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Charles Dickens. By GEORGE GISSING.

The Growth and Administration of the British
Colonies, 1837-1897.

By the Rev. W. P. GRESWELL, M.A., author of "Africa South
of the Zambesi", "History of the Dominion of Canada",
&c. &c.

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Cbe UMctortan J6ra Series

The Growth and Administration of
the British Colonies

The Growth and
Administration of the

British Colonies



Late Scholar of Brasenose College, Oxford

Author of "Africa South of the Zambesi", " History of the

Dominion of Canada ", &c.










Our Colonial System - - f

Pioneers of Colonial Progress and Reform (1837-1897) 36

The Growth of the British -American Colonies (1837-


The Growth of the British- Australasian Colonies
(1837-1897) ...... - - 77

The Growth of our African Colonies (2837-1897) - 106

The Growth of Colonial Constitutions Canada - -129

The Growth of Colonial Constitutions Canada - - 161


The Growth of Colonial Constitutions Australasia - 192

The Growth of Colonial Constitutions South Africa - 218

Appendix Details of the Canadian Constitution - - 243
INDEX ..... 249


The British Colonies.

Chapter I.
Our Colonial System.

A remarkable feature of the British Empire in the
nineteenth century is the secret, sudden, and almost un-
official nature of its growth. At home, there has been
scarcely any visible sign of extended Colonial greatness
or any symbolism of increased authority outside the
well-known mercantile circles or the more exclusive
entourage of departments of state. A Territorial Dis-
trict has been proclaimed, a Province created, and a
Protectorate added to the area of our Empire without
exciting" at home more than a temporary and passing
interest in the minds of the British public. The fierce
search-light of modern Europe had not yet been turned
upon our distant territorial expansions in the early days
of the Victorian era, and even to Britons themselves it
might have seemed a small matter at the time that
British Kaffraria, for example, had achieved a separate
administrative status in South Africa, or that Queens-
land had been divided from New South Wales in
Australia, or that the Province of Manitoba had been
carved out of the lordly domain of the Great North-
West, or, indeed, that a new centre of Colonial activity
had been created anywhere. The private diaries of
such heroes of exploration as Livingstone and Franklin,
and the stirring exploits of our sportsmen and travellers

8 The British Colonies.

have had gre^t attractions for the youth of England,
always ready to take tip a iife of adventure and risk.
The more tangible and material facts of political and
statistical interest, which contribute to form the very
groundwork and structure of our Colonial Empire, have
been generally ignored as matters scarcely deserving
public notice, still less the attention of those who
direct the course of school or university instruction.
The system of International Exhibitions, inaugurated
in 1851, and especially the exhibition in London of the
products of our Colonies and India, in 1886, came,
therefore, to most Britons living at home, as a re-
markable revelation of hitherto unappreciated facts.
Following close upon the Exhibition came the Colonial
Conference of 1887, termed in the National Review
"our first Amphictyonic Council", and extracting the
hope from Lord Salisbury that it would be "the parent
of a long progeniture ".

The way in which we have "pegged out claims for
posterity" is now the commonplace of our public life.
But, for a long time, the builders of our Colonial Empire
have lacked "a sacred poet" if not an apologist. Even
now we seem half inclined to apologize for our great-
ness. Venice was more self-conscious when every year
the stately Bucentaur, gilded from stem to stern and
filled with the noblest of the city, went seawards from
the classic Canal, and the great Doge himself dropped a
ring into the Adriatic and claimed in mystical fashion the
sovereignty over the sea. Great Rome, also, knew how
her world-wide empire was increasing when, time after
time, the triumphal cars, with captives and the spoils of
war, ascended the Capitol, and thanksgivings, coram
populo, were returned, and the porrecta majestas imperi
was kept before the eyes of the citizens. More sober
is the British fashion, and doubtless more solid. There
has been little fuss and no official programme. In a

Our Colonial System. 9

certain sense the very remoteness ot our Colonial
Empire, its unknown condition, the apathy of the State,
the indifferentism of the Cobden School on the subject,
the rebuffs of officialdom frequently administered to too
forward colonists, have, one and all, worked an un-
expected good. Europe thought that if we cared so
little, officially, for our Colonies, and did not give them
a separate Department of State till 1854, there could not
be much in them. It has so happened that, until quite
lately, the affairs of Africa, and of Australasia, were
considered to be beyond the pale of European diplomacy.
If a Colonial question becomes nowadays an European
question it was not always so. This is the marked
feature of the latter years of the Victorian era. Our
Colonies were suffered to go on just as they pleased,
and it was difficult to find out much about them.

