Open main menu

Page:Dictionary of National Biography volume 42.djvu/140

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
Oliphant
Oliphant
134

returned to Ceylon. A few months later he came to England with his mother, and at the end of 1851 began to keep terms at Lincoln's Inn. Besides studying law, he took an interest in various labours undertaken by Lord Shaftesbury and others among the London poor. In the spring of 1852 he published an account of his tour in Nepaul, called 'A Journey to Khatmandu.' He resolved to be called to the Scottish as well as the English bar, and began his studies at Edinburgh in the summer of 1852. In August 1852 he started with Mr. Oswald Smith a visit to St. Petersburg, thence to Nijni-Novgorod, and ultimately to the Crimea. He published an account of part of the journey, 'The Russian Shores of the Black Sea in the Autumn of 1852, and a Tour through the Country of the Don Cossacks,' at the end of 1853. The approach of the Crimean war gave special interest to this book, which soon reached a fourth edition. Lord Raglan applied to him for information, and he was engaged to write for the 'Daily News.' While keenly interested in this he received an offer of an appointment from James Bruce, eighth earl of Elgin [q. v.], then governorgeneral of Canada, with whose family Lady Oliphant was intimate. Oliphant acted as secretary to Lord Elgin during the negotiation at Washington of the reciprocity treaty with Canada. The treaty,' floated through on champagne,' was signed in June, and Oliphant then accompanied Lord Elgin to Quebec. There he was soon appointed 'superintendent of Indian affairs,' and made a journey to Lake Superior and back by the Mississippi and Chicago, described soon afterwards in ' Minnesota and the Far West,' 1855. Dancing, travelling, and political business filled up his time agreeably ; but on Lord Elgin's retirement at the end of 1854, he declined offers of an appointment under Sir Edmund Head, Elgin's successor. He came back to England, whither his father had now finally returned. He put forward a plan suggested by his previous journeys, which is described in a pamphlet called 'The Trans-Caucasian Provinces the proper Field of Operation for a Christian Army,' 1855. He succeeded in obtaining from Lord Clarendon a recommendation to Lord Stratford de Redcliffe. He wished to be sent as an envoy to Schamyl, with a view to a diversion against the Russians. His father accompanied him to Constantinople. They found Lord Stratford about to visit the Crimea, and accompanied him thither. Oliphant had a glimpse of the siege of Sebastopol; and, though he could not obtain an authorisation for his scheme, was invited by the Duke of Newcastle to join him on a visit to the Circassian coasts. He sailed at the end of August, and made a short rush into the country. He afterwards joined the force under Omar Pasha, and was present at the battle of the Ingour. The fall of Kars made the expedition fruitless; and after much suffering, and a consequent illness during the retreat, he returned to England at the end of 1855. 'The Trans-Caucasian Campaign . . . under Omer Pasha: a personal narrative,' 1856, describes his experiences. He had been acting as correspondent of the 'Times' during this expedition, and in 1856 he was invited by the editor, Delane, to accompany him on a visit to the United States. He travelled through the Southern States to New Orleans, and there joined the filibuster Walker. His motive, he says, was partly the fun of the thing, and in some degree an offer of confiscated estates if the expedition should succeed. The expedition fell in with H.M.S. Cossack at the mouth of the St. Juan river. Her captain, Cockburn, came on board, declared his determination to prevent a fight, and carried off Oliphant, who had admitted himself to be a British subject. Oliphant was made welcome as a guest on board the Cossack, and, after a few excursions, returned to England. An account of his first trip in the Circassia, and of this adventure, is given in his 'Patriots and Filibusters: Incidents of political and exploratory Travel,' 1860.

In 1857 Oliphant became private secretary to Lord Elgin on his visit to China. He went with Elgin to Calcutta when the outbreak of the mutiny made it necessary to change the destination of the Chinese force. He then accompanied Elgin to Hongkong, was present at the bombardment of Canton, and helped to storm Tientsin. He was employed in several minor missions, and visited Japan with the expedition. He published a 'Narrative of the Earl of Elgin's Mission to China and Japan in the years 1857-8-9' in 1859; translated into French in 1860, with an introductory letter from Guizot. His father, with whom he was always upon the most affectionate terms, had died just before his return. Oliphant was without employment for a time, but in 1860 amused himself by a visit to Italy, where he saw Cavour, and formed a plot with Garibaldi for breaking up the ballot-boxes at Nice on occasion of the vote for annexation to France. He gave his view of the value of a plebiscite in a pamphlet called 'Universal Suffrage and Napoleon the Third,' 1860. Garibaldi's expedition to Sicily broke up the Nice scheme. In 1861 Oliphant travelled in Montenegro and elsewhere, and soon afterwards accepted