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Manifesto of the emigrant farmers

By Piet Retief, 1837

Soon after the close of his correspondence with Lt.-Governor Stockenstrom, Piet Retief left this document behind when he joined other Afrikaners on the Trek from the Cape. This Manifesto purports to represent the real causes of the expatriation of himself and the colonial farmers.

Numerous reports having been circulated throughout the colony, evidently with the intention of exciting in the minds of our countrymen a feeling of prejudice against those who have resolved to emigrate from a colony where they have experienced for so many years past a series of the vexatious and severe losses; and as we desire to stand high in the estimation of our brethren, and are anxious that they and the world at large should believe us incapable of severing that sacred tie which binds a Christian to his native soil, without the most sufficient reasons, we are induced to record the following summary of our motives for taking so important a step; and also our intentions respecting our proceedings towards the Native Tribes which we may meet with beyond the boundary.

1. We despair of saving the colony those evils, which threaten it by the turbulent and dishonest conduct of vagrants, who are allowed to infest the country in every part; nor do we see any prospect of peace or happiness for our children in a country thus distracted by internal commotions.

2. We complain of the severe losses, which we have been forced to sustain by the emancipation of our slaves, and the vexatious laws, which have been enacted respecting them.

3. We complain of the continual system of plunder which we have ever endured from the Kaffirs and other coloured classes, and particularly by the last invasion of the colony, which has desolated the frontier districts, and ruined most of the inhabitants.

4. We complain of the unjustifiable odium which has been cast upon us by interested and dishonest persons, under the cloak of religion, whose testimony is believed in England to the exclusion of all evidence in our favour; and we can foresee as the result of this prejudice, nothing but the total ruin of the country.

5. We are resolved, wherever we go, that we will uphold the just principles of liberty; but whilst we will take care that no one shall be held in a state of slavery, it is our determination to maintain such regulations as may suppress crime and preserve proper relations between master and servant.

6. We solemnly declare that we quit this colony with a desire to lead a more quiet life than we have heretofore done. We will not molest any people, nor deprive them of the smallest property; but, if attacked, we shall consider ourselves fully justified in defending our persons and effects, to the utmost of our ability, against every enemy.

7. We make known, that when we shall have framed a code of laws for our future guidance, copies shall be forwarded to the colony for general information; but we take this opportunity of stating that it is our firm resolve to make provision for the summary punishment of any traitors who may be found amongst us.

8. We purpose in the course of journey, and on arriving at the country in which we shall permanently reside, to make known to the native tribes of our intensions, and our desire to live in peace and friendly intercourse with them.

9. We quit this colony under the full assurance that the English government has nothing more to require of us, and will allow us to govern ourselves without its interference in future.

10. We are now quitting the fruitful land of our birth, in which we have suffered enormous losses and continual vexation, and are entering a wild and dangerous territory; but we go with a firm reliance on an all-seeing, just, merciful Being, whom it will be our endeavour to fear and humbly to obey.

By authority of the farmers who have quitted the colony.

(Signed) P. Retief.

Source:

Chase, J.C. (1843). Natal, A reprint of all the authentic notices descriptions public acts and documents petitions manifestoes correspondence government advertisements and proclamations bulletins and military despatches relative to Natal, with narrative of events at that settlement, in two parts: Part the first, from A.D. 1496, to A.D. 1837, Graham's Town: R. Godlonton, pp.83-4.

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