SOUTH AFRICA AND THE TRANSVAAL WAR
BY LOUIS CRESWICKE AUTHOR OF "ROXANE," ETC.
WITH NUMEROUS ILLUSTRATIONS AND MAPS
IN SIX VOLUMES
VOL. I.—FROM THE FOUNDATION OF CAPE COLONY TO THE BOER ULTIMATUM OF 9TH OCT. 1899
EDINBURGH: T. C. & E. C. JACK 1900
In writing this volume my aim has been to present an unvarnished tale of the circumstances—extending over nearly half a century—which have brought about the present crisis in South Africa. Consequently, it has been necessary to collate the opinions of the best authorities on the subject. My acknowledgments are due to the distinguished authors herein quoted for much valuable information, throwing light on the complications that have been accumulating so long, and that owe their origin to political blundering and cosmopolitan scheming rather than to the racial antagonism between Briton and Boer.
PAGE CHRONOLOGICAL TABLE ix
THE GROWTH OF THE TRANSVAAL 13
THE BOER CHARACTER 15
SOME DOMESTIC TRAITS 18
THE ORANGE FREE STATE 24
THE GRONDWET 26
TRANSVAAL DISSENSIONS 29
ZULU DISTURBANCES 30
THE POLITICAL WEB 33
THE WEB THICKENING 36
THE ZULU WAR 38
AFFAIRS AT HOME 43
TOWARDS ULUNDI 49
THE VICTORY 57
SIR GARNET WOLSELEY AT PRETORIA 62
GLADSTONE OUT OF OFFICE AND IN OFFICE 65
COMMENCEMENT OF REBELLION 69
THE FATE OF CAPTAIN ELLIOT 73
LAING'S NEK 77
THE SIEGE OF PRETORIA 95
THE BETRAYED LOYALISTS 101
THE CONVENTIONS 106
MR. KRUGER 110
GERMANS AND UITLANDERS 114
MR. RHODES 118
THE TRANSVAAL OF TO-DAY 136
ACCUMULATED AGGRAVATIONS 138
MONOPOLIES AND ABUSES 143
THE FRANCHISE 146
THE REFORM MOVEMENT 149
THE CRITICAL MOMENT 153
THE RAID 156
AFTER DOORNKOP 172
THE FATE OF THE MISCREANTS 177
THE ULTIMATUM 178
APPENDIX—CONVENTIONS OF 1881 AND 1884 191, 197
LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS—Vol. I.
1. COLOURED PLATES
DYING TO SAVE THE QUEEN'S COLOURS. An Incident of the Battle of Isandlwana. By C. E. Fripp Frontispiece
COLONEL OF THE 10TH HUSSARS (H.R.H. THE PRINCE OF WALES) 16
2ND DRAGOONS (ROYAL SCOTS GREYS) 32
OFFICER OF THE 16TH LANCERS 64
DRUM-MAJOR AND DRUMMERS, COLDSTREAM GUARDS 80
COLOUR-SERGEANT AND PRIVATE, THE SCOTS GUARDS 104
SERGEANT AND BUGLER, 1ST ARGYLE AND SUTHERLAND HIGHLANDERS 140
COLOUR-SERGEANT AND PRIVATE (IN KHAKI), GLOUCESTER REGIMENT 172
2. FULL-PAGE PLATES
CAPE TOWN, DEVIL'S PEAK, TABLE MOUNTAIN, AND LION'S HEAD, FROM TABLE BAY 10
A KAFFIR KRAAL IN THE TRANSVAAL 20
BLOEMFONTEIN, FROM THE SOUTH 26
THE DEFENCE OF RORKE'S DRIFT. By Alphonse de Neuville 42
THE BATTLE OF ULUNDI: THE FINAL RUSH OF THE ZULUS. By R. Caton Woodville 58
THE ORANGE RIVER AT NORVAL'S PONT 74
THE BATTLE OF MAJUBA HILL. By R. Caton Woodville 90
WHERE COLLEY FELL. Rough Cairn of Stones on Majuba Hill 92
THE MATABELE WAR—DEFENDING A LAAGER. By R. Caton Woodville 118
"TO THE MEMORY OF BRAVE MEN." The Last Stand of Major Wilson on The Shangani River, 1893. By Allan Stewart 124
A MATABELE RAID IN MASHONALAND. By W. Small 128
KIMBERLEY, AS SEEN FROM THE ROCK SHAFT 132
PRETORIA, FROM THE EAST. 138
SOUTH AFRICAN NATIVES—BOUND FOR THE GOLDFIELDS 148
JAMESON'S LAST STAND—THE BATTLE OF DOORNKOP, 2nd January 1896. By R. Caton Woodville 160
JOHANNESBURG, FROM THE NORTH. 166
3. FULL-PAGE PORTRAITS
SIR HENRY BARTLE FRERE, Bart 48
GENERAL SIR EVELYN WOOD, G.C.B., V.C. 96
PAUL KRUGER, PRESIDENT OF THE TRANSVAAL REPUBLIC 112
RIGHT HON. CECIL JOHN RHODES, P.C. 144
DR. LEANDER STARR JAMESON 152
RIGHT HON. JOSEPH CHAMBERLAIN, M.P., Secretary for the Colonies 176
SIR ALFRED MILNER, K.C.B., High Commissioner for South Africa 184
VISCOUNT WOLSELEY, Commander-in-chief of the British Army 188
MAP OF BRITISH SOUTH AFRICA At Front
MAP OF THE BOER REPUBLICS "
MAP OF ZULULAND AND THE ADJOINING PORTIONS OF NATAL 41
MAP OF COUNTRY ROUND LAING'S NEK AND MAJUBA HILL 81
PLAN OF DISPOSITION OF FORCES ON TOP OF MAJUBA HILL 89
MAP OF MATABELELAND 121
MAP ILLUSTRATING THE JAMESON RAID 163
CHRONOLOGICAL TABLE—VOL. I.
#1851.#—First Basuto war.
#1852.#—Sand River Convention, granting independence to Transvaal Boers.
#1853.#—Province of British Kaffraria created.
Introduction of representative government in Cape Colony.
#1854.#—Convention of Bloemfontein and Treaty of Aliwal, granting independence to Orange Free State.
Free State abandoned to Dutch.
#1855.#—Establishment of a Constitution for South African Republic; not completed till 1858.
#1856.#—Natal created a separate Colony. 2000 German legion and 2000 German labourers arrived.
#1858.#—War between Orange Free State and Basutos.
#1859.#—First railway constructed.
#1865.#—British Kaffraria incorporated with Cape Colony.
War between Free State and Basutos.
#1867.#—First discovery of diamonds near Orange River.
First discovery of gold in Transvaal.
#1868.#—Annexation of Basutoland.
#1869.#—Discovery of diamonds near Lower Vaal River, where Kimberley now stands.
Commercial Treaty concluded between Portuguese Government and the South African Republic, which led to British claims to Delagoa Bay.
#1871.#—Annexation of Griqualand West (Diamond Fields). Basutoland added to Cape.
#1872.#—Responsible Government granted to Cape Colony.
Cetchwayo succeeds his father, Panda, as king in Zululand.
#1872-75.#—Delagoa Bay arbitration.
#1874.#—Ichaboe and Penguin Islands annexed.
#1875.#—Delagoa Bay award.
#1875-80.#—Lord Carnarvon's scheme for making the different colonies and states of South Africa into a confederation with common administration and common legislation in national matters.
#1876.#—Fingoland, Idutywa Reserve, and No-Man's-Land annexed.
Acceptance by Free State of L90,000 for Griqualand West.
Khama, Chief of Bamangwato, seeks British protection against Boer aggressions.
#1877.#—Annexation of Transvaal by Sir T. Shepstone, after the country had been reduced to a state of anarchy by misgovernment.
#1877-78.#—Gaika and Gealika rebellion.
#1878.#—Walfish Bay proclaimed a British possession.
#1879.#—Zulu war. Transvaal declared a Crown Colony.
#1880.#—Basuto war. Sekukuni campaign.
Boer protest against British rule at a mass meeting held in December at Paardekraal (now Krugersdorp).
They seize Heidelberg.
South African Republic established.
December 16.—Kruger, Joubert, and Pretorius proclaimed South African Republic by hoisting flag on Dingaan's Day. Kruger made President on December 17. British treacherously surrounded at Bronkhurst Spruit, December 20, when about 250 of 94th Regiment, after losing nearly all their men, surrendered. Colonel Bellairs besieged in Potchefstroom, but Boers retire when shelled. December 29.
—Captain Elliot treacherously murdered while fording the Vaal.
#1880-81.#—Reinforcements sent out December and January.
Griqualand West incorporated with the Cape.
#1881.#—Transvaal rebellion. Pretoria Convention, creating "Transvaal State" under British suzerainty.
Sir George Colley takes command of our troops, January. His attack on Laing's Nek repulsed with heavy loss. Colonel Deane and Majors Poole and Hingiston killed.
