Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Ellis, Henry (1777-1855)

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ELLIS, Sir HENRY (1777–1855), diplomatist, was born in 1777, and at an early age entered upon a public career. After performing various minor services, in 1814 he was sent out to Persia as minister plenipotentiary ad interim, and returned from that country in the following year, having success fully negotiated a treaty of peace. In 1816 he accompanied Earl Amherst in his embassy to China, in the capacity of third commissioner. A mission to China was then so rare an event in the history of Europe, that Ellis published in 1817 an authorised narrative of the journey and transactions of the embassy [see Amherst, William Pitt]. On their return from China in the Alceste, Amherst and Ellis were wrecked. They were forced to make for Java in an open boat, and reached Batavia after a perilous voyage of several hundred miles. Ellis reported that an impression could only be produced at Pekin by a knowledge of the strength of England, rather than by pompous embassies. Ellis, who was tory M.P. for Boston 1820–1, was commissioner of customs 1824–5, was clerk of the pells from 1825 until the abolition of that office in 1834, and commissioner of the board of control 1830–5. In 1830 he issued a ‘Series of Letters on the East India Question,’ addressed to the members of the two houses of parliament. In the earlier part of his career Ellis had been for six years in the civil service of the East India Company; and at the Bengal presidency he held the post of private secretary to the president of the board of control when the acts regulating the territorial government and trade of the East India Company were passed (1812–14). He had thus much experience of the subject, and recommended the abandonment of exclusive privileges by the company and a considerate treatment of the company by the English government. In July 1835 Ellis was appointed ambassador to Persia, but he relinquished that appointment in November of the following year. He was despatched on an extraordinary and special mission to the Brazils in August 1842, and at the close of 1848 he was appointed by the British government to attend the conference at Brussels on the affairs of Italy. Ellis was made a privy councillor in 1832, and in 1848 was created a K.C.B. On his retirement from the diplomatic service he was awarded a pension of 1,400l. per annum, together with a second pension for the abolished office of clerk of the pells. He died at Brighton, 28 Sept. 1855.

[Ann. Reg. 1855; Gent. Mag. 1855; Ellis's works cited above.]

G. B. S.