FRANCIS, David Polley, 1831
National Archives, Kew CO48/145, 343
Mount Ellis, Port Elizabeth, C.G. Hope
22nd October 1831
[To H. ELLIS Esq]
I take the liberty of addressing you with a few observations, connected with this Colony, being well convinced of the very friendly & lively interest you have always taken to promote its best interests, with a view to advance its prosperity in various ways. I imagine, however, that other influential persons at home, although they no doubt feel most anxious for the prosperity and advancement of the Cape, still I fear they do not view it in the same favourable light as to importance, capabilities & resources that you have on all occasions evinced towards it. I may be wrong in supposing this to [be] the case, as regards others, but the impression on my mind was (when I left England) that the Cape was thought too lightly off, compared with most of our other Colonies. I have ever thought, however, that your opinions, and conclusions, as regards its internal resources & capabilities, were well founded and just, and in my opinion will be realized. Every day's experience convinces me more & more of this fact, as the various productions of the Country for Exportation are fast increasing. It is true that the Cape has many peculiarities incidental to the soil, climate & seasons, which cannot at all times be depended upon, or guarded against. It is therefore perhaps on this account more difficult to be understood, and prevents the resources being brought into operation in so short a time as they are in many other countries.
I must still revert to former opinions that the progress of the settlers was checked more by some of the injudicious and ill advised measures of 1822 than by any real natural defects of the country. There are an abundance of resources which now gradually develop themselves and with the assistance of more capital & labour (but more particularly that of labour) this part of the Colony will grow fast into importance and consequence.
A meeting was held some time since at Grahams Town to take into consideration the best & most effectual means of procuring labour from the Mother Country, a Committee was appointed to report upon the best method to be adopted. I have not yet heard what has been done, I believe they have not at present come to any conclusion on the subject. I have with some others endeavoured to promote a meeting at Uitenhage, which I hope will shortly take place, and I am happy to find that many of the Dutch Inhabitants approve of the plan of introducing labour, that is they begin to feel the want of it, as they now find a market for whatever they can produce, which induces them to use more & more exertion every day, independent of which the young Cape Dutch, by associating with English, and the advantage of the National Schools, by which means they receive a certain degree of Education, instilling principles and ideas into their minds, which their Fathers have had little conception off – I think we may look forward to more Industry, more enterprise, a greater degree of Intelligence, by which means there will be produced a better order of Society (and speaking generally) a Society better qualified to govern the affairs of the Colony, whenever it shall legislate for itself, than can be found at present.
It gives me great pleasure to perceive that you are one of the Emigration Commission, although at present we are unacquainted with the details, and particular Duties of the Commissioners, still we hope to receive such information as will point the best & most proper mode for making an application Home on the subject of labour. As this appears to be the principal difficulty felt here at present, might I take the liberty of troubling you for Information on this head. All idea is laid aside here, as to receiving any pecuniary assistance from Government in this and all persons appear well inclined to make as great exertions as possible to promote the general interests and welfare of the Colony by inducing labourers and mechanics to migrate to this Colony.
I feel assured that you will be much pleased at the rapid advancement of this place, & you are well acquainted with its insignificance in 1820. There are now about 120 to 130 Houses; there are several good Houses on the Hill behind Sir Rufane's Monument, one of which I have bought, now named Mount Ellis, being a sea mark; building is going on every day, not less than six or seven Houses now erecting, this place will no doubt be the capital of this part of the Colony in a short time, the trade is gradually increasing, and is looked upon with a jealous eye by the Cape Town merchants as the trade direct with Foreign Ports increases, it diminishes that formerly done through Cape Town, but is much to the advantage of the Community in this part of the Colony, two or three large Establishments from which are THOMSON, WATSON & Co, & CHIAPPINI & Co. I shall do myself the pleasure of giving you an account of the progress of the trade &c in detail at the end of the year.
I presume you are acquainted with the new appointment from Home of a Harbour Master at this place, which helps shield my duties as Port Captain, which in some cases was most unpleasant in contending with the losses &c, & although this diminishes my employment in some degree at present it will very soon be more than made up by the additional duties of a Collector of Customs in consequence of the increasing trade of the Port. I am not aware if you was consulted in this affair. Should this have been the case I feel most greatful for the arrangement as my letter from the Governor through Colonel BELL states that he has the pleasure to inform me that this new appointment does not interfere with the amount of my present salary, which I am to continue to draw as Collector of Customs.
The affairs at home with regard to Reform are viewed here with the most intense anxiety. Never did a King and Government stand so high in the estimation of the Public, as is evinced by the whole population of the Colony, there is no doubt but an extensive & comprehensive Reform was necessary, whether it is pushed too far in the present instance is a matter I am wholly unqualified to give an opinion upon. We have had some of the finest Rains ever remembered, and the Country never looked more promising.
I remain dear Sir, most faithfully your obedient and obliged servant