David Livingstone.

Livingstone's travels and researches in South Africa : including a sketch of sixteen years' residence in the interior of Africa, and a journey from the Cape of Good Hope to Loanda on the west coast, thence across the continent, down the river Zambesi to the eastern ocean online

. (page 6 of 36)
Online LibraryDavid LivingstoneLivingstone's travels and researches in South Africa : including a sketch of sixteen years' residence in the interior of Africa, and a journey from the Cape of Good Hope to Loanda on the west coast, thence across the continent, down the river Zambesi to the eastern ocean → online text (page 6 of 36)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

only at intervals of a few, sometimes many, years; but it
never makes a clean sweep of the whole cattle of a village^


as it would do of a troop of fifty horses. This barrier,
then, seems to explain the absence of the horse among the
Hottentots, though it is not opposed to the southern migra-
tion of cattle, sheep, and goats.

When the flesh of animals that have died of this disease
is eaten, it causes a malignant carbuncle, which, when it
appears over any important organ, proves rapidly fatal.
It is more especially dangerous over the pit of the stomach.
The effects of the poison have been experienced by mis-
sionaries who had eaten properly-cooked food, — the ftesh
of sheep really but not visibly affected by the disease.
The virus in the flesh of the animal is destroyed neither by
boiling nor roasting. This fact, of which we have had innu-
merable examples, shows the superiority of experiments on
a large scale to those of acute and able physiologists and
chemists in the laboratory ; for a well-known physician of
Paris, after careful investigation, considered that the virus
in such cases was completely neutralized by boiling.

This disease attacks wild animals too. During our re-
sidence at Chonuan, great numbers of tolos, or koodoos,
were attracted to the gardens of the Bakwains, abandoned
at the usual period of harvest because there was no pros-
pect of the corn (Holcus sorghum) bearing that year. The
koodoo is remarkably fond of the green stalks of this kind
of millet. Free feeding produced that state of fatness favor-
able for the development of this disease, and no fewer than
twenty-five died on the hill opposite our house. Great
numbers of gnus and zebras perished from the same cause )
but the mortality produced no sensible diminution in the
numbers of the game, any more than the deaths of many
of the Bakwains who persisted, in spite of every remon-
strance, in eating the dead meat, caused any sensible de-
crease in the strength of the tribe.

Before we came to the Orange Eiver, we saw the last
portion of a migration of springbucks, {Gazella euchore, or
teepe.) They came from the great Kalahari Desert, and,
when first seen after crossing the colonial boundary, aro


said often to exceed forty thousand in nun ber. I cannot
give an estimate of their numbers, for they appear spread
over a vast expanse of country, and make a quivering
motion as they feed, and move, and toss their graceful
horns. They feed chiefly on grass; and, as they come
from the north about the time when the grass most
abounds, it cannot be want of food that prompts tue
movement. Nor is it want of water; for this antelope is
one of the most abstemious in that respect. Their nature
prompts them to seek as their favorite haunts level plains
with short grass, where they may be able to watch the
approach of an enemy. The Bakalahari take advantage
of this feeling, and burn off large patches of grass, not only
to attract the game by the new crop when it comes up, but
also to form bare spots for the springbuck to range over.

On crossing the Orange River we come into inde-
pendent territory inhabited by Griquas and Bechuanas.
By Griquas is meant any mixed race sprung from natives
and Europeans. Those in question were of Dutch extrac-
tion through association with Hottentot and Bush women.
Half-castes of the first generation consider themselves
superior to those of the second, and all possess in some
degree the characteristics of both parents. They were
governed for many years by an elected chief, named
Waterboer, who, by treaty, received a small sum per
annum from the colonial government for the support of
schools in his country, and proved a most efficient guard
of our northwest boundary.

Many hundreds of both Griquas and Bechuanas have
become Christians and partially civilized through the
teaching of English missionaries. My first impressions of
the progress made were that the accounts of the effects of
the gospel among them had been too highly colored. 1
expected a higher degree of Christian simplicity and purity
than exists either among them or among ourselves. I was
not anxious for a deeper insight in detecting shams than
others; but I expected character, such as we imagine tbo


{Vtimitive disciples had, — and was disappointed. When,
however, I passed on to the true heathen in the countries
beyond the sphere of missionary influence, and could com-
pare the people there with the Christian natives, I came to
the conclusion that, if the question were examined in the
most rigidly severe or scientific way, the change effected
by the -missionary movement would be considered unques-
tionably great.

