Secretary of State for the Colonies
Longest serving
Joseph Chamberlain

29 June 1895–16 September 1903
Colonial Office
StyleThe Right Honourable
TypeSecretary of state
Great Office of State
Member of
Reports toPrime Minister
NominatorPrime Minister
AppointerThe King
(on the advice of the Prime Minister)
Term lengthAt His Majesty's pleasure
Formation
  • 27 February 1768 (1st time)
  • 12 June 1854 (2nd time)
First holder
Final holder
Abolished
  • 8 March 1782 (1st time)
  • 1 August 1966 (2nd time)
Superseded byForeign Secretary
DeputyUnder-Secretary of State for the Colonies

The secretary of state for the colonies or colonial secretary was the Cabinet of the United Kingdom's minister in charge of managing the British Empire.

The colonial secretary never had responsibility for the provinces and princely states of India, which had its own secretary of state.

From 1768 until 1966, the secretary of state was supported by an under-secretary of state for the colonies (at times an under-secretary of state for war and the colonies), and latterly by a minister of state.

History

Colonial responsibilities were previously held jointly by the lords of trade and plantations (board) and the secretary of state for the Southern Department,[1] who was responsible for Ireland, the American colonies, and relations with the Catholic and Muslim states of Europe, as well as being jointly responsible for domestic affairs with the Secretary of State for the Northern Department.[2]

Colonial Secretary 1768-1782

The Colonial Secretary position was first created in 1768 to deal with the increasingly troublesome North American colonies, following passage of the Townsend Acts. Joint responsibility between the secretary and board first continued at this time, but subsequent diminution of the board's status let it to became an adjunct to the new secretary's department.[3]

Following the loss of the American colonies, both the board and the short-lived secretaryship were dismissed by the king on 2 May 1782; both were abolished later by the Civil List and Secret Service Money Act 1782 (22 Geo. 3, c 82).[4] Following this, colonial duties were given to the Home Secretary, then Lord Sydney.

1782-1854

Responsibility for the Colonies in the years between 1782 and 1854 included:

Following the Treaty of Paris 1783, a new board, named the Committee of Council on Trade and Plantations (later known as 'the First Committee') was established under William Pitt the Younger, by an Order in Council in 1784.[3] In 1794, a new office was created for Henry Dundas – the secretary of state for war, which now took responsibility for the Colonies. The office was renamed the Secretary of State for War and the Colonies in 1801.

1854-Present

In 1854, military reforms led to the colonial and military responsibilities of this secretary of state being split into two separate offices, with Sir George Grey becoming the first secretary of state for the colonies under the new arrangement.

In the latter part of the nineteenth century, Britain gained control over a number of territories with the status of "protectorate". The ministerial responsibility for these territories was initially held by the Foreign Secretary.

By the early years of the twentieth century the responsibility for each of the protectorate territories had been transferred to the colonial secretary as well. The League of Nations mandated territories acquired as a result of the Treaty of Versailles in 1919 became a further responsibility of the Colonial Office in the aftermath of the First World War.

In 1925, part of the Colonial Office was separated out as the Dominions Office, with its own secretary of state. The new office was responsible for dealing with the Dominions together with a small number of other territories (most notably Southern Rhodesia).

In the twenty years following the end of the Second World War, much of the British Empire was dismantled as its various territories gained independence. In consequence, the Colonial Office was merged in 1966 with the Commonwealth Relations Office (which until 1947 had been the Dominions Office) to form the Commonwealth Office, while ministerial responsibility was transferred to the secretary of state for Commonwealth affairs (previously known as the secretary of state for Commonwealth relations). In 1968, the Commonwealth Office was subsumed into the Foreign Office, which was renamed the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO).

List of secretaries of state for the colonies

Secretaries of State for the Colonies (1768–1782)

Sometimes referred to as Secretary of State for the American Colonies.

