William Adams, Ellen Martha Adams, Ellen Brooks, Samuel Gibbs to Frederick Chesson, 18 December 1877
Archive location: Bodleian Libraries, MSS. Brit. Emp. s. 18 / C123 – 57
Author(s): William Adams, Ellen Martha Adams, Ellen Brooks, Samuel Gibbs
Recipient(s): Frederick Chesson
Sent from: Natal
Date: 18 December 1877
To the Secretary of the Aborigines Protection Society
We wish to lay before you a few facts, most of which have come under our personal observation during the last three years, and which illustrate the action of native law in Natal as relating to native Christians and especially native Christian women. We cannot believe that the noble British nation in general and your Society in particular would allow the present state of things to continue did they but once fairly understand that all the native female population of Natal live in a state of unquestionable slavery, being bought, sold, inherited and their price … by law, like any other property; from this doom not even Christian women, born of Christian parents who were married by Christian rites being exempt; and further that no marriage by Christian rites is legal marriage unless the bride is also purchased with cattle according to the customs of the heathen.
As we write solely in the interest of the natives we do not enter upon any question as between them and the white population. The colonists and the natives continually mingle in the relations of master and servant, in which the former meet with many advantages, and also corresponding annoyances, but even the most transient visitors bear witness to the usually fair treatment which the natives receive, and the mutual goodwill existing between the races. But the colonists generally know little of the social life and savage customs of the natives and still less of their government by the native department. So much is this the case that those whose signatures are attached to this letter and who have resided fifteen years in the colony (and one of whom has a fair knowledge of the Zulu language and as a country schoolmaster often amused his leisure by visiting the native kraals) till quite lately understood scarcely anything of the iniquities of native law and although aware that the native department was compelled to tolerate some anomalous and many savage practices, could not imagine that British officials would persistently conserve the most barbarous customs, or deliberately set themselves to thwart the endeavours of civilized natives to be freed from native law by means provided for that purpose through the exertions of the colonists.
The native department forms a secret despotic power over which neither the public opinion of the colony, nor the press nor the legislative council itself can exercise any control, so that it is practically not only despotic but irresponsible. In its relations with independent tribes beyond the borders or its dealing with chieftains, its own subjects within the colony, it will scarcely yield any information even to questionings in the council, while to every call from among the colonists for change tending to the elevation and improvement of the natives, it constantly opposes the cry of an imagined danger, which if it exists at all, has been created by the fear the government continually displays of a people easily governed and amenable to law, and by its own base truckling to their barbarisms.
While the action of the of the native department plainly shows that they are determined no native girl shall be exempted from native law (see the case of Unuimbze No 3 in accompanying documents) we are satisfied that if it were possible to take a plebiscite of the white population on the question ‘Whether the Makolwa* or at least any of them who desired it should be brought under English law’, they would decide almost unanimously in the affirmative. No one would recommend that the whole heathen population should be violently compelled to forsake its most cherished customs and come under English law. Such a course would be attended with some real danger, for although the kaffirs are accustomed to yield to authority, it can scarcely be expected they would submit without a struggle to the forcible overthrow of customs appealing so strongly to the animal passions as polygamy and woman slavery. The passing of an act or issuing a proclamation declaring all who had been married by Christian rites and the offspring of such marriages to be under English law, and making all future marriage by Christian rites legal (marriage without ‘Lobola’, purchase of the bride with cattle) and bringing the parties so married under English law by that act, would be a very different thing. So far from being a dangerous measure this would be a great security against revolt, for it would tend to a constant weakening of the ranks of heathendom by the marriage under English law of the most intelligent and romantic of the young people and would so thoroughly divide the Makolwa and the polygamists as effectually to prevent their ever making common cause against the government.
The injurious effect on the minds of the officials themselves caused by the irresponsible administration of a savage law, is well shown in a proposal made by Mr John Shepstone (at present acting secretary for native affairs) to employ in certain cases detectives who should not be produced in court. This will be found in his report on the Liquor Traffic published in the Natal Government ‘Gazette’ of July 3rd 1877.
