Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Eden, Ashley

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EDEN, Sir ASHLEY (1831–1887), Indian official, third son of Robert John Eden [q. v.], third lord Auckland and bishop of Bath and Wells, and nephew of George Eden [q .v.], earl of Auckland and governor-general of India, was born at Hertingfordbury in Hertfordshire on 13 Nov. 1831. He was educated first at Rugby and then at Winchester, until 1849, in which year he received a nomination to the Indian civil service. He spent 1850 and 1851 at the East India Company's college at Haileybury, but did not pass out last of his term until December 1851. In 1852 he reached India, and was first posted as assistant to the magistrate and collector of Rájsháhí. In 1855 he was appointed assistant to the special commissioner for suppressing the Santál insurrection, and in this capacity showed both tact and courage. In 1856 he was promoted to be magistrate at Moorshedábád, and during the Indian mutiny he did much to check sympathy with the revolt in that city. In 1860 Eden was appointed secretary to the government of Bengal and an ex-officio member of the Bengal legislative council. This post he held for eleven years, during the last part of Sir John Peter Grant's lieutenant-governorship, and throughout Sir Cecil Beadon's and Sir William Grey's terms of office. In 1860 Eden accompanied a force ordered to invade the hill state of Sikkim in the Himalayas, as political agent, and in March 1861 he signed a treaty with the rájá, which secured protection to travellers and free trade. This success caused Eden to be appointed special envoy to the hill state of Bhután in 1863. He was accompanied by no armed force; his demands were rejected; and he was grossly insulted and forced to sign a treaty highly favourable to the Bhutiás. This treaty was not ratified by the supreme government, and the Bhután war was the result. In 1871 Eden was appointed chief commissioner of British Burma, being the first civilian ever sent to govern that province. His term of office was signalised by many administrative reforms. In 1874 he was made a C.S.I., and in April 1877 he returned to Calcutta as lieutenant-governor of Bengal, in succession to Sir Richard Temple. His government was prosperous and successful, and he was made a K.C.S.I. in 1878. His retirement from India on being appointed a member of the secretary of state's council in 1882 caused genuine regret among both the European and native communities of Calcutta, and his admirers founded in his honour the Eden Hospital for Women and Children in Calcutta. A more solid testimony to his memory is the Eden canal, which joins the Ganges and the Tistá, and will effectually save the greater portion of Behar from famine. Eden was an assiduous attendant at the council of India for the remainder of his life. He died suddenly of paralysis on 9 July 1887.

[East India Directories and India Lists; Hunter's Imperial Gazetteer; Colonel Gawler's Mountain Warfare in Sikkim; Rennie's Bhután War; obituary notices in the Times and Allen's Indian Mail.]

H. M. S.