WILLSON, Thomas, 1835
National Archives, Kew London CO48/164, 339
27 June 1835
To the King's Most Excellent Majesty &c &c
May it please Your Majesty
The humble petition of Thomas WILLSON, Gentleman, formerly Head of a Party of Settlers at the Cape of Good Hope, and now residing at the Hotwells, Bristol
That Petitioner confiding in the advantages guaranteed by the sacred name of Your Majesty, inviting Persons of Enterprise to embark in the project of Colonizing the Cape Frontier, pledging the good faith of Your Majesty to make Freehold Grants of Land to such Individuals, in the proportion of one hundred acres per family.
Petitioner assembled one hundred families comprising upwards of three hundred persons, Agriculturalists, Mechanics and Labourers, two experienced Surgeons, and also a Clergyman of the Established Church, with the laudable view of establishing a Township, and petitioner paid into Your Majesty's Treasury the required deposit of ten pounds per family, viz eleven hundred and seventy seven pounds, ten shillings, receiving an assurance in writing that the said deposit was to be repaid into the hands of Petitioner by three Instalments in Money at the Cape.
Petitioner having been duly accepted by Your Majesty's Government, who further stipulated that Petitioner should have a Freehold Grant of ten thousand acres for himself and his heirs in perpetuity, with liberty to make such contracts with his followers as might be deemed expedient. The Articles of Agreement entered into with his party stipulated that they were to receive Sub-Grants from Petitioner, with remainder to himself and his heirs for ever.
Petitioner upon this sold off his property in England and expended considerable Capital in his outfit for himself and family and his Indentured Servants – he also paid one hundred guineas for his passage, and one guineas for extra cabin stores (besides two hundred guineas for his passage home) and he conducted his party to the Cape of Good Hope, where he arrived in May 1820, and thence proceeded in July following to the District of Albany, where he located the Settlers in conformity with his Contract of Service with Your Majesty's Government – having had the honor of being the first person who planted a branch of the Established Church in these remote regions of Your Majesty's Dominions.
Petitioner having thus duly achieved his right of Freehold Inheritance in the Colony of Ten Thousand Acres both by investment and expenditure of capital, and by the most excessive bodily exertions that can be conceived, but which is impossible to describe, and an intensity of mental labour and anxiety for the welfare of his followers which no pen can portray!
Petitioner for these indescribable exertions had the honor to receive, at a General Meeting of the Settlers, the public thanks and approbation of the Governor, accompanied with a free gift in the presence of his followers of twenty additional acres Freehold Land, on the site of the proposed town of Bathurst, a reward which His Excellency was pleased to declare was due to Petitioner for his meritorious conduct, but which alas has availed him nothing.
Petitioner does not presume to reproach Your Majesty's Government with intentionally betraying him into the overwhelming misfortunes in which he has been plunged, but it must be obvious that the deviation from the Terms of Contract, viz that of being reimbursed in one third only of his Deposit Money instead of the whole! – by which alone he could protect himself in his pecuniary disbursements, or maintain any security in his position as the Head of the Party – was of itself calculated to frustrate his hopes and paralize his views as a Colonist! This circumstance did not fail to expose him to the reproach, obloquy and violence of a lawless assembly of his followers, it at once embarrassed his proceedings, reduced his influence, exposed him to every kind of outrage and slander, and entailed upon Petitioner the entire onus of this most unexpected and remarkable transaction! It placed him in a situation of inextricable annoyance from Men, Women and Children! It moreover subjected Petitioner to endless persecutions, and a succession of no less than twenty five arrests for debt, one after the other, filling his Domestic Circle with grief and lamentation, attended with a most wasteful and ruinous expenditure! And if Petitioner had not been able to satisfy the local authorities on the spot of the accuracy of his proceedings by the clearest evidence, ruin and despair would have been the inevitable consequences to himself, his wife and four infant children! Such was the result of this deviation in regard to the repayment of the Deposit Money, in Money, as previously stipulated with Petitioner by Your Majesty's Government.
