SETTLER STATEMENT, 1823
National Archives, Kew, CO48/61, 401
March 10th 1823
The subscribing colonists in South Africa who emigrated in the year 1819 under the patronage of their native Government are compelled by a sense of justice to themselves and duty to the Government under whose auspices they embarked to lay before your Lordship a statement of the real circumstances which have prevented their advancement.
Whatever may have been the individual disappointments incidental to so numerous an emigration, they do not present themselves before his Majesty's Government with any complaint of the natural disadvantages of the country to which they have been sent; and they have ever been actuated by one undivided feeling of respect and gratitude for the liberal assistance of the British Government, a feeling which future reverses can never efface. And they most gratefully recognise an additional instance of the same favourable disposition in the late modification of the colony's law of succession; which they hail as a pledge that their interests (when not opposed to that of their fellow subjects) will never be lost sight of by His Majesty's ministers.
Although the settlers must lament that in its earlier stages the prosperity of the settlement has been checked in several important instances through the misapprehensions of the general or local authorities, yet they gratefully acknowledge the prompt and generous exertions of government in procuring the means of subsistence at the commencement of the settlement and in alleviating as far as possible the severe visitations of repeated and total failures of their wheat crops.
They cannot omit the expression of their particular gratitude to the acting Governor, Sir Rufane DONKIN, who devoted to their prosperity a great share of his personal attention; to whom they owed the establishment of a town in the centre of the new settlement, as the seat of its magistracy; and a system of military defence during which they were free from Caffre depredations. By which measures, as well as by arrangements for a friendly intercourse with the Caffres, and by his solicitous attention to the interests and wishes of the settlers he inspired them with a degree of energy and hope of which they are now left only the recollection.
It is the peculiar hardship of their situation, placed in a remote corner of the British dominions, with their whole interests and prospects committed to the unlimited controul of one individual, and possessing no security that their situation is thoroughly understood or properly represented, that they have been debarred all means of expressing their collective sentiments upon matters of the utmost importance to their common interests.
It has long, and from the most distressing proofs, become evident to the settlers that the colonial government, situated at the opposite extremity of the colony (where every particular, whether of soil and climate or the constitution, pursuits and interests of society, is totally different) possesses no adequate means of ascertaining their actual wants.
Under this conviction it was contemplated by a small number of the principal settlers to consult together upon the most adviseable mode of making His Excellency the Governor acquainted with the peculiarities of their situation; but this intention was met not only by positive prevention but by public imputation against the views and motives of the settlers in general which they feel to be wholly unmerited.
Being thus prevented from communicating with the colonial government they have for twelve months continued to labor under the effects of a series of measures calculated only to extinguish the small remains of enterprise and confidence that had survived the numerous disappointments they had previously encountered; and when at length their situation from the increasing and unpunished incursions of the Caffres had become really insupportable they were reduced to the necessity of requesting permission to meet in the manner pointed out to them as legal for the purpose of making their situation known to his Majesty's government. But as this also has been virtually denied to them they are obliged to content themselves with offering to your Lordship this imperfect but faithful sketch of their situation in general, but more particularly of the uniform reversal of every measure previously resorted to for their advantage.
As it does not appear that many natural obstacles are opposed to their advancement they are induced to submit a candid statement of the artificial disadvantages by which they are surrounded, in the confident hope that this settlement will not be allowed to fall a sacrifice to them.
Upon their arrival they found themselves placed, according to the terms accepted by them in England, before they were aware of the peculiarities of this colony, upon grants of 100 acres each in a country where it still appears necessary to the subsistence of the native farmer to grant him 4000 acres; this, together with the withholding two thirds of the deposit money, which it was stipulated should be repaid after location, had the effect of precluding the majority of the settlers from pursuing the mode of farming usual in this country and of directing their attention exclusively to agriculture.
Although the disappointments hitherto suffered in this pursuit must be, in a great measure, referred to extraordinary and unavoidable causes, yet the settlers cannot but observe that their future prospects appear totally barred by the weightiest artificial obstacles.
