Sir Henry Bartle Edward Frere, 1st Baronet
Portrait of Sir Henry Bartle Frere by Sir George Reid
, (March 29, 1815–May 29,
1884) was a British colonial administrator.
Clydach (specifically Clydach House), home of the manager
of Clydach Ironworks (Frere's Father) in Brecknockshire, he was the son of Edward Frere and a nephew of
John Hookham Frere, of
Anti-Jacobin and Aristophanes fame.
leaving the East India
Company College, the precursor of the later Haileybury
and Imperial Service College, Bartle Frere was appointed a writer in the
Bombay (now Mumbai) civil
service in 1834. Having passed his language examination, he
was appointed assistant collector at Poona
(now Pune) in 1835,
and in 1842 he was chosen as private secretary to Sir George Arthur, Governor of Bombay. Two years later he
became political resident at the court of the rajah of Satara; on the
rajah's death in 1848 he administered the province both before and
after its formal annexation in 1849.
Commissioner in Sind
In 1850 he
was appointed chief commissioner of Sind.
1851 he founded the modern Indian postal
. In 1857, he sent detachments to Multan and to Sir
John Lawrence in
the Punjab in order to secure those
locations during the Indian
His services were fully recognized by the Indian
authorities, and he received the thanks of both houses of
parliament and was made KCB
Governor of Bombay
He became a member of the Viceroy's
in 1859, and in 1862 was appointed Governor of Bombay
, where he continued
his policy of municipal improvements, establishing the Deccan College
at Pune, as well as a
college for instructing natives in civil engineering
. His order to pull down
the ramparts of the old Fort allowed the
city to grow, and the Flora Fountain was commissioned in his honour.In 1867 he returned to
England where he was made GCSI, and given honorary degrees
from Oxford and Cambridge; he was also appointed a member of the Council of India.
the foreign office sent him to Zanzibar to negotiate a treaty with the sultan, Barghash bin Said, for the suppression of
the slave traffic.
In 1875 he
accompanied the Prince of Wales
Egypt and India, with such success that Lord
asked him to choose between being made a baronet
or a Knight
Grand Cross of the Bath
. He chose the former, but the queen
bestowed both honours upon him.
In 1877, Frere was made High
for Southern Africa
, who hoped that within two years Frere would be the
first governor of a South African
. The region was in such a state,
however, that during his first year Frere had to cope with a
and a rupture with the Cape
(Molteno-Merriman) ministry. The Transkei
were subjugated early in 1878 by
and a small force of regular and colonial troops.
Frere dismissed his obstructive cabinet and entrusted Mr
(afterwards Sir) Gordon Sprigg
a ministry. This solved the constitutional problems, but was
overshadowed by Lord Carnarvon's resignation in early 1878, just as
discontented South Africans were increasingly supporting the
Frere impressed upon the colonial
his belief that Cetshwayo's army had to be eliminated,
an idea that was generally accepted until Frere sent Cetshwayo an
ultimatum in December 1878 and the home government realized the
problems inherent in a native war.
Photo of Sir Henry Bartle Frere in the
Cetshwayo was unable to comply with Frere's ultimatum-even if he
had wanted to; Frere ordered Lord Chelmsford
, and so the Anglo-Zulu War
began. On January 11, 1879,
British troops crossed the Tugela River; fourteen days later the disaster of Isandlwana was reported, and the House of
Commons demanded that Frere be recalled.
Beaconsfield supported him, however, and in a strange compromise he
was censured and begged to stay on. Frere wrote an elaborate
justification of his conduct, which was adversely commented on by
(Sir Michael Hicks
), who "did not see why Frere should take notice of
attacks; and as to the war, all African wars had been unpopular."
Frere's rejoinder was that no other sufficient answer had been made
to his critics, and that he wished to place one on record. "Few may
now agree with my view as to the necessity of the suppression of
the Zulu rebellion," he wrote. "Few, I fear, in this generation.
But unless my countrymen are much changed, they will some day do me
justice. I shall not leave a name to be permanently
trouble, and disaffection brewing in the Transvaal, reacted upon each other most disastrously.