#1881.#—Severe engagement near Ingogo River, Feb. 8. British repulsed after 12 hours under fire. Sir E. Wood joined Colley with reinforcements. Orange Free State neutrality declared. Colley and Majuba Hill, Feb. 27; Colley killed with 3 officers and 82 men; 122 men taken prisoners.
Sir F. (now Lord) Roberts sent out, Feb. 28.
Armistice proposed by Boers, March 5; accepted March 23.
Peace proclaimed, March 21.
Potchefstroom surrendered with honours of war in ignorance of armistice, April.
Commission appointed to carry out Treaty of Peace, April 5.
Convention agreed to, ceding all territory to Transvaal, with the Queen as suzerain, and a British resident at Pretoria, Aug. 8.
Convention ratified, Oct. 25.
Evacuation of Transvaal by British troops began on Nov. 18.
#1884.#—London Convention restoring to the Transvaal the title of "South African Republic."
Annexation of Damaraland by Germany.
Boer Republics of Stellaland and Goshen set up in Bechuanaland.
Boers seize and annex Montsioaland; sanctioned by proclamation; withdrawn on remonstrance.
Ultimatum by Sir H. Robinson, requiring protection of frontiers.
British annexation of Southern, and protectorate of Northern Bechuanaland.
Basutoland made independent.
Port St. John annexed.
British flag hoisted in Lucia Bay, Zululand (ceded to England in 1843, by Panda).
#1884-85.#—Sir Charles Warren's expedition.
#1885.#—Annexation of Bechuanaland to Cape Colony.
#1885.#—British protectorate over Khama's country proclaimed as far as Matabeleland.
Discovery of great goldfields in Witwatersrandt, Transvaal.
#1886.#—Opening of principal goldfields in Transvaal.
British Government put a stop to Boer raids into Zululand, and confined them to a territory of nearly 3000 square miles; to be known as the "New Republic."
#1887.#—British annexation of the rest of Zululand.
British treaty with Tonga chiefs, in which they undertook not to make treaties with any other power.
#1888.#—"New Republic" annexed to South African Republic.
Treaty concluded between British and Lo Bengula, the Matabele king, in which he undertook not to cede territory to, or treat with, any foreign power without British consent.
#1889.#—Charter granted to British South Africa Company.
#1890.#—First Swaziland Convention, giving Boers certain rights to a railway to the coast.
British and German "spheres of influence" defined by formal agreement.
#1891.#—Southern boundary of Portuguese territory fixed by treaty with Great Britain.
#1893.#—Responsible government granted to Natal.
Question of "commandeering" British subjects raised in South African Republic.
Second Swaziland Convention, placing Swaziland under Boer control.
Annexation of Amatongaland.
Annexation of Pondoland.
British subjects exempted from military service by Transvaal Government, June 24.
Protest by British Government against closing the Vaal Drifts, as contrary to Convention; Nov. 3. Agreed to Nov. 8.
#1895.#—Crown Colony of Bechuanaland annexed to Cape Colony.
Proclamation of Reform movement by Uitlanders in Johannesburg (National Union), Dec. 26.
Jameson Raid—he crossed the frontier with a force from Pitsani Pitlogo, Dec. 29.
Sir H. Robinson telegraphed to Jameson to retire, Dec. 30.
Mr. Chamberlain and Sir H. Robinson sent order to stop hostilities, Dec. 31.
#1896.#—Dr. Jameson's party, outnumbered and without resources, defeated by Boers near Krugersdorp, Jan. 1.
Fight at Vlakfontein, and surrender of Jameson, Jan. 2.
Johannesburg surrendered unconditionally by advice of British Government, Jan. 2.
Dr. Jameson and other prisoners handed over to Sir H. Robinson, Jan. 7.
#1897.#—Judicial Crisis in South African Republic.
Annexation of Zululand to Natal.
#1899.#—Petition of Uitlanders to the Queen, May 24.
Conference, at Bloemfontein, between Sir A. Milner and Kruger, May 30. Terminated without result, June 6.
British Despatch to Transvaal, setting forth demands for immediate acceptance, Sept. 8.
Unsatisfactory reply, Sept. 16.
Troops despatched to Natal, Sept. and Oct.
Insulting Boer Ultimatum, making war inevitable, Oct. 9.
Orange Free State joins with the Transvaal.
SOUTH AFRICA AND THE TRANSVAAL WAR
The Transvaal War—like a gigantic picture—cannot be considered at close quarters. To fully appreciate the situation, and all that it embraces, the critic must stand at a suitable distance. He must gaze not merely with the eye of to-day, or even of the whole nineteenth century, but with his mind educated to the strange conditions of earlier civilisation. For in these conditions will be found the root of the widespread mischief—the answer to many a riddle which superficial observers have been unable to comprehend. The racial hatred between Boer and Briton is not a thing of new growth; it has expanded with the expansion of the Boer settlers themselves. In fact, on the Boer side, it is the only thing independent of British enterprise which has grown and expanded since the Dutch first set foot in the Cape. This took place in 1652. Then, Jan Van Riebeck, of the Dutch East India Company, first established an European settlement, and a few years later the burghers began life as cattle-breeders, agriculturists, and itinerant traders. These original Cape Colonists were descendants of Dutchmen of the lower classes, men of peasant stamp, who were joined in 1689 by a contingent of Huguenot refugees. The Boers, or peasants, of that day were men of fine type, a blend between the gipsy and the evangelist. They were nomadic in their taste, lawless, and impatient of restrictions, bigoted though devout, and inspired in all and through all by an unconquerable love of independence. With manners they had nothing to do, with progress still less. Isolation from the civilised world, and contact with Bushmen, Hottentots, and Kaffirs, kept them from advancing with the times. Their slaves outnumbered themselves, and their treatment of these makes anything but enlivening reading. From all accounts the Boer went about with the Bible in one hand and the sjambok in the other, instructing himself assiduously with the Word, while asserting himself liberally with the deed. Yet he was a first-rate sporting man, a shrewd trafficker, and at times an energetic tiller of the soil. The early settlements were Rondebosch, Stellenbosch, and Drakenstein, in the valley of the Berg River. Here the Dutch community laboured, and smoked, and married, multiplying itself with amazing rapidity, and expanding well beyond the original limits.
Dutch domination at the Cape lasted for 143 years after the landing of Van Riebeck, but gradually internal dissensions among the settlers resulted in absolute revolt. Meanwhile the Dutch in Europe had lost their political prestige, and the country was overrun by a Prussian army commissioned to support the House of Orange. In 1793, in a war against allied England and Holland, France gained the day, and a Republic was set up under French protection, thereby rendering Holland and her colonies of necessity antagonistic to Great Britain. After this the fortunes of the Cape were fluctuating. In 1795 Admiral Elphinstone and General Craig brought about the surrender of the colony to Great Britain. Later on it was returned to the Batavian Republic at the Peace of Amiens, only to be afterwards recaptured by Sir David Baird in 1806. Finally, in 1814, our claim to the Cape and other Dutch colonies was recognised on payment of the sum of L6,000,000 sterling.
Now for the first time began the real emigration of the British. They settled at Bathurst, near Algoa Bay, but though their numbers gradually swelled, they never equalled the number of the inhabitants of Dutch origin.
At this time South Africa was an ideal place for the pioneer. The scenery was magnificent. There were mountain gorges or kloofs, roaring cataracts, vast plains, and verdant tracts of succulent grasses. There was big game enough to delight the heart of a race of Nimrods. Lions, elephants, hippopotami, rhinoceroses, antelopes, and birds of all kinds, offered horns, hides, tusks, and feathers to the adventurous sportsman. All these things the nomadic Boer had hitherto freely enjoyed, plying now his rifle, now his plough, and taking little thought for the morrow or for the moving world outside the narrow circle of his family experiences. With the appearance of British paramountcy at the Cape came a hint of law and order, of progress and its accompaniment—taxation. The bare whisper of discipline of any kind was sufficient to send the truculent Boer trekking away to the far freedom of the veldt. Quantities of them took to their lumbering tented waggons, drawn by long teams of oxen, and put a safe distance between themselves and the new-comers. All they wanted was a free home, conducted in their own gipsy fashion—their kraals by the river, their camp fires, their flocks and herds, and immunity from the vexation of monopolies and taxes. And here at once will be seen how the seeds sprang up of a rooted antagonism between Boer and Briton that nothing can ever remove, and no diplomacy can smooth away. The Boer nature naturally inclines to a sluggish content, while the British one invariably pants for advance. The temperamental tug of war, therefore, has been one that has grown stronger and stronger with the progress of years. The principles of give and take have been tried, but they have failed. Reciprocity is not in the nature of the Boer, and without reciprocity society and States are at a standstill. The Boer is accredited with the primitive virtues, innocence, sturdiness, contentment. If he has these, he has also the defects of his qualities. He is crafty, stubborn, and narrow, and intolerant of everything beyond the limits of his native comprehension. Innovations of any kind are sufficient to fill him with suspicion, and those started by the British in their first efforts at Cape government were as gall and wormwood to his untrammelled taste. These efforts, it must be owned, were not altogether happy. There was first a rearrangement of local governments and of the Law Courts; then, in 1827, followed a decree that English should be the official language. As at that time not more than one colonist in seven was British, the new arrangement was calculated to make confusion worse confounded! The disgust of the Cape Dutch may be imagined! The finishing touch came in 1834. By the abolition of slavery—humane though its object was—the Cape colonists were exceedingly hard hit; and though the owners of slaves were compensated to the tune of a million and a quarter (the slaves were valued at three millions sterling), they continued to maintain a simmering resentment. Added to this came the intervention of the missionaries, who attempted to instil into the Boer mind a sense of the equality, in the sight of Heaven, of the black and the white races.
