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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ment received of maladministration. Readers will
find the extent of his delinquencies impartially
stated by the Commission of Inquiry, Records,
March 16, 1802.



Adriaan Van Jaarsveld's Insurrection The Kafifir Raids of
1799— The Government's Border Policy — Bruintjes Hoogte
revolts again — General Dundas and Honoratus Maynier —
Commando against the Kaffirs Death of Tjaart Van der

It was during the administration of Sir George Yonge
that the second insurrection of the Boers of Graaf-
Reinet against British rule took place. From a
variety of causes, which I have already spoken of in
a previous chapter, that district had not settled down
so readily as the rest of the colony. The most tur-
bulent spirits of the colony were congregated there,
genuine frontier ruffians like Coenraad du Buys and
his gang, who were constantly mixed up in Kaffir
squabbles and intrigues for the sake of spoil, and
from passing much of their lives in the Kaffir kraals
had fallen into many of the ways of these savages.
Being so far away from Capetown also, the district
had continued to be a kind of centre for intrigues
with French agents and the Dutch governors in the
East Indies. Preparations had actually been made


for the landing of French volunteers and ammunition
in Algoa Bay, in aid of a general rising which was
to take place in the eastern districts of the colony.
It was expected, too, that Du Buys and Jan Botha,
the leading spirits of that particularly lawless gang I
have mentioned, would be able to induce the great
chief Gaika, and perhaps also the Kaffir tribes on the
west side of the Fish River, to join in the rising.^

No doubt the real cause of their disaffection was
the refusal of the British Governors to allow them to
cross the boundary of the Fish Riv^er and take pos-
session of the Kaffir country " as far as the Kat
River and even, if it might be, unto the Koonap."
That fertile district, the garden of Kaffirland, was a
constant temptation to the Boers of Bruintjes
Hoogte, who had already taken up some " places " in
the district when they were recalled by Lord Macart-
ney. That Governor had also positively prohibited
all ordinary intercourse between the colonists and
the Kaffirs, with a view of putting a stop to the
constant quarrelling and raiding between them, and
had thus made the illicit trade in cattle more diffi-
cult- Whatever the cause was, the insurrection was

^ See Fiscal van Rhyneveld's Investigation and Report,
Records, 1 799-1801, p. 284.

- For Lord Macartney's frontier policy, see Records, 1796 — 9,
p. 95. It is just and humane in spirit, but without specific

H 2


precipitated by an incident which throws a very clear
h'ght on the difficulties the Government had to cope
with in that region.

One of the most prominent burghers in the Graaff-
Reinet district, a Heemraad or local councillor and a
commandant in the field, was Adriaan van Jaarsveld.
His career may be taken as a fair specimen of the
life of a frontier Boer. In his earlier days he had
owned a farm north, in the Sneenwberg Mountains,
and had led many a commando against the Bushmen
in these parts, sometimes surprising and exterminat-
ing whole camps of them. But in these days the
Bushmen were still able to hold on to their dens in
that wild district, and Adriaan, tiring of the inter-
minable conflict, came south to Bruintjes Hoogte in
1776, with others of the northern farmers, to take up
lands in that newly opened district. Here they came
in contact with the Kosa-Kaffir tribes, and particu-
larly with the Imidange (Mandankae or Amandanka,
write the older travellers). For a time Boers and
Kaffirs seem to have lived on decent terms with
each other. But, probably from the inveterate habits
of both, occasions of hostility arose, and in December
of 1780, a commando was got together under the
leadership of Van Jaarsveld.

The Boers began by a famous act of treachery
which was afterwards brought home to Adriaan.
They invited the Imidange to a meeting for the


purpose of discussing their mutual claims, and having,
according to custom, spread beads and tobacco on
the ground as presents to the Kafifirs, they shot the
latter down as they were eagerly scrambling for them.
That is the tale as given by Mr. Brownlee, the well-
known missionary, who was long amongst the Kaffirs.^
Dr. Theal's version, introduced casually and far apart
from his main account of the commando, is not sub-
stantially different as to the fact of the treachery
and slaughter.- Van Jaarsveld's commando kept the
field from May to July of 1781, and returned with a
spoil of over five thousand cattle. The Imidange
abandoned Bruintjes Hoogte and sought refuge with
their countrymen in the Zuurveld. So began and
ended the first Kaffir war.

