Page:Dictionary of National Biography volume 47.djvu/254

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.

row in September 1825. In 1829 he entered Christ Church, Oxford, where he was the contemporary of Lord Canning and Lord Elgin, each of whom held after him in succession the governor-generalship of India. The illness and death of his eldest brother in 1832 (the second brother died some years before) called him away from Oxford at a critical time, and prevented his going in for honours; but at the examination for a pass degree in the following year he did so well that the examiners gave him an honorary fourth class. At the general election in 1835 he stood as a conservative candidate for the city of Edinburgh, but was defeated, his opponents being Lord (then Sir John) Campbell (1779–1861) [q. v.], and James Abercromby [q. v.], afterwards speaker of the House of Commons. In 1836 he married Lady Susan Hay, the eldest daughter of the Marquis of Tweeddale. In 1837 he again stood for parliament, and was elected for Haddingtonshire; but in the following year, owing to his father's death, he was called up to the House of Lords. In 1839 he was appointed a member of the general assembly of the church of Scotland, and took an active interest in its proceedings. He was in favour of reforms, especially in the matter of lay patronage, and his name appeared on the list of Dr. Chalmers's committee; but he was not prepared to go so far as Chalmers, and not only declined to serve on the committee, but resigned his seat in the general assembly. In the House of Lords he early attracted the notice of the Duke of Wellington and of Sir Robert Peel, and in 1843 was appointed by the latter statesman to the post of vice-president of the board of trade, succeeding Mr. Gladstone two years later as president of that board. In these offices, and especially in the latter, his work was arduous in the extreme, and his power of work was unlimited. ‘He was among the first to go to his office, and the last to go away, often extending his labours to two or three o'clock of the following morning’ (Times, 21 Dec. 1860). It is said that his work at this time sowed the seeds of the illness which caused his premature death.

At the board of trade he had to deal with the numerous railway questions which came before the government during the railway mania of that time, and thus acquired an insight into railway business which was of great value to him a few years later, when the construction of railways in India was begun. If he had had his way, he would have applied to railways in England the principle which he afterwards applied to Indian railways, of subjecting the construction and management of those great works to the control of the government—‘directly but not vexatiously exercised’—a principle which, he remarked in his great minute on Indian railways in 1853, ‘would have placed the proprietors of railway property in England and the suffering public in a better condition now than they appear to be;’ but he failed to convince Peel of the expediency of imposing so heavy a responsibility upon the government. The duty of defending in the House of Lords Peel's corn-law policy also devolved upon him at this time, and added materially to his labours. His remarkable ability and his great capacity for work were recognised, not only by the members of his own party, but by the political leaders on the other side. When Peel retired from office in 1846, Lord John Russell endeavoured to secure Dalhousie's services for the whig cabinet, but the offer was refused. However, in the following year he accepted from the same statesman the post of governor-general of India, which was about to be vacated by Henry, first viscount Hardinge [q. v.] He sailed for India in November 1847, and, after spending a few days at Madras, where his father-in-law, the Marquis of Tweeddale, was governor, he landed at Calcutta, and was sworn in as governor-general on 12 Jan. 1848. He was then in his thirty-sixth year, and he was thus the youngest man who had ever held the appointment.

When Dalhousie assumed the government, India was enjoying a period of temporary rest. The battles of the Satlaj were supposed to have broken the Sikh power, and in no other quarter was there any apprehension of disturbance. The retiring governor-general had given it as his opinion that, ‘so far as human foresight could predict, it would not be necessary to fire a gun in India for seven years to come.’ The leading Anglo-Indian newspaper, on the arrival of the new governor-general, declared that he had ‘arrived at a time when the last obstacle to the final pacification of India has been removed, when the only remaining army which could create alarm has been dissolved, and the peace of the country rests upon the firmest and most permanent basis.’ But in less than four months after Dalhousie's arrival these anticipations were rudely dispelled by news of an outrage at Multán, where two English officers, who had been sent to instal a new diwán, were murdered by the followers of the outgoing diwán, an outrage which was the precursor of a general rising of the military classes throughout the Panjáb, followed by the second Sikh war and by the annexation of that country as a British pro-