As an example of the petty tyranny to which the department has become capable of descending we may refer to the case of John Zulu who shortly after the transportation of Langalibalele proposed to proceed to the Cape Colony and pay a visit to the late chief to whom he is related. The government on becoming aware of his intention issued a proclamation forbidding any native to leave the colony without the permission of the native office, and then forbade him to embark. John Zulu is himself a government officer being one of the ‘Indunas’ at Edendale; it therefore might or might not be advisable to prevent his seeing Langalibalele, but such a proclamation as this is not only utterly opposed to all ideas and traditions of British liberty but is absurd in itself, since every waggon which takes a load of goods to the Free State or Transvaal takes for a time two kaffirs out of the colony and who dreams of first asking permission? Moreover, does not the proclamation exhibit a paltry spite against the late rebellious chief as despicable as it is impolite?
In the year 1869 a law was made imposing a license fee of £5.00 on every kaffir marriage and at the same time providing that the price paid for the bridge should not exceed 10 head of cattle and that before the final ceremony the bride should declare in the presence of an official witness, that she was married with her own free consent.
The restriction on the price of the bride bore rather hardly upon the young men in some places, as the current rates varied and in many of the upper districts had been previously less than 10 head.
This law was passed in deference to the demands of the colonists for improvement and among them a very general impression prevailed that the marriage of the first wife was excepted from the fee of £5 and therefore that the measure discouraged polygamy which they desired to do. This however was not the case. The same fee of £5 was charged for the first wife of a young man married perhaps from true mutual affection, as for the tenth or fifteenth woman taken for the convenience or lust of an old polygamist. The measure thus directly fostered polygamy, for it was much easier for the polygamist than for the young man to get the £5 in cash for the government in addition to the cattle for ‘lobola.’ The polygamist could easily obtain the fee for his tenth wife by selling one of the cattle received from the sale of an elder daughter, but the youth had to earn it by his own honest labour, and in the mean time his sweetheart might be sold away from him to some old polygamist. It is true the girl seemed to be protected by the provision requiring her own consent to her marriage and no doubt this was of service in the immediate neighbourhood of white settlers, but it could have been little security in other circumstances since it was not necessary that the girl’s consent should be given before a magistrate justice of the peace, field cornet, or any official of European descent, but the official witnesses appointed were simply native policemen from whose position among their people, their intimate knowledge of their own customs and the profit they derive from them, we may fairly believe their sympathies would in all cases go rather with tyrannical father than with oppressed maidens. Take notice of the attempt to force Martha Unompapu to marry a polygamist against her will only 2 1/2 years ago and at a place within 20 miles of the capital and not three miles from the habitations of white colonists. (See No 1)
The marriage fee of five pounds has since been abolished to the satisfaction of all parties. Whether the regulations as to the price of the bride remain we cannot say, but we know that Martha Unompapu has been ‘labolaed’ (with her own consent) for 17 head of cattle, and Unomathlongo for 15 head on the grounds that Majisa is an Induna, and Gencane belongs to the family of some petty chief.
In the early days of missionary effort the natives were naturally taught that ‘lobola’ was evil and in consequence the daughters of the first converts were married upon a payment little more than nominal and made simply to legalize the transaction, such for instance as the single beast called the ‘Incutu’ delivered at the time of the final dance (called ‘Cwanguza’) but as they were still held entirely subject to native law, natural cupidity at last prevailed and higher prices were demanded for daughters of the Makolwa than for the heathen, so that shortly before the passing of the law of 1869 no less than 30 head of cattle were paid in some cases for girls at Edendale.
We may refer you to a distinct admission on the part of the acting Secretary for native affairs that marriage by Christian rites alone is not legal marriage (see page 33) and so well is this understood by the Makolwa that we are informed that among the converts on some of the mission stations, after marriage by Christian rites in the church, the heathen dance ‘Cwangaza’ is performed at the residence of the bridgegroom in order certainly to secure the rights of inheritance to the children. No legal provision has been made to secure a Christian woman against the relapse of her husband into heathen habits which occasionally happens as in the case of Benjamin and others (See No 1 note at end). If a native although married by Christian rites take one or more other wives, the law still does not look upon it as adultery but only polygamy which native customs allow, and the woman has no redress except by means of other native customs of an equally objectionable character (See P. 30).
