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Alexander Davis





(late of the NIGER COMPANY)




C0 i^t pemorg oi









I. Introductory 1

II. Present Stage of Development and Mental

Plane 8

III. Native Chabacteb and Customs . . . .19

IV. Missionaries and Natives 49

V. 'Exeter Hall' and its Influence . . .64

VI. Natives and Industry 71

VII. The Problem 87



VIII. Native Labour the Root Factor . . . . 109

IX. The Demand of the Mines . . . . . 122

X. Treatment of Mining Natives 152

XI. Sources of Labour 160

XII. The Native as a Worker and Customer . . . 172





XIII. Inhabitants 1B9

XIV. Eeligion 195

XV. Administration 203

XVI. Land Tenure 214

XVII. Labour . 229

XVIII. Missions and Education 236


The Germans, in the age of Tacitus, were unacquainted with
the use of letters. . . They passed their lives in a state of
ignorance and poverty, which it has plea,sed some declaimers
to dignify with the appellation of virtuous simplicity. . . each
barbarian fixed his independent dwelling on a spot to which a
plain, a wood, or a stream of fresh water, had induced him to give
the preference. Neither stone, nor brick, nor tiles were employed
in these slight habitations. They were, indeed, no more than
low huts, of a circular figure, built of rough timber, thatched
with straw, and pierced at the top to leave a free passage
for the smoke. . . . the hardy German was satisfied with a
scanty garment made of the skin of some animal . . . and the
women manufactured for their own use a coarse kind of linen.
The game of various sorts, with which the forests of Germany
were plentifully stocked, supplied its inhabitants with food
and exercise. Their monstrous herds of cattle, less remarkable,
indeed, for their beauty than for their utihty, formed the prin-
cipal object of their wealth. A small quantity of com was the
only produce exacted from the earth ; the use of orchards or
artificial meadows was unknown to the Germans ; nor can we
expect any improvements in agriculture from a people whose
property every year experienced a general change by a new
division of the arable lands, and who, in that strange operation,
avoided disputes by suffering a great part of their territory to
lie waste and without tillage. . . If we contemplate a savage
nation in any part of the globe, a supine indolence and a careless-
ness of futurity will be found to constitute their general char-
acter. In a civilised state, every faculty of man is expanded
and exercised ; and the great chain of mutual dependence con-
nects and embraces the several members of society. The most

nnmerous portion of it is employed in constant and useful
labour. The select few, placed by fortune above that necessity,
can, however, fill up their time by the pursuits of interest or
glory, by the improvement of their estate or of their understand-
ing, by the duties, the pleasures, and even the follies of social
life. The Germans were not possessed of these varied resources.
The care of the house and family, the management of the land
and cattle, were delegated to the old and the infirm, to women and
slaves. The lazy warrior, destitute of every art that might
employ his leisure hours, consumed his days and nights in the
animal gratifications of sleep and food. And yet, by a power-
ful diversity of nature (according to the remark of a writer
who had pierced into its darkest recesses), the same barbarians
are by turns the most indolent and the most restless of man-
kind. They delight in sloth, they detest tranquillity. The
languid soul, oppressed with its own weight, anxiously required
some new and powerful sensation, and war and danger were
the only amusements adequate to its fierce temper. The
sound that summoned the German to arms was grateful to
his ear. It roused him from his uncomfortable lethargy, gave
him an active pursuit, and, by strong exercise of the body, and
violent emotions of the mind, restored him to a more lively
sense of his existence. . . Strong beer, a liquor extracted with
very little art from wheat or barley, and corrupted into a
certain semblance of wine, was sufficient for the gross purposes
of German debauchery. . . The Germans abandoned their im-
mense forests to the exercise of hunting, employed in pasturage
the most considerable part of their lands, bestowed on the
small remainder a rude and careless cultivation, and then
accused the scantiness and sterility of a country that refused to
maintain the multitude of its inhabitants. When the return of
famine severely admonished them of the importance of the arts
the national distress was sometimes alleviated by the emigra-
tion of a third, perhaps, or a fourth part of their youth.

Gibbon's Decline and Fall of the Boman Empire




The great native and labour problem has been
troubling South Africa with more or less insistence
since the days of native slavery under the Boer. The ^^\ *
deprivation of the Boer farmer of the enforced service
of the nigger brought trouble very early to the British
Administration, and in fact may be deemed the beginning
of that bad feeling between the two races which has
continued since. Characteristically, the first sign of
the fatal breach between Briton and Boer was the
direct result of missionary interference in native treat-
ment ; we say ' characteristically ' without reflection on
the present missionary policy, but in the sense that the
London Missionary Society of that period exercised
the functions of the Aborigines' Protection Society of
to-day. As recorded by the historian Mr. Theal, in his
'Progress of South Africa in the Century,' the first
exhibition of rancour against the Government resulted
from a despatch received by the Governor, Sir John



