Distressed Settlers Report, 1825
Transcribed from a printed report filed in CO48/74 at the National Archives in Kew, London
Report of the Committee of the Society for the Relief of Distressed Settlers in South Africa
With an Appendix
Printed at The Chronicle Office, Heeregracht
By W BRIDEKIRK, Jun.
His Honour Sir John TRUTER, Knight, LL.D Chief Justice,
J.W. STOLL, Esq.
W.W. BIRD, Esq.
Rev. G. HOUGH, A.M. Colonial Chaplain
Rev. J PHILIP, D.D.
Rev. W. WRIGHT, A.M.
Rev. A. FAURE
H.W. MONEY, Esq. Hon. C.C.S.
W.T. BLAIR, Esq. ditto
John TROTTER, Esq. ditto
A.B. TOD, Esq. ditto
R. MORRIESON, Esq. ditto
Capt, MILLER, Hon. M.S.
Capt. ROBERTSON, ditto
Capt. W.G. MacKENZIE, ditto\
R.W. EATON, Esq.
R. J. JONES, Esq.
Samuel BAILEY, Esq.
James ABERCROMBIE, Esq.
George THOMPSON, Esq.
H.E. RUTHERFOORD, Esq.
R. CROZIER, Esq. Treasurer
Mr. F. DICKINSON, Secretary.
SUB-COMMITTEE in ALBANY
Donald MOODIE, Esq.
Miles BOWKER, Esq.
Rev. S. KAY
Thomas PHILIPPS, Esq.
C.T. THORNHILL, Esq.
The Committee of the Society for the Relief of Distressed Settlers in South Africa, consider it to be their duty, before bringing their proceedings to a final close, to render to the Benefactors of the Society they represent, an account of the application that has been made since the last General Meeting of the Subscribers, of the Funds then remaining at their disposal, and of those additional contributions which have since been received from the benevolent supporters of the Institution in India and England; and the Committee beg to offer at the same time some remarks on the mode in which the general distribution of the bulk of the Funds has been made, and the beneficial effects which have already been produced, and may confidently be expected to result from it hereafter.
The Report laid before the last General Meeting of the Subscribers to the Society, brought up their proceedings to the month of August, 1824; and on the publication of that report, which was unavoidably delayed until the following October, there was a balance in the hands of the Committee of nearly Rds. 100,000, which was, before the commencement of the present year, increased by remittances from India and England, to upwards of Rds.110,000. On this sum the Committee made but few encroachments until the resolutions which form the close of the last report had been acted upon and their object gained, by the attainment of the circumstantial information, and valuable suggestions, contained in the interesting Report of the Sub-Committee in Albany, (to be found in the Appendix to this Report,) and the various documents which accompanied it.
From the extensive assistance afforded by the arduous exertions and well-directed labours of the members of the Sub-Committee, in the investigation of the circumstances attending between three and four hundred individual cases, the Committee were induced to adopt the principle of distribution suggested by the Report of the Sub-Committee, with such modifications as were found requisite for a just and impartial administration of their Funds; and the Committee determined to make a general distribution among the whole body of Settlers who had applied for, or were recommended and found entitled to the relief of the Society; and with a view of applying the Funds of the Society to their intended purpose, as speedily as the acquired magnitude of the concern would allow, the Committee for some considerable time held meetings for the transaction of the business of the Society twice in every week.
On perusal of the Sub-Committee''s Report, and the original applications for relief and statements of distress, made by the Settlers themselves, the Committee ascertained that the majority of the persons seeking aid from the Funds of the Society, (from a just confidence in themselves and the resources of the country,) solicited that such assistance should be afforded by loan, rather than by donation.
From a consideration of the laudable motives which had prompted the greater number of the Settlers to desire that mode of relief from the Society, and from a reliance on the stimulating effects likely to be produced on the industry of the lower classes, by the advance to them of pecuniary aid on load, in preference to a distribution of it in the shape of alms; as well as from being informed by intelligent persons who, from their residence in Albany were capable of forming the best of opinion on the subject, “that that mode (if practicable) would be productive of more permanent good than any other, and that it was the only shape in which assistance could be made acceptable to those who had been the greatest sufferers;” the Committee after mature deliberation, came, on the 4th January last, to the following Resolutions on the subject:-
At a Meeting of the Committee, it was Resolved,
1st. That this Society having to the present period acted on the principle of giving loans, in preference to donations, in the distribution of the funds committed to their care, the Committee see no reason to depart from that principle.
2d. That in consequence of the expected dissolution of the Society, by reason of the expenditure of their funds, and the alteration that will thereupon take place in their relative situation with the Settlers, a circular letter be prepared and addressed to each of the individuals receiving a share of the funds, expressive of the views and sentiments of the Committee.
3d. That the following letter be adopted:
“To Mr. --------------
Cape Town, January, 1825
“Sir, --- The Committee of the Society for the Relief of Distressed Settlers in South Africa, having resolved to make a general distribution of the funds in their hands, after a careful classification of the numerous claims brought to their notice, with reference to the various conditions and circumstances of the parties, I am directed to acquaint you, that the proportional share which they find themselves enabled to place at your disposal, amounts to ______Rds. For which sum you will herewith receive an order on the treasurer of the Society.
“In the appropriation of these funds, the Committee have felt anxious to meet, as far as possible, the wishes of the numerous individuals, whose praise-worthy feelings have induced them to solicit loans from the Society, in preference to any other mode of assistance. As, however, the Society itself will necessarily be dissolved as soon as its funds are distributed, the Committee having taken into consideration the difficulties attending any arrangement which could be made under these circumstances, for the future recovery and appropriation of money lent with the usual formalities, have come to the conclusion that they cannot better fulfil the intentions of Subscribers, and at the same time, consult the feelings of individuals, than by leaving it to their honor and discretion to adopt the most eligible mode of appropriating the money, to such ulterior purposes of public utility and beneficence within the Settlement, as may be agreed upon among the Settlers themselves, in lieu of re-funding it to this Society.
‘I am, Sir,
“Your obedient Servant,
‘F. DICKINSON, Sec.”
On the Committee having come to the resolution of these distributing their funds, a list of all the applicants was made, and divided into four classes, which were again sub-divided into orders; and, on every circumstance being taken into account, that could with propriety be allowed to influence the claims of individuals, each person was placed in that order of the classification, and allotted that proportion of the general relief, to which from his relative situation, he was considered entitled.
The allotment of the shares assigned to the applicants of the several orders, was made in the following proportions:-
|To Individuals of the
On the classification having been thus formed, the share of each individual was remitted to him, by an order on the Treasurer of the Society for the amount, enclosed in the above circular letter.
The individuals comprehended in the several orders of the first and second classes, are those who have expended considerable capital in the purchase of stock, and the improvement of their lands, by building and other means; many of these are gentlemen of great respectability with large families, possessing a knowledge of agriculture, and who might have resided in their own country with much comparative comfort.
Those persons included in the two orders of the third class, are such as brought to this country small capitals which were fruitlessly expended, leaving no resource but that of cultivating a small plot of land, for the provision of bread for their families, or of abandoning their locations altogether.
In the fourth, the most numerous and poorest class of Settlers, are comprehended few who emigrated with more property than their deposit of £10 or £30, according to the number of their families; and as most of these are labouring mechanics, or farming men, although the pressure of the calamities that have been incident to all the Settlers, fell heaviest on them in the first instance, their losses have not been so severe, nor their sufferings so protracted, as those that have befallen the higher classes; the habits of life of the former having enabled many of them to earn a subsistence, by working in other parts of the country, or persevering in their labours on the location.
The object, therefore, of the Committee in granting to the Members of the first and second Classes of Settlers, shares in the distribution of so large an amount, in comparison with those allotted to the persons ranked in the third and fourth Classes, was, by placing in the hands of those who had been the greatest sufferers, yet possessed from their experience the best means of applying capital advantageously, such sums as would enable them a second time to purchase stock, and employ a portion of the labouring classes in the cultivation of their farms; and it will be seen, on reference to the Report of the Proceedings of the Society, for the year 1823, that this mode of allotment is in strict adherence to the grounds on which the following Resolution was proposed at the General Meeting of the Subscribers, held in that year:- “Resolved, that the distress of many of the Settlers is extreme, and calls for the renewed and increased exertions of the inhabitants of this Colony, and of other parts of the British Empire; and, for the purpose of encouraging subscriptions, that the Proceedings of this day be printed and circulated, and that the Resolutions of this Meeting, with a list of the Subscribers, be inserted in the Cape Gazette, and in the English and Indian Papers.”
In moving this Resolution, Sir Richard OTTLEY observed, in speaking of the two higher classes of Settlers, “it is for the purpose of assisting the two former classes, that I call upon this meeting to adopt the present motion; the heads of parties are those who have been most severely afflicted, and they are the persons who are least likely to make their afflictions public; they have lost nearly the whole of their capital, and have received no return for the grain which has been sown; it is in favour of these persons that we are peculiarly called upon for assistance.” On this Resolution being carried into effect, the subscriptions which have lately come under the distribution of the Committee, were raised in India and England; and the Committee entertain a strong conviction that the measure they have adopted, promises to be attended with more permanent and general relief than any other, to those classes of Settlers, who alone had foundation for their hopes of success in agricultural pursuits, and on whom the future prosperity of the Settlement chiefly depends.
