James Cappon.

Britain's title in South Africa, or, The story of Cape colony to the days of the great trek online

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XII BRITAIN'S TITLE IN SOUTH AFRICA 235

ground that they were best accustomed to border
warfare. More than a hundred Boer famihes at once
passed over the old frontier and took up the land
" unto the Koonap." The Radical opposition and
the " friends of humanity," however, protested, and
Earl Bathurst was obliged to write Lord Charles
Somerset, disapproving of his action as at least an
undesirable extension of slavery. The Boers, there-
fore, who had not actually set up house there, were
recalled ; the rest of them, about fifty families, were
allowed to remain, on condition of not employing
slave labour. But the important question on the
eastern frontier was not that of slave labour, but
of raids, reprisals, and territorial rights, and with
the Boers at the Koonap, and Makoma at the Kat,
some twelve or fifteen miles intervening, the prospects
of tranquillity on the frontier were not very bright.

Lord Somerset's proceedings in this and other
matters had aroused a strong feeling against him in
certain circles at home. Henry Brougham, that
friend of humanity, especially when oppressed by
Tories, had actually undertaken to impeach him,
and Earl Bathurst in 1826 was obliged to recall him
" to give explanations." A change of ministry took
place soon after the arrival of Lord Charles, which
induced him to send in his resignation, and the pro-
posed impeachment, by general consent, fell to the
ground. His twelve years' rule had been on the whole



236 15RITAIN'S TITLE IN SOUTH AFRICA Xll

a stron[^, consistent and intelligent administration.
He had had three great ends in view, all of which
he pursued with vigour and success. The first was
the establishment of the British supremacy on a
solid basis of laws, institutions, and education ; the
second was the satisfaction of the economical needs
of the Boers on the northern and the eastern frontier
as regards both land and cheap native service ; and
the third was the industrial development of the
Colony. With regard to that other great question
which confronted every Governor at the Cape, the
condition of the slaves and native races, his policy
went little farther than securing them as far as he
could from personal violence, and protecting them
in the enjoyment of rights, which are those of serfs.
He could not get over the fact that anything more,
anything in the direction of improving their legal
status, seemed at that time incompatible with the
economical needs, and with the universal sentiment
of a community which depended on cheap native
labour. In this respect the policy of the British
Governors had been the same throughout since Lord
Caledon's Proclamation of 1809. Any protective
legislation which really differed from that in its
principle or aims came from another source alto-
gether, from the influence, namely, which the great
philanthropic and missionary societies had now begun
to exercise on the Government at home.



XIII

The Philanthropic Societies in Great Britain — The Heroic Age
of Evangehcal Work and Literature — Protective Legisla-
tion for the Slaves — The Dutch Evangelical Circle at the
Cape — Dr. John Philip and his Researches in South Africa
— The Emancipation of the Hottentot Race — An Old-time
Speech at Surrey Chapel.

The great missionary and philanthropic societies
in England constituted the real moving force behind
all the ameliorative legislation on behalf of the slaves
and native races in South Africa. With the com-
mencement of the nineteenth century there was an
extraordinary growth of missionary enterprise and
humanitarian enthusiasm in Great Britain. Before
that, most of the great work in this field had been
done by Catholicism, by Jesuit Fathers and the Con-
gregation De P ropaganda Fide in the Indies, in Brazil
and Canada. But in the first quarter of the century
England became alive with societies, various in their
denomination and fieM of work, but all of a philan-
thropic and evangelical character, and most of them
specially bent on the extension of Christianity to the



238 BRITAIN'S TITLE IN SOUTH AFRICA xiii

heathen and of the benefits which should accompany
it. The Protestant Missionary stations seemed to
cover the earth with a rush. The great Parisian
paper of those days, the Delmts, was moved to take
special notice of this new Protestant activity, and was
inclined to look somewhat suspiciously on it, divining
it to be a subtle political movement of the perfide
Albion. Protestant Germany, Denmark, and especially
Holland, had their share in the work, but they were
neither wealthy enough, nor sufficiently united to
produce that almost national current of enthusiasm
which flowed over the British Isles from London to
Aberdeen and Ulster. Nor were they perhaps, as
Pastor Stracke, corresponding member in East Fries-
land, frankly confesses to the Directors of the London
Missionary Society, quite so exalted in their devotion
to the cause.^

The backbone of the movement lay in the Non-
conformist clergy and the evangelical section of the
Church of England, but it was strongly supported

1 " They (' the German brethren ') confess before the Lord,
with unfeigned tears, that they are not so devoted to Him with

their whole heart as they perceive you, dear brethren, are

And, finally, to many persons in Germany, new (missionary)
institutions seemed to be superfluous, or at least that they were
precluded by the incomparable institution of the Moravian
Brethren, and that at Halle, which may and ought to be con-
sidered as the parent of all similar societies which have arisen
in the course of the past century." — Pastor Stracke in the
ATissionary Magazine, 1801, p. 211.



