Inventory of the Archives of the Department of the Attorney - General of the Cape Colony, 1661 - 1923

Fonds Specifications


Biographical History
On the commencement of the Batavian Republic's administration of the Cape in 1803 the office of Fiscal was abolished and an Attorney - General, G. Beelaerts van Blokland, appointed. After the second British occupation of the Cape in 1806 the office of Fiscal was re - introduced. [1]In 1828 the Charter of Justice resulted in a revamping of the whole judicial system and the establishment of the permanent post of Attorney - General. [2]
The Attorney - General was the state's public prosecutor in all criminal cases. Subordinate to the Department of the Colonial Secretary, he acted as the lawyer of the state and legal adviser to the various government departments and offices. [3]
As the work of the Attorney - General increased, he was granted greater independence in the execution of his duties. In 1873 the clerks of the various courts in the Colony, the Master of the Supreme Court, the Registrar of Deeds and all magistrates were permitted to corresppond directly with the Attorney - general in connection with judicial matters. Only in cases concerning the obtaining of legal advice, certain departments were still required to approach the Attorney - General through the offices of the Colonial Secretary. [4]
In 1878 the ministerial of the Law Department, under the Attorney - General as ministerial head, was created. The departments of the Attorney - General of the Eastern Province, the Supreme Court, the Eastern Province Supreme Court, the Circuit Courts and the Registrar fell within this ministerial division. [5]Later the offices of the Registrar of Deeds (1887); prisons (1889), cinvict stations and the Porter Reformatory (which were re - allocated to the ministerial control of the Colonial Secretary in 1894); districts courts and police, excluding the police of Cape's Town's district no. 1 (1894); police of Cape Town's district no 1 (1894); police of Cape Town's district no 1 (1896) [6]and the administration of mines (1907) [7]were placed under the Attorney - General's ministerial control.
While retaining his judicial functions and powers the Attorney - General's duties increased in time and his powers were extended accordingly: in 1894 he was empowered to sign the appointments of field - cornets and in 1900 to confer with the judges of the appeal court in connection with regulations in terms of the Water Act of 1899. [8]He was also resposible for the proper administration of the offices and institutions which were placed under his control from time to time.
At Union in 1910 the department as such was abolished and placed under the control of the Union's Department of Justice. From an initial staff of two members with with adminstrative expenses of £ 1650 in 1828 the department of the Attorney - General had grown to one of the largest of the Cape Colony in 1910 with a staff of over six hundred with expenses of £ 635 980 for the financial year 1908 - 1909. [9]