Eugene Casalis to Frederick Chesson, 21 March 1879

Eugene Casalis to Frederick Chesson, 21 March 1879

Archive location: Bodleian Libraries, MSS. Brit. Emp. s. 18 / C128 – 61

Author(s): Eugene Casalis

Recipient(s): Frederick Chesson

Sent from: France

Date: 21 March 1879

Paris 21 March 1879


My dear Mr Chesson,


Up to the middle of February our missionaries had not the slightest idea that there was a prospect of a Basuto rising. The tribe had been much surprised and grieved when it was announced that government intended to disarm them, but seeing that the plan was not carried out and that it was no more spoken of, they began to feel reassured. The only cause of uneasiness was the case of Morosi, an ancient vassal of Moshesh, the headman of the Baputis, a mixture of Basutos and cafers, living on the south south east border of the country, a rather independent set as is generally the case on the extreme frontiers. One of Morosi’s sons having stolen horses (I don’t know whether it was from colonists or other natives) had been sentenced to 4 years of convict labour by the English magistrate of the district. Morosi, with the assistance of the gaoler let his son escape and refused to deliver him up when summoned to do so by the magistrate. The matter took then a serious aspect, which here in Europe has appeared still more ominous from the newspapers making no distinction between Morosi’s clan and the Basuto people properly so called. 


On the 12 February, my son Dr. Casalis wrote to me as follows:


‘Tout le pays est fort tranquille. Mr Griffith (the head magistrate of all Basutoland) est venue la semaine derniere faire visite a Letsie (the eldest son and successor of Moshesh). Il a pause une nuit ches nous et nous a assure qu il n’avout jamous ete plus satisfait qu en cette occasion des sentiments de loyaute des Basoutos. Il a demande a Letsie de vegler l’affaire de Morosi et le vieng chef a envoye des menagen a cet effet.’


[Google translate: The whole country is very peaceful. Mr Griffith (the head magistrate of all Basutoland) came last week to visit Letsie (the eldest son and successor of Moshesh). He took a break one night with us and assured us that he was never more satisfied than on this occasion with the feelings of loyalty of the Basoutos. He asked Letsie to take care of the Morosi case and the old boss sent messages to this effect.]


I read today in the Galignam’s Messenger: ‘A body of Basutos around the Telle on the 8th inst (March) stole two horses and fired on the colonial forces. They were however put to rout and lost twenty men killed and wounded. Mr Griffith with 2000 loyal Basutos arrived immediately after this encounter.’


This is without the slightest doubt the issue of Morosi’s affair, for he lives near the river Telle, or rather Tele. Next mail will, I think, bring letters of our missionaries explaining how it is that the interference of Letsie has not had for effect to make the hostilities impossible. But the dispatch proves that the Basutos as a people and their paramount chief Letsie remain loyal and faithful to the English government; otherwise Mr Griffith could not have had at a moment’s notice 2000 Basuto supporters at his disposal.


I am perfectly convinced that the only means of bringing to a speedy and safe issue the fearful crisis through which South Africa is passing, is to show confidence in the tribes who have given proofs of loyalty and of their desire to improve their conditions in peace by instruction and work. In that respect none can be compared to the Basutos.


Believe me, dear Mr Chesson,

Yours truly,

E. Casalis


26 rue des Posses Saint Jacques