The protracted indifference of Continental powers to
our colonization may be accepted as a partial explana-
tion of our success as a colonizing nation. But it would
be idle to ignore individual temperament, and that ten-
acity of purpose that has run through the thread of our
enterprises. The Anglo-Saxon race is noted for its in-
dividualism, and in our Colonial Empire, with its wide
horizons, and free spirit, fostered by the freest institu-
tions in the world, there has existed an unrivalled field
for the play of individualism. Sir John Seeley has re-
marked in his Expansion of England (p. 8), that we
"seemed to have conquered and peopled half the world
in a fit of absence of mind ". If there has been any
want of alertness it must have surely been with the
official world and the gentlemen who had charge of
"The Plantations" and Colonies. British sailors and
British traders have gone wherever ship could carry
them, without State bounties or State bribes, from the
days of Raleigh and Gilbert, Dampier, and scores of
others, to the present day, until it seems as if the great

to The British Colonies.

Epic the nation wants now is an " Epic of Commerce",
and a patriotic Camoens to write it. To this spirit
Edmund Burke paid an eloquent tribute when, in his
speech on "Conciliation with America" he said (March
22, 1775): "Whilst we follow them" (the whaling crews
of New England) "among the tumbling mountains of
ice, and behold them penetrating into the deepest frozen
recesses of Hudson's Bay and Davis's Streights . . .
we hear that they have pierced into the opposite region
of polar cold, that they are at the antipodes, and
engaged under the frozen Serpent of the South ". At
the same time Burke noticed that in following their
interests " the Colonists in general owe little or nothing
to any care of ours ". If Burke meant that colonial
enterprise outran official despatches and official en-
couragement, we shall have constant illustrations in all
the continents and islands of the world of this trait in
the national character. Indeed the spirit of colonization
has run in the teeth of accredited policies and depart-
mental warnings.

Roosevelt, in his Winning of the West (vol. i. p. 37),
remarks that from the date of the triumphant peace
secured by Wolfe's victory the British Government
became the most active foe of the spread of the English
race in America. For many years there was an attempt
to bar the colonists from the Ohio Valley. It was the
position taken up by England at Ghent in 1814, when her
Commissioners tried to check natural progress by the
erection of a great neutral belt of Indian territory
guaranteed by the king. It was the role which her
statesmen endeavoured to play when, at a later date,
she strove to keep Oregon a waste, rather than see it
peopled by Americans; and it was the same motive
which kept the North-West so long a wilderness and a
home of the trapper rather than of the agriculturist.
The new lands across the Atlantic were regarded as

Our Colonial System. n

being won and settled for the merchants and traders at
home rather than for the colonists themselves. This
was a continuation of the old policy of the French Gov-
ernment in Canada.

Lord Selkirk, who was on the side of bona-fide
colonization in the North-West, laying, as we shall see,
the beginnings of Manitoba and the Red River Settle-
ments with the aid of hardy Scotch colonists, observed
that, when Canada was a Province of France, the fur-
trade was carried on under a system of exclusive
privileges. The governor granted licences to trade
with the Indians to certain favoured individuals,
generally officers of the army, within certain prescribed
limits. These licences could be revoked if the Govern-
ment thought fit to revoke them. This was not a policy
of true Colonial expansion. It was part and parcel of
the old trade policy of monopolies and of keeping
colonies in leading-strings simply as trade depots and
trade centres, or convenient halting-places. The idea
was never formulated that the "Hinterland" to use
an expression much in vogue just now was ever likely
to be useful as the abode of " homing-off " colonists.
There was only one hive to which the honey could be
brought, and this was the Mother-country, and this
rudimentary conception of Colonies explains much.

In the old days British Colonial policy was not very
different from that of her continental neighbours. The
Dutch, as long as they kept the Cape, discouraged the
exploration of the interior, magnifying to travellers and
botanists, like Sparrman and Thunberg, its perils and
difficulties, never being willing that their colonists should
" trek" away into the interior, and thus losing all kind
of control over them. From the departmental point of
view everything should be concentrated at the company's
offices and the Government Castle at Cape Town. In
the same way the French, having formed their fishing,

12 The British Colonies.

fur, and lumbering stations in North America, were
by no means anxious that the French Creoles, or native-
born French colonists, should get out of official control
and become "coureurs de bois", adding nothing to the
value of the trade with the mother-country. This " trek-
king away" was a dangerous policy also, as it brought
the government into collision with native tribes.

The growth, therefore, of the British Colonies is all
the more wonderful because British colonists have
received so little encouragement. The colonizing virtues
have asserted themselves in spite of difficulties, like the
Roman military virtue, eulogized by Horace, of which
he said, epigrammatically, Merses profundo, pulchrior
evenit. Not only have British colonists had to deal in the
Victorian era, as we shall see, (i) with departmental
neglect, but (2) with parliamentary misrepresentations,
(3) with private misconceptions, (4) with literary con-
tempt and general indifference. Yet the hardy plant
has grown and thriven, trusting to its own vitality, in
complete and utter contrast to other Colonial methods
and systems. What greater difference could there be
between the inception of a modern German coloniz-
ing project, with its blare of official trumpets, and the
infantile struggles of some of our colonies ! More than
once the infant Hercules seemed as if he would be
strangled, but he has emerged victorious.

