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MSS. Brit. Emp. S. 18 / C148-5
Martizburg, 15 July 1882
Private and confidential
My dear Mr Chesson,
I was very glad to get your letter of the 9th June, though I am guiltless of having sent you the paper to which you refer.
You will have heard by telegraph that the Legislative Council have refused to renew their protest against Cetywayo’s return to Zululand. My friend Mr Saunder brought the matter forward, but had very little real support. Two amendments were brought forward. One simply declines to renew the protest. This was withdrawn, and the following adopted:
The words crossed through were struck out at the request of several members. There was no devision taken, but I am told (in fact I know) that if the Council had divided, the amendment might have been lost, the five executive members having orders from Sir Henry Bulwer to vote against anything seeming to hint at a possibility of Cetywayo’s return. …
You will at once see from this resolution that public feeling in Natal has undergone a great change in respect of the Zulu question. I enclose the leader that appeared in the Witness the moment Cetywayo’s visit to England was decided on (June 27/82) and another written a fortnight later, in which I have ventured to allude to your letter to me and I may say without hesitation that the leader of the 27th June struck the key note of the position. Although some members of the Council feel bound to express their strong disapproval of Cetywayo’s return, the public conviction is that the return is inevitable. I have taken particular pains to gauge public feeling in every direction, and I find that the opposition to Cetywayo’s return is dead. Efforts have been made in Durban to get up an agitation on the subject, but have completely failed. The general feeling is this: that care must be taken that by Cetywayo’s return the colony is not involved in any … risk.
This, after all that has passed, you cannot wonder at. Nor can the government desire that such risk should be created. If you ask me to account for this change of feeling, I may say that it is to be accounted for on the … Grounds. In the first pplace, the lapse of time has carried people further away from the alarm and excitements of the Zulu war. In the next place, every colonist sees that these present settlement cannot work. It was intended by Sir Garnet Wolseley to be a settlement ala Kilkenny, and from such a prospect every colonist, to do their justice, revolts.
Now that things are going more to your liking, I hope you will be more disposed to acknowledge the wisdom of the course I have taken. I have always held (and hold still) that there is risk connected with any settlement of Zululand. There were, and are, arguments in favour of establishing British authority in Zululand, and arguments in favour of Cetywayo’s return. I have made it constantly my endeavour to put this view forward. But I have always leaned to the anti-Cetywayo side for this reason: that if I had seemed to lean in the least degree to the other side, I should have lost all power of being heard. To have got people in Natal to see that there are two sides to this question is to have accomplished a great deal. We have got rid of the local … Simply by leaving it alone. People now discuss the subject on its merits, in the manner of people determined to make the best of a condition of things which they don’t like. This is a fact which I would wish particularly to impress on your supporters in the House of Commons. Now things are in the present favourable condition, don’t let them make the mistake of cheering Natal colonists. Their true policy lies exactly the other way. A few reasonable words in praise of the moderate and sensible attitude of colonists in Natal will oil All your wheels In a manner which will please and perhaps surprise you.
Now as regards what will have to be done in Zululand. There are rocks to be avoided, and your supporters must not run the risk of having it reported to them that they have caused, even indirectly, bloodshed and disorder. John Dunn will have to be dealt with. He can’t stay in the country after the part he has taken. It must be made easy for him to go out. Then there is the question of the king’s private property, cattle and so on, about which he is very sore, and naturally so. That will have to be arranged. Every care, too, must be taken that the appointed chiefs in no way suffer. It must be made easy for them to appear as welcoming Cetywayo back again. Then the king must be accompanied into the country by an escord of imperial troops, …, if possible, five or three hundred cavalry, to show that he has the moral support and approval of England. I am glad to find that the general (… Smyth) quite shares this opinion, though don’t mention his name as coming through me. As for the resident, and there must be a resident, he must be paid enough to make the place worth the acceptance of a better man than Osborn. I think it quite possible that Natal colonists may be induced to undertake the burden of the expenditure in this direction, if the matter is generously dealt with, and no hint throughout of expecting them to do so at the outset. They are very sore about the manner in which the present resident’s salary is paid, and they can be, if you and your friends will believe it, much more easily led than driven.
And now let me warn you that the greatest obstacle in the way of any settlement of Zululand on the basis of Cetywayo’s return will be Sir Henry Bulwer. He is un able and honest man in many ways; but he is, in respect to Zululand, under the supreme domination of his two besetting weaknesses – indecision and obstiancy. He is persuated that there is nothing like keeping thinks in Zululand in a state of balance, keeping up the position of the Kilkenny cats, only declining to believe that the cats have either teeth or claws. He will raise difficulty after difficulty, and fight for delay after delay, and will sanction nothing that goes against his own view, except under strong pressure. He has done nothing since he came towards getting at the real truth of things in Zululand, and persistently ignores the opinion of those who know most about the country. Everyone expected that holding a special commission with regard to Zululand, he would have visited that country long ago. But he cannot make up his mind, apparently, what to do. His sources of information are both limited and prejudiced. Osborn, the Zulu resident, is not independent enough to say what he thinks, and John Shepstone, the acting secretary for native affairs here, is a nonentity. Yet upon these two channels of information Sir Henry Bulwer depends, and both naturally colour their reports by his prejudices. Still, there can be no doubt that Osborn has more than once reported that the existing settlement is a failure, and how, in the face of these reports, Bulwer can go on believing in that settlement, is to me a mystery. You may take my word on it, that, if only proper guarantees against future danger are provided, the sooner Cetywayo is back the better Natal colonists will be pleased, because there will then be an end to the agitation and unsettlement that now prevails. But you must take care that you are not thwarted by Bulwer.
As regards our constitutional reform in Natal, … Is going home as soon as the session of the legislature is over, and you will do well not only to see him, but to induce your supports to pay great attention to what he may say to them whenever he may meet them. It is to his cautious and moderating influence in the legislative council that the refusal to renew a protest against Cetywayo’s return is mainly owning, and I may say, in confidence, that his private convictions have always been in favour of Cetywayo’s return. I will let you know when he is leaving. I suppose you quite understand the principle of the constitutional reform we want. That there must be a removeable ministry everyone is agreed. The present executive can do nothing. But we must, for a time at least, have some force of imperial troops left in the colony, not for defence, but as a symbol to the native population that the Queen’s authority is not withdrawn. To secure this the colony offers three distinct concessions. First, seven members nominated by the Crown in a legislative council of 30, these seven being practically representatives of native interests. Next, the right of the Crown to nominate to the executive council as many members as there are in the ministry of the day. And third, the proviso that measures relating to native affairs shall only originate in the executive. If you consider these arrangements you will find that no measure relating to natives could be introduced without the consent of the Crown, and that it would require a majority of at least two thirds of the 23 elective members of the legislature to carry any resolution in the … Of the seven nominees. This is a practical way of meeting a great difficulty, and a way which, I think, your supporters must approve, because it prevents the playing with native interests for party purposes. The colonial office may appear to dislike this plan, but …, whom I think you have chiefly to thank for the more reasonable Zulu policy, will approve of it. And … Means rather more than ….
I believe Sir George Campbell takes considerable interest in affairs out here, and you are quite welcome to show him this letter, and to show it to any other of your supporters also will understand that I don’t want to be named as an authority. There is a great change of putting things here on a safe and reasonable basis, if only care is taken not to stir up prejudices.
I am yours truly,
F.W. Chesson Esq