XIII BRITAIN'S TITLE IN SOUTH AFRICA 239

by many eminent men and politicians of that time
like Sir James Mackintosh, Wilberforce, Henry
Brougham, Fowell-Buxton, Hon. Charles Grant,
Spring Rice, and others. Not a little, indeed, of the
moral and intellectual energy of the British people
was taking this road in these days. That line, or
Pusey and Newman's, with a corresponding interest
in Apostolical Succession and Orders, seems to have
been the alternative for the actively religious. I do
not know that in every case the philanthropic zeal
displayed was quite disinterested. The movement was
a powerful one which drew men of all kinds into it,
ambitious orators and politicians as well as devout
evangelicals. But to many of them, men like William
Wilberforce and Zachary Macaulay, the work of the
African Institution, or the British mid Foreign Bible
Society, or the London Missionary Society, or the
Baptist Missionary Society, or the Church Missionary
Society, or the Wesleyan, Glasgozu, EdinburgJi and
Ulster Societies, was as the breath of life and the
best part of their religion.

The ordinary anniversary meetings of the larger
societies were more like a great political gathering of
our time than anything else, in their numbers and
enthusiasm. The reader may imagine the scene at
Freemason's, or Exeter Hall, or Surrey Chapel, or
Tottenham Court Road on these occasions. Anything
from two to four thousand people present, mostly of



240 BRITAIN'S TITLE IN SOUTH AFRICA xill

strict evangelical type ; on the platform eminent
divines without number, the Rev. Rowland Hill of the
Church of England, the Rev. Jabez Bunting of the
Wesleyans, the Rev. John Eyre of Hackney, the Rev.
Ralph Ward law of Gla.sgow, and the Rev. Ebenezer
Brown of Inverkeithing, with others not less well
known in their day ; for laymen Wilberforce, Fowell-
Buxton, Zachary Macaulay, Mr. Nisbet, the cele-
brated bookseller of Berners Street, Mr. Whitmore
of the Bank of England ; also Parliamentary hands
like Sir Thomas Dyke Acland, Spring Rice and the
Hon. Charles Grant (afterwards as Lord Glenelg and
Colonial Secretary wielding a decisive influence at a
critical juncture in South African affairs) ; not un-
frequently also Henry Brougham with his impetuous
oratory, poor enough to read now, but of singular
effect at the time ; and Lord Calthorpe or Lord
Gambler in the chair. The composition- of the meet-
ing varied a little according as it was the African
Institution or the London Missionary Society, but
nearly all I have mentioned were likely to be present
at both. They were not only a formidable body of
men in themselves, but they had nearly the whole of
the evangelical and nonconformist middle-classes at
their back, with votes not as yet swamped by Mr.
Gladstone's franchise.

Amongst these institutions the London Missionary
Society, as one of the largest and least denominational



xiii BRITAIN'S TITLE IN SOUTH AFRICA 241

in its character/ played an important part in col-
lecting and distributing information, particularly-
regarding South Africa, and in furnishing a strong
centre for the expression of opinion in evangelical
circles.

The powerful evangelical literature of that time
also, with Cowper at its head, helped not a little to
fan the flame of missionary zeal. Wilberforce's
Practical View of the Religion of Professed Christians
and Clarkson's pamphlets sold by the thousands, as a
popular novel does now. Much of the religious and
a good deal even of the popular poetry of the day,
from Hannah More and Montgomery to the verses
of Serena, Leonora, and Alzira in the evangelical
magazines, turned its harp for the cause of missions
and of the oppressed negro, though I think Heber
bore away the bell with his famous From Greenland's
Icy Mountains'^ the Dissenting Muse, somehow, rarely
being of first-rate quality.

