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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minor chiefs, Tyali, Botumane, Eno, and others, who
considered they had similar wrongs to avenge, joined
him. Many also of the men of Hintsa, the paramount
chief of the Amakosas, and some even of the
Gunukwebes, though the mass of them with their
chiefs stood aloof, took part in Makoma's rising.

The immediate occasion of the war was some
shooting on the part of a military patrol and the
seizing of a chiefs cattle, but the tribes were now
ready and the night following signal fires all over the
country told that the Amakosas were rising. Teh
days afterwards, on 21st December, 1834, some ten or
twelve thousand warriors invaded the Colony, burn-
ing the farm-houses and driving off the cattle as far
west as Uitenhage. Considering its vast dimensions,
however, the raid was not so destructive to life as
might have been expected. Twenty-two farmers,
Dutch and English, were murdered, but women and
children were allowed to go untouched, and even


protected. Of the numerous traders in Kaffirland,
ten were slain ; but tlie missionaries all found
protection amongst various chiefs, or were allowed to
escape to the Colony. The distant missions amongst
the Amatembu and Amapondo tribes were un-
molested.^ 15ut the raid brought much loss and
misery to the colonists. In Grahamstown alone there
were nearly 2,000 destitute refugees.

The issue of the war, of course, was never doubt-
ful. A strong force took the field, ultimately under
the command of the Governor himself, Sir Benjamin
D'Urban. It was a difficult and costly campaign, the
Kaffirs declining to fight on open ground and retiring
to strongholds in the bush from which it was not easy
to dislodge them. But ultimately, after the death of
Chief Hintsa, who was slain under somewhat doubtful
circumstances, his son Kreli and, some months later,
the other chiefs submitted.

And now for a moment it seemed as if the ever-
lasting problem of a Border policy was to be solved.
Sir Benjamin announced a new and bold policy of
annexation. The eastern boundary of the Colony was
to be extended to the Kei River, and the Kosa tribes
on this side of it were to be brought under the British
law, such of them at any rate as would peaceably
acknowledge British authority ; their chiefs were to
be controlled by resident agents and were to be kept
1 See Missionary Register, 1836, p. 66.


in order by numerous military forts which Sir
Benjamin built and garrisoned at different points in
the district. A considerable portion of the new
territory, consisting of the old land ceded by Gaika
and a tract between the Buffalo and Nahoon Rivers,
was to be distributed at once amongst the colonists.
It was a bold policy, with some difficulties ahead of
it, but it was a very popular policy with the colonists.
" Never since the days of Father Tulbagh," says Dr.
Theal, "had a South African Governor been as
popular as Sir Benjamin D'Urban."

But however agreeable the policy of expansion was
to the frontier farmers, there were men of influence in
South African affairs who thought it was not a just
one or likely to have good results, enforced as it must
necessarily be by armed intimidation, and including,
as it did, the occupation of lands the Kaffirs had
long considered as their own. That energetic man.
Dr. John Philip, threw himself into the cause of the
Kaffir as he had done into that of the Hottentot, and
along with Fairbairn, of the Capetown Commercial
Advertiser, headed a small but influential party who
opposed Sir Benjamin's policy from this point of view.
Dr. Philip, with his indomitable energy, took the very
best course to ensure attention to his views from
the Home Government. He went over to England
taking with him two petty chiefs, one of whom,
Jan Tshatshu, had been educated at the Bethelsdorp


mission, and had laboured as a missionary assistant
for many years at his father's kraal near the Buffalo
River.^ The other was a very intelligent Gona
Hottentot. With these interesting specimens of
the native he went on a tour through England,
attracting, of course, crowds of people and exciting
great enthusiasm. It seems to have been very dif-
ferent from Kicherer's exhibition of his poor, modest
half-breed Hottentots, singing hymns and undergoing
catechism in the doctrines. The Kaffir chief has
great dignity of bearing and a capacity for appreciat-
ing the sentiments and ideas of a civilised race. It
was easy to impress the British public with the in-
justice of treating such men as intractable savages
and beyond the pale of law. Tshatshu and Andries
got evening coats made for them, sat gravely through
solemn dinners at the houses of presidents and
patronesses of the Philanthropic Societies and were
the lions of a season. More serious still, they were
called upon to give evidence before a committee of
the House of Commons then considering the question
of natives in the British colonies.

