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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He told me that both his father and himself had been for
many years at war with this people. From the time that he
could use a gun he went upon commandos : but he could now
see, he owned, that no good was ever done by this course of
vindictive retaliation. They still continued their depredations
.... and he was constantly in danger of losing his cattle and
of being murdered by them .... he had, for a few years past,
tried what might be done by cultivating peace with them. . . .
This plan was to keep a flock of goats to supply the Bushman
with food in seasons of great want, and occasionally to give
them other little presents : by which means he not only kept on
friendly terms with them, but they became very serviceable in
taking care of his flocks in dry seasons. He said, that on such
occasions, when there was no pasturage on his own farm, he was
accustomed to give his cattle entirely into the hands of the chief
of a tribe who lived near him, and after a certain period they


never failed to be brought back in so improved a condition that
he scarcely knew them to be his own.'

Both Thompson and PhiHp who went through the
old Bushman country in 1823 and 1825 speak of the
general disappearance of their kraals. No doubt the
extinction of the race was partly brought about by
their being driven from their fountains and the
more habitable parts of the country to mere desert
wastes or mountain fastnesses where penury and
suffering must have put an end to the existence of
many. In some districts also they were exposed to
the attacks of Griquas and Kaffirs, and they them-
selves, by their savage resolution to slaughter their
children rather than leave them to be captives of the
Boers, helped in the extermination of their race.
Some remnants of them seem to have found refuge
in the then unknown solitudes of the Kalahari desert,
and wandering couples of them, puny, yellow-faced
and wizened, and steatopygous as ever, were occa-
sionally met with by the Canadian soldiers who went
to the relief of Mafeking.

The question of the Eastern frontier was a much
more difficult one to settle. There the colonists were
confronted by the Kosa-Kaffir tribes, a warlike race,
well organised under their hereditary chiefs, and

^ See Melville's letter in Thompson, vol. i. p. 404 ; also Nel's
arrangements with the Bushman chief in his neighbourhood,
vol. i. p. 394 ; also Pringle's Narrative^ p. 238.


numbering, according to Ikownlcc's estimate, about
1 30,000.

The Kaffir is a term sometimes used to include all
the Bantu tribes living along the east coast of Africa,
from the Kosas to the Zulus and Swazis, though at
that time it was generally applied by the colonists
only to the neighbouring tribes of the Kosas and
Tembus, or Tambookies, as they are styled in the
old books. The Kaffirs were a very fine specimen of
a savage race, tall, well-made, muscular figures, every
motion full of grace, the countenance alert and cheer-
ful, with features often of a high Asiatic type, and
seldom marked by the thick protruding lips or
flattened nose of the negro. The men are trained for
war, hunting and the care of cattle, while the women
cultivate the ground, planting the millet, maize,
pumpkins, &c. The Western Kaffir, unless excited
by what he considered an outrage, was neither a
bloodthirsty nor an aggressive neighbour to the white
man. In the old days the Boers of the Sneeuwberg,
who were the best class of vee-boer, gave the Kaffirs
an excellent character in reply to the inquiries of
Dr, Vanderkemp, then on his way to his first mission
in Kaffirland,^ and the Amakosa chiefs, at least, even
when quarrelling among themselves, did not exhibit
anything of that ferocious temper which distinguished
the sanguinary rulers of the Zulus. Their chiefs and
1 Evangelical Magazine, vol. 8, p. 74,


councillors were often men of uncommon capacity
and elevated mind, but as a nation their religious
instinct took unclean forms of witchcraft and
orgiastic tribal rites, under cover of which blood was
often shed. Not unfrequently, after being tutored
and made converts of by the missionaries, they would
steal away under some old Dionysiac impulse to the
nocturnal dance and orgy, and the chief, even when
he encouraged and protected the missionary,
generally took care to set the latter's hut at a
distance from " the great house," which he himself
inhabited. The variety of features and colour
amongst them seem to indicate a certain mixture of
race, perhaps something of the Arab at one end and
a dash of the equatorial negro at the other.