At this time 12,000 Kaffirs had crossed over the border and invaded the settlements, dealing death and destruction wherever they went. They were finally repulsed by the British, and Sir Benjamin D'Urban, the Governor at the Cape, proclaimed the annexation of the country beyond the Keiskamma, on the eastern boundary of the Colony, as far as the Kei. But no sooner had he accomplished this diplomatic move in his wise discretion, than orders came from the British Government to the effect that the land was to be restored to the Kaffirs and the frontier boundary moved back to its original place—Keiskamma. Sir Benjamin D'Urban carried out these orders much to his disgust, for he deemed the annexation of the province to be necessary to the peace of all the surrounding districts. But this was neither the first nor the last occasion in the history of Cape government on which men of practical experience have had to give way before wise heads in Downing Street arm-chairs.
This action on the part of the Government was as the last straw to the overladen camel. The patience of the Dutch Boers broke down. The introduction of a foreign and incomprehensible tongue, the abolition of slavery, and finally the restoration to the despised Kaffirs of a conquered province, were indignities past bearing. There was a general exodus. Off to the neighbourhood of the Orange and the Vaal Rivers lumbered the long waggon trains drawn by innumerable oxen, bearing, to pastures new and undefiled by the British, the irate Boers and their household gods. It was a pathetic departure, this voluntary exile into strange and unknown regions. The first pioneers, after a long and wearisome journey to Delagoa Bay, fell sick and retraced their steps to Natal only to die. The next great company started forth in the winter of 1836. Some went to the districts between the Orange and the Vaal Rivers—the district now known as the Orange Free State; others went into the country north of the Vaal River—the district now called the Transvaal; while others again went beyond the mountains to the district now named Natal. Here the Boer hoped to lead a new and a peaceful life, to encamp himself by some river course with his kraal for his sheep and his goats, the wide veldt for his carpet, and the blue dome of heaven or the canvas of his waggon for his untaxed roof. But his hopes were of short duration. The poor trekker—to use the vulgar phrase—had fallen out of the frying-pan into the fire. He had fled from the "British tyrant" only to encounter the Matabele Zulu savage. A terrible feud between the Bantu tribes was then causing much violence and blood-spilling, and the Zulu chief Moselekalse, having driven the Bechuanas beyond the Limpopo, had established the kingdom of the Matabele. With this chief, the Boer Potgieter and a party of burghers, on exploration intent, came suddenly into collision. Some of the Boers fled, the rest were promptly massacred. Those who remained alive made plans for self-defence. They lashed their waggons together to form a laager, and within it placed their women and children in partial safety. They then gave the warriors of Moselekalse a warm reception. The fight was maintained with great energy, the Zulus raining assegais over the waggons, while the Boers returned the compliment with their firearms. For these they had plenty of ammunition, and relays of guns were loaded and handed out gallantly by their women from within the laager. The Boers were victorious. Their aim was true, their pluck enormous, and after a sharp engagement the enemy were forced to retire. The savages were not vanquished, however, till terrible damage had been inflicted on the laager. Not content with the loss of many of their number, their sheep and their cattle, the plucky Boers started forth to punish the Matabele. Though few in number the burghers had the advantage of rifles, and succeeded in triumphing over the enemy and establishing themselves at Winburg, on the Vet River, to west of Harrismith. Later on the Boer farmers prepared to trek into Natal. They had prospected the place and found it entirely suited to their agricultural needs. Water and game were plentiful, and the whole country was fertile as a garden. Here they proposed to settle down. At Port Natal—now known by the name of Durban—was a party of Englishmen with whom the Boer explorers got on friendly terms. Both Englishmen and Boers were aware that the district was under Zulu sway, and it was decided that the chief, Dingaan, should be interviewed as to the approaching settlement of the Boers. The wily Zulu received his late enemies with every show of amity. He offered them refreshments, he made entertainments for their amusement. He finally agreed to cede such territory as was demanded by the Boers, provided they would secure to him certain cattle that had been stolen from him by a chief named Sikonyela. This the Boers agreed to do. They promptly travelled to see Sikonyela, and by threats, persuasions, or other mysterious means, extracted from him his ill-gotten gains. With the restored cattle the whole party of Boers then passed on their way from Drakensberg to Natal, full of the hope of finally making a settlement in a region so well suited to their pastoral instincts.
On again visiting the chief Dingaan, they were again received with honour. More festivities were arranged, and the date of the signing of the treaty was fixed for the 4th of February 1838.
The day came. The burghers arrived in the customary picturesqueness of woollen shirts, round hats, rough coats, and leathern veldt-broeks. Dingaan, amiable to excess, insisted that they should accompany him to his kraal, and there make a formal leave-taking. They were requested to leave their arms outside as an earnest of good faith, and, with some suspicion, they acceded. Their reception was splendid. Their health was drunk, the calabash passed round, and then—then, at a given signal from the chief, the Zulu hordes rushed in, fully armed and raging. In less time than it takes to describe the deed, the defenceless company of Boer farmers were slaughtered in cold blood—slaughtered before they could lift even a fist in self-defence! This horrible act of treachery served to do away at one fell swoop with the whole Boer party. Their bones, piled in a heap without the kraal, alone remained to tell to their kindred the tale of their undoing. The Zulus then proceeded in their tens of thousands to attack the nearest encampment, and cut down all who came in their way. Men—women—children—they spared none. The tidings being carried to the outer encampments of the Boers, they prepared themselves for the worst. They and their gallant vrows, who fought with as cool and obstinate a courage as their husbands, resisted the onslaught staunchly and successfully; but they paid dearly for their boldness. Their cattle were demolished, and their numbers were miserably thinned. Some thought of retiring from Natal; some contemplated revenge.
The pathetic state of the Boers attracted the sympathy of the Englishmen then in Natal, and they joined hands. Potgieter and Uys then commanded a force, and marched out on the enemy, but unfortunately fell into an ambush and were slain. Among the dead were the commandant Uys and his son.
Then the Englishmen, not to be behindhand in the fray, came to the rescue. Though there were but seventeen of them, they went out accompanied by 1500 Hottentots to meet the enemy. They followed the retreating savages beyond the Tugela, when suddenly they found themselves face to face with a fierce multitude of 70,000 Zulus. A conflict of the most terrible kind ensued: a conflict the more terrible because at the same time so heroic and so hopeless. From this appalling fight only four Englishmen escaped. These had succeeded in cutting their way through the enemy; the rest had been surrounded, and died fighting valiantly, and were almost buried among the dead bodies of their antagonists.
But this was not to be the finale of the Boer resistance to the wild Zulu. The above tragic engagement between the Englishmen and Zulus took place in April 1838. By December of the same year they had gathered themselves under the banner of their fine leader Andries Pretorius, a farmer from the district of Graff Reinet, and started forth again to meet the treacherous Dingaan, and pay him the debt they owed him.
A word or two of this Pretorius, after whom the now notable town of Pretoria was named. He was a born leader of men: he was a Cromwell in his way. At that date he was forty years of age, in the prime of strength and manhood. He was tall, and vigorous in mind as well as in body, calm and deliberating in counsel, but prompt and fiery in action. His descent is traced from one Johannes Pretorius, son of a clergyman at Goeree in South Holland, one of the very early settlers—a pious and worthy man, whose piety and worth had been inherited by several generations. Like the rest of his countrymen, Pretorius would brook no control. Though he was indubitably brave and immensely capable, he had the conservative instincts of his race. He shrunk from all innovations, he disliked everything connected with civilisation that might in the smallest degree interfere with the personal liberty of the individual. Freedom was as the very breath of his nostrils, and here was the great link between this really exceptional man and the body of his pastoral followers.
Pretorius, bent on the punishment of the treachery of Dingaan, set out, as has been said, with his expedition in the winter of 1838. This expedition has been named by the Boers the Win Commando. He had but three small pieces of cannon and a force composed of about four hundred white men and some native auxiliaries, yet the admirable tactics of Pretorius, the stout hearts and fine shooting of his followers, combined to bring about a victory over the Zulus. These were totally routed, and lost one third of their number.
The bravery and splendid persistence of the Boers filled all hearts with admiration, particularly when, after several well-directed attacks, they eventually succeeded in utterly breaking the Zulu power. Dingaan was dethroned and driven into exile, and his kraal and property burnt. A Christian burial service was read over the place where lay the bones of the assassinated Retief and his companions. The date, the 16th December 1838, on which the Zulu power met its first check from white men, is one ever remembered in Boer history. It goes by the name of Dingaan's Day, and is annually celebrated with great rejoicings throughout the Transvaal.
