Page:Dictionary of National Biography volume 32.djvu/278

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Lawrence
Lawrence
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with niggardliness and meanness; he was accused of attempting to 'Punjaubise' the whole of India. At an early date he decided to remove to Simla, not only personally, but with the whole of the principal government officials, during the hot months, a change which he considered better than the removal of the seat of government itself from Calcutta. He found his administration hampered by financial difficulties. The revenue was stationary, but the expenditure was steadily and inevitably increasing. His whole term of office showed a net deficit of 2,500,000l. The commander-in-chief Sir Hugh Rose, Sir Robert Napier, and Sir Bartle Frere, governor of Bombay, were all pressing for new outlay and new works, and between them and the viceroy there was perpetual friction. It became necessary to unertake a war in Bhotan. The commercial crisis which culminated in the failures of the Agra and the Bombay banks, and the Orissa famine, in which a million persons, 26 per cent, of the population, perished, added to the perplexities of the viceroy. In the case of the famine, there was certainly gross official neglect, but it was unjustly charged against Sir John personally, for the blame of supineness and ignorance lay with his subordinates ; and when the facts were brought to his knowledge, he recognised the need of prompt action, and took it with his usual energy. Partly to prevent such famines in future, he urged upon the home government, and at lengtn was. permitted to begin, a vast and comprehensive system of irrigating canals in the different parts of India. Bail ways were also steadily extended, and for these great works of material improvement the viceroy did not hesitate to raise the necessary funds by loans. He pressed forward sanitary improvements, in towns, in barracks, and in gaols. He created the Indian forests department, and reorganised the native judicial service. But the most salient features of his term of office were the settlement of the disputes between the talukhdars and the ryots of Oudh, and his north-western frontier policy. For the former task his own wide experience as a settlement officer and collector, and his lifelong sympathy with the poor cultivators of India, peculiarly fitted him, and upon the whole the system which he established was equitable to both parties. His frontier policy, based on his own knowledge of the frontier provinces and their inhabitants, was one of cautious maintenance of the status quo. To stand on the defensive, to wait and watch, to make the peoples within our frontier prosperous and contented, and to leave the peoples beyond it independent without interference, was in his opinion the only safe way of meeting the advance of Russia in Central Asia. When Dost Mahommed died in 1868, turbuleace and disorder at once broke out in Afghanistan, and numerous claimants to the succession appeared. In spite of much pressure from advocates of a forward policy, Sir John Lawrence strictly abstained from any interference among them. He did indeed recognise Sheer Ali as ameer, but not until he had established his title by defeating his rivals and gaining possession of Cabul. Sensitive — perhaps unduly so — to public criticism, he requested John William ohaw Wyllie to write a defence of his foreign policy, and the best account of Lawrence's views on this subject and their grounds is contained in Wyllie's essays on 'The Foreign Policy of Lord Lawrence' (Edinburgh Review, 1867) ; 'Masterly Inactivity' (Fortnightly Review, December 1869) ; and 'Mischievous Activity' (ib. March 1870), republished by W. Hunter in 1875.

In deference to the wishes of the secretary of state for India, he retained his office for a fifth year ; but at last, on 12 Jan. 1869, he handed over the government of India to his successor, Lord Mayo, and returned at once to England. He was raised to the peerage under the title of Baron Lawrence of the Punjaub and of Grately, a small estate on Salisbury Plain left him by his sister, Mrs. Hayes, and his pension of 2,000/. a year was extended for the life of his successor in the peerage. His maiden speech was made in the House of Lords on 19 April, and until his death he continued to take part, not without hesitation — for he was not naturally an orator — in debates upon Indian subjects. He voted in general with the liberal party, though in no way a party man. At the first election for the London school board he was elected for the Chelsea district, in which he lived at 26 Queen's Gate, and became early chairman of the board. This office he held for three years, and only resigned it, with his membership of the board, owing to failing health. He threw himself into the laborious and difficult work connected with the early operations of the board, mastered the whole of the details, and rendered to the board in its infancy invaluable services. He also found constant occupation as a director of the North British Insurance Company, as a member of the council of Guy's Hospital, of the Church Missionary Society, and of various charitable societies, and as president of the commission of inquiry into the loss of the troopship Megsera. About 1876 his eyesight, weakened in early childhood by an attack of ophthalmia, and long steadily failing, became