BIDDULPH, Edward (son of Simon BIDDULPH), 1823
National Archives, Kew, CO48/61, 204
1 York Place
25 Aug 1823
Copy sent to Major JONES
Impressed with a high sense of the Justice of His Majesty's Government I appeal with confidence to your Lordship as presiding over the department of the British Colonies on the behalf of my aged Father who has suffered much cruelty and injustice from Major JONES, the Landdrost or Magistrate for the District of Albany at the Cape of Good Hope.
I am the more induced to take this step of representing to your Lordship the improper conduct of the Landdrost, as almost every Englishman looks upon you as the Foster Father of the new settlement. To you therefore My Lord I appeal not only in the name of an injured Parent but also on the behalf of Public Justice, claim your Lordships protection of the Laws and Liberties of our Country trusting that the high authority with which you are invested (and which you have ever exercised to the honour and prosperity of His Majesty's Colonies) will be sufficient [paper folded at edge] furnish the partial and unjust Judg [paper folded at edge] to succour the poor and oppressed.
For your Lordship's information [image cut off at bottom of page] truth of whose statement has been corroborated by disinterested individuals.
"Some months ago when my cattle were kraaled for the night they were joined by 8 strong oxen, and as it was late we thought it best to put them into the Fold with our own, to prevent them trespassing upon our neighbours garden, however the strong oxen in a short time broke out and part of our own cows with them into the adjoining garden, which had no fence whatever around it to prevent trespass - Fortunately there was little or no damage done. The cattle were driven out immediately by the Constable, who gave them up to us without claiming any sum of money, either for damage or poundage, but a few days after he came and demanded 26 Rix Dollars and 2 Shillings, being poundage charged at 14 Shillings, (= to 7 Shillings) a head. My Father thinking it a great imposition, a fifth of the real value of the beasts, (whereas in parts of England six pence only can be charged a head for poundage) and also 8 of them not belonging to us, refused to pay it - no notice was taken of the business for a length of time when the Constable came again and said that if we would pay his fee of 6d a head he would overlook the other charge, we offered to pay [for] for our own 7 cows which he refused to take and said he would summons my father for the whole [amount] which summons was served by him on the 2 Novr 1822 to appear before the Landdrost and Court of Heemraden on the 5th of Novr which was attended to; when the Secretary informed my Father of the charge against him, he replied Gentleman "I refused to pay the amount because I considered it exorbitant, and I beg to know what are the laws in force with respect to poundage". Major JONES the Landdrost answered that if he came into a foreign country he must abide by the laws without the Courts informing him what they were. The Court was then cleared - in a short time my Father was called in, when the Secretary said Mr BIDDULPH the Court condemns you to pay the Constables claim of 26 Rix Dollars and 2 Shillings and the costs of this action - this was done without their hearing a word from my Father in his defence for when he wished to state the grounds of his objections to the summons, he was silenced by the Court who said they had nothing to do with his Objections - My Father then said, Gentleman I refuse to pay and you will act as you think proper (these were his exact words) Major JONES immediately flew into a passion and cried out this is contempt of Court, what is the Law in this case - My Father replied Gentleman, I am sorry you have taken it in this light for I did not mean any Contempt of Court and I hope you will consider this a sufficient apology - The Court was then cleared but in a few minutes My Father was called in again and told by the Secretary that the Court had condemned him to 8 days imprisonment - my Father answered very well and requested he might have a copy of the proceedings on the 12 Novr. Our poor old Father at the age of sixty five was sent to prison at Grahamstown nearly 40 miles from his residence - 7 days after the condemnation, and 7 days before the time allowed by the Dutch Law which grants to every man 14 days and in some cases 21 days after sentence is past, he was kept 8 days in the same cell with criminals condemned for robbery and murder, on the same allowance of provisions, without any bed and was not permitted to see any person without the special order of the Secretary.”
Thus far My Lord is written by my Brother who attended my Father at his trial, if it Can be called by that name - but a Sister who is married at Cape Town writes that upon her husband receiving the above account together with the copy of the proceedings desiring him to take the opinion of the most eminent Lawyers, in a few hours he not only obtained opinion of the professional men but also that of some of the first men in power whose united advice was that my Father should immediately bring an action against the Landdrost and the Court, for as they had transgressed the Law and far exceeded their authority, they had no doubt that he would recover heavy damages - This advice was sent to my Father, but as it would be necessary for him to go to Cape Town to carry on the prosecution, a distance upwards of 600 miles he gave up all hope of redress, for besides the fatigue of such a journey he did not have the pecuniary means even to commence an action. For to pay the fine and then still more exorbitant costs of the Court, in which they had condemned him, he was obliged to sell almost the whole of his stock to the first bidder and thus did the malice of an iniquitous Judge become still more oppressive by condemning his whole family to penury and distress almost to the wanting the common necessaries of life just at the time when they were beginning to rejoice over the struggles they had made to taste the sweets arising from the persevering industry.
Having thus shown to your Lordship an instance of tyrannical perversion and mal administration of the laws in the district of Albany and of our utter inability to seek for redress by the common mode of procedure in the Courts - I trust that we shall find it in the Justice and Humanity of the Government at home whose real interest it must ever be to preserve unbroken by oppression the free spirit of our Nation in its Colonies.
I have the honour to subscribe myself with the utmost respect
Your Lordship's Obt Hbl St
National Archives, Kew, CO48/61, 207
No 1 York Place Camberwell
9 Sept 1823
I have the Honour to acknowledge the favour of your letter and to state in reply that it was a mistake of mine in copying my brothers letter when I wrote about the summons for my Father to appear before the Landdrost which was on the 2nd Nov 1822. It should be read 1821 for the whole of the affair transpired in that year, and Major JONES is directly stated as being the Landdrost, and so gross was the abuse of the power with which he was entrusted that even in India and the Isle of France where I was in 1822 I heard rumours of the cruel treatment and injustice which my Father suffered from him and so notorious was the affair, that I have been informed that it appeared in some of the newspapers, but I can safely affirm and pledge myself that it was not put in by my Father or anyone connected with him - for we solely trust to the humanity and justice of His Majestys Government for redress
I have the honour to be Sir with great Respect
Your Obt Hub Sr
Lieut R N