Vincent Arthur Smith.

The Oxford student's history of India online

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Charter of 1853. The charter of the East India Company
was renewed for the last time in 1853, not for any specific
period, but during the pleasure of Parliament. The system
of government established in 1833 was continued, with the


exceptions that certain changes were made in the constitution
of the Court of Directors, the Governor-General was relieved
of the charge of Bengal and Bihar, a Lieutenant-Governor
being provided, and the patronage of the Civil Service was
withdrawn from the Directors, the appointments being thrown
open to public competition.


Lord Canning : the Mutiny ; the Queen's Proclamation.

Lord Canning. Lord Canning, son of Mr. George Canning,
who was Prime Minister in 1827, relieved Lord Dalhousie
on the last day of February, 1856, and remained in office for
a little more than six years, until March, 1862. Like Lord
Dalhousie, he wore himself out in the service of his country,
and returned home only to die. When he assumed charge of
the government, England was involved in wars with Persia
and China, and the Home Government required India to con-
tribute contingents of European troops, which the country
could not spare. The troubles which ensued were largely the
result of the reduction of the European garrison of India
below the safety point.

Unrest. The history of Lord Canning's administration is
the story of the Mutiny, its suppression, and the consequent
reorganization. Unrest was in the air when he arrived. The
annexation of Oudh, however justifiable on moral grounds,
undoubtedly had unsettled men's minds and displeased the
Bengal army, which was largely recruited from the ex-king's
dominions. England, only just emerging from the long
Crimean war with Russia, found herself engaged in lesser
conflicts with Persia and China, and it seemed to the numerous
classes in India who were dissatisfied for one reason or another
with the British rule, that the power of the Government was
shaken and might be defied. They could not realize the
existence of hidden reserves of strength.

FROM 1761 TO 1858 327

The Mutiny. A panic in the sepoy army was caused in
January, 1857, by the discovery that the cartridges for the
new Enfield rifle had been greased with animal fat, and that
the purity of the sepoy's caste was consequently endangered.
The authorities did their best to remedy the blunder ignorantly
committed, but the alarm extended throughout the army, and
was not to be allayed, the men believing that the Government
intended to force them to become Christians. Trouble began
with incendiary fires at Barrackpore, followed in February
and March by mutinies there and at Berhampore, the canton-
ment of Murshidabad. In distant Umballa, too, fires in the
lines during March and April indicated the rebellious spirit of
the troops. The decisive outbreak occurred at Meerut on
May 10, when the native regiments broke out, burnt the station,
murdered Christians, and set off for Delhi. The commanding
officer at Meerut, an imbecile old man, did nothing with the
2,200 European troops at his disposal, but allowed the revolted
regiments to escape and occupy the ancient capital, where the
Christian population was slaughtered, and the sepoys tendered
their allegiance to the titular emperor, Bahadur Shah, then
more than eighty years of age. Within a month nearly every
regiment between Allahabad and the Sutlaj had mutinied, and
in most districts of the United Provinces of Agra and Oudh
civil government was at an end. Those days are still remem-
bered as ' the time of disorder ' (ghadr or balwa lea wold).

Cawnpore. At Cawnpore, on June 27, General Wheeler,
after a gallant defence of an untenable entrenchment for three
weeks, was compelled to surrender on terms, which were
immediately violated. All the prisoners, men, women, and
children, were barbarously massacred under the orders of the
Nana Sahib of Bithur, adopted son of the late Peshwa (ante,
p. 300), who caused himself to be proclaimed Peshwa on July 1.
' The great company of Christian people, chiefly women and
children ', who were slaughtered at the Blblghar, and cast into
a well, are believed to have numbered about 200. The
avenging troops, led by Havelock and Neill, who arrived on


July 17, were just too late to prevent this crime, which was
perpetrated on the 15th.

Lucknow. The small European garrison and population of
Lucknow, including many women and children, held out in the
Residency, at first under the command of Sir Henry Lawrence,
until he was killed on July 4, and afterwards of his successor,
Brigadier-General Inglis. On September 25, when the siege
had lasted for eighty-seven days, Generals Outram and Have-
lock with a relieving force fought their way into the Residency
through the streets of the city, and brought a welcome rein-
forcement to the hard-pressed defenders, who were finally
delivered and withdrawn safely by Sir Colin Campbell in
November, after standing a siege for five months with unsur-
passed heroism. The defence had been materially aided by
a small number of gallant, loyal sepoys, including Sikhs, who
remained ' true to their salt '.

