Kinneir, John Macdonald (DNB00)

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KINNEIR, Sir JOHN MACDONALD (1782–1830), lieutenant-colonel H.E.I.C.S., traveller and diplomatist, born at Carnden, Linlithgow, on 3 Feb. 1782, was son of John Macdonald, comptroller of customs at Borrowstounness, and Mrs. Cecilia Maria Kinneir. In 1802 he was nominated to a cadetship by Sir William Bensley, under the name of Macdonald, which he retained in the Indian army lists up to his death. On 21 Sept. 1804 he was appointed ensign in the Madras infantry, but was not posted until the formation of the 24th (out of the 1st) Madras native infantry on 1 Jan. 1807, when he joined the new corps as lieutenant. He became captain in the same regiment on 14 April 1818, and afterwards attained the army rank of brevet lieutenant-colonel. For some time he was secretary to the officer commanding in Malabar and Canara. Afterwards he was attached to Sir John Malcolm's mission in Persia in 1808–9, during part of which time he was supernumerary agent at Bushire, and made numerous journeys in Persia, the list of which is given in his narrative of later travels (Travels in Asia Minor in 1813–14, App.) On the breaking up of the mission in 1810 Macdonald travelled from Bagdad, by way of Mosul and Diarbekr, to Constantinople, visited Magnesia and Smyrna, and returned to England through Spain and Portugal. Being unexpectedly ordered to rejoin his regiment, he started for Stockholm in January 1813 with Colonel Neil Campbell [see Campbell, Sir Neil, 1776–1827], one of the military commissioners then sent to the north of Europe, purposing to reach India through Russia and Persia; but, the retreat of the French from Moscow having left open a more southerly route, he accompanied Campbell from Stockholm to the czar's headquarters at Kilisch in Poland, and proceeded through Austria and Hungary to Constantinople. After visiting Asia Minor and Cyprus, he returned to Constantinople, and thence travelled through Armenia and Kurdistan to Bagdad and Bombay. A few years later he published a ‘Narrative of Travels in Asia Minor, Armenia, and Kurdistan in 1813–14, with Remarks on the Marches of Alexander the Great and of the Ten Thousand Greeks’ (London, 1818). From the title-page of the volume it appears that Macdonald had at this time taken his mother's surname of Kinneir, although there is no record in the India office of his change of name. He had previously published a ‘Gazetteer of Persia,’ with map (London, 1813). After 1813 he was for some years town-major of Fort St. George, Madras, and resident with the nawab of the Carnatic.

In 1823–4 it was proposed to withdraw the chargé d'affaires who had represented British interests at Teheran since 1815, and to replace him by an East India Company's envoy as formerly. The shah, Futteh Ali, consented reluctantly, and Kinneir was appointed envoy in 1824. He was conducted to Persia, and arrived at the shah's camp at Ahar in September 1826, where he found the Persians engaged in active hostilities with the Russians, and claiming the British subsidy to which by the treaty of Teheran Persia was entitled if attacked by a European power. Kinneir would not support the subsidy, holding that the aggression had been on the side of Persia. Various military operations followed, during which Kinneir was present with the Persian army, until, on 19 Oct. 1827, the frontier fortress of Erivan was stormed by Prince Paskievitch's troops; a Russian division was pushed on to Tabreez; the shah's chief minister, Ali Yar Khan, deserted him on the approach of the Russians, and fled to Ali Bengloo with Kinneir, who did his utmost to bring about a peace. The Russians, though declining to admit his official character, accepted his mediation in his private capacity. A treaty of peace was signed at Turkmanchi on 23 Feb. 1828 (see Treaties printed by order of the House of Commons, 11 March 1839), involving much loss of territory to Persia and the destruction of the paramount influence previously enjoyed by the British mission. No blame has been attributed to Kinneir, who won the respect of both Persians and Russians. He received the Persian order of the Sun and Lion, and on 17 Nov. 1829 was created a knight bachelor (see London Gazette, 29 Nov. 1829, in which his name is given as Macdonald).

Kinneir remained as envoy in Persia until his death at Tabreez on 11 June 1830, when a three months' mourning was observed by the shah and the inhabitants. Kinneir married Amelia Harriet, third daughter, by his first wife, of Lieutenant-general Sir Alexander Campbell, bart. [q. v.], who died commander-in-chief at Madras in December 1825. This lady, whose elder sister married Sir John Malcolm, long survived her husband, and died at Boulogne in 1860.

[Information supplied by the India Office; East India Registers and Army Lists; Kaye's Life and Corresp. of Sir John Malcolm (London, 1867), i. 395 et seq., ii. 1–54; Kinneir's Travels in Asia Minor, &c. (Lond. 1818); Mill's Hist. of India, ix. 216 et seq.; Lond. Gazettes, 1829; Gent. Mag. 1830, pt. ii. pp. 190, 649.]

H. M. C.