Harold Stephens to Frederick Chesson, 11 November 1882, C148/76

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Stephens, Harold








Cape Colony

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MSS. Brit. Emp. S. 18 / C148-76


C/o Knights and Hearle
S Africa
Novb 11/82

Dear Sir,

Herewith I enclose you one or two further extracts from the Kimberley papers which will give you some idea of what the state of things is at present in the S.W. border of the Transvaal., notwithstanding the protests of the English government.

As I endeavoured to point out some time ago there was nothing left for the English government but to back up their representations by something of a more forcible character if they wished to save these loyal chiefs from the cruel and revengeful fate that, of a certainty, awaited them at the hands of the Boers. Demonstrations were all very well up to a certain point but beyond this they do no good, but rather the contrary!

In spite, however, of there being no possession of the facts regarding what was going on, they contented themselves with accepting the Boer assurance and endeavouring to silence and sooth public feeling with the idea that they were doing something, whereas in reality they have taken everything the Boers said for granted, and allowed them to continue their schemes of murder and spoliation unmolested.

The consequence if that Montsioa has been obliged to surrender his country to the Boer volunteers who have parcelled it out amongst themselves, and who have a tacit and secret understanding with the Boer government that virtually makes it part of the Transvaal or S. African Republic, altho it is deemed advisable to keep this in the background for the present owing to the action of the English government in refusing to allow the Transvaal to extend its boundaries as laid down in the Pretoria Convention.

You will see also that it is anticipated that Mankoroane will be defeated in a few days, as he is almost without ammunition (thanks to the English government) and his enemies it is expected will have possession of his country, when a massacre of women and children will follow. In spite of this however the British Resident remains quietly at Pretoria shutting his eyes to everything that is going on in the hopes of cultivating friendly relations with the Boers and making his position more comfortable in consequence.

The only effect the remonstrations of the English government have had has been to oblige the Boer government to assist against the natives less openly than hitherto. Of course among the spoliators of these natives there are a few Englishmen (I am sorry to say) as such a career offers a good field for men of bad character of any nationality to obtain plunder, and the Boers have taken advantage of this to suit their own purposes.

Their whole object now is to prove that the lawlessness and spoliation complained of is carried on by persons from all parts, and that they have nothing to do with it, and to this end they intercepted a letter from an Englishman and had it published in their newspaper in Pretoria. This is intended to deceive people at a distance as it possesses the double advantage of appearing to the outside world that they are desirous of putting a stop to what is going on and at the same time that Englishmen are the real offenders. To those however who are more or less on the spot, this is of no weight and does not alter the character of their proceedings one iota, for it is well known that for every Englishman there are a hundred Boers engaged, whom their government protect and countenance, and whom they dare not arrest, even if they wished (which they do not) because if these men were proceeded against the truth would come out and the Boer government be implicated beyond hope of clearing itself.

If the government (English) could be induced to send out a reliable man to the spot, they would soon learn the truth regarding the origin and continuance of this miserable and bloodthirsty business and would find out the best and simplest method of putting a stop to it, but as long as they burke the question, so long will it go on. A glarring proof of the faithlessness and weakness of the English government! Col. Warren RA who was for a short time acting administrator here in place of Sir Owen Lanyon would I feel statisfied be the right man to send out, as he enjoys the confidence of the whites and blacks alike. During his short residence here he earned a character for warlike skill, combined with justice and integrity, which gave him a personal influence which was a power in itself. The natives know Col. Warren and would submit ot any decision coming from him while his skill in fighting would help to overcome the Boer spoliators.

Should you be able to induce the government to send out a man of this character you would I feel satisfied be the means of putting a stop to the present state of things and thus aid the cause of humanity.

I sent another letter to the Standard some weeks back which if they intend publishing will no doubt have been published ere this reaches you. I should be glad however if you could send me a copy of the paper in which the letter appears. I have taken up my residence here for the present and it is extremely unlikely that I shall reside again in the Transvaal altho my business will now and again necessitate my taking a journey to Pretoria.

I am beginning to lose faith in the English government and am gradually coming to the conclusion shared in by most people out here, that they do not intend to interfere. As a liberal in politics I clung to the belief that they would stand up for those principles of liberty and justice which form so prominent a position of their professions, which have been the means of placing the policy of the country in their hands, but I am reluctantly compelled to admit that those principles so ably touched upon in debate and public orations, in reality play a very secondary part in the work performed.

Trusting that you will make known as widely as possible what is going on out here.

I remain,
Faithfully yours,
H. Stephens