Page:Dictionary of National Biography volume 14.djvu/363

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nected with the well-being of the islanders. In 1856 he was created a civil K.C.B.

On leaving Sydney Denison was appointed to the government of Madras, which he assumed in March 1861. He found on his arrival several very important questions pressing for decision. One of these was the question of reorganising the native army. Denison speedily came to the conclusion that the plan of officering the army from a staff corps was radically unsound. He predicted that under the plan proposed, which involved promotion according to length of service, the proportion of field officers would in the course of a few years be excessive, while the irregular system, depending for its efficiency on exceptional capacity in the officers, was utterly unsuitable for an entire army. He was also opposed to the retention of separate armies for Bengal, Madras, and Bombay. Denison's predictions in regard to the staff corps have been fully justified. On the question of presidential commands his views were in substance followed in the report of the Indian army commission, though not adopted by the home government. He also disapproved of the establishment of legislative councils in the minor presidencies and provinces, and the introduction of the native element into those councils. He held that these measures would lead to demands for representation, and that they were not really desired by the natives. He deprecated the cry of ‘India for the Indians,’ and the attempt to govern by and through them, emphatically condemning ‘the theory that we are acting as tutors to teach the Hindoos to govern themselves,’ which he characterised as ‘sentimental trash, good enough for Exeter Hall, but too absurd to be uttered in the House of Commons.’ Denison speedily formed and retained what most persons well acquainted with the natives of India would regard as an unduly low opinion of the native character. He was entirely opposed to the recently introduced system of open competition for admission into the covenanted civil service. ‘If,’ he wrote, ‘there is one quality which is more required in India than elsewhere, it is that which makes a man a gentleman.’ In the matter of the relations between the government of India and the local governments he advocated changes which have since been introduced in principle by Lord Mayo and his successors.

In Madras, as in the Australian colonies, Denison gave much attention to public works. He recognised the great value of irrigation works and of improved communications, although he deemed the lines of railway, then under construction in India, to be needlessly expensive. He carried out a reorganisation of the public works department, which, however, has been more than once altered since. He disapproved of the employment of officers of the royal engineers upon civil duties, recommending that in India, as elsewhere, the military organisation of the corps should be restored to it. The improvement of Indian agriculture, and the question of the principles upon which the land revenue should be assessed, were also matters in which he evinced a keen and practical interest.

On the death of Lord Elgin, in the latter part of 1863, Denison was called upon to assume temporarily the office of governor-general, and on that occasion he rendered a valuable service by procuring the recall of an order for the withdrawal of the troops then engaged upon the Sitána expedition, a measure which, following, as it did, a temporary check sustained by the British force, could not have failed to affect injuriously our military prestige, and would probably have set the whole frontier in a blaze.

Denison retired from the Madras government in March 1866. Shortly after his return to England, he, being then a colonel of engineers, was offered and at once accepted the command of the engineers at Portsmouth; but on further consideration it was deemed inexpedient, with reference to the high offices which he had filled, to employ him in that capacity, and the appointment consequently was not made. In 1868 he was appointed chairman of a royal commission to inquire into the best means of preventing the pollution of rivers, and acted in that capacity until his death at East Sheen on 19 Jan. 1871. In 1838 he married Caroline, daughter of Admiral Sir Phipps Hornby. He left several sons and daughters. In addition to his onerous official duties, Denison devoted much of his time to the study of religious and scientific subjects. When at Sydney he published an essay upon ‘The Church as a Social Institution.’ Essays on systems of education, on ‘Essays and Reviews,’ on ‘The Antiquity of Man,’ and on the ‘Results of a Series of Experiments for determining the relative Value of Specimens of Gold’ also proceeded from his pen. He was a man of strong religious convictions, singularly warm-hearted and generous, and was much beloved in his family and in private life.

[Varieties of Viceregal Life, by Sir William Denison, K.C.B., London, 1870; Ann. Reg. 1871; Memoir of Lieut.-general Sir William Denison, K.C.B. Excerpt Annual Report of the Institution of Civil Engineers, London, 1872; Sitána, by Colonel John Adye, 1867; unpublished memoir; manuscripts, letters, and official papers; personal information.]

A. J. A.