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with the natives ; contrasting the ease of their barbarous life
at Natal with the hardships they had endured at sea. In the
words of Locksley Hall, they ' burst all links of habit there
to wander far away ' in a land where
f Never comes the trader, never floats an European flag,
Slides the bird o'er lustrous woodland, swings the trailer from the crag. '

Sometimes, also, there were less reputable characters who lived
with the Kaffirs as Kaffirs in every respect : refugees from justice
in the Cape Colony. Such was Coenraad Buys, who lived as a
polygamist with the Kaffir chief Nqgika. He was not, we are
told, the only European in that country who had thrown off all
the restraints of the Christian religion and civilisation, there
being a large party of them at the king's kraal. There were
two brothers Lochenberg, a German named Cornelius Faber,
and the inevitable Irish deserter from the army, besides several
young men connected with the old colonial families men
who, like the French coureurs des bois in Canada, associated
entirely with the savages of the country.

The knowledge that such waifs and strays could communi-
cate about the interior of South Africa was naturally very
little. More useful was that which men of science could im-
part. In 1751 the great astronomer Lacaille visited South
Africa for the purpose of measuring an arc of the meridian,
and travelled in the flat and somewhat sterile regions of
Namaqualand. Presently, also, the tribe of naturalists and
botanists overran the country, chief amongst them the great
Thunberg, called ' the father of Cape botany,' and the first
to grapple with the enormous mass of Cape flora a man
of most extraordinary industry and of physical endurance.
Andrew Sparrmann, also, was a good and trustworthy traveller
(1772) in the country. The great Linnaeus himself, so
Sparrmann observes, had an ambition to visit South Africa
and see for himself those wonderful heaths and orchids which
were described to him, and presented to him only as a
hortus siccus. Indeed, the Swedish naturalists went every-

Ii8 British Colonisation

where at the inspiration of this great father of natural science.
Professor Kalm, of the Swedish Royal Academy of Sciences,
explored North America in 1748 ; Dr. Hasselquist ransacked
the botanical treasures of Asia Minor, Egypt, and Palestine ;
Osbeck and Toreen, two other disciples of Linnaeus, explored
China. But there was certainly no country in the world which
so repaid research as the sub-tropical zone of South Africa.
The enthusiastic botanists who conducted their researches
there not only saw and described plants and flowers but also
men and manners ; and, as most of them possessed that
accuracy which belongs to the observers of nature, they must
be accepted as authorities on South Africa in a general sense.
For a long time it must be remembered that the French
had been nibbling at the Cape. In 1666, during the
governorship of van Quaelberg, the Dutch commander at
the Cape, a well-known French expedition under the Marquis
de Montdevergne, the Viceroy of the French possessions in
the East, had put into Table Bay. This expedition was the
result of many attempts on the part of France to form a
powerful French East India Company, and was guided by
Colbert, the ambitious Colonial Minister of Louis xiv., whose
designs covered the regions of the East no less than the
valleys of the St. Lawrence and the Mississippi on the
Western continent. Louis xiv. had instructed his deputy
to take possession of Saldanha Bay, and establish a French
residency there. Acting in obedience to these instructions,
the French surveyed the bay and set up landmarks with the
King's arms upon them. These, however, were speedily re-
moved by the Dutch authorities at the Cape, and shields
erected bearing the Dutch Company's arms upon them. The
French, therefore, were warned off South African territory ;
and their designs were viewed with the greater suspicion
because it was rumoured that the French intended to abandon
Madagascar, or the Island of St. Lawrence, as it was called,
and to gain a foothold at the Cape. 1

1 Theal's History of South Africa, p. 196.

The South African Colonies 119

The Dutch were so impressed with the value of the Cape
at this early date that they used to term the Cape Castle
' the frontier fortress of India.' Moreover, there was a deep
national rivalry between the Dutch and French, intensified
by religious hatred one nation being the champion of Pro-
testantism, the other of Roman Catholicism. The Cape was
in the seventeenth century the refuge of Protestant exiles, and
' No Popery ' was plainly written up in the Cape Colony ; no
popish rites or celebration of the mass were tolerated on the
shores of Table Bay. In 1689 the Dutch governor, acting up
to home instructions 'to treat the French everywhere as
enemies and cause them all possible injury,' seized treacher-
ously two French ships, the Normande and Le Cache, as they
lay in Table Bay, taking the crews prisoners. In those days
seafaring nations did not wait for open declarations of war
either in the East or the West Indies, knowing that, by the rules
of a kind of sea-divinity that was popular in those days, might
was right, and acts lawful in distant quarters of the globe
which would not be tolerated nearer home. In this instance
Louis xiv. was powerless to take vengeance, being scarcely
able to hold his own against England and her allies in