I have no doubt Dr. Theal is right in thinking
that the appearance made by the chiefs had a con-
siderable effect on the Government, but mainly
because the spirit of the time and the mind of
Lord Glenelg, formerly the Hon. Charles Grant, then
1 His father had refused to join Makoma in the recent war.


secretary for the colonies and a prominent philan-
thropist, were already strongly set in favour of a non-
expansive policy and full recognition of native rights.
Lord Glenelg therefore decided for a reversal of Sir
Benjamin D'Urban's policy. He complained to Sir
Benjamin that the original cause of the Kaffir raid
had not been made sufficiently clear to him. (No
clearer, probably, than it stands to this day in Dr.
Theal's pages.) He spoke of the systematic injustice
of which the Kaffirs had been the victims, and de-
clared that a conquest resulting from a war in which,
as far as he could judge, justice was on the side of
the conquered, must be renounced. The colonists
must be recalled to the boundary of the Keiskama .and
Tyumie Rivers, as fixed by Lord Charles Somerset
in 1819. Treaties were to be made with the Kaffir
chiefs and they alone were to be applied to for re-
storation of stolen cattle. Retaliatory raids were to
cease, and the law of following the spoor was placed
under the strictest limitations.

The principles of Christian charity and humanity on
which Lord Glenelg based his policy, were not incon-
sistent with considerations of a more political though
still large and liberal character. The annexation of
Kaffirland this side the Kei to the Cape Colo7iy at that
time meant the immediate partition of parts of it
amongst the colonists, and the prospect, as it seemed
to Dr. Philip and his party, of further and perhaps



complete partition. Such a policy was certain to
make the Kaffir hopeless and desperate, to impoverish
him and drive him back on the territories already oc-
cupied by other Kaffir tribes further east, and bring
about exterminatint^ wars both with the colonists and
amongst themselves. That meant ruin to those fair
visions which the evangelical and philanthropic circles
of that time cherished of the Kaffir, disciplined and
educated, taking his place amongst the redeemed of
the nations.

But while Lord Glenelg's policy was meant to give
the Kaffir a chance, the prospect of a future, it failed
to make any provision for the Boer's desire and need
of expansion. On this point one of the ablest of
the Wesleyan missionaries, Mr. Boyce, gave a very
clear exposition of the situation in a pamphlet. Notes
on Sotith Africa, which he published in 1839. On the
question of the Border policy indeed the Wesleyan
missionaries generally, like those of the Glasgow
Society, have been represented by Dr. Theal as com-
plete supporters of Sir Benjamin D'Urban and
entirely opposed in their opinions to Dr. Philip and
the missionaries of the London Society. This was
not exactly the case, although it is true that the
attitude of the Wesleyan missionaries was pecu-
liar and not very well understood at the time,
especially by the Societies at home. Their chief
mission stations lay outside the bounds of the


colony in Kaffirland, some even amongst the Kaffirs
living beyond the Kei, and they knew of course
that these stations would be much more secure
and prosperous under British jurisdiction than
when dependent on the precarious grace of a
savage chief They even found it difficult to retain
the services of their best converts at their stations,
as these, as soon as they realised the superiority
of British justice and the security it gave them,
were in the habit of crossing into the Colony in order
to be, as they said, onder de wei, under the law.
Hence Mr. Boyce, and some at least of the Wesleyan
missionaries, were in favour of a limited measure of
annexation, on condition, however, that there should
be no dispossession of the Kaffirs by the settlement
of colonists on their territory.^

The attitude of the Wesleyan missionaries was
appreciated by none of the parties at that time. As
apparently favouring annexation it was an offence to
the evangelical party and their own friends at home ;
it led to a misunderstanding with Sir Benjamin

1 Dr. Theal states roundly {History of South Africa, vol. iv.,
p. 34) that the Wesleyan missionaries " supported the Govern-
ment and the colonists " in their policy. The whole body of
them, however, in a formal document, dated 13th May, 1837,
denied that, and explained that their approbation of Sir Ben-
jamin D'Urban's policy only applied to the justice of the war he
had made on the Kaffirs and not to his scheme of annexation.
See Boyce, Notes on South Africa, Appendix.