In addition to those persons comprehended in the before-mentioned classes, several individuals, whose claims on the bounty of the Society required a deviation from the classification, were relieved by loans of 500 Rds. Each, on the same terms, as those on which the allotments to all the other Settlers, had been granted.
The whole number of claims preferred to the Committee, from the Settlers in Albany, and other parts of the Colony, amounted to 380, on examination of which, grounds were found for the rejection of about one out of sixteen, leaving the number of heads of families relieved by the Funds of the Society nearly 360, which, with the addition of the wives and families of the parties, may be estimated to form an aggregate of more than 1100 persons.
In the second and third items of the account of Expenditure, are comprehended various sums granted by the Committee, (in anticipation of the general distribution,) to Settlers following agricultural pursuits on their locations, or elsewhere, whose cases had been recommended to them as of urgent distress, and requiring immediate temporary relief; the sums received by the parties on these occasions, have been usually deducted from their portions of the general relief, and the Committee derive much satisfaction from the belief, that many industrious but unfortunate persons, have been saved from impending ruin by the timely aid thus afforded them.
In the appropriation of the sum of Rds. 1000, voted by the Committee for the establishment of a Child-bed-linen Charity, in Albany, the Committee feel it due to the Rev. Mr. KAY to acknowledge their obligation to him, for the projection of an institution of such utility and benevolence; the letter on the subject from this gentleman, to be found in the appendix, (marked A.) will fully describe the object, and plan of the Charity.
The Committee feel considerable pleasure in stating, that the benefit derived by the lower classes of Settlers from the distribution of clothing among them, has been very general and substantial. Portions of the clothing were forwarded by the Committee, to several members of the Sub-committee, by whom it was dispensed among the lower orders of Settlers, in proportion to the numbers of their families, and the extent of their necessities; and the Committee beg to refer to extracts from two letters in the appendix (marked B,C.) from the members of the Sub-Committee, who have been charged with the disposal of this branch of the distribution, for the opinion entertained by them of the utility and advantage, which have attended this mode of relief; and the Committee desire to add, that to preserve the impartiality with which they have uniformly endeavoured to act, the persons to whom pecuniary aid has been most sparingly administered, have received the most liberal supply of clothing.
From the increase in the number of applications made to the Committee, from persons who had left their locations, and arrived, (many of them with their families in a most destitute state,) in Cape Town, it became requisite to guard against any imposture that might be attempted to be made on the bounty of the Committee; and for that purpose, as well as to enable the Committee to obtain the best knowledge of the particular circumstances and necessities of those who had a claim to relief, a Visiting Committee was appointed, composed of the Secretary and three of its own members, to be nominated in rotation at each successive meeting, to act on the part of the Committee between the several meetings, under the following regulations:-
1st. To inquire into the circumstances of any one, whose case might have been referred for that purpose, by any former Committee.
2d. To inquire into such cases of distress among the Settlers, as might come to their knowledge.
3d. To endeavour to obtain employment for persons in need of, and unable to procure it.
4th. To report their proceedings at the following meeting.
The advantages derived by the Society, as well as by the necessitous Settlers resident in Cape Town, from the exertions of this appointment, have been very considerable; as the Visiting Members have not only been effectual in preventing the charity of the Committee from being abused, but have discovered circumstances on visiting the homes of the Settlers, which delicacy would have veiled in a written or verbal statement, and which have often served to increase the assistance afforded by the Committee.
It may not be superfluous here to add, that at every meeting of the Committee for several months previous to the distribution, the number of personal applicants for relief, frequently exceeded twelve, the considerations of their several cases usually occupying the Committee from three to four hours. Where distress had arisen among claimants of this class, from want of employment, work was often procured b the Committee; where disease prevented the mechanic or labourer from earning his subsistence, medical aid (often accompanied by entire support) was afforded; while several widows, with three and four young children each, with some aged and infirm person, were wholly dependent for support on the funds of the Society.
While the Committee have been assiduously endeavouring to discharge their important duties, with fidelity to the intentions of the Subscribers, and an impartial regard to the wants and interests of the Settlers whom it has been their object to relieve, and while its records bear testimony to the care with which any allusion to political or party discussions has been excluded from its proceedings, the Committee have observed with concern and regret, attempts made to prejudice public opinion against the objects of the Society, and to stamp its endeavours to obtain relief for the distresses of the Settlers, with the character of fraud and imposture.
Strengthened as these attempts have apparently been, by the assertions of some even among the Settlers themselves, (with what motives it is not difficult to conjecture,) the Committee, conscious of the purity of their intentions, and relying on the ample sources of correct information they possessed, would have deemed them unworthy of notice or of refutation, had they not received an apparent sanction, and acquired a more extensive circulation, by the medium through which they have been brought before the public; the following resolutions passed by the Committee, will convey to the Subscribers at large their sentiments on the subject; and it is hoped that they, together with some other documents inserted in the Appendix will prove satisfactory to the friends of the Society, and serve to explain more fully, the grounds on which the Committee have acted:-
At a Meeting of the Committee, held on the 28th day of December, 1824, It was Resolved,
1st . – That in vindication of its own character, and that of the Society it represents, this Committee deems it necessary to record the sentiments of deep regret with which it views the reports that have been so industriously circulated, tending to impress the public mind both in England and India, with the belief that the subscriptions for the benefit of the Settlers in Albany have been obtained on false pretences, and exaggerated statements; and insinuating that the objects of this Society are not those which it has publicly professed.
2dly. – That, possessing in its own records a large body of correspondence with the Settlers of all classes, - having been for a considerable time in constant communication with a Sub-Committee of the most respectable gentlemen among the Settlers, and others resident in Albany, (who, both jointly and individually, have spared no pains to acquire the most minute and accurate information on the subject,) and, numbering as it now does, among its own members, no less than five gentlemen wholly unconnected with the Settlers, who have personally visited their locations during the last twelve months, for the purpose of making themselves acquainted with their actual condition; this Committee considers that it possesses the best possible evidence that can be obtained, regarding the past sufferings; and real wants, of the people whom it has been the object of the Society to relieve.
3dly. – That on an impartial review of the several printed reports, which have gone forth from this Society to the public, and on which the subscriptions have been raised, this Committee sees no ground whatever for considering that the statements they contain regarding the distress in Albany, (much of which still remains,) have been either exaggerated or unfounded, but on the contrary, that they exhibit a faithful picture of the actual condition of the Settlers, at the periods to which they relate :- and moreover, that from the latest inquiries, this Committee has every reason to believe that a considerable portion of the sufferings and privations of many among the most respectable families of the Settlers, through motives of delicacy and honest pride in the individuals, has never been disclosed to the eye of the public.
The Committee, however, have every reason to be satisfied, that, notwithstanding the endeavours which have been made to pervert the intentions and object of the Committee, in the performance of the duties imposed on them, the beneficence of the Subscribers has been productive of general and extensive benefits; and the administration of it impartial and just, and for the most part gratefully acknowledged; the Committee, therefore, feel assured that it will be a source of gratification to the liberal benefactors, who have contributed towards the alleviation of the personal sufferings and distresses of the British Emigrants in the Settlement, to learn, that from the diffusion among them of so considerable a sum of money, (attended by the favourable circumstances of a more productive harvest than had previously been experienced, and the opening a productive traffic with the Caffres, by means of a weekly fair held on the borders of the Settlement, ( the seeds of industry and perseverance, which a succession of failure in every region of enterprise had for several years so much digressed, as to render nearly inanimate, have perceptibly revived and hopes are afforded, that the difficulties with which some persons have had to struggle, who have resided on the locations during the whole period of their disasters, will be partially, if not wholly, overcome.
The following extract of a letter from a member of the Sub-Committee who personally superintended the distribution, will, it is hoped, be found fully to corroborate the opinion formed by the Committee, as to the favourable appearance which the prospects of the Settlers have assumed:-
“From the business of paying the drafts having devolved on me solely, I am enabled to assure the Committee that in a great number of instances, persons have been saved from ruin, or the disposal of their stocks or their farms, by the assistance which they have received from the Fund. If I have met with half-a-dozen discontent individuals, who, jealous of their neighbours'' receiving a larger portion than themselves, have accused us of partiality and rather roughly addressed me, I have been amply compensated by receiving for the Committee the thanks and unfeigned gratitude of a great majority.” Another member of the Sub-Committee writes, “An immense improvement in things is already perceptible, - that this should be allayed with some envy, was to be expected.”
In this concluding stage of their proceedings, the Committee cannot omit the expression of their acknowledgements to those gentlemen in England and India, who have so cordially lent their aid to promote the objects of the Society; to many of whom the Committee are not less indebted for the valuable assistance they have personally offered while here, than the Settlers are, for the benevolent exertions through which so considerable a fund has been raised for their relief.
The Committee also desire respectfully to acknowledge the readiness with which His Excellency the Governor has been pleased to remit duties upon the articles of clothing &c. received from India and England, as well as postage upon the Committee''s communications with the Sub-Committee, relative to the distribution of the fund; as also, his sanctioning the useful accommodation rendered by Mr. Commissary General HEWESTSON, in the liquidation through his department, of the bills of the Committee granted in favour of the Settlers.
The labours of the Sub-Committee in Albany, having been already alluded to in this Report, it remains but for the Committee, to express to the gentlemen of that respectable body, the high sense they entertain of the unwearied exertions which they have both jointly and individually employed, in forwarding the views of the Committee, and collecting accurate information to guide them in distributing the funds placed at their disposal.
