Dictionary of National Biography, 1912 supplement/Smeaton, Donald Mackenzie

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SMEATON, DONALD MACKENZIE (1846–1910), Anglo-Indian official, born at St. Andrews on 9 Sept. 1846, was eldest of the twelve children of David James Smeaton, schoolmaster of Letham House, Fife, and Abbey Park, St. Andrews, by his wife Elizabeth, daughter of Capt. Donald Mackenzie of the 42nd Black Watch, who fought through the Peninsular war and at Waterloo. His ancestors included Thomas Smeton [q. v.], the first principal of Glasgow University, and John Smeaton, the engineer [q. v.]. His next brother, Robert Mackenzie (1847–1910), was his colleague in the civil service of the North-West provinces of India and a member of the local legislative council.

Smeaton was educated at his father's efficient school. Abbey Park, St. Andrews, and at the university there, where he graduated M.A. He passed second in the Indian civil service examination of 1865, and arriving in India in November 1867, served in the North-West provinces as assistant magistrate and collector, and from May 1870 in the settlement department. He won a medal and 100l. for proficiency in oriental languages. In 1873 he published an annotation of the revenue act of the provinces, and in 1877 a useful monograph on Indian currency. In April 1879 he was sent to Burma to organise the land revenue administration there, and in May 1882 he was appointed secretary in that department and director of agriculture.

After serving as director of agriculture and commerce in the North-West provinces from May 1886, he returned in April 1887 to Burma, on the annexation of the upper province, as officiating chief secretary to the chief commissioner. Sir Charles Bernard [q. v. Suppl. II]. In Upper Burma he closely studied the hill races of the new province, and he embodied his inquiries in 'Loyal Karens of Burma' (1887), which is the standard work on its theme. In May 1888 he became commissioner of the central division of Upper Burma, and his vigorous work in suppressing dacoits gained him the Burma medal with two clasps. Smeaton's interest in the people and mastery of their vernaculars established his influence over both the Burmans and the semi-civilised hill tribes. In March 1891 he was appointed financial commisioner of Burma, and helped to develop the mining industries, while rigidly abstaining from any private investments. Acting chief commissioner in May 1892, and also from 25 April to 9 Aug. 1896, he officially represented Burma on the supreme legislative council from 1898 to 1902. In the council he showed characteristic independence. He advocated an amendment of the Lower Burma chief courts bill, which the government of India opposed, and he boldly criticised Indian land revenue policy in March 1902. Selected by Lord Curzon to be secretary of the famine relief committee of 1900, he showed an energy which was acknowledged by the award of the Kaisar-i-Hind medal of the first class on its institution in May 1900. Disappointed of the lieutenant-governorship of Burma in succession to Sir Frederick Fryer, he retired from the service in 1902.

Settling for five years at Winchfield, Hampshire, Smeaton interested himself in local affairs and in the cause of the liberal party. He subsequently removed to Gomshall, Surrey. On platforms in London and in Scotland he urged reform of the government of India (cf. A Future for India, a reprint from India, 12 Feb. 1904), but he did not identify himself with the extreme section of Indian agitators. At the general election of 1906 he was elected liberal M.P. for Stirlingshire. In parliament he supported the strong measures taken by the Indian government against disorder in 1907 and 1908, and in the debates on the Indian Councils Act, 1909, embodying Lord Morley's reforms, he acknowledged the importance of maintaining the essentials of British authority. He worked hard in committee of the House of Commons, and followed Scottish questions with assiduity, speaking briefly and to the point, and obeying the party 'Whip' with conscientious discrimination. Failing health disabled him from offering himself for re-election on the dissolution in January 1910. He died on 19 April 1910 at his residence, Lawbrook, Gomshall, Surrey, and was buried at Peaslake, Surrey. An oil painting by Mr. H. J. C. Bryce belongs to his widow. He married twice: (1) on 2 Feb. 1873 Annette Louise, daughter of Sir Henry Lushington, fourth baronet; she died on 17 Jan. 1880; by her he had a son, Arthur Lushington, lieutenant in the 18th Tiwana lancers, who was killed at polo in July 1903, and a daughter; and (2) on Nov. 1894 Marion, daughter of Major Ansell of the 4th (K.O.) regiment; she survived him with one daughter.

[India List, 1910; Ind. Finan. Statement and Discuasion thereon for 1902-3; Parly. Debates, 1906 to 1909; Rangoon Gaz. and Rangoon Times of various dates; Pioneer, 5 and 20 Feb. 1902; The Times, 21 April 1910; personal knowledge; information kindly supplied by Mrs. Smeaton.]

F. H. B.