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216 posts categorized "Conflict"

04 July 2024

Jabez Tepper: The cousin who thwarted JMW Turner’s bequest (Part 2)

We continue the story of Jabez Tepper, cousin of JMW Turner...

Jabez Tepper is buried in Brookwood Cemetery, Surrey, in a grave that contains several other Turner relatives.

Photograph of the gravestone for Jabez Tepper at Brookwood Cemetery in Surrey.Gravestone for Jabez Tepper at Brookwood Cemetery in Surrey. Photograph by author.

In January 1872, letters of administration for Tepper’s estate were granted to his cousin, William Coham Turner, as it was thought that he had died intestate.  This grant was revoked in July 1872, following the discovery of a will dated January 1835 which named his mother and her heirs as beneficiaries.  Tepper’s brother, Samuel, a house painter and carpenter, now the sole heir, was located in Alabama USA.  He returned to England in May 1872 and stayed with William Coham Turner in St John’s Wood, London.  The will was granted probate in August 1872.  In the documents Tepper is described as a bachelor.

Newspaper report of the arrival of Samuel Tepper in England from Alabama - Leeds Times  11 May 1872Arrival of Samuel Tepper in England from Alabama - Leeds Times 11 May 1872 British Newspaper Archive

Samuel Tepper met with Victoria Boyer, Jabez Tepper’s elder married daughter.  Because they were illegitimate, neither Victoria nor Catherina had any claim on the estate, but Samuel Tepper wanted to do the right thing and gave a substantial sum to each of the sisters.

Shortly after Jabez Tepper’s death, Mary Pennell went to his offices in Bedford Row, with a friend, and arranged for the removal of furniture, a large chest of silver plate and other valuables, including a diamond snuff box, which had been a gift to JMW Turner from King Louis-Phillipe of France.  She also visited and removed items from the farm in Sussex where she had lived with Tepper.  She was later apprehended and taken to court, charged with theft.  Mary claimed that she had a right to the property as she had lived as Tepper’s wife for sixteen years but could produce no proof of marriage.  She denied the existence of any will, although there were rumours that copies had been destroyed.  At the preliminary hearing it was judged that there was insufficient evidence for a successful prosecution and the case was dismissed.

Samuel Tepper returned to his home in Camden, Alabama, in October 1873, with a substantial sum of money and several Turner paintings and engraving plates.  He disposed of many others before he left, not wishing to pay the duty for importing them.  He suffered from ill health and probably depression and, in 1887, took his own life.

Gold snuff-box with floral and foliate ornament round the sides  on lid and on base. On the lid is the monogram LP with crown above for Louis Philippe  all in diamonds set in silverGold snuff-box with floral and foliate ornament.  On the lid is the monogram LP with crown above for Louis Philippe, all in diamonds set in silver. © The Trustees of the British Museum 

After Samuel Tepper’s return from America, it appears that Mary Pennell had to return items that she had taken, including the Louis-Phillipe snuff box. The box was donated to the British Museum in 1944 by Maria Helena Turner, the great-grand-daughter of J.M.W. Turner's uncle, John Turner.

In 1877, the surviving beneficiaries of JMW Turner’s will brought a case against the estate of Jabez Tepper.  Tepper had bought their shares in Turner’s engravings for what he claimed was a fair price of £500 for each beneficiary.  This had netted him £2,500. When the engravings were auctioned after Tepper’s death, they fetched £35,000.  The family’s lawyers produced evidence that the engravings had been valued at £5,000 for legacy duty, so Tepper had been well aware of their real value.  The court found in the plaintiffs’ favour and ordered that the sale to Tepper be set aside.  An appeal by the Tepper estate failed.

Report of court ruling about the Turner engravingsReport of court ruling - Brief 15 December 1877 British Newspaper Archive

There is a certain irony in the coincidence that Jabez Tepper, having thwarted Turner’s plans for his inheritance, was similarly thwarted in his own. In both cases, large portions of the estate went to people they were never intended for.

CC-BY
David Meaden
Independent Researcher

Creative Commons Attribution licence

Further reading:
British Newspaper Archive for reports on the court cases involving the Turner estate, the prosecution of Mary Pennell, and Samuel Tepper’s visit to England.

