CAMPBELL, Duncan, 1831
National Archives, Kew CO48/145, 297
Nov 20th 1830
My dear John,
I rejoice that our correspondence is resumed. I did not write while you were in France, as I feared my letters might not reach you, and one is always unwilling to write under that state of uncertainty, more especially when a little time will remove the difficulty; besides, I was long absent on distant duties, and removed almost beyond the pale of Civilization.
Three or four large tracts of country in the District of Somerset (one of which borders the Great or Orange River) had been surveyed and it was necessary that I should inspect and divide them into farms before they could be granted to the different applicants. These tracts were formerly a part of Graaf Reinet, they afterward merged into Somerset, when that district was formed; and finally came under the Superintendence of the Civil Com'r of Albany, when that and Somerset were joined at the recommendation of the Commissioners of Inquiry.
Although some of the applications for these farms were of ten or twelve years standing, yet the different Landrosts delayed the inspection; probably on account of the distance & the extent of the lands to be examined, and the labor consequent thereon, so that I was in fact bringing up the arrear work of some half dozen functionaries who preceded me, which was hardly fair considering that I have more business on my hands than any one of them ever had while in office.
This operation cost me five months of continued exertion, during that period I never travelled less than 12 hours each day, sometimes on foot sometimes on horseback – any kind of carriage was out of the question. This would have been hard work in any country but in this climate and in the hottest season of the year, it was no joke. I recollect that for four following days the thermometer ranged from 94 to 97 degrees in the shade, and, what was unlucky – I was then in the most rugged part of the district, and compelled to ascend the hills on foot, their sides being too steep and rocky to permit the use of horses.
My health suffered severely in consequence of all this fatigue, and for three weeks after my return I was confined to the house. I am still subject to headaches which visit me at the same hour each day and incapacitate me from all exertion while they last; they are now somewhat mitigated, though not less frequent, and I think two or three weeks sea bathing would quite restore me; I fear it is impossible to accomplish this from the great and increasing quantity of business which my office imposes on me.
While I was employed in inspections of land, Mr. ?A. NAUDE? (an intimate friend of my own, now Assistant Guardian of Slaves in the place of Major PIGOT who is dead) was appointed Ass't Civil Com'r during my absence, and although there are few men of more talents, or more application, yet a considerable ?increase? of business accumulated, partly from the difficulty of gathering the details but much more from the quantity of matters which constantly pressed upon him.
Thus it happens whenever I am about an out-of-door work, which is very often the case, I find on my return such an accumulation of business that my best efforts and all the time I can bestow on it are insufficient to keep my work square. The consequence is that much is left undone, and what is done is badly and hurriedly put out of hand; - there is no time for deliberation, and I am, of necessity, compelled to study, not which is the best mode of effecting a particular object, but which is the quickest mode of disposing of it, knowing, too well, that if I adopt any other course my work will come to a standstill.
It was surely a strange oversight in the Commissioners of Inquiry when framing a new set of Regulations for the Government of this Colony to "doublecase" the Frontier Districts of Albany and Somerset in the same manner that they coupled the long settled midland districts under one Civil Commissioner; They did not advert to the circumstance that in these everything had been already formed and established, while in those everything required to be done. If they imagined that this was to be effected by leger de main, or that there was any "royal road" to the work, they were sadly deceived. But there are two circumstances, above all others, which they should not have forgotten, first that one of the Districts (Albany) is inhabited chiefly by Englishmen, any ten of whom, from the peculiarity of their temperament, give more trouble and occupation to those in office than any hundred of the old, quiet, phlegmatic inhabitants; second it was especially incumbent upon them to consider that those two Frontier Districts are along the whole extent of their outward boundary (above 300 miles) in contact with savage tribes, to repel whose incursions and depredations would furnish employment for a commissioner had he no other duties to perform. Thus a Commandant of the Frontier (Col. SOMERSET) active and zealous in the highest degree, who does all that man can do with the troops at his disposal, but there are so few in hand that it is impossible to guard all points from the incursion of our barbarous neighbours. We have likewise a Commissioner General for the Eastern province whose duties chiefly appertain to the Frontier who might be of much service, but from some cause with which I am unacquainted resides principally at Cape Town. He is a member of Council and it may be that his extensive local knowledge of this part of the country, as well as of the native tribes on our border, may render his presence necessary there, in order to give such information to the Council, as may guide them in their decisions in matters connected with the Frontier.
Dec'r 21st. There is a wide interval between the dates of my letter; but in truth it is very difficult for me to write at any length without these wide gaps, so completely do my public affairs occupy my time.
A short account of the cause of this breach in my letter will give you some idea of my occupations. An Officer of the Engineers who acted as Civil Surveyor under DUNDAS, and who had surveyed some lands lying between the Fish River and one of its tributaries (the Koonap) was suddenly ordered to cape Town. These farms had been examined by DUNDAS, but he had not reported upon them all, nor on the claims of the different applicants. It therefore became necessary that I should inspect them before the departure of the Engineer. We crossed the Fish River on the evening of the day we quitted Gr. Town and we had hardly done so when both it and the Koonap flooded their banks (from rains that had fallen farther up) and we became hermetically sealed between the two. My wagon and servants had orders to follow me with my bedding and other supplies but they were intercepted by the River and we were compelled to take up our quarters amongst the boers. You will think this was no great hardship but you must see their wretched hovels filled with filth and vermin, as well as the miserable condition of the people, before you can form a just estimate of them. (I do not mean to say that all are in this state, but it is the general description of the Frontier boers). In a few days the work was finished, and the Engineer and I parted, he for Gr. Town and I for the Dist. of Somerset, to attend to other work of the same kind. On reaching the Fish River it was still flooded, and so turbulent that it would have been hazardous to attempt crossing it by swimming (although I had twice done so on former occasions). I was therefore forced to remain for five days in a boer's hut on its bank, till at length my patience became exhausted and I formed a raft of two pieces of wood that had floated down the River and got across with the assistance of some boers who were in the vicinity, not without some peril. But this is a digression which I feel is not worth the time the detail has occupied – I must return to other affairs.
You will be desirous of ascertaining what are the nature of my other duties, besides those connected with the granting of lands, and if you will substitute the term Deputy Governor for that of Civil Commissioner, it will help you to form an idea of them. In fact the whole Civil Government (with the single exception of the Courts of Law) of these extensive and comparatively new districts, as well as the superintendence of our external commercial and political relations (which are every day extending) with the uncivilized nations beyond us, rest on my shoulders. I should not mind this if adequate means were placed at my disposal for the effective administration of them, but all the assistance I have consists in two clerks at Graham's Town, and one at Somerset, the entire of whose time is engrossed by figures and complicated accounts respecting the receipts and disbursements of the public money; nor are their qualifications such as would enable them to render me any real aid even if I had the means of bringing them into operation.
Jan'y 4th 1831. It is impossible for me to get on with this letter just now. I shall endeavour to finish it some other time, and I send you it in its [obscured] state that you may know I am alive, and the causes that prevent my bringing it to end – a horrible quantity of business I have on hand. Pray write to KEMPSTER and tell him that I have mislaid his letter containing the form & oath for the affidavits, which is the reason I have not sent this latter home for some time. I shall write in a day or two and make the best form I can from memory but fear it will [be] incorrect. Remembrance to Catherine and Pat, and in much haste
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