Page images
PDF
EPUB

plant grows in great plenty, the interior bark of which is a good substitute for hemp. The iron ores, near the base of the mountains, might be worked by clearing the wood, of which there is an inexhaustible supply; and should a settlement be fixed here, a considerable trade may be carried on along the coast, all the way to the Cape.

Olifants, or Elephants River, runs at the foot of the second chain of Black Mountains to the westward, and falls into the Gauritz. The soil' near it is strongly ferruginous, and the vegetation luxuriant. The inhabitants cultivate the vine for home consumption, and distil ardent spirits from peaches and grapes; but the articles carried by them to the Cape market, are chiefly butter and soap. A great quantity of gum arabic may be obtained here from the mimosa karroo, the bark of which tree is superior to that of the oak for tanning leather. The wild animals here, are the antelopes, bares, leopards, and tiger cats; while in the forests beyond, are found the elephant,“ buffalo, and rhinoceros.

The district of Graaf Reynet extends to the eastern limits of the colony, five hundred miles from Cape Town. The Great Fish River, the Tarka, the Bambosberg, and the Zuureberg, divide it from the Kaffers on the east; the Camtoos River, the Gamka or Lions River, and Nieuveld Mountains from Zwellendam and Suttenbasch districts on the west ; Plettenberg Landmark, the Great Table Mountain, and the Karreberg from the Bosjesman Hottentots on the north; and it is terminated on the south by the sea-coast. The mean length and breadth of the district may be about two hundred and fifty by one hundred and sixty miles, forming an area of forty thousand square miles, wbich is peopled by about seven hundred families. The inhabitants are entirely graziers, and almost, if not altogether, as great savages as the Bosjesman Hottentots, with whom they are perpetually at war, as they also are with the Kaffers. Here the springbok abounds to such a degree, that fifteen thousand are sometimes found assembled in one herd. Here also are zebras, lions, and buffaloes. Between the two last, sometimes fierce combats take place, in which the lion never fails to be the victor. The buffalo and the zebra might both be tamed, and rendered serviceable in an eminent degree; but the Dutch, in this as in every thing else, have strangely slighted all the advantages which they possess in this rich and diversified region.

Algoa Bay, in this district, is open to every point of the compass, from north-east to south-east, with good anchorage in five fathom water, not far from the shore. This bay, which is about twenty miles in compass, abounds with every sort of fish; and is also the resort of the black whale in great numbers. As there is plenty of salt here, much advantage might be derived from salting beef and fish for the Cape, as well as for the supply of shipping. Hides and skins present another advantageous branch of trade, while the amazing quantity of forest timber furnishes the means of conveying

the productions of labour to other parts of the Colony. The soil is excellent for grain ; but unless a coasting trade be established, the settlers can have no induceinent to extend the cultivation of it. The appearances of a rich lead mine have been indicated in this district, the working of wbich might be carried on, not only without much expense, but with every prospect of further and more valuable discoveries.

Here the English built a fort, when they first got possession of the Cape; and on the restoration of the Colony to the Dutch, this establishment was considerably extended, under Governor Janssens. What renders this settlement of particular importance, is its situation near the borders of the Kaffer country, and the facility with which, in consequence, any disagreements between the natives and colonists

