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The Life of James Stewart
The Natives and the Europeans


Table Mountain—The Native Problem—The Land Problem—-Dr. Stewart as a Daysman—Native Criminal Law—Race Enmity—The Scorners of the Natives—Hopeful Facts.

‘It is the aim of Christianity to blot out the word alien and barbarian and put the word brother in its place.’—Max Muller.

‘British justice, if not blind, should be colour-blind.’—Conan Doyle in ‘The Great Boer War.’

‘Contempt of men is the ground-feature of heathenism. ‘—Marlensen’s ‘Ethics.’

‘Mega anthropos’ (A man is a great thing).—A Church Father.

‘The great ones honoured us, the believers showed us affection, but the people of the world despised us because our skins were black. ‘—Gambella, the Christian Prime Minister of King Lewanika of Barotsiland, on his return from the Coronation of King Edward VII.

THE first object that fixes the gaze of the stranger at Cape Town is Table Mountain, that dark gigantic rock of perpendicular granite, nearly 4000 feet high and 12 miles long. It besets him, monopolises attention, shuts out all objects behind and dwarfs all in front, and looks menacingly upon him through the windows of the house where he is sojourning. When the white chilling mist lies upon it, that dark mass seems to shut out heaven and overhang the whole city.

Since old Africa came to an end in 1900, and Boer and Briton are now at peace, the native problem confronts all thoughtful men in South Africa after the fashion of Table Mount. It is the ‘black cloud’ which overshadows the patriot, and for him there is from it no escape. It is the storm-centre of African discussion and politics. And it had a large place in Stewart’s whole life, and remained a permanent part of the horizon of his mind.

The native problem in South Africa is the greatest of its kind in history, and one of the heaviest burdens ever laid upon the white man. It will probably be the supreme test of modern statesmanship. It may be fairly defined by using the words in which a statesman recently described the kindred problem in India: ‘It is not a phase but a development, not a sickness but a birth which our own Government has created.’ The new wine is bursting the old bottles.

The essential facts are these: Between the Cape and the Zambesi there were, according to the census of 1904, 1,142,563 whites and 9,163,021 natives and coloured people. Dudley Kidd, in his Kafir Socialism (p. 284), says that the native population in Natal has increased seventy-five fold in seventy years—from about 10,000 in 1838 to 700,000 in 1906. The natives have an unconquerable vitality. The vices of the white men have failed to reduce their numbers as they have done in other lands. They are still ‘fruitful and multiply and replenish the earth.’ The Basutos, the most prosperous and intelligent of the African races, have, it is said, increased fivefold during the last thirty years. In Natal, in twenty years, the Zulus have doubled. Bryce, in his Impressions of South Africa (p. 346), tells us that ‘the number of the Fingoes to-day is ten times as great as it was fifty or sixty years ago. The blacks are increasing twice as fast as the whites, as all the checks that formerly kept the population in bounds have been removed.’ Dr. Carnegie says that the negroes in America in 1880 were 6,580,793, and in 1890, 8,840,789. The coloured races are multiplying with a rapidity which many deem alarming. The problem is bow to develop the native into a citizen. Every year it grows graver, and the penalty of failure is appalling. And it is very urgent, for the natives do not move now as by the measured pace of oxen, but as by steam and electricity.

[In his recently published Kafir Socialism and The Dawn of Individualism: An Introduction to the Study of the Native Problem, Dudley Kidd endeavours to set forth all the essential facts in the problem, and to suggest practical remedies. It is a very interesting book, but it is fitted to make the reader feel giddy in presence of the enormous complexities, varieties, and hindrances which belong to the native question. Mr. Kidd says that we are building up our structure at the foot of a volcano, but that, like all Pompeians, we have grown used to it, and do not worry much about our Vesuvius. ‘The problems ahead,’ he says, ‘make one almost afraid to think.’]

There will soon be, if there is not already, a pressing land problem. The territories allotted to the natives are now almost fully occupied. While there are immense stretches of unoccupied lands, the greater part of these is almost waterless, covered with scrub, and incapable of cultivation. Our Empire in South Africa has now reached its territorial limits. Africa now contains no more unparcelled earth of any agricultural value.

It is not surprising that the natives should be discontented when they see the land which belonged to their tribes from time immemorial, now occupied by white men, some of whom, they believe, are coveting the poor black man’s vineyard, and wishing to ‘eat up’ his land. Some one has said that formerly Europeans used to steal Africans from Africa, and now they are trying to steal Africa from the Africans. The recent Boer war and the war in German territory have tended to foster elements of discontent. And their rulers admit that they have real grievances which should be remedied.

