Friday, January 26, 2007

The Boer Wars: Part IX

The Dutch Influence in South Africa

by John Ridpath and Ed Ellis

In the meantime, however, Holland had been keenly alert to extend her influence in South Africa. Having obtained possession of the Portuguese East Indian dominions, and having a secure hold on the west coast, she now sought to establish herself at the southern extremity of the continent. She was able to perceive that the Cape of Good Hope, would be, and remain the midway station between the Occident and the Orient.

Accordingly, in 1652, the Dutch established themselves at the Cape. The advantages of the situation were at once perceived both by the colonists and the public men of Holland, who promoted the enterprise.

The patronage of the Dutch government was freely extended to the new dependency; immigration from the home kingdom was encouraged. Meanwhile the Dutch East India Company, directed by Jan Van Riebeeck, under whose immediate patronage the colony at the Cape had been planted, did little to promote, but much to restrict, the growth of the dependency. What the company desired was a trading station and not a new state. The settlement of the Dutch was made on the site of the present Cape Town, and the jurisdiction extended only a few miles into the interior.

Here it was that another point of contact was found by the Europeans with the native populations. The latter were blacks of the blackest type. The old name of the tribes occupying this part of the country was Qua-Qua, or Khoi-khoin, but for some reason this name was supplanted by that of Hottentots. The latter word seems to have been invented as an onomatopoetic imitation of the stammering cluck with which the native speech is pronounced. It was a language of hot-en-(and)-tot. The aborigines were one of the three lowest varieties of human beings; only the neighboring Bushmans and the natives of Australia could compete with them for the foot of the class.

Gradually, but slowly, the Dutch extended their authority over the Cape country. The natives were driven into the interior, or were reduced to slavery. There was already at the Cape a thin distribution of Europeans, consisting of a melange of Portuguese, Flemings, Germans, and even Poles. But these were few in numbers, and were generally a low kind, intermixed with the natives. They were unable to oppose the robust Dutch, but the latter were not sufficiently aggressive and enterprising to convert South Africa into a great commonwealth.

As the event here referred to, namely, the establishment of a permanent Dutch settlement at the Cape, was the beginning of that process of colonization which has given the Boer cast to large. districts in the region under consideration, we may look at the characteristics of this peculiar race. They were from the first a resolute but strongly conservative people. They had the agricultural instinct; they preferred the country life and production, to commerce and adventure. They desired to be let alone. They were annoyed with the restrictions which the East India Company imposed upon them.

That company had a most tyrannical method which it applied in the government of all its posts and settlements. It did not hesitate to declare what kind of industries the colonists should follow. They should plant this crop, and should not plant the other. As for taxation, that was exorbitant. Hardly could the thrift of the Dutch farmers, handicraftsmen, and small traders, answer the demands of the despotic organization which controlled them.

In order to meet the requirements of their condition, the Boers treated the natives with severity, and gradually took possession of a considerable district of the Hottentot country. Many of the blacks were reduced to slavery. The slave contingent was increased by the importation of both Malays and negroes. On the whole, while the local industry was sufficient, and while the contentment of the African Dutch was marked, the colony was not "progressive," and therefore it did not harmonize with the spirit and purpose of the English who came after them.

Such were the conditions in the original settlement from which the Boer countries of South Africa have drawn, in large measure, their present character. The interval from 1652 to 1686 may be designated as the first period of the Dutch ascendency at the Cape. In the last named year, a new element was added to the population, very accordant withal with the spirit of the Dutch colonists.

The Protestant Huguenots of France, escaping from the dreadful persecutions to which they were subjected after the revocation of the Edict of Nantes, sought peace in the ends of the earth. One refuge was in America, and another was at the Cape of Good Hope. The Dutch received them willingly, and a certain enthusiasm came with the importation of Gallic blood.

The Boers Arise in South Africa

The Boers, who may from this period be regarded as native and to the manner born in South Africa, became a separate people. They grew more and more restive under the exactions of the Dutch East India Company, to which corporation the home government gave the right of control, and at length, they rebelled against this state of affairs.

They went so far as to adopt the policy of removing beyond the colonial borders in order to escape from the tyrannical rule to which they were subjected.

This policy of the Dutch, now becoming Boers, was first adopted before the close of the seventeenth century. Boer settlements began to be formed across the boundary.

A movement took place among them in all respects analogous to that of the removal of the American colonists westward through the wilderness. It was this condition which in both South Africa and America has thrust the more liberty-loving people further and further into the interior. In all ages, human freedom has sought the frontier as a refuge from the despotism and mercenary control of the older communities.

The policy, thus adopted by the Boers two centuries ago, has been pursued by them ever since. Their first escape was from the tyrannous rule of their own government. They first colonized an interior district called Graaf-Reinat, and whenever afterward the colonial government, either Dutch or British, has encroached upon the interior provinces, the Boer population has followed the policy of receding before the aggressive foreign power, choosing independence rather than empire.

During the early part of the eighteenth century, the Gamtoos River was adopted and held by the Dutch as the eastern limit of their territory. This stream had hitherto been accepted by the Hottentots and the Kaffirs as the boundary line between them.

Clash at the Gamtoos

The Gamtoos, therefore, became the demarcation between the Dutch on the west, and the Kaffir nations on the east. This vent into new territory sufficed for colonial expansion until the year 1740, when the Boers crossed over the Gamtoos into the Kaffir territory, and began to make settlements in that country.

A clash ensued, and the natives were obliged to recede, though the Boers did not try to oppress them. The country was wide and sparsely inhabited, and thus gave opportunity for colonization by the European intruders.

The movement of the Dutch inland, from Cape Colony towards the Kaffir country and through it in the direction of the Orange River, thence to the Vaal and the Buffalo, and finally to the Limpopo, began before the middle of the eighteenth century and continued until the Orange Free State and South African Republic were constituted as the seats of the Boer concentration.

Boer War for Independence 1795

By the year 1780, this progressive drift of population had extended to the Great Fish River, which was for a period the Boer frontier. Such was the situation in 1795, when the colonists at the Cape, catching the fever of revolution from Western Europe, determined to free themselves from the dominion of the home kingdom. They revolted and declared independence.

The Dutch authorities were at this time hard pressed by the continental revolution which had extended into the Netherlands. Hereupon Great Britain, seeing the inability of the Dutch to keep their grip on South Africa, and fearing that that country might be seized by the French, sent a fleet to the cape and took possession of the country in the name of the Prince of Orange.

Without much disturbance to the colonists, British authority was established over them. A British governor was appointed, and peace was maintained until 1802, when, by the treaty of Amiens, Cape Colony was restored to Holland.

Four years afterwards, the continental war broke out with more violence than ever, and the British, under Sir David Baird, again took possession in South Africa. This assumption was maintained for nine years, when it was confirmed forever, at the Congress of Vienna. A new inap of the world was there constructed. Changes were effected in all the continents and in most of the archipelagos. Cape Colony was ceded I)y the King of the Netherlands to Great Britain, together with Ceylon, Dutch Gui aina, Mauritius, Tobago, Malta, and Helgoland. The aggregate result was to make the future possessions of the Dutch in South Africa an inland dominion.

British Cape Colony was now made to extend from the mouth of the Orange River all the way around the southern bend of the continent to the mouth of the Tugela. As for the Boers, they virtually lost their statehood and became a people, without definite territorial demarcations.

Such is the story of the Dutch in South Africa down to the Berlin Conference of 1884. After that date, a number of European states appeared on the map, the history of each of which the Orange Free State and the South African Republic included, will be noted in subsequent chapters down to the time of the Jameson episode.