John Lawrence, 1st Baron Lawrence

John Lawrence, 1st Baron Lawrence

John Laird Mair Lawrence, 1st Baron Lawrence, GCB, GCSI, PC (4 March 1811 – 27 June 1879) was an Irishman who became a prominent British pro-consul and imperial statesman who served as Viceroy of India from 1864 to 1869.

Lawrence spent his early years in Derry, part of the Province of Ulster in the northern part of Ireland, and was educated at Foyle College (now Foyle and Londonderry College), where a statue to him stands (having been, originally, erected in Lahore). The statue, by Sir Joseph Boehme, once showed Lawrence with a pen in one hand and a sword in the other to illustrate his versatility as an administrator and a soldier but vandals have since damaged the sword. Another statue of Lawrence stands in Waterloo Place in central London.

Lawrence went to India in 1829 along with his older brother, Sir Henry Montgomery Lawrence. He soon became a magistrate and tax collector in Delhi, where he was known for his concern for the plight of the peasantry as long as they did not question British rule. By today's reading of history, he would be considered a proto-Nazi for his violent treatment of and disdain for Indians in general. Such treatment was used routinely and intentionally by the British in order to strike terror among Indians and thereby keep them subjugated.

During the First Sikh War of 1845 to 1846, Lawrence organized the supplying of the British army in the Punjab and became Commissioner of the Jullundur district, serving under his brother, the Governor of the province. In that role he was known for his administrative reforms, for subduing the hill tribes, and for his attempts to end the custom of suttee.

In 1849, following the Second Sikh War, he became a member of the Punjab Board of Administration under his brother, and was responsible for numerous reforms of the province, including the abolition of internal duties, establishment of a common currency and postal system, and encouraged the development of Punjabi infrastructure, earning him the sobriquet of "the Saviour of the Punjab". In this work his efforts to limit the power of local elites brought him into conflict with his brother, and ultimately led to the abolition of the Administrative Board, instead becoming chief commissioner in the executive branch of the province.

In that role, Lawrence was partly responsible for preventing the spread of the Mutiny to Punjab in 1857, and negotiated a treaty with the Afghan ruler Dost Mohammed Khan, and later led the troops which recaptured Delhi from the rebellious sepoys. For this, he was created a baronet and received an annual pension from the East India Company of £2,000.

He returned to England in 1859, but was sent back to India in 1863 to become Viceroy to succeed Lord Elgin, who had unexpectedly died. As Viceroy, Lawrence pursued a cautious policy, avoiding entanglement in Afghanistan and the Persian Gulf. In domestic affairs, he increased educational opportunities for Indians, but at the same time limited the use of native Indians in high civil service posts.

He was raised to the peerage as Baron Lawrence, of the Punjaub and of Grately in the County of Southampton, on his return to England in 1869, and died ten years later. A boarding house at the East India Company College (today Haileybury and Imperial Service College) and a "house" at Foyle College was subsequently named after him. Lawrence is also a Senior Wing House at St Paul's School, Darjeeling in India, where all the Senior Wing Houses are named after colonial era military figures.


* Reginald Bosworth Smith, "Life of Lord Lawrence," in 2 vols., London, Smith Elder & Co. (1883)


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