Robert Lester to Frederick Chesson, 10 August 1884
Archive location: Bodleian Libraries, MSS. Brit. Emp. s. 18 / C140 – 96-97
Author(s): Robert Lester
Recipient(s): Frederick Chesson
Sent from: Cape Colony
Date: 10 August 1884
Cradock, Cape Colony
August 10 1884
F.W. Chesson Esq
Aborigines Protection Society
17 King William Street Charing Cross
I am again tempted to bring to the notice of your Society the shameful wrongs being inflicted in Africa upon the chief Montsioa and his loyal people. This chief was our faithful ally rendering the English every assistance in his power during the Boer Rebellion. The disgraceful way in which Mr Gladstone have the rebel Boers all they asked. And abandoned all loyal men, leaving them at the mercy of Boers, a class of men who never show mercy to anyone is now matter of history, but Mr Gladstone’s government it seems has not even yet stooped low enough. England is to be still further disgraced in the eyes of the whole world, by the abandonment of our faithful ally Montsioa and his tribe to be done to death by the Boers. The only fault this man has is that he stood by England and the English during the late rebellion. Surely England should stand by him in return now but what does England under Gladstone do. Why she appoints Mr Mckenzie as British Resident in Montsioa’s country he having expressed a hope that England would accept him and his tribe under her sway, but leaves her Resident Mckenzie without means to protect himself against these brutal Boers, and still less able to protect Monstioa. Mr Mckenzie has been already assulted and will most likely be shot in the end by these murderers and thieves who since the disgraceful surrender of … and retreat of the troops ordered by Gladstone actually believe themselves more than a match for England. Of course this is absurd but their grave ignorance misled by the acts of Mr Gladstone’s government makes them believe it and if they did not believe it they would not dare act towards Montsioa, who has been taken under the protection of England, as they are doing. See enclosed newspaper cuttings. Rooi Grond means Red Ground a ground red with blood and the Boers occupy this ground at present and have slaughtered about 100 of Montsioa’s people who however defended themselves as best they could unarmed and on foot and shot 35 of the Boers, who really want to take their country and cattle and enslave them. And hate Mckenzie because he represents England and would like to protect England’s poor deserted ally. Not satisfied with the murder of these 100 poor unprotected natives you will see by another telegram that they the Boers have since captured as the paper has it, but stollen would be the proper word 3000 head of their cattle that means all the livestock they possess, and as to their grain the Boers have already reaped all they have and taken it away. So now having murdered 100 of these poor people who are told by Mckenzie they are under England’s protection, by stealing all their food they the Boers hope and intend to starve the rest of the tribe into submission. When they will take their land away and divide it amongst themselves and indenture the late owners as servants amongst the captors, in other words enslave them. And this is the treatment England, under Gladstone, allows Boers to inflict on her late allies and present subjects to whom she has promised protection, but leaves Mckenzie without power to protect except by the issue of a Proclamation at which the Boers laugh. Yet this poor deserted native chief deserves a better fate for you will see he has acted throughout in a manly and honourable way, and has fought them unassisted and afterwards refused to come to their terms saying he is under the British Government and they will support him. Support him, indeed, not the present English government unless you take the matter up warmly. Gladstone would stand by and see them all murdered, and shake hands afterwards with the murderers, as he has, so to say, done before after the late Rebellion. Alas the poor colonists all mourn the loss of the late Lord Beaconsfield. If he were still alive, he should have justice done. But if Gladstone only lives long enough we are satisfied he will ruin England both at home and abroad. He is far advanced in years, and therein lies our only hope but the way these poor native allies are being abandoned is simply ‘cruelly disgraceful’.
I remain Dear Sir
Barrister at Law
Please do not make my name public or my lifewould not be safe amongst these Boers. There will be a rebellion here some day and the Boers, or Africanders, as they call themselves, will attempt to retake the Cape, remake it into a Dutch Boer Republic, and god help both English, Coloureds, and natives, if that comes to pass. But even in such a case, I fully believe Gladstone would do nothing to assist either English or natives.
Please excuse this scrawl being in haste to save …
‘Proclamation Re Bechuanaland
A proclamation has been received from Mr McKenzie by the Independent stating that Her Majesty having established jurisdiction over Bechuanaland, thus including the country recently known as Stellaland, and whereas disturbers of public peace are inciting the ignorant to cattle stealing, disturbance, and war, the Deputy Commissioner stringently forbids the assembling of armed men in any part of Bechuanaland, for any unlawful purposes. It further makes known that all who thus unlawfully assemble or are guilty of treason, rebellion, riot, or other opposition to the Queen’s Government, after the proclamation, will be published by confiscation of landed or other property; and concludes by calling on good and true inhabitants of every nationality to be loyal to the Government, and to assist in maintaining order. Given at Vryburg, August 1st.’
This proclamation at which the Boers laugh is but all the aid Gladstone will I fear ever extend to Montsioa.
‘Montsioa Declines Coming to Terms
After the fight between the Boers and Montsioa, it was reported yesterday that the Boers sent to Montsioa and asked him to meet them and try to come to terms. This he declined to do, saying he was under the British Government, and they would support him. Mr McKenzie is expected here today.’
‘Hostilities in Bechuanaland
The fighting at Taungs is officially confirmed. The Boers captured three thousand head of cattle. Mr McKenzie will be at Taungs today on his way down here. It is expected he will meet Mr Rhodes there, who is proceeding post haste to Rooi Grond.’
‘Latest News from Montsioa’s
Our correspondent at Taungs, writes as follows:
We learn from a gentleman who arrived yesterday from Rooi Grond, that three parties of Boers had left Rooi Grond last week, going west, towards Montsioa’s cattle posts. The people of Rooi Grond had killed their last ox, and have no meal or grain, so that they are obliged to send out parties for the purpose of stealing cattle in order to keep their people together. It is reported that they will go for Gasatsibi’s cattle if they cannot find Montsioa’s. A party of the Rooi Grond people engage themselves in patrolling round the station and annoying the inhabitants whilst the others are searching for the cattle.
It is high time England sent aid to those to whom she has professed to extend her protection. For two months now they have had to struggle on alone as best they could at Moupioa’s; if the English do not send help quickly they will imagine that England is acting with the Rooi Grond people instead of for them.
It is reported that Niekerk held a meeting yesterday at Harts River. He is evidently doing his best to incite the people to rebellion.
Small pox cases have been reported at Taungs, Stellaland, and other parts of the country. Dr McKenzie is now going through the country vaccinating, and doing his best to arrest the progress of this disease.’
‘The Hostilities in Bechuanaland
News from Taungs this morning states that the Boers at Rooi Grond attacked Montsioa, and there was a sharp fight. Bethel, Walker, and a large number of natives are reported killed on Montsioa’s side, and thirty-five of the Boers. It is stated that Bethel was wounded in the fight, and fell into the hands of the Boers, who then shot him. The Bechuana Police started from here this morning.’