Earls of Elgin and Kincardine - Encyclopedia

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EARLS OF. ELGIN AND KINCARDINE THOMAS Bruce, 7th earl of Elgin (1766-1841), British diplomatist and art collector, was born on the 10th of July 1766, and in 1771 succeeded his brother in the Scottish peerage as the 7th earl of Elgin (cr. 1633), and 11th of Kincardine (cr. 1647). He was educated at Harrow and Westminster, and, after studying for some time at the university of St Andrews, proceeded to the continent, where he studied international law at Paris, and military science in Germany. When his education was completed he entered the army, in which he rose to the rank of general. His chief attention was, however, devoted to diplomacy. In 1792 he was appointed envoy at Brussels, and in 1795 envoy extraordinary at Berlin; and from 1799 to 1802 he was envoy extraordinary at the Porte. It was during his stay at Constantinople that he formed the purpose of removing from Athens the celebrated sculptures now known as the Elgin Marbles. His doing so was censured by some as vandalism, and doubts were also expressed as to the artistic value of many of the marbles; but he vindicated himself in a pamphlet published in 1810, and entitled Memorandum on the Subject of the Earl of Elgin's Pursuits in Greece. In 1816 the collection was purchased by the nation for £36,000, and placed in the British Museum, the outlay incurred by Lord Elgin having been more than £50,000. Lord Elgin was a Scottish representative peer for fifty years. He died at Paris on the 14th of November 1841.

James Bruce, 8th earl of Elgin (1811-1863), British statesman, eldest son of the 7th earl by his second marriage, was born in 1811, and succeeded to the peerage as 8th earl of Elgin and 12th of Kincardine in 1841. He was educated at Eton and at Christ Church, Oxford, where he had as companions and rivals his younger predecessors in the office of governor-general of India, Dalhousie and Canning. He began his official career in 1842 at the age of thirty, as governor of Jamaica. During an administration of four years he succeeded in winning the respect of all classes. He improved the condition of the negroes and conciliated the planters by working through them. In 1846 Lord Grey appointed him governor-general of Canada. Son-in-law of the popular earl of Durham, he was well received by the colonists, and he set himself deliberately to carry out the Durham policy. In this his frank and genial manners aided him powerfully. His assent to the local measure for indemnifying those who had suffered in the troubles of 1837 led the mob of Montreal to pelt his carriage for the rewarding of rebels for rebellion, as Mr Gladstone described it. But long before his eight years' term of service expired he was the most popular man in Canada. His relations with the United States, his hearty support of the self-government and defence of the colony, and his settlement of the free-trade and fishery questions, led to his being raised in 1849 to the British peerage as Baron Elgin.

