NATIVE RACES AND THE WAR,
JOSEPHINE E. BUTLER.
LONDON: GAY & BIRD.
NEWCASTLE-ON-TYNE: MAWSON, SWAN, & MORGAN.
DEDICATED TO MY CHILDREN AND GRANDCHILDREN.
APOLOGY FOR "YET ANOTHER BOOK" ON THE SOUTH AFRICAN QUESTION. FUTURE PEACE MUST BE BASED ON JUSTICE,—TO COLOURED AS WELL AS WHITE MEN. DIFFERENCE BETWEEN LEGALIZED SLAVERY AND THE SUBJECTION OF NATIVES BY INDIVIDUALS. THE TRANSVAAL IN 1877: ITS BANKRUPTCY: ITS ANNEXATION BY GREAT BRITAIN: ITS LIBERATION FROM GREAT BRITAIN IN 1881. CONVENTION OF 1881 SIGNED AT PRETORIA. BRITISH COMMISSIONERS' AUDIENCE WITH 300 NATIVE CHIEFS. SPEECHES AND SORROWFUL PROTESTS OF THE CHIEFS. ROYAL COMMISSION APPOINTED TO TAKE EVIDENCE. EVIDENCE OF NATIVES AND OTHERS CONCERNING SLAVERY IN THE TRANSVAAL. APPEAL OF THE CHRISTIAN KING KHAMA. LETTER OF M'PLAANK, NEPHEW OF CETEWAYO. PREVALENCE OF CONTEMPT FOR THE NATIVE RACES. SYMPATHY OF A NATIVE CHIEF WITH THE SUFFERINGS OF CHRIST.
In the midst of the manifold utterances and discussions on the burning question of to-day,—the War in South Africa,—there is one side of the subject which, it seems to me, has not as yet been considered with the seriousness which it deserves,—and that is the question of Slavery, and of the treatment of the native races of South Africa. Though this question has not yet in England or on the Continent been cited as one of the direct causes of the war, I am convinced,—as are many others,—that it lies very near to the heart of the present trouble.
The object of this paper is simply to bring witnesses together who will testify to the past and present condition of the native races under British, Dutch, and Transvaal rule. These witnesses shall not be all of one nation; they shall come from different countries, and among them there shall be representatives of the native peoples themselves. I shall add little of my own to the testimony of these witnesses. But I will say, in advance, that what I desire to make plain for some sincere persons who are perplexed, is this,—that where a Government has established by Law the principle of the complete and final abolition of Slavery, and made its practice illegal for all time,—as our British Government has done,—there is hope for the native races;—there is always hope that, by an appeal to the law and to British authority, any and every wrong done to the natives, which approaches to or threatens the reintroduction of slavery, shall be redressed. The Abolition of Slavery, enacted by our Government in 1834, was the proclamation of a great principle, strong and clear, a straight line by which every enactment dealing with the question, and every act of individuals, or groups of individuals, bearing on the liberty of the natives can be measured, and any deviation from that straight line of principle can be exactly estimated and judged.
When we speak of injustice done to the natives by the South African Republics, we are apt to be met with the reproach that the English have also been guilty of cruelty to native races. This is unhappily true, and shall not be disguised in the following pages;—but mark this,—that it is true of certain individuals bearing the English name, true of groups of individuals, of certain adventurers and speculators. But this fact does not touch the far more important and enduring fact that wherever British rule is established, slavery is abolished, and illegal.
This fact is the ground of the hope for the future of the Missionaries of our own country, and of other European countries, as well as of the poor natives themselves, so far as they have come to understand the matter; and in several instances they have shown that they do understand it, and appreciate it keenly.
Those English persons, or groups of persons, who have denied to the native labourers their hire (which is the essence of slavery), have acted on their own responsibility, and illegally. This should be made to be clearly understood in future conditions of peace, and rendered impossible henceforward.
That future peace which we all desire, on the cessation of the present grievous war, must be a peace founded on justice, for there is no other peace worthy of the name; and it must be not only justice as between white men, but as between white men and men of every shade of complexion.
A speaker at a public meeting lately expressed a sentiment which is more or less carelessly repeated by many. I quote it, as helping me to define the principle to which I have referred, which marks the difference between an offence or crime committed by an individual against the law, and an offence or crime sanctioned, permitted, or enacted by a State or Government itself, or by public authority in any way.
This speaker, after confessing, apparently with reluctance, that "the South African Republic had not been stainless in its relations towards the blacks," added, "but for these deeds—every one of them—we could find a parallel among our own people." I think a careful study of the history of the South African races would convince this speaker that he has exaggerated the case as against "our own people" in the matter of deliberate cruelty and violence towards the natives. However that may be, it does not alter the fact of the wide difference between the evil deeds of men acting on their own responsibility and the evil deeds of Governments, and of Communities in which the Governmental Authorities do not forbid, but sanction, such actions.
As an old Abolitionist, who has been engaged for thirty years in a war against slavery in another form, may I be allowed to cite a parallel? That Anti-slavery War was undertaken against a Law introduced into England, which endorsed, permitted, and in fact, legalized, a moral and social slavery already existing—a slavery to the vice of prostitution. The pioneers of the opposition to this law saw the tremendous import, and the necessary consequences of such a law. They had previously laboured to lessen the social evil by moral and spiritual means, but now they turned their whole attention to obtaining the abolition of the disastrous enactment which took that evil under its protection. They felt that the action of Government in passing that law brought the whole nation (which is responsible for its Government) under a sentence of guilt—a sentence of moral death. It lifted off from the shoulders of individuals, in a measure, the moral responsibility which God had laid upon them, and took that responsibility on its own shoulders, as representing the whole nation; it foreshadowed a national blight. My readers know that we destroyed that legislation after a struggle of eighteen years. In the course of that long struggle, we were constantly met by an assertion similar in spirit to that made by the speaker to whom I have referred; and to this day we are met by it in certain European countries. They say to us, "But for every scandal proceeding from this social vice, which you cite as committed under the system of Governmental Regulation and sanction, we can find a parallel in the streets of London, where no Governmental sanction exists." We are constantly taunted with this, and possibly we may have to admit its truth in a measure. But our accusers do not see the immense difference between Governmental and individual responsibility in this vital matter, neither do they see how additionally hard, how hopeless, becomes the position of the slave who, under the Government sanction, has no appeal to the law of the land; an appeal to the Government which is itself an upholder of slavery, is impossible. The speaker above cited concluded by saying: "The best precaution against the abuse of power on the part of whites living amidst a coloured population is to make the punishment of misdeeds come home to the persons who are guilty of those misdeeds; and if he could but get his countrymen to act up to that view he believed we should really have a better prospect for the future of South Africa than we had had in the past."
With this sentiment I am entirely in accord. It is our hope that the present national awakening on the whole subject of our position and responsibilities in South Africa will—in case of the re-establishment of peace under the principles of British rule—result in a change in the condition of the native races, both in the Transvaal, and at the hands of our countrymen and others who may be acting in their own interests, or in the interests of Commercial Societies.
I do not intend to sketch anything approaching to a history of South African affairs during the last seventy or eighty years; that has been ably done by others, writing from both the British and the Boer side. I shall only attempt to trace the condition of certain native tribes in connection with some of the most salient events in South Africa of the century which is past.
In 1877, as my readers know, the Transvaal was annexed by Sir Theophilus Shepstone. There are very various opinions as to the justice of that annexation. I will only here remark that it was at the earnest solicitation of the Transvaal leaders of that date that an interference on the part of the British Commissioner was undertaken. The Republic was in a state of apparently hopeless anarchy, owing to constant conflicts with warlike native tribes around and in the heart of the country. The exchequer was exhausted. By the confession of the President (Burgers) the country was on the verge of bankruptcy. The acceptance of the annexation was not unanimous, but it was accepted formally in a somewhat sullen and desponding spirit, as a means of averting further impending calamity and restoring a measure of order and peace. Whether this justified or not the act of annexation I do not pretend to judge. The results, however, for the Republic were for the time, financial relief and prosperity, and better treatment of the natives. The financial condition of the country, as I have said, at the time of the annexation, was one of utter bankruptcy. "After three years of British rule, however, the total revenue receipts for the first quarter of 1879 and 1880 amounted to L22,773 and L47,982 respectively. That is to say, that, during the last year of British rule, the revenue of the country more than doubled itself, and amounted to about L160,000 a year, taking the quarterly returns at the low average of L40,000." Trade, also, which in April, 1877, was completely paralysed, had increased enormously. In the middle of 1879, the committee of the Transvaal Chamber of Commerce pointed out that the trade of the country had in two years risen to the sum of two millions sterling per annum. They also pointed out that more than half the land-tax was paid by Englishmen and other Europeans.
