(Last Updated on : 01-12-2008)
After the East India Company was dissolved, and India was directly annexed under the rule of the Queen herself, several changes had taken place. A new system of administration had come into being. Governor-Generals were introduced in place of Viceroys. The gradual dissipation of the ruling process had slowly started its action, although viciousness was yet to set in. On the 29th of February 1856, Charles John, Viscount Canning, succeeded Lord Dalhousie
as Governor-General of India. Lord Canning
possessed many qualities which fitted him for the onerous office. He was a large-minded man, possessing noble and generous instincts, a taking presence, was an exhaustive worker, conscientious, scrupulous, and resolute. The only drawback however, against the Governor-General was that-he possessed no practical knowledge of India and its people.
The predecessor of Lord Canning had been a very masterful man - a born ruler of men; a man who required, not councilors with whom to consult, but servants to carry out his orders. In one sense it was a misfortune for Lord Canning
that immediately after his arrival he had to depend upon those servants for advice.
Amongst them, doubtless, were some very able men. The ablest of all, Mr John Peter Grant, was a member of his Council. Mr. Grant was, in every sense of the term, a statesman. His views were large and liberal. He ascertained at a glance the point of a question. He decided quickly; unraveled, with remarkable clearness, the most knotty questions, and spoke out with the fearlessness, which becomes a real man. But his service had been primarily spent in close connection with Calcutta, and he had no personal knowledge of the country to the northwest of Patna
, or of its people.
The military member of Council, General Low, was likewise a man of ability; but he had passed the greater part of his service as Political Agent or as Resident of native Courts. His experience of the native army was, therefore, somewhat out of form.
The legal member of Council, Mr Barnes Peacock, was remarkable for his sound legal skills, but he too had no experience outside Calcutta.
On the 29th of February, then, and for the rest of the year 1856, all was calm and smiling on the surface, and Lord Canning was well content with his clerks.
Nor, during the remaining months of 1856, did there occur any overt act on the part of the many discontented throughout India to weaken the impression that the picture painted by Lord Dalhousie in his elaborate minute was absolutely correct. As far as appearances went, the prevailing impression made on the minds of those residing in the great centres of the several provinces was that it was a year of more than ordinary humdrum. It was argued that the strong impression made by Lord Dalhousie on the country and its diverse races remained active even after his departure. Lord Canning simply administered the country on the principles and by means of the men bequeathed to him by his predecessor. He had experienced, indeed, some difficulty with Oudh. He was yet to gauge the approaching storm of the historic revolt, which would change the course of British rule and Indian rebellion forever.