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Chapter 1

ITS INHABITANTS, LAWS, AND CUSTOMS

Invasion by Mosilikatze--Arrival of the emigrant Boers--Establishment
of the South African republic--The Sand River convention--Growth of
the territory of the republic--The native tribes surrounding
it--Capabilities of the country--Its climate--Its inhabitants--The
Boers--Their peculiarities and mode of life--Their abhorrence of
settled government and payment of taxes--The Dutch patriotic party--Form
of government previous to the annexation--Courts of law--The commando
system--Revenue arrangements--Native races in the Transvaal.

--

The Transvaal is a country without a history. Its very existence
was hardly known of until about fifty years ago. Of its past we know
nothing. The generations who peopled its great plains have passed
utterly out of the memory and even the traditions of man, leaving no
monument to mark that they have existed, not even a tomb.

During the reign of Chaka, 1813-1828, whose history has been sketched
in a previous chapter, one of his most famous generals, Mosilikatze,
surnamed the Lion, seceded from him with a large number of his soldiers,
and striking up in a north-westerly direction, settled in or about what
is now the Morico district of the Transvaal. The country through which
Mosilikatze passed was at that time thickly populated with natives
of the Basutu or Macatee race, whom the Zulus look upon with great
contempt. Mosilikatze expressed the feelings of his tribe in a practical
manner, by massacring every living soul of them that came within his
reach. That the numbers slaughtered were very great, the numerous ruins
of Basutu kraals all over the country testify.

It was Chaka's intention to follow up Mosilikatze and destroy him,
but he was himself assassinated before he could do so. Dingaan, his
successor, however, carried out his brother's design, and despatched
a large force to punish him. This army, after marching over 300 miles,
burst upon Mosilikatze, drove him back with slaughter, and returned
home triumphant. The invasion is important, because the Zulus claim the
greater part of the Transvaal territory by virtue of it.

About the time that Mosilikatze was conquered, 1835-1840, the
discontented Boers were leaving the Cape Colony exasperated at the
emancipation of the slaves by the Imperial authorities. First they made
their way to Natal, but being followed thither by the English flag they
travelled further inland over the Vaal River and founded the town
of Mooi River Dorp or Potchefstroom. Here they were joined by other
malcontents from the Orange Sovereignty, which, although afterwards
abandoned, was at that time a British possession. Acting upon


The good old rule, the simple plan
Of let him take who has the power,
And let him keep who can,

the Boers now proceeded to possess themselves of as much territory as
they wanted. Nor was this a difficult task. The country was, as I have
said, peopled by Macatees, who are a poor-spirited race as compared to
the Zulus, and had had what little courage they possessed crushed out of
them by the rough handling they had received at the hands of Mosilikatze
and Dingaan. The Boers, they argued, could not treat them worse than the
Zulus had done. Occasionally a Chief, bolder than the rest, would hold
out, and then such an example was made of him and his people that few
cared to follow in his footsteps.

As soon as the Boers were fairly settled in their new home, they began
to think about setting up a Government. First they tried a system of
Commandants, with a Commandant-general, but this does not seem to have
answered. Next, those of their number who lived in Lydenburg district
(where the gold fields now are) set up a Republic, with a President and
Volksraad, or popular assembly. This example was followed by the other
white inhabitants of the country, who formed another Republic and
elected another President, with Pretoria for their capital. The two
republics were subsequently incorporated.

In 1852 the Imperial authorities, having regard to the expense of
maintaining an effective government over an unwilling people in an
undeveloped and half-conquered country, concluded a convention with the
emigrant Boers "beyond the Vaal River." The following were the principal
stipulations of this convention, drawn up between Major Hogg and
Mr. Owen, Her Majesty's Assistant-Commissioners for the settling and
adjusting of the affairs of the eastern and north-eastern boundaries of
the Colony of the Cape of Good Hope on the one part, and a deputation
representative of the emigrant farmers north of the Vaal River on the
other. It was guaranteed "in the fullest manner on the part of the
British Government to the emigrant farmers beyond the Vaal River the
right to manage their own affairs, and to govern themselves according
to their own laws, without any interference on the part of the
British Government, and that no encroachment shall be made by the said
Government on the territory beyond to the north of the Vaal River, with
the further assurance that the warmest wish of the British Government is
to promote peace, free trade, and friendly intercourse with the emigrant
farmers now inhabiting, or who hereafter may inhabit that country, it
being understood that this system of non-interference is binding on both
parties."