In 1881, the Transvaal (under Mr. Gladstone's administration) was liberated from British control. It was given back to its own leaders, under certain conditions, agreed to and solemnly signed by the President. These are the much-discussed conditions of the Convention of 1881, one of these conditions being that Slavery should be abolished. This condition was indeed, insisted on in every agreement or convention made between the British Government and the Boers; the first being that of 1852, called the Sand River Convention; the second, a convention entered into two years later called the Bloemfontein Convention (which created the Orange Free State); a third agreement as to the cessation of Slavery was entered into at the period of the Annexation, 1877; a fourth was the Convention of 1881; a fifth the Convention of 1884. I do not here speak of the other terms of these Conventions, I only remark that in each a just treatment of the native races was demanded and agreed to.
The retrocession of the Transvaal in 1881 has been much lauded as an act of magnanimity and justice. There is no doubt that the motive which prompted it was a noble and generous one; yet neither is there any doubt, that in certain respects, the results of that act were unhappy, and were no doubt unanticipated. It was on the natives, whose interests appeared to have had no place in the generous impulses of Mr. Gladstone, that the action of the British Government fell most heavily, most mournfully. In this matter, it must be confessed that the English Government broke faith with the unhappy natives, to whom it had promised protection, and who so much needed it. In this, as in many other matters, our country, under successive Governments, has greatly erred; at times neglecting responsibilities to her loyal Colonial subjects, and at other times interfering unwisely.
In one matter, England has, however, been consistent, namely, in the repeated proclamations that Slavery should never be permitted under her rule and authority.
The formal document of agreement between Her Majesty's Government and the Boer leaders, known as the Convention of 1881, was signed by both parties at Pretoria on the afternoon of the 3rd August, in the same room in which, nearly four years before, the Annexation Proclamation was signed by Sir T. Shepstone.
This formality was followed by a more unpleasant duty for the Commissioners appointed to settle this business, namely, the necessity of conveying their message to the natives, and informing them that they had been handed back by Great Britain, "poor Canaanites," to the tender mercies of their masters, the "Chosen people," in spite of the despairing appeals which many of them had made to her.
Some three hundred of the principal native chiefs were called together in the Square at Pretoria, and there the English Commissioner read to them the proclamation of Queen Victoria. Sir Hercules Robinson, the Chief Commissioner, having "introduced the native chiefs to Messrs. Kruger, Pretorius, and Joubert," having given them good advice as to indulging in manual labour when asked to do so by the Boers, and having reminded them that it would be necessary to retain the law relating to Passes, which is, in the hands of a people like the Boers, almost as unjust a regulation as a dominant race can invent for the oppression of a subject people, concluded by assuring them that their "interests would never be forgotten or neglected by Her Majesty's Government." Having read this document, the Commission hastily withdrew, and after their withdrawal the Chiefs were "allowed" to state their opinions to the Secretary for Native Affairs.
In availing themselves of this permission, it is noticeable that no allusion was made by the Chiefs to the advantages they were to reap under the Convention. All their attention was given to the great fact that the country had been ceded to the Boers, and that they were no longer the Queen's subjects. I beg attention to the following appeals from the hearts of these oppressed people. They got very excited, and asked whether it was thought that they had no feelings or hearts, that they were thus treated as a stick or piece of tobacco, which could be passed from hand to hand without question.
Umgombarie, a Zoutpansberg Chief, said: "I am Umgombarie. I have fought with the Boers, and have many wounds, and they know that what I say is true. I will never consent to place myself under their rule. I belong to the English Government. I am not a man who eats with both sides of his jaw at once; I only use one side. I am English. I have said."
Silamba said: "I belong to the English. I will never return under the Boers. You see me, a man of my rank and position; is it right that such as I should be seized and laid on the ground and flogged, as has been done to me and other Chiefs?"
Sinkanhla said: "We hear and yet do not hear, we cannot understand. We are troubling you, Chief, by talking in this way; we hear the Chiefs say that the Queen took the country because the people of the country wished it, and again, that the majority of the owners of the country did not wish her rule, and that therefore the country was given back. We should like to have the man pointed out from among us black people who objects to the rule of the Queen. We are the real owners of the country; we were here when the Boers came, and without asking leave, settled down and treated us in every way badly. The English Government then came and took the country; we have now had four years of rest, and peaceful and just rule. We have been called here to-day, and are told that the country, our country, has been given to the Boers by the Queen. This is a thing which surprises, us. Did the country, then, belong to the Boers? Did it not belong to our fathers and forefathers before us, long before the Boers came here? We have heard that the Boers' country is at the Cape. If the Queen wishes to give them their land, why does she not give them back the Cape?"
Umyethile said: "We have no heart for talking. I have returned to the country from Sechelis, where I had to fly from Boer oppression. Our hearts are black and heavy with grief to-day at the news told us. We are in agony; our intestines are twisting and writhing inside of us, just as you see a snake do when it is struck on the head. We do not know what has become of us, but we feel dead. It may be that the Lord may change the nature of the Boers, and that we will not be treated like dogs and beasts of burden as formerly; but we have no hope of such a change, and we leave you with heavy hearts and great apprehension as to the future." In his Report, Mr. Shepstone (Secretary for Native Affairs) says, "One chief, Jan Sibilo, who had been personally threatened with death by the Boers after the English should leave, could not restrain his feelings, but cried like a child."
In 1881, the year of the retrocession of the Transvaal, a Royal Commission was appointed from England to enquire into the internal state of affairs in the South African Republic. On the 9th May of that year, an affidavit was sworn to before that Commission by the Rev. John Thorne, of St. John the Evangelist, Lydenburg, Transvaal. He stated: "I was appointed to the charge of a congregation in Potchefstroom when the Republic was under the Presidency of Mr. Pretorius. I noticed one morning, as I walked through the streets, a number of young natives whom I knew to be strangers. I enquired where they came from. I was told that they had just been brought from Zoutpansberg. This was the locality from which slaves were chiefly brought at that time, and were traded for under the name of 'Black Ivory.' One of these slaves belonged to Mr. Munich, the State Attorney." In the fourth paragraph of the same affidavit, Mr. Thorne says that "the Rev. Dr. Nachtigal, of the Berlin Missionary Society, was the interpreter for Shatane's people, in the private office of Mr. Roth, and, at the close of the interview, told me what had occurred. On my expressing surprise, he went on to relate that he had information on native matters which would surprise me more. He then produced the copy of a register, kept in the Landdrost's office, of men, women, and children, to the number of four hundred and eighty (480), who had been disposed of by one Boer to another for a consideration. In one case an ox was given in exchange, in another goats, in a third a blanket, and so forth. Many of these natives he (Mr. Nachtigal) knew personally. The copy was certified as true and correct by an official of the Republic."
On the 16th May, 1881, a native, named Frederick Molepo, was examined by the Royal Commission. The following are extracts from his examination:—
"(Sir Evelyn Wood.) Are you a Christian?—Yes.
"(Sir H. de Villiers.) How long were you a slave?—Half-a-year.
"How do you know that you were a slave? Might you not have been an apprentice?—No, I was not apprenticed.
"How do you know?—They got me from my parents, and ill-treated me.
"(Sir Evelyn Wood.) How many times did you get the stick?—Every day.
"(Sir H. de Villiers.) What did the Boers do with you when they caught you?—They sold me.
"How much did they sell you for?—One cow and a big pot."
On the 28th May, 1881, amongst the other documents-handed in for the consideration of the Royal Commission, is the statement of a Headman, whose name also it was considered advisable to omit in the Blue book, lest the Boers should take vengeance on him. He says, "I say, that if the English Government dies I shall die too; I would rather die than be under the Boer Government. I am the man who helped to make bricks for the church you see now standing in the square here (Pretoria), as a slave without payment. As a representative of my people, I am still obedient to the English Government, and willing to obey all commands from them, even to die for their cause in this country, rather than submit to the Boers.
