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Cape Colony

year, Holland having fallen under the revolutionary government of France, a British force under General Sir James Craig was sent to Cape Town to secure the colony for the prince of Orange—a refugee in England—against the French. The governor of Cape Town at first refused to obey the instructions from the prince, but on the British proceeding to take forcible possession he capitulated.[1] His action was hastened by the fact that the Hottentots, deserting their former masters, fiocked to the British standard. The burghers of Graaff Reinet did not surrender until a force had been sent against them, while in 1799 and again in 1801 they rose in revolt. In February 1803, as a result of the peace of Amiens, the colony was handed over to the Batavian Republic, which introduced many needful reforms, as had the British during their eight years' rule. (One of the first acts of General Craig had been to abolish torture in the administration of justice.) War having again broken out, a British force was once more sent to the Cape. After an engagement (Jan. 1806) on the shores of Table Bay the Dutch garrison of Cape Castle surrendered to the British under Sir David Baird, and in 1814 the colony was ceded outright by Holland to the British crown. At that time the colony extended to the line of mountains guarding the vast central plateau, then called Bushmansland, and had an area of about 120,000 sq. m. and a population of some 60,000, of whom 27,000 were whites, 17,000 free Hottentots and the rest slaves. These slaves were mostly imported negroes and Malays. Their introduction was the chief cause leading the white settlers to despise manual labour.

The First and Second Kaffir Wars.—At the time of the cession to Great Britain the first of several wars with the Kaffirs had been fought. (The numerous minor conflicts which since 1789 had taken place between the colonists and the Kaffirs—the latter sometimes aided by Hottentot allies—are not reckoned in the usual enumeration of the Kaffir wars.) The Kaffirs, who had crossed the colonial frontier, had been expelled from the district between the Sunday and Great Fish rivers known as the Zuurveld, which became a sort of neutral ground. For some time previous to 1811 the Kaffirs, however, had taken possession of the neutral ground and committed depredations on the colonists. In order to expel them from the Zuurveld, Colonel John Graham took the field with a mixed force in December 1811, and in the end the Kafiirs were driven beyond the Fish river. On the site of Colonel Graham's headquarters arose the town which bears his name. In 1817 further trouble arose with the Kaffirs, the immediate cause of quarrel being an attempt by the colonial authorities to enforce the restitution of some stolen cattle. Routed in 1818 the Kafiirs rallied, and in the early part of 1819 poured into the colony in vast hordes. Led by a prophet chief named Makana, they attacked Graham's Town on the 22nd of April, then held by a handful of white troops. Help arrived in time and the enemy were beaten back. It was then arranged that the land between the Fish and Keiskamma rivers should be neutral territory.

The British Settlers of 1820.—The war of 1817–19 led to the first introduction of English settlers on a considerable scale, an event fraught with far-reaching consequences. The then governor, Lord Charles Somerset, whose treaty arrangements with the Kaffir chiefs had proved unfortunate, desired to erect a barrier against the Kaffirs by settling white colonists in the border district. In 1820, on the advice of Lord Charles, parliament voted £50,000 to promote emigration to the Cape, and 4000 British were sent out. These people formed what was known as the Albany settlement, founding Port Elizabeth and making Graham's Town their headquarters. Intended primarily as a measure to secure the safety of the frontier, and regarded by the British government chiefly as a better means of affording a livelihood to a few thousands of the surplus population, this emigration scheme accomplished a far greater work than its authors contemplated. The new settlers, drawn from every part of the British Isles and from almost every grade of society, retained, and their descendants retain, strong sympathy with their native land. In course of time they formed a valuable counterpoise to the Dutch colonists, and they now constitute the most progressive element in the colony. The advent of these immigrants was also the means of introducing the English language at the Cape. In 1825, for the first time, ordinances were issued in English, and in 1827 its use was extended to the conduct of judicial proceedings. Dutch was not, however, ousted, the colonists becoming to a large extent bilingual.

Dislike of British Rule.—Although the colony was fairly prosperous, many of the Dutch farmers were as dissatisfied with British rule as they had been with that of the Dutch East India Company, though their ground of complaint was not the same. In 1792 Moravian missions had been established for the benefit of the Hottentots,[2] and in 1799 the London Missionary Society began work among both Hottentots and Kaffirs. The championship of Hottentot grievances by the missionaries caused much dissatisfaction among the majority of the colonists, whose views, it may be noted, temporarily prevailed, for in 1812 an ordinance was issued which empowered magistrates to bind Hottentot children as apprentices under conditions differing little from that of slavery. Meantime, however, the movement for the abolition of slavery was gaining strength in England, and the missionaries at length appealed from the colonists to the mother country. An incident which occurred in 1815–1816 did much to make permanent the hostility of the frontiersmen to the British. A farmer named Bezuidenhout refused to obey a summons issued on the complaint of a Hottentot, and firing on the party sent to arrest him, was himself killed by the return fire. This caused a miniature rebellion, and on its suppression five ringleaders were publicly hanged at the spot—Slachters Nek—where they had sworn to expel “the English tyrants.” The feeling caused by the hanging of these men was deepened by the circumstances of the execution—for the scaffold on which the rebels were simultaneously swung, broke down from their united weight and the men were afterwards hanged one by one. An ordinance passed in 1827, abolishing the old Dutch courts of landroost and heemraden (resident magistrates being substituted) and decreeing that henceforth all legal proceedings should be conducted in English; the granting in 1828, as a result of the representations of the missionaries, of equal rights with whites to the Hottentots and other free coloured people; the imposition (1830) of heavy penalties for harsh treatment of slaves, and finally the emancipation of the slaves in 1834[3]—all these things increased the dislike of the farmers to the government. Moreover, the inadequate compensation awarded to slave-owners, and the suspicions engendered by the method of payment, caused much resentment, and in 1835 the trekking of farmers into unknown country in order to escape from an unloved government, which had characterized the 18th century, recommenced. Emigration beyond the colonial border had in fact been continuous for 150 years, but it now took on larger proportions.

The Third Kaffir War.—On the eastern border further trouble arose with the Kaffirs, towards whom the policy of the Cape government was marked by much vacillation. On the 11th of December 1834 a chief of high rank was killed while resisting a commando party. This set the whole of the Kaffir tribes in a blaze. A force of 10,000 fighting men, led by Macomo, a brother of the chief who was killed, swept across the frontier, pillaged and burned the homesteads and murdered all who dared to resist. Among the worst sufferers were a colony of freed Hottentots who, in 1829, had been settled in the Kat river valley by the British authorities. The fighting power of the colony was scanty, but the governor, Sir Benjamin D'Urban (q.v.), acted with promptitude, and all available forces were mustered under Colonel (afterwards Sir Harry) Smith, who reached Graham's Town on the 6th of January 1835, six days after news of the rising reached Cape Town. The enemy's

  1. It is stated that Colonel R. J. Gordon (the explorer of the Orange river), who commanded the Dutch forces at the Cape, chagrined by the occupation of the country by the British, committed suicide.
  2. From 1737 to 1744 George Schmidt, “The apostle to the Hottentots,” had a mission at Genadendal—“The Vale of Grace.”
  3. Masters were allowed to keep their ex-slaves as “apprentices” until the 1st of December 1838.