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Imperialism in South Africa

Imperialism in South Africa
Title: Imperialism in South Africa
Release Date: 2018-10-17
Type book: Text
Copyright Status: Public domain in the USA.
Date added: 27 March 2019
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The Project Gutenberg eBook, Imperialism in South Africa, by J. EwingRitchieThis eBook is for the use of anyone anywhere in the United States and mostother parts of the world at no cost and with almost no restrictions whatsoever.  You may copy it, give it away or re-use it under the terms ofthe Project Gutenberg License included with this eBook or online at www.gutenberg.org.  If you are not located in the United States, you'll haveto check the laws of the country where you are located before using this ebook.Title: Imperialism in South AfricaAuthor: J. Ewing RitchieRelease Date: October 17, 2018  [eBook #58121]Language: EnglishCharacter set encoding: ISO-646-US (US-ASCII)***START OF THE PROJECT GUTENBERG EBOOK IMPERIALISM IN SOUTH AFRICA***

Transcribed from the 1879 James Clarke & Co. edition byDavid Price, email [email protected]

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It is vain to dispute the fact thatthose Puritan Fathers—who, upon one occasion, held ameeting, and resolved first that the earth was the Lord’s,and the fulness thereof; secondly, that it was the heritage ofthe saints; and that thirdly, they were the saints, and were,therefore, justified in depriving the natives of their grounds,and in taking possession of them themselves—had a fullshare of that English faculty of appropriation which has madeEngland the mistress of the seas, and for a while, almost, theruler of the world; and, as Englishmen, we cannot say that on thewhole that wholesale system, which has planted the British flagin every quarter of the globe, has been disastrous to thecommunities ruled over, or dishonourable to the nationitself.  In some cases undoubtedly we have acted unjustly;in some cases the lives and happiness of millions have beenplaced in incompetent hands; in some cases we have had selfishrulers and incapable officers; but India and Canada and the WestIndian Islands and Australia and New Zealand are the better forour rule.  An Englishman may well be proud of what hiscountrymen have done, and it becomes us to review the past in nonarrow, carping, and censorious spirit.  We have spent moneyby millions, but then we are rich, and the expenditure has notbeen an unproductive one.  We have sacrificed valuablelives, but the men who have fallen have been embalmed in thenation’s memory, and the story of their heroism will mouldthe character and fire the ambition and arouse the sympathies ofour children’s children, as they did those of our fathersin days gone by; and yet there is a danger lest we undertakeresponsibilities beyond our means, and find ourselves engaged incontests utterly needless in the circumstances of the case, andcertain to result in a vain effusion of blood and expenditure ofmoney.  As far as South Africa is concerned, this isemphatically the case.  Originally the Cape Settlement wasbut a fort for the p.6the coast.  The country is subject to drought, andseems chiefly to be inhabited by diamond diggers, ostrichfarmers, and wool growers.  Its great agricultural resourcesare undeveloped, because labour is dear, and all carriage to thecoast is expensive.  The English never stop in the colonies,but return to England as soon as they have made a fortune. Living is quite as dear as in England, and in many partsdearer.  In the Cape Colony, the chief amusements of allclasses are riding, driving, shooting, and billiards.  Inthe interior there are fine views to be seen, and in somequarters an abundance of game.  The thunderstorms arefrightful, the rivers, dry in summer, are torrents inwinter.  The droughts, the snakes, the red soil dust, andthe Kaffirs, are a perpetual nuisance to all decent people. “Although South Africa is a rising colony,” writesSir Arthur Cunynghame, “I hardly think it offers to theemigrant the chances which he would obtain in Australia or NewZealand.  South Africa is not a very rich country. Labour is hard to obtain, and it will be years before irrigationcan be carried on a sufficient scale to make agriculture abrilliant Success.  Nevertheless, land is so abundant thatthe energetic colonist is sure, at least, to make a living, andprovided he does not drink, has a good chance of becoming a richman.”  A great deal of money is made by ostrichfarming and sheep grazing, but they are occupations which requirecapital.  As to cereals, it pays better to buy them than togrow them.  A cabbage appears to be a costly luxury, and theprice of butter is almost prohibitive.  “SouthAfrica,” wrote a Saturday Reviewer recently,“is the paradise of hunters, and the purgatory ofcolonists.”  The remark is not exactly true, but forall practical purposes it may be accepted as the truth.  Ifthis be so, how is it, then, it may be asked, we English havebeen so anxious to get possession of the country?  Theanswer is, We hold the Cape of Good Hope to be desirable as aport of call and harbour of refuge on our way to India; but theopening of the Suez Canal has changed all that, and the reasonfor which we took it from the Dutch in 1806 does not existnow.  Whether the country has ever made a penny by the Caperemains to be proved.

