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tions of this body. Lord Stanley (the present Earl

* This plea of Mr. Vernon for many years after this debate

Smith's came with an ill grace with vigour and success. Sixteen

from a Ministry, the political chief years later Sir George was

of which (Lord Palmerston) was elected a director of the East

two years older than Sir George India Company, as the successor

Pollock, but, nevertheless, admin- of the late Colonel Sykes, M.P.
istered the affairs of the empire

Life of Sir George Pollock. 517

of Derby) was the first to hold the seals of the office
of Secretary of State for India, in the administration
of his father, and with him rested the nomination of
the new councillors. His Lordship would have been
glad to avail himself of Sir George Pollock's great
experience, but the duties of the office were more
onerous, and would entail greater responsibility than
those of a director, and these considerations decided
him, though reluctantly, to withhold the offer of a
seat at the council table. Lord Stanley's letter to_
Sir George Pollock, stating his reason for thus ap-
pearing to overlook him, redounds as much to the
credit of the writer as of the recipient ; and, indeed,
we cannot recall a higher, or more gracefully written,
eulogium than is conveyed in it on the " sense of
duty" and " eminent services " of the veteran General.
It was what might have been expected from a man
of his Lordship's character and capabilities.

The following is the text of the letter :

" India Board, September th, 1858.

" DEAR SIR, I have hesitated from a feeling of delicacy in
offering to you an explanation which has perhaps been too long
delayed. The names of the gentlemen who have been requested
to serve on the new Indian Council are now before the public,
and it may possibly have occurred to you that the omission of
yours requires at least some notice on my part.

" Considering the long and eminent services which you have
rendered to the British Empire in India, it is obvious that any
Minister would, were it only for the sake of giving distinction to
the body over which he was called to preside, have been per-
sonally desirous of securing your co-operation as a colleague.

Life of Sir George Pollock.

You cannot doubt this, nor can you be ignorant of the position
which you hold in public esteem, as one of those who have most
successfully, and under great difficulties, maintained the honour
and power of England in the East.

" One reason, and one only, could have induced me to abstain
from soliciting your assistance in Council. The duty of a coun-
cillor will be both more onerous and more responsible than that of
a director ; it will involve residence in London during nearly the
entire year, and will probably absorb the greater part of the time
of those who undertake it. I could not but fear that at your age,
after a course of service not less laborious than distinguished,
such a life might prove too much for your physical energies,
while I knew that your sense of duty would make it difficult for
you to decline any opportunity that might come in your way of
promoting the public interests. It was on this ground that, not
without hesitation and reluctance, but with a conviction that
neither by yourself nor by the public could my motive be misun-
derstood, I determined to relieve you from what might have proved
the disagreeable alternative of declining a post in which you
could not but feel that your experience would have given great
value to your counsels, or of accepting it at the sacrifice of health
and necessary rest.

" The Council, I feel, will lose by the omission of your name,
but your inclusion in it would have added nothing to, as your
absence from it can take nothing from, the reputation of a career
which is already historical.

" I am, dear Sir,

" Faithfully yours,


This, coming from a statesman of the character of
Lord Stanley, whose practical good sense would never
betray him into expressions of fulsome compliment,
must have acted as a balm to the spirit wounded by
the dismissal conveyed in the treacherous proposal of
Mr. Vernon Smith.

Life of Sir George Pollock. 519

And so Sir George Pollock finally took leave of the
cares and labours of office after fifty-five years' ser-
vice in the field and cabinet, and retired into private
life, with the proud gratification that he might

" Hang up his bruised arms for monuments."

His had been a career of credit to himself and
usefulness to his country such as any man might re-
joice to look back upon through the vista of many
years. The strictest honour and probity had ever
marked the story of his life, and, though he held
offices in which, without incurring the charge of ve-
nality, or exciting suspicion, he might have amassed
money, as has done many an " old Indian " returned
home with more rupees than were saved out of actual
pay and allowances, Sir George Pollock had the proud
satisfaction of knowing that his integrity was held in
as high estimation in the country in which he laboured
an ordinary lifetime, as was his reputation as a General
of sterling ability.

