have chosen, I shall propose to place your
name the first on the list, and for the period of two years, as I
must name the period in conformity with the Act. They have
named the senior for the shorter period, and I shall thus have
placed the nominated and elected directors as far as possible on
the same footing.

" I am, &c.,

(Signed) " CHARLES WOOD."

Sir George Pollock was accordingly appointed for
two years ; the other two Government directors,
appointed at the same time, received their nominations
severally for four and six years, thus causing one to
go out of office every two years. About the same
time Sir Charles Wood privately told Sir George
Pollock that at the end of the term he should he
reappointed. The gallant officer felt that in this
unsolicited nomination a small and tardy acknowledg-
ment of his services in India was made by Govern-

506 Life of Sir George Pollock.

During the two years Sir Q-eorge continued a
director of the East India Company, he was a constant
indeed almost daily attendant at the India-House,
though such attendance was not in general given,
except by the chairman and deputy-chairman ; many
of the directors were in the habit of attending at the
weekly court only, and some not even then regularly.
From the multifarious nature of the business which
had at that time, and probably has still, to be trans-
acted at the India House, it was almost impossible
for any one director to be well informed on every
branch ; indeed, it was scarcely possible for a gentle-
man attending the weekly boards only, to be au fait
on one subject ; a zealous and efficient discharge of
the high duties entrusted to them required constant
attendance, and this Sir Greorge Pollock gave without
stint, as was a matter of notoriety in the old house
in Leadenhall Street. The consequence of inefficient
control on the part of some of the directors was that
much of the business was conducted by the secretaries
and clerks, the directors themselves exercising little
supervision. This system of non- control was, in
fact, favoured by the method of conducting the

As the term for which Sir George Pollock had been
appointed drew towards a termination, he was rather
surprised at not receiving an official intimation from
Mr. Yernon Smith,* the new President of the Board

* Now Lord Lyveden.

Life of Sir Gcorye Pollock. 507

of Control, as to whether he would be reappointed on
the expiration of his two years of office ; but he was
soon relieved from all doubt on the subject by the
receipt of the following letter from that gentleman:

"India Board, March 20M, 1856.

" MY DEAR SIR GEORGE, I think it due to the high considera-
tion I entertain for your character and services to inform you,
before the period arrives, of the course I think it my duty to pur-
sue upon the vacancy that will be created in the Court of Directors
by the expiration of the term of your appointment. Upon a
careful revision of the discussions on the Act of 1853, in which I
took part myself, I am convinced that it was the intention of the
Legislature that a fresh appointment, and not a reappointment,
should be the general rule to be followed by the Minister of the
Crown in his recommendations to Her Majesty. As this is the
first occasion in which the exercise of this discretion has occurred,
I think it most desirable to maintain the principle whereby, in
my opinion, the direction will be made most valuable ; and
therefore, in spite of the high value I set upon your services,
it is not my intention to propose your reappointment.

"I am unaware at this moment whether, if I had found it
compatible with my public duty to offer you the office again, you
would have wished to accept it, and therefore it is quite open to
you to let it be considered that you would not, if more agreeable
to you. At any rate, I trust you will understand that my course
is entirely prescribed by public principle, and that nothing in it
can in the least detract from that high renown which places your
name among the first in Indian annals of warfare.

" I am, with the sincerest respect,

" Yours very truly,


(Signed) *' K. VERNON SMITH."

The observation in Mr. Yernon Smith's letter, that
" it was the intention of the Legislature that a fresh

