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Barlow - Sir George Hilaro., 1st Bart


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Sir George Hilario Barlow


Barlow, Sir George Hilaro., Bart (1762-1846), who for two years acted as governor-general of India at a very critical period, was fourth son of William Barlow, of Bath, and younger brother of Admiral Sir Robert Barlow, G.C.B.

He was appointed to the Bengal civil service in 1778, and reached Calcutta in the following year. Soon after his arrival he was attached as assistant to Mr. Law, the collector of Gya, and one of the ablest public servants in India. With the help of St. George Tucker and Barlow, Law managed to change Gya from the most wretched into the most prosperous province of Bengal by encouraging fixity of tenure and observing simple economical laws.

In 1787, the governor-general, Lord Cornwallis, who was delighted with the prosperity of Gya, sent Barlow to inquire into the manufactures and commerce of Benares, and in the following year made him sub-secretary to government in the revenue department. In this department it was his duty to carry out the famous permanent settlement of Bengal, and he was thus brought closely in contact with Mr. Shore, afterwards Lord Teignmouth, a member of the supreme council, and Lord Cornwallis.

This great measure was conceived by Cornwallis, elaborated by Shore, and carried into execution by Barlow. Whether the measure was good or not, the chief persons concerned all gained much reputation, and struck up a warm friendship with each other. When Shore, (now Sir John) succeeded Cornwallis as governor-general, he renewed his friendship with Barlow, and in 1796 made him chief secretary to government. Under Lord Wellesley, who succeeded Sir John Shore, Barlow continued to be chief secretary until he became a member of the supreme council in 1801.

He became as indispensable to Wellesley as to Cornwallis, backed up his foreign policy and was in 1802 nominated provisional governor-general, and in 1803 created a baronet.

Sir Edward Pellew arrived at Penang on 10 Jan. 1805 in Culloden, to relieve Admiral Ranier. Ranier departed for England on the 28th.

In July 1805 Cornwallis succeeded Wellesley, and on his death, in October, Sir George Barlow temporarily succeeded him. His policy at this period has been frequently and unjustly censured, because he did not continue the aggressive behaviour of Lord Wellesley. He merely continued the policy of Cornwallis, both in home and foreign affairs, and made economy and peace his chief objectives. The whole question of his policy is ably discussed in a paper by Lord Metcalfe, and his conclusion is that Sir George had a narrow and contracted view of things, a natural judgement from a pupil of Lord Wellesley.

Lt. Pownoll Pellew arrived at Madras from the West Indies, via England, March 1806. Aged 19. Immediately made acting-captain of the Sir Francis Drake, 32.

In March of 1806, Adm. T. Troubridge wrote to Sidmouth:

"Sir G. Barlow was by the last accounts retrenching as much as possible, which is absolutely necessary, for Lord Lade was giving notes for 100 rupees on the treasury at Calcutta, for 75 paid him in cash—add 10 pr Ct for interest to the Company’s debt, and your Lordship will see clearly how deranged their affairs must be, it requires a few years peach and Rigid Oeconomy to retore them, nothing else will do it. When I go to Madras I will write you Lordship any thing that may be worth knowing."

The appointment of Sir George Barlow was confirmed by the court of directors, but the whig government refused to assent to it, and appointed Lord Lauderdale in his stead. The difference ended in the sacrifice of both, and Lord Minto eventually arrived in Calcutta in July 1807, when Sir George had been in power nearly two years. His government had not been brilliant, but it had been just and financially prosperous, and if he had left danger lurking on the north-west frontier in the power of Scindia ond Holkar, and the triumphant rajah of Bhurtpore, he had had the courage to draw back from a chance of great fame to do his duty. To compensate him for his super-session the king had sent out to Sir George, by Lord Minto, the insignia of the Bath in Oct. 1806, and he was shortly afterwards nominated governor of Madras.