In the year 1864, at the urgent demands of the colonists, a law was passed for relieving some of the natives from the operation of native law: this was repealed in the following year and the law at present in force (No 28 of 1865) substituted.
During the passage of these acts through the council, it was matter of notoriety that the native department placed every possible obstacle in the way, and obtained the insertion of conditions and requirements calculated to make the law practically ineffective and which have but too well answered their apparent purpose. We shall forward a copy of this law to your honourable Society, but must beg you will excuse its dilapidated condition as not being able to obtain a second copy of it we are compelled to send the one we have had in use.
Whether this law was ever promulgated among the natives we cannot tell, but it remained practically a dead letter, and except for occasional enquiries in the council as to its working had almost passed from men’s minds until about 2 years ago when Micah Inquite ‘Mkwananzi a very intelligent Christian kafir complained continually of much annoyance from the action of native law was told he should petition to be exempted from it. After due consideration he determined to do so. As the government has not published any form of petition, a petition was drawn out which we now know not to have complied with the requirements. However it was received and after some delay his letter of exemption issued. His example was followed by several others. In their cases greater formality was demanded and more obstacles interposed; nevertheless after a delay of about seven months their letters of exemption were issued. This Excellency the Lieut Governor exhibited considerable interest in the commencing movement and granted the earliest petitioners a personal interview.
The next petition was that of Unuimbye Kuswayo, and this case (in which property so valuable as a marriageable girl was at stake) at once elicited unmistakeable evidence of the animus of the native department. The particulars of this case will be found (Case No 3, P. 19) but we may here add a few remarks upon it.
The frivolity of the quibbles about the spelling of her name will be at once evident when it is remembered that the language possesses no literature except a few translations by missionaries or books written by them. As they have invented the orthography every individual writing in the Zulu tongue adopts more or less peculiarities of his own. This will be seen on comparison of three grammars published respectively by Mr Grout, the Bishop of Natal and Mr Roberts, and the nursery tales published by [Bishop?] Callaway. We have in our possession a copy of the Psalms printed in 1850 and the New Testament published in 1865 both printed in Natal by the American missionaries but which differ very materially in their orthography.
We direct attention to the delay of seven months in the obtaining the report of the Attorney General on Unuimbye’s petition although his Excellency had expressed an opinion that there need be no delay. We feel some surprise that it should take seven months to discover that the petition was drawn up in accordance with Sec 3 instead of Sec 30 of law 28 of 1865 when three days sufficed for them to learn that the word ‘owns’ (which was unnecessary) was omitted in the petition of [Absalom?] Duba and in the case of Masujama Msane to discover that a man who has been divorced is not un-married! (See P5). The letter accompanying her returned petition speaks of her ‘natural guardians’ not being willing to consent to her exemption, but law 28 of 1865 makes no reference whatever to such consent and it is unreasonable to suppose that the ‘natural guardians’ of an ‘unmarried female native’ would ever consent to a measure which deprives them of at least 10 head of cattle. Your Society will also observe the expression of Mr J. Shepstone (P.32) that Unuimbye ‘must not expect that law to be upset for her convenience’. She has no such wish, she only desires to take advantage of a law which has been provided for her relief.
When her petition was returned she was told she might have to wait very long before receiving her letter of exemption, and asked if she were determined to persevere. She said ‘she was determined,’ but it was considered right that she should first consult her mother who is living on land belonging to Masujana Msane. On her return she reported that her mother’s relations were troubling her very much on account of her wish to get her daughter free from native law and that the father’s brother (Unuimbye’s …) threatened to prosecute her, but she did not care what she suffered if she could only get her daughter brought under English law and she begged us to do all we could for her.
