153: James Carmichael Smith civil servant & author 1852-1919

* From materials supplied by David Killingray.

James Carmichael Smith was born in the Bahamas in 1852, a light-complexioned man whose education enabled him to found the Freeman newspaper in Nassau in 1887. He became a member of the colony’s Legislative Assembly. In 1894 he left for Africa, where he was Assistant Postmaster then Postmaster of Sierra Leone, a position held from 1896 until 1911, with a spell as Colonial Treasurer 1906-1907. He retired to Britain, living in Jersey and moving to wartime London where he worked in the Treasury. His daughter Walton Smith moved with him.

He associated with the future Lord Kindersley who chaired the National Savings Committee from 1916 to 1920 (and was president from 1920 to 1946). He also served in the wartime Ministry of Food. He had a colonial pension. He lived in a mansion block of flats, 7 Wellesley Mansions, W14 and there he died in the autumn of 1919. Photographs and other items including medals were later donated by his daughter to the Royal Commonwealth Society, London in the 1980s.

Smith’s interest in Africa can be seen in his membership of the recently formed African Society of London in 1903. He was a member of the Negro Society for Historical Research, of America, a black organization that included London resident the Jamaican doctor T.E.S. Scholes whose Glimpses of the Ages were two of the four books he published at this time. African medical student Moses de Rocha, at Edinburgh University, was another UK-based member as was the actor-author Duse Mohamed [see page 012 of this website] (source: Hill and Kilson, Apropos of Africa, London: Cass, 1969, pp 176-177).

When Mohamed established the African Times and Orient Review in London in 1912, Smith contributed several articles. His interest was in economics, and he had published at least six booklets, in London, between 1892 and 1915. He presented a paper on economic reconstruction at the Royal Colonial Institute in June 1916, which was published in London in 1918.

Publications are: The Distribution of the ProduceAbundance and Hard TimesA Plea for the Establishment by Law etcLegal Tender which was correspondence with the editor of the Bankers’ Magazine published in 1909 – and Legal Tender: Essays of 1910. The Normal Rate of Interest and Rent was published in 1915.

Smith died in London in late 1919, and the death was announced in the new London weekly West Africa on 11 October 1919, p 925. It said he had contributed to that weekly, on the economics of Africa and that he was cooperating with a friend on a book on economics.

The presence of Afro-Caribbean people in the British Colonial Service in Africa a century and more ago is still a new subject for historians. That several retired to Britain (Smith, Barbour-James, Edith Goring) is still not widely realised. The number of black authors is constantly being revised, upwards.


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