October 21, 2014

Viceroys of India & Important Events in their Tenure

While the British ruled India, the head of the British administration in India was the Governor General and Viceroy of India. This office was created in 1773, where the officer had direct control only over Fort William, but supervised other British East India Company officials in India. Complete authority over all of British India was granted in 1833 and the official became known as the Governor-General of India. And in 1858, India came under the direct control of the British Crown.

The title "Governor General" applied to his relationship to the British Provinces of India (Punjab, Bengal, Bombay, Madras, United Provinces, etc.). But much of British India was not ruled directly by the government and the territory was divided into hundreds of nominally sovereign princely states or "native states" whose relationship was not with the British government, but directly with the monarch.

To reflect the Governor General`s role as representative from the monarch to the feudal rulers of the princely states, the term Viceroy of India was applied to him. The title remained in existence from 1858 till 1947, when India became independent in 1947. The office of Governor General continued to exist until India adopted a republican constitution in 1950. The offices of the Viceroys, included the following:

Lord Dalhousie
Lord Dalhousie was appointed Governor General of India in 1848. His eight years of rule is considered one of the greatest periods of British rule. His policy of Annexation was a lethal weapon of conquest that raised the rule of the East India Company to the height of glory. Dalhousie annexed Satara in 1848, Jhansi in 1853 and Nagpur in 1854 on the ground of misgovernment. Dalhousie annexed Oudh in 1851 and Berar was taken over from the Nizam in 1853 as he had delayed his tribute to the paramount power, the British. The titular Rajaship of Tanjore was abolished in 1855. On the death of the ex-Peshwa Bajirao II- 1853, his adopted son Nana was refused his pension. Dalhousie recognized the heir to the last of the Mughals on his agreeing not to use the imperial title.

Dalhousie a fragile man by constitution had an amazing sweep and energy. He laid down the main Railway lines, telegraph network and brought about many far-reaching changes in the Secretariat and the other wings of administration. He established universities at Calcutta, Madras and Bombay. The Act was passed in 1858`and it became operative soon thereafter.

Lord Canning
Lord Canning was the Governor General of India from 1856 - 1862 and the first Viceroy in India from 1 November 1858. Well-known as a reflective and industrious, person, he tried to suppress the Indian`s after they were defeated in the Mutiny of 1857. He adopted a conciliatory attitude and restored to some of the mutineers, their estates and so avoided confrontation with them.

Lord Elgin
Lord Elgin (1811-1863) was Governor General and Viceroy of India from 1862 to 1863. Born on 20 July 1811, Lord Elgin was educated at Eton and Christ Church at Oxford. He was a British colonial administrator and diplomat, best known as Governor General of the Province of Canada and Viceroy of India. He was the son of the 7th Earl of Elgin and 11th Earl of Kincardine. His second wife was Lady Mary Lambton, daughter of the 1st Earl of Durham, the author of the groundbreaking Report on the Affairs of British North America (1839) and niece of the Colonial Secretary the 3rd Earl Grey. A contemporary and friend of his predecessors, Dalhousie and Canning, he had acquired vast experience in colonial administration as Governor of Jamaica from 1842 to 1846 and Governor General of Canada from 1846 to 1854.

He was one of the most trained Viceroy`s ever appointed by British Government in India. Indian Administration under Lord Elgin furnishes a perfect cross section made in the Government of India at the time when those of the new regime were rapidly superseding the old company methods. He peculiarly gave Anglo-Indian Administration a new orientation. His decisive action during early days of Mutiny, in placing himself and every soldier at disposal of Canning, had greatly helped India at a very critical moment. Elgin`s career in India was cut short by his sudden death after only twenty months of office, mostly carrying on Canning`s work. He spent the summer of 1863 at Shimla and died of heart disease at Darmashala while on tour in upper India and was buried there. The main event of his time was the Ambala campaign in the Northwest frontier to suppress a tribal insurrection there.

Lord John Lawrence
He was a British statesman who served as Viceroy of India from 1864 to 1869. He soon became a magistrate and tax collector in Delhi, where he was known for his concern for the plight of the peasantry.

Lord Mayo
Lord Mayo (1822-1872) was the Viceroy and Governor General of India from 1869 to 1872. Son of the Fifth Earl of Mayo, he was born on 21 February 1822, christened Richard Southwell Bourke and graduated from Trinity College, Dublin. He had held the office of chief secretary for Ireland before Disraeli appointed him to succeed Lord Lawrence.

He inherited his father as the Sixth Earl and came to India as Lord Mayo. He continued the policy of Noni-ntervention followed by his immediate predecessors and through diplomatic maneuver secured the good will and friendship of Sher Ali, Ameer of Afghanistan, who met the viceroy at Ambala in 1869.Mayo secured the Russian recognition of the Oxus as the Northern Afghan border. Perhaps his great achievement was the reform of financial management. He increased the salt duty and income tax, enforced economy in the public administration, introduced decentralized finance with provision for fixed block grants for five years to the provincial governments and substantially improved the finances of the country. Formerly the center controlled all finances and the provinces had to make out cases for allocation of funds and spent what they could get.

