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Chapter 2

EVENTS PRECEDING THE ANNEXATION

Mr. Burgers elected president--His character and aspirations--His
pension from the English Government--His visit to England--The railway
loan--Relations of the republic with native tribes--The pass laws--Its
quarrel with Cetywayo--Confiscation of native territory by the Keate
award--Treaty with the Swazi king--The Secocoeni war--Capture of
Johannes' stronghold by the Swazi allies--Attack on Secocoeni's
mountain--Defeat and dispersion of the Boers--Elation of the
natives--Von Schlickmann's volunteers--Cruelties perpetrated--Abel
Erasmus--Treatment of natives by Boers--Public meeting at Potchefstroom
in 1768--The slavery question--Some evidence on the subject--Pecuniary
position of the Transvaal prior to the annexation--Internal
troubles--Divisions amongst the Boers--Hopeless condition of the
country.

--

In or about the year 1872, the burghers of the Republic elected Mr.
Burgers their President. This remarkable man was a native of the Cape
Colony, and passed the first sixteen or seventeen years of his life,
he once informed me, on a farm herding sheep. He afterwards became
a clergyman noted for the eloquence of his preaching, but his ideas
proving too broad for his congregation, he resigned his cure, and in an
evil moment for himself took to politics.

President Burgers was a man of striking presence and striking talents,
especially as regards his oratory, which was really of a very high
class, and would have commanded attention in our own House of Commons.
He possessed, however, a mind of that peculiarly volatile order, that is
sometimes met with in conjunction with great talents, and which seems to
be entirely without ballast. His intellect was of a balloon-like nature,
and as incapable of being steered. He was always soaring in the clouds,
and, as is natural to one in that elevated position, taking a very
different and more sanguine view of affairs to that which men of a more
lowly, and perhaps a more practical, turn of mind would do.

But notwithstanding his fly-away ideas, President Burgers was
undoubtedly a true patriot, labouring night and day for the welfare of
the state of which he had to undertake the guidance: but his patriotism
was too exalted for his surroundings. He wished to elevate to the rank
of a nation a people who had not got the desire to be elevated; with
this view he contracted railway loans, made wars, minted gold, &c., and
then suddenly discovered that the country refused to support him. In
short, he was made of a very different clay to that of the people he had
to do with. He dreamt of a great Dutch Republic "with eight millions of
inhabitants," doing a vast trade with the interior through the Delagoa
Bay Railway. They, on the other hand, cared nothing about republics or
railways, but fixed their affections on forced labour and getting rid of
the necessity of paying taxes--and so between them the Republic came
to grief. But it must be borne in mind that President Burgers was
throughout actuated by good motives; he did his best by a stubborn and
stiff-necked people; and if he failed, as fail he did, it was more their
fault than his. As regards the pension he received from the English
Government, which has so often been brought up against him, it was
after all no more than his due after five years of arduous work. If the
Republic had continued to exist, it is to be presumed that they would
have made some provision for their old President, more especially as
he seems to have exhausted his private means in paying the debts of
the country. Whatever may be said of some of the other officials of the
Republic, its President was, I believe, an honest man.

In 1875, Mr. Burgers proceeded to Europe, having, he says in a
posthumous document recently published, been empowered by the Volksraad
"to carry out my plans for the development of the country, by opening up
a direct communication for it, free from the trammels of British ports
and influence." According to this document, during his absence, two
powerful parties, viz., "the faction of unprincipled fortune-hunters,
rascals, and runaways on the one hand, and the faction of the extreme
orthodox party in a certain branch of the Dutch Reform Church on the
other, began to co-operate against the Government of the Republic and
me personally. . . . . . Ill as I was, and contrary to the advice of my
medical men, I proceeded to Europe, in the beginning of 1875, to carry
out my project, and no sooner was my back turned on the Transvaal, than
the conspiring elements began to act. The new coat of arms and flag
adopted in the Raad by an almost unanimous vote were abolished. The laws
for a free and secular education were tampered with, and my resistance
to a reckless inspection and disposal of Government lands, still
occupied by natives, was openly defied. The Raad, filled up to a large
extent with men of ill repute, who, under the cloak of progress and
favour to the Government view, obtained their seats, was too weak to
cope with the skill of the conspirators, and granted leave to the acting
President to carry out measures diametrically opposed to my policy.
_Native lands_ were inspected and given out to a few speculators, who
held large numbers of claims to lands which were destined for citizens,
and so a war was prepared for me, on my return from Europe, which I
could not avert." This extract is interesting, as showing the state of
feeling existing between the President and his officers previous to the
outbreak of the Secocoeni war. It also shows how entirely he was out of
sympathy with the citizens, seeing that as soon as his back was turned,
they, with Mr. Joubert and Paul Kruger at their head, at once undid all
the little good he had done.