They were acute judges of the character of white
men, and knew the difference at once between a
Vanderkemp and a Williams, good as both were in
their way. Some of the missionaries were very plain
men, of little education, and less able indeed to take
a philosophical survey of the Kaffir and his ways than
the Kaffir was of them and theirs, a fact which the
reader of missionary accounts must occasionally
allow for. One of these worthy men, who was
visiting Ndlambe's dwelling, finding no chair to use,
sat down on a large pumpkin which was lying near,
meant, no doubt, for Ndlambe's dinner, and found to
his surprise that his action was " regarded as a great


breach of good manners " by the whole assembly.
" For," said one of them, " we eat the ipuzi, and not
sit upon it." The Kaffir had high notions of his own
about etiquette, even if he could not control himself
at the sight of beads and brass buttons.

But in the eyes of the colonists the most important
point about the Kaffir was that he was a " riever," as
the Scots used to say, as inveterate a cattle-lifter as
any Donald Bean Lean of the Highland hills. How
much of this was natural propensity and how much
was a spirit of revenge on the part of tribes like the
Imidange for the wrongs they had suffered, it is
impossible now to say. Even the missionaries take
little or no notice, only Vanderkemp once, of the
local hates and specific vengeances on the Border.
At any rate Thompson quotes James Pringle of
Glen Lynden to the effect that the exposed Scotch
settlement there found both the Boers and Kaffirs
very decent neighbours, and had hardly lost a hoof
from the latter. I am inclined to think that the
mischief in ordinary times came, in a great measure,
from a long-drawn series of raids, reprisals and
counter-reprisals, the true history of which was
known only to the frontier Boer and the Kaffir them-
selves. Pringle's pen-portrait of the Kaffir riever is
probably a fair representation of his history :

Lo ! where he crouches by the cleugh's dark side,
Eyeing the farmer's lowing herds afar


Impatient watching till the Evening Star
Lead forth the Twilight dim, that he may glide
Like panther to the prey. With freeborn pride
He scorns the herdsman, nor regards the scar
Of recent wound — but burnishes for war
His assegai and targe of buffalo-hide.
He is a Robber ? — True ; it is a strife
Between the black-skinned bandit and the white.
A Savage ? — Yes ; though loth to aim at life,
Evil for evil fierce he doth requite.
A Heathen ? — Teach him, then, thy better creed.
Christian ! if thou deserv'st that name indeed.

The system of reprisals which had been adopted
as a defence against the depredations of the Kaffirs
was certainly a rude one. When cattle were stolen
from a farmer, he went out, accompanied
by the nearest military patrol, on the spoor or
track of the animals, and after following it to the
first native kraal where it led, demanded restoration
or took compensation. Sometimes, the patrol being
distant, an armed party of Boers did the work for
themselves. This was quite right according to Kaffir
ideas, and would not, on ordinary occasions, give rise
to trouble ; but sometimes, of course, it led to
disputes, and when, for other reasons, the feelings of
the Kaffirs had been excited and war was in the
wind, a refusal to give compensation for stolen cattle
and a scuffle with the patrol, were usually the opening
incidents of an outbreak. When the depredations of
the Kaffirs had been great or numerous the local



authorities would obtain permission to call out a large
commando of burghers and make reprisals. It may
have been hard to distinguish sometimes, but it seems
certain that inoffensive kraals were occasionally
attacked and their inhabitants shot down during such
expeditions.^ Under such a system there would
certainly be abuses, and it was difficult to decide who
was the original wrong-doer. In earlier times the
Boer might have had some advantage in this warfare
when the use of the commando was under less strict
regulations, and Pringle, who was on the spot, is clear
that he was still the aggressor in the years 1 820-1 825.^
On the other hand, some years later, when the Kaffirs
had been thoroughly irritated by the loss of their
lands, there is the testimony of Mr. Boyce, the
Wesleyan missionary, Mr. Davies, the Baptist mis-
sionary, and Mr. Bonatz, the Moravian missionary,^
to show that, in the matter of raiding, the Kaffir had
become the gainer and generally the assailant.

In these later years the condition of the frontier
Boers had improved greatly, both in a moral and
economic sense. The British immigration had made
the eastern districts populous and civilised. Graaff-

1 See Pringle, Narrative^ p. 312, and particularly p. 353.

2 Idem. p. 311. See also the Reports of the Commissioners of
Inquiry^ quoted by Pringle, in Parliamentary Papers for 1827,
Nos. 282, 300, 371, 444, and No. 584, for 1830.

