The Project Gutenberg EBook of The Earl of Mayo, by William Wilson Hunter This eBook is for the use of anyone anywhere at no cost and with almost no restrictions whatsoever. You may copy it, give it away or re-use it under the terms of the Project Gutenberg License included with this eBook or online at www.gutenberg.org Title: The Earl of Mayo Rulers of India Author: William Wilson Hunter Release Date: April 9, 2011 [EBook #35809] Language: English Character set encoding: ISO-8859-1 *** START OF THIS PROJECT GUTENBERG EBOOK THE EARL OF MAYO *** Produced by Ron Swanson
|III.||THE ACTUAL PROCESS OF VICEREGAL GOVERNMENT|
|IV.||LORD MAYO'S DEALINGS WITH THE FEUDATORY STATES|
|V.||LORD MAYO'S FOREIGN POLICY|
|VI.||LORD MAYO'S FINANCIAL REFORMS|
|VII.||LORD MAYO'S MILITARY POLICY|
|VIII.||LORD MAYO'S INTERNAL ADMINISTRATION|
The orthography of proper names follows the system adopted by the Indian Government for the Imperial Gazetteer of India. That system, while adhering to the popular spelling of very well-known places, such as Punjab, Lucknow, &c., employs in all other cases the vowels with the following uniform sounds:—
a, as in woman: á, as in father: i, as in police: í, as in intrigue: o, as in cold: u, as in bull: ú, as in sure: e, as in grey.
The Life of Dalhousie dealt with the last accessions made to the British dominions in India under the East India Company. The present volume exhibits a memorable stage in the process by which those dominions, old and new, were welded together into the India of the Queen.
Between the two periods a time of trial had intervened. Northern India, drained of its European regiments in spite of the protests of Dalhousie, seemed during the agony of 1857 to lie at the mercy of the revolted native troops. The Mutiny left behind it many political lessons, and two historical facts. These facts were that the Sepoys in whom the East India Company gloried as its chief strength had proved its chief danger, and that the ruling princes of India, whom the Company always regarded as a main source of danger, had proved a source of strength.
I say the ruling princes of India. For besides the reigning families there were certain ex-ruling Houses who furnished leaders and rallying-names to the revolt. The Muhammadan lapsed dynasties were represented in the Mutiny by the titular majesty of the King of Delhi and his sons. The great Hindu power, the Maráthás, who seemed destined in the last century to build up an indigenous Indian empire out of the wreck of the Muhammadan dynasties, stood forward against us in the persons of Náná Sáhib the adopted son of the deposed Peshwá, and his military follower Tántia Topi. The lesser ex-ruling Houses, whose states had come under the British Government on failure of direct male heirs, supplied an equally vindictive and a more heroic leader in the Rání or pensioned princess of Jhánsí. But the great body of the reigning Feudatories in India held aloof from the Mutiny. Many of them cast in their lot with us in our hour of direst need. The story of the loyal Punjab Chiefs who helped us to retake Delhi is known to all Englishmen. But the succour, the shelter, the aid, rendered by scores of the Native Princes throughout India, find but a passing mention in history. Of the 150 principal Feudatories and Chiefs, we can count the disloyal ones on the fingers of one hand. Local leaders, like Koer Singh the Behár landholder, were mostly bankrupt or ruined men.
One result of the Mutiny of 1857 was to profoundly modify the attitude of the British Government to the Native Princes. The East India Company had regarded them as semi-foreign allies; of whom the more powerful were to be bound tightly by treaties and overawed by subsidiary troops; while the weaker should be absorbed into the British dominions whenever a just occasion arose. This system of annexation was 'the one clear and direct course' deliberately laid down by the East India Company's Government in 1841. When the Queen assumed the direct control of India, her first act was to reverse that policy. In solemn words she assured the loyal Princes and Chiefs of her desire to maintain their rule over their own States. The Feudatories became thenceforward an integral part of the British Empire of India, with a clearly defined position, intermediate between the Sovereign and the native nobility in our own provinces.
In order to secure the perpetuation of their power and dignity in their own families, Her Majesty gave up a cherished principle of the preceding Mughal Empire; namely, that in the Feudatory States which directly owed their existence to the Imperial throne, the succession to the government of the State depended on the Emperor's pleasure. This principle which the East India Company had enforced for its own aggrandisement in the absence of natural male heirs, the Queen in 1858 deliberately renounced for ever. The right of adoption and of succession to the government of the Feudatory States of all classes, was placed on the same firm basis as the right of adoption and of inheritance to private property. The Native Chiefs became as deeply interested as the landed proprietors in our own provinces in the stability of the Queen's rule. For henceforth they held alike their governments and their estates under charters granted by the British Power.
This important change in the status of the Feudatory Princes carried with it increased responsibilities both on their part and on the part of the Suzerain. It became the duty of the Suzerain, in subjecting fifty millions of Indians to permanent feudatory rule, to secure, by a closer supervision, that such rule should prove a blessing and not a curse to the people. It became the duty of the Chiefs to co-operate more cordially with the Suzerain Power to give that good government to their subjects, which was the fundamental postulate of the new order of things. The changed status of the Feudatory Princes gradually evolved its practical incidents, not always without friction, during the ten years after India passed to the Crown. Those years were years of consolidation. To Lord Mayo, as we shall see, fell the more beneficent work of conciliation: the task of infusing into the old sense of self-interest new sentiments of loyalty, and of awakening new conceptions of solidarity between the Feudatory Chiefs and the Suzerain Power.
But Lord Mayo's work of conciliation was not confined alone to the princes, it embraced also the peoples of India. One of the most historical sections of the community, the Muhammadans, had gradually sunk into the degeneracy incident to an ex-ruling class. The educational and administrative measures of the fifteen years preceding 1869 accelerated their downward progress, and practically cut them off, throughout large parts of India, from any fair share in the public employments which were once their almost exclusive birthright. Lord Mayo had been deeply impressed both in Russia and in his native Ireland by the political dangers arising out of such an excluded class. The measures which he initiated formed an important step towards reconciling the Muhammadans to our system, and of adapting that system to their needs. For this task of conciliation, conciliation alike of the princes and peoples of India, Lord Mayo had special gifts. For, to use the words of the Earl of Derby, 'it was with him not a matter of calculation, but the result of nature.'
In regard to the foreign policy of India, Lord Mayo arrived at a juncture when the pre-existing methods had come to their natural termination. Lord Dalhousie's annexation of the Punjab in 1849, by throwing down the Sikh breakwater between British India and Afghánistán, brought closer the boundaries of Russian and English activity in the East. Our Asiatic relations with Russia passed definitely within the control of European diplomacy, and during the next twenty years the Indian Foreign Office pursued a policy of laissez faire towards its transfrontier neighbours on the north-west. This policy, deliberately adopted and justified at its inception by the facts, had manifestly ceased to be any longer possible, shortly before Lord Mayo's arrival. The dangers of isolation were become greater than the risks of intervention. The task set before Lord Mayo was to create a new breakwater between the spheres of English and Russian activity in Asia.
We shall see how he accomplished this task by a cordon of allied States along the north-western frontier, and by securing the concurrence of Russia to the system of an intermediate zone. Lord Mayo's foreign policy formed the true historical complement of Lord Dalhousie's annexation of the Punjab. Instead of the old Sikh breakwater on the Indian edge of the passes, he constructed a new breakwater on their further side, against movements from Central Asia. 'Surround India,' he said, in words which I shall again have to quote, 'with strong, friendly, and independent States, who will have more interest in keeping well with us than with any other Power, and we are safe.' On the basis thus established by Lord Mayo in 1869, the modern policy of British India towards Central Asia has been built up.
In his internal administration Lord Mayo had to encounter two imperative, and at first sight, irreconcilable necessities. The one was the necessity for consolidation, the other was the necessity for decentralisation. The new India which Lord Dalhousie had conquered and annexed, could only be made a safe India by rendering the resources of each part available for the protection of the whole. It could no longer be mainly held from the sea-board. Its security depended on a network of strategic positions, several of them a thousand miles inland, which had to be firmly connected by railways with each other and with the coast. Lord Dalhousie clearly discerned this, and in his far-reaching scheme of empire, consolidation formed the necessary complement of conquest.
Lord Mayo came to India after the long strain which succeeded the Mutiny had passed away, and it fell to him to give a more complete development to his illustrious predecessor's views than had up to that time been practicable. Indeed, before his arrival, it was become apparent that under the then existing system, an adequate rate of progress in railway extension could only be attained by an outlay which exceeded the resources of Indian finance. Under Lord Mayo's orders a new system of State Railways was inaugurated—a system which has filled in the gaps left in the railway map of India as contemplated by Lord Dalhousie, and which is now bringing about an era of railway development throughout India such as Lord Mayo himself would scarcely have ventured to hope for.
During the five years preceding Lord Mayo's first year of rule, 1869-70, only 892 miles of new railway had been opened.1 During the five years which followed 1869-70, no fewer than 2013 additional miles were opened.2 The old system of Guaranteed Railways had from its commencement in 1853 opened only a total of 4265 miles during the seventeen years ending 1869-70. Under the new system of State and Guaranteed Railways inaugurated by Lord Mayo, the total rose to 15,245 miles in 1887-88.
1 Parliamentary Abstract, 1865-66 to 1869-70, inclusive.
2 Idem; 1870-71 to 1874-75, inclusive.
But while Lord Mayo strongly realised that the public safety in India demanded consolidation, he perceived that financial solvency depended on decentralisation. Up to his time the expenditure of the most distant provinces was regulated from Calcutta. In the greater India handed down by Dalhousie this task had grown beyond the power of any single central bureau. The result was an annual scramble by the Provincial Governments for the Imperial grants, and a chronic inability on the part of the Central Government to estimate its real income and expenditure for either the current or the coming year. In the proper chapter the disastrous consequences of this state of things will be duly set forth. It suffices here to state that the measures devised by Lord Mayo and his counsellors put an end to that state of things for ever.
By those measures he re-organised the finances of India on a broader basis of Provincial independence and Provincial responsibility, subject to a clearly defined central control. He awakened in each Local Government a new and keen incentive to economy—the incentive of self-interest. He found chronic deficit; he left a firmly established surplus. At the same time he reformed relations of the Provincial treasuries with the Central Government so as to secure that the Budget estimates should thenceforth be a trustworthy forecast of the resources of the year. All this he accomplished without impairing the efficiency of the central control, or depriving the Central Government of any power which it could really exercise with advantage.
But great as was the immediate success of his financial measures, he looked forward to still more important results in the future. He felt that the problem of problems in India is to bind together the Provinces in a true and not a fictitious unity; not indeed as homogeneous portions of a nation, but as integral parts of an empire. To accomplish this, he perceived that an ordered freedom must be accorded to the Provincial Governments in matters of local administration, as well as a strict subjection enforced from them in matters of Imperial policy.
Lord Mayo believed that the best training for any large measure of self-government in India was to be found in the management of local resources. He declared, as we shall see, that his financial policy would, 'in its full meaning and integrity, afford opportunities for the development of self-government:' 'the object in view being the instruction of many peoples and races in a good system of administration.' He denied that his policy was a policy of decentralisation in any destructive sense. On the contrary, he regarded it as a powerful impulse towards consolidation on the only basis possible for a vast empire—the basis of Provincial initiative and Provincial responsibility subject to a firm central control.
In narrating the principal measures of this viceroyalty, I have freely used my larger Life of Lord Mayo, published fifteen years ago. But I would express my obligations to the authorities in the India Office for the facilities now afforded me, especially by the Political Department, for tracing the subsequent history of those measures in the official records, and thus enabling me to estimate their permanent results. I would also express my gratitude to members of the family: especially to the Countess Dowager of Mayo, not only for materials originally supplied,3 but also for valuable suggestions during her perusal of the proof-sheets of the present volume, and for the portrait which forms its frontispiece.
3 A Life of the Earl of Mayo, fourth Viceroy of India, 2 vols. 2nd edit. 1876.
Richard Southwell Bourke, sixth Earl of Mayo, was born in Dublin on the 21st of February, 1822. He came of a lineage not unknown throughout the seven centuries of unrest, which make up Irish history. Tracing their descent to the ancient Earls of Comyn in Normandy, the de Burghs figured as vigorous instruments in the English conquest of Ireland from the Strongbow invasion downwards. From the William Fitzadelm de Burgh, commissioned to Ireland by Henry II to receive the allegiance of the native kings, sprang a number of warlike families, now most prominently represented, after many mischances of forfeiture and lapse, by the Earls-Marquesses of Clanricarde and the Earls of Mayo.
Like other Norman barons in Ireland, the de Burghs gradually fell into the rough ways of the tribes whom they subdued. One of them married a granddaughter of Red-Hand, the old King of Connaught, and the family name naturalised itself into the Irish forms of Bourke, Burke, or Burgh, which it has since retained. They adopted the conquered country as their own, and each subsequent wave of English invaders found the Bourkes as intensely Irish as the old Celtic families themselves. I trouble the reader with these matters, not from an idle love of genealogy, but because the past history of the family did much to mould the character of the Bourke who forms the subject of this volume. His was a nature into which an ancient descent infused no tincture of any ignoble pride of birth. But its memories lit within him an unquenchable love of the people among whom his ancestors had so long borne a part—a sentiment which, after blazing up once or twice in his youth, shone calmly through his life, and went with him to the grave.
'I come of a family,' he said on one occasion in the House of Commons, 'that cast in their lot with the Irish people.' To that people he devoted his whole English career. The only parliamentary office which he accepted was the Chief Secretaryship for Ireland; and this office he held thrice. He spoke so seldom on any but Irish questions as to be little known to the English public. Amid the splendid cares of India his letters break out into longings for his Irish home. It was an Irish cross that he placed on the plain of Chilianwála over the unnamed dead. In his Will, he begged that his body might be conveyed to Ireland, and laid in a humble little churchyard in the centre of his own estates, with only an Irish cross to mark his grave.
As in the feuds and rebellions of Ireland, from the thirteenth to the seventeenth century, the Bourkes bore a boisterous part, so, during the eighteenth century they emerge as active prelates and politicians. John Bourke of Kill and Moneycrower, an ambitious and hard-working member of the Irish Parliament, was created Baron Naas in 1776, Viscount Moneycrower in 1781, and finally Earl of Mayo in 1785. The third Earl held the Archbishopric of Tuam and gave a clerical turn to the younger branches of the family, among whom the Bishop of Waterford and the Dean of Ossory left well-remembered names. The fourth Earl has a surer hold on the public memory in Praed's verse. The fifth Earl was the father of Lord Mayo the subject of this memoir.
Hayes, the scene of Lord Mayo's early years, was an unpretending country house in Meath, about twenty-two miles from Dublin. Here, in the earlier part of the century, lived the second son of the fourth Earl of Mayo, the Honourable Richard Bourke, Bishop of Waterford and Lismore, with his wife Mary, daughter of Robert Fowler, Archbishop of Dublin. In 1820 their eldest son Robert, afterwards fifth Earl, wedded Anne Charlotte Jocelyn, a granddaughter of the Earl of Roden; and the Bishop, retiring to his see-residence at Waterford, gave up his family house of Hayes to the newly-married pair. Of this marriage Richard Bourke, whose life I am about to relate, was the eldest son.
At Hayes they lived for over forty years, bringing up a family of eight1 children in a quiet religious fashion, and upon such means as fall to the son of a younger son. In 1849 Mr. Robert Bourke succeeded to the earldom, and afterwards took his seat in Parliament as a representative peer. But long before that time, Richard and the other elder children were out in life. It was the Hayes influence that moulded their characters and shaped their careers, and it was Hayes that they always thought of as their home.
1 Of ten children born to them, one daughter died in infancy and one son in boyhood.
As the Hayes income did not permit of a public school education, the father set about the task of home-training with steadfastness of purpose. In his youth he had passed a couple of years at Oxford, but his own up-bringing had been mainly a domestic and evangelical one, characteristic of an Irish see-house sixty years ago. His marriage confirmed this cast of thought by closely associating him with the evangelical leaders of the time. The tutor and governess formed important figures in the life of that quiet household, in which few events took place to mark the march of time, save the father's periodical absence at assizes, or on county business. This monotone of boyhood, little broken by the usual external influences, gave a singular force to the family tie among the young group at Hayes.
The house became a well-known resort of the evangelical clergy, and figures somewhat prominently in the religious biography of that time. One clergyman has left behind a picture of his warm welcome on reaching Hayes belated—his postillions having lost their way and entangled the carriage in a wood—and how the nursery turned out a little battalion, which had retired for the night, but now streamed forth 'wrapped in shawls and cloaks' to greet the family friend. Nor does the narrative fail to notice 'the asylum established within the grounds for persecuted Protestants.'
The sobriety of tone at Hayes was brightened by the delight which the father took in the outdoor life of his children. Walking expeditions, long rides, cricket, swimming matches on the Boyne, and every form of robust companionship which endears Englishmen to each other—in all these the father and sons bore an equal part. The talent at Hayes came from the mother. But to the father they owed the ideal and standards in life which result from growing up as the dearest friends of a single-minded and tenderly considerate man.
'My father,' writes one of the sons, 'brought us all up with the idea that we should have to make our own way in the world. But at the same time, every one of us felt that what little he could do for us he would do to the last penny. His generosity used to break out unconsciously in a hundred details. During the Indian Mutiny, I gave a little lecture to the tenants and neighbours on what the army was then doing in the East. Unmeritorious as the performance undoubtedly was, I remember my father coming into my room early next morning, and saying, with tears in his eyes, that he felt proud of it, and that he was not a rich man, but begged me to accept a twenty-pound note.'
Of the mother, the same son writes. 'What strikes me most in looking back, was her earnest love for her children; an inexhaustible fund of common sense; a contempt for everything mean or wrong; and a firm belief that her daily prayers for us would be answered, and that we would be a blessing and comfort to her through life.
'She it was who really enabled my father to pull through the many difficulties of his married life, between 1820 and 1849. She was never idle—always writing, doing accounts, or working; had little time for reading, but constantly did her best to get us to take an interest in books. Her mission, she used to say, was work. She devoted much of her time to the cottages of the sick, to clothing clubs, and the hundred little charities which crowd round the wife of an Irish squire who tries to do his duty. I never knew any one who worked harder. Two days a week she gave up to standing at the door of her medicine-room, dispensing drugs, and, when necessary, warm clothes to the poor. And day after day, in bad seasons week after week, the dinner-bell rang before she got a drive or a walk. Often have I thought that poor Mayo inherited from her that conscientiousness in the discharge of minute duties which to me seemed one of the characteristics of his official life, both in England and in India.'
The mother stands out in this and other documents which have come into my hands, a figure of gentle refinement among the robust open-air group at Hayes; recognised by it as something of a paler and more spiritual type than the warm colouring of the life around her. Into that life she managed to infuse a consciousness that, somehow, there was a higher and more beautiful existence than the vigorous animalism of boyhood dreamed of. Richard as the eldest cherished her memory with a touching retentiveness. A thoroughly manly boy, the leader in all the pastimes and mischief of Hayes, his childhood reflected the more retired aspects of his mother's nature, not less than his father's love of out-door sports. There remains a little collection of sermons written by him before the age of twelve, and instinct with the pathos of an imaginative child under strong religious impressions. These discourses, chiefly upon texts dear to the evangelical mind, dwell with a quaint earnestness on such subjects as the doctrine of grace, the worthlessness of this world, and the glories and terrors of the next.
The taste for history soon began to mingle with his meditations, and his twelfth year produced a little book in a straggling boyish hand, entitled, 'A Preface to the Holy Bible, by R. S. B. of H——': with the motto, 'Multae terricolis linguae, coelestibus una.' In this fasciculus he gives a historical introduction to each of the books of the Old Testament as far as the Psalms, with notices of their authors and contents. His boyish letters breathe the pronounced Protestantism of the people among whom he lived. At fifteen he writes to his father: 'There is a poor man here on the verge of the grave just come out of Popery. Lord Roden' (the relative with whom he was then staying), 'has received alarming letters from M. Caesar Malan of Geneva, giving an alarming account of the increase of Popery on the Continent.' Such sentences contrast curiously with the tolerant sobriety of Lord Mayo's maturer mind. But they illustrate that ready sympathy with his surroundings, which won for him in later life the love of his own countrymen, and produced so deep an impression among the princes and peoples of India.
With one more quotation I must bid good-bye to the home-life at Hayes. It is a letter written to his mother on his thirty-seventh birthday, when he was Chief Secretary for Ireland for the second time, amid the distracting cares of Phoenix Park agitations, and the coming defeat of his party in Parliament.
'MY DEAREST MOTHER,—I am very thankful for your motherly letter and all the good advice it contains. I have had many blessings in my time, and I am most thankful for them in my heart, though I may not make any great demonstration of my thoughts. We are all getting on in years, and are, I hope, setting our faces homewards. My life is, at the very most, more than half over, even supposing that I should live to be old. And how many chances there are against that! This time thirty-seven years ago I was a small thing. How much smaller in one sense shall I be thirty-seven years hence! How much greater, we may hope, in another!'
In 1838, Richard being then sixteen, the Hayes family went abroad for a couple of years. The first year they spent in Paris, the tutor and governess living as usual in the house. But for the first time in their lives, the boys bent their necks to the discipline of exact teaching, beginning with the French professor at 8 A.M. and ending with the dancing-master at 7 in the evening. For these long hours in the schoolroom they took a sufficient revenge out of doors. One can picture the torrent of thick-booted Irish boys, each accustomed to do battle for his own branch in the great laurel at home, ravaging among the miniature embellishments of a Champs Elysées garden. They set up a swing, wore the grass into holes, swarmed up the delicately-nurtured cedar, and trampled the flower-beds. At the end of six months, when the family left, Mr. Bourke had to pay the outraged proprietor a bill of five hundred francs, for 'dégradation du jardin.'
In the summer of 1839 the family rolled southwards to Switzerland, and had four months of climbing. The next winter, passed in Florence, opened up a new world. The French and Italian masters went on as before, and Richard took lessons in singing and on the violoncello, for both of which he had early disclosed an aptitude. But another sort of education also began. At first half holidays, then whole days, were spent in the galleries; the mother now as ever leading him on in all noble culture. 'Richard,' writes his brother, 'intensely enjoyed the artistic atmosphere of the place.' He learned to recognise the different schools and artists by patiently looking at their works.
At Florence, too, Richard first entered the world. The mother took care that the best houses should be open to her son. So to balls, Richard Bourke and his next brother went; and to all the haunts of men and women in that friendly society of winter refugees. 'Before he returned to England,' writes his brother, 'he had become a man.'
This was in May 1840. Richard, now in his nineteenth year, set up a hunter out of his slender allowance, with an occasional second horse—a sufficiently unpretending stud, but one which he made the most of by hard riding and knowledge of the country. In December he received a captain's commission in the Kildare Militia, of which his great-uncle, the Earl of Mayo, was colonel. In 1841 he entered Trinity College, Dublin, but did not reside; and, after the usual course of study with a tutor, took an uneventful degree. During this time he lived much with his grand-uncle, the Earl of Mayo, at Palmerstown, in County Kildare. Hayes and County Meath begin to fade into the distance. But in 1842 the death of a dearly-loved brother, from the after-effects of a Roman fever, called forth a burst of home feeling, and is recorded in a little poem, which retains the pathos of the moment. Next year, 1843, Richard Southwell Bourke came of age.
His hostess at Palmerstown, the Countess of Mayo, lived in the bright world which still sparkles in Praed's vers de société, and, childless, clever, and kind, did what such a lady can do to make a young relative's entrance into life pleasant. Her twin-sister had married a Mr. Smith, a gentleman who, having made his fortune in the West Indies, resided at Bersted Lodge, Sussex. The Countess of Mayo's duties at Court, as Lady-in-Waiting to Queen Adelaide, kept the Palmerstown family much in England; and the twin-sisters, both childless, carried through life a peculiarly strong and tender attachment to each other. One year the Earl and Countess, with their grand-nephew, lived at Bersted Lodge; the next year Mrs. Smith paid a long visit to Palmerstown; and Richard Bourke thus saw a more varied society than usually falls to the lot of a young Irish squire.
The next couple of seasons, Mr. Bourke devoted to the art of making himself agreeable in London society. A fragment of drift-wood, cast ashore from the old letters of the period, shows in what guise he flitted before contemporary faces. 'A very young man, with a fine bearing; one of the best waltzers in town, and a great deal made of.' By this time his frame had expanded itself to the commanding stature with the air of robust strength, by which he was known through life.
In 1845 his great-aunt, Lady de Clifford, died, and Mr. Bourke, not being able to go out much, devoted the summer to a tour in Russia. Armed with introductions to a Court and society then famous for its hospitality to Englishmen, he saw what was best worth seeing, and made the personal acquaintance of many European statesmen and diplomatists who had hitherto been to him only names. His letters give one the impression of a keen young intelligence looking for its first time on unfamiliar objects, and of immense powers of physical enjoyment. On his return from his tour he published an account of it in two volumes.2 They are a very fair specimen of a young man's travels—modestly written, full of eyesight, and not overlaid with general reflections. His descriptions of Russian life are quiet and realistic, and had at the time a novelty which they do not now possess.
2 St. Petersburg and Moscow. A Visit to the Court of the Czar. By Richard Southwell Bourke, Esq. 2 vols. Henry Colburn, 1846.
The Russians of that day appeared to him to be essentially in the imitative stage, both as regards art and letters; and he supports this position by well-chosen examples of pictorial design and by the statistics of the book-trade, contrasting the enormous number of volumes imported with the few original works produced in the country. He was particularly struck by the absence of a middle class. 'In no country,' he says, 'except, perhaps, in Ireland, is the transition from the palace to the cabin more abrupt, or the difference between the peer and the peasant more wide. This is mainly owing to the want of a middle class—that cement of the social state ... which is so indispensable to the wellbeing of a commonwealth. The serf in his sheepskin may walk into the palace of his lord, or may watch by his master's gate; but no feeling in his breast tells him that he is born of the same race or formed for the same purposes. And the great lord, knowing his superiority of birth, education, and descent, looks forth on his horde of slaves with all benignity and kind attention. But it is the affection of a good heart for a noble and faithful beast, whose involuntary service may sometimes command the solicitude of the master, but never the least participation in a single right of fellowship or friendship.'3
3 Vol. i, pp. 154-155.
And here are the results: 'We see perfectly devised plans of Government placed among a tangled web of complicated and clumsy political institutions. We see one race of men enjoying all the benefits and exhibiting all the graces of enlightened education, while the other and inferior class are sunk in deep ignorance, rudeness, and slavery. We see the palace towering by the cabin, the rod of bondage lying beside the sceptre of righteousness. The rivers flow at one moment among stately fanes and Grecian porticos; at another, wander through the savage forest and uncultivated morass. All is incongruous; the social edifice is yet unbuilt, and the materials for its erection lie in splendid confusion on desert ground.'4
4 Vol. i, pp. 273-274. It should be remembered that these remarks apply to Russia in 1845.
Mr. Bourke gives several pages to the protective system with a pleasing candour, considering the last desperate stand which at that very time was being made for it at home. After speaking of the disabilities of the merchants, and the high price alike of the luxuries and of the necessaries of life in St. Petersburg, he says: 'I fancy the real secret of the unhealthy state of the commercial interest in Russia is the incompetency of the rulers to legislate properly on this most important branch of political economy. It is impossible that men totally unacquainted with the commonest details of trade can devise measures that would rectify the present system. As long as the Government is entirely in the hands of men selected mostly from the highest class of the nobles, a really enlightened Commercial Minister will be in vain hoped for.'