The Boers had now succeeded in inspiring wholesome awe in the heart of Panda, the new chieftain who occupied the place once held by his brother, the exiled Dingaan. He was not a person of bellicose disposition, and thinking discretion the better part of valour, was ready enough to swear to keep peace with his late enemies. In these circumstances the Boers with prayer and thanksgiving were able to pursue the promptings of their long-checked ambition. Soon several hundreds of waggons drawn by long teams of oxen came lumbering into Natal, for the purpose of establishing there the Republic, which had so often been planned out in imagination and never yet found any but an abortive existence. This ideal State was eventually formed and called the Republic of Natalia, and it enjoyed for several years an independent existence.
As Natal became the first cause of armed conflict between the British and the Boers, its then position in regard to the authorities at the Cape may as well be reviewed. Though the new Republic maintained its perfectly independent existence, its inhabitants were still mentioned by the Governor of Cape Colony as British subjects. It must be remembered that prior to the occupation of Natal by the Boers, and the formation of their cherished Republic, the Governor of Cape Colony had issued a proclamation announcing his intention of occupying Natal later on, and stating that the emigrants—who were then making active preparations for the attack of Dingaan—- were British subjects. In Great Britain, however, the authorities had not yet decided to follow the advice so often given by their representatives at the Cape. They were still declaring it inexpedient to extend their territory, and likewise their responsibilities, in South Africa. But the incursion of the Boers in the neighbourhood of Port Natal put a new complexion on affairs. The British Government began to open its eyes to the value of a seaport, with two good harbours on the South African coast, as a colonial possession. It could not fail to recognise also that the members of the new State were already bitter foes to the British and their ways; and that it would be dangerous to allow them to establish themselves as an independent power on the coast, and entirely throw off their duty of allegiance. Accordingly Sir George Napier, the then Governor of the Cape, sent troops to occupy Natal. He remained undecided as to the mode of dealing with the emigrant Boers, however, for, while declaring them British subjects, he yet was not prepared to afford them protection from attacks of the natives. It is scarcely surprising that this half-and-half paternity of the Government failed to satisfy the men whose kith and kin had fallen in their numbers at Weenen and the Hill of Blood, and the consequent disaffection of the Boers grew deeper as signs of British authority increased.
But at first, in the rest of their territory outside Natal the Boer Government remained unmolested. Their district was bounded by the sea and the Drakenberg mountains, the Tugela and Umzimubu Rivers, and there for a time things went well. Pretorius was Commandant General in Natal, Potgieter Chief Commandant in the allied Western Districts. The legislative power was in the hands of a Volksraad of twenty-four members, whose ways were more vacillating and erratic than advantageous. "Every man for himself and God for all" seemed to be the convenient motto of this assembly, except perhaps on urgent occasions, when Pretorius and Potgieter were called upon as joint dictators to settle some knotty problem relating to external affairs.
At the close of 1840 this Volksraad commenced negotiations with the Cape Government with a view to getting their independence formally recognised. The Governor at the Cape was again in the old quandary. While he personally desired to put an end to troubles from within and without by establishing a strong government over the whole country, he was crippled by the Ministry at home, which was consistent in maintaining its policy of inconsistency, and tried to maintain its hold on the Cape, while steadily refusing to increase Great Britain's responsibility in South Africa.
The demands of the Volksraad (presented in January 1841) were scarcely acceptable at headquarters. The nature of them is interesting, and shows the then attitude of people who described themselves as "willing and desirous to enter into a perpetual alliance with the Government of Her Majesty."
They bargained that the Republic of Natalia was to be acknowledged as a free and independent State, in close alliance with the British Government. If attacked by sea by any other power, Great Britain might interpose either by negotiation or arms. If Great Britain were at war, however, the Republic was to remain neutral. Wine, strong liquors, and articles "prejudicial to this Republic," were to be taxed more highly than other things, which would be taxed as for a British Colony. British subjects residing in the Republic would have equal protection, and the same taxes as burghers, while in case of war every assistance would be given to a British or Colonial force marching through the territory. The slave trade would not be permitted, and every facility for the propagation of the Gospel among the neighbouring tribes would be afforded. The Republic guaranteed to make no hostile movements against natives in the direction of the Colony without permission of the Governor, unless circumstances of violence, or the inroad of tribes, rendered immediate action obligatory.
There were other clauses of less importance which need not be specified. Suffice it to say, that while these terms were being considered, a cattle and slave-stealing Boer raid, headed by Pretorius, took place. The excuse for the proceeding was the lifting of certain of their own cattle, but the action served as an object lesson for those in power at the Cape. The Volksraad was politely informed that the Boers were still British subjects, and a letter from the Home Government to Sir George Napier was received, stating that Her Majesty "could not acknowledge a portion of her own subjects as an independent Republic, but that on their receiving a military force from the Colony, their trade would be placed on the footing of the trade of a British possession." But the Boers flouted authority—they refused to accept the situation. They put forth a proclamation appealing against the oppression of man and to the justice of God, with all the fervour of the Old Testament Christians they were.
The arrogance of Pretorius and his crew had now so seriously increased that Sir George Napier, seeing danger ahead, decided to establish a camp near the border of the State, and Durban was occupied. Captain Smith, in command of some three hundred men, made a rapid march across country to Natal, merely to be informed that the Boers had placed themselves under the protection of Holland.
It may be noted that when this statement reached the ears of the King of Holland, he emphatically repudiated it. He addressed the British Government, saying "that the disloyal communication of the emigrant farmers had been repelled with indignation, and that the King of Holland had taken every possible step to mark his disapproval of the unjustifiable use made of his name by the individuals referred to." Captain Smith, who fortunately had not been imposed upon by what the Boers considered their neat ruse, made preparations to attack them. But he overestimated his own or underrated his adversary's strength. He fell into ambush and lost heavily. He was then driven to entrench himself in Durban. One of his men managed to escape, however, and by riding to Grahamstown through dangerous country, contrived to convey the intelligence of Captain Smith's misfortune, and to bring reinforcements to his aid. These reinforcements arrived in Durban harbour on the 25th of June 1842. At sight of the British frigate and the goodly display of redcoats, the Boers, who had been besieging Captain Smith for a month with three guns and six hundred men, made good their escape, leaving Pretorius no alternative but to make terms. Thus Natal became a British possession.
In 1844 the place was declared to be a dependency of Cape Colony. Many of the emigrants admitted themselves to be British subjects and remained there, but the great majority took to their waggons and lumbered back across the Drakenberg to their old settling-place.
There the original Voortrekkers had scattered themselves on both sides of the Vaal River, and helped to found the Transvaal and the Orange Free State. As may be imagined at this juncture, the natural hostility to the British, which has now become part of the Boer character, was growing apace. The voluntary exiles from Natal, on moving to the north of the Orange River, determined to evade the British, and proclaim the whole of that locality an independent Republic. The authorities at the Cape, however, frustrated the new struggle for independence. They laid claim for Great Britain to the whole territory east of E. long. 22 deg. and south of S. lat. 25 deg., with the exception of the land already owned by Portugal or by friendly native chiefs.
It may be remembered that one of the causes of the great Trek was the restoration of their province to Kaffirs, thereby according to the blacks an independence that was not enjoyed by the Boers. No astonishment, therefore, will be felt at the exasperation of the Boers when they found that the Cape Government had entered into treaties with the Griquas—treaties which seemed to them to promise more freedom to the savage than was accorded to themselves. Grievances of many kinds—some real and some ridiculous—continued daily to occur. Things serious and things trivial were liable to cause them equal indignation. According to Livingstone, the ignorant followers of Potgieter—who were posted at Magaliesberg, a thousand miles from the Cape—were moved to wrath merely by the arrival of Herschel's great telescope at the Cape Observatory! What right, said they, had the Government to erect that huge instrument at the Cape for the purpose of seeing what they were doing behind the Kashan mountains?
But of just grievances they had several, and these Pretorius, as spokesman of his people, wished to lay before the Governor at the Cape. Sir Henry Pottinger, who occupied that post in 1847, unfortunately declined the interview; consequently affairs went from bad to worse. In the end of the year Sir Henry Smith arrived as Governor of the colony, and great things were expected of him. He knew the native races, he knew the Boers, and they both knew him. Pretorius, who was arranging a final emigration from Natal, was summoned to confer with the new Governor. Sir Henry wished to gauge the feelings of the farmers prior to issuing a proclamation (dated February 3, 1848), declaring the Queen's sovereignty over the whole country between the Orange and Vaal Rivers to eastward of the Quathlamba Mountains. According to Pretorius, the conference was an unsatisfactory one. He assured the Governor that his people would never consent to it. Sir Henry Smith nevertheless considered himself justified in taking the step, and the Home Government, whose policy it had been to consolidate the peaceful native States along the border, eventually coincided with his view.
No sooner was the proclamation generally known than the horde of Pretorius' followers flew to arms. They swept southward, driving every British official beyond the Orange River. Major Warden, the Resident at Bloemfontein, where a British fort and garrison had been placed some two years before, was forced to capitulate.
