CETYWAYO AND HIS WHITE NEIGHBOURS
OR, REMARKS ON RECENT EVENTS IN ZULULAND, NATAL, AND THE TRANSVAAL.
By H. Rider Haggard
First Published 1882.
This text was prepared from an 1882 edition published by Trubner & Co., Ludgate Hill, London.
"I am told that these men (the Boers) are told to keep on agitating in this way, for a change of Government in England may give them again the old order of things. Nothing can show greater ignorance of English politics than such an idea. I tell you there is no Government—Whig or Tory, Liberal, Conservative, or Radical—who would dare, under any circumstances, to give back this country (the Transvaal). They would not dare, because the English people would not allow them."—(Extract from Speech of Sir Garnet Wolseley, delivered at a Public Banquet in Pretoria, on the 17th December 1879.)
"There was a still stronger reason than that for not receding (from the Transvaal); it was impossible to say what calamities such a step as receding might not cause. . . . For such a risk he could not make himself responsible. . . . Difficulties with the Zulu and the frontier tribes would again arise, and looking as they must to South Africa as a whole, the Government, after a careful consideration of the question, came to the conclusion that we could not relinquish the Transvaal."—(Extract from Speech of Lord Kimberley in the House of Lords, 24th May 1880. H. P. D., vol. cclii., p. 208.)
The writer on Colonial Affairs is naturally, to some extent, discouraged by the knowledge that the subject is an unattractive one to a large proportion of the reading public. It is difficult to get up anything beyond a transient interest in the affairs of our Colonial dependencies; indeed, I believe that the mind of the British public was more profoundly moved by the exodus of Jumbo, than it would be were one of them to become the scene of some startling catastrophe. This is the more curious, inasmuch as, putting aside all sentimental considerations, which indeed seem to be out of harmony with the age we live in: the trade done, even with such comparatively insignificant colonies as our South African possessions, amounts to a value of many millions of pounds sterling per annum. Now, as the preachers of the new gospel that hails from Birmingham and Northampton have frequently told us, trade is the life-blood of England, and must be fostered at any price. It is therefore surprising that, looking on them in the light of a commercial speculation, in which aspect (saith the preacher) they are alone worthy of notice, a keener interest is not taken in the well-being and development of the Colonies. We have only to reflect to see how great are the advantages that the Mother Country derives from the possession of her Colonial Empire; including, as they do, a home for her surplus children, a vast and varied market for her productions, and a wealth of old-fashioned loyalty and deep attachment to the Old Country—"home," as it is always called—which, even if it is out of date, might prove useful on emergency. It seems therefore, almost a pity that some Right Honourable Gentlemen and their followers should adopt the tone they do with reference to the Colonies. After all, there is an odd shuffling of the cards going on now in England; and great as she is, her future looks by no means sunny. Events in these latter days develop themselves very quickly; and though the idea may, at the present moment, seem absurd, surely it is possible that, what between the rapid spread of Radical ideas, the enmity of Ireland, the importation of foreign produce, and the competition of foreign trade, to say nothing of all the unforeseen accidents and risks of the future, the Englishmen of, say, two generations hence, may not find their country in her present proud position. Perhaps, and stranger things have happened in the history of the world, she may by that time be under the protection of those very Colonies for which their forefathers had such small affection.
The position of South Africa with reference to the Mother Country is somewhat different to that of her sister Colonies, in that she is regarded, not so much with apathy tinged with dislike, as with downright disgust. This feeling has its foundation in the many troubles and expenses in which this country has been recently involved, through local complications in the Cape, Zululand, and the Transvaal: and indeed is little to be wondered at. But, whilst a large portion of the press has united with a powerful party of politicians in directing a continuous stream of abuse on to the heads of the white inhabitants of South Africa, whom they do not scruple to accuse of having created the recent disturbances in order to reap a money profit from them: it does not appear to have struck anybody that the real root of this crop of troubles might, after all, be growing nearer home. The truth of the matter is, that native and other problems in South Africa have, till quite lately, been left to take their chance, and solve themselves as best they might; except when they have, in a casual manner, been made the corpus vile of some political experiment. It was during this long period of inaction, when each difficulty—such as the native question in Natal—was staved off to be dealt with by the next Government, that the seed was sown of which we are at present reaping the fruit. In addition to this, matters have recently been complicated by the elevation of South African affairs to the dignity of an English party question. Thus, the Transvaal Annexation was made use of as a war-cry in the last general election, a Boer rebellion was thereby encouraged, which resulted in a complete reversal of our previous policy.
Now, if there is any country dependent on England that requires the application to the conduct of its affairs of a firm, considered, and consistent policy, that country is South Africa. Boers and Natives are quite incapable of realising the political necessities of any of our parties, or of understanding why their true interests should be sacrificed in order to minister to those necessities. It is our wavering and uncertain policy, as applied to peoples, who look upon every hesitating step as a sign of fear and failing dominion, that, in conjunction with previous postponement and neglect, has really caused our troubles in South Africa. For so long as the affairs of that country are influenced by amateurs and sentimentalists, who have no real interest in it, and whose knowledge of its circumstances and conditions of life is gleaned from a few blue-books, superficially got up to enable the reader to indite theoretical articles to the "Nineteenth Century," or deliver inaccurate speeches in the House of Commons—for so long will those troubles continue.
If I may venture to make a suggestion, the affairs of South Africa should be controlled by a Board or Council, like that which formerly governed India, composed of moderate members of both parties, with an admixture of men possessing practical knowledge of the country. I do not know if any such arrangement would be possible under our constitution, but the present system of government, by which the control of savage races fluctuates in obedience of every variation of English party politics, is most mischievous in its results.
The public, however, is somewhat tired of South Africa, and the reader may, perhaps, wonder why he should be troubled with more literature on the subject. I can assure him that these pages are not written in order to give me an opportunity of airing my individual experiences or ideas. Their object is shortly—(1.) To give a true history of the events attendant on the Annexation of the Transvaal, which act has so frequently been assigned to the most unworthy motives, and has never yet been fairly described by any one who was in a position to know the facts; (2.) To throw as much publicity as possible on the present disgraceful state of Zululand, resulting from our recent settlement in that country; (3.) To show all interested in the Kafir races what has been the character of our recent surrender in the Transvaal, and what its effect will be on our abandoned native subjects living in that country.
It may, perhaps, seem an odd statement, considering that I have lived in various parts of South Africa for about six years, and have, perhaps, enjoyed exceptional advantage in forming my opinions, when I say that my chief fear in publishing the present volume, is lest my knowledge of my subject in all its bearings should not be really equal to the task. It is, I know, the fashion to treat South African difficulties as being simple of solution. Thus it only took Sir Garnet Wolseley a few weeks to understand the whole position of Zulu affairs, and to execute his memorable settlement of that country: whilst eminent writers appear to be able, in scampering from Durban via Kimberley to Cape Town in a post-cart, to form decided opinions upon every important question in South Africa. The power of thus rapidly assimilating intricate knowledge, and of seeing straight through a wall whilst ordinary individuals are still criticising the bricks, is no doubt one of the peculiar privileges of genius—which is, perhaps fortunately for South Africa—rare. To the common run of mind, however, the difficulty of forming a sound and accurate judgment on the interlacing problems that disclose themselves to the student of the politics of South-Eastern Africa, is exceedingly great and the work of years.
But although it is by no means perfect, I think that my knowledge of these problems and of their imminent issues is sufficiently intimate to justify me in making a prophecy—namely, that unless the native and other questions of South-Eastern Africa are treated with more honest intelligence, and on a more settled plan than it has hitherto been thought necessary to apply to them, the British taxpayer will find that he has by no means heard the last of that country and its wars.
There is one more point to which, although it hardly comes within the scope of this volume, I have made some allusion, and which I venture to suggest deserves the consideration of thinking Englishmen. I refer to the question of the desirability of allowing the Dutch in South Africa, who are already numerically the strongest, to continue to advance with such rapid strides towards political supremacy. That the object of this party is to reduce Englishmen and English ideas to a subordinate position in the State, if not actually to rid itself of our rule and establish a republic, there is no manner of doubt. Indeed, there exists a powerful organisation, the Africander Bond, which has its headquarters in the Cape, and openly devotes its energies to forwarding these ends, by offering a sturdy opposition to the introduction of English emigrants and the use of the English language, whilst striving in every way to excite class prejudices and embitter the already strained relations between Englishman and Boer. In considering this question, it is as well not to lose sight of the fact that the Dutch are as a body, at heart hostile to our rule, chiefly because they cannot tolerate our lenient behaviour to the native races. Should they by any chance cease to be the subjects of England, they will, I believe, become her open enemies. This of itself would be comparatively unimportant, were it not for the fact that, in the event of the blocking of the Suez Canal, it would be, to say the least, inconvenient that the Cape should be in the hands of a hostile population.
