Sir Charles Trevelyan, 1st Baronet
Sir Charles Edward Trevelyan, 1st Baronet, KCB
Order of the Bath
The Most Honourable Order of the Bath is a British order of chivalry founded by George I on 18 May 1725. The name derives from the elaborate mediæval ceremony for creating a knight, which involved bathing as one of its elements. The knights so created were known as Knights of the Bath...

 (2 April 1807 – 19 June 1886) was a British
United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland was the formal name of the United Kingdom during the period when what is now the Republic of Ireland formed a part of it....

 civil servant and colonial
British Empire
The British Empire comprised the dominions, colonies, protectorates, mandates and other territories ruled or administered by the United Kingdom. It originated with the overseas colonies and trading posts established by England in the late 16th and early 17th centuries. At its height, it was the...

 administrator. As a young man, he worked with the colonial government in Calcutta, India; in the late 1850s and 1860s he served there in senior-level appointments. As Assistant Secretary to HM Treasury (1840-1859), he administered relief for the Irish famine and directed work of the Central Board for Highland Relief in Scotland, and is believed to have exacerbated the fatalities by his lack of effective action. He is widely credited with reform of the British civil service, to recruit educated people suitable for positions formerly awarded by aristocratic patronage.

Early life and education

Trevelyan was born in Taunton
Taunton is the county town of Somerset, England. The town, including its suburbs, had an estimated population of 61,400 in 2001. It is the largest town in the shire county of Somerset....

, Somerset
The ceremonial and non-metropolitan county of Somerset in South West England borders Bristol and Gloucestershire to the north, Wiltshire to the east, Dorset to the south-east, and Devon to the south-west. It is partly bounded to the north and west by the Bristol Channel and the estuary of the...

, the son of the Venerable George Trevelyan, Archdeacon of Taunton, and his wife Harriet, daughter of Sir Richard Neave
Sir Richard Neave, 1st Baronet
Sir Richard Neave, 1st Baronet was a British merchant and a Governor of the Bank of England.Neave was the son of James Neave and Susanna Trueman...

. His paternal grandfather was Sir John Trevelyan, 4th Baronet
Sir John Trevelyan, 4th Baronet
Sir John Trevelyan, 4th Baronet , was a British politician.The member of an ancient Cornwall family, Trevelyan sat as Member of Parliament for Newcastle-upon-Tyne from 1777 to 1780 and for Somerset from 1780 to 1796. He died in April 1828, aged 93...

 (see Trevelyan Baronets
Trevelyan Baronets
There have been two Baronetcies created for members of the Trevelyan family, one in the Baronetage of England and one in the Baronetage of the United Kingdom...

 for earlier history of the family). He was educated at Blundell's School
Blundell's School
Blundell's School is a co-educational day and boarding independent school located in the town of Tiverton in the county of Devon, England. The school was founded in 1604 by the will of Peter Blundell, one of the richest men in England at the time, and relocated to its present location on the...

, Charterhouse School
Charterhouse School
Charterhouse School, originally The Hospital of King James and Thomas Sutton in Charterhouse, or more simply Charterhouse or House, is an English collegiate independent boarding school situated at Godalming in Surrey.Founded by Thomas Sutton in London in 1611 on the site of the old Carthusian...

 and Haileybury
East India Company College
The East India College was a college in Hertford Heath, Hertfordshire, England. It was founded in February 1806 as the training establishment for the British East India Company . At that time, the BEIC provided general and vocational education for young gentlemen of sixteen to eighteen years old,...

, formerly known as the East India Company College.


In the 1830s, as a young man, Trevelyan served with the British colonial government in Calcutta, India
British Raj
British Raj was the British rule in the Indian subcontinent between 1858 and 1947; The term can also refer to the period of dominion...

. He was active in the field of education.

He was appointed in 1840 as assistant secretary to HM Treasury
HM Treasury
HM Treasury, in full Her Majesty's Treasury, informally The Treasury, is the United Kingdom government department responsible for developing and executing the British government's public finance policy and economic policy...

, and served to 1859, during both the Irish famine and the Highland Potato Famine
Highland Potato Famine (1846 - 1857)
The Highland Potato Famine was a famine caused by potato blight that struck the Scottish Highlands in the 1840s. While the mortality rate was less than other Scottish famines in the 1690s, and 1780, the Highland potato famine caused over 1.7 million people to leave Scotland during the period 1846–52...

 of 1846-1857 in Scotland
Scotland is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. Occupying the northern third of the island of Great Britain, it shares a border with England to the south and is bounded by the North Sea to the east, the Atlantic Ocean to the north and west, and the North Channel and Irish Sea to the...