Later on Adriaan was a leader in the rebellion
of 1794 against the Dutch Government, when the
Graafif-Reineters hoisted the tricolour and expelled
their landdrost ; and his is one of the names ap-
pended to that first diplomatic letter of the Graafif-
Reinet Boers to General Craig. Adriaan was now
advanced in years, but age had not tamed his blood or
taught him caution. In 1798 this respected burgher

1 Brownlee's account of the Amakosas is given in full by
Thompson {Travels aitd Adventures) in the Appendix to his
second volume.

- Compare History of South Africa^ 1652 — 1795, vol. ii.,
p. 173 and p. 257.


and magistrate forged a receipt for interest payable
on a loan he had received. That sounds bad in the
ears of a civilised community, but to Adriaan and the
Bruintjes Hoogte burghers it seemed no great matter.
His creditor was a Capetown corporation, the Or-
phan Chamber, a kind of trust company for widows
and orphans ; and to cheat a Capetown creditor
seemed perhaps as natural to him as deforcing a
sheriff's officer was to Rob Roy. Still it shows the
state of things with which a British Governor had to
deal with in Graaff-Rei^iet. Of course Adriaan was
summoned before the court of justice at Capetown,
and on refusing to appear was arrested by a small
party of soldiers under the authority of the magis-
trate in Graaff-Reinet. But the burghers were
alarmed at this phenomenon of the long arm of the
law extending itself so impressively into their dis-
trict ; it was a new thing, contumacy under the
Dutch rule, Barrow says, being practised with im-
punity on the frontier ; accordingly a party of
Prinsloos, Krugers, Bothas and others assembled,
and having first successfully wiled the landdrost
into recalling six of the dragoons who guarded
Adriaan, rescued him by force. They then took
possession of the district in the name of the ' Voice
of the People,' kept the landdrost, Bresler, a prisoner
in the Drostdy, and in danger of his life for some
months. The burghers of the Sneeuwberg, and som^


other districts of Graafif-Reinet, professed to be on
the side of the law and the landdrost, but did not
think proper to make a fight of it, or even appear on
the scene till British troops despatched by the Gov-
ernor arrived. The malcontents, about 150 in num-
ber, then submitted unconditionally, about twenty of
them, amongst whom was Van Jaarsveld, were made
prisoners and taken to Capetown for trial, where
the Court of Justice pronounced them guilty and
sentenced three to death. The rest were dismissed
with a warning.^

Mr. Theal is afflicted over the severity shown by
the British Governor on this occasion ; the poor
burghers, the brave old commandant, Adriaan van
Jaarsveld, never expected such a thing as to be carried
away prisoners to Capetown. It was but a petty
revolt, he says, easy to quell. As a matter of fact,
Brigadier Vandeleur, who led the British troops into
Graaff-Reinet, reported that it was quite a dangerous
affair. " The present disturbances," writes the briga-
dier, " seem to be of a nature which requires imme-
diate suppression, otherwise there is no saying where
they may end. The quantity of ammunition which
the disaffected have contrived to get into their hands,

1 The death sentence was never carried out, but poor old
Van Jaarsveld, an intelligent man who wrote down observations
of things and probably read the Buiien-Leven on a Sunday,
died in prison soon after.


added to the degree of system and regularity which
has hitherto regulated their proceedings, convinces
me that the game is a deeper one than was at first
apprehended." In fact, as we learn from the letters
and reports concerning this affair, which appear in
the Records^ it was part of a plan for a general rising
which had for some time been preparing, and stood
in close connection with a network of intrigue which
included the Kaffir tribes as well as French and
Dutch forces in the East.

