Mafeking, March 22nd, 1900.
Beyond a few successful cattle-raiding forays on the part of the Baralongs, we have done nothing these past days but maintain courageously the glories of our splendid isolation. In a way we have been compelled to depend to no small extent upon the prowess of the local tribe. The Baralongs have done well by us, and have served us faithfully, and with no complaint. They have fought for us; they have preyed upon the enemy's cattle, so that the white garrison might have something better than horseflesh for their diet; they have manned the western defences of the stadt, and they have suffered severe privations with extraordinary fortitude. There have been moments in the earlier stages of the war when they might well have considered the advisability of supporting a power that could not from the outset hinder their own arch-enemy, and one against whom they have been pre-eminently successful in other years, from invading the territories of the Empire. But whatever may have been the workings of the native mind, however they may have dallied with the treacherous overtures of the Boers, they have individually, and as a tribe, unanimously risen to the occasion, and given to the Great White Queen their absolute support. In the history of these people there is not much in the consideration which we have shown them to justify their allegiance, and if we have secured their loyalty at so critical a moment, let us hope that it may, in some way, epitomise the actions for the future, of the tribes that are allied with them, and, when the moment comes for compensation, let us at least remember the debt of honour which we owe them.
The Baralongs are, of course, identified with the Bantu peoples of Africa, but they come from a stock that is industrial as opposed to the military element of this race. The distribution of the military and industrial Bantu is significant, but in this latter we will consider one of the peaceable tribes. The military Bantu is found in possession of the most fertile regions, and it may be well to remember that they occupied the Southern extremity of Africa, contemporaneously with Europeans. They are now found between the Drakensberg Mountains and the Indian Ocean, fruitful areas about the Zoutpansberg and Kaffraria. It would seem that they held these grounds by right of might, and their district is in somewhat striking contrast to the regions in which the industrial Bantu are at home. These latter cling to the mountains, as in Basutoland, and are scattered over the high plateau which forms so great a part of the Free State and the Transvaal, or in the confines of the Kalahari Desert and those deserts and karoos which lie to the south of the Orange River. The desert has ever been their ultimate retreat, and as their more warlike kinsmen seized and held the finer qualities of the country, the arid and, so to speak, waste areas of Africa fell to the heritage of the industrial Bantu. Descendants from the same family, there is naturally an analogy between their tribal organisations which is yet curiously dissimilar. They are both armed with the same weapon, but the assegai of the military Bantu is short-handled and broad bladed; while the assegai of the industrial Bantu is long and sharp, light in the blade, and intended mainly for purposes of the chase. Among the former the chief is a despot, against whose word there is no appeal; his town is designed with a view to defence; the chief's hut and the cattle-pens of the tribe are placed in the centre, and around these the remaining huts are built in concentric circles. The power of the chief among the industrial Bantu is limited; first by the council of lesser chiefs, secondly by the general assemblage of the freemen of the tribe. His town is intended to serve the requirements of a peaceful people, while outside the ground is cultivated in a rough and unscientific manner; they are even acquainted with the art of smelting ore and working in iron. The pursuit of the military Bantu is directed to the successful cultivation of a bare sufficiency of corn and cattle, and he pays little attention to anything which is beyond his immediate requirements. The Kaffirs, the Zulus, and the Matabele Zulus are among the warlike tribes of this dark-skinned race; but the chief seats of the industrial tribe are Bechuanaland and Basutoland, and it is with the peaceful Bechuanas, with whom are identified the Baralongs, that we propose to deal.
