Rawson W. Rawson

Sir Rawson William Rawson KCMG CB (8 Sept. 1812 – 20 Nov. 1899) was a British government official and statistician.[1]

Early life and board of trade

Rawson Rawson was born in 1812, the son of Sir William and Jane Rawson. His father had originally had the surname Adams, but had changed his name to Rawson, and also given it as a first name to his son. Rawson was educated at Eton and entered the Board of Trade at the age of seventeen. He served as private secretary to three successive Vice-Presidents of the Board, Charles Poulett Thompson, Alexander Baring and William Ewart Gladstone.

Colonial service (1842-1875)

In 1842, having served Gladstone for one year he was appointed Civil Secretary to the Governor-General of Canada. Two years later he was appointed Treasurer and paymaster-general to Mauritius.

In 1854 he became colonial secretary in the Cape of Good Hope,[2] which had just formed its first locally elected parliament. Soon after accepting this post, he was awarded a C.B., and attained considerable local fame for his overly elaborate dress of lace collars, cuffs and buttons. Whilst in the Cape, he was exceptionally involved in the study of ferns and other plants, in the establishment of the South African Museum, as well as in the details of parliamentary procedure. However his abilities as a financier were repeatedly questioned, as the Cape government became severely indebted and eventually entered a recession. Parliamentary writer Richard William Murray records that in both Mauritius and the Cape Colony, Rawson had left the state "as nearly bankrupt as it is possible for a British dependency to be." Rawson was also notable for being among the government officials who supported the early movement for "responsible government" in the Cape, and therefore supported the handing over of power to a locally elected executive, to replace imperial officials like himself. He was retired from the post on 21 July 1864, to be succeeded by Sir Richard Southey.[3][4][5]

His next post was the governorship of the Bahamas in July 1864,[6] and he was subsequently promoted to the governorship of the Windward Islands and received a KCMG He retired from public office in 1875.

Statistical Society and later life

He was president of the Statistical Society (now called the Royal Statistical Society) (1884–1886), an organisation of which he was a staunch supporter. He had originally joined the Society in March 1835, and briefly held the post of editor of the Society's Journal, from 1837 to 1842.

On his retirement from public office he was re-elected to the Society's Council in 1876 and remained in post till his death. It was largely due to the efforts of Rawson that the society received its Charter of Incorporation in 1887. He was also the founding President of the International Statistical Institute.

In 1849 he married Mary-Anne Ward and they had eight children.


  1. ‘RAWSON, Sir Rawson William’, Who Was Who, A & C Black, an imprint of Bloomsbury Publishing plc, 1920–2008; online edn, Oxford University Press, Dec 2007 accessed 23 July 2013
  2. The London Gazette. Issue 21530 (1854) pp. 785
  3. JL. McCracken: The Cape Parliament. Clarendon Press: Oxford. 1967.
  4. http://www.s2a3.org.za/bio/Biograph_final.php?serial=2297
  5. R. Kilpin: The Old Cape House. p.72.
  6. The London Gazette. Issue 22912 (1864), pp. 5371
  7. IPNI.  Rawson.
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