Battle of Cawnpore ; Ran! of Jhansi and Tantia Topi. The
troops which relieved the Residency at Lucknow were obliged
to withdraw from the city in order to rescue Cawnpore from
the hands of the Gwalior contingent, 25,000 strong, which had
occupied that place. Sir Colin gained a complete victory on
December 6 over the Maratha rebel leader, Tantia Topi, who
then united the remnant of his forces with those of the Rani of
Jhansi, the ablest of the rebel leaders. The campaign in Central
India against the Rani and Tantia Topi was conducted by Sir
Hugh Rose (Lord Strathnairn) in command of an army brought
up from Bombay. The princess was killed in June, 1858,
fighting bravely at the head of her troops, like another Chand
Bibi, and in the following year Tantia, who was deeply im-
plicated in the Cawnpore atrocities, was captured and de-
servedly executed. Lucknow, being held in force by the rebels,
was not retaken until March, 1858.

No unity of purpose among the rebels. The rebels did not
agree in aiming at any one political object. The mutinous
sepoys of the Bengal army tendered their allegiance to Bahadur
Shah, and attempted the restoration of the Mughal monarchy,


chiefly because the outbreak of the mutiny happened to occur
at Meerut close to Delhi, which offered to them the only possible
rallying point. Most of the mutineers were Hindus, who had
little cause to love Mughal rule for its own sake. Nana Sahib,
far from supporting the cause of the titular emperor, pro-
claimed himself as Peshwa, and sought to revive the Maratha
supremacy, destroyed in 1818. The Gwalior contingent and
Central Indian rebels generally had more sympathy with the
Maratha than with the Mughal. The Rani of Jhansi fought
for her own hand, and in other places sundry local interests
influenced the rebels. This lack of unity greatly weakened
the power of the rebellion, which was never controlled by any
one mind, whereas the British operations were guided by the
firm hand of the Commander-in-Chief , acting in concert with
and under the general supervision of the Governor-General.
Each section of the rebels was separately crushed. When all
was over, the old Bengal army had ceased to exist.

Delhi. Important as were the operations at Cawnpore,
Lucknow, and other places, the critical point was Delhi.
A tiny British force had established itself in June on the
famous Ridge to the north of the city, but was barely able to
hold its ground against the insurgent hosts until reinforce-
ments and a siege train from the Panjab, collected by Sir John
Lawrence at the risk of losing hold on his own province,
arrived during August andSeptember. At last, on September 14,
1857, the assault was delivered, the rebels were swept out,
and Bahadur Shah was a prisoner. The joy of victory was
dimmed by the fall of heroic John Nicholson. The recapture
of Delhi was the turning-point of the war, and broke the rebel
organization, such as it was. The subsequent operations,
some of which have been related, were conducted against
detached forces unconnected by any bond of union. By the
end of 1858 the authority of the Government had been gener-
ally restored, although in some localities the troubles continued
into the following year.

The Queen's Proclamation, November 1, 1858. The news

FROM 1761 TO 1858 331

of the rebellion determined Parliament to abolish the powers
of the Company and transfer the government of India directly
to the Crown, 1 substituting a Secretary of State for India and
a Council of fifteen members for the President of the Board of
Control and the Secret Committee. 2 At Allahabad, on
November 1, 1858, Lord Canning published the Queen's Pro-
clamation, which appointed him to be the ' first Viceroy and
Governor-General ', and announced the principles on which
Her Majesty proposed to govern the Indian empire. The text
of this weighty message from the ' mother of her people ' to
her children in the East is reprinted in Appendix A. 3 A few
days after the solemnity at Allahabad, the last of the Mughal
emperors passed through on his way to Burma, where he spent
the rest of his days in confinement as the penalty for his
passive share in the doings of the rebels at Delhi.

