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Victorian Struggles page 2


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One other bright spot is the Bechuanaland Protectorate, not unlike that of Basutoland in its administration, and here, also, the natives are assisted to develop on their own lines. In these two countries in which the native has freedom to develop in his own way, under the wise guidance and advice of British officials, his progress in education and civilisation has been remarkable. To find another parallel (though one differing in certain respects) we must go to another part of Africa. Uganda, which, after having been administered for some years by the British East African Company, was declared a British Protectorate in 1894. It is now under direct administration, but the native kings or chiefs are encouraged to conduct the government of their own subjects. The province of Buganda is recognised as a native kingdom. Its intelligent and civilised people were first converted by English and French missionaries. Alexander Mackay was one of the pioneers and another was Bishop Hannington, who was put to death in 1885 by the weak and cruel king Mwanga. Hannington's murder was followed by the martyrdom of hundreds of native Christians, thirty of whom were publicly burnt at Mengo. Like the English bishops, they 'lit a candle' which has never been extinguished.

In 1890 the Rev. Alfred R. Tucker became Bishop of Uganda. His magnificent work as a missionary was only equalled by his practical statesmanship in assisting the political and economic development of Uganda, and by his championship of native interests. He opposed slavery tooth and nail and did much to secure its abolition in the Sultanate of Zanzibar. When home on leave in 1897 he attended a Conference organised by the Anti-Slavery Society and protested against orders issued by H.M. Commissioner giving masters permission to search the mission stations on the mainland for runaway slaves and to claim their surrender. Not content with protest, the bishop defended a fugitive slave-girl in Mombasa, and himself conducted her case. The court decided that the girl could not claim her. freedom as a fugitive slave. But there is little doubt that the indignation aroused in England by this and similar cases had valuable results in hastening the slow process of suppressing slavery in East Africa, to which reference has already been made.

Basutoland, Bechuanaland and Uganda have one striking thing in common. Left to their freedom they have each produced rulers who have developed a measure of real statecraft which in each case has, with the helpful advice of sympathetic Europeans, carried the progress of their countries forward at a pace not less rapid than European States at similar periods in their own history.

Thanks to what has been, on the whole, an enlightened policy on the part of the Colonial Office, the natives of the Cape possessed equal civil rights and a limited franchise throughout Queen Victoria's reign, and have in general received much better treatment and greater opportunities for progress and education than in the Boer States. But the attitude towards natives of the majority of the English settlers in the Cape differed, particularly in the early days, little, if at all, from that of the Boers, and the protests of the Anti-Slavery and Aborigines Protection Societies were violently resented. An amusing example of the abuse to which they were subjected is to be found in the Cape of Good Hope Observer of 1851, which describes them as 'these Saints and Aboriginal Society men, these ignorant meddling maw-worms.'

The attitude of the 'maw-worms' to the series of Kaffir wars which took place between the years 1834 and 1852 showed a great deal more practical statesmanship than was displayed by the men on the spot. As a speaker expressed it in the House of Commons in 1851: 'These wars arose out of the encroachments of the settlers upon the lands of the natives, and the wholesale annexation of extensive tracts of country.' (Speech by Sir William Molesworth, M.P., House of Commons, April 10, 1851.) Sir E. N. Buxton, in the same debate, showed that if the principles laid down in Lord Glenelg's famous despatch with regard to the restoration of the Adelaide Territory had been accepted as the basis of our future policy from that time, we should have been saved the sacrifice of life and treasure which had ensued from the Kaffir wars. He lamented that Glenelg's policy had not been carried on and denied, in answer to Gladstone, that it had failed. So far from our surrender to the Kaffirs of the Adelaide Territory having been regarded by them as an act of weakness, they considered it only an act of simple justice. During the time that Sir Andreas Stockenstrom, carrying on the Glenelg system, administered the Kat River Territory, perfect security, tranquillity and contentment had prevailed.

