Sir Henry Pottinger

Pottinger, Sir Henry, Bart., was born in the County of Down in 1789. [In 1613, an ancestor, Thomas Pottinger, was "sovereign" of Belfast, and another relative, a captain in the royal navy, conveyed William III. to Ireland in his ship, the Dartmouth, in 1690.] Henry was educated at the Belfast Academy. When very young he entered the navy, and in 1804, through Lord Castlereagh's influence, was granted a military appointment in India. He assiduously studied the native languages, and in 1810 volunteered, with Captain Christie, for the difficult task of exploring the countries between the Indus and Persia. They travelled disguised as Mohammedan merchants — an incognito that it required all their tact and linguistic abilities to maintain. After treading districts which had not been visited by Europeans since the time of Alexander the Great, they returned to Bombay in February 1811. A few years afterwards he gave their experiences to the world in an interesting work entitled Travels in Beloochistan and Sinde. He next received the appointment of assistant to the resident at the court of the Peishwa, at Poonah. During the Mahratta war he had a narrow escape at the battle of Khirkee. After the termination of hostilities he was appointed collector at Ahmednuggur, a position which he exchanged in 1825 for a similar one at Cutch.

In 1831 Pottinger, then a colonel, undertook a mission to Scinde, which resulted in opening up the traffic of the Indus. In 1839 he was made a baronet. Next year he returned to England for the benefit of his health; but was almost immediately (June 1841) sent as plenipotentiary to China, to reap the benefits expected from the war entered upon with the Celestial Empire. After the expenditure of much blood, a treaty of peace was concluded on board the Cornwallis at Nankin, 26th August 1842, under which China was compelled to pay 21,000,000 dollars of an indemnity; Canton, Amoy, Foochoofoo, Ningpo, and Shanghae were thrown open to commerce; the opium trade was effectually fastened on the Chinese; and Hong Kong was ceded to the United Kingdom. The Grand Cross of the Bath was conferred upon him, and after his return in 1844 he was made a Privy-Councillor, and a pension of £1,500 was voted him by Parliament. The highest military rank he attained appears to have been that of Major-General in the East India Company's service. He was governor of the Cape of Good Hope in 1846 and 1847, and of Madras from 1847 to 1854. Sir Henry Pottinger died at Malta, 18th March 1856, aged 66. He is described as an able and upright public officer, and an estimable man in all the relations of life.


16. Authors, Dictionary of British and American: S. Austin Allibone. 3 vols. Philadelphia, 1859-'71.

116. Dublin University Magazine (28). Dublin, 1833-'77.

124. Encyclopaedia Britannica. London, 1860.