Thompson, Sir Augustus Rivers

Thompson, Sir Augustus Rivers (1829-1890) civilian and lieutenant governor of Bengal (1882-1887). Augustus Rivers Thompson, son of J Powney Thompson of Bengal Civil Service and grandson of George Nisbet Thompson, private secretary to warren hastings, was educated at Eton and Haileybury. He arrived at Calcutta in 1850 to start his Indian Civil Service career.

Before elevated to the post of the Lieutenant Governor of Bengal in 1882, Thompson held the positions of Secretary to the Bengal Government (1869-1875), Chief Commissioner of British Burma (1875-1878) and Member of the Supreme Council (1878-1882). Thompson's administration was characterised by many events of great historical significance, such as, Inland Emigration Law of 1882 (regulating labour movement from Bengal to Burma and other areas), the Indian Education Commission (1882), bengal tenancy act (1885), and the most ardently debated issue, the Ilbert Bill. Thompson bitterly opposed to the Bill and advanced arguments for amending it in the interest of the colonial state. He made many recommendations to tone down the original contents of the Bill, which were considered seriously by the Council. He, however, believed that only the native ICS members should be allowed to have trial jurisdiction over the Europeans in the mofussil. The idea was incorporated into the Bill before it was passed into an Act. But finally, even the native ICS officers were not allowed the trial jurisdiction within the cantonment magistracies.

The two most important measures, which came before the bengal legislative council while Sir R Thompson was presiding over it as Lieutenant Governor, were the Local Self-Government Bill and the Municipal Bill. The Local Self-Government Bill was made an Act in 1885. The law provided for creating District Boards and Local Boards empowered with extensive functions, such as, roads and communications, education, hospitals, dispensaries, sanitation, vaccination, famine relief, taking of census, maintenance of staging bungalows, holding fairs and exhibitions, etc. The Municipal Act of 1884 was intended to consolidate and extend the existing law. In March 1887 Thompson sought retirement from service in view of his persistent ill health. He died on 17 November 1890. [Sirajul Islam]