IN the march of material progress in the nineteenth century probably the most outstanding event was the discovery of the use of steam as a motive power, and it is of interest to note how and why it led inevitably to the development of the tropics and their control by the white races. On the one hand the oceans ceased to be barriers passable only at the cost of long delays and great discomfort. The gateways through which trade gained access to the western half of the continent of Africa were no longer the Mediterranean ports and the camel caravan routes across the Sahara, but the ports on the West Coast, while the construction of the Suez Canal opened new and shorter sea routes to its eastern shores. On the other hand the rapid expansion of every branch of industry under the stimulus of power-driven machinery gave rise to a great demand for raw materials and for markets for the products manufactured from them. These demands were moreover increased by the phenomenal growth of population and the improvement in the standard of living of every class, which was the proximate result of the industrial revolution of the nineteenth century.

The supplies of many of these raw materials -- vegetable oils, fibres, cotton, hides and skins, rubber, various minerals, etc. -- were wholly insufficient, unless supplemented by the wealth of the tropics, while others were obtainable only from them. Nor was the demand for human food, and the minor luxuries which now for the first time were available to the working classes less insistent -- among others sugar, rice, maize, tea, coffee, cocoa, and edible oils.

Of the great white races of the earth, the United States of America alone was for a time self-supporting, but as her population increased she too became a large importer of tropical products, both vegetable and mineral, from Africa and other tropical countries; their volume and diversity, compiled from statistical tables, would probably be a revelation to the average reader. Twenty years ago the trade of the United States with the tropics was shown by Benjamin Kidd to amount to $346,000,000 (about half that of the United Kingdom) and he sums up with the conclusion that "the development of the tropics will beyond doubt be the permanent underlying fact of the twentieth century."

His forecast has proved true, and its truth will be more abundantly proved as the century grows older. "The Control of the Tropics" (as he named his remarkable essay) was probably one of the not remote causes of the Great War, and the future is pregnant with hardly less dangers from the same cause. If this be so -- if the essential needs of the white man and the jealousies and misunderstandings to which they give rise, and if the socalled "awakening of the colored races," are indeed matters of such world importance -- it goes without the saying that public opinion should be well informed as to the nature of the problem. Its solution rests primarily on the shoulders of those who have assumed the immense responsibility of governing the backward races which people the tropics, nor can it be evaded by those who use the products of the tropics and who exercise influence in the councils of the civilized nations. The nations in control are, as Kidd expressed it, "trustees for civilization" -- a phrase which, repeated in the Covenant of the League of Nations, has become a household word throughout the world. In carrying out this trust they exercise a "dual mandate"[i] -- as trustees on the one hand for the development of the resources of these lands, on behalf of the congested populations whose lives and industries depend on a share of the bounties with which nature has so abundantly endowed the tropics. On the other hand they exercise a "sacred trust" on behalf of the peoples who inhabit the tropics and who are so pathetically dependent on their guidance.

The fulfilment of the former mandate is for the most part undertaken with avidity by private enterprise, and the function of the Power in control is limited to providing the main essentials, such as railways and harbors, to seeing that the natives have their fair share, and that material development does not injuriously affect the fulfilment of the second mandate -- an even more important obligation.

Railways in Africa are generally constructed by the state. Without arterial railways the cost of administration in the interior would be prohibitive and the slave trade and tribal wars could not have been suppressed. Railways increase the mobility of the forces necessary to stamp out these evils and maintain law and order. They render possible the advent of trade and commerce, from which a considerable revenue is raised for administrative purposes, and they encourage native production by providing a market for native produce in return for imported goods, such as textiles and hardware, and so add to the well being and prosperity of the people. Along the lines they traverse they have superseded human porterage, and so set free vast numbers of men for productive work. Their construction, if carried out on right principles, is an educative agency of great importance, teaching tribes hitherto at war the value of coöperation, and the principle of a fair day's wage for a day's labor. Feeder roads, telegraphs and harbors are ancillaries. For such works native labor is required, for the white man cannot, or at any rate will not (except in Queensland) do manual work in the tropics. Private enterprise also requires native labor, and hence the first problem is to decide to what extent and under what conditions it can be employed without injury to the people. On the one hand the withdrawal of too large a percentage of adult males from the village community tends to destroy the social organization -- slender at best -- and the tribal authority and tribal sanctions. Some of these no doubt are based on superstition and barbarous traditions. In course of time they must disappear and be succeeded by a higher type of social organization, but if they are broken down too rapidly, if whatever is good in them is treated with contempt, and disappears with the bad before something better has been evolved, the result is chaos.

