Harry A. Gailey/Sir Hugh Clifford (1856-1941)

African Proconsuls. European Governors in Africa.
L.H. Gann & Peter Duignan, eds.

New York/London/Stanford. The Free Press/Collier Macmillan Publishers & Hoover Institution. 1978. 548 pages

Harry A. Gailey
Sir Hugh Clifford (1856-1941)

Hugh Clifford was one of the most unusal colonial governors in British history. He was distinguished as a writer and a novelist. He derived from an ancient aristocratic lineage. He was a Catholic, one of the few Catholics to attain gubernatorial rank in the colonies. Hugh Clifford was born in London on March 5, 1866, the eldest son of Colonel, the Honorable Henry Clifford and a nephew of the seventh Baron Clifford of Chudleigh in Devon. The Cliffords were among the leading Catholic families in England, tracing their holdings to the time of Henry II. The first Baron Clifford of Chudleigh, a principal secretary of state and lord treasurer to Charles II, had given his initial “C” to the ministers of the king known as the Cabal. The punitive acts directed at Catholics in the late seventeenth and eighteenth centuries limited the services the Cliffords could render the crown. There were, nevertheless, a number of Cliffords who served the armed forces and the church in the nineteenth century. One of Hugh Clifford’s uncles became bishop of Clifton, and his father, Henry Clifford, had an outstanding military career serving in South Africa, the Crimean war, and the opium wars in China. Henry Clifford won the Victoria Cross in the Crimea for gallantry at the battle of Inkerman. His skill at painting and drawing enabled him to make a number of sketches of the battlefields of the Crimean war, which were later published and brought a brief period of fame to their creator. During Hugh’s boyhood, his father was on staff duty in England and was ultimately promoted to major general and was made a knight commander of the Order of St. Michael and St. George (KCMG).
Josephine, Hugh Clifford’s mother, was the only daughter of Joseph Anstice, who had been a brilliant student at Oxford and later a promising young professor of classical literature at King’s College. He died at the age of twenty-eight, at the very beginning of his career. In her youth, Josephine had literary aspirations and had contributed some of her work to London periodicals. Thus, not only was Hugh Clifford’s early life comfortable, but his parents had exposed him to the world of literature and art to an unusual degree. The love of letters he acquired later sustained him through many lonely months in Malaya and served him well when he decided to write of his own experiences.
Hugh Clifford’s childhood was spent to a large extent in the manor houses belonging to the family or to friends in Devon and Somerset. He was not educated at a public school but at Woburn Park, a private Catholic school run by a priest, Lord Petrie, who was a peer and friend of the family. Clifford’s education, although scant in terms of time spent in school, appears to have been more than adequate since in 1883, at the age of seventeen, he passed the entrance examination for Sandhurst. His command of the English language as evidenced by hundreds of lengthy, well-phrased official dispatches and by his many stories and novels was far beyond that of most of his contemporaries in the colonial service. Perhaps the major factor in Clifford’s success as an officer in Malaya was his knowledge of the extremely difficult Malay language, which he acquired in much less time than did most other Europeans. Those who worked closely with Clifford and later left accounts of their association always stressed his intelligence, grasp of detail, and understanding of the broad, general principles underlying certain policies. The young man who arrived in Malaya in the fall of 1883 had qualities that would have assured his success in almost any field