But Protection and official control, he points out, were not confined to commerce. They penetrated into every nook and corner of Russian life—cramping the education, shackling the handicrafts, and interfering with the amusements, of the people. Here is how 'Protection' of the drama practically acted in Russia half a century ago: 'I never saw the Government management appear so palpably as to-night. For the performance did not commence till the Governor had taken his seat, some time after the hour announced; and then the second act of the opera was delayed three-quarters of an hour, in order to permit Prince Frederick to hear as small a portion of Russian as possible. There is no use in drawing comparisons: I have avoided measuring things in other countries by our British standard of excellence, for travellers should leave as many of their patriotic prejudices as possible at home. But I could not help thinking, that were we in the Strand, instead of the Great Place of the city of Moscow, the probabilities are that the interior decorations of the theatre would, before the three-quarters of an hour had elapsed, have adorned the streets outside; and that Governor, performers, Prince, and all, would most likely have taken themselves off, in the shortest manner, or have had to await the consequences of a regular row. Be that as it may, no rebellious tongues among the small audience here dared to express even impatience, and they sat as silently and quietly doing nothing as if they had been in a conventicle.'5
5 Vol. ii, pp. 125-126.
The pictures of the Russian husbandman might have been sketched in a Bengal rice-field, with the single change of plough bullocks for the Muscovite pony. 'I often saw a man sallying forth to his day's work, carrying his plough in one hand, and leading the little shaggy pony that was to draw it, with the other. This tool would startle a Lothian farmer, being little more than a strong forked stick, one point of which is shod with iron, and scratches the ground as the pony pulls it along, while the other is held in the man's hand. The whole turn-out is very like representations I have seen in old pictures of the progress of domestic arts in the time of the Saxon Heptarchy. They do not seem to think that straight ploughing at all adds to the fertility of the soil, for they wander about in every direction, and score the ground as best suits their fancy. The animals are fed in the summer in the forest, and in winter are kept in the large stables attached to every cottage.'6
6 Vol. ii, p. 38.
It may well be imagined that a mind trained on the Hayes standard of the responsibilities attached to property saw much that was painful in serf-life. Mr. Bourke admits, however, that the praedial bondsman, under a good master, lived 'free from want and care'; and compares the worst sort of the Russian nobles, governing 'by bad and cruel intendants, and regardless of aught but the money derived from their distant lands,' to the absentee proprietors of his own country. He describes the average serf as following some handicraft during the six winter months; tilling the ground and tending the flocks during the short summer; on the whole, well fed by his master, or enjoying a fair share of the produce of his toil, and with few wants beyond his log-hut, stove, and sheepskin; but 'languid, and rarely practising the athletic sports in which the peasants of other lands delight.'
'This, then, is the life of the Russian serf. He knows no law save the will of his master; and "the Father," as he calls the Emperor, is in his idea the personification of all earthly greatness. When well treated, the serfs are affectionate and grateful, hospitable to strangers, and quiet among themselves; but the ban of slavery lies heavy upon them, and all their actions betoken a mute and almost sullen submission. Their devotion to their hereditary lords is worthy of a better cause, and merits in many instances the name of virtue. When Napoleon offered them freedom, if they would fight against their country, they indignantly refused it; and scarcely ever in the course of the war did the cause of patriotism suffer from the treason of a slave. They cheerfully sacrificed their lives and properties at the bidding of "the Father." The hand of the serf often fired his whole property, and leaving the home of his childhood, he has wandered with his family, houseless and starving, to the forest rather than the invading Gaul should find food and shelter in the land of the Emperor.' 'The Russian troops were shot down by thousands; they never thought of leaving the ground they stood on, or deserting the post assigned them. But they seldom made a brilliant charge or dashed impetuously on the foe. It was the heroism more of the martyr than the soldier; the spirit of slavery enabled them to suffer cheerfully, but did not prompt them to act as if victory depended on their own exertions.'7
7 Vol. ii, p. 53.
'This,' he went on to say, 'might have taught the rulers a lesson.' I have quoted the foregoing passages at some length, because Lord Mayo proved, by his subsequent work in India, how thoroughly he had learned that lesson himself. His whole official career, alike in Ireland and in the East, was one long protest against leaving any class outside the corporate community of the nation. In India, where he at length had a free hand, his efforts were from first to last directed to creating among the princes and peoples a sense of their solidarity under the British rule, and to developing a capacity among them for self-government, and for the effective management of their varying local interests.
One more page regarding a Russian execution by flogging to death, I must quote. For it concludes with an enunciation of the principle which, to the honour of the English name, was strictly enforced in the case of the assassin who, a quarter of a century afterwards, slew Lord Mayo himself.
'The slave who shot the Prince Gargarin some years ago suffered this terrible death. He was made a soldier for the purpose, as this is in a degree a military punishment. He was forced to walk up and down between the ranks of men, while the heavy whip of leather tore away the flesh at every stroke. At the hundred and twentieth lash he fell: his sentence was a thousand lashes. He was asked whether he would have the rest of it then, or wait for another day. He said he would have it then, knowing that to defer it would only prolong his agony. He was then set up, and received a few more blows till he fell again; they put him up a third time, when he fainted, and was carried away insensible. He died the next day from the mortification of his wounds. This man was a criminal guilty of a heinous crime.' 'But it is on all sides agreed that the punishment of death is and ought to be considered as an example to the survivors, and not as a means of vengeance on the criminal. Such a scene as I have related is a disgrace to a country calling itself Christian, and contrary to all right principles of government.'8
8 Vol. ii, pp. 163-4.
The writing of this book did much to mature Mr. Bourke's mind, and to bring it into contact with the serious aspects of life. And the aspects of life which awaited him on his return to Ireland were sufficiently serious. The potato disease and the famine years were upon the country. During those years Mr. Richard Bourke won for himself an honoured place among the hundreds of high-minded Irish gentlemen who tried to do their duty. For months he almost lived in the saddle—attending a public meeting in Kildare County one day, and another thirty miles off in Meath the next; looking after the charitable distributions; hunting out cases of starvation; buying knitting materials, and setting the women to work in their villages; arranging for the food-supply of outlying groups of huts; managing the relief lists, and doing what in him lay to calm panic, prevent waste, and battle with famine. Every now and then he would rush over to England with the sewed work, knitted shawls, and the little home-manufactures of the cottagers, and get them sold at good prices through his fashionable London friends. He had a considerable gift for acting, and had been a welcome guest on that account, among others, at many a neighbour's in more prosperous times. He now turned this talent and his musical gifts to account, getting up charitable performances, or private theatricals at country houses, and a famous concert at Naas, to which half the county went or subscribed.
The popular esteem which Mr. Bourke won by his exertions during the famine was presently to bear fruit. In 1847 the two seats for County Kildare were contested by the Marquess of Kildare representing the Whigs, and Mr. O'Neill Daunt with Mr. John O'Connell for the Repealers. Mr. Richard Bourke came forward as a moderate Conservative. The return of the Marquess was a foregone conclusion; and it soon became apparent that the struggle for the second seat lay between Mr. O'Neill Daunt and Mr. Bourke.
While Mr. Bourke declared himself strongly for the Union, he was also in favour of legislation which would give 'compensation to improving tenants.' As regards the religious question, 'he knew that the Established Church was not the Church of the majority of the people; but it was the Church of the majority of the property of the country, and it was supported out of the pockets of the landlords, who were nine to one in favour of the Establishment.'
The election was conducted with amenities on both sides, which contrast pleasantly with such contests at the present day. To these amenities, Mr. Bourke's personal popularity contributed in no small measure. 'I pledge you my honour,' shouted Mr. Daunt the Repealer, to certain of his followers who were interrupting the young Conservative candidate, 'I pledge you my honour I will leave the hustings if this gentleman is not heard.' 'I again declare,' Mr. Daunt exclaimed in another crisis of cat-calls, 'I will quit the Court-house if this gentleman does not get a fair hearing.'
The result of the poll was to return the Marquess of Kildare and Mr. Bourke to Parliament. So in the middle of his twenty-sixth year Mr. Richard Southwell Bourke entered the House of Commons for his own County—a moderate Conservative of the hereditary type, willing to go steadily with his party in English measures, and resolved, as far as in him lay, to secure their help in carrying Irish Land Reforms.
From 1847 to 1849 Mr. Bourke sat as a silent member. In 1848 he married Miss Blanche Wyndham; her father, afterwards Lord Leconfield, presenting the young couple with a town-house in Eccleston Square. Ever since his return from Russia, Mr. Bourke had been an active farmer and horse-breeder on his family lands in Ireland. In 1849 his father succeeded to the Earldom of Mayo, and Mr. Bourke became Lord Naas. But the new Earl, not liking the principal house of Palmerstown so well as his old residence at Hayes, gave up the Kildare mansion, with its large home-farm of 500 acres, to his son. Lord Naas went with his usual energy into every detail of Irish agricultural life. The thorough knowledge which he acquired of farming and the breeding of improved stocks was destined to serve him in a very important, although altogether unexpected, manner in India.
In February, 1849, he delivered his maiden speech. 'My dear Mother,' he wrote in a hasty scribble, in the House of Commons Library, a few minutes afterwards, 'I have just made my first speech—went very well for a quarter of an hour, and was on the whole successful for a first attempt. Disraeli and others told me I did capitally. The subject was the suspension of the Habeas Corpus Act' (Ireland). Throughout the next three years he steadily devoted himself, as before, to committees and the details of Parliamentary work—speaking on an average only four times a session, and keeping to the subjects which he knew best. Of these twelve speeches (1849-50-51), ten dealt exclusively with Irish questions; the two others referred to steam communication with Australia and India. The whole make but fifty-six columns of Hansard.
'During this period,' writes one who watched his career, 'he established for himself in Parliament the position of a sensible country gentleman, speaking from time to time on Irish affairs, and not mixing himself up with general politics. Indeed, this may be said of his whole public life; for, with the exception of one or two colonial matters, I do not recollect any subject unconnected with Ireland on which he spoke.'
He had, however, attracted the notice of the chiefs of his party. He declared his views with much vigour on the necessity of giving improving tenants in Ireland some security for their outlay. The subject had been familiar to him from boyhood, and he brought to it a knowledge of details, obtained in the double capacity of a squire's son and of a practical farmer, willing to improve his land, but determined to make it pay.
In 1851 he supported his party by a great array of facts and figures concerning the Irish milling trade. This question also lay within his personal experience, both from the farmer's point of view and from the capitalist's. He knew the actual working of the system; and he succeeded in keeping the ear of the House through 16½ columns of Hansard—the longest speech but one in his twenty-one years of Parliamentary life. An enthusiastic letter of thanks from a meeting of Irish millers rewarded the effort.
Next year the Conservatives came into power. People remarked at the time, that Lord Derby, in forming his Ministry, chose a larger proportion than usual of men untried in office. Lord Naas was one of them. To his surprise and delight, he received the offer of the Chief Secretaryship for Ireland—the highest Parliamentary appointment which an Irish commoner holds in his native country. He was but thirty years of age, and he went at the outset by the name of the Boy-Secretary, a title which Sir Robert Peel and the late Earl Derby had borne before him. He wrote to his brother with diffidence as to his fitness, but very resolute as to trying to do his best: 'I am a new hand, but at any rate I am not afraid of the work.'
Having accepted office, Lord Naas went over to Ireland to seek re-election. But he found things changed in County Kildare since 1847. In that year the popularity which he had won during the famine just enabled him to turn the scale at the hustings. The ebullition of public feeling had naturally passed off by 1852, and Lord Naas found it prudent to content himself with the less difficult constituency of Coleraine. He sat for Coleraine in the north of Ireland from 1852 to 1857, when he came in for Cockermouth, in Cumberland, backed by the interest of his wife's family, the Wyndhams. This borough he continued to represent until he left for India in 1868.
During the short time which the Conservatives continued in power, after Lord Naas' appointment to the Irish Secretaryship, he brought forward, besides a Tenant-Right and a Tenants' Compensation Act, several very important Bills affecting Ireland. He spoke only on Irish questions; and after the resignation of his party, he steadily pursued the same system until the Conservatives again came into power, in 1858. During these six years he was practically the Parliamentary leader of the Conservative party in Ireland, and of the Irish Conservatives in the House. His father sat as a representative peer in the Lords, voting with the Tories, but scarcely speaking, and taking little interest in politics.
The Crimean war brought deep anxiety to the Bourkes, as to most other families throughout the British Islands. The second son, Colonel the Honourable John Bourke, gave up his staff-appointment and joined his regiment, the 88th Connaught Rangers, on its being ordered to the seat of war. The Earl and Countess of Mayo were then residing in Paris, and it fell to Lord Naas to keep his parents informed of each crisis. His letters, full of that mingling of affectionate pride, heart-eating anxiety, and sternly subdued longing for the end, which form the true discipline of war to a nation, recall the family aspects of the struggle with a most affecting veracity. The 88th did its duty, and the names of 'Alma,' 'Inkermann,' and 'Sevastopol' figure in the proud roll on its colours. But the weary waiting for the lists of killed and wounded is the chief record which its achievements have left in these letters.
Lord Naas tried to comfort his mother in her painful suspense about her son by a mixture of religious consolation and the doctrine of chances. 'Keep up, and hope in God he may be safe. Two thousand men are about one in seven killed or wounded of those engaged; so even human chances are in our favour. But it is in the God of battles we must trust.' Then a few days later, 'My dearest Mother,—The list of killed and wounded has just arrived. Thank God, our dear Johnny is safe. It is the greatest mercy our family has ever received, and I trust we may be thankful for it to the end of our lives. What an awful list!'
How the ever present anxiety of those winters penetrated the smallest details of life! 'I went to Ballinasloe last Monday,' he writes, 'and bought thirty-one heifers. The cost was enormous, £15. 15s., and they never can pay unless prices keep up. But they were as cheap as any in the fair. I went over to Lord Cloncurry's for the night. John Burke, of Johnny's regiment, was there. He told me a great deal about him. He said he did his work well. He says he saw him telling off his company, after the battle of Inkermann, as coolly as if he had been on parade.'
Meanwhile Lord Naas was doing good work for his party during their six years in opposition. He had won the liking and confidence of the Irish Conservatives in the House; and Lord Derby, when he came into power in 1858, again offered Lord Naas the Chief Secretaryship for Ireland. A long list of measures in that and the following year bears witness to his activity.
One who was officially connected with him in two of his principal Bills thus writes: 'What struck me in my communications with him on these matters was this. After the Bills had been settled by those conversant with the legal part of the subject, he would detect errors which had escaped us all. He swooped down upon a flaw like a scholar on a false quantity, and would sometimes break up a whole set of clauses with his own hand, and re-write them himself, saying, "There, now; you may put it into legal language, but that is the sense of the thing I want." Again, when a draftsman would produce something very symmetrical and beautiful in theory, he would say: "That's all very fine, but the House of Commons won't look at it." At this time he began to feel almost a despair of accomplishing any real work for Ireland, owing to the factions within herself and in Parliament. I do not think he had more respect for the ultra-Orange party than he had for the Fenians. He believed they were alike hurtful to the country, and that the opposition to be expected from one, or it might chance from both, made it hopeless to attempt anything sound or moderate.
'This feeling especially oppressed him with regard to his Tenant-Right Bills and his educational measures. He had at the same time so warm a regard for many friends of various shades of opinion, that it hurt him sorely when he felt it his duty to propose a policy which he knew they would not approve of. He would say to them: "Well, if you don't like my Bill, you'll have to swallow something much worse from the Radicals next year." His love for Ireland was inexhaustible, and alone carried him through the vexations of trying to work for her. He loved the people, he liked the climate (he hated an east wind or a frosty day), he liked the sport, and he loved his friends and neighbours. I recollect his saying to me when a political opponent, Lord Dunkellin, died: "Dunkellin is a great loss; he loved Ireland so truly, and understood her so well, that he would have done real good for us all some day."'
A colleague, who afterwards came into the closest relations with Lord Naas in his Parliamentary work, writes to me thus: 'Lord Mayo lived too far ahead of his party for his own comfort. Though he was a member of a Tory Cabinet, I think that his opinions were shared to the full by only one member of that Cabinet, Mr. Disraeli. He was not entirely a Conservative of his own day; neither was he a Liberal, according to the tenets of the Liberal party of his time. He was a large-minded politician, who felt the necessity of belonging to one party or another if he were to effect anything practical. While revering the Established Church, he admitted the right of every man to choose his own creed, and denied to no faith a power to save. While he desired to maintain all rights essential to the security of landed property, he was anxious to do away with the legal or technical difficulties that stand between the tillers of the soil and the full enjoyment of the results of their labour. If he could only see a real reform in the state of the land and of the cultivator, he cared not whence or how it came. He believed that any permanent improvement of the land ought to be for the benefit alike of the owner and of the tiller of the soil. His idea was, "If you really improve my land, you shall not lose by so doing, and any rule or law that says otherwise shall be done away with." He used to argue that, if you prevent such reforms you injure yourself as landlord, and you act unjustly to your fellow-men. Liberty of thought, of faith, and of action he loved more than life itself. The exercise of either spiritual or temporal power for purposes of intimidation or wrongful coercion was to him hateful. He had an unresting sympathy for all in want or in misery. For the lunatic poor, for prisoners, and for the fallen, his heart was always urging him to work; and for them he did work, and did good work.'
Another of his colleagues, the Earl of Derby, has touched off his character as an official: 'I have known other men, though not very many, who were perhaps his equals in industry, in clearsightedness, and in the assemblage of qualities which, united, form what we call a good man of business; and I have known men, though but few, who possessed perhaps to an equal extent that generosity of disposition, that unfeigned good-humour and good temper, which were among the most marked characteristics of our lamented friend: but I do not know if I ever met any one in whom those two sets of qualities were so equally and so happily united. No discussion could be so dry, but Lord Mayo would enliven it with the unforced humour which was one of his greatest social charms. No question could be so complicated, but that his simple, straightforward way of looking at it was quite sure of suggesting something of which you had not thought before.'
'He understood thoroughly,' continues Lord Derby, 'how important an element of administrative success is the conciliation of those with whom you have to deal; but the exercise of that power was with him not a matter of calculation, but the result of nature. He did and said generous things, not because it was politic, not because it was to his political interest, but because it was his nature, and he could not help it. I do not think he had in the world a personal enemy; and so far as it is possible to speak of that which is passing in another man's mind, I should say he had never known what it was to harbour against any person a feeling of resentment. We who acted with him in Irish matters can bear witness to his firmness when firmness was necessary, to the soundness of his judgment in difficulties—and difficulties just then were not unfrequent—and, above all, to that coolness which was never more marked than in critical moments.'
'As the chief of a great office,' writes one well competent to speak, 'he had the finest qualities. Early in his habits, regular in his work, and unceasing in industry, he set a great example; and he knew, somehow or other, the secret of getting out of every one under him the maximum of work which each might be capable of. He had a faculty which I have never observed so fully developed in any one else, of detecting a single blunder in the papers before him. I have seen him open a large file of documents, and almost immediately hit upon an inaccuracy, either in the text or in the subject-matter. I once handed him a long Bill, revised with great care by the Crown lawyers, and saw him discover in almost an instant of time what proved to be the only clerical error in it. He was my idea of a great head of a department, knowing every branch of the work, familiar with almost everything that had been done by his predecessors, and always ready to meet and to overcome difficulties.'
This facility of work was no doubt largely due to the fact that Lord Naas held only one office, and that he held it each time when his party came into power during twenty years. He made Ireland his speciality from the first, and the Chief Secretaryship, with its rules, precedents, and every detail of its duties, sat as familiarly on him as the clothes he wore.
In 1859 his party went out, and during the next seven years Lord Naas was again the Parliamentary leader of the Irish Conservatives in opposition. He had no enemies except among the more extreme parties of his countrymen on either side. His political opponents frequently consulted him, and have been ready to acknowledge the practical hints which they obtained from him. The truth is, as the colleague already quoted says, that he was more anxious to obtain good measures for Ireland than careful as to the party whence they might come. Indeed, his maiden speech in 1849 had been in support of the Ministry to whom he was politically opposed; and although his official connection with his own party afterwards placed a fitting reticence on his words when he disagreed with it, he was ever willing to help any one whom he thought was doing real work for Ireland.
During these years of opposition, he spoke vigorously upon the Irish prison system, poor relief, national and mixed education, police, agricultural statistics, registration Acts, and many other questions connected with his own country. He was not a brilliant orator, but he put forward his views with sense and firmness, and always spoke with a perfect knowledge of the facts. When the Conservatives again came into power in 1866, Lord Derby for the third time offered him the Chief Secretaryship, with a seat in the Cabinet, and in that office he remained until he left for India in 1868. This marks the period of his greatest political activity. A bare list of the measures which he introduced into Parliament, or carried out in his executive capacity, would fill many pages. The subjects were the same as before, and they dealt with almost every side of the condition and wants of Ireland. These years are chiefly remembered in England by the Fenian agitations, which, both before and after that time have, under one name or another, perplexed Irish Ministers. But in Ireland they are known as years of well-planned improvement in the practical administration.
'In 1867,' writes one of his colleagues during this trying period, 'he had no fewer than thirty-five Bills in preparation. I often wondered how one man could carry so much in his head about matters so different in their nature and so difficult in themselves. Yet I always found him perfectly conversant with each, prepared on the moment to discuss any change I might suggest, and ready with a reason why he had not framed his instructions on the plan I might propose. He never lost his presence of mind. I well remember one morning in March, 1867, I received a message at an early hour from Lord Naas, saying that he would like to see me. When I entered his room at the Irish Office, he was sitting at a table writing a letter, looking uncommonly well and fresh, and quite composed and quiet. He handed me a telegram, and went on with his writing. I read that during the night there had been a rising of Fenians near Dublin. I confess I was considerably agitated, and did not conceal it. I shall never forget the demeanour of Lord Naas. He had lost not a moment in sending a copy of the telegram to Her Majesty, and preparing the case for the Cabinet. What puzzled him more than anything was the sudden stoppage of any further news. We telegraphed again and again, but it was not till late in the afternoon that any clear answers were received. He issued all the orders with the same quiet and precision as if dealing with ordinary work. He had at once determined to go that night to Ireland, and to remain there till order was restored.
'He had perfect confidence in his arrangements, and he declared that the insurrection could never assume any serious importance. But he was uneasy for the safety of persons living in isolated parts, and about the small bands of villains who would use a political disturbance as a shelter for local crimes. He said: "I dread more than anything else that a panic will be fed by newspaper reports, and that an outcry may get up that Ireland ought to be declared in a state of siege, and military law proclaimed. To this I will never yield, although I know my refusal will be misrepresented, and may for the moment intensify the alarm."'
It is unnecessary in a personal narrative to repeat what followed in the Fenian camp. 'The insurrection,' continues his colleague, 'if it may be dignified by that name, was immediately stamped out. Lord Naas put it down in his own way, yielding neither to threats nor entreaties; acting wisely and firmly, and allowing himself to be influenced neither by newspaper panics, nor by patriots in the House of Commons, nor by rebels outside it. When he returned to London, he went on with his Government Bills precisely as if nothing had happened, and no fewer than eighteen of his measures prepared in that year received the Royal assent.'
In January, 1867, his mother died. His father survived her only six months, and on 12th August, 1867, Lord Naas succeeded as sixth Earl of Mayo.
Meanwhile, the Conservative Ministry were in a minority in the House of Commons. It became clear in 1868 that a general attack might be expected, and that the Opposition would select Irish ground. Accordingly, in that session Mr. Maguire, then member for Cork, moved for a committee of the whole House to consider the state of Ireland. On this occasion Lord Mayo was made the mouthpiece of the Government. His speech, although not successful as a Parliamentary utterance at the moment, forms a most valuable contribution to the political history of Ireland.
'This speech,' writes one who was then associated with him, 'required very careful preparation. Lord Mayo proposed to show how, notwithstanding Fenianism and local disaffection, the general prosperity of Ireland was steadily increasing. This he unquestionably proved by facts, statistics, and arguments. The collecting and arranging of the facts would have tried a man in full health. And unhappily, Lord Mayo was at that time very far from well. The day before, he could not leave his house, and the day of his speech he was only a trifle better. He spent the whole twelve hours in checking his materials and figures, and, according to his custom while thus engaged, ate nothing. When he rose to speak, he was both ill and weak, and at one time could hardly proceed. It may be easily understood that he failed to give life or pleasantness to the dry details with which he had to trouble the House. As a matter of fact, the speech, although sound and complete in itself, proved a long and heavy one to the listeners. But when read afterwards, it struck us all as forming, in point of knowledge, truth, care, and logic, a complete answer to the charges brought by the Opposition.'
Lord Mayo himself felt very unhappy about it for some days. The fact seems to have been, that it was one of those speeches which, from the number and complexity of the details involved, are better read than heard. It is now an accepted authority regarding the state of Ireland, and a permanent storehouse of facts to which both parties resort.9 At the time it led to a rumour that Lord Mayo was leading on to the policy known as 'levelling up.' 'It was his wish,' writes one who knew his mind, 'that grants of public money might be made to institutions without respect to creed, whether Catholic or Protestant, established for the education, relief, or succour of his fellow-countrymen; and that no school, hospital, or asylum should languish because of the religious teaching it afforded, or because of the religion of those who conducted it. He would even, I think, have gladly seen such of the revenues of the Irish Church as might not be absolutely wanted for its maintenance applied to these purposes. So far, but so far only, he was for levelling up.'
9 See, for example, Earl Russell's Recollections and Suggestions, p. 344.
The feeling which, ten years before, forced itself on him during his second tenure of office, as to the difficulty of doing any real good for Ireland, had deepened since. The interval in opposition, and his experience as Chief Secretary for the third time, impressed him more strongly than ever with the necessity of Irish reform, and at the same time more keenly with the unlikelihood of his being permitted to effect it. So far as I am competent to hazard an opinion, it seems to me that his views went too far for his own friends, and not far enough to take the matter out of the hands of the other great party, to whom the task of more radical legislation for Ireland soon afterwards fell.
The sense of the English nation, moreover, appears to have been that the work would be best done by those whose general policy identified them with liberal measures. Lord Mayo believed intensely in the need of such measures for Ireland; but he did not belong to the reforming party in England, nor was it possible for him to frame a plan which would satisfy that party and at the same time retain the support of his own. It only remained for him to go on with his work faithfully, with however heavy a heart. Estimated by the number of Acts which he prepared and passed through Parliament, or by the executive improvements made in the Irish Administration, these three years (1866-68) were the most useful ones in his English career. But, judged by what he had hoped to effect, and what he now felt it impossible to accomplish, they were years of frustration and painful self-questioning. Shortly afterwards, with the bitterness of this period fresh in his memory, he wrote to a brother who had just entered Parliament for an English constituency: 'I advise you to leave Ireland alone. There is no credit to be got by interfering with her politics, and your position does not make it your duty to do so.'