It is perhaps difficult for us to realise how great is the contrast between the communal life of the primitive tribe, hedged round with observances and customary rites, and the life of individualism and license of the labor camp. Much can be done, and is done, to ameliorate these conditions. Units of a tribe may be kept together under their own tribal authority, wives may be induced to accompany their husbands, and if the absence is not too prolonged little harm may be done. Something of good, as has already been said, may also result. The primitive savage in contact with civilization learns the discipline of work, and the result of cooperation. He learns on a plantation new methods of cultivation which he can apply to his own fields. If well fed and housed his physique improves with the regular day's work. New ideas and better standards of life are opened to his mind -- in housing, clothing, sanitation, and the utensils for field work.

The old order must change -- as it has changed with us -- and the inexorable mandate of civilization forbids to stereotype the conditions of savage life. Whether the primitive African dancing in the moonlight through the livelong night, careless and improvident for the morrow, will be the happier for it, who shall say? Is the villager of England with his wireless set and his trade unions, with motor cycles and cars dashing through the village street and rattling the bones of the elders of the past in the village cemetery, happier than they were?

To return to our subject. Men recruited from distant tribes often suffer from the change of climate, diet and mode of life before they become acclimatized. New diseases against which they have acquired no measure of immunity cause a heavy death rate. In spite of medical care, disease is sometimes carried back to the village. Not only is the mortality high among the laborers, but the birth rate decreases. In many parts of Africa it is estimated that the population since the advent of the white man has been stationary or has decreased, and this in spite of all that has been achieved in the stopping of slave raids and of tribal war, and the conquest of such diseases as smallpox which formerly ravaged Africa unchecked. The security of life which the reign of law and order has introduced is no doubt itself parodoxically in some degree responsible, for the freedom of movement has facilitated the spread of infectious diseases.

From a merely utilitarian point of view, it becomes a matter of the first importance that the demand for labor shall not lay too heavy a burden on the present generation. For essential public works and services even compulsion may in the last resort be justified and is authorized in such cases by the terms of the Mandates in tropical Africa, but "only if adequately remunerated" -- important words, which were omitted from the proposed Slavery and Forced Labor Convention which is now under discussion in Geneva.

In regard to forced labor for private profit the "traditional policy of Great Britain" has been very clearly formulated in a state paper, as being "absolutely opposed to compulsory labor for private employment. . . . It is a point of fundamental importance that there is no question of force or compulsion, but only of encouragement and advice through the native chiefs."

"In no British Dominion and in no British Colony," said the Under Secretary lately, "will it ever be tolerated that there should be compulsory labor for private profit." Indirect pressure, on chiefs by advice which they dare not disregard, by unduly heavy taxation, or by inadequate land allotment, is also reprobated. But voluntary labor is already insufficient to meet the demands of settlers in the sparsely populated highlands, which offer a congenial home for the white man, where by introducing new cultures and improved methods he has increased the material prosperity. What then is to be done? There are three possible courses; first, to reduce the demand by limiting government works to those of essential importance, and restricting European immigration and private enterprise; second, to make the existing supply go further by increasing the efficiency of the laborer and by the use of labor-saving devices; or finally, to import labor from overseas.

Each of these courses deserves brief consideration. The construction of railways may be limited to arterial lines and to such as traverse densely populated regions and therefore afford an outlet for produce, new markets, and a rapid means of transport for labour recruits. It is of no use "opening up" for white plantations sparsely peopled regions, however fertile, if there is no labor for their development. In the second place, wage labor can be made more efficient by good feeding and care of health, by training, by piece-work -- which means more European supervision -- and by the use of machinery, either to supplement or replace human labor. One illustration will suffice. The use of the ox in agriculture and (on European owned estates) of mechanical plows, etc., and the abolition of human porterage by the employment of draught transport and of " road-less " mechanical vehicles, would set free hundreds of thousands of men for productive work, and add an enormous acreage to that which the natives at present cultivate by primitive methods.