Causes of the Mutiny. In the beginning the rebellion was
simply the result of the panic caused in the Bengal army by the
greased cartridges incident ; the Bombay and Madras armies
being but slightly affected. The fighting took place almost
wholly to the north of the Narbada, and for the most part was
confined to the plains of Hindustan. Oudh was the only
province in which the insurrection became general, and nearly
every great landholder rebelled. The displeasure at the recent
annexation had something to do with this fact, but much of
the trouble in Oudh must be attributed to the lawless condition
of the kingdom after a century of gross misgovernment.
The cause of the Mutiny, expressed in the most general terms
and without regard to specific grievances, was the revolt of
the old against the new, of Indian conservatism against
European innovation. The spirit of revolt undoubtedly had
been stimulated by the annexation of Oudh and the trend of

1 The East India Company was formally dissolved as from January 1,
1874, by an Act of Parliament passed in 1873 (36 Viet. c. 17).

2 An Act of 1889 authorized the reduction of the Council to ten members.

3 It has been confirmed and extended by the gracious Message of H.M. the
King-Emperor, Edward VII, dated November 2, 1908 (App. B).


Lord Dalhousie's policy, which alarmed men's minds. Every
one of his actions was prompted by the highest motives, and
each can be justified in detail, but the cumulative effect of
them all was profound unrest. Railways, telegraphs, and
other material and educational improvements, now matters of
course, were in those days unorthodox, disturbing novelties,
which contributed largely to unsettle the minds of the people
and support the delusion that their religions were in danger.
Mutiny in the army was nothing new ; several instances have
been mentioned in the preceding pages, and there were others
besides. The military organization had become rusty and
antiquated, and discipline was lax. The Bengal army, thus ill
organized and mutinous, seeing England engaged in distant
wars, and the European garrison diminished, believed itself
to be master, and in its ignorance rushed blindly to destruction.

Leading Events and Dates of the Mutiny.

I. Delhi area. 1857, May 10 : Mutiny at Meerut ; rebel occupa-

tion of Delhi.
June 8 : occupation of the Ridge by a small

British force.

Sept. 14 : British recovery of Delhi.
II. Lucknow. July 1 : defence of Residency began.

Sept. 25. reinforcement of garrison by Have-
lock and Outram.

Nov. 22 : final relief by Sir Colin Campbell
and Outram ; withdrawal of the garrison.
1858, March 21 : British recovery of city of

III. Cawnpore. 1857, June 6 : defence of entrenchment began.

June 27 : defence of entrenchment ended.
June 27-July 16 : surrender and massacres.
July 17 : entry of avenging force.
Nov. 27 : defeat of Windham by Gwalior

Dec. 6 : victory of Sir Colin Campbell (battle

of Cawnpore).

IV. Central India 1858, June : death of Ram of Jhansi.
and Bundelkhand. 1859, April : execution of Tantia Topi.

V. Rohilkhand. 1858, June : recovery of Bareilly by the British.

1858, Nov. 1 : Queen's Proclamation announced.




1858-69 : Reconstruction ; Lord Canning ; Lord Elgin I ; Lord Lawrence.

The Mutiny ' a fortunate occurrence '. Sir Lepel Griffin
ventured to write, in 1898, that 'perhaps a more fortunate
occurrence than the Mutiny of 1857 never occurred in India '.
The saying, though a hard one, is, I think, true. If we can
place ourselves at the point of view of a general who sends
thousands of men to certain death for the sake of their country's
cause, and close our eyes to the horrors of Cawnpore and a
hundred other places, we can now see that the bloodshed of
1857-9 brought more good than evil. The conflict between
the old ideas and the new had to be fought out, and if the
struggle had not been begun in 1857 on the question of the
greased cartridges, it must have come a little later over some
other issue. The proposition that ' without shedding of blood
is no remission ' has a meaning beyond the theological sense.

' The Mutiny ', to continue the quotation from Sir Lepel
Griffin, ' swept the Indian sky clear of many clouds. It dis-
banded a lazy, pampered army, which, though in its hundred
years of life it had done splendid service, had become impos-
sible ; it replaced an unprogressive, selfish, and commercial
system of administration by one liberal and enlightened, and it
attached the Sikh people closely to their rulers, and made them
what they are to-day, the surest support of the Government.
Lastly, it taught India and the world that the English possessed
a courage and national spirit which made light of disaster,
which never counted whether the odds against them were two


or ten to one ; and which marched confident to victory,
although the conditions of success appeared all but hopeless.'