The worst result of Van Jaarsveld's insurrection was
that it destroyed for the time that co-operation be-
tween the frontier Boers and the Cape Government on
which the security of the frontier depended. Not one
of the parties concerned, Britons, Boers, Hottentots,
Kaffirs, could now trust the other. The Kaffir clans
in the Zuurveld, the broken Imidange most active
amongst them, says Vanderkemp, now took advantage
of the disorganised condition of the Graaff-Reinet dis-
trict to raid the farms, slaughtering such of the farmers
as chanced to fall into their hands. The British forces
and the Boers united in defence of the colony. But
the Hottentot herdsmen, who had deserted the Boer
farms and joined the Hottentot corps in the British
force during the insurrection, became alarmed that in
the end they would be left to the vengeance of a race
whose cruelty they well knew, and some of them in
their desperation joined the raiding Kaffirs. Gaika,


too, the chief of the great Kaffir tribe on the farther
side of the Fish River, showed signs of restlessness,
his suspicions of the British Governor's designs being
no doubt adroitly played upon by the fugitive Boers,
who had found refuge at his kraal on the failure of
the insurrection. Altogether it was a very mixed
affair, and required considerate treatment as well as
firmness and a display of strength in order to com-
pose matters, otherwise a great war with Kaffirs and
Hottentots combined might easily be kindled ; a war
which would serve no purpose, either of justice or
policy. Such was the opinion of General Dundas,
who marched to the frontier with a large force of
troops to establish order (see Dundas's letter and
answers to Sir George Yonge, Records, 1799-1801,
p. 57). The General, supported by Mr. Maynier,
the landdrost or chief magistrate of Graaff-Reinet,
who always stood firmly on the principle that if
you kept faith with the Kaffirs they would keep
faith with you, resolved to try pacific measures ; a
treaty was accordingly made, to which the great chief
Gaika at least always remained faithful ; presents
were given to the Kaffirs ; money compensation, dis-
tribution of captured cattle made to the burghers,
and affairs assumed their normal condition. To strike
at the root of such troubles, the Government estab-
lished a Register of the Hottentots serving with the
farmers, and made regulations to prevent cruelty or


oppression of the former ; it also resolved to enforce
the laws regarding illicit trade in cattle more strictly,
and to establish a fort in the district, with a garrison
sufficient to impress Kaffirs and burghers alike with
a sense of the presence of law and authority.

But the burghers were disappointed. They had
expected a big raid, with great spoil, in the way of
cattle, and perhaps occupation of new lands, instead of
which they declared they had not even got full com-
pensation for their losses. There was some truth in
their complaint, but they overlooked the fact that they
themselves, or at least a turbulent faction amongst
them, were largely to blame for all that had occurred.

Dr. Theal also is greatly grieved at the peaceful
termination of this affair. He veils its connection
with the insurrection of the Boers, and represents it,
just as he represents the policy of the Dutch Govern-
ment in a similar case, the Kaffir war of 1793, as an
ignominious surrender of the frontiersman's rights to
the high-handed insolence of the Kaffir. To get a
parallel to it he goes back to the early history of
England when the Anglo-Saxons used to buy off the
hosts of plundering Danes that invaded their country.
(See his Story of iJie Nations : South Africa, p. 125.)
But that is a very rough and ready kind of judg-
ment, and is certainly very far from doing justice to
the grounds upon which General Dundas, the com-
mander of the British force, made his decision In


his report to the Governor at Capetown, the General,
after remarking that the late disorders at Graaff-
Reinet seemed to him to have been " of a nature to
threaten, in their probable effects, the destruction of
the colony," proceeds to state what in his opinion is
the only just and honourable policy for the British
Government to pursue on the frontier, and the only
one, moreover, which has a chance of giving peace
and security to that troubled region. " I must observe
to your Excellency," he writes, " that to the habits of
licentiousness, injustice and cruelty of the white in-
habitants with the system of oppression under which
the native Hottentots of the colony have lived, and the
injuries the Kaffirs have sometimes sustained, many
of the evils, or insurrections here, are to be ascribed ;
therefore I am decidedly of opinion that unless justice
is enforced with more strictness than has hitherto been
done in all the dealings of the different descriptions
of inhabitants with each other, the general tranquillity
cannot be placed upon a footing of perfect security."
{Records, 1 799-1 801, p. 15.)

There was nothing new in the conclusion at which
the British General had arrived. The same opinion
had been expressed by all the magistrates and special
commissioners who had held office in Graaff-Reinet,
all of them Dutchmen and men who had passed their
lives or seen much service in the colony. Even their
own clergymen, the Rev. Mr. Manger and the Rev,


Mr. Ballot, tired of the lawlessness of the Graaff-
Reient Boers; and each in succession gave up his
charge during these troubles, leaving the district
without regular ministration till 1806.

