Dictionary of National Biography, 1912 supplement/Peile, James Braithwaite

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PEILE, Sir JAMES BRAITHWAITE (1833–1906), Indian administrator, born at Liverpool on 27 April 1833, was second son in a family of ten children of Thomas Williamson Peile [q. v.], by his wife Mary, daughter of James Braithwaite. Colonel John Peile, R.A., was a brother. In 1852 James proceeded from Repton School, of which his father was headmaster, with a scholarship to Oriel College, Oxford.

At Michaelmas term 1853 he won a first class in classical moderations and two years later a first class in the final classical school. Meanwhile in 1855 the civil service of India was thrown open to public competition, and Peile obtained one of the first twenty appointments, being placed tenth.

He travelled out to India to join the Bombay service in September 1856 by the paddle steamer Pekin, having as a fellow traveller William Brydon [q. v.], sole survivor of the Kabul retreat in 1842. Peile was at once nominated to district work. From the Thana district he was sent to Surat, and thence to Ahmedabad on 15 April 1857, where the belated news of the Meerut outbreak reached that station on 21 May 1857. Peile thus experienced some of the stern realities of the Mutiny, and he described them graphically in private letters to a friend who published them in 'The Times' on 3 Dec. 1857. In 1858 Peile was actively engaged in extending primary education and learning an inspector's duties under Sir Theodore Hope. On 4 May 1859 he was entrusted with the special inquiry into the claims made against the British government by the ruler of Bhavnagar, a native state in Kathiawar. His successful settlement of this difficulty brought him to the front and he was made under-secretary of the Bombay government.

Peile's observations in Bhavnagar had deeply impressed him with the impoverished condition of Girassias and Talukdars, depressed landowners descended from ruling chiefs, who were rapidly losing their proprietary rights. For the next five years (1861-6) he was chiefly absorbed in endeavours to remedy this state of affairs. He devised and carried out in Gujarat a scheme of summary settlement for the holders of 'alienated' estates (i.e. lands granted on favourable terms by government). There followed the enactment of Bombay Act, vi., 1862, for the rehef of the Talukdars of Western Ahmedabad. Peile resigned the post of under-secretary to government in order that he might ensure the success of legislation inspired by himself. Many estates were measured and valued by him, complicated boundary disputes settled, and the rents due to government were fixed for a term of years. His reputation for overcoming difficulties was so established that, on the occurrence of a dispute in the Rajput state of Dharanpur which threatened civil disturbance, he was sent to compose it. His arrangements were satisfactory, and his thoroughness and efficiency greatly impressed Sir Bartle Frere. In April 1866 he was selected as commissioner for revising subordinate civil establishments throughout Bombay, and then, when a wave of speculation passed over the province, he became registrar-general of assurances, and took an active part in compelling companies to furnish accounts. Having thus established his claims to promotion, he took furlough to England from September 1867 to April 1869.

On his return to duty he became director of public instruction in succession to Sir Alexander Grant [q. v.], and held the post till 1873. He laid truly the foundations of primary education, in which Bombay has always taken the lead. He also compiled an outline of history to assist school teachers in giving their lessons. In 1872 the finances of the city of Bombay became embarrassed, and Peile was sent to settle them, acting as municipal commissioner. Subsequently he undertook for a short period the political charge of Kathiawar, to which he returned again in 1874, holding it until 1878. As political agent of Kathiawar Peile greatly added to his reputation. This important agency covered 23,000 square miles, the territorial sovereignty being divided among the Gaekwar of Baroda and 193 other chiefs, all equally jealous of their attributes of internal sovereignty. Peile found the province in disorder and its chiefs discontented, and he left it tranquil and grateful. In 1873 Waghirs and other outlaws terrorised the chiefs and oppressed their subjects. Capt. Herbert and La Touche had been murdered, and one morning as Peile reached his tent the famous leader Harising Ragji, who was under trial for seven murders and had just escaped from prison, appeared before him. Peile, who was alone, refused to guarantee to him more than justice, and the fugitive was rearrested, tried, and convicted. Gradually the chiefs were persuaded to co-operate in maintaining order, and a police force was organised. While the British officer asserted the rights of the paramount power, he did not ignore the rights of the chiefs, whose claims to revenue from salt and opium he vigorously asserted against the government of Bombay in later years, and he encouraged the chiefs to send their karbharis or ministers in order to discuss with him and each other their common interests. He lent Chester Macnaghten his powerful support and encouragement in establishing an efficient college at Rajkote for the sons and relatives of the ruling chiefs. Able to take up the records of a tangled suit or case and read them in the vernacular, he defeated intrigue and corruption, for which the public offices had gained a bad name, by mastering details and facts without the aid of a native clerk. By such means he won the confidence of the chiefs, and secured their active assistance. The Peile bridge, opened on 17 June 1877, over the Bhadar in Jetpur, and the consent won from the ruler of Bhavnagar in 1878 to the construction of a railway, are standing records of a policy of united effort which to-day covers the province with roads and railways. In 1877 the shadow of famine lay over the province, and Peile sought help from Sir Richard Temple [q. v. Suppl. II], who told him plainly that he 'could not spare a single rupee.' Peile's answer, 'I know then where I stand,' impressed Temple. He at once proceeded to organise self-help by local co-operation, and averted a grave catastrophe. Peile was a member of the famine commission (1878-80), and Temple in giving evidence before it declared that 'the condition of Kathiawar was a credit to British rule.'

