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Equal subjects, unequal rights

Indigenous people in British settler colonies, 1830s–1910

Series:

Julie Evans, Patricia Grimshaw, David Philips and Shurlee Swain

This book focuses on the ways in which the British settler colonies of Australia, Canada, New Zealand and South Africa treated indigenous peoples in relation to political rights, commencing with the imperial policies of the 1830s and ending with the national political settlements in place by 1910. Drawing on a wide range of sources, its comparative approach provides an insight into the historical foundations of present-day controversies in these settler societies.

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Canada

‘If they treat the Indians humanely, all will be well’

Series:

Julie Evans, Patricia Grimshaw, David Philips and Shurlee Swain

This chapter focuses on the early political developments in the British settler colonies in the region of North America, which later became Canada, from the late 1830s to around 1870. By 1840, there were four colonies in mainland British North America, clustered in the south-eastern corner of the vast Canadian land mass, the rest of which remained under the administration of the Hudson's Bay Company. Representative government had been introduced during the last quarter of the eighteenth century, beginning with the maritime colonies of Nova Scotia (1758), Prince Edward Island (1773) and New Brunswick (1785), and extending to Upper and Lower Canada, the constituent parts of the new province of Canada, in 1791. Discussions of the status of Indigenous peoples in the British North American colonies reflect competing and at times conflicting understandings among the four major stakeholders: the Colonial Office, with its locally based governors and Indian agents; the missionaries; the settlers; and the Indigenous peoples themselves.

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Canada

‘A vote the same as any other person’

Series:

Julie Evans, Patricia Grimshaw, David Philips and Shurlee Swain

This chapter focuses on the political outcomes of the intensified appropriation of Indigenous lands by British settler colonists in Canada from the 1870s to 1910. The Canadian colonies entered into confederation without a uniform national franchise, choosing instead to allow anyone who had the vote at the provincial level to participate in national elections. In post-confederation Canada, the need to bring together disparate colonies, the financing and construction of the Canadian Pacific Railway, and the establishing of systems of governance in the old Hudson's Bay territories were the issues that preoccupied the government in Ottawa. Its exercise of responsibility for Indigenous people was closely related to those issues as well, negotiating a series of treaties which, under the immediate premise of giving access for the railway, laid the basis for the immigration that would populate what were to become the prairie provinces of Alberta and Saskatchewan. In 1883, Canadian Prime Minister Sir John Macdonald introduced a Bill to establish a uniform federal franchise, proposing the enfranchisement of single women and widows with property, and the inclusion of Indigenous people, whether or not they had embraced enfranchisement under the provisions of the Gradual Civilisation Act, in the legislation's definition of ‘persons’.

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Australasia

‘Australia for the White Man’

Series:

Julie Evans, Patricia Grimshaw, David Philips and Shurlee Swain

This chapter focuses on the political outcomes of the intensified appropriation of Indigenous lands by British settler colonists in Australasia from the 1870s to 1910. From the 1870s to the first decade of the twentieth century, settler governments in the Australasian colonies built on their foundation years in their treatment of Indigenous political rights in their political systems. The seven colonies in the Australasian region contemplated federating into one nation state despite sharp divisions among them. Settlers wanting manhood suffrage for themselves in Australasian colonies, including New Zealand, Queensland and Western Australia, tried to keep Maori and Indigenous people in a marginalized situation. In the Electoral Bill, which was passed in 1879, politicians were enfranchised. White property-holders could have plural votes in any number of electorates, but Maori landowners were restricted to one settler electorate. In the Australasian colonies in the early 1890s, a debate on women's political rights intersected with the debates on Indigenous rights, and votes for women successfully passed through three Australasian colonial legislatures in the 1890s: New Zealand in 1893, South Australia in 1894; and Western Australia in 1899.

Open Access (free)

Series:

Julie Evans, Patricia Grimshaw, David Philips and Shurlee Swain

This chapter concludes a study on the circumstances under which British settler colonists accorded or denied political rights to Indigenous peoples in Canada, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa from the 1830s to 1910. The developments discussed in the chapter show that while White settlers in all four countries gained powers of self-government and the vote, in none of these countries did the Indigenous peoples get fully equal powers. The processes by which these issues were fought out and negotiated in the four countries were very different, as were the outcomes. By the early twentieth century, the Maori of New Zealand had achieved the most in terms of access to conventional White parliamentary power – with both men and women enfranchised and Maori men able to sit in parliament and government – and Aborigines in Australia probably the least. Indigenous Canadians and South Africans (depending on the province in which they lived) had very limited voting rights, but were a very long way from anything approaching true equality. During the 1830s, in the British colonies of settlement, there was at least a theoretical assumption that British colonies did not enshrine any form of color bar excluding people on the grounds of race; yet, by 1910, all four countries had limited access to the franchise, to varying degrees, on racial criteria.