When Mr. Burgers got to England, he found that city capitalists would
have nothing whatever to say to his railway scheme. In Holland, however,
he succeeded in getting 90,000 pounds of the 300,000 pounds he wished to
borrow at a high rate of interest, and by passing a bond on five hundred
government farms. This money was immediately invested in a railway
plant, which, when it arrived at Delagoa Bay, had to be mortgaged to
pay the freight on it, and that was the end of the Delagoa Bay railway
scheme, except that the 90,000 pounds is, I believe, still owing to the
confiding shareholders in Holland.

On his return to the Transvaal the President was well received, and for
a month or so all went smoothly. But the relations of the Republic with
the surrounding native tribes had by this time become so bad that an
explosion was imminent somewhere. In the year 1874 the Volksraad raised
the price of passes under the iniquitous pass law, by which every native
travelling through the territory was made to pay from 1 pound to five
pounds. In case of non-payment the native was made subject to a fine of
from 1 pound to 10 pounds, and to a beating of from "ten to twenty-five
lashes." He was also to go into service for three months, and have a
certificate thereof, for which he must pay five shillings; the avowed
object of the law being to obtain a supply of Kafir labour. This was
done in spite of the earnest protest of the President, who gave the Raad
distinctly to understand that by accepting this law they would, in point
of fact, annul treaties concluded with the chiefs on the south-western
borders. It was not clear, however, if this amended pass law ever came
into force. It is to be hoped it did not, for even under the old law
natives were shamefully treated by the Boers, who would pretend that
they were authorised by the Government to collect the tax; the result
being that the unfortunate Kafir was frequently obliged to pay twice
over. Natives had such a horror of the pass laws of the country, that
when travelling to the Diamond Fields to work they would frequently go
round some hundreds of miles rather than pass through the Transvaal.

That the Volksraad should have thought it necessary to enact such a law
in order that the farmers should obtain a supply of Kafir labour in a
territory that had nearly a million of native inhabitants, who, unlike
the Zulus, are willing to work if only they meet with decent treatment,
is in itself an instructive commentary on the feelings existing between
the Boer master and Kafir servant.

But besides the general quarrel with the Kafir race in its entirety,
which the Boers always have on hand, they had just then several
individual differences, in each of which there lurked the possibilities
of disturbance.

To begin with, their relations with Cetywayo were by no means amicable.
During Mr. Burgers' absence the Boer Government, then under the
leadership of P. J. Joubert, sent Cetywayo a very stern message--a
message that gives the reader the idea that Mr. Joubert was ready to
enforce it with ten thousand men. After making various statements and
demands with reference to the Amaswazi tribe, the disputed boundary
line, &c., it ends thus:--

"Although the Government of the South African Republic has never wished,
and does not now desire, that serious disaffection and animosities
should exist between you and them, yet it is not the less of the
greatest consequence and importance for you earnestly to weigh these
matters and risks, and to satisfy them; the more so, if you on your side
also wish that peace and friendship shall be maintained between you and
us."

The Secretary for Native Affairs for Natal comments on this message in
these words: "The tone of this message to Cetywayo is not very friendly,
it has the look of an ultimatum, and if the Government of the Transvaal
were in circumstances different to what it is, the message would
suggest an intention to coerce if the demands it conveys are not at once
complied with; but I am inclined to the opinion that no such intention
exists, and that the transmission of a copy of the message to the Natal
Government is intended as a notification that the Transvaal Government
has proclaimed the territory hitherto in dispute between it and the
Zulus to be Republican territory, and that the Republic intends to
occupy it."

In the territories marked out by a decision known as the Keate Award,
in which Lieutenant-Governor Keate of Natal, at the request of both
parties, laid down the boundary line between the Boers and certain
native tribes, the Boer Government carried it with a yet higher
hand, insomuch as the natives of those districts, being comparatively
unwarlike, were less likely to resist.

On the 18th August 1875, Acting President Joubert issued a proclamation
by which a line was laid down far to the southward of that marked out by
Mr. Keate, and consequently included more territory within the elastic
boundaries of the Republic. A Government notice of the same date invites
all claiming lands now declared to belong to the Republic, to send in
their claims to be settled by a land commission.

On the 6th March 1876, another chief in the same neighbourhood
(Montsoia) writes to the Lieutenant-Governor of Griqualand West in these
terms:--

"My Friend,--I wish to acquaint you with the doings of some people
connected with the Boers. A man-servant of mine has been severely
injured in the head by one of the Boers' servants, which has proved
fatal. Another of my people has been cruelly treated by a Boer tying a
rein about his neck, and then mounting his horse and dragging him about
the place. My brother Molema, who is the bearer of this, will give you
full particulars."

