Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Blackburne, William

BLACKBURNE, Sir WILLIAM (1764–1839), major-general, an Indian officer, entered the Madras army as a cadet of infantry in 1782, and in 1784 served with the force employed under Colonel Fullarton in the reduction of the Poligars in Madura and Tinnevelly. He subsequently served in the campaign which ended in the defeat of Tippoo Sultan in 1792. His proficiency as a linguist led to his being employed in 1787 as Mahratta interpreter at Tanjore, on the occasion of an inquiry into the right of succession to the Tanjore Raj, and he afterwards held for some years the post of Mahratta interpreter under the British resident at Tanjore. In 1801, having then attained to the military rank of captain, he was appointed resident at the Tanjore count, and held that ofiice until he left India in 1823.

Very shortly after his appointment as resident, Blackburne was called upon to take the field at the head of his escort and of the raja’s troops, to repel two invasions of the province by insurgents from the adjoining districts. This duty was successfully performed, and the neighbouring province of Ramnad was recovered. In 1804 Blackburne, having brought to light extensive frauds and oppression on the art of the native officials in Tanjore, the civil administration of which was under others independent of the resident, was employed by the Madras government to remodel the administration both in Tanjore and in the native state of Pudukota. He was twice sent on special missions to Travanoore. His political services elicited the high approval of Lord Wellesley, and also of successive governors of Madras. On his retirement from the residency of Tunjore, Sir Thomas Munro recorded a minute testifying to the value of Blackburne’s services and influence in Tanjore. Blackburne, being then a major-general, received the honour of knighthood in 1838, and died 16 Oct. in the following year.

[Records of the Madras Government; East India Military Calendar, containing the services of the general and field officers of the Indian army, 1824; Gent. Mag. 1840, p. 92.]

A. J. A.