Next were disclaimed, on behalf of the British Government, "all
alliances whatever and with whomsoever of the coloured nations to the
north of the Vaal River."

It was also agreed "that no slavery is or shall be permitted or
practised in the country to the north of the Vaal River by the emigrant
farmers."

It was further agreed "that no objection shall be made by any British
authority against the emigrant Boers purchasing their supplies of
ammunition in any of the British colonies and possessions of South
Africa; it being mutually understood that all trade in ammunition with
the native tribes is prohibited both by the British Government and the
emigrant farmers on both sides of the Vaal River."

These were the terms of this famous convention, which is as slipshod in
its diction as it is vague in its meaning. What, for instance, is meant
by the territory to the north of the Vaal River? According to the letter
of the agreement, Messrs. Hogg and Owen ceded all the territory between
the Vaal and Egypt. This historical document was the Charta of the
new-born South African Republic. Under its provisions, the Boers, now
safe from interference on the part of the British, established their own
Government and promulgated their "Grond Wet," or Constitution.

The history of the Republic between 1852 and 1876 is not very
interesting, and is besides too wearisome to enter into here. It
consists of an oft-told tale of civil broils, attacks on native tribes,
and encroachment on native territories. Until shortly before the
Annexation, every burgher was, on coming of age, entitled to receive
from the Government 6000 acres of land. As these rights were in the
early days of the Republic frequently sold to speculators for such
trifles as a bottle of brandy or half a dozen of beer, and as the seller
still required his 6000 acres: for a Boer considers it beneath his
dignity to settle on less, it is obvious that it required a very large
country to satisfy all demands. To meet these demands, the territories
of the Republic had to be stretched like an elastic band, and they were
stretched accordingly,--at the expense of the natives. The stretching
process was an ingenious one, and is very well described in a minute
written by Mr. Osborn, the late Magistrate at Newcastle, dated 22d
September, 1876, in these words:--

"The Boers, as they have done in other cases and are still doing,
encroached by degrees on native territory, commencing by obtaining
permission to graze stock upon portions of it at certain seasons of the
year, followed by individual graziers obtaining from native headmen
a sort of right or license to squat upon certain defined portions,
ostensibly in order to keep other Boer squatters away from the same
land. These licenses, temporarily intended as friendly or neighbourly
acts by unauthorised headmen, after a few seasons of occupation by
the Boer, are construed by him as title, and his permanent occupation
ensues. Damage for trespass is levied by him from the very man from whom
he obtained the right to squat, to which the natives submit out of fear
of the matter reaching the ears of the paramount chief, who would in all
probability severely punish them for opening the door to encroachment
by the Boer. After a while, however, the matter comes to a crisis in
consequence of the incessant disputes between the Boers and the natives;
one or other of the disputants lays the case before the paramount chief,
who, when hearing both parties, is literally frightened with violence
and threats by the Boer into granting him the land. Upon this the usual
plan followed by the Boer is at once to collect a few neighbouring
Boers, including a field cornet, or even an acting provisional field
cornet, appointed by the field cornet or provisional cornet, the latter
to represent the Government, although without instructions authorising
him to act in the matter. A few cattle are collected among themselves,
which the party takes to the chief, and his signature is obtained to a
written document alienating to the Republican Boers a large slice of all
his territory. The contents of this document are, as far as I can make
out, never clearly or intelligibly explained to the chief who signs and
accepts of the cattle under the impression that it is all in settlement
of hire for the grazing licenses granted by his headmen. This, I have no
hesitation in saying, is the usual method by which the Boers obtain
what they call cessions to them of territories by native chiefs. In
Secocoeni's case they allege that his father Sequati cedes to them the
whole of his territory (hundreds of square miles) for a hundred head of
cattle."

