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Mr. J. G. Gerard
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NOVEMBER, 1844-APRIL, 1845.
HISTORICAL AND CRITICAL REVIEW.
HAVING already said so much, in this place, for several months past, upon the subject of the late Governor-General of India and his recal, our inclination would lead us to avoid this topic upon the present occasion, and until some further information with reference to it was before the public, which is at present in absolute ignorance of the real cause of Lord Ellenborough's removal. But in reviewing the contents of the last month's mail, it is impossible to abstain from noticing this subject, since it engrosses the Indian newspapers, to the exclusion of others, almost all of them joining, as we observed last month, in one consentient cry of vituperation, which leaves scarcely an act of this nobleman's government uncondemned. Lord Ellenborough may have committed grave political errors,though none can have approached in magnitude the errors of his predecessor ; he may have been guilty of a less pardonable mistake, in forgetting to what authority he was really responsible; but it is impossible that his conduct can have justified the clamorous eagerness of reproach with which every part of it has been assailed. The Indian journals contain criticisms upon the government of Lord Ellenborough which would make us believe that it was a series of false policy, blunders, and absurdities, from the beginning to the end; that every thing he did was wrong, and every thing which he ought to have done was left undone ; that all these errors were peculiarly his own, none of the members of his council being in the smallest degree answerable for them, whilst the few beneAsiat.Journ.N.S.VOL.IV.No.19.
ficial, or rather innocent, measures of his administration are to be ascribed to others. The
statement raises a suspicion of exaggeration on the part of this noble personage's accusers ; it is repugnant to probability and experience; the more so, when we recollect that the recal of the person thus represented to have been floundering in blunders and eccentricities, putting to hazard our empire in India, and sowing mutiny in the native army, was strenuously resisted by the Queen's Government at home, and was declared by one member of it, whose knowledge of India, as well as his statesmanlike qualities, entitles him to the highest respect, to be an act of
indiscretion. It is not our custom to suspect secret motives in those whose actions are open to observation, much less to attribute them ; but where accusations are made against an individual placed in an arduous station, which are not proved, which are improbable in themselves, and which are negatived by very high testimony, it is difficult to refrain from surmising that there is some occult reason of his being visited with so much indiscriminate censure. A writer in the Agra Ukhbar has attributed the attacks of the Indian press to the denial by his lordship of certain indulgences granted by his predecessor. His words are:-“On his assuming the government, he did not continue to the gentlemen of the press the same indulgence which they enjoyed under his predecessor ; he would not, in fact, tell them what he intended to do, or give them an outline of the proposed measures of his Government: from that hour they hated him, and viewed his conduct with the jaundiced eye of malevolence.” The fact of the cessation of certain indulgences turns out to be true, for it appears that Lord Auckland did send brief abstracts of intelligence received by Government to all the papers, and that Lord Ellenborough discontinued this practice. But the inference is another matter: we cannot suppose, because his lordship thought it inexpedient and unjust that the head of the Government should itself violate the orders of the Court of Directors, to disconnect the Government from the press, that he would be made an object of malicious attack. The facility with which official information is obtained by the journals of India made the suspension of the authorized communications a matter of little moment. Indeed, this fact is avowed: the Friend of India says of Lord Ellenborough :
We set down his dislike of the press to this feeling of contempt for the sentiments of others, rather than to any resentment for its opposition to his views; and we regard it among his minor failings for with the hostility which the Court of Directors are known to feel towards the liberty of the press, he might at any time have conciliated them by gagging it. His lordship's attempts to deprive the press of its influence, by forbidding the communication of all correct intelligence, by those who alone possessed it, was a manifest error. No one can object to the orders issued to the officers of the army to keep the report of military movements as under the seal of confession; for though secrecy is one of the elements of success in the art of war, yet so ill had it been preserved, that General England's route was openly published in the papers before he undertook it; but the subsequent notification, which forbade the communication of any information of which a public officer had become possessed from his official station, produced an injurious effect on the interests of society, and not less of Government. This order has kept nothing, and will keep nothing, from the press, which it has an interest in obtaining. Indeed, some of the most important documents which have ever been published, have appeared since the promulgation of the order, and Government wonders how we came by them.
Another, and much more probable, source of the severe treatment of the late Governor-General is his open, avowed disregard of claims founded solely upon interest, and his resolute perseverance in the course of choosing candidates for office not upon the ground of who they were, but what they were. In the course of time, the success of such a new policy must have been apparent; but in the meanwhile it would generate a secret, but extensive, discontent, that would circulate amongst the most powerful classes. That Lord Ellenborough did act upon this principle, without reserve, we have the confession of, perhaps, his bitterest censor, the Friend of India, which has been just to him upon
this point :In the distribution of the patronage which was still reserved to the office of governor-general (says that Journal), Lord Ellenborough has been guided, in every instance that we have heard of, by a conscientious regard to the public interests. In many cases he has sought out and rewarded modest merit; in every instance he has acted to the best of his knowledge and judgment in bestowing office on the most meritorious. No man during his administration has had reason to pride himself on his “interest ;” on the contrary, it has been considered—perhaps to some excess—as a disqualification. He has rejected all recommendations, though given by near connections. There have been cases in which those for whom the warmest family interest was made from home, have been indignantly rejected, while the connections of political opponents, who were found worthy, have been appointed to vacancies. And those whom his lordship has once taken under his patronage he has seldom been known to desert.
If such be (as we believe it) a true representation of the course which Lord Ellenborough has pursued, no man who knows what the