He arrived at Madras in December 1807and took over the governorship from Lord William Bentinck. He abolished the revenue system commonly known as the ryotwan system, introduced by Read and Munro, and substituted a system of leases to middlemen which was abandoned a few years later. By his repellent manners he began by turning everyone against him, and then quarrelled with the leading men, both of the army and civil service. On the question of a grain contract he quarrelled with Mr. Sherson, and immediately after with Messrs. Roebuck and Petrie. But his most serious quarrel was with the army. In pursuit of economy, his predecessor had decided, in conformity with instructions from home, to abolish a monthly allowance to commanding officers, called the tent-contract, and Barlow carried out the intention.

Lieutenant-Colonel Munro, the quartermaster-general, was blamed by the officers for Barlow’s action, and placed under arrest by the commander-in-chief, Lieutenant-general Hay Macdowall. The general was declared dismissed by Barlow, and the adjutant-general and deputy adjutant-general, Colonel Capper and Major Boles, placed under arrest. Other officers were suspended soon afterwards for preparing a memorial to the supreme government. Then broke out a universal mutiny. The officers everywhere combined; at Masulipatam and Seringapatam preparations were made to march on Madras, and at Jaulnah the march was commenced. At Seringapatam there was a collision between the native regiments and the King’s troops, in which 150 lives were lost. Sir George Barlow showed no intention of giving way, but depended on the king’s officers and the sepoys themselves against the company’s officers. Malcolm and Close first tried to reconcile the officers, and at last lord Minto came down in person to complete the reconciliation. The officers had to give in; many were cashiered, and several more lightly punished.

28 April 1808, Pellew promoted to vice-admiral.

1Oct. 1808 Capt. Pownoll Pellew married eldest daughter of Sir George Barlow, at Madras.

Pellew sailed for England in Feb. 1809, both sons accompanied him.

The dispute had hardly affected the reputation of Sir George Barlow; in it he had shown great want of tact, but plenty of courage. The king wished to make him a peer, and the company to grant him an income. But the officers who came home filled London with hostile pamphlets, and in 1812 he was recalled, and only granted the usual annuity of 1,500l a year. He was made a G.C.B. in 1815. He lived in retirement until his death at Firgrove, Farnham, 18 Dec. 1846. He married Elizabeth Smith in Calcutta in April 1789, she was the daughter Burton Smith of Westmeath. Sir George Barlow was manifestly an able man and a good servant, but he failed utterly when placed in a government at a crisis, and it is not to be regretted that he was superseded in India by Lord Minto.

Portrait in the National Portrait Gallery.

 (Constable, London, 1929)


pp 183-195



(1) From Sir Edward Pellew to Sir George Barlow.

Pte. de Galle,
14th Feby, 1809


We have received the report of the Convoy ships leaving Colombo this morning, and we are now weighing to meet them. Last night an America Ship from Madras anchored here. She brought Colonel Capper, who, I find, landed instantly in great haste to seek General Macdowall. On my sending for the Master this morning, I learn from him that the Colonel landed with the Supra Cargo and have not been seen since. He stated, altho' incorrectly, that he heard some displeasure of your Government had caused the Colonel's resignation of his office or that you had suspended him-why he could not tell. But he believed signal guns had been fired from Madras to bring back the General and Convoy, but that failing in effect, a dispatch boat had been pushed thro' the strait of Manaar to Colombo to General Macdowall. He also states the Deputy-Adjutant-General to have been removed about some orders issued by that officer, after the General's departure, to the Army. I am sorry to depart without knowing what this story is, but I shall get at it long before we reach Home and shall take care it is not related to the discredit of your Government.

In Confidence I told you some petty intrigues have been going on with the General and Mr. P… before I left you. I suspect there has been some combination of arrangements brought about by all this late arrondisement amidst the feasting of the Cantonments, on which you are no doubt on guard and well informed, and I believe the Heads of all the Generals are laid together at Colombo at this instant. I believe you know enough of Maitland of yourself. If not, I have had him on Service in my Cabin for six months. For the first he has no stamina when wanted, but is the most diabolical intriguer, sticking at nothing to obtain his ends, that ever was hatched from that democratic stock.

