Fullarton, William (DNB00)

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FULLARTON, WILLIAM (1754–1808), commissioner for the government of Trinidad, only son of William Fullarton of Fullarton, a wealthy Ayrshire gentleman, was born in 1754, and after spending some time at the Edinburgh University was sent to travel on the continent with Patrick Brydone [q. v.], at one time the travelling tutor of William Beckford, and visited Sicily and Malta. Fullarton was at first intended for the diplomatic service, and was attached as secretary to Lord Stormont's embassy in Paris; but on his accession to the family estates he came to England and secured his election to parliament for the borough of Plympton in 1779. In the following year he did not seek re-election, for he had combined a plan of operations which the government did not hesitate to accept. This plan was that he and his most intimate friend, Thomas Humberstone Mackenzie, de jure Earl of Seaforth, should each raise and equip a regiment on their Scotch estates at their own expense, which should be transported in government ships towards the coast of Mexico, in order to wait for and capture the Acapulco fleet. The regiments were accordingly raised, and Fullarton was gazetted lieutenant-colonel-commandant of the 98th regiment on 29 May 1780. The outbreak of the war with Holland changed the destination of these regiments, which were then ordered to form part of the expedition against the Cape of Good Hope under the command of Commodore Johnstone and General (afterwards Sir William) Medows. This plan also came to nothing, owing to the arrival of the French admiral, the Bailli de Suffren, at the Cape before the English expedition. The regiments then went on to India, to take their part in the second Mysore war against Haidar Ali. Mackenzie's regiment disembarked at Calicut, to make a diversion by invading Mysore from the Malabar coast, while Fullarton's went round to Madras. He remained in the neighbourhood of the capital of the presidency until after the battle of Porto Novo, when he was sent south in command of the king's troops, in order if possible to attract the Mysore troops away from the Carnatic. In June 1782 Fullarton was gazetted a colonel in the army for the East Indies, with Sir Robert Barker, Norman Macleod, John Floyd, and many others, in order to put an end to the perpetual disputes between the king's and the company's officers, and he co-operated in the winter campaign of 1782–3 in the suppression of the Kollars, or wild fighting tribes of Madura, and in the capture of Karur and Dindigal. In May 1783 he succeeded to the general command of all the troops south of the Coleroon, and on 2 June he took Dharapuram. He then advanced towards General James Stuart, who was besieging Cuddalore. On the news of the fall of that city he determined to attack Pálghát, which had resisted all the efforts of his old friend Mackenzie in the previous year. He had to hew his way with great difficulty through a dense forest (see The East India Military Calendar, i. 433), and when he got through it he had to storm the city. When there he heard that Tippoo Sultan, who had succeeded Haidar Ali on the throne, was not fulfilling the terms agreed to at the surrender of Mangalore [see {{sc|Campbell, John, (1753–1784)], and Fullarton accordingly followed up his success by the capture of the important fortress of Coimbatore. At this time he was imperatively ordered to cease all hostilities by the pusillanimous government of Madras, and a sort of peace was patched up between the company and Tippoo Sahib. Throughout the campaign Fullarton had shown abilities of a high order, and Mill praises him as the first Anglo-Indian commander who looked after his commissariat, and organised a system for obtaining intelligence of the enemy's strength and whereabouts. At the conclusion of peace Fullarton returned to England, and in 1787 he published ‘A View of the English Interests in India,’ in the shape of a letter to Lord Mansfield. Another published letter to Lord Macartney and the select committee of Fort St. George contains a compte rendu of his operations in the south of India. He then settled down to a country life, and married Marianne Mackay, daughter of George, fifth lord Reay. He took a great interest in agricultural questions, and published two interesting memoirs on the state of agriculture in Ayrshire and the advantages of pasture land, and he was elected a fellow of the Royal Societies of London and Edinburgh. He never again saw service, but showed his interest in military matters by raising the 23rd, or Fullarton's dragoons, in 1794, and the 101st, or Fullarton's foot, in 1800, both of which regiments were reduced at the peace of Amiens in 1802. He continued his parliamentary career, but never particularly distinguished himself as an orator or man of business, and sat for the Haddington burghs from 1787 to 1790, for Horsham from 1793 to 1796, and for Ayrshire from 1796 to April 1803, when he was appointed first commissioner for the government of the island of Trinidad. Lord Sidmouth had conceived the idea of putting the government of the different West India islands into commission, and the commission appointed for Trinidad consisted of Fullarton, Captain Samuel Hood of the royal navy, and Lieutenant-colonel Thomas Picton, who had ruled that island ever since its capture by Sir Ralph Abercromby in 1797. It is ridiculous to suppose that Fullarton went to Trinidad with the express intention of attacking Picton's administration, since even Picton's biographer admits that there had been no previous acquaintance between the two men. It is far more likely that Fullarton had a quixotic idea of reforming the administration of the island, and that he conceived an instant dislike of Picton's overbearing military demeanour. It is certain that Picton resented his supersession, and that when Fullarton asked for a return of all the criminal proceedings which had taken place in the island since Picton had been there, Picton resigned in disgust. Fullarton persisted in his inquiries, and the result of them was the famous trial of Picton for inflicting torture on a Spanish girl named Luisa Calderon, to extort a confession from her. This trial caused an immense sensation in England. Pamphlets, some by Fullarton himself, were written on both sides couched in the most personal terms, and a picture of the girl being picketed was shown all over London. The matter degenerated from a general question of the condition of the administration of newly conquered islands and territories into a personal conflict between Picton and Fullarton. The trial took place in February 1806, and Picton was found guilty. He applied for a new trial, at which he was acquitted; but before it came on Fullarton died of inflammation of the lungs at Gordon's Hotel, London, on 13 Feb. 1808. He was buried at Isleworth. It is unfortunate for his fame that his great campaign in India has been forgotten and eclipsed by the stigma attached to him of being ‘the persecutor of Picton.’

[Foster's Members of Parliament, Scotland; Irving's Eminent Scotsmen; for Fullarton's campaigns in India see Mill's Hist. of British India, the East India Military Calendar, and his own View of the English Interests in India; and for the Picton controversy Robinson's Life of Picton, Picton's Letter to Lord Hobart, and Fullarton's Refutation of the Pamphlet which Colonel Picton has addressed to Lord Hobart.]

H. M. S.