Southeast Asia and the West Indies

No one knows for sure why Clifford did not take advantage of his Sandhurst connections and enter the military. Perhaps he had merely bowed to his father, who might naturally have wanted his son to follow in the parental footsteps. His father, however, died in April 1883, and Hugh Clifford decided to embark upon a different career. Colonial service was an acceptable alternative. Hugh Clifford was a man of his time and his class. He shared the convictions of superiority and the cultural optimism that animated much of the middle and upper classes of nineteenth-century England. In many families such as his, there was a long tradition of service; this was bolstered by the conviction that it was a duty to bring the blessings of English civilization to warring, backward peoples throughout the world. Clifford must have felt deeply the need to serve the empire in some tangible way and probably rejected the military because he was already assured a position in the colonial service. His father’s cousin, Sir Frederick Weld, had been appointed governor of the Straits Settlements in 1880 and was concerned with speeding up the processes by which the British could control the independent actions of the Malayan rulers . Empowered to employ a number of cadets for his administration, he asked Hugh’s mother whether any of her sons would be interested. In this manner Hugh Clifford received his appointment in the Malayan service. On his arrival in September 1883, Clifford was posted immediately to Perak, the first of the Malay states designated a protectorate. He was fortunate in this assignment since his superior in Perak was Sir Hugh Low, one of the best of the early British administrators in Malaya.
Clifford came to Malaya just when the fifty-year-old British policy against territorial acquisition was beginning to change. The same forces that impelled Britain to carve out a dependent empire in Africa and the South Pacific were at work also in Malaya. Foreign powers, especially France, Germany, and the United States, were challenging Britain for manufacturing and trading supremacy throughout the world. Markets that previously had been considered British spheres were being closed to British traders because of the territorial expansion of other powers. Reluctantly the officials at Whitehall came to agree with their agents in the field that if any portion of a given area were to remain under British economic domination, the entire territory would have to come under British protection.
The French were particularly active in Southeast Asia in the latter nineteenth century. In 1884 they had secured protectorates over Cochin China, Tonkin, and Annam. Less than a decade later, with the declaration of a protectorate over Laos, France had secured all of the territories later known as French Indochina. Their agents were also active in Siam. Some British officials and entrepreneurs viewed these French activities throughout Southeast Asia with growing alarm. Eventually their concern forced a reluctant redefinition of British policy in Malaya
Economic reasons for expansion in Malaya were not as important as elsewhere since the bulk of exports from the states was already under British control and only tin mining was an important source of revenue for the states. Possession of these mines was not sufficient reason to propel Britain into direct intervention in the politics of the independent kingdoms. But the British had to contend, above all, with a unquiet frontier between the Straits Settlements and the states. Once they had decided to “pacify and civilize” Perak, they found they could not stop there but had to continue until the entire peninsula had been brought under control.
Initially British influence was exercised through residents. The first residents were gazetted to Perak and Selangor in November 1874. Their task was all but impossible. They were to make certain that the rajas ruled justly, did not overtax the people, or maltreat their subjects. They were not to precipitate conflict with the Malay rulers but were to make certain that the rajas and chiefs consulted them on major policies. Each resident had a small force of Sikhs and Pathans sufficient to overawe minor rulers but not to prevent the more important leaders from continuing their rule as before. Andrew Clark’s successor, Sir William Jervois, insisted that the residents assume more direct control of central administration. Such a forward policy brought open conflict between the residents and the native rulers. The worst crisis developed in Perak. Resident James Birch was openly contemptuous of all things Malay, and enthusiastically favoring Jervois’s policy he “dashed into Perak like a Victorian rationalist schoolmaster, confident that decision and firmness would soon remedy abuses.” He alienated all factions and was not even supported by Raja Abdullah, the creature of British administration. Birch’s attempts at implementing Jervois’s reforms of the resident system resulted in his murder. The British then mounted a major offensive against Perak. Those responsible for Birch’s death were tried, sentenced, and executed
The colonial office, reacting to the Perak incidents, repudiated Jervois’s policies and emphasized that the residents were sent to the Malay states to give advice, not to rule. Nevertheless, the campaign against Perak was the turning point in British intervention in the independent states. Whether the colonial office wished it or not, the British slowly became dominant and ruled the land through residents. The colonial office expected them to perform a variety of tasks without overcommitting Britain to expensive campaigns or support of a native regime. In the 1880s, the residential system became a compromise between the complete control of the government, as recommended by Jervois, and the mere giving of advice, as envisioned by the colonial office. Sir Frederick Weld understood the ambivalence of the residents’ position better than the central government; he accordingly gave his full support to the residents in their attempts to reform the Malay states even though these actions deeply undercut traditional rule . The residents, largely isolated from all but the most perfunctory interference from the central authorities by the country’s hills and forests, came to be the real rulers of the states of western Malaya
One of the best of the Malayan residents was Clifford’s superior, Sir Hugh Low, who became the resident in Perak in September 1877. He had spent over thirty years as an administrator in Sarawak and North Borneo, was a Malay scholar, a naturalist, an explorer, and he understood what was needed to establish good government in a Malay state. During his residence, Low led the state out of debt, created a budget surplus, and firmly established a British styled administrative and courts system. He associated the powerful lesser chiefs with the central administration, reformed the tax system, abolished the institution of debt slavery, and helped promote the cultivation of rubber in Perak . Hugh Clifford thus served his apprenticeship with the most experienced resident in Malaya, a man who was concerned with changing Malay society for the better without trampling on its culture.
As Low’s assistant, Clifford began to apply his considerable intelligence to the task of understanding Malay customs and laid the groundwork for his later linguistic accomplishment in the various Malay dialects. In January 1887, at an age when many of his contemporaries were still at a university, Clifford was entrusted with a most important mission to Pekan, the seat of government of Pahang. In the 1880s, the arrival of more Europeans in search of supposed riches in gold and tin had led Pahang’s ruler, the Bendahara Ahmad, to grant huge mining concessions. Sir Frederick Weld was determined to exercise some type of control over Pahang and young Clifford was chosen as agent to secure a minimum of supervision over the state.
In Pekan Clifford was almost completely isolated from the outside world and thus he alone was responsible for representing the British position in the protracted negotiations. Two weeks before Weld retired as governor, his protégé finally managed to convince the raja of the good intentions of the British. Perhaps the Bendahara misread British power since the sole agent was a very young man who seemed to pose little threat to the raja’s despotic rule. By an agreement signed on October 8, 1887, the ruler of Pahang agreed to allow a permanent British government agent with consular powers to reside at Pekan . Clifford was confirmed in this position. He remained the only British official there until November 1988 and took a major part in the negotiations that subsequently compelled the raja to make further major political concessions to the British 10
Hugh Clifford was too young and perhaps too well known to the Raja to be appointed resident. Instead, he stayed on as the assistant to the new resident, John P. Rodger. Clifford, however, lost little by being passed over for an older officer. He soon went home on sick leave and did not return to Malaya until early 1891. By then the full realization of what the British system of residency meant had come to the great and petty rulers of Pahang. British agents interfered at all levels with decision making and were intent upon forcing the chiefs to accept British concepts of right and wrong, as well as administrative and legal systems alien to Pahang. The resultant friction caused what Clifford later called a “heart-breaking little war.” 11 The rebels were gradually forced to abandon Pahang, retreating into the Trengganu and Kelantan. From there the rebel chiefs continued to raid into Pahang and thus created a further unstable frontier 12. In 1894 the British invaded these areas, and Clifford again played a crucial role.
Clifford left two first-rate accounts of these events. One is his official report of the military action against the rebels; the other is part one of Bush-Whacking and other Tales from Malaya. Many of Clifford’s early stories are fictionalized accounts of events or people he had observed. However, the first two segments of this book are straightforward records of Clifford’s experiences in Pahang from 1891 to 1895. He is the political officer in each of the long, primarily factual accounts of the campaigns. In both actions Clifford distinguished himself. His knowledge of the Malay language, the geography, the customs of the people, and the habits of many of the rebellious rulers proved invaluable to the military and police officers, many of whom were in Malaya for the first time. His friend, fellow author, and first resident-general of Malaya, Sir Frank Swettenham, gave Clifford almost the entire credit for the success of the final move in the pacification of Pahang 13. After 1894, Clifford found himself in charge of the day-to-day administration, a role in which he displayed considerable ability.
The year 1896 stood out as a landmark in Hugh Clifford’s life. At the age of thirty he married. This marriage to Minnah Becket was apparently very happy; it ended after ten years with his wife’s death in a tragic accident in Trinidad. The Cliffords had three children, two daughters, Mary and Monica, and a son, Hugh, who was killed on the western front in 1916. Clifford’s feelings for his wife and the anguish of the typically long separations can be glimpsed in the romantic short story “Rachel,” which he wrote in 1903.
In 1896, moreover, the colonial office finally decided to standardize the government of the Malay states. This move toward a closer union had been opposed by the high commissioner, Sir Charles Mitchell, on the ground that the interests of the Malay states and the colony were divergent and in some cases antagonistic. Eventually he was forced by the colonial office to put into effect a loosely constructed federal scheme 14
Clifford’s task in Pahang was more difficult than that facing the other residents. Pahang was deficient in population, valuable exports, and transportation facilities. Even after the completion of the trunk road from Selangor to Pahang, the only mode of travel was bicycle or bullock cart. The journey from Singapore to Kuala Lipis, the administrative capital of Pahang, took a fortnight. Until the introduction of the automobile, Pahang was effectively cut off from the rest of Malaya. Nevertheless, Clifford, aided in part by the psychological effect of a durbar (a grand public levee) called in 1897, achieved internal reforms almost as significant as those of Hugh Low earlier in Perak. British concepts of administration and justice were readily accepted by the same chiefs who a few years before had been aggressively hostile. Malays of all levels learned to place their confidence in the government and cooperated in all matters that required their assistance 15. The success in building a functioning bureaucracy in such a remote area must be attributed to a large degree to Clifford’s administrative skills and his knowledge of and respect for Malay institutions.
In 1896 Clifford resolved also to write seriously of his experiences. No doubt he was influenced in this by the relative success of Sweetenham’s Malay Sketches. Clifford’s first attempts were so successful that he devoted more and more of his free time to prose. In the following two decades, he produced dozens of articles, many short story collections, some good novels, as well as a few nonfiction accounts and book reviews. His total literary output would occasion envy among many to whom writing is not an avocation but a career. Almost all of these stories have the Malay states as their locale and betray Clifford’s love of the area and his profound respect for the people. Some of his short stories rank with the finest written in the early twentieth century. Such collections as Bush-Whacking and The Further Side of Silence gave Clifford an international literary reputation and brought him new friendships. He became a very close friend of Joseph Conrad and was known to most serious writers of the first two decades of this century. Writing became for Clifford not merely a pastime but a serious secondary vocation in which he became as successful as in his primary career.
In January 1900, presumably as a reward for his outstanding services, Clifford was offered the governorship of North Borneo. This office was considerably more circumscribed than that of a chief executive in charge of a normal colony. North Borneo fell within the jurisdiction of the high commissioner at Singapore, but practical rule of the territory was vested in the North Borneo Company. The company’s policy after 1894 had been determined very largely by an ex-Borneo trader, William Cowie, who convinced the shareholders that larger dividends would result if the scope of the company’s activities were increased. Clifford’s predecessor was Leicester Beaufort, a lawyer with no administrative experience and unacquainted with Asia. For a time Beaufort appeared to be a perfect choice since he did not question the decisions made in London. He began two grandiose pro,jects, a trunk road and telegraph line across the country and a railway to link Brunei bay and Cowie harbor. The subsequent infringement on native treaty rights and the increase in taxes combined to create a rebellion.
Clifford’s new task was a hard one. He arrived just in time to keep the police commandant from shooting the captured survivors of the pacification campaign. Clifford supervised the collection of arms and destruction of fortifications. He appointed to high positions men he believed knowledgeable and tactful. He tried to placate the interior people by keeping coastal populations from moving into their areas. Before Clifford left North Borneo in 1901, most of the disaffected areas had been pacified and company administration had become more responsive to the needs of the people.
Clifford, however, came under attack from his superior in Singapore, Swettenham, who believed the company’s actions were not lawful. More important were Clifford’s differences with the London board and William Cowie. Clifford had discovered that he had no control over the railway superintendent or the builders. His criticism of railway policy, standards of construction, and treatment of laborers was not well received by the board. He was informed that he had not been posted to North Borneo to criticize but to carry out policy and write favorable reports that would be published to help the company raise money in Engiand. After several rebukes for his actions, Clifford found his position untenable. As one historian observed, “By nature direct, forthright and impetuous, a giant of a man, he would stoop for no one. He would have none of this deceit, nor any more of this studipity. He resigned.” 16 Clifford’s adamance obviously did not damage his reputation. He was welcomed back to Malaya and was reappointed resident in Pahang.
In the summer of 1901, Clifford was directed by the Malay office to attend Sultan Sir Idris bin Iskander, the senior colonial guest, at the coronation of King Edward VII. As with so many of his experiences at this time, Clifford used the opportunity to write a factual article that was later published. The work, entitled “Piloting Princes,” is only partially descriptive since Clifford expanded the story to speculate on the nature of rule, imperialism, and particularly the impact of Western ideas upon the Malay mind 17
At the conclusion of the coronation ceremonies, his guests departed for Malaya, but Clifford remained in England. He was desperately ill as a result of an unsuccessful attempt on his life by poisoning. For a time his doctors despaired for his life, but he was given a clean bill of health in early 1903. His old friend Swettenharn wanted him to return to Pahang, but Clifford accepted a decrease in salary to take up the appointment of colonial secretary of Trinidad and Tobago, a recognized posting for men on the way up. He did not welcome the new post but had been informed that his career could be damaged by a refusal of the colonial office’s offer. Clifford thus left a land to which he had a deep emotional attachment for an administrative position half a world away. He would not return to Malaya again for almost a quater of a century. In late 1903, Clifford began a tenyear period typical of senior civil servants who had been chosen for possible selection as governors of the empire. The similarity of British forms of administration was such that it was not necessary to be completely familiar with the people, language, or customs of a territory. Clifford was sent to oversee and develop, if necessary, the central secretariat of the colony and to act as the major administrative advisor to the governor. He was acting governor of Trinidad from March to August 1904 and from April to October 1906. But this was not his administration and he could make only an indirect impact through his influence with the governor and by improving the efficiency of the secretariat. In 1907 Clifford was given A further promotion when he was appointed colonial secretary of Ceylon, a position he retained until his appointment as governor of the Gold Coast. In 1909 he received a KCMG, a decoration that indicated his professional success 18
The historian has only a few glimpses of Sir Hugh Clifford during this period. Some of his more interesting and important books were written them. He published A Free-Lance of Today in 1903; Further India and Sally: A Study in 1904; Heroes of Exile in 1906; Saleh: A Sequel in 1908; and The Downfall of the Gods in 1911. His correspondence with Joseph Conrad indicates a deepening relationship with this master of the adventure story. In 1910 Clifford had talked admiringly of Conrad to Gordon Bennett of the New York Herald while the latter was visiting Ceylon. He loaned Bennett some of Conrad’s works to read on his yacht during the voyage from Colombo to Bombay. Bennett at once cabled his New York office to “buy Conrad,” resulting in a contract and eventually the publication of Conrad’s novel “Chance.” 19 Clifford’s first wife was the victim of a carriage accident in Trinidad, and in January 1907, at the age of thirty-nine, he was left a widower with three children. Three years later Clifford remarried. The new Lady Clifford was the widow of Henry de La Pasture, a bright, adventuresome woman who was herself a writer of considerable merit. For her service to the war effort and for her writing she was awarded a CBE in 1918. Clifford’s stepdaughter also became a very successful novelist, writing under the name of E. M. Delafield.
At this juncture one should note briefly some of Sir Hugh’s specific personal attributes. Well over six feet tall, heavyset, with broad shoulders and deep chest, he towered over most of his staff. Despite malarial attacks, periodic bouts with a number of other tropical diseases, and a serious poisoning, he had remained in the field in Pahang, Trengganu, and North Borneo for longer periods than his European associates. Clifford loved sports and was quite proficient at tennis, cycling, and swimming, activities he continued until his retirement in 1929. His great physical strength enabled him to undertake a killing workload as a senior administrative official and also as a practicing author. After succeeding Lugard as governor of Nigeria, he regularly worked over seventy hours a week on official business. This was considerably more time than he had devoted to administration in the Gold Coast. He complained to the colonial office of the long hours not because it taxed his vigor but because the system was inefficient.
Those who knew Clifford generally remarked of his intellectual prowess. Master of a number of languages, a voracious reader, and a prolific writer, he was noted for his ability to brush aside extraneous details and go to the very heart of a problem. He knew very well what type of administration he wanted and the methods to use to achieve his ends. Clifford did not suffer fools or charlatans gladly and had no fear of expressing his viewpoint either to his subordinates or to his superiors. His temper, according to some of his associates, could be volatile, leading him at times to actions he later regretted. However, when at fault, particularly after reprimanding a junior, he would attempt to amend his hasty judgment and in many cases went to great lengths to apologize for his mistake. Clifford nurtured extreme dislike of certain of his contemporaries such as Sir Gordon Guggisberg and was not above trying to embarass them 20
Malaya and Clifford’s close direct contact with the people and their rulers during his “thirteen years of intensely interesting and in the main enjoyable exile and isolation” are fundamental to understanding his attitudes. There is no indication that he ever altered his basic concepts concerning the value of British rule and the worth of individual native societies. Moreover, Clifford’s attempt to translate his ideals into practice were remarkably free from sham theorizing. Unlike many other twentieth-century administrators, he did not base his actions on ideology but upon the practical realities of the time and circumstance. However, Clifford’s most fundamental difference with many of his fellow administrators in the colonial service was a matter not so much of practical approach as of genuine respect for alien cultures and the conviction that nonwhite societies should be governed bt rules that had meaning for their peoples. Empathy with the indigenous people placed Clifford with the minority of the policymakers of the new empire. He knew and understood the value of the laws and customs of a given people and hovv, wherever possible, those should be gently modified in the direction of accommodation with Western forms. British officials in the protected states in k1alaya, like their counterparts at the same time in much of Africa, were in no position to mandate a revolution. They had no choice but to accept the major portion of the indigenous culture and even to rule through its framework with only minor alterations.
Clifford’s ambivalence toward the shattering of older cultures in Asia and Africa can be seen clearly in much of his writing. Of those rebels who had opposed him in the 1890s, he wrote,

