Lord Ripon, originally known as George Frederick Samuel Robinson, was the Governor General and Viceroy of India from 1880 to 1884. Before he came to Calcutta (now Kolkata
) to join as Governor General and Viceroy of India, Lord Ripon (Earl of Ripon) was a member of parliament from 1852 to 1879. While in parliament, he held the posts of Under Secretary for War (1859-61), Under Secretary for India (1861-63), Secretary of State for War (1863-1866), Secretary for state of India (1866), and Lord President of the Council (1868-73). He was made Marques in 1871.
Early Life of Lord Ripon
George Frederick Samuel Robinson was born on October 24th 1827, at 10 Downing Street in London, as the son of Frederick John Robinson, Prime Minister at that time, and Lady Sarah. He joined the House of Commons in 1852, as member for Hull and later appeared for Huddersfield. In the year 1859, Lord Ripon succeeded his father for the title of Earl of Ripon and Viscount Goderich, entering the House of Lords, and later that year, succeeded his cousin as Earl de Grey.
Political Career of Lord Ripon
In the year 1861, Lord Ripon first took office as Earl de Grey, and remained as an active member of Liberal Cabinet till his demise. Lord Ripon became Privy Counsellor in 1863. He also remained as Secretary of State for War, for the years 1863-66, under the guidance of Palmerston and in 1866; he was Secretary of State for India. Lord Ripon was Lord President of the Council from 1868 to 1873, in the Gladstone administration. He was also the chairman of the joint commission which drew the Treaty of Washington in the United States of America. Thus, he became the Marquess of Ripon. Lord Ripon also became Knight of the Garter in the year 1869. He was also Grand Master Mason from 1870 to 1874, when Lord Ripon converted to Catholicism.
Reform Policies of Lord Ripon
The change of government in Britain with the Liberal Party of Gladstone in power led to a corresponding change in the top executive of India as well. Lord Ripon, who had previously held high posts in the India Office two times, was appointed the Governor General and Viceroy of India. Lord Ripon, a radical liberal among the liberals, set his reform programme in motion immediately after he assumed power on 8 June 1880. His earliest measure was to end the protracted Anglo-Afghan hostilities. He entered into a peace treaty with the new Afghan, Amir Abdur Rahman. The new Amir agreed, in return for an annual subsidy, to determine his foreign policy in consultation with the government of India.
Lord Ripon made remarkable contribution to the development of Local Government. In 1882, he abandoned the existing system of local government by the officially nominated people. His reform thought, as he declared, was directed to educating the people politically and educationally. According to his local self-government plan, the enormous Local Boards were split into smaller units to achieve greater efficiency. In order to ensure popular participation in the management of local affairs, the existing nomination system was replaced by election system.
But due to opposition from the British civilians, who believed the natives were not yet prepared for electoral system, Ripon could not implement his electoral ideas as fully as he intended to. The nominated members on the local committees, rural and urban, remained side by side with the elected members. The famous Bengal Tenancy Act
of 1885, though enacted after Ripon`s departure, got its origin from the Rent Commission that he established in 1880, in response to widespread peasant unrest in the country. Against the rack-renting Zamindars and Taluqdars, the Bengal Raiyats were agitating for long. The Rent Commission was asked to study the agrarian problems and make appropriate recommendations for legislative actions. The upshot of the commission report (1882) was a long debate on the rights and liabilities of tenants and the eventual enactment of the Bengal Tenancy Act of 1885 under which the Raiyats got considerable rights in land that they lost under the Permanent Settlement.
Education was one of the most important issues that Lord Ripon focused upon. As Lord President of the Council in the Liberal Government of Gladstone, Ripon had been responsible for bringing important educational reforms. As Governor General, Ripon gave high priority on education, particularly primary education. He set up a committee, called Indian Education Commission (1882), for looking into the problems of primary and secondary education.
Controversial Policies of Lord Ripon
The most controversial Ilbert Bill
issue particularly marked Ripon`s administration. The controversy arose out of the question of the jurisdiction of native judges over European subjects. The Law member, Sir Courtney Ilbert, introduced a bill banning the protected status of the white and seeking equality of all subjects, native or otherwise, in the eye of law. The Anglo Indian community put up a strong resistance movement to the passage of the bill and forced the government to enact the bill by bringing substantial amendment to its original spirit and letter.
The liberal policy of Ripon met resistance again when he repealed in 1882 the controversial Vernacular Press Act (1878) that required the editors of Indian newspapers either to give an undertaking, not to publish any matter objectionable to government or to submit the proof sheets before publication for scrutiny. The native press hailed his action, but the Anglo-Indian press and the community were against the idea of granting freedom of press to the natives. However, Ripon`s idea about granting freedom of press to all without showing any racial discrimination prevailed.
Death of Lord Ripon
Ripon left India in December 1884. Lord Ripon died at the age of 81, in the year 1909.
No other Governor General before or after Ripon was dearer to the natives as he was and conversely no other Governor General was possibly as detestable to the Anglo-Indian community as Ripon.