From the book: The Role of the Missionaries in conquest by Nosipho Majeke
THE BRITISH next aimed their attack at Hintsa, paramount chief of the Gcaleka, who had rich lands and many cattle beyond the Kei River. To the south of him, the maNdlambe, the maNgqika and other Xhosa tribes were being squeezed into an ever-narrowing strip of territory; to the north-west of him were the baThembu, to the north-east were the maMpondo and to the north of them was another pressure of tribes one upon another, driven south by certain developments among the coast tribes.
It is not part of this history to look into the forces responsible for the rise of the war-like chiefs of the people later known as the maZulu. But their rise seems to have been connected with a new development that was taking place at this time in the tribal system itself. The period of the vast movement of Bantu tribes from the north had come to an end. Land to the south was no longer in exhaustible and the tribes had halted at the Indian Ocean. This circumstance produced a change in the social fabric of the Bantu, a change that was accelerated by other forces, such as contact with the Mohammedans and Arabs who came in their sailing ships along the east coast, and the growing trade that the chiefs engaged in. All these things had a profound effect on the existing tribal organisation and was felt as far afield as the Cape Colony. Tshaka himself was a product of these far-reaching changes, which supplied the conditions for the operation of his military genius. As a result of these developments some sections of tribes moved southwards and among these were the maHlubi, the maBele and the maZisi, who were sections of the baMbo. They were also known as amaFengu, and to the English as the "Fingos," a name which we shall use for convenience. According to traditional Xhosa custom, when these tribes asked for land and pasturage from Hintsa, it was granted them. While they had their own chiefs and councillors, they gave him allegiance as paramount chief.
It was to these "Fingos" that the Wesleyan missionaries were to turn their particular attention. The Wesleyan missionaries seem to have been a remarkably able body of men, ready at all times to co-operate with the Government, which in turn expressed high appreciation of their services. About the middle twenties they had started laying their chain of mission stations among the Bantu tribes. The Rev. William Shaw first established Wesleyville beside the Gqunukhwebe chiefs, Phatho and Kama; the mission station at Mount Coke placed another missionary beside the aged chief Ndlambe; then followed Butterworth, which brought the Rev. Shrewsbury and then the Rev. John Ayliff close to Chief Hintsa; Clarkebury placed another among the baThembu; at Morley the Rev. Shepstone, father of Theophilus Shepstone, a future Minister of Native Affairs in Natal, was beside a Mpondo sub-chief, while at Buntingville the Mpondo chief, Faku, was brought under the eye of the Rev. William Boyce. The effect of this was to surround the paramount chief, Hintsa, on all sides.
It will be remembered that, by winning over Ngqika, the London Missionaries had effected the first breach in the Xhosa ranks. In the 1818 war against Ndlambe, Ngqika alone had been on the side of the British. It was now the task of the Wesleyans to affect the second breach in the Xhosa ranks, and then a third, and both of these were to have serious results in the coming attack on Hintsa.
The Rev. William Shaw, as he himself claims, succeeded in gaining an ascendancy over the chiefs Kama and Phatho, one of his first converts being Kama's wife, who was a daughter of Ngqika. These chiefs were persuaded that the missionary could intercede on their behalf for the recovery of their land, which had been lost to them through the treaty forced on Ngqika. "I promised I would present their case before the Colonial Government, if they stopped marauding," reported the Rev. Shaw in a letter to the Colonial Secretary. The result was that they were allowed to re-occupy grazing land in the poorest part of the "Ceded Territory" ”” "on condition of good behaviour." Here indeed the missionary had procured for them the proverbial stone where they had expected to receive bread. Nevertheless the price was a heavy one. For the Rev. Shaw contrived to bring them to the side of the British in the subsequent war against Maqoma and Hintsa. The Rev. Boyce in his "Notes on South African Affairs." written after the war, was able to record with high satisfaction that those chiefs who had resisted the British, namely, Maqoma, Botomane and Tyhali, were those who had been "alienated from their proper missionaries and natural advisers (the Wesleyans) ... by the injudicious interference of Dr. Philip," who had held out to them "extravagant expectations" of the recovery of their land. On the other hand, "the chiefs whom the Wesleyan missionaries saved from this injudicious tampering took no part in the war."
Rev. John Ayliff and the Fingos
Nowhere have we a clearer example of the tactics of "divide and rule" than in the way the Rev. John Ayliff drove a wedge between the Fingos and their natural allies, the Gcaleka. At Butterworth, the mission station became the very symbol of tribal division. First Ayliff persuaded one of Hintsa's chief councillors, who were a Fingo, to stay at the mission station. He used some of the christianised Fingos as his messengers and informants. He also succeeded in christianising Hintsa's chief wife, Nomsa, whose son he had cured of a sickness. He was aware that a sympathetic woman could be used to protect Europeans, if the occasion should arise. Thus Christian was divided against non-Christian; the Fingos were separated both from their non-Christian brothers and from their natural allegiance to the paramount chief. And that was not all. Ayliff, in his communications with the Governor, described the Fingos as "held in the most degrading bondage" (though elsewhere he stated they had large numbers of cattle). This was a most pernicious falsification on the part of the missionary. The system of slavery was completely foreign to the Bantu at this stage. And it was not likely that a chief of all the maXhosa would marry his daughter to Njokweni, the young Zizi chief, if in his eyes he was a slave.
It must be said that Ayliff acted with Jesuitical cunning in driving a wedge between the Gcaleka and the Fingos. One may well ask how he gained the ascendancy he did over the Fingos and persuaded them to look on the British as their "protectors." There is no doubt that their particular circumstances laid them open to his influence. They had been uprooted from their territory and their settled way of life; in their journeying south they had known privation. Hintsa had given them land and pasturage, but they had not yet become a part of their new surroundings. The process of integration into the Gcaleka tribe, which was normal in such cases, was not completed when the Gcaleka themselves became affected by the pressure of the white man's aggressions from the south. In this unsettled state, the missionary could the more easily play upon the minds of the Fingos. They who had so recently been refugees would the more quickly fear the threat of a new insecurity, and all too readily believe in the promises of "protection" under a powerful nation such as the missionary would describe, a nation which itself received (as he would say) the special favours of Divine Providence. No doubt he would read to them from the Scriptures the story of how the Israelites””wanderers like themselves””received the divine promise of a land flowing with milk and honey.
