Manley Praised Britain’s Colour Policy

MT 60 Yrs – 2nd Year No 51 – Friday 29th July 1955 —

Our London Letter

Among important colonial visitors to Britain recently has been Mr Norman Manley, Labour Prime Minister of Jamaica. In one speech, devoted to an examination of West Indian emigration and unemployment (Jamaica, for example, has over 20 percent of its population permanently out of work), he praised Britain’s colour policy. “Most of the Commonwealth has closed its doors to coloured people” he said. “It is greatly to England’s credit that she has refused to establish an official colour bar in this country. Let me give honour where honour is due.”

Among the Commonwealth countries where there are restrictions on the immigration of coloured people (not always outright by a bar but often by the operation of a quota system for intending immigrants) are Australia, New Zealand, and of course South Africa. Roman Catholicism is strong in Australia and New Zealand, but not in England. It is of course in English colour policy that we find in operation an overt expression of the Christian belief of the brotherhood of man in the Fatherhood of God; an overt expression of, in practice, the vision of St Peter recounted in the Acts of the Apostles when he was bidden “What God hath cleansed, let not man call unclean.”

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Sir  comments

Sir Charles Dundas ended his career in the Colonial Service as Governor of the Bahamas and then of Uganda. He retired ten years ago and has just published his autobiography under the title African Crossroads. This deals mainly with African problems, but his comments on the surgence of African nationalism are apposite in Mauritius: “After all, we kindled the spark of ambition and fanned it with precept and example. We proclaimed the right of self-determination, the doctrine of democracy and the principle of human rights, and the intelligent ones among Africans marked and learnt. Now they want to practice what we taught, and it is right that they should have the opportunity.”

None of the peoples of Mauritius is an indigenous race: some are there by “right” of conquest, some have immigrated; many came as slaves and indentured labourers; and the descendants of all these people make up the present day complexities of the plural society which is Mauritius. But Sir Charles Dundas’ remark can be applied: the people of Mauritius want to govern themselves. They have heard the British Government support self-determination for all peoples; they know that Britain supports the Declaration of Human Rights – and practices on it, too, which is more than can be said for France (in Tunis and Morocco and Reunion) or Catholic Spain or Catholic Imperialistic Portugal. So the people of Mauritius expect that they too “should have the opportunity”, which they want, of practicing “what we taught”.

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Latin Sermon at the St Paul’s Cathedral

When the synod of the Convocation of Canterbury was ceremonially opened at St Paul’s Cathedral on July 4th, a Latin Sermon was preached by Canon Kemp of Oxford who referred to the intransigence of the Roman Catholic Church and its attempts to take advantage of the internal disunity of the English Church. He spoke of “those Romans who arrogate to themselves the name Catholic, enemies of every liberty” – or in Latin, “illi Romani qui sibi arrongant nomen Catholic omnis libertatis inimici”.

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Archbishop’s criticism

When Convocation met at Lambeth Palace, official residence of the Archbishop of Canterbury (Dr Fisher), the Archbishop gave the Presidential address in which he spoke appreciatiavely of Canon Kemp’s sermon. He had other things to say of the Roman Church, too. “The Roman Catholic Church,” said the Dr Fisher, “believes in an ecclesiastical apartheid as rigid and as menacing as any political iron curtain.” He added that it forbade any kind or degree of ecclesiastical partnership between itself and the other Christian churches, “even in the elementary partnership of praying together to our common Lord for grace to grow in partnership”.

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The Abbot or downside

The Archbishop’s criticism led to a number of letters in The Times, among which was one from the Roman Catholic Abbot of Downside. He denied the charges of apartheid, saying that the Roman Catholic Church “cordially invites everyone to a full and equal enjoyment of the privileges of her own communion, under the same condition of faith and obedience as are accepted by us who are already her members”.

This defence merely underlines Dr Fisher’s point. The Abbot makes it clear that the Catholic Church will co-operate with others only on its own terms; and that is the denial of partnership. There can be no partnership as long as one of the “partners” insists that all the others shall be subservient to it.


  • Published in print edition on 13 November 2015

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