Many have written upon this perplexing subject. A perusal of their writings leaves two impressions: all admit the extreme gravity of the problem, and no one suggests a practical and hopeful solution. The Native Affairs Commission left this question untouched. We are in presence of the growing pains of a new and vast Empire. This spectacle has drawn the eyes of the world to South Africa. We may hope that there will never be any serious war of races, though some students of the problem have grave fears. There is a history of Lobengula which has as its frontispiece a white and a black soldier fully armed. It is plain to the eye that the black man has no better chance in battle than the crow has with the eagle. Besides, the various races know not how to unite, though they are now beginning to realise their race unity and their common interests.

Stewart was well fitted to be a Daysman between the conflicting parties. The ‘Great White Father’ of the natives, he could lay a hand on both. The word ‘Lovedale’ had a charm for them. It offered a fair field to all and no favour. There their children ate, studied, worked, and played together with the white children. They all knew that he had devoted his life to them.

[The Reverend Doig Young writes: ‘Once when Dr. Stewart and Mr. Mzimba were travelling together to attend a meeting of Presbytery, they had to spend a night at a wayside inn. Knowing that hotel-keepers as a rule do not give up a bedroom to a native, Dr. Stewart, after being shown his room, asked the landlady what accommodation Mr. Mzimba was to have. "Oh," she said, "I will let him sleep in the loft outside." "Well, well," was the quiet rejoinder, "just let me see the place." They were taken to the loft above the stable. Dr. Stewart turned to Mr. Mzimba and said, in presence of the landlady, "You go and occupy my room, and I will sleep here." "Oh no," was her reply, "I cannot allow that." "But I insist upon it," continued Dr. Stewart; "if you have no bedroom in the house to give my friend, he must take my room." The upshot was that Mr. Mzitnba was shown into a comfortable room. During many years this landlady told this wonderful story to her guests. It seems to have been the only experience of the kind she had known.

‘Dr. Stewart was all through his long missionary life the loyal and sympathetic friend of the native people. He never forgot the old students either. Should he, even when hurrying through the streets of a town to catch a train, notice an old Lovedale lad on the other side of the street, across he would run at once, shake hands, and ask after his welfare.

‘He lived, he worked, he prayed for the advancement of the natives.’]

The chiefless native, without a land or a home, formerly a man, but now a child in his new surroundings, and bewildered with the white man’s strange ways, appealed strongly to his knightly chivalry, and made him ‘think furiously’ as the French say. At the same time Stewart’s attitude to the colonists had always been respectful and propitiatory. Like them, he was a zealous imperialist, and vehemently opposed to Kruger’s policy. Largely dowered with the God-given instinct of revolt against oppression and wrong, he could express his noble rage in the style of an Old Testament prophet. With flashing eye and quivering voice he described scenes of wanton cruelty towards natives which he had witnessed. The Grondwet (constitution) of the Transvaal, which declared that ‘no equality between black and white was to be recognised in Church and State,’ roused his intensest opposition. He was thus persuaded that only under British supremacy could the natives receive justice and consideration. [A friend who is perfectly familiar with the subject writes: ‘Under and Constitution of the Transvaal, which is supposed to be British, certainly has the approval of the Home Government, the natives are said to no - no better off than when under Kruger. They have political rights, and they cannot own property.] At the same time he had no romantic or sentimental views about the natives. No man spoke more boldly about their failings, and the exertions by which alone they could improve their position. ‘It is not too much to say,’ writes Dr. M’Clure of Cape Town, ‘that Dr. Stewart’s influence did much to ensure the adoption by Cape Colony of the policy of equal rights for civilised men as citizens independent of colour.’ This policy embraced the Glen Grey Act (so called from the district to which it was first applied in 1894) by which the sale of drink was forbidden to the natives. Cecil Rhodes was the chief advocate of this policy, and he secured its application to Rhodesia. Many are of opinion that in these questions he was largely influenced by Stewart. They do wrong to Rhodes who represent him as a heartless exploiter of the natives. He was ‘simply worshipped’ by his black servants, and he thus defined his attitude to them: ‘The natives are children, and we ought to do something for the minds and the brains that the Almighty has given them. I do not believe that they are different from ourselves’

In 1888 Stewart had an influential share in introducing a new era for the natives. Along with a leading judge he was appointed to draw up a Bill codifying the native criminal law. Their report extended to some seven hundred pages. A German had slain a native, and for some time he was not called to account for his crime. The Rev.