Hintsa had at first merely tolerated the presence of the missionaries. In a letter to the Governor, D'Urban, Ayliff had to admit the chief's obvious aversion to foreign doctrines. But in the general state of uneasiness after the outbreak of war, with Maqoma's people fleeing before the British soldiery, Hintsa's suspicions were fully aroused and he removed himself from the vicinity of the mission station at Butterworth. He seemed anxious to avoid war and did what seemed to him the wisest thing. On this point Ayliff had some thing to say to the Governor:
"He (the chief) viewed us in the light of agents of the Colonial Government and nothing more than colonial spies.”
Ayliff went on to say:
"The chief was able to keep me completely in the dark a to the whole of his proceedings, and from his messengers passing through Butterworth to different parts of the tribe I could get no information."
In spite of this admission of ignorance, he presumed to state that:
"During the progress of the war we sometimes heard that Hintsa gave direct encouragement to the hostile chiefs to proceed."
Of course, the point is not whether Hintsa did or did not act in such a way as paramount chief of all the maXhosa. What we are concerned with is the way the missionary identified himself with the interests of the Government while professing to be the "friend" of the Africans.
The campaign to blacken Hintsa was in the hands of the missionaries. It was now expedient to regard him as paramount chief, where previously the title had been thrust on an unwilling Ngqika, with what dire results we have seen. Hostile incidents between traders and Africans, though in themselves trivial, were used in order to pin responsibility of the war on the chief. In this connection it may be of some interest to observe the methods employed by the missionaries in assisting the Government.
A trader who had beaten an African was found murdered, where-upon letters passed between the Rev. Ayliff, the Rev. Shepstone and the Rev. Shrewsbury, all of whom had lived in the vicinity of Hintsa at one time or another. The Rev. Shrewsbury, passing on the information to the Commissioner for Albany, reinforced his suspicions by quoting the opinions of the Rev. Shepstone:
"Mr. Shepstone states it as his conviction from what he has heard (though he mentions no particulars) that Hintsa, the chief, is the real murderer."
"Mr. Shepstone did not express the opinion from any circumstance that came under his own observation or that has come by others, but from an intimate knowledge of the Caffre chiefs generally, and of Hintza in particular."
Then in passing on the missionary's letter to the Governor, the Commissioner, in turn, explained that:
"Mr. Shrewsbury states as his opinion that the property to be obtained by the killing of Purcell (the trader) was a sufficient motive.
As these men of peace were accustomed to describing the Africans as "irreclaimable thieves," these absurd conclusions are not surprising. Subsequently, the Governor, D'Urban, used the very form and language of these missionary communications to justify to the Imperial Government the ferocity of his attack on Hintsa. The Wesleyans at this time showed themselves such willing agents of Government that it is difficult to separate out the military aspect of the campaign from those that more particularly concern the commissionaires. By April 1834, D'Urban was ready to enter Hintsa's territory. At the beginning of the month four divisions of the army under Colonel Harry Smith, assisted by Colonel Somerset, had 'scoured" the country of the maXhosa to the base of the Mathole mountains, from where Maqoma and Tyhali defied the British with their guerilla tactics. The undermining of Hintsa's position had been in the excellent hands of the Rev. Ayliff. The Rev. Davis, at Clarkebury, had contributed further to this process by negotiating on behalf of the Governor with Fadana, chief of the *Vusani Thembu, and persuading this tribe to the rear of Hintsa to accept the " 'friendship" of the British and assist with troops if called upon to do so. A similar treaty had been made with Faku, chief of the maMpondo.
Halted at the Kei River by a councillor of Bukru. Hintsa's brother, the Governor bade him tell the Chief that he had no intention of acting in a hostile manner, provided his commands were obeyed, namely, to cease assisting the Ngqika chiefs. Hintsa was given five days in which to answer. But the chief saw no reason to answer. How could one answer the presumption of command on the part of a foreign intruder into one's territory? The hollow sham of these formalities was evident from the fact that the British troops moved on without pause during these five days, until they reached Butterworth.
At this point the Rev. Ayliff took action. Calling the Fingo chiefs together, he persuaded them to agree not to support Hintsa, to defend the missionaries and traders if they should be attacked, and to act as his couriers to the military commanders. Soon afterwards a body of Gcaleka and Ngqika warriors car past the mission station, calling to their brothers: "The English soldiers have fled, the farmers have left their farms, the cattle wandering over the land waiting to be gathered. Come and join us! But the voice of the missionary prevailed over that of their people. Ayliff advised the Fingos to go to the British camp soon as the Governor arrived and "seek protection" as subject the King of England. Then he himself fled to safe sanctuary IN THE mission station at Clarkebury.
Thanks to the Rev. Ayliff, 16,000 Fingos (according to his own figures) delivered themselves into the hands of the enemy without a blow. He enabled the Governor to claim in his despatches to the Home Government that he "had freed a grievously oppressed race of 15,000 souls from slavery . . . living in a state of degradation and oppression difficult to describe."
The profits of the transaction are best described in these further words of the Governor, addressed to the Colonial Secretary in London:
"The Fingos are an acquisition of incalculable value to THE COLONY”
He pointed out that they "would assist his measures in the present war." And again:
"This supply of hired servants, especially for all farming purposes, will be of the greatest benefit to the community He proposed to "bring them back to the Colony.. . and settle them in the press uninhabited and worse than useless district between the F River and the Lower Keiskamma. . . . They will soon convert it into a country abounding with cattle and corn. . . . They will furnish the best of all barriers against the entrance of Kaffirs into the Fish River Bush . . . and will afford the Colony a supply of excellent hired servants."
The Governor went on the expatiate on the great benefit to the White settlers of this "liberation" of the "Fingo race." He under-scored the benefit from the military point of view:
"Being now well disposed to fight against the Kaffirs . . . they will become the best militia for the protection of that tract of country which for 25 years has been the vulnerable part of the Colony."
The Fingos, then, were persuaded to join the British forces and they drove off large numbers of Hintsa's cattle. At the end of the war they were marched off to a location near to a British fort. Fort Peddie. Ayliff himself described it as "naked, unimproved land," but in his first address to them as their appointed missionary, he reminded them of what "Christianity and the Governor had done for them." But some of them, we are told, were so disillusioned with what they found, that they returned to the Gcalaka.