A few days after and before we could take measures to procure the necessary signatures to a new petition a kaffir came to fetch Unuimbye into town. He stated that a policeman had been sent for her to her mother’s residence where he was informed that she was here, from Edendale the man had come on instead of the policeman the latter being tired. He said that she was not wanted on a lawsuit but as her father’s brother was at the office ‘Mr John’ wanted them to discuss the matter in his presence. The man carried no symbol of authority. He was told that if he really came from ‘Mr John’ Shepstone he should have brought a letter and she would not be allowed to go without it. If her father’s brother wanted to speak to her he could come here.
Shortly after, that is on Wednesday 12th last, Mohlo (her father’s brother) and his son came here accompanied by a policeman when a conversation took place, a report of which will be found on page 42.
We may observe that we find it difficult to conceive why Mr J. Shepstone should send to her mother’s residence in quest for her since he knew she was living at Adamhurst with Micah Mkwananzi having himself assented to that arrangement and recommended it on Aug 20th (See page 34).
We now live in constant dread of a warrant commanding her to be given up to her ‘natural guardians.’ As a precautionary measure she has signed a paper binding herself to Mrs Adams’ service; we do not think this document would stand in law, but it will gain time and throw the onus of commencing legal proceedings upon the other party. The kind treatment she would be likely to receive from her ‘natural guardians’ may be judged by a reference to the cases of Unompapu and Maluasi (Cases 1 & 2) showing the kind treatment they received from their parents and ‘natural guardians’ under circumstances of far less provocation. Unuimbye’s ‘natural guardian’ is not an Ikolwa but a thorough heathen.
Another very respectable and well behaved girl (Sophia [Twilwasi?] Goba) whome we know well (as she is frequently employed ‘charing’ and also attended the young woman’s class at the School) wishes to petition. A petition has been prepared for her but it would be very difficult to obtain the necessary signatures as she knows no justice of the peace. We therefore think it best to let it be over till the crucial case of Unuimbye is decided: the more as we are unwilling to embroil her unnecessarily with her relations and ‘natural guardians’ as no protection against their resentment provided for a girl during the time her petition is under consideration, a time which as we see may extend to a year or more. Sophia is the only Ikolwa at the kraal of her mother’s brother where she lives, being held in [town?] by her uncle for the [price?] of her deceased mother, which he hopes to receive out of the cattle obtained by her marriage. She expresses an intention not to marry. So well do the natives themselves apprehend the meaning of these delays that so lately as Sunday 9th last one of the exempted native expressed his opinion to us that the govt does not intent to allow any more to come under English law. In reference to Unuimbye, Sophia has expressed her surprise that the authorities here should oppose the Queen’s law to bring the kaffirs out of native law; it is a thing she cannot understand. Unuimbye herself when told her petition was again returned said while tears of bitter disappointment glistened in her eyes ‘I thought they would not keep we waiting so long as the men since English people always respect girls and care for them so much.’
Expressions (touching in their simplicity) of loyalty and attachment to the person of the Sovereign and confidence in her willingness to help them are continually in the mouths not only of the girls but of the men also.
Masiyana has repeatedly asked if Her Majesty would not do him right if he appealed personally to her. For ourselves we trust their confidence is not misplaced. Her Majesty always exhibits the greatest sympathy with her suffering subjects and has never allowed the exaltation of her rank to stifle the feelings of her sex. We therefore cannot but believe that if she once clearly understood the real situation of her loyal subjects the native Christian women of Natal she would employ her authority on their behalf. In this case her authority is unlimited under native law. ‘Supreme Chief over the native population’ is one of the titles of her representative, and the will of a Zulu Chief knows no control. The same power which in the hands of her representative could arbitrarily forbid John Zulu to leave the colony, might with the stroke of a pen at once set free every native Christian woman in the colony.