We cannot fairly compare these poor people with our-
selves, who have an atmosphere of Christianity and en
lightened public opinion, the growth of centuries, around
us, to influence our deportment ; but let any one from the
natural and proper point of view behold the public mo-
rality of G-riqua Town, Kuruman, Likatlong, and other
villages, and remember what even London was a century
ago, and he must confess that the Christian mode of treat-
ing aborigines is incomparably the best.

The Griquas and Bechuanas were in former times clad
much like the Caffres, if such a word may be used where
there is scarcely any clothing at all. A bunch of leather
strings about eighteen inches long hung from the lady's
waist in front, and a prepared skin of a sheep or antelope
covered the shoulders, leaving the breast and abdomen
bare : the men wore a patch of skin, about the size of the
crown of one's hat, which barely served for the purposes
of decency, and a mantle exactly like that of the women.
To assist in protecting the pores of the skin from the in-
fluence of the sun by day and of the cold by night, all
smeared themselves with a mixture of fat and ochre; the
head is anointed with pounded blue mica schist mixed with
fat; and the fine particles of shining mica, falling on the
body and on strings of beads and brass rings, were con-
sidered as highly ornamental, and fit for the most fasti-
dious dandy. Now these same people come to church in
decent though poor clothing, and behave with a decorum
certainly superior to what seems to have been the case in
the time of M]*. Samuel Pepys in London Sunday is well


observed, and, even in localities where no missionary lives,
religious meetings are regularly held, and children and
adults taught to read by the more advanced of their own
fellow-countrymen; and no one is allowed to make a pro-
fession of faith by baptism unless he knows how to read
and understands the nature of the Christian religion

The Bechuana Mission has been so far successful that,
when coming from the interior, we always felt, on reaching
Kuruman, that we had returned to civilized life. But 1
would not give any one to understand by this that they
are model Christians, — we cannot claim to be model Chris-
tians ourselves, — or even in any degree superior to iho
members of our country churches. They are more stingy
and greedy than the poor at home ; but in many respect?
the two are exactly alike. On asking an intelligent chief
what he thought of them, he replied, ^' You \^hite men
have no idea of how wicked we are; we know each other
better than you : some feign belief to ingratiate themselves
with the missionaries; some profess Christianity because
they like the new system, which gives so much moro
importance to the poor, and desire that the old system
may pass away; and the rest — a pretty large number — >
profess because they are really true believers.^' Thir
testimony may be considered as very nearly correct.

There is not much prospect of this country ever pro
ducing much of the materials of commerce except wool
At present the chief articles of trade are karosses or man
ties, — the skins of which they are composed come from th<»
Desert ; next to them, ivoiy, the quantity of which cannot
now be great, inasmuch as the means of shooting elephants
is sedulously debarred entrance into the country. A few
skins and horns, and some cattle, make up tlie remainder
of the exports. English goods, sugar, tea, and coffee are
the articles received in exchange. All the natives of these
parts soon become remarkably fond of coffee. The acme
of respectability among the Bechuanas is the possession of
cattle and a wagon. It is remarkable that, though these


latter require frequent repairs^ none of the Beehuanas have
ever learned to mend them. Forges and tools have been
~at their service, and teachers willing to aid them, but,
beyond putting together a camp-stool, no effort has ever
been made to acquire a knowledge of the trades. They
observe most carefully a missionary at work until they
understand whether a tire is well welded or not, and then
pronounce upon its merits with great emphasis; but there
their ambition rests satisfied. It is the same peculiarity
amonir ourselves which leads us in other matters, such as
book-making, to attain the excellence of fault-finding
without the wit to indite a page. It was in vain I tried
to indoctrinate the Beehuanas with the idea that criticisp^
did not imply any superiority over the workman, or ©v«av-;
equality with him.




