Copyright
William Henry Parr Greswell.

Outlines of British colonisation online

. (page 10 of 31)
Online LibraryWilliam Henry Parr GreswellOutlines of British colonisation → online text (page 10 of 31)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


325 miles only from Khayes, on the Senegal termination of
navigation. A railway between the two points would immensely
facilitate intercourse. Bammakou was gained by Captain
Gallieni in 1880. Within recent times there have been
seventeen protectorates proclaimed by France in North-West
Africa. Further south, also, it must be remembered that
France holds important trading-stations on the Gold Coast,
Slave Coast, and Ivory Coast, the equatorial settlement of
Gaboon, and the magnificent domain of French Congo.

From the purchase of a small strip of country on the
estuary of the Gaboon river, France has gone on rapidly
acquiring an acknowledged foothold over a vast region



The West African Settlements 105

between the middle Congo and the ocean. One of the most
distinguished French travellers of recent times in this country
has been M. de Brazza, who explored the Upper Ogoue. Mr.
Stanley has described the position of France in this quarter :
' France is now mistress of a West African territory noble in its
dimensions, equal to the best tropic lands for its vegetable
productions, rich in mineral resources, most promising for its
future commercial importance. In area it covers a super-
ficies of 257,000 square miles, an area equal to that of France
and England combined, with access on the eastern side to
5200 miles of river navigation. On the west is a coast-line
nearly 800 miles long, washed by the 'Atlantic Ocean. It
contains within its borders eight spacious river basins, and
throughout all its broad surface of 90,000,000 square hectares
not one utterly destitute of worth can be found.'

France has come well out of the recent scramble for African
territory, and at the Congo Conference she gained more actual
territory than any other Power. The reversion of the magni-
ficent Congo Free State, that includes the valley of the Congo
and its affluents, and nearly touches the valley of the Zambesi,
may be hers. Over a huge portion of Africa French influence
is certainly increasing; and if she has lost colonial outposts
elsewhere, she has won 2,000,000 square miles of territory here.

Patriotic Frenchmen desire to make certain definite centres
in Africa where Frenchmen will 'find an asylum against the
jealous competition of Europeans as much as against the
hostility of the natives.' Among such hospitable stations
would be Franceville, Alima, and Brazzaville. This suggestion
has emanated from the veteran Lesseps, and it remains to be
seen whether the colonising energy of individual Frenchmen
will be sufficient to utilise their magnificent ideals. Access to
the highlands of Central Africa beyond the river valleys will
doubtless be much facilitated by railways.

In the history of French colonisation it cannot, however, be
forgotten that at one time this nation seemed to hold the
destinies of the Lake districts and the Mississippi valley in



106 British Colonisation

the New World in their own hands, and that it was chiefly
through the lack of individual zeal and perseverance that their
Transatlantic empire fell through. On the west coast of Africa,
however, some of the hardiest sailors and colonists have been
known for centuries. The seamen of Dieppe and Rouen,
going southwards between the Canaries and the mainland,
visited the ports of the Gold Coast and Guinea, gave their
names to the bays and headlands, and formed settlements
under royal sanction at Elmina, Fantin, and Cormontin. In
1600-1700, under Richelieu and Colbert, afforts were made to
develop West Africa by means of companies.

Frenchmen, at first, made the same mistake as ourselves
and other nations in supposing that a tropical country could
be opened up by agriculturists from home. The fate of the
Highlanders at Panama, and our own colonists on the Niger
itself, and also at various times in the West Indian islands,
overtook the French peasantry when transplanted to the
malarious regions of Senegal.

French trade and colonisation were also cramped and
fettered by a hidebound system of Government protection and
bounties. In one thing the French were consistent, French
merchants being always compelled to buy and sell at Govern-
ment depots. Political disturbances at home have combined
to render French occupation of the West Coast as ineffectual
in its results as elsewhere. During the troubles that followed
upon 1789, all the French forts of the Upper Senegal were
destroyed : there was no permanence and continuity in the
government of West Africa, no fewer than thirty-two officers
administering the settlements between 1817 and 1857. French
Africa seemed to lie like an incubus upon French home
resources ; and Senegal, which surrendered to the British in
1809, but was restored by the Treaty of Paris, was returned
upon French hands like a white elephant, expensive to keep
and hard to be disposed of to any one. As above hinted,
however, Senegal has, owing to the policy of M. Faidherbe,
begun to acquire a new significance in relation to the rest of



The West African Settlements 107

West Africa. The engineering skill and mechanical inventions
of the nineteenth century have come to the aid of France, and,
under a peaceful and stable Government France may yet
carry out a great work of civilisation in West and North- West
Africa. Quite recently the Morocco question has revealed to
how great an extent France is interested in this part of the
world.



