The Dutch and the Natives.

[Sidenote: Hottentot Character]

At the commencement of British rule in Cape Colony (1806) there were in the country 26,000 persons of European descent, chiefly Dutch; 17,000 Hottentots who wandered around the outskirts of settlement and made a precarious livelihood by raising or stealing cattle; and 29,000 slaves. The Bantu had only occasionally appeared upon the visible horizon to the east and this gathering cloud was not yet a serious subject to the people or their Governors. The yellow-skinned Bushmen had retired from sight and sound of the settlers and were in any case a small and diminishing quantity. The Hottentots were in abject fear of their masters, whether as slaves "tending another's flock upon the fields" which once had been their fathers', or as wandering and homeless vagrants constituting a continuous nuisance to the scattered communities. Apart from their subjection to the Dutch, however, they were a thoughtless, cheerful, good-natured people, ignorant of everything except a little hunting and, in physique and character, were about half-way between the Bantu and the Bushmen. Like the latter they became almost extinct under the recurring attacks of small-pox and the increasing pressure of a white population on the south and the swarming masses of Bantu on the north-east.

[Sidenote: Native Tribes]

Following the conquest other native elements came into view. Under the earlier Dutch régime Malays from the East Indies had been introduced for purposes of special work and negro slaves from the west coast had been obtained in large numbers. From the union of Hottentots and Malays came a mixed race called "Cape Boys," and from the union of Dutch and Hottentots came the Griquas who afterwards filled a considerable place in local history. From the seventeenth century until the abolition of slavery, in 1834, all the hard and humble work of the community was done by slaves. The Dutch farmer lost all knowledge of menial work and acquired a conviction of personal superiority which became ingrained in his character. Upon his lonely farm he was master of what he surveyed, and even the laws had little real influence or effect upon him. Constant danger from Hottentot inroads and afterwards from the far more serious and deadly Kaffir raids had bred an independence of character which isolation and ignorance deepened into extreme racial narrowness combined with contempt for men of darker colour or alien extraction.

[Sidenote: Grievance of the Hottentots]

The plowing of ground and fence-building by the Dutch was to the natives a declaration of war upon the rights of Africans--that is, according to the natives themselves, just as the building and mining by the British in the Transvaal is held to be hostile by the Boers who have inherited Hottentot principles with their Hottentot blood. In 1659 Van Riebeck, of Cape Town, wrote to the Governor-General at Batavia that the natives had been in mischief again, that one prisoner spoke "tolerable Dutch," and "being asked why they did us this injury, he declared ... because they saw that we were breaking up the best land and grass, where their cattle were accustomed to graze, trying to establish ourselves everywhere, with houses and farms, as if we were never more to remove, but designed to take, for our permanent occupation, more and more of this Cape Country, which had belonged to them from time immemorial."

[Sidenote: Wars with the Natives]

Wars with the natives were frequent. The first one with the Hottentots occurred in 1659, and arose out of the natives finding their cattle debarred from accustomed pasture lands. It consisted chiefly in a series of cattle raids and fruitless return expeditions, but was perhaps as annoying as a more real war would have been. The Hottentot tribes could never be found when sought for by the Colonists, and no doubt this mobility on the part of their earliest enemy gave the Dutch settlers lessons from which they profited during the succeeding two hundred years. The last important struggle with this native race was in 1673, and arose out of the destruction by Dutch hunters of antelopes, elephants and other game which were very precious to the Hottentot, and were within the territories of the principal remaining tribe--the Cochoqua. During four years a sort of guerilla war was carried on with Gonnema, the Chief of the clan, and considerable loss of cattle, some loss of life and a great loss of sleep caused to the border settlers before peace was concluded. Their expeditions could never get at Gonnema, although he became eventually tired of living a hunted life in the mountains, moving from hiding-place to hiding-place to escape his pursuers. Gradually, however, the Hottentots disappeared from view, so far as any measure of organized hostility was concerned, and, like the Bushmen, became either wandering pariahs of the veldt or bondsmen in the fields of their fathers.

[Sidenote: The Kaffir Wars]

A hundred years or more after the war with Gonnema, the Dutch came into collision for the first time with the Bantu, or Kaffirs. During the preceding century this sturdy, vigorous, brave and restless race had spread itself southwest of the Zambesi in all directions, and were now beginning to press ominously upon the tiny fringe of white settlements at the Cape. Wars, already referred to, occurred in 1779 and 1789, and in each case the Dutch Governor endeavored to persuade or compel the Kosas--as this particular division of the Kaffirs was called--to accept the Fish River as the boundary line. But this they would not do with any degree of continuity, and each war was marked by raids south of the River, the capture of cattle, the burning of homes, the murder of settlers and the final driving back of the natives with hastily levied commandos of Dutch Colonists. In 1799, during the years of preliminary British rule, a similar struggle took place with very similar incidents and results. So in 1812 with the fourth Kaffir war, and in 1818 with the fifth contest. But in the two latter British troops had been employed to help the Dutch commandos, as British diplomacy had been used--not very successfully--in order to control the aggressive and quarrelsome Kosas now coming into continuous contact with the equally truculent Colonists.