He consolidated the frontiers of India and reorganised the country`s finances; he also did much to promote irrigation, railways, forests and other useful public works. While visiting the convict settlement at Port Blair in the Andaman Islands, for the purpose of inspection, he was assassinated by Sher Ali, a Muslim convict.

It was during his administration that the first general census in India was undertaken in 1870. He organized a statistical survey of the country and created the department of agriculture and commerce. While he inherited serious deficits, untrustworthy estimates and accounts in arrears and statistics incomplete, he left behind substantial surplus, estimates worthy of confidence and accounts and statistics punctual and full. To educate the young sons of the Indian princes and chiefs he founded Mayo College at Ajmer.

On 8 February 1872 he was stabbed to death by a Pathan convict at the Andamans while on a visit there. His body was then carried to Ireland.

Lord Lytton
Lord Lytton (1876-1947) was Governor of Bengal from1922 to1927 and for some time officiating Viceroy of India. Victor Alexander George Robert, Second Earl of Lytton, was born at Shimla, when his father, the first Earl of Lytton, was the Governor General of India.

Lord Lytton took charge in 1876. He was appointed the governor of Bengal at a very crucial time when the colonial government was determined to implement the India Act of 1919 and when Indian National Congress was determined to get this unacceptable Act annulled. Throughout this period he faced resistance from the Swarajya Party, which always participated in the elections and got elected with majority seats but consistently refused to form a ministry. Their policy was to wreck the constitution of 1919 from within.

Due to their non-co-operation, Lord Lytton had to invite members belonging to splinter parties and groups willing to form a ministry, although it was ousted within six months by a motion of no confidence moved by the Swarajya majority. A number of Council parties were formed at his initiatives, but his `divide and rule` policy could never weaken Swarajya solidarity.

Lord Lytton is particularly remembered for his unpleasant encounters with Sir Ashutosh Mukherjee, the vice chancellor of Calcutta University. Lord Lytton tried to interfere in the working of Calcutta University, but Sir Ashutosh warned him never to do so if he wanted to retain him as the vice chancellor of the university. During 1876-78 a severe famine affected Madras, Bombay, Mysore and Hyderabad. In 1878 a Famine commission was appointed. Lord Lytton`s rule was unpopular.

Though he had excelled as a poet, a novelist and essayist, he was not an able administrator. He brought reforms in trade bringing the policy of free trade. His policy towards the Afghans led to the second Afghan war. The Criticisms of the British policy led to the passing of the Vernacular press Act in 1878 and Indian Arms Act. In the field of financial reforms he brought reduction of Import duties, financial decentralization and equality of tax duties.

Lord Ripon
Lord Ripon (1880-1884) was sent with the avowed purpose of reversing the Afghan policy of Lytton and introducing a more sympathetic system into the administration of India. He repealed the abhorrent Vernacular Press Act of Lytton. He also introduced a system of local self-government. His one more measure, the IIbert Bill extending the jurisdiction of Indian magistrates over Europeans involved in Criminal offences made him at popular with the Indians. The European community in India opposed the measure tooth and nail and insulted Lord Ripon publicly.

Lord Dufferin
Dufferin (1884-1888) succeeded Ripon in December1884. During his administration Burma ceased to be an independent power. In the case of Burma its northern province Pegu was already annexed for the same reason. The remaining part was also annexed on January 1,1886.

Lord Curzon
Lord Curzon (l899-1905) was an out and out imperialist. His administration was action-packed. He forced the Nizam to cede-permanently the province of Vidarbha (Berar`s 4 districts). He carried his measure of the partitition of the Bengal through, despite severe opposition of the Bengalese. This gave rise to a countrywide agitation and brought all the political leaders of all the provinces under the banner of the Indian National Congress, and India through the" agitation emerged as a modern State.

With the grant of Diwani rights over Bengal, Bihar and Orissa to the British by Shah Alam in 1765, a huge province comprising of the three areas became a British administrative unit. Each successive conquest of the Company in the North was added to it. By 1810, its borders stretched upto Delhi and beyond in the West. Another province was carved with headquarters at Agra around 1835 and Bengal borders were confined to the original three areas of Bengal, Bihar and Orissa. In 1874, Assam was separated from Bengal, attaching to this province the three Bengali speaking districts of Goalpara, Cachar and Sylhet. Still the province of Bengal, with Bihar, Orissa and Chota Nagpur had an area of about 1,90,000 square miles. This was too unwieldy for efficient administration.

The obvious solution would have been to separate Bihar, Orissa and Chota Nagpur from Bengal and thus to correct its unwieldy character. But to Lord Curzon, the then imperialist Governor General, division of Bengal into two regions viz. East and West, meant the balancing of the Hindu West with the Muslim East. He envisaged that these two communities had separate needs and they could thus be considered adequately, when the Eastern Bengal is separated. The scheme of partition was later revoked in 19l2. But it had already hurt the national feelings tremendously and shaken the confidence of the Indian elite in the bona fides of the British professions about the development of self-government by Indians.


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