By expanding the geographical scope of the history of violence and war, this volume challenges both Western and state-centric narratives of the decline of violence and its relationship to modernity. It highlights instead similarities across early modernity in terms of representations, legitimations, applications of, and motivations for violence. It seeks to integrate methodologies of the study of violence into the history of war, thereby extending the historical significance of both fields of research. Thirteen case studies outline the myriad ways in which large-scale violence was understood and used by states and non-state actors throughout the early modern period across Africa, Asia, the Americas, the Atlantic, and Europe, demonstrating that it was far more complex than would be suggested by simple narratives of conquest and resistance. Moreover, key features of imperial violence apply equally to large-scale violence within societies. As the authors argue, violence was a continuum, ranging from small-scale, local actions to full-blown war. The latter was privileged legally and increasingly associated with states during early modernity, but its legitimacy was frequently contested and many of its violent forms, such as raiding and destruction of buildings and crops, could be found in activities not officially classed as war.
In 1901, Francis Z. S. Peregrino, an African man representing the native peoples of South Africa, addressed the future King George V and Queen Mary, during their globe-trotting tour of the British Empire. Moved by the presence of the future King during the royal visit, Peregrino noted that the Duke of York ‘dwelt not on any distinctions of race and colour’ and was ‘deeply touched by the display of loyalty’ from his father’s subjects of colour.1 In the person of the duke and in the memory of the duke’s grandmother the Great Queen, Peregrino invested in the promise of an inclusive, non-racial imperial citizenship, the rights and responsibilities of which would be shared by all of Britain’s colonial subjects regardless of colour or creed.
Born in Accra in Gold Coast, Peregrino moved to the United States around 1890, editing and publishing ‘coloured’ newspapers in Buffalo and Pittsburgh before emigrating to the Cape Colony in 1900. He came to the Cape in the midst of the South African War, he said, to ‘devote his pen and brain to the service of the native people’.2 As editor of the Cape Town-based South African Spectator, Peregrino articulated a belief in British constitutionalism and loyalty to the British Empire. As a cosmopolitan writer, activist, and intellectual, Peregrino understood himself as being simultaneously ‘native’ and British and consequently made sense of his political and cultural universe in an idiom of Britishness and imperial citizenship.
This chapter focuses on the intermediaries of empire, on Western-educated respectables, who made and were made by the contact zone of empire.3 They developed deep-seated political and cultural connections with empire and often came to see themselves as part of an imperial culture. Many of them recognised certain benefits of British rule, and a few even imagined themselves to be British people. At the same time, they were intensely aware of the dominance, dispossession, and exclusion of colonial rule, where the promises of the British constitution and imperial citizenship uncomfortably coexisted with an empire of violence, dispossession, and disenfranchisement.
During the second half of the nineteenth century, and well into the twentieth century, these respectables often imagined and even agitated for a future in the empire, rather than outside it. Nationalist organisations such as the Indian National Congress and the South African Native National Congress clung to the language of imperial citizenship into the early decades of the twentieth century.4 It may be easy, in retrospect, to condemn these historical actors as out of touch with the zeitgeist of history, but they did not have the luxury of knowing what was to come. This chapter examines the reception of nineteenth-century royal tours to the Cape Colony and the British Raj by ‘respectable’ people of colour, reflecting the ways that ideologies and mythologies of imperial culture were refashioned by respectables of colour through a lens of shared imperial citizenship, an alternative vision of imperial culture whereby all ‘civilised’ and loyal (male) subjects shared the rights and responsibilities of the British constitutional tradition.5 While formal citizenship in a legal sense did not exist in Britain or the Empire until 1948, respectables professed a membership in the political and cultural community of empire, embodied in the rights and responsibilities of the British constitution, reinforced by the rhetoric of the liberal empire, and displayed through loyalty to the monarchy.6
British missionaries, administrators, and intellectuals broadly recognised a transnational class of ‘educated natives’ who were nurtured and educated in Western culture through missionary efforts and ‘Anglicisation’ movements. During the nineteenth century, colonial schools such as Elphinstone College in Bombay (f. 1824), the Lovedale Missionary Institution (f. 1840), and Zonnebloem College (f. 1858) in South Africa were founded with distinct if related intentions – namely to ‘civilise’ an intermediary class of indigenous people who could multiply efforts to evangelise the masses, translate cultures and languages for religious and administrative purposes, and mediate colonial governance. Most famously, in the case of India, Thomas Babington Macaulay’s Minute on Indian Education (1835) advocated the formation of ‘a class who may be interpreters between us and the millions whom we govern; a class of persons, Indian in blood and colour, but English in taste, in opinions, in morals, and in intellect’.
Historian have ably described the transformation of nineteenth-century imperial culture, from a liberal-humanitarian discourse of Anglicisation during the early part of the century to one that that privileged ‘traditional’ indigenous elites over Western-educated respectables, a rejection of liberal-humanitarianism in the aftermath of the abolition of slavery, the Indian Mutiny, and the Morant Bay ‘Rebellion’.7 The educated native came to represent, among other caricatures, ‘the Dangerous Native’, ‘a misadjusted, urbanised, male agitator, his lips dripping with wild and imperfectly understood rhetoric about rights’ or the ‘money-grubbing’, acquisitive, and effeminate babu.8 This literature, while quite compelling, does not properly account for the ongoing contributions of colonial respectables to imperial politics and culture. The shifting attitudes of many colonial officials, politicians, and intellectuals of European descent toward a more racialised and ‘traditional’ imperial culture represent only one part of the story. As evidenced by the deeply personal connections to the British Crown and their reactions to the royal tours, respectables envisioned a community of empire based on loyalty, civilisation, and respectability rather than one based on race or ethnicity. Moreover, while the historical actors of this chapter imagined a political and cultural community that was uniquely imperial and framed their rights in the language of British traditions, they also participated in a broader struggle for human rights against the rising tide of racism and the ‘global colour bar’.9
Scholars, however, have rarely presented these Western-educated people of colour in such light. Post-colonial and other area studies scholars have treated the historical actors presented here in skilful and sophisticated ways but struggle perhaps too diligently to excise them from the spectre of collaboration, to really see them as sly subverters of the colonial order or to understand ‘mimicry’ as a form of anti-colonial resistance.10 On the other hand, scholars of British history and British imperial history fail to see them as relevant to their political discourses.11 With these historical traditions in mind, Saul Dubow has proposed a more inclusive understanding of Britishness, as a global cultural space open to borrowing, appropriation, and redefinition, arguing for the usefulness of:
a concept of Britishness that dispenses, as far as is possible, with connotations of racial or ethnic ancestry and which decouples the idea of Britishness from a British state or the ‘ethnological unity’ of Greater Britain hankered after by J. R. Seeley. It does so by challenging the unstated assumption that the British Empire refers to territories and peoples which were somehow owned or collectively possessed by the United Kingdom and proposes instead a more capacious category capable of including elective, hyphenated forms of belonging.... Britishness, in this sense, is better seen as a field of cultural, political, and symbolic attachments which includes the rights, claims, and aspirations of subject-citizens as well as citizen-subjects – ‘non-Britons’ as well as neo-Britons’ in today’s parlance.12
This chapter aims to explore the responses of pro-empire, ‘respectable’ people of colour in the British Cape Colony and the British Raj – specifically, a comparatively small group of cosmopolitan newspaper writers who claimed British rights and imperial citizenship derived from their loyalty to the empire and the monarchy. The newspaper editors of this analysis were advocates of a non-racial respectable status and identity, who saw themselves as the (more) authentic heirs of British constitutionalism.
The royal tours offer a fascinating lens through which to write a global history of loyalism and Britishness in the British Empire. Respectable people of colour in South Africa and India shared a basic worldview with a global class of respectable subjects across the British Empire, all of whom commented on and responded to the royal tours in comparable languages of loyalty. This global history of Britishness and imperial citizenship serves to provincialise the British Isles in rather profound ways, to demonstrate that many people of colour could and did embrace an imperial identity despite the racial determinism, violence, and dispossession that came to dominate the colonial experience during the nineteenth century. During the royal tours, they appealed to the liberal-humanitarian rhetoric of empire, which cloaked the more brutal reality that often lay beneath the surface, to demand their rights as imperial citizens and loyal subjects of the Queen.