The tragic events of 1914 give fresh force to those words,
and have shown that not only the Sikhs, but all the Indian
races, are now to be reckoned among the sure supports of a
Government which honestly tries to do its duty to all.

Lord Canning's attitude. Lord Canning, although he could
not possibly see the far-reaching effects of the Mutiny as clearly
as we see them now, set himself bravely to the work of recon-
struction. The dignified calmness of his attitude, undisturbed
by much scurrilous abuse, was a wholesome restraint on panic
fear and furious passion, which, if left free from control, would
have prompted many evil deeds. The Governor-General, like
other people, made some mistakes, but, on the whole, he
deserves the highest credit for the manner in which he fulfilled
the duties of his office, and sought to heal rather than to
inflame the wounds inflicted by civil war.

Reform of the army. The reorganization of the army
obviously was one of the most pressing duties of the Govern-
ment. The European force had until then been divided into
two bodies, the Queen's and the Company's, an arrangement
which often caused much friction. The amalgamation or
union of the two was rightly decided on and carried out, in
the face of great difficulties. So many changes have occurred
since, that it is needless to dwell on details. The Native or
Indian Army was reformed at the same time. It, too, has
been vastly changed since the days of Lord Canning, and has
now proved itself worthy to fight side by side with its British
comrades on the huge battlefields of Europe.

Finance. Finance, which lies at the root of all government,
claimed equal attention. The immense cost of the military
operations had necessarily resulted in a large deficit, the expense
much exceeding the income. The old, crude methods of the
Company no longer sufficed. Skilled financial experts, at
first Mr. James Wilson and then Mr. Samuel Laing, were
brought out from England to set things straight. They intro-


duced the income tax and other new imposts, enforced strict
economy, and soon converted the deficit into a surplus. The
methods of doing financial business were much improved.

Education ; Universities. The Education Dispatch sent
out by Sir Charles Wood in 1854 (ante, p. 325) had borne
immediate fruit under Lord Dalhousie's care, in a large ex-
tension of village schools. The three universities of Calcutta,
Madras, and Bombay were founded by Lord Canning in 1857,
the very year of the Mutiny. In those days people thought
too much of examinations. The first Indian universities, ac-
cordingly were purely examining bodies, on the model of the
University of London as it then existed. Since that time a
change of opinion has taken place, and it is recognized that
universities should teach as well as examine. New univer-
sities have come into being at Allahabad and Lahore, while
others are promised or in course of erection at Dacca, Patna,
and Rangoon. The proper mode of constituting and managing
such institutions is constantly under discussion, and there is
reason to hope that, even if perfection be not attained, much
improvement will result.

The impulse given by the universities to the study of English
and all the subjects taught through the medium of that lan-
guage has produced an effect on India too profound to be

Codes of law. The useful work of codification began after
the Mutiny, during Lord Canning's term of office. The Penal
Code, on which Macaulay and other experts had been long at
work, saw the light in 1860, and was followed in the next year
by the Code of Criminal Procedure. The Penal Code has
stood the test of experience wonderfully w 7 ell, and has needed
but slight amendment. The procedure codes naturally re-
quire to be re-edited from time to time. In the course of
years most branches of Anglo-Indian law have been reduced to
the form of codes. The only considerable branch remaining
uncodified is that of torts, or civil wrongs.

Other reforms in 1861. The year 1861 was marked by


other important reforms. Chartered High Courts that is
to say, courts constituted under the authority of royal
charters replaced both the old Supreme Court and the
Company's courts, known by the Persian names of Sudder
Dewanee or Civil, and Nizamat or Criminal, Adawluts. The
change got rid of many abuses and legal obscurities.

The Indian Civil Service Act listed the appointments re-
served for the Civil Service of India, while throwing open all
others, with certain reservations.

Changes were also made in the constitution of the Executive
and Legislative Councils of the Governor-General, which have
been carried much further in recent years.

The Rent Act. The Rent Act, x of 1859, which applied to
Bengal, Bihar, the North-Western Provinces (now the Agra
Province), and the Central Provinces, did much to secure the
rights of cultivating tenants, which the Regulations of the
Permanent Settlement (ante, p. 276) had failed to protect.
The arbitrary rule that continuous cultivating possession of
a field for twelve years should confer tenant-right, or, as the
Act called it, ' a right of occupancy ', was now laid down for
the first time. Experience has revealed many defects in
Act x of 1859, which has been superseded by later legislation
in the several provinces. The problem involved in trying to
give definite legal force to the old vague tenant-right usages
is immensely difficult, and the success attained is imperfect.