Besides the injurious effects of the distinction above mentioned, in drawing away a portion of the settlers to more profitable pursuits, the remaining part, who may possess land of an extent worth attending to, can have no inducement to raise a surplus produce while the colonial government reserves to itself in the entire supply of the troops the monopoly of the only internal market; and they can never look for an external trade while the prosperity of this part of the colony continues to be subservient to the local interests of Cape Town; while no direct trade is allowed to Algoa Bay; while no exportation is permitted except through Cape Town, and dependant on the state of that market; and the advantages of possessing a sea port is, in a great measure, lost to the settlement; while every article of import brought to Algoa Bay or the Kowie is burdened with all the expences of a reshipment from Cape Town.
The establishment of the town of Bathurst as its seat of magistracy was of the most material service to the settlement, as from its situation in the centre of the smaller parties it served to sustain in its vicinity a denser population than the circumstances of the country could otherwise induce. Its superior advantages of soil; its vicinity to the only part of the coast found capable of communicating with the sea; and the erection of the residence of the Chief Magistrate at the public expense had induced many individuals to expend their means in establishing themselves there. The removal of the seat of magistracy and the withdrawing the troops and the government support from a town upon which they had fixed their first hopes, and upon which depended their future prospects of a market, has been productive of the worst effects upon the interests and prospects of the settlement in general; as, besides its directly ruinous consequences to individuals, it has drawn away the population from the nucleus of the settlement and created a general distrust in the stability of the measures of the Government.
The most pressing and insupportable of their grievances arises from the constant depredations of the Caffres, who have, within a few months, committed several murders and deprived the settlement of the greater part of its cattle. These depredations are, in a great measure, produced by relinquishing that line of policy which held out to those tribes a hope of procuring, by friendly barter, such commodities as their acquired wants have rendered necessary, and which they are now obliged to procure by force or theft; by discountenancing and withdrawing the military force from the new settlement of Fredricksburgh and permitting the Caffres to plunder and force the settlers to retire, and ultimately to burn it to the ground; by withdrawing from the Fish River a line of posts which had previously effectually protected the settlers; by refusing aid to the more advanced farmers, plundering parties have been encouraged to drive those in, and afterwards to extend their incursions to all parts of the settlement and even beyond it; by exasperating that tribe which had hitherto preserved the appearances of friendship, in attempting to seize their Chief Gaika in his own village; and by withholding from the local military authorities that discretionary power with which they were formerly vested, which, by enabling them to enforce summary restitution, showed the Caffres that the offence must instantly be followed by the punishment, whereas by waiting the decision of the commander in chief, 600 miles distant, in every emergency, offences are allowed to accumulate to an alarming amount and the slender means of defence the settlement possesses deprived of the power of acting with promptitude is forced to present to the Caffres at once the appearance of enmity and weakness.
It thus appears to the colonists that instead of the new settlement ever deriving any advantage from the civilization of these savages the existing measures can only lead to a war of mutual extermination.
The settlers refrain from adverting to other numerous and serious obstacles to the prosperity of this settlement arising from the system of government and laws to which they are subjected, from the enlivening assurance that these considerations continue to occupy the attention of His Majesty's ministers.
When they contemplate the immense resources of fertile and unappropriated territory this colony possesses in their immediate vicinity and the provident care of the British Government to preserve the future inhabitants from the contamination of slavery, they cannot but cherish the hope that their present distresses are only temporary; and that at no distant period a numerous and flourishing colony may be here governed upon British principles and by British laws.
P. DANIEL Jun
J. Burnet BIDDULPH
H.A. CRAUSE Capt. HP
John Henry DIXON
Alex BISSET Lt. Ret
Robt Wood BAGOT Capt HP 47th Rt
Robt Blair GREEN
John Centlivres CHASE
Wm. H. SURMON
J. Henry HEATH
Ch's Jo'n LUCAS
P. Thos. MILLS
Edw. Hunt DELL
Thos. WALKER Sen
Thos. WALKER Jun
Wm. John EARLE
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