In following the history of our Colonies all over the
world, we are following, chapter by chapter, the unfold-
ing of our own national spirit, bold in adventure, patient
in toil, and ready in resources of mind and body. South
Africa has been much en Evidence lately, and it is in this
country, perhaps, that we may best find recent illustra-
tions of the progressive spirit of the British colonists on
the one hand, and the reluctance of the home govern-
ment on the other, to undertake new responsibilities.
How often in past times have we not heard that the best

Our Colonial System. 13

policy was for Great Britain to confine her direct rule
and influence to the narrow Cape Peninsula and the
naval station at Simons Bay, and leave the rest of the
South African continent alone ! That there was no con-
tinuous policy in South Africa was proved abundantly
in recent times by the debates in parliament arising out
of our wars there. Further back, in Earl Grey's time,
the main, if not the sole, reason which induced Great
Britain to take an official interest in South Africa was
the necessity of protecting- those bands of settlers whom,
under the hard stress of the times following upon the
Napoleonic wars, she had planted as a kind of advance
guard on the Kaffrarian borders in 1820. A forward
policy never commended itself to him, and even in 1852
he discusses the old heresy of abandoning all South
Africa, except the Cape Peninsula. Further, it was
Earl Grey's friends who carried out, by letters patent, the
abandonment of the Orange River sovereignty, that
most fatal error of Colonial administration. There has
always been a Penelope's web in South Africa, and
reversals of policy follow one another quickly. Students
of South African history remember how Lord Glenelg
undid the work of Sir Benjamin D'Urban, and gave back
the province of Queen Adelaide, as it was called, to
barbarism and the Kaffirs, with the inevitable result that
barbarism had again to be met. This was in 1835-1836.
Lord Glenelg, as Charles Grant, was Colonial Secretary
to Lord Melbourne, and a Whig. His feelings were in
unison with those of Wilberforce, Clarkson, and Buxton,
but it may well be doubted whether he had any sympathy
with Colonial expansion. Later on, in the case of
Basutoland, Lord Cardwell wrote in 1866 to the Cape
governor, Sir Philip Wodehouse, that any step involving
an extension of rule at the Cape was far too serious in
its bearings to be entertained by Her Majesty's govern-

T4 The British Colonies.

The questionof our Colonial administration, responsible
for so much that is wayward and vacillating", deserves
a careful study, as it is seldom explained; and we cannot
approach the subject of Colonial expansion in the Victorian
era without knowing the form and character, and to
some extent the inner working, of that department which
has governed everything. In his celebrated report on
the affairs of Canada (1838), to which it will often be
necessary to allude, Lord Durham noticed that one
reason to account for Canadian maladministration, so
conspicuous when Queen Victoria ascended the throne,
was to be found in the frequent changes in the office of
the Secretary of State to whom Colonial affairs were
entrusted. Since Lord Bathurst had retired from that
charge in 1827, he observed that there had been no fewer
than eight Colonial Secretaries ; and the policy of each
one had been marked, more or less, by a difference in
method from that of his predecessor. This is exactly
what Sir C. Adderley (Lord Norton) has noticed in his
work on Colonial Policy (p. 2). Two evils naturally
resulted Firstly, the imperfect knowledge of the chief
secretary himself and the necessity of appealing, there-
fore, so often to subordinates; and, secondly, the want of
stability in the general policy of the government. These
evils were pointed out and emphasized by a Select Com-
mittee of the Colonial House of Assembly in Upper
Canada, at the time of the Canadian troubles of 1837-
1838. Another evil, and this a most serious one, was
also indicated by Lord Durham, viz., that the course of
Canadian politics so often had reference to the state of
political parties in England instead of to the actual wants
and necessities of the colonists. 1 Nobody knew "how
soon some hidden spring might be put in motion at the
Colonial Office which would defeat the best-laid plans".

The plain fact seems to be that the growth of our

1 Report, p. 137.

Our Colonial System. 15

Colonies has been a very different matter from their
administration. Indeed, their growth has not followed
upon or been the natural consequence of their administra-
tion. The history of the Colonial Office has been the
history of an office that has never quite known or con-
trolled its own sphere of work in times gone by, how-
ever excellent its work is now. From 1670, speaking
roughly, Colonial affairs were attached to the Board of
Trade. This may be explained by the fact that origi-
nally the plantations were regarded only in the light of
trade centres, bound hand and foot to the mother-country
by every conceivable restriction, and by all kinds of
navigation laws. The principal business of these plan-
tations or colonies would naturally, therefore, be con-
cerned with trade.