. In Ireland
Ireland is an island to the northwest of continental Europe. It is the third-largest island in Europe and the twentieth-largest island on Earth...

, he administered famine relief
Famine relief
Famine relief is an organized effort to reduce starvation in a region in which there is famine. A famine is a phenomenon in which a large proportion of the population of a region or country are so undernourished that death by starvation becomes increasingly common...

, whilst in Scotland
Scotland is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. Occupying the northern third of the island of Great Britain, it shares a border with England to the south and is bounded by the North Sea to the east, the Atlantic Ocean to the north and west, and the North Channel and Irish Sea to the...

 he was closely associated with the work of the Central Board for Highland Relief. His inaction and personal negative attitude towards the Irish
Irish people
The Irish people are an ethnic group who originate in Ireland, an island in northwestern Europe. Ireland has been populated for around 9,000 years , with the Irish people's earliest ancestors recorded having legends of being descended from groups such as the Nemedians, Fomorians, Fir Bolg, Tuatha...

 are widely believed to have worsened the Famine. In the middle of the Irish famine, Trevelyan wrote that the famine was a "mechanism for reducing surplus population," a view apparently influenced by the thought of Thomas Robert Malthus. Trevelyan wrote:
"The judgement of God sent the calamity to teach the Irish a lesson, that calamity must not be too much mitigated... The real evil with which we have to contend is not the physical evil of the Famine, but the moral evil of the selfish, perverse and turbulent character of the people."
In another letter dated 29 April 1846, Trevelyan wrote:
"Our measures must proceed with as little disturbance as possible of the ordinary course of private trade, which must ever be the chief resource for the subsistence of the people, but, coûte que coûte (at any cost), the people must not, under any circumstances, be allowed to starve."

Trevelyan was Governor of Madras from 1859 to 1860, and Indian Finance Minister from 1862 to 1865. A reformer of the civil service
Civil service
The term civil service has two distinct meanings:* A branch of governmental service in which individuals are employed on the basis of professional merit as proven by competitive examinations....

, he is widely regarded as the founder of the modern British civil service
British Civil Service
Her Majesty's Home Civil Service, also known as the Home Civil Service, is the permanent bureaucracy of Crown employees that supports Her Majesty's Government - the government of the United Kingdom, composed of a Cabinet of ministers chosen by the prime minister, as well as the devolved...


Marriage and family

On 23 December 1834, while in India, he married Hannah Moore Macaulay, sister of Lord Macaulay (Thomas Babington Macaulay, 1st Baron Macaulay
Thomas Babington Macaulay, 1st Baron Macaulay
Thomas Babington Macaulay, 1st Baron Macaulay PC was a British poet, historian and Whig politician. He wrote extensively as an essayist and reviewer, and on British history...

), who was then a member of the supreme council of India, and one of his closest friends. Their only son, who inherited the Baronetcy on his father's death, was Sir George Otto Trevelyan, 2nd Baronet, the statesman. Hannah Macaulay Trevelyan died on 5 August 1873.

Sir Charles married, secondly, on 14 October 1875, Eleanor Anne, daughter of Walter Campbell of Islay.


He entered the East India Company
East India Company
The East India Company was an early English joint-stock company that was formed initially for pursuing trade with the East Indies, but that ended up trading mainly with the Indian subcontinent and China...

's Bengal
Bengal is a historical and geographical region in the northeast region of the Indian Subcontinent at the apex of the Bay of Bengal. Today, it is mainly divided between the sovereign land of People's Republic of Bangladesh and the Indian state of West Bengal, although some regions of the previous...

 civil service as a writer in 1826, having displayed from an early age a great proficiency in Asian languages and dialects. On 4 January 1827, Trevelyan was appointed assistant to Sir Charles Theophilus Metcalfe, the commissioner at Delhi
Delhi , officially National Capital Territory of Delhi , is the largest metropolis by area and the second-largest by population in India, next to Mumbai. It is the eighth largest metropolis in the world by population with 16,753,265 inhabitants in the Territory at the 2011 Census...

, where, during a residence of four years, he was entrusted with the conduct of several important missions. For some time he acted as guardian to the youthful Madhu Singh, the Raja
Raja is an Indian term for a monarch, or princely ruler of the Kshatriya varna...

h of Bhurtpore. He also worked to improve the condition of the native population. He abolished the transit duties by which the internal trade of India had long been fettered. For these and other services, he received the special thanks of the governor-general in council. Before leaving Delhi, he donated personal funds for construction of a broad street through a new suburb, then in course of erection, which thenceforth became known as Trevelyanpur.