In retiring from all participation in the exciting
scenes and responsible duties of an active career in
court and cabinet, he could justly apply to himself
the memorable reply of Sir George Eooke, the con-
queror of Gibraltar, to a friend who expressed his
surprise that an officer, who had held such high com-
mands, possessed so small a fortune " What I have,
has been honestly earned. It has never cost a sailor
a tear, nor the nation a farthing."

In his green old age Sir George Pollock possessed,

520 Life of Sir George Pollock.

in an eminent degree, the Shakspearian ideal of hap-
piness for those whose

" way of life
Is fallen into the sere the yellow leaf; "

though more blest than Macbeth, into whose lips
the Bard of Avon has put the simile, he had

" That which should accompany old age,
As honour, love, obedience, troops of friends."

He passed the remaining -years of his life at his
residence at Clapham, and those who were privileged
with his friendship will remember the simple and
unostentatious manner in which he dispensed his
hospitalities, reminding <f Indians " of a past genera-
tion, of the system in force in the old days, " Consule
Planco," when John Company ruled the kingdom of
the Moguls.

He was happy in the society of his friends, though
he could not but entertain, and would express to
those in his intimacy, the feelings of disappointment
with which he regarded the studied neglect with
which he had been treated. But there was no bitter-
ness in him, and he avoided, as much as possible, all
reference to the subject.

Sir George Pollock, as member of council of the
Royal United Service Institution, for many years
took . an active part in its management, and was
latterly elected one of its Vice-Patrons. There was
also another purely military institution which occu-
pied much of his thoughts and affectionate regard.
Sir George never failed to attend at the presentation

Life of Sir George Pollock. 521

of prizes to the Woolwich cadets, unless compelled
to absent himself by illness ; and on such occasions
always personally presented the Pollock Medal to
the fortunate recipient. We believe these visits to
his alma mater, in which to the last he entertained
the warmest interest, was fraught with as much
enjoyment to him, as the ride to Harrow and the
cheery rattling speech to the boys, afforded the late
Lord Palmerston. On the last presentation of prizes,
which took place the day preceding the funeral of Sir
George Pollock, the Duke of Cambridge alluded in
feeling terms to the loss the nation had sustained, and
exhorted the youthful aspirants for military honours
before him, to emulate the example of the veteran,
who had learned the rudiments of war in those halls.
In 1866, during the late Lord Derby's last ministry,
certain retirements and changes took place in the
Judicial Bench, and Sir Frederick Pollock retired from
the office of Lord Chief Baron, which he had held for
twenty years with great distinction, in order to make
way for Sir Fitzroy Kelly, who, as a valued supporter
of the Tories in the Lower House, had to be provided
for. Lord Derby offered Sir Frederick a baronetcy,
and the latter took the opportunity of placing before
the Prime Minister the neglect with which his brother
had been treated by successive Governments, and
solicited a like honour for him. The Chief Baron,
however, met with a refusal, which was all the more
remarkable, as he reminded the Ministry, that " one
of the last acts of the East India Company was to

522 Life of Sir George Pollock.

solicit a baronetcy for Sir George, and Lord Stanley
(then Indian Secretary) approved of it."

One cannot but be surprised that a statesman
of the so-called constitutional party, and, what is
more, a man like the late Lord Derby, should have
sheltered his reluctance to pay a tardy acknow-
ledgment of Sir Greorge Pollock's services behind the
name of Her Majesty, as he is represented to have
done. It requires no knowledge of the mysteries of
cabinets to know that the sovereign, particularly the
present Queen, would not gainsay the desire of any
Premier to reward deserving public servants, unless
some manifest job was being perpetrated. Indeed,
when we have seen how, during the last few years,
Liberal cabinets have vied with their Conservative
predecessors in ennobling wealthy country gentle-
men, manufacturers, and bankers, and other equally
respectable nobodies, whose services to their country
have been limited to " living at home at ease," and
voting with an admirable want of independence,
according to the behest of the " whips " of their
respective parties, when we have seen these gentle-
men rewarded with peerages and baronetcies with
no stinting hand, one is inclined to ask, with wonder
and curiosity, what are the rules and requirements
which guide the Prime Minister, in " recommending
to her Majesty " subjects for the bestowal of hereditary
honours. In this case, even the excuse was wanting
that the title would not be sufficiently endowed to
maintain the necessary dignity. Frederick Pollock,

Life of Sir George Pollock. 523

the heir, was amply provided for, and the Government
was made aware of the fact.

