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Cape Colony

Cape Colony (officially, Province Of The Cape Of Good Hope), the most southern part of Africa, was a British possession since 1806. It was named from the promontory on its southwest coast discovered in 1488 by the Portuguese navigator Diaz, and near which the first settlement of Europeans (Dutch) was made in 1652. From 1872 to 1910 a self-governing colony, in the last-named year it entered the Union of South Africa as an original province. Cape Colony as such then ceased to exist. The Dutch East India Company formed their settlement at the Cape, in the middle of the seventeenth century, as a convenient halting-place for their vessels, such as the English Company had at the island of St. Helena. The history of this Dutch settlement would be as unimportant as that of Mombaza or Melinda, but for the fact that many poor Dutchmen settled there and cultivated the soil, as Englishmen had already done in North America. As is usual in a new country, the Boers, or farmers, suffered great hardships. Sometimes they lived on the flesh of penguins and monkeys : and for stealing a cabbage a man was sentenced to three years penal servitude. But they throve better in course of time: their cattle multiplied: they brought slaves from Guinea, and Malays from Java; and they made slaves of the native Hottentots.

After the revocation of the edict of Nantes, many French protestants came and settled near the town of Stellenbosch : they brought with them the vine-plant, and in a few years the vineyards of Constantia had become famous even in Europe. The traffic between Europe and India brought to the Cape many of the waifs and strays of both, and hence the place was early noted for its poor and mixed population. Otherwise the colony attracted little notice. It was tyrannically governed by the officials of the East India Company: and the slaves and Hottentots were cruelly treated by the settlers.

Capetown grew in proportion to the extension of the farms, just as the towns of Australia had since done. The farmers, as they prospered, got tired of living up the country, and came down to the town, leaving the management of their farms to their slaves. Some settlers lived by fishing and petty trading: and others by letting out slaves to work for hire. But there was no getting rich on a large scale, for the Company limited the size of the farms, and kept most of the trade in its own hands.

The method under which the holdings of the Boers in South Africa were formed is both interesting in itself as the earliest example of modern agricultural colonization as a regular system, and important for understanding subsequent South African history. The Boers at first never thought of anything like absolute ownership of the soil. The Company allowed each Boer to choose his own place for settling, and to occupy a large space of land, which from its being held on loan or sufferance was called his loan-place. A central point was fixed, and all the land within half-an-hour's walk in any direction from it was included in the loan-place. The settler received no title-deeds with his land, but only a written permission to occupy; and of course he could not be expected to make any permanent improvements on a place from which he could be at any moment ejected by some more favoured person.

To induce the Boers to build houses and cultivate the soil, about 120 acres of land, selected by themselves anywhere within their loan-places, were granted as freeholds to each. Here the boer built his house, and planted his vines and his orange trees. His sons also built their houses around in the same way, so that each loan-place gradually became a family colony in itself, with from six to twenty thousand acres of pasture land around, on which the flocks and herds multiplied with little trouble. This system was afterwards carried out in places where no official eye had penetrated; and when the English government afterwards converted this tenure by sufferance into freehold property, there was much difficulty in settling conflicting claims where no accurate boundary had been fixed.

The farming was of the poorest and most primitive kind : and as all the work was done by slaves, it is not wonderful that the progress of the colony was slow. Janssens, the last of the Dutch governors, replied to a proposal for a new settlement in the place by saying that he did not see how any more people could subsist there, and that he contemplated the actual increase of population with alarm, not knowing where the children of the next generation would find bread to eat. At this time, after an existence of a century and a half, the colony contained about 20,000 free people. Since it came into the possession of England, by around 1880 the number increased to over a million. In governor Janssens' time some loads of wool, which had been brought down for export, found no buyer, and the wool was thrown to the winds upon the beach. By the late 19th century the export of the same article from South Africa amounted to three millions sterling.