"I was under Shambok, my chief, who fought the Boers-formerly, but he left us, and we were put up to auction and sold among the Boers. I want to state this myself to the Royal Commission. I was bought by Fritz Botha and sold by Frederick Botha, who was then veldt cornet (justice of the peace) of the Boers."
Many more of such extracts might be quoted, but it is not my motive to multiply horrors. These are given exactly as they stand in the original, which may all be found in Blue Books-presented to Parliament.
It has frequently been denied on behalf of the Transvaal, and is denied at this day, in the face of innumerable witnesses to the contrary, that slavery exists in the Transvaal. Now, this may be considered to be verbally true. Slavery, they say, did not exist; but apprenticeship did, and does exist. It is only another name. It is not denied that some Boers have been kind to their slaves, as humane slave-owners frequently were in the Southern States of America. But kindness, even the most indulgent, to slaves, has never been held by abolitionists to excuse the existence of slavery.
Mr. Rider Haggard, who spent a great part of his life in the Transvaal and other parts of South Africa, wrote in 1899: "The assertion that Slavery did not exist in the Transvaal is made to hoodwink the British public. I have known men who have owned slaves, and who have seen whole waggon-loads of Black Ivory, as they were called, sold for about L15 a piece. I have at this moment a tenant, Carolus by name, on some land I own in Natal, now a well-to-do man, who was for twenty years a Boer slave. He told me that during those years he worked from morning till night, and the only reward he received was two calves. He finally escaped to Natal."
Going back some years, evidence may be found, equally well attested with that already quoted. On the 22nd August, 1876, Khama, the Christian King of the Bamangwato (Bechuanaland), one of the most worthy Chiefs which any country has had the good fortune to be ruled by, wrote to Sir Henry de Villiers the following message, to be sent to Queen Victoria:—"I write to you, Sir Henry, in order that your Queen may preserve for me my country, it being in her hands. The Boers are coming into it, and I do not like them. Their actions are cruel among us black people. We are like money; they sell us and our children. I ask Her Majesty to pity me, and to hear that which I write quickly. I wish to hear upon what conditions Her Majesty will receive me, and my country and my people, under her protection. I am weary with fighting. I do not like war, and I ask Her Majesty to give me peace. I am very much distressed that my people are being destroyed by war, and I wish them to obtain peace. I ask Her Majesty to defend me, as she defends all her people. There are three things which distress me very much—war, selling people, and drink. All these things I find in the Boers, and it is these things which destroy people, to make an end of them in the country. The custom of the Boers has always been to cause people to be sold, and to-day they are still selling people. Last year I saw them pass with two waggons full of people whom they had bought at the river at Tanane (Lake Ngate).—Khama."
The visit of King Khama to England, a few years ago, his interview with the Queen, and his pathetic appeals on behalf of his people against the intrusion of any aggressors (drink being one of them), are fresh in our memory.
Coming down to a recent date, I reproduce here a letter from a Zulu Chief, which appeared in the London Press in November, 1899. This letter is written to a gentleman, who accompanied it by the following remarks:—"After I had read this very remarkable letter, I found myself half unconsciously wondering what place in the scheme of South African life will be found for Zulus such as this nephew of the last of the Zulu Kings. One thing I am fully certain of, that there are few natives in the Cape Colony (where they are full-fledged voters) capable of inditing so sensible an epistle. This communication throws a most welcome light upon the attitude of his people with respect to the momentous events that are in progress, and also it reveals to what a high standard of intellectual culture a pure Zulu may attain."
"Duff's Road, Durban, November 3rd, 1899.
Sir,—I keenly appreciate your generous tribute to the loyalty of the Zulu nation during the fierce crisis of English rule in South Africa. It is the first real test of the loyalty of the Zulus, and as a Zulu who was once a Chief, I rejoice to see that the loyalty and gratitude of my people is appreciated by the white people of Natal.
It is, as you say, respected Sir, a tribute, and a magnificent one, to England's just policy to the Zulus. I dare to assert it is even a finer tribute to the natives' appreciation, not only of benefits already conferred, but of the spirit that actuated England in her dealings with him. I may disagree as to the lessons taught by Maxim guns, hollow squares, and the 'thin red line.' I think no one can have read Colonial history, chronicling as it does, the rise again and again of the native against Imperial forces, without feeling that he is influenced far less by England's prowess in war than by her justice in peace. My Zulu fellow-countrymen understand as clearly as anyone the weakness and the strength of the present time. If the Zulu wished to remember Kambula and Ulundi, this would be his supreme opportunity to rise and hurl himself across the Natal frontier. But I, having just returned from my native country, have been able to report to the Government at Pietermaritzburg that there is not the slightest symptom of disloyalty, not the idea of lifting a finger against the white subjects of the great and good Queen.
There is among the Chiefs and Indunas of my people an almost universal hope that the Imperial arms will be victorious, and that a Government which, by its inhumanity and relentless injustice, and apparent inability to see that the native has any rights a white man should respect, has forfeited its place among the civilised Governments of the earth, and should therefore be deprived of powers so scandalously abused—formerly by slavery, and in later years by disallowing the native to buy land, and utterly neglecting his intellectual and spiritual needs. There are wrongs to be redressed, and we Zulus believe that England will be more willing to redress them than any other Power. There is still much to be done in the way of educating and civilizing the mass of the Zulu nation. We Chiefs of that nation have observed that wherever England has gone there the Missionary and teacher follow, and that there exists sympathy between the authority of Her Majesty and the forces that labour for civilization and Christianity. We Zulus have not yet forgotten what we owe to the late Bishop Colenso's lifelong advocacy, or to Lady Florence Dixie's kindly interest. These are things that are more than fear of England's might, that keep our people quiet outside and loyal inside. This is not a passive loyalty with us. Speaking for almost all my fellow-countrymen in Zululand, I believe if a great emergency arises in the course of this history-making war, in which England might find it necessary to put their loyalty to the test, they would respond with readiness and enthusiasm equal to that when they fought under King Cetewayo against Lord Chelmsford's army. Again assuring you that the Zulu people are turning deaf ears to Boer promises, as well as threats, I remain, with the most earnest hope for the ultimate triumph of General Buller—who fought my King for half a year. Your humble and most obedient servant,
Son of Maguende, brother of Cetewayo."
There is unhappily a tendency among persons living for any length of time among heathen people, to think and speak with a certain contempt for those people, at whose moral elevation they may even be sincerely aiming. They see all that is bad in these "inferior races," and little that is good. This was not so in the case of the greatest and most successful Missionaries. They never lost faith in human nature, even at its lowest estate, and hence they were able to raise the standard of the least promising of the outcast races of the world. This faith in the possibility of the elevation of these races has been firmly held, however, by some who know them best, and have lived among them the longest.
Mr Rider Haggard writes thus on this subject:—"So far as my own experience of natives has gone, I have found that in all the essential qualities of mind and body they very much resemble white men. Of them might be aptly quoted the speech Shakespeare puts into Shylock's mouth: 'Hath not a Jew eyes? hath not a Jew hands, organs, dimensions, senses, affections, passions?' In the same way, I ask, has a native no feelings or affections? does he not suffer when his parents are shot, or his children stolen, or when he is driven a wanderer from his home? Does he not know fear, feel pain, affection, hate, and gratitude? Most certainly he does; and this being so, I cannot believe that the Almighty, who made both white and black, gave to the one race the right or mission of exterminating or of robbing or maltreating the other, and calling the process the advance of civilization. It seems to me, that on only one condition, if at all, have we the right to take the black men's land; and that is, that we provide them with an equal and a just Government, and allow no maltreatment of them, either as individuals or tribes, but, on the contrary, do our best to elevate them, and wean them from savage customs. Otherwise, the practice is surely undefensible.
"I am aware, however, that with the exception of a small class, these are sentiments which are not shared by the great majority of the public, either at home or abroad."
