Dickenson Road

Road Name: Dickenson road named after John Dickenson (28/12/1815 – 23/11/1876)

Road Location:  F M Cariappa Colony


John Dickenson was the son of a papermaker. He was not anxious to follow his father’s footsteps and took up no career in his entire life. He was educated at Eton College, which enabled him to become a great writer. He came to India and became a part of the India reform society (IRS). Literature was the tool he used to reform India. He wrote letters, books and designed many schemes to reach out to as many people as possible. On 23rd November 1876, India lost a man with great potential, whose contributions have made it worth naming a road after him.

Detailed Description:

Born on 28 December 1815, John Dickinson was the son of the papermaker of Nash Mills in Hertfordshire, England; and was educated at Eton College. He declined to take part in his father’s business. Dickinson travelled in Europe, and began to write on behalf of liberal causes.

Taking up Indian reform, Dickinson had support from his uncle, General Thomas Dickinson, of the Bombay Engineers, and his cousin, Sebastian Stewart Dickinson. A public works commission was appointed by Lord Dalhousie in 1852 to inquire into the deficiencies of administration pointed out by Dickinson and his friends. On 12 March 1853 a meeting was held in Dickinson’s rooms, and a society was formed under the name of the India Reform Society. Initially involved, besides Dickinson, were two Members of Parliament, John Blackett and Henry Danby Seymour. John Bright came into the committee, and his contacts gave the Society access to many more MPs. Bright’s interests included Indian cotton as an alternative source to the United States, and lobbying the British government to have Indian infrastructure improved. Another activist was Francis Carnac Brown who had been a committee member of the earlier British India Society.

The debate in parliament of 1853 on the renewal of the East India Company’s charter gave the society a short-term objective, and the maintenance of good faith towards the Indian states a major theme. The Indian Rebellion of 1857 made for another push, in efforts towards moderation, and to prevent exclusive attention to penal and repressive measures, Dickinson organized a series of public meetings.  In 1861 John Bright resigned the chairmanship, and carried a motion appointing Dickinson his successor. By 1865 the Society had ceased to function.

On the death of his father in 1869, Dickinson inherited a fortune, but was in weak health. On 23 November 1876 he was found dead in his study in London.

Dickinson’s contribution towards Indian reform through literature includes:

  • Letters on the Cotton and Roads of Western India (1851) based on a series of letters appeared in The Times in 1850 and 1851

  • India, its Government under Bureaucracy, London, 1852. It was reprinted in 1853 as one of a series of “India Reform Tracts”

  • The Famine in the North-West Provinces of India, London, 1861

  • Reply to the Indigo Planters’ pamphlet entitled “Brahmins and Pariahs”, published by the Indigo manufacturers of Bengal, London, 1861

  • A Letter to Lord Stanley on the Policy of the Secretary of State for India, London, 1863

  • Dhar not restored in 1864

  • Sequel to “Dhar not restored”, and a Proposal to extend the Principle of Restoration, London, 1865

  • A Scheme for the Establishment of Efficient Militia Reserves, London, 1871

  • Last Counsels of an Unknown Counselor, edited by Evans Bell, London, 1877; another edition 1883. A reply to Holkar’s critics


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