Grant, John Peter (1807-1893) (DNB01)

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GRANT, Sir JOHN PETER (1807–1893), of Rothiemurchus, Indian and colonial governor, born in London in November 1807, was the younger son of Sir John Peter Grant [q. v.], by his wife Jane, third daughter of William Ironside (d. 6 March 1795) of Houghton-le-Spring in Durham, and formerly fellow of St. John's College, Cambridge. He entered Eton in 1819, and Haileybury in 1825, after a session at Edinburgh University. He joined the Bengal civil service in 1828, and in the following year was posted to the north-western provinces, where he served in various subordinate appointments in the revenue department. Among the districts in which he was placed were Bareilly and Pilibhit in the province of Rohilkand, where Henry Boulderson was carrying on the settlement of the land revenue. He there acquired an insight into Indian village life and into the principles regulating the assessment and collection of the land revenue, which stood him in good stead in after years. In 1832 he was appointed an assistant in the board of revenue at Calcutta, and subsequently held various offices at the presidency, among them that of secretary to the Indian law commission, of which Lord Macaulay was president. In all these posts he made his mark, and was speedily regarded as one of the rising men in the civil service. During these earlier years he took part in an animated controversy in the public press on the question of the resumption of rent-free land tenures, which he discussed with an ability that greatly added to his reputation. From March 1841 until the autumn of 1844 Grant was absent from India on furlough. On his return he was deputed to inquire into the debts of the maharajah of Mysore, and was subsequently ordered to report upon the agency for the suppression of Meriah, or human sacrifices offered by the Khands in the hill tracts of Ganjam. Both these duties he discharged in a manner which elicited high commendation from the government of India. In 1848 he was selected by Lord Dalhousie for the post of secretary to the government of Bengal. In those days Bengal was governed directly by the governor-general, or in his absence by the senior member of the governor-general's council, acting in the capacity of deputy-governor. From 1848 to 1852 the governor-general, Lord Dalhousie, was absent in the north of India, and the deputy-governorship devolved upon General Sir John Littler, then the senior member of council, who was entirely unversed in civil affairs. During all this time Grant, as secretary, was the virtual ruler of the province, and introduced various reforms which greatly improved the administration. In 1853, after officiating for a time as foreign secretary, he became permanent secretary in the home department of the government of India. In this appointment, which dealt with questions concerning all branches of the domestic administration except public works, Grant effected important improvements. In 1854, upon the appointment of Mr. (now Sir) Frederick Halliday as the first lieutenant-governor of Bengal, Grant succeeded to the vacant seat in the council of the governor-general. He retained this office until 1859. As a member of council Grant's position was one of greater independence than any he had previously filled. He discharged his duties in that capacity with a thoroughness and fearless courage which have seldom been surpassed. His minutes are models of lucid statement and of logical reasoning. Probably the most important is that which he wrote on the question of annexing Oudh to British territory. Lord Dalhousie had proposed a less sweeping measure, viz. that the nawab of Oudh should be deprived of all real power, but, like the nawab of Arcot and the Nawab Nazim of Bengal, should be allowed to retain a large share of the revenues and much of the pomp and pageantry which he had previously enjoyed. Grant, however, was strongly of opinion that the proper remedy for the gross misgovernment of Oudh was the incorporation of that state with the territories immediately administered by the British-Indian government, and Grant's view was adopted by the court of directors and by the cabinet in London. Another measure which Grant strongly advocated was the enactment of a law legalising the re-marriage of Hindoo widows. Grant himself took charge in the legislative council of the bill which had been drafted under his instructions, and passed it through the council in 1856. As a member of the legislative council he gave evidence not only of his powers as a forcible and luminous writer, for which he had long been distinguished, but of oratorical capacity seldom displayed by Indian officials.

Grant was still a member of the governor-general's council when, in 1857, the Indian mutiny broke out. In August Lord Canning appointed Grant lieutenant-governor of the country about Allahabad and Benares, in the place of John Russell Colvin [q.v.],who was shut up in Agra, and who died there on 9 Sept. His district was styled the Central Provinces. In this arduous position he acquitted himself ably, keeping on good terms with military authorities, and giving unity and direction to the efforts of the civil officials. He especially exerted himself to keep open communications along the grand trunk road and to prepare supplies for the European troops when they should advance from Bengal. When in the spring of 1859 Sir Frederick Halliday resigned the post of lieutenant-governor of Bengal, Grant was chosen his successor on 1 May. During his government active measures were employed against dacoity, the system of bond-labour in the rice cultivation of the Sonthal Parganas was abolished, the raids of the Bhutias on our northern frontier and of the wild hill tribes of the district of Chittagong, the rebellions of the Khasias and of the Khands, were put down by armed force, and the danger of any recurrence of these outrages minimised by vigorous administrative reforms. But the most important matter with which Grant had to deal was that of the indigo riots in Lower and Central Bengal, where the system of cultivation in force had given rise to trouble so far back as 1810. In 1861 the disputes between the planters and cultivators of the crop reached a stage so critical as to occasion Lord Canning for a brief period more anxiety than he had felt since the days of Delhi. The credit of averting a most serious agrarian rising must be accorded to the clear perception, impartiality, and judicious measures of Grant, and to the resolution with which he adhered to them through a storm of obloquy in India and England. On 14 March 1862 he was made K.C.B., and in April he finally retired from the service and left India.

Grant's public life would probably have ended with his retirement had not an extra-ordinary emergency recalled him to office. In 1865 the rising in Jamaica and the rigorous measures taken to suppress it by the governor, Mr. Edward John Eyre, caused much excitement in England. It was felt that Eyre's successor must be an exceptional man, and in 1866 Grant was appointed to the post. He assumed charge of his office on 5 Aug. Immediately after his arrival he had to take measures which amounted to a complete revolution in the political and legal status of the island. The representative assembly was abolished and its place taken by a legislative council consisting of the governor, six official, and three non-official members. The church of England in Jamaica was disestablished. The revenue, judicial, and police systems were reorganised, and radical reforms introduced into every branch of the administration. The chronic deficit, amounting in 1865 to 80,656/., was converted in the course of two years into an annual surplus, and when he relinquished the government in 1873 he left the colony in a prosperous condition. He was created G.C.M.G. on 9 March 1874. Grant died at Upper Norwood on 6 Jan. 1893. He married in 1835 Henrietta Chichele, daughter of Trevor Chichele Plowden, of the Bengal civil service, and sister of Walter Chichele Plowden [q. v.] By her he left five sons and three daughters. The eldest daughter, Elinor, married Sir James William Colvile [q. v.]; the second, Jane, married General Sir Richard Strachey.

[Seton-Karr's Grant of Rothiemurchus, 1899 (with portrait); C. E. Buckland's Lieutenant-Governors of Bengal, 1901; Year-book of Jamaica; Dodwell and Miles's Bengal Civil Servants, 1839; Kaye and Mallesoh's Hist. of the Indian Mutiny, 1888-9,1.284-5, 343, 349. 437, iii. 9-10, 15, 88-9, iv. 228, 291, vi. 9, 17; Smith's Life of Lord Lawrence, 1885, i. 431, ii. 157; Temple's Men and Events in India, 1882, pp. 171, 179, 410; Gardner's Hist, of Jamaica, 1873, pp. 496-510; Ellis's Short Sketch of the Hist. of the Church of England in Jamaica, 1891, pp. 89-105; Spectator, 21 Jan. 1893; Saturday Review, 21 Jan. 1893.]

E. I. C.