They are the last of their breed—the last of the men who dared to pit their puny strength against the might of the British Raj. They are men who have loved, and enjoyed life greatly in the days before the coming of the white folk, who have fought manfully for years for those pleasures and privileges which mean the misery of the peasants born beneath their heels, and now comes a merciful ending to the struggle so wearily prolonged.
Here let us leave them, the dreamers of dreams, the lost heroes of a day too late. “Here is tears for their love; joy for their fortune; honour for their valour; and death for their ambitionl.” 21

This romantic comprehension was modified by the reality of native rule and the necessity for British control. After he had left Malaya he wrote,

Looking back upon those days, I reckon them as the happiest and most interesting of my life; but the end of them found me a firm believer in the necessity for the intervention of Great Britain in Malaya which in my own time, I had seen transform conditions bordering upon anarchy into those appropriate to a peaceful, prosperous and contented countryside 22

Clifford never wavered from his conviction that British rule meant the end of internecine war, arbitrary rule, and tyranny and the beginning of good government and peace and happiness for the people of a dependency. But Clifford’s intelligence was such that he understood the complexities of the clash of civilizations, first in Malaya and then later in Africa. He understood that what was being done to subject peoples was not simple and the results were not always what had been planned—or even good. In his introduction to Claridge’s History of the Gold Coast he was very frank and critical of British relations with the people of the Gold Coast. He noted that “it may be that modern civilisation is the lion and that barbarism is the lamb; but the two cannot now days lie down side by side.” Evincing sadness at the passing of the Ashanti empire, he wrote that few people would question that the Ashanti people of 1915 who devoted the bulk of their energies to peaceful agriculture were far happier than their “bloodstained ancestors, who spent a goodly portion of their time in ravaging their neighbour’s homesteads, taking other people’s lives, and enslaving their womenkind and their children.” 23
That he was active in this great transformation was for Clifford a matter for justified pride rather than a mere excuse for imperialism.

