Papers of Sir William Hay Macnaghten and Sir Francis Workman Macnaghten
A recently catalogued collection of India Office Private Papers is now available to researchers in the British Library’s Asian & African Studies reading room. This consists of papers relating to Sir William Hay Macnaghten, Bengal Civil Service 1814-1841; and Sir Francis Workman Macnaghten, Judge of the Supreme Court of Madras 1809-1815 and Senior Justice of the Supreme Court of Judicature at Fort William 1815-1825.
'Surrender of Dost Mahommed Khan to Sir William Hay Macnaghten Bart at the entrance into Caubul from Killa-Kazee' from James Atkinson, Sketches in Afghaunistan British Library X812 Images Online
In 1838, Sir William Hay Macnaghten was appointed Envoy and Minister at the Afghan Court of Shah Shuja. The mission to Afghanistan ended in disaster and the collection contains many papers relating to the death of Sir William at Kabul on 23 December 1841 during the first Anglo-Afghan war. Included is Lady Frances Macnaghten's claim for compensation and a copy of a letter from Captain Lawrence giving an account of the death of Macnaghten and the retreat from Kabul.
There is also a copy of a note written by Eldred Pottinger, the political officer who succeeded to the position of Envoy on Macnaghten’s death. In the note, he described the desperate situation of the Kabul garrison: ‘Macnaghten was called out to a Conference and murdered….we are to fall back on Jalalabad tomorrow or the next day – in the present disturbed state of the country we may expect opposition on the road – and we are likely to suffer much from the cold and hunger as we expect to have no carriage for tents or superfluities.’ He reported that he had taken charge of the mission and that ‘The cantonment is now attacked’.
Sir William’s father was Sir Francis Workman Macnaghten, appointed as a judge of the Supreme Court of Madras in 1809. The collection contains a journal written by Sir Francis from this period in his life. He began writing the journal while on board the ship Bucephalus, which left Portsmouth on 15 November 1809 and arrived at Madras on 25 April 1810. He explained, ‘These notes and memoranda were written on ship board as the matter of them occurred to my memory. They were mainly intended to express for my own use the facts and my feelings upon them. Should they fall into other hands they will I trust be treated accordingly’.
The journal includes an account of the circumstances of Macnaghten's appointment to the post of Judge at the Supreme Court of Madras, preparations for leaving England, and the voyage to Madras. The journal ends with his being sworn in as a judge on the bench at Fort St George and paying a formal visit to the Nabob of the Carnatic. He includes such information as the fees of a knighthood and some facts on the Bucephalus. Macnaghten also drew a sketch of a water spout which the ship encountered along the way. He described that on 16 December 1809: ‘Saw a water spout. The store ship which we had under convoy fired a gun at it and we saw it regularly dispersing – It emptied itself regularly from its bottom or lower part and we perceived the sea where it fell very much affected by it. It had the appearance of smoke rising from a distant fire’.
India Office Records
Papers relating to Sir Francis Workman Macnaghten (1763-1843), Judge of the Supreme Court of Madras 1809-1815, Senior Justice of the Supreme Court of Judicature at Fort William, Bengal 1815-1825; Sir William Hay Macnaghten, Bart (1793-1841), Madras Army 1809, Bengal Civil Service 1814-41, Envoy and Minister at the Afghan Court of Shah Shuja from 1838; and other members of the Macnaghten family, collection reference Mss Eur F760, available to view in the Asian & African Studies Reading Room, and the catalogue is searchable on Explore Archives and Manuscripts.
Other Macnaghten papers at the British Library:
• Addresses presented to Sir Francis Workman-Macnaghten (1763-1843), Senior Justice of the Supreme Court of Judicature at Fort William, Bengal, on his retirement and departure for Europe, 1822, shelfmark Mss Eur F718.
• Letter book, dated Feb 1839-Mar 1841, of Sir William Hay Macnaghten containing copies of his letters to the Governor-General Lord Auckland, and other British civil and military officers, on foreign political and administrative matters, and in particular on policy towards Afghanistan, shelfmark Mss Eur F336.