When theory is grey: Sir George Grey, Maoris and Xhosas.

Jurriaan Bendien bendien at tomaatnet.nl
Mon Jul 21 09:11:01 MDT 2003

I N EARLY 1855, shortly after George Grey took up the governorship of the
Cape colony in South Africa, a letter arrived from London dispatched by
Grey's old friend George Barrow. "If you succeed with the Natives there in
any degree approaching to what you have done in New Zealand," Barrow wrote,
"what a glorious triumph it will be after all that has been said of the
impossibility of doing anything with them." By the mid-1850s Grey was widely
recognized as one of the most successful colonial governors in the British
empire. As Barrow's letter implies, Grey's reputation rested on his apparent
success in dealing with the Maori during his governorship of the New Zealand
colony in 1845-53. Grey's celebrated "native policy" in New Zealand
emphasized racial "amalgamation," the systematic assimilation of the Maori
to a Western cultural ideal, as well as their rapid incorporation into the
labor force. Could a similar policy resolve tensions in South Africa's
volatile eastern Cape, thus sparing the British government the expense of
another frontier war? Might Grey's amalgamation scheme overcome, as Sir
George Napier put it, the white settlers' "determined hostility to the
Coloured races" as well as their "determined prejudice never to admit of the
possibility of a Black man becoming equal to a white"? 2 The colonial
secretary, the duke of Newcastle, believed so. When Newcastle offered Grey
the Cape governorship in June 1854, he praised Grey's "energy and steadiness
of purpose" in New Zealand -- a career, the duke judged, affording "a just
hope and pledge that the permanent interests of another extensive and
increasingly important Colony will surely advance under your government."
With Newcastle's official vote of confidence, Grey embarked on the Cape

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