After the suppression of the Ocean Slave-Trade in
1807, the attention of the Societies, as far as political
work was concerned, was chiefly directed to the
improvement of the condition of the slave population
in the British Colonies. Their influence is marked by

1 It had a special support from the Independent Church, but
for many years, at least, it was a general Protestant Society and
had clergymen of all denominations amongst its members.

- Contributed to the Evangelical Magazine in 1822.

R



242 BRITAIN'S TITLE IN SOUTH AFRICA xill

a succession of protective enactments in South Africa
which regulated ever more strictly the master's con-
trol of his slaves. In 1816 a register of slaves and
of slave births was opened in each district for the
inspection of the landdrost. No more Dirks to be
carried out in the night-time and no questions asked ;
no more black things to be baked in ovens by angry
Boer matrons ! The grandfather of Olive Schreiner's
tale must have been very indignant. But that was
only the beginning. In 1823 a new series of enact-
ments appeared ; no slave to do labour except of
necessity on the Sabbath day ; slave husband and
wife not to be sold apart, nor children under ten to be
separated from them ; slaves might acquire property
of their own by any honest means ; they should
not labour in the field more than ten hours a day in
winter and twelve in summer, except in ploughing or
harvesting, when they should receive payment for the
extra hours ; in towns and villages slave children
should be sent to school at least three days in each
week ; not more than twenty-five cuts with a rod
should be inflicted on a slave, and punishment should
not be repeated within twenty-four hours. In 1826
assistant " protectors " of slaves were appointed in
the country districts to see that the regulations
were properly carried out. It was all very proper,
of course, and as much needed in the interests
of the masters themselves as of the slaves ; some



XIII BRITAIN'S TITLE IN SOUTH AFRICA 243

consciousness of that, one can see, was growing
amongst Dutch farmers of the better sort. But if in
the most civiHsed and settled communities of our
time philanthropic legislation of this kind, the
enactments regarding seamen's food and accommo-
dation on board ship, for example, has generally been
received at first with much shaking of heads and
mutterings about the encouragement given to a
class already hard enough to keep in order, you can
imagine what masters of the Bezuidenhout type
would feel. Even the better class of them might be
irritated, as Dr. Theal says they were, at having to
give as a right what they formerly accorded as a
grace and got gratitude for.

It must not be forgotten, however, that there was
also a Dutch evangelical circle at the Cape, and even
a certain number of the Boers who were in sympathy
with the aims of the missionaries, and gave them
all the assistance they could. Dr. Vanderkemp on
his arrival at Capetown had found a small band
of " serious people," Vanderpoels, Vandersandes,
Heysses, and, most prominent amongst them, pious
women like Mrs. Smit, and widow Moller, who lent
their houses for slave meetings, and formed them-
selves into a South African Society, to which the
wealthy Mrs. Moller contributed 15,000 guilders, to
help the London missionaries in their labours. In
1 80 1 they numbered over two hundred, and were

R 2



244 BRITAIN'S TITLE IN SOUTH AFRICA xill

giving instruction in an unofficial sort of way to
nineteen hundred heatlicn in Capetown, Stellenbosch,
Paarl, and the neighbouring districts. But they were
a small and uninHuential party even amongst their
own countrymen. Dr. Theal hardly notices them,
and they were never able to stir the Dutch Reformed
Church into any official action. The Rev. Mr. Vos,
of Roodezand, was the only active labourer, says
Read, in the mission field.^ In 1817, when the Rev.
Mr. Thom, who was then a missionary of the London
Society, applied for leave to build a mission chapel
for slaves at Capetown, the Governor (Lord Charles
Somerset) referred his application to the Dutch
Reformed Church. That body accordingly met to
consider the subject, but broke up without coming
to an agreement.'^ In the same magazine Mr. Bakker,
the London Society's missionary at Stellenbosch,
complains that he is not allowed to baptize the
coloured converts, or administer the Sacrament to
them. But in spite of official lethargy on the part
of the Dutch Reformed Church, owing to the pre-
judices of the majority of its adherents, there was
always a number of Good Samaritans amongst the
Dutch, although their associations for missionary

^ The best account of the Dutch Evangelical circles and their
work is in the Missionary Magazifte for 1801, pp. 84, 165, 213,
258, 298.

^ Missionary Register^ 18 18, p. 274.