But the way in which he bore up amid these difficulties, and the actual work which he managed to do in spite of them, had won the admiration of administrators unconnected with the party government of England. In the first half of 1868, one of the leading members of the India Council, a man of tried experience both in India and in the direction of her affairs at home, spoke to a brother of Lord Mayo as to the likelihood of his succeeding Lord Lawrence as Viceroy. He said that the feeling in the Indian Council pointed to him as the fittest man. On this being repeated to Lord Mayo, he replied: 'Not a bit. So-and-so is as fit as I am, and has a better claim.' But, later in the session, he one day said to his brother: 'Well, Disraeli has spoken to me about India! He mentioned that Her Majesty had asked him whom he thought of nominating for the office of Viceroy, should we still be in office when it became vacant; that he had brought forward my name among others, and that Her Majesty had expressed herself very graciously about the way I had conducted Irish affairs.' About the same time the Prime Minister mentioned to Lord Mayo that the Governor-Generalship of Canada would also be vacant, and gave him to understand that he might have that at once, while it was by no means certain that the Ministry would be in power next January, when the Viceroyalty of India actually demitted.
So the matter remained for some weeks. Lord Mayo struggled between his love for his children, whom he could take with him to Canada, and the more splendid sphere of activity offered in India, where he would be separated from them. At length he decided on the wider and more independent career, and made up his mind to refuse Canada on the chance of India being offered to him when the time arrived. A few months afterwards the offer was made, and Lord Mayo's Parliamentary life came to an end.
Mr. Disraeli, in addressing the Buckinghamshire electors in the same November, thus spoke of the recent labours of that life, and of the reasons which had induced Her Majesty to reward them: 'With regard to Ireland, I say that a state of affairs so dangerous was never encountered with more firmness, but at the same time with greater magnanimity; that never were foreign efforts so completely controlled, and baffled, and defeated, as was this Fenian conspiracy, by the Government of Ireland, by the Lord-Lieutenant, and by the Earl of Mayo. Upon that nobleman, for his sagacity, for his judgment, fine temper, and knowledge of men, Her Majesty has been pleased to confer the office of Viceroy of India. And as Viceroy of India, I believe he will earn a reputation that his country will honour; and that he has before him a career which will equal that of the most eminent Governor-General who has preceded him.'
During his twenty-one years of Parliamentary life (1847-68), Lord Mayo spoke upwards of 140 times, filled the office of Chief Secretary for Ireland thrice, prepared and introduced 36 Bills, and carried 33 Acts to completion through the House. His 133 principal speeches fill 524 columns of Hansard, and deal with every subject connected with the administration of his native country.
It was, however, in the executive details of that administration, rather than in his Parliamentary appearances, that the value of Lord Mayo to his party lay. In his legislative measures the apprehension constantly harassed him that he was going farther than many of his friends would approve of, and yet not far enough to disarm their political opponents. This divergence from formerly warm allies grieved him deeply, and drew from him several letters, in which self-reliance is curiously mingled with regret and pain. In one such letter to Lord C——, in 1868, he defends his catholicity of spirit towards the conflicting creeds of his native country. The paper is too lengthy to be reproduced in full, but it reads like an amplification of Matthew Arnold's maxim, that the State should be of the religion of all its subjects, and of the bigotry of none of them.
To the outward world, Lord Mayo's career had seemed a fortunate one. Elected for his own county on his first start in public life; appointed Chief Secretary for Ireland while still a very young man; re-appointed to that post on each of the two occasions on which his party had subsequently held power; a favourite in Parliament and among his country neighbours; a Cabinet Minister, with considerable patronage passing through his hands; he had succeeded to his family estates while still in the prime of life, and become the head of an ancient and a noble house. With a well-knit frame, and unwearied power alike of physical and mental enjoyment, he now possessed a fortune adequate to his place in the world, but not involving the responsibilities incident to the administration of one of the great incomes of the English peerage.
Yet the divergence steadily widening between Lord Mayo and the party with whom he had set out in life, made him at this period a very unhappy man. 'I remember,' writes a friend, 'one summer evening we sat till late together, and for the first time he let me see his inner self. I felt much for him, for I knew how well and hard he had worked for Ireland, and how poor had been the acknowledgment. Then, too, I saw how greatly he longed for some sphere of usefulness in which he could show the world what he was made of, and test the strength which he felt in him, but never had had the chance of putting forth as he wished.' In such moods Lord Mayo turned towards his family as a refuge from the frustrations which beset his public life. He had always tried to make himself the friend of his children; and in 1868 his letters breathe a peculiar tender playfulness which, considering his own state of mind at the time, is not without pathos.
Wherever he might be, and whatever the pressure of his anxieties or his work, he always found time for his boys. Some of his notes are scribbled from the House of Commons, others from his office; many from country houses where he had run down for a day's hunting or shooting. Throughout they bear the impress of a kindly, genial man, who had the sense to see the policy of making his children his companions and allies.
One of his sons is always 'My dear old Buttons,' another 'My dear old President,' or 'My darling old Boy,' and so forth. From one who appears to be starting on a rowing-excursion on the Thames, he wishes to know, 'What day do you go on your great voyage?' and so, 'Good-bye to my Powder Monkey, and tell me what day you leave Eton.' To another he is 'very sorry to hear that you are in the Lower School, as it will keep you back sadly hereafter; but the only thing now is to work very hard, and get a remove every half, or even a double remove.' 'I send you my Address,' he writes from the Conservative borough of Cockermouth; 'stick it up in your room, and lick any Radical boy that laughs at it.' 'I am glad you like your school, though I am somewhat afraid, by your liking it so much, that you are neither worked very hard in your head nor birched on the other end.' To another, 'I send you thirty shillings for your subscription. The Eton beagles will have to go precious slow if your old toes can carry you up to them.'
He could give advice when needful. 'My dear old Boy,' he writes to one of his sons, who he heard was making some not quite desirable acquaintances, and who had replied in a spirited letter that he could not desert his friends, 'I liked your letter very much, because you spoke out your mind, and told me what you thought. I do not want you to give up your friends, or to do anything mean; but I did hear that you were intimate with one or two fellows who were not thought much of in the school, and not your own sort at all. This annoyed me; for I should hate to think any boy of mine was not able to hold his own with his equals. I think that you had better extend your acquaintance, and, without giving up any of your old friends, mix more generally with the boys, and let them see you are as good as any of them. It is a bad thing to be always chumming up with one or two chaps, as it leads to jealousy and observation, and prevents you from studying the characters of many whom you will have in after life to associate with or to struggle with. Those are my sentiments. I know you will try and follow them.'
Lord Mayo found another resource against the vexations of a public career in his love of country life and field sports. In England he was an ordinary politician, not distinguished by commanding wealth or by any great hereditary influence, and deficient rather than otherwise in oratorical graces, who made his mark by strong common sense, and the power of mastering details and of doing hard work. In Ireland he was known as an indefatigable sportsman and a most joyous country neighbour, whose time and purse were always at the service of his friends. His famine-work had made a name for him in County Kildare, and his genuine kindliness of heart, with a happy Irish way of adapting himself to his company, steadily increased his popularity as he went on in life. No sketch of Lord Mayo would be complete which overlooked this side of his character. It was the aspect in which he was best known to a large proportion of his friends; and his country tastes helped in no unimportant way to keep his temper sweet and his nature wholesome, at a time when he began to feel somewhat keenly the difference between what he had hoped to do for Ireland, and what he would be permitted to accomplish.
Lord Mayo was a sportsman in more than the ordinary sense. To a keen physical relish for many forms of manly exercise, he added a less common industry in the branches of knowledge collateral with them. He was not content with enjoying hunting; he studied it. At Palmerstown he set on foot and personally managed an association for improving the breed of horses and cattle. His work as M. F. H. will be presently noticed. He familiarised himself with the country which he hunted, as a general would study a district which he had to hold or to invade; and, indeed, he used to say laughingly, that he thought he might do very well some day as Commander of the Forces in County Kildare.
When Lord Naas accepted the Mastership of the Kildare Foxhounds in 1857, he found that a succession of hard winters had left the hunting country destitute of good coverts, the severe frosts having killed the gorse. Just before he became Master, the huntsman, after a blank day in the centre of the county, had declared that he could not tell where they should find a fox the next season; and gentlemen who knew Kildare felt that it would not afford two days' hunting a week for many years to come.
Lord Naas set himself to bring about an equilibrium in the finances, and to do this he felt he must give value to the subscribers for their money. He rejected a friendly proposal to hunt only twice a week for the first season, declaring that Kildare should never sink into a two-day-a-week county in his time, and he laboured to make up for the poverty of the coverts by good management and hard work. One day, during his first season, a firm supporter said to him: 'Well, you have now drawn two turnip-fields, three hedgerows, and one highroad. Have you a covert for the evening?' He said he had, and gave a fine run. His industry and popularity soon began to tell on the funds. By the end of his first season the subscriptions had risen from £900 to £1450, and the field-money from £250 to £358, thus quenching a deficit of £500, and leaving a surplus of £150 instead.
More than twenty new coverts were formed during his five years, and at least thirty others rehabilitated. 'In fact,' writes a Kildare gentleman, 'the whole country was re-made during Lord Naas' Mastership, through his personal exertions, and by means of the great enthusiasm which he created among his supporters.' Before he gave up the hounds, in 1862, he had placed the hunt on such a basis as to warrant the expenditure being fixed at £1900 a year, and to enable his successor to hunt seven days a fortnight from the first.
'As Master of the Kildare hounds,' writes one of his brother sportsmen, 'Naas had a good deal against him in his public capacity as a politician, with the farmers and others; but his innate goodness of heart, his thorough love of Ireland and Irishmen, and his wondrous enthusiasm for sport, soon made him loved by all who knew him. There are many farmers who have not hunted since his time, and he made many a man hunt who never thought of it before. He was never once in a field without knowing it ever afterwards, and how to get out of it. He remembered every fence in the country; and one day, having lost his watch in a run, he next day walked over the ground, part of which he had crossed alone, and found it. He reckoned that the greatest compliment paid to him while Master was by the farmers of the Maynooth country. One of them gave the land, and they all turned out with men and horses, and made a stick covert for him in a single day. Nothing ever gratified him more. But, indeed, there were men in Kildare among all classes who were devoted to him, and with whom he had marvellous influence—men of different religion and of different politics from himself.
'Lord Naas drew very late, and was always delighted, when it was very late, if somebody asked him to draw again. He often went to the meet when the country was deep with snow and hard frost; but if it was thawing he always hunted, even with no one out. He never had a very bad fall; and when he had an ordinary one, he never cared. Those who saw him at Downshire jump into a trap filled with water will not easily forget his joyous whoop when we ran to ground, and his fine manly figure and happy face as he scraped the mud off his coat.
'To sum up: Lord Naas took the country in 1857 with poor funds, no coverts, and few foxes. In five years he gave it up with all the coverts restored, full of foxes, and with a balance of money in hand—the subscriptions having increased by £500 a year. The gentlemen of the county are solely indebted to him for the present satisfactory state of the county as a great hunting country. He advocated the admission of members who would not have been admitted under the old rules, and did much thereby to popularise the Hunt.' The same friend remarks in a private letter:10 'We are indebted to Lord Naas for Kildare as it is—for its good sport and good-fellowship.' Perhaps a too enthusiastic estimate of the services of any single man; but Lord Mayo carried so intense a vitality alike into his work and his play, that he was apt to infect with enthusiasm all who came near him.
10 Written in 1874.
To return to his public career. As the session of 1868 gradually disintegrated his party, Lord Mayo's difficulties increased. It may well be imagined, therefore, how he began to look forward to the independence held out by the Indian viceroyalty. 'He had but a single regret,' writes a colleague; 'he feared that his appointment would mortify a friend who (he thought) wanted it. I was struck by the manly self-reliance, and at the same time the becoming modesty, of his bearing. How strong he felt himself, and yet how fully he realised the responsibilities and difficulties before him! But the one great feeling which seemed to animate him was joy at being at last free—to do, to think, and to act as he himself found to be wisest. He seemed to me to be like a man who, having been for some time denied the light of the sun, was suddenly brought into the open day. The only expression which could give utterance to all that was passing within him were the two words, "At last."'
The tottering state of the Ministry throughout the session of 1868 strongly directed public criticism to their having appointed one of themselves to a great office which would not fall in till January 1869. The reason of its being intimated early in the autumn was that Lord Mayo desired to visit the chief political centres in India before assuming office, with a view to studying on the spot certain large questions then pending. How thoroughly he accomplished his purpose was realised by every one who, during the early months of his Viceroyalty, had to discuss those topics—ranging from the Suez Canal to the state of local feeling on important matters in Bombay and Madras. The moment the appointment was made, and while still in England, he threw himself into his new destiny. He denied his heart its last wish to spend the remaining weeks in Ireland; attended the India Office at all hours; held daily consultations with the leading Indian authorities; toiled till late in the night on the documents with which they supplied him; and employed those about him in collecting books and papers bearing upon India.
To the public, however, it seemed doubtful whether the Conservatives would be in power when the Indian Viceroyalty actually demitted; and, as a matter of fact, they had resigned before that event took place. Nor had Lord Mayo's Parliamentary appearances been sufficiently commanding in the eyes of the English Press to secure him from personal criticism. With the exception of a very few speeches on India, China, and Australia, he had confined himself entirely to Irish business. He had displayed no great amount either of interest or of knowledge in the current subjects of English politics. His one speciality was Ireland, and it was a specialty which at that time neither attracted the sympathy nor won the applause of the English public. Indeed, except on rare occasions, an Irish debate was then an affair of empty benches—pretty much as an Indian debate, except at moments of special excitement, is at present. The statesman who had filled the chief Parliamentary office for Ireland on each occasion that his party came into power during twenty years, was less known to the English public than many a young speaker sitting for his first time on the Treasury benches.
A tempest of clamour accordingly arose in the Press, and spent its fury with equal force on Lord Mayo's colleagues and on himself. Some of the criticisms of those days read, by the light of later experience, as truly astonishing products of English party spirit. It is only fair to add, that the very papers which were most bitter against his appointment afterwards came forward most heartily in his praise. In that outburst of the English sense of justice which followed his death, our national journal of humour stood first in its generous acknowledgment of his real desert, as it had led the dropping fire of raillery three years before:—
|'We took his gauge, as did the common fool,|
By Report's shallow valuing appraised,
When from the Irish Secretary's stool
To the great Indian throne we saw him raised.
'They gauged him better, those who knew him best;
They read, beneath that bright and blithesome cheer,
The Statesman's wide and watchful eye, the breast
Unwarped by favour and unwrung by fear.
'The wit to choose, the will to do, the right;
All the more potent for the cheerful mood
That made the irksome yoke of duty light,
Helping to smooth the rough, refine the rude.
'Nor for this cheeriness less strenuous shown,
All ear, all eye, he swayed his mighty realm;
Till through its length and breadth a presence known,
Felt as a living hand upon the helm.
'All men spoke well of him, as most men thought,
Here as in India, and his friends were proud;
It seemed as if no enmity he wrought,
But moved love-girt, at home or in the crowd.
'If true regret and true respect have balm
For hearts that more than public loss must mourn,
They join to crown this forehead, cold and calm,
With laurel well won as was ever worn;
'Only the greener that 'twas late to grow,
And that by sudden blight its leaves are shed;
Then with thy honoured freight, sail sad and slow,
O ship, that bears him to his kindred dead.'11
11 Punch, February 24, 1872.
Lord Mayo felt the hostility of the Liberal journals the more keenly, as in Irish matters (his real business in life) he had been half a Liberal himself. But as usual his vexation was less for himself than for the Ministry which stood publicly responsible for the appointment. 'I am sorely hurt,' he wrote to Sir Stafford Northcote, 'at the way in which the Press are abusing my appointment. I care little for myself, but I am not without apprehension that these attacks may damage the Government, and injure my influence if ever I arrive in India. I am made uneasy, but not daunted.' Again: 'I did not accept this great office without long and anxious consideration. I leave with a good confidence, and hope that I may realise the expectations of my friends. I was prepared for hostile criticism, but I thought that my long public service might have saved me from the personal abuse which has been showered upon me. I bear no resentment, and only pray that I may be enabled ere long to show my abusers that they were wrong.'
Rancour or revenge never for a moment found lodgment in that well-poised mind. In October, 1868, while quivering under partisan attacks, he dictated the following words in his Will:—'I desire that nothing may be published at my death which is calculated to wound or to annoy any living being—even those who have endeavoured by slander and malignity to injure and insult me.' 'Splendid as is the post,' he said to his constituents at Cockermouth, 'and difficult as will be my duties, I go forth in full confidence and hope that God will give me such strength and wisdom as will enable me to direct the Government of India in the interests, and for the well-being, of the millions committed to our care. In the performance of the great task I ask for no favour. Let me be judged according to my acts. And I know that efforts honestly made for the maintenance of our national honour, for the spread of civilisation, and the preservation of peace, will always command the sympathy and support of my countrymen.'
During this trying time Lord Mayo derived much comfort from the stedfast friendliness of Mr. Disraeli. Afterwards, when looking back from the calm level of accomplished success which he reached in India, his memory retained no sense of bitterness towards his opponents, but simply a feeling of gratitude for the unwavering courage and constancy of his leader. Mr. Disraeli had chosen his man, and he supported him in the face of an unfounded but a very inconvenient out-cry.
Lord Mayo, whether as Irish Secretary or as Indian Viceroy, was himself the very type and embodiment of this loyalty to subordinates. He conscientiously judged his men by their actual work, silently putting aside the praise or dispraise of persons not competent to speak, and penetrating his officers with a belief that, so long as they merited his support, no outside influences or complications would ever lead to its being withdrawn. On a somewhat crucial occasion he quietly said: 'I once asked Mr. Disraeli whether newspaper abuse was injurious to a public man. He answered: "It may retard the advancement of a young man, starting in life and untried. But it is harmless after a man has become known; and if unjust, it is in the long-run beneficial."'
In October he ran over to Ireland, and wandered in pathetic silence among the scenes of his boyhood. The day before he left these scenes for ever, he chose a shady spot in a quiet little churchyard on his Kildare estates, and begged that, if he never returned, he might be brought home and laid there. '13th October,' says the brief entry in his Journal—'Left Palmerstown amid tears and wailing, much leave-taking and great sorrow.'
On Wednesday, the 11th November, 1868, Lord Mayo looked for his last time on the Dover cliffs, and reached Paris the same night. The delicious repose of the voyage to India lay before him; his time was still his own, and he resolved to see everything on the way that could shed light on his new duties. Among other matters, the neglected state of the Indian Records had been pressed upon him at the India Office, and in a then recently published work. With the richest and most lifelike materials for making known the facts of their rule, the English in India still lie at the mercy of every European defamer. Their history—that great story of tenderness to pre-existing rights, and of an ever-growing sense of responsibility to the people—is told as a mere romance of military prowess and government by the sword. When Chief Secretary for Ireland, Lord Mayo had introduced and passed the Act on which the whole Irish Record Department subsists. To that end he had personally studied the method adopted in England, and deputed his friend, Sir Bernard Burke, to report on the French system.
His attention being now directed to the neglected state of the Indian Records, and the necessity for some plan for conserving them and rendering them available for historical research, he resolved to examine this Department in Paris with his own eyes. 'Went to the Archives,' says his diary of the 14th November, 'and was received by the Director, who showed us all through the rooms. They are in magnificent order, and are situated in the old Hôtel Soubise, with a museum of curious letters and documents for the amusement of the public, divided into the different epochs of the Ancient Kings, the Middle Ages, the Republic, the Empire, and the Monarchy after the peace. The republican documents are kept in cartons which now number upwards of sixty thousand. The arrangement is simple, and access easy. There is a reading-room for the public down-stairs, but small, and the facilities given do not appear to be very great. It is within the power of the Director to refuse access to any document, if he sees fit. There is an enormous safe for the most valuable documents, such as Napoleon's Will, and the last letters of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette; also a secret drawer containing letters of some of the kings of France, which are not allowed to be seen by any one. There does not seem to be any calendaring going on for the purposes of publication, beyond facsimiles of curious documents.'
The feeling of rest, which is the unspeakable charm of the Indian voyage to a busy man, soon descended on Lord Mayo. He found every hotel good, and his whole route beautiful, as the fragmentary entries in his diary attest. On his railway journey through France he stopped at St. Michel to see an eminent engineer who had Indian experience of a valuable kind. With the help of a special train, he carefully examined the works for the Mont Cenis tunnel then in progress. Her Majesty's ship Psyche conveyed the Viceroy-elect and his suite from Brindisi to Alexandria, with a pleasant break in the harbour of Argostali in Cephalonia, which he describes in his diary as 'very pretty, land-locked on all sides, and large enough to hold the whole English fleet.'
In Egypt he received every attention which the Pasha could bestow upon an honoured guest. His diary amusingly relates how he very nearly tumbled off the loosely-girthed saddle of the 'fiery little Arab belonging to the Minister of War,' on which he rode to the Pyramids. Another of the party 'was not so fortunate, for as soon as he got on, his horse turned round sharp and he rolled off on the road, but was not hurt.' But sight-seeing occupied only a small part of Lord Mayo's stay in Europe. His diary is full of observations, derived from the most competent engineer officers and civil administrators, as to the condition of Egypt and the great public works then in progress. He inspected the unfinished Suez Canal with great patience, and many pages of his diary are devoted to recording his impressions, with criticisms on what he saw and heard. The Indian Government steamer Feroze lay waiting for him at Suez.
Presently he becomes too lazy to keep up his diary, and he dismisses the seven days from Suez to Aden in as many lines. At Aden he woke up again, and tried to master the facts regarding this first out-post of the Indian Empire. Many pages are devoted to summarising the results of his inspection of that Station, as a military fortress and as a great coaling depôt for England's commerce in the East.
He thus ends his long and exhaustive review of the situation. It must be remembered that his words were written twenty-two years ago (1868), and that many of his suggestions became, under his influence, accomplished facts.
'The conclusions I have come to regarding Aden are,'—[N.B.—many searching and adverse criticisms on individual works are here omitted.]
'(1) That the military defences may be considered as non-existent against an attack from armour-plated ships, or even ordinary vessels carrying heavy guns.
'(2) That, except as against native tribes and land forces unsupplied with siege artillery, it is not a fortress at all.
'(3) That the cheapest and most effective mode of defence would probably be by iron-plated monitors carrying heavy guns, with some heavy guns placed in sand batteries or on Moncrieff gun-carriages.
'(4) That, as a very large development of trade and consequent increase of the population are certain to occur, the question of the water-supply must be immediately faced.
'(5) That the position of Little Aden ought to be acquired with the least possible delay.
'(6) That a railway, the materials for which are almost on the spot, should be made from the Cantonment and Isthmus position to Steamer Point. This would render the defence of Aden possible by a comparatively small number of troops.
'(7) That, as the Suez Canal promises to be completed so soon, and as it is impossible to estimate the effect it will have in bringing large numbers of armed European steamers to these waters, there is no time for delay; and if Aden is to be maintained at all, an adequate defence and a sufficient supply of water ought to be provided at once. It might, however, be sufficient for the present to consider only the defences of Steamer Point, the coal-stores, and the entrance to the harbour; and it would be easy to cut off that portion of the position from the remainder. There would then be no inducement to a hostile power to attack the Cantonment and the Isthmus position, which without the coal-depots have no commercial or political importance.'
I would again remind the reader that these words were written twenty-two years ago. Much has been done since then in the directions indicated.
The next ten days were passed upon the Indian Ocean, from Aden to Bombay, and have left no memorials behind. Lord Mayo spent the time in reading books about India, and discussing Indian questions with Lord Napier of Magdala, who accompanied him on the voyage.
'Off Bombay, Saturday 19th December, 1868,' says his diary. 'At twelve o'clock we sighted land, and after wavering about a good deal, made the red revolving light and took a pilot on board. Heard for the first time about the change of Ministry, which was a matter of great astonishment, as it never occurred to me that Disraeli would have found it impossible to meet Parliament.'
It is scarcely needful to say that Mr. Gladstone and the Liberal Ministry declined to take advantage of the party clamour against Lord Mayo's appointment, and duly gave effect to their predecessor's nomination.
On the 20th December, 1868, Lord Mayo landed in state at Bombay as the guest of the Governor. During the next ten days he inspected everything which was of public interest in Bombay, from the House of Correction, the Central Jail at Jiranda, the dock-yards, cotton-presses, barracks, and the Vehár Water-works, to a small regimental school in the Native Infantry lines, the Municipal Market, and the sewage out-flow. He also gave interviews to people of every class, from the High Priest of the Pársís ('a fine old man,' as his diary records, 'who was presented with a large gold medal by Her Majesty for his loyalty during the disturbances') to the Inspector of Cotton Frauds. His remarks upon the defences of Bombay, the octroi duty, and the great expense of the military buildings, form the starting-point of subsequent important action in these matters during his Viceroyalty. On his visit to the rock-temples of Elephanta, while mentioning the disgust of one of his companions 'on finding the cave occupied by some drunken British soldiers, and an American party, one of whom was playing on a banjo,' he also records: 'This day enabled me to form an estimate of the works, military and naval, in the harbour of Bombay.'
On the 30th December, Lord Mayo and his suite left Bombay and sailed down the coast to inspect the harbours of Kárwár and Beypur. From Beypur he crossed India by railway to Madras, where in addition to his inspection of public institutions, he had a morning's hunting, another morning at the races, and the ceaseless evening festivities of Government House. He was constantly at work, from very early morning till late at night. His diary of the 3rd January ends the day thus:—'Had a long talk after dinner on public works and irrigation with the heads of those departments. They brought their plans and maps, showing how completely dotted over with tanks the greater part of the Madras Presidency is.' But, indeed, every page has such notices as the following:—'Had a conversation with Colonel Wilson on the proceedings and movements of the Karnátic Family.' 'Had a long talk with Mr. Arbuthnot on the decentralisation of finance, the officering of the police, and the position of the Native army.'
On the 6th January, he again embarked on the Feroze, this time for Calcutta, after a brilliant but exhausting visit. On his voyage his diary records on the 8th January:—'Paid the penalty of my imprudence and over-exertion at Madras, being attacked sharply by fever this morning.' The sea-breezes were, however, a potent medicine. There was no look of feebleness about Lord Mayo, when on the 12th January, 1869, he landed at Calcutta, under the salute from the Fort, and with 'God Save the Queen' playing, as he drove through the lines of troops, and amid the vast multitude which formed a living lane along the whole way from the river-bank to Government House.
The reception of a new Viceroy on the spacious flight of steps at Government House, and the handing over charge of the Indian Empire which immediately follows, forms an imposing spectacle. On this occasion it had a pathos of its own. At the top of the stairs was the wearied veteran Viceroy, Sir John Lawrence, wearing his splendid harness for the last day; his face blanched and his tall figure shrunken by forty years of Indian service; but his head erect, and his eye still bright with the fire which had burst forth so gloriously in India's supreme hour of need. Around him stood the tried counsellors with whom he had gone through life, a silent calm semicircle in suits of blue and gold, lit up by a few scarlet uniforms. At the bottom, the new Governor-General jumped lightly out of the carriage, amid the saluting of troops and glitter of arms; his large athletic form in the easiest of summer costumes, with a little coloured neck-tie, and a face red with health and sunshine.