In 1802 Colonial affairs were attached to the War
Office, and Lord Hobart was the first Secretary of State
for War and the Colonies, which union of office lasted
until 1855. This confusion of departmental work will
explain much, as we shall find, that needs explanation.
Had British colonization been more distinctly and
avowedly an affair of state, or had an Emigration and
Colonization Bureau furnished a separate portfolio for a
cabinet minister, a greater importance would have been
attached to Colonial affairs. As the empire grew steadily
there was a terrible pressure of work, and Colonial affairs
were constantly in a muddle. Sydney Smith remarked
in 1819, that "one and no small excuse for the mis-
conduct of Colonial Secretaries is the enormous amount
of business by which they are distracted. There should
be two or three Colonial Secretaries instead of one. The
office is terribly overweighted." 1

For more than fifty years of this century the Colonial
Office was attached to the War Office, and the incon-
veniences of the system, coming to a climax, were

^Edinburgh Review,

16 The British Colonies.

exposed in a debate raised by Sir John Pakington in
iSss. 1 At this date the management of our Colonial
affairs revealed ' ' a state of public business hardly
decorous ", to use Sir John Pakington's words. The
Colonial Secretary was at Vienna conducting negoti-
ations at the close of the Crimean War, whilst not a day
passed in London without the arrival of some impor-
tant Colonial despatches. The Australian Constitution
Bills were hung up; the state of affairs in South Africa,
when Moshesh was moving and the Basutos were rest-
less, required attention; there was a convict question
in Van Diemen's Land, and a critical state of affairs
in Victoria. All these matters were urgent, yet the
machinery of administration was unequal to the task.
Sir C. Adderley (Lord Norton), in backing up Sir John
Pakington, gave a somewhat cynical view of the situa-
tion. The period in Colonial affairs, he said, was most
critical, and the time for a combination of two public
offices, War and the Colonies, most unfortunate. At
the close of last century, when Mr. Dundas (Lord Mel-
ville) was offered the War Office, it was observed that
he had all work and no patronage. The Colonial Office
was therefore thrown in, where at that time there was
little or no work, but where there existed a considerable
amount of patronage. The consequence of the junction
of the War and the Colonial Departments was a state
of such confusion in the office that it was wittily de-
scribed by Lord Derby as " The Office at War with all
the Colonies ".

The kind of confusion, financial and otherwise, which
followed upon the amalgamation of these two offices was
indicated in Sir Henry Parnell's (Lord Congleton) work
on Financial Reform. Sir Henry, who was chairman
of a Parliamentary Committee appointed in 1828 under
Canning's brief administration, was the means of intro-
1 Hansard, March 12, 1855.


Our Colonial System. 17

ducing a new system of "audit" in our public depart-
ments, and exposed many abuses and irregularities.
Amongst other things, he pointed out that under the
heading of "Army Extraordinaries " a great deal of
wasteful and illegal expenditure was concealed from
Parliament and the public. For instance, there were
sums paid at home to Colonial agents, there were sums
drawn from abroad for Colonial expenses, although they
were wholly for civil Colonial purposes and not for mili-
tary expenditure. The evidence of Mr. Sargent before
the Committee of Finance showed that besides being
Paymaster of the Forces to a very large amount, he was
also a Paymaster for Civil Contingencies, for the repairs
of Windsor Castle, for emigration to Canada, for the
ecclesiastical establishments in the West Indies. These
facts are instructive, because they show why our Colonial
administration was so often at fault, and why, from the
point of view of the Colonial reformers, it was so hard
to attack. There is nothing more stubborn in defence
than a vested interest, and when it came to the point it
was difficult for Whig or Tory to tear away from the
War Office the good things that had appertained to it
so long. The union of the two offices might be an
anomaly, and the public inconveniences might be great,
but nothing would be done until the state of the case
came to be, as expressed by Sir John Pakington in 1855,
under the Palmerston regime, "barely decorous". Then
the separation took place.

Colonial history has moved very quickly since then,
and so great and important has the work of the Colonial
Office become that, in some cases, it appears still to
require further definitions. Our responsibilities in the
Continent of Africa have become so great in every
quarter that they may, at no distant date, monopolize
the care and attention of a separate department. Even
now Inhere is in certain portions of our African territories

i8 The British Colonies.

a confusion of jurisdiction and administration. On the
west coast of Africa the boundary questions, in them-
selves a puzzling affair, between France and Britain, and
Germany and Britain, involve a constant bandying to
and fro of evidence between various authorities, each
paramount in its sphere. The presence of a Trading
Company in Nigeria complicates the question still more,
and when a case of exercising sovereign rights occurs
there is more than one shoulder upon which the respon-

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Online LibraryWilliam Henry Parr GreswellThe growth and administration of the British colonies, 1837-1897 .. → online text (page 1 of 20)