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Excerpt of Speech by J. E. Casely Hayfordat the Founding Conference of the National Congress of British West Africa
[Accra, Gold Coast, ca. 11 March 1920]
[ . . . ][3
] Then again there is the question of Commercial Expansion. We in this country sometimes do not trouble ourselves to look out and think of the great things outside our world. There are thousands and thousands of our people right over in America, who were carried away from our country years and years back. We may not care to follow what they are doing, but sooner or later, we shall have to know. Over there our people are thinking, there young men are dreaming dreams and their maidens are seeing visions. They are suggesting to themselves that the time has come when they should have some place in their native land of Africa. I understand that a great Society has been formed there called the Universal Negro Improvement Association, and they have launched out a ship. Probably in course of time some of their ships may come our way. I think, Ladies and Gentlemen, that it will not be out of place for us to encourage them to come among us in order that they may try and make money as all others are doing. But the express reason why I bring this forward to-night is that they have no idea of our local circumstances and conditions. They have no idea of our laws and institutions, nor as to our rights of property, and they may seek to get into touch with us by some channels that are not the right ones. Therefore I appeal to you young gentlemen, leaders of thought in West Africa, particularly to you, the Delegates of this Conference, that you should so steer our men and so influence them in constitutional methods that they may know that although they went from this country, we who remained on this soil have known better and understand the relations that exist between the Government and the governed, so that if they desire to come back and enjoy the milk and honey of their native land they may do so in a right and constitutional manner. [ . . . ][4
Printed in Correspondence Relating to the National Congress of British West Africa (Accra: GPO, 1920), pp. 46–51. Text abridged.
] Joseph Ephraim Casely Hayford (1866–1930), lawyer, scholar, journalist, political leader, and pan-Africanist, dominated Gold Coast public life in the early decades of the twentieth century. Born in Cape Coast, Gold Coast, of partly European extraction, he was educated at the Wesleyan Boys' High School (now Mfantsipim School) in Cape Coast, and Fourah Bay College in Freetown, Sierra Leone. On his return home he became principal, first of the Wesleyan Boys' High School, Accra, and later of his alma mater at Cape Coast. He developed an early interest in writing, particularly journalism, and from 1885 to 1887 worked on the Western Echo,
a biweekly Cape Coast newspaper owned by his uncle, James Hutton Brew. In January 1902 he cofounded the Gold Coast Leader
and served as its editor from 1919 until his death.
Casely Hayford commenced his legal career in Cape Coast as a clerk in the chambers of a European lawyer named Eiolart, then continued his training at the Inner Temple in London. While studying to become a barrister he enrolled at St. Peter's College, Cambridge, reading law and economics; he was called to the bar in November 1896. Returning to the Gold Coast soon thereafter, he became active in the Aborigines Rights Protection Society (ARPS), the first modern political organization in the Gold Coast, formed in 1897 in Cape Coast by members of the intelligentsia and traditional rulers to oppose the government's lands bill. Casely Hayford also served on the ARPS delegation to England to protest the forests bill of 1911. As a nominated member of the Gold Coast Legislative Council from 1916 to 1926, he was a consistent, though loyal, critic of the colonial government. When elective representation was introduced he served as an elected member until his death.
His pride in African culture and defense of his race were expressed in his numerous books and pamphlets, as well as in his journalism. Gold Coast Native Institutions (1903) showed the democratic workings of traditional political institutions. Ethiopia Unbound (1911) was a fictional embodiment of Casely Hayford's ideas for the proper direction of the black race. The Gold Coast Land Tenure and Forest Lands Bill (1911) and The Truth about the West African Land Question (1913) defended indigenous land rights, then threatened by government expropriation. Among his pamphlets was United West Africa, written on the eve of the founding of the NCBWA. His last work was The Disabilities of Black Folk and Their Treatment (1929).
Casely Hayford was also active in the pan-African movement. He followed the campaigns for racial equality in the U.S. and West Indies with great interest, and corresponded with such leading figures as Edward Blyden, Booker T. Washington, J. R. Ralph Casimir, W. E. B. Du Bois, and, in particular, John E. Bruce, through whom he came into contact with Garvey. Casely Hayford closely followed the proceedings of the First Universal Congress, held in London in 1911; his brother, the Rev. Mark Hayford, represented him at the conference organized at Tuskegee in 1912 by Booker T. Washington. His writings, notably Ethiopia Unbound, for which Bruce acted as his American literary agent, contributed to the intellectual growth of pan-Africanism. Casely Hayford's growing sense of nationalism and racial solidarity led him as early as 1913 to advocate a united West Africa. These activities were intensified in 1917 and bore fruit several years later with the founding of the NCBWA in Accra (Magnus J. Sampson, Gold Coast Men of Affairs [1937; reprint, London: Pall Mall Press, 1969]; David Kimble, A Political History of Ghana: The Rise of Gold Coast Nationalism, 1850 – 1928 [Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1963]; Raph Uwechue, ed., Makers of Modern Africa: Profiles in History, 2d ed. [London: Africa Books, 1991]; DAHB).