508 Life of Sir George Pollock.

appointment, and not a reappointment, should be the
general rule to be followed," was not according to fact,
for there is nothing in the Act of Parliament to pre-
vent such reappointment, nor was there indeed, during
the debate which took place on the passing of the
Act, any intimation given that a person once appointed
was not eligible for re-election. It may also be men-
tioned that a director of considerable influence, who
was in the House of Commons at the time, differed
from the view taken by Mr. Smith ; so that one is
driven to the conclusion that the reason given was a
mere excuse or afterthought to cover an act of injustice.
The folly of such an " intention of the Legislature,"
had any such existed, is obvious, for by never con-
tinuing any of the Government directors more than
six years, it would follow that by the time a man had
become well acquainted with the business of the
India House, his tenure of office and his usefulness
would come to an end. It would also have followed
that no Government director could have remained
long enough in the direction to take his turn as
chairman or deputy-chairman. Mr. Yernon Smith's
observation, that by not making a reappointment the
"direction will be made most valuable," was also
unfounded ; while the suggestion that Sir George
Pollock can, if he wished it, " let it be considered" that
he would not have accepted the reappointment, was
not only a most discreditable proposal as emanating
from a Cabinet Minister, but was evidently intended
as a trap for the veteran to fall into, whereby the act

Life of Sir George Pollock. 509

itself of Mr. Smith would have been concealed. But
Sir George Pollock was not only too " old a soldier "
to be taken in by so transparent a subterfuge, but was
also too honourable and straightforward a man to let
anything " &e considered " that was not actually the
case. He, accordingly, wrote a reply, indignantly re-
jecting such a course, and the letter is so characteristic
that we will lay it verbatim before the reader :

"East India House, 24th March, 1856.

" MY DEAR SIR, I have to acknowledge the honour of your
communication of the 20th inst., stating that 'you are convinced
it was the intention of the Legislature that a fresh appointment,
and not a reappointment, should be the general rule, and that,
therefore, you feel it to be your duty not to recommend me to Her
Majesty for reappointment, but to establish the rule and maintain
the principle on this first occasion of a vacancy/

" I beg you will accept my best thanks for the very flattering
allusion to my services in India which accompanied the communi-

" I was appointed by Sir Charles Wood in a private letter (ex-
tracts from which I enclose), without any solicitations on my part,
and (although I need hardly say that had I anticipated removal
on the expiration of my two years' tenure of office, I should have
hesitated to accept the office) it was not my intention at the pre-
sent time either to request a reappointment, or to decline it if
offered ; I was content to leave the decision in the hands of Her
Majesty's Ministers, under the confident expectation that it
would be in accordance with what is due to me and advantageous
to the State.

" The expression of your intentions certainly caused me some

<4 I am obliged by the consideration forme with which you sug-
gest that (if more agreeable to me) it is quite open to me to let
it be considered that I would not accept office if again offered ;
but in answer to this I beg to say that, with reference to the policy

5 10 Life of Sir George 'Pollock.

you assign as a reason for the course you pursue, I do not see
why any disguise should be adopted ; and, as I certainly should
have accepted the reappointment had it been offered to me, I
think it is better for the public service, and more honourable to
you and myself, that the truth (whatever it is) should appear.
" I remain, my dear Sir,

" Yours very truly,

In spite of this letter, Sir George Pollock was
more than once informed that it was understood he
was not reappointed because he did not wish to be ; so
that the source whence originated the " understand-
ing" can be easily conjectured. It may be asked,
what then was the true reason why Mr. Vernon Smith
did not reappoint Sir George Pollock ? One supposi-
tion is that he was sacrificed in order to give the office
to Sir Henry Kawlinson, who was appointed in his
place. This able officer, though one of the most
eminent Oriental scholars of the day, had only served
ten years in India, and did not possess a tithe of the
vast Indian experience of the General, whom, when a
local major, he had first met at Cabul, as already
narrated. It was said at the time that Government
had intended to send him to Persia; and there was
no more fitting man living for the Persian mission,
had circumstances prevented the return of Mr.
Murray as Envoy to the Court of the Shah. On
this plan being frustrated, it was confidently asserted
that the Ministry wished to appoint Sir Henry, Secre-
tary to the Board of Control on the vacancy caused
by the resignation of Sir Thomas Eedington, but that

Life of Sir George Pollock. 511

they offered that post, in the first instance, to Sir George
Clerk.* It was expected that he would decline the
offer, but upon his accepting it, Government decided
upon not reappointing Sir George Pollock to the
Indian Direction, in order to provide for the object
of all this manoeuvring. It was rumoured that Sir
Henry honourably stated at the time to Mr. Vernon
Smith, that he was already too much occupied at the
British Museum to be able to attend regularly at
the India Office.