[Sidenote: Missionary Influence]

Meanwhile, and during the years preceding the Kaffir war of 1835, a new factor in the general situation had developed in the form of missionary influence, chiefly of the London Missionary Society. Dr. Van der Kemp had come out in 1798 and given himself up, with the most unswerving devotion, to the establishment of a Hottentot mission in the eastern part of the settlement. With other missionaries, who joined him at a later date, he became the guardian of the hapless natives and the natural enemy of the Dutch farmers. To the latter nothing could be more obnoxious than the presence in their midst of men who not only preached to the wandering Bushmen and Hottentots, but treated them as human beings not expressly created for slavery and subjection; and who closely criticised, complained about and reported to headquarters, and finally to the Colonial Office, any arbitrary treatment by the Boers of slaves, or migratory natives, or so-called apprentices. Of course there were two sides to the case which history has developed and which is so important to any adequate conception of the Dutch farmer and his character. To him, through close devotion to the Old Testament and to the peculiarities of its chosen people wandering in the wilderness--of whom he believed his race to be in some sense a prototype--the natives were simply servants raised up by Providence for his especial benefit. They were little better than the surrounding wild animals, and a common inscription over the doors of the Dutch churches, as they slowly spread over the land, was: "Dogs and natives not admitted."

[Sidenote: Dutch Prejudices]

To the missionary this was not only incomprehensible, but cruel and wicked in the extreme. He did not understand the nature of the Boer as evolved out of conditions of frequent war with environing tribes, and from customs which included slavery, and did not tolerate equality in color, race, or religion. He could not understand a creed of the Boer type--hard, narrow, unsympathetic and essentially selfish. He felt in his own veins the broad sentiment of a sacrificial Christianity, and, in trying to lift up the degraded and light the pathway of life to the darkened eyes of the savage, he frequently failed in comprehension of the reserved, taciturn and bigoted Dutchman. Hence the rivalries which spread from individuals to districts, and were finally transfused into the general Dutch estimate of British Government, and into the relations between the Cape and the Colonial Office and between Dutch and English settlers. Ultimately the missionaries became identified with the British authorities, and Dutch prejudices were intensified by the protection thus given to the natives within their districts; whilst the wilder native tribes outside British limits grew in turn to hate the authorities for the opposite reason afforded by their protection of the Dutch settlers--or their efforts to protect them--against external raids and attack. Thus the Colonial Office, had a double difficulty and a double development on its hands.



[Sidenote: The Hottentots and Bushmen Within the Colony]

It was, in any case, no easy matter to manage the Hottentots and Bushmen within the Colony. Up to the time of Lord Caledon's administration (1807-11) they had been allowed to run wild through the region without restraint other than their somewhat chaotic ideas of chieftainship, their innate belief in the natural superiority of any kind of a white man, and the rude justice, or injustice, of the Dutch farmer. Many of them lived as voluntary dependents of the settlers, and constituted a sort of movable slave class which associated with the permanent slaves and were treated much as they were, while retaining the nominal right to transfer their services. Children born of unions between Hottentot women and the imported slaves constituted a body of apprentices whom the farmers had the right to keep for a certain number of years, and who then became free. Practically, however, they were as much slaves as any other black children pertaining to the property. Those of the Hottentots who did not connect themselves with the farmers in any way became rovers and vagrants, who were willing to do almost anything--except steady work--for brandy and tobacco. This was the material selected by Dr. Van der Kemp and other missionaries for reclamation and protection. When the Circuit Courts were instituted in 1811 two of the best known missionaries brought a number of charges against the Boer families on the frontier, accusing them of varied acts of violence and forms of oppression in connection with their slaves and Hottentot servants. A large number of families and a thousand witnesses were involved, and great expenses were incurred by the accused whether they were found innocent or guilty. [Sidenote: Charges of Cruelties] No case of murder was proved, though several were charged. Without going minutely into the result of the charges, it seems evident from our knowledge of the Boer character as it then was, and afterwards proved to be, that cruelties were more than probable. At the same time there is every proof of the utter unreliability of native evidence in any matter involving controversies between white men, or affairs in which his own interests, or fancied interests, appear to be at stake.