Historically, Bechuanaland will remain ever interesting to Englishmen as being the scene of the labours of Robert Moffat, David Livingstone, and John Mackenzie: three famous missionaries, who in their time did so much for the interests of our country in what was then the Dark Continent. The immense area lying to the north of Cape Colony possessed in itself one great political feature which made its possession of paramount importance. It was the natural trade route between that colony and Central Africa at a moment when Imperialism was a soulless conception, and when our ideas of the Empire in Africa shrank at the possibility of northern expansion. During all those years possession of Bechuanaland was the golden key to a future which, had we but realised it then, would have given us some right to claim the distinction of being a race of discoverers. We were, however, very diffident about accepting and recognising any greater responsibilities in relation to any enlargement of the areas of our African domains, and if a vindictive spirit had not encouraged the Boers to plunder and destroy the settlement in which missionary Livingstone abode, and thus driven him to pastures of a fresh kind, we might never have possessed the gate through which the stream of prosperity has flowed, until it reached to the limits of Central Africa. If the Boers had resolved to oust this intrepid Englishman, they failed lamentably, insomuch as they did but drive him to explore the interior, and to open up a magnificent reach of country to his fellow Englishmen. Bechuanaland lay at his feet when he first started forth, but to-day the point of exploration is many hundred miles in advance. Bechuanaland has flourished, and would have prospered more, had we but appreciated the doctrine of those Victorian statesmen who, recognising the wondrous wealth which lay in this new country, but fearing that the moment had not come for such gigantic undertakings, were regretfully compelled to delegate to posterity the duty of some day acquiring these very areas. Great Britain does not go very far back into the history of the native tribes of Bechuanaland. We are the later agents of a new civilisation, but we have yet to undo many wrongs to the lawful possessors of this proud heritage, to adjust many intricate questions, and to grapple, without fear and hesitation, with the problems which confront us—problems upon which it is surely not too much to say the effectual solidarity and stability of this great African Empire depends.
Tradition tells us that the Baralong branch of the Bantu came from the north under the leadership of Chief Morolong, and that the tribe settled, after a protracted exodus from the north, on the Molopo River under a chief who was fourth in descent from their first leader, Morolong. The combination of the military and industrial Bantu had been already broken by the character of the tribe itself. Before they had been settled very long, Matabele Zulus under Moselekatse attacked Mabua, and there was once again a complete division of tribe. They scattered in three directions. Thaba N'chu was selected by the leader of that party as their eventual resting-place. Two other sections, led by Taoane, the father of Montsioa, and Machabi, found their way into the country which lay between the Orange River and the Vaal. There they remained, leading a quiet and comparatively harmless existence until the Boers, under Hendrik Potgieter, entered into alliance with the Baralongs to attack Moselekatse. When the old lion of the north had been driven beyond the Limpopo, Taoane returned with his followers to the south bank of the Marico. By virtue of this conquest Potgieter issued a proclamation, claiming for himself and the Transvaal Government the country which had previously been overrun by the Zulu chief. Under this proclamation the Boers claimed to exercise sovereign powers over the Bechuana tribes, but upon the protest of the British Government this was withdrawn, Taoane and Montsioa, who had by this time succeeded his father, refusing to recognise the implied sovereignty of the Boers. By the intervention of the Imperial Government on behalf of the native chiefs of a territory which was practically unknown, it became the eventual channel through which we pushed a benign salvation, and an indifferent protection upon the natives of Bechuanaland until that time when we were enabled to assimilate the country. The attempt of the Transvaal Government to seize the areas of Bechuanaland was the rift in the silver lining of the clouds of Transvaal prosperity. The question became, between the two Governments, one of great moment, and its existence, since the Republic declined to ratify the award of the Keate Arbitration, was a bone of contention which was never altogether buried. The attitude of this Republic, the indirect assistance which the Transvaal offered to Moshette and Massou for the perpetuation of civil strife among the Bechuana chiefs, undoubtedly hastened the annexation by Great Britain in 1877 of the Transvaal territory. When this happened, despite the fact that the border was immediately delimited, Bechuanaland passed through a period of the greatest anarchy. The chiefs were warring amongst themselves, and although the two parties claimed the protection of either the Transvaal or the Imperial Government, the country was not definitely pacified till the despatch of the Warren Expedition, an