So rapidly did this progress go on that the little Republic to the
"North of the Vaal River," had at the time of the Annexation grown into
a country of the size of France. Its boundaries had only been clearly
defined where they abutted on neighbouring White Communities, or on
the territories of great native powers, on which the Government had not
dared to infringe to any marked degree, such as those of Lo Bengula's
people in the north. But wheresoever on the State's borders there had
been no white Power to limit its advances, or where the native tribes
had found themselves too isolated or too weak to resist aggressions,
there the Republic had by degrees encroached and extended the shadow, if
not the substance, of its authority.

The Transvaal has a boundary line of over 1,600 miles in circumference,
and of this a large portion is disputed by different native tribes.
Speaking generally, the territory lies between the 22 and 28 degrees of
South Latitude and the 25 and 32 degrees of East Longitude, or between
the Orange Free State, Natal and Griqualand West on the south, and the
Limpopo River on the north; and between the Lebombo mountains on the
east, and the Kalihari desert on the west. On the north of its territory
live three great tribes, the Makalaka, the Matabele (descendants of
the Zulus who deserted Chaka under Mosilikatze) and the Matyana. These
tribes are all warlike. On the west, following the line down to the
Diamond Field territory, are the Sicheli, the Bangoaketsi, the Baralong
and the Koranna tribes. Passing round by Griqualand West, the Free
State, and Natal, we reach Zululand on the south-east corner; then
come the Lebombo mountains on the east, separating the Transvaal from
Amatonga land, and from the so-called Portuguese possessions, which
are entirely in the hands of native tribes, most of them subject to the
great Zulu chief, Umzeila, who has his stronghold in the north-east.

It will be observed that the country is almost surrounded by native
tribes. Besides these there are about one million native inhabitants
living within its borders. In one district alone, Zoutpansberg, it
is computed that there are 364,250 natives, as compared to about 750
whites.

If a beautiful and fertile country were alone necessary to make a state
and its inhabitants happy and prosperous, happiness and prosperity would
rain upon the Transvaal and the Dutch Boers. The capabilities of this
favoured land are vast and various. Within its borders are to be found
highlands and lowlands, vast stretches of rolling veldt like gigantic
sheep downs, hundreds of miles of swelling bushland, huge tracts of
mountainous country, and even little glades spotted with timber that
remind one of an English park. There is every possible variety of soil
and scenery. Some districts will grow all tropical produce, whilst
others are well suited for breeding sheep, cattle and horses. Most
of the districts will produce wheat and all other cereals in greater
perfection and abundance than any of the other South African colonies.
Two crops of cereals may be obtained from the soil every year, and
both the vine and tobacco are cultivated with great success. Coffee,
sugar-cane and cotton have been grown with profit in the northern parts
of the State. Also the undeveloped mineral wealth of the country is very
great. Its known minerals are gold, copper, lead, cobalt, iron, coal,
tin and plumbago: copper and iron having long been worked by the
natives. Altogether there is little doubt that the Transvaal is the
richest of all the South African states, and had it remained under
English rule it would, with the aid of English enterprise and capital,
have become a very wealthy and prosperous country. However there is
little chance of that now.

Perhaps the greatest charm of the Transvaal lies in its climate, which
is among the best in the world, and in all the southern districts very
healthy. During the winter months, that is from April to October, little
or no rain falls, and the climate is cold and bracing. In summer it is
rather warm, but not overpoweringly hot, the thermometer at Pretoria
averaging from 65 to 73 degrees, and in the winter from 59 to 56
degrees. The population of the Transvaal is estimated at about 40,000
whites, mostly of Dutch origin, consisting of about thirty vast
families: and one million natives. There are several towns, the largest
of which are Pretoria and Potchefstroom.

Such is the country that we annexed in 1877, and were drummed out of
in 1881. Now let us turn to its inhabitants. It has been the fashion to
talk of the Transvaal as though nobody but Boers lived in it. In reality
the inhabitants were divided into three classes: 1. Natives; 2. Boers;
3. English. I say were divided, because the English class can now hardly
be said to exist, the country having been made too hot to hold it, since
the war. The natives stand in the proportion of nearly twenty to one
to the whites. The Boers were in their turn much more numerous than the
English, but the latter owned nearly all the trading establishments in
the country, and also a very large amount of property.