Take my farewell good wishes for your health and happyness and offer them to Lady B. Let me beg you to believe, my dear Sir George, that you have a true and faithfull friend in your attached Servant,


P.S. - You will find at last that the loss of the Bazzar fund is the real cause of the discontent and that is kept up by officers of every rank and description from Chief to drummer. Any other losses by better management of bullocks, tents, etc. will of course increase the heart burnings. You will get through it all with credit, I am sure and be well supported at Home.
Family all well.
Ships to weigh at Sunset.


(2) From Admiral Sir Edwd. Pellew to Sir George Barlow.

“Culloden” off Pointe de Galle,
I5th February 1809, 4P.M.


We are now joining the Colombo ships and a Schooner, apparently a Company's Cruizer, is following. I have no doubt of her being charged with the Bombay Dispatches and probably with the latest news from Cochin, Quilon, etc., which I shall of course take a good view of and give full explanations on my arrival. I have no doubt of your being able to adjust and settle all this affair before the rains are set in, notwithstanding all the difficulties you have to meet by the clamorous opposition at Madras, part of which I have now got hold of. Petrie, I hear, is minuting and in opposition. I believe you will do right to guard against old Roebuck, who, I firmly believe, is not sound at bottom. You have a high opinion of lankey G….l. I know Lord W. detected him of great duplicity of conduct on several occasions. Colonel Capper has not been near me and Captain MacPherson only for a few moments, so that I have heard nothing from him, but I had a great deal from the American Supracargo, and among other statements he said, had the recall of the Convoy succeeded and the General been relanded under suspension, the Army were ripe for any measures - so much for exaggeration by flying reports - you would have been lucky to have kept your seat and we might have met in England much sooner than you had any expectation of when we parted.

Psyche and Piedmontaise are now together; Diadaigneuse expected here every minute, shall take the Desvaynes from Galle and proceed to Quilon, where her investment of Ham and Cheese may be in a great request, and should Malcolm's force be ordered down, they will of course be attended by one or two of the Frigates at Bombay, so that you may be easy from without, and as we know two out of the three French Frigates are over to the Eastward, there is only one to approach, which I think they will not risque, nor has De Caen any force to send them if they ever made any demand on him to that effect. God Bless you.

We have just joined and Macdowall sent me the enclosed, which I send as they are. I have not seen him as it is dark. God Bless you, my dear Sir, ever yours.


Enclosure (1).

At Sea - 15th February.


I send you two letters, one from James Balfour, the other from Baker.

You will have heard of the proceedings against me at Madras, which have abundantly vexed and distressed me.

I have nothing official on the subject, and merely a copy of a very violent order of Government reflecting on my conduct and removing me from the Command, and after I had in fact sailed from the country.

I am very comfortable on board the Lady Jane Dundas.

I hope Captain and Mrs. Pellew and all your party are well.

Believe me with great esteem,
Your very faithful servant,


Enclosure (2).


Excuse pencil. Your Letter tells me you wished to see me on board, but I am not very well and have rather laid low since I accidentally heard of the extraordinary conduct of the Madras Government. During the voyage will take an opportunity of stating the circumstances to you.

Your kind offer of accommodation I would with great gratitude accept, but I am quite snug and comfortable here. I beg to offer you my sincere acknowledgments.

Capper and Boles have been suspended the service for obeying my orders. I thought it necessary to reprimand Col. Munro and they issued my orders.

I will not add more at present, but trust that when the circumstances are made known to you, you will allow of the necessity on my part of not compromising the honor of the profession or the situation I held.

General Baillie came on board last night. Colonel and Mrs. Orr are quite well and all beg to present their best regards to you.

Most faithfully yours,


His Excellency Sir Ed. Pellew.

I find by your note that Captain Cochrane is on board the Culloden. Have the kindness to hand him the accompanying.

H. M.

(3) Sir Edward Pellew to Sir George Barlow.

