Fraser, James Stuart (DNB00)

FRASER, JAMES STUART (1783–1869), of Ardachy, Inverness, general in the Indian army, was youngest son of Colonel Charles Fraser of that ilk, a scion of the house of Lovat, who fought as a marine officer under Admiral Hawke, and afterwards entered the Madras army, and died a colonel in command of a division at Masulipatam, 5 May 1795. Charles Fraser married Isabella Hook, and by her had six sons and three daughters; the eldest son, Hastings Fraser, who afterwards distinguished himself as a king's officer in India, died a general and colonel 86th Royal County Down regiment in 1854.

James ‘Stewart’ Fraser (as his baptismal register has it) was the youngest child, and was born at Edinburgh 1 July 1783. He was at school at Ham, Surrey, and afterwards at Glasgow University, where he showed a predilection for languages and astronomical studies. A Madras cadet of 1799, he was posted as lieutenant to the 18th Madras native infantry, 15 Dec. 1800. He served as assistant to Colonel Marriott on an escort conveying the Mysore princes to Bengal in 1807, and was aide-de-camp to Sir George Barlow [q. v.], governor of Madras, at the time of the mutiny of the Madras officers. He became a regimental captain 6 Nov. 1809, and private secretary to the government of Madras 9 May 1810. He accompanied the Madras division in the expedition against the Isle of France (Mauritius) in the same year as deputy-commissary, and was on the personal staff of Colonel Keating, H.M. 56th regiment, in the landing at Mapou and advance on Port Louis. He was appointed barrack-master at Fort St. George, 29 March 1811; town-major of Fort St. George, and military secretary to the governor, 21 May 1813; and commandant at Pondicherry 28 Oct. 1816. He was employed as commissioner for the restitution of French and Dutch possessions on the Coromandel and Malabar coasts in 1816–17. This duty was facilitated by Fraser's literary and colloquial familiarity with the French language—a rather rare accomplishment among Anglo-Indians of that day—and he was specially thanked and commended by the government of India for ‘the marked ability and conciliatory disposition’ which had ‘distinguished his conduct’ throughout every stage of the long and tedious negotiations. He became major 10 Dec. 1819, and lieutenant-colonel 1 May 1824.

While commanding at Pondicherry Fraser married, at Cuddalore, 18 May 1826, Henrietta Jane, daughter of Captain Stevenson, admiralty agent for the eastern coast of India, and grand-niece of General Stevenson, who commanded the nizam's subsidiary forces at Assaye and Argaum. This lady, who was twenty years his junior, bore him a numerous family and died in 1860.

In 1828 Fraser was deputed to discuss the claims of the French at Mahé, and the same year was appointed special agent for foreign settlements. He became brevet-colonel 6 Nov. 1829. He was appointed secretary to the government in the military department 12 Feb. 1834. He was present in several actions during the conquest of Coorg, and carried out the negotiations that brought the war to a close. He was appointed resident at Mysore and commissioner of Coorg 6 June 1834, and assumed charge of the Mysore residency in October following. On 26 Sept. 1836 he was appointed regimental colonel 36th Madras native infantry, his previous regimental commissions having all been in his old corps, the 18th native infantry. He was appointed resident at Travancore and Cochin 5 Jan. 1836, and officiating resident at Hyderabad 1 Sept. 1838. Fraser ‘repeatedly received the thanks of the government of Madras, the governor-general of India, and the court of directors of the East India Company for his eminent services. He appears, however, to have interfered in the disputes of the Syrian christians at Travancore and afterwards, and so to have incurred the displeasure of the Madras government’ (information supplied by the India Office). On 28 June 1838 Fraser became a major-general, which was regarded as an exceptional case of rapid promotion by seniority. On 31 Dec. 1839 he was appointed resident at Hyderabad, and was vested with a general superintendence over the post-offices and post-roads of the nizam's dominions. While there in 1842 Fraser ‘received the thanks of the government in council for his temper, decision, and energy on the occasion of the insubordination of certain native troops at Secunderabad’ (general order, 12 April 1842). The court of directors in their despatch dated 3 Aug. 1842 referred to this affair, and stated that his ‘conduct in the difficult and trying circumstances in which he was placed was such as they should have expected from the well-known judgment, temper, and energy of that distinguished officer and merits the highest approbation’ (information supplied by the India Office).

At Hyderabad, which he regarded as being, for good or evil, the political centre of India, Fraser remained fourteen years, his residence ending before the enlightened administration of that state by Sir Salar Jung. For details of this period reference must be made to the bulky volume published by Fraser's son, Colonel Hastings Fraser, Madras staff corps, under the title, ‘Memoirs and Correspondence of General J. S. Fraser’ (London, 1885), 8vo, which is largely devoted to Hyderabad affairs. Fraser appears again and again, without much success, to have urged on the supreme government the need of taking a firmer tone with the nizam. ‘Intrigue, corruption, and mismanagement are not to be corrected by whispers and unmeaning phrases,’ he wrote in 1849, and in 1851 he drafted a letter of remonstrance, which was never sent from Calcutta, couched in the strongest terms (Mem. pp. 327–9). But latterly he dissented from the high-handed measures of Lord Dalhousie, then governor-general. His strained relations with Dalhousie led Fraser to resign his appointment at Hyderabad in 1852 and return to England. He revisited India more than once afterwards, but held no public appointment. He became lieutenant-general 11 Nov. 1851, and general 2 June 1862. Except the war-medal he received no mark of distinction for his long and distinguished services.

In person Fraser was tall, standing over six feet three inches, and spare-built. A photograph, taken late in life, forms the frontispiece to his son's memoir of him. He was a good rider, a keen sportsman, and a man of some general culture. A tried official, his acts appear to justify the character given of him by his son as ‘a man of scrupulous integrity and unsullied honour, firm and faithful in all trials, and generous to a degree.’ Fraser, who for some time had been totally blind, but otherwise retained all his faculties, died in his eighty-seventh year, at Twickenham Park, 22 Aug. 1869.

[Information furnished by the India Office; Burke's Landed Gentry; Hastings Fraser's Mem. and Corresp. of General J. S. Fraser (Lond. 1885); critical notices of the latter in the Times, 29 Aug. 1885, and in Athenæum, 1885 (i.), 244.]

H. M. C.