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Colonial Cases

Wilkinson v. Pickersgil, 1886

[assault - expulsion from Madagascar]

Wilkinson v. Pickersgill

Supreme Court, Mauritius

The Sydney Morning Herald, 23 October 1884


From the capital the only news is the expulsion from Madagascar of Mr. Wilkinson, a trader and correspondent of several newspapers, who has resided at the capital for more than 20 years.  In a few words, his case is this: - Hearing a noise in his compound, and fearing thieves, he discharged his revolver to frighten away any intruder, and went to bed.  The next morning he was told that he had shot a Malgash in the leg.  For this he was brought before the Vice-Consular Court and condemned to pay a fine of 40 rupees, and ordered to leave Madagascar.  Mr. Wilkinson complains bitterly of the composition of the Court, which he terms a Missionary Court, it having been formed of two missionaries and the Vice-Consul who is an ex-missionary.


The Argus (Melbourne, Australia), 30 December 1884

Failing war news, however, we have the Wilkinson expulsion case, and as an attempt is being made to create political capital out of the incident, something more may be heard of it.

   Mr. Wilkinson was amongst the first British subjects who availed themselves of the permission of Radama II to reside in Madagascar when the death of his mother, Ranavalona I, left him free to do so.  Mr. Wilkinson settled first at Tamatave, where he kept a store, after which he went to reside at the capital.

   The Malagasy Gazette, a paper published at Antananarivo, in speaking of the case, says that "his advanced free-thinking opinions, and propensities for newspaper reporting, which would be lost among the crowd in England or America, give him somewhat the position of a whale in a hayfield among the excessively orthodox community of Antananarivo; but, with the exception of those who are brought into conflict by that antagonism, the public will regret that a man who has succeeded in outliving 23 years of fevers and fires, revolutions and wars, and other adverses, should be caught up on a criminal charge for unfortunately following a custom which is allowed and tolerated so long as no accident occurs, but which will not stand the test of law."

The reason why Mr. Wilkinson has been punished is not far to seek.  For many years he was a regular correspondent to the Commercial Gazette, of Mauritius, before it became incorporated with the Mercantile Record. For the last three years he has been a correspondent to The Merchants and Planters' Gazette.  In both capacities he has been rather hard upon the missionaries and the Hovas.  There are two ways in which facts may be stated, and, unfortunately, Mr. Wilkinson almost invariable adopted that which rendered what he had to say most offensive to those of whom it was said.  [Long discussion of the past, and the terms of the treaty.]

   Acting upon this hint, Mr. Wilkinson has come to Mauritius, from whence he has appealed to Lord Granville.  There is a very general feeling that Mr. Pickersgill has exceeded his powers.  Mr. Wilkinson is seeking to raise a fund for the purpose of enabling him to try the point in the Supreme Court here.  The chances are that he will not be able to raise the money.  In that case, the right or the wrong of the affair will probably be strangled inside the walls of the Foreign Office, for we do not live  now in the days of either Lord Palmerston or Lord Beaconsfield.


South Australian Register, 13 July 1886


Port Louis, June 25.

The long-pending case of Wilkinson versus Pickersgill has at last been concluded.  Judgment has been for the plaintiff, with R 20 damages, with costs.  The finding of the Mauritius Supreme Court has been received generally with satisfaction, but regret has been expressed in some papers that substantial damages had not been given to Mr. Wilkinson. I believe that your readers are familiar with the particulars of the case, as in previous correspondence I have referred thereto.  But as this affair is likely to assume an international aspect owing to the determination expressed by Mr. Wilkinson to land at Tanatave, in spite of the unwillingness of the Home Government to let him return there, I am of opinion that your readers will be glad to have a fresh hearing of the case.  [Details of original incident, statement of Wilkinson, &c.]


Published by Centre for Comparative Law, History and Governance at Macquarie Law School