XIII BRITAIN'S TITLE IN SOUTH AFRICA 245

work had generally to fall back on the ever-ready
London Society for support.^

In England the tide of philanthropy was rising
steadily, and its force at this time was materially in-
creased by a man whose name is now scarcely known,
except to students of South African history. Dr. John
Philip, once minister of the Independent Church at
Aberdeen, had come out to the Cape in 18 19 as
superintendent of the London Missionary Society's
work in that quarter. He was a Scotchman, the
son of a Kirkcaldy weaver, but had been well edu-
cated at the Hoxton Academy in Shoreditch, then a
celebrated seminary for Nonconformist clergymen.
He was a man of indefatigable energy, eloquent in
speech, and with an unquenchable enthusiasm and
belief in his mission which feared nothing. The
idea which inspired Philip's work was the establish-
ment of legal equality as far as possible between the
white and the coloured races. He held that it was
impossible to educate or civilise the native races
effectually, as long as they were kept under legal
disabilities which degraded them and left them to
a great extent at the mercy of Boer magistrates.
On this point his views were those of the mis-
sionaries generally, but his superior ability and
energy in advocating them gave the work of the
London Missionary Society special political import-
See Missionary Register^ 1833, p. 15.



246 BRITAIN'S TITLE IN SOUTH AFRICA xiii

ance. There were of course differences of opinion
amongst them, and there was in particular a differ-
ence between their attitude and that of the pastors
of the State Church, even where the latter were
British, generally Scotch, by birth. Dr. George
Thom, for example, whose sphere of work lay in
the civilised region of Caledon and Capetown, under
the very eye of the Governor, admitted that some
of the Dutch farmers might occasionally be cruel to
their slaves and Hottentots, while missionaries like
Stephen Kay and James Read, whose experience had
been in the Eastern provinces amongst the frontier
Boers, spoke more decisively on the subject. In 1822
Dr Thom wrote to the editors of the Missionary
Register^ as if he saw nothing in the status of the
Hottentots which required improvement. " They
are not held in subjection," he writes. " They are
a free people ; but must be in some employment,
or possess land, or hire themselves to others." The
Doctor does not add the fourth alternative, to be
locked up in the jail and treated as vagabonds, which
after all sounds like a considerable limitation on a
" free people." When the Doctor says, further, that
" they cannot be punished, as a slave ; nor ill-used,
such as by beating," &c., he may be representing
their condition quite fairly as he sees it at Caledon,
fifty miles from Capetown ; but he evidently knows
1 See January number.



XIII BRITAIN'S TITLE IN SOUTH AFRICA 247

little of what goes on in distant Uitenhage and
Graaff-Reinet. How should he, 600 miles away,
in a country where communication was casual and
infrequent ?

It was Dr. Philip, the Las Casas of South Africa,
Pringle calls him, who first brought the condition
of the Hottentot, as distinguished from that of the
slave, clearly before his countrymen at home. In
1826 he visited Great Britain, and showed his usual
energy in interviewing influential M.P.'s and heads of
departments, and in making speeches at the meetings
of the various philanthropic societies throughout the
country, from the African Institution to the Sunder-
land School Union.

While in England Dr. Philip also published a work,
Researches in South Africa, which is the most com-
plete statement of the missionary's case in that region
ever made public. Dr. Philip's book goes over a
great deal of ground, and includes some historical
and debateable matter, as well as the facts which
came within his own experience as the superintendent
of the London Missionary Society in South Africa.
In the historical controversial part of his book he
presents his case, just as Dr. Theal does his, without
any real attempt to appreciate the needs, or diffi-
culties, or justifications of the other side. But then
we must remember he is not properly a historian or
economist, calmly weighing both sides, but a mis-



248 HRITAIX'S TITLE IN SOUTH AFRICA xill

sionary, advocatinj^ the cause of the black race. The
Researches in South Africa, however, is of consider-
able value, as embodying the extensive experience
of the author regarding missionary methods, special
accounts of particular missions, casual glances and
observations at native manners and customs, inter-
views with well-known persons of that time, doings
and sayings of Hottentot Captain Boezak or Bush-
man chief Uithalder, and a mass of similar informa-
tion, all chosen no doubt to represent and illustrate
the plaintiff's case mainly, but none the less valuable
to the true historian, and quite reliable where the
writer gives his own experience. Dr. Philip, too, has
the good habit of quoting directly the original records,
the journals and letters of other missionaries, on
which his views are based. But his book is of par-
ticular value, as showing the actual working, in the
eastern districts at least, of the legislation of 1809 ^"d
181 2 regarding Hottentots. The Appendix alone,
with the official correspondence of Bethelsdorp and
Theopolis, will show the reader, by means of authen-
tic documents, a side of this subject which Dr. Theal
passes over in silence.^

In a book, however, which is practically filled with
cases of injustice to the Hottentots drawn from

' Dr. Theal says of Dr. Philip's book, " For historical pur-
poses its only value is the exposition of the views of its author
with regard to the colonists and coloured races.'



