George Smith (civil servant)

Last updated

Sir

George Smith

KCMG
Governor of Nyasaland
In office
23 September 1913 12 April 1923
Preceded by William Manning (acting Governor)
Succeeded by Richard Sims Donkin Rankine (acting Governor)
Personal details
Born8 March 1858
Died14 June 1938 (1938-06-15) (aged 80)
Addlestone, Surrey
Spouse(s)Lucy McDuff Cargill
Children3 daughters

Sir George Smith KCMG (8 March 1858 – 14 June 1938) was a British civil servant. He began his career in the War Office in 1878 but joined the office of the chief secretary of British Cyprus the following year. He was promoted to assistant chief secretary in 1883 and afterwards transferred to the crown colony of British Mauritius where he was acting receiver general and chief collector of customs from 1905–09. He was colonial secretary of Mauritius from 1910 to 1913 when he was appointed governor of the protectorate of Nyasaland. He held this position for ten years which included the First World War and the Chilembwe uprising. Smith encountered difficulties in relations with the Ngoni people over the hut tax and had to deal with an influx of white ex-servicemen after the war. His governorship saw advances in the transport infrastructure in Nyasaland and the cultivation of many crops.

Contents

Early career

George Smith was born on 8 March 1858, the son of Hugh Smith from Darvel, Ayrshire. [1] After receiving a private education he joined the War Office in 1878. [1] [2] The following year he transferred to the office of the chief secretary (the senior civil servant) of British Cyprus as a clerk. [1] He was promoted to chief clerk in 1881 and to assistant chief secretary of the protectorate in 1883. [1] [3]

From 1886 to 1891 Smith served as clerk to the protectorates legislative council and was acting chief secretary from May to October 1888. From 1891 he was district commissioner at Paphos. [1] Smith married Lucy McDuff Cargill in 1894, with whom he had three daughters. [2] From 1895 he served as a member of the legislative council and from 1905 to 1909 he was acting receiver general and chief collector of customs. [1] Smith transferred to the crown colony of British Mauritius as colonial secretary in 1910, holding the position for three years. [2]

Nyasaland

Smith reached the usual civil service retirement age of 55 in 1913 but was offered an opportunity to prolong his career. [1] Smith was appointed governor and Commander in Chief of the protectorate of Nyasaland on 23 September 1913. [4] [2] He was appointed a Knight Commander of the Order of Saint Michael and Saint George in 1914. [2] [5] In the early part of his term Smith clashed with the tribal chiefs of the Ngoni people. Poor soil condition and overgrazing had led to a time of famine and many of the Ngoni found the hut tax unaffordable. The chiefs asked Smith to reduce the tax for the most needy, but he refused. [6] Relations continued to deteriorate during the First World War (19141918) during which Nyasaland was a key route to supply and reinforce British forces in East Africa. [1] [6] Smith implemented unpopular measures such as the centralisation of powers previously held by the chiefs, calling for Africans to enlist in the British forces and requisitioning food from areas already facing shortages. [6]

One of Smith's first actions during the war was to commandeer all ships on Lake Nyasa and launch an attack upon the German vessel Hermann von Wissmann at Sphinx Hafen. [1] On 20 August 1914 Smith mobilised the Nyasaland Volunteer Reserve which defended the colony from a German invasion and later served elsewhere in the East African campaign. [7] After the 1915 Chilembwe uprising, which he moved swiftly to quash, Smith noted that it marked "a new phase in the existence of Nyasaland" and established a commission to investigate its causes. [1] [8] Smith was granted responsibility for administering the former German East African territories occupied by British forces advancing from Nyasaland and sent many of his civil servants into these areas. [1]

After the war a large number of ex-servicemen migrated to Nyasaland and Smith took measures in 1918 to limit the leasing of crown land to these men, as he determined that it was needed for the resettlement of Africans evicted from their farms. [9] He also set about reforming the police service, which had been a recommendation of the Chilembwe commission. [1] Smith attempted to put in place reforms to improve the social development of the protectorate including expanding healthcare provision. He opened 70 rural dispensaries which allowed for a fivefold increase in the number of patients treated by his health service. [1]