Sir Harry Smith, on becoming acquainted with the news, at once offered a thousand pounds for the arrest of Pretorius. He also began a march to the front. The Governor thought that he had but to come, see, and conquer; but he was mistaken. He had tough work before him. The Boers, about a thousand strong, had entrenched themselves in a formidable position. They were superior in point of numbers, horses, and guns to Sir Harry's forces; but he pursued his way, nothing daunted. He stormed the position, and, after a hard fight, scattered the enemy. They fled from Boomplaats, where the engagement had taken place, and hastened back across the Vaal to their native haunts. The date of the battle was the 29th of August 1848, and the father of President Kruger is said to have been the first man to fire a shot at the British on that occasion!
After this period various dissensions arose in the Boer camp between Pretorius, who styled himself "Chief of the whole united emigrant force," and Potgieter, who looked upon himself somewhat in the light of a rival. While these worthies fell out Sir Harry Smith saw the annexation carried through, and the territory of the modern Free State was united to Cape Colony, under the title of the Orange River Sovereignty. The contumacious Boers took themselves off with their leader across the Vaal, and fresh European settlers came in and established themselves in the fertile plains that were deserted. For some time after this things prospered, and Sir Harry saw before him the prospect of a new self-governing Dutch colony, which would resemble and equal those of Natal and the Cape. But he reckoned without his host, and all that he had taken the trouble to do was ultimately undone. In 1852 the Government at home declared its policy to be the ultimate abandonment of the Orange River Sovereignty. For this pusillanimous policy there were several reasons, the greatest being a fear of a Basuto rising and the trouble it would entail. The British Government therefore decided to maintain its rights over the Transvaal no further, and by the Sand River Convention, signed on the 17th of January 1852, the emigrant farmers beyond the Vaal River were given the right to manage their own affairs, subject only to the condition that they should neither permit nor encourage slavery.
About this time commenced the threatened rise of the Basutos in the neighbourhood of the Orange River territory. The Basutos are a branch of the Bechuana race, who had been formed by their chiefs Motlume and Moshesh into a powerful nation, which could hold its own against Boer or Zulu. With this race the Home Government desired to have nothing to do, and the Colonial Office, viewing the political game as not worth the candle, definitely withdrew from the Orange River Sovereignty, leaving the Free State to come into being, and devise its own plans for overawing its enemies on the other side of the border. Accordingly, in 1854, Sir Harry Smith's programme of annexation was entirely wiped out, British sovereignty renounced, and the Orange Free State left to become a Republic and take care of itself!
THE GROWTH OF THE TRANSVAAL
Fifty years ago there was no Transvaal. To-day its area is rather larger than Great Britain. It extends over some 75,000,000 acres.
Originally, at the time of the great Trek, a small portion of land was seized from natives who fled before the pioneers, and settled in what is now known as Matabeleland. Other Boers soon joined their comrades, and, by applying the steady policy of "grab and hold" (a policy that, unfortunately, has not been imitated by ourselves), they gained strip on strip and acre on acre of land till the Transvaal became the vast province it now is. It expanded first into a portion of Zululand; later on, lapped over into Swaziland. By degrees it encroached on the British boundaries, and most probably would have gone on encroaching had not active steps been taken to save the north from the invaders.
The original Voertrekkers, or pioneers, came in three detachments. British-born subjects, but discontented with British civilisation, they moved on from Natal, whence they were chased by the Union Jack, and settled themselves first in land captured from King Umziligatze, secondly in Lydenburg and Dekaap, and thirdly in the Zulu country. The history of this Zululand expansion remains to be told. At present it is interesting to follow the geographical growth of the state which has become so troublesome, and whose self-assertion has increased according to its size.
Originally each Boer was entitled to a farm with a minimum of 6000 acres of the "Transvaal," and this custom of apportioning 6000-acre farms lasted as long as the Kaffir lands lasted. The Boers, always working on the principle that "God helps those who help themselves," helped themselves freely, sometimes with bloodshed and sometimes without, until they became owners of vast tracts of country, whose boundaries had never been discussed, far less fixed.
Land was apparently cheap at that time, for trustworthy authorities declare that it was purchasable at from a farthing to a penny per acre.
The area of the Transvaal before the Boers began to migrate there has been eloquently described as the hunter's Arcadia. Mr. Gordon Cumming gives a graphic account of the scene:—
"It was truly a fair and boundless prospect. Beautifully wooded plains and mountains stretched away on every side to an amazing distance, until the vision was lost among the faint blue outlines of the distant mountain ranges. Throughout all this country, and vast tracts beyond, I had the satisfaction to reflect that a never-ending succession of herds of every species of noble game which the hunter need desire pastured there in undisturbed security; and as I gazed I felt that it was all my own, and that I at length possessed the undisputed sway over a forest, in comparison with which the tame and herded narrow bounds of the wealthiest European sportsman sink into utter insignificance."
The number of elephants and lesser game bagged by Mr. Gordon Cumming after this touching meditation fully bore out his hopes.
But the most interesting account of the Transvaal, before the invasion of white men, is to be found in Captain William Cornwallis Harris's account of his expedition into the interior of South Africa in the years 1836 and 1837. He paints the new country in colours lively and alluring:—
"Instead of the dreary waste over which we had lately passed, we might now imagine ourselves in an extensive park. A lawn, level as a billiard-table, was everywhere spread with a soft carpet of luxuriant green grass, spangled with flowers, and shaded by spreading mokaalas—a large species of acacia which forms the favourite food of the giraffe. The gaudy yellow blossoms with which these remarkable trees were covered yielded an aromatic and overpowering perfume—while small troops of striped quaggas, or wild asses, and of brindled gnoos ... enlivened the scene.
"I turned off the road," he continues, "in pursuit of a troop of brindled gnoos, and presently came upon another, which was followed by a third still larger—then by a vast herd of zebras, and again by more gnoos, with sassaybys and hartebeests pouring down from every quarter, until the landscape literally presented the appearance of a moving mass of game."
Further on he describes the extensive and romantic valley of the Limpopo, "which strongly contrasts with its own solitude, and with the arid lands which must be traversed to arrive within its limits; Dame Nature has doubtless been unusually lavish of her gifts. A bold mountain landscape is chequered by innumerable rivulets abounding in fish, and watering a soil rich in luxurious vegetation. Forests, producing timber of the finest growth, are tenanted by a multitude of birds, which, if not generally musical, are all gorgeously attired; and the meadows throughout are decked with blossoming geraniums, and with an endless profusion of the gayest flowers, fancifully distributed in almost artificial parterres. Let the foreground of this picture, which is by no means extravagantly drawn, be filled in by the animal creation roaming in a state of undisturbed freedom, such as I have attempted to describe, and this hunter's paradise will surely not require to be coloured by the feelings of an enthusiastic sportsman to stand out in striking relief from amongst the loveliest spots in the universe."
A recent traveller discourses pathetically over the changes that have come over the country, which at that time was described as "the Zoological Gardens turned out to graze." He says the lawyer and financier thrive where in recent years the lion and the leopard fought for food, and townships have sprung up on spots where living Boers have formerly shot big game.
As an instance of the truth of this lament, one may make some quotations from Mr. Campbell's valuable article, "The Transvaal, Old and New." He says, "The advent of British folk and British gold and brains led to a change, and land, by reason of British purchases, became more valuable, and beacons and boundaries became necessary." Here we may see the thin end of the wedge. We may picture the first lawyer and the first financier advancing with Arcadia parchment and bank-note in hand.
The Boers steadily sold their best and surplus lands, and these the British as steadily bought, till the value rose from their original price of one penny an acre to half-a-crown, and then five shillings. Subsequently, in many cases, as much as ten, and even twenty shillings an acre was offered for ordinary raw arable land. But of that time too much has to be said to be recounted here.
THE BOER CHARACTER
In discussing the events of the past with a view to obtaining light on the development of the present, it is needful, and indeed just, to inquire into the character of the Boers as a race. It is a complex character, with multitudinous lights and shades, so subtle and yet so marked, that they are difficult to define accurately. It is therefore necessary that the opinions of many writers on the subject of the Boer temperament should be taken—of writers who have made it their business to look upon the subject with the eye of the historian rather than the eye of the advocate, and who may be trusted to have given their verdict without passion or favour.
But regarding one fact connected with the case, all writers of practical experience are inclined to agree. They declare that the Boer of the past was a very much finer fellow than the Boer of the present—finer morally and physically; and that in his obstinate determination to resist the march of progress he has allowed himself to suffer deterioration. The reason for this deterioration is not difficult to comprehend. In the first place, as we all know, nothing in creation stands still. We must advance, or we go back. Both in moral and in mental qualities we must maintain our vitality, or practically ossify!
The Boer, from having been essentially a sporting man and a free and a robust tiller of the soil, has come under the influence of schemers, who have played upon his natural avarice, and polished his inherent cunning, till these qualities have expanded to the detriment of those earlier qualities for which the Boer of to-day still gets credit, but which are fast dying out of the national character.
