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Grey, Sir William


Grey, Sir William (1818-1878) civilian and Lieutenant Governor of Bengal (1867 -1871). He was born in the aristocratic family of the First Earl of Grey (Prime Minister Earl Grey was his uncle). William Grey could not show any academic promise in early life. Disappointed by his inaptitude for education and his departure from the university without a degree, the Greys decided to send the 'delinquent' boy to India to make his career. However, William Grey's talent flourished much later.

With the patronage of his uncle, he joined the Bengal Civil Service in 1840. But since then, he smoothly got, by his own right, one after another senior positions until he became the Secretary to the Government of Bengal (1854-57) and member of the Governor General's Supreme Council (1862-1867). In the Council, Grey proved himself to be an officer with outstanding ability and insight. He had the courage even to challenge the Governor General when necessary in the public interest. As a member of the Council, Grey successfully opposed the Governor General's attempt to introduce income tax and decentralize the postal department.

Though an aristocrat, Grey was liberal in political thought. Governor General Lawrence brought a proposal in the Council in 1868 to abolish the newly introduced Bengal Legislative Council on the ground of its alleged failure to improve the administration of the province. Grey, as Lieutenant Governor of Bengal, fiercely argued the duplicity of the Governor General's proposal. Far from abolishing the Bengal legislative Council, Grey even proposed that Bengal should be given full-fledged Governor's status like Bombay and Madras presidencies. His liberalism made him popular with the native press and Western educated gentry, though the Anglo-Indian press was consistently critical of his accommodative policy towards the natives.

Early in 1868, Grey instituted a system of making appointments to the Subordinate Executive Service on a combined plan of nomination and competitive examinations. He also expanded the size of the Subordinate Executive Service. He undertook several measures to improve sanitation and health of the province. On his insistence, an additional post of Secretary for Bengal was introduced. Formerly, Bengal government had only one Secretary to manage the whole Bengal Secretariat.

Unlike the regimes of the previous Lieutenant Governors, Grey's administration was by and large free from any political or economic crisis. On his retirement from service on 1 March 1871, Grey served as governor of Jamaica for three years from 1874. He died on 15 May 1878. [Sirajul Islam]