SMITH, William, 1834
National Archives, Kew CO48/159, 344
2 September 1834
My dear father,
I enclose a Memorandum which under the circumstances therein stated and which of themselves are sufficiently explanatory, I have thought it advisable to forward, in order, should you be of opinion that it may be beneficial or should foresee no ill result from its contents that you may take steps to have it laid before the Secretary of State or Mr. HAY.
I am, as you will perceive, by no means assured that such a document is at this particular moment requisite but the public here is so decidedly of opinion that something injurious to my interest is in agitation that I must confess I am not without alarm.
If it be the intention to deprive me of my promotion on this apparently favourable occasion I cannot imagine upon what grounds it will be attempted or recommended. To length of service, competency or experience there can, I think, be no objection. The [obscured] to the Memorandum will prove sufficiently satisfactory on these grounds and it would be doubly hard and discouraging if after all my exertions, the total absorption of my time in the public employ, my nights spent at the writing table, and my loss of health, I were to be unjustly refused my advancement to a situation to which I am entitled, and of which the salary would, in some measure, compensate my labours. I have been doing the duties for the last 18 months, I trust efficiently, and I think therefore I am not presumptuous in arguing my right to the vacancy. It cannot, I believe, be admitted that Mr. DE SMIDT, the 1st Clerk, has a claim superior to mine. He belongs actually to another department, holds a comparative sinecure, attends when he pleases and can scarcely be allowed to come back more at the 11th hour [obscured].., the advantages to which I have been endeavouring to entitle myself by so much assiduity accompanied by so many privations.
I am possibly contending with a shadow, and I am aware that one ground for the public opinion was my not having been appointed to act as Secretary to Government on the promotion of the late acting Secretary, but this idea was to my mind so preposterous that I should have justly been suspected of vanity and presumption if I had noticed it in my memorandum. I am scarcely known without the least influence or interest, without friends to bring me forward; and thus how could I for a moment contemplate so great an exaltation. The wish, from its impossibility perhaps, never entered my breast, the thought of it never existed in my mind. The public voice therefore from being unexpected has not been the less gratifying. I feel certain I might, if I had hinted it, have had a respectably signed memorial on the subject, but as I said before such an appointment exceeds in my expectations the bounds of probability.
You will best be able to decide as to the mode of funnelling the paper into its proper channel. I should rather have it presented as a private document, for if it be considered a memorial its meaning may be perverted into a complaint, which is far from my intention. In fact I cannot complain of what has not taken place, and the suspension of the Secretary of State's may arise from motives which I am unable to appreciate. I wish merely to anticipate the possibility of some arrangement being made at home which may have the injurious effect referred to, and with such a document before them I do not fear that the Secretary of State and Mr. HAY will overlook my claim.
If the Commissioners of Inquiry made any report on the qualifications of the Cape Officers I can confidently appeal to it, and I had Mr. BIGGE's assurance that he would be happy to be of use to me. Sir Lowry COLE, Mr. ELLIS, Sir Rich'd PLASKET or, in short, anyone who has known me here, would I venture to affirm if required make favourable mention of me.
I remain your affectionate son,
On Colonel BELL's departure for England in March 1833 the Chief Clerk in the Colonial Office, Mr. J.G. BRINCK, was appointed to act for him, and I, altho' 2nd Clerk, was (instead if the 1st Clerk) nominated to do Mr. BRINCK's duties.
Mr. BRINCK has recently been promoted to be Treasurer General, and Mr. HAMILTON, late Clerk of the Council, appointed to act as Secretary to Government and clerk to both councils, until Colonel BELL's return to the Colony, when the functions of Clerk to the Councils ought, under the Secretary of State's instructions, to be assumed by the Chief Clerk in the Colonial Office.
Any other person succeeding to the office or doing the duties of Secretary to Government is, at the same time, to be Clerk to the Councils and his Chief Clerk is to be his confidential assistant.
This alternative now exists; Col. BELL is absent but I have not been required to act as Assistant, and the allowance of £50 per annum to which under the above mentioned instructions I consider myself to have been entitled since the 1st July last, has been granted to another. In this grant no reference has been made to me, either personally or in the correspondence on the subject, and I am therefore unacquainted with the cause.
Mr. DE SMIDT (a man of immense property) who appears as 1st Clerk on the Establishment of the Colonial Office, has, since November 1828, been actually detached from it, with the unauthorized and almost nominal appointment with the Surveyor General's Office of Acting Secretary to the Land Board, where it is well known that, having little or no employment, he seldom attends, and it is equally certain that if he, in compliance with the spirit of the instructions before alluded to, had been directed to return to the Colonial Office on the 1st July, he would not have submitted to the drudgery of his situation and must immediately have resigned.
By the removal of Mr. BRINCK to the Treasury, the office of Chief Clerk must be considered vacant, and under all circumstances should, I conceive, be conferred upon me, subject only to the confirmation of Mr. BRINCK as Treasurer.
In consequence of these arrangements it is very generally anticipated amongst the Inhabitants that on Colonel BELL's arrival Mr. HAMILTON will, upon the plea of saving his retiring allowance and retaining him about the Council, become Chief Clerk, and that I shall revert to my former office of 2nd Clerk or, at the utmost, be forced to content myself with the possible resignation of the 1st Clerk.
Such is the public opinion, and the reasons given are certainly sufficiently plausible to admit some degree of alarm, but I can scarcely even suspect the possibility of so cruel an injustice; and I feel I do not deserve it. I have been in the employment of the Colonial Government since the 1st August 1819. My labours during these 15 years have been arduous and uninterrupted. My days, my evenings, my nights have of necessity during the greater part of the period been wholly and solely devoted to my official duties, and my health is seriously injured.
I annex a statement shewing my different appointments and the salaries I have enjoyed, to which I have added copies of testimonials from the Heads of the Departments in which I have served. From this statement it will, I believe, be evident:
1st That my duties have been of some importance.
2nd That the salaries allowed me have at no time amounted to more than a bare subsistence for myself and family, and
3rd That my conduct in my several situations has merited approbation and my competency been invariably acknowledged.
I am bound also by a sense of what is due to the Colonial Servants in general to urge my claim on this occasion, the only one too which may occur for years to afford me a respectable income; but I am convinced that it will soon be found physically impracticable for any person who, as Chief Clerk, is charged with the details of the Colonial Office, to act as Clerk of the Councils; the duties of confidential assistant he might possibly get through, but at a total sacrifice of night rest and health.
I trust, and would fain hope, that my fears are without foundation; but in a matter of such vital importance not only to my present comfort but to my future prospects, I owe it to my family, to myself, and to my Juniors in the Department (where duties as compared with other offices are also excessive and severe) to make every exertion, and this therefore will, if requisite, prove my apology.
Cape of Good Hope, 20th August 1834