The Colonial Office

The Colonial Office

The Colonial Office

The Colonial Office

Excerpt

An author beginning a book about the Colonial Office might fairly claim to invoke the patronage of some at least of the Muses: of Clio, certainly, who has charge of history, and of Urania who oversees the globe; of Calliope, noblest of the Nine, the epic Muse; of Thalia, too, and of Melpomene, for comedy and tragedy both have their places in the story.

But perhaps a Christian writer would do better to call in humility upon the Saints to whose protection devout discoverers committed the islands of the as yet uncharted seas: upon St. Vincent and St. Lucia, St. Christopher and St. Helena, St. Ursula and her virgin train; above all upon St. Michael and St. George, joint patrons of that Order of chivalry whose Chancery is housed in the Colonial Office. For, though a government department is not commonly a theme of romance, the dingiest Colonial Office window is a magic casement. Here the great names, charged with ancient mystery, are mere household words, the copper currency of daily business-- Zanzibar and Sierra Leone, Seychelles and Fiji, Ashanti and Jamaica, Tonga and Trinidad and Tristan, Kano and Calabar and a hundred more. Here, too, strange fruits and spices for the sake of which men of old time ventured their lives to circumnavigate the world--pineapple and banana, lime and mango, coconut and clove, cinnamon and pepper--are but matters for prosaic minuting in an Economic Department file. In and out of these dull London office rooms pass men and women, rulers and statesmen, officials and students, of a vast diversity of races, tongues and creeds; strangely and unsuitably garbed, sometimes, for English weather, yet all familiar visitors and colleagues whose presence here, though they have come five thousand miles since yesterday, is so natural as to pass without comment.

THE OFFICE TRADITION

During the years from 1875 to 1947, while the Colonial Office occupied the building on the south-east corner of Downing Street, there hung in the room of the Permanent Under-Secretary of State an ever growing portrait gallery of all those who had held the seals of the Office of Secretary of State with charge over the Colonies since the Earl of Hilsborough (afterwards Marquess of Downshire) became the first Secretary of State in 1768. Some day the line of portraits will be properly displayed in a new building, worthy of the Office and its great tradition. To-day the pictures are disposed . . .

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.