The most determined effort to seize the Cape was made
about a hundred years later, when Suffren, after a well-fought
but indecisive action with Commander Johnstone (1781), near
St. lago, sailed southwards to Table Bay. The English
admiral was so far crippled by the action that he could not
pursue him, and French regiments garrisoned Cape Town.
In 1782 Rodney achieved his famous victory over de Grasse
in the West Indies, which not only saved the West Indies but
dealt a tremendous blow upon French maritime enterprise in
every quarter of the globe. In India, also, Labourdonnais and
Lally suffered disaster upon disaster ; so that, even if France
had made great efforts to obtain a grip upon the Cape, the
post would have been of little avail to her with her sea dominion
in peril in Atlantic waters and her land forces routed on the

I2O British Colonisation

Indian peninsula. Yet the strategic value of the Cape was
fully recognised by the French, and it was the opinion of her
admirals that the successful issue of any war carried on
between two European Powers in the East depended entirely
upon the acquisition and retention of the Cape of Good Hope
and the Bay of Trincomalee in Ceylon. The English also
attached the utmost importance to the Cape; and Henry
Dundas (afterwards Lord Melville) declared in the House
of Commons that the Minister who should dare to give it up
ought to lose his head.

Even after the first occupation of the Cape of Good Hope
by the British, we shall see that the French were extremely
loth to give up all thoughts of embarrassing English policy
there, and effecting, if possible, a foothold for themselves.
When the Rattlesnake was anchored in Algoa Bay, a French
man-of-war, la Preneuse, of forty-eight guns, sailed up to the
anchorage flying British colours, and was supposed to be one of
the British squadron on the coast. Dropping anchor between
the Camel, an old store-ship, and the Rattlesnake, she fired
a broadside into the former and hoisted the tricolour. The
British made the best resistance they could under the cir-
cumstances, and the troops that were on the shores of Algoa
Bay erected a battery and played upon the French ship ; the
action lasted six hours and twenty minutes, until darkness
came on, and at last the French commander withdrew to the
Bird Islands, close by. The admiral at the Cape sent a frigate
in pursuit of la Preneuse afterwards, but she escaped, running
into the River Plate, where she was stranded and abandoned.

It was clear, however, that in spite of sudden descents upon
the shores, as that of Suffren, and surprise visits of such ships as
la Preneuse, the Cape was destined to pass permanently into the
hands of the British, whose sovereignty of the ocean was com-
pletely established. The end both to Dutch rule and French
machinations at the Cape was to come in the year 1795. In
June of that year Admiral Elphinstone and General Craig
anchored in Table Bay with eight ships and four thousand

The South African Colonies 1 2 1

men. Judge Watermeyer, one of the ablest essayists on Cape
history, has put the circumstances of this visit in the following
words :

' They conveyed the startling intelligence that the Hereditary
Stadtholder had been driven from the Netherlands, that the
French had overrun the country, and a Republican Convention
had been established in connection with that which swayed
France. The Prince of Orange had sought refuge in England,
and had implored aid from the British Government. An
order from the exiled Stadtholder, addressed to the Govern-
ment of the Cape, was in the possession of the admiral. It
was dated from Kew, and was of the following tenor :

' " We have deemed it necessary by these presents to com-
mand you to admit into the Castle, as also elsewhere in the
Colony under your government, the troops that shall be sent
thither by His Majesty the King of Great Britain, and also to
admit the ships of war, frigates, or armed vessels which shall
be sent to you on the part of His Majesty, into False Bay, or
wherever they can safely anchor; and you are to consider
them as troops and ships of a Power in friendship, in alliance
with their High Mightinesses the States-General, and who
come to protect the Colony against the invasion of the
French. Consigning you to the protection of Providence,

