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Sir Rawson William Rawson
Governor of Barbados and the Windward Islands
In office
Preceded bySir James Walker
Succeeded bySanford Freeling (acting)
Governor of the Bahamas
In office
Preceded byCharles John Bayley
Succeeded bySir James Walker
Colonial Secretary for the Cape Colony
In office
9 May 1854 – 21 July 1864
GovernorSir George Grey
Sir Philip Edmond Wodehouse
Succeeded byRichard Southey
Personal details
Born(1812-09-08)September 8, 1812
London, United Kingdom
DiedNovember 20, 1899(1899-11-20) (aged 87)
London, United Kingdom
SpouseMary-Anne Ward (m. 1849)
Children8 including Herbert Rawson and William Rawson
  • Sir William Rawson (father)
  • Jane Rawson (mother)
EducationEton College
OccupationBritish government official and statistician

Sir Rawson William Rawson, KCMG, CB (8 September 1812 – 20 November 1899) was a British government official and statistician.[1] During his tenure as a public servant in Canada he contributed to the Report on the affairs of the Indians in Canada, a foundational document in the establishment of the Canadian Indian residential school system.

Early life and Board of Trade

Rawson Rawson was born in 1812, the son of the noted oculist Sir William Adams Rawson (1783-1827) and Jane Eliza Rawson (died 1844), daughter of Colonel George Rawson of Belmont House, County Wicklow, MP for Armagh and his wife Mary Bowes Benson. His father, son of Henry Adams, a native of Morwenstow in Cornwall, had originally had the surname Adams, but had changed his name to Rawson in 1825 to commemorate his wife's father, and also gave it as a first name to his son.

Morwenstow,  Cornwawll, where Rawson's father was born
Morwenstow, Cornwawll, where Rawson's father was born

Rawson was educated at Eton and entered the Board of Trade at the age of seventeen. He served as private secretary to three successive vice-presidents of the Board, Charles Poulett Thomson, Alexander Baring and William Ewart Gladstone.

Colonial service (1842–1875)

In 1842, having served Gladstone for one year he was appointed Civil Secretary to the then Governor-General of Canada Charles Bagot.[citation needed] The same year he was appointed by Bagot, along with John Davidson and William Hepburn as commissioners for a report regarding government policies and expenditures related to Indigenous peoples in Canada East and Canada West. Completed in 1844, the final report, titled the Report on the affairs of the Indians in Canada, included a call for the introduction of industrial schools to address the noted failure of day schools to effectively keep Indigenous children from the influence of their parents. The report is regarded as a foundational document in the rationale for establishing the Canadian Indian residential school system.[2][3]: 12–17  In 1846, following his work on the report, Rawson was appointed treasurer and paymaster-general to Mauritius.[4]

In 1854 he became colonial secretary in the Cape of Good Hope,[5] which had just formed its first locally elected parliament. Soon after accepting this post, he was awarded a CB, and attained considerable local fame for his overly elaborate dress of lace collars, cuffs and buttons. Whilst in the Cape, he was exceptionally involved in the study of ferns and other plants, in the establishment of the South African Museum, as well as in the details of parliamentary procedure. However his abilities as a financier were repeatedly questioned, as the Cape government became severely indebted and eventually entered a recession. Parliamentary writer Richard William Murray records that in both Mauritius and the Cape Colony, Rawson had left the state "as nearly bankrupt as it is possible for a British dependency to be." Rawson was also notable for being among the government officials who supported the early movement for "responsible government" in the Cape, and therefore supported the handing over of power to a locally elected executive, to replace imperial officials like himself. He was retired from the post on 21 July 1864, to be succeeded by Sir Richard Southey.[6][7][8]

His next post was the governorship of the Bahamas in July 1864,[9] and he was subsequently promoted to the governorship of the Windward Islands and received a KCMG. He retired from public office in 1875. He was elected to the American Philosophical Society the year before, in 1874.[10]

Statistical Society and later life

He was president of the Statistical Society (now called the Royal Statistical Society) (1884–1886), an organisation of which he was a staunch supporter. He had originally joined the Society in March 1835, and briefly held the post of editor of the Society's Journal, from 1837 to 1842.

On his retirement from public office he was re-elected to the Society's Council in 1876 and remained in post till his death. It was largely due to the efforts of Rawson that the society received its charter of incorporation in 1887. He was also the founding president of the International Statistical Institute.


Rawson married in 1849 Sophia Mary-Anne Ward, daughter of the Reverend Henry Ward, vicar of Killinchy, County Down and sister of the New Zealand-based politician Crosbie Ward. They had had eight children, including Herbert Rawson (1852–1924) and William Rawson (1854–1932).

The standard author abbreviation Rawson is used to indicate this person as the author when citing a botanical name.[11]


  1. ^ 'RAWSON, Sir Rawson William', Who Was Who, A & C Black, an imprint of Bloomsbury Publishing plc, 1920–2008; online edn, Oxford University Press, Dec 2007 accessed 23 July 2013
  2. ^ Leslie, John (1982). "The Bagot Commission: Developing a Corporate Memory for the Indian Department" (PDF). Historical Papers. 17 (1): 31–52. doi:10.7202/030883ar. Retrieved 7 September 2017.
  3. ^ Milloy, John S. (1999). A National Crime: The Canadian Government and the Residential School System 1879–1986. University of Manitoba Press. ISBN 978-0-88755-646-3.
  4. ^ Obituary, The Times, 22 November 1899, p.6. Available online at The Times Digital Archive (subscription required). Retrieved 31 July 2020.
  5. ^ The London Gazette. Issue 21530 (1854) pp. 785
  6. ^ JL. McCracken: The Cape Parliament. Clarendon Press: Oxford. 1967.
  7. ^ "S2A3 Biographical Database of Southern African Science".
  8. ^ R. Kilpin: The Old Cape House. p.72.
  9. ^ The London Gazette. Issue 22912 (1864), pp. 5371
  10. ^ "APS Member History". Retrieved 5 May 2021.
  11. ^ International Plant Names Index.  Rawson.