London: His Majesty's Stationery Office, 1921. First edition, only printing. Pamphlet. This scarce pamphlet dates from Winston Churchill's time as Secretary of State for the Colonies. The document is six pages, measures 9.75 x 6 inches (24.8 x 15.25 cm), and includes a four-page message "to the Officer Administering the Government of the Kenya Colony and Protectorate", concluding with Churchill's printed signature. It is unknown how many copies were printed, but the survival rate of this perishable item seems to be quite low. This copy is in very good condition, complete with no tears or losses and only minimal age-toning. We note stains along the left edge where this copy once lay against another pamphlet with corroded staples, and an indecipherable, one-inch diameter circular ink stamp in the upper left front cover. There are no other previous ownership marks.
On January 1, 1921, Prime Minister David Lloyd George asked Churchill to become Colonial Secretary. Churchill received the Seals of Office the following month and would hold the post until October 1922. This pamphlet, printed on 21 October 1921, reproduces Churchill’s statement of the previous month regarding forced labour by native Kenyans. The matter came to Churchill's attention via a report from Sir Edward Northey, who had recently visited Kenya. At the end of the First World War Northey had been appointed to be the Governor of the British East Africa Protectorate, which in 1920 became a colony and was henceforth known as Kenya. Northey remained governor until 1922, when he became High Commissioner for Zanzibar.
The issue at hand was compulsory labour of native Kenyans for government purpose, primarily as porters. Churchill opens by acknowledging that the situation "has given rise to much discussion in this country... and it has become increasingly evident that there is genuine misgiving in many quarters as to the effect of the present policy." Substantively, Churchill's Despatch appears to be less a reassurance and more a tightrope walk between moral assurances and the unpalatable realities of colonial government.
More specifically, Churchill's Despatch walks a fine line between downplaying accusations and concerns about forced labour, while acknowledging the necessity. Churchill declares that "the legislation which empowers the Government to obtain compulsory labour shall remain on the statute book" but with amendment: "I wish it to be placed on public record that it is the declared policy of the Government of Kenya to avoid recourse to compulsory labour for Government purposes, except when this is absolutely necessary for essential services." In a further bit of political gymnastics, Churchill calls for compulsory labour permissible for "works of a public nature" to be defined, but states that said definition "ought first to be carefully considered by your Government."
Reference: A63. Item #006441