A Century of Wrong/The Founding of Natal
The Founding of Natal.
[Sidenote: Murder of Piet Retief.]
The second trek was equally unfortunate. Piet Retief had duly paid for and obtained possession from Dingaan, chief of the Zulus, of that tract of territory now known as Natal, the latter, incited by some Englishmen, treacherously murdered him and his party on the 6th February, 1838; 66 Boers and 30 of their followers perished. The Great Trek thus lost its most courageous and noble-minded leader. Dingaan then sent two of his armies, and they overcame the women and children and the aged at Boesmans River (Blaauw-krantz), where the village of Weenen now stands; 282 white people and 252 servants were massacred.
Towards the end of the year we entered the land of this criminal with a small commando of 464 men, and on the 16th December, 1838 – since known as 'Dingaan's Day,' the proudest in our history – we overthrew the military might of the Zulus, consisting of 10,000 warriors, and burnt Dingaan's chief kraal.
[Sidenote: No extension of British territory.]
After that we settled down peaceably in Natal, and established a new Republic. The territory had been purchased with our money and baptised with our blood. But the Republic was not permitted to remain in peace for long. The Colonial Office was in pursuit. The Government first of all decided upon a military occupation of Natal, for, as Governor Napier wrote to Lord Russell on the 22nd June, 1840, 'it was apparently the fixed determination of Her Majesty's Government not to extend Her Colonial possessions in this quarter of the Globe.' The only object of the military occupation was to crush the Boers, as the Governor, Sir George Napier, undisguisedly admitted in his despatch to Lord Glenelg, of the 16th January, 1838. The Boers were to be prevented from obtaining ammunition, and to be forbidden to establish an independent Republic. By these means he hoped to put a stop to the emigration. Lord Stanley instructed Governor Napier on the 10th April, 1842, to cut the emigrant Boers off from all communication, and to inform them that the British Government would assist the savages against them, and would treat them as rebels.
Twice we successfully withstood the military occupation; more English perished while in flight from drowning than fell by our bullets.
Commissioner Cloete was sent later to annex the young Republic as a reward for having redeemed it for civilisation.
[Sidenote: Protest of Natal]
Annexation, however, only took place under strong protest. On the 21st February, 1842, the Volksraad of Maritzburg, under the chairmanship of Joachim Prinsloo, addressed the following letter to Governor Napier:–
We know that there is a God, who is the Ruler of heaven and earth, and who has power, and is willing to protect the injured, though weaker, against oppressors. In Him we put our trust, and in the justice of our cause; and should it be His will that total destruction be brought upon us, our wives and children, and everything we possess, we will with due submission acknowledge to have deserved from Him, but not from men. We are aware of the power of Great Britain, and it is not our object to defy that power; but at the same time we cannot allow that might instead of right shall triumph, without having employed all our means to oppose it.
[Sidenote: The Boer women]
The Boer women of Maritzburg informed the British Commissioner that, sooner than subject themselves again to British sway, they would walk barefoot over the Drakensberg to freedom or to death. And they were true to their word, as the following incident proves. Andries Pretorius, our brave leader, had ridden through to Grahamstown, hundreds of miles distant, in order to represent the true facts of our case to Governor Pottinger. He was unsuccessful, for he was obliged to return without a hearing from the Governor, who excused himself under the pretext that he had no time to receive Pretorius. When the latter reached the Drakensberg, on his return, he found nearly the whole population trekking over the mountains away from Natal and away from British sway. His wife was lying ill in the waggon, and his daughter had been severely hurt by the oxen which she was forced to lead.
[Sidenote: Suffering in Natal]
Sir Harry Smith, who succeeded Pottinger, thus described the condition of the emigrant Boers:–'They were exposed to a state of misery which he had never before seen equalled, except in Massena's invasion of Portugal. The scene was truly heart-rending.'
This is what we had to suffer at the hands of the British Government in connection with Natal.
We trekked back over the Drakensberg to the Free State, where some remained, but others wandered northwards over the Vaal River.
- Theal, pages 104-130.
- Theal, 169.
- Theal, 155.
- Theal, 179.
- Theal, 244.