Adam, John (DNB00)

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ADAM, JOHN (1779–1825), Anglo-Indian statesman, was eldest son of William Adam [see Adam, William, 1751–1839]. He was born on 4 May 1779; was educated at the Charterhouse; received a writership on the Bengal establishment in 1794; and, after a year at Edinburgh University, landed at Calcutta in 1796. The greater part of his career was spent in the secretariat. He was private as well as political secretary to the Marquis of Hastings, whom he accompanied in the field during the Pindari or third Mahratta war. In 1817 he was nominated by the court of directors member of council; and as senior member of council he became acting governor-general of India on Lord Hastings's departure in January 1823. His rule lasted for seven months, until the arrival of Lord Amherst in August of the same year. It is memorable in history chiefly for one incident — the suppression of the freedom of the English press in India. James Silk Buckingham, afterwards M.P. and founder of the ‘Athenæum,’ had established the ‘Calcutta Journal,’ which published severe comments upon the government. Adam cancelled Buckingham's license, without which no European could then reside in India, and passed regulations restricting newspaper criticism. Buckingham appealed to the court of proprietors at home, to the House of Commons, and to the Privy Council; but the action of Adam was sustained by each of these three bodies. Another unpopular act of Adam's governor-generalship was to withdraw official support from the banking firm of Palmer, who had acquired a preponderant influence with the Nizam of the Deccan. Adam also deserves credit for being the first Indian ruler to appropriate a grant of public money for the encouragement of native education. Adam's health had now broken down. After in vain seeking relief by a voyage to Bombay, and by a visit to Almorah in the lower Himalayas, he was ordered home to England. He died off Madagascar on 4 June 1825. Though some of his public acts involved him in unpopularity, his personal character had won him almost universal goodwill. His portrait was painted by G. Chinnery for the Calcutta Town Hall.

[A full account of John Adam is given in the memoir in the Asiatic Journal for November 1825. There is also in the library of the India Office, bound up in a volume of tracts, A Short Notice of the Official Career and Private Character of the late J. Adam, Esq. (Calcutta: privately printed, 1825). This is a pamphlet of 16 pages, written by C. Lushington, evidently an intimate friend; but it is sadly deficient in facts, the Buckingham incident being not even referred to.]

J. S. C.