Before closing their Report, the Committee feel it incumbent on them, to express to every individual, on the pledge of whose “honour and discretion” a portion of the general distribution has been granted by loan, their confident anticipation that the same feelings of honourable pride and independence, evinced by the majority of the Settlers in their declared aversion to benefit by the gratuitous aid of the Society, will prompt them as early as circumstances may allow, to refund the sums entrusted to them, and appropriate them to such purposes of public utility and beneficence among themselves, as may convert the bounty of the Subscribers, into a permanent source of relief for that surplus misery, which is inseparable from every organized state of Society.
Account of Receipts, Disbursements, and Appropriations of the Society for the Relief of Distressed Settlers in South Africa, since the last General Meeting.
|To BALANCE of last Account
|To amount drawn for in virtue of Letters of Credit received from W. FRY, Esq. Treasurer of the London Society £2,300 sterling
|To ditto in virtue of Letters of Credit received from Messrs. ARBUTHNOT & Co. Madras, 18,250 M. Rupees
|To ditto in virtue of Letters of Credit received from Messrs. ALEXANDER & Co. 20,800 Sa. Rupees
|To ditto received in Exchange for bills drawn by T. MORE, Esq. Secretary to the Bombay Government, in favour of ______ NEWNHAM, Esq. and indorsed to Secretary £1,354.2s.6d. Sterling
|To ditto received in Exchange for bill drawn by S. LAMBRICK, on The Rev. J BATT, Missionary, London, indorsed to Secretary, by Sir Richard OTTLEY, £20 sterling
By GENERAL DISTRIBUTION as under:-
|Deduct sums advanced to persons receiving shares,
|And included in the two next items of this account
|By Bills drawn upon the Treasurer by the Sub-Committee, with the
|Authority of the Committee, for the immediate relief of Cases of
|Temporary distress among the Settlers on their locations,………………….
|By Amount of Sums remitted for the immediate relief of Settlers in
|Different parts of the Country, pursuant to the Resolutions of the
|By Sums voted by the Committee for the temporary relief of sick and
|Distressed Persons, principally trades-people, who, with their families
|Had left their locations and proceeded to Cape Town…………………….
|By Grant for the Establishment of a Child-bed Linen Charity, in Albany ….
|By Amount expended in Monthly Allowances to Widows with families,
|The Aged, and Destitute ………………………………………………………..
|By Sums paid for Medical Attendance, Hospital Expences, &c. in behalf
|Of indigent Settlers ……………………………………………………………..
|Sums paid for Funeral Expences of poor Settlers …………………………...
|Sums provided for procuring Passages to England for two Widows of
|Settlers with four children each and a deranged Female …………………..
|By expence incurred for Stationery, Postage, and Advertisements ……….
|By Secretary''s Expences ………………………………………………………..
|Balance in hand ………………………………………………………………….
Report of the Sub-Committee in Albany.
The Sub-Committee formed in Albany, having brought their investigations to a close, now beg leave to lay before the Committee in Cape Town, an account of their proceedings, some remarks on the conditions of the Settlers, together with their opinion as to the best application of the Funds.
The first step taken by the Sub-Committee, was to issue to the Heads of Parties the circular, of which a copy is annexed, and from the returns thus procured, they were presented with a general view of the circumstances of the Settlers, sufficient to guide them in the formation of the accompanying general table.
It was, at first, the wish of the Sub-Committee, to convey in a tabular form, a full view of the circumstances and comparative claims of all who have persevered in occupying the land; but it was found, that this end could not be satisfactorily attained, without prosecuting an inquiry inconsistent with that regard which is due to the feelings of individuals, and which is inculcated by the Committee. From these considerations, it was deemed expedient to avoid, in the table, all direct reference to the amount of property brought out; and as to the estimate of losses and expenditure, the statements of individuals, and the returns of Heads of Parties (transmitted herewith) will, it is believed, be sufficiently explanatory.*
[* The Table, Statements, and Returns referred to, are very voluminous; and, to avoid the expense and delay incident to their being printed, they have not been annexed to this publication.]
It was the desire of the Sub-Committee, in rigid compliance with the instructions under which they act, to avoid touching upon any of the causes of the privations and distresses which first excited the sympathy of the Public, and gave rise to the Subscription now about to be distributed; but it is no less essential to the consistency of their Report, than necessary for the information of the Committee, to depart, in some degree, from this intention, and to offer some explanation with a view to reconcile the anomalous appearances presented by the misfortunes that have visited the Settlers in general, and the present more favourable circumstances of one portion of them.
In this explanation, the Sub-Committee will avoid all allusion to any topic foreign to the objects of the Society, or which their own resolution has precluded them from discussing; although this forbearance must in a considerable degree diminish the completeness and fidelity of their Report.
It now seems certain, from the evidence before the Sub-Committee, that the facilities offered by this Country, for the extension of new Settlements, were not inferior to those of other Colonies, and, it is only necessary in proof of this assertion, to notice the salubrity and mildness of the climate, which save to the Settler at the outset, many of the expenses elsewhere indispensable, under the heads of substantial habitations and clothing; and the cheapness and facility of procuring and maintaining one or other species of live stock; placing him at once in a situation, which in other Colonies, is only attained by great outlay, or after long perseverance and privation. On the other hand, the demand for labour, yielding to that in no other Country, offers a ready alternative to such of the labouring classes, as are inclined to leave their land, from any of the numerous causes of disappointment, which the new Settler must every where expect to encounter.
These advantages have been followed by their natural results, and instances will occur in the Table, of persons who emigrated without any property, and were thus exempted from losses which others have sustained, having now possessed themselves of good stocks of cattle, the produce of their labour, while among those of the mechanical professions, improvement has been so general, that very few applications from this class will be found of the list, with the exception of those who continued wholly or in part in the occupation of their land, thus shared in the general loss.
But it does not detract from those advantages, that they have forced themselves into notice in spite of an accumulation of circumstances, of a contrary tendency; nor does it follow, because the Settlement does not on a superficial view exhibit the outward marks of distress and want, that both have not pressed upon it with a weight, sufficient to have crushed the growth of any Colony.
Before pointing out how the Settlement has been affected by these circumstances, it may be proper to premise that in the year 1820, about 1000 heads of families, or adult males, were located in Albany; - that from the partial returns in the Table, it may be inferred that about 240 continue on the land, about 350 have found employment in the District, 250 in other parts of the Colony, that not above 50 have returned to England, while the deaths in four years, do not in all probability exceed the last number.
When it is remembered that the original number exceeded that, likely to confine themselves within a limited extent, in a Country thinly peopled, and presenting elsewhere a wide field for industry and enterprise, and that all emigrations must, in part consist of persons, but ill qualified for cultivators of land, the dispersion might be easily accounted for, without reference to the unforeseen calamities with which the Settlement has had to contend; but when these are taken into account, it must form a just subject of surprise, that so many have apparently surmounted the difficulties of their situation, and this can only be accounted for, by the fortitude and perseverance of such of the Emigrants, as were possessed of labour within their own families, availing themselves of the natural advantages above noticed.
It is well known, that in the first year of the Emigration, commenced a visitation of blight, which though previously almost unknown, then extended itself over the whole Colony. The first efforts of the Settlers, were naturally directed to securing a crop, and all according to their means, by the plough or the spade, cultivated in the first year, from 1 up to 80 or 90 acres; all the wheat sown was totally destroyed, and this not only in the first year, but from the three following seasons, the failure was nearly total.
It is equally notorious, that in June, 1821, and afterwards in a severer degree in October, 1823, heavy and long-continued rains produced the most destructive effects. Necessity or inexperience had induced many of the Settlers to cultivate and build upon the confined spots of level ground, on the banks of the scanty periodical streams, running in the beds of the numerous deep ravines which intersect the Settlement. The overflowing of these, in my instances, swept away or destroyed cultivated grounds, gardens, houses, or other property; while no height of situation secured the houses, crops, and stock, from serious loss by the more direct effect of the rains. It is also well known, that many of the Settlers in the more exposed situations, were plundered of their cattle by the Caffres, and that serious injury has been sustained from the wild animals of the country. Any remark upon the effect of these calamities would be superfluous. The liberality of Government in issuing provisions, for some time removed absolute want; and afterwards the natural resources of the country, the gradual accumulation of stock, and the dispersion of the greater part of the Emigrants, enable the rest to persevere in complying with the term of residence required.
These disasters have, however, fallen with different degrees of severity upon the different classes. The immediate distress naturally fell heaviest upon those, who were not possessed of the means of averting it, upon the poorer Settlers; but the more lasting consequences of the general failures, have evidently fallen to the share of those, who expended their more extensive means in supporting their families and servants through this succession of misfortune.
The relative situation of the three classes into which the present occupiers of the land naturally divide themselves, may be correctly ascertained from the following extracts of their letters:-
“I conceive it unnecessary, and indeed it would be unpleasant to me to enter into all the particulars of my losses. I need only say, that I have cultivated as much land as any individual in the district, and that I have reaped no benefit whatever from those exertions. These repeated attempts have exhausted all my funds. From Caffre depredations, and casualties, my loss in stock along exceeds 2700 Rix-dollars. Under these distressing circumstances, I feel myself compelled, however reluctantly, to request I may be allowed a Loan, to enable me to persevere in my endeavours to support a numerous family.”
