CFS ANNUAL REPORTS
The Cape committee submitted annual reports to the CFS in
and in 1836 and 1837 the feedback was good: the scheme appeared to be working
satisfactorily. During the period 1833-1839, about 800 children were sent to
the Colony. However, a combination of the factors mentioned above was
undermining the scheme and would eventually threaten the very existence of the
Society. The catalyst was as unexpected as it was disastrous.
On 2 April 1839, The Times reported an incident in
concerning ‘a shabbily dressed boy, about twelve years of age’ who was brought
before the Marylebone magistrate ‘on a charge of having stolen a purse
containing some halfpence belonging to a poor woman who keeps an apple-stall in
the New Road’.
The boy gave a false name: his real name was discovered to be Edward Trubshaw.
He proceeded to tell the court that he had been sent out to the Cape of Good Hope, by the ‘Juvenile Society’ (the CFS).
He stated: ‘I was half-starved and knocked about shameful. They sold me, and a
good many more’. The magistrate exclaimed, ‘Sold you! What do you mean?
Apprenticed you, I suppose?’ ‘No Sir’ said the boy, not apprenticed, they sold
me … to a Dutchman who came and looked at a lot of us … he bought me for 10
guineas.’ Trubshaw had later run away from his master and had worked his way
back to England
The press pounced on the suggestion that children ‘were being disposed of like so many sheep at
Smithfield’. Reports of
the case created a major sensation, and complaints against the CFS with accusations
of slave-dealing and cruelty, flooded in. The Society tried valiantly to defend
itself, but the power of the press was all too apparent. People known to be
patrons of the CFS were attacked in the street and stones were thrown at
members of the London
Captain Brenton, aghast, saw the impending ruin of all his efforts. As the storm raged around him, he became seriously ill and died on 6 April 1839. It was rumoured that he’d taken poison, but an inquest returned a verdict of death by natural causes related to a heart condition. On the day of his funeral, a woman among the crowd shouted that ‘under the pretence of benevolence he had been dealing in slaves’: the unkindest cut of all.
The CFS South African scheme was doomed. A Government inquiry was set up to investigate the condition and treatment of the children sent to the
Though largely vindicated by the report which followed the Society lost public
support in Cape Colony England and there
was a reluctance in the Cape to receive
further indentured children.
|Sir George Napier, Governor of the Cape|
The Governor of the Cape, Sir George Napier, remarked in February 1840, that ‘although deeply regretting that an institution which promised well has been overthrown, as regards the Cape of Good Hope, by the evident disposition … on the part of many persons in England to pay implicit belief to every foolish report or misrepresentation to its discredit, I cannot but hope that the colony will be spared the pain of encountering any further inquiry through the continued operation of the Children’s Friend Society’.
The motives of the CFS in sending the child emigrants to the
Cape were sincere,
but the Society lacked awareness of colonial conditions. Moreover, they assumed
that employers in the Colony would share the CFS ideal of moral upliftment of
the children. Most employers regarded their apprentices simply as useful labour
in a time of shortage of that commodity.
The 1840 Report revealed few genuine cases of corporal punishment by masters, and the majority of the children interviewed made no complaint of ill-treatment. Most of those who stated their wish to return to
felt that they weren’t learning a proper trade in the Colony. The artisan
apprentices working for carpenters, masons, blacksmiths, wagonmakers etc had
better prospects than the indentured farm labourers.
ground to a halt, largely due to prejudice and the emotive topic of slavery,
the child emigrants were given an opportunity to change their circumstances,
and some chose to remain in the Colony after their apprenticeship was over.
Among 69 apprentices whose indentures had expired by 1840, 41 boys and 12 girls
were still living in the Colony and were self-supporting; some of the girls had
Despite the failure of the CFS at the
of Good Hope, the concept was later adapted for other successful
child emigrant schemes. In 1858 about 50 children were sent to Algoa Bay
By that time, influenced by the CFS experience, the laws governing indentured
labour at the Cape had been modified.
As for the boy Edward Trubshaw, whose allegations had precipitated the crisis which brought the CFS to its knees in 1839, he continued his inglorious career and was later sentenced to transportation from
To be continued