Southern Rhodesia and responsible government
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The granting of Responsible Government to Southern Rhodesia in 1923 was perhaps one of the most extraordinary acts of the Imperial Government in the twentieth century. Winston Churchill, who had been Secretary of State for the Colonies at the crucial point in the negotiations, remarked in 1927 to a future Prime Minister of Southern Rhodesia, Godfrey Huggins, ‘You had — how many did you say? — only 30 000 Europeans when I gave you your constitution; I still don’t know why I did it.’* If Churchill was retrospectively surprised, the Colonial Office had been even more doubtful at the prospect of handing over almost a million Blacks to thirty thousand Whites. As Sir Henry Lambert had minuted in 1919: ‘To give responsible government to 30 000 whites ruling a million blacks is not only without precedent, but the example of Natal... right up to 1910 shows how great the difficulties would be.’* The question why the Colonial Office, on the eve of the Devonshire Declaration, was prepared to abdicate its responsibilities in this way is one that has never been adequately answered.