And what was the nature of their so-called liberation? They were the first Africans to be placed in a Reserve, and under such impoverished conditions that they were forced to seek work as hired servants to the farmers who were now swarming like locusts into the land of the maXhosa. A missionary and a magistrate were placed in jurisdiction over them. The first missionary at Peddie was the agent of their "liberation," namely, Ayliff. As we shall see later, it was on them that the first experiments in "Native" policy were carried out. The need for a new labour force was growing with every new seizure of land. War was slowly bringing that labour force into being, the missionaries, however, had engineered the peaceful capitulation of a large body of potential labourers. And the Fingos supplied, as it were, the first raw material for the working out of Government policy, which would then be applied in full once the ravages of war and released the full flood of men seeking food and work.
The capitulation of the Fingos was not the only achievement of the missionaries in this war against the Xhosa chiefs. But before picking up the thread of their activity we have to return to the scene of the war itself. After the Fingos had handed themselves over to the Governor, Colonel Harry Smith and Colonel Somerset proceeded apace with their devastations of Hintsa's territory and within few days the chief came to interview D'Urban. Hintsa's action was consistent with his statement that the war was not his war, and it is clear that he looked to the White man to respect the honour and safety of a chief. Yet he must have been aware of the fate of the warrior-prophet, Makhanda, who, believing that he could save his people from further destruction, had come to consult with the British commanders, only to be seized as a prisoner. Neither Makhanda nor Hintsa seem to have been sufficiently acquainted with the fact that aggression knows no law.
Hintsa was treated virtually as a prisoner who had come to "sue for peace." Aggression was capped with a violent "peace" declaration and a "Treaty" which made Hintsa responsible for the resistance put up by Maqoma and the other Xhosa chiefs, and therefore demanded, through him, their immediate surrender. With a fine extravagance of language the invading Governor declared that the chiefs, "having without provocation or declaration of war, invaded and plundered the Colony, and having now been defeated, chastised and dispersed," were sentenced as "treacherous and irreclaimable savages" to be "forever expelled" from the country west of tie Kei River.
The violence of the Governor's language in this, his May Proclamation, 1835, echoes that of several missionaries who subsequently constituted themselves as his praise-makers for his "humane conduct of the war." In a public address they stated that:
"The Kaffirs . . . most wantonly, cruelly and ungratefully commenced this war with a people who sought and desired their welfare and prosperity."
D'Urban announced the acquisition of a new Province, Queen Adelaide. He also "rewarded" the Fingos and the maGqunukhwebs”” those sections who had been persuaded by the missionaries to break away from their natural allies””with Reserves in the territory already confiscated from the maXhosa. Maqoma, however, had not yet capitulated. But the Governor's army was not large enough to enforce expulsion; his volunteer forces were those very burghers who wanted to settle down and reap the fruits of their plunder.
The Governor was becoming impatient; the colonists were clamouring for more land, and events now moved with the violence of the time. D'Urban demanded from Hintsa a hostage as guarantee that the terms of his "peace treaty" would be carried out. The chief, who was being mulcted of 50,000 head of cattle in addition to those already seized offered himself and his son, Sarili, as hostages and accompanied the British forces under Colonel Harry Smith, in order to facilitate the rounding up of the cattle.
The full facts of the tragedy that followed will never be known. But it is one of the most shameful incidents in a long history of rapine and plunder. Hintsa was brutally murdered "while attempting to escape." From evidence subsequently given before the Aborigines Protection Committee which instituted an enquiry into the "Hintza War," it seems that, as a party of British soldiers, with the chief in their midst, were making their way on horseback towards the Ngabara River, information was received from Colonel Somerset, who was busy rounding up cattle at Butterworth, that the Gcaleka were attacking the Fingos, who were assisting Somerset. In other words, the missionary-fanned feud was well and truly begun. The Governor seized this news as a pretext to turn on his voluntary hostage and threaten him with hanging. The effect of this threat on the chief need not be described. Hitherto he had borne himself with restraint and forbearance. It may be that he did make a desperate attempt to escape. Whatever the truth, it is clear that the savage spirit that hunts the quarry to the death took possession of his pursuers, for his body was found by his people at the water's edge, mangled and mutilated.
An enquiry was subsequently held, but, as one would expect in such cases, the British officers involved were "honourably absolved" of the deed. A contemporary commentator, calling himself "Justus,” made the following observation:
"The enquiry can have but one termination, for it is arranged by the persons implicated and the witnesses are Hottentots or soldiers who know only too well the consequences of accusing their superiors."
Now the worst excesses of devastation were let loose on the people of Hintsa and justified on the grounds of the chief's "treachery.” Gorged with destruction, the British soldiery made their way back to the Colony.
Strange to say, the Xhosa chiefs in the Mathole mountains did not obey the commands even of their murdered leader (i.e., in terms of the "Treaty" ), though the Rev. Ayliff stated, and the Governor in his despatches repeated, that he had been the "instigator of the combination among the chiefs." Military expenses were mounting, the farmers were clamouring to take over the newly confiscated territory, but the Xhosa had still not surrendered. And now the Wesleyan missionaries stepped forward to fulfil yet another function in the service of the Government. An attempt had been made to persuade Maqoma to come and meet representatives of the Governor. He refused. Then Major Cox, accompanied by a missionary, waited upon him in the Mathole. They came and departed unharmed, but with an emphatic "No," to the suggestion of a treaty. Something had to be done to induce them to surrender. The Governor had an able and shrewd adviser in the person of the Rev. William Boyce, who, together with the Rev. Shepstone, and young Theophilus Shepstone, concocted a plan. Apparently it was the young Theophilus, the future administrator, who suggested the idea of making use of African women to circulate the rumour of the Governor's intended "clemency" towards the chiefs. It is noteworthy that the missionaries made a point of first winning over the women. Witness the case of Nomsa, Hintsa's chief wife, who was said befriend Ayliff when Hintsa's anger was stirred against him; and Suthu, Ngqika's widow, who protected Wesleyan missionaries when they feared attack during Maqoma's attempt to recover the lost territory of his fathers.
