Law, Justice, and Empire: The Colonial Career of John Gorrie, 1829-1892

Law, Justice, and Empire: The Colonial Career of John Gorrie, 1829-1892

Law, Justice, and Empire: The Colonial Career of John Gorrie, 1829-1892

Law, Justice, and Empire: The Colonial Career of John Gorrie, 1829-1892

Excerpt

This is a biographical study of John Gorrie, a Scottish lawyer born in 1829 who, in the second half of the nineteenth century, served as a judge and as chief justice in several multiracial colonies of the British empire including Mauritius, Fiji, and several Caribbean islands. He held radical political and social views, especially a conviction that persons of all ethnic and class backgrounds should enjoy equal justice under the British crown, and was a controversial jurist who inspired both bitter opposition from colonial elites and intense admiration from the 'subject races' in each place where he served. Moreover, Gorrie's beliefs and personality led him to intervene in political issues and debates in a way which ensured that he would often be the focus of public comment and criticism.

Though Gorrie's views were uncommon for a colonial judge of his period, they were not unique. Nineteenth and early twentieth century colonial officials included men of very diverse attitudes and opinions. British imperialism threw up from time to time men like Gorrie, maverick officials who tried to serve the interests of the 'subject peoples' and to make a reality of the trusteeship doctrine. Gorrie was certainly unusual, but his story is not that of a unique eccentric; he belonged to a well established school of 'liberal imperialists' and he was not alone in his belief in the British empire as potentially a force for progress and justice all over the world. This work . . .

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