The 1820 Settler Correspondence

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The Correspondence in connection with the 1820 Cape Settler Scheme is preserved at the UK National Archives at Kew and contained in class CO48. Each file is in fact a large leather bound volume into which the correspondence has been inserted (this is the cause of so many [obscured] words as they disappear into the binding, and of course one is not allowed to undo them). The letters were bound in the 19th century, and were filed in order of receipt so that, for example, the many letters of Miles Bowker are spread evenly throughout the B file. Letters were either addressed to Lord BATHURST, Secretary of State for the Colonies (starting My Lord) or to his deputy, Henry GOULBURN, (starting Sir).

On this web site, for ease of reading, letters of each writer have been collected together on one page. The numbers like 543-546 are stamped on page numbers that have been added to the file, and these should be used for locating the actual correspondence. Where such numbers exist they are prefixed to each letter in the form:  National Archives, Kew CO48/41, 340. Where a page number is not given (sometimes there wasn't one and sometimes it got cut off the image) then the date should give a clue to its location in the file.

Users of this site have the option of browsing the names of the letter writers (from the alphabet links on the left) and following any links to post 1820 letters or additional information on that settler, or of searching all names mentioned in the correspondence by using the Search Box in the top right hand corner.

These several thousand letters were transcribed by volunteers from the ZA-IB and ZA-EC Rootsweb mailing lists from digital photographs taken by Sue Mackay, Rowena Wattrus and Tessa King at the UK National Archives, Kew. Original spelling has been maintained. To all of these our grateful thanks are due for this invaluable archive.

The Story of the 1820 Settlers

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As part of the peace agreement between Britain and France in March 1802, Britain gave back to the Netherlands the Cape of Good Hope which it had taken in 1795. The peace, however, was short-lived and after a fierce battle on the beaches of Cape Town in January 1806, the British took back the Cape of Good Hope.

But it was not until 1814 that the Cape Colony is officially ceded to the British under the treaty of Versailles which conclude the Napoleonic Wars in Europe, Britain formally purchased the Cape from the Dutch for six million pounds and another colony was added to the growing British Empire.

Lord Charles Somerset was appointed Governor of the Cape in 1814. He began to write letters home to Lord Bathurst with regards to the Eastern frontier of the Cape, but the British Government was not prepared at this stage to increase the army presence in the area. The army on the ground, however, was unable to cope with the hostilities which were occurring almost daily on the frontier. Somerset began to lobby for more people to be sent out to the Cape and to be settled in the Eastern Cape in particular. He put forward his idea of an immigration scheme and others at the time were also writing to influential men in England. With the onset of the Fifth Frontier War in 1818, the British Government finally decided to take some action and appointed a Committee to investigate the feasibility of Somerset’s settlement proposal.

The Scheme as set out by the British Government had a three-fold purpose: To settle the disputed eastern frontier of the Cape of Good Hope with an agrarian farming community whose presence would discourage Xhosa pastoralists and cattle raiders from crossing the colonial boundary. To increase the English-speaking community in their newly acquired Colony; and to ase political tensions in Britain that had been stretched to breaking point with post-war unemployment, industrialisation and poor trade.

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British South Africa by Colin Turing Campbell, Juta & Co, 1897

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A possibly useful book to be found among those in the Internet Archive is:

British South Africa by Colin Turing Campbell, Juta & Co, 11897

A History of the Colony of the Cape of Good Hope from the Conquest 1795 to the Settlement of Albany by the British Emigration of 1819 [A.D. 1795 - A.D. 1825]

With notices of some of the British Settlers of 1820

and A list of the Settler parties of 1820 ship by ship