HARRISON, John

National Archives, Kew CO48/43, 692

10 August 1819

My Lord,

It being the intention of His Majesty's Government to encourage emigration to the south east part of the colony of the Cape of Good Hope, the undersigned begs leave to call their attention to an object of much importance to that colony.

The want of a harbour, or some place of safety for vessels to take settlers in, has been long and severely felt in that part of the world, and no doubt has contributed in no small degree to the present unimproved state of the country.

The Cape of Good Hope is not by any means a convenient place for ships to repair or refit at and at times not safe as a harbour – so that at times vessels homeward bound which have met with accidents during their voyage have most injuriously felt the want of such a place as it is now proposed to establish.

The Knysna situate about 280 miles to the eastward of the Cape and about in the centre of some of the finest districts of the colony has every convenience to recommend it as a harbour that could be wished for, and it is the only one on that coast that can be depended on – it is spacious, and has the advantage of two fresh water rivers emptying themselves into it & the adjacent country is covered with the finest timber fit for every purpose of ship building &c, and vessels of nearly all sizes might be careened and repaired there, which is impossible to be done at the Cape. It also possesses other advantages which are of considerable importance to the colony.

It has not hitherto been attempted to establish a coasting trade to any great extent between the Cape & any of the rivers which flow through the country, principally on account of the difficulty in meeting with a secure harbour to run for in case of accidents or bad weather; the consequence is that the town & garrison at the Cape are often in such a state of scarcity of provisions that they cannot afford the least assistance to ships calling there for refreshments on their passage home from the East Indies. This has occurred recently, and the vessel has been obliged to go to Rio Janario to seek a precarious supply from the Portuguese Government.

This scarcity cannot be attributed to the want of corn in the country, it being capable of producing every species of grain in abundance, but it arises from the difficulty of transporting the produce of the farms to Cape Town, from the bad state of the roads throughout the whole of the colony, and likewise from the weak state of the cattle.

The Knysna as a harbour is particularly adapted to remove the inconvenience complained of above from its contiguity to most of the best corn districts to the eastward of the Cape; and it only requires the assistance of His Majesty's Government to make it a most safe and commodious harbour. The farmer & grazier would not then have to carry their commodities more than one half the distance by land & in many instances not more than one tenth - from thence it could be shipped to the Cape at much less expence than when conveyed by land – it would follow from this system, if adopted, that from the facility with which the settlers could dispose of the produce of the soil and the comparative ease with which they could procure everything necessary for their use & comfort, a much greater degree of civilization and of course respect for the Government would prevail than has hitherto done in the colony. And as it is the intention of Government to colonize the country adjacent to Algoa Bay, which is not at all times safe for shipping, the Knysna which lays between it and the Cape, distance about 200 miles, would be found of considerable use to that part of the colony – as the vessels going there would then have a safe harbour near them instead of having to run for the Cape, a distance of 500 miles – it would likewise prove an excellent depot to small vessels employed in the whale fisheries in Algoa, Plettenburg and the other bays in the country which at present are obliged to take the blubber to the Cape to boil out, hence it is certain they would prefer a harbour near the centre of the fisheries; and when the advantages had begun to be felt the number of those employed in that most useful branch would prove as good a nursery for seamen as our own coasting trade; and prove equally beneficial to the Cape in a commercial point of view. The quantity of oil & skins that could be collected there would exceed that of the Cape, inasmuch as its situation is much more eligible for a fishery; and the farmers would find a much nearer market for their skins, most of which are destroyed at present, through its being too far to take them to the Cape. A number of seamen might be advantageously employed in supplying Cape Town with timber for trade and other purposes from this place, an article they are frequently much in want of.

To accomplish this object it will only be necessary to lay down a few buoys and to erect beacons in such situations as are necessary. The expence attending this will be very small and the advantages which the whole colony will derive from it will be numerous; and it will render the situation of the inhabitants of the Cape & of the new settlers more lastingly comfortable and cause them to enjoy many more benefits & prospects of enrichment than can possible arise if the Knysna be left as it is now.

To ensure safe pilotage to ships running into the harbour as well as to report to the Government at the Cape, from time to time, the different vessels which arrive with the object of their coming &c, the establishment of a resident there will be necessary.

If this statement should come under the consideration of HM Government (to whom it is most seriously recommended) and meet with their approbation, the undersigned wishes to offer his services to put it in execution, and prays that he may be examined before some competent individual or individuals on this important subject, when he will have an opportunity to explain more clearly the advantages likely to result to the whole of the colony of the Cape of Good Hope and likewise to this country by forming the Knysna into a safe and commodious harbour,

I am my Lord most respectfully

Your Lordship's most obedient & very humble servant

John HARRISON

{Note from GOULBURN at foot of page: Return acknowledgements for his communication and acquaint him that Lord B however does not see any necessity for availing himself of the offer [last line obscured]

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