Ellenborough, Lord Edward Law
Governor-General of India (1790-1871)
Governor-General of India (1842-44), son of Edward Law, Baron Ellenborough, Lord Chief Justice of England, was born on 8 September 1790. He was educated at Eton and at St John’s College, Cambridge. He became a member of the House of Lords in 1818. He was appointed Lord Privy Seal in 1828 and president of the Board of Control (1828-30) whence began his connection with Indian affairs.
He succeeded Lord Auckland as Governor-General of India in February 1842. On his arrival in India, Lord Ellenborough found himself confronted with an alarming situation in Afghanistan and northwest frontier. The garrisons of jalalabad and Gharni were surrounded by hostile Afghans; the Qandahar division was unfit to move for lack of support; and of the five brigades moved across the River Ravi, none had yet reached Peshawar. Large Sikh forces were collected at Peshawar where General Pollock with three British brigades felt uneasy at the large assemblage. In that hour of difficulty, voices were being raised for full military support from the Sikhs. Maharaja Sher Singh was being blamed for not having helped his British allies whole-heartedly.
When in April 1842, Robert Sale had defeated the Afghan army under the walls of Jalalabad and Pollock had forced the Khaibar, Lord Ellenborough hastily decided to terminate the Tripartite Treaty. An offer was made to the Sikh government to occupy Jalalabad after the withdrawal of the British army. The offer was in reality aimed at diverting the Sikh troops then employed in the Chinese Tartary, and those garrisoned at Lahore and Arnritsar. Ellenborough, who was assembling a large British force on the Anglo-Sikh frontier at the River Sutlej, wished to see the Sikh position weakened by the withdrawal of the Sikh troops. As is evident from his private correspondence with the Duke of Wellington, he was preparing for a war with the Sikhs. The correspondence shows that, as early as October 1843, he had begun to discuss with the Home Government possibilities of a military occuption of the Punjab. He had laid out a network of spies and agents provocateur in the Sikh capital and had raised the strength of British military outposts to 11,639 men and 48 guns. A flotilla of seventy 35-ton boats to bridge the Sutlej at Firozpur had been under construction. Ellenborough wrote in April 1844:
"Let our policy [towards the Sikhs] be what it may, the contest must come at last, and the intervening time that may be given to us should be employed in unostentatious but vigilant preparation."
Two years after his return to England, Ellenborough became First Lord of Admiralty in Sir Robert Peel’s ministry in 1846. In 1858, under Lord Derby he became president of the Board of Control. He died on 22 December 1871.
Official and private correspondence and papers of Lord Ellenborough, Governor-General of India (1842-44), preserved in the Public. Records Office, London. Some of these papers were used by Lord Colchester in his History of the Indian Administration of Lord Ellenborough in His Correspondence with the Duke of Wellington and the Queen (London, 1874). Similarly, Sir Algernon Law published some selected papers in his India under Lord Fllenborough (London, 1926) containing references to the Punjab, particularly the dissensions in the State and the intentions of British government about its future.
Among others, the Papers contain letters to and from the Governor-General’s Agent, North-West Frontier (January 1844-June 1844) PRO 30/12 (60) and PRO 30/12 (106). Also included are files containing correspondence and papers relative to the Punjab (1839-44) PRO 30/12 Part II (i); Lord Ellenborough’s private correspondence, with Sir Henry and Lady Hardinge (1842-47), providing information about Hardinge’s policy towards the Punjab before and after the Anglo-Sikh war of 184546, and the British military movement towards the Sutlej frontier, and about his deals with Gulab Singh (PRO 30/12, 21/7); and about Ellenborough’s military policy and bellicosity towards the Sikhs (PRO 30/12 (72).
The Ellenborough Papers contain some of the most revealing documents relevant to Anglo-Sikh relations. Soon after the disaster of the first Afghan War, Ellenborough abruptly terminated the Tripartite Treaty, and decided to re-establish British "military character" by the collection of a large British force on the Company’s "weakest, frontier," i.e. the Sutlej (PRO 30/13-28/12). He conceived the idea, of extending the Dogra power at the expense of the Lahore Darbar by separating the Jammu hills from the plains of the Punjab. His letter to Queen Victoria (October 1843) unravels his designs "to bring plains first, and at a later period hills, under our direct protection and control." Consequently, the Company’s relations with the State of Lahore were viewed by him as that of "an armed truce:" and to repeat, "Let our policy [towards the Sikhs] be what it may, the contest must come at last, and the intervening time that may be given to us should be employed in unostentatious but vigilant preparation."