Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Further Colonial Office List

The 1911 Colonial Office List contains an immense volume of information relating to all aspects of the administration of every corner of the British Empire, but its arrangement is essentially logical, and indeed bears witness to the almost superhuman capacities of its three patient, not to say dogged, longhand editors, who doubled as clerks with many other responsibilities in the colonial office in Whitehall: W. H. Mercer, C.M.G., A. E. Collins, and R. E. Stubbs. To these hard-working men all scholars of British imperial affairs owe an immense debt of gratitude that will only grow in scale with the future passage of years. They were careful to state in their preface that all particulars were only as accurate as the data returned to Whitehall by colonial governments and crown agents scattered across the globe. They also thoughtfully supplied a complete chronological list of the editors of 49 previous annual editions, the better to account for any inaccuracies that might some day be traceable to any one of them. Without exception all were relatively junior clerks in the colonial office, and as far as I can tell none of them ever visited a colony, and many only rarely traveled outside London. Part I is a minutely detailed historical survey of the office of secretary of state for the colonies extending back to the seventeenth century, together with a tour d’horizon of all offices, institutions, and voluntary associations connected with colonial affairs. These included but were not restricted to the Imperial Institute of the United Kingdom, the Colonies, and India; various Colonial Government Emigration Agencies, with corresponding offices in many distant colonies; the Emigrants’ Information Office in London; the Malay States Development Office; the Imperial Department for Agriculture for the West Indies; the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew, interestingly; the London School of Tropical Medicine; the Incorporated Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine (where most serious cases were first observed among landing passengers); the Colonial Nursing Association; the Sleeping Sickness Bureau; the Advisory Medical and Sanitary Committee for Tropical Africa; the Entomological Research Committee; the Colonial Veterinary Committee; the Colonial Survey Committee; the Royal Colonial Institute; the British West African Association; the Ceylon Association in London; the Straits Settlements Association; the West Africa Committee; the West Indian Club; and, most importantly, the Imperial Conference, with a summary of its most recent deliberations relating to matters of British foreign and colonial policy at the highest level. Part II consists of a brilliantly concise but exhaustive description of each colony, by region, together with a summary digest of the relevant statistics: the subtotal and total values of imports to and exports from Britain, the population of each colony, its public revenues, public expenditures, and public debt. The bulk of the volume then proceeds to provide a historical and statistical account of each and every inhabited colony in alphabetical order, with a comprehensive statement of all of its institutions of civil government, learning, and commerce, liberally accompanied with fold-out maps (of varying degrees of accuracy). A typical example of a single entry is the one for the Gold Coast (modern Ghana). This begins with an account of the diverse tribal distribution and location of the indigenous population; a history of the British colonial administration; a description of the colony’s written constitution; its legal system; its climate; the history of the abolition of slavery in the locality; an account of mail and steamship lines, railways, postal communication, telegraph and telephone services; a description of the local education system (which was, in this instance, in the hands of five missionary societies connected with different religious denominations); information about currency and banking, which at the Gold Coast was monstrously complex because although British sterling was the local currency, Spanish, American, and French gold coins circulated alongside British coin, and relative values were therefore dodgy; a granular breakdown of the population; a description of local trade and industries (mainly cocoa, raw cotton, gold, lumber, palm kernels, and rubber); and, in conclusion, a complete directory of local British personnel from the Governor at the top, all the way down through the executive branch, the native affairs, mines, treasury, customs and excise, postal and telegraphic, medical, sanitary, police, and judicial departments; the public works, survey, printing, prisons, ecclesiastical, education, audit, agricultural, forestry, and railway departments, together with a list at the end of the local consular representatives of Germany, Belgium, Spain, Norway (!), Liberia, and the Netherlands. Taking one of these departments as an example, that of the colonial secretary’s office, in other words the office of the Governor’s chief minister at the Gold Coast, we find that Brevet-Major H. Bryan, C.M.G., was serving as  colonial secretary, with a salary of £1,200 per annum and a duty allowance of £240; W. C. F. Robertson was his chief assistant (£650 and £130); A. A. C. Finlay and J. W. Church