A French gentleman, who has been for many years connected with the Missions Evangeliques of France, related recently in my presence some incidents of the early experience of French Missionaries in South Africa. One of these had laboured for years without encouragement. The hearts of the native people around him remained unmoved. One day, however, he spoke among them especially of Calvary, of the sufferings of Christ on the Cross. A Chief who was present left the building in which the teacher was speaking. At the close, this Chief was found sitting on the ground outside, his back to the door, his head bent forward and buried in his arms. He was weeping. When spoken to, he raised his arm with a movement of deprecation, and, in a voice full of pity and indignation, said—"to think that there was no one even to give Him a drink of water!" That poor savage had known what thirst is. This one awakened chord of human sympathy with the human Christ was communicative. Other hearts were touched, and from that time the Missionary began to reap a rich harvest from his labours. In the midst of the elaborate services of our fashionable London churches is there often to be found so genuine a feeling as that which shook the soul of this Chief, and broke down the barrier of coldness and hardness in his fellow-countrymen which had before prevented the acceptance of the message of Salvation and of the practical obligations of Christianity among them? Men who are capable of rising to the knowledge and love of divine truth cannot be supposed to be impervious to the influence of civilization properly understood.
[Footnote 1: The financial resources of the country at that time amounted to 12s. 6d.]
[Footnote 2: Quoted from Parliamentary Blue Book.]
[Footnote 3: Report made on the spot by Mr. Shepstone (not Sir Theophilus Shepstone), Secretary for Native Affairs.]
[Footnote 4: The name of that official was held back from publication at the time, as if his act were known by the Boers, it was believed it might have cost the man his life.]
THE CAUSES OF THE WAR DATE FAR BACK. THE FAULTS OF ENGLAND TO BE SOUGHT IN THE PAST. A REVISED VERDICT NEEDED. DOWNING STREET GOVERNMENT AND SUCCESSIVE COLONIAL GOVERNORS. M. MABILLE AND M. DIETERLEN, FRENCH MISSIONARIES. EARLY HISTORY OF CAPE COLONY. ABOLITION OF SLAVERY BY GREAT BRITAIN. COMPENSATION TO SLAVE OWNERS. FIRST TREK OF THE BURGHERS.
There is nothing so fallacious or misleading in history as the popular tendency to trace the causes of a great war to one source alone, or to fix upon the most recent events leading up to it, as the principal or even the sole cause of the outbreak of war. The occasion of an event may not be, and often is not, the cause of it. The occasion of this war was not its cause. In the present case it is extraordinary to note how almost the whole of Europe appears to be carried away with the idea that the causes of this terrible South African war are, as it were, only of yesterday's date. The seeds of which we are reaping so woeful a harvest were not sown yesterday, nor a few years ago only. We are reaping a harvest which has been ripening for a century past.
At the time of the Indian Mutiny, it was given out and believed by the world in general that the cause of that hideous revolt was a supposed attempt on the part of England to impose upon the native army of India certain rules which, from their point of view, outraged their religion in some of its most sacred aspects; (I refer to the legend of the greased cartridges). After the mutiny was over, Sir Herbert Edwardes, a true Seer, whose insight enabled him to look far below the surface, and to go back many years into the history of our dealings with India in order to take in review all the causes of the rebellion, addressed an exhaustive report to the British Government at home, dealing with those causes which had been accumulating for half-a-century or more. This was a weighty document,—one which it would be worth while to re-peruse at the present day; it had its influence in leading the Home Government to acknowledge some grave errors which had led up to this catastrophe, and to make an honest and persevering attempt to remedy past evils. That this attempt has not been in vain, in spite of all that India has had to suffer, has been acknowledged gratefully by the Native delegates to the great Annual Congress in India of the past year.
In the case of the Indian Mutiny, the incident of the supposed insult to their religious feelings was only the match which set light to a train which had been long laid. In the same way the honest historian will find, in the present case, that the events,—the "tragedy of errors," as they have been called,—of recent date, are but the torch that has set fire to a long prepared mass of combustible material which had been gradually accumulating in the course of a century.
In order to arrive at a true estimate of the errors and mismanagement which lie at the root of the causes of the present war, it is necessary to look back. Those errors and wrongs must be patiently searched out and studied, without partisanship, with an open mind and serious purpose. Many of our busy politicians and others have not the time, some perhaps have not the inclination for any such study. Hence, hasty, shallow, and violent judgments.
Never has there occurred in history a great struggle such as the present which has not had a deep moral teaching.
England is now suffering for her past errors, extending over many years. The blood of her sons is being poured out like water on the soil of South Africa. Wounded hearts and desolated families at home are counted by tens of thousands.
But it needs to be courageously stated by those who have looked a little below the surface that her faults have not been those which are attributed to her by a large proportion of European countries, and by a portion of her own people. These appear to attribute this war to a sudden impulse on her part of Imperial ambition and greed, and to see in the attitude which they attribute to her alone, the provocative element which was chiefly supplied from the other side. There will have to be a Revision of this Verdict, and there will certainly be one; it is on the way, though its approach may be slow. It will be rejected by some to the last.
The great error of England appears to have been a strange neglect, from time to time, of the true interests of her South African subjects, English, Dutch, and Natives. There have been in her management of this great Colony alternations of apathy and inaction, with interference which was sometimes unwise and hasty. Some of her acts have been the result of ignorance, indifference, or superciliousness on the part of our rulers.
The special difficulties, however, in her position towards that Colony should be taken into account.
It has always been a question as to how far interference from Downing Street with the freedom of action of a Self-Governing Colony was wise or practicable. In other instances, the exercise of great freedom of colonial self-government has had happy results, as in Canada and Australia.
Far from our South African policy having represented, as is believed by some, the self-assertion of a proud Imperialism, it has been the very opposite.
It seems evident that some of the greatest evils in the British government of South Africa have arisen from the frequent changes of Governors and Administrators there, concurrently with changes in the Government at home. There have been Governors under whose influence and control all sections of the people, including the natives, have had a measure of peace and good government. Such a Governor was Sir George Grey, of whose far-seeing provisions for the welfare of all classes many effects last to this day.
The nature of the work undertaken, and to a great extent done, by Sir George Grey and those of his successors who followed his example, was concisely described by an able local historian in 1877:—"The aim of the Colonial Government since 1855," he said, "has been to establish and maintain peace, to diffuse civilization and Christianity, and to establish society on the basis of individual property and personal industry. The agencies employed are the magistrate, the missionary, the school-master, and the trader." Of the years dating from the commencement of Sir George Grey's administration, it was thus reported:—"During this time peace has been uninterruptedly enjoyed within British frontiers. The natives have been treated in all respects with justice and consideration. Large tracts of the richest land are expressly set apart for them under the name of 'reserves' and 'locations.' The greater part of them live in these locations, under the superintendence of European magistrates or missionaries. As a whole, they are now enjoying far greater comfort and prosperity than they ever did in their normal state of barbaric independence and perpetually recurring tribal wars, before coming into contact with Europeans. The advantages and value of British rule have of late years struck root in the native mind over an immense portion of South Africa. They believe that it is a protection from external encroachment, and that only under the aegis of the Government can they be secure and enjoy peace and prosperity. Influenced by this feeling, several tribes beyond the colonial boundaries are now eager to be brought within the pale of civilized authority, and ere long, it is hoped, Her Majesty's sovereignty will be extended over fresh territories, with the full and free consent of the chiefs and tribes inhabiting them."
It maybe of interest to note here that one of these territories was Basutoland, which lies close to the South Eastern border of the Orange Free State.
Between the Basutos and the Orange Free State Boers war broke out in 1856, to be followed in 1858 by a temporary and incomplete pacification. The struggle continued, and in 1861, and again in 1865, when war was resumed, and all Basutoland was in danger of being conquered by the Boers, Moshesh, their Chief, appealed to the British Government for protection. It was not till 1868, after a large part of the country had passed into Boer hands, that Sir Philip Wodehouse, Sir George Grey's successor, was allowed to issue a proclamation declaring so much as remained of Basutoland to be British territory.
It was Sir George Grey who first saw the importance of endeavouring to bring all portions of South Africa, including the Boer Republics and the Native States, into "federal union with the parent colony" at the Cape. He was commissioned by the British Government to make enquiries with this object (1858.) He had obtained the support of the Orange Free State, whose Volksraad resolved that "a union with the Cape Colony, either on the plan of federation or otherwise, is desirable," and was expecting to win over the Transvaal Boers, when the British Government, alarmed as to the responsibilities it might incur, vetoed the project. (Such sudden alarms, under the influence of party conflicts at home, have not been infrequent.)