As Lord Mayo came up the tall flight of stairs with a springy step, Sir John Lawrence, with a visible feebleness, made the customary three paces forward to the edge of the landing-place to receive him. I was among the group of officers who followed them into the Council Chamber; and as we went, a friend compared the scene to an even more memorable one on these same stairs. The toilworn statesman, who had done more than any other single Englishman to save India in 1857, was now handing it over to an untried successor; and thirteen years before, Lord Dalhousie, the stern ruler who did more than any other Englishman to build up that Empire, had come to the same act of demission on the same spot, with a face still more deeply ploughed by disease and care, a mind and body more weary, and bearing within him the death which he was about to pay as the price of great services to his country.
In the Chamber, Sir John Lawrence and his Council took their usual seats at the table, the chief secretaries stood round, a crowd of officers filled the room, and the pictured faces of the Englishmen who had won and kept India in times past looked down from the walls. The clerk read out the oaths in a clear voice, and Lord Mayo assented. At the same moment the Viceroy's band burst forth with 'God Save the Queen' in the garden below, a great shout came in from the people outside, the fort thundered out its royal salute, and the 196 millions of British India had passed under a new ruler.
In the evening, at a State dinner given by Sir John Lawrence, Lord Mayo appeared in his viceregal uniform, the picture of radiant health. His winning courtesy charmed and disarmed more than one official who had come with the idea, derived from the attacks in the English partisan newspapers, that he would be unfavourably impressed by the new Governor-General. As Lord Mayo moved about in his genial strength, people said that at any rate Mr. Disraeli had sent out a man who would stand hard work.
Lord Mayo took his oaths as Viceroy on the 12th January, 1869. The same evening he set to work with characteristic promptitude to learn from his predecessor what personal duties were expected of him, and by what methods he could discharge them most effectively, and with the strictest economy of time.
The mechanism of the Supreme Government of India consists of a Cabinet with the Governor-General as absolute President. The weakness of that Government in the last century, down to the time of Lord Cornwallis, arose from the fact that the Governor-General was not absolute within his Cabinet, but merely primus inter pares, with a single vote which counted no more than the vote of any other member, except in the case of an equal division, when he had the casting-vote. This attempt at government by a majority was the secret of much of the misrule which has left so deep a stain on the East India Company's first years of administration in Bengal. Sir Philip Francis and his brother Councillors appointed by the Regulating Act of 1773, brought the system to a dead-lock. The hard task then laid upon Warren Hastings was not only government by a majority, but government in the teeth of a hostile majority. It is to the credit of Lord Cornwallis that before accepting the office of Governor-General in 1786, he insisted that the Governor-General should really have power to rule.
The new plan subsisted with little change till 1858, the last year of the East India Company. While the Governor-General retained the power of over-ruling his Council, as a matter of fact he wisely refrained, except in grave crises or emergencies, from exercising his supreme authority. Every order ran in the name of the President and the collective Cabinet, technically the Governor-General in Council. And under the Company every case actually passed through the hands of each Member of Council, circulating at a snail's pace in little mahogany boxes from one Councillor's house to another. 'The system involved,' says a former Member of Council, 'an amount of elaborate minute writing which seems now hardly conceivable. The Governor-General and the Council used to perform work which would now be disposed of by an Under-Secretary.'
Lord Canning, the first Viceroy under the Crown, found that, if he was to raise the administration to a higher standard of promptitude and efficiency, he must put a stop to this. He remodelled the Government 'into the semblance of a Cabinet, with himself as President.' Each Member of the Supreme Council practically became a Minister at the head of his own Department—or the 'Initiating Member' of the Department—responsible for its ordinary business, but bound to lay important cases before the Viceroy, whose will forms the final arbitrament in all great questions of policy in which he sees fit to exercise it.
'The ordinary current business of the Government,' writes Sir John Strachey, 'is divided among the Members of the Council, much in the same manner in which, in England, it is divided among the Cabinet Ministers, each member having a separate Department of his own.' The Governor-General himself keeps one Department specially in his own hands, generally the Foreign Office; and Lord Mayo, being insatiable of work, retained two, the Foreign Department and the great Department of Public Works. Various changes took place in the Supreme Government even during his short Viceroyalty, but the following table represents the personnel of his Government as fairly as any single view can. It shows clearly of what the 'Government of India' was made up, apart from the immediate staff of the Viceroy. But it should be mentioned that Lord Mayo was fortunate in having in Major (now General Sir) Owen Tudor Burne, a Private Secretary of the highest capacity for smoothly and effectively transacting business. Major Burne did much to lighten the personal labour of the Viceroy, and became his most intimate confidante and friend.
|DEPARTMENT.||MEMBER OF COUNCIL.||CHIEF SECRETARY.|
| I. Foreign
II. Public Works
IV. Department of
Hon. Sir Barrow Ellis,
Hon. Sir J. Strachey,
Hon. Sir R. Temple,
Major-General the Hon.
Sir H. Norman,
Hon. Sir Fitzjames
|Sir C. U. Aitchison,
Divided into branches.
Sir E. Clive Bayley,
Mr. A. O. Hume,
Mr. Barclay Chapman,
General H. K. Burne,
Mr. Whitley Stokes,
Lord Mayo, besides his duties as President of the Council and final source of authority in each of the seven Departments, was therefore in his own person Foreign Minister and Minister of Public Works. The Home Minister, the Minister of Revenue, Agriculture, and Commerce, and the Finance Minister, were members of the India Civil Service, together with the Secretaries and Under-Secretaries in those and in the Foreign Department. Of the other two Departments, the Military was presided over by a distinguished soldier, and the Legislative by an eminent member of the English Bar.
Routine and ordinary matters were disposed of by the Member of Council within whose Department they fell. Papers of greater importance were sent, with the initiating Member's opinion, to the Viceroy, who either concurred in or modified it. If the Viceroy concurred, the case generally ended, and the Secretary worked up the Member's note into a Letter or Resolution, to be issued as the orders of the Governor-General in Council. But in matters of weight, the Viceroy, even when concurring with the initiating Member, often directed the papers to be circulated either to the whole Council, or to certain of the Members whose views he might think it expedient to obtain on the question. In cases in which he did not concur with the initiating Member's views, the papers were generally circulated to all the other Members, or the Governor-General ordered them to be brought up in Council. Urgent business was submitted to the Governor-General direct by the Secretary of the Department under which it fell; and the Viceroy either initiated the order himself, or sent the case for initiation to the Member of Council at the head of the Department to which it belonged.
This was the paper side of Lord Mayo's work. All orders issued in his name. Every case of real importance passed through his hands, and bore his order, or his signature under the initiating Member's note. Urgent matters in all the seven Departments went to him, as I have said, in the first instance. He had also to decide as to which cases could be best disposed of by the Departmental Member and himself, and which ought to be circulated to the whole Council or to certain of the Members. In short, he had to see, as his orders ran in the name of the Governor-General in Council, that they fairly represented the collective views of his Government. The 'circulation' of the papers took place, and still does, in oblong mahogany boxes, air-tight, and fitted with a uniform Chubb's lock. Each Under-Secretary, Deputy-Secretary, Chief Secretary, and Member of Council gets his allotted share of these little boxes every morning; each has his own key; and after 'noting' in the cases that come before him, sends on the locked box with his opinion added to the file. The accumulated boxes from the seven Departments pour into the Viceroy throughout the day. In addition to this vast diurnal tide of general work, Lord Mayo had two of the heaviest Departments in his own hands, as Member in charge of the Foreign Office and of Public Works.
The more personal duties of the Viceroy divided themselves into three branches. Every week he personally met, in the first place, each of his Chief Secretaries; in the second place, his Viceregal or Executive Council; and, in the third place, his Legislative Council. Each of the seven Secretaries had his own day with the Governor-General, when he laid before His Excellency questions of special importance, answered questions arising out of them, and took his orders touching any fresh materials to be included in the files of papers before circulating them.
The Viceroy also gives one day a week to his Executive Council, consisting of the Executive Ministers or 'Members of Council' mentioned in the table above, with the Commander-in-Chief as an additional Member. In this oligarchy all matters of Imperial policy are debated with closed doors before the orders issue; the Secretaries waiting in an ante-room, and each being summoned into the Council Chamber to assist his Member when the affairs belonging to his Department come on for discussion. As all the Members have seen the papers and recorded their opinions, they arrive in Council with a full knowledge of the facts, and but little speechifying takes place. Lord Mayo, accustomed to the free flow of Parliamentary talk, has left behind him an expression of surprise at the rapidity with which, even on the weightiest matters, the Council came to its decision, and at the amount of work which it got through in a day. His personal influence here stood him in good stead. In most cases he managed to avoid any actual taking of votes, and by little compromises won the dissentient Members to acquiescence. In great questions he almost invariably obtained a substantial majority, or put himself at the head of it; and under his rule the Council was never for a moment allowed to forget that the Viceroy retained the constitutional power, however seldom exercised, of deciding by his single will the action of his Government.
In hotly debated cases the situation is generally as follows. The Viceroy and the Member of Council in charge of the Department to which the case belongs have thoroughly discussed it, and the proposal laid before Council represents their joint views. These views have gone round with the case to the other Members of Council, and been 'noted' on by them. When the question comes before the Council, no amount of talking can add much new knowledge to the elaborate opinions which each of the Members has recorded while the papers were in circulation. Several of these opinions are probably in favour of the policy proposed by the Member in charge of the question, and supported by the Viceroy; others may be opposed to it. When the matter came up in the meeting of Council, Lord Mayo generally tried, by explanations or judicious compromises, to reduce the opposition to one or two Members, and these might either yield or dissent. The despatches to the Secretary of State enunciating the decision of the Government of India specify the names of dissentient Councillors, and append in full such protests as they may deem right to record.
To take a hypothetical instance. Supposing a frontier expedition had been decided on, and the Commander-in-Chief desired a more costly armament than was really needed. A Commander-in-Chief's business is to make the success of an expedition an absolute certainty, and to that end he is supported by two strongly-officered Departments—the Adjutant-General's and the Quartermaster-General's. The business of the Government of India is to take care that no expenditure, not required to ensure success, shall be permitted. To this end the Commander-in-Chief's plans and estimates are scrutinised first by the Viceroy and his Military Member of Council, with the aid of the Military Secretariat, and are then considered in Council. The Commander-in-Chief is not necessarily an officer with a keen regard for financial considerations. The Military Member of Council and his Secretaries are invariably selected for their administrative and Indian experience. They are distinguished soldiers, but soldiers whose duty it is for the time being to deal also with the financial aspects of war. Thus, it might possibly happen that a Commander-in-Chief demanded a costly equipment of elephants or camels for a service which, as ascertained from the local facts, could be as efficiently and more economically performed by river-transport or bullock-train. Such a divergence of opinion would probably disappear when each side had stated its case in the papers during circulation; or at any rate a line of approach to agreement would have been indicated.
If the question actually came up for discussion in Council, the Viceroy and the Military Member would be as one man, and they would in all likelihood have the Financial Member on their side. The Commander-in-Chief would have such of the other Members as had been convinced by his written arguments, or who deemed it right in a military matter to yield to the weight of his military knowledge, and to the fact that the direct responsibility for the operations rested with him. And that weight would tell very heavily. For the experience of Indian officials leads them to believe that the man whose business it is to know what is needed, does, as a matter of fact, know it best. If the Viceroy saw that, after his side of the case was clearly stated, an opinion still remained in the minds of the Council in favour of the Commander-in-Chief's plan, he would probably yield. On the other hand, if the arguments left no doubt as to the sufficiency of the counter-proposals by the Viceroy and the Military Member, the Commander-in-Chief would either withdraw his original scheme, or strike out some compromise.
Similar divergences might take place between two sections of the Council in regard to the foreign policy of the Government, or the railway system, or a great piece of legislation, or in any other Department of the State. Each Member comes to Council with his mind firmly made up, quite sure that he is right, and equally certain (after reading all the arguments) that those who do not agree with him are wrong. But he is also aware that the Members opposed to him come in precisely the same frame of mind. Each, therefore, while resolved to carry out his own views, knows that, in event of a difference of opinion, he will probably have to content himself with carrying a part of them. And once the collective decision of the Government is arrived at, all adopt it as their own. Lord Mayo has recorded his admiration of the vigour with which each Councillor strove for what he considered best, irrespective of the Viceregal views; and of the generous fidelity with which each carried out whatever policy might eventually be laid down by the general sense of his colleagues. It is this capacity for loyally yielding after a battle that makes the English talent for harmonious colonial rule.
Besides his personal conferences with each of his Chief Secretaries, and the hebdomadal meeting of the Executive Council, the Viceroy devoted one day a week to his Council for making Laws and Regulations. This body, known more shortly as the Legislative Council, consists of the Viceregal or Executive Council, with the Lieutenant-Governor of the Province where the Viceroy may be residing, and also certain non-official Members as representatives of the Native and European communities. The Viceroy presides. Practically, it does not initiate measures; most of the laws which it frames come up to the Government of India from the Provincial Governments in the shape of proposed enactments. They are first considered by the Viceroy and Legal Member, then circulated to the whole of the Executive Councillors, and decided on in the Executive Council before being brought before the Legislative Council as a draft Bill.
The Legislative Council next appoints a committee of its own Members to consider the Bill, and after various publications in the Gazette, rejects, modifies, or passes it into law. The Legislative Council is open to the public; its proceedings are reported in the papers, and published from the official shorthand-writer's notes in the Gazette. The law-abiding nature of the English mind, and the attitude of vigorous independence which the Anglo-Indian courts maintain towards the Executive, render it necessary to obtain the sanction of a legislative enactment for many purposes for which an order of the Governor-General in his Executive Council would have sufficed under the Company. Indeed, almost every great question of policy, not directly connected with foreign affairs or military operations, sooner or later emerges before the legislative body. If all the official Members hold together, the Viceroy has an official majority in the Legislative Council. And as no measure comes before it except after previous discussion and sanction by the Governor-General in his Executive Council, this represents the normal state of votes in the Legislature.
Lord Mayo was a rigid economist of time. Each day had its own set of duties, and each hour of it brought some appointment or piece of work mapped out beforehand. He rose at daybreak, but could seldom allow himself the Indian luxury of an early ride, and worked alone at his 'boxes' till breakfast at 9.30. At 10, his Private Secretary came to him with a new accumulation of boxes, and with the general work of the day carefully laid out. Thereafter his Military Secretary (an officer of his personal staff, and distinct alike from the Military Secretary to the Government of India, and from the great Departments of the Adjutant-General and Quartermaster-General under the Commander-in-Chief) placed before him in the same manner special questions connected with the army. By 11 Lord Mayo had settled down to his boxes for the day, worked at them till luncheon at 2; and afterwards till just enough light remained to allow him a hard gallop before dark. On his return, he again went to his work till dinner at 8.30; snatching the half-hour for dressing to play with his youngest boy, or to perch him on his toilet-table and tell him stories out of the Old Testament and Shakespeare. About a year after his father's death, the child (now a man!) repeated to me wonderful fragments from a repertory of tales thus acquired, his memory jumbling up the witches of Macbeth with the witch of Endor.
There were few days in the year in which Lord Mayo did not receive at dinner, and not many in the week in which there was not an entertainment at Government House afterwards—a ball, or state concert, or private theatricals, or a reception of Native Chiefs, or an At Home of some sort or other. Whatever had been his labour or vexations and disappointments throughout the day, they left no ruffle on his face in the evening. He had a most happy talent for singling out each guest for particular attention, and for throwing himself during a few minutes into the subject on which each was best able to talk. 'There are few connected with him,' writes his Private Secretary, 'who do not remember the many instances of his leaving his room full of anxiety on some great impending question, and at the next moment welcoming his guests and charming all who enjoyed his hospitality, European and Native, by his kindness, joyousness, and absence of officialism.'
At first, Lord Mayo worked at night, carrying on the labours of the day long after his guests and household were asleep. But India soon taught him that her climate put limits even on a strongly-built constitution like his own, and he had to give up the practice. It may be imagined that much accurate prevision was required to lay out the paper side of Lord Mayo's work described above, so that it might be as little as possible interfered with by the more public functions of the Viceregal office. His interviews with each of his Secretaries, and the meetings of his Executive and Legislative Councils, were fixed for specified hours on certain days, and from the printed scheme on his table no departure was permitted. But a large mass of ceremonial and personal business could not be thus laid out beforehand.
One day it was a foreign embassy, or a great feudatory who had come a thousand miles with his retinue to pay his respects; another day it was the return visit of the Viceroy; a third day it was the laying of some foundation-stone; a fourth, the inspection of a local institution or hospital; a fifth, a rapid run upon a railway to see some new works, or examine a bridge across a deltaic estuary hitherto deemed uncontrollable by engineering skill; a sixth, the letting in of the water at the head-lock of a canal; a seventh, a great speech as Chancellor of the Calcutta University, or some words of encouragement at the distribution of prizes at a college or school. No hard-and-fast scheme could provide for this multifarious aspect of his duties. But he looked (and looked with just confidence) to his Private Secretary to reduce the interference thus caused to his regular work to the minimum. Whenever the ceremonial permitted, he avoided an interruption of his day's work by giving up the hour for the evening's gallop to it.
In the following narrative of the great measures initiated or carried out during Lord Mayo's Viceroyalty there are several omissions which Lord Mayo would have deemed most unjust. They refer not to what he himself did, but to the assistance which he derived from others. But with few exceptions his coadjutors are still alive, and some of them still hold high office. This book is not written in praise or dispraise of living men. Yet, at almost every page, I have felt that I am doing the central figure of it a wrong by isolating him from his surroundings. He was essentially a man who went through life girt about with friends, and a memoir which fails to develop that side of his character leaves half his story untold. This, however, is one of the conditions under which a contemporary biography ought to be written; and no one can feel the air of ungraciousness which it may impart to my work, especially to the Indian sections of it, more keenly than the writer himself.
While, however, Lord Mayo in the following narrative stands out more prominently from among those who shared his labours than he himself would have deemed right, his method of working renders the injustice less than it might have been in the case of some other Viceroys. He had a remarkable faculty for listening to everything that could be said on a subject, and then shaping from many divergent counsels a course which was distinctively his own. No one could tempt him into the error of being led to state his own conclusions first and then to ask his adviser's opinion about them. He had the art of making every one feel that he followed with a personal interest their exposition of a case; but at the same time that his interest was that of a judge, not of a partisan.
In India the Provincial Administrations and Heads of Departments represent the initiative, the Secretariats the critical element in the Government. A Head of a Department is almost ex officio a man who has something to propose. And his plans of improvement, however admirable in themselves, and however economical they may purport to be at the outset, mean in the end increase of expenditure. The function of the Secretariat is to pull such schemes to pieces, to expose their weak points, and to put on the drag upon every proposal that sooner or later will cost money. A strong Viceroy acts as arbiter between the two sets of forces thus constantly in motion.
Those who had to do business with Lord Mayo were constantly struck by his happy combination of the qualities required for this delicate part of his office. He was adored by the more ardent administrators for the interest with which he listened to their plans. Every one felt sure of a fair hearing. But those who misinterpreted his courteous sympathy into official approval found, by a very brief experience of his method of working, that they were mistaken. For between this initial stage and ultimate action lay an ordeal of inquiry and criticism, a process of weighing which he sometimes renewed afresh in his own mind, even after his responsible advisers had been convinced of the expediency of the proposed measure. He insisted that each question should be thoroughly fought out by his subordinates, sending it, if necessary, back and back, till every disputed point was absolutely disposed of, before he allowed himself to express his own views; nor did he commit himself to a line of action until the chances had been exhausted of his having to alter it, in consequence of new evidence coming to light. He had the art of bringing to a focus whatever was sound in the advice of conflicting Councillors, and all parties felt that their strongest arguments had entered into, and were fairly represented by, the conclusion at which he arrived. But they also felt that that conclusion was his own, and that he would adhere to it. This openness to suggestion and to plans of administrative improvement, followed by a carefully protracted period of criticism and scrutiny, and backed by stedfastness in the practical action which consummated it, formed the secret of Lord Mayo's success as an Indian Viceroy.
The strong individuality which marked his measures produced a corresponding sense of personal responsibility in his own mind. Amid the difficulties and trials, to be presently narrated, this feeling sometimes pressed upon him with a weight under which even his robust nature heaved. 'It is a hard task,' he wrote to a friend during the first dark months of his grapple with deficit; 'but I am determined to go through with it, though I fear bitter opposition where I least expected it. I have put my hand to the work, and I am not going to turn back; and I will kill, before I die, some of the abuses of Indian Administration.'
The India of which Lord Mayo assumed charge in 1869 was a profoundly different India from that which had, eleven years previously, passed from the Company to the Crown. The fixed belief of the founders of the British Empire in India had been, that the Native States must inevitably, and in their own defence, be either openly or secretly hostile to our rule. They held that by good government and a scrupulous respect for the religions, customs, and rights of the people, they might attach the population of the British Provinces. But the Independent or Feudatory Native Powers in India must, in their opinion, for ever remain a menace to our sway.
It was therefore the permanent policy of the greatest servants of the East India Company to bring the Native States under subjection by treaties, and, when they could do so without actual injustice, to incorporate the lesser States into the British Dominions. In 1841 the Government of India laid down the uniform principle 'to persevere in the one clear and direct course of abandoning no just and honourable accession of territory or revenue, while all existing claims of right are at the same time scrupulously respected.'
We have seen how, after the Mutiny, this policy of annexation was deliberately reversed. The Queen of England, when she became the Sovereign of India, became the protectress of all classes of the Indian people. She declared in the most solemn manner her will 'that the governments of the several Princes and Chiefs who now govern their own territories should be perpetuated, and that the representation and dignity of their houses should be continued.' In 1862 Lord Canning, as the first Viceroy of India, thus summed up the new situation:—
'The last vestiges of the royal house of Delhi, from which, for our own convenience, we had long been content to accept a vicarious authority, have been swept away. The last pretender to the representation of the Peshwá' (the Maráthá over-lord) 'has disappeared. The Crown of England stands forward the unquestioned ruler and paramount power in all India, and is, for the first time, brought face to face with its Feudatories. There is a reality in the suzerainty of the Sovereign of England which has never existed before, and which is not only felt, but eagerly acknowledged, by the Chiefs.'
The change in policy meant that an area of 600,000 square miles, with a population of nearly 50 millions, under the Feudatory Chiefs, was no longer a foreign territory subject to annexation, but an integral portion of the British Empire for whose welfare the Queen became responsible in the sight of God and man. Her responsibility, although not the direct responsibility of a sovereign, was the responsibility of a suzerain. On Lord Canning and Lord Lawrence devolved the heavy task of consolidating the Native States under the changed régime. But the memories of the Mutiny still cast their shadow over India throughout the period of their government. Lord Mayo came as a new man to India, free from the recollections which that terrible struggle had graven into the souls of all who took part in it. The work of conquest had been effected by his predecessors, the task of conciliation remained for him to accomplish.
'I, as the representative of the Queen,' he declared to the Rájput Princes assembled in darbár, 'have come here to tell you, as you have often been told before, that the desire of Her Majesty's Government is to secure to you and to your successors the full enjoyment of your ancient rights and the exercise of all lawful customs, and to assist you in upholding the dignity and maintaining the authority which you and your fathers have for centuries exercised in this land.
'But in order to enable us fully to carry into effect this our fixed resolve, we must receive from you hearty and cordial assistance. If we respect your rights and privileges, you should also respect the rights and regard the privileges of those who are placed beneath your care. If we support you in your power, we expect in return good government. We demand that everywhere, throughout the length and breadth of Rájputána, justice and order shall prevail; that every man's property shall be secure; that the traveller shall come and go in safety; that the cultivator shall enjoy the fruits of his labour, and the trader the produce of his commerce; that you shall make roads, and undertake the construction of those works of irrigation which will improve the condition of the people and swell the revenues of your States; that you shall encourage education, and provide for the relief of the sick.
'Be assured that we ask you to do all this for no other but your own benefit. If we wished you to remain weak, we should say: Be poor, and ignorant, and disorderly. It is because we wish you to be strong that we desire to see you rich, instructed, and well-governed. It is for such objects that the servants of the Queen rule in India; and Providence will ever sustain the rulers who govern for the people's good.
'I am here only for a time. The able and earnest officers who surround me will, at no distant period, return to their English homes; but the Power which we represent will endure for ages. Hourly is this great Empire brought nearer and nearer to the throne of our Queen. The steam-vessel and the railroad enable England, year by year, to enfold India in a closer embrace. But the coils she seeks to entwine around her are no iron fetters, but the golden chains of affection and of peace. The days of conquest are past; the age of improvement has begun.
'Chiefs and Princes, advance in the right way, and secure to your children's children, and to future generations of your subjects, the favouring protection of a power who only seeks your good.'
'We see,' wrote one of his Councillors after his death,—'we see Lord Mayo in every line of this speech, the frank and courteous and enlightened gentleman; but, at the same time, the strong and worthy representative of the Queen, and the unmistakeable ruler of the Empire. Every Native Prince who met him looked upon Lord Mayo as the ideal of an English Viceroy. They all felt instinctively that they could place perfect confidence in everything that he told them; and their respect, I ought rather to say their reverence, was all the deeper, because, while they knew that he was their master, they felt also that he was their friend.'
Lord Mayo discerned the evil as well as the good of our Feudatory system. He was often sorely hurt by the spectacle of Native mal-administration, which our principles of non-interference rendered him powerless to amend. He found that the existing system allowed of petty intermeddling, but often precluded salutary intervention—straining out the gnat and swallowing the camel. His mind was attracted to the possibility of developing a scheme which would secure to the Indian Feudatories their present independence, and at the same time arm the suzerain power with adequate checks on its abuse.
In his personal and social relations with the Feudatories, he made them realise that the one path towards the Viceregal friendship was the good government of their territories. The Indian Foreign Office strictly regulates the official courtesies of a Governor-General to each Prince, and these regulations Lord Mayo accurately observed. But he made the Native Chiefs feel that beyond such State receptions there was an interior region of intercourse and kindly interest, and that this region was open to every one who deserved it, and to no one else. He led them to see that his friendship had nothing to do with the greatness of their territory, or their degree of political independence, or the number of jealously counted guns which saluted them from our forts. These considerations regulated his State ceremonials; but his private friendship was only to be won by the personal merit of character and conduct.
By his attitude he practically said to each: 'If you wish to be a great man at my Court, govern well at home. Be just and merciful to your people. We do not ask you whether you come with full hands, but whether you come with clean hands. No presents that you may bring can buy the British favour; no display which you may make will raise your dignity in our eyes; no cringing or flattery will gain my friendship. We estimate you not by the splendour of your offerings to us, nor by the pomp of your retinue here, but by your conduct to your subjects at home. For ourselves, we have nothing to ask of you. But for your people we demand good government, and we shall judge of you by this standard alone. And in our private friendship and hospitality, we shall prefer the smallest Feudatory who rules righteously, to the greatest Prince who misgoverns his people.'