J. E. Casely Hayford
] The National Congress of British West Africa (NCBWA), the first regional political movement in West Africa, was an attempt to reform the Crown Colony system through the combined efforts of the four British West African colonies of the Gold Coast, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, and the Gambia. The congress was loyal to the British Empire and worked only through constitutional methods. It owed its origins and establishment to Joseph Ephraim Casely Hayford and Dr. Richard Akinwande Savage, a Nigerian physician then resident in the Gold Coast. Casely Hayford proposed forming a regional political organization, influenced by the pan-Africanists Edward Blyden and W. E. B. Du Bois. While the NCBWA was partly inspired by the Pan-African Congress in Paris and the formation of the UNIA in New York following World War I, the movement also grew out of local West African enthusiasm.
The NCBWA's first meeting, held at the Rogers (African) Club in Accra from 11 to 29 March 1920, was hailed by West Africa magazine as the "beginning of a new era" (3 April 1920). It was attended by fifty-two delegates: forty-two from the Gold Coast itself; six from Nigeria; three from Sierra Leone; and one from the Gambia. Most delegates were members of the Western-educated coastal elite, drawn from law, medicine, journalism, and business. Casely Hayford and Thomas Hutton-Mills, who was also a Gold Coast lawyer, gave the opening addresses. During the inaugural conference, topics discussed included education, African self-determination, commerce, banking, and shipping.
During the 1920s, the NCBWA was a powerful political movement in the British West African colonies. It met in Freetown in 1923, in Bathurst in 1925–1926, and in Lagos in 1929–1930. While it supported Garvey's call for black racial dignity and economic self-sufficiency the congress disagreed with the UNIA's more revolutionary pronouncements and strongly opposed attempts by overseas blacks to claim leadership in Africa. Casely Hayford warned American blacks that Africans were better able to understand colonial relations, and that it was strictly necessary to adhere to constitutional methods. In fact, the NCBWA's cautious policies limited its popular appeal while failing to reassure the British colonial administration of its legitimate intentions. In 1921, for example, the congress sent a delegation to London to seek public support for its demands, but the British government refused to receive it. Governor Sir Hugh Clifford of Nigeria was particularly scathing in his attacks on the congress, which was further weakened by opposition from resentful traditional rulers as well as divisions within the educated coastal elite that made up its primary constituency. The NCBWA remained financially dependent on such individuals as Hutton-Mills and Casely Hayford, and, following their deaths, eventually fell apart (LaRay Denzer, "National Congress of British West Africa, Gold Coast Section" [M.A. thesis, University of Ghana, Legon, 1965]; J. G. Campbell, The First Conference of Africans of British West Africa Held at Accra, Gold Coast Colony, March 11–29, 1920 [Lagos: Tika Tore Press, 1920]; J. E. Casely Hayford, West African Leadership: Public Speeches Delivered by the Honourable J. E. Casely Hayford, ed. Magnus J. Sampson [Ilfracombe, Devon: Arthur H. Stockwell, 1949], p. 65; Kimble, Political History of Ghana; J. Ayodele Langley, Pan-Africanism and Nationalism in West Africa, 1900 – 1945 [Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1973], pp. 107–240).
] The elided text includes remarks by Casely Hayford applauding the representatives of the British West African colonies for holding the conference and examining the NCBWA's objectives in the struggle against British colonial rule.
] The elided section contains Casely Hayford's call to West Africans to "be Constitutional" and "establish Papers impartial" in order to "secure for West Africa a Government of the people, by the people and for the people!"
The Marcus Garvey and Universal Negro Improvement Association Papers,
ed. Robert A. Hill
(Columbia, S.C.: Model Editions Partnership, 2000).
Electronic version based on
The Marcus Garvey and Universal Negro Improvement Association Papers,
ed. Robert A. Hill,
(Berkeley: University of California Press, [year?]). On the Web at http://mep.blackmesatech.com/mep/ [Accessed 18 October 2017]