In 1831 he removed to Calcutta, and became deputy secretary to the government in the political department. Trevelyan was especially zealous in the cause of education, and in 1835, largely owing to his persistence, government was led to decide in favour of the promulgation of European literature and science among the Indians. An account of the efforts of government, entitled On the Education of the People of India, was published by Trevelyan in 1838. In April 1836 he was nominated secretary to the Sudder board of revenue, an office he held until his return to England in January 1838.

On 21 January 1840, he entered on the duties of assistant secretary to Her Majesty's Treasury in London, and discharged the functions of that office for nineteen years. In Ireland
Ireland is an island to the northwest of continental Europe. It is the third-largest island in Europe and the twentieth-largest island on Earth...

 he administered the relief works of 1845–47, when upwards of 734,000 men were employed by the government during the Great Famine. Altogether, about a million people in Ireland are reliably estimated to have died of starvation and epidemic
In epidemiology, an epidemic , occurs when new cases of a certain disease, in a given human population, and during a given period, substantially exceed what is expected based on recent experience...

 disease between 1846 and 1851, and some two million emigrated in a period of a little more than a decade (1845–55). On 27 April 1848 he was made a KCB
Order of the Bath
The Most Honourable Order of the Bath is a British order of chivalry founded by George I on 18 May 1725. The name derives from the elaborate mediæval ceremony for creating a knight, which involved bathing as one of its elements. The knights so created were known as Knights of the Bath...

 in reward of his services.

The Great Famine in Ireland began as a natural catastrophe of extraordinary magnitude, but its effects were severely worsened by the actions and inactions of the Whig government, headed by Lord John Russell in the crucial years from 1846 to 1852. Many members of the British upper and middle classes believed that the famine was a divine judgment-an act of Providence. A leading exponent of the providentialist perspective was Sir Charles Trevelyan, the British civil servant chiefly responsible for administering Irish relief policy throughout the famine years. In his book The Irish Crisis, published in 1848, Trevelyan described the famine as 'a direct stroke of an all-wise and all-merciful Providence', one which laid bare 'the deep and inveterate root of social evil'. The famine, he declared, was 'the sharp but effectual remedy by which the cure is likely to be effected... God grant that the generation to which this great opportunity has been offered may rightly perform its part...' This mentality of Trevelyan's was influential in persuading the government to do nothing to restrain mass evictions — and this had the obvious effect of radically restructuring Irish rural society along the lines of the capitalistic model preferred by British policy-makers.

In 1853 Trevelyan investigated the organisation of a new system of admission into the civil service. The Northcote-Trevelyan Report
Northcote-Trevelyan Report
The Northcote-Trevelyan Report was a document prepared by Stafford H. Northcote and C.E. Trevelyan in 1853 that catalyzed the development of Her Majesty's Civil Service in the United Kingdom due to the influence of the ancient Chinese Imperial Examination....

, signed by himself and Sir Stafford Northcote in November 1853, entitled The Organisation of the Permanent Civil Service, laid the foundation for securing the admission of qualified and educated persons into situations which were previously much at the disposal of aristocratic and influential families.

In 1858 Lord Harris
George Harris, 3rd Baron Harris
George Francis Robert Harris, 3rd Baron Harris GCSI , was a British peer, Liberal politician and colonial administrator...

 resigned the governorship of the presidency of Madras, and Trevelyan was offered the appointment. Having maintained his knowledge of oriental affairs by close attention to all subjects affecting the interest of India, he entered upon his duties as governor of Madras in the spring of 1859. He soon became popular in the presidency, and in a great measure through his conduct in office, the natives became reconciled to the government. An assessment was carried out, a police system organised in every part, and, contrary to the traditions of the East India Company, land was sold in fee simple
Fee simple
In English law, a fee simple is an estate in land, a form of freehold ownership. It is the most common way that real estate is owned in common law countries, and is ordinarily the most complete ownership interest that can be had in real property short of allodial title, which is often reserved...

 to any one who wished to purchase. These and other reforms introduced or developed by Sir Charles won the gratitude and esteem of the Madras population.

All went well until February 1860. Towards the close of 1859, James Wilson was appointed financial member of the legislative council of India. At the beginning of the next year, he proposed a plan of retrenchment and taxation by which he hoped to improve the financial position of the British administration. His plan was introduced in Calcutta on 18 February, and transmitted to Madras. On 4 March, an open telegram was sent to Calcutta implying an adverse opinion of the governor and council of Madras. On 9 March, a letter was sent to Madras stating the central government's objection to the transmission of such a message in an open telegram at a time when native feeling could not be considered stable. At the same time the representative of the Madras government in the legislative council of India was prohibited from following the instructions of his superiors to lay their views upon the table and to advocate on their behalf. On 21 March, a telegram was sent to Madras stating that the bill would be introduced and referred to a committee which would report in five weeks. On 26 March the opinions of Trevelyan and his council were recorded and on his authority, the document found its way into the papers.

