Lord Dalhousie

Lord Dalhousie (Real name James Andrew Ramsay) served as Governor General of India from 1848 to 1856. During this period, Second Anglo-Sikh War (1849) was fought in which the Sikhs were defeated again and Dalhousie was successful in annexing the whole of Punjab to the British administration. He annexed many states by doctrine of lapse. During his tenure, first railway line between Bombay and Thane was opened in 1853 and in the same year Calcutta and Agra were connected by telegraph. His other reforms include setting up of P.W.D. and passing of the Widow Remarriage Act (1856).

Second Anglo Sikh War

The first major conflict during the early period of Lord Dalhousie was the Second Anglo Sikh war in 1848-49, which ended with annexation of Punjab and end of Sikh Kingdom. After the Treaty of Lahore, Sir Henry Lawrence was appointed at the Lahore Darbar to control the policies. He left England due to some disease, and in his place a lawyer named Sir Frederick Currie was appointed at the Lahore Durbar.

Sir Frederick Currie, was a legalist and a puritan, who asked the somewhat independent Governor of Multan, Diwan Mulraj to pay arrears of the taxes. When the British officers were sent at the Mulraj’s fortress, he revolted, attacked and wounded them. These wounded officers were saved by some people but the angry mob killed them the next day. The small army of Mul Raj was defeated, but again there was a rebellion. The war prolonged for months and Sikhs were defeated. The whole of Punjab was annexed on 29 March 1849.

Rani Jind Kaur was imprisoned and the 11 year old Maharaja Duleep Singh was sent to London to retire on pension. This was a major success under Lord Dalhousie, who not only subdued the rebellions in the region, but also annexed a large territory to the British India.

Second Anglo-Burmese War 1852-53

After the First Anglo-Burmese war, the Treaty of Yandaboo was signed between Burma and East India Company on February 24, 1826. For next 20 years the relations were normal, but the Burma Kings were chaffed of the English merchants who started flocking in the country and got settled over there.

In 1851, these merchants complained their overlords sitting in Calcutta about the oppression of the Burmese officials at Rangoon. The issue was taken seriously by the East India Company and the Lord Dalhousie asked Burma for compensation. No reply was sent from the other end. The idea was to make it a reason for an imposed war on Burma.

Apart from tha, there were minor bilateral issues regarding the Treaty of Yandaboo. However, exactly under which circumstances, this war was fought was not made public. The war started in April 5, 1852 and as soon as the war started the port of Martaban was taken on the same day. On 12th April Rangoon was annexed and in June Pegu was taken. In January 1853, a proclamation of annexation was read out and thus this war ended without any treaty signed. The outcome of this war was that Pegu was annexed to the British Empire and it was renamed Lower Burma. British dominion now was from Chittagong to Singapore in the East.

Doctrine of Lapse

Dalhousie implemented the Doctrine of Lapse whereby in the absence of a natural heir, the sovereignty of Indian states was to lapse to the British and such rulers were not permitted to adopt a son to inherit their kingdoms.

Dalhousie himself was not the author of this doctrine. In 1844, the Directors of the Company had declared that the permission to adopt on the failure of natural heirs “should be the exception not the rule” and should never be granted but as a special mark of favour or approbation”.

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