In conclusion, I wish to state that this book is not written for any party purpose. I have tried to describe a state of affairs which has for the most part come under my own observation, and events in which I have been interested, and at times engaged. That the naked truths of such a business as the Transvaal surrender, or of the present condition of Zululand, are unpleasant reading for an Englishman, there is no doubt; but, so far as these pages are concerned, they owe none of their ugliness to undue colouring or political bias.
Windham Club, St. James' Square, June 1882.
CETYWAYO AND HIS WHITE NEIGHBOURS
CETYWAYO AND THE ZULU SETTLEMENT
Claims of affairs of Zululand to attention—Proposed visit of Cetywayo to England—Chaka—His method of government—His death— Dingaan—Panda—Battle of the Tugela—John Dunn—Nomination of Cetywayo—His coronation—His lady advocates—Their attacks on officials—Was Cetywayo bloodthirsty?—Cause of the Zulu war—Zulu military system—States of feeling amongst the Zulus previous to the war—Cetywayo's position—His enemies—His intentions on the Transvaal—Their frustration by Sir T. Shepstone—Cetywayo's interview with Mr. Fynney—His opinion of the Boers—The annexation in connection with the Zulu war—The Natal colonists and the Zulu war—Sir Bartle Frere—The Zulu war—Cetywayo's half-heartedness—Sir Garnet Wolseley's settlement—Careless selection of chiefs—The Sitimela plot—Chief John Dunn—Appointment of Mr. Osborn as British Resident—His difficult position—Folly and cruelty of our settlement—Disappointment of the Zulus—Object and result of settlement—Slaughter in Zululand—Cetywayo's son—Necessity of proper settlement of Zululand—Should Cetywayo be restored?
Zululand and the Zulu settlement still continue to receive some attention from the home public, partly because those responsible for the conduct of affairs are not quite at ease about it, and partly because of the agitation in this country for the restoration of Cetywayo.
There is no doubt that the present state of affairs in Zululand is a subject worthy of close consideration, not only by those officially connected with them, but by the public at large. Nobody, either at home or in the colonies, wishes to see another Zulu war, or anything approaching to it. Unless, however, the affairs of Zululand receive a little more attention, and are superintended with a little more humanity and intelligence than they are at present, the public will sooner or later be startled by some fresh catastrophe. Then will follow the usual outcry, and the disturbance will be attributed to every cause under the sun except the right one—want of common precautions.
The Zulu question is a very large one, and I only propose discussing so much of it as necessary to the proper consideration of the proposed restoration of Cetywayo to his throne.
The king is now coming to England,[*] where he will doubtless make a very good impression, since his appearance is dignified, and his manners, as is common among Zulus of high rank, are those of a gentleman. It is probable that his visit will lead to a popular agitation in his favour, and very possibly to an attempt on the part of the English Government to reinstate him in his kingdom. Already Lady Florence Dixie waves his banner, and informs the public through the columns of the newspapers how good, how big, and how beautiful he is, and "F. W. G. X." describes in enthusiastic terms his pearl-like teeth. But as there are interests involved in the question of his reinstatement which are, I think, more important than Cetywayo's personal proportions of mind or body, and as the results of such a step would necessarily be very marked and far-reaching, it is as well to try and understand the matter in all its bearing before anything is done.
[*] Since the above was written the Government have at the last moment decided to postpone Cetywayo's visit to this country, chiefly on account of the political capital which was being made out of the event by agitators in Zululand. The project of bringing the king to England does not, however, appear to have been abandoned.
There has been a great deal of special pleading about Cetywayo. Some writers, swayed by sentiment, and that spirit of partisanship that the sight of royalty in distress always excites, whitewash him in such a persistent manner that their readers are left under the impression that the ex-king is a model of injured innocence and virtue. Others again, for political reasons, paint him very black, and predict that his restoration would result in the destruction, or at the least, disorganisation, of our South African empire. The truth in this, as in the majority of political controversies, lies somewhere between these two extremes, though it is difficult to say exactly where.
To understand the position of Cetywayo both with reference to his subjects and the English Government, it will be necessary to touch, though briefly, on the history of Zululand since it became a nation, and also on the principal events of the ex-king's reign.
Chaka, Cetywayo's great uncle, was the first Zulu king, and doubtless one of the most remarkable men that has ever filled a throne since the days of the Pharaohs. When he came to his chieftainship, about 1813, the Zulu people consisted of a single small tribe; when his throne became vacant in 1828, their name had become a living terror, and they were the greatest Black power in South Africa. The invincible armies of this African Attila had swept north and south, east and west, had slaughtered more than a million human beings, and added vast tracts of country to his dominions. Wherever his warriors went, the blood of men, women, and children was poured out without stay or stint; indeed he reigned like a visible Death, the presiding genius of a saturnalia of slaughter.
His methods of government and warfare were peculiar and somewhat drastic, but most effective. As he conquered a tribe, he enrolled its remnants in his army, so that they might in their turn help to conquer others. He armed his regiments with the short stabbing assegai, instead of the throwing assegai which they had been accustomed to use, and kept them subject to an iron discipline. If a man was observed to show the slightest hesitation about coming to close quarters with the enemy, he was executed as soon as the fight was over. If a regiment had the misfortune to be defeated, whether by its own fault or not, it would on its return to headquarters find that a goodly proportion of the wives and children belonging to it had been beaten to death by Chaka's orders, and that he was waiting their arrival to complete his vengeance by dashing out their brains. The result was, that though Chaka's armies were occasionally annihilated, they were rarely defeated, and they never ran away. I will not enter in the history of his numerous cruelties, and indeed they are not edifying. Amongst other things, like Nero, he killed his own mother, and then caused several persons to be executed because they did not show sufficient sorrow at her death.
At length, in 1828, he too suffered the fate he had meted out to so many, and was killed by his brothers, Dingaan and Umhlangan, by the hands of one Umbopa. He was murdered in his hut, and as his life passed out of him he is reported to have addressed these words to his brothers, who were watching his end: "What! do you stab me, my brothers, dogs of mine own house, whom I have fed? You hope to be kings; but though you do kill me, think not that your line shall reign for long. I tell you that I hear the sound of the feet of the great white people, and that this land shall be trodden by them." He then expired, but his last words have always been looked upon as a prophecy by the Zulus, and indeed they have been partly fulfilled.
Having in his turn killed Umhlangan, his brother by blood and in crime, Dingaan took possession of the throne. He was less pronounced than Chaka in his foreign policy, though he seems to have kept up the family reputation as regards domestic affairs. It was he who, influenced, perhaps, by Chaka's dying prophecy about white men, massacred Retief, the Boer leader, and his fifty followers, in the most treacherous manner, and then falling on the emigrant Boers in Natal, murdered men, women, and children to the number of nearly six hundred. There seems, however, to have been but little love lost between any of the sons of Usengangacona (the father of Chaka, Dingaan, Umhlangan, and Panda), for in due course Panda, his brother, conspired with the Boers against Dingaan, and overthrew him with their assistance. Dingaan fled, and was shortly afterwards murdered in Swaziland, and Panda ascended the throne in 1840.
Panda was a man of different character to the remainder of his race, and seems to have been well content to reign in peace, only killing enough people to keep up his authority. Two of his sons, Umbelazi and Cetywayo, of whom Umbelazi was the elder and Panda's favourite, began, as their father grew old, to quarrel about the succession to the crown. On the question being referred to Panda, he is reported to have remarked that when two young cocks quarrelled the best thing they could do was to fight it out. Acting on this hint, each prince collected his forces, Panda sending down one of his favourite regiments to help Umbelazi. The fight took place in 1856 on the banks of the Tugela. A friend of the writer, happening to be on the Natal side of the river the day before the battle, and knowing it was going to take place, swam his horse across in the darkness, taking his chance of the alligators, and hid in some bush on a hillock commanding the battlefield. It was a hazardous proceeding, but the sight repaid the risk, though he describes it as very awful, more especially when the regiment of veterans sent by Panda joined in the fray. It came up at the charge, between two and three thousand strong, and was met near his hiding-place by one of Cetywayo's young regiments. The noise of the clash of their shields was like the roar of the sea, but the old regiment, after a struggle in which men fell thick and fast, annihilated the other, and passed on with thinned ranks. Another of Cetywayo's regiments took the place of the one that had been destroyed, and this time the combat was fierce and long, till victory again declared for the veterans' spears. But they had brought it dear, and were in no position to continue their charge; so the leaders of that brave battalion formed its remnants into a ring, and, like the Scotch at Flodden—
"The stubborn spearmen still made good The dark, impenetrable wood; Each stepping where his comrade stood The instant that he fell,"
till there were none left to fall. The ground around them was piled with dead.