While the failure of Britain to fulfil the promises of imperial citizenship or the rising socio-cultural dominance of imperial ‘whiteness’ (see Chapters 3 and 5) may have pushed these communities away from an imperial identity, this failure could not have been foreseen by the historical actors at the time. Destabilised and delegitimised by events such as the Union of South Africa (1910) or the Amritsar Massacre (1919), these counter-discourses of identity and belonging survived well into the twentieth century, used by African and Indian nationalists to appeal for imperial justice, by colonial soldiers to challenge the military colour bar during the World Wars, and by the Windrush generation to contest racial discrimination at ‘Home’.13
Respectability in world history
The rise of the bourgeoisie was long an accepted framework for nineteenth-century European history. It was central to the Marxist conception of history that a commercial and professional capitalist middle class displaced the feudal aristocracy as the ruling elite of society. Over the last several decades, historians have skilfully deconstructed this paradigm, displacing it with a new orthodoxy that reflects both social continuity and change.14 While the rise of the middle class thesis in Europe has been challenged and largely displaced (or revised), the ethos of respectability associated with bourgeois attitudes and values remains relevant, particularly in the context of empire.
There were many ways for one to visualise, articulate, and represent respectability, through social networks, gender roles, dress, manners, consumption, and language. Vivian Bickford-Smith defines respectability, ‘that ubiquitous Victorian value’, as ‘the acceptance of the values of the English elite: thrift, the sanctity of property, deference to superiors, belief in the moralising efficacy of hard work and cleanliness’.15 The notion of respectability in Britain as a malleable and empowering cultural form can and should be extended to the study of the British Empire, where both settlers of European descent and people of colour often imagined themselves to be respectable people. In particular, the historical actors of this chapter embraced ‘civilised’ behaviour and dress, the value of the English language, cleanliness, education, the ballot box, and social conservatism, best illustrated by paternalism toward their social inferiors (and in the case of South Africa, derision toward ‘traditional’ chiefly elites).
While definitions of citizenship in the late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century British world were increasingly defined along ethnic and racial lines, there also persisted more open-ended and universalist discourses of imperial citizenship. They centred, in particular, on a mythologised image of Victoria the Good, the maternal, justice-giving Queen. Colonial societies were inundated with this mythology, which was a fundamental ‘component of the ideological apparatus of the imperialist state’.16 While the African and Asian intelligentsias of this chapter were fundamentally social conservatives, interested in protecting and enhancing their own power and status, they also demanded a radical transformation of imperial culture by demanding the inherent rights and responsibilities of loyal subjects and imperial citizens.
In expressing the social position of such respectables, Max Weber’s distinction between class and status proves to be most helpful. To Weber, status (ständische Lage) meant:
an effective claim to social esteem in terms of positive or negative privileges; it is typically founded on: 1. style of life, hence 2. formal education, which may be (a) empirical training or (b) rational instruction.... Status may rest on class position of a distinct or ambiguous kind. However, it is not solely determined by it.... A ‘status group’ means a plurality of persons who, within a larger group, successfully claim: 1. a special social esteem, and possibly also 2. status monopolies.17
The claims of the colonised to respectable status might be considered an aspiration-to-class, to a non-racial, universal middle class, but not class in itself. Moreover, they did not aspire to be white or to be ethnically British. They did not, as Leo Switzer argues, ‘participat[e] in choral and reading groups, debating societies, sewing and singing groups, and in ... tennis, croquet, and cricket ... rugby, and even horse racing’ because they aspired to British ‘middle-class culture’.18 They saw themselves to be modern and cosmopolitan, observers and readers of a larger world. They could understand themselves as both ‘natives’ and ‘British’ without contradiction. Moreover, as respectable, civilised British subjects, they simultaneously claimed to be advocates for indigenous peoples and often peered down at those whom they considered socially and culturally beneath them, regardless of race. These public men inherited, in a very real sense, the tangled and complicated legacy of British liberalism. They believed, as Uday Singh Mehta has argued in the context of British liberals, in both individual freedoms and political representation as well as a ‘cosmopolitanism of reason’ that failed to successfully confront difference in the absence of comparable rationality and respectability.19 They argued for what Theodore Koditschek defines as a Macaulian constitutionalism, ‘representative government, individual rights, the right to bear arms, “no taxation without representation,” [and] institutional checks and balances’.20 As a related set of global political discourses, Victorian liberalism broadly embraced a universalism that sought to impose its own limited conception of civilisation on others. For British liberals, this meant that empire was not a paradox, but a natural and logical extension of their worldview. The South Asian and African intelligentsia of this chapter imagined their own citizenship and respectability, related to other social and cultural groups, with a similar brand of cosmopolitanism, that is, with their own imperial eyes. As C. A. Bayly argues about Indian intellectuals, ‘they cannibalised, reconstructed and re-authored those ideas, often using them in an intellectual assault on the policies, moral character, and culture of their rulers.... [They] believed that they could rewrite liberal discourse so as to strip it of its coercive colonial features and re-empower it as an indigenous ideological, but one still pointing toward universal progress.’21
There is an obvious danger in interpreting the development of Asian and African intelligentsias as a function of modernising ‘Angloglobalisation’, as an imposition of the British civilising mission rather than as the result of a complex and multi-faceted set of encounters across the world.22 Niall Ferguson, perhaps the most brash proponent of such an outlook, argues for the modernising legacy of the British Empire against those who identify instead the ‘racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia, and related intolerance’, all of which, he argues, ‘existed long before colonialism’.23 British governance, Ferguson believes, brought great benefits, including ‘the English language’, ‘representative assemblies’, ‘the triumph of capitalism’, and ‘the Anglicisation of North America and Australasia’.24 From the opposite side of the political and intellectual spectrum, post-colonial scholars, most notably Frantz Fanon, have described the processes by which the colonised internalise their inferiority by trying to be white (e.g. wearing a white mask), by dressing, talking, and acting ‘white’.25 In a related if less polemical vein, the cultural anthropologists Jean and John Comaroff described the ‘colonisation of the mind’ of African peoples by evangelical missionaries, inoculating potential converts with the ‘quotidian’ practices of a middle-class, industrialising British society.26
Rather than understanding the practices and behaviours of respectability as a British imposition, it makes more sense to understand them as part of a more complex field of cultural encounters. The cosmopolitan newspaper writers of this chapter were avid readers of the political and cultural currents of a larger world and saw themselves to be modern people. Victorian-era imperialism and globalisation created innumerable sets of cultural connections and borrowings whereby local actors could participate in multiple political, cultural, and social universes without paradox. They could also borrow, embrace, and appropriate cultures, politics, and social norms from multiple sources without abandoning their own histories and experiences.
Men of the (British) world
The cosmopolitan publishers of independent African and South Asian newspapers were bi- or multi-lingual men, who were well-versed in the political discourses of the larger British world, and beyond.27 The South African Spectator boasted on its masthead that it was ‘positively cosmopolitan. We know a man and not colour: principles, and not creed.’28 John Tengo Jabavu, for instance, was a founder of Imbumba Yama Nyama (South African Aborigines’ Association) and was in contact with the Aborigines’ Protection Society in Britain, which included Charles Dilke and Thomas Fowell Buxton among its members, and frequently wrote letters to their newspaper the Aborigines’ Friend.29 He was a leader of a ‘Native Combination’ in 1885 that agreed, unsuccessfully, to form a branch of the Empire League and considered himself a proud ‘Gladstonian Liberal’.30 He petitioned and corresponded with government officials in Britain, mailing copies of Imvo Zabantsundu to British MPs.31 Yet, as Peregrino’s life story demonstrates, South African culture was not only shaped by Britain and the British Empire but by the United States, pan-Africanism, and other transnational currents. The South Asian writers were perhaps more deeply enmeshed in an Anglo-Indian culture, but they demonstrated an avid interest in the history and politics of Britain and the British Empire.32 Viswanath Narayan Mandalik translated Elphinstone’s History of India into Marathi and Gujerathi, translated works of Hindu law into English, gave several papers at the Royal Asiatic Society, and edited the transactions of the Literary Society of Bombay.33 Similarly, Kristo Das Pal was an important member of the British Indian Association and often allied himself with local British merchants and settlers.
These South Asian and African intellectuals were creating and participating in an imperial political culture that was often communicated in both the vernacular (Xhosa and Marathi, for instance) and the lingua franca of empire (English). Their message was accessible to the imperial stakeholders, to colonial administrators and sympathetic parties in Britain and the empire, and to the local, to literate and non-literate people in their local communities. During the royal tours, they negotiated, contested, and remade the national, or transnational, ‘imagined community’ of empire in print.
Colonial officials were deeply concerned by the politicisation of Africans and South Asians in the empire. The writers of the independent South African and Indian newspapers were socially conservative in the sense that they sought to protect and enhance their own social power and status. While their politics were often radical, particularly in challenging the dominant racial discourses of imperial culture, they always framed their notions of citizenship in loyalty to the monarchy and the British Empire. Importantly, both the Indian National Congress (f. 1885) and the South African Native National Congress (f. 1912), seen as the foremost anti-colonial and nationalist political organisations of the twentieth century, swore allegiance to the British monarch. Colonial officials, however, conflated politicisation with disloyalty.