The annexation system, on the other hand, resulted in a succession of wars which entailed the expenditure of at least 4,000,000. As a contemporary writer in South Africa observed: 'The Grahamstown Journal called it a concession to leave the Kaffirs their independence up to the Kei. That is a novel adaptation of the word.' Their lands, their wealth, their independence were taken from them and the smallest favours were then called concessions. No wonder they revolted. But by the end of 1853 they were broken and almost starving.

In 1855 British policy took a turn for the better, when General Cathcart (whose Minute on the Kaffir Wars was described by the Aborigines Protection Society as 'an unfair record against a feeble and crushed race') was replaced by Sir George Grey, who had already won fame by his wise and generous treatment of the Maoris, and whose enlightened policy during his four years' term of office achieved remarkable success. He treated the natives with justice, established schools, encouraged missionaries, led the starving Kaffirs, and won the confidence of Moshesh. He was not sent out until much irreparable mischief had been done, but his four years' term of office is a remarkable instance of what an enlightened Governor can accomplish.

The Zulu War of 1879 is remembered more for the sad death of the young Prince Imperial at the battle of Isandlhana than for the causes that led up to it - yet these deserve study to-day. The British in Natal had serious provocation, but it was the opinion of the Aborigines Protection Society, as expressed in 1879, that (It is almost a waste of time to discuss the nominal causes of the war when we know that it is only being prosecuted in order to break up the military organisation of the Zulus and make their country a British dependency.' The Report went on to say truly that 'In all South African Wars the land invariably plays a prominent part,' a truism which hardly needs to be laboured.

One of the sternest fights waged in the Victorian era on behalf of native races was against Kanaka contract labour from the Polynesian Islands. This was a particularly sordid method of obtaining cheap native labour from a distance by fraudulent means, and ill-using it when so obtained. Where it differed from the African slave trade was in the fact that the labourers were taken from their islands under a nominal contract, under engagements for nominally limited periods, to countries in which slavery was illegal. The South Sea Islands were the happy hunting ground of disreputable adventurers of several nationalities who took the unfortunate islanders on board sometimes by sheer kidnapping, sometimes by pseudo-contract. Originally started by the Peruvians, it was carried on by English, French, Germans and Austrians to obtain cheap labour for the cultivation of cotton, sugar and other tropical produce in the South Seas.

It seems to have been commenced somewhere about 1850. An early record (Journal of Aborigines Protection Society, 1858) states that in 1858 Kingsmill Islanders were kidnapped by a Frenchman and taken to Reunion, where they were sold to the planters as so-called 'immigrants.'

In 1860 the Aborigines Protection Society persuaded Lord John Russell to protest against the kidnapping of Polynesian Islanders by Peruvian citizens for the mines and guano islands of Peru, where they were treated with atrocious cruelty. Russell protested to the Peruvian Minister, who said that his Government had abandoned the trade and would return the so-called immigrants to their islands. How much that undertaking was worth may be gauged by the fact that in 1866 the missionaries of the London Missionary Society in Samoa informed the Aborigines Protection Society that islanders were still being kidnapped and shipped to Peru. But while the British Government was addressing protests to Peru, British subjects in Australia were doing the same thing. In 1867 the Hon. Robert Toms, member of the Legislative Council of New South Wales and owner of a cotton plantation in Queensland, was engaged, with others, in the import and employment of Kanaka labourers, who were admittedly obtained by fraudulent means, quite unprotected, ill-treated and only paid (and then only in goods) at the end of three years. Naval officers on the spot used strong language to the Colonial Office, and Captain J. P. Luce, R.N., Senior Naval Officer on the Australian station, made a spirited protest in a letter to Sir George Bowen, Governor of Queensland. The Aborigines Protection Society presented a memorial to the Duke of Buckingham, then Colonial Secretary, asking 'with what consistency can the Mother country rebuke Peruvians for kidnapping Polynesians, if her own subjects... engage in a similar pursuit?'

In 1869 a deputation waited on Earl Granville, who had succeeded the Duke of Buckingham at the Colonial Office, when Mr. Charles Buxton, M.P., as chief spokesman, showed himself a worthy son of his father by his able protests. Kidnapping on a large scale continued to be carried on and the English reformers urged that the introduction of Polynesian labour into Queensland ought never to have been permitted by Sir George Bowen, whose attitude appears to have been that the alleged kidnapping and other abuses and cruelties did not exist, and that the Queensland planters must have the labour.