Molema explains the assaults thus: "The assaulted man is not dead; his
skull was fractured. The assault was committed by a Boer named Wessels
Badenhorst, who shamefully ill-treated the man, beat him till he
fainted, and, on his revival, fastened a rim around his neck, and
made him run to the homestead by the side of his (Badenhorst's) horse
cantering. At the homestead he tied him to the waggon-wheel, and flogged
him again till Mrs. Badenhorst stopped her husband."

Though it will be seen that the Boers were on good terms neither with
the Zulus nor the Keate Award natives, they still had one Kafir ally,
namely, Umbandeni, the Amaswazi king. This alliance was concluded
under circumstances so peculiar that they are worthy of a brief
recapitulation. It appears that in the winter of the year 1875 Mr.
Rudolph, the Landdrost of Utrecht, went to Swazieland, and, imitating
the example of the Natal Government with Cetywayo, crowned Umbandeni
king, on behalf of the Boer Government. He further made a treaty of
alliance with him, and promised him a commando to help him in case
of his being attacked by the Zulus. Now comes the curious part of the
story. On the 18th May 1876, a message came from this same Umbandeni to
Sir H. Bulwer, of which the following is an extract:--"We are sent by
our king to thank the Government of Natal for the information sent to
him last winter by that Government, and conveyed by Mr. Rudolph, of the
intended attack on his people by the Zulus. We are further instructed by
the king to thank the Natal Government for the influence it used to
stop the intended raid, and for instructing a Boer commando to go to
his country to render him assistance in case of need; and further
for appointing Mr. Randolph at the head of the commando to place him
(Umbandeni) as king over the Amaswazi, and to make a treaty with him and
his people on behalf of the Natal Government. . . . . . The Transvaal
Government has asked Umbandeni to acknowledge himself a subject of the
Republic, but he has distinctly refused to do so." In a minute written
on this subject, the Secretary for Native Affairs for Natal says, "No
explanation or assurance was sufficient to convince them (Umbandeni's
messengers) that they had on that occasion made themselves subjects
of the South African Republic; they declared it was not their wish or
intention to do so, and that they would refuse to acknowledge a position
into which they had been unwittingly betrayed." I must conclude this
episode by quoting the last paragraph of Sir H. Bulwer's covering
despatch, because it concerns larger issues than the supposed treaty:
"It will not be necessary that I should at present add any remarks to
those contained in the minute for the Secretary for Native Affairs, but
I would observe that the situation arising out of the relations of the
Government of the South African Republic with the neighbouring states is
so complicated, and presents so many elements of confusion and of danger
to the peace of this portion of South Africa, that I trust some way
may be found to an early settlement of questions that ought not, in my
opinion, to be left alone, as so many have been left, to take the chance
of the future."

And now I come to the last and most imminent native difficulty that at
the time faced the Republic. On the borders of Lydenburg district there
lived a powerful chief named Secocoeni. Between this chief and the
Transvaal Government difficulties arose in the beginning of 1876 on the
usual subject--land. The Boers declared that they had bought the land
from the Swazies, who had conquered portions of the country, and
that the Swazies offered to make it "clean from brambles," i.e., kill
everybody living on it; but that they (the Boers) said that they were
to let them be, that they might be their servants. The Basutus, on the
other hand, said that no such sale ever took place, and, even if it did
take place, it was invalid, because the Swazies were not in occupation
of the land, and therefore could not sell it. It was a Christian Kafir
called Johannes, a brother of Secocoeni, who was the immediate cause
of the war. This Johannes used to live at a place called Botsobelo,
the mission-station of Mr. Merensky, but moved to a stronghold on the
Spekboom river, in the disputed territory. The Boers sent to him to come
back, but he refused, and warned the Boers off his land. Secocoeni was
then appealed to, but declared that the land belonged to his tribe, and
would be occupied by Johannes. He also told the Boers "that he did not
wish to fight, but that he was quite ready to do so if they preferred
it." Thereupon the Transvaal Government declared war, although it does
not appear that the natives committed any outrage or acts of hostility
before the declaration. As regards the Boers' right to Secocoeni's
country, Sir H. Barkly sums up the question thus, in a despatch
addressed to President Burgers, dated 28th Nov. 1876:--"On the whole, it
seems perfectly clear, and I feel bound to repeat it, that Sikukuni
was neither _de jure_ or _de facto_ a subject of the Republic when your
Honour declared war against him in June last." As soon as war had been
declared, the clumsy commando system was set working, and about
2500 white men collected; the Swazies also were applied to to send a
contingent, which they did, being only too glad of the opportunity of
slaughter.

