The Times/1914/Obituary/William Lee-Warner

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Death of Sir William Lee-Warner

Source: The Times, Monday, Jan 19, 1914; pg. 11; Issue 40424.—Death Of Sir William Lee-Warner

Death of Sir William Lee Warner.

A great administrator.

We regret to record the death, which occurred in Norfolk yesterday, of Sir William Lee-Warner, G.C.S.I., the distinguished Indian administrator and author, who retired from the Council of India as recently as November, 1912. The cause of death was heart failure following on nervous collapse due to accidental blood-poisoning.

Sir William, who was born in April 18, 1846 belonged to a well-known Norfolk family, his father being Canon James Lee-Warner, of Thorpland Hall, Norfolk, and his mother a granddaughter of Sir Edward Astley, Bt. An elder brother, John preceded him in entering the Indian Civil Service, and another, Henry, at one time Liberal candidate for South-West Norfolk, has taken an active share in county affairs as chairman of the education committee of the County Council and in other capacities for many years. From Rugby William went as an exhibitioner and foundation scholar to St John's College, Cambridge, here he graduated in 1869, taking honours in the oral sciences tripos. In later years Cambridge gave hi the honorary LL.D. degree. Both at school and at the University he made his mark in sports, and throughout a strenuous official career he retained his athletic and open-air tastes.

Varied Experiences in India.

Passing the Indian Civil Service examination of 1867, Lee-Warner joined the Bombay Service at the close of 1869. He made rapid headway, becoming Director of Public Instruction in Berar within three years, and soon afterwards private secretary to the Governor of Bombay, Sir Philip Wodehouse. Thereafter he had the advantage of varied experience, in district, secretariat, educational, and political work. As Under-Secretary to the Government of India in the Foreign Department, he laid the foundation of the exceptionally intimate knowledge of custom, law, and policy in relation to the independently administered areas of the sub-continent of which we have a monument in his "Protected Princes of India," published in 1894, and revised with the altered title of "The Native Stated of India," in 1910. It holds undisputed place as the standard authority on the subject. Lee-Warner had direct experience of important states as Political Agent of Kholapur for several years, and subsequently as Resident in Mysore and Chief Commissioner at Coo(illegible text).

Always interested in educational problems, Lee-Warner was a member of the important Education Commission of the early eighties. and afterwards acted as Director of Public Instruction in Bombay. He was a Fellow of the University of Bombay, and gave occasional lectures at the various colleges. His small book entitled "The Citizen of India," though unpalatable to politicians eager to decry the British administration, met with hearty approval among thoughtful Indians as setting a high and just ideal of civic duty and British and Indian cooperation. Sir William was Chief Secretary to the Bombay Government for six years, and represented the province for two terms on the Supreme Legislature. Amid these official activities he found tie to organize and administer the first "up-country" nursing association for Europeans (1891), and to institute the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Society in Bombay and Sind.

Official Work at Home.

Lee-Warner's exceptional talents led to a general expectation that he would become Governor of his province, notwithstanding the great rarity of such promotion fro the Indian Civil Service; but in 1895 Lord George Hamilton brought him home to be Secretary of the Political and Secret Department at the India Office. In this capacity, and as a member of the Secretary of State's Council, to which he was appointed for 10 years in November, 1902, he exercised great influence upon affairs. The Indian authorities turned to hi whenever any specially knotty problem, foreign or political, required either consideration or settlement. His opposition, for example, largely turned the scale against our undertaking fresh territorial responsibilities in the Aden hinterland, and against proposals influentially pressed subversive to maintaining the long-established proportion of European to native troops in India. While cautious in temperament and alive to the dangers of instability of policy in dealing with Eastern peoples, Lee-Warner was no more reactionary, as has sometimes been suggested. The animosity of the anti-British element arose fro a recognition that he saw through its devices and did much to defeat them by his skill in statecraft and his patriotic strength of purpose There is reason to believe that a few years ago the Anarchist section considered plans for his "removal." But no more genuine friend of the Indian people, and particularly the cultivated classes, has served in our time. A Quarterly Review article he wrote when quite a young civilian greatly helped in placing the Deccan Agriculturists' Relief Act upon the Statute-book. He was chairman of the Committee which in 1907 recommended definite arrangements for the welfare and help of Indian students. He was trusted and admired by all four of the Secretaries of State, Unionist and Liberal , under whom he served. Though failing on some notable matters to gain his complete assent, Lord Morley set much store by his counsel, based as it was upon great intellectual gifts, absolute independence of judgment, and intimate knowledge of Indian intricacies. A signal proof of this esteem was Lord Morley's recommendation at the beginning of 1911 of promotion from the K.C.S.I., conferred in 1898, to the Grand Commandership of the Order, the European membership which has mostly been reserved for Viceroys, Governors, and Secretaries of State.

Books and Articles.

In addition to the books already mentioned, Sir William wrote the authorised biography of Lord Dalhousie, which appeared in two volumes in 1904, in accordance with the wish of that great Governor-General, ore than 50 years after his death. His life of Field-Marshal Sir Henry Wylie Norman (1908) was written from the closer standpoint of personal intimacy, but both biographies are valuable to students of Anglo-Indian history. Sir William contributed substantially to bo the first and second supplements of "The Dictionary of National biography," to "The Imperial Gazetteer of India," to the "Encyclopaedia Britannica," and to "The Cambridge Modern History." He also wrote frequently for the quarterly and monthly reviews, and by speech as well as pen, in lectures at universities and elsewhere, did much to widen the public knowledge of Anglo-Indian history and polity, A devout Churchman, he was actively interested in the Civil Service of Prayer Union and the Indian Church Aid Association, and he also spoke and wrote for the fund for the education of Eurasians. He had planned other literary work, and found abundant occupation for the leisure following his recent retirement from Council. He was a very prominent member of the Council of the Royal Society of Arts ad chairman of the Indian section of that society when he died.

Thus in a variety of ways Lee-Warner spent his great strength of mind and body in promoting the welfare of the Indian peoples, and the stability and justice of British rule. The tribute of a most distinguished man who had first-hand opportunities for observing Lee-Warner's work in Whitehall over a long series of years was not overdrawn:—"I say deliberately that, among my contemporaries, I know none who have worked harder or more devotedly for the State, or who have a better record. This would be true if I spoke only of work in office hours, but that is only a part, even a small part."

Sir William married in 1876 Ellen Paulina, eldest daughter of Major-General J. W. Holland, C.B., and had a family of four sons—one was drowned in a swimming race of the Vancouver coast a few years ago; one is Mr. Philip Lee-Warner, the publisher; one is in the Federated Malay States Civil Service; and the youngest son is studying art in Italy.

The arrangement for the funeral, which will be in Norfolk, will be announced later.


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