The Rev. Boyce, then, outlined a plan or trick to the Governor as follows: the Rev, Shepstone, the missionary with chief Phatho, who had been induced to withhold his support from Maqoma, was find women of the Gqunukhwebe tribe willing to carry certain messages to their relatives among the resisting maNgqika. The Rev. Royce made it clear that it would be best to make use of the women to convey a "secret" message, which, he said, "would answer the desired end without in the least committing Your Excellency . . by leading the chiefs to form extravagant hopes as to terms." Then he went on the explain the nature of the message:
"Mr. Shepstone will send to Maqoma and Tyali, thanking them for orders to spare his life, and, by way of recompense, will commiserate their present distressed condition, and, as their friend who wishes them well and as missionaries desiring peace... will advise them to send to Your Excellency to ask for mercy."
It was to be added that "their expulsion beyond the Kei could perhaps be avoided" ””if they surrendered. The shrewd Christian diplomat, however, considered it necessary to put a threat in the tail of this offer of mediation.
"At the same time" (he explained to the Governor) "the chiefs will be told that Your Excellency intends to prosecute the war with the utmost vigour, and if they resist, they may be certain of destruction. But we will say we will venture to intercede for them. . . . Then Your Excellency can negotiate with them unfettered by any promises." (Our emphasis.)
This plan, so eloquent of petty cunning, speaks for itself. Small wonder that the Governor referred to this missionary piece of work with the highest commendation:
"In a further part of this Despatch" (he wrote to Lord Gleneig, Colonial Secretary), "I shall show Your Lordship how efficient these Wesleyan missionaries were ... in enabling me to effect my purpose ... of at length bringing the savages of the Amatola to negotiation."
Yes, the plan worked. In their desperate position, the Xhosa chiefs were persuaded to believe that the missionaries would intercede for them. They were informed, "if they agreed to become British subjects and submit to restraints in a few small particulars, the Governor would grant them peace." But these "few small particulars" were no less than the dispossession of their land and measures for still further undermining their position.
In the traditional language of the liberal, the Rev. Boyce reported that:
"At the earnest requests of the chiefs, they desired to BE British subjects." Furthermore, "at the special request of the chiefs," they, the Wesleyans, were to be placed on a commission that was to deal with the treaty.
For the chiefs, such a request could only have one meaning they were persuaded that the missionaries would act on their behalf. For the missionaries, identified as they were with the aims of Government, the meaning was the very reverse. Since the Wesleyans had drawn up the plan of negotiation, was natural that the Governor should get their assistance in drawing up the clauses of the treaty. On this score there is no reason to doubt the Rev. Boyce's word. Briefly, the Xhosa chiefs, while not driven over the Kei River, were to be restricted to a small part of their own territory between the Keiskamma and the Kei. The conditions for this severely restricted occupation were: that they gave up their arms and became British subjects under the laws of the Colony, and that they held themselves responsible for "cattle-theft."
The last and very important condition was that they had to accept missionaries and Government agents or magistrates.
This last point touched the very core of the problem facing the agents of a Christian capitalist civilization, namely, to undermine the tribal system from within. From this point of view the Treaty of September 1835, was an important one because it envisaged so much more than fixing the temporary limit of land-plunder. It considered the subjugation of the Africans on a broader basis and embodied the beginnings of a deliberate "Native" policy. In fact, the policy here envisaged was almost identical with what Dr. Philip was trying to negotiate with Maqoma when the military situation had become explosive””only now the chiefs were more vulnerable to the application of that policy. The intervening months of war facilitated its enforcement.
It was to be expected that the all-important question of "Native" policy be being hammered out by a number of different people simultaneously. In this instance it seems to have been the work of Colonel Smith assisted by the heads of the Wesleyan mission.
Precisely because it involved a question of "Native" policy, the hand of the missionary was evident in the September Treaty, for the Government perforce made use of those who knew, and could influence, the Africans.
To impose a magistrate and a missionary on the chiefs meant to hasten the process of tribal disintegration, which in turn paved the way for the next stage of military conquest. Actually these were two aspects of a single process. The confiscation of land increased the necessity to accelerate the break-down of the old system and incorporate the Africans into the new system as labourers. In the early stages the military machine had been enough; the first necessity was to get hold of the land. But now a stage had been reached when ways and means had to be found for precipitating the process of breaking down. In other words, a "Native" policy had to be evolved.
The treaties that were worked out in 1834-36 anticipate to a remarkable degree the system that is usually ascribed to Sir George Grey twenty years later. The earliest formulation of it on record occurs in the already quoted discussion between Dr. Philip and Andries Stockenstrom. The Wesleyans made their contribution to it in their various communications with the Governor about the years 1835-6, and when the so-called "Stockenstrom Treaties" were adopted in 1836,he, as Lieutenant-Governor of the Eastern Districts, was applying the same basic policy as already fully discussed between Lord Glenelg, Secretary for the Colonies, and Buxton, who were in consultation with Dr. Philip. The fact that these various agents were together responsible for the working out of "Native" policy simply demonstrates what we have elsewhere mentioned””their common identity with the aims of British Imperialism. As agents of a Christian capitalist civilization their activities converged to the same end.
Once again, a little more detail will serve to illuminate the temper of the time. In the general anarchy of the situation in 1834-36 the war atmosphere had been whipped up to explosive point; there had been the alarums of Maqoma's attack and protracted resistance; the greedy land-grabbers were waiting to take occupation, but there were the delays occasioned by the unavoidable slowness of communication between the Governor and the Home Government.
Added to this there were rumours of an official enquiry into the conduct of affairs, with Dr. Philip once more in the role of arch meddler. (His position as confidential adviser to the Governor had been taken over by the Rev. Boyce and he himself was in London holding talks with Buxton.) In this situation the missionaries were particularly vocal and ready with advice on how to deal with those whom they termed the "rebellious Kaffirs." There were several occasions during the war when they acted quite simply as Government spies handing on information to the military officers. But these we shall pass over.
It is more pertinent to see how the heads of the Wesleyan mission expressed themselves. As D'Urban's confidential adviser, the Rev. Boyce naturally covered a wide field, discussing points of military significance as well as "Native" policy. He advocated the presence of a large military force, with a military officer as Lieutenant- Governor near the "frontier." He suggested reinforcing the cleavage between the Fingos and the maGqunukhwebe and the rest of their people. "They might be partially armed as an irregular militia, "he wrote. "In the event of war with other tribes they (under European officers) would be found to render far more effective assistance in putting down aggressions than double the number of regular troops."
