Images de page


life, political life, or religious life. Gradually they succeeded in imposing their own language upon the new comers. 1709 the use of French was forbidden in all public matters, and in 1724 the services of the French Church were for the last time performed in the French language. Before the end of the last century the language was gone. Thus the French comers with their descendants were forced by an iron hand into Dutch moulds, and now nothing is left to them of their old country but their names. When one meets a Du Plessis or a De Villiers it is impossible to escape the memory of the French immigration.

The last half of the seventeenth and the whole of the eighteenth century saw the gradual progress of the Dutch depôt, a colony it could hardly be called,-going on in the same slow determined way, and always with the same purpose. It was no colony because those who managed it at home in Holland, and they who at the Cape served with admirable fidelity their Dutch masters, never entertained an idea as to the colonization of the country. A half-way house to India was erected by the Dutch East India Comfor the purpose of commerce, and it was necessary pany a community should be maintained at the Cape for this purpose. The less of trouble, the less of expense, the less of anything beyond mechanical service with which the work could be carried on, the better. It was not for the good of the Dutchmen who were sent out or of the Frenchmen who joined them, that the Council of 17 at Amsterdam troubled themselves with the matter; but because by doing so they could assist their own trade and add to their own gains.


Judge Watermeyer in one of three lectures which he gave on the state of the Colony under the Dutch quotes the following opinion on colonization from a Dutch Attorney General of the time. "The object of paramount importance in legislation for Colonies should be the welfare of the parent State of which the Colony is but a subordinate part and to which it owes its existence!" I need hardly point out that the present British theory of colonization is exactly the reverse of this. Some of those prosperous but by no means benevolent looking old gentlemen with gold chains, as we see them painted by Rembrandt and other Dutch Masters, were no doubt the owners of the Cape and its inhabitants. Slave labour was the readiest labour, and therefore slave labour was procured. The native races were not to be oppressed beyond endurance, because they would rise and fight. The community itself was not to grow rich, because if rich it would no longer be subservient to its masters. In the midst of all this there were fine qualities. The Governors were brave, stanch, and faithful. The people were brave and industrious,-and were not self-indulgent except with occasional festivities in which drunkenness was permissible. The wonder is that for so long a time they should have been so submissive, so serviceable, and yet have had so little of the sweets of life to enjoy.

There were some to whom the austerities of Dutch rule proved too hard for endurance, and these men moved away without permission into further districts in which they might live a free though hard life. In other words they "trekked," as the practice has been called to this day.

This system has been the mode of escape from the thraldom. of government which has been open to all inhabitants of South Africa. Men when they have been dissatisfied have gone away, always intending to get beyond the arm of the existing law; but as they have gone, the law has of necessity followed at their heels. An outlawed crew on the borders of any colony or settlement must be ruinous to it. And therefore far as white men have trekked, government has trekked after them, as we shall find when we come by and bye to speak of Natal, the Orange Free State, and the Transvaal.


In 1795 came the English. In that year the French Republican troops had taken possession of Holland, and the Prince of Orange, after the manner of dethroned potentates, took refuge in England. He gave an authority, which was dated from Kew, to the Governor of the Cape to deliver up all and everything in his hands to the English forces. On the arrival of the English fleet there was found to be, at the same time, a colonist rebellion. Certain distant burghers, for the territory had of course grown,—refused to obey the officers of the Company or to contribute to the taxes. In this double emergency the poor Dutch Governor, who does not seem to have regarded the Prince's order as an authority, was sorely puzzled. He fought a little, but only a little, and then the English were in possession. The castle was given up to General Craig, and in 1797 Lord Macartney came out as the first British Governor.

Great Britain at this time took possession of the Cape to prevent the French from doing so. No doubt it was a

most desirable possession, as being a half-way house for us to India as it had been for the Dutch. But we should not, at any rate then, have touched the place had it not been that Holland, or rather the Dutch, were manifestly unable to retain it. We spent a great deal of money at the settlement, built military works, and maintained a large garrison. But it was but for a short time, and during that short time our rule over the Dutchmen was uneasy and unprofitable. Something of rebellion seems to have been going on during the whole time, not so much against English authority as against Dutch law, and this rebellion was complicated by continual quarrels between the distant Boers, or Dutch farmers, and the Hottentots. It was an uncomfortable possession, and when at the peace of Amiens in 1802 it was arranged that the Cape of Good Hope should be restored to Holland, English Ministers of State did not probably grieve much at the loss. At this time the population of the Colony is supposed to have been 61,947, which was divided as follows:






But the peace of Amiens was delusive, and there was soon war between England and France. Then again Great Britain felt the necessity of taking the Cape, and proceeded to do so on this occasion without any semblance of Dutch authority. At that time whatever belonged to Holland was almost certain to fall into the hands of France. In 1805, while the battle of Austerlitz was making Napoleon a hero

on land, and Trafalgar was proving the heroism of England on the seas, Sir David Baird was sent with half a dozen regiments to expel, not the Dutch, but the Dutch Governor and the Dutch soldiers from the Cape. This he did easily, having encountered some slender resistance; and thus in 1806, on the 19th January, after a century and a half of Dutch rule, the Cape of Good Hope became a British Colony.

It should perhaps be stated that on the restoration of the Cape to Holland the dominion was not given back to the Dutch East India Company, but was maintained by the Government at the Hague. The immediate consequence of this was a great improvement in the laws, and a considerable relaxation of tyranny. Of this we of course had the full benefit, as we entered in upon our work with the idea of maintaining in most things the Dutch system.

« PrécédentContinuer »