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SIR THOMAS MUNRO, K.C.B.
UNCOMMEMORATED as yet by any statue in the city of his birth, of his upbringing, and of his education, the fame of Sir Thomas Munro has been otherwise well cared for by a still fresh affectionate regard which connects him with all that was brave and of good report as a soldier, no less than with what was wise and humane as an Indian Governor. An equestrian memorial, carved out by the skilful hand of Chantrey for the inhabitants of Madras--a memorial which even native chiefs have been seen to salute with affection-recalls one phase of Governor Munro's career; a choultry and tank at Gooty for the accommodation of travellers, another; while a third is conspicuous as a tomb at Putteecondah, where the hero of the Maharatta war fell a victim to his zeal in that service of the Crown which had been the pride of his life, for the long period of eight-and. forty years. His moderation in war was not more remarkable than his homely, disinterested career during such brief periods of peace as service in the East during his time permitted any of the Company's officials to enjoy. Forty years a soldier, for the most part high in command, and eight years a Governor in the wealthy Presidency of Madras, Sir Thomas Munro, with the uncontrolled management of provinces larger than many European kingdoms, died as he had lived, faithful to his public trust, and possessed of only a modest competence. But still more should be remembered to his credit. Founded as English rule in India was by the matchless bravery of Clive, and built up by the policy of Hastings, the India of Munro's day was a country still looked upon by most Europeans as a place to get rich in as soon as possible; so that every greedy factor, however petty his station, thought it no shame to extort from the poorest peasantry in the world whatever could add to his dreams of boundless wealth. Burke was scarcely exaggerating when he declared in the Commons that Indian civil servants were almost universally sent out to begin their progress and career
in active occupation and in the exercise of high authority at that period of life which, in all other places, was employed in the course of a rigid education. put the matter in a few words," said the orator, “these civil servants are transferred from slippery youth to perilous independence, from perilous independence to inordinate expectations, from inordinate expectations to boundless power. Schoolboys without tutors, minors without guardians, the world is let loose on them with all its temptations, and they are let loose upon the world with all the powers that despotism involves." Munro has been sitly classed with Elphinstone and Metcalfe as having done their best to supersede such gangs of public robbers by a body of functionaries not more distinguished for ability and diligence than by integrity and public spirit.
The absence of any memorial here to a citizen so distinguished as MajorGeneral Munro is apt to excite increased surprise when it is remembered that he was a son of Glasgow, not alone by the mere accident of birth or education, but it was a locality seldom absent from either his waking thoughts or dreams. Even when exercising supreme power over the dusky myriads of his Presidency, and amid scenes altogether different, he never forgot or ceased to be influenced by recollections of his early home at North Woodside, on the banks of the then silvery Kelvin. “The Father of his People,” never appeared in happier mood than when writing or speaking regarding the land of his fathers and the old house at home, removed in 1869, when the ground was being laid out for the thriving new suburb of Kelvinside. To Munro the comfort of his parents, their country house and their garden, remained with him as fresh as if he had never left the paternal roof. But his sister (afterwards Mrs. Henry Erskine) would appear on the whole to have been his favourite correspondent. His tone has been noticed as changing whenever he addressed her, and the recollections and expectations of his heart to well out in their greatest fulness. One written from the camp before Cuddalore, on the eve when General Stuart (of the house of Torrance and Castlemilk) was making his successful attack on the fort kept by the French, supported with native troops under Tippoo Saib, may still be read with interest and profit:-"I have
never yet been able to divest myself of my partiality for home; nor can I now reflect without regret on the careless, indolent life I led in my father's house, when time fled away undisturbed by these anxious thoughts which possess every one who seeks earnestly for advancement in the world. I often see my father busied with his tulip beds, and my mother with her myrtle pots; I see you drawing, and James lost in meditation: and all these seem as much present to me as they did when I was amongst you. Sometimes, when I walk on the sea-shore, I look across the waves and please myself with fancying that I see a distant continent amongst the clouds, where I imagine you all to be." Replying on another occasion to his sister, who had proposed a visit to Ammondell during his first return home in 1808, after an absence in the East of nearly thirty years, Colonel Munro wrote playfully:-"I have been twice at North Woodside, and though it rained without ceasing on both days, it did not prevent me from rambling up and down the river from Clayslap to the aqueduct bridge. I stood above an hour at Jackson's Dam, looking at the water rushing over. The rain and withered leaves were descending thick about me, while I recalled the days that are past. The wind whistling through the trees, and the water tumbling over the dam, had still the same sound as before; but the darkness of the day, and the little smart box perched upon the opposite bank, destroyed much of the illusion, and made me feel that former times were gone. I don't know how it is, but when I look back to early years I always associate sunshine with them; when I think of North Woodside, I always think of a fine day, with the sunbeams streaming down upon Kelvin and its woody banks. I do not enter completely into early scenes of life in gloomy, drizzling weather. I mean to devote the first sunny day to another visit to Kelvin, which, whatever you may say, is worth ten such paltry streams as your Ammon.” Sentiments like these show that Munro was something more than a Scotchman; he was a Glasgow Scotchman, fully as much as either Lord Clyde, Sir John Moore, or Thomas Campbell, or, indeed, any other whose image has been judged worthy of being set up in George Square.
