Metcalfe, Sir Charles Theophilus
Diplomat and provisional Governor-General of India (1785-1846)
Son of Thomas Theophilus Matcalfe, a director of the East India Company, was born in Calcutta, on 30 January 1785. He started his career as a writer in the service of the East India Company. He was appointed agent successively to generals Lake, Smith, and Dowdeswell. In 1808, Lord Minto sent him as an envoy to the court of Maharaja Ranjit Singh. Charles Metcalfe was then 23, and, as an assistant to the Resident at Delhi, was well versed in Sikh affairs. Seldom perhaps, in Anglo-Indian diplomatic annals, was a delicate task entrusted to one so young in years. Metcalfe’s mission to Lahore was meant to engage Maharaja Ranjit Singh in a defensive alliance against the supposed French invasion of India. Matcalfe’s correspondence reveals that the Sikh Maharaja was little impressed by the so-called French menace. He, nevertheless, wished to take advantage of the negotiations to exhibit his resistance to British intrusion into the cis-Sutlej Sikh territory. He was willing to cooperate with the British, but demanded that he should first be acknowledged as the head of the Sikh nation. The recession late in 1808 of the French threat, such as there was, altered the situation materially. Instead of pursuing a defensive alliance with Maharaja Ranjit Singh, the British mission made a political arrangement with the cis-Sutlej chiefs. The negotiations supported by the advance of a British detachment under Major-General Ochterlony to Ludhiana, ultimately ended in the treaty of Amritsar (25 April 1809), which brought the Sikhs and the British government into a friendly alliance. By the Treaty, the Company advanced its political frontier to the River Sutlej. On his side, the Sikh Maharaja, having made alliance with the neighbourly power on his southern border, was now free to turn his energies to expanding his influence in the north and northwest of his dominions.
Metcalfe had been Resident of Delhi from 1811-20 and of Hyderabad from 1820-27. In 1827, he became a member of the Supreme Council, and in March 1835 he was appointed Governor of Agra. He provisionally succeeded Lord William Bentinck as Governor-General of India (1835). From 1839-42, he was Governor of Jamaica and from 1843-45 Governor General of Canada. In 1845, he was created Baron Metcalfe. He died on 5 September 1846.