The Life and Times of Sir George Grey, K.C.B.
Chapter XXXVI. — Letters From African Chiefs
Letters From African Chiefs.
"Nature is line in love, and when tis fine
It send some precious instance of itself
After the thing it loves."
During the whole of his residence at Cape Town, Sir George Grey often received letters from the heads of the native tribes under his rule. The affectionate dependence on their good Governor which these "children of a larger growth" expressed is at once touching and quaint. They looked upon him as both willing and able to satisfy all their desires. Appeals were made to Sir George when famine threatened them, when the injustice or depredation of neighbouring tribes called for punishment, when a new gun or saddle was eagerly desired, when their children needed education, or pestilence was destroying their people. Nothing was too great, nothing too small to be brought under the notice of the "King of the Cape," as Sir George was styled in some of these appeals.
And they were justified in this belief by the never-failing consideration to their requests, and the sincere interest in all that concerned his native subjects shown by the Governor. Ever busy, he had yet time to attend to the most trivial wishes of single individuals. He not only established hospitals for their sick, but would undertake toilsome journeys into most remote parts of the country to visit one dying native; he founded great schools where their children might learn useful trades or fit themselves to teach page 282and follow scientific pursuits, and at the same time he granted the childish wishes of many little students, writing to them, sending gifts, arranging for some of them to go to school in England, and encouraging all of them to write to him about anything which interested or concerned them.
Amongst the treasures of Sir George Grey's correspondence, the simple, heart-felt utterances of these little native children hold an honoured place. They are dearer to him than the eulogistic letters of the wise and the great of the earth.
George Macomo and Duke Tshatshur, amongst sons of the other principal chiefs, were sent to school in England, and wrote long letters from Nuneaton to their benefactor. They sent messages to their relations through the Governor, and asked him of their welfare. Everything they saw in England was compared (generally unfavourably) with what Sir George had at Government House. The boys went to a cattle show. They saw some fine horses—" but although they have not reached up to yours," writes George; he continued, "we are thankful to God for this mercy to hear our prayer, when we prayed for you, to send you back again because you did so please us. … I am sure it does make me feel to wish to be there."
A very touching little letter from Emma Sandilli, deserves to be quoted at length. The writer was the only daughter of Sandilli, paramount chief of the Kafir tribes. She afterwards married the pai-amount chief of the Tambookie tribes. Sir George Grey had her placed at the Kafir School, which he founded and maintained at Zonnebloem near Cape Town. No home-sick English school girl ever wrote to her parents with more perfect confidence that her request would meet with loving and indulgent consideration than Emma Sandilli to the Governor of Cape Colony.
Zonnebloem, November 2nd, 1860.
My Lord Governor,—J meant to ask you if yon please, Sir, to let me go back to see my parents for a short time, and I will come back again. I will not stop any longer. Tt is because I do desire to see my own bind, 1 beg you to let me go to see my parents, and if you do let me go I shall never forget your kindness. I should be so pleased to see my mother's face again. I beg you do let me go, my Lord Governor. Of your kindness I am quite sure that you will. 1 cannot do as T like now because you are in my father's page 283place. If you do listen to my ask, I am sure ] do not know what I shall do, because 1 cannot do anything for you, and you can do so much for me.
