William Jesser Coope to Frederick Chesson, 1 February 1888

William Jesser Coope to Frederick Chesson, 1 February 1888

Archive location: Bodleian Libraries, MSS. Brit. Emp. s. 18 / C129 – 29

Author(s): William Jesser Coope

Recipient(s): Frederick Chesson

Sent from: England

Date: 1 February 1888

Walton Lodge Hampton Hill
Feb 1st 1888

Dear Mr Chesson,

My time has been so taken up with the political side of the Maoota question that I fear I have somewhat neglected the philanthropic side.

Since my private interview with Sir Henry Holland and Lord Onslow various influential persons I feel that my political mission has been fulfilled and my promise to the Mappota Queen redeemed; viz, to make her case known to the people of England. I can now therefore, under the able guidance of your society, throw myself entirely into the liquor question. And I don’t think I can make a better beginning than by giving you a few facts.

The Queen herself is a total abstainer and is doing her best to bring up her son ‘Gwanazi’ , the young king, in the same way. But she is also a politic woman and knows that, with her son tenure of power somewhat uncertain, it would be unwise to bring this question too prominently forward, since an unnatural craving for what they know is destroying their race has taken such a hold on many of her principal Indunas. Privately she urges Mr [Grautham?] to take upon himself the odium of suppressing the sale of liquor. This he has not hesitated to do, and with effect; so much so that through his influence a Mr Franks was compelled to close one by one all the brothels drink shops he had lately opened in the southern part of Mapootaland, where the evil had before penetrated. This opportune step alone has, for a time, saved a … of the kafir race from demoralization. Meanwhile Mr [Gauthaus’s?] unceasing warnings have not been … away upon the Mappotas, the race most gifted with reasoning power of all the South African aborigines, and who through his teaching are now convinced that the decay of their nation is being caused by liquor. Thus it is that, altho the old [lopers?] have not the strength to overcome their personal cravings, many of them admit the wisdom of Mr [Granthius’?] words. But it is amongst the young men that his good work has had the best results. As a proof of this I will state my own experience. I send down fifty young men to construct the telegraph line for the Delagoa Railway. The only qualification I required in them was that they should have had experience of this kind of work before. They had all therefore been working in Natal or the Cape Colony. I was, I can assure you, much pleased and not a little surprised when I learnt afterwards that 13 of the 50 had declined their allowance of rum, being abstainers from conviction.

This one hopeful fact alone gave me sufficient encouragement to proceed on the mission the Queen was pressing upon me, and I trust it may have the same inspiring effect upon your society and the other societies associated with you in this good cause.

I will now try to bring home to you some of the evil effects of this curse.

The whole country lying between Delagoa Bay the Lebombos and the Mapoota River is debauched by this liquor traffic. The morals of the people, like those of the Portuguese natives, have broken down under it, and chastity seems to be an unknown quantity in this the district awarded to Portugal by Marshal MacMahon, tho not yet surrendered to her. The women are mostly barren, the youth have decayed teeth before they are men, are indolent and emaciated.

A few Portuguese and one German store [(Brukeius)?] were established some years ago on the South Eastern bank of the Mapoota river, and here also, even as far as the Queen’s kraal, the traces of the liquor are plainly visible in the sites of deserted kraals marked by heaps of cask hoops and broken bottles, and the same signs of physical decay in the people. I myself have seen babes of 2 and 3 years being drenched with the poison of their ignorant and besotted parents, and father will pledge their own daughters to precure sufficient money to enable them to indulge their craving for fire water.

When you get some ten miles away from the river bank and in a southerly direction you can see that you are leaving the liquor district, for here a marked improvement is dicernable in the tenor of the kraals, the demeanor of the people and the increase in the number of children.

Further south still the women are often the mothers of 7 or 8 children, and sterility seems to be the rare exception instead of the general rule. This is the district whence come the best laborers of South Africa, to whom the railway contractors of the Cape and Natal colonies gladly give 5p more per month than to other kafirs. They are a quicker, cleverer race than the Zulus or Xosa kafirs, with decided instincts for labour, well built and wiry. They have no opportunity of indulging in anything stronger than their own harmless beer.

Dropping the philanthropic side of the question and looking upon it only from a utilitarian point of view, what can be more unwise than to allow the destruction of this people to be brough about by the white man? It may certainly enable Portugal through the continuance of this course to keep in subjection the vast and populous territory which she cannot develop for the good of mankind, or turn to any practical use for herself, although she has had 3 centuries to do it in. But it will surely [sell?] heavily against those white people who like ourselves are looking for fresh openings for enterprise and the investment of capital. And in this way, we are told rightly that commercial depression is due in some measure to the security of gold in circulation, and consequently enterprise is being just now … in every quarter of the globe to bring more of the precious metal to light. Here in South Africa, a virgin country, we see being surely developed the richest and largest hold fields the world has ever known. For the [Barkerton, Malmami?] and Johannesburg district, stretching as they do across the continent, are only on the most southern fringe of the marvellous deposits proved to exist between the Limpopo and Zambezi, notably in Matabeleland, [Mashonaland?], and the … commonly called Umzila’s country. Now plentiful labor is one of the first essentials to the profitable working of quartz reefs, and you have in the Mapootas a limited number of excellent miners who are each physically worth three or four of the East coast natives subject to Portugal. The veritable [‘Troyas’?] who have already become hopelessly emasculated by centuries of the same process which is being pursued in the northern part of Mapootaland.

There can be no doubt in the mind of any thinking person that in course of time the South African gold fields will be in the hands of English capitalists, and that, if this poisin is not kept from these full grown children, it will be imperative to import coolie labor to work the mines.

Will you permit me in conclusion to say that a far greater question than the presentation of some 200,000 Mapootas is at the present moment in the hands of yours and other kindred societies. The Mapoota Queen offers England the [cause?], nay imposes a duty upon her, to negotiate with Portugal a treaty by which the importation of this … spirit along both east and west coast of Africa may be suppressed. Can any one who has personal experience of the evils of this trade doubt that this would be a greater boon to mankind than even the abolition was slavery was. I trust I have shewn its value from a utilitarian point of view.

Believe me dear Mr Chesson,
Yours faithfully
Wm Jesser Coope