John Mackenzie to Frederick Chesson, 5 June 1885, C141/217

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Mackenzie, John









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MSS. Brit. Emp. S. 18 / C141-217


Mafeking June 5, 1885

My dear Mr Chesson,

I got your letter in which you enquire about the movements of the Transvaal Boers northwards, and what truth there is in the current reports about another ‘trek’. There are Boers in the Transvaal who are in a very ‘bad way’ as to money matters – often thro their own fault – and they are quite ready to go anywhere or engage in anything against Bechuanas or other mild natives where there is the change of land and not much severe fighting.

They have been prevented from entering his country by Khama for several years now, because that chief saw that what they were now bent on was no longer game or hunting according to their professions, but a new country, which they hoped to be able to take from him. For many years the Boers of the Transvaal have had Mashonaland before their eyes. Some hunters were indiscreet enough to ‘claim’ certain fountains in Mashonaland – and their Matebele guides overheard them and reported it to Lobingule who at once debarred them from entering his country. At the present time therefore the Transvaal Boers are debarred by both Lobingule and Khama from hunting in their countries, and have therefore to overflow in some other direction. Happy time for South Africa and for the Boer himself when there will be no direction in which he can turn when he will not meet the control of a Central Government. He will then bethink him of his long neglected favour, and remember that he is a Boer (farmer) and ought to live from his farm.

Mr Watkins the superintendent of the Wesleyan Missions and another missionary are here just now. A scheme has been mooted for the settlement of the … of Rooi Grond, which was brought before Mr Watkin’s by Sir C. Warren and the thing is now under consideration. Of course everything is at present conditional and tentative; but the idea is that Rooi Grond should become a European village clustering round the Wesleyan Church, and the Boarding Day Schools taught by them. Sir C. when the time comes is ready to sanction the grant of as many irrigable freehold sites as may be necessary for this purpose. Among the applicants for farms are a great many farmers’ sons and farmers’ brothers from the Eastern Province of the Cape Colony a goodly proportion of whom are Wesleyans. When the land question is gone into, under Imperial auspices, as I hope and pray may be the case, it might be possible to grant some of these people farms in some part of Bechuanaland sufficiently near for them to send their children to the Wesleyan Boarding school and come themselves occasionally to Church. Sir Charles is broadminded, and is willing to give the Wesleyans the first offer, as they are in the field here. Watkins lunches with the General today and something may come of it.

The telegraph will long ago have told you of what has taken place in North Bechuanaland – my old pupil Khama leading the way. I am sending you – if I can get it ready copy of a map showing the recent grants of land to the English Government on the part of the Bechuana chiefs, who ask for our protection in return. I think the aspect of affairs in Bechuanaland at present is well worth the attention of the friends with home you are accustomed to consult and to act on South African questions. The English Government ought to be encouraged to meet an offer like that of Khama in a manner becoming the English people who occupy so high a place in that chief’s thoughts. I have been much encouraged by reading some
Some of the leading Home papers – or rather clippings from them. But I feel that a question like this needs steady and thoughtful support from those who interest themselves in South Africa questions year out and year in. A great prospect opens up for England in South Africa as the result of recent events in North Bechuanaland. English supremacy will be assured: and if Germany and the Transvaal had a little plan and a surprise for England and for Europe as to South African politics, it cannot now come off: for we have got up right between them – very awkwardly for anti-English politicians.

There Lobingule is our friend as was his father Moselikatse and I hope it will be easy to get his sanction to pass – not thro Matabeleland (for they are much opposed to that) but to pass between the Transvaal and Matabeleland to Mashonaland: and obtain Lobingule’s sanction to the working of the very extensive gold mines which are well-known to be in Mashonaland. I feel that without unduly inflaming our minds with such considerations these commercial considerations ought to occupy the attention of friends of the native races in order that they may intelligently and effectively befriend them. Under England Bechuanaland would make rapid progress: and the native races would fall in with the march of events. Mining operations would produce a local market for country produce; but without them the English settler will always be able to live comfortably on his free farm – altho he may not be able to make his fortune.

Do not imagine that I mention these things for the purpose of directing your attention always to something ahead. Not so; I am in no haste, but I hold that our friends ought to be the first to know of the actual resources and therefore the probable history of a country, so that they may shape their course accordingly. In the Exhibition coming on in Port Elizabeth will be displayed cotton – cotton threat, twisted by Mashona and Makatala, and cotton blankets and … cloths of native manufacture. I hope also there will be iron copper and gold from the same country. It would be very foolish if we acted as if these things did not exist. There they are – easily within our reach – if we take time and act cautiously and wisely. The Bechuanaland Protectorate therefore must become the Bechuanaland Province: and the later days of South African history will certainly be happier than the earlier ones. So much for the future – and for the right course for us to take in these most valuable northern regions.

I wish now to refer to a subject which I know is near to your heart. I mean the condition of Zululand. I was glad to see a cable message that a meeting had been held in the Mansion House on this question. I do trust the Imperial force now in Bechuanaland will not be in over haste to leave South Africa. So long as it is in South Africa – the object will be attained: but if you disperse it or recall it soon, you do a great injury to the … interests of the country and indeed nullify to some extent the express objects of the Expedition.

