Henry Bartle Frere
|Sir Henry Bartle Frere, Bt
|Commissioner of Sind|
|Preceded by||Richard Keith Pringle|
|Succeeded by||Jonathan Duncan Inverarity|
|Governor of Bombay|
|Preceded by||Sir George Russell Clerk|
|Succeeded by||William Vesey-FitzGerald|
|High Commissioner for Southern Africa|
|Preceded by||Sir Henry Barkly|
|Succeeded by||Henry Hugh Clifford
|Born||29 March 1815
Clydach, Monmouthshire, Wales
|Died||29 May 1884 (aged 69)
Wimbledon, London, England
|Alma mater||East India Company College|
- 1 Early life
- 2 India
- 3 Africa
- 4 Death
- 5 Memorials
- 6 Works
- 7 Popular culture
- 8 Citations
- 9 References
- 10 See also
Frere was born at Clydach House, Clydach, Monmouthshire, the son of Edward Frere, manager of Clydach Ironworks. He was the grandson of John Frere and a nephew of John Hookham Frere, known for anti-Jacobin activism and for his transliterations of Aristophanes. He was educated at the East India Company College the precursor of the later Haileybury and Imperial Service College.
After leaving college Bartle Frere was appointed a writer in the Bombay (now Mumbai) civil service in 1834. Having passed his language examination, he was appointed assistant collector at Poona (now Pune) in 1835, and in 1842 he was chosen as private secretary to Sir George Arthur, Governor of Bombay. Two years later he became political resident at the court of the rajah of Satara; on the rajah's death in 1848 he administered the province both before and after its formal annexation in 1849.
Commissioner in Sindh
In 1850 he was appointed chief commissioner of Sindh. In 1851 he founded the modern Indian postal service. In 1857, he sent detachments to Multan and to Sir John Lawrence in the Punjab in order to secure those locations during the Indian Mutiny. His services were fully recognized by the Indian authorities, and he received the thanks of both houses of parliament and was made a Knight Commander of the Order of the Bath (KCB). Sir Bartle Frere, as the commissioner of Sindh issued a decree in 1851, making it compulsory to use Sindhi language in place of Persian in Sindh. The officers of Sindh were ordered to learn Sindhi compulsorily to enable them to carry on day-to-day work efficiently. A committee was constituted under Asst. Commissioner & Chief of Education Department comprising equal number of Hindu & Muslim members which unanimously decided to go for Persio-Arabic Sindhi script with slight modifications in 1853. Sir Bartle Frere not only gave Sindhi language one script but he even published different Sindhi books related to various streams of the literature, which provided necessary impetus to Sindhi writers to move fast on the road of literacy.
Governor of Bombay
He became a member of the Viceroy's Council in 1859, and in 1862 was appointed Governor of Bombay, where he continued his policy of municipal improvements, establishing the Deccan College at Pune, as well as a college for instructing Indians in civil engineering. His order to pull down the ramparts of the old Fort allowed the city to grow, and the Flora Fountain was commissioned in his honour. During Frere's administration his daughter, Mary Frere, collected Old Deccan Days, the first English-language field-collected book of Indian folklore, which was printed in 1868.
In 1872 the foreign office sent him to Zanzibar to negotiate a treaty with the sultan, Barghash bin Said, for the suppression of the slave traffic. In 1875 he accompanied the Prince of Wales to Egypt and India, with such success that Lord Beaconsfield asked him to choose between being made a baronet or a Knight Grand Cross of the Bath. He chose the former, but the queen bestowed both honours upon him.
High Commissioner of Southern Africa
In 1877, Frere was made High Commissioner for Southern Africa by Lord Carnarvon, who wanted to impose an unpopular system of confederation onto the region. Carnarvon appointed Frere to the position on the understanding that he would work to enforce Carnarvon's confederation plan and, in return, Frere could then become the first British governor of a federated southern African dominion.
An attempt to federate Southern Africa
Lord Carnarvon's ill-fated confederation scheme was fiercely resisted by South Africans, many of whom resented the perceived high-handed manner in which it was imposed from London with little knowledge of, or concern for, local politics. Resistance in the Cape was led by its Prime Minister, John Molteno, who argued forcefully that confederation was ill-suited to Southern Africa and very badly timed. He correctly predicted that a lop-sided confederation would lead to instability and resentment and advised full union as a better model - but only at a later date and once it was economically viable. The timing of the scheme was indeed particularly unfortunate, as the different states of southern Africa were still simmering after the last bout of British imperial expansion.
The Afrikaner people of the recently annexed Transvaal were also not enthusiastic about confederation (reacting by successfully rebelling in the First Boer War), and the various Black South African states were justifiably suspicious of this new form of British expansion.
The ensuing attempt to impose a system of confederation on Southern Africa along with the ill-advised policies of Frere and his local ally John Gordon Sprigg ended up causing a string of wars across Southern Africa, culminating in the disastrous Anglo-Zulu and Boer Wars.
