GSSAThe 1820 Settler Correspondence
 as preserved in the National Archives, Kew
 and edited by Sue Mackay

Selected Settler Correspondence 1820 - 1837

Whereas ALL the 1819 correspondence was transcribed (see CO48/41 through CO48/46 at the National Archives), whether or not the writers emigrated to the Cape, here only letters by known settlers or their families, or letters of great relevance to the 1820 settlers, have been transcribed. There are many other letters in later files, thought not to be written by eventual settlers. However, if an ancestor is known to have emigrated after the 1820 settlers then it might be worth looking through the rest of the correspondence, which is arranged alphabetically. The relevant files for letters written in 1820 are CO48/52 (A-L) and CO48/53 (M-Y). Later files are labelled "Original Correspondence" followed by the year, and can be found from CO48/56 (1821) to CO48/186 (1837).

Unless otherwise stated letters were written to either the Secretary of State for the Colonies or his deputy. The original correspondence is filed in order of receipt. Here it has been placed in alphabetical order according to the surname of the writer, with letters by the same writer in chronological order, for ease of reading. Original spelling has been maintained. Reference numbers, where given, refer to printed page numbers stamped on the letters and will enable visitors to the National Archives to locate the letter more easily.

DUNN, William, 1826

National Archives, Kew, CO48/74, 163

Custom House

Port Elizabeth

Cape of Good Hope

July 12th 1825

My Lord,

I have resided in this colony near five years during which time I have not presumed to address your Lordship. I am the person who in 1818 proposed to make the Funded Property transferrable to Bearer; which plan Mr. VANSITTERT declared in the House of Commons would have rendered our Banking System “as perfect as any thing of this nature could be made.” The public distress occasioned the subject to be much discussed & my pamphlet was treated with very great respect in the {Antiquarian?] and two other magazines. The principle I recommended was attended to by distant countries & even the Cape Town Exchange was built by money raised on Bonds payable to the Bearer. (Very distinguished statesmen received me with the greatest courtesy – but I was told from authority that unless my plan was adopted I could not expect a remuneration.

I had been despoiled of my property by placing undue confidence in a relation. Lord SIDMOUTH advised my coming to the Cape of Good Hope and Mr. CANNING furnished me with a letter of recommendation to the Colonial Secretary. With a very little property, honorably bestowed upon me (which Mr. CANNING, Mr. WILBERFORCE and Lord CALTHORPE kindly augmented) I established myself at Cape Town as a Teacher of the English Language. I so fully succeeded that my income increased to above two hundred Rix dollars a month: a system of forgery being at this time discovered I was induced to lay before the Government my plan for preventing forgery in the case of the intended Funded Securities. The Colonial Receiver General at once entered into my views & all the Rix Dollars issued after March 1821 were formed agreeably to my instructions. I will not trouble your Lordship with a detail of my minor services. I was sent for to the Colonial Office and as an acknowledgement of my services I was appointed Resident Custom House Officer of Port Elizabeth with a salary of 100 Rix dollars per month. I particularly expressed my hope that the appointment was intended as introductory to a higher rank & in a letter which I afterwards wrote to England & which the Colonial Secretary admired I stated that I considered myself as being “educated for office”.

The real object of this letter is to solicit an appointment by which I can procure for my family the necessaries of life. It was announced in the Cape Town Gazette that the Clerk of the Council was not yet named, and at the suggestion of a most respectable person who knew my habits & saw my struggles (that I was unable to purchase the most homely cloathing) I wrote as follows to His Excellency in Council.

“as the advertisement advertising the non appointment of a clerk to your august body may possibly be intended as an invitation to candidates, I should ill fulfil the duty I owe to my very large family if I refused to enter into the ranks as an humble applicant – that I may at once be acquitted of the charge of being dissatisfied when possessing the conveniences of life, I beg leave to state that my present salaries amount to about 3Rds 4sh per diem. I would submit to the most rigid economist the following scale of my expenses.

Bread 1Rd

Meat 1Rd

[Vegetables?], milk }

[Obscured] & firewood } 1Rd

[Obscured] & candles }

Tea or coffee & sugar 4sh

Leaving nothing for cloathes for my large family

Nothing for servants wages

Nothing for wine

Nothing for linen

Nothing for furniture

Nothing for illnesses

Nothing for lyings in

Nothing for hospitality &c

I must therefore run in debt for all these necessaries: I have hitherto by the peculiar providence of God [been] supported; but humanly speaking I see nothing but Debt & its infallible consequences of impaired health for my future years.

As a Public Functionary at Port Elizabeth His Majesty's Colonial Council would censure me if I withheld from them on proper occasions a just statement of my civil and political relations - in the case of the Brig Venus, the Lady Flora, the St.Antonio and the George the Fourth I acted contrary to my instructions and received the approbation of the head of my department: and in the affair of the Stedcombe I gave general satisfaction.”

I enumerated other services and made the usual professions of attachment and fidelity. A friend has now informed me that the appointment of the Clerk of the Council is reserved by the home Government, and I feel no difficulty in addressing the Ministers of my beloved country as a Freeholder of Middlesex & as a Liveryman of London. I voted for their supporters and I have been in the Committee Room at a [constituency?] election, when my life was in danger – a refusal therefore of my request will bring with it the pleasure of a letter from home, and my application will be treated with respect altho' it may be unsuccessful.

Mr. CANNING is so kind as to permit me occasion to forward through him a letter to my son and I have felt an enjoyment in relating to him my fondness for this country to which he in some measure introduced me: but I have little hope that he can interest himself further on my behalf – it appears to me he never had a patron & that he would be ashamed of those who required one.

Referring to any attachment to this colony, your Lordship will perhaps think I ought to say a few words in support of my opinions. The improbability of my ever leaving the Cape of Good Hope may have induced an attention to every supposed latent advantage, and I hope an acquiescence in the appointment of Providence may have produced a degree of satisfaction – yet I think this country absolutely good for rich and poor. Gentlemen of small fortunes in England would rank as noblemen in the Cape of Good Hope and industrious people are even more [obscured] than men of large estate. I could employ ten thousand British labourers – [you?] can hardly get anyone to wait upon you. His majesty has no subjects more loyal than the British inhabitants of this colony and I think some plan might be thought of to gratify our feelings in respect to our interests & being equally under the safeguard of the [obscured] Estate with those of the remote islands of Scotland. I wrote a paper some time since which I have enclosed. I do not think the description of Algoa Bay too highly colored and this week's Gazette announces that the returning India ships in general avoid Table Bay in consequence of an additional premium of insurance being required. I have therefore induced the inhabitants of Port Elizabeth to petition for a wharf and I suppose the petition will be forwarded by this port.

I shall not disturb my peace by the slightest reference to Colonial politics, and I ought to beg pardon for being carried beyond the original object of this letter & for addressing your Lordship without a previous copy. I shall conclude my present address by expressing my hope that the same councils will continue to direct the affairs of the British Empire. I think it would give your Lordship pleasure to witness the appetite with which an Englishman in South Africa devours the contents of a London newspaper and I feel as much alive to the Quarterly Statement of the Revenue as any frequentor of the [Cyder Cellar??]

This reduction of duties I may almost say is a criterion of the wisdom of the age – may no unforeseen vicissitudes derange the wise design

I am my Lord with the greatest respect

Your Lordship's much obliged and most humble servant

William DUNN

Port Elizabeth Custom House

Algoa Bay

South Africa

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