[Sidenote: The Rev. Dr. Philip]

In 1818 Dr. Robert Moffat commenced his long sojourn in South Africa by going out to the far north in what is now Bechuanaland. Two years later one of the most curious figures in Colonial history, the Rev. Dr. Philip, reached Cape Town and took charge of the London Society's Missions. He found the missionaries hampered at every point by Dutch dislike, and under some suspicion also from the Government of the Colony. The latter knew enough of the situation to feel that, beneficent as it was to spread the lessons of Christianity, it was also dangerous to inculcate the principle of absolute racial equality in a mixed population such as that of the Cape. To preach the new dispensation of freedom and equality alike to the haughty Boer and to Malay, slave, and Hottentot, was in perfect harmony with religious enthusiasm and with the growing principles of English conviction; but it was not always politic. The abolition of slavery idea, however, was carrying everything before it at home, and Dr. Philip came out with a feeling in his breast which Thomas Pringle, the South African poet, and afterwards Secretary of the Society for the Abolition of Slavery, so well embodied about this time in the following lines:

"I swear, while life-blood warms my throbbing veins,

Still to oppose and thwart with heart and hand

Thy brutalizing sway--till Afric's chains

Are burst, and freedom rules the rescued land--

Trampling oppression and his iron rod."

[Sidenote: The Narrow Views of the Dutch]

He found the Dutch rigidly opposed to him at every point. The great agencies of civilization in such a country as the Cape then was were the magistrates, the missionaries, the schoolmasters and the traders. But the Boer wanted none of them in the full English sense. He accepted the appointment of magistrates, or lauddrosts, but he desired them to be Dutch and to dispense Dutch law. Any religious element outside of the Dutch Reformed Church--which had become the embodiment of his own narrow views and prejudices--was alien and antagonistic, even without missionary interference amongst the natives. Schoolmasters were only good so far as they taught in accord with his crude and very limited ideas of education; while traders were obnoxious as introducing new and disquieting conditions into the loneliness of the veldt and into his relations with the dark-skinned population. Dr. Philip, however, had a plan to work out, and he proceeded with ability and determination to the end. He established himself at Cape Town, and used an influence which came from the strong feeling known to exist in England against slavery and in favor of sympathetic treatment of colored races, to bring about continuous modification in the relations of master and slave. Sometimes he was right and sometimes wrong, but in every case the Government was between two horns of a dilemma--the Colonial Office at home and the Dutch settlers at the Cape. The latter objected to every change in law or regulation; and every interference, no matter how slight, with their living chattels produced one more ember of smouldering hatred. But, in the fourteen years from the time of his arrival until slavery was abolished, Dr. Philip usually carried his point, and by 1834 had the conditions of servitude so moderated that the Abolition Act itself made substantially little difference to the slave.

[Sidenote: The Incident of Slaghter's Nek]

The history of this period and of the entire relationship of English and Dutch toward each other and toward the natives is the record of a high civilization and wide code of liberty--though with many admitted weaknesses and errors of judgment--coming into contact, and inevitable conflict, with a wild and crude system of life and an intensely ignorant and isolated people. The famous incident of Slaghter's Nek illustrates this fact most thoroughly. In 1814 a Hottentot apprentice, named Booy, complained to the Cradock magistrate that his master, Frederick Bezuidenhout, refused to allow him to leave his service or to remove his few belongings. Instructions were given to investigate the case and it was found that the man's time of service had expired, as he claimed, and that under the law of the Colony he was, and should be, at liberty to leave his master. Bezuidenhout refused, however, to obey the order issued for the man's release, although admitting the facts to be as stated; declared that such interference between him and his Hottentot was a presumptuous invasion of his rights; and defied the authorities by beating the man and sending him with a message to the magistrate that he would treat him in the same manner if he dared to come upon his grounds to touch the property or person of a native. He treated a summons to appear before the District Court and then before the High Court of Justice with equal contempt; and when a small force was sent to bring him under subjection to the law, he retired to a cave, well supplied with food and ammunition, and fired upon his assailants until he was himself shot dead.

[Sidenote: A Small Rebellion]

The matter would not have been important, except as illustrating the contempt for law and still greater contempt for the natives which had developed amongst the farmers, had it not been for what followed. The brothers and immediate friends of Bezuidenhout attended his funeral and hatched a small rebellion, in which about fifty men joined--the object being an attack upon the Hottentots of the neighborhood. Loyal Boers of the vicinity joined the forces which were at once sent down to suppress the trouble, and all the rebels were captured, with the exception of Jan Bezuidenhout, who refused to surrender and was shot dead. Thirty-nine prisoners were tried by the High Court and six were sentenced to death. Lord Charles Somerset, after a careful investigation of the whole matter, would only mitigate one of the sentences, and five men were therefore hanged for this wild and almost incomprehensible folly.