At first all went well, and the President, who accompanied the commando
in person, succeeded in reducing a mountain stronghold, which, in his
high-flown way, he called a "glorious victory" over a "Kafir Gibraltar."

On the 14th July another engagement took place, when the Boers and
Swazies attacked Johannes' stronghold. The place was taken with
circumstances of great barbarity by the Swazies, for when the signal
was given to advance the Boers did not move. Nearly all the women were
killed, and the brains of the children were dashed out against the
stones; in one instance, before the captive mother's face. Johannes was
badly wounded, and died two days afterwards. When he was dying he said
to his brother, "I am going to die. I am thankful I do not die by the
hands of these cowardly Boers, but by the hand of a black and courageous
nation like myself . . ." He then took leave of his people, told his
brother to read the Bible, and expired. The Swazies were so infuriated
at the cowardice displayed by the Boers on this occasion that they
returned home in great dudgeon.

On the 2nd of August Secocoeni's mountain, which is a very strong
fortification, was attacked in two columns, or rather an attempt was
made to attack it, for when it came to the pinch only about forty men,
mostly English and Germans, would advance. Thereupon the whole commando
retreated with great haste, the greater part of it going straight home.
In vain the President entreated them to shoot him rather than desert
him; they had had enough of Secocoeni and his stronghold, and home they
went. The President then retreated with what few men he had left to
Steelport, where he built a fort, and from thence returned to Pretoria.
The news of the collapse of the commando was received throughout the
Transvaal, and indeed the whole of South Africa, with the greatest
dismay. For the first time in the history of that country the white man
had been completely worsted by a native tribe, and that tribe wretched
Basutus, people whom the Zulus call their "dogs." It was glad tidings to
every native from the Zambesi to the Cape, who learnt thereby that
the white man was not so invincible as he used to be. Meanwhile the
inhabitants of Lydenburg were filled with alarm, and again and again
petitioned the Governors of the Cape and Natal for assistance. Their
fears were, however, to a great extent groundless, for, with the
exception of occasional cattle-lifting, Secocoeni did not follow up his
victory.

On the 4th September the President opened the special sitting of the
Volksraad, and presented to that body a scheme for the establishment of
a border force to take the place of the commando system, announcing that
he had appointed a certain Captain Von Schlickmann to command it. He
also requested the Raad to make some provision for the expenses of the
expedition, which they had omitted to do in their former sitting.

Captain Von Schlickmann determined to carry on the war upon a different
system. He got together a band of very rough characters on the Diamond
Fields, and occupied the fort built by the President, from whence he
would sally out from time to time and destroy kraals. He seems, if
we may believe the reports in the blue books and the stories of
eye-witnesses, to have carried on his proceedings in a somewhat savage
way. The following is an extract from a private letter written by one of
his volunteers:--

"About daylight we came across four Kafirs. Saw them first, and charged
in front of them to cut off their retreat. Saw they were women, and
called out not to fire. In spite of that, one of the poor things got her
head blown off (a d----d shame). . . . Afterwards two women and a baby
were brought to the camp prisoners. The same night they were taken out
by our Kafirs and murdered in cold blood by the order of ----. Mr. ----
and myself strongly protested against it, but without avail. I never
heard such a cowardly piece of business in my life. No good will come
of it, you may depend. . . . ---- says he would cut all the women and
children's throats he catches. Told him distinctly he was a d----d
coward."

Schlickmann was, however, a mild-mannered man when compared to a certain
Abel Erasmus, afterwards denounced at a public dinner by Sir Garnet
Wolseley as a "fiend in human form." This gentleman, in the month of
October, attacked a friendly kraal of Kafirs. The incident is described
thus in a correspondent's letter:--

"The people of the kraals, taken quite by surprise, fled when they saw
their foes, and most of them took shelter in the neighbouring bush. Two
or three men were distinctly seen in their flight from the kraal, and
one of them is known to have been wounded. According to my informant the
remainder were women and children, who were pursued into the bush, and
there, all shivering and shrieking, were put to death by the Boers'
Kafirs, some being shot, but the majority stabbed with assegais. After
the massacre he counted thirteen women and three children, but he says
he did not see the body of a single man. Another Kafir said, pointing to
a place in the road where the stones were thickly strewn, 'the bodies
of the women and children lay like these stones.' The Boer before
mentioned, who has been stationed outside, has told one of his own
friends, whom he thought would not mention it, that the shrieks were
fearful to hear."