X 2


D' Urban ; and to the frontier Boer it meant nothing
practical. It was to clear up this ambiguous position
that Mr. Boyce wrote his able review of South
African affairs at this time, in which he pointed out
clearly the real character of the problem the Govern-
ment had to deal with. The trekking habits of the
Boer, he stated, arising " in part from the influence
of natural causes," made territorial expansion inevit-
able, and this expansion if conducted by private
individuals, free from all legal control, was sure to
prove injurious to the native tribes, to the trekkers
themselves, and to the Colony. In his opinion,
therefore, the Government had the alternative either
of interfering now and preventing evils which must
arise from this uncontrolled migration into the
interior, or of interfering eventually under the most
unfavourable circumstances, after all the mischief
possible has been effected. His idea was to regulate
the settlement of the trekking Boers in such a way
that only the unoccupied lands of the interior (the
extent and situation of which he is at pains to
describe) would be taken up without injury to the
natives. He concluded his review with a powerful
appeal to the British Government to recognise and
accept at once the responsibilities which must
eventually devolve upon it.

Duties of a complex nature (he writes), differing considerably
from the ordinary routine of official life, are the result of our


position on a vast continent, with powerful and barbarous
nations in our vicinity. We are to them and to their future
interests, a power mighty for good or for evil, for their conser-
vation or for their destruction. Were we now merely con-
templating a scheme of colonisation in a new country, con-
scientious and timid men might be expected to shrink from the
undertaking, the benefits of which were encumbered with so
tremendous a responsibility. But in South Africa we are
already committed. We cannot recede. Our power will
advance, and that within a few years, as far as the tropics.
It rests in part upon our present measures whether this power
in its triumphant march, exercise a malign and withering
influence, or whether it shall dispense in its train the blessings
of Christianity and civilisation, which are for the healing of the
nations. To adopt the powerful language of Doctor Philip
as just as it is eloquent, in reference to this very subject, " An
able Governor of the Cape might in twelve years influence the
continent of Africa as far as the tropic : influence it for good,
make every tribe to know its limits, to be content with its own,
to respect its neighbours, and to drink with eagerness from the
fountains of our religion, civil policy and science. The mission-
aries have already done enough to prove that all this is not
only possible, but easy."

Mr. Boyce's magnanimous conception of an
Imperialist policy in South Africa was too much for
any British Government of that day, which had to
face the formidable criticism of the rising Manchester
School of politics. It has only been slowly, and driven
by force of circumstances that the British Govern-
ment and people have come to understand the respon-
sibilities they assumed along with that valuable naval
station at the Cape. The gran rifiuto or withdrawal
of Lord Glenelg was not to be the last in the history


of liritish rule in South Africa, l^ut even if the
policy of Lord Glenelg had been a sound one in
itself, the time was unpropitious for carrying it into
effect. The Kaffirs had been guilty of a murderous raid
on the Colony, and the sudden change from a punitive
policy to one of withdrawal and concessions was sure
to be misunderstood by them and regarded as a proof
of weakness. The very first year of the new policy,
1837, was distinguished by a decided increase in the
amount of cattle stolen by Kaffirs from the farmers
and on account of the stringency of the new laws
regarding reprisals and the mode of following the
spoor, a smaller percentage of these could be
recaptured. The situation was undoubtedly a difficult
one, requiring some patience on the part of the
British and Dutch colonists who dwelt near the
frontier, and perhaps more self-restraint and subdual
of old Boer and Kaffir habits than could be expected
all at once, or for many a day yet, on the Border.
Lord Glenelg's policy of recognising the complete
independence of the Kaffir tribes and making treaties
with them, did not turn out very successful even as
regards the pacification of the Kaffirs themselves, and
eventually, ten years afterwards, it was abandoned
under the administration of Sir Harry Smith, who
advanced the eastern boundary of the Colony to the
Keiskama and the Tyumie Rivers, but made the
territory east of that a Kaffir reserve under the