Gold Coast

After almost thirty years of distinguished service, Sir Hugh Clifford was finally rewarded with an appointment as governor of a British territory. He was selected to replace his old Malayan acquaintance and friend, Sir John Rodger, as governor of the Gold Coast. He arrived in Accra late in 1912 to assume the responsibility of his first administration.
The Gold Coast presented a curious amalgam of peoples and cultures 24. The coastal groups who lived in the colony are—the Fante, Ga, and Ewe—had differing languages, histories, and cultures. There existed deep divisions even among a single national group. All coastal people had been accustomed to accommodating themselves to the Europeans; they traded with foreigners; many had become Christian and some were highly educated. These few had provided the westernized leadership for the urban population. They had, with official encouragement, framed the composite, liberal Mankessim constitution in 1871, only to see this repudiated by British authorities reacting to Ashanti disturbances. These Western oriented elite groups provided the doctors, lawyers, teachers, and civil servants for the Gold Coast. By Clifford’s time they were highly dissatisfied with the roles assigned them by the British government. They wanted to be consulted more in the governance of the Gold Coast and demanded the removal of all color barriers in the civil service.
In the interior the Ashanti, the proud nation that had opposed European domination for over two centuries, were disorganized. A scant ten years before Clifford’s appointment some of the Ashanti chiefs led their followers in revolt against the British. The governor had been besieged and the British had to send a major relief expedition to extricate him. This uprising, however, was the final armed action against British control, and the Ashanti territories afterward were considered a part of the protectorate and were governed from Accra. The Asantahene (king), Prempeh, was exiled and the chiefs of Ashanti continued to be suspicious of Europeans and even more of educated Fante. North of the Ashanti were the northern territories, scantly populated by a diverse group of Akan and Mossi speakers. The British governor controlled this area through the agency of a chief commissioner. Extremely poor, the northern territories would continue to receive little in terms of development money throughout the earlier part of the twentieth century.
Government of the northern territories, Ashanti, and much of the colony was exercised through local chiefs. This system of government in Africa was later glamorized under the term “indirect rule.” It was, however, basically a pragmatic solution to the problem of governing large numbers of people without the expenditure of great sums of money. The dilemma faced by Clifford and all the other British governors of Africa was how to continue this economical system while still accommodating the demands of influential, Western educated nationalists. Clifford’s work in the Gold Coast and later in Nigeria should be evaluated with this dichotomy in mind. There was no way that a governor could satisfy completely the conflicting demands of the traditionalists and the educated. After 1906, moreover, the romantic period of empire building was past; territorial conquests were completed, and the colonial office was resuming control over the man on the spot.
Despite the difficulties he faced at the outset, Clifford achieved much in the Gold Coast. He bequeathed to his successor, Sir Gordon Guggisberg, the foundations for the reforms that would bring Guggisberg rightful acclaim 25. Not the least of Clifford’s accomplishments was the £ 1.6 million in revenue surplus he left behind when he departed the Gold Coast in 1919. Clifford held down expenditures at a time when the cocoa industry was entering into a boom period and profits were high. Clifford early recognized that in order to facilitate the continued expansion of cocoa exports, the government had to improve communications. In 1912 there were only a few miles of railroad in the colony, and the roads were inadequate. In that year Clifford proposed to the secretary of state a long-term plan of railway and road construction. In his correspondence throughout his term, Clifford returned to this theme over and over again as the key to the future of the Gold Coast 26. Lack of skilled engineers and construction men caused by wartime conditions prevented Clifford from doing as much as he wished. His administration completed only 26 miles of railway but built 165 miles of first-class road and added 650 miles of secondary roads, capable of supporting light trucks. Clifford also recognized the inadequacy of the harbor at Sekondi. In February 1918, he appointed a commission to study this problem and make recommendations. The commission’s report, issued in May 1919, suggested the construction of a deep water harbor at Takoradi. Clifford’s ability to bring change to the Gold Coast was restricted in many ways by the first world war, but he did begin to plan to meet the needs of the economy of the Gold Coast 27
Limited improvement was made in two other areas during Clifford’s tenure. One of these was the field of education and the other concerned African appointments to the civil service. Education facilities in the Gold Coast were provided largely by missionary organizations. Soon after his arrival, Clifford had to mediate differences between some government officials and the missionaries. He warned his chief commissioner in the north to stop harassing and instead render every assistance to the religious agencies in their educational endeavors. Clifford was certain that they, in the short term, could be more effective than the government in extending primary education. He believed that this was essential for the development of the Gold Coast 28. Primary schools could provide the necessary foundation training for artisans and agriculturists, who were in increasing demand by the Gold Coast economy. Clifford was not as convinced of the necessity for government subsidies for secondary education. Secondary schools turned out “black Englishmen,” who had proven to be thorns in the side of the administration. Clifford, like so many of his contemporaries, deeply mistrusted most Western educated Africans. Despite this personal conviction, Clifford commissioned the board of education in 1915 to study secondary education in the Gold Coast and make recommendations for its improvement. The director of education and the Europeans on the board shared Clifford’s misgivings, but the two African members attacked the board and the director of education for what they considered archaic ideas. Finally in 1918, Clifford appointed a special committee on education in which there was significant African representation. Its report, issued in October 1919, gave Guggisberg an immediate, contemporary Gold Coast view of education 29
The Aborigines’ Rights Protection Society, the chief political agency of the coastal educated, had long asked that “competent and worthy natives” be appointed to administrative positions. Colony nationalists such as T. Hutton-Milis later reported their surprise when Clifford in 1913 agreed with them. Convinced by his experiences in the east, particularly in Ceylon, that “natives” had to be integrated into government service at all levels, he began in 1914 to make such appointments. For example, E. C. Quist, a Ga, became the first African crown counsel in 1914. Perhaps the most significant change instituted by Clifford was in opening positions for Africans in the medical department. To do this he had to take issue not only with the concerted opinion of most of the European medicai staff on this matter but also with colonial office policy, which had been enunciated in 1912. By openly challenging the secretary of state on the question of African staffing, he was able to create six positions for African doctors in the medical service by the end of 1914 30
The rank and file of African civil servants in 1913, prevented from working, their way up to senior posts, also received lower salaries than Europeans in comparable positions. The remuneration of beginning clerks was only £36 a year. Although salary discrepancies in the Gold Coast were still not solved even whera Nkrumah became head of an independent Ghana, Clifford did make some headway in his attempt to upgrade African salaries. A committee appointed soon after his arrival made its report in 1914, and the governor followed most of its advice ir. completely reorganizing African salary scales, which cost the government an additional £6,000 per annum. Clifford later also lent his support to the petitions of the civil service clerks who in 1918 complained of the insufficiency of the ten percent war bonus proposed by the colonial office. Partially because of Clifford, s intercession with the secretary of state, Lord Milner, this was increased in June 1919 to a bonus salary adjusted on a sliding scale of twelve to twenty percent 31
Normal government operations were interrupted briefly in August 1914 by the onset of World War I. Once again Clifford was involved with troops engaged in hostilities against an enemy. But Clifford was no longer a young political officer leading troops into action against a dedicated foe. He was the governor of a British territory. The enemy, the Germans in Togo, had few troops. They had, however constructed a very powerful wireless station there which, unless neutralized could conceivably play an important role in the sea war in the southern Atlantic. The small contingent of British troops available in the Gold Coast immediately invaded Togo and, in cooperation with a still smaller French force from Dahomey succeeded within a few weeks in forcing the surrender of all German troops in Togo although they failed to prevent the destruction of the wireless station. By the end of September Clifford was thus able to dispatch the bulk of the Gold Coast military to Duala to aid Sir Frederick Lugard in the much more difficult campaign against the Cameroons. Clifford, working in close conjunction with the foreign office, later met French representatives a number of times to establish the temporary boundaries between the British and French spheres in Togo 32
The most significant change wrought by Clifford during his tenure was the organization of the Gold Coast legislative council. Some members of the Aborigines’ Rights Protection Society had long pressed for more African representation on the council. They claimed that to have only two African members was farcical and an insult to the educated community, particularly since the appointees were expected to vote with the government. More representatives had become an even core crucial issue to the Africans after the palm oil revenue ordinance was passed against the opposition of the unofficial members of the council. The educated Airicans did not expect any significant support for their postion from the new governor. Clifford, however, was not an ordinary administrator. Within a few months he had come to conclusions similar to those of the Aborigines’ Rights Protection Cqciety. He was impressed with the phenomenal development of the cocoa industry and with its social consequences. He concluded that the most severe problem facing his government was its inefficiency in explaining to Africans why certain acts affecting their interests were passed. Clifford’s experiences with the elected non-Europeans on the council of Ceylon convinced him that more and better balanced African representation would go far in achieving the needed better communications with the people of the Gold Coast.
The impetus to reform the central government of the Gold Coast came not from England but from Clifford. Soon after his arrival in the Gold Coast he communicated his opinions on this subject to the colonial office. Lord Harcourt, the secretary of state, and almost all of the colonial office staff either openly opposed more African representation or took no position on the matter. In a series of de:ailed dispatches in 1915 Clifford laid out his proposals in such a fashion that the colonial office reluctantly gave way and allowed his reforms 33. He proposed that the size of the council not be increased until it became unwieldy but should be restructured to admit of “direct tribal representation.” He wanted no change in the method of appointments or in the method of operations of the council since he did not believe that the people of the Gold Coast were ready for direct elections. Most of them were not well enough educated. Where the taxpayers did have the franchise, they made little use of it. Direct elections would widen tribal differences instead of promoting the harmony Clifford sought. He wanted to appoint select members from the ranks of the chiefs. Such appointment of “the natural leaders” of the people could offset the growing influence of the educated African. Clifford wished to avoid unnecessary divisions in the council between officials and nonofficials. The legislative council was not a parliament where there could be the interplay of an opposition and a government position.
The colonial office accepted Clifford’s proposals and in 1916 the legislative council was enlarged to twenty-one members. Of these, nine were nonofficials and six of these were Africans. Aside from tripling the African membership, the most important immediate result of the reform was the appointment of three paramount chiefs to the council. Thus, despite Clifford’s continuing difficulties in eforming the government of the protectorate, he had succeeded in bringing some CA the chiefs into direct participation in policymaking.
Clifford has never received the credit due him for reforming the legislative council. Perhaps the major reason for his lack of recognition was Clifford’s outspoken contention that the Gold Coast was, at that time, only a collection of diflering, sometimes hostile groups and therefore the territory could not aspire to, considered a single state. His statements on this issue provoked the educated coastal community, which had wanted a legislative assembly and not just an enlarged council. Clifford’s reputation with some of the educated Africans was damaged also by colonial office pressure, which induced him to force through the legislative council. the palm kernels export duty bill, a piece of legislation with which he vehemently disagreed. He had argued throughout 1916 that this bill, by levying a duty on palm kernels, would seriously harm a trade that already was damaged. He repeated his arguments in 1917 but could not prevail. The second reading of the bill provoked the nonofficials to vote en bloc against it. Clifford’s position was misunderstood and Guggisberg inherited a bad law, which remained in effect until 1922 34
Clifford was not as successful as he hoped in bolstering the positions of the chiefs by enacting legislation to replace the old native jurisdiction ordinance. When he arrived in the Gold Coast, he found the chiefs under considerable pressure. This derived both from the coastal elite and from their own young men, many of whom had some education and more of whom were prosperous cocoa farmers. In Fante areas, young men were using the traditional military bodies, the Asafo companies, to limit the chiefs’ power. They also utilized the traditional check of destoolment to express their discontent with the slowness of action and frequent corruption of the chiefs. Few of the traditional rulers, on the other hand, had any Western education. Hence, there was little that Clifford could do to implement dramatically his ideas of indirect rule. He did, however, change the tone of the administration. Soon after his arrival he reminded all district officers of their responsibility to support the chiefs and their advisors. British administrators were to consult with the chiefs on any action affecting the areas ostensibly under traditional authority. Chiefs received invitations to see the governor and explain their views to him. He was careful in informal and formal meetings with them to try to set forth the government’s position on major legislation.
Clifford was dissatisfied with the old native jurisdiction ordinance. In 1916 he circulated among the chiefs the draft of the government’s proposal to amend it and asked for their opinions. Closer study of the ordinance and information from Africans convinced the governor and his advisors that amendment would be useless. Instead, they prepared a new bill. This was intoduced in the legislative council in February 1919 and caused a furor among the coastal elite, who accused the government of propping up the power of ignorant chiefs against the just demands of the educated. They claimed that the new ordinance was designed to make the chiefs into tools of Europeans. All the important coastal organizations and newspapers campaigned against its adoption. Clifford had departed the Gold Coast long before the virulent debate over this issue had subsided. His successor, Guggisberg, removed the bill from consideration and in 1922 introduced a greatly modified bill 35. This also met a hostile reception and was withdrawn. Eventually, only a stopgap revision of the original ordinance was made in 1924. Until after World War II, no governor seriously disagreed with Clifford’s conclusion that the future government of the Gold Coast would have to be through the agency of rule by traditional authorities.
Despite the controversy over indirect rule, Clifford’s stewardship of the Gold Coast was by no means unappreciated by the elite. At times he received almost fulsome praise from his African associates. In 1916 after Clifford had introduced his legislative council reforms, one of the most influential Africans, T. HuttonMills, stated that he wished that day to be remembered in the Gold Coast as “Clifford Day.” 36 Perhaps as important as any concrete achievements was the spirit Clifford infused into his staff, both British and African. Another African colleague, A. Duncan-Johnstone, recalled later that Clifford gave his subordinates something that he had never felt under any other governor. This was a renaissance spirit,” which impressed his government with the idea that they were “a first-class team.” 37