Several accounts of, or allusion to, this atrocity can be found in the
blue books, and I may add that it, in common with others of the same
stamp, was the talk of the country at the time.

I do not relate these horrors out of any wish to rake up old stories to
the prejudice of the Boers, but because I am describing the state of
the country before the Annexation, in which they form an interesting and
important item. Also, it is as well that people in England should know
into what hands they have delivered over the native tribes who trusted
in their protection. What happened in 1876 is probably happening again
now, and will certainly happen again and again. The character of the
Transvaal Boer and his sentiments towards the native races have not
modified during the last five years, but, on the contrary, a large
amount of energy, which has been accumulating during the period of
British protection, will now be expended on their devoted heads.

As regards the truth of these atrocities, the majority of them are
beyond the possibility of doubt; indeed, to the best of my knowledge, no
serious attempt has ever been made to refute such of them as have come
into public notice, except in a general way, for party purposes. As,
however, they may be doubted, I will quote the following extract from a
despatch written by Sir H. Barkly to Lord Carnarvon, dated 18th December
1876:--

"As Von Schlickmann has since fallen fighting bravely, it is not without
reluctance that I join in affixing this dark stain on his memory, but
truth compels me to add the following extract from a letter which I have
since received from one whose name (which I communicate to your Lordship
privately) forbids disbelief: 'There is no longer the _slightest doubt_
as to the murder of the two women and the child at Steelport by the
direct order of Schlickmann, and in the attack on the kraal near which
these women were captured (or some attack about that period) he ordered
his men to cut the throats of all the wounded! This is no mere report;
it is positively true.'" He concludes by expressing a hope that the
course of events will enable Her Majesty's Government to take such steps
"as will terminate this wanton and useless bloodshed, and prevent
the recurrence of the _scenes of injustice, cruelty, and rapine which
abundant evidence is every day forthcoming to prove have rarely ceased
to disgrace the Republics beyond the Vaal ever since they first sprang
into existence._"[*]

[*] The italics are my own.--Author.

These are strong words, but none too strong for the facts of the case.
Injustice, cruelty, and rapine have always been the watchwords of the
Transvaal Boers. The stories of wholesale slaughter in the earlier
days of the Republic are very numerous. One of the best known of those
shocking occurrences took place in the Zoutpansberg war in 1865. On this
occasion a large number of Kafirs took refuge in caves, where the Boers
smoked them to death. Some years afterwards Dr. Wangeman, whose account
is, I believe, thoroughly reliable, describes the scene of their
operations in these words:--

"The roof of the first cave was black with smoke; the remains of the
logs which were burnt lay at the entrance. The floor was strewn with
hundreds of skulls and skeletons. In confused heaps lay karosses,
kerries, assegais, pots, spoons, snuff-boxes, and the bones of men,
giving one the impression that this was the grave of a whole people.
Some estimate the number of those who perished here from twenty to
thirty thousand. This is, I believe, too high. In the one chamber there
were from two hundred to three hundred skeletons; the other chambers I
did not visit."

In 1868 a public meeting was held at Potchefstroom to consider the war
then going on with the Zoutpansberg natives. According to the report of
the proceedings, the Rev. Mr. Ludorf said that "on a particular occasion
a number of native children, who were too young to be removed, had been
collected in a heap, covered with long grass, and burned alive. Other
atrocities had also been committed, but these were too horrible to
relate." When called upon to produce his authority for this statement,
Mr. Ludorf named his authority "in a solemn declaration to the State
Attorney." At this same meeting Mr. J. G. Steyn, who had been Landdrost
of Potchefstroom, said "there now was innocent blood on our hands which
had not yet been avenged, and the curse of God rested on the land in
consequence." Mr. Rosalt remarked that "it was a singular circumstance
that in the different colonial Kafir wars, as also in the Basutu wars,
one did not hear of destitute children being found by the commandoes,
and asked how it was that every petty commando that took the field in
this Republic invariably found numbers of destitute children. He gave
it as his opinion that the present system of apprenticeship was an
essential cause of our frequent hostilities with the natives." Mr. Jan
Talyard said, "Children were forcibly taken from their parents, and were
then called destitute and apprenticed." Mr. Daniel Van Nooren was
heard to say, "If they had to clear the country, and could not have the
children they found, he would shoot them." Mr. Field-Cornet Furstenburg
stated "that when he was at Zoutpansberg with his burghers, the chief
Katse-Kats was told to come down from the mountains; that he sent one of
his subordinates as a proof of amity; that whilst a delay of five days
was guaranteed by Commandant Paul Kruger, who was then in command,
orders were given at the same time to attack the natives at break of
day, which was accordingly done, but which resulted in total failure."
Truly, this must have been an interesting meeting.