The crisis in Bechuanaland will be when the awards are given as to land: when here the black man is disappointed: and there the white man. It will be then that a strong force will be necessary to uphold the decisions of an impartial tribunal – for I take it for granted public opinion will abolish the Rhodes settlement. But be sure that this is so: don’t be satisfied with generalities. There is the utmost desire on the part of Sir H. Robinson to support this ‘settlement’ and I fear without public opinion to show him the way Lord Derby would make the very grave blunder of upholding these unexamined filibuster claims. It needs only public opinion to be expressed – for the thing is too disgraceful to be serious upheld.

But even with a Land Commission and due examination there will be disappointment and friction in South Bechuanaland. As I said to Mr Forster before leaving England – the mess has been made there: and we must make the most of it. I think the military should remain- if you don’t need them more elsewhere: and then you can start with a comparatively … police force. If you take away the military soon the police force would need to be large.

But to use some of this force towards the settlement of Zululand would not be taking them away – they would still be close to the Transvaal, which is all that is needed. The result of the Expedition is most valuable all thro South Africa – even reaching the Transvaal itself: but I regard this as only a passing emotion is the troops are taken away from South Africa. The annexation of Zululand to Natal seems to be the favourite local remedy. I am not sure that they are quite counting the cost – especially those of them who I see are going in for Responsible Government also. The addition of so many Boers as those of the New Republic to the political life of Natal and the … gift of Responsible Govt seem to be schemes which in medical phrase, would be termed ‘be voce practice.’ Continued as a Crown Colony it might be the best plan to consolidate our position in S.E. Africa by annexing to Natal both Zululand and Griqualand East. I should have thought the example of Cape Colony and Responsible Govt would have been an effectual warning to Natal – not to be in haste on that on that question. No doubt it is what old English Colonists aspire to but a great many things in South Africa have been teaching all who have to do with it not to be precipitate, but to ‘wait a little.’

In my opinion the conjoined offices of High Commissioner and Governor of the Cape Colony have been conclusively shown to be incompatible; and the attention of thoughtful people needs only to be directed to the subject, to convince them that this conjunction of offices is one of those things that should not go on. Give Sir H.R. his Cape Colony and his Ministers: but give South African an Imperial officer and an Imperial Legal Advisor to take charge of Imperial or Central Government affairs in South Africa. I don’t think this ought to be put off. Most people were convinced theoretically you will remember some time ago on this subject; you there was not the adequate practical proof. The thing seemed sound in argument: but it fell thro – chiefly because Sir H. Robinson was against it. Now enough practical proof has been given – and more than is pleasant – in the recent history of the High Commissionership. Let us have no more Mr Upingtons … for the guidance of Sir C. Warren, or any other Imperial officer. It my opinion the appointment of a High Commr or Governor General would be very heartily welcomed in South Africa, and would be a decided step towards the pacification of the country as a whole. I remember discussing this subject with you when in England, and if I remember right you thought favourably of it. If the Liberal Govt are to do a workmanlike think in S. Africa, they will appoint such an officer without delay. I remember also writing to Mr Forster on this subject. Perhaps you would kindly let him see this also, as time is occupied this week.

You would see that Mr Baden-Powell performed the journey as far as Shoshong. He is … interest in Bechuanaland and is now on his way home full of it. His is strongly against joining it to Cape Colony at least for years. He has drawn up a report on its future Government as a Province or Crown Colony. Sir Charles is at present busy with his own report on the same subject written by request of Secy of State. Sir Charles has asked me to contribute a description and historical statement which however I have not yet begun.

Yours of 7th May just to hand, as also copy of Daily News. Many thanks. Address ‘Bechuanaland via West Barkly’ will always reach me. The ‘Rondebosch’ ones reached me re-addressed.

I sent this Mr St Leger of the Cape Times a number of copies of a supplement to that paper in which Mr Rhodes settlement and my own were considered. I thought the statement brought out very clearly the fatal mistake made by Sir Hercules in sending these men up without instructions – men who in effect sacrificed the native interests in Stellaland, and were unable as I was to do any business in Goshen. I trust my action in sending these sheets home will meet with your approbation: and that you will forgive me for just sending them without accompanying letter. In case you have been to expense in circulating them which you do not think your society ought to defray I shall be glad to meet is, and also remain indebted to you. The enclosed letters treat on the same topics. Mankoroane sent his son Molala with enclosed letter from Taung to Mafeking so that by means of the letter and his son’s personal explanation Mankoroane might be able to lay his case before the Special Commissioner. This was when we were away at Shoshong. Sir C. at once acquainted the High Commissioner with the receipt of the letter and its nature, but has received no reply: and is powerless to do anything – so long as the shreds of Rhodes’s settlement are not taken out of the way. As the letters are now official documents, you will please not publish these, the information which they give and which I supplement now you are free to use.

The appearance of the statement as to the two settlements has been followed by the … silence on the subject by the other side. I have been amused to get several letters from Cape friends of a cheerful tone: apparently the thought of writing to me from reading those remarks. I do trust the whole Rhodes settlement will be swept out of the way my Her Majesty’s Govt as Sir H.R. and Rhodes are intimate personal friends, this will require to be supported and insisted on from your side.

With kindest regards,
I am every yours sincerely,
John Mackenzie