PHILIPPS, Thomas, 1828
National Archives, Kew, CO48/127, 374
Glendour District of Albany
Cape of Good Hope
5th March 1828
In the month of December 1826 a Memorial signed by a numerous Body of English Settlers & others, resident in this district, was forwarded to His Honor Major General BOURKE, Lieut. Governor of this Colony, humbly praying for the reasons therein stated, that he would be pleased to repeal the Proclamation prohibiting the distillation of Spirits from Grain.
From the reply which was returned to the Memorialists it appeared that His Honor judged proper to refer it to the Honorable Council, and it was therein that the Members did not think themselves justified in recommending the repeal of Proclamation of such long standing as of the year 1798 without the concurrence of His Majesty's Minister for the Colonies.
The Memorialists having waited twelve months without any further communication & pressure on the Growers of Barley & Oats having increased, in consequence of the diminished demand owing to the disbanding of part of the Cape cavalry, a letter was addressed to the Honorable Col. BELL, Acting Secretary to Government, with a request to be informed if any orders had been received from England, but as from the reply it appears that no communication had been as yet received, it is humbly hoped that you will not think it an improper interference on my part, considering the urgency of this, in venturing to address you, direct, on the subject.
Before I proceed I must beg leave explicitly to declare [that] no unfavorable impression has arisen with regard to the delay & that it has been attributed to no other cause than to the [changes] which have taken place in the Department over which you have been so lately appointed to preside.
As all the papers connected with this affair will of course be in your office, I shall only intrude with one observation, namely that a copy of the prohibitory proclamation not having been obtained until after the Memorial was forwarded The Memorialists were precluded from offering any comments on it, I will now briefly observe that it is dated in the year 1798 & that the cause of its being issued is alleged to be owing to the scarcity of Corn which existed at the period. Since the year 1798 the circumstances of the Colony have materially changed. The four Frontier Districts & those which are most affected by the prohibition, now so populous, were not all formed & scarcely inhabited. The proclamation may therefore fairly be inferred as only embracing the then state of the five Western [sic]
The inhabitants of the new Territory have with slight exception employed themselves in grazing & the growth of Corn, leaving the cultivation of the Vine to the western inhabitants being more fortunately situated for the exportation of their wines & Spirit enjoyed advantages which were denied to them.
In proportion as the Colony extended eastward the distance from Cape Town, the only export Place, became of course increased & in the same ratio the expenses on such ? articles as wines + spirits became increased. Graham's Town, the capital of Albany & in size become the second Town of the Colony, is 600 miles from Cape Town it is forced to draw all its supplies of this nature, owing to the prohibition in question, from thence, by which the price to the consumer is enhanced above cent per cent for ? price of Cape Brandy is retailed there at 1'/6 per gallon whilst at this extremity it cannot be afforded at less than 3/9. It is computed that the value of these articles expended in this District alone amongst the Inhabitants & Military exceeds 15.000, a great proportion of which may be considered as an unnecessary drain for if Distillation from Grain was allowed, the inhabitants could supply within themselves a much cheaper & what is of more consequence much wholesomer liquor.
Having pointed out the heavy pressure on the Eastern Inhabitants being thus forced to take all their supplies from the Western, I will proceed to notice the alleged cause of the prohibition, namely the scarcity of Corn. It will not be attempted to be denied that the cause was justifiable, & further that the same cause might have continued to a later period. The industry of the British Settlers has however put a period to any further apprehension of any scarcity of Barley & Oats which are the only grain prayed for to be used in distillation. The contract for the delivery for the next 9 months [with] Cavalry has just been concluded, still a surplus remains for which there is no market altho procurable at about 2/- the Winchester Bushel, from the want of Harbor exportation is rendered impossible, the agriculturists must rely entirely on internal consumption & except they are permitted to make every use of their Produce, their fields which they have tilled with much littler profit for 7 years must be again allowed to resume their former wilderness.
I hope I shall not be considered as having trespassed too much on your time, by thus dwelling on a subject of much moment to those around me, both Growers and Consumers, and will conclude with expressing my fervent expectation that this question will be met with the same liberal spirit which now governs our native Country & that the period has passed away when by monopolies or Influence, the interests of one part of the same People are allowed to be sacrificed [to] those of another.
I have the Honor to remain, Sir
Your obedient and humble servant