Cradock, in 1811, from the Secretary of State, enclosing
a copy of a letter sent by the Kev. Mr. Bead of
Bethelsdorp to the directors of the London Missionary
Society, complaining that the Hottentots were subject
to inhuman treatment by the white people. He
asserted that upwards of a hundred murders had been
committed in the district of Uitenhage alone, and the
horrified Secretary of State demanded a thorough
investigation and stringent punishment. This put
both the Government officials and the Eev. Mr. Kead
on their mettle, the Landdrost concerned to show his
zeal and obedience, and the Eev. Mr. Kead to prove
his assertions. Details of this ominous beginning of
British interference in Colonial treatment of the
native, under the unrestrained and irresponsible
influence of religious and philanthropic institutions, are
given at length in the chapter dealing with the sub-
ject. From that day forward a sharp conflict of feeling
has subsisted between those societies in England
devoting themselves to the welfare of the native and
colonial opinion; in this respect at least Boer and
British thought coinciding, though this agreement on
the root question failed to prevent the consequent
racial estrangement, caused by British apathy and
weakness varied with tactless official interference.

History is very apt to repeat itself. In the early
days the European inhabitants of the Cape were Dutch
either by race or assimilation ; it was therefore with
these early settlers and voortrekkers that the British
authorities had to deal. The final result of a long
history of error and weakness combined has been the
recent Boer war. To-day British settlement stretches
from the Cape peninsula to the Great Lakes, and in


any future misunderstanding or conflict over the hardy
perennial, Native Treatment, the British authorities will
be faced with a united Anglo-Boer resistance.

It is this contingency which occasionally troubles
the thoughts of the patriotic South African. In
its present phases this unanimity of colonial resist-
ance to British interference in native rule is not
apparent on the surface. The cry of forced labour
trumpeted against the mining industries of the
Band and Rhodesia suited well the policy of the
Boers, giving colour to the deception under which
Sir William Harcourt and his following labour, that in
their assault on the mining employer on the score of
native treatment they enjoy the complete sympathy of
the Boer leaders. In the case of Chinese labour, like-
wise, the Bond and the irreconcilable Transvaaler eagerly
join forces with the Natives' Protection Societies in
England in hampering and obstructing the develop-
ment of the mines. But an end to this artificial
alliance will soon be reached. During the proceedings
_of^the recent Labour Comniission on the Rand it w^
seen by the evidence of prominent Boers that Jn
^posing Asiatic importation the alternative they suggest
^approaches forced labour. Botha, De la Rey, Cronje,
and others, have not concealed the remedy they have
in view, and as this proposed solution directly traverses
the principles of Exeter Hall — as the Aborigine Pro-
tection sects are termed in South Africa — the Boer
population will without question join the British ele-
ment whenever this conflict in the treatment of the
native develops into a real and dangerous issue.

It is with the purpose of forestalling and preventing
such a consummation that this book has been written.

B 2


It is an endeavour to enlighten the British public
on the question, and place before the authorities in
power sufficient connected data to enable them to
understand the real position in Africa.

Though articles innumerable have been written on
the native question, in magazines, in reviews, and in
the daily and weekly press ; though we have books by
British * experts ' on the native question — men who have
examined the question extrinsically and academically —
by committees and societies, special pleading, useless
sentiment, and patchy attempts at expert information
have been fatal obstacles to the proper presentment
of the native problem. South African literature is
strangely lacking in works comprehensively handling
the African native as he actually hves and thinks, and
this modest contribution is only advanced as a pioneer
effort in this region of inquiry.

To write of the native and the problem he presents
some other experience is required than that gleaned in
official reports, ex parte statements, or academical
study. In this, as in most other human problems, it
is, if not always essential, still of the greatest advantage,
to be in the position to supplement actual study by
personal familiarity with the factors presented. And
all South African controversies have that peculi-
arity of demanding a very close and sustained scrutiny
before even an approximate judgment can be judicially
delivered. South Africa, as we are told, is the * land
of lies ' — it might perhaps be more politely termed the
land of illusions ; for examining the remarkably diver-
gent views held by different sections of thought, and
the absolutely opposed statements on matters of simple
fact, one cannot reasonably conclude that the one or the


other parties to the controversy are deliberate perverters
of truth. It is simply a matter of delusion. It is for
this reason that South African questions demand em-
_giric al knowled ge as well as academical study. Lord
Milner was silent for a year, and travelled the land
throughout, acquainting himself with the Dutch and
their language, before he arrived at a first conclusion
and showed his policy, and in this he exhibited great
wisdom, as all who refer to his first historic warning
to the Dutch in the light of later events will acknow-
ledge. In such a country of pitfalls to avoid a fall
one must make oneself acquainted with the ground
before careering over the veld, as African travel
teaches. There _is no precedent, guide, or sub-
stitute for South African experience. The problem
is not of that sort which may be solved by inductive
reasoning or by a study of the past. It is the aim of
the succeeding pages to endow the English reader
with some basic data upon which to found an approxi-
mate conclusion on the Native Question of South
Africa, and at the same time to serve to register
for the South African in a reasonable compass the
heads of the conditions and influences which have to
be considered in administering the native and handling
the problem.

