Lord Dalhousie

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Article Sub-Category: THE BRITISH OR ANGLO-INDIAN PERIOD

Title: Lord Dalhousie
 
Lord Dalhousie: second Sikh war; second Burmese warl; doctrine of lapse; annexations; material progress


Lord Dalhousie.  Lord Dalhousie, a brilliant young Scottish nobleman with wome official experience, and only thirty-five years of age, took over charge at Calcutta in January 1848, receiving from his predecessor an assurance that so far as human foresight could predict, 'it would not be necessary to fire a gun in India for seven years to come'.  A year later the Governor-General's army fought the Sikhs in two deadly battles, and the Panjab became British territory.  Then for three years there was peace, followed by the second Burmese war and the annexation of Pegu.  Such is human foresight.
     Second Sikh war; battles of Chilianwala and Guajrat.  The arrangements for the government of the Panjab made by Lord Hardinge on the lines of the Wellesley policy, and obviously unstable, temporary makeshifts, did not last long.  The trouble began at Multan, held by a governor named Mulraj in administration came into power, and two young British officers were sent to take over charge.  Disputes having arisen, the officers were attacked and murdered, and Mulraj went into open rebellion.  The revolt quickly spread over the whole province and war became inevitable.  'Unwarned by precedent uninfluenced by example,' said the Governor-General in October, 'the Sikh nation has called for war, adn on my word, sirs, they shall have it with a vengeance.'  They got it.  Multan, after a gallant defence, was taken on 28 January 1849, Lord Gough, the Commander-in-chief, having fought a bloody battle at Chilianwala, on the Jihlam, on the 13th.  The conflict has been unjustly described as 'an evening battle fought by a
brave old man in a passion'.  In reality, Lord Gough, who had intended to encamp, was forced to fight by the Sikhs' moving from their entrenchments.  Darkness coming on, the Sikh army retired a short distance, but the British lost four guns and the contest may be called a drawn battle.  The authorities in  England blamed Lord Gough, on 21 February 1849, retrieved his reputation by winning at Gujarat, in the District of that name, near the Chinab river, a victory so complete that the Sikhs had no option but unconditional submission.
'
     Annexation of the Panjab.  Lord Dalhousie rightly decided in annexation, suitable provision being made for the young Maharaja and other people with claims.  The annexation of the Panjab completed the extension of British dominion over the whole of India proper.  The Governor-General practically took over the government himself, working through a Board of three commissioners, replaced afer a time by a Chief/Commissioner, who afterwards developed into a Governor.  In Lord Dalhousie's time the real authority, even when Sir John Lawrence was Chief Commissioner, vested in the Governor-General, the local ruler being his agent.  Undre the fostering care of Lord Dalhousie and the able officers chosen by him, the province rapidly advanced in prosperity, adn the Sikh soldiers, who had fought so bravely against the British power, became its loyal supporters.  In the Mutiny, the Panjab was a tower of strength to the Government, and since then many of its gallant sons have given their lives on many fields in the Cause of their sovereign.  A Sikh battalion took part in the Burmese war only three years after the annexation of the Panjab.
     Second Burmese war, 1852.  Afer an interval of three years' peace another war was forced upon Lord Dalhousie by the arrogance of the king of Burma, who committed various outrages on British subjects, refused redress, and deliberately insulted the officers deputed to demand it.  War was declared, and in April 1852, the pagoda at Rangoon was captured and the town occupied.  The taking of Prome followed in October, and in December the war was ended by a proclamation annexing the province of Pegu, the inhabitants of which eagerly accepted deliverance from Burmese cruelties.'  No treaty was made because the court of Ava declined to negotiate.  The conduct of the operations presented a strong contrast to the proceedings of 1824 under the feeble guidance of Lord-Ambherst.  Lord Dalhousie saw to everything himself, and took care that everything should be well done.  The annexation of Pegu completely shut off Upper or independent Burma from the sea.
     The doctrine of lapse.  No ruler of India surpassed, or perhaps equalled, Lord Dalhousie in strength of will, love of justice, and devotion to duty.  He gave his life to India and his country.  He came out a young man in his prime;  after eight years of office he returned a cripple on crutches, fit only for death, which was not long delayed.  Those eight years were crowded with unceasing labours, dedicated in large part to the affairs of the Indian states.  The system of subsidiary alliances, started by Lord Wleeleley and continued by his successors, was a necessary stage in the relations between the protected states and the paramount power, but by the middle of the nineteenth century it had served its purpose.  Nearly all the princes who occupied their thrones under British protection abused their powers, lived lives of selfish indulgence, and misgoverned their subjects.  Lord Dalhousie, therefore, was convinced that the subjects.  Lord Dalhousie state would benefit immensely by the substitution of
direct British government for the rule of a licentious prince, freed by the protection of superior authority from the restraints imposed by the fear of revolt.'  Wherever he turned-to Oudh, the Panjab, or elsewhere-he found the same abuses.  He was thus led, in the interests of the people, to act systematically on the doctrine of lapse-that is to say, he refused to acknowledge the right of a childless Raja or Nawab to pass on the sovereignty of his state to an adopted son, and held that in such a case the sovereignty lapsed to the supreme Government.
