Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Todd, Elliott D'Arcy

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TODD, ELLIOTT D'ARCY (1808–1845), British resident at Herat, third and youngest son of Fryer Todd, accountant, Chancery Lane, a Yorkshire gentleman of good family, and originally of good fortune, was born in Bury Street, St. James's, London, on 28 Jan. 1808. His mother was Mary Evans, the ‘Mary’ of Samuel Taylor Coleridge [q. v.] His father lost his fortune by speculation, the home was broken up, and Elliott D'Arcy Todd, when three years old, was consigned to the care of his maternal uncle, William Evans, of the East India Company's home establishment. He was educated at Ware and in London, and entered the military college of the East India Company at Addiscombe in 1822.

Todd received a commission as second lieutenant in the Bengal artillery on 18 Dec. 1823, landed at Calcutta on 22 May 1824, and was stationed at the artillery headquarters at Dum Dum until the rainy season of 1825, when he was posted to the 4th company 3rd battalion of foot artillery at Cawnpore. He went with his company to join Lord Combermere's army of thirty thousand men for the second siege of Bhartpur. When the place was carried by assault on 18 Jan. 1826, Todd received a share of the prize money, and the same year he was posted to the 1st troop 2nd brigade of the horse artillery; but, on promotion to be first lieutenant on 28 Sept. 1827, he reverted to the foot artillery. Having made an earnest request to serve in the horse artillery, he was posted in 1828 to a troop at Muttra. In January 1829 he went to Karnal, where bad health compelled him to go on sick leave to the hills, whither he was accompanied by his friend, James Abbott, of the artillery.

On 2 March 1831 Todd was transferred to the 1st troop 1st brigade horse artillery. He studied Persian with such assiduity and success that the Indian government, who, among their efforts to enable the shah of Persia to maintain his independence, had decided in 1833 to send British officers to instruct the Persian army in drill and discipline, selected Todd to serve with the disciplined troops in Persia under Major Pasmore's command, and to be instructor in artillery. He embarked in the Cavendish Bentinck at Calcutta on 7 Aug., taking with him a model of the field gun and carriage and ammunition wagon of the royal artillery pattern. He arrived at Teheran on 28 March 1834. He had little to do the first year, owing to the difficulty of getting his duties and responsibilities defined by the prime minister. After the death of Fatteh Ali and the accession of Muhammad Shah, a firman was issued placing all matters connected with artillery in Todd's hands.

In 1834, during a journey from Shiraz to Bushire, he was robbed, being stripped of everything, and carried a prisoner to the hills, but was subsequently released. He took great pains in drilling the Irak and part of the Azerbyan artillery at Teheran, and received from the shah the decoration of the second class of the order of the Lion and Sun. Sir Henry Ellis [q. v.], British minister at Teheran, was much impressed by a lengthy paper written by Todd on Sir Alexander Burnes's ‘Military Memoir on the Countries between the Caspian and the Indus,’ in which the opinions and reasoning of the traveller were somewhat roughly handled. Ellis wrote to Lord Auckland, the governor-general, urging the necessity of a political agent at Kabul, and recommending Todd for the appointment—‘a most intelligent, clear-headed young man; he has given much attention to the question of the possible invasion of India from the north-west; he is fully alive to and well acquainted with the views and designs of Russia; in short, I know of no one whom I could myself employ with more confidence’ (letter dated 3 Jan. 1836).

In the autumn of 1836 Todd was at Tabriz as military secretary to Major-general Sir Henry Lindesay Bethune [q. v.], commanding the Persian legion disciplined by British officers, but when Bethune declined to accompany the shah's troops beyond Khorasan and returned to Teheran, Todd was sent, in January 1837, by John McNeill (1795–1883) [q. v.], British minister, to proceed by the shores of the Caspian, Ghilan, and Rudbar, to Kazvin, and thence to Teheran. For his report on this route he received a complimentary letter from Lord Palmerston. He was granted the local rank of major while employed on particular service in Persia (London Gazette, 2 June 1837). In March 1838 Todd accompanied the British minister to the Persian camp before Herat, where he arrived on 6 April. His report on and map of the journey were sent to the foreign office. Todd was employed by McNeill to negotiate with the Heratees, and, as it was the first time a British officer had appeared in Herat in full uniform, ‘a vast crowd went out to gaze at him.’ The negotiations failed, and in May Todd was made the bearer of despatches from McNeill to Lord Auckland, informing him of the condition of affairs. He travelled as an Englishman, but in Afghan dress and without baggage, and his route was by Kandahar, Kabul, and Peshawar. He arrived at Simla on 20 July, having accomplished the ride in sixty days.

On 1 Oct. 1838 Todd was appointed political assistant and military secretary to William Hay Macnaghten [q. v.], the British envoy and minister to Shah Shuja. He was promoted to be brevet captain on 18 Dec. 1838. He arrived with Sir John Keane's army at Kandahar in April 1839. Eldred Pottinger [q. v.] was the political agent at Herat, but it was decided to send Todd on a special mission to negotiate a treaty with Shah Kamran (London Gazette, 30 Aug. 1839). Todd took with him as his assistant Brevet Captain James Abbott of the Bengal artillery. The mission left Kandahar in June, and arrived at Herat on 25 July. A treaty was concluded with the Shah Kamran, by which he was allowed twenty-five thousand rupees a month on certain conditions, one of which was that he should hold no intercourse with Persia without the knowledge and consent of the British envoy.