“Culloden” Table Bay,
I4th April, 1809


You will be glad to hear that we have escaped with our Convoy from the effects of a most violent gale of wind (I may indeed call it, rather, a Hurricane) by which we were assailed on the 14th, 15th and 16th of March in Lat. 23.30 S., Long. 61.00. A total separation took place and every body shifted for themselves, looking only to their own preservation, and more or less every ship suffered. The Culloden did not escape without great injury and loss; the particulars I have no doubt Eliza will convey to Lady Barlow. She had six men for one whole night bailing the water from under her bed. She did not, however, betray any feminine weakness and on the contrary was very heroic. The Terpsichore had a very narrow escape, blown down on her broadside for several hours. We are now in a tollerable state and had not the old Culloden been in good condition, she must have gone down; in fact, had it continued six hours longer with the same violence I believe she would have closed all our accounts in this life. We sail to-day patched up. Eight sail have gone on by my signal. The four Absentees are, I consider, gone on also to St. Helena, which was the second rendezvous.

They were the best sailors, and Macdowall wished much to avoid the Cape: the reason you may conjecture : I believe he felt hurt to be shown to so large a military force as is here, under suspension. I do not think he had adverted to such a measure as coming within the reach of your ideas, or that it could have been resorted to. Our weather was such that I had scarce time to see him on any day but one, when we had considerable conversation on the subject, and I am quite satisfied he feels considerably and greatly regrets the circumstances and would give a great deal to retrace the ground he so imprudently and inconsiderately travelled out of his way to attain. We shall meet at St. Helena, where our delay will be longer than I had hoped, most of the Convoy will have to unload there.

Eliza is quite well, cheerful and happy and I believe in a way to repair her loss on the voyage from Calcutta. Lord Caledon has shown her, and all of us, marked attention and hospitable kindness. Mrs. Cotton is become a gay young widow, much adored by Capt. Cochrane and adoring him. Whether it will end in matrimony, I will not venture to say, and as both are past the days of imprudence, I have not thought it proper to interfere. But in the general opinion, matters are in a fair train.

News we can send you none which you will not have had long before you can read this, and no man will venture an opinion on public events for fear subsequent information should give the lye to his former communications.

I do not now calculate upon reaching England before the end of July.

Adieu, my dear Sir George, and believe me ever with sincere regard,

Your faithfull friend,


P.S. - I send a copy of the William Pitt's statement and a list of our absentees. I fear the Nelson, Ceylon and Glory, of the Albion's Convoy are lost. No news of them here and the only chance seems to be Bencoolen or St. Helena. Albion was near gone.

Convoy 11th April.

With Flag.                      Ships gone for St. Helena.                    Absentees.

St. Vincent.                              Wm. Pitt.                                       Calcutta.
Hugh Inglis.                                                                                    Bengal.
Indus.                                     Huddart.                                   Jane Dundas.
Terpischore.                             Euphrates.                              Jane D. Gordon
Lord Eldon.      
                                  Sir Wm. Bensley - seen  the 11th off Cape
                                                             passed on next morning for St. Helena

America under Convoy from Madras passed on the 12th


(4) Sir Edward Pellew to Sir George Barlow.

“Culloden" St. Helena,
8th May, 1809


You will easily conceive my surprize on the appearance of Buchan and Dick in the Lushington with your dispatches. I rejoyce however that you have adopted this wise measure, which I had very often thought (of) on my voyage, knowing what a nest of malcontents were in my convoy. My former letters will have told you Capper had joined the party and Macdowall had spared him half his Cabin. Buchan will, of course, write you at large from hence and give you his reasons for taking advantage of our protection, which plan, I think, will meet your wishes. The delay can only be 8 to 10 days, and by the papers the Channel is full of Privateers. Had not the other party lost ground by their separation (the four missing ships), having most probably gone into Simon's Bay to repair any damages, they sustained in the very violent gale we all suffered by, I should have urged dispatch. We move off for England to-morrow, as the Russian is here and will wait for the China ships, taking our four, should they arrive. This will give us a good month the start of Macdowall and prepare every subject for the consideration of the Directors.