[Sidenote: Consequences of Slaghter's Nek]

From the standpoint of to-day the action of the Government seems harsh, and to the Boers the Slaghter's Nek incident is a vivid and continuously quoted illustration of British tyranny and bloodthirstiness. To men on the spot and comprehending the widespread nature of Bezuidenhout's contempt for British power and law and native rights, a lesson may well have appeared necessary and present sternness better than future and more general disregard of law and order. The fact is, that presumption born of mingled ignorance and pride was even then becoming so ingrained in the nature of the Boer as to have rendered some such incident inevitable. And, although the summary policy pursued planted seeds of bitterness which time has failed to eradicate, it certainly averted serious insurrectionary trouble through all the subsequent changes in the law affecting masters and their slaves, or servants, up to the days of the Great Trek.

[Sidenote: Continuous Conflict with Surrounding Natives]

While the Dutch settlers were thus cultivating in their silent and morose manner the most intense feelings against England and the English because of the policy of amelioration in the condition of colored races--the making of fresh slaves had been forbidden by law in 1808--the British Government and the Colonial authorities were being dragged into continuous conflict, or controversy, with surrounding natives on behalf of, and in defence of, the Dutch Colonists. The latter were absolutely remorseless in their treatment of bordering tribes. Of course they had suffered from raids and were in fear of future raids, but this was hardly a sufficient reason for urging and obtaining in 1811 the forcible expulsion of all the Kaffirs from within the border, and the driving of some twenty thousand men, women and children across the Great Fish River. And this in spite of most pathetic appeals to the Dutch commando, as in the following case: "We are your friends. We have watched your cattle when they were taken away by our countrymen. Our wives have cultivated your gardens. Our children and yours speak the same language."[1] Little wonder that during this and succeeding years many natives hated the English, who had permitted this policy, almost as much as they did the Dutch who had perpetrated it. The fourth Kaffir war had naturally followed, and the fifth had come in 1818 as the result of a British attempt to hold the border intact by endorsing a powerful native chief, without available means to take up the note by force when the chief came under the subjugation of a rival stronger and abler than himself. [Sidenote: The Kaffir War of 1835] In 1835 occurred the most important of these wars with the Kosas, or Kaffirs--not so much because of its actual events as of the movement amongst the Dutch which it accelerated. The war was interesting, also, apart from the destruction of Boer property and the loss of life which followed. It illustrated those evils of vacillating administration which have caused so much trouble throughout the modern history of South Africa. Lord Charles Somerset's first policy toward the Kosas had been the maintenance of a vacant strip of territory between the Great Fish and the Keiskama Rivers as a sort of buffer against Boer aggression and native raids. His second plan had been the creation of a buffer native state--a sort of early and shadowy edition of the Afghanistan of a later day. The one had failed because of the lack of coherent action or system amongst the native tribes; the second because of their rivalries and the fact of one chief being paramount to-day and another to-morrow. And, in both cases, the Governor lacked money to persuade the recalcitrant, or men to enforce his decisions.

[1] Parliamentary Papers relative to the Cape, 1835, Part I., p. 176

[Sidenote: A New Line of Action]

Dr. Philip and his party agreed with a portion of this policy. Living five hundred miles from the disturbed frontier; knowing much of the mildness and docility of the Hottentot character, and little of the fiercer and wilder spirit of the Kosa; surrounded by many evidences of Dutch cruelty to the domestic or vagrant colored man, and therefore not disposed to sympathize with the Colonists' real difficulties and sufferings on the border; Dr. Philip supported with ability and earnestness a policy of frontier conciliation instead of coercion. After the conflict of 1835 was over Sir Benjamin D'Urban inaugurated a new line of action. The pressure of the wasting wars of Tshaka and Moselkatze had driven various tribes or remnants of tribes from the north and east down upon the Kosas and into the vicinity of Cape Colony. The Governor therefore took some eighteen thousand Fingoes--as one of these mixed masses of fighting fugitives was called--and established them between the Great Fish and Keiskama Rivers as a new form of the old "buffer" scheme. They and the Kosas hated each other, and he believed that the former would prove a strong British influence upon the frontier. Between the Keiskama and the Keir further to the eastward, certain Kosa clans were proclaimed British subjects, the territory was named the Province of Queen Adelaide, and troops were located at a spot called King Williamstown. But the war had been a bitter one, the natives had been punished for an unprovoked aggression by a somewhat harsh desolation of their country, and the missionary influence at Cape Town saw and seized its opportunity.