It might have been expected that the feeling of
gratitude which has induced successive Conservative
Governments, when in power, to confer peerages on
their staunch supporters in the Lower House, would
have moved them to recognize the claims of a soldier
who had extricated the country, even though it had
been involved by Ministers of the opposite party
from the disasters and loss of prestige incurred in
executing their mad scheme for checking Eussian
aggression by setting up a subsidiary power in
Afghanistan, when, if matters had not been grossly
mismanaged, Dost Mahomed was both able and
willing to be their powerful ally. That the Home
Government represented by the Board of Control,
at that time presided over by Sir Cam Hob-
house, better known as Lord Broughton, and the
Foreign Office, under Lord Palmerston, had a
chief hand in the undertaking of the ill-fated expe-
dition, towards which the Governor-General was
himself at first averse, until his ambitious secretaries
overcame his better judgment, is proved by documents
that have since been brought to light, and, moreover,
was openly avowed by the President of the Board
of Control himself, who, adopting the language of
Coriolanus, admitted the fact in unmistakable terms.

" Alone I did it," said the Minister and friend of

524 Life of Sir George Pollock.


Tardy honours. Appointment as Field-Marshal. Installation as Con-
stable of the Tower. Death and Funeral. Character of Sir George
Pollock. Conclusion.

IN 1870, Sir George Pollock was the senior officer
in the Eoyal Artillery, including what was known
as the Indian branch of the service, and stood
fourth in the list of Generals of the entire British
army. On the llth November, 1851, thirteen
years after attaining the rank of Major- General,
he was gazetted Lieutenant-General, and his com-
mission as General bore date 7th May, 1859. He
had now attained the age of eighty-four, but still
remained without the baton of Field-Marshal, which
had been conferred a few years before upon four
distinguished general officers. These were Sir
John Burgoyne, whose great career of usefulness
and devotion to duty was thus worthily rewarded ;
Sir Alexander Woodford, Sir William Gomm, and
Sir Hew Dalrymple Eoss, veteran soldiers whose
military careers dated from the last century. Still,
without instituting any invidious comparison, it will
scarcely be gainsaid that meritorious service in any
special branch of the service cannot be regarded as

Life of Sir George Pollock. 525

conferring so superlative a claim to the highest
military rank, as commanding-in-chief in the field
an army, and leading that army to victory in an
arduous campaign.*

At length the veteran, who for nearly thirty years
had been neglected and cast on one side, as a work-
man might a tool that has done its work, or the edge
of which was dulled with age, became the centre of
interest to a new generation of Englishmen, who
awoke to the consciousness that the General of 1842,
with whose name the world and " applauding senates "
rang when they were yet in the nursery, was still
only a General, while a long line of soldiers, successful
in the wars of the Punjaub, the Crimea,f or the

* Impressed with this view of tently ignored me and my services
the considerations that should since my return to England ." The
guide the distribution of military proposal contained in the letter
honours, the writer, though but a i n question was favourably com-
humble member of the commu- mented upon by the Indian Press,
nity, in October, 1869, published and a leading article from the
in the " Naval and Military Ga- " Times of India " was inserted
zette," under the initials C. R. L., in the " Army and Navy Gazette."
a letter detailing Sir George Pol- The matter was thus brought be-
lock's services, and recommending f re the authorities in England,
his appointment to the rank of wn seemed to awake to a con-
Field-Marshal in the place of Sir sciousness of the existence and
Hew Ross (also an artillery offi- career of the hero of the Khyber
cer), who had died early in the Pass, and on the 6th of June,
year. We sent Sir George a Sir George Pollock found himself
copy of the paper, upon which he - orders as a Field-Marshal,
expressed to us his regret that t Sir William "Williams received
we should have incurred needless a baronetage, G.C.B., and pension
trouble, "for," he added, "the of 1,000 per annum for his de-
British Government have consis- fence of Kars.

526 Life of Sir George Pollock.

Indian Mutiny, had received hereditary honours, and
yet survived, or had passed away, some to the hal-
lowed precincts of "the Abbey ;" at length, we say,
it seemed as if the veteran, upon whose movements
all India hung with bated breath as he disappeared
with his gallant army within the jaws of the all-
devouring Khyber, had outlived a nation's ingratitude.
That " fickle jade," Dame Fortune, opened wide her
hands, and from the date of his completing his
eighty-fourth year, Sir George Pollock became, as
it were, her spoiled child.

