Southey, Richard (DNB12)

SOUTHEY, Sir RICHARD (1808–1901), Cape of Good Hope official, born at Culmstock, Devonshire, on 25 April 1808, was second son of Greorge Southey of that place by his wife Joan, only daughter of J. Baker of Culmstock. Richard's grandfather was a first cousin of Robert Southey, the poet.

After being educated at Uffculme grammar school till the age of twelve, he went in 1820 with his father to South Africa. The family settled at Round Hill, between Bathurst and Grahamstown, and Richard joined in pioneer farming. In 1824 he was sent to Grahamstown as a clerk in the mercantile house of Heugh and Fleming; but the life being distasteful to him he went in his twenty-first year on a trading and hunting expedition, which was not financially a success. On his return he married and settled down to farming and cattle dealing.

Already in 1828 he had responded to the call for volunteers to take charge of the military outposts of the frontier while the regular troops went on special service into Kafirland, and in the Kafir war of 1834–5, after acting as guide to the headquarters column, he was directed by Colonel (afterwards Sir) Harry Smith [q. v.] to form a corps of guides, of which he was appointed captain, and was frequently commended in general orders. At the close of the war he was appointed resident agent with certain of the Kafir tribes, and served until Sir Benjamin D'Urban's frontier policy was reversed by the home government at the close of 1836, when his office was abolished. He then removed with his brothers to Graafireinet, and from 1836 to 1846 was engaged in mercantile and farming pursuits.

On the return of Sir Harry Smith to South Africa in 1847 he made Southey, of whom he had formed a high opinion, secretary to the high commissioner. He accompanied his chief in the operation against the emigrant Boers, and was present at the hard-fought victory of Boomplaats. On the withdrawal of the troops Southey was left at Bloemfontein to collect the fines levied on the Boers who had been in arms against the government, which he did tactfully and with success. He remained in Bloemfontein until the country had quieted down and Major Warden was installed as British resident.

At the end of 1849 he was appointed civil commissioner and resident magistrate of Swellendam, one of the oldest and most important divisions of the colony, and although at times political feelings ran high he won the confidence of the inhabitants as well as the approbation of the government. During the Kafir war of this period he was active in enrolling and forwarding native levies, and on the termination of hostilities he received the. thanks of the government for his services.

Southey was acting secretary to the Cape government from 1 May 1852 to 26 May 1854. A dispute with Lieutenant-Governor Darling led to his temporary suspension from office, to which however by order of the home authorities he was honourably restored. On 8 March 1858 he became secretary to the lieutenant-governor at Grahamstown (Lieut.-Gen. James Jackson). From January to April 1859 he was auditor-general of the colony, and on 22 Aug. 1860 he became acting colonial secretary. In the latter capacity he gave great satisfaction by his budget speech in the first session. The governor (Sir George Grey) in a despatch to the Duke of Newcastle, 14 Aug. 1861, warmly commended his tactful conduct of government business.

Southey was appointed treasurer and accountant-general on 6 Dec. 1861, and at the same time was made a member of the executive council, with a seat in both houses of the legislature. He was colonial secretary of the colony from 22 July 1864 until the advent of responsible government on 30 Nov. 1872, when he retired on a pension.

Southey was a consistent opponent of the grant of responsible government to the Cape, and on 26 April 1871 he, with three other members of the executive council, signed a minute adducing grave reasons against its introduction into the colony at that moment. In October 1872 he declined the proposal of the governor (Sir Henry Barkly) that he should obtain a seat in parliament and form a responsible ministry.

In 1871 the long-standing dispute with the Orange Free State respecting the ownership of the diamond fields was terminated by their annexation to the Cape, and Southey at Sir Henry Barkly's request undertook the difficult task of administration. On 7 Feb. 1873 the territory was erected by letters patent into a province under the name of Griqualand West, and Southey received the Queen's commission as lieutenant-governor (29 March 1873). The difficulty of carrying on the government was great, and the opposition of a section of the diggers grew so formidable that troops were summoned from the Cape to preserve order. The secretary of state (Lord Carnarvon) decided that Southey's continuance in office was impossible, and that the financial condition of the province required a less expensive form of administration. Southey resigned in August 1875.

On 4 Dec. 1876 he was returned to the house of assembly as one of the members for Grahamstown, and joined the opposition to the Molteno ministry. He did not seek re-election on the dissolution in Sept. 1878, and took no further part in public affairs. Southey died at his residence, Southfields, Plumstead, on 22 July 1901, and was buried in St. John's cemetery, Wynberg.

He was created C.M.G. on 30 Nov. 1872, and K.C.M.G. on 30 May 1891.

He married twice: (1) in 1830 Isabella, daughter of John Shaw of Rockwood Vale, Albany, by whom he had six sons; (2) Susan Maria Hendrika, daughter of Anthony Krynauw of Cape Town, a member of one of the oldest Dutch families of the Cape of Good Hope; she died in 1890, leaving one son and one daughter.

A half-length portrait in oils of Southey by F. Wolf, a German artist, is in the Civil Service Club at Cape Town.

[Theal's History of South Africa since 1795, 5 vols. 1908; Wilmot's Life and Times of Sir Richard Southey, 1904; Autobiography of Lieut.-Gen. Sir Harry Smith, vol. ii. 1902; Burke's Peerage, 1901; The Times, 23 July 1901; Cape Argus, 23 July 1901; Cape Times, 24 July 1901; Wilmot's History of Our Own Times in South Africa, vol. i. 1897; Pratt's People of the Period; Cunynghame's My Command in South Africa, 1874-1878, 1879; Colonial Office Records.]

C. A.