HC Deb 09 March 1835 vol 26 cc725-30
Mr. Bagshaw

reminded the House of the afflicting news which had been received within the last ten days, from the eastern part of the Colony of the Cape of Good Hope. That news had filled the friends of the settlers in that Colony, and also of the missionaries, who had gone thither to convert the natives, with the utmost alarm and dismay. It appeared that, in the month of December last, a simultaneous attack had been made on that Colony, by the Caffre nation—an attack differing from any previous attack which had been made on it, both in the mode, and in the season of making it, and also in its disastrous effects. The Colony had been devastated from Bathurst to Graham's-town, a great many lives had been lost, and a vast amount of property had been destroyed. The hon. Member then proceeded to read extracts from private letters announcing the barbarities of the Caffres. One of those extracts stated—"Nothing can equal the barbarity with which the Colonists have been treated. The wounds of those who have been murdered, can scarcely be counted." Another said—"Mr. Phillips's house has been burned, and his flocks carried off and destroyed." Now, Mr. Phillips was the first practical agriculturist in the Colony, and was possessed of the best and largest flock of merino sheep within it. The Colony expected to reap great benefit from that breed of sheep, and yet what had now become of it? The letter said, "Great numbers of them have been destroyed." A flock of merino sheep, 4,000 in number, belonging to Mr. Cumming, had been carried off. This gentleman, who possessed a large property, in flocks and herds, in the evening, was a ruined man the next morning. The alarm was so great, that Graham's-town was fortified, and one gentleman, speaking of the state of affairs there, ended his letter thus:— "Property is now out of the question; life is the only thing which excites anxiety, or for the preservation of which it is thought necessary to incur any risk." Another letter says, that "the traders in the Caffre country are all destroyed;" and he was afraid that the same fate had befallen those good and excellent men the missionaries. He admitted, that the Governor of the Cape of Good Hope had been most anxious to send succours to the relief of these distressed Colonists; but, it so happened that the ships which had the troops on board, intended for their relief, were detained, by the violence of the south-west wind, in Table Bay, at the date of the last information. One could not help shuddering at the consequences, especially as the Caffre force, invading the Colony, was estimated at not less than 10,000 men. Having stated thus much, he would now proceed to state a few words with respect to the cause of the disaster, and to the best mode of applying a remedy. it would be in the recollection of the House, that in the year 1819, 50,000l. was granted by Parliament to colonize the south-eastern part of the continent of Africa; 5,000 persons went out, in consequence, to form a Colony. They suffered, at first, the most extraordinary hardships; but, in a short time, owing to the energy of the British character, they triumphed over all the obstacles to their success. In a few years afterwards, they had grown up to be an affluent Colony, and were going on most prosperously, up to the occurrence of the late disastrous events. When they first landed at the Cape of Good Hope, the hon. and gallant Member for Berwick was governor of the Colony. From all that he had heard whilst he (Mr. Bagshaw) resided in the Colony, no man could have bestowed more attention on the Colonists, upon their first arrival, than Sir Rufane Donkin had done. His name was revered by the Colonists, and would continue to be revered, so long as there were any residents to recollect him. During the two years which Sir Rufane Donkin was governor of the Colony, there was no irruption of the Caffres. On the frontier, however, a Caffre murdered a boy and stole the cattle intrusted to his charge. Complaint of this outrage was made to Gourka, the Caffre Chief. The offender was seized, tried, convicted, and strangled, by order of his tribe. Things went on well in this way for two years more. At the end of that time there was a change in the conduct of the Colonists. The boors became tired of the system of conciliation, and adopted another. By the law of the Colony a boor, when his cattle is stolen, is not allowed to follow them himself into the enemy's quarter. He pursues, however, this course,—as soon as he is informed of his loss, he goes to the nearest commando, or military post, and makes his loss known. Then with an officer and a detachment of the Colonial Rifle Corps he follows the track of the cattle. The Hottentot, following it like a bloodhound, by the scent, until the party reaches the first cra-al in Caffre land. When the cattle reach a cra-al, it is impossible to follow their track any further. The officer then demands from this cra-al twice the number of cattle stolen, and if the owner refuses to give them up quietly, they are taken from him by force. This system has been going on for a long time, and necessarily leads to the punishment of the innocent, instead of the guilty. A Caffre robber steals cattle from the Colony, and the nearest Caffre proprietor, who, in all probability, is innocent and peaceable, immediately suffers for it. Was it to be wondered at that all forbearance was at last abandoned by the Caffres, and that they had taken the law into their hands. This result, which was naturally to be expected, had been predicted some months ago by the editor of one of the Colonial newspapers. The hon. Member then proceeded to express his concurrence in the proposition made by the Commissioners sent from England to inquire into the state of the Colony some years ago,—a proposition which recommended that a Lieutenant-Governor should be appointed to conduct the affairs of the eastern part of the Colony. The Colonists had at different times received great support from a mounted corps of Hottentot rifles. He appealed to the gallant Colonel near him, who had served with that respectable body of men, whether any troops of their class could behave better. What was the use of a British soldier when he could not find an enemy to fight with? The Caffre was on one hill in one moment and on another in the next; and as the House must have seen from the extracts which he had read to them, Colonel Somerset declared his inability to come up with them. The plain truth was, that nobody could put down this sort of strife but those who had been long accustomed to it. The causes which had led to this last irruption had been the want of a Lieutenant-Governor at. Graham's-town to control the Colonists in the first instance and a want of a proper local force to back his authority with the Caffres in the second. He was not now speaking on his own information alone. He had had with him during the last day or two almost all persons that were connected with the traders to the Cape, and with those good and excellent men the missionaries, and it was their sentiments, rather than his own, that he was then speaking. Give the Colonists at Graham's-town a local Governor—give then 500 men more of the local corps, enlist the Caffre chiefs to protect the frontiers from invasion and disturbance, and all would yet be well, and everybody would be satisfied. They would then endeavour to remedy past grievances, and give no cause for future aggressions. The hon. Member concluded by moving that "an humble Address be presented to his Majesty, praying that he will be graciously pleased to give directions, that there be laid on the Table of the House a copy of any despatches that may have been received from the Cape of Good Hope relative to the late sanguinary irruption of the Caffres with the eastern part of that Colony."

