Edward Law, 1st Earl of Ellenborough - Political Career, 1844–1858

Political Career, 1844–1858

On his return to England, Ellenborough was created Earl of Ellenborough, in the county of Cumberland, Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the Bath and received the thanks of parliament; but his administration soon became the theme of hostile debates, though it was successfully vindicated by Peel and Wellington. When Peel's cabinet was reconstituted in 1846 Ellenhorough became First Lord of the Admiralty. In 1858 he took office under Lord Derby as president of the board of control, for the fourth time. It was then his congenial task to draft the new scheme for the government of India which the mutiny had rendered necessary. But his old fault of impetuosity again proved his stumbling-block. He wrote a caustic despatch censuring Lord Canning for the Oudh proclamation, and allowed it to be published in The Times without consulting his colleagues, who disavowed his action in this respect. General disapprobation was excited; votes of censure were announced in both Houses; and, to save the cabinet, Ellenborough resigned.

But for this act of rashness he might have enjoyed the task of carrying into effect the home constitution for the government of India which he sketched in his evidence before the select committee of the House of Commons on Indian territories on 8 June 1852. Paying off his old score against the East India Company, he then advocated the abolition of the court of directors as a governing body, the opening of the civil service to the army, the transference of the government to the crown, and the appointment of a council to advise the minister who should take the place of the President of the Board of Control. These suggestions of 1852 were carried out by his successor the Earl of Derby, in 1858, so closely even in details, that Lord Ellenborough must be pronounced the author, for good or evil, of the present home constitution of the government of India. Though acknowledged to be one of the foremost orators in the House of Lords, and taking a frequent part in debate, Ellenborough never held office again.

See History of the Indian Administration (Bentley, 1874), edited by Lord Colchester; Minutes of Evidence taken before the Select Committee on Indian Territories (June 1852); volume i. of the Calcutta Review; the Friend of India, during the years 1842-1845; and John Hope, The House of Scindea: A Sketch (Longmans, 1863). The numerous books by and against Sir Charles Napier, on the conquest of Sind, should be consulted.

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