 

Turner's house logo

Turner’s restored house in Twickenham is open to visitors.

02 July 2024

Jabez Tepper: the cousin who thwarted JMW Turner’s bequest (Part 1)

When JMW Turner died in 1851, his chief executor was solicitor Henry Harpur, a cousin on his mother’s side of the family.  The will, however, was contested by another cousin, Jabez Tepper, also a solicitor, representing Turner’s father’s relations.

Letter from Jabez Tepper published in The Times 24 December 1851Letter from Jabez Tepper published in The Times 24 December 1851


Tepper’s successful challenge meant that that ‘Turner’s Gift’, the proposed alms houses for ‘the maintenance and support of poor and decayed Male Artists being born in England’, was never established. Tepper invoked the Mortmain Law, under which the transfer of land in Twickenham to a trust had to be at least a year before Turner’s death.  This had not happened.

Extract from the will of Joseph Mallord William Turner  concerning the establishment of an alms house for artistsExtract from the will of Joseph Mallord William Turner, 10 June 1831 – The National Archives, document reference PROB 1/96


In 1856, the relatives represented by Tepper inherited a substantial part of Turner’s estate.  In January 1858 Tepper offered to buy the other relations’ shares of Turner’s engravings for £500 each.  All but one accepted his offer.

Jabez Tepper was born in South Molton in Devon in August 1815, one of seven children born to James Tepper, a wool stapler, and Mary Turner Tepper, JMW Turner’s cousin.  Jabez left Devon to join the legal profession, becoming an indentured clerk in London in 1835.

Like his cousin Turner, Tepper lived an unconventional private life, never marrying but fathering two daughters, Victoria Helen and Catherina Mary Jane, probably born in 1840 and 1841, although no records of their births have yet been traced.  In the 1841 census Tepper was described as a law student living in Gravesend, with wife Jane and seven-month-old daughter Helen.  Family historians have identified the woman who was the mother of Tepper’s daughters as Jane Cook, born in London in October 1817.  According to some family trees, she died in 1842, but the only death record I can find for a Jane Tepper in London that year is for a two-year old child.

There is, however, a Jane Tepper, also known as Cook, a shoebinder, who died aged 47 on 21 February 1865 in the London parish of St Giles.  This Jane lived in poverty; could they be one and the same and if so, when did she and Tepper separate?

About 1855, widow Mary Pennell moved in with Tepper,  She is also referred to as his wife, although they never married.  Born Mary Smith in Walworth in 1824, she married gardener Edward Pennell in 1846.  Their daughter, Mary Jane, died as a baby in 1848 and Edward Pennell died the following year.

After Mary moved in with Tepper, his two daughters lived with them for some time but there is some suggestion that Pennell treated them unkindly and they were found lodgings.  In the 1861 census, Tepper is living at 24 Notting Hill Square with Mary, whilst his daughters are boarding with the Taylor family in St Pancras.

In 1864, Tepper was granted freedom of the City.  He was an active freemason, and in 1871 he was Worshipful Master of the Metropolitan Grand Steward’s Lodge.

Report on Jabez Tepper's activities at the Grand Steward's Lodge - The Freemason  25 March 1871The Freemason, 25 March 1871 - Museum of Freemasony Masonic Periodicals Online

For some time between 1868 and 1871, Tepper lived at Turner’s former studio and gallery in Queen Anne Street.  The 1871 census shows Tepper living on a farm at Hellingly, Sussex, with Mary.

Death notice for Jabez Tepper - Morning Advertiser 14 December 1871Death notice for Jabez Tepper - Morning Advertiser 14 December 1871 British Newspaper Archive 

Jabez Tepper died at his London home on 10 December 1871.  His actions would be challenged in the law courts in the years following his death.

To be continued…

CC-BY
David Meaden
Independent Researcher

Creative Commons Attribution licence

Further reading:
British Newspaper Archive for Jabez Tepper’s career and reports on the court cases involving the Turner estate.

 

Turner's house logo
Turner’s restored house in Twickenham is open to visitors.

