Page:Dictionary of National Biography volume 35.djvu/255

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McNeill
McNeill
249


Scottish Adventurers,' also belongs to 1812. Macneill is chiefly remembered by his 'Will and Jean,' and by such Scottish songs as 'My Boy Tammy,' 'I lo'ed ne'er a laddie but ane,' and 'Come under my Plaidie,' which have simplicity and sincerity of feeling, and graceful melody.

A portrait by John Henning is in the National Portrait Gallery, Edinburgh.

[Macneill's manuscript Autobiog., abridged in Blackwood's Mag. vol. iv.; Scots Mag. 1818, i. 396; Rogers's Modern Scottish Minstrel; Chambers's Eminent Scotsmen; Anderson's Scottish Nation, iii. 68, with portrait.]

T. B.

McNEILL, Sir JOHN (1795–1883), diplomatist, born at Colonsay in 1795, was third of the six sons of John McNeill of Colonsay and his wife, Hester MacNeill of Dunmore, and brother of Duncan McNeill, lord Colonsay [q. v.] He studied medicine at Edinburgh, where he graduated M.D. at the age of nineteen. On 6 Sept. 1816 he was appointed assistant-surgeon on the East India Company's Bombay establishment; became surgeon 1 May 1824; and retired from the medical service 4 June 1836. He was attached to the field force under Colonel East in Cutch and Okamundel in 1818-19; was afterwards deputy medical storekeeper at the presidency; and from 1824 to 1835 was attached to the East India Company's legation in Persia, at first in medical charge, and latterly as political assistant to the envoy, in which post ne displayed great ability. On 80 June 1835 he was appointed secretary of the special embassy sent to Teheran under Henry (afterwards Sir Henry) Ellis, to congratulate Mohammed Shah on his accession to the Persian throne. The charge of the mission was transferred at the same time from the East India Company to the foreign office. McNeill received permission to wear the Persian decoration of the Sun and Lion of the first class, and on his return home in the spring of 1836 published a startling pamphlet, 'Progress and Present Positions of Russia in the East,' London, 1836, in which he sketched the history, and urged the dangers of Russian aggression in Asia.

On 9 Feb. 1836 he was appointed minister plenipotentiary, and on 25 May following envoy and minister plenipotentiary to the shah. The arguments of McNeill and his predecessor in the interests of peace with Afghanistan were overruled by the Persian war party, and at the end of the summer of 1836 Mohammed Shah set out to chastise the Turcomans, but with the ultimate object of attacking Herat. No progress was made that year, and the Persian troops returned to Teheran, to renew operations in the spring. McNeill, who appears at first to have thought that the shah had justice on his side, repeated his efforts in the cause of peace, in which he was ostensibly supported by the Russian envoy, Count Simomch. The shah, however, set out again the next summer, and in November 1837 commenced the siege of Herat, which lasted ten months. On 6 April 1838 McNeill joined the Persian camp, and in interviews with the shah and with the Afghans shut up in Herat did all he could to bring about a reasonable understanding. His efforts were met with evasion and latent hostility, manifest in the seizure by the Persians of a courier bearing British official despatches to Teheran. After remonstrances, McNeill quitted the Persian camp on 7 June 1838. The Russian envoy, who had appeared among the besiegers 9 tents about the same time as his British colleague, then renewed his aggressive counsels, and within a fortnight an attack, planned, it was said, by Simomch himself, was made on Herat, the Persian columns assaulted at five points, and would have carried the day but for the pluck and energy of Eldred Pottinger, a young officer of the Bombay artillery, who was with the besieged garrison. The Afghans, however, were much disheartened, until the appearance in August of Colonel Stoddart with threats of British interference unless the siege were raised. On 9 Sept. 1838 Stoddart was able to report to McNeill that 'the Shah had mounted his horse and ridden away,' and the memorable siege of Herat came to an end. The natural sequence was the British attempt to consolidate power in Afghanistan and the first Afghan war.

Difficulties with which McNeill was more closely connected ensued in Persia. The British government demanded the cession of places lute Ghurian, &c., which the Persians nad seized, and reparation for the violence offered to the British courier. The shah, in ill-temper at his failure, deferred compliance. McNeill sent an ultimatum, and having received no satisfactory reply at the end of the time appointed, ordered the British drill-instructors lent to the Persian army to proceed to Baghdad and withdraw with the legation to Erzeroum (Arzroum). A special envoy was sent from Persia to London to make representations against McNeill, and efforts were made to interest the cabinets of Europe on behalf of Persia. The Persian envoy obtained an interview with the foreign secretary, Lord Palmerston, who in July 1839 furnished him with a fuller statement of the demands of Great Britain. Approval of McNeill's conduct was signified by his being created a G.C.B. (civil division). Further