References :

Park (Mungo), Travels in Africa, 1795-97.

Caillie's Travels to Timbuctoo, 1830.

A Voyage down the Dark River, by Richard and John Lander, 1832.

Up the Niger ; by Captain Mockler-Ferryman, 1892.

The Development of Africa, by Silva White, 1892.

The West African Islands, by Major Ellis.

Through Fanteeland to Coomassie, by Frederick Boyle, 1874.

Proceedings of the Royal Colonial Institute, passim.



CHAPTER VI

THE SOUTH AFRICAN COLONIES

THERE is no group of colonies whose annals abound in such
picturesque and dramatic incidents as the South African. In
the first place, the Kaffir wars alone furnish a whole epic
of adventure. Who can read unmoved the story of our
campaigns from the beginning of the present century to the
last Zulu War ? British troops have met and overcome a
black foe of extraordinary courage and vitality, totally unlike
the aborigines of other countries, and gifted with intelligence
of a high order. For those who know the Kaffir races con-
cede to them a measure of understanding that goes further
than mere barbaric craft. Their well-known leaders, such
as Macomo, Sandili, Kreli, Cetywayo, have all been men of
superior calibre, possessed of powers of organisation infinitely
more effectual than those of ordinary -savages ; and they have
succeeded in compelling in their own persons the unswerving
loyalty of thousands. Kaffir chiefs have been kingly men,
ruling as kings should, and summing up the powers of the
State in themselves. L'etat <?est moi has been their motto ;
and how infinitely superior the Kaffir race has been as a ruling
power in South Africa may be inferred by a contrast between
it and the hordes of Hottentots and Bushmen who occupied
the extremity of South Africa. The Hottentots have never
achieved any kind of national unity compared with that of the
great Bantu race. They have simply roamed over the veldt
as scattered and disorganised clans, living precariously from

108



The South African Colonies 109

hand to mouth, and disappearing before the Europeans without
any adequate show of resistance.

In the case of Cetywayo, the whilom monarch of Zululand,
the British had to face a well-drilled army of 40,000 men,
devotedly attached to the person of their sovereign. Supersti-
tion, also, had long invested the Kaffir chiefs with unspeakable
powers of its own. There has always been the dreaded witch-
doctor, that strange assessor of kingly power, ready to pry into
the lives and fortunes of the Kaffir subjects and to bring
destruction in the twinkling of an eye upon the most pro-
sperous and wealthy. Such individuals have held in Kaffirland
a secret and accursed monopoly rivalling that of a Vehmgericht
or a Venetian Council of Ten. There has been, from time to
time, the weird prophet or prophetess, arising in the land to
revive the lagging patriotism of the beaten, and, Tyrtseus-like,
exhort them to greater efforts. Once, in 1856, the Kaffir
race, acting under the influence of a girl-prophetess named Nong-
qause, who asserted that whilst drawing water from the well
she had a revelation from the spirit-world to the effect that the
ghosts of their forefathers would rise again in myriads and
drive the English into the sea, destroyed all their grain and
killed their cattle. In blind faith they waited for the appointed
day when, at a given signal, their Hectors and Sarpedons and
the shadowy files of heroes should come to restore their race ;
and then starved inch by inch in their native forests, grubbing
for roots like baboons. Such a case of national suicide has
surely no parallel ! Let us not call it absolute folly in the
breasts of these misguided savages ; rather patriotism gone wild
and desperate, and grasping for life as a drowning man clutches
at the floating straws. The Kaffir race has always given us, in
the midst of all its utter hopeless barbarism, some bright spark
of chivalrous devotion and the token of a faith that may remove
mountains. As they have fallen beneath the sway of our
missionaries and philanthropists, this devotion, chivalry, and
faith have all been turned to better and more hopeful ends.

