SOUTH AFRICAN HISTORY AND PROSPECTS.*
IT is something to be able to say of a book on so bewritten a subject as South Africa that it contains elements of freshness, and that it treats of certain of the questions bound up with that of the continuance of the British Empire there from a novel standpoint. It is still more to be able to say this of a • Owr South African Empire. By WHIlam Greawall.M.11..P.E.O.I. 2 vols. London : Chapman and Hall. 1885.
book written by a disciple and admirer of Sir Bartle Frere, who, like moat of his tribe, has Mr. Gladstone's so-called " election- eering promises " on the tip of the tongue, if not on the brain. But Mr. Gres well has obviously studied South Africa from the inside as well as from the outside. Inclined to allow his enthusiasm to soar off into the clouds—or rather the mists —of rhetoric, he yet invariably writes like a scholar and like a man anxious to do justice to opinions he has come by honestly and after independent research. It is not less clear that he has the political, moral, and intellectual interests of the native races of South Africa at heart, even although he may be desirous to do justice to them in too auto- cratic or Carlyliau a fashion. Finally, although, looking to the historical side of the book, Mr. Greswell has had to utilise the labours of predecessors in the same field, such as Mr. Noble, his work has no old-almanack dulness about it. It is essentially
original. When, too, Mr. Greswell is not too polemical or too
rhetorical, his narrative style is enjoyable.
Much of what Mr. Greswell says in these two volumes, alike in digressions from his narrative and in special chapters, belongs to the department of pamphleteering rather than of literature. It would serve no purpose to slay the slain once more, there- fore, by referring to the balk of what he has to say about the Boers, Zululand, Basutoland, the reign of Sir Bartle Frere, or even the mission of Mr. Fronde. It must be allowed, however, that he pokes some good-natured and perfectly legitimate fun at Mr. Froude for hurling at an audience of plain men quotations
from Horace about the rustics proles and the like some ten years ago, and saying of the Boers :—" I saw young women who might have stepped down from the canvas of Van Eyck ; I saw young
men who might have sat to Teniers." It seems to us, however, that Mr. Greswell goes too far when, seeking to controvert Mr. Fronde, he says :—
" There is nothing very romantic about Dutch Boers, whether men or women, especially in the opinion of those who know them ; and recent events, from the treacherous ambasoade at Bronker's 8pm:it and the massacre of the 91th, to the murder of Christopher Bethell, prove that whatever good qualities the race generally may have, generosity and good-faith mast not be included."
In another part of his work, also, Mr. Greswell describes the Boers as " braggarts ;" and, adverting once more to the affair at Bronker's Sprait, describes it as if it were a case of treachery.
But it is only fair to bear in mind that two of the moat recent writers on South African affairs—Lady Bellaire and Mr. Nixon— who have written the history of the Transvaal War, and certainly not from the standpoint of the late Government, have borne testimony to the good qualities of the Boers, their kindliness, their generosity, their courage. As for the Bronker's Sprnit disaster, these writers have made it clear that the unfortunate, though brave, commander of the 94th was mainly responsible for it by neglecting a number of ordinary precautions, and by not acting upon the warnings given by his superior officer, Colonel Bellairs, of the possibility of his progress being barred by a force of Boers. In dealing with the history of that well-known and powerful South African Association, the Afrikander Bond,—the best justification for which is the fact that 300,000 out of the 500,000 inhabitants at the Cape are of Dutch or of Dutch-French extraction,—Mr. Greswell shows strong anti-Dutch sympathies, and to a certain extent advocates the clause of the opposition body, the Empire League, which is endeavouring to extend itself in South Africa. Yet there may be something—although we do not say much—in this suggestion by Mr. Greswell :—
" Is there no possibility of mediation between the spirit of the Bond and the spirit of the League ? At the bottom of all South African differences there has been some land dispute. It has been so at every stage of history, both in the Cape Colony, the Free State, and the Transvaal. The Imperial Government, as in the latest instances of Sir Henry Barkly and the Diamond Fields, and Sir Bartle Frere and the Zulu Settlement, have generally adjusted matters by means of the Governor and High Commissioner. In these days of arbitra- tion a conference of representatives from both the English Colonies of the Cape and Natal, and also from both the Dutch Republics of the Free State and the Transvaal, might be entrusted with the manage- ment of those disputed points which have hitherto been in the hands of a plenipotentiary. The es officio members of each a conference might be such men as President Brand of the Free State, the Governors of the Cape and Natal, the Chief Justice of the Cape, and a representative from the Transvaal, together with other suitable men. By Bach means the voices of the colonists themselves might be heard on matters essentially touching their interests, and the reproach taken away that the direct action of the Colonial Office upon South Africa has been productive of evil. Perhaps, from the deliberations of such a conference, and from the common wisdom and self-respect of men in council, whether Datoh or English, some idea might be definitely formed of the necessary outline of a common, just, and righteous native policy, the desideratum of the hour in South Africa. If a permanent Arbitration Board could exist there which would on all occasions decide on the side of right and justice as against violence and fraud, no such disgraceful episodes as those connected with the so-called Republics of Goahen and Stellaland would ever have been beard of."
