History October 17, 2018 at 11:00 am

How West Africa’s first lawyer was driven out of Ghana for working with the British in the 1870s

Farida Dawkins | Contributor

Farida Dawkins October 17, 2018 at 11:00 am

October 17, 2018 at 11:00 am | History

George Emil Eminsang...Facebook

In 1872, George Emil Eminsang was appointed to the Dutch Legislative Council in Gold Coast – present-day Ghana.  Eminsang was also the premier lawyer who negotiated the sale of Dutch Gold Coast possessions to the British administration. Eminsang simultaneously worked as a merchant, running a successful business.

Olden picture of Elmina Castle circa 1870s…Pinterest

Eminsang was born in 1833 in Elmina, Ghana – one of the main hubs for slave trading and transporting in West Africa. His mother was of mixed Dutch/Fanti ancestry. His father, Joseph Emil Eminsang, was an innkeeper and wholesaler, according to  Trip Down Memory Lane.

Image of a group of Fanti women in 1904…Pinterest

The name Eminsang is the English version of the Fanti surname Eminsa. Eminsa is a Fanti river deity.  In modern times, Eminsa is written as Amissah.

Eminsang was reportedly a gifted student, which afforded him the opportunity to be educated by Dutch instructors. He started out at the Elmina Castle School, before travelling to to the Netherlands and Germany to further his education in law and philosophy.   He was able to speak five languages: English, Dutch, Portuguese, German and Fantse.

After schooling, Eminsang returned to Ghana where he taught at his alma mater for a few years before venturing into merchant work. His legal background enabled him to assist his fellow Ghanaians.

In 1872, Eminsang was given a position in the Dutch Legislative Council. It was at this point he was also appointed as the leading lawyer to negotiate the sale of the Dutch’s possessions to the British government.

Later on, the British employed him to serve as the Civil Commandant in Elmina.

The Elminans,  loyally aligned with the Ashantis and the Dutch, distrusted the sale of the castle and subsequently drove Eminsang out of Ghana.

Elmina Castle. Photo: Wiki CC

Eminsang later returned to Cape Coast, Ghana and continued to practice law while working as a merchant.

From 1878-1879, he worked as the consular agent to the Dutch and in 1890 he was made consular agent to the Congo and the United States in Cape Coast.

Eminsang died in 1891. The circumstances surrounding his death are unknown.

Beside Eminsang, another documented prominent West African lawyer is Christopher Alexander Sapara Williams.

Nigeria’s first lawyer, Christopher Alexander Sapara Williams…Nigeria News (composite)

Williams is known as the first indigenous Nigerian lawyer; he was called to the English bar on November 17, 1879.

Williams began practicing law in Lagos on January 13, 1888. On January 30, 1888, he was accepted into the Nigerian Bar Association, where he served as chairman of the NBA from 1900 to 1915.

Apart from being a lawyer, Williams was also a politician who enabled Nigerian nationalist Herbert Macauley to oppose British colonialism.

 

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