Page:Dictionary of National Biography volume 32.djvu/277

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Lawrence
Lawrence
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there would involve the loss for the time being of the whole of northern India. By the month of August 1867, however, the tide had turned in Bengal, and with the fall of Delhi the ultimate suppression of the mutiny became certain. To none more than to Sir John Lawrence does the credit of this issue belong. Lord Canning's minute says of him: 'Through him Delhi fell, and the Punjaub, no longer a weakness, became a source of strength. But for him the hold of England over Upper India would have had to be recovered at a cost of English blood and treasure which defies calculation. It is difficult to exaggerate the value of such ability, vigilance, and energy, at such a time.'

When the issue of the sepoy war was no longer in doubt, Sir John Lawrence, ruthlessly severe when he thought it possible to prevent bloodshed by making a timely and terrible example, exerted his influence on the side of moderation and clemency in punishing the mutineers. He endeavoured to check the continued general looting and the high-handed proceedings of the prize-agents in the Delhi district. For this purpose, as soon as he could leave the Punjaub, he visited Delhi in person, and urged upon all the higher authorities, from the president of the board of control downwards, not by indiscriminate vengeance to drive the insurgents to a despairing resistance, which the number of the European troops, wasting under the summer sun, would be inadequate to overcome. Colonel Herbert Edwardes and the evangelical party in India now put forward a demand that all 'unchristian elements' should be eliminated from the administration of India. Lawrence, whose piety and policy alike desired the spread of Christianity in India, advocated merely the introduction of non-obligatory biblical teaching into higher schools and colleges, where Christian teachers would be available; but he opposed the resumption in toto of all public grants in aid of native religious bodies, the disallowance of native holy days in public offices, and the abandonment of Hindu and Mohammedan civil codes as laws to be administered by British courts.

At length the rest which the state of his health had for some time past imperatively demanded became possible to him. It was time. 'With the exception.' he wrote, 'of the month when I went to Calcutta early in 1856 to bid Lord Dalhousie good-bye, I have not had a day's rest for nearly sixteen years.' He was threatened with congestion of the brain and racked by neuralgia, and he found himself half-blind. His doctors feared an attack of paralysis. On 28 Feb. 1869 he handed over the government of the Punjaub to Montgomery, and, travelling by the Indus and Kurrachi to Bombay, reached England after an absence of seventeen years. His services had been rewarded in October with the grand cross of the Bath, and in the spring and autumn of 1858 he received the freedom of the city of London, was created a baronet, and sworn of the privy council. When the order of the Star of India was created, he was one of the first knights, and he was also appointed to a seat on the new Indian council; but the peerage for which Sir Frederick Currie, chairman of the board of directors, recommended him was not granted. He became a popular hero. The dying East India Company voted him an annuity of 2,000l. a year from the date of his retirement; the universities of Oxford and Cambridge admitted him to their honorary degrees. He was presented with addresses and solicited to take part in public meetings; but to him pomp and ostentation were hateful, and he withdrew from London society to the quiet of his family at the earliest possible moment. His work at the India office occupied without overtaxing him, and early in February 1861 he retired to a country life at Southgate House, near London, visiting London daily in connection with his official duties. These were not altogether congenial. To be a member of a board seemed to him work in fetters, and he felt that the members of the council had no real power. Still, when the governorship of Bombay was offered to him early in 1860, he refused it, although even then he was so weary of English life and its conventions that he even thought of emigrating. On the death of Lord Elgin he received, and at once accepted, the offer of the viceroyalty of India. With one exception, no Indian civilian since Warren Hastings had permanently held the post, but the occurrence of a threatening border war on the north-west frontier decided Lord Palmerston to depart from the unwritten rule. The appointment was made on 30 Nov. 1863; in ten days he was on his way to Calcutta.

The term of his viceroyalty, though a period of prosperity for India, was not big with great events, or marked by sweeping reforms. Sanitation, both military and municipal, irrigation, railway extension, and peace, were his chief aims. He landed on 12 Jan. 1864, and at once set to work to overtake Lord Elgin's arrears. But he was soon the mark for hostile criticism and even calumny. His prompt and unsparing reform of the financial abuses and the extravagance of Government House provoked a malevolent outcry in Calcutta. He was charged