Towards the Xhosa chiefs who had agreed, through him, to accept "peace" negotiations, he proposed a chastisement that vied in severity with that of his master, Major-General Sir Benjamin D'Urban. With his knowledge of African custom, he pointed out that a fine of ten head of cattle should be imposed for every beast stolen.
Therefore to exact only one from the "rebel" Xhosa might be dubbed by them as British weakness or stupidity. This would never do. But since the maXhosa had already lost thousands of cattle, the missionary had to admit it would be rather difficult to seize more. Instead, he proposed compensating the "suffering colonists" with grams of land between the Keiskamma and the Kei. Here is as pretty a piece of logic as one would meet anywhere in the annals of British aggression. Even that ruthless military officer. Colonel Harry Smith was moved to remark that: "The man of the gospel is after all a wordly fellow . . . more full of dragooning our new subjects than a hundred soldiers."
In his "Notes on South African Affairs, 1834-1838," the Rev. Boyce wrote as a chronicler of events in which he himself took part. Here he summed up the "Native" policy of the Government at the end of the 1835 war. It aimed at "the subversion of the kaffir political system by the transference of supreme power to the British Government."
"The power of the chiefs was completely neutralised by the new system," which made the people "subject to the supremacy of British law."
Since the European magistrate would take over the chiefs' function of imposing fines, the chiefs would be "recompensed with a small salary."
"A most important purpose would thus be effected," concluded the Rev. Boyce, "namely, the influence of the chiefs would cease to exist."
Now let us hear what the head of the Wesleyan mission, the Rev. William Shaw, had to say, for he was an able man. In his Introduction to "A Defence of the Wesleyan Missionaries in South Africa," he wrote:
"The Wesleyans believe that the interests of the two classes, aborigines and colonists, are not incompatible. Nay, it is essential to the safety of both classes that a kindly feeling should grow up between them."
How often have we heard these sentiments in the history of the exploitation of the Non-Europeans? The same man who used these classical liberal phrases did not hesitate to describe the Africans as "irreclaimable thieves." There is a very illuminating letter of his addressed to the Colonial Secretary on the war of 1835 ("On the Late Irruption of the Caffres." ) In it he stated first what he considered to be its causes. Calling himself a "friend of the Caffres," he nevertheless felt it his duty to state that:
"As to the cause of these collisions between Caffres and colonists . . . the chief one ... is ... the moral state and habits of the Caffre tribes. . . . They are very much given to carrying off the cattle of their neighbours."
This he ascribed to "their imperfect moral perceptions, deeply rooted habits and defective mode of government."
In the same letter, after pointing out that so far there did not exist a single written treaty, he proceeded to set forth his proposals for dealing with the situation. Most of these were embodied in the September Treaty of 1835. These were:
- (1) Annexation of land to the Keiskamma, including the whole of the disputed "Neutral Territory." (He meant Ngqika’s land.)
- (2) The "reward" of the Gqunukhwebe chiefs by putting them in their original territory on condition that they placed themselves under the "protection" of the British Government and became responsible for stolen cattle.
- (3) The use of "friendly natives" as a barrier against other tribes.
The same letter contained an outline of "Native" policy. Shaw advocated the appointment of a Government agent as well as a military governor at Grahamstown and emphasised the necessity for a close co-operation between the local government and the missionaries.
"Let the local Government aid the missionaries," he wrote, adding that the cost of this to the Colony need not be great, since the profits of trade with the Xhosa were already considerable.
Such views were indistinguishable from those that the Superintendent of the London Mission had put forward some years previously. Thus the missionaries vied with one another in their readiness to serve the Government and give them the benefit of their advice. Among the rest, we include the suggestions of the Rev. Shrewsbury addressed to a military officer under the heading of: "Principles to be adopted in reference to the Caffre tribes."
They provide a curious reflection on the zeal with which the missionaries carried out their function. It must be said that even the Colonial Secretary found that these "principles" of chastisement on the maXhosa smacked too much of the Christian zealot.
Here they are:
- (1) "The chiefs who have invaded the colony, to forfeit their chieftainship; and their people to forfeit their country, their arms and their property.
- (2) "Deserters from the British Government who may have taught the Caffres the use of arms, to be punished with rigour.
- (3) "The actual murderers of British subjects ... to be executed on the spot, that the Caffres may see that murder with Britons is an unpardonable crime.
- (4) "Caffre offenders, whose lives may be spared, to be employed in making high-roads in every part of Caffre land, if necessary even to Natal, their labour as convicts being a visible proof: of the punishments mercifully inflicted on those who might have lost their lives.
- (5) "A universal registration of Caffres to be effected, every man wearing on his neck a thin plate of tin, containing his name and the name of his chief, which will be to him a passport of peace and the absence of it a token of enmity. This will both serve to identify offenders and enable the British Government at once to know the number and siren” of the frontier tribes.
- (6) "British agents to reside in Caffre land to carry this registration into effect."
After the missionaries had prepared the ground for negotiating with Maqoma and the other Xhosa chiefs, it fell to Colonel Harry Smith as commander of the forces to announce the "September Treaty" before the assembled chiefs and warriors. As he was subsequently to show when he himself became Governor, he was ever ready to make use of the missionaries, and to give them due recognition. This is evident in his "peace" oration delivered with a mixture of arrogance and piety in the old British tradition.
"You are now subjects of the most powerful nation, whose laws, manners, customs and institutions are the admiration of the world. Land has been given you.
"Your clergymen have returned to you, hoping to forget your sins in the observance of your penitence. You are taken by the hand and called 'brother' by the inhabitants of the greatest nation under the protection of Almighty God."
In his confidential Memoranda, however, Colonel Smith un-masked the true aims behind his dramatic speeches. These contained an exposition of the new "Native" policy whereby magistrates were to usurp the function of the chiefs.
"While left to occupy a portion of the land originally belonging to them, the Xhosa people will be distributed into family locations under magistrates. Their system of clanship, by this very arrangement, will be at once broken up as the power of the chiefs will be seen to have ceased and passed away."