The permanence of the station called Kuruman dependa
entirely on the fine ever-flowing fountain of that name.
It comes from beneath the trap-rock, and, as it usually
issues at a temperature of 72° Fahr., it probably comes
from the old silurian schists which formed the bottom of
the great primeval valley of the continent. I could not
detect any diminution in the flow of this gushing fountain
during my residence in the country; but when Mr^ Moffat
first attempted a settlement here, thirty-five years ago, he
made a dam six or seven miles below the present one, and
led out the stream for irrigation, where not a drop of the
fountain-water ever now flows. Other parts, fourteen miles
below the Kuruman gardens, are pointed out as having


contained, within the memory of people now living,
hippopotami, and pools sufficient to drown both men and
cattle. This failure of water must be chiefly ascribed to
the general desiccation of the country, but partly also to
the amount of irrigation carried on along both banks of
the stream at the mission-station. This latter circum-
stance would have more weight were it not coincident
with the failure of fountains over a wide extent of

Without ct present entering minutely into this feature
of the climate, It may be remarked that the Kuruman dis-
trict presents ovidence of this dry southern region having
at no very distant date, been as well watered as the country
north of Lake JSTgami is now. Ancient river-beds and
water-courses abound, and the very eyes of fountains long
since dried up may be seen, in which the flow of centuries
has worn these orifices from a slit to an oval form, having
on their sides the tufa so abundantly deposited fi-om these
primitive waters; and just where the splashings, made
when the stream fell on the rock below, may be supposed
to have reached and evaporated, the same phenomenon
aDpears. Many of these failing fountains no longer flow,
because the brink over which they ran is now too high, or
b^^cause the elevation of the western side of the country
li^ts the land away from the water-supply below ; but let a
cvtting be made from a lower level than the brink, and
through it to a part below the surface of the water, and
wster flows perennially. Several of these ancient fountains
h?ve been resuscitated by the Bechuanas near Kuruman,
who occasionally show their feelings of self-esteem by
laboring for months at deep cuttings, which, having once
begun, they feel bound in honor to persevere in, though
told by a missionary that they can never force water to run
up hill.

During the period of my visit at Kuruman, Mr. Mofi'at,
who has been a missionary in Africa during upward of forty
y^ars, and is well known by his interesting work, "Scenes


t»id Tjabors in South Africa," was busily engaged in carry •_
ing through the press, with which his station is furnished,
tba Bible in the language of the Beehuanas, which is called
Sichuana. This has been a work of immense labor; and
&8 I e was the first to reduce their speech to a written form,
and has had his attention directed to the study for at least
thirty years, he may be supposed to be better adapted for
the task than any man living. Some idea of the copious-
netis of the language may be fori^aed from the fact that
even he never spends a week at his work without discover-
ing new words; the phenomenon, therefore, of any man
who, after a few months' or years' study of a native tongue,
cackles forth a torrent of vocables, may well be wondered
at, if it is meant to convey instruction. In my own case,
though I have had as much intercourse with the purest
'diom as most Englishmen, and have studied the language
carefully, yet I can never utter an important statement
without doing so very slowly, and repeating it too, lest the
foreign accent, which is distinctly perceptible in all Euro-
peans, should render the sense unintelligible. In this I
follow the example of the Bechuana orators, who, on im^'
portant matters, always speak slowly, deliberately, and
with reiteration. The capabilities of this language may
be inferred from the fact that the Pentateuch is fully ex-
pressed in Mr. MofPat's translation in fewer words than in
the Greek Septuagint, and in a very considerably smaller
number than in our own English version. The language
is, however, so simple in its construction, that its copious-
ness by no means requires the explanation that the people
have fallen from a former state of civilization and culture.
The fact of the complete translation of the Biblo at a
station seven hundred miles inland from the Cape naturally
suggests the question whether it is likely to be permanently
usefiil, and whether Christianity, as planted by modern
missions, is likely to retain its vitality without constant
supplies of foreign teaching. It would certainly be no
cause for congratulation if the Bechuana Bible seemed at



all likely to nieot the fote of Elliot's Choctaw version, a
ppocimen of which may be seen in the library of one of tht
American colleges, — as God's word in a language which no
living tongue can articulate, nor living mortal understand;
but a better destiny seems in store for this, for the Sichuana
language has been introduced into the new country beyond
'Lake Ngami. There it is the court language, and will take
a stranger anywhere through a district larger than France.
The Bechuanas, moreover, in all probability possess that
imperishability which forms so remarkable a feature in tho
entire African race.