Deeply to be deplored—even more deeply to be deplored than a war of White races—would be the general adoption of a cruel and unjust policy by members of all the White races that have effected a lodgment in South Africa, against the native tribes. The Dutch are bound to exercise great influence in the future over the destinies of South Africa, and in very few respects, indeed, can Englishmen presume to despise them. At the same time, Mr. Greswell's volumes and previous books on the same subject seem to us to prove conclusively that the ordinary African colonist, of English extraction, is much jester and even more tender towards the natives than his Dutch rival, or brother, unless when he is dragged at the wheels, and forced to do the bidding, of some prancing proconsul. It in to be hoped,
therefore, that, in one way or another, he will dominate colonial dealings with the native tribes—whether by means of a con-
federation or otherwise—until the inevitable racial amalga- mation takes place.
The best chapters in this book, and also the freest from the taint of political bias, are those which relate the various occupa- tions of and settlements in South Africa by men of European nationalities, on the one hand, and those which deal with present- day social problems in South Africa on the other. Mr. Greswell takes, on the whole, as we think, the right view of the Dutch occupation of the Cape from the landing of the ex-Surgeon Van Riebeck in Table Bay, April 5th, 1652, in the name of the Netherlands East India Company, to the final English occupa- tion in 1806. Whatever may be the national feeling or aspira- tion at the bottom of the Afrikander movement of to-day, there can be no question that originally the Dutch, as Mr. Greswell has put it, regarded Table Bay simply as a port of call on the way to their Eastern possessions, and Cape Town, together with the surrounding country, as the exclusive possession and property of the Netherlands East India Company. " The burghers outside, who consisted in the first place chiefly of dismissed and time-expired servants of the Company, with occasional recruits from Europe, and also of a number of French refugees, who found a home in Spellenboach, the Pearl, and the quiet villages of the Western Province, after the revocation of the Edict of Nantes, had no voice or share in the government of the country, and were actually in revolt against the Dutch authorities at Cape Town when the British Fleet anchored off Muizenburg beach." The history of the French occupation of Cape Colony—if the rush of French Huguenots to the Cape Settlements in 1687 may be so termed—is rather peculiar in one sense. The descendants of these refugees are so numerous as to form a large portion of the whole indigenous population of the Cape. Yet,—
" The French language was stamped out so quickly, that in less than a hundred and fifty years after the first landing of the refugees not a man spoke it. A quaint story is told of one of these French Boers, who was asked by a traveller whether he spoke French, his name, De Clerc, being decidedly a French one. No, was his reply, in the broken Dutch patois of the Cape, ' but I have French Ram. bouillet rum' Not a trace of French literature is preserved, and the spirit of inquiry and scientific thought, so peculiar to the French nation, seems to have disappeared altogether. Mr. Needham Cast, writing on the South African languages in a scientific spirit, mentions the fact that the Boers alone of the peoples of South Africa had con- tributed nothing to help him in his researches. There is absolutely no indigenous literature amongst the Boer or farmer class. The only poet South Africa can boast of is a Mr. Pringle, a Sootchman, who came to Algoa Bay in 1820."
What Mr. Greswell has to say on social blots on South African civilisation and on education deserves consideration. Such a
picture as this, for example, requires immediate attention :-- " Any chance visitor at Cape Town should take a walk from Wynberg to the vineyards of Constantia on a Saturday afternoon, to fully realise to what an extent this social blot exists, even in the centre of South African civilisation. Troops of Hottentots—men and women—come reeling along in all states of drunkenness, fresh from the visit to some neighbouring canteen. Frequently they are brandishing in their hands bottles of that fiery staff procurable at a shilling a bottle. Not being allowed to get drunk on the premises, they sit down by the roadside, and hold their uncouth Bacchanalian rites. Excited by these orgies, and maddened by the poison they imbibe, they commit all sorts of crime, and are brought up before the Magistrate on the following Monday morning, sadder if not wiser
beings It has been calculated that fully three-quarters of the crimes committed owe their beginning to drunkenness."
It may yet be found necessary, it is plain, to prohibit the selling of liquor to natives of South Africa as stringently as the Canadian Government has latterly done in the case of the Red Indians. Mr. Greswell, who is in favour of the Kaffir being educated after a somewhat different fashion from the White, makes these observations :—
" A European can receive a very good education at the Cape. Although the education system is complicated by the presence of coloured classes, the colonist need not find himself much interrupted by black pupils drawing inspiration from the same teaching sources as himself. The first-class undenominational school, an institution generally to be found in most African towns and villages of import- ance, as a rule provides a good middle-class training. The ambition of a student there is to pass the matriculation, the first university examination ; and it is according to this standard that the teachers and masters train their pupils. The curriculum is a wide one, as a knowledge of algebra, Euclid, and arithmetic, French, English, chemistry, Latin, and even Greek is expected. Comparing it with the Oxford matriculation, it is wider but less thorough. . . . . . The Syllabus of the Cape University examinations is wide and discursive rather than restricted and thorough. The matriculation is, however, on the whole, a useful one enough, and it frequently forms the goal of a young colonist's ambition Occasionally, the name of a Kaffir student will appear in the matriculation list alongside that of the Europeans, proving that the time may come when the only rivalry between Black and White may be the rivalry of the schools."
Altogether, this is one of those books which one can read and be benefited by, if one skips the more pronounced opinions of the writer.