Lawrence, Sir Henry Montgomery
Elder Brother of Governor-General (1806-1857)
Elder brother of Governor-General John Laird Mair Lawrence, was born on 28 June 1806 at Matura, in Ceylon. After education at schools in Londonderry and Bristol, he joined the Bengal Artillery, in 1823, as a Second-Lieutenant. In 1833, he was appointed an officer for the revenue survey of North-West Province, and, in 1839, he became assistant to the political agent, North-West Frontier Agency, at Firozpur. In 1841, when he was posted to Peshawar, he took part in the Khaibar operations. From 1843 to 1846, he was resident in Nepal. In 1846, after the first Sikh war, Lord Hardinge appointed him agent at Lahore and, after the treaty of Bharoval the same year, he became the British resident there. He served as chairman of the Board of Administration after annexation.
Few Englishmen of that time, it has been said, understood the Sikhs as well as did Sir Henry Lawrence. He had come in contact with them in 1839, first as Political Assistant at Ludhiana and then in the same capacity at Firozpur. His admiration of the hardy and militant race of the Sikhs enabled him to handle with tact the Darbar politics when, after the treaty of Bharoval, he wielded unlimited power as Resident at Lahore. Sympathy and moderation marked his treatment of the Sikhs and he throughout resisted Lord Hardinge’s more stringent policy. His civil administration was run by a council of eight leading sardars, six of them Sikhs, one Hindu and one Muhammadan, each with specific portfolios.
Towards the Sikh army, Henry Lawrence adopted a conciliatory attitude. He introduced a system of regular payments
against the old practice of keeping the troops in arrears for months. He was convinced of the qualities of the Sikh soldiers and recommended their wholesale enlistment in the British army. Thus he sought to pacify the common mass of the disbanded soldiery and attach it to British interests. He reduced tensions in the frontier districts by pacification and settlement of the Sindh Sagar Doab, Bannu, Hazard, Peshawar and the entire trans-Indus region.
Politically, Henry Lawrence was apprehensive of the influence of Maharani Jind Kaur, widow of Maharaja Ran it Singh. He detained her in the Lahore Fort and implicated her in what is known as the Prema plot. In August 1847, he had her expelled from Lahore. Earlier, lie had been instrumental in the expulsion and dismissal of Wazir Lal Singh, who was believed to have been behind the Kashmir revolt.
In pursuing a moderate policy towards the Sikhs and the Punjab, Lawrence had to wage a private war with the Governor-General, Lord Dalhousie. At heart, He was opposed to the annexation of the Sikh kingdom. In his communication to the Home Government and to friends in England, he described the annexation of the Punjab as immoral, unjust and impolitic. Eventually, he fell out with the Governor-General. The latter did not like Lawrence personally, nor his policies. He was also resentful of his popularity among the Sikhs. As he commented sarcastically: “[Lawrence] supposes himself as the king of the Punjab.”
In January 1853, Henry Lawrence resigned his post as chairman of the Board of Administration owing to differences with Lord Dalhousie. He was killed in action on 4 July 1857 while defending the Lucknow residency during the Indian rising.