From Sierra Leone Studies, No. 3, December, 1954
The Evolution of the Native Affairs Department
(Part 3, final)

By J. D. Hargreaves

Back to Part 2

In 1892 Parkes wrote a long memorandum—which was forwarded to the Colonial Office with the blessing of the Executive Council—in which he advocated the formal establishment of a Protectorate. It is a paper of extraordinary interest.1 The administration was to consist simply of five “Political Agents", or District Commissioners, whose duties in their respective districts would be to try as court of first instance cases of murder and robbery with violence; to prevent the passage of slave caravans, or the practice of inhuman native customs; “visiting and directing the Chiefs as to the clearing of roads and towns and the improvement of agriculture”; to help chiefs to settle paIaver and to arbitrate in cases of doubt. In addition, the Governor was to hold an annual “Durbar" of chiefs at Freetown or some central point.2 But the immediately interesting point is Parkes’ calculation—financially naive—that the cost could be quickly and wholly offset by reductions in the strength of the Frontier Police. In fact, Parkes’ plan was designed largely to substitute a civilian administration for the rough and ready military control which was in practice being exercised in many places; and consequently, perhaps, to reduce the influence with the Governor of military advisers. On 28th July, 1893, Parkes raised explicitly the numerous complaints which had been lodged against the conduct of the "Frontiers", and suggested that Government interests were not served “by the presence in many stations of indiscreet and semi-civilized members of the native community, far away from Headquarters among an ignorant people, without the careful and constant supervision of proper officers". He implied a certain contempt for the military capacities of the force as displayed in the Tambi expedition of 1892, and suggested—wisely, though the officers of the Force might be pardoned for not seeing so—that its troops should be redistributed in larger detachments under closer supervision.3
   Not unnaturally, Parkes’ suggestions were resented by the officers of the Frontier Police; and their antagonism came to a head in a dispute over the proper policy to be adopted towards the Sofa war-bands operating in the name of Samori. Ever since Samori,
1M.P. 4602/1892, Memo, by Parkes, 18th November, 1892;
2 Perhaps the visit of Governor Fleming to a gathering of chiefs at Bandasuma in March, 1903, described by Alldridge in Chapter xxiv of The ,Sherbro and its hinterland, was intended to be the first of these.
3NALB., Parkes to C.S. Conf., 10, 28th July, 1893. Reprinted C.R., ii, pp. 561-2.

acting from fear of France, had offered to accept a British pro - tectorate in 1885, it had been “Native Affairs” policy to maintain good relations with him. For years Lawson and Parkes had feared military co-operation between Samori and the French, which must have left Freetown defenceless; conversely, Parkes now seems to have rebuilt hopes of access to the Soudan on the conception of an alliance with Samori—for it seemed not improbable that an Anglo-French war might release the British from any need to respect the treaty which the French had forced Samori to sign in 1886. Messengers from “the Alimami” and his “generals", Bilali and Porrikerri, continued to be well received by the department, and affably answered by the Governor. Parkes was aware—but perhaps not fully aware—of the destruction and depopulation which was being inflicted on Koranko, Kono, Kuniki, and even northern Mende country by Sofa warriors; but he claimed that the Imperial Government had virtually condoned this by their past policy of friendship with Samori, and could not abandon him now.

To the Frontier Police on the spot, however, the devastation was more of a human reality; and it was to them that the Korankos appealed for relief. When Captain Lendy, their Inspector-General, travelled to Koranko country in the rains of 1893, he determined that British good faith demanded an answer to their appeal. This was not entirely on grounds of compassion. Like Parkes, Lendy feared the further infiltration of French influence; but unlike him, he thought it was most likely to come as a result of a military campaign, with the French pursuing Samori to the southwards, and claiming to remain in the hinterland of Sierra Leone as liberators. The Korankos, thought Lendy, believed the British to be at one with Samori, and would welcome the French. To prevent such a disaster, and to redeem British prestige, Lendy pressed very strongly for a military campaign to drive the Sofas beyond the Niger. A third motive may have also entered—a desire for personal military glory.1 Governor Fleming—a genuinely liberal humanitarian, but a weak man—preferred Parkes’ interpretation of the Sofas as a friendly people to be treated with “moral suasion”; but he was
overruled by the Colonial Office in favour of the opinion of the local military commander, as transmitted through the War Office, and was ordered to send a military expedition to drive the Sofas out of the British sphere. This was the force that came by error into
1Fleming to Ripon, Conf. 59, 16th December, 1893.

