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Life of Sir George Grey: Governor, High commissioner, and Premier. An Historical Biography.

Chapter XIX. — High Commissioner in South Africa: — Second Term

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Chapter XIX.
High Commissioner in South Africa:
Second Term.

On Sunium's Heights.

Grey had left South Africa under a cloud; he returned to it almost a conqueror, having been enthusiastically acclaimed by the jeunesse dorée of England, enjoying the sunshine of the Colonial Office, and welcomed alike by English and Dutch. He returned, indeed, with his hands tied, but he soon threw off the handcuffs. In certain matters that involved legislation or expenditure he could act only in conjunction with the Legislative Council; he soon let it be known that the Council would have to act as he wished.

An Autocratic Governor.

He had long had at heart the building of a breakwater at Table Bay, where stormy winds from the south-west still make anchorage insecure. A bill laid before the council prior to his departure had been thrown out in his absence by the influence of the narrow-minded Dutch members, who saw a future for agricultural or pastoral occupations in their country, but could not perceive the importance of creating facilities for commercial intercourse. At the very first session of the council after he returned, Grey acquainted its members with his determination to have the breakwater made. He accordingly placed a sufficient sum on the Estimates for the purpose, and announced his resolution not to let a single vote be passed unless this project was sanctioned. One day's debating sufficed. The vote was carried by a small majority, and next year the first stone of the structure was laid by an illustrious visitor, Prince Alfred.

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A Royal Prince at the Cape.

A great social triumph, was to crown his second term in South Africa. The Prince Consort and the Queen, resolving to give their second son, Prince Alfred, the unique experience to be gained by witnessing the administration of a British colony under one of the greatest colonial rulers, sent the Prince to South Africa on his way to Australia. There, as everywhere, he was of course royally received, as only Britons and British colonists can receive their sovereign or their sovereign's son. Grey was nominally only a secondary figure in the pageant, but in reality he played the leading part. The Prince laid the foundation-stone of the breakwater that Grey had wrung from the narrow-minded and close-fisted Boers of the Cape. He turned the first sod of the first railway. He was entertained at a banquet where Grey was the chief speaker and the best. To crown all, the Prince was taken by his magnificent entertainer on a tour of 1,200 miles across South Africa—through Cape Colony, British. Kafraria, the Orange Free State, Natal, and back. A picturesque procession at Capetown led it off. A great hunt was arranged on a gigantic scale. A thousand Barolongs had for days or weeks been employed beating up game and afforded the royal party (shade of Rhadamanthine Freeman forgive the epithet!) royal sport. Ostriches and zebras, wildbeestes, bonteboks, and springboks, jerboas and antelopes were bagged in multitudes. Talk of the Caledonian Hunt, whether of ancient Greece or modern Scotland! The tour filled up a month, and when the Prince got back to Capetown, he must have felt that he had witnessed a unique sight and gained a priceless experience.

Both the Queen and the Prince Consort were highly gratified with. Grey's treatment of their son, and they expressed their satisfaction in cordial terms. The Queen commissioned the Duke of Newcastle to convey her warm thanks to the High Commissioner for the reception he had given the young prince, But she did not content herself with this vicarious expression of her gratitude.

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She was "anxious to express personally both the Prince Consort's and her own thanks for the very great kindness Sir George Grey showed our child during his most interesting tour in that fine colony." She believed that it would be "beneficial to Prince Alfred to have witnessed the manner in which Sir George devotes his whole time and energy to promote the happiness and welfare" of the colonists. Grey had some excuse for imagining that he was not like other colonial governors, but stood in a peculiar relation to the Sovereign and was held by her in special esteem.