In June, 1870, he was gazetted Field- Marshal, to
the gratification of the entire service ; for while the
British Army cordially owned that he had well
earned the coveted distinction, the Indian Army
recognized in the act a graceful recognition of their
claims to the full benefits accruing from the amalga-
mation of the two services.

The Duke of Cambridge, as colonel of the Eoyal
Artillery, and the officers of the regiment, as a
testimony of the regard and esteem with which they
regarded Sir George Pollock, proposed to entertain
him at a banquet ; but though Sir George was deeply
touched and highly gratified by this mark of good-
will, he felt himself obliged with regret to decline
the honour, owing to a bronchial affection with which
he was troubled. Lady Pollock presented the officers
of the Eoyal Artillery with a fine full-length oil
painting of Sir George in the uniform of a Field-

Life of Sir George Pollock. 527

Marshal ; it now hangs in the regimental mess-
room at Woolwich, and is an excellent portrait
of the veteran, of whom the Eoyal Regiment are
justly proud, as one who has shed lustre on their
noble corps.

On the institution, in 1861, of the Star of India,
Sir George was nominated one of the first Knights
Grand Cross of that most Exalted Order.

One of the last occasions of his appearance in any
public ceremony was on the 17th August, 1871, at
the unveiling of the memorial of the late Sir James
Outram, of whose merits as a gallant soldier and able
diplomatist he often spoke in the highest terms.
With military punctuality he was on the ground
about an hour before Lord Halifax and other officials,
and, in his usual unpretending manner, mingled with
the small group of "Indians" assembled to do honour
to the hero of Mohamrah and Lucknow, and revived
reminiscences of the days when, as Political Agent in
Scinde, Outram so staunchly assisted him both with
supplies and the pressure he brought to bear on the

Sir George was a constant attendant at Her Majesty's
levees, and retained to his death the same old-
fashioned notions of loyalty with which he had been
imbued when a child. For his years he retained
wonderful activity of body, the only physical infir-
mity from which he appeared to suffer being deaf-
ness, while his powers of mind, with the exception

528 Life of Sir George Pollock.

of his memory as to names, remained almost unim-

On the death of the late lamented Sir John
Burgoyne, Mr. Gladstone offered the honourable post
of Constable of the Tower, which thus became vacant,
to Sir George Pollock. The Prime Minister's letter
does honour to him, and afforded infinite satisfaction
to the recipient, who showed us the original with
expressions of pleasure. It ran as follows :

"23rd October, 1871.

".If it be agreeable to you to accept the office of Constable of
the Tower, vacant by the death of Sir John Burgoyne, I shall be
very happy to submit your name for Her Majesty's approval.

" I beg that you will consider the proposal I now make as
one due solely to your public services and distinctions. I have
not yet forgotten the description of those services given by Sir
Robert Peel when head of the Government at the climax of your
military career, after the catastrophe in Afghanistan had been
carried, through your exertions, with a merited and conspicuous
success ; and it is a great pleasure to me to have an opportunity,
after the lapse of so many years, of again tendering to you a
mark of honour which I feel confident will have, if accepted by
you, the gracious sanction of Her Majesty and the cordial appro-
bation of the country."

On our addressing a letter of congratulation to him

* When questioned as to whe- cence of the early years of this

ther he remembered such an one, century, and he would straightway

naming, perhaps, a brother-in- recount how the officer spoken of,

arms of the campaigns of his or one of Ms name, slew a Nepaul

youth, he would reply, promptly, chief in single combat, or mayhap

" Of course I do," as if it was a performed some other feat of arms

libel on his memory to suppose at Bhurtpore or Burmah, which,

he ever could forget. The query though unchronicled, survives in

would, probably, revive a reminis- the memory of a few veterans.

Life of Sir George Pollock.


on the acquisition of this well-merited honour, the
new Constable of the Tower wrote :

" Many thanks for your very kind letter congratulating me on
being appointed Constable of the Tower.

