Other formats

    TEI XML file   ePub eBook file  


    mail icontwitter iconBlogspot iconrss icon

The Life and Times of Sir George Grey, K.C.B.

Chapter XXX. — Dismay of South Africa

page 237

Chapter XXX.
Dismay of South Africa.

"The kindest man,
The best-conditioned and unwearied spirit
In doing courtesies."

The sudden news of the Governor's recall spread sorrow and dismay over every community in South Africa. The disagreements between Sir George Grey and the great departments in Whitehall were generally known. Well-informed people had long been cognizant of the fact that the independence of Governor Grey and his original method of acting upon Ms own belief, irrespective of orders or established rules, had caused great bitterness at headquarters, but so valuable were the services he had rendered, so indispensable his assistance in the maintenance of the Imperial authority, that no one dreamed that the blow now delivered was imminent.

The whole people rose in expostulation. From every district, every race, and all classes, there went up one common cry of disapproval and sorrow. Meetings were held, resolutions passed, and petitions signed, praying Her Majesty to rescind the obnoxious order of recall, and to reappoint Sir George Grey to the scene of his successful labours. The tidings "staggered and excited the country from one end to the other," wrote the Metropolitan of Cape Town to the Bishop of Oxford; and, to quote from the report of a member of the Cambridge Committee on the Oxford and Cambridge mission to Central Africa, "filled the minds of all interested in the page 238missionary cause with dismay, and threatened the extinction of some of the most hopeful work ever yet undertaken in the colony." The Fingoes, after long deliberation, framed their prayer to thu Queen thus:—

To The Great Queen Victory.

Oh, our Great Queen, graciously look upon us. We, thy subjects, Fingoes, residing at Grahamstown, desire to approach thy feet and pray before thee.

For a long time we have sat under thy Government, loving thy authority and thy custom.

In thy kindness, thou didst send us Sir George Grey, that he might administer rule over us.

We saw when he arrived that he was just such a chief as we black people needed. He manifested his love towards us in many things. He helped us in all things. He gave us ground to live upon, that we might no longer he as wanderers and strangers without location. He built us great schools, that our children might enter them and learn nicely, like the children of English people.

We rejoiced for all these things. We said, "We are a blessed people under our Queen Victoria. We are like children who have a father in all things to preserve, feed, and help them."

But to-day we are smitten with sorrow by hearing very heavy tidings, viz., that thou, our Great Queen, hast called home our chief, Sir George Grey. To day our hearts weep: they are dead because of this. We say, "Has our Queen forsakeu us or not? Having deprived us of our father, we are now orphans indeed." No, our Great Queen, don't throw us away. Regard, our prayer find send back our chief, that he may again come and live with us and comfort us by taking away our crying.

And may the Lord of Heaven, look upon thee and bless thee with all the blessings of this earth, and when thou leavest this world may He give thee a throne in Heaven.

Amid all the petitions which were forwarded from the different parts of South Africa, there was one which can fairly be regarded as the representation of the opinions and wishes of all classes and conditions of people in that portion of the Queen's dominions. It was headed:—

The Humble Petition of the Undersigned Land Holders, Bankers, Merchants, Agriculturalists and Others,

Humbly Showeth,—That Your Majesty's loyal subjects in South Africa have derived great benefits from the wise, prudent, and active administration of the Colonial Government by His Excellency Sir George Grey, to whom Your Majesty was graciously pleased to commit the arduous duty of restoring and consolidating peace and good order over a page 239vast country, recently the scene of cruel wars and confusion, and always exposed to a recurrence of danger unless guarded and kept in a state of preparation by men of ability and large experience in colonial affairs.

That the high character which Sir George Grey had acquired in the course of many years' service under Your Majesty, in administering the affairs of European settlements in the neighbourhood of barbarous tribes, and with equal ability and success in pacifying and promoting the welfare and civilisation of those native populations themselves, has been fully sustained and rendered still more eminent by the whole course of his proceedings at the Cape of Good Hope.

The petitioners then proceeded to express the perilous condition in which Sir George Grey had found the colony —the skill and fortitude with which all these untoward circumstances had been met and overcome; the high state of prosperity to which under God's blessing, the Governor had been able to lead that portion of the Queen's Dominions; the confidence which all men had learnt to repose in his wisdom and courage, and the gratitude and affection which he had earned from the multitudinous races and peoples who, in that part of the world, were subjects of the Crown, or who lived in contiguity with her people.

After depicting the regret and alarm with which they had heard the statement of his recall, the petitioners thus closed this memorable document:—

That while humbly presenting to Your Majesty every expression of loyalty and devotion to Your Majesty's person and Government, and carefully abstaining fom any wish to encroach on the undoubted prerogative of their revered and beloved Sovereign, Your Majesty's petitioners would pray permission to lay their petition at the foot of the Throne for a reconsideration of the measure which Your Majesty has been advised to adopt in this instance. They entertain a hope that when all the circumstances of this colony and the neighbouring communities shall have been fully unfolded to Your Majesty, and the whole tenor and effect of Sir George Grey's administration made apparent, Your Majesty may see cause consistently with the principles of Your Majesty's Government, and the honour and dignity of the Crown, to gratify the wishes and desires of your people by restoring to them a Governor, who, from their experience, they believe will ever give Your Majesty the highest satisfaction.

This petition, typical of the general feeling of the colonists and their neighbours, was signed by Mr. J. B. Ebden, Chairman of the public meeting, and 2,272 others.

The universal prayer of the people was that Sir George Grey page 240might be re-appointed. To such a prayer, no Sovereign, least of all Victoria, would have turned a deaf ear, and even Downing Street, with its case hardened officialism, its Tite Barnacles and red tapeism, would have been forced to yield. The people trusted that when due consideration had been given to the whole subject, and when Her Majesty's Ministers had time to reconsider their decision, their petitions would be granted. There were many amongst them who did not fear to assert, both in speech and writing, that such a universal expression of opinion as had been given, would influence public opinion in Great Britain, and cause the re-appointment of the Governor they loved so well.

Without their knowledge this had already been done, but the test applied drew forth the spontaneous feelings cherished in the hearts of the people for their ruler, and revealed the estimation in which Sir George Grey was held.

The last public function performed by Sir George Grey was one peculiarly agreeable to himself, and consisted in laying the foundation stone of a new and commodious Hospital in Cape Town. Lord Charles Somerset had formerly taken an active part in the erection of a hospital. As time passsd on this proved entirely inadequate to the public wants, and it was determined to erect a more capacious building.

Sir George insisted upon the institution being called the Somerset Hospital in memory of his predecessor.

page 241
Somerset Hospital, Cape Town.Founded by Sir George Grey, K.C.B, 18th August, 1849.

Somerset Hospital, Cape Town.
Founded by Sir George Grey, K.C.B, 18th August, 1849.