Peile spent a few months in Sind in 1878, but declined an offer of the commissionership there. From 1879 to 1882 he was secretary and acting chief secretary to the Bombay government. During 1879 he accompanied the famine commission on its tour of inquiry, receiving in the course of it the honour of C.S.I. In October he proceeded to London to assist in writing the famous famine report remarkable 'for its detailed knowledge of varying conditions and grasp of general principles' (Lord Hartington's Despatch, No. 4, dated 14 March 1881). On his return to Bombay he was sent to Baroda to clear off appeals against the government of Baroda in respect of Girassia claims. He had hardly rejoined the secretariat when the governor -general recalled him to Simla to take part in a conference regarding the rights of certain Kathiawar states to manufacture salt. On 23 Dec. 1882 he became member of council at Bombay, and to him Lord Ripon [q. v. Suppl. II] looked with confidence to give effect to his self-government policy. Peile matured and carried through such important measures as the legislative councils Bombay Acts I and II, 1884, Local Boards, and District Municipalities Acts. These Acts did not go as far as Lord Ripon hoped in the ehmination of official guidance from municipal and local board committees; but Peile knew that it was unsafe to go further, and the viceroy cordially acknowledged his services. In 1886 he carried an amendment of the Bombay Land Revenue Code, securing to the peasantry the benefit of agricultural improvements. His experience in educational matters was of great service. He had become vice-chancellor of the university in 1884, and in 1886 he dealt with technical education in his convocation address. In 1886 Peile left the Bombay council on his appointment by Lord Dufferin, Lord Ripon's successor on the supreme council. From 4 Oct. 1886 to 8 Oct. 1887, with a few days' interval, Peile served as a member of the supreme government. His presence greatly assisted the enactment of the Punjab Tenancy Act and the Land Revenue Bill, while Lady Dufferin found an active supporter and exponent at a public meeting of her benevolent scheme for female medical aid.

To the regret of Lord Dufferin, Peile left India on his nomination to the India council in London (12 Nov. 1887). In 1897 his ten years' term of office was extended for another five years. During these fifteen years he took a leading part at the India office in the government of India. He was one of the first to were upon his colleagues the need for enlarging provincial councils and for increasing their powers. He was a jealous guardian of the finances of India, strenuously opposing the application of her revenues to the cost of sending troops in 1896 to Suakin as 'not being a direct interest of India.' He also objected to imposing on cotton exported to India a differential and preferential rate (3 per cent.) of import duties, when the general tariff fixed for revenue purposes was 5 per cent. While he advocated a progressive increase in the number of Indians admitted to the higher branches of the service, he firmly opposed the 'ill-considered resolution' of the House of Commons (2 June 1893), in favour of simultaneous examinations. He declined the offer of chairmanship of the second famine commission, but he served on the royal commission on the administration of the expenditure of India in 1895, and recorded the reservations with which he assented to their report dated 6 April 1900. He was made K.C.S.I. in 1888.

Throughout his career he had found recreation in sketching, and some of his productions in black and white won prizes at exhibitions in India. Retiring from public office on 11 Nov. 1902, he devoted himself to family affairs, and found leisure to record an account of his life for his children. He died suddenly on 25 April 1906 at 28 Campden House Court, London, W., and was buried at the Kensington cemetery, Hanwell.

Peile married in Bombay, on 7 Dec. 1859, Louisa Elisabeth Bruce, daughter of General Sackville Hamilton Berkeley. His wife survived him with two sons, James Hamilton Francis, archdeacon of Warwick, and Dr. W. H. Peile, M.D., and a daughter.

[The Times, 27 April 1906; Annals of the Peiles of Strathclyde, by the Rev. J. W. Peile (brother of Sir James); Famine Commissioners Reports; Legislative Proc. of Governments of India and Bombay; Kathiawar administration Reports; private papers lent by the archdeacon of Warwick.]

W. L-W.