Page:EB1911 - Volume 25.djvu/490

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History]
473
South Africa

admitted. This sentiment, which found formal recognition later on in the constitution of the South African Republic, was held in fullest force by the voortrekkers. Summing up, it may be said that the exasperation caused by just grievances unremedied was no stronger a motive with the trekkers than the desire to be free from the restraints imposed on British subjects and the wish to be able to deal with the natives after their own fashion.

The departure of so large a number of persons caused serious misgiving both to the Cape and the home governments. The trekkers had been told by the lieutenant-governor of the eastern province (Sir Andries Stockenstrom) that he was not aware of any law which prevented any British subject from settling in another country, and in the words of Piet Retief's declaration they quitted the colony “under the full assurance that the English government has nothing more to require of us, and will allow us to govern ourselves without its interference in future.” The British government thought otherwise; they held that the trekkers could not divest themselves of their allegiance to the Crown. Moreover, though the farmers might leave British territory they were still held to be liable to the jurisdiction of British courts. An act passed in 1836 (the Cape of Good Hope Punishment Act) empowered the colonial courts to deal with offences committed by British subjects in any part of South Africa up to the 25th degree of south latitude. Intended by its authors to protect the native tribes from aggression on the part of white men and to check the exploration by Europeans of the lands of the Kaffirs, Bechuanas, &c., the act led in fact to the assertion of British authority in regions beyond the Cape frontier.

B. From the Foundation of the Republics to Majuba.—While the home government was seeking to prevent the expansion Foundation of the Boer Republics and Natal.of the white races the first steps had been taken by a body of Englishmen to found a new colony at Natal. Since 1824 a few traders had been settled at Port Natal, and in 1834 formal petition was made that their settlement should be recognized as a British colony. The request was refused, and not long afterwards (1837) some of the Dutch emigrant farmers under Retief entered the country by way of the Drakensberg. Retief, like his English predecessors at Port Natal (known also since 1835 as Durban), sought a formal grant of territory from the chief of the Zulu nation, the Zulus being the acknowledged overlords of the tribes living in Natal. Retief and his party were, however, treacherously murdered by Dingaan, the Zulu king (February 1838). Other trekkers followed in the wake of Retief, and attacking Dingaan avenged the massacre.

The Boers then established a republican government at Maritzburg. Though most anxious to avoid any extension of responsibility in South Africa, Great Britain recognized the potential danger arising from the creation of an independent state on the coast. The Boers at first rejected offers of accommodation. Troops were then sent to the country, and finally a settlement was made by Henry Cloete, the British commissioner, with the Boer leaders, and Natal constituted a British colony in 1843. Many Boers, dissatisfied with this arrangement, withdrew beyond the Drakensberg. Natal shortly afterwards received a considerable number of emigrants from England, and the white inhabitants have since been predominantly British. At first Natal was dependent on Cape Colony. In 1856 it was constituted a separate colony, but it did not possess self-government until 1893. A notable departure from the labour policy of the other states was made by Natal in 1860, when Indian coolies were introduced. At the time the matter attracted little attention, but the Asiatic inhabitants speedily increased, and forty years later they outnumbered the whites (see Natal).

It had taken the British government nearly ten years to decide on the annexation of Natal; its policy towards the Boers settled north of the Orange was marked by the same hesitation (see Orange Free State). By 1847, when Sir Harry Smith became high commissioner, the failure of the treaty state policy was evident. Sir Harry, deeming no other course open to him, proclaimed (February 1848) the country between the Orange and Vaal rivers British territory, under the name of the Orange River Sovereignty. Sir Harry had, in the previous December, extended Orange River Sovereigntythe northern frontier of Cape Colony to the Orange, and had reoccupied the territory on the Kaffir border D'Urban had been forced to abandon.[1] The extension of British rule north of the Orange was opposed by Andries Pretorius, who, being defeated at Boomplaats, withdrew north of the Vaal, where, though not interfered with by the British, the Boers split up into several rival parties. In the Sovereignty difficulties arose in defining the reserves of the native chiefs, and with the Basutos there were armed conflicts. The home government (the first Russell administration), which had reluctantly consented to confirm Sir Harry Smith's annexation of the Orange River territory, on learning of these difficulties, and also that many of the burghers remained dissatisfied, changed their policy, and in 1851 the governor was informed that the ultimate abandonment of the Sovereignty was a settled point.[2] In fulfilment of their settled policy to keep the British South African dominions within the smallest possible limits, the cabinet decided to recognize the independence of the Boers living beyond the Vaal. This recognition, the necessary preliminary to the abandonment of the Orange River Sovereignty, was made Independence of the Transvaal Recognized.in the Sand River Convention on the 17th of January 1852. The Transvaal thus became an independent state, or rather it formed a number of mutually jealous communities, and it was not until 1864 that they were all united. Despite their distracted condition the Transvaal Boers had no sooner obtained their independence than they began to make claims to authority in Bechuanaland. But the championship of the Bechuanas by Moffat, Livingstone and other missionaries, and their determination that the road to the interior should not be closed by the Boers, had its effect, and the Boers did not succeed in making themselves masters of the country (see Transvaal: History, and Bechuanaland). The British government meantime pursued its policy of abandonment, and in February 1854, by the Bloemfontein Convention, forced independence upon the people of the Sovereignty, which now became the Orange Free State. A clause was inserted Orange Free State.in the Bloemfontein Convention stating that Great Britain had no alliance with any native chiefs or tribes to the north of the Orange, with the exception of the Griqua chief Adam Kok. Numerous protests were made by many of the inhabitants of the Orange River Sovereignty against the abandonment of it by the British government, but the duke of Newcastle, who was then colonial secretary in Lord Aberdeen's administration, replied that the decision was inevitable (see Orange Free State).

The abandonment of the Orange River Sovereignty marked the close of the eventful period in South African history which began eighteen years before with the Great Trek. At the beginning of that time there was but one civilized government in South Africa—Cape Colony; at its close there were five separate states or provinces, three, the Cape, Natal and British Kaffraria, owning allegiance to Great Britain, and two forming Boer republics—the Transvaal and Orange Free State. While vast Results of a Policy of Vacillation.additional territories had been occupied by British or Boers the unity of administration, which had marked the previous stages in the expansion of the white races in South Africa, had been lost. Whether or not a wiser policy on the part of Great Britain would have secured the continued allegiance of all the Boers it is impossible to say; the fact that numbers of Boers remained in Natal under British rule, and that the majority of the Boers who settled between the Orange and the Vaal desired to remain British subjects, points to that conclusion. With justice the Boers complained of the course actually adopted by the British authorities. They might at the outset either have let the trek Boers go, and given them their blessing and liberty, or they might have controlled the trek and

  1. Part of the territory thus reannexed was added to Cape Colony while the region between the Keiskamma and Kei was created a separate territory under the name of British Kaffraria.
  2. Despatch of Earl Grey, dated October 21st, 1851, printed in Correspondence Relative to the State of the Kaffir Tribes (C. Feb. 1853).