There was a fear, also, that the feeling of rebellion which
existed in 1795 against the constituted rule of the Dutch East
India Company, and had shown itself in the uncompromising
attitude of the burghers of Swellendam and Graaf Reinet, the
two outlying provinces of the Cape at that time, was prompted
and encouraged by the doctrines and teachings of the French
Revolutionists. To some extent this fear may have been
well grounded, and consequently the Stadtholder was justified,
not only from his standpoint in Europe, but also a purely
colonial standpoint, in placing the Cape under the protection,
for the time at least, of Great Britain, the determined and
successful foe of the French Republic in Europe. But it

122 British Colonisation

may have escaped his notice, as well as that of all those who
were officially connected with the administration of the Cape,
that the dissatisfaction of the Cape burghers against the Com-
pany in 1795-6, although it may have partly been moulded by
the doctrines of liberty and equality then promulgated over the
whole world, was in the main the result of generations of bad
government at the Cape itself. For a hundred and fifty years the
Dutch officials there had lorded it as an exclusive and aristo-
cratic clique, and had displayed on every occasion the worst
features of monopolists. There was, therefore, a faint-hearted
opposition to General Craig and Admiral Elphinstone. The
Dutch Governor of the Cape, Commander Sluysken, felt himself
bound to resist the British occupation in spite of the Stadt-
holder's order; but his garrison consisted of only 500 men of
a German regiment in the Dutch pay, and some artillery,
and no dependence could be placed upon the disaffected
Dutch burghers. His reply to the British officers was more
bold than circumstances warranted him in making: 'Dis-
avowing all sentiments of Jacobinism, he was prepared,' he said,
' to defend the colony against any force that might be sent
against him by the French Convention, equally as he was now
prepared to defend it against the British fleet and army.' Re-
sistance proved to be futile; there was some trifling skirmish-
ing at Muizenberg beach on False Bay, the burghers behaved
badly, and Sluysken capitulated.

To add to his confusion, at the very time a truce was being
concluded with the British an offensive message was sent to
him from the rebel burghers at Tulbagh, in the form of a
resolution from the ' Nationals ' of the Cape, signed by their
commandant, an Italian named Pisani, demanding a reply to
previous communications, and threatening hostilities. Thus
placed between two fires, Sluysken had no alternative but
to capitulate. This was the end of the rule of the Dutch
East India Company, which had held Table Bay for so many

The first occupation of the Cape by the British lasted until

The South African Colonies 123

the Treaty of Amiens, 1802, by which the country was re-
stored to the sovereignty of the Batavian Republic. In 1803
the country was evacuated by the English, and Commissary
de Mist, a member of the Council for the Asiatic posses-
sions, was appointed as Commissary-General for the Republic
to receive the colony from the British authorities. He also
installed General Janssen as the new Governor of the Cape.
A new regime for Dutch South Africa promised to begin,
and Commissary de Mist occupied himself earnestly with many
necessary local reforms, dividing the country into ' drostdys ' or
districts, and encouraging the industries, and especially the
agriculture, of the country. But these reforms of the internal
administration of Dutch South Africa came too late. The
Cape was really at the mercy of complications in Europe ; the
Peace of Amiens was quickly broken ; the flames of war blazed
out again, and hostilities were resumed between England and

The importance of the Cape as the frontier fortress of India
seemed to be greater than ever, and in 1806 a force was sent
out under General Sir David Baird, consisting of about 4000
men. The largeness of the force proved clearly the deter-
mination of the British Government to secure the Cape at all
hazards. After a short engagement the Batavian troops were
routed in the vicinity of Cape Town, and a second time the
ancient castle of Cape Town fell into British hands. For
some years after this the Cape was regarded as merely a
temporary possession by conquest ; but in 1814 a convention
was agreed to between the Prince, sovereign of the restored
and united Netherlands, on the one hand, and His Majesty
the King of Great Britain on the other, by which, in con-
sideration of certain charges provided by the latter for the
defence of the Low Countries and their settlement in union
with Holland, the colony of the Cape of Good Hope, together
with Demerara, Essequibo, and Berbice, was ceded in per-
petuity to the British Crown. Such were the circumstances
attending the transference of the Cape from the weak rule of

124 British Colonisation

Holland to the strong tutelage of Great Britain. It was one of
the greatest prizes that fell to her as mistress of the seas far
greater than any of the West Indies, which then seemed to be
the most flourishing colonies for European capitalists. The
Cape could, in fact, never belong to any European State
whose sea power was not acknowledged on all hands to be
supreme and unquestioned.

