This article tests the value of corpus linguistics in analyzing nineteenth-century commissions of inquiry into British colonies. It examines and improves the capacity of a computerized text analysis tool called the Linguistic Inquiry and Word Count to identify word meaning, sentiment, and psycholinguistic constructs in nineteenth-century sources. By augmenting its dictionary with nineteenth-century language and cross-checking meaning, we show that the software can code with 97% accuracy. We then demonstrate the tool's potential to explore genres of colonial writing, and to locate emotive language and language relating to power differentials in commission reports, a function we argue may provide a "way in" to assessing how commissioners treated different kinds of British subjects and their testimony in the reports.