Policies of Reform
Doctrine of Lapse
Portrait of James Ramsay by John Watson-Gordon, 1847Main article: Doctrine of Lapse
The most controversial and tainted 'reform' developed and implemented under Dalhousie was the policy of taking all legal (often illegal too) means possible to assume control over “lapsed” states. Dalhousie, driven by the conviction that all India needed to be brought under British administration, began to apply what was called the doctrine of lapse. Under the doctrine, the British annexed any non-British state where there was a lack of a proper male lineal heir. Under the policy he recommended the annexation of Satara in January 1849, of Jaitpur and Sambalpur in the same year, and of Jhansi and Nagpur in 1853. In these cases his action was approved by the home authorities, but his proposal to annex Karauli in 1849 was disallowed, while Baghat and the petty estate of Udaipur, which he had annexed in 1851 and 1852 respectively, were afterwards restored to native rule. These annexations are considered by critics to generally represent an uneconomic drain on the financial resources of the company in India.
Development of Infrastructure
Other measures with the same object were carried out in the Company's own territories. Bengal, too long ruled by the Governor-General or his delegate, was placed under a separate Lieutenant-Governor in May 1854. The military boards were swept away; selection took the place of seniority in the higher commands; an army clothing and a stud department were created, and the medical service underwent complete reorganization. A department of public works was established in each presidency, and engineering colleges were provided. An imperial system of telegraphs followed. The first link of railway communication was completed in 1855, and well-considered plans mapped out the course of other lines and their method of administration. Dalhousie encouraged private enterprise to develop railways in India for the good of the people and also to reduce absolute dependence on the government. However, as an authoritarian, utilitarian ruler, Dalhousie brought the railways under state control-attempting to bring the greatest benefit to India from the expanding network.
In addition, the Ganges canal, which then exceeded all the irrigation lines of Lombardy and Egypt together, was completed; and despite the cost of wars in the Punjab and Burma, liberal provision was made for metalled roads and bridges. The construction of massive irrigation works such as the 350-mile Ganges Canal, which contains thousands of miles of distributaries was a substantial project that was particularly beneficial for the largely agricultural India. In spite of damaging certain areas of farmland by increasing soil salinity, overall the individuals living along the canal were noticeably better fed and clothed than those who were not. Europeanization and consolidation of authority were the keynote of his policy. In nine minutes he suggested means for strengthening the Company's European forces, calling attention to the dangers that threatened the English community, a handful of scattered strangers ; but beyond the additional powers of recruitment which at his entreaty were granted in the last charter act of 1853, his proposals were shelved by the home authorities as they represented yet more expense added to the cost of India. In his administration Dalhousie vigorously asserted his control over even minor military affairs, and when Sir Charles Napier ordered certain allowances, given as compensation for the dearness of provisions, to be granted to the sepoys on a system which had not been sanctioned from headquarters, and threatened to repeat the offense, the Governor-General rebuked him to such a degree that Napier resigned his command.
Dalhousie's reforms were not confined to the departments of public works and military affairs. He created an imperial system of post-offices, reducing the rates of carrying letters and introducing postage stamps. He created the department of public instruction; he improved the system of inspection of goals, abolishing the practice of branding convicts; freed converts to other religions from the loss of their civil rights; inaugurated the system of administrative reports; and enlarged the Legislative Council of India. His wide interest in everything that concerned the welfare of British economic interests in the country was shown in the encouragement he gave to the culture of tea, in his protection of forests, in the preservation of ancient and historic monuments. With the object of making the civil administration more European, he closed what he considered to be the useless college in Calcutta for the education of young civilians, establishing in its place a European system of training them in mufasal stations, and subjecting them to departmental examinations. He was equally careful of the well-being of the European soldier, providing him with healthy recreations and public gardens
Civil Service Reform
To the civil service he gave improved leave and pension rules, while he purified its moral by forbidding all share in trading concerns, by vigorously punishing insolvents, and by his personal example of careful selection in the matter of patronage. No Governor-General ever penned a larger number of weighty papers dealing with public affairs in India. Even after laying down office and while on his way home, he forced himself, ill as he was, to review his own administration in a document of such importance that the House of Commons gave orders for its being printed Another consequential set of reforms, were those aimed at modernizing the land tenure and revenue system. Throughout his time in office, Dalhousie disposed large landowners from portions of their estates. He also implemented policies attempting to end the rule of the zamindar tax farmers, as he viewed them as destructive “drones of the soil." However, thousands of smaller landlords had their holdings completely removed as did the relatively poor who leased small parcels of their land while farming the rest. This was particularly significant as the sepoys were often recruited from these economic groups.