For seven years, however, this good Governor was permitted to promote a work of pacification and union.
I shall refer again later to the misfortunes, even the calamities, which have been the result of our projecting our home system of Government by Party into the distant regions of South Africa. There are long proved advantages in that system of party government as existing for our own country, but it seems to have been at the root of much of the inconsistency and vacillation of our policy in South Africa. As soon as a good Governor (appointed by either political party) has begun to develop his methods, and to lead the Dutch, and English, and Natives alike to begin to believe that there is something homogeneous in the principles of British government, a General Election takes place in England. A new Parliament and a new Government come into power, and, frequently in obedience to some popular representations at home, the actual Colonial Governor is recalled, and another is sent out.
Lord Glenelg, for example, had held office as Governor of the Cape Colony for five years,—up to 1846. His policy had been, it is said, conciliatory and wise. But immediately on a change of party in the Government at home, he was recalled, and Sir Harry Smith superseded him, a recklessly aggressive person.
It was only by great pains and trouble that the succeeding Governor, Sir George Cathcart, a wiser man, brought about a settlement of the confusion and disputes arising from Sir Harry Smith's aggressive and violent methods.
And so it has gone on, through all the years.
Allusion having been made above to the assumption of the Protectorate of Basutoland by Great Britain, it will not be without interest to notice here the circumstances and the motives which led to that act. It will be seen that there was no aggressiveness nor desire of conquest in this case; but that the protection asked was but too tardily granted on the pathetic and reiterated prayer of the natives suffering from the aggressions of the Transvaal.
The following is from the Biography of Adolphe Mabille, a devoted missionary of the Societe des Missions Evangeliques of Paris, who worked with great success in Basutoland. His life is written by Mr. Dieterlen (a name well known and highly esteemed in France), and the book has a preface by the famous missionary, Mr. F. Coillard.
"The Boers had long been keeping up an aggressive war against the Basutos (1864 to 1869), so much so that Mr. Mabille's missionary work was for a time almost destroyed. The Boers thought they saw in the missionaries' work the secret of the steady resistance of the Basutos, and of the moral force which prevented them laying down their arms. They exacted that Mr. Mabille should leave the country at once, which theoretically, they said, belonged to them.
"This good missionary and his friends were subjected to long trials during this hostility of the Boers. Moshesh, the chief of the Basutos, had for a long time past been asking the Governor of Cape Colony to have him and his people placed under the direction of Great Britain. The reply from the Cape was very long delayed. Moshesh, worn out, was about to capitulate at last to the Boers. Lessuto (the territory of Basutoland) was on the point of being absorbed by the Transvaal. At the last moment, however, and not a day too soon, there came a letter from the Governor of the Cape announcing to Moshesh that Queen Victoria had consented to take the Basutos under her protection. It was the long-expected deliverance,—it was salvation! At this news the missionaries, with Moshesh, burst into tears, and falling on their knees, gave thanks to God for this providential and almost unexpected intervention."
The Boers retained a large and fertile tract of Lessuto, but the rest of the country, continues M. Dieterlen, "remained under the Protectorate of a people who, provided peace is maintained, and their commerce is not interfered with, know how to work for the right development of the native people whose lands they annex."
Mr. Dieterlen introduces into his narrative the following remarks,—which are interesting as coming, not from an Englishman, but from a Frenchman,—and one who has had close personal experience of the matters of which he speaks:—
"Stayers at home, as we Frenchmen are, forming our opinions from newspapers whose editors know no more than ourselves what goes on in foreign countries, we too willingly see in the British nation an egotistical and rapacious people, thinking of nothing but the extension of their commerce and the prosperity of their industry. We are apt to pretend that their philanthropic enterprises and religious works are a mere hypocrisy. Courage is absolutely needed in order to affirm, at the risk of exciting the indignation of our soi-disant patriots, that although England knows perfectly well how to take care of her commercial interests in her colonies, she knows equally well how to pre-occupy and occupy herself with the moral interests of the people whom she places by agreement or by force under the sceptre of her Queen. Those who have seen and who know, have the duty of saying to those who have not seen, and who cannot, or who do not desire to see, and who do not know, that these two currents flowing from the British nation,—the one commercial and the other philanthropic,—are equally active amongst the uncivilized nations of Africa, and that if one wishes to find colonies in which exist real and complete liberty of conscience, where the education and moralisation of the natives are the object of serious concern, drawing largely upon the budget of the metropolis, it is always and above all in English possessions that you must look for them.
"Under the domination of the Boers, Lessuto would have been devoted to destruction, to ignorance, and to semi-slavery. Under the English regime reign security and progress. Lessuto became a territory reserved solely for its native proprietors, the sale of strong liquors was prohibited, and the schools received generous subvention. Catholics, Protestants, Anglicans, French and English Missionaries, could then enjoy the most absolute liberty in order to spread, each one in his own manner, and in the measure in which he possessed it, evangelic truth.
"It is for this reason that the French missionaries feared to see the Basutos fall under the Boers' yoke, and that they hailed with joy the intervention of the English Government in their field of work, hoping and expecting for the missionary work the happiest fruits. Their hope has not been deceived by the results."
The clash of opposing principles, and even the violence of party feeling continued to send its echoes to the far regions of South Africa, confusing the minds of the various populations there, and preventing any real coherence and continuity in our Government of that great Colony. A good and successful Administrator has sometimes been withdrawn to be superseded by another, equally well-intentioned, perhaps, but whose policy was on wholly different lines, thus undoing the work of his predecessor. This has introduced not only confusion, but sometimes an appearance of real injustice into our management of the colony. In all this chequered history, the interests of the native races have been too often postponed to those of the ruling races. This was certainly the case in connexion with Mr. Gladstone's well-intentioned act in giving back to the Transvaal its independent government.
It has been an anxious question for many among us whether this source of vacillation, with its attendant misfortunes, is to continue in the future.
* * * * *
The early history of the South African Colony has become, by this time, pretty well known by means of the numberless books lately written on the subject. I will only briefly recapitulate here a few of the principal facts, these being, in part, derived from the annals and reports of the Aborigines Protection Society, which may be considered impartial, seeing that that Society has had a keen eye at all times for the faults of British colonists and the British Government, while constrained, as a truthful recorder, to publish the offences of other peoples and Governments. I have also constantly referred to Parliamentary papers, and the words of accredited historians and travellers.
The first attempt at a regular settlement by the Dutch at the Cape was made by Jan Van Riebeck, in 1652, for the convenience of the trading vessels of the Netherlands East India Company, passing from Europe to Asia. Almost from the first these colonists were involved in quarrels with the natives, which furnished excuse for appropriating their lands and making slaves of them. The intruders stole the natives' cattle, and the natives' efforts to recover their property were denounced by Van Riebeck as "a matter most displeasing to the Almighty, when committed by such as they." Apologising to his employers in Holland for his show of kindness to one group of natives, Van Riebeck wrote: "This we only did to make them less shy, so as to find hereafter a better opportunity to seize them—1,100 or 1,200 in number, and about 600 cattle, the best in the whole country. We have every day the finest opportunities for effecting this without bloodshed, and could derive good service from the people, in chains, in killing seals or in labouring in the silver mines which we trust will be found here."
The Netherlands Company frequently deprecated such acts of treachery and cruelty, and counselled moderation. Their protests however were of no avail. The mischief had been done. The unhappy natives, with whom lasting friendship might have been established by fair treatment, had been converted into enemies; and the ruthless punishment inflicted on them for each futile effort to recover some of the property stolen from them, had rendered inevitable the continuance and constant extension of the strife all through the five generations of Dutch rule, and furnished cogent precedent for like action afterwards, After 1652, Colonists of the baser sort kept arriving in cargoes, and gradually the Netherlands Company allowed persons not of their own nation to land and settle under severe fiscal and other restrictions. Among these were a number of French Huguenots, good men, driven from their homes by the revocation of the Edict of Nantes in 1690. Then Flemings, Germans, Poles, and others constantly swelled the ranks. All these Europeans were forced to submit to the arbitrary rules of the Netherlands Company's agents, scarcely at all restrained from Amsterdam. Unofficial residents, known as Burghers, came to be admitted to share in the management of affairs. It was for their benefit chiefly, that as soon as the Hottentots were found to be unworkable as slaves, Negroes from West Africa and Malays from the East Indies began to be imported for the purpose. In 1772, when the settlement was a hundred and twenty years old, and had been in what was considered working order for a century, Cape Town and its suburbs had a population of 1,963 officials and servants of the Company, 4,628 male and 3,750 female colonists, and 8,335 slaves. In these figures no account is taken of the Hottentots and others employed in menial capacities, nor of the black prisoners, among whom, in 1772, a Swedish traveller saw 950 men, women, and children of the Bushman race, who had been captured about a hundred and fifty miles from Cape Town in a war brought about by encroachment on their lands.