Protestant missionaries of every denomination in South
Africa all agree in one point, that no mere profession of
Christianity is sufficient to entitle the converts to the
Christian name. They are all anxious to place the Bible
in the hands of the natives, and, with ability to read that,
there can be little doubt as to the future. We believe
Christianity to be divine, and equal to all it has to perform;
then let the good seed be widely sown, and, no matter to
what sect the converts may belong, the harvest will be
glorious. Let nothing that I have said be interpreted as
indicative of feelings inimical to any body of Christians,
for I never, as a missionary, felt myself to be either Pres-
byterian, Episcopalian, or Independent, or called upon in
any way to love one denomination less than another. My
earnest desire is, that those who really have the best in-
terests of the heathen at heart should go to them; and
assuredly, in Africa at least, self-denying labors among real
heathen will not fail to be appreciated. Christians have
never yet dealt fairly by the heathen and been disappointed.

When Sechele understood that we could no longer remain
with him at Kolobeng, he sent his children to Mr. Moffat,
at Kuruman, for instruction in all the knowledge of the
white men. Mr. Moff*at very liberally received at once an
accession of five to his family, with their attendants.

Having been detained at Kuruman about a fortnight by
tl^e breaking of k wagon-wheel, I was thus providentially

sechele's letter. ' 67

prevented from being present at the attack of the Boers
on the Bakwains, news of which was brought, about the
end of that time, by Masebele, the wife of Sechele. She
liad herself been hidden in a cleft of a rock, over which a
number of Boers were firing. Her infant began to cry,
and, terrified lest this should attract the attention of the
men, the muzzles of whose guns appeared at every discharge
over her head, she took off her armlets as playthings to quiet
the child. She brought Mr. Moffat a letter, which tells its
own tale. Nearly literally translated it was as follows : —

"Friend of my heart's love, and of all the confidence of
my heart, I am Sechele. I am undone by the Boers, who
attacked me, though I had no guilt with them. They de-
manded that I should be in their kingdom, and I refused.
They demanded that I should prevent the English and
Griquas from passing (northward). 1 replied. These are
my friends, and I can prevent no one (of them). They
came on Saturday, and I besought them not to fight on
Sunday, and they assented. They began on Monday
morning at twilight, and fired with all their might, and
burned the town with fire, and scattered us. They killed
sixty of my people, and captured women, and children,
and men. And the mother of Baleriling (a former wife of
Sechele) they also took prisoner. They took all the cattle
and all the goods of the Bak wains; and the house of Living-
stone they plundered, taking away all his goods. The
number of wagons they had was eighty -five, and a cannon;
and after they had stolen my own wagon and that of
Macabe, then the number of their wagons (counting the
cannon as one) was eighty-eight. All the goods of the
hunters (certain English gentlemen hunting and exploring
m the north) were burned in the town; and of the Boera
were killed twenty-eight. Yes, my beloved friend, now
my wife goes to see the children, and Kobus Hae will con*
vey her to you. ^'I am Sechele,

'<The son of Mochoasole.''


This statement is in exact accordance ^ith the account
given by the native teacher Mebalwe, and also that sent
by some of the Boers themselves to the public colonial
papers. The crime of cattle-stealing, of which we hear so
much near Caffreland, was never alleged against these
people; and, if a single case had occurred when I was in
the country, I must have heard of it, and would at once
say so. But the only crime imputed in the papers was
that "Sechele was getting too saucy." The demand made
for his subjection and service in preventing the English
traders passing to the north was kept out of view.

Yovy soon after Pretorius had sent the marauding-party
against Kolobeng, he was called away to the tribunal of
infinite justice. His policy is justified by the Boers gene-
rally from the instructions given to the Jewish warriors
in Deuteronomy xx. 10-14. Hence, when he died, the
obituary notice ended with "Blessed are the dead who die
in the Lord." I wish he had not ^^ forbidden us to preach
unto the Gentiles that they may be saved."