 

30 April 2024

A military wife in India - Deborah Marshall's letters

The wives of Army Officers offer a unique perspective into history.  They were often close to conflict and military action but distanced from their husbands and extended family.  Such is the case for Alice Deborah Marshall, known as Deborah, (1899-1993), whose letters sent to her mother document her life as a military wife between 1927-1933 in the North-West Frontier Provinces, India [now Pakistan].  These letters are now part of the India Office Private Papers series Mss Eur F307.

Extract from a letter sent by Deborah Marshall to her mother describing an incident where a young British soldier was shot on a train  28 July 1931Extract from a letter sent by Deborah to her mother Isabella Alice Cree describing an incident where a young British soldier was shot on a train, 28 July 1931 - India Office Private Papers Mss Eur F307/5

Deborah was the wife of Major-General John Stuart Marshall (1883-1944), who served in the Indian Army between 1904-1940.  She came from a military family herself, born to Major General Gerald Cree (1862-1932) and Isabella Sophie Alice née Smith (1874-1966), with a brother, Brigadier Gerald Hilary Cree (1905-1998), whose very active career during World War Two is well documented.

The life described in her letters is one she seems at ease with despite the hazards and constant upheaval.  In her witty and descriptive manner, she documents the lively and gossipy social life of a military town and the characters involved, as well as the minutiae of how she occupied her days and her responsibilities as a mother to her daughter Suzanne Mary (1924-2007) .

We see the towns she lived in, Gulmarg and Peshawar primarily, changing over the year, becoming lonely ghost towns when the army moved on or weathering the destruction the monsoon caused.  Golfing and gardening are casually discussed alongside the daily conflicts of the Indian Army and the dramatic events of the Afridi Redshirt Rebellion (1930-1931).

Crowd on Khissa Khani Bazaar 31 May 1930 Crowd on Khissa Khani Bazaar in Peshawar, 31 May 1930 -  British Library Photo 345 (66) Images Online

Her husband John Stuart Marshall’s military duties and his involvement in the conflict are described in detail.  Between 1930 and 1931 battles fought against the Afridi tribal freedom-fighters in the Tirah Valley as well as in the Khajuri Plains are described by Deborah to her mother.  At the end of the year in December and January 1931-2 we see the intensity of the mass arrests of ‘Redshirt’ sympathizers in Peshawar.  ‘Rebels’ were beaten bloody and imprisoned and Abdul Ghaffar Khan, the anti-colonialist activist, was arrested. While living in Army-occupied Peshawar at that time Marshall writes to her father:
'They [the British soldiers] combed the City through and when they marched out (...) were salaamed on all sides by a perfectly silent crowd!  Those with any tendency to shouting hicalab [revolution] by that time were nursing horrible bruises at home! (…)  Everyone is very hopeful on the effect this may have on the rest of India, when they see what a very strong line they have taken here' (Mss Eur F307/5 f.287).

Scenes such as this and Deborah’s observations reveal the everyday British attitudes towards their own rule during a time when great political upheaval was imminent.  John Stuart Marshall would eventually go on to become Chief Administration Officer of Eastern Command in India and of the Eastern Army before passing away in 1944.  Deborah was re-married in 1946 to Major Arthur John Dring (1902-1991) of the Indian Political Service, subsequently becoming Lady Dring until her death in 1993.

Maddy Clark
India Office Records

Further Reading:
Deborah Alice Marshall Papers India Office Private Papers Mss Eur F307– a paper catalogue of the contents is available to consult in the Asian and African Studies Reading Room.
Allen, C. 1975. Plain tales from the Raj : images of British India in the twentieth century. St Martin’s Press, New York.
Papers of Lt Col Arthur John Dring 1927-c.1948 India Office Private Papers Mss Eur F226/8.

 

02 April 2024

Papers of Sir Hugh Keeling and Colonel Thomas Ormsby Underwood

The Keeling family’s collection was donated to the British Library in 2023.  The bulk of the collection is focused on Hugh Trowbridge Keeling (1865-1955), who is most notably remembered as the Chief Engineer to New Delhi during its construction between 1912-1925.  There are also papers for Colonel Thomas Ormsby Underwood (1839-1916).