Before leaving these unsavoury subjects, I must touch on the question of
slavery. It has been again and again denied, on behalf of the Transvaal
Boers, that slavery existed in the Republic. Now, this is, strictly
speaking, true; slavery did not exist, but apprenticeship did--the rose
was called by another name, that is all. The poor destitute children who
were picked up by kindhearted Boers, after the extermination of their
parents, were apprenticed to farmers till they came of age. It is a
remarkable fact that these children never attained their majority. You
might meet oldish men in the Transvaal who were not, according to their
masters' reckoning, twenty-one years of age. The assertion that slavery
did not exist in the Transvaal is only made to hoodwink the English
public. I have known men who have owned slaves, and who have seen whole
waggon-loads of "black ivory," as they were called, sold for about 15
pounds a-piece. I have at this moment a tenant, Carolus by name, on some
land I own in Natal, now a well-to-do man, who was for many years--about
twenty, if I remember right--a Boer slave. During those years, he told
me, he worked from morning till night, and the only reward he received
was two calves. He finally escaped into Natal.

If other evidence is needed it is not difficult to find, so I will quote
a little. On the 22d August 1876 we find Khama, king of the Bamangwato,
one of the most worthy chiefs in South Africa, sending a message to
"Victoria, the great Queen of the English people," in these words:--

"I write to you, Sir Henry, in order that your Queen may preserve for me
my country, it being in her hands. The Boers are coming into it, and I
do not like them. Their actions are cruel among us black people. We are
like money, they sell us and our children. I ask Her Majesty to pity
me, and to hear that which I write quickly. I wish to hear upon what
conditions Her Majesty will receive me, and my country and my people,
under her protection. I am weary with fighting. I do not like war, and
I ask Her Majesty to give me peace. I am very much distressed that my
people are being destroyed by war, and I wish them to obtain peace. I
ask Her Majesty to defend me, as she defends all her people. There
are three things which distress me very much--war, selling people,
and drink. All these things I shall find in the Boers, and it is these
things which destroy people to make an end of them in the country. _The
custom of the Boers has always been to cause people to be sold, and
to-day they are still selling people._ Last year I saw them pass with
two waggons full of people whom they had bought at the river at Tanane"
(Lake Ngate).

The Special Correspondence of the "Cape Argus," a highly respectable
journal, writes thus on the 28th November 1876:--"The Boer from whom
this information was gleaned has furnished besides some facts which may
not be uninteresting, as a commentary on the repeated denials by Mr.
Burgers of the existence of slavery. During the last week slaves have
been offered for sale on his farm. The captives have been taken from
Secocoeni's country by Mapoch's people, and are being exchanged at the
rate of a child for a heifer. He also assures us that the whole of the
Highveld is bring replenished with Kafir children, whom the Boers have
been lately purchasing from the Swazies at the rate of a horse for a
child. I should like to see this man and his father as witnesses before
an Imperial Commission. He let fall one or two incidents of the past
which were brought to mind by the occurrences of the present. In 1864,
he says, 'The Swazies accompanied the Boers against Males. The Boers did
nothing but stand by and witness the fearful massacre. The men and women
were also murdered. One poor woman sat clutching her baby of eight days
old. The Swazies stabbed her through the body, and when she found that
she could not live, she wrung the baby's neck with her own hands to save
it from future misery. On the return of that Commando the children who
became too weary to continue the journey were killed on the road. The
survivors were sold as slaves to the farmers.'"

The same gentleman writes in the issue of the 12th December
as follows:--"The whole world may know it, for it is true, and
investigation will only bring out the horrible details, that through the
whole course of this Republic's existence it has acted in contravention
of the Sand River Treaty; and slavery has occurred not only here and
there in isolated cases, but as an unbroken practice, and has been
one of the peculiar institutions of the country, mixed up with all its
social and political life. It has been at the root of most of its wars.
It has been carried on regularly even in times of peace. It has been
characterised by all those circumstances which have so often roused
the British nation to an indignant protest, and to repeated efforts to
banish the slave trade from the world. The Boers have not only fallen
on unsuspecting kraals simply for the purpose of obtaining the women and
children and cattle, but they have carried on a traffic through natives
who have kidnapped the children of their weaker neighbours, and sold
them to the white man. Again, the Boers have sold and exchanged their
victims among themselves. Waggon-loads of slaves have been conveyed
from one end of the country to the other for sale, and that with the
cognisance of, and for the direct advantage of, the highest officials of
the land. The writer has himself seen in a town, situated in the south
of the Republic, the children who had been brought down from a remote
northern district. One fine morning, in walking through the streets,
he was struck with the number of little black strangers standing about
certain houses, and wondered where they could have come from. He learnt
a few hours later that they were part of loads which were disposed of
on the outskirts of the town the day before. The circumstances connected
with some of these kidnapping excursions are appalling, and the
barbarities practised by cruel masters upon some of these defenceless
creatures during the course of their servitude are scarcely less
horrible than those reported from Turkey. It is no disgrace in this
country for an official to ride a fine horse which was got for two Kafir
children, to procure whom the father and mother were shot. No reproach
is inherited by the mistress who, day after day, tied up her female
servant in an agonising posture, and had her beaten until there was no
sound part in her body, securing her in the stocks during the intervals
of torture. That man did not lose caste who tied up another woman and
had her thrashed until she brought forth at the whipping-post. These
are merely examples of thousands of cases which could be proved were
an Imperial Commission to sit, and could the wretched victims of a
prolonged oppression recover sufficiently from the dread of their old
tyrants to give a truthful report."

