Dorin, Joseph Alexander (DNB00)

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DORIN, JOSEPH ALEXANDER (1802–1872), Indian official, born at Edmonton, 15 Sept. 1802, was the son of a London merchant of French descent. He was educated at Henley, and obtained a nomination to the Bengal branch of the East India Company's service, of which his elder brother, William, was already a member. He left Haileybury with a high reputation as first prizeman of his year, and on his arrival in India in 1821 was made assistant to the accountant-general, and continued during the whole of his Indian career attached to the financial branch of the service. In 1829, being then secretary to the Bank of Bengal, his suspicions were excited by peculiarities in certain government promissory notes, on which the official signature of the secretary to government was so perfectly imitated that the authorities, upon the notes being referred to them as a precaution, pronounced them genuine. Dorin passed them, but adopted similar precautions in other instances; and when at length the notes proved to be forgeries to the amount of seven lacs of rupees the bank claimed to be indemnified, but without success. Many believed that the signatures were genuine, and had been surreptitiously obtained by presenting the papers amid a mass of other documents requiring to be signed. Dorin was subsequently deputy accountant-general, and on his return from furlough in 1842 was entrusted by Lord Ellen- borough with the reorganisation of Indian finance. He became the first financial secretary under the new arrangements, January 1843. Lord Ellenborough speaks of his sanguine views, which, however, were borne out; and Colonel Durand eulogises him as the only man except Thomason who was up to the mark in the preparations for the Sikh war. In 1853 Dorin became a member of Lord Dalhousie's council, and signalised his entrance upon office by effecting the long-desired reduction in the rate of interest on the Indian debt. Unfortunately in 1855 various adverse circumstances, among which the government's want of foresight must be enumerated, rendered it necessary to contract a new loan at the old rate, nominally for public works, but in reality to replenish the exhausted treasury. This occasioned a severe fall in Indian securities, and brought much obloquy upon the administration. Dorin was then, in the absence of Lord Dalhousie, president of council, and nominal head of the government, whose most influential member, however, was Mr. (now Sir) John Peter Grant. As president he had to take the lead in advising on the Oude question, and the course he advocated, that of simple annexation, though different from that recommended by Dalhousie, was approved by the directors. He continued an active member of government under Lord Canning, and shares the blame attaching to it for failing at first to recognise the true character of the Indian mutiny. He arrived at a sound conclusion, however, sooner than the rest, and on 11 May recorded his opinion that the most vigorous measures must be taken, and offenders punished with the utmost severity of military law. His colleagues dissented, but the ink of their dissents was hardly dry ere the news from Meerut fully justified Dorin. He shared in the general unpopularity of Lord Canning's administration at the time, was assailed in the notorious ‘Red Pamphlet,’ and defended with spirit by Mr. Charles Allen. As senior member of council it devolved upon him to second Lord Canning's act for ‘gagging’ the Indian press, and to introduce an equally unpopular Arms Bill. He officiated again as president in council during Lord Canning's absence in the upper provinces until the expiry of his own term of office in May 1858. Lord Ellenborough had meanwhile proposed him as a member of the council of India, but had lost his own seat in the cabinet through his ill-advised despatch to Lord Canning on the question of the Oude talukdars, and Dorin's name did not appear in the list framed by his successor, Lord Stanley. At a subsequent date Dorin was again proposed, but circumstances were still unpropitious, and he spent the rest of his life in retirement, dying at St. Lawrence, Isle of Wight, 22 Dec. 1872. As member of council Dorin was noted for liberal hospitality. Another peculiarity can scarcely have conduced to his general efficiency; his service having been exclusively in the financial branch, he had never been employed out of Calcutta, and ‘had the credit of never having been beyond sixteen miles from Calcutta, and then only on a visit to the governor-general at his country seat at Barrackpore.’ He did, however, visit China. The character given of him in Kaye's ‘History of the Sepoy Revolt’ is obviously unjust; a financial secretary of ten years' standing does not become a member of the supreme government by mere chance; and the accusation of undue subserviency to Lord Dalhousie is refuted by his minutes. He was undoubtedly a warm supporter of Dalhousie's policy in general, and was highly esteemed by that excellent judge of men. Mr. Mead, an unfriendly witness, allows that Dorin was ‘versed in statistics and skilful in the use of figures,’ and his official papers, if somewhat blunt and negligent in style, generally exhibit strong common sense.

[Sir John Kaye's Hist. of the Sepoy Revolt, vol. i.; Holmes's Hist. of the Indian Mutiny; Mead's Sepoy Revolt; Buckland's Sketches of Social Life in India; Cooke's Rise, Progress, and Present Condition of Banking in India.]

R. G.