Mr. Fowell Buxton

concurred with the hon. Member who had just sat down, in all the expressions of horror which had been called from him by the late sanguinary proceedings in the neighbourhood of Graham's-town. He hoped, however, that our treatment of the natives in that Colony would undergo strict revision, for sure he was, that our treatment of them had been such as to make every honest man blush. He could mention several instances of atrocious robbery and cruelty which had been committed by the Colonists in Southern Africa, under the pretext of recovering stolen cattle from the Caffres; and knew that on one occasion the Boors had turned upon a number of unarmed Caffres, who were quietly watching their proceedings, and had shot seven of them without any provocation. He was certain that the Colony would never enjoy permanent prosperity, if substantial justice were not done between the natives and the Colonists. He thought that a Lieutenant-Governor and a civil Magistrate ought to be appointed to reside in that part of the Colony.

Sir G. Clerk

presumed that the hon. Member had had some communication with his hon. Friend the Secretary for the Colonies on this subject. He was not aware that there was any objection to this Motion; but the facts were new to him, and he was not prepared to give an opinion upon them. He felt, however, great sympathy for those whose calamities the hon. Member had so forcibly depicted, and was quite certain that their unfortunate condition would command the immediate attention of the Government of this country.

Mr. Bagshaw

said, that he had ascertained that evening that Government had received no dispatches on this subject.— The public, however, thought that des- patches had been received, and that Government was unwilling to publish them. That notion had created an impression that things were much worse off in that Colony than they really were. His object would be answered if the attention of Government was called to the subject.

The hon. Member withdrew his Motion.