Jabavu, John Tengo
King Williams Town
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MSS. Brit. Emp. S. 18 / C139-17
King Williams Town, Cape Colony
Native Opinion Office
5 Sept 1887
My dear Mr Chesson,
I am very pleased to be able to congratulate yourself and the Society on the progress achieved in the question of our disfranchisement. I gather this from the cable messages that are appearing from time to time in the colonial newspapers.
The Port Elizabeth committee (native) are also in receipt of a letter from Sir Hercules Robinson, intimating that he has received from the Secretary of State a despatch informing him that our telegram to him had been received and that whatever representations we had to make should be sent through His Excellency.
Of course our case is in the hands of the Society. All the native centres are ready to hear from you whether in furthering their case it is absolutely necessary that the deputation should be sent to give you the benefit of the information from the spot, or whether the subject is so clear in your own minds as not to need the adoption of such a course. The people are ready to send the deputation. It is for you to decide whether you will require their assistance or not.
I am glad, moreover, to inform you that public opinion in the colony is coming round to us, whereas a little while ago, our determination to bring our case to Her Majesty’s government was truly characterized as insane, and the action of the Society as restated in your letter to the Times as unwarrantable interference. The Cape Argus which used to be our staunch champion was foremost in raising these obstacles, while the Cape Times ably espoused our cause, although it proved itself weak kneed before the interference bogey. More papers are now on our side, and the English sector of the community are discussing whether they should not get up their own petition to the Secretary of State against the Bill. In these and other indications we discern a rift in the dark clouds overhanging us.
I was going to have my copies of the Aborigines Friend bound, but I find the following copies missing (not having been received): Previous to Dec ’79, Nos. I. II. III. V. also No IX, new series. Of the numbers comprising Vol. II new series I have not Nos. I. III. IV., the last No of this series being VII. If you have a copy to spare of each of these numbers, I should thank you very much for it.
I am forgetting to say that if it is finally decided that the native deputation should visit England, ofr climatic and other reasons it would not leave the colony until April next. That is my impression, of course as you have the management of the case in hand we shall be guided very much by your instructions.
With very king regards and best wishes,
I am, my dear Mr Chesson,
Yours very faithfully,
J. Tengo Jabavu
F.W. Chesson Esq
Just a line to say that I received yours of the 28 …, which conveyed the information, among others, that Sir Robert Fowler MP had received mine. The majority here by which we were disfranchised is ignorant and prejudiced. Its action which has been universally condemned in the colony by the entire … has tended to make … a by word. So there cannot be much complaint out here is the imperial government should charge action of the Cape. … as the Cape Times observes (Aug 24 87) ‘If ever imperial interference could be desired in our domestic affairs it would be to stay such legislation as this dishonest Registration Act until at least the opinion of the country had been taken upon it.’ With this we should be content; although the imperial government should have a say in a matter, of all others touching its own work – the grant of the Constitution. It is by Sec. 83 Constitution Ordinance and the reason they state that we invoke imperial interference on behalf of the weak natives and by every opportunity I have written to Mr Chamberlain, thinking that as a … weight with Secretary of State – You might see him too.
I forward you copies of Argus and Times with full speeches of Mr Solomon a clever lawyer and of Mr Merriman, on them our case may be rested.