Item 31 - Circular letter by F. W. Lawrence

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PETH/5/31

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Circular letter by F. W. Lawrence

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  • [1900] (Creation)

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3 folded sheets

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Account of part of a visit to South Africa, headed ‘Third Encyclical’.

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Transcript

Third Encyclical

I write from on board the Scot on the homeward journey; a tedious voyage; a more tiresome set of passengers than are here assembled I think it would be difficult to imagine—at least those in the first class—but of that anon.

The remainder of my time spent in Cape Town passed along pleasantly enough. I forget whether I told you that in front of the Railway Station were always gathered a number of mining refugees from the Transvaal who sat upon the railing and smoked. So one evening I put on my worst looking attire and joined them. By dint of smoking a great number of pipes I managed to get a very fair view of the situation, from a new point of view. As Schreiner said to me “The question is like a diamond with many facets”—Well I was looking at a fresh facet.

Another morning I went & saw the Editor of the Cape Times who is a member of the Imperialist side of the Cape House; another day I went & saw a doctor—Doctor Beck—who is on the other side; & after lunching with him, I went to a minister of the Dutch Reformed Church—an interesting man of distinctly Huguenot origin. From all these I learnt much, & of course it must seem rather unsatisfactory to you that I don’t make some attempt to give you their opinions, but really it is practically impossible. In the first place one has not the right, to say nothing of the ability, to repeat on paper very much of a private conversation; & even if one could, the absence of the personal element would render the attempt more or less abortive. All I can say it that from those I have mentioned, from Hofmeyr, from ex miners of Johannesburg & from numbers of others, from my frequent visits to the House of Assembly—to say nothing of people on board this ship who come from both camps—I think I have got a pretty comprehensive knowledge, both as to the actual state of facts, and as to the actual state of mind which prompted the various actors in the great drama to take up the positions which they actually did. As to the state of feeling to-day it is of course very much harder to speak with certainty, because as a matter of fact no one knows absolutely & each person has a natural race,—class,—interest,—sentimental bias impelling him not only to say but to think in a certain direction.

I may as well say at once that the result of my investigation has been to confirm me in my views; to enable me to sort out the tangible & intangible grievances of the English Outlander population & to estimate how far these stood a chance of redress in case a less violent policy had been adopted; & also to comprehend to some extent the inter-racial position in the Cape Colony; & to form a knowledge of the conduct of the belligerents in the war.

This is not the place to enter into a detailed defence of my views or to attempt to lay down any line of policy, but I may say that I have weighed very carefully in my mind the question of how far any line of opposition to the government tends to encourage the enemy in a futile resistance. I do not think I minimise for a moment the gravity of this contention, or the responsibility which rests upon those who in spite of it, take up a line of active opposition. At the same time I am convinced that the proper thing to do is to actively oppose the government, if for no other reason but because I believe that the only hope to save South Africa lies in the continuance of something of a party, at any rate, at home, who have not been led away by the present state of public opinion.—But to set out the whole case would lead to a very much longer statement that† can be conveniently put down in an encyclical. So let us leave the war question out for the rest.

I enjoyed my stay in Cape Town & made a number of friends; my project to ascend Table Mountain never came off, but one day a party of us drove right round it in a four horse wagonette & had a very jolly time—it was the same round that I think I described to you I had taken on my bicycle—taking up the whole day & stopping at one of the bays to have lunch and a bathe. Cape Town is situated in a peninsular & the drive round is—I think—practically the drive round the peninsular; and the views of the different bays in sight of which one comes from different points are very grand. The weather in Cape Town was very much as it had been in Sydney when I was there; short days but generally sunny & bright like an English September, just the sort of weather that it is pleasant to be about in. Some of the people who had come out on the boat with me stayed some little time in Cape Town & I sometimes saw something of them. I went out on one occasion to dine with some at Queen’s Hill, Seapoint, 3 or 4 miles out of the town and taking my music with me (as I was directed) we had a musical evening & a good deal of boat reminiscences.

I should have said that Seapoint is one of the most beautiful suburbs & I often used to go out there on my bicycle before breakfast to see the waves coming in—I believe I mentioned this in my last encyclical.

As to the Cape Parliament, I think I saw & heard most of the principal people, but I was sorry that Rhodes was away all the time; by the way I heard the other day that he has never learnt to speak or understand Dutch! Anyone is admitted tot he debates, but if you have a speaker’s ticket you are able to get a very much better place; it is only recently that there has been much crowding on the part of the general public. Hitherto a scab act has been perhaps the most exciting sort of thing which has been passed.

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