Front Page Titles (by Subject) LORD LAWRENCE. ( From The Economist, 3 rd April, 1869.) - The Works and Life of Walter Bagehot, vol. 9 (Essays from the Economist, the Saturday Review)
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LORD LAWRENCE. ( From “ The Economist, ” 3 rd April, 1869.) - Walter Bagehot, The Works and Life of Walter Bagehot, vol. 9 (Essays from the Economist, the Saturday Review) 
The Works and Life of Walter Bagehot, ed. Mrs. Russell Barrington. The Works in Nine Volumes. The Life in One Volume. (London: Longmans, Green, and Co., 1915). Vol. 9.
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The elevation of Sir John Lawrence to the Peerage, gazetted on Tuesday, deserves, we think, more than a passing word. No man of our time belonging so clearly to the middle class has ever compelled such complete and universal recognition by the aid of those qualities alone which distinctively belong to the middle class—has ever shown so completely what those qualities are, wherein they succeed, and wherein they are found wanting. The son of an Irish officer with a large family and limited means, forced into the Civil Service almost against his own will, John Lawrence took to the work of governing Asiatics in the same spirit and using the same powers as a self-made engineer or contractor, a Brindley or Brassey, employs in some great material undertaking. Throughout his life till he became Viceroy he was always engaged in reducing something or somebody to order, compelling men and things to work in the groove in which they could be of most use to the common weal as he judged the common weal to be. Now the obstacle was a mountain to be bored, and then a swamp to be filled up; here was a province choked with nobles to be tamed; there was a great city to be rescued from anarchy; now there were mountaineers to be bridled, and again there were mutineers to be pulverised; but whatever it was the work was always done,—done promptly, done thoroughly, and done by the shortest road. The first work of a new Government, particularly in Asia, is always of this kind, and for that first work there probably never was a foreman like John Lawrence. His men, to begin with, were always in hand, because if they were not they were smashed, flung aside, driven out of the way by the plainest and severest of rebukes. It was not of the slightest use talking about heavy work or inadequate pay or mental idiosyncrasies; there was the work to be done, and you had to do it or go, though if you did it efficiently you were left very much to your own discretion. Till he became Viceroy, and indeed afterwards, Sir John Lawrence governed his subordinates very much as a foundry foreman governs his—by distinct orders, by emphatic rebukes, by a perpetual repetition of the command to get on, to get the work done, and leave off arguing. On the whole this method succeeded in the Punjab better than any finer one would have done. Men of great originality or deep insight or genius could not endure it, and gradually slipped away, or accepted positions in which the goad was more seldom applied; but the majority of officials like to be driven when the coachman is able as well as severe, and Sir John Lawrence gradually organised a troupe most efficient for doing any visible work. Invisible work they could not do, and of all “the Punjabees,” as they were latterly called, perhaps not one per cent. has ever added anything to the domain of thought or raised the mental character of the people he governed, or excited any feeling towards the Government except a respectful fear. The work again was always attacked in the same direct fashion. There were many brigands among the States on the hither side of the Sutlej; but Mr. Lawrence had not ruled there a year before they all felt brigandage far too unprofitable a trade. The social evils which produce the crime were not removed, but the crime ceased, because men were not brave enough to go on with it. There were eternal bickerings among the Princes; Sir John Lawrence did not reconcile them; but by determinately making himself master, he extinguished them for the time. When Lord Hardinge was fighting the Sikhs, Delhi was disaffected; but Sir J. Lawrence was ruling there, and though he cured no disaffection, every ruffian in that Alsatia knew that if he acted on his inclinations he would be hanged out of hand. Subsequently in the Punjab, the Government wanted revenue. Sir J. Lawrence said the great fiefholders should be taxed like other people. His far greater, yet far less capable brother, Sir Henry,—a man with ten times Lord Lawrence’s genius, and not a tithe of his efficiency,—talked of native ideas and the use of aristocracies, and the development of native society in its own grooves; but to the strong middle-class man, the deficit in the Exchequer was a Chat Moss to be filled, and in went the feudal system, and with it British chance of ever being loved in the Punjab. The mountain tribes kept making raids, just as our own Highlanders did and for the same motives—want of money and envy of the wealth stored up in the plains. Sir John did not make them devoted loyalists as Pitt did—did not try to do it, but opened a debtor and creditor account with them, and for every penny they stole took back five farthings, and they, though as predatory as ever, had to leave off stealing. In seven years the Punjab was transformed from a native State, in which anarchy was universal and careers numberless, into a British Province in which order was as settled as in Kent, and nobody was allowed to do anything except make money. The hill had been bored, the Moss had been filled, and there was the engine on a level road. Then came the mutiny and, as it chanced, a bit of work with it which exactly suited the genius of the Chief Commissioner. It was not necessary that he should eradicate causes of disaffection, or reawaken loyalty, or change the current of native feeling, but it was necessary that he should take Delhi. So he took it. Columbus never battled with obstacles as Sir John did during those five months of 1857. Stephenson never gave such an example of perseverance and self-reliance. No matter what county was denuded of troops, no matter how dangerous the Sikh levies might seem, no matter how the ground might quake under his feet, till Delhi had been entered the engine could not move, and entered it should be. And at last, in September, when all was nearly over, when the Sikhs had fixed a day for revolt, and the besieging army was on the verge of retreat, the energy of the man broke out into flame, and the peremptory telegram “take Delhi” risked, and saved the Empire. Everything had been flung into the Moss, but it was firm ground at last.