expedient which by its success made Bechuanaland an integral portion of our African Empire. Montsioa, the Baralong chief, was fighting with his brother Moshette; Mankorane, the Batlapin chief, was engaged in struggle with David Massou, who was head of the Korannas. Of these four chiefs Montsioa and Mankorane sought the protection of the Imperial Government, while Moshette and Massou acknowledged the sovereignty of the Transvaal. European volunteers or freebooters who would be rewarded for their services by grants of land, assisted each of the four chiefs. At this juncture the Imperial Government changed its policy of administration in relation to the natives of Bechuanaland, and the result was that the High Commissioner of the Cape became supreme chief of the natives outside the Republic and the territories of foreign powers. In pursuance of the new policy Mr. Mackenzie arrived in Bechuanaland as British Resident, for the purpose of giving effect to the newly proclaimed Protectorate which had been established over the country outside the south-western boundary of the Transvaal by the consent of the delegates from the Republic, who had visited London to obtain certain modifications of the Convention of Pretoria. An extraordinary state of things awaited the arrival of Mackenzie, for the volunteers in the service of the Bechuana chiefs, Moshette and Massou, had established two independent communities, the "republics" of Land Goshen and Stellaland. The freebooters of Stellaland offered no resistance to the authority of the British Resident, but the burghers of Land Goshen celebrated the arrival of the Resident by a series of outrages and the contemptuous rejection of the demands made to them by these new officials. With the successful resistance of the filibusters from Rooigrond, the capital of Land Goshen, President Kruger issued a proclamation in the interests of humanity, by which he brought under the protecting wing of this South African State, the contending chiefs and their European advisers; thus the anomaly existed of a power endeavouring to assert its authority over rebels in a country in which we ourselves had assumed control. The mediation of the Transvaal Government was brought about, partly by the situation of Rooigrond, partly by the unjustifiable arrogance and assumption of the Transvaal President. The town had been so placed that it lay across the line of the new south-western boundary; the divisions lying partly in the Transvaal, partly in the Protectorate, and since it had become apparent that the Imperial or Colonial Government were unable to remedy the evils which arose from the depredations of marauders of Rooigrond, their leaders justified their actions by claiming that their town was the property of the Transvaal, and that they themselves were acting for that state, under the orders of General Joubert, and endeavouring to suppress conditions of anarchy in a country which, from the state of its existence, would appear to possess no controlling influences. If the outcome of this diplomatic feat were the proclamation of the Transvaal, it also aroused Great Britain to the true condition of affairs. The Transvaal had gone too far, and, in response to hints from the Imperial Government as to the feeling of the colony, resolutions were passed stating that public opinion in Cape Colony considered the intervention of her Majesty's Government for the maintenance of the trade route to the interior, and the preservation of native tribes to whom promise of Imperial protection had already been given, was an act dictated by the claims of humanity and by the necessities of policy. It was thus brought home to the Government that the Cape Colonists considered that it would be fatal to British supremacy in South Africa if we failed to maintain our rights which we derived from the Convention of London, and to fulfil our obligations towards the native tribes of the new Protectorate. After this assurance of moral support the Imperial Government despatched Sir Charles Warren, in order that he might remove the filibusters from Bechuanaland, pacify the country, and restore the natives their land, taking measures, in the meantime, to prevent a recurrence of the depredations and atrocities which had been enacted recently there. When the forces were finally withdrawn Bechuanaland was created a Crown Colony, and at a subsequent date, it was incorporated into the Cape Colony. Since this time we have continued to perform the duties of a central authority in respect to the native tribes beyond the borders of the South African Republic, the expenses of administration being paid from the proceeds of the hut tax which is levied upon natives, together with the revenue derived from trading licenses, and paid for by European traders. In the settlement of Bechuanaland we reached a critical point in the history of England's administration in South Africa. We have been compelled to accept the responsibilities of such a central power as we have become, and we can no longer disregard the adjustment of those problems which so burdened that office. Now that our Imperial interests are so strong and our holdings in the country so great, let us no longer continue to oppose the means which will lead to that eventual federation of the Colonies and States of South Africa, the union which, once secured, will do so much to rectify the mistakes that we have made in our African policy.