The British government carefully watched the independent press, with local agents charged with reporting Indian opinion.34 During the 1875 royal tour, the Viceroy of India, Lord Northbrook, wrote to Philip Wodehouse, the Governor of Bombay, asking him to make a secret inquiry about intentions of the ‘Native newspapers in Bombay’, whom he later accused of spreading false rumours and of ‘exceeding what is consistent with the conduct of loyal subjects’.35 As we shall see, Imvo Zabantsundu was shut down as a traitorous organ of enemy propaganda by the military government of the Cape.
Officials also worried that the dissemination of news and information from the newspapers, through the gossip of the local bazaar or ‘the Native school master who read it to them’, would inevitably lead to the politicisation of non-literate people of colour.36 In 1878, the colonial government of India sought to crack down on ‘seditious writings’ of the native newspapers that constantly complained of the ‘injustice and tyranny’ of the British government in India.37 The Viceroy’s Council under Lord Lytton passed Act IV of 1878, through which newspapers were subject to seizure if found to ‘contain any words, signs, or visible representations likely to excite disaffection to the Government established by law in British India, or antipathy between any persons of different races, castes, religions, or sects in British India’.38 While this rather extreme measure was repealed in 1881 by Lord Ripon’s government, the concern reveals the cultural potency that the native press really had. At the same time, the fact that such virulent political discourses, ones that often criticised colonial or imperial rule, could survive in an empire where, for instance, mutinous sepoys were attached to cannons and blown to bits, says something rather curious about the Janus-faced nature of British rule.
The independent press: India
Independent Indian newspapers began to proliferate in British South Asia during the second half of the nineteenth century. While these newspapers had a circulation of only about 100,000 readers in 1873, the highest single circulation totalling 3,000, they articulated and disseminated a powerful political message that, despite fervent loyalty to the Crown and the British Empire, frightened many colonial officials.39 Independent vernacular or native newspapers, as they have been called, were typically owned by British-educated, town-dwelling, English-speaking Indians.40 The newspaper writers of Native Opinion and the Hindoo Patriot combined political activism against local and imperial injustice and corruption with celebration of India’s place in the British Empire. Although the social origins of Viswanath Narayan Mandalik, the founder of Native Opinion, differ from those of Harish Chandra Mukherjee and Kristo Das Pal, the successful editors of the Hindoo Patriot, all three men combined service and loyalty to the empire, local political interests, journalism, and literary endeavours.41 All three were part of elite political cultures in large urban centres, where the British offered a degree of self-governance, and thus part of a sub-imperial culture that sought to improve its own status and power through its connections to Britain and by controlling local wealth and politics. They generally looked down on those socially and culturally beneath them but celebrated the princely elites of South Asia as heroes and leaders. While several other publications will be incorporated into the analysis of the independent South Asian press, these organs of ‘native opinion’ are featured mostly prominently.
Native Opinion was a weekly published in both English and Marathi between 1867 and 1889, founded and edited by Viswanath Narayan Mandalik; a man named Narayan Mahadeo Paramanand took over editorial duties soon after the paper’s founding, though Mandalik continued to contribute many or most of the articles.42 Mandalik was a chitpávan Brahmin born in Murud on the Konkan Coast, south of Bombay, in 1833.43 He took a law degree at the Elphinstone Institution, the predecessor to Elphinstone College, before beginning a career in the colonial service, working in the Sindh for the (in)famous and widely travelled colonial official Bartle Frere, who subscribed to Native Opinion, in addition to working as an educational inspector, as a sub-judge at Bassein, as director of the government book depot in Bombay, and as the assistant to the Income Tax Commissioner.44 He was also a political activist and politician in municipal and imperial politics, becoming mayor of Bombay and serving as a member of the city’s exclusive legislative council.45
The newspapers in the Bombay Presidency, home of Native Opinion and one of the most populated urban spaces on the subcontinent, acted as organs for local educated natives, who were generally excluded by the high property and wealth requirements of municipal citizenship.46 By 1885, there were already forty-three Indian newspapers in Bombay, and the municipality was characterised by a vibrant but socially exclusive local political culture.47 The extension of commercial and property rights to local elites under the East India Company and development of limited self-governance by means of a series of Municipal Acts (1865, 1872, 1888) under the Raj were designed to produce a local class of intermediaries and to reduce the financial burden of the imperial government.48 Local politics and the Bombay Municipal Corporation were dominated by Anglo-Indian settlers and by an elite cadre of Indian traders, industrialists, and landlords.49 On the whole, Bombay’s Indian newspapers ‘campaigned for an extension of the municipal franchise as well as for greater and more direct Indian representation on both provincial and imperial legislative councils; they also focused on exposing corruption among the dominant shetia (i.e. magnate) class, while keeping up attacks on the colonial state on a range of civil rights’ issues’.50 Mandalik’s politics transcended this social bifurcation of Bombay political discourse, between property-owning ‘colonial-indigenous’ elites and an activist intelligentsia, reflecting a radicalism on his part that is not suitably reflected in the historical literature.51
The Bengal Recorder (f. 1849) of Calcutta was renamed the Hindoo Patriot in 1853 and purchased by Harish Chandra Mukherjee in 1855.52 Mukherjee was born in 1824 to a ‘high-caste Brahmin’ family of ‘poor circumstances’ in Bhowanipore.53 While the editorship of the paper was in the hands of Kristo Das Pal by the time of the royal tour in 1875, Mukherjee’s political activism as editor established the Patriot as an important voice in local and imperial politics, most notably for supporting the indigo ryots (peasants or farmers) against landowning planters during the 1859 Indigo Revolt, after which he spent the rest of his life (d. 1861) fighting the planters’ libel suits against him.54
Kristo Das Pal was born in 1839 in Calcutta to a family of the Teli professional caste, and like Mukherjee was celebrated in the Indian literature of his time as a self-made man.55 He studied at the Oriental Seminary, a non-denominational English-language school for Hindu boys, and at Presidency College, Calcutta, the oldest college in India and an important cultural centre for early nineteenth-century Anglicisation.56 As a member of the British Indian Association, a loyalist political organisation dominated by Bengali zamindars, he drafted the congratulatory letter to the British government in India following the suppression of the 1857 revolt and later became the organisation’s secretary.57 Much like Viswanath Narayan Mandalik, he came to serve imperial and municipal governments, as a municipal commissioner and on the legislative council of Bengal.58 As a follower of Mukherjee, he combined fierce criticism of local and imperial corruption and injustice with empire loyalism and respectability.
The capital of the Raj, Calcutta had a configuration of ‘colonial-indigenous’ respectables and municipal governance similar to Bombay. Calcutta, like Bombay, was spatially organised into a central White Town and a peripheral Black Town.59 P. J. Marshall has argued that ‘the whites of Calcutta lavished money and effort on creating for themselves the amenities of what they regarded as civilised British urban life on a scale that left abundant pickings for Indians who were minded to take advantage of their prodigality’.60 As the cosmopolitan, urban writers of the Hindoo Patriot (and Native Opinion in Bombay, for that matter) demonstrate, ‘an Indian intelligentsia ... responded in a most creative way to aspects of European culture that became available to them in the city’.61 That is not to say that they mimicked or sought to emulate European settlers, but that they embraced certain aspects of European social and cultural life, building styles, voluntary associations, music, and dress, for instance, as acts of self-fashioning or self-ascription. For the Indian elites of the city, and for those who sought political and social inclusion in municipal politics, their notions of respectability formed the very core of how they imagined themselves as people.
