James Cappon.

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one time the subject of fierce disputes in the Colony,
the memory of which still lives amongst the Trans-
vaal Boers, and injthe somewhat vindictive representa-
tion which is given of his work in Dr. Theal's History
of South Africa. If Dr. Theal's histories were deficient
in nothing else, they would still be grossly deficient
in this, that they almost ignore the part the mission-
ary has played in the development of South Africa,
except occasionally to depreciate it. At times, indeed,
he gives a bare enumeration of mission stations, or
casually notes the territory of some Kaffir tribe as a
field of missionary labours, but there is no attempt at
any general appreciation of the missionary's work and
influence in South Africa. Yet it may be said with
truth that in no other part of the modern world has
the missionary had so great a share in moulding the
destinies of half a continent, and determining the
character of its civilisation.

The British missionary, in particular, who was the
agent of powerful societies at home, and whose
periodical letters and reports were published in
magazines possessing a wide circulation in religious
and philanthropic circles, had much to do with the
formation of public opinion in Great Britain in regard
to the affairs of Cape Colony. He was the " special
correspondent " of that period, the explorer, war-
critic, economic observer and reporter of " atrocities "


at a time when such reporting had not yet become
part of ordinary journaHstic enterprise ; and his
influence was all the greater that the vote of the
religious or evangelical section of the middle classes,
whom he chiefly represented, was then a more potent
factor in politics than it is now. It is not too much
to say that the policy which has made South Africa
outside of the Transvaal what it is to-day, which
gave the Hottentot and the Kaffir a fair chance in
the country of their birth alongside of the white
man, whether as a free citizen of Cape Colony, or as
a member of a protected native state, was largely the
work of the British missionary.

During the earlier period of British rule, till about
1820, two great missionary societies, the Moravian
Brethren and the London Missionary Society, had
the field almost to themselves. The difference be-
tween the two societies in their work and methods
was marked in this early period, and seems to have
led the German traveller, Lichtenstein, and Dr.
Theal following him, into somewhat unfair compari-
sons. The Moravians, till 1818, had only two great
stations in the colony, one at Genadenthal and the
other at Groenekloof. Both were comparatively near
Capetown, the latter only forty miles north, and were
composed partly of the better class of half-breeds,
who had been all their lives in contact with civilisa-
tion, and who found ready employment and perfect


security for their property in those peaceful districts.
The number of resident missionaries at the Moravian
stations was unusually large, six, for example, at
Genadenthal and four at Groenekloof ; the whole with
wives and families must rather have resembled the
staff of a small college than a missionary outpost.
But this contributed much to the order and discipline
as well as to the material comfort of the settlement.
Except in seasons of blight, therefore, both the
Moravian settlements usually exhibited a high degree
of prosperity. The Moravian Brethren themselves
were plain, sensible men, " sound enough in the
faith," reports one deputation, " but perhaps without
that heightened enthusiasm which urged men like
Read and Moffat to carry the Gospel into the
wilderness amongst remote and savage tribes.
Gleaning carefully amongst the missionary maga-
zines we can see that there were some zealous
persons who thought the spiritual tone of the
Moravian settlements slightly defective ; exposition
of doctrine, and even prayer, too infrequent, singing
of hymns being used instead at openings and clos-
ings ; it was even reported by severe critics, perhaps
of Scotch nationality, that the Sabbath was not
regarded as more sacred than any other day amongst
them. Solid, realistic Teutons, the Moravian Brethren
evidently were, and not likely to spend their time
like St. Francis, in preaching to the fishes, but most


estimable in their practical methods, and with some-
thing of the scientific German in their discipline
and precise regulations. Most of them were plain
mechanics brought up to a trade. The material
prosperity, in general, of their settlements was ad-
mitted on all hands." " As to externals," one
deputation significantly reports, " there is every
prospect of prosperity." (See Missionary Register
for the years 1818, 1820, 1830.) Being a foreign
mission and without any strong connections in Eng-
land, the Moravian Society had no political influ-
ence;^ indeed, till 1818, it had no station near
enough the frontier to bring it into contact with the
peculiar problems of that region.

