John Bates Thurston

John Bates Thurston

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John Bates Thurston

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Sir John Bates Thurston (1836–1897) was a British colonial official who served Fiji in a variety of capacities, including Premier of the Kingdom of Viti (before the islands were ceded to the United Kingdom) and later as colonial Governor.

Early life

John Bate was born in London, England in 1836, where he received an elementary education before pursuing a nautical career. He eventually became a sheep farmer in Australia. In 1864, he joined a botanising expedition to the South Sea Islands and was wrecked on Samoa.

Political Life in Fiji

In 1869 he became Consul for Fiji and Tonga.

In June 1871, Thurston, then Britain's honorary consul, forged a "marriage of convenience" between the Bauan chief Seru Epenisa Cakobau and the British settlers. He persuaded the Fijian chiefs to surrender the independence of their fiefdoms and accept a constitutional monarchy with Cakobau as king, but with real power in the hands of a cabinet and legislature dominated by settlers. The arrangement was not particularly successful. Within months, government overspending had led to the accumulation of an unmanageable debt which led to economic and social unrest.

In 1872, Thurston approached the British government, at Cakobau's request, with offer to cede the islands to the United Kingdom. (An earlier offer almost two decades earlier had been turned down). The British were much more inclined to annex Fiji now than they had been previously. The murder of Bishop John Patteson of the...
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