The case of [Absalom?] Duba (noticed in the particulars of Unuimbye’s case page 34) though less flagrant than Unuimbye’s or Masiyama’s is yet sufficiently suggestive. Absalom is a man of excellent character, a brick-layer by trade and a conscientious workman. Being a man of mature age (45) and the head of a family it is not easy to understand why there should be any delay unless it be in the fact that he has four daughters the eldest of whom is marriageable and therefore of considerable value. It is true to a non-official mind this seems a reason for promptitude rather than for delay since it shows that he has determined to sacrifice to his sense of right the acquisition of at least 40 head of cattle, 10 of them an almost immediate prospect, a sufficient proof surely that he is worthy to receive the rights of a British citizen! It is now nearly 4 months since his petition was sent in and no tiding have been received of its progress. For aught we can tell it may have been illegally given out of the office like Masiyana’s (see case 4 P54). We have advised Absalom to call at the office and enquire about it when he may be in town. The reason given by Absalom for wishing to come under English law (See law 28 of 1865 Sec 3 Thirteenth) was: ‘Because under native law there is nothing to prevent myself or my children from falling back into wicked and savage customs.’ We append the reasons given by some others:
James Londezi (Letter granted)
I was born and brought up among Englishmen. I do not want the native law anymore it is not good.
Solomon Xaba (Letter Issued)
I was born under English law (missionary**) and when I come to this colony I had to come under native law which I do not like. I cannot stand comfortable with one foot in English law and one in native law.
Solomon Tshabalala (Letter Issued)
I do not like native law, I wish to be under the same law as white men. I do not want to be obliged to sell my daughters in order that their marriage may be legal.
Others also speak of not wishing to sell their daughters:
Levi Siwela (Petition signed only about 10 days ago)
Because under native law, people are bought and sold by Lobola like dogs, and I wish to marry a girl who has been exempted from native law. (He is courting a daughter of Solomon Xaba who was including in her father’s letter of exemption).
Particulars of the hard case of Masiyama Msane otherwise Manyatela Msane will be found Case No 4 Page 54. It is very significant as showing the lengths to which the native department ventures to go in order to delay or prevent the exemption of petitioners. We may mention that if his petition had really contained false statements he was liable to a prosecution for perjury.
In connextion with this case we may refer again to kaffir names. Almost all kaffirs are known by at least one in addition to their real proper name, but this implies no reproach or suspicion as it would among ourselves. Thus Umuimby has been baptized Martha, was known as Matje when in service to Ms Eva and is often called Umkiza the surname of her step-father. Masiyama is quite as often called Maneyatela: the woman he married call in the church books Lydia, is entered in the Register of the Magistrate’s cour Udiya after the corrupted pronunciation of the natives. In the certificate of Masiyama’s marriage to Udiya (or Lydia) it is said to have taken place in presence of ‘Jonas Mtemkulu’ whom however we have discovered to be no other than John Zulu himself! Can such extreme accuracy in the spelling of a name then be really necessary in a petition? The government will in no case take the … in providing any native school, or consider any application for and until such school is in actual operation.
When the ‘native administration bill’ was under discussion some three years ago, there was a very general impression that the govt intended to establish native schools. It is difficult to understand whence the impression arose except from the colonists’ own sense of what would be right; at any rate to our certain knowledge two applications were made, one for appointment to an industrial school, to be formed on a plan furnished by the applicant; the other for the appointment of English teacher in any school the might be formed. In the first case the application was courteously put aside; in the second case the applicant was told to apply in writing and having done so never received any answer.
The sole outcome of the native administration bill was the establishment of the native high courts. These have been of some real use inasmuchas they have served to lift one corner of the previously impenetrable veil which concealed that loathsomeness of native law and its administration.
Cases in these courts are reported in the public press. We shall if possible forward with this a few colonial papers containing reports of such cases, and also the opinions of the colonists as expressed in editorial remarks. The expressions used in this court even by the judges themselves will show more forcibly than anything we could assert the reality of the slavery of native women.
We are acquainted with a case which not only exhibits the action of native law in these courts, but which shows how hopeless is the thraldom to their elders in which not girls alone, but also married men are held and particularly married women purchased with their father-in-law’s cattle. As the man concerned is at present absent from this neighbourhood we cannot now send the particulars, but we will obtain and forward them so soon as he returns.