Finally there is the question of supplementing African labor by importing workers from overseas. The two sources of supply in the past have been India and China. The importation of Indian labor has raised in Natal and Kenya difficulties greater than those of the problem it was hoped that it would solve. Moreover the Indian Emigration Act of 1922 has prohibited the indenture of Indian coolie labor. There remains China. It is necessary to distinguish between immigrants, whose indenture provides for compulsory repatriation, and those who on the expiration of their contracts are allowed to remain as colonists, bringing their families with them and using their period of indenture as a kind of apprenticeship, during which they can save a little money and get to know the country. For reasons which cannot be discussed here, the Chinese would no doubt belong to the former category. The cost of recruiting, transporting and repatriating Chinese, and the high wages they demand, would make the experiment a very costly one. The Chinese refuse to bring their wives with them--or the wives refuse, as in Samoa, to come unless paid the same wages as the men; they take back their earnings with them and spend little or nothing in the country; and there is the serious question of racial miscegenation. On the other hand, if the strict supervision exercised by a special official, which is adopted in Malaya, is enforced, there are no grounds for humanitarian objections so far as the Chinese themselves are concerned.

What, it may naturally be asked, in view of the difficulties with which this labor question bristles, is the nature of the demand by private enterprise, and what is the solution which it proposes itself? The demand is mainly either for mining or for European-owned plantations and estates; the requirements of traders and others are comparatively negligible.

The mining companies which export gold, diamonds, tin, copper, manganese, etc., generally make large profits, and are able to offer every attraction possible to wage labor. The extraction of coal, on the other hand, economizes expenditure on railways and steamers, and is therefore of direct benefit to the people of the country. In Nigeria, primarily on account of the labor question, it has so far been retained as a government monopoly. Foreign agricultural enterprise may either consist of plantations of rubber trees or oil-palms, etc., which grow in the lowlands and are supervised by Europeans who relieve each other periodically, or of estates owned by settlers in the highlands, whose altitude renders continued residence possible. If the crops consist of exotic species which require skilled cultivation or technical preparation for the market, such as Arabian coffee, tobacco, sisal, tea and flax, these foreign-owned plantations are a notable contribution to the economic resources of the country, and they also should be able to offer attractive conditions to wage labor, provided that the demand is not too heavy. It is, however, a disadvantage that the heaviest demand is at the season when the natives are most engaged in tending their own food crops.

But if the foreign estate owner does not limit his enterprise to these cultures, and includes products which are successfully grown by the natives, such as cotton, maize, cocoa, groundnuts etc., it is inevitable that -- unless artificially protected -- he cannot compete with the native grower who has no "overhead charges" to meet and can work in his own time, in his own way, for his own profit, and with the assistance of his family. Their interests become antagonistic, and if the planter has a powerful share in the legislation and policy of the government, strict impartiality, despite the best of intentions, becomes difficult.

The planter and the settler point to the capital and the efforts expended in converting lands left derelict or used only as grazing areas for nomadic cattle-owners, into estates of great value whose produce forms the bulk of the exports. They hold that the natives can only become good citizens by contact with the Europeans. They would solve the labor problem by inducing the natives to live on their estates as "squatters" or tenants pledged to render service for specified periods. The planters of Virginia solved their labor problems three centuries ago in much the same way, by importing slaves, but what was possible in the early seventeenth century is not possible in the twentieth. The imported slaves resided on their estates, and it was equally to the owners' interest that they should be well-cared for; but in order to maintain the system they wisely made it an offense to teach the slaves to read and write, for education must doom such a system to failure. British settlers in Kenya and Nyasaland, on the contrary, show much enthusiasm for native education. And here I touch a new subject.

The policy and methods hitherto adopted in educational matters in Africa have not produced good results, and the fact has recently received official recognition in England by the appointment by the Secretary of State of a Standing Committee at the Colonial Office consisting of educational experts, representatives of the churches and missions, and others of practical administrative experience, under the presidency of the Under-Secretary. A synopsis of the policy they advocated was published with the approval of Government as a state paper. In this movement the Trustees of the Phelps-Stokes Fund, with their intimate knowledge of the methods by which such great results have been achieved in the United States at Hampton and Tuskegee, lent assistance and coöperated by sending two Missions to Africa and publishing the results of their investigations. It is, however, only just to add that the principles they so ably advocated had already been demonstrated and an attempt to give them practical effect by legislation had already been made and would have been carried out in detail had not progress been arrested by the war.

The new policy regards the education in the class-room of a comparatively small minority of the youth in the principal centers as only one phase -- and that not the most important -- of education. The system of set examinations based on curricula more appropriate to pupils in England, and conveyed in text books ill adapted to African experience and mentality, must in future give place to a system which shall reach the heart of the people and influence the village community. Its object will be to retain what is best in African tradition, to make the village agriculturist or craftsman more efficient, to replace superstitious fear by the ethics of a higher religion, to fill in the great hiatus between the illiterate masses and the so-called "educated" minority. Education, it is hoped, will mean the raising of the standard of the people, not the denationalization of the few, making of the African a better and more efficient African and not an imitation white man.