South Asian scholars and Indian nationalists have long identified the municipal politics of Bombay and Calcutta as the hotbeds of proto-nationalism, where future nationalists learned and practised politics. Hugh Tinker argued in his Foundations of Local Self-Government:
When the Indian National Congress was formed, almost all its front rank leadership was recruited from the municipal corporations of the Presidency capitals, to the exclusion of the rest of India. These men alone had acquired experience of public debate, they had formed some kind of philosophy of political action, and through encounters with senior British officials, they had learned something of the art of dealing with the bureaucracy.62
During the 1870s and 80s, the ‘colonial-indigenous’ oligarchy represented by the generation of Mandalik and Pal was being challenged and transcended in both cities by a new generation of more radical young politicians. In Calcutta, the future nationalist Sisir Kumar Ghose, editor of the Amrita Bazar Patrika, referred to the entrenched interests that dominated the Calcutta Municipal Corporation, Hindu zamindars, the intelligentsia of the British Indian Association, and local Anglo-Indian traders and settlers, a ‘self-seeking plutocracy’.63 After Bombay was granted a partly elective municipal corporation in 1872, Ghose and his newly founded Indian League began a campaign in 1875, months before the Prince of Wales’ visit, for municipal reform; they framed their campaign in populist language but ended up demanding ‘equitable and well devised representation’.64 Ghose’s perceived radicalism alienated him from most of his supporters in the Indian League, many of whom came to support the British Indian Association’s opposition to the government’s proposed reform on the grounds that it restricted the rights of ratepayers by giving the imperial government increased rights of intervention.65 The ruling BIA compromised with the young men of the Indian League by proposing a reduced property franchise for voters while maintaining the price tag on respectability.66
Post-colonial and nationalist historiographies frame the 1870s and 1880s as a period of transition when political figures such as Mandalik and Pal, who represented an old guard of loyalism and elitism, were being transcended by a new vanguard of proto-nationalists. This belief in intellectual change or political awakening is not wrong but belongs to an older historiographical tradition that largely ignores the ambiguous cultural space between collaboration and resistance. On one hand, the old guard’s politics, during the royal tour, for instance, were far more radical than the nationalist historiography admits; for alleged mouthpieces of entrenched colonial-indigenous elites, they certainly offered scurrilous criticisms of corrupt and unjust British rule in India. On the other, the so-called radical proto-nationalist intelligentsia of Calcutta and Bombay continued to couch their politics in the language of loyalism and respectability through the World Wars.
Colonial officials imagined, or invented, Queen Victoria to be a true heir to the Mughal emperors. The ritual and spectacle of the Prince of Wales’ visit of 1875 was designed to recreate a feudal Mughal past, to visualise a cosmic connection between past and present that would legitimise and justify British rule in India.67 For the respectables who wrote for Native Opinion, the Hindoo Patriot, and other independent newspapers, however, the royal tour was not about Mughal-style spectacle, but about modern, imperial politics. During the royal tour, the writers of the South Asian native press imagined themselves to be imperial citizens who possessed British rights and responsibilities, a counter-discourse through which they defined their politics against the very un-British rule of the Raj.
The independent press participated in a vibrant imperial political culture, openly contesting the unjust policies and practices of British rule. While editorial biases may have differed – based on place, status, patronage, and political outlook – the discourses of imperial citizenship were widely embraced across Indian print culture. They challenged the mercantilist suppression of Indian industry; the ‘despotism’ of British magistrates and the police; the inaction of the British government to widespread famine; and the heavy burden of taxation.68 During the tour, they challenged the costs and purposes of the events and defended the Indian princely elite, whom they saw as victimised by the visit. Despite this contestation, they generally expressed a loyalty to the empire and a hope that the Queen’s son would convey India’s plight to his great mother and to the British people.
For British settlers and administrators, politicisation of this kind was a symptom of ingratitude and disloyalty. During the tour, the editors of the native press were derided for their alleged disloyalty to the Queen by the settler press, who were encouraged by Raj officials to correct their ‘mistruths’.69 The Anglo-Indian Bombay Gazette identified the native press, singling out the editors of Native Opinion, as ‘the chief mischief makers in India ... who, while professing loyalty to the British Government, lose no opportunity of trying to excite ... the bitterest antipathy to British rule and British civilisation’.70 The editors of Native Opinion understood politics as vital to loyalism and citizenship and thus celebrated the attacks by the Anglo-Indian press as ‘a very high compliment’.71 Rajshahye Samáchár defended Indian loyalty against such criticism:
We do not understand how loyalty can be impeached ... or how the omission of a particular act can be construed as disrespect to the British Crown; or how it can be thought that the Prince of Wales is not honoured if some particular part of the town be not illuminated on a particular day; or how natives can be supposed wanting in proofs of good-will to the British Government, because they do not expend a certain sum of money for the purpose.... We do not understand why, thus hankering after a feigned loyalty, Government betrays the levity of its heart; except it be for the object of making a parade before others of its popularity with the natives.72
In general, the authors of the independent Indian press argued that the British rule in India was carried out under a veil of secrecy and that the anti-native rhetoric of the Anglo-Indian newspapers, often as the mouthpieces of Raj officials, was a source of Indian hostility to the British government rather than the political agitation of Indian newspapers.73 This heated debate with the settler press reflects the activism and contestation of the independent Indian press, to which Act IV was a response. They defended themselves as the British government’s ‘most valuable friends’ in India and challenged the ineptitude and mean-spiritedness of the colonial officials who chose to ignore their advice.74 While professing their loyalty to the Queen and the British Empire, they criticised the tour – the costs, the corruption, and the heavy-handedness – and demanded investments and reforms that would benefit the citizen-subjects of British India.
The South Asian intelligentsia who wrote for Native Opinion, the Hindoo Patriot, and other newspapers professed their pride in India and its prominent place in the British Empire and understood the empire as their political and cultural universe. Native Opinion celebrated India as ‘the brightest jewel in the Empire’s Crown’ without which Britain ‘would sink to the level of a second rate power in Europe and [lose] all her Asiatic influence’.75 They identified the conceptual space between the British political tradition, as ‘the mother of law and the nursery of freedom’, and British rule in practice, which denied ‘citizens of a free empire’ the rights and privileges of Britishness.76 These men did not criticise the Raj because they were disloyal or because they opposed the idea of empire. To the contrary, they challenged the practices and policies of the British government in India because they imagined themselves to be loyal and respectable subjects of the Queen.
In this context, South Asian journalists identified the royal visit as an opportunity for the Indian government to enact fundamental reforms toward a more just rule. Mandalik’s Native Opinion saw the royal tour as a fitting occasion for the British to extend ‘constitutional rights and privileges’ to their Indian subjects.77 While they identified the importance of graciously welcoming their Queen’s son, the editors challenged the royal tour – the spectacle of illuminations, fireworks, and dinners – as empty and expensive ritual practices without constructive results, including guaranteed rights for the Queen’s Indian subjects.78 They complained that the government of India acted in a principally un-British way, by making laws ‘in defiance of all public opinion and in the aggressiveness observable in every department of the administration’, in the style of an ‘enlightened despotism’.79
These respectables were deeply invested in the Prince of Wales as a transformational figure. They generally recognised that the British monarchy had ‘no power whatever and can therefore not reduce any kind of taxes, nor remove any kind of grievance’ but believed, in the cultural tradition of the patriot Queen, that Victoria the imperial matriarch could exert influence on the government to change their ways.80 The Amrita Bazar Patrika proposed the formation of associations in every district ‘to represent the wants and grievances of the people as the wealthy and well-to-do inhabitants of Calcutta will only take care to make everything appear in brilliant colours’.81 To them, the prince’s interest in India was genuine and well intentioned, but the realities of poverty and misrule would be veiled by the ritual stagecraft of the visit:
But the way in which His Royal Highness has resolved to travel in India is not likely to make him acquainted with the country and its people. For under the present arrangement he will only be able to come in contact with the leading men, who will doubtless seek to appear before the Prince in gay and glittering apparel suited to their rank.... Thus it will be impossible for [the prince] to know whether natives have any grievance at all. He will see through official eyes, and will be made to think after the officials.... The Prince will return and tell his mother that there is no nation so happy as the people of India, and the English papers will proudly proclaim that under the British rule India is flowing with wealth and corn.82
They and their countrymen needed to challenge colonial control of the visit and articulate their grievances to the prince. Only then could their imperial citizenship be redeemed, in the benevolence and love of the justice-giving Great Queen.
While educated elites wanted the royal tour to be an opportunity for the British to extend rights and privileges, to see an improved standard of living for loyal subjects of the Queen, they instead witnessed the corruption and meanness of the Raj. The collection of subscriptions on the part of local organising associations to fund tributes to the prince was carried out through ‘extortion and oppression’ and demands for ‘minimum donations’.83 According to several testimonies, voluntary subscriptions were cajoled out of everyone from the princes to the poorest Indians by bullying and force: ‘scores of poor clerks, who could ill afford it, had to come down handsomely or incur the displeasure of their chiefs’.84 The Grámbártá Prakáshiká (West Bengal) argued that the local zamindars would recoup their tour expenses by ‘squeezing out ... the hard-earned income of a poverty-stricken tenantry who have barely recovered from the ravages of the recent famine’.85 The criticism of these practices was directed at the princes, landowners, and organising committees that collected money, but the more fundamental critique pointed toward the financial demands of the Indian government.