may

be stifled in their birth. It therefore became an object of attention to the Dutch, though not till after we had set them the example, and then much money was expended upon the buildings which were left unfinished. It was in this neighbourhood that Dr. Vanderkemp fixed his residence, with another missionary, sent out by the London Society of Methodists ; but the description of Bethelsdorp, the settlement of these men, affords a melancholy picture of wild and misdirected enthusiasm. From this general and rapid survey it will appear evident to the reader, that while Providence has done every thing for Southern Africa, neither the natives nor the former settlers have done any thing. It might have been expected that a people, so proverbially industrious as the Dutch, would have turned this country to the best advantage, by improving its natural productions, and introducing such others as appeared adapted to the fertility of the soil. But, however diligent Hollanders may be at home, they are the worst of all colonianists. The Cape of Good Hope exhibits, in every part, proofs of their negligence, and how much nature may do for a country in spite of man's idleness. Had a different line of conduct been pursued for the space of one hundred and fifty years, during which the Dutch quietly possessed this rich and extensive region, what an aspect would have presented itself on the eastern and western shores of Africa, from the apex of triangle to the tropic of Capricorn! Looking to what was accomplished in America within the same period, there can be no doubt but that, in the same hands, and under a similar government, this vast continent would have, at the present time, displayed the proudest triumph of humanity, in the cultivation of the earth, and civilization of manners. Instead of all this, the great work of improvement is but in its infant state ; and what renders it more difficult and vexatious, is the circumstance that, of all the beings in this vast settlement, the nominal Christians are the most untractable, surly, cruel, and avaricious. While the Hottentots are both able and willing to become humanized, the African boors, of Dutch descent, seem to take a pride in selfOriental Herald, Vol. 23.

2 D

degradation, They hate every thing that has a tendency to ameliorate the state of the aboriginal inhabitants, over whom they exercise a tyrannical sway infinitely more despotic than that of the slave-holders in the West Indies. The Dutch colonist has succeeded so far ip brutalizing his disposition, that he considers the shedding of blood as nothing, and will talk of having shot half a dozen Bosjesman Hottentots with as much exultation as if he had gained by his prowess the hides of so many buffaloes. Thus degenerate men are more ferocious than the children of nature, and are brought with greater difficulty to a state of honourable feeling. Of this melancholy truth the whole settlement at the Cape affords abundant evidences; but one instance, among many, is sufficient to show the depravity of the peasantry in this colony. Provoked at the success of the Moravian Missionaries, in civilising the Hottentots, a party of boors, consisting of about thirty, entered into a confederacy to murder the three teachers, and to make slaves of their converts. Providentially for the missionaries, their horrid design was timely discovered by a Hottentot in the service of one of the assassins, and by him communicated to the devoted settlers. This was during the first English administration of the Cape ; and the Governor, Sir James Craig, immediately sent off a letter denouncing the heaviest judgment upon those who should disturb the missionaries. The consequence of this was, that the poltroons sneaked away, and from that time the settlement of the Moravians remained in a state of quiet, though not without being objects of hatred to the boors, on account of the improvement which they have effected in the

poor

Hottentots. The colonists may be divided into four classes, of which the following sketch will convey a general idea :~1. People of Cape Town. 2. Vine-growers. 3. Grain farmers. 4. Graziers.

The people of the town are an idle, dissolute race, who subsist chiefly by the labour of their slaves, each of whom is required to earn a specific sum every week, by various kinds of employment, as well as to attend upon the family to which he belongs. Why slavery should ever have been introduced into this settlement, it would be difficult for the most zealous advocates of that system to shew, since there is no calling carried on here but what might fully as well have been executed by the hired labour of the peaceful Hottentots. Such, however, has been the policy of the Dutch, that rather than give the least attention to the improvement of the natives, they incurred a heavy expense in the importation of negroes and the purchase of Malays. Since the change that has taken place, slavery has been on the decline; and it is to be hoped the gradual cessation of it will produce a more elevated character, and more industrious habits, among a people who have too long disgraced themselves by a practice which, morally considered, is more injurious to the master than the poor creature under his control. This is exemplified at the Cape, the inhabitants of which confine their pleasures solely to the sensual indulgence of eating, drinking, and smoking, without having the least inclination to mental improvement, social converse, or manly exercises. When the English gained possession of the place, a theatre was erected, but the Dutch never frequented it; and whether the entertainments were tragic, comic, or pantomimic, all proved equally inoperative upon the phlegmatic minds of these people. But this is not to be wondered at when scarcely a book is to be found, even in the houses of the wealthier inhabitants; and no persuasions could even induce them to establish a public school throughout the whole colony.

