Open main menu

Powell, George Smyth Baden- (DNB01)

POWELL, Sir GEORGE SMYTH BADEN- (1847–1898), author and politician, born at Oxford on 24 Dec. 1847, was the third son of Baden Powell [q. v.], by his second wife, Henrietta Grace, daughter of Admiral William Henry Smyth [q. v.] Major-general Robert Stephenson Smyth Baden-Powell is his younger brother. He was admitted to St. Paul's School on 17 Sept. 1858, and to Marlborough College in April 1864. Leaving school at midsummer 1866 he spent three years in travel, visiting India, the Australasian colonies, the Cape, Spain, Portugal, Norway, and Germany. He published his observations in Australia and New Zealand in 1872 under the title ‘New Homes for the Old Country’ (London, 8vo), a work containing much information on the natural history of the colonies. He matriculated from Balliol College, Oxford, on 18 Oct. 1871, graduating B.A. in 1875 and M.A. in 1878. In 1876 he obtained the chancellor's prize for an English essay on the subject of ‘The Political and Social Results of the absorption of small Races by large.’ In the same year he entered the Inner Temple as a student. In 1877 he became private secretary to Sir George Fergusson Bowen [q.v. Suppl.], governor of Victoria. At this time he devoted some attention to the study of the economic aspects of colonisation, and in 1879 he published ‘Protection and Bad Times with special reference to the Political Economy of English Colonisation’ (London, 8vo), in which he vigorously combated the notion that while free trade was good for a manufacturing country like England, it was unsuited for younger communities. In 1880 Baden-Powell proceeded to the West Indies as commissioner to inquire into the effect of the sugar bounties on West India trade. In 1882 he published ‘State Aid and State Interference’ (London, 8vo), a strong protest against protection, in which, without confining himself to the question of sugar bounties, he made use of his observations in the West Indies. In November 1882 he was appointed joint commissioner with Colonel Sir William Crossman to inquire into the administration, revenue, and expenditure of the West India colonies. The report of the commission, contained in five blue-books, was completed by Easter 1884. For his services Baden-Powell was created C.M.G. In January 1885 he went to South Africa to assist Sir Charles Warren in the pacification of Bechuanaland. He afterwards made a tour of investigation in Basutoland and Zululand.

In December 1885 Baden-Powell was returned to parliament in the conservative interest for the Kirkdale division of Liverpool, a seat which he retained until his death. Immediately after his election he proceeded to Canada to assist to establish communication with Japan through the colony by means of a line of steamers between Vancouver and Yokohama. He spoke, wrote, and worked in favour of this scheme, which was subsidised by government and successfully carried out. The new route reduced the length of the journey to Japan from forty-two to twenty-two days. In 1887 he was appointed special commissioner with Sir George Bowen to arrange the details of the new Maltese constitution. All the recommendations of the commissioners were adopted, and they received the thanks of government. The following year Baden-Powell was nominated K.C.M.G.

While on the Pacific coast of Canada in 1886 Baden-Powell was attracted to the dispute concerning the Behring Sea fisheries. He endeavoured to call the attention of the British and American governments to the question, visiting Washington on his way to England. In June 1891, when the difficulty became acute, Lord Salisbury appointed Baden-Powell and a representative of the Canadian dominion to proceed to the Behring Sea to investigate the subject. The British claims were founded on their reports, and in December 1892 he was appointed British member of the joint commission in Washington. In the spring of 1893 he was chosen to advise in the preparation and conduct of the British case before the arbitrators in Paris. For these services Baden-Powell received the thanks of government, his position as member of parliament precluding the bestowal of any substantial reward. In 1892, in recognition of his services to the dominion, he obtained from the university of Toronto the honorary degree of LL.D.

In 1896 Baden-Powell conveyed a party of astronomers to Nova Zembla in his steam yacht, the Ontario, to observe the total eclipse of the sun on 9 Aug. While at Nova Zembla Dr. Nansen, who was returning from his expedition towards the north pole, joined him, and was conveyed to Norway in the Ontario. Powell died at his residence in Euston Square, London, on 20 Nov. 1898, and was buried at Kensal Green cemetery on 24 Nov. In April 1893 he married, at Cheltenham, Frances, only child of Charles Wilson of Glendouran, Cheltenham. She survived him. By her he had a son and daughter.

Besides the works already mentioned Baden-Powell was the author of ‘The Saving of Ireland, Industrial, Financial, Political’ (London, 1898, 8vo), a work directed against the policy of home rule. He wrote numerous articles in the ‘Quarterly,’ ‘Westminster,’ ‘Nineteenth Century,’ ‘Fortnightly,’ ‘Contemporary,’ and ‘National’ Reviews, and in ‘Fraser's Magazine,’ dealing with political and economic aspects of colonial administration. He also delivered numerous lectures and public addresses, edited ‘The Truth about Home Rule’ (Edinburgh and London, 1888, 8vo), a collection of papers on the Irish question, and contributed an article on ‘Policy and Wealth in Ashanti’ to Major-general Robert Stephenson Smyth Baden-Powell's 'Downfall of Prempeh,' London, 1896, 8vo.

[Liverpool Courier, 21, 22, 25 Nov. 1898; Men and Women of the Time, 1895; Geogr. Journal, 1899, xiii. 77; Gardiner's Admission Reg. of St. Paul's School, 1884, p. 338; Marlborough College Reg. 1890, p. 184; Foster's Alumni Oxon. 1715-1886; Marlburian, 7 Dec. 1898; Bowen's Thirty Years of Colonial Government, ed. S. Lane-Poole, 1889, ii. 405-30.]

E. I. C.