As proceedings under native law are not reported except in the high court before mentioned its ordinary administration forms a secret as profound as the proceedings of the Venetian ‘council of ten.’ Native law is entirely unwritten and consists solely of customs originating presumably in the will of the chief now confirmed by long continuance.
Under such a system, it would seem, there need be no limit to beneficial change, and that a courageous and honest magistrate might act in such a way as to repress licentious and savage customs, to instill civilized ideas, and gradually assimilate native customs to English law.
For instance, it is well known that a large proportion of the cases relate to the sale of women, and young men have often to pay for as far back as their grandmothers. This is necessary under the present administration of native law to secure legitimacy, and the right of inheritance to their own children. Why should not the governor as supreme chief issue a proclamation, that these debts should not be recoverable in any court, but shall be placed on the same footing that the English law places debts of honour. So far from the native department being governed by civilized and progressive ideas, those of a precisely opposite cast appear to prevail, since the modifications of native law introduced by that office are by no means improvements. As an example we refer once more to a conversation of Mr John Shepstone (page 30) in which he asserts that any woman who has borne a child to her husband (or …) may then go and be married to another man. This statement seems so utterly monstrous that we took an early opportunity to enquire into its truth, of two very intelligent natives, they confirmed it with this important addition, that the government has modified the ancient custom, for among the Zulus in such a case the child remained with the husband, and if the woman married again the cattle were paid to her father; but under this government, if the woman married again the child went to her father, and the cattle were taken by the former purchaser. Thus under the British regime even more than under that of the savage Zulu himself, a married woman becomes a mere article of merchandise. We contend that all the credit the native department or its chief has obtained for the peacefullness of the colony for the last 30 years, could have been acquired and maintained without pandering to the kaffirs most degrading passions.
The bulk of the native population, is gathered in exclusive locations, generally consisting of the most rugged and inaccessible portions of the country, rarely traversed by the colonists, and where no white men live except a few missionaries and in a few isolated cases a magristrate and where therefore the presence of civilization has no influence and affords no check to native barbarity. Unompapu and Maluasi were tortured within fifteen miles of Maritzburg yet the facts would probably never have come to the knowledge of the authorities but that a young man chanced to speak of the occasion in the presence of Micah Mkwananzi who reported to us. Since this is so how many similar cases may occur in remoter places of which neither the magistrate nor any one else hear, and as in the case of Gencane the punishment was so miserably inadequate, what security have we, that in cases where no white witnesses are present the culprits are not disciplined with a reprimand?
When a woman steadfastly resists a marriage contrary to her inclination the Zulus have a custom of tying, or holding her, hand and foot, while she is ravished by her purchaser. A case of this kind occurred about three years ago near [Pmetown?] (11 miles from Durban) when the culprits escaped conviction on a charge of rape only because owning to the darkness the woman could not swear to their identity. If a deed like this could be done so near the port of Durban itself who can tell what unimagined horrors may be always going on in the depths of the locations?
The dealings of the native department with chiefs living beyond the border are as well concealed as their doings within the colony. A few years ago, we think about the time of Cetywayo’s coronation, an agreement was made with him of the existence of which, comparatively few of the colonists are aware. By it in case of any of the Zulu girls taking refuge in Natal, whenever they marry they are paid for in the usual way but the cattle are taken by the Natal government and handed over to Cetywayo!
It would appear that this arrangement is made an engine of the most abominable tyranny and wickedness. Every now and then we hear the most horrible charges brought against the native police in connection with refugee women, such as that when the first husband of a refugee is … in payment, the woman is forced away to another purchaser who pays promptly. In such cases the first husband is probably he for whose sake she left her native land. But owning to the mystery in which all native matters are involved it is impossible to discover if the charges are ever even investigated by the government. We can therefore make no positive statements on these points, but they surely form proper subjects of inquiry for your honourable Society and the imperial parliament, our own legislative assembly being powerless.
For a considerable distance along the Zulu frontier there runs a large tract of country which is a kafir location. It is by no means certain the there, the security we strictly suppose to attach to all British soil is inviolate. We have heard a dreadful story of a refugee woman being delivered up to her pursuers and murderer but we do not venture to give it from memory. We have written to the eyewitness who related it and whenever he gives us the particulars we will forward them with any further matter we may obtain.