In one respect there has been little change. In the matter of his native piety he remains as he was. The Boer, if one may use a phrase recently coined by Lord Rosebery, is an "Old Testament Christian." No one can describe his race better than the writer who says of the original settlers in 1652, that "they are a mixture in religion of the old Israelite and the Scotch Covenanter." There is some question about Boer hypocrisy, and Dr. Theal says on the subject, "Where side by side with expressions of gratitude to the Creator are found schemes for robbing and enslaving natives, the genuineness of their religion may be doubted." But it must be remembered that in bygone centuries the world's morality differed much from that of the present day, and therefore the Boer, who has not progressed in proportion to the world at large, can scarcely be judged by the ethics of the world at large. To be just, we must look at him as a being apart, and place him always in the frame of the seventeenth century. Some historians declare that the Boer borrowed from the French refugees much religious sentiment. Other authorities—and these, considering the Boer disinclination to expansion, seem to be right—declare that under the French influence he deteriorated.
He was by nature bloodthirsty and cruel, but these qualities always found for themselves a comfortable apology in the Old Testament. The Boer prided himself on his likeness to the Israelite of old, and his enemies to the Canaanite, whom it was doing God a service to destroy. He kept all the rites of the Church with rigid punctuality. He partook of the Communion (the Nachtmaal) once every three months, and the whole community gathered together from great distances to share it. The observances were made the occasion for rejoicing and merrymaking, for the holding of fairs, the transfer of cattle, the driving of bargains in hide or ivory, or other goods necessary to traders. He has been described by a friend of his people "as, according to his own lights, a citizen pioneer, a rough, God-fearing, honest, homely, uneducated Philistine."
The opinion of his ancient enemy, Cetchwayo, differs, however, from this estimate. Sir Frederick Godson has told us that this potentate informed his brother, who was his captor, that the Boers were "a mean, treacherous people, people who trusted no one, not even each other, and their word was not to be trusted." He had had ample opportunities of forming a judgment by experience. And there are many of us nowadays who are inclined to agree with him. Cetchwayo further asserted that "the British were making the greatest mistake they ever made in befriending them; for if they had not rescued the Boers from him, he would very soon have eaten them all up."
As regards the military organisation of the Boers, it may be described as similar to that of the Republic of Greece or that of mediaeval England. Every man, from the age of sixteen to sixty, considered himself a soldier. Every man, when the country demanded his services, was ready to get under arms—to protect his hearth and home in the face of a common enemy.
The country was divided into districts, and these districts were subdivided into wards. To each of these wards was appointed a field-cornet, who had military duties when a commando was called out. The officer who took the chief command of the field-cornets was styled the commandant. This arrangement first originated in the early days of their emigration to the Cape, when the natives, lawless and inimical, were perpetually bursting out without rhyme or reason. Naturally prompt defence became necessary. To many people the Boer appears to be a "first-class fighting man." Certainly he is determined, obstinate, and, in his peculiar fashion, brave. But there are others who can recall events in the battle with Dingaan, in the tragedy of Majuba Hill, which scarcely add to the honour of the Boer as a soldier. It has been said that the Boer prefers to do his fighting without risking his skin, but this may be somewhat unjust. He is ready enough to risk his skin, but he is equally ready that some one shall pay for the risk, and he makes him pay by fair means if he can—if not, by foul.
However, Livingstone knew his man, and thus it was that he wrote of him: "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, have left their quarrels with the Kaffirs to be settled by the English, and their wars to be paid for by English gold." Obviously their methods of warfare were, to say the least of it, curious. Sometimes they would drive a battalion of friendly natives or slaves in front of them, and shoot down their enemies from behind the shelter of these advanced guards. Occasionally they employed a method similar to that used against the Zulus of Dingaan. According to Livingstone's essay, written in 1853, and not published till after his death, "the Boers approach the Zulus to within 300 or 400 yards, then fire, and retire to a considerable distance and reload their guns. The Zulus pursuing have by this time come sufficiently near to receive another discharge from the Boers, who again retire as before. This process soon tires out the fleetest warriors, and except through an accident, or the stumbling of a horse or its rider's drunkenness, no Boer ever stands a chance of falling into their hands. The Boers report of themselves that they behaved with great bravery on the occasion." In fact they said that they had killed from 3000 to 5000 Zulus, with the loss to themselves of only six men. Mr. Fisher, in his book on "The Transvaal and the Boers," avers that in the subsequent war with the Griquas—who, being the bastard children of the Boers, possess many of their peculiarities—the two opposing parties kept at such ludicrous distances that the springboks quietly grazing on the plains between were frequently shot instead of the combatants.
SOME DOMESTIC TRAITS
For the domestic character of the Boer we will consult the Scandinavian traveller Sparrmann, who gives us one of the earliest sketches of the Boer "at home." Though the illusion that the industrious and cleanly Hollander was merely transplanted from one soil to another is somewhat dispelled, the picture is generally acknowledged to be a true one.
"It is hardly to be conceived," he wrote in 1776, "with what little trouble the Boer gets into order a field of a moderate size ... so that ... he may be almost said to make the cultivation of it, for the bread he stands in need of for himself and his family, a mere matter of amusement.... With pleasure, but without the least trouble to himself, he sees the herds and flocks which constitute his riches daily and considerably increasing. These are driven to pasture and home again by a few Hottentots or slaves, who likewise make the butter; so that it is almost only with the milking that the farmer, together with his wife and children, concern themselves at all. To do this business, however, he has no occasion to rise before seven or eight o'clock in the morning.... That they (the Boers) might not put their arms and bodies out of the easy and commodious posture in which they had laid them on the couch when they were taking their afternoon siesta, they have been known to receive travellers lying quite still and motionless, excepting that they have very civilly pointed out the road by moving their foot to the right or left.... Among a set of beings so devoted to their ease, one might naturally expect to meet with a variety of the most commodious easy-chairs and sofas; but the truth is, that they find it much more commodious to avoid the trouble of inventing and making them.... Nor did the inhabitants exhibit much less simplicity and moderation; or, to speak more properly, slovenliness and penury in their dress than in their furniture.... The distance at which they are from the Cape may, indeed, be some excuse for their having no other earthenware or china in their houses but what was cracked or broken; but this, methinks, should not prevent them being in possession of more than one or two old pewter pots, and some few plates of the same metal; so that two people are frequently obliged to eat out of one dish, besides using it for every different article of food that comes upon the table. Each guest must bring his knife with him, and for forks they frequently make use of their fingers. The most wealthy farmer here is considered as being well dressed in a jacket of home-made cloth, or something of the kind made of any other coarse cloth, breeches of undressed leather, woollen stockings, a striped waistcoat, a cotton handkerchief about his neck, a coarse calico shirt, Hottentot field-shoes, or else leathern shoes with brass buckles, and a coarse hat. Indeed, it is not in dress, but in the number and thriving condition of their cattle, and chiefly in the stoutness of their draught oxen, that these peasants vie with each other. It is likewise by activity and manly actions, and by other qualities that render a man fit for the married state, and the rearing of a family, that the youth chiefly obtain the esteem of the fair sex.... A plain close cap and a coarse cotton gown, virtue and good housewifery, are looked upon by the fair sex as sufficient ornaments for their persons; a flirting disposition, coquetry and paint would have very little effect in making conquests of young men brought up in so hardy a manner, and who have had so homely and artless an education as the youth in this place. In short, here, if anywhere in the world, one may lead an innocent, virtuous, and happy life."
When viewing this study of rustic indolence, we must remember also the conditions under which it was found. The natural fertility of the country, the demoralising influence of slave-owning, the great heat of the climate, were responsible for the change that so soon came over the primitive Dutch character. Dr. Theal's account of the Boer adds colour to the picture given by the Swede, and shows us that a certain sense of refinement was lurking in the stolid and not too picturesque disposition:—
"The amusements of the people were few.... Those who possessed numerous slaves usually had three or four of them trained to the use of the violin, the blacks being peculiarly gifted with an ear for music, and easily learning to play by sound. They had thus the means at hand of amusing themselves with dancing, and of entertaining visitors with music. The branches of widely extended families were constantly exchanging visits with each other. A farmer would make his waggon ready regularly every year, when half the household or more would leave home, and spend a week or two with each relative, often being absent a couple of months. Birthday anniversaries of aged people were celebrated by the assembling of their descendants, frequently to the number of eighty or a hundred, at the residence of the patriarch, when a feast was prepared for their entertainment. These different reunions were naturally productive of great pleasure, and tended to cement the friendship and love of those who otherwise might seldom see each other. The life led by the people when at home was exceedingly tame. The mistress of the house, who moved about but little, issued orders to slaves or Hottentot females concerning the work of the household. If the weather was chilly or damp, she rested her feet on a little box filled with live coals, while beside her stood a coffee-kettle never empty. The head of the family usually inspected his flocks morning and evening, and passed the remainder of the day, like his helpmate, in the enjoyment of ease. When repose itself became wearisome, he mounted his horse, and, with an attendant to carry his gun, set off in pursuit of some of the wild animals with which the country then abounded. The children had few games, and, though strong and healthy, were far from sprightly."
