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|
Sir Henry Bartle Edward Frere, 1st Baronet, GCB, GCSI, (29 March 1815 – 29 May 1884) was a British colonial administrator. He had a successful career in India rising to become Governor of Bombay. However as High Commissioner for Southern Africa, his attempt to impose a British confederation on the region led to the overthrow of the Cape's first elected government and to a string of regional wars, culminating in the invasion of Zululand and the First Boer War. He was recalled to London to face charges of misconduct and was officially censured for acting recklessly.
- 1 Early life
- 2 Family life
- 3 India
- 4 Africa
- 5 Death
- 6 Memorials
- 7 Works
- 8 Popular culture
- 9 Citations
- 10 References
- 11 See also
Frere was born at Clydach House, Clydach, Monmouthshire, the son of Edward Frere, manager of Clydach Ironworks and Mary Ann Green. His elder sister, Mary Anne Frere was born circa 1802 in Clydach, and his younger sister Frances Anne Frere was born circa 1819 in Clydach. He was the grandson of John Frere and a nephew of John Hookham Frere; William Frere; Bartholomew Frere; James Hatley Frere; and Temple Frere - canon of St Peters, Westminster. He was educated at the East India Company College the precursor of Haileybury and Imperial Service College.
On 10 October 1844, he married Catherine Arthur (born c.1821 in Honduras), daughter of Sir George Arthur, 1st Baronet who was the Governor of Bombay and to whom he had been appointed private secretary two years earlier. Their children were: Mary Eliza Isabella Frere, born 1845 at Bitton, Gloucestershire; Catherine Frances Frere, born c.1849 in the East Indies; Georgina Hamilton Chichester Frere, born c.1850 in the East Indies; Bartle Compton Arthur Frere, born c.1855 in Paddington, Middlesex; and Eliza Frederica Jane Frere, born c.1857 in Wimbledon, London.
After leaving the East India Company College 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 Raja Shahji 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 (1853) under Asst. Commissioner & Chief of Education Department comprising equal number of Hindu & Muslim members which unanimously decided on the use of Persio-Arabic Sindhi script with slight modifications. 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 encouraged impetus to Sindhi writers to move quickly with 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 (1868), the first English-language field-collected book of Indian folklore.
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 for Southern Africa
In 1877, Frere was made High Commissioner for Southern Africa by the London based Under-Secretary for the Colonies Lord Carnarvon, who continued to support the imposition of the unpopular system of confederation upon the southern Africa region. Frere accepted the position, on a salary double that of his predecessor, and on the understanding that successful implementation of confederation would result in him being appointed the first British Governor-General of a federated southern African dominion.
Attempt to federate Southern Africa
The idea of melding the states of southern Africa into a British Confederation was not new. It was seen as an easy way of uniting the region under British control, whilst preventing any future attempt among the remaining independent African states to unite against British rule. However an earlier plan by Sir George Grey for a federation of all the various colonies in South Africa had been rejected by the home authorities in 1858, as not being viable.
Through Frere's elevation, Lord Carnarvon sought another attempt at implementing the ill-fated and locally unsupported confederation scheme, that was met with fierce resistance by all the local groups involved. South Africans resented the perceived high-handed manner in which it was being imposed from London with little accommodation and knowledge of, or concern for, local conditions and politics. Cape Prime Minister, John Molteno, advised that that under current conditions confederation was ill-suited to and badly timed for Southern Africa. It would lead to a lop-sided confederation with resulting instability and resentment. He advised that full union status was a better model, but only at a later date and once it was economically viable.
Timing was a key factor in the ensuing events, as the different states of southern Africa were at the time still suspicious and resentful after the last bout of British imperial expansion. The Afrikaners resented the recent annexation of the Transvaal, did not support confederation, and would successfully rebel in the First Boer War. The various Black South African states were also suspicious of this new effort towards British expansion. The ill-advised policies of both 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.
The British historical war film Zulu (1964) depicts the British victory against tremendous odds in the Battle of Rorke's Drift; the latter followed the defeat in the Battle of Isandlwana in the Anglo-Zulu War.
Resistance from the Cape and the Xhosa
However Frere soon encountered strong political resistance against the unpopular confederation project. In particular, the local Cape government took a non-interventionist approach towards the neighbouring Boer and Black African states of southern Africa. It was also relatively liberal in its domestic politics. Its formal response to Carnarvon's confederation model, conveyed to London via Frere's predecessor Sir Henry Barkly, had originally been that any federation with the illiberal Boer republics would endanger the rights and franchise of the Cape's Black citizens, and was therefore unacceptable. It now 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 believed that confederation would entail 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. The Cape government viewed the dispute as local, but Frere immediately traveled to the frontier and declared war on the neighbouring independent state of Gcalekaland. Frere saw the dispute as 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". The 9th Frontier War resulted.
Frere appealed (February 1878) and received the authority from the British Colonial Office to overthrow the Cape's elected government. He then asked his political ally, Mr John Gordon Sprigg, to form a puppet ministry. This unprecedented move solved his 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 remained independent of British control but Frere impressed upon the Colonial Office his opinion that if confederation was to succeed, Cetshwayo's forces had to be eliminated and Zululand annexed. While Carnarvon remained as Foreign Secretary in London the view had support but 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.
Cetshwayo was unable to comply with Frere's ultimatum - even if he had wanted to; Frere ordered Lord Chelmsford to invade Zululand, and so the Anglo-Zulu War began. On 11 January 1879, British troops crossed the Tugela River; fourteen days later the disaster of Isandlwana was reported, and that was enough for the House of Commons to demand 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 characterized 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 and independence. As allies and trading partners of the Cape, the Basotho were also well-equipped with firearms.
Frere pushed "The Peace Protection Act" (1879), during the Xhosa Wars, and decreed that all those of African descent had to be disarmed. The Basuto Gun War (1880) followed, as the Basothos rebelled at 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).
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.
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.
- Rootsweb, Mary Anne Green
- Rootsweb. 1871 census - Frere household in Wimbledon
- Dorson, R. M. (1999). History of British folklore. Taylor and Francis. ISBN 0-415-20476-3. p. 334.
- "Frere, Sir Henry Bartle Edward (FRR874HB)". A Cambridge Alumni Database. University of Cambridge.
- R.D.Thomas: The Rise and Fall of Bartle Frere: Colonial Rule in India and South Africa. Authorhouse, 2009. ISBN 1467898066, 9781467898065. p.113.
- F. Statham: Blacks, Boers, & British: A Three-cornered Problem. MacMillan & Co. 1881.
- 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"
- N. Mostert: Frontiers: The Epic of South Africa's Creation and the Tragedy of the Xhosa People. Pimlico: London, 1993. ISBN 0-7126-5584-0, p.1247.
- 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".
- "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:
Henry Bartle Frere
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