Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Beatson, Alexander

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BEATSON, ALEXANDER (1759–1833), lieutenant-general in the East India Company's service, governor of St. Helena, and experimental agriculturist, was second son of Robert Beatson, Esq., of Kilrie, co. Fife. He obtained a cadetship in 1775, and was appointed to an ensigncy in the Madras infantry, 21 Nov. 1776. He served as an engineer officer in the war with Hyder Ali, although he appears never to have belonged to the engineers. As lieutenant, he served with the Guides in Lord Cornwallis's campaigns against Tippoo Sultaun; and eight years after, as a field officer, was surveyor-general with the army under Lieutenant-general Harris, which captured Seringapatam in 1799. He attained the rank of colonel 1 Jan. 1801.

After he had quitted India, Beatson was appointed to the governorship of St. Helena, which he held from 1808 to 1813. The island, which then belonged to the East India Company, was in a very unsatisfactory condition. The scanty population had been nearly swept off by an epidemic of measles a short time previously, and, although recruited by emigrants from England and by Chinese coolies, was in a wretched state. The acts of the home authorities in suppressing the spirit traffic and other matters gave rise to great discontent, resulting in a mutiny in 1811, which was put down by the firmness of Beatson, who also introduced a better system of cultivation and many other beneficial measures. After his return to England, he devoted much attention to experiments in agriculture at Knole farm near Tunbridge Wells, and Henley, Essex. He became major-general July 1810, lieutenant-general June 1814, and died 14 July 1833.

Beatson was the author of the following works: 1. 'An Account of the Isles of France and Bourbon,' 1794, which was never printed, and remains in manuscript at the British Museum (Add. MS. 13868). 2. 'A View of the Origin and Conduct of the War against Tippoo Sultaun' (London, 1800, 4to). 3. 'Tracts relative to the Island of St. Helena,' with views (London, 1816, 4to), and other smaller works on the island besides contributions to the St. Helena 'Monthly Register.' 4. 'A New System of Cultivation without Lime or Dung, or Summer Fallowing, as practised at Knole Farm, Sussex' (London, 1820, 8vo); and various papers on improvements in agriculture.

[Dodswell and Miles's Alph. Lists Ind. Army; Vibart's Hist, of Madras Sappers and Miners, vol. i.; Beatson's writings.]

H. M. C.