Another communication to the Sub-Committee, from an individual who states, he has expended upwards of 20,000 Rix-dollars:- “I have at present but two servants; I had from 10 to 14 persons for the first 3½ years. Had my crops been equal to my expectations, even upon a moderate calculation, they would have more than covered the whole of my expenses. I have reaped about 32 muids of wheat, and the same of barley, - one-third of the quantity sown in four years. I conceive it impossible to cultivate an acre of land in this Colony, where the price of labour is so very high, for less than 30 Rix-dollars, including the see.”
A third Claimant says, - “After bringing out servants, and every thing suitable for farming, at a vast expense, and after three year'' hard labour, my capital was so dwindled, as to oblige me to dispose of my stock for the mere means of subsistence; and since, I have been obliged to sell my Place to meet the heavy demands upon me, occasioned by the very high price of labour, without the least return.” He concludes, “I have the world to begin again, being at present without either house or home, without the means of procuring them, and with a family to support.”
A fourth individual writes, - ‘I brought with me capital enough to have comfortably established myself, had my operations been conducted by experience, derived from a knowledge of the real capabilities of the Country.” After stating losses from rust, flood, &c. he proceeds – “Thus, after an indefatigable attempt, for three years, I have entirely lost my capital, and am precluded from raising myself from my present situation, without assistance. But at the same time that I make this representation, I disdain appealing to charity; I therefore presume to solicit a Loan, repayable after a certain term, with annual interest.”
A fifth writer states, _ “That he was obliged to leave his location, in an exposed situation, by the depredations of the Caffres, who took from him 30 head of cattle; that he lost 150 sheep by the rains in October; that his cultivation is quite at a stand for want of hands, which are not to be procured; that he asks for no donation, not ranking himself as a distressed Settler; but should any money be advanced by way of Loan, he would be glad of such assistance, and could give security.”
The applications now forwarded will supply the Committee with ample proof, (were it necessary to prove it), that the expenditure of capital was an inevitable consequence of the failures of the crops, and that great depression and serious distress could not but follow that expenditure.
The loss of the capital has not, however, been confined to those, who were possessed of the larger means: the same causes have been attended by similar effects upon all those who cultivated the land, the immediate suffering, as before observed, increasing as the means to avert it decreased. Of this second class, one individual states, “my capital, in goods, amounted to £500, but, I am sorry to say, it has been on the decrease ever since: misfortunes have multiplied, servants” wages, expense of living, and nothing coming in from the land, three years” crops destroyed by the rust, my garden swept away by the flood, and eight of my bullocks taken by the Caffres. I trust you will take these matters into your serious consideration.”
A second observes, - “Respecting myself, I beg leave to say, that, having brought out a little property, I have expended all in agricultural pursuits, which have, unfortunately, brought no return; I now find that grazing is the only sure return, but am quite straightened for want of a capital to enable me to do so. If your Committee will kindly assist me with a loan of money for a few years, it would set me on my legs, and I should be able to return it with interest.”
A third says, - “I brought out a good deal of both goods and money, and have nearly expended all, in the cultivation of my land, in paying wages, and keeping my family; I brought out servant men, but nothing coming in from the land, was obliged to dismiss them. I have lost 18 head of cattle by the Caffres, and am not able to purchase more. We are, at this time, without milk, from the Caffres taking our cows. I have been brought into circumstances I never expected to have seen, - food very dear, and our clothing nearly worn out. It is hard work to persons who never knew the want of the necessaries of life. I have never received any relief yet, but hope I may be favoured with an equal proportion of what is to be distributed at this time.”
Without instancing more the numerous cases now transmitted, the foregoing extracts may prove, that much distress may exist, even in a country where the wages of labour are high; that the circumstances alone may be the cause of distress to many, and that if it cannot be removed, without reducing the respectable farmer to a day-labourer, that this alone implies the existence of distress, from which the capitalist is generally considered to be exempted.
There remains another and more numerous class to be noticed, consisting of the poorer emigrants, who brought out little more property than the deposit of from £10 to £30 each, according to the number of their families. This class was enabled to remain on their land, mainly by the assistance in provisions supplied by Government; but as this assistance was obtained in the first instance at the expense of two-thirds of the sum deposited, it necessarily followed, that a great portion of the distress which ensued on the cessation of the issue of rations was felt by this class. It is true that this was in some measure compensated by the prudent economy of many, who submitted to great immediate privation, rather than kill all the stock issued for their subsistence. Of this class, those without families were in some measure exempted from the more serious consequences of the failures and inundations; work was always to be had, and was amply rewarded, while those who had families to maintain, were unable to leave them to seek work. Some idea of the sufferings and resources of this class may be gathered from the following extracts:
“When first located, I purchased two cows and one calf, with the first instalment of my deposit, which provided me a little butter and milk; that was a great help to us with the rations: digged one half-acre, sowed wheat and garden seeds, - wheat rusted. Second year removed to more favorable place, ploughed two or three acres at expense of 25 dollars, digged a small garden, one acre of wheat rusted, barley produced two muids, my wife and myself built the house, made a kraal, fenced 200 yards of corn field; all this I had to lose, the surveyor removing me. By going sometimes to work for my neighbouring locaters, also my wife washing or sewing for others, obtained one more cow. Third year, living in --------‘s house, ploughed three acres, at 12 Rds. Per acre, sowed 1½ with Bengal wheat, for which I paid two skillings per lb.; crop blighted, barley produced three muids; the land having been flooded in October last, greatly injured the crops, washing down the fence, &c. Fourth year, sowed three acres with barley, Indian corn, &c. The produce of this crop has nearly supported us for six months. I have at present half an acre of barley growing, two acres of Indian corn, beans, potatoes, and pumpkins. My stock of cattle ten draught oxen, seven cows, three heifers, 5 young oxen, and a few fowls; half share of an old wagon, plough, and harrows: I support my family by occasionally burning and carrying lime to Grahams Town.”
Another writes, “Not being accustomed to husbandry, I have to hire all my work at great expense, and at inconvenient seasons: the sources from which this expense has been defrayed, as also the necessaries of life obtained, have been the produce of our cattle, and our industry, myself, when able to procure materials, making a few pair of shoes, my wife by doing plain sewing: in this way have we supported ourselves since the rations ceased to be issued.” Several others of the same party send statements exhibiting similar results, of great misfortune, and privation, gradually giving way to perseverance and economy, and they all unite in the following remarks.
“The subscribing individuals beg to assure you, that no season has passed unregarded, or opportunity neglected, that our strength or our means could improve, for the purpose and intent of obtaining a more plentiful supply of the fruits of the earth; every year fresh exertions have been made, in hopes of being rewarded for past losses; every care and attention has been paid to the preservation and increase of our stock of cattle: our situation does appear to be bettered, in some points of view, still it is distressed with many wants: our exertions have been baffled for as many years. Our body clothes, bed clothes, and many small articles for household use, are worn out, and we are greatly in want of them.”
An individual in another part, states, “I came out in tolerable circumstances, but, alas! My money was soon gone, my watch, with a tolerable stock of clothes, followed, in short, what with expenses of building a house, and cultivating the land, which yielded no return, my house taking fire, &c. I was so reduced in the beginning of 1823, that I had not a morsel to eat, or a shilling in my pocket. I since removed, and have, for the last nine months, been employed as a clerk.”
Another states, “having expended what little property I had, in implements, and improvements on my land, from which I derived scarcely any benefit, owing to various causes, particularly last year, part of my house was washed down, my barley and rye buried in the sand, and my garden, on which was my chief support, completely washed away, soil and all, so as to leave nothing but rocks, where the place had been covered with vegetables. Under these circumstances I was compelled to leave my land to seek a subsistence at the Kowie, not having sufficient cattle, or means of cultivating, to support my family on the land, which is what I greatly desire.”
These are but a few, and, as the Committee may ascertain, not extreme cases out of upwards of 180 distinct applications now forwarded, independent of all those claimants (at least 150 more) who trust to the statements inserted in the Table, together, conveying a mass of evidence calculated to silence the mistaken, if not reprehensible, opposition, which has, both here and elsewhere, been ineffectually raised against the benevolent undertaking of the Committee: an opposition so inconsistent, as, at one time, to recommend the removal of the Settlers, and, at another, to deny the utility of the Subscription raised for their relief.
The Resources open to this class, and the spirits so necessary to Emigrants, which they generally evince, may be remarked from the following Extracts:-
“The above is a statement of my party''s circumstances, my own included; they are an industrious set of men, and, being free Settlers, they brought out a small quantity of property each, but, from loss of crops, and together with severe losses by the flood, and the difficulties incident to a new Settlement, they, and myself, are quite straightened for want of a little capital, to enable them to follow their agricultural and grazing pursuits more extensively: a loan of a small quantity of money, for four or five years, would relieve them from their present embarrassment, and be the means of their future welfare. I wish it clearly to be understood, that, myself and party are not in want of food or raiment, for, while the price of labour remains as it is, these can be obtained by every one who is willing to work. If you can kindly assist us as above-mentioned, we shall soon be able to surmount every difficulty, and be a flourishing people. This is written with the approval of the whole party.”
“Having been informed, that some relief is likely to be rendered to distressed Settlers, I beg to present to your notice my severe losses, &c. I have cultivated 14 acres, and (being a servant and not entitled to land,) after all my labour cannot claim an inch of land. I was brought up at the tail of the plough. If I may presume to ask relief, my wish is, to have a few cows; a good plough, with plenty of land: I could then make myself happy in the Colony.”