A portrait photograph of Sir Hugh Keeling by Bertram Park c.1955A portrait photograph of Sir Hugh Keeling by Bertram Park c.1955 - India Office Private Papers Mss Eur F767/2/9

Keeling was born in 1865 and spent four years with the Royal Indian Engineering College, Cooper’s Hill.  After this, he was appointed Assistant Engineer in 1887 on the ‘Perryaur’ (Mullaperiyar) Dam project working under Colonel John Pennycuick of the Royal Engineers.  The collection includes several engineering plans, maps, and manuscripts documenting this work, as well as some photographs.

A view of the Mullaperiyar Dam during construction c.1887-1895A view of the Mullaperiyar Dam during construction c.1887-1895 – India Office Private Papers Mss Eur F767/1/1

With a successful and notable project under his belt, in October 1898 Keeling was appointed Executive Engineer for the Madras Public Works Department where he was steadily promoted.  In November 1912 he was called to be Chief Engineer of the newly relocated capital, New Delhi, although with some reluctance.  Keeling states in one typewritten address (Mss Eur F767/1/4 ff.18r) that he was already involved with another project, and he had to be ordered to take up the position by Sir Harold Stuart, a member of the Executive Council in Madras.

The collection includes his speeches, engineering presentations for New Delhi, and his private and professional correspondence, which provide perspectives from Indian and British voices on the change of capital.  The move to New Delhi from Calcutta (Kolkata) was a controversial one, but the building of an impressive monument to the British Raj was a remarkable ending note to the career of Keeling.  He was awarded a CSI in 1915 and a knighthood in 1923.

A group photograph of what is likely to be the Public Words Department senior officials of DelhiA group photograph of what is likely to be the Public Words Department senior officials of Delhi. Keeling can be seen in the centre. India Office Private Papers Mss Eur F767/1/5

Keeling’s papers show a man who was a lively and popular character.  He was appointed the ‘Commander in Chief’ of his Gymkhana’s social club, the ‘Moonshiners’, and had strong and admiring social relationships with his engineering team.  After a brief retirement in 1920, he was reappointed Chief Engineer for another five years until 1925 when he was succeeded by Sir Alexander Macdonald Rouse, his Superintending Engineer.

The collection is rounded out by a small selection of manuscripts, books, letters, newspaper cuttings and photographs relating to the Underwood family.  Keeling's connection with Colonel Underwood was through his wife, Edith Madeleine, whom he married in India in 1893.  These papers reveal a respected Lieutenant in the 4th Punjab Cavalry and a Colonel in the Madras Army before his retirement in 1894.  Underwood's work is documented in speeches and newspaper clippings, including his active involvement with the Muslim Association, where he promoted projects to encourage higher education and work in industry.

A letter from Camilla Underwood to her mother dated 1811 (Mss Eur F767/3/2 ff.1r-2v) tells the story of Colonel Underwood’s great uncle, Thomas Steele, an officer in the Light Dragoons stationed in India.  In an all-night gambling session, Thomas won over two thousand pagodas from a Captain MacGregor who then denied the debt.  As a matter of honour, Thomas was forced to fight a duel with MacGregor - ‘every officer would have cut him’ for cowardice had he refused.  Despite MacGregor’s reputation as a skilled duellist, Thomas killed him and was tried by court martial.

Maddy Clark
India Office Records

Further reading:
Papers of Sir Hugh Keeling (1865-1955) and Colonel Thomas Ormsby Underwood (1839-1916) India Office Private Papers Mss Eur F767 – a paper catalogue of the contents is available to consult in the Asian and African Studies Reading Room.
Wild, A. 2001. Remains of the Raj; The British Legacy in India. East India Company (Publishing) Ltd., London.
The India Office List for 1929. London: Harrison and Sons Ltd.

 

24 October 2023

Henry Harpur – JMW Turner’s Cousin and Lawyer (Part 2)

On Monday 30 December 1851, following Turner’s funeral in St Paul’s Cathedral, his cousin and chief executor, Henry Harpur, who had been chief mourner, read the will to the other executors at Turner’s Queen Anne Street gallery.  It was later contested by a collection of Turner’s relations on his father’s side of the family and was not settled until 1856.  Henry and Philip Hardwick, the Royal Academy Treasurer, dealt with the financial aspects of the contested will, leaving other executors to deal with the artworks.

