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Title: Thoughts on South Africa

Author: Olive Schreiner

Author of introduction, etc.: S. C. Cronwright-Schreiner

Release date: February 11, 2021 [eBook #64520]

Language: English



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A list of corrections can be found at the end of the document.








T. Fisher Unwin Ltd London





First published in 1923

(All rights reserved)


Cape Colony
October 11, 1901.



"Stray thoughts on South Africa, by a Returned South African" (as they were originally entitled) were left by my late wife almost exactly as they now appear.

She went to England for the first time early in 1881 and returned to South Africa towards the end of 1889. Cape Town not suiting her asthmatic chest, it was not long after her return that she made Matjesfontein her home. Matjesfontein is a railway-station on the main line, 195 miles from Cape Town and 2,955 feet above the sea-level. The climate suited her on the whole, and Cape Town,—where her family, friends and social interests were,—was not too far away. Here she leased a cottage which Mr. Logan, the owner of the little village and the large hotel, called "Schreiner Cottage."

It was here apparently that most of the "Stray Thought" articles were written (as well as "Our Waste Land in Mashonaland," which is included in this volume). This would be from 1890 to somewhere towards the end of 1892; for she again went to England in 1893, returning the same year.

The first article (Chapter I), dealing chiefly with the natural features of South Africa, was published in the Cape Times, Cape Town, as a "(Revised Edition)" on the 18th August, 1891, with the footnote "(To be continued in The Fortnightly Review)," and the last (Chapter VI) in 1900. The first five chapters appeared, as far as my knowledge goes, some of them in The Fortnightly Review, others in Cosmopolis, and the sixth chapter in The Cosmopolitan. [8] The last chapter on "The Englishman," which many will regard as the most remarkable part of this volume, has not been published before, and was apparently never revised; it was written so hurriedly that I had to type it myself, and only with great difficulty; the manuscript starts abruptly on a page numbered 3. A proposed chapter on the Native Races was never written. "The Domestic Life of the South African Boer" appeared in The Youth's Companion in November, 1899. It is not a part of "Stray Thoughts," but, from its nature, seems to find a fitting place in this book. "Our Waste Land in Mashonaland" appeared in the Cape Times, simply as "Communicated," on August 26th, 1891. The Dedication, the Introduction, and the other Notes have not hitherto been published.

All the articles were carefully revised by her, as also the above-mentioned unpublished matter, except Chapter VIII. It will be seen from the "Notes" that she was occupied with them at intervals, and, from the Prefatory Note, that she intended to publish them in 1896 soon after the Jameson Raid.

About this time, however, she began to write Trooper Peter Halket of Mashonaland, which absorbed her time and attention to the exclusion of the "Stray Thoughts." She and I went to England in 1897, when she published Peter Halket. Not long after our return we went to Johannesburg and lived there until some little time before the Boer War started. Subsequently, on account of bad health, her doctor ordered her to leave. The Boer War and the distressing state of things in South Africa resulting therefrom, coupled with her ill-health and then the European War and the almost complete breakdown of her health, account largely, no doubt, for the non-publication of these Thoughts on South Africa.


Krantz Plaats, 6 Camden Street,
Tamboers Kloof, Cape Town.

January 1923.



These articles were written four years ago; the first, a description of South African scenery, appeared in The Fortnightly Review at that time.

The rest did not follow. This was owing to the fact that there were at the Cape at that time certain parties and persons who, using the Boers of South Africa for their own purpose, yet pandered to them that they might ultimately more successfully obtain their own ends.

These papers, written by one who had for years lived among the Boers, sharing their daily life and understanding their language, of necessity attempt to delineate, not only the coarse external shell of the Boer, but the finer fibred kernel within, which those whose contact with him is superficial never see; and while dwelling at great length upon the one great flaw which mars the relation of the Boer with his fellow men in South Africa, these papers are of necessity sympathetic in their treatment of him.

Now, it appeared not well, at a time when certain men in South Africa were bending down to press their cheek against the heel of any pair of vel-schoens that might pass them, that any English voice should be raised which spoke in kindly tones of the Boer, lest the voice of the sympathizer should blend with and be mistaken for that of the flatterer.

It was certain that the time would come when again the Boer would stand in need of just treatment at the hands of Englishmen; and these papers were therefore put aside.

That time has come.


The Boer has been struck a sore blow by the hand that stroked him; and again it is necessary that he, with his antique faults and his heroic virtues, should be shown to the world as he is.

Therefore these papers, which make an attempt to delineate him in such guise as he lives, are now printed. They have been left as they stood save for the addition of a few foot-notes.


The Homestead, Kimberley,
South Africa.

February 17, 1896.






As a rule, the book which requires a preface of explanation is a book better not written, and better not read.

But certain parts of this book have appeared in periodicals and have caused, no doubt owing to the fragmentary nature of their publication, some misconceptions which it might be worth while setting right.

It has been stated by some kindly critic that the subject of this little book was a valuable history of South Africa, while another has suggested my calling it "The History of the Boer."

Nothing has been farther from my thought than the writing of any history. In a far different manner I should have equipped myself had it been my intention to do so. Dr. Theal, in his History of South Africa, has collected as carefully and dealt as ably with the mere historical incidents of the last two hundred years as it is possible for any one person, in the course of one life, and from one point of view, to do.

Still less, as has been suggested, was it my intention to write a homily on South African problems and people.

This little book is something far less pretentious, and wholly different.

Born in South Africa, I felt from my childhood a wish to set down what I thought and felt about my native land. After I was grown up, but in my youth, I went to Europe for ten years, living in London but visiting the Continent continually.

When at the end of those ten years I came back to my native land, it was with an even added interest that I looked at its people and its problems and its physical [14] features, and the wish became stronger to jot down what I thought and felt with regard to it.

This little book is the gratification of that wish.

It is not a history, it is not a homily, it is not a political brochure—it is simply what one South African at the end of the nineteenth century thought, and felt, with regard to his native land: thought and felt with regard to its peoples, its problems and its scenery—it is nothing more than this; but it is also nothing less.

I do not think, simple as such a book is, it need be necessarily quite without interest for any but the writer.

I myself should like to know, apart from what the learned historians have to say, and apart from the views of passing travellers who have lived a few years in the country, and who therefore have never seen its life below the surface—I should like to know just what one ordinary Chinaman feels and thinks, or does not feel and think, with regard to his native land at the end of the nineteenth century. I should like to know just what he sincerely thinks of its pig-tails and its tea plantations, what he feels to its scenery on the banks of the Yangtsekiang, and in its northern mountain regions, and exactly how its pagodas, and its Mongolian dynasty, and the position of its women, and its flowers, and even its stiff gardens, strike him. I should be interested to know just what he feels towards its complex peoples, and the foreigners; what he hopes for its future, and how he regards its past. His views might not always be correct, perhaps not often, but as long as they were sincerely his, set down to please no one and to grieve no one, but because they were his, they would have a certain interest for me. It would be the picture of only one John Chinaman—what he thought and felt towards his land, a purely personal document, but it might have a certain value!

Whatever value attaches to this little book is of this kind only. It is a personal document.

Had I the health to carry out my plans and to write somewhat in detail of what I think and feel with regard to our English folk in Africa, and above all of our Natives and their problems and difficulties, the little book might [15] have had a certain rotundity; now it is a broken segment only. Nor should I publish it now were it not at the request of many friends; for I am unable adequately to revise even this segment.

There is also one insignificant matter I should like to notice. It has been said I love the African Boer. That is true. But it has been given as a reason for my doing so that I share his blood, and that is not true. One could not belong to a more virile folk, but I have no drop of Dutch blood.

My father was a South German, born in Würtemberg, who studied at Basel, and when only twenty-one years old came to London, where he married my mother, of purely English blood; and together with her came to Africa as a missionary about the year 1836.[1] My training was exclusively and strongly English. I did not begin learning any other language till I was eight and have never gained the complete mastery of any other. It is my mother speech and England is my mother land.

Neither do I owe it to early training that I value my fellow South Africans of Dutch descent. I started in life with as much insular prejudice and racial pride as it is given to any citizen who has never left the little Northern Island to possess. I cannot remember ever being exactly instructed in these matters by any one, rather, I suppose, I imbibed my view as boys coming to a town where there are two rival schools imbibe a prejudice towards the boys of the other school, without ever being definitely instructed on the matter. I cannot remember a time when I was not profoundly convinced of the superiority of the English, their government and their manners, over all other peoples.

One of my earliest memories is of walking up and down on the rocks behind the little Mission House in which I was born and making believe that I was Queen Victoria and that all the world belonged to me. That being the case, I ordered all the black people in South Africa to be collected and put into the desert of Sahara, and a wall built across Africa shutting it off; I then ordained that any black person returning south of that line should have his head cut off. I did not wish to make [16] slaves of them, but I wished to put them where I need never see them, because I considered them ugly. I do not remember planning that Dutch South Africans should be put across the wall, but my objection to them was only a little less.

I cannot have been more than four years old when a Boer family outspanned their ox-wagon on the veld near our mission house. As I was walking past it a little girl of about my own age, wearing, like myself, a great white cotton kapje, climbed off the trap at the back of the wagon and came towards me holding out her hand. In it was a little fistful of dark-brown sugar, a treat to up-country children in the wilds where sweetmeats were rare. She held it out to me without saying a word. I was too polite to refuse to take it, but, as soon as I had gone a few steps, I opened my hand behind me and let it drop. To have eaten sugar that had been in the hand of a Boer child would have been absolutely impossible to me. Often, in later years, I have seen those two small figures standing there in the African afternoon sunshine in their great white kapjes, as in a way allegoric of the whole relation between the Anglo-Saxon and the Boer in South Africa.

It was about the same time that a minister of the Dutch Reformed Church, but a Scotchman by descent, came to spend a night at our station. The accommodation of an up-country mission house is limited, and I had to give him up my bed. On the night following when bedtime came I inquired if fresh sheets had been put on my bed; on being told they had not and that the clergyman had only slept in them one night and I might well use them, I absolutely refused to get in. Nothing, I said, would ever induce me to sleep between sheets a Dutchman had slept between. It was in vain it was protested he was not a Dutchman though called a Dutch minister; I was resolute and passed the night on the outside of the quilt.

These trivial facts are not wholly without interest as showing the possible mental attitude of the members of one society towards each other if divided by race; and they will, I think, serve to show that whatever sympathy [17] I have felt with my fellow South Africans of other races is not the result of early bias or training.

I remember it as often a subject of thought within myself at this time, why God had made us, the English, so superior to all other races, and, while feeling it was very nice to belong to the best people on earth, having yet a vague feeling that it was not quite just of God to have made us so much better than all the other nations. I have only to return to the experiences of my early infancy to know what the most fully developed Jingoism means.

Later on, my feeling for the Boer changed, as did, later yet, my feeling towards the native races; but this was not the result of any training, but simply of an increased knowledge.

When I was six years old, on a long journey from one part of South Africa to another, our wagon outspanned at a Boer's farm and we spent a day and a night there. I must often have visited a Boer farm-house before, but this visit made a curiously deep impression on me, from which I date the beginning of that consciousness of a certain political charm about the Boer and his life, which has never left me. The orange trees before the door, the first I had ever seen, with their sweet-scented leaves; the great clean, bare "voorhuis" (front room) with its mud floors and its chairs and sofa with reimpje[2] seats; the good old mother with her good-natured smile, sitting in her elbow chair, with her coffee table at her side and her feet on a stove; the little shy children, who, as I could not speak Dutch nor they English, brought me silently their little toys and patchwork to look at and who were so anxious to be friendly (some of these children are now, I believe, languishing as political prisoners in English prisons!); the strange cool stillness of the air next morning when we rose at dawn to continue our journey; the bleating of the sheep in the kraals, where the farmer's sons had already gone to count them out; the great blue mountain behind the house, with the still deep blue shadow beneath the krantzes[3] on its top; and the farm-house [18] becoming a small white speck with the orange trees before the door as our wagon crept away in the early light—all this made a profound impression on me; and I am conscious that I began to feel even then that charm which the still, free, simple life of the Boer on his land has since had for me.

Living in another part of Africa, three years later, it was my duty every morning to go to a Boer farm-house, about a mile off, to fetch milk. Not more pleasant in my memory is the scent of the quince hedges I had to pass, or the rushing between its stepping-stones of the river I had to cross, than of the little daub-and-wattle house of two rooms, with its mud floors and green windows, with the good old mother, very stout, sitting always in her elbow-chair beside the little coffee-table however early I came, and the great buxom daughters bustling about, while the little bare-foot children ran off to the kraal with my pail to fill it. They were the poorest class of by-woners (persons who have no land of their own and live on the land of others), and the little front room with its mud floor was often very full of flies in the summer, but the African sunshine fell across the floor from one open door to the other; and the good old mother used to make me sit on the stove at her feet, and smiled good-temperedly at my shy attempts to answer her questions in Dutch, of which I could at that time speak only a few broken words; and sometimes she gave me a carnation or a bit of pietercillie from her garden. The little house with its inhabitants were all objects of interest and sympathy to me. But I am not at all sure that, small shy person that I was, I did not even then still regard myself as a person belonging to a quite superior race, surveying them as it were from a height with sympathetic interest.

It was at this time that I began to study the history of the Boers and the story of Slachters Nek, of the valiant stand made by Bezuidenhout's wife; and the sufferings and wrongs of the old Fore-trekkers were often in my thoughts. I was convinced that, had I lived at the time of Slachters Nek, I would have saved the lives of those [19] five men, even at the risk of my own; I would have gone to the Governor, I would have moved heaven and earth, I would have been a kind of Paladin redressing the wrongs of the Boer, and I almost regretted that I had not been born in those dark times that I might have lived for, and if necessary have died for, him. But still I did not really know the Boer; he was only a far-off object of pity and sympathy.

It was some years later that I was first thrown into close personal contact with the South African Boer.

For five years I lived among them as a teacher on their farms, sometimes among the more cultured, and sometimes among the more primitive but not one whit less lovable and intelligent, class. Sometimes for eighteen months I did not see an English face and was brought into the closest mental contact with them which is possible—the mental contact between teacher and taught. Watching them in all the vicissitudes of life, from birth to marriage and death, I learnt to love the Boer, but more, I learnt to admire him. I learnt that in the African Boer we have one of the most intellectually virile and dominant races the world has seen; a people who beneath a calm and almost stolid surface hide the intensest passions and the most indomitable resolution. Among the peoples of Europe I have been thrown into contact with, the Swiss and the Tyrolese of remote Alpine villages most resemble the African Boer; but there is a certain quiet but high-spirited indomitableness and an unlimited power of self-control which is characteristic of the average Boer man and above all the average Boer woman, which I have not met with in an equal degree in any other races, though individuals in all races may be found possessing it, and certain Boers of course have it not.

It has been asked me more than once, on what ground I based the statement made before the present war began, in papers futilely written in the hope of preventing it, that, if England made war on the Republics, she would have to send out at least one hundred and fifty thousand soldiers to attack these small states, and that even then there was a possibility that the red African mier-kat might [20] ultimately creep back into its hole in the red African earth, torn and bleeding, but alive—it has been asked how I came to form this opinion, when military authorities, keen financiers and politicians held that at most twenty thousand soldiers and a few months would see the Republics crushed.

To this I have only one answer. I based my statement on my knowledge of the character of the Boer men, but above all of the Boer women. The measure of its women is ultimately the measure of any people's strength and resistile power. With the mother of the Gracchi, the Roman Republic in its might and vitality: with the effete Roman woman of a later period, the decadent Empire. The heart of the Boer woman is the true citadel of her people; and while that remains unbroken, though every city be taken and every village and farm-house burnt, the people is yet to crush.

I have been blamed for an excessive love of the race, and an unwillingness to see its faults: but I hardly think this is true.

The Boer has to the full the defects of his qualities; that scintillating intellectual brilliance and versatility, so common and so charming in the Frenchman and the Irishman, the Boer, even when highly cultured, seldom has: he is deep and strong rather than broad and brilliant: indomitable when he does act, it takes much to rouse him into action; he is slow and often heavy. And the Boer race has its Judases, as all other races have; nor do I know of a more sorrowful sight than the descendant of the old Boer, speaking English often with so foreign an accent as to be laughable, yet playing the part of the extreme Anglo-Saxon; losing thereby the charms of the Boer without attaining to the magnificent virtues which are characteristic of the best Englishman. But these persons are fortunately rare; and behind them lies the great, solid, self-respecting mass of the Dutch South African people.

I do not appraise, as has been said, the Boer as higher or more valuable than other human varieties. A dogmatic statement as to the respective values of human varieties, [21] or even of races, has always appeared to me, since I passed out of my infantile state of ignorance, as impossible. Each race has its virtues and the deficiencies which are complemental to its virtues, and the loss of any one race would be to me the falling of a star from the human galaxy.

When one travels in Italy and sees its harmoniously featured people, and views that plastic art which the Italian alone has given the world in many of its noblest forms, and realizes the vast debt under which all the world rests to the Italian race for its influence on the fourteenth-century renaissance, and remembers the list of the mighty dead from Michael Angelo to Dante, one so considering the land and its people is inclined to say that it would be well to barter any folk to preserve Italy and her gifts to humanity. But when one crosses the Alps and enters quaint German villages with their simple folk and treads on the soil which was the birth-land of the Goethes and Kants and Beethovens and Luthers, who are the world's wealth as well as Germany's, when one considers that vast army of intellectual labourers who have made the name German synonymous with the search after knowledge and truth for truth's sake; when one walks through the Rhine provinces with their sunshine, their vines, and their music, and their stalwart men and fair-faced women, with their German truth of heart, then it may be forgiven one who has any German blood in his veins if he feels inclined to seize a flag as children do and walk about waving it and crying, "I am a German! This is my Fatherland!"

But should one cross the Rhine and live among that folk on the other side, so old in their civilization, so keenly alive, who have suffered in the search for freedom, and are so capable of abandoning all for a lofty ideal; when one considers Paris, that queen among the cities in beauty and in tragedy, her people scintillating with intellect and an opalescent life always varying, then one is inclined to say, "Take all, but leave us France, the right eye of the world!"

And yet, should one cross to little Switzerland and [22] little Holland, where one knows one stands on ground made sacred in past ages as the battle-ground where mighty empires which sought to crush freedom were repelled, and studies that virile folk, one is inclined to exclaim, "There would be nothing more grand than to belong to one of these small heroic great peoples," and one thanks the gods they have existed.

Yet, further, if one turns to the northern peninsulas where in their greatest purity are to be found our fair northern races, and where the sons of the Sea Kings seem to have retained into these later times among their fjords and frozen forests much of the charm and freshness which we dream of as belonging to our own old northern ancestors, a charm which lives for ever in their great northern Saga, the loftiest song of battle and the deepest of the love of man and woman that the world has heard, one is not surprised that sons of Scandinavia send out into the world to-day works of genius which conquer its thought as their forefathers conquered the bodies of the men of the ancient world; one feels that, were the Scandinavian race obliterated, a northern aurora would have faded.[4]

While, if one turns one's eyes to the great northland in whose people Europe and Asia mingle, and studies their strangely virile and intense literature and their characters, in which the lion and the lamb are so strangely blended, and men willing to die rather than exercise any form of force towards their fellows are found side by side with those who know of no governing power but the knout; when one watches this great, strange, strong, gentle, fierce folk, so yet unexhausted, one is strangely drawn towards it and compelled to recognize that the Russian is not merely physically but intellectually one of the mighty modifying forces of the future.

So, if one crosses the sea to the little island of fogs and mists, it may be forgiven to one who has its people's blood in his veins, if, having well studied its people in their past and their present, their heights and their depths, [23] he should say, as the Jew has a right to say of his nation—"If we are the worst of humanity, we are also of its best!" For, like the Jew, if we English have sordid racial vices we have magnificent virtues; and we resemble him in this, that those very vices which most mark our national character and by which we are known throughout the earth, are the very qualities of which our greatest men and our noblest elements are the negation. As the Jew, marked everywhere by his devotion to material gain and the thirst for wealth, has yet, in his loftiest men of genius, realized the height of spirituality and the negation of all subjection to the sensuous; so we—the English folk, known throughout the world for our greed of power and pelf, and as tending always to cloak our self-seeking from our own eyes and from that of the world with a mantle of assumed virtue: a tendency which has made the name of England synonymous with hypocrisy and perfidy throughout the world—yet possess, in our greatest men and our ethically developed class, a body of individuals whose lives and ideals are a superb opposition to these qualities. Beside the sordid gold-seeker, financial speculator, land grabber and buccaneer, stand our Shelley and our Milton; beside the millions who use philanthropy as a means of self-gratification and a cloak to greed and ambition, are thousands with whom it is a heroic reality. Without any national prejudice may one not say that no people in the world ever possessed a section more determined to see things nakedly as they are, and, whether personally or nationally, to prefer justice to self-interest, than a section of our English people? Have there ever been statesmen in any land who have more fearlessly denounced injustice and oppression, not merely when exercised towards their own nation but by it, than Burke and Chatham when they raised their voices to oppose George the Third supported by the bulk of the English nation in their attempt to crush freedom in America? If no nation has more misrepresented, neglected and persecuted its sons of light, no nation has had more of them to persecute. If Dante's dream were a reality, mayhap we should find in that lowest hell, among the sad multitudes [24] walking round continually with iron weights upon their heads, that every third man was an Englishman; but we should also scale to no heaven so high that in the highest circle among the brightest spirits we should not find the sons and daughters of the damp little isle. If ten righteous would have saved a city once, shall not a nation be saved by ten millions? Shall it not be counted for righteousness to our stock-jobbers and priests and politicians, who, tongue buried in cheek, talk of spreading Christianity and enlightenment, when he means exploitation and destruction, that he belongs to a race thousands of whose men and women do sincerely desire those things which he affects? When the great Jew raised over his native city his mighty cry of—"O Jerusalem"—was it not proved by that very cry itself that sons of light were born even in her degenerate bosom? Was it not something that she gave birth to the prophets whom she killed and stoned?

It may be allowed any man who has English blood in his veins to feel that he can never fall in the gulf of insincerity and egoism but he shall have millions of his fellow countrymen about him, but also that there are no heights of sincerity and humanity towards which he may aspire which thousands of his race have not attained; that he belongs to a branch of the human race which, if it has given birth to some of the most sordid and crumpled of human blooms, has also borne on it the fairest of fruit.

Even if one turn to the despised African races, one finds, with much that is immature and childlike, much that is gracious and charming. That very strength of social instinct which characterises so many of them, to whom the social organism is all, the individual composing it so little, far removed as it is from our individualized Northern standpoint, may it not yet have its aspects of value and its lessons for humanity? The very Bushman, so little socialized, and standing almost on the border-line between the creature that speaks whom we call man and the creature that thinks and feels without speaking whom we call beast, that he has something of the attraction of both, would we be without him? And may one not [25] well be glad one was not born so late in the order of life that one never saw him? And one who has not personally known the Jap, the Chinaman, the Indian, the Afghan, the Spaniard, the Esquimo and the Turk, may well regret that the shortness of human life has made it impossible for him to love and study them all in their own habitats?

In truth, I am unable to conceive of the varieties and species into which the human race has divided itself as other than varied flowers in the garden of the gods on earth, of which the loss of one would be heavy. In my own garden I desire to see grow all species and kinds of flowers, the rose, the rhododendron, the violet and the orchid and the cactus on the rocks. And I love the purple-eyed periwinkle as well as any plant; only if it spreads inordinately and threatens to choke all the others do I say, "It is a weed; pull it up and circumscribe it!"


Cape of Good Hope, 1901.


Thoughts on South Africa


There are artists who, loving their work, when they have finished it, put it aside for years, that, after the lapse of time, returning to it and reviewing it from the standpoint of distance, they may judge of it in a manner which was not possible while the passion of creation and the link of unbroken emotion bound them to it.

What the artist does intentionally, life often does for us fortuitously in other relationships.

It may be questioned whether a man has ever been able to form an adequate conception of his mother's face in its relation to others, till after long years of absence he has returned to it, and, whether he will or no, there flashes on him the consciousness of its beauty, nobility, weariness, or age as compared with that of others; a thing which was not possible to him, when it rose for him every morning as the sun, and mingled itself with all the experiences of his day.

What is true of the personal mother is yet more true of the man's native land. It has shaped all his experiences; it has lain as the background to all his consciousness; it has modified his sensations and emotions. He can no more pass a calm, relative judgment on it, than an artist [28] can upon the work he is creating, or a child at the breast can analyze the face above it. The incapacity of peoples to pass judgments on the surroundings from which they have never been separated is familiar to every traveller. The mayor of the little German town does not take you to see the costumes of the peasants, nor the old church, nor the Dürer over the altar; but drags you away to see the new row of gas-lamps in the village street. The costumes, the church, the picture are unique in Europe and the world; better gas-lamps flame before every butcher's shop in London and Paris; but the lamps are new and have cost him much; he cannot view them objectively. The inhabitant of one of the rarest and fairest towns in the colonies or on earth does not boast to you of his oaks and grapes, or ask you what you think of his mountain, or explain to you the marvellous mixture of races in his streets; but he is anxious to know what you think of his docks and small public buildings. He has not the emotional detachment necessary for the forming of a large critical judgment. A certain distance is necessary to the seeing of great wholes clearly. It is not by any chance that the most scientific exposition of American Democracy is the work of a Frenchman, that the best history of the French Revolution is by an Englishman, or that the finest history of English literature is the work of a Frenchman. Distance is essential for a keen, salient survey, which shall take in large outlines and mark prominent characteristics.

It is customary to ridicule the traveller who passes rapidly through a country, and then writes his impression of it. The truth is he sees much that is hidden for ever from the eyes of the inhabitants. Habit and custom have blinded them. They are indignant when it is said that their land is arid, that it has few running streams, that its population is scanty, and that vegetables are scarce; and they are amused and surprised when he discants for three pages on the glorious rarity of their air, and the scientific interest of their mingled peoples: yet these are the prominent external features which differentiate their land from all others.


Nevertheless, there is a sense in which the people of a country are justified in their contempt of the bird's-eye view of the stranger. There is a certain knowledge of a land which is only to be gained by one born in it, or brought into long-continued, close, personal contact with it, and which in its perfection is perhaps never obtained by any man with regard to a country which he has not inhabited before he was thirty. It is the subjective emotional sympathy with its nature, and the comprehension not merely of the vices and virtues of its people, but of the how and why of their existence, which is possible to a man only with regard to a country that is more or less his own. The stranger sees the barren scene, but of the emotion which that barren mountain is capable of awakening in the man who lives under its shadow he knows nothing. He marks the curious custom, but of the social condition which originated it, and the passions concerned in its maintenance, he understands absolutely nothing.

This subtle, sympathetic, subjective knowledge of a land and people is that which is essential to the artist, and to the great leader of men. Without it no artist has ever greatly portrayed a land or a people, no great statesman or reformer has ever led or guided a nation or race. To Balzac nothing was easier than to paint the Paris boarding-house. All the united intellect and genius of Europe could not have painted it if the grimy respectability of those chairs and tables, the sordid narrowness of the faded human lives, had not eaten first into their own substance, emotionally. To a Gladstone nothing is easier than to make a speech which shall move five thousand Scotchmen to madness. No foreigner could do it. He might lay out the arguments as well. He could not put out his hand and touch chord after chord of national emotion and passion, producing what sound he would. The knowledge of these chords, and of the manner of touching them, is possible only to a man within whom they potentially exist.

Both forms of knowledge are essential to the true understanding of a country. And if it may be said that [30] no man understands a thing till he has coldly criticized it, it may also be said that no man knows a thing till he has loved it.

If the perfunctory views in the following pages have any claim to interest or attention, it rises not in any degree from any special aptitude in the writer for discussing the questions dealt with—for none such exists; but from the chance coincidence of fortunate circumstances, which give to a man born and growing up in a land which he loves, as a man loves one land once, and who returns to it after many years' absence in other lands, a somewhat two-fold position. Half he is outsider; half he is lover. It is only the thought that this position may possibly yield in itself a certain slight interest, which overcomes that natural diffidence which a man feels in dealing with subjects so vital, complex, and large that the opinion of any individual upon them must be of necessity tentative and limited in value, and stand in need of large correction.

For the right understanding of the South African people and their problem, the first requisite is a clear comprehension of their land.

Taking the term South Africa to include all the country south from the Zambesi and Lake N'gami to Cape Agulhas, it may be said that few territories possess more varied natural features; nevertheless, through it all, from Walfish Bay to Algoa Bay, from the Zambesi to Cape Town, there is in it a certain unity. No South African set down in any part of it could fail to recognize it as his native land; and he could hardly mistake any other for it.

The most noticeable feature in first looking at it, is the strip of lowland country running along the entire south and east coast, and bordered everywhere inland by high mountain ranges.

In the Western Province the coast belt consists of chains of huge mountains forming a network over a tract of country some hundreds of miles in extent, the mountains having at their feet level valleys or small plains. They are composed of igneous though stratified rock, covered by little soil, and showing signs of titanic subterranean [31] action; many of them seem to have been hurled up by one convulsive act; bare strata of rock thousands of feet in extent are raised on end, their jagged edges forming the summits of vast mountain ranges. In the still, peaceful valleys at the feet of these mountains are running streams; in the spring the African heath covers them with red, pink and white bells, and the small wine-farms dot the sides of the valleys with their white houses and green fields, dwarfed under the high, bare mountains. Here and there are little towns and villages, built as only the old Dutch-Huguenots knew how to build, the long, straight streets lined with trees on either hand, and streams of water running down them; and the old thatch-roofed, gabled, white-washed, green-shuttered houses standing back, with their stone stoeps,[5] under the deep shade of the trees, and with their vineyards and orchards behind them. No one can build such towns now. They are as unique as their mountains.

Perhaps one sees the Western Province to best advantage in the Hex River Valley, with its mountains of solid rock rising up thousands of feet on either hand, the vast strata contorted into fantastic shapes, and below them the smiling valley with its sprinkling of wine-farms. Hardly less characteristic is Cape Town itself, the capital of the Province and of the whole Colony, which lies on its promontory at the extreme end of the continent. In a valley between two mountains, one high, flat and of pure rock, its stupendous front overhanging the town, the other lower and rounded, its cliff worn away everywhere but on one mighty head which it rears into the blue, the town lies, with its flat-roofed houses and long straight streets, on a bay as blue and delicately curved as that of Naples.

Here it was that the wandering Hottentots on the shore saw the first sails creep across the waters of their blue bay. Here it was that in 1652 Jan Anthony van Riebeek, the servant of the Dutch East Indian Company, landed with his dependents and built the first houses and made the first gardens. The fort which they built in those early days may still be seen near the sea shore; [32] the small block-houses which you may still see on the spurs of the mountain, a disputed tradition says, were used in those days as outlook towers against the incursions of possible foes.

Here the Dutch East Indian Company imported its slaves, often from Madagascar, English slave-ships bringing them. Here, Peter Kolben tells us that, about the year 1712, he saw a slave burnt to death. They are, says he, speaking of the slaves, "most detestable and wicked wretches," and "'tis now and then a most difficult thing to keep them in order." This slave had tried to burn down his master's house; they tied him to an upright post by a chain which allowed him to make one turn about it. "Then," said Peter Kolben, "was kindled a fire round about him, just beyond the stretch of the chain; the flames rose high; the heat was vehement; he ran for some time to-and-again about the post, but gave not one cry. Being half roasted he sank down, and said (speaking in Portuguese), Dios mio Pays (O God, my Father), and then expired."

These things have passed away now, as the elephant and hippopotami have passed from the slopes of Table Mountain, and the thumb-screw and the rack and stake from Europe, and as other things will pass away yet.

For ten miles along the foot of the mountains stretch the suburbs of Cape Town, villa and garden, and pine and oak avenue mingling themselves in endless succession. Here it seems a man might dream away his life, buried in roses and plumbago, and forget that pain and care existed.

Perhaps one of the finest views in the world is that from the top of the Kloof behind Cape Town. To your right is Table Mountain, one of the sublimest masses of solid matter in the world; below are the pine woods and the town, with its white, flat houses, and, beyond the blue curved bay and Blue-Berg Strand, the mountains of Hottentot's Holland, with a canopy of clouds appearing and receding again into the blue sky. As you turn, behind you is the blue South Atlantic as far as the eye can reach, and the terrible serrated peaks of the Twelve Apostles stand facing it, peak [33] beyond peak, as they have stood for endless ages, with the sea breaking in the little bays at their feet.

The population of the Western Province is partly English and partly Boer or Dutch-Huguenot, the descendants of the Dutch East Indian Company's servants and settlers, and of a large number of French Huguenots who arrived in the Colony about 1687, driven from France by the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes, and who, winnowed by the unerring flail of religious persecution, form, perhaps, the finest element that has ever been added to the population of South Africa. The labouring classes are, as elsewhere in South Africa, coloured, and here largely half-castes, the descendants of the first Dutch residents and their slaves, or much more rarely of blended Dutch and Hottentot blood. In Cape Town itself are found also Malays, Chinamen, Hindus, and the representatives of all European nations.

If leaving Cape Town we go a few hundred miles eastward, along the coast, we shall find the lowland belt assume new characteristics. The hills, though high, are softer and more rounded, covered completely with soil and grass; or their sides, and even summits, are clothed in bush, stretching for ten or twenty or forty miles. This bush is neither forest nor scrub. In the valleys of high mountains, or along the beds of watercourses, it becomes true forest, of vast, thick-stemmed, timber-producing trees; monkey-ropes thicker than a man's arm hang down from the branches, and there is forest shade. But, in the main, South Africa bush is composed of creeper-like bushes, sometimes attaining forty feet in height, and of many hollow-skinned succulent plants, aloe, elephant's food, euphorbia, which often attain the height of tall trees, but are of so light a structure that cut down a child may drag them. Sometimes the bush grows more or less continuously, the clumps and bushes being merely intersected everywhere by what seem like little dry paths.

But in its most characteristic form the bush consists of large isolated clumps of vegetation. The kunee, a vast creeper-like tree, whose interlaced branches, touching [34] the ground everywhere, forming beehive-shaped masses, looking like immense Kaffir huts, often, though not always, forms the foundation of these masses; around it spring up elephant's food, namnam, geraniums and plumbago, and perhaps a tall euphorbia tree, with its cactus-like leaves, shoots up into the air through it. These clumps of vegetation, sometimes almost solid, and often forty or fifty feet in circumference, are divided from others by spaces of short, smooth grass, generally brown except after the early rains.

In this bush it is particularly easy to lose yourself. As you pass round clump after clump, there are always others of exactly the same shape before you, and you sometimes find you have gone two or three times round the same mass of vegetation. Oxen once lost in this bush are not easily discovered for days, though hidden behind the next clump, and it is almost hopeless to look for them unless one can gain an eminence and oversee a wide stretch of country. In this bush several Europeans have lost their lives during the last fifteen years.

It is the peculiar home of the great scarlet geranium now common in English hot-houses, and of the delicate, blue, star-like plumbago, and of endless ferns; but the heaths and bulbs of the Western Province are not found here.

Eighty years ago it was alive with elephant, lion, bush-buck, and wild animals of all kinds. Now, the elephant is extinct, except where artificially preserved; bush-buck are scarce; a few large leopards may still be found in sequestered kloofs, and wild cats and monkeys and parrots are yet abundant, but a lion has not been seen for forty years. Thousands of small birds feed on the berries that abound here, and fifty small birds may sometimes be heard chirping in the depths of one kunee tree.

Eighty years ago, the inhabitants of this tract were warlike Kaffir tribes of the Bantu race. They have not been exterminated as the Hottentots and Bushmen in the west have largely been, but are still found as the servants on farms and in towns. The white inhabitants at the present day are mainly English, the descendants largely [35] of a group of emigrants who landed here in 1820, and who proved themselves one of the most entirely successful and satisfactory bodies of emigrants whom England has ever sent forth.

Here and there throughout the entire tract are scattered small English towns and villages; and thriving farms, where sheep and agriculture go together, are hidden away in the bush.

To see this land typically one should outspan one's wagon on the top of a height on a hot summer's day, when not a creature is stirring, and the sun pours down its rays on the flaccid, dust-covered leaves of the bushes. When the leader has gone to take the oxen to water and the driver has gone to lie down behind the bushes, if you stand up on the front chest of the wagon, and look out, as far as your eye can reach, you will see over hills and dales, the bush stretching, silent, motionless, and hot. Not a sound is to be heard; your hand blisters on the tent of the wagon; suddenly a cicada from a clump of bush at your right sets up its keen, shrill cry; it is glorying in the heat and the solitude of the bush. You listen to it in the unbroken silence, till you and it seem to be alone in the world.

Not less characteristic is the bush, when, as a little child, you travel through it at night. The ox-wagon creaks slowly along the sandy road in the dark, the driver walks beside it and calls at intervals to his tired oxen; you look out across the wagon-chest, and, as the wagon moves along, the dark outlines of the bushes on either side seem to move too; now a great clump comes nearer and nearer like a vast animal; then, as you peer into the dark, they seem like great ruined castles coming to topple over you; and you creep closer down behind the wagon-chest. Against the dark night sky to the right, on the ridge of the hill, are the gaunt forms of aloes standing like a row of men keeping watch. You remembered all the stories you had heard of Kaffir wars and men shot down and stabbed, as they passed along hill-sides; and then a will-o'-the-wisp comes out from some dried-up torrent bed, and far before you dances in and out among the bushes, [36] now in sight and now gone. You are not afraid; but you are glad when the people in the wagon begin to sing hymns; and more glad yet when at half-past nine it stops, drawn up beside a great clump of bush at the roadside. The tired oxen are taken from the yoke, and you climb out and light a fire and gather from afar and near stumps of dried elephant's food and euphorbia, and throw them on the fire, and the flame leaps up high. Then you all sit down beside the ruddy blaze; and away off the driver and leader have lighted their fire, and are talking to each other in Kaffir as they boil the coffee and roast the meat. The light from your own fire blazes up and lights the great, dusty body of the wagon, and the tired oxen, as they lie tied to their yokes, chewing the cud; and it glints on the bush with its dark-green leaves behind you, and on the faces round the fire; and you laugh, and talk; and forget the stories of Kaffir wars, and the great wild bush stretching about you.

This tract of coast belt forms part of the Eastern Province of the Cape Colony, and is under English rule. It is on the whole very fertile, though more subject to drought than the South-Western districts of the Colony; none of its rivers are perennial, all being in long droughts completely dry. Fruit and wool, and to a certain extent grain, are produced here. The villages, though far less beautiful than those of the west, show greater signs of commercial activity and civic life.

If we go further north along the coast we come to Kaffirland, a richly wooded, fertile tract; the scenery about the mouth of the St. John's River being supposed to be the finest combination of bush, river and mountain scenery to be found anywhere in South Africa. It is inhabited by Kaffir tribes of the Bantu race, in a half-civilized condition, and who are more or less under British protection.

Further north yet we come to Natal, a British colony. The climate here is warm, the country fertile in the extreme; coffee, sugar, rice, pineapples, and all tropical fruits abound here, yet the climate is not much less healthy than in the more southern portions of the coast belt. Its [37] population is more largely black than white, the natives being Zulus of the Bantu race and imported coolies; the small white population is largely English, and appear to be rather above the common Colonial average in intelligence and culture.

Further north yet from Delagoa Bay to the mouth of the Zambesi stretches a tract of low lying but fertile and well-watered country; its streams, unlike most in South Africa, are more or less navigable. It is concerning this tract that the existing difference with Portugal has arisen. Though now fever-haunted along the beds of streams, civilized, drained and cultivated it might become one of the most fertile parts of South Africa. It is at present inhabited by native tribes and by Portuguese with their half-caste descendants; the number being inappreciable when compared to the native population. The Zambesi, which empties itself on the north, is the largest and only really great river of South Africa.

If we return to the Western districts of the Cape Colony, and leaving the coast belt, climb one of the high mountain ranges that here, as everywhere else, bound the coast belt separating it from the centre of the country, we shall find to our surprise that on reaching its summit, we make hardly any descent on the other side; and that what appeared from the south to be a high mountain range was merely the edge of a vast plateau. We shall find ourselves on an undulating plain, bounded on every side by small fantastic hills. The air is dry and clear; so light that we draw a long breath to make sure we are breathing it aright. The sky above is a more transparent blue than nearer the coast, and seems higher. There is not a blade of grass to be seen growing anywhere; the red sand is covered with bushes a few inches high, clothed with small, hard leaves of dull, olive-green; here and there is an ice-plant, or a stapelia with fleshy, cactus-like leaves, or a rod-like milk bush. As far as the eye can reach, there is often not a tree or a shrub more than two feet high; and far, in the distance, rising abruptly out of the plain, are perhaps two solitary flat-topped mountains; nearer at hand are small conical hillocks, made of round [38] iron-stones piled so regularly on one another that they seem the work of man rather than nature. In the still, clear air you can see the rocks on a hill ten miles off as if they were beside you; the stillness is so intense that you can hear the heaving of your own breast. This is the Karoo. To the stranger, oppressive, weird, fantastic, it is to the man who has lived with it a scene for the loss of which no other on earth compensates.

As you travel through it after fifteen, twenty, or fifty miles, you may come upon a farm. The house, a small brown or white speck in the vast landscape, lies at the foot of a range of hills or a small "kopje," with its sheep kraals on the slope behind it, of large brown squares, enclosed by low stone walls. Sometimes there is a garden before the house also enclosed by stone walls, and containing fruit trees, and there is a dam with willow trees planted beside; sometimes there is no dam and no garden, and the little brown mud house stands there baking in the sun with its kraals behind it; the only water for men or beasts coming from some small unseen spring.

Throughout the Karoo there are few running streams; the waters of any fountains which may exist are quickly drunk up by the dry soil, and men and animals are largely dependent on artificial dams filled by rain-water. The farmer makes his livelihood from flocks of sheep which wander over the Karoo, and which in good years flourish on its short dry bushes.

In the spring, in those years when rain has fallen, for two months the Karoo is a flower garden. As far as the eye can reach, stretch blots of white and yellow and purple fig flowers;[6] every foot of Karoo sand is broken open by small flowering lilies and waxflowers; in a space a few feet square you may sometimes gather fifty kinds of flowers. In the crevices of the rocks little flowering plants are growing. At the end of two months it is over; the bulbs have died back into the ground by millions, the fig blossoms are withered, the Karoo assumes the red and brown tints which it wears for all the rest of the year.


Sometimes there is no spring. At intervals of a few years great droughts occur, when for thirteen months the sky is cloudless. The Karoo bushes drop their leaves and are dry withered stalks, the fountains fail, and the dams are floored with dry baked mud, which splits up into little squares; the sheep and goats die by hundreds, and the Karoo is a desert.

It is to provide for these long rainless periods that all plant-life in the Karoo is modified. Nothing that cannot retain some form of life habitually for six months, and at need for eighteen months, without rain, can subsist here. The Karoo bush, itself a tiny plant a few inches high, provides against droughts by roots of enormous length stretching under the ground to a depth of thirty feet. At the end of a ten months' drought, when the earth is baked into brickdust for two feet from the surface, if you break the dried stalk of a Karoo bush you will find running down its centre a tiny thread of pale-green tinted tissue still alive with sap.

Some plants maintain life by means of fleshy bulbs buried deep under ground, and in years when no rain falls they do not appear above the surface at all. Many plants have thick, fleshy leaves, in which they store up moisture against the time of need; some, such as the common sorrel and dandelion, become ice-plants; all over their fleshy leaves and stems are little diamond-like drops, which when broken are found to be full of pure water, a little plant sometimes having half a cupful stored in this way. Some have their leaves closely pressed together into little solid squares or balls, so saving all evaporation from their surfaces. Many are air plants; and, fastened by the slenderest roots to the ground or rocks, live almost entirely on the moisture they may draw from the air, and will grow and bloom for months or even years in a dwelling without either earth or water.

But the intense dryness modifies plant-life in another way; vegetation being scarce, all forms are eagerly sought after by animals; and an unusual number are protected by thorns, or by an intense bitterness, or by imitative adaption. One curious little plant protects itself by [40] assuming the likeness of a hard white lichen that covers the rocks: its sharp-pointed green leaves are placed close together with their tips upwards, and on the tip of each leaf is a little white scaly sheath; the resemblance to the lichen growing on the rocks, besides which it is always found, is so great, that not till you tread on it, and your foot sinks in it, do you discover the deception.

Even on the insect life the exceptional conditions of the Karoo have a marked effect. Imitative colouring is more common here than elsewhere; thus, one insect is so like the white pebbles near which it is always found, that once dropped it cannot easily be again found; another large square insect with hardly any power of flight protects itself by lying motionless on red stones, which it so exactly resembles in colour, having even the rough cleavage marks upon it, that it is impossible to detect it, though you know it to be there; hardly any insect or reptile exists without imitative colouring.

To see the Karoo rightly one should saddle one's horse and ride away from some solitary farm-house. For twenty miles you may ride without seeing a living thing, nor passing even a herd of sheep or goats, or a korhaan or mierkat. At midday you off-saddle in a narrow plain between two low hills, that widen out at the further end into a wider plain, from which rise two conical, solitary, flat-topped hills; and the horizon is bounded by a purple mountain thirty miles off. You put your saddle down beside a milk bush and tie the halter round the horse's knee, that he may go and feed upon the bushes; and you seat yourself beside your saddle on the ground. The milk bush gives little shade, and the midday sun shines hot upon you. In the red sand at your feet the ants are running to and fro, carrying away the crumbs that may have fallen from your saddle-bag; and in the stillness you can hear your horse break the twigs from the bushes as he feeds; he moves further off, and you cannot hear even that. Then you notice on the red sand a little to the right, at the foot of a Karoo bush, a scaly lizard, with his head raised, and his belly palpitating on the red sand, watching you. He is a tiny fellow, three inches long. [41] You move, and he is gone like a flash of light across the sand. By and by the ants have carried away the crumbs, and they too are gone. You sit alone with the sun beating down on you. As the plain lies to-day, so it has lain for long countless ages. Those sharp stones on the edge of the rise to your right, with their points turned to the sky, for how many centuries have they lain there, their edges as sharp and fresh to-day as though they had been broken but yesterday? Those motionless hills; the very knotted Karoo stem at your hand, for how many generations have the leaves sprouted and fallen from its gnarled stalk? The Bushman and the wild buck have crept over the scene; they have gone, and the Englishman with his horse and gun have come; but the plain lies with its sharp stones turned to the sky unchanged through the centuries. Those two stones standing loosely one upon another have stood so for thousands of years, because there was no hand to sever them.

It is not fear one feels, with that clear, blue sky above one; that which creeps over one is not dread. It was amid such scenes as these, amid such motionless, immeasurable silences, that the Oriental mind first framed its noblest conception of the unknown, the "I am that I am" of the Hebrew.

Nor less wonderful is the Karoo at night, when the Milky Way forms a white band across the sky; and you stand alone outside, and see the velvety, blue-black vault rising slowly on one side of the horizon and sinking on the other; and the silence is so intense you seem almost to hear the stars move. Nor is it less wonderful on moonlight nights, when you sit alone on a kopje; and the moon has arisen and the light is pouring over the plain; then even the stones are beautiful; and what you have believed of human love and fellowship—and never grasped—seems all possible to you.

And not less rare is the sunrise, when the hills, which have been purple in the dawn, turn suddenly to gold, and the rays of light shoot fifty miles across the plain and make every drop on the ice-plants sparkle.

Nor less wonderful are the sunsets, when you go out [42] at evening after the day's work. The fierce heat is over; as you walk, a cool breath touches your cheek; you look up and all the hills are turned pink and purple, and a curious light lies on the top of the Karoo bushes; they are all gilded; then it vanishes, and along the horizon there are bars of gold and crimson against a pale emerald sky; and then everything begins to turn grey.

In the Karoo there are also mirages. As you travel along the great plains, such as those between Beaufort and De Aar, you continually see, in hot weather, far off on the horizon, lakes with the sunlight sparkling on the water; there are islands and palm trees and domes and minarets and snow-capped mountains. If you remain for half an hour they do not change. Why the mirage should always take the shape of lakes, islands, and palm trees, is something which science, in giving us its cause, has not accounted for.

There is much talk as to whether the Karoo could not be made more useful agriculturally by the building of great dams, and so be made to supply corn and vegetables in large quantities. This is irrelevant. When all the more readily cultivable places in the world and in South Africa have been brought under the plough, it may pay to turn the Karoo into a garden. The soil is scanty in most parts, sometimes barely covering the rocks. The long droughts, the habitual dryness of the air sucking up all moisture, and the sharp frosts in winter, must make agriculture always difficult, as it is now almost impossible. There are vast tracts covered with sharp stones where it is even difficult for sheep to find a mouthful of pasturage. But the Karoo has a future. It is a sanatorium of the world. It has a climate that is unequalled. It will be visited not only by those seeking recovery from illness, from the moister Zambesi and sub-tropical regions of Africa, but from all parts of the world. The selfish lover of the solitary Karoo may regret it, but the day will come when the inhabitants of the Karoo will cull millions from their dry soil and bare hills, as the inhabitants of the Riviera cull them to-day.

At present the Karoo is inhabited sparsely by Boer [43] and English farmers, the homesteads lying often forty or fifty miles apart; and there are a few small villages, often at distances of more than a hundred miles, inhabited by the descendants of Boers and English.

The early inhabitants of the country were wandering tribes of Bushmen, whose paintings of animals we may still find under the shelving ledge of rocks, and whose arrow-heads of bone and flint may be still picked up at the sources of some spring they frequented. They are now gone, like the game which filled these plains sixty years ago; a few wandering remnants may be found in the extreme north-east, and a few ragged individuals in cast-off European clothing may be seen about the back doors of farm-houses. The whole of the Karoo now forms part of the Cape Colony.

If we leave the Karoo and go north and east, we find ourselves still on table-lands as high or higher, but the character has changed. The earth is more completely covered with soil, the hills are smaller and more rounded, the plains are softer, wider, more rolling, and grass has taken the place of the Karoo bush. At first, one who has lived long in the Karoo experiences a sense almost of relief at the changed nature of the scene; the soft, rolling outlines give one a sense of repose, and tension is relaxed; it is as when, long accustomed to live with some strongly marked individual nature, one comes for the first time into contact with one more negative and weak: for the first moment there is a sense of relief; then one wearies, and hungers again for the more positive and active.

The wide rolling grass plains, with their little hills, have their charm, but one tires of it. Throughout the Orange Free State, Griqualand West and Bechuanaland, with slight modifications, these grass plains extend; here they are more rolling, there more hilly; here dotted with a few beautiful mimosa trees, there level as a table; but there is always the same succession of level grassy plains, and generally of low, flat-topped hills, and ant-heaps. These plains are perhaps seen most typically in the west of the Free State. Here you may start in your wagon in the morning, and creep all day along the level earth, [44] by a straight road, with the grasses on either hand; and in the evening when you stop, you will not yet have reached the low hill you saw before you on the horizon at starting. At great intervals you may come upon a farm, the white or brown mud-coloured house standing at the foot of a little hill, with its dam of rain-water and its garden and kraals, but you may travel in an ox-wagon more than a day without sighting one. In the spring the grass is short and green, in the autumn long and waving, and cattle flourish on it. It is still within memory of those who have not yet reached middle life when these plains were alive with game. Some of us can recall, as small children, travelling across them in the north of the Free State and Bechuanaland when the wagon seemed to divide herds of antelope and zebra with ostriches among them, the animals feeding on either side of the road within gunshot. Now they have been almost exterminated, and game is only to be found much further north.

The Free State is a small independent Republic, once under English rule, but rashly given up by England in 1854 as not worth keeping; it is inhabited by Boers and English, the Boers living mainly on the farms, the English in the towns. The labouring classes here, as elsewhere, are black.

British Bechuanaland, which comprises the larger part of this grass-plain region, is a tract as large as several European countries combined, inhabited mainly and sparsely by native tribes subject to England, by a few European settlers, and the inhabitants of a few embryo villages. Its soil is rich, and, like that of the rest of the grass plains, if vast dams were built, it might become a great grain-producing country. Its climate is perfect, rivalling that of the Karoo.

Griqualand West, one of the most interesting and varied divisions of the grass plains, is part of the Cape Colony. In it are situated the great Kimberley diamond-mines, the richest in the world. Within the space of a few miles lie those marvellous beds of once boiling but now petrified mud, which have for twenty years modified, and are still modifying, the history of South Africa.


It is through these grass plains that the Vaal and the Orange Rivers run; the last the most typical of South African rivers. In nothing perhaps is the difference between Europe and South Africa more emphasized than in their rivers. The South African in Europe hardly knows whether to admire or to scorn the smooth, gentle-flowing streams between their green banks. The South African river alternates between being a stupendous body of water, tearing with irresistible force to the sea between its high banks, or being merely a vast empty bed of dry sand with gigantic walls, the floor lined by boulders and débris, or with a silver line of water creeping through it, and a few large pools gathered here and there. Rising at an immense height above the sea in the central table-lands, fed by no melting snows, dependent entirely on the thunderstorms or the heavy rains of the wet seasons, the South African river rises with a rapidity and sweeps onward with a force that is almost inconceivable. A mighty body of red or dark-brown water, it rushes with a greasy, treacherous movement between its banks, the water being higher in the centre of the stream than at the sides and breaking here and there into bubbles and foam; on its dark surface it bears uprooted trees, drowned bodies of animals or men, the stupendous rapidity of its movement being only noticeable when you mark how a floating object now at your feet is out of sight round the bend of the river in a few seconds. Perhaps no object in inanimate nature conveys the same impression of conscious cruelty, and fierce, untamed strength, as a full African river.

Every year during the rainy season large numbers of persons are drowned in the full rivers; the numbers recorded in the papers during the last rainy season exceeded one hundred and fifty, and a large number of deaths of Kaffirs and others remains unchronicled. The nature of her rivers has powerfully affected the history of South Africa.

Crossing the Vaal River, we shall find to the north the Transvaal Republic. This is a tract of country of great extent and diversity. In part of it we have bush, [46] in part high grass tablelands; on the east a low lying, moist, fever-haunted district. On the whole it is of great fertility. On the ridges of the high tablelands, lie the great Johannesburg gold-mines, which have drawn men from all parts of the earth. There are probably about eight black men to each white, the white population being probably divided between those of Boer, and English or other European extraction in the proportion of one to one; but no accurate census has yet been taken. The largest city, Johannesburg, is mainly English, the farming population Dutch-Huguenot.

If, leaving the Transvaal Republic, we cross the Limpopo, we shall find ourselves in the country known as Matabele and Mashonaland.

Bounded on the north by the Zambesi, the largest and only truly navigable river in South Africa, whose falls are the largest in the world, and further by Lake N'Gami and its low-lying territory, and on the West by the Kalahari, and on the east by the strip of low country claimed by Portugal. To the extreme left it is largely flat and arid, like the greater part of South Africa; the central position has mountain and bush, while along the low-lying river-beds it is fever-haunted, to the east is a high healthy tableland, well watered and wooded.

It is the land of Livingstone. Some of us remember on hot Sunday afternoons, as little children, when no more worldly book than missionary travels was allowed us, how we sat on our stools and looked out into the sunshine and dreamed of that land. Of the Garden Island, where the smoke of the mighty falls goes up, whose roar is heard twenty-five miles off; of hippopotami playing in the water, and of elephants and lions, and white rhinoceroses. We had heard of a man on the north of the Limpopo, who once saw three lions lying under the trees on the grass like calves, and he walked straight past them, and they looked at him and did nothing. We had heard of great ruins—ruins which lay there overgrown with weeds and trees. From there we believed the Queen of Sheba brought the peacocks and the gold for King Solomon. We meditated over it deeply. Yes, we should go and see [47] it.[7] Up a valley, a great white rhinoceros would wade with its feet in the water; on each side under the trees zebras and antelopes would stand quietly feeding on the green grass. We would creep up quietly and look at them. No one but we would ever have seen them before. We would not disturb them. We would see the giraffes pick the top leaves from the trees, and elephant-cows walk along with their little calves at their sides. At night round the fire we would hear the lions roar, and the wild dogs howl, and sleep with our feet to the fire, and the stars above us; we would plant seeds on the Garden Island; we would pass lions and they should not eat us; we would climb over the ruins where the Queen of Sheba stood! We almost dropped the book from our knees and rose to go. In that land there were no Sunday afternoons and no boredom; you could do as you liked. The very names Zambesi and Limpopo drew us, with the lure of the unknown.

Even to-day there is still much to be learnt with regard to these lands. To the west it is inhabited by the Bamangwato, under their chief Kame; in the centre by the brave warlike Matabele, under the chief Lobengula; in the east by the mild, industrious Mashonas, on whom the Matabele raid; and there are to-day the men of the British South Africa Company looking for gold.

It is more than possible that if we went there now we should not find all we have dreamed of. Elephants are scarce; Selous says he has killed the last white rhinoceros; if we met a lion he might eat us; the hippopotami will soon be driven away from the Victoria Falls; the ruins may not be three thousand years old; boredom and Sunday afternoons may exist there as elsewhere, and the gold may need much washing from the sand; but it is certain that in these auriferous regions will ultimately spring up dense populations. It is from the territories north of the Vaal and south of the Zambesi, in this moister climate, with its more navigable rivers, that civilization in its coarser proportions will first unroll itself. More Southern Africa may produce better men; [48] our greatest poet may yet be born in the Karoo; our great artist in the valley of the Paarl; our great thinker among the keen airs of Basutoland; neither wealth nor dense population have a tendency to produce the finest individuals; but it is in the north-east of Southern Africa that mineral wealth and vast populations with all that they signify for good and evil will probably first arise.

To understand the view taken in South Africa of the opening up of these lands, it is necessary to turn back from the present day to the Europe of the sixteenth century, when the hearts and eyes of men were turned to the new world, and each man who crossed the seas carried with him the hearts and thoughts of the thousands who remained. There is no explanation to be given of these sudden movements of entire peoples in a given direction. Their scientific causes are as subtle as those which govern the migrations of the lemmings. Some lead and the rest follow.

If we leave these territories we shall find to the south-east a territory known as the Kalahari Desert; a vast tract where little rain falls and springs are rare, and there are no running streams; but it is less accurately called a desert than many parts of South Africa that are never so called. There are trees and low shrubs in many places; such antelopes as can exist without much water are found, and a few wandering natives, who know by long experience where water may be had, by sucking through the sand. In forty years there will probably be a railway across it; now it is practically uninhabited.

West of the Kalahari and bordering the Atlantic, up and down the coast runs a vast territory rich in copper and other metals, but in parts drier than the Kalahari itself. Instead of karoo it is covered over a large extent by a coarse, thick tuft grass, which has the curious power of resisting drought for two or even three years; it still stands upright and affords food for the cattle and wild antelopes. Such wandering Bushman and Hottentot tribes as still exist are found mainly in this part, and, except a few missionaries and traders, the country is not inhabited largely by white men.


To the east of the Free State lies Basutoland, the Switzerland of South Africa, rich in its mountains and with a climate of superb quality. Here is to be found the Basuto nation, a people whose history since their foundation under their valiant chieftainess Ma' Katees is probably more epic than that of any other people in South Africa, save that of the old fore-trekkers who founded the Transvaal Republic.

Again, north of Natal lie Zululand and the adjoining native territories where the virile Bantu tribe of Zulus, along with other Bantu peoples, may be found inhabiting an almost tropical and luxuriantly fertile country: while further north and east yet along the coast stretch the Portuguese territories, the remnants of Portugal's once large empire, naturally rich and productive, but in many parts low-lying and fever-smitten.

This, then, is South Africa; the country which the South African regards as his native land. To the superficial observer nothing would be more unlike than its differing parts; between the falls of the Zambesi with their spray-drenched forest and their banks, unchanged by civilization as when the eye of Livingstone first beheld them more than thirty years ago, and a little Eastern Province town, with its narrow, conventional life; between the wilds of Namaqualand, where the little Bushman still sits down behind his bush to cook his supper of animal entrails and lies down with the stars over him, and the white house and tree-lined streets of the Paarl; between the Kalahari, where under a thorn tree groups of antelopes are gathered in the moonlight, and the gambling saloons and music-halls of Johannesburg and Kimberley; between the kraals of Kaffirland, where the Kaffir boys are holding their "abakweta" dances in the moonlight with whitened faces, and the drawing-rooms of Cape Town, where women in low dresses sit aimlessly talking, there seems little in common.