For the length of the foregoing extracts, the Sub-Committee will offer no apology, - convinced, that no general remarks could convey so correct a knowledge of the wants and sufferings of the various classes, and of the manner in which each has been affected, by the calamities which have visited the Settlement. From them it may be safely concluded, that the Settlers in general suffer under all the depression, that naturally follows the fruitless expenditure of capital and labour: and that nothing but the natural advantages already noticed, could have so far supported the Settlement through the difficulties it has encountered. From these extracts it may also be safely inferred, that the several visitations of incidental and accidental distress in the outset are in the case of this settlement, by no means inconsistent with instances of improvement, or with a well-grounded conviction of its ultimate prosperity, provided the necessary means are resorted to.
It appears that many of those persons, who have made the greatest sacrifices, decline applying to this source of relief, from a knowledge that, however considerable the amount of the subscription has been, it can but very inadequately replace the capital expended. It is, therefore, after ample consideration of the subject, suggested to the Committee, that the best mode of extending to the whole Settlement the effect of their benevolent exertions, would be to lend all the influence of their situation, to second an application about to be submitted to His Excellency the Governor, and to Earl Bathurst, for the loan of such a sum of money, upon adequate security and a moderate interest, as may meet the wants of the Settlers, whether applicants to this fund or not.
The object next to importance for the relief of the Settlers is the supply of labour. During the immediate pressure of the overwhelming calamities which have visited the Settlement, it was natural that a most important fact, and an undoubted source of serious inconvenience, should be overlooked, or slightly dwelt upon, - namely, that labour was at all times difficult to be procured. Even during the first months of the Settlement, and when it might have been supposed that the supply exceeded the demand, such were the encouragement and facilities offered for attaining to a certain point of consideration and independence, (the sure characteristics of a rising Colony,) that few could withstand such inducements, to depart from the engagements made in England. From that time, as calamity forced the Settlers to disperse, and as the capital employed on the land was expended, this want has been more and more felt, - until, as it may be seen by the extracts here inserted, it is complained of , or admitted by, all parties.
The indentured servants, therefore, have but in a small degree suffered in the general distress. Notwithstanding the publicity given to the objects of the Committee, and the uncertainty of the application of the funds, but a very small number of those who came out as servants have applied: and those only, upon the plea of accidental losses by fire, by hurts, or insolvency of their masters: but at the same time, they have their full share of the effects of the general want of money, being obliged to receive their wages in cattle, or in orders upon the shopkeepers, which being mostly paid in goods, transfer to the merchant a great part of the profits of the labourer, but without relieving the employer, who must eventually pay in cash. That the distress arising from the want of labour, is serious and increasing, cannot be doubted, and that a supply of it would be a most desirable mode of assisting the Settlers, is equally certain: it would be as beneficial to the persons brought out, as to the Colony and to the mother country, - while even the present class of labourers would participate in the advantages, as they are rapidly attaining to the next step in society, and as the country affords them ample means of employing labour in their turn.
But as it appears to the Sub-Committee, that the supply of capital should precede that of labour, and that the funds to be disposed of can only partially embrace the former object, they can now only recommend to the Committee, to exert their powerful intercession with Government, to secure, in addition to the aid in capital above noticed, a gradual and constant supply of such a quantity of labour, as the Settlers can employ, which would place them in such a situation, as not to feel the broad line of distinction drawn between them, and the older colonists, in the regulation prohibiting the employment of slaves.
The accumulation of stock, is the primary object, as it is at present the chief dependence of the Settlement: but the possession of only a small herd, must not be allowed to imply the absence of all other wants, as the grazier can no more part with his stock, to relieve his immediate necessities, than the mechanic can dispense with the implements of his trade. In addition to this, it is essential to observe, that the cattle (calves being included in the account) cannot be averaged higher than from 8 to 10 rix-dollars per head; that the want of money renders their sale, unless by occasional barter, almost impossible; and that less than 70 to 80 head, will not afford the bare means of subsistence.
It must be evident, from what has been said, that after the demands of immediate want are satisfied, the means of procuring stock is the best mode of applying general assistance, - while the obvious objection of the confirmed extent of the locations, would be in some measure removed, as the same means could be applied, according to the circumstances, in purchasing such of the vacated allotments, as have not been forfeited to Government, and already applied to the use of the persons remaining on the land.
The Sub-Committee have upon the foregoing ground, and after the most mature deliberation, to offer it as their opinion, that the funds placed at the disposal of the Committee may be applied “in a way that will prove satisfactory to those, whose liberality they are called on to dispense, and be most suitable to the circumstances and feelings of the Settlers themselves,” by rendering pecuniary assistance by loan, or otherwise, to those Settlers now on their land, and such other applicants as they may deem deserving; and the Sub-Committee trust, that the accompanying documents will be found to substantiate their opinions, as well as to convey all the information required of them.
When the effects of the misfortunes, which is has fallen within the scope of this Report to examine, are considered in conjunction with others, (which the Sub-Committee have studiously refrained from adverting to,) it must afford real satisfaction to the benefactors of the Society, to remark the general existence of a most praise-worthy feeling amongst all classes, which induces them to prefer aid by loan, to any mode of gratuitous assistance.
In approving this species of assistance upon general principles, and where the demands are so numerous and pressing, it must follow, that the Committee notwithstanding the most anxious care, must in some cases fail to ascertain with accuracy, the comparative urgency or merits of every claim; instances of disappointment may and must occur, when individuals have over-rated either their own claims or the amount of the funds; and, upon the other hand, the advantages of the subscription, may extend themselves to persons so circumstanced, as to furnish instances (to those solicitous to discover them) of apparent, or even of actual, misapplication. But as these can only form insignificant exceptions, inseparable from the dispensation of a grant and general relief, they cannot affect the universal feeling of gratitude, with which the Settlers in Albany must ever acknowledge the generosity of their Countrymen, and the arduous and beneficent exertions of the Committee.
Albany, 24th November, 1824
Copy of Circular to the Heads of Parties.
Albany, Aug. 27, 1824
The Committee of the ‘Society for the relief of Distressed Settlers,” having deputed us to collect information, for their guidance, in dispensing the funds, we have to request, that you will forward us all the information in your power, regarding the circumstances of such of your party, as are now on their land, and further, that whether a claimant yourself, or, as contributing information, that you will favor us with an interview, as early as possible.
The whole Sub-Committee will meet at Pigot Park, every Wednesday, from 10 to 2, and two members will attend daily, to receive applications, at the same place, and between the same hours.
By desire of the Sub-Committee,
Head of Party.
“To D. MOODIE, Esquire,
“Mission House, Oct. 28, 1821
“Since I had the honour of meeting the Sub-Committee, my mind has been revolving upon a variety of plans for the promotion of the Society''s benevolent objects; my attention, however, has been principally drawn to the growing necessities of poor females, during the period of confinement, for the benefit of whom, at those times, exclusively, I think a few hundreds, or even a thousand Rix-dollars, might be most advantageously expended upon articles requisite upon those occasions, subject, however, to something like the following regulations, viz:-
“1st, To be called the Child-bed Linen Charity; its object being the relief of poor married women, who may be distressed for want of comfortable linen, at the period of confinement, for themselves and their infants.
“2d, That those persons only be considered fit objects of the Charity who are industrious and necessitous.
“3d, Each person thus relieved to be provided with a change of line for herself, and two changes for the infant, and also with a change of bed linen, all which to be returned, at eh expiration of the month, clean washed, &c.
“4th, That a box , with lock and key, be provided, to contain each lot of line, and in which it may conveniently and safely be carried to and fro.
“5th, The affairs of the Institution to be managed by a Committee of Ladies, not exceeding six; one of whom should act as Secretary, and three constitute a quorum; one-third of the Committee to be changed or re-elected annually.
“6th, That a book should be kept by the Secretary, in which the names of all persons relieved should be entered.
“7th, The said Committee to meet one a-month at least, to attend the concerns of the Charity.
“I feel persuaded that the establishment of something of this kind would be productive of a permanent good, while the same sum, at once distributed, might be improvidently expended and produce no lasting benefit whatever.
Extracts of Letters from Members of the Sub-Committee.
“The Sub-Committee meet on the 14th, to consider the numerous claims upon the clothing which has lately been received, and whenever it is determined who shall be admitted, a distribution proportioned to the number of children in each family shall be made, and an account thereof sent to the Committee. – The clothing will be of the most essential service.”
“The principle upon which I have acted, was to ascertain (as far as lies in my power) who amongst the Applicants (which I can assure are numerous) were the most necessitous: many went away grumbling, but, a few expressed gratitude. Our consolation is, to know that we are doing a little good, and wish to do more; but I find the easiest way of getting through the arduous task is, to expect no thanks for our trouble: I dare say you think the same ere this.”
A Letter, dated 27th Dec. last, addressed by two Members of the Committee to the Secretary, illustrative of the State of the Settlers at that period.
Our late journey into the interior, having been chiefly undertaken with a view to inform ourselves correctly, respecting the circumstances of the Settlers in Albany, and the best mode of applying the means placed at our disposal for their relief, and having visited most of the principle locations in the district, we trust it will not be wholly unacceptable to the Committee to know the result of those observations and inquiries, which were naturally suggested on such an occasion.
