Kennedy, John Pitt (DNB00)
|←Kennedy, John (1819-1884)||Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 30
Kennedy, John Pitt
KENNEDY, JOHN PITT (1796–1879), lieutenant-colonel, fourth son of John Pitt Kennedy, rector of Carn Donagh, co. Donegal, and afterwards of Balteagh, co. Londonderry, was born at Donagh on 8 May 1796. He was educated at Foyle College, Londonderry, under the Rev. James Knox. Kennedy entered the Royal Military Academy, Woolwich, on 6 Nov. 1811, and passed out fourth of his year, obtaining a commission as second lieutenant in the corps of royal engineers on 1 Sept. 1815.
He was employed on the ordnance survey in Gloucestershire and Oxfordshire for a short time, and afterwards did military duty at Plymouth, Chatham, and Portsmouth, until 1819, when he was sent to Malta, and thence to Corfu. On 6 April 1820 he was given the direction of the public works at Santa Maura. He constructed a small harbour on the eastern side of the island, with a canal from it to the natural harbour on the west, and lengthened the existing mole. He was promoted lieutenant on 19 June 1821, but a reduction in the corps of royal engineers placed him on half-pay on 28 May 1822.
On the appointment of Major (afterwards Sir) Charles Napier [q. v.] to be military resident of Cephalonia in 1822, Kennedy became island secretary and director of public works. He there built the Guardianno and Point Theodore lighthouses, a marine parade, a quay, and a market, and he intersected the island with roads. With Sir Charles Napier he formed a lifelong friendship. Kennedy was brought back to the corps of royal engineers from half-pay on 23 March 1825, returned to England in 1826, and was sent to Woolwich. In order to retain his appointment in Cephalonia he was, at Napier's request, removed from the royal engineers on 20 April 1826 to the 50th foot, as lieutenant. He ceased duty at Woolwich on 14 May, and on 10 June 1826 purchased an unattached company and returned to Cephalonia. On 3 Jan. 1828 he was appointed sub-inspector of militia in the Ionian Islands, an appointment he held until 1 March 1831, when he returned home and settled in Ireland.
Kennedy set to work to remedy the deplorable state of the Irish agriculturist, and to show by practical example on a small scale what might be done for the country generally. He devoted himself to teaching the farmers the principles of agriculture, and to setting the unemployed to cultivate waste lands. He had the management of a property belonging to his nephew at Lough Ash in co. Tyrone, and of an estate at Clogher, the property of Sir Charles Style. Both at Lough Ash and Clogher he established a national school, and arranged for practical lessons in agriculture on a model farm of a few acres. He also divided the waste lands into reclaiming farms, and met with very great success. In 1833 he visited the agricultural schools of Belgium, Germany, and Switzerland. On 19 June 1835 he was brought in from half-pay to the 28th foot, and sold out on the 26th of the same month in order to devote the money he received for his commission to the furtherance of his schools.
In November 1837 Kennedy was appointed inspector-general under the Irish national education department, on the understanding that practical instruction in agriculture was to become a prominent feature in national instruction. Inspectors were appointed under Kennedy for each county by public competition, and Kennedy chose sixty acres of land at Glasnevin, on the north of Dublin, with a large house and garden, to form a central model farm and training establishment for teachers from the district schools, who also underwent instruction in Dublin in the method of teaching. Kennedy's plan was to have a second-class agricultural school, subordinate to the central school, in each of the four provinces, a third-class school in each county, a fourth-class school in each barony, and a fifth-class school connected with each elementary school. Unfortunately Kennedy's proposals were persistently thwarted by some members of the board, and the board itself, composed to a large extent of officials fully occupied with their special duties, did so little to advance the course of agricultural and other education that on 18 March 1839 Kennedy wrote a spirited protest, resigned his appointment, and returned to Lough Ash. Sir Charles Napier wrote a pamphlet entitled ‘Essay addressed to Irish Absentees on the State of Ireland,’ to show the value of Kennedy and of his plan. In January 1838 Kennedy had declined the governorship of Australia, that he might continue to promote his views on agricultural education in an appointment which he describes as neither lucrative nor brilliant.
In 1843 Kennedy was appointed secretary to the royal commission to inquire into the law and practice in respect to the occupation of land in Ireland, known as the Devon commission. The work was arduous, and the result, printed in five large folios, important and useful. In 1845 Sir Robert Peel appointed him secretary of the famine relief committee. In 1846 Kennedy was given the superintendence of all the relief works in the western division of co. Limerick under the board of works, an appointment which he relinquished on becoming agent for the extensive Devon estates in co. Limerick in September of that year. He was also a director of the Waterford and Limerick railway. In the spring of 1848, when excitement was great and a revolutionary outbreak in the streets of Dublin daily expected, Kennedy volunteered his assistance in organising measures for the preservation of peace and the protection of life and property. The city authorities accepted his offer, and gave him complete control over the volunteer arrangements. He divided the city into defence districts; maps were distributed showing the various points in each district, the defence of which would secure the whole. At this crisis the Orangemen of Dublin presented an address to the lord-lieutenant offering their services. Lord Clarendon declined to receive their assistance, as they had passed resolutions attributing to the government encouragement of popery, and demanding that Roman catholics should be put down; but Kennedy, thinking more of the safety of Dublin than of politics, enrolled them among his volunteers, and gave them 600l. to purchase arms. The transaction formed one of the grounds of an attack upon the government in the House of Lords on 18 Feb. 1850, when Lord Clarendon vindicated the government, and declared that Kennedy had generously provided the money for these arms out of his own pocket without the knowledge of the government, and with the laudable intention of keeping the Orangemen faithful to the government.