Such were the consequences of the narrow and tyrannical government of the Company. The Dutch are a republican people, and it was not likely that the colonists would endure it longer than they could help. The revolt of the English colonists in America, and events in France, were enough to show them the way; but the change was precipitated by the revolutionary disturbances which distracted Holland about the same time. The Company had long been in a decaying condition; and when the French conquered Holland in 1795, it was abolished, its debts and possessions becoming those of the nation.

The Cape colony, exclusive of Capetown, was divided into three Provinces. The eastern parts of the Cape Colony had two periods of relative separation from the rest of the colony, both under Andries Stockenstrm, who in 1828 was appointed Commissioner-General of the Eastern Districts to negotiate with indigenous rulers beyond the colonys borders. In February 1836 he was appointed Lieutenant-Governor of the Eastern Province of the Cape Colony (a territory covering the same districts as he had previously controlled). This brief period of separation was the inspiration of a separatist movement in the eastern districts that continued for several decades but eventually came to nothing. The region is today the western half of the Eastern Cape Province. The names Eastern Province and Western Province remained in popular usage, especially in the sporting associations based respectively in Port Elizabeth and Cape Town and the military commands based in those cities.

Capetown enjoyed a hateful official predominance; and the inhabitants of two of the other provinces now declared themselves independent, expelled the government officials and proclaimed a republic at Swellendam. The English Government saw in this incident nothing but an effect of French revolutionary principles; the Cape was now an important naval station; and they topk possession of the whole colony on behalf of the Prince of Orange, who had been driven from Holland. This British protectorate over the colony lasted until the peace of Amiens, when it was evacuated and restored to Holland.

Upon the war breaking out again, the English again took possession of the Cape: and since 1806 it remained in their possession, having been formally ceded by the Treaty of Paris in 1815. Public opinion was gradually stirred against the slave-trade and slavery, on which, however, the prosperity of many European colonies was supposed to depend. The Cape was one of these; and the first consequence of the British occupation was the abolition of this trade: for the last cargo of slaves came to Capetown in 1807. The Dutch, who did not share the humane ideas of the English, were exasperated at this : and still more by the laws for the protection of the Hottentots, which the English made and rigorously executed. They were afterwards still more offended by the abolition of the institution of slavery itself. In 1815, some of the Boers attempted a rebellion, in consequence of some prosecutions for illusing the Hottentots, and in this they were helped by some neighboring natives, who from time to time proved very troublesome to the English.

No colonizing expedition was more successful than that which was sent out by the English government in 1820. Free settlers had already been emigrating to New South Wales; and after the war of 1818, it appeared to the government that a settlement might well be established in the conquered part of Kaffirland if people could be sent out in sufficient numbers to protect themselves. They voted ,50,000 to send out 5,000 colonists: and in 1820 this party landed at Port Elizabeth in Algoa Bay. The government transported them in waggons to their freehold allotments of 100 acres each, and supplied them with rations until they could manage to subsist by their farming. They suffered many hardships: but the new colony steadily prospered and extended: in 1835 it became a separate district by the name of the Eastern Province: and it soon rivaled the Western Province in wealth and population.

There were already many Dutch settlers in the Eastern Province: indeed, the old Dutch Province of Graaf-Reynet was incorporated with it. But the Eastern Province has taken a character so different from the Western as to illustrate exactly the difference between the English and the Dutch settlers. It is less self-contained, and more enterprising. It devotes itself to raising goods for export, and above two-thirds of the whole customs duties of the colony are raised at Port Elizabeth. It is true that the exports of the Orange State are included in the trade of Port Elizabeth: but after making all allowances, there is no doubt that the Eastern Province has grown much faster in proportion than the Western.

The Cape was included in that general enfranchisement of all British colonies which were willing to accept it, which took place in the middle of the 19th century. For nearly thirty years after the conquest the colony remained under military rule: but this ceased in 1835, when executive and legislative councils were appointed. But the Dutch, a nation full of political instincts, had always been discontented at their exclusion from political rights, and the new English settlers were not slow to take up this feeling. As early as 1841, the people petitioned for representative government, and the governor, Sir George Napier, warmly supported their request; but the Colonial Office found difficulties in the way, both as to the exact measure of the proposed grant, and in connection with the scattered character of the settlements, and the remoteness of the Eastern Province from the seat of government.