D. D. Don, of King William’s Town, then boldly espoused the cause of the natives, and Stewart was one of his chief supporters. The community was deeply stirred by the agitation, and the principle was then for the first time fully established that in the eye of the law the native had the same rights as the white man. This successful agitation achieved for the natives of Africa what Burke, by his action in the case of Warren Hastings, achieved for the natives of India. Since then our nation has rejected the idea of geographical morality and humanity, and has demanded that all the subject races within our Empire shall be governed on British principles. That demand was made effective in South Africa by the action of Mr. Don, Stewart, and their friends.

Stewart was a leading authority in all matters affecting the natives, and he was often consulted by statesmen.

Both Cecil Rhodes and Lord Milner adopted the ‘Lovedale’ attitude to the natives. The following letter from Lord Milner reveals his relation to Dr. Stewart and his matured convictions regarding the natives:—

‘HIGH COMMISSIONER’S OFFICE,
‘JOHANNESBURG, Oct. 17, 1904.

‘DEAR DR. STEWART,—Many thanks for your letter of October 6th, and for kindly sending me your book. The contrasted maps on page 11 are striking indeed. I have so far read the first and fifteenth chapters with much interest. You know that I am in agreement with your temperate hopefulness about the African, or at least the African that I know. The Commission have been here the last ten days. I am glad to find that the leading men on it seem to me to be inclining to a very sound view; they are decidedly not anti-native, and are anxious to give the natives both a chance and incitement to gradually rise individually, and also to give them collectively some representation, though they are dead against whites and blacks voting together. I think it is going to come to native representation in a white assembly through separate members elected by the natives, voting separately— not, perhaps, an ideal solution, but better either than the present Cape system or the total exclusion of the natives from all representation. The latter system will no doubt continue to prevail for some time in the new colonies. One cannot rush these things. But if the Cape, which has on the whole most civilised natives, leads the way, and the experiment is a success, the other colonies will doubtless follow suit in time. I hope you have by now received the minutes of the evidence already given. You will be the best judge whether you should appear before the Commission in person. There is no man whose views on the native question would be of greater authority. But, of course, you may think, on looking through the evidence, that the considerations you would like to urge have already been sufficiently presented by others. You alone can judge whether this is so or not.—Believe me, dear Dr. Stewart, with affectionate respect, yours

very truly,

MILNER.’

In 1897, at Bulawayo, Rhodes made his celebrated declaration about ‘equal rights for all civilised men south of the Zambesi, whatever their colour.’ The policy adopted in Lovedale forty years ago has been adopted in all the States in South Africa except Natal, Transvaal, and Orange River Colony. ‘It has been given to few men to make and mould a whole race ‘—we quote from the Memorial Number of the Christian Express. ‘Such nation-builders God sends seldom. But Dr. James Stewart, missionary, was thus honoured. It is to him, to his largeness of soul, to his tenderness of heart all consecrated, enriched, and purified by the spirit of God, that the native people of South Africa owe in great measure the position of advantage and promise which they hold to-day.’

Stewart was fully alive to all the essential facts of the race-problem, which divides the English as well as the Dutch. The attitude of many British colonials to the native was one of the sorrows of his life. South Africa is, and has always been, a land of extremes, contradictions, and surprises. To both Herodotus and Aristotle is the saying attributed, ‘Out of Africa comes ever some new thing.’ To the British traveller one of the greatest of African surprises is the number of men of British birth who have no real sympathy with the native. ‘The traveller in South Africa,’ says Bryce, ‘is astonished at the strong feeling of dislike and contempt—one might almost say of hostility—which the bulk of the whites show to their black neighbours. The tendency to race-enmity lies very deep in human nature.’

The whites in South Africa are much more outspoken and unconventional than their kinsfolk at home. Their real opinions are soon disclosed to the traveller. Some seem to regard the black man as their haltered much cow, and scarcely a man. Their philosophy is that Ham has no business to do anything but serve Japheth as in duty bound. They forget that he has human feelings and rights. They expect him to work for their profit with intelligence while he is not to use that intelligence for his own advancement. They claim to speak for a large number of their neighbours. It is here offered as personal testimony that many intelligent Britons in South Africa say what no man would venture to say in public at home. They value the black man only in so far as he can be of service to them. One soon discovers in South Africa that inhumanity may also have its bigots. Froude in his Oceana says: ‘A black man is a better conductor of lightning than a white, and so a white has always a black by his side in a thunderstorm.’ In his Last Journal Livingstone says: ‘We must never lose sight of the fact that though the majority perhaps are on the side of freedom, large numbers of Englishmen are not slave-holders only because the law forbids the practice. In this proclivity we see a great part of the reason of the frantic sympathy of thousands with the rebels in the great Black war in America.’

