Cubbon, Mark (DNB00)

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CUBBON, Sir MARK (1784–1861), commissioner of Mysore, belonged to an old family in the Isle of Man, and came to India as a cadet for the Madras infantry in 1800. He was appointed a lieutenant in the 15th Madras native infantry on 20 July 1801, and was promoted captain on 6 April 1816, soon after which he went on the staff as an assistant commissary-general. He served in this capacity in the Pindári war, and in 1822 he became deputy commissary-general for the Madras Presidency, and was promoted major on 23 Nov. 1823, and lieutenant-colonel on 22 April 1826. In 1831 the people of Mysore broke out into open rebellion against the Hindu Rájá, who had been placed upon the throne by Lord Wellesley after the death of Tippoo Sultán in 1799. The rebellion was suppressed, and a commission was appointed, consisting of Major-general Hawker, Messrs. W. Morison and John Macleod, and Lieutenant-colonel Cubbon, to report upon its causes. Their report showed such a state of gross misgovernment on the part of the rájá that Lord William Bentinck, the governor-general, decided to take over the direct administration of the kingdom, allowing the rájá a palace and an allowance of 1,000l. a year. A board of two commissioners, of which Cubbon, who was promoted colonel by brevet on 18 June 1831, was the junior, was then appointed to govern the kingdom; but the commissioners quarrelled, and June 1834 Cubbon was appointed sole commissioner of Mysore. This post he held for no less than twenty-seven years without intermission, during which, in the words of Mr. Rice (Mysore and Coorg, i. 304), ‘the history of the province under his rule is that of a people made happy by release from serfdom, and of a ruined state restored to financial prosperity.’ Cubbon was not a man of commanding genius, but he was a first-rate administrator, and though he ruled despotically with hardly the slightest control from the government of India, no complaint was ever preferred against him. His system was to rule through native agents, and to maintain in full vigour all native institutions, and his belief in the natives was fully repaid by their confidence in him. He simplified the revenue and judicial systems, encouraged the introduction of coffee planting, and maintained the Amrit Mahal, which had been established by Hyder Ali for the improvement of the breed of cattle. Cubbon, who was never married, was also famous for the profuseness of his hospitality at Bangalore, and for his almost fatherly kindness to his subordinate officers. He was made colonel of the 15th Madras native infantry in 1839, was promoted major-general in 1846, and lieutenant-general in 1852, was made C.B. in Feb. 1856, on the special recommendation of Lord Dalhousie, and K.C.B. next May. He always kept on particularly good terms with the rájá, and it was owing to the opposition of both the rájá and of Cubbon that the scheme to transfer the supervision of the government of Mysore from the supreme government to that of Madras in 1860 fell through. In February 1861 Cubbon resigned his post from ill-health, and prepared to return to England after an absence of sixty-one years. ‘He left Mysore full of honours as well as full of years, and his memory is cherished with affection by the people over whom he ruled so long’ (ib.) He, however, never reached England, for he died at Suez on his way home on 23 April 1861. The Cubbon Park at Bangalore is named after him, and there is also a fine equestrian statue of him in that city, which was one day found painted with the brahmanical marks upon his forehead, a circumstance which gave rise to an amusing poem, ‘The Painting of the Statue,’ in the ‘Lays of Ind’ by Alif Cheem.

[Higginbotham's Men whom India has known; Rice's Mysore and Coorg, 1877, passim; Dodwell and Miles's Indian Army List; East India Registers.]

H. M. S.