Though not officially deputed by the Committee to make these inquiries, not invited to communicate our opinions on the subject, yet finding by a Minute now on the table, that a question has been formally brought forward by a Member of the Committee, as to whether the reports and statements made to the public by the Society, have not been wholly unfounded or greatly exaggerated, and the late subscriptions raised on false pretences; and agreeing with that gentleman, that such charges are most “prejudicial to the cause in which we are collectively embarked,” we feel ourselves called upon by a regard for truth and the character of our proceedings, to enter at some length into the subject.
It is not that we attach the lease importance to the authorities referred to by the worthy member, for they are the anonymous or unsupported assertions of a few individuals, most of whom, from the temper and tenor of their letters, as well as from the object and ex-parte character of the publication in which they appear, are in our opinion disqualified from being heard on such a subject: nor do we believe that the reports to which that gentleman refers, are at all current or generally credited, at least in this colony; on the contrary, we know they are considered by most people to be totally destitute of foundation; much mischief, however, may be produced elsewhere by the bold and fearless assertions that have been employed on this subject; and as considerable publicity has of late been given to them through the medium of the Pamphlet quoted by that gentleman, which, issuing as it does from the Government press, may give a momentary degree of eight and authority to them, which otherwise they could never hope to possess, it renders it advisable, as the question has been raised in such a quarter, to give it a patient and candid investigation, leaving it to the Committee to determine, who are the persons or party who have resorted to “false pretences and scandalous misrepresentations.”
On some subjects there are persons who will credit nothing that has not the stamp of official authority; if there are any of this description among such as deny the sufferings of the Settlers, we would refer them to the advertisement published in the Cape Town Gazette of the 22d June, 1822, proposing a subscription under the patronage of His Excellency the Governor, for the relief of “lying-in women, the sick, and such as were in evident want;” in which it is truly stated, that the failure of the crops for two successive years “has produced great and general distress among the Settlers.” If this was the language of the Colonial Government of the failure of the second harvest, what terms may we not suppose the same high authority would employ, to describe the misfortunes and sufferings of the Settlers, after seeing a third and a fourth harvest perish on the ground, succeeded by a flood that swept away the produce of their gardens, and damaged and destroyed much of their little property:- though from such authority there will probably be no appeal by the class of persons to whom we allude, it may not be amiss in order to render “assurance doubly sure,” to quote the opinion of one whose local knowledge, talents, and official station combine to render him a most unexceptionable witness on such an occasion, - we refer to the Author of the “State of the Cape in 1822,” and shall give his sentiments in his own impressive and prophetic language; at page 239, he says – “to relate the wretchedness of many families in Albany, their menial services, even that of females, unused to such duties, tending their own cattle bare-footed and half clothed; to recount their individual distress experienced at this moment, together with the sufferings of the time that has gone by, and the slender hopes anticipated from that which is to come, would be as painful as it is useless,” and he concludes the account of the emigrants in the following striking words, - “if it be in the dispensation of Providence to deny for the third time the blessing of an abundant harvest, no expectation can be rationally formed, other than that of extreme and general distress throughout the whole colony of the Cape of Good Hope.”
The Committee will not fail to observe the remarkable coincidence that prevails between the statements and phraseology of this write, and the language used by Dr. PHILIP, in his speech at the anniversary meeting of the Society in 1823. The propriety and truth of the statements and melancholy forebodings in the work referred to, no one we believe has yet attempted to question, but if the publicly recorded testimony of those, who from the official situations and local advantages possess the best means of information, be insufficient to convince the most sceptical, of the reality and extent of the distress among the Settlers, at the expiration of the year 1822; and if subsequent events are not admitted to have verified the melancholy predictions to which we have just alluded, the undeniable fact of His Excellency the Governor, His Majesty''s Commissioners of Inquiry, and a number of the principal Inhabitants of the colony having come forward with their contributions, at the period when the distress was alleged to have been at its height, must we imagine be admitted by the most skeptical, as satisfactory and unequivocal proofs of its actual existence. To say that such persons were deceived by false or exaggerated reports, is as much an accusation of culpable negligence on their parts, as it is an absurdity to suppose, that they would have lent the sanction of their names, and contributed their pecuniary aid, towards the relief of sufferings which they did not believe to exist.
At this very period however, the Report of the Committee containing the speeches of the Rev. Dr. PHILIP and others, in which the exaggerated statements and scandalous misrepresentations are supposed to have gone forth to the public, was read and unanimously adopted by a more numerous meeting of the Subscribers to this Society, than has ever been assembled since its formation.
On that Report, the subscriptions in England and India, which, as the worthy member before referred to says, “have flowed so liberally towards the Treasury of the Society,” were entirely raised, and it is distressing to find persons who took an active part in the business of that meeting, and members of this Committee, coming forward at this time to cast a suspicion on the correctness of their own proceedings, and impugning the veracity of those respectable members of our Committee who having been eye witnesses of the scenes they described, bore their testimony to the reality and urgency of the distress without a word of contradiction.
When such insinuations regarding the character of this Committee, and the conduct of its members, are brought forward within our own body, it is not to be wondered at that others, who have not the same means of forming a correct opinion on the subject, should be misled by the bold and unsupported assertions made by the enemies of this Society, in the Pamphlet on which so much stress has been laid in the Minute alluded to.
Under such circumstances we feel happy in being enabled from personal observation during our late visit to the locations in Albany, to bear our most decided testimony to the truth and accuracy of the statements regarding the condition of the Settlers, which from time to time have gone forth to the public from this Society. We trust, therefore, our observations will be weighed with candour and impartiality by the Committee, while we offer a few remarks on the statements that have been brought forward on both sides, and compare what we have ourselves witnessed or learnt from undoubted authority on the spot, with the alleged exaggerations which have appeared in, or accompanied the reports of the Committee.
In the speech of the Rev. Dr. PHILIP, published in the Report of the Society, dated 17th December, 1823, and to which a pointed allusion has been made in the before-mentioned Minute, the following observation occurs. “In that country, which was described in all the glowing tints of Eastern imagery, &c. &c. you may see the fingers, that seldom moved but to paint for the eye, or charm the ear, tying up cattle, or stopping up the gaps of their enclosures, &c.” these and similar paragraphs, couched it is true in flowery and glowing language, but not unsuitable to the occasion, may be taken as a fair specimen of Dr. PHILIP''s evidence on the subject of the Report. Let any unprejudiced person compare his testimony with the Correspondence published in the Appendix of the same Report, and also with the excellent publication of Mr. PRINGLE, then acting Secretary to the Society, and then say, whether there is not a striking coincidence between the facts and statements, to which they severally relate.
Since that time, Dr. PHILIP has made a second tour through the locations, in company with Mr. RUTHERFOORD, our late indefatigable Secretary, and visited almost every family in the District; and at the last Annual Meeting of the Society, he made another speech regarding the distresses of the Settlers, equally strong with that under our consideration, stating facts which not one of the numerous body of Subscribers and others then present, attempted to contradict, and in which it is indeed impossible to deny, he was amply borne out by the documents contained in the Report, which was then read and universally approved.
After all the high colouring and exaggeration with which the Committee has been charged, a regard for truth compels us to declare, that even at this time, (notwithstanding the improvement that is admitted to have taken place among some of the lower classes,) not one, but several instances still exist among the more respectable class of Settlers, answering with very little, if any variation to the description given by Dr. PHILIP of their situation and misfortunes. Men of liberal education and respectable connexions, who have lived in genteel circumstances, and comfort, at least, if not in affluence, at home, are still to be found in Albany, labouring from morning till night, with their own hands, and driving, nay leading their own ox wagons, that is, performing the work of Hottentots and slaves; their children in tattered garments tending their stock of cattle, until the harvest, the sole support of their families, with the slender exception of what they might be able to procure from the remnant of the little property brought out with them, which they have been gradually compelled to dispose of even to the articles of family plate, and personal ornaments; their houses, not better than those of the poorest labourers in England, and certainly not equal to many of those of the Hottentots at the Missionary stations; their wives well connected, and highly respectable women, without a single servant to assist them “in all the drudgery of the household, the labour of the dairy, or the care of their children;” their whole families living on the coarsest fare, frequently with no other than barley bread or Indian corn, and some, according to their own declarations, without a bed to lie on, or a dollar to purchase a pair of shoes or a suit of clothes.
We mean not to say, that the whole of the respectable Settlers are exactly in this condition, it is sufficient for our present purpose, if any such as we have described, are still to be found. But we are justified in asserting, that many respectable families, whose previous condition and circumstances in life had placed them above want, and the necessity to labour for themselves, are now suffering more or less of the privations we have enumerated; and it was but too apparent, notwithstanding the unwillingness which every delicate mind must feel to disclose the secret of its misfortunes, that the pinchings of poverty, and the dread of the remnant of their property failing before relief should arrive, cast a shade upon the cheerfulness with which they seemed to bear all their privations, and gave a glimpse of that mental distress, which the doubt of a provision for their rising families excited, which pecuniary aid alone cannot assuage, and which can only be adequately described, by such as have experienced or witnessed it themselves. When we state, that at a time when flour and provisions of all kinds were said to be plentiful and cheap, we scarcely saw a piece of tolerable wheaten bread in all Albany, and only met with it at all in three families; that even so indifferent a spirit as common Cape brandy, is a beverage which many are now unable to afford, who have drunk their wine in England; that the wife of one individual, a lady of highly respectable family and connexions, in addition “to all the drudgery of the household, the labour of the dairy and care of her children,” has had to attend to the concerns of a petty shop, and to serve out liquor at the bar of a common canteen, while another person still considered in the light of a gentleman, is now, or has been till lately, in a common hartebeest hut, his wife performing all the menial offices of the household, and his children, six in number, actually in rags, till lately clothed by the bounty of this Society; when we declare that such instances of privation are still to be found among the respectable class of the Settlers, no unprejudiced person will deny, that the statements made in the speeches of Dr. PHILIP and Sir Richard OTTLEY, in 1823, were strictly and circumstantially correct. But although the defence of these gentlemen''s assertions is not the object of this letter, we deem it essential to bring to the notice of the Committee, that among the evidence brought forward to impeach their credibility, the individual “who would like to be informed who the people are requiring eleemosynary aid,” belongs, we understand, to the most destitute class of sufferers above described, and is himself a debtor to the bounty of this Society.
