Category Archive 'Lord Auckland'

24 Nov 2015

Good Rhetoric

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RemnantsofanArmy
Assistant Surgeon William Brydon arriving at the gates of Jalalabad as the only survivor of a 16,500 strong evacuation from Kabul in January 1842 in Lady Butler’s Remnants of an Army, 1879, Tate Gallery.

Philip Mason (writing as “Philip Woodruff”) in his The Men Who Ruled India: Volume One, The Founders praised generally quite fulsomely the courage, intelligence, and disinterested statesmanship of most Governors-General of British India, but George Eden, Lord Auckland, Governor-General 1836-1842, initiator of the First Afghan War, failed to come off, in Mason’s history, quite so well.

[Lord Auckland] had a reputation in England for ability. he had a mild preference for justice, a mild and amiable good nature. In India, however, he was bored. Invested with the empire of Tamerlane and Akbar, made suddenly heir-at-law to Kubla Khan and Prester John, he was bored. Charged with the destiny of millions, moving in magnificence at which he mildly chafed through a country-sidestriken by famine, among children dying of starvation, he was bored. ‘G. detests his tent, and his march and the whole business so activelythat he will not perceive how well he is’, wrote his sister. She took him one evening to see an interesting ruin, but poor G. was more wretchedly bored than ever. …

Lord Auckland was a humane man. It may be that he was appalled by the horrors of the famine and dismayed at hos ignorance, his impotence to take any effective steps. It may bethat he concealed his wretchedness behind an emotion that seemed more appropriate to his birth. That is an interpretation more charitable to the man and more in keeping with his character than to take his boredom at face value; it does not, however, raise his reputation as Governor-General. …

The famine was at least the result of the weather and cannot be attributed directly to Lord Auckland. Not so the Afghan War. Miss Eden has a pleasantry of a flying squirrel that sat on G.’s shoulder, apparently whispering to him, ‘and though G. said the squirrel was only pulling his ear I am convinced he had more to do with public affairs than people generally supposed.’ Some explanation of public affairs was certainly needed.”


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