Affairs in West Africa and the Congo — though the
study of the native of these parts has been more
closely pursued by competent inquirers than in South
Africa, notably in the case of the ever-lamented Miss
Kingsley, and by the distinguished native writer Mr.
Caseley Hay ford, who in writing of his own colour
and race possesses unrivalled advantages — have like-
wise suffered from a redundancy of British * experts *


upon Colonial native affairs. The British public sit at
the feet of mentors, having the capacity to specialise
and the talent to write, who are comparatively un-
known in the land they deal with, either as experts or
as practical legislators. Eiding on the wave of public
opinion and support, they collect in their career all the
flotsam and jetsam of varied colonial witnesses, whether
reliable or not, whether disinterested or not, and
whether known or not. If the bent of their experiences
favours the theory these * experts ' profess they are
accepted : if the tendency is to moderate or controvert,
their authority is either ignored without inquiry or
discarded. In this fashion the wave pursues its
triumphant course unabated, and public clamour
helps its career. Only on the rock of stubborn fact
does the wave ultimately break. In this manner the
popular impression of native character and treatment
becomes entirely distorted, quite out of all knowledge
of those who reside on the spot in humble civilian
or responsible administrative capacity. The Congo
* atrocities ' campaign is fed upon just sufficient a
substratum of truth to make it plausible. But the
public in their administered sentimentality travel very
wide of the true case. After a full career of blood-
curdling horrors, unhesitatingly placed at the door of
the administrators in highest authority, irrespective
of conditions of environment or personal responsibility,
a Sir Harry Johnston, of accepted authority, in pleni-
tude of personal knowledge and experience, presents a
rock of fact which checks the of misrepresenta-
tion (see Daily Chronicle, Sept. 28).

Sentiment may influence action and dictate policy,
but it cannot affect concrete conditions in foreign lands


which know it not. In treating native problems it-is
practical knowledge of existing conditions which serves
a useful purpose ; sentimental treatment may conceiv-
ably do little harm, but almost invariably it does con-
siderable harm. Fortunately all the tremendous
influence of British sentimentalism as concentrated
in * Exeter Hall ' undergoes the cooling and purifying
process of Government departmentalism before it is
dealt out for Colonial consumption, else were the
Colonial Office a bear garden. As a matter of fact, the
clamour rarely indeed is heard further than Downing
Street, fortunately.

In the succeeding analytical chapters, the writer ex-
amines the native question from the individual stand-
point of a strong partiahty for the natives, gained by a
long period of personal contact, during which many
happy days have been spent and good treatment in-
variably experienced. At the same time, whilst
acknowledging a strong bias in favour of the African
native, his faults and limitations are rigidly brought
to light. In dealing with the problem it is futile to
shirk facts, whether telling against the black man or
the European. A case shirked in any particular is a
case burked, and in nowise a case laid.



Amid the numerous very knotty problems which present
themselves with unfailing regularity in South Africa,
and exercise the brains of the most thoughtful of our
politicians at home and in the Colonies, the one central
factor of deepest root and widest-spread tentacles is
the native problem. A Boer is flesh of our flesh ; he
is human, accessible, and may be approached through
his leaders. The Capitalist has his location as his
vocation : the individual swaying the class may be
met in Park Lane, in Throgmorton Street, or in
Johannesburg. The Afrikander Bond has its Bestuur
and the Loyalist League its central executive. Every
South African factor in politics, economics, and de-
velopment has its identity, egOy or ' soul ' in personal
or corporate presentment except the native. The
native problem stands distinct from its rivals in South
African study in that it permeates the whole fabric, and
to be handled with any success must be grasped in all
directions and examined in sections and grades.

In view of the great range of opinion brought
to bear upon the native question within the last few
years in England it is perfectly natural, almost inevi-
table, that the average man of intelligence still gropes
in hopeless indecision in an honest endeavour to arrive


at the truth. When he hears, on the one hand, that
the native is subject to treatment only one step
removed from slavery, and gathers in another diregtion
that the native is * coddled,' is hopelessly lazy^ i^noraat,
and stubborn, small wonder indeed that his conclusions
swing like a pendulum, just according as the conflicting
premises may attract for the time being. And there Is
little safety To^adopting'TEe mean ; for the mean in
this case would entail the arriving at a conclusion
based upon his own premises, and, as in the nature of
the case the average man can boast of no expert
experience in the subject, the conclusion would have
little substance. For among the experts on the native
question there are none that take a middle course.
We know what South African opinion is on the
subject, and we know what ' Exeter Hall ' opinion is. -^
Between these two opposed camps is open ground,
and no half-way house.