[Sidenote: Formation of States Ruled by Native Chiefs]

Their plan was the formation of states ruled by native chiefs under the guidance and control of missionaries, and from which Europeans not favored by, or favorable to the latter, were to be excluded. It was a very idyllic proposal, and was, of course, based upon an entirely wrong conception of the native character and of the necessity of strong, if not drastic, measures being employed to protect the Colony from the Bantu masses, which were now pressing upon the border tribes in all directions. [Sidenote: Dr. Philip Visits London] To press these views, however, Dr. Philip visited London with a carefully trained Kosa and a half-breed Hottentot as examples of the wild and gallant races of the east and north, and testified at great length before a Committee of the House of Commons. He was also supported by the evidence of Captain Andries Stockenstrom, a retired Colonial official. The net result of his mission, combined with the English sympathy for colored races which was then at its highest point of expression, and the hardships of the native war just ended, was a victory for the missionary party; a despatch of unmitigated censure from Lord Glenelg, the new Secretary for the Colonies, to the Governor; the public reversal of the latter's policy with the statement that "it rested upon a war in which the original justice was on the side of the conquered, not of the victorious party;" and the still more extraordinary assertion that the Kosas "had a perfect right to endeavor to extort by force that redress which they could not expect otherwise to obtain." British sovereignty was withdrawn from the region beyond the Keiskama, Sir Benjamin D'Urban was recalled, Captain Stockenstrom was appointed Lieutenant-Governor of Eastern Cape Colony and shortly afterwards created a baronet, and the whole Colony was thrown into a state of violent commotion.

[Sidenote: Sir George Napier's Declaration]

Looking back now and placing oneself in the position of a British Minister pledged by duty to protect British subjects, and by the most ordinary rules of policy bound not to encourage or approve the proceedings of an enemy, there appears to be no adequate practical excuse for this line of action. Sir George Napier, who succeeded to the Governorship and went out to carry Lord Glenelg's policy into effect, declared some years afterwards in examination before the House of Commons that: "My own experience and what I saw with my own eyes have confirmed me that I was wrong and Sir Benjamin D'Urban perfectly right." No matter how reckless the Dutch settlers may have been regarding the border natives, there was no justification in policy for such an insensate and ill-timed defence of native invasion. From the standpoint of sentimentality, however, Lord Glenelg had much support in Great Britain as well as amongst the missionaries at the Cape; and there was much of the theoretically beautiful and Christian-like in his conception of the situation. But from the practical point of view of a statesman dealing with diverse races and absolutely different ideals, and responsible, in the first place, for the guardianship of the subjects of the Crown as against irresponsible tribal attacks, the theories and opinions of religious enthusiasts afford poor foundation for such a policy.

[Sidenote: Noble Ideals of the British Authorities]

At the same time, no one can take the two principles of Government exhibited in the respective incidents of Slaghter's Nek and the results of the sixth Kaffir war without paying an involuntary tribute of admiration to the noble ideal of the British authorities; apart from questions of practical statecraft or wise administration. The Dutch Colonists' principle was the enslavement of the Hottentot; the subjugation of the Kosa within British territory so long as his retention in servitude was safe; the driving of him out of the Colony with ruthless severity when his numbers became considerable; the carrying of fire and slaughter into native regions when war broke out. The policy of succeeding British Governors seems to have been an attempt at compromising between the views of a local missionary party which could see no gleam of good in the Dutch character and the feeling of the latter that all natives were created for the special footstool of a chosen people. The British public, while knowing little of the Dutch farmers beyond their belief in slavery felt very strongly the duty of Great Britain as a guardian of inferior races, and was willing to go so far in defence of an ideal of freedom as to tacitly approve--without probably fully understanding--the extreme development of this policy in the action of Lord Glenelg. The latter was philanthropic, it was Christian-like in a high and cosmopolitan sense, but it was also injurious to the interests of British and Dutch settlers and to the welfare and peace of the Empire. Had a large force of British troops been kept in the Colony to enforce British theories of liberty and high-minded justice, as between natives who knew nothing and could comprehend nothing of either and Boers who would sooner starve than accept the principles thus propounded, the ideal might in the end have been put into praiseworthy practice. As it was the policy of Lord Glenelg helped to promote the Great Trek and to lay the foundation in a territorial sense of that South African question which in its racial connection had now been developing for a couple of centuries.