Page:Dictionary of National Biography volume 32.djvu/276

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Lawrence
Lawrence
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the application of the British subsidy. The articles of agreement were signed on 26 Jan. 1857. He returned to Lahore at the end of March, and, apprehending the outbreak of the mutiny as little as other Indian officials, had actually applied for leave of absence to travel in Kasnmir for the restoration of his much-impaired health, when Lord Canning warned him that he might soon be urgently needed at his post. Early in May he visited Sealkote, one of the depôts for instruction in the use of the new Enfield rifle and the new greased cartridges, and was unable to perceive any grave signs of discontent. He wrote to Lord Canning that the sepoys were well pleased with the weapon. This was on 4 May. On 10 May the sepoys mutinied at Meerut.

The order into which Lawrence's long administration of the Punjaub had reduced that province, the trust which he inspired in its inhabitants, the intimate knowledge of them which he himself possessed, his own courage, resolution, and military talents, enabled him to make of the recently conquered kingdom of the Sikhs the base from which to reconquer the ancient capital of the Mogul. Cut off by the mutiny from any but the most tedious and uncertain communication with his only superior, the governor-general, he was virtually supreme in his province, and did not hesitate to assume the responsibility of action. He lavished money, he contracted loans, he moved troops, he enrolled levies, he put men to death, and he saved men alive. The security of the Punjaub, which enabled him to pour all its resources down upon Delhi, was at that moment of priceless value to India, and his efforts were supported, and his plans carried out, by that band of remarkable officers, chosen and trained by himself, who were known to all India as the men of the 'Punjaub school.' In the absence of Lawrence at Rawul Pindi, Robert Montgomery, the judicial commissioner, was in charge of 'Lahore. Upon receipt of the news of the capture of Delhi by the Meerut mutineers, he urged on General Corbett, the officer in command, the disarmament of the sepoy regiments in the cantonments of Mean Meer. Corbett with wise temerity took his advice, and the bold step — for it was kill or cure — saved the Punjaub. From Rawul Pindi Lawrence grappled with the crisis with equal Eromptitude, and not content with holding is own province and preparing to embody Sikh irregulars, he hurried the guides and other troops down country towards Delhi, volunteered advice to the commander-in-chief with regard to strategic movements, and even urged the governor-general to intercept the China expeditionary force. Civilian though he was by training, he was a born soldier; his advice was of the best, and Anson and Canning forgave this unconventional defiance of all official etiquette. To consolidate the scattered European forces, and tostrike with them immediately, was the substance of his policy. When Sir Henry Barnard's force had occupied the ridge overlooking Delhi, Lawrence kept it supplied with transports and stores, and raised, though sparingly and with caution, new native levies in his own province to replace or to reinforce the troops sent forward to Delhi. It is true that he was served by an admirable and devoted body of subordinates, and that his function was more to harmonise and consolidate their efforts than to execute, or even originate, plans himself. Yet it is the opinion of the persons best qualified to judge that 'it was he, and none of nis subordinates, who can be said to have saved the Punjaub.' It was also the support which he was actually able to give, and still more the confidence which his administration of the Punjaub as the base of supply for the Delhi field force inspired, that enabled the small army before Delhi for months to hold its own upon the ridge above the city. So close were his relations with the force and its commanders that he may almost be said to have directed its operations. At the same time, the task of preventing mutiny in the Punjaub grew more and more difficult as weeks passed and Delhi did not fall, and the danger was increased by the fact that the different stations had been almost stripped of European troops for the sake of the operations at Delhi, and the formation of the Punjaub movable column. He disarmed the sepoys at Rawul Pindi at the most imminent personal risk, and conflicts took place at Jhelum and Sealkote before the native regulars could be disarmed or destroyed. In the event of defeat at Delhi, he knew that all the native regiments, and probably the whole population of the Punjaub, would rise. Always sceptical of the value of Peshawur, and deliberately preferring the Indus as a frontier, he proposed in that event to hand over Peshawur to the care of the ameer of Cabul, to concentrate a sufficient force on Attock, and to send to the assistance of the Delhi field force the greater part of the troops thus liberated on the frontier. Their knowledge of this plan, and the daily draining away to Delhi of nearly all the resources of the Punjaub, including at last the movable column, elicited no little protest from his subordinates. Lawrence nevertheless held firmly to his belief that Delhi was the critical point, and that defeat