Joseph Orpen to Frederick Chesson, 29 June 1880

Joseph Orpen to Frederick Chesson, 29 June 1880

Archive location: Bodleian Libraries, MSS. Brit. Emp. s. 18 / C144 – 60

Author(s): Joseph Orpen

Recipient(s): Frederick Chesson

Sent from: Cape Colony

Date: 29 June 1880

Capetown 29th June 1880


F.W. Chesson Esq

172 Lambeth Road …


Dear Sir,


I am afraid that the Committee for tomorrow on Letsie’s petitions will be swept away by the flood of a party debate on Confidence in the Ministry. So Disarmament and Alienation of Land will proceed without the questions ever being discussed on their simple merits. The government does not as yet shew any sign of giving way with regard to confiscating the […uthing District?], notwithstanding Earl Kimberley’s protest. The Premier yesterday still told me he would oppose me on the subject and the survey of the country is [ever turning?]. I shall endeavor to make a break in the party debate to let its flood pass round the committee for Wednesday and write again on Thursday but am afraid it will be like trying to separate two Belfast [hiubs?].


The poor policeman will be carried off his legs. I am hopeful still of having a good debate afterwards and perhaps carrying the House with me, but I am very anxious that every possible effort should be made in England besides. The only expression I have heard from Sir Bartle Frere is against the Basuto position which Earl Kimberley in his despatch upholds. I wish the answer was called for. I can not accept the doctrine at present laid down that provided only a Colonial Government’s Responsible ministry [pleas?] to accept the responsibility of expense. They may do anything however it outrages the sense of justice of the whole Empire and however it may oppose the most solemn covenants of the Crown such as those under which the tribal and individual land tenures of the Basutos are held guaranteed by treaties, proclamation and terms of free cession of Sovereignty. 


I hold exactly the opposite doctrine that the Queen is bound to coerce its subjects even by military force if necessary to respect those covenants and prevent any seizure of what the Crown has guaranteed and which should not be alienable except by judgement of the Crown’s own courts. Otherwise this empire has many sovereigns instead of one, and is in a state of war against Her Majesty.


I wish the question I have raised of the validity and constitutionality of the Annexation Act for Basutoland and those of other native territories copied from that Act should be questions at Home in the House of Commons, on the grounds I have argued, that they allow … legislation invade HM Prerogatives and had ever unrepresented people and their property to the mercies of a Govt neither responsible to them or the Crown, and only remotely so to the Colonial Parliament which has surrendered its functions of legislation.


I do not want any part of my letter made public. Not that I am afraid of it but it would do the cause I advocate harm while I am trying to get this court here to entertain it that I should be going [post?] it.


I send by post the Governor and High Commissioner’s Commission and instructions in infraction of which the Annexation Acts are. I think part and in spite of which the ‘possessions’ of natives are seized, without the Crown being consulted on any legal process taking place. And in spite of which legislation is carried on doing both these things without the chance of either public debate or the first prerogative of the Crown that of veto. And by what is simply a secret committee selected by the Queen’s representative and despising and rejecting Her advice and grasping absolute legislative and administrative and judicial function all in one.


Believe me dear Sir,

Faithfully yours

Joseph M Orpen …


I shall send a paper next week of the … and ask to have it read on the Key to Colonial Difficulties.