Dr. Theal has no difficulty, however, in waving aside
all opinions unfavourable to the claims of the Boers of
Graafif-Reinet. He seems to take it as an axiom that
an educated Dutch gentleman, however experienced he
might be in provincial administration, was incapable of
giving a candid or sound opinion on the affairs of the
frontier, if he happened to be a magistrate appointed
by the Dutch or the British Governors. He makes an
effort, in particular, to discredit the evidence of Mr.
Maynier by suggesting that that functionary's reports
were drawn up to curry favour with the successive
authorities, Dutch and British, at Capetown. Dr.
Theal makes no attempt at proving his allegation, and
I can find no grounds for such an opinion except what
Dr. Theal well knows to be the very unreliable com-
plaints and suspicions of the Graaff-Reineters them-
selves, a race of men suspicious to the degree of
absurdity. My own opinion, after reading those
Records, which contain Mr. Maynier's official cor-
respondence and the reports of English generals and
others who were intimately acquainted with him and
his district, is that he was an able, honest, and very
courageous man.

No doubt the British authorities were influenced


by practical considerations as well as by principles of
humanity and justice in the policy which they
adopted. The eagerness of the frontier Boer for wars
which would extend the boundaries of the colony, and
allow him to occupy the fine grazing lands owned by
the Kaffirs between the mountain ranges and the
sea, opened up no fascinating prospects to the Cape
Government. It meant great wars and a ruthless
extermination of the Kaffirs ; it meant difficult and
expensive military expeditions, it involved problems
of military protection, a line of frontier forts for one
thing, problems of administration and government in
remote inaccessible districts with the most intractable
class of subjects. The problem as it existed was
difficult enough. General Dundas, in his report to Sir
George Yonge after his expedition, states that there
were 300 miles of a Kaffir frontier, bordered all the
way by the settlements of farmers ; and he adds that
he thinks it impossible to guard that extent of
frontier from Kaffir invasion by any number of
military positions they could establish. Nor could
the frontier farmer of that time make his way alone
and unsupported by the Government. They were not
always ready and willing to act together on com-
mandos, and a great Kaffir raid could send all
Graaff-Reinet flying west of the Gamtoos River. In
short, the condition of the colony and its resources at
this time did not allow of a policy of expansion on


the Kaffir frontier, even if the Government had been
at one with the frontiersmen in desiring it.

But the Boer of the frontier, with his inbred hate of
the coloured race and his greed of territory, was ready
to risk atu'thing. He had a strong feeHng of his
superior rights as a white man and a Christian to
dispossess his heathen neighbours, and had no
sympathy with the poHcy of the Cape authorities,
whether it was dictated by a sense of expediency or
a sense of justice. The question of expansion always
underlay the troubles of the Government on the
frontier ; and although it is not mentioned by Judge
Cloete, or Dr. Theal, or in Piet Retiefs proclamation
in this connection, the conflict between the Cape
Government and the frontier Boer on this question
was one of the chief causes which led to the great
trek in 1836.

In July, 1 801, two years after the Van Jaarsveld
affair, there was another insurrection amongst the
Boers of Bruintjes Hoogte. The chief cause seems
to have been a quarrel between them and their land-
drost, Honoratus Maynier, as to the principles on
which their Hottentot servants, and the Hottentot
race generally, should be treated. The landdrost
insisted on the proper execution of the laws for
registering and supervising their contracts with Hot-
tentot servants, and in general he gave the Hottentots
the ordinary protection of the law which hitherto had


been a figment, as far as they were concerned in that
district. For example, he had given shelter at the
drostdy to some Hottentots whom the Boers accused
of murder, and demanded to be handed over to them
for summary punishment. Maynier very properly
refused till a statement of the case should be made
and evidence produced. The response of the Boers
to this is a ludicrous example of their notions re-
garding evidence. Field-cornet Roets sent Mr. May-
nier a little Hottentot boy as witness, with the fol-
lowing note : " The little Hottentot boy would not
confess. I have been busy with him for half on hour
with fair means, then I gave him three strokes [on
examination it proved to be over three dozen'] with the
sjambok, thereupon he confessed that, &c,, &c." ^ But
we must remember that this manner of extracting
evidence from slaves and natives had been customary
and legal in the colony before Lord Macartney
abolished it.