It is true that the white man has many provoking experiences with the natives, but has he none with his fellow-whites?

In his evidence before the Native Affairs Commission Stewart said: ‘The white man has contributed to race antagonisms quite as much as the black perhaps. Many white people would not worship in a church where the natives are. That is the general feeling in the colonies.’

J. S. M’Arthur, Esq., the discoverer of the Cyanide process of extracting gold, thus describes the scorn with which some regard the native Christian: ‘As I began to mix more with the people in South Africa, I got to understand the prejudice against the Kafir Christian. Those who reviled him often knew nothing about him, and those who really did know about him were, in most cases, a low type of European who considered that every nigger requires to be kicked, beaten, thrashed, and sworn at. The Christian Kafir had been taught that he was a man, and he resented the continual ill-treatment. To the consternation of the bully the "converted nigger" showed himself a man. The bully did not like it, and then blamed Christianity for spoiling niggers.’

Sir R. Jebb, of the British Association, reports that ‘the education of the native was spoken of by some with scorn, or even with something like panic.’ They dislike native education as much as the slave-holders did in the Southern States of America. Surely he who opposes education cannot be regarded as an educated man.

I met some whites in South Africa who were deeply grieved that Lord Milner had heartily shaken hands with native chiefs, and that statesmen and noblemen had entertained in their houses in London the African chiefs who were at the Coronation. Though the subject had a very sad side, the naïveté of the distressed objectors was highly amusing. These people would deny to the natives the common courtesies of life. Several representatives of the Press treat the whole subject with heartless cynicism. In view of these facts, Britons should not upbraid the Boers, as a class, for their treatment of the natives.

Some colonial objectors to missions are like the peevish children in the market-place in Christ’s day. They wish the missionary to teach the Kafir not to read but to work; and when he is taught to work, they still object that the teaching heightens the price of labour. Many are afraid of the competition of the trained native, and think that he should be only a hewer of wood and drawer of water to the whites, as patient as the ox and more obedient than the mule. [This view is very frankly stated in the Koloniale Zeitschrift, the organ of the German commercial company into whose hands the German Government placed the development of their West African Territory. In that newspaper we read: ‘We have acquired this colony, not for the evangelisation of the Blacks, not primarily for their well-being, but for us whites. Whosoever hinders our object we must put out of the way.’ Verily these men have had their reward. (Christ us Liberator, p. 279.) ] The real trouble with them is that they cannot get cheap skilled native labour, as the education that makes it skilled, makes it also dear, and so prevents the speedy enrichment of the white man. Like many unreasonable people, they feel indignation in connection with one subject and express it in connection with another.

It must be remembered that there are two policies in South Africa, the Cape policy and the policy in Natal and Transvaal. The policy of Cape Colony is British, that in the other two States is more or less opposed to British ideals. During the Boer war many in our country could scarcely believe that natives were not allowed to walk on the pavement, and that if any attempted in Johannesburg to do so, they were rudely driven away. But this great scandal has not yet been remedied, and so Britain’s fair fame as the champion and protector of the native races is imperilled.

We have now come to the gravest element in this overshadowing, overawing, and omnipresent problem. It is that pride of race and contempt of others which is the unfailing mark of genuine barbarism. The low-minded scorners of the African race forget that scorn breeds scorn and abiding resentment, and that the native is a man for all that, of the same human stuff with ourselves. What can we expect from them if to race-hatred of the raw Kafir there should be added race-envy of the educated Kafir, whom some regard as a menace to the imagined rights of the whites. Dr. Livingstone says that it is a very dangerous thing to despise the manhood of the meanest savage, and that some white men he had known had lost their lives by so doing. In Dr. Blaikie’s Life of Livingstone, p. 373, we find the following: ‘The rumour of the Baron’s (Van der Decken) death was subsequently confirmed. His mode of treating the natives was the very opposite of Livingstone’s, who regarded the manner of his death as another proof that it was not safe to disregard the manhood of the African people.' [A Brahmin was lately speaking to an Indian missionary about the persistent scorn of natives by Englishmen, which is believed to be largely responsible for the present estrangement in India. The Brahmin added: ‘When you meet a real Christian the ideal is possible, and it is possible nowhere else in the world.’]

In 1882 General Gordon, then stationed at King William’s Town, wrote to Stewart: ‘Do away with the unsympathetic magistrates and you would want no troops. To me the native question is a comparatively simple one, if the Government would act at once.’