The sons of the chief Moroka were much attached to Sir George Grey. The Governor desired to give the elder of these lads an English education. His proposal to do so nearly sent Samuel Moroka wild with delight. How eagerly he grasped at the offer, and how anxious he was that his wishes might not be misinterpreted, may be gathered from the following expressive if rather incoherent letter:—
To Sir George Grey,—I send this letter to you, Sir. I like to go to England, Sir. I like very much, Sir, and I want anything I must ask to you, Sir, and I was wrote to my Father. I tell him I shall ask to yon, Sir, and he said it is good. He said if I want anything 1 must ask to you, Sir. I like very much, Sir, if I can go England, I shall be glad, Sir. Please Sir, I like to go, and I thought my Father he shall be glad, Sir, if he hear I go England to learning. He shall very glad Because you Promise my Father you said to him You shall Bring me England. Please Sir, I like very much, Sir, to go to England, Sir.—I am,
George Moroka, a brother of the last writer, was at the Kafir College at Zonnebloem, when he received a letter from his father containing bad news. A rumour had reached Moroka's settlement that their good Governor was going to leave them. George wrote immediately to Sir George Grey. His letter, dated July 11th, 1861, contains the following passage:—
He (Moroka) say he heard some people say you go away from the Cape. He say he don't know if it is true or not. … I tell my father, I say to him, if Sir George Grey go Home I will go with him, but he say very well; but I tell him if you go I shall go with you.—I am, your affectionate son.
A letter written nearly twenty years after Sir George Grey left South Africa for the second time, by one of the former students at the Kafir College at Zonnebloem, says:—
Vast changes took place since you left us, and we are unto this day like unto the children of Israel after the death of their kind Pharaoh. My heart aches when 1 remember the time you kept us, when you used to give us goodly dinners, and used to return to Zonnebloem each time with 5s. each boy, and all wishing for the morrow to buy sweets and marbles. In the year 1877 my native race broke into war with the colony. The consequence page 284is the death of Sandilli, killed in a bush, and the capture of all his sons Edmund and all who are in Robbin (or Seal)* Island unto this day.
I do mourn for His Excellency, for I am sure I would not have been so poor if he were still with us.
Sir George Grey's indulgent kindness was not confined to the children alone, as is shown by many letters like the following, which a missionary in the Nyati country wrote at the request and dictation of one of the greatest of all African chiefs:—
Moselekatse, the King of the Matabele,
To the King of the Cape,—Oh! King of the Cape, I send these words to you to inform you that the waggon with all the fine things it contained, which you gave me, was taken away by the Boers, and to beg of you to help me by giving me mother waggon containing guns, powder, lead, beads, boiling pots, and clothing.
That I long to see the way clear from here to the Cape, so that I may trade with the English, and that thus we may become one people.
With my kindest regards to you, and longing to hear your reply, and also to welcome messengers from you,
The chief being determined that the "King of the Cape" should receive his actual handwriting, persisted, in spite of the arguments and opposition of the missionary, in adding a purposeless and complicated scrawl to this letter, which Mr. Thomas sent with many apologies to His Excellency.
The chief was obdurate, and to all the missionary's efforts to dissuade him simply remarked, "You are against me, for you will not send my words to the King. I know that the King will hear me: and, therefore, why do yon refuse to send to him?"
The feelings of the coloured people of Lesseytown when Sir George Grey visited them in 1860, after his return from England, found expression in the following original address:—
To the Chief, that is, Sir George Grey;
Governor of the Country.
Chief,—" We greet you, because you have returned and come to our place. We thank thee because thou hast come, thou, who art so great, to us, the little lot of Lesseytown.
The thing we thank for is this: In. time gone by in our sitting we had not the thought that a thing so great as thou could come to where we sit.
Another thing we thank thee for: it is the word you have spoken. We see the House, to teach Children, is standing by your word.
Another thing it is to thank: that we see our children, they begin to page 285learn the trades: it is by your kindness. May the Lord of Heaven put His blessing upon these works, that it may he a light to them, the many of our nation, they, who yet sit in darkness, that they may see the standing of righteousness, which is fastened among us.
Another thing also which we thank thee for: it is that we have sent a little lot of our children to go and learn at Salem.
Again we thank for your desire to help us, with a stone to grind. But we have got another thought of it: we have cut our lands, we have ploughed wheat to sell it to finish that thing.
Now then, Chief, we need your help; we ask of yon the trade of building waggons, that our children may learn it also.
We now greet the Chief. We pray for thy hearing to these words we have spoken. Go then, Chief of us, by safety, to those troubles you are going to. It is us, who would it may come right for you. by the help of God.