For ourselves, the incidents of Kaffir campaigns have been



1 10 British Colonisation

exciting enough for the most extravagant paintings of war
novelists. Border frays innumerable, cattle-liftings, burning
homesteads, hurried flights, secret ambuscades, open fights,
wild border revenges, cast a lurid glow upon the story of South
African colonisation. Both the colonists of Albany,, living a
precarious existence of old in the historic Fish River valley,
the military settlers of King William's Town, as well as the
regular soldiers of the British army, have all had their strange
and fascinating tales of adventure. Sometimes it appeared as
if, after years of fighting, the wave of barbarism would prevail,
and as if, in despair at the cost and risk, England would
surrender her task in South Africa. Now and again disaster
of more than usual severity has waited upon the progress of
British arms.

No more mournful event than the death of the Prince
Imperial in Zululand has ever happened in the annals of British
colonisation ; and the author of this sketch, resident then at
the Cape, well remembers how, on June 15, 1880, the Boadicea
brought round the remains of the Prince, and unspeakable
grief and shame filled all hearts : how, also, on January 1 9,
1879, the n ews came from the frontier how the gallant 24th,
overwhelmed and outnumbered by the Zulu hordes, had
perished to a man, selling their lives dearly under the krantzes
or boulders of Isandlwana.

Still there was hope. England's mission in South Africa
was not destined to be interrupted by a strategic mishap nor
the untimely fate of the Prince Imperial. The Transvaal
retrocession was, in reality, the hardest blow of all dealt at
England's influence by men in power at home. Yet this may,
perhaps, be healed by the processes of time and the develop-
ment of the gold-mines, and ' the jingling of the guinea help
the hurt that honour feels,' however much ' nations may snarl
at one another's heels.' England, as a nation, cannot
altogether be taxed with the maladministration of occasional
Ministries. Her flag may be lowered for a while by a timorous
and palsied hand, but it will soon be hoisted to its proper



The South African Colonies 1 1 1

position. There is no doubt about England's storage of
strength and recuperative power.

' Merses profundo pulchrior evenit ' ;

and so, in spite of follies, mishaps, and depths of repentance,
John Bull marches on. England has most incontrovertible
title-deeds to her heritage in South Africa.

The annals of South Africa prove that no nation in the world
has ever expended one-hundredth of the amount of blood and
money at this corner of the Dark Continent that England has ;
no nation has ever explored it like the British; no nation
more truly developed all its wonderful mineral and other
resources than England ; therefore the prize of South African
dominion must be hers.

' Palmam qui meruit ferat.'

As matters stand at present, England is very deeply com-
mitted in South Africa. The area of her responsibilities has
widened, and from the Cape to the Zambesi she is the para-
mount Power. She holds the Cape Colony, Natal, Zululand,
Basutoland, Pondoland, Bechuanaland, Mashonaland ; and from
South Zambesia her influence is reaching northwards to North
Zambesia and the distant Equatorial Provinces. A railway
extends for nearly a thousand miles from Table Bay north-
wards, telegraphs span the country from Capetown to Fort
Salisbury in Mashonaland, mines are being worked and in-
dustries developed, and the English language and literature
are gradually spreading over the whole country. The pax
Britannica has worked wonders within the last decade. The
possessions of Germany on the south-west littoral, the Dutch
Republics of the Free State and the Transvaal in the interior
of the country, and the Portuguese on the east coast, seem to
stand somewhat in the way of British Empire in South Africa ;
but the impediments they offer respectively are not serious,
and the time cannot be far distant when the various elements
will settle down together to work out a common destiny.
Meantime, there are surely no pages of colonial history more



112 British Colonisation

deserving of study than that of the South African settlements.
The annals of Australia are commonplace by their side. The
latter give us pictures in abundance of stereotyped and even
redundant good-fortune ; but the romance of history is absent,
the glamour of adventure has passed away, and the young
States seem lifted above the vicissitudes and sport of fortune.
Scarcely a dark cloud can be conjured up above the horizon,
and, secure in their monopoly of the South Pacific, the
Australians are developing to the full an unimpeded pro-
sperity. In Africa, a continent which in its whole extent falls
under the influence, if it does not actually come within the
State system, of Europe, the tale of development must neces-
sarily be more diversified : rivalries are more keen, border diffi-
culties more real, and the whole problem of reclamation and
civilisation infinitely more complicated.

