Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Trevelyan, Charles Edward

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TREVELYAN, Sir CHARLES EDWARD (1807–1886), governor of Madras, fourth son of George Trevelyan (1764–1827), archdeacon of Taunton, by Harriet, third daughter of Sir Richard Neave, bart., was born at Taunton on 2 April 1807. He was educated at the grammar school of his native place, at the Charterhouse from 1820, was afterwards at Haileybury, and entered the East India Company's Bengal civil service as a writer in 1826, having displayed from an early age a great proficiency in the oriental tongues and dialects. On 4 Jan. 1827 he was appointed assistant to Sir Charles Theophilus Metcalfe [q. v.], the commissioner at Delhi, where, during a residence of four years, he was entrusted with the conduct of several important missions. For some time he acted as guardian to the youthful Madhu Singh, the rajah of Bhurtpore. He also devoted himself energetically to improving the condition of the native population, and carried out inquiries that led to the abolition of the transit duties by which the internal trade of India had long been fettered. For these and other services he received the special thanks of the governor-general in council. Before leaving Delhi he contributed from his own funds a sufficient sum to make a broad street through a new suburb, then in course of erection, which thenceforth became known as Trevelyanpur. In 1831 he removed to Calcutta, and became deputy secretary to the government in the political department. On 23 Dec. 1834 he married Hannah Moore, sister of Lord Macaulay, who was then a member of the supreme council of India, and one of his most attached friends.

Trevelyan was especially zealous in the cause of education, and in 1835, largely owing to his eagerness and persistence, government was led to decide in favour of the promulgation of European literature and science among the natives of India. An account of the efforts of government, entitled ‘On the Education of the People of India,’ was published by Trevelyan in 1838. In April 1836 he was nominated secretary to the Sudder board of revenue, which office he held until his return to England in January 1838. On 21 Jan. 1840 he entered on the duties of assistant secretary to the treasury, London, and discharged the functions of that office for exactly nineteen years. In Ireland he administered the relief works of 1845–6–7, when upwards of 734,000 men were employed by the government; and on 27 April 1848 he was made a K.C.B. in reward of his services. In 1853 he investigated the organisation of a new system of admission into the civil service. The report, signed by himself and Sir Stafford Northcote in November 1853, entitled ‘The Organisation of the Permanent Civil Service,’ laid the foundation of all that has since been done in securing the admission of qualified and educated persons into situations which were previously too much at the disposal of aristocratic and influential families.

In 1858 Lord Harris resigned the governorship of the presidency of Madras, and Trevelyan was offered the appointment. Having maintained his knowledge of oriental affairs by close attention to all subjects affecting the interest of that country, he felt justified in accepting the offer, and entered upon his duties as governor of Madras in the spring of 1859. He soon became popular in the presidency, and in a great measure through his conduct in office the natives became reconciled to the government. An assessment was carried out, a police system organised in every part, and, contrary to the traditions of the East India Company, land was sold in fee simple to any one who wished to purchase. These and other reforms introduced or developed by Sir Charles won the gratitude and esteem of the Madras population. All went well until February 1860. Towards the close of 1859 James Wilson was appointed financial member of the legislative council of India, and in the beginning of next year he proposed a plan of retrenchment and taxation by which he hoped to improve the financial position of the Indian government. His plan was introduced in Calcutta on 18 Feb., and transmitted to Madras. On 4 March an open telegram was sent to Calcutta implying an adverse opinion of the governor and council of Madras. On 9 March a letter was sent to Madras stating the objection felt by the central government to the transmission of such a message by an open telegram at a time when native feeling could not be considered in a settled condition. At the same time the representative of the Madras government in the legislative council of India was prohibited from following the instructions of his superiors by laying upon the table and advocating the expression of their views. On 21 March a telegram was sent to Madras stating that the bill would be introduced and referred to a committee, which would report in five weeks. On 26 March the opinions of Trevelyan and his council were recorded in a minute, and on the responsibility of Sir Charles alone the document was made generally known, and found its way into the papers. On the arrival of this intelligence in England the governor of Madras was at once recalled. This decision occasioned much discussion both in and out of parliament. Palmerston, in his place in parliament, while defending the recall, said: ‘Undoubtedly it conveys a strong censure on one act of Sir Charles Trevelyan's public conduct, yet Sir Charles Trevelyan has merits too inherent in his character to be clouded and overshadowed by this simple act, and I trust in his future career he may be useful to the public service and do honour to himself.’ Sir Charles Wood, the president of the board of control, also said: ‘A more honest, zealous, upright, and independent servant could not be. He was a loss to India, but there would be danger if he were allowed to remain, after having adopted a course so subversive of all authority, so fearfully tending to endanger our rule, and so likely to provoke the people to insurrection against the central and responsible authority’ (Hansard, 11 May 1860, cols. 1130–61; Statement of Sir C. E. Trevelyan of the Circumstances connected with his Recall from India, 1860).

His temporary disgrace made more significant his later triumph. In 1862 he went to India as finance minister, an emphatic endorsement of the justness of his former views. His tenure of office was marked by important administrative reforms and by extensive measures for the development of the resources of India by means of public works. On his return home in 1865 he threw himself with his usual enthusiasm into the discussion of the question of army purchase, on which he had given evidence before the royal commission in 1857. Later on his name was associated with a variety of social questions, such as charities, pauperism, and the like, and in the treatment of these, as well as in his political sympathies, he retained to the last all his native energy of temperament. He was a staunch liberal, and gave his support to the liberal cause in Northumberland, while residing at Wallington House in that county. He is drawn by Trollope in ‘The Three Clerks,’ 1857, 3 vols., under the name of Sir Gregory Hardlines. He died at 67 Eaton Square, London, on 19 June 1886. His first wife died on 5 Aug. 1873, leaving a son, now Sir George Otto Trevelyan, bart. Sir Charles married, secondly, on 14 Oct. 1875, Eleanor Anne, daughter of Walter Campbell of Islay.

Besides the work mentioned, Trevelyan wrote: 1. ‘The Application of the Roman Alphabet to all the Oriental Languages,’ 1834; 3rd edit. 1858. 2. ‘A Report upon the Inland Customs and Town Duties of the Bengal Presidency,’ 1834. 3. ‘The Irish Crisis,’ 1848; 2nd edit. 1880. 4. ‘The Army Purchase Question and Report and Evidence of the Royal Commission considered,’ 1858. 5. ‘The Purchase System in the British Army,’ 1867; 2nd edit. 1867. 6. ‘The British Army in 1868,’ 1868; 4th edit. 1868. 7. ‘A Standing or a Popular Army,’ 1869. 8. ‘Three Letters on the Devonshire Labourer,’ 1869. 9. ‘From Pesth to Brindisi, being Notes of a Tour,’ 1871; 2nd edit. 1876. 10. ‘The Compromise offered by Canada in reference to the reprinting of English Books,’ 1872. 11. ‘Christianity and Hinduism contrasted,’ 1882. His letters to the ‘Times,’ with the signature of Indophilus, he printed with ‘Additional Notes’ in 1857; 3rd edit. 1858. Several of his addresses, letters, and speeches were also published.

[Times, 21 June 1886; The Drawing-room Portrait Gallery of Eminent Personages, 4th ser. 1860, portrait xvi.; The Statesmen of England, 1862, portrait xxxvii.; Illustrated London News, 1859, xxxiv. 333–4; Annual Reg. 1886, ii. 146; Boulger's Lord William Bentinck (Rulers of India), pp. 12, 150, 160; Trevelyan's Life and Letters of Macaulay.]

G. C. B.