Reginald Statham to Frederick Chesson, 5 July 1882, C148/4

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Statham, Reginald









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MSS. Brit. Emp. S. 18 / C148-4


Martizburg, Natal, 5 July 1882

Dear Mr Chesson,

Many thanks for your letter of the 5th May.

I suppose it is very true that there are people working with you who lived in South Africa before I was born. That mere fact in itself, however, does not affect the argument one way or the other. In fact, I have seen reason to believe that the laudator temporis acti is often as great a nuisance in politics as in society. Some people want to be born before others, and it seems to me a highly beneficial arrangement that younger men should be continually springing up to take in hand questions of which older man are losing grasp.

I quite understand and appreciate your view of the Zulu question, and I quite admit that very possibly the only alternatives are restorations of Cetywayo, or practical annexation. I do not, however, know that annexation is in itself a wicked thing. If you wish to keep mischevious and irresponsible European influences out of the country, if you wish to keep a control over the relations between Europeans and natives, certainly you will do it best by something like annexation. That, I believe, was the opinion held by Lord Kimberley six months ago; and I am quite certain that had he then acted on his conviction, hundreds of Zulus who have since been killed would today have been alive. Now, if it is true that Lord Kimberley was withheld by the influence of the members of the Aborigines Protection Society, it may become a nice moral problem as to how far the members of that Society are responsible for these lives. It might be said that while they were striving to do a dutiful act of justice to one man, they neglected the interests of thousands, and imminently caused the death of hundreds. It is, at least, an absolute certainty that if Cetywayo is restored and bloddshed and disturbance follows, those who chiefly agitated for his return will be directly responsible for the bloodshed. Can you call that a very comfortable consideration?

The real truth is, your friends ought to be very much obliged to me for putting, as far as I can, a brake on their generous impulses. I suppose, however, they are not. Well, it can’t be helped. I must go on, I suppose, writing for the ‘mob’ (as you put it). But if you really wish to prevent the ‘mob’ from becoming hurtful to the native, you would seek the aid of those here who can guide the ‘mob’ without running counter to it.

Believe me to be, yours very truly,
Reginald Statham

F.W. Chesson

You make a singular mistake in putting poor old Saunders and myself in the same boat. He is just one of the people that has to be kept in order. Fowler is quite welcome to eat him up, if he chooses; and if mere lung power could do it, I think he would have a good chance of success.