Henry McMahon (diplomat)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
For the political scientist, see Arthur MacMahon.
Sir Henry McMahon
Henry McMahon.jpeg
Born 28 November 1862
Simla, Punjab, India
Died 29 December 1949
London, United Kingdom
Occupation Diplomat, commissioner
Known for McMahon-Hussein Correspondence, the McMahon Line

Lieutenant Colonel Sir Arthur Henry McMahon, GCMG, GCVO, KCIE, CSI, KStJ (28 November 1862 Simla, Indian Empire – 29 December 1949 London, United Kingdom), was a British diplomat and Indian Army officer who served as the High Commissioner in Egypt from 1915 to 1917.[1] He was also an administrator in British India, and served twice as Chief Commissioner of Balochistan.[2] McMahon is best known for the McMahon-Hussein Correspondence, as well as the McMahon Line between Tibet and India. He also features prominently in T.E. Lawrence's account of his role in the Arab Revolt against the Ottoman Empire during World War I, Seven Pillars of Wisdom. He is usually known as Sir Henry McMahon.

Background[edit]

McMahon was the son of Lieutenant-General Charles Alexander McMahon, FRS, FGS (1830–1904), a geologist and Commissioner of both Lahore and Hisar in Punjab, India,[3] and who, like his father Captain Alexander McMahon (born 1791 in Kilrea, County Londonderry, Ireland) had been an officer with the East India Company. The McMahons are the Gaelic clan of Mac Mathghamhna who had come originally from the medieval Irish kingdom of Airgíalla or Oriel in South Ulster/North Leinster, where they reigned from around 1250 until about 1600.

Sir Henry McMahon's own family had settled in the Downpatrick area of County Down before his great-grandfather, The Rev. Arthur McMahon, moved to Kilrea, where he was minister to the local Presbyterian congregation between 1789 and 1794: a prominent Irish Republican, The Rev. McMahon was a member of the National Directory of the Society of United Irishmen and one of their colonels in Ulster during the Irish Rebellion of 1798.[4] He apparently fought at the battles of Saintfield and Ballynahinch and after the rebels' overall defeat had been able to flee to France where he served with Napoléon's Irish Legion. It is said that he was captured by the British during the Walcheren Campaign of 1809, and though sent to England, was later able to return to France where in June 1815 he eventually died fighting, it is believed, at either Ligny or of Waterloo.[5]

Career[edit]

McMahon was commissioned a Lieutenant in the Indian Staff Corps in the 1880s and was appointed a Companion of the Most Eminent Order of the Indian Empire (CIE) in 1894. By 1897, he had been promoted to captain and was appointed a Companion of the Most Exalted Order of the Star of India (CSI) in that year. He was promoted Major in the army in July 1901.[6] He was knighted as a Knight Commander of the Most Eminent Order of the Indian Empire (KCIE) in 1906 and promoted to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel in 1909. In 1911, on the occasion of the Delhi Durbar, he was foreign secretary of the British government in India. The King made him a Knight Grand Cross of the Royal Victorian Order (GCVO), an award in his own gift. He spoke Persian, Afghan, and Hindoostani, an aptitude for languages that led also to Arabic.

Sir Henry was appointed to the post of High Commissioner in Egypt in 1915. When he arrived by train Sir Ronald Storrs described him as "quiet, friendly, agreeable, considerate and cautious,"[7] although later in his career Storrs and others were not so charitable. He was made a Knight of Grace of the Most Venerable Order of the Hospital of Saint John of Jerusalem (KStJ). McMahon replaced Sir Milne Cheetham, briefly acting for Kitchener. Although a temporary appointment it became a permanent post, for an experienced political administrator. McMahon hosted the meeting at Cairo in 1915 when Commissioner Sir George Sykes sought permission from Army Intelligence HQ to take the idea of Arabism and a revolt back to the Imperial General Staff. It was then that McMahon commenced a long and fruitful correspondence with Sheikh Sharif Hussein to put the Bedouin tribes in power to overthrow the Ottoman Sultanate in the desert. Gilbert Clayton, Aubrey Herbert, Storrs and others of the intelligence community approved of McMahon's pro-Arabist policy from 1916 onwards. Although he understood T E Lawrence, McMahon sat on the plan for six months which was to use Sharif to put Ibn Saud on a pan-Arabian throne. But it was Sir Reginald Wingate who persuaded McMahon that the Arabs were ready, able and willing for Cairo to "mother" an Arabian empire for Hussein. He urged McMahon to communicate the decision to Grey and Kitchener. Lord Hardinge in India was deeply skeptical; the argument raged in the Foreign Office, but ultimately McMahon's view prevailed. Hussein believed McMahon would accept his Damascus Protocol. Whilst Storrs thought the diplomacy was "in every way exaggerated."[8] He was appointed a Knight Grand Cross of the Most Distinguished Order of Saint Michael and Saint George (GCMG) in 1916 upon his retirement from the Indian Army.

