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SIR HUDSON LOWE (1769-1844)

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Originally appearing in Volume V17, Page 73 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
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SIR HUDSON LOWE (1769-1844), English general, was the son of an army surgeon, John Lowe, and was born at Galway on the 28th of July 1769. His mother was a native of that county. His childhood was spent in various garrison towns but he was educated chiefly at Salisbury grammar school. He obtained a post as ensign in the East Devon Militia before his twelfth year, and subsequently entered his father's regiment, the 5oth, then at Gibraltar (1787) under Governor-General O'Hara. After the outbreak of war with France early in 1793, Lowe saw active service successively in Corsica, Elba, Portugal and Minorca, where he was entrusted with the command of a battalion of Corsican exiles, called The Corsican Rangers. With these he did good work in Egypt in 1800-18o1. After the peace of Amiens, Lowe, now a major, became assistant quartermaster-general; but on the renewal of war with France in 1803 he was charged, as lieutenant-colonel, to raise the Corsican battalion again and with it assisted in the defence of Sicily. On the capture of Capri he proceeded thither with his battalion and a Maltese regiment; but in October 18o8 Murat organized an attack upon the island, and Lowe, owing to the unsteadiness of the Maltese troops and the want of succour by sea, had to agree to evacuate the island. The terms in which Sir William Napier and others have referred to Lowe's defence of Capri are unfair. His garrison consisted of 1362 men, while the assailants numbered between 3000 and 4000. In the course of the year 1809 Lowe and his Corsicans helped in the capture of Ischia and Procida, as well as of Zante, Cephalonia and Cerigo. For some months he acted as governor of Cephalonia and Ithaca, and later on of Santa Maura. He returned to England in 1812, and in January 1813 was sent to inspect a Russo-German legion then being formed, and he accompanied the armies of the allies through the campaigns of 1813 and 1814, being present at thirteen important battles. He won praise from Blucher and Gneisenau for his gallantry and judgment. He was chosen to bear to London the news of the first abdication of Napoleon in April 1814. He was then knighted and became major-general; he also received decorations from the Russian and Prussian courts. Charged with the duties of quartermaster-general of the army in the Netherlands in 1814—1815, he was about to take part in the Belgian campaign when he was offered the command of the British troops at Genoa; but while still in the south of France he received (on the 1st of August 1815) news of his appointment to the position of custodian of Napoleon, who had surrendered to H.M.S. " Bellerophon " off Rochefort. Lowe was to be governor of St Helena, the place of the ex-emperor's exile. On his arrival there at Plantation House he found that Napoleon had already had scenes with Admiral Cockburn, of H.M.S. " Northumberland," and that he had sought to induce the former governor, Colonel Wilks, to infringe the regulations prescribed by the British government (see Monthly Review, January 1901). Napoleon and his followers at Longwood pressed for an extension of the limits within which he could move without surveillance, but it was not in Lowe's power to grant this request. Various matters, in some of which Lowe did not evince much tact, produced friction between them. The news that rescue expeditions were being planned by the Bonapartists in the United States led to the enforcement of somewhat stricter regulations in October 1816, Lowe causing sentries to be posted round Longwood garden at sunset instead of at 9 P.M. This was his great offence in the eyes of Napoleon and his followers. Hence their efforts to calumniate Lowe, which had a surprising success. O'Meara, the British surgeon, became Napoleon's man, and lent himself to the campaign of calumny in which Las Cases and Montholon showed so much skill. In one of the suppressed passages of his Journal Las Cases wrote that the exiles had to " reduce to a system our demeanour, our words, our sentiments, even our privations, in order that we might thereby excite a lively interest in a large portion of the population of Europe, and that the opposition in England might not fail to attack the ministry." As to the privations, it may be noted that Lowe recommended that the government allowance of 8000 a year to the Longwood household should be increased by one-half. The charges of cruelty brought against the governor by O'Meara and others have been completely refuted; and the most that can be said against him is that he was occasionally too suspicious in the discharge of his duties. After the death of Napoleon in May 1821, Lowe returned to England and received the thanks of George IV. On the publication of O'Meara's book he resolved to prosecute the author, but, owing to an unaccountable delay, the application was too late. This fact, together with the reserved behaviour of Lowe, prejudiced the public against him, and the government did nothing to clear his reputation. In 1825—1830 he commanded the forces in Ceylon, but was not appointedto the governorship when it fell vacant in 1830. In 1842 he became colonel of his old regiment, the loth; he also received the G.C.M.G. He died in 1844. See W. Forsyth, History of the Captivity of Napoleon at St Helena (3 vols., London, 1853) ; Gourgaud, Journal inedite de Sainte-Hilene (1815–1818; 2 vols., Paris, 1899); R. C. Seaton, Napoleon's Captivity in relation to Sir Hudson Lowe (London, 1903); Lieut.-Col. Basil Jackson, Notes and Reminiscences of a Staff-Officer (London, 1903); the earl of Rosebery, Napoleon; the Last Phase (London 1900) ; J. H. Rose, Napoleonic Studies (London, 1904). (J. HL. R.)
End of Article: SIR HUDSON LOWE (1769-1844)

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