Source: Sir William Wedderburn: A Sketch of His Life and His Services to India, Indian Biography: Vol. 6 (Madras: G.A Natesan & Co.)
Sir William Wedderburn was born in 1838 into a family that had a long connection with the Indian Civil Service. From a young age, he knew that his future career would be one in the Indian Civil Service.
He entered the Indian Civil Service in 1860, holding various positions across several departments. He is distinctly noted for his efforts in working to better the circumstances of the agricultural population through appealing for agricultural capital to be implemented at moderate rates.
He also called for arbitration courts in rural districts to allow for the reconciliation of disputes without expense.
He strongly supported strengthening the Indian princes’ positions, believing that the people of India would be happiest with a system of ruling where the consideration and development of local voices and resources could be best carried out. He was able to translate his views into practice when placed in charge of the Political Department, establishing the Rajkumar College at Rajkot, the Joint Administration at Bhaunagar and the Grassia Court for Kathiawad. The Joint Administration of Bhaunagar in particular was a novel enterprise, maintaining the continuity of State tradition while not deviating from the essence of British policy. This was done through the administrators’ execution of duties in the capacities of Durbars as opposed to Political Officers.
He also took great interest in the cause of education, especially education for females. To that end, he played a part in establishing the “Wedderburn Hindu Girls’ School”, co-founded the High School for Girls in Poona and also established a scholarship.
In 1885, he played a role in organizing the first session of the Indian National Congress at Bombay. Upon his retirement from government service and return to England, his chief objective was to co-operate with the Indian National Congress and procure for Indians a fair hand in the handling of their own affairs. Having seen that the diseased system of the Indian Civil Service could not work toward this, he decided to focus his efforts on appealing to the British public through the Parliament, the Platform and the press. He thought that the public would then in turn apply pressure on the House of Commons to do more for India. He also urged the dispatch of Indian delegates to England to disseminate proper perspectives on India, feeling that it was imperative that Indians state their case directly to the British public.
Sources: Sorabji Jehangir, Representative Men of India (London: W.H. Allen & Co., 1889), 127-130; “Sir William Wedderburn: A Sketch of His Life and His Services to India”, Indian Biography: Vol. 6 (Madras: G.A Natesan & Co.), 1-32
Speeches, Edited, ed. Raj Jogeshur Mitter (Calcutta: S.C. Basu, 1899)
Allan Octavian Hume, C.B. : “Father of the Indian National Congress,” 1892 to 1912, (London: T. Fisher Unwin, 1913)
Speeches and Writings of Sir William Wedderburn, 1st ed (Madras: G.A. Natesan & Co., 1918)