Interior of Turner's Gallery - The Artist showing his Works by George Jones‘Interior of Turner's Gallery: The Artist showing his Works’ by George Jones, probably painted from memory, shortly after Turner's death. Ashmolean Museum, Oxford

In the struggle over the will, Henry did battle with another of Turner’s cousins - Jabez Tepper, the son of Turner’s Devon cousin, Mary Turner Tepper (1770-1855).  He was also a London solicitor.

The most disappointing outcome for Henry was that ‘Turner’s Gift’, the proposed Twickenham alms houses for ‘decayd English artists (Landscape Painters only) and single men’, was never fulfilled because under the Mortmain Law, the transfer of the three quarters of an acre of land in Twickenham to a trust, had to be at least a year before Turner’s death, and this had not happened.  This oversight was probably the fault of Henry and Turner’s other legal adviser, George Cobb.

When Turner’s housekeeper, Hannah Danby, died in 1853, her will included the bequest to ‘Mrs Harpur of Cobourg Place Kennington my Tea Caddie’.  This was, of course, Henry’s second wife, Amelia, who had been kind to Hannah. 

The Westminster Hospital c.1834 Wellcome CollectionThe Westminster Hospital, London. Engraving, Wellcome Collection.

In 1868, Henry gave £10,000 to Westminster Hospital, with the request that a ward be endowed in his name.  The hospital was relocated several times and in 1992 amalgamated with Chelsea Hospital to form the Chelsea and Westminster Hospital.  There is no longer a Harpur Ward.

Amelia Harpur died on 5th August 1868, aged 54.  Henry died on 2nd March 1877, aged 86.  At the time of his death, he was living at 96 Upper Kennington Lane.  In the 1870s, Evelina Dupuis, Turner’s daughter, had moved into a house at the other end of Kennington Lane, number 154.  Following Evelina’s death there in August 1874, Henry made his last will, bequeathing the remaining money in Turner's Monument Account to her children.

Henry, Amelia and a number of Henry’s siblings are buried in West Norwood Cemetery but their memorials are probably among the 20,000 or so removed by Lambeth Council during the 1970s/80s.

In his will Henry left two Turner paintings to the National Gallery, on the condition that they put them on display.  Strangely, the Gallery refused the paintings.  Apart from several small personal bequests, and having no children, Henry left the bulk of his estate, including the two Turners, to his friend and fellow solicitor, Henry Drake, who was also the sole executor.  One of Drake’s sons, Bernard, had been given the middle name Harpur.

Drake exhibited the two Turner paintings in 1884, 1886 and 1892.  The larger painting, 'Fishing Boats Entering Calais Harbour' is now part of the Frick Collection in New York.  The smaller painting, described as 'Figures and boats in the foreground; low-lying coast seen across the sea on the horizon' is untraced.

In his will, Henry also made special provision for his cat to be cared for by Fanny Hodges.  One can only hope that, unlike the paintings, this bequest was fulfilled.

Report on Henry Harpur's will in Courier and West-End Advertiser 14 April 1877Report on Henry Harpur's will in Courier and West-End Advertiser 14 April 1877 British Newspaper Archive

CC-BY
David Meaden
Independent Researcher

Creative Commons Attribution licence

Further reading:
Selby Whittingham, Of Geese, Mallards and Drakes: Some Notes on Turner's Family, with contributions from others, Part 4 The Marshalls & Harpurs, Independent Turner Society (1999)
Franny Moyle, The Extraordinary Life and Momentous Times of J.M.W.Turner (London, 2016).

Henry Harpur – JMW Turner’s Cousin and Lawyer (Part 1)

Turner's House logo

Turner’s restored house in Twickenham is open to visitors.

 

17 October 2023

Gerald Sidney Wilson, Indian Police

A previous post on this blog looked at the career of William Henry Wilson, an officer in the Bombay Staff Corps who had a distinguished career in the Bombay Police.  Another member of the Wilson family was also involved in law enforcement in India.  This was Gerald Sidney Wilson, William’s nephew, who served in the Indian Police in Bombay.

