1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Lawrence, Sir Henry Montgomery

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6774621911 Encyclopædia Britannica, Volume 16 — Lawrence, Sir Henry Montgomery

LAWRENCE, SIR HENRY MONTGOMERY (1806–1857), British soldier and statesman in India, brother of the 1st Lord Lawrence (q.v.), was born at Matara, Ceylon, on the 28th of June 1806. He inherited his father’s stern devotion to duty and Celtic impulsiveness, tempered by his mother’s gentleness and power of organization. Early in 1823 he joined the Bengal Artillery at the Calcutta suburb of Dum Dum, where also Henry Havelock was stationed about the same time. The two officers pursued a very similar career, and developed the same Puritan character up to the time that both died at Lucknow in 1857. In the first Burmese War Henry Lawrence and his battery formed part of the Chittagong column which General Morrison led over the jungle-covered hills of Arakan, till fever decimated the officers and men, and Lawrence found himself at home again, wasted by a disease which never left him. On his return to India with his younger brother John in 1829 he was appointed revenue surveyor by Lord William Bentinck. At Gorakhpur the wonderful personal influence which radiated from the young officer formed a school of attached friends and subordinates who were always eager to serve under him. After some years spent in camp, during which he had married his cousin Honoria Marshall, and had surveyed every village in four districts, each larger than Yorkshire, he was recalled to a brigade by the outbreak of the first Afghan War towards the close of 1838. As assistant to Sir George Clerk, he now added to his knowledge of the people political experience in the management of the district of Ferozepore; and when disaster came he was sent to Peshawar in order to push up supports for the relief of Sale and the garrison of Jalalabad. The war had been begun under the tripartite treaty signed at Lahore on the 20th of June 1838. But the Sikhs were slow to play their part after the calamities in Afghanistan. No one but Henry Lawrence could manage the disorderly contingent which they reluctantly supplied to Pollock’s avenging army in 1842. He helped to force the Khyber Pass on the 5th of April, playing his guns from the heights, for 8 and 20 m. In recognition of his services Lord Ellenborough appointed him to the charge of the valley of Dehra Dun and its hill stations, Mussoorie and Landour, where he first formed the idea of asylums for the children of European soldiers. After a month’s experience there it was discovered that the appointment was the legal right of the civil service, and he was transferred, as assistant to the envoy at Lahore, to Umballa, where he reduced to order the lapsed territory of Kaithal. Soon he received the office of resident at the protected court of Nepal, where, assisted by his wife, he began a series of contributions to the Calcutta Review, a selected volume of which forms an Anglo-Indian classic. There, too, he elaborated his plans which resulted in the erection and endowment of the noblest philanthropic establishments in the East—the Lawrence military asylums at Sanawar (on the road to Simla), at Murree in the Punjab, at Mount Abu in Rajputana, and at Lovedale on the Madras Nilgiris. From 1844 to his death he devoted all his income, above a modest pittance for his children, to this and other forms of charity.

The Review articles led the new governor-general, Lord Hardinge, to summon Lawrence to his side during the first Sikh War; and not these articles only. He had published the results of his experience of Sikh rule and soldiering in a vivid work, the Adventures of an Officer in the Service of Ranjit Singh (1845), in which he vainly attempted to disguise his own personality and exploits. After the doubtful triumphs of Moodkee and Ferozshah Lawrence was summoned from Nepal to take the place of Major George Broadfoot, who had fallen. Aliwal came; then the guns of Sobraon chased the demoralized Sikhs across the Sutlej. All through the smoke Lawrence was at the side of the governor-general. He gave his voice, not for the rescue of the people from anarchy by annexation, but for the reconstruction of the Sikh government, and was himself appointed resident at Lahore, with power “over every department and to any extent” as president of the council of regency till the maharaja Dhuleep Singh should come of age. Soon disgusted by the “venal and selfish durbar” who formed his Sikh colleagues, he summoned to his side assistants like Nicholson, James Abbott and Edwardes, till they all did too much for the people, as he regretfully confessed. But “my chief confidence was in my brother John, . . . who gave me always such help as only a brother could.” Wearied out he went home with Lord Hardinge, and was made K.C.B., when the second Sikh War summoned him back at the end of 1848 to see the whole edifice of Sikh “reconstruction” collapse. It fell to Lord Dalhousie to proclaim the Punjab up to the Khyber British territory on the 29th of March 1849. But still another compromise was tried. As the best man to reconcile the Sikh chiefs to the inevitable, Henry Lawrence was made president of the new board of administration with charge of the political duties, and his brother John was entrusted with the finances. John could not find the revenue necessary for the rapid civilization of the new province so long as Henry would, for political reasons, insist on granting life pensions and alienating large estates to the needy remnants of Ranjit Singh’s court. Lord Dalhousie delicately but firmly removed Sir Henry Lawrence to the charge of the great nobles of Rajputana, and installed John as chief commissioner. If resentment burned in Henry’s heart, it was not against his younger brother, who would fain have retired. To him he said, “If you preserve the peace of the country and make the people high and low happy, I shall have no regrets that I vacated the field for you.”

In the comparative rest of Rajputana he once more took up the pen as an army reformer. In March and September 1856 he published two articles, called forth by conversations with Lord Dalhousie at Calcutta, whither he had gone as the hero of a public banquet. The governor-general had vainly warned the home authorities against reducing below 40,000 the British garrison of India even for the Crimean War, and had sought to improve the position of the sepoys. Lawrence pointed out the latent causes of mutiny, and uttered warnings to be too soon justified. In March 1857 he yielded to Lord Canning’s request that he should then take the helm at Lucknow, but it was too late. In ten days his magic rule put down administrative difficulties indeed, as he had done at Lahore. But what could even he effect with only 700 European soldiers, when the epidemic spread after the Meerut outbreak of mutiny on the 10th of May? In one week he had completed those preparations which made the defence of the Lucknow residency for ever memorable. Amid the deepening gloom Lord Canning ever wrote home of him as “a tower of strength,” and he was appointed provisional governor-general. On the 30th of May mutiny burst forth in Oudh, and he was ready. On the 29th of June, pressed by fretful colleagues, and wasted by unceasing toil, he led 336 British soldiers with 11 guns and 220 natives out of Chinhat to reconnoitre the insurgents, when the natives joined the enemy and the residency was besieged. On the 2nd of July, as he lay exhausted by the day’s work and the terrific heat in an exposed room, a shell struck him, and in forty-eight hours he was no more. A baronetcy was conferred on his son. A marble statue was placed in St Paul’s as the national memorial of one who has been declared to be the noblest man that has lived and died for the good of India.

His biography was begun by Sir Herbert Edwardes, and completed (2 vols. 1872) by Herman Merivale. See also J. J. McLeod Innes, Sir Henry Lawrence (“Rulers of India” series), 1898.