When in 1849 Sir Charles Napier was appointed commander-in-chief in India, he offered Kennedy the post of military secretary, and obtained permission for him to re-enter the army. Kennedy was accordingly reinstated in the army on 23 March 1849 as ensign in the 25th foot, and on 4 May he was appointed to a cornetcy in the 14th light dragoons, with the local rank of major while serving in the East Indies. He went to India with Napier, and accompanied the expedition to Peshawur to open the pass and relieve the fortress of Kohat in 1850.
Besides his duties as military secretary, Kennedy devoted his spare time to the construction of a great military road from the plains through Simla towards Thibet, and a company of sappers was placed at his disposal. The road bears his name. In November 1850 Kennedy was appointed consulting engineer to the government of India for railways, and went to Calcutta to take charge of the railway department. He was strongly opposed to any break of gauge, and laid down plans for the application of a system of railroads throughout India. His health, however, failed, and he resigned his appointment and returned to England in 1852. A minute of the governor-general, Lord Dalhousie, recorded that his departure was a public loss to the government. He was promoted lieutenant on 15 March 1853, exchanged into the 42nd foot on 24 June, was gazetted lieutenant-colonel in the East Indies, and was placed upon half-pay 11 Nov. 1853.
On his return to England he became one of the original founders and the managing director of the Bombay, Baroda, and Central Indian railway, and in September 1853 he returned to India, and carried out the survey of the line. He settled in England in 1854, and continued to take an active part in the board of direction during the remainder of his life, again visiting India in the interests of the company in 1863–4. In 1872 he promoted a company for building with concrete. He was elected a member of the Institution of Civil Engineers on 3 March 1868. He died on 28 June 1879 at his residence in St. George's Square, London. Kennedy was a man of great ability and of great simplicity, thoroughly unworldly and disinterested.
He married, on 2 Oct. 1838, in Dublin, Anna Maria, daughter of Charles Style of Glenmore, Stranorlar, co. Donegal, by whom he had three sons and a daughter. His wife, one son, Charles Napier Kennedy, and his daughter, Mrs. Florence Martin, survived him.
The following is a list of his works: 1. ‘Instruct; Employ; Don't Hang them: or Ireland Tranquilized without Soldiers and Enriched without English Capital,’ 8vo, London, 1835. 2. ‘Regulations for Promoting Agricultural Instruction and Agricultural Employment, and for Improving the Conditions of the People and Lands of Lough Ash and the Adjoining District,’ 8vo, London, 1835. 3. ‘Analysis of Projects proposed for the Relief of the Poor of Ireland,’ 8vo, London and Dublin, 1837. 4. ‘Lectures on Agriculture,’ Royal Dublin Society, 1841. 5. ‘Correspondence on some of the General Effects of the Failure of the Potato Crop and the consequent Relief Measures, with Suggestions,’ &c., 8vo, Dublin, 1847. 6. ‘Digest of Evidence taken before H.M. Commissioners of Inquiry into the State of the Law and Practice in respect of the Occupation of Land in Ireland,’ pt. i. 1847, pt. ii. 1848, 2 vols. 8vo, Dublin. 7. ‘A Railway Caution: or Exposition of Changes required in the Law and Practice of the British Empire, to enable the Poorer Districts to provide for themselves the benefit of Railway Intercourse,’ &c., 8vo, Calcutta, 1849. 8. ‘Report addressed to the Railway Proprietors of Great Britain and Ireland, and more especially to the Proprietors of the Waterford and Limerick Line,’ 8vo, 1849. 9. ‘Road-making in the Hills. Principles and Rules having special reference to the New Road from Kalka viâ Simla to Kunawur and Thibet,’ 8vo, Agra, 1850. 10. ‘Report on the Proposed Railway in Bengal.’ See ‘Selections from the Records of the Government of India,’ No. 1, 8vo, Calcutta, 1853. 11. ‘Finances, Military Occupation, Government, and Industrial Development of India,’ 8vo, London, 1858. 12. ‘On the Financial and Executive Administration of the British Indian Empire,’ 8vo, London, 1859. 13. ‘National Defensive Measures, their Necessity, Description, Organization, and Cost,’ 8vo, London, 1860. 14. ‘British Home and Colonial Empire. Part i.: Mutual Relations and Interests,’ fol. London, 1865; reprinted 1869. ‘Part ii.: India, Requirements for the Development of Industry,’ fol. London, 1869. 15. ‘Railway Gauge, considered in relation to the Bulk and Weight of Goods to be Conveyed, more especially in India,’ fol. London, 1872.[The Colonies, by Charles James Napier, London, 1833; Life and Opinions of General Sir Charles James Napier, G.C.B., by Lieutenant-general Sir William Napier, K.C.B., 4 vols. 8vo, London, 1857; Proc. Institution of Civil Engineers, vol. lix.; Royal Engineers Journal, ix. 169; Corp. Records; private papers; Times, 8 July 1879.]