Lord Ripon

Lord Ripon (1880-1884)

This article deals with ‘ Lord Ripon – 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


He was a liberal to the core & earlier acted as Secretary of State  during 1866-68. In 1880, when liberal party came to power in England under the leadership of Gladstone (who was the chief devotee of liberalism in Europe), he handpicked Ripon for job as Governor General of India. Ripon’s whole political outlook was very anti-thesis of his predecessor.


When he reached India, India was in political, social & economic fermentation. Lytton’s policies had driven discontent among masses & India was bordering on revolution. Ripon tried to heal those wounds by taking good steps beneficial for Indians.


Repeal of Vernacular Press Act

  • Act was repealed & Vernacular newspapers were allowed equal freedom with rest of Indian press. This wise action of Ripon tried to undo wrongs done by Lytton .



First Factory Act,1881

  • To improve the condition of factory labourers
  • Sought to regulate & improve the condition of labour in Indian factories . The Act was applicable in case of factories employing 100 or more labourers.
  • Prohibited employment of children below age of 7 + limited working hours for children below age of 12
  • Although limited in scope , opened new phase of industrial history in India .


Indian nationalists opposed this because it was aimed to nullify the advantage of Indian industrialists and British plantations were out of its ambit .


Financial decentralisation

Continued the policy of financial devolution inaugurated under Lord Mayo. Source of revenue were divided into three classes viz Imperial, Provincial & Divided

Imperial Heads Revenue from Customs, Posts & Telegraphs , Railways, Opium, Salt, Mint, Military Receipt , Land Revenue etc
  • Revenue from Jails, Medical Services, Printing, Roads , general Administration etc
  • These were insufficient for provincial requirements , hence grant of fixed percentage of land revenue which otherwise was an imperial subject was given to Provinces
  • Income from Excise, Stamps , Forests , Registration etc was divided in equal proportion among the Central & Provincial Governments




Resolution on Local Self Government

Most noble work was Government’s resolution on Local Self Government which had following provisions

  • Local Boards were to be developed throughout the country .
    • In Rural Areas,  Governor General desired the smallest  Administrative Unit  to be- sub division , taluka or Tehsil .
    • In Towns , the Municipal Committees & City bodies were to form local board .
  • Local Bodies were to be charged with definite duties & entrusted with suitable sources of Revenue. Ripon desired the Provincial Government should apply in case of local bodies the same principle of Financial Decentralisation which Lord Mayo has directed towards them
  • Chairman of these local board shouldn’t be Officials but elected by Local Bodies themselves

In pursuance of above resolution, Local Self Government Acts were passed in various provinces during 1883-85 which included Madras, Punjab & Bengal .



But why were they giving such responsibilities to Indians?

Answer is financial pressures & search for more Indian collaborators. ‘Systems of nomination, representation and election were all means of enlisting Indians to work for imperial ends’. The financial and political aspects were neatly combined in the development of local self-government. The process really began under the Conservative Mayo and not the Liberal Ripon. The major motive was to tackle financial difficulties by shifting charges for local requirements on to new local taxes.



Resolution on Land Policy

  • He disfavoured proposal to establish Permanent Settlement Model of Bengal throughout India
  • He sought to modify the Permanent settlement of Bengal by giving farmers assurance of permanence & security and committing governments  not to enhance taxes except in case of price rise. He couldn’t succeed because Zamindars of Bengal opposed the measure & peasants of Bengal didn’t support it for they feared that Anglo-Indian bureaucracy would be worst than zamindars.


Educational Reforms

Refer Hunter Commission (Constituted under his Governor Generalship )

  • All the recommendations of Hunter Commission were applied by him


Ilbert Bill Controversy

  • CP Ilbert – Law member of Council introduced Ilbert bill in 1883
  • It proposed to give Indian Magistrates & Session Judges the power to try European offenders in mofussil(small towns) as it was already happening in Presidency Towns
  • White Mutiny followed . Bill was bitterly opposed by not just non official Europeans but British press too.  Ripon ultimately have to succumb to the pressure & withdraw the bill.


  • Amended Bill was passed in 1884 , which provided the European British subjects, when brought to trial before District Magistrate or Sessions Judge , whether European or Indian were to have a right to claim trial by a jury of 12 at least 7 of whom must be European or Americans. If in the mofussil district , no jury could be formed , magistrate was to transfer the case  to such other court such as High Court directly.


  • Ilbert bill was the last straw that politically conscious educated Indians could take , as it made them painfully aware of their subordinate position in imperial power structure


Note – The Ilbert Bill storm was the most extreme but by no means isolated expression of white racism. In 1878, for instance, the appointment of Muthusamy Iyer as High Court judge in Madras was opposed by the Madras Mail (organ of white businessmen) on the ground that ‘native officials should not draw the same rate of pay as Europeans in similar circumstances’.  The uproar led directly to the foundation of the famous nationalist journal Hindu.


Rendition of Mysore

  • Lord Bentinck annexed state of Mysore in 1831 on charge of misgovernance. Later it came to knowledge that reports of misgovernance were grossly exaggerated.
  • Ripon decided to correct the injustice done & restored the administration of the state to adopted son of the deposed Raja who died in 1866. 

He resigned in summer of 1884 because Gladstone willingly sanctioned the occupation of Egypt . A contingent of Indian troops was sent to Egypt & the burden of the imperial war fell on Indian Exchequer . Ripon launched a strong protest against this gross injustice & felt that his mission to India had failed. He resigned before term of his Viceroyalty was over.



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