Smith retired as governor on 12 April 1923, having served an unusually long term for a colonial governor. [1] [4] The war had adversely affected Smith's plans to improve transport infrastructure in the protectorate and create links to the rest of the world. However by Smith's retirement the government's plans for the Dona Ana Bridge in neighbouring Mozambique, that would allow rail communications to the port of Beira, were well progressed and a railway laid to Lake Nyasa. In Smith's term the number of acres devoted to tea, cotton and tobacco cultivation increased more than a hundredfold. [10] During the war he greatly expanded Nyasaland's road network and expanded maize production, and also acted to control rinderpest. [1]

Smith retired to Addlestone, Surrey. [1] In 1924 Smith wrote an article for the journal African Affairs on the economic development and future of Nyasaland. [11] He died on 14 June 1938 in Addlestone of a combination of pneumonia, chronic bronchitis, and arteriosclerosis. [1]

Related Research Articles

The History of Malawi covers the area of present-day Malawi. The region was once part of the Maravi Empire. In colonial times, the territory was ruled by the British, under whose control it was known first as British Central Africa and later Nyasaland. It became part of the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland. The country achieved full independence, as Malawi, in 1964. After independence, Malawi was ruled as a one-party state under Hastings Banda until 1994.

Nyasaland Former British Protectorate in central Africa

Nyasaland was a British protectorate located in Africa that was established in 1907 when the former British Central Africa Protectorate changed its name. Between 1953 and 1963, Nyasaland was part of the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland. After the Federation was dissolved, Nyasaland became independent from Britain on 6 July 1964 and was renamed Malawi.

British Central Africa Protectorate

The British Central Africa Protectorate (BCA) was a British protectorate proclaimed in 1889 and ratified in 1891 that occupied the same area as present-day Malawi: it was renamed Nyasaland in 1907. British interest in the area arose from visits made by David Livingstone from 1858 onward during his exploration of the Zambezi area. This encouraged missionary activity that started in the 1860s, undertaken by the Universities' Mission to Central Africa, the Church of Scotland and the Free Church of Scotland, and which was followed by a small number of settlers. The Portuguese government attempted to claim much of the area in which the missionaries and settlers operated, but this was disputed by the British government. To forestall a Portuguese expedition claiming effective occupation, a protectorate was proclaimed, first over the south of this area, then over the whole of it in 1889. After negotiations with the Portuguese and German governments on its boundaries, the protectorate was formally ratified by the British government in May 1891.

Harry Johnston

Sir Henry Hamilton Johnston, frequently known as Harry Johnston, was a British explorer, botanist, artist, colonial administrator and linguist who traveled widely in Africa and spoke many African languages. He published 40 books on African subjects and was one of the key players in the Scramble for Africa that occurred at the end of the 19th century.

Tumbuka people Ethnic group in Central South-East Africa

The Tumbuka,, is an ethnic group found in Northern Malawi, Eastern Zambia and Southern Tanzania. Tumbuka is classified as a part of the Bantu language family, and with origins in a geographic region between the Dwangwa River to the south, the North Rukuru River to the north, Lake Malawi to the east, and the Luangwa River. They are found in the valleys near the rivers, lake as well as the highlands of Nyika Plateau, where they are frequently referred to as Henga although this is strictly speaking the name of a subdivision.

John Chilembwe

Reverend John Chilembwe was a Baptist pastor and educator, who trained as a minister in the United States, returning to Nyasaland in 1901. He was an early figure in the resistance to colonialism in Nyasaland (Malawi), opposing both the treatment of Africans working in agriculture on European-owned plantations and the colonial government's failure to promote the social and political advancement of Africans. Soon after the outbreak of the First World War, Chilembwe organised an unsuccessful uprising against colonial rule. Today, Chilembwe is celebrated as a hero of independence, and John Chilembwe Day is observed annually on January 15 in Malawi.

This page list topics related to Malawi.

Chilembwe uprising

The Chilembwe uprising was a rebellion against British colonial rule in Nyasaland which took place in January 1915. It was led by John Chilembwe, an American-educated Baptist minister. Based around his Church in the village of Mbombwe in the south-east of the protectorate, the leaders of the revolt were mainly from an emerging black middle class. They were motivated by grievances against the colonial system including forced labour, racial discrimination, and new demands imposed on the indigenous population following the outbreak of World War I.