In taking possession of the Cape of Good Hope, we found therea people whom we have annexed against their will, and of whom wehave made bitter enemies.  These were the original Dutchsettlers, or Boers, a primitive, pastoral people, with a gooddeal of the piety of the Pilgrim Fathers, and who set to work toexterminate the pagans much after the fashion of the Jews, ofwhom we read in the Old Testament.  Their plan of gettingrid of the native difficulty was a very effective one.  Theyeither made the native a slave, or they drove him away.  Mr.Thomas Pringle, one of our earliest colonists, says, “Theirdemeanour towards us, whom they p. 7might be supposed naturally to regardwith exceeding jealousy, if not dislike, was more friendly andobliging than could, under all the circumstances, have beenexpected.”  They were, he says, uncultivated, but notdisagreeable, neighbours, exceedingly shrewd at bargain making;but they were civil and good-natured, and, according to thecustom of the country, extremely hospitable; and the sametestimony has been borne to them by later travellers.  Theylived as farmers, and the life agreed with them.  The menare finely made, and out of them a grand empire might beraised.  In 1815 they made an effort to shake off theBritish yoke.  A Hottentot, named Booy, appeared at themagistrate’s office at Cradock, and complained of theoppressive conduct of a Boer of the name of FrederickBezuidenhout.  Inquiry was accordingly made.  The Boeradmitted the facts, but, instead of yielding to themagistrate’s order, he boldly declared that he consideredthis interference between himself and his Hottentot to be apresumptuous innovation upon his rights, and an intolerableusurpation of authority.  He told the field-cornet that heset at defiance both himself and the magistrate who had sent himon this officious errand, and, to give further emphasis to hiswords, he fell violently upon poor Boor, gave him a severebeating, and then bade him go and tell the civil authorities thathe would treat them in the same manner if they should dare tocome upon his grounds to claim the property of a Hottentot. It must be remembered that when the Boers were handed over to us,without their leave or without their consent being in any wayasked, each Boer had perfect control over the liberty and lifeand limb of every Hottentot under his control.  It was onlythus he believed his property was safe, and his throatuncut.  But to return to Bezuidenhout.  The CapeGovernment could not allow his defiance to pass unheeded. An expedition was sent out against him, and he was shot. The affair excited a great sensation in the country.  At anumerous assemblage of the Boers in the neighbourhood, it wasresolved to revenge his death.  They did more; they resolvedto be independent of the hateful British yoke; but, it isneedless to add, in vain.  England, after putting downNapoleon, and triumphing at Waterloo, was in no mood to be defiedby a handful of Dutch farmers in a distant quarter of theglobe.  But the Cape Government had Kaffir wars to fight,and they could not afford to treat the Boers as absolute enemies,and they were rewarded with a large portion of the territory, wonfrom the Kaffirs in 1819.  But this was not sufficient fortheir earth-hunger.  They crossed the boundaries, and, withtheir lives in their hands, planted themselves among thesavages.  In 1838 they went off still further from Britishrule.  In that year the slaves were manumitted, and a sum ofmoney was voted as a compensation to p. 8the Boers.  To the shame of theBritish Government, it must be confessed that the equivalent wasnever paid them.  Despairing of ever receiving it, they soldtheir rights to Jews and middlemen, and trekked far out into thecountry into the districts known as Griqualand, Natal, the OrangeFree State, and the Transvaal.  It is because we havefollowed them there, when there was no need to have done so, thatwe are now engaged in a costly and bloody war.  First weseized Natal; then we took possession of the Diamond Fields, andour last act was the annexation of the Transvaal.  How farthis system of annexation is to spread, it is impossible tosay.  It is equally impossible to state what will be itscost in treasure and in men.  It seems equally difficult tosay upon whom the blame of this annexation system rests.  Itreally seems as if we were villains, as Shakespeare says, bynecessity and fools by a divine thrusting on.  We shouldhave left the Boers alone.  They were not British subjects,and did not want to be such.  Natal was not Britishterritory when they settled there, neither was the Orange FreeState Territory; and, at any rate, in 1854 their independence,which had been persistently fought for, and nobly won, wasacknowledged by the British Government as regards the Orange FreeState and the Transvaal.  Surely in South Africa there wasroom for the Englishman and the Boer, and if it had not been forthe dream of Imperialism, which seems to dominate the brain ofour colonial rulers, the two nations might have lived andflourished side by side.  The Boer, at any rate, has madehimself at home on the soil.  It agrees with himphysically.  In the Orange State and the Transvaal he madegood roads, and built churches and schools and gaols, and turnedthe wilderness into a fruitful field.  In reply to theEnglish who pleaded for annexation, he said, “We fled fromyou years ago; leave us in peace.  We shall pay our debtsearly enough; your presence can but tend to increase them, and todrive us through fresh wanderings, through new years of bloodshedand misery, to seek homes whither you will no longer followus.  We conquered and peopled Natal; you reaped the fruitsof that conquest.  What have you done for that colony? Do you seek to do with our Transvaal as you have done with it, tomake our land a place of abomination, defiled with femaleslavery, reeking with paganism, and likely, as Natal is, only toosoon to be red with blood?”

“The Transvaal,” wrote one who knew South Africawell—the late Mr. Thomas Baines—“will yetcommand the admiration of the world for the perseverance, theprimitive manliness and hardihood of its pioneers.” As a proof of advancing prosperity, when he was there in 1860 itsone-pound notes had risen in value till four were taken for asovereign, and several hundred pounds’ worth p. 9had been calledin and publicly burnt upon the market-place.  It is a proofof the simplicity of the people that on that occasion the Boersand Doppers (adult Baptists) crowded wrathfully around, andbitterly commented on the wastefulness of their Government inwickedly destroying so much of the money of their Republic; whileothers, of more advanced views, discussed the means of raisingthem still further in value, and sagely remarked that becausethey had been printed in Holland the English would not take them,but that if others were printed in London they would certainly beas good as a Bank of England note.  In the Volksraad (Houseof Commons) now and then some amusing scenes occurred.  Theprogressive party wanted, one day,

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