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Australian ports was very depressed, and the disposal of the cargo there was a matter of extreme difficulty. In 1841 he writes: “As the quantity of wool grown in the colony has greatly increased of late, and bids fair to be very considerable in the ensuing season, we shall feel obliged by your giving the article some attention. The condition of the wine market had now become extremely unfavourable. The new treaty with France was being mooted, and a public meeting was held in Cape Town urging the Home Government not to lose sight of the colony's interests entirely. As an evidence of the extended character of his operations we may mention that in this year he loaded, in conjunction with Messrs. Hudson, Donaldson, Dixon, and Co., the leading merchants of Cape Town, in half shares, the schooner Joshua Carral with a full cargo of wine.
In 1842 he describes one of the disastrous storms which visit Table Bay from time to time. There was then no breakwater, which now gives security to the harbour. He says: 'As you will see by the papers, we have had some bad weather, seven vessels were driven ashore in Table Bay. The Waterloo was a convict ship bound to Van Diemen's Land, and, being very old and quite rotten, she went entirely to pieces immediately on taking the beach, so that it was only with the greatest difficulty that about one-third of the people on board were saved. About 190 convicts, seamen, and soldiers perished close to the shore. It was an awful sight. It is extraordinary that the Government should take up such unseaworthy ships.' His concluding remarks give us an interesting indication of his attitude of mind towards public abuses, of which he was to give further evidence in his parliamentary career when he criticised the shortcomings of the Government with so much vigour and power.
The price of wine continued to fall in the European market. In a business where the purchases of wine from the producer must necessarily be made a considerable time
before shipment, and where the delays interposed by the length of the voyage before it could reach the market were so considerable, a great fall in values led to changes in price disastrous to the exporter. In November 1842 his firm write that they will make no further shipments of wine, owing to the ruinous price of 8l. per pipe. In 1842 they write, in acknowledging the sales of wine : White wines per Martha Jane at 81. per pipe, less brokerage, and 44 hogsheads per Deborah at 71. 10s. This is miserable indeed.' In consequence of these continued losses we find that he determines to abandon mercantile affairs for a time.
He had embarked his capital and his energy in this business; he had attempted to open up new markets both in England and on the Continent and in the East, but all to no purpose; the business had not the elements of success in it, and he saw this in time. He writes: 'In consequence of the continued depression in the wine trade we have determined to abandon it, and have now taken the necessary steps to bring our business to a close at the end of this year; after which time any outstanding transactions will be settled by our chief, Mr. J. C. Molteno, to whom be good enough to address after the receipt of this letter.'
He finally closed his relations with Mr. Witherby on the 8th of March, 1843. “As before said, it is my intention to give up, at any rate for the present, all mercantile pursuits. As I leave town in a few days and shall not return for some time, you will not perhaps hear from me so regularly as you otherwise might have done. Regretting, as I most sincerely do, that our long and pleasant correspondence should be brought to a close under circumstances so painful and, to me, I might add, so disastrous.'
Mr. Molteno found that the principal export of the Cape Colony was failing it; some new product must be developed, and the land must be made to yield some return in articles of exportable value to Europe, if business were to be carried
on at all.
He now believed that in wool such an article was to be found. In the early part of August, 1840, he had, in company with other gentlemen from Cape Town, paid a visit to the district of Beaufort West, where a considerable sale of land by the Beaufort Grazing Company was to take place. At that time there were no roads into the interior, the mountain ranges had not yet been pierced, the rivers were all unbridged. Twenty days by ox waggon were passed on a journey which is now accomplished in as many hours by the railway subsequently authorised under Mr. Molteno's Government.
But before we proceed to this new chapter in his career we must say a few words as to the life in Cape Town which he was about to abandon. Englishmen were comparatively few in the Cape Colony, and were in consequence drawn together and formed a little community to some extent by themselves. Martin, who had visited the Cape on several occasions about this time, describes the Englishmen he met there as being shrewd, generally intelligent, solicitous for political liberty, careful of its preservation, hospitable to strangers, and enterprising in their commercial pursuits.'' Quinn, Grissold, Fredrickson, Ebden, and Prince were men with whom Mr. Molteno was associated, and whose names were well known at the Cape. Some of them formed a society in the same house together.
Mr. Molteno wrote home to his mother about this time:
The seasons do indeed come fast round; I have now been upwards of eleven years away from you. I did think that in this time I should so far have succeeded as to be able to see you all again, if still alive, but in this I have been greatly disappointed. The chance of my returning home seems now more distant than ever. Although I have not succeeded in pecuniary matters, I have gained what is of infinitely more value-sound views on religion and a firm conviction of the vain and transitory nature of
See Martin's British Colonies, vol. iv.
the things of this life. Used as I generally am to writing merely on matters of business, I confess I am often at a loss in writing private letters (in this I find I am not singular). You need, my dear mother, I trust, be under no apprehension as to my religious views, although it is true I do not often write much on the subject; but you must not therefore come to the conclusion that I think little on it; quite the contrary. I hope and trust that no act or deed of mine is uninfluenced by religion.
Mr. Molteno was always devoted to animals; his dogs and his horses were his intimate friends. His favourite exercise was riding. All through his life he was addicted to plenty of fresh air, and to a certain amount of solitude, which appeared to be favourable, if not necessary, to the full working of his intellect and character. His kind, energetic nature was appreciated by his four-footed friends, and there existed a vigorous attachment for him on their part. He was always an early riser. His dogs would rush up to his room as soon as the house-door was opened, and never rest until they were admitted. His horses were always of the highest spirit, indeed even unridable by any other.
Those who knew him at this time speak of the energy and activity with which he worked, and the determination to succeed which moved him. But, as we have seen, the nature of things was against him by reason of the continuous fall in the value of Cape products. He now abandoned mercantile affairs for nearly ten years. It was not until the year 1852 that he again started a business, which became eminently successful under his initiation and management.
Acquires Land at Nelspoort—His Marriage-Journey to Nelspoort-Physical
Features of Country- The great Karoo-Its Climate-Isolation of LifeDeath of his Wife-Life on the Farm.
MR. MOLTENO's position was somewhat disheartening, for he had lost a considerable portion of his capital in his mercantile undertakings. But, while still engaged in business, he had acquired a considerable area of country in the Beaufort district. He had watched the development of the export of wool, and he determined to place his main reliance on this staple product. There was at that time no woolled sheep in that part of the country, the native sheep being a hairy animal with the well-known broad, fat tails, and there were only one or two isolated flocks of merino sheep in the Colony. As far back as 1841, Mr. Molteno had imported two Saxon merino rams for his property at Beaufort West, and he now determined to move thither. Upon its purchase it had been managed by Mr. Naylor, and subsequently by Mr. Alexander Ross. Before finally leaving for Beaufort he visited Grahamstown, in the early part of 1843, and closed his business in that district. The remainder of this year he was occupied in closing his Cape Town business, and preparing for his departure to Beaufort. His great warehouses in Roeland Street were purchased by the Government.
He now married a lady with whom he had been acquainted for many years, and she accompanied him up the country. His mother was not yet reconciled to his residence in South