Death of Lord Canning and Lord Elgin I. The work men-
tioned, and much besides, wore out and killed Lord Canning,
who retired in March, 1862. He survived his retirement for
only three months. He was succeeded by the Earl of Elgin,
who died at Dharmsala in November, 1863. During the in-
terval pending the arrival of a permanent Viceroy two acting
officers carried on the government.

Lord Lawrence appointed Viceroy. At the beginning of
1 864, Sir John Lawrence, who, as Chief Commissioner of the
Panjab, had done so much to suppress the Mutiny and recover
Delhi, was appointed Viceroy and Governor-General with


general approval. The rule that a member of the Civil Service
of India should not be promoted to the highest office under
the Crown, although recognized to be valid in all ordinary
cases, was held not to apply to his special claims. He was
subsequently raised to the peerage, and so may be called Lord
Lawrence. His term of office may be considered to close the
period of reconstruction after the Mutiny. He laid himself
out to carry on a purely peaceful, administrative programme,
and to keep out of all political and warlike troubles, so far as

' Masterly inactivity.' This disposition led Lord Lawrence
to preserve an absolute neutrality in Afghan affairs. When
the old Amir, Dost Muhammad, died, in 1863, various candi-
dates fought for the throne. Lord Lawrence intimated that
he would recognize the prince who came out top, whoever he
might be. Accordingly, when Sher Ali won the vacant throne,
he was duly recognized. This policy, called ' masterly inac-
tivity ' by the admirers of the Lawrence system, did not always
approve itself as masterly. It was reversed by Lord Lytton,
and there is much to be said for his view. At any rate, the
inactive policy had the merit of being cheap.

Internal affairs. In internal affairs we may mention the
terrible Orissa famine of 1866, which was not well managed,
and caused vast loss of life. The want of roads and railways
made relief very difficult. Many people were ruined about the
same time by the failure of wild speculations in Bombay,
where the American Civil War had given occasion for rash
dealings in cotton. Lord Lawrence throughout his life took
a warm interest in the welfare of the cultivating peasantry,
as distinguished from the landlords. He passed a valuable
measure for protecting the tenantry in Oudh, and drafted a
similar measure for the Panjab, which was passed after he
had left India.

The rule of Lord Lawrence. Lord Lawrence was not quite
as successful a Governor-General as he had been a Chief Com-
missioner of the Panjab. He carried too far his dislike of


pomp and ceremony, and never fully attained the position of
mastery over his colleagues which the head of the Government
should possess. It is unlikely that a member of the Civil
Service of India will ever again be appointed Viceroy. The
ministry at home should not have waited to give Sir John
Lawrence his peerage until after his retirement, as they did.


1869-84 : Lord Mayo ; Lord Northbrook ; Lord Lytton and the second
Afghan war ; Lord Ripon and non-intervention ; local self-government.

Lord Mayo. The Earl of Mayo, chosen by the Conservative
Government as the successor of Lord Lawrence, was a man of
a totally different type, gifted with singular charm of manner
and lively sympathies qualities which endeared him to the
chiefs of the protected states in a degree never attained by
any other Governor-General.

Relations with the Native or Protected States. The taking
over of the direct government of India by the Queen had com-
pletely changed the position of the Native or Protected States,
which now had become parts of the British Empire, although
not included in British India. All the chiefs, small and great,
from 1858 owed personal allegiance to the Queen of England
as their sovereign. No question of annexations, such as had
occurred in Lord Dalhousie's time, could possibly again arise.
The sovereign could not annex territory forming part of her
dominions. But the paramount power necessarily retained
the right to change the ruler of a state, in case of grave mis-
government. Lord Mayo fully understood the new conditions
and acted on them in the cases of Alwar in Rajputana and cer-
tain small states in Kathiawar. His personal qualities assured
his success in all such measures. He arranged for the founda-
tion at Ajmer of a Chiefs' College, which was actually estab-

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Online LibraryVincent Arthur SmithThe Oxford student's history of India → online text (page 25 of 27)