With regard to Sir George Pollock's expectation
that he would be reappointed, it might very rationally
rest on two grounds, first, in consideration of the
services he had rendered to his country, and, secondly,
from the clear wording of the Act, coupled with that
portion of the concluding paragraph of Sir Charles
Wood's letter to him, in which he says, " I shall thus
have placed the nominated and elected directors as far
as possible on the same footing." And yet, what
in fact took place in the case under consideration ?

* This veteran statesman, the lanimous Commander - in - Chief,
"political father" of Sit Henry without which he could not have
Lawrence, Colonel Makeson, and moved into Afghanistan. Sir
others, was, without doubt, the George Clerk, who had filled the
man to whom (equally with Mr. posts of Lieut-Governor of the
Robertson, at Agra) Sir George North- West Provinces, and Gover-
was chiefly indebted during the nor of Bombay, has been pro-
trying days of the halt at Peshawur, nounced by no mean authority
not only for a strenuous moral (the late Sir Herbert Edwardes),
support, but for the stores and re- as, " beyond a doubt, the most
inforcements extracted from an un- accomplished Indian diplomatist of
willing Government an.d a pusil- his day."

512 Life of Sir George Pollock.

There were six directors whose terms of office had
expired. The five who were to be balloted for were
all returned, but the Government director, Sir George
Pollock, though placed by Sir Charles Wood, as far as
possible, " on the same footing," was by Mr. Smith
deemed ineligible, and informed that he would not be
reappointed. The cause assigned for thus dispensing
with his services had no foundation in truth ; indeed,
it would appear that a job had to be perpetrated, and
Sir George Pollock was to be sacrificed. He had been
placed on the Direction in 1854 by the then President
of the Board of Control, with a very handsome acknow-
ledgment of the services he had performed "under the
most trying circumstances," and at the end of two years
his services were dispensed with, and he was informed
that he might " let it be understood " that he would
not accept office, which would have been a suggestio
falsi in order to save a feeling of false pride, a course
which he, at least, was one of the last men in the
world to adopt, as Mr. Smith might have expected had
he better studied his character and career. In the
army or navy, when an officer has committed an
offence which would render it imperative on a court-
martial to dismiss or cashier him, if he has interest or
influence, he would very likely have the option of
retiring, in order to save the disgrace of being dis-
missed. Did Mr. Smith consider it necessary to make
such a proposal to *ari officer who had served his
country faithfully for more than half a century, who
had received the thanks of both Houses of Parliament

Life of Sir Georqe Pollock. 513

more than once for distinguished services, and had
obtained the highest military honours?

In India no public man would have dreamt of
making such an underhanded proposal to a colleague,
for it would have been rejected with scorn ; and we
must either conclude that, in this country, the exi-
gencies of political leaders, and the contentions of
party, blunt the moral sense of those hurried into
its vortex, or and this we regard as the true explan-
ation that Mr. Smith was singular in his view of
the principles that should guide Ministers in their
official dealings.

But the perpetration of an act of patronage,
which 'bore a striking similitude to a job, was not
permitted to be passed over in silence by a watchful
House of Commons. On the 12th February, 1857,
Captain Leicester Yernon who by the way stated
that he " knew General Pollock only by reputation,
and had never even seen him " -brought forward, in
a forcible speech, a motion for the production of the
correspondence relative to the removal of Sir George
Pollock from his seat as Government director of the
East India Company.

Mr. Yernon Smith, in vindication of the course
pursued by him, made a specious apology for the
necessity for introducing young blood in the Indian
administration, and insinuated a plea regarding the
"infirmities of age" of Sir George Pollock.