The Native Chiefs very soon understood the maxims which regulated his personal relations towards them; and the outburst of passionate grief that took place among them on his death proves whether the Indian Princes are, or are not, capable of appreciating such a line of conduct. As regards his public dealing with them, the four following principles, although never formally enunciated in any single paper, stand out in many letters and State documents from his pen:—
|I.||Non-annexation and a fixed resolve that even the misrule of a Native Chief must not be used as a weapon for aggrandising our power.|
|II.||But a constant feeling of responsibility attached to the British Government as suzerain, for any serious misrule in Native States; and a firm determination to interfere when British interference became necessary to prevent misgovernment. Such interference to consist not in annexing the territory, but in displacing the Chief, and administering by British officers or a Native regency in the interest of the lawful heirs.|
|III.||Non-interference, and the lightest possible form of control, with Chiefs who governed well. Lord Mayo tried to make the Indian Feudatories feel that it rested with themselves to decide the degree of practical independence which they should enjoy, and that that degree would be strictly regulated by the degree of good government which they gave to their subjects.|
|IV.||Above all, and as an indispensable complement to his whole policy, the education of the younger Native Chiefs under British officers, and in a high sense of their responsibilities alike to their subjects and to the Suzerain Power.|
I shall endeavour very briefly to show how Lord Mayo gave effect to these principles.
I take first a case in which Lord Mayo recognised the necessity for reform, but abstained from direct intervention. In the great Province of Káthiáwár, with its 187 chiefdoms, Lord Mayo had to deal with the relics of five centuries of Native misrule. He found many conflicting claims to the soil and a number of ancient communities, each with a vested right to depredation. The 'ex-ruling classes,' representatives of old houses forcibly dispossessed, or of younger brothers of Chiefs unable to live on their slender share of the inheritance; 'predatory tribes,' and 'dangerous communities,' whose hereditary means of livelihood was plunder; 'aboriginal races,' penned into the hills by successive waves of invaders,—all these elements of anarchy still fermented in the population of Káthiáwár. Some venerable customs also survived. Litigants still retained their right of báhirwátia, literally, 'going out' against their neighbours. This method of adjusting suits for real property consisted in forcing the husbandmen to quit their villages, while the litigant retired with his brethren to 'some asylum, whence he may carry on his depredations with impunity.'
Lord Mayo keenly realised the evils from which Káthiáwár was suffering; but he also clearly perceived the futility of attempting to rush reforms upon the loose congeries of 187 chiefdoms that made up the Province. While, therefore, he gradually introduced a better system for the whole, he confined his more direct interference to a leading principality which might serve as an object lesson to the rest. One of the richest and most important States of the 'first class' in Káthiáwár passed to a minor. Instead of bringing it under a British regent, an experienced Native Minister and a picked Member of the Bombay Civil Service were appointed as its joint-rulers. The experiment succeeded admirably. Reforms which could not have been introduced by an English regent without popular opposition, and which would never have been introduced by a Native ruler at all, were smoothly and harmoniously effected. The State became, with a minimum of interference by the Suzerain Power, a model of prosperity and firm administration.
But during Lord Mayo's Viceroyalty, as during every other General-Governorship, cases of Feudatory misrule—pure, simple, and incorrigible—took place. In such instances he did not hesitate to interfere in a manner that left no doubt as to the interpretation which he gave to the duties of the Suzerain Power. He held that until everything had been done to render the English surveillance in a Native State as efficient as possible, he had no right to complain of the Chief. He realised that the process by which an Indian State casts its old skin of anarchy is necessarily a slow one. He kept his hands clean of any faintest stain of annexation. But he made every Feudatory in India clearly understand that if he persistently misgoverned his subjects, the sceptre would be taken out of his hands.
The State of Alwár afforded an example of this class. It was founded in the latter half of the last century, by a Rájput soldier of fortune, and had an area of 3000 square miles, a population of three-quarters of a million, and an army of about 7000 men. In 1863 the young Hindu Chief attained his legal majority. His first act was to take vengeance on the President of the Native Council of Regency who had governed during his minority. In seven years he not only squandered a cash-balance of £172,287 saved during his minority, together with the regular revenue of £200,000 per annum, but he had plunged the State into debt to the extent of £160,000. The current taxes were so forestalled, that the balance due for the whole year would suffice but for two months' expenditure; the Mahárájá having hit on the clever financial device of rewarding his creatures by 'orders on the harvest!'
Some of the items of his expenditure will repay notice. Over £4000 a year were assigned to 'men whose sole duty it is to make saláms to the Chief'; over £5000 to singers and dancing girls; and £1900 to wrestlers. 'The Mahárájá manifests the utmost contempt of decency, drinking publicly with low Muhammadans, and getting drunk nearly every day.' The revenues formerly spent on the administration of justice and police had 'been devoted to the Chief's private pleasures.' 'Indeed, the Chief himself is on terms of intimacy with two dakáit leaders,' i.e. heads of robber gangs. He had confiscated the public lands assigned for the support of his troops, and for the maintenance of religion, or for the relief of the poor—one of the latter grants being 270 years old.
The result was to completely alienate the Rájá of Alwár from his Rájput nobility and subjects. The nobility consisted of a powerful body of Hindu Thákúrs, or barons. In vain they pleaded with him to observe some measure in his excesses. His practical answer to them was the disbandment of fifteen out of the eighteen Rájput troops of cavalry, whose fathers had won the State for his ancestor, and the enrollment of Muhammadan mercenaries in their stead. In March, 1870, the news reached the Government of India that the people of Alwár had risen, and that 2000 men were in the field against the Hindu Prince.
Lord Mayo first laboured to do what was possible by arbitration between the unworthy Prince and his revolted subjects. But the nobility would have been contented with nothing short of the deposition of the Chief. Lord Mayo interfered to prevent so extreme a measure. He gave the Prince a last chance, by summoning him to name a Board of Management which would command the confidence of his people; and the Chief having neglected to do so, Lord Mayo issued orders for the creation of a Native Council at Alwár. The Council consisted of the leading nobility in the State, with the British Political Agent as President—the Mahárájá having a seat next to the President.
Under the efficient management of this board, Alwár speedily emerged from its troubles. The Chief received an allowance of £18,000 a year for his personal expenditure, exclusive of the permanent establishments required for his dignity as titular head of the State. These establishments included, among other things, 100 riding-horses, 26 carriage-horses, and 40 camels, at the disposal of His Highness. The remainder of the revenue was devoted to paying off the debt and to replacing the administration on an efficient basis. Peace was firmly established; the courts were reopened; schools were founded; and crime was firmly put down by an improved police.
The Chief still clung to his lowest favourites, and, so far as his debauched habits allowed him to interfere at all, he interfered for evil. At a State darbár on the Queen's birthday, he publicly insulted his nobility. Lord Mayo, however, still adhered to his resolve to govern Alwár by means of its own Native Council, rather than by any expedient which might bear the faintest resemblance to annexation. 'I fear this young Chief is incorrigible,' he wrote early in 1871, 'but we must pursue the course of treatment we have laid down, firmly and consistently. The whole action of this Chief is that of a mischievous and wily creature, who finds himself over-matched, tightly bound, and unable to do further harm.' Lord Mayo plainly told him that the only chance of 'his being ever freed from the Council' would depend on his showing 'symptoms of repentance, and a determination to reconcile himself with his subjects.'
But this amendment was not to be. The Native Council of Management went on with its work of improvement and reform. The Chief held himself sullenly aloof, and sank deeper and deeper into the slough of evil habits, until he died, a worn-out old man of twenty-nine, in 1874.
This was the most serious case of Native misrule during Lord Mayo's Viceroyalty, and the only one in which he had to push interference to the point of superseding the hereditary Prince. Another instance of mal-administration was visited with a severe rebuke, which the Chief resented, and refused to take his proper place at a Viceregal darbár in the seat below the head of the ancient Udaipur house. The offender was promptly ordered to quit British territory in disgrace, and was further punished by having his salute reduced from seventeen to fifteen guns.
It is only fair to the Indian Feudatories to state, that against these examples of misrule many instances could be cited of wise government and a high sense of duty. Lord Mayo gathered round him a circle of Chiefs whose character he personally admired, and in whose administration he took a well-founded pride. Of such territories, Bhopál may serve as an illustration. It is one of the Feudatory States of Central India which exercise sovereign powers over their own subjects: has an area of 6764 square miles, a population of 663,656 souls, and yields a revenue to its Chief of £240,000 a year. Its army, besides a British Contingent which the Chief was bound to maintain by the treaty of 1818, amounted to 4000 men.
The State of Bhopál was founded in 1723 by an Afghán adventurer, who expelled the Hindu Chiefs, built a fortress, and assumed the title of Nawáb. In 1778, when a British army under General Goddard marched through Central India, Bhopál stood forward as the one State friendly to our power. The Maráthá aggressions of the early part of the present century compelled it, like many other Indian States, to seek English aid. In 1819 it acknowledged the supremacy of our Government, was received under the British protection, and was rewarded by some valuable districts which we had won from the Maráthás. The Mutiny of 1857 found Bhopál under the government of a lady, the celebrated Sikandar Begam, whose wise administration had raised her State to a high rank among the Indian Feudatories. For her loyal services at that juncture she was created a Grand Commander of the Star of India, and dying in 1868, left her territory to a daughter worthy of her blood.
This Princess, at the time of her accession in 1868, was a widow of thirty-one years of age. She inherited her mother's firmness and good sense, with a rare aptitude for the duties of administration. During Lord Mayo's Viceroyalty she devoted herself to the measures of progress which the Viceroy pressed on every Feudatory Chief who came under his influence. She opened out roads, organised a system of public instruction, executed a survey of her State, reformed the police, suppressed the abominable but deep-rooted trade of kidnapping minors for immoral purposes, and improved the jails. Lord Mayo received her in his capital with marks of distinction, and, on the occasion of the visit of the Duke of Edinburgh, presented her with honour to His Royal Highness. The Princess carried back to her State the liveliest recollections of his hospitality and kindness, and the next few years of her rule became conspicuous for good government and prudent administrative reforms.
Her Highness was created a Grand Commander of the Star of India, as the ruler of a model State.
Lord Mayo entertained very stringent views as to the duties of the Government of India towards the wilder frontier tribes. He held that, while his Government was bound to preserve the peace of the border, it was bound to do so not by vindictive chastisements for raids committed, but by a more perfect organisation of preventive measures.
In one case on the North-Western Frontier of India, after persistent provocations, it had been locally proposed to deal with the mountaineers by means of a force to be kept ready to make reprisals at a moment's notice, in the event of future raids. Lord Mayo, after reviewing the recent events, thus declared his policy:—'The whole recommendation comes to this—that in the early part of spring a large force should be assembled at different points within the hills; and that this force, being placed absolutely at the disposal of the officers who believe that the burning of crops and the destruction of villages by British troops are indispensable to the maintenance of the peace of the frontier, should, at the least appearance of robbery or raid, advance into the hills and commence the old system of devastation.' Lord Mayo then points out that such a force, acting on the moment, would be beyond the guidance of the Government of India, and that that Government 'might find itself involved in serious military operations, upon the character, justice, or necessity of which the Governor-General in Council never had an opportunity of expressing an opinion.' 'I object to authorise action which may cause such serious results.'
'No one can read ——'s letter without coming to the conclusion that there still exists in the minds of the local authorities an ardent though partly concealed desire for that avenging policy which the Government of India is so anxious to avoid.' Lord Mayo proposed 'to substitute, as far as possible, for surprise, aggression, and reprisal, a policy of vigilant, constant, and never-ceasing defence of those parts of our frontier which are by their position liable to be attacked by foreign tribes.'
It had been objected that such a system of watchful defence 'must act as a constant menace to the tribes.' To this Lord Mayo replies: 'I cannot see the force of this objection. The presence of a policeman is indeed a standing menace to the thief; and a sight of the gallows may be a salutary reminder to the murderer. It is, I fear, too much the habit to adopt what is doubtless the view taken by the mountaineers themselves of these affairs. They look upon them as acts of war and justifiable aggression. We have to teach them that assassination, the attack of a defenceless village by night, and killing people in their beds, are not acts of war, but are esteemed by civilised nations to be acts of murder. The sooner we teach these people this lesson the better. We have already taught it to millions who are less intelligent than the Patháns of the Hazára frontier.'
Lord Mayo's policy was to remove such crimes from the operations of honourable warfare into the jurisdiction of a strong armed police. To the objection that a raid, unless avenged by a military expedition, would impair 'our prestige on the frontier,' he answers: 'I object to fight for prestige. And even those who may still think that killing people for the sake of prestige is morally right, will hardly assert that the character and authority of the British arms in India are affected one way or the other by skirmishes with wild frontier tribes. But there are other considerations connected with the subject, of wider and greater import than the punishment of a few mountain savages, and the vindication of a local officer's prestige. Every shot fired in anger within the limits of our Indian Empire reverberates throughout Asia; gives to nations who are no friends to Christian or European rule the notion that amongst our own subjects there are still men in arms against us; and corroborates the assertion that the people within our frontier are not yet wholly subjected to our sway, and that the British power is still disputed in Hindustán.'
The other example which I shall cite of Lord Mayo's frontier policy will be taken from the opposite extremity of India, and it may seem at first to point to views different from the above. In 1871 the Viceroy sanctioned an expedition against the Lúshai tribes of the North-Eastern border. These races occupy the then terra incognita which stretches from the Cachar valley to the Chittagong District on the Bay of Bengal; and from Hill Tipperah on the west to the great watershed which pours its eastern drainage into the rivers of Burma. As regards the event of the expedition, it may be briefly said that it was perfectly successful, and that, by the infliction of the smallest possible amount of temporary suffering, it introduced, for a period, order and peace into tracts which had been from time immemorial the haunt of rapine and inter-tribal wars.
Lord Mayo, however, would have been the last man to claim any special credit for success in such operations. 'The affair,' he wrote, 'should be conducted with as little parade, noise, and fuss as possible. It must not be looked upon as a campaign, for no formidable resistance is anticipated. It should be looked upon more as a military occupation and visitation of as large a portion of the Lúshai Districts as possible, for the purpose of punishing the guilty where they can be traced and found, but more particularly for showing these savages that there is hardly a part of their hills which our armed forces cannot visit and penetrate.'
But while Lord Mayo dealt thus firmly, and at the same time considerately, with the Indian Feudatories and wild frontier tribes, he clearly perceived that our whole relations with the Native States of India must undergo a profound change. The Indian Feudatories had, as I have repeatedly insisted on, ceased to be semi-foreign allies of a commercial company. They had become an integral part of the India of the Queen. It was Lord Mayo's earnest desire that a new generation of Native Princes should be trained up to discharge the new and higher functions involved by this change. He believed that this could only be done by a carefully devised system of education, adapted to the various classes of Chiefs.
Whenever a great Native State passed to a minor, he held it the duty of the Suzerain Power to do two things. In the first place, to make such arrangements by means of a Native or a mixed regency, as would secure a good local administration, and at the same time convince both the ministers and the people of the State that the British Suzerain respected their independence and would scrupulously maintain it. In the second place, to make such arrangements for the education of the young Prince as would train him up in English rather than Native ideas of his responsibility as a ruler. He believed that this work of rearing up the young Feudatories to a high sense of their public duty was a worthy work for British officers of rank and talent. The system of educating the Native Princes under English guardians or tutors has borne blessed fruit. It rendered possible those subsequent measures for incorporating the military strength of the Native States into the general array of the Empire, which form perhaps the most important political reform in India during the last quarter of this century.
Lord Mayo was not content with providing for the education of the great Indian Feudatories alone. Under his auspices colleges were established for the lesser Chiefs. Such a college formed a part of his scheme for improving the condition of Káthiáwár. For he held it vain to expect that a large collection of Native Chiefs would discharge their responsibilities as men, unless they were properly trained as boys. The rank of these youths had hitherto confined them to private education under the indulgent influences of the Zanáná. Lord Mayo designed for them an Indian Eton, in which they should mix with each other, and learn to fit themselves for the duties of their future position in life.
Another, and perhaps more conspicuous, example was the Mayo College at Ajmere, to which the Native Chiefs themselves subscribed £70,000 sterling. This institution Lord Mayo intended to be a purely aristocratic College for Rájputána, where the sons of the Rájput Princes and noblemen would be brought into direct contact with European professors and European ideas, and under the healthy influences of physical and moral training. The Council of the College consists of all the principal Chiefs of Rájputána and the British Political Agents accredited to their States, with the Viceroy as President, and the Agent to the General-Governor in Rájputána as Vice-President.
I believe, if Lord Mayo were now alive, it would be his educational policy for the Native Princes of India, rather than his immediate dealings with them, however successful, that he would regard as the most beneficent memorial of his feudatory rule.
When Lord Mayo entered on his Viceroyalty, three Asiatic States were in disorder beyond the North-Western Frontier, and two great Powers were stealthily but steadily advancing towards India through those disordered States. On the Punjab Frontier, Afghánistán had just emerged from six years of anarchy; and Russia was casting hungry eyes on Afghánistán as a line of approach to India. On the Sind Frontier, Balúchistán was the scene of a chronic struggle between the ruling power and the tribal Chiefs; while Persia was taking advantage of that struggle to encroach upon the Western Provinces of Balúchistán. In the far north, beyond Kashmír, the new Muhammadan State of Eastern Turkestán had erected itself on a ruined fragment of the Chinese Empire, and was looking eagerly out for recognition on the one side to Russia, and on the other side to the British Government of India.
Lord Mayo's foreign policy was therefore of necessity a Central Asian policy. Its immediate object was to create out of the disordered territories of Afghánistán and Balúchistán two friendly powers, who should have not only the desire to be our friends, but also the strength which might make their friendship worth having. Its ulterior design was, by thus erecting a breakwater of faithful States around the North-Western Frontier of India, to counterbalance the ominous preponderance which Russia had lately acquired in Central Asia. Its result has been, as I mentioned in my opening chapter, to supply the necessary complement to the change inaugurated by Dalhousie; and to remove the relations of Russia and England in the East from the arena of Asiatic intrigue to the jurisdiction of European diplomacy.
During the seven years preceding Lord Mayo's arrival, the British policy towards Afghánistán had been subjected to an increasing strain, and a few months before his arrival that policy had manifestly broken down. Our relations with Afghánistán continued nominally on the basis laid down by Mr. [afterwards Lord] Lawrence and Major Lumsden in 1858. Its cardinal principle was, in Major Lumsden's words, 'to have as little to say to Afghánistán as possible, beyond maintaining friendly and intimate intercourse with the de facto Government.' But in 1863, on the death of the powerful Afghán ruler, Dost Muhammad, the de facto Government of Afghánistán disappeared. A war of succession followed among the sons and nephews of the late Amír. Sher Alí, the rightful successor, was for a time driven out of the field by his brother Afzul Khán, in 1866. Instead, therefore, of a single de facto Government in Afghánistán—such as existed in 1858—there were at least two Rulers, each of whom claimed to be the Sovereign Power.
Lord Lawrence still endeavoured to maintain our relations with that country upon the basis laid down in 1858. Both the claimants to the succession asked for the recognition of the British Government. Lord Lawrence expressed his willingness to recognise either of them who should succeed in establishing a de facto Government. 'My friend,' he wrote to Afzul Khán, when he had obtained a footing in Kábul, 'the relations of this Government are with the actual Rulers of Afghánistán. If your Highness is able to consolidate your power in Kábul, and is sincerely desirous of being a friend and ally of the British Government, I shall be ready to accept your Highness as such.'
The Afgháns retorted that this policy was a direct premium upon successful revolt, and tended to render the establishment of any stable government in Afghánistán impossible. It amounted, in their view, to a declaration that the British Government, while anxious to obtain the support of the Afghán Ruler, was willing to turn against that Ruler the moment that a rebel made head against him, and to transfer its friendship to the rebel Chief. 'It is difficult,' said the indignant Afgháns, 'for any nation to get on with the English. The meaning of this letter would appear to be that the English desire that our family shall exterminate one another.... Without doubt they will have written the same to Sher Alí.'
Lord Lawrence did not shrink from accepting this situation. As a matter of fact, he was not only willing to recognise any successful claimant to the sovereignty of Afghánistán; he was also willing to extend that recognition to even a partially successful claimant, to the extent which such a claimant might have succeeded in dismembering the country. 'So long,' Lord Lawrence distinctly declared to Afzul Khán, 'as Amír Sher Alí holds Herát and maintains friendship with the British Government, I shall recognise him as Ruler of Herát, and shall reciprocate his amity. But, upon the same principle, I am prepared to recognise your Highness as Amír of Kábul and Kandahár, and I frankly offer your Highness in that capacity the peace and goodwill of the British Government.'
This policy, instead of making allies of the two claimants, excited the wrath of both. Sher Alí, on hearing of the above declaration, exclaimed, 'The English look to nothing but their own interests, and bide their time. Whosoever's side they see the strongest for the time, they turn to him as their friend. I will not waste precious life in entertaining false hopes from the English, and will enter into friendship with other Governments.'
There was another Government which was only too happy to accept the friendship thus offered. If Russia could intervene as the ally of Afghánistán, and consolidate a sovereign power in that State, she would not only pose as the arbiter of Central Asia, but would also establish a commanding influence on the very frontier of India. Lord Lawrence, before he left India, recognised this fact. In the summer of 1868, Sher Alí, by a desperate effort, regained the throne, and entered Kábul in triumph. In September, 1868, he finally drove his rival claimants out of the country. Meanwhile Sir Henry Rawlinson had penned in England his memorable Minute of the 20th July, 1868. 'The fortunes of Sher Alí are again in the ascendant,' he wrote. 'He should be secured in our interests without delay. Provided he is unentangled with Russia, the restoration of his father's subsidy, and the moral support of the British Indian Government, would probably be sufficient to place him above all opposition, and to secure his fidelity; and it may indeed be necessary to furnish him with arms and officers, or even to place an auxiliary contingent at his disposal.'
During the last four months of his rule, Lord Lawrence pondered deeply over these words. On the 4th of January, 1869, he sent a Despatch to the Secretary of State, which may fitly be regarded as the political testament of the wearied Viceroy. 'We think that endeavours might be made to come to a clear understanding with the Court of St. Petersburg as to its projects and designs in Central Asia, and that it might be given to understand in firm, but courteous language, that it cannot be permitted to interfere in the affairs of Afghánistán or in those of any State which lies contiguous to our frontier.' 'Then we think that our relations to the Court of Teheran should be placed entirely under the Secretary of State for India, and that we should be empowered to give to any de facto ruler of Kábul some arms and ammunition and substantial pecuniary assistance, as well as moral support, as occasion may offer, but without any formal or defensive alliance.'
'I cannot bring my mind,' wrote Sir Stafford Northcote, then Secretary of State for India, 'to the proposal that we should subsidise first one, and then the other, according as accident brings up Sher Alí or Abdul Rahman to the head of affairs.'
Nine days after Lord Lawrence signed his political testament, Lord Mayo reached Calcutta. On the new Viceroy devolved the heavy responsibility of carrying out the transition policy, somewhat vaguely indicated by his predecessor, in such a way as to disclose no break in the continuity of the Indian Government. In March 1869, the Amír Sher Alí, who had meanwhile consolidated his power in Afghánistán, came in state to India to pay his respects to the new Governor-General. I do not propose to record the splendours of the Ambálá Darbár. All well-managed Darbárs are imposing, and form an oriental edition of the Field of the Cloth of Gold. I had the privilege of being a guest of the Viceroy at the historical gathering of troops, Native Princes, and British administrators which encamped on the Ambálá Plain. But if I were to enter on the spectacular aspects of an Indian Viceroy's career this book would swell far beyond the limits assigned to it. My business is with the less imposing but more permanent work actually accomplished. From the moment the Amír crossed our frontier he was received with a magnificence of hospitality which deeply impressed him. At Lahor he let fall the words, 'I now begin to feel myself a King.'
Sher Alí came to India with five distinct objects in view. He desired, in the first place, a treaty. In the second place, he hoped for a fixed annual subsidy. In the third place, for assistance in arms or in men, to be given 'not when the British Government might think fit to grant, but when he might think it needful to solicit it.' In the fourth place, for a well-defined engagement, 'laying the British Government under an obligation to support the Afghán Government in any emergency; and not only that Government generally, but that Government as vested in himself and his direct descendants, and in no others.'1 Finally, he cherished a desire that he might obtain some constructive act of recognition by the British Government in favour of his younger son, Abdullá Ján, whom he brought with him, and whom he wished to make his heir, to the exclusion of his elder son, Yákub Khán, who had helped him to win the throne.
1 Minute in Council, by the Hon. Sir John Strachey, G.C.S.I., sometime acting Governor-General, dated 30th April, 1872.
In not one of these objects was the Amír successful. The first four were distinctly negatived; the fifth was not, I believe, even permitted to enter into the discussions. Lord Mayo adhered to a programme which he had deliberately put in writing before he left Calcutta. Yet, by tact and by conciliatory firmness, he sent the Amír away satisfied, and deeply impressed with the advantage of being on good terms with the British Power. 'We have distinctly intimated to the Amír,' he wrote, 'that under no circumstances shall a British soldier cross his frontier to assist him in coercing his rebellious subjects. That no fixed subsidy or money allowance will be given for any named period. That no promise of assistance in other ways will be made. That no treaty will be entered into, obliging us under every circumstance to recognise him and his descendants as rulers of Afghánistán. Yet that, by the most open and absolute present recognition, and by every public evidence of friendly disposition, of respect for his character, and interest in his fortunes, we are prepared to give him all the moral support in our power; and that, in addition, we are willing to assist him with money, arms, ammunition, Native artificers, and in other ways, whenever we deem it desirable so to do.'
These may seem but small concessions compared with the expectations which the Amír had formed. But they were all that Lord Mayo deemed it right to grant, and he granted them in such a way as to render the Amír a firm and grateful friend during the whole of his Viceroyalty.
The Amír, on his return to Kábul, initiated English improvements with an amusing promptitude. He forbade his troops and the inhabitants to wear arms between 10 P.M. and 4 A.M. He appointed night watchmen, and a judicial officer to hear petitions from the citizens. He established post offices. He substituted cash payments for the old practice of paying the Government servants by assignments of land or revenue. He ordered the shoemakers of Kábul to sell off all their old stock, and to make boots according to the English pattern! He dressed himself in the English costume of coat and pantaloons, and directed his officers to do the same! He organised a Council of State, composed of thirteen members, as a constitutional body for advising him in all departments of the administration. He remitted the more terrible forms of punishment, and pardoned several ancient enemies. In short, he did what in him lay to establish good government and win the confidence of his people. Rapid reforms, however, are usually short-lived. The most promising of them, namely, the substitution of cash payments for assignments on the revenue, was so violently opposed by the official class in Afghánistán, from the great Sardárs downwards, that, so far as I can learn, it was never really introduced.