Petitioner, by the above proceedings, feeling deeply degraded and oppressed in his feelings to find that his influence over his followers was entirely annihilated, his hopes blasted, and his occupation gone, was literally heart broken! He was not only rendered powerless but was subject to every kind of outrage, reviled, persecuted and maltreated by a heartless mob! – which coupled with the local policy of "sacrificing the interests of one to the advantage of the many" sealed the prospects and the doom of Petitioner in the Colony – there was no probability of his ever obtaining the right of inheritance for which he embarked in such a Community! – the hard-earned right which he had acquired by such unceasing toil of mind and body that beggars all description, was lost to him for ever.
Petitioner being now assailed with every kind of Treachery, violence, ingratitude and deadly threats, he was perfectly overturned from his position as the Head of the party, and degraded to the very Slave of the Settlers, and while he continued with them was made to supply the very rations with his own hands! – at the same time that he was accountable for their conduct and held responsible by Government for the payment of the supplies.
Petitioner in this state of affairs, with is prospects destroyed, his heart pierced and his spirit crushed, for truly "the iron entered his Soul", found it impossible to exist under such a state of oppression. He therefore at length made the best disposition in his power of all the means which he had left, and confiding his interests to the good faith of the Clergyman whom he had taken out with him to consolidate the true interests of the Community, and to assist him to the utmost of his power, and who professed to Petitioner the sincerest gratitude and adherence to his cause, and a perfect willingness to take charge of his interests in the management of the party – Petitioner feeling every confidence that he would promote Religion, Education and the General Welfare of Society, having made a Grant to the Reverend Gentleman of six hundred acres for his glebe, left him with his final arrangements for the good of the settlers, and having obtained an assurance from the authorities that a liberal salary was to be attached to his holy office, with an additional allowance for the Establishment of a Parochial School, Petitioner returned to the Seat of Government and after three years endeavour to obtain his right of Land, or an equivalent, in vain, he ultimately returned to England.
Petitioner no sooner arrived in England than he was again arrested by his persecutors for the balance of the deposit money and had again to defend himself single handed, unaided by Your Majesty's Government, exposed to all the consequences of Law proceedings in the Court of Kings Bench, and plunged into additional expences for legal advice, defence &c.
Petitioner notwithstanding these ruinous proceedings has ever maintained a faithful and dutiful allegiance, unabated loyalty to Your Majesty and a profound respect for the Authorities – no servant in Your Majesty's household would more sincerely or zealously lay down his Life for the true interests, safety and glory of Your Majesty.
Petitioner while suffering the most poignant grief for the treatment he met with in the Colony, was never backward in his duty or niggard of his personal services to Your Majesty's Government during his sojourn at Port Elizabeth when required by the Commandant to direct sundry works for the use of the Commissariat, both himself and his Indentured Servants were employed in the erection of Storehouses without fee or reward of any kind whatever.
Petitioner on his return home had the mortification to find the former walk of his pursuits in other hands, he nevertheless endeavoured to render himself useful in improving the state of the Metropolis, particularly in the mode of interring the dead, and his plans received the approbation of the most scientific persons in Your Majesty's Kingdom, but he has been again thwarted in this useful work by the Treachery of a false friend, and has had to sustain, singly, the entire expences incurred by this project, and is again wholly thrown out of employment, which makes this appeal to the benevolent breast of Your Majesty the more needful.
Petitioner is most sensible of the condescension and sympathy which has recently been evinced towards him by His Majesty's Government, but he is grieved to find that his position has not been ameliorated. Petitioner has no other ambition than to be usefully employed and he prays to be admitted into the service of Your Majesty.
Petitioner deeply laments the necessity of bringing his case before Your Majesty, but having failed to obtain the boon of his Engagement, as stipulated by Your Majesty's Government, after expending his capital abroad, and an incalculable loss of the best period of his life, being at that time thirty five years of age, and after sustaining hardships and toils of the most trying and disastrous description, he has no other hope of mitigation than to appeal to the honor and dignity of the Throne, and he therefore most humbly craves at the hands of Your Majesty such a commutation of the Rights of Freehold Inheritance which he has so arduously achieved, as the gracious commiseration of Your Majesty may be pleased to command.
And your Petitioner will ever pray
[Transcriber's Note: The Clergyman referred to was William BOARDMAN. A response to this Petition can be found in the correspondence for 1836.]