But this gallant charge availed Umbelazi but little, and by degrees Cetywayo's forces pressed his men back to the banks of the Tugela, and finally into it. Thousands fell upon the field and thousands perished in the river. When my friend swam back that night, he had nothing to fear from the alligators: they were too well fed. Umbelazi died on the battlefield of a broken heart, at least it is said that no wound could be found on his person. He probably expired in a fit brought on by anxiety of mind and fatigue. A curious story is told of Cetywayo with reference to his brother's death. After the battle was over a Zulu from one of his own regiments presented himself before him with many salutations, saying, "O prince! now canst thou sleep in peace, for Umbelazi is dead." "How knowest thou that he is dead?" said Cetywayo. "Because I slew him with my own hand," replied the Zulu. "Thou dog!" said the prince, "thou hast dared to lift thy hand against the blood royal, and now thou makest it a matter of boasting. Wast thou not afraid? By Chaka's head thou shalt have thy reward. Lead him away." And the Zulu, who was but lying after all, having possessed himself of the bracelets off the dead prince's body, was instantly executed. The probability is that Cetywayo acted thus more from motives of policy than from affection to his brother, whom indeed he hoped to destroy. It did not do to make too light of the death of an important prince: Umbelazi's fate to-day might be Cetywayo's fate to-morrow. This story bears a really remarkable resemblance to that of the young man who slew Saul, the Lord's anointed, and suffered death on account thereof at the hands of David.
This battle is also memorable as being the occasion of the first public appearance of Mr. John Dunn, now the most important chief in Zululand, and, be it understood, the unknown quantity in all future transactions in that country. At that time Dunn was a retainer of Umbelazi's, and fought on his side in the Tugela battle. After the fight, however, he went over to Cetywayo and became his man. From that time till the outbreak of the Zulu war he remained in Zululand as adviser to Cetywayo, agent for the Natal Government, and purveyor of firearms to the nation at large. As soon as Cetywayo got into trouble with the Imperial Government, Dunn, like a prudent man, deserted him and came over to us. In reward Sir Garnet Wolseley advanced him to the most important chieftainship in Zululand, which he hopes to make a stepping-stone to the vacant throne. His advice was largely followed by Sir Garnet in the bestowal of the other chieftainships, and was naturally not quite disinterested. He has already publicly announced his intention of resisting the return of the king, his old master, by force of arms, should the Government attempt to reinstate him.
A period of sixteen years elapsed before Cetywayo reaped the fruits of the battle of the Tugela by succeeding to the throne on the death of his father, Panda, the only Zulu monarch who has as yet come to his end by natural causes.
In 1861, however, Cetywayo was, at the instance of the Natal Government, formally nominated heir to the throne by Mr. Shepstone, it being thought better that a fixed succession should be established with the concurrence of the Natal Government than that matters should be left to take their chance on Panda's death. Mr. Shepstone accomplished his mission successfully, though at great personal risk. For some unknown reason, Cetywayo, who was blown up with pride, was at first adverse to being thus nominated, and came down to the royal kraal with three thousand armed followers, meaning, it would see, to kill Mr. Shepstone, whom he had never before met. Panda, the old king, had an inkling of what was to happen, but was powerless to control his son, so he confined himself to addressing the assembled multitude in what I have heard Sir Theophilus Shepstone say was the most eloquent and touching speech he ever listened to, the subject being the duties of hospitality. He did not at the time know how nearly the speech concerned him, or that its object was to preserve his life. This, however, soon became manifest when, exception being taken to some breech of etiquette by one of his servants, he was surrounded by a mob of shouting savages, whose evident object was to put an end to him and those with him. For two hours he remained sitting there, expecting that every moment would be his last, but showing not the slightest emotion, till at length he got an opportunity of speaking, when he rose and said, "I know that you mean to kill me; it is an easy thing to do; but I tell you Zulus, that for every drop of my blood that falls to the ground, a hundred men will come out of the sea yonder, from the country of which Natal is one of the cattle-kraals, and will bitterly avenge me." As he spoke he turned and pointed towards the ocean, and so intense was the excitement that animated it, that the whole great multitude turned with him and stared towards the horizon, as though they expected to see the long lines of avengers creeping across the plains. Silence followed his speech; his imperturbability and his well-timed address had saved his life. From that day his name was a power in the land.[*]
[*] A very good description of this scene was published in the London Quarterly Review in 1878. The following is an extract:
"In the centre of those infuriated savages he (Mr. Shepstone) sat for more than two hours outwardly calm, giving confidence to his solitary European companion by his own quietness, only once saying, 'Why, Jem, you're afraid,' and imposing restraint on his native attendants. Then, when they had shouted, as Cetywayo himself said in our hearing, 'till their throats were so sore that they could shout no more,' they departed. But Sompseu (Mr. Shepstone) had conquered. Cetywayo, in describing the scene to us and our companion on a visit to him a short time afterwards, said, 'Sompseu is a great man: no man but he could have come through that day alive.' Similar testimony we have had from some of the Zulu assailants, from the native attendants, and the companion above mentioned. Next morning Cetywayo humbly begged an interview, which was not granted but on terms of unqualified submission. From that day Cetywayo has submitted to British control in the measure in which it has been exercised, and has been profuse in his expressions of respect and submission to Mr. T. Shepstone; but in his heart, as occasional acts and speeches show, he writhes under the restraint, and bitterly hates the man who imposed it."
It was on this occasion that a curious incident occurred which afterwards became of importance. Among the Zulus there exists a certain salute, "Bayete," which it is the peculiar and exclusive privilege of Zulu royalty to receive. The word means, or is supposed to mean, "Let us bring tribute." On Mr. Shepstone's visit the point was raised by the Zulu lawyers as to what salute he should receive. It was not consistent with their ideas that the nominator of their future king should be greeted with any salute inferior to the Bayete, and this, as plain Mr. Shepstone, it was impossible to give him. The difficulty was obvious, but the Zulu mind proved equal to it. He was solemnly announced to be a Zulu king, and to stand in the place of the great founder of their nation, Chaka. Who was so fit to proclaim the successor to the throne as the great predecessor of the prince proclaimed? To us this seems a strange, not to say ludicrous, way of settling a difficulty, but there was nothing in it repugnant to Zulu ideas. Odd as it was, it invested Mr. Shepstone with all the attributes of a Zulu king, such as the power to make laws, order executions, &c., and those attributes in the eyes of Zulus he still retains.
In 1873 messengers came down from Zululand to the Natal Government, bringing with them the "king's head," that is, a complimentary present of oxen, announcing the death of Panda. "The nation," they said, "was wandering; it wanders and wanders, and wanders again;" the spirit of the king had departed from them; his words had ceased, and "none but children were left." The message ended with a request that Mr. Shepstone, as Cetywayo's "father," should come and instal him on the throne. A month or two afterwards there came another message, again requesting his attendance; and on the request being refused by the Lieutenant-Governor of Natal, there came a third message, to which the Natal Government returned a favourable answer.
Accordingly Mr. Shepstone proceeded to Zululand, and on the 3rd September 1873 proclaimed Cetywayo king with all due pomp and ceremony. It was on this occasion that, in the presence of, and with the enthusiastic assent of, both king and people, Mr. Shepstone, "standing in the place of Cetywayo's father, and so representing the nation," enunciated the four following articles, with a view to putting an end to the continual slaughter that darkens the history of Zululand:—
1. That the indiscriminate shedding of blood shall cease in the land.
2. That no Zulu shall be condemned without open trial, and the public examination of witnesses for and against, and that he shall have a right to appeal to the king.
3. That no Zulu's life shall be taken without the previous knowledge and consent of the king, after such trial has taken place, and the right of appeal has been allowed to be exercised.
