Page:Dictionary of National Biography. Sup. Vol II (1901).djvu/78

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Cotton
Cotton
66

mendation of Sir Charles Wood, then secretary of state for India, Cotton received the honour of knighthood. In 1866 the second class of K.C.S.I. was conferred upon him. Although he survived for thirty-three years longer, he received no other public acknowledgment of his services.

Cotton retired from government service in 1862, but from 1863 onwards he was employed from time to time in investigating and reporting upon various irrigation projects, some suggested by himself, and others emanating from other sources. Among the former of these projects were the irrigation works in Karnul and Orissa, both of which were strongly advocated by Cotton, but were less successful in their results than the works which have been described in this article. This want of success was generally attributed to the fact that in both these cases the tracts of country which it was sought to irrigate were more under the influence of the south-west monsoon than the tracts previously dealt with by Cotton, and that consequently they did not need irrigation in ordinary years. Cotton's view was that the comparative failure was largely due to the omission of the district officers to impress upon the people the great benefit of irrigation in enabling them to cultivate more valuable crops than were possible without it.

In 1863 Cotton became engaged in a controversy with Sir Proby Cautley regarding the plan of the Ganges canal, which had been constructed by the latter. Cotton's criticisms, which had reference to the position of the canal head, were pronounced after full investigation to be well-founded, and the canal was partially remodelled at a cost, which, however, included extensions of work necessary in any case, of fifty-five lakhs of rupees [see article on Cautley, Sir Proby].

The importance of the water communications of India was a subject to which Cotton attached very great importance. He continually urged the expediency of utilising more extensively the rivers of India and the impolicy of developing the more expensive system of railway communication to the exclusion of the more economical system of canals. His views obtained little support, and his opponents declared that he had water on the brain. But there can be no question that there was much force in his arguments, and that both the revenues of India and the national wealth would have derived considerable benefit if his advice had been acted upon to a greater extent and at an earlier period. In 1878 Cotton was called upon to give evidence before a select committee of the House of Commons, which, after the disastrous famine which depopulated large tracts in the Madras and Bombay presidencies, was appointed to inquire into and report as to the expediency of constructing public works in India with money raised on loan, both as regards financial results and the prevention of famine. The attitude of some of the members of the committee was very hostile to Cotton's views, and the tenor of their report was regarded by him as unduly underrating the great importance both of irrigation and of cheap water communication. This antagonistic attitude is still maintained by some whose official positions give weight to their opinions; but the recent famine in Western India, unprecedented in its extent and virulence, has wrought a great change in public opinion, and in 1900 the viceroy (Lord Curzon of Kedleston) practically admitted in a speech in the legislative council at Simla the correctness of Cotton's views.

Cotton retired from the army with the rank of general in 1877 and settled at Woodcote, Dorking. Thenceforth he applied his ever-active mind to devising new methods for improving English agriculture. He had great faith in deep cultivation, and in a small plot of ground attached to his house at Dorking he carried out some remarkably successful experiments. To the end of his life, which reached to the great age of ninety- six, he maintained undiminished a keen interest in Indian afiairs. In a letter which he wrote to the author of this article in November 1896, after he had completed his ninety-third year, the following expressions occur: 'What delights me is that, in spite of all mistakes, God has blessed India under our rule far beyond any man's imagination. If any man had written, when I went out, expressing a hope of anything approaching the present state of things, he would have been thought the greatest fool in India.'

During his latter years he was afflicted by deafness, but in other respects he maintained to a great degree his remarkable vigour, both mental and physical. Throughout his life he was impressed by strong religious convictions, which he retained to the last. The end came peacefully and painlessly on 24 July 1899. Cotton married, in 1841, Miss Elizabeth Learmonth, who survives him. They had one son, who died before his father, and one daughter, Elizabeth, who married, first, Admiral Sir James Hope, K.C.B., and, secondly, T. Anthony Denny, esq., D.L.

Shortly after Cotton's death the secretary of state for India in council granted Lady Cotton a special pension of 250l. a year in