John Tengo Jabavu to Frederick Chesson, Sept 13 1881, C139/3

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Jabavu, John Tengo


Indigenous person






Cape Colony

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Bodleian Libraries

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MSS. Brit. Emp. S. 18 / C139-3


13th Sept 1881

F.W. Chesson Esq

My dear Sir,

I was very please to receive your last letter, and thank you very much for same. I notice you made excerpts from my communications to you have published them in the Daily News – this I found in a Colonial paper, the Watchman. I expected to get a copy of the News, but none was forthcoming. I think the letter – or rather the excerpt – did some good. It left some impression, if one can judge of the fact that it went the rounds of the Colonial press.

The state of things is virtually not changed from what it was when I wrote you last time. Ad interim the Basuto negotiations have been patiently carried on by Mr Sauer, the Native Secretary. The enemies of the Basutos are doing their very best to place obstacles in the path of a peaceful settlement. The grievances of the loyalists are championed with a pertinacity and expounded with an ability by Beach-Frere-Sprigg period. We have not been able as yet to be disappointed with our present rulers.

The stolidity of the Imperial government to the solicitations of many for the release of Cetywayo is inexplicable to us at this distance. The retention of this innocent king in captivity is still one of the shabby blots on the Great English nation, hurled at it by the late Tory Government, of which it was, as it ever has been in the past, the simple duty of the Liberal government to rinse it. Perhaps the reluctance of our Great Father the Imperial Government to do this would have been less surprising if our old friend Mr John Bright and our rising one Mr Joseph Chamberlain were not in the Cabinet and Mr L. Courtney not in an influential position; but as things stand, we really have a right to expect the public avowal of Mr Bright and Mr Chamberlain’s grounds for helping in tyrannizing over one who has hoisted into an unfortunate position by a self-willed satrap – Sir Bartle Frere. The efforts which are at the present moment being made on behalf of Cetywayo are enough, and I may say nothing more in that subject – beyond expressing a hope that they may be successful.

I cannot agree with the Cape Argus when it thinks matters would be complicated in Zululand were Cetywayo returned. With all their bravery and preparedness the Zulus, it has been proved, have never thought of fighting the British government and much less would they entertain a thought of that kind after the tragic events that blackened the English name in 1879. At present much personal liberty is required for Cetywayo and the APS might do well to keep the subject before the public, for I think should they attain their end they will have this satisfaction that far form the forbodings of the unstable minded on this matter being unverified, the permanent peace of South Africa shall have been settled … by a reflection that the high minded British nation has imprisoned an innocent man.

The Gaika chiefs in the batteries in cape Town also require some attention. I think it is now time to turn a new page in S.A. history. Let therefore past shortcomings be forgiven, and every one after the experience of the past unrest allowed a chance. British generosity has been shown in the case of Sekukuni and the Basuto chiefs. Why not liberate all the native chiefs and turn a new page altogether?

Yours very truly
J Tengo Jabavu