Whatever motives may influence such individuals, and those who countenance them, to affirm that little or no distress has existed, or to what cause their declared enmity to this Society may be attributed, we shall not now pretend to determine, but the futility of such reasoning as some of them employ, and the bold and naked assertions of others, may perhaps be best answered by a reference to the opinions of the great body of the Settlers themselves, as expressed at a late public meeting at Bathurst, on which occasion they unanimously declared, “That although the gradual diminution in the virulence of the rust, the dispersion of three fourths of the Settlers from necessity, and the industry and perseverance of those remaining, have placed the greater part of them, above absolute want, yet, four successive failures of the crops and other causes, have so exhausted the capital brought out, that without some assistance by way of loan, the greater body of the Settlers are incapacitated from reaping the fruits of their industry, and the reward of their sufferings.”
We could easily give many more cases than those we have described or alluded to, illustrative of the privations and trials to which the better class of Settlers have been, and still are subject, and are only restrained from doing so out of regard for the feelings of those respectable, but unfortunate individuals.
We shall now state a few particulars regarding the middling and inferior classes, which we collected, not from one or two insulated and discontented individuals, but from our own observations and inquiries among a number of industrious and respectable men, who were by no means forward in making know their past sufferings, or clamorous in complaining of their present difficulties and wants.
Among those who are now in the class of small farmers, living upon their locations, we found many who though not in the rank of gentlemen, had been in trade, and in such circumstances in England, as placed them above the necessity to labour, and enabled them to live in ease and comfort, (persons, therefore, whose cases are undoubtedly entitled to a greater degree of consideration, than that of the mere labourer, and whose distress is not to be estimated by the same standard of comparison:) one very respectable man of this class, who related his history with much manliness and feeling, stated, that he had been in the wholesale shoe-trade in London, and employed 150 workmen under him; but being unfortunate, had come out to this colony with his wife and four children, with a view to better his condition; after the expence and trouble of erecting a little cottage, he was compelled to change his location and commence the same work anew. The failure of crops and the want of cattle had reduced him in a short time to such distress, that he was obliged to dispose of part of the clothes and bedding of his family, to keep them from starving, and provide a few cows for their future support; borrowing a skin of leather from a neighbour he commenced working at the trade he had learnt in his youth and has continued ever since, struggling through many difficulties, often for weeks together without bread, living on milk and garden stuffs, and labouring from morning till night in the garden and fields, with scarcely any return, and from sunset until midnight, working within doors at his former trade, in order to support his family. His wife a most respectable woman of a delicate constitution, who had been accustomed to be waited upon by others in England, and wholly unused to labour, had been in the constant habit of walking 18 miles under a scorching sun to Graham''s Town, to dispose of her husband''s shoes, and the produce of her dairy; selling the articles frequently from door to door; until at length, both she and her husband had become so debilitated in constitution, by this excessive exertion to which they were unused, that they were both almost unable to work at all: when we visited them with much difficulty they had scraped together enough to purchase a wagon, and a span of oxen, which latter strayed and were lost; after getting a second span on credit, finding himself obliged to part with his wagon, he had lost 500 Rds. by the sale: this man was considered as perhaps the most thriving in the whole location of Salem to which he belonged: his house was the best on the place, and from the number of his cattle he would seem in appearance, to have been in no need of assistance: it must be remembered however that of his cattle some were bought on credit, and many were young calves: that the milk of an African cow is inconsiderable in quantity, and that with all his stock, without which he could neither live nor cultivate his ground, he was indebted to the amount of 560 Rds.
Having mentioned this case to shew the hardships which the Settlers of a middling class have endured, and how dearly even the most successful among them have obtained the means of support they now possess, trifling as they are, we shall only add, that there are many others of this description, whose real circumstances are not to be discovered by mere outward observations, but who strive to keep up a decent appearance under many difficulties and privations, and rather conceal, than make know, the actual state of their families.
The account we received from all of them without exception, regarding the misery they had sustained during the last four years; the precarious manner in which they had obtained even their daily food; (their inability to purchase clothing and bedding, having sunk all the property they brought out with them;) the want of the ordinary comforts which in England are attainable even by the labouring poor; and the hard work they have been subjected to, in order to subsist at all on their locations, the losses they had sustained by the failure of four successive crops, the floods; the depredations of the Caffres and wild animals on their cattle, all served to confirm our belief in the reality of the distress which had existed among them, and in general their declarations were amply corroborated by the appearance of their families and the wretched condition of those below them, is a sufficient proof of their sufferings and misfortunes.
Among those who had originally belonged to the labouring part of the community, although it was to be expected that they should feel in a less degree the privations which have been the lot of all, we visited many very decent industrious families, who, both from their own statements and the evidence of others, had been reduced to the most abject want, and were even then in a state of great poverty, notwithstanding their utmost exertions.
The majority of this class now on their locations, consists, we believe, of persons who came out, not as articled servants to others, but have collected sufficient to pay their deposits, and with some few pounds of capital either in money or goods, commenced their career as small farmers on their own ground. Against the existence of any distress among this class of persons, some have attempted to argue with as little feeling as reflection, that while labour is so much in demand and the rate of wages so high, the idle and profligate alone can be in want.
It seems however to have been entirely overlooked, that it is not only quite natural, but commendable, in men to prefer working for themselves, to becoming the servants of others; and surely it is unjust and cruel, to brand those as idle and profligate, who have struggled through the hardships and difficulties of four successive seasons of failures and disaster, merely because they have attempted to earn a poor but independent livelihood for themselves and families, in preference to becoming the servants of those, who (whatever may be said to the contrary,) are confessedly unable to pay them.
There may have been, and doubtless still are, some amongst so many, who deserve the reproach of indolence and profligacy, and others whose inexperience may have aggravated, if not contributed to produce their distress; but experience has now been dearly purchased by those who were at first ignorant of agriculture, and on most of the locations we visited, there was every appearance of industry which could be expected, among a people who had met with so much to discourage them; and whose failures had prevented their acquiring the means, by which their industry could be profitably employed. We found many who were in the habit of working for others, whenever they had no employment of their own, or when absolute necessity compelled them to do so; but their accounts of the rate of wages that could be obtained, as well as the mode of payment, differed materially from those which, (with whatever motive) have been given to the public by some, without the explanations they required.
The nominal rate of wages which a common labourer could obtain in the country, we were informed by the people themselves was 1½ Rds. a day, and in Graham''s Town 2 Rds.; this sounds well at a distance, but when the Committee consider that these rates are seldom paid in money at all, and almost invariably by orders on the shop-keepers for goods, which are supplied to the labourers at fair or exorbitant prices according to the credit of his employer, it must be evident that the rate of wages alluded to, is in most cases merely nominal, during the present state of things.
When it is considered also, that the labourer is often compelled to take articles of little or no use to himself, which he is unable to sell or exchange, without a loss of time, which to him still further lowers their value, the case we think will seem still more clear. Had the people money to purchase for themselves the necessaries they require, a portion of the profits which now fall into their hands, might be saved for the improvement of their own lands.
To illustrate still further the condition of this class of the Settlers, we beg leave to cite a few instances out of many which fell under our observation in Albany. A very decent industrious man of the Nottingham party, whose lands showed he was not an idler, said he was in the constant habit of working out at a dollar a day; but had not been able to get altogether more than two dollars in money, during the last six months. This man lived in a most wretched hovel, he had only one cow, said he generally got something to eat for his labour, he had literally no clothes for his family or himself, but the rags they wore, having worn out all they possessed, and being unable to buy more, from the losses he had sustained by the rust and floods.
Another man of the same party, by trade a carpenter, but working on his location, confirmed the above statement; he had a wife and six children, and said that about eleven months before, he and his family had been without rice or bread of any kind between three and four months; they had lived chiefly on pumpkins and milk; they considered themselves better off now, having a little Caffre corn in the house, and their three cows giving milk. Their children were clothed in brown leather shirts, the only change they had; and to add to the misfortune of having their garden and crops of last year swept away by the flood, they had a great deal of sickness in the family.
A person of HEYHURST''s party, bearing a good character, who was also in the habit of going out to labour, had not seen a dollar in the house for at least six months; he had only reaped altogether four muids of Indian corn and other grain; had a wife and four children; his wife was obliged to go out to her cows and other work, a week after he confinement, and he himself obliged to leave his family, and seek work to keep them from starving; - they had been forced to sell their clothes for want, although the wife had brought out some little property in money. The four children were clad in red flannel shirts received from this Society, and without a change of any kind, or a blanket to sleep in; they had a few cattle on which they chiefly depended.