^ See Boyce's Notes ott South Africa, Appendix, and Miss.
Reg. January, 1837.


Reinet village, which, in the days of Barrow, con-
sisted of a few miserable mud huts, was now a
flourishing town according to the South African
standard, containing 300 neatly built houses, many of
them elegant, says Thompson, with well laid out
streets, and an excellently constructed canal, mainly
the work of Landdrost Stockenstrom, a man respected
and beloved by all classes, says the same authority.

There were still plenty of wild Jan Bezuidenhouts
amongst them, and rascals like Erasmus of Bruintjes
Hoogte and his associates, who plundered travellers
unscrupulously, as Captain Harris relates.^ But it was
no longer quite the same country that Barrow had seen
and described, and there were pious and humane men
amongst them who looked with favour even on the
Bethelsdorp mission for Hottentots. The average
type was probably like Pringle's acquaintances at the
Kat River, Lucas Van Vuur and the Mullers, a big,
shrewd, easy-going Boer, of primitive manners,
roughly honest, but not too scrupulous in his dealings
with natives, and somewhat indolent except in the
pursuit of wild game. They had grown opulent, too,
in many cases, and there was no longer anything in
the Kaffir kraals to recoup them for the loss of a
valuable breed of cattle or horses.

^ Harris, Expedition into South Africa^ p. 18.

U 2


Expulsion of Makoma from the Kat River — The Hottentot
Settlement there — Further Expulsion of Makoma from the
Tyumie — The Kaffir War of 1834- 1835 — Sir Benjamin
D'Urban's Policy of Annexation — Lord Glenelg's Policy of
Withdrawal — Attitude of the Wesleyan Missionaries — The
Great Trek Begins.

Besides the question of reprisals and the laws to
be used in following the spoor, there was also the
question of a frontier line to be considered. The
re-occupation of the old Neutral Territory by the
new settlements of the Boers at the Koonap, and the
British immigrants in the coast district on the one
side, and by Makoma at the Kat River, and the
Gunukwebes and other Kaffirs farther south, had
brought both sides again into close contact. In the
south matters went on peaceably enough between the
British settlers and the Gunukwebes, the latter and
their chief, Pato, being under the influence of Mr.
Shaw, the Wesleyan missionary ; but farther north,
where Makoma's kraals lay opposite the Boer settle-
ments at the Koonap, there was the usual crop of


disputes and depredations. There is the usual
obscurity as to who were the real aggressors. Pringle,
who lived right on the spot in these years (1820-1825),
regards the whole affair as a deep-laid combination
between Lord Charles and the Boers to goad Makoma
into reprisals and then oust him from the territory
he occupied, and he supports his view by references
to Sir Rufane Donkin's pamphlet and the Commis-
sioners' Reports in the Parliamentary Papers for 1827
(See Narrative, p. 310). But Pringle and Donkin
were both bitter opponents of Lord Charles, and not
very prone to look for a reasonable side in his policy.
On the other hand Dr. Theal does not even suggest
that there may be any other side to the matter than
that of unprovoked Kaffir depredations, and gives
us a brief general statement on his own authority
without the least reference to evidence, records or
other opinions.^

The general situation was evidently the old one.
Lord Charles was doing his best for the white
colonists, and especially for the Boers, on the broad
general ground of the superior claims of the civilised
race, and their need of expansion, but he was en-
deavouring to do it with the minimum of violence

1 Hist, of South Africa, chap. xxxv. p. 351. Dr. Theal
takes no notice of these events (raid on Makoma in 1823,
Massey's commando in 1824, &c.) when treating of Lord
Somerset's administration, only in his account of Sir Lowry
Cole, some chapters farther on.


and bloodshed possible in the circumstances. There
was very little indeed of the latter ; and his action
was to some extent justified by the necessity of a
secure frontier.