The Queensland Legislature had already passed an Act to regulate the conditions of the traffic, but it was not observed. A letter in 1870 from the Rev. John G. Paton, Presbyterian Minister at the Polynesian Island of Aniwa, described how an old chief who used to be friendly 'informed us that his people were nearly all taken away in man-stealing vessels.' Paton stated that natives had been carried off by the thousand lately, that not one man in the trade had complied with the conditions of the Queensland Act, and asked: How can the Queensland Government sanction and protect this horrid trade in human beings with all its crime and bloodshed? The complaints of natives regarding their friends are heartrending. Some are surprised, bound and carried off by force. Others are got on board under every artifice and deception by the agents of the vessels, who are generally adepts at deceiving.... Some are represented as going ashore in the garb of a missionary, Bible in hand.

In a deputation to the Earl of Kimberley, Colonial Secretary, Mr. P. A. Taylor, M.P., described the so-called immigration as 'nothing better than a compound of piracy and slave-trading similar to that which we have put down in connection with the Peruvian Government.' Kimberley sent a very strongly worded protest to the Governor of Queensland, and the Queenslanders were highly indignant against the Aborigines Protection Society.

In 1871 England was deeply stirred by the news of the murder of Bishop Patteson. He was beloved by all, and it was said of him by the missionaries that 'he knew no difference of denominations. It was enough for him that they were doing their Master's work,' while the islanders loved and trusted him throughout the Pacific. Not long before his death he described how some of the traders, with devilish cunning, had painted their ship white in exact imitation of his own ship The Southern Cross and sent one of their number ashore dressed like a missionary, to tell the natives that the Bishop was on board with a broken leg and they must come off and see him. Once on board, the natives were clapped into the hold and the ship sailed. Several cargoes were obtained in this atrocious manner. Then one day the Bishop came himself in The Southern Cross to one of the islands whose inhabitants had been tricked in this way; and thinking that he was come to steal them away again, they murdered him, their best friend.

His death was largely responsible for the Pacific Islanders Protection Bill introduced by Lord Kimberley. But alas! the excellent intentions of Parliament in passing this Act were in practice frustrated. Lord Carnarvon, one of the most enlightened Colonial Secretaries towards Kaffirs and Polynesian Islanders alike, described the traffic in 1874 as 'very shocking,' and added that 'as a Government we have it most distinctly at heart to do everything within our power to suppress this traffic, believing... that it is in many respects a mere carrying on of a slave-trade of a very heinous and atrocious character.' The Bishop of Lichfield said that 'the people who conduct the labour traffic have lately taken to buying young boys and paying for them just as if they were pigs,' facts vouched for by Mr. A. W. Davidson, the Queensland correspondent of the Aborigines Protection Society. Another correspondent wrote to the Scotsman that the Islanders are engaged for three years at 6 per year but never get it, only, after 3 years, a box containing a few articles such as a Jew's harp, a piece of calico, etc. They are insufficiently fed.,. kicked and knocked about. Their treatment is a disgrace to humanity.... I could tell you of cruelties that would make your blood run cold. The planters will not engage white men if they can get black, although sugar-growing pays quite well with white labour.

The languages of the various islands from which they were brought were not understood in Queensland, thus the labour contracts which the labourers were supposed to have signed meant, to them, nothing at all.

In 1877 a Government Committee which had been set up to enquire into Polynesian labour in Queensland issued its report, (Queensland had also a bad record in its treatment of aborigines, and in 1875 a Royal Commission was appointed to enquire into their condition, which made certain useful recommendations for official Protectors, land reserves, the prohibition of the sale of drink, and for medical assistance, education and Christian teaching.) which whitewashed the local Government and actually administered a snub to Mr. Sheridan, the Protector of Native Labour, for making the obviously just proposal that the evidence of the islanders should be admissible in the Courts of Law.

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