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Sir John Malcolm
Governor of Bombay

In office
1 November 1827 – 1 December 1830
Monarch George IV
William IV
Governor General The Earl Amhurst
Lord Bentinck
Preceded by Mountstuart Elphinstone
Succeeded by The Earl of Clare
Personal details
Born 2 May 1769
Burnfoot, Dumfriesshire, Scotland
Died 30 May 1833(1833-05-30) (aged 64)
London, England
Nationality British
Occupation Soldier, Statesman, Historian
Military service
Allegiance  United Kingdom
Service/branch Madras Army
Years of service 1782–1833
Rank Major-general
Battles/wars Third Anglo-Mysore War
Fourth Anglo-Mysore War
Battle of Mahidpur

Major-general Sir John Malcolm (2 May 1769 – 30 May 1833) was a Scottish soldier, statesman, and historian.

Early life[edit | edit source]

Born at Burnfoot, Dumfriesshire, Scotland, Malcolm was the son of George Malcolm (1729-1803), a gentleman farmer of Eskdale and Burnfoot, by his wife Margaret (1742-1811), daughter of James Pasley (1695-1773), of Craig, Dumfries. Jock, as he was then known, was a nephew of Admiral Sir James Pasley and one of the four Malcolm brothers who attained knighthoods or baronetcies in the service of the British Empire. When he was 12, in 1782, through the influence of the Johnstones of Alva, Jock Malcolm entered the service of the East India Company as a cadet, leaving from London to Madras.[1] In his early years at Madras, Jock Malcolm was 'not a prodigy of virtue'. He was known as 'Boy Malcolm' for many years, which his biographer explained was due to there being 'something so open and joyous in his manner; so active and so frolicsome'. He was a fine horseman and a crack shot, but like so many other young officers he soon found himself in debt. A relation in London forwarded him £200 but his brother intercepted it so that he may learn the hard way.

A part of his success is to be ascribed to the zeal with which he applied himself at first to study the manners and languages of the east. Having distinguished himself at the siege of Seringapatam in 1792, he was appointed by Lord Cornwallis to the situation of Persian interpreter to a British force serving with a native prince. In 1795, on his return from a short visit to his native country, on account of his health, he performed some useful services in General Clarke’s expedition at the Cape of Good Hope, for which he received the thanks of the Madras government, and was appointed secretary to the commander-in-chief.

In 1797, he was made captain; and from that time to 1799, he was engaged in a variety of important services, terminating at the fall of Seringapatam, where he highly distinguished himself. He was then appointed joint secretary with captain (afterwards Sir Thomas) Munro, to the commissioners for settling the new government of Mysore. In the same year, he was selected by Lord Wellesley to proceed on a diplomatic mission to Persia, where he concluded two treaties of great importance, one political, and the other commercial; returning to Bombay in May, 1801. His services were acknowledged by his being appointed private secretary to the governor-general. In January, 1802, he was raised to the rank of major; and on the occasion of the Persian ambassador being accidentally shot at Bombay, he was again entrusted with a mission to that empire, in order to make the requisite arrangements for the renewal of the embassy. As plenipotentiary for the British East India Company, he came into conflict with Sir Harford Jones, the British Ambassador to Persia, which resulted in a number of minor disputes about precedence in the Persian court and the giving and receiving of gifts.[2] Upon his return to Bombay he was censured by the government for having spent too much on gifts for the members of the Persian court.[2]

In January, 1803, he was nominated to the presidency of Mysore, and to act without special instructions; and in December, 1804, he was promoted to the rank of lieutenant-colonel. In the June of the following year, he was appointed chief agent of the governor-general, and he continued to serve in that capacity until March, 1806, having successfully concluded several very important treaties during that period.

Malcolm is credited with having introduced the potato to Persia. On his first visit he noted the suitability of the climate to growing this vegetable, and on his second mission to Persia took along thirty bags of seeds, which he distributed as he went, along with notes on how to grow the potato.[3]

He was employed in many important negotiations and held various distinguished posts, being Ambassador to Persia, Resident of Gwalior (1803–1804) and Governor of Bombay 1827–1830. He was the commander of the British Army which defeated the Holkars who ruled Indore at the Battle of Mahidpur in 1818. After defeating the Holkars he signed the Treaty of Mandsaur with them. It was under this treaty that the British were given the cantonment town of Mhow which is 23 km from Indore.

He was the author of several valuable works regarded as authoritative, viz., Sketch of the Sikh (1812) A History of Persia (1815),[4] Memoir of Central India (1823), Political History of India from 1784 to 1823 (1826), Sketches of Persia (1827 by A Traveller) and Life of Lord Clive (1836). As a writer, Malcolm was a profound influence on the generation of military and diplomatic officials that governed British India in the period before 1857.[5] He was awarded an honorary doctorate by Oxford University.[1]

Family[edit | edit source]

The English delegation at the Court of Fath Ali Shah in 1808: John Malcolm, Harford Jones and Gore Ouseley.

He married in June 1807 Isabella 'Charlotte' Campbell, daughter of Sir Alexander Campbell, Bart., by whom he had five children. He himself was a brother of Sir Pulteney Malcolm. An impressive obelisk commemorating Malcolm's life and achievements stands atop the 300 m Whita Hill on the outskirts of Langholm.

An over life-size statue of Sir John Malcolm by Sir Francis Chantrey is in Westminster Abbey's North Transept.

References[edit | edit source]

  1. 1.0 1.1 "Map of Persia and Adjacent Countries, for Sir John Malcolm's History of Persia". World Digital Library. http://www.wdl.org/en/item/2679/. Retrieved 19 January 2013. 
  2. 2.0 2.1 Kaye, John William (1895). The Life and Correspondence of Major-General Sir John Malcolm, Volume II. London: Smith, Elder and Co. p. 65. 
  3. Kaye, John William (1895). The Life and Correspondence of Major-General Sir John Malcolm, Volume II. London: Smith, Elder and Co. p. 47. 
  4. "The History of Persia, from the Most Early Period to the Present Time". 1815. http://www.wdl.org/en/item/7310/. Retrieved 2013-10-02. 
  5. Harrington, Jack (2010). Sir John Malcolm and the Creation of British India. New York: Palgrave Macmillan. p. 2.

Resources[edit | edit source]

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External links[edit | edit source]

Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
James Brogden and
Sir James Willoughby Gordon
Member of Parliament for Launceston
1831–1832
With: James Brogden
Succeeded by
Sir Henry Hardinge
Government offices
Preceded by
Sir Mountstuart Elphinstone
Governor of Bombay
1827–1830
Succeeded by
Lt Gen Sir Thomas Sidney Beckwith

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