While the British government subsidised the tour, paying for the costs of the voyage and the gifts, local communities funded the lion’s share of the visit. The South Asian intellectuals of the independent press questioned the costs of the tour on ‘this poor country’, as the taxed riches of India flowed to British officers and civil servants or back to Britain, and the livelihoods of local weavers were ‘sacrifice[d] for the benefit of the Manchester merchants’.86 The native press criticised exorbitant spending by the government and the princes if not directed toward ‘some permanent institution’ as a monument to the visit.87 They argued that fixing roads and bridges, draining dirty, bacteria-infested water, and executing other improvements, even if only within the prince’s eyesight, would be far more useful than fireworks. These demands were not symptoms of nationalism or even resistance to empire as an idea. These men were demanding, as loyal subjects, building projects and education, a government responsive to the needs and opinions of its subjects, and the right to critique and challenge the government – that is, a brand of citizenship made in and of the empire.
The respectables’ conceptualisation of citizenship sought to transcend the differences between Briton and Indian but did not propose democratic or social equality among South Asians. To the contrary, it was deeply informed by notions of respectability and status. The respectables wrote in populist rhetoric but often peered condescendingly downward at the unrespectable masses. Mandalik’s paper, for instance, was disappointed by the lack of Oriental spectacle in Bombay during the tour. Before the tour began, Native Opinion had proposed that the Prince of Wales appear in the kind of ‘grandeur and ceremony’ that would impress ‘the oriental mind’, that is, riding an elephant in the manner of ‘the Grand Mogul’, ‘throwing gold and silver pieces to the poor’.88 They lamented after the procession that their suggestions were ignored. For the masses, it seems, they advocated not for rights and citizenship but for spectacle that would inspire loyalty and ‘Asiatic reverence’ for the heir to the throne (a somewhat confusing contradiction).89
As the ‘most valuable friends’ of the British, they understood themselves to represent the Indian people.90 As a social and cultural conduit between the rulers and the ruled, these men imagined that they had a special and important place in Anglo-Indian society as South Asian respectables. Their claims to populism were not completely unfounded, however. They lamented the profound poverty of India and the plights of the ryots and the weavers. They challenged the structures of rule, the police and the courts system, that affected the lives of all Indians within the reach of imperial rule. However, women, who were the subject of intense debate by British officials, humanitarians, and activists, were wholly absent from their discussions.
As the stories of the Gaekwad of Baroda and the Nizam of Hyderabad demonstrate (Chapter 2), this South Asian press intelligentsia looked to the princes and chiefs as the natural leaders of Indian society and scorned their treatment by Raj officials. The royal tours, many of them argued, were ‘only intended to create an impression of power of the British, and to wound the feelings of Native Princes’.91 The British government and the Anglo-Indian press, they contested, failed to honour the hereditary elites of the Raj and instead questioned their motives and loyalty. With the recent past in mind, both Native Opinion and the Hindoo Patriot appealed to the faithful devotion of the Indian princes as expressed to the Prince of Wales, which was
not show loyalty, for it they had chosen they could have backed the revolted soldiery in ’57 and turned their own arms against the British government.... It is extremely doubtful that the English could have successfully resisted the sweeping tide of opposition from the natural leaders of the people.92
Despite having been ‘wronged, robbed, and degraded’, the South Asian princes remained loyal to the British Crown.93 In exchange for their loyalty, the rajahs and nawabs were treated with contempt and abuse. They were pushed and prodded by colonial officials during the royal tour, much to the chagrin of the independent press. To the South Asian respectables, the problem with British rule was not disloyalty on the part of South Asian people, but the ineptitude and abuse of the Raj.
The papers argued that relationship between India’s ‘natural leaders’ and the British government had devolved since 1857, from one of relative equality to one between masters and servants. Before the rebellion, the hereditary elite could ‘dream that they were the allies and equals of the British government’.94 By 1875, Britain’s South Asian rulers had been ‘curtailed’, ‘reduced to mere shadows’.95 Their power had been appropriated – and misused – by the British. One of the most important rituals of the tour, the distribution of the Star of India, was seen as a fundamentally empty gesture. Beyond the ‘profuse distribution of empty titles’, the authors of Native Opinion wondered, ‘has the prince to do nothing in return for the millions that will be spent in his honour, except the giving of a few paltry presents?’96 Unlike the South African writers, who saw in princes and chiefs an atavism of a savage past, the editors of the independent Indian press celebrated and honoured hereditary political elites as natural leaders, whose legitimacy had been undermined and reduced by British rule.
The Prince of Wales left the subcontinent in 1876, the same year Queen Victoria became the Empress of India. In many ways, the analysis of the Great Queen’s new title by the independent South Asian press mirrored their coverage of the royal tour. To the editors, elevating Queen Victoria to the role of empress was ‘calculated to produce in our minds a feeling of pride and grandeur and renown of the Empire’.97 While arguing that ‘the progress of the country in civilisation and modern appliances during the last twenty years has been immense’, the writers of Native Opinion suggested that a new title meant little ‘without any rights or privileges being granted or promised to the people of India’.98 These are obviously not the sentiments of opposition to British rule in itself, but the protests of loyal subjects and imperial citizens.
The Indian National Congress (INC) was founded a decade later in 1885, not as an agent of nationalism or anti-colonialism but as a loyalist organisation. Dadabhai Naoroji, the second president of the INC, declared in his 1886 inauguration speech:
It is our good fortune that we are under a rule which makes it possible for us to meet in this manner (Cheers.) It is under the civilizing rule of the Queen and people of England that we meet here together, hindered by none, and are freely allowed to speak our minds without the least fear and without the least hesitation. Such a thing is possible only under British rule, and British rule only. (Loud cheers.) Then I put the question plainly: Is this Congress a nursery for sedition and rebellion against the British Government? (Cries of ‘No, no’.) Or is it another stone in the foundation of the stability of that Government?99
Later INC ‘Radicals’ belittled pro-British ‘Moderates’, or ‘Loyalists’, as collaborators disconnected from the true feelings of the Indian people.100 The notion of imperial citizenship, of South Asians who identified with and embraced the British Empire, does not fit comfortably in the nationalist narrative. Empire loyalism on part of Indian respectables such as Viswanath Narayan Mandalik, Kristo Pal, and other educated elites had radical implications for their politics. They were, in a very real sense, the intellectual predecessors of the nationalist politicians of the twentieth century. Yet their intellectual contributions to both imperial (and British) political culture and Indian nationalism illustrate the cultural and political vitality of empire loyalism and imperial citizenship.
These Indian discourses of imperial identity and citizenship failed to resonate with the British, even as imperial activists at home were imagining a global community of imperial federation. Despite the rejection, many South Asians held tightly to the historical relationship between Britain and India and the cultural remnants of imperial citizenship. Their approach became delegitimised more and more by the excesses of British rule, such as the Amritsar Massacre and the failure of the British government to enact substantial political reforms. Still, these discourses survived. Mohandas Gandhi’s career as a human rights activist began with a Victorian lawyer in Natal, not the dhoti-wearing ‘traditionalist’ of the 1930s and 40s. Bill Nasson points to the Indian Royal Air Force pilot of the Second World War who named his Hurricane fighter Amritsar, a reflection of imperial rule’s complex legacy.101 South Asian immigrants who arrived in post-war Britain experienced conflicted and dualistic notions of belonging, their loyalty to Britain still challenged. These encounters demonstrate the strange and convoluted legacy of British imperialism that can be defined neither by the language of collaboration or resistance nor by identity politics of modern nationalism.
The independent press: South Africa
In South Africa, independent African newspapers were the products and by-products of evangelical missionary schools. In fact, the editors of Imvo Zabantsundu, the South African Spectator, and Izwi Labantu were all Christian mission students, and two were the sons of prominent African clergymen. Unlike the South Asian editors, they were excluded from service in colonial or local governments, yet all three actively participated in the local and imperial politics of South Africa.102 As missionary students, their brand of social and cultural imperialism centred on a civilising mission to those socially beneath them. Through education, they argued, all people of colour might achieve civilisation and citizenship. And, unlike their South Asian counterparts, they looked toward hereditary and colonial-appointed chiefs with scorn, as atavisms in a modern age. During the royal tour, they appealed to British constitutionalism and justice, investing their status as African respectables in promoting the vote, education, and loyalty to the British monarchy and the empire.
