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phosphates. Fully half the Union receives a low and badly distributed rainfall which makes unprofitable the cultivation of ordinary field crops. Less than one per cent. of the land is irrigable, and a great deal of this must ultimately become so alkaline as to render it valueless for farming. The South African crop out-turn per acre stands among the lowest in the world. The tourist thinks that he is crossing a vast empty land which might be the home of a great agricultural population. The truth is that good arable land exists only in patches. Admittedly the country is so huge that even those patches amount in the aggregate to a very substantial area. But the sub-continent certainly does not give scope for the rapid agricultural development which has marked the progress of Canada, the United States, and the Argentine. It demands selected rather than wholesale settlement.
Even so, a purely white race could through the ages have modified its harsh character. Unfortunately, however, what opportunities it presents to a white race have not, from the very earliest days of its colonisation, been turned to account. When the Dutch planted their garden at Table Bay in 1652, there was a great chance of laying the firm foundations of a wholly white community in the new land. The South Africa of those days was inhabited mainly by small tribes of Hottentots and Bushmen which soon perished in contact with a white race. The more numerous and vigorous Bantu tribes had hardly begun their descent from the north.
Thus in the very earliest days of the Dutch settlement there was a shortage of labour. Van Riebeek, the first Governor, wanted to import Chinese. As early as 1658, the Government took the disastrous step of bringing in 400 West African slaves; and the late Mr H. J. Hofmeyr told the Transvaal Indigency Commission of 1906-8 that the prime cause of the peculiar disease of South African Society, 'Poor White-ism,' as it is called, is the tradition of slavery. In 1716 the Directors of the Dutch East Indies Company called upon the Council of Policy at the Cape to report upon whether it would be more advantageous to employ European labourers than slaves.' On this, Theal, the South African historian, observes:
'Probably no subject of equal importance to South Africa has ever since engaged the attention of the authorities, for upon these reports was to depend whether the country should be occupied solely by Europeans or whether there was to be a mixture of races in it.'
Unhappily the decision was in favour of coloured labour. Only two men of any weight in the councils of the Dutch East Indies Company pleaded for white colonisation in South Africa. They were Captain de Chavonnes, a brother of the Governor of that name, and Van Imhoff. The former was the first advocate of a White Man Policy in South Africa, and he based his argument on the broad ground that cheap labour is bad labour.' He declared that '250 pioneers will be of more use and be more profitable to the Company and the country than 500 to 600 slaves, male, female, and children.' Van Imhoff's report contained these words:
'I believe it would have been far better had we, when this colony was founded, commenced with Europeans and brought them hither in such numbers that hunger and want would have forced them to work. But having imported slaves, every common or ordinary European becomes a gentleman and prefers to be served than to serve. We have, in addition, the fact that the majority of farmers in this colony are not farmers in the real sense of the word, but plantation owners, and many of them consider it a shame to work with their own hands.'
Van Imhoff records the birth of that prejudice which has been the greatest curse of the sub-continent-the idea crystallised into the contemptuous phrase 'Kaffir's work.' Far-sighted statesmen as well as 'poor whites' became the victims of that catch-word. When Sir George Grey visited Natal he alluded to the 'degradation' of white men working on the land like natives. Anthony Trollope found at George, in the 'seventies of last century, white men labouring on a dam for 1s. 7d. a day, while neighbouring coloured men earned 4s. 6d. a day at wool-washing; the white men, he noted, 'wouldn't have trod the wool along with the black man even for 4s. 6d.'
This early reliance upon coloured labour bred two effects which still influence the development of South
Africa. One was the disinclination of the whites to perform any task which custom had allotted to the coloured man. The other was the consequent appearance of a class of poor and unemployed whites, the very presence of which was instantly used as an argument against any strengthening of the white race by immigration. As early as 1750 the Heemraaden of Stellenbosch complained that white children were growing up without any work being available for them, and in consequence they added that they were absolutely of opinion that in view of the condition of this country it already has too many inhabitants rather than any suitable facilities for assisting further families to obtain a livelihood.'