In 1919 Clifford learned that he was to go to Nigeria to replace Lugard as governor 38. He had to hand over the Gold Coast to Sir Gordon Guggisberg, a man he detested. There is no concrete evidence to show why he felt such animosity toward his successor. Clifford had earlier turned down Guggisberg’s application to be chief commissioner of the northern territories on the ground that Guggisberg was not qualified. Ironically enough, Clifford soon found himself in open opposition to the policies of Lugard, a man he liked and respected, whereas Guggisberg, whom he considered incompetent, successfully completed many of those reforms that Clifford had begun in the Gold Coast.
Sir Frederick Lugard, the conqueror of the north, had received unprecedented powers as governor-general from the colonial office in 1912 in order to effect the amalgamation of the northern and southern protectorates. In securing this and other correlate goals he had set for himself, Lugard had been successful. The two disparate governments had been joined, and a potentially serious threat from the Germans in the Cameroons had been removed in a tedious, difficult campaign. Lugard had also had considerable success in converting the native authorities to his ideas of indirect rule and taxation. All of these things had been accomplished during wartime, when the government had been hampered by a shortage of staff and supplies. Officials in the colonial office had ambivalent feelings toward him. Few questioned the evidences of his success, but by 1917 many had grown tired of his arguments for his viewpoints and wanted an end to his unique position as governor-general. The colonial secretary, Walter Long, undoubtedly welcomed Lugard’s resignation over a minor issue 39
Lugard’s prerogatives and his massive, articulate, but verbose defense of his concepts of rule in Africa had a direct effect upon Clifford’s freedom of action in Nigeria. Before Lugard’s resignation, the colonial office had already decided that his successor would not have special privileges but would be treated like other colonial governors. Much discretionary power accordingly returned to the officials in London. For all his reputation, Lugard, while in office, was a minor irritant. Removed from office, he began to assume a larger than life stature in the eyes of those who administered the empire. From the official point of view, success or failure in governing African territories in the postwar years was, in many cases, measured by adherence to or deviation from Lugard’s doctrines. Other governors might be slightly handicapped by Lugard’s elevation to the status of demigod. Clifford, as his successor in Nigeria, was more directly affected. Major alterations in Lugard’s system in Nigeria had to be fought out with the home authorities, who preferred the older methods. Of more immediate importance to Clifford in mid1919, however, were the problems he inherited from Lugard.
The colonial office expected the western areas to be subjected to a standard system of traditional rule. It desired a viable central administrative structure that would curb the northern administrations in their tendency to develop policies at variance with the rest of Nigeria. The colonial office also called for improved relations with the educated elite. It wished to extend taxation to the eastern provinces. With regard to each of these, Lugard had, by design or inadvertence, either ignored the existence of trouble or had forced unwanted policies upon Africans. Certainly when Clifford left the Gold Coast, he little realized the scope and complexity of the difficulties that he would confront in Nigeria. Nigeria had seemed to him, as it did to all casual observers, a model British territory. He was soon disabused of any such idea 40
Clifford’s first major problem concerned the troubled Abeokuta region. In 1893 Governor Carter had signed a treaty with the Egba people, a compact that differed considerably from the protectorate agreements with the other Yoruba rulers of the west. In return for promises of good behavior and cooperation, Britain had recognized the independence of the Egba state. During the following twenty years, the Egba constructed a state government that attempted to blend British practices with Egba traditions. Despite difficulties, their governmental system was functioning in many areas better than those of neighboring polities under British protection. Nevertheless, British economic interests in Egbaland continued to mount and the Lagos government became particularly concerned over the security of the main railway line that ran through Egba territory. By the time Lugard returned to Nigeria as governor-general, the freedom of action of the officials of the independent Egba state had been further circumscribed by other treaties with Britain.
Sir Frederick from the beginning viewed the anomaly of this independent state on the very borders of the colony with distaste. It was a threat to his vision of a united Nigeria under British control and he took the first opportunity that presented itself to subvert the Egba government. This came in the form of a minor conflict between sections of the Egba at Abeokuta, which resulted in an appeal for British assistance by the Alake. Troops were dispatched from Lagos to Abeokuta and these were so badly controlled by their officers that on August 8, 1914, they fired on demonstrators in the Ijemo quarter, killing Chief Aluo and six of his retainers. Using this affair as an excuse, Lugard then abrogated the 1893 treaty and declared Egbaland to be a part of the protectorate of Nigeria. An official investigation of the shooting at Ijemo was made in 1915, but the report was never made public 41
Although a part of Nigeria, Egbaland continued to be administered differently from the neighboring Yoruba areas after the Ijemo affair until 1918. Then Lugard, with the acquiescence of the colonial office, extended his scheme of indirect rule and taxation to the area. In June of that year, the most serious civil disorders ever to strike Nigeria under British governance occurred in the Abeokuta area. These were caused by a combination of factors; the most important were remembrance of the Ijemo massacre, dissatisfaction of the chiefs, hostility toward the chief Egba advisor to the resident, weakness of the Alake, and open opposition to Lugard’s schemes, which ran counter to Egba tradition. Many of the towns surrounding Abeokuta sided with the protesters, the railway and telegraph lines were torn up, property was looted and destroyed, and one European was killed. Fortunately for Lugard, there were troops in Nigeria returning from the East African campaign, and he was able to deal swiftly with the uprising. In the ensuing campaign—which lasted from June 11 through July 10—the British deployed a total of 70 Europeans and 2,500 African rank and file, and an estimated 564 Africans were killed in the fighting 42
The uprising at Abeokuta was an embarrassment to the home government and called into question Lugard’s management of the Egba problem. The colonial office could not ignore the Abeokuta disturbance as they had ignored the affair at Ijemo. Lugard reluctantly appointed a five-man committee under the direction of Dr. James Maxwell to investigate the uprising. Their report, presented to the Lagos government in the fall of 1918, was sharply critical of the actions of several British officials, particularly Resident Syer. Lugard left Nigeria before any decisions had been made concerning possible guilt of British officials, indemnification, changes in administrative procedure in Egbaland, or whether Maxwell’s report should be made public. These decisions were all left to the colonial office and Clifford.
Clifford read some of the files on board the ship taking him to Nigeria. He arnved in Lagos on August 8 and in the next three weeks examined all the available material related to Egbaland and conferred with Lieutenant governor Boyle and the acting resident, C. W. Alexander, at Abeokuta. On August 29, he addressed a very long memorandum on the subject to Lord Milner. This was the first comprehensive, historical analysis of the situation ever presented to the colonial office. What Clifford had to say so disturbed the London officials that a number of them commented disparagingly and at length in minute papers. They concentrated not on Clifford’s well-researched and reasoned analysis but upon his boldness in informing them of what he considered to be the worst type of bungling by almost everyone who dealt with the Egba after 1914. They considered that Clifford was premature in criticizing so harshly Lugard’s administration and ascribed this not to Clifford’s logic and honesty but to jealousy of Lugard 43
Clifford criticized not only the actions of individual officers but also the policy they had been ordered to carry out. He disagreed with Lugard’s excuse that near anarchy had prevailed at Abeokuta in 1914 and that Britain therefore had to assume control. Egbaland, Clifford argued, was then as calm as many of the northern and southern parts of Nigeria where Britain still maintained armed patrols in 1919. The residents at Abeokuta, Young and Syer, had been derelict in their responsibilities; under no circumstances should Young ever be sent to Nigeria again. Sir Hugh likewise censured the timing and nature of Lugard’s reforms of the Egba local government system. The administration had appointed the wrong people as district heads and had ignored the traditional Egba chiefs. The problem had been compounded by the premature introduction of taxation. Some of the most important Egba had not forgotten the Ijemo massacre and the loss of their freedom. By 1918 they had become convinced that only violence would move the British. Clifford concurred with the Maxwell report, recommended its publication, and suggested full government indemnification to all parties injured during the uprising. He approved the ad hoc measures taken by Lieutenant governor Boyle and Resident Alexander at Abeokuta and proposed to continue restructuring the local government system to support the powers of Egba traditional leaders.
The Abeokuta affair has been considered in some detail since Clifford’s response to it was elicited so early in his tenure. His interchange with the colonial office, moreover, established a relationship with his superiors that he was never able to alter. In January 1920 the colonial secretary, Leopold Amery, closed the Abeokuta discussion by denying most of Clifford’s recommendations 44. The Maxwell report was not published and Clifford’s suggestion for a more equitable distribution of the Egba taxes was rejected. Even those actions that could not be avoided, such as indemnification and restructuring the native authority, were accepted reluctantly. The pattern of Clifford’s relations with the colonial office was set. He would be forced to struggle with London for the approval of even the most obvious reforms. Suggestions for revisions in the protectorate government, particularly in the south, would be either ignored or denied. Important recommendations designed to arrest the development of a separate attitude and practice toward the Muslim north were debated upon and then ignored. Clifford was able to avert the premature extension of taxation to the east, before the local government system had been reformed, only by resorting to clever delaying tactics, Although absent, Lugard through his reputation in official circles still continued to exercise tremendous influence on the government of Nigeria.