This brand of respectable politics became acutely pronounced, and challenged, during the South African War (1899–1902), an imperial war fought between the British Empire, including thousands of African and Coloured subjects, and the Afrikaner republics. Colonial administrators, politicians, and intellectuals cast the war as an ideological struggle between British liberty and Afrikaner tyranny (and republicanism). The Prime Minister, Lord Salisbury, appealed to the mythology of the Great Queen when he told the House of Lords in October 1899 that:
[T]he moment has arrived for deciding whether the future of South Africa is to be a growing and increasing Dutch supremacy or a safe, perfectly established supremacy of the English Queen.... With regard to the future there must be no doubt that the Sovereign of England is paramount; there must be no doubt that the white races will be put upon an equality, and that due precaution will be taken for the philanthropic and kindly and improving treatment of those countless indigenous races of whose destiny, I fear, we have been too forgetful.103
People of colour overwhelmingly recognised this difference and served the imperial war effort in great numbers, through ‘irregular armed service, scouting, spying and intelligence, supplying crop, livestock, and other goods, and in providing remount, transport riding, and other labour for logistical services’.104 While local respectables challenged the practices of British rule, they broadly attested to the centrality of the British constitution and their great patron the Great Queen as bulwarks against colonial and Afrikaner abuse: ‘for them, Britain and its Empire stood for justice, fairness and equality before the law, which meant above all non-racialism in the sense of “equal rights for all civilised men”’.105 Through the royal tour of 1901, British colonial administrators sought to reinforce this propaganda and to thank colonial subjects across the world for their service to the empire.
The year 1901 also marked the first negotiations aimed at ending the war. When the Boer general Louis Botha tried to negotiate the non-racial franchise out of the war settlement, he posed a threat not only to the franchise, but to respectable status itself, serving to crystallise the difference between British liberty and Afrikaner tyranny. The Cape’s non-racial franchise was one of the most prized possessions of African respectables. It was remarkably democratic for the nineteenth century: the 1853 constitution required property worth £25 or a salary of £50 in order to vote.106 The non-racial franchise slowly eroded through a series of registration and voting acts (1887, 1892, 1894), which purged many African and Coloured voters from the voting rolls.107 Yet, even after 1892, nearly half the voters in the colony were people of colour.108 John Tengo Jabavu, editor of Imvo Zabantsundu, Francis Z. S. Peregrino, of the South African Spectator, and Alan Kirkland Soga, editor of Izwi Labantu, differed in their political allegiances and in their opinions on the war, but all celebrated and promoted the importance of formal politics within the bounds of the British constitution.
Imvo Zabantsundu (Native or Black Opinion) of King William’s Town was the first newspaper published independently by a person of colour in South Africa. It was a weekly newspaper published in English and Xhosa by a twenty-five-year old Methodist lay preacher named John Tengo Jabavu, starting in 1884, with around 10,000 readers in the Cape, Natal, Basutoland, and the Afrikaner republics.109 Jabavu’s family identified themselves as Mfengu (‘Fingo’) people, but he was educated at the Methodist mission station at Healdtown and took up a teaching post at Somerset East. He was an avid student and teacher of languages, including English, Latin, and Greek, and wrote for the liberal settler newspaper Cape Argus under a nom de plume.110
Between 1881 and 1884, he had edited Isigidimi Sama Xosa (Xhosa Messenger) for the Scottish missionaries at Lovedale but was ousted for openly criticising the Cape government one too many times.111 Jabavu became an important and active figure in Cape politics, campaigning for white politicians and advocating a brand of non-racial, respectable liberal politics. He was allied with a group of progressive Cape politicians, which included John X. Merriman, James-Rose Innes, Saul Solomon, and J. W. Sauer, and was a sought-after electioneer in districts where African votes affected election outcomes. His political allies also provided the funding for the newspaper, which was printed on the presses of the Cape Mercury.112
Framing South African politics as a struggle between British liberty and Afrikaner tyranny and republicanism, he was, until 1898, a staunch and vocal opponent of the Afrikaner Bond, the Cape political party that represented Boer interests, and worked tirelessly to organise an English-speaking progressive coalition in order to defeat it.113 In 1897, his dream of a broad-church British party emerged in the form of the Progressive Party, led by Cecil Rhodes, with whom he briefly allied. Political disagreements with the Progressives and the alliance of his friends John X. Merriman and J. W. Sauer with the Bond, however, pushed him toward a shift of allegiance.114
In March 1898, Jan Hofmeyr, the Bond leader, proclaimed that he was not and never had been hostile to African political rights, beginning his campaign to vie for African voters.115 Jabavu declared Hofmeyr the new standard-bearer for ‘true British principle’ in South African politics, in opposition to Cecil Rhodes’ ‘equal rights for white men only’.116 His allegiance to the Bond, combined with his pacifism during the South African War, would make him a lightning rod of political controversy, to the point that his voice, Imvo Zabantsundu, was silenced in August 1901 by the military government of the Cape.
Francis Z. S. Peregrino, editor of the Cape Town English-language newspaper the South African Spectator, came to South Africa only in 1900 because, he said, ‘at the outbreak of war ... [he] turned his thoughts to South Africa and anticipating that when peace had been proclaimed and the whole country is under the British flag, progress and prosperity are bound to follow, [and] he made up his mind to come here to devote his pen and brain to the service of the native people’.117 He had been born in Accra in Gold Coast to a family involved with local Wesleyan missionaries: his uncle was one of the first Wesleyan missionaries of African descent.118 He was educated in England and lived there until around 1890, when he moved to the United States.119 He demonstrated particular interest in the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church, an evangelical missionary organisation founded by African Americans in Philadelphia, and pan-Africanist ideology. He often deferred to his colleagues at Izwi on local matters he considered controversial, such as the suppression of Imvo, but always stressed the need for cooperation among people of colour. Despite only coming to South Africa a year before the royal tour, he was chosen by a committee of other respectable men of colour to present the ‘native address’ to the Duke and Duchess of Cornwall. Having widely travelled in the British world, Peregrino articulated his belief in British citizenship through education, the ballot box, and empire loyalism.
Within fifteen months of the paper’s founding in 1897, Alan Kirkland Soga became editor of Izwi Labantu (Voice of the People), founded by Walter Benson Rubusana and published in Xhosa and English from East London. Soga’s mother was Scottish, and he was educated in Scotland.120 His father Tiyo Soga, an important adviser to the Xhosa chief Sandile during the royal tour of 1860, was trained at the University of Edinburgh and became the first African Presbyterian minister.121 Alan Soga was a clerk in Tembuland as late as 1897 when he resigned, according to the Cape Argus, because he could not
consistently with the position he occupied in the service, render the Natives the assistance which is desirable in the present crisis.... He charges that his action, which has been taken on his own initiative, will act as an incentive to Native and Coloured friends to vote solidly for the British party and the maintenance of that supremacy which is necessary for their welfare in the future.122
Izwi Labantu was founded, in a very real sense, to counter the dominance of Jabavu and his paper, which was by then seen by many of his opponents as an organ of the Afrikaner Bond.123 Soga apparently had a distaste for Jabavu, as a Mfengu, but this ethnic rivalry was a minor sub-plot to a far more vibrant political one. While subsidised by the arch-imperialist Cecil Rhodes and his Progressive Party, Soga’s paper maintained a stridently independent editorial perspective.124 He loudly supported the British cause in the war against his nemesis Jabavu, who also claimed to be pro-British, and could hardly contain his satisfaction when Imvo Zabantsundu was banned.
South Africa (1901)
Constructions of race and difference profoundly informed the making of modern South Africa. Scholars have long sought the origins of the twentieth-century racial order in the nineteenth-century British Empire in southern Africa. They have searched the cosmopolitan world of Cape Town, the frontier farms and mission stations of the Eastern Cape, and the goldfields of the Rand, producing a thoughtful and useful historical literature that has reshaped the contours of South African historical studies.125 Urban segregation, spatial controls and native reserves, pass cards, and political disenfranchisement all emerged, not in the 1948 victory of the National Party or even in the 1910 Union of South Africa, but in the British colonial state of the nineteenth century.
The non-racial politics of the South African newspapermen – John Tengo Jabavu (Imvo Zabantsundu), Alan Soga (Izwi Labantu), and Francis Z. S. Peregrino (South African Spectator) – demonstrate that this modern racial order was not a foregone conclusion. While they and their progressive settler allies were characterised by what might be described as imperialist tendencies, to transform others in their own image, the notions of citizenship they articulated cannot be conflated with the more racialist and exclusionary politics of imperial culture. They invested their notion of imperial citizenship in the politics of respectability and in the medium of an independent print culture. They imagined a future in the empire, where all respectable citizen-subjects of the Queen shared the same rights and privileges.