Nevertheless, through the whole of South Africa there runs a certain unity. It is not only that geraniums and plumbago, flat-topped mountains, aloes and euphorbia are peculiar to our land, and that sand and rocks abound everywhere; nor is it even that the land is everywhere [50] young, and full of promise; but there is a certain colossal plenitude, a certain large freedom in all its natural proportions, which is truly characteristic of South Africa. If Nature here wishes to make a mountain, she runs a range for five hundred miles; if a plain, she levels eighty; if a rock, she tilts five thousand feet of strata on end; our skies are higher and more intensely blue; our waves larger than others; our rivers fiercer. There is nothing measured, small nor petty in South Africa.

Many years ago, we travelled from Port Elizabeth to Grahamstown in a post-cart with a woman who had just come from England. All day we had travelled up through the bush, and at noon came out on a height where, before us, as far as the eye could reach, over hill and dale, without sign of human habitation or break, stretched the bush. She began to sob; and, in reply to our questionings, could only reply, almost inarticulately: "Oh! It's so terrible! There's so much of it! There's so much!"

It is this "so much" for which the South African yearns when he leaves his native land. The lane, the pond, the cottage with roses climbing over the porch, the old woman going down the lane in her red cloak driving her cow, the parks with the boards of warning, the hill with the church and ruin beyond, oppress and suffocate us. Amid the arts of Florence and Venice, the civilizations of London and Paris, in crowded drawing-rooms, surrounded by all that wealth, culture and human fellowship can give, there comes back to us the remembrance of still Karoo nights, when we stood alone under the stars, and of wide breezy plains, where we rode; and we return. Europe cannot satisfy us.

The sharp business man who makes money at the "Fields" and goes to end his life in Europe, comes back at the end of two years. You ask him why he returned. He looks at you in a curious way, and, with his head aside, replies meditatively: "There's no room there, you know. It's so free here." Neither can you entrap him into further explanations; South Africa is like a great fascinating woman; those who see her for the first time wonder at the power she exercises, and those who come close to her [51] fall under it and never leave her for anything smaller, because she liberates them.

If we turn from the land itself, to examine more closely the people who inhabit it, we shall be struck in the first place by the marvellous diversity of races found among us.

For not only are the South Africans not of one national variety (a fact not surprising when the extent of our country is taken into consideration); not only do we belong to the most distinct branches of the human family to be found anywhere on the surface of the globe, representing the most widely different stages in human development, from the Bushman with his ape-like body, flat forehead and primitive domestic institutions, to the nineteenth-century Englishman fresh from Oxford, with the latest views on social and political development, and the financial Jew; but we are more or less a mixture of these astonishingly diverse types. We are not a collection of small, and, though closely contiguous, yet distinct peoples; we are a more or less homogeneous blend of heterogeneous social particles in different stages of development and of cohesion with one another, underlying and overlaying each other like the varying strata of confused geological formations.

It is this fact which lies at the core of the social and political problem of South Africa, and which makes it at the same time the most complex and difficult, and the most interesting, with which a people has ever been called upon to deal.

To grasp our unique condition clearly, it will be well to take a blank map of South Africa, and pass over it, from east to west, from north to south, from the Zambesi to Cape Town, from Walfish Bay to Kaffirland, a coating of dark paint, lighter in the west, to represent the yellow-tinted Bushmen and Hottentots, and half-caste races; and darker, mounting up to the deepest black, in the extreme east, to represent vast numbers of the black-skinned Bantus. From no part of the map, so large that a pin's point might be set down there, will this layer of paint representing the aboriginal native races be absent; darker here and lighter there, it will always be present. [52] If we now wish to represent the earliest European element, the Boer or Dutch Huguenots, we shall have to pass over the whole map lines and blots of blue paint, more plentiful in some parts, rarer in others, but nowhere entirely absent. And if again we wish to represent the English and modern continental element we shall have to pass over the entire map, from the Zambesi to Cape Agulhas, a fine layer of red paint, thinner in spots and thicker in others, but never wholly absent. If we now add a few insignificant dots on the extreme east coast, to represent the Portuguese, our racial map of South Africa will be complete.

Looking at it, the first thing which must strike us is the fact that no possible line which can be drawn across it will separate the colours one from another, or even combine their darker shades. There is a dark patch of red to the north of our map, but there are others equally dark in the south; the blue colour is prevalent at the north end, but also in the east; the dark tone is everywhere visible; the colours are intermingled everywhere, like the tints in a well-shot Turkey carpet. They cannot be separated.

But should we wish to make our map truly representative of the complexities of the South African problem, it will be necessary to go further, and across this intermingled mass of colours to draw at intervals, at all angles, and in all directions, lines of ink, which shall cut up the surfaces into squares and spaces of different sizes. If these lines be truly drawn they will be found to bear no relation to the proportions of the colours beneath them; they will run straight through masses of colour, cutting them into parts; and except in the case of some of the smallest divisions, where the dark predominates, it will be impossible to trace the slightest connection between the lines and the colouring.

Our political as well as our racial map of South Africa will now be complete; for these lines represent the boundaries of the political states into which South Africa is subdivided. For (and this is a matter which requires our carefullest consideration) not only is South Africa peopled everywhere by a mixture of races overlying [53] and underlying each other in confused layers; but these mixtures of peoples are redivided into political states whose boundaries, except in the case of a few of the necessarily ephemeral native states, have no relation to the racial divisions of the people beneath them, but are purely the result of more or less political combination and therefore have in them, at core, nothing of the true nature of national divisions.

This matter lies so deeply at the heart of the South African, and has so much to do with our complicated problem, that it will be well to look at it more closely.

A nation, like an individual, is a combination of units; in the nation the units are persons; in the individual body they are cells. The single cell, alone and uncombined, is capable only of the simplest forms of development; the solitary amœboid germ can undergo no high development, as it floats unconnected in the water or air; it is only when cells are combined in close and vital union with others, and there is interaction, that high development is possible. The highly differentiated complex cells that go to form a human eye or brain are possible only as parts of a larger interacting organism, a long-continued and close interaction between millions of cells, and could come into being in no other way.

Yet more is the analogous fact true with regard to human beings. Alone and divided from his fellows, the individual man is capable of only the very lowest form of development. The accounts of persons who have been lost in infancy and grown up alone, apart from any organization or interaction with their fellows, shows in the extremest form how very low is the natural condition of the human amœboid. Speechless, knowledgeless, its very hands incapable of performing the simplest operation which the veriest child in the lowest organized society learns to perform (as we imagine intuitively), such an individuality impresses on us, in its extremest form, a lesson which all human history teaches us in other shapes.

Great men, great actions, great arts, great developments, are impossible without those closely united, interacting organic combinations of men which we call nations, [54] using that word in its largest sense, and to include all organized, centralized, interacting masses of humans and to exclude such as are inorganic and only united in name or by force. The organically united nation is the only known matrix in which the human being can attain to full development. A Plato, an Aristotle, a Shakespeare, a Michael Angelo, implying as much the existence of a Greece, an England, or an Italy, are as impossible without them as an eye or brain imply and would be impossible without a whole human organism. They are the efflorescence of the nations.

Without the closely united, interacting, organically bound body of humans, no great men, no highly developed masses.

Therefore, in all ages, and rightly, men have set the highest value on the maintenance of their social organization, and have regarded as a greater evil than any which could afflict them personally the destruction of their organism as a whole. The individual particles may be left untouched (as in the case of Poland), but they suffer more deeply from the loss of interaction and organized union than had they separately been individually destroyed.

Nor is it only the particles composing a national organism that gain by its maintenance in health and unity. From a wider standpoint it is of importance to humanity as a whole. The virile organized individuality of Greece, of Rome, of England (while it remained an organized unity and had not begun to dissolve itself into an inchoate trading firm, seeking to dominate by force peoples and lands in all parts of the world for trade purposes), and of France has bequeathed almost as much to humanity at large as to its own members; and an old, diseased or disorganized nationality, or a young, shapeless, unorganized mass of humans, however healthy the individual units composing it may be, is a mass without the capability of full development or of adding to the common fund of humanity.

The first need of an unorganized mass of humans is to attain to some form of vital organization. This must precede the fullest development of the individual units, [55] and must adjust itself before any complex internal growth can begin.

Painfully trite as these observations are, it is necessary to keep them in mind when dealing with the South African question.

Were the political states into which South Africa is to-day divided—not highly organized and developed nations, bound together by bonds of race, language, religion and long-continued interaction into organic wholes, for that is impossible—but, did they possess, however sporadically and embryonically, the germs from which national life and unity might develop itself, if without the union of race, language and ideas which goes to form the ideally united people, there were at least this one condition, from which national life and unity might be expected to develop itself: that, divided from each other as the inhabitants of each of one state might be in race, religion, language and interest, they were yet more nearly united to the majority of their fellows within their state on these matters, than with large masses of the peoples immediately beyond their borders—if this were so, then the problem of South Africa would not only not be what it is; it would be reversed. Our problem would then be: How can each separate state into which South Africa is divided be maintained in its integrity and so strengthened that it may most quickly attain to full national unity and organization? For so would the benefit of national life be most quickly and simply attained by the peoples of South Africa.

Geographical size has nothing to do with the perfection or value of a nation. Greece in her palmiest days, Rome at the height of her power, were not larger than small South African states; an ant or a bird are not less valuable or highly organized than an elephant or a hippopotamus. Small countries such as Greece or Holland, or Switzerland or England in the days of her greatness, have contributed as much to the common fund of humanity as the largest countries; indeed, in the past, when the means of communication were less perfected than at present, a very minute geographical extent seemed essential to the health [56] and vitality of a nation; and if the converse seems to hold at the present day, there is yet no reason why, in a country of such vast extent as South Africa, half a dozen great, independent nations should not co-exist. The Cape Colony or Transvaal are larger than France; there is no a priori reason, if our political states possessed the least germ of organic unity or nationality, why the ultimate form of organization in South Africa should not be that of half a dozen distinct nations. The question is:

Does such a germ exist?

We believe the most temporary survey will prove that it does not.

Short as is the time at our disposal, let us rapidly glance at a few of our states to see if any germ of national life lies at their core.

Let us take first the Cape Colony, as the oldest, best organized, most important, and most powerful of our divisions; one whose boundaries, except at the north-east, are tolerably well defined, and which has a centralized form of political government. There are in the Colony, roughly speaking, a million and a half of men.

One million of these are natives, Hottentots, and half-castes, but mainly Bantus, of the Chuana or Kaffir races; the remaining half million are divided between men of English and other European descent speaking English, and the men of Boer descent, often speaking the "Taal." Now not only are these peoples who form our population not united to each other by race, language, creed or custom but, and this is a far more important fact, each division forming our population is far more closely connected by all these ties to masses of humans beyond our borders than to their fellow Cape Colonists within. Thus, our Bantus and Chuanas are absolutely one in race, language and sympathy with countless of thousands of Kaffirs and Chuanas of Kaffirland, Basutoland, the Free State, and even Transvaal. They are far more closely bound to these fellows of theirs in other states than to the white men in their own. The same may be said of the white population. Not only are they not bound to the native population in their state, but the [57] Cape Colonial Englishman is absolutely identical with those in the Transvaal, Zambesia, Free State and Natal; and the Boer of the Cape Colony is absolutely identical with the Boers of these different states; he is only artificially divided by a political line from his friends and kinsfolk in the Transvaal, Free State or Natal. Race, language, creed, tradition, which in the true national state form centripetal forces, binding its parts to one centre, in such a state become centrifugal, driving them from it; and the political boundaries are so crossed and recrossed by these lines of union that they are rendered void.

Let us look at the Transvaal. We have here a great state. Its vast native population is absolutely identical with those immediately beyond its borders; and its small white population is far more deeply tied to its fellow race, men beyond its boundaries, than to blacks or even to white fellow Transvaalers. Its largest and most powerful city, Johannesburg, is the most truly cosmopolitan city in South Africa. It is called the Boer Republic, but if the Boer or Dutch Huguenot element is to be sought for in its highest perfection, it must be looked for not in the Transvaal towns, but in the beautiful villages of the Paarl and Stellenbosch, in the old Cape Colony. The lines which divide the newly arrived European of Johannesburg from the newly arrived European of Kimberley, Cape Town and Durban, and the Boer of the Transvaal from the Boer of the Paarl, are necessarily fictions in any but the most superficial sense.

All that has been said holds yet more in the Free State. We have here a small republic whose population is absolutely one with the populations on all sides of it. The Basuto of the Free State is divided by absolutely nothing but a political line, the result of a political agreement, from the Basuto of Basutoland. The Boer farmer is absolutely one with the Boer of the Colony on the one hand and the Transvaal on the other; the Englishman of the towns are the Englishmen of the Colony and the Transvaal. Between the towns of Beaufort West, Harrismith and Pretoria there is no difference, except that the last is a little more English than the first.


All that has been said holds also of Natal. The vast native population is one with that in the native states beyond its boundaries; its Englishmen are as little divided by any racial, religious or social difference from their brothers, cousins and friends in the Cape Colony, Zambesia and the Transvaal as if they were still living in neighbouring European streets.

Certain there are of the small native states under British or other protection, which have a semblance of national unity. In Basutoland, Pondoland, and Matabeleland a more or less homogeneous race does inhabit a given area; but these states are exactly those which cannot possibly survive in contact with civilization. Apart entirely from any nefarious desires or actions on the part of civilized men, there are a few mechanical inventions, and a few intellectual conceptions inherent to civilization, which, coming in contact with any savage state, must inevitably send it into solution; a savage organization can no more stand in a stream of civilization than a polyp can remain in a current of corrosive fluid without dissolving into water. But, it might be suggested, if our political state boundaries are not national in the true sense of the word, they may at least represent the lines of united commercial interests, lines which, in such a civilization as ours, might be almost strong enough to found a quasi-national unity on! But even this is not so. Commercial interests we have, but they are not conterminous with our political boundaries. The Eastern and Western Provinces of the Cape Colony have far more cause for commercial jealousy and antagonism that have either with the Free State, the development and increased wealth of which benefits both. Natal is as deeply interested in the wealth and development of the Transvaal as if it were a department of her own.

Commercial interests we have, and they are strong; but they are not conterminous with our state boundaries, and do not strengthen them.

Viewed thus, we see that the States of South Africa are not, taken isolatedly, national; their boundaries are of the nature of electoral, cantonal, fiscal, political divisions; [59] of immense importance, and by all means to be preserved, as such divisions are, but not to be mistaken for those deeper, subtler and organic divisions from which the life of great nations takes its rise. There is far more resemblance between the population of the Transvaal and that of the Colony, Free State, or Natal, than between the populations of Yorkshire and Surrey; there is far more subtle, deep-lying, organic difference between Normandy and Bordeaux than between Natal and the Cape Colony. In looking at the political divisions of South Africa, one is irresistibly reminded of a well-known English village, in which the boys on the one side of the street threw stones at the boys on the other, because the parish boundary ran down the centre. Great nations are not founded on such differences as these.

But, it might be yet asked: "If our peoples are so mingled that our states cannot become the foundation of healthy national life, would it not be possible in so large and sparsely peopled a country to redivide our races, giving to each its territory?" Apart from the physical impossibilities which render such a proposal ridiculous, if, by some almighty force, all our natives could be gathered into one territory, our Boers in another, and our Englishmen into a third, no sooner would that force be removed than we should remingle in the old manner, the native as labourer craving the products of our civilization, the Boer as farmer, and the Englishman, Jews and other newcomers as speculators and builders of railroads, and introducers of commerce. A natural want binds and blends our races. But there is a subtler reason why such racial divisions are not even thinkable. The blending has now gone too far. There is hardly a civilized roof in South Africa that covers people of only one nation; in our households, in our families, in our very persons we are mingled.

Let us take a typical Cape household before us at the moment. The father of the household is an Englishman; the mother a so-called Boer, of half Dutch and half French blood, with a French name; the children are of the three nationalities; the governess is a German; the cook is a [60] Half-caste, partly Boer and partly the descendant of the old slaves; the housemaid is a Half-caste, partly Hottentot, and whose father was perhaps an English soldier; the little nurse girl is a pure Hottentot; the boy who cleans the boots and waits, a Kaffir; and the groom is a Basuto. This household is a type of thousands of others to be found everywhere in South Africa.

If a crude and homely illustration may be allowed, the peoples of South Africa resemble the constituents of a plum-pudding when in the process of being mixed; the plums, the peel, the currants, the flour, the eggs, and the water are mingled together. Here plums may predominate, there the peel; one part may be slightly thinner than another, but it is useless to try to resort them; they have permeated each other's substance: they cannot be reseparated; to cut off a part would not be to resort them; it would be dividing a complex but homogeneous substance into parts which would repeat its complexity.

What then shall be said of the South African problem as a whole? Is it impossible for the South African peoples to attain to any form of unity, organization, and national life? Must we for ever remain a vast, inchoate, invertebrate mass of humans, divided horizontally into layers of race, mutually antagonistic, and vertically severed by lines of political state division, which cut up our races without simplifying our problems, and which add to the bitterness of race conflict the irritation of political division? Is national life and organization unattainable by us?

We believe that no one can impartially study the condition of South Africa and feel that it is so. Impossible as it is that our isolated states should consolidate, and attain to a complete national life, there is a form of organic union which is possible to us. For there is a sense in which all South Africans are one. It is not only that all men born in South Africa, from the Zambesi to the Cape, are bound by the associations of their early years to the same vast, untamed nature; it is not only that South Africa itself, situated at the extremity of the continent, shut off by vast seas and impassable forests from the rest [61] of the world, forces upon its inhabitants a certain union, like that of a crew who, in the same ship, set out on an interminable voyage together; there is a subtle but a very real bond, which unites all South Africans, and differentiates us from all other peoples in the world. This bond is our mixture of races itself. It is this which divides South Africans from all other peoples in the world, and makes us one. From Zambesi to the sea the same mixture exists, in slightly varying form, and the same problem is found. Wherever a Dutchman, an Englishman, a Jew, and a native are superimposed, there is that common South African condition through which no dividing line can be drawn. The only form of organization which can be healthily or naturally assumed by us is one which takes cognizance of this universal condition. Great and seemingly insuperable as are for the moment the difficulties which lie in our path on the way to a great, common, national unity, no man can study South Africa without feeling that, in this form, and this alone, is national life and organization attainable by South Africa. Difficult as it may be, it is at once simpler and easier than the consolidation of any separate part. It is the one form of crystallization open to us, the one shape we shall assume.

South African unity is not the dream of the visionary; it is not even the forecast of genius, which makes clear and at hand that which only after ages can accomplish: it is not even like the splendid vision of that little-understood man, the first Napoleon, of a unified and consolidated Europe, which was fated to failure from the moment of its inception, because dreamed five hundred years before its time. South African unity is a condition the practical necessity for which is daily and hourly forced upon us by the common needs of life: it is the one possible condition which will enable us to solve our internal difficulties: it is the one path open to us. For this unity all great men born in South Africa during the next century will be compelled directly or indirectly to labour; it is this unity which must precede the production of anything great and beautiful by our people as a whole; neither art, nor science, nor literature, nor statecraft will flourish [62] among us as long as we remain in our unorganized form: it is the attainment of this unity which constitutes the problem of South Africa: How, from our political states and our discordant races, can a great, a healthy, a united, an organized nation be formed?

If our view be right, the problem which South Africa has before it to-day is this: How, from our political states and our discordant races, can a great, healthy, united, organized nation be formed?

This problem naturally divides itself into two parts. For the moment, the first is the most pressing and absorbing, that of the political union of our states; and it must precede the other. Great as are the difficulties which lie in this path at present, difficulties whose extent can only be understood by one who has deeply studied our internal condition, yet so urgent is the practical need for it, so ripe the time, that there are probably men now living who may see it accomplished. It is impossible to study the South Africa of to-day and doubt that within sixty years there will exist here a great centralized and independent form of government embodying the united political will of the people; that with regard to external defence and the most vital internal problems, South Africa will be politically one; its state divisions, while developed and intensified in certain directions, will be relegated to the performance of those invaluable functions of self-government for which they are so admirably fitted. Circumstances and individuals favouring, we may see this accomplished before the next decade is out; it must come at last.

For the moment, the political aspect of our problem is the most pressing; but there is another, deeper and more important, and of which no man now living will see the final solution. A central government, a customs union, a common treasury for purposes of external defence, these are but the shell in which the vital unity of the community must be contained if we are ever to become, not simply a large, but a great, a powerful and a truly progressive people. Day by day, and hour by hour, every man and woman in South Africa, whether [63] they will it or no, labours to produce the final answer which will be given to this question: How, of our divided peoples, can a great, healthy, harmonious and desirable nation be formed?

This is the final problem of South Africa. If we cannot solve it, our fate is sealed. If South Africa is unable so to co-ordinate, and, where she cannot blend, so to harmonize her differing peoples, that if in years to come a foreign foe should land upon her shores, and but six men were left to defend her, two English, two Dutch, two of native extraction: if those six men would not stand shoulder to shoulder, fighting for a land that was their own, in which each felt, widely as he might otherwise be separated from his fellows, that he had a stake,—then the fate of South Africa is sealed; the handwriting has already appeared on the wall against us; we must take for ever a last place among the nations; however large, rich, populous we may become, we shall never be able to look free, united peoples in the face. In past ages empires have existed which were founded on racial hatred and force. Of this type were the great states of antiquity—Egypt, Assyria, Rome, and Greece. They passed away; but for a time they were able to maintain themselves against states of like construction with themselves, only falling when they came into contact with freer and more united peoples.

In the twentieth century it will not be possible for a state constructed after the plan of the ancient world to attain to power and developed greatness, even for a time. In an age in which the nations of the civilized world are with titanic efforts shaping rafts with which to shoot those rapids down which empire after empire, civilization after civilization, have disappeared, and will shoot them and appear below them, free united peoples; if the South Africa of the future is to remain eaten internally by race hatreds, a film of culture and intelligence spread over seething masses of ignorance and brutality, inter-support and union being wholly lacking; then, though it may be our misfortune rather than our fault, our doom is sealed; our place will be wanting among the great, free nations of [64] earth. Neither in art, in science, in material invention, in the discovery of larger and more satisfactory modes of conducting human life, can we stand beside them. A man with an internal disease feeding on his vitals cannot compete with the sound in body and limb.

Taken as a whole, so vast, so complex, and so beset with difficulty is our South African problem, that it may be truly said that no European nation has had during the last eight hundred years to face anything approaching it in complexity and difficulty. To find any analogy to it we must go back as far as the England of Alfred, when divided Saxons and invading Danes were the elements out of which organic unity had to be constructed. But there are elements in our problem which no European nation has ever had to face, and which no migrating part of a European race has ever had to deal with, in exactly the same form in which they meet us. Our race question is complicated by a question of colour, which presents itself to us in a form more virulent and intense than that in which it has met any modern people. America and India have nothing analogous to it; and it has to be faced in an age which does not allow of the old methods in dealing with alien and so-called inferior peoples. In South Africa the nineteenth century is brought face to face with a prehistoric world.

To understand rightly the difficulty of our problem; to grasp the nature of the obstacles which lie in our path to organic union; to understand our crying need of it, and to grasp the grounds we have for hope, it will be necessary to examine closely the different races of which we are composed; and finally, to glance briefly at some of the conditions and individuals that are at the present moment largely influencing the future of South Africa.



... And that one of these days that golden place
Shall be reached by the Lemmings yet!...
E. A.

As in describing the physical features of South Africa, we lingered longest over the Karoo, not because it was one of the largest or most important features in the country, but because it was the most characteristically South African; so in describing its people, we shall dwell first and at greatest length on the South African Boer—not because he is the most important nor the most powerful element among our peoples, but because he is the most typically South African. The Bantu and the Englishman may be found elsewhere on the earth's surface in equal or greater perfection; but the Boer, like our plumbagos, our silver-trees, and our kudoos, is peculiar to South Africa. He is the result of an intermingling of races, acted on during two centuries by a peculiar combination of circumstances, and a result has been produced so unique as only to be decipherable through long and sympathetic study.

Our limits will not allow of our entering into an analysis of all those conditions of his early history which have made the Boer what he is to-day. The bare facts are ably and concisely set forth in works readily accessible to all[9]; but the great epic of South Africa which lies beneath them, yet awaits its seer and singer.

For our purpose, it is possible only to note shortly [66] a few of those points in the early conditions of the Boer which bear most strongly on his later development, which have shaped his peculiarities, and made him what he is.

The history of the Boer begins, as is well known, in 1652, when Van Riebeek landed at the Cape with his small handful of soldiers and sailors to found a victualling station under the shades of Table Mountain, for the ships of the Dutch East India Company as they sailed to and from the East Indies.

If one climbs alone on a winter's afternoon to the old Block House on the spur of the Devil's Peak at Cape Town, and lies down on the ruined stone bastion, with the warm sun shining on one's back—as one lies there dreaming; the town and shipping in the bay below, blotted out in a haze of yellow light, leaving only the great curve of the sands on the Blue-Berg Strand, and the far-off mountains that peer out and disappear into the blue; then the noisy little life of the valley slips away from one, and through the mist of two centuries one is almost able to put out one's hand and touch the old, long-buried days, when the first white men built their huts on the shores of Table Bay; when at night the leopards crept down from the mountain and took lambs from the kraals, and lions were shot before the hut-doors; when the Blue-Berg Strand was trodden by elephants, and the Hottentots lit their watch fires on the banks of the Liesbeck; when the great Hout-Bay valley was flecked with antelopes; and the stream which comes down now from the mountain gorge and flows through the valley muddy and dark, was clear and crystal, and widened out into pools where the hippopotami played, and then crept away into the sea through the white sand;—days when the blue mountains were the limit of the world the white men knew, and shut out the mysterious unknown beyond. Basking alone there on one's face in the warm sunshine, so near do those old days seem, that one half expects the lammervanger[10] to spread out its wings and sail out from the cliffs above, and a bush-buck's step to break the stillness in the brushwood; and one is loath to shake [67] one's self and go down into the hot, fretted life of the little city below; where the shop windows glitter with the work of many lands, and where women with little waists and high shoes trip down the pavement; and the Parliament Houses, with their red brick and stucco, stare at one, and on the stoep of the Club in Church Square tall-hatted men lounge and talk over the latest town gossip or retire to the bar for whisky; and where in the side streets are broken pavements, and Malays, and Half-castes, and fish-carts with their shrill whistles; and in the docks coal-dust and shipping, and convicts and sailors; and everywhere are canteens and brothels and churches—all that makes the life of a civilized modern town. It is hard to climb down through the fir-woods and go back to it.[11]

So when one sits to write of African men and things, one would like to linger long over those early days, every detail of which is precious to us now; even how Annitje de Boeren was allowed to sell milk and butter to the early men of the colony; how the handful of folks planted gardens, and traded with the Hottentots for sheep, and made expeditions into the unknown lands of Stellenbosch and Paarl. All the story of how the sapling of white man's life in South Africa first struck its roots into the soil has an interest no story of later growth can hold for us. But for the present we can only notice hurriedly, and in passing, a few of those facts in the condition of the early settlers which seem most to have made the African Boer that which we to-day find him.

The first fact we have to note is that the men Van Riebeek brought with him to found his little settlement were men of different nationalities; largely Frisian or Dutch, but also German, Swedish, and even English. They were also, almost to a man, soldiers and sailors, children of fortune, and not agricultural labourers. A century later, when we find the descendants of these men wanderers across the untrodden plains of South Africa, [68] their flint-locks as their only guard, the motive that drives them forward and on only an unquenchable passion for movement and change, and a fierce rebellion against the limitations with which civilized life hedges about and crushes the life of the individual—then we shall find it useful to remember that in part the original stock from which these men sprang was composed of these free-fighting children of fortune, rovers of the sea and the sword. That power of persistent, patient, physical labour and submission to restraint, that tenacious clinging to one spot of earth on which he has once taken root, which constitutes at once the strength and the weakness of the true agricultural classes in all countries, has always been markedly absent from the character of our South African Boer, and could hardly have been his through inheritance. For Van Riebeek's men were not merely soldiers and sailors forced into service by conscription, but men gathered from all nations by a species of natural selection, their inborn love of a wild and roving life leading them into the service of the Dutch East India Company. Over the shoulders of the men who took their aim at Majuba Hill, and behind the men and women who again and again, on their long and terrible marches through South African deserts, have seen their kindred fall dead at their feet of thirst and want, and have yet moved on, one sees the faces of these old rough forebears looking! The South African Boer becomes fully intelligible only when we remember that the blood of those men runs in him, modified truly and powerfully by other elements, but active in him still.

We come now to a second small point, to be noted as bearing on the development of the Boer.

The commanders of the early settlement gave out to certain of their men portions of land on the peninsula, to be cultivated for their own and the Company's benefit. These men built huts, planted and sowed. Thirty years after Van Riebeek landed there were two hundred and ninety-three white men in the settlement, but only eighty-eight white women, and the men on their little allotments grumbled for want of wives. The directors [69] of the Dutch East India Company conferred, and it was determined to send out from certain orphan asylums in Holland respectable girls to supply this want; and from time to time, ships brought small numbers. The soldiers and the sailors at the Cape welcomed them gladly; they were all speedily married and settled in their homes at the foot of Table Mountain.

It may appear fanciful, but we believe it is not so, to suppose that this small incident throws a sidelight on one of the leading characteristics of the African Boer. For the South African Boer differs from every other emigrant branch of a European people whom we can recall, either in classical or modern times, in this: that having settled in a new land, and not having mixed with the aboriginal inhabitants, nor accepted their language, he has yet severed every intellectual and emotional tie between himself and the parent lands from which he sprang. The Greek, whether he settled in Asia Minor or Sicily, though economically and politically independent, was still a Greek; an uncut cord of intellectual and emotional sympathy still bound him to the mother country; and after two hundred years the inhabitant of Syracuse or Ephesus was still a Greek of the Greeks; bound not only to Greece as a whole, but to that particular state from which he sprang; among the most immortal and typical of Grecian names are those of men not born in the parent home of the race, but in its colonies. The modern Australian, Canadian, Yankee, or even American Spaniard, if of unmixed European blood, turns still to Europe as Home. Political differences may have had to be settled in blood, and commercial interests may divide, but, emotionally and intellectually, the bond which binds a European colonist to the home from which he sprang, and to Europe as a whole, is an operative fact. The Boer has had no great conflict with his parent peoples in Europe; he has not lost his race by mingling it with the barbarous people among whom he settled; yet he is as much severed from the lands of his ancestors and from Europe, as though three thousand instead of two hundred years had elapsed since he left it.


Later on we shall look at certain large and adequate reasons for this remarkable phenomenon; but among the lesser causes which have contributed to it, it seems to us more than probable that the position of these early mothers of the race may have played its small part.

When the ordinary emigrant female bids farewell to Europe to make her home in the new land, whether she leaves a mud cabin in Ireland, a vine-grower's cottage in Germany, or a mansion in England, the moment in which she catches a last glimpse of the land of her youth is one of the emotionally intense of her existence. The life she leaves may have been one of hardship, even of bitterness, and the life she goes to may be one of ease; but binding her to the land behind her are the ties of blood and childish remembrances of home—ties which shape themselves as mightily in the mud-cabin or the back slum of the city as in the palace. She is leaving the one spot on earth where she is an object of interest and importance to her fellows. When she arrives in the new world it is to that home that she sends the record of her marriage—there that she knows the story of her sorrows and her gains will be waited for! In the hour of childbirth it is to the women of her own blood "at home" that her heart turns with yearning; and as years go by "my people" and "my home" gain a colour and size they would never have borne if near at hand. She thinks of them as a denizen of the earth, removed to one of the fixed stars, might think of this old planet, without remembrances of its aches and pains! And as her children grow up, the first stories they hear are not of Colonial things and people, but European—of fields in which little children gather buttercups and daisies, of ice and snow, and the roaring life of cities; and as the little Colonial children play in the hot sun upon the kopjes among stapelias and aloes, they think how beautiful those fields must be, and wonder how the daisy-chains are made, and how primroses smell! and at night in their little hot beds they dream of ice and snow, and fancy they hear the hum of vast cities. Even the names of our European relatives who have played in those fields and lived in those [71] cities have acquired a certain mythological charm for us, and the Aunt this and the Uncle that, of whom our mothers tell us, they are not the commonplace, material uncles and aunts who may live in the next street and be seen every day. They are real, yet invisible, like the actual presence in the Holy Wafer of real flesh and blood, yet removed from sight, like the heroes of a mythological fairy tale! Europe and its life are to us, from our earliest years, the ideal and mysterious, with which we have yet some real and practical tie.

No European who has not grown up in the Colony, being born of pure European parentage, can understand the full force of this Mother tradition.

Like the odour of an unknown plant or flower, it must be experienced to be comprehended. Nor does it die out with the first generation. The mother transmits it to her daughter, and the daughter to her child. It is the echo of this legend which goes so largely to form that curious body of sentiment with which the most commonplace colonist visits Europe for the first time. The most sensitive man, growing up in the original home of his race, does not understand this subtle and delicate emotion; and the most hard-shell man of business among us is not untouched by it when he sets his feet for the first time on the old-race shores.

"And this is England! And this is Europe!" It is as though he woke up in a kind of fairy land! The tile cottages with the moss upon them, the hedgerows, the village greens with the churches, the blue-bells in the woods—he has seen them all before—in a dream. In the roar of the great city curious emotions come to him. As he drives in the omnibus the conductor calls, "Shoreditch!" and he starts and looks out. Above him is the great church tower—

When I grow rich,
Say the bells of Shoreditch!

and again he is one of the group of children holding each others' hands to play at "oranges and lemons" in a Colonial garden. "So that Shoreditch we sang of [72] under the fig-trees was a real place! No doubt the great bells hang up there!"—and for a moment the prosaic back-slum is an inverted childhood's fairy-land.

And there are perhaps few among us who, on our first visit, do not at some time creep away to find ourselves in some spot to which we do not wish our acquaintance to accompany us. It may be a street in a great city, or a village in a German forest, or an English parsonage; but we feel we are bound to it with a tie others may not touch. Perhaps it is only a shop-window at the corner of Finsbury Pavement at which we stand gazing in, because we know that sixty years before a little child with bright eyes and rosy cheeks came here, wrapped up in her furs, and holding her mother's hand, to buy her Christmas doll! And we stand gazing into it till we turn away sharply, fancying the people see what we feel. Or we go to a little country village; no one tells us the way from the station; but we see a church tower and an old elm-tree we have heard of; and as we walk towards them down the village street, we would like to run up to every one we meet, and say, "Oh! don't you see, we are come home again!" We stand at the parsonage gate and look over at the trim lawn, and the ivy on the bow-windows; and we go away. There is a stile where we know a man and a woman once talked on summer evenings, when they did not yet dream that the life they promised to spend together was to be lived out far over the seas, in the strange land which their children's children were to inherit. We wander into the churchyard, and brush the ivy from the gravestones; we stand at last before what we seek—years of European frost and rain have half obliterated the writing on the stones; we trace the letters with our fingers; the names are names we know, and which our kindred in the land across the seas will bear for generations. And so it comes to pass that we still call Europe "home"; though when we go there we may find nothing to bear witness to the fact, but a few broken headstones in a country churchyard—yet the land is ours![12]


This bond, light as air, yet strong as iron, those early mothers of the Boer race could hardly have woven between the hearts of their children and the country they come from. Alone in the world, without relatives who had cared sufficiently for them to save them from the hard mercy of a public asylum, these women must have carried away few of the warm and tender memories happier women bear to plant in the hearts of their children. The bare boards and cold charity of a public institution are not the things of which to whisper stories to little children. The ships that bore these women to South Africa carried them towards the first "Land of Good Hope" that ever dawned on their lives; and the day in which they landed at Table Bay and first trod on African soil, was also the first in which they became individuals, desired and sought after, and not mere numbers in a printed list. In the arms of the rough soldiers and sailors who welcomed them, they found the first home they had known; and the little huts on the banks of the Liesbeek, and the simple boards at which they presided, were the first at which they had been able to look round and see only the faces of those bound to them by kindly ties. To such women it was almost inevitable that, from the moment they landed, South Africa should be "home," and Europe be blotted out: the first generation born of these women and the free, tieless soldiers and sailors with whom they mated, probably looked on South Africa as does their latest descendant to-day. On their lips, when they looked at the valley of Stellenbosch, or the slopes of Table Mountain, the words—Ons Land—meant all they mean on the lips of the Transvaal Boer or the Free State Burgher of to-day,—"Our Land; the one and only land we know of, and care for, wish to know of, have any tie or connection with!"

If it be objected that the number of these women was too small to have permanently influenced the attitude of the Boer race in its relation towards Africa and the home countries, it must be answered, that small as their number was, they were numerous in proportion to the whole stock from which the race rose. For it must always be borne in mind in studying the South African Boer, how [74] very small that stock was. He was produced—as are all suddenly developed, marked and permanent varieties in the human or animal world—by the close interbreeding of a very small number of progenitors.[13] The handful of soldiers and sailors who first landed, a few agriculturists and their families, the band of orphaned girls, and a small body of French exiles, to be referred to later on, constitute the whole parent stock of the Boer people. From this small stock, by a process of breeding in and in, they have developed, there having been practically no addition made to the breed for the last two hundred years; the comparatively large numbers to which they have attained have entirely to be accounted for by the fact of their personal vigour, very early marriages, and prolific rate of increase. Thus the Boer represents rather a clan or family than a nation; and there is probably no true Boer from the Zambesi to the Cape who does not hold a common strain of blood with almost every other Boer he meets. Each Boer has in him, probably, at least a drop of the blood of these women; and their emotional and intellectual peculiarities can hardly have failed to leave their mark, if slight, upon the racial development.


But we must turn now to the most interesting point in the early history of the Boer, and one which alone would fully account for his attitude towards Europe, and for many other of his unique characteristics.

In and about the year 1688, thirty-six years after the first landing of Van Riebeek and his handful of men, there arrived at the Cape a body of French Protestant refugees, numbering in all, men, women and children, somewhat under two hundred souls. These people, driven from France by the revocation of the Edict of Nantes, were offered an asylum in South Africa by the Dutch Government, which they accepted. They were not an ordinary body of emigrants, but represented almost to a man and a woman that golden minority which is so remorselessly winnowed from the dross of the conforming majority by all forms of persecution directed against intellectual and spiritual independence. Mere agriculturists, vine-dressers and mechanics, with but a small sprinkling of persons belonging to the professional classes, these men yet constitute an aristocracy—ennobled, not through the fiat of any monarch, but selected by that law deep-lying in the nature of things, which has ordained that where men shall be found having the force to stand alone, and suffer for abstract conviction, there also shall be found the individuality, virility and power which founds great peoples and marks dominant races.

The fate of the South African Boer was safe from the moment these men came to mingle their blood with his; as the fate of the North American States was safe when the Mayflower had crossed with its load of dissentient Englishmen; as the fate of the Spanish colonies would have been safe, had Spain, in place of cauterizing her growing points in the bonfires of the squares of Toledo and Madrid, simply nipped them off from the parent tree and transplanted them alive in her colonies in the New World, there to beget a newer and stronger Spain. One is sometimes astonished at certain qualities found in the South African Boer, till one recalls the fact that a strain of this uncompromising, self-guiding blood runs [76] in his veins; making him, what often in his lowest and poorest conditions he yet remains—an aristocrat!

On the arrival of these men at the Cape, the Dutch East India Company portioned them out lands to cultivate, mainly in the lovely valleys of Stellenbosch, French-Hoek, and Drakenstein. At the time of their arrival they formed probably about one-sixth of the whole population. How rapidly they increased and how large is the share their blood holds in the Boer race may be noted if one run one's eye over the list of the occupants of any district or village inhabited by Boers, and marks how great the number of French names which will occur. There are districts in the Western Province of the Colony in which these names largely predominate over those of Dutch or German origin; and even in the Free State and Transvaal, they are numerous to an extent which their original numbers would not have led us to expect. Of our most noted of Cape families, many bear these names; the De Villiers, the Jouberts, the Du Toits, the Naudès—and if other names, such as the Reitzes, Van Aarts, Hofmeyrs or Krugers, are not less widely known, it will generally be found on analysis that the proportion of French blood even in these families is as large as in those whose patronymics are purely French. There is probably not a Boer in South Africa at the present day whose blood is not richly touched by that of the Huguenot.

But it was not only or mainly by bringing to the formation of the new race this strong and select strain of blood that the Huguenot influenced the Boer, and through him the future of South Africa. It is he who has rendered permanent and complete the severance from Europe to which we have referred.

When the ordinary settler leaves Europe he goes out more or less under the ægis of his mother country, and for a time at least, wherever he may settle, he still feels her flag wave over him; if wronged, it is to the representative of his mother land that he turns; if he settles in an uncivilized country, it is as the forerunner of those of his people who shall follow him that he takes possession of it. Should he go to a territory already colonized by [77] another European race, he may lose himself more quickly in the existing organization. But still, for generations, the Irishman, Scotsman, German or Italian often feels a certain bond between himself and his parent land; and Europe as a whole holds a large place in his consideration.

Not infrequently his national feeling is intensified by transplantation. Nowhere on the surface of the globe were toasts to the health of the Queen and the Royal Family, and to the success of old England, more heartily drunk than by the British settlers of 1820, when they ate their first Christmas dinner, beneath the blazing South African sun, under the kunee trees of Lower Albany. To these men, as to the English colonists all the world over, the strength and dignity of their position lay in the fact that they, a minute portion of the great English nation, had come to this new land to implant themselves, a branch from the old stock, which should in time take root and grow to be a giant worthy of its parent tree. They felt themselves the ambassadors of a great people, the bearers of a flag which waved over every quarter of the globe; the representatives of a power which they believed to be the most beneficent and powerful on earth.[14] So these men named their little villages and their districts after the men and places of the old country—"East London," "Port Alfred," "King William's Town," "Queen's Town," "Lower Albany"—and their farms bore often the names of the homes in England from which they came. Socially, religiously, and more especially politically, they strove to reproduce, line by line, as accurately as circumstances would permit, the national life they had left. "So-and-so things are done at home." That settled, as it still to-day to a large extent settles, all argument. To-day the third generation of these men has arrived at adult years; but consciousness of national identity with the parent people is hardly dimmed. The young English African who has never been in Europe may boast that South Africa is the finest country on earth, and swagger of its skies, and wild, free life or, ridiculously enough, boast of the civilization which it has attained; [78] he may resent bitterly any interference with what he considers his material rights on the part of the "Home Government." But turn to the same man and ask him what his nationality may be, suggest that he may possibly be of any other race than his own, and you will not twice repeat your question—

For in spite of all temptation
To belong to another nation,
He remains an Englishman!

Deep in the heart of every English-speaking colonist is a chord which responds to the name of the parent people as to no other; and the depth of the emotion is curiously exemplified in the most insignificant matters. That seemingly imbecile passion which causes Colonials to drag down and retain as mementos the curtains of a bed on which a British princeling has slept; the comic manner in which the average colonist will gravely inquire of you on your return from Europe whether you have "seen the Queen," and their solemnity in all matters pertaining to ancient and almost worn-out English institutions, all have in them an element radically different from that which would animate the average home Englishman, were he to act in a like manner; an element not to be found in the sycophant crowds which loll open-mouthed about St. James's on the afternoon of a Drawing-room; and which is radically distinct from the servility which bows before mere wealth and success. The colonist is perhaps rather more inclined than others to criticize mercilessly the princeling or dignitary sent out from home (and does so very freely after his arrival, when his gilt has worn off him); but behind the individual man lies something of which he is the representative, and it is this which causes him to have for the colonist a quite peculiar value. The enthusiasm he awakens is an enthusiasm for an emblem, not a man; for the representative of English nationality, not for the ruler. The difference between the feeling of an Englishman in the colony and the Englishman at home, with regard to all the insignia and emblems of the common national life, forces itself [79] strongly on the notice of one who visits England for the first time. There is an absence of the element of passion and romance in the "Man at Home's" way of viewing these things; the difference between these attitudes being best compared by likening it to the difference between the feelings of two men, one of whom remains in the house of his parents and possesses it, the other of whom leaves it for ever. If outside the house windows grows a great lilac tree, it is simply a material part of the house he inhabits to the man who possesses it. As long as the branches shade the window, or do not damage the walls, he regards it with passive approval; when they begin to obstruct the view, and the roots interfere with the foundations, he has not the slightest remorse in lopping off the branches, or, if need be, uprooting the whole tree; the whole house is still his, the tree he regards from the utilitarian standpoint. On the other hand, to the man who has left the home of his childhood and gone to a foreign land—if one should by any chance send him a sprig from the old tree that grew before the windows, he would wrap it up and carry it about buried in his breast—the small sprig is an emblem to him of the old home which once was his, and to which he is still bound by ties of affection, though severed for ever by space. It would be as irrelevant to accuse the one man of insensibility because he did not weep over the chopped-down branches, as to accuse the other of emotional weakness because he grew tender over his sprig. The Englishman in England needs no visible emblem of that national life in the centre of which he is imbedded, and of which he forms an integral part. To the Englishman separated from that life by wide space and material interests, the smallest representative of the old nation has a powerful emotional value. It is to him what the lock of his mistress's hair is to an absent lover; he treasures it and kisses it to assure himself of her existence. If she were present he would probably notice the lock little. The princeling is our lock of hair, the Union Jack our sprig of lilac.

Even in the seemingly childish deference to manners [80] and fashions imported from home, along with less exalted motives, this idealizing instinct plays its part. Nowhere on earth's surface are English-speaking men so consciously Anglo-Saxon as in the new lands they have planted. You may forget in England that you are an Englishman; you can never forget it in Africa.

The colonist will oppose England if he fancies she interferes with the material interests of the land he inhabits, as the married man takes the part of his wife, should he fancy his own mother seeks to over-dominate her. The wife is the bearer of his children, the minister to his material comforts; but deep in his heart there is a sense in which the mother has a place the wife will never fill. If his wife die he may soon find another, and her hold will be lost and her place taken; but his relation towards his mother is ineradicable; more changeless because more purely ideal and immaterial. She is the one woman he will never allow man or woman to speak slightingly of while he lives. He may quarrel with her himself, may even wound her, but he will allow no other man to touch her by word or in deed.

If to-morrow England lay prostrate, as France lay in 1871, with the heel of the foreigner on her throat, there are sixty millions of English-speaking men and women all the world over who would leap to their feet. They would swear never to lie down again till they had seen her freed. Women would urge on sons and husbands and forego all luxury, and men would leave their homes and cross the seas, if in so doing there was hope of aiding her. It will never be known what colonial Englishmen feel for the national nest till a time comes when it may be in need of them.

Our dearest bluid to do her guid
We'd give it her and a' that!

For it may be more than questioned whether even brother Jonathan, in spite of the back score against her and the large admixture of foreign blood in his veins, would sit still to see the foreigner crush the nesting-place of his people; to see the cradle of his tongue, the land of Chaucer [81] and Shakespeare trampled down by men who know not their speech. And the Irish-Englishman all the world over, forgetting six centuries of contumely would, with the magnanimity of his generous race, stand shoulder to shoulder with his English brother, as he stood and died beside him in every country under the sun. Blood is thicker than water—and language binds closer than blood.

The England of to-day may disregard this emotional attitude towards herself and her colonists, and by persistent indifference and coldness may kill it, as a father by neglect may alienate the heart of his son, and turn to stone what was once throbbing flesh. And it is fully possible that as England of the past, when her government was conducted by an ignorant, monarchical aristocracy, despised her colonies because they were small democracies, and alienated them by ruthlessly using them for her own purposes; so the England of to-day, becoming rapidly a democracy may, through the supine indifference and self-centred narrowness inherent in the nature of over-worked uncultivated masses, kill out for ever the possibilities which might arise from the full recognition and cultivation of this emotion. But the fact remains that to-day this bond exists; the English-speaking colonist is bound to the birthplace of his speech; and little obtrusive as this passion may be, it is yet one of the most pregnant social phenomena of the modern world, one capable of modifying the future, not only of Anglo-Saxon peoples, but of the human race.[15]

We ask no forgiveness for thus digressing, for until the attitude of other European colonists towards their home lands has been fully grasped, the very exceptional position of the Boer, and the effect of his attitude on himself and South Africa, and the importance of the Huguenot influence in producing this attitude, cannot be understood.

So complete has been the Boer's severance from his fatherlands in Europe, both France and Holland, that for him they practically do not exist. For two hundred [82] years their social and political life has rolled on unrecked of by him; Paris and The Hague are no nearer to his heart than Madrid or Vienna. He will swear more lustily at you if you call him a Frenchman or a Hollander than should you call him an Englishman or a German; and we have known primitive Boers who have vigorously denied that they had even originally descended from either Hollanders or Frenchmen.

The Huguenot has caused this severance in two ways.

Firstly, through the fact of his being a religious exile, and an exile of a peculiar type.

The exiled Englishmen who founded the Northern States of America, though they might wipe the dust off their feet against the land they left, did not cut that land wholly out of their affections and sympathies. A Government party, dominant for the moment, had made it impossible for them to continue their own form of worship in peace; but in the land they left, half their countrymen were bound to them by the closest ties of spiritual and intellectual sympathy, and were a party so strong as soon to become dominant. It was not England and its people who expelled them, but a step-motherly Government. Therefore they founded "New England" and clung to the old.

The Huguenot ancestor of the Boer left a country in which not only the Government, but the body of his fellows were at deadly variance with him; in which his religion was an exotic and his mental attitude alien from that of the main body of the people.

To these men, when they shook off the dust of their feet against her, France became the visible embodiment of the powers of evil; her rule was the rule of Agag, whom the Lord should yet hew in pieces; her people were the children of Satan, given over to believe a lie, and her fields were the plains of Sodom and Gomorrah, on which in judgment the Almighty would yet rain down fire and brimstone; a righteous Lot fled from them in horror with all that he had. To these homeless fugitives the Europe that they had left was as the "house of bondage." The ships which bore them to South Africa were the Ark [83] of the Covenant of the Lord their God, in which He bore His chosen to the Land of His Promise. As the Huguenot paced the deck of his ship and saw the strange stars of the Southern Hemisphere come out above him, like Abraham of old he read in them the promise of his covenant-keeping God:—"To thee and to thy seed shall the land be given and they shall inherit it. Look up and see the stars of heaven if thou canst count them: so shall thy seed be for multitude; like sand, like fine sand on the sea-shore. And when thou comest to the land that I shall give thee, thou shalt drive out the heathen from before thee."

And as he entered Table Bay, and for the first time the superb front of Table Mountain broke upon him, he saw in it his first token from his covenant-keeping God—"The land that I shall give thee!"

And the beautiful valleys of Stellenbosch, French-Hoek and the Paarl, in which he settled, were to him no mere terrestrial territories on which to plant and sow; they were the direct gifts of his God; the answers to prayers; the fulfilment of a divine covenant; a fief which he held, not through the fiat of any earthly sovereign, but directly from the hand of the Lord his God. The vines and fig-trees which he planted, and under which he sat, were not merely the result of his labour; they were the trees which aforetime he had seen in visions when he wandered a homeless stranger in Europe—"The land that I shall give thee!" To this man France was dead from the moment he set his foot on South African soil, and South Africa became his. Unlike the Englishman, the Huguenot no more thought of perpetuating the memory of France in "New Parises" and "New Orleanses" than the Jew, when he had escaped from the land of Egypt, thought of recalling the cities of Pharaoh in the names of the towns in Palestine. There is hardly a spot in Africa named by the French Huguenot in memory of his land: he called his farms "Springbok-fontein," "Beeste Kraal," "Jakals-fontein," and "Kat-kop."[16] Better to him has seemed a South African jackal or wild-cat than all the cities of France.


Thus to the Huguenot, not only was France the object of his abhorrence, and Europe a matter of indifference, but the South African land became from the very moment he landed the object of a direct and absorbing religious veneration, excluding all other national feelings. And in very slightly modified form he has transmitted this state of feeling to his latest descendant. Deep in the hearts of every old veld-schoen-wearing Boer that you may meet, side by side with an almost religious indifference to other lands and peoples, lies this deep, mystical and impersonal affection for South Africa. Not for the land, as inhabited by human beings, and formed into social and political organizations of which he is a part; not for the land, regarded as a social and political entity alone, is it that he feels this affection. It is for the actual physical country, with its plains, rocks and skies, that his love and veneration are poured out (absolutely incomprehensible as this may appear to the money-making nineteenth-century Englishman). The primitive Boer believes he possesses this land by a right wholly distinct from that of the aborigines whom he dispossesses, or the Englishmen who followed him; a right with which no claim of theirs can ever conflict. His feeling for South Africa is not in any way analogous to the feeling of the Johannesburg digger or speculator for the land in which he has "made his pile," nor even to that of the ordinary colonist for the territory in which his habitation lies; nor is it quite of the same nature as the passion of the old-world Swiss for his mountains, nor of the Norwegian for his fjords. Its only true counterpart is to be found in the attitude of the Jew towards Palestine—"When I forget thee, O Jerusalem!" His feeling towards it is a faith, not a calculation. It is as useless to attempt to influence the Boer by showing him that he will derive material advantage by giving up the rule of his land to others, as it is to try and persuade an ardent lover that he gains by sharing his mistress with one who will contribute to her support. His feeling for South Africa is not primarily based on utilitarian calculations or considerations of the material advantages to accrue to him from its possession; it is [85] the one vein of idealism and romance underlying his seemingly prosaic and leaden existence. Touch the Boer on the side of South Africa, and at once, for the moment, he is hero and saint—his feeling for it a religion.

It has been from the complete failure to grasp this attitude of the Boer towards South Africa that curious mistakes have been made by far-seeing politicians and keen diplomatists in dealing with South African problems; mistakes only to be comprehended when one considers that curious inability inherent in the so-called "practical intellect" in all ages to comprehend anything beyond the narrow aims and ambitions which constitute its own little world. It is this inability which so often makes the conduct of these shrewd people, when they have to deal with the wider problems and deeper emotions of human life, like the conduct of a child who, to remove a speck of dust from the eye, should insert a needle and stir it about in the living substance.[17]

The Huguenot, by implanting this religious passion for South Africa in the heart of the Boer, and by the fact that he brought with him no political sympathies with France, helped to sever the Boer from his parent States; but even these influences while they would account for his division from his parents' nationalities, would not alone account for that complete severance from the common social and intellectual life of Europe, and from all civilized European societies, which characterizes the Boer of the past and of to-day, and we must seek for its cause further.

When the Huguenots first arrived at the Cape, they had little to complain of in the treatment they received at the hands of the Dutch East India Company—lands were given them side by side with the earlier emigrants, by whom they were kindly received. But the Government of the Dutch East India Company, then dominant at the Cape, like that of all commercial companies, was a despotism, and resembled rather the dictatorial rule existing on board a troopship than any form of government we are now accustomed to picture as existing in a young [86] European settlement. When the Huguenots landed their speech was French, and the ruling powers disapproved of it, and determined to exterminate it, and substitute at once the Dutch language. A decree was passed prohibiting its public use. It might not be used in the churches, nor taught to the children in the schools. The Huguenots resented this enactment. Smaller in numbers, but superior in culture and intelligence, they were unwilling to see their speech forcibly submerged; and there was a time when they went so far as to talk of physical resistance. But in the end they were subdued, and within a generation the French language was extinct. The old grandmother might still mumble it in her chair in the corner, or sing its nursery rhymes to her grandchildren in it, but they no longer understood her; law and arbitrary force had done their work. We are inclined to believe that no single autocratic action on the part of any South African Government has ever so deeply influenced the future of South Africa and its people as this seemingly small proceeding, influencing only a few hundred folk.

To show how this has happened we must somewhat digress.

The language spoken by the Boer of to-day is called "the Taal," i.e. "the Language." It is not French, nor is it Dutch, nor is it even in the usual acceptation of the word a dialect of Dutch; but it is a form of speech based on that language. It is used at the present day all over South Africa by the Boers and half-castes as their only speech; it is found in its greatest purity in the Free State, Transvaal, and frontier districts, where it has been least exposed to scholastic and foreign influences during the last few years. To analyze fully this tiny but interesting variety of speech, would take us far beyond our limits. It differs from the Dutch of the Hollander, not as archaic forms of speech in Europe often differ from the literary, as the Italian of the Ligurian peasant from that of the Florentine, or the Somersetshire or Yorkshire dialects from the language of the London newspapers; these archaic European dialects not only often represent the earlier form of the language, but are often richer in varied [87] idioms and in the power of expressing subtle and complex thoughts than are their allied literary forms. The relation of the Taal to Dutch is of a quite different kind. The Dutch of Holland is as highly developed a language, and as voluminous and capable of expressing the finest scintillations of thought as any in Europe. The vocabulary of the Taal has shrunk to a few hundred words, which have been shorn of almost all their inflections, and have been otherwise clipped. The plurals, which in Dutch are formed in various and complex ways, the Taal forms by an almost universal addition of an "e"; and the verbs, which in Dutch are as fully and expressively conjugated as in English or German, in the Taal drop all persons but the third person singular. Thus the verb "to be," instead of being conjugated as in the Dutch of Holland and in analogy with all other European languages, thus runs:—Ik is, Je is, Hij is, Ons is, Yulle is, Hulle is,—which would answer in English to: "I is," "thou is," "he is," "we is," "you is," "they is"! And not only so, but of the commonest pronouns many are altered out of all resemblance to their originals. Of nouns and other words of Dutch extraction, most are so clipped as to be scarcely recognizable. A very few words are from Malay and native sources; but so sparse is the vocabulary and so broken are its forms, that it is impossible in the Taal to express a subtle intellectual emotion, or abstract conception, or a wide generalization; and a man seeking to render a scientific, philosophic, or poetical work in the Taal, would find his task impossible. The literary artist who has tried to introduce into his work of art in any European language a picture of Boer life, knows how impossible it has been to find any organized dialect which would correspond to it.[18] In English neither the Scotch nor country dialects, nor the Irish brogue, nor the pithy inverted forms of city slang will answer. To a certain extent he will be able to preserve its form and spirit in copying the manner of a little child, as it lisps its mother tongue. But this would not preserve all its peculiarities. Its true counterpart is only to be found [88] in the "pigeon" English of a Chinaman or, better still, in the Negro dialects of the Southern American States. In the stories of Brer-Fox and Brer-Rabbit, as told by the old Southern slave in Uncle Remus, we have one of the few literary examples of such a speech as the Taal. In both languages there is the same poverty of vocabulary, the same abbreviated condition of words, the same clipping of forms, and the same much larger intelligence in the speakers than ill-formed language gives them the power of expressing—a thing which can never happen where a people has slowly shaped its own language—and, as a result, the same tendency to suggest indirectly ideas which the speaker has not the power of directly stating, from which results the irresistible humour of both dialects. It is often complained of by persons lately from England, that when the English South African has a joke to make, or comic story to tell, he lapses into the Taal, which is not understood by the newcomer; the truth being that it is the use of the Taal which transforms an ordinary sentence into a joke, and makes the simplest story irresistibly comic. There is hardly a South African that has not at some time told a story in the Taal who, when called upon to translate it for the benefit of some stranger, has not found that the humour had evaporated and the laugh gone. Merely to attempt to express a deep passion or complex idea in this dialect is to be often superbly humorous. The story is told of two Cape students whose Edinburgh landlady gave them notice to quit because their laughter disturbed her other lodgers. On inquiry it turned out that they were, for their own diversion, engaged in translating the book of Job into the Taal! And so entirely is the Dutch of South Africa removed from the rich sonorous Dutch of Holland, both in structure and sound, that we were lately requested by a woman, whose native speech was the Taal, to come to her aid, as her newly arrived gardener was a German, whose speech she could not therefore understand. On the gardener appearing, we found he was a Hollander, recently from Amsterdam, and speaking the most excellent Dutch!