The spirit of the London Missionary Society ^ was
as exalted and venturous as that of the United
Brethren was cautious and realistic. Its first
missionaries, Mr. Kicherer and Dr. Vanderkemp, on
their arrival in 1799, selected the most distant and
wildest parts of the frontier as the field of their
labours, and in 1818, before the Wesleyans had yet
established their great line of mission stations in
Kaffirland, and while the Moravians had only just

^ It had, however, an auxiliary London branch, and drew
about two-thirds of its funds from Great Britain. See Mis-
sionary Register-^ 1822, p. 203.

2 Established in 1795 as "The Missionary Society," but
known, after the rise of other societies, as " The London Mis-
sionary Society," a name which it formally adopted in 1818.


ventured on a new station in Uitenhage, the London
Society, besides its seven stations within the Colony,
had already six stations amongst the tribes beyond
its boundaries, one of them at Africaner's Kraal under
the celebrated Robert Moffat, then young and un-
known ; another as far north as Lattakoo, near
Kuruman, under Robert Hamilton. In its zeal to add
new fields to those already under cultivation, the
London Society never kept more than two white
missionaries at most at a station, and on one occasion,
when circumstances had detained some of the
brethren at the Bethelsdorp mission, Mr. Read,
Pringle's " fervent Read," who was in charge there,
wrote of it as a calamity. " We are now seven
together ; which is painful, considering the thousands
of heathen who want help."

This distinction of character between the two
societies was evidently not unknown to Missionary
Directors and Evangelical editors at home, but their
view of it was very different from Dr. Theal's. The
Church Magazines of these days occasionally distin-
guish, I observe, between what they call " missionary
talent " and something for which their esteem is even
higher, " missionary gifts and graces," the " missionary
soul," sometimes they call it. And though neither of
the two Societies certainly was wanting in either
direction, yet it is evident, at this early period at
least, each was superior in its own line. The London


Society missionaries were especially active in ex-
tending the sphere of missionary work. Their motto
was the verse of Zechariah, often found heading some
missionary exhortation in the reHgious magazines :
" Who art thou, O great mountain, before Zerub-
babel ? Thou shalt become a plain."

They seem to have resolved to carry the word of
the Lord to all the heathen races in South Africa,
not only those within the Colony, but also those living
beyond its borders, the slaves of Capetown, the
Hottentots of Graaff-Reinet, the Namaquas, the Wild
Bushmen of the Zak River and the Garieep, the
Corannas and Griquas on the Orange River, the
Bechuanas of the far North, as it was then, and the
wild tribes of Kaffirland. Amongst every one of
these a missionary of the London Society was to be
found, toiling in the midst of the native settlement
he had formed around him, teaching them to plant
gardens and live in some decency, as well as to sing
hymns and hear " the great word," as they called it.

There were weak brethren, of course, even amongst
those pioneer missionaries, men whose heart failed
them when they looked on the bold eyes of a Kaffir
chief or a Griqua captain ; there were cautious
gentlemen amongst them too, who instead of setting
up their tent in the wilderness, accepted snug state
livings, and passed the rest of their lives in candid
criticism of their bolder brethren's zeal on behalf of


the natives ; there was even a Seidenfaden amongst
them. But in general this early race of missionaries
were most fearlessly devoted to their work, and had
a sublime faith in it, quite apart from its merely
economic results, which was characteristic of that

From their numerous connections at home the
London Society's missionaries were particularly suc-
cessful in exciting the interest of religious circles
there in the South African missions. Mr. Kicherer,
who had gone to the northern frontier of the Colony
at the Zak River, and been fairly successful amongst
the half-breed Hottentots, and to a less extent also
amongst the Bushmen there, brought three of his
converts over with him to London in 1803. The
Hottentots, John, Mary, and Martha, appeared at
Surrey Chapel and other places, were catechized by
the Rev. Rowland Hill before the whole congregation,
with certainly very satisfactory results,^ and sang their
Dutch hymns, which seem so marvellously fitted in
language and verse alike for the utterance of a
simple people :

't Geloof bemint Him, en beschowt

Zijn mart'ling, dood en pijn ;
De zaak wordt ons nooit oud noch koud,

Tot dat wij bij Him zijn.