Sir John Lawrence was not as successful as Viceroy, for the work to be done was too invisible,—it was not building a railway, but devising an organisation to manage railways well. His system of driving instead of stimulating his subordinates, so successful while he could guide his team himself, failed when applied to a dozen teams driven by other men. He had colleagues, and superiors far away, and work to do which he did not personally quite understand, and comparatively he failed to get it done. We say comparatively, because his administration was after all an exceedingly good one, only not so good as those who had observed his career in the Punjab thought they had a right to expect. Whatever he did himself was done well, as for example foreign negotiation, but he infused no extra or unusual strength into other men. It has been observed, and with some truth, that Sir John Lawrence never finds efficient agents in men to whom he cannot give direct and repeated orders,—that he never succeeds in making them do precisely what he wants, either leaving them too much to themselves, or failing to choose the right persons. The Bootan campaign was a series of muddles, and the Orissa famine a catastrophe. The Viceroy too disposed of his patronage too much in the Punjab style—that is, he selected men whom he knew to be efficient, without reflecting that other men whom he did not know, but who had prior claims, might be efficient too. The men promoted were strong according to his conception of strength—that is, they could always do well what they were bidden to do, but the services were disheartened, and the prosperity of an Empire depends more upon the general spirit of its services than on the capacity of a few individuals in prominent place. There was great foresight in the Viceroy and great incisiveness of vision, but he wanted the aristocratic quality—a certain largeness of field, and the quality of the highest genius for government, that of evoking new power. British rule in India is neither better founded nor more enlightened in its ends for his rule; it is only a little stronger. There was a tendency in the Viceroy towards hand-to-mouth politics, to do daily work and to do it well; but to evade very great questions and all questions which did not immediately press. Strict, stern, and clear as his finance for example had been in the Punjab, he sanctioned very bad Imperial budgets,—one for example was instantly cancelled at home,—and his mode of dealing with Oude showed that the value of a great social experiment was beyond his grasp. No man looked forward till to-morrow more clearly, but he could not think of half a century hence. It was the same kind of limitation to his mind which made him as Viceroy keep up so little state and show. Calcutta declared that it was parsimony,—Sir John being in gifts one of the most liberal of mankind,—but it was really an inability to recognise the uses of “representation”. Ceremonial was unreal, consequently he would have no ceremonial, forgetting that scenic effect, though made up of paint and canvas and limelight, has its place in the world as well as in the theatre. His views on education and on the relation of Government to the creeds of the peninsula were all of the missionary kind—very good in their way, very clear, and very easily carried out, but narrower than beseemed the ruler of so many races in so many stages of civilisation. Sir John Lawrence was in fact a middle-class ruler, a workman in politics rather than a thinker, an administrator rather than a politician, a man who had every faculty except those which are essential to the founder. There probably never was a better soldier, or a man who more thoroughly understood how to raise mercenary armies; but he quits India without having rendered it less necessary to use white troops to watch dark troops, or more possible to allow the native army breech-loading rifles. No man perhaps ever used his strength more efficiently or better deserved a peerage, but in none have the limits of that strength been so clearly revealed. He is a Nasmyth hammer which can chip an egg or flatten an iron bar, but only within its groove.