Thus there grew up in South Africa from the earliest days a white population which considered itself the aristocracy of the country. Every white man expected to be a landowner, and, indeed, for very many years he could become one merely by moving a little farther into the interior. For the working of his land he demanded coloured labour. The soil being on the whole poor, or good only in patches, and farming methods being indifferent, a large tract was necessary for the support of a white family and its coloured attendants. The white race, therefore, spread far into the interior of the country, and occupied a huge territory, without making it definitely a white man's land or even establishing firmly a white civilisation. The planting of selected white settlers in the eastern part of the Cape as a barrier against the Kaffir tribes which had been forced along the coast by the pressure from the north, and the arrival of the 1820 settlers, were not sufficient to redress the balance of colour in favour of the whites.
South Africa was being slowly developed on the plantation system and not upon the system which was building up Australia and Canada. Even after two hundred years of white colonisation it was regarded as a black man's, rather than as a white man's country. Trollope wrote of it in 1877: 'South Africa is a country of black men and not of white men. It has been so; it is so; and it will continue to be so. The important person in South Africa is the Kaffir and the Zulu, the Bechuana and the Hottentot-not the Dutchman or the Englishman.' By that time the idea of de Chavonnes
and Van Imhoff that South Africa could be made a white man's land, seems to have been entirely forgotten. Had the placid life of those days continued, the South Africa of recent times would have been a country of a few slowly-growing coast towns and a sparsely peopled interior scarcely entered save by hunters and explorers. It would have remained part of a Crown Colony system rather than have entered the circle of self-governing Dominions. The idea of white nationhood would not have been seriously entertained.
But the whole history and outlook of the sub-continent were altered by the discoveries of diamonds and gold. The new wealth was found far inland. Not only did it bring about an influx of white adventurers from oversea, but it instantly opened up the interior of the country and compelled the construction of railways. Moreover, the English population received a large accession of strength, and, with a richer prize to be grasped, the rivalry of British and Dutch was greatly accentuated. The rapid increase in the white population was not accompanied, however, by any change in the original method of developing the country. The black labour basis remained. The demand for coloured workers grew with the growth of the work to be done. The shortage of labour was not met from white sources. The mine owners attracted Kaffirs from the north. The planters on the Natal coast imported Indians. The farmers, who were left short of labourers because they paid lower wages, also asked to be allowed to import coloured men, and not receiving permission, did their utmost by legislative enactments, taxation, and so on to compel the natives to leave the kraals more freely and work for them.
Then, as time went on, a politico-racial struggle between Briton and Boer completely overshadowed that colour issue which was in reality South Africa's greatest problem. For something like thirty years one heard very little about the future of White South Africa, but a great deal about the supremacy of Dutch South Africa or British South Africa. Imperialism and Africanderism, Bonds and Leagues, and so on, were the favourite subjects of the Press and the platform, and the politics, and the race prejudices, and the ambitions of the rival white
peoples filled the public mind for a dozen years before the clash of war came, and for two decades after the Peace. In all this welter of racial politics much was said and written of the future of the Dutch, and of the future of the British, but little of the future of the white race as a whole. There was a vague assumption that the world was witnessing the building up of a permanent white nation in South Africa, just as it was in Canada and Australia and New Zealand. With the formation of the Union of South Africa in 1910, the tone of the allusions to the new daughter nation within the British Commonwealth became still more confident. Any questioning of the assumption that a new and virile white nation was growing up in the sub-continent was resented.
Yet the long period of strife had concealed, but had not altered, the colour drift which had marked the development of South Africa from the 17th century onwards. Indeed, when the political tumult died down, it became increasingly plain that the real South African problem not only remained unsolved but had become more difficult of solution. The rapid economic development of 1870-99, plus the Boer war, had in some respects weakened the position of the white race. The new and larger superstructure had merely been erected upon the old foundation of coloured labour. But fresh wealth had been won so easily that it had been possible to conceal the real effects of the labour system on the white population. The cry one knew had been for coloured labour. What one did not know at the moment was that heavy capital expenditure on mines and public works, and the wholesale distribution of doles, implements, and stock, repatriation grants, land settlement loans, and all kinds of advances from the public purse, had given a false appearance of strength and buoyancy to a weakening and sinking white population.
It was suddenly discovered in 1916 that the Union possessed 106,000 poor whites. By 1922 it was estimated that every twelfth white in the country belonged to that class, and that the evil was still spreading. The census reports revealed the fact that the proportion of white to coloured in the Union was decreasing, that in literally dozens of districts the number of resident whites had