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Henry John Stedman Cotton

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A friend of Sri Aurobindo's father, brother of James S. Cotton.

Henry Cotton (13.09.1845, Kumbakonum, Tanjore, Madras, India - 01.12.1915, London (St. John's Wood), Middlesex, England), a most liberal Englishman who held various offices in the I.C.S. from 1867 to 1902, and became a leading champion of Indian nationalism.

His father, Joseph John Cotton (30.08.1813, Tranquebar, Madras, India 20.12.1867, Clifton, Gloucestershire, England), who was a Madras Civilian from 1831 to 1863, and his mother, Susan Jessie Minchin (13.12.1823, Madras, Tamil Nadu, India , 23.02.1888, Weston-super-Mare, Somerset, England), maried on 29.03.1842 in Madras, Tamil Nadu, India.

Henry was born in 1845 at Combaconum in the Tanjore district of Madras.

In 1848 he travelled from Madras to England. Here he lived for three years at Wanstead, Essex, with parents, before they returned to India, leaving Henry and his younger brother James at a private dame's school in Woodford; they spending holidays with their grandfather Minchin at Hamslade House, Devonshire or with their great-uncle Benjamin Cotton formerly of Trinity House and then living at 8 Gloucester Terrace, Regent's Park, London.

According to census of 30.03.1851: occupation scholar at home; living at Hamslade, Oakford, with grandparents James and Susan M Minchin, aunts Rosa Georgiana (born at sea), Manan S (born India) and Frances C (born India) Minchin, brother James S Cotton, visitor William Gordon Davidson, 3 servants + governess.

Education: 1856-1859 - Magdalen College School (Oxford, Oxfordshire); 1859-1860 - Brighton College (Brighton, Sussex); 1861-1865 - King's College (London, Middlesex). First year studied applied science, but later mainly humanities. Immediately after his time at King's, he took and passed the Indian Civil Service Examination.

According to census of 07.04.1861: living at College Villa, Brighton, with parents Joseph J and Susan J Cotton, brother James S Cotton, sisters Jessie E, Mary R P, Phoebe L M and Susan C Cotton, aunt Frances C Minchin, 5 servants.

On 01.08.1867, Freshwater, Isle of Wight, Hampshire, England, he married Mary Ryan (1848, Limerick, Ireland - 1914). They had four children: Sir Harry Evan Auguste Cotton (27.05.1868, Midnapore, Bengal Presidency, British India - 07.05.1939, Eastbourne, Sussex, England); Julian James Cotton (03.10.1869, Krishnagar, Bengal, India - 20.05.1927, Madras, India); Mary Cotton (04.06.1873, West Bengal, India - ?); Albert Louis Cotton (12.09.1874, London, Camden - 27.05.1936, Eastbourne, Sussex, England).

On 29th October 1867, he arrived India to join the Bengal Civil Service. Record of services in The India List and India Office List for 1905, p. 468, reads: ...served in the Bengal rev. and jud. dept., and as offg. undersec. to govt. and offg. registrar, high court; asst. sec., govt. of Bengal, June, 1875; junr. sec., April, 1876; mag. and collr., Nov., 1878; offg. commr., Chittagong, 1879, and 1884; sec., board of rev., Jan., 1882; port commr., Calcutta, May, 1887; sec. to govt. of Bengal, finl. and municipal depts., May, 1890; member of Bengal legisl. council, June, 1892; chief sec. to govt., July, 1892; chief commr., Assam, Nov., 1896; addl. member of viceroy's Council, Dec., 1900; K.C.S.I., June, 1902; retd., Oct., 1902; author of a 'Memo. on the Rev. History of Chittagong,' 1880, 'Memo. on the Land Tenures of Bengal,' 1884, 'England and India,' 1883, and 'New India, or India in Transition,' 1885.

Bengal Civil Service Gradation List 1869 ( gives: Bengal Civil Service / B / No. 522 / Names: CLASS VI. Fortescue Willoughby Porter / Dates of Arrival: 1865-66 29 Oct. 67 / Actual Service, 1 Jan. 1869: 1 Y 2 M / Appointments, &c.: Asst. magt. and collr. of Nuddea, 21st July 1869. In charge of Chooadangah. With powers of a sub-magt., 1st class, 16th Nov. 1868.

In 1885 he was appointed a fellow of the Calcutta University and was elected unopposed to the Calcutta Municipal Corporation. About the same time he published his New India or India in Transition.

He held various posts in the Bengal administrative and judicial services, including Chief Secretary in the Bengal secretariat, and in 1896 became Chief Commissioner of Assam, a position he held till his resignation in 1902. From documents in British Library, India Office Records: Private Papers [Mss Eur K490 - IOR Pos 12033] (A2A), as follows: IOR Neg 12037-38 [from Scope and Content] Papers of Sir Henry John Stedman Cotton (1845-1915), Bengal Civil Service 1867-1902, Chief Commissioner of Assam 1896-1902, Liberal MP 1906-10; and of his son Sir (Harry) Evan Auguste Cotton (1868-1939), Calcutta barrister, President, Bengal Legislative Council 1922-25.

26 Jun 1902 - Knighthood (K.C.S.I.).

He took a prominent part in starting the Indian National Congress, and was the president of its 20th session held at Bombay.

On January 10, 1905 a conference on the Partition question was held at the Town Hall, Calcutta, under the presidency of Sir Henry Cotton. Sir Henry traced the history of the Partition of Bengal from 1891 when the matter was first discussed till 1897 when he was the Chief Commissioner of Assam. Lushai Hills were then transferred to Assam and the matter was dropped. The proposals of the present partition, in his opinion, were not made either by the Government of Bengal or by the administration of Assam. They had come "spontaneously and uninvitedly from the Government of India itself".

1906-1910 - Member of Parliament (Liberal) for East Nottingham.

Returning to London, he joined the India group in the House of Commons. His second work Indian and Home Memories was published in 1911.



In English

Cotton, Henry John Stedman

In English

India: a Policy and a Prospect

   / Ed. by W.T.Stead.- London.- 16 p.

Cotton, Henry John Stedman

In English

Indian and Home Memories

   London: Adelphi Terrace; Leipsic: Inselstrasse.- 1910.- 352 p., 19 ill.

Cotton, Henry John Stedman

In English

New India or India in Transition

   Popular edition.- London: Kegan Paul, Trench and Co, 1886.- 184 p.

In Russian