Munro came of a good old Glasgow family, his grandfather being Daniel
and his father Alexander, both merchants of note in the City when the lucrative tobacco trade was reaching its greatest height. It is, indeed, more than probable that but for commercial fluctuations arising out of the unnatural warfare carried on by British troops and German mercenaries in America, the future LieutenantGeneral and Governor of Madras might himself have paced along the Tontine pavement as a scarlet-cloaked and periwigged tobacco lord or Virginia Don. The desire of his father and mother was that Thomas, their third son, should be trained for mercantile pursuits; nor did their wish appear likely to be interfered with till the Act of Confiscation, passed by the American Congress in 1776, involved the ruin of his tobacco house, and reduced Alexander Munro to a state of distress which in after life it remained for his sons, Thomas, and an elder brother, John, a writer in Madras, to completely alleviate.
Born in May, 1761, Thomas Munro was at the period of his father's calamities fifteen years of age, and had been fully two years attending Glasgow University. His progress there cannot be set down as very marked. Like Outram, the Lawrences, and other Indian heroes, his boyhood was distinguished less for book learning than as a leader in athletic and other healthy sports, particularly swimming in Jackson's mill-stream, near his father's house, an exercise for which he retained a great partiality in after life. It appeared distressing to the lad that young ideas should be stifled by logic. “A few pages of history (he wrote in after life) give more insight into the human mind, and in a more agreeable manner, than all the metaphysical volumes that ever were published. The men who have made the greatest figure in public life, and have been most celebrated for their knowledge of mankind, probably never consulted any of these sages, from Aristotle downwards.” Munro was now a devourer of books; and at sixteen, being justly told that no English translation can convey an adequate notion of “Don Quixote," he made himself a sufficient master of Spanish to relish his favourite romance in the original-a trait of zeal and enthusiasm which ought to have been more valuable in the eyes of his parents than a whole hamper of prize books. The first step in the career of Munro was to get himself rated as
a midshipman on board the East India Company's ship “Walpole;" but this was, soon after, fortunately commuted for a Madras cadetship, and in the year 1779 he proceeded to the scene of his future useful and distinguished life. Hyder Ali, the most formidable single enemy that ever threatened the Company's possessions, then hung over the Carnatic; and Munro, after passing six months at the Presidency, most part beneath the hospitable roof of David Halliburton, Persian interpreter, was attached, in 1780, as ensign to the 16th Madras Native Infantry, under the immediate orders of the Commander-in-Chief, General Stuart, before referred to. The unfortunate defeat of Colonel Baillie's detachment, on its march to join the main army, is related in a letter from Sir Thomas to his father.
Munro's dauntless bearing all through the Mysore war waged by Lord Cornwallis against Hyder Ali attracted the notice of his superiors, and, after he had been promoted to the rank of Lieutenant, his talents and discretion obtained for him, in August, 1788, the appointment of assistant in the Intelligence Department. In this capacity he served under the orders of Captain Alexander Read, in the occupation of the ceded district of Guntoor, until the breaking out of the war with Tippoo Saib in 1790, when he again took the field with the army, and remained with it till the hollow peace of 1792. On the cession by Tippoo of the Baramahl, he was again employed under Captain Read in the civil administration of that district till 1799. In the ensuing campaign Captain Munro served in the army of Lord Harris as secretary to his friend, then Colonel Read, who commanded a detached force; and, after the fall of Seringapatam, he was appointed, with Captain, afterwards Sir John, Malcolm, joint-secretary to the Commissioners for the settlement of Mysore. Next he was nominated by Lord Mornington (afterwards Marquis Wellesley), then Governor-General of India, to the charge of the civil administration of Canara, a wild and rugged province on the western or Malabar coast of the peninsula.
Lieutenant Munro wisely described Tippoo as incomparably the most powerful and dangerous enemy of the English at that time, and condemned as preposterous the notion, then prevalent, of attempting to preserve a balance between Powers so