Photograph of Wilson giving a speech at Bardoli, 10 July 1932 Wilson giving a speech at Bardoli 10 July 1932 - Mss Eur F764/10/7 f.26

Gerald Sidney Wilson was born on 29 October 1880 in Hampstead.  He joined the Indian Police on 23 November 1901 as a 3rd Grade Assistant Superintendent of Police and was stationed at Dharwar.  Wilson had a long career, working his way up to Inspector General of Police for the Bombay Presidency from 1932 until his retirement in 1934.  He was awarded the King’s Police Medal in 1918 and the Companion of the Most Exalted Order of the Star of India in 1931.

Photograph of Women's Congress Procession in Bombay 1930  with two policemen in the foreground.

Photograph of Women's Congress Procession in Bombay 1930 - Mss Eur F764/10/4

Wilson served in the police during a turbulent time in modern Indian history.  His papers include some fascinating material relating to the struggle for Independence.  He kept a scrapbook of cuttings from Indian newspapers in 1930 that reported on many key events that occurred in the Bombay Presidency, such as the Congress flag salutation ceremony and women's Congress procession, the release of Vallabhbhai Patel from jail, Khilafat procession in Bombay, and demonstrations on Jawahar Day.  Wilson also collected several editions of The Bombay Congress Bulletin between 1930 and 1932.  These were propaganda sheets issued by the Congress Party in Bombay.  They reported on the activities of party activists and on demonstrations against British rule in India, and took every opportunity to denounce the British authorities.  As Wilson at that time was Commissioner of Police for the city of Bombay, he often came under fire in the Bulletin. The issue of 29 November 1930 reported that Wilson had failed to fulfil his vow to crush Congress: ‘Citizens of Bombay! You have quelled the puffed up pride of this Wilson and made him eat his words by your wonderful solidarity with the Congress movement’.

Bombay Congress Bulletin  29 November 1930  - artlcle about 'Proud Police Chief' WilsonArticle about 'Proud Police Chief' Wilson in The Bombay Congress Bulletin 29 November 1930 - Mss Eur F764/10/7 f.2

In 1932, Wilson had the task of arresting Gandhi.  His papers include his fascinating account of this, which took place in the early hours of 4 January at Mani Bhuvan, Gandhi’s home in Bombay.  When he arrived Gandhi was asleep.  ‘On being awakened Mr Gandhi sat up but uttered no word as it was his silence day.  I said to Mr Gandhi “It is my duty to arrest you” and showed him the warrant to take him to Yeravda Jail under the old Bombay Regulation of 1827.  I read out the warrant and touched his shoulder in token of having arrested him and told him that I would give him half an hour to get ready.  Asking for paper and pencil he wrote “I will be ready in exactly half an hour”.’

Congress stamps with Gandhi's image and the words 'Boycott British Goods. Non-Violence'.Congress stamps - Mss Eur F764/10/4

Gandhi described the arrest simply in his diary entry for that day: ‘Spun 190 rounds.  The police came and arrested me at 3 o’clock in the morning.  Left after reciting a bhajan.  Elwin, Privat, Mills and others were present.  Vallabhbhai also was arrested at the same time.  We met in the jail and are lodged together.  I may say I spent the day resting.  I could take a walk for the first time today after landing [Gandhi had recently returned from the Round Table Conference in London].  Started reading Will Durant’s book [The Case for India].  Ate no fresh fruit today.  Had two seers of milk’.

John O’Brien
India Office Records

Further Reading:
Gerald Sidney Wilson’s papers are part of a recently catalogued collection of India Office Private Papers now available to researchers in the British Library’s Asian & African Studies reading room: Papers of the Wilson Family, Mss Eur F764 that charts the family’s connection with India over four generations.

Papers relating to the career of Gerald Sidney Wilson in the Indian Police, 1901-1933. Shelfmark: Mss Eur F764/10/3

Scrapbook of cuttings from Indian newspapers, 1930. Shelfmark: Mss Eur F764/10/4.

The Bombay Congress Bulletin, 1930-1932. Shelfmark: Mss Eur F764/10/7.

Account by Gerald Sidney Wilson of the arrest of Gandhi on 4 January 1932. Shelfmark: Mss Eur F764/10/9.