4. That for minor crimes the loss of property, all or a portion, shall be substituted for the punishment of death.
Nobody will deny that these were admirable regulations, and that they were received as such at the time by the Zulu king and people. But there is no doubt that their ready acceptance by the king was a sacrifice to his desire to please "his father Sompseu" (Mr. Shepstone) and the Natal Government, with both of which he was particularly anxious to be on good terms. He has never adhered to these coronation regulations, or promises, as they have been called, and the probability is that he never intended to adhere to them. However this may be, I must say that personally I have been unable to share the views of those who see in the breach of these so-called promises a justification of the Zulu war. After all, what do they amount to, and what guarantee was there for their fulfilment? They merely represent a very laudable attempt on the part of the Natal Government to keep a restraining hand on Zulu cruelty, and to draw the bonds of friendship as tight as the idiosyncrasies of a savage state would allow. The Government of Natal had no right to dictate the terms to a Zulu king on which he was to hold his throne. The Zulu nation was an independent nation, and had never been conquered or annexed by Natal. If the Government of that colony was able by friendly negotiation to put a stop to Zulu slaughter, it was a matter for congratulation on humanitarian grounds; but it is difficult to follow the argument that because it was not able, or was only partially able, to do so, therefore England was justified in making war on the Zulus. On the other hand, it is perfectly ludicrous to observe the way in which Cetywayo's advocates overshoot the mark in arguing this and similar points; especially his lady advocates, whose writings upon these subjects bear about the same resemblance to the truth that the speech to the jury by the counsel for the defence in a hopeless murder case does to the summing up of the judge. Having demonstrated that the engagements entered into by Cetywayo meant nothing, they will proceed to show that, even if they did, cold-blooded murder, when perpetrated by a black paragon like Cetywayo, does not amount to a great offence. In the mouths of these gentle apologists for slaughter, massacre masquerades under the name of "executions," and is excused on the plea of being, "after all," only the enforcement of "an old custom." Again, the employment of such phrases, in a solemn answer to a remonstrance from the Lieutenant-Governor of Natal, as "I do kill; but do not consider that I have done anything yet in the way of killing. . . . I have not yet begun; I have yet to kill," are shown to mean nothing at all, and to be "nothing more than the mere irritation of the moment."[*] Perhaps those of Cetywayo's subjects who suffered on account of this mere momentary irritation took a more serious view of it. It is but fair to the particular authority from whom I quote (Miss Colenso's "History of the Zulu War," pp. 230-231) to state that she considers this reply from the "usually courteous and respectful king" as "no doubt petulant and wanting in due respect." Considering that the message in question (which can be read in the footnote) was a point-blank defiance of Sir Henry Bulwer, admitting that there had been slaughter, but that it was nothing compared to what was coming, most people will not think Miss Colenso's description of it too strong.
[*] The following is the text of the message:—
"Did I ever tell Mr. Shepstone I would not kill? Did he tell the white people that I made such an arrangement? Because if he did he has deceived them. I do kill; but do not consider that I have done anything yet in the way of killing. Why do the white people start at nothing? I have not yet begun; I have yet to kill; it is the custom of our nation, and I shall not depart from it. Why does the Governor of Natal speak to me about my laws? Do I go to Natal and dictate to him about his laws? I shall not agree to any laws or rules from Natal, and by doing so throw the large kraal which I govern into the water. My people will not listen unless they are killed; and while wishing to be friends with the English, I do not agree to give my people over to be governed by laws sent to me by them. Have I not asked the English to allow me to wash my spears since the death of my father 'Umpandi,' and they have kept playing with me all this time, treating me like a child? Go back and tell the English that I shall now act on my own account, and if they wish me to agree to their laws, I shall leave and become a wanderer; but before I go it will be seen, as I shall not go without having acted. Go back and tell the white men this, and let them hear it well. The Governor of Natal and I are equal; he is Governor of Natal, and I am Governor here."
To admit that the Zulu king has the right to kill as many of his subjects as he chooses, so long as they will tolerate being killed, is one thing, but it is certainly surprising to find educated Europeans adopting a line of defence of these proceedings on his behalf that amounts to a virtual expression of approval, or at least of easy toleration. Has philanthropy a deadening effect on the moral sense, that the people who constitute themselves champions for the unfortunate Zulu king and the oppressed Boers cannot get on to their hobbies without becoming blind to the difference between right and wrong? Really an examination of the utterances of these champions of oppressed innocence would almost lead one to that conclusion. On the one hand they suppress and explain away facts, and on the other supply their want of argument by reckless accusations and vicious attacks on the probity of such of their fellow-Englishmen, especially if in office, as have had the misfortune to pursue a course of action or to express opinions not pleasing to them or their proteges. For instance, an innocent and unenlightened reader of the very interesting work from which I have just quoted probably lays it down with the conviction that both Sir Bartle Frere and Sir Theophilus Shepstone are very wicked men and full of bad motives, and will wonder how a civilised Government could employ such monsters of bloodthirsty duplicity. As he proceeds he will also find that there is not much to be said for the characters of either Sir Garnet Wolseley or Lord Chelmsford; whilst as regards such small fry as Mr. John Shepstone, the present Secretary of Native Affairs in Natal, after passing through Miss Colenso's mill their reputations come out literally in rags and tatters. He will be shocked to find that not only did one and all of these gentlemen make gross errors of judgment, but, trusted and distinguished servants of their country as they are, they were one and all actuated by dark personal motives that will not bear examination.
Heaven help the members of the Shepstone family when they fall into the hands of the gentler but more enthusiastic sex, for Miss Colenso is not their only foe. In a recent publication called a "Defence of Zululand and its Kings," Lady Florence Dixie gibbets Mr. Henrique Shepstone, and points him out to be execrated by a Cetywayo-worshipping public, because the ex-king is to be sent to England in his charge; when, according to Lady Dixie, he will certainly be scoundrel enough to misinterpret all that Cetywayo says for his own ends, and will thereby inflict a "cruel wrong" upon him, and render his visit to England "perfectly meaningless." Perhaps it has never occurred to Lady Dixie that this is a very serious charge to bring against an honourable man, whose reputation is probably as dear to him as the advancement of Cetywayo's cause is to her. It is all very well to be enthusiastic, but ladies should remember that there are other people in the world to be considered beside Cetywayo.
As regards the question of Cetywayo's bloodthirstiness, which is so strenuously denied by his apologists, I cannot say that a careful study of the blue books bearing on the subject brings me to the same conclusion. It is true that there is not much information on the point, for the obvious reason that the history of slaughters in Zululand in the vast majority of cases only reached Natal in the form of rumours, which nobody thought it worth while to report. There were no newspaper correspondents in Zululand. There is not, however, any doubt that Cetywayo was in the habit of killing large numbers of people; indeed it was a matter of the commonest notoriety; nor, as will be seen from the message I have transcribed, did he himself deny it, when, being angry, he spoke the truth. At the same time that this message was sent, we find Mr. Osborn, then resident magistrate at Newcastle in Natal, who is certainly not given to exaggeration, writing to the Secretary for Native Affairs thus:—"From all I have been able to learn, Cetywayo's conduct has been, and continues to be, disgraceful. He is putting people to death in a shameful manner, especially girls. The dead bodies are placed by his order in the principal paths, especially where the paths intersect each other (cross roads). A few of the parents of the young people so killed buried the bodies, and thus brought Cetywayo's wrath on themselves, resulting not only on their own death, but destruction of the whole family. . . . It is really terrible that such horrible savagery could take place on our own borders. . . . Uhamu reproved Cetywayo the other day, reminded him of his promises to Mr. Shepstone, and begged him to spare the people. This advice, as could be expected, was not relished."
Again, Mr. Fynney, in his report of his visit to Zululand in 1877, states that though the king and his "indunas" (councillors) denied that men were killed without trial, the people told a very different tale. Thus he says, "In every instance, where I had so far gained the confidence of the Zulus as to cause them to speak freely, was I assured of the truthfulness of the statement that the king, Cetywayo, caused his people to be put to death in great numbers; and when I remarked that of course he did so after a fair and proper trial, in some cases my remark was greeted with a suppressed laugh or a smile. Some remarked, 'Yes, a trial of bullets;' others, 'Yes, we get a trial, but that means surrounding the kraal at daybreak and shooting us down like cattle.' One asked me what the Government in Natal intended doing, or what was thought in Natal about the killing, saying, 'It was not in the night that Sompseu spoke, but in the sunshine; the king was not alone, but his people were around him, and the ears of all Zululand heard these words, and the hearts of all Zulus were joyful, and in gladness they lifted up their hands saying: The mouth of our white father has spoken good words; he has cautioned his child in the presence of his people, and a good sun has risen this day over Zululand! How is it now? Has the king listened? Does he hold fast those words? No! not one. The promises he made are all broken. What does Sompseu say to this? You should dine at my kraal yonder for a few days, and see the izizi (cattle and other property of people who have been killed) pass, and you would then see with your own eyes how a case is tried.'" Farther on Mr. Fynney says, "When a charge is made against a Zulu, the question is generally asked, 'Has he any cattle?' and if answered in the affirmative, there is little chance of escape. Instances of killing occurred while I was in Zululand, and to my knowledge no trial was allowed. An armed party was despatched on the morning I left Ondine, and, as I was informed, to kill."
There is no reason to suppose that Mr. Fynney was in any way prejudiced in making these remarks; on the contrary, he was simply carrying out an official mission, and reporting for the general information of the Governments of Natal and the Transvaal. It is, however, noticeable that neither these nor similar passages are ever alluded to by Cetywayo's advocates, whose object seems to be rather to suppress the truth than to put it fairly before the public, if by such suppression they think they can advance the cause of the ex-king.