Mr. Disraeli, in replying to Mr. Smith, took him
to task for his " attack upon one of his colleagues,"


Life of Sir George Pollock.

and completely confuted the plea of age and in-

" General Pollock," said the right honourable member for
Bucks, "a man of more than European reputation, of world- wide
reputation to use the epithet of the President of the Board of
Control was appointed only two years ago, with the approbation
of the public, by the present First Lord of the Admiralty. If
General Pollock, from age and infirmity, is now incapable of
holding office as a director of the East India Company, why was
he appointed by the colleague of the right honourable gentle-
man ? It is not possible that in two short years those abilities
which gained great victories, and that high character which
commanded general approbation, should dissolve. If Sir G.
Pollock is incompetent now, it was a bad appointment two years
ago. But what evidence have we that he is incompetent?
Is it to be found in the letter read to us by my hon. friend?
It appeared to me to be a dignified letter, expressed in manly
and proper language, by one fully equal to any position he might
be called on to occupy. I do not question the right of the Pre-
sident of the Board of Control to act on his own responsibility,
but having no evidence before me that Sir George Pollock is not
as capable as he was two years ago, I must say I deplore that he is
no longer a member of the Direction of the East India Company."

Lord Palmerston, in replying, adroitly avoided all
reference to Mr. Yernon Smith's letter, but simply
defended his act in selecting whom he considered
most fit for the post at the Council Board, which he
declared became vacant by the expiry of the term of
two years for which he was appointed. His Lordship
said :

"I hope it will be clearly understood that the high profes-
sional character of Sir George Pollock, and the reputation he
enjoys for the important services he has rendered, are in no
degree whatever disparaged by the exercise of discretion which
my right honourable friend has made. Sir George Pollock's

Life of Sir George Pollock. 5 1 5

period of service expired, my right honourable friend chose
another person ; but Sir George Pollock was not removed, and
really it would be very unfair to him to record a removal which,
in point of fact, never took place."

Not only in Parliament, with Mr. Disraeli, did
members of the House of Commons " deplore
that he was no longer on the Direction of
the East India Company," but at the Board itself
many of his colleagues regretted his removal, and the
uncalled-for and unmerited slight to which he had
been subjected. On all military matters before the
court, his opinion was considered by the majority of
his associates as valuable and essentially of use ; by
some he might be considered as too active and per-
severing in upholding the rights of his late comrades
in arms, and his opposition to certain members, and
more especially his energetic and honest advocacy of
the claims of the Bengal Military Fund, might have
rendered him rather troublesome to deal with. Per-
haps, also, it may have interfered less with the easy
and off-handed manner in which important divisions
affecting the highest interests of the Indian army were
in those days quietly carried through the court, to get
rid of a careful, conscientious director, and experienced
soldier, whose demand for inquiry might have been
rather unpalatable.

His "age and infirmity" did not incapacitate
Sir George from drawing up an able paper his own
unaided production from the numerous reports and
appeals -of the army on the claims of the Bengal

33 *

Life of Sir George Pollock.

Military Fund, which was eulogized in the press as
one which, "from its clearness, its condensation of
voluminous facts and figures, its able and forcible
array of the leading points of the dispute, would
have done honour to his brother the Lord Chief
Baron." The elder brother continued to fulfil his
onerous duties with vigour and distinction for a period
of ten years after the date when his younger brother
was pronounced to be disqualified by reason of the
" infirmities of age."*

About two years after this, the East India
Company ceased to rule the vast country they had,
by the genius of their soldiers and statesmen,
brought into subjection to Britain, and the govern-
ment of India passed into the hands of Her Majesty's
Ministers, while the Queen was proclaimed through-
out the entire peninsula as Empress of India, her
orders being declared paramount over its 150,000,000
of human beings. The old form of Government at
home also ceased to exist, the office of Secretary of
State for India was brought into existence, and a
body, styled the " Council of India," was appointed.
We need not here enter into details as to the func-

Online LibraryCharles Rathbone LowThe life and correspondence of Field Marshall Sir George Pollock ...(constable of the Tower) → online text (page 37 of 40)