But what, it may be asked, was the character more particu-
larly of the Dutch rule that was now supplanted ? What had
the Dutch officials done for the country or people ? What
was their policy, and how had they used their opportunities?
What was the general state of society in this comparatively
unknown corner of the globe ?

There are in existence curious notices of both the official
life of the Dutch merchants and of the habits of the Boers and
Voertrekkers. In the Castle of Cape Town there was enough
and to spare of pomp and ceremony. The period of Governor
Tulbagh's governorship (1751-1771) was regarded as the
golden age of Dutch officialdom at the Cape ; and the laws,
rules, and regulations of the little staff survive as ridiculous
and grotesque monuments of the pretentious claims of the
Dutch ' koopmanner' or merchants. Various class regulations
and sumptuary laws were passed to keep the distinction clear
between the 'koopmanner' and the ordinary burghers; inter
alia : ' No one less in rank than a junior merchant should
venture to use an umbrella,' and ' every person, without excep-
tion, shall stop his carriage, and get out of it, when he shall
see the Governor approach, and shall likewise get out of the
way so as to allow a convenient passage to the carriage of any
of the members of the Court of Policy' ; also, ' no woman below
the wives of junior merchants, or those who, among citizens, are
of the same rank, may wear silk dresses, with silk braiding or
embroidery, nor any diamonds or mantelets; and although
the wives of the junior merchants may wear these ornaments,
they shall not be entitled to allow their daughters to wear
them. All women, married or single, without distinction, are

The South African Colonies 125

prohibited, whether in mourning or out of mourning, under a
penalty of twenty-five rix-dollars, to wear dresses with a train.'
Moreover, in the days of Tulbagh, no man dared pass his
house without taking off his hat, whether the great man was
inside or not. Etiquette followed these Dutch officials to the
grave, and it was a rigorous law that for a Governor and
members of the Court of Policy alone dust might be strewn
before the house door as a sign of bereavement.

Of the social life of the scattered Dutch Boers, Sparrmann
the Swede and le Vaillant the French traveller give curious
accounts. The former, who travelled in the country as a
doctor, able and willing to cure complaints, found one of his
patients, a Dutch vrouw, living in a state of poverty, dirt, and
ignorance. ' A house plaistered up in a slovenly manner with
clay, a heap of dirty scabby children, a female slave dragging
after her a heavy iron chain fastened to one of her legs, the
features of the old woman herself, her peaked nose, her per-
petually scolding her servants,' constitute a by no means
agreeable picture of an African home. Sparrmann being an
entomologist, and covering his hat with 'specimens,' was
regarded as an uncanny conjurer or ' hex meester,' and had
great difficulty in calming the suspicions of the Dutch hostess.
'An explanation,' he observes, 'was necessary on the spot.
It was now necessary for me to cease eating a while for fear of
being choked with some of the big words and long Dutch
phrases, which I was obliged to coin on the spot, in order to
convince my hostess of the great utility of understanding these
little animals for medical purposes and at the same time to the
glory of the great Creator.'

Remarking on one of the churches not far from Cape Town,
Sparrmann observed : ' By this edifice I could plainly perceive
that these boors bestowed no more pains upon God's House
than they did upon their own. This church was, indeed, as
big as one of our largest hay-barns, and neatly covered, as the
other houses are, with dark-coloured reeds ; but without any
arching or ceiling, so that the transoms and beams within

126 British Colonisation

made a miserable appearance. Altars and altar-tables are, I
believe, never used in the Reformed Church. There were
benches on the sides for the men ; but the women have each
of them their chair or stool in the aisle. The pulpit was too
plain and slovenly. 5

Mr. Latrobe, travelling in the country about 1818, gives a
somewhat typical reply of a Dutch corn-boer, considered a
shrewd man in his neighbourhood. To the natural query why
he did not plough more land and sow corn for the neighbour-
ing market of Cape Town, ' What,' cried he, 'would you have
us do ? Our only concern is to fill our bellies, to get good
clothes and houses, to say to one slave " Do this," and to
another " Do that," and to sit idle ourselves and be waited
upon ; and as to our tillage, or building, or planting, our fore-
fathers did so-and-so, and were satisfied, and why should not
we be the same ? The English want us to use their ploughs
instead of the heavy wooden ones ; but we like our old things
best.' It may be remarked that in the present year (1892) the
Cape Colony, rich and important as it has become, lives
mainly upon imported com and flour, and the Cape Colonist
eats the dearest loaf in the world. The descendants of the
corn-boer of 1818 have not wiped away the reproach of idle-
ness here brought against their fathers by Mr. Latrobe.