So widely in fact has this dialect separated itself from Dutch that the Boer boy at the Cape working for an examination finds it as hard to pass in literary Dutch as in English or French, and it not infrequently occurs that the Boer boy is plucked in Dutch who passes in all other subjects. Between the language of the Camera Obscura and the Paarl's Patriot there is hardly more affinity than between the old Saxon of Alfred's day and the slang of a modern London street boy.[19]

In answer to the question, "How did this little speech arise?" it is sometimes suggested that the original soldiers and sailors who founded the settlement being largely Frisian and wholly uneducated, never spoke Dutch at all, but a dialect; and that, being mainly uncultured persons, and using no literature, their speech easily underwent further disintegration. On the other hand, it has been said that the Taal has been formed by the intercourse between the Dutchman and his slaves, and the aboriginal races of the country; that these people, obliged to use an imperfect Dutch, taught their broken lingo to their masters' children, which has so become the language of the Boer.

Something is to be said for both views, more especially for the second. At the present day the Taal is the only tongue of the many thousands of Half-castes which have resulted from the union of the Boer with his slaves; and it is exactly such a broken form of speech as does arise, when a large body of adults are suddenly obliged to learn and use a foreign tongue, as was the case with the slaves. But neither of these theories seems to us wholly to cover the ground. In the Southern States of America for a hundred years slave nurses brought up English children, but not the slightest effect on their English speech was produced, and nowhere in America is a purer English spoken than by the descendants of the Southern planters. Even allowing that, being uncultured, the forefathers of the Boer might more easily have let their speech slip [90] than was the case with the more cultured planters, it still seems unlikely that a people so rigidly and exceptionally conservative as the Boer has shown himself to be, even in the smallest details of daily life, during his two hundred years in South Africa, should suddenly and entirely have dropped his own pure language and accepted his speech from the hands of his despised dependents.

We put forward the suggestion with diffidence, perhaps to be corrected by those who have considered the matter more deeply, but it has appeared to us that, fully to account for the Taal, it is necessary to allow at least some place to the influence of the French Huguenot and the sudden suppression of his French speech.

A considerable body of adult persons, suddenly introduced into a population whose language they are abruptly and by force compelled to use as their own if, as in the case of the French Huguenots, they are socially the equals, and intellectually the superiors, of the people among whom they settle, and if they at once proceed to intermarry with them, may, and almost must, powerfully influence and disintegrate the speech of the majority. The Taal is precisely such a speech as the adult Huguenots, arbitrarily and suddenly forced to forsake their own language and to adopt the Dutch, must have spoken. And that they should have imposed their broken language on their fellow colonists seems far more probable than that the slave should have done so. In language, yet more than in other human concerns, imitation is the expression of an unconscious admiration. The mannerisms, accent, and intonation of an individual, admired or loved, are almost inevitably caught; those of the despised unconsciously though carefully avoided. The cultured woman, labouring from philanthropic motives for ten years in the slums of a city among the outcast poor, finds her speech become almost more punctiliously correct through shrinking from the lower forms used about her; but were the same woman to love and admire a man of an uncultured class and live ten years with him, her speech would inevitably be tinged by his. The [91] child follows the speech of its mother; the lover of the loved.[20]

At least the fact is certain, whatever else may be doubtful, that within one generation after the arrival of the Huguenot at the Cape the language spoken by the people was neither Dutch nor French, but that broken dialect we call the Taal.

If our supposition be correct, and the Taal was indeed partly formed in the way we have suggested, then that curious affection of the Boer for his little cramped dialect, which makes it second only to South Africa as the object of his passionate devotion, becomes comprehensible, and not only understandable but almost pathetic when we regard it not as a speech picked up from the group at the kitchen doorway, but as inherited from the best of his early forbears, and first shaped by the lips of the young Huguenot mother as she bent over the cradle of her half Dutch child, striving to shape her speech in the new and father tongue. If this be so, then the Taal is indeed what the Boer so often and so vociferously calls it—his "Moedertaal"; and one is bound to regard his feeling for it as one regards the feeling of a woman for her mother's old wedding-gown and faded orange blossoms—they may be mouldy and unfit for present-day use, but her tenderness for them is a matter for profound sympathy rather than ridicule.


If our supposition be correct and the Huguenot truly helped in the formation of the Taal, then his influence over the Boer, and through him over South Africa, has been, as we have said, almost unlimited. For the Taal has largely helped to make the Boer what he is.

It has been to him what its spinal column is to a vertebrate creature, that on which its minor peculiarities depend, and the key to its structure. It has been the prime conditioning element in his growth, beside which all others become secondary.

Naturalists tell us that on certain isolated mountain peaks, or on solitary islands, surrounded by deep oceans, there are sometimes found certain unique forms of plant and animal life, peculiar to that one spot, and not to be found elsewhere on the earth; and that, further, there is nothing in the climate or the soil to account for the fact that this special little plant, or winged insect, or tortoise, should be found there and nowhere else. The whole fact is a mystery, till science makes a further discovery. It finds all over the surface of the earth, the fossilized remains of just such, or analogous plants or animals, and then the mystery is solved; and it is clear that our unique species have no particular relation to the spot in which they are found, nor have they been evolved through its influence. They are but the survivals of forms of life once universal, which have been preserved in those situations when the rest of their species perished, through the action of some isolating medium—the inaccessible height of the mountain crags or the width of the ocean—which has preserved them from the forces which have modified or destroyed their race elsewhere. Such a unique human species is the true South African Boer. Like the marsupials of Australia, or the mammoth tortoises of the Galapagos Islands, he is incomprehensible while we regard his peculiarities as evolved by the material conditions about him; he becomes fully comprehensible only when we recognize the fact that he is a survival of the past; that the peculiar faiths, habits, superstitions, and virtues now peculiar to him were once the common properties of all European peoples; that he is merely [93] a child of the seventeenth century surviving on though modified by climate and physical surroundings into the nineteenth, and that the true isolating medium through which this remarkable survival has been effected has been mainly the Taal.

If in the struggle for existence between the different forms of speech in the early days of the Colony, either pure French or pure Dutch had conquered and become the language of the French-Huguenot settler, if he had inherited as his birthright any recognized form of literary European speech, the Boer as we know him could not have existed; and in the place of this unique and interesting child of the seventeenth century, wandering about on South African plains when almost all his compeers in Europe have vanished, we should have had merely an ordinary inhabitant of the nineteenth century. For when we come to consider it, it has not been only the nature of his life in South Africa nor his geographical severance from Europe which has been the cause of his peculiar mental attitude and social condition, and which divides him from the large body of the nineteenth century European folk.

That complexus of knowledge and thought, with its resulting modes of action and feeling, which for the want of a better term we are accustomed to call "the spirit of the age," and which binds into a more or less homogeneous whole the life of all European nations, is created by the action of speech and mainly of opinion ossified and rendered permanent, portable, in the shape of literature. Even in the middle ages it was through this agency that the solidarity of European life was attained. Slow as were the physical means of transport and difficult as in the absence of printing was the diffusion of literature, the interchange was enormous. Mainly through the medium of the Latin tongue, held in common by the cultured of all civilized European countries, thought and knowledge travelled from land to land more slowly, but not less surely, than to-day. The ambassador, the student, and the monk in their travels exchanged thoughts with the men of foreign countries through its medium, [94] and the religious meditation poured forth by the monk in his cell in Spain, the romance shaped by the French poet, the chemical discoveries of the Italian professor, once committed to Latin manuscript, were the property of all Europe. In the pocket of the travelling monk or wandering scholar carefully preserved copies crept from land to land; from the learned class the knowledge of their contents filtered down to the wealthy, and from these to the people, till at last in the German cathedrals were sung the hymns of the Spanish monk, the Dutch chemist perfected the experiments of the Italian, and the romance of the Frenchman, translated from Latin into the colloquial tongues, was sung from end to end of Europe, beside peasant-hearths and baronial castles; and whether we study those centuries in Italy or England, in France or Spain, their spirit, though modified in each, is essentially one.

At the present day, though the use of a common literary tongue has ceased among us, the interchange of thought with its resulting unity is yet more complete. The printing-press, the electric-telegraph which gives to language an almost omnipresent voice, and above all, the habit of translating from one language into another whatever may be of general interest, are more completely binding all nations throughout the world where a literary speech prevails, into one body; until, at the present day, civilized men in the most distant corners of the earth are in some ways more closely united intellectually than were the inhabitants of neighbouring villages in the middle ages, or than savages divided by half a mile of forest are at the present day. The chemical discovery made to-day by a man of science in his laboratory and recorded in the pages of the scientific journal, is modifying the work in a thousand other laboratories throughout Europe before the end of the week. The picture or ideal of life, painted by the poet or writer of fiction, once clad in print travels round the globe, modifying the actions of men and women before the ink with which it was first written has well dried out; and the news that two workmen were shot at a strike in Hungary, committed to the telegraph wire, [95] will, before night—and quicker than the feet of an old crone could have carried news from house to house in a village—have crossed from Europe to America and Australia, and before to-morrow half a million working men and women, separated from each other by oceans, will have cursed between their teeth. Probably to no man is the part played by literature in creating this unity in the civilized world so clear as to the writer himself, with whom it is often a matter not of intellectual interference, but of ocular demonstration. What he has evolved in a sleepless night in London or Paris, or as he paced in the starlight under the Southern Cross, if he commit it to writing and confide it to the pages of some English review will, within two months, have passed from end to end of the globe: the Europeanized Japanese will be reading it in his garden at Tokio; the colonist will have received it with his weekly mail; it will be on the library tables of England and America. Even if his thought be thrown into the more permanent form of the separate volume, it may be months or years, but if it be of value in itself, it will as surely go round the globe on the current of the European speech. The Australian will be found reading it at the door of his house on the solitary sheep-run; the London city clerk, as he rides through the fog in the omnibus, will take it from his pocket; the Scotch workman will spend his half-holiday over it; the duchess will have fingered it in her boudoir; the American girl may have wept over it, and the educated Hindu have studied it. A little later on if it have value, it will, through translation, pass the limits of national speech. The German student will be carrying it in his breast-pocket as he walks along the Rhine; and the French critic will be examining it with a view to to-morrow's article; the Russian will be perusing it in its French dress; and even the polygamous Turk, in his palace on the Bosphorus, will be scanning its pages between sips of coffee. Within a few years the writer may see on his table at the same moment a pile of letters from every corner of the globe, and from men of almost every race that commands a literature. The thoughts which have visited him in his solitary night [96] will have brought him into communion, closer than any of physical contact, with men and women in every corner of the globe; and as he handles the little pile—dating from a British Residency at Pequ, a cattle-ranch in California, an unknown village in Russia—he realizes perhaps with surprise, that even his own slight thread of thought forms one of those long cords which, passing from land to land and from man to man, are slowly but surely weaving humanity into one. Perhaps to the modern writer alone is that "human solidarity," transcending all bounds of nation and race, for which the French soldier on the barricades of Paris declared it was necessary for him to die, not merely an idea, but a solid and practical reality. His kindred are not only those dwelling in the same house with him, but that band of men and women all the world over of whatever race or colour in whom his thought is germinating; for him almost alone at the present day is the circle of nationality, which for the ordinary man still shuts in so large a part of his interest and sympathies, obliterated by a still wider, which knows no distinction of speech, race, or colour—his readers are his people, and all literary peoples his fellow-countrymen.

So powerful, indeed, is the unifying effect of this interchange of thought that to-day the mental life of all countries sharing European literature may be compared to one body of water in a great inland sea; divided indeed into bays, gulfs and inlets, but permeated everywhere by the same currents and forming one common mass. The three large and almost international forms of speech, English, French and German, may well be compared to main currents, a particle committed to whose waves is instantly swept abroad everywhere; yet the smallest form of literary speech, such as the Dutch or Portuguese, does not shut out the people using it from the common interchange. Like little bays, divided from the main body by a low sand-bar, before which the waves of the outer currents may be delayed for a moment, but which they are sure to overleap sooner or later, bearing in all that the outer mass contains, and sweeping out to join the larger body all the deposits peculiar to the smaller, [97] so into the smallest literary speech is sure to be borne, sooner or later, by means of translation, all of value that deposits itself in the larger life and literature of Europe, and all they have to contribute is borne out into the larger. The moralizings of a Russian reformer and the visions of the Norwegian playwright, for a moment confined within the limits of their narrower national tongues, are yet swept into the world-wide speeches and span the globe, adding an integral portion to "the spirit of the age," as certainly as though first couched in a world-wide tongue.

In this common life of literary European peoples, the African Boer has had, and could have, no part. Behind him, like a bar, two hundred years ago the Taal rose, higher and higher, and land-locked him in his own tiny lagoon. All that was common to the great currents of European life at the time of his severance from them, you will still find to-day in his tiny pool, if you take a handful of his mental water and analyse it, but hardly one particle of that which has been added since has found its way into him. His little speech, not only without literature, incapable of containing one, and comprehensible only to himself and his little band of compatriots, shut him off as effectively from the common growth and development of Europe as a wall of adamant. The superstitions, the virtues, the ideals of the seventeenth century, you will find faithfully mirrored in him; the growths, the upheavals, the dissolutions, the decays which have marked the nineteenth century have passed by without touching him in his Rip Van Winkle sleep behind his little Taal.

It is somewhat curious to reflect on all that he has missed. The Europe he left was a Europe still reddened by the fires that burned witches and heretics; Newton was a little child playing in Lincolnshire fields; Descartes had been in his grave two years; it was not twenty since Galileo had been obliged, before a Christian tribunal, to disclaim the heresy of the earth's movement; it was not fifty years since Bruno was burnt for asserting the unity of God and Nature, and Vanini at Toulouse for [98] empiricism; and Calvin's murder of Servetus still tainted the spiritual air.

For the Boer, the awakening of human reason in the eighteenth century, with its stern demand for intellectual tolerance, and its enunciation of universal brotherhood, never existed. The cry for Liberty, Equality, and Fraternity, with which later on the heart of Europe leaped forth to grasp an ideal for which men's hands were not yet quite pure enough, but which rent the thunder-cloud of despotism brooding over Europe; the Napoleonic wars and the crash of thrones; the growth of physical science, re-shaping not only man's physical existence but yet more his social and ethical life, of these things the Boer behind his little Taal wall heard and felt nothing.

Even the rise of the commercial system during the last century, which has spread out its claw till it covers not only Europe, but is digging its nails into the muscular fibre of all the world, and which has enthroned in place of all the old ideals, national, religious and personal, simply one—wealth; and which seems to sit to-day, crowned over human life as no tyranny has ever done before—of this phase of modern life the Boer also knows nothing. He still believes there are things money cannot buy; that a man may have three millions of money in syndicate shares, and hold command over the labour of ten thousand workers, and yet be no better than he who goes out every morning in his leather trousers to tend his own sheep. Still less has the Boer caught the faintest sound of that deep whisper, which to-day is passing from end to end of the civilized world, questioning whether this commercial god be indeed the final god of the race; whether his throne might not yet fall as others have fallen before: a whisper which may at any moment break out into the wildest cry that has yet rung round earth—and humanity, breaking down the idol, may start on its march in search of a new shrine.

Of these two mighty movements, the one apparent and dominant everywhere, and the other silently riddling the ground beneath it into holes, till it sounds hollow beneath the foot—of these matters also the Boer knows nothing. As [99] he is ignorant of the gracious and generous developments of the modern world, so he recks nothing of the diseases which have fastened on to it, or the reactions against them.

Even of those large external events which have marked the march of the civilized world during the last forty years few reports have reached him; or but a faint adumbration. The American Civil War of thirty-five years ago, when the foremost branch of the Anglo-Saxon peoples decided, amid a torrent of its own blood, what was to be the permanent attitude of advancing humanity on the greatest question of interhuman relations—of this he knows nothing. John Brown and Harper's Ferry are names as unfamiliar to him as Marathon and Thermopylæ; Goethe, Beethoven, Kant, Darwin, Whitman, Mill, Emerson, and Marx are as absolutely mere names to him as Jan Dikpens or Jan Bovenlander. Few of the stars shining over our heads now were in his firmament when he left Europe, nor was the dark shadow there which broods over us.

When one considers these things, then we understand our African Boer. There is then nothing puzzling in the fact that he, a pure-blooded European, descended from some of the most advanced and virile nations of Europe, and being no poor peasant crushed beneath the heel of others, but in many cases a wealthy landowner with flocks, herds, and crowds of dependents beneath him, and in his collective capacity governing States as large as European countries, should yet, in this latter half of the nineteenth century, possess on many matters a faith which has been outgrown by a London or Paris gamin; that he should hold fanatically that the sun does not move and repeat the story of Gideon to support his view; and that he often regards scab, itch, and various skin diseases affecting his stock as pre-ordained of an almighty intelligence which should not be interfered with by mere human remedies; that he looks often upon the insurance of public buildings as a direct insult to Jehovah, who, if he sends a fire to punish a people, should not be defeated by an insurance of the building;[21] that his faith [100] in ghosts and witches is unshaken;—all this becomes comprehensible when we remember that his faiths, social customs and personal habits, so astonishing in the eyes of the modern nineteenth-century European, are nothing more than the survivals of the faiths and customs universal among our forefathers two hundred years ago; that they in no way originated with, or are peculiar to, the South African Boer.[22]

The fact that this survival, and his opposition to the modern spirit, is not merely the result of the Boer's geographical severance from Europe, and that it has largely depended on his little language, is made clearer when we glance at other emigrant European peoples. However far distant from Europe, in North America, Canada, Australia, or New Zealand, wherever a European race has settled, if it has not (as in the case of the Spanish and the Portuguese in their South African and South American colonies) mingled its blood largely with that of the aborigines, then that translated branch is found, not only to retain its connection with European life and growth, but in many cases to lead in that growth. It is often remarked on as matter for wonder in these colonies how large is the percentage of individuals taking the lead in the social, material and intellectual life, who were reared among circumstances which most widely severed them from the external and material conditions of modern civilization. But there is no cause for this wonder. The European emigrant who settles in the backwoods of a new country, may rear his family in primeval solitude, they may grow up on the roughest fare and the closest contact with untamed nature; the man may have no education and little time or aptitude for imparting to his son culture or learning, but his speech is one of the earth's great tongues, spoken by one in fifteen or one in twenty of the inhabitants of the globe, and his son inherits it. The mother or grandmother [101] may teach the child his letters from an old primer, and, for the rest, his education may be only that which nature gives to the wildest of her children. He may grow up without the sight of a city, and beyond the reach of the touch of luxury; but he has in his hand the key to all nineteenth-century civilization. Should a chance traveller pass at intervals of months or years, the boy may listen eagerly to his conversation; and if he leaves behind him a tattered book or the torn page of a six months' old newspaper, or if the lad's mother unearth from the bottom of an old trunk a couple of brown volumes brought by her mother or grandmother from Europe, the boy can spell them out and pore over them, and gain a glimpse into the world beyond. If, at seventeen or eighteen, he tires of the life of the backwood and desires to see the life beyond, he has only to shoulder his bundle, and at the end of a hundred or thousand miles he finds himself in a city. All about him may be strange at first; he is awkward in act, slow in speech, but there is not a word or a sound in the world about him that is not modifying him; the talk of the men in the lodging-house, the arguments of the men in the public-bar, the chatter at the street corners, the newspapers he takes up, the cheap books he buys for a few pence, open the modern world to him. In six months' time he may only be distinguishable from the men about him by his greater vigour or the more quiet strength which a contact with inanimate nature has left him. In five years' time, if he have inherited will and intelligence, you may find him the rising man of business or the self-taught but cultured student; in ten or fifteen more he may be the learned professor, the railway king, the foreign ambassador, the president of a state, or the writer with a world-wide reputation. Given that a man inherits as his birthright some literary European speech and attains some elementary knowledge of its letters, and the civilized world is his oyster, the knife to open which he holds in his hand, if he have the strength to use it. No isolation among barbarous surroundings can sever a man from the life of Europe who keeps his hold on the language and literature. In the [102] heart of Kaffirland to-day you may come across a solitary German trader's hut; the man who inhabits it has been twenty-five years severed from Europe; his material surroundings are little better than those of the barbarians around him; but on the shelf in the corner are a dozen old books, and in the drawer of the table he has a score of last year's reviews and papers. You are astonished by the passionate eagerness with which, as soon as he has lost his shyness, he proceeds to discuss, or rather to pour out his views on the world's greatest problems to you; and when he finds you have just returned from Europe, there is something pathetic in the range and child-like eagerness of his questions:—"What do they think in Europe, of the possibility of war between Russia and England?" "Did you see the new French actor who came out last year?"—whose name you, fresh from Europe have perhaps not even heard. "Is the Queen looking aged?"—and he draws out a little shilling guide to the year before last's picture gallery, and gives you his opinion of the little prints. While you are having your dinner of Kaffir corn or mealies and mutton he discusses the existing relation between France and Germany; and he asks your opinion on some detail connected with the last revolution in South America, of which you are perhaps obliged to confess you know nothing. He has read of it in all his papers. Twenty-five years of separation have not tended necessarily to sever the man from the life of Europe, but have rather sharpened his interest; and it would sometimes seem as though the denizen of some solitary outpost of civilization is apt to take a broader and more impartial view of civilization, as a whole, than he who in some world-centre of civilization, such as London or Paris, is apt to get too much dust in his eyes from the life immediately about him to be able to see far. The solitary white child, who grows up in the mission house on the banks of the Ganges, or the planter's home in the far Indies, may discover with astonishment when at last it finds itself in the heart of that civilization of which it has dreamed and for which it has panted, that from the old book-shelf with its score [103] of volumes read and re-read and long pored over, and from the mail-bag arriving once a month, every scrap of whose news from the great outer world was carefully stored in childish memory and long dwelt on, it had learnt most of what London and Paris had to teach it; that what it had sucked out in its solitude was the true core of civilization; that what was left for it to consume further was principally the shell; for it would not be difficult to mention half-a-dozen books in any literary European language which, read a dozen times and pondered over, would make a man a true denizen of the nineteenth century in all that it holds of value, and enable him to reach the forefront of European life. A bee will make as sweet and as rich honey from one bunch of flowers as though you should give him a whole garden to choose from; its quality and sweetness will depend upon the nature of his own little tube—but you must give him that one bunch.

It is that one bunch that has been denied to the Boer.

For to the young Boer, growing up on an African farm and speaking nothing but the "Taal," this culture in solitude was impossible. If travellers passed, they might be Frenchmen, Germans, or Englishmen, but even their conversation was not comprehensible to him; if they left behind them book or newspaper, he could not decipher it; and the most brilliant effusions of an Amsterdam writer could reach him almost as little as an article in the Figaro or The Times. If his mother turned out of the old wagon-chest volumes brought from Holland or France by her grandmother, they could awaken no curiosity in him; they were not in the speech he used daily. The Dutch of Holland was as little a means of communication between himself and the outer world as the Greek of Plato is to a modern Greek peasant. If his mother taught him his letters, he had small use to make of them; even the great family Bible was in Dutch; and fifty years ago there was not one frontier Boer in thirty who could read or write, though he knew many passages of the Bible by heart and could repeat them with the book open [104] before him.[23] Many could not even do this. If he had found himself in any great city of Holland or France he would not only have found himself alone, but an unintelligent barbarian. The Boer seldom came in contact with even the smart Colonial townsman of Dutch descent but he shrank from him, and crept back to his own people, who understood his speech, with more and more of clinging: they were his humanity, his world; beyond them was nothing.

One is sometimes asked to define exactly what the term "Boer" means. There is only one scientific definition for it; it signifies a South African European by descent whose vernacular is the Taal, and who uses familiarly no literary European language. It does not denote race of necessity; the Boer may be French, Dutch, German, or of any other blood—one of the most widely spread Boer families is Portuguese, and one Scotch in descent—neither does it of any necessity denote occupation; the word "Boer" means literally "farmer," and practically the Boer is often a farmer and stockowner; but he may also be a hunter, trader, the president of a republic, or of any other occupation—he remains a Boer still while the Taal remains his only familiar speech.

That the Boer himself accepts this definition, though without analysis, is clear; he will say of a man who has learned and uses habitually a literary speech, "His father was a Boer, and his brothers are still Boers," implying that he is one no more; and to call a learned judge or brilliant barrister, whatever his descent, a Boer, would be, from the Colonial standpoint, merely absurd. There is an old fairy tale which tells how an enchantress once muttered a spell against a certain city, and raised up about it in a moment an invisible wall, which shut it out from the sight and ken of all passers-by, rendering all beyond its walls invisible to the men and women within, and the city imperceptible to those from without. Such a wall has the Taal raised about the Boer—as long as it [105] remains standing the outer world touches him not, nor he it; with how much of loss or gain who shall say!

Like those minute creatures, who, at a certain stage of their existence, form about themselves a hard coating, and in that condition may lie embedded in the animal tissues in which they are found for weeks, or years, without undergoing any change or growth; but who, if at any moment their cyst be ruptured, start at once upon a process of rapid evolution, developing new organs and functions, and bearing soon no resemblance to the encysted creature that has been—so the true old Boer has lain, encysted in his Taal, knowing nothing of change or modification; yet from the moment he breaks through it, evolution sets in rapidly; the child of the seventeenth century departs, and the child of the nineteenth century arrives—and the Boer is no more!

If it be asked whether the Taal, in making possible this survival of the seventeenth century in the Boer, has been beneficial or otherwise to South Africa, it must be replied that the question is too complex to admit of dogmatic answer.

If somewhere in Europe a small mediæval town had been miraculously preserved up to the present day, and were suddenly discovered in the nineteenth century, we might find much in it to condemn; its streets narrow; its houses overhanging, shutting out light and air, its drains non-existent; but over the doors of the houses we should find hand-made carving, each line of which was a work of love; we should see in the fretwork of a lamp-post quaint shapings such as no workman of to-day sends out; before the glass-stained window of the church we should stand with awe; and we might be touched to the heart by the quaint little picture above the church-altar; on every side we should see the material conditions of a life narrower and slower than our own, but more peaceful, more at one with itself. Through such a spot the discerning man would walk, not recklessly, but holding the attitude habitual to the wise man—that of the learner, not the scoffer.



There is yet one point to be noticed in the early condition of the Boer before we pass to his later history.

The forefathers of the Boer were slaveholders.

When the first white men arrived in South Africa it was inhabited by three distinct native peoples.

From the shores of Table Bay to the Orange River on the north, and from the Atlantic to the Maluti Mountains, over thousands of miles, were scattered two of these races, quite unlike and yet more nearly related to each other than to any other branch of the human family. The most important in number and the most widely spread of these people were the Hottentots, a small wiry folk, with yellow faces, black wool in little hard knobs on the head, protruding jaws, low foreheads, and small eyes. They were split up into endless tribelets, dispersed over all the western and central portions of South Africa. More or less loosely organized under chieftains, the same tribes inhabited permanently the same tracts of country; though they moved from point to point to find pasturage for their cattle in the dry and wet seasons, as the Boer did later. Their condition of civilization was not high compared with that of many other African peoples; they had large flocks and herds, on whose flesh and milk they lived, but they had little agriculture. Their round houses, made of slight wooden frames, with mats fastened over them, could at any moment be taken up and removed; and the little clothing they wore was of skins. But they [107] were a versatile, excitable, lively, little folk, as their few remaining descendants are to-day; rather gentle than fierce, and very emotional; and loving dancing and song. They could fight if compelled, but preferred peace. Later they were found to make good fighters under European leaders, but they could not lead or organize themselves. Their senses were preternaturally keen, their perceptions quick, but they were incapable of bearing a long-continued intellectual or emotional strain. They are the eternal children of the human race. Their language, peculiar for the vast number of klicks it contained, formed by striking the tongue in different ways against the palate and teeth, was yet a fairly well organized form of speech, capable of expressing tolerably complex conceptions. It was certain of these Hottentot tribes, under their native chiefs, whom the first white settlers found inhabiting the shores of Table Bay and the slopes of the mountains; and it was these folk with whom they traded, and whom they ultimately fought and drove away.

Scattered among these Hottentot tribes throughout the whole western half of South Africa was found another and yet more interesting human variety, the astonishing little people known as the South African Bushmen. Akin in race and speech to the dwarf races found in Central Africa, they are lighter in colour, being a dirty browny-yellow, perhaps owing to the cooler climate of the south, which they have probably inhabited for countless ages, and in which they may have originally developed. So small in size are they that an adult Bushman is not larger than an ordinary European child of eleven; they have tiny wizened faces, the wool on their heads growing in little balls, with naked spaces between. The sex organs of the female differ materially in structure from those of any other human female; while round the skull is a curious indented line forming what is called by the Boers a double head; and their ears, as looked at from the back, seem to grow out on small pedestals. These people seem to resemble, not so much a race of children as a race caught in the very act of evolving into human form. Their language, full of klicks, while nearer to the [108] Hottentot than to any other, is yet as remote from it as Sanscrit from French; showing merely that there must have been at some distant period a common origin; the language, like the person of the Bushman, seeming to represent a type from which the Hottentot may have developed in the course of countless ages, possibly by crossing with higher African races, such as the Bantu.

These small people had no fixed social organization; wandering about in hordes or as solitary individuals, without any settled habitations, they slept at night under the rocks or in wild-dog holes, or they made themselves a curious little wall of loose bushes raised up on the side from which the wind blew, and strangely like an animal's lair; and this they left again when the morning broke. They had no flocks or herds, and lived on the wild game, or, when that failed them, ate snakes, scorpions, insects, or offal, or visited the flocks of the Hottentots. They wore no clothing of any kind, and their weapons were bows and arrows, the strings of the bows being made from the sinews of wild animals, and the arrows tipped with sharpened bones or flint stones, poisoned with the juice of a bulb or dipped in the body of a poisonous caterpillar; and these formed their only property. They had no marriage ceremony, and no permanent sex relations, any man and woman cohabiting during pleasure; maternal feeling was at its lowest ebb, mothers readily forsaking their young or disposing of them for a trifle; and paternal feeling was naturally non-existent. Their language is said by those who have closely studied it to be so imperfect that the clear expression of even the very simplest ideas is difficult. They have no word for wife, for marriage, for nation; and their minds appear to be in the same simple condition as their language. The complex mental operations necessary for the maintenance of life under civilized conditions they have apparently no power of performing; no member of the race has in any known instance been taught to read or write, nor to grasp religious conceptions clearly, though great efforts have been made to instruct them.

At the same time they possess a curious imitative [109] skill, and under shelving rocks and in caves all over South Africa their rude etchings and paintings of men and animals are found, animated by a crude life and vigour. Their powers of mimicry are enormous. We have known an old Bushman, living in a place where there were a dozen Europeans; the old man could by a few contortions of the face and figure represent each one, bringing out even their subtle peculiarities of appearance and of character, without uttering a word. When he had finished his performance he would generally burst into a wild dance of artistic joy, and ask for tobacco or brandy!

In no instance has a member of this people been truly civilized. When confined in European houses and compelled to wear European clothing, they contract consumption and die. By the early settlers and the Hottentots they were supposed to be absolutely incapable of feeling, and the Boers, and even the Kaffirs, still regard them as only half-human, and probably descended from baboons.[24] They will bear resentment for long years with the persistency of many wild animals, but have also a curiously strong sense of gratitude, and are not incapable of powerful affection of a dog-like kind.

Some years ago we came into contact with a Bushboy, who had been procured from his mother for a bottle of brandy, and who was carefully tended in the hope of civilizing and rearing him. He, however, contracted consumption. On the day of his death, his mistress seeing what his state was, bade him lie down in the little box which was the only bed he could be induced to use. Half an hour after we discovered him in the yard cleaning the knives, with the struggle of death already in his face and the rattle in his throat. Asked why he had come, he shook his head and said he could not allow his mistress to have her dinner with an unpolished knife. We took him back to his box, and gave him a sugar-stick. He curled himself up; gave a look of unutterable gratitude and affection to his mistress, gave one suck at his sugar-stick, and died—like a small wild animal—but one capable of profound gratitude and affection.


These people have now almost disappeared; a few hordes in the North-West, and solitary individuals hanging about the pale of civilization, are all that is now left of them: but at the time of the arrival of the early settlers they formed a most important element in the population.

Wholly distinct from both these peoples, and yet more widely divided from them in appearance and social institutions than from the Indo-Europeans, is the third order of people whom the early settlers found in South Africa.

They filled the whole of the eastern side along the shores of the Indian Ocean, and are still to be found there in undiminished or even increasing numbers. Divided into two great branches, and these again being split up into endless tribes, they yet all belong to the great Bantu family. Unlike the little Hottentot, and the yet smaller Bushman, the Bantu is tall and dark, sometimes approaching in colour to the black of the Negro. Physically, he is finely proportioned and of unusual strength; his appearance suggesting a Negroid people with a cross of Arab blood; his traditions, customs, and certain words in his language, seeming to bear out this suggestion. Branches of this people are found as far north as Zanzibar. They differ from the West-coast Negro; and, in place of his child-like abandon, have a proud reserve, and an intensely self-conscious and reflective mental attitude. The language they speak is of a perfect construction, lending itself largely to figurative and poetical forms, yet capable of giving great precision to exact thought.

The two great branches into which they are divided are about as distinct from one another as are the Celtic and Teutonic branches of our own Indo-European family; the language of one half being as intelligible to the other as French is to the German. When analysed, the derivation of their speech from some common source is clear. Of the one branch, popularly known in the Colony as the "Kaffir,"[25] the Zulu and Matabele nations may perhaps be taken as the best examples at the present day.


Of the other, or Chuana family, one of the best examples to be found is the Basuto, or Ma' Katees nation (so called from Ma' Katees, a warlike chieftainess who ninety years ago gathered a number of broken tribes under her rule and settled them among the Maluti Mountains in what is now Basutoland); or another, in the Bamangwato under their noteworthy chieftain Kama; a man whose persistent endeavour at the present day to enable his people to grasp the incoming tide of civilization, and to rise on its waves instead of being submerged by them, is unique in the history of savage peoples; his endeavour to preserve his tribe from the evils of civilization, till they are strong enough to grasp its benefits, constituting one of the most interesting social experiments which is being carried on anywhere on the earth's surface at the latter end of the nineteenth century. To this Chuana family belong also the Mashonas and other kindred tribes.

Closely as these branches of the Bantu family resemble each other in the eyes of a stranger, one who has lived among them and studied them will tell a Chuana from a Kaffir with as much ease as a keen observer will tell an Italian from an Englishman. Their difference in intellectual tendencies and social customs is as great as in language and appearance. The Chuana is more devoted to agriculture, more skilled in handicrafts, having been a skilful smelter of iron and builder of dams and walls long before the first arrival of the white man. He builds his house square, has a great love of property, is acquisitive and economical. He takes to modern civilization with an ease that is astonishing, and his desire for learning is intense. A white-headed Basuto man of seventy came to us once with a cow and a calf, the most prized of his earthly possessions, offering to give both if he could be taught to read, and went away in tears when told it was impossible. "Ah! it is because you do not wish me to be wise like the white man," he murmured bitterly.

The Kaffir branch, on the other hand, differs from the Chuana in being more warlike; agriculture is left [112] much more to the women. The Kaffir is more proud, more sensitive, more inclined to dominate and rule than the Chuana. He has in full development all the virtues of the military type, but has perhaps fewer of those of the industrial. He is absolutely without fear, and faithful to his word when in his savage condition. The Chuana will fight in defence of his land or his beloved property; the Kaffir merely to maintain his own freedom and for the love of conquest. He prefers power to wealth, and independence to security. But when cultured he shows the same avidity for study as the Chuana.[26] In both his vices and his virtues he curiously resembles the Anglo-Saxon of the past.

At the time of the arrival of the white man all these Bantu peoples were organized (as they still are to-day wherever unbroken by the white man's power) into tribes, under chieftains to whom the whole people owed an absolute devotion, but who were largely aided in their deliberations by the older and leading men. They were in a state of civilization apparently much higher than that of the Britons at the time of the Roman Conquest, and more resembling that of the Saxons before the first introduction of Christianity. They had well-built round or square houses, kept sheep, goats, and cattle; their skin clothing and shields were often shaped with high art; and they had a complex agriculture, rich in grains and vegetables; they made serviceable and ornamental pottery, smelted iron, and their weapons and hoes were of marvellous workmanship, when the rude nature of their tools is considered. Their social feeling was, as it is at the present day when not destroyed by contact with Europeans, almost abnormally developed. The devotion of the tribe to its chief, and of the tribesmen to each other, and the intensity of their family feeling, can hardly be understood by those who have not lived among them. When a chief or headsman is arraigned, innocent [113] men will often step in, blaming themselves to shield him. An interesting case of this kind occurred some years ago, when the headsman of a village being tried in a Colonial Court for a crime of which, by no possibility, could more than one man have been guilty, three of his men stood up, each declaring that he, and he alone, was the guilty person! The heaviest punishment that can be inflicted on a Bantu is to sever him from his family and social surroundings; death has, when compared to this, small torture for him.

Each Bantu tribe holds its land in common; re-apportioning it as the increase or diminution of its numbers may require. The doctrine that land can become the private property of one is a doctrine morally repugnant to the Bantu. The idea which to-day is beginning to haunt Europe, that, as the one possible salve for our social wounds and diseases, it might be well if the land should become again the property of the nation at large, is no ideal to the Bantu, but a realistic actuality. He finds it difficult, if not impossible, to reconcile his sense of justice with any other form of tenure. And it is only painfully and slowly (and perhaps never quite successfully!) that under the pressure of autocratic European rule he is brought to allow that absolute, individual property in land may be consistent with right. It may be remarked in passing that if it be desired to deal justly with the South African native, it is as necessary to grasp this mental attitude of his with regard to the possession of land as in dealing with the Boer it is necessary never to forget his theocratic conception of his claim on South Africa, and his passionate affection for it.[27]

The laws and traditions of all Bantu races are very complex, and, though orally transmitted from age to age, they are scrupulously observed. "It is our custom," ends all argument with the Bantu. Their etiquette in ordinary social life, before they have come in contact with the lower phases of civilization, seems often based on a higher sense of honour than that which governs the [114] ordinary relations of Europeans. When one Kaffir approaches two who are talking he frequently stands still at some distance from them, and then comes nearer. When asked why he does this he replies: "Lest they should not see me coming, and I should overhear what they say."

In the division of labour women have the almost entire charge of agriculture and manufacture. House-building, pottery-making, the shaping of clothes and implements are left to them—and especially among the Kaffir branches, all agriculture is entirely in their hands. The men fight and hunt and make their weapons, and the young lads tend the cattle, leaving all other labour to the females.

It was by these three orders of native people that South Africa was inhabited when the first white men settled here. And, as we have seen, it was especially with the little, lively, child-like yellow-faced Hottentots, inhabiting the Cape Peninsula, that the newcomers came in contact. The white men had apparently received orders from the East India Company to treat the natives well, in order that they might be induced to trade; and at first it would seem that good feeling existed between the friendly little Hottentots and the white newcomers. The Hottentots gladly sold their cattle to the Company for brandy, beads, or knives; and the Company made vast profits by the trade.

Later, when the white men began to enclose the ground of the Peninsula, and ordered off the Hottentots with their cattle, the Hottentots (who, in common with most African races, can easily understand the sharing of lands, but little, or not at all, their exclusive possession by individuals) resented this exclusion from the lands on which for countless ages their forefathers had fed their cattle and built their huts.

There was much bitter feeling, and finally there was war. The little Hottentots were exterminated or driven back; and the white men settled down peacefully on the beautiful Cape Peninsula, and in the fruitful valleys beyond.


Then it was that the white men began to look about for slaves to till their ground and build their houses, as was everywhere the manner of seventeenth-century colonists. But it was not among the native races of South Africa that they found what they were in search of.

It is a curious little fact, and one which it may be forgiven to the South African, if he, having so little else in the past history of his peoples to be proud of, gloats over for a moment, that of all the races which, within the range of historic record, have inhabited South Africa, not one of them has lent itself readily and completely to the uses of slavery! Be it the effect of our climate, with its curious tendency to excite and exhilarate the nervous system, be it the reflex action of our scenery with its vast untamed features, breeding in us an intense consciousness of individuality and a rebellion against all restrictions, or be it merely a coincidence, this remains certain: that Boer, Bantu, Bushman, Hottentot, or Englishman—not one of us has been of the stuff of which serviceable slaves are made! This characteristic is the one bond that unites our otherwise discordant nationalities. We do not easily bow our wills at the dictation of another, nor are we readily shaped into mere beasts of burden.

The little Bushman when we pressed him hard could creep away among his stones, and die; leaving nothing behind him but his little arrowheads beside the fountains and his bits of pictures on the rocks and stones, to show how he too was once on the path to become human. And our little Tottie could laugh and dodge and play at working, till he also has vanished, leaving only a few Half-caste descendants, soon to fade away after him. And our Bantu, still with us and increasing in numbers, sets his broad back persistently against compulsion to perform unremunerated labour, his strong social and tribal feeling making him hard to crush. In truth our early fellow countrymen were and are as little fitted to play the part of the dumb instruments of labour as the South African Boer or the South African Englishman of to-day.

That little door, which nature always leaves ajar that [116] the meanest of her creatures who will may go out by it, and escape—where the voice of the oppressor is heard no more—that little door we all of us know how to enter if need be, rather than lay aside the "I will" that makes the man. If we know nothing else, at least we all of us know how to die.

It would have been as easy for the early Boers to catch and convert into beasts of draught the kudus and springbucks, who kick up our African dust into your face, and are off with the wind, as to turn into profitable beasts of burden our little, artistic Bushmen, or our dancing Hottentots; and our warlike Zulu Bantus from the East Coast would hardly have been more acceptable as domestic slaves than a leash of African lions. Then, as now, when submissive slaves are desired in South Africa, they have to be imported: we do not breed them.

The folk whom the early settlers procured as slaves, were mainly negroes from the east and west coast of Central Africa; a people who, combined with a great deal of muscular power, and a charming gift of devotion to others, exhibit a weakness of will, and an absence of individuality, which in all ages has fitted them to inflict the evils of slavery on the more dominant races. With these were Madagascan and other Eastern folk, with more individuality, who, we are told, gave their owners much trouble.

These captive people were brought in ships to South Africa, and on their arrival portioned out among the early settlers. It was by the hands of these folks that the walls of the old Dutch houses, whose thickness we still so much admire, were raised, and it was they who planted the long lines of oak avenue and vineyard which still stretch mile after mile across our land.

It is sometimes thrown into the teeth of the Boer, as an accusation which sets him on a completely lower platform than that on which his English fellow-citizen stands, that his fathers were slave-owners. That this should be so is, indeed, remarkable; not only when we reflect that most of those ships which brought the first slaves to South Africa were the property of Englishmen [117] and manned and officered by English seamen; but when we further reflect that, if the houses and avenues of the Cape Peninsula are often the work of slaves, the yet fairer homes and the easeful leisure of certain cultured English men and women at the present day are the result of their fathers' traffic in black flesh. And it is yet more remarkable that the fact of a slave-owning ancestry should ever be thrown in the face of the Boer when we reflect that it is not forty years since the leading branch of the Anglo-Saxon people found no other means of removing the institution from among themselves than by rending their national life well-nigh to fragments.

Slavery is, in truth, a condition so common in the very early stages of social growth, and when it occurs in those stages is generally so comparatively innoxious that it may almost be regarded as a natural if not quite healthy concomitant of early social development. When the primitive master and his slave live in like huts, share like food, and are engaged in like occupations, slavery is slavery in nothing but name. It is exactly in proportion as a society has attained to a high intellectual and material development that the institution exhibits its most malignant features; causing an arrest of both moral and material progress in any highly cultured and civilized society in the midst of which it is found.

Slavery may, perhaps, be best compared to the infantile disease of measles; a complaint which so commonly attacks the young of humanity in their infancy, and when gone through at that period leaves behind it so few fatal marks; but which when it abnormally attacks the fully developed adult becomes one of the most virulent and toxic of diseases, often permanently poisoning the constitution where it does not end in death.

It certainly cannot be said of the African Boer that he continued to maintain this institution when he had reached a higher stage of development than that at which other European nations have forsaken it. Though in point of time he maintained it later than some, yet it cannot be asserted by any one who has considered the matter that it was more at variance with his intellectual [118] and emotional standpoint, and therefore more immoral, that the African Boer should have kept slaves in South Africa seventy years ago than that the Greek of the time of Pericles, or the Roman of Cicero's day, should have done so. And it certainly was far less at discord with his intellectual and moral condition than with that of the highly-cultured and enlightened Anglo-Saxons who in America and Jamaica have continued to support and fight for the institution within the memory of this generation. In truth, we must allow that the full-fledged institution was less at discord with the moral and intellectual condition of the Boer than are to-day at variance with our own those lineal descendants of slavery, the disabilities attaching to sex or class, which in our most civilized societies still exist.

It is then not surprising, though much to be regretted, that two hundred years ago the Boer sought to become, and did become, a slave-holder.

If it be asked, "Was slavery, as carried out at the Cape, of a more or less vindictive nature than as carried on among other civilized nations?" the reply can only be that slavery among civilized folk is a disease so monotonous in its symptoms that whether we study its story as inlaid on the mud tablets of ruined Chaldean cities, or as described in Greek or Roman literature, or view its image in such stone picture as that which Sennacherib, King of Assyria, caused to be made (and which to-day hangs on the walls of the British Museum for him who wills to see); or whether, on the other hand, we examine it as described in the nineteenth-century novel, or sit in the evening beside the old Boer grandmother, as, with her feet on her stove, she describes the remembrance of her far-off youth—the story is one, and its details monotonously unvarying.

Old white men and women are still living in South Africa who can remember how, in their early days, they saw men with guns out in the beautiful woods at Newlands hunting runaway slaves. They can tell you what a mistress once did when a slave became pregnant by her master; and there are stories about hot ovens—such [119] stories as the story of Dirk, whose master seduced his wife, and Dirk bitterly resented it. "And one day," says the narrator, "we children saw Dirk taken across the yard to the wine house; we heard he was to be flogged. For some days after we fancied we heard noises in the cellar. One night, in the moonlight, we heard something, and got up and looked out; and we saw something slipped across the yard by three men. We children dared say nothing, because my grandfather never let anyone remark about the slaves; but we were sure it was Dirk's body." There is nothing new in these stories; they are as old as the times of the Romans and Chaldeans, and older than the ruin of Nineveh which they preceded. They would be echoed by the walls of half the out-buildings still standing in Jamaica and Cuba, had they the power of speech. To pretend we have never heard them before is hypocrisy; to be surprised at them is folly; to imply that they are peculiar to South Africa and the outcome of the abnormal structure of the Boer soul is a lie.

Old black men and women are still living in South Africa who remember how, as little children, they were playing on a beach in a hot land, where there were tall, straight trees that do not grow in South Africa, and how white men came and took them away. They remember the names of some of their playmates; and the "yellow food" that they used to eat, they say it does not grow here. If you look at their backs, from their necks to below their thighs they have white stripes which have been there for sixty or seventy years, and with which they will go to their graves. Neither in this is there anything peculiarly South African.

No more were these people always submissive. Sometimes the human in them woke. Especially the Madagascar slaves got tired, and tried to run away. "They are a most evil-disposed people," says an old German writer, "and have always only one thought, and that is, to escape." "They fear nothing so that they may be free of their masters."

These people looked up at Table Mountain, and at [120] our blue African sky, and our veld with its sage-green bushes, all the world that for the rest of us has meant freedom, and which for them meant despair, and their one idea was to flee. They did not know the land across the mountains, but singly or in parties they were always running away. They were caught and brought back, and flogged or broken on the wheel, says the old Chronicle; they hardly ever escaped.

There are times to-day, riding across the plains in the direction of Hottentots Holland, when the vision of these creatures creeping across the veld in search of freedom comes suddenly to one; and a curious feeling rises. We are not in that band that rides booted and spurred across the plain, looking out to right and left and talking loud. We are in the little group cowering behind the milk bushes; we are looking out with furtive, bloodshot eyes, to see how the masters ride! We—we—are there;—we are no more conscious of our identity with the dominant race. Over a million years of diverse evolution white man clasps dark again—and we are one, as we cower behind the bushes; the black and the white.

But slavery in South Africa, as elsewhere, did not always show its misshapen and deformed side; there were cases in which as men grew up they learnt to feel gently to the hands that had tended them in early infancy, and showed kindness; and kindness begat gratitude, and gratitude begat love—and the circle of human beatitude was complete. In certain rare instances the words master and slave came to mean not user and used, but giver and lover, and human nature was justified in the lowest of her kinships.

If it were, however, made absolutely compulsory on us to pass a relative judgment on slavery as it existed at the Cape or elsewhere among civilized nations, we should say that probably it was less touched by humanizing and elevating conditions than was the case occasionally where, as among the Greeks and Romans, it existed among men of the same colour, and often of the same race and intellectual standing; but that the Boer, being, though not more gentle when roused, yet naturally of a somewhat [121] more pacific nature than the Spaniard or Englishman, it is highly probable that slavery at the Cape was of a much less, than more, ferocious nature than elsewhere, where an Aryan people has enslaved a dark one.

If a more minute and exact history of what slavery really was in South Africa be required, it will perhaps be found best recorded by each of us in our hearts. If in those lowest moments which come, if rarely, to each human soul, when the primitive man wakes, and hatred and passion, aided by self-interest, fight for the mastery within us; if at these moments the most developed among us will turn our gaze inwards, and imagine that the object of our hatred or desire lies in our hand, unshielded from us by any fear of reprisals, unguarded from us by that mighty wall, which long ages of contact with our brethren has built up in the human heart round the rights of our equals—if we imagine that the wall reared by conscience does not in this case exist, hedging our fellows from us, that early training has convinced us that he lives for us, and that the primal law of his moral being in submission to our will—we shall then have a clearer picture of what slavery really was in South Africa and elsewhere than any pen can paint. We shall understand, as none can make us, why it is that humanity, as she creeps on her upward path, is slowly but surely withdrawing herself from all remnants of those institutions which are based on the conviction that it may be well for one man to dominate another for his own ends.

The causes and evils of slavery are not to be studied in South Africa or America, but among the shadows within our own hearts. And this much-talked-of slavery in South Africa was but what you and I, and the man over the way would have made it had we lived in South Africa two hundred years ago.

Slavery in its legal form was extinguished at the Cape about the year 1834. The English Government, who had at that time taken over the Colony, purchased and liberated all the slaves at the cost of £1,247,000. Official slavery passed away; but it left, as always, its indelible marks on the dominant race who had suffered from it. [122] We shall deal later with its intellectual and emotional reaction on South Africa. We have now only time to consider one of its large legacies.

Slavery bequeathed to the Boer, and to South Africa mainly through him, its large Half-caste population: a population which constitutes at once the most painful, the most complex, and—if any social problem were insoluble in the presence of human energy and sympathy, we might add—the most insoluble portion of our South African national problem.

The bulk of that Half-caste population which to-day fills our Western towns and throngs upon our Western farms, and which is found scattered over the whole of South Africa, arose originally and mainly as the result of sexual intercourse between the Boer and his imported slaves; and also with such aboriginal Hottentots or Bushmen, as he obtained possession of.[28]

In the early records of the Colony we find that out of every four children born to slave-mothers three were at one time the children of white men and masters. Only nineteen years ago there died in the Colony an old white man who left behind him forty Half-caste descendants—grandchildren and others—and whose standard saying [123] in his early days is reported to have been: "When I want a smart slave, then I beget him!"

It may be remarked that no particular turpitude can be attributed to the action of the Boer in this matter. English, Dutch-Huguenot, or Spaniard, our Indo-European pride of race and our vaunted self-respect have always failed to save our breed where Aryan males have become absolutely possessed of even the most loathsome or degraded females of non-Aryan peoples. That our pride should have the strength to save our blood is the dream of the future, not a realization of the past.

As long as slavery continued at the Cape this mixture of Boer and black men went on.

Into the absorbingly interesting question of Half-castism as looked at from the scientific standpoint, it is not possible for us now fully to enter. This one thing is certain, that to the question, "What are the exact physiological, intellectual, and moral results which arise from the admixture of Aryan with Negroid or other non-Aryan races?" science has as yet no really definite answer to give. The whole question—one of the most vital and wide-reaching of those which lie before the human intellect for solution in the ages to come—is yet one the very hem of whose skirt science has not begun to raise.

To obtain any really exact knowledge on the subject it would be necessary to carry on extensive experiments: to obtain large numbers of individuals of pure Aryan blood, of non-Aryan blood, and of mixed blood, and placing them in exactly identical conditions (not merely materially, but morally and emotionally), to exclude from them the knowledge of any tradition or history which might modify their development. If this were done it would then be possible, if the numbers were large enough to exclude individual variations, to determine exactly in how far the mixed creature was better, worse, different from, or like to either parent species. As, however, the human race is not likely to undertake such experiment during the next millennium, and as we have at present no such exact knowledge of the conditions which govern the laws [124] of inheritance as would enable us to deduce the nature of offspring from the study of the two parent forms (our knowledge even with regard to animals being purely empirical on this point), we are obliged to fall back on cruder and less scientific methods.

We are compelled, in the first place, to study the vulgar verdict, which rough, ungeneralized human experience has recorded, and to see in how far any other evidence we can obtain sustains or opposes it. The universality and unanimity of the popular verdict on the Half-caste is remarkable. The Half-caste, it is asserted in every country where he is known, whether it be in America, Asia, or Africa, and whether his ancestors be English and Negroid, Spanish and Indian, or Boer and Hottentot—the Half-caste is by nature anti-social. It is always asserted that he possesses the vices of both parent races and the virtues of neither; that he is born especially with a tendency to be a liar, cowardly, licentious, and without self-respect. "You may catch a jackal among the bushes, but not a Half-caste when he doubles," says the Indian. "God made the white man, perhaps he made the black; but the devil made the Half-caste," says the South American. "The devil sits behind the ears of a Half-and-half," says the Boer proverb. "Who the white man is we know; and who we are we know," says the black Bantu to his Half-caste fellow-servant; "but what are you? Half-monkey whom no one can believe!" "The Half-caste as he creeps out of his mother's womb is a born liar," says the Colonial Englishman; "he is never a man."

This unanimity of verdict demands our attention. Like the old faith that the earth was stationary and the sun moved round her, it would not be universally received were there not some specious appearances in its favour, though it need contain no necessary truth. Mankind is easily duped, but not without an adequate show of reason. In South Africa the truth of the assertion of the inherent depravity of Half-castes seems on the surface borne out to the full by facts. Three-fourths of the prostitutes who fill our brothels and lock-hospitals are "coloured," or Half-caste; only the remaining fourth [125] are of pure breed.[29] In the smaller criminal cases tried in our Magistrates' Courts, the "coloured-man" figures out of all proportion to the pure-blooded Europeans, Bantus, or Malays. If you pass a gang of convicts clanking in their chains, you will find the number of tawny faces exceeds those pure white or black in a manner not warranted by their proportional numbers in the community.

On the whole, there can be no doubt as to the superficial appearance of strong anti-sociality on his part; the only debate which can arise in the mind being, as to whether this anti-sociality is inherent and the direct result of the mixture of bloods, or is an accident, dependent on external and changeable conditions.

In early childhood we remember to have heard a sapient old lady remark that she had always noticed that orphan and adopted children, as born, were differently constituted from all others; you might take them from their birth and bring them up with your own: they never turn out the same! It has since often occurred to us that the fallacy underlying that old lady's induction, and patent even to a childish intelligence, might, in a more complex form, underlie the dictum with regard to the Half-caste. As the old lady overlooked the fact that, while materially the position of the adopted child might resemble that of her own, emotionally, and therefore eventually morally, its training was wholly unlike. That a child brought up in a home which it feels its own by right, and surrounded from infancy by the yearning affection born of parental instinct, has a moral training differing by at least three-fourths from that of a child who grows up always doubtful of its own standing, and looking out with fierce and bitter eyes into a world which has no welcome for it: so it has always appeared to us that a Half-caste, even in a state in which he is politically on the same footing as his fellow-citizens, must find a something in his emotional relations with the world about him which would account for his assuming a lower social attitude, without any necessity of appealing to a theory of inborn depravity.


The social position of the South African Half-caste has been peculiar. He has originated in almost all cases, not from the union of average individuals of the two races uniting under average conditions, but as the result of a sexual union between the most helpless and enslaved females of the dark race and the most recklessly dominant males of the white. He has risen from a union not only devoid of the intellectual sympathy and kinship between man and woman which translates the relation of sex from the sphere of the crudely physical to that of the æsthetic and intellectual; but even that lower utilitarian element was wanting to this union which exists wherever men and women of the same race, and moderately respecting each other, unite permanently for the purpose of producing offspring and sharing the material burdens of life. The Half-caste came into the world as the result of the most undifferentiated sex instinct. He saw the first light usually in the back room of the slaves' compound, or in the hut across the yard, and entered a world in which there was no place prepared for him. To his father he was the broken wineglass left from last night's feast or as the remembrance of last year's sin—a thing one would rather forget—or, at best, he was a useful tool. To his master's wife, if there were one, he was an object of loathing (of that curious loathing, known perhaps only to the Aryan woman, who sees the blood that flows in her children's veins, flow also beneath the dark skin of an alien race; unless, indeed, it be shared by the dark man, when he sees on his wife's arm a child that is not of his colour); his mother had often a black husband or lover of her own; and the Half-caste crept about the backyard of its father's house, and in and out of the slave cells, and as it grew, it learnt that it belonged neither wholly to the black group who ate their food in the kitchen doorway, nor to the white, in the great dining-hall. When full consciousness came to him, half he despised the black flesh about him, with the instinct of a white man's son; and half, he hated, with the passion of the black woman's child, the folk in the large house.

He belonged to neither—the very breast he had [127] sucked was not of the same colour as himself. But it was not even the fact that he was born into a society in which there was no appointed station for him, and no class with which he was wholly at one, that constituted the forefront of his wrong and suffering.

The true key to the Half-caste's position lay in the past, as it still lies to-day, in the fact, that he is not at harmony within himself. He alone of all living creatures despises his own blood. "I could bite my own arm," a coloured girl once said in our presence, "when I see how black it is. My father was a white man!" The Half-caste alone of all created things is at war within his own individuality. The white man loves the white man incarnate in him, and the black man loves the black. We are each of us our own ideal. The black may envy the white his power or his knowledge, but he admires himself most. "You say the devil is black! But I picture him a white man with blue eyes and yellow hair," said to us a Bantu once. "I have a great sorrow," said an intelligent native preacher. "I know that the Lord Jesus Christ was a white man, yet I could not pray to Him and love Him as I do if I did not picture Him as black and with wool like myself."

Of that divine contentment with his own inalienable personality which lies at the root of all the heroic and half the social virtues, the Half-caste can know little. If it were possible for him with red-hot pincers to draw out every ounce of flesh that was black man's, and leave only the white, in most cases he would do it. That race which would accept him he despises; and the race he aspires to refuses him.

So the first Half-caste arose: a creature without a family, without a nationality, without a stable kind, with which it might feel itself allied, and whose ideals it might accept.

As time has passed in South Africa the slave has been set free, the Half-caste has multiplied, and now forms a more or less distinct section of society, and so, to a certain extent, his position has improved on that of his first progenitor. He may now marry legally with one of his [128] own more or less uncertain type; he may have his home; and his children are his own. Nevertheless, socially his position remains much what it was. Without nationality, traditions, or racial ideals, his position is even to-day not analogous in South Africa with that of any folk of pure-bred race. For even the Bantu, till we have utterly broken him under the wheels of our civilization, grows up with a solid social matrix about him, which inevitably results in a social training from which the Half-caste is excluded. Even when severed from that tribal organization with which all his most heroic virtues are connected, and subjected under the feet of a dominant race which does not understand him, and which he does not understand, the position of the ordinary Colonial Bantu is not identical with that of the Half-caste. We may not ourselves much more value him, and his chances of cultivating social affections and virtues may seem small as regards ourselves. But let the despised Kaffir leave you and go home; once in his hut, surrounded by his wives, his children, and his friends, he sits there a man among men. He is in a society which has its own stern traditional social standards and ideals, by living up to which he may still become an object of admiration and respect to his fellows, and, above all, to himself. His ideals and traditions may not be ours, but they form no less the basis of an invaluable discipline in social feeling. His tribe may be broken up, but he still feels himself an integral part of a great people, up to whose standard he is bound to live, and in whose eyes, as in his own, he is one of the goodliest and completest creatures on God's earth. Until we have robbed him entirely of this sense of racial unity and of racial self-respect he is not morally on the same footing as the Half-caste.

