Robert Lewis to Frederick Chesson, 8 January 1886

Robert Lewis to Frederick Chesson, 8 January 1886

Archive location: Bodleian Libraries, MSS. Brit. Emp. s. 18 / C140 – 115

Author(s): Robert Lewis

Recipient(s): Frederick Chesson

Sent from: Damaraland

Date: 8 January 1886

South Africa
January 8 1886

Dear Sir,

Again I take the liberty of writing to you respecting what has taken place in Damaraland since my last letter to you.

On the ninth day of September 1885, the chief of the country with the approval of all his under chiefs, headmen, and people gave to me a power of attorney to act and do for them in all matters relating to them and their country.

Sometime about the end of Septr, or the beginning of October, a German Commissioner arrived at Okahandga over land (Dr Buttner) together with Dr Goering, and one or two other Germans.

When they arrived a Hottentot Commando was daily expected, therefore the Hereros had as they distinctly told them something better to do than to talk with them.

The Germans said well we will wait until the battle is over, they waited and then wanted to arrange a meeting. No said the Herero, now we have our wounded and dead to look after, we are in trouble and cannot attend to you, why do you not go away.

As they could not get a meeting arranged by fair means in public, they accompanied by the missionary went to the chief’s kraal where he and most of the principal people were assembled.

They then asked the chief Kama Herero if he did not want German protection. No he said I don’t want any protection from you, I can protect myself from the Hottentots. Oh yes you do want protection not only from the Hottentots, but from the Trek Boers and from the Mattabeles. To this one of the under chiefs replied that they could not and would not do anything until such time as Mr R. Lewis returned from Ovampuland where he had gone on a commission for them when he will take us to England. The Germans then appealed to another chief for him to express his opinion. His reply was, I don’t like the looks of you at all, you have the appearance of humbugs. After this reply they retired, seeing they could not do anything at all with them.

After the sun had set they the Germans went to the chief’s house where only he, his son, and one Johannes a sort of elder of the church were together.

They brough with them brandy etc. and made the chief and the others drunk and so managed sometimes during the dead of night to get them to sign the document.

The morning following this the 20th October they called some of the people together and read a portion of a document to the purport that their chief had asked for German protection and that he and the other two had signed and that they had better do so, on this a few of those present signed as their chief had done. So I may here say that although Kama Herero is the paramount chief there are other chiefs who rule in their own parts of the country who are quite as powerful as he is, they one and all say they will not have the Germans or their protection and Kama Herero himself says that he has been robbed of his country and he will not have the Germans.

I think it is quite clear that such is the case when you consider that he was not aware until he was told the following day that he had accepted German protection, what said he accepted German protection I know nothing about it.

Now Sir, I know both you and your Society have the best wishes towards natives, do you consider it right that such a people as the Damaras should have war forced upon them by a power and a people they dislike, this will be the result if the Germans come here, they are a peaceable, orderly nation, they want English protection or none. Then why should they have forced upon them a power they don’t want and will not have.

Oh Sir I implore of you to do what you can to stay this inhuman massacre for such it must and will be before the Herero will submit to the Germans.

I have been with the Damaras close upon thirty years so that I know the people well in all their characteristics, they have sought before for English protection, you may say to a man that they love the English and wish to have their protection.

If you can advise me in anyway I should by very thankful to hear from you. Do you think it would be any good writing to the press and putting our affairs before the English public.

Our English rulers at home are, if they do not take us, giving away to another power the richest part of South Africa. The country only wants opening up and some white people to come, thousands upon thousands of sheep there is pasture for, any number of oxen can be made ready for any market, minerals there are in any quantity, all lying useless at present.

Trusting you will do for us all you possibly can and excuse the liberty we take in writing you, our only excuse is we want our cause to be made known so that we can have English protection in Damaraland.

I am, Dear Sir
Faithfully Yours
For the chief Kama Herero
Robert Lewis
Attorney for Damaraland

F.W. Chesson Esq
Aborigines Protection Soty