^ Rev. Rowland Hill (rather subtlely) : What quantity of
good works is sufficient to merit Heaven ?
Hottentot Mary (not falling into the snare) : By nature we


Naturally the African converts excited much
interest in religious circles. " Africa's tawny race
singing the praises of our common Lord," remarks
the great Evangelical Magazine, and gives a finished
engraving, probably by Bartalozzi, of Mr. Kicherer
and his three Hottentots as a frontispiece in the
volume of 1804.

There was a good deal of the Heidelberg and
Shorter Catechisms in it all, but the main fact is
clear that these poor creatures had arrived at the idea
that the world was not to be altogether the spoil of
the unscrupulous oppressor and the adept liar, as they
once must have thought it was, but that the people
of Surrey Chapel meant to make it different, and
being themselves of a weak and oppressed race they
were sincerely grateful.

It is no doubt true that, turn these poor Hottentots
into a second generation of free and unoppressed
Cape-boys, and they are not at all so likely to show
the same Christian humility and profound gratitude
to the preacher and the missionary, or to know as
much about doctrine as did John and Martha from
the Zak River, but rather to be very much taken up
with their own success in the world and their marvel-
lous dexterity in driving an ox-team. What the

can do no good work ; and when we by Spirit do good work,
then we no think to merit Heaven thereby .... but through
merit of Christ.


Rev. Rowland Hill called " the fear of God " seems
to be more connected in the history of peoples with
their epochs of national struggle and anxiety, than
with their times of opulence and security. There is
a Nietzschian Ascent of Man in these things which is
seen in nations that are as high in the scale of
civilisation as the Hottentots are low. Look at the
New Americanism which is emerging quick-brained
and ignorant of the past into the golden freedom of
ward-politics and the publicity oi Life and some New
York journals. Its fathers were Washington and
Abraham Lincoln, Emerson and Longfellow, but it
does not seem as if it knew any longer how to respect
them. To it Emerson's George Minot is no better
than a " Hayseed," and Emerson himself writes no
English it can understand. It was only the other
day that Life was informing its readers that Long-
fellow, Emerson, Hawthorne, and that coterie were
no better than the rest of us, and that " they took
themselves seriously," and managed to impose on the
public accordingly ; and many of the magazine articles
written by literary personages are hinting the same
thing now-a-days in a more roundabout manner. —
No better than the rest of us, with our hastily formed
judgments, our moral cowardice before the Boss and
the back streets, and our pens at the service of any-
thing that will pay us !

Life is certainly one of the cleverest schools of


caricature in the world, but its knowledge of history

is of the kind you get in the Chatauqua series and

the encyclopaedias, and it is just a little afraid of the

back-streets of Cracow and New York, perhaps a

little mixed up with them. I am expecting every

day to hear from it that Washington and Emerson

were very " un-American," Krapiilinski and Wasch-

lapski will be delighted at the news, and fall into

each other's arms, and conclude that a universal era

of Bologna sausages and one wash a year is near at


.... zwei edle Polen,
Polen aus der Polackei.

Mr. Kicherer did not speak enthusiastically of the
Dutch farmers in the Zak River district, or of the
encouragement they give him. They were " indifferent
or inimical " {Evang. Mag., vol. 9, page 289), and it is
related that Martha's mistress beat and ill treated her
because she wished to obtain religious instruction.
" Religion," she said, " was not for Hottentots." At
this time, indeed, the Dutch farmers generally looked
on attempts to convert or teach Hottentots with
contempt, and the abject condition of that race, every
sentiment of delicacy or self-respect crushed out of
them by masters who regarded them as little better
than mere animals, might have seemed to justify the
Dutch Boer's opinion.

But the leading spirit and the most prominent men


amongst the London Society's missionaries of this
early period was Dr. Vanderkemp. His work in
particular gave a character to the London Missionary
Society as the special defender of the rights of the
natives in South Africa, which it never afterwards
lost. Vanderkemp was a man of extensive learning,
and had had a varied experience of life. He was a
Dutchman by birth,^ and had studied medicine at
Leyden. Later on, after having spent some years
in the army, where he became Captain of Horse, he
completed his medical studies at Edinburgh, where
he wrote his Paimenides, a Latin treatise on cos-
mology. Returning to Holland he practised as a
physician for ten years, till the death of his wife and
child at the same moment by drowning, gave a new
turn to his mind and his studies. Up to that time
he had been a pupil of Bayle and the great French
Encyclopaedists, regarding Christianity as " inconsist-
ent with the dictates of reason," but now he retired
from his practice as a physician, and being a man of
means, gave himself to Oriental and Biblical studies.
He was busy with a commentary on St. Paul's Epistle
to the Romans, when he happened to read one of
the London Missionary Society's sermons, and felt
called to devote himself to the redemption of the

