Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Edmonstone, George Frederick

EDMONSTONE, Sir GEORGE FREDERICK (1813–1864), Indian civilian, fourth son of Neil Benjamin Edmonstone [q. v.], Lord Wellesley's foreign secretary in India, was born in April 1813. His father, who was a director of the East India Company, gave him a nomination to the Indian civil service, and, after passing through Haileybury, Edmonstone proceeded to Bengal in 1831. After acting as assistant-collector at Gorakhpur and Gházipur, he became deputy-collector at Saharanpur in 1837, and at the close of the first Sikh war he was appointed to the important post of commissioner and superintendent of the Cis-Sutlej states. He gave such satisfaction in this office that he was selected in 1856 by Lord Canning to succeed Sir H. M. Elliot as secretary in the foreign, political, and secret department, the same position which his father had filled under Lord Wellesley. His tenure of office was not less important, for during it the Indian mutiny of 1857 broke out and was suppressed. How far Edmonstone influenced Canning can never be satisfactorily ascertained, but he was at least the official mouthpiece of the governor-general, and every important despatch and proclamation, including the most famous one by which the land of Oudh was confiscated, was drawn up and signed by him. In January 1859 Lord Canning appointed him lieutenant-governor of the north-western provinces, with his headquarters at Allahabad, instead of Agra as before the mutiny, and with his government shorn of the divisions of Delhi and Hissar, which were transferred to the Punjab. This was the part of India which, with the exception of Oudh, had suffered most severely during the mutiny, and Edmonstone carried out the principles of Canning in restoring order. His period of office is chiefly marked by the further curtailment of this unwieldy government by the creation of the new government of the central provinces, and by his successful efforts to restore the efficiency of the administration. In 1863 he left India, quite worn out by his exertions, and on his return to England was created a K.C.B. He died on 24 Sept. 1864, at Effingham Hill. His wife, Anne Farly Turner, by whom he had issue, died in 1859.

At the new public school at Haileybury the six houses are named after six distinguished Indian civilians, of whom Edmonstone is one.

[East India Directories; Kaye and Malleson's History of the Indian Mutiny; private information.]

H. M. S.