To come to some evidence more recently adduced. On the 9th May 1881, an
affidavit was sworn to by the Rev. John Thorne, curate of St. John the
Evangelist, Lydenburg, Transvaal, and presented to the Royal Commission
appointed to settle Transvaal affairs, in which he states:--"That I
was appointed to the charge of a congregation in Potchefstroom, about
thirteen years ago, when the Republic was under the presidency of Mr.
Pretorius.[*] I remember noticing one morning, as I walked through
the streets, a number of young natives, whom I knew to be strangers.
I inquired where they came from. I was told that they had just been
brought from Zoutpansberg. This was the locality from which slaves were
chiefly brought at that time, and were traded for under the name of
'Black Ivory.' One of these natives belonged to Mr. Munich, the State
Attorney. It was a matter of common remark at that time, that the
President of the Republic was himself one of the greatest dealers in
slaves." In the fourth paragraph of the same affidavit Mr. Thorne says,
"That the Rev. Doctor Nachtigal, of the Berlin Missionary Society, was
the interpreter for Shatane's people in the private office of Mr. Roth,
and, at the close of the interview, told me what had occurred. On my
expressing surprise, he went on to relate that he had information on
native matters which would surprise me more. He then produced the
copy of a register, kept in the landdrost's office, of men, women, and
children, to the number of four hundred and eighty (480), who had been
disposed of by one Boer to another for a consideration. In one case an
ox was given in exchange, in another goats, in a third a blanket, and
so forth. Many of these natives he (Mr. Nachtigal) knew personally. The
copy was certified as true and correct by an official of the Republic,
and I would mention his name now, only that I am persuaded that it would
cost the man his life if his act became known to the Boers."

[*] One of the famous Triumvirate.

On the 16th May 1881, a native, named Frederick Molepo, was examined by
the Royal Commission. The following are extracts from his examination:--

"(Sir E. Wood.) Are you a Christian?--Yes.

"(Sir H. de Villiers.) How long were you a slave?--Half a year.

"How do you know that you were a slave? Might you not have been an
apprentice?--No, I was not apprenticed.

"How do you know?--They got me from my parents, and ill-treated me.

"(Sir E. Wood.) How many times did you get the stick?--Every day.

"(Sir H. de Villiers.) What did the Boers do with you when they caught
you?--They sold me.

"How much did they sell you for?--One cow and a big pot."

On the 28th May 1881, amongst the other documents handed in for the
consideration of the Royal Commission, is the statement of a headman,
whose name it has been considered advisable to omit in the blue book for
fear the Boers should take vengeance on him. He says, "I say, that if
the English Government dies I shall die too; I would rather die than be
under the Boer Government. I am the man who helped to make bricks for
the church you see now standing in the square here (Pretoria), as a
slave without payment. As a representative of my people I am still
obedient to the English Government, and willing to obey all commands
from them, even to die for their cause in this country, rather than
submit to the Boers.

"I was under Shambok, my chief, who fought the Boers formerly, but he
left us, and we were _put up to auction_ and sold among the Boers. I
want to state this myself to the Royal Commission in Newcastle. I was
bought by Fritz Botha and sold by Frederick Botha, who was then veld
cornet (justice of the peace) of the Boers."[*]

[*] I have taken the liberty to quote all these extracts
exactly as they stand in the original, instead of weaving
their substance into my narrative, in order that I may not
be accused, as so often happens to authors who write upon
this subject, of having presented a garbled version of the
truth. The original of every extract is to be found in blue
books presented to Parliament. I have thought it best to
confine myself to these, and avoid repeating stories of
cruelties and slavery, however well authenticated, that have
come to my knowledge privately, such stories being always
more or less open to suspicion.