The report of this outrage on the Bakwains, coupled
with denunciations against myself for having, as it was
alleged, taught them to kill Boers, produced such a panic
in the country that I could not engage a single servant to
accompany me to the north. I have already alluded to
their mode of warfare, and in all previous Boerish forays
the killing had all been on one side; now, however, that a
tribe where an Englishman had lived had begun to shed
their blood as well, it was considered the strongest pre-
sumptive evidence against me. Loud vows of vengeance
were uttered against my head, and threats of instant pur-
euit by a large party on horseback, should I dare to go into
or beyond their country; and as these were coupled with
the declaration that the English Government had given
over the whole of the native tribes to their rule, and would
assist in their enMre subjection by preventing fire-arms
and ammunition from entering the country except for the
use of the Boers, it was not to b© wondered at that I was

sechele's intended journey. 69

detained for months at Kuruman from sheer inability to get
wagon-drivers. The English name, from being honored
and respected all over the country, had become somewhat
more than suspected ; and as the policy of depriving those
friendly tribes of the means of defence was represented
by the Boers as proof positive of the wish of the English
that they should be subjugated, the conduct of a govern-
ment which these tribes always thought the paragon
of justice and friendship was rendered totally incompre-
hensible to them; they could neither defend themselves
against their enemies, nor shoot the animals in the pro-
duce of which we wished them to trade.

At last I found three servants willing to risk a journey
to the north ; and a man of color named G-eorge Fleming,
who had generously been assisted by Mr. H. E. Rutherford,
a mercantile gentleman of Cape Town, to endeavor to
establish a trade with the Makololo, had also managed to
get a similar number; we accordingly left Kuruman on the
2trttl"af November, and proceeded on our journey. Our
servants were the worst possible specimens of those who
imbibe the vices without the virtues of Europeans; but w©
had no choice, and were glad to get away on any terms.

When we reached Motito, forty miles off, we met Sechele
on his way, as he said, *Ho the Queen of England. '^ Two
of bis own children, and their mother, a former wife, were
among the captives seized by the Boers; and, being strongly
imbued with the then very prevalent notion of England's
justice and generosity, he thought that in consequence of
the violated treaty he had a fair case to lay before her
majesty. He employed all his eloquence and powers of
persuasion to induce me to accompany him, but I excused
myself on the ground that my arrangements were already
made for exploring the north. On explaining the ditii.
culties of the way, and endeavoring to dissuade him from
the attempt, on account of the knowledge 1 jDOSsessed of
the governor's policy, he put the pointed 'question, <^ Will
the queen not listen to me, supposing 1 should reach her V*


I replied, "I believe she would listen, but the difficulty is
to get to her." ^'Well, I shall reach her," expressed his
final determination. Others explained the difficulties more
fully, but nothing could shake his resolution. When he
reached Bloemfontein he found the English army just re-
turning from a battle with the Basutos, in which both
parties claimed the victory, and both were glad that a
second engagement was not tried. Our officers invited
Sechele to dine with them, heard his story, and collected
a handsome sum of money to enable him to pursue his
journey to England. The commander refrained from no-
ticing him, as a single word in favor of the restoration of
the children of Sechele would have been a virtual confes-
sion of the failure of his own policy at the very outset.
Sechele proceeded as far as the Cape; but, his resources
being there expended, he was obliged to return to his own
country, one thousand miles distant, without accomplishing
the object of his journey.

On his return he adopted a mode of punishment which
he had seen in the colony, namely, making criminals work
on the public roads. And he has since, I am informed,
made himself the missionary to his own people. He is tall,
rather corpulent, and has more of the negro feature than
common, but has large eyes. He is very dark, and his peo-
ple swear by " Black Sechele." He has great intelligence,
reads well, and is a fluent speaker. Great numbers of the
tribes formerly living under the Boers have taken refuge
under his sway, and he is now greater in power than he
was before the attack on Kolobeng.

Having parted with Sechele, we skirted along the Kala-
hari Desert, and sometimes within its borders, giving the
Boers a wide berth. A larger fall of rain than usual had
occurred in 1852, and that was the completion ©f a cycle

Online LibraryDavid LivingstoneLivingstone's travels and researches in South Africa : including a sketch of sixteen years' residence in the interior of Africa, and a journey from the Cape of Good Hope to Loanda on the west coast, thence across the continent, down the river Zambesi to the eastern ocean → online text (page 6 of 36)