Corporate entry: Western Pacific High Commission


The office of Western Pacific High Commissioner (q.v.) in, over, and for the Western Pacific Islands was created by an Order in Council, cited as the Western Pacific Order in Council of 1877, for the purpose of better carrying out the provisions of the Pacific Islanders' Protection Acts, 1872 and 1875, and to provide a civil court for the settlement of disputes between British subjects living in the islands. The jurisdiction of the High Commissioner extended over all islands in the Western Pacific not within the limits of the Colonies of Fiji, Queensland, New South Wales, or New Zealand, or within the jurisdictions of any formal European government. In 1893, a new Order in Council was issued, known as the Pacific Order in Council 1893, and under it the High Commissioner's jurisdiction was extended to foreigners and (in most cases) to indigenous residents of British settlements or protectorates within the limits of the Order. Under the provisions of the New Hebrides Order in Council 1907, the jurisdiction of the High Commission was extended also to the islands known as the New Hebrides, and all the islands known as the Banks Islands and the Torres Islands.

The High Commission's expenses were met partly from imperial and partly from Protectorate funds. A High Commissioner's Court and a Court of Judicial Commissioners were created. The Chief Justice of Fiji and every other judge of the Supreme Court was by virtue of their office a Judicial Commissioner, and where the attendance of the Chief Justice or other Judge of the Supreme Court was impracticable, the High Commissioner appointed a Judicial Commissioner for particular purposes or a particular time. The High Commissioner's Court consisted of the High Commissioner, the Judicial Commissioners and the Deputy Commissioners, and in it was vested all British civil and criminal jurisdictions exercisable in the Western Pacific Islands. The Court, if a Judicial Commissioner was present, had powers similar to those of the Superior Courts of England, and the Deputy Commissioners had civil jurisdiction in common law, equity and bankruptcy, with a limited jurisdiction in probate, and had a criminal jurisdiction in respect of offences not punishable with seven years' or more penal servitude. With a few exceptions, all decisions of the High Commissioner's Court could be appealed against to the Supreme Court of Fiji. For the purpose of better carrying out the provisions of the Pacific Islanders' Protection Acts, 1872 and 1875, and in order to deal with cases occurring where there was no resident Deputy Commissioner, certain officers in command of British ships of war of the Australian Station and later the New Zealand Station were appointed as occasions arose to be Deputy Commissioners. In addition to the other means of preserving order, the High Commissioner had certain special powers for the deportation of persons whose behaviour endangered the peace of the islands.

As early as 1909, it was clear that the double duties of High Commissioner and Governor of Fiji were too onerous for one person to perform, but the positions were not separated until 1951, when it was decided to appoint a new High Commissioner who was not concurrently the Governor of Fiji. In January 1952, when the new High Commissioner, Robert C. S. Stanley (q.v.) was appointed, he took up residence in Suva and began arrangements for a transfer to Honiara. This occurred on 22 December, ready for the official shift on 1 January 1953. The High Commissioner took over direct administration of the Protectorate from the Resident Commissioner in addition to his general responsibilities for the other High Commission territories. The High Commission Secretariat was also transferred to Honiara, and the Chief Secretary and Financial Secretary were appointed as officers of the Protectorate in addition to their other duties. An officer of the Colonial Legal Service was appointed as Attorney-General for the Protectorate and concurrently as Legal Adviser to the High Commission in place of the Attorney-General of Fiji. The High Court for the Western Pacific (q.v.) was created in 1961 to replace the earlier court system. (AR 1951-1952, 46-47; Scarr 1967, 2000; Romilly 1886; McIntyre 1960; Morrell 1960)

Related Corporate Bodies

Published resources


  • Morrell, W.P., Britain in the Pacific Islands, Oxford University Press, London, 1960. Details
  • Romilly, Hugh H., The Western Pacific and New Guinea: Notes on the Natives, Christians and Cannibal, with Some Account of the Old Labour Trade, Murray, London, 1886. Details

Book Sections

  • Scarr, Deryck, 'Western Pacific High Commission', in Brij V. Lal;Kate Fortune (ed.), The Pacific Islands: An Encyclopedia, University of Hawai`i Press, Honolulu, 2000, pp. 240-241. Details

Journal Articles

  • McIntyre, W.D., 'Disraeli's Colonial Policy: The Creation of the Western Pacific High Commission, 1874-1877', Historical Studies, vol. 9, no. 35, 1960, pp. 279-294. Details


  • British Solomon Islands Protectorate, British Solomon Islands Protectorate Annual Reports (AR), 1896-1973. Details