It must be kept in mind, of course, that Makoma
and the other Kaffir chiefs now held their lands in
the Ceded Territory on sufferance : but that territory
had been ceded in order to form a neutral belt of
land between the two races, and they not unnaturally
thought they had a good moral right to reoccupy
their side of it, at least, when the colonists began to
occupy the other. But it was a poor tenure for the
native to hold his ground on against the white race.
In 1829, Makoma had a quarrel with a vagrant band
of Tembus who had settled near him, and drove
them over the frontier into the Tarka district. The
Governor, then Sir Lowry Cole, took this occasion
of expelling Makoma and his people from the Kat
River, forcing them to retire to the Tyumie, farther

And now the Colonial Government carried into
effect a project which Philip, Pringle and other
philanthropists had advocated for some years, that
of planting a settlement of free Hottentots on lands
of their own, as some compensation to that down-
trodden and dispossessed race. The land which
Makoma had vacated at the Kat River was accord-
ingly granted to a community of Hottentots, a


number of whom came from the Bethelsdorp and
TheopoHs stations of the London Missionary Society.
The settlement ultimately numbered over SPOO) ^^^
turned out very successful/ although Dr. Theal puts
some very debatable and conjectural matter against
its loyalty even into his Index.

According to Mr. Boyce and the Wesleyan mission-
aries, who, being mostly stationed in Kaffirland, were
in the best position to know, it was this expulsion of
Makoma from the Kat River valley which was the
real cause of the Kaffir war which broke out in 1834.
The origin of that war is usually attributed to a
quarrel over a patrol in quest of stolen cattle, but it
is quite clear that the Kaffirs did not regard the
barbarous system of reprisals, even if occasionally
abused, as a great grievance ; it was quite natural to
them and in conformity with their own usages. But
they had grown very sensitive on the subject of the
occupation of their land, and their constant dread
was that the Government should yield to the frontier
Boer's demand for expansion at the expense of his
heathen neighbour. Pringle in his African Sketches
has a poem which represents the feeling of the
Hottentot settlement at the Kat River in his time,
that some day the Kosa-Kaffir would make an
attempt to regain his former territory there. The

1 For a description of the locations, see Missionary Register,
1834, p. 24 and p. 310.


verses are supposed to be uttered by a Hottentot
widow, crooning to her baby :

To Kosa from Luheri higli

Looks clown upon our dwelling :
And shakes his vengeful assegai —

Unto his clansmen telling
How he, for us, by grievous wrong,

Hath lost those fertile valleys ;
And boasts that now his hand is strong

To pay the debt of malice :
But sleep, my child ; a mightier arm
Shall shield thee (helpless one !) from harm.

Stephen Kay, the Wesleyan missionary, also de-
scribes the excitennent at Hintsa's kraals east of the
Kei River, when they heard of the expulsion of
Makoma. " Amakosinia is dead," they said, " it is
high time to kill every man and every Hottentot in
it, Hintza's men, and Gaika's men, and Ndlambe's
men are all one ! " ^

But the fact is that the Wesleyan missionaries felt
very strongly on the expulsion of Makoma from the
Kat River and the consequent ruin of their mission
station there, and did not quite, like Pringle, consider
it atoned for by the substitution of a Hottentot settle-
ment with a London Society missionary in charge.
They resented somewhat also Dr. Philip's parleyings
with Kaffir chiefs, and his appearance along with
Read in Kaffirland, which they considered as their
1 Travels and Researches, p. 306.


peculiar sphere of influence. Mr. Boyce, particularly,
is a little heated on the subject and writes : " This
interference of Dr. Philip was not warranted by any
extensive missionary connection with that country."
The fact is that the authority and influence which
Philip now possessed had induced the Governor to
make use of him as an informal intermediary at least
with the Kafiir chiefs.

Still for five years after the expulsion of Makoma
from the Kat River no disturbance took place, and
during that time the various mission stations in
Kaffirland and on the frontier, the Moravian brother
Halter at Shiloh, Shaw and the Wesleyans at Wesley-
ville and Mount Coke, the London Society men,
Brownlee and Kayser at the Buffalo River, report
nothing but prosperity and peaceful prospects. As
Shaw afterwards explained, though they had fre-
quently heard threats, they thought it only the idle
boastings of the young warriors. At any rate the
fact remains that it was not till a new act of
aggression had been committed by the Colonial
Government that the Kosa-Kaffirs took up arms
against the Colony.

In 1833 Lieut.-Colonel Wade, who was Acting-
Governor of the Colony for a few months till the
arrival of Sir Benjamin D'Urban, ordered Makoma
and his people to retire across the Tyumie. The head
waters of the Tyumie had been his father Gaika's


favourite residence, and was specially exempted from
the cession of territory made by Gaika in 1819.
Colonel Napier somewhere in his Exairsions in South
Africa eloquently describes the blue Tyumie hills
with the rich masses of foliage in the valley and the
river winding like a silver thread between, a kind of
scenery which the Kaffir, who is allowed to have an
eye for that sort of thing, loved to look upon.

