John Robinson to Frederick Chesson, 7 March 1875

John Robinson to Frederick Chesson, 7 March 1875

Archive location: Bodleian Libraries, MSS. Brit. Emp. s. 18 / C145 – 251

Author(s): John Robinson

Recipient(s): Frederick Chesson

Sent from: Natal

Date: 7 March 1875

Durban, Natal

March 7 1875


My dear Mr Chesson,


A few lines telling you how things are getting on here may not be out of place.


The past month has chiefly been taken up with demonstrations on behalf of Sir B Pine. I don’t think there are six colonists who have declined to sign one or other of the addresses thanking him for the transcendent services he rendered to the cause of peace and civilization in this colony by his action during Langalibalele’s rebellion. The more one enquires into the matter, and reflects upon what was done, the stronger do the grounds of congratulation become, and I have little doubt that the British public will in time come to see on which side the right has lain.


Especially will this be the case if, as is unfortunately possible, the policy now being forced upon us by a well meaning but ignorant … govt, should eventuate in disaster and … by the mother country. I have lately been rereading Burke’s speeches on … affairs, … and marvelling at their prescience and sagacity. Would that we had a Burke now to lift up his voice on our behalf in the parliament of Great Britain. It is painful, to feel one’s national pride  as a British subject humbled, but there is nothing but humiliation … now in the reflection that we are Englishmen. The tie of allegiance during the last three months has been lamentably slackened, from Capetown to Delagoa Bay, and it would take very little now by way of provocation to lead to a strong and united demand on the part of Natal, at any rate, to be released from the intolerable oppressions of British rule. You must understand that I am a moderate, and locally speaking  conservative man, one naturally anxious to avoid extreme or revolutionary measures. But I cannot with any regard to self respect shut my eyes to the galling fact that the most rudimentary rights of citizenship are being without from the colonists of Natal, and that the voice of the united people goes for naught in the direction of matters … the most momentous issues.


If Mr Chesson were a colonist of Natal, I know where he would be found and upon what side.


What dismays me most is the confusing of the prospect as regards the peaceful and permanent solution of native questions. My family are now residing upon our upcountry farm, 100 miles in the interior, where we are surrounded by kafirs, and only a few hours’ ride from Langalibalele’s late location. The independence of these natives, their growth in wealth, their aversion to control, and their adhesion to barbarous habits, afford considerations of deep concern to all the … whites living amongst them. And now the wastelands of the colony are, by Lord Carnarvon’s dictum, to be reserved for the perpetuation and aggravation of the evils arising out of such a state of things. And more than that govt has been fatally weakened and its local prestige destroyed at the very time, when active measures for the reversal of these conditions are to be initiated. Already Mr Shepstone’s influence is seriously impaired by Bishop Colenso’s traitorous machinations, and Lord Carnarvon’s well meant by suicidal endeavour to redress an imaginary wrong.



Colenso is wisely keeping himself quiet. He cannto do too much so I hear, however, that he is pursuing his disquieting …, doubtless with the inevitable result of exacting whatever evidence his native informants may perceive that he desires.


March 9


The Governor is unable to get away by this mail. He is very anxious for a Royal Commission if only to put a stop to Dr Colenso’s very pernicious and improper ex parte private enquiries, as well as to … elucidate the truth.