Robert Lester to Frederick Chesson, 26 September 1883, C140/93

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Lester, Robert








Cape Colony

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MSS. Brit. Emp. S. 18 / C140-93


Cradock, Cape of Good Hope
Sept 26th 1883

F.W. Chesson Esq
17 King Wms St Charing Cross
London, W.C.


Dear Sir,

Since the receipt of your last under date June 9th 1881, I have been a silent observer of events in the Transvaal. I cannot travel all over the ground again, but doubtless you have seen the papers, and been kept informed of the villainous conduct of the Transvaal Boers. How they returned verdict after verdict of acquittal in the face of overwhelming evidence of guilt in favour of their murderous countrymen, and yet this satisfied the English government. What a farce! But it is all the satisfaction the families of the poor, betrayed, and murdered victims appear ever likely to obtain. As I wrote you before I know it would be so, as no Cape Dutchman has ever yet been known to return a verdict of guilty against a fellow Boer, or a verdict of not guilty against the prosecutor in favour of a blackman. Witness the so called trials of Mampoer and Niable in the Transvaal, now just concluded, of course both are found guilty, and will be hung or shot forthwith, right or wrong, and would have been, all the same, if there had been no evidence whatever against them. Niable is undoubtedly an independent chief, and is no way subject to the Transvaal, and for that matter, so is Mampoer, and then to think of the thousands of the followers of these chiefs, men, women, and children, driven along for days and days, without food, and with little clothing, until hundreds sank on the road and died from pure exhaustion, and the survivors were apprenticed as they call it for five years each to the Boers. This means forced to work as slaves, or be lashed until they do in future. There is a deputation from these bloodthirsty ruffians now on the way to London, see enclosed cutting from paper. They will of course try and get up an appearance, and look as innocent as they can to Mr Gladstone, but they cannot deceive us out here. They hate the coloured people and the English with all their hearts, and openly boast that they would like to drive them all into the sea. ‘Therefore the Africander Bond’, they also say openly, that they got their own way last time through the fear of the English government, and have only to threaten to get it again. It is unfortunate that Mr Gladstone has consented to receive this deputation instead of sending out a representative, as he at first intended. They proposed the deputation, and as usual, Mr Gladstone at once fell into the trap. They knew that an English official sent out would soon find out the truth and report it, whereas by sending home a deputation they, the deputation, could tell whatever story they pleased, and there would be no one to contradict them. Quite lately we are told Mr Gladstone said the English government would not allow these Boers to extend the Transvaal by conquest in the direction of Stellaland, accordingly without annexing that country they have declared it another independent Dutch Boer Republic, under a Mr van Niekerk, a Boer President, and when will this sort of thing end. It if were not for the almost certainty of a Boer revolution [at last?] it would be indeed laughable, but matters are far too serious to laugh at. Fancy they have also occupied most of [Seketwayo’s?] country near Natal and coolly marked it off into farms for themselves and set up land beacons etc. etc. If this is told to the deputation, they will no doubt deny it forthwith. These Boers can lie wonderfully.

‘They won’t, or can’t, do otherwise than lie, but do it so well, they very truth seems falsehood to it?’ Byron

A Boer learns to lie from his birth, to lie well, and to shoot well. It is, in fact, about the extent of their education as but few of them can write or read. The enclosed cutting will bear my statements out. I have headed this letter private because I should not be safe here if it were known that I write you. I should soon have the Africander Bond party down upon me for daring to tell the truth, in the hope you may be able to do something.

I remain dear Sir
Yours very truly …
Robert Lester
Barrister at Law
Senior member of the Natal Bar