The Aborigines Protection Society endorses the following statement of Sparrman (visit to the Cape of Good Hope, 1786, Vol. II, p. 165,) who says, "The Slave business, that violent outrage against the natural rights of man, which is always a crime and leads to all manner of wickedness, is exercised by the Colonists with a cruelty that merits the abhorrence of everyone, though I have been told that they pique themselves upon it; and not only is the capture of the Hottentots considered by them merely as a party of pleasure, but in cold blood they destroy the bands which nature has knit between husband and wife, and between parents and their children. Does a Colonist at any time get sight of a Bushman, he takes fire immediately, and spirits up his horse and dogs, in order to hunt him with more ardour and fury than he would a wolf or any other wild beast.".
"I am far from accusing all the colonists," he continues, "of these cruelties, which are too frequently committed. While some of them plumed themselves upon them, there were many who, on the contrary, held them in abomination, and feared lest the vengeance of Heaven should, for all their crimes, fall upon their posterity."
The inability of the Amsterdam authorities to control the filibustering zeal of the colonists rendered it easy for the people at the Cape to establish among themselves, in 1793, what purported to be an independent Republic. One of their proclamations contained the following resolution, aimed especially at the efforts of the missionaries—most of whom were then Moravians—to save the natives from utter ruin: "We will not permit any Moravians to live here and instruct the Hottentots; for, as there are many Christians who receive no instruction, it is not proper that the Hottentots should be taught; they must remain in the same state as before. Hottentots born on the estate of a farmer must live there, and serve him until they are twenty-five years old, before they receive any wages. All Bushmen or wild Hottentots caught by us must remain slaves for life."
I have given these facts of more than a hundred years ago to show for how long a time the traditions of the usefulness and lawfulness of Slavery had been engrained in the minds of the Dutch settlers. We ought not, perhaps, to censure too severely the Boer proclivities in favour of that ancient institution, nor to be surprised if it should be a work of time, accompanied with severe Providential chastisement, to uproot that fixed idea from the minds of the present generation, of Boer descent. The sin of enslaving their fellow-men may perhaps be reckoned, for them, among the "sins of ignorance." Nevertheless, the Recording Angel has not failed through all these generations to mark the woes of the slaves; and the historic vengeance, which sooner or later infallibly follows a century or centuries of the violation of the Divine Law and of human rights, will not be postponed or averted even by a late repentance on the part of the transgressors. It is striking to note how often in history the sore judgment of oppressors has fallen (in this world), not on those who were first in the guilt, but on their successors, just as they were entering on an amended course of "ceasing to do evil and learning to do well."
In 1795, Cape Town was formally ceded by the Prince of Orange to Great Britain, as an incident of the great war with France, for which, six million pounds sterling was paid by Great Britain to Holland. British supremacy was formally recognized in this part of South Africa by a Convention signed in 1814, which was confirmed by the Treaty of Paris in 1815.
British rule for some thirty years after 1806 was perforce despotic, but for the most part, with some exceptions, it was a benevolent despotism. "They had the difficult task of controlling a straggling white community, at first almost exclusively composed of Boers, who had been too sturdy and stubborn to tolerate any effective interference by the Netherlands Company and other authorities in Holland, and who resented both English domination and the advent of English colonists which more than doubled the white population in less than two decades." "The Governors sent out from Downing Street had tasks imposed upon them which were beyond the powers of even the wisest and worthiest. Most of the English colonists found it easier to fall in with the thoughts and habits of the Boers than to uphold the purer traditions of life and conduct in the mother country, and it is not strange that many of the officials should have been in like case."
Great Britain abolished the Slave Trade in 1807, which prevented the further importation of Slaves, and the traffic in them.
The great Emancipation Act, by which Great Britain abolished Slavery in all lands over which she had control, was passed in 1834.
The great grievance for the Burghers was this abolition of slavery by Great Britain. According to a Parliamentary Return of March, 1838, the slaves of all sorts liberated in Cape Colony numbered 35,750. The British Parliament awarded as compensation to the slave owners throughout the British dominions a sum of L20,000,000, of which, nearly L1,500,000 fell to the share of the Burghers. Concerning this Act of Compensation there have been very divided opinions; there is not a doubt that the British Government intended to deal fairly by the former slave owners, but it is stated that there was great and culpable carelessness on the part of the British agents in distributing this compensation money. It seems that many of the Burghers to whom it was due never obtained it, and these considered themselves aggrieved and defrauded by the British Government. On the other hand, there are persons who have continually disapproved of the principle of compensation for a wrong given up, or the loss of an advantage unrighteously purchased. It is however to be regretted, that an excuse should have been given for the Boers' complaints by irregularities attributed to the British in the partition of the compensation money.
It has often been asserted that the first great Dutch emigration from the Cape was instigated simply by love of freedom on their part, and their dislike of British Government. But why did they dislike British Government? There may have been minor reasons, but the one great grievance complained of by themselves, from the first, was the abolition of slavery. They desired to be free to deal with the natives in their own manner.
Taking with them their household belongings and as much cattle as they could collect, they went forth in search of homes in which they hoped they would be no longer controlled, and as they thought, sorely wronged by the nation which had invaded their Colony. But they did not all trek; only about half, it was estimated, did so. The rest remained, finding it possible to live and prosper without slavery.
They crossed the Orange River, and finally trekked beyond the Vaal.
From 1833, Cape Colony, under British rule, began to be endowed with representative institutions. In 1854, the Magna Charta of the Hottentots, as it was called, was created. It was a measure of remarkable liberality. "It conferred on all Hottentots and other free persons of colour lawfully residing in the Colony, the right to become burghers, and to exercise and enjoy all the privileges of burghership. It enabled them to acquire land and other property. It exempted them from any compulsory service to which other subjects of the Crown were not liable, and from 'any hindrance, molestation, fine, imprisonment or other punishment' not awarded to them after trial in due course of law, 'any custom or usage to the contrary in anywise notwithstanding.' Among other provisions it was stipulated that wages should no longer be paid to them in liquor or tobacco, and that, in the event of a servant having reasonable ground of complaint against his master for ill-usage, and not being able to bear the expense of a summons, one should be issued to him free of charge. By this ordinance a stop was put, as far as the law could be enforced, to the bondage, other than admitted and legalized slavery, by which through nearly two centuries the Dutch farmers and others had oppressed the natives whom they had deprived of their lands."
The Boers who had trekked resented every attempt at interference with them on the part of the Cape Government with a view to their acceptance of such principles of British Government as are expressed above. Wearied by its hopeless efforts to restore order among the emigrant farmers, the British Government abandoned the task, and contented itself with the arrangement made with Andries Pretorius, in 1852, called the Sand River Convention. This Convention conceded to "the emigrant farmers beyond the Vaal River" "the right to manage their own affairs and to govern themselves, without any interference on the part of Her Majesty the Queen's Government." It was stipulated, however, that "no slavery is or shall be permitted or practised in the country to the north of the Vaal River by the emigrant farmers." This stipulation has been made in every succeeding Convention down to that of 1884. These Conventions have been regularly agreed to and signed by successive Boer Leaders, and have been as regularly and successively violated.
[Footnote 5: South Africa, Past and Present (1899), by Noble.]
[Footnote 6: Adolphe Mabille, Published in Paris, 1898.]
[Footnote 7: These and other details which follow are taken from Dutch official papers, giving a succinct account of the treatment of the natives between 1649 and 1809. These papers were translated from the Dutch by Lieut. Moodie (1838). See Moodie's "Record."]
[Footnote 8: Thunberg. "Travels in Europe, Africa, and Asia, between 1770 and 1779."]
