Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Montgomery, Robert (1809-1887)

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1332197Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 38 — Montgomery, Robert (1809-1887)1894John Andrew Hamilton

MONTGOMERY, Sir ROBERT (1809–1887), Indian administrator, born in 1809, was son of Samuel Law Montgomery, rector of Lower Moville, co. Donegal. He was educated at Foyle College, Londonderry, and at Wraxall Hall School, North Wiltshire, and was appointed to the Bengal civil service in 1827. After filling various subordinate posts in the North- West Provinces, among others in 1838 that of magistrate and collector at Allahabad, he was, on the recommendation of Sir Henry Montgomery Lawrence [q. v.], his old friend and schoolfellow, transferred by Lord Dalhousie to the Punjab, where he took a large part in organising that newly annexed province, and occupied successively the arduous and responsible posts of commissioner of the Lahore division in 1849, member of the board of administration, on which he succeeded Charles Grenville Mansel [q. v.] in 1850, and eventually, on the dissolution of the board in 1853, judicial commissioner, his duties being not merely legal, but including the superintendence of education, roads, police, and municipalities. It was in the early days of the mutiny that he performed his greatest and most signal service, the disarmament of the sepoys at Lahore on 13 May 1857. On 12 May, when the telegraph brought to Lahore the news of the capture of Delhi by the mutineers, Lawrence was at Rawalpindi, beyond reach of telegrams, and Montgomery was the chief civil officer in Lahore. Montgomery, who had news that the four native regiments cantoned at Mean Meer, five miles off, were ready to rise as soon as they heard that the Delhi troops had risen, summoned his chief civil officers, who all agreed that the troops ought to be disarmed. In the course of the day Montgomery brought General Corbett, who commanded at Mean Meer, to the same view. To avoid any suspicion of what was intended, a great ball, which was fixed for that night, was allowed to take place. A general parade was ordered for the following morning, the 13th, and it was then, if at all, that the disarmament was to be effected. The only European forces at command were five companies of the 81st and twelve guns, and the sepoys were three regiments of foot, the 16th, 26th, and 49th, and one of horse, the 8th. The hazard was great, for a mutiny in Lahore would, for the time being, have lost the Punjab, and it was from the Punjab that Lower India was at first reconquered; but under orders from the brigadier and under the muzzles of the guns of the white troops the sepoys, taken unawares, piled their arms. Simultaneously Montgomery caused three white companies to disarm the sepoys in the Lahore fort, and despatched a company of the 81st, later in the day, to make Umritsur and Govindghur safe. He also sent timely warning to Ferozepore, Mooltan, and Kangra, and called on his local officials to place their treasure in charge of the nearest white troops, and to be on their guard. This wise temerity was of inestimable service to the English cause in India at that juncture. Accordingly Lord Canning appointed him to succeed Sir James Outram as chief commissioner of Oudh in June 1858, and there it became his duty to enforce the confiscation proclamation. Thanks to his great administrative skill, rare knowledge of and command over the temper of the natives, and genuine benevolence mixed with equal firmness, he effected that object quietly, until he was supported by Sir Hope Grant and his force, In 1859 he was appointed lieutenant-governor of the Punjab, and held that post till 1865, when he resigned and returned to England on pension. He had been made a civil K.C.B. on 19 May 1859. On 20 Feb. 1866 he was made a G.C.S.I., and in 1868 was appointed a member of the council of the secretary of state for India. This office he held until his death on 28 Dec. 1887 in London of bronchitis; he was buried in the vault of his family at Londonderry 3 Jan. 1888. He married Frances, a sister of James Thomason [q. v.], the Indian administrator; she died of small-pox at Allahabad in 1842. His chief characteristics were insatiable industry, cool decision, kindness of heart, and personal modesty. His benevolence was recognised in the service in India by the nickname of 'Pickwick.' He was author of one work, ' Abstract Principles of Law for the use of Civil Administrative Officers,' published at Bangalore, 1864.

[Times, 29, 30, and 31 Dec. 1887; Dodwell and Miles's Bengal Civil Servants; Bosworth Smith's Life of Lord Lawrence, i. 369, ii. 6; Edwardes and Merivale's Life of Henry Lawrence, 3rd edit. p. 113; Kaye's Sepoy War, ii. 425; Malleson's Sepoy War, iii. 262; Temple's Life of Thomason, 1893.]

J. A. H.