If I go into my kitchen in the early morning on my farm, and find the Kaffir herd lighting his pipe at the kitchen fire while he waits for his rations—if anxious to find out his tribe I ask him whether he belongs to this or that tribe, naming the wrong one, he starts to his feet, his eyes flashing and his shoulders drawn back, "I am Tambook oprecht!" he replies proudly. ("I am a [129] pure-blooded Tambookie.") An ancient Greek or a modern Englishman, when proclaiming his unity with his nation, could not thrill with greater emotion than this menial of my kitchen. And I know that that fountain of social virtue, which on occasions may well out into a Marathon or a Thermopylæ, is strong in him; that beyond the narrow interests of the personal life for him, as much as for me, there exists a great human entity to which he is bound by the bonds of honour and love.

The Englishman will swear to you on the word of an Englishman, and the Bantu on the word of the Bantu, but no Half-caste ever yet swore on the honour of a Half-caste. The world would break into cackling laughter did he do so: "The honour of a Half-caste!"

Neither is the condition of the Half-caste woman analogous to that of the pure-blooded Bantu in our society. (We again ask no forgiveness for the length of this digression on Half-castism. It will be seen when we come to sum up, and combine the different portions of our South African problem, that no time spent in the consideration of this subject is wasted if it tends to throw any light on it. There are certain questions in South Africa on which no man is qualified to pass an opinion till he has studied as far as possible this matter, and made up his mind as to the direction in which action with regard to them is desirable.) However much the standard of sexual virtue among Bantus may differ from our own with regard to polygamy and other institutions, at least officially disapproved among us, officially approved among them, there does exist a standard, and it is often more closely adhered to than our own. We have it on the most irrefragable evidence that when, after war, a few years back, a regiment of English soldiers was stationed for many months in the heart of a subdued Bantu tribe, not only was the result of the contact between the soldiers and the native women nil as regarding illegitimate births, but it had been practically impossible for the soldiers to purchase women for purposes of degradation throughout [130] the whole time.[30] Even when draggled under the feet of our savage civilization in European seaport towns, the Bantu woman seldom shows the same inveterate tendency to gravitate towards sexual self-abandonment which the Half-caste exhibits, preferring, in a majority of instances, the healthier and more equal sex-relationships with men of her own race, to prostitution under the foot of the white man at any price.

It is impossible that the Half-caste should possess that traditional standard and racial pride which tend to save the black woman from absolute degradation.[31] She necessarily feels it small disgrace to bring her children into the world as her own ancestors were brought; and better to her often is the most degrading relationship, which binds her children closer to the ancestral race she covets, than the most honourable which binds them to the ancestral race she scorns. No ancestral code of honour rises up in her case, strengthening her self-respect.

That almighty "we," the consciousness of which lies at the base of all organic virtue, and which in the perfect socialized man so extends the narrow consciousness of the little individual "I," that it inwraps at last not only all human races, but even broadens itself out till it covers the creatures not yet human, on the good old earth—this consciousness of unity with the living world about it, [131] in the Half-caste often of necessity narrows itself, till nothing is left but an awfully isolated "I."

We all learn our first lesson in the school of human solidarity, and therefore in the true school of virtue, as we lie infants against our mother's breast, white against white, black against black; and, looking to the face above, know dimly we are not alone, it is I and thou—we. Our knowledge widens when we stand betwixt our father's knees, and feel the strong hands guarding us from harm—it is father, mother, and I who are the great human "we" for us. It increases through our contact with the brethren of our blood, who eat of the same bread with us; it spreads wider when in the sports and studies of youth we are linked with certain of our fellows identical with ourselves, and it takes a vast stride when, as adults, beyond the limits of kinship and personal contact, we recognize our union with that vast body of human beings who share our speech and our historic past; till the final expansion takes place when, beyond the limits of the nation, and even of the race, in the heart of the poet, the saint, or the sage, the fully-developed human creature, that little "we," which for the infant meant only "mother, breast, and I," and for the child, kindred; and for the youth, comradeship; and for the adult, nation and race,—so widens itself that it enfolds, not merely kindred or nation, but all sentient life, and the final goal of human morality is reached.

In this high school of the affections and therefore of morality, in which the last steps are attainable only because the first have been passed through, the Half-caste has but very partially been able to graduate. Often without a family, always without a nation or a race, a more or less solitary nomad, his moral training has been often only in that pseudo-school, where repression and fear but ill supply the place of the affections.

The flotsam and jetsam thrown up on the shores of life as the result of contact between the lowest waves of conflicting races, loved by none, honoured by none, where was he to learn those lessons in social feeling from which alone are capable of blossoming the highest social virtues?


In those countries in which the wild elephant is found, it is well known that when, as frequently happens, an individual is expelled from the herd, and compelled to wander alone, his nature frequently undergoes a change. Originally of the same character as the rest of the group, the mild and retiring nature of the social elephant leaves him. He not only attacks man and beast without provocation, but in his spleen rends branches from the trees, and ploughs up the earth with his tusks. He is then known as the rogue elephant, and, hated and feared by man and beast, if he does not in a few years die, worn out with his own ill temper, he is killed by the creatures he attacks.

The Half-caste is our rogue elephant. While he remains severed from our social herds, he does, and must, constitute an element of social danger.

Reviewing, thus, the popular verdict on the Half-caste, it must be granted that there do exist in his external conditions causes more than adequate to account for his low development in social feeling; and this, apart entirely from any necessary or congenital anti-social taint. The cowardice, inveracity, and absence of self-respect and self-restraint with which he is accredited, are exactly those qualities which ostracism, and lack of organic unity with the body social, must always tend to cultivate. Had he been begotten by Cherubim upon Seraphim and born before the throne of God, and then transported to a slave-compound, to grow up raceless, traditionless, and believing himself contraband, we should in all probability have had a being with the same anti-social characteristics we often have to-day. That amongst the most despised class of our labouring Half-castes we have all met individuals, not only of the highest integrity, but of the most rare moral beauty and of heroic and fully developed social feeling, does not impugn the theory of his unfortunate position. If you should sow human seed inside the door of hell, some of it would yet come up white lilies.

We are not able, it is true, dogmatically to assert that the mixture of blood in his veins may not have something to do with his mental and moral attitude. As we have [133] before stated, at the end of the nineteenth century we are still too much in the dark as to the laws which govern inheritance to hazard dogmatic assertion. We are at present as little able to declare what will be the result of the mixture of two human creatures and how they will re-act upon each other in the offspring, as we are unable to assert what will result from the mixture of two unanalysed chemicals which we throw into the crucibles in our laboratories.

There is, indeed, one, though it appears to us only one, scientific fact which in any way lends support to the theory of inherited anti-sociality on the part of the Half-caste.

It has been ascertained by those who have profoundly studied the matter, that where two varieties of the same domestic animal—such, for example, as the totally distinct varieties of the pigeon—which have for generations bred perfectly true, are crossed, that in certain cases the progeny resulting from this cross resembles not so much either of its parent forms, but reverts in colour, shape, and other characteristics, to that original parent stock from which both varieties have descended. Thus, in the case of pigeons: if a white fantail, which breeds quite true, be crossed with a black barb, a variety which also breeds very true, the offspring being always black, yet the mongrels resulting from this cross may be black, brown, or mottled; but they may also resemble neither father nor mother in any way; they may have the brilliant blue colour, the black wing bar, the barred and white-edged tail feathers of the wild rock pigeon, from which original all the different domestic varieties of pigeon descended. Why this crossing of different varieties which each breed perfectly true should produce these unstable creatures with a tending to revert to the primitive original type of the race, is not known; that it does so, is certain.

If, now, we apply the same law of inheritance to human creatures, and suppose that two wholly distinct human varieties cross, and take, for example, the Zulu and the Englishman—both of which varieties breed perfectly true, the Englishman always producing a white European [134] and the Zulu a black Bantu; both races being characterized by the strongest social feeling, and both being remarkable for their bravery; if we leave this law of reversion out of consideration, the natural supposition would then be, that the offspring of such a cross, while in colour and other matters they represented a compromise between the two parent forms, would, as far as social feeling and courage are concerned, which are common to both parent varieties, be at least as well endowed in these qualities as either parent variety. But it might not be so. If this law of reversion holds with human creatures (and we have no reason to assert that it cannot do so); and supposing that the original type from which in the remote past both Zulu and Englishman have descended was of a lower order as regards social feeling and courage, than that to which both Englishman and Zulu have attained to in the process of ages of development, then their offspring might revert to that lower type; and the vulgar dictum, that the Half-caste is more anti-social than either his parent forms would in this case be naturally and scientifically true.[32]

If it be objected that the crossing of races among Europeans causes no retrogression; that the two most mixed races in Europe, the English and the French, show [135] no more tendency to revert to a lower social type than the less mixed nations, such as the Scandinavian; and that further, when at the present day a cross is made between two European branches, such as the Italians and English, or the French and the German, the offspring are of unusual virility and power, intellectually, morally, and physically; that further, those individuals on whom depends the progress of the race, and who constitute its efflorescence—its men of genius—have in European countries, in a large proportion of cases, been of crossed European descent[33]; and, finally, that we in South Africa have continually practical evidence of the energizing effect of European crosses in the remarkable vitality and intelligence of children who result from Dutch and English intermarriages[34]:—we would reply that this in no way bears on the question.

The inhabitants of Europe, from the scientific standpoint, form merely one variety, or rather a blend of closely allied varieties, so intermixed that no invariable characteristic divides one from another. Only those who look no deeper than the superficial demarcations of the present, and who are ignorant of the manner in which, in the centuries preceding and following the Christian era, our Aryan forbears peopled Europe, when for twelve hundred years wave after wave of Aryan humanity swept across the land, now from the Danube to Spain, and then from Scandinavia to Italy or Greece; and again at other times back from Italy or Greece over North-East Europe, each disposing, now here and now there, its layer of folk, till the great conglomerate European family was formed—only those who are ignorant of the peopling of our old continent can regard as other than comparatively superficial scorings on a solid surface those national lines which conquest and political institutions, aided in the course of time by language and manners, have drawn across an [136] essentially homogeneous mass. It is no mere coincidence which makes the Italian girl of Lombardy often as fair-haired and fair-skinned as her Swedish sister; the same old Goth may have forefathered both. And the English brunette and her Spanish rival may have an even closer blood link than that which binds them to the folk in their own street; while the so-called Teutonic peoples are so manifestly one physiological folk, though politically and socially severed, that were a German, a Dutchman, and an Englishman to trace back their parentage, they might easily find that a short twelve hundred years ago it centred in the same individuals. On the extreme West of Europe, where the Portuguese may have his trace of African blood, and on the East where the Russian has his strain of the Mongolian, real differences of race do occur; but, taking Europe roughly and as a whole, not only do our existing national divisions not represent fundamental blood divisions, but they run transversely with such variations in blood as do exist. The large blue-eyed Yorkshireman, who mates the small dark-eyed South of England lass, may easily be making a far more decided cross than had he married a large blue-eyed Dutch or Danish cousin from over the water; the South German is notoriously more distinct, in the shape of his skull and other fixed mental and physical characteristics, from the North German than he is from the Swiss and French folk across his own border; and language and political unity as little indicate common racial descent in the past as blood relationship in the present.

Common country and common political institutions resulting as they do in common ideas, common interests and common habits, are the true source of national life; and as such of vast political importance. But they have small and sometimes no connection with the profound physiological questions of race and consanguinity; and from the physiological standpoint are of little count.

It is not only possible that the most pure-blooded descendant of the Romans still existing may be some inhabitant of Treves or Marseilles; but it is more than possible that not one man or woman with the blood of the [137] folk who founded the city on the Seven Hill exists among the herd who creep round the Capitol to-day.

Languages, and the remnants of languages, in civilized or semi-civilized conditions, remain often in places where they arose, when the tribes of men who framed them have passed away; and except among purely barbarous nations, who exterminate all whom they subdue, a common language, or the absence of a common language, forms no criterion of blood relationships. The empty shell of a mollusc may lie on the spot where it lived long after the creature has died, or been eaten out of it; and he is an unwary naturalist who, picking it up, and finding it filled with the creatures who may have taken up their abode in it, imagines there is any necessary organic relation between the shell and its inhabitants. Like the unscientific naturalist, the popular mind is quite satisfied where it finds persons using a common language to suppose racial unity and descent; and, where there is no common language, the opposite; while these things often merely signify conquest or contact.

Thus the nations of Europe are far more homogeneous from the physiological and racial standpoint than our sharply marked differences of language and political institutions would suggest.[35]


When, therefore, a cross takes place between Europeans of different nationalities, if the resulting offspring should revert to the parent stock from which both arose, his reversion will carry him no further back than a few thousand years (which in matters of racial development is but yesterday afternoon!) to those common Aryan ancestors of the race who were probably endowed with as much social feeling and perhaps more courage than their latest descendants. In truth, so homogeneous are the majority of Europeans in blood that a cross between two nationalities is of the same nature as that which takes place when farmers, having flocks of the same breed which they have inbred for several years, seek to increase their virility by crossing them with the flocks of their neighbours. There is no real change of breed; merely that increase of vitality which comes from a change of the same blood.

The fact, then, that interbreeding between men of European blood causes no deterioration, or is of marked benefit, has no necessary bearing whatever on the question as to what will result from the crossing of widely severed human varieties; varieties so distinct that to find the progenital link between them we might have to travel up the lines of human life till we reached those early forms [139] in which articulate speech was only in process of development, differences which are to-day, even in the fœtal condition, unmistakably distinct.

We have dwelt at this considerable length on this matter because it is well we should attempt to look impartially on both sides of a question of so vital import to the inhabitants of Africa, both in the present and in the future. And it must be borne in mind that even among animals not all the crossed descendants of widely separated varieties show this tendency to revert to the primitive type, but merely that there is a general tending for them to do so, and that there may be in any given case other conditions which would entirely defeat the working of the law.[36]

Summing up, then, what we know on this matter, with all the impartiality of which we are capable of, this one thing only seems certain—that there do exist in the social conditions of the Half-caste's existence, in almost every country in which he is found, causes adequate, and more than adequate, to account for all, and more than all, the retrograde and anti-social qualities with which he is credited; and that therefore in spite of the fact that there do exist certain circumstances which suggest the possibility of the crossing of widely discovered varieties producing a tendency to revert to the most primitive ancestral forms of both, yet, until science has been able to demonstrate that not social conditions, but a congenital defect, has made the Half-caste what we find him, the balanced and impartial mind, in answer to the popular accusation [140] against him of congenital anti-sociality, can bring in only one verdict, that of—Not Proven.

If it be inquired what profit we gain from this analysis of the Half-caste, seeing that, whether it be the result of inheritance or of external conditions, it is equally allowed that he has a tendency to certain anti-sociality, we would reply that the benefit is great.

Firstly:—There is a marked, though more or less illogical, tendency in human nature to regard with greater aversion an individual whose defects, whether physical or mental, are the result of conditions long preceding their birth and fixed by inheritance, than an individual in whom they are not inherent. As a hunchback, so made by some accident after birth, is more kindly regarded than one who is so born; so, if it be once grasped that the defects of the Half-caste may not be inherent, but may be the result of post-natal conditions, there will undoubtedly be a tendency on the part of many to regard him with greater kindliness.

Secondly:—It is all important, socially, that the fact should be distinctly brought home to us, both as individuals and collectively as a society, that the mingling of our breeds, whether through the action of reversion or of the external conditions, is frequently the cause of the production of persons with a low degree of sociality, and therefore—is almost always distinctly anti-social.

Thirdly:—An analysis of the condition of the Half-caste brings home to us, as nothing else can do, our own racial responsibility towards him.

The Bushman, Hottentot, and Bantu were here long years before we arrived; the powers and forces which created and placed them here asked no permission from us; we are at liberty to assert that had our advice been asked not one would ever have been created or placed in South Africa.

It is not so with the Half-caste; Englishman and Dutchman, we brought his ancestor here for our own purposes—if we except the few Half-castes descended from Hottentots and Bantus this is true; Boer and later Englishman, we inoculated him with our virile blood [141] to make him permanent. He is here, our own; we have made him; we cannot wash our hands of him.

When from under the beetling eyebrows in a dark face something of the white man's eye looks out at us, is not the curious shrinking and aversion we feel somewhat of a consciousness of a national disgrace and sin?

The Half-caste is our own open, self-inflicted wound; we shall not heal it by shutting our eyes and turning away from it.

(By a curious coincidence, while writing this on the Half-caste, there hobbled up to our window a tall Half-caste woman, to whom we had often given medicines. She stuck a letter through the window, and asked us in Taal—the only language she spoke—to read it for her. The letter had been written at the request of her second son, to inform her that he had just received a sentence of four months, the crime not being stated. It also asked her whether she had heard that his brother Jacob was free again. On inquiring what this meant, she replied that her eldest son had just served four years for attempted rape. We asked her whether she had other children. She lighted up; the watery, blue, Caucasian eyes looked at us out of the shrivelled, brown face. "I have four daughters," she said, "the eldest is living with a white mason in the Fraserburg district. I have always brought my children up well," she added proudly, "since they were so high"—indicating with her hand a child of about three years old. "I have told them, 'Have nothing to do with a black man, hold by the white.' My three youngest daughters are all prostitutes among the gentlemen of Kimberley!" Her further remarks cannot be recorded. She then asked us for more salve; and, raising her skirt, showed the wound, where a gangrenous sore had eaten away the flesh, till in some places the bone was showing.

To the white woman who looks at such an object as this, deeper than any loathing—is shame. It is not the black man's sin that is staining our African sunshine, as we watch that figure amble across the yard; it is the white man's degradation. What the Boer began the Englishman finishes.)


But it is not only in the existence of our lower class of Half-castes that slavery has left to South Africa a heritage of suffering.

There are subjects which touch so closely the finest sensibilities of human nature that the hand shrinks from dealing with them as it might from etching a pattern on a palpitating human heart with the most delicate of instruments. Nevertheless, it is essential this matter should also be considered.

There were cases in which the ordinary Half-caste did not marry into the dark race, but again into the white, their descendants becoming ultimately almost purely white. There were also cases, though they were rare,[37] in which love and genuine respect found the gulf which divides race from race not wide enough to prevent their crossing, and in which white men took as their lawful wives women of dark race. The offspring of these lawful marriages naturally remarried into the white race; and so it comes to pass to-day that there are certain white men and women, both Dutch and English, often of the greatest natural intelligence, and sometimes of great culture, wealth, and physical beauty, who have in their veins this remote trace of non-European blood.

These folks are often essentially and practically entirely Aryan; the remote strain of dark blood during seven or eight generations of white inbreeding being practically so eliminated that it is no more present than a nightmare of ten years ago is present within my brains to-day; and no more manifest than in the bull-dog who may win first prize at a show is manifested the fact that, eight generations before, his ancestral tables show a strain of spaniel blood. Nevertheless, in South Africa, difficult as it may appear for those who have only lived in Europe and who have never mingled with persons of mixed race to conceive it, the position of such individuals is often one of pain and difficulty, and the cause of as acute suffering as any which human creatures are called on to go through. Over the heads of such men and women in South Africa dangles [143] a sword, which a twirl from the hand of the most brutal and ignorant passer-by may at any moment send to their hearts. And, as the low-bred cur, safe behind a grating, may bark with safety at the noblest mastiff passing by, so the meanest and most ill-descended beings, sheltered behind the consciousness of an unmixed Aryan pedigree, may taunt with their descent men and women the latchet of whose shoes they may not be worthy to unloose.

The true anguish of the position lies in the fact that so strong is the Aryan prejudice against colour, that it affects the individuals themselves; a taunt with regard to dark ancestry is always felt by the person against whom it is directed as the most cruel and unanswerable of blows, the extent of their silent suffering being measured by the fact that as a rule no reply is ever attempted, and that by their nearest friends it may not be referred to. It may be doubted whether, even within the families themselves which are so situated, the fact of such descent is ever openly discussed, as men in a chamber where one is dying seldom use the word death—the thing itself is too near.

It is, moreover, on the most sensitive side of human nature that suffering is often inflicted on such men and women. It is on the side of the sex affections, and whenever the question of marriage arises, that men and women who have perhaps never felt their disabilities before are made to realize them, by reluctance on the part of those they desire, or of their friends, that there should be a mingling of the blood; it is then that the ancestral shadow looms large.

It may be questioned whether we, who have no such shadow hanging in the background, can ever fully realize all it signifies to those in whose existence it has place, however wide our sympathies. The man who suffers from some ancestral disease, be it consumption or gout, regards himself as an object for pity and interest, and may seek and find consolation in the sympathy of his fellows; but the man or woman who suffers from this imaginary ancestral stain must maintain a perfect and [144] unbroken silence. To offer him sympathy would be an insult; to receive it he would feel a degradation.

This aspect of the matter is all important because it throws a further light on that all-important question of the sociality or anti-sociality of crossing races in a country situated as is South Africa at present.

It is clear that even in those instances in which no degradation or manifest anti-sociality on the part of descendants is the result of racial inter-breeding, and when, owing to education and happy surroundings, they become eventually some of the most cultured, valuable, and virtuous members of society; still, so great an amount of suffering is inflicted upon them and their descendants in societies constituted as ours are, that the original act which made possible their existence must be regarded as distinctly anti-social, though in this case the result has not been manifest human degradation, but merely unjustly inflicted and wholly unmerited human suffering.

Fully recognizing that many persons of mingled descent are of remarkable and even unusual mental power, of high social feeling, and allowing that there is a possibility that in the ages to come, when the great people of South Africa shall be fully formed, that if there be in that great people an infusion of the blood of the African races, it is possible, that instead, as is usually supposed, of that great race being hopelessly degraded, and rendered inferior to other races, because of its infusion of African blood, it may by crossing with the dark and more undifferentiated African races, with their possibly less developed nervous systems, and heavier animality, receive an increase of hardihood and vitality, and a greater staying power, which may enable such a mingled race actually to go further in the race of life, than others not so mingled.

As the modern gardener who has a rare and highly developed double rose, a Maréchal Neil or Cloth of Gold, if he wish it to be of exceptional beauty and sturdy growth, does not graft it on the stalk of another rare highly developed rose, but on a root of the old single wild rose, from which all roses descended, so it may [145] be that the mingling with a more primitive type, under certain conditions, may fasten the roots of a race on earth: and that even the despised African may have some other mission towards humanity, as a whole, than the mere hewing of its wood and drawing of its water, even the building up of the rough physical basis of its life—allowing all this as possible, it is yet difficult to conceive the condition under which the action which originates a cross between the dark and light races in South Africa to-day shall not be anti-social, and its results almost unmitigatedly evil, whether the offspring be rendered anti-social by inheritance or circumstances; or, whether, rising in the scale of being, they attain to the highest point of development, and pay merely in unmerited suffering for the action of others.

Future ages may attain to a knowledge of the exact laws of inheritance, and may then know certainly what the result of such commingling of widely distinct human varieties will be; but for us, to-day, it is a racial leap in the dark which no man except under the most exceptional conditions has the right to make. What the Black man is we know, what the White man is we know: what the ultimate result of this commingling will be no man to-day knows.

Of all the anti-social actions which can take place in a country situated as South Africa is to-day, for cowardice and recklessness perhaps none equals the action of the man who in obedience to his own selfish passions originates such a cross of races[38]: for cowardice, because the pain and evil resulting from his action can never under any circumstances recoil on himself, but [146] must be borne by others; for recklessness, because the results of his action must go on for generations after he has passed away, acting in ever-widening circles, in ways which he cannot predict, and producing results which cannot be modified.

For, let it never be forgotten, the crossing of human breeds differs entirely in one all-important point from that which is artificially carried on by the breeders of domestic animals. If such breeder makes a cross, and it be found to be undesirable, and injurious to his flock, he may set to work again to eliminate it; and though every experienced breeder will confess how difficult it is to accomplish this, how again and again the strain he seeks to eliminate will crop up; nevertheless, by the free use of destruction, and by rigorously preventing from perpetuating themselves all animals which show a trace of this cross, he may, after a certain number of generations, expunge the strain. But humanity has no such power over itself. We are unable either to destroy or to prevent from breeding such varieties in our societies as may appear undesirable; and if such a variety should have physical virility and fruitfulness, society would not only be incapable of repressing it, but it might ultimately even people down all more desirable forms.

Each society, as each age, has its own peculiar decalogue, applicable to its own peculiar conditions. For South Africa there are certain commandments little heard of in Europe, because the conditions of life raise no occasion for them, but which loom large in the list of social duties in this land. The first of these would appear to be—Keep your breeds pure!

In proportion as this commandment is accepted, and its injunction carried out by our black and white races in South Africa during the next fifty years, so probably, to a large extent, will be our healthy growth and development.[39]

We have now dealt, with such fullness as for the [147] moment we are able, at the problem of Half-castism, which slavery has been mainly instrumental in bequeathing to South Africa.

At the other multitudinous, and in certain ways more important, effects of slavery on the peoples of South Africa, it will be more convenient to glance later.

In South Africa, as elsewhere among civilized peoples, what an enslaved race may have endured physically is amply avenged by emotional and social loss on the part of the enslaving till the balance of loss inclines, at last, rather in the direction of the owning than the owned.

The good, aboriginal, old South African thought, doubtless, as did his English brother in America, that when his slaves were safely landed, and the slaver had been paid and had sailed away, his black folk had been settled for, and that he had now nothing to do but enjoy in peace the fruits of their labour. But his descendants are learning, and will yet have to learn, with their American cousins, that what was paid on that day was but the first instalment of a long, national debt. We in South Africa have been steadily paying it for two hundred years, and when the last instalment will be due is not yet at all clear.

For the evils of slavery in a civilized community are like those birds of prey which may indeed leave their nests in the morning, but at nightfall return to the old nest, and are sure to be found there, nestling soft and warm.

We have now glanced at those facts in the early condition of the Boer which it is necessary we should look at if we are at all to understand his relation to the land of South Africa; and we are prepared to pass on to glance at his later history, and to an analysis of his condition to-day.



We have seen that, within a generation and a half from the landing of the Huguenots, they had intermarried and blended with the earlier settlers; and that their common language was the "Taal" (whether that language was a speech imported from some northern region, or a South African growth); that they were in possession of slaves, who planted and built for them; and that further, they were permeated by the conception that they were the chosen people of God; that South Africa was a personal bequest to themselves; that the aboriginal inhabitants of the land were the true Hittites, Perizzites and Jebusites, whom the God of the Jewish Scripture had ordered should be destroyed; and that they held, with an intensity of conviction which it is impossible for the nineteenth-century European fully to understand, that they were the very people to whom the threats and promises of the Jewish Scriptures were held out; and that, should they obey the commandments delivered unto them, their seed should become as the sand of the seashore for multitude, and they should inherit South Africa.

Settled on the beautiful Cape Peninsula, and in the lovely Western valleys, where the wild flowers bloom as nowhere else on the earth's surface; where the streams never fail, and the high mountains shut out the parching winds of the north, and where almost every plant known to civilized man will flourish; and where the few Hottentots and Bushmen who had inhabited the land having been easily exterminated or driven away, each man sat (not figuratively, but literally) under his own vine and [149] his own fig-tree, enjoying the fruits thereof; it would be imagined that, at least for many generations, the descendants of the early settlers would have rested, cultivating and peopling their lands along the coast.

But it was not so.

The hand of the Dutch East India Company rested heavily on the people. In some respects a fair government, and sometimes represented by able men, it yet, like all other kindred commercial despotisms, crushed the people where its own interests were concerned under an iron heel. They might not trade nor barter with the natives, lest they should interfere with the Company's profits; they might not plant or sow as they wished; coffee and spice were forbidden as interfering with the Company's monopoly in the East; the smallest details of daily life were regulated by an externally imposed law; and the people writhed.

It was not to be supposed that these folk, the sons of roving soldiers and sailors, or of men who had left their homes in search of religious freedom, or whose forbears in Holland in the sixteenth century resisted the Spaniard when his heel was on the flag of freedom in half the lands of Europe, and who, rather than allow him to fix his foot permanently on their soil, had turned the waters of the North Sea over lands and villages; it was not to be supposed that folk so descended, and who regarded South Africa as their peculiar inheritance, should submit to dictation and interference at the hand of any external government.

Again and again the most restless and independent of these men drew out the huge ox-wagon—South Africa's ship of the desert—and putting into it wife and children and such household goods as they possessed, they with their flocks and herds bade good-bye for ever to the beautiful valleys of the Boven-Land. Sometimes they took their course northward over the high mountain ranges that separate the Western coast land from the vast Karoo plains; sometimes they kept north-east and along the coast; but wherever they went their aim was still the same—to escape beyond the region and rule of [150] the old Dutch Government; and wherever they went, they went alone, and unaided by any organized government, their flint-lock guns their only means of defence, their rhinoceros-hide whips their one sceptre of rule.

And so began, one hundred and fifty years ago, that long "trek" of the Boer peoples northward and eastward, which to-day still goes on with unabated ardour and quiet persistency; and which in its ultimate essence is a search, not for riches, not for a land where mere political equality may be found; but for a world of absolute and untrammelled individual liberty; for a land where each white man shall reign, by a divine right inherent in his own person, over a territory absolutely his own; uninterfered with by the action of any external ruler, untrammelled by any foreign obligation—the Promised Land of Boer!

As a hundred years ago he stood on the banks of the Vaal and the Orange looking to the lands beyond, so to-day he stands on the banks of the Limpopo and Zambesi; and still looks northward.[40]

Often the early fore-trekkers moved due north and climbed the vast mountain ranges. They saw when they reached their summits no descent on the other side, but the vast plains with their scant olive-coloured herbage and tumbled rocks.

As sweeping across these wide Colonial plains to-day, one looks out at them from the windows of the railway train, silent as they still lie, it is not easy to recall what they must have appeared in the eyes of those first-born white sons of South Africa whose wagons, moving slowly along, broke for the first time into these vast, silent plains. Across each one some white man's eye looked for the first time, taking in the expanse, which till then only the Bushman had seen as he tracked his game, or the Hottentot as he travelled with his tribe; across each one of them some solitary wagon first crept, leaving the marks of its wheels deep in the red sand, which in all the ages [151] of the past had been printed only by the feet of the antelope and the claw of the ostrich and lion, or the light tread of the Bushman and Hottentot—and the mark of those wheels made the first track of that road on which, later but surely, civilization with its colossal evils, and its infinite beneficial possibilities, was to follow.

At night, when they had drawn up their wagons beside some iron-stone kopje, or near the bed of a sloot[41] where there might be water in the sand, they heard the jackals howl about them (as you may still hear them at almost any farm in the Karoo, if in the night you will walk a mile or two from the house and sit down alone on the rocks) and the lion's roar, which for the span of more than a life has not been heard there now. And in the morning, when they woke and peered out between the sails of the wagon, within a stone's throw they saw the springbok feeding with wildebeest[42] among them; and when the sun rose, and they stood up on the wagon-chest and scanned the plain, they rejoiced if they saw far off a vley[43] where their cattle might drink; and if they saw none, they looked about for any indication of those carefully concealed drinking-places of the little Bushman, so well covered with stones, lest the wild animals might tread them in, or strangers drink the water; if they found none, and digging in the sand of the river-beds yielded too little for their cattle, then they trekked on. If they found enough, then they often stayed for awhile till the veld was brown and barren and the game gone and then they trekked again.

Those were the days of hard living and hard fighting. The white man depended mainly on his gun for food. And when the little Bushman looked out from behind his rocks, he saw his game—all he had to live on—being killed, and the fountain which he or his fathers had found and made, and had used for ages, being appropriated by the white men. The plains were not wide enough for both, and the new-come children of the desert fought with the old. We have all sat listening in our childhood [152] to the story of the fighting in those old days. How sometimes the Boer coming suddenly on a group of Bushmen round their fire at night, fired and killed all he could. If in the flight a baby were dropped and left behind, he said, "Shoot that too, if it lives it will be a Bushman or bear Bushmen." On the other hand, when the little Bushman had his chance and found the Boer's wagon unprotected, the Boer sometimes saw a light across the plain, which was his blazing property; and when he came back would find the wagon cinders, and only the charred remains of his murdered wife and children. It was a bitter, merciless fight, the little poisoned arrow shot from behind the rocks, as opposed to the great flint-lock gun. The victory was inevitably with the flint-lock, but there may have been times when it almost seemed to lie with the arrow; it was a merciless primitive fight, but it seems to have been on the whole, compared to many modern battles, fair and even, and in the end the little Bushman vanished.

It, perhaps, was not absolutely inevitable that all should have been as it was.

If these early fore-trekkers of our land had been Buddhas or Christs, or even George Eliots or Darwins or Livingstones, the story might have been different; but so, too, would the whole history of human life have been, had those gracious individualities, which now here and now there shoot forth on the highest branches of human life, constituted its undergrowth as well—if instead of being, as they are, merely the rare leaflets which show us what the whole growth may attain to when all have grown taller!

It is true that ordinary missionaries, Dutch, French, English, or German, have lived among these tiny folk for years, without suffering either injury or insult; but the fore-trekkers were not missionaries, nor thirsting to sacrifice themselves for the aborigines. They were simply ordinary, good folk, rather above than below the common European average, who had their own ends to look after; and the Bushman, being what he was, a little human in embryo, determined to have his own way, the story could [153] take its course in no other direction than that in which it did!

It is easy for us sitting at ease in our study chairs to-day to condemn the attitude of the early white men, Dutch or English, towards him, and regret that they did not take a more scientific interest in this little half-developed child of South Africa. To the thinking man of to-day he is a link with the past of our race; a living prehistoric record; his speech, his scheme of social life, his physical structure, are a volume in human history, beside which the most hoary manuscript in China or India is modern; and the oldest relics of Greece and Rome are things of to-day.

It is easy for us to feel tender over his little paintings when suddenly we come across them among the rocks; the artist in us recognizes across the chasm of a million centuries of development its little kinsman. Something in us nods back to him across the years:—"I know why you did that, little brother: I do it too—another way, pen or pencil or stone, it doesn't matter which. You call it an ox: I call it truth. We both paint what we see, the likest we can! They never know why we do it. Did you look at your oxen and your zebras and your ostriches, and feel that you must and you must, till you painted or etched them? Take my hand, brother manikin!"

Ring round head, ears on pedestals, his very vital organs differing from the rest of his race—yet, as one sits under the shelving rocks at the top of some African mountain, the wall behind one covered with his crude little pictures, the pigments of which are hardly faded through the long ages of exposure, and, as one looks out over the great shimmering expanse of mountain and valleys beneath, one feels that that spirit which is spread abroad over existence concentrated itself in those little folk who climbed among the rocks; and that that which built the Parthenon and raised St. Peter's, and carved the statues of Michael Angelo in the Medici Chapel, and which moves in every great work of man, moved here also. That that Spirit of Life which, incarnate in humanity, seeks to recreate existence as it beholds it, and which we [154] call art, worked through that small monkey hand too! And that shelving cave on the African mountain becomes for us a temple, in which first the hand of humanity raised itself quiveringly in the worship of the true and of the beautiful.

And when in the valley below we come suddenly across a little arrow-head beside some old drinking-fountain, or find a spot where his flints and empty mussel-shells lie thick among the soil on the bank of a sloot where for this many hundred years now no mussels have been, a curious thrill of interest comes to us: we feel as would an adult who in middle life should come suddenly across the shoes and toys he had used in earliest childhood, carefully laid up together.

And we sit down and dig out the shells and flints with our fingers and the warm afternoon sunshine shimmers over us, as it did over some old first mother of humanity when she sat there cracking shells. And we touch with our hands the old race days, that at other times are hardly realizable by us.

For us it is easy to feel all this.

It is easier yet for the fair European woman, as she lounges in her drawing-room in Europe, to regard as very heinous the conduct of men and women who destroyed and hated a race of small aborigines. But if, from behind some tapestry-covered armchair in the corner, a small, wizened, yellow face were to look out now, and a little naked arm guided an arrow, tipped with barbed bone dipped in poison, at her heart, the cry of the human preserving itself would surely arise; Jeames would be called up, the policeman with his baton would appear, and if there were a pistol in the house, it would be called into requisition! The little prehistoric record would lie dead upon the Persian carpet.

To indulge in philanthropic sentiment is a luxury easily to be enjoyed by the idle and luxurious; to share in generous action towards weaker peoples is a possibility only to those who have sternly set out on the path of self-obliteration; and he who indulges most of the first knows sometimes least of the last.


When the fore-trekker mother lay awake at night in her wagon with her baby at her breast, she listened with strained intensity to hear if there were not a stealthy step approaching, or for the sound of the loosening of the oxen tied to the wagon, on whose continued possession the lives of her husband and children depended. When the children went out to play during the day, she bade them anxiously to keep near at hand; and as she sat alone in the heat when her husband had gone out hunting, she scanned the kopjes to see if there were not a little dark figure moving on them. To her he was no record of the past, but an awful actuality of the present; and the stern pressure of the primitive necessities of life, which in their extremest form have impelled civilized, shipwrecked men, when starving, to feed on each other's flesh, stepped in and made brotherly love impossible. The Boer fought hard and the Bushman hard; they gave and they asked no quarter; neither can I see that we have any reason to be ashamed of either of our South Africans.

St. Francis of Assisi preached to the little fishes: we eat them. But the man who eats fish can hardly be blamed, seeing that the eating of fishes is all but universal among the human race!—if only he does not pretend that while he eats he preaches to them! This has never been the Boer's attitude towards any aboriginal race. He may consume it off the face of the earth; but he has never told it he does it for its benefit. He talks no cant.

We condemn the Boer for his ruthless extermination of this little race; but to-day, we of culture and refinement, who are under no pressure of life and death, do nothing to preserve the scant relics of the race.

The last of this folk are now passing away from us, together with those infinitely beautiful and curious creatures, which made for ages the South African plains the richest on earth, in that rarest and most delightful of all beauties, the beauty of complex and varied forms of life. Over them the humanity of future ages may weep; but they will never be restored to vary and glorify the globe, or to throw light on the mystery of sentient growth.


We, as civilized men, must recognize that the extinction of a species of beast, and yet more a species of man, is an order of Vandalism compared with which the destruction of Greek marbles by barbarians, or of classical manuscripts by the Christians, were trifles; for it is within the range of a remote possibility that again among mankind some race may arise which shall produce such statues as those of Phidias, or that the human brain may yet again blossom forth into the wisdom and beauty incarnate in the burnt books; but a race of living things, once destroyed, is gone for ever—it reappears on earth no more. We are conscious that we are murdering the heritage of unborn generations; yet we take no step to stay the destruction.

The money which one fashionable woman spends on dresses from Worth; the jewels and cut flowers one woman purchases for self-indulgence would save a race! Lands might be obtained, and such conditions be instituted, for a lesser sum, as might enable an expiring race to survive. And the money and labour expended on the murder and maintenance of a few miserable foxes in a land and among a people who say they have emerged from barbarism, would send down to future ages all the incalculable living wealth of South Africa. While we are unwilling to deny ourselves our lowest pleasures for this purpose, is it wise that we condemn, with delicate humanity and lofty pride, the simple fore-trekker, who, rather than die and see wife and children die, cleared out a small human race before him?

It is probable that more enlightened ages will regard with far more sympathy the Boer who, having shot a pile of bucks, stood with his wife and sons busily cutting them up into biltong, that they might have the wherewithal to live, than that cultured savage who, to gratify a small vanity and boast of a big bag, slaughters the last of a race; and contemplates, as a Bushman might do, the heads fastened on his dining-room wall, with a pride that might only be justified had he created instead of destroyed them.

This at least is certain, that the Bushman fared no [157] worse in the hands of the Boer than he would have done in those of the average settlers of any other race who go out to people and organize new countries inhabited by aboriginal peoples. And while we, the natives of modern Europe, are contented to leave this, the most stupendous, the most difficult, and the most honourable of all the labours which a nation can perform, to any hands that are willing to undertake it; while we send out, not our wisest and best to civilize and elevate and plant the tree of European life among simple peoples, but oftenest the most unfit among our race—the worthless son who cannot study, and who will not labour; the man who even in the much simpler and less important function of a citizenship in an old established society has been a failure—while again and again we send out these men to perform our highest national functions it will still remain a truth, that the old Boer fore-trekker has nothing to be ashamed of when his record as a civilizing and elevating power is compared with ours.

We shall return later, and then shall deal at length with this question of the relations of the European towards the original inhabitants of South Africa, and glance at those points wherein our attitude differs from that of the first white settlers; and we shall then glance at the causes which have led to this difference. But, as far as the Bushman is concerned, it may now be unqualifiedly stated that he tends to disappear as certainly under the heel of the Englishman as that of the fore-trekker, and only a little, if at all, slower. Neither does it appear that our languid and more showy methods must be much more pleasant to him than theirs—simpler and more direct.

When a primitive man wants breakfast, he takes a sheep, kneels upon it, holds it between his legs, and cuts its throat; he skins it, and taking a slice out of it, fries it on the coals for breakfast.

We also demand not less imperatively cutlets for our breakfast; but we manage it another way. We procure an individual some way off to kill the beast and another out of sight to cook it; we have a paper frill put round [158] the bone to disguise it, and set a pot of flowers straight before us to look at while we eat it—but to the sheep—to the sheep—it can make little difference which way it is eaten! We still do our unclean work, but we do it by proxy. And it may be questioned whether what we gain in refinement we have not lost in sincerity.

The Boer cleared the land of the wild beasts and savages as expeditiously as he could. But they were not his main difficulty, as we have seen. On those arid, sparsely vegetated up-country plains, water and food for his flocks varied with the time of years, and sometimes were not to be found at all. It was seldom desirable or even possible, in those days when artificial reservoirs or springs were unknown, to remain more than a few months on one spot. So when the bushes were eaten, and the water began to dry up, he spanned in his ox-wagon and moved away with his flocks and herds in search of fresh pastures. Or, if he had no flocks and herds and lived by the chase alone, he moved yet oftener, following the droves of the springbok and hartebeest[44] as they themselves trekked in search of fresh pasture. He built no house, or, if he raised a temporary shelter, it was composed of a few cross-parts thatched with bushes, resembling a high-pitched roof placed on the ground; but his real home was his wagon.

With a constant tendency to go northward and north-east these men moved slowly on; visiting for the first time plain after plain in the karoo and grass-veld, and piloting their huge canvas-sailed wagons across the infinite expanses of sand and rock, as their sailor forefathers a few generations earlier had piloted their ships across the sea.

In many cases for generations this wandering life was continued. Men were born, grew up, grew old, and died, who knew no home but the ox-wagon, and had no conception of human life but as a perpetual moving onward. Even at the present day there are still to be found a few of these men, hunters and nomads, whose fathers and forefathers also led this wandering life. They are generally large-limbed, large-handed men, powerfully built, but [159] somewhat loosely, and a little slouching about the shoulders; often with long, straggling, yellowish-brown beards.[45]

They are generally somewhat silent of tongue, their blue or grey-blue eyes often dull as though not fully awakened, but starting into keenness and life when they catch the glimpse of a springbok across the plain or a korhaan on wing overhead; and striking forth sparks of fire when you mention to them the benefits of taxation and a foreign government—as the flint-lock guns of their forebears struck fire, when the old flints hit the steels.

These men, whose mothers brought them forth kneeling upon the red sand amid the bushes at the wagon-side, under the blue African sky, with little more aid than the wild buck receives when she bows herself to bring forth her desert young—women who knew nothing of the tinsel and luxuries of life, who were content to bake their children's bread in some scooped-out anthill, and who, when for months or years there was no bread, fed their households with the wild buck's flesh, which they had prepared with their own hands; who, in time of danger, stood side by side with their husbands and sons, and when the enemy attacked, again and again, were found kneeling on the front box of the wagons, reloading the guns, and urging on sons and husbands to resistance and even death, as their Teutonic ancestresses had done in Germanic forests eighteen hundred years before—these men, born of such women, and whose first view of life was of the red sands and wide skies of an African plain; who, before they could speak, watched with half-comprehending eyes the loading of guns and the capture of game, and who, long before they were adult, could track the wild beast and mark the path of strayed cattle by the smallest sign upon the sand; who, when they travelled alone, needed nothing but a few strips of dried flesh, or a lump of unleavened bread stuffed into their bags, and a saddle on which at night to rest their heads as they slept [160] under the stars; to whom every South African bird and beast was familiar; for whom every plant had its name, and every change in the atmosphere or the earth its understood significance; to whom every new South African plain on which they entered was a fresh home; and who, when they died, were put under the red sand, on which they first saw the light, and left in the plain with a pile of stones over them in the mighty solitude they had never feared while alive—these men, and the women who bore them, possessed South Africa as no white man has ever possessed it, and as no white man ever will, save it be here and there a stray poet or artist. They possessed it as the wild beasts and the savages whom they dispossessed had possessed it; they grew out of it; it shaped their lives and conditioned their individuality. They owed nothing to the men of the country, and everything to the inanimate nature about them! The civilization they had carried away with them from their homes in the West, they may slightly have lost; but they gained a knowledge as real as it was intimate of the land of their adoption.

Nor is it probable that South Africa has lost by this return to a condition of almost primitive simplicity on the part of a section of her white inhabitants. As it is necessary that the artist or thinker who is to instruct mankind should not live too far from the unmodified life of nature, if he is to accomplish work that shall have in it the deathless elements of truth and virility; so it seems to be a law of existence that the most dominant and powerful races, if they desire to keep their virility, cannot remove themselves too far and too long from the primitive conditions of life. As the great individual is seldom found more than three generations removed from ancestors who wrought with their hands and lived in the open air, so the most powerful races seldom survive more than a few centuries of the enervation of an artificial life. As the physical body becomes toneless and weakened, so also the intellectual life grows thin; and it is as necessary for the nation, as for the individual who would recuperate, to return again and again, and, lying flat on the bosom [161] of our common mother, to suck direct from the breast of nature the milk of life, which, drawn through long artificial channels, tends to become thin and ceases to nourish. Most great conquering peoples have been within hail of the nomads' encampment; and all great nations at the time when they have attained their greatness were largely agricultural or pastoral. The city kills.

(It is, of course, hardly necessary to state that we have no intention of signifying that vast cities or the civilization which they represent have any instantaneous effect on national life, and still less that statistical tables would prove the death-rate higher in the town than country. These things have no bearing on the decline and fall of nations, which must slowly and gradually decay from within before the moment of their catastrophic fall can arrive. It is this decay which is promoted by the artificial conditions of life in that high condition of material civilization, of which vast cities, with their abject squalor, their squandered wealth, and their wide departure from the natural conditions of life, are at once the symptom and the cause; and it is a vulgar commonplace, that were the city not recruited from the more primitive country it would be depopulated in six generations. Vast and gorgeous cities have always heralded and accompanied the falls of great peoples; and the ruins of Nineveh, Babylon, Rome, and the vast fallen cities of India and Greece, are the graves under which a brave, simple, and mighty people were buried while the walls yet stood. It would be almost as rational to inquire in the case of a man habitually over-eating and drinking himself, and who, taking no exercise, dies at fifty of gout and diseased liver, what hour of inaction, or which mouthful of meat or drink was it which produced his death, as to assert that because no detail of a given system of civilization is directly and instantly destructive to national or individual life, morally and physically, that therefore the whole system is not slowly but surely so. On the other hand, is there any reason to suppose that the emasculation and degradation of human creatures, which has always taken place whenever a high state of material civilization has been reached, is [162] an absolutely inevitable concomitant of all complex material civilization, for all time? Must the story of history for ever repeat itself? Is it possible that the human intelligence, with its marvellous powers of forethought and analysis, shall at some time be able so to comprehend its own condition and to shape human life, that the benefits of a material civilization shall be grasped, while the emasculation and disintegration which have always accompanied it shall be escaped? We have been compelled here to insert this perfunctory note on a subject so wide and vital that it ill lends itself to perfunctory treatment, to avoid misconception, till later we return to deal more carefully with this subject.)

"The Scythians," says the old Greek historian, speaking of some of the wandering tribes who at a later date were to overrun and subvert the ancient civilizations, "the Scythians, in regard to one of the greatest of human matters, have struck out a path cleverer than any I know—for when men have neither walls nor established cities, but are all house-carriers and horsemen, living not from the plough, but from cattle and having their dwellings in wagons—how can they be otherwise than unattackable and impracticable to meddle with?" Like the Scythians, our dwellers in wagons have indeed remained "impracticable to meddle with"; and they will undoubtedly enrich, not only their immediate descendants, but the blended South African race of the future, with the strain of their wild nature-impregnated blood.[46]

But the old Boers were not always nomads. The course of their wanderings took the old fore-trekkers sometimes eastward and north-eastwards, to the more fertile parts of the Karroo, and to the luxuriant coast lands, where pasturage and water were abundant and permanent. Here, where after long wanderings the ox-wagon drew up beside some strong fountain, the Boer surveying the land found it good, and often resolved to end his wanderings [163] for a time. He might call the place Matjesfontein, or Jackalsfontein, or Wildekatfontein, after the fountain he had outspanned beside and the reeds that grew beside it, or the jackals that howled round it, or the wild cats which he had killed among the rocks; and here he made his home.

As time passed, close beside the wagon rose a small square or oblong house built of poles and bushes, and plastered over with mud; and kraals with walls of rough stones or mimosa-branches were raised, and placed as near the house and water supply as possible, to save the stock at night from the depredations of Bushmen or wild beasts, and to facilitate their drinking in the day. Here, as years passed, and his sons and daughters grew up about him, he raised a brick or stone dwelling, solid, square, unornamental, seeming to have as its prototype the old African ox-wagon taken from its wheels, and anchored to one spot of earth. And as time passed, he also often made a dam, to ensure water supply in drought, and sometimes he planted a few willow trees on the wall, and made a small fruit garden below it, fenced round with rough stones. But the beautiful homes of Bovenland, with their massively built houses, and polished wooden floors, raised by the hands of slave workmen, with their oak-avenues and vineyards and rose hedges, have seldom tended to repeat themselves in the more arid regions further north. Without a superfluous detail, or an attempt at ornament, squatting in the red sand and sun of the up-country plains, these little buildings, with their coatings of red sand or hard whitewash, seem almost a spontaneous growth of the land, and, like the brown ant-heaps that dot it everywhere, are indigenous to the country.

The Western Boer built as if for his children's children to inhabit: the up-country Boer farm-house of the past, as of to-day, is essentially the home of a nomad;[47] of one who has anchored himself temporarily on a spot of earth, but who is ever ready at any moment to gather his household goods together and move onwards. The typical up-country farm-house is the home of a man who, knowing [164] that he or his children may at any moment leave, can waste no time in ornamenting it.

Within the house the same bare simplicity prevails.

To-day, as one travels on some high up-country plain, one sees across the flat at the foot of some kopje, or in the centre of a great level, one of these small brown or white structures, with square black patches beside it where its kraals lie.

If it be the noon or afternoon of a warm day, as one approaches one finds that all the doors and windows are closed, and nothing living or moving to be seen but a few cocks and hens scratching in the sand, or sitting in the shadow of the house-gable, or perhaps a little hand-lamb looking for a few blades of green among the dried-up bushes about the house, or a couple of great Boer bull-dogs lie in the shade of the wagon-house, and, rising up slowly, approach with heads down and eyes half closed.

The household are taking their midday siesta, and the green wooden shutters and door are closed. But, as one dismounts, from behind the brick oven at the back one sees a little white and sandy head appear, and a little shoeless or vel-schoened urchin, who has escaped from the embargo of the midday siesta to play secretly in the sun, rushes into the house by the back-door, and raises the cry of "Mense!" (people).

When we have dismounted and hooked our horse to a rail or the post on which a carpenter's vice is fastened, and are preparing to mount the little stone platform running along the whole front of the house, the upper half of the door opens slowly, and the Boer's head looks out over it, his eyes still dreamy with midday sleep.

If we are folk of respectable appearance, unmistakably white and mounted, he will open the lower half of the door and come out in his shirt and tan-cord trousers, and shake hands quietly, and having asked a few questions, will invite us to off-saddle. And when we have removed the saddles from our horses, and, having first securely knee-haltered them, turned them loose to feed on the bushes, and replied to our host's inquiries as to our names, our business, and other small details, we follow him into [165] the house. The door is divided into two parts, partly because the upper half being left open, it admits all the air, and sometimes, if there be no window, all the light that gains accession to the front room—the windows being so made that they cannot open—and partly because the lower half, when closed, serves to keep the children in, and to keep the fowls and dogs out. When we enter we find the front room of large size as compared to the whole building, and we are asked to take a seat on one of the chairs or the sofa, whose seats are composed of thongs of dried ox-hide skilfully interlaced. The floor of the room is of hardened mud, worn here and there into inequalities by the tramping of feet; the walls are white-washed, and from the rafters or against the wall are rests for a couple of guns. In the centre of the room is a square table, often with unturned legs of some Colonial wood, and generally of African contrivance; on one side of the room, opposite the wooden sofa, and made of the same curious old wood, stands a little square table, generally with a coffee-urn upon it, and sometimes a little work-box or a large family Bible; beside it is invariably an elbow-chair of the same make as the sofa, and with a seat of the same interlaced leather thongs; before the elbow-chair stands a little square wooden stove, such as you may see exactly portrayed in many an old Flemish picture of the seventeenth century—a little solid wooden box with a hole at one side, into which a brazier of live coals may be put, the top carved out into holes of a fanciful pattern, through which the heat may rise to the feet of the person using it. Soon the door of the side room opens, and the mistress of the house, who also has been taking her siesta, appears in her dark print gown, and with a clean white pocket-handkerchief tied hastily round her throat in honour of the newcomer. She silently shakes hands, and goes to her elbow-chair, placing her feet on the stove, which, in the summertime, is coalless, and serves merely as a footstool. As she fans herself to drive away the flies, which in Africa and in the neighbourhood of stock kraals are numerous, she calls to the Kaffir maid in the kitchen at the back to make haste and let the kettle boil, or coaxes [166] the three-year-old child, who stands pressing backwards against her knee, eyeing the stranger from under a mass of tumbled hair, with a finger in its mouth, to go and tell the elder sister to come and make the coffee. Even in her youth the house-mother has been generally buxom, and, when past it, is often stout, as the result of a quiescent life and from the lack of open-air exercise.[48] From time to time the elder children slink out of the side sleeping apartments, with little bare feet or with undressed leather shoes, and generally no socks. They extend their little hands and say "Dag!"[49] and seat themselves silently on the chairs with their little feet dangling down. Presently an older girl, almost or quite grown-up, appears, who has been detained by some efforts at personal adornment; she has smoothed the top of her heavy, silky, dark or fair hair with a brush or comb, and has put a silk handkerchief round her throat, and perhaps has on her Sunday town-made shoes. She shakes hands somewhat bashfully, and goes through to the back room, hurrying on the coffee-making, while we sit, and, with intervals of silence, discuss the weather and the health of the stock. Presently one of the children, growing tired of its perch on the chair, goes out, and leaves the lower half of the front door open, and the hens enter, and the two large dogs slink quietly in and lie down under the table. When the hand-lamb and a couple more fowls follow, the mother calls to one of the children to drive them out, but the dogs remain under the table, winking with their yellow eyes at us. By this time the coffee has come. It is placed in an urn on the little side-table with a brazier of hot coals beneath it, and the eldest daughter pours it out and hands it round. In the wall of the room there is generally a small cupboard, the door of which is made with panes of glass, and which looks like a blind window. Here are kept the spare cups and saucers, the black bottle of cocoa-nut oil with which [167] the whole family oil their heads on Sunday mornings, and whatever else in the way of crockery and ornament, and not for daily use, the house contains; and, if there be not enough cups out, some are now produced for the use of the strangers. Even the smallest child has its basin of coffee, and when the cups and basins have been used they are put into a brass dish of water and covered with a cloth, to be free from flies and ready for further use.

If our horses are worn, and we meditate travelling no further that evening, we shall sit still discussing at intervals, the weather, the rains of six months ago, and between times the master of the house will offer us his tobacco-bag made of a "dassie's"[50] skin or of a new-born kid's, and filled with powerful Colonial tobacco, from which he fills and refills his own pipe. At intervals cups of coffee are handed round again, the hot brazier keeps the urn boiling and fresh water is added from time to time. As the evening approaches the farmer rises to go and see his stock, and we accompany him to the kraals, where the squares of dung cut out for fuel are drying on the tops of the stone walls. As the sun begins to set the flocks come winding home, and pause at the dam to drink, though if there be a drought there may be little in it but a basin of baked mud, with a small pool of water in the centre. We stand beside him as he counts in the sheep and goats at the kraal gates, while the Kaffir herds milk in the cow kraal, if the drought be not so strong that the cows yield no milk. As the darkness settles down we go back to the house. A tallow candle is burning on the centre table in the front room, and the mother is sitting in her elbow-chair; presently the children troop in and take their seats on the high-backed chairs, their heads hanging sleepily, their feet dangling, the dim light of the single candle making the sombre darkness of the room more visible.

