Apart from the journeys that was undertaken by Hendrik Swellengrebel Junior he visited old acquaintances, amongst others his le Sueur cousins, and Governor van Plettenburg who was a university friend. He met Hendrik Cloete, gentleman farmer at Nooitgedacht and former heemraad of Stellenbosch. Cloete would purchase Groot Constantia in 1778.
Swellengrebel returned to the Netherlands in 1777 but retained his interest in the Cape. The nature and significance of his interest in and concern with the Cape Colony can be seen from the correspondence published in this volume. Not only does his great interest in the welfare of the Cape become evident from these letters, but also his analysis, based on knowledge and insight, of the problem areas of that society, as well as his real efforts to contribute to the solution of those difficulties. Most of his correspondents are historic persons, well-known from official sources of the period including directors of the VOC, high-ranking VOC servants at the Cape and Free Burgers of diverse stature, like Hendrik Cloete. Cloete was Swellengrebel’s most constant correspondent and was cut out for his role as news gatherer. (In 2003 the Society published Hendrik Cloete, Groot Constantia, and the VOC as Volume 34 of the second series).
Swellengrebel correspondence is important not only for the documentation it provides of certain facets of events at the time of the Cape Patriots, but also because it contains such important analyses of the period. His analyses excel in clarity and incisiveness and are of fundamental value for the understanding of the Cape body politic of the late eighteenth century.
EXTRACT FROM THE TRANSLATED TEXT
Written by Cloete to Swellengrebel 12.1.1784
“In answer to your letter of the 2nd July 1783, I share your grief that the dissatisfaction of the inhabitants of the colony has not abated but grows worse. The latest prospect is a new governor who is proud and poor. You must remember what the burghers are like and we all know that the territory all round where the Caffers live is the most fertile, with forests, large rivers, salt pans and other resources. The burghers in the interior could find a market in Mauritius perhaps more advantageously than at the Cape. The Caffers’ cattle might come in handy. If the rulers make one false move, the burghers, especially those on “loan farms” will turn their back on the Cape. I remember that in the years 1738 and 1739 farmers took up arms against Daniel van den Hengel in such numbers that it was impracticable to oppose them. Those who were listed as his supporters were threatened with death; and it was only when your father took over the government that peace was restored.
People at the Cape trust you, as they did your father, and even if you were merely appointed as one of the Commissioners, it would be better than nothing. To have you as Governor would be the best means of all to restore harmony. I vouch that this opinion will be subscribed to by nearly all the inhabitants. I have again been attacked by gout, otherwise we are all well. The wheat-harvest has been good, but the grapes have not matured owing to lack of rain.”