April 1, 1852: Gold Coast Poll Tax Ordinance Proclaimed



In a bid to raise funds for the provision of social amenities for the people of the Southern States of the Gold Coast, the Poll Tax Ordinance of 1852 was passed by the British colonial authorities. According to the terms of the Ordinance, every adult citizen was to pay a tax of one shelling annually and this was to be applied to the provision of amenities such as schools, hospitals, water etc. The Ordinance was signed by Stephen John Hill on behalf of the British Crown.


The Ordinance did not operate for long, because it was fraught with myriads of problems. In short, the quest to raise the needed money through the Poll Tax, to provide amenities for the people failed. In the end, the Ordinance was withdrawn in 1861.


Several reasons were given for the failure of the Ordinance.




Misapplication of proceeds

One of the causes of the failure of the Poll Tax was diversion of the fund for a purpose other than it was slated for in the Ordinance. The funds were meant to provide social amenities for the people of the Southern states but part of it was rather being diverted to pay salaries for the Civil Servants. This was vehemently opposed by the people.


Embezzlement of tax proceeds

It was soon discovered that part of the tax funds was being embezzled by the tax collectors. The people felt that the collection of the tax was no longer justifiable if it was going to be literally pilfered by the very people who were assigned to collect and protect it. This also contributed to the collapse of the tax.


Weak monitoring

Another problem which led to the failure of the Poll Tax Ordinance was the absence of an adequate monitoring system. This was the main reason why any tax collector could pocket part of the money he or she collected from the people. This also created lots of problems for the tax regime.


Poor patronage

According to the terms of the Ordinance, every adult was to pay an annual tax of one shelling. Most of the residents could not meet this obligation because they were poor and could not afford it. This led to poor patronage. In effect, many people ended up not paying the tax at all.


Lack of consultation

The local people of the Southern parts of the Gold Coast were angry with their traditional authorities for going into an agreement, concerning tax payment, with the British without any consultation with the subjects. For this reason, they, at a point stopped paying the tax all together.


Failure of the British to protect the coastal states from the Ashantis

Also, the chiefs of the coastal states felt that the British were not providing enough protection for them against the risk of Ashanti invasion. One of the ways the chiefs reacted to this lack of adequate protection from the British was to call on their subjects not to fulfill their tax obligation to the colonial authorities. This also contributed to the failure of the Poll Tax.



As a result of all the problems associated with the Poll Tax Ordinance, the Ordinance was finally scrapped by the colonialists in 1861.


Culled from Chester Morton – www.virtualkollage.com