J. Kirby to Frederick Chesson, 12 March 1885

J. Kirby to Frederick Chesson, 12 March 1885

Archive location: Bodleian Libraries, MSS. Brit. Emp. s. 18 / C139 – 249-251

Author(s): J. Kirby

Recipient(s): Frederick Chesson

Sent from: England

Date: 12 March 1885




12 March 1885


Dear Mr Chesson,


My African wanderer has sent the matter, copied in the enclosed, asking that it be ‘used in the cause.’ I send it hoping it may be interesting and useful. Kindly keep back all clue to the writer, as his last letter says he is a ‘suspected man,’ and Erasmus (field cornet of the district) is the one that took him prisoner during the Boer war, and used him very harshly, I know.


Are you aware that the Transvaal Govt have passed an act, legalizing the sale of arms and ammunition to the natives, for what purpose he does not know. It you are not aware of this, and it will appear of interest, I will send you a copy of the information. I sent it to ‘The Times’, but they did not insert it. I have since sent it to the Col Office.


I hope you are well, and remain,

Yours very truly

J. Kirby


F.W. Chesson Esq




[Inhlizio?] and Erasmus


About Nov 1883, one [Kerswell?], owner of [Sand River store?], sold all property and stock to the French Company of Delagoa Bay. Their manager is named [Joubert?], a low, mean fellow, who would do any dirty action to get a penny into his pocket.


Amongst the stock sold were two cows. It is not certain whether Kerswell knew or not where these cattle were, and he cannot be found to ask him. Joubert says ‘Kerswell did not know, but thought they were stolen.’ Inhlizio says Kerswell knew they were at his (I’s) kraal.


The cattle were in the habit of running loose, and eventually mixed with Inhlizio’s herds, which used to graze only 5 or 6 miles away. The mane who drove these two beasts away with the herd (instead of driving them back to their owner) was a native known by the Dutch name of Bok-Veldt. For many months they remained with Bok-Veldt who herded Inhlizio’s cattle; no application being made by Joubert for them, altho he lived so close. Joubert represents that, suddenly hearing they were in the possession of Inhlizio, he spoke to a half Dutchman named Wainwright, and they together applied to Erasmus for the recovery of the cattle and punishment of the thieves (?).


Accordingly Erasmus, with a field cornet called Dory, came accompanied by some police and quietly drove of every head of cattle (45 in all) belonging to Inhlizio. And further, he turned out a large quantity of grain and c, altho he well knew the natives were in a state of semi-starvation, owing to the failure of last years maize and kafir corn crops. Out of the 45, Erasmus kept 20 head, gave Dory 10 head, and Wainwright and Dory 15 head between them, as informers.


Inhlizio lives on the Insikazi river, near the [Lugcogesti?] mountain, in the Transvaal state. He has always paid his taxes and lived peaceably.


Even allowing Erasmus to have been justified in taking any cattle from Inhlizio without a trial, they should by rights have been sold and the proceeds have gone to the government.


The general opinion is, that if any one could afford to take the case to court against Erasmus, Inhlizio would win it.


One Sanderson, a hunter, states that there are many thieves at Inhlizio’s kraal, and that, while he is sorry for Inhlizio personally, the lesson was required. But the same man says that the Boers, lately wintering near him, have stolen many head of cattle from travellers, natives, and others, and they do it with impunity.




‘Tom’ and Capt Jackson Erasmus


In the year 1881, the brothers Sanderson, owners of the farm ‘Ceigton’ on the Saabi river, sold the property to a company for gold-mining purposes, the Co’s manager was one styling himself Captn Jackson, very generally distrusted and disliked. Large numbers of kafirs lived quietly on the farm, paying their sack of mealies yearly for hut tax, and supplying Sanderson with labour when wanted.


Displeased with Jackson’s treatment, many soon left the farm, and others left for having been loyal during the Boer War, and refusing to pay taxes to the Boers, were threatened with extermination, and forced to leave, all going away to the low country. Amongst those who stayed was one ‘Tom’, a native, certainly not bearing the best of character but a good worker and always civil. He states that Jackson’s dislike to him was caused by his conduct upon the occasion of an attempt of Jackson to interfere with his (Tom’s) wife. That does not bear upon the question, however. Jackson ordered Tom to leave. Tom refused, saying he had crops in and he must reap them first. Jackson then resorted to petty measures such as driving cattle into Tom’s crops and annoying in very possible way. Tom applied to Holboom, the gold commissioner, who have him a letter to Jackson, advising more lenient action towards his natives, and that Tom be allowed to stay and reap his crops.


Jackson replied in an insulting letter, that ‘such insolence would not be tolerated in any other country, as attempting to interfere between a proprietor and his natives.’ He then sent to Erasmus, and forwarded Holboom’s letter to the government. Holboom, though sympathizing with the Boers, is I believe a fair man.


Erasmus came; result, Tom had all his crops confiscated; was driven off the farm to a place of abode indicated by Erasmus; received 25 lashes, and was fined £16.10.0


This for a civil case, a mere matter (as we will allow it to have been) of trespass.


Surely comment is not necessary. One man told me that, had he not been present at the interview, Erasmus would have taken Tom’s cattle and goats as well. He however had lent Tom a plough and waggon, and was therefore there in his own interest, succeeding further in saving Tom’s few cattle for him, by claiming them as his own.


Tom is now living on Mr Glynn’s farm ‘Saabi Lala’, Mr Glynn having given him some ground to plough for his own use. Erasmus has not yet raised any objection to his entering Glynn’s employ.