The Viceroyalty of Lord Dufferin, Part I

Briton Martin Jnr. describes how Lord Dufferin set out for India, intending his rule to be a period of conservative calm, but found himself involved in the anxieties of “The Burmese Adventure”.

By the late nineteenth century, there were few responsibilities of the Crown so comprehensive and demanding as the Viceroyalty of India. Cast in heroic dimensions by the mould of imperialism, the Viceroyalty was no longer a function that could be entrusted to a fortuitously selected individual.

It required for its master a man of unique versatility who possessed, among other qualifications, an aristocratic background, a thorough understanding of English politics and the intricacies of Western as well as Eastern diplomacy, executive ability, and the dedication of a loyal public servant.

Unfortunately, such an ideal was rarely, if ever, achieved in one man, as was illustrated by the Viceroys from Canning onwards. Each came forward with some, but not all, of the talents necessary, and each in his turn saw his lofty aims frustrated. Indeed, by the 1880’s, the ideal of the Viceroyalty far transcended the capabilities of the Viceroy, yet it was upon this harsh inequality that the man and his work were judged a success or a failure.

The one member of Gladstone’s Cabinet of 1884 most painfully aware of this dilemma was Lord Kimberley, then Secretary for India.

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