The Transvaal Boers have been very much praised up by members of the
Government in England, and others who are anxious to advance their
interests, as against English interests. Mr. Gladstone, indeed, can
hardly find words strong enough to express his admiration of their
leaders, those "able men," since they inflicted a national humiliation
on us; and doubtless they are a people with many good points. That they
are not devoid of sagacity can be seen by the way they have dealt with
the English Government.

The Boers are certainly a peculiar people, though they can hardly be
said to be "zealous of good works." They are very religious, but their
religion takes it colour from the darkest portions of the Old Testament;
lessons of mercy and gentleness are not at all to their liking, and they
seldom care to read the Gospels. What they delight in are the stories of
wholesale butchery by the Israelites of old; and in their own position
they find a reproduction of that of the first settlers in the Holy Land.
Like them they think they are entrusted by the Almighty with the task
of exterminating the heathen native tribes around them, and are always
ready with a scriptural precedent for slaughter and robbery. The name of
the Divinity is continually on their lips, sometimes in connection with
very doubtful statements. They are divided into three sects, none of
which care much for the other two. These are the Doppers, who number
about half the population, the Orthodox Reform, and the Liberal Reform,
which is the least numerous. Of these three sects, the Doppers are
by far the most uncompromising and difficult to deal with. They much
resemble the puritans of Charles the First's time, of the extreme
Hew-Agag-in-pieces stamp.

It is difficult to agree with those who call the Boers cowards, an
accusation which the whole of their history belies. A Boer does not like
fighting if he can avoid it, because he sets a high value on his own
life; but if he is cornered, he will fight as well as anybody else. The
Boers fought well enough, in the late war, though that, it is true, is
no great criterion of courage, since they were throughout flushed with
victory, and, owing to the poor shooting of the British troop, in but
little personal danger. One very unpleasant characteristic they have,
and that is an absence of regard for the truth, especially where land
is concerned. Indeed the national characteristic is crystallised into
a proverb, "I am no slave to my word." It has several times happened to
me, to see one set of highly respectable witnesses in a land case, go
into the box and swear distinctly that they saw a beacon placed on a
certain spot, whilst an equal number on the other side will swear that
they saw it placed a mile away. Filled as they are with a land hunger,
to which that of the Irish peasant is a weak and colourless sentiment,
there is little that they will not do to gratify their taste. It is
the subject of constant litigation amongst them, and it is by no means
uncommon for a Boer to spend several thousand pounds in lawsuits over a
piece of land not worth as many hundreds.

Personally Boers are fine men, but as a rule ugly. Their women-folk are
good-looking in early life, but get very stout as they grow older. They,
in common with most of their sex, understand how to use their tongues;
indeed, it is said, that it was the women who caused the rising against
the English Government. None of the refinements of civilisation enter
into the life of an ordinary Boer. He lives in a way that would shock an
English labourer at twenty-five shillings the week, although he is very
probably worthy fifteen or twenty thousand pounds. His home is but too
frequently squalid and filthy to an extraordinary degree. He himself has
no education, and does not care that his children should receive any.
He lives by himself in the middle of a great plot of land, his nearest
neighbour being perhaps ten or twelve miles away, caring but little for
the news of the outside world, and nothing for its opinions, doing very
little work, but growing daily richer through the increase of his flocks
and herds. His expenses are almost nothing, and as he gets older, wealth
increases upon him. The events in his life consist of an occasional
trip on "commando," against some native tribe, attending a few political
meetings, and the journeys he makes with his family to the nearest
town, some four times a year, in order to be present at "Nachtmaal"
or communion. Foreigners, especially Englishmen, he detests, but he is
kindly and hospitable to his own people. Living isolated as he does,
the lord of a little kingdom, he naturally comes to have a great idea of
himself, and a corresponding contempt for all the rest of mankind. Laws
and taxes are things distasteful to him, and he looks upon it as an
impertinence that any court should venture to call him to account for
his doings. He is rich and prosperous, and the cares of poverty, and all
the other troubles that fall to the lot of civilised men, do not affect
him. He has no romance in him, nor any of the higher feelings and
aspirations that are found in almost every other race; in short,
unlike the Zulu he despises, there is little of the gentleman in his
composition, though he is at times capable of acts of kindness and even
generosity. His happiness is to live alone in the great wilderness, with
his children, his men-servants and his maid-servants, his flocks and his
herds, the monarch of all he surveys. If civilisation presses him too
closely, his remedy is a simple one. He sells his farm, packs up his
goods and cash in his waggon, and starts for regions more congenially
wild. Such are some of the leading characteristics of that remarkable
product of South Africa, the Transvaal Boer, who resembles no other
white man in the world.

