Lord Canning

Lord Canning 

This article deals with ‘ Lord Canning – UPSC.’ This is part of our series on ‘Modern History’ which is important pillar of GS-1 syllabus . For more articles , you can click here


Events during Lord Canning’s tenure

  • Break out of Revolt of 1857
  • Government of India Act ,1858
  • Indian Council Act, 1861
  • Indian Civil Services Act , 1861
  • Indigo Agitation of Bengal, 1859-60 (in revolts)
  • Enactment of Indian Penal Code (IPC) 1860

Also known as clemency Canning => Although mass killings happened at his time , he tried to present a picture to world that all is well



Queen Victoria’s Proclamation (1/11/1858)

Announced at Grand Durbar in Allahabad . This proclamation declared the future policy of British in India

  • Queen had assumed the Government of India under this
  • Declared we desire no extension of our present territories &  we shall respect rights , dignity & honour of native Princes
  • Our subjects of whatever race or creed , be freely & impartially admitted to offices in our services
  • Our clemency shall be extended to all offenders except those who have been  directly involved in killing of British subjects
  • All treaties & engagements with native Princes by or under authority of East India Company are to be accepted & will be scrupulously maintained
  • Principle of justice and religious tolerance would be guiding policy of Queens rule
  • Armies of East India Company will cease to exist and incorporated to British army
  • Indian sepoys were enlisted as regular recruits in British army & hence Indians participated in world wars in next century




Government of India  Act, 1858


  • Since in Charter Act of 1853, Company’s rule wasn’t extended for another 20 years, it gave British government to intervene in the matters . Whigs & Tories joined hands to end Company’s rule over India .
  • John Stuart Mill prepared a dignified and weighty petition which was presented by the Company against the Government decision to both the Houses of Parliament. But no petition could any longer stem the tide of mounting criticism against the Company’s administration.



  • It’s provisions called for liquidation of Company
  • India was directly to be governed in the name of the Crown
  • Company’s rule , Board of Control , Court of Directors were abolished
  • Crown was to govern India directly through Secretary of State for India and his council consisting of 15 members. Secretary of State had powers of both Board of Control and Court of Directors
  • Crown had the power to appoint Governor General and Governors of the Presidencies


Secretary of State

  • The Secretary of State was to sit in Parliament. He was a cabinet minister of England
  • The Act created an India Council of 15  members. It was to advise the Secretary of State  who could overrule its decisions.
  • Secretary of State was given the power of sending and receiving secret messages and despatches from the Governor General without the necessity of communicating them to the India Council.
  • First Secretary of India was Lord Stanley, who was before this President of Board of Control .




Centralisation of administration

  • Right of appointment to important offices was with the Crown and Secretary of State


Governor General &  Viceroy of India

  • Governor General was now  to be called Viceroy and Governor General of India
  • Governor General would have an Executive council whose members were to act as heads of different departments and as his official advisors
  • Council discussed all matter and voted for majority but Viceroy had the veto power






Indian Council Act, 1861


  • Act of 1858 exclusively introduced changes in the Home Government but so far as  India was concerned, it didn’t touch the administrative setup in India. There was a strong feeling that sweeping changes in the Constitution of India were called for after the crisis of 1857.
  • There was demand of establishing closer contacts with Indian public opinion .
  • Charter Act , 1833 centralised the legislation process with Legislative Council (at Centre) had alone the power to legislate for whole of country. It was in the nature of things ill fitted to do its job on account of its ignorance of conditions prevailing in different parts of vast country.
  • After the Charter Act, 1853 , Legislative Council became sort of Parliament on small scale & tried to act as independent legislature sometimes stopping the supplies & didn’t work according to wishes of Home Government. This provision demanded a correction.



  • Act added to Viceroy’s Executive Council a 5th member who was to be ‘a gentleman of legal profession , a jurist rather than a technical lawyer’
  • Act empowered the Governor General to make rules for more convenient transaction of business in the council . This power was used by Lord Canning to introduce the portfolio system in  the Government .
  • For the purpose of legislation, the Viceroy’s Executive Council was expanded by addition of not less than 6 & not more than 12 ADDITIONAL members , who would be nominated by Governor General  & would hold office for 2 years.
  • Restored power to legislate ie making and amending laws to presidencies of Madras & Bombay. But to become act assent of Governor General was necessary . In certain matters like Currency, Posts & Telegraphs, naval & military matters , prior approval of GG was made obligatory
  • Governor General can issue ordinance in emergency which were to remain in force not more than 6 months.



  • Although the legislative powers were given to Presidencies as well but there was no demarcation of jurisdiction of Central & Local Legislatures as in federal constitutions.
  • The Legislative Council couldn’t be called True Legislature either in composition or in functions .
  • The Act of 1861 in no way established representative government in India on the model prevalent in England or England’s White Colonies .





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