The Ngoni people are an ethnic group living in the present-day Southern African countries of Malawi, Mozambique, Tanzania, Zimbabwe and Zambia. The Ngoni trace their origins to the Nguni and Zulu people of kwaZulu-Natal in South Africa. The displacement of the Ngoni people in the great scattering following the Zulu wars had repercussions in social reorganization as far north as Malawi and Zambia.

Alfred Sharpe

Sir Alfred Sharpe was Commissioner and Consul-General for the British Central Africa Protectorate and first Governor of Nyasaland.

Hubert Winthrop Young

Major Sir Hubert Winthrop Young, KCMG, DSO was an English soldier, Liberal Party politician, diplomat and colonial governor.

Elliot Kenan Kamwana Achirwa, also known as Masokwa Elliot Kenan Kamwana Chirwa or Elliot Kenan Kamwana Msokwa Chirwa, generally known as Elliot Kenan Kamwana, was an African Prophet in Nyasaland who sought rapid social change and who introduced the Watch Tower movement into Central Africa and popularized it there. He was one of three Africans sponsored by Joseph Booth, an English missionary who created independent churches in Nyasaland in the early 20th century, the other two being John Chilembwe and Charles Domingo. Unlike Chilembwe, Kamwana did not favour armed revolt as he was a pacifist, but he was more radical in his quest for rapid African advancement than the more moderate Domingo. The independent church he created, the "Mlonda", or Watchman Healing Mission, ended all links with the Watch Tower movement in the United States in 1937. Some daughter churches split from Mlonda after Kamwana's death in 1956, but it still exists in several Central African countries.

James Frederick Sangala

James Frederick Sangala was a founding member of the Nyasaland African Congress during the period of British colonial rule. Sangala was given the nickname "Pyagusi", which means "one who perseveres".

Levi Zililo Mumba was a leading local politician and the first President of the Nyasaland African Congress (NAC) during the period of British colonial rule in Nyasaland, which became the independent state of Malawi in 1964. Mumba was probably the most important figure in the development of Malawi politics between World War I and World War II.

The Abrahams Commission was a commission appointed by the Nyasaland government in 1946 to inquire into land issues in Nyasaland. This followed riots and disturbances by tenants on European-owned estates in Blantyre and Cholo districts in 1943 and 1945. The commission had only one member, Sir Sidney Abrahams, a Privy Counsellor and lawyer, the former Attorney General of the Gold Coast, Zanzibar and Uganda, and the former Chief Justice, first of Uganda and then Ceylon. There had been previous reviews to consider the uneven distribution of land between Africans and European, the shortage of land for subsistence farming and the position of tenants on private estates. These included the Jackson Land Commission in 1920, the Ormsby-Gore Commission on East Africa in 1924 and, most recently, the Bell Commission on the Financial Position and Development of Nyasaland in 1938, but none of these had provided a permanent solution. Abrahams proposed that the Nyasaland government should purchase all unused or under-utilised freehold land on European-owned estates, which would then become Crown land, available to African farmers. The Africans on estates were to be offered the choice of remaining on their current estate as paid workers or tenants, or of moving to Crown land. These proposals were not implemented in full until 1952. The report of the Abrahams Commission divided opinion. Africans were generally in favour of its proposals, as were both the governors in post from 1942 to 1947, Edmund Richards, and the incoming governor, Geoffrey Colby. Estate owners and managers were strongly against it, and many European settlers bitterly attacked it.

John Buchanan (1855–1896), was a Scottish horticulturist who went to Central Africa, now Malawi, in 1876 as a lay member of the missionary party that established Blantyre Mission. Buchanan came to Central Africa as an ambitious artisan: his character was described as dour and devout but also as restlessly ambitious, and he saw in Central Africa a gateway to personal achievement. He started a mission farm on the site of Zomba, Malawi but was dismissed from the mission in 1881 for brutality. From being a disgraced missionary, Buchanan first became a very influential planter owning, with his brothers, extensive estates in Zomba District. He then achieved the highest position he could in the British administration as Acting British Consul to Central Africa from 1887 to 1891. In that capacity declared a protectorate over the Shire Highlands in 1889 to pre-empt a Portuguese expedition that intended to claim sovereignty over that region. In 1891, the Shire Highlands became part of the British Central Africa Protectorate. John Buchanan died at Chinde in Mozambique in March 1896 on his way to visit Scotland, and his estates were later acquired by the Blantyre and East Africa Ltd.

