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James Robert Phillips
James Robert Phillips was the eldest son of the Reverend T. Phillips (later Bishop of Carlisle). Following a public school education, he attended Trinity College, Cambridge, where he studied law, before becoming a colonial officer in the Gold Coast (present day Ghana). In June, 1896, he was appointed Deputy Commissioner and Consul-General for the Niger Coast Protectorate (NC
Phillips was on leave in England when his new posting was announced. Although he wanted to return to Africa as soon as possible, he was ordered to remain in England until he could meet the NCP Commissioner and Consul-General, Ralph Denham Rayment Moor, who was then en route to England to begin a period of leave. The pair probably met in September, 1896, possibly in London, although no record appears to exist of what was said between the two men. In many ways they were like chalk and cheese. Phillips had public school and university contacts, unlike Moor, and had an unblemished colonial record, again unlike Moor who had been previously criticized for his dealings with Chief Nana. Moor may also have felt that Phillips was being groomed to take over his job. No doubt they did discuss the situation in Benin and we do know that, before he left London, Phillips was overheard boasting that his intention was to lead an expedition to Benin City. 
Phillips arrived in the Protectorate on 24th October, 1896. As a lawyer, he had been instructed to concentrate on the prisons and legal system of the Protectorate, but, on 31st October, he met Chief Dogho and other Itsekiri chiefs, as well as a number of European traders at Sapele on the Benin River. Phillips felt that he had ‘gained a very clear picture of the state of affairs’ in Benin and he quickly sent the following dispatch to the Foreign Office in London.
The King of Benin has continued to do everything in his power to stop the people from trading and prevent the Government from opening up the country. By means of his Fetish he has succeeded to a marked degree. He has permanently placed a Juju on (Palm) Kernels, the most profitable product of the country, and the penalty for trading in this produce is death. He has closed the markets and has only occasionally consented to open them in certain places on receipt of presents from the Jakri chiefs. Only however to close them again when he desires more blackmail…I feel so convinced that every means has been successfully tried that I have advised the Jakri chiefs to discontinue their presents. 
Phillips added four letters from trading companies, who complained of loss of trade, before ending his dispatch with this stark paragraph.
I therefore ask for his Lordship’s permission to visit Benin City in February next, to depose and remove the King of Benin and to establish a native council in his place and to take such further steps for the opening up of the country as the occasion may require. I do not anticipate any serious resistance from the people of the country – there is every reason to believe that they would be glad to get rid of their King – but in order to obviate any danger I wish to take up a sufficient armed Force, consisting of 250 troops, two seven-pounder guns, 1 Maxim, and 1 Rocket apparatus of the Niger Coast Protectorate Force (NCPF) and a detachment of Lagos Hausas 150 strong, if his Lordship and the Secretary of State for the Colonies will sanction the use of the Colonial Forces to this extent…PS I would add that I have reason to hope that sufficient Ivory may be found in the King’s house to pay the expenses in removing the King from his Stool. 
When the Phillips dispatch reached London a copy was sent, by the Foreign Office, to Ralph Moor, asking for his comments. Moor at once agreed that Phillips had the right suggestion and offered to return to Africa at once. Indeed, such was Moor’s enthusiasm for the venture that one might suggest that the whole of Phillips’ dispatch was something that had been put together by Moor and Phillips when they met in London, prior to Phillips’ departure for Africa. However, the Foreign Office were unconvinced and, having more or less ignored the dispatch over the Christmas and New Year holidays, they did not reply to Phillips until 8th January, 1897, when they sent a telegraph, instructing him to desist from his planned invasion.
But the telegraph never reached Phillips. He had been killed a few days earlier.
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