Gandhi: Prisoner of Hope by Judith M Brown (New Haven; London: Yale University Press, 1989).

The Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi, Vol.49, January-May 1932 (Government of India Publications Division, 1958-).

 

19 September 2023

William Henry Wilson of the Bombay Police

William Henry Wilson was an officer in the Bombay Staff Corps in the second half of the 19th century.  Born in Worcester on 13 September 1839, Wilson was appointed to the Indian Army in December 1856, and posted to the 18th Regiment of Bombay Native Infantry.  Present during operations against insurgents in the North Canara and Bedee Districts in 1858, he was awarded the Mutiny Medal.  He had a successful army career, and served in the Bombay Police.

Decorated scroll in praise of Wilson  1891

Decorated scroll in praise of Wilson 1891 - Mss Eur F764/7/8

In 1870, Wilson was the Superintendent of Police for the Kaira District, and was called on to oversee police arrangements for the fair at Dakore held in April of that year.  The fair was a success and Wilson was commended for the judicious manner in which the arrangements were devised and carried out with due regard to the feelings of the people attending the event.  Wilson noted in his papers that, 'There was a tremendous concourse of people, especially women……The Maharajah wanted to give me a sword but I said government would not approve as I had only done my duty'.

Report of the fair at Dakore 1870  with the offer of a sword as a giftReport on the fair at Dakore 1870 -  Mss Eur F764/7/2

In 1885, Wilson was the District Superintendent of Police at Nasik. I n October of that year, he had to deal with a riot that broke out at Malegaon in the District.  The cause of the riot seemed to be a dispute between members of the Hindu and Muslim communities who were celebrating the festivals of Dasara and Muharram.  The unrest lasted four days and 42 people were arrested.  At one point, a Hindu temple was attacked forcing the police guard to fire on the rioters wounding two men.  The Government commended Wilson and the local Magistrate Mr Frost for their promptitude and discretion.  In Wilson’s copy of the report on the riot, he noted in the margin that, 'It was a hot business' and that leading Muslim leaders had asked him to release the 42 men who had been arrested, to which he had refused.  They were sentenced to terms of imprisonment of between three to eighteen months.

Report of riot at Malegaon 1885 Report of riot at Malegaon 1885  - Mss Eur F764/7/2

In 1887, Wilson, serving as Superintendent of Police in the Poona District, was involved in tracking down a gang of robbers.  Wilson reported that, 'five of the Koli gang of dacoits have surrendered to Inspector Ganpatrao Malhar and that a sixth, who alleges he was pressed into the dacoit’s service against his will, has also given himself up' . Wilson recommended that the reward of Rs.500 should be increased to Rs.1000 and distributed to local villagers 'who have done so well and have suffered in the service'.

Report of the surrender of a gang of dacoits 1887  Surrender of a gang of dacoits 1887 - Mss Eur F764/7/2

Between 1888 and 1893, Wilson served as Commissioner of Police for the Town and Island of Bombay.  During that time, he met a number of visiting dignitaries, including Prince Albert Victor, Duke of Clarence in 1889.  The following year, he met Tsesarevich Nicholas Alexandrovich, future Emperor of Russia, who was on a tour of India.  Wilson wrote that it was rather a responsibility for the Governor, Lord Harris, especially as the Indian Government 'were very jumpy'.  Of the Tsesarevich, Wilson wrote, 'He was very unformed in manners & never thanked me'. I n January 1893, the Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria visited Bombay as part of his tour of India during his trip round the world.  Wilson commented that Lord Harris 'found him a pleasant guest; and he specially thanked me at the railway station on his departure'.

 

John O’Brien
India Office Records

Further Reading:
William Henry Wilson’s papers are part of a recently catalogued collection of India Office Private Papers now available to researchers in the British Library’s Asian & African Studies reading room: Papers of the Wilson Family, Mss Eur F764 that charts the family’s connection with India over four generations.
Papers relating to the service history of William Henry Wilson, 1866-1914, shelfmark: Mss Eur F764/7/1.
Official correspondence relating to William Henry Wilson's career, 1860-1893, shelfmark: Mss Eur F764/7/2.