[Footnote 9: Sir John Barrow (Travels in South Africa, 1806.) Vol ii. p. 165.]
[Footnote 10: Mr. Fox Bourne, Secretary of the Aborigines Protection Society.]
[Footnote 11: Parliamentary paper quoted by Mr. Fox Bourne. "Black and White," page 18.]
DR. LIVINGSTONE'S EXPERIENCES IN THE TRANSVAAL AND IN SURROUNDING NATIVE DISTRICTS. LETTER OF DR. MOFFAT IN 1877. LETTER OF HIS SON, REV. J. MOFFAT, 1899. REPORT OF M. DIETERLEN TO THE COMMITTEE OF THE MISSIONS' EVANGELIQUES OF PARIS.
The following is an extract from the "Missionary Travels and Researches in South Africa," of the venerable pioneer, David Livingstone.
"An adverse influence with which the mission had to contend was the vicinity of the Boers of the Cashan Mountains, otherwise named 'Magaliesberg.' These are not to be confounded with the Cape Colonists, who sometimes pass by the name. The word 'Boer,' simply means 'farmer,' and is not synonymous with our word boor. Indeed, to the Boers generally the latter term would be quite inappropriate, for they are a sober, industrious, and most hospitable body of peasantry. Those, however, who have fled from English Law on various pretexts, and have been joined by English deserters, and every other variety of bad character in their distant localities, are unfortunately of a very different stamp. The great objection many of the Boers had, and still have, to English law, is that it makes no distinction between black men and white. They felt aggrieved by their supposed losses in the emancipation of their Hottentot slaves, and determined to erect themselves into a republic, in which they might pursue, without molestation, the 'proper treatment' of the blacks. It is almost needless to add, that the 'proper treatment' has always contained in it the essential element of slavery, namely, compulsory unpaid labour.
"One section of this body, under the late Mr. Hendrick Potgeiter, penetrated the interior as far as the Cashan Mountains, whence a Zulu chief, named Mosilikatze, had been expelled by the well known Kaffir Dingaan, and a glad welcome was given these Boers by the Bechuana tribes, who had just escaped the hard sway of that cruel chieftain. They came with the prestige of white men and deliverers; but the Bechuanas soon found, as they expressed it, 'that Mosilikatze was cruel to his enemies, and kind to those he conquered; but that the Boers destroyed their enemies, and made slaves of their friends." The tribes who still retain the semblance of independence are forced to perform all the labour of the fields, such as manuring the land, weeding, reaping, building, making dams and canals, and at the same time to support themselves. I have myself been an eye-witness of Boers coming to a village, and according to their usual custom, demanding twenty or thirty women to weed their gardens, and have seen these women proceed to the scene of unrequited toil, carrying their own food on their heads, their children on their backs, and instruments of labour on their shoulders. Nor have the Boers any wish to conceal the meanness of thus employing unpaid labour; on the contrary, every one of them, from Mr. Potgeiter and Mr. Gert Kruger, the commandants, downwards, lauded his own humanity and justice in making such an equitable regulation. 'We make the people work for us, in consideration of allowing them to live in our country.'
"I can appeal to the Commandant Kruger if the foregoing is not a fair and impartial statement of the views of himself and his people. I am sensible of no mental bias towards or against these Boers; and during the several journeys I made to the poor enslaved tribes, I never avoided the whites, but tried to cure and did administer remedies to their sick, without money and without price. It is due to them to state that I was invariably treated with respect; but it is most unfortunate that they should have been left by their own Church for so many years to deteriorate and become as degraded as the blacks, whom the stupid prejudice against colour leads them to detest.
"This new species of slavery which they have adopted serves to supply the lack of field labour only. The demand for domestic servants must be met by forays on tribes which have good supplies of cattle. The Portuguese can quote instances in which blacks become so degraded by the love of strong drink as actually to sell themselves; but never in any one case, within the memory of man, has a Bechuana Chief sold any of his people, or a Bechuana man his child. Hence the necessity for a foray to seize children. And those individual Boers who would not engage in it for the sake of slaves, can seldom resist the twofold plea of a well-told story of an intended uprising of the devoted tribe, and the prospect of handsome pay in the division of captured cattle besides. It is difficult for a person in a civilized country to conceive that any body of men possessing the common attributes of humanity, (and these Boers are by no means destitute of the better feelings of our nature,) should with one accord set out, after loading their own wives and children with caresses, and proceed to shoot down in cold blood, men and women of a different colour, it is true, but possessed of domestic feelings and affections equal to their own. I saw and conversed with children in the houses of Boers who had by their own and their master's account been captured, and in several instances I traced the parents of these unfortunates, though the plan approved by the long-headed among the burghers is to take children so young that they soon forget their parents and their native language also. It was long before I could give credit to the tales of bloodshed told by native witnesses, and had I received no other testimony but theirs, I should probably have continued sceptical to this day as to the truth of the accounts; but when I found the Boers themselves, some bewailing and denouncing, others glorying in the bloody scenes in which they had been themselves the actors, I was compelled to admit the validity of the testimony, and try to account for the cruel anomaly. They are all traditionally religious, tracing their descent from some of the best men (Huguenots and Dutch) the world ever saw. Hence they claim to themselves the title of 'Christians,' and all the coloured race are 'black property' or 'creatures.' They being the chosen people of God, the heathen are given to them for an inheritance, and they are the rod of divine vengeance on the heathen, as were the Jews of old.
"Living in the midst of a native population much larger than themselves, and at fountains removed many miles from each other, they feel somewhat in the same insecure position as do the Americans in the Southern States. The first question put by them to strangers is respecting peace; and when they receive reports from disaffected or envious natives against any tribe, the case assumes all the appearance and proportions of a regular insurrection. Severe measures then appear to the most mildly disposed among them as imperatively called for, and, however bloody the massacre that follows, no qualms of conscience ensue: it is a dire necessity for the sake of peace. Indeed, the late Mr. Hendrick Potgeiter most devoutly believed himself to be the great peace-maker of the country.
"But how is it that the natives, being so vastly superior in numbers to the Boers, do not rise and annihilate them? The people among whom they live are Bechuanas, not Kaffirs, though no one would ever learn that distinction from a Boer; and history does not contain one single instance in which the Bechuanas, even those of them who possess firearms, have attacked either the Boers or the English. If there is such an instance, I am certain it is not generally known, either beyond or in the Cape Colony. They have defended themselves when attacked, as in the case of Sechele, but have never engaged in offensive war with Europeans. We have a very different tale to tell of the Kaffirs, and the difference has always been so evident to these border Boers that, ever since 'those magnificent savages,' (the Kaffirs,) obtained possession of firearms, not one Boer has ever attempted to settle in Kaffirland, or even face them as an enemy in the field. The Boers have generally manifested a marked antipathy to anything but 'long-shot' warfare, and, sidling away in their emigrations towards the more effeminate Bechuanas, they have left their quarrels with the Kaffirs to be settled by the English, and their wars to be paid for by English gold.
"The Bechuanas at Kolobeng had the spectacle of various tribes enslaved before their eyes;—the Bakatla, the Batlo'kua, the Bahukeng, the Bamosetla, and two other tribes of Bechuanas, were all groaning under the oppression of unrequited labour. This would not have been felt as so great an evil, but that the young men of those tribes, anxious to obtain cattle, the only means of rising to respectability and importance among their own people, were in the habit of sallying forth, like our Irish and Highland reapers, to procure work in the Cape Colony. After labouring there three or four years, in building stone dykes and dams for the Dutch farmers, they were well content if at the end of that time they could return with as many cows. On presenting one to the chief, they ranked as respectable men in the tribe ever afterwards. These volunteers were highly esteemed among the Dutch, under the name of Mantatees. They were paid at the rate of one shilling a day, and a large loaf of bread among six of them. Numbers of them, who had formerly seen me about twelve hundred miles inland from the Cape, recognised me with the loud laughter of joy when I was passing them at their work in the Roggefelt and Bokkefelt, within a few days of Cape Town. I conversed with them, and with Elders of the Dutch Church, for whom they were working, and found that the system was thoroughly satisfactory to both parties. I do not believe that there is a Boer, in the Cashan or Magaliesberg country, who would deny that a law was made, in consequence of this labour passing to the Colony, to deprive these labourers of their hardly-earned cattle, for the very urgent reason that, "if they want to work, let them work for us, their masters," though boasting that in their case their work would not be paid.
