Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Robertson, Thomas Campbell

ROBERTSON, THOMAS CAMPBELL (1789–1863), Indian civil servant, born at Kenilworth on 9 Nov. 1789, was youngest son of Captain George Robertson, R.N., who was offered the honour of knighthood by George III for his intrepid conduct at the battle of the Dogger Bank in 1781, and of Anne, daughter of Francis Lewis of New York, formerly of Llandaff, North Wales. On the death of his father in 1791, the family removed to Edinburgh, where Thomas was educated at the high school. In 1805 he obtained a writership in the Bengal civil service, and, although he had no influence, his promotion was fairly rapid. In 1810 he became registrar of the zillah of Bakarganj, in 1814 he officiated as judge and magistrate of Shahabad, and in 1820 he was appointed judge and magistrate of Cawnpore. In 1823 he was sent to Chittagong, and there he became involved in the opening hostilities of the first Burmese war. In 1825 he accompanied Sir Archibald Campbell's force to Ava as civil commissioner, and had a principal share in framing the treaty which terminated the war. In 1827 he sailed to England, on a furlough. Returning to India in 1830, he was appointed a commissioner of the revenue. In 1835 he became a judge of the Sadr Diwáni, and in 1838 was constituted a member of the supreme council. He obtained the post of lieutenant-governor of the North-West Provinces in 1840, and at the same time was nominated to fill provisionally the post of governor-general in case of any sudden vacancy. As lieutenant-governor he distinguished himself by his efforts to conciliate native sentiment in opposition to the policy of the younger school of Indian civilians. He especially sought to prevent the wholesale dispossession of the talukdars, who had risen in many cases from the position of hereditary revenue contractors to that of proprietors of the soil. The severe treatment of this class has since been regarded as one of the causes that brought about the acute discontent which culminated in the mutiny, and it is universally admitted that a more conciliatory policy would have been wiser. The state of Robertson's health obliged him to retire from the service in 1843. On his return to England he devoted himself chiefly to literary pursuits. He died in Eaton Square, London, on 6 July 1863. While at home, in 1830, he married Amelia Jane, daughter of the Hon. John Elliot; she died in 1837, leaving three children. In 1852 he married Emma Jane, daughter of J. Anderson, esq., who survived him.

He was author of:

  1. ‘Remarks on several Recent Publications Concerning the Civil Government and Foreign Policy of British India,’ London, 1829, 8vo.
  2. ‘Political Incidents of the First Burmese War,’ London, 1853, 12mo.
  3. ‘Political Prospects of British India,’ London, 1858, 8vo.

[Private information; Kaye and Malleson's History of the Indian Mutiny, i. 118; Kaye's Lives of Indian Officers, 3rd edit. ii. 130; Dodwell and Miles's Bengal Civil Servants, p. 428.]

E. I. C.