Presently a little Kaffir maid comes in with a small wooden tub such as in other lands are used about dairies, the tub often having ears to hold it by, and it is filled with hot water; beside it she brings in a piece of white, home-made soap, and a little cotton cloth. She kneels [168] down before the feet of her master or mistress to take off their shoes, but is directed to go to the visitors first. If you decline she then proceeds round the room from chair to chair, washing the feet of each member of the family. When this is finished, the daughter announces that supper is ready, and, if there be a small back room to the house, all retire there; if not, they gather round the central table, where are spread some plates and knives and a few steel forks, and on which there is a large dish of hunks of mutton boiled in water, or more occasionally, fried in fat, and another dish with thick slices of bread; or, if meal be scarce or unobtainable, a dish of boiled mealies, crushed or uncrushed. Each one of the adults helps himself from the great dish, while the children are served, and the meal proceeds more or less in silence, and the elder daughter, who seldom sits down till the meal is half over, pours out cups or basins of coffee, and stands them at each one's elbow. The meal is concluded expeditiously in ten or fifteen minutes and then the whole family rise. It is now half-past eight or nine; the sleepy children troop off to their beds; and after sitting a few moments in the great front room, the farmer looking out once over the half-door to see what the weather is like, and having a final smoke, you are asked whether you do not wish to retire also, and the host, taking a tallow candle in a flat candle-stick, leads you into one of the small side rooms, and hopes you will sleep well. This room is generally a mud-floored apartment about one-fourth the size of the front room. In one corner stands a bed, made often like the sofa and tables of the front room, of home-turned wood, its lathes being formed of interlaced thongs of ox-hide, and sometimes consisting of a veritable "kartel" taken from the ox-wagon, and placed on four rough posts. On the bed is a wool or feather mattress and two quilts formed of blankets covered with carefully made patchwork, or chintz, and in the corner there may be a large wagon-chest, but generally the room contains nothing else, unless it is to be shared by some members of the family, who will occupy a second bed. The long wandering wagon journeys have destroyed the sensitive objection to [169] the sharing of a common sleeping apartment by persons of different ages and sexes. In the wagon or tent, where each one, from the aged grandmother to the infant and growing-up youth, lay of necessity closely side by side for shelter and warmth, the habit of disrobing at night was also lost. As they did in the old ox-wagon, so still to-day on every primitive, unmodernized up-country farm, adults and children simply take off their shoes, and removing the jacket or outer skirt they have worn during the day, sleep without further dismantling. The grandmother, a young married daughter and her husband, and some of the younger children often occupy one room, while the parents, with perhaps a grown-up son and several children, occupy another. As the windows are not made so that they may be opened, but are built fast in the frames, even in cold weather the need for much covering is not felt, but in hot weather the chambers become leaden and heavy to an extent which drives all sleep from the eyes of one unaccustomed to the atmosphere; and the stranger sometimes tosses about, wrestling all night without attempting to disrobe or sleep, and is glad when about four, or a little earlier, there are sounds of stirring in the house, and all arise.[51]

In the front room, as we enter, we find the father already up, leaning over the half-door with the pipe in his mouth to scan the darkness; the Kaffir maid has come and made fire in the kitchen, you can hear the crackling of the wood in the large room, and the eldest daughter slips out of her chamber and takes the tallow candle from the table to go to the back and make coffee. Presently the house-mother and the younger children, the last still without their jackets and dresses, come in and sit about the room, some holding their vel-schoens sleepily in their hands. Through the top of the open door you [170] can see a streak of grey dawnlight along the far-off horizon and by the time the coffee comes it is almost light in the room; the tallow candle is blown out, and, except in the dark corner, you can see all the faces. When you have drunk your coffee you go out; the Kaffir boy has brought your horses round from the kraal, where they have been all night; if there are mealies or forage your hospitable host may have had them fed, and when you have shaken hands with each member of the household, and thanked the master and mistress for their hospitality, for which they would be pained if you offered any recompense, you ride away. By the time the sun rises, you are half a mile across the plain, and the farm-house is beginning to grow small behind you as you look back from your saddle.[52]

All day the same peaceful life will run on there. When he has drunk his coffee, the farmer, with his sons, will proceed to the kraals to count out the sheep and goats; as he stands at the gate watching them the early sunbeams will glint on their damp fleeces as they walk down the sandy road, on their way to the veld, with the Kaffir herd behind them. When the men return to the house it will be near eight o'clock, the sun already growing hot; the house-mother, from her elbow-chair beside the little table, calls out to bring the breakfast, and the children, who have been playing about before the door and on the kraal walls, troop in. If a sheep or a goat has been killed, there will be fried liver and lights, and if there is no bread there will be roasted cakes, made of unleavened flour and water and baked on the coals, or if there be neither, each person will be given a cup of coffee and a biscuit, without gathering at the table. By nine or ten, if the day be hot, the girl children are called inside, or told to play in the shade of the house, for fear of browning or freckling their skins; the shutters of the windows will all be closed, the front door alone letting in what light and air enters; the house-mother will sit suckling her baby, or making a little garment, and calling now and then to one of the daughters to make more coffee. If there are no cattle to be rounded up, or any small farm duties to be performed, the grown [171] or half-grown sons go and sit in the wagon-house, and smoke and talk, or make yokes or vel-schoens; or if there be cattle to see to, or out-kraals to visit, they or the father mount their horses and ride away into the veld, often taking their guns with them. If there be no work, then the father sits on the sofa in the front room, opposite the house-mother in her elbow-chair, and folds his arms, smokes, and sighs, "Oh—ja"! and stretches himself, and drinks his ninth cup of coffee, and smokes again, till at half-past eleven he goes into the bedroom to lie down for half an hour, having been up since half-past three. At twelve the dinner is on the table: there are seldom vegetables, and often not bread, but there is always a great dish of mutton, and generally some boiled grain, and when the meal is over the Kaffir maids clean the pots, and the house-mother goes to the back door to see that they are not scratching in them with a spoon.[53] When the maids have ended they go back to their huts, and every one goes to lie down, and the house is closed; and only the flies, and some recalcitrant little boys or girls who will not go to sleep, but creep out silently to play in the empty front room, or in the shadow of the house, are left awake. The cocks and hens strut before the doors, the bull-dogs lie in the shade of the wagon-house, the little hand-lamb looks for a few blades of green among the bushes, and the story of yesterday repeats itself.

But, quiet as is the every-day life of the unmodernized, primitive, up-country Boer homestead, it is not without its great events. At intervals of months or years the "smous"[54] arrives, often a small Polish or German Jew, with his wagon or a couple of horses heavily laden with goods—tapes, needles, men's clothing, brass jewellery, cotton goods, and hardware—all that the farmer's household requires. He asks leave to outspan, which is generally given him, though the farmer and his good wife declare they have need of nothing. He then begs leave simply to unpack and display his wares, and, permission being [172] given, the rolls are brought into the great front room, and soon tables, chairs, and sofa are covered with piles of clothing and trinkets, which the "smous" exhibits one by one, expatiating as he does so on the heavy loss he is bound to undergo, having given more for the articles than he fears he can ever receive for them. In the end he succeeds in disposing of several items, clothing, groceries, and perhaps a brass watch or a German clock (such as one buys in Tottenham Court Road for three-and-six, but marked in large figures "Ten pounds ten," which after much haggling is reduced to seven!) in exchange for a pile of sheepskins that have been accumulating in the wagon-house, or a horse, or even some of the treasured money from the old green wagon-chest.

But there are even greater events: sometimes an uncle or aunt from a distance comes on a visit; and there are the regular, recurrent excitements of shearing times, when the farm wakes up for a few days, there is a noise of bleating sheep, and Kaffirs are talking in the wagon-house, and there are extra rations to be given out, and the wool has to be trodden down into the bales; and at the end the great wagon has to be laden with the bags, which are carried away to the nearest town or village, if there be one within thirty or a hundred miles, or to a little country shop.

And there is the great excitement of the year, when the wagon returns with the stores and clothing for which some of the wool has been exchanged. Then there are visits to the nearest church to take the Lord's Supper, coming once in two or three months, or once in two or three years, as the church may be thirty or three hundred miles distant: but above all, on the up-country farm as elsewhere, come the three momentous events common to all human existence—birth, death, and marriage.

Every year or two the good house-mother contributes a baby to the household, and her married daughter or daughter-in-law who may live with her, does so also. And these events serve as a sort of chronological tablet, by appeal to which the exact date of past occurrences can be ascertained and are kept in the family memory. The [173] year of great drought was the year in which Pietje was born; the cows lost so many calves and had foot-and-mouth disease the year that Anna Maria came; Henrik Jacobus was born in the year of the great rain at the end of the long drought; the year when the still-born child arrived was the very year when the great dam was cleaned out and a new wall was put round the cattle kraal; and Willem Johannes Jacobus was born the same year that the patchwork quilt was finished, and Aunt Magdalena came for a visit.

And Death comes here. The old grandmother goes from her chair in the corner, and her favourite great-granddaughter inherits her stove; and the stories she used to tell of the old trekking days, and her faint childish memories of the Bovenland where she was born, become matters of tradition; and the little children are carried out often enough from the close rooms of the house, few surviving who were not born very vigorous; and sometimes the great elbow-chair by the coffee-table itself becomes vacant, and the house-mother is carried away by an untoward child-birth, or a "hart-kwaal,"[55] which is generally dropsy as well; her chair is not long left empty; but when the time comes for her husband to be carried out feet foremost, he often asks to be buried beside his first wife; and they sleep peacefully together under the piles of rough iron-stones behind the kopjes.

But the great and exciting event, which takes place once at least in the life of every Boer man and woman, and not infrequently more than once, is marriage.

When the maiden is fourteen or fifteen, and the youth sixteen or seventeen, they turn their thoughts towards union. Social and family feeling ordains that with puberty the married life should shortly begin; and this, under the circumstances, perhaps wisely—certainly inevitably.

For while, where the intellect is highly cultured, and the cerebral life composes the major activity of the individual, early marriage becomes generally the most dangerous of all experiments, and the fruitful cause of human anguish, or the yet more disastrous cause of human [174] atrophy and non-development, it may, on the other hand, lose all its danger where the intellectual faculties are more or less dormant through non-cultivation, and where the action of the physical functions form the major activity of the individual concerned. For, while the brain, in the mentally labouring individual often continues to grow and modify itself till forty, or in exceptional cases till much later, and while the psychic condition in the case of such persons tends completely to modify and change itself between the age of adolescence and the ripe adult maturity of thirty or thirty-five—so that the man or woman of thirty-three has often little or nothing in common with the youth or maiden of eighteen, or even of twenty-one, out of whose crude substance they have developed; and who therefore may have little or nothing in common with the individual whom that youth or maiden selected as a companion, and may therefore find, long before middle life, the continual union with that individual a moral deformity and a mental death—it is, on the other hand, probable that where the brain is not highly active, and under conditions of life in which (however great the natural intelligence) the intellectual faculties are kept more or less quiescent, where little mental stimulation is brought to bear on the individual between the ages of puberty and ripe adulthood, that little or no change or development takes place; and that therefore the person who is selected as an appropriate companion at eighteen or twenty-one will probably be quite as harmonious a companion at thirty or forty; and the danger of early marriage is non-existent.

The continuance of the power of mental growth and expansion, even to extreme old age, in such men as Michael Angelo, Goethe, Victor Hugo, and other men of genius, exemplifies the enormous power of persistent mental growth which is possible where the intellect is keenly active throughout life. The man of unusual mental force and activity is often merely in his psychic adolescence at thirty or thirty-five, when his physical growth has already ceased, and when the mental expansion of even the ordinarily cultured and mentally active individual is [175] generally complete. And this fact, perhaps, largely accounts for the phenomenon, often remarked, of the evil almost always resulting from the very early marriages of men of genius, and the often exceeding happy results of their sex relations and companionships when formed more maturely. And it may perhaps be set down as an axiom, that the greater the mental power and activity, the later should be the riveting of a life-long relationship; and the smaller the mental activity, as opposed to physical, the earlier may it safely be accomplished.

An analogous condition exists with regard to physical development. The average man or woman, and more especially those leading sedentary lives and using the muscles little, develop little or not at all in muscularity after the ages of eighteen or twenty, while the dancer, the labouring man, or the athlete, who continually cultivates his muscles by use, continues to develop enormously; so that an iron band riveted round the arm of the blacksmith at eighteen would have eaten its way into the flesh almost to the bone by the time the man were thirty (if, indeed, it has not arrested all growth); while on the arm of the student it might still hang loose; and the athlete who at thirty should be compelled to use the dumb-bells he had used at eighteen would find them worse than useless.

Those who unqualifiedly condemn early marriage under all conditions, and those who fail to recognize the atrophy and evil caused by it under others, have probably failed to look at the matter from both sides.

There is little or no mental suffering or moral evil caused by the early unions among simple up-country folk, far removed from the stir of cities, and whose monotonous and unstimulating surroundings give scope for little intellectual activity, however great may be their natural mental powers and strength of will. As to the material utility, under their social conditions, of these early marriages, there is no doubt.

Prevented by their isolated position from any companionship with those of their own age beyond the limits of their family, and shut off from those sports and amusements which in cities and even small societies draw the [176] young of different sexes together in light social intercourse, and which satisfy the needs of youth as the games of childhood satisfied the child, and render the celibacy of early youth not only endurable, but often make those years the most joyful of life:—and shut out entirely as they are, in their really primitive condition, from all those intellectual enjoyments which are independent of actual society, and which, perhaps, are to be tasted to the full by the man or woman who lives alone with the immortally embalmed dead in books—a delight which, until under the pressure of overpowering personal affection, renders some men and women unwilling to give up their celibate life, fearing they shall be robbed of it!—devoid of all this, the life of the young African Boer, whether man or woman, who has attained puberty, becomes inexpressibly empty, and probably physically and mentally unhealthy, if they remain single.

There is, further, an economic reason for these early unions: the Boer does not seek to make money that he may marry; he marries that he may make a start in life. Not only is it impossible for the young man to trek away to some solitary farm without a companion who may cook his food, make his clothing, and attend to him when ill, but if he remain on his father's homestead it is impossible for him to start his own little household, and he remains merely a child in his father's house while he remains single; therefore, when he desires to attain to full manhood and begin life, he of necessity looks round for a partner in his wife. And the maiden's life is equally barren of aim till she finds a husband.

It might seem that with his solitary environment this matter of finding a wife might be one of difficulty and almost of impossibility. But the skill of the fore-trekker in accommodating himself to the conditions of his solitary South African life has invented an institution which does away with all difficulty.

When the youth arrives at the age of seventeen or eighteen, certain mysterious phenomena begin to take place. When a "smous" comes round he barters the sheepskins his mother has given him for a pair of brass [177] studs which the "smous" sells him for gold, or, with a certain part of his carefully saved small hoard, buys a white handkerchief and silk necktie; and when his father goes to sell the wool the youth buys for himself a pair of shop-made boots and a white shirt; and if his father has given him no horse he exchanges one of his cows for a stallion; or if he be in a condition of too great shortness of cash, and his father has no horse suitable, he may even borrow one from a distant neighbour; but it is a point of pride under the circumstances to have one of his own. His elder sister or his younger brother are usually his confidants, and he talks over with them his plans. From ten to fifteen, or thirty or even forty miles off, there are various homesteads scattered about the country-side, and desolate indeed must that country be in which in some of them there are not marriageable girls. He may have seen none of them face to face, but he has probably seen them at a distance when he went to church at Nachtmaal[56] with his parents, and may have even shaken hands with some of them; or he may have seen them when his father sent him to the neighbouring farms to seek for strayed cattle; or at some rare wedding dance or New Year's party two years before he may have seen and spoken to them; and even though he should never have met them, he is not wholly without knowledge of them. From his mother and grandmother he has learnt all their descent and family history; his grandmother's brother was probably married to their grandfather's cousin, and the family diseases, failures, characteristics, and virtues are all known to him. Further, he generally has a good idea of their worldly possessions, of the nature of their father's farms, of how much wool is sold at each shearing, and what horses and cattle their parents possess; and he is generally able to calculate what, considering the number of the children, the portion of each daughter will be. He has also heard from young men whom he has met what is the appearance of certain maidens whom he has never seen; which are fair and which dark; which fat and which thin, which have the [178] reputation of being sharp-tempered and which mild. News of this kind circulates freely over the whole country-side. He has long conversations with his sister, whose advice, however, he often neglects; and she irons up his white shirt and collar carefully for him in the back-room one night after the rest of the family have gone to bed, just "to prevent foolish remarks being made!" There is a curious reticence preserved by the whole household on the entire matter as a rule. He may discuss his plans with sister or brother, but is seldom questioned directly, nor are his plans publicly referred to in the household circle: though his mother takes many an opportunity of allowing him to know her view of all the girls on the country-side. If a son of hers were to be married to such and such an one, she should never set her foot within her doors, and such an one she knows to be a lazy slut, her mother was so before her, and the daughter was sure to resemble the mother. As to such and such an one, she would rather see her son dead than married into that family; they have all bad tempers. With regard to another family, they are so poor that they don't see a piece of fat meat twice in three years' time. Now so-and-so, she has never seen her, but should not object to such a girl in her family; her father was a third cousin, they may be considered near relations, and all the family know how to conduct themselves with dignity. On another occasion, when the family are seated at table, she breaks out suddenly with regard to the daughter of a neighbour some fifty miles off, an only child. She has seen her once in church, she says; she may not be very beautiful, but what of that?—beauty fades. Her father is an elder in the church, and her family have always been respectable; she has got her mother's portion already, and when her father dies she will have the farm. She may not be very young, she is nearly nineteen, but when a girl has property she knows her own value too well to take the first young man who may come round just wishing to go through her things. If she (the mother) were a young man going out to court, that is the direction she would look in; but young men must and always will run after [179] the eye, they never know their own good! She addresses these remarks to the father, who eats his dinner and quietly assents. And the young man looks down intently at his plate, and the other members of the family exchange glances. He knows accurately long before the time of his actual setting out what view is taken by his parents of his prospects, and who will and who will not be welcomed.

On a certain morning he asks his father's leave to go visiting; and in the evening, when he has counted in the sheep, and attended to all his duties, or, if the place he intends visiting be at a great distance, earlier in the afternoon, he equips himself in his best attire, the studs are in the shirt, the gauze is arranged around his hat, he puts the white handkerchief in his breast-pocket, where, as he approaches his destination, it can easily be pulled up and made to hang out. According to his means will be the quality and smartness of his suit, but his spurs will always be made to shine so that you can see your face in them, and if he has no ring he will sometimes borrow one from his sister or grandmother, which he forces on to his little finger. His horse has been carefully polished up for days, if not for months. If it be what it should be, it has very high action, raising its feet and playing its head as soon as the rein is drawn in, while it is all-important it should be a stallion—one with black body and white feet being absolutely ideal for this purpose—a man who went out courting on a mare would be the ridicule of the country-side.

There is much admiration and interest lavished on himself and his horse as he rides away from the homestead, the children having never seen him so accoutred before. Everyone is aware what his object is, his destination having been generally imparted to his sister or brother, who are sure to repeat it to the mother, but as a rule no direct questions are asked. According as that destination is distant, five, fifteen, twenty, or thirty or more miles, he has to time the hour of his departure, which is so arranged that just as the sun is setting and the sheep are coming home to the kraal he arrives in sight of the house he visits. The children or little Kaffirs [180] who are playing outside see him from the kraal, or someone catches sight of his approach from the house, and the cry of "Daar kom mense!" (There come people!) is raised, and the news flies round. The house-mother, who has perhaps been sitting at the kitchen door to watch the maids take up the skins that have been nailed out to dry, and the daughter or daughters, who have been giving out rations or standing about in the cool, retire into the house. It is quickly to be seen as the young man approaches what manner of visitor he is; and the mother seats herself in her elbow-chair, while the girls retire precipitately to their chamber to prepare themselves. Then the young man rides round first to the kraals to meet the father, who, if he feel well-disposed towards him, advances slowly to meet him; he is always asked into the house; but in rare cases, where there is some strong objection against him or his family, he is not invited to off-saddle, and in that case he is bound to leave the same evening and find a night's lodging elsewhere; but usually, though his advances may not be desired by the parents, he is hospitably entertained; and the courtship is seldom arrested at this early stage. When his horse has been off-saddled he is invited into the front room, and if his visit be much approved of his steed may be offered a feed of mealies or oats, an indication which he may accept as most favourable.

When he has seated himself in the front room, the house-mother in her elbow-chair proceeds to inquire after the health of his relatives, and if she now meets him for the first time inquires the number of his brothers and sisters, and questions him gravely on other points of personal and family history of the same nature, which is considered a polite attention. There are from time to time slight creakings of the door of the bedroom in which the daughters are attiring themselves, as one or other attempts to peep through the crack in the boards, or to hold it slightly ajar. If there be two of marriageable age, they both put on their best new gowns and tie fresh handkerchiefs round their throats; and if they be so fortunate as to remember to bring the cocoa-nut oil into [181] the room, they heavily dress their hair with it. Just as the Kaffir maid is bringing the lights into the front room they appear, and shake hands with the stranger, who silently rises and extends his fingers, and they both proceed about their evening duty, preparing the coffee and supper; but in doing so both find it necessary to return frequently to look for something in the little wall cupboard in the front room, or to fetch some article from the sleeping apartments which open out of it. The young man sits on the sofa and turns his riding-whip round and round, answering the house-mother's questions or sitting silent, but keenly noting the differing figures or other points of resemblance or difference between the sisters. By-and-by, when the family gather round the supper table, the elder girls, more especially the eldest, wait on them; the children keep their eyes fixed on the stranger as they eat, and the young man looks into his plate and eats silently, or answers questions from the house-father, but notes all that takes place. When supper is ended the family return to the front room; and the young children troop off to bed one by one. Then comes the hour of trial if the young man be bashful and unused to courtship: for having made up his mind which daughter he desires to pay his attention to, it is now necessary he should request the parents' permission to sit up with her. If either the parents or the young lady object, which latter is seldom the case, there is a refusal and the courtship is nipped in this, its very first phase: if they consent the mother frequently gets out, or allows the daughter to get out, a couple of tallow candles, which are to be burnt during the night. Then, when the rest of the family have retired, the maiden of his choice comes in and seats herself beside him on the sofa. From time to time there are creakings at the different bedroom doors that open into the front room, as the children or other members of the family get out of bed to peep through at them, and the young maiden may even suggest their retiring to the back dining-room if there be one; but after a while the whole household fall asleep, the tallow candle burns dimly on the table, and the youth and maiden pass the long night [182] seated side by side and conversing, the girl generally making coffee near morning, that they may keep themselves awake. About four, or a little earlier, she gives him a final cup, and he saddles his horse and rides away; and when the rest of the family rise he is already gone. To be found there when the sun rose would be a breach of etiquette. If the youth and maiden have approved of one another they have made a promise to exchange rings, or have actually exchanged them, and have made an appointment for his next coming in a week or ten days' time. If either has disliked the other, there is no necessity for him to return, and in no case is either bound by this first visit. He may "ride round" and sit up with half-a-dozen maidens in succession, and this is not uncommonly done, though the young man who "rides round" too much runs the risk of acquiring a bad name, as it is supposed the girls have refused him, or that he is not serious in his intentions. If all goes satisfactorily, he returns again in a week or ten days' time, and sits up once more. And it is now necessary he should think very gravely of the matter, for the third or fourth time he comes, instead of riding away before dawn, it is understood that he will wait till the parents have risen, and he and the maiden of his choice will ask the parents' consent to the marriage; and it is also an understood thing that he would not have come the fourth time had his own parents not consented. The elders are now formally asked to give their consent, this part of the proceedings being purely formal, as had all the parents not concurred, matters would probably never have reached this stage. The wedding is supposed to take place about three weeks after this, the ceremony of "ou'ers vraag" (parents' asking): and it is either determined to fetch the minister from the nearest village where one is to be found, or a journey is undertaken to the spot where he resides. The young couple generally, for a few weeks at least after the marriage, remain in the house of the bride's parents, though it is a matter of arrangement with which family they shall permanently reside, the rule being that the man lives on his father's farm unless there is good reason it should be otherwise. [183] The wedding is always at the house of the bride's parents, and accompanied by such rejoicings as their wealth and the size of their house allow; dancing is kept up all night, large quantities of mutton, milk-tart, and boiled dried fruit and coffee being served up. About two o'clock the bride is taken to the bridal chamber and undressed by the bridesmaids; the bridegroom is brought to the door by the best man, who takes the key out of the door, if it have one, and gives it to the bridegroom, who retires, locking the door on the inside; and the dancing is kept up till after daylight, when the guests betake themselves to their carts and wagons and return to their homes, often a day's journey distant. Then the great event of the Boer's life is ended. After a while, it may be he takes his bride home to his father's house. They share a room often with other members of the family, and the girl takes her place as an elder daughter in the household, and, especially if there be no grown daughter, makes coffee, gives out the rations, and attends to the maids. After a while, perhaps, when she has had her first or second child, and the young couple are of an age to take care of themselves, they remove into two small disconnected rooms of their own built on at the end of the farm-house, or a little way off; and it is not uncommon, as sons and daughters grow up, to have three or four of these small dwellings on one farm; though some of the married children almost invariably remain in the large house with the parents. Sometimes, after a few years have passed, the young couple leave the parental home altogether, and become part of the band of trekkers who are ceaselessly moving North in search of new pastures. As the years go by the bride becomes the buxom matron of twenty-five or twenty-six with half-a-dozen children, and she not only has her own coffee table and chair and stove, but, as her eldest daughter soon reaches an age at which she can make coffee, and attend to the active duties of the household, the mother begins to sit sewing permanently in her elbow-chair as her mother and grandmother did before her, and the new generation repeats the story of the old.


In the old days (and still to-day wherever in the far northern territories the old conditions subsist, and the new have not rushed in) little or no instruction was of necessity given to the children. Their mothers or grandmothers taught them the Ten Commandments and the Lord's Prayer in Holland Dutch, as it had been taught to them, and related to them some little Bible stories; and occasionally some broken-down soldier or wandering tramp, who turned up, was hired for a few pounds a year to instruct the children. Part of his occupation consisted in treading the wool down in the bales at shearing time, and performing other kindred duties, and if he was seldom treated with much respect he more seldom deserved it. It was in the remote past, as it is in the remote northern districts to-day, an uncommon thing to find an up-country Boer who could read and write fluently, or add up a sum in simple addition exactly; and the flood of education which the exertions of the clergy, and the march of South African civilization is pouring in on them, is an innovation mainly of the last twenty or thirty years, which, rapidly as it is advancing, has not yet made itself felt among the quite primitive portions of the population.

(It may be superfluous, but it may here be convenient to reiterate, that in describing the Boer, we are not referring to the nineteenth-century descendants of the Dutch-Huguenots, but to the Taal-speaking seventeenth-century men of the same blood, who largely populate our remote colonial up-country districts, but who are perhaps found most perfectly preserved in the remote portions of their own states. These folk have as little resemblance to the nineteenth-century French Dutchman of the Bovenland as the smooth-faced young clerk, who meekly measures you a yard of ribbon or velvet in a London shop, has to a wild Highland clansman, though he may have the true Macgregor or Campbell blood within his veins. Not only the virtues but the vices of the one form an antithesis to those of the other. There are thousands of cultured and intellectual English-speaking descendants of the Dutch-Huguenots, who not only have no trace of the virtue of the true Boer nor of his failings, but who know [185] nothing of him and have never drunk a cup of coffee nor passed a night in a Boer farm-house.)

The children grew up with a great respect for the Bible that lay on the little table, but seldom with the power of studying it; with a knowledge that God made the world, that Noah and his sons were saved in the Ark, that the Jews were ordered to destroy the Canaanites; and that they, the Boers, were the chosen people, and South Africa the Promised Land: but of complex modern intellectual knowledge they possessed little, nor in their quiet and peaceful life did they feel the need of any.

To the outsider this life of the primitive Boer may appear monotonous and blank. But it has aspects of beauty, and rich compensations of its own.

Is it nothing, that he should rise morning after morning, in the sweet grey dawn, when the heavy brains of the card-player and the theatre-goer are still wrapped in their first dull sleep, and watch the first touch of crimson along his hills—a crimson fairer and more rich than that of any sunset-sky—while the stars fade slowly up above; that he should stand, drinking his coffee on the "stoep" in the sharp exhilarating air, as the earth grows pinker, till after a while, as he stands at his kraal gate and watches his sheep file out, he sees all his plain turn gilt in the sunlight? Is there no charm in those long peaceful days, when hours count as moments; when one may hear the flies buzz out in the sunshine, and the bleat of a far-off sheep sounds loud and clear; when upon the untaxed brain, through the untaxed nerves of sense, every sight and sound trace themselves with delicious clearness and merely to live and hear the flies hum—is a pleasure? Is there no charm in those evenings when after the long still day the farm breaks into its temporary life and bustle, and the sheep stream bleating home, and the cows come hurrying to the little calves who put their heads between the bars and over the kraal gate; and the Kaffirs come up to the house for the milking, and the children and dogs play about, and in the great still sky the stars come out one by one; while there is still light enough from the clear west for the house-mother to finish her seam [186] of sewing, as she sits at the back-door? Is it nothing that the competition, ambition, worry and fret, which compose the greater part of men's lives in cities, are hardly known here?—that with untired nerves and untaxed brain man and woman may sink to sleep at night, and in the course of long years hardly know a night of broken rest or wakeful torture? Are this man's pleasures smaller or less rational, when he breaks in his young horses or rejoices over the birth of a dozen white-nosed calves, than those of the man who finds delight in watching the roll of the dice at Monte Carlo, or who quivers with excitement as he determines whether he shall put his coin on this square or that? Is he not a more rational and respectable object when with his wife and children behind him, he drives his wagon with his eight horses through his own veld on his way to church, than the man, who sometimes with the care of an empire on his shoulders, with all the opportunities for culture which unlimited wealth and unlimited opportunity can bestow at the end of this nineteenth century, and with almost unlimited opportunity for the exercise of the intellect in large fields for human benefit, yet finds life's noblest recreation in driving round and round in an enclosed park, with four horses, and a lacquey behind with a trumpet, and a red coat,—like a four years' child showing off his go-cart! Is not his life, not merely more rational, but more rich in enjoyment than that of worldlings, over-gorged with the products of a material civilization? For, it may never be overlooked, that the intensity of human enjoyment does not vary as the intensity of the stimuli; but with the sensitiveness and power of response of the nerves concerned. As the youth obtains a more enjoyable exhilaration from his first glass of wine than the drunkard from his bottle, and the child from his sweetmeat than a gourmand from his dinner—so our African Boer, in common with all who lead a severely simple life, knows probably more of intense enjoyment than is compassed by a hundred men seeking always for new sensations and new stimulations. Is not the human soul a string which may soon be strung so tight and struck so often [187] that it refuses to vibrate at all and ends by hanging limp; and the human life is a very small cup, where all beyond a certain amount poured into it runs to waste? Through the course of a long life, the man who employs himself on the race-course or on the Stock Exchange, and the woman who passes from theatre and ball-room to race-course and hunting-field in search of enjoyment, probably never truly enjoys what the Boer feels as he looks out over his door in the early morning, with his coffee cup in his hand, and sees the grey dawn breaking across his own land; nor knows what the Boer woman knows when she sits peaceful on the step of the door with her baby sucking at her bosom, and sees the sunshine shimmering over the bushes and landscape she lives with. These things the worn dwellers in cities do not know of.

It may be asserted that our appraisement of the joys of Boer life is made from the standpoint of the much-cultured person whose highly active nervous system responds to a small stimulus, that in reality the South African Boer cares no more for the blue sky over his head than if it were a piece of blue rag pinned out above him; that the mysteries of the mighty daily cycle of nature which passes before his eyes, and which he has to watch whether he will or no, are no more to him than the lighting and putting out of candles; that the red sand and the brown stones of the kopjes and the little karroo bushes beneath which he will at last sleep have no value for him than as a substance he can walk over, build his house with, or give his stock to eat; and that Nature, with her complex and subtle speech, has no power of reaching his heavy consciousness.

But this is not true.

He has no language in which to re-express what he learns from Nature; but he knows her. The modern poetaster who writes volumes on the sea and stars, who would die of terror if left out alone for one night with those very stars and the God of stars that he adores in verse, and for whom the sea is only endurable seen from a fashionable parade with bands and much-dressed women [188] to save him from the awful oppression of being alone with it; it is not he, but the Chaldean shepherd who rejoices when the night comes that he may lie beside his sheep, and with his head on a stone watch the hosts march past above; it was he who named them for us and loved them, as a man loves his fellows. As it is the rough sailor, who amid all the joys of shore longs simply to be out again and to feel the night spray on his cheek, who loves and knows the voice of the sea. And when the old Boer tells you simply how many a young porcupine has at birth, and which bird points the way to a honey nest, and gives you the names and uses of the bushes you walk over, his knowledge speaks of a closer union than the poetaster's words.

It is not the girl in delicate attire—such as takes its birth only in vast cities and as the result of much human labour and thought—who with attentive male companions waiting on her glances, climbs an eminence to exclaim loudly over the beauty of the view and the loveliness of nature, who loves nature—it is the man who silently has been contented to live and labour on that Alpine height all his life, and who would die of weariness and thirst if removed from it; it is he who loves it. As the man who writes sonnets to a woman and throws himself in transports of passion at her feet for a moment is not the man who owns her, but he who firmly grasps her hand and walks shoulder to shoulder beside her through dark and light till death divides them; so it is not he who praises Nature, but he who lies continually on her breast and is satisfied who is actually united to her and receives her strength.

No one with keen perception can have lived among the Boers without perceiving how close, though unconscious, is their union with the world about them, and how real the nourishment they draw from it. The little karoo bushes, where they are shooting, the ironstones of the kopje with the sun on them, are beautiful to the Boer.

Standing at the back-door of a farm-house once, and looking out over a little flat filled with mimosa trees in full flower while the afternoon light was filling all the [189] valley with a haze, a powerful Boer woman stood beside us watching the scene. Not one of the most refined of her kind, sharp of tongue, and strong of hand, and unable either to read or write, the thought struck us how little of the infinite beautiful land was probably visible to her—when we looked round the woman was in tears. "Ach," she whispered, "it is a beautiful land the Lord our God has given us! When I look at it so, something swells up and up in my throat—I feel I never will be angry with the servants and children again!"

There is perhaps nothing which shows more the ignorance and limitations of those of us brought up under conditions of modern artificial civilization than the common impression that these silent persons living and labouring always in contact with inanimate nature cannot perceive or comprehend it as we with larger powers of expression are able to. A man (not a Boer this time, but an English settler of the same type, a silent, uncultured hard-working man) who for thirty years had lived on the banks of a certain little stream, planting his fruit trees and ploughing his lands, was attacked at sixty by an incurable disease. Placed in an ox-wagon to be taken to the nearest hospital, his friends and neighbours accompanied him for a short distance. As the oxen's feet passed down into the little African stream which he had crossed and recrossed, and on whose banks he had laboured for thirty years, he passed his hard horned hands over his face and burst into tears and, to the astonishment of all about him, broke forth into the words of Tennyson's song:—

Flow down, cold rivulet, to the sea,
Thy tribute wave deliver;
No more by thee my step shall be
For ever and for ever,

repeating all the verses; a song which his children had doubtless sung about the house when they came home from school.

Finally: if absolutely happiness be held to lie largely in the unlimited control of a man over himself, and in the absolute right to do at every moment exactly that which is good in his own eyes, without being questioned or [190] opposed, then the owner of an African farm is among the happiest of human creatures. The limited monarch is hedged round on every side by the conditions under which he is allowed to reign; the despot, whether he rules over a savage tribe or is Czar of all the Russias, has ultimately to consider at every moment whether he may not outrage the most subservient of his creatures so far that they may depose him, while for the ordinary citizen, in the conventional civilized society, life is so walled about with trivial Thou-shalts and Thou-shalt-nots, that for some of us it almost ceases to be worth living; but the owner of a solitary African farm reigns over land, bird, beast, and man as far as his eye reaches; as a small god, without opposition and without fear. Alexander Selkirk on his island was not more absolute than he. And if we except the eagle when she builds her eyrie on the inaccessible peak of a mountain, and dwells there alone with her mate and young, no intelligent thing drinks more deeply out of the cup of personal freedom or reigns so dominant in its own sphere.



Even in matters of sex and the inter-relations of the sexes, which form the very core of human life, the Boer's primitive condition is not without its vast advantages.[57]

One who goes among these people expecting to find their sex relationships and their feeling with regard to sexual phenomena highly complex and poetical, will be disappointed. The æsthetic and intellectual transfiguration of sexual instinct is the result of a long course of intellectual evolution; and in the race or the individual it, perhaps, more certainly than anything else, indicates the height of development which the man or the society has reached, and the width of the chasm which divides it from the primitive conditions of life. It would be as rational to go into the woods and search on the wild rose-stems for a Maréchal Niel or a Queen of Roses, with their wealth of petals and perfume, as to go into a primitive up-country farmhouse expecting to find the woman's heart humming "Portuguese Sonnets" to her [192] husband; or the man who, having lost his first wife, looks forward through the rest of life to the death which shall at last allow him to sleep beside her, and who shall have found every act of life sanctified by the remembrance of a close intellectual fellowship. These things are an efflorescence which can only appear on the branches very high on the tree of life; perhaps possible only to the philosopher or poet, or to those who are potentially such; and to look in any simple pastoral or agricultural people for the intense and individualized affection which is possible alone to the man or woman in whom the mental functions entirely predominate over the physical, is a delusion.

The young Boer, when at sixteen or eighteen he passes from childhood to manhood, looks about him for a female companion. "I am courting three," he may say, "and I am not yet sure which I shall take. So-and-so has the most stock, but she is very plain; so-and-so is pretty and white, but my mother does not like her; so I suppose I shall take so-and-so." Nor is there sometimes more intensity of individualized feeling expressed on the part of the woman. "Will you come to my wedding? I am going to be married in two months' time," a maiden may say. And when it is inquired to whom, she replies that there are several youths courting her, and she intends to decide within the next three or four weeks which she shall have, and has the material for the wedding dress already in her box.

Nor even after marriage is there sometimes more individualized intensity of feeling. Persons who have lived together with apparent satisfaction and contentment for ten or twenty years will not have lost their partners for three weeks before they are courting or being courted; and it is an understood thing immediately on the death of one spouse, the survivor shall as a rule look for another. Marriages after thirteen weeks of widowhood or widowership are not uncommon. "If it please the Lord to take him first," a very happily married wife once said, looking across the room at her conjugal companion, "I shall choose the man the likest him that I can get. I don't believe any woman ever had a better husband."


You may inquire at a farmhouse, at which you called a month before, after the house-mother who then sat in her elbow-chair. The husband with deep sorrow may tell you she is dead, and describe her death, then adds, brightening up, "But the week after next I am going to be married again to so-and-so, the daughter of so-and-so"; and he looks to you for congratulation.

"I am sick of all this talk of choosing and choosing," says the old-fashioned mother, whose children may have imbibed somewhat of the modern attitude on the subject. "If a man is healthy and does not drink, and has a good little handful of stock and good temper, and is a good Christian, what great difference can it make to a woman which man she takes? There is not so much difference between one man and another." Nor from her own standpoint is she wholly mistaken.

What the young man desires in a wife is a female companion who will bear his children, suckle them, attend to the servants, and make his moleskin clothing for him, and who will always be sitting in the chair opposite when he comes into the house, and be ready to pour out his coffee for him until his daughter is old enough; and who will save him from that feeling of weary solitude he would be oppressed by if he sat in the farmhouse quite alone; further, who will, if possible, bring as much to the common housekeeping in the way of sheep, cattle, and household goods as he himself brings; and, finally, be able to advise him over all matters of domestic economy and external business. Of the girls in the district many would probably be able to fulfil these obligations equally well. Out of the hundred girls in the countryside, eighty would make him almost equally happy, and the remaining twenty would only be unsuitable through some serious defect in health, or temper, or intelligence. Nor are the woman's needs in the direction of sex companionship very different. She requires a man to look after the common stock; to give her children; and if he do not drink (and he very seldom does), and so spend the household money when he goes to sell the wool; if he never buys or sells without asking her advice, [194] and is not ill-tempered but affectionately inclined, all that which she most craves in a sexual partner is granted her. That essentially modern condition of mind, in which an individual remains sexually solitary and unmated because no other is found who satisfies the complex intellectual and emotional needs of a nature in which these needs are as imperative as the physical, and in which union with an individual not singled out by an almost immeasurable sympathy from the rest of their sex would be morally abhorrent, and union with such beloved individuality is regarded as the crowning good of existence—this is a condition of mind unintelligible to the primitive Boer.

That dream, which waking haunts the hearts of certain nineteenth-century men and women (as indeed it has haunted hearts in all centuries which have reached a certain stage of intellectual growth, from old Montaigne pacing in his long study in France, to Plato in the gardens of Athens)—the dream of a sex union, in which the physical shall be but emblematic of an indissoluble union of head and heart, which shall be as fruitful in the mental life of both man and woman as the physical union is fruitful in perpetuating the race, and across which shall lie as its darkest shadow only the fear of death's separation!—this dream the real old Boer has of necessity never yet dreamed.

If we suppose a child to take a handful of smooth, square blocks, and seek to amuse itself by placing them securely one on another, he would probably find small difficulty; each block he seized would fit with equal smoothness on the surface of any other, and his game would require no skill.

If, however, one should take a knife and trace a few shallow geometrical lines and figures on the surface of the blocks, and the object was to make them interfit perfectly on one another, the game would now be more complex. Each block would not now accord with the surface of any other with equal smoothness; and though all might be super-imposed, some would fit well and some ill, as their surfaces coincided or not; and the mating of them, though still simple, would require some skill.


If yet again one should carve out the surface of certain blocks into arabesque designs and delicate organic figures, the child's problem would be made almost insoluble. Each surface would require to be matched with a surface corresponding to its own in complex indentations, and it would be hard to find any two which might be brought into contact without breaking off some of their finer points and marring their beauty; and that child might sit long with each ornate block in its hand, and only when by rare good fortune a surface harmonizing with its corrugations was found, could the matching go on satisfactorily. The game so simple when it began with the smooth blocks, would have become an intricate puzzle with the carved.

Very crudely, but with some sharpness, would this child's play exemplify the great problem of sexual selection in the different stages of social and individual growth.

The primitive savage, running naked in his primeval wood, or the savage who survives in the heart of a civilized society in the form of the pure sensualist and libertine, resembles our flat block. In him, sexual instinct is still so simple and undifferentiated that every female whom, as the naked savage he captures in war, or, as the clothed savage, purchases with his gold, is equally suited to satisfy his needs; for him the search for sex fellowship is neither much more difficult, or more important, than that of the jelly-fish or the hippopotamus, or any creature still in the quadrupedal stage. For persons in this stage of emotional and intellectual development there is no more any complex problem of sexual selection than for the child with its smooth blocks there is a problem of block selection.

On the other hand, if we turn to the individuals of our own or past ages who have reached the highest individualized development, emotional as well as intellectual, we shall find them in the matter of sex selection not inaptly to be compared with our most ornate and carved blocks. As the child may hold its flowered block long in its hand unable to mate it without injuring it, so individuals with highly differentiated intellectual and [196] emotional sex needs, not only find the attainment of satisfactory sexual relationships one of the most difficult and important matters of life, but they frequently fail entirely, and are compelled to accept the mutilated life of celibacy, or the more mutilated life of inharmonious union.[58]

Though as the carved block once interwedged with a corresponding surface yields a combination more stable than could ever be effected between smooth surfaces; so, sex emotion having blossomed into its intellectual and æsthetic stage, the unions of men and women, though more difficult of attainment, may be when attained of more permanent strength; till, in the case of a Pericles and an Aspasia, we may find it possible for the most highly developed human natures to find in sexual companionship carried out on the highest planes the same absolute completeness of satisfaction, which an Indian hunter, on his lower plane enjoys, when he captures a new squaw.

Midway between these two extremes in the matter of sexual evolution may be placed the condition of our primitive South African Boer. If, in the matter of sexual relationships, he has not attained to the very highest æsthetic and intellectual standpoint yet reached by human nature,—if even the transports of the monogamous bird, who pursues his courtship with a breast swelled out with song, are little known to him, he is yet very far removed from the level of the barbarian, or the civilized libertine of our cities. He resembles our block when in its second stage of complexity, where it passes from its matchable condition and has not yet reached that stage of organic complexity, which makes successful mating almost insuperably [197] difficult. Our Boer, when he seeks a wife, seeks, it is true, not so much the individual as the woman—but it must be a woman of his own race, class, and stage of growth; and if his psychic sexual wants are still so simple and uniform that many a woman of his own class may satisfy them, they still exist. The woman whom he places in the elbow-chair of his house, must share his simple religion, his ancestral view of life and its right ordering, must be able to instruct his children in those simple matters in which he was himself instructed, and to order his household with dignity; and, simple as these needs are, they are imperative. It is not as a merely physical companion, and still less a sexual slave, whom he seeks to rule for his own pleasure, that he desires her: undoubtedly his sex relations are on the whole dominated by less crudely primitive instinct than those of the larger numbers of the sex unions, both legal and illegal, which are formed in our nineteenth-century societies, however much they may in certain matters fall below the highest ideal.

His system of sex relations has generally two vast advantages: it is healthy, and it is just.

It is healthy, in that it is in harmony with his whole mental and material condition.

We who are habituated to living in societies in a state of rapid growth and development, in which as a result certain individuals under the stimulus of new conditions attain to the highest stage of psychic development, while others remain in the most primitive; and who possess, bound up in one body social, persons in a hundred different stages of culture; we, who are accustomed to feel that the harmonizing of our institutions and manners with the needs of our enormously varied social units constitutes an always pressing and almost overpowering difficulty, and who are accustomed to feel this above all in matters of sex—we find it difficult to conceive of the existence of a society which has no social problems, and, above all, no sex problems—yet this is very nearly the state of the primitive Boer.

One may live beside him for years, and watch his [198] social life, without the thought ever occurring, "Ah! were but the sexual condition of these folk altered, were their traditions and modes of action with regard to sex but more in harmony with the need and thoughts of at least the best part of the community, how healthful would be their condition!" That unlovely confusion which prevails in our civilized life, where sham institutions, too high for one-half of our folk, overlay institutions too savage to see daylight, and the sex relations, which should be the joy of a people, form often the diseased and painful side of the national life—and the perception of which haunts one hourly, as one walks the streets of our great cities, or watches the life of our drawing-rooms or alleys—does not exist in the simple uniform condition of the South African Boer.

In our hurly-burly societies, in which the brothel with its female outcasts and the male prostitutes whose gold supports it are found side by side with men and women to whom sex relationships are already sacramental; in which a large mass of the community are still in that stage in which marriage itself is contracted mainly as the result of an arithmetical calculation, while, to another large and always growing section, it is a union based upon, and mainly consisting of, a psychic union, whose spontaneity constitutes its strength:—we in such societies are compelled hourly to discuss, if not audibly at least in our own minds, the right and wrong, the usefulness and non-usefulness of the sexual laws and customs of our societies; and we seek in vain to reduce them to a uniformity suitable to the wants of all. To us, as individuals and as societies, life presents itself as a series of problems, which have to be worked out and solved, if solved at all, by the individual for himself during the course of his life, and by our societies as wholes in the course of generations; and this is above all true with regard to matters of sex. For the Boer, on the other hand, in his quiescent and unchanging social condition, there is no such difficulty. With him, where generation has succeeded generation without being exposed to the action of any new forces, and where almost identical mental [199] and material conditions have been brought to bear on every member of the society, there is of necessity almost absolute social homogeneity—and with homogeneity an absence of all those varied conditions which perplex us.

What was good for the Boer's father is generally good for himself, what is good for one man in his society is generally good for another; tradition, the enforcing of which for many of us is simply an endeavour to fit a child's shoe on a man's foot, or to force the fare of a cannibal down the throat of a civilized man—tradition is his safe and sure guide, and what all the folk about him do is also generally the right and wise thing for himself. Above all, on matters of sex he has no doubts, no difficulties, no perplexities: his curious little courtships, his matter of fact but rational and honourable marriages, his monetary institutions as they bear on sex, are all admirably suited to his mental and emotional condition; and without altering his intellectual outlook and his physical surroundings it would be impossible to improve on them.

If it be objected that our nineteenth-century disorganization on sexual matters, with its consequent enormous accumulation of suffering and friction, is but an indication of our active growth and the rapid development taking place at a hundred points in our social system—we fully allow it.

But it remains true that that harmony between the sexual institutions of a society and the highest wants and ideals of all its members, which constitutes the condition of perfect health, is known in the little Boer society (as it is in that of many other simple and stationary people)—and it is not known in nineteenth-century communities, though it may, and probably will, be to those of a later age. Sex and sex relationships are no more the causes of gigantic suffering and social evil among the Boers than food is the cause of colossal suffering to a man who gets the kind he needs.

Whenever the stationary condition of such a society as that of the primitive Boer is broken up, and he begins to grow, dislocation on sex matters must occur, with its consequent suffering, before he can attain to a new plane; [200] but it must be allowed that the absence of this suffering and dislocation is one of the great advantages of his present condition.

Further, as we have said, the Boer's system of relations in matters of sex is just.

We know of few social conditions in which the duties and enjoyments of life are so equally divided between the sexes, none in which they are more so.

This assuredly is no small matter.

A sense of sexual justice exhibits itself among these simple folks in that, in the matter of inheritance, sex is allowed to play no part. Not only at the death of parents is property equally divided between children of both sexes, but that subtler and much more common and grave injustice which in nineteenth-century societies exhibits itself in the large sums expended on the higher education of sons, while the daughters go often more slightly instructed, in the Boer's primitive condition does not exist. This initial act of sexual justice renders the Boer woman in marriage free and equivalent to the male. As a rule she not only brings to the common household an equal share of material goods, but, and this is infinitely of more importance, she brings to the common life an equal culture. The fiction of a common possession of all material goods which exists in many nineteenth-century societies, notably the English, is not a fiction but a reality among the Boers; and justly so, seeing that the female as often as the male contributes to the original household stock.

But far more important than the fact that she holds an equal right over the material things of life is the fact that she takes an equally large and valuable share in the common work of life.

While the man counts in his sheep and rounds up his cattle and attends to the shearing, or goes a-hunting, or at intervals builds a house, or dam, or kraal; the woman, in addition to the bearing of the common children, and feeding them at her breast, and rearing them with her own hands, tends to the feeding of her household. It is she who with her own hands shapes its clothing, she [201] who trains and teaches her sons and daughters all that in many cases they ever know of the religion and the tradition of their people:—in the old days this was always so, and still to-day is often true. It was she who in those days, when conflicts with savage men and wild beasts were a part of daily life, faced death side by side with the man, who stood always shoulder to shoulder with him; and it is she who still to-day—and rightly, considering her past and present—has a determining influence in peace or war.[59]

The Transvaal War of 1881 was largely a woman's war; it was from the armchair beside the coffee-table that the voice went out for conflict and no surrender. Even in the Colony at that time, and at the distance of many hundreds of miles, Boer women urged sons and husbands to go to the aid of their northern kindred, while a martial ardour often far exceeding that of the males seemed to fill them.[60]

If the Boer woman of to-day does not, like her Teutonic ancestresses of eighteen centuries ago, lead her nation to war, going bare-footed and white-robed before it, it is still largely her voice which urges it forward or holds it back. It may, perhaps, be said that one-half only of the fighting force of all nations appears upon its fields of battle; that the other is heavily engaged at home in producing and rearing, at a risk to life almost as great and at the cost of suffering immeasurably greater, the warriors of the nation—but the Boer woman's share in the defence of the state is more direct, more conscious and unmistakable.

Further, if it cannot be said of the Boer woman that of the labour which sustains and builds up her society she absorbs the same enormous and all-important share [202] which is found to devolve on women in many primitive societies—it must be yet allowed that her share of labour is relatively far more useful and important to her society than that of immense masses of females under nineteenth-century conditions.

If, unlike the female in those societies in which almost the sole occupation of the male being war and the chase, to the female is left, in addition to the bearing and rearing of the whole people, all agricultural and manufacturing labour, from the cultivation of the fields, and the grinding grain, to the building of houses, and the weaving of garments, and in which even the primitive artistic labour of the society largely devolves on them in the ornamenting of utensils or clothing—if the Boer woman cannot lay claim to the exclusive possession of all these important fields of action, she still retains possession of one full half of the labour of her race. Under no circumstances has she become the drone of her society, or sunk to the condition of being merely a parasitic excrescence on the national life, fed, clothed, and sustained by the labours of others in return for the mere performance of her animal sex function—her very children, when once she has gone through the mechanical labour of bearing them, being reared by others, while she contributes nothing either mentally or physically to the fund of labour which sustains the state—a condition into which large masses of females in the civilizations of the past and present have tended to sink, which is universal among the inhabitants of Eastern harems to-day, which was tending to become universal among the wealthier classes in Europe until forty or fifty years ago a counter movement took its birth.

If the Boer woman does not manifest that superiority in intelligence over the male section of her society, which is continually remarked with surprise by those who study the women of many primitive societies (and which is doubtless the result of the more strenuous, complex, and important labours with which they occupy themselves, as compared with the males of their societies), the Boer woman's condition is even more happy yet, being one of intellectual equality with her male companions; a [203] condition which seems to constitute the highest ideal in the human sexual world. Between the Boer woman and her male comrade we never find yawning that mental chasm which in Eastern harems, and frequently in European drawing-rooms, divides the males, highly trained, and in many cases laboriously active, and therefore mentally strong, from their females, so frequently mentally vacuous and feeble, in whom the passive enjoyment of ease has taken the place of all strenuous systematic exertion; and who have become in many cases so enervated, that in passing from their society to that of the males of their own circle we seem to be passing intellectually into contact with another and higher tribe of creature. We believe there is hardly a Boer farm-house in South Africa, where the perturbing influence of the nineteenth-century civilization has not yet crept, where it would be possible to discuss any matters with the male members of the household which its females would not have discussed with an equal thoughtfulness, knowledge, and intelligence. Nay it has sometimes even appeared to us that the Boer woman, probably owing to her somewhat more arduous and complex labours with regard to her children, does exhibit, as compared to the male, a slightly greater thoughtfulness, and a larger tendency to inquire into the causes of things and to interest herself in impersonal matters: tendencies which the males of the upper classes in the nineteenth century commonly exhibit to an immensely larger degree than their females.

Among the finest specimens of the Boer we have met have certainly been women, devoid of the culture of schools, but keen, resolute, reflective, and determined; showing no trace of that frivolity, love of pleasure, and uncertainty of thought, which so often marks the female of the wealthy classes in our nineteenth-century societies, and renders her so markedly the inferior of the male.[61]


No man, we believe, can study the condition of the South African Boer, before he has been acted upon by the nineteenth-century conditions, without being convinced that not only is one full half of the social labour in the hands of the women, but that it is not the least complex or socially honourable; and that she is far more the fellow labourer and comrade of man, than are the mass of women in nineteenth-century societies.

It has often be said of the Boer woman that she, almost alone, still sits immovable in her elbow chair, while all her sisters, Teutonic, and even Keltic and Slavonic, have risen to their feet; and that while the women of all European societies, from New Zealand to America, from Australia to Russia, have risen, or are tending to rise up, to re-adjust their relations to human life, she alone sits stolid in her elbow-chair. It is said of her that in that vast movement, which without leaders or instigators, is taking its rise from end to end of the civilized world, awakening in the heart of the young English girl on solitary karoo plains, stirring in the breast of the duchess in her boudoir, and guiding the hand of the working-girl as she knocks for admission at the door of the factory—that movement which, like some vast tidal wave, silently gathering strength as it swells in the ocean depths, will break at last on the shores of life, carrying all before it; and, whether for good or for evil, will accomplish a more radical modification in human life than any the world has witnessed, since in pre-historic ages the discovery of fire or of letters modified all future human existence on the globe—it is said of her that in this movement the Boer woman has no part. This is true, and well it may be so.

For let us pause an instant to consider what, in its ultimate essence, this Woman's Movement represents.

It is not a sudden endeavour on the part of earth's women to attain to greater physical enjoyment or more luxurious ease. There have been self-indulgent and sensuous women since the days when our fore-mothers ground corn with handstones, individual women seeking ever to increase their sexual and sensual enjoyments, and evade their burdens; but it is noticeable that it is [205] exactly these women who are not found in the van of change to-day. If the woman's movement of this country may be said to have its origin in any one class more than another, it is exactly among those women of the wealthier classes whom modern life has supplied with overwhelming liberality with all the material enjoyment and comfort which existence can yield; and who have no physical or sexual indulgence or material good to gain by change, but who have much to lose. It is these women, and not the overtasked labourer's wife with ten children to rear, feed, and labour for, it is these women above all who have started to their feet and are demanding the re-organization of their relations to life; and side by side with the factory girl and the ill-paid solitary spinster whom the struggle of life is driving to the wall, are found the millionaire's daughter and the countess, and the comfortably situated woman of the middle classes, for whom earth has left no material good unyielded. The Woman's Movement is essentially not a movement on the part of civilized women in search of greater enjoyment and physical ease.

Further, it is not a movement that has its origin in a sudden and astonishing revelation to earth's womanhoods of the fact that physical and mental suffering in an unequal proportion has been the guerdon of their sex. Unless a woman be unendowed with that modicum of reflective power which characterizes even the lowest savage, she must always have been aware of this fact. Since the first Eve, slowly rearing herself from the quadrupedal to erect bipedal attitude, found the pains of child-bearing and bringing forth immensely increased by her erect attitude, her arms filled with her helpless offspring, and her fighting powers diminished by her absorption in shielding and feeding the race, till that time when she became the agricultural slave of her more unhampered companion, women have always suffered, and they have known that they suffered. If you sit down beside the savage woman as she kneels on the ground grinding her corn between her handstones, you may have painted for you a picture of woman's suffering, such as few civilized [206] women could paint, because few have so intense an experience into which to dip their brushes. Yet there has been in all the countless ages of the past, when women suffered immensely more than they suffer to-day, no Woman's Movement.

Sitting beside a Bantu woman once as she knelt on the ground grinding her corn, we, anxious to arrive at her conception on religious matters, inquired of her whether she believed there was a God. She shook her head, and said that she did not; there might be a God, but if there were one, He was not good. When further we inquired why this was so, she replied that if God were good He would not have made women. There might be a God for the white woman, but there was certainly none for the black; and then she broke into a description of the condition of women in semi-barbarous societies, the force of which cannot be retained when translated from her picturesque and passionate language, but its substance was much as this:—"See there," pointing to two small girl children playing beside the huts, "they are happy now; they play all day; they play with their brothers; they think they are boys; it is good with them. Now, wait a little—when they are so high," raising her hand as high as she could reach kneeling, "it is still well with them. Then the breasts begin to grow; the people look, and say, she is beginning to be a woman; then they say, where are the cattle for her? Then a man comes, perhaps he is old; it does not matter—'Here, take her; give us the cattle.' She goes home with him. She plants the corn, she makes the hut; she makes his food for him. Soon the child begins to grow in her body; that is good. All day she works,"—putting her hand to her back—"her back aches; it doesn't matter. It is all right; she is glad she is going to have a child; the man will like her; he will not beat her. At night she cooks the food, she cleans round the hut, she has children, she grinds the corn! See there, all those baskets—her hands made them full of corn! Then the wrinkles begin to come; see, her breasts get soft; she is old. Then the man comes home at night. 'Make [207] haste, make haste,' he says, 'you do not grind the corn nicely.' She grinds it as she always ground it, but he beats her. 'Make haste, make haste! You are old—you are lazy! What is your face so ugly for?' She works; he beats her. See here"—pointing to her breast as though there were a mark on it—"he beats it with a whip: the blood comes out. Never mind. Take the child, put it at the breast, let it suck: the blood comes on its face. She wipes it off"—with an action of the hand as though she were wiping the blood off an imaginary child's face.—"Then he brings the young wife. The young wife is strong; her arms are still fat. She has still many children in her. The young wife says, 'Do this; do that.' The old wife must not speak. Then the breasts dry up—there is no milk in them. She works in the fields all day. She brings the wood home. 'Make haste! Make haste!' The old wife is done for! There—throw her away; she is good for nothing. Let her sit out there on the dung-heap! She is only a thing! The man can have as many wives as he likes. Yes, there is perhaps a God for the white woman; there is none for the black."

Now, what is curious with regard to a state of feeling such as this woman experienced, is that, intensely bitter as she is against the impersonal fate which has made her what she is, keenly as she feels her own servitude, and intensely conscious as she is of her own pain, there is not in her the dawning of a feeling which might ultimately result in rebellion, nor the shadow of a feeling of resentment against even man, nor is there any hope, one might almost say desire, to alter her own position. If you suggest to her that she may alter matters, she looks at you with a leaden-eyed despair, with more than incredulity, almost with condemnation. She looks at you as the tortoise might, on whose back, according to Eastern tradition, the elephant stands who supports the world. If he complained to you that the elephant's feet were heavy on him, and you suggested that he might move out from under them,—"What! and destroy the world, which ultimately depends on me!"


Keenly conscious of their suffering, and bitter against fate have been the hearts of numberless women of all ages, but it has been silent bitterness, such as we mortals feel who are conscious of the existence of death from the cradle to the grave, and object strongly to it, but say little, knowing it is useless, and its presence inevitable.

What is new is not that woman suffers or knows that she suffers. The woman of to-day probably suffers less than the women of any period, since that most primitive time when men and women both wandered free; the absolutely new thing is her conscious determination to modify her relation to life about her.

If, then, a Woman's Movement be not in its ultimate essence a sudden and insane desire on the part of woman for increased material enjoyment and physical ease, nor, on the other hand, the result of a sudden revelation to herself of her own sufferings, what in its ultimate essence is this movement?

Vast social phenomena, rising up in what appears to be obedience to an almost universal instinct, must be based on some equally comprehensive social condition, which acts everywhere as its cause; a cause which will not be less irresistibly operative because those who are acted upon by it have not always grasped it intellectually, nor are capable of reasoning on its nature. As those vast herds of antelope which at times sweep down across our South African plains from the north, bearing all before them, are propelled, not by any logical induction, the result of an intellectual process, but are driven onwards, whether they will or no, by the pressure of a stern fact which forces itself painfully on the consciousness of each isolated individual in the herd—the fact, that behind lie parched deserts desolated by drought, while before are green lands;—so nineteenth-century women are urged on by the pressure of a condition which they have not created, and of whose nature they have not even in many cases a clear intellectual perception, yet which acts upon the whole mass, causing irresistible social movement through its pressure on each isolated unit.

Looking at the modern Woman's Movement from [209] the widest standpoint, and analysing, not isolated phenomena connected with it here and there, but its manifestation as a whole, the conviction is forced upon us that the Woman's Movement of the nineteenth century in its ultimate essence is The Movement of a Vast Unemployed.