Perhaps, however, the most striking of all his oddities is his
abhorrence of all government, more especially if that government be
carried out according to English principles. The Boers have always been
more or less in rebellion; they rebelled against the rule of the Company
when the Cape belonged to Holland, they rebelled against the English
Government in the Cape, they were always in a state of semi-rebellion
against their own government in the Transvaal, and now they have for
the second time, with the most complete success, rebelled against the
English Government. The fact of the matter is that the bulk of their
number hate all Governments, because Governments enforce law and order,
and they hate the English Government worst of all, because it enforces
law and order most of all. It is not liberty they long for, but
license. The "sturdy independence" of the Boer resolves itself into a
determination not to have his affairs interfered with by any superior
power whatsoever, and not to pay taxes if he can possibly avoid it.
But he has also a specific cause of complaint against the English
Government, which would alone cause him to do his utmost to get rid of
it, and that is its mode of dealing with natives, which is radically
opposite to his own. This is the secret of Boer patriotism. To
understand it, it must be remembered that the Englishman and the Boer
look at natives from a different point of view. The Englishman, though
he may not be very fond of him, at any rate regards the Kafir as a
fellow human being with feelings like his own. The average Boer does
not. He looks upon the "black creature" as having been delivered into
his hand by the "Lord" for his own purposes, that is, to shoot and
enslave. He must not be blamed too harshly for this, for, besides
being naturally of a somewhat hard disposition, hatred of the native
is hereditary, and is partly induced by the history of many a bloody
struggle. Also the native hates the Boer fully as much as the Boer hates
the native, though with better reason. Now native labour is a necessity
to the Boer, because he will not as a rule do hard manual labour
himself, and there must be some one to plant and garner the crops, and
herd the cattle. On the other hand, the natives are not anxious to serve
the Boers, which means little or no pay and plenty of thick stick, and
sometimes worse. The result of this state of affairs is that the Boer
often has to rely on forced labour to a very great extent. But this is a
thing that an English Government will not tolerate, and the consequence
is that under its rule he cannot get the labour that is necessary to
him.

Then there is the tax question. If he lives under the English flag the
money has to be paid regularly, but under his own Government he pays or
not as he likes. It was this habit of his of refusing payment of taxes
that brought the Republic into difficulties in 1877, and that will ere
long bring it into trouble again. He cannot understand that cash is
necessary to carry on a Government, and looks upon a tax as though it
were so much money stolen from him. These things are the real springs of
the "sturdy independence" and the patriotism of the ordinary Transvaal
farmer. Doubtless, there are some who are really patriotic; for
instance, one of their leaders, Paul Kruger. But with the majority,
patriotism is only another word for unbounded license and forced labour.

These remarks must not be taken to apply to the Cape Boers, who are a
superior class of men, since they, living under a settled and civilised
Government, have been steadily improving, whilst their cousins,
living every man for his own hand, have been deteriorating. The old
Voortrekkers, the fathers and grandfathers of the Transvaal Boer of
to-day, were, without doubt, a very fine set of men, and occasionally
you may in the Transvaal meet individuals of the same stamp whom it is a
pleasure to know. But these are generally men of a certain age with some
experience of the world; the younger men are very objectionable in their
manners.

