Lord William Bentinck

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The Lord William Henry Cavendish-Bentinck, known as Lord William Bentinck (14 September 1774 - 17 June 1839) was a British statesman who served as Governor-General of India from 1828 to 1835. He was entitled to the courtesy title "Lord" because he was the son of a Duke.

Bentinck, the second son of the 3rd Duke of Portland joined the Coldstream Guards in 1791, rising to the rank of Lieutenant-Colonel. In 1803 he was, to some surprise, appointed Governor of Madras. Although his tenure was moderately successful, but was brought to an end by a mutiny at Vellore in 1806, prompted by Bentinck's order that the native troops be forbidden to wear their traditional attire. Only after serious violence was order restored and the offending policy rescinded, and Bentinck was recalled in 1807.

After service in the Peninsular War, Bentinck was appointed commander of British troops in Sicily. A Whig, Bentinck used this position to meddle in internal Sicilian affairs, effecting the King's withdrawal from government in favor of his son, the Crown Prince, the reactionary queen's disgrace, and an attempt to devise a constitutional government for the troubled island, all of which ultimately ended in failure. In 1814, Bentinck landed with British and Sicilian troops at Genoa, and commenced to make liberal proclamations of a new order in Italy which embarrassed the British government (which intended to give much of Italy to Austria), and led, once again, to his recall in 1815.

Bentinck returned to England and served in the House of Commons for some years, before being appointed Governor-General of India in 1827. Although his financial management of India was quite impressive, he also began a policy of westernization in India, influenced by the Utilitaranism of Jeremy Bentham and James Mill, which was more controversial. Reforming the court system, he made English, rather than Persian, the language of the higher courts, and encouraged western-style education for Indians, in order to provide more educated Indians for service in the British bureaucracy. He also took steps to suppress the Suttee, the Hindu custom of widow-burning, and other Indian customs which the British viewed as barbaric. Although his reforms met little resistance at the time, it has been argued that they brought on dissatisfaction which ultimately led to the great Mutiny of 1857.

Bentinck returned to England in 1835, refusing a peerage, and again entered the House of Commons. He died in Paris four years later.


Preceded by:
William Butterworth Bayley
Governor-General of India
1828–1835
Succeeded by:
Sir Charles Metcalfe, Bt
Preceded by:
Sir Edward Barnes
Commander-in-Chief, India
1833–1835
Succeeded by:
Sir James Watson

Template:End boxsv:Lord William Bentinck

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