He added that it would be an easy matter to keep control under this scheme, "since military posts are within, around and among their locations."
It is noteworthy that the Government was at pains to disguise from the chiefs the true function of the Government agent (i.e. magistrate) whom they proposed to place beside them. "He must be at once magistrate, monitor and arbitrator," we read, "endeavouring, as far as possible, by acquiring a salutary influence in the two last characters, to avert the necessity of appearing in the former.”
On this important point Colonel Smith himself had something pertinent to say:
"By the gradual and gentle process of the measures involved, the chiefs will at length find, before they are aware of it, their supreme power dissipated and divided, and themselves reduced to the more wholesome position of subordinate magistrates . . .acting under prescribed rules and limits. . . . But it is necessary that they be not startled at the outset, or their eyes opened to the future consequences of the process, until by its advancing force, when they do discover its influence, they no longer have any power to be effectually restive." "One great political point has been gained," he added, "the disjunction of the tribes."
It may be said that there is no contradiction between Dr. Philip's proposal to rule through paid chiefs and Colonel Smith's proposal to "dissipate and divide" the power of the chiefs. The paid chief is no chief, for he gives up his independence to become the agent of his masters. But the missionary-superintendent was naturally more concerned with the problem of how to govern, while the military man was concerned with the question of how to conquer, and therefore visualised a chief so emptied of power that he could no longer be the military leader of his people. Now while the Colonial Secretary in London was still waiting for Despatches that would have informed him of the far-reaching plans contained in the September Treaty, those on the spot began putting those plans into operation. The recent upheavals had released a supply of labourers for the White man and it was necessary to put into motion the machinery for controlling them. In other words, the process of integrating a tribal people into the new economy was under way. The Fingos were settled in their locations at Peddit and before long were to fall under a scheme of taxation that anticipated Sir George Grey's more elaborated schemes for increase the labour force. Colonel Smith, enlisting the help of the missionaries, was pursuing his plans for dissipating the authority of the chiefs, A "Resident Agent" was appointed with each of the tribal groups, and the chief magistrate was the very man whom Dr. Philip had recommended to the Governor when the plan was first mooted.
At this time, too, Africans were employed as policemen. So comprehensive were the Government plans, that they covered also the field; of education; there were to be additional religious establishments; with provision for teaching and training Africans in the "mechanical; arts," as they were called. In such a scheme the missionaries were indispensable. Here, in embryo, in 1836, was all the machinery for controlling the African people and transposing them from the old system into the new.
A certain Major Maclean, writing to Colonel Smith to warn him to proceed slowly, said: "Radical changes can only be effected by imperceptible degrees. ... In the interim all coercive measures necessary should appear at least to emanate from their own judges and tribunals. (In a particular case under discussion.) I would advise a meeting of the councillors of Sutu (Ngqika's widow), submit to them the cause of the complaint, let them decide to enforce the law, the 'Great Chief reserving to himself the right supreme to approve, confirm and revise their proceedings and verdict, (Quoted in "Bantu, Boer and Briton" by W. W. Macmillan).
With such examples before them, subsequent "Native" administrators had only to elaborate what their predecessors had already so skillfully conceived.
The "Humanitarians" Again
The immediate application of the plans worked out by Colonel Smith in conjunction with the Wesleyan missionaries was interrupted by the arrival of Despatches from Lord Glenelg. Secretary for the Colonies, advising the Governor to suspend for the time being the land seizures announced in the May Proclamation. This step has been quite erroneously described as the "Abandonment Policy, resulting from the efforts of the liberals and particularly Dr. Philip with the backing of Buxton in the British Patliament. No doubt the petty landsharks, whose snouts were turned in the direction of the nearest cattle kraal, felt cheated of their spoils, but this does not alter the fact that Dr. Philip and the rest were acting consistently in the best interests of British Imperialism. Philip, while at first supporting the Governor, D'Urban, condemned the complete expulsion of the maXhosa from their territory as decreed by the May Proclamation, since this ran counter to his plans for conciliating the chiefs. So quite characteristically he began sending his voluminous reports to the London Missionary Society with passages marked" To be sent to Mr. Buxton and Lord Gleneig," and subsequently he himself went to London, where he consulted with his supporters and without doubt pressed for the continuance of the Treaty System on which he was already embarked when war had broken out. It may be said that neither he nor Lord Gleneig were yet informed about the September Treaty, which to a large extent embodied their own plans for the subjugation of the chiefs. D'Urban resented their interference, but, like Lord Somerset before him, had to yield to the more progressive sections in Britain, and was recalled.
These internal quarrels were unimportant. The fact that the Colonial Secretary proposed a system of Treaties with the chiefs instead of immediately seizing their land did not alter by one jot the ultimate subjugation of the maXhosa. Neither did it indicate any humanitarian scruples on the part of the Imperial Government.
Apart from the question of the expense of military campaigns, Britain at this stage foud it politic to foster the myth other "protection" of the people she intended to subjugate. Hypocrisy increased with rapacity. It was at the very time when military aggression was forging ahead that the British "Humanitarians" invented the Aborigines Protection Society" which did much to bolster up this myth of Britain as the "friend" of the "Black races" in her colonies throughout the world. Buxton, its natural parent, at the same time fathered the Parliamentary Select Committee on Aborigines (1836), which instituted a Commission of enquiry into frontier affairs in the Cape Colony. Dr. Philip was requested by Buxton to gather information and "send immediately his own views and opinions," which were passed on to the Colonial Secretary, Lord Glenelg, and when the Committee met, Philip, Stockenstrom and many others rave evidence.
Commissions come and Commissions go, but the subjugation of the Africans continues without ceasing. Herrenvolk historians solemnly ascribe what they call the "Great Trek" and the split between the two White sections, Boer and British, to the liberal policies of the British Government in their relations with Non-White peoples. In particular they see the "Humanitarians" (Philanthropists) as either the villains who caused the long alienation between the White sections, or as the "saints" who sought to defend the unhappy aborigines. To us neither view is tenable. It is all part of the thorough- going falsification of history. It is static instead of a dynamic approach to events. In a cut-throat competition for world-wide colonial possession, Britain was outstripping her rivals, the French and the Dutch, precisely because other advanced industrial development and her varied methods of conquest. On the South African arena both White sections were engaged in crushing a tribal people.
