portrait was painted by Allan and engraved by R. Cooper.
[Tyler's Life of Lord Kames. i. 31; Brunton and Haig's Senators of the College of Justice, p. 493; Grant's Old and New Edinburgh, i. 161.]
PRINSEP, HENRY THOBY (1792–1878), Indian civil servant, was the fourth son of John Prinsep, The latter, having gone out to India as a military cadet during the period which intervened between the retirement of Clive from, and the appointment of Warren Hastings to, the government of Bengal, had resigned the military service and made a considerable fortune in trade. He trafficked chiefly in indigo, of which industry he may be regarded as the founder, and introduced into Bengal the printing of cotton fabrics. He returned to England in 1788 and settled at Thoby Priory in Essex; he was M.P. for Queenborough, 1802-6, and an alderman of the city of London. He published in 1789 'A Review of the Trade of the East India Company,' London, 8vo, and this was followed by pamphlets upon the cultivation of the sugar-cane in Bengal and upon other East Indian topics (cf. Watt, Bibl. Brit.) In his later life, after considerable losses in trade, his city influence procured his appointment as bailiff to the court of the borough of Southwark, with a salary of 1,500l. a year (cf. Pantheon of the Age, 1825, ii. 187). He married, while in India a sister of James Peter Auriol, secretary to the government of Warren Hastings.
His son, Henry Thoby, was born at Thoby Priory on 15 July 1793; he commenced his education under a private tutor, and at the age of thirteen joined Mr. Knox's school at Tunbridge, where he was at once placed in the sixth form. In 1807, having obtained a writership to Bengal, he entered the East India College, then recently established at Hertford Castle, and, leaving the college in December 1808, arrived at Calcutta on 20 July 1809, at the age of sixteen. After passing two years in Calcutta, first as a student in Writers' Buildings, where he was much thrown with Holt Mackenzie, and afterwards as an assistant in the office of the court of Sadr Adálat, be was sent to Murshidábad, where he was employed as assistant to the magistrate, and also as registrar, a judicial office for the disposal of petty suits. After serving in the Jungle Mehuls and in Bákarganj (Backirgunge), Prinsep was appointed, in 1814, to a subordinate office in the secretariat, and in that capacity became a member of the suite of the governor-general, Lord Moira (afterwards Marquis of Hastings), whom he accompanied in his tour through Oudh and the North-Western Provinces. He was subsequently the first holder of the office of superintendent and remembrancer of legal affairs—an office established for the protection of the interests of the government in the courts in the provinces. His tenure of the post was interrupted by summonses to join the governor-general's camp during Lord Hastings's more prolonged tours, which embraced the period of the Nepal and Pindári wars, and of the third war with the Mahrattas. In the two latter the governor-general, who was also commander-in-chief, exercised the chief command. At the close of the Mahratta war, Prinsep obtained the permission of the governor-general to write 'A History of the Political and Military Transactions in India during the Administration of the Marquis of Hastings,' i.e. from October 1813 to January 1823. Prinsep sent the completed manuscript to his elder brother, Charles Robert Prinsep [see below]. A letter to Canning, president of the board of control, from Lord Hastings, recommended that the publication of the work should be sanctioned. Canning, without reading the manuscript, prohibited the publication. Charles Prinsep, however, decided to publish on his own responsibility, and placed the manuscript in the hands of John Murray, who brought out the book in 1823. The proofs were sent to the board of control, where they were seen by Canning, who, on reading them, approved of the work, and evinced no displeasure at the violation of his prohibition. The book is generally considered to be the best and most trustworthy narrative of the events of that time. The original edition (1 vol. 4to) was revised and republished in two octavo volumes, when the author was in England on leave, in 1824.
In 1819 and 1820, while still holding, as his permanent appointment, the office of superintendent and remembrancer of legal affairs, Prinsep was employed upon more than one special inquiry. The most important was an investigation into the condition of the land tenures in the district of Bardwán and the adjoining country. The principal landowner in these districts was, and is, the raja of Bardwán, who paid over forty lakhe of rupees, representing in Prinsep's time over 400,000l. sterling, as annual revenue to the government. The raja had introduced the system of letting his estates in large blocks, called patni taluks, to tenants who were called patnidárs, on payment of large sums of money as bonus: these again sublet them to undertenants called darpatnidárs, by whom they were again further sub-