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There were things done in the palace, and duly reported to the Resident, in violation of all laws human and divine. The crimes which were thus committed, sometimes behind the sanctity of the purdah, greatly disquieted Metcalfe, for it was difficult either to prevent their commission, or to deal with them when they were committed. One day it was reported to him by the officer in command of the palace-guard, whose duty it was to take cognisance of all that passed within the limits of the imperial residence, that two of the young princes had been playing the parts of common robbers-oiling their naked persons, then rushing with drawn swords among the startled inmates of the zenana, and forcibly carrying off their property. Another time it was announced to him that one of these princes had murdered a woman in the palace, either by beating her to death or compelling her to swallow opium. Again tidings came to him that one of the ladies of the emperor's establishment had murdered a female infant. Then it was reported to the Resident that the imperial quarters had been rendered a general receptacle for stolen goods and sequestered property. Then a knotty question arose as to whether the slave-trade, having been prohibited in the city of Delhi, should be allowed to survive in the palace. Then it appeared that the emperor himself, after sundry inirigues at Calcutta, was intriguing with the Newab Wuzeer of Oude, through the agency of his favourite son, the Prince Jehanguire, who, on the pretext of attending a marriage festival, had gone to Lucknow, from Allahabad, where he was a state prisoner, to beseech the Newab to intercede with the British government for the augmentation of his father's stipend.
Notwithstanding Metcalfe's prudence in money matters, his liberality and hospitality involved him in a rather unpleasant position at Delhi. Misconduct on the part of the Bhurtpore Rajah, and other symptoms of general inquietude, also came to disturb the routine of general political duties. The greater part of the long administration with which this narrative occupies itself, is indeed like the rest of the modern annals of Indian rule---marked by continual hostilities with neighbouring states. Such are the inevitable penalties of the juxta-position of civilisation and barbarity. Among the first of these was the war with Nepal—the events of which are not connected with the biography of Charles Metcalfe by any other link than that of the correspondence which he carried on with many of the chief actors in it.
Metcalfe's views upon the settlement of Central India were of a rather arbitrary character; they were to the effect that, with regard to all the great military states and predatory powers, it was clearly our interest to annihilate them, or to reduce them to a state of weakness, subjection, and dependence. And with regard to the weak, and harmless, and welldisposed petty states, though it was not so indispensably necessary for our vital interests that we should support them, yet it was a just and proper object of wise and liberal policy. These plans, however, adopted by Lord Hastings, were not approved of by the home authorities.
At length, in October, 1818, Metcalfe's residence in Central India was brought to a close by his appointment to the conjoined situation of Private and Political Secretary to the Governor-General. There was irksomeness, however, even in this elevated position. There is, indeed, it is well known, no perfect, unalloyed happiness here below. “Mornings and days," he wrote to a friend at this time, “ I have been at work, and as hard as possible ; and every night, and all night, at least to a late hour, I have been at all sorts of gay parties. I have been raking terribly, and know not when it will stop ; for, to confess the truth, I find
I rather like it. But I hope the hot weather will check it, for though I do not dislike it, I cannot approve what is contrary to all my notions of . what is wholesome for body and mind.”
Charles Metcalfe solaced himself amidst the discontents of what is designated, upon rather debatable grounds, “a dreary present," with dreams of a brilliant future. When that airy fiction was converted, fifteen years afterwards, into a substantial fact, was he in reality any happier? Certain it is that before he had been a year in Calcutta he had grown weary of the place and of his high office; and after dreaming of a lieutenant-governorship of Central and Upper India, he accepted the appointment of Resident at the Court of the Nizam at Hyderabad.
It was no insignificant task for the editor and biographer of Charles Metcalfe's life and career that each new government that he entered upon had to be preceded by a general history of the political and administrative condition of the country, before our diplomatist entered upon his projected reforms or remedial measures. Hyderabad was, no more than any other of his posts, destined to be a scene of unalloyed triumphs to the laborious administrator; a dispute arose between the Resident and the house of Palmer and Co., generally known by the name given to it by Metcalfe himself, as the “Plunder of the Nizam,” which caused an estrangement between Lord Hastings and Metcalfe, and which was only healed on the former quitting the seat of government, but afterwards broke out with furious activity in England.
At length sickness overtook our diplomatist, now Sir Charles Metcalfe, and obliged him to quit the scene of most vexatious conflicts. He returned to Calcutta, and it appears to have been during the leisure of convalescence that he first entertained those views on the great question of the liberty of the press, a practical solution of which was among the greatest measures of his public life.