Colonel Wade's act did not pass unchallenged by
the Radical party at Capetown. Mr. Fairbairn, in
the South Africmi Advertise)^ declaimed indignantly
against it as a measure designed to satisfy " the
covetousness of some individuals by new grants of
land " ; and in the same paper a letter dictated by
Makoma himself appeared in which the chief made
a strong protest against the treatment he was receiv-
ing. I do not propose to guarantee the correctness
of all his statements, but perhaps it is only fair to
hear the Kaffir chief's version as well as Dr. Theal's.

As I and my people have been driven back over the Chumie
River without being informed why, I should be glad to know
from the Government what evil we have done ? I was only told
that we must retire over the Chumie, but for what reason I was
not informed. Both Stockenstrom and Somerset agreed that I
and my people should live west of the Chumie, as well as east
of it, without being disturbed. When shall I and my people
be able to get rest ?

When my father was living he reigned over the whole land
from the Fish River to the Kei ; but since the day he refused to
help the Boors against the English, he has lost more than the


one half of his country by them. My father was always the best
friend of the English Government, although he was a loser
by them.

My poor people feel much the loss not only of their grazing
ground (without which we cannot live), but also of our corn
land. . . .

I have lived peaceably with my people west of the Chumie
River. . . . When any of my people stole from the colonists, I
have returned what was stolen. I have even returned the cattle
which the people of other kraals have stolen. Yet both I and
my brother Tyali have almost no more country for our cattle to
live in. I am also much dissatisfied with the false charges
sometimes spoken against me. I do not know why so many
commandos come into this country and take away our cattle
and kill our people without sufficient reason.'

Whether Makoma was quite as immaculate as he
says, and how far he may have suffered for depreda-
tions which he could not control, it is not easy to
decide ; but what is certain is that these events,
these successive expulsions, particularly the last one,
were the real causes of the Kaffir war of 1834 — 1835.
It is unfortunate for the ordinary reader that Dr. Theal
separates his account of these events entirely from his
account of that war in Chap, xxxvii. of his history,
in which the origin of that great outburst of the Kosas
appears to be a theft of four horses from a Koonap
farmer and a scuffle with a military patrol.

In 1828 the old chief Gaika had died, a politic old

^ See Pringle, Narrative^ p. 336. The reader can compare
Dr. Theal's version of these events, Chap, xxxvi., pp.
402, 403.


barbarian, of whom Vanderkcmp once "had hopes."
Stephen Kay, who is a most useful man for the de-
scription of Kaffir superstitions, and had, in fact, a
peculiar turn for describing these " dark abomina-
tions " of the heathen, gives a weird account of the
last days of Gaika. As he drew near his end, the
superstitions of his fathers grew strong on him, and
he rose from his mat and danced wildly before his
wizards and soothsayers in the hope of scaring away
the demon of death, and one of his sons under
similar influences, for the death of a great chief is a
soul-stirring event amongst the Kaffirs, sacrificed a
wife of his father's, who was supposed to be using
evil enchantments against the old king. " So
precarious," remarks Kay, " is the tenure of life
where Paganism is predominant." Yet there were
such things as the execution of the twenty Salem
witches in godly New England under Cotton Mather.
Gaika's dusky Kaffir conscience is almost un-
analysable to the European, but he had evidently
come to the conclusion that the British Government,
with all its vacillations and mistakes, was the best
friend the native races had, and he died recom-
mending ■ his sons with his last breath " to
hold fast the word of peace with the English."
Makoma had perhaps tried to follow his father's
advice, Pringle and Fairbairn evidently think so, and,
I must say, his quiet submission to expulsions and


demands for compensation during these five years
looks as if it were so ; but he was much irritated by
his expulsion from the west bank of the Tyumie,
which every Kaffir considered as beyond question
Makoma's own country as far at least as the Gaga.
He was now the most powerful chief on the Border,
and could hardly submit to such an indignity without
lowering his reputation in the eyes of his country-
men. He, therefore, resolved on war, and most of the

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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 18 of 21)