The whole matter of Cetywayo's private policy, however, appears to me to be very much beside the question. Whether or no he slaughtered his oppressed subjects in bygone years, which there is no doubt he did, is not our affair, since we were not then, as we are now, responsible for the good government of Zululand; and seeing the amount of slaughter that goes on under our protectorate, it ill becomes us to rake up these things against Cetywayo. What we have to consider is his foreign policy, not the domestic details of his government.[*]
[*] A gentleman, who has recently returned from travelling in Zululand, relates the following story as nearly as possible in the words in which it was told to him by a well- known hunter in Zululand, Piet Hogg by name, now residing near Dundee on the Zulu border. The story is a curious one as illustrative of Zulu character, and scarcely represents Cetywayo in as amiable a light as one might wish. Piet Hogg and my informant were one day talking about the king when the former said, "I was hunting and trading in Zululand, and was at a military kraal occupied by Cetywayo, where I saw a Basuto who had been engaged by the king to instruct his people in building houses, that were to be square instead of circular (as are all Zulu buildings), for which his pay was to be thirty head of cattle. The Basuto came to Cetywayo in my presence, and said that the square buildings were made; he now wished to have his thirty head of cattle and to depart. Cetywayo having obtained what he required, began to think the man overpaid, so said, 'I have observed that you like —— (a Zulu woman belonging to the kraal); suppose you take her instead of the thirty head of cattle.' Now this was a very bad bargain for the Basuto, as the woman was not worth more, in Zulu estimation, than ten head of cattle; but the Basuto, knowing with whom he had to deal, thought it might be better to comply with the suggestion rather than insist upon his rights, and asked to be allowed till the next morning to consider the proposal. After he had been dismissed on this understanding, Cetywayo sent for the woman, and accused her of misconduct with the Basuto, the punishment of which, if proved, would be death. She denied this vehemently, with protestations and tears. He insisted, but, looking up at a tree almost denuded of leaves which grew close by, said, significantly, 'Take care that not a leaf remains on that tree by the morning.' The woman understood the metaphor, and in an hour or two, aided by other strapping Zulu females, attacked the unfortunate Basuto and killed him with clubs. But Cetywayo having thus, like the monkey in the fable, employed a cat's paw to do his dirty work, began to think the Basuto's untimely death might have an ugly appearance in my eyes, so gave orders in my presence that, as a punishment, six of the women who had killed the Basuto should also be put to death. This was too much for me, knowing as I did, all that had passed. I reproached Cetywayo for his cruelty, and declared I would leave Zululand without trading there, and without making him the present he expected. I also said I should take care the great English 'Inkose' (the Governor of Natal) should hear of his conduct and the reason of my return. Cetywayo was then on friendly terms with the English, and being impressed by my threats, he reconsidered his orders, and spared the lives of the women."
I do not propose to follow out all the details of the boundary dispute between Cetywayo and the Transvaal, or to comment on the different opinions held on the point by the various authorities, English and Zulu. The question has been, for the moment, settled by the Transvaal Convention, and is besides a most uninteresting one to the general reader.
Nor shall I enter into a discussion concerning the outrages on which Sir Bartle Frere based his ultimatum previous to the Zulu war. They were after all insignificant, although sufficient to serve as a casus belli to a statesman determined to fight. The Zulu war was, in the opinion of Sir B. Frere, necessary in self-defence, which is the first principle of existence. If it admits of justification, it is on the ground that the Zulu army was a menace to the white population of South Africa, and that it was therefore necessary to destroy it, lest at some future time it should destroy the whites. It is ridiculous to say that the capture of two Zulu women in Natal and their subsequent murder, or the expulsion on political grounds of a few missionaries, justified us in breaking up a kingdom and slaughtering ten thousand men. Sir Bartle Frere declared war upon the Zulus because he was afraid, and had good reason to be afraid, that if he did not, Cetywayo would before long sweep either the Transvaal or Natal; whilst, on the other hand, the Zulus fought us because our policy was too philanthropic to allow them to fight anybody else. This statement may appear strange, but a little examination into Zulu character and circumstances will, I think, show it to be correct.
It must be remembered that for some years before Panda's death the Zulus had not been engaged in any foreign war. When Cetywayo ascended the throne, it was the general hope and expectation of the army, and therefore of the nation, that this period of inaction would come to an end, and that the new king would inaugurate an active foreign policy. They did not greatly care in what direction the activity developed itself, provided it did develop. It must also be borne in mind that every able-bodied man in the Zulu country was a member of a regiment, even the lads being attached to regiments as carriers, and the women being similarly enrolled, though they did not fight. The Zulu military system was the universal-service system of Germany brought to an absolute perfection, obtained by subordinating all the ties and duties of civil life to military ends. Thus, for instance, marriage could not be contracted at will, but only by the permission of the king, which was generally delayed until a regiment was well advanced in years, when a number of girls were handed over to it to take to wife. This regulation came into force because it was found that men without home ties were more ferocious and made better soldiers, and the result of these harsh rules was that the Zulu warrior, living as he did under the shadow of a savage discipline, for any breach of which there was but one punishment, death, can hardly be said to have led a life of domestic comfort, such as men of all times and nations have thought their common right. But even a Zulu must have some object in life, some shrine at which to worship, some mistress of his affections. Home he had none, religion he had none, mistress he had none, but in their stead he had his career as a warrior, and his hope of honour and riches to be gained by the assegai. His home was on the war-track with his regiment, his religion the fierce denunciation of the isanusi,[*] and his affections were fixed on the sudden rush of battle, the red slaughter, and the spoils of the slain. "War," says Sir T. Shepstone, in a very remarkable despatch written about a year before the outbreak of the Zulu war, "is the universal cry among the soldiers, who are anxious to live up to their traditions, . . . . and the idea is gaining ground among the people that their nation has outlived the object of its existence." Again he says, "The engine (the Zulu military organisation) has not ceased to exist or to generate its forces, although the reason or excuse for its existence has died away: these forces have continued to accumulate and are daily accumulating without safety-valve or outlet."
[*] Witch-doctor. These persons are largely employed in Zululand to smell out witches who are supposed to have bewitched others, and are of course very useful as political agents. Any person denounced by them is at once executed. A friend of the writer's was once present at a political smelling-out on a large scale, and describes it as a very curious and unpleasant scene. The men, of whom there were some thousands, were seated in a circle, as pale with terror as Zulus can be. Within the circle were several witch doctors; one of whom amidst his or her incantations would now and again step forward and touch some unfortunate man with a forked stick. The victim was instantly led away a few paces and his neck twisted. The circle awaited each denunciation in breathless expectation, for not a man among them knew whose turn it might be next. On another occasion, an unfortunate wretch who had been similarly condemned by an isanusi rushed up to the same gentleman's waggon and besought shelter. He was hidden under some blankets, but presently his pursuers arrived, and insisted upon his being handed over. All possible resistance was made, until the executioners announced that they would search the waggon and kill him there. It was then covenanted that he should have a start in the race for life. He was, however, overtaken and killed. These instances will show how dark and terrible is the Zulu superstition connected with witchcraft, and what a formidable weapon it becomes in the hands of the king or chief.
Desirable as such a state of feeling may be in an army just leaving for the battlefield, it is obvious that for some fifty thousand men, comprising the whole manhood of the nation, to be continually on the boil with sanguinary animosity against the human race in general, is an awkward element to fit into the peaceable government of a state.
Yet this was doubtless the state of affairs with which Cetywayo had to contend during the latter years of his reign. He found himself surrounded by a great army, in a high state of efficiency and warlike preparation, proclaiming itself wearied with camp life, and clamouring to be led against an enemy, that it might justify its traditions and find employment for its spears. Often and often he must have been sorely puzzled to find excuses wherewithal to put it off. Indeed his position was both awkward and dangerous: on the one hand was Scylla in the shape of the English Government, and on the other the stormy and uncertain Charybdis of his clamouring regiments. Slowly the idea must have began to dawn upon him that unless he found employment for the army, which, besides being disgusted with his inactivity, was somewhat wearied with his cruelties, for domestic slaughter had ceased to divert and had begun to irritate: the army, or some enterprising members of it, might put it beyond his power ever to find employment for it at all, and bring one of his brothers to rule in his stead.
And yet who was he to fight, if fight he must? There were three possible enemies—1. The Swazis; 2. The Transvaal Boers; 3. The English.
Although the English may have held a place on Cetywayo's list as possible foes, there is no ground for supposing that, until shortly before the war, he had any wish to fight with us. Indeed, whereas their hatred of the Boers was pronounced, and openly expressed, both the Zulu king and people always professed great respect for Englishmen, and even a certain amount of liking and regard.