It was not, however, till after Sir Charles had once more visited the scene of his earlier administrative labours, Delhi, and the fall of Bhurtpore had been achieved, that he obtained a seat in the Council of India. * The highest prize in the regular line of the service,” his biographer remarks, “was now gained. It was his privilege to take his seat at the same Board with the Governor-General to make minutes on every possible subject of domestic administration and foreign policy—to draw a salary of 10,0001. a year—to be addressed as an Honourable'—and to subside into a nonentity.”
Certain it is, that Sir Charles did not work well with his colleagues; society he enjoyed tolerably, so much so as to have thought of building a grand ball-room, which was to cost 20,000 rupees; but his letters at this date, and which are replete with interest, show a mind dissatisfied with itself, and with all from whom he sought public co-operation. Nor was this untoward state of things much improved when Lord William Bentinck succeeded Lord Amherst as Governor-General. Metcalfe soon discovered that “they did not approximate--that there was little sympathy between them." This coldness was, however, of brief duration. “If Lord William Bentinck had arrived in India with any foregone conclusions hostile to his colleague, they were soon discarded as unworthy prejudices utterly at variance with his growing experience of the fine qualities of the man. There was the same simplicity of character, the same
honesty of purpose, the same strength of resolution in a word, the same manliness of character in them both ; and Metcalfe soon ceased to complain that they did not draw toward each other. Before the GovernorGeneral commenced his first tour to the Upper Provinces, a friendship had grown up between the two statesmen which nothing but death could terminate or diminish.”
On the 20th of November, 1833, Sir Charles was appointed to the newly-created government of Agra, and a month afterwards he was nominated Provisional Governor-General of India on the death, resignation, or going away of Lord William Bentinck. Allahabad was designated as the seat of the new presidency; and when at length Sir Charles took his departure, all classes, Europeans, natives, and Eurasians (mixed races), vied with each other in doing honour to the departing statesman. The ladies gave a fancy ball, and the missionaries presented an address. Yet four sentences suffice to describe his government of Agra. He went to Allahabad—he pitched his tents in the fort-he held a levee—and he returned to Calcutta. He had scarcely reached the seat of his government, when advices of the speedy departure of the Governor-General, and the certainty that no successor would be immediately appointed, compelled his return to the presidency. He arrived just in time to take an affectionate leave of Lord and Lady William Bentinck; and on the 20th of March, 1834, he became, what more than thirty years before he declared that he would become-Governor-General of India.
This was however only, after all, a provisional governorship; the Whig government at home held that it was more expedient to appoint an English statesman, than one trained in either of the Indian services, to so high and responsible a situation; but while they were looking about for a fit person, the Tories, with Sir Robert Peel at their head, came in, and at once nominated Lord Heytesbury. Before, however, the latter could even get away, the Whigs were again in power, and Lord Auckland ultimately received the appointment. It was during this brief enjoyment of power that Sir Charles Metcalfe liberated the press of India--an important measure, which made him lose caste with many of his oldest friends, but which received the sanction of the new Governor-General.
As an indemnification for the loss of the provisional governor-generalship, Lord Auckland brought out with him the insignia of the Grand Cross of the Bath; a public investiture took place, and Sir Charles was induced to accept the lieutenant-governorship of the North-Western Provinces. He did not, however, retain this appointment long ; so early as the 8th of August, 1837, he addressed a letter to Lord Auckland, saying that it was with great regret he found himself compelled to resign his office on or about the following 1st of January, in order that he might embark for England during the approaching sailing season, and retire from the service of the East India Company. The cause of this application is discussed at length by his biographer, and it appears to resolve itself into a justifiable sensitiveness upon the subject of the legislation of the liberty of the press, and a feeling that he had lost the confidence of the Board of Directors.
So correct was this almost intuitive feeling of the position in which he was placed, that scarcely an effort was made to induce him to alter his resolve, and as the time for his departure grew near, public entertain
ments were given, and addresses began to pour in upon him. Nothing could exceed the demonstrations of respect and attachment which greeted the departing statesman. Soldiers and civilians, merchants and tradesmen, Europeans and natives, united to do him honour. His residence in Calcutta was brief; but from first to last it was a great ovation, and at last, on the 15th of February, 1838, Sir Charles Metcalfe, after thirty-eight years of constant labour for the welfare of India, left that country for having done too much for it—at least, more than was acceptable to those who wished to rule irresponsibly, and with a gagged press.