British crown and the control of a British com-
missioner, leaving to the chiefs, however, the govern-
ment of their tribes in all the ordinary affairs of

Lord Glenelg's policy, then, must be written down
as unsuccessful, at least as far as its immediate
purpose was concerned. Nevertheless, however
much historians like Dr. Theal may sneer at the
idea, I believe that its evident and undeniable desire
to do justice to the Kaffir and give him the chance
of a future must, in the end, have counted for
something in making British rule of the native states
a success, and even for something in the eyes of the
Dutch who remained in Cape Colony. There are
failures which are as respectable in the history of
nations as their successes.

But whatever virtues might have been supposed to
lie in Glenelg's policy, the frontier Boer was not in a
mood to wait patiently for its effects. He had no
sympathy with philanthropic views regarding the
future of the native races, or with the idea that the
rights of the Kaffirs to the land they dwelt on ought
to be respected. He felt himself aggrieved by the
policy of withdrawal, all the more that the prize he
had been always coveting seemed at last within his
grasp. In some cases he had already built his house,
constructed his dam and planted his vineyard in the
new territory, when he was recalled by the mandate


of the ]?ritish Government. He seems to have
judged also, and not without reason apparently, that
the security of stock on the frontier would be rather
less under the new arrangements than it had been
before. The announcement of the new policy reached
South Africa early in 1836. For six years before
small parties of trekking Boers had been making
their way into the interior, but it was in 1836 that the
" great trek " began in earnest.

One fact speaks for itself. More than ninety-eight
per cent, of the great trek, from 1836 to 1839, came
from the old district of Graaff-Reinet, which had now,
however, had three new districts, Uitenhage, Albany
and Somerset, carved out of it. All the old names of
the men of Bruintjes Hoogte, Bothas, Krugers,
Erasmuses, Jouberts, Triechards, are amongst the first
trekkers. When the example was once set, the pastoral
Boer's love of expansion and habit of feeling himself
overcrowded when he could see the smoke of his neigh-
bour's chimney, would of itself have furnished many
followers. He was a born trekker ; every year the long
line of his waggons, wives and children accompanying
him, might be seen on the way to Capetown, which
was 500 miles from the frontier, or jogging north, in the
wet season, to the deserts of the Karoo then blossom-
ing for a month with wild flowers and pasture. To
trek forth into new lands, even if it had inconveniences,
was not quite the same thing to him as it would be to


a band of Eastern American or Canadian farmers
emigrating in waggons to unexplored regions of the
North West. Of course there was the danger of the
Kaffir, the Matabele to the North, and the Zulu on
the rich pasture-land between the mountain ranges and
the sea. But generations of warfare had made bush-
fighting a natural art to the trek-Boer ; and he knew
that as long as his band kept together, his long range
elephant gun was a match for a thousand assegais.
The trek into the interior was a venturesome one for
the Boer, but it was not, I think, a desperate thing
in his eyes.^ There was much in it that was quite
natural to him and part of his ordinary life.

1 " We find ourselves in a position to confront and defy all
our enemies " {Moselekatse and the rest). Piet Retief, then
chief of the United Encampments at the Sand River, July 21,


Natural Causes of the Great Trek— Desire of the Migrating
Boer to Escape from British Jurisdiction — Stephen Kay's

When Mr. Boyce, the Wesleyan missionary, writing
on the spot, and from an intimate knowledge of the
subject, spoke of the migration of the Boers as " arising
in part from natural causes," he no doubt meant that
the Boer's need or desire of expansion could find no
further scope within the boundaries of the Colony after
Lord Glenelg's declaration of his policy. Under any
circumstances perhaps, it would have proved a difficult
matter for the government to keep up with the growing
requirements of the Boer in a matter of this kind
Nothing short of Mr. Boyce's plan of laying out the
unoccupied interior could have done it, and that was
much too magnificent a proposal for a British govern-
ment of that time, with a Manchester School of
politicians tugging at its skirts.

