William Amherst (1823- 28): William Pitt Amherst was a British diplomat and colonial administrator. He was Governor-General of India between 1823 and 1828.
Amherst was Governor-General of India from August 1823 to February 1828. The principal events of his government were annexation of Assam leading to the first Burmese war of 1824, resulting in the cession of Arakan and Tenasserim to the British Empire.
Amherst’s appointment came on the heels of the removal of Governor-General Lord Hastings in 1823. Hastings had clashed with London over the issue of lowering the field pay of officers in the Bengal Army, a measure that he was able to avoid through successive wars against Nepal and the Marathas. However, his refusal in the early 1820s during peacetime to lower field pay, resulted in the appointment of Amherst, who was expected to carry out the demands from London.
However, Amherst was an inexperienced governor who was, at least in the early days of his tenure in Calcutta, influenced heavily by senior military officers in Bengal such as Sir Edward Paget. He inherited a territorial dispute from John Adam, the acting Governor-General prior to his arrival, which involved the Anglo-Burmese border on the Naaf River and this spilled over into violence on 24 September 1823. Unwilling to lose face in a time of Burmese territorial aggression, Amherst ordered the troops in.
The war was to last two years, with 15,000 killed on the British side and it cost 13 million pounds, contributing to an economic crisis in India. It was only due to the efforts of powerful friends such as George Canning and the Duke of Wellington that Amherst was not recalled in disgrace at the end of the war.
The war significantly changed Amherst’s stance on Burma, and he now adamantly refused to annexe Lower Burma, but he did not succeed in repairing his reputation entirely, and he was replaced in 1828. He was created Earl Amherst, of Arracan in the East Indies, and Viscount Holmesdale, in the County of Kent, in 1826. On his return to England he lived in retirement till his death in March 1857.