 

24 August 2023

Seditious Publications

In the early decades of the 20th century the Government of India became increasingly concerned by the publication and circulation of what they perceived as anti-British or seditious publications.  This was a particular concern following the Amritsar massacre which sparked protests across India.  One small collection in the India Office Private Papers gives an interesting glimpse of the efforts of government to suppress these publications.

These are a collection of notifications issued by the Government of the United Provinces.  The notifications give the legislation used and details of the publication suppressed.  A government reviewer had also listed the paragraphs or lines of particular concern.  The legislation used was section 99 of the 1898 Code of Criminal Procedure, and section 12 of the Indian Press Act of 1910.  These pieces of legislation allowed the authorities to declare such books, newspapers or other documents forfeited to His Majesty.  Police officers could then seize them.

Notification about book in Hindi - How America Acquired IndependenceNotification about book in Hindi - How America Acquired Independence

One of the defining events, which galvanised the campaign for Indian independence, was the Amritsar massacre.  Many Indian writers and publishers took this as a subject in calling for resistance to British rule in India.  One collection of poems, ‘Jallianwala Bagh ka Mahatma’, has the line ‘Jallianwala Bagh will be immortal in the world’, and in another of the poems is written: ‘It is Jallianwala Bagh, where the martyrs of the motherland and the gems of the country were robbed’.  It goes on to advise the public to consider the Jallianwala Bagh a place of pilgrimage [folio 21]. 

Notification about Gandhi-ki-gazlenNotification about 'Gandhi-ki-gazlen'

Another pamphlet in Hindi ,‘Gandhi-ki-gazlen’, predicted ‘Scenes of Jallianwala Bagh will be repeated in every city if this Government is not driven out of this country’ [folio 48].  The reviewer noted that the writer urged Indians to follow non-cooperation and emphasised the adoption of swadeshi goods.

Notification about Asahyog KajliNotification about 'Asahyog Kajli'

The campaign to boycott British goods and use Indian products, known as swadeshi, features in many of the publications.  For instance, a pamphlet in Hindi entitled ‘Asahyog Kajli’ encouraged people to use the spinning wheel (charkha) and weave cloth for their use [folio 17]. 

Notification about Sawan SwarajNotification about 'Sawan Swaraj'

Another pamphlet in Hindi, ‘Sawan Swaraj’, written by Sallar Maharaj contain songs with the lines: ‘By working at charkhas the enemy will disappear from our sight and from India’ [folio 19].  The non-cooperation campaigns led by Gandhi are a common theme. 

Notification about Swaraj PratiqyaNotification about 'Swaraj Pratiqya'

One pamphlet in Hindi, ‘Swaraj Pratiqya’, collected poems on the subject.  One line urged: ‘Let us take the vow of non-violent non-co-operation with all resoluteness and let us try soon to liberate India from the unlawful possession of the unjust’.  A similar tone was taken in another line: ‘Let there be new sacrifices made on the altar of liberty and let us all be proud of our mother tongue and of swadeshi clothes’ [folio 118].

Notification about leaflet addressed to Gurkha troopsNotification about leaflet addressed to Gurkha troops

One notification concerns a leaflet in Nepalese addressed to Gurkha troops.  Printed and published anonymously it warned: ‘Just as an insect eats the wall from the inside and makes it hollow in the same way the foreign nation (British) which is deceitful and dishonest is going to make us hollow’.  It urges Gurkha soldiers to ‘Leave the services and protect your brothers’ [folio 75].

John O’Brien
India Office Records

Further Reading:
India Office unregistered files containing copies of notifications issued by the Government of the United Provinces proscribing seditious publications, together with translations and summaries of the literature, 1910-1930, reference Mss Eur F242.

Records relating to seditious or proscribed publications can be found in the Public & Judicial Department records series (IOR/L/PJ).

Indian Press Act, 1910

Code of Criminal Procedure, 1898.  

Publications proscribed by the Government of India: a catalogue of the collections in the India Office Library and Records and the Department of Oriental Manuscripts and Printed Books, British Library Reference Division, edited by Graham Shaw and Mary Lloyd (London: British Library, 1985).

 

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