A dislike for the English seems to have been felt by the Cape Dutch very early. This dislike later hostilities must have heightened; but as far back as 1816 we learn that even shrewd and sensible farmers were heard to declaim against our methods of scientific agriculture, and resist all efforts at its introduction into their work. One of them, when informed of the saving of time and labour that certain implements would effect, answered with characteristic conservatism. "What," said he, "would you have us do? Our only concern is to fill our bellies, to get good clothes and houses, to say to one slave, 'Do this,' and to another, 'Do that,' and to sit idle ourselves and be waited upon. As to our tillage, or building, or planting, our forefathers did so and so and were satisfied, and why should not we do the same? The English want us to use their ploughs instead of our heavy wooden ones, and recommend other implements of husbandry than those we have been used to; but we like our old things best."
This preference for the old instead of the new has been the rock on which friendship between Briton and Boer has split. All ideas of reform have been met with suspicion—a kind of suspicion that, though now confined to the Boers, was very prevalent in Europe a hundred years ago. The present writer in extreme youth met here, in advanced England, a grandam of ninety (the mother of a very distinguished politician), who stated that she could "never make a friend of a man who took a bath." It will be seen by this how prejudice may become a matter of habit all the world over.
Mr. Nixon tells a story of an equally conservative Boer. This worthy went to a store at Kimberley with bundles of tobacco for sale. The Boer carefully weighed them out with some scales of his own that were evidently an heirloom. The storekeeper reweighed the bundles, remarking on the antiquity of the scales, and observing that they gave short weight. He suggested the use of the store scales as the standard for computing the price, which was to be fixed at so much a pound. But the Boer would not hear of it. "No," said he, "these were my father's scales, and he was a wise man and was never cheated, and I won't use anybody else's." The storekeeper dryly remarked that he did not desire to press the matter, since he found himself a gainer by L12 in consequence of the Boer's conservative instincts!
Many writers urge that the Boer is naturally uncivil, that he lacks the true feeling of hospitality. The original Boer, before he was seized with a hatred for the British, was more justly speaking lacking in civility than what we term uncivil. He knew nothing of the art of being obliging to his fellow-creatures, merely because they were his fellow-creatures. He would entertain a stranger, and ask nothing in return, but he would do so without courtesy, and would put himself out of the way for no one. The traveller might take him or leave him, conform to his hours and habits entirely, and, to use the vulgar phrase, "like them or lump them" as his temperament might decide. "Africanus," who, in his book on "The Transvaal Boers," writes of them with judgment and without prejudice, gives a very true sketch, which exactly describes the strange blend of piety, indolence, ignorance, and ferocity which we are endeavouring to study. He says—
"The Dutch farmer is in some respects very unlike his supposed counterpart in England. His pursuits are pastoral, not agricultural, for in most parts of South Africa the want of irrigation renders the cultivation of cereals impossible. His idea of a 'farm' is a tract of at least 6000 acres, over which his flocks and herds can move from one pasture to another. His labourers are all natives, and though, before the advent of storekeepers, he used often to make his own clothes, boots (veld-schoen), and harness, he looks on actual farm-work as a menial pursuit. He was, and is, wont to pass whole days in the saddle, but, to an English eye, his horses seem unkempt and often ill-used. The magnificent herds of game which wandered over South Africa sixty years ago tempted him to become a keen sportsman, but he has never shown much 'sporting instinct,' and the Boer is responsible for the wanton destruction of the African fauna. The unsophisticated Boer is a curious blend of hospitality and avarice; he would welcome the passing stranger, and entertain him to the best of his ability, but he seized any opportunity of making money, and the discovery that hides and skins were marketable induced him to slaughter antelopes without the slightest forethought. That the Boer is no longer hospitable is very largely due to the way in which his hospitality has been abused by stray pedlars and ne'er-do-wells of various kinds. He still retains a sincere and primitive piety, but his belief that he is a member of the chosen people has sometimes tended to antinomianism rather than to strict morality. His contempt and dislike for the Kaffir has preserved the Dutch stock from taint of black blood, and although there is a large Eur-African population, it has sprung partly from the old days of domestic slavery, partly from the laxity induced by the recent influx of low-class Europeans. The Boer has a strong national feeling, and although not exactly daring as a rule, he is perfectly ready to risk his life in what he believes to be a good cause. He fights better behind cover than in the open, and has a profound contempt for soldiers who expose themselves unnecessarily. At the same time, he is capable at times of embarking on a forlorn hope. As regards his private character, his notions of honesty and of truth are lax. But then, from bitter experience, he assumes that the stranger will try to cheat him, and it is not surprising that he should consider a certain amount of finesse justifiable. He is comparatively free from that drunkenness which is the besetting vice of the low-class Englishman in Africa.
"Although he is incredibly ignorant, and very self-satisfied, it is somewhat irritating to notice the way in which the town-bred Englishman is apt to depreciate him. It is not so certain as the latter thinks that an ignorant peasant is necessarily a lower type of man than a 'smart' and vicious shop-boy.
"The most unpleasing trait in the Boer character is his callousness, amounting to brutality, in the case of natives and of animals."
It must always be remembered that in discussing the early Boer we are discussing the peasant, and that neither his ignorance nor other shortcomings must be viewed in comparison with the failings of persons of a higher social grade. When the Boers left the Cape Colony they had no knowledge of what the word education meant. The state of public education in 1837 was deplorable. There were missionary schools and a few desultory teachers, who had in very few cases the mental or the moral qualities to fit them for the task of instruction. The most they did was to teach the young idea how to read or scribble its name. For this they received trifling fees, but doubtless these fees were no more trifling than the services rendered. Such free schools as existed, and were nominally supported by Government, were so indifferently managed that they were treated with contempt, even by the farmers. So long as they could thumb out their favourite passages of the Psalms, and sign what few documents they required, they were content. Of their ignorance they were even inclined to be proud. Their own notions of geography and history seemed to them infinitely preferable to any that might be offered, and in this state of blissful ignorance they trekked away from Cape Colony to learn no more. When they started forth, some, it is averred, imagined by steadily working north they would reach Jerusalem; others, covered with faith, and armed with gospel and sjambok, sincerely believed that eventually they would reach the Promised Land.
THE ORANGE FREE STATE
The young State, almost before it was fledged, found itself engaged in military operations with the Basutos, and an arbitrator nominated by the British Government was appointed. But the good offices of the commissioner were to no purpose; despite the defining of boundaries and the laying down of landmarks, the natives broke out afresh. An engagement followed, and the Basutos were defeated. As a consequence, a large tract of land (the conquered territory) was annexed by the Free State, yet even this was insufficient to quell the fury of the farmer's inveterate foes, and later on they broke out afresh, only to be again overthrown. In the year 1861 they appealed for help to the Governor of the Cape and were declared British subjects. It was then that a definite boundary line between Basutoland and the Orange Free State was laid down. The population of Basutoland is estimated at about 130,000. The people are by nature warlike and energetic. Some authorities declare them to be the most intelligent of the Kaffir tribes. They are a branch of the Bechuana race who were formed by their chiefs, Motlune and Moshesh, and held their country—the Switzerland of South Africa—against both Zulu and Boer. This aggressive and ferocious tribe was devoted to plunder, and remained well-nigh exempt from punishment in consequence of its mountain fastnesses, which were almost impregnable. The Basutos formed a continual menace to the Boers of the Free State until Great Britain assumed their direct control in 1884. It is now governed by a Resident Commissioner under the High Commissioner for South Africa. It is divided into seven districts, and subdivided into wards, presided over by hereditary chiefs allied to the Moshesh family. Laws are made by proclamation of the High Commissioner, and administered by native chiefs. Europeans are not allowed to settle there.
But to return to 1854. The relations between the two Boer States soon became strained. Jealousy commenced and continued to simmer. Then the Boers, alarmed lest the Government would again follow them up, and lest their treatment of the natives should be investigated and stopped, began to discourage the presence of visitors across the Vaal. Of course missionaries were the most unwelcome of all.
With the terms of the Sand River Convention they had soon become impatient, and to help to an understanding of this impatience some of the Articles of the Convention may be quoted:—
Article 1.—"The Assistant-Commissioners guarantee in the fullest manner on the part of the British Government to the emigrant farmers beyond the Vaal River the right to manage their own affairs, and to govern themselves according to their own laws, without any interference on the part of the British Government, and that no encroachment shall be made by the said Government on the territory beyond, to the north of the Vaal River; with the further assurance that the warmest wish of the British Government is to promote peace, free trade, and friendly intercourse with the emigrant farmers now inhabiting, or who hereafter may inhabit that country, it being understood that this system of non-interference is binding upon both parties."
Article 2 arranges, in case of misunderstanding, for a subsequent delimitation of boundaries.
Article 3.—"Her Majesty's Assistant-Commissioners hereby disclaim all alliances whatever, and with whomsoever of the coloured nations, to the north of the Vaal River."
Article 4.—"It is agreed that no slavery is or shall be permitted or practised in the country to the north of the Vaal River by the emigrant farmers."
Article 5 provides for mutual facilities and liberty to traders and travellers on both sides of the Vaal River.
