It is important for Civil Services aspirants to have a good understanding of the events that took place under Lord Canning, who became the first Viceroy of India, under the Government of India Act, 1858. The events that immediately preceded the appointment of Lord Canning as Governor-General of India, and his tenure in general, is important for an IAS aspirant in both the Civil Services (Prelims) and Civil Services (Mains) Examination. British rule in India under Lord Canning came during a time when tensions between the ruling elite and the Indian people reached its lowest ebb, which ultimately resulted in the revolt of 1857. This period in Indian history is very important to civil services aspirants, as it had a profound impact on Indian history, and influenced the course of her freedom struggle.
- Under the Government of India Act, 1858, Lord Canning became the first Viceroy of India. He was the last Governor-General of the East India Company.
- He implemented many reforms in India, and as a Viceroy, he abolished the ‘Doctrine of Lapse’, and read the Queens Proclamation Act, on 1st Nov 1858 from Allahabad, in which it was said that the Queen of England is the Queen of India and many declarations of the Queen were thus formulated in India.
- Also, the council of the Viceroy was extended, and now onwards, this council was known as the ‘Imperial Legislative Council’. The members of the Legislative council were allocated portfolios, i.e. different departments to handle. This was known as the ‘Canning model of Business’.
- To this extent, Canning was an innovator and a consolidator of British rule over India. The Secretary of State became the highest governing body of India in London.
- The last President of the Board of Control, ‘Sir Charles Wood’, became the first Secretary of State for India. Thus the structure of the Government had changed, but the function of the Government had remained almost the same.
- Lord Canning also abolished the ‘Doctrine of Lapse’, and from now Indian princes were allowed to adopt a successor in order to carry forward their rule. This decision was taken keeping in mind that in the revolt of 1857, many rulers of the native Indian states participated because they were not allowed to adopt their heirs.
Thus the British governing system wanted to pacify the ruling elite of India.