Nyasaland in World War II

The involvement of the Nyasaland Protectorate in World War II began with the declaration of war on Nazi Germany by the British Empire in September 1939. Though no combat occurred in Nyasaland itself, it remained an economic asset for the Allies and also contributed a significant number of soldiers to fight in the British Army.

George Simeon Mwase was a government clerk and later businessman and politician in colonial Nyasaland. He became politically active in the 1920s under the influence of the ideas of Marcus Garvey and his "Africa for the Africans" movement, and was instrumental in founding the Central Province Native Association in 1927. Mwase joined the Nyasaland African Congress (NAC) in 1944, soon after its formation, and later participated in its executive. By the late 1950s, the gradualism of Mwase and many of his contemporaries was rejected by a younger generation of more radical NAC members. He was marginalised and left the NAC and became a supporter of the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland.

Since 1933, various traditional chiefs in Nyasaland have been designated as Native Authorities, initially by the colonial administration, and they numbered 105 in 1949. The Native Authorities were expected to act as the local government in areas of Native Trust Land administered for the benefit of their African populations, and to work in cooperation with the district officers as the local representatives of the colonial government. They represented a form of the Indirect rule which had become popular in British African dependencies in the second quarter of the 20th century, although Nyasaland's Native Authorities had fewer powers and smaller incomes than similar institutions in other African colonies. The Native Authority system worked reasonably effectively until after the Second World War, when they were obliged to enforce unpopular government agricultural policies and, in some cases, their support for the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland made Native Authorities unpopular with many of their people. After 1953, many of the powers of individual chiefs were transferred to councils which became the Native Authorities, although the chiefs sat on these councils. After independence, the authorities were renamed Traditional Authorities and continued to operate, and the status and influence of many of the chiefs revived through their cooperation with the Malawi government of Hastings Banda.

Nyasaland Volunteer Reserve

The Nyasaland Volunteer Reserve (NVR) was a reserve infantry unit in the British protectorate of Nyasaland. The British Central Africa Volunteer Reserve was formally established by the colonial government in 1901 and was renamed when the protectorate became Nyasaland in 1907. In the initial years the unit was little more than a rifle shooting club with no uniform and no military training. The NVR was placed on a more formal standing in 1908 under the Volunteer Ordinance. This implemented residency and racial requirements for membership and made provision for the unit to be mobilised by the governor. The unit was initially formed of four sections but grew to seven sections by 1914 and by 1930 the unit had ten.

References

  1. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 Baker, Colin (2010). "Smith, Sir George (1858–1938), colonial governor". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/9780198614128.001.0001/odnb-9780198614128-e-97364.
  2. 1 2 3 4 5 "Sir George Smith, 80, Colonial Governor; War Commander of Nyassaland Is Dead in England". The New York Times. 15 June 1938.
  3. A History of the Malawi Police Force. Government Printer. 1971. p. 35.
  4. 1 2 "10. British Nyasaland (1907–1964)". University of Central Arkansas – Political Science. Retrieved 23 December 2020.
  5. "No. 30261". The London Gazette . 31 August 1917. p. 9024.
  6. 1 2 3 Krebs, Nick. "A Malawian mystery tour". British Library. Retrieved 23 December 2020.
  7. Charlton, Peter (1993). "Some Notes on the Nyasaland Volunteer Reserve". The Society of Malawi Journal. 46 (2): 29. ISSN   0037-993X.
  8. McCracken, John (2012). A History of Malawi, 1859–1966. Woodbridge, Suffolk: Boydell & Brewer Ltd. p. 127. ISBN   978-1-84701-050-6.
  9. Palmer, Robin (1985). "White Farmers in Malawi: Before and After the Depression". African Affairs. 84 (335): 222. ISSN   0001-9909.
  10. "Editorial Notes". African Affairs. XXII (LXXXVIII): 333. 1 July 1923. doi:10.1093/oxfordjournals.afraf.a100080.
  11. Smith, George (1 October 1924). "Nyasaland". African Affairs. XXIV (XCIII): 14–24. doi:10.1093/oxfordjournals.afraf.a100093. ISSN   0001-9909.