David Smith to Frederick Chesson, 21 October 1884, C147/116

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Smith, David






Cape Town


Cape Colony

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MSS. Brit. Emp. S. 18 / C147-116


Rochester House
Salt River Station
21st Oct/84

Dear Sir,

I must seem to you to have delayed long to reply to your gratifying letter dated Jany 3rd/84. It did not seem to me desirable to take up your time with mere compliments or particular information from which no general conclusion could be drawn. I shall now however thank you in the first place for what you did and procured for the ill-fated Samuel Moroka and more particularly for the sound advice you gave him, happy would it now be for him had he given more heed to it. It is one of the unfortunate characteristics especially of the educated natives that they are frequently destitute of judgement of what is possible for them to do. I have also learned subsequently to my first letter to you that he had not been quite steady when growing up to manhood which failing did him disservice in the eyes of his father. I have also been expressly told as according to the custom of the tribe his right to the chieftainship was indisputable that Sepinare was preferred to the Dutch who were appointed umpires by the agreement of Sepinare to makeover the district to them at the close of his power. This information I received from the native agent here who is familiar with the native language and possesses their confidence. No more need now be said; through probably the influence and good sense of President Brand more moderation has been shown than one might expect. Very soon however the lands will lapse to the Orange Territory.

My main reason for writing is the crisis towards which we are approaching in South Africa. You naturally view the situation as it concerns the native question. As regards the people of England I think it ought now to be brought forward and agitated in every point of view in reference to the importance of South Africa, not only as regards to mineral and agricultural resources, both of which are very great but hitherto only partially developed, but its position with respect to England’s immense possessions in India and the Southern Ocean. Many people here not greatly prejudiced against the Africander Dutch as a class are of opinion that if the element get the upper hand the doom of the natives is sealed. By this they do not mean that the work of extermination would thenceforth begin but that in various ways such would be the result. I could not enter upon this with effect unless I had given as much space to it as what I have written in the communication which I have directed to be forwarded to you by the same post as this letter will be sent. The key to the opinions of the Dutch whom I refer to regarding their duty to the natives is that they ignore the new testament in their interpretation of the old. They consider themselves a portion of the chosen people of god now that the jews are rejected and that the natives are descendants of Ham who are doomed to be servants of servants if not exterminated. They lean more upon authority than the … preisthood, only in the one case it is chiefly the authority of the church in the other the interpreation which they give to the bible whist they forget that whilst the law was given to … grace and truth come have come through Jesus Christ. You must have been horrified with the aforesation of the most devout and pious language with blood shedding without provocation and buccaneering.

As to the communication I have sent to you I will not be disappointed if you desire any hint from its perusal. When I communicated I thought it probable I might produce something not wholly unfitted for more general use. But as I am one of those who never write, except for some object, both my thoughts and pen are somewhat out of practice, and the encubration did not come so roundly off as I expected. I gave to two gentlemen friends here a perusal of it and they both agree that as far as it professes to go it exactly expresses the situation as they apprehend it. The majority of the people here are perfectly loyal, but such is their blind partisanship and regard to grovelling and local advantages that they consider not the dangers to which their trade and prosperity are exposed, and indeed all their material interests. Sprigg and Upington the soul of the cabinet though rather clever as special pleaders have neither of them either by repute or otherwise any capacity for affairs. The Bechuana bisiness is most likely I should say most certain to be mismanaged. You will also at no very distant time see the new districts which have just now been formally annexed laid out in large sheep farms. The more the pity. Mr MacKenzie’s scheme is an admirable one and most practicable, it is generally approved of here, but cannot be carried out without power to support it against … greed and covetousness. Such violent courses however they may contribute to the gain of the few are directly in the teeth of the general interest. I need not however continue longer in this stream. I desire to impress no obligation upon you in respect to the manuscript which will accompany this letter. I do not wish to press it upon the editors of any magazine. Rightly they are and must be guided by their own judgement. If any part of it should seem to you objectionable you can without it or make any alteration that does not seriously affect or reverse the sense. It seems to me a great duty that for questions receding part into the past, the moral and religious as well as the educational influence of the church of England here should be on a great measure … I am not a member of it, though certainly not an enemy. It seems to be a narrowness of vision scarcely to be … by the merchants of the Eastern Provinces.

The new turn given to affairs by the temporary administration of Sir Bartle Frere would form an admirable subject for investigation and to all concerned the … will be anything but beneficial. I may add a few lines in the morning, as tis now getting late.

22nd Oct

I find I have written rather hurriedly as to form. Having to go to town I shall only add that if name should be required in the event of the article being excepted whilst address and everything may be made known privately I want to preserve some disguise however slight it may be so far as the public are concerned.

D. Lf. S. would do or David Le-Feore Smith or D Lf Smith.

I shall only further add that you should keep your eye as well as that of those whom you influence on the native question here. It is approaching a crisis.

I remain
Yours ever most truly
David Smith

F.W. Chesson Esq