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Johnston, Sir Henry Hamilton

JOHNSTON, SIR HENRY HAMILTON (1858- ), British administrator and explorer, was born on the 12th of June 1858 at Kennington, London, and educated at Stockwell grammar school and King's College, London. He was a student for four years in the painting schools of the Royal Academy. At the age of eighteen he began a series of travels in Europe and North Africa, chiefly as a tudent of painting, architecture and languages. In 1879-1880 he visited the then little known interior of Tunisia. He had also a strong bent towards zoology and comparative anatomy, and carried on work of this description at the Royal College of Surgeons, of whose Hunterian Collection he afterwards became one of the trustees. In 1882 he joined the earl of Mayo in an expedition to the southern part of Angola, a district then much, traversed by Transvaal Boers. In 1883 Johnston visited H. M. Stanley on the Congo, and was enabled by that explorer to visit the river above Stanley Pool at a time when it was scarcely known to other Europeans than Stanley and De Brazza. These journeys attracted the attention of the Royal Geographical Society and the British Association, and the last-named in concert with the Royal Society conferred on Johnston the leadership of the scientific expedition to Mount Kilimanjaro which started from Zanzibar in April 1884. Johnston's work in this region was also under the direction of Sir John Kirk, British consul at Zanzibar. While in the Kilimanjaro district Johnston concluded treaties with the chiefs of Moshi and Taveta (Taveita). These treaties or- concessions were transferred to the merchants who founded the British East Africa Company, and in the final agreement with Germany Taveta fell to Great Britain. In October 1885 Johnston was appointed British vice-consul in Cameroon and in the Niger delta, and he became in 1887 acting consul for that region. A British protectorate over the Niger delta had been notified in June 1885, and between the date of his appointment and 1888, together with the consul E. H. Hewett, Johnston laid the foundations of the British administration in that part of the delta not reserved for the Royal Niger Company. His action in removing the turbulent chief Ja-ja (an ex-slave who had risen to considerable power in the palm-oil trade) occasioned considerable criticism but was approved by the Foreign Office. It led to the complete pacification of a region long disturbed by trade disputes. During these three years of residence in the Gulf of Guinea Johnston ascended the Cameroon Mountain, and made large collections of the flora and fauna of Cameroon for the British Museum.

In the spring of 1889 he was sent to Lisbon to negotiate an arrangement for the delimitation of the British and Portuguese spheres of influence in South-East Africa, but the scheme drawn up, though very like the later arrangement of those regions, was not given effect to at the time. On his return from Lisbon he was despatched to Mozambique as consul for Portuguese East Africa, and was further charged with a mission to Lake Nyasa to pacify that region, then in a disturbed state owing to the attacks of slave-trading Arabs on the stations of the African Lakes Trading Company an unofficial war, in which Captain ( afterwards Colonel Sir Frederick) Lugard and Mr (afterwards Sir Alfred) Sharpe distinguished themselves. Owing to the unexpected arrival on the scene of Major Serpa Pinto, Johnston was compelled to declare a British protectorate over the Nyasa region, being assisted in this work by John Buchanan (vice-consul), Sir Alfred Sharpe, Alfred Swann and others. A truCe was arranged with the Arabs on Lake Nyasa, and within twelve months the British flag, by agreement with the natives, had been hoisted over a very large region which extended north of Lake Tanganyika to the vicinity of Uganda, to Katanga in the Congo Free State, the Shir6 Highlands and the central Zambezi. Johnston's scheme, in fact, was that known as the " Cape-to-Cairo," a phrase which he had brought into use in an article in The Timts in August 1888. According to his arrangement there would have been an all-British routtf from Alexandria to Cape Town. But by the Anglo-German agreement of the ist of July 1890 the British Sphere north of Tanganyika was abandoned to Germany, and the Cape-to-Cairo route broken by a wedge of German territory. Johnston returned to British Central Africa as commissioner and consulgeneral in 1891, and retained that post till 1896, in which year he was made a K.C.B. His health having suffered much from African fever, he was transferred to Tunis as consul-general (1897). In the autumn of 1899 Sir Harry Johnston was despatched to Uganda as special commissioner to reorganize the administration of that protectorate after the suppression of the mutiny of the Sudanese soldiers and the long war with Unyoro. His two years' work in Uganda and a portion of what is now British East Africa were rewarded at the close of 1901 by a G.C.M.G. In the spring of the following year he retired from the consular service. After 1904 he interested himself greatly in the affairs of the Liberian republic, and negotiated various arrangements with that negro state by which order was brought into its finances, the frontier with France was delimited, and the development of the interior by means of roads was commenced. In 1903 he was defeated as Liberal candidate for parliament at a by-election at Rochester. He met with no better success at West Marylebone at the general election of 1906.

For his services to zoology he was awarded the gold medal of the Zoological Society in 1902, and in the same year was made an honorary doctor of science at Cambridge. He received the gold medal of the Royal Geographical and the Royal Scottish Geographical societies, and other medals for his artistic work from South Kensington and the Society of Arts. His pictures, chiefly dealing with African subjects, were frequently exhibited at the Royal Academy. He was the author of numerous books on Africa, including British Central Africa (1897) ; The Colonization of Africa (1899) ; The Uganda Protectorate (1902) ; Liberia (1906) ; George Grenfell and the Congo (1908). During his travels in the north-eastern part of the Congo Free State in 1900 he was instrumental in discovering and naming the okapi, a mammal nearly allied to the giraffe. His name has been connected with many other discoveries in the African fauna and flora.

Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)

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