Samuel Charters Macpherson

Last Name: 
First Name: 
Samuel Charters
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date of death: 
15th April, 1860
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Second son of Dr. Hugh Macpherson, professor of Greek in Kings College, Aberdeen. Elder brother of John Macpherson, Inspector of Hospitals in India and William Macpherson, Secretary of Indian Law Commission.
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In memory of Major SAMUEL CHARTERS MACPHERSON, of the 8th Regiment, Madras Native Infantry, Political Agent at Gwalior. Born at King's College, Aberdeen, January 7th, 1806; died at Calcutta, April 15th, I860. His exertions, continued through years of sickness and under extraordinary difficulties, induced many of the Khond tribes of Orissa to abandon the rite of human sacrifice. During the most critical poition of the troubles of 1857, by his high character and personal influence, he secured the loyalty of the Maharaja Scindia of Gwalior, and thus signally contributed to the preservation of our empire in the East. (List of Inscriptions on Tombs and Monuments in Bengal, C.R.Wilson)
Political Agent at Gwalior.
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Cause of death: 
Liver Complaint
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Detailed information: 

Samuel Charters Machpherson was born in Old Aberdeen on 7 Jan. 1806, was the second son of Dr. Hugh Macpherson, professor of Greek in Kings College, Aberdeen, by his first wife, Anne Maria Charters. After studying at the college of Edinburgh in 1822-3, he passed two years at Trinity College, Cambridge, returned to Edinburgh to study for the Scottish bar, and, finally sailed for Madras as a cadet in 1827, becoming lieutenant in 1831, and captain by, brevet in 1841. He was first engaged on the Trigonometrical Survey of India, in 1835, which was engaged in operations against the rajah of Gumsur in Orissa. In 1837 he was sent by the collector of Ganjam on a mission of survey and inquiry into the unexplored parts of Gumsur. Here he obtained much information respecting the language and institutions of the Khonds, an aboriginal tribe then almost unknown to the outer world. In May 1839 he was compelled by fever to recruit at the Cape. On his return to Madras he drew up for the Governor-General (Lord Elphinstone) a report on the Khonds, and the measures to be adopted for the suppression among that people of the Meriah, or human sacrifices. This report formed the basis of a paper which he read before the Royal Asiatic Society in 1852. In the meantime, Captain (afterwards General) Campbell, assistant to the collector of Ganjam, had called together the chief men of the Khonds of Gumsur, and informed them that human sacrifices would no longer be tolerated by the company's government, and had compelled them to give up a number of intended victims. But neither Campbell nor his superior, Bannerman, made any real progress in suppressing the rite. In the spring of 1842, Campbell having gone to China on service with his regiment, Macpherson was appointed principal assistant to the collector and agent in Ganjam. His knowledge of the people and the influence he had acquired over them by personal intercourse enabled him to lay down a system for abolishing these practices.
In the districts adjoining Gumsur he was less successful. The jealousy of his colleagues blocked his way. Bannerman, the collector of Gumsur, appears to have thwarted him, and the Madras government temporised, and gave Macpherson no efficient support. In November 1845 Macpherson, was appointed ' Governor-General's agent for the suppression of Meriah sacrifice and female infanticide in the hill tracts of Orissa,' proceeded to extend his measures to Boad, a district north of Gumsur.
In August 1853 Macpherson returned to India from sick-leave to Europe. He was appointed in succession agent at Benares and at Bhopal, but in July 1854, being then brevet-major, he was transferred to the more important post of Gwalior, the capital of Sindhia, one of the most powerful ruling houses of India. Macpherson found support from Dinkar Rao, the minister of the state. Macpherson abolished the transit duties; laid out large sums on the roads and public works; drew up a capital code of law and civil procedure, and raised the revenue from a deficit to a surplus.
Macpherson's support of Dinkar was repaid with interest. When the Revolt broke out in 1857, it was Dinkar, influenced by Macpherson, who kept the Gwalior contingent and Sindhia's own army from joining the rebels in Delhi. Macpherson remained as the poliical agent of Gwalior till the suppression of the revolt. But the strain upon his health proved to be too great. In April 1860 he was seized with illness, and died, on his way to Calcutta, on 15 April. After his death he was gazetted a companion of the Bath.

Any reason for importance: 
Political Agent of Gwalior during the Revolt of 1857. Worked among the Khond tribe in Orissa, inducing them to abolish human sacrifices.
Buried by: 
J.C. Herdman, Senior Minister, St. Andrew's Church, Calcutta
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This record has been created by:: 

Sarbajit Mitra