Local Resistance to Confederation from the Cape and Xhosa
Initially welcomed by the local (Molteno-Merriman) government of the Cape, Frere soon ran into difficulties in implementing the unpopular confederation scheme. In particular, the local Cape government was liberal and non-expansionist in its politics and resolutely opposed British confederation as being an imperialist attempt to override the Cape's constitution and extend British control over the whole of southern Africa. They also understood that it would mean a British invasion of the remaining independent states of the region, such as Zululand, and they correctly predicted war and instability.
In September 1877 a minor tribal conflict erupted on the Cape frontier, between the Mfengu and Gcaleka tribes. Frere immediately traveled to the frontier and declared war on the neighbouring independent state of Gcalekaland. The 9th Frontier War resulted. The local Cape government strongly opposed what they saw as British intervention in a local dispute, but in fact, Frere had astutely seen the war as being an opportunity to annex Gcalekaland for the planned confederation. Frere also shared Carnarvon's concerns that the continued existence of independent African states posed an ever-present threat of a "general and simultaneous rising of Kaffirdom against white civilization".
In February 1878 Frere appealed to the authority of the British Colonial Office to dismiss the Cape's elected government. He then appointed his political ally Mr John Gordon Sprigg to form a puppet ministry. This unprecedented move solved any constitutional hindrances in the Cape, but was overshadowed by a growing set of conflicts across Southern Africa and Lord Carnarvon's resignation in early 1878.
Outbreak of Zulu and Boer Wars
The Zulu Kingdom under King Cetshwayo was still independent of British control and Frere impressed upon the Colonial Office his belief that Cetshwayo's army had to be eliminated and Zululand annexed if confederation was to succeed. The idea was generally accepted in London while Carnarvon remained as Foreign Secretary. However his replacement, Sir Michael Hicks-Beach strongly wished to avoid any war in southern Africa. Frere nonetheless used the delay in mail between London and Cape Town, to time his letters so as to circumvent the Colonial Office's opposition to war. Frere then sent Cetshwayo an impossible ultimatum in December 1878, effectively declaring war.
On 11 January 1879, British troops crossed the Tugela River; fourteen days later the disaster of Isandlwana was reported, and the House of Commons demanded that Frere be recalled. Beaconsfield supported him, however, and in a strange compromise he was censured but asked to stay on. Frere had severely underestimated the Zulus, who he had famously referred to as "a bunch of savages armed with sticks."
The Zulu trouble, and disaffection brewing in the Transvaal, reacted upon each other most disastrously. The delay in giving the country a constitution afforded a pretext for agitation to the resentful Boers, a rapidly increasing minority, while the defeat at Isandlwana had badly tarnished the reputation of the British Empire in the region. Owing to the Xhosa and Zulu wars, Sir Bartle had been unable to give his undivided attention to the state of things in the Transvaal until April 1879, when he was at last able to visit a camp of about 4,000 disaffected Boers near Pretoria. Though conditions were grim, Frere managed to win the Boers' respect by promising to present their complaints to the British government, and to urge the fulfilment of the promises that had been made to them. The Boers did eventually disperse, on the very day upon which Frere received the telegram announcing the government's censure. On his return to Cape Town, he found that his achievement had been eclipsed—first by 1 June 1879 death of Napoleon Eugene, Prince Imperial in Zululand, and then by the news that the government of the Transvaal and Natal, together with the high commissionership in the eastern part of South Africa, had been transferred from him to Sir Garnet Wolseley. Meanwhile, growing Boer resentment at Frere's policies erupted in December 1880 into the disastrous First Boer War. The First Boer War, with the humiliating British defeats at Bronkhorstspruit, Laing's Nek, Schuinshoogte and Majuba Hill led to the independence of the Boer Republics and the final end of Carnarvon's confederation scheme.
Outbreak of the Basotho Gun War
Basutoland—home of the Basotho people—had been under the nominal control of the Cape Colony since 1872. However, the Cape government had allowed the Basotho leadership to keep much of their traditional authority. The 1879 Peace Protection Act, which Frere had brought in during the Xhosa Wars and which decreed that all people of African descent had to be disarmed, now led to the Basuto Gun War which broke out in 1880, as the Basotho subjects of the Cape rebelled against what they saw as a racist and high-handed ruling. Premier John Gordon Sprigg's unpopular attempt to enforce this disarmament of the Basotho was aggravated by his setting aside of Basotho land for white settlement. The resulting war led to British defeats such as that at Qalabani, and ended in 1881 with a stalemate and a treaty that favoured the Basotho (This rebellion is a primary reason why Lesotho is now an independent country, and not part of surrounding South Africa). At the same time as the Basuto Gun War broke out, unrest flared up once again among the Xhosa of the Transkei.
In 1880 Frere was recalled to London to face charges of misconduct. When Gladstone's ministry first came into office in the spring of 1880, Lord Kimberley originally had no intention of recalling Frere. In June, however, a section of the Liberal party memorialized Gladstone to remove him, and the prime minister complied (1 August 1880).