     The doctorine was already well established in principle, but Lord Dalhousie applied it with greater strictness than his predecessors.  The question first arose with reference to Satara (ante,p.298), the Maratha principality created by Lord Hastings, which was annexed by Lord Dalhousie in the first year of his rule, on the principle stated above.  That principle was subsequently applied in the cases of Jhansi, Nagpur, the relic of the Bhonsla dominions, and in several others of minor importance.  It was also invoked to stop the large pension paid to the ex-Nawab of the CArnatic.  The refusal to continue to the Nana Sahib of Bithur, adopted son of Baji Rao II the ex-Peshwa who died in 1851, the pension of eight lakhs granted by Lord Hastings (ante,p.298) was not a case of the application of the doctrine of lapse, for Sir John Malcolm had expressly declared the allowance to Baji Rao to be a 'life pension'; and as such it died with him.  The Nana Sahib, as adopted son, admittedly inherited twenty-eight lakhs of rupees, and, as an act of favour, was given a jagir besides.  He had not any just grievance.  In all cases where the doctrine of lapse of sovereignty was enforced, the adopted som inherited under Hindu law the private property of the deceased, and the Nana Sahib received in full everything to which he was entitled.  On 4 November 1859, at Cawnpore, Lord Canning announced the withdrawl of the doctrine of lapse, and assured the assembled princes that in future adopted sons would be recognized as heirs to the states.
     Annexations otherwise than by lapse or conquest.  A portion of Sikkim on the north-eastern frontier was annexed as punishment for the Raja's ill-treatment of Dr.(Sir John) Hooker and another officer.  Sambhalpur, on the south-west of Bengal, was taken over in accordance with the wish of the deceased Raja, who deliberately abstained from adopting an heir.  Oudh was annexed during the closing days of Lord Dalhousie's rule, in consequence of the persistent misgovernment of the country.  This drastic measure was taken by express order of the home authorities, and in opposition to the Governor-General's recommendation that the king, in special consideration of the faithfulness of his dynasty to the English alliance, might be maintained in his royal state and dignity, the administration being taken over by the Government in India.  The rulers of Oudh, who were allowed to assume the title of king in 1819, had misgoverned the country for a century, adn had uniformly refused to listen to the remonstrances pressed by Lord William Bentinck, Lord Hastings, and a long succession of Residents.  Sir William Sleeman's journey through the Kingdom of Oudh, 1819-50, gives an appalling picture of the state of the country, which formed an ample excuse for the decision to annex.
     Modern system of government founded.  Lord Dalhousie made a beginning in framing a system of government on  modern lines, and got rid of absurd traditions which had come down from the old mercantile days of the Company.  The first sensible distribution of the work of administration among distinct departments dates from his time, and each department created received his special and ever-watchful attention.  Nothing escaped him, and every official felt him to be master.  Railways.  The Governor-General, when officially employed in England, had been in touch with the growth of the railway system, then a novelty; and when he came to India, was resolved that India should have railways of her own.  The prophets declared that they would not be used, would not pay, and so forth, but Dalhousie perserved and was able to open a short line in 1853.
     Railways.  The Governor-General, when officially employed in England, and been in touch with the growth of the railway sysyem, then a novelty ; and when he came to India, was resolved that India should have railways of her own.  The prophets declared that they would not be used, would not pay, and so forth, but Dalhousie persevered and was able to open a short line in 1853.     
     Postal and telegraph departments.  When he assumed charge, India had no postal organization worthy of the name, the mails being conveyed by prehistoric methods under the control of local officers.  Dalhousie founded the Postal Department, now so efficient, and also introduced the electric telegraph.
     Public works.  Roads, irrigation works, navigable canals, and, in short, material improvements of every kind, were designed and executed under his personal guidance and supervision.  The Grand Trunk Road from Calcutta to the Panjab was constructed in his time.  All this labour was performed in spite of painful bodify suffering and crushing domestic sorrow.
     Education.  The Governaor-General was busy considering the subject of education when he received a dispatch from the Secretary of State, Sir Charles Wood (Lord Halifax), 'containing a scheme of education for all India, far wider and morecomprehensive than the local or the Supreme Government could have ventured to suggest'.  That celebrated document provided for the establishment of Indian-language schools in all Districts, and colleges, aided schools, and universities.  Lord Dalhousie took action under it without delay, adn organized the Department of Public Instruction.
     Charter or 1853.  The charter of the East India Company was renewed for the last time in 1853, not for any specific period, but during the pleasure of Parliament.  The system of government established in 1833 was continued, with the exceptions that certain changes were made in the constitution of the Court of Directors, the Governor-General was relieved of the charge of Bengal and Bihar, a Lieutenant-Governor being provided, and the patronage of the Civil Service was withdrawn from the Directors, the appointments being thrown open to public competition.
 












 
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