Let us pause for a moment to consider how and why this is so.

In primitive societies woman performed the major part of the labours necessary for the sustenance of her community, as she still does in Africa and elsewhere, where primitive conditions exist. In addition to child bearing she was the agricultural labourer of the community; and while the male of necessity reserved his energies for war and the chase, the agricultural and domestic labours devolved on woman. Not only did she plant the grain and reap it, but she ground it and made it into bread and beer; it was she who built the hut, shaped the domestic utensils, and in travelling she was the beast of burden, and carried the household goods; she was generally the doctress, and often the wizard or priestess of her people.

In woman, with almost all creatures which give suck to their young, and unlike birds of prey and many orders of insects and sea creatures, the human female tends to be less heavy in build than her male equivalent; and with an equal vitality and a strength of endurance and persistent activity greater than that of the male in some directions, she is not yet as a rule his equal in muscular strength. In a society in which physical force ruled exclusively, and the most muscularly powerful males were of necessity dominant even over their weaker fellow males, woman, less powerful to hold, to strike, and to kill, was also of necessity almost everywhere under the physical control of the male, and often more or less enslaved. But the part she played in the communal life was all important: as a social labourer she often, if not always, exceeded the male in value. As far as physical activity can expand the mind and body, everything tended to increase her vitality and intelligence; and undoubtedly in the primitive societies of the past, as in those still existing [210] at our own day, the woman was found in thoughtfulness and general intelligence the equal or superior of man to an extent surprising to those accustomed to the wide division between the male and female in those classes of modern societies where the male absorbs the larger portion of social labour and the mental training required by it.

Undoubtedly woman suffered, and often suffered heavily, in those primitive societies, but she must always have been clearly conscious, as was the Bantu woman quoted, of the inevitableness of her position. She may have cried out against fate in moments of bitterness, but she must always have recognized her own social importance, and even the anti-sociality of attempting to shirk her obligations, upon the fulfilment of which depended the very life of the society.

Had there arisen a Woman's Movement in any tribe, and had it been successful, that tribe would have become instantly extinct. The labours of war and the chase were inconsistent with the incessant child-bearing and rearing essential where life is precarious; she could not generally have competed on equal terms with men in war and the chase, when these depended on strength of arm and muscle in wielding spear and axe; she would have forsaken the higher and equally essential labours of society for those for which she was less fitted, and the result must have been the destruction of her society. Not only was a Woman's Movement impossible, but had it been possible it would have been anti-social. Her labour formed the solid superstructure on which her society rested; her submission to her condition was the condition of social health and even national and tribal survival. She suffered and knew she suffered, but she knew also that her condition was inevitable and her society was upheld by her toil.

In the later social condition, where war and the chase ceasing to demand the entire attention of the male, men began of necessity to encroach on woman's fields of labour, to undertake her agricultural and outdoor labours generally; woman, though her field of labour became [211] more or less restricted to domestic toil within the dwelling, still retained possession of a full half of the labours of her societies.

Down even to recent times, the woman, whether lord's wife or peasant, with her own hands wove the clothing of her household and of the entire race. If woman no longer planted the grain, it was she who made the bread and brewed the ale, she who knitted the hose and shaped the clothing of her people. It may be questioned whether down to quite modern times woman's domestic labours did not equal or even exceed in general social value those of men in other fields, and were not as complex, demanding as much activity of body and versatility and strength of mind.

In a social condition in which practically all women but religious enthusiasts married, where child-bearing and the rearing and training of her children and the supporting of her household with food and clothing, and through them the whole race, occupied the entire strength and time of woman, she could not complain that she lacked social functions; nor would it have been possible for her to undertake other social duties without deserting those of more importance. If man's work was from sun to sun, while her work was never done, if she laboured under certain social disabilities which were not inevitable, she still knew that her labour was as valuable and essential to her race as that of man, and there is no evidence of any movement on her part to readjust her relations to life and to enter the fields of labour apportioned to the male. In the main she was satisfied with her condition. If isolated women here and there entered new fields of labour, became professors at universities, or took to statecraft or trade, it was because of some great individual aptitude in these directions, and not because woman felt ill at ease and in disco-ordination with her share of the world's labour or her place in social life.

With the rise of what we term modern civilization, all this has become slowly reversed.

The invention of modern machinery, and the discovery of modes of compelling natural forces to perform [212] the labours in earlier times performed by the muscles of human creatures, with the resulting conditions, have profoundly modified all modern life, and above all they have affected the position of woman.

With steady and persistent advance the field of woman's domestic industries has been invaded and is passing from her. In remote country districts she still weaves and brews and bakes, not as a luxury and amusement, but from necessity, and still feeds and clothes her household, and marries early, and gives her children what training they get: but exactly as modern civilization advances, and where it is found in its fullest development, these conditions recede.

Her loom has been transformed into the vast factory where thousands of steam-driven machines, largely possessed and guided by men, accomplish the labour she performed in her home, and clothe the world; the steam-driven sewing-machine is fast supplanting the woman's needle, and even the domestic sewing-machine; bread, the manufacture of which has been through all ages one of woman's chief handicrafts, is increasingly the work of machinery, owned and guided almost exclusively by males; beer, the right brewing of which was our grandmother's pride, is exclusively the manufacture of machinery and males, who, for absorbing this branch of the female's work, are often rewarded with knighthoods and peerages; the very preserves and sweetmeats which our fore-mothers prepared are now produced cheaper, if not better, in vast factories; the milkmaid is vanishing, and cheese is as often a male as a female manufacture; clothes are washed, windows cleaned, carpets beaten, by machinery, and the smallest minutiæ of domestic life are more and more passing out of the hands of the woman householder; the male cook penetrates into the kitchen as the male accoucheur penetrates into the birth-chamber.

Yet far more noticeable is the shrinkage of woman's ancient field of labour in other directions. The mother, who in primitive societies was the guide and instructress of her daughter till adult years were reached, and whose son grew up about her knees till youth began, now finds, [213] whether a city workwoman or a duchess, the education and training of her children pass largely from her hands into those of specialized instructors, almost from infancy. From the infant school and kindergarten to the college and university, the education of the young has now become a complex and highly specialized business, the successive classes in schools being instructed by persons distinctly trained for their work, and the average mother's calling as trainer and educator of her own offspring is rapidly dwindling.

Further, all branches of labour are becoming more specialized, requiring distinct, long-continued, and often very complex training for their performance.

Any woman or man might in simpler times be turned into the fields to hoe or bind corn, and with little instruction might do it as well as their fellows; but a comparatively high training is required even for the modern labourer who is to take control of our complex modern agricultural machinery, of our steam-driven ploughs and binders; and as we advance from these, the simpler forms of manual labours, to the intellectual callings, the demand for prolonged and special training has become imperative. From this specialized training for particular callings woman is largely excluded, and therefore her hold on many old forms of labour is relaxed. Even amid her other domestic labours the woman of the past might find time to acquire knowledge of the simples and poultices which formed the staple of the healing art, and might, with a proficiency excelled by none, minister to the complaints of her family or community; and the old woman was the recognized accoucheur and adviser of her societies. Now, without long and complex training, no woman can practice her old art, and a field of study, surprisingly large if we study the history of the past, falls from her.

Finally, in the one great field of labour which is and must always remain woman's exclusive domain, there is shrinkage. The changed conditions of life accompanying modern civilization have reduced the demand upon woman as a child-bearer. In primitive societies, where war and the exigencies of primitive life were continually denuding [214] the race, woman was as a rule compelled to bear persistently, if the number of warriors was to be maintained; and in a later social condition, where all the crude labours of life were performed by human labour and a vast and unlimited supply of unskilled labourers was always required, there was almost the same demand upon her. Moreover, the training and rearing of the young was a comparatively simple matter.

The growing substitution of machinery for human labour in almost all forms of handicraft has diminished the demand for untrained labour; both the family and the State have reached a point where they recognize that the mere production of a human creature, unless there be also the means of fitting it for the complex conditions and duties of modern life, does not increase the wealth or strength of either state or family, but is a source of weakness and suffering, and there is a steady tendency for persons to marry later and produce fewer offspring as civilization advances in a class or race. So radically has woman's condition changed with regard to this form of labour, that while, in most societies of the past, every woman not physically incapable was a child-bearer, and bore more or less persistently from youth to age, in our own societies at the present day there has arisen a vast body of women compelled, not by any religious enthusiasm, but by the exigencies of modern civilized life, to remain throughout life absolutely celibate and childless, performing no sex function whatever. This phenomenon is accompanied by another equally important, the increase as civilization advances, and especially in our vast cities where it is found in its complete form, of that body of women, who, while not celibate, are also not as a rule child-bearers and mothers, but leading a purely parasitic and non-productive life, drawing their aliment from a society to which they contribute nothing in return.

Child-bearing must always remain the all-important labour of many women during some portion of their lives; at the present day it has become a labour which millions of women are never, by the exigencies of modern life, called upon or permitted to perform; and upon few or [215] no women is the demand for child-bearing from youth to age sufficient to fill or even partially fill her life. Deplorable as it is that any woman should have to go through life without the joy of motherhood, the glory and compensation of woman through her long ages of excessive toil and suffering, the fact has to be faced that, for millions of women, child-bearing has ceased to be one of the labours that life offers them.

Thus the modern woman stands with the prospect of shrinking fields of labour on every hand. She is brought face to face with two possibilities. Either, on the one hand, she may remain quiescent and, as her old fields of labour fall from her, seek no new: in which case, as modern civilization advances and her old forms of manual labour are absorbed by machinery made and guided by highly-trained males, and she fails to attain to the new complex mental training which would fit her for fields of mental labour, she is bound to become more or less parasitic, as vast bodies of women in our wealthier and even our middle classes have already become, depending on her sex functions for support, and returning nothing equivalent to society for that which it expends on her, leaving the major portion of all human labours to man, thus becoming slowly but surely enervate, as all parasitic peoples and classes tend to be, while the residual celibate portion of her sex, who perform no sex function and yet are not fitted by training to enter the new fields of labour, will be driven to seek in fierce competition with each other a pitiful livelihood in such remnants of woman's ancient fields of labour as without training they can retain a hold of.

Such a condition already exists in our societies in certain classes, where millions of women live supported by males without performing any productive labour but occasional child-bearing, and often not that, supplied with the material comforts of life, and sucking in the results of the mental and physical labours of the race without any equal return, as the parasite bug or fungus sucks the blood or sap of its animal or vegetable host; while a large body of other women, often celibate and childless, [216] are driven to perform the few labours still open to the untrained or little trained females, who are compelled so enormously to overcrowd those few occupations that her life can hardly be maintained by working in them. This condition, if woman remains quiescent, must tend in time, as civilization spreads and she does not seek new forms of labour as the old pass from her, to become universal.

This is the one possibility.

On the other hand, woman may determine not to remain quiescent. As her old fields of labour slip from her under the inevitable changes of modern life, she may determine to find labour in the new and to obtain that training which, whether in the world of handicraft or the mental field of toil, increasingly all-important in our modern world, shall fit her to take as large a share in the labours of her race in the future as in the past. She may determine not to sink into a state of parasitism dependent on her sex functions for support, but to become what she has been through all the ages of the past, the co-worker with man and the sustainer of her society. It is this determination which finds its outcome in the Woman's Movement of our age, a movement entirely new and revolutionary when regarded from one aspect, yet profoundly conservative when regarded from another. New, in that it is an attempt on the part of woman to adapt herself to conditions which have never existed before on the globe; conservative, in that it is an attempt to regain what she has lost. For the hand of the woman who knocks so persistently at the door of the factory for admission to its labour in all its branches is but the hand of the old spinning woman following her loom in its transformation and determined to keep her hold on it; the women who have fought persistently and have at last in a measure won their right to the training that shall fit them to be the physicians of their race are but the "wise woman," "skilled in herbs and all simples," of the past seeking to adapt herself to new conditions. The Woman's Movement is essentially a movement based on woman's determination to stand where she has always [217] stood beside man as his co-labourer. And the moral fervour which is the general accompaniment of this movement rises from woman's conviction that in attempting to readjust herself to the new conditions of life and retain her hold on the social labours of her race, she is benefiting not herself only, but humanity.

It is a movement impossible in the past and inevitable in the present to women within whom the virility and activity of the Northern Aryan races is couched.[62]

Such being the nature of the Woman's Movement of our day, it becomes readily manifest why the African Boer woman has taken no part in it, though belonging by descent to the most virile portions of the Northern Aryan peoples.

For her, the conditions of woman's life and work have not changed; she still has her full share of the labours and duties of life, and the man might as well complain of the insufficiency of his field of toil as she of hers.

When that day comes, as come it will, when the waves of modern material civilizations with their vast burden of mingled good and evil shall break round the walls of the most solitary up-country farmhouse in Africa—when the Boer woman finds her old field of labour slipping from her; when the roof of her old brick-oven falls in for ever, because a man-driven cart brings round her bread every morning; when the needle with which for generations she had stitched the clothing of her household slips from her fingers or is used only for amusement and luxury; when her husband orders his trousers from the man-tailor, and the old bombazine kapje she stitched so carefully for herself is replaced by a Paris bonnet; when her children almost from infancy pass into the hands of trained teachers and as soon as youth is reached leave her roof altogether to gain higher instruction; when her husband complains at the birth of each new child after the sixth that he does not know how to pay for its education and rearing; when he with whom she has [218] shared every business and interest from the selling of a sheep to the sowing of a field, and who sat in the heat of the afternoons on the sofa opposite her discussing his plans for to-morrow's work, goes out every morning to return only at night occupied with callings and business of which she has no understanding and can take no share; when, if she complains of loneliness and the emptiness of her life, he tells her to go out and buy balls and knock them through arches in her back yard or over a net, as children and youths do, or put a few flowers in vases—when this day comes and she sits alone, her children at school, her husband gone and absorbed in business of which she knows nothing, and she hears the flies buzz in the stillness, as African flies will still buzz when all else is changed; and when she looks down at the face of the girl-child still at her breast and realizes that out of every six girls she bears one will most likely never know the joys of motherhood; when she knows that of women born of her race and blood thousands stand at the street corners because no higher use in life is to be found for them: as she sits there alone she will begin to reflect, to wonder why these things must be, and to ask herself of what value her life is, and what she makes of it; and with this thought the new time will have come. She who has sat still so long will rise from her chair, she will push aside her coffee-table and knock over her stove, and will demand of life the right to experiment and see if these things be inevitable and unchangeable.

She who has been the companion of man in peace and war will know how to find her way with him into the new fields of life and intellectual toil. And if it were possible without the intervention of a period of parasitism and enervation for the old Boer woman of the laager and the trek, who with her companion man first tamed South Africa and peopled it, to transform herself in the person of her descendant into the labouring woman in the new and complex fields of modern civilization, South Africa might boast in the future as in the past of possessing one of the most virile womanhoods that the world has seen.

If the Boer woman still sits motionless in her elbow-chair [219] to-day, when her sisters of the Old World and the New are rising to their feet to readjust their relation to life—she yet does well to sit there till her conditions of life change, for it is a throne.

Note added in 1898: As we were engaged in copying this article, it chanced business took us into the country. In the veld, some ten miles from the town, we saw approaching a large wagon with a team of ten donkeys. Before the donkeys plodded a small Hottentot boy of eight years. As the wagon approached we saw it was laden with wood and dried cakes of manure ("mest," kraal-fuel) for the next morning's market in the town; but what the figure was upon the front box (voorkist) we couldn't quite make out. Then it came nearer and we saw, in truth for the first time in our life in such a position, a huge Boer woman of perhaps forty. She wore a black dress made without regard to fashion with a full short skirt and short jacket. On her head she had a large white cotton kapje (sun bonnet), such as Boer women make, projecting far forward with white curtains hanging on to the shoulders. In her hand she had a wagon-whip made from a bamboo eight or nine feet long, with the plaited leather cord long enough to reach the front donkeys of the span. She sat massively upright on the front-box. We looked at her as we passed and she scowled at us from under her deep kapje with resentment which I knew meant, "Verdomde Engelse vrou, do you think I care for your ridicule!" She took her whip from her shoulder and gave a resounding clap in the air with it over the backs of the donkeys; and she went on one way and we another. But if she had known what was in our heart, we might have stopped and shaken hands. We found out afterwards that she had nine children and was the wife of a man, an invalid and too feeble to work, that they were what is known in South Africa as "bywoners," poor people living on the land of a richer farmer, and that she supported her family entirely. She would take her wagon of fuel to the next morning's market, and the little clerks and shopkeepers and women with flowers in their hats would laugh at her short black skirt and kapje and her resolute scowl. Had we but been able to sit beside her on her voorkist and been able to make clear to her our meaning, we would have said: "The new women from all the world over send you their greetings, Tante![63] In you and such as you we see our leaders, and we are following in your steps. For God's sake, Tante, hold fast your seat on the front-chest and your fuel and carry it to market in spite of all the fools. I see in you, Tante, something that harmonizes strangely with this great blue African sky above us and the little koppies to our right, and the great plain to our left, and the red sandy road in which your donkeys plough, and the thorn-trees here and there casting their shade. Like this wide plain, you wake in me an aspiration for freedom and independence which no woman in the town below us could awaken. For God's sake, Tante, never give up your wagon-whip for a mother-of-pearl card case, and your kappie for a straw hat with paper flowers, and, instead of digging up fuel in your kraal and cutting wood, take a croquet mallet for your weapon of toil! I see in you, Tante, the secret of many a brave fight that your race has fought for freedom, and many still to come. When you paste little black spots on your cheeks and pencil your eyebrows with black, and wear an eighteen-inch waist, and trip with high-heeled shoes with your head on one side, there will be no more Amajubas. Keep thy hard horned hands, Tante. The day will perhaps come when thy sons and daughters will grasp the artist's [220] brush and the thinker's pen and the mechanician's tool in place of the spade and the axe and the driving-whip; but, till that time comes, labour on in thine own field. It is easier to pass from any one work to any other work than from parasitism to labour; and they will need work well, Tante, who will work more usefully, more bravely, than you. The working-women from all the world over, whether they toil with the head or the hand, indoor or out, send their greetings to you, Tante. You are not only the backbone of your race and of South Africa, but you and such as you are the backbone of the human race. In many an hour of weariness and doubt over the future of woman, of South Africa, and humanity, your sturdy figure on the wagon chest will come back to us. Sit fast, Tante! I see in you a promise of a great free labouring race of men and women for South Africa. The world is not played out while you sit on your wagon box and clap your whip. God bless you! The future is ours, Tante! Let the fools laugh. He laughs loudest, who laughs last!"



Such is the life and such are the social conditions of the primitive Boer wherever he is found to-day from the Zambesi to the Cape.

In our cities and villages, the descendant of the Boer is found in wholly different forms. He is the law-giver, the magistrate, the successful barrister, the able doctor; everywhere children of the Boer fill our schools and bear away the prizes; and in the yearly university lists of successful candidates, the names of the Huguenot-Dutch youths, and more especially the girls, rank high, and often equal or exceed in number those of all other residents in the Colony.[64]

We have often been led to speculate on the marked success of the descendants of the African Boer in the [222] purely intellectual walks of life, not only in South Africa, but also when visiting the universities of Europe. Race, and the healthful and stimulating climate of Africa, may have their share in the result; but it has sometimes appeared to us that, given these, a further explanation of the intellectual virility of the male and female descendants of the Boer may perhaps in part be found in the fact that for several generations the intellect of the race lay to a large extent fallow, and was not overtaxed or strained. Every noted judge or politician, every successful university student, male or female, is the descendant of men and women who for generations lived far from the fretful stir of great cities, where petty ambitions and activities and useless complexity in small concerns tend to wear out and debilitate the intellect and body. Vast cities, as up to the present time they have existed, are the hot houses wherein the human creature, over-stimulated, tends, unless under very exceptional conditions, to emasculate and decay. In the peaceful silences of the veld the Boer's nerve and brain have probably reposed and recuperated; therefore the descendant to-day, thrown suddenly into the hurrying stream of modern life, appears in it with the sound nerves and couched-up energy of generations; though whether he will retain these under modern conditions is to be seen.

The Boer has, as we shall see, founded two republics in South Africa. The first, the Orange Free State, has a most unique little history.

The earliest white men who crossed the Orange River, and made their homes in the high grass plains, were emigrant Boers who had trekked from the Cape Colony. Later, British Sovereignty over the country was proclaimed; but in the month of February in the year 1854 the British Government, desiring to restrict British possessions and responsibilities in South Africa, determined to relinquish the Free State and its inhabitants. So opposed were the indwellers of the State to this, that they sent home to England a deputation headed by the Rev. Andrew Murray, a minister of the Dutch Reformed Church, to beg of the English Government not to give up the territory. But [223] the English Government refused to entertain their request, regarding the country as a source of expense and responsibility, without any compensatory advantages. Diamonds were then undiscovered, and the mineral wealth of South Africa was unknown. The inhabitants of the territory therefore gathered themselves together, drew up a constitution and formed themselves into a republic, under the title of the Orange Free State. The first sitting of the first Volksraad of the Free State took place on March 28, 1854. From that time the little Boer republic has gone on increasing its property and multiplying its inhabitants, its educational institutions advancing and its agricultural capacities developing, till to-day it is allowed by all who have studied its conditions to be one of the most harmonious and well-governed little nations in existence.

In the year 1869, diamonds were discovered in the Free State territory, and England, naturally, immediately desired to obtain possession of that section of the country which contained the Kimberley mines. After much bitter discussion, the Free State authorities were compelled to accept ninety thousand pounds for the strip of land which they were not strong enough for the moment to defend by force of arms.

This loss of their richest diamond field (the Free State still contains some smaller ones) appeared a severe blow to the Free State, but by it they were saved from the misfortune which later befell their northern sister republic, when the discovery of vast quantities of gold made it an object of desire and almost unconquerable lust to the speculator and capitalist, Jew and Christian.

The history of the northern republic, known as the South African Republic, or Transvaal, while resembling that of the Free State in many points, yet differs from it largely in others.

When later we enter into a detailed consideration of the different states and communities into which South Africa is divided, we shall closely examine its history and structure; for the moment it is enough to glance rapidly [224] at its past record, merely to understand the position of the Boer in South Africa to-day.

The story of the foundation of this state is perhaps the most epic and unique of all the pages of human history during the last centuries, but for the present it is enough to note the main facts. In 1795, the British first conquered the Cape of Good Hope from the Dutch East India Company. The Stadholder, who had fled from Holland to England when the French Army entered the Dutch provinces, acquiesced in this, but the South African people were not consulted. In accordance with the Treaty of Amiens, Great Britain in 1803 restored the Cape to the Batavian Republic, but a few months later European war broke out afresh. In 1806 Great Britain again conquered it, and held it till 1814, when the King of the Netherlands formally ceded it to her in return for six millions pounds sterling. The King was urgently in need of money, and as Great Britain would not restore the Cape under any circumstances he was glad to get the six million pounds. The people of Africa were not consulted in regard to this cession either. It was made without their knowledge or consent. Since 1814, Great Britain has her possession of the Cape Colony, a period now of above eighty-six years.

The conditions under which the English Government took possession of the land were exceedingly propitious. The bulk of the inhabitants, severed already for a century from Europe, cared little if at all which European power it was that victualled its fleets and held official rule at Table Bay, if their rights of free internal action were but left untouched. The Dutch East India Company, though probably not worse than other commercial companies, had the peculiar incapacity inherent in all such bodies for the wise governing of a free people, and had so alienated the hearts of the South Africans that they had already risen against it. There was no prejudice against the English as such, and had a tolerable amount of tact, sympathy and judgment been evinced in dealing with the early inhabitants of the land, there need have been no white race problem in South Africa to-day.


The English Government in the early days appears to have been not unfortunate in some of the persons who were sent out to represent it at the Cape. In such individuals as General Dundas, the Earl of Cadogan, and Sir John Cradock, England had not merely well-intentioned servants, but men of tact and judgment. But she was not always to be so fortunate.

We English are a peculiar people. More often than most other races, and in this point resembling the Jews, we tend frequently to run to extremes of contradictory vice and virtue. Exactly as the Jewish race tends to incarnate itself on the one hand in a Moses, an Isaiah, or a Spinoza, so far removed from all material and personal ambitions and desires, and on the other hand in the grasping money-lender and millionaire; as it is now manifest in a Christ and then in a Judas Iscariot, so we English appear to manifest among our folk the extremes of self-sacrificing humanity, magnanimity, and heroism, and of sordid all-grasping self-seeking. In South Africa we have had our Livingstones and our George Greys, and our Porters, men, who, across the arid wastes of political and public life, shed the perfume of large and generous individualities; men, the mere consciousness of a national relation with whom is rightly a matter of pride to an English South African's heart; while, on the other hand, our race has here manifested in certain of its representatives as much of low ambition, and merciless greed, as it has been the unfortunate province of any individuals of any race ever to exhibit.

But between these extremes has lain the bulk of our ordinary officials and citizens of English descent, with the blended vices and virtues of our people; and generally possessed of the one quality which seems to be the mark of our average Englishman. With a great deal of loyalty toward our own race and a great deal of desire for freedom and independence for ourselves, and a passion for carrying out our own methods, we have also a tendency to understand very little of other races and individuals, as less important and justifiable, and far less virtuous, than our own. This is perhaps more or less characteristic of all [226] Teutonic peoples as compared with Celtic; but it appears certainly more marked in our own English division than in any other. This disposition has its advantages. We are not easily influenced for evil or for good; if we do not learn readily, we do not soon give up that which we have learned; it yields to us a great stability; and as long as, whether as individuals or as a race, we remain on our own soil and among our own native surroundings, though it may make life a little narrow, and somewhat hard, its disadvantages are not serious or vital. But the moment we are placed in close juxtaposition with other races, or enter foreign lands, more especially as rulers or controllers, then that which was an innoxious venial defect becomes a serious, it may be even a deadly, deficiency.

In certain of our rulers this quality has manifested itself powerfully, and has led to the most enormous and catastrophic effects. Among such men was Lord Charles Somerset. While he was an energetic man of unusual ability, as far as can be judged across the uncertain historical shadows of seventy years (we are far from accepting as proved all the charges of extortion and corruption made against him); it was yet during his rule that one of the most disastrous mistakes made during England's rule in South Africa took place; and, in truth, his rule in South Africa may be said to have been one long blunder.

Gracious and obliging to those who submitted absolutely to his own will, he was a man oppressive and overbearing to all who resisted his own views. Devoid of imagination and wide human sympathies, he, in common with certain later representatives of England in South Africa, failed entirely to understand the nature of the people he came to govern, the land they lived in, or the conditions evoked by the unique combination of land and people; and the results of his rule were evil for South Africa, and yet more disastrous for England.

The mental attitude of the brave free-men who had peopled the untrodden land and made themselves a home in our African wilderness was for him, as for some who [227] have succeeded him, a region he was never able by his mental constitution to penetrate.

Many things had produced pain among this free-folk. The mere fact that without their consent or desire their land had been placed in the hands of England; that there were no representative institutions through which the people could make their voice heard; that the Dutch language spoken by all the white inhabitants with the exception of a few English officials was not recognized by the Government; that the Governor received ten thousand pounds a year and four residences out of the small revenue, and that he with a few officials absorbed one-fourth of the entire revenue of the land; that he ruled with the same autocratic absoluteness with which the Czar of all the Russias is supposed to control his subjects—all these were sources of friction. But all these smaller matters might have been removed into the background and made of little account, had more tact and judgment been shown. But this man moved along his own course, apparently as oblivious of the thoughts and affections of the people whom he had to deal with as a dull menagerie keeper is of the thought and dispositions of his lions.

One of the things most keenly felt by the colonists was the arming of Hottentots and placing them under English officers as soldiers in control of the country. The Hottentots are an interesting, lively and volatile, brave little race, now nearly extinct. They were, except the Bushmen, the most primitive of African peoples; and anyone who has lived in countries where primitive dark races are found side by side with white men will recognize at once how much bitterness will be evoked by this proceeding, and how cruel is the result in the long run to the primitive races themselves who are so used. Were England to-morrow to conquer the United States, and to organize and drill the American negroes for the purpose of keeping down the white races, not merely would the whole American population rise to a man, but it would be the most cowardly and cruel, though indirect, way of assisting in the destruction of the negro.


From a small beginning in 1815 rose an occurrence which has set an uncleansable mark on the history of South Africa, and which, through South Africa, may perhaps ultimately react on other streams of life.

In the Baviaans River Valley, on what was then the extreme northern frontier of the Colony, lived a farmer called Frederick Bezuidenhout, a man who had always been opposed to the resignation of the Colony to the British Government, which had now finally supplanted the Government of Holland for nine years. He was summoned to appear before the landdrost of Graaff Reinet for striking a Hottentot, and he refused to obey the summons. A corps of Hottentot soldiers under the command of Lieutenant Rousseau was sent to arrest him. They went up the wild and beautiful valley of the Baviaans River, till they arrived at Bezuidenhout's farm near the banks of the stream. Bezuidenhout and one of his servants stationed themselves behind the stone wall of the sheep-kraal near the house. When ordered to surrender in the name of George the Third, King of England, he refused to do so, and fired his gun, but no one was touched. He then retired to the house and slipped out at the back before the Hottentots could capture him, and climbed into a krantz, or precipice, across the river, accompanied by one of his native servants.

We have visited the spot; it is a scene of singular loveliness. The wild rocky African mountains rise on every hand; at the bottom of the valley is a tiny plain which may be cultivated; mimosa and other typical African trees are scattered about, and the krantz, or great precipice of broken rock, into which Bezuidenhout climbed, rises precipitously from the bank of the river, some rocks jutting up like fortified towers. From the lower, the riverside, this krantz is almost if not quite inaccessible; but by going round and climbing the hill you can easily come down upon the top. The place in which Bezuidenhout hid is often called a cave, but in the common acceptation of the term it is not such. The rocks which form a large proportion of our African precipices are of a peculiar formation, apt to split vertically into huge [229] blocks, between which great chasms are often formed, and many of us remember playing among such chasms in our childhood. It was into such a cavity that Bezuidenhout retired, open to the sky at the top and forming a kind of little room to be readily entered into from the top only, while in the walls are small chinks and holes through which one may look out and see the river and plain below. At the time of the year at which we visited the spot, hundreds of the red African aloe flower on their long spikes were in bloom at the top of the krantz, a large wild bird had built its huge nest on the point of the rocks at the top of the opening, and the trees springing out of the krantz were in leaf. Some state there was one servant with him, others two. The soldiers are said to have discovered the spot by seeing the muzzle of a gun gleam from one of the openings in the side. Finding they could not reach it by climbing up from the river, they went round on to the hill and came upon it from the top of the crags. The soldiers called upon Bezuidenhout to surrender, but he refused, declaring he would never be seized alive by Hottentots. A volley of shots was fired down from the top and Bezuidenhout fell dead. His native servants surrendered, and were afterwards tried, but acquitted as being merely dependents. Towards evening his brother, Jan Bezuidenhout, came, and with the other relatives removed the body, which was buried the next day.

Over the grave impassioned speeches were made by friends, especially by Jan Bezuidenhout, who declared that they would never rest till the Hottentot corps was driven out of the country, and their wrongs were redressed. So began the first small uprising against England of 1815. On the 9th of November a little body of farmers met at Diederick Mulder's and resolved to take up arms, but were betrayed by a spy, who hurried away to inform the English officials. Five days later the little commando, under Willem Krugel, numbering fifty men, took the oath to stand by each other till death. "I swear by God Almighty never to rest till I have driven the oppressors of my nation from this land." On November the 18th [230] they were surrounded by a large body of troops under Colonel Cuyler; eighteen of the men surrendered, while the rest fled. Five men, Jan Bezuidenhout, Cornelius Faber, Andries Meyer, Stefanus and Abraham Bothma, resolved to fly from the country to take refuge in Kaffirland, and with their wagons and families to cross the river. An English major, with one hundred Hottentots and twenty-two white men, followed them. In the Winterberg Mountains, the wagons of two of the men were first overtaken and captured; but Jan Bezuidenhout, Cornelius Faber, his brother-in-law, and Stefanus Bothma were out-spanned near a small stream by a ravine in the mountains. They had lit their fire, and Bothma went to the stream to fetch water; when a band of Hottentot soldiers, under an English lieutenant, who were hidden by the stream, fired on them. Bothma had no arms and was captured, Faber returned the fire, and fell wounded in the shoulder and was also captured. There were now left of the fugitives only Jan Bezuidenhout, his wife, and their son, a boy of twelve years, all of whom were at their wagon. The Hottentots gathered round the wagon and called to them to surrender. Bezuidenhout's only reply was to fire. His wife stepped to his side. "Let us die together," she said. And she stood beside him re-loading his guns. He soon fell mortally wounded. She is said to have seized his gun and fired, but was struck by a bullet, and her son also was wounded. Bezuidenhout died in a few hours, and the wife and son were made prisoners.

Thirty-six persons in all were arrested for this rising and were tried on the 16th of December—a day which became celebrated in the later history of South Africa, being observed in the Dutch republics as a public holiday, under the title of Dingaan's Day, because on that day the great Zulu army of Dingaan was conquered by the Boers at Blood River. The same day is also, curiously enough, memorable as the day of the outbreak of the first war of independence.[65]

The prisoners all fully admitted having taken the [231] oath. On the 22nd of January, 1816, they were sentenced, six of them to death, to be hanged at Slachter's Nek, where the oath had been sworn by them; while the rest, after witnessing the execution of their fellows, were to undergo various punishments, ranging from banishment for life to imprisonment and fines. Martha Faber, the widow of Jan Bezuidenhout, and the sister of Cornelius Faber, one of the men to be hanged, was sentenced to banishment for life from the eastern part of the colony. Krugel's sentence was afterward changed to banishment for life, because he had taken no part in armed resistance and had done the British Government great service in the Kaffir wars; but Hendrick Prinsloo, Cornelius Faber, Stefanus Bothma, Abraham Bothma, and Theunis de Klerk were sentenced to death by hanging on the 9th of March, 1816.

These sentences were within the letter of the law, but no blood had actually been shed by any of the prisoners in their small and abortive rising. It was universally supposed that the Governor would exercise his prerogative of mercy, and commute the sentence to one of banishment. But it was not so. On the 9th of March, 1816, a scaffold was raised on the ridge of stony land uniting two mountains, near which the oath had been sworn, and which has since been known throughout South Africa as Slachter's Nek, or the Butcher's Neck. The train from Port Elizabeth to the Midlands passes this spot daily, with the Rish River flowing to the right and the neck on the left. Here were brought the five men sentenced to be hanged, and the thirty-two who were to witness it; one of them, Frans Marais, had been sentenced to be tied with a rope around his neck to the foot of the gallows, while his companions were being hanged.

A great crowd of people stood about, hoping and feeling convinced, even to the last moment, that a reprieve would come. Colonel Cuyler with three hundred soldiers guarded the scaffold from the people. The men asked to be allowed to sing a hymn before they mounted. Their voices were firm and clear. They appeared perfectly resigned. No reprieve came. There was a moment of awful silence in the crowd as the drop fell. But the [232] scaffold was not strong enough to bear the weight of the bodies of the five powerful men; it broke, and the men, half strangled, were thrown to the earth. Then a wild and passionate cry arose from the people; wives, mothers, sisters, and relatives of the condemned men cried, as they rushed toward the gallows, that God Himself had intervened, and the men given back to them. It was not to be. As soon as they had recovered consciousness, the gallows were repaired and the men were forced to remount; the three hundred soldiers guarded the scaffold, and the work was done. A deep, low murmur is said to have risen from the crowd as it was completed.

The relations of the dead men asked for the bodies, but were refused; an order having been given that they should be buried under the gallows.[66] So came to an end the day of Slachter's Nek—the worst day's work for England that up to recent times has yet been done in South Africa. Certainly the Governor was within the letter of the law. Technically speaking, nations have recognized that any body of persons strong enough to resist by force the mastership over any strip of the earth's surface and over the individuals inhabiting it, may, if these individuals oppose the will of the stronger, be termed rebels, and if they seek to resist by force be hanged. But there are other modes of regarding life than the technical. England, without the consent of these men, had taken over their land nine years before—a land which they and their fathers, and not the Dutch Government or the East India Company, had won from the wilderness and peopled. They were a small section of the population, and they had taken no single life in all their uprising (it has not even been stated that the shots fired by Bezuidenhout and his wife grazed any of the Hottentots!)

Had Lord Charles Somerset exercised his prerogative [233] and extended mercy to these five men, he would have done more to consolidate the English rule in South Africa than, had he been able to introduce two hundred thousand men, he would have been able to effect. In the lives of English soldiers alone, England has probably paid at the rate of over a thousand a head for each man hanged; and if she could that day have purchased the necks of those five Boers at ten millions each, they would have been cheaply bought.

It is a curious property of blood shed on the scaffold for political offences that it does not dry up.

Blood falling on the battlefield sinks into the earth; it may take a generation, or it may take two, or more, for it wholly to disappear, but it is marvellous how the memory of even the most bloody conflict, between equally armed foes, does, as generations pass, fade.

But blood shed on a scaffold is always fresh. The scaffold may be taken down, the bodies buried, but in the memory of the people it glows redder and redder, and with each generation it is new-shed; it sanctifies, sacrificially, the cause it marked. It may be questioned whether anywhere in the history of nations, blood, judicially shed for political purposes, whether the actual means were rifle-bullet, axe, rope, or the slow anguish of long imprisonment, has ever really aided the cause in which it was shed. It appears even quite possible that if Charles the First had been killed on the battlefield instead of being beheaded, there might have been no Restoration in England.

The African people dispersed quietly and went back to their farms; but the picture of Slachter's Nek was engraved in the national heart.

After this blunder, Lord Charles Somerset remained in Africa for some years. He was at last recalled, not on the ground of his treatment of the old inhabitants, but in answer to the complaints of a few newly arrived English colonists, by whom he was charged with corruption and oppression.

Burke had promised to move for his impeachment, but his wealth and rank protected him (he was an elder [234] brother of the Lord Raglan afterwards so notorious for his conduct of the Crimean War), and he died at Brighton in the year 1831.

But his work lived on, and, in addition to other causes, helped to produce that bitterness in the hearts of South Africans which led to that important movement known in South African history as the Great Trek.

In 1828 it was finally enacted that not only was the African Taal, though the only language of almost the entire people, not to be used in law courts and public documents, but even petitions written in that language were no longer to be received by the English Government; and a little later, men speaking their native language, in the land of their birth, were not allowed to sit on juries unless they could speak English, a language they had no facilities for acquiring. Other causes worked in the same direction towards the embitterment of the minds of the people against English rule. Even the most generous act recorded of our English race was a cause of fresh suffering and wrongs. In 1830 the English people, guided by its best element, voted a sum of twenty million pounds for the liberation of the slaves throughout the English colonies and possessions; and a portion of this sum it was determined to expend in buying and setting free the slaves in South Africa.

It is a curious exemplification of the absolute impossibility of guiding wisely, justly, or successfully the affairs of a nation six thousand miles distant, which has again and again been exemplified in the history of South Africa, that this plan miscarried. An intention, which leaves Europe a white-garbed bird of peace and justice, too often turns up, after its six thousand miles' passage across the ocean, a black-winged harbinger of war and death.

The intention of the English folk who voted the sum was generous; in reality, owing to the blundering of officials and the cunning and rapacity of speculators (already the poisoners of English rule in South Africa), all went wrong. Very little of the money voted ever reached the hands of the people for whom it was intended. [235] Men and women who had been in affluence before were everywhere reduced to absolute beggary; and they had the additional irritation of knowing that, while they were supposed to have been generously dealt with, they had received nothing. When one remembers that the bitterest war of this century was waged, only forty years ago, between the English-speaking folk of America, when one half of the community endeavoured to compel the other to relinquish its slaves, it is a matter of astonishment that the slave-owners of the Cape Colony so quietly gave up their claims, claims which till that time had been recognized by every nation on earth as wholly just and defensible.

But that which most embittered the hearts of the colonists was the cold indifference with which they were treated by their rulers, and the consciousness that they were regarded as a subject and inferior race. It is this consciousness which among a high-spirited people forms the bitterest dreg to the cup of sorrow put to the lips of a people governed by aliens, and one for which no material advantage can atone. In the eastern parts of the Cape Colony the feeling of bitterness became so intense that about the year 1836 large numbers of individuals determined to leave for ever the Colony and the homes which they had created, and to move northward to the regions yet untouched by the white man, where they might form for themselves new homes, and raise an independent state. It is this movement that is known in South African history as "The Great Trek."

Under such leaders as Carel Johannes Trichard, Andries Potgieter (the man after whom the town of Potchefstroom in the Transvaal is called), Gerrit Maritz, and Piet Mauritz Retief (after whom the town of Pietermaritzburg in Natal is named), the people gathered themselves together in families, men, women, and children, and, selling their farms and movable property for whatever they could get, in-spanned their great ox-wagons, and, taking with them such of their flocks and herds as they could remove, left their birthland for ever, and moved northward, sometimes in large bodies amounting to two [236] hundred souls. Crossing the Orange River, which was then the boundary of the Cape Colony and beyond which the British control did not extend, they entered the country, which is now the Orange Free State, and crossing the Caledon River moved still northward towards what is now the Transvaal. Most of these men came from the eastern and midland districts of the Colony, and were the descendants of the men who had already resisted the rule of the Chartered Dutch East India Company and endeavoured to found their own republic in the midlands; men in whom the self-governing republican instinct, inherited with their Dutch blood and sucked in with their mother's milk, was strong as probably in no other race on earth, unless it be the Swiss. With the exception of Piet Retief, few, if any, of them were from the old districts of the Western Province. Among those in Andries Potgieter's trek was one Casper Krüger, from the Colesberg district of the Cape Colony. He took with him all his family, among them a lad, just over ten years of age, later known as Paul Krüger, President of the South African Republic.

Fully to describe the sufferings, struggles, and wanderings of these people, before they succeeded in founding their republic in the Transvaal, would far exceed the limit we have set ourselves. But to understand the Boer of to-day and the problems of to-day we must very rapidly glance at the march of the fore-trekkers.

At the time of the Boer trek, the great power in central and eastern South Africa was the Zulu nation. Under their renowned chief Tchaka, one of the most remarkable military geniuses of history, possessing to the full the vices and virtues of his type, the small Zulu tribe had become a great nation, dominating over and treading down other native tribes and races. Killing the older men and women and absorbing the youths and maidens into his own people, as he conquered tribe after tribe, he had by his wonderful military discipline produced a vast army of warriors, before whom no native people could stand. In 1828, Tchaka was assassinated by his half-brother Dingaan, who, without sharing his genius, [237] possessed his fault as a ruthless destroyer of men. At the time of the Great Trek, Dingaan ruled over the Zulu nation and its dependencies in Natal and Zululand. In the Transvaal, a division of the Zulus, which had broken from Tchaka under their celebrated warrior-chief Umsiligaas, had, under the name of the Matabele, founded a great warrior nation, moulded after the ideal of Tchaka; they devastated the lands and destroyed the native tribes which resisted their power. When the first party of the fore-trekkers under Potgieter arrived in the northern districts of the Free State, the native tribes there welcomed them as a possible assistance against the inroads of the powerful Matabele. The whole country was in those days filled with game to an almost inconceivable extent, and it was largely on the fruit of the gun that the fore-trekkers lived. In 1836 their first great conflict with the Matabele under Umsiligaas took place. The fore-trekkers had spread themselves out in small parties, camping with their wagons near the Vaal River, and the Matabele attacked them wherever they were found in small numbers.

Near what is now known as Erasmus Drift on the Vaal River, a small party in five waggons was suddenly surrounded and several of the Boers were killed. Barend Liebenberg's little party was taken by surprise, and six men, two women, and four children, with twelve native servants were destroyed, and three white children, a boy and two girls, carried away captive. The great Matabele army then rapidly advanced to where the main body of the emigrants had encamped at a spot now known as Vechtkop, about twenty miles from the present village of Heilbron, in the Free State. Paul Krüger, then a child, can still remember the preparations for defence, and relates how the wagons were drawn up in a square, mimosa branches cut down and dragged to the wagons, women and young children helping in the labour; and how these branches were tied together by chains to fill in the spaces between the fore and back wheels of the wagons to prevent the Matabele warriors from crawling up between them.


Early in the morning of the 2nd of October the vast army of Umsiligaas was reported as approaching. Commandant Sarel Cilliers, who commanded the laager, found that he had in all, including boys of twelve and fourteen, forty men with whom to meet the vast horde, and the women and girls were busy smelting lead to mould bullets for the old-fashioned guns.

Cilliers and thirty-two of his men rode out to meet the enemy upon the open plain, where Matabele were formed into great squares upon Tchaka's system, and sat upon the ground, each man with his shield before him, as was always done preparatory to a great attack.

Cilliers sent out a loud-voiced envoy to inquire why they came to fight the white men who had done them no harm. At once the thousands of warriors sprang to their feet with the mighty war cry: "Umsiligaas alone has the right to speak!" Brandishing their shields and assegais, the front ranks deployed to right and left, forming those two horns, so celebrated in Zulu warfare, which were intended to inclose the enemy. The emigrants mounted their horses, reloading their heavy muskets as they went and firing at the points of the horns; and with great difficulty, in an hour and a half, they reached the laager. Here men, women, and children knelt down for a short prayer, while the Matabele indunas were massing the column for the grand assault. Then followed a desperate fight. The Zulus poured forward in thousands with magnificent courage, even seizing hold of the wagons with their hands to tear them apart, and piercing the wagon sails again and again with their assegais. The Boers fought with desperate determination, the women reloading the guns and handing them to the men who stood at the corners of the laager. In the end, with heavy loss on both sides, the Matabele were repulsed, but in their retreat they swept away with them all the sheep and cattle of the emigrants. Hunger and desolation then reigned in the laager, and had it not been for the timely arrival of another party of emigrants all must have perished. Later on, the combined emigrants followed up the Matabele to their strongholds in the Transvaal [239] in the hope of recovering their goods and the lost children. After long and bitter conflict the old flintlock gun conquered, and the Matabele moved northward towards the territory where they are now found, known as Matabeleland.

Of this war, it can only be said that South Africa has no reason to be ashamed of the way in which either of her children, black or white, fought. On the one side there was the Zulu with his great theory of imperial expansion, not wholly unpardonable in a savage, resenting the intrusion of any other powers within his sphere of influence, if not into his actual territory, and determined to use his mighty armies to extend his rule. On the other hand, the white emigrant, in his small and feeble numbers, but armed with his old flintlock gun (which, though it took some minutes to load and discharge once, was a formidable weapon when compared with the best Zulu assegai), who was equally determined to make a home for himself and his wife and children in the great South African wilds. It was a fine, free fight, if any conflict between humans can be so termed. One looks back to it with none of that pain with which the generous spirit beholds the conflict of overwhelming strength with weakness. When two equally prepared gladiators enter the arena, repulsive though the sight may be, one may well feel sympathy with both. This was no case of blowing naked savages to fragments with Maxims or Winchester repeating rifles, and, if in the end the old flintlock gun conquered, there were times when it seemed more than probable the victory would be on the other side. The African lion and the African tiger rolled together on the ground in a fair and free fight. If the Boer fell, with him fell wife and children; he fought for life and a home as the Zulu fought. Behind him there was no vast civilized power to whom, when he had provoked war, he could cry for aid, and whose hired soldiers could wipe out and be avenged upon the feebler foe. Alone, unbacked by any extraneous force, dependent on his own right arm, the Boer went forth. South Africa has no reason to be ashamed of the way in which either of her sons, black or white, fought in those old, terrible days.


In the highly cultured citizen of the end of the nineteenth century, we rightly demand, as a primal and common virtue, breadth of human sympathy and catholic impartiality of intellectual judgment, unwarped by personal interests, which is the attribute of the developed man; but we are yet able, in regarding more primitive times and men who laid no claim to our transcendent modern virtues, to accept indomitable courage and love of independence, though the most primitive of virtues, as a possible foundation from which later all those higher mental beatitudes, which we have a right to demand from the self-exulting nineteenth-century human, may spring. In these two primitive virtues neither Boer nor Zulu ever showed himself wanting in those old days.

While one part of the emigrant body remained in the Transvaal and Northern Free State, another passed over the Drakensberg Mountains into Natal, under a man who stands forth as the most romantic figure among the early fore-trekkers, Piet Retief, a man of some culture, and of a singular generosity of nature.

The land of Natal was at that time practically uninhabited. Tchaka and his warriors had swept the country clean of its native tribes; but he considered it within his sphere of imperial influence. When Retief and his companions, who went to examine the land, looked down at it from the top of Spion Kop, they saw that the land was fair and good and almost wholly uninhabited, and they made overtures to Dingaan, Tchaka's successor, who resided at his kraal on the White Umvolosi, a hundred miles distant in Zululand, for the right without let or hindrance from the Zulus to inhabit this country. Dingaan readily consented, on one condition—that the emigrants should obtain from a Basuto tribe some cattle they had taken from his people. This was easily done, and Dingaan expressing complete satisfaction, a thousand wagons containing the Boer families trekked over the Drakensberg into Natal, and scattered over the unpeopled country along the banks of the Upper Tugela and Mooi Rivers. Piet Retief, with sixty-five followers, some of whom were mere lads of fifteen or sixteen, went to visit [241] Dingaan at his kraal on the White Umvolosi, in order that their agreement might be finally ratified. Some advised caution in going, but Retief fearlessly laughed their counsels to scorn. Dingaan met his visitors with much apparent joy and kindliness. Great dances were given in their honour, and an agreement of permanent peace and fellowship was drawn up by Mr. Owen, the missionary who was with Dingaan. On the last day, when the party came to bid farewell to the chief, they were directed, as usual, to lay aside their weapons when entering the king's presence, and they did so. They were then offered Kaffir beer to drink. Then, in an instant, at a given signal from Dingaan, his warriors fell on them. "Seize the wizards!" he cried in Kaffir. Some of them defended themselves gallantly with their pocket knives, but all were at last overpowered and dragged to the official place of execution, a ridge of high rocks on one side of the kraal, where their brains were knocked out. Their bodies were then left exposed. Not one of the men escaped.

The manner of their death was recorded by the missionary who, as soon as possible, left the Zulu kraal with all his party, fearing the same fate for himself.

On that day a great army of ten thousand Zulu warriors moved forward silently to attack the scattered emigrants in Natal.

At a spot near to the present village of Weenen ("Weeping"—so called in remembrance of that terrible day), which lies not very far from the village of Colenso, the Zulu army killed an entire body of emigrants—forty-one men, fifty-six women, one hundred and eighty-five children, and two hundred and fifty coloured servants. The bodies were mutilated, and neither woman nor child were spared; some were found with as many as thirty spear-wounds in them. All the white souls in Natal would have perished had not three young men escaped, who warned the remaining scattered parties of their danger. The wagons were hastily drawn together into little laagers, and after a long and desperate struggle the Zulus were repulsed, women standing beside the men, reloading their guns and aiding almost as greatly in the defence as the men.


Then the remnant of the people gathered themselves together to discuss what should be done. A few had given up all hope, and even spoke of retracing their steps across the hundreds of weary miles they had traversed. But the women—then as always, the strength of the South African people, and who resembled more those old Teutonic ancestresses of our northern races, of whom Tacitus tells us that "they dared with their men in war and suffered with them in peace," than we in the drawing-room and the ballroom—the women raised their voices unanimously, and cried that there should be no surrender; there, where their fellows had fallen, they would found their republic or die, and they, who had faced death, beside man, were listened to. In one battle ten Boers fell, among them Piet Uys, the father of a family noted down to the present day for courage, whose young son, a mere lad, seeing his father unhorsed and stabbed by the Zulu soldiers, rushed back and died beside him.[67]

But in the end, at the great and terrible battle of Blood River, December 16, 1838, the Zulus were defeated, and Dingaan fled. His brother Panda was made king in his stead. From that time the 16th of December has been always a holiday in the African Republic.

When the Boer army arrived at Umgungunhlovo, Dingaan's kraal, they found still the bodies of their sixty-six comrades, which after eighteen months were yet untouched by beasts of prey, though dried and decayed. In Retief's leathern bag was found the paper signed with Dingaan's cross, giving them permission to inhabit the land of Natal, from the Drakensberg to the sea at Durban, from the Tugela River to the Umzimvobu.

In this land the Boers now settled down to plant their new Republic. At Pietermaritzburg, named after their dead leader, they built the church, standing to this day, which they had vowed to their God if He enabled [243] them to conquer Dingaan; and they planted their seat of government there. But it was not long before the English Government at the Cape Colony, many hundred miles away, became uneasy at the success of the Boer in realizing his dream of founding an independent state, and there was issued a proclamation stating that Natal was henceforth to become a British territory; and soldiers were despatched to Natal to support this claim.

We know of few pages in the history of our English imperial expansion which fill us with more shame than this. We had already more land in the Colony than we could people, and these folk, at the cost of much life, had travelled far to find freedom from our rule. After a war, the most even and the most justifiable of all those of which South African history has any record between a black race and a white, the fore-trekkers had saved themselves from Dingaan's power; and when they had set about the realization of their dream and the foundation of their little republic, we stepped in. We had the ships, and the men, and the money, and we crushed their dream—for the moment.

At Durban, the seaport of the Republic, there was some sharp fighting between the soldiers we sent and the Republicans, but in their infant state the Republicans were wholly unable to compete in numbers or arms with the forces we could put in the field.

When the Commissioner sent by the English authorities to annex the land arrived at Pietermaritzburg, there were bitter and stormy scenes. Most of the inhabitants absolutely refused to remain under British rule. There was a mass meeting of women, whose leader, the ancient wife of Erasmus Smit, the old fore-trekkers' preacher, addressed the Commissioner for two hours,[68] painting a picture of all they had suffered in founding their new state and of the injustice done in robbing them of it.

At the end of the meeting, the women passed an unanimous resolution that rather than submit to English rule they would leave the land which, with so much blood and anguish, they had won. "We go across these mountains [244] to freedom or to death," said the old woman, pointing toward the Drakensberg Mountains, which, through the names of Laing's Nek and Amajuba, have since become known to all the world.

Over these mountains almost the whole population of Natal passed, leaving only about three hundred families, the ancestors of the present ten thousand Boer inhabitants of Natal.

Those who passed over the Drakensberg Mountains joined the bodies of fore-trekkers who had remained on the north side of the mountains, and entered into that great region where no British flag had yet ever waved, which no Englishman had ever dreamed of claiming, and which was left almost desolate and uninhabited as the result of Mosilikatzi's[69] raids. Here they founded their republic, known as the Transvaal or South African Republic.

By the Sand River Convention, ratified by Sir George Cathcart in 1852, it was agreed that the English Government should not follow them into the territories north of the Vaal River; that their independence should be recognized; and that there should be no attempt on the part of the British Government to interfere with their government or management of their own affairs.

The most interesting point with regard to the South African Boer is his astonishing gift for forming new societies, and, as it were, instinctively creating for himself a new social structure, under whatever conditions he may find himself.

The South African Boer forms never a mob. With his curious love of liberty and independent action, he combines a yet more curious instinct for cohesion and inter-action. There is no folk on earth which has exemplified, as this little mixed Teutonic people has done, the ancient Teutonic instinct for combining a high standard of personal freedom with a strong social organization.

Take at random a handful of African Boers; let them wander away into some desert and be unheard of for a few years. When you find them again, they are a people [245] organized and inter-acting, with the true old Teutonic institutions—the district gatherings, the central government, the force for defence composed of all the burghers, under their local chiefs—always the same outline preserved, and always instinctive re-adaptations and variations according to the varying conditions of the new society. Studying this matter, one is forcibly reminded of the instinct in a swarm of bees, which, however often removed from spot to spot, still seek at once to deposit their old hexagonal cells, yet always varying the shape of the hive as they are compelled to build it between two plates of glass, in a hollow tree, or in a hand-made hive. To the scientific student of the evolution of human societies nothing in the range of modern history is more interesting and curious than the analytical study of the little states which the South African Boer has always tended to deposit in varied yet kindred forms.

In the South African Republic, or Transvaal, the Boer has shaped a social organism singularly strong, and at the same time plastic; the external governing power being responsive to the will of the electorate.

Of the latter history of this state it must suffice to note a fact, perhaps not unknown to any student of modern affairs, that in the 'seventies of the nineteenth century an attempt was made to wrest their country from this people and to annex it to the British Empire. All the world knows how at Paardekraal, on the 13th of December, 1880, the little nation gathered itself together, each man, taking a stone in his hand, placed it upon a heap beside those of his fellows, swearing as he set it there that he would never lay down his arms till the Republic was freed—a heap which has been carefully preserved as a national monument. How at Ingogo, Laing's Nek, and Amajuba they fought, all the world knows also. How England, dominated at that moment by that wiser and more far-seeing Jekyll, who in the past has never failed to exist somewhere within her bosom, ready for action when not overborne by his fellow, the purblind and all-grasping Hyde, restored to the Republic the recognition of its independence; thereby saving England from the [246] indelible disgrace of a persistent attempt to crush a great and free little people, and from the permanent loss of South Africa, which, had she persisted in her course, would long ere this have yielded her no foothold in the southern seas, this also all the world knows. How, gold being found in vast quantities in the Republic, the eyes of all men of greed and wealth-lust turned towards this little land from all parts; how the Chartered Company incorporated by the Hyde of England while the Jekyll slept, having become needy and greedy, and finding the land given it not filling its pockets as it desired, could wait no longer, and sent in an armed force to take possession of the goldfields; how the Republicans started to their feet to drive out the invaders; and how at Doorn Kop, on the 3rd of January, 1896, was fought the most memorable battle of modern times; for here, for the first time in history, the military force of the international capitalist and speculator, armed, hired, and equipped by him, without even the decent covering of a national cloak to hide from the world the ugly outline of its greedy form, met the simple citizens of a state, farmers and peasants and townsmen, who leaped up from their New Year's feast, and thrusting a slice of bread or New Year's cake into their pockets, and a hunk of meat into their saddle-bags, mounted and were off to meet the foe; met it and defeated it—so opening the long campaign of the twentieth century which began between two little African kopjes and which will end on the earth's mightiest battlefields—this, too, all the world knows.[70]

The descendants of the original white inhabitants of the land, entering it a century before we English folks arrived, have, as we have seen, spread themselves out over the whole country, and now form the substratum of [247] the white African Nation. In the Cape Colony, which is still politically connected with the Island of Britain, they number at least three out of five of the white inhabitants of the country. In their lovely old homes in the Western Province, buried away among oaks, and surrounded by vineyards and fruit gardens laid out by their ancestors two centuries ago, the farming descendants of the Dutch-Huguenot live with simple plentifulness amid their supremely beautiful surroundings. In the remote Midlands and Northern and Eastern frontier districts of the Cape Colony they still live often, as we have described, in their simple homes, mighty men of the gun, and rulers over flocks and herds. While in our Colonial towns and villages the descendants of these farming folks are found, whom education has transformed, often in one generation, from the Taal-speaking Boer to the foremost rank of the nineteenth-century civilization and intellectual culture; they are, as we have seen, often among our most able lawyers, our best judges, our most skilful magistrates and civil servants; while the lists of our university examinations are filled with the names of both men and women of Boer descent.

Such is the Boer and such are his descendants in the Cape Colony to-day.

In the two Republics which he has founded he will also be found in both the types, the old and the new; now as the old fore-trekker, with the faiths and virtues and the vices of the seventeenth century strong in him; then as the cultured professional man and the child of the nineteenth century, with all its additions and omissions.

In the Colony of Natal, the northern part is still mainly populated by Boers, the descendants of those men who there founded their early Republic of Natal, and remained when the rest of their fellows trekked across the Drakensberg into the Transvaal.

Taking South Africa thus as a whole, the descendants of the Dutch-Huguenots outnumber the white men of all other races put together, and immensely those of purely British descent. But everywhere the process of intermarriage has been so vast and rapid during the last thirty [248] years that it is no more possible to draw a quite sharp dividing line between the two races. There are probably to-day no large South African families, Dutch or English, which have not during the last thirty years intermarried. And in another generation the word Dutchman and Englishman will have lost all meaning and be heard no more; we shall then be only the blended South African Nation.



