John William Akerman to James Edward Carlyle, 5 October 1876

John William Akerman to James Edward Carlyle, 5 October 1876

Archive location: Bodleian Libraries, MSS. Brit. Emp. s. 18 / C123 – 80

Author(s): John William Akerman

Recipient(s): Frederick Chesson

Sent from: Natal

Date: 5 October 1876

Copy of letter to Carlyle


J Akerman

Oct 5 76


18 Holles Street

Cavendish Square

London Oct 5 1876


… T.E. Carlyle


My dear Sir,


I have just perused your long letter in the ‘Times’ of this day with very much pain and regret. From my present official position here as well as on account of the personal complication such a [procedure?] might involve I restrain myself at present from giving that public contradiction to some of its statements which perhaps it is my duty to do. I think you will agree with me that commendation or flattery of public man can be regarded as lawful only when resting on the solid basis of fact as a foundation for the [tinselled?] superstructure. Now I put it to you whether or not from the facts your short residence in Africa has enabled you to collect you can, as a Christian minister and on reflection, justly eulogise Mr Shepstone’s native policy as you do today in the Times. Are you not aware of the statement made publicly in the Legislative Council of Natal by a clergyman, and only last November himself too a nominee of the government, when discussing the native bill, that a Christian native woman married by himself had been compelled to declare all her offspring through borne in wedlock bastards in order to retain them at all. Are you not aware of the despatch of a kaffir to the Matabela country by Mr Shepstone and the … it occasioned? Has not Mr Shepstone’s policy been one altogether of segregation, and isolation of the caffre, and rendered less mischievous from time to time than it otherwise would have been, just in proportion as that policy has been frustrated or amended by opposition and agitation or influence of commercial contract. Would it not be the testimony of five sixths of the missionaries of Natal were they but free to speak which you known they are not that the Shepstonian kaffir policy has been in the past and is now eminently an anti-Christian one? I could put these questions in greater numbers and force even than this. The late Mr Allison one of the oldest and best of missionaries in S. Africa has repeatedly lamented to me the ill-effect produced on the native mind by the Shepstonian policy and declared it to be both within and without the colony the greatest bar to religion amongst the natives. After a residence there of 26 years I concur very much with his opinions. You will recollect that Mr Allison sent many native evangelists to the interior. Again do you really believe that the Natal native department which is so timorous of its own subjects that it hesitates to impose a necessary and enacted [log-tax?]; and fears to exact rent from kaffir squatters on crown lands both of which facts are within your knowledge and known likewise to Cetwayo; has any real personal influence on this chief? I am sure that such is not the case, while the tin-pot coronation of Cetwayo is laughed at every where, except where the farce has been used to make capital of. That from Natal as healthy centre ought to radiate forth the Chistianizing agencies necessaary for Central Africa I cordially admit, and herein you and I concur; but to render this operative, Natal as a British colony and type should be exemplary which she is not under her present vicious native government, and never never will become so, so long as the fashion remains to eulogise those functionaries who have mainly contributed to building up the existing state of things, or to support their action.


It grieves me to write thus strongly in condemnation to one with whom I have more than once co-operated in public with pleasure; but I cannot avoid, in view of your letter so injurious to the true interests of South Africa, and having the well being of the colony at heart, penning this short remonstrance.


I am

My dear Sir

Yours faithfully