John William Akerman to Frederick Chesson, 30 April 1877

John William Akerman to Frederick Chesson, 30 April 1877

Archive location: Bodleian Libraries, MSS. Brit. Emp. s. 18 / C123 – 84

Author(s): John William Akerman

Recipient(s): Frederick Chesson

Sent from: Natal

Date: 30 April 1877

PMBurg Natal

April 30 1877


Dear Mr Chesson,


After a passage of 21 days to … delays there … we reached Natal in 35 days, much exhausted by sea sickness which continued the whole way. I trust you got my letter written near St Helena. As I desire and hope that the Transvaal proceedings of Shepstone will form a topic for debate in the commons. I trouble you now with a few thoughts therein and should like you to drop a line to or interview such men as Grand-Duff and other M.P.s who would like to have a say. Now I am one of those who think that despite interested shopkeepers and landjobbers (two most notorious of these latter are positively on Shepstone’s staff) good might be made to result from the assumption of British rule there. But certainly not if that rule is to inaugurate a repetition of the Natal native policy. What I want to point out is the following.


1. What right had Lord C to give … powers to Shepstone on Oct 5 to take a country under British rule as large as [Persia? Russia?] and with such [responsibilities?] for [defence?]


2. If the Natal Govt had been able to restrain Cetwayo and his massacres which they pretend to the world through Shepstone and the press could could do, why had they not adapted this course in preference to the one followed which amounts really to using the assegai of the Zulu savage in terrorism to compel the Transvaal to surrender. In short the Canada scalping knife and red Indian over again. A more degraded mode of dealing with a semi civilized people by savage means and in the sight of savages, it Is impossible to conceive. How much of respect can these savages have for the British Govt with such scenes before them. It may suit their … vices and love of idleness to ask for British sovereignty, but such a motive is purely selfish. Above I say to ask why was Cetwayo not the first dealt with by those hordes of British troops now pouring in? And this is putting it in a lenient form. I believe I should be much nearer the truth were I to make a charge against this Govt or part of it of having incited the movements of Cetwayo so as to form an excuse for that really has been a forcible taking of the Transvaal. Bp Colenso, whom I have seen and some others fully believe … that such a charge as well founded; and for myself you know I told you in London that this was my conviction. … in either of these cases I care not which, 1, British troops being here the non-restraint of this slaughtering Zulu chief, or 2, on the other hand if true, the nefarious employment of the wretch for the destruction of life and political freedom, either of such occuring before the eyes of these savage nations, and I believe that both have occurred, what think they of British honor? The fact is it was a reproach both to Britain and S Africa when to a man of Shepstone’s [gruelling?] views we entrusted this mission. But look at his address. He, the anti… of Natal and its destroyer, informs the Boers, many of whom are but pious men, that because they have not civilized or Christianized the natives, ergo he must take them! An … piece of quacking like this will take well in your market unless gentlemen like yourself and M.P.s with you will boldly expose the charlatanism of the whole procedure. All Natal and Cape too while hoping that good out of evil may be worked are at heart aghast at the proceedings of Lord C and his real instigator Sir G. Wolsely, Shepstone being a ready made instrument in their hands.


With kind regards, your very truly

J.W. Akerman


Do stir up this matter