1746 – 31 October 1823
) was a British
politician influential in Indian
and domestic affairs who, motivated by his evangelical Christianity
, championed the causes of social reform and Christian mission
, particularly in India. He served as Chairman of the British East India Company
, and as a Member of Parliament
, and was deeply associated with the 'Clapham Sect
Grant was born at Aldourie
on the same day that his father Alexander Grant was killed fighting for the Jacobites
, against the British Crown, at Culloden
. However, Charles Grant himself was one of the growing number of Scots who prospered in the service of the British Empire
. In 1767 Grant travelled to India to take up a military position. Over subsequent years, he rose in the ranks of the British East India Company. Initially he became superintendent over its trade in Bengal
. Then, in 1787, having first acquired a personal fortune through silk manufacturing in Malda
, Lord Cornwallis
the Governor-General appointed Grant as a member of the East India Company's board of trade. Grant lived a profligate lifestyle as he climbed through the ranks, but after losing two children to smallpox
he underwent a religious conversion
. Viewing his life, and indeed India, from his new evangelical Christian perspective, was to mold his career from that point.
Grant returned to Britain in 1790 and was elected to Parliament in 1802 for Inverness-shire. He served as an MP until failing health forced him to retire in 1818. However, his relationship with the East India Company did not end. In 1804 he joined the Company's Court of Directors, and in 1805 he became its chairman. He died in Russell Square, London at age 77.
His eldest son, Charles, was born in India and later followed his father into politics, eventually becoming a British peer as Baron Glenelg. His other son Robert followed his father into the Indian service and became Governor of Bombay, as well as being a Christian hymn writer.
Grant opposed the Governor-General Richard Wellesley
's combative and expansionist policies in India, and later supported the unsuccessful parliamentary move to impeach Wellesley. Grant saw Indian society as not only heathen, but also as corrupt and uncivilised. He was appalled by such native customs as exposing the sick, burning lepers
, and sati
. He believe that Britain's duty was not simply to expand its rule in India, and exploit the continent for its commercial interests, but to civilise and Christianise
In 1792, Grant wrote the tract "Observations on the State of Society among the Asiatic Subjects of Great Britain. This famous essay pled for education and Christian mission to be tolerated in India alongside the East India Company's traditional commercial activity. It argued that India could be advanced socially and morally by compelling the Company to permit Christian missionaries into India, a view diametrically opposed to the long-held position of the East India Company that Christian missionary work in India conflicted with its commercial interests and should be prohibited. In 1797, Grant presented his essay to the Company's directors, and then later in 1813, along with the reformer William Wilberforce, successfully to the House of Commons. The Commons ordered its re-printing during the important debates on the renewal of the company's charter.
He was largely responsible for the foundation of East India Company College, which was later erected at Haileybury.
As Chairman of the Company, Grant used his position to sponsor many chaplains to India, among them Claudius Buchanan and Henry Martyn.
Grant was part of an evangelical Anglican
movement of close friends which included such luminaries as the abolitionist Wilberforce, Zachary Macaulay
, John Venn
, and John Shore
. This 'Clapham sect' welded evangelical theology with the cause of social reform. Both in India and in the Parliament, Grant campaigned for the furtherance of causes of education, social reform, and Christian mission. In 1791, He was heavily involved in the establishment of the Sierra Leone Company
, which gave refuge to freed slaves. He served as a vice-president of the British and Foreign Bible Society
from its establishment in 1804, and also supported the Church Missionary Society
and the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel
Notes and references