The second class, or the wine-growers, are of a superior description, being, as was before observed, most of them descendants of French refugees. Their farms are chiefly freeholds, in extent about 120 English acres, laid out in vineyards and gardens. They have not only the best houses and estates, but in general their domestic economy is better than will be found in most country residences in this part of Africa. They raise little corn, because that is an article easily obtained in exchange for wine; their sheep, also, they procure in a similar way: but they keep as many cows as will furnish milk for their families. The season for bringing their wines to market is from September, to their new vintage in March ; but usually, they do so in the four concluding months of the year, after which, their draught oxen are sent to their own farms, or those of others, till they are again wanted. The sandy roads at the Cape, require fourteen or sixteen oxen to draw two pipes of wine. A small tax is laid upon the wine and brandy brought to the Cape market; but all that is consumed, or sold in the country, is free from duty. This is a very profitable concern, and the people engaged in it, never fail to realize considerable property.

3. The corn boors live in or near the Cape district, mostly on freehold estates; and are in general a very wealthy people. They bring a considerable quantity of grain to the market, besides supplying the wine-growers and graziers. More, however, might be raised, were these farmers better agriculturists, but in reality they are indebted for their crops, rather to the goodness of the soil and the favourableness of the climate, than to their own industry. Their plough, a monstrous machine, drawn by fourteen or sixteen oxen, merely goes over the surface, so that where the ground is in the least heavy, it is not penetrated at all. Yet with all their bad management, they rely upon a return of fifteen fold, and even double where the land is well irrigated. The grain is not threshed, but trodden out by the cattle in circular floors. Part of the chaff and straw is reserved for their horses, but the rest is abandoned as of no use, though it would be of material service in the folds where their cattle are pent up at night. Notwithstanding

all this slovenliness, and want of care, these farmers thrive well and realize fortunes.

4. The graziers live in the distant parts of the colony, and are scarcely a shade removed from the Hottentots in civilization. Many of them are Nomades, roving from place to place, without any fixed habitation, but erecting straw huts for their occasional accommodation. The hovels built by such as may be said to be stationary, are of the filthiest description possible, being seldom more than one room, in which the whole family, parents, children, and thirteen or fourteen Hottentots all berd together, as well by night as by day. The furniture, of course, is answerable to the mansion, and the dress of the inhabitants, both male and female, is equally appropriate. The stock of the grazier is as easily disposed of, as it is quickly reared and increased; the butchers at the Cape, sending their own servants regularly round the country, to make the necessary purchases, for which they give bills upon their masters, which are paid on the arrival of the cattle. As, therefore, the wants of these people are so few, and those supplied at a trifling expense, if they are not affluent, it must be their own fault. Till, however, they are brought to a proper respect for social habits, and the civil duties of life, they cannot be considered better than a plague to the country, the blessings of which are so grievously abused. It has in consequence, been judiciously recommended, that instead of suffering the butchers to collect their cattle in the manner just stated, certain fixed fairs should be established at Algoa, Plattenberg, Mossel and Saldanba Bays, which would have the effect of bringing on a reciprocal connection between the inhabitants of the several districts, and thus prove a stimulus to industry and good manners.

As these periodical meetings for trade, have been so long in request among most nations, and are of incalculable benefit, it is surprising that the Dutch should never have adopted any thing like them in this region, where they must have proved highly lucrative. Under our government, which has begun to ameliorate this portion of Africa, in earnest, the institution of fairs in different parts of the colony, will no doubt be made an essential point, for the purpose of converging the several local interests, and of stimulating the people on all sides, to exert themselves with energy, in the improvement of their respective districts, by which means they will greatly enrich themselves. Hereby, also, the Kaffers and the Hottentots may be brought to feel a relish for social intercourse and industrious habits; which would have the happiest effects in extending the light of knowledge, and mutual confidence between man and man, over this vast continent to the Straits of Mosambique on the one shore, and as far as Cape Negro on the other. This is no romantic idea, when the progress of the Romans in colonization is considered, and the still greater wonders that have been wrought within a century, on the vast western continent. Here the

« PreviousContinue »