Samuel Atkinson to Earl Carnarvon, 5 April 1876
Archive location: Bodleian Libraries, MSS. Brit. Emp. s. 18 / C125 – 49
Author(s): Samuel Atkinson
Recipient(s): Earl of Carnarvon
Sent from: South African Republic
Date: 5 April 1876
Transvaal Republic, South Africa
April 5 1876
To the Right Honorable Earl Carnarvon
Having heard that you are soon to meet in conferences upon South African affairs with President Brand of the Orange Free State – an honest man and gentleman – and with President Burgers of the South African Republic, of which Republic for the last 8 years I have been a resident of, therefore the reason of my writing to you being very much disgusted with the Govt and people generally for their dishonesty and wrong done the natives which is a disgrace to a people calling themselves and considered by such gentlemen as Campbell Johnstone Esq, Mayor Nicholson and Mr Froude as Christians, neither the former no even the latter gentn however far sighted he may be into the characters of men can form the slightest opinion without he stayed years instead of weeks amongst them, what a false hippocritical Psalm singing lot of rogues the people generally and Govt are, as they will assert any thing however false, and swear any way to serve their own purposes.
I have heard that when the English Govt granted the Dutch Boers liberty to form a Republic here, it was upon the express understanding that they did not injure molest or enslave the natives, all of which considerations they have entirely set at naught for they have shamefully used the natives by forcing them off the land they and their fore fathers have occupied for generations before the Dutch came into the country, thereby causing thousands upon thousands of them to remove far into the interior. And if this has not been done in all cases by force of arms – guns and powder – it has been accomplished by a systematic plan by first asking the natives permission to hunt over their ground or country and when obtaining such to erect beacons or survey the lands for farms when the Govt has readily granted title deeds to the people individually, they composing the Govt from President to his groom, after which when it either suited the Govt people and they wished to occupy such farms or land if not driving the natives off with guns they made it so unpleasant they could not remain, so by degrees the Govt which is the people have robbed the natives of millions of acres. This is how so many insolent speculators have secured land by the two hundred thousand acres individually which has not cost them a half penny per acres indeed in many cases only a few shillings to the Govt for the paper the title deed is written upon, but as such as comprise the Govt have secured their farms equally cheaply they dare not deny private individuals the same privileges, and again the Govt nap a benefit by receiving a quitrent of a few shillings yearly upon the farms so robbed from natives and given to their people and friends. See Eurepean Mail of Oct 25th 1875 of a well known individual in Natal who advertise two hundred thousand acres for sale, and undoubtedly the Govt can deposit with you the English Govt or any other Governments title deeds for millions of acres of land so obtained to make railways from Delagoa Bay all through and round the Republic if any Govt or capitalists are fools enough to lend their money upon such for any security such a people and Govt may promise. As to getting the land in case the Govt fail to pay interest is a question of long waiting probably much longer than even the grand time Mr President Burgers spoke of when in Holland that this Republic would eclipse the fatherland and have eight millions of inhabitants, which I judge may occur a few years before the end of the world, undoubtedly then if eight millions of inhabitants are people of the same honourable class as the present occupiers of the country they will be enabled to exterminate the natives and hold the land robbed furtherhence.