" Mr. Gladstone's letter, which I will show to you some day, is
very gratifying, but I am just now overwhelmed with letters, and,
although not yet gazetted, I have had to go to the Tower, and
must be there again on Tuesday. There is no salary attached to
the appointment, but there are some expenses, and not even a
room for me in the Tower, but it certainly is an honourable

" My predecessors * have been, first, Duke of Wellington ;
second, Lord Combermere ; third, Sir John Burgoyne."

Though the office of Constable of the Tower is
most honourable to the possessor, it is merely a

* The immediate predecessor of
the late Duke of Wellington was
Earl Moira, created Marquis of
Hastings on December 7th, 1816,
for his successful conduct of the
Nepaul war, in which Sir George
Pollock was engaged. This dis-
tinguished soldier and statesman,
who held the office of Governor-
General of India from October
1813 to January 1823 (the longest
term on record), died at Malta on
November 28th, 1836, when Go-
vernor and Commander-in-Chief
of that dependency. Since the
demise of the Duke in 1852, the
succession has been worthily kept
up. The first to hold the office
was Viscount Combermere, who,
under the title of Sir Stapylton
Cotton, w,as well known in tbe
Peninsula as a dashing cavalry
leader, and for his services received
a Barony in 1814, which, twelve

years later, was changed for a
Viscount's coronet for the capture
of Bhurtpore. Then followed, as
Constable of the Tower, an En-
gineer officer in the person of the
illustrious Sir J. Burgoyne, an
Artillery officer in Sir George
Pollock, until the exalted post,
after having been held by the
three branches of the service, has
again reverted to an Infantry
officer, Sir William Maynard
Gomm, whose first commission
dates in 1794, when he was but
ten years of age. A handsome
salary was formerly attached to
the office of Constable. The Duke
of Wellington received, we believe,
either 1,500 or 1,000 a year,
and Lord Combermere 1,000.
Since 1865, an economical Govern-
ment has made the post purely
" honorary."


530 Life of Sir George Pollock.

"name" without a "local habitation," for Sir
George Pollock observed, as rather a good joke, that
upon his asking to be shown his private room, he
was informed that there was none.

There was little delay, however, in demanding the
fees for the commission, which last event in his
military life must have reminded the aged veteran of
that sharp practice at the commencement of his
military career, when he paid for his first commission,
but never received it.

The post of Constable of the Tower has been one
of high honour since Geoffrey de Mandeville became
its first incumbent, and that Norman warrior, who
received it from William the Conqueror for his gal-
lantry at the battle of Hastings, and a long line of
successors exercised, under its charter, many privileges
and no inconsiderable authority. Archbishops and
Bishops, ardent members of the Church militant of
those times, enjoyed these rights ; but at length the
office of Constable reverted to its more appropriate
possessors, and the men of the crozier gave place to
the men of the sword. The Tower is an independent
liberty or jurisdiction possessing a coroner of its own,
also justices of the peace, and other officers, while the
Constable is, by usage of his office, the Lord Lieu-
tenant and Custos Rotulomm of the district.

The Constable had no sinecure in the evil times
when he had under his charge some of the noblest,
and oftentimes, best of the land, whose steps, when
they emerged from out their prison-house, were gene-

Life of Sir George Pollock.

S3 1

rally directed towards the stone which marks the
spot where once stood the executioner's block.*

* Hrtppih 7 the Constables of to-
day have no captives for whos^
sflte custody they must answer,
Hrid to whom they look for profit.
\Ve are told that for every Diike
committed to the Tower the Con-
stable in old times had a fee of
20, for every Earl 20 marks "for
the suite of his yrons ; " for every
Baron 10 marks ; and so on, be-
sides allowance for the diet of the
prisoners and their attendants.
Thus the fuller the cells the larger
the revenue of the Constable, and
in comparison with these profits,
his salary from the Crown, and
stated allowance of wax, wine, and
other necessaries, were of small
account. The " Constable of Lon-
don," or " Constable of the Sea,"
as he was sometimes called, pos-
sessed a jurisdiction over the
Thames, and, acting under the
King's mandates, restrained mer-
chantmen from leaving the port, and

Online LibraryCharles Rathbone LowThe life and correspondence of Field Marshall Sir George Pollock ...(constable of the Tower) → online text (page 38 of 40)