The most prized possession of their respectability – the ‘liberal’ Cape franchise – came under attack during the late nineteenth century. In this context, these respectables understood the South African War to be a defining moment in the future social and political order of southern Africa. They feared, rightly so, that the post-war settlement would solidify white dominance, a union of British and Boer, over the non-white populations of southern Africa. And the Cape franchise was one of the earliest and most controversial impasses during the negotiations to end the war. Jabavu foresaw, appealing to the language of the Aborigine’s Friend, that white settlers would ‘come together ... over the body of “the nigger”’, to subjugate all people of colour.126 Jabavu, Soga, and Peregrino sought to avert this fate and to make a new future for South Africa by claiming their rights as British subjects. Alan Soga fiercely disagreed with John Tengo Jabavu’s pacifism, and their fierce political rivalry only developed further over the course of the war. While they disagreed with each other over the politics of the war, they all interpreted its meaning through the lens of an imperial citizenship.
The Duke and Duchess of Cornwall – the future King George V and Queen Mary – visited South Africa less than a year after the death of George’s grandmother, Victoria. The tour itself was a by-product of the South African War, designed by Joseph Chamberlain, the Colonial Secretary, to convey thanks for imperial service in the war and to bolster loyalty during troubled times for the empire. The future King’s visit to war-torn South Africa was nearly cancelled, because of an outbreak of bubonic plague.127 The death of the Great Queen and the ongoing conflict profoundly informed the responses by people of colour to the royal tour. They had firmly stood by the empire in a time of war and appealed, as loyal subjects of the Great Queen and their new King, and future subjects of the Duke of Cornwall, for a post-war South Africa where all people shared the rights and responsibilities of imperial citizens.
‘The vaunted teleology of the Queen’s rule’ – the promise of ‘the mother’s compassion and justice’ – was a product of colonial propaganda that was appropriated by local respectables.128 In her death, they sought to redeem this promise by promoting a social order that did not deny any of her loyal subjects their rights. Imvo Zabantsundu expressed grief over the loss of this Queen ‘so precious to all of her subjects because of her transcendent virtues, and not less to her Native subjects in South Africa’.129 Jabavu celebrated the Victorian era as an age of improvement, of ‘increasing comfort and well-being for the masses’, liberty ‘advancing in all directions’, new and improved technology, the advance of education and Christianity, and less crime.130 Of course, the Pax Britannica was also an era of violence, dispossession, and even disenfranchisement for people of colour in South Africa and the empire. But, Victoria the ‘Mother, wife, and Queen’ as a symbol represented progress toward justice and equality for all of her subjects, an unfulfilled promise.131 The South African Spectator predicted, as a consequence of her death, ‘the dawn of a new era, one of understanding and perfect concord between the races’.132
In the face of intense criticism, most notably from Soga, the ‘pro-Boer’ Jabavu sought to prove his loyalty to the empire through expressions of grief. In a letter to Imvo Zabantsundu, ‘N.S.B.’ complimented Jabavu’s impeccable loyalism and his deep, heartfelt articulation of grief (the author also noted that the paper’s black border of mourning was much more pronounced than that of other King William’s Town journals).133 ‘Whatever may be said of the loyalty of the newspapers and their Editors’, N.S.B. wrote, John Tengo Jabavu was ‘not surpassed by any’.134 The South African War was a rather dark period in Jabavu’s political career, and his need to express loyalty was particularly acute. The political discourses over his loyalty in the days following Queen Victoria’s death, particularly his very public disagreements with Soga, reflect on the complexities of ‘native politics’.
Jabavu’s ‘support’ for the Afrikaner Bond was framed without a discourse of British politics. While Soga identified him as a traitor, the real danger Jabavu represented to the wartime British government of the Cape was in demanding the rights of citizenship and in rejecting the jingoism of the war, arguing that, from the perspective of the colonised, there was very little difference between British and Boer settlers. Despite the intense criticism, Imvo claimed to be the most authentic voice of British political culture in South Africa and participated in a larger imperial political discourse about loyalty, jingoism, and the war.
Both Soga and Peregrino strongly supported the British war effort. The pacifism and pro-Boerism of Imvo was unacceptable to Soga, who belittled Jabavu’s politics as treason in a time of war. He condemned those who, like Jabavu, dared to conflate Briton with Boer. Both of the pro-war papers (Izwi Labantu and the South African Spectator) advertised Boer atrocities and promoted African service to the empire. In this context, Peregrino confidently asserted that
the loyalty of the coloured people during these troublons [sic] times has been spontaneous and unquestionable. From all parts of the Colony they appeal to be allowed to bear their share in the responsibilities, and to participate in the sacrifices necessary to the firm, and permanent establishment of His Majesty’s beneficent rule under which the coloured people, are afforded full protection.135
As an advocate of the war, Soga was also a militant supporter of men such as Cecil Rhodes and Alfred Milner, the brand of arch-imperialist who represent the empire’s most xenophobic and expansionist tendencies. Few histories of the British Empire account for such complexities – of pro-empire, pro-Boer, even pro-imperialist people of colour. These respectables did not support British rule as the better of two evils, but as an investment in a just and more equitable future that lived up to the promises of Britishness.
An analysis of the debates and issues, always legitimised and justified within a frame of loyalism, of these months between Victoria’s death and the arrival of the Duke of York is telling. The pages of the newspapers, for instance, debated the value of literary education for ‘Natives’, which proved to be vitally important to the status-based vision of such respectables. Letters articulating the dangers of ‘Native education’ were fiercely refuted. The editors even advocated that the ‘Native memorial’ to the late Queen Victoria ought to be a scholarship for worthy African students, in order to celebrate the ‘progress of education and religion during Queen Victoria’s reign’.136 That said, their point was not that all Africans deserved a ‘literary education’, but that no subject of the King should be denied one on the basis of his or her race. At the same time, these discourses reflected a belief in the ‘civilising mission’, a desire to raise up their savage brethren to the heights of civilisation and to transform South Africans in their own image.
Cape politics figured most importantly in the pages of the papers. The editors of the independent South African press were by and large not democrats; they generally believed that only men of a certain education and status ought to possess the vote. In the months before the royal visit, the planned resignation of Richard Solomon, the (white) representative in the Cape Parliament for Tembuland, infuriated Jabavu.137 Jabavu has been criticised by nationalist historians for accepting, even advocating, white representation for African constituencies, as might be evidenced in the discussion over Solomon’s seat. Jabavu’s vision for the South African future, and that of the ‘better class’ of Africans, was distinctly centred on non-racial status, and his politics reflected both this bias and his sense of political pragmatism. As African liberals, they emphasised the need to work within the political and legal bounds of the constitution. Solomon was chastised by Imvo Zabantsundu for resigning mid-term and for making the announcement in advance, which would engender ‘excitement’ and would give time for the electorate to be ‘vigorously canvassed’.138
These concerns demonstrate the complex political discourses of educated elites in South Africa. On one hand, the concern over ‘excitement’ was presumably classist, distaste for the possibility of popular reaction and disorder in the towns and countryside of Tembuland, even though the franchise itself was rather limited. On the other, it reflects the concern that ‘sojourners in the territories [settlers, missionaries, business interests?] will claim to be heard before the permanent residents’.139 Jabavu advocated that the voters of Tembuland should be allowed ‘the freest possible scope in selecting a representative’, without outside interference and manipulation, and that they should ‘insist on their undoubted rights, and put forward their own candidate’.140 In this context, the issue was not specifically African rights, but that of just and fair elections in which ‘irrespective of race’ all of ‘His Majesty’s [qualified] subjects’ could vote.141 Racial politics would serve only to ‘retard the true progress of the country’.142
These men also promoted respectability by emphasising the virtues of cleanliness and sobriety. The Spectator published an editorial on that most ubiquitous Victorian value, cleanliness, titled, ‘Let Us Be Clean’: a tirade against ‘the picturesque filth which is permitted to strut about the streets to the delight of the enemies of the race, and the advocates for the inferior treatment of the race but to the disgust of the decent and respectable citizen’.143 Elsewhere Peregrino worried that ‘the rising generation [which was being allowed] to sink to the level of the Hooligan’ and the ‘contagion’ of lawlessness.144 ‘Cleanliness, honestly, industry, and self-respect’, he argued, ‘are habits which sit as well on [whites] as on [people of colour].’145 Self-fashioning themselves as respectable and modern, these men of the (British) world advocated rights for all loyal and respectable subject-citizens, regardless of race or ethnicity.
On the eve of the royal visit, Jabavu’s Imvo Zabantsundu was suppressed by the military government of the Cape. Colonial officials kept a careful eye on independent African newspapers, and Jabavu’s pacifism and ‘pro-Boer’ politics were deemed too dangerous for the royal visit and the war effort. Soga was elated by the silencing of Jabavu. Izwi celebrated its rival’s demise with the headline, ‘IMVO R.I.P.’:
NEMESIS – which publishes arrogant and tyrannical abuse of prosperity, has found out our native contemporary at last.... Frankly, we have consistently opposed the pro-Boer policy of ‘Imvo’, and its unfriendly attitude towards those friends of progress and good Government, who made it possible for that paper to establish itself.... We feel deeply the humiliation cast upon the native press, just entering on the threshold of life.... What an opportunity for our enemies to seize upon!... The magnanimity of the British race is wonderful. Perhaps the moral lessons to be gained by this serious blow, will not be altogether lost, but will work out for the good to the future of the native press that has to be.146
Soga, in haste to judge an old rival, unfairly concluded that Jabavu was disloyal, the same error that was often made by settlers and colonial officials about the African press as a whole. They confused independent political opinions with disloyalty.
