Mackenzie, Alexander (DNB12)

MACKENZIE, Sir ALEXANDER (1842–1902), lieutenant-governor of Bengal, born at Dumfries on 28 June 1842, was eldest son of the eleven children of John Robertson Mackenzie, D.D. (1811-1877), minister of the established church at Dumfries till the disruption, then minister of Free St. Mary's church there, minister at Birmingham (1847-74), and sometime moderator of the English presbyterian synod. His mother was Alexandrina, fourth daughter of James Christie, M.D., of Huntly. At King Edward VI's school, Birmingham, he passed through all the classes and became head boy on the classical side. Entering Trinity Hall, Cambridge, with a founder's exhibition in 1859, he did well in the college examinations, but declined to compete in the classical tripos, owing to his inability to subscribe to the Anglican test for a fellowship. In the Indian civil service examination of July 1861 he came out second to (Sir) James Westland [q. v. Suppl. II].

Arriving in India on 11 Dec. 1862, he served in Bengal as assistant magistrate and collector, and from February 1866 as under secretary and junior secretary to the local government. Here he had charge of the political correspondence of the province, which then included Assam, and at the request of Sir William Grey [q. v.] he wrote a 'Memorandum on the North-East Frontier of Bengal' (Calcutta, 1869), which he subsequently brought up to date in his 'History of the Relations of Government with the Hill Tribes of the North-East Frontier of Bengal' (Calcutta, 1884). A standard authority, the work is singularly candid, and drew some protest from the government of India (Foreign Depart. Letter, Simla, 23 May 1884).

Placed on special duty in December 1873 in connection with the Bengal-Behar famine, he injured his eyesight by his application, and took long furlough home (May 1874 to November 1875). On return he served as secretary to the board of revenue; magistrate and collector of Murshidabad from April 1876; again secretary to the board from March 1877; financial secretary to the Bengal government from October 1877 ; and, ooncurrently, from January 1879, member of the lieut.-governor's legislature. Appointed home secretary to the government of India in April 1882, he earnestly identified himself with the plans of Lord Ripon [q. v. Suppl. II] for the extension of local self-government and for the encouragement of capital and private enterprise in the country. He had a large share in shaping the Bengal Tenancy Act and Rent Law of 1885. Made a C.S.I, in May 1886, he went to the Central Provinces as chief commissioner in March 1887, but his programme of reform was hampered by disagreement with the military members of the provincial commission. In December 1890 he was transferred to Burma as chief commissioner, and was created a K.C.S.I. in January. Mackenzie suppressed the predatory raids of the hill tribes who were still disturbing the peace by sending out some seventeen or eighteen compact expeditions of military police. By 1892 he reported complete tranquillity and proposed substantial reductions in the number of military police. He was home on leave for two years from May 1892, and his actual service in Burma was short. In April 1895 he joined the government of India as temporary member, and in December he became lieutenant-governor of Bengal in succession to Sir Charles Elliott [q. v. Suppl. II]. His connection with Lord Ripon assured him a welcome from the native press ; but the Bengalis disliked a sanitary survey of Calcutta which he ordered and questioned his view of the need for amending the Calcutta Municipal Act (cf. Speech, 26 Nov. 1896) by substantially qualifying the authority of the existing elected and nominated commissioners of the municipality. His amending bill provided for three co-ordinate municipal authorities, for the adequate representation of the European commercial community, and for reform of the building regulations. The bill finally passed in 1899, after Mackenzie's retirement ; it reduced the number of elected representatives, and, though the Bombay model was largely followed, it was held to infringe just principles of local self-government. Mackenzie's object, however, was to remedy the insanitary condition of the then Indian capital. Meanwhile he sought to protect Bengal from the financial encroachments of the government of India, likening the province to a lamb thrown on its back and close sheared for the benefit of the central administration. By an Act passed in 1896 he enlarged the powers of municipalities outside the capital He co-operated with the Assam admmistration in the successful completion of the south Lushai expedition in 1896-6 ; and he hastened the progress of the important land settlement operations which his predecessor had inaugurated in Behar and Orissa [cf. Elliott, Sir Charles Alfred, Suppl. II]. Other of his agrarian measures were the amendment of the Bengal Tenancy, 1885, and the Partition of Estates, 1876, Acts.

In dealing efficiently with the severe famine of 1896-7 Mackenzie, owing to ill-health, exercised little personal supervision in the field, but he directed the policy, and the economical results were due to him. The invasion of plague was a greater difficulty. The guidance of experience was wanting, and frequent changes of plan were ordered from headquarters ; but his arrangements kept the disease out of Bengal until April 1898, nearly two years after its appearance in Bombay (cf. Buckland's Bengal under the Lieutenant-Governors). At the same time the severe earthquake of 12 June 1897 did serious damage in Calcutta and in many parts of the province. Mackenzie's health broke down under the varied strains, and on 23 June 1897 he left for six months' leave. He returned at the end of the year, but resigned in April 1898. In none of the three provinces which he ruled was Mackenzie's work completed, and his high promise was not fulfilled. He was 'stronger in office work and on paper than in active administration' (Pioneer Mail, 26 April 1912). But he was unquestionably 'one of the ablest men of his time in India' (Sir Charles Crosthwaite's Pacification of Burma, 1912). A rapid worker, candid in speech, he was a strict and none too sympathetic chief, but no one in real trouble or want went to him in vain.

Returning to England, he became a director of several companies ; spoke on missionary platforms, and took an active part in the work of the Marylebone presbyterian church. Towards the close of 1901 he was adopted as one of the liberal candidates for Plymouth, but in October 1902 ill-health compelled his withdrawal. He died at his residence, Radnor, Holmbury St. Mary, Surrey, on 10 Nov. 1902, and was buried at Ewhurst church, where a marble tomb has been erected.

He married (1) in 1863 Georgina Louisa (d. 1892), youngest daughter of Colonel W. Bremner of the Madras army, niece of Patrick Robertson [q. v.], lord of session ; (2) in August 1893 Mabel Elizabeth, third and youngest daughter of Ralph Elliot, eldest son of Sir George Elliot, first baronet, M.P., by whom he had a son (d. while at Eton College, June 1910) and a daughter: she survived him and married secondly the Hon. Noel Farrer, second son of the first Baron Farrer [q. v.].

[Mackenzie's N.E. Frontier of Bengal; C. E. Buckland's Bengal under the Lieut.-Governors, 1902; L. G. Fraser's India under Curzon and After, 1911; J. Nisbet's Burma under Brit. Rule and Before, 1901; Birmingham Daily Post, 5 March 1877 and 11 Nov. 1902; The Times, 11 Nov. 1902; Western Mercury, Calcutta Statesman, 12 Nov. 1902; Indian Daily News, Hindu Patriot, 13 Nov. 1902; Indian Mirror, 14 Nov. 1902; Presbyterian, 20 Nov. 1902; Pioneer Mail, 21 Nov. 1902 and 26 April 1912; information kindly given by the Hon. Mrs. Farrer.]

F. H. B.