John Malcolm

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For other people named John Malcolm, see John Malcolm (disambiguation).
Sir John Malcolm
John Malcom 1769 1833 by Samuel Lane.jpg
Governor of Bombay
In office
1 November 1827 – 1 December 1830
Monarch George IV
William IV
Governor General The Earl Amherst
Lord William Bentinck
Preceded by Mountstuart Elphinstone
Succeeded by The Earl of Clare
Personal details
Born 2 May 1769
Burnfoot, Dumfriesshire, Scotland
Died 30 May 1833(1833-05-30) (aged 64)
London, England
Nationality British
Occupation Soldier, Statesman, Historian
Military service
Allegiance  United Kingdom
Service/branch Madras Army
Years of service 1782–1833
Rank Major-general
Battles/wars Third Anglo-Mysore War
Fourth Anglo-Mysore War
Battle of Mahidpur

Major-general Sir John Malcolm GCB, KLS (2 May 1769 – 30 May 1833) was a Scottish soldier, diplomat, East India Company administrator, statesman, and historian.

Early life[edit]

Sir John Malcolm was born in 1769, one of seventeen children of George Malcolm, an impoverished tenant farmer in Eskdale in the Scottish Border country, and his wife Margaret (‘Bonnie Peggy’), née Pasley. He left school, family and country at the age of thirteen, and achieved distinction in the East India Company over the next half century. A spirited character, he was nicknamed ‘Boy Malcolm’; for throughout his life he retained a youthful enthusiasm for field sports and fun and games. But behind this boisterous exterior lay serious intellectual ability and a considerable talent for government.

Career[edit]

Arriving at Madras in 1783 as an ensign in the East India Company’s Madras Army, he served as a regimental soldier for eleven years, before spending a year in Britain to restore his health. He returned to India in 1795 as Military Secretary to General Sir Alured Clarke, participating en route in Clarke’s capture of the Cape of Good Hope. In the Anglo-Mysore war of 1799 he served with the Hyderabad contingent, and later as joint secretary of the Peace Commission setting up the new government of Mysore. Later that year he was selected by the Governor-General (Lord Mornington, later Marquess Wellesley) to lead a diplomatic mission to Persia. Following his return in 1801 he became Wellesley’s private secretary, based in Calcutta (Kolkata).

In the Anglo-Mahratta war of 1803-5 he accompanied Sir Arthur Wellesley (later Duke of Wellington) as the Governor-General’s representative and diplomatic agent; the two men forming a lifelong friendship.[1] In 1804 he was appointed British Resident at Mysore, but in 1805-6 saw further service in north India with General Lake. In early 1808 the Governor-General, Lord Minto, sent him on a second mission to Persia, but at this time French influence was dominant in Tehran, and he was rebuffed. Later that year a separate mission from London under Sir Harford Jones arrived in Persia and achieved success, the Persian government having by then become disenchanted with the French. Malcolm was again sent to Persia in 1810, but by that time the British government had decided to conduct diplomatic relations with Persia directly from London, and appointed Sir Gore Ouseley as ambassador.[2]

In 1812 Malcolm returned to Britain for five years’ furlough, and spent much of his time as a writer, completing his History of Persia (the first in English derived directly from Persian sources) in 1815.[3] For this he received an honorary DCL from the University of Oxford. Returning to India in 1817, he acted as the Governor-General’s agent in negotiations leading up to the third (and last) Anglo-Mahratta war. He also acted as a general, leading Company troops to victory against Maharajah Holkar at the decisive battle of Mehidpoor (Mahidpur) in December 1817. For the next three years he acted as ruler of Central India (roughly, to-day’s Madhya Pradesh). Returning to Britain in 1822, he lived with his family as a country gentleman, completing two more books.

In 1827 he was appointed Governor of Bombay. His governorship was generally successful, despite controversy over an unfortunate quarrel with the judges of the Bombay Supreme Court, who sought to extend their jurisdiction beyond Bombay to the Deccan hinterland, newly acquired by the Company from the Mahratta Peshwah of Poona. In seeking to end sati and female infanticide by moral persuasion, Malcolm visited Gujarat in February 1830 and met Sahajanand Swami, the founder of the Swaminarayan sect of Hinduism, who was advocating similar reforms. He has ever since been remembered in Swaminarayan literature.[4] Together with his predecessor, Mountstuart Elphinstone, he was a pioneer in the promotion of Indian education and the training of Indians for the higher ranks of government.

In 1831 Malcolm finally returned to Britain, and immediately became a Member of Parliament, supporting his friend the Duke of Wellington in opposition to the Reform Bill. His last public act was a speech in April 1833 to the Proprietors (shareholders) of the East India Company, persuading them to accept the Government’s terms for renewal of its Charter. Immediately afterwards he suffered a stroke, and died on 30 May 1833.

There are statues of Sir John Malcolm in Westminster Abbey's north transept and in the Town Hall in Bombay. There is also a 100 foot high obelisk celebrating Malcolm’s achievements on the top of Whita Hill, above Langholm in Scotland.

Family[edit]

In 1807 he married (in Mysore) Charlotte Campbell, the daughter of General Sir Alexander Campbell. She bore five children, but the direct line of their descendants ceased with the death in Munich in 1945 of their last great grandson.

Legacy[edit]

Together with his contemporaries Mountstuart Elphinstone and Sir Thomas Munro, Malcolm was an architect of three early principles of British rule, whose wisdom “was too soon forgotten and remembered too late”. Four main themes can be identified. Firstly,India was to be ruled for the benefit of the Company – but also of Indians, i.e. no British settlers. Secondly, indirect rule was to be preferred, leaving existing Indian rulers in place wherever possible, with minimal disturbance of traditional methods of governance, religion and social structure. Thirdly, Malcolm helped to develop the role of the District Officer, a small group of powerful administrators with minimal overt force to support them. Fourthly, Malcolm promoted a ‘forward’ foreign policy; meaning diplomatic engagement with neighbouring states such as Persia, Afghanistan and Central Asia.

He was a mentor and inspiration to several celebrated Anglo-Indian statesmen – among them Henry Pottinger, Charles Metcalfe, Alexander Burnes and Henry Rawlinson

Literary Works[edit]

Malcolm wrote nine books, plus a volume of poetry, as follows:

Sketch of the Sikhs, 1811

Sketch of the Political History of India, 1811

Disturbances in the Madras Army in 1809, 1812

The History of Persia, 1815

A Memoir of Central India, 1823

The Political History of India, 1826

Sketches of Persia, 1827

The Government of India, 1833

The Life of Robert, Lord Clive, 1836 (posthumous)

References[edit]

  1. ^ Rory Muir. Wellington, The Path to Victory, 1769-1814 (2014), C H Philips, The Young Wellington in India (1973)
  2. ^ R M Savory. British and French Diplomacy in Persia, 1808-1810. British Institute of Persian Studies (1972)
  3. ^ A K S Lambton. Sir John Malcolm and the History of Persia. British Institute of Persian Studies (1995)
  4. ^ R Brady Williams. An Introduction to Swaminarayan Hinduism Cambridge (2001).

Resources[edit]

External links[edit]

Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
Sir William Morton
Member of Parliament for Launceston
1831–1832
Succeeded by
Sir Henry Hastings
Government offices
Preceded by
The Honourable Mountstuart Elphinstone
Governor of Bombay
1827–1830
Succeeded by
The Earl of Clare