It would be easy to find more reports of the slave-trading practices of
the Boers, but as the above are fair samples it will not be necessary
to do so. My readers will be able from them to form some opinion as to
whether or not slavery or apprenticeship existed in the Transvaal. If
they come to the conclusion that it did, it must be borne in mind that
what existed in the past will certainly exist again in the future.
Natives are not now any fonder of working for Boers than they were a few
years back, and Boers must get labour somehow. If, on the other hand,
it did not exist, then the Boers are a grossly slandered people, and
all writers on the subject, from Livingstone down, have combined to take
away their character.

Leaving native questions for the present, we must now return to the
general affairs of the country. When President Burgers opened the
special sitting of the Volksraad, on the 4th September, he appealed,
it will be remembered, to that body for pecuniary aid to liquidate the
expenses of the war. This appeal was responded to by the passing of a
war tax, under which every owner of a farm was to pay 10 pounds, the
owner of half a farm 5 pounds, and so on. The tax was not a very just
one, since it fell with equal weight on the rich man, who held twenty
farms, and the poor man, who held but one. Its justice or injustice was,
however, to a great extent immaterial, since the free and independent
burghers, including some of the members of the Volksraad who had imposed
it, promptly refused to pay it, or indeed, whilst they were about it,
any other tax. As the Treasury was already empty, and creditors were
pressing, this refusal was most ill-timed, and things began to look very
black indeed. Meanwhile, in addition to the ordinary expenditure,
and the interest payable on debts, money had to be found to pay Von
Schlickmann's volunteers. As there was no cash in the country, this was
done by issuing Government promissory notes, known as "goodfors," or
vulgarly as "good for nothings," and by promising them all booty, and to
each man a farm of two thousand acres, lying east and north-east of the
Loolu mountains; in other words, in Secocoeni's territory, which did not
belong to the Government to give away. The officials were the next
to suffer, and for six months before the Annexation these unfortunate
individuals lived as best they could, for they certainly got no salary,
except in the case of a postmaster, who was told to help himself to his
pay in stamps. The Government issued large numbers of bills, but the
banks refused to discount them, and in some cases the neighbouring
Colonies had to advance money to the Transvaal post-cart contractors,
who were carrying the mails, as a matter of charity. The Government even
mortgaged the great salt-pan near Pretoria for the paltry sum of 400
pounds, whilst the leading officials of the Government were driven
to pledging their own private credit in order to obtain the smallest
article necessary to its continuance. In fact, to such a pass did things
come that when the country was annexed a single threepenny bit (which
had doubtless been overlooked) was found in the Treasury chest, together
with acknowledgments of debts to the extent of nearly 300,000 pounds.

Nor was the refusal to pay taxes, which they were powerless to enforce,
the only difficulty with which the Government had to contend. Want of
money is as bad and painful a thing to a State as to an individual, but
there are perhaps worse things than want of money, one of which is to be
deserted by your own friends and household. This was the position of the
Government of the Republic; no sooner was it involved in overwhelming
difficulties than its own subjects commenced to bait it, more especially
the English portion of its subjects. They complained to the English
authorities about the commandeering of members of their family or goods;
they petitioned the British Government to interfere, and generally made
themselves as unpleasant as possible to the local Authorities. Such a
course of action was perhaps natural, but it can hardly be said to be
either quite logical or just. The Transvaal Government had never asked
them to come and live in the country, and if they did so, it must be
remembered that many of the agitators had accumulated property, to leave
which would mean ruin; and they saw that, unless something was done, its
value would be destroyed.

Under the pressure of all these troubles the Boers themselves split up
into factions, as they are always ready to do. The Dopper party
declared that they had had enough progress, and proposed the extremely
conservative Paul Kruger as President, Burgers' time having nearly
expired. Paul Kruger accepted the candidature, although he had
previously promised his support to Burgers, and distrust of each other
was added to the other difficulties of the Executive, the Transvaal
becoming a house very much divided against itself. Natives, Doppers,
Progressionists, Officials, English, were all pulling different ways,
and each striving for his own advantage. Anything more hopeless than
the position of the country on the 1st January 1877 it is impossible to
conceive. Enemies surrounded it; on every border there was the prospect
of a serious war. In the exchequer there was nothing but piles of
overdue bills. The President was helpless, and mistrustful of his
officers, and the officers were caballing against the President. All the
ordinary functions of Government had ceased, and trade was paralysed.
Now and then wild proposals were made to relieve the State of its
burdens, some of which partook of the nature of repudiation, but these
were the exception; the majority of the inhabitants, who would neither
fight nor pay taxes, sat still and awaited the catastrophe, utterly
careless of all consequences.

H. Rider Haggard

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