The whole rural population was roughly distinguished as the
wyn-boer or wine-grower, the koorn-boer or corn-grower, and
the vee-boer or grazier. Perhaps, for dirt and unprogressive-
ness, the vee-boer has the unenviable distinction of excelling
the others. * To an European the whole establishment of a
vee-boer presents a scene of filth and discomfort which could
scarcely be imagined. His hovel, generally perched on an
eminence, that no hostile attack may be made on it unper-
ceived, whether by man or beast, has neither tree, nor shrub,
nor blade of grass near it. A few straw huts, with a number of
Hottentot women and children naked or half-clothed in sheep-
skins, are the principal objects that attract the eye. Between
these huts and the boer's house, and immediately in front of

The South African Colonies 127

the latter, surrounded by withered bushes of the thorny
mimosa, is the pen or " kraal" in which his cattle and sheep
are shut up at night to protect them from the wolves and
hyenas or to prevent their straying. The dung of these
kraals, the accumulation of years, sometimes rises to the eaves
of the house ; this, however, gives no concern to the boer,
who would probably see it overtop them with equal apathy ;
the only chance of its ever being cleared away is its taking fire,
which, in damp weather, sometimes happens.' *

The most hopeful industry of all was that of the wyn-boer ;
but here too few attempts were made to utilise to the best
purposes the good qualities of the grape. What was known as
dry Pontac was the best, having the qualities of port with the
flavour of Burgundy. But the sweet wines were without much
flavour the well-known Constantia being inferior to Madeira,
Malmsey, Malaga, or Frontignac. Moreover, all the Cape
wines possessed what was described as the 'kaap-smaak,' arising
either from careless preparation or from certain qualities com-
municated by the soil itself.

It may be asked whether there was any attempt on the part
of philanthropists to better the condition of the black popula-
tion of the Cape. Philanthropy was not much in vogue in
Europe in the eighteenth century; but the Moravians were
the first to take up the task of teachers and missionaries in
South Africa, and to devote themselves to the cause of the
Hottentots. In the year 1737 George Schmidt, known as the
' apostle of the Hottentots,' landed in South Africa, and at a
place called 'Baviaans' Kloof or Baboons' Valley, now called
Genadendal or the Vale of Grace, collected a small band of
natives around him, to whom he taught the Christian faith.
He opened a school, in which he instructed the youth to read
Dutch, and even to learn the trades of craftsmen and artisans.
He also induced them to learn gardening and to cultivate plots
of ground. His mission and its results are thus described by
Mr. Theal, the latest historian of the Cape: 'In 1742 he
1 Quarterly Review, vol. xxii. p. 223.

128 British Colonisation

considered five of his pupils sufficiently advanced in Christian
knowledge to be admitted to all the privileges of Christian
membership, and at their own request baptized them. The
report of this proceeding roused the jealousy of the clergy at
the Cape. They disputed his right to administer the sacra-
ments, as, according to law, only clergymen of the Reformed
Church were at liberty to do so in the colony. Henceforth he
was subjected to much annoyance and opposition from both
the officials and the burghers. So little were his labours
understood or appreciated by the colonists, that they imputed
to him the design of making himself a chief of the Hottentots,
or at least of enriching himself by illegally purchasing cattle
from his converts and their friends. . . . Under such incessant
labour, far away from society, and deprived of everything like
ordinary comfort, it is no wonder that George Schmidt's
strength and spirits began to give way. In 1744, after taking
an affecting farewell of his little flock, now numbering forty-
seven, and leaving them in charge of the most steady of their
number, he returned to Europe to recruit his failing health

Online LibraryWilliam Henry Parr GreswellOutlines of British colonisation → online text (page 11 of 31)