A letter from Moshesh, which is not dated but must have been written about the same time, conveys the pleasure of that chief at Sir George Grey's return. The following is, a close translation:—
To the Governor,
I rejoice in that I am again given an opportunity to meet the Representative of the Queen in this part of Africa. I had longed that you could have come to separate us before this war had yet been fought, but those who made war upon me would not. To-day Boshof has sued (for peace), and we have placed our arms on the ground; and I am glad, for war is; not a thing which I hare ever liked. But since you desire that peace should be built up between the Boers and me, I ought to tell you the secret of my heart.
The little matters of my nation are known to you. You know that when the whites had not yet crossed the Orange River, I was lord of the land, commencing from the junction of the Orange and Caledon, to the districts of Smithtield and of Bloenifontein and Thabanchie, and reaching to Winburg and to opposite Harrismith. You know that those who crossed the river first were people who asked me room to sit for a short time to pasture their flocks, and it happened that when they began to trouble me, Governor Napier scolded them. Afterwards other Governors even asked me for room to place whites on some farms, and I consented (to place them), but not after the manner of the whites, it was according to the laws of the Lesuti. Now with us the land is the chief's, and a man is not permitted to sell it. That which I now say is that the Representatives of the Queen have borrowed farms from me and placed people on them, while some have only placed themselves (squatted). I had trusted that these people whom I received would have trusted me, whereas it is not so, but ever since I lent them a portion of my land there has been no peace, and there have been page 286always disputes and quarrels. Now I say those who borrowed from me were the Representatives of the Queen, and whereas these loans have already given birth to wars, and will continue to give birth to them, I pray them to return me that which lent them. There can be no real peace until this stumblingblock is removed. Yes, I lent to the Government of the Queen, and to no other, and the duty of the masters when they went away was to return to me that which they had borrowed from me. In questions of land I do not know the Boers, for it is not they who borrowed from me. The things I now tell you are things of truth, and I trust that the Government of the Queen will adjudicate righteously.
Moshesh next requested that firearms and powder might be given to his people. He said they were a quiet tribe, not given to war.
There is game in the land of the Lesuto, and we are without that with which to kill it.
I have other things, which I shall tell you with my mouth. Though, however, I have been telling you my little affairs, it is not that I would dictate how you ought to act, for you are greater than we. In short, I have placed my hope in you, and have confidence that you will adjudicate righteously.
Another letter from Moshesh, dated August 20th, 1861, commences thus:—
Sir,—I have learnt with sorrow that you are on the point of leaving Cape Colony to go to New Zealand. I wish you all sorts of prosperity in the new responsibility which is going to be confided to you, and I pray you to remember me and my people. I ask you also to speak of me, and of what concerns me, to your successor, so that he may have the same kindness for us which you have had for us.
In the month of July last I wrote to you to tell you that I was not bound to anybody to make war upon you, and that was the truth. To-day I learn that there are troubles among the Zulus at the place of Panda's son, and I think that Your Excellency is convinced that I have no part in that business. If, following the example of the kings of Medes and Persians, I could at my death leave laws to my people, I should tell them never to make war against the English people.
Strange rumours have reached me. They say, and I have reason to believe that it is true, that Pretorius went to Panda to ask him for help to make war against my people. I have also heard that Panda would have refused with indignation and anger, but his son would have accepted on condition that the booty taken in the war should be for him, and the country for the Government of the Free State. Great chief, you who receive news from all parts of this country, do you know anything of this plan of Pretorius?
This was accompanied by another letter from the son of Moshesh, also written by the French missionary. It alluded to the warlike attitude of the Boers, and the rumour of their uniting with the Zulus to make war upon Moshesh and his people. It also spoke of another matter:—
I have been directed by my father, Moshesh, to thank you for the care bestowed on my brother, whom you have sent to England for his education. He lifts written to tell us of his arrival in Europe.
* Place where political prisoners were occasionally confined.