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Reminiscences and Reflections of an Octogenarian Highlander Chapter LXVII. - The Position of the Ruling Race

IN 1866 Cape Colony, thanks to help of Imperial troops in defeating the Kaffir invasion of the eastern provinces, was in a peaceful and settled condition. The Kaffirs were punished by being deprived of a large piece of their former roving and hunting lands, half a million acres of which, divided into farms, were sold in the above year on quit-rent terms for very small purchase money. But the purchasers had to go out into wilds where there were no roads, and no easy access to markets, unless for horses, cattle, and sheep, that could go on their own feet far distances, where they would have feeding and watering resting-places at day-march distances. They had also to put up boundary marks, and to defend their households and cattle kraals against native raiders, who thought it an honourable feat to buy their first wives by stolen cattle. The Hottentots and other mixed tribes of the western provinces had learned to be submissive. The Cromwellian masterfulness of the Dutch pioneers who had first come among them had taught them obedience. On my arrival at Cape Town the war between Moshesh, chief of the Basutos, and the Orange Free State was near its conclusion; the result being that the Basutos were defeated and deprived of land which added 1500 large-sized farms to the Boer Republic. So, under the presidency of Mr John Brand, who was afterwards knighted by Queen Victoria, the Orange Free State became as orderly and, as long as Sir John Brand lived, as well ruled as Cape Colony. Natal and the Transvaal were far from enjoying similar blessings of order and security. Railway construction was in its infancy. The Paarl was the furthest place to which one could go from Cape Town. Mail carts, however, traversed the interior, and Resident Magistrates and other officials, with very little force at their backs, upheld justice and authority. The Zulus had yet to learn that there was a great, far-away, and irresistible Power at the back of the small minority of whites who had assumed rule over South Africa, and whose rule, once firmly established, brought in its train advantages which had been utterly unknown and undreamed of during the perpetual tribal wars and unspeakable atrocities which preceded the coming of the white men on the scene.

Great as the disparity formerly was between the rulers and the ruled, with huge extensions of territory it has now become greater still, notwithstanding the increase of the white race during the intervening period. Diamond diggings and gold mines were not thought of in 1866, and trading inland had to be done by waggons drawn by teams of oxen over tracks which were roads only in name, and streams without bridges. Roads, railways, and bridges have since very much changed the situation in favour of white men's rule, and it is undeniable that wherever that rule is established in British South Africa, the natives are now treated with all the consideration which is consistent with the cause of general order, and, besides being rescued from old tribal wars and barbarous atrocities and customs, are being taught the useful arts of peace and ideas of social and moral duties, to which their ancestors were total strangers. They do not wither away through the change like American Red Indians, or with difficulty keep on the edge of that withering away like the Maories of New Zealand, who are naturally superior to all of them except the Kaffir, Basuto, and Zulu tribes that, like the whites, are themselves incomers of a far-back era.

From the little I saw, and the much I have read and heard, I believe the enduring source of prosperity for British South Africa is to be found in the cultivation of the soil, and not in the gold mines and diamond diggings. These act as magnets for the time only, and by-and-by will get exhausted. The culture potentialities of the land, on the other hand, appear to be immense in extent, as well as inexhaustible in quality. But this is a source of prosperity which has scarcely yet been as much as fairly tested. The heat is too great for white men's field work in by far the larger part of the country. White men can "boss," and their "bossing" will be needed, but if the cultivable land is to be cultivated, natives or Indians will have in many fertile districts to be the field-workers. I have mentioned the Indians, because of the controversies raised about their admission to British Colonies, and because, I think, in Uganda and the British part of the valley of the Zambesi, wide tracts of land now practically waste could be set apart for our Indian fellow- subjects to colonise and cultivate like the very similar plains of Bengal, for the same banking and irrigation methods would be needed, and soil and climate would be similar.

Half-a-century ago Boers and Britons were, as they are yet after a big war between themselves, the rulers of South Africa. The whites of various nationalities who sought an Alsatia there were nuisances to both ruling parties, and the ubiquitous Jews who went in search of trade were far from being welcomed by the Boers. There was, however, one set of new white incomers who deserve special notice. During the Crimean War, when Prussia was playing into the hands of Russia and the feeling of the Baltic German States was against that policy the project of raising a German Legion was advocated by Prince Albert and sanctioned by the Government of the day. But when the Legion was being mustered in London, the war came to an end. The legionairies, without smelling gunpowder, got the reward of warriors. They were offered free grants in the land about Williamstown, which had been taken from the Kaffirs, and a free passage there with their wives and families, while no similar offer was made to British veteran soldiers. The Germans went and settled on their African little farms, and setting themselves to work, prospered, as they deserved. They were Protestants, and readily fraternised with the Wesleyans and the Dutch Reformed churchmen of the eastern provinces. They took no part with the Boers in the late war, but comported themselves as loyal British subjects.

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