Secretary of State for the Colonies[5]
Secretary Term of office Ministry Monarch
(Reign)
Wills Hill
1st Earl of Hillsborough
27 February
1768
27 August
1772
 
Grafton
 
George III

(1760–1820)
North
William Legge
2nd Earl of Dartmouth
27 August
1772
10 November
1775
Lord George Germain
MP for East Grinstead
10 November
1775
February
1782
Welbore Ellis
MP for Weymouth and Melcombe Regis
February
1782
8 March
1782

Office abolished in 1782 after the loss of the American Colonies.[6]

Secretaries of State for the Colonies (1854–1966)

Secretary of State for the Colonies Term of office Party Ministry Monarch
(Reign)
Sir George Grey, Bt.
MP for Morpeth
12 June
1854
8 February
1855
Whig Aberdeen
(PeeliteWhig)
Victoria

(1837–1901)
Sidney Herbert
MP for South Wiltshire
8 February
1855
23 February
1855
Whig Palmerston I
Lord John Russell
MP for City of London
23 February
1855
21 July
1855
Whig
Sir William Molesworth, Bt.
MP for Southwark
21 July
1855
21 November
1855
Radical
Henry Labouchere
MP for Taunton
21 November
1855
21 February
1858
Whig
Edward Stanley
Lord Stanley

MP for King's Lynn
26 February
1858
5 June
1858
Conservative Derby–Disraeli II
Sir Edward Bulwer-Lytton
MP for Hertfordshire
5 June
1858
11 June
1859
Conservative

Henry Pelham-Clinton
5th Duke of Newcastle

(1811–1864)
18 June
1859
7 April
1864
Liberal Palmerston II
Edward Cardwell
MP for Oxford
7 April
1864
26 June
1866
Liberal
Russell II
Henry Herbert
4th Earl of Carnarvon

(1831–1890)
6 July
1866
8 March
1867
Conservative Derby–Disraeli III

Richard Temple-Grenville
3rd Duke of Buckingham and Chandos

(1823–1889)
8 March
1867
1 December
1868
Conservative
Granville Leveson-Gower
2nd Earl Granville

(1815–1891)
9 December
1868
6 July
1870
Liberal Gladstone I
John Wodehouse
1st Earl of Kimberley

(1826–1902)
6 July
1870
17 February
1874
Liberal
Henry Herbert
4th Earl of Carnarvon
21 February
1874
4 February
1878
Conservative Disraeli II
Sir Michael Hicks Beach, Bt.
MP for Gloucestershire East
4 February
1878
21 April
1880
Conservative
John Wodehouse
1st Earl of Kimberley

(1826–1902)
21 April
1880
16 December
1882
Liberal Gladstone II
Edward Stanley
15th Earl of Derby

(1826–1893)
16 December
1882
9 June
1885
Liberal
Frederick Stanley
MP for Blackpool
24 June
1885
28 January
1886
Conservative Salisbury I
Granville Leveson-Gower
2nd Earl Granville

(1815–1891)
6 February
1886
20 July
1886
Liberal Gladstone III
Edward Stanhope
MP for Horncastle
3 August
1886
14 January
1887
Conservative Salisbury II
Henry Holland
1st Baron Knutsford

14 January
1887
11 August
1892
Conservative
George Robinson
1st Marquess of Ripon

(1827–1909)
18 August
1892
21 June
1895
Liberal Gladstone IV
Rosebery
Joseph Chamberlain
MP for Birmingham West
29 June
1895
16 September
1903
Liberal Unionist Salisbury
(III & IV)

(Con.Lib.U.)
Edward VII

(1901–1910)
Balfour
(Con.Lib.U.)
Alfred Lyttelton
MP for Warwick and Leamington
11 October
1903
4 December
1905
Liberal Unionist
Victor Bruce
9th Earl of Elgin

(1849–1917)
10 December
1905
12 April
1908
Liberal Campbell-Bannerman
Robert Crewe-Milnes
1st Marquess of Crewe

(1858–1945)
12 April
1908
3 November
1910
Liberal Asquith
(I–III)
George V

(1910–1936)
Lewis Vernon Harcourt
MP for Rossendale
3 November
1910
25 May
1915
Liberal
Bonar Law
MP for Bootle
25 May
1915
10 December
1916
Conservative Asquith Coalition
(Lib.Con.Lab.)
Walter Long
MP for Westminster St George's[nb 1]
(1854–1924)
10 December
1916
10 January
1919
Conservative Lloyd George
(I & II)

(Lib.Con.Lab.)
Alfred Milner
1st Viscount Milner

(1854–1925)
10 January
1919
13 February
1921
Liberal
Winston Churchill
MP for Dundee
13 February
1921
19 October
1922
Liberal

Victor Cavendish
9th Duke of Devonshire

(1868–1938)
24 October
1922
22 January
1924
Conservative Law
Baldwin I
James Henry Thomas
MP for Derby
22 January
1924
3 November
1924
Labour MacDonald I
Leo Amery
MP for Birmingham Sparkbrook
6 November
1924
4 June
1929
Conservative Baldwin II
Sidney Webb
1st Baron Passfield