Therefore, when Cetywayo had to settle on an enemy to attack, it was not the English that he chose, but the Swazis, whose territory adjoined his own, lying along the borders of the Transvaal towards Delagoa Bay. The Swazis are themselves Zulus, and Cetywayo claimed certain sovereign rights over them, which, however, they refused to recognise. They are a powerful tribe, and can turn out about 10,000 fighting men, quite enough for Cetywayo's young warriors to try their mettle on. Still the king does not appear to have wished to undertake the war without first obtaining the approval of the Natal Government, to whom he applied several times for permission "to wash his spears," saying that he was but half a king until he had done so. The Natal Government, however, invariably replied that he was on no account to do anything of the sort. This shows the inconveniences of possessing a complimentary feudal hold over a savage potentate, the shadow of power without the reality. The Governor of Natal could not in decency sanction such a proceeding as a war of extermination against the Swazis, but if it had occurred without his sanction, the Swazis would have suffered no doubt, but the Zulu spears would have been satisfactorily washed, and there would have been no Zulu war. As it is, Englishmen have been killed instead of Swazis.
Thwarted in his designs on the Swazis, Cetywayo next turned his attention to the Transvaal Boers. The Zulus and the Boers had never been good friends since the days of the massacre of Retief, and of late years their mutual animosity had been greatly increased owing to their quarrels about the boundary question previously alluded to. This animosity reached blood-heat when the Boer Government, acting with the arrogance it always displayed towards natives, began to lay its commands upon Cetywayo about his relations with the Amaswazi, the alleged trespassing on Boer territory, and other matters. The arrogance was all the more offensive because it was impotent. The Boers were not in a position to undertake the chastisement of the Zulus. But the king and council of Zululand now determined to try conclusions with the Transvaal on the first convenient opportunity, and this time without consulting the Government of Natal. The opportunity soon occurred. Secocoeni, the powerful chief of the Bapedi, one of the tribes whose territories border on the Transvaal, came to a difference with the Boers over another border question. There is good ground for supposing that Cetywayo incited him to withstand the Boer demands; it is certain that during the course of the war that followed he assisted him with advice, and more substantially still, with Zulu volunteers.
To be brief, the Secocoeni war resulted in the discomfiture of the Transvaal forces. Another result of this struggle was to throw the whole state into the most utter confusion, of which the Dutch burghers, always glad of an opportunity to defy the law, took advantage to refuse to pay taxes. National bankruptcy ensued, and confusion grew worse confounded.
Cetywayo took note of all this, and saw that now was his opportunity to attack. The Boers had suffered both in morale and prestige from their defeat by Secocoeni, who was still in arms against them; whilst the natives were proportionately elated by their success over the dreaded white men. There was, he knew well, but little chance of a rapid concentration to resist a sudden raid, especially when made by such a powerful army, or rather chain of armies, as he could set in motion. Everything favoured the undertaking; indeed, humanly speaking, it is difficult to see what could have saved the greater part of the population of the Transvaal from sudden extinction, if a kind Providence had not just then put it into the head of Lord Carnarvon to send out Sir T. Shepstone as Special Commissioner to their country. When Cetywayo heard that his father Sompseu (Sir T. Shepstone) was going up to the Transvaal, he held his hand, sent out spies, and awaited the course of events. The following incident will show with what interest he was watching what took place. At the Vaal River a party of Boers met the Special Commissioner and fired salutes to welcome him. It was immediately reported to Cetywayo by his spies that the Boers had fired over Sir T. Shepstone's waggon. Shortly afterwards a message arrived at Pretoria from Cetywayo to inquire into the truth of the story, coolly announcing his intention of sweeping the Transvaal if it were true that "his father" had been fired at. In a conversation with Mr. Fynney after the Annexation Cetywayo alludes to his intentions in these words:—
"I heard that the Boers were not treating him (Sompseu) properly, and that they intended to put him in a corner. If they had done so I should not have waited for anything more. Had but one shot been fired, I should have said, 'What more do I wait for? they have touched my father.' I should have poured my men over the land, and I can tell you, son of Mr. Fynney, the land would have burned with fire." This will show how eagerly Cetywayo was searching for an excuse to commence his attack on the Transvaal. When the hope of finding a pretext in the supposed firing at Sir T. Shepstone or any incident of a similar nature faded away, he appears to have determined to carry out his plans without any immediate pretext, and to make a casus belli of his previous differences with the Government of the Republic. Accordingly he massed his impis (army corps) at different points along the Transvaal border, where they awaited the signal to advance and sweep the country. Information of Cetywayo's doings and of his secret plans reached Pretoria shortly before the Annexation, and confirmed the mind of the Special Commissioner as to the absolute necessity of that measure to save the citizens of the Republic from coming to a violent end, and South Africa from being plunged into a native war of unexampled magnitude. The day before the Annexation took place, when it was quite certain that it would take place, a message was sent to Cetywayo by Sir T. Shepstone telling him of what was about to happen, and telling him too in the sternest and most straightforward language, that the Transvaal had become the Queen's land like Natal, and that he must no more think of attacking it than he would of attacking Natal. Cetywayo on receiving the message at once disbanded his armies and sent them to their kraals. "Kabuna," he said to the messenger, "my impis were gathered; now at my father's (Sir T. Shepstone's) bidding I send them back to their homes."
This fact, namely, that at the bidding of his old mentor Sir T. Shepstone, Cetywayo abandoned his long-cherished plans, and his undoubted opportunity of paying off old scores with the Boers in a most effectual manner, and gave up a policy that had so many charms for him, must be held by every unprejudiced man to speak volumes in his favour. It must be remembered that it was not merely to oblige his "father Sompseu" that he did this, but to meet the wishes of the English Government, and the act shows how anxious he was to retain the friendship and fall in with the views of that Government. Evidently Cetywayo had no animosity against us in April 1877.
In his interview with Mr. Fynney, Cetywayo speaks out quite frankly as to what his intentions had been; he says, "I know all about the soldiers being on their way up, but I would have asked Sompseu to allow the soldiers to stand on one side for just a little while, only a little, and see what my men could do. It would have been unnecessary for the Queen's people to trouble. My men were all ready, and how big must that stone have been, with my father Sompseu digging at one side and myself at the other, that would not have toppled over? Even though the size of that mountain (pointing to a mountain range), we could put it on its back. Again I say I am glad to know the Transvaal is English ground; perhaps now there may be rest."
This and other passages show beyond all doubt from what an awful catastrophe the Transvaal was saved by the Annexation. That Cetywayo personally detested the Boers is made clear by his words to Mr. Fynney. "'The Boers,' he says, 'are a nation of liars; they are a bad people, bad altogether. I do not want them near my people; they lie and claim what is not theirs, and ill-use my people. Where is Thomas?' (President Burgers). I informed him that Mr. Burgers had left the Transvaal. 'Then let them pack up and follow Thomas,' said he. 'Let them go. The Queen does not want such people as those about her land. What can the Queen make of them or do with them? Their evil ways puzzled both Thomas and Rudolph, Landdrost of Utrecht; they will not be quiet.'"
It is very clear that if Cetywayo had been left to work his will, a great many of the Boers would have found it necessary to "pack up and follow Thomas," whilst many more would have never needed to pack again.
I am aware that attempts have been made to put another explanation on Cetywayo's warlike preparations against the Boers. It has been said that the Zulu army was called up by Sir T. Shepstone to coerce the Transvaal. It is satisfactory to be able, from intimate personal knowledge, to give unqualified denial to that statement, which is a pure invention, as indeed is easily proved by clear evidence, which I have entered into in another part of this book. Cetywayo played for his own hand all along, and received neither commands nor hints from the Special Commissioner to get his army together. Indeed, when Sir T. Shepstone discovered what was going on, he suffered great anxiety lest some catastrophe should occur before he was in a position to prevent it. Nothing short of the Annexation could have saved the Transvaal at that moment, and the conduct of the Boers after the danger had been taken on to the shoulders of the Imperial Government is a startling instance of national ingratitude.
Here again the Zulu king was brought face to face with the ubiquitous British Government, and that too at a particularly aggravating moment. He was about to commence his attack when he was met with a polite, "Hands off; this is British territory." No wonder that we find him in despair renewing his prayer that Sompseu will allow him to make "one little raid only, one small swoop," and saying that "it is the custom of our country, when a new king is placed over the nation, to wash their spears, and it has been done in the case of all former kings of Zululand. I am no king, but sit in a heap. I cannot be a king till I have washed my assegais." All of which is doubtless very savage and very wrong, but such is the depravity of human nature, that there is something taking about it for all that.
