Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Thomas, John Fryer

THOMAS, JOHN FRYER (1797–1877), Madras civil servant, born in 1797, entered the service in 1816, and after holding ministerial appointments in the court of Sadr Adálat and officiating in various revenue and judicial appointments, including those of principal collector and magistrate and of judge of the provincial court of appeal and circuit, was eventually in 1844 appointed secretary, and in the following year chief secretary to the government of Madras, in both of which positions he exercised considerable influence over the governor, the Marquis of Tweeddale [see Hay, George, eighth Marquis of Tweeddale]. In 1850 he became a member of the governor's council, and in 1855 he retired from the service. He was a man of marked ability. Some of his minutes, recorded in very incisive language, are among the ablest papers in the archives of the Madras Presidency. Among them perhaps the most remarkable are a review of Macaulay's draft of the Indian penal code, and a minute on native education, written in 1850, shortly after he joined the Madras government. He considered the educational policy then in force unduly ambitious, and held that the funds available, very limited in amount, ought to be expended rather in educating the many through the medium of the vernacular languages than in instructing the few in the higher branches of literature and science through the medium of English. He also advocated the adoption of the grant-in-aid system and its application to missionary schools as well as to others. He strongly supported and liberally contributed to missionary efforts, and deprecated the continued exclusion of the Bible from the course of instruction in government schools, differing on this point from James Thomason [q. v.] He died in London on 7 April 1877.

[India Office Records; Selections from the Records of the Madras Government, No. 2, 1855; personal knowledge.]

A. J. A.