The Dutch were creeping steadily northwards both before and after the arrival of the British, and British Governors were always sympathetic to their land-grabbings. Under these circumstances the majority of the Dutch knew that their interests were well protected by the British. The Trek Boers were the die-hards, who were given rein as long as they didn't endanger the British advance into Africa.
To-day we are in a better position to understand what lay behind Lord Glenelg's so-called "Abandonment" policy and the substitution of new treaties with the chiefs. To put it down to missionary-liberal-humanitarian agitation is acceptable only if we understand the true function of the missionary and the other liberals acting in the interests of British Imperialism. If politicians suddenly discovered the "obligation of trusteeship to the aborigines" and spoke in terms of a "high moral trust," we may be sure that the lever behind this elevation of language was political expediency dictated by economic necessity.
In this connection we may quote an interesting answer to an interesting question that was put to Andries Stockenstrom when he was called upon to give evidence before the Parliamentary Select Committee on Aborigines already referred to. Stockenstrom was asked which of two systems, "that of controlling the natives by an overwhelming military force" ... or ... "entering into amicable relations . . . would be the cheapest. . . . Which would be the most likely to extend the influence of Great Britain among the native tribes?"
To this he replied: "Most decidedly, I should think, trade and commerce . . . the greatest power that Great Britain has been able to exercise. . . ." This question and answer flowed from a common approach to the whole problem of conquest and the purpose of that conquest. Here are the Commission's conclusions:
"The oppression of the barbarous countries is, in point of economy, of security, of commerce, of reputation ... a short-sighted and disastrous policy. It has engendered wars, in which great expenses were necessarily incurred . . . and banished from our confines or exterminated the natives, who might have been profitable workmen, good customers and good neighbours."
This is followed by the oft-repeated herrenvolk refrain equates colonial conquest with the dictates of divine providence:
"The British Empire has been signally blessed by Providence and her commerce, her strength, her wealth, her prosperity, her intellectual, her moral and her religious advantages, are so many reasons for peculiar obedience to the laws of Him who guides the destinies of nations. . . ."
In this finely balanced blend of sharp business sense, arrogance and piety, we hear the very voice of the English middle-class. Here we have the fount and origin of Dr. Philip's emphasis on a new "Native” policy, on peaceful penetration, civil administration and trade, all drawing the tribal African into the orbit of the economic system of the invaders. Armed with this sound economic outlook, he was the perfect agent of the industrial and mercantile classes of England.
But if we took such statements as indicating an abatement of military aggression in 1836, we would be very much mistaken.
We to-day, for instance, know how much truth there was behind Smuts's statement in 1942 that "Segregation had fallen on evil days," uttered not long before a full-scale attack was launched against the few remaining rights of the Non-Europeans. We to-day do not, again, make the mistake of judging the nature of the United Nations Organisation (U.N.O.), the instrument of imperialist machinations between the Second World War and the Third, on the strength of its grandiloquent Preamble to the Charter of U.N.O., drawn up by no less than General Smuts under the title of "Declaration of Human Rights," which begins thus:
"Whereas recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom. Justice and peace in the world;
"Whereas the peoples of the United Nations have in the Charter reaffirmed the faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person and in the equal rights of men and women; ...”
"Now, therefore, this General Assembly proclaims this universal declaration of human rights. ..." etc. there is a cynical effrontery in such high-sounding public statements made by the Prime Minister of a country that denies human rights to four-fifths of its population.
The so-called policy of "Abandonment" of Xhosa territory, then, was actually the preparation for the next stage of land-seizure. Stockenstrom, on Philip's recommendation, was made Lieutenant Governor of the Eastern Districts, with express authority to new treaties with all the Xhosa chiefs, as well as with the Thembu and the Fingo. (Even a chief so far distant as Mzilikazi was persuaded in this year, 1836, to sign a treaty of "friendship" with Britain.) Stockenstrom put the case for the treaties pretty clearly when he indicated that outright annexation might provoke resistance it applied prematurely to self-contained Bantu tribes," and expressed the hope that the chiefs would ultimately "be glad to throw up their independence and embrace British supremacy." Dr. Philip, also, having marshalled his arguments against military governors, seems to have thought that he had succeeded too well if any of the territory confiscated by D'Urban was going to be given up. "I wish it to be understood," he wrote, "that I do not object to the extension the colonial boundary to the Kei River, provided the lands are secured to the Caffres as has been the case in all our conquests in India.
So we are back once more to the plan evolved by Dr. Philip for treaties "on the India model." This in effect was what the Colonial secretary proposed in place of D'Urban's land-seizure, and one must say that these proposals were as closely akin to the plans that Colonel Smith was already carrying out, as the Nationalist policy of Apartheid is to (he Segregation policy of the United Party to-day.
In place of Smith's magistrates there were to be "resident agents with diplomatic powers." (The actual taking over of tribal authority by the magistrates would be the next logical step.) There were to be missionaries stationed with the chiefs, and, of course, there would be the traders. In other words, all the instruments of tribal disruption. And these agents were to be backed by the presence of the military. In place of Colonel Smith, butcher of Chief Hintsa, was Andries Stockenstrom, friend of the missionaries, who had routed Maqoma from the Kat River valley. The tribes were to be permanently under martial law, for all were agreed that the "peaceful” treaties could not otherwise be carried out. This needs no explanation. "The administration of justice was left to the Commandant (Stockenstrom) and his soldiers." On the vital points of land and cattle the maXhosa were placed at the mercy of the invaders. There was the arrogant proviso that land was to be re-occupied "on good behaviour." The Government had the right to place military forts where it pleased. The chiefs were made responsible for "cattle-thefts." This was to ensure a state of perpetual disturbance with the frontier farmers, to whose interest it was to find a pretext for the next "war," i.e., land-seizure.
It is not for us to lament with the liberal historians that the new treaty system "was launched under the most unfavourable conditions" because Stockenstrom, appointed through the influence of the "Philanthropic Party," happened to be at loggerheads with a military governor who was resentful of divided authority and in league with the land-greedy frontiersmen. Once again it was merely a question of a clash between two sets of imperialists, those with the longer and those with the shorter vision, the advocates of peaceful penetration and the freebooters. D'Urban called the Treaties "nothing but waste paper." Stockenstrom retaliated with the very significant observation that all was peace, except that the Governor had set the Fingos and the Xhosa at one another's throats, whereas, under Hintsa, "there was no feud."
