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Cape Of Good Hope—The Kaffir War

Volume 114: debated on Friday 7 March 1851

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wished to put a question either to the Under Secretary of the Colonies or to the noble Lord at the head of the Government. They were all, unfortunately, aware that a new Kaffir war had burst forth. They were, too, all unfortunately aware that the last Kaffir war had cost this country upwards of 2,000,000l. sterling. Under these circumstances, it was important taxpayers should know under what conditions they were to enter upon this new Kaffir war. He must do the noble Earl at the head of the Colonial Department the justice to say that he had a distinct recollection of a despatch in which the noble Earl warned the colonists at the Cape that the next war in which they should be engaged should be carried on at the expense of the colonists themselves. With that declaration he would have been perfectly satisfied, but that he had seen a statement in the public journals that reinforcements were under orders for the Cape. Now, it was with regard to that point that he desired to have information? He wished to know upon what conditions the new war was to be carried on? He therefore begged to ask the noble Lord whether the House would be allowed an opportunity, before the expenses were incurred, to know from what source they were to be defrayed?

could only at present say that Earl Grey had, as the hon. and gallant Member was aware, written in the strongest manner to the Governor of the Cape enjoining him to take care that in any future Kaffir war no expenditure should take place of which this country could be called upon to defray the cost; in short, his noble Friend gave it to be understood that the colony must bear the expense of future wars. At the same time it was impossible for him (Lord J. Russell) to say more than this, that with the exception of sending out necessary reinforcements, the Government would not incur any expense without laying a statement of it before the House, to enable the House to judge of its propriety. One regiment had been ordered to be sent out to the Cape, certainly, on the responsibility of the Government; and the noble Duke at the head of the Army was of opinion that it might be necessary to send a second regiment. At present, however, one regiment only was under orders for the Cape.

wished to know from the hon. Under Secretary for the Colonies whether any official information had been received as to the commencement of the war?

said, that the only information at present in possession of the Colonial Office had already been laid before the House. He would take that opportunity of expressing a hope that no exaggerated degree of importance would be attached to the statements now in circulation with respect to the outbreak at the Cape. No despatch had yet been received from the Governor at the Cape. The only information on the subject which had reached the Government was contained in a despatch from the Colonial Secretary, which communicated what had occurred up to the 4th of January. No despatch had been received from the Governor of the Cape, owing to the accidental circumstance of his being at the same time surrounded by a very large body of Kaffirs. Since that time, however, Sir Harry Smith, with the characteristic skill and courage belonging to him, had emancipated himself from his difficulties by gallantly cutting his way through a horde of barbarous enemies, and had reached King William's Town in safety. In a short time—in fact every day, they were expecting an account from Sir Harry Smith by a steamer, which would bring them information three weeks later than that of which they were now in possession. It would, he thought, then be inexpedient to publish the papers they had at present, although there was no objection on the part of the Government to produce them; but still they thought it was better to wait for further papers, as the moment they were received the whole would be laid before the House.

Subject dropped.