Hardinge, Sir Henry
First Viscount Hardinge of Lahore (1785-1856)
Governor-General of India, was born on 30 March 1785, at Wrotham, Kent, England. He served in the Peninsular campaigns under the Duke of Wellington. In 1820, he was returned to Parliament as member from Durham. He was chief secretary for Ireland in 1830 and again in 1834. He was secretary of war in Sir Robert Peel’s cabinet, 1841-44. Hardinge was sent to India to replace his brother-in-law, Lord Ellenborough, as Governor-General in 1844. Like his predecessor, Lord Hardinge kept a watchful eye on developments in the Sikh kingdom. He continued military preparations, but resisted pressure from Whitehall for an early war with the Sikhs, in order to give himself more time. On 13 December 1845 a party of Sikhs in its own territory on the left of the River Sutlej was attacked by the British leading to the declaration of war upon the Sikh kingdom. During the seventeen months between Ellenborough’s departure from India and the commencement of hostilities, Lord Hardinge had assembled 45,000 men and 98 guns on the advanced outposts on the Sutlej, besides a river flotilla of 60 armed 3-ton boats to bridge the river. In the war, Hardinge, waiving his right to the supreme command, served as second-in-command to Sir Hugh Gough.
Hardinge’s policy towards the Sikhs, particularly his peace settlement and his deal with Gulab Singh regarding the sale of Kashmir to him, were assailed by the Whig Opposition in Parliament. He had avoided annexation, which he argued would involve political and financial liabilities. He commended instead his “political experiment”-annexation without encumbrances. Hardinge could never convince his friends and critics in England of the honesty of his deal with Gulab Singh. The allegation that Gulab Singh had bartered away the interests of his Sikh sovereign for recognition as a ruler, independent of Lahore, were freely made. It was said that Hardinge had granted him Kashmir as a reward for his treachery towards the Sikhs.
After the first Anglo-Sikh war, Hardinge was created Viscount. In 1852, he succeeded the Duke of Wellington as Commander-in-Chief of the British army. He was promoted Field Marshal in 1855. He died on 24 September 1856.