On the arrival of this intelligence in England, the governor of Madras was at once recalled. This decision occasioned much discussion both in and out of Parliament
Parliament of the United Kingdom
The Parliament of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland is the supreme legislative body in the United Kingdom, British Crown dependencies and British overseas territories, located in London...

. Palmerston
Henry Temple, 3rd Viscount Palmerston
Henry John Temple, 3rd Viscount Palmerston, KG, GCB, PC , known popularly as Lord Palmerston, was a British statesman who served twice as Prime Minister in the mid-19th century...

, in his place in parliament, while defending the recall, said: ‘Undoubtedly it conveys a strong censure on one act of Sir Charles Trevelyan's public conduct, yet Sir Charles Trevelyan has merits too, inherent in his character, to be clouded and overshadowed by this simple act, and I trust in his future career he may be useful to the public service and do honour to himself.’ Sir Charles Wood
Charles Wood, 1st Viscount Halifax
Charles Wood, 1st Viscount Halifax GCB PC , known as Sir Charles Wood, 3rd Bt between 1846 and 1866, was a British Whig politician and Member of Parliament. He served as Chancellor of the Exchequer from 1846 to 1852....

, the President of the Board of Control
President of the Board of Control
The President of the Board of Control was a British government official in the late 18th and early 19th century responsible for overseeing the British East India Company and generally serving as the chief official in London responsible for Indian affairs. The position was frequently a cabinet...

, also said: ‘A more honest, zealous, upright, and independent servant could not be. He was a loss to India, but there would be danger if he were allowed to remain, after having adopted a course so subversive of all authority, so fearfully tending to endanger our rule, and so likely to provoke the people to insurrection against the central and responsible authority’ (Hansard, 11 May 1860, cols. 1130–61; Statement of Sir C. E. Trevelyan of the Circumstances connected with his Recall from India, 1860).

In 1862 Trevelyan returned to India as finance minister. His tenure of office was marked by important administrative reforms and by extensive measures for the development of the natural resources
Natural Resources
Natural Resources is a soul album released by Motown girl group Martha Reeves and the Vandellas in 1970 on the Gordy label. The album is significant for the Vietnam War ballad "I Should Be Proud" and the slow jam, "Love Guess Who"...

 of India by means of public works. In 1862 Colonel Douglas Hamilton
Douglas Hamilton
General Douglas Hamilton was a British Indian Army officer, gazetted to the 21st Regiment of the Madras Native Infantry from 1837 to 1871. He was a well known surveyor of the early British hill stations in South India and a famous sportsman, shikari, big-game hunter and trophy collector. He was an...

 was given a roving commission
Roving commission
A roving commission details the duties of a commissioned officer or other official whose responsibilities are neither geographically nor functionally limited....

 by Sir Charles Trevelyan to conduct surveys and make drawings for the Government of all the hill plateaus in Southern India which were likely to suit as Sanitaria, or quarters for European troops.

On his return home in 1865, he became engaged in discussions of the question of army purchase, on which he had given evidence before the royal commission in 1857. Later he was associated with a variety of social questions, such as charities, pauperism
Pauperism is a term meaning poverty or generally the state of being poor, but in English usage particularly the condition of being a "pauper", i.e. in receipt of relief administered under the poor law...

, and the like, and in the treatment of these.

He retained to the last all his native energy of temperament. He was a staunch Liberal
Liberal Party (UK)
The Liberal Party was one of the two major political parties of the United Kingdom during the 19th and early 20th centuries. It was a third party of negligible importance throughout the latter half of the 20th Century, before merging with the Social Democratic Party in 1988 to form the present day...

, and gave his support to the Liberal cause in Northumberland
Northumberland is the northernmost ceremonial county and a unitary district in North East England. For Eurostat purposes Northumberland is a NUTS 3 region and is one of three boroughs or unitary districts that comprise the "Northumberland and Tyne and Wear" NUTS 2 region...