You will remember my saying to you one day that I had not the favourable opinion of that Body. If you will look in the Morning Chronicle, you will be satisfied that I was right in my conjecture. I send you extracted the speech of Mr. Parry and Grant at the Quarterly Meeting. That I was not recalled you know; however, as others may say so, I cover you copies of Lord Mulgrave's two last letters, that you may have the proof in your possession. Some explanation must of course follow with Mr. Parry on my arrival. The nature of this must be governed by the advice of my friends, as I shall do nothing rashly. The Chairman should certainly have informed himself better before he made so bold and unfounded an attack on the reputation of an officer of whom the Court cannot, in my opinion, complain of deficiency of attention to their interest.

I have read over very attentively all the papers you were good enough to permit Buchan to shew me, and from the very commencement the intention of the General to make common cause with his Army for his appointment to Council is evident, and in return, as their Representative, he, I conclude, promised to support their pretensions to remuneration and give his sanction to their helping themselves, if your Government refused complyance to their demands. That you have, by your firmness and moderation, broke down a chain formed for overturning your Government, there can be no doubt, and I trust you have persevered in sending Mr. Roe(buck) to Vizagapatam and Mr. Parry over the surf. They are incendiaries of the first class, upheld and protected by Mr. P…..e some of whose intrigues I once mentioned to you. I wish I had not mentioned to you my young countryman in such warm terms. I fear Sir Henry has infused the poison of insubordination strongly in him. His family have all strong republican principles, and a trip up the Country to a subordinate situation may be well applied for rooting out the bad effects of Sir Henry's doctrines.

You will perceive by my language that my communications with Buchan and Dick have been very unreserved. They are your firm friends, and Mr. P….e your confirmed enemy. He has contrived to overturn two Governments already; this was his aim and object now towards you; he deserves no mercy from you and I hope you will not spare him.

I shall take the best care of Lushington and push her forward whenever it is safe. I am not sure but I shall land Buchan and Dick in Culloden at Plymouth from whence B. can run to Town in 30 hours. Dick and family can join my party for a slower journey. Pownoll and Eliza, I believe, are writing. She is well and, thank God, happy and in a fair way to repair her former loss. We have found no chits from Lady B. or lazy Charlotte. Present me most sincerely and affectionately to them, and believe me ever, My Dear Sir George, your faithfully attached and affectionate friend,


P.S. - I rejoiced to hear the Travancore affair was upset. I know great weight was given to that history by the Party and much aggravation. The wisdom of Buchan's going Home grows every moment more striking and necessary. I have written in great haste, which you will perceive. Pray excuse errors.

Absent Ships: - Bengal, Calcutta, Lady Jane Dundas, Duchess of Gordon.


(For his early life, see a Brief Sketch of the Services of Sir G. Barlow, London, 1811; also consult the Cornwallis Despatches, the Life of Lord Teignmouth, and the Wellesley Despatches. See for his policy as governor-general selections from the papers of Lord Metcalfe, by Kaye, London, 1848, pp 1-11. For the mutiny at Madras, consult the Asiatic Annual Register for 1809, and an article in the Quarterly Review, vol. V., and also Lord Minto in India, by Lady Minto, chap. Ix. The best of the innumerable pamphlets are quoted in the article in the Quarterly Review.) H.M.S.

Manuscripts. His correspondence and papers related to India are in the British Library, Department of Manuscripts (Add MSS 13710, 13712, 13719-22, 13813, 13578; with Lord Wellesley, Add MSS 37281, 37284, 37311 passim); the British Library, Oriental and India Office Collections (Home misc series); and Duke University, William R Perkins Library, Manuscript Department (MSS 11001-13496, 21206-36; Ch 8971-10633).

Quarterly Review Vol. 5 / 137 Article 8. Petrie, Statement of Facts delivered to Lord Minto, Governor General of India, &c. on his late arrival at Madras and other pamphlets and papers on the Madras mutiny, 138-203. Author: Robert Grant, (GRANT, Sir Robert (1779-1838) with George Canning and William Gifford.


See http://Pellew/Exmouth for details.


Descendants of Sir George Hilaro Barlow

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Barlow, Burkes Peerage 1890, 01  Barlow, Burkes Peerage 1890, 02

Burke's Peerage 1890

Barlow, Burkes Peerage 1999, 01  Barlow, Burkes Peerage 1999, 02

Burke's Peerage 1999



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