collision with the French at Waima ; it was a tragically ironical end to Lcndy’s hopes of military glory when he was shot in a panic by his own Frontier Police.1
On this question of the Sofas, I think that Parkes, and his department, had made a genuine but serious miscalculation. But Lendy went further, and questioned Parkes' good faith in a series of vicious attacks on the Native Affairs Department. So did Colonel A. B. Ellis, the O.C. troops (whose writings on West African peoples were so much admired by Mary Kingsley). As Lendy travelled through Koranko country, and saw the sufferings inflicted by the Sofas, his rage against Parkes had mounted; and his charges had developed from that of deliberately misleading the Governor to imply the sending of unauthorized messengers, receipt of bribes, prejudice in favour of Mohammedan rulers, and the supplying of arms to the Sofas. In the Executive Council of 16th November, 1893, Colonel Ellis even described Parkes as “a paid agent of the Sofas". Against these charges Parkes defended himself effectively and with dignity. At the Executive Council meeting of 10th August, 1894 (when both his chief accusers were dead), a full inquiry was held, and Parkes was unanimously declared to have been cleared of all complicity.
That this was no mere formal vindication is shown by the confidence which was reposed in Parkes by Governor

Cardew--whose confidence was not won by many Creoles. He took Parkes with him on each of the great treks which laid the foundation for the Protectorate Ordinance of 1896, beside sending him on shorter, independent missions. He encouraged him to write to him privately on questions of policy.2 But despite Parkes’ high personal standing, the functions of his department began to pass, especially after the Protectorate Ordinance of 1896, into the hands of the provincial administration. Chiefs were now expected to communicate with the government through the District Commissioner, and from the beginning of 1898 they were discouraged from coming to Freetown

1 These paragraphs, and the following one, are based on M.P.s 1740 and 2254/
1893, and on the dispatches as reprinted in Africa (West), 447 and 460. See especially Lendy’s reports, 14th September, 1st, 13th, 20th, 25th October, 1893 (M.P. 2254, with Parkes’ minutes); Fleming to Ripon Conf. 56, 59,6th, 24th November, 16th December, 1893, 10th January, 1894; Ripon to Fleming Conf., 24th November, 1893; reports of Col. Ellis, printed as appendix to Africa (West), 447.
2 C.R. 1, p. 143.

without the approval of a D.C. (This was partly to save the expense of accommodating them, but was also intended to prevent a recurrence of the pressure against the hut-tax which was exercised by a group of Temne chiefs in 1897.)1 These restrictions were resented by the Chiefs, who much preferred to deal with the N.A.D. rather than with the D.C.; and as long as Parkes lived some of them succeeded in continuing to do so. But the D.C. was the authorized channel of communication with Freetown; and increasingly their correspondence ceased to pass through the Department of Native Affairs. D.C.s had now their own staffs of interpreters and court messengers. Parkes’ personal influence apart, the Native Affairs Department found itself increasingly reduced to the minor functions of advising on treaties, stipends, and presents, supplying stores to Districts, recruiting carriers, and providing interpreters and messengers on a diminishing scale.

   But as long as Parkes was alive, the Department remained influential. His attitude towards the early Protectorate administration was that of a constructive critic. He seems to have respected Cardew, and to have sympathized completely with the objects of his policy; but on many important points he was in disagreement with him. There was, above all, the inevitable friction between the department at headquarters and the “man in the field"—no doubt aggravated by the fact that the men in the field were virtually all drawn from the officers of the Frontier Police. From the first, too, Parkes had his doubts about the wisdom of the hut-tax, and these doubts grew as more and more chiefs turned, as they had been accustomed to do, to air their grievances to him. On 26th October, 1897, he suggested that a rough and ready form of tribute might be less objectionable and easier to collect (a similar scheme was considered in the Colonial Office after the rising, and turned down on the advice of Acting Governor Nathan, but the proposal has interesting resemblances to the system later introduced by Lugard into Northern Nigeria). Chalmers, in his inquiry into the rising of 1898, relied heavily on Parkes’ evidence, as well as on that of more extreme critics; indeed the rising could well have been

1 M.P. 717/98. (Copied in Parkes’ Minute Book.)
2 See, e.g. M.P.s N.A. 584/, 589/, 609/1808; NALB., Parkes to Sharpe, 453 of
3 NALB. Conf., 6, Parkcs to Col. Sec., 26th October, 1897. (1 have not traced M.P. Conf. 76/97).

regarded as a warning that more attention ought to be paid to those whose knowledge of the Protectorate qualified them to act as "Interpreters" in the wider sense of that word. It is interesting to reflect on the role which Parkes might have played had he lived as long as Lawson; but in August, 1899, he died. He had no successor. Sanusi, the Arabic writer, retained a general supervision over two interpreters, one clerk, and one overland messenger, but the section as a whole was re-integrated into the Secretariat. From now on, the history of “ native affairs " is the history of provincial administration.

   In course of the discussion which followed the paper, Dr M. A. S. Margai commented on the failings of some interpreters he had known, and wondered how reliable Lawson’s translations were. Mr. Hargreaves had come across few recorded complaints on this score, though as soon as the number of junior interpreters began to increase, so did the complaints. Dr. M. C. F. Easmon recalled the high status which Parkes had enjoyed in the Freetown of his boyhood, and the shock caused by his sudden death. Mr E.F. Sayers wondered whether the printing of some of Lawson's memoranda might be of value to administrative officers, and Dr. Margai hoped that the Society would be able to use the records of the archives for a systematic approach to the recording of chiefdom histories.