The delay in giving the country a constitution afforded a pretext
for agitation to the malcontent Boers
rapidly increasing minority, while the reverse at Isandlwana had
lowered British prestige. Owing to the Xhosa and Zulu wars, Sir Bartle had been unable to give his
undivided attention to the state of things in the Transvaal until
April 1879, when he was at last able to visit a camp of about 4,000
disaffected Boers near Pretoria.
Though conditions were fairly grim, Frere
managed to win the Boers' respect by promising to present their
complaints to the British government, and to urge the fulfilment of
the promises that had been made to them. The Boers did eventually
disperse, on the very day upon which Frere received the telegram
announcing the government's censure. On his return to Cape Town, he
found that his achievement had been eclipsed—first by the June 1,
1879 death of Napoleon
Eugene, Prince Imperial
, and then by the news that the
government of the Transvaal and Natal
, together with the high
commissionership in the eastern part of South Africa, had been
transferred from him to Sir Garnet
When Gladstone's ministry came into office in the spring of 1880,
had no intention of recalling Frere. In June, however, a section of
the Liberal party
memorialized Gladstone to remove him, and the prime minister weakly
complied (August 1, 1880).
return Frere replied to the charges relating to his conduct with
regard to Afghanistan as well as South Africa, previously referred to in
Gladstone's Midlothian speeches, and was preparing a fuller
vindication when he died at Wimbledon from the effect of a severe chill on May 29,
1884. He was buried in St Paul's
Frere Hall in Karachi was built in his honour.
The city also named
a road, street and town after him. In 1888, the Prince of Wales unveiled a
statue of Frere on the Thames embankment. Mount Bartle Frere (1622m), the highest mountain in Queensland, Australia is named after
him, as is a boarding house at Haileybury.
A road in Parktown, Johannesburg, is also
named after him. Frere Road in also the home of Nadine Gordimer,
the Nobel Prize-winning author. In Durban, (KwaZulu-Natal), there
are two roads which honor him: the first, Frere Road, transforms a
little later to Bartle Road.
His Life and Correspondence
, by John Martineau, was
published in 1895. For the South African anti-confederation view,
see P. A. Molteno's Life and Times of Sir John Charles
(2 vols.,London 1900).
A more recent work on Bartle Frere's life, The Zulu and the
Raj; The Life of Sir Bartle Frere
by D. P. O'Connor, examines
details of Frere's life and motives more fully than was permissible
in Victorian times when Martineau was writing. In particular,
O'Connor points to Frere as a leading thinker on imperial defence.
He sets the Zulu war in the context of the overall global crisis,
contingent on the 1877 Balkan War, which was widely expected to
result in war between Britain and Russia. Frere was sent to South
Africa to turn this vital area into a secure bastion on the route
to India, but was distracted from the task by the routine
instability of the South African theatre.
He was played by Sir John Mills
. His portrayal in the film is
somewhat negative. He is depicted as a corrupt, greedy, deeply
racist administrator who casually orders the invasion of Zululand
after issuing his unfair, biased, impossibly demanding
- Robert Fruin: A word from Holland on the Transvaal
question. A reply to Sir Bartle Frere and an appeal to the
people of England. By Dr. Robert Fruin, Professor in the
University of Leiden. Utrecht: L. E. Bosch und son, 1881
- John Martineau: The life and correspondence of the Right
Hon. Sir Bartle Frere, Bart., G. C. B.,
F. R. S., etc.. London: J. Murray, 1895
- Percy Alport Molteno: The life and times of Sir John
Charles Molteno, K. C. M. G., First
Premier of Cape Colony, Comprising a History of Representative
Institutions and Responsible Government at the Cape and of Lord
Carnarvon's Confederation Policy & of Sir Bartle Frere's High
Commissionership of South Africa. London: Smith, Elder &
- Rekha Ranade: Sir Bartle Frere and his times: a study of
his Bombay years, 1862 - 1867. New Delhi: Mittal Publ., 1990,
- Phillida Brooke Simons: Apples of the sun : being an
account of the lives, vision and achievements of the Molteno
brothers, Edward Bartle Frere and Henry Anderson. Vlaeberg:
Fernwood Press, 1999. ISBN 1-874950-45-8