'Surround India,' wrote Lord Mayo, shortly after the Ambálá Darbár, 'with strong, friendly, and independent States, who will have more interest in keeping well with us than with any other Power, and we are safe.' 'Our influence,' he says in another letter, 'has been considerably strengthened, both in our own territories and also in the States of Central Asia, by the Ambálá meeting; and if we can only persuade people that our policy really is non-intervention and peace, that England is at this moment the only non-aggressive Power in Asia, we should stand on a pinnacle of power that we have never enjoyed before.'
Lord Mayo's next object was to open conciliatory relations with Russia by honestly explaining the real nature of the change which had taken place. He accepted Russia's splendid vitality in Central Asia as a fact neither to be shirked nor condemned, but as one which, by vigilant firmness, might be rendered harmless to ourselves. The formal relations between the Courts of St. James and St. Petersburg are of course conducted by the Foreign Office in England. But Lord Mayo's travels in Russia had given him an insight into the strong personal element in the working of the Russian official system, and had made several of the Russian Ministers his warm friends for life. Without interfering, therefore, with the regular relations between the two Courts, he thought it might be advantageous that an unofficial interchange of views should take place between the high officers connected with the actual administration of Asiatic affairs.
He therefore took the opportunity of a distinguished Bengal Civilian going home on leave, to authorise him, if it met with the concurrence of Her Majesty's Ministers, to give assurances to the leading Russian officials of his peaceful policy, and to enter into frank and friendly explanations on Central Asian affairs. Sir Douglas (then Mr.) Forsyth reached St. Petersburg in October 1869. The result of the confidential interchange of opinions which followed was the acceptance of Lord Mayo's view that the best security for peace in Central Asia consisted in maintaining the great States on the Indian frontier in a position of effective independence. Efforts were also made to prevent the recurrence of those unauthorised aggressions by Russian frontier officers, which had kept Central Asia in perpetual turmoil. Of these efforts it may be briefly said that they were successful during the term of Lord Mayo's Viceroyalty.
In the interviews of Sir Douglas Forsyth with the Russian Minister of War and the Minister of the Asiatic Department it was agreed that Russia should respect as Afghánistán all the Provinces which Sher Alí then held, that the Oxus should be the boundary line of Sher Alí's dominions on the north, and that both England and Russia should do their best to prevent aggressions by the Asiatic States under their control. Lord Mayo lost no time in securing for Sher Alí the guarantee of a recognised boundary against the Amír's neighbours in Central Asia. In 1871 the Russians, however, raised grave objections to Badakshán being included within the Afghán line. This question was settled by friendly negotiations in 1872. In January, 1873, Count Schouvaloff arrived in London to personally express the Emperor's sanction to the disputed territories being recognised as part of Afghánistán. Subsequent delimitations have given precision to the frontier. But practically it may be said that Afghánistán, as territorially defined by Lord Mayo in 1869, remained substantially the Afghánistán of the following twenty years.
Having thus placed the affairs of Afghánistán on a satisfactory footing, Lord Mayo turned his attention to the great territories which stretch southward from it along our Sind Frontier and eastwards to Persia. He found that our relations with these territories, loosely named Balúchistán or Khelát, were perplexed by two distinct sets of complications—one external, the other internal. The first referred to the frontier between Balúchistán and Persia. This had never been settled, and had for generations formed the arena of mutual aggressions and sanguinary raids. The internal complication arose from the ill-defined position of the Khán or Ruler towards his nobility. According to one party in Khelát, the Khán is the Sovereign of the State; according to another, he is the head of a confederacy of Chiefs. The net result was, that what between wars of extermination on the Persian Frontier, and the internecine struggle between the royalist and oligarchic parties within the State, Balúchistán knew no rest, and might at any moment prove a troublesome neighbour. Her internal rebellions and her border feuds rendered it very hard to discover with whom the actual authority rested, or how far it extended, and made it difficult for the British Government to take measures for the consolidation of the titular ruler's power.
Lord Mayo vigorously addressed himself to the solution of both the external and the internal problem of Balúchistán. His action led to the demarcation of a political boundary between Afghánistán and Persia; which practically put an end to the aggressions of the latter. He displayed not less vigour in trying to help Balúchistán to evolve from her conflicting factions a stable and permanent central power. The task proved a most difficult one. Each of the great parties in Balúchistán had a real basis of right on which to found its claims. The nobles could show that they had frequently controlled the Khán, and compelled him to act as the head of a confederacy of Chiefs rather than as a supreme ruler. The Khán could prove that although he had from time to time succumbed to his rebellious barons, yet that he had only done so after a struggle, and that he had exercised his royal authority whenever he again found himself strong enough.
The question resembled the worn-out discussion as to whether England was or was not a limited monarchy under the Plantagenets. The constitutional difficulties in Balúchistán were embittered by wrongs both great and recent on both sides; and at the time of Lord Mayo's death, its consolidation into a well-governed kingdom yet remained to be accomplished. He lived, however, to see his efforts bear fruit in a period of unwonted rest to its unhappy population, and to place the whole problem in a fair train for settlement. Before his sudden end, he had the satisfaction of being able to authorise a high British officer to act as arbitrator between the Khán and the tribal Chiefs.
Due north of India, beyond Kashmír and the Himálayas, another State made pressing claims on Lord Mayo's attention. This State was known as Eastern Turkestán. It owed its origin to one of those revivals, partly religious, partly political, which at that time threatened to dismember the Chinese Empire. The Panthays had proved the efficacy of such a revival by the establishment of an independent Muhammadan State in the south-west of China. The Chinese Musalmáns of the Desert of Gobi on the far north-western frontier followed their example, and ended by raising their rebellion to the dignity of a holy war. The Chinese authorities were expelled and all who supported them were massacred. In 1864 the new Musalmán Power, composed of very heterogeneous elements, found itself in possession of Eastern Turkestán. After a further struggle among the victors, Yákúb Kushbegí, a brave soldier of fortune, emerged in 1869 as the Ruler of the vast central territory which stretched eastwards from the Pamír Steppe to the Chinese Frontier, and from the British-protected State of Kashmír on the south to the Russian outposts on the Shan and Muzart ranges on the north.
In January, 1870, an envoy from the new Ruler arrived in India to solicit, inter alia, that a British officer might accompany him back on a friendly visit to his master. Lord Mayo consented to send Mr. Douglas Forsyth on one express condition—that in no sense was the visit to be a mission, nor was it to have a diplomatic object.
Mr. Forsyth was to abstain from taking part in any political questions, or in any internal disputes, further than repeating the general advice already given to Yákúb's envoy by Lord Mayo: namely, that Yákúb would best consult the interests of his kingdom by a watchful, just, and vigorous government; by strengthening the defences of his frontier; and above all, by not interfering in the political affairs of other States, or in the quarrels of Chiefs or tribes that did not directly concern his own interests. Mr. Forsyth was to limit his stay in the country, so as to run no risk of finding the Himálayan passes closed by the winter's snow, and of thus being detained in Yárkand till the following year. He was to collect full and trustworthy information concerning the nature and resources of Eastern Turkestán and the neighbouring countries, their recent history, their present political condition, their capabilities for trade, the Indian staples most in demand, their price in the Yárkand market, and the articles which could be most profitably brought to India in exchange.
Mr. Forsyth, on his arrival in the Yárkand territory, found that Yákúb had not yet succeeded in consolidating his dominions. He scrupulously abstained from being drawn into political discussions of any sort, and after a brief halt at the southern capital, Yárkand, to refit his camp with provisions and beasts of burden, he returned to India. He brought back complete information regarding the most practicable routes across the Himálayas, the industrial capabilities and resources of the country, its recent history, and the actual position of its Ruler. From first to last he made it clearly understood that his mission was of a purely tentative and commercial character.
As a part of the same policy, Lord Mayo opened up a free trade-route through the Chang Chenmu valley by a treaty with Kashmír, and placed the transit of Indian merchandise across the Himálayas on a securer basis. The traffic which will pay the cost of carriage across the snowy altitudes of Central Asia can never seem great, when expressed in figures and compared with the enormous sea-borne exports and imports of India. But it is a very lucrative one to certain classes in the inland and warlike Province of the Punjab, whose population we were trying to habituate to peaceful industry by every ameliorating influence of wealth and commerce.
I have now described the measures which Lord Mayo took in pursuance of his fixed resolve to create a cordon of friendly and well-governed States on our western and northern frontier, from Balúchistán on the Arabian Sea, round by Afghánistán, to Eastern Turkestán. He acted in the same spirit to his neighbours along the north-eastern and south-eastern borders of the British dominions. Towards Nepál he maintained an attitude alike firm, friendly, and dignified, and consolidated the satisfactory relations which he found existing with that State. On the north-east of Bengal he may be said to have created a frontier, by means of the Lúshai Expedition, and to have given to those long distracted regions a period of quiet and peace. Proceeding farther south, we find him equally busy in Burma, restraining the warlike propensities of the king, developing trade relations, and enforcing respect for the British Power. But the hard work of his foreign policy lay on the western and north-western frontier, and I have given so much space to its narration, that I must close this chapter without branching out into less essential details.
The financial history of Lord Mayo's Viceroyalty divides itself into two parts. The first narrates the resolute stand which, at the outset of his administration, he found himself compelled to make against deficit. The second records the measures by which, after grappling with the immediate crisis, he endeavoured to reform certain grave defects in the financial system, and to bring about a permanent equilibrium between the revenue and the expenditure of India.
When Lord Mayo received charge of the country the financial position stood thus. The conquests and accretions of a century had left behind a British Indian Empire nearly equal in size to all Europe less Russia, with a population of close on 200 millions in our own Provinces, and 50 millions in the Feudatory States. The cost of creating that Empire was represented in 1869-70 by a Public Debt of 102 millions sterling; together with another debt of 91 millions sterling expended on the guaranteed railways and other productive public works. Of the Public Debt, aggregating 102 millions, about 52 millions may be taken as the charges of establishing the British Power in India, and 50 millions as the price of reconquering and reorganising the Empire after the Mutiny of 1857. The 102 millions represented, however, not alone the cost of wars and conquests. For the English in India had to construct for themselves the whole fabric of a civilised government. That material fabric included roads, public offices, barracks, courts, jails, schools, hospitals; and this vast outlay explains in part the frequent financial deficits to which I shall presently refer. The other debt of 91 millions represented the cost of constructing 4265 miles of opened railway, and of defending great tracts from famine by canals.1 The two debts aggregated a capital of 193 millions sterling laid out in conquering, establishing, and organising the British India of 1869-70, the first year of Lord Mayo's rule. The revenue amounted to 509 millions of rupees, then equivalent to over 46 millions sterling: namely 33½ millions of taxation from the people, or about 3s. 4d. per head, and 12½ millions from opium, public works, &c., not of the nature of actual Indian taxation.2
1 To facilitate reference by the reader I take the above figures as given in the Parliamentary Abstract, Twenty-third Number, 1889, p. 300. But in the subsequent and more detailed statements (except in direct quotations from State Papers), I convert the rupee for the sake of accuracy at 1s. 10d., its value at the time. Where my figures seem to differ from those in certain of the Blue Books, the explanation usually is that the Blue Books take the rupee at its nominal value of 2s.
2 For details of this calculation, see my larger Life of Lord Mayo, vol. ii, p. 6: 2nd Ed., 1876.
Alike in regard to the amount of the Public Debt of British India and to the burden of taxation upon the people, the finances of that country may seem to compare favourably with those of almost any State in the world. But a nearer examination discloses a different aspect. Small as were the demands of the Treasury upon the tax-payer, it had been found impossible to augment them to the level required for the maintenance of efficient administration. Several of the highest of our Indian authorities believed that it would be perilous to do so. The half-century which preceded Lord Mayo's arrival in India had presented a long series of financial shortcomings. Of the fifty-five years beginning with 1814-15, and ending with 1868-69, only sixteen had shown a surplus, while thirty-nine had been years of deficit. The total of the surplus amounted to about 12½ millions sterling; the deficits exceeded 75½ millions of pounds. The period immediately preceding Lord Mayo's arrival was, if possible, even more discouraging. The last three years from 1866 to 1869, had left behind deficits aggregating 5¾ millions sterling. This was for 'ordinary' expenditure alone. If we add the outlay on 'extraordinary' (or reproductive) public works, the total excess of expenditure over revenue in the three years preceding Lord Mayo's first Budget amounted to the vast sum of 11 millions sterling.
Nor was the chronic inadequacy of the Revenue the gravest source of disquietude. The Budget estimates, although framed with the utmost care which the then existing system allowed of, were constantly falsified by the results. During the two years from 1867 to 1869 the Budget estimates had shown a surplus aggregating over 3½ millions, while the actual results disclosed a deficit aggregating close on 3½ millions. Lord Mayo was thus called to deal not only with a chronic deficit, but with a financial system which allowed of an aggregate error in the Budget estimates to the extent of 7 millions sterling on the wrong side during the two years preceding his rule.
Lord Mayo found therefore three financial tasks imposed on him. He had first of all to attack the immediate deficit: amounting to 2½ millions in the year immediately preceding his rule. In the second place he had to reform the whole financial system, which allowed of the Budget estimates being annually falsified by the actual results. In the third place he had to devise and to enforce measures of economy sufficiently stringent to place the finances on a sound footing for the future. With how resolute a will he carried out this work, the following pages will disclose. But before entering on that memorable struggle I may briefly exhibit its results. The subjoined statement shows more forcibly than any words of mine what those results meant to India. The three years preceding Lord Mayo's rule had left a deficit of 5¾ millions in 'ordinary' expenditure alone. In the very first year of his rule he established an equilibrium in the finances of India, and produced a small surplus. The three years which followed his reforms left an aggregate surplus of 5¾ millions, and that period of surplus was only interrupted by the Behar famine two years after his death.
|Years of Deficit.
(Before Lord Mayo's
|Year of Equilibrium.
(Lord Mayo's first
|Years of Surplus.
(After Lord Mayo's
years reduced to
(Surplus in Sterling.)
years reduced to
The four continuous years of surplus which thus resulted from Lord Mayo's measures had only one precedent during the period from 1842 onwards, for which the Parliamentary Abstract gives the returns. That single precedent is found in the years 1849 to 1853, under the rule of the great Governor-General, Dalhousie. Nor has there been any subsequent example of four consecutive years of surplus since Lord Mayo's Viceroyalty down to the present date (1891).
Sir Richard Temple, the Finance Minister, was like Lord Mayo in his first year of office. Warned by the disappointments of his predecessors, Sir Richard Temple framed a very cautious Budget for 1869-70, and estimated for a small surplus of £48,263. It soon appeared, however, that no amount of caution would avail to prevent the falsification of the Budget estimates under the system upon which they were then made up. The first symptoms which caused Lord Mayo alarm was the discovery that the cash balances in the treasuries proved lower than had been estimated by his predecessor. Lord Mayo's anxiety increased as the actual facts of the financial year previous to his accession, 1868-69, became finally known. Item after item turned out worse than had been expected, until the deficit of £889,598, as estimated in March, 1869, grew to the vast sum of £2,542,861, as ascertained from the completed accounts a few months later.
Nor did the disastrous discrepancy appear only in the Actuals of 1868-69. Circumstances occurred to raise a suspicion in Lord Mayo's mind that the same fate might be in store for the finances of the current year, 1869-70. His inquiries led him to order a re-examination of the whole Budget estimates. These estimates, viewed in the light of the actual results of 1868-69, disclosed an inevitable deficit of £1,650,000 for the current year 1869-70, in place of the surplus of £48,263, as announced by the Budget in March. Lord Mayo's perplexities were increased by the circumstance that Sir Richard Temple, after duly delivering the Budget for 1869-70, had found himself compelled to proceed to England on six months' leave. Sir Richard's experience and knowledge were not therefore available at the moment when the Viceroy, in his first months of office, found a new abyss of deficit suddenly open under his feet. Fortunately he had the aid of Mr., now Sir John, Strachey, who was carrying on the duties of Finance Minister during Sir Richard's absence.
The disclosures which the last paragraph speaks of with smooth certitude, revealed themselves in 1869 only glimpse by glimpse, and amid a wide divergence of opinion on the part of the responsible advisers of the Government. It required the resolute exercise of his individual will to enable the new Viceroy to tear the truth out of the conflicting accounts, and to get at the whole facts of the situation. 'I am beginning to find,' he wrote to a friend, as early as May, 1869, 'that our finances are not in as comfortable a state as they ought to be. The enormous distances, the number of treasuries, and the complicity of accounts as between each, render accurate forecasts and rapid information almost insurmountably difficult. The waste of public money is great, and I have been obliged to take strong measures, and say some very hard things about it.'3
3 The Earl of Mayo to Sir Stafford Northcote, 16th May, 1869.
Each week found the Viceroy poring with a deeper anxiety and a graver face over the accounts. As he probed into their hollow places, he found one estimate after another break down beneath his scrutiny. His letters and papers during that summer disclose, scene by scene, and with a painful tension of personal responsibility, the slowly developing drama of deficit; but throughout every line breathes a firm resolve that, cost him what it might in ease and popularity, he would establish and maintain equilibrium in the finances of India. Three months after the letter above quoted, he wrote to Sir Henry Durand: 'I have just received information which leads me to believe that in two items of revenue alone, we may look for a decrease of half a million in the first quarter of 1869-70. Now it is our clear duty to do all that we can to meet this. I am determined not to have another deficit, even if it leads to the diminution of the Army, the reduction of Civil Establishments, and the stoppage of Public Works. The longer I look at the thing, the more I am convinced that our financial position is one of great weakness; and that our national safety absolutely requires that it should be dealt with at once, and in a very summary manner.' 'I should be sorry,' he wrote to the Duke of Argyll, 'to say how much I feel the hard lot that is now cast upon us, to recover the finances from a state of deficit. But unless we have a war, which God forbid, we will do it.'
Lord Mayo mapped out for himself two distinct methods of dealing with the situation. In the first place, he resolved that the circumstances were so grave as to demand immediate measures for meeting the impending deficit without waiting to the end of the Financial Year. In the second place, he determined to attack the permanent causes which had led to deficit, and to prevent their recurrence by a systematic readjustment of the finances.
The first step taken by Lord Mayo and Sir John Strachey was to reduce the overgrown grant for Public Works by about £800,000,—a measure suggested and carried out with unsparing faithfulness by Colonel, now Lieut.-General, Richard Strachey, then Secretary to the Government of India in the Public Works Department. Other Departments, equally important and equally clamorous, had augmented their expenditure at a rapid rate. In fact, the ten years which had elapsed since the dominions of the Company passed to the Crown had seen the administration rendered more efficient in many ways; and the cost of the improvements, however admirable they were in themselves, had in the aggregate become too great for the revenues to bear. In addition to the reduction of £800,000 for Public Works, Lord Mayo found himself compelled to curtail temporarily by £350,000 the grants to the spending Departments which had received so rapid a development during the decade since India passed to the Crown. The whole saving amounted to £1,150,000 during the current year 1869-70.
It became apparent, however, that reductions alone would not suffice to produce equilibrium. Lord Mayo had therefore to decide whether he would permit the Budget arrangements of the year to stand, with the knowledge that they would result in deficit, or resort to the unusual, and in India almost unprecedented, expedient of additional taxation in the middle of the year. He decided, after careful inquiry, that the circumstances demanded the latter course. Had the threatened deficit been preceded by a period of prosperity and financial accuracy, he would not have deemed so severe a policy needful. But the public expenditure had, during three consecutive years, largely exceeded the revenue, and Lord Mayo found that solvency could only be secured, in the first place, by immediate and most stringent measures; in the second place, by a permanent improvement in the finances to the extent of three millions sterling a year. I mean, of course, the aggregate improvement derived from the twofold sources of reduced expenditure and increased taxation.
For these and other cogent reasons, Lord Mayo determined to make it clear by measures of unmistakable vigour that his Government was resolved to place the finances upon a permanently sound basis. He raised the income tax from 1 to 2½ per cent. during the second half of the financial year, and enhanced the salt duty in Madras and Bombay. The former measure was estimated to add £320,000 and the latter £180,000 to the revenue of the year; total, £500,000.
By means of this half-million of increased taxation, and the £1,150,000 of reduced expenditure, Lord Mayo hoped to cover the estimated deficit of the current year, namely, £1,650,000. He thus explained his views to the Secretary of State.
'While the accumulated deficits of the three years ending with 1868-69 have amounted to 5¾ millions, the cash balances in our Indian treasuries have fallen from £13,770,000 at the close of 1865-66 to £10,360,000 at the close of 1868-69, and, notwithstanding our recent loan of £2,400,000, are at this moment lower than they have been at this season for many years. During the same period our debt has been increased by 6½ millions, of which not more than 3 millions have been spent on reproductive works.4 Your Grace has reminded us that successive Secretaries of State have enjoined us so to frame our estimates as to show a probable surplus of from half a million to a million sterling. We entirely agree with your Grace in acknowledging the soundness of this policy. We have no doubt that, excluding charges for Extraordinary Works provided for by loan, our expenditure in time of peace ought to be so adjusted to our income as to leave an annual surplus of not less than one million. The necessary conclusion to which we are thus led is, that nothing short of a permanent improvement in the balance now subsisting between our annual income and expenditure of at least three millions sterling will suffice to place our finances in a really satisfactory condition. How, by reducing our expenditure and increasing our income, we can best obtain such a result, is the problem that we have now to solve.
'We are satisfied that there is only one course which we can properly follow. We must no longer continue to make good the deficit of each succeeding year by adding to the public debt. And we must determine, whatever be the difficulty of the task, that there shall henceforth be no room for doubt that, in time of peace, our income will always be in excess of our ordinary expenditure.'
4 Par. 71 of Despatch to Secretary of State No. 240, dated 20th Sept. 1869.
I have mentioned the immediate measures by which Lord Mayo endeavoured to stay the impending deficit. But he felt that such measures strained the whole mechanism of the Government; that to stop public works on a sudden involved waste of material, while the increase of taxation during the current year disclosed in a most undesirable manner the shortcomings of our system, and might prove a cause of perilous discontent among the Indian people. 'We have played our last card,' he once said in conversation, 'and we have nothing left in our hands to fall back upon, except to devise measures which will prevent the recurrence of a similar crisis hereafter.' He accordingly resolved to find a permanent remedy, by removing the causes of the financial misfortunes in past years.
His reforms divide themselves into three branches. First, improvements in the mechanism of the Financial Department of the Supreme Government itself. Lord Mayo thought that it would be vain to ask the Local Governments to set their houses in order, if they could point to confusion or want of prevision in his own. Second, the more rigid enforcement on the Local Governments of economy in framing their estimates, and of accuracy in keeping within them. While thus increasing their fiscal responsibility, Lord Mayo also extended their financial powers. Third, a systematic and permanent readjustment of the revenues and the expenditure.
First, as regards defects in the mechanism of the Financial Department, Lord Mayo found that the disastrous series of fiscal surprises were due in part to unpunctuality in the submission of the yearly estimates by the Local Governments and Departments, so that the Supreme Government had not sufficient time to examine and collate the accounts before the season for delivering the financial statement arrived. He discovered, also, grave deficiencies in the Financial Department itself as regards intelligent observation of the progress of the finances during the year. While, therefore, the Local Governments throughout India were complaining of the number and complexity of the statistical returns required from them, the last act in the process which would have rendered these returns fruitful of results, namely, their careful collation by the Finance Department, was inefficiently performed.
Without such final collation, the gathering of statistics is indeed a thankless task. I merely repeat the statement of the Member of the Government best qualified to speak on the subject, when I say that, up to Lord Mayo's time, no sufficient provision existed for the intelligent use of the statistical materials which daily poured in. It did not seem to be understood that the toil expended by scattered Departments upon the compilation of returns can bear no fruit unless they are intelligently studied by the central bureau for which they are compiled. Statistics as they existed in India before Lord Mayo's rule were sorrowful memorials of faithful subordinate labour, rendered unavailing by the indifference or neglect of higher officials.
The financial collapse in 1869, forming as it did one of a series of similar catastrophes, gave a new impulse to better work. The preparation of classified statistics was undertaken on a systematic basis and with an extended scope. Having thus put his own house in order, Lord Mayo took measures to ensure punctuality in the submission of the Estimates by Local Governments and Departments. He also organised, or to speak more correctly, remodelled a system by which the Supreme Government now obtains full information bearing upon the progress of the finances month by month. Mr. Chapman, the Secretary to the Department and the officer most competent to speak, thus wrote of the results:—'It is not too much to say that it has become impossible for the Government to remain long ignorant of any important fact affecting the finances. Expectation may be disappointed, misfortune or mistakes may occur; but the Government will at least be promptly informed of the event, and it is difficult to exaggerate the importance of promptitude in this respect.'
The second great branch of Lord Mayo's financial reforms consisted in his more rigid enforcement of economy upon the Local Governments. A fertile source of financial difficulty has always existed in the division of the British administration of India into a number of governments, separated from, although subordinate to, the Governor-General in Council. Before Lord Mayo's Viceroyalty the separate governments, while so far independent entities as to be responsible for the civil administration and improvement of their several Provinces at the cost of the imperial revenues, had, in regard to their revenues, no independent financial powers. Towards the end of every year, each Local Government presented to the Governor-General in Council its estimates of expenditure during the coming twelve months. The Governor-General in Council, after comparing these aggregate estimates with the expected revenue from all India, granted to each Local Government such sums as could be spared for its local services.
The system acted in a manner most unfavourable to economy. The Local Governments were under no compulsion to adjust their expenditure to any limited scale of income, and several of them fell into the habit of framing their demands upon the Imperial Treasury, with an eye rather to what they would like to spend than what was absolutely required. 'Practically,' writes one who had the official control of the system, 'the more a Government asked, the more it got; the relative requirements of the Local Governments being measured by their relative demands. Accordingly they asked freely and increasingly. Again, knowing that any money saved at the end of the year was lost to the provincial administration, a Local Government was little anxious to save.' These words, while representing the facts, do not necessarily involve a reproach. In India more money can be spent with advantage on almost every branch of the administration than the revenues will permit.
Lord Mayo clearly discerned that, in order to secure the co-operation of the Local Governments in the work of financial reform, he must invest those Governments with a share of the financial responsibility. After an exhaustive preliminary correspondence with each separate Administration, he issued a Resolution on the 14th December, 1870, which may be called the Charter of the Provincial Governments. By this document, which in due time received the approval of the Secretary of State, a fixed yearly consolidated grant was made to each Government, to enable it to defray the cost of its principal services, exclusive of the Army, but including Public Works. The grants thus made were final, for a period usually of five years, and were liable to reduction only in case of severe financial distress happening to the Supreme Government. They belong absolutely to the respective Local Governments. No savings from any one of them revert to the Imperial Treasury. Their distribution is left to the discretion of the Local Governments, without interference on the part of the Governor-General in Council.
The services thus made over to them included the protection of person and property, the education of the people, the record of changes or transfers connected with landed property, sanitation, Local Public Works, and a number of minor branches of government. For official purposes they were grouped as follows: Jails, Registration, Police, Education, Medical Services (except 'Medical Establishments'), Printing (an enormous item in India), Roads, Civil Buildings, and various Public Works, Miscellaneous Public Improvements, and various minor services.