In FORD''s and HYMAN''s party, we found several families in a very miserable condition; their houses or cabins were little more than ten or twelve feet square, scarcely better than pigstyes, and “neither wind nor water proof,” as they are described in the Report of 1823; every thing within and about them bore the appearance of the utmost penury; their wives and children had but a single change of tattered clothes, and these, what had been issued by this Society; they had a very few cattle, and to purchase even these, they had sold their bedding, the want of which they complained much, in winter whole families in consequence being obliged to sleep together. We are informed by a lady in this neighbourhood who had distributed clothing among them, that when the women came to receive it, many of them had no other garments than a course petticoat, and a napkin across their shoulders; and that in a great many families in this quarter, the mothers were obliged to wash their children''s only change, while they slept. Shoes and stockings were not to be seen among them.*
*(Farther to illustrate this subject, and to shew that distress from want of clothing had not been confined to the Settlers in Albany alone, the following Extracts of Letters are added, the first of which is from a gentleman of respectability wholly unconnected with the Settlers, and relates to individuals of that which has been more fortunate, - the Scotch party.
Extract of a letter from Cradock, dated December, 1824.
“I had the honor of receiving your communication of the 17 ult. forwarding therewith a memorial from on behalf of certain individuals of the Scotch Emigrants located on the Baviaan''s River, and in reply thereto I have to state, for the information of your Committee, I have been acquainted with ------ and ------ since their arrival in this colony, a period of four years, and I can safely say that it is not for want of exertion that these two objects of your Committee''s consideration, are so destitute and miserable.
“Incompetent as I am to point out their several necessities, I feel assured from the following remark your Committee will be able to judge of the extent of their sufferings.
“On visiting -------- last year, I called at ---------, and beheld this amiable old lady, who in her own happy Isle had seen very different days, carrying a bundle of wood, and I am distressed to add almost without clothing; it was evening, and we met Mr. and Mrs. -------- barefooted, returning from their own land carrying the implements with which they had been working, with fuel to dress their scanty supper.
“Whatever loan is advanced by your Committee, I should recommend its being placed in the possession of a responsible person, and part thereof expended in Cape Town in clothes, the remained invested in cattle.”
Extract of a letter from a Settler, dated December 1824.
“Who has been or is distressed? that is the question; answer, all those who brought out property, - all those who held the rank of gentlemen. Where is the property? Some expended on the land in the employment of the poor, the remainder in supporting their families, vainly expecting crops; this is in the hands of the merchant and storekeeper. Where are the individuals who brought out this property? Most of them driven from their lands by hunger, they have taken themselves and naked children to Graham''s Town or elsewhere, leaving their cottages to fall, their labour lost, their capitals are sunk, and they remain in a state of wretchedness, and until lately without assistance, every thing they had expended or destroyed, and they were likely to have become the labourers of the individuals they brought out. Who has relieved these classes and the poor, who has fed the hungry, clothed the naked on the locations, enabled them to remain in their cottages still cultivating their lands, in hopes of reaping a crop in promoting the views of the home Government? the Society for the relief of Settlers, - without their aid Albany would have been deserted. Some worthy men, anxious for the general good of mankind, belonging to the Committee, came amongst us, beheld our misery, and made their Report from what they heard and beheld; - you cannot, in consequence, go into any cottage without seeing the families clothed by their assistance, and in a great measure fed. Gratitude calls upon us to acknowledge the fact and express our thanks, and to convince the world of what they have done for us.”)
“In reply to our inquiries as to the manner in which they had contrived to subsist during the last four years, or rather since the issue of rations had ceased, they generally said “we can scarcely tell,” they all agreed that they had often been without bread of any kind for weeks together, the produce of their cattle and a few common vegetables, seemed to have been their chief support. Butchers'' meat they sometimes get by killing their cattle and lending one another; few of them had seen tea or sugar for many months, and some were in the habit of drinking a noxious infusion of the Caffre tree leaves as a substitute for this favourite beverage of the English peasantry.
“From their land in cultivation (varying in extent from 1 acre to 10) they had scarcely reaped any thing worth mentioning, and some of the last year''s corn saved from the rust, which was shewn us, was scarcely fit for food.
“Some few of the Settlers in the vicinity of Graham''s Town, and the Kowie, and those who were able to work at a trade, besides cultivating their lands, were in a less destitute condition than the majority of those more remote, who had nothing but their cattle and lands to depend on, but we saw and heard sufficient while among them, to convince us that the reports of the Committee relative to the condition of the class we are now speaking of, do not exceed the bounds of faithful description. The absolute want of food of some kind or other has not been urged, either by the Settlers themselves, or those who have pleaded in their behalf, as the only source of their sufferings; but while on behalf, as the only source of their sufferings; but while on this point, we entirely agree with the gentleman in Albany whose letter is quoted in the 28th page of the Appendix for 1823, in his wish to discourage reports of general distress for food, we have seen ample reasons to concur in the propriety and truth of his remark which follows that “to say the Settlers have enough is too barefaced.”
“Having thus given a brief sketch of the conditions of the different classes of Settlers, whom we visited, and compared the results of our own observations and inquiries, with the statements in the Report of the Committee for the last year, but lately published, we beg leave unequivocally to express our opinion, that the description therein given of the present circumstances of the people of Albany, is strictly accurate and just; and that there still exists in that quarter, a large class of persons possessing strong claims on the sympathy and benevolence of their fellow countrymen.
“This sympathy some have endeavoured to destroy, (with what motives we shall not attempt to explain,) by statements regarding the abundance and cheapness of provisions, the demand for labour, and the extensive credit freely given to the Settlers by the merchants of Graham''s Town and the Kowie; - provisions of some sort may be cheap at present; but they have certainly not been so until lately, and even now the price of 22 Rds. charged for a bag of rice, is no very clear proof of the fact. Even the low price of the provisions however, is not quite so obvious a benefit to those who must support themselves and carry on their improvements, from the profits of such surplus produce as they can convert into money; nor does the predominance of fine foreign flour in the market of Graham''s Town, nearly five years after the Settlement of the country, seem a very conclusive proof of the prosperity of the English agriculturists, who colonized it with a view to export, not import, the necessaries of life.
“The demand for labour, even under all the disadvantages with which it is clogged, we have great reason to believe falls short of what it has been represented; and indeed where so few have any capital to expend, it is not probable that much labour can be employed.
“With regard to the facility of obtaining credit, although we heard to the honour of some Merchants, that their benevolence in this way had been extended to their distressed fellow countrymen with some risk to themselves; and that a competition between the Merchants of Graham''s Town, and the Kowie, had also produced a similar effect; yet from the manner in which the credit is given, and the small sums that are recovered, (in one instance of a sale amounting we were told to only 600, out of 6000 Rds,) this circumstance cannot be considered any proof of prosperity, but rather as tending to increase the burdens of unthinking purchasers. Indeed it was a fact quite notorious while we were in Albany, that at a late public sale to the amount of about Rds. 6000, many of the buyers were persons who had not a stiver to pay. The sale being by Vendue, the Merchant of course felt indifferent, being himself secure, but unless we are much misinformed, the Vendue Master has since had reason to repent the facility with which purchasers were admitted; and the consequences of such easy dealing must soon, we imagine, appear in numerous cases of insolvency, and the sale of Lands to pay creditors, whenever their titles are received.
“In the foregoing remarks, it will be observed that we have alluded almost exclusively to those Settlers still remaining on their locations, and for whom, we conceive the Subscriptions to have been chiefly raised. The necessity which compelled so large a portion to abandon their lands, and seek employment elsewhere, might alone be considered a sufficient proof of the general distress which has existed. That many of these have since done well, our Reports have publicly declared, that but all of them are not even now prosperous, the records of this Committee, and the cases and Report of the Sub-Committee too clearly prove.
“In reply to the remark by the author of the Minute before alluded to, ‘that the small sum distributed by the Society during the last year seemingly corroborated the statements he adduced,'' we shall merely observe that a single reference to the books of the Secretary, might have spared him the trouble of making such an observation, as he would there have found that the Committee had only acted according to its means; not part of the large contributions having been received at the period when the account was framed. But while the sum issued since the last public Meeting, (although no general distribution has yet taken place) will be found amply to exonerate this Committee from the charge of neglect; to prevent the possibility of a similar misconstruction of our proceedings, we would add this, to the many other reasons for an immediate distribution of the funds now in our hands.
“With this statement of facts, we shall now close our remarks on the question agitated by the worthy Member of our Committee; and trust that on a candid consideration of the whole case, with the evidence we have given, regarding the condition of the Settlers, the Committee will concur with us, in the propriety of repelling the charge brought against it, of unworthily imposing on the public, and vindicate the consistency and character of its proceedings, by a decided expression of the sense it entertains of an accusation as illiberal and disgraceful in its nature, as it is unfounded in fact.”
Extract from a Letter, dated Albany, 21st May, 1825, to a Member of the Committee in Cape Town.
“I am glad to hear that the Report of your Society will shortly be published. My opinion, after visiting the Settlement, perfectly coincides with that expressed in the letter dated 27th December, 1824, written by -------- and ----------- of your Committee, of which you gave me a Copy. I shewed it to several of the principal Settlers, who fully approved of it.”
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