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, in London. Lord Ripon is 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 Lord 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 Marques 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
Lord Ripon was a staunch liberal democrat and was appointed as the Viceroy of India by Gladstone, who was the liberal party Prime Minister of England. Listed below are few of the reform polices of Lord Ripon:
Introduction of Local Self-Government (1882)
Ripon believed that self- government is the highest and noblest principles of politics. Therefore, he helped the growth of local bodies like the Municipal Committees in towns and the local boards in taluks and villages. The powers of municipalities were increased. Their chairmen were to be non- officials. They were entrusted the care of local amenities, sanitation, drainage and water- supply and also primary education. District and taluk boards were created. It was insisted that the majority of the members of these boards should be elected non- officials. The local bodies were given executive powers with financial resources of their own. It was Ripon who laid the foundations of the system which functions today.
Like Lord William Bentinck, Lord Ripon was a champion of education of the Indians. Ripon wanted to review the working of the educational system on the basis of the recommendations of the Wood's Despatch. For further improvement of the system Ripon appointed a Commission in 1882 under the chairmanship of Sir William Hunter. The Commission came to be known as the Hunter Commission. The Commission recommended for the expansion and improvement of the elementary education of the masses and suggested 2 channels for the secondary education. One was literary education leading up to the Entrance Examination of the university and the other preparing the students for a vocational career. The Commission noted the poor status of women education. It encouraged the local bodies in the villages and towns to manage the elementary education. This had resulted in the extraordinary rise in the number of educational institutions in India.
First Factory Act (1881)
Lord Ripon introduced the Factory Act of 1881 to improve the service condition of the factory workers in India. The Act banned the appointment of children below the age of 7 years in factories. It reduced the working hours for children and made compulsory for all dangerous machines in the factories to be properly fenced to ensure security to the workers.
Ilbert Bill Agitation (1884)
Lord Ripon wanted to remove two kinds of law that had been prevalent in India. According to the system of law, a European could be tried only by a European Judge or a European Magistrate. The disqualification was unjust and it was sought to cast a needless discredit and dishonour upon the Indian-born members of the judiciary. C.P. Ilbert, Law Member, introduced the Ilbert Bill in 1883 to abolish this.
The Ilbert Bill controversy helped the cause of Indian nationalism. The Ilbert Bill Controversy is a high watermark in the history of Indian National Movement. Ripon was totally disillusioned and heartbroken and he tendered his resignation and left for England. The immediate result of this awakening of India was the birth of the Indian National Congress in 1885, the very next year of Ripon's departure.
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
Lord Ripon left India in December 1884 and 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.