^ The London Missionary Society was in the habit of sending
out its missionaries in South Africa in couples, choosing one
Dutch and one English.



heathen.' It was a curious but not unnatural revul-
sion from the high barren exegesis of Bayle and
Volney, which indeed was getting out of date now that
Herder and Schiller, not to speak of Chateaubriand,
had arisen with a better knowledge of the past and
its meaning. But Dr. Thcal suggests his mind must
have been affected. Vanderkemp offered his services
to the London Society, by whom they were readily
accepted, and in 1798 he sailed for the Cape of Good
Hope, giving up, as Robert Moffat says, "a life of
earthly honours and ease to encounter the perils of
a pioneer missionary amongst savage tribes."

The first field he tried was in Kafifirland, where
he and his partner, Mr. Edmonds, found a wel-
come from Gaika, the great Kaffir chief, then
settled at the head waters of the Tyumie. This
shrewd and profoundly politic barbarian, as one
missionary describes him, was quick to perceive the
political advantages of a resident missionary, and
gave orders that Vanderkemp and his partner
should be accommodated as well as possible at his
kraal. But the very superiority of the Kaffir, proud
of his race and his traditions and with a strong tribal
system of laws and usages, made him more difficult
to convert than the weaker and more susceptible
Hottentot. Vanderkemp reports that he had no

^ See account of his life in Evangelical Magazine^ vol. ii.
pp. 349 and 396.


success amongst them generally. Only of Gaika
himself he had some hope; "it appears to me the
Lord pleads with him," he wrote to the brethren at

But the Doctor was not altogether without hearers
or converts. It was at Gaika's kraal that the re-
bellious Boers who had fled from the Colony after
Van Jaarsveld's rebellion were living, Piet Prinsloo
Jan Botha, Frans Kruger, Bezuidenhout, Buys, and
others. Dr. Vanderkemp does not speak in high
terms of their piety, rather otherwise indeed, but some
of them, especially Piet Prinsloo, occasionally
attended his religious services. Once, Dr. Vander-
kemp, having spoken from John iii, verses 1-16, Piet
Prinsloo seemed much affected and spoke himself, the
Doctor says, " as it seemed, out of a broken heart.
He confessed that he had suspected us to be spies,
and represented us as such to Gaika and thereby
endangered our lives ; but denied that he had been
concerned in the scheme of murdering us directly "
{Evangelical Magazine, vol. 9, page 488). " Not
directly," Piet declares, much affected by the words of
the teacher come from God. Frans Kruger and
Bezuidenhout with their families also came occasion-
ally to worship, not more than indirectly concerned
either, one would hope, in that murderous project. It
is a strange but quite historical type of Christianity.
Vanderkemp's real congregation, however, consisted

M 2


of a few Hottentot women and children who were in
the service of the refugees. Thirty years after, one of
these Hottentot women, who had always preserved a
grateful memory of Dr. Vanderkemp, came to visit
Stephen Kay on the establishment of the Wesleyan
Mission at Butterworth, and gave him a curious
account of the Christen Mensche, the Boers, that is,
and their unchristian ways at Gaika's kraal, (See
Kay's Travels and Researches in Kaffraria, page 280.)
When matters grew hot between the Cape Colony
and the Zuurveld Kaffirs, and the raid took place
which I have already mentioned, Gaika's warriors
became restless and their attitude at times threatening
to the white men at the kraal. Gaika's authority,
however, proved sufficient to protect them. Only
Jan Botha attempting, against Gaika's advice, to
return to the Colony was slain by Ndlambe's men.
The following account of it from Vanderkemp's
journal will give the reader an idea of what life at the
kraals was in times of excitement and suspicion.