We may now mention that Mr H John Brooks who signed the letter to the magistrate in Unompapu’s case and who has a considerable knowledge of the Zulu language is now at Dublin studying medicine in Trinity College, he may be addressed by letter. Mr Henry Crouch, 34 Strand, London, the gentleman through whom we shall forward this letter, not that we have reason to suspect the post office of tampering with letters, but we fear so large a packet addressed to your Society might form a temptation too great for them to resist.
If the imperial government be not prepared to recommend or sanction so much change as the early part of this letter suggests, a much smaller measure would yet afford great relief. If law 28 1865 itself were but honestly enforced that would be something, but if its provisions were a little relaxed much good might be done. At present they are practically almost prohibitive, for no native could draw up his petition without assistance, and few colonist have the leisure if they have the will and the patience to take the trouble involved in procuring the necessary signatures, especially as it may all have to be repeated time after time owning to the frivolous objections of the native department. This is especially the case with girls, who are not at all likely to be so well acquainted with any justice of the peace as for him to be able conscientiously to answer for their character. If the signature of a juryman were sufficient as in the case of a male, it would be possible through still very difficult to bring them out. Married natives exempted from the operation of native law should also be eligible for the office of guardian to such exempted girls, as well as persons of European descent. Indeed the exempted natives seem to be the most natural and proper guardians since being better acquainted than Europeans with the habits of native girls they should be better able to shield them from temptation and danger.
Instead of there being three stages provided, at each of which a petition may be arbitrarily rejected (see 4, 9 & 13 Law 28 1865), the granting of the petition should be made a matter of course, and the letter of exemption issued with no more delay than is necessary to verify the statements and signatures.
A protective clause should also be provided, securing young women from persecution by their relatives or natural guardians while the petition remains under investigation. We may hope this would scarcely be required among the Makolwa but it would be absolutely necessary in the case of girls whose natural guardians remained heathens. But better than all these amendments of a bad law would it be if the cumbrous machinery of law 28 1865 were abolished, and the natives allowed to place themselves under English law in the same manner as other aliens by paying a fee of five shillings and taking one oath of allegiance before a magistrate or justice of the peace after due notice had been given to the Lieut Governor. It would also be necessary to appoint an age at which girls might be naturalized independently of their natural guardians. As at present boys are allowed to act for themselves at the age of 16 we would suggest the age of fourteen as suitable for the girls. It would be advisable to allow them to apply for letters of naturalization at an early age, lest their natural guardians should sell them to prevent it. Your Society will perceive that such young girls would require a guardian. As regards the men as they have nothing to gain except power to live [securely?], the desire to become a British subject is a sufficient proof of their fitness for it.
We are taking measures to bring this subject before the legislative council in the approaching session; but [constituted?] as the council is we have very little hope of anything being done in the matter.
In the mean time every day is of importance to Unuimbye, who may at any moment be hurried away to the almost certainty of torture, as we have heard that proposals have been made for her sale, which we are sure she would resist to the uttermost, as she is determined never to marry under native law, and is besides attached to Masiyana, to whom she has been engaged for some time. We are therefore afraid to venture on any delay in making an appeal to your Society.
We appeal to the great British nation, the traditionary foe of slavery, to wipe from her scutcheon the foul blot, to put away the sin and the shame that in one of the fairest of her colonies, Christian women, our fellow subjects, are bought and sold. She who seeks to penetrate the remotest depths of Africa to free the slaves of other nations, will she not liberate her own?
We appeal to your honourable Society, the professed champion of oppressed natives. We appeal to every Christian man and Christian woman in the Realm of Britannia in the name of our Master who gave his life to set the captives free, to lend their aid in rescuing our sisters in the lord and his free women from the foul chains of heathen and savage laws.
We have the honour to be
Your obedient servants
Ellen Martha Adams
* Makolwa literally means believers, in practice it is applied to professedly Christian natives always accustomed to wear clothes and partially civilized.
** He was born in Basutoland