Inventory of the Archives of the Registrar and Guardian of Slaves, 1717 - 1848

Fonds Specifications


Biographical History

Registrar: Protector.
By a proclamation dated the 26th of April 1816 the registration of Slaves was made compulsory. Such a measure was necessitated by "the numerous manumissions which take place, and the large class of Negro Apprentices, (which has of late years been, by decisions of the Court of Vice Admiralty, greatly encreased)", and the expediency "that the most minute precautions should be taken to prevent the possibility of such free persons, or their offspring, merging into a state of Slavery, or being confounded with the domestic or other Slaves, the property of individuals in this Settlement."
An office was established in Cape Town "for the purpose of keeping exact Registers of all Slaves within the Colony." It was managed by an Inspector and an Assistant Inspector. Similar offices were established in each of the country districts "under the inmmediate inspection of the Landdrost, and in correspondence with, and under the control of, the principal office in Cape Town." These offices were placed under District Clerks. As there was no District Clerk at Stellenbosch the duties in question were to be carried out by the Secretary for the Drostdy.
The registration is explained by the following clause: - "Every Proprietor of a Slave shall be bound to enter at the office of the District, in which he resides, by name and sex, all his or her Slaves, stating their respective ages ..... country, and occupations, and also to report and recieve a Certificate of all manumissions, transfers, inheritances, births, deaths, or changes of property, as the case may be".
An alphabetical register of proprietors within Cape Town, the Cape District and Simonstown, giving the names and all particulars of the slaves of each person, and what happened to them, was to be kept in the office of the Inspector of the Enregisterment. Similar registers were kept in the country districts and copies there - of transmitted monthly to the Chief Office in Cape Town. The first to occupy the post of Inspector was Major George Rogers.
A Commission from the Court of Justice had to inspect the Inspector's Office in Cape Town. In the country districts this function was performed by by the Commission of Circuit.
An important change was effected by Ordinance No. 19 of the 19th June 1826. By this law the Inspector of the Registry was appointed "Registrar and Guardian of Slaves".
The increased scope of the new office can be gathered from the preamble in wich it is stated that the "propagation of Christianity, and the general diffusion of religious instruction amongst Slaves, will tend, beyond any other measure to propmote Morality amongst them, and that the Ordinance was passed for the attainment of these objects. It made lavish provision for the amelioration of the condition of the Slaves.
The Registrars in the various Districts were now styled "Assistant Registrars and Guardians of Slaves".
In the year 1828 the Colony was, on the recommendation of the Commision of Inquiry, divided into two provinces. The districts of the Cape, Stellenbosch, Swellendam and Worcester and Clanwilliam formed the Western Province, whereas the Eastern Province comprised those of Graaff - Reinet, Beaufort, Somerset, Albany, Uitenhage and George. In accordance with this arrangement a Guarian of Slaves, Eastern Division, with headquarters at Grahamstown, was appointed on the 1 st January 1828. The first incumbent was George Pigot. He was succeeded on the 21st June, 1830, by Donald Moodie. On the same date the Western Division was placed under a man by the name of Henry Murphy. A further important change was brought about by the separation of the Offices of Registrar and Guardian. Major Rogers, who now also occupied the post of Registrar of Deeds, was appointed Registrar of Slaves for the whole Colony. The Clerks of the Peace of the several districts acted as Assistant Registrar or Guardians. The officers now kept the registers, and returns were made by them to the Registrar in Cape Town.
The next important Slave enactment was the Order in Council dated the 2nd of February, 1830. It made provision for the appointment of a Protector and Assistant Protectors of Slaves in each of the British Colonies. This order became law in the Cape on the 26th of August, 1830. As there was to be only one Protector, the designation of Officer in Charge of the Eastern Division was changed to that of Principal Assistant Protector of Slaves.
Another Order in Council was issued on the 2nd of November of the following year. By this measure provision was made again for the appointment of two independent Protectors, one for the Eastern and one for the Western Division. Under these officers there were to be Assistant Protectors of Slaves. In the year 1832 the Protector for the Eastern Division was directed to reside at Graaff - Reinet.
Fresh measures were adopted for the protection of Slaves, who were given the right to lodge complaints with the Protectors or their Assistants. These officers could hear witnesses in respect of everything "relating to their office" ; but could not act as magistrates.
Every Manager of Slaves had to keep a Punishment Record Book to be submitted by him half - yearly to the Protector of his district.
Furthermore new judicial bodies known as "Courts of Requests for Slaves" were created. Each of these was to be presided over by a Commissioner. These Courts were "to take cognizance in a summery way of all questions, claims, and demands affecting the property of any slave or slaves, and not exceeding in any one case the amount a value of ten pounds." Such courts were established under the Resident Magistrates of Cape Town, Simonstown, Stellenbosch, Worcester, Clanwilliam, Swellendam, George, Uitenhage, Grahams Town, Somerset, Graaff - Reinet and Beaufort.
The officials of the Slave Departement continued in office up to the beginning of the year 1835. The office of Registrar and Protector was retained until 1838 to wind up the affairs of the Department, under the title of "Late Protector of Slaves and Keeper of Late Slave Registers." This appears from a Despatch from the Governor dated 22 November 1837 in connection with discharge of Major Rogers, the Registrar and Protector: - "By a reference to Lord Stanley's Despatch announcing that intended arrangement it will be seen that it was conditional upon Colonel Rogers" having become independent of his present office, "of Keeper of late Slave Registry - wich has not yet been the case - , as his continuance in it has been all along indispensable to the public since in adjusting the claims for compensation, nor will it cease to be so, as it appears to me, until the close of the next year 1838, when the apprenticeship of the Labourers, formerly slaves, will end".