The natives seem to have some mysterious power which is lost by civilisation. Dudley Kidd calls it telepathy. They know far better than the most intelligent whites what is going on around them. ‘Among them the white man’s character and reputation are as well known as if he walked in broad daylight with the whole story written on his back.’ The natives now know all about the weaknesses and vices of the whites. Do any of us realise what that means, or how the terrible truth impresses them? Many are complaining that the natives do not now respect the white men. But they warmly welcomed, and kissed the hands of, the first white men who landed at Cape Town. No man should be respected because his skin is white, or because he possesses superior power. The natives respect all the whites who respect themselves, and they adore those whom they can completely trust. To those who are saying, ‘We must and shall have respect from the natives,’ the proper reply is, ‘Deserve it, and you will get it.’ Men do not gain respect by demanding it.

Marvellous beyond words is the power which the whites might easily gain over the natives if only their lives were noble. ‘We perceive that you respect us, and we will be faithful for ever,’ said the wild Beydurs of India to Meadows Taylor, their magistrate. The hearts of all men are fashioned alike in this respect. Many great statesmen and missionaries have shown how uncivilised men may be won. It is very plain that they can never be won by brutality, coercion, and scorn. It is the white man’s foolish haughtiness that rouses the demon in the native and adds fuel to the fire over which native discontent is simmering all the world over.

This barbarous colour-madness of many of his fellow-countrymen came home to Stewart as a personal affliction or a domestic calamity. C It is more difficult to say what will be the future of the African himself,’ he says, ‘but it is possible that the opinion about him will be as completely reversed as has been the opinion of the civilised world about the continent in which he dwells. For countless centuries he was regarded as only fit to be a chattel and a slave, and though that day is past, many at the present time regard him as scarcely worthy of notice among mankind, except for his muscular strength and fitness for the lowest and roughest kind of labour. Even to-day educated Englishmen speak of him as an "inferior animal, as a blend of child and beast," or a "useless and dangerous brute," scarcely possessing human rights. To those who use such language I would say, how badly we use the power and the gifts that God has given us, when we so regard the unfortunate African.’

The Rev. R. W. Barbour wrote: ‘Dr. Stewart has a great deal to do and to bear in his fearless defence of their rights. He does not flatter the natives, but he does wish to see fair-play, and to give them a chance of standing on their own feet in all this hurry and press of Europeans, eager to get more land, and threatening to override the coloured people altogether. Pitiably enough, the subject is made here, just as at home, a matter of party.’

As this chapter is discouraging, it should close with some words about the hopeful features of the native problem.

1. As in India, the native Christians, with extremely few exceptions, have never taken part in any native wars, and they have often prevented bloodshed.

2. The leading statesmen and very many of the citizens of South Africa desire to treat the natives with justice and generosity. The Report of the Native Affairs Commission is inspired by a noble desire to further the weal of all, and it will occupy a place of high honour in history. But as so many are indifferent or hostile, every question affecting the natives should be watched with unslumbering vigilance in the mother-country. South African affairs are now in a state of flux, and many are even proposing to remove the restrictions on the sale of European liquors to the natives. Britons have every right to secure that the natives shall be treated according to the British ideals.

3. There is India with its perplexing problems and its 300,000,000 split up into a hundred different races, each speaking a different dialect, and all arrayed against one another by caste, tribal and religious prejudices. The world has never seen such audacity as that of our little island in undertaking to govern there one-fifth of the whole human family, and success has attended the effort because the Government has been just and sympathetic. ‘The governing of India is a wonderful thing to contemplate; wonderful to reckon by how few it is done, with what apparent ease and small parade of power; wonderful to see how difficulties have been moulded into gains, how prejudices have been turned to good account, and how strong bricks have been made from uninviting straw. Above all are to be admired those broad principles of justice, honesty, and kindness, which are at the foundation of British rule.’ (Sir Frederick Treves, On the Other Side of the Lantern.) In spite of present disturbances, India teaches us not to despair of Africa.

‘Make a man a man, and let him be,’ is the British method. The difficulties it entails are smaller than those created by tyranny, as Russia and Belgium on the Congo know right well. If there is danger in making concessions to an awakening people, is there none in refusing them? Lord John Lawrence held that Christian things done in a Christian way could never be politically dangerous. He declared that these things, ‘so far from being dangerous, have established British rule in India.’ ‘Having ascertained,’ he wrote in one of his despatches, ‘what is our Christian duty according to our unerring lights and conscience, he would follow it out to the uttermost, undeterred by any consideration.’

Niebuhr, the German historian, says that Britons are the Romans of to-day. But there is an essential difference: Britain desires to be, not the robber or mistress, but the mother of the subject races. We may therefore hope that the native question in South Africa will never, as in America, be settled by fire and sword.


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