Soon after his return to England in 1854, Lord Palmerston offered him a seat in the cabinet as chancellor of the duchy of Lancaster, which he declined. But when, in 1856 the seizure of the "Arrow" by Commissioner Yeh plunged England into war with China, he at once accepted the appointment of special envoy with the expedition. On reaching Point de Galle he was met by a force summoned from Bombay to Calcutta by the news of the sepoy mutiny at Meerut on the 11th of May. His first idea, that the somewhat meagre intelligence would justify most energetic action in China, was at once changed when urgent letters from Lord Canning reached him at Singapore, the next port, on the 3rd of June. H.M.S. "Shannon" was at once sent on to Calcutta with the troops destined for China, and Lord Elgin himself followed it, when gloomier letters from India reached him. The arrival of the "Shannon" gave new life to the handful of white men fighting for civilization against fearful odds, and before the reinforcements from England arrived the back of the mutiny had been broken. Nor was the position in China seriously affected by the want of the troops. Lord Elgin sent in his ultimatum to Commissioner Yeh at Canton on the same day, the 12th of December, that he learned the relief of Lucknow, and he soon after sent Yeh a prisoner to Calcutta. By July 1858, after months of Chinese deception, he was able to leave the Gulf of Pechili with the emperor's assent to the Treaty of Tientsin. Subsequently he visited Japan, and obtained less considerable concessions from its government in the Treaty of Yeddo. It is true that the negotiations were confined to the really subordinate Tycoon or Shogun, but that visit proved the beginning of British influence in the most progressive country of Asia. Unfortunately, the Chinese difficulty was not yet at an end. After tedious disputes with the tariff commissioners as to the opium duty, and a visit to the upper waters of the Yang-tzse, Lord Elgin had reached England in May 1859. But when his brother and the allied forces attempted to proceed to Peking with the ratified treaty, they were fired on from the Taku forts at the mouth of the Peiho. The Chinese had resolved to try the fortune of war once more, and Lord Russell again sent out Lord Elgin as ambassador extraordinary to demand an apology for the attack, the execution of the treaty, and an indemnity for the military and naval expenditure. Sir Robert Napier (afterwards Lord Napier of Magdala) and Sir Hope Grant, with the French, so effectually routed the Tatar troops and sacked the Summer Palace that by the 24th of October 1860 a convention was concluded which was "entirely satisfactory to Her Majesty's government." Lord Elgin had not been a month at home when Lord Palmerston selected him to be viceroy and governor-general of India. He had now attained the object of his honourable ambition, after the office had been filled in most critical times by his juniors and old college companions, the marquis of Dalhousie and Earl Canning. He succeeded a statesman who had done much to reorganize the whole administration of India, shattered as it had been by the mutiny. But, as the first viceroy directly appointed by the Crown, and as subject to the secretary of state for India, Lord Elgin at once gave up all Lord Canning had fought for, in the co-ordinate independence, or rather the stimulating responsibility, of the governor-general, which had prevailed from the days of Clive and Warren Hastings. On the other hand, he loyally carried out the wise and equitable policy of his predecessor towards our feudatories with a firmness and a dignity that in the case of Holkar and Udaipur had a good effect. He did his best to check the aggression of ,the Dutch in Sumatra, which was contrary to treaty, and he supported Dost Mahommed in Kabul until that aged warrior entered the then neutral and disputed territory of Herat. Determined to maintain inviolate the integrity of our own north-west frontier, Lord Elgin assembled a camp of exercise at Lahore, and marched a force to the Peshawar border to punish those branches of the Yusufzai tribe who had violated the engagements of 1858.

It was in the midst of this "little war" that he died. Soon after his arrival at Calcutta, he had projected the usual tour to Simla, to be followed by an inspection of the Punjab and its warlike ring-fence of Pathans. He even contemplated the summoning of the central legislative council at Lahore. After passing the summer of 1863 in the cool retreat of Peterhoff, Simla, Lord Elgin began a march across the hills from Simla to Sialkot by the upper valleys of the Beas, the Ravi and the Chenab, chiefly to decide the two allied questions of tea cultivation and trade routes to Kashgar and Tibet. The climbing up to the Rotung Pass (13,000 ft.) which separates the Beas valley from that of the Chenab, and the crossing of the frail twig bridge across the Chundra torrent, prostrated him by the time he had descended into the smiling English-like Kangra valley. Thence he wrote his last letter to Sir Charles Wood, still full of hope and not free from anxiety as to the Sittana expedition. At the lovely hill station of Dharmsala, "the place of piety," he died of fatty degeneration of heart on the 10th of November 1863.

For his whole career see Letters and Journals of James, Eighth Earl of Elgin, edited by Walrond, but corrected by his brother-inlaw, Dean Stanley; for the China missions see Narrative of the Earl of Elgin's Mission to China and Japan, by Laurence Oliphant, his private secretary; for the brief Indian administration see the Friend of India for 1862-1863.

Victor Alexander Bruce, 9th earl of Elgin (1849-), British statesman, was born on the 16th of May 1849, the son of the 8th earl, and was educated at Eton and Balliol College, Oxford. In 1863 he succeeded as 9th earl of Elgin and 13th of Kincardine. A Liberal in politics, he became first commissioner of works (1886), and subsequently viceroy of India (1894-1899). His administration in India was chiefly notable for the frontier risings of 1897-1898. The Afridis broke out into a fanatical revolt and through hesitation on the part of the government were allowed to seize the Khyber Pass, necessitating the Tirah Expedition. After his return to England he was nominated chairman of the royal commission to investigate the conduct of the South African War; and on the formation of Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman's ministry in December 1905, he became a member of the cabinet as secretary of state for the colonies. In this capacity, though he showed many statesmanlike qualities, he was somewhat overshadowed by his brilliant under-secretary in the Commons, Mr Winston Churchill, whose speeches on colonial affairs were as aggressive as Lord Elgin's were cautious; and when in April 1908, Mr Asquith became prime minister, Lord Elgin retired from the cabinet.

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