I wish to give a further account of this religious christian people and Govt. After robbing the natives of their land they think it right to make them pay a hut tax of (2?) each but here again is a great injustice with the exception of such natives as live upon land near the towns in the (South?) such could better afford to pay three points than others can (3?) who live far away from markets or European people who consider it right to pay others for what they provided, with Dutch people here it is not the case, if natives live upon their land or such land of the natives as the Govt has granted a little to, they consider what a native grows is theirs, except barely sufficient to keep life and soul in the natives, so they can give their work and services to these noble white men, and this again at a nominal rate about a fifth of what natives receive in the Cape Colony or Natal, for in the latter Colony the natives have the privilege of selling their produce to whom they please realizing an excellent price for everything produced by them, also are protected by the Government to work for whom they please and where they please at enormous wages getting two or three times as much wages as English labourers for one third of the work done, this owning to the scarcity of labour and independence of the natives in the Colony, therefore the natives in the Colony under the English Govt can all better afford to pay four pounds per each hut than natives in the Republic can, with the exception of such as live near the Towns. Although I am necessitated to bring under your notice the wrong done the nantives in the Repuclica, I cannot speak much in favour of the kafirs called natives in Natal for from my long knowledge of them and residence in Natal they now get upon an average four times more wages each than formerly and generally do about half as much work a day as formerly. That is when employed upon the farm or land, also they are becoming far more dishonest, idle, and wicked, and are ready at any opportunity to rebel against the Government and cut all the white people’s throats in the country. And I do not hesitate saying if the Govt does not shortly alter their over lenient policy as administered at the present time by the magistrates, there is safe to be an outbreak, and the end of it will be they will get shot down as dogs, and from my many years residence amongst the natives in Natal and those adjoining tribes, I do not hesitate saying the only way to benefit them is to be very severe when ever offending, but still be strictly just and honest in all dealings with them. Years ago when I used to visit King Umpanda for trading purposes I have heard him say his people were only dogs, and of when they stole or broke the laws, if he did not punish them with death they would soon eat him up or kill him, and I firmly believe it, also the Govt or man that is over lenient or kind to an uncivilized kafir or native when doing wrong, is generally speaking the greatest enemy he can have. Old King Umpanda for a savage or uncivilized black I found a most sensible and I believe just man, at least I found him so.
Before I conclude I must inform you that as the Dutch Boers dare not rob any other tribes beyond what they have upon either the East, North or West side of the Republic it is said about fifteen hundred are gone or going to the Damaras on the West coast where undoubtedly if there, or elsewhere they will adopt their previous practice first get permission to stay and hunt and when opportunity offers and that they find they are strong enough they will treat the natives as they have done in the Republic, rob them of their land and home, report say also these people are going beyond the Zambezi, one of them that are going told me it was Damaraland on the West Coast however let it be whenever it may. I think myself and feel that every honest Englishman will coincide with me that a powerful nation like England ought to appoint a Commission to investigate what I have stated about the Boers in the republic having so shamefully robbed the natives, and I doubt not if found that the English Government is in earnest in making their investigation I doubt not plenty will be found to confirm what I have written. Gordon Cumming if living would confirm it as he used to hunt by permission of the natives. Dr Livingstone would also and probably Dr Moffat although he was when in South Africa located far to the west of the Republic.
If necessary I beg to give you the right of making some inquiries as to whom I am who dare to write what I have. I have been a resident of this Republic and Natal upwards of 26 years. I was formerly residing at (Barsham?) Hall and (Beasles?) in Suffolk was known to the Revd A.I. Suckling, Rector of Barsham, Revd I.I. Wilson (afterwards known as Lord (Berners?), E. Gooch Esq, son of Sir (Ths Gooch Bart?). Any or all of the Gent if living would give me a character for respectability and veracity and John Gordon Esq of Redisham Hall Suffolk who was High Sheriff at that time can confirm it as I had when leaving his and their testimonials to this effect if I wanted to use them for my advancement. I however never did use such prefering to get a position by my own labour unaided.
But … which may never occur again I trust you as the head of the English Govt will enquire into the subject mentioned above, and see justice done the natives for undoubtedly its through the English Govt allowing the Dutch Boers to form a Republic here has caused the wrong, and now is a favourable time to repair the injury and take back the country, as the people are not greatly divided though the proceedings of Mr President Burgers who through it may not be President much longer.
I am aware for writing what I have although strictly correct if known to Mr President Burgers’ Govt I am liable to be imprisoned for life but I rely upon your and the English Govt’s honor and love of justice, if so imprisoned to cause my liberation.
You great servent
Saml (Emms?) Atkinson
I beg to say I have forwarded a copy of this to Mr F.W. Chesson Secretary to the Aborigines Protection Society with other enclosings which go far to substantiate all I have written.