CLERK, SIR GEORGE RUSSELL (1800-1889), diplomat, son of John Clerk, entered the service of the East India Company as a writer in 1817. After various appointments in Calcutta, Rājpūtānā and Delhi, he became political agent at Ambālā in 1831. He was appointed agent to the Governor-General at the North-West Frontier Agency in 1840. In this capacity, he shaped British policy towards the Sikhs during the days following the death of Mahārājā Raṇjīt Siṅgh. For almost a decade, as political agent at Ambālā, he had been responsible for British political relations with the cis-Sutlej states. Clerk possessed a legal mind, and his adjudications of territorial disputes among the cis-Sutlej Sikh chiefs became the basis of a new body of laws. Likewise, his contribution to the interpretation of the laws of succession and inheritance of the Sikhs was significant as is illustrated by his Memorandum on the cis-Sutlej States.
As political agent at Ludhiāṇā, Clerk attempted to restore friendly relations with the Sikh court after the acrimonious recall of his predecessor, Sir Claude Martine Wade. As his confidential reports reveal, he had an intimate knowledge of developments in Sikh politics. He visited Lahore frequently. But he started taking an overt interest in court factionalism. In October 1839, his encouragement to one of the rival parties led to the assassination by Dhiān Siṅgh of Mahārājā Khaṛak Siṅgh's favourite Chet Siṅgh. He encouraged Sher Siṅgh against Māī Chand Kaur in her claim to the throne, nodding significantly, at the same time, to the Jammū rājās' desire for succession to the State of Lahore.
In 1844, Clerk was appointed Lieutenant Governor of North-West Frontier Province. From 1847 to 1848, he was Governor of Bombay. He was Under Secretary of the Board of Control (1856-58) and Under Secretary of State for India (1863-76). He died in London on 25 July 1889.
B. J. Hasrat