This well-jointed system of Provincial and Imperial Finance continues to be the basis of Indian Finance to this day. It has received further developments since Lord Mayo's time, but its principles remain unchanged. Sir John Strachey thus summarised the state of things which preceded it:—
'For many years before Lord Mayo became Viceroy, the ordinary financial condition of India had been one of chronic deficit, and one of the main causes of this state of affairs was the impossibility of resisting the constantly increasing demands of the Local Governments for the means of providing many kinds of improvement in the administration of their respective Provinces. Their demands were practically unlimited, because there was almost no limit to their legitimate wants. The Local Governments had no means of knowing the measure by which their annual demands upon the Government of India ought to be regulated. They had a purse to draw upon of unlimited, because of unknown, depth. They saw on every side the necessity for improvements, and their constant and justifiable desire was to obtain for their own Provinces and people as large a share as they could persuade the Government of India to give them out of the general revenues of the Empire. They found by experience, that the less economy they practised, and the more importunate their demands, the more likely they were to persuade the Government of India of the urgency of their requirements. In representing those requirements they felt that they did what was right; and they left to the Government of India, which had taken the task upon itself, the responsibility of refusing to provide the necessary means.
'The Government of India had totally failed to check the constant demands for increased expenditure. There was but one remedy: namely, to prevent the demands being made; and this could only be done by imposing on the Local Governments a real and an effectual responsibility for maintaining equilibrium in their local finances. There could be no standard of economy until apparent requirements were made absolutely dependent upon known available means. It was impossible for either the Supreme or Local Governments to say what portion of the provincial revenues was properly applicable to local wants. The revenues of the whole of India went into a common fund, and to determine how much of this fund ought fairly to be given to one Province and how much to another, was impracticable.'
'The distribution of the public income,' Major-General R. Strachey wrote, 'degenerates into something like a scramble, in which the most violent has the advantage. As local economy leads to no local advantage, the stimulus to avoid waste is reduced to a minimum. So as no local growth of the income leads to an increase of the local means of improvement, the interest in developing the public revenues is also brought down to the lowest level.' It is right to add that the reforms by which Lord Mayo put an end to this unprofitable state of things were in a large measure due to the initiative of General Richard Strachey, supported by the administrative authority and experience of his brother, Sir John Strachey. But the question of Local Finance first presented itself to Lord Mayo during his inquiries in the India Office, and he discussed it at Madras on his way out to Calcutta.
Lord Mayo's third and heaviest task was the permanent readjustment of the revenues to the expenditure. He accomplished this task partly by new taxation, but chiefly by economy and retrenchment. On his arrival in January, 1869, Lord Mayo found two Despatches awaiting his consideration. One was a Despatch from his predecessor, Lord Lawrence, urging on the Secretary of State the imposition of an income tax; or, more strictly, the expansion of the certificate tax into an income tax for the year 1869-70 then about to begin. The other was a Despatch from the Secretary of State sanctioning the proposal. Lord Mayo's first measure with a view to raising the revenues of India was, therefore, to carry out this decision which had been arrived at before he reached India, and to levy an income tax. By efforts to equalise the salt duty in certain provinces, and at the same time to develop new sources of salt supply, and to cheapen the cost of carriage, he laid the foundation of a further increase of revenue, with the least possible addition to the burdens of the people.
It was, however, to economy rather than to increased taxation that Lord Mayo looked for a surplus. Indeed, he strongly felt the necessity of abandoning some of the old objectionable forms of Indian taxation, such as the export duties; and he made a beginning by abolishing the export duty on wheat. On the other hand, every Department of Expenditure was keenly scrutinised, and severely cut down to the lowest point compatible with efficiency. As a matter of fact, and notwithstanding the new income-tax, the total revenue which he levied from India during his three years of office averaged nearly a million less than the revenue levied during the year 1868-69 preceding his Viceroyalty; while the expenditure averaged about five millions per annum less than that of the year preceding his Viceroyalty. The following table exhibits the results of the system of vigilant economy by which Lord Mayo converted a series of years of deficit into a series of years of surplus. For purposes of reference to the Parliamentary accounts it reproduces the conversion at the then official rate. It does not, accordingly, show the exact balance in sterling, as worked out for the table above.
|Year of Deficit
Year of equilibrium;
year of office.
Years of Surplus;
his last two
years of office.
Lord Mayo did not live to see the permanent fruit of his labours. But I cannot conclude this brief sketch of them more fitly than by a letter which the Financial Secretary to the Government of India wrote to me three years after Lord Mayo's death, when his work had been tested by the touchstone of time.
'Lord Mayo's close personal attention to financial questions never flagged. He had by decisive measures established steady surplus for chronic deficit; he had increased the working power of the Local Governments, while checking the growth of their demands upon the Imperial Treasury. He had established a policy of systematic watchfulness and severe economy. The time was now coming when the results of all his exertions and sacrifices were to be gathered; when the Viceroy would be able to gratify his nature by granting relief from the burdens which he had reluctantly imposed. Lord Mayo was occupied with such questions on the very journey which ended so fatally. He had reason to hope that effective remission of taxation would soon be practicable, but he was still uncertain what shape it ought to take. It should never be forgotten that the welcome measures of relief which the Government subsequently found itself in a position to effect, were possible only in consequence of Lord Mayo's vigorous policy of retrenchment and economy.
'He found serious deficit, and left substantial surplus. He found estimates habitually untrustworthy; he left them thoroughly worthy of confidence. He found accounts in arrear, and statistics incomplete; he left them punctual and full. He found the relation between the Local Governments and the Supreme Government in an unsatisfactory condition, and the powers of the Local Governments for good hampered by obsolete financial bonds. He left the Local Governments working with cordiality, harmony, and freedom, under the direction of the Governor-General in Council. He found the Financial Department conducted with a general laxity; he left it in vigorous efficiency. And if the sound principles be adhered to, which Lord Mayo held of such importance, and which in his hands proved so thoroughly effective, India ought not again to sink into the state from which he delivered her.'
The Mutiny of 1857 left on the hands of the Government of India two great armies—a vast shattered wreck of Native Troops, and a European Force, fewer in numbers, but admirably equipped, hardened by a fierce struggle, and organised on the basis of constant readiness for war. In the year preceding that memorable lesson, the Native army had numbered 249,153 men; the European regiments 45,522. The teaching of the Mutiny resulted in the reduction of the Native army to nearly one-half, and in the increase by over one-half of the British troops. In 1862, after all apprehension of renewed hostilities had disappeared, and the armies rested on their new peace footing, the Native force consisted of 140,507 officers and men, the European troops of 75,337. Under the vigorous Government of Lord Lawrence from 1864 to 1869, as the civil administration grew more effective, and the country settled down into assured internal tranquillity, it was found possible to make further reductions, which left the Native army on the 1st April, 1869, at 133,358 of all ranks, and the European force at 61,942.
This was the situation when Lord Mayo reached Calcutta. But exactly a fortnight after his arrival, the Duke of Argyll, as Secretary of State for India, penned a Despatch which gave a fresh impulse to questions of Indian military reform. His Grace pointed out that notwithstanding the numerical decrease in the forces since the Mutiny, the expenditure on them had increased from 12¾ millions sterling in 1856-57 to over 16 millions in 1868-69. He also referred to the fact, that while a new and costly system of police had been organised, the expectations of army retrenchment based upon it had borne no fruit. The Despatch concluded with a hope that the Viceroy would devise means to bring down the army military expenditure in India by a million and a half sterling.
Lord Mayo found that army retrenchment might be effected by two distinct lines of approach,—by economy in the military administration, and by numerical reduction of the forces. Each of these subjects again divided itself into two great branches, the former into retrenchments in the Staff, and retrenchments in the Army Departments; the latter into reductions in the European troops, and reductions in the Native army. He ascertained that retrenchments aggregating £79,000 were possible without any sacrifice of efficiency in the Staff and the Military Departments; and he stringently carried them out. But when he came to reductions in the European troops and in the Native army, he found that the questions involved were of a more complex character; and as his views on these points have been sometimes misunderstood, I shall endeavour to state them in his own words.
As regards the European troops, he believed that he had not one man too many in India. In a private letter to one of Her Majesty's Ministers, after urging his plan of retrenchment, he writes thus: 'One thing, I implore, may not be done, and that is the removal of a single British bayonet or sabre from India. We can, I believe, reduce our military expenditure by a million, without giving up one of the little white-faced men in red.' 'We are strongly impressed with the belief,' he wrote, in his public Despatch a few weeks later, 'that we have not one British soldier too many in this country. We should most strongly object to any reduction of their number, because we are convinced that such a step could not be taken without endangering and weakening authority, one of the mainstays of British rule.'
Nevertheless, he proposed to reduce the charges for the European troops by half a million sterling. This, too, without decreasing the total rank and file by a man, or the pay of either officers or men by a shilling. He proved that a chief cause of the increased military expenditure, of which the Secretary of State so justly complained, arose from the fact that European regiments in India had gradually declined from their full effective strength, so that a larger number of separate regiments were required to give an equal total of fighting men. He proposed, by strengthening each regiment, to keep the same total of fighting men, and to reduce the number of separate regiments. He would thus get rid of the costly organisation of eleven extra European regiments, and of the heavy drain on the Indian Treasury which the needless number of regimental headquarters involved. The rank and file would be slightly increased, the pay of officers and men would remain the same. The Indian military authorities believed that efficiency would not be lessened, while the abolition of the superfluous regimental headquarters and similar charges in the British cavalry and infantry alone would yield an annual saving of £297,220. A corresponding, but not quite identical, reform in the artillery would add a further saving of £271,542 sterling a year. Total saving in European troops, £568,762.
In Lord Mayo's minutes on proposed retrenchments in the Native army, two considerations constantly came to the surface. First, that the lengthy, exposed frontier of Northern India, with the fierce elements of internal disquiet within it, rendered any substantial reduction of either Native cavalry or Native infantry in Bengal impossible. Second, that the separate esprit de corps of the Madras and the Bombay Native armies would resent reductions which fell exclusively upon them, and left the Bengal Native army untouched. The Viceroy and the Commander-in-Chief were most anxious to avoid wounding the amour propre of any one of the three gallant bodies of men who make up the Native army in India; but their paramount duty—a duty which ranked above all local considerations—was so to shape their reductions as not to impair the defences of British India.
After long and earnest discussion with his military advisers and the Local Governments, Lord Mayo submitted the following proposals to the Secretary of State.
As regards Native artillery, Lord Mayo's Government followed out the accepted policy of dispensing with Native gunners, and his proposals were readily sanctioned by the Secretary of State. He abolished two Bengal batteries (namely the Eurasian Battery in Assam, and one light field battery of the Punjab Frontier Force); the Native Company of Artillery in Madras; and one Native company of artillery in Bombay. Total reductions of Native artillery, four batteries or companies; annual saving, £17,003.1
1 Sanction conveyed in Despatch from Secretary of State to Governor-General, No. 23, dated 27th January, 1870, par. 10.
Regarding the cavalry and infantry in the Bengal Native army, the Viceroy came to the conclusion (as demonstrated by his military advisers) that not a man could be spared. But with their consent he found that a considerable saving could be effected by reducing the number of separate regiments, and bringing up the strength of the remainder to a more efficient standard. He proposed, therefore, a reduction of one regiment of Bengal Native cavalry, and one of Bengal Native infantry, raising the rank and file in the other regiments so as to maintain the same total of rank and file in the Bengal Native army. Annual saving £27,200 a year.
As regards the Madras Native army, he acted on the decision of the Governor (Lord Napier of Ettrick), confirmed by the opinions of the Commander-in-Chief in India (Lord Sandhurst), and of Major-General Sir Henry Durand. 'In the Madras Presidency,' its Governor had written, 'it is my opinion that the cost of the army far transcends the wants of the country.' Indeed, Madras had for years sent her redundant troops, amounting to one regiment of Native cavalry and five of infantry, to do duty at Bengal stations. This proved to be an extravagant arrangement. Thus a regiment of Madras cavalry, with a strength of only 300 privates, cost £22,937 a year, while a regiment of Bengal cavalry cost only £21,963 for a strength of 384 privates.
The waste was intensified by the 'family system' of the Madras sepoys, who are accompanied by their wives and children—a system which may be suitable for a stationary local army, but which produces many evils if such corps are moved to other Presidencies. For example, the Commander-in-Chief had lately had to represent the difficulty which would arise with a Madras cavalry regiment, if the Bengal plan were enforced of sending it out into camp, in event of an epidemic of cholera. The Madras corps in question had only a strength of 202 fighting men at headquarters, and were attended by no fewer than 1296 women, children, and followers.
Lord Mayo proposed, therefore, that henceforth the Madras regiments should be kept to their own Presidency. This would enable him to reduce five regiments of Madras infantry, and one of Madras cavalry, then serving at Bengal stations (or a number equal to them). He also found he could safely dispense with three other regiments of Madras infantry. Another separate regiment of Madras cavalry would be saved by incorporating three into two. Total reduction of the Madras Native army—cavalry, 2 regiments (1 dispensed with, and 1 reduced by incorporating 3 into 2); infantry, 8 regiments reduced out of 40. Annual saving, £178,745.
The Bombay army proved to be more accurately adjusted to the actual demands upon it. But it was found that a small saving of £9,900 a year might be safely effected by reorganising the Sind horse into 2 regiments of 4 squadrons each, in place of 3 regiments with 3 squadrons each. As regards infantry, even when there were two Bombay regiments in China, the propriety of reducing two regiments had been raised. The Governor-General in Council, having regard to the return of the regiments from China, the strong police, the tranquil state of the Presidency, its limited extent and population, and the absence of any frontier requiring protection, except in Sind, now decided that four regiments of Bombay Native infantry might safely be spared, representing a saving of £67,719 a year. Total annual retrenchment from Bombay Native army, £77,619.
The burden of working these reforms fell on the Bengal Native army. It lost 2 batteries of artillery, 1 regiment of cavalry, and 4 of infantry (the total rank and file of its cavalry and infantry being neither increased or diminished); and it had the additional labour thrust on it of the six Madras regiments which were to be withdrawn from Bengal stations. This was inevitable. 'Influences of whatever kind,' wrote the Commander-in-Chief in summing up that part of the military policy of Lord Mayo's Government, 'all notions as affecting this or that Presidency, in short, all matters which could imply even the shadow of bias, were resolutely put on one side, and the interests of the country were alone considered.
'I am able to say that this was the spirit in which all the questions involved were argued in our long and arduous discussions.
'We had to weigh the necessities of those parts of India where war is an impossibility, and at the same time to consider those wide frontiers where war is always impending over us—in fact, where in one form or another it can hardly be said ever to cease.'
In submitting the above scheme to Her Majesty's Government, the Earl of Mayo believed that it would tend towards the practical efficiency of the Indian army. In this belief he had the firm support of the Commander-in-Chief (Lord Sandhurst) and the Military Member of Council (Sir Henry Durand). While strenuous for economy in the military administration, he grudged no expenditure required to place, and to maintain, the army on a basis of thorough practical efficiency. I am here stating both his own view and that of the eminent military advisers on whose counsel he acted. 'I have this year,' wrote Lord Mayo to a friend in 1870, 'without any suggestion from any quarter, pressed upon Her Majesty's Government the necessity that exists for immediately arming every European soldier and volunteer in India with a Snider rifle. I have, ever since the beginning of 1869' (when he assumed the Viceroyalty), 'pointed out the defective state of our artillery force, and recommended the immediate adoption of rifled guns. I never, therefore, let economic considerations interfere in cases of necessity. I have suggested nothing which, in my opinion, is calculated to diminish our military strength. But I do desire to reduce military expenditure by a very large amount. I firmly believe that there are forces in India which we should be better without, and that it is better to keep only those regiments in arms which would be useful in war.'
The results of the proposed reforms may be briefly stated thus. The Secretary of State sanctioned in full the first two sets of retrenchments, namely, in the Indian Staff and the Army Departments. But he did not see his way to adopt in their entirety either of the other two series of measures, namely, those which affected the British regiments serving in India, or the reductions of the Native army. As regards the former, Her Majesty's Government reduced the British cavalry by two instead of four regiments, and the British infantry by two instead of seven regiments; but without the corresponding increase in the rank and file of the remaining regiments, on which the Indian Government had so strongly insisted. As regards the Native forces, the artillery reductions were sanctioned; but the Secretary of State thought that the cavalry and infantry reductions bore too heavily on the Madras army. He proposed an alternative plan which would have broken up two regiments of Bengal cavalry, and one in each of the other Presidencies; with six regiments of Native infantry, two in each Presidency.
The Indian Government, on its side, did not think that the military requirements of Northern India, with its great frontier towards Central Asia, permitted of this arrangement being carried out, and suggested as a compromise the reduction of 3 regiments of Native cavalry (one in each Presidency), and 8 regiments of Native infantry (2 in Bengal, 4 in Madras, and 2 in Bombay). After a careful reconsideration, and having received the views of Lord Napier of Magdala (who did not on this point concur with the preceding Commander-in-Chief, Lord Sandhurst), Her Majesty's Government failed to see their way to accepting the compromise, and suggested a third scheme, which would have reduced the rank and file of the Native army to the extent of 9000 men equally in the three Presidencies. The Government of India believed, however, that such a reduction would be unsafe from a military point of view, and returned to the proposals which it had previously submitted. Thus the question remained at the time of Lord Mayo's death.
In his military measures, as in every other department of his Government, the Earl of Mayo lived long enough to carry out a large part of his proposals, but not the whole. His original plan would have eventually reduced the military expenditure by £948,253 a year. The portions of it adopted by Her Majesty's Government, and practically carried out, yielded an annual saving of £591,440.
The current administration of the army is conducted by the Commander-in-Chief, and to Lord Sandhurst and Lord Napier of Magdala belongs the credit of improvements in detail effected during Lord Mayo's rule. But to these improvements the Viceroy gave a liberal and strenuous support. 'Lord Mayo,' wrote a high authority on his military measures, 'hated waste, but knew that waste follows excessive saving no less than excessive expenditure. His object was to reduce what was superfluous in the army, but not to starve what was essential.' He advocated the economising of the health and vigour of the European troops by a system of sanataria and hill-stations, and one of his latest orders in the Military Department was to this end. 'To him also it is mainly due,' says the high authority above cited, 'that the troops in the hill-stations occupy quarters, or cottage barracks, which, while fulfilling every desideratum of health, comfort, and discipline, enable a whole regiment to be housed for a smaller sum than, under the old system of imposing but less comfortable structures, it would have cost to house three companies.' Wherever he went, one of the first things he wished to see was the hospital; and every sanitary requirement was sure of his liberal support.
To the difficult problem of making fit provision for the children and orphans of the British soldiers in India, he devoted much earnest thought; and, among other measures, appointed a committee with a view to the more efficient working of the noble bequest of Sir Henry Lawrence. A thick file of papers before me bears witness to his personal interest in the Lawrence Asylums. Regimental workshops, exhibitions, and every device for keeping alive the mental vitality of the British soldier under the strain of the Indian climate, found in him a constant friend. As regards improvements in efficiency, it may here be briefly stated that during his rule the Indian army was equipped with a better weapon, the artillery was furnished with the most approved rifled guns, and the cold weather camps of exercise, which now form so important a feature in the Indian military training, were inaugurated under his own eye. For these and for every other measure with a view to perfecting the Indian defences, the Earl of Mayo, however severe might be the strain of his financial necessities, found the requisite funds. He desired to avoid waste, but he was resolved above all things to secure efficiency; and he enjoyed a personal popularity with the army, both Native and European, such as few Governor-Generals of India have ever won.
'Every shilling that is taken for unnecessary military expenditure,' he wrote in 1870, 'is so much withdrawn from those vast sums which it is our duty to spend for the moral and material improvement of the people. I admit to the full that a complete and an efficient military organisation is the base and foundation of our power here. We are bound to see that every officer and man is fit for immediate service, and that every arm and every military requisite is maintained in a state of the utmost efficiency. I believe that in the proposals which have been made, these principles have been strictly adhered to.'
A single sentence of the last Despatch which Lord Mayo lived to issue on the subject of army reform will fitly conclude this branch of my narrative. 'We cannot think that it is right to compel the people of this country to contribute one farthing more to military expenditure than the safety and defence of the country absolutely demand.'
The Mughal Government in its best days was a peripatetic one. Its camp was its capital, and the abandonment of that method marked the commencement of the false system of centralisation which in part led to the dismemberment of the Delhi Empire. Lord Mayo realised this fact, and by a well-planned system of tours he made himself acquainted with the separate provinces under his rule. He laboured hard to learn, not only each different system of local administration, but also the character and qualities of the men who conducted it. His genial presence and love of sport, combined with indefatigable powers for real work, won for him the affection, as well as the confidence of the District Officers throughout India. But no one who did not actually accompany him knew the fatigue of body and mind which he went through on the 21,763 miles of his Indian journeys, nor can realise the serious risks which he ran by rapid riding over bad roads or along precipices in the hill tracts. The only trip which was proposed to him for pleasure merely, he at once rejected. It was a matter of daily occurrence, that, rising at five o'clock, spending the whole day in travelling, receiving officials or Native Chiefs, and inspecting public works, Lord Mayo sat up half the night transacting business with his Foreign, or Private, or Military Secretary.
In these tours he saw much to praise, but also much to amend. The great Department of Public Works had during the previous twelve years rushed to the front of the spending departments in India. In its rapid development, it had to draw its officers from the Staff-Corps, or wheresoever they could be obtained, sometimes with little regard to their previous training for their new duties. Blunders and extravagance had been the result—a result which had been the despair of Lord Mayo's predecessors, and had given rise to grave scandals in the Public Press.
Lord Mayo, alike on his tours and in his Cabinet, set himself to remedy this state of things. 'There is scarcely a fault,' runs one of his Minutes on a certain undertaking, 'which could have been committed in the construction of a great work, which has not been committed here. Estimates a hundred per cent. wrong—design faulty—foundations commenced without the necessary examination of substratum—no inquiry into the excess of cost over estimates during progress.' In another case: 'I have read with great sorrow this deplorable history of negligence, incapacity, and corruption; negligence in the conduct of every superior officer who was connected with the construction of these buildings from the beginning; incapacity to a greater or lesser extent on the part of almost every subordinate concerned; corruption on the part of the contractors.' Elsewhere: 'I have read the report on the barracks. It is quite dreadful. There is not a man referred to who seems to have done his duty, except one who was unmercifully snubbed. This report will assist me in the reorganisation of the Department.'
But out of heart as he sometimes came away from such inspections, he was unwilling to condemn the individual officers hastily, and his eyes soon opened to the fact that the system itself was essentially to blame. In the first place he found that the brain power of the Department was overworked. Inspecting Officers were held responsible for a larger area than they could possibly give attention to; result—want of supervision. In the second place, a series of vast works were scattered at one and the same moment over the whole country without corresponding additions to the staff—too great haste. In the third place, engineers were placed in executive charge of wide tracts, while the amount of correspondence and purely office work glued them to their chairs indoors, and precluded them from overlooking what was going on outside—no personal management.
Lord Mayo's visit to certain railway works under construction by private contractors, and about the same time to a building being erected by the Public Works Department, forced this last defect of the system strongly on his mind. At the private contractors' works he saw three European gentlemen, umbrella in hand and their heads roofed over by enormous pith hats, standing out in the hottest sun, and watching with their own eyes the native workmen as they set brick upon brick. In the building under erection by the Public Works he found only the coolies and bricklayers, without supervision of any sort. On inquiry, the engineer in charge pleaded office duties, the subordinate engineer pleaded the impossibility of looking after a great many works at the same time throughout a considerable District; and the net result was, that Government had to put up with loss of money and bad masonry. Lord Mayo exclaimed: 'I see what we want—good supervision and one thing at a time.'
Lord Mayo also found that the extravagance in Public Works was due in a large measure to the practice of constructing them out of borrowed money. He therefore laid down a strict rule that all ordinary works, that is works not of the nature of a reproductive nature, and paying interest, must be constructed out of current revenue.
'Any further increase to our debt,' he decisively wrote, 'cannot be made without incurring danger of the gravest kind. I will incur no responsibility of this sort, and nothing will tempt me to sanction in time of peace the addition of a rupee of debt for the purpose of meeting what is really ordinary and unproductive expenditure. It is a policy which, acting on my own strong convictions, and in full concurrence with Her Majesty's Government, I am determined to reverse.'
The long series of measures by which Lord Mayo reorganised the Public Works Department lie beyond the scope of this volume. It must suffice to say that by stringently applying his principles 'of first finding the money, and improved supervision,' he not only effected a large saving during his own Viceroyalty, but rendered possible the subsequent expansion of the Department without financial disaster to the country.
Having thus reduced the expenditure to the utmost limit compatible with good work, Lord Mayo directed his earnest attention to the protection of the people against famine. He rejected at the outset a proposal which a Commission had made, of something very like a Poor Law for India. 'Having been engaged all my life in the administration of a Poor Law in one of the poorest countries in Europe, I may say ... first, that ordinary poverty in India does not need for its relief a poor-law system; secondly, that any sum which could be locally levied to relieve such famines as have from time to time occurred, would be ludicrously inadequate.'
At the same time he solemnly accepted the responsibility of the British Government to prevent wholesale death from starvation. He believed, also, that the Government had in its hand the means for accomplishing this object. 'By the construction of railways and the completion of great works of irrigation,' runs one of his earlier notes, 'we have it in our power, under God's blessing, to render impossible the return of those periodical famines which have disgraced our administration and cost an incredible amount of suffering, with the loss of many millions of lives.'
On Lord Mayo's arrival in Calcutta, he found awaiting him an elaborate Minute which Lord Lawrence had lately placed on record regarding the past history and the future extension of Indian railways. The narrative which the great civilian Viceroy thus left for his successor was full of encouragement, but by no means one of unmingled self-complacency. From the end of 1853, when we had twenty-one and a-half miles of railway in India, until the beginning of 1869, when Lord Lawrence left the country, only about 4000 miles of railway had been opened. These lines had been constructed by private companies, under a guarantee from the Indian Government. 'The money'—to use the words of the Duke of Argyll—'was raised on the credit and authority of the State, under an absolute guarantee of five per cent., involving no risk to the shareholders, and sacrificing on the part of Government every chance of profit, while taking every chance of loss.' In the absence of any inducements to economy, the guaranteed railways had cost £17,000 a mile, and were worked under a system of double supervision—expensive, dilatory, and complicated. It was become evident that the costliness of this plan rendered an adequate development of railways in India financially impossible.
Lord Mayo, assisted by General Strachey, resolved to supplement the expensive system of guaranteed lines by a network of State railways. Instead of guaranteeing five per cent. interest, the Government has raised the capital for these State railways at three to four per cent. Instead of an initial cost of £17,000 per mile for broad-gauge lines, it determined to construct narrow-gauge lines, at about £6000 per mile. For the old costly double management, the new system substituted a single firm control. Into the vexed question of the break of gauge it is not needful for me here to enter. It must suffice to say that Lord Mayo perfectly realised its disadvantages. His plan was to construct a system of narrow-gauge railways on a sufficient scale to allow of long lengths of haulage without break of gauge. Later experience has affirmed the practical convenience of the broader gauge. But, excepting in a few isolated spots, the system of State railways dates from Lord Mayo's Viceroyalty; and it is the system which, under various modern developments, is now absorbing within itself the whole railway system of India.