Perhaps one of the most interesting studies is to inquire
into the nature of the circumstances under which England
succeeded to her South African heritage ; and it may be worth
while in the following brief sketch (i) to draw attention to a
few of the historical incidents preceding the period of occupa-
tion, (2) to prove the circumstances of French intrigue whilst
the Cape was still in Dutch hands, (3) to point out some of the
more notable characteristics of Dutch rule itself. Compara-
tively few understand what the nature of this Dutch rule was
how hopelessly retrogressive and effete, how selfish and how
isolated, and what a dead-weight it imposed upon the spirit of
true colonisation. When England came officially to South
Africa she rid the country of the incubus of an official monopoly
beneath which burghers groaned and suffered in silence.

In South Africa, as in West Africa, the first honours of
exploration rest with the Portuguese mariners. Prince Henry
of Portugal had long inspired his countrymen with the
ambition of sailing down these southern waters. Little by
little, first past Cape Non, the limit of former enterprises, arid
then to Cape Verde, Cape Palmas, and so down the Guinea
coast to the Congo and Angola, they had cautiously felt their



The South African Colonies 1 1 3

way. The voyage of Bartolomeo Diaz was the last of a series
of adventures, and the crowning feat of all (1486). When
Diaz had doubled Cape Point, and made his celebrated land-
fall on the island of St. Croix in Algoa Bay, the mystery of
ages was unfolded and the path to the ' Golden Orient ' made
clear. As far as South Africa itself was concerned, the
Portuguese left it alone, and the phrase ' Cape of Good Hope '
referred to the hopeful anticipation of Indian trade rather
than to the prospects of any wealth to be garnered from the
shores of South Africa itself: indeed, the Cape was most
studiously avoided by the Portuguese mariners as a dangerous
and inhospitable place ; and the natives gained for themselves
the name of being savage and intractable when, in 1510, they
attacked d' Almeida, the Portuguese Indian Viceroy, and slew
him, together with sixty-five of the best men in his fleet.

The Portuguese revenge was peculiar. Three years after-
wards a Portuguese captain is said to have landed a piece of
ordnance, loaded with grape-shot, as a pretended gift to the
Hottentots. Two ropes were attached to it, and the Hottentots,
men, women, and children, flocked down to drag away the gift
a truly lethale donum, like the Trojan horse when the
Portuguese captain fired off the piece and slew large numbers
of them. For the future the Portuguese pilots made a clean run
from the island of St. Helena to Mozambique, giving the stormy
Cape a wide berth. In vain, therefore, do we look for any per-
manent signs of Portuguese possession, either in Natal or the
Cape Colony, and there is nothing to remind us of their presence
along the coasts excepting a few names of bays and promontories.
The Spaniards, it may be remarked, never adventured hither,
keeping to the New World, in accordance with the papal bull.

The first English vessel that rounded the Cape was that of
Francis Drake, the great Elizabethan seaman, who sailed from
Plymouth on December 13, 1577, on his celebrated voyage
round the world, in the wake of Magalhaens. His ship, the
Pelican, was not anchored in Table Bay, nor in any South
African port, and the account given of the famous Cape is :

H



114 British Colonisation

' This Cape is a most stately thing, and the fairest Cape we saw
in the whole circumference of the world.' The Cape was
kinder to English sailors than to others ; and van Linschoten
remarks, on the occasion of a violent storm off the Cape, that
' nothing surprised him more than that God the Lord caused
them, who were good Christians and Catholics, with large and
strong ships, always to pass the Cape with such great and violent
tempests and damage, while the English, who were heretics and
blasphemers, passed it so easily with small and weak ships.'

After Drake came Candish, or Cavendish, the gentleman
adventurer, who ' encompassed the globe ' on his first voyage
in what was considered a very short space of time, harried the
Spaniards, and returned laden with booty and spoils. ' His
soldiers and sailors,' we are told, ' were clothed in silk, his sails
were damask, and his topmast covered with cloth of gold.' x
He was a skilful navigator, and discovered that the Portuguese
reckoning of 2000 leagues from Java to the Cape of Good
Hope was erroneous, his own calculation being 1850 leagues.
Other famous English navigators visited the Cape, amongst
them being John Davis of Sandridge, Devon, and James
Lancaster, whose names are associated chiefly with Arctic
exploration. From the beginning of the seventeenth century
( 1 60 1 ) the Cape was often visited by the ships of the English
East India Company.