The object of these studies is to supply those
taking interest in the subject, some data, culled from
first-hand experience, upon which to found an intelh-
gent opinion, and in the first place we will endeavour
to briefly sketch the character of the material which has
to be dealt with. The political and ethnological history
of the Bantu race may be studied by recourse to the
standard works and authorities. But to gain any ade-
quate conception of the thoughts, the character, and
the personality of the Bantu individual, some other
knowledge is required than by reading books, or by
merely working with and observing him under a
single set of circumstances or peculiar conditions.
For instance, a traveller and explorer having many
natives for long periods under his control will contend


with more or less reason that he understands the
'nigger.' So will the compound manager at the
mines and the individual employer. Yet in most cases
these authorities on native character are only familiar
with the one aspect of many which, taken together,
make the 'nigger,' as those who have lived with him
enfa^nille know him. All estimates of the native are^
I necessarily, from-the outsida^-for the Bantu has not as
yet developed native, literature .furnishing the student
with an inside glimpsa of native trend of thought and
i of character. It is as if our knowledge of the French,
' or the ancient Eomans and Greeks, were merely objec-
tive, from our own insular standpoint, and not based
in substance on their own literature. The nearest
approach to an inner knowledge of native thought and
character is that which is acquired by the old native
trader and the young Colonial or Boer brought up with
and among the natives themselves. Many of this class
of European maybe found ; but none, as far as we know,
have been sufficiently endowed with the necessary
qualifications to place their experience and conclusions
in graphic form. A virgin field of literature opens out
in this direction, portraying Bantu life and thought ;
for, though such stories may partake of a more or less
apocryphal character, yet, drawn direct from native
sources, they cannot fail to shed light on native psy-
chology and volition.

A raw native, undebased by close European contact,
is a compound of many elementary virtues and some
elementary vices. Where so many different types
have developed from a common stock if not common
stem, it stands to reason that the one character is not
common to all tribes. Yet through all tribes south of


the Zambesi of Bantu race a common thread of funda-
mental character may be traced. Their mode of living
has approximated through years of kindred life, though
differentiated in detail through diverse influences
— migration and wars the forces. Predominating
tribes have in their turn yielded to waves of more
fierce and warlike predatory stocks.

Yet, throughout, the one vocation common to all
has been followed. No branch or tribe of the original
element has developed any higher stage of life than the
primitive pastoral ; many have failed to reach this
relatively settled condition. The hoe and the assegai
and the native * piano ' are the three highest products
of native skill and handicraft evolved through centuries.

The sole remnants of past skill denoting a higher
order of being from the Zambesi to the Cape are the
ruins of the Zimbabye type, conclusively traced to a
people quite distinct from the negro, and almost equally
certain to the credit of colonists from other regions,
and not to an aboriginal Central or South African race.
The one unimportant exception to this absence of a
higher cult may be deemed the Bushman's paintings,
which in their primitive yet certainly striking and
interesting lines and colour merely stand in the nature
of an ethnological freak, art developed and lost, perhaps,
within a relatively short period. In common with
existing and fast disappearing types of aboriginals in
North America and Australia, the South African native
has never developed even a rudimentary system of
written records. The Kafir has no defined reHgious
system, though ethical laws and ethnological ob-
servances are fairly general. In fact, as far as the
South African aboriginal type is concerned, the one


general description in living, thought, and custom
applies to every tribe south of the Zambesi.

But, low in the scale of human life as the native
may appear, judged by his industrial and intellectual
development, any hasty conclusion based upon these
premises would probably lead to error. Though intel-
lectually undeveloped, mentally he is robust ; that is to
say, though intellectually in knowledge of matter and
life he is a child, his mental powers are high and above
the grade of cunning. He has considerable powers of
simple reasoning, and the correctness of his conclusions
is only limited by his knowledge. His low intellectual
level is mostly due to a lack of imagination and lack of
necessity. Shrewd in his estimate of character, he views
the wonders of civilisation with a disconcerting non-
chalance. Strong in his admiration of physical strength
or personal prowess, he will regard the exhibition of a
phonograph with stoical demeanour and evanescent
surprise, and accept with apparent satisfaction any
reasonable or unreasonable solution tendered without
further inquiry. All the marvels of civilisation are a
one-day wonder to him, and his familiarity with a
locomotive or a telegraph dates from his first experience.
He would stoke an engine for years without seeking to
discover the secret of its working ; be taught to take
the whole machine to pieces without connecting the
piston rod with the steam. Mechanically you could
teach him anything, scientifically you would find him a
hopeless case. You may teach him to read and write,

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Online LibraryAlexander DavisThe native problem of South Africa → online text (page 1 of 17)