After Pottinger's departure for Kabul in September 1839 things went on smoothly at Herat for some months. One of the objects of the mission was to do all that was possible to stop the traffic in slaves by the Central Asia tribes. In this traffic Yar Muhammad Kamran's minister, the khan of Khiva, and the Turkoman tribes towards the Caspian were the chief participants. In December 1839 Todd, on his own responsibility, sent Abbott on a friendly mission to the khan of Khiva to mediate between him and the Russians who were advancing on Khiva, and to negotiate for the release of the Russian captives in slavery. Todd's action was approved.

Early in April 1840 Todd received, through the British chargé d'affaires at Erzeroum, whither the Persian captain had temporarily withdrawn, a letter which the wazir, Yar Muhammad, had written in January in the name of Shah Kamran to the Persian Shah Muhammad; Kamran herein declared himself the faithful servant of the Persian monarch, and stated that he merely tolerated the presence of the British envoy at Herat from motives of expediency. Kamran and his people had been saved from starvation by British aid, and had received over ten lacs of rupees from the Indian government. The act of treachery was, however, pardoned by the governor-general.

On 27 Jan. 1841 Todd was formally gazetted political agent at Herat. From the time of his first arrival at Herat in 1839 he had desired to introduce into Herat a contingent of Indian troops under British officers. Early in 1841 Kamran and his minister proposed to agree to their introduction on condition that 20,000l. was paid down and the monthly subsidy increased. It soon, however, became clear to Todd that Yar Muhammad and his master had no intention of admitting any contingent into Herat, and that the money would be expended in intrigues against the British. He therefore refused to pay the amount, and also stopped the monthly subsidy. Yar Muhammad declared that either the money must be paid or the mission must leave Herat. After submitting to every indignity short of personal violence, Todd withdrew the mission on 9 Feb. 1841 to Kandahar, without having received definite instructions to do so.

Lord Auckland was so exasperated by the unauthorised withdrawal of the mission from Herat that, without waiting for Todd's explanations, Macnaghten was informed of the displeasure of the governor-general, and Todd was removed from the political department and ordered to join his regiment for military duty as a subaltern of artillery. Todd was stunned by this unjust treatment. Macnaghten wrote to comfort him that his ‘conduct had been as admirable as that of Yar Mahomed had been flagitious. And so,’ he added, ‘I told the governor-general.’ But Lord Auckland, who had written to Macnaghten, ‘I am writhing in anger and bitterness at Major Todd's conduct at Herat,’ was obdurate. Todd ceased to be political agent and military secretary to the envoy at Kabul on 24 March 1841, and gave over charge of the Herat political agency on 24 April, when he was posted to the 2nd company of the 2nd battalion of the Bengal artillery. Before joining he went in November to Calcutta, and had a personal interview with the governor-general, but without result. Todd received from Shah Shuja, the amir of Afghanistan, the second class of the order of the Durani Empire, in acknowledgment of his services in the affairs of that country, and he received permission to accept and wear the insignia both of this order and of the Royal Persian order of the Lion and Sun in the ‘London Gazette’ of 26 March 1841.

Todd joined his regiment at Dum Dum in March 1842, having been appointed to command No. 9 light field battery on the 2nd of the previous month. He was promoted to be captain in the Bengal artillery on 13 May 1842. On 27 Sept. 1845 he was given the command of the 2nd troop of the 1st brigade of the horse artillery, in which he had served as a subaltern. His wife died on 9 Dec., and he hurried from her grave to join his troop at Ambala, and marched with it to take part in the first Sikh war. He fought gallantly at Mudki on 18 Dec., when the artillery bivouacked beside their guns in the battlefield. At sunset on 21 Dec. 1845 Todd's troop was ordered forward in the battle of Firozshah. He placed himself in front of the troop, and was in the act of giving orders for the advance when his head was taken off by a round shot (London Gazette, 23 Feb. 1846). A medal and clasp awarded to him for the campaign was received by his family.

He married, on 22 Aug. 1843, Marian, eldest daughter of Surgeon Backshall Lane Sandham, of the 16th lancers.

A portrait of Todd, after Charles Grant, was engraved for the third volume of Major-general F. W. Stubbs's ‘History of the Regiment of Bengal Artillery.’

[India Office Records; Despatches; Vibart's Addiscombe, its Heroes and Men of Note; Kaye's Lives of Indian Officers, vol. ii.; Gilman's Life of Coleridge; Memorandum by Sir John Login; Gent. Mag. 1846; Stubbs's Hist. of the Bengal Artillery; Kaye's War in Afghanistan; Asiatic Journal, vol. xxviii–xxx.]

R. H. V.