In new countries indeed government has usually
followed rather than preceded the expansion of settle-


ments, as we see in the history of North America and
Australia. But in these countries the pioneering
settler was generally content that the government
should follow him with its civilisation, with its legisla-
tion, its security and comforts, with its taxes and obliga-
tions. A few inveterate backwoodsmen at most might
grumblingly move further on into the primeval forests
when the woods about them began to grow thin with
clearings. But in South Africa the peculiarity of the
situation was this, that the expanding settlers were
unwilling that the government should follow them, and
from the first did what they could to prevent it follow-
ing them. In other respects the great trek was at
bottom a perfectly natural occurrence and would have
taken place, though in a less dramatic form and with
less protestation, sooner or later, under any govern-
ment which was not prepared to take the unusual
course of preceding instead of following the pioneer.

And now the question arises, what made the
trekking Boer unwilling that the Government under
which he had lived and under which the mass of
his countrymen continued to live, should follow
him ?

The first and most evident reason was that the
Government was felt to be alien in blood and
speech, though nearly allied in both. The frontier
Boer knew nothing of the condition of Europe. He
did not even know, as was afterwards seen in Natal,


that Holland had ceased to count amongst the Powers,
and that in consequence the Cape without British
protection would have been at the mercy of any
power that had 6,000 soldiers to spare for the purpose
of securing the most important naval station on the
route to the East. Even the Transvaal Boer of to-day
knows too little of the world to realise that until the
capitalists of the Rand poured wealth into the coffers
of his government and enabled it to buy war material
and organise itself on the scale of a great military
power, the British Government with its ring of colonies
and sphere of influence was his only effective protec-
tion against foreign interference and complications-
Then, as now, the Boer understood nothing of the
benefits he had received from British protection. This
difference of blood and speech was certainly one of
the reasons, and it seems to me was the only
legitimate reason, for the trek-Boer's anxiety to cut
himself loose from British rule and erect a state of
his own in South Africa.

The second reason was that the pastoral Boer,
with his rude way of life, disliked any form of civil-
ised government which called upon the individual to
pay taxes, accept restrictions, and conform to a
standard for the general welfare. He thought he
could get on without it. A semi-military organisa-
tion for commandos seemed to him all that was


Everybody is now aware of the necessity of securing
a Hinterland from foreign occupation, but the matter
was not so clear then, and the Colonial Government
did nothing beyond protesting. But since that time
the economic and commercial unity of South Africa
below the Zambesi has now fully declared itself The
close political connection and interaction between all
its states and communities, white and black, is as
evident as that between the United States of America,
and has an indestructible basis in the geographical
unity which connects the plateaus of the interior with
the coast lands and ports of Cape Colony and Natal.
The nationality, besides, into which the Transvaal
Boer refuses to be incorporated, is no longer that
of an autocratically governed colony. It is a self-
governing community, under protection of Britain, it
is true, but Afrikander in nationality, dual in language,
and of mixed blood and traditions. His ambitions
at the very least represent a dangerous element of
sectionalism and have become a serious menace to
the peaceful development of that nationality. He
sees that the natural laws of economic progress are
against him, and he stops their free play till his
government becomes, as regards the other elements
of Afrikander nationality, a disgraceful tryanny. He
has shown that he would, without hesitation, have
imposed his rule on the British Colony of Natal.
It is no longer possible to regard his ambitions as


sacred when they have become incompatible with the
rights and safety of others.

But there was another and less creditable reason for
the trek-Boer's anxiety to sever his connection with the
British Government and its civilisation. Generations
of a half-lawless life as the master of slaves and native
servants had made him regard himselfas the born lord
and task-master of the coloured races in Africa, and his
conduct as such had been just what, to use Olive
Schreiner's comparison, the conduct of slave-holders
and an absolute aristocracy has ever been, in Rome
or Chaldaia, and all over the world. From the time

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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 19 of 21)