Before turning to consider the English element in our society, we would linger yet a moment, before we finally leave the Boer, to consider some of the many assertions made with regard to him, and what of truth or falsehood appears to us to lie in them, and, above all, how they have come to be made.

It has been said, though it will probably never be said again by any person who knows what courage is, that the Boer is a coward and cannot fight. How, in view of his history during the last two hundred years, this ever came to be said, even by his bitterest foes, has appeared to us always a matter of some astonishment. We can explain it in any way only when we consider the fact that bravery, like every other virtue, may assume more than one shape, and that men accustomed to recognize it under one aspect do not readily recognize it under another. In the animal world, there is the courage of the bull terrier always eager for a conflict, and seeking a fellow combatant for the pleasure of fighting him, and the courage of the mastiff, whom you may even tread on with impunity as he lies sleeping at your foot, but who, should his master or his master's property be attacked, may be more dangerous than any bull terrier; there is the courage of the tigress robbed of her young, who faces fearlessly fire and death to regain it, yet at other times prefers to slink away from man, and there is the courage of the game-cock who chafes angrily against the bars to reach the game-cocks in other cages; and [250] the courage of the red African mier-kat, who attacked, will try to get to his hole, and, if he cannot, will fight fearlessly to the death.[71]

In the human world, there is the same diversity of courage; there is the courage of the woman robbed of her infant, who climbs where no other human foot dare tread and recovers it from the eagle's eyrie, while the crowds below look on with breathless astonishment, and the courage of the peasant woman, who, after being broken three times on the wheel, on being asked to give up the names of her confederates, already almost past speech, shook her head in refusal, is again put on the wheel, and dies. This courage is quite consistent with an extreme distaste for conflict and an extreme sensitiveness to pain, and takes its rise only in natures so constituted that impersonal passions or convictions are capable of obliterating the natural bias, and this form of courage is probably the most indomitable. But there is also the courage, very rare in its way, of the prize-fighter, always showing his biceps and challenging his acquaintances, and to whom life would probably not be worth living without the applause and excitement of the ring; but who, on the other hand, if he knew that the odds were fifteen to one against him, and that there was neither money nor applause to be gained if he won, would probably refuse to fight at all.

Now the courage of the old-fashioned Boer tends markedly to resemble the first rather than the last type; and, why this should be so, a study of his history makes clear.

In all societies, whether savage or civilized, in which a distinct military organization exists, and in which military success is the path to emolument and power, much meretricious glory hangs about the occupation of the slayer.

From the Bornean savage, who until he has a certain number of skulls to hang about his waist may not marry [251] or take share in deliberations of state, and the Zulu who must first wet his spear in human blood to be accounted a full man, on to many of our so-called civilized states, where in pageants and pastimes preference always is given to the man who slays or overthrows over the man who creates or produces, war is continually surrounded with a certain meretricious tinsel which ends by making the thing attractive for its own sake. It is to increase this artificial charm and render war attractive, that the savage hangs cats' tails round his waist, sticks cock-feathers in his hair, and beats on his tom-tom, when he is working himself up for battle, and that the so-called civilized man wears red stripes on his trousers, struts with his chin high in the air and his shoulders well held back and padded, and that he wears feathers, tails, or portions of metal, whatever is believed to make his appearance more striking and important. It is this which makes war and the warrior so attractive to the ignorant youth of both sexes. The soldier, dressed and holding himself as other men, would not be so eagerly sought after by the idle woman of the ball-room, nor would her cook be so anxious to walk about with the private if he walked as other human creatures walk and had the same kind of hat; and the peasant boy who enlists does so, in nine cases out of ten, because of the drums and the marches and the flags. It is not generally really the desire to feel the blood and the brain of a fellow-creature, dismembered by your hand, start out, and still less to lie with one slug in the stomach and another in the lungs, while the blood rises in mouthfuls and there is a rattle in the throat, that tempts the majority of men to become soldiers. It is, in nine cases out of ten, not the desire to kill or be killed, but a hunger for the tinsel with which war is surrounded, that influences men who affect a love for it; it is the hope of fame, metal stars, gilt crosses, the glitter and glare of the parade-ground, and the possibility of title and honours, which make the youth to enlist and maiden to say, "How beautiful is war!"

For the African Boer there has never been this meretricious tinsel pasted over the ghastly reality of war. [252] His training for two hundred years has been in a wholly different school. For generation after generation the Boer has gone out with his wife and child into the wilderness, and, whether he wished it or no, the possibility of death for them and for himself, by the violence of beasts or men, has been an ever present reality. Night by night, as he has gone to sleep in his solitary wagon or daub-and-wattle house, he has had his musket within reach of his hand; and his wife hearing a sound in the night has sat up anxiously, whispering, "What is that!" and together they have listened while the children slept. If the Boer went out to hunt lion or buffalo, it was accompanied with no hilarious excitement at the thought of the applause of friends at his success, of pictures in the illustrated magazines, and the newspaper paragraph over the mighty hunter. All it meant was this, that, if he killed the lion, then the cow that gave milk for his children would be safe, and his small son could now go out and herd the lambs without danger. If he brought home a load of springbok or of wildebeest, it meant simply that his wife cut it up into biltong and hung it to dry outside the house for food. If his own right arm failed him, or he kept no sufficient watch and fell by the hands of savages or the jaws of beasts, then it meant that not only he died, but possibly that wife and children died with him; and it might be years before the news of their death travelled down to their kindred if, indeed, it ever reached them. If, single-handed and however bravely, he defended himself and his against odds of the mightiest kind, there was no admiring world before which his success would be blazoned forth. Even were he a commandant, and died at the head of his little body of men ever so heroically, there was no Westminster Abbey and no requiem for him; his comrades buried him where he fell, and a little heap of rough African stones on a wide African plain, with the African wind blowing over him, was all that he had for recompense. If he led his little band to victory, there was no triumphal entry into the city with bunting flying, and bars filled with drunken men, and hoarse mobs shouting incoherently, or delirious women anxious to [253] kiss him, or present him with weapons gilt and jewelled—simply, he went home to his house or wagon, and his old wife kissed him and said she was glad he had come back; and his comrades said, "He is a good fighter," and next time there was war he had to go in front again. If his aim were true and his hand never shook and his courage never failed, then it meant life for himself and all dear to him; if he failed, then it was death; but that was all.

In this stern, silent school for generations the Boer has been trained. Courage has become inherent and hereditary with him; he sucks it in with his mother's milk; and, with it, an equally uncompromising antipathy to war and conflict. For generations, deadly strife and conflict, or the possibility of it, was part of the daily unending discipline of his life. He regards it now as one of life's crowning evils, to be avoided if possible—never to be flinched from when inevitable.

It is this attitude which has led to so much misunderstanding of the Boer's character by those who do not know him, and even by those who think they know him. His view with regard to the chase illustrates exactly his attitude toward human slaughter. If the leopards or wild dogs decimate his flocks, he will spend days in the most unwearied, skilful, and daring hunting; yet when he has killed them he will often return home, and say with a sigh of relief, "Now it will be six months before I need go after them again." If you inform him that in England at great expense men keep and breed up foxes which, with great damage to crops and hedges, they afterwards spend days in hunting, he will look at you as though doubting the truth of your assertion, remarking quietly: "But the Rednecks must then be mad? What do they want with the wild beasts?"[72]


His attitude toward human conflict is exactly the same.

We say advisedly, after a long and intimate knowledge of the old-fashioned Boer, that never, in one instance, have we heard man or woman speak of war with joy, desire, or elation. For this folk there is no more glamour or amusement about war than for a nurse who has attended hundreds of cases of small-pox and cancer there is a glamour and glory about these diseases. It is with extreme difficulty that old men and women can be got to describe the conflicts they have lived through in their youth. After speaking a few minutes they will suddenly break off with: "Ah! but war is an awful thing! God grant that you may never see what we have seen, or go through what we have gone through." Not in any single case have we known the old Boer to vaunt himself on any success or act of courage. (With the young fashionable nineteenth-century descendants in towns, who have seen no fighting, it may be different.)

Having known intimately for five years an elderly man, and having always noticed certain marks on his face, we inquired one day the cause, and were surprised to learn that he had been an actor in some most heroic scenes; having in one instance gone up a mountain alone to fetch down the wounded, and that he bore on his body at least ten scars, gained in different conflicts. Neither by this man nor by any of his family, whom we had known intimately for years, had the fact been mentioned. "Yes," said a close female relative quietly, when we questioned her on the matter, "he is a man who can fight; he is [255] not afraid"; and that was all. She regarded his action in the same light as a ploughman's wife might regard her husband's power to plough twenty acres in a given time and who would show no lofty pride in stating it—it was "all in the day's work." The old-fashioned Boer never speaks of war without becoming solemn and reverential, and, metaphorically speaking, taking off his hat. "Man fights; but victory is of God."[73]

It is this solemn, reverent, almost shy, manner of speaking of conflict, which misleads the ignorant stranger. In conversation several years ago with a man newly from Europe, we dwelt on what we believed to be the superb fighting and staying power of the African Boer. "How is that possible," said the newcomer, "when every individual Boer you meet is an arrant coward?" And he proceeded to illustrate his assertion by stating that a short time before in conversation with three young Boers, all greatly his superiors in size, he had offered to fight all of them in succession to show which was the better man, an Englishman or a Dutchman. They declined the contest, and one of them, smiling sheepishly, walked up to him and asked him to take a cup of coffee. "They funked it! They funked!" cried the newcomer. "They dared not stand up to me, and I was the smallest of the four!" It was not easy to explain to the Public School man that while he was regarding the Boer as an arrant coward, the Boer was regarding him, good-naturedly, as a fool! The Boer looked upon the offer, without any cause of quarrel, to break each other's skulls much as a horny-handed ploughman, the son of six generations of ploughmen, would regard an offer to plough six acres of land in which nothing was to be planted, simply in order to see who could plough the fastest. "He talks too much; he cannot fight," was probably the comment of the Boers after he had left them, and [256] possibly each man merely misunderstood the other. The Englishman might have fought well, in spite of all his talk, and the Boer in spite of his silence. It is the difference in mental attitude, doubtless, which has misled the ignorant newcomer, and often the old inhabitant of the country who is not gifted with the power of reading human nature beneath its surface, into holding the view that the Boer is not a fighter. The truth is, the African Boer, devoid as he is of all passion for conflict, regarding war as part of the stern and unavoidable evil of life, to be quietly faced, but never sought, will, if his people, his land, or his freedom, are attacked, go forth to meet war with the same grim unbending resolution with which his forefathers went out to found their homes in the desert. As long as the African Boer remains the African Boer, whenever these things are touched, he will be found among his plains and on his kopjes ready to die, the silent, bravest child of our broad veld.

It has been said of the Boer that he is conservative; that he follows line by line the manners and traditions of his fathers; that that which has been sacred to his forebears is sacred to him; that he is immobile, and does not change. This is in part true; in part, untrue.

It is true that the primitive Boer has preserved in the South African wilds the ideals and manners of his ancestors of two centuries ago; that in him the seventeenth and even remnants of the sixteenth century are found surviving as among few peoples in Europe; but, if this survival of the past be taken to imply an organic incapacity on his part to adapt himself to change, if it be taken to imply the immobility of a weak and therefore unadaptable nature, which has not the vitality and strength to change, it is wholly untrue. Nothing so indicates the dogged, and almost fierce, strength of the South African Boer as this unique conservatism. Placed in a new environment, removed from all the centres of European culture and thought, thrown out into the African deserts, surrounded by the most crudely primitive conditions of life, and often by none but savage human creatures, nothing [257] would have been easier, or would have seemed more inevitable, than that rapid change should at once have set itself up in the African Boer; nothing more difficult, and almost impossible, than that he should maintain that degree of cultivation and civilization which he had brought from Europe and already possessed. Again and again, under like conditions, men of lofty European races have been modified wholly. Thrown amid new and savage surroundings, when, after a few generations of isolation from European life, they again come into contact with us, we find that whatever of culture or knowledge they brought with them has vanished; their religion has atrophied; their habits of life have become modified, and, often inter-blending with the savage races about them, they have lost all, or almost all, the old distinctive European marks. They are a new human modification, but a modification often lower in the scale of life than even the savage peoples by whom they were surrounded, a degenerate and decayed people. On the east and west coast of Africa, in South America and elsewhere, again and again this has happened. Europeans, not having the conserving strength to retain what they possessed, and not being able to emulate the primitive virtues of the savage, have gone back in the scale of being. With the South African Boer this has not been so.

After two hundred years we find him to-day with that little flag of seventeenth-century civilization which he took with him into the wilderness two hundred years ago, still to-day gallantly flying over his head, untorn and hardly faded after its two centuries' sojourn in the African desert. With the instinct of a powerful race the Boer saw or rather felt his danger. The traditions, the faiths, the manners of his fathers, these he would hold fast by. To move, to be modified in any way by the conditions about him, was to go backwards; he would not move; so he planted his foot and stood still.

You say that he still wears the little short jacket of his great-great-grandfather's great-grandfather? Yes, and had he given that up, it would have been to wear none at all! So, line by line, his wife made it, carefully as [258] his father's forefather's had been. You say he stuck generation after generation to the straight-backed elbow chair and the hard-backed sofa of his forefathers? Yes—and had he given them up, it could have been to adopt nothing more æsthetic; it would have been to sit on the floor; so he held solemnly to the old elbow-chair and the straight-backed sofa, almost as a matter of faith.

You say that he had only one book, and clung to that with a passion that was almost idolatry? Yes—but had he given up that one book, it could not have been to fill a library with the world's literature; it would have been to have no literature at all! That one book, which he painfully spelled through and so mightily treasured, was his only link with the world's great stream of thought, morals, and knowledge. That compilation of the history, poetry, and philosophy of the great Semitic people was his one possible inlet to the higher spiritual and intellectual life of the human race. In that he clung to it so passionately, worshipped it so determinedly, he showed his intense hankering after something other than the mere material aspects of life. He was not a man with a thousand avenues open before him toward thought and spiritual and intellectual knowledge, who wilfully shut his eyes to them, saying, "I will see none but this one": he had no other to see. If the Boer had forsaken his Bible we should have found him to-day a savage, lower than the Bantus about him, because decayed. In nothing has he so shown his strength as in clinging to it.

To one who wisely studies the history of the African Boer, nothing is more pathetic than this strange, fierce adherence of his to the past. That cry, which unceasingly for generations has rung out from the Boer woman's elbow-chair, "My children, never forget you are white men! Do always as you have seen your father and mother do!" was no cry of a weak conservatism, fearful of change; it was the embodiment of the passionate determination of a powerful little people, not to lose itself in the barbarism about it, and so sink in the scale of being. To laugh at the conservatism of the Boer is to laugh at a man who, floating above a whirlpool, clings fiercely [259] with one hand to the only outstretching rock he can reach, and who will not relax his hold on it by so much as one finger till he has found something firmer to grasp.

That the conservatism of the Boer has in it nothing of the nature of mental ossification, and that he has preserved his pliability intact, is shown by the peculiar facility with which, when the time comes, the Boer leaps in one generation from the rear of the seventeenth-century thought and action to the forefront of the nineteenth.

The descendant of generations of old seventeenth-century Boers returns from his studies in Europe an enthusiast over all the latest inventions, an advocate of new ideas and an upholder of the newest fashions. In colonial life, it is a matter of common remark, none are more attracted to the new and the modern than the nineteenth-century educated Dutch, whether man or woman. It would almost seem as though that very dogged strength of character, which for ages has made him capable of retaining his hold upon the old, when the necessity for doing so passes, makes him equally resolute to grasp the new.

It has been said of the African Boer that he used his old flintlock gun for a generation after Europe had discarded it. That was true; but had he discarded it, it could only have been to adopt the assegai of the Kaffir. The day he was shown the Mauser, he recognized it and grasped it, and he has used it—not without effect!

In very truth, if one should speak frankly of what one most fears for the African Boer, it is a too rapid renunciation of his past, and an acceptance of the new without a sufficient and close examination. Were it possible that our words should reach him, fain would we apostrophise our old-world Boer and his wife thus:—"Hou maar vas, Tant' Annie! Hou maar vas, Oom Piet!"[74] Be not too ready to give up the past, we pray you. All that is new is not true, and that which comes later is not always an improvement on that which went before. We English have an old saying that if you [260] keep your grandmother's wedding-dress sixty years, times will have come round and it will be in the fashion again. For the world goes round, O Oom and Tante!—unwilling as some of you may still be to believe it!—and that which was new becomes old, and that which was old becomes new again! Do not be too anxious to change your old customs, your simple modes of life, your deep faiths, till you know what you are exchanging them for: the world goes round; and the day may come when you, South Africa, and the world will have need of that which you now are so willing to throw away.

"Oom and Tante, I will whisper to you a secret! Here, in the very heart of this great material civilization of ours which swells itself so bravely and makes so much noise—here, in the heart of it, there are some of us men and women who are beginning to have our doubts of it; we are beginning to find it out. We may not be very many now, but we shall be more by and by; and we are beginning to question what all this vast accumulation of material goods in certain hands, this enormous increase in the complexity of the material conditions of life, necessarily leads to?

"We ask ourselves this:—Though we increase endlessly the complexity of our material possessions and our desires, does the human creature who desires and possesses necessarily expand with them? And the answer which comes back to us when we deeply consider this question is: No.

"There are times, when, looking carefully at this nineteenth-century civilization of ours, it appears to us much like that concretion which certain deep-sea creatures build up about themselves out of the sand and rubbish on the deep-sea floor, which after a time becomes hard and solid, and forms their grave. It appears to us that under this vast accumulation of material things, this ceaseless thirst for more and more complex material conditions of life, the human spirit and even the human body are being crushed; that the living creature is building up about itself a tomb, in which it will finally dwindle and die.


"We vary endlessly the nature and shape of the garments we wear; but the bodies for which they exist do not grow more powerful or agile; we multiply endlessly the complexity of our foods; but our digestions grow no stronger to deal with them; we build our houses larger and larger, but the span of life for inhabiting them grows no longer: the Bedouin of the Desert inhabits his tent as long: our cities grow vaster and vaster, but our enjoyment of life in them becomes no more intense: our states expand, but the vitality of their component parts rises no higher: we rush from end to end of the earth with the speed of lightning, but we love it no better than men who lived in their valley and went no further than their feet would carry them: we put the whole world under contribution to supply our physical needs, but the breath of life is no sweeter to us than to our forefathers whom the products of one land could satisfy.

"For the life of the human creature is but a very little cup in relation to the material goods of life; like the bell of a flower which can hold only one drop of dew, all which you pour in after that can only crush and drown it; it cannot contain it.

"You know, O Tante and Oom, that in South Africa your beasts suffer sometimes from a disease, of which the leading feature is that, while the creature eats more and more, it grows thinner and thinner. By and by it dies, and when you cut it open you find fastened upon its vitals a parasite, which consumed all its strength, which was never satisfied.

"Tante and Oom, it is a disease like unto this which eats deep at the heart of our civilization. It is no new disease; nations and persons have died of it before: the plains and riversides on this planet of ours are studded with the mounds beneath which are buried the remains of societies which once suffered from this disease. Some call it degeneration; some decadence; some over-civilization; some excess of luxury; some forgetfulness of God; it matters not what you call it: though the external symptoms may vary, internally it remains always the same.


"The horse-leech of our material civilization, in which endless wealth and material luxury is thrown into the hands of one section of the community at the cost of others, has three daughters which cry ever: 'Give! Give! Give!' They are fastened on to the very vitals of our modern life, and they cry never—'It is enough.'

"Fixed upon us as individuals, we hunger for more houses, more clothes, more furniture, more jewels, more shares, more dividends, whether we can use what we already have or not; and we hunger and strive after these things with as much passionate avidity as the savage after the hare, which if he nets will save him from death by starvation.

"Fixed on us as nations we cry, 'More lands, more trade, more fruits of the labour of other men in other lands, higher dividends drawn from foreign countries; more—though our national skin should crack, and we burst and die of it at last—more!—more expansion!'

"Oom and Tante, we beg of you, if you must partake of our nineteenth-century civilization with us, examine it carefully, and see what it is you are taking in. It is a brightly coloured flower, but at its centre sits a little gilded worm: if you must eat of it, eat the flower, but spew out carefully the worm, which spells death if once it fastens and breeds inside of you.

"There are certain things indeed, good and fair, which have got embedded in this nineteenth-century civilization of ours, O Oom and Tante, like diamonds in a mud stream: which are in it, but necessarily not of it.

"In the two centuries which have passed since you left Europe, certain things became common property which you know little of, and which are wholly good and fair; but we beg of you to understand they are not the outcome of that which comes to you with so much blare and glitter as 'nineteenth-century civilization'—the civilization of the bar, the stock exchange, the gambling saloon, the racecourse, gorgeous furniture, and ceaseless changing fashions; nor even of the railway train and the national debt. Do not think, we pray you, when you have grasped with both hands at the mud of our civilization, [263] that you have therefore grasped the gems that may here and there be imbedded in it.

"There is music which you have not yet heard—Beethoven's; and there is Mozart's, as sweet as the twitter of the birds when you wake up in your wagon in the early dawn and hear them in the bushes round you in the veld, and as gracious as the sound of the raindrops falling on your roof after a long drought; but do not dream that the man who made it had any relation with the speculators whose loud talk overpowers you with its smartness, or the gorgeously dressed women who make you ashamed of your old black skirt. Believe me, it was made by a man leading a life poor and simple as yours, and who lies in a nameless grave; in poverty and loneliness the music came to him, and he made mankind for ever richer by it; and you can hear it as well in fustian and serge, on a wooden seat as from the king's box, with a band of diamonds above your forehead.

"We have also what you have not yet seen, a Moses, cut in stone. When you look at it you are conscious of strength and joy such as you have when you look up at one of our flat-topped African mountains, with the krantzes on its head, casting a deep blue shadow in the early morning;—it is well to look at it; but do not believe that all the millionaires of all the states on earth if they pooled their wealth could ordain that one line of that great figure should have been created: it was shaped by a man who, seeking after beauty and truth, found his God: a man who so lived with his creation that for weeks together he forgot to remove his boots, so that when he did so the skin came off with them: the fine gentlemen of the boulevards and the parks who talk of their superiority to you because they 'possess art' (meaning that they have made money enough out of other men's labour to buy the works of dead great men) would hardly have cared to walk down the street with him; his rough, strong face would have befitted better a Boer laager than a circle of modern fashion.

"There are books, O Oom and Tante, other than the one great book which you took into the wilderness [264] with you; books which so widen the soul of the man who makes them his that he might, when dying, well thank the power behind life that he had been made man, and lived to read them: but, do not believe that they are the products of any trade demand, or have any relation with the wealth and luxury of the modern world. Rich men may buy them and bind them in vellum, and put them in their libraries; but that gives them no hold upon them. In simplicity, and often in solitude and in poverty, the great souls of earth have secreted that immortal honey of thought on which the soul of humanity feeds. And whether it be the wisdom of the great Greek who lay in the Agora in his coarse mantle, instructing without pay the youth of Athens; or the vision of the Puritan Englishman which visited him in poverty, blindness, and old age; or the immortal dream of the Italian exile; or the deathless trill, sweeter than the song of his nightingales, of the young English apothecary who died in Rome; or the philosophy of the great German who lived for thirty years in a little house in the little street of a little German town, desiring no more; or the human cry from the heart of the Scotch ploughman; or the sweet musings of the modern American who communed with his God at Concord for many years—there is no message of beauty or wisdom which it has been given to the soul of men to propound for its fellows, for which luxury or material complexity of life were necessary. There is no message of wisdom which has ever been uttered which you may not as well absorb, seated on the kopje behind your square mud-house, as in the velvet armchair of a duke's palace, with lackeys waiting your commands and the spoils of the universe gathered round you. Two narrow shelves of dingily-bound books will contain more of the world's true intellectual pabulum than a man has time in sixty years to absorb and make his own; and he who at the door of his hut in the veld has spelt out the book of Job and the chants of Isaiah, till he knows them by heart, may have a firmer hold on the world's loftiest literature than if he had hired a librarian to tend his ten thousand costly volumes. Let no man deceive you, [265] O Oom and Tante, nor make you believe that literature is a grand thing, only to be enjoyed by men eating several courses at dinner and dwelling in capacious houses, nor that it can only be produced by men who have consumed thousands of pounds of the world's labour. The world's literature has been produced in simplicity and in poverty, and often in suffering; and that which was good enough for the men who wrote, is good enough for the men who would absorb it. They lie, Tante, they lie, Oom, who tell you that literature is dependant on luxury, or the material complexity of life, for its existence, or is in any way related to it. It is from the barren heath, not from the drawing-room carpet, however many coloured, that the wild bee extracts its honey.

"Even that knowledge of the conditions of existence which governs the relation of matter with matter, and which yields what is called scientific knowledge, and in a manner seems to mark what is called modern civilization, has yet no causative relation with the greater part of its material phenomena. It does not depend in any way upon the enormous amount of material luxury and wealth concentrated in a few hands which marks our material civilization. It was the Chaldean shepherd watching his flocks at night under a sky as clear and white-studded with stars as that which bends over the Karroo, who first noted the times and seasons of the heavenly bodies. It was the chemist labouring amid the painful fumes of his laboratory with hands as stained by contact with matter as are your sons' to-day when they come in from shearing who first discovered those combinations of atom with the atom, and the reactions of substance on substance, which are letting us slowly a little way into the secret of nature's workshop. It is the mathematician, oblivious of all externals, pondering year after year in his dingy study, with his outlandish garb, who masters at last those laws of relation, the knowledge of which gives to man half his mastery over matter. It is not even the man with the padded shoulders and gilt ornaments upon his dress, who boasts so loudly to you of the superiority of his nineteenth-century weapons of death, who ever made [266] one of them, or even understands how they were made: nor does he always know how to use them! It is not the gaudily dressed man or woman who travels in the first-class compartment of an express train, and looks with wondering contempt at the slow-rolling old ox-wagon which your grandfathers made, who ever made or comprehends one crank or one piston in all that wonderful creation of human labour and thought in which they are luxuriously borne along; or who could invent or shape even the round solid wheel of a primitive donkey-cart. These wondrous material objects have been the outcome of the work of the labouring brains of the ages, and of the toil of hard-handed mechanics more roughly clothed and simply fed than you who have toiled beneath the earth, and in the fetid workshops, that those things might be. Our little long-tailed African monkey of the bush, if he should see one of his captured brothers, gorgeously arrayed and dancing on a barrel-organ, might well think what a wonderful brain his brother must have, and how much superior to himself he must be in mechanical skill to have made all these things. But in truth we know he made neither the clothes he wears, nor the organ: nor can he even turn the handle; he only dances to the music another makes. It is the little wild monkey out in the woods who has to find food for himself, to know which nuts to eat and where to find them, and who can choose his own pool to drink and dabble his hands in, who has to exercise brain and arm. It is not the jackdaw with the peacock's feathers tied on to his tail, who flaunts them round so overpoweringly, on whom they ever grew.

"Let no man deceive you, O Oom and Tante; it is not the men and women revelling in a surfeit of the material products of the labour of others, and scorning you because you have them not, who ever made the very material civilization they boast of. It is not the people scorning your little simple work and life, who could do even that which you can do. It is not the woman lolling back in her double-springed carriage who has the knowledge or invention or perseverance to originate or manufacture one of all those endless materials which cling about her; [267] it was the Hindoo with a cotton cloth about his loins toiling at his loom for twopence a day who made the diaphanous muslin she wears; and the loom on which it was woven and the thread of which it is made were invented by his swarthy-skinned ancestors generations ago. The fairy frill upon her petticoat was sewn on by a needle-girl between snatches of weak tea and bread and butter and fits of coughing. It is not the general, gorgeous in gold lace and trappings, who could make even the jacket he wears; the fine steel dust from the sword at his side cost the life of the man who made it; it is the general's to sport, nothing more. It is out of the labour of hands grimed and hard as yours, and the toils of brains more weary than yours have ever been, that this material civilization is built up. If you accept it for you and yours, know what it is you are accepting. Do not mistake the cat that laps the milk for the cow that gave it. When you open a wild bees' nest and find inside a Death's-head moth, you are never fool enough to believe it had anything to do with the making of the honey: you know it is there to feed and—destroy. O Oom, O Tante, do not mistake the Death's-head moths of our civilization for the makers of its honey, or for the honey itself.

"Art, literature, science, the mastery over material conditions, whatsoever there is in this nineteenth-century civilization that strengthens the arm, or widens the heart, and broadens the intellect, and makes fuller the joy of life—extract it and make it yours.

"In our nineteenth-century civilization there is a little kernel of things rare and good and great, that have come down to us through the centuries, and that brave souls of labour have added their little quota of matter to even in our day. If you must crack the nut of our nineteenth-century civilization, we pray of you eat only this little kernel and throw away the great painted shell. For God's sake, do not try to eat the shell and throw away the kernel.

"You know, O my Oom and Tante, that, when the Jew smouses go round the country selling their goods, they sometimes sell to you clocks that glitter like gold; [268] and you give for them your best sheep and oxen. But, when you take them to be tested by the town jeweller, you find they are not gold, but tin, gilt with brass; and they will not go.

"There is much, O Oom and Tante, in our civilization that is like to the Jew smous's clock! We warn you, be careful how you exchange your good old African wares for our modern merchandise. There is much brummagem about.

"For, believe us, Oom and Tante, there are some of us who have travelled the world round; we have seen and handled this thing, called nineteenth-century civilization. We have lived in vast cities, a few unconsidered streets in which contain as many souls as your whole land. We have seen half their population labouring continually without sunlight or fresh air, and, by a labour that knows no end, producing material things they never touch. We have seen white-faced children, who shall be the thinking, labouring, fighting men and women when we shall be in our graves, suck their white crusts dipped in tea, and look up at us with famished eyes: we have seen old men, after a long life of toil with no fireside to sit by, creep into the cold shadow of the workhouse, to die there. And we have seen also other sides of nineteenth-century civilization. We have been in the houses that are palaces, which all the world labours to make full and fair; we have pierced to their centres, and found there fair women surrounded by all earth yields, wearing silks which the Indian made for twopence a day, with which he bought a handful of rice and melted butter to keep him alive, and laces bending over which human eyes grew dim, and beside them in delicate cups stood tea which Tamil women near their hour of labour may have plucked with quivering fingers; and they have sat up on their sofas and looked at us with weary eyes, and asked, 'Is life worth living?' We have watched the fevered faces of men in the world's great stock exchanges, till pity seized us, and we could have cried: 'Is there no antifebrile that will slow this pulse and give these souls rest and peace?' We have stood at Monte Carlo, and seen [269] prince and millionaire throw down coin as though it were not the life-blood of the peoples. We have seen lock-hospitals and the men and women that are in them, and also those who fill it but never come there; we have seen the parade, where human slaughter hides the dirt and ugliness of its trade behind plumes and gilt: we have seen the ballroom and the regal procession. We have seen, on the other hand, what is fair and beautiful in art and wonderful in science; we have seen brave and rare spirits, even amid the rush and dross of our civilization, walking peacefully on their own lofty little path, absorbing little, and imparting much. Yet, believe us, that in the still night we lie awake, and all that we have seen rises up as in a picture before us,—from Ratcliffe Highway with its drunken sailors and hopeless women, to Monte Carlo with its princes and prostitutes; from the Champs Elysées to the Karoo; from Grosvenor Square to Bethnal Green,—there yet rises up no picture of life more healthful and full of promise for the future, more satisfying to the whole nature of man on earth, than yours in the wide plains of South Africa. We know all its deficiencies, its lack of a certain variety, the absence of certain brilliant elements which the human spirit may feed on elsewhere; and, yet, it rises up before us as something wholly strong, and virile, and full of promise. There are even times when we have felt we would rather be the little naked Kaffir children who play, fat and shining, with the kids on your kraal walls in the African sunshine than be most of the modern men and women we have known; for the life is more than meat and the body than raiment.

"Hold fast, Tante! Hold fast, Oom! You have much to lose. Be careful how you exchange it. Cling to your old manners, your old faiths, your free, strong lives, till you know what you are bartering them for.

"Tante, dear Tante, be not too anxious to change your old, straight, black skirt for the never-ceasing vagaries of modern fashion, that sap at the life of the modern woman as an open running tumour saps at the strength of a body. Do not be too anxious to change, for a pile of gauze or straw and textile flowers, that old black kappie [270] of yours, that has shielded you for so many generations from the African sun and the African winds, in peace and in war, on kopje and on plain.

"Believe me, if some great artist should see you as you sit there by your out-spanned wagon, in your old black dress with your infant at your breast, and the African sky above you and the still veld round you, and should paint you as you are, you would hang in the world's great galleries, and generations to come of men and women would say, 'How strong, how harmonious!' For your old black dress, and the veld and the sky, and the baby at your bosom can never go out of fashion, as the hoop, and the patch, and the tilted hat, and fashionable furniture, go; for they have that eternal dew of the morning upon them which rests on all things growing up out of nature and necessity, for use and not for show. And if it should have happened that, in the sterner moments of your life, one should have depicted you truly when, in laager or beside wagon, you stood side by side with the man who was your companion, to defend that you prized, then, believe me, that old black kapje of yours would have become a helm, and men in future generations, looking on, would say 'There were giants in those days.'

"Tante, we, the newest of new women, stretch out our hands to you, the oldest of the old, in the African veld: and we pray of you, stay where you are, and hold fast by what you have, till we come and meet you. We are coming to you in our own way. Stay where you are till we can join hands. In your life of fellow-labour with man, in your social productiveness and activity, you have realized much of that which we are seeking. Do not force your great, free, labouring-woman's foot into the gegawed shoes of the parasite female, from which we are striving to withdraw ours; do not compel yourself to accept those insignia of degeneracy, whether in clothing or bearing, from which we to-day are so passionately striving to free ourselves. Hold by your simple brave life a little longer, produce your many children, guide your household, share man's burden with him, peace or war, till in a new social condition you pass without enervation [271] or degeneration to new labours, and to a companionship with man in new and intellectual fields of toil. Do not, we beg of you, believe that, when you wear a French bonnet and have an eighteen-inch waist or trip to tennis in patent shoes, you have come any nearer to grasping the good, the true, or the beautiful that may be embedded in our nineteenth-century civilization. Feel no shame, we pray you, for that strong capacious form of yours; from that strong untrammelled body of yours shall yet spring a race strong to do or dare, such as grows not beneath the waistband of an enervated parasitic womanhood.

"Tante, wait for us, we are coming; you have something to teach us, we have something to teach you; and it may be that when we have met and joined hands we will work out something fairer and better for our people and the world than has often been. Only do not decay from your ancient simplicity of living and toiling before the time is ripe and you can move forward to new labours. It would have been better that you should have fallen in your early conflicts with savages and beasts, and that nothing were left of you now but a name and a heap of stones on the African plains, than that you should absorb the diseases of an enervated and voluptuous modern womanhood—for then you would only have died and not rotted.

"Oom Piet, we pray of you, be not anxious to adopt the fashions of the nineteenth-century gentlemen of the club and front stalls in the theatre. Be not too ready to discard your velschoens and your moleskin trousers and your short jackets. In these things your fathers did gallant deeds and loved freedom. Any coat that a brave man wears is fashion enough: and the world comes to recognize that in the end. Cling to your independence; and the day will come when your old round felt hat will hang on the walls of the African houses of the future as Oliver Cromwell's ancient hat hangs to-day in an English mansion; and men of the future generations will say, looking at it reverently: 'Such wore our fathers in the days when they did great things!'

"Do not think too lightly of your own knowledge; [272] nor dream that the man who knows well the path to the brothel and the bar, and knows how to bear and bull the share-market, or who gains in one night's play as much as your farm yields you in a year, has any advantage over you. It is better to know how to find your way without a guide over hills and plains of your native land, and to be able to sleep well out under the stars with your head on a saddle, and when necessary to die for freedom on your kopjes, than to know all the paths of the modern city. Hold by your past; and the day will yet come when, instead of following the fashion, you will set it.

"South Africa has still need of her old African lion and lioness. Hold on a while longer; let your past die hard!

"Is it a wholly unrealizable dream, that, if you could but cling for a while longer to your own simple healthful forms of life and gold-untouched ideals, you might make it possible for us in South Africa to attain to a fairer and more healthful form of civilization than has elsewhere been reached? Is it wholly unrealizable that you might help us to escape in their worse forms the diseases of modern life, and attain to its good: while eschewing its evil? That we might arrive at that condition of simple living and high thinking, under which alone the spirit and body of man attain their full development, and continual progress is possible? Or must you, too, fall before the molten calf, and worship it?

"Does it seem strange to you, O Oom and Tante, that we sometimes think of you as an antidote? That in the heart of this nineteenth-century civilization we remember you sometimes, with your simple, free, strong lives, as a man living in some torrid valley, where all around him were fever-smitten, might remember a hardy mountain plant which he had seen growing on the hill-tops in his youth, and cry: 'Ah, could they but eat of it they might yet be saved!'

"Therefore we ask of you, not to accept too readily all that the men of this generation offer you, nor to be dazed by the glitter of our wares; but to select slowly and carefully, if you must select at all.


"For this nineteenth century is not the last century; nor is its civilization the last civilization; nor its ideals the last ideals! The twentieth is coming! And before it ends, it may be that this nineteenth will seem strangely distant! Men may then look over its mental wares as, after twenty years, one might look over a box containing the clothes of a dead elder sister, saying: 'This bit of real lace is still good, and that silk scarf; but the rest is all brummagem and long out of date.'

"For we, to-day, O Oom and Tante, with our new-found mechanical inventions, and our accumulations of material goods, are like little children who have just been given a rattle, and who spring it, till it deafens themselves and every one else besides, and can hear nothing else. We are like little long-tailed monkeys, who having found a bag of sugar think that there is now nothing left in life but to sit round it and eat it till they die.

"We are like to the children of Israel, when they built themselves the golden calf and then danced about it, saying: 'Thou art the Lord our God, and there is none like unto thee! From everlasting to everlasting, thou art God, and thy years shall have no end!'—till a Moses, it may be, shall come, and smite it into powder: and of that powder, mingled with the waters of life, shall all the nations that worshipped drink, and they shall call it Marah. And then it may be that they will seek for a new God.

"We say it, well knowing the soft burst of laughter which will arise now to-day, when the door is not yet closed on the nineteenth century, and its ideals are yet dominating the men and women of the age—that the time may come when even men of the world, those who live in the present, who labour not for the future nor learn from the past, will recognize that man is a complex creature, and that material wealth satisfies only a moiety of his nature, and that material goods possessed in excess by one portion of the community and lacking wholly to the other, mean a condition of disease—that the time will come when men will profess it in order to be called sane; that the railway-train which brings the prostitute, [274] the stock exchange, and the foes to the freedom of a people, into the heart of its land, had better for humanity have been the slowest ox-wagon crawling across the plains; and had it taken two million years to come, so much better for the nation and the world; that the value of a species of conveyance whether for men or goods depends entirely to mankind on the nature of what it brings; that even that Ark of the Covenant of the nineteenth century—a new railway run by a joint stock company—is worthy of adoration, or is not, entirely by the increased strength of body, width of sympathy, clearness of intellect and joy in life it tends to confer on the folks among whom it runs; that a submarine cable used to whisper lies from land to land, and stir up the hearts of people against people, and to urge on the powerful to attack the weak, is the devil's own tube and has a connection direct with Hell; that a daily paper, not based on an earnest determination to disseminate truth, is a cup of poison, sent round fresh every morning to debilitate the life of the people; that the man who from his place in the national assembly rises and states the increase in his nation's imports and exports as though he were describing its entire weal or woe, without consideration of the human suffering and degradation or joy and good it may have cost to produce them, or without calculation of the benefit or disease to be caused by their consumption—is a fool; that it is more disgrace to a land to have in it one hungry, work-crushed soul than to have no millionaire; when it shall be recognized that the greatest nation is not that which numbers most bodies, but most fully-grown free spirits, and fewest crushed and broken; that an empire over human flesh and lands, and not hearts, is an empire of disease; that a central power which cannot propel the blood of sympathy and a common fellowship to the remotest member of its group is on the path to cardiac failure and a sudden death.

"We know that thus to speak is to enter into the Holy of Holies of the nineteenth century, and therein to blaspheme. Nevertheless, O Oom and Tante, it is possible that the day is coming when the stock exchange [275] and the share market, in which the men of this generation worship the Lord their God, may pass away as the gladiatorial shows of the Roman Empire and the rule of the Inquisition, so mighty and overpowering in their days, have passed: it may be that a new Telemachus will yet leap down into the arena where men traffic with the life-blood of the nations, and, torn to pieces by the howling crowd, it will yet be said by future generations, 'From that day there were held no more share markets after the old fashion!'

"For this nineteenth century is not the last century! Nor are its institutions the last institutions! Nor is its God the last God!

"Therefore, seeing that these things are so, O Oom and Tante, and that we know not what part of our nineteenth-century wares shall be consumed up as stubble, be cautious how you traffic with us. Do not barter your old seventeenth-century wares, poor and simple as they may be, for that which you may have to part with again the next day. The twentieth century is coming: and it may be that, before it has reached its close, it may be found nearer the seventeenth than the nineteenth.

"Remember the Jew smous's clock! There be many Jew smouses going up and down in this civilization of ours; and they deal in other things besides clocks. They will traffic with you for your land, your freedom, your independence, your very souls—for they hold that 'every man has his price!'—and they will give you in exchange that which will not wear—a gilt-lined robe, which, soon as you wear it, will eat the flesh of freedom from off your bones and lick up the blood of liberty within your veins. Therefore, beware how you deal with them! That little which you have, hold fast till you see what shall come to pass.

"The last Belshazzar's feast has not been held! Be careful that, when the finger appears writing on the wall, you be not found also sitting at that table.

"Hold fast a little while longer, we pray of you, by your old ideals, your old manners, your simple old-world life. We—South Africa—the world, have need of you!"


So, were it possible that our words should reach him, we would fain apostrophize our old-world Boer and his wife. For our fear indeed is, not that he will exhibit any incapacity for accepting nineteenth-century ideals, but that he may swallow them too readily; and that South Africa, whose backbone he forms, may also suffer from that curvature of the spine, brought on by an excessive addiction to luxury and an ill-distribution of wealth, from which certain other peoples are dying.

To the other indictments which have been made, by those who have not understood him, against the Boer, it would seem hardly worth now referring, yet before we finally turn from him we may glance at them.

It has been said that he is priest-ridden.

It is undoubtedly true that the clergy of the Dutch Reformed Church held in the past, and still to a limited extent hold to-day, a unique position among their people as compared with the mass of modern clergy.

We in the heart of the nineteenth-century civilization regard, and most rightly, with an almost unqualified scorn the modern man or woman who submits to priestly dictation. Where the priest has no means of gaining information, experience of life, or abstruse knowledge not shared by other members of his society, submission to his dicta or dependence on his advice can spring only from two causes—an intellectual feebleness, which prevents the use of the man's reason, or a moral cowardice, which causes him to shrink facing the responsibility of dealing with the moral and spiritual problems of life, and renders him desirous of having them dealt with vicariously.

But it has not always been so. In the middle ages, when war and the struggle with crude material conditions of life occupied almost the entire bulk of the population, the clergy, as the one class exempt from these labours, and therefore leisured and with facilities for travel or abstraction in study, were of necessity much more than clergy. They absorbed in themselves several now wholly distinct social functions. Their monasteries were the repositories [277] of learning; they themselves were the guardians of national tradition, law, and history; their knowledge of plants and leisure to study disease made them the healers of the folk; experiments and improvements in agriculture were made in their grounds; born of the people, they were naturally their political as well as moral and intellectual guides, and it was to them that the oppressed people turned everywhere for advice and leadership. In such a social condition, every individual born with unusual intellectual aptitudes or inclinations was almost inevitably bound to gravitate towards the Church; and the priesthood therefore were, not merely through training and position, but by a species of natural selection, the intellectual leaders of the folk. Therefore, for some centuries the inclination towards culture and progress in a monarch, a nation, or an individual might be measured, strange as it now seems, by their esteem of and devotion towards the clergy. It was under the influence of the clergy that those Gothic churches rose which are the glory and incarnation of their age; and it was round the monastery and the church that the intellectual and socialized life of the people centred. Incidentally, it happened that those who were the ghostly guides of the people were also at the same time the leaders of the people in learning and the upholders of their human rights.

On a minute scale, and under very different conditions, the clergy of the Dutch churches have for nearly two centuries fulfilled the same complex functions towards their people in South Africa. They have, it is true, been the sacerdotal consolers and guides of their folk; but they have been infinitely more. They have been the representatives of that higher learning and culture which circumstances denied to the mass of their people; the parsonage and the church have been the social points round which the national life centred, and from which have radiated whatever of culture and social organization was attainable.

It has often been scornfully described how when, in some remote Boer farmhouse, one son showed unusual mental alertness, he was predestined for the Church; how [278] often, by rigid economy on the part of other members of the family, the money was accumulated to send him to college in Europe, and how on his return Mynheer was regarded with profound reverence and almost awe, even by his aged parents and the boys with whom he had minded lambs in childhood. This is true; but to suppose the feeling took its rise merely in a superstitious reverence for the black coat and ghostly prerogatives of the preacher would be to err profoundly. The man who returned from his studies differed materially, in the extent of his information and in his grasp on many aspects of life, from his brothers and companions who had remained tending the paternal flocks, or labouring in the family vineyards; and he had therefore necessarily certain social functions to perform, which could be performed by no other members of his community, and this apart entirely from his priestly office. The feelings with which he was regarded combined, with relation to one person, the feeling which the modern man entertains for his skilled lawyer, his family physician, his favourite writer, and his political leader. For years the clergy of the Dutch Church formed of necessity the connecting link between the Boer, widely scattered through remote districts, and the outer world. They were his advisers, often his representatives when he entered into contact with keen social and political elements of the hungry modern world. It was largely through them that such conditions of culture and knowledge as he had brought with him into the desert were maintained and enlarged; and they formed the channels through which were conveyed to him whatever influence of the modern world reached him. And nobly, on the whole, have they performed their task.

We believe that no one who is aware of our attitude towards sacerdotalism generally, to dogmatic theology everywhere, will accuse us of any undue bias in favour of the Dutch Reformed clergy on account of their function or abstract theological views, when we say that not only the Boer but South Africa generally is under debt to them.

Undoubtedly there must have been cases of self-seeking [279] and self-assertion; and a certain narrowness is perhaps inherent in all forms of sacerdotal rule; but, viewed as a whole, their influence must be pronounced as having been beneficial, and this far beyond the ordinary mean. They have striven manfully to introduce both in education and social life much of what was healthiest and most vitalizing in our modern civilization, and to exclude much of that which was lowest and most sordid; and with singleness of purpose, with but few exceptions from the days when Erasmus Smit followed the fortunes of the early fore-trekkers and his aged wife harangued the British Commissioner at Maritzburg, they have stood faithfully by and headed their people in all times of oppression and need.

The time is very rapidly approaching when the unique relation between the Dutch pastor and his flock will finally have ceased. For the last twenty years the intellect of the Boer race has rapidly been finding openings for itself; the bar, the side-bar, the medical profession, the professor's chair, administrative and political life are absorbing the brilliant youths. The time is very rapidly approaching when the minister will differ from his flocks only in the fact that he has gone through a course of dogmatic theology, and when he will be equalled or excelled in general culture and knowledge of life by the large mass of his congregation; and, with this change, he will take his place side by side with other clergy, whose usefulness is confined to the performance of their ghostly functions; and, with this change also, the Church will cease, save in exceptional cases, to draw the best intellects of the people, as it has done in the past. But we believe that in the future no impartial survey will be possible of the history of South Africa during the last two hundred years without it being perceived how large is the debt which, not the Boer alone, but South Africa generally, owes to the clergy of the Dutch Reformed Churches.

Not only does it imply a curious miscomprehension to state that the rule of the clergy has been autocratic and oppressive, but it has been his Church which has formed for the Boer his most valuable exercise ground [280] in Republican Government, and his relations to it and to his clergy exemplify markedly his curious inborn gift for self-government. Not only have his pastors been men of the people, rising up from among them and from no selected class, and imposed on him by no authority from without; but in every case each particular congregation selects its own leader, and frees itself of him when proved undesirable. The submission with which, in a still largely oligarchically governed country like England, a single individual is allowed to select, by his own autocratic will, son, brother, or dependant, and place him in control of a church and parish with all its inhabitants for a lifetime, is a condition unintelligible to the free South Africa Boer, and one he would not tolerate for an hour.

On the other hand, while he would not tolerate, and still less submit to, or respect, or regard as valid, any authority imposed on him from without, having once for himself selected an individual in whom he reposes full confidence, he is peculiarly willing, not merely to support and follow him, but to submit to his administration of the law, provided it is a law which he has at first agreed to recognize; and this is equally true whether the case be that of a pastor, field-cornet, commandant, or the president of a state. It is this inborn peculiarity which yields to the Boer his remarkable aptitude for Republican Government, and prevents him from being amenable to any other form of rule.

It is often objected, when one questions the wisdom of that unwritten law which ordains that, in the English Army, out of an empire of countless millions, all its officers should yet practically be selected from a comparatively small knot of wealthy families known as Society, and that such a process must hopelessly cripple the army; that the English nature is so addicted to oligarchic rule that the bulk of men born in England could never be made to respect, follow, or submit to, one of themselves; that the fact that a man was born in their street, shared the conditions of their daily life, and belonged to their own class, would cause them to look down upon and despise [281] him. Whether this be true of the English or not, with the Boers exactly the reverse is the case. It is precisely the man of the people, growing up among them, sharing their life and social condition, whom, when he has won their confidence and they have selected him to his post, they are willing to follow and support with a whole-heartedness seldom accorded to rulers or leaders of men.[75] They submit to the man because they regard him as the incarnation of their own will.

It is further often said, when one animadverts on the fact that members, connections, or, worse still, dependants of those small circles of families forming the administrative oligarchy in England, are almost always sent out as Governors to the Colonies of Canada and Australia and New Zealand, that the English-speaking people of these countries would not respect men chosen by themselves, and that no successful form of government would be possible were not foreigners sent them. Whether this would be the case in Canada or Australia we have not had personal means of judging, but in South Africa the very reverse is true. Were a prince of the Guelph family or a Duke's son sent out, though loaded with wealth and oligarchic honours, he would never have one half of the influence over or submission from the majority of South Africans that a man born among them, growing up among them, and selected by themselves, would readily obtain. "He is our man, who knows us and whom we know; we have chosen him, therefore we will follow him!"

It is the complete failure to understand this ineradicable instinct on the part of the African Boer which has caused so many of those who have attempted to interfere in South African affairs so grievously to fail. With a race in which this instinct is so inborn that it manifests itself [282] in all the relations of life, towards pastor, magistrate, and general; with an individual instinct for not obeying any person to whom it has not first consciously and deliberately delegated its authority; and then an instinct for following and supporting that person,—the South African nation, in which the Boer element predominates, is bound ultimately to become free, self-governing, independent, and republican.

It has been said of the Boer that he is bigoted and intolerant in religious matters. That this accusation should ever have been made has always appeared to us a matter of astonishment. It can only have been made by those who either know little or nothing of the true up-country Boer, or who confuse intolerance with the totally distinct attitude of a peculiar steadfastness to your own forms of faith. When we remember that it is not much over a century since the last execution for abstract opinion took place in Europe; when we recall the fact that within the memory of those still comparatively young, in the most enlightened community (or that which so considers itself), a man cultured, able, and public-spirited, was excluded from the performance of his legislative duties, imprisoned, and befouled by the Press and the nation on account of his view with regard to the nature of a first cause; when we mark that, in the same community, it was only the other day that Christians holding one form of shibboleth were with difficulty, and after fierce struggles, brought to admit brother Christians using another closely-allied shibboleth to any participation in public life or honours; when we consider the fact that to-day a Roman Catholic or a Jew is still in England excluded from the highest offices of State on the ground of his abstract views, and is on that ground regarded with scorn and disgust by the large mass of his fellow-countrymen; when we recall the fact that it is not twenty years since a book speculating on the abstract grounds of religion was refused at the bookstalls of the United Kingdom, and publicly destroyed in several cases; when we note the contemptible and grotesque riots which to-day occur [283] in the heart of our most modern cities over the cut of a cassock or the burning of a pitiful pot of scent; when the gift of a work of art representing a mother and child to a board school is sufficient to rend an Anglo-Saxon community with fierce and brutal passions; when these things are considered, it is surely unintelligible that a charge of religious intolerance should be made against the South African Boer. With every excuse for an exceptional intolerance, a large portion of his ancestors having come to South Africa to escape religious persecution in Europe, he yet compares favourably with other nations in this respect, and the burnings of Quakers and witches which disgraced even New England have never been known in Africa. No man has ever suffered death for his religious views on these shores.

Firmly wedded to his own faith and not readily allowing any interference with his own attitude, he is yet singularly willing to abstain from interference with the abstract views of others. With regard to the up-country Boer of the present day, we are personally exceptionally qualified to pass an impartial judgment, having through life held views on theological matters not shared by the bulk of the societies about us; and we can unqualifiedly assert that it is not in the true primitive Boer farmhouse that an inquisitorial intolerance, or the desire to suppress the right of the individual soul to its own convictions, will ever make itself felt. There is far more bigotry and inquisitorial interference with the right of free thought in the English parsonage and the nineteenth-century drawing-room than in the primitive up-country Boer farmhouse. Wherever bigotry and intolerance make their appearance among the Boers, they will always be found to take their rise among the more cultured nineteenth-century part of the population. Many years ago a Boer woman once inquired of us how it was we never went to any church. We replied that our religion was not at all the same as hers, and that according to our view it was not necessary to go to church. She asked us whether we could explain to her what our religion was like. We replied that we could not, each man's religion was his [284] own concern: and she dropped the matter, nor referred to it again till nearly two years later, when she said: "You told me once that your religion differed from mine; but the more I know you the more I begin to think we must have the same religion. When I sit alone with my sewing I think very far away sometimes; and sometimes it occurs to me like this: If I had many children, and each one spoke a different language, I would try to talk to each child in the language it understood; it would be always me speaking, but in a different language to each child. So, sometimes I think, it is the same God speaking, only He speaks to you and to me in different languages."

When it is remembered that this remark was made by an unlettered Boer woman, who could neither read nor write, I think it will be allowed that the learned, philosophic, modern thinker may sometimes not have much to teach "the ignorant Boer" with regard to the true basis of philosophic religious toleration.

The third indictment which is made against the Boer with regard to religion is that he is superstitious, that he allows his religion to dominate every concern in his life, instead of confining it to that small sphere in which alone in modern life conformably with respectability its influence is allowed.

It may be at once stated that, in a certain sense, the statement that the African Boer is dominated by his religion is true, but in how far this indictment is one from which he suffers will vary with the standpoint of the individual considering it. We, in this latest phase of the nineteenth-century civilization, are so habituated to seeing men and women walking about, carrying with them wholly dead or more or less moribund religions which, like decaying flesh, corrupt the atmosphere, and render putrid the whole environment of those who bear it, that large numbers of us have reached a point at which we are unable to conceive of religion as anything but dead, a thing to be restricted within the narrowest possible limits, if life is to remain livable.


But the difference between a dead and a living religion is vital; the first weighs down the man who carries it; the living religion up-bears him. There is perhaps no life quite worth living without a living religion, under whatever name or form it may be concealed, vivifying and strengthening it. The Boer's religion is alive, it is in harmony with his knowledge, his ideals, and his aims. Therefore it is his strength.

Theoretically, so far as its dogmatic clothing is concerned, his religion is a form of Christian Protestant Calvinism, and differs in no way from that still professed by the majority of Scotchmen, from the Aberdeen grocer to the Edinburgh professor. Actually, it differs very materially from that held by the large bulk of any truly modern population.

It is often said of the lives of men congregated in vast cities, under more or less completely artificial conditions, that they suffer from these or those disadvantages—that the de-oxygenated air of cities retards muscular development, that it renders persons continually exposed to it anæmic; that the continual noise, vibration, and lack of direct sunlight have an injurious effect upon the nervous system and that a debilitated physical condition is bound to arise. But the most serious loss entailed by life in vast cities under artificial conditions, whether in the modern or the ancient world, is seldom directly referred to.

The story of the small modern child, born and brought up in a modern town, where her father, an electrical engineer, had installed all the lights in the street and houses, and who, when at four years old was taken to the country for the first time and allowed to see the stars, said: "Did my father set them up too?" may or may not be true; but it illustrates with force the terrible vacuum in knowledge and experience of the most profound aspects of existence which a life walled in amid artificial conditions tends to produce. That which the Buddha left his kingly palace and sat beneath his Boh-tree to seek; that which Zoroaster found in his solitary sojourn on the mountain top, and Mohamed in his secret cave, which the Hebrew leader discovered in the deserts of [286] Sinai, and the teacher of Galilee in the wilderness and on the mountain tops; that which, having perceived, they strove to give voice to in the world's bibles, and which has become symbolized in the world's temples, from the rock-hewn cave temples of India to the Holy of Holies of the Jew; from the Greeks' Parthenon on the hill-top bathed in light and air, to the Gothic cathedral with its forest of shafts—that of which all the religions and all the dogmas are but the tentative attempts of the struggling human spirit to give voice to—this reality is not easily perceived as present and always over-arching when the individual is swathed in by conditions of life, the result of man's small labours, and seemingly having no root beyond his own will; and when the tumultuous sounds and minute details forced on it at every moment almost blind and deafen the individual to the consciousness of anything beyond the fragmentary and present.

This is the serious danger and almost certain loss to which the spirit of man exposes itself, when he severs himself from all contact with the living and self-expanding forms of nature beyond himself, and surrounds himself purely by those which have a relation to himself, and have been modified by his action. It is an inverted view of the universe, with accompanying narrowness and blindness, which, far more than any danger of physical asphyxiation and nervous muscular deterioration, constitutes the evil attendant on the ordinary life of men in great cities, or wherever immersed in purely artificial conditions.

Undoubtedly there are lofty and powerful spirits who have reached a deep and calm clear-sightedness which no aspect in the world immediately about them can obscure, to whom the city and the petty sights and sounds of our little human creation are seen abidingly to be as much the outcome and mere passing development of the powers beyond and behind them as the silent plain and the mountain top—

"And what if trade sow cities,
Like shells along the shore;
And thatch with towns the prairies wide
With railways ironed o'er?
They are but sailing foam-bells
Along thought's causal stream,
And take their shape and sun-colour
From that which sends the dream."

No doubt the Jew of Amsterdam in his small room grinding his lenses, living on milk-soup and a few raisins, found his piercing mental vision no more shut in by the city-roof above him than had he slept with Jacob's desert-stone for a pillow; and no doubt there are as rare souls, immersed externally in the very noisiest civilization about us, who yet see serenely over and above it. But, with the mass, this is not so; we cannot see past the little material conditions that press on us.

When one bends over an ant-heap on a vast plain, that ant-heap with its little millions of existences toiling there are to the one bending over it but an infinitesimal part of the vast landscape, where a hundred other ant-heaps, broken and new, lie around, and over which the sun shines and about which the mighty mountains rise; but to the ant, down in the ant-heap, it is the universe; he does not even know that his ant-heap was heaped out of the red sand and will return to it to-morrow; he knows nothing of the fallen ant-heaps or of the great human eyes looking down at him; were it possible for him to climb to the top of his ant-heap and raise himself up on his tiny legs, and once to look round, he might know something of what the ant-heap was.

Most of us in our human ant-heaps are unable to lift ourselves out of them; we mistake the handful of dust we have accumulated round us, and which we call our cities and civilization, for the universe; and the noise we make in gathering it we think is the sound of eternity. Were it not for two things which we cannot obliterate in our civilization—the wail of the newborn child, and the long straight, quiet figure, knowing nothing and seeing nothing, which the hearse carries away—it might well be that we should sink into a state of ignorance and superstition so profound that we should believe, not merely every day but in our sanest moments, that the will of man was the ruling power of life, his work the [288] end, and we ourselves the universe, and beyond us, nothing!

