Russell Clerk, Colonel Wade's successor, and as political officer accompanied Brigadier-general Shelton and his army through the Sikh territory to Peshawur on his way to Cabul, and then accompanied Colonel Wheeler and Dost Muhammad, the deposed Ameer of Afghanistan, back to British territory; in 1841 he was sent on a special mission to the principality of Jammu; in 1842 he was present at the interview between Lord Ellenborough and Dost Muhammad and the Sikhs He spent four years on [the History], and on its publication in 1849 it was received with the greatest favor by the English press, a verdict which posterity has ratified, for it is universally recognized as the one authority upon the subject. But though this history made his name as an historian, it brought him into deep disgrace with his superiors. In his last chapter he treated of the history of the first Sikh war, and in it he made use of the knowledge he had obtained while acting as political agent with the army in the field, and distinctly asserted that two of the Sikh generals, Lal Singh and Tej Singh, were bought. Both Lord Hardinge and Colonel Henry Lawrence, who had acted as political agent after the death of Major Broadfoot, asserted that there had been no private negotiations with any of the Sikh leaders; but the confidential position which Cunningham had held, and still more his disgrace which followed, are strong arguments that such negotiations did pass" (DNB). As a result of the controversy, Cunningham was stripped of his authority and ordered to go on regular regimental duty. He lost most of his income in the process and any possibility of political advancement. Indeed, the publication of The History of the Sikhs marked the end of his career. He was known primarily for revealing confidential documents and his great accomplishments were little recognized, The History of the Sikhs having been largely suppressed. Cunningham died unexpectedly in 1851.
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