It was at this period of the history of South Africa that many people think we made our crowning mistake. We annexed the Transvaal, say they, six months too soon. As things have turned out, it would have been wiser to have left Zulus and Transvaal Boers to try conclusions, and done our best to guard our own frontiers. There is no doubt that such a consummation of affairs would have cleared the political atmosphere wonderfully; the Zulus would have got enough fighting to last them some time, and the remainder of the Boers would have entreated our protection and become contented British subjects; there would have been no Isandhlwana and no Majuba Hill. But to these I say who could foresee the future, and who, in the then state of kindly feeling towards the Boers, could wish to leave them, and all the English mixed up with them, to undergo, unprepared as they were, the terrible experience of a Zulu invasion? Besides, what guarantee was there that the slaughter would stop in the Transvaal, or that the combat would not have developed into a war of races throughout South Africa? Even looking at the matter in the light of after events, it is difficult to regret that humanity was on this occasion allowed to take precedence of a more cold-blooded policy. If the opponents of the Annexation, or even the members of the Transvaal Independence Committee, knew what a Zulu invasion meant, they would scarcely have been so bitter about that act.
From the time of the Annexation it was a mere matter of opinion as to which direction the Zulu explosion would take. The safety-valves were loaded whilst the pressure daily increased, and all acquainted with the people knew that it must come sooner or later.
Shortly after the Transvaal became British territory the old Zulu boundary question came to the fore again and was made more complicated than ever by Sir T. Shepstone, who had hitherto favoured the Zulu claims, taking the Boer side of the controversy, after examination of the locality and of persons acquainted with the details of the matter. There was nothing wonderful in this change of opinion, though of course it was attributed to various motives by advocates of the Zulu claims, and there is no doubt that Cetywayo himself did not at all like it, and, excited thereto by vexation and the outcry of his regiments, adopted a very different and aggressive tone in his communications with the English authorities. Indeed his irritation against the Boers and everybody connected with them was very great. Probably if he had been left alone he would in time have carried out his old programme, and attacked the Transvaal. But, fortunately for the Transvaal, which, like sailors and drunken men, always seems to have had a special Providence taking care of it: at this juncture Sir Bartle Frere appeared upon the scene, and after a few preliminaries and the presentation of a strong ultimatum, which was quite impracticable so far as Cetywayo was concerned, since it demanded what it was almost impossible for him to concede—the disbandment of his army—invaded Zululand.
It is generally supposed that the Natal colonists had a great deal to do with making the Zulu war, but this is not the case. It is quite true that they were rejoiced at the prospect of the break-up of Cetywayo's power, because they were very much afraid of him and of his "celibate man-slaying machine," which, under all the circumstances, is not wonderful. But the war was a distinctly Imperial war, made by an Imperial officer, without consultation with Colonial authorities, on Imperial grounds, viz., because Cetywayo menaced Her Majesty's power in South Africa. Of course, if there had been no colonies there would have been no war, but in that way only are they responsible for it. Natal, however, has not grudged to pay 250,000 pounds towards its expenses, which is a great deal more than it can afford, and, considering that the foolish settlement made by Sir Garnet Wolseley is almost sure to involve the colony in trouble, quite as much as should be asked.
The fact of the matter was, that Sir Bartle Frere was a statesman who had the courage of his convictions; he saw that a Zulu disturbance of one kind or another was inevitable, so he boldly took the initiative. If things had gone right with him, as he supposed they would, praise would have been lavished on him by the Home authorities, and he would have been made a peer, and perhaps Governor-General of India to boot; but he reckoned without his Lord Chelmsford, and the element of success which was necessary to gild his policy in the eyes of the home public was conspicuous by its absence. As it was, no language was considered to be too bad to apply to this "imperious proconsul" who had taken upon himself to declare a war. If it is any consolation to him, he has at any rate the gratitude of the South African Colonies, not so much for what he has done, for that is being carefully nullified by the subsequent action of the Home Government, but because, believing his policy to be right, he had the boldness to carry it out at the risk of his official reputation. Sir Bartle Frere took a larger view of the duties of the governor of a great dependency than to constitute himself the flickering shadow of the Secretary of State in Downing Street, who, knowing little of the real interests of the colony, is himself only the reflection of those that hold the balance of power, to whom the subject is one of entire indifference, provided that there is nothing to pay.
The details of the Zulu war are matters of melancholy history, which it is useless to recapitulate here. With the exception of the affair at Rorke's Drift, there is nothing to be proud of in connection with it, and a great deal to be ashamed of, more especially its final settlement. There is, however, one point that I wish to submit to the consideration of my readers, and that is, that Cetywayo was never thoroughly in earnest about the war. If he had been in earnest, if he had been determined to put out his full strength, he would certainly have swept Natal from end to end after his victory at Isandhlwana. There was no force to prevent his doing so: on the contrary, it is probable that if he had advanced a strong army over the border, a great number of the Natal natives would have declared in his favour through fear of his vengeance, or at the least would have remained neutral. He had ample time at his disposal to have executed the manoeuvre twice over before the arrival of the reinforcements, of which the results must have been very dreadful, and yet he never destroyed a single family. The reason he has himself given for this conduct is that he did not wish to irritate the white man; that he had not made the war, and was only anxious to defend his country.
When the fighting came to an end after the battle of Ulundi, there were two apparent courses open to us to take. One was to take over the country and rule it for the benefit of the Zulus, and the other to enforce the demands in Sir Bartle Frere's ultimatum, and, taking such guarantees as circumstances would admit of, leave Cetywayo on the throne. Instead of acting on either of these plans, however, Sir Garnet Wolseley proceeded, in the face of an extraordinary consensus of adverse opinion, which he treated with calm contempt, to execute what has proved to be a very cruel settlement. Sir Garnet Wolseley has the reputation of being an extremely able man, and it is only fair to him to suppose that he was not the sole parent of this political monster, by which all the blood and treasure expended on the Zulu war were made of no account, but that it was partially dictated to him by authorities at home, who were anxious to gratify English opinion, and partly ignorant, partly careless of the consequences. At the same time, it is clear that he is responsible for the details of the scheme, since immediately after the capture of Cetywayo he writes a despatch about them which was considered so important, that a member of his staff was sent to England in charge of it. In this document he informs the Secretary of State that Cetywayo's rule was resolutely built up "without any of the ordinary and lawful foundations of authority, and by the mere vigour and vitality of an individual character." It is difficult to understand what Sir Garnet means in this passage. If the fact of being the rightful and generally accepted occupant of the throne is not an "ordinary and lawful foundation of authority," what is? As regards Cetywayo having built up his rule by the "mere vigour and vitality of an individual character," he is surely in error. Cetywayo's position was not different to that of his immediate predecessors. If Sir Garnet had applied the remark to Chaka, the first king, to the vigour and vitality of whose individual character Zululand owes its existence as a nation, it would have been more appropriate. The despatch goes on to announce that he has made up his mind to divide the country into thirteen portions, in order to prevent the "possibility of any reunion of its inhabitants under one rule," and ends in these words: "I have laboured with the great aim of establishing for Her Majesty's subjects in South Africa, both white and coloured, as well as for this spirited people against whom unhappily we have been involved in war, the enduring foundations of peace, happiness and prosperity." The spirited people were no doubt vastly thankful, but the white man, reading such a passage as this, and knowing the facts of the case, will only recognise Sir Garnet Wolseley's admirable talent for ironical writing.
Sir Garnet entered into an agreement with each of his kinglets, who, amongst other things, promised that they would not make war without the sanction of the British Government. He also issued a paper of instructions to the gentleman who was first appointed British Resident (who, by the way, very soon threw up his post in despair). From this document we learn that all the ex-king's brothers are to "be under the eye of the chief John Dunn," but it is chiefly remarkable for the hostility it evinces to all missionary enterprise. The Resident is instructed to "be careful to hold yourself entirely aloof from all missionary or proselytising enterprises," and that "grants of land by former kings to missionaries cannot be recognised by the British Government," although Sir Garnet will allow missionaries to live in the country if the chief of the district does not object. These instructions created some adverse comment in England, with the result that, in the supplementary instructions issued on the occasion of Mr. Osborn's appointment as Resident, they were somewhat modified. In the despatch to the Secretary of State in which he announces the new appointment, Sir Garnet says that Mr. Osborn is to be the "councillor, guide, and friend" of the native chiefs, and that to his "moral influence" "we should look I think for the spread of civilisation and the propagation of the Gospel." What a conglomeration of duties,—at once "prophet, priest, and king!" Poor Mr. Osborn!