XIII BRITAIN'S TITLE IN SOUTH AFRICA 249

various sources, sometimes from his own observation,
sometimes from documentary evidence or the reports
of friends, it is not easy to escape a single doubtful
or mistaken case. Amongst the many cases
Dr. Philip gives there was at least one implicating
Mr. Mackay, the landdrost of Somerset, in which he
seems to have been mistaken. It looks a curious
affair as it stands in Theal's page (chap, xxxv.,
p. 348) without any hint of the details, a curious
affair for a devout and sincere man to figure in. But
we must bear in mind that this case was no simple
tale of inhumanity in the use of the sjambok, but a
rather complicated question of the law of contract,^
and that it was explicitly stated in Philip's book as
given not on his own authority, but that of an
" intelligent and respectable friend." The friend was
Thomas Pringle (who accepted full responsibility for
the statements), and no sane man will ever believe
that the author of African Sketches was guilty of
deliberate slander. Mr. Mackay, who had been a
favourite with Lord Charles Somerset, sued Dr. Philip
for libel and was granted damages to the extent of
i^200, the judges, English, and of the new indepen-
dent class, declaring the account to be a " false and
malicious libel." But at that time the feeling both of
official circles in Capetown and of the farms was very
strong against Philip, Pringle and the Radical party
1 See the case in Philip, vol. i. p. 185.



250 I'.RrrAIN'S TITLE KM SOUTH AFRICA xili

as they called it, (generally — the emancipation of the
Hottentots from the pass and apprenticeship laws had
just been effected. The Directors of the London
Missionary Society after considering the case held
that Dr. Philip "had been tried in the midst of local
prejudice and without benefit of jury," and declared
their " undisturbed and perfect confidence " in him.

But I must get back to my account of the work
the missionary societies were doing at home. In
1826, the year Dr. Philip went to England, the
evangelical magazines report a decided increase of
public interest in missionary work, and from that
time onwards to 1833, the date of the emancipation
of the slaves, the tide was rising to its flood. In
some denominations almost every congregation of
importance in the country had its auxiliary branch
working in connection with the headquarters in
London, or Glasgow, or Edinburgh, and since 1823
the famous Anti-Slavery Society had been added to
the list of Metropolitan institutions. Dr. Philip's
book also, his speeches at missionary meetings and
his personal contact with Fowell-Buxton and other
leaders of evangelical circles, had evidently a consider-
able influence on the course of events. In July 1828,
some months after the pMblication of the Researches,
Fowell-Buxton, supported by Brougham, Mackintosh,
and others, gave notice in the House of Commons of
a motion to extend full legal rights to the Hottentot



XIII BRITAIN'S TITLE IN SOUTH AFRICA 251

race at the Cape by abolishini:^ the pass and appren-
ticeship laws. But before the day of debate came,
the Colonial Secretary, who did not have, in this case,
the great West Indian and shipping interests to
contend with, gave way without a discussion, and
promised that an Order in Council should be issued
in accordance with the demands of the reformers.
By a curious coincidence, almost at the same time as
Fowell-Buxton was bringing his motion before the
House, the Colonial Government (Acting-Governor
General Bourke) issued the Fiftieth Ordinance
(17th July, 1828), which gave the Hottentots the
same legal rights as the colonists. General Bourke
was a very humane man, and we need not therefore
suspect him of stealing the clothes of the reformers,
but evidently the two years' work of Philip in
England had made the measure a necessity.

There was much jubilation amongst the " saints
and philanthropists, " as they were called, over this
victory. At the next anniversary of the London
Missionary Society the eloquent Fowell-Buxton, after
referring in complimentary terms to " the able and
interesting work of my reverend friend. Dr. Philip,"
congratulated his hearers on the progress the cause
was making in South Africa :

No longer than a year ago, the natives of British Africa were
creatures without rights, without freedom, without hope —
creatures who crouched before their lords, who presided over


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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 15 of 21)