The disaster of Isandlwana was compounded by the humiliating defeats of the First Boer War. He was replaced by Sir Garnet Wolseley, charged with having acted recklessly, and censured by Whitehall.
Upon his return Frere replied to the charges relating to his conduct with regard to Afghanistan as well as South Africa, previously referred to in Gladstone's Midlothian speeches, and was preparing a fuller vindication when he died at Wimbledon on 29 May 1884. He was buried in St Paul's Cathedral. He had married on 10 October 1844 Catherine, daughter of Sir George Arthur.
Frere Hall in Karachi was built in his honour. The city also named a road, street and town after him. In 1888, the Prince of Wales unveiled a statue of Frere on the Thames embankment. Mount Bartle Frere (1622m), the highest mountain in Queensland, Australia is named after him, as is a boarding house at Haileybury. A road in Parktown, Johannesburg, is also named after him. (Frere Road in also the home of Nadine Gordimer, the Nobel Prize-winning author). In Durban, (KwaZulu-Natal), there are two roads which honour him: the first, Frere Road, transforms a little later to Bartle Road.
His Life and Correspondence, by John Martineau, was published in 1895. For the South African anti-confederation view, see P. A. Molteno's Life and Times of Sir John Charles Molteno (2 vols.,London 1900).
A more recent work on Bartle Frere's life, The Zulu and the Raj; The Life of Sir Bartle Frere by D. P. O'Connor, examines details of Frere's life and motives more fully than was permissible in Victorian times when Martineau was writing. In particular, O'Connor points to Frere as a leading thinker on imperial defence. He sets the Zulu war in the context of the overall global crisis, contingent on the 1877 Balkan War, which was widely expected to result in war between Britain and Russia. Frere was sent to South Africa to turn this vital area into a secure bastion on the route to India, but was distracted from the task by the routine instability of the South African theatre.
He was played by Sir John Mills in Zulu Dawn. His portrayal in the film is negative. He is depicted as a corrupt, greedy, deeply racist administrator who casually orders the invasion of Zululand after issuing his unfair, biased, impossibly demanding ultimatum.
- Dorson, R. M. (1999). History of British folklore. Taylor and Francis. ISBN 0-415-20476-3. p. 334.
- A Cambridge Alumni Database. University of Cambridge. missing
- Illustrated History of South Africa. The Reader's Digest Association South Africa (Pty) Ltd, 1992. ISBN 0-947008-90-X. p.182, "Confederation from the Barrel of a Gun"
- V.C. Malherbe: What They Said. 1795-1910 History Documents. Cape Town: Maskew Miller. 1971.
- M. Meredith: Diamonds, Gold and War. Simon & Schuster. 2007.
- N. Mostert: Frontiers: The Epic of South Africa’s Creation and the Tragedy of the Xhosa People. New York: Knopf. 1992.
- Cape Times: Correspondence, Memoranda and Minutes connected with the Dismissal of the Late Ministry. Cape Town: Houses of Parliament Library. 1878.
- A. Parker: 50 People who stuffed up South Africa. Burnet Media: Cape Town. 1910. p.64. "Bartle Frere".
- F. Statham: Blacks, Boers, & British: A Three-cornered Problem. MacMillan & Co. 1881.
- "Library and Archive catalogue". Royal Society. Retrieved 3 December 2010.
- Robert Fruin: A word from Holland on the Transvaal question. A reply to Sir Bartle Frere and an appeal to the people of England. By Dr. Robert Fruin, Professor in the University of Leiden. Utrecht: L. E. Bosch und son, 1881
- John Martineau: The life and correspondence of the Right Hon. Sir Bartle Frere, Bart., G. C. B., F. R. S., etc.. London: J. Murray, 1895
- Percy Alport Molteno: The life and times of Sir John Charles Molteno, K. C. M. G., First Premier of Cape Colony, Comprising a History of Representative Institutions and Responsible Government at the Cape and of Lord Carnarvon's Confederation Policy & of Sir Bartle Frere's High Commissionership of South Africa. London: Smith, Elder & Co. 1900
- Rekha Ranade: Sir Bartle Frere and his times: a study of his Bombay years, 1862 - 1867. New Delhi: Mittal Publ., 1990, ISBN 81-7099-222-2
- Phillida Brooke Simons: Apples of the sun : being an account of the lives, vision and achievements of the Molteno brothers, Edward Bartle Frere and Henry Anderson. Vlaeberg: Fernwood Press, 1999. ISBN 1-874950-45-8
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Henry Bartle Frere.|
|Wikisource has original works written by or about:
Richard Keith Pringle
|Commissioner in Sind
Jonathan Duncan Inverarity
Sir George Clerk
|Governor of Bombay
Sir William Fitzgerald
Sir Henry Barkly
|Governor of Cape Colony
High Commissioner for Southern Africa
Sir Hercules Robinson
|Baronetage of the United Kingdom|
Bartle Compton Arthur Frere