His foreign policy was guided by a desire to reduce the nominal independence of the larger native states, and to avoid extending the political relations of his government with foreign powers outside India. Pressed to intervene in Hyderabad, he refused to do so, claiming on this occasion that interference was only justified if the administration of native princes tends unquestionably to the injury of the subjects or of the allies of the British government. He negotiated in 1853 a treaty with the nizam, which provided funds for the maintenance of the contingent kept up by the British in support of that princes authority, by the assignment of the Berars in lieu of annual payments of the cost and large outstanding arrears. The Berar treaty, he told Sir Charles Wood, is more likely to keep the nizam on his throne than anything that has happened for fifty years to him, while at the same time the control thus acquired over a strip of territory intervening between Bombay and Nagpur promoted his policy of consolidation and his schemes of railway extension. The same spirit induced him to tolerate a war of succession in Bahawalpur, so long as the contending candidates did not violate British territory.
He refrained from punishing Dost Mohammad for the part he had taken in the Sikh War, and resolutely to refuse to enter upon any negotiations until the amir himself came forward. Then he steered a middle course between the proposals of his own agent, Herbert Edwardes, who advocated an offensive alliance, and those of John Lawrence, who would have avoided any sort of engagement. He himself drafted the short treaty of peace and friendship which Lawrence signed in 1855, that officer receiving in 1856 the Order of the Bath as a Knight Commander. in acknowledgement of his services in the matter. While, however, Dalhousie was content with a mutual engagement with the Afghan chief, binding each party to respect the territories of the other, he saw that a larger measure of interference was needed in Baluchistan, and with the Khan of Kalat he authorized Major Jacob to negotiate a treaty of subordinate co-operation on 14 May 1854. The khan was guaranteed an annual subsidy of Rs. 50,000, in return for the treaty which bound him to the British wholly and exclusively. To this the home authorities demurred, but the engagement was duly ratified, and the subsidy was largely increased by Dalhousies successors. On the other hand, he insisted on leaving all matters concerning Persia and Central Asia to the decision of the queens advisers. After the conquest of the Punjab, he began the expensive process of attempting to police and control the Northwest Frontier region. The hillmen, he wrote, regard the plains as their food and prey, and the Afridis, Mohmands, Black Mountain tribes, Waziris and others had to be taught that their new neighbours would not tolerate outrages. But he proclaimed to one and all his desire for peace, and urged upon them the duty of tribal responsibility. Nevertheless, the military engagement on the northwest frontier of India he began grew yearly in cost and continued without pause until the British left Pakistan.
The annexation of Oudh was reserved to the last. The home authorities had asked Dalhousie to prolong his tenure of office during the Crimean War, but the difficulties of the problem no less than complications elsewhere had induced him to delay operations. In 1854 he appointed Outram as resident at the court of Lucknow, directing him to submit a report on the condition of the province. This was furnished in March 1855. The report provided the British an excuse for action based on "disorder and misrule". Dalhousie, looking at the treaty of 1801, decided that he could do as he wished with Oudh as long as he had the king's consent. He then demanded a transfer to the Company of the entire administration of Oudh, the king merely retaining his royal rank, certain privileges in the courts, and a liberal allowance. If he should refuse this arrangement, a general rising would be arranged, and then the British government would intervene on its own terms. On 21 November 1855 the court of directors instructed Dalhousie to assume the control of Oudh, and to give the king no option unless he was sure that his majesty would surrender the administration rather than risk a revolution. Dalhousie was in bad health and on the eve of retirement when the belated orders reached him; but he at once laid down instructions for Outram in every detail, moved up troops, and elaborated a scheme of government with particular orders as to conciliating local opinion. The king refused to sign the ultimatum (in the form of a "treaty") put before him, and a proclamation annexing the province was therefore issued on 13 February 1856.