(1859–1947)
7 June
1929
24 August
1931
Labour MacDonald II
James Henry Thomas
MP for Derby
25 August
1931
5 November
1931
National Labour National I
(N.Lab.Con.Lib.N.Lib.)
Philip Cunliffe-Lister
MP for Hendon
5 November
1931
7 June
1935
Conservative National II
(N.Lab.Con.Lib.N.Lib.)
Malcolm MacDonald
MP for Bassetlaw
7 June
1935
22 November
1935
National Labour National III
(Con.N.Lab.Lib.N.)
James Henry Thomas
MP for Derby
22 November
1935
22 May
1936
National Labour
Edward VIII

(1936)
William Ormsby-Gore
MP for Stafford
28 May
1936
16 May
1938
Conservative
George VI

(1936–1952)
National IV
(Con.N.Lab.Lib.N.)
Malcolm MacDonald
MP for Ross and Cromarty
16 May
1938
12 May
1940
National Labour
Chamberlain War
(Con.N.Lab.Lib.N.)
George Lloyd
1st Baron Lloyd

(1879–1941)
12 May
1940
4 February
1941
Conservative Churchill War
(All parties)
Walter Guinness
1st Baron Moyne

(1880–1944)
8 February
1941
22 February
1942
Conservative
Robert Gascoyne-Cecil
Viscount Cranborne

MP for South Dorset
22 February
1942
22 November
1942
Conservative
Oliver Stanley
MP for Westmorland
22 November
1942
26 July
1945
Conservative
Churchill Caretaker
(Con.N.Lib.)
George Henry Hall
MP for Aberdare
3 August
1945
4 October
1946
Labour Attlee
(I & II)
Arthur Creech Jones
MP for Shipley
4 October
1946
28 February
1950
Labour
Jim Griffiths
MP for Llanelli
28 February
1950
26 October
1951
Labour
Oliver Lyttelton
MP for Aldershot
28 October
1951
28 July
1954
Conservative Churchill III
Elizabeth II

(1952–2022)
Alan Lennox-Boyd
MP for Mid Bedfordshire
28 July
1954
14 October
1959
Conservative
Eden
Macmillan
(I & II)
Iain Macleod
MP for Enfield West
14 October
1959
9 October
1961
Conservative
Reginald Maudling
MP for Barnet
9 October
1961
13 July
1962
Conservative
Duncan Sandys
MP for Streatham
13 July
1962
16 October
1964
Conservative
Douglas-Home
Anthony Greenwood
MP for Rossendale
18 October
1964
23 December
1965
Labour Wilson
(I & II)
Frank Pakenham
7th Earl of Longford

(1905–2001)
23 December
1965
6 April
1966
Labour
Frederick Lee
MP for Newton
6 April
1966
1 August
1966
Labour

Responsibility for the colonies held by:

Following the British Nationality Act 1981, the term "colony" ceased to be used; Britain's rule over Hong Kong, the last significant colony, ceased in 1997. Britain retains certain overseas territories.

Notes
  1. ^ MP for Strand until 1918; thereafter MP for Westminster St George's.

Secretaries from the Colonies

A few title holders were born in colonies under their portfolio and some beyond:

See also

References

  1. ^ American and West Indian colonies before 1782, National Archives
  2. ^ Thomson, Mark A. (1932). The Secretaries of State: 1681–1782. London: Frank Cass. p. 2.
  3. ^ a b Records of the Board of Trade and of successor and related bodies, Department code BT, The National Archives
  4. ^ Council of trade and plantations 1696–1782, in Office-Holders in Modern Britain: Volume 3, Officials of the Boards of Trade 1660–1870, pp. 28–37. University of London, London, 1974.
  5. ^ Chris Cook and John Stevenson, British Historical Facts 1830–1900 (Macmillan Press 1980) 29.
  6. ^ E.B. Fryde and others, Handbook of British Chronology (3rd edn, Cambridge University Press 1986) 125.
History of English and British government departments with responsibility for foreign affairs and those with responsibility for the colonies, dominions and the Commonwealth
Northern Department
1660–1782
Secretaries — Undersecretaries
Southern Department
1660–1768
Secretaries — Undersecretaries
Southern Department
1768–1782
Secretaries — Undersecretaries
1782: diplomatic responsibilities transferred to new Foreign Office
Colonial Office
1768–1782
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1854–1925
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1858–1937
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1925–1947
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