FRANCIS, David Polley, 1821
National Archives, Kew, CO48/56, 94
[Addressed to Col. J H STRUTT, MP]
Nassar River near Assegai Bush
Cape of Good Hope
January 20th 1821
It is now near eighteen months since you did me the favor to recommend me to the Colonial Department in England as a person wishing to settle in this Colony and presuming you would have no objection to hear how far I have succeeded, I am induced to give you a short account of my proceedings since I arrived in this Colony.
I reached this Country on the 30th of April and landed at Simons Bay, on the 3rd of May I proceeded to Cape Town, with a Mr PARKER whose Party I had connected myself with before I left England - on our waiting upon the colonial secretary Col BIRD we found that the acting governor Sir Rufane DONKIN was up the Country, Col BIRD informed us that the ship was to proceed to Saldanha Bay as it was intended to locate us at a place called Clan William about 120 miles from Saldanha Bay and 140 or 50 from Cape Town - he assured us that it was one of the best places in the Colony. After making many enquiries and finding the reports so very different from each other Mr PARKER and myself determined to visit the spot as we were strongly advised so to do by several friends in Cape Town though Col BIRD appeared not to think it necessary.
A few days after we commenced our journey and after traveling four days - the last two over a country composed of deep sand, rocks, and bushes - we arrived at Mr BERGH's the Deputy Landrost of Clan William whose grounds adjoin the lands which where intended for our location, indeed some of the lands he cultivated where to be allotted to us. The Government surveyor was there making a plan of the same. Both Mr BERGH and the surveyor gave a most unfavourable account of the place - and I was sure as soon as I saw the land it was a very just one, for it consisted of a deep sand highly impregnated with saltpetre without any vegetation but some wild flowers and bushes, under those circumstances we thought it advisable to make a report to the Colonial Government - that it was totaly unfit for the location of so many settlers not only on acct of the badness of the land but from the smallness of the quantity there being only about 1200 acres and not one third of this could ever be cultivated [the next word and line illegible]...
... for the settlers intended for that place was about 12,000 acres. On our meeting the ship at Saldanha Bay we found the people all very anxious to land and Mr STOLL the Landrost of the Cape district who was there to attend to our disembarkation was requested to send to Cape Town for Instructions, the answer was that no other arrangement could take place. However another message came to say that unless we proceeded to our location the ship must return to Simons Bay forthwith. In this state of things it was thought better to proceed as it was possible Government might have other lands in the neighbourhood.
I sent the men belonging to me, as I thought it right to comply with the orders of Government, and returned to Cape Town myself to wait the result as I was well aware that the greatest distress must prevail, if there was no other reliance for the people than what Clan William could afford. In a short time the difficultys of procuring provisions was very great, and representations were sent to the Governor alledging the adequacy of the place. The Government then offered to remove all those who would come to this part of the Colony free of expence, and give them rations untill they could produce a crop as some recompense for the loss of the season and great expence and disappointment we [were met with]. I accepted of this offer and arrived here on the 12th of October - being five months and 12 days in the Colony before I was located - and having eleven persons to feed every day. There never was a Country so different from what it is represented, for most writers have given it the character of a fertile Country, but except in small spots it is very much the contrary.
I trust I have no occasion to say to you Sir that I should be one of the last persons in the world to find fault with the British Government, either at home or abroad, but the breach of faith which I have met with in this Colony is such as obliges me to complain, for after a verbal promise of the Governor (with whom I had several Interviews) as well as a circular addressed from the Colonial Office stating that we should be conveyed free of expence from Clan William to our locations and provided with rations for twelve months, or untill we could produce a crop, which must have been near 15 months as we arrived about 3 months before Harvest, this would have been a poor remuneration for the loss we had sustained in being sent to Clan William - however a few days since a circular was sent me saying the rations would be discontinued without payment or undoubted security for the [illegible] and this is at a time too when it is quite out of our power to procure bread for [money] without the aid of Government as the Harvest has totaly failed.
I have written to the Government here to say that in the event of their departing from the arrangement made with me, I should be under the painful necessity of discharging my people and abandoning my location. If it should be so my only recourse will be to apply for some redress to the Government at home. If I had been sent here when I first arrived in the Colony in common with other settlers I should have had no right to complain, but must have shared my fate with them.
I am afraid I have trespassed too long on your valuable time and can only hope you will allow me to apologise for the intrusion and subscribe myself Sir
Your most obedient humble servant
D P FRANCIS