Edmund Bourdillon to Frederick Chesson, 8 October 1884

Edmund Bourdillon to Frederick Chesson, 8 October 1884

Archive location: Bodleian Libraries, MSS. Brit. Emp. s. 18 / C126 – 64

Author(s): Edmund Bourdillon

Recipient(s): Frederick Chesson

Sent from: Orange Free State

Date: 8 October 1884


Oct 8 1884

E. Bourdillon


F.W. Chesson Esq




[I have written to the Standard on the general principles in which in your letter …?] But considering the narrow limits of the interests connected with this [particular] case, I have thought it best to write to you personally, and hope you may make any use you like of the letter in the interests of truth. In [view?] you may be certain of my … and my humanity beg you will enquire of me of the Rev George Howard Wright clerical superintendent of the Church of England Temperance Society who has known me for more than 25 years.


You say I make a grave inaccuracy in speaking of Sepmare and Samuel as ‘nominal’ sons of Moroka. I do not know what else I could call them. Sepmare never laid claim neither anyone I know on his …, to being Moroka’s own son, he was as you say born before Moroka took his mother to wife, and if you have all the information you profess you must know that there is grave doubt as to Samuel’s being Moroka’s own child. Thus I could only call them ‘nominal’ and by native custom they were both that.


Samuel was never ‘ousted’ from his captaincy because he was never in possession. For five years before Moroka’s death Sepmare was Regent, and during this time Samuel was never put forward nor trusted with any authority, at the time of Moroka’s death Sepmare was in possession, and the President as arbiter gave it to Sepmare as the one chosen … by Moroka as his successor. It was no judgement on rights for with the … of polygamy there can be no such thing among the natives as we understand hereditary rights, and as a matter of fact … is a change of successor without a dispute.


There is no doubt also that the President had the character of the two men in his mind. Samuel as we all know too well is weak terribly weak, and here in his own country terribly given over to drink, a pleasant fellow in himself but with no moral power as is sadly evidenced by the late [transactions?]. Sepmare on the other hand was in intelligence and ability a head … [it shows only too plainly the … on which Samuel worked?].


Samuel and his people left [their stock and goods behind by their own act?], there would have been no objection to their remaining after the …open rebellion, my own … had all their friends in the country ever since though they are staunch Samuelites and I have never heard that they have been badly treated in any way.


Samuel was not received by President Brand on his return from Europe owing his own excessive impertinence, the President is the last man to be … to anyone black or white, I have no doubt myself that his visit to England has a great deal to do with the development of his …


Samuel at this time had no right to demand any assistance from the O.F.S. he had already caused them considerable expense and annoyance, and has received from them an unrequited asylum. He was allowed to live not nearer than 8 … from the Barolong border, the honorable manner in which he returned this permission you now know. It is a native law that anyone leaving the country has to leave some of his stock behind in the chief’s hands, this is all Sepmare demanded.


You abuse my wording when you say I describe Sepmare as a ‘model chief always leaning to the side of mercy’ … I know from personal knowledge that Sepmare was a model as compared to any other chiefs with whom I am acquainted and … he was naturally tenderhearted. Did Samuel ever tell you how above his fellows; self educated he was observant and very well informed, and had … positive between the white and coloured races.  In their own land there was no comparison likewise … too as rulers. … Sepmare had as I know only too well all the inhonest faults of his race.


Samuel tried to asperse President Brand’s character by … vile … with reference to the …. President Brand does not require a defence from … but when he used to be lying drunk before Moroka’s door and the old chief would … our with his kerrie to thrash him … time after time … the old man and got Samuel carried home. Or how when Samuel and [Boyadu?] were hidden in a hut after their … and Sepmare’s men wanted to burn them our and still then Sepmare would not allow them to do so but let them escape in their …, and it is a fact that had Sepmare had his way no life would have been lost.


Although all my prejudices would naturally bee on the side of Samuel as a Xtian and Churchman, I have to admit as to personal qualities he cannot compare to poor old Sepmare.


Samuel is in good hands now and his imprisonment will do him no harm, I think he will very likely get … legal points, though I can see no reason myself why as a Free State resident he cannot be tried for the murder and mutilation of a friendly chief. Especially as our treaty with that chief [covers?] the trial of Free State residents for acts committed in his territory by Free State courts. 


[Thabanchu?] was not absolutely independent, no native territory situated as … was with regard to a civilized country could be. … Free State was [evidently?] answerable for the peace and … of the country.


I am afraid you and your Society have a good deal to answer for in the present condition of the native races in S.A. It is very distressing for people like myself who have so striven to … and soften the inevitable consequences of their influence … their European neighbours, whence all our works undone by well meaning people 6000 miles away who have no personal experience or knowledge, and who are only too ready to listen to all the stories brought there of native distress and European persecution.


If only Englishmen would believe their brothers do not become wild beasts on leaving their native shores it would be a step in the right direction. 


I hope you will take this as it is meant and accept my very best wishes for yourself and your society in protection work, though I do not much like what seems to me your present work of extermination. I shall always be glad to correspond with you on native matters.


Yours truly

E. Bourdillon