OWEN, C. Cunliffe
National Archives, Kew CO48/44, 941
41 Dale Street
July 20th 1819
His Majesty's Ministers having announced their intention of facilitating the colonization of the Cape of Good Hope, I take the liberty of submitting to your consideration some ideas which have struck me on this subject.
From every information I have been able to collect the River Knysna, situated about 360 miles to the eastward of the Cape, appears to possess the most superior advantages for forming a settlement, both in an agricultural and a commercial point of view. There is a Bar at the entrance but which may be always passed in moderate weather and with seventeen feet water on it will admit our barges, sloops of war and merchantmen of five hundred tons. The banks of the river are surrounded by inexhaustible forests of Stinkwood, a species of oak much superior to the teak of India for ship building. Thus even frigates might be constructed there. The soil is rich and would produce wheat, oats, barley. hemp, flax and wins [whins?] & from its maritime situation a market would easily be found. Possessing a secure harbour a nursery for seamen would soon be raised and this might be considerably aided by encouraging Naval officers to go out there, not exclusively, but merely to excite a spirit of maritime commerce along the coast. And which might be beneficially directed towards the whale fishery. The greater proportion of those who present themselves for emigration are of the distressed and lower class of the community, and you must be sufficiently aware, Sir, how men's minds are disturbed at this moment. In an infant settlement entire unanimity would be essential for success. And instead of sending out settlers to be placed indiscriminately at the disposal of the Governor of the Cape of Good Hope I should take the liberty of suggesting that His majesty's Colonial Department at Home should fix on some particular spots most eligible. And to each of these appoint a person who would undertake to carry out the number of settlers necessary according to the terms prescribed by Government. The settlers might be selected from particular districts from whence local recollections would tend to unite them to each other and blend their interests in one common cause. Embarking under the direction of one in whom they had confidence would be preserved and joining heart and hand together every difficulty would be surmounted. This person taking the lead from their own choice would be materially assisted, if vested with the civil authority of a magistrate. He could constantly communicate with the Cape, be enabled to forward & execute the views of His Majesty's Government and in moments of danger from the natives would be the rallying point for the settler.
Should Government be disposed to approve of these ideas I beg leave to offer my services to carry them into execution, and will engage to carry out any number of families. If the Knysna is decided on the colonists might embark in merchant vessels charted for that purpose – from 250 to 300 tons – and after touching at the Cape to receive the instructions of His Majesty's Governor and supply themselves with stock and whatever might be useful, should proceed direct to their destination. There the vessels might be detained a short time as an accommodation and magazine till habitations for the settlers were constructed. An allowance of provisions till a crop could be secured, a proportion of arms and ammunition for defence against the natives and some assistance with implements of husbandry would be necessary. This expence might be defrayed by subjecting the land to a small rent after it became in culture, and which might be commuted for personal labour towards public works which might be necessary. I served in Canada during the whole of the late war and while I commanded His Majesty's flotilla on the River St. Lawrence was obliged to form establishments for my own people, so that I am not a stranger to the nature of these things. But in tendering my services for colonization be assured I have no other view than in making myself useful to my country and fellow creatures. This I cannot do unless I go to a distinct spot and engaged with people who I might consider and treat as friends. I have witnessed the disaffected state of some of our settlements in Upper Canada and no pains should be spared in selecting the colonists of the Cape. If His Majesty's Government are pleased to accept my offer I would be guided by their wishes either in taking the settlers from the Highlands of Scotland or from some of the districts of Yorkshire, where I could immediately raise any number.
I have hopes also that in devoting my life to this object I may have an opportunity of doing something towards the civilization of those barbarous hordes which surround the colony.
I have the honor to be Sir
Your most obedient and very humble servant
C. Cunliffe OWEN
Commander Royal Navy
[Note from GOULBURN across corner: Send him the printed letter & stating that there is no intention of appointing officers specially for the superintendence of the emigrants at the Cape]