Open main menu
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.

country. The Rev. John Campbell, one of the founders of the Bible Society, also travelled in southern Bechuanaland and the adjoining districts in 1812–1814 and 1810–1821, adding considerably to the knowledge of the river systems. About 1817 Mosilikatze, the founder of the Matabele nation, fleeing from the wrath of Chaka, the Zulu king, began his career of conquest, during which he ravaged a great part of Bechuanaland and enrolled large numbers of Bechuana in his armies. Eventually the Matabele settled to the north-east in the country which afterwards bore their name. In 1821 Robert Moffat arrived at Kuruman as agent of the London Missionary Society, and made it his headquarters for fifty years. Largely as the result of the work of Moffat (who reduced the Bechuana tongue to writing), and of other missionaries, the Bechuana advanced notably in civilization. The arrival of David Livingstone in 1841 marked the beginning of the systematic exploration of the northern regions. His travels, and those of C. J. Andersson (1853–1858) and others, covered almost every part of the country hitherto unknown. In 1864 Karl Mauch discovered gold in the Tati district.

At the time of the first contact of the Bechuana with white men the Cape government was the only civilized authority in South Boer encroachment. Africa; and from this cause, and the circumstance that the missionaries who lived among and exercised great influence over them were of British nationality, the connexion between Bechuanaland and the Cape became close. As early as 1836 an act was passed extending the jurisdiction of the Cape courts in certain cases as far north as 25° S.—a limit which included the southern part of Bechuanaland. Although under strong British influence the country was nevertheless ruled by its own chiefs, among whom the best-known in the middle of the 19th century were Montsioa, chief of the Barolong, and Sechele, chief of the Bakwena and the friend of Livingstone. At this period the Transvaal Boers were in a very unsettled state, and those living in the western districts showed a marked inclination to encroach upon the lands of the Bechuana. In 1852 Great Britain by the Sand river convention acknowledged the independence of the Transvaal. Save the Vaal river no frontier was indicated, and “boasting,” writes Livingstone in his Missionary Travels, “that the English had given up all the blacks into their power … they (the Boers) assaulted the Bakwains” (Bakwena).

With this event the political history of Bechuanaland may be said to have begun. Not only was Sechele attacked at his capital Kolobeng, and the European stores and Livingstone's house there looted, but the Boers stopped a trader named McCabe from going northward. Again to quote Livingstone, “The Boers resolved to shut up the interior and I determined to open the country.” In 1858 the Boers told the missionaries that they must not go north without their (the Boers') consent. Moffat complained to Sir George Grey, the governor of Cape Colony, through whose intervention the molestation by Transvaal Boers of British subjects in their passage through Bechuanaland was stopped. At a later date (1865) the Boers tried to raise taxes from the Barolong, but without success, a commando sent against them in 1868 being driven off by Montsioa's brother Molema. This led to a protest (in 1870) from Montsioa, which he lodged with a landdrost at Potchefstroom in the Transvaal, threatening to submit the matter to the British high commissioner if any further attempt at taxation were made on the part of the Boers. The Boers then resorted to cajolery, and at a meeting held in August 1870, at which President Pretorius and Paul Kruger represented the Transvaal, invited the Barolong to join their territories with that of the republic, in order to save them from becoming British. Montsioa's reply was short: “No one ever spanned-in an ass with an ox in one yoke.” In the following year the claims of the Boers, the Barolong, and other tribes were submitted to the arbitration of R. W. Keate, lieutenant-governor of Natal, and his award placed Montsioa's territory outside the limits of the Transvaal. This attempt of the Boers to gain possession of Bechuanaland having failed, T. F. Burgers, the president of the Transvaal in 1872, endeavoured to replace Montsioa as chief of the Barolong by Moshette, whom he declared to be the rightful ruler and paramount chief of that people. The attacks of the Boers at length became so unbearable that Montsioa in 1874 made a request to the British authorities to be taken under their protection. In formulating this appeal he declared that when the Boers were at war with Mosilikatze, chief of the Matabele, he had aided them on the solemn understanding that they were to respect his boundaries. This promise they had broken. Khama, chief of the Bamangwato in northern Bechuanaland, wrote in August 1876 to Sir Henry Barkly making an appeal similar to that sent by the Barolong. The letter contained the following significant passages:

“I write to you, Sir Henry, in order that your queen may preserve for me my country, it being in her hands. The Boers are coming into it, and I do not like them.” “Their actions are cruel among us black people. We are like money, they sell us and our children.” “I ask Her Majesty to defend me, as she defends all her people. There are three things which distress me very much — war, selling people, and drink. All these things I shall find in the Boers, and it is these things which destroy people to make an end of them in the country. The custom of the Boers has always been to cause people to be sold, and to-day they are still selling people.”

The statements of Khama in this letter do not appear to have been exaggerated. The testimony of Livingstone confirms them, and even a Dutch clergyman, writing in 1869, described the system of apprenticeship of natives which obtained among the Boers “as slavery in the fullest sense of the word.” These representations on the part of the Barolong, and the Bamangwato under Khama, supported by the representations of Cape politicians, led in 1878 to the military occupation of southern Bechuanaland by a British force under Colonel (afterwards General Sir Charles) Warren. A small police force continued to occupy the district until April 1881, but, ignoring the wishes of the Bechuana and the recommendations of Sir Bartle Frere (then high commissioner), the home government refused to take the country under British protection. On the withdrawal of the police, southern Bechuanaland fell into a state of anarchy, nor did the fixing (on paper) of the frontier between it and the Transvaal by the Pretoria convention of August 1881 have any beneficial effect. There was fighting between Montsioa and Moshette, while Massow, a Batlapin chief, invited the aid of the Boers against Mankoroane, who claimed to be paramount chief of the Batlapin. The Transvaal War of that date offered opportunities to the freebooting Boers of the west which were not to be lost. At this time the British, wearied of South African troubles, were disinclined to respond to native appeals for help. Stellaland and Goshen.Consequently the Boers proceeded without let or hindrance with their conquest and annexation of territory. In 1882 they set up the republic of Stellaland, with Vryburg as its capital, and forthwith proceeded to set up the republic of Goshen, farther north, in spite of the protests of Montsioa, and established a small town called Rooi Grond as capital. They then summoned Montsioa to quit the territory. The efforts of the British authorities at this period (1882–1883) to bring about a satisfactory settlement were feeble and futile, and fighting continued until peace was made entirely on Boer lines. The Transvaal government was to have supreme power, and to be the final arbiter in case of future quarrels arising among the native chiefs. This agreement, arrived at without any reference to the British government, was a breach of the Pretoria convention, and led to an intimation on the part of Great Britain that she could not recognize the new republics. In South Africa, as well as in England, strong feeling was aroused by this act of aggression. Unless steps were taken at once, the whole of Bechuanaland might be permanently lost, while German territory on the west might readily be extended to join with that of the Boers. In the London convention of February 1884, conceded by Lord Derby in response to the overtures of Boer delegates, the Transvaal boundaries were again defined, part of eastern Bechuanaland being included in Boer territory. In spite of the convention the Boers remained in Stellaland and Goshen—which were west of the new Transvaal frontier, and in April 1884 the Rev. John Mackenzie, who had succeeded Livingstone, was sent to the country to arrange