Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Tucker, Henry St. George

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TUCKER, HENRY ST. GEORGE (1771–1851), Indian financier, born on 15 Feb. 1771 in the island of St. George's, Bermudas, was the eldest son of Henry Tucker (1742–1802), secretary, and afterwards president, of the council of the Bermudas, by Frances (d. 1813), daughter of the governor, George Bruere (d. 1780). Thomas Tudor Tucker [q. v.] was a younger brother. In 1781 he was sent to his grandfather's in England, and went to Dr. Hamilton's school at Hampstead till December 1785, when a friend of his aunt's got him a midshipman's berth on an East Indiaman, much to the displeasure of his father. Having landed at Calcutta in the William Pitt in August 1786, he was received by his uncle Bruere, secretary to government, through whose influence he obtained clerical employment in various government offices, being at one time engaged by Sir William Jones as private secretary. In 1792 he was given a company's writership, his covenant bearing date 28 March. After serving in the accountant-general's office and in the revenue and judicial department, he was appointed member and secretary of a commission for revising establishments. About this time he drew up a plan for starting a bank, partly under government control, afterwards realised in the Bank of Bengal. During the apprehensions of a French invasion he took an active part in the volunteer movement, being captain of the cavalry corps and commandant of the militia. Going to Madras in 1799, he acted for a time as military secretary to Lord Wellesley, then directing the operations against Tippu Sahib. On returning to Calcutta he was appointed, 29 Oct. 1799, secretary to government in the revenue and judicial department, in the place of Sir George Barlow. On 11 March 1801 he was appointed accountant-general, but left this post on 30 April 1804 to join the firm of Cockerell, Traill, Palmer, & Co., as managing partner. Lord Wellesley, though displeased at his desertion, acknowledged his services in a minute dated 1 May 1804. In July 1805, two days after arriving in Calcutta as governor-general for the second time, Lord Cornwallis invited Tucker to return to the accountant-generalship. Tucker declined, but in October 1805 he accepted a similar invitation from Sir George Barlow. Indian finances being at a low ebb, he was compelled to advocate sweeping retrenchments, and in consequence incurred some unpopularity. He denounced, on the score of economy, the forward policy which Lord Lake was pursuing against the Mahratta and Rajput chiefs, saying, in a letter to Sir George Barlow, ‘Let military men lead our armies, but do not make statesmen and financiers of men who have not been formed such either by nature or training.’

On 10 Dec. 1806 Tucker was sentenced by the chief justice, Sir Henry Russell, to six months' imprisonment and to pay a fine of four thousand rupees for an attempted rape. His sentence did not affect his official status, and immediately after his liberation on 11 June 1807 he was appointed member of the commission for superintending the settlement of the ceded and conquered districts; but his views on the advantages of a permanent settlement being regarded with disfavour, it was arranged in 1808 that he should retire from the commission. On 28 March 1808 he was appointed supernumerary member of the board of revenue; on 6 Jan. 1809 acting secretary, and on 26 Jan. 1809 secretary, in the public department. In January 1811 he went to England with the intention of leaving the service, and on his arrival received a donation of fifty thousand rupees from the court of directors as a mark of their approbation.

In about a year he returned to India, where, on 8 Aug. 1812, he was appointed secretary to government in the colonial and financial department, a post specially created for him by Lord Minto. Before a despatch from the court of directors disallowing this arrangement had reached Calcutta he had been appointed, 28 Dec. 1814, acting chief secretary. On 7 June 1815 he left India on leave to St. Helena, formally resigned the service during the voyage, and proceeded to England. Lord Moira had selected him for the governorship of Java, but he never returned to the east.

In April 1826 he was elected a director of the East India Company, notwithstanding the opposition aroused by his refusal to pledge himself to support missionary enterprise in India. Elected in 1834 chairman of the court, he took a prominent part in many forgotten controversies, and led the protest of the directors against the first Afghan war. The invasion of Afghanistan, he held, was directed not against a real but ostensible enemy. The Russian advance constituted a European rather than an Asiatic question, and could only be dealt with by her majesty's government in Europe, where, he believed, ‘a single monosyllable would probably have arrested the progress of Russia if addressed to her with firmness and good faith’ (Memorials of Indian Government, p. 306). Strongly opposed to free trade, he deplored ‘the fatal infatuation, as I consider it, which has caused this country to depart from its ancient policy in a way to involve large classes of our people and many valuable interests in bankruptcy and ruin’ (Memorials, p. 463). He regarded the Indian opium monopoly as an intolerable evil; he opposed the ‘over-education’ of young men for the Indian civil service: ‘We do not want literary razors to cut blocks for which intellectual hatchets are more suitable;’ and he thought that Lord Hastings had unwisely bestowed the liberty of the press on the varied population of India, ‘a boon which could not fail to excite new feelings among them.’

Elected chairman of the court of directors for the second time in 1847, he nominated Lord Dalhousie for the governor-generalship. He resigned the office of director in April 1851, and on 14 June 1851 he died at his residence, 3 Upper Portland Place, and was buried at Kensal Green. A tablet to his memory was erected in the parish church at Crayford in Kent, where his family had owned property.

In August 1811 he was married at Caverse, Roxburghshire, to Jane (d. 1869), daughter of Robert Boswell, writer to the signet. Their third daughter was Charlotte Maria Tucker [q. v.] One of the sons, Henry Carre Tucker, entered the Bengal civil service in 1831, was created a C.B., retired in 1861, and died in 1875.

Tucker wrote: 1. ‘Remarks on the Plans of Finance lately promulgated by the Court of Directors and by the Supreme Government of India,’ London, 1821, 8vo. 2. ‘A Review of the Financial Statement of the East India Company in 1824,’ London, 1825, 8vo. 3. ‘Tragedies: “Harold” and “Camoens,”’ London, 1835, 8vo.

[Memorials of Indian Government, being a selection from the papers of Henry St. George Tucker, ed. John W. Kaye, London, 1853; Kaye's Life and Correspondence of Henry St. George Tucker, London, 1854; Trial of Henry St. George Tucker, London, 1810.]

S. W.