Şir Charles Metcalfe took up his abode, on his return to England, on his paternal estate of Fern-hill, near Windsor. Transplanting thither the exuberant hospitality of the East, he soon found that what would do at Allipore and Garden-reach would not answer in Berkshire. Money, the high-minded man felt, was made for better uses than to be thrown away on dinners and balls, horses, coaches, and servants. He did not care to thrust the paternal inheritance and his own hard savings into the plush pockets of fastidious flunkeys. Nor did idleness without leisure, and obscurity without retirement, suit either his temper or his disposition. A Radical in politics, he had always coveted a seat in Parliament, yet now that such distinction was within his grasp, he disliked a mere purchase on the one hand, and shrunk back on the other from the large amount of solicitation involved in being returned by a great constituency. His hesitations upon this point were set at rest by the offer of the government of Jamaica. The offer was not a tempting one. He was invited to brave an unhealthy climate; to administer the affairs of a disorganised government; and to grapple with a convulsed state of society. Metcalfe, however, believed or felt that he was wanted once more in the breach, and he accepted.
Metcalfe's policy in Jamaica was of an especially conciliatory character. There was the labour question—the new difficulties that had arisen between the proprietary classes and the emancipated slaves—the missionaries and the stipendiary magistrates, fomenting discord: Metcalfe endeavoured to inculcate charity and harmony. Among all these incoherent materials he succeeded to that degree during his short administration, that, as his biographer justly remarks, his success is almost without a parallel. He reconciled the colony with the mother country; he reconciled all classes of colonial society; and whilst he won the approbation of his sovereign, he carried with him, also, the hearts of the people.
Unfortunately, the progress of a fatal malady compelled him to quit the scene of such useful labours. The first slight symptoms of a painful local disease, which gradually ate into his life, had made their appearance some years before in India. A red spot upon the cheek-a drop of blood, to which a friend called his attention one day in Calcutta, had been the first visible sign of the slowly-developed mischief. From that time the progress of the disease had been steady, although gradual and almost imperceptible. It assumed the form of an ulcerous affection of the cheek, at first painless, but under the influence of a West Indian climate it became both painful and malignant. He bore up against it with heroic firmness—took arsenic till his fingers swelled, yet never complained; but he was forced to leave a climate so unfavourable to his complaint.
On his return to England, a consultation was held whether the malady was to be treated medically or surgically, the latter was chosen, and Sir Charles was put to the most grievous tortures, in vain attempts to eradicate the disease by caustic. But although there was such a disturbance of the system as to excite some apprehensions for his safety, not a word of complaint escaped from him. Some improvement was obtained, and he was recommended to favour it by retirement and country air. Metcalfe had felt himself all this time neglected, the responsible advisers of the crown having taken no notice of him since his return. He was rejoiced, then, when the improvement in his health enabled him to accept the royal command to dine at Windsor Castle, and where he met, for the first time, Sir Robert Peel, who was then at the head of the government.
As a result of this interview, the government of Canada was offered to him; and although in such sbattered health, Sir Charles had but one standard of right whereby on all such occasions to regulate his personal conduct. The decision had nothing to do with self. The only question to be considered was, whether he thought he could render service to the state, and the result was that he did not hesitate to place himself at the disposal of the crown.
Thus a few weeks of happiness at Deer Park, chequered by severe bodily suffering, had barely elapsed before he was again on his way to a new country and a new government. If Jamaica was in an unsettled state when Sir Charles took up the reins, it was worse with Canada during the short period of Sir Charles's government, from 1843 to 1845. He, however, addressed himself to his work in a quiet, resolute spirit, with the calm consciousness of a man knowing that he was about to do his best in all honesty and sincerity, and that there were no personal considerations to cause him to swerve one hair's breadth from the path of duty. He had not come to Canada to serve himself— but to serve the state. If he failed, therefore, his failure would have been forced upon him; it would not be self-incurred.
The system of toleration and conciliation adopted, however, with such success in Jamaica, was lost upon such violent antagonism as existed in Capada between the loyal or English, the reform or Irish-American, and the alien or French parties. The very attempt to conciliate brought down the whole English council upon the new governor, led to an open rupture, and a temporary state of suspension of the constitution. Never was Sir Charles Metcalfe, with all his administrative experience, placed in so trying a situation as he was by the rupture in Canada. Only his fine temper, his high courage, and his sustaining sense of rectitude, could have enabled him to bear up against such trials. His firmness and consistency in this great struggle between the British rule in Canada and the popular branch of the legislature, and the unwonted energy he displayed in fighting the battles of the crown, were rewarded by the peerage. Alas! the tardy honour came when Sir Charles, now Lord, Metcalfe was racked by the severest bodily anguish; threatened with total loss of sight, and in apprehension of being soon deprived of the powers of articulation !