Feb. 12, 1800. This day John Botha, being determined to
return to the colony with his family, proposed this to Gaika, who
was very reluctant to grant him his request ; afterwards, how-
ever, he gave him leave to go, and gave him a Caffre to conduct
him safe through the country. He departed this very day with
his wife, the wife and child of Francis Kruger (who was absent
himself on shooting elephants), and Hans Knoetse.

Feb. 13. Some Caffres, sent out by Ndlambe, overtook J.
Botha and ordered him to return with his waggons to Gaika ;
upon which he returned. When they came to Gaika's old


kraal, where we first met with him, they ordered John Botha to
stop there that night, and to unyoke the oxen, which he
accordingly did ; a Cafifre then desired him to lend him his
knife ; and when he had given it some Caffres started up from
behind the bushes and threw their assegais at him : the first
pierced his side, and was drawn out by his wife, who supported
him in her arms ; the second he pulled out himself, and Mrs.
Botha continued the rest, which the Cafifres ran through his
body till he sunk down and expired ; the waggon was plundered
and burnt, and his cattle brought to Gaika, who disapproved
the fact, and said he had only advertised Ndlambe of Botha's
going out of the country, and left it to his choice to let him go,
or bring him back ; Hans Knoetse had made his escape, being
previously warned by the Cafifres that they were going to kill
somebody, and that he therefore should take care for himself

That was the end of poor Jan Botha, one of the
leaders in the Graaff-Reinet conspiracy of 1799, with
his foolish Kaffir intrigues and "renewal of the old pa-
triotism." Gaika appreciated the advantage of half-
a-dozen good musket shots in his kraal, but neither
Kaffir nor Boer ever really trusted each other.

Finding the Kaffirs an unprofitable field. Dr.
Vanderkemp returned to the Colony, settling for a
time at Graaff-Reinet with Mr. Read and Mr.
Vanderlingen, who had come out to assist him. The
Graaff-Reineters asked him to be their parson, but he
thought his duty as a missionary required him to
devote himself to the natives. He therefore selected
as his special field the Hottentots in that district,
while Brother Read laboured " with visible blessing "
amongst the English soldiers there, and Vanderlingen


among the Dutch. " Commissioner Maynier," he
writes, " favours our labours, and shows us every
poHteness. He has opened to us the pubh'c church
for the use of the Hottentots." This last, it seems,
was a great grievance to the Boers. Ultimately,
however. Dr. Vanderkemp settled with Mr. Read at
Bethelsdorp, near Algoa Bay, in May 1803, where he
collected under his care some hundreds of Hottentots.
The Colony had just then passed once more under
Dutch rule, and he complains bitterly of the great
opposition he met with from the Boers of Graaff-
Reinet, " nominal Christians " he calls them and " most
barbarous inhabitants." They hated, he says, the
extension of Christianity to natives, ill-treated his
Hottentot assistants, and clamoured for the suppres-
sion of the mission. But the philanthropic Janssens,
as he calls the Dutch Governor, supported him. Dr.
Theal gives a very unfavourable and almost ludicrous
account of the Bethelsdorp mission on the occasion of
the Dutch Commissioner's visit to it shortly after its
establishment. Mr. De Mist and his party, he says,
" found no indication of industry of any kind, no
garden — though it was then the planting season —
nothing but a number of wretched huts on a bare
plain, with people lying about in filth and ignorance."
Dr. Theal knows of course that not much could be
expected of savages from the frontier who had only
recently been brought together, and to whom every-


thing that belongs to civilisation was yet new and
strange, but he suggests that the unfavourable
impression De Mist received must have been caused
by " the absence of any effort to induce the Hottentots
to adopt industrious habits, and the profession of
principles that tended to degrade one race without
raising the other. The missionaries themselves were
living in the same manner as the Hottentots and
were so much occupied with teaching religious truths
that they entirely neglected temporal matters."
(^History, chap. xxx. p. 90).

Dr. Theal even suggests that Dr. Vanderkemp's
mind might have been unhinged by a previous
domestic bereavement, partly because in pursuance
of his theory of being a companion as well as teacher
to his pupils he had discarded some articles of
European apparel, and went about without hat, or
necktie, or socks, in a remote and savage district.

Dr. Theal's representation of Vanderkemp is based

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Online LibraryJames CapponBritain's title in South Africa, or, The story of Cape colony to the days of the great trek → online text (page 10 of 21)