The real Dutch Patriotic party is not to be found in the Transvaal, but
in the Cape Colony. Their object, which, as affairs now are, is well
within the bounds of possibility, is by fair means or foul to swamp
the English element in South Africa, and to establish a great Dutch
Republic. It was this party, which consists of clever and well educated
men, who raised the outcry against the Transvaal Annexation, because it
meant an enormous extension of English influence, and who had the wit,
by means of their emissaries and newspapers, to work upon the feeling of
the ignorant Transvaal farmers until they persuaded them to rebel; and
finally, to avail themselves of the yearnings of English radicalism for
the disruption of the Empire and the minimisation of British authority,
to get the Annexation cancelled. All through this business the Boers
have more or less danced in obedience to strings pulled at Cape Town,
and it is now said that one of the chief wire-pullers, Mr. Hofmeyer, is
to be asked to become President of the Republic. These men are the real
patriots of South Africa, and very clever ones too, not the Transvaal
Boers, who vapour about their blood and their country and the accursed
Englishman to order, and are in reality influenced by very small
motives, such as the desire to avoid payment of taxes, or to hunt away
a neighbouring Englishman, whose civilisation and refinement are as
offensive as his farm is desirable. Such are the Dutch inhabitants of
the Transvaal. I will now give a short sketch of their institutions as
they were before the Annexation, and to which the community has reverted
since its recision, with, I believe, but few alterations.

The form of government is republican, and to all intents and purposes,
manhood suffrage prevails, supreme power resting in the people. The
executive power of the State centres in a President elected by the
people to hold office for a term of five years, every voter having a
voice in his election. He is assisted in the execution of his duties by
an Executive Council, consisting of the State Secretary and such other
three members as are selected for that purpose by the legislative body,
the Volksraad. The State Secretary holds office for four years, and is
elected by the Volksraad. The members of the Executive all have seats in
the Volksraad, but have no votes. The Volksraad is the legislative body
of the State, and consists of forty-two members. The country is divided
into twelve electoral districts, each of which has the right to return
three members; the Gold Fields have also the right of electing two
members, and the four principal towns, one member each. There is
no power in the State competent to either prorogue or dissolve the
Volksraad except that body itself, so that an appeal to the country on
a given subject or policy is impossible without its concurrence. Members
are elected for four years, but half retire by rotation every two years,
the vacancies being filled by re-elections. Members must have been
voters for three years, and be not less than thirty years of age, must
belong to a Protestant Church, be resident in the country, and owners
of immovable property therein. A father and son cannot sit in the same
Raad, neither can seats be occupied by coloured persons, bastards, or
officials.

For each electoral district there is a magistrate or Landdrost whose
duties are similar to those of a Civil Commissioner. These districts are
again subdivided into wards presided over by field cornets, who exercise
judicial powers in minor matters, and in times of war have considerable
authority. The Roman Dutch law is the common law of the country, as it
is of the colonies of the Cape of Good Hope and Natal, and of the Orange
Free State.

Prior to the Annexation justice was administered in a very primitive
fashion. First, there was the Landdrosts' Court, from which an appeal
lay to a court consisting of the Landdrost and six councillors elected
by the public. This was a court of first instance as well as a court of
appeal. Then there was a Supreme Court, consisting of three Landdrosts
from three different districts, and a jury of twelve selected from the
burghers of the State. There was no appeal from this court, but cases
have sometimes been brought under the consideration of the Volksraad
as the supreme power. It is easy to imagine what the administration
of justice was like when the presidents of all the law courts in the
country were elected by the mob, not on account of their knowledge of
the law, but because they were popular. Suitors before the old Transvaal
courts found the law surprisingly uncertain. A High Court of Justice
was, however, established after the Annexation, and has been continued
by the Volksraad, but an agitation is being got up against it, and it
will possibly be abolished in favour of the old system.

