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Natal derives its name from its discovery on Christmas Day, 1497, by Vasco de Gama. The country was occupied solely by natives until 1824, when a small party of Englishmen established themselves where Durban now stands. The Boers attempted to set up an independent government at Pietermaritzburg, but the Governor of the Cape in 1843 proclaimed it British, and annexed it to Cape Colony. In 1856 it was erected into a separate colony, with representative institutions, and in 1893 acquired responsible government.

The continuance of the English policy in favor of the natives led to a great migration of the Dutch boers from the Eastern Province in 1835 and the years following. Slavery had been finally abolished in 1834, and a general condemnation was soon afterwards passed by the British government on the Kaffir wars. Thousands of Dutch settlers, smarting from the loss of their Hottentot and negro slaves, and believing that the English were really encouraging the Kaffirs to massacre them, now abandoned their farms, placed their goods and their families in their ox-wagons, and crossed the Orange river into the land which later became the Orange Free State, driving their herds with them. Here they wandered about for some time, and at length found their way over the Drakenberg mountains into the district of Natal.

On the Christmas Day of the memorable year 1498, when Vasco da Gama had rounded the Cape, and was coasting round the Eastern shore on his way to India, he came upon a wide bay to whose picturesque shores he gave the name of Terra do Natal (Christmas-land). When the Boers entered this country there was already a small English settlement at Port Durban, on the bay. It had been founded by an English captain named Gardiner ; and he named it the Republic of Victoria, supposing that the British Government would never help him in organizing it. The English at the coast were ready enough to welcome the Dutch immigrants. The natives were few and feeble: after being under the tyranny of a ferocious Kaffir chief, they had now passed into a state of vassalage to the Europeans at the port.

But shortly after the arrival of the Boers, there happened an immigration of 100,000 warlike blacks from the interior called Zulus, with whom the Dutch had to do battle for their new settlement. They beat the Zulus : but they could not prevent them from settling down in large numbers all round them. Fancying themselves now independent of England, they elected a Volksraad, or national council, and proclaimed the Republic of Natalia. The emigrant Boers looked upon Natal as rightfully their country, and that the British Government had even abandoned it in their favour. Having assisted in conquering Dingaan, and placed Panda upon the throne, there was no reason to fear native aggressions. No fewer than 36,000 head of cattle were given in by the new monarch as an indemnity, so that the Boers were able to settle down not only in peace, but with considerable additional means at their disposal. The government adopted by this society of farmers was of an exceedingly ill-concerted character, and soon proved to be essentially anarchic and unworkable. The legislative, executive, and judicial powers were centred in a Volksraad of twenty-four members, whoVere required to assemble every three months at Pietermaritzburg.

Stock was stolen from Natal farmers towards the end of the year 1840, and armed burghers, under Andries Pretorius, were instructed to pursue the thieves. Traces of cattle, supposed to be those stolen, were followed to some kraals of the Amabaka tribe, and without any delay these people were attacked, several killed, 3000 head of cattle and 250 sheep and goats carried off. At the same time seventeen children were seized in fact, captured as slaves. The conduct of Pretorius was approved by the Volksraad, but Sir George Napier found himself obliged to reprobate it in the strongest language. British troops were immediately sent to the Umgasi river, between the Kei and the Umzimvoboo, and his Excellency declined any further intercourse with the emigrant Boers, unless they distinctly acknowledged that they were subjects of the Queen of England.

In 1843 Natal was declared a British Colony. The English protected the Zulus, and many of the Dutch went back over the Drakenberg : but in a few years British settlers began to arrive, and by 1880 there were 20,000 Europeans in the colony. In 1849 the sugar-cane was introduced in the lowlands near the coast; and within a few decades thousands of tons were made here every year, yielding employment to a large number of the natives, as well as to Hindoo coolies. Natal had valuable mines of coal, an important fact considering that great quantities of coal were formerly exported from England to the Cape, and that all South Africa was rich in valuable minerals. Besides this Natal, like the Cape, exported large quantities of wool and hides.

After being several years a dependency of the Cape government, it became a separate colony in 1856: but initially it had no representative government. The first decided evidences of progress in this colony date from the years 1859 to 1863. As the land is extremely fertile, and was sold very cheap, the increase of immigration was steady; and although Natal had always been beset with the same question which perplexed the South African colonists, it had all the elements of great future prosperity.

In 1879 war was carried on against Cetewayo, King of the Zulus; his territory was overrun and occupied; and in 1897 Zululand was annexed to Natal. In 1881 the Transvaal Boers entered the extreme northwestern corner of the colony and defeated the British at Majuba Hill. In 1899 and 1900 northern Natal was the scene of fierce fighting between the British and the Boers. At Elandslaagte, Glencoe, and Ladysmith, and all along the line of the Tugela, the most obstinate and sanguinary battles of the war occurred.

At the beginning of 1903 the districts of Utrecht Vryheid, Paulpietersburgh, and Ngotshe, formerly belonging to the Transvaal, were annexed. In 1906 there was a formidable Zulu uprising in the Tugela region. It was suppressed with heavy loss to the natives. In 1909 after a referendum Natal determined to join the Transvaal. On May 31, 1910, the colony became an original province of the Union of South Africa.

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Page last modified: 23-10-2012 19:12:44 ZULU