So regarded, the Education Department is but one of many agencies engaged in the work. And not least of the potent agencies which operate outside the class-room is that of the Administrative Officer, whose task it is to train each tribal unit or separate community to conduct its own domestic affairs under the guidance of its own appointed head.

Among the more advanced sections the task is comparatively easy. Habits of obedience to authority on the one hand, and of responsibility and initiative on the other hand, have already been acquired in a greater or lesser degree. But among the more primitive, where as yet no higher authority than the head of the family exists, where impulse to action is dictated by some prompting of superstition, or some motive hard to fathom, the District Officer's task is much harder. He will set up a petty tribunal for the settlement of minor disputes and offenses, but it will arrive at most astonishing decisions or be wholly unable to assert its authority. The very standards of right and wrong will often need to be created. It would be simpler and much more effective to assume all powers himself. The interminable delays, the inability to grasp simple fundamentals, the constant failure of one chief after another in whom he had built hopes of success, are heartbreaking to the competent energetic officer, and it becomes a chronic temptation to do the thing himself and do it well. It is thus that the proverbial efficiency of the rural administration in British India and elsewhere has been achieved.

But is the white influence as effective as it seems on the surface? No tropical administration has revenues adequate to support the army of officials required thoroughly to administer these vast areas peopled by a mosaic of tribes speaking scores of different languages. Exigencies of climate, necessitating absence on leave, together with the transfers due to departmental promotion, cause frequent changes in personnel. At best the District Officer, who thinks he is "running the show" himself, and with success, is really in the hands of his interpreters, his court messengers and his police. Every now and then a scandal comes to light which reveals the tyranny, bribery and peculation carried on in the white man's name.

Apart from such considerations, what is the ultimate result? Half a century of direct assumption of control by the Administrative Officer finds the community just where it was. The more capable and energetic he has proved himself, the less competent will it be to stand alone. Meanwhile, contact with civilization, and the spread of education, beget as their natural offspring the agitator for "self-determination" and a share in the control of domestic affairs. The tribes are without leaders of influence, for leadership has been at a discount. The only lesson they have been taught is obedience to the will of another. The agitator presses for elected representatives on the Legislative Council, and a widening of the unofficial vote. But the native lawyers, who for the most part constitute the native members of the Council, are not representative of the masses, and know less about them, their language and their needs than the District Officer. Philanthropists at home applaud the extension of "a new measure of self-government."

Better in my judgment all the early mistakes and absurdities of the primitive native tribunals, the incompetence of the petty chiefs, and the slow growth of efficiency, while the chief and his village council acquire with the support of government a steadily increasing authority. If their actions on occasion give cause for protest, they cannot at any rate be laid at the white man's door.

Democracy in the East (perhaps more logically than in the West) begins at the bottom with the village panchayat in India and its counterpart, the tipao in China, -- generally perhaps with autocracy enthroned as a figure-head at the top, ostensibly omnipotent but in reality with well understood limitations.

From all of these considerations there emerges, as I think, one great lesson for all of those powerful states which have accepted the grave responsibility of controlling and educating -- that is to say, "bringing forth" to a higher plane -- the backward races who are, in the words of the Covenant of the League of Nations "unable to stand alone in the strenuous conditions of the modern world." The lesson is this: we should abandon the idea that methods and policies found suitable to ourselves are necessarily the best suited to the ancient civilizations of the East or to the evolution of African tribes. The predominant characteristics of the English-speaking races are individual initiative, willingness to accept responsibility, and belief in the value of compromise in the settlement of affairs without strict adherence to logic. From these characteristics have sprung our system of representative government through parliaments. We are prone to assume that our methods of government, our religious formulæ, our systems of education, the lessons of our history, our appraisement of the degrees of criminality and our code of punishments, because we have proved them best for ourselves, must be best for all the world. It may be so in the far future, but the attempt to bridge the centuries without adequate study of other mentalities, traditions and beliefs, is more likely to lead to failure than to success.

