Minto, Sir Gilbert Elliot
Governor-General of India (1751-1814)
Governor-General of India (1807-13) son of Sir Gilbert Elliot, third baronet of Minto, was born of 23 April 1751. He was called to the bar at the Lincoln’s Inn in 1774 and in 1806 served as president of the Board of Control. Lord Minto’s arrival in India in July 1807 marked the termination of the policy of noninterference in the trans-Jamuna region followed successively by Wellesley, Cornwallis and Barlow. The general principles of Lumsden’s minute of 13 January 1805, which limited the Company’s frontier to the right bank of the Jamuna and strict avoidance of any political interference with the Sikhs were unacceptable to him. He realized that Maharaja Ranjit Singh’s incursions into Malva and Sirhind in 1806-07 had alarmed the cis-Sutlej Sikh chiefs, and that refusal to afford protection to the sardars of Patiala, Nabha, Jind, Kaithal and others against him had shaken their confidence in the good faith of the British government. The Maharaja’s designs upon the states between the Jamuna and the Sutlej, he wrote to the Secret Committee, was justification enough for the British to establish their authority in the region. The British policy of non-interference had, he argued, encouraged Ranjit Singh to claim paramountcy over the whole Sikh country. Yet for political reasons, the Government of India hesitated to act. Alarming reports of French intrigues in Persia and a possible invasion by her of India had been reaching Calcutta from Bushire and Tehran, and, to counteract the supposed threat, the Government of India was seriously considering sending embassies to Lahore and Kabul.
In June 1808, Lord Minto decided to send Charles Metcalfe to woo the cis-Sutlej chiefs and to engage Maharaja Ranjit Singh in a defensive alliance against the supposed French threat. Ranjit Singh’s third Malva campaign and the recession of the supposed French threat in October 1808 led Lord Minto to take to more direct tactics. The Anglo-Sikh treaty of 1809 which advanced the British frontier from the Jamuna to the Sutlej, prevented the union of the Majha and Malva Sikhs under a single ruler. It, however, left Ranjit Singh free to consolidate his territories and carry his arms to the north and northwest.
Lord Minto, who returned to England in May 1814, died shortly thereafter on 21 June 1814 and was buried in Westminster Abbey.