An incident in the year 1849 forced on the measure. Australia had now closed her ports against English convict ships, and Lord Grey, then Colonial Secretary, determined to send the convicts henceforth to the Cape. A shipload of Irish political prisoners actually arrived off Capetown; but the colonists rose in arms, and would not allow them to be landed. This successful resistance encouraged them to repeat their demands: and at length in 1850 the governor was empowered to summon a constituent council, as in Australia. The constituent council settled the new form of government, on the basis of a Legislative Council or Upper House, and a House of Assembly, both elected by persons possessing a property qualification. As the governor was not responsible to his parliament, this was much the same constitution as Canada enjoyed up to the year 1840. The first Cape parliament met in 1854: but for twenty years the government of the colony was carried on chiefly from home, and with indifferent success. There was constant poverty and commercial depression; the colony seemed incapable of progress, and had even to raise loans to pay its current expenses of government.

The opening of the Suez canal in 1870 removed much of the traffic which formerly passed by the Cape, though the injury to the colony has been far less than was anticipated. But the Cape became of far less importance as a station on the way to India: and the defences of this colony could no longer be allowed to cost the mother-country 300,000 a year. Gradually it came to be seen that the Cape people ought to be left entirely to the management of their own affairs: and in 1874 this half-and-half state of things ceased, and the colony passed into the hands of local ministers responsible to the Assembly, as in Canada and the Australian colonies. This measure was forced on by the increasing difficulties with the natives in other states of South Africa, in the belief that it would be followed by these states in some way or other joining with the free Cape government to make a general South African Confederation.

The territory of the Cape colony had been in the meantime increased by the addition of some territory beyond the Eastern Province. At the close of the war of 1835, British authority was extended over a considerable tract of Kaffirland; and at the end of the last Kaffir war in 1853 this was definitely annexed by the name of British Kaffraria. In 1865 British Kaffraria was incorporated with the Eastern Province, and authorized to send representatives to the Assembly at Capetown.

Griqualand West was settled about 1833 by the Griquas or "Baastards," a tribe of Dutch-Hottentot half-breeds. When diamonds were discovered in 1867 there was a rush from all sides, and in 1871 Griqualand West was proclaimed a colony. But in 1872 the Griqua chief, Waterboer, was induced to cede his authority, and the province was annexed to Cape Colony, but with independent jurisdiction. In 1881 it became an integral part of Cape Colony with a capital at Kimberley. Griqualand East comprised Noman's Land, the Gatberg, and St. John's River territory, under eight subordinate magistrates. Tembuland comprised Tembuland proper, Emigrant Tambukiland, and Bomvanaland, under ten magistrates. Transkei comprised Fingoland, Idutywa Reserve, and Galikaland, under six magistrates. Walfish Bay, an isolated port on the coast of Damaraland, was administered by a resident magistrate.

The Transkeian Territories, sometimes called Kaffraria, was divided from Cape Colony by the Kei River. It consisted of a number of small Kaffir tribal territories, which, since 1876, had bit by bit been annexed to Cape Colony. They were ruled by Resident Magistrates, under the direct control of the Government of the colony.

Pondoland, the part which remained independent until 1886-7, came under British influence in consequence of the raids upon Xesibes, a tribe under British protection, and it remained a Protectorate until 1894, when it became an integral part of Cape Colony. In 1885 the territories south of Molopo River and of the Ramathlabana Spruit were declared to be British territory under the name of British Bechuanaland, and a commission was issued to the Governor of the Cape to be its Governor, with power to legislate by proclamation. It was annexed to Cape Colony in 1895. In 1884 Basutoland was made an independent colony.

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Page last modified: 23-10-2012 19:12:43 ZULU