Equal subjects, unequal rights

Equal subjects, unequal rights: Indigenous people in British settler colonies, 1830–1910

Julie Evans
Patricia Grimshaw
David Philips
Shurlee Swain
Copyright Date: 2003
Pages: 208
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  • Book Info
    Equal subjects, unequal rights
    Book Description:

    This book focuses on the ways in which the British settler colonies of Australia, Canada, New Zealand and South Africa treated indigenous peoples in relation to political rights, commencing with the imperial policies of the 1830s and ending with the national political settlements in place by 1910. Drawing on a wide range of sources, its comparative approach provides an insight into the historical foundations of present-day controversies in these settler societies. The assertion of exclusive control over the land and the need to contain indigenous resistance meant that the governments preferred to grant citizenship rights to those indigenous peoples committed to individual property and a willingness to abandon indigenous status. However, particular historical circumstances in the new democracies resulted in very different outcomes. At one extreme Maori men and women in New Zealand had political rights similar to those of white colonists; at the other, the Australian parliament denied the vote to all Aborigines. Similarly, the new South African Government laid the foundations for apartheid, whilst Canada made enfranchisement conditional on assimilation. These differences are explored through the common themes of property rights, indigenous cultural and communal affiliations, demography and gender. This book is written in a clear readable style, accessible at all levels from first-year undergraduates to academic specialists in the fields of Imperial and Colonial History, Anthropology and Cultural Studies.

    eISBN: 978-1-84779-060-6
    Subjects: Political Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-v)
  3. List of maps
    (pp. vi-vi)
    (pp. vii-viii)
    John M. MacKenzie

    It is a welcome development that we have now moved beyond the nationalistic approach to the history of the former ‘dominions’, the territories of white settlement of the British Empire. Canada, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa (from 1910) have many points of similarity in their emergence as countries in which indigenous peoples were dispossessed by a series of white dispersals extending from the sixteenth to the twentieth centuries. Until 1776, the American colonies were in the same category, but this book is concerned with the four that remained within the British orbit. Apart from its comparative approach, what marks...

    (pp. ix-ix)
    (pp. x-x)
    (pp. 1-14)

    In 1841, Herman Merivale, professor of political economy at Oxford University and soon to be appointed under-secretary of state for the colonies, made the following remarks about the nature of colonisation:

    The history of the European settlements in America, Africa, and Australia, presents everywhere the same general features – a wide and sweeping destruction of native races by the uncontrolled violence of individuals, if not of colonial authorities, followed by tardy attempts on the part of governments to repair the acknowledged crime.¹

    At the beginning of the new millennium, Herman Merivale’s midnineteenth-century characterisation of colonies of settlement at once confirms...

  8. Part I Claiming a second empire
    • CHAPTER ONE Imperial expansion and its critics
      (pp. 17-40)

      In May 1910 Edward VII, king of Great Britain and Ireland and emperor of India, who had assumed the throne on the death of his mother Queen Victoria in 1901, died at the age of 68. He had worn the Crown which held together an Empire of formidable extent that ranged across a quarter of the globe and included over 300 million people.¹ Of these, nearly 19 million were settlers, most of British origin, in the White Dominions of Canada, Australia, New Zealand and the newly united South Africa, the economic transactions of which constituted 16.5 per cent of Britain’s...

  9. Part II Establishing settler dominance
    • CHAPTER TWO Canada: ‘If they treat the Indians humanely, all will be well’
      (pp. 43-62)

      In 1840 the Aborigines’ Protection Society (APS) produced an advice manual for the Colonial Office, a set of model laws for the governance of the ‘Native’ peoples of the Empire. Published by John Murray of London under the titleOutline of a System of Legislation for Securing Protection of all Countries Colonized by Great Britain; Extending to Them Political and Social Rights, Ameliorating Their Conditions, and Promoting Their Civilization,the model laws laid down general principles of legislation based on ‘the indefeasible rights of every people … the natural rights of man …’, which entailed a people’s rights as an...

    • CHAPTER THREE Australasia: one or two ‘honorable cannibals’ in the House?
      (pp. 63-87)

      The first colonies on the Australian continent and the islands of New Zealand in the decades from the late 1830s to 1870 were notable for their swift movement politically from initial Crown colonies to virtual local self-government. As in Canada, the British Government first made arrangements for representative government based on a property franchise for all of these colonies, the already existing and the new, and then conceded responsible government to the colonists. Further, by 1860 the legislatures of the eastern and south-eastern Australian colonies had instituted full manhood suffrage. Formally, the Indigenous peoples of the Australasian colonies, Aborigines and...

    • CHAPTER FOUR South Africa: better ‘the Hottentot at the hustings’ than ‘the Hottentot in the wilds with his gun on his shoulder’
      (pp. 88-110)

      We set out, briefly, in chapter one the complex background up to the time that the Cape Colony came under permanent British rule. One of the legacies that the British governors inherited from their Dutch predecessors was the situation of endemic conflict on the ‘eastern frontier’ of the Cape, leading to a century of frontier wars. We noted there that the Xhosa were formidable enemies for the colonists: the governors had to bring in large numbers of regular British troops to defeat them, and most of the wars fought lasted for a number of years. The British ultimately won each...

  10. Part III Entrenching settler control
    • CHAPTER FIVE Canada: ‘a vote the same as any other person’
      (pp. 113-133)

      As the colonies attained self-government the Colonial Office stepped aside from its responsibilities to protect the rights of Indigenous peoples, dissipating the influence of the APS and other humanitarian organisations that were now compelled to campaign on a multitude of fronts in their attempts to influence settler governments. In the local legislatures the language was more extreme and the atmosphere less forgiving, with images of ‘savagery’ and ‘swamping’ being evoked more frequently as the proportion of the population that was Indigenous continued to decline. As they moved towards a more democratic franchise, settlers intent on containing – if not eliminating...

    • CHAPTER SIX Australasia: ‘Australia for the White Man’
      (pp. 134-156)

      In 1908 the prominent Australian magazineBulletintook as its masthead the phrase ‘Australia for the White Man’. It would prove a brief and pithy indication of the place that any man or woman of colour, including Aborigines, the first people of the land, would find in the newly federated Commonwealth of Australia. From the 1870s to the first decade of the twentieth century, settler governments in the Australasian colonies built on their foundation years in their treatment of Indigenous political rights in their political systems. The seven colonies – united by the Pacific region’s proximity to numerous non-European societies,...

    • CHAPTER SEVEN South Africa: saving the White voters from being ‘utterly swamped’
      (pp. 157-181)

      For the first seventy years of the nineteenth century, British governments had been reluctant to extend their involvement in South Africa beyond the coastal colonies of the Cape and Natal. By the 1870s, however, important economic and political developments in South Africa prompted Britain to act in consolidating its interests throughout the Southern African region. These developments had significant consequences for the Indigenous populations of the area, for the British colonies and the Boer republics, and for the remaining independent African polities which had not yet succumbed to colonial rule.

      The situation which had obtained in most of South Africa...

    (pp. 182-192)

    In 1995, Nelson Mandela, leader of the African National Congress (ANC) and recently elected president of South Africa, paid a formal state visit to Britain. He was warmly welcomed by the queen, by the British public and by the British Government. There had been instances of formerly imprisoned nationalist leaders who became heads of state after independence being welcomed to Britain – such as Jomo Kenyatta of Kenya. A century earlier, Queen Victoria had been prepared to welcome to London Indigenous leaders of royal or chiefly status, such as maharajahs from her Indian Empire, or African chiefs such as the...

  12. INDEX
    (pp. 193-198)