Clifford very soon noted with distress the growing differences between the government of the northern emirates and the rest of Nigeria. Many district and provincial officers in the north had become overly enamored of the Hausa-Fulani and Kanuri systems and allowed the traditional rulers to govern with only minimal reference to what was being done elsewhere or to what Lagos wanted. In a series of long dispatches Clifford analyzed what he considered to be a potentially dangerous development 45. He drew on his observations of the Nigerian system for his criticisms, as well as upon his long experience working with Muslim rulers in Malaya. His communications touching on the north were couched in general, introductory terms. Clifford’s ideas received a cold and in some cases a hostile reception. Some officials simply dismissed his analysis as the work of a novice in Nigerian government. Others could see no connection between the possible actions of a Muslim emir in Africa and those observed in other Muslim rulers in another part of the empire. Still others saw Clifford’s criticisms as a further manifestation of envy of Lugard 46. Although he would mention the subject continually in later communications, Clifford realized that any major reform program in the north could not be attempted until the colonial office was willing to concede the necessity for it. Unfortunately for Nigeria, this general revision was never completed, and even in the decade before independence the government of the northern areas was substantially different from that in the rest of Nigeria.
Clifford inherited from Lugard another set of imperatives concerning local government. Lugard had been convinced that true native administration could be effective only when there were functioning native treasuries. This dogmatic concept had led to premature introduction of taxing systems to the Yoruba states. Only World War I and the opposition of the colonial office had prevented the extension of taxation to the Ibo and Ibibio peoples of the east 47. The colonial office in the early 1920s began to pressure Clifford to tidy up the financial system of Nigeria and impose taxation on the five provinces of the east. Clifford knew very well that these areas were inhabited by people who had never experienced direct taxation. Furthermore, he was aware of the need for a general reform of native administration in the east. He believed that to collect revenue there without substantial reform of the government was to invite African opposition, perhaps a repetition of Abeokuta on a broader scale. The opinions of district officers in the east supported this conclusion. Even if African reaction were minimal, forcing another unknown and unwanted system on Africans was to violate the most basic precepts of indirect rule.
Sir Hugh could not, however, refuse to investigate the possibilities of taxation zhe east. Therefore he temporized. In 1922 he sent S. M. Grier, the secretary for native affairs, on a two-month fact-finding mission to the five provinces. Grier’s Teport, although not completely ruling out the possibility of taxation, was nevertheless highly critical of the operation of the warrant chief system in the east 48. He advised that the local administration and courts system be thoroughly revised before any system of taxation was introduced. This revision should seek to discover the natural rulers and insofar as possible the natural boundaries of districts. If levied, any tax should be a simple capitation tax and should be collected by the chiefs. Otherwise, there would be trouble. Clifford agreed that warrant chiefs without traditional standing should be removed and noted that any such process revision would have to be gradual.
Grier’s report was so critical of the eastern system and so unpopular with the colonial office that Clifford in January 1923 sent the assistant secretary for native affairs, G. J. F. Tomlinson, to the east for further investigations. He, too, spent two months in the field. His report, although not as abrasive or as critical of Lugard’s system as Grier’s, underscored the need for a general revision of the administrative system. It called for an end to corruption in local government affairs and a gradual approach to taxation 49. Any scheme of taxation ought to be preceded by a long, introductory campaign to inform the people about what was going to happen. After receiving this information, Clifford did nothing to further Me colonial office’s wishes until August 1924. In response to more pressure, he then instructed Colonel Moorhouse, the lieutenant governor of the southern provinces, to investigate the subject. Moorhouse’s memorandum guardedly recommended the extension of taxation to the east 50. But Sir Hugh would not initiate such a wide-sweeping reform in eastern Nigeria during the short period remaining of his term. Clifford’s delaying tactics postponed the introduction of a system that he disliked. But he could not, for all his arguments, convince the colonial office. His successor, Sir Graeme Thomson, proceeded with all haste to enforce taxation. He instituted a hurried assessment of property in the five provinces and transferred to the east a complex system borrowed from the north. The result, as Sir Hugh had known, was resistance. The women’s disturbances of December 1929, contained by hundreds of soldiers with dreadful loss of life to Ibo and Ibibio women, was directly caused by Thomson’s implementing the colonial office’s taxing policies 51
Whereas Clifford was prevented from instituting necessary reforms by a neutral or hostile colonial office staff, they did recognize the need for reorganization of the central administration of Nigeria. Lugard had certainly not been a good administrator. He liked to be at the center; he would not delegate authority to anyone. Instead of supporting his secretariat, he chose to ignore it in many cases, preferring to labor unnecessarily hard on the mountains of paper that accumulated on his desk. In proposing his reforms in 1920, Clifford noted that he was forced to devote an extraordinary amount of time at his desk a week just to keep up with the three separate administrative entities 52. Even the colonial office had remarked how slow Nigeria was in turning in annual reports and budget estimates by comparison with other areas.
Clifford outlined the nature of the central administration and proposed general remedies as early as December 1919. Five months later, he was still complaining to Lord Milner about the slowness of the colonial office in approving his plans. These were not accepted until July 1920. By this date Clifford had found that his chief secretary, Donald Cameron, a man largely ignored by Lugard, matched his own brilliance and was in addition a complete master of the bureaucratic complexities of the government of Nigeria. There developed a close bond between the volatile, aristocratic Clifford and the dour, efficient Cameron. The bulk of the work of investigating the Nigerian administrative system fell to Cameron and his staff, who by November 1920 provided Clifford with detailed plans for a single secretariat. Clifford approved Cameron’s suggestions with only minor modifications, the colonial office concurred, and the new system went into effect on January 1921 53. Cameron, as chief secretary, became the second in command. Supported by Clifford, he set himself the task of creating the most efficient government instrument possible within the limits imposed by extreme financial stringency. One articulate member of that staff, Sir Alan Burns, noted the contrast between the Clifford days in Nigeria and the near anarchy of the central government during Lugard’s tenure. Under Cameron, the staff of the central government became an excellent training ground for young officers. Within a few years no fewer than six of the officers schooled by Clifford and Cameron were serving as governors of dependencies.
Clifford, according to his critics, did not like the African educated elite. In a much quoted speech to the Nigerian council in December 1920, Clifford indeed gave ammunition to his censors 54. He denounced the idea that a few British oriented Africans should govern the mass of the peoples of the hinterland without sanction of the traditional rulers. He ridiculed the concept of a united British West Africa and stated “that there is or can be in the visible future such a thing as a ‘West African Nation’ is as manifest an absurdity as that there is, or can be, an ‘European Nation’, at all events until the millennium.” There was not even any such thing as a Nigerian nation. In Nigeria, as in the Gold Coast, there were too many separate peoples with fundamental racial, political, social, linguistic, and religious differences. It was without unity except that imposed by Britain.
Clifford’s statements have been taken out of context by many present day nationalists. Combined with his hostility to the national congress of British West Africa and his handling of the Eleko affair, these pronouncements supposedly show his opposition to progress 55. Actually, Clifford’s attitudes toward self-rule by indigenous peoples had altered little since his Malayan days. He was not opposed to the development of representative institutions, but he believed these had to be firmly based on the traditions of the people. Throughout his tenure he did everything possible to upgrade traditional institutions and he hoped that in the future more chiefs with a modicum of Western education could be chosen. Provincial and district officers in the protectorate were specifically instructed to cooperate with the chiefs and their councils. Clifford and his chief secretary, Donald Cameron, viewed the early Nigerian nationalists such as Herbert Macaulay not as patriots but as potential troublemakers, without any constituency even in Lagos. Clifford’s removal and deportation of Eshugbayi, the Eleko (traditional ruler) of Lagos, was conditioned not by Eshugbayi’s actions as traditional ruler but by his involvement with Macaulay and others in local politics.
Clifford was not blindly opposed to educated Nigerians. In fact, he reinstated the legislative council as an important part of the central government machinery. In 1914 Lugard had emasculated the old legislative council and renamed its impo,ent successor the Nigerian council. Only six nominated Africans had seats on this unrepresentative body. Clifford, however, was committed to having a vehicle through which African opinion could be ascertained and information could be efficiently channeled down to the governed. In 1920, Sir Hugh approved the reorganization of the Lagos town council on the elective principle. His recommendations for a restructured Nigerian legislative council were approved two years later by the colonial office. This revision called for a council of forty-six members: twenty-seven officials and nineteen nonofficials. Three of the unofficial members were elected by prominent male residents of Lagos who could meet the property and literacy qualifications. Clifford saw the Lagos based elections as a first step toward the eventual extension of elections to other urban areas of Nigeria and perhaps in time to more representative self-government in the protectorate. The constitutional reform of 1922 was the most fundamental extension of responsibility to educated Nigerians before World War II. It had been done by Clifford not for ideological reasons but simply to improve the workings of the Nigerian government. As Clifford noted of the reform, he wanted the legislative council “to be real and effective or not to have it at all.” 56
Clifford’s term ended in late 1924, but he delayed his departure to act as host for the visit to Nigeria of the Prince of Wales. Clifford had hoped that this visit might obtain publicity for the colonial service and help in recruiting good officers by dispelling fears concerning West Africa’s unhealthy climate. But an outbreak of yellow fever and of plague that year seemed to justify the older belief. Sir Hugh knew when he left Nigeria that he was to be the governor of Ceylon—the top post in the colonial service. Before his arrival in Nigeria in 1919, the Lagos Weekly Record in a major editorial welcomed him as one whose “golden record in Crown Colony administration” promised well for Nigeria in the wake of Sir Frederick Lugard’s “nefarious administration.” 57 When Clifford left in 1925, there were no such fulsome outpourings. He could, nevertheless, look back on six years of constructive change. The Nigerian government at all levels was far stronger than the loose, almost chaotic entity he had inherited from Lugard.