With the realization of the difficulty and of the importance of the work, there has come an increasing recognition of the fact that, as Sir Valentine Chirol puts it, the task demands not the average man but the very best men we have got. When I first went to Africa -- and the assertion is obviously not flattering to myself -- there was undoubtedly a feeling that anyone was good enough for Africa. Selection of officers was haphazard in the extreme. The Indian Service enjoyed great prestige, and next to it came the Eastern Colonial Cadet Service. To-day neither the one nor the other can boast of better men than those who serve in tropical Africa. And the credit is due to the Service itself -- though many, alas! of those who pioneered the way have not lived to see the results.

Conditions in the early days, of housing, food, medical aid, and overwork for the British staff were very bad, especially in West Africa, and the mortality was dreadful, but as a result of the abounding material prosperity of these dependencies these conditions have now improved beyond comparison. Wives accompany their husbands, and the tone of European society has changed greatly for the better, a change which includes all classes, -- missionaries, traders, miners and officials. Its effect is not lost on the black man. I do not refer to British colonies only.

And what are the results on the credit side of the dual task, to compensate for the death roll. In material prosperity they are amazing. Thousands of miles of railways, harbors both on the East and West Coasts constructed at a cost of several millions each, and a trade which now aggregates many scores of millions of pounds sterling. The little colony of the Gold Coast has built a hospital at a cost of a quarter of a million pounds sterling, and is now engaged on school buildings at Achimota estimated to cost double that sum. In non-material matters the progress made cannot be so easily tabulated. I have spoken of education, of methods of rule, and of principles of employing wage labor; in these and in many other spheres there can be no doubt that the white man's standard has been raised. The endeavors of the Mandates Commission to uphold the true principles of Trusteeship on the one hand, and the loyalty of Africa and its white rulers during the war on the other are tangible tokens of progress.

A word in conclusion as to the Mandates. Has the system set up by the Covenant of the League proved useful and effective? The general verdict seems to be in the affirmative. The essential features which distinguish territories held under Mandate from Colonies and Protectorates are, first, that the Mandatory is pledged to administer the country in accordance with certain strict rules laid down in the Mandate -- whether those rules are in accordance with the practice in its own colonies or not; second, that it must render an annual account of its stewardship to the Mandates Commission, a body advisory to the League, and that these reports, together with the full minutes of the discussion upon them with the accredited representative of the Mandatory, are made public; and third, that inhabitants have the right to petition the League through the Mandatory, and the world at large has the right to submit any memorial if it is considered that the conditions of the Mandate are not being carried out. Publicity and the expression of public opinion are the only forces which can be brought to bear on a Mandatory, but they are very powerful forces. Whether the right of petition is sufficiently effective or whether it may be liable to misuse, are matters now engaging the consideration of the Commission.

The Commission consists of ten members of different nationalities nominated by the Council of the League for personal competence. They may not hold any appointment under their governments. The examination of the reports, laws, petitions, and the large volume of press articles, parliamentary debates and other papers circulated by the Secretariat concerning the administration of fourteen separate countries, in addition to two or three sessions each year of some three weeks' duration each at Geneva, is a task so heavy that it is perhaps doubtful whether the system can long be efficiently carried out on its present basis.

Germany, in accordance with the Treaty of Locarno, will before long become a Member of the League. Influential parties in that country have long been engaged in propaganda having for their object the restitution of one or more of her colonies. They claim that until she is adjudged worthy to control a colony she does not sit at the table of the League on a footing of equality with Portugal or Spain, and that her industrial millions need free and assured access to tropical resources. This she enjoys already in all British territories whether under a Mandate or not, and will have as of right in all other mandated areas in Africa when she enters the League. Italy proclaims that if Germany were to obtain a Mandate she would advance a similar claim. On the other hand it is repugnant to right feeling that populations, to whom solemn pledges of protection and of the permanence of the existing arrangements have been made, should be bartered about as mere chattels to suit the convenience or political exigencies of European nations, and that the pledges should be treated as "scraps of paper." Nor can a Mandate be revoked (except in theory for gross maladministration) without the consent of the Mandatory.

I have touched on but two or three of the many problems which tropical Africa presents to the twentieth century for solution, but enough I think has been said to indicate their great interest and the claim they have on the careful attention alike of those who benefit by the products of Africa, and those who acknowledge the obligations which wealth, leisure, civilization, and the ethics of a higher creed impose upon the more favored nations.

[i] "The Dual Mandate in Tropical Africa." By the present writer. Blackwood & Sons,Edinburgh.

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  • SIR FREDERICK D. LUGARD, formerly Governor-General of Nigeria; British member of the Permanent Mandates Commission of the League of Nations
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