Lord Mayo's other great engine of internal development in the battle against famine was irrigation. A bare list of the works which he inaugurated, advanced, or carried out, would weary the reader. The Ganges Canal was extended, and, after seventeen years of deficit, took its place as a work no longer burdensome to the State. A new irrigation system, starting from the Ganges opposite Alígarh, and designed to water the whole lower part of the Doáb, from Fatehgarh to Allahábád, was commenced. The eastern half of Rohilkhand and the Western Districts of Oudh were at the same time being placed beyond peril of drought and famine by the Sárda Canal. Similar works for western Rohilkhand were being carried out by a canal from the Ganges. Plans were prepared, and the sanction of the Secretary of State partially obtained, for a project which would bring the waters of the Jumna to the arid tracts on the west of Delhi. While the Western Jumna Canal was thus to receive a vast extension, the Lower Jumna Canal was being pushed forward in the districts to the south-east of Delhi.
Proceeding farther down the Gangetic Valley, we find works of equal promise being carried on from the Son (Soane) river through the Province of Behar—the province destined in 1874 to be the next Indian tract which was to suffer dearth. On the seaboard, Orissa (the Province of Lower Bengal which had last passed through the ordeal) saw its districts placed beyond the peril that has from time immemorial hung over them, by a vast system of canals and the development of means of communication with the outside world. Still farther south, the Godávarí works were going forward. In the far west, projects for the drought-stricken districts of Sind were drawn up and investigated; while in Bombay, Madras, and other Provinces, many works of great local utility, although of less conspicuous extent, were initiated, pushed forward, or matured.
Lord Mayo, on his arrival in India, found two distinct sets of views entertained in regard to education. In some Provinces, among which Bombay held an honourable place, successful efforts had been made to found Public Instruction on a popular basis. In other Provinces—conspicuously in Bengal—high-class education flourished, while scanty provision was made for the primary or indigenous schools. The ultimate effect of this latter system, it was urged, would 'filtrate' downwards. Its immediate result, however, was to arm the rich and the powerful with a new weapon—knowledge—and to leave the poor under their old weight of ignorance in their struggle for life. Lord Mayo threw himself with characteristic energy into the efforts which were being made to remedy this state of things.
'I dislike,' he wrote to a friend, 'this filtration theory. In Bengal we are educating in English a few hundred Bábus at great expense to the State. Many of them are well able to pay for themselves, and have no other object in learning than to qualify for Government employ. In the meanwhile we have done nothing towards extending knowledge to the million. The Bábus will never do it. The more education you give them, the more they will keep to themselves, and make their increased knowledge a means of tyranny. If you wait till the bad English, which the 400 Bábus learn in Calcutta, filters down into the 40,000,000 of Bengal, you will be ultimately a Silurian rock instead of a retired judge. Let the Bábus learn English by all means. But let us also try to do something towards teaching the three R's to "Rural Bengal."'1
1 Referring to The Annals of Rural Bengal, which he had read on his voyage out to India.
The credit of giving effect to the measures then inaugurated belongs to Sir George Campbell, the Lieutenant-Governor of Bengal. His educational reforms mark a new era in that Province.
In 1870 the Department of Public Instruction was educating 163,854 children in Lower Bengal at a cost of £186,598 to the State. In 1874, when Sir George Campbell laid down the Lieutenant-Governorship, he left 400,721 children being educated at a cost to Government of £228,151. He had, in the interval, covered Bengal with primary schools; pieced together and resuscitated the old indigenous mechanism of rural instruction, and, without actually curtailing high-class education, had created a bonâ fide system of public instruction for the people of the country.
While Lord Mayo believed that State education in India must rest on the broad basis of the indigenous and village school, he also recognised the necessity of making special allowance for certain classes. The Muhammadans—the old ruling class in India—had fallen behind in the race of life under the British system of Public Instruction. Lord Mayo discerned clearly how far this result was due to their own neglect, and how far to the unsuitability or uncongeniality of our educational methods. He urged upon the Local Governments the necessity of making special provision to meet their wants; and the reforms on the lines which he indicated have done much to remove the difficulty.
For another, and an even more backward class, Lord Mayo showed an equal consideration. He perceived that the Poor White had become a grave administrative problem in India. The truth is, our whole system of State instruction in India had been designed, and rightly designed, for the Natives. The poorer classes of the European community were very inadequately provided for by the Government. Lord Mayo thought that the first thing to be done was to place the existing schools for European children on a sound and efficient basis before building new ones. I have already referred to the Commission of inquiry and reform which he appointed for the Lawrence Asylums. In the Presidency towns, he exerted his influence, to use his own words, 'to increase the means of instruction for the Christian poor, and especially of the class immediately above the poorest.' But his life was cut short before he could accomplish the object which he had at heart.
While Lord Mayo thus provided for the wider instruction of the people of India, he also laboured to educate their rulers. At the time of his accession, the Government did not know the population of a single District of its most advanced Province, and the first census of Bengal (taken under Lord Mayo's orders) unexpectedly disclosed an extra population of twenty-six millions, whose existence had never been suspected, in that Lieutenant-Governorship alone.
No data were available up to that time for estimating the practical effects which any natural calamity would have upon a Bengal District. In 1866, when famine burst upon the Bengal seaboard, the Government remained unaware that the calamity was imminent until it had become irremediable, and scarcity had passed into starvation. The proportion which the crops of a Province bears to its food requirements, the movements of its internal or external trade, all the statistics of the operations by which wealth is distributed or amassed, and by which the necessities of one part of the country are redressed from the superfluities of another, remained unknown factors in administrative calculations of the most important practical sort.
Lord Mayo endeavoured to remedy this state of things by two distinct sets of operations. He organised a Statistical Survey of India, and he created a Department of Agriculture and Commerce. The first census of all India was taken under his orders. The Statistical Survey has produced a printed account of each district, town, and village, carefully compiled upon local inquiry, and disclosing the whole economic and social facts in the life of the people. He designed the Department of Agriculture and Commerce to perform for India the double set of duties discharged by the Board of Trade and the new (1891) Agricultural Department in England. The Government is the great landlord of India. It has not only to adjust its enormous rental so as to render it as little burdensome as possible to the people, but it has also to assist the people, by means of irrigation works and cash advances, in developing the resources of their fields. At the same time, it has to administer a vast area of State forests.
Lord Mayo, in inaugurating an Agricultural Department, clearly laid down the limits within which the Department could profitably act. He realised the folly of imagining that we can teach the Indian husbandman his own trade by means of steam-ploughs and 'ammoniac manures.' 'I do not know,' he once wrote, 'what is precisely meant by "ammoniac manure." If it means guano, superphosphate, or any artificial product of that kind, we might as well ask the people of India to manure their ground with champagne.' In another of his Viceregal notes he puts the case thus: 'In connection with agriculture we must be careful of two things. First, we must not ostentatiously tell Native husbandmen to do things which they have been doing for centuries. Second, we must not tell them to do things which they can't do, and have no means of doing. In either case they will laugh at us, and they will learn to disregard really useful advice when it is given.'
Lord Mayo was deeply convinced that the permanent amelioration of the lot of the Indian people must rest with themselves. He looked forward to the time when municipal administration would largely aid the officials by means of local self-government. Nor did he shrink from the responsibilities which the creation of such institutions involved. 'We have lately inaugurated,' he said to his Legislative Council, 'a system of lending to Municipalities which we believe will contribute much to the health, wealth, and comfort of the inhabitants of towns.' He publicly declared the development of municipal government to be among the chief of the many great services which Sir Donald Macleod, as Lieutenant-Governor of the Punjab, had rendered to India.
'A man,' he said, 'who has succeeded in establishing municipal institutions, which have always been in every country in the world the basis of civil government, and the first germ of civilisation, is entitled to the highest praise. I believe by his wise rule and regulations he has induced numbers of the Natives to take an active part in the administration of their municipal affairs, and has by that means laid the foundation of a future which should be most beneficial.' In his own great measure of provincial finance and local government, which I have detailed in Chapter VI, Lord Mayo had the same end in view.
'The operation of this Resolution,' he inserted with his own hand in the orders of Government, 'in its full meaning and integrity will afford opportunities for the development of self-government, for strengthening Municipal Institutions, and for the association of Natives and Europeans, to a greater extent than heretofore, in the administration of affairs.' He summed up his main purpose in the following memorable words:—'The object in view being the instruction of many peoples and races in a good system of administration.'
Space precludes me from entering upon the legislative work of Lord Mayo. That work was voluminous, and of a most searching character. But it was practically conducted by the two eminent jurists, Sir Henry Maine and Sir Fitzjames Stephen, who held in succession the office of Law Member of Council during Lord Mayo's Viceroyalty. It has, moreover, been narrated by Sir Fitzjames Stephen himself, in full detail, in my larger Life of Lord Mayo.
In the foregoing pages many will miss a familiar feature of the Earl of Mayo's Viceroyalty. In India, hospitality forms one of the public duties of the governing race—a duty which they discharge, some laboriously, all to the best of their ability. The splendid hospitalities of Lord Mayo to all ranks and all races, amounted to an additional source of strength to the British Rule. He regarded it a proud privilege that it fell to his lot to present, for the first time, a son of the English Sovereign to the people and Princes of India. His Royal Highness the Duke of Edinburgh's progress touched chords in the oriental imagination which had lain mute since the overthrow of the Delhi throne, and called forth an outburst of loyalty such as had never before been awakened in the history of our rule. It was the seal of peace; an act of oblivion for the struggle which placed India under the Crown, and for the painful memories which that struggle left behind.
In his ceremonial as in his official duties, the Earl of Mayo had the ease of conscious strength. His noble presence, the splendour of his hospitality, and his magnificence of life, seemed in him only a natural complement of rare administrative power. The most charming of Indian novels,2 in portraying an ideal head of Indian society, unconsciously delineates Lord Mayo. But indeed it would be almost impossible to draw a great Indian Viceroy in his social aspects without the sketch insensibly growing into his portrait. Alike in the Cabinet and the drawing-room there was the same calm kindness and completeness. Sir Fitzjames Stephen, not given to hero-worship, has said: 'I never met one to whom I felt disposed to give such heartfelt affection and honour.'
2 Dustypore, by Sir Henry Cunningham.
One branch of the internal administration in which Lord Mayo took a deep interest was prison discipline. The subject had come prominently before him when Secretary for Ireland, and his Indian diaries contain valuable remarks and suggestions noted down after inspecting the local jails. He found a chronic battle going on between the District Magistrate, who was ex officio the head of the District jail, and the Medical Officer who was responsible for the health of the prisoners. The District Magistrate was determined that prison should be a distinctly uncomfortable place for the criminal classes within his jurisdiction. The Medical Officer was equally determined to bring down the terrible death-rate which obtained in Indian jails. Indeed, the more enthusiastic doctors would have liked to dismiss every convict at the end of his sentence, weighing several pounds heavier than when he entered the prison gates.
Lord Mayo had therefore to deal with the opposite extremes of severity and leniency. On the one hand, he was resolved that the discipline of Indian jails should be a really punitive discipline. On the other hand, he wrote, 'You have no right to inflict a punishment of death upon a prisoner who has only been sentenced for a term of years or for life,' by keeping him in a disease-stricken jail. Among the most distressing and clamant cases which came before him was the great Convict Settlement in the Andaman Islands, in which the mortality amounted in 1867 to over 101 per thousand. The measures taken by Lord Lawrence and Lord Mayo, had by 1870 brought down the death-rate to 10 per thousand. But the inquiries made by Lord Mayo disclosed a laxity of discipline productive of scandalous results. In 1871 a cruel and mysterious murder committed in the Penal Settlement, and which had been somewhat slightly reported on by the responsible officers, forced on Lord Mayo's mind the necessity of a complete change in the system pursued.
He found that a few English officials with a handful of soldiers were holding down, in an isolated island group, 600 miles across the sea from Bengal, the 8000 worst criminals of Northern India. Many of them came from the fierce frontier races; most of them were life prisoners, reckless, with no future on this earth. The security of such a settlement depends on clear regulations, exact subordination among the officials, and strict discipline among the convicts. The inquiries conducted under Lord Mayo's orders in 1871, disclosed the absence of every one of these essentials of safety. He found dissension and disobedience among the authorities; and a state of discipline that allowed a convict to accumulate a practically unlimited store of liquor, with which to madden himself and his comrades to further crime. It was a murder committed after a general debauch of this sort that led the Viceroy to reconsider the constitution of the Settlement.
The work occupied Lord Mayo's thoughts at Simla during the early half of 1871. He found that he had to create a government for a Colony 'which, assuming that only life-prisoners were sent, would ultimately contain 20,000 convicts.' In the first place, therefore, he had to put together an administrative framework of a texture that would withstand severe strain, and ensure the safety of the isolated handful of Englishmen in charge of the islands. In the second place, he desired that the new constitution of the Settlement, while enforcing a stricter surveillance and discipline, and increasing the terrors of transportation, more especially to new arrivals, should eventually allow of a career to the industrious and well-behaved; and as it were open up a new citizenship, with local ambitions and interests, to the exiles whose crimes had cut them off alike from the future and the past in their native land.
He resolved, in the third place, to establish the financial arrangements of the Colony on a sounder basis; and he hoped that the measures which raised the convicts out of criminal animals into settlers would also tend to render them self-supporting. A Code of Regulations was drawn up under his eye, and revised with his own pen; and true to his maxim, that for any piece of hard administrative work 'a man is required,' he sought out the best officer he could find for the practical reorganisation of the Settlement. He chose a soldier of strong force of character and proved administrative skill, and in the summer of 1871 sent him off with the new Regulations to his task.
'The charge which Major-General —— is about to assume,' wrote Lord Mayo in a Viceregal Note, 'is one of great responsibility. In fact, I scarcely know of any charge under the Government of India which will afford greater scope for ability and energy, or where a greater public service can be performed. I fully expect that under his management the Andamans, Nicobars, and their dependencies, instead of being a heavy drain upon the Government, may at no distant period become self-supporting. The charge of the Colony to the Indian Exchequer has averaged £150,000 a year; each transported felon costs the country more than £1 12s. a month' [the average monthly cost in Bengal jails being then 11s. 5d. per man].
Lord Mayo then points out in detail the means by which he hoped this change would be effected, 'by a proper system of rice and pulse cultivation'; by breeding goats, and a more economical meat supply; by the adoption of jail-manufactured clothing, and the growth of cotton and flax; by using the 'timber grown on the islands instead of imported timber'; 'by substituting Native troops for free police,' and by 'more economical steam communication' with the mainland. The immediate saving from these measures was estimated by the proper authority at £30,000 a year. The Viceroy next comments on the recent reports 'that there is no system of supervision or discipline.' He then sets forth, in a well-considered summary, the points to be attended to in this important branch of the ordering of a convict colony.
The new Superintendent set to work to reorganise the Penal Settlement with great vigour. But he found that the changes really amounted to introducing a new government. While, therefore, after six months he was able to report encouraging results, he desired that Lord Mayo should 'personally realise the magnitude and difficulty of the task.'
'Progress has been made,' the Superintendent wrote to the Viceroy's Private Secretary, 'but I am anxious that Lord Mayo should himself see what has been done, before we commence the clearing. No one can thoroughly understand this place until he has seen it.' 'I look to the Governor-General's visit,' he again wrote in the midst of his difficulties, 'to set all these matters straight.'
On the 24th January, 1872, the Earl of Mayo left Calcutta on his cold weather tour. His purpose was first to visit Burma, next to call at the Andamans on the return passage across the Bay of Bengal, and then to inspect the Province of Orissa. In each of these three places, weighty questions of internal policy demanded his presence. After completing his work in Burma, he cast anchor off Hopetown in the Andamans at 8 A.M. on the 8th February, 1872. A brilliant party of officials and guests accompanied the Viceroy and the Countess of Mayo in H. M.'s frigate Glasgow, and on the attendant steamship Dacca.
Lord Mayo landed immediately after breakfast, and during a long day conducted a thorough inspection of Viper and Ross Islands, where the worst characters were quartered. Ample provisions had been made for his protection. A detachment of free police, armed with muskets, moved with the Governor-General's party in front, flank, and rear. The prisoners were strictly kept at their ordinary work; and on Viper and Ross Islands, the only ones where any danger was apprehended, the whole troops were under arms. One or two convicts, who wished to present petitions, handed them to an officer in attendance, without approaching the Viceroy; and the general feeling among the prisoners was one of self-interested satisfaction, in the hope of indulgences and pardons in honour of the visit.
The official inspection was concluded about 5 o'clock. But Lord Mayo desired, if possible, to create a sanitarium, where the fever patients might shake off their clinging malady. He thought that Mount Harriet, a hill rising to 1116 feet a mile and a half inland from the Hopetown jetty, might be suitable for this purpose. No criminals of a dangerous sort were quartered at Hopetown; the only convicts there being approved ticket-of-leave men of good conduct. However, the Superintendent despatched a boat to convey the guards to the Hopetown jetty.
'We have still an hour of daylight,' said Lord Mayo, bent on the sanitarium project, 'let us do Mount Harriet.' On landing at the Hopetown jetty he found gay groups of his guests enjoying the cool of the day, and had a smile and a kind word for each as he passed. 'Do come up,' he said to one lady, 'you'll have such a sunset.' But it was a stiff climb through the heavy jungle and only one recruit joined him. His own party were dead tired; they had been on their feet for six blazing hours, and Lord Mayo, as usual the freshest after a hard day, begged some of them to rest till he returned. Of course no one liked to give in, and the cortège dived into the jungle. When they came to the foot of the hill, the Viceroy turned round to one of his aide-de-camps, who was visibly fatigued now that the strain of the day's anxiety had relaxed, and almost ordered him to sit down.
The Superintendent had sent on the one available pony, but Lord Mayo at first objected to riding while the rest were on foot. When half way up, he stopped and said: 'It's my turn to walk now; one of you get on.' At the top he carefully surveyed the capabilities of the hill as a sanitarium. He thought he saw his way to improve the health of the Settlement, and with the stern task of reorganisation to make a work of humanity go hand in hand. 'Plenty of room here,' he cried, looking round on the island group, 'to settle two millions of men.' Presently he sat down, and gazed silently across the sea to the sunset. Once or twice he said quietly, 'How beautiful.' Then he drank some water. After another long look to the westward, he exclaimed to his Private Secretary: 'It's the loveliest thing I think I ever saw:' and came away.
The descent was made in close order, for it was now dark. About three-quarters of the way down, torch-bearers from Hopetown met the Viceroy and his attendant group of officials and guards. Two of his party who had hurried forward to the pier saw the intermittent gleam of the torches threading their way through the jungle; then the whole body of lights issued by the bridle-path from the woods, a minute's walk from the jetty. The Glasgow frigate lay out on the left with her long line of lights low on the water; the Scotia and Dacca, also lit up, beyond her; another steamer, the Nemesis, was coaling nearer to Hopetown, on the right. The ships' bells had just rung seven. The launch with steam up was whizzing at the jetty stairs; a group of her seamen were chatting on the pier-end. It was now quite dark, and the black line of the jungle seemed to touch the water's edge.
The Viceroy's party passed some large loose stones to the left at the head of the pier, and advanced along the jetty; two torch-bearers in front, the light shining strongly on the tall form of Lord Mayo, in a grey tussa-silk coat, close between his Private Secretary and the Superintendent; the Flag-Lieutenant of the Glasgow and a Colonel of Engineers a few paces behind, on left and right; the armed police between them, but a little nearer the Viceroy. The Superintendent turned aside, with Lord Mayo's leave, to give an order about the morning's programme, and the Viceroy stepped quickly forward before the rest to descend the stairs to the launch. The next moment the people in the rear heard a noise as of 'the rush of some animal' from behind the loose stones: one or two saw a hand and a knife suddenly descend in the torch-light. The Private Secretary heard a thud, and instantly turning round, found a man 'fastened like a tiger'1 on the back of the Viceroy.
1 I use his own words.
In a second twelve men were on the assassin; an English officer was pulling them off, and with his sword-hilt keeping back the Native guards, who would have killed the assailant on the spot. The torches had gone out; but the Viceroy, who had staggered over the pier side, was dimly seen rising up in the knee-deep water, and clearing the hair off his brow with his hand as if recovering himself. His Private Secretary was instantly at his side in the surf, helping him up the bank. 'Burne,' he said quietly, 'they've hit me.' Then, in a louder voice, which was heard on the pier, 'It's all right, I don't think I'm much hurt,' or words to that effect. In another minute he was sitting under the smoky glare of the re-lit torches, on a rude native cart at the side of the jetty, his legs hanging loosely down. Then they lifted him bodily on to the cart, and saw a great dark patch on the back of his light coat. The blood came streaming out, and men tried to stanch it with their handkerchiefs. For a moment or two he sat up on the cart, then he fell heavily backwards. 'Lift up my head,' he said faintly: and said no more.
They carried him down into the steam launch, some silently believing him dead. Others, angry with themselves for the bare surmise, cut open his coat and vest, and stopped the wound with hastily torn strips of cloth and the palms of their hands. Others kept rubbing his feet and legs. Three supported his head. The assassin lay tied and stunned a few yards from him. As the launch shot on in the darkness, eight bells rang across the water from the ships. When it came near the frigate, where the guests were waiting for dinner, and jesting about some fish which they had caught for the meal, the lights in the launch were suddenly put out, to hide what was going on in it. They lifted Lord Mayo gently to his cabin: when they laid him down in his cot, every one saw that he was dead.
To all on board, that night stands out from among all other nights in their lives. A silence, which seemed as if it would never again be broken, suddenly fell on the holiday ship with its 600 souls. The doctors held their interview with the dead—two stabs from the same knife on the shoulder had penetrated the cavity of the chest, either of them sufficient to cause death. On the guest steamer there were hysterics and weeping; but in the ship where the Viceroy lay, the grief was too deep for outward expression. Men moved about solitarily through the night, each saying bitterly to his own heart, 'Would that it had been one of us.' The anguish of her who received back her dead was not, and is not, for words.
At dawn the sight of the frigate in mourning, the flag at half-mast, the broad white stripe darkened to a leaden grey, all the ropes slackened, and the yards hanging topped in dismal disorder, announced the reality to those on the guest steamer who had persisted through the night in a hysterical disbelief. On the frigate a hushed and solemn industry was going on. The chief officers of the Government of India on board assembled2 to adopt steps for the devolution of the Viceroyalty. In a few hours, while the doctors were still engaged on the embalming, one steamer had hurried north with the Member of Council to Bengal, another was ploughing its way with the Foreign Secretary to Madras, to bring up Lord Napier of Ettrick, to Calcutta, as acting Governor-General. UNO AVULSO, NON DEFICIT ALTER. The frigate lay silent and alone. At half-past nine that night, the partially embalmed body was placed in its temporary coffin on the quarter-deck, and covered with the Union Jack.
2 Sir Barrow H. Ellis (Member of Council) presiding, with Mr. C. U. Aitchison, C.S.I., Foreign Secretary, and others.
The assassin received the usual trial and the usual punishment for his crime. Shortly after he had been brought on board, in the launch which carried his victim, the Foreign Secretary asked him why he had done this thing. He only replied, 'By the order of God.'3 To the question whether he had any associates in his act, he answered, 'Among men I have no accomplice; God is my partner.'4 Next morning, at the usual preliminary inquiry before the local magistrate, when called to plead, he said, 'Yes, I did it.'5 The evidence of the eye-witnesses was recorded, and the prisoner committed for murder to the Sessions-Court. The Superintendent, sitting as chief judge in the Settlement, conducted the trial in the afternoon. The accused simply pleaded 'Not guilty.' Each fact was established by those present when the deed was done; the prisoner had been dragged off the back of the bleeding Viceroy with the reddened knife in his hand. The sentence was to suffer death by hanging. The proceedings were forwarded in the regular way to the High Court at Calcutta for review. On the 20th February this tribunal confirmed the sentence; and on the 11th March the assassin was taken to the usual place of execution on Viper Island, and hanged.
3 Khudá ne húkm diyá.
4 Merá sharík koí ádmí nahín; merá sharík khudá hai.
5 Hán, main ne kiyá.
The man was a highlander from beyond our North-Western Frontier, who had taken service in the Punjab Mounted Police, and had been condemned at Pesháwar for slaying his blood-feud enemy on British soil. The Court took a merciful view of the case and sentenced him to transportation for life at the Andamans. In his dying confession, years afterwards, he stated that although he had not struck the blow, he had conspired to do the murder. But the slaying of a hereditary foe in cold blood was no crime in his eyes, and ever since his conviction in 1869, he said he had made up his mind to revenge himself by killing 'some European of high rank.' He therefore established his character as a silent, doggedly well-behaved man; and in due time was set at large as a barber among the ticket-of-leave convicts at Hopetown.
During three years he waited sullenly for some worthy prey. On the morning of the 8th February, when he heard the royal salute, he felt that his time had come, and sharpened a knife. He resolved to kill both the Superintendent and the Viceroy. All through the day the close surveillance gave him no chance of getting to the islands which Lord Mayo visited. Evening came, and his victim landed unexpectedly at his very door. He slipped into the woods, crept up Mount Harriet through the jungle side by side with the Viceroy; then dogged the party down again in the dark: but still got no chance. At the foot he almost gave up hope, and resolved to wait for the morrow. But as the Viceroy stepped quickly forward on the jetty, his grey-suited shoulders towering conspicuous in the torch-light, an impulse of despair thrilled through the assassin. He gave up all idea of life, rushed round the guards, and in a moment was on his victim's back.
He was a hillman of great size and strength. When heavily fettered in the condemned cell, he overturned the lamp with his chained ankle, bore down the English sentry by brute strength of body, and wrenched away his bayonet with his manacled hands. He made no pretence of penitence, and was childishly vain of being photographed (for police inquiries in Northern India) as the murderer of a Viceroy. Indeed, some of the above details were only got out of him by a native officer who cunningly begged him for materials for an ode on his deed, to be sung by his countrymen. Neither his name, nor that of his village or tribe, will find record in this book.
The passionate outburst of grief and wrath which then shook India, the slow military pomp of the slain Viceroy's re-entry into his capital, the uncontrollable fits of weeping in the chamber where he lay in state, the long voyage of the mourning ship, and the solemn ceremonial with which Ireland received home her dead son—all these were fitting at the time, and are past.
'Yesterday,' said one of the Dublin papers, 'we saw a State Solemnity vitalised by the subtle spell of national feeling. Seldom are the two things united in an Irish public funeral. When imperial pomp is displayed, the national heart is cold. When the people pay spontaneous homage to the dead, the trappings of the State are absent, its voice mute. Yesterday, for once, this ill-omened rule was broken. Government and the people united in doing honour to an illustrious Irishman.' The Indian Press had given vent to the wild sorrow of many races in many languages; the English newspapers were full of nobly expressed tributes; Parliamentary chiefs had their well-chosen utterances for the nation's loss. But Lord Mayo, as he sat on the top of the sea-girt hill and gazed towards the west, where his dear home lay beyond the sunset, would have prized that united mourning of his countrymen above any panegyric. They laid him at last in the secluded graveyard which he had chosen on his own land.