Maynier had also offended the Boers by the en-
couragement he gave to Dr. Vanderkemp and the
missionaries at Graafif-Reinet, especially by allowing
them the use of the church there for a congregation
of slaves and Hottentots. That is Dr. Philip's story
and Dr. Vanderkemp's."^ Dr. Theal's is that the Boers

1 Records, 1801 — 3, p. 324.

2 Ya.nderk&m'gi's'Letters, Evangelical Magazine, 1803, p. 170;
Dr. Philip's Researches, vol. i., p. 69.


objected to it beiii^ used as barracks by the Hot-
tentot corps. Both are true.

Another cause of offence with the landdrost was
that although he was wilHng to authorise small field-
cornet's parties to seek for stolen cattle or make
reprisals, he would not allow great commandos which
would shoot down old Kaffir kraals, and sweep them
clean of cattle.^

Accordingly the Boers of Bruintjes Hoogte and
the Zwartkops (the better class of the Sneeuwberg
and Camdeboo held aloof) rose in arms again and
assailed the drostdy of Graaff-Reinet twice, but being
beaten off by the few dragoons and Hottentots there,
retired in a mutinous body to the Bamboosberg, an
inaccessible mountain region, and waited events,
perfectly aware of the excitement their movements
would produce amongst Kaffirs and Hottentots as
suspicious as themselves.^

At length in November 1801 General Dundas sent
Major Sherlock with 300 picked men to Graaff-Reinet
to invite the Boers to return to their allegiance, offer-
ing to overlook the affair if they did. He also as a
matter of policy recalled Maynier for explanations.

By the end of the year the news of the Peace of
Amiens (" Preliminary Articles "), and of the decision
to give back the Cape to the Dutch, had reached the

' S&e Records, 1801-3, pp. 283-328.
2 Records, 1801-3, p 26, 53, 59.


Colony and added to the uncertainty of the situation.
Numbers of Hottentots fled from the Colony and the
service of the farmers, and joined the Kaffirs beyond
the Fish River, and depredations became more fre-
quent than ever. Maynier, who was then in Cape-
town replying to the charges against him — mostly
absurd suspicions, and all disproven (see Records^
1 801-3, p. 302), strongly advised the General against
consenting to a great commando, which he said would
immediately proceed to destroy the Kaffir kraals, and
thus unite the Kaffirs and Hottentots in one mass
against the Colony, in which case the commando
would in all probability be defeated. Leave the
Kaffirs their part of the Zuurveld, he advised, without
continually alarming them by expeditions, and they
will give you little trouble.

Dundas, however, authorised a great commando,
all Swellendam and Graaff-Reinet, under the famous
Tjaart van der Walt. The commandant, a man of
great courage and resolution, attacked the Kaffirs
and Hottentots in the district of the Sunday River,
making no distinction. Dr. Vanderkemp complains,
between marauders and quiet-living kraals. For eight
weeks the fighting went on without any decisive re-
sult, but the end of it came on the 8th August, when
Tjaart van der Walt fell in a fight near the Kouga
River. He had been leading commandos for more



than thirty years against the wild Bushmen of the
Nieuwveld mountains, where he Hved, and had won
his lands, like any Norman baron of old on the Welsh
border, by conquest and expulsion of the natives ;
but the Hottentot was a deadly marksman with the
musket, and his bullet had avenged the slaughtered
hordes of the pigmy race. Tjaart's son, too, had fallen
in this disastrous campaign.

" Never was the loss of a single man," writes Dr.
Theal, " so fatal to the success of an enterprise."
I am not sure that it was succeeding very much before
Tjaart's death, but at any rate after that event the
Boer commando at once dispersed, and a panic en-
sued on the frontier. Maynier's prediction had proved
quite correct ; the Boers could not at that time keep
the field against the combined forces of the Hot-
tentots and Kaffirs. The Hottentots pursued their
victorious course nearly as far westward as Mossel
Bay, where they were met and driven back by a
body of British troops acting along with part of the
Swellendam contingent.

General Dundas was now obliged to withdraw his
troops in order to evacuate Capetown according to
the terms of the Peace of Amiens ; and to provide
for the safety of the Colony another large commando
was called out for the 20th December, although it did
not assemble till some time in January. By that time


the Boers were left to their own counsels, and might
have undertaken anything they thought themselves

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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 7 of 21)