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On 30 September 1873, Prime Minister William Gladstone invited John Bright, MP for Birmingham, into his cabinet as Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster. Bright had previously served Gladstone as President of the Board of Trade, but had resigned in 1870 due to ill health. The appointment of Bright occurred at a time when the country was preparing for war in Ashanti (part of modern-day Ghana). The colonial territory known as the British Gold Coast, situated on the Guinea Coast of West Africa, had been formally established in 1867 and in 1872 was expanded through the cessation of the neighbouring Dutch Gold Coast. This expansion eliminated treaties and agreements over the region that had been established between the Dutch and the Ashanti Empire centuries earlier, and included the region of Elmina, which the Ashanti Empire laid claim to. In 1873, the Ashanti invaded the region, and the belief in Britain was that the British settlements in the Gold Coast would be under threat.
In this cartoon, Tenniel portrays Gladstone at once congratulating Bright on his appointment and assuming his support ahead of the Ashanti Campaign. Bright’s response hints at his well-known reputation for advocating peace, a reputation earned during the Crimean War (1853-1856) when Bright was almost a lone dissenting voice against British military involvement.
The Ashanti Campaign was conducted by the newly appointed Governor of the Gold Coast, Garnet Wolseley. British troops began to arrive in the region in December 1873 and January 1874 and after a number of small battles, the Ashanti capital of Kumasi was taken and destroyed by the British on 4 February 1874.