In the context of this political crisis, the royal tour represented an important opportunity for the South African intelligentsia to mourn the loss of the Great Queen, to celebrate their new King, and to demonstrate loyalty to their empire. Peregrino looked forward to the ‘spontaneous outbursts of loyalty’ that would remind the King’s subjects why they were fighting and inform the rebels as to the futility of their exercise.147 These men were particularly heartened by the inclusion of notable respectables such as Peregrino in the tour. Imvo Zabantsundu celebrated that loyal Africans would be recognised as important members of the imperial community.148 Despite this inclusion, the independent press came to question imperial dedication to the King’s loyal subjects of colour, in part because they were marginalised in royal ceremonies in favour of hereditary elites.
Peregrino, who had arrived in South Africa only a year earlier from the United States, was chosen by the community to deliver a ‘native address’ to the Duke and Duchess of Cornwall. He denied rumours that the Colonial Office had screened his address or that a ‘white man’ had presented it to the duke.149 The address was overwhelmingly directed not at the duke’s father, Edward VII, but to the memory of his grandmother, Victoria the Good, under whom ‘the shackles of slavery were struck off our feet’.150
While encouraged by this encounter, all three men were concerned that the stagecraft of colonial officials would suppress demonstrations of spontaneous loyalty by common people and misrepresent the character of South Africa’s native population.151 Specifically, they were concerned that the people of South Africa would be represented by ‘chiefs and headmen’, rather than ‘the most enlightened of our people’.152 To Soga, this exclusion would deny the duke and duchess a ‘fair opportunity of gauging the true state of civilisation and improvement arrived at by the natives’.153 Much of their scorn was directed at the ornamental rituals described in Chapter 2, the durbar-like rituals and war dances, and the hereditary elites who performed in them.
They argued that these rituals misrepresented the progress of South Africa during the reign of Queen Victoria and focused the duke’s attention on a corrupt and dependent aristocracy. The Spectator, for instance, mocked plans for the performance of a Zulu war dance as ‘buffoonery’, a cultural relic of an uncivilised past’.154 Izwi Labantu shared the ‘amazement and feelings of disgust at the perpetuation of customs that are condemned by all civilised natives’ and suggested that natives ought to sing the national anthem instead.155 They argued that the genuine loyalty of both the lower classes and of the enlightened, respectable classes was being suppressed by the colonial officials.156 It was, they suggested, the African intelligentsia, who ‘fully realise[d] the trend of British policy, and the advantage that loyalty offers’.157
In the aftermath of the tour, Soga and Peregrino pressed for a war settlement that considered the service and loyalty of South Africa’s non-white population. In this, the intelligentsia of the independent South African press were articulating a brand of imperial citizenship and identity, even so far as to advocate imperial federation! Loyalty to the monarchy was framed in a vision of British rights and respectable status. The editors of these papers were not only claiming Britishness but also arguing that their understanding of it was more authentic, closer to its true ideals, as clearly articulated in their debates over the terms of peace. In April 1901, the Spectator had argued that the settlement must be ended on ‘amicable’ terms, but that
it would be contrary to all precedent and altogether at variance with British traditions to surrender the rights and endanger the safety of the loyal native and coloured citizen even to that end. We believe that in view of all the circumstances precedent to the assumption of hostilities, an unconditional surrender would have been in order, but failing that, we believe that the conclusion of peace on any basis other than that of equal rights to all His Majesty’s civilised subjects, would be a retrogression.158
When the Imvo Zabantsundu returned to the presses in October 1902, over a year after being proscribed, Jabavu began not with a defence of his politics but with an ode to Queen Victoria and the profound progress accomplished during her reign.159 He went on to imagine a post-war South African politics where ‘Dutch, British, and Natives have a right to be’ and all ‘should be accorded the common rights of citizenship’, of shared ‘prosperity’ and ‘responsibility’.160 This imperial political culture survived its betrayal during the South African War intact. Yet its message continued, with few exceptions, to fall on deaf ears, both in Cape Town and London.
The alternative print culture of South Africa expanded rapidly in the decade following the war. No fewer than nine new African, Coloured, and Indian newspapers began publication between 1901 and 1910.161 Jabavu and Soga remained fierce political rivals. When Soga helped found the Native Press Organisation (NPA), Jabavu refused to participate.162 They participated in separate political organisations and organised separate protests.163 In April 1901, Izwi Labantu closed.164 Imvo Zabantsundu survived, with the editorship passing to Jabavu’s son Alexander in 1921, but Jabavu’s consistently erratic politics (which was nothing new) and the emergence of a new generation of political leaders limited his influence. F. Z. S. Peregrino continued to publish the South African Spectator until 1908, but he has left little in terms of a historical record.165
The end of the South African War brought about a transformation of South African politics that would effectively shut out non-whites and inspire a nationalist politics. The Treaty of Vereeniging (1902) brought the whole of South Africa effectively under British rule, with promises of local rule under the British Crown for the former Boer republics. The issue of African voting rights was temporarily avoided, and the pre-war franchises remained largely intact. The Union of South Africa (1910) created a federal state that abandoned the enfranchisement of non-whites in the name of ‘[white] unity and reconciliation’.166 Jabavu, who would travel with an African and Coloured delegation to petition the imperial government in 1909 (see Chapter 5), wrote, ‘That cow of Great Britain has now gone dry.’167
Bill Nasson has demonstrated in his excellent studies of African service to the empire during the South African War and the First World War that a ‘vigorous, Western-educated minority’ ‘retain[ed] their optimistic faith in the British imperial project, despite its palpably wounding betrayal of their tenuous rights and interests’, until the end of empire and beyond.168 These people were neither, as older generations of historical literature have presented them, colonial collaborators nor proto-nationalists, but pro-empire African and Asian liberals whose identities often centred on loyalism and respectability. Loyalism was not so simply a means to an end. Patriotism and service to the empire, specifically, was a ‘chance to acquire ... a just and recognised status as loyal subjects of the Crown’.169 Demonstrations of loyalty and patriotism were not inauthentic – a ‘subversive’ ploy – nor were they articulated without knowledge of the obvious inequality and abuses of colonial rule.
These respectables claimed British political traditions and claimed Britishness in an effort to transform the very un-British practices of colonial rule. As Leon de Kock argues, they demonstrated ‘evidence of desired identification with the colonizing culture as an act of affirmation, a kind of publicly declared “struggle” that does not oppose the terms of a colonial culture but insists on a more pure version of its originating legitimation’.170 They imagined their political, cultural, and social universe as an imperial and transnational one. Educated in missionary and other British schools, these elites were nurtured by the British to be the intermediaries of empire. In embracing an imperial culture, however, the ‘native’ intelligentsia of India and South Africa, and other locales across the British Empire, articulated a vision of imperial citizenship that challenged the conceptual space between the theory and reality of British rule.
This emergence of this imperial political culture paralleled the development of the ritualistic practices described in Chapter 2. As British rule sought to appropriate one form of politics, which they imagined to be traditional and hierarchical, local respectables were forging a new one, which they imagined to be modern and cosmopolitan. While the colonial experiences of India and South Africa were unquestionably different, the development of comparable political practices and traditions and the emergence of a transnational class of Western-educated elites suggest the shared experiences of colonial rule across the global spaces of the British Empire. The historical actors of this chapter also demonstrate the limits of collaboration and resistance as ways of describing the colonial past.
Imperial citizenship represents a vibrant cultural and political tradition of the nineteenth- and early twentieth-century British world. Its failure as a discourse was as much about British inaction to live up to the promises of the liberal empire as violent and illiberal action. As a transitional period, the late nineteenth-century empire was a dynamic and interconnected political space where a modern, global politics of respectability and imperial citizenship was made. In this context, the nationalist political movements of the twentieth century have their origins in local political traditions as well as the intellectual milieu of imperial politics. The cosmopolitan and modern authors, intellectuals, and activists of this chapter are relevant and important to the history of Britain and Britishness, even if their claims to Britishness and citizenship fell on deaf ears. In the imperial networks of empire, their message was short-circuited, even if it importantly paralleled the efforts to foster a white imperial citizenship in Britain and the settler empire.