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Biography of Charles Cornwallis

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Charles Cornwallis, son of the first Earl of Cornwallis, was born in Suffolk on the 31st of December, 1738. He was educated at Westminster and St. John’s College, Cambridge. He entered the army in 1759, and succeeded to the title and estates of his father in 1761. He was the most competent and energetic of all the British generals sent to America during the Revolution, but the cruelties exercised by his orders on a few occasions, have left an indelible stain upon his character. It was in pursuance of one of his orders, issued soon after the battle of Camden, that the unfortunate Colonel Isaac Hayne was executed by that tyrannical British officer, Lord Rawdon. Notwithstanding this cruel tragedy, which might have resulted otherwise had he been present, Cornwallis possessed some fine traits of character, had an amiable disposition, was greatly beloved by his men, and was bitterly opposed to “house-burning” when the fortunes of war were in his favor. In 1770, he and three other young peers, joined Lord Camden in protesting against the taxation of the American colonies. Mansfield, the Chief Justice, is said to have sneeringly remarked: “Poor Camden could only get four boys to join him.” Although opposed to the course of the British Ministry, yet, when hostilities commenced, he did not refuse to accept active employment against America. Soon after the war he was appointed Governor-General of the East Indies, which position he held for six years. During that time, he conquered the renowned Tippoo Sultan, for which service he was created a marquis and master of the ordnance. He was Lord Lieutenant of Ireland from 1798 to 1801, and was instrumental in restoring peace to that country, then distracted by rebellion. He signed the treaty of Amicus in 1802, and in 1804 was again appointed Governor General of India. On his arrival at Calcutta, his health failed and he died at Ghazepore on the 5th of October, 1805, aged sixty-seven years.

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