Percy Molteno (1861-1937) was a son of Sir John Molteno, first prime minister of the Cape Colony. Trained as a lawyer, he married the daughter of Sir Donald Currie, the shipping magnate, and went to work for his father-in-law in England. He remained passionately interested in the political life of the colony and conducted a wide-ranging correspondence with many of its leading luminaries. During the South African War he supported the pro-Boer movement and, in 1906, entered the British parliament under the leadership of the Liberal Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman.
Once more expressing my sincere gratitude for the trouble you have taken in regard to forwarding my passports.
I have the honour to be
To W. P. Schreiner
My dear Schreiner
I can well understand that you are all being sorely tried by the deplorable circumstances in which you find yourselves; and as you are aware you all have my most profound sympathy in your troubles.
I cannot help regretting that the whole matter was not brought into the position of a constitutional struggle when your Parliament met last year and had the opportunity of repudiating the interpretation put on things by the High Commissioner in his despatch of May 4th. The ignorance here, even of members of parliament, is profound, and a constitutional struggle there would have roused him [sic] to enquire what it was about. [Indecipherable] I am not one of those who do not believe that compensation is possible for abandoning your constitutional privileges, and “obsta principiis” should be applied to the existence to [sic] the attack on them.
You now have the virtual suspension of responsible government and that is both unconstitutional and illegal without an Act of the Imperial Parliament.
It is very difficult to judge of these matters at a distance and without full information; but it seems to have been not sufficiently realised that a colonial premier has a duty in representing a colony as a separate entity, and only while he represents the people who put him in that position can he remain premier. He is no mere servant of the Crown at the choice of the latter. For my meaning see p. 10 of pamphlet herewith, where I have marked the passage to which I refer, where my father states the position he successfully took up; and see also p. 15 for another case and the remedy.
With very kind regards
Yours very sincerely
To Dr. F. C. Kolbe
I would have written you long since but pressure of necessary work has hitherto prevented me.
It would be difficult for me to say how much I appreciate the noble stand you have taken up on this great question of the war, and further how much I am in sympathy with what you write and have written in the South African News.
You have certainly put your finger on the cause of all our troubles when you show how poor South Africa has been made the sport of men who are mere birds of passage and who seek only to make as much out of her as soon as possible and then go, regardless of the true and permanent interests of the country which has treated them well. Our country is committing a hideous choice and blunder — she is in large measure misled, though a large party who should know better and act differently are pursuing this hateful policy of force and fraud; and one sees how the noble ideal one had formed of one’s country’s acts and aims is shattered and lies in the dust. This is a terrible experience, more than enough of evil for any one lifetime.
Your idea of an association of those who think as we do is excellent and should take shape. There is an Australian Natives Association, but such a name would be misunderstood with us.. How would some such name as The South African-born Union do? We have fine material to work with and to be a basis of action outside the centres of the large towns, where the ignorance of the country people is appalling. The youth of the country are sound and of a very fine spirit.
We are doing here what we can, but our efforts are destroyed by the
Edited by Vivian Solomon
Department of Economic History
University of the Witwatersrand