Of the chiefs appointed under this unfortunate settlement, some were so carelessly chosen that they have no authority whatsoever over the districts to which they were appointed, their nominal subjects preferring to remain under the leadership of their hereditary chief. Several of Sir Garnet's little kings cannot turn out an hundred men, whilst the hereditary chief, who has no official authority, can bring up three or four thousand. Thus, for instance, a territory was given to a chief called Infaneulela. The retainers of this gentleman live in a kraal of five or six huts on the battlefield of Ulundi. A chief called Dilligane, to whom the district should have been given, is practically head man of the district, and takes every possible opportunity of defying the nominee chief, Infaneulela, who is not acknowledged by the people. Another case is that of Umgitchwa, to whom a territory was given. In this instance there are two brothers, Umgitchwa and Somhlolo, born of different mothers. Umgitchwa is the elder, but Somhlolo is the son of a daughter of the king, and therefore, according to Zulu custom, entitled to succeed to the chieftainship. Somhlolo was disinherited by Sir Garnet on account of his youth (he is about twenty-five and has many wives). But an ancient custom is not to be thus abrogated by a stroke of the pen, and Somhlolo is practically chief of the district. Fighting is imminent between the two brothers.
A third case is that of Hlubi, who, though being a good, well-meaning man, is a Basuto, and being a foreigner, has no influence over the Zulus under him.
A fourth instance is that of Umlandela, an old and infirm Zulu, who was made chief over a large proportion of the Umtetwa tribe on the coast of Zululand. His appointment was a fatal mistake, and has already led to much bloodshed under the following curious circumstances, which are not without interest, as showing the intricacy of Zulu plots.
The Umtetwas were in the days of Chaka a very powerful tribe, but suffered the same fate at his hands as did every other that ventured to cross spears with him. They were partially annihilated, and whilst some of the survivors, of whom the Umtetwas in Zululand are the descendants, were embodied in the Zulu regiments, others were scattered far and wide. Branches of this important tribe exist as far off as the Cape Colony. Dingiswayo, who was the chief of the Umtetwas when Chaka conquered the tribe, fled after his defeat into Basutoland, and is supposed to have died there. After the Zulu war Sir G. Wolseley divided the Umtetwa into two districts, appointing an Umtetwa chief named Somkeli ruler over one, and Umlandela over the other.
Umlandela, being a Zulu and worn with age, has never had any authority over his nominal subjects, and has been anxious to rid himself of the danger and responsibility of his chieftainship by transferring it on to the shoulders of Mr. John Dunn, whose territory adjoins his own, and who would be, needless to say, nothing loth to avail himself of the opportunity of increasing his taxable area. Whilst this intrigue was in progress all Zululand was convulsed with the news of our defeat by the Boers and the consequent surrender of the Transvaal. It was commonly rumoured that our forces were utterly destroyed, and that the Boers were now the dominant Power. Following on the heels of this intelligence was a rumour to the effect that Cetywayo was coming back. These two reports, both of which had a foundation of truth, had a very bad effect on the vulgar mind in Zululand, and resulted in the setting in motion of a variety of plots, of which the following was the most important.
The Umtetwa tribe is among those who are not anxious for the return of Cetywayo, but see in the present state of affairs an opportunity of regaining the power they possessed before the days of Chaka. If they were to have a king over Zululand they determined that it should be an Umtetwa king, and Somkeli, one of the chiefs appointed by Sir Garnet, was the man who aimed at the throne. He was not, however, anxious to put out his hand at first further than he could draw it back, so he adopted a very ingenious expedient. It will be remembered that the old Chief Dingiswayo fled to Basutoland, where he is reported to have married. It occurred to Somkeli that if he could produce a descendant or a pseudo-descendant of Dingiswayo he would have no difficulty in beginning operations by dispossessing Umlandela of his territory in favour of the supposed lawful heir. In fact he wanted a cat to pull the chestnuts out of the fire for him, who could easily be got rid of afterwards. Accordingly one Sitimela was produced who is supposed to be an escaped convict from Natal, who gave out that he was a grandson of Dingiswayo by a Basuto woman, and a great medicine-man, able to kill everybody by a glance of his eye.
To this impostor adherents flocked from all parts of Zululand, and Umlandela flying for his life into John Dunn's territory, Sitimela seized upon the chieftainship. The Resident thereupon ordered him to appear before him, but he, as might be expected, refused to come. As it was positively necessary to put an end to the plot by some means, since its further development would have endangered and perhaps destroyed the weak-knee'd Zulu settlement, Mr. Osborn determined to proceed to the scene of action. Mahomet would not go to the mountain, so the mountain had to go to Mahomet. On arrival he pitched his tents half way between the camps of Sitimela and John Dunn, who had Umlandela under his charge, and summoned Somkeli, the author of the plot, to appear before him. Ten days elapsed before the summons was obeyed. During this time, and indeed until they finally escaped, the Resident and his companion could not even venture to the spring, which was close at hand, to wash, for fear of being assassinated. All day long they could see lines of armed men swarming over the hills round them, and hear them yelling their war-songs. At length Somkeli appeared, accompanied by over a thousand armed warriors. He was ordered to withdraw his forces from Sitimela's army and go home. He went home, but did not withdraw his forces. The next day Sitimela himself appeared before the Resident. He was ordered to come with ten men: he came with two thousand all armed, wild with excitement and "moutied" (medicined). To make this medicine they had killed and pounded up a little cripple boy and several of Umlandela's wives. It afterwards transpired that the only reason Sitimela did not then and there kill the Resident was that he (Mr. Osborn) had with him several chiefs who were secretly favourable to Sitimela's cause, and if he had killed him he would, according to Zulu custom, have had to kill them too. Mr. Osborn ordered Sitimela to disperse his forces or take the consequences, and waited a few days for him to do so; but seeing no signs of his compliance, he then ordered the neighbouring chiefs to fall on him, and at length withdrew from his encampment,—none too soon. That very night a party of Sitimela's men came down to kill him, and finding the tent in which he and his companions had slept standing, stabbed at its supposed occupants through the canvas.
Sitimela was defeated by the forces ordered out by the Resident with a loss of about 500 men. It is, however, worthy of note, and shows how widespread was the conspiracy, that out of all the thousands promised, Mr. Osborn was only able to call out two thousand men.
The appointment, however, that has occasioned the most criticism is that of John Dunn, who got the Benjamin share of Zululand in preference to his brother chiefs. The converting of an Englishman into a Zulu chief is such a very odd proceeding that it is difficult to know what to think of it. John Dunn is an ambitious man, and most probably has designs on the throne; he is also a man who understands the value of money, of which he makes a great deal out of his chieftainship. At the same time, it is clear that, so far as it goes, his rule is better than that of the other chiefs; he has a uniform tax fixed, and has even done something in the way of starting schools and making roads. From all that I have been able to gather, his popularity and influence with the Zulus are overrated, though he has lived amongst them so many years, and taken so many of their women to wife. His appointment was a hazardous experiment, and in the long run is likely to prove a mischievous one, since any attempted amendment of the settlement will be violently resisted by him on the ground of vested interests. Also, if white men are set over Zulus at all, they should be gentlemen in the position of government officers, not successful adventurers.
Perhaps the only wise thing done in connection with the settlement was the appointment of Mr. Osborn, C.M.G., as British Resident. It is not easy to find a man fitted for that difficult and dangerous position, for the proper filling of which many qualifications are required. Possessed of an intimate knowledge of the Zulus, their language, and their mode of thought and life, and being besides a very able and energetic officer, Mr. Osborn would have saved the settlement from breaking down if anybody could have saved it. As it is, by the exercise of ceaseless energy and at great personal risk, he has preserved it from total collapse. Of the dangers and anxieties to which he is exposed, the account I have given of the Sitimela incident is a sufficient example. He is, in fact, nothing but a shadow, for he has no force at his command to ensure obedience to his decisions, or to prevent civil war; and in Zululand, oddly enough, force is a remedy. Should one chief threaten the peace of the country, he can only deal with him by calling on another chief for aid, a position that is neither dignified nor right. What is worst of all is that the Zulus are beginning to discover what a shadow he is, and with this weakened position he has to pit his single brains against all the thousand and one plots which are being woven throughout Zululand. The whole country teems with plots. Mnyamane, the late Prime Minister, and one of the ablest, and perhaps the most influential man in Zululand, is plotting for the return of Cetywayo. Bishop Colenso, again, is as usual working his own wires, and creating agitations to forward his ends, whatever they may be at the moment. John Dunn, on the other hand, is plotting to succeed Cetywayo, and so on ad infinitum. Such is the state of affairs with which our unfortunate Resident has to contend. Invested with large imaginary powers, he has in reality nothing but his personal influence and his own wits to help him. He has no white man to assist him, but living alone in a broken-down tent and some mud huts built by his son's hands (for the Government have never kept their promise to put him up a house), in the midst of thousands of restless and scheming savages, amidst plots against the peace and against his authority, he has to do the best he can to carry out an impracticable settlement, and to maintain the character of English justice and the honour of the English name. Were Mr. Osborn to throw up his post or to be assassinated, the authorities would find it difficult to keep the whole settlement from collapsing like a card castle.