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The death of James Hastie, which occurred on 18 October 1826, deprives the governor of Mauritius, Sir Lowry Cole, of the wonderful informant who was his resident agent at the Court of Radama I. This is all the more serious because “the problems posed by the appointment of a replacement might considerably delay the time when the new agent was likely to take up his post in Antananarivo” (Jean Valette, archivist-paleograph).
A provisional solution is urgently needed so that the correspondence between Mauritius and Madagascar is not interrupted. Governor Cole’s choice is naturally based on “the British subject most likely to fulfill this role.” This is the Rev. David Jones who resides in Antananarivo since October 1820 and who is related to Radama by a solid friendship. By letter of December 4, 1826, the Governor of Mauritius informed Jones of the services he expected of him.
This mission entrusted to him, led the missionary to write four letters (from 9 January to 18 July 1827) to F.-E. Viret, private secretary of Sir Lowry Cole, in which he explained to him the events which took place in Antananarivo or in the provinces “at the king’s instigation.”
The first important point mentioned in these letters is the King’s attitude towards English policy. “It must be remembered that the king asked himself whether the death of Hastie should or should not put an end to the execution of the Anglo-Merina treaty. In fact, for Radama, Hastie was much more a friend and a listened counselor than the agent of Great Britain. The conclusion of the Blancard contract, just days after the death of James Hastie, is the best illustration of the place of choice that Hastie occupied in the counsels of Radama.
It must also be emphasized that the mere disappearance of James Hastie is sufficient to completely change the attitude of the king and his ministers towards the English. Jean Valette quotes Jones’ disillusioned phrase, which is rather significant: “… We are here, in our capacity as British subjects, held in suspicion. “
David Jones does not hide either his fear of a possible expulsion of the Missionaries
Anxiety which “allows us to better understand the sequence of events”.
Similarly, Jean Valette points out that the only arrival of Dr. Lyall in Toamasina and his meeting with Radama is sufficient to reverse a situation that is compromised “because of the way in which the new British agent had pleased Radama “.
Jones’ letters also provide some interesting information about Radama’s policy with respect to the provinces. In 1827, the general situation of the country seemed very disturbed. Indeed, the brilliant previous territorial conquests seem to be poorly “digested” and Antananarivo’s authority is being questioned in many parts of the island: Menabe, Mananjary, Matitanana, Taolagnaro.
Here is what Jones writes: “King Radama sent several thousand of his soldiers this year to pacify various parts of the country sakalava, to the south and southwest of his capital. Some detachments have already returned after having succeeded in establishing peace and tranquility in the regions where they have been; Others still beat the countryside, in search of the Sakalava chief, Ramitraho, the father of Rasalimo, his Majesty’s wife. “
Jones recalls the words of Ramitraho: if Radama’s army evacuates his country and if ambassadors are sent to him to negotiate with him the conditions of peace, he would meet them for that purpose. So the king sent Princess Rasalimo with an escort of a thousand soldiers, in order to finalize the terms of a treaty of friendship between her husband and her father (letter of April 11, 1827).
Concerning the Mananjary troubles reported in Antananarivo noises, David Jones reports that about 3,000 soldiers left yesterday to crush the rebellion in this region. A large detachment was to leave a little later to restore order in the Matitanana and in the vicinity of Fort Dauphin.