Page:EB1911 - Volume 25.djvu/489

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
472
[History
South Africa

his advice it was decided to create a band of native states on the northern and eastern frontiers of the colony. These treaty Treaty States.states, as they were called, were intended to serve a double purpose; they would be a barrier protecting the colony from the inroads of hostile tribes, and they would enable native civilized nations to grow up (under the tutelage of the missionaries) strong enough to protect themselves from the encroachments of the whites. In fact, neither of these results followed. With one exception, that of Moshesh, the chief of the Basutos, none of the chiefs with whom treaties were made were men powerful enough to found kingdoms, nor had they, in most cases, any better right than their neighbours to the territory recognized as theirs by the British government. Moreover, to treat these men as independent or semi-independent princes was a complete mistake; the failure of the treaty state system is now seen to have been inevitable. The first treaty of this kind was concluded on the 11th of December 1834 with a Griqua chief named Andries Waterboer. This chieftain lived north of the Orange river in the district now known as Griqualand West, and ruled over some 4000 people, a bastard race sprung from the intercourse between Boers and native women. In 1843 two more of these treaty states were established, one under Adam Kok (the third of that name) and the other under Moshesh. Adam Kok had under him a small number of Griquas, who dwelt in the country east of that occupied by Waterboer (see Griqualand). And east of this country, again, was a tract of territory occupied by Basutos under Moshesh. In the same way Pondoland was established as a treaty state in 1844. The distinction between these states must be remembered to understand aright subsequent developments. Moshesh ruled over a region largely mountainous and over a people numerous and virile; Pondoland was somewhat remote and was densely inhabited by warlike Kaffirs; the two Griqua states were, however, missionary creations; they were thinly inhabited and occupied open plains easy of access—hence their ultimate collapse.

The year which witnessed the emancipation of the slaves and the creation of the first treaty state also saw the beginning of another disastrous Kaffir war. Fighting began in December 1834, and lasted nearly a year. The Kaffirs wrought great havoc, and Sir Benjamin D'Urban (q.v.), the governor, in order to secure peace, extended the boundary of the colony to the Kei river. The Kaffirs had suffered much injustice, especially from the commando-reprisal system, but they had also committed many injustices, and for the disturbed state of the border the vacillating policy of the Cape government was largely to blame. Sir Benjamin's policy—which had the cordial approval both of the Dutch and the British colonists—was one of close settlement by whites in certain districts and military control of the Kaffirs in other regions, and it would have done much to ensure peace. Lord Glenelg, secretary for the colonies in Lord Melbourne's second administration, held that the Kaffirs were in the right in the quarrel, and he compelled D'Urban to abandon the conquered territory, a mistaken decision adopted largely on the advice of Dr Philip and his supporters. Thus at this time (1836) a critical state had arisen in South Africa. The colonists had lost their slaves, the eastern frontier was in a state of insecurity, The Great Trek.The British immigrants of 1820 were still struggling against heavy odds; the Dutch colonists were in a state of great indignation. In these circumstances what is known as the Great Trek occurred. It lasted from 1836 to 1840. During that period no fewer than 7000 Boers (including women and children), impatient of British rule, emigrated from Cape Colony into the great plains beyond the Orange river, and across them again into Natal and into the fastnesses of the Zoutspanberg, in the northern part of the Transvaal.

In view of the vast consequences ensuing from this exodus of Dutch families from the Cape a somewhat detailed consideration of its causes is necessary. Material for forming a judgment will be found chiefly in the correspondence of Sir Benjamin D'Urban with the Colonial Office, in the statements made by the voortrekkers, and in a series of lectures delivered in Pietermaritzburg in 1852–1855 by the Hon. Henry Cloete, whose statements as to the causes of the trek were founded on intimate knowledge and are impartially set forth. Piet Retief, the ablest of the leaders of the exodus, on the eve of leaving the colony published a declaration at Graham's Town, dated January 22nd 1837, in which he declared the chief reasons animating the emigrants to be:—

1. We despair of saving the colony from those evils which threaten

it by the turbulent and dishonest conduct of vagrants, who are allowed to infest the country in every part; nor do we see any prospect of peace or happiness for our children in a country thus distracted

by internal commotions.
2. We complain of the severe losses which we have been forced

to sustain by the emancipation of our slaves, and the vexatious laws

which have been enacted respecting them.
3. We complain of the continual system of plunder which we

have ever endured from the Kafirs and other colored classes, and particularly by the last invasion of the colony, which has desolated

the frontier districts and ruined most of the inhabitants.
4. We complain of the unjustifiable odium which has been cast

upon us by interested and dishonest persons, under the cloak of religion, whose testimony is believed in England to the exclusion of all evidence in our favour; and we can foresee, as the result of

this prejudice, nothing but the total ruin of the country.

[1]

These four points correspond to the “three great grievances” under which the farmers suffered, enumerated by Cloete as (1) The Hottentot Question (i.e. the first and fourth points of Retief's manifesto combined); (2) The Slave Question; (3) The Kaffir Question. Enough has already been said as to the relations between the missionaries, the Boer farmers and the Hottentots; this grievance, however, “proved quite secondary to the intensity of feeling with which the colonists saw the steps taken by the government to deprive them of that labour (slave labour) over which they claimed an unquestionable right of property.”[2] Then came the Kaffir War of 1834–1835, the reversal by the home government of the statesmanlike settlement of Sir Benjamin D'Urban, and the refusal of any compensation to the sufferers from the war, whose losses amounted to some £500,000. These, then, were the direct causes of the voluntary expatriation of the majority of the first trekkers, who included some of the best families in the colony, but they fail to explain the profound hostility to Great Britain which thereafter animated many, but not all, of the emigrants, nor do they account for the easy abandonment of their homes by numbers of the trekkers. The underlying fact which made the trek possible is that the Dutch-descended colonists in the eastern and north-eastern parts of the colony were not cultivators of the soil, but of purely pastoral and nomad habits, ever ready to seek new pastures for their flocks and herds, and possessing no special affection for any particular locality. In the next place these people, thinly scattered over a wide extent of territory, had lived for long under little restraint from the laws, and when in 1815, by the institution of “Commissions of Circuit,” justice was brought nearer to their homes, various offences were brought to light, the remedying of which caused much resentment. An effort to bring a man named Frederick Bezuidenhout to justice led to armed resistance and finally to the hanging of five men at Slachter's Nek in circumstances that made an indelible impression throughout the frontier (see Cape Colony: History). It intensified in the minds of many Boers the feeling of hostility towards the British already existing; some of the trekkers in 1836–1840 had taken part in and others had passively aided the rebellion of 1815—“the most insane attempt ever made by a set of men to wage war against their sovereign” (Cloete, op. cit. p. 28). What, however, was probably the most powerful motive of the Great Trek was the equality established by the British between the black and white races. In the eyes of the Boers the possibility of equality between the whites and the natives was not

  1. See F. R. Cana, South Africa from the Great Trek to the Union (London, 1909), pp. 295–297 for the full text of Retief's manifesto.
  2. See H. Cloete, The History of the Great Boer Trek (London, 1899), p. 44.