Cavendish, on his return voyage, touched at the African island
of St. Helena, which had been discovered by the Portuguese
on St. Helena's Day, May 2ist, 1502 a discovery they were at
great pains to conceal and was the first English sailor who
pointed out the advantages of the island as a recruiting-station
and port of call. He describes it as 'a delicious island covered
with trees.' St. Helena became in course of time the English
station in the South Atlantic, and the East India Company ob-
tained a charter for its possession from Charles 11. ; and for more
than a hundred and fifty years i.e. until 1834 it remained
exclusively under the Company's jurisdiction, excepting, indeed,

1 Granger's Biographical History of England.



The South African Colonies 115

during the period of Napoleon's captivity there. This occupa-
tion distracted the attention of British sailors and navigators
from the Cape of Good Hope, which was colonised by the
Dutch under van Riebeek in connection with their Eastern
empire.

Before the British came to the Cape little was known of
the Hinterland or back-country. Here the vision of some
El Dorado tantalised the imagination of the old Dutch settlers.
Just as Ralegh and Keymis were convinced that somewhere
up the Orinoco valley could be found the golden city of
Manoa and the accumulated treasury of El Dorado ; or as the
numerous West African explorers kept steadily in view as a
goal to be reached the barbaric splendours of Timbuctoo ; so
even the phlegmatic Dutch imagined that in the interior of
South Africa lay some wonderful city, the centre of a rich
empire. In Dapper's map of South Africa (1668) a great river
figures as a prominent geographical feature, rising somewhere
north of the Tropic of Capricorn, and flowing first south
and then east, finally reaching the sea south of the present
boundaries of Natal. On its north bank were such places as
Camissa and Vigiti Magna. The empire of Monomotapa,
also, with its vast and shadowy outlines, exercised some spell
upon the Dutch; and in 1660 Jan van Riebeek, the first
Governor of the Cape, sent an expedition to look for it, but
the explorers only advanced a short distance up Namaqualand.

During the Dutch occupation hundreds of ships of all
nationalities passed by the Cape and anchored under the
shadows of Table Mountain ; but what there was in the interior
few took the trouble to know. The crews during their sojourn
at the port would marvel at the Company's zoological gardens
and the wild beasts of the country that were kept in confine-
ment there, and listen to the tales of ' chimaeras dire ' which
the Dutch officials thought fit to propagate. Even without
exaggerating or furbishing up ' Miinchausen ' tales, the wild
beasts of South Africa were a real terror and obstacle to
travellers.



1 1 6 British Colonisation

Now and then, also, a shipwrecked crew, such as that of
the Dutch ship Stavenisse (1685), thrown upon inhospitable
shores, would be compelled to sojourn amongst the natives,
and emerge afterwards, perhaps, half savages in their habits
and ways of life. Strange stories have not been wanting of
adventures of Europeans along the unreclaimed and unsurveyed
shores of South Africa. In 1754 an English ship called the
Doddington, with a crew of 220 souls, was run ashore on one
of the Bird Islands at the entrance of Algoa Bay. As the sea
broke furiously over the vessel, the work of rescue was rendered
almost impossible, and out of the whole number only twenty-
three men managed to save themselves. Here they managed to
live for seven months, in trembling fear of the natives, and at last
launched a boat which they had been able to construct, and
sailed round the coast to Delagoa Bay, where they met an
English ship which took them to India.

Still more terrible, because of the uncertainty that long pre-
vailed with regard to the fate of some of the survivors, was the
wreck of an East Indiaman, the Grosvenor (1782), on the
coasts of Kaffraria, above St. John's River. The greater part
of the crew and all the passengers succeeded in gaining the
shore, and endeavoured to reach the Cape Colony by land ;
only a few managed to do this, and it was conjectured that
some, and amongst these some women, were taken captive by
the Kaffirs, and, abandoning all hope of ever reaching England
again, lived and intermarried with their captors. The Govern-
ment sent out an expedition to search for them in 1783, and
descendants of the unfortunate crew and passengers were said
to be in existence many years afterwards. A dark cloud of
mystery hangs over their fate, and the whole subject is one
that might challenge the imagination and call forth the
descriptive powers of the novelist.

Now and then shipwrecked sailors voluntarily threw their
lot in with the Kaffirs, as was the case with three Englishmen
wrecked in the Good Hope, towards the end of the seventeenth
century. We are told that when a chance of escape was



The South African Colonies 1 1 7

offered them they refused to go, having formed connections



Online LibraryWilliam Henry Parr GreswellOutlines of British colonisation → online text (page 10 of 31)