Page:1902 Encyclopædia Britannica - Volume 26 - AUS-CHI.pdf/755

This page needs to be proofread.


CHARTERED this promising region, and within a few years had extended its operations in all directions, concluding more than 400 treaties with various native chiefs. In 1888 the company was authorized to issue a loan of £250,000. This sum represented the amount that had been expended in the acquisition and maintenance of concessions. The interest was to be paid by means of taxation, gathered from customs duties which might be levied up to the amount of <£12,500 a year. It is to be observed that for the payment of this interest the company as a trading concern was to be in no way responsible. The company was, in fact, twofold in its nature. It was, on the one hand, a political and governing body, on the other a purely commercial corporation. Within its own territory it acted as a simple trader, competing with others, and did not include State revenues among its assets. As a trading concern it has paid since 1882 an average dividend of 6 to 6| per cent, on a paid-up capital of £493,680 and a subscribed capital of £1,027,080. The organization of the company as a political body prospered rapidly after it had received its charter. The executive powers in Africa were entrusted to an agentgeneral, three provincial and twelve district superintendents. A chief-justice directed the judicial staff, and a commandant the troops. The entire direction was in the hands of a court sitting in London, with whom all the above officials communicated direct. This was called the “ governing council.” The first president or governor was Lord Aberdare, who was succeeded by Sir George Taubman Goldie, the founder of the company, and who was its “ political administrator ” during the whole period of its charter. The territory of the company was divided into districts, over each of which was placed a European governor, only a few commercial stations being in the hands of blacks. In 1891 the whole number of agents conducting the company’s affairs in Africa only reached the number of 71. There was a judiciary at work in the territories of the company. The chief-justice had his residence at Asaba. The company had a fleet of about 30 steamers, two of which were protected by armourplating and guns, and capable of carrying 300 or 400 men each. The army of the company consisted of about 1000 men, mostly drawn from the Haussas and under the command of British officers. Dues to defray the cost of administration were imposed on gunpowder, salt, alcohol, and tobacco, and there were also taxes on many articles of export. Hot long after coming into existence the company concluded a treaty with the sultan of Sokoto, by which, in return for the payment to him of a pension of £1500 a year, it enjoyed sovereign rights over the greater part of his states. This treaty was followed by others concluded with other chiefs, until rights had been obtained over nearly the whole of Haussaland. Disputes arose with History France regarding the possession of the sultanate and of Borgu, especially the important ports of develop* Nikki and Boussa. At times these seemed to threaten the peace of the world, but fortunately they were amicably arranged in 1898. The progress of the company naturally involved some military operations, for collisions with the natives occasionally took place, especially with the slave-traders. The most important expedition was that of 1897, undertaken against the sultans of Nupe and Ilorin, whose power had become extremely menacing. A force was despatched under the command of Sir George Taubman Goldie himself. The principal object in view was to destroy once for all the extensive slave trade which found its chief centre and support in the dominions of these potentates. The expedition consisted of native troops (500 Haussas) under

COMPANIES

699

30 white officers with machine guns. In January 1897 the force left Lokoja, and in three weeks had decisively defeated the sultan of Nupe and 20,000 men; he was deprived of most of his dominions, and a sovereign was set up in his stead who was a vassal of the company. From Bida the company’s forces marched upon Ilorin, the sultan of which was defeated, and the whole district then submitted to the company’s authority. On 22nd June 1897 the legal status of slavery within the company’s territory was abolished by statute. Long before this the importation of alcohol had been forbidden north of the 7th degree of north latitude. By this provision the consumption of spirits was reduced to one-quarter of the amount to which it had previously attained. Charges were frequently made against the company of unjust and excessive taxation, overstepping the limits allowed by the charter. These were formulated in the most comprehensive manner by Herr von Puttkamer, who was sent to the Niger as the Imperial German commissioner, and the same accusations were made by British and French traders. An independent commission, however, was despatched by the British Government under Sir Claude Macdonald, which exonerated the company from all charges of violating its charter and spoke in terms of high praise of the work it had effected. After the settlement with France in 1898 it was impossible that the company could long continue to hold sway over half a million square miles of territory in the immediate neighbourhood of the possessions of great Powers, which often refused to recognize the acquisitions made by so ambiguous a competitor. The resources of the company also no longer sufficed for the work of administration and police required by so vast a dominion. Its leading minds had always foreseen the ultimate probability of the State stepping forward to acquire their rights of sovereignty. There was no disposition, therefore, to resist the inevitable, the only question being the amount which was to be accepted as an adequate compensation for the surrender of these rights. The Act which enabled the British Government to purchase the company’s rights under the charter became law in August 1899, and in January 1900 it took over the company’s territories. The terms did not, perhaps, err on the side of generosity, but they were as high as any Government could venture to propose to the House of Commons. No allowance was made to the shareholders as compensation for the risks which they had undergone before their venture became a pronounced success, but, in return for the surrender of the charter and the transfer of all the political rights which the company had acquired by “treaties, conquest, or other lawful means,” the Government was to repay the amount of £300,000 which the company had advanced out of its private trading profits to cover the costs of administration. The company was to receive the further sum of £150,000 for the surrender of their private land and mining rights, and it was also to be entitled to one-half of any royalties which the Government of Nigeria might receive during the next 99 years in respect of minerals exported from such portions of the territory as were bounded on the west by the main stream of the Niger, and on the east by a line running direct from Yola towards Zinder, provided that such minerals were exported from a British port or passed through a British custom house. The barracks, stores, wharves, steamers, &c., which were purchased from the company were surrendered at a price fixed by agreement at £115,000. The Imperial Government, of course, assumed the payment of the interest (£12,500 per annum) on the loan mentioned above which the company had been authorized to raise for the purpose of administration. On these terms