How Torrington who burdened the people with taxes was sent home
Posted on November 26th, 2017

By Bandula Gunaratne Courtesy Ceylon Today

Even today certain roads in Colombo are known by the names of some Governors who ruled this country during the British colonial era. Maitland Crescent, Maitland Place, Horton Place, Barnes Place, Ward Place, and Rosmead Place are some of these roads. Today, media institutions such as the Sri Lanka Rupavahini Corporation and the Sri Lanka Broadcasting Corporation are also located at a place named after a Governor.

That is the Torrington Square in Colombo 7. It has been named after Lord Torrington who was the Governor of this country from 1847 to 1859.

Lord Torrington arrived in this country subsequent to Governor Colin Campbell who ruled this country from 1841 to 1847 and his period of administration in this country did not prove to be good for the citizens. It was during the era of Torrington that the people of this country launched a rebellion against colonial rule and it was cruelly suppressed. Another reason was that the burden of taxes on the people also increased during this time.

Edward Barnes who ruled Ceylon prior to Torrington built roads in this country according to the system of Rajakariya. That is the Government paid a certain fee to employees for building roads. This system which Governor Barnes implemented was followed by Governor Robert Horton as well.

However, subsequent to Lord Torrington arriving here, what he did in 1848 was to impose a Road Tax. Every male between the ages of 18 and 55 had to work six days each year on roads. If not people had to pay a fine of three shillings.
People who were used to going on roads that fell through jungles did not benefit from these roads. People had been made to understand that they were wanted by planters. Silent unrest was created in the people of the hill country due to the construction of roads. They disliked it because they thought that as a result of roads, persons engaged in various jobs including traders who came from Colombo would create an upheaval in the lives of village folk in the upcountry and the economy as well, due to their behaviour. As even Bhikkhus had to pay this tax, it was a tax that caused pain of mind to Buddhists as well.

The Governor who had no strategy later imposed taxes on shops, boats and rafts, horse-driven carriages, bullock carts and even dogs.
A tax was also imposed on guns used to protect agricultural crops from wild animals. Therefore, people who depended on agriculture had to pay 2 shillings and 6 pence and use either a gun or other weapon for shooting at wild animals.
As a result, the people went to meet the Government Agent of Kandy in July of 1848. They did not stop there and a large group went to Colombo to express their opposition to the Governor.

In 1848 protests against the government began both in the upcountry and the low country. As a result what Torrington did was to impose martial law in places where revolts were taking place. Persons such as Puran Appu and Gongalegoda Banda were shot and killed.

Editor of the Observer Christopher Elliot, A. M. Ferguson, Lawyer Richard Morgan, Chief Justice’s son and Private Secretary Lawrence Oliphant informed of this rebellious situation to England.
A group including Joseph Hume and Henry Baillie who were members of the House of Commons debated this there.
Henry Baillie said that Torrington’s government was arbitrary and harmful. The only qualification that Torrington possessed to become the Governor of Ceylon was that he was “a director of a railway company,” Member of Parliament Benjamin Disraeli mocked.
Another member of the House of Commons said that during his apprenticeship period in the post of Governor he had spent controlling farming at Kent Place.

As Lord Torrington was the brother-in-law of Prime Minister of England Lord Russell, there was a strong effort to free him of these accusations but due to the equally strong displeasure of the House of Commons, the Cabinet of Lord Russell was defeated. During the next few days a missive from London was prepared for Governor Torrington.

In it was stated that Torrington should be released from the task of ruling Ceylon and instead Sir George Anderson of Mauritius should be appointed as the Governor and that it was being announced with the Queen’s approval.

What Lord Torrington who burdened the people of Ceylon with taxes and carried out an arbitrary rule had to do, it is said, was to flee the Queen’s House in Colombo secretly without informing anyone. At the same time, Emerson Tennant and District Judge of Kandy Edmund Woodhouse, who had supported Torrington, were informed that their services were not required by Ceylon.

3 Responses to “How Torrington who burdened the people with taxes was sent home”

  1. Nimal Says:

    What ever good or bad what the colonials did, many people in thousands became Christians and took their names perhaps to identify themselves with the colonials. Many chose to go and live in their countries and we appreciate their generosity for putting up with us. Some of these settlers who went there never got on well or tried to assimilate with the host countries because they never really earned it to enter into those countries because they came in through the back door.Failure to assimilate made them band together and in unison started hallucinating about the country left behind, it’s unknown horrible history and culture that one could see in our leaders and in the streets. I associate with many different people, just now with some Italian guests, but never they ever mention about their glorious history or culture which seems to be the only thing a backward Sinhalese talk about. It’s a pity that our people are so lowdown. Out of my employee the worst ones are from my country, lazy and full of envy.
    I thank my self that from my very young days I associated with foreigners in SL and enlightened my self and I could say that I sit with them in the same table without being subservient to any one here.They are the ones who helped me to progress in life and their positive influence make me oblige to forgive the stupidity of my people back home and to help them which ever way I could. That is the generous culture I acquired here.Likewise they were good enough to develop our country which no other invader did and we are in denial.

  2. aloy Says:

    The context of this article is the heavy burden of tax that has been imposed on the masses. The writer is trying to show even the British governor with connections to the PM in England got punished for his misdeeds. According to some reports the people in some areas cannot eat more than one meal a day. So much for democracy and misrule since the one eyed Bandit Queen. We have to concede that politicians before that did some useful work.
    Can they deceive the voters again with a thing called patriotism?.

  3. Senerath Says:

    One thing I noticed in developed countries is lack of PATRIOTISM, which is replaced by hidden racism + nationalism. There are two ways to destroy patriotism. One by making people poor and the other by indroducing materialism. Our PAL HORU have done both.

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