The Final Years

Clifford’s career after leaving Nigeria can be briefly summarized. He returned to Ceylon, where he had been so successful as colonial secretary in the years just before World War I. But now the political climate had changed. Constitutional advance had been rapid, particularly after the institution of the Montagu-Chelmsford reforms in India. In 1920 the Ceylonese legislative council had been increased in size and an unofficial majority had come into being. Additional elected territorial and communal members were added in 1923. The governor could no longer veto legislation but could only recommend such action to the secretary of state. Neither could he arbitrarily cut off debate in the council. The governor still retained his powers of certification and he alone could initiate financial legislation.
Clifford disliked these constitutional arrangements and vehemently denounced them. Some observers accused him of not wanting the constitution to work; some attribute his implacable hostility to his growing instability. In fact, the 1923 reforms had taken power from the governor and transferred it to the council without giving that agency commensurate responsibility. Sir Hugh’s criticisms, transmitted to the colonial office, resulted in the appointment of a commission in 1927 headed by the Earl of Donoughmore to investigate the government of Ceylon. Its report, presented in the following year, supported many of Clifford’s criticisms and resulted eventually in the abolition of communal seats and the grant of adult franchise.
The office of governor and high commissioner of the Straits settlements and the Malayan federation fell vacant in 1927 and the colonial office acceded to Clifford’s request for the position. After twenty-five years Clifford thus returned to an area that in many ways, intellectually and emotionally, he had never left. Yet Malaya, like Ceylon, also was in the process of change. Given Clifford’s experience in administration and vast knowledge of the area, one might have expected him to make a considerable impact. This, however, was not to be. Sir Hugh had always been a man of decided opinion and quick temper. Associates had noticed, even during the latter stages of his tenure in Nigeria, increased moods of depression and unusual behavior. These eccentricities increased while he was in Ceylon, and eventually Clifford’s instability caused his premature retirement.
By 1929, Sir Hugh Clifford’s condition had worsened to such an extent that it became necessary for him to resign as governor. According to the official explanation, Lady Clifford’s health was waning and therefore it was necessary for them to return to Britain. This was not true. Lady Clifford’s health was not a problem, but Clifford’s growing instability was. His family and friends wanted Clifford to return to England, where—with expert care and freed from the burdens of office—with proper rest he could recuperate. Sir Hugh, however, never completely recovered. His retirement was not just a personal tragedy; it was also a major loss to the government. It was likewise a loss to letters and history because he might have contributed much to both in a happier retirement. Clifford was one of the most brilliant men ever to serve the empire. He never again held a responsible position. His death in 1941 brought to an end a remarkable career. In pursuit of his avocation of writing, he had achieved a stature just below the first rank of his contemporaries. As a colonial governor, he had brought his intelligence and integrity to bear upon the problems of five major territories.
Clifford’s service in Africa, though not as dramatic as was his earlier career in Malaya, had far-reaching effects. His tenure in the Gold Coast laid the foundations upon which Guggisberg would later build. In Nigeria, his reforms of the central government were fundamental. He possessed an introspective empathy with subject peoples that was shown in his conceptualization and practice of indirect rule in Asia and Africa. His approach was more logical and more humane than that of his famous contemporary Lord Lugard. Clifford played as important a part in the formulation and development of the principles of indirect rule in West Africa as Lugard did. His work deeply influenced many of the outstanding governors in Africa in the period between the wars. Among these was Sir Donald Cameron, who angrily repudiated the suggestion that he was Lugard’s disciple insisted that he had learned the positive principles of native administration from Sir Hugh Clifford 58. He was one of the great governors of the twentieth century.

