Harold Stephens to Frederick Chesson, 13 November 1884
Archive location: Bodleian Libraries, MSS. Brit. Emp. s. 18 / C148 – 82
Author(s): Harold Stephens
Recipient(s): Frederick Chesson
Sent from: Cape Colony
Date: 13 November 1884
F.W. Chesson Esq
3 Broadway Chambers
The Cape ministers Mesrs Upington and Sprigg together with a Mr Marais an Africander Bondsman, passed thro here a few days ago on their road to Montsioa’s. It is generally believed that they are going to try and arrange matters so as to prevent any armed intervention. President Kruger will most probably meet them at the Rooi Grond.
What I am afraid is that there will be some sort of a bogus arrangement come to by which they will lead the English government to believe that the matter is, or will be, satisfactorily arranged and then when public attention in England is withdrawn form the question the fillibustering Boers will commence operations anew. Unfortunately the Dutchmen of the Cape sympathetic with the fillibusters and the Transvaal Boers, and have no doubt encouraged them.
We are therefore a divided community and there are wheels within wheels. Englishmen and Natives have been so hampered and restricted by the imperial authorities, and the Boers have had such latitude given them that confidence is destroyed and unless England comes forward firmly and backs up Col Warren I’m afraid no proper settlement will be arrived at. Even now people here have very little confidence in the English government doing anything and are firmly convinced that it will take the first opportunity of backing out of the whole affair. I trust that this will not be so and that England will recognize the fact that she alone is responsible for Montsioa’s safety.
A gentleman friend of mine made a flying journey to Montsioa’s a week or so ago for the purpose of ascertaining for Bethell’s relatives the particulars of his death. He showed me the particulars he had obtained and a statement made by Montsioa. I am not allowed to make it public as Montsioa is afraid that if it is known that he had anything to do with it the Boers (in whose power he still is) will show him little mercy. But I can tell you that among other things he says that Acting Prest Joubert after doing all he could to get him to sign a letter saying he wished to come under the Transvaal government, on the occasion brought a large force and told Montsioa that if he persisted in refusing to sign the letter the Transvaal would declare war against him and eat him up. Remarks at the same time how was it possible they could stand against the Tvaal which had thrashed England!
The accounts of Bethell’s death are substantially correct except that he never told the Boers to do what they liked with him. He found a son of Montsioa’s wounded and lay down by the side of him to defend him. There were about 20 Boers firing at him. He shot one or two and was at last wounded himself. After this two Boers rode up to him and shot him while in a helpless condition.
I sent a copy of a letter from a young Dutch fillibuster which appeared in the Cape Argus to the Globe. If they publish it might I ask you to send me a copy of the paper. Make use of this letter in any way you like but keep my name in the background.