In such a community as that of the Transvaal Boers, the question of
public defence was evidently of the first importance. This is provided
for under what is known as the Commando system. The President, with the
concurrence of the Executive Council, has the right of declaring war,
and of calling up a Commando, in which the burghers are placed under
the field cornets and commandants. These last are chosen by the field
cornets for each district, and a Commandant-general is chosen by the
whole laager or force, but the President is the Commander-in-Chief of
the army. All the inhabitants of the state between sixteen and sixty,
with a few exceptions, are liable for service. Young men under
eighteen, and men over fifty, are only called out under circumstances
of emergency. Members of the Volksraad, officials, clergymen, and
school-teachers are exempt from personal service, unless martial law
is proclaimed, but must contribute an amount not exceeding 15 pounds
towards the expense of the war. All legal proceedings in civil cases are
suspended against persons on commando, no summonses can be made out,
and as soon as martial law is proclaimed no legal execution can be
prosecuted, the pounds are closed, and transfer dues payments are
suspended, until after thirty days from the recall of the proclamation
of martial law. Owners of land residing beyond the borders of the
Republic are also liable, in addition to the ordinary war tax, to
place a fit and proper substitute at the disposal of the Government, or
otherwise to pay a fine of 15 pounds. The first levy of the burghers
is, of men from eighteen to thirty-four years of age; the second,
thirty-four to fifty; and the third, from sixteen to eighteen, and
from fifty to sixty years. Every man is bound to provide himself with
clothing, a gun, and ammunition, and there must be enough waggons and
oxen found between them to suffice for their joint use. Of the booty
taken, one quarter goes to Government and the rest to the burghers. The
most disagreeable part of the commandeering system is, however, yet to
come; personal service is not all that the resident in the Transvaal
Republic has to endure. The right is vested in field cornets to
commandeer articles as well as individuals, and to call upon inhabitants
to furnish requisites for the commando. As may be imagined, it goes very
hard on these occasions with the property of any individual whom the
field cornet may not happen to like.

Each ward is expected to turn out its contingent ready and equipped
for war, and this can only be done by seizing goods right and left. One
unfortunate will have to find a waggon, another to deliver his favourite
span of trek oxen, another his riding-horse, or some slaughter cattle,
and so on. Even when the officer making the levy is desirous of doing
his duty as fairly as he can, it is obvious that very great hardships
must be inflicted under such a system. Requisitions are made more with
regard to what is wanted, than with a view to an equitable distribution
of demands; and like the Jews in the time of the Crusades, he who
has got most must pay most, or take the consequences, which may be
unpleasant. Articles which are not perishable, such as waggons, are
supposed to be returned, but if they come back at all they are generally
worthless.

In case of war, the native tribes living within the borders of the State
are also expected to furnish contingents, and it is on them that most of
the hard work of the campaign generally falls. They are put in the front
of the battle, and have to do the hand-to-hand fighting, which, however,
if of the Zulu race, they do not object to.

The revenue of the State is so arranged that the burden of it should
fall as much as possible on the trading community and as little as
possible on the farmer. It is chiefly derived from licenses on trades,
professions, and callings, 30s. per annum quit-rent on farms, transfer
dues and stamps, auction dues, court fees, and contributions from such
native tribes as can be made to pay them. Since we have given up the
country, the Volksraad has put a very heavy tax on all imported goods,
hoping thereby to beguile the Boers into paying taxes without knowing
it, and at the same time strike a blow at the trading community, which
is English in its proclivities. The result has been to paralyse
what little trade there was left in the country, and to cause great
dissatisfaction amongst the farmers, who cannot understand why, now that
the English are gone, they should have to pay twice as much for their
sugar and coffee as they have been accustomed to do.


I will conclude this chapter with a few words about the natives, who
swarm in and around the Transvaal. They can be roughly divided into two
great races, the Amazulu and their offshoots, and the Macatee or Basutu
tribes. All those of Zulu blood, including the Swazies, Mapock's Kafirs,
the Matabele, the Knobnodes, and others are very warlike in disposition,
and men of fine physique. The Basutus (who must not be confounded with
the Cape Basutus), however, differ from these tribes in every respect,
including their language, which is called Sisutu, the only mutual
feeling between the two races being their common detestation of the
Boers. They do not love war; in fact, they are timid and cowardly by
nature, and only fight when they are obliged to. Unlike the Zulus, they
are much addicted to the arts of peace, show considerable capacities
for civilisation, and are even willing to become Christians. There would
have been a far better field for the Missionary in the Transvaal than in
Zululand and Natal. Indeed, the most successful mission station I have
seen in Africa is near Middelburg, under the control of Mr. Merensky.
In person the Basutus are thin and weakly when compared to the stalwart
Zulu, and it is their consciousness of inferiority both to the white
men, and their black brethren, that, together with their natural
timidity, makes them submit as easily as they do to the yoke of the
Boer.

H. Rider Haggard

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