"I can never cease to be most unfeignedly thankful that I was not born in a land of slaves. No one can understand the effect of the unutterable meanness of the slave system on the minds of those who, but for the strange obliquity which prevents them from feeling the degradation of not being gentlemen enough to pay for services rendered, would be equal in virtue to ourselves."
After giving his experience of eight years in Sechele's country, in Bechuanaland, Livingstone continues:—"During that time, no winter passed without one or two of the tribes in the east country being plundered of both cattle and children by the Boers. The plan pursued is the following: one or two friendly tribes are forced to accompany a party of mounted Boers. When they reach the tribe to be attacked, the friendly natives are ranged in front, to form, as they say, 'a shield;' the Boers then coolly fire over their heads till the devoted people flee and leave cattle, wives and children to their captors. This was done in nine cases during my residence in the interior, and on no occasion was a drop of Boer's blood shed. News of these deeds spread quickly among the Bechuanas, and letters were repeatedly sent by the Boers to Sechele, ordering him to come and surrender himself as their vassal, and stop English traders from proceeding into the country. But the discovery of lake Ngami, hereafter to be described, made the traders come in five-fold greater numbers, and Sechele replied, 'I was made an independent chief and placed here by God, and not by you. I was never conquered by Mosilikatze, as those tribes whom you rule over; and the English are my friends; I get everything I wish from them; I cannot hinder them from going where they like.' Those who are old enough to remember the threatened invasion of our own island, may understand the effect which the constant danger of a Boer invasion had on the minds of the Bechuanas; but no others can conceive how worrying were the messages and threats from the endless self-constituted authorities of the Magaliesberg Boers, and when to all this harassing annoyance was added the scarcity produced by the drought, we could not wonder at, though we felt sorry for, their indisposition to receive instruction.
"I attempted to benefit the native tribes among the Boers of Magaliesberg by placing native teachers at different points. 'You must teach the blacks,' said Mr. Hendrick Potgeiter, the commandant in chief, 'that they are not equal to us.' Other Boers told me 'I might as well teach the baboons on the rocks as the Africans,' but declined the test which I proposed, namely, to examine whether they or my native attendants could read best. Two of their clergymen came to baptize the children of the Boers, so, supposing these good men would assist me in overcoming the repugnance of their flock to the education of the blacks, I called on them, but my visit ended in a ruse practised by the Boerish commandant, whereby I was led, by professions of the greatest friendship, to retire to Kolobeng, while a letter passed me, by another way, to the missionaries in the south, demanding my instant recall for 'lending a cannon to their enemies.'
"These notices of the Boers are not intended to produce a sneer at their ignorance, but to excite the compassion of their friends.
"They are perpetually talking about their laws; but practically theirs is only the law of the strongest. The Bechuanas could never understand the changes which took place in their commandants. 'Why, one can never know who is the chief among these Boers. Like the Bushmen, they have no king—they must be the Bushmen of the English.' The idea that any tribe of men could be so senseless as not to have an hereditary chief was so absurd to these people, that in order not to appear equally stupid, I was obliged to tell them that we English were so anxious to preserve the royal blood that we had made a young lady our chief. This seemed to them a most convincing proof of our sound sense. We shall see farther on the confidence my account of our Queen inspired. The Boers, encouraged by the accession of Mr. Pretorius, determined at last to put a stop to English traders going past Kolobeng, by dispersing the tribe of Bechuanas, and expelling all the missionaries. Sir George Cathcart proclaimed the independence of the Boers. A treaty was entered into with them; an article for the free passage of Englishmen to the country beyond, and also another, that no slavery should be allowed in the independent territory, were duly inserted, as expressive of the views of Her Majesty's Government at home. 'But what about the missionaries?' enquired the Boers. 'You may do as you please with them,' is said to have been the answer of the Commissioner. This remark, if uttered at all, was probably made in joke: designing men, however, circulated it, and caused the general belief in its accuracy which now prevails all over the country, and doubtless led to the destruction of three mission stations immediately after. The Boers, 400 in number, were sent by the late Mr. Pretorius to attack the Bechuanas in 1852. Boasting that the English had given up all the blacks into their power, and had agreed to aid them in their subjugation by preventing all supplies of ammunition from coming into the Bechuana country, they assaulted the Bechuanas, and, besides killing a considerable number of adults, carried off 200 of our school children into slavery. The natives, under Sechele, defended themselves till the approach of night enabled them to flee to the mountains; and having in that defence killed a number of the enemy, the very first ever slain in this country by Bechuanas, I received the credit of having taught the tribe to kill Boers! My house, which had stood perfectly secure for years under the protection of the natives, was plundered in revenge. English gentlemen, who had come in the footsteps of Mr. Cumming to hunt in the country beyond, and had deposited large quantities of stores in the same keeping, and upwards of eighty head of cattle as relays for the return journeys, were robbed of all; and when they came back to Kolobeng, found the skeletons of the guardians strewed all over the place. The books of a good library—my solace in our solitude—were not taken away, but handfuls of the leaves were torn out and scattered over the place. My stock of medicines was smashed; and all our furniture and clothing carried off and sold at public auction to pay the expenses of the foray. I do not mention these things by way of making a pitiful wail over my losses, in order to excite commiseration; for though I feel sorry for the loss of lexicons, dictionaries, &c., &c., which had been the companions of my boyhood, yet, after all, the plundering only set me entirely free for my expedition to the north, and I have never since had a moment's concern for anything I left behind. The Boers resolved to shut up the interior, and I determined to open the country."
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Mr. A. McArthur, of Holland Park, wrote on March 22nd of this year:—
"When looking over some old letters a few days ago, I found one from the late venerable Dr. Moffat, who was one of the best friends South Africa ever had. It was written in answer to a few lines I wrote him, informing him that the Transvaal had been annexed by the British Government. I enclose a copy of his letter."
Dr. Moffat's letter is as follows:—July 27th, 1877.
"My dear friend,
"I have no words to express the pleasure the late annexation of the Transvaal territory to the Cape Colony has afforded me. It is one of the most important measures our Government could have adopted, as regards the Republic as well as the Aborigines. I have no hesitation in pronouncing the step as being fraught with incalculable benefits to both parties,—i.e., the settlers and the native tribes. A residence of more than half a century beyond the colonial boundary is quite sufficient to authorize one to write with confidence that Lord Carnarvon's measure will be the commencement of an era of blessing to Southern Africa. I was one of a deputation appointed by a committee to wait on Sir George Clarke, at Bloemfontein, to prevent, if possible, his handing over the sovereignty, now the Free State, to the emigrant Boers. Every effort failed to prevent the blunder. Long experience had led many to foresee that such a course would entail on the native tribes conterminous oppression, slavery, alias apprenticeship, etc. Many a tale of woe could be told arising, as they express it, from the English allowing their subjects to spoil and exterminate. Hitherto, the natives have been the sufferers, and might justly lay claim for compensation. With every expression of respect and esteem, I remain, yours very sincerely, Robert Moffat."
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A letter from a Son of Dr. Moffat may have some interest here. It is dated December 20th, 1899.
The Rev. John Moffat, son of the famous Dr. Moffat, and himself for a long time resident in South Africa, has sent to a friend in London a letter regarding the relations of the British and Dutch races previous to the war. Mr. Moffat, throughout his varied experiences, has been a special friend to the natives. One of his younger sons, Howard, is with a force of natives 60 miles south west of Khama's town (at the time of writing, December 20th), and Dr. Alford Moffat, another son, was medical officer to 300 Volunteers occupying the Mangwe Pass, to prevent a Boer raid into Rhodesia at that point.
"1. Had Steyn sat still and minded his own business no one would have meddled with him. Had Kruger confined himself strictly to self-defence, and we had invaded him, we might have had to blame ourselves.
"2. To have placed an adequate defensive force on our borders before we were sure that there was going to be war would have been accepted (perhaps justly) by the Boers as a menace. We did not do it, out of respect for their susceptibilities.
"3. To most people in South Africa who knew the Boers it was quite plain that Kruger was all along playing what is colloquially known as the game of 'spoof.' He never intended to make the slightest concession.