1. For further basic details of Clifford’s early life see William R. Rolff, ed., Stories by Sir Hugh Clifford (Kuala Lumpur, 1966), pp. viii-x. Considerable help in the preparation of this chapter was obtained from Sir Hugh’s grandson, Hugo Holmes, particularly those portions relating to Clifford’s private life, and from I. F, Nicolson, who read the chapter.
2. For Weld’s contribution to Malaya see Alice, Lady Lovat, The Life of Sir Frederick Weld (London, 1914).
3. For the background to European expansion in Southeast Asia and Indonesia see Sir Richard O. Winstedt, Malaya and Its History (London, 1951); Virginia Thompson, Thailand: The New Siam (New York, 1967), pp. 154-165.
4. Winstedt, Malaya, p. 66.
5. Chai Hon-chan, The Development of British Malaya, 1896-1909 (New York, 1964), p. 11.
6. Lady Lovat, Sir Frederick Weld, p. 393.
7. Clifford noted many times how contented he was with such isolation from bureaucratic control. iae, for example, Sir Hugh Clifford, Bush-Whacking and Other Tales from Malaya (London, 19-29), pp. 120-121.
8. Chai Hon-chan and E. Sadka, “The journal of Sir Hugh Low, Perak, 1877,” Journal Malayan Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society (November 1954).
9. W. S. Maxwell and W. S. Gibson, eds., Treaties and Engagements Affecting the Malay States and Borneo (London, 1924).
10. Sir Hugh Clifford, The Further Side of Silence (Garden City, 1927), p. x.
11. Clifford, Bush-Whacking, p. 6.
12. Ibid., pp. 85 ff.; Chai, Development of British Malaya, pp. 28-29.
13. Sir Frank Swettenham, British Malaya (London, 1906), p. 271.
14. For details of the establishment of the federation see Chai, Development of British Malaya, pp. 36-37, 43-44; K. S. Tregonning, A History of Modern Malaya (Singapore, 1964), pp. 164-165.
15. Chai, Development of British Malaya, p. 271.
16. K. G. Tregonning, Under Chartered Company Rule: North Borneo, 1881-1946 (Singapore, 1958), p. 59; also see John Bastin and R. W. Winks, Malaysia: Selected Historical Readings (London, 1966), pp. 236-246.
17. Clifford, Bush-Whacking, p. 193.
18. A few references to Clifford at this time can be found in Leonard Woolf, Growing; An Autobiography of the Years 1904 to 1911 (London, 1961), pp. 137-138, 144-145, 170-171.
19. Joseph Conrad to Sir Hugh Clifford, 22 June 1911, in G. Jean-Aubry, Joseph Conrad; Life and Letters, 2 vols. (Garden City, 1927), 2:131132.
20. Interview with Sir Alan Burns, London, January 8, 1975; R. E. Wraith, Guggisberg (London, 1967), pp. 74-75.
21. Clifford, Bush-Whacking, p. 132.
22. Sir Hugh Clifford, A Prince of Malaya (New York, 1926), foreword.
23. W. W. Claridge, History of the Gold Coast and Ashanti, 2 vols. (New York, 1964), 1:23.
24. A good account of Gold Coast conditions is David Kimble, A Political History of Ghana: The Rise of Gold Coast Nationalism (London, 1965).
25. Wraith, Guggisberg, pp. 73-97, devotes an entire chapter to Clifford as the originator of many of those advances attributed to Guggisberg.
26. See. for example, the dispatch from Clifford to Harcourt, 3 March 1913, Colonial Office (hereinafter cited C.O.) 96/528.
27. Wraith, Guggisberg, pp. 80-81.
28. Kimble, Political History of Ghana, pp. 81-83.
29. Gold Coast, Sessional Paper, no. XVII of 1918-1919.
30. Wraith, Guggisberg, pp. 89-90.
31. Kimble, Political History of Ghana, pp. 102-103.
32. Colonial Office Paper, Africa (West), no. 1065, confidential, Memorandum on Togoland (London, 1918).
33. Clifford’s early dissatisfaction with the government is reflected in Clifford to Harcourt, 3 March 1913, C.O. 961528. The bulk of correspondence concerning revision of the legislative council is in Gold Coast, Sessional Paper, no. VII of 1916-1917.
34. Great Britain, Parliamentary Papers, Cmd. 1600, Report of a Committee on Trade and Taxation for British West Africa (London, 1922); Kimble, Political History of Ghana, pp. 54-55.
35. An excellent short discussion of Clifford’s attempt to change the native jurisdiction ordinance is in Kimble, Political History of Ghana, pp. 471-476.
36. Gold Coast, Legislative Council Debates, 25 September 1916.
37. Wraith, Guggisberg, p. 97.
38. Clifford had earlier been seriously considered as Lugard’s successor as governor of Northern Nigeria in 1906. 1. F. Nicolson, The Administration oJ Nigeria, 1900-1960 (London, 1969), p. 109.
39. Correspondence between Walter Long and Lugard from April 1917 to December 1918 in Lugard Papers, Mss. British Empire S. 73, Rhodes House, Oxford.
40. For a reinterpretation of Lugard’s administration see Nicolson, Administration of Nigeria, pp. 180-250.
41. For the background of British activity in Egbaland see A. K. Ajasafe, A History of Abeokuta (Abeokuta, 1924); Margery Perham, Lugard: the Years of Authority, 1889-1945 (London, 1960), pp. 456, 449-450; Colonial Office Paper, Africa (West), no. 1070, confidential, Report by Sir F. D. Lugard on the Amalgamation of Northern and Southern Nigeria, and administration, 1912-1919 (London, 1919); for the commission of inquiry report, March 1915, see C.O. 583134.
42. The most comprehensive treatment of the Abeokuta uprising is contained in the Maxwell report in C.O. 583172; see also “Report from Lt. Col. Feneran, 0. C. West African Service Brigade, to Lugard, 9 Aug. 1918,” in C.O. 583/68.
43. Minute papers attached to Acting governor Boyle’s dispatch, July 1919, C.O. 583/75; Clifford to Milner, confidential, 29 August 1919, and minute papers appended to dispatch, C.O. 583/77.
44. Amery to Clifford, 8 January 1920, C.O. 583/77.
45. See, for example, Clifford to Milner, confidential, 24 June 1920, C.O. 583/89.
46. See A. J. Herbert’s minute in ibid.
47. Harcourt to Lugard, 14 August 1914 and 30 April 1915, in Chief Secretary Office (hereinafter cited C. S. 0.) file 9/1/18, Federal Archives, lbadan.
48. S. M. Grier, Report on the Eastern Provinces by the Secretaryfor Native Affairs (Lagos, 1922).
49. G. J. F. Tomlinson, Report of a Tour of the Eastern Provinces by the Assistant Secretary for Native Affairs (Lagos, 1923).
50. Memorandum by Sir Harry Moorhouse, C.S.O. 26/2, file 17720, vol. 1.
51. For these disturbances see Harry A. Gailey, The Road to Aba (New York, 1970).
52. Clifford to Milner, confidential, 26 May 1920, C.O. 583/88.
53. See various long, detailed dispatches in C. 0. 583/ 88 and C. 0. 583/ 94,
54. Sir Hugh Clifford, Address to Nigerian Council (Lagos, 1920), p. 29; over 300 pages long, it covered every aspect of the Nigerian scene and Clifford’s reactions to the major problems of the day.
55. For the government’s position on the Eleko affair see Acting governor Cameron’s dispatch to the Colonial Office, 10june 1921, C.O. 583/101.
56. Michael Crowder, A Short History of Nigeria (New York, 1966), p. 256.
57. Lagos Weekly Record, 14 June 1919, reprinted in A. H. M. Kirk-Greene, ed., Lugard and the Amalgamation of Nigeria: A Documentary Record (London, 1968), pp. 278-281.
58. Sir Donald Cameron, My Tanganyika Service and Some Nigeria (London, 1939), p. 150.


Bienvenue dans mon monde d'exploration et de découverte ! Je suis Ingrid Allain, une voyageuse passionnée avec une curiosité insatiable pour la riche tapisserie de la culture africaine. Pour moi, l'Afrique n'est pas juste une destination ; c'est une fascination de toute une vie et une source d'inspiration. Des rythmes vibrants des cercles de tambours d'Afrique de l'Ouest à la perlerie complexe des artisans Maasaï, chaque coin de ce continent détient un trésor de traditions à découvrir. À travers mes écrits, je vise à partager la beauté, la diversité et la résilience des cultures africaines avec le monde. E-mail: [email protected] / Linkedin
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