Harold Stephens to Frederick Chesson, 9 June 1883, C148/72

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Stephens, Harold








Cape Colony

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MSS. Brit. Emp. S. 18 / C148-72


Knights and Hearle
Attorneys, Notaries, and Conveyances

Kimberley, South Africa
June 9th 1883

Dear Sir,

Yours of the 19th April to hand. Enclosed I send you one or two newspaper extracts. There can be no doubt that Henry was murdered by certain Boers in Mankoroane’s country but at the same time there can be little doubt but that he was more or less of a freebooter and therefore to a certain extent one of them. Still this hardly justifies the manner in which his murder has been winked at by the Transvaal authorities.

The letter headed [… blackmail?] in Stellaland will give you some idea of the way in which things are carried out by the Boers in that part of the country which they have taken from Mankoroane and how necessary something should be done to put a stop to such lawless proceedings.

The Cape Government sent up a Commission, composed of 3 gentlemen, to report upon the boundaries between Mankoroane’s country and Griqualand West (now part of the Cape Colony). I am personally intimate with one of these gentleman and he tells me that from what he saw when he was in Mankoroane’s country (he has only just returned and is going back in a few days to complete the work) that 200 men well armed would be quite sufficient to quell any disturbance. In fact he went as far as to say that the Boers hearing that the Commission were coming, were in some cases preparing to leave fancying that they (the Commission) were going to report upon their doings. This gentleman tells me also that Mankoroane has personally offered his country to the Cape Government.

This gentleman’s opinion as to the force requisite to drive out the Boers more than confirms what I have always maintained to the effect that it would be comparatively an inexpensive affair.

But it seems that the … cur in the shape of a Boer can frighten the British Lion into putting his tail between his legs. It is a lamentable thing to contemplate that while two petty native chiefs sacrifice themselves and their country to the claims of honour and gratitude, we, with our boasted civilization and Christianity, are unwilling to spend a few hundreds of pounds in the same cause. The way in which Mr Gladstone has endeavoured to shut his eyes to what has been going on, and when this was no longer possible endeavoured to delay matters in the hope that something might ‘turn up’ which would make action on his part no longer necessary, is neither creditable to him as a statesman nor as one who would claim to be a high principled Christian gentleman.

The gentleman who I before mentioned as forming one of the Commission told me also that he thought things were not in quite so lawless a condition as had been represented, and as what he says will most probably be sent home in the shape of a report, and the government may for purposes of their own make a certain amount of capital out of expressions of this kind I would beg you to bear in mind that since the commission have been in Stellaland and the remaining part of what is left of Mankoroane’s country, things have been comparatively settled to what they had been when fighting was going on. Then again the robbers are now property holders and so it is only natural that their ideas should have undergone a change commensurate to their altered circumstances.

The gallant Mapoch still holds out but how long he will be able to stand out against the pangs of hunger is a difficult question to answer. The Boers say not many weeks but their statements are hardly to be relied on. True it is that the Boers are finding great difficulty in getting their men to go into the field, still Mapoch is pretty well surrounded and must be starved out in time. The suzerain power seems more frightened of the Boers than Mapoch is as that I suppose it is idle to expect help for him in that quarter.

With regard to Mankoroane and Montsioa and their tribes it would certainly be a better solution of the difficulty if the Cape Government were to take over these countries rather than let them drift into the hands of the Transvaal Boers. It is rumoured that many of the Boers are sick of their own government and would gladly welcome the English government back again. It is to be hoped that Lord Derby receives with caution what Dr Jorissen says as the latter is a man with very little principle.

Faithfully yours
H. Stephens