Aborigines Protection Society
The Aborigines Protection Society (APS) was established in 1837 to oppose the exploitation of Indigenous Peoples in the British colonies, operating particularly in Australia, New Zealand, Fiji, Canada, South Africa, and the Congo.1 The APS was a humanitarian movement and, as author Kenneth D. Nworah describes, the most significant check on the sagging moral conscience of Britain.2
The APS was not the first humanitarian society established to help Indigenous Peoples. Two years earlier (1835), Thomas Buxton, along with quakers -- a religious society devoted to peaceful principles -- established a Parliamentary Select Committee to discuss the colonial issues and effect of white settlement.3 However, the APS was separate from the original committee, although it shared similar goals. It focused on the problems caused by British imperialism on Indigenous Peoples and was born out of concern for the welfare of Indigenous Peoples under pressure from growing emigration from western Europe.4
Once established, the society was placed on the Executive branch of the colonial government, whereby the governors, not the legislators of the colonies had the authority over the decisions on Indigenous groups. With the appointment of Fox Bourne in 1889, the APS strengthened its traditional position as a humanitarian pressure group.5 The society attached importance to the principle of inalienability [non-transferable view] of native lands. This was seen in their stance on the Gold Coast Land Ordinance of 1897 and its protest against the Forestry Ordinance of 1901.6
On 28 March 1896, the APS further emphasized their basis of a rigid avoidance of meddling with native institutions. However firm this basis was, the APS proved a bit paradoxical. Although the society promoted the rights of Indigenous Peoples to participate on “equitable terms,” such as their participation in the Civil Service and municipal governments, still the APS insisted that the demand for self-government by [Indigenous groups] was not part of its aims.7 Demonstrating an opposing view to the ‘foundations' it was supposedly built upon.
The APS continued in its separate ‘humanitarian' efforts until it amalgamated with the British and Foreign Anti-Slavery Society in 1909. Today, the society is known as the “Anti-Slavery international.”8
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