were assistants (£400 to £500 and £80); A. R. G. Wilberforce and H. P. Popham were junior assistants (£300 to £400 and £15); C. O. Hellis was European chief clerk (£350 to £400); S. H. Brew was “native chief clerk” (£200 to £250); P. Azu, C. Holm, and T. E. Hyde were second grade clerks (£100 to £150); A. S. Odonkor, C. C. Lokko, C. C. Lamptey, and J. M. Bartlett were third grade clerks (£80 to £100); W. S. Mettle, R. C. Annan, P. G. Vlerk, and H. H. Malm were fourth grade clerks (£60 to £80); S. A. Laryea, C. R. Adjaye, and A. A. Dua were fifth grade clerks (£40 to £60); and D. W. Abrahams, D. N. Fry, J. S. Akuerter, and E. C. Nmai were sixth grade clerks (£25 to £40 and, for some reason at this lowest eschelon, a duty allowance of £5). An appendix to this long middle section of The Colonial Office List covers all those possessions or protectorates that were not administered directly by staff reporting to the secretary of state. These included North Borneo, Sarawak, Zanzibar, Aden, Ascension Island, Tristan da Cunha, and “miscellaneous islands.” The miscellaneous islands, mostly acquired by accident or for specific purposes such as laying telegraph cables or erecting a lighthouse, included the Ashmore Group in the Indian Ocean; Bird Island and Cato Island in the Norfolk Island Group, roughly near Australasia; Sombrero in the West Indies; Raine Island, Bell Cay and Bramble Cay, all near British New Guinea (Papua); Sydney Island in the Phoenix Group of atolls in the Central Pacific; the Caroline and Flint Islands, also in the Pacific; Malden Island (which was leased to the guano mining company of Messrs. Grice, Sumner & Co., and, far more recently, after the end of World War II, used for British H-bomb tests); Starbuck Island, Vostoc, Gough, Nightingale, and the so-called Inaccessible Islands, all in the South Atlantic; “and there are many others.” Part III consists of “miscellaneous lists,” viz. (1) a list of honours lately conferred for services in and for the colonies; (2) a comprehensive list of all papers on colonial affairs that were presented to both houses of Parliament since 1877; and (3) a detailed memorandum setting out the procedures associated with making all colonial appointments from governors to commissioners of public works and all other minor officials in the field. Part IV is a biographical register of all members of the colonial service, either currently en poste or else retired, and is exceedingly useful because it mentions not only the sequence of posts occupied by each, but their educational background, and many ancillary facts about appointments, service on various charitable and other committees, etc. Thus, to return for a moment to the case of the Gold Coast, when we look up Brevet-Major Herbert Bryan, C.M.G., the colonial secretary, we find that he was born in 1865, took his commission as second lieutenant in the Lincolnshire Regiment in June 1892, and was promoted lieutenant in 1894, then captain in the Manchester Regiment in 1899, and finally brevet major in 1900. He served in West Africa in 1897 and 1898, specifically in the hinterland of Lagos and also in operations on the Niger, including the expedition to Bassema, when he was mentioned in dispatches (medal with two clasps). He served in Northern Nigeria in 1900, and was slightly wounded (again mentioned in dispatches, another clasp). He served in operations in Ashanti; joined the staff of the Deputy Assistant Adjutant General, and was two more times mentioned in dispatches (another medal). He was chief staff officer on the Gambia expedition in 1901 (more dispatches, yet another medal); served as staff officer in the West African Frontier Forces from October 1901; was attached to the colonial office in London in 1902 and 1903; served briefly as acting governor in 1904, before assuming the permanent post of colonial secretary later that year. In other words, as second highest ranking British official in the Gold Coast, Bryan had accumulated considerable experience of the Gold Coast that went far beyond that of the governor whom he served, J. Jamieson Thorburn, C.M.G., who began his career in Ceylon, and served in various capacities there (acting assistant postmaster-general, acting secretary of the irrigation control board, etc.) and in Southern Nigeria (senior provincial commissioner “in anticipation of proposed amalgamation of the administrations of Lagos and Southern Nigeria,” before finally assuming the government of the Gold Coast in 1910. Part V of The Colonial Office List is perhaps the most extraordinarily useful, because it sets out “Colonial Regulations,” which governed every aspect of administration in the field, including constitutions, councils and assemblies, guidelines for governors and lieutenant-governors; appointments, salaries, discipline, leave of absence; ceremonies, precedence, medals and decorations, salutes, flags (above), uniforms, and so on; the correct mode and frequency of official correspondence back and forth to the colonial office in Whitehall; and, finally, rules about colonial finances, accounts, bookkeeping, audits, returns, supplies and stores. The tone is starchy, but clear: “Presents from kings, chiefs, or other members of the native population in or neighboring to the Colony, which cannot be refused without giving offence, will be handed over to the Government.” Certainly.

No comments:

Post a Comment