, while residing at Wallington Hall
Wallington Hall
Wallington is a country house and gardens located about west of Morpeth, Northumberland, England, near the village of Cambo. It has been owned by the National Trust since 1942, after it was donated by Sir Charles Philips Trevelyan, the first donation of its kind...

 in that county. He is drawn by Trollope
The name Trollope is derived from the place-name Troughburn, in Northumberland. Troughburn was originally Trolhop, meaning Troll Valley, and the earliest recorded use is John Andrew Trolope who lived in Thornlaw, Co Durham....

 in The Three Clerks, 1857, 3 vols., under the name of Sir Gregory Hardlines. He died at 67 Eaton Square, London, on 19 June 1886.

Legacy and honors

Trevelyan was appointed KCB
Order of the Bath
The Most Honourable Order of the Bath is a British order of chivalry founded by George I on 18 May 1725. The name derives from the elaborate mediæval ceremony for creating a knight, which involved bathing as one of its elements. The knights so created were known as Knights of the Bath...

 on 27 April 1848. Three decades later, he was created a Baronet
A baronet or the rare female equivalent, a baronetess , is the holder of a hereditary baronetcy awarded by the British Crown...

 on 2 March 1874.

When Walter Calverly Trevalyan died at Wallington
Wallington Hall
Wallington is a country house and gardens located about west of Morpeth, Northumberland, England, near the village of Cambo. It has been owned by the National Trust since 1942, after it was donated by Sir Charles Philips Trevelyan, the first donation of its kind...

 on 23 March 1879, both his marriages were childless, and the title descended to his nephew, Sir Alfred Wilson Trevelyan (1831–1891), seventh baronet. Walter C. Trevelyan left the north-country property to his cousin Charles Edward Trevelyan, who lived until 1886.

A biographer from the family notes that Walter changed his will in 1852, having been impressed by his cousin Charles' son; the young George Otto Trevelyan had been one of the couple's visitors and received hints of the secret will. The modest social position of the family was suddenly elevated to one of wealth and property, recorded as an important event in the history of the baronetcy.

The changed will came as a surprise to Alfred Trevelyan, who was advised at the end of a lengthy letter on the evils of alcohol. He issued a costly and unsuccessful challenge for the title and estate.


In addition to works mentioned, Trevelyan wrote the following:
  • The Application of the Roman Alphabet to all the Oriental Languages, 1834; 3rd edit. 1858.
  • A Report upon the Inland Customs and Town Duties of the Bengal Presidency, 1834.
  • The Irish Crisis, 1848; 2nd edit. 1880.
  • The Army Purchase Question and Report and Evidence of the Royal Commission considered, 1858.
  • The Purchase System in the British Army, 1867; 2nd edit. 1867.
  • The British Army in 1868, 1868; 4th edit. 1868.
  • A Standing or a Popular Army, 1869.
  • Three Letters on the Devonshire Labourer, 1869.
  • From Pesth to Brindisi, being Notes of a Tour, 1871; 2nd edit. 1876.
  • The Compromise offered by Canada in reference to the reprinting of English Books, 1872.
  • Christianity and Hinduism contrasted, 1882.

His letters to the Times, with the signature of Indophilus, he collected with Additional Notes in 1857; 3rd edit. 1858. Several of his addresses, letters, and speeches were also published.

In conjunction with his cousin, Sir Walter Calverley Trevelyan
Walter Calverley Trevelyan
-Life:He was born in 1797, the eldest son of Sir John Trevelyan, fifth baronet, of Nettlecombe, Somerset, by his wife Maria, daughter of Sir Thomas Spencer Wilson of Charlton, Kent. The family is Cornish, deriving its name from Tre-Velian or Trevelyan, near Fowey. The baronetage dates from 24 Jan....

, he edited the Trevelyan Papers (Camden Society
Camden Society
The Camden Society, named after the English antiquary and historian William Camden, was founded in 1838 in London to publish early historical and literary materials, both unpublished manuscripts and new editions of rare printed books....

 1856, 1862, 1872).

Popular culture

  • Trevelyan is referred to in the modern Irish folk song "The Fields of Athenry
    The Fields of Athenry
    "The Fields of Athenry" is an Irish folk ballad set during the Great Irish Famine about a fictional man named Michael from near Athenry in County Galway who has been sentenced to transportation to Botany Bay, Australia, for stealing food for his starving family...

    ," about the Great Irish Famine: "Our hero Michael was to be transported for stealing Trevelyan's corn." Because of Trevelyan's policies, the Irish consider him one of the most detested figures in their history, along with Oliver Cromwell
    Cromwellian conquest of Ireland
    The Cromwellian conquest of Ireland refers to the conquest of Ireland by the forces of the English Parliament, led by Oliver Cromwell during the Wars of the Three Kingdoms. Cromwell landed in Ireland with his New Model Army on behalf of England's Rump Parliament in 1649...

    , who conquered the country in the 17th century.
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