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History]
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Cape Colony

territory was invaded, and after nine months' fighting the Kaffirs were completely subdued, and a new treaty of peace concluded (on the 17th of September). By this treaty all the country as far as the river Kei was acknowledged to be British, and its inhabitants declared British subjects. A site for the seat of government was selected and named King Wiliam's Town.

The Great Trek.—The action of Sir Benjamin D'Urban was not approved by the home government, and on the instruction of Lord Glenelg, secretary for the colonies, who declared that “the great evil of the Cape Colony consists in its magnitude,” the colonial boundary was moved back to the Great Fish river, and eventually (in 1837) Sir Benjamin was dismissed from office. “The Kaffirs,” in the opinion of Lord Glenelg, “had an ample justification for war; they had to resent, and endeavoured justly, though impotently, to avenge a series of encroachments” (despatch of the 26th of December 1835). This attitude towards the Kaffirs was one of the many reasons given by the Trek Boers for leaving Cape Colony. The Great Trek, as it is called, lasted from 1836 to 1840, the trekkers, who numbered about 7000, founding communities with a republican form of government beyond the Orange and Vaal rivers, and in Natal, where they had been preceded, however, by British emigrants. From this time Cape Colony ceased to be the only civilized community in South Africa, though for long it maintained its predominance. Up to 1856 Natal was, in fact, a dependency of the Cape (see South Africa). Considerable trouble was caused by the emigrant Boers on either side of the Orange river, where the new comers, the Basutos and other Kaffir tribes, Bushmen and Griquas contended for mastery. The Cape government endeavoured to protect the rights of the natives. On the advice of the missionaries, who exercised great influence with all the non-Dutch races, a number of native states were recognized and subsidized by the Cape government, with the object—not realized—of obtaining peace on this northern frontier. The first of these “Treaty States” recognized was that of the Griquas of Griqualand West. Others were recognized in 1843 and 1844—in the last-named year a treaty was made with the Pondoes on the eastern border. During this period the condition of affairs on the eastern frontier was deplorable, the government being unable or unwilling to afford protection to the farmers from the depredations of the Kaffirs. Elsewhere, however, the colony was making progress. The change from slave to free labour proved to be advantageous to the farmers in the western provinces; an efficient educational system, which owed its initiation to Sir John Herschel, the astronomer (who lived in Cape Colony from 1834 to 1838), was adopted; Road Boards were established and did much good work; to the staple industries—the growing of wheat, the rearing of cattle and the making of wine—was added sheep raising; and by 1846 wool became the most valuable export from the country. The creation, in 1835, of a legislative council, on which unofficial members had seats, was the first step in giving the colonists a share in the government.

The War of the Axe.—Another war with the Kaffirs broke out in 1846 and was known as the War of the Axe, from the murder of a Hottentot, to whom an old Kaffir thief was manacled, while being conveyed to Graham's Town for trial for stealing an axe. The escort was attacked by a party of Kaffirs and the Hottentot killed. The surrender of the murderer was refused, and war was declared in March 1846. The Gaikas were the chief tribe engaged in the war, assisted during the course of it by the Tambukies. After some reverses the Kaffirs were signally defeated on the 7th of June by General Somerset on the Gwangu, a few miles from Fort Peddie. Still the war went on, till at length Sandili, the chief of the Gaikas, surrendered, followed gradually by the other chiefs; and by the beginning of 1848 the Kaffirs were again subdued, after twenty-one months' fighting.

Extension of British Sovereignty.—In the last month of the war (December 1847) Sir Harry Smith reached Cape Town as governor of the colony, and with his arrival the Glenelg policy was reversed. By proclamation, on the 17th of December, he extended the frontier of the colony northward to the Orange river and eastward to the Keiskamma river, and on the 23rd, at a meeting of the Kaffir chiefs, announced the annexation of the country between the Keiskamma and the Kei rivers to the British crown, thus reabsorbing the territory abandoned by order of Lord Glenelg. It was not, however, incorporated with the Cape, but made a crown dependency under the name of British Kaffraria. For a time the Kaffirs accepted quietly the new order of things. The governor had other serious matters to contend with, including the assertion of British authority over the Boers beyond the Orange river, and the establishment of amicable relations with the Transvaal Boers. In the colony itself a crisis arose out of the proposal to make it a convict station.

The Convict Agitation and Granting of a Constitution.—In 1848 a circular was sent by the 3rd Earl Grey, then colonial secretary, to the governor of the Cape (and to other colonial governors), asking him to ascertain the feelings of the colonists regarding the reception of a certain class of convicts, the intention being to send to South Africa Irish peasants who had been driven into crime by the famine of 1845. Owing to some misunderstanding, a vessel, the “Neptune,” was dispatched to the Cape before the opinion of the colonists had been received, having on board 289 convicts, among whom were John Mitchell, the Irish rebel, and his colleagues. When the news reached the Cape that this vessel was on her way, the people of the colony became violently excited; and they established an anti-convict association, by which they bound themselves tocease from all intercourse of every kind with persons in any way connected “with the landing, supplying or employing convicts.” On the 19th of September 1849 the “Neptune” arrived in Simon's Bay. Sir Harry Smith, confronted by a violent public agitation, agreed not to land the convicts, but to keep them on board ship in Simon's Bay till he received orders to send them elsewhere. When the home government became aware of the state of affairs orders were sent directing the “Neptune” to proceed to Tasmania, and it did so after having been in Simon's Bay for five months. The agitation did not, however, pass away without other important results, since it led to another movement, the object of which was to obtain a free representative government for the colony. This concession, which had been previously promised by Lord Grey, was granted by the British government, and, in 1854, a constitution was established of almost unprecedented liberality.

The Kaffir War of 1850–1853.—The anti-convict agitation had scarcely ceased when the colony was once again involved in war. The Kaffirs bitterly resented their loss of independence, and ever since the last war had been secretly preparing to renew the struggle. Sir Harry Smith, informed of the threatening attitude of the natives, proceeded to the frontier, and summoned Sandili and the other chiefs to an interview. Sandili refused obedience; upon which, at an assembly of other chiefs (October 1850), the governor declared him deposed from his chiefship, and appointed an Englishman, Mr Brownlee, a magistrate, to be temporary chief of the Gaika tribe. The governor appears to have believed that the measures he took would prevent a war and that Sandili could be arrested without armed resistance. On the 24th of December Col. Geo. Mackinnon, being sent with a small force with the object of securing the chief, was attacked in a narrow defile by a large body of Kaffirs, and compelled to retreat with some loss. This was the signal for a general rising of the Gaika tribe. The settlers in the military villages, which had been established along the frontier, assembled in fancied security to celebrate Christmas Day, were surprised, many of them murdered, and their houses given to the flames. Other disasters followed in quick succession. A small patrol of military was cut off to a man. The greater part of the Kaffir police deserted, many of them carrying off their arms and accoutrements. Emboldened by success, the enemy in immense force surrounded and attacked Fort Cox, where the governor was stationed with an inconsiderable force. More than one unsuccessful attempt was made to relieve Sir Harry; but his dauntless spirit was equal to the occasion. At the head of 150 mounted riflemen, accompanied by Colonel Mackinnon, he dashed out of the fort,