David Smith to Frederick Chesson, 4 December 1883, C147/115

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Smith, David






Cape Town


Cape Colony

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Bodleian Libraries

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MSS. Brit. Emp. S. 18 / C147-115


Rochester House
Salt River Station
Near Cape Town
4th Dec/83


I trust, in addressing you by letter, I shall not be looked upon as intrusive. At all events I have no personal interest to promote by doing so. My object is to awaken compassion in your breast towards a native chief who has lately gone from here to England. I am afraid not much more can be done for him, the more the pity. Still if you or some of those with whom you set were to show this unhappy chief some countenance or attention he would not be left to … away a stranger in a land of strangers. I know what London is even to a white person who is not wholly friendless, everybody there engrossed by his own business, and this must be much more so in the case of a solitary man of colour. The history of this man and his ancestors will also be of no small service to you in enabling you to understand more clearly how in this part of the world the natives are liable to suffer wrong.

I have just now on my table 2 vols termed Basutoland Records collected by G.M. Theal, first clerk of the native department by authority of the Honble … Sauer. Vol 1st embraces the period from 1833 till /52, and Vol II from /52 till /61. They bear the date of /83 and no further records of this … have yet been made public. Throughout these two vols I have traced the history of the chief Moroka the father of the ousted Moroka and he meets with uniform commendation for his loyalty to the British Crown for which he was frequently a sufferer from his neighbours. The Barolongs whose chief he was, are situated near the sources of the … river which passes Bloemfontein in its course and fallse into the Vaal. It is now included in the Orange Territory. On the death of the old chief Moroka whose fidelity to British interest I have referred to, by some intrigue or other Sepimare who is not a son of Moroka at all, but only a son of one of the old chiefs, … disputed the claim to succeed with Moroka the undisputed lineal descendent from a long line of ancestors. As I have been led to understand the matter the Free State within whose territory the tribe is now included interposed as arbitrators or mediators and decided in favour of the pretender Sepimare. The second Vol of Records referred to contained a record of regular succession in the first as far as it can be attained. A column entitled ‘Descent from Father to Son of principal line’ contains fifteen successive names. The last is a chief styled Tao. After him four names occur in the direct line ending with Montsioa, a Betchuana chief of whom at present a good deal is written. Tao’s second and third sons had apparently no descendants. Moroka I presume the father is the fifth in order from Tao. And now the younger man is supplanted by a person who does not belong to the family at all and that by the sanction or authority of the Free State authorities. Most people in reading so far would shrug their shoulders and say there is no help for it. This I believe to be so far true. I see no way in which either you or the Aborigines Protection Society can do anything effective. But besides showing some kindness to the unfortunate chief it appears to me you may learn something concerning the chief evils to which the natives here are exposed at the hands of the Boers. I use the term because the Dutch in South Africa are not all Dutch in the treatment of the natives. Ever are the Boers given to acts of cruelty or deeds of violence. … everything which I have heard to their discredit has its origin in cupidity. And I have been told of doings which it would be difficult for persons brought up in England to believe. In our local or kitchen Dutch, as it is called, there is an expressive name for denoting the advantage that may be taken of people are not in circumstances to protect their own interest or incapable of doing so. That term is … Though a matter of inference there is little room for doubt that the promotion of a person who has no right to be chief to the exclusion of the real chief has been prompted by some ultimate selfish object. The earth hunger amongst the Boers is very strong. The ambition of the Baas and his frow is to see their kinder, whether sons or daughters, settled in life as early as possible. Now a strong lusty race living much in the open air and feeding chiefly on mutton are prolific in children that have to be provided for; but this requires a rapid increase of land when the support depends on sheep and cattle. Hence the constant demand for fresh fields and pastures new. It may be a breach of charity, but I nevertheless believe it to be true that the unavowed and final object for which the hereditary chief of the barolongs has been removed is ultimately to acquire possession of their lands. Such an acquisition would be no less ungrateful than unjust. Formerly when a large body of the Boers was slaughtered whilst the remnant were surrounded by enemies and at the hour of starvation the former Moroka with his Barolongs interposed on their behalf and fed them, because they regarded them as British subjects. At no period since have the Boers shewn their appreciation of this generous interposition. Acknowledgements have again and again been made for that and other services by every colonial governor down to /63. It may be said to be almost a religious principle with the Boers that no native has or can acquire any rights … by their … to be descendants from Ham who was destined to be a servant of servants. In that low capacity they are quite willing to have them, but they grudge them any higher position as contrary to the decrees of the almighty.

I am ashamed of the extent to which this letter has already been lengthened out, and must soon pause. The remarks which I have just now been making are the key to the native question both within and without the colony. Any interest awakened in behalf of Moroka might be the means of rendering this point prominent. Can the whole great credit due to President Brand but all the governments here are weak. It is difficult for him wholly to rise above the influence of his surroundings. The same holds true with still greater force of the President of the Transvaal Kruger. He is probably a conscientious man according to his religious lights. But these lights are … from the treatment of the wicked nations of Canaan rather than the sermon on the mount. Scanlen also had and still bears the character of an upright man, but if he will not act more or less in subservancy to Boerdom within and without the colony, the opposition will have no scruple in doing so. The Boers here with less bluster have ten times the influence in our legislative bodies than Irish Home Rule has in the House of Commons. Still the British Colonies with the two adjoining republics are capable of being influenced by the expression of English opinion, and President Brand as much as any one. Kruger less so. I have given you my real name and address and am willing to assist you as far as … in my power. I have written nothing but what I believe to be true. I do not desire however that my name should publicly appear in connection with this matter, not so much on my own account as for my relatives in the civil service. It is chiefly by them I have been induced to write you. They are very far from being negrophilists but their sympathies have been excited on behalf of Samuel Moroka. I have never met the chief, as I live out of town which I only visit at intervals. One of my brothers in law intended to give Moroka an introduction to you but he entrusted the doing of this to someone else, and the proposal fell through. However he informs me he gave Moroka before he set sail an introduction to a medical student from the Cape at present studying at Bartholomew’s Hospital London. He is a son of Captain Stubbs RN whose London address is ’61 Ockendon Road Canonbury London.’ The name of the young man himself is Percy B. Stubbs. I expect he will be able to procure for you Moroka’s address provided you desire to see the chief himself. I have only to apologize for the length to which this letter has extended, this being far beyond any expectation I had when I put pen to paper. Your difficulty is not so much to find hard matters of fact as to obtain the right medium or moral atmosphere through which they are to be viewed.

I am
Yours ever most sincerely
David Smith

F.W. Chesson Esq


I have just been informed that Moroka has been provided with a letter of introduction to Captain Stubbs Agent General in London of the Colony in the name of the Secretary for Native Affairs.