Frederick Lugard: The Making of an Autocrat (1858-1943)
In their political, constitutional, and legal history the British have rightly been characterized as a people not given to dogma and inflexible insistence upon the application of political theory to administrative practice.
But one man, Frederick Dealtry Lugard
, exercised such a profound influence over the development of native administration in British colonial Africa that it is justifiable to speak of "the Lugardian system" and to term its philosophy that of "Lugardian principles.
It was Lugard
who, after playing a significant role in the partition of Africa in the 1890s and in the transition of British public opinion to support of imperial expansion in Africa, himself set up the classical system of indirect rule in Northern Nigeria from 1900-1906, extended ifs principles into Southern Nigeria, when the country was "unified" by him after 1912, created the "blueprints" of "native administration" by the issuance of his
"Political Memoranda" 1 for the instruction of administrators, and finally formed indirect rule into a justification and apologia for colonial rule in The Dual Mandate in British Tropical Africa 2.
No other British colonial governor in Africa had a comparable impact on the shape and nature of colonial rule.
Lugard, born in 1858 3, grew up in the period that has been described as "the climax of anti-imperialism" 4 - the years in which the British colonies favored by white settlers increased their autonomy through the institutions of responsible government, in which the Manchester school of free trade pursued commercial expansion while avoiding territorial empire, and in which African annexations in particular were looked upon with disfavor.
But these influences had no impact on the young Lugard; his
family stamped on him a familiarity with Britain's imperial role and propelled him toward an imperial career.
mother had been a Church Missionary Society worker in India and his
father (the son of a soldier) served as East India Company chaplain at Madras
Both were evangelical Anglicans.
And Luzard's mother could be seen as a martyr to the cause: in 1863 ill health drove her
back to England, where she
died in 1865, when her
son was seven years old.
The Reverend Frederick Lugard had secured a modest living as rector of St. Clement's, Worcester, and managed to provide his
son with an indifferent education at Rossall
, an Anglican public school that enjoyed little academic reputation.
At this time young Lugard's
hero was Livingstone, and his
ambition was to enter the Indian civil service but he
failed the entrance examination.
Early in 1877 it might have been expected that Frederick Lugard
was well set upon a modestly successful military career.
now suffered a traumatic emotional experience, which was to prove the turning point in his
had fallen deeply in love with a remarried divorcée in Lucknow, whose identity remains shrouded in mystery by his
That lady used him so badly that she
almost drove him to suicide.
In the middle of 1877, while still in Burma, Lugard
received a telegram that she
was dying after an accident in which she
had overturned a coach.
Rushing back to India, Lugard
found the lady gone to England; he
sailed for England, where he
, hale and hearty, surrounded by a circle of "fast" friends, with her
emotional needs quite satisfied elsewhere.
The affair made him utterly desperate; he
religious faith and flung himself into a series of dangerous pursuits that may well have been designed to end his
life in useful but hazardous work.
For two months he
fought fires as a volunteer with the new London fire brigade.
resolved to leave England, emulate his
hero Livingstone, and seek danger and perhaps a noble death fighting the slave trade in East Africa.
sailed for Italy on a rather wild plan to join the Italian forces preparing to attack Ethiopia but, finding that the Italians would not have him, took a deck passage on an Italian ship bound for Aden.
picked up a British ship traveling down the East African coast and was forced to take second-class passage as white men were not permitted to travel with the Arabs and Africans as deck passengers.
thus was able to meet Colonel Euan Smith, the British consul at Zanzibar, who provided him with a letter of introduction to the British consul in Mozambique, in the hopes that he
might find employment with the African Lakes Company
then fighting Arab slave traders at the north end of Lake Nyasa in support of Scottish missionaries.
These contacts bore fruit, and in May 1888 Lugard
way to Lake Nyasa to lead a military attack on the Arab stockade at Karonga's settlement.
But these actions were hardly triumphant; repeated attacks, culminating in March 1889, failed to dislodge the Arabs, and Lugard returned to England to turn public opinion in favor of official British intervention in Nyasaland to establish a protectorate.
ambitions were already political.
hoped to make his
name known by writing about his
adventures in Nyasaland and arguing for British control there, and he
had high hopes that he
himself might secure the appointment to carry the policy through.
In this he
was disappointed; Britain did eventually, in May 1891, declare a protectorate over Nyasaland, but the new territory was to be administered by Harry Johnston, much to Lugard's
humiliation and bitter chagrin.
had made his
mark in British African circles.
published four articles on Nyasaland in 1889 and had developed close relationships with Scottish humanitarians active in the antislavery movement, as well as with British officials on the East African coast.
Through these, Lugard
later that year secured a vague apoointment to serve the newly chartered Imperial British East Africa Company
After leading caravans and founding stations in Kenya, he
was appointed in mid-1890 to lead an expedition into Uganda.
By this time his
ambitions had matured, and an imperious streak in his
character displayed itself in his
insistence that he
should have complete command of the expedition, independent of the company's administrator, Sir Francis de Winton.
experiences in Uganda, and even more his
political activities in England that followed, were to place him in the forefront of British African politics.
This was not because his
activities in Uganda were particularly successful.
As earlier in Nyasaland, Lugard
overstretched the resources at his
disposal and was Limself largely responsible for hastening the bankruptcy of the Imperial British East Africa Company
, which employed him.
In the process he
also became the central figure in a bitter controversy with the French government.
The kingdom of Buganda on the north shore of Lake Victoria had-since the entry of British Protestant missionaries in 1877 and that of the French Catholics two years laterbecome a battleground for religious factions.
took the decision to arm the Baganda Protestants and help them with his
company troops in their attack on the Catholics, No doubt the chartered company would eventually have bankrupted itself without Lugard's
help, and at some stage a struggle for power between Baganda Protestants and Catholics would have taken place.
As these questions became the center of public and parliamentary debate, Lugard was able to abandon his posture of defense against the charges of the French and take his stand for the British retention of Uganda, imperialism, and expansion.
Political success did not bring the rewards of office for which Lugard
Repeated efforts to secure a high post in the new East African administration were rebuffed.
finally understood the position, "Lord Rosebery considered that my return would be regarded as an affront to the French government.
therefore accepted an offer from Sir George Goldie 9 to work with yet another chartered company.
task was to protect the northwestern area of the territories of the Royal Niger Company
in Borgu, where French incursions threatened to break the company's control of the navigable portion of the Niger from Bussa to the sea.
was to lead an expedition into Borgu to make prior treaties with the kings of Borgu in which they would cede their territories to the company.
The story of Lugard's
expedition to Borgu. from July 1894 until his
return to England in May 1895 has been considered in detail elsewhere 10.
Once again, however, this mission to Africa must be considered a failure, but a failure that was inevitable because of the constraints under which Lugard
was made to operate.
Goldie insisted that Lugard
have only a small, inexpensive force, no "occupation" of the Borguan towns was contemplated; the French encroachments would be resisted with pieces of paper, not soldiers and officials, for the company made its money by trading, not administering.
It was therefore inevitable that Lugard's
treaty making would be challenged by the French, whose forces were in