The function of the treaty system can further be judged by its results for the Whites. Professor Macmillan ("Bantu, Boer aid Briton" ) records that "there was a fresh development of Kaffir mission work." He goes on: "Above all, the early forties were a time of boom and of rising prices in the much-complaining Eastern.
Province itself." To this Professor Walker, in his "History of South Africa," adds:
"When all is said and done, property on the frontier have doubled in value and doubled and doubled again since the inauguration of the Treaty System. . . . There was a boom in wool . . But wool would have been non-existent without a good measure of security."
Farmers who swore that the maXhosa, and the Khoikhoin of it:
Kat River Settlement, too, were preparing to eat them up were paying high prices for sheep-farms bordering on Xhosa territory. With this boom in the wool industry went an increased demand for "Native" labour and it was ready to hand, not only from among the Fingos, but also from among the Xhosa and other tribes. The long period of military devastation was producing the desired harvest. Now we hear much about passes and the controlling of "squatters."
Government agents as well as field-cornets were kept busy issuing passes to the destitute Africans. Mr. Fynn, the Government Agent with the baThembu, reported that streams of Bantu were passing through to seek work in the Colony.
"No description of servants or such an abundant supply, "he said, "could be so well suited to the wants of the frontier farmers. The colonists are materially benefited and many a native is saved from famishing."
Out of anarchy the pattern of the new society is beginning to emerge. The widespread upheavals of military devastation are creating a new labour force which is already assisting in the more rapid development of the economic system of the British invaders.
At the same time, the insecurity and consequent demoralization of the Bantu tribes provides a ready soil for the infiltration of the ideas of the missionaries. This in turn leads to a further disruption of tribal authority and tribal unity. It need not surprise us to read that, with Stockenstrom’s resignation from his position as administrator in the Eastern Districts, "the last thing to receive consideration was the proper administration of the frontier . . . even the attention of the Philanthropists being all but completely diverted from the Kaffir frontier." (Macmillan.) The Philanthropists were by this time busy further north.
Events have carried us away from the Wesleyan missionaries, but this does not mean to imply that they were not extremely active "shout, both on the Xhosa front and further afield. In the year of grace, 1836, they had yet another mission to perform on behalf Governor, D'Urban. Though the latter had been winning golden opinions from the frontiersmen for his barbarous conduct of the war against Maqoma and Hintsa, Lord Gleneig had mildly censured him and D'Urban was in high dudgeon, since he blamed these censures on the meddling pen of the "political busybody, "Dr. Philip. Thereafter followed a series of accusations and counter-accusations that forced D'Urban to look round for supporters who would vindicate his conduct. These he found in the Wesleyan missionaries. We are concerned with these internal squabblings only in so far as they help us to get a clearer picture of the role of the various agents of conquest. The Wesleyans, then, undertook the inglorious task of white-washing the Governor and justifying his attack on Chief Hintsa.
Of course the blackening of Hintsa's name was largely justification the event. His so-called crimes of "ingratitude and bad faith" had nothing to do with the invasion of his territory; on the contrary, belittled this proud chief precisely in order to justify the attack on him.
The record of missionary testimony against him and against the Xhosa people makes sorry reading. D'Urban's Despatch to the Imperial Government contained copious references to the missionaries, including their various communications with him and other military commanders, and in to own statements denouncing this "treacherous, ungrateful and cunning savage" he did not hesitate to borrow their language.
"These good men," he wrote, "had not much faith in ... any other remedy than the sword." He marshalled a number of communications from the Rev. Ayliff to prove Hintsa's preparations for war and his murder of traders. To these we have already referred. It will be remembered that the accusations were based mainly on a conspiracy of suspicions passed between the Rev. Shepstone and the Rev. Shrewsbury, who professed to be well acquainted with him. Yet D'Urban was able to state that: "As early as February I ascertained beyond all doubt that Hintza had been the original contriver and instigator of the combination among the chiefs. ..." This was derived from a long communication from Ayliff, who wrote: "I am compelled to state it as my opinion that the conduct of Hintza was the cause of it all."
D'Urban, searching for other reasons for the outbreak of the war, found it in "the inherent propensity of the Caffre character to rob and pillage and especially carry off cattle." This was unashamedly taken over from the Rev. Shaw's profound observations on the "imperfect moral perceptions" of the Africans. (As already quoted)
The Rev. Boyce, for his part, surpassed himself as the Governor apologist, praising his "humane system of warfare."
"No blame can possibly attach to Sir Benjamin D'Urban, who displayed humanity and spared the lives of thousand'." Then, waxing eloquent to his theme, he continued his praises: "His (D'Urban's) heart and head are unrivalled ... a chief defect is charity."
The Xhosa, on the other hand, were guilty of "unjust and unprovoked aggression." A public address from the ministers of various denominations and signed by the Revs. Boyce and Shrewsbury extolled the humanity and clemency of the devastator of Xhosa territory a war which they described as "conducted in accordance with the principles of justice and mercy." It was perhaps unfortunate for these praise-makers that the words of the "humane and Christian Governor" himself belie them. In his despatches he recorded; while the losses on the British side had been very few, four thousand of the maNgqika and the maNdlambe had been slain.
"They lost 60,000 cattle," he wrote, "almost all their goats their habitations (were) everywhere destroyed, their gardens cornfields laid waste. ... In addition to the conquest and alienation of their country."
He then concluded: "They have been chastised, not extremely, but perhaps sufficiently. "The missionaries might well congratulate themselves on the part they had played. They had done a great deal in the service of their masters. They had acted as agents of "divide and rule" ; they had been political advisers; they had helped to evolve "Native" policy: they had been apologists for a ruthless military campaign and eulogists of the Governor. The relative position of themselves and the maXhosa before and after the war shows up their achievement with striking clarity. Previously they had humbly solicited for a small piece of land. Now the chiefs and the people were allowed to occupy a fraction of their land by permission of His Majesty, the King of England, on sufferance and under conditions that ensured their further disruption. By 1836 all the missionaries had returned to their mission stations with increased power to extend their work.