The British attitude was that the start of a revolt was down to the Arabs. By May 1916, Turkish troops had arrived in Mecca, McMahon received a telegram from Abdullah Hussein that the Movement was ready. McMahon despatched the oriental secretary, Storrs to London with a team of intelligence experts. The British decision to land at the Dardanelles, instead of Alexandretta, and to allow French Syria founded by the Sykes-Picot Treaty to exist at all, irritated McMahon.

In 1920, he was awarded the Order of El Nahda, 1st Class, from the King of the Hejaz. In 1925, he was promoted to a Knight of Justice of the Most Venerable Order of the Hospital of Saint John of Jerusalem (KStJ).

Titles[edit]

  • 1862-1882: Arthur Henry McMahon
  • 1882-1894: Lieutenant Arthur Henry McMahon
  • 1894-1895: Lieutenant Arthur Henry McMahon, CIE
  • 1895-1897: Captain Arthur Henry McMahon, CIE
  • 1897-1901: Captain Arthur Henry McMahon, CSI, CIE
  • 1901-1906: Major Arthur Henry McMahon, CSI, CIE
  • 1906-1909: Major Sir Arthur Henry McMahon, KCIE, CSI
  • 1909-1911: Lieutenant Colonel Sir Arthur Henry McMahon, KCIE, CSI
  • 1911-1916: Lieutenant Colonel Sir Arthur Henry McMahon, GCVO, KCIE, CSI
  • 1916-1949: Lieutenant Colonel Sir Arthur Henry McMahon, GCMG, GCVO, KCIE, CSI

References[edit]

  1. ^ Rulers.org: Egypt, Countries E, High commissioners.
  2. ^ Rulers.org: Provinces of British India, Baluchistan, Chief commissioners.
  3. ^ Obituary of Lieut. General Charles Alexander McMahon, accessed April 2011 at http://journals.cambridge.org/download.php?file=%2FGEO%2FGEO5_1_05%2FS0016756800119685a.pdf&code=9eadff6364f30138215d621ee092fd38
  4. ^ Samuel McSkimin, The Annals of Ulster from 1790 to 1798 (1906), p 87, accessed April 2011 at https://archive.org/stream/annalsulsterfro00mccrgoog/annalsulsterfro00mccrgoog_djvu.txt
  5. ^ J.W. Kernohan, The Parishes of Kilrea and Tamlaght O‘Crilly (1912), p 37, accessed April 2011 at http://www.torrens.org.uk/Genealogy/BannValley/books/Kilrea/Kilrea03.html
  6. ^ The London Gazette: no. 27362. p. 6480. 4 October 1901.
  7. ^ J Schneers, "The Balfour Declaration", p.56
  8. ^ J Schneers, p.54-60

Bibliography[edit]

Books[edit]

Articles[edit]

  • Friedman, Isaiah (1970). 'The McMahon-Hussein Correspondence and the Question of Palestine' 5. Journal of Contemporary History. 


Political offices
Preceded by
Sir Milne Cheetham
British High Commissioner in Egypt
9 January 1915 – 1 January 1917
Succeeded by
Sir Reginald Wingate
Preceded by
Alexander Lauzun Pendock Tucker
Chief Commissioner of Balochistan
2 April 1907 – 3 June 1909
Succeeded by
Charles Archer
Preceded by
Charles Archer
Chief Commissioner of Balochistan
6 September 1909 – 25 April 1911
Succeeded by
John Ramsay