John Colenso to Frederick Chesson, 26 July 1875, C131/85

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Colenso, John









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MSS. Brit. Emp. S. 18 / C131-85


July 26, 1875

My dear Mr Chesson,

Things have not at all improved here since I last wrote to you. I give you a full account of my disappointment with Sir G. Wolseley and his proceedings. He has ever since been making a tour round the north of the colony, it was understood, in order to get some knowledge of the natives and their needs by actual observation. But, as he has taken Mr Shepstone with him, it is certain that he would get no genuine information from the natives as to their wants and grievances, even if he wished to do so, which there is not the slightest reason to believe he does. On the contrary I now send you his reply to the memorial presented by 266 natives of the more civilized class, mostly, I imagine, Christians, from a number of mission stations, of which I think I sent you a M.S. copy in my last. The reply is, in my judgement, unsatisfactory in the extreme, displaying a pettiness of feeling and [numbness?] of mind utterly unworthy of a great man as we supposed him to be, and I have little doubt that it was really written, not by Sir G.W. himself, but (like Sir G.W.’s letter to myself) by Major Brakenbury under Mr Shepstone

[I think I missed two pages]

Believe they did. Otherwise the memorial is, to the best of my knowledge and belief, entirely their own, without hint of help from Europeans. And it is probably the only genuine address from natives that Sir G.W. will receive: for his reply will effectually snuff out the hopes and aspirations of these poor people. As for the law to which he refers, as one under which they may have the rights of Englishman, my impression of is, when it was passed some 10 years or more ago, was that no native would ever be likely to … himself under it, at least in the present …. And in Bp. …’s … synod, … Crompton, who was, I believe, a Member of our Legislative Council at the time when the law in question was passed, spoke as follows (Mercury, July 20). ‘He happened to know something of the passing of Law 28, 1865, through the Council. It was passed in this colony either at the desire of the imperial government or to satisfy it that it was possible for natives to progress. But under the direction of Mr Shepstone the law was so filled with obstructions as to render it almost impossible that a native should be able to avail himself of its avowed benefit. This was Mr Shepstone’s object: for he knew that if the questions of voting and extending the franchise to Kafirs were included in the law, he (Mr C) did not wish to have the colony inundated with Kafir voters.’ What a mockery then for Sir G.W. to reply to these natives that they get rid of grievances 1, 2, etc. by putting themselves under this said law! And as to their being able to buy land, why then, when they are so anxious to do so (as I can personally testify) have they not bought land, but because they have not been encouraged by the government to do so, and because they know not on what terms they will be allowed to buy, whether they will still have to pay hut tax, furnish men for road parties, be under native law, be able to transmit their lands to their children as heritance, etc. The question also must be settled for them whether the children of the first wife only, or of all the wives, should inherit, in case of …. You will see that Sir G.W. simply … His reply appears to me most undignified and unworthy of the man and the occasion.

Col. Colley is to sit to collect the evidence in Matyana’s case next Monday (Aug 2). Matyana and Co. have not yet arrived from Zululand, where everything is perfectly quiet and peaceful, and the lying rumours, to which I referred to in my last, have now died away completely. A fortnight ago I met at Durban the Rev S. Samuelson, of Zululand, formerly one of my catechists, and ordained deacon by me, now for many years a missionary of the Church of South Africa, who had written to the S.P.G. in England an account of the execution of one man by Cetywayo’s orders, of which he was well-informed, and at the same time spoke of the very numerous killings which had been going on of late in Zululand, upon which the Secretary of S.P.G. duly … I asked him if he knew of any other case but that one, and he admitted that he did not, he had only heard what other missionaries and traders said! The old story.

I have made repeated enquiries, but cannot hear anything about the 50 copies of my Remarks which you said in your last Mr Shaen had sent to me. I have been much in want of them. Please let me know if they have been forwarded, and when.

At present it is generally understood here that Sir G.W. and his ‘brilliant …’ will disappear from this region very soon, they say in about 3 weeks. I doubt if they will be much missed or regretted by the people here, except by some of the ladies, on account of the banquets and balls. Sir G.W. is so thoroughly prejudiced or dominated by Mr Shepstone that he does not seem to care for the opinions of others. At all events this very day Mr Akerman, one of our leading M.L.C.s, and really a superior man for a colonist, who has never been one of my friends, but on the contrary always voted against me when Church land matters were before the House, told me that shortly after Sir G.W.’s arrival he had a long talk with him on native matters, and was to have had a second, but was obliged to write and decline it, as Sir G.W.’s views were so fixed that it would only be a waste of time on both sides to discuss them. We hear that our new governor (Sir H. Bulwer) is on his way: I trust that he may have more heart for the natives than the present ‘great man’ seems to have. I think that he must feel that his special qualities have been very much wasted here. It is supposed that he is wanted in England for the possible Burmese War, in which no doubt he would be the right man in the right place.