Open Access (free)

Series:

Julie Evans, Patricia Grimshaw, David Philips and Shurlee Swain

This chapter provides an introduction to a study that traces the circumstances in which political rights were accorded or denied to Indigenous peoples in Canada, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa from the 1830s to 1910 by British colonists. It compares the nature of colonization in settler colonies such as Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa and colonies of exploitation such as India. In colonies of settlement, economic interests of colonists were vested primarily in securing permanent control of the land, maximizing settler access to land and converting that land to property. The settlers focused on establishing British systems of law and government and launching of the independent states if settler hegemony could be achieved. The chapter furthermore discusses the aspects of property and political rights in the relationships between settlers and Indigenes.

Open Access (free)

Series:

Julie Evans, Patricia Grimshaw, David Philips and Shurlee Swain

This chapter traces the story of the expansion of the British Empire up to the mid-1830s in North America, southern Africa and Australasia, and offers a subsequent reappraisal of colonial administration in these regions. An overview of Britain's gradual acquisition of settler colonies as men and women of European origin appropriated Indigenous peoples' lands in these regions is presented. In the later 1830s, British imperial policies towards the rights of the Indigenous peoples of the Empire, and towards the political rights of settlers, made as they were from the British Empire's center in London, showed a degree of uniformity. The settler colonies later diverged from the central control to form their own governments. The key tensions from which these differing paths emerged can be illustrated by examining the content, recommendations and subsequent implementation of two influential reports, both emanating from the British Parliament of the 1830s: the Report of the Select Committee on Aborigines of 1837 and the Report on the Affairs of British North America, or the Durham Report, of 1839.

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South Africa

Better ‘the Hottentot at the hustings’ than ‘the Hottentot in the wilds with his gun on his shoulder’

Series:

Julie Evans, Patricia Grimshaw, David Philips and Shurlee Swain

This chapter focuses on the expansion of the British Empire and early political developments in the British settler colonies in South Africa from the late 1830s to around 1870. The British took over the Cape Colony from the Dutch by a combination of military conquest and formal cession by treaty; the colonial annexations of Xhosa land were similarly based on both military conquest and cession by treaties following the various frontier wars. By the 1830s, the British authorities who had taken over the Cape from the Dutch found themselves trying to govern a society that was a complex mixture of ethnic populations, including White settlers, Khoisan, the Xhosa and other African groups. The British Government granted representative government to both the British colonies in South Africa, Cape and Natal, in the 1850s. A comparison of the minority rule of British settlers in the settler colonies of Natal and Cape, and a discussion of the inclusion of colonists and Indigenous people on the basis of property franchise in representative governments, are also presented.

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Australasia

One or two ‘honorable cannibals’ in the House?

Series:

Julie Evans, Patricia Grimshaw, David Philips and Shurlee Swain

This chapter focuses on the expansion of the British Empire and early political developments in the British settler colonies in the region of Australasia from the late 1830s to around 1870. The first colonies on the Australian continent and the islands of New Zealand in the decades from the late 1830s to 1870 were notable for their swift movement politically from initial Crown colonies to virtual local self-government. The British Government first made arrangements for representative government based on a property franchise for all of these colonies, and then conceded responsible government to the settler colonists. Further, by 1860, the legislatures of the eastern and southeastern Australian colonies had instituted full manhood suffrage. The Indigenous peoples of the Australasian colonies, Aborigines and Maori, were included in this process to self-government and democracy. The means by which colonists could acquire land and their subsequent usage of it would strongly influence Maori and Aborigines' entitlement to political citizenship and the likelihood of their exercising it.

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South Africa

Saving the White voters from being ‘utterly swamped’

Series:

Julie Evans, Patricia Grimshaw, David Philips and Shurlee Swain

This chapter focuses on the voting rights and political outcomes of the intensified appropriation of Indigenous lands by British settler colonists in South Africa from the 1870s to 1910. By the 1870s, important economic and political developments in South Africa prompted Britain to act in consolidating its interests throughout the Southern African region. These developments, which included the ‘mineral revolution’ through the discovery of diamond fields and gold fields, and Lord Carnarvon's federation scheme of 1870, together reshaped the political geography of South Africa within three decades. By the end of the nineteenth century, the separate African polities had almost entirely disappeared under some form of European colonial jurisdiction, and Britain was also directly threatening the independence of the two Boer republics. The chapter summarizes the political developments related to the voting rights of people, including settlers and Indigenous in the British settler colonies of Natal and Cape Colony.