Article 6 allows the "emigrant Boers" to obtain ammunition in British colonies and possessions, "it being mutually understood that all trade in ammunition with the native tribes is prohibited both by the British Government and the emigrant farmers on both sides of the Vaal River."
Article 7 stipulates for the mutual extradition, "as far as possible," of criminals, and mutual access to courts of justice.
Article 8 validates, for purposes of inheritance in British possessions, certificates of marriage issued by the proper authorities of the emigrant farmers.
Article 9 allows free movement of all persons, except criminals and absconding debtors, between the British and the Boer territories.
As we see, the Convention had declared that slavery would not be practised in the Transvaal, but though the original declaration may have been made in all good faith, the Boer by degrees, and after the lapse of years, found it expedient to acquire native "apprentices," who could not change master nor task without permission. They began to fear that these natives could not be dealt with, as they were in the habit of dealing with them, without fear of comment from such British visitors as came across them; and they therefore attempted to block up the path of travellers, refusing them a passage through the Republic, and in some instances ordering the expulsion of visitors across the Vaal. About this time one of the most gruesome of all the many massacres in which the Boers were concerned took place. One Potgieter (not the Potgieter who was the rival of Pretorius), in charge of a small party of thirty men, women, and children, went forth to barter ivory unlawfully with Makapau, a Kaffir chief. The Kaffirs, owing the Boers a grudge for many a day, pounced on the whole party, leaving not one behind to give an account of the awful tragedy. The chief Potgieter was flayed alive, and his skin made into a kaross or cloak. The Boers were swift to revenge. President Pretorius, with an army of some four hundred, set himself to track down the assassins. The Kaffirs fled at the approach of the enemy, enclosing themselves in a huge cave, where they hoped to escape detection. This cave was blockaded by the Boers. Here the unhappy blacks went through all the horrors of famine and thirst, and when their agony became unbearable, and they sallied forth in desperation in search of water, they were remorselessly shot down one by one. Nine hundred in all were killed outside the cave. Within was more than double that number who had perished in the frightful agonies of starvation. President Kruger himself was a witness of the terrible scene, and took an active share in his countrymen's revenge. And this was not the first nor the last time in which he figured conspicuously in the bloody records of his country's history. It was only on the occasion of the Jameson Raid that Oom Paul awakened to sentimental qualms regarding the spilling of blood.
To thoroughly grasp the methods of the New South African Republic, it may be interesting to study some of "the Articles" of a Grondwet or Constitution, which superseded those originally adopted by the Potchefstroom Raad. The Grondwet was started in 1857, and was framed entirely to suit the then condition of the Boer community. The ordinary idea of a written constitution was at that time unknown, and the meaning of such words as "rigid" or "elastic" was, of course, beyond their comprehension. These only developed a significance when the judicial crisis of 1897 put a fresh face on Republican affairs.
Article 4 states that "the people desire no extension of territory, except only on principles of justice, whenever the interests of the Republic render it advisable."
Article 6.—"Its territory is open to every stranger who submits himself to the laws of the Republic; all persons who happen to be within the territory of this Republic have equal claim to protection of person and property."
Article 8.—"The people claim as much social freedom as possible (de meest mogelyke maatschappelyke vryheid), and expect to attain it by upholding their religion, fulfilling their obligations, submitting to law, order, and justice, and maintaining the same. The people permit the spread of the Gospel among the heathen, subject to prescribed provisions against the practice of fraud and deception."
Article 9.—"The people will not allow of any equality between coloured and white inhabitants, either in Church or in State."
Article 10.—"The people will not brook any dealing in slaves or slavery in this Republic (will geen slavenhandel, noch slaverny in deze Republick dulden)."
Before passing on to other sections, Article 10 calls for attention. In spite of its terms, the Boers of that period had a practice which might be described as sailing very near the wind. The "apprenticeship" of children taken prisoners in the native wars was uncommonly like slave-owning. They were called "orphans"—sometimes they had been made orphans by the conquerors—and they were then "apprenticed" to the Boer farmers till grown up. Though opinions differ on this point, it has been asserted by those who know that there was a curious system of "transfer" connected with these so-called apprentices, and that even when grown they seldom gained their liberty save by escape.
Further articles entrust legislation to a Volksraad chosen by vote of the burghers, providing at the same time that the people shall be allowed three months' grace for intimating to the Raad their views on any prospective law, "those laws, however, which admit of no delay excepted." Others constitute an Executive Council, "which shall also recommend to the Raad all officers for the public service"; others refer to the liberty of the press; restrict membership of the Volksraad to members of the Dutch Reformed Congregations; state that "the people do not desire to allow amongst them any Roman Catholic Churches, nor any other Protestant Churches except those in which such tenets of the Christian belief are taught as are prescribed in the Heidelberg Catechism"; and give the Volksraad the power of making treaties, save in time of war or of imminent danger.
The members of the Raad were to be twelve in number at least, and were to be between the ages of thirty and sixty. They must be burghers of the Dutch Reformed Church, residents, and owners of landed property in the Republic; no native nor bastard was to be admitted to the Raad. At the age of twenty-one every burgher, provided he belonged to the Dutch Reformed Church, was entitled to the franchise. The election of the President to a five years' term of office was in the hands of the burghers, and in this office he was to be supported by an Executive Council consisting of the Commandant-General, two burghers qualified to vote, and a Secretary. All the able-bodied men of the Republic, and if necessary natives, were liable to military service.
No sooner was the Grondwet arranged than Marthinus Wessels Pretorius, the son of the chief Andries Pretorius,—who died in 1853—was elected President of the South African Republic. The next few years were spent in internal dissension, consequent on the ambition of the President and the jealousy of his political rivals. Finally Lydenburg, which had struggled to proclaim itself an independent Republic, yielded, and affairs relating to the government of the country seemed to be mending. Still there were always Messrs. Kruger and Schoeman, two adventurous politicians, who kept things lively in the councils of the State. On the retirement of Pretorius from the Free State Presidency in 1864, and his re-election to that of the South African Republic, Mr. Kruger was appointed Commandant-General, and for the time being his ambitious longings were appeased.
At that period the white population consisted of merely about thirty thousand all told. The native community almost trebled the Dutch. Mr. Bryce, in his "Impressions on South Africa," describes the then state of the affairs of the Republic as anything but satisfactory: "There were hundreds of thousands of natives, a few of whom were living as servants under a system of enforced labour which was sometimes hardly distinguishable from slavery, while the vast majority were ruled by their own chiefs, some as tributaries of the Republic, some practically independent of it. With the latter wars were frequently raging—wars in which shocking cruelties were perpetrated on both sides, the Kaffirs massacring the white families whom they surprised, the Boer commandos taking a savage vengeance upon the tribes when they captured a kraal or mountain stronghold. It was the sight of these wars which drove Dr. Livingstone to begin his famous explorations to the north. The farmers were too few to reduce the natives to submission, though always able to defeat them in the field, and, while they relished an expedition, they had an invincible dislike to any protracted operations which cost money. Taxes they would not pay. They lived in a sort of rude plenty among their sheep and cattle, but they had hardly any coined money, conducting their transactions by barter, and they were too rude to value the benefits which government secures to a civilised people."
Among other things an attempt was made on the part of the Boers to annex the Orange Free State. President Pretorius crossed the Vaal in 1857, at the head of a large commando, with the intention of seizing on the neighbouring territory. He was doomed to disappointment, however, for his intended raid was stopped by the timely resistance of the forewarned President of the Orange Free State. An encounter was happily avoided through the intervention of Mr. Kruger, and finally the two Republics decided to mutually recognise each other's independent States.
But the ambitions of Pretorius merely smouldered. He still kept a greedy eye on the Orange Free State, and machinated for the union of the two States into a gigantic whole. He therefore refused the Presidency of the Transvaal for that of the Free State, in the hope of gathering into his own hands the reins of both governments. He was again disappointed, however, and in 1864 he returned and was re-elected President of the Transvaal.
The return of Pretorius was the signal for temporary peace. During his second Presidency, however, the little rift within the lute—the rift of insolvency, which eventually wrecked South African independence—began to be observable.
Mr. Nixon, who took great pains to acquaint himself with the true state of the country, says "that the intestine disturbances and the incessant Kaffir wars had well-nigh exhausted the finances of the Republic. The exchequer was only tardily replenished under a loose system of taxation. The Boers have never been good taxpayers, and no Government has been able to enforce the proper payment of taxes due to the State. A decade after its establishment the Republic was practically insolvent. Even as early as 1857 the Government was compelled to issue mandaten, or bills, wherewith to raise money to buy ammunition, and to pay its servants. In 1866 a regular issue of paper money was sanctioned by the Volksraad. This was followed by further issues, until, in 1867, a Finance Commission found that there were more notes in circulation than had been authorised by the Volksraad. Nevertheless, the financial requirements of the State became so pressing that still more issues had to be made, and in 1870 there were over L73,000 worth of notes in circulation. The notes were declared a legal tender, but the Government were unable to keep up their value by artificial methods. They fell to a low ebb, and passed from hand to hand at a discount of about 75 per cent, from their nominal value."