From this form of ignorance and superstition our primitive Boer is saved, assuredly not because of any superior wisdom and insight inherent in him, but by the conditions of his life. For the average human creature reads life as it is continually presented to him. The Boer has not willed to go into the wilderness and the desert to seek for wisdom with the teacher of Galilee or the sage of India; but for the two hundred years of his South African wandering that which prophet, seer, and poet have in all ages turned to for wisdom has been laid open as a book before him, whether he willed it or not; so that he too, however slow or dull his individual intelligence, has been compelled by the daily conditions of his life, with more or less clearness, to decipher it. Dark and blinded beyond the average of human souls must have been the old fore-trekker, who, as at sundown his wagon crept for the first time into some vast plain where no white man's foot had ever trod, and as the blue shades of evening fell across the countless herds of antelope, and the far-off flat-topped mountains stood sharp against the sky, could cry "I, I am the centre of this life! The earth is mine, and the fulness thereof!" And the solitary African youth who has been out in the veld looking for his father's sheep all day, over kopjes and through dried-up watercourses, and who walks home in the starlight, and hears the jackals call, and pauses, listening silently to hear if it be not the young lions crying for their food, has been exposed to educative influences totally distinct from those which he would have been subjected to had he spent the day in a factory amid pulleys and wheels and a crowd of labourers, and had walked home at night through a gas-lit crowded street, past bars, music-halls, and policemen, to his garret. The last music-hall air, the picture of light streaming through the public-house doors, the whirr of the machinery, and a thousand minute complex sense-impressions springing immediately from the action of man, the one, of necessity, carries home with him. The other has none of these complex man-related sense-impressions; he loses much [289] which the other wins, but he also has something of his own. Whether he will or no, however dull his ear and dim his eye and torpid his intellect, he carries home with him pictures of the colossal things which he has seen, things which the son of Jesse beheld when in his youth he tended his father's flocks at night, to guard them from the wolf and the bear, and which, when King of Israel, he reproduced in that chant which has gone down the ages: "When I behold the heavens, the work of Thy fingers, the moon and the stars which Thou hast ordained—what is man that Thou art mindful of him!"

The African woman on her solitary farm may have no inherent power for grasping large wholes, or seeing behind small externals to the moving cause beyond; yet when she sits all the morning sewing in her still front-room, while the children play out in the sunshine by the kraal wall and the flies buzz round, and she sees wherever she raises her head, through the open door, twenty miles of unbroken silent veld with the line of the blue mountains meeting the sky, she is exposed to eight hours of an educative influence entirely distinct from that she would have undergone had she sat in a tenement-room in a city court, and heard her neighbours tramp to and fro on the stairs, and the omnibuses crash in the street, and seen only from her window, when she looked out, the red-brick wall opposite. No man, be he hunter, traveller, or trader, or who or what he may, who has ever been exposed to both orders of influences, will say that their educative effect is the same, or that a man can remain long exposed to either set of influences, the artificial life of cities or the solitude of the desert, without being profoundly modified by it, above all, as to his view of existence as a whole, which is religion.

The Boer, however blind by nature he may individually be, has always open before him the book from which the bibles were transcribed—and it has been impossible for him to fail wholly to decipher something from it. Therefore, even his dogmatic theology (and it is wonderful how very little real dogmatic theology the true primitive [290] up-country Boer has!) lives, animated by a great, direct perception of certain facts in life.

That which the Essenes sought in their rocky caves, which the Buddhist thinker to-day immures himself on his solitary mountain peak to find, which the Christian monks built their monasteries and cloisters to acquire; to supply men artificially with the means of partially attaining to which dim-aisled churches and pillared temples have been reared in the midst of dense populations; which the old Dissenting divine was feeling after when he said: "Spend two hours a day alone in your room with the window open if possible, in quiet and thought; your day will be the stronger and the fuller for it"; and which the Protestant hymn aims at when in its quaint doggerel it says—

"Night is the time to pray;
The Saviour oft withdrew
To desert mountains far away;
So will his followers do.
Steal from the world to haunts untrod,
To hold communion there with God."

—that which religious minds in all centuries and of all races have sought after, has been strangely forced on the African Boer by his silent solitary life amid vast man-unmodified aspects of nature. And with all that he may lack in other directions of knowledge and wisdom, of keenness and versatility, that which the conditions of his life had to teach him, he has learnt. Therefore, though his dogmatic theology is in no sense higher or different from that of others, his religion oftentimes lives when theirs is dead.

We are aware, it may be said, that all this is purely a misconception; that the man of unusual intellect seeks nature and solitude merely that his own large mental powers may unfold themselves unhindered; that what the saint, the philosopher, the poet, and the prophet find, they take with them; that to the mere bucolic mind the midnight sky studded with stars is but the covering of the plain where sheep feed; and that the most infinite sky over him when he off-saddles alone at midday in a vast plain is but that to which he looks up in order to find the time. [291] But this is not so. The great analytical reasoner may find, labouring in his laboratory, the great thinker in his study, watching the processes of his own mind, may discover, that which the vast man-untouched processes of nature testify of; it is exactly on the simple purely receptive mind that the silence and solitude of vast unmodified natural surroundings have the most educative effect.

Driving on a hot summer's day in a cart across a great African plain, with the light pouring down on the brak bushes and karroo, till it seemed to shimmer out of them, the Boer who drove us was, as usual, silent. He was a man six feet in height, large-boned and powerful, with a still blue eye, an iron will, and indomitable persistency. Living in a remote part of the country, he seldom went to church more than once in the year, and could with great difficulty read a chapter in the Bible. During the years we had known him we had never heard him refer to anything more profound than his sheep and cattle, and the habits of tiger-leopards, upon which he was an authority. After driving about two hours, the horses' feet sinking into the sand and coming out again with a sucking sound, but no movement breaking the hot stillness, he looked round at us, with that peculiar shy glance which marks men who live much alone, and do not often try mentally to approach their fellow-men, and said slowly in the Taal: "There is something I have long wanted to ask you. You are learned. When you are alone in the veld like this, and the sun shines so on the bushes, does it ever seem to you that something speaks? It is not anything you hear with the ear, but it is as though you grew so small, so small, and the other so great. Then the little things at the house seem all nothing. Do you hear it, too—you who are so learned?"

We are aware of the guffaw of laughter which would greet such a statement from souls on the stock exchange, in drinking-bars and fashionable clubs, and perhaps the national assemblies where the representatives of civilized nations meet. This man, it would be said, had lived so much alone with nature that he had become a fool. If he had been fifteen years in the share market [292] or the diplomatic service, and had lunched at his club and spent his evening at the theatre or the café chantant, he would never have felt himself or his affairs small, nor would he have perceived anything greater than himself. It will be said it was all ignorance and superstition.

We reply: "This may be so; but if it is, then burn your world's bibles, and destroy your world's temples, for that which the world's bibles were written to express and its temples built to symbolize is an 'ignorance and superstition.' Yet, before we accept your verdict finally, answer us these two things: Where were you and I eighty years ago? Where shall we be eighty years hence, when this throbbing hand that writes to-night is a handful of dust, and your mouth that smiles is quiet beneath six feet of earth? Answer these questions without 'ignorance and superstition,' and we, too, will allow that the man—who, in the presence of the vast life of nature which existed for ages before he was and will continue for millions after he has ceased to see, which waxes and wanes without regard of him or his ends—is a fool, when he feels himself less than a fine grain of sand in the mighty circle of that life in which we live and move and have our being and are continually sustained."

The day may come when, with changing conditions of life, the Boer will no more live in the presence of these large realities, and then his religion will be dead; whatever external form it may take.

It may be, that then he will have much of the learning of the schools, and his own material life will have become infinitely complex, and his knowledge how to govern the powers of nature for the gratification of his own instincts almost unlimited; he may have luxuries, comforts, amusements he knows not now—but it may not be so well with him.

It may be, the day will come when he shall rear for himself vast cities, and walk, with the kings that have been, upon their walls, crying, "Behold this is Babylon, my great city, which I have built"—and know not that the sands of the desert shall cover it, and the little shrew-mouse build her nest there.


And, if that day come, when the desert shall hold no more for him any burning bush, and no spot on earth be longer sacred to him; when, with increased external knowledge and material wealth, the little I grows always greater and greater for him, and the universe beyond less and less, then he will no longer fight so bravely on his kopjes or live so peacefully on his plains or fall asleep so quietly when the time comes to lie beneath the sand and bushes—and it will not be so well with him.

When the day comes, when he exchanges the voice of the desert for the ignorance and superstition of the city, then, however vast his expansion in certain directions, the secret fountain of strength of this strange little people will have dried up, and they will be even as others.

Finally, it has been said of the African Boer that he does not regard the African native as his brother, nor treat him with that consideration with which man should treat his brother man.

The consciousness of human solidarity, with its resulting sense of social obligation, has in all ages developed itself in proportion to the nearness of man to man. Initiated in the relation of mother to child, where the union is visible, physical and as complete as is compatible with distinct existence, it has spread itself out successively, as the sentient creature developed, through the relations of family and the tribe to that of nation, and has extended, even though in a partial and undeveloped condition, to the limits of race; but here, almost always, in the average human creature as up to the present time evolved, the growth has stopped. Even the most ordinary man or woman, in the bulk of the societies existing on the earth to-day, is conscious of a certain union with, and more or less strong social obligation towards, the members of his own family; most men are conscious of some sense of solidarity with, and of some social obligation towards, the members of their own national organization; and probably few are wholly unconscious of a certain dim sense of identity with, and a vague (though it may be very vague) sense of obligation towards, men of their own [294] colour and racial development. But only the few, and they the very few, most fully evolved and exceptionally endowed humans have been in the past or are even at the present day capable of carrying the sense of solidarity and social obligation across the limit of race. Nor, when we consider how intermittent and often feebly active is the social instinct even within the domain of the family, the nation, and the race, is it to be wondered at that its action should cease almost entirely when the vast chasm of racial distinction is reached. While humanity as a whole is still in so primitive a condition that even the bonds of family kinship, the close interactions of a common nationality with common language, common tradition, and common institutions, the similitude which binds nations of a common race, are yet continually inoperative in insuring any approach to truly socialized action; when nations as closely knit by ties of physical resemblance, common racial habits of thought and ideals, as are all the European nations, are yet continually animated by the bitterest antagonism; while Frenchman hates Englishman and Englishman German and German Italian, it is assuredly in no way to be wondered at, that, when humans are brought into contact with those as widely dissevered from themselves, not merely in colour and external configuration, but in the much more important matters of anatomical structure and the racial ideals and habits of life, the results of countless ages of growth, as are Mongolian and Aryan, European and African, that social instinct should become in the main entirely inoperative.

Ignorant persons may suppose, when they hear to-day of Americans who belong to what is probably, on the whole, the most enlightened and humane state on the globe, first mutilating and partially dismembering the Negro, and then applying the fire gradually to parts of his body that he may roast the more slowly, that the men performing such deed must of necessity be cut off from the rest of their race by a fiendish ferocity peculiar to themselves and an anti-social structure of mind. Such ignorant persons also undoubtedly picture to themselves the owners of the English slave-ships (who have perhaps [295] inflicted a larger amount of suffering on the human race than any other body of men of equal number in the history of the race) as persons wholly devoid of human sympathies, who could not be trusted to deal justly or generously with their own wives or children, and possessed of no sense of social obligation. But we, who have obtained a sorrowful knowledge through personal experience of racial problems, we know that this is not so. We know well that a man may bristle with all the ordinary domestic and private virtues, may be a loyal husband, a devoted son, a thoughtful father, a citizen who abides within the law and would give his life for his nation, and may even be a man who would not easily inflict an uncalled-for wrong or wanton cruelty on any man of his own race and colour, though divided from him by national and lingual differences; and yet, when the limit of racial continuity is reached in this same man, there may be a sudden, complete and abysmal hiatus in the action of the moral sense and the socialized instincts. (Strangely enough, in our own personal experience, several cases of the most painful cruelty and injustice, on the part of white men towards black, have been cases in which the white men concerned were exceptionally good-hearted, generous and open-handed men. In one instance of particular cruelty, where two white men were concerned, upon seeing our manifest discomfort at their action, they were sincerely distressed. "If I had any idea you would take on like that about a miserable nigger, I would never have touched the wretched beggar!" remarked one. Persons ignorant of the racial problem may regard it as improbable, if not impossible, that men who could perform acts of ruffianly brutality towards an African should yet be so sensitive as to be deeply concerned that they had momentarily distressed a looker-on, whom they hardly knew and had no personal friendship for, but who was of their own race. Yet, persons who have practically no knowledge of inter-racial relations know that not merely is this psychologic attitude possible, but that it is a matter of universal occurrence.)

Social instinct has never in the past, and does not [296] to-day, except in a few and exceptional instances, spontaneously tend to cross the limits of race.

The sooner this truth is recognized as axiomatic by all who attempt to deal with problems of race, the greater will be the possibility of dealing with them in a spirit of wisdom.

To blind our eyes to this fact, and then attempt to comprehend or deal rationally with race-problems, is to act as would a schoolboy who sets himself to solve an arithmetical puzzle in which he had failed to set down the leading term. The sooner it is recognized as axiomatic that the distinctions of race are not imaginary and artificial, but real and operative; that they form a barrier so potent that the social instincts and the consciousness of moral obligation continually fail to surmount them; that the men or the nations which may safely be trusted to act with justice and humanity within the limits of their own race are yet, in the majority of cases, wholly incapable of so acting beyond those limits; that only in the case of exceptional individuals gifted with those rare powers of sympathetic insight which enable them, beneath the multitudinous and real differences, mental and physical, which divide wholly distinct races, to see clearly those far more important elements of a common humanity which underlie and unite them, is the instinctive and unconscious extension of social feeling beyond the limits of race possible; that, for all others, wholly just and humane action beyond the limits of their own race, can be only attained as the result of a stern, conscious, unending, mental discipline; and that perhaps no individual man or woman is at the present day so highly developed as regards social instinct as to be certain that they can at all times depend on themselves to act with perfect equity where inter-racial relations are concerned; that no individual is so highly developed morally as to be able wholly to dispense with a most careful intellectual self-examination when dealings with persons of alien race and colour are entered on; and, finally, that the great moral and intellectual expansion which humanity has during the ensuing centuries to undergo, if harmonized human life on the globe is ever [297] to be, is in the direction of extending the social instincts beyond those limits of the family, the nation, and the race, to the humanity beyond those limits:—the sooner we recognize as axiomatic these truths, the quicker will be our progress towards the comprehension and satisfactory solution of racial problems; and, failing to recognize these truths, it is perhaps wholly useless for anyone to attempt to deal with the moral and social aspects of inter-racial questions.

With perfect uniformity throughout the whole history of the human race in the past, we find strong anti-sociality appearing at the point where the light Aryan race comes into contact with darker races; and it appears to make little difference which nations are concerned.

We Anglo-Saxons have the unhappy priority of having caused to the natives of Africa, in our functions as slave-traders, slave-owners, and explorers, probably more than fifty times as much suffering as any other European nation. It appears, indeed, to have been our unhappy prerogative to have been born to be the perpetual scourge and torture of this vast, wonderful, attractive continent and its interesting children. Probably at least fifty Africans have perished under the lash, have borne the manacles, or been shot by the guns of Anglo-Saxons, for every one that has been lashed, manacled, or shot by a Frenchman, German, Spaniard, or European of any other variety; but this has arisen, not at all because other nations were more socially inclined towards the African, but because the love of material wealth being dominant in us and trade our speciality, the African, whom all white nations have regarded as mainly a means of producing or procuring wealth, has naturally fallen most into our hands. Where Spaniard has dealt with Indian, German, Frenchman or Dutchman with African or Asiatic, exactly the same lack of lofty social feeling, and the same mental attitude regarding them merely as means for production of increased benefits for themselves, and not as individuals who are ends within themselves, has prevailed.

Irrespective of nationality or time, the line at which light race meets dark is the line at which human sociality [298] is found at the lowest ebb; and, wherever that line comes into existence, there are found the darkest shadows which we humans have cast by our injustice and egoism across life on earth.

If then, when the statement is made that the South African Boer has not treated the South African native as it is desirable man should treat man, it be meant to imply that in his treatment of the dark races his conduct has been at one with that of all other European races, and that he has not entered on that loftier and more socialized course of action toward subject and dark races, to which it is our hope that the humanity of the future will attain, then the statement is wholly and unmitigatedly true. But if, on the other hand, it be intended by the assertion to imply that the South African Boer, in his treatment of the dark races with whom he has been thrown into contact, has been less governed by just and humane instincts than men of other races under like conditions, that the English slave-trader or speculator, the Portuguese adventurer, the Spanish conqueror, the Jamaica planter have treated the African native better, then the statement is wholly and unmitigatedly false.

As the student of racial problems has continually occasion to repeat, there has been no wide difference between the attitude of different white races when brought into contact with dark, whether in Asia, Africa, or America; but on the whole the relation of the African Boer with the African native, sorrowful as are all inter-racial relations, has yet probably tended to be rather slightly more and not less pacific than those of other races. This results in no way from the higher humanitarian standpoint of the Boer, but from his circumstances.

Firstly, from the fact that his numbers have always been small and insignificant as compared with those of the Bantus, the African people with which he has mainly had to deal, and that the Bantus, being one of the most virile and powerful of all dark races, it has not been possible for him to dominate them as he might have done a feebler people. (Were the natives of India of the same [299] independent and resolute spirit as the Bantus of South Africa, England could never have subjected and held them down, as she has done at the point of the bayonet, for sixty years.)

Secondly, the African Boers are a peculiarly pacific and even-tempered people, not quickly roused to anger or any other emotion, though when roused yet difficult to appease; and, as acts of violence towards subject people are most often the results of sudden outburst of passion, the native has probably fared somewhat better at their hands than in those of a more quick-blooded race.

The strange, gentle, slow and somewhat dreamy element, which forms so important a charm in the character of the Boer, is by no means peculiar to the Dutch South African. It is a quality which is found almost quite as markedly in the grandsons of the British settlers of 1820 and other South African born men of English descent, and is especially marked in many of the young English farmers in the Eastern and Frontier districts, who form the flower of our English population, and who are often South Africans of the third generation. It is by this peculiar mental attitude more even than by their muscular build and prominent bony structure, that one tells almost invariably and without fail the South African born man of whatever descent from the foreigners and newcomers who fill our seaports and mining centres. It has in it something slightly reminiscent of the Italian dolce far niente, and partly finds expression in the Dutch motto of the Free State: "Wacht een bietje: alles zal recht kom" (Wait a little: all will come right); but it differs wholly from the Italian quality, in that this gentleness and slowness covers almost invariably a power of stern, persistent, concentrated emotion which we have not found equally common in the Italian. It takes on the average five times as long to rouse the African-born man into action and powerful emotion as the average foreigner of English or any other nationality; and it takes ten times as much to pacify him again!

Speaking once to a noted American traveller and military man, who had journeyed all over the world and [300] noted keenly, we asked him, after spending two years in South Africa, what had most struck him in the country. He replied: "The strange gentleness of the African men. I hardly knew whether to be most surprised or touched by it when I first came. I have seen nothing like it in the world."

When we ourselves returned to South Africa after ten years' absence in Europe, and were therefore able to view our birth-fellows almost impartially, the true born South African man, whether Dutch or English, reminded us of nothing so much as those huge shaggy watch-dogs, which lie before their masters' houses placid and kindly, whom you may stumble over and kick, almost with impunity; but when once you have gone too far and he rises and shakes himself, you had best flee. There is little doubt that, in the great blended South African nation that is coming to its birth, this mental attitude will be a leading characteristic; exactly as quickness and alertness is a distinguishing mark of the Americans of the Northern and Western States. It appears probable that exactly as we shall be marked by our large, powerful bony structure and heavy muscular strength, we shall be marked by a certain gentle passivity, covering immense emotional intensity and dogged persistency; that the great men we shall produce will not be so often keen financiers and speculators as artists and thinkers; that our national existence will culminate, not in producing versatility and skill, but persistency and depth, in our most typical individuals. We shall probably always be a people more easily guided through our affections and sympathies than almost any other, and more impossible to subdue by force.

Whether the cause lie mainly in the nature of the Boer or the Bantu, this is certain, that the African native has not tended to melt away with anything of the rapidity with which the Indian was exterminated by the English American in the north, and by the Spaniard in the south of the American continent; nor in the two hundred years the Dutch have been in South Africa is any incident so painful recorded as that which is universally accepted, and has not, we believe, been authentically denied, with [301] regard to the treatment of the natives of India, when men who, however brutally, had been fighting in defence of their native land, were, before being blown from the gun's mouth, compelled to lick up the blood of the persons they had killed, in order that the fear of eternal damnation might be added to the other horrors of death. No analogous incident, sinking civilized man so far below the level of the wild beast and the primitive savage, has we believe ever been recorded of the African Boer, even when his women and children have been killed and mutilated by scores.

The same equality in the treatment of the dark races, whichever may be the white race concerned, is illustrated when we consider the condition of the African native in the different States into which South Africa is divided.

In the Cape Colony, where the majority of the white inhabitants are Dutch, though at present a British Colony, the position of the native is more favourable than in most other states. Theoretically the aboriginal native has in the Cape Colony almost the same rights as a white man; he is allowed to vote at elections, and theoretically he is allowed to sit on juries; though practically were he to attempt to substantiate his right to try cases in which white and black men were concerned by sitting on a jury he would probably be lynched; and in no case has a native ever been returned for Parliament. Yet his position, in spite of past laws and recently introduced laws—that he may not walk on the pavement, etc.—is far more satisfactory than in any other state.

In Natal, another British Colony, where the majority of the white inhabitants are English, the position of the aboriginal native is far less satisfactory, and that of the Asiatic as intolerable as it well can be. Large numbers of Indians from India have been deliberately imported on the plantations; but they are both hated and feared, and vigorous endeavours are made to prevent their trading or acquiring property in a land into which they have been deliberately introduced.

In the two Republics of the Free State and the Transvaal, the native has not the same theoretic rights as in [302] the Cape Colony. He has neither the theoretic right to sit on juries or become a member of Parliament, which in theory, though not in fact, he has in the Cape Colony, nor is he recognized by the law as the equal of the white man. Practically, in the Transvaal he increases and multiplies as fast as elsewhere, if not faster, but his condition is in many ways far less desirable than in the Cape Colony.

On the other hand, it is in the purely British possessions of Matabele and Mashonaland that his condition is worst. Probably a larger number of natives have been exterminated in these territories during the last eight years than throughout the whole of the rest of South Africa by Dutch and English together in any like period. And it is here that, during the last few years, a determined and practical attempt has been made to introduce a modified form of slavery under the name of compulsory labour. The unhappy condition of the natives in these territories rises, however, not at all from the fact that the men dominating them are English, nor at all from the fact that the few genuine white settlers in the country are of a lower stamp than those elsewhere in South Africa, for this is emphatically not the case; but to the form of government.

A body of speculators, mainly non-resident in the land, chartered for commercial purposes and given despotic rule over a vast country and its people, must always be the form of rule most productive of evil to the subject people, whether the speculators so incorporated be French, Jewish, English, Belgian, or German. The rule of such a speculative and commercial body must necessarily be devoid of those personal sympathies with the ruled which may soften even the government of an individual tyrant; the conscience of such a body, if in its collective capacity it may be said to have one, must of necessity exercise itself merely in a conscientious striving to extract the largest possible percentage of interest for the corporate shareholders from the land and labour of the subject people. Under no possible circumstances can it exhibit those virtues of consideration and self-abnegation for the subject [303] peoples which even a purely military conqueror might exhibit; and the rule of such a body must always remain the most oppressive for the ruled and the most demoralizing for the ruling people. To blame, primarily, the men who are the mere instruments in carrying out such a form of government would be unjust in the highest degree; and even these speculators and adventurers who form the ruling chartered body can only be blamed in a secondary degree, having but obeyed the instincts of their kind, which compels individuals of a certain class to employ their lives on earth in seeking to attain the largest amount of profit with the smallest amount of outlay to themselves. The primary blame must rest with that people which at the end of the nineteenth century can allow so hoary an anachronism as a commercial chartered company to usurp its place in the government of primitive peoples, and, from under the ægis of its flag, to stretch forth in safety the long, grasping fingers and the grotesque, greedy face of a Financial Chartered Company, which should long since have been relegated to the past among the extinct evils of the human race.

The native is best off and happiest in South Africa where, as amid the mountains of Basutoland, he still maintains a semi-independence. Both Dutchmen and Englishmen have carried on bloody wars against this people, but neither the Boers nor the English have been able wholly as yet to break up their tribal organization; and, guarded by their mountains and their courage, they are slowly absorbing modern civilization, in a manner more healthful than would be possible under a sudden dislocation of their social and moral system. How long this interesting phenomenon in national African development will be allowed by circumstances to continue, it is difficult to say. Should gold or precious stones be found in their territory, it would then be worth while expending many millions in destroying the people and taking complete possession of the land.

Thus, viewing the South African states as a whole, we find that the question of the condition of the native does not depend on the nationality of the governing [304] power, or of the majority of the white inhabitants, but on other and more intricate causes.

The question is frequently asked one when visiting in Europe: "Which treats the African native the best, the Dutchman or the Englishman?" It is a question which awakens a certain silent amusement. It is as though, after spending ten years in Europe in the study of labour problems, one had been asked on one's return to South Africa: "Who treats his employees best, a Scotchman or an Englishman?" The true answer is, that the relation of white man to black, as of employer to employed, depends on far deeper and more complex conditions than any racial variety of the white man or the employer will explain.

The individual equation always tells for much; but, roughly speaking (one can but deal roughly with the delicate, complex, organic intricacies of social life), there are in South Africa, as a whole, four attitudes among white men as regards the native, which attitudes have no causative relation with the matter of race.

Firstly:—There is the attitude of the farming population who, more especially in frontier districts and to the north and east, are, and have been for generations, thrown into close contact with the aboriginal native in his most crude and primitive form, and who are compelled by the conditions of their life to live in close relations with him, and to act upon and to be re-acted on by him. These men and women, whether Boer fore-trekkers and their descendants, or British settlers of 1820 and their children and grand-children, have borne, and to a certain extent still bear, the crude brunt of the first impact between light and dark races, with their widely opposing ideals, manners of life, and physical differences. These people and their ancestors, whether Dutch-Huguenots who landed in Africa two hundred years ago, or British settlers who came eighty years ago, have in almost all cases passed through a life-and-death struggle with the natives for the possession of the land, a struggle which, even in the case of the British settlers who were backed by the soldiers and the power of the British nation, was bitter enough; and this struggle has left behind it in many cases that [305] intense, curious bitterness which is engendered by a race feud. Further, it is these folk who to-day are brought directly face to face with the difficulties which must arise at the point where the divergent ideals, social, ethical and racial of the Aryan and the African, are first brought into contact.

Generally speaking (and allowing for the many exceptions which will always occur where men are spoken of in large masses), there is, in this class of the population, a strong tendency, not so much towards scorn and indifference towards the native, as of keen, bitter resentment, which can sometimes not be described otherwise than as hatred: a feeling which is not generally found in any other large class of the community. Nor is this in any way to be wondered at, when we recall the century-long bitterness between folk so closely allied as are Highland Scots and Lowland English, and the deathless feuds of the border, and, above all, when we recall the fact that in modern times a whole civilized nation has howled frantically for the blood of a brother nation, to avenge defeat sustained by superior numbers of its own men, fighting against inferior numbers, inferiorly placed, of the fellow nation.

With the wild-beast cry of "Avenge Amajuba" still ringing in our ears, it appears rather wonderful than otherwise that so much of pacific human feeling should prevail between frontier farmer and fore-trekker and the aboriginal races as still does exist.

There are few old frontier families in Dutch or English in the Cape Colony, Transvaal, Free State, or Natal, who, if their past family history were written, would not have to record hair-breadth escapes of women and children who have fled for miles at night to avoid sudden attacks, of farm-houses destroyed, of men coming home to find the women and children killed and mutilated; this in addition to the record of countless open battles in which their ancestors or they themselves took part. And, on the native side, are even bitterer memories, and the consciousness, in many cases, that the land on which the white man now lives, and where he dominates, was once his father's. Alike among Dutch and English, these memories have left their bitter mark. We have [306] never heard the natives so bitterly and fiercely denounced as by descendants of English settlers whose ancestors had suffered racially from them. "I almost hate you," has cried a friend belonging to one of the most cultured and intelligent of our English Cape families, "when you talk of raising and educating the natives. Hewers of wood and drawers of water they shall be to us to the end, in spite of you." "I feel a shudder of hatred go up my spine when I look at a Kaffir," said another refined and, in many respects, noble frontier English woman to us once; "I feel as if I could just put out my foot and crush them."

On the other hand, it would be very easy to exaggerate the universality and intensity of this antipathy. We have known, not isolated instances, but scores of cases, where both English and Dutch farmers have entertained the kindliest feelings towards natives generally, and their own servants in particular. We have known intimately an unlettered Boer, so innately gifted with the power of ruling wisely that for fifteen years, during which time he had always from fifteen to thirty natives on his farm, he had never found it necessary to punish, or even to threaten, one, and who was so beloved by his servants that, during a long illness, when he was obliged to leave his farm for months in the care of his Kaffir servants, he found on his return not one head of stock missing, and the farm managed as though he had been there himself. We have known both English and Dutch farmers who have kept their servants twenty years, cared for them in old age, and aided them in illness. We have known a Boer woman, herself an invalid, who would go evening by evening to the hut of her sick servant to comfort and help her; we have seen a whole Boer family gathered weeping round the grave of a black Bantu; we have known both English and Dutch farmers who have treated their native servants with far more consideration and kindness than the average English landowner shows towards the labourers on his estates; and, on the other hand, we have known both English and Dutch farmers with whom no native would willingly remain in service; who were as cordially hated as they hated; [307] and whose whole relation with the native was a series of petty oppressions, with occasional acts of gross injustice or cruelty. But we believe that every one who has attentively and impartially studied this matter on the spot will allow that it is a question into which the Dutch or English extraction of the farmer does not materially enter.

In the notorious Hart case of a few years back when, in the Cape Colony, an English farmer of that name flogged a Bantu to death in cold blood, they were English and not Dutch farmers who offered to subscribe to pay the small fine inflicted on him, and who resented his being punished at all. The most hopeful sign with regard to this feeling of "race feud" is that, on the whole, it is a decaying feeling. To find it in its full intensity among Dutch or English one must always go to the older men and women of forty, fifty, seventy, or older, who in their youth went through bitter experiences of conflict with the native, or remember the experiences of their parents. It is far less intense among the younger men and women of from twenty-five and under, now growing up, and in another generation it will probably be all but extinct in the form of a true race feud.

We would not, however, for a moment have it understood that an anti-social attitude towards the native is peculiar to the African-born farmer. So far is this from being the case, that, where men newly arrived from Europe are thrown into the same close contact and come into conflict with aboriginal natives, their attitude is generally far less human, and has in it an element of complete callousness and cold contempt, seldom or never found among men born in South Africa, who have grown up among the native races. This may appear strange, but an analogous phenomenon has often been noted in America, where it has been observed that the slave-owners in the Southern States, in spite of their dominance over the slaves and occasional acts of brutality and oppression, really regarded them more as fellow humans and were emotionally nearer to them, than were, in many cases, the Northerners who came to live in the South, and who, on first meeting them, were often filled with shrinking and disgust.


The African-born farmer, Dutch or English, who has grown up among the natives, has been nursed by them in childhood, often speaks their language, and knows something of their manners and ideas, may hate them; but always, in his heart of hearts, he recognizes them as men; and his very hatred and bitterness is a kind of tribute to the common humanity that he feels binds them. Man only hates man.

To the newcomer from Europe, on the other hand, who becomes a farmer, or is otherwise thrown into contact with the aboriginal native, he is often an object, not merely of hatred, but of contempt and sport; there is no mere assumption of cynicism when he speaks of the native merely as an object of the chase; he has often no other view with regard to him. We have heard a brilliant young English officer, who had only been a few years in the country, but had been employed in what is called a "Native War," dwell with manifest and almost boyish delight on the pleasures of Bantu-hunting. He described the curious delight you feel in finding the mark of a naked foot and tracing it down. "It is," he said, "like the pleasure of the hunting field—with something added!" We have also known a skilful English doctor, a man of singular tenderness and generosity towards persons of his own nationality, who had been only eight years in the country, but had served in two native campaigns, remark that the only two purposes for which natives were of any use were to serve as targets for rifle-shooting and as good subjects for vivisection; while his inhumanity towards wounded and other natives was a matter of common remark among the South African burghers. And a fine young English trooper who had been two years in the country, after hearing our view on the native question, remarked thoughtfully: "Well, you know, all this is quite new to me; I have never regarded the nigger as anything but something to shoot." To the South African-born man this light-hearted, callous, sporting attitude is quite foreign. He may take the life of a native, but he takes it sternly, bitterly; it is something much more than hunting down the indigenous black game of the country; he knows in his heart of hearts that the [309] thing he hunts is a man, and a strong man; and in his hatred of him there is even an element of fear as well as revenge. This attitude forms a far more promising field for the growth of possible socialized feeling, than any attitude of callous contempt can even do. Hate is nearer to love than scorn can ever be; and, paradoxical as it may seem, we hold strongly that if, in South Africa to-day, sincere personal affections and sympathies are to be found crossing the line of race, they will be found most often between the African-born farming population, Dutch and English, and their domestic servants. The warmest expressions of affection towards individual natives which we have ever heard have been expressed by English and Dutch farmers towards their old servants.

Secondly:—There is the attitude of the townsman, Dutch, South-African-English, or Newcomer, who most often never comes into any contact with the aboriginal natives at all, and whose employees or domestics are all more or less civilized natives or half-castes. Here, as a rule, the element of intense racial bitterness is wholly lacking. The townsman treats his civilized servant very much, in the main, as men of all European nationalities treat their domestics and dependants. As far as wages, food, and the amount of labour expected is concerned, the civilized domestic servant and town labourer is rather better off than in most European countries. On the other hand, there is always a hard-and-fast line, dividing the white man from the dark, which is never overstepped. The only real drawback to the condition of the civilized native in towns lies in the fact that, the moment he attempts to transcend the limits of domestic servitude, he is met by a stern barrier, socially obstructing him; a barrier raised quite as much by the instinct of the descendant of the Anglo-Saxon as the Dutch-Huguenot. At present this matters little, as the attempt is seldom made; but in fifty years' time this harmonizing of black and white men in the higher walks of life will probably form a great part of the South African problem. It is not, however, a problem which the question of the descent of the white South African from Dutch or English ancestors will in any way affect. Every one who has any knowledge of South [310] African life will allow that at the present day it makes not the slightest difference in the condition of the civilized servant in towns whether the doctor, lawyer, or merchant who employs him be of Dutch or English descent. We have, indeed, sometimes been inclined to fancy that there was a tendency, as between women, for a slightly more friendly and harmonious condition to be common between the mistress of Dutch descent in towns and her domestic, than between the English woman and hers. The Dutch descended woman is often more easy going and has less of that curious reserve which marks the attitude of the Anglo-Saxon towards his dependants, and even his equals, but there is probably no material difference along racial lines in the treatment of civilized domestics and employees in town and their employers.

Thirdly:—There is what, for want of a better name, we may define as the financial and speculative attitude towards the native. This is the attitude of the great labour employers. These in South Africa are practically never individuals but great syndicates, companies, and chartered bodies, the individual members of which are seldom or never brought into any personal contact with the natives whose lives they control. In the majority of cases they are non-resident in South Africa, wholly or for the larger part of their lives. For them the native is not a person hated or beloved, but a commercial asset. To these persons the native question sums itself in two words "cheap labour." Their view of the native question is as clear-cut and simple as the outline of a gallows. There is no intricacy or sentiment about it. The native is the machine through the action of which companies and speculators have to extract the wealth of the South African continent; and the more the machinery costs to keep at work, the smaller the percentage of South African wealth which reaches the hands of the speculator.

For them the native problem is in a nutshell: "In how far, and by what means, can the rate of native wages be diminished, so raising profits?"

It must be remembered that the natives form almost the entire body of the true wage-earning labouring class of South Africa. The European, working in mines or [311] elsewhere, becomes almost at once in the majority of cases simply the overseer or guider of the native labourer; and in mining and other fields of labour natives are rapidly fitting themselves for even the more skilled forms of manual labour.

The question of the relation between the great foreign syndicates and companies and the native races of this country is thus the great labour-question of Europe and America, but complicated enormously by two facts.

Firstly, by the fact that the mass of speculators, company-controllers, and their shareholders are Jews, Englishmen, Americans, or Continentals, wholly non-resident in South Africa, or residing here merely while they make sufficient wealth to ensure their retirement to a life of ease and luxury in Europe, or, in the case of ambitious Englishmen, till they are enabled, by means of their wealth, to enter the English Parliament or obtain titles. From this fact it follows that a decrease in the wages of our native labouring-class and an increase in dividends, while it makes larger the number of yachts on the Mediterranean, the palaces of Jewish and other parvenus in London and on the Continent, and while it increases the gains of the tables at Monte Carlo and of the racing grounds of England, and replenishes the purse of debilitated and degenerate English aristocrats, yet not only adds nothing to the material wealth of South Africa, but positively diminishes those very small returns which, under existing legislation, is all she receives from her mines. European skilled miners and overseers, as a rule, take their extensive earnings back to Europe with them; and, with the exception of what the Government railways may earn, it is mainly through the wages of the native labourer, expended in buying the necessaries of life, and to no inconsiderable extent in supporting his schools and churches, that the legitimate commerce of the country and its general population are benefited by its mineral wealth. Thus, on this all-important point, our native problem, which is also our labour problem, differs materially and most essentially from the labour problem of Europe, in that it is not merely a question of dividing the wealth of the country between one class or another (as is generally the [312] case in Europe and America), but of retaining the products of the land in the land of all.

It has been said by a leading speculator and millionaire in South Africa that, if the States of South Africa could be broken down and crushed into one, a united and uniform labour system might then be adopted, and the wages of natives brought down; and he has held up as an ideal for imitation the condition in India where natives are supposed to labour for twopence a day, living therefore so closely upon the border of starvation that the slightest rise in the price of foodstuffs renders them liable to widespread famine and destruction, and therefore also eager to accept the smallest amount of remuneration which will maintain life.

To this end the Speculator and Capitalist, among others, have sought to enter political life in South Africa, and in order that, by the passing of laws dispossessing the native by indirect means of his hold on the land, and breaking up his tribal tenure, and by the making of direct wars upon him, the native, at last being absolutely landless, may be unable to resist any attempt to lower wages, and may then sink into the purely proletariat condition of a working class always on the border of starvation, and therefore always glad to sell his toil for the lowest sum that will maintain life.

Were this plan entirely successful, South Africa as a whole would lose all the native now gains, the increased profit going to enlarge the wealth of the foreign Speculator and often aristocratic shareholder; and South Africa would then be saddled with a proletariat class of the very lowest type. For, the only hope of the African native's rising, and becoming a valuable and intelligent labouring class, lies in his receiving such remuneration for his labour as shall enable him to grasp at least some of the subordinate advantages of civilization, along with those of its evils which are necessarily forced on him. If the South African native is not in the position to obtain primary education and in some measure to grasp such advantages and privileges as there are in our modern civilization, then, as his old tribal ideals and institutions are destroyed, he must inevitably sink into a condition lower and more terrible [313] than that of the lowest proletariat in Europe; and, as he forms (and must do for generations, in a land where white men refuse to perform the bulk of physical labours) the major part of the population, South Africa will permanently be weighted and degraded by the degradation and degeneracy of the great bulk of the inhabitants.

To the Company Director, Capitalist, or Speculator who never visits South Africa, or remains here only while financial reasons make it desirable, it can matter nothing what becomes in the present or in future generations, morally or intellectually, of the native. But to those of us, to whom South Africa is a home, to whom not only the present but the future of this land is our most intense human concern, and who with our descendants have got to sail with the African native permanently in the same ship across the sea of time, it matters everything.

The second, and even more important point, which differentiates our labour problem from that common in Europe, is that our labouring class is divided sharply from the employing class by the line of colour. Even in European countries, where employers and employed are of one race and physically identical, divided merely as being for the moment the haves and have-nots, the adjustment of the labour problem presents sufficient difficulty. But in South Africa, where racial and physical differences divide employer from employed, the difficulties are immeasurably and almost inconceivably increased. Any attempt on the part of our labouring class to better its position or resist oppressive exactions, being undertaken mainly by men of one colour against men of another, will always immediately awaken, over and above financial opposition, racial prejudice; so that even those white men, whose economic interests are identical with those of the black labourer, may be driven by race antagonism to act with the exactors.

The complete failure to grasp this aspect of our South African problem leads to much of the inability in other lands to comprehend the South African situation as a whole.

Thus, it is often said, "Why should the speculator, monopolist, and millionaire loom so large in South African life? Why should he be so much more of a [314] bugbear and threaten all free political and social institutions in South Africa in so much greater a degree than in other lands where he also exists?"

Our answer is, that, wherever in Europe or America the great millionaire and monopolist, Jewish or Christian, is found, with the pluto-aristocratic speculators and shareholders who draw their wealth through him, there also is found a great equipoise to their powers of exaction or aggression in the great more or less organized masses of the working classes. The limits are very sharply set, beyond which the greatest Jew or Christian speculators backed by the most powerful princes or plutocracy cannot go. We have no such counterpoise in South Africa. Owing to the difference of colour and race, our great labouring class dare not organize itself and use its strength; and we dare not organize and use it, for fear of awakening the baneful flames of racial antagonism. South Africa is the heaven of the Speculator, the Capitalist and Monopolist. Here, alone, the opposing forces which meet him in every European and civilized country do not exist.

The labour of resisting his endeavours to gain possession of the whole mineral and landed wealth of the country and its public works, and with them the exclusive control of the political machinery, lies with the necessarily small middle class section of the community, mainly farmers and small landed proprietors with a handful of skilled workmen. These have not only to act for themselves, but for the entire labouring class, which, on account of its difference in race and colour from the rest of the community, cannot act for itself.

Any one who has given thought to the study of modern social phenomena will understand at once how enormously our labour and racial problem, being interlaced in this way, complicates our whole social condition, and how almost helpless it throws South Africa into the hands of the Jew or Christian foreign speculator. Let us give a concrete example. In a town called Kimberley there is the richest diamond mine in the earth, once the property of South Africans and belonging to multitudes of them, but now fallen into the hands of a powerful syndicate of Jews, Englishmen, and others, who, with [315] the exception of a couple of South Africans, all reside wholly or mainly out of South Africa, and whose power is so enormous that they are able, by a mere expression of their will, to return eight or ten men to the Cape Parliament, irrespective of the wishes of the community. The action of this powerful syndicate has long formed a source of disease and corruption in South African public and social life, and the question is often asked, why the working men and other inhabitants of Kimberley and such places as the company dominates submit to this dictation? It is not so, as is sometimes supposed, because the skilled workmen and overseers in the great company are inferior to their compatriots in Europe in their love of freedom or independence; for they are, on the whole, picked men, and many of them are strongly democratic and freedom-loving; it is certainly not because the inhabitants of Kimberley are more indifferent to their manhood, or more willing to deliver up their right to exercise the franchise into the hands of a small knot of Jews and Speculators than other men; but because the forces opposed to them are so overpowering compared to their own that they feel crushed.

Were the thousands of working men labouring in the mines white and not black, and could they freely combine with the skilled European overseers and the townsmen, the monopoly of the power would be snapped in twenty-four hours. They would refuse to go into compounds, they would demand higher wages and the right to spend them where they pleased, and to vote for their own representatives, and the power for evil of the great company would be broken.

But the bulk of the workmen being black, and any attempt to organize or combine them being at once met with the cry "Black-men combining," the handful of skilled English workmen and townsmen are powerless.

Our situation is very grave, and differs radically for the worse from that of all other lands where kindred problems have to be faced. We have nothing to fall back upon but the fierce and indomitable love of freedom in a certain section of our farming population.

If it should be possible for the international Speculator [316] and Capitalist to carry out his dream, to break down the autonomy of the different African States, each one of which is a kind of redoubt behind which our African freedom is ensconsed, and, crushing us into one structureless whole, to introduce "a uniform native policy," dispossessing the natives wholly everywhere of their lands by means of labour, taxes and other devices, and bringing them down to the lowest wages on which life can be sustained; then, when we shall have inured the Bantu to the evils of our civilization, its drinking bars and its brothels, but have left him no means of attaining to the higher forms of knowledge or the fields of skilled labour, then we shall be left with a great, blind, stupefied Sampson in our midst who will assuredly some day stretch out his mighty much-wronged arms, and bring down upon our descendants the social structure which we are to-day with so much labour attempting to rear. Our gold and diamond mines may by that time be exhausted, and Jew and Speculator, and foreign Shareholder will long have carried off their gains and be here no more to feel the shock. Upon us whose portion of earth to inhabit this land is, and upon our descendants, will fall the blow.

This question of the relation between the foreign Speculator, Capitalist, and Shareholding class, and the black labouring class, is the very core within the core, and the kernel within the kernel, of the South African problem.

The old race-feud attitude of the farming population, whether Dutch or English, toward the native, embittered by the memory and tradition of old wars and early struggles, will tend to die out, and even now is softened by personal relations; the attitude of the employer towards his civilized native domestic has in it little that is detrimental to either, and suggests in itself no great coming evil. But the financial attitude is one which will increase in its importance and in the virulence of its evil effects with every year that passes. The small cloud upon the horizon, to-day no bigger than a man's hand, will in forty years have overspread the whole of our African sky, unless some great and at present unforeseen revolution should occur. It is upon the skill with which white man and black man combine to avert the threatened evil, [317] that the fate of Africa in the middle of next century will depend. It may be easy to break down and demoralize our great, and at present noble, Bantu races; but it may be very hard ever to build them up again.

For the moment the men holding the purely financial attitude towards the native happen mainly to be English or Jewish foreigners; but there is really nothing racial in this attitude. Were the Hollander or the Italian head of a great gold-mining, railway-building, or diamond syndicate, there is not the very slightest reason to suppose that he would regard the native South African less purely as a "commercial asset" than his brother, the English financier, does.

The more profoundly one studies the question of the relations of the white man to the black in South Africa, the more clear it becomes that the determining factor in that relation is something far other and deeper than the mere fact that the white man belongs to this or that European variety.

Fourthly, and finally:—There is the attitude of a body of persons, small in number, of no invariable occupation, sex, nationality or creed, but gathered from every part of the white community. So small in number is this body of persons holding this attitude, that again and again have men and women belonging to it felt inclined to draw aside, and in bitterness of spirit to cry with the ancient Hebrew at the door of his cave: "I, only I, am left." Yet this body has never been wholly extinct in South Africa, and, we believe, never will be. As we hope later to deal exhaustively with the aims and attitude of this section, it is not now necessary to do more than passingly to glance at them.

This attitude cannot be better summed up than by saying that it is the extreme antithesis to the financial attitude. The man compelled by his mental organization to take this view is of necessity obliged to regard the native not merely as a means to an end, but as an end in himself. Consistently with his whole view of life, he cannot regard the native merely as a "commercial asset"; he is compelled to apply to him the categorical imperative: "Deal with thy fellow man as, wert thou in his place, [318] thou wouldst have him deal with thee." He does not write up as the motto which is to govern all the relations of black men with white: "Cheap labour," but rather: "Noblesse oblige." He is compelled always to see before him the moral fact that, if the native be his equal in mental power and moral vigour, his place is beside him; but, if the African native be not his equal in mental power and moral vigour, then there rests upon him the mighty obligation of all strength towards weakness, of all wisdom towards ignorance, of the God towards the man: "Rank confers obligation."

To the man holding this view the African native always presents himself as the little dark brother of the great family-human, who stands looking wistfully through the open door into the great hall of the nineteenth-century civilization in which we fair-skinned Aryans disport ourselves; and we are compelled to go to the door and say: "Come in, little brother, come in; there are many better things out there in the open where you have been than we have here; yet, if you must enter, give us your hand, and we will try to show you what in this great carnival of ours is best, and what most to fear. Walk in, little brother, this hall was built for the sons of the children of man."

It is manifest that men holding such a view must ever be in deadly conflict with men holding the financial view. The future of South Africa depends largely on the result of this struggle. If the financial attitude predominate absolutely, and the native be dispossessed of his land by wars and the skilfully devised legislation, which, breaking up his tribal tenure everywhere, throws him and his lands entirely into the hands of the financial speculator, and if low wages at the same time deprive him of the means of education, he must become a helot, having no stake in the general welfare of the land of his birth—always its menace, and at length its downfall.

If the other attitude prevail to any large extent, and the men holding it are strong enough to set their mark on legislation and institutions, the native may morally and intellectually survive the shock (as he certainly will physically) of sudden transplantation from his moral and [319] social atmosphere into ours. He may grasp what is great in our civilization along with its evils and may yet become the most valuable element and the ablest defender of a social organization in which he has much at stake. But even were this not so, the stern demands of human obligation towards human would yet compel an uncompromising justice towards him.

It will be obvious, to any person skilled in the study of human nature, that persons, compelled by their mental organization to assume this attitude towards the African native races, are not of necessity of any particular European race, sex, or social condition. In the past some of the men who have the most courageously and persistently upheld this attitude have been Englishmen. More notable than all was Sir George Grey, most gifted and most farseeing of all the Colonial Governors whom England has ever sent out, a man of whose type it would appear a country can only produce once in a century. There has also been Sir William Porter, a great Irishman, whose name still recalls noble ideals and generous performance to South African hearts, and who during his stay exemplified the fact that the greatest gift which the old European lands can send the new is one of their great sons, a man with a heart large enough to be able to wrap itself about the people and institutions and things in a new world, and, through loving, to comprehend them. Another man who in the past has been noted for this attitude was Saul Solomon, a man of brilliant gifts, said to be of Jewish extraction, who through a long life amid endless difficulties fought an heroic battle and never fell from the side of justice and generosity towards the African native, and who has left a permanent mark on the legislation of South Africa.

On the other hand, were we called upon at the present day to mention the names of two public men who might be counted always to make their stand and raise their voice where any action of injustice or repression towards the native was concerned, we should give the names of two men of purely Boer extraction, with no drop of English blood in their veins. If during the coming century South Africa is to be preserved from that doom which we sometimes [320] see hovering in the dim future before her; if her native races are to be transformed from dumb brooding enemies, borne within her bosom, to citizens who shall be the joy and strength of her commonwealth, it will not be through the action of Dutchmen or Englishmen alone; but of brave souls irrespective of all descent—"God's-Dutchman" and "God's-Englishman"—hand in hand.

The Boer will pass away. In fifty years the plains of South Africa will know him no more. A mist gathers in the eye and a thickness in the throat when one realizes that the day will come when that figure which made for us so much of the charm and beauty of our African land will have passed away for ever! When no more will the great ox-wagon be drawn out to crawl slowly along the boundless plains, and Oom Piet sit on its front-box with his great felt-hat drawn low over his forehead, watching with keen still eye the wide veld, while Tante Annie looks out from behind him as they move forward on their long march in search of the Promised Land.

The little brown house on the plain, where the stranger met so stately and so kindly a welcome, and the young South African grew up between his parents' knees, loving South African plains and kopjes dearer than life—will have passed away for ever. It will have gone with the springbok and the koodoo and the eland and the lion, with all that made the charm and poetry of this South Africa of ours, that we have loved so. The old krantzes will still look down from the flat mountain-tops, and the blue sky stretch above all; but the Africa we have known will have gone for ever. Men will not know, then, what it was we loved so.

The Boer will pass away! He will pass away, not supplanted by the stranger and the alien, but by his own cultured, complex, many-sided, twentieth-century descendants.

If the men of that generation, bearing his blood in their veins, love freedom as he loved it and hold resolutely by the best attainable by them as he held by it, then the future of the great South African Nation, as far as its strain of Dutch blood is concerned, is assured.



In south Africa he bursts forth in all his multifarious shapes. Now he is the little liquor seller, braving full rivers and prohibitive legislation, with a wagon full of bad brandy made by the Boers, to sell to the natives and return to the Colony with a pile. Then he is a female missionary, buried in a remote native village to instruct heathen girls and women, with the enthusiasm of a St. Catherine. Over the way he is running guns and selling powder and shot which will be taken from the natives as soon as we have made our full gain in selling them. Now he is a cultured, sympathetic, freedom-loving man, talking humanity and consideration for the weaker classes; and then he is a Hart, tying up and flogging to death his black brothers. To sum him up, to say what he is and is not, would be as futile as to sum up the Jew: "We are anything, so please your worship; but we are a deal of that."

Probably no country in the world to-day gives more scope for individual action; therefore our extremes and intensities show themselves on a large scale. We are not weighted by traditions and the growths of an old society. If we speculate, pray, preach, or farm, we do it in our own fashion; the assertion which holds of one does not of another. Nevertheless, broadly speaking, one or two things may be postulated of us as a whole.

One is, that we in South Africa represent the modern nineteenth-century element, with high material development and complex wealth of ideas, as compared with the primitive savage and hardly less simple seventeenth-century [322] Boer. Whatever is evil in modern civilization is ours, and also whatever is good.

In the complex problem of South Africa—the welding together of its peoples—we have the leading part to play; we are at least the cement which must bind into a whole the separate stones. And the main question before us is—how is this to be done?

For the moment, the incomparably more important question, involving, as it does, the world's greatest problem of how the primitive and aboriginal peoples are to be wrought into our social system, is almost obscured by the smaller and comparatively simple problem of the union of the two European folks of the country. That it is desirable may or may not be certain, but that it is inevitable and will take place is certain; how and when are the only questions left open to us.

We have before shown how mixed and interblended already are the two races throughout South Africa. Our so-called English colonies are largely peopled, and in parts almost exclusively, by Boers or their descendants, and the so-called Boer Republics, daily and hourly becoming more densely peopled by English and the nineteenth-century folk who come under their flag and speak their language, till the leading cities of these states are more intensely and really English than the majority of towns in the English colonies. Further, every week and month, as the descendant of the Boer obtains nineteenth-century culture, he learns the English speech, he adopts English methods of dress, and above all he imbibes English ideas. So that to-day in a South African drawing-room you are already unable to tell whether the grandfather and mother of the well-dressed English-speaking man or woman beside you were living on a Yorkshire moor or a Lancashire fen, or trekking in their ox-wagon across South African plains. Already, so mingled are our peoples, that the Free State Boer is often born and reared in the Colony;[76] his parents or his wife's live there; his children are being educated there; while his eldest son is studying medicine in Edinburgh and his daughter married [323] to an Englishman. An English Johannesburg merchant, often born in Europe, may have taken a wife from Natal, have his children at school in Cape Town, and his business connections with the farmers of the Free State. Ten or fifteen years ago, the Boer and the Englishman, though living side by side, kept almost distinct in breed; to-day, throughout the colonies, Free State, and Transvaal, there are few large families some of whose members have not married into families of the other race.

This amalgamation is proceeding always with increasing frequency. In thirty years half the men in South Africa from the Transvaal to Cape Town would have to fight against their own parents in any war of race. And there is no prospect of this process of amalgamation being stayed; it must go on with always increasing velocity as education draws the races together.

In answer to the question, then, how are the Boer and English races to be amalgamated? we would reply: By one who in this case will work unfailingly and without fail—by Time! In fifty years, fight and struggle against it as we wish, there will be no Boer in South Africa speaking the Taal, save as a curiosity: only the great English-speaking South African people. This movement cannot be hindered, it cannot be stayed, it is inevitable.

But it may be said, "Of what use is this amalgamation which may take place only when we are in our grave? The average adult man cannot safely reckon on ten, much less on fifteen or twenty, years of life, and, if we wait for the natural process to complete its work, what chance is there for us to gain the kudos, fame and immortal honour which we desire to make out of the amalgamation of these peoples? Is it not a great chance thrown away? Must we not amalgamate them now—by force, by—well—diplomacy, by anything! You can't lose such a fine chance as this."

To which we would reply: "Yes, the life of the individual is short, but the life of the nation is long; and it is longer, and stronger, more vigorous and more knit, if it grow slowly and spontaneously than if formed by violence or fraud. The individual cannot afford to [324] wait, but the nation can and must wait for true unity, which can only come as the result of internal growth and the union of its atoms, and in no other way whatsoever. For ages England has tried to fasten Ireland artificially on to herself, and after four hundred years it still hangs at her side a dislocated arm, almost as ready to drop off as when four hundred years ago Oliver Cromwell tried to plaster it on with blood and sword. A nation grows, but it cannot be manufactured. Were there no inherent mixture and tendency to sympathy in the different parts of our community, not only would it be impossible to unite them, but it would be undesirable. Were we divided into separate well-organized states without intermixture of peoples, and without that curious racial sympathy which does unite Cape colonials of the old and new races when they are brought together, they would be better left separate; would grow into healthier, stronger and truly greater communities, because they were separate, because they were able to develop their individual genius and gifts untrammelled by alien influences. Mere increase in size never means necessarily increase in vitality and beauty, as little with a country as with an individual man who, as he grows in bulk, so it be only an accretion of superficial adipose tissue, diminishes in vigour and vitality. The world's great nations have never been large; England, Greece, Rome, Holland, Switzerland, have all been nations, minute in territory and small in comparative numbers, and the hour of external expansion is often the hour of internal death."

The reason why the conception of the union of South African peoples is forced on us is that no germs of separate organic national life exist among us (except among the native states). The composition of our states is common, and the little walls that divide us are nothing when compared with the identity of the substance of which we are all internally composed.

If it be suggested: "But if there is so much internal unity, why should we not just hasten on the consummation of the unity by a little external and artificial welding together of the states, so gaining great honour ourselves [325] and helping on a good, at least an inevitable, end?" our reply is that all vital union must be spontaneous and natural, and by attempting to hasten it by a year you may defer it for a century or altogether.

The half-grown youth and maiden, who are slowly and coyly being drawn together, must be left severely alone and untouched if their undeveloped inclinations are to grow into the interknitted sympathy and interest which make the adamantine and indestructible basis of a union that is vital and life-long. Kind aunts and mothers may wish to hasten the matter; they wish to have the pleasure of forming the match; they may even die without seeing the consummation they desire if they let it grow on along nature's delightful lingering ways; and they may succeed—either in rupturing the union altogether, and turning what was still a dream into the revolt of forced inclination—or they may succeed in what they wished, and may wed the still immature boy and girl, whose affections are not yet ripe and who physically are not yet strong enough for union; and the great, healthy fellowship of the ripe man and woman rejoicing in the fulness of freedom in a relation that was their own spontaneous choice, may be supplanted by the sickly fellowship of two souls who never forget that theirs was not a free choice and who, in place of a vital healthy offspring, bear the puny descendants of a premature mating.

When we are ripe and ready we will wed state with state, people with people; and not before. The attempt to wed us sooner by force or fraud will result in possible loss to the match-makers, and in certain loss to us.

Once already we have been interfered with, and the result has sent union back twenty years; and if to-morrow it were effected by external force, the blow at our internal and vital unity would be almost irrecoverable. If the external union comes without the internal, it will be to the irreparable loss of South Africa. If at any time in any of our states the people themselves change in their composition, and those who were in the minority should become the majority, let them do justice to themselves in their own state and demand their own independence; [326] and not only will they succeed, but they will succeed backed by the conviction of even their opponents that they are in the right.

"Wag 'n bietje, als zal reg kom" ("Wait a bit, all will come right").

Time is on our side in this South African difficulty. What to-day might be effected with blood and tears will come with little trouble in five years' time, and be inevitable in ten. "Wag 'n bietje, als zal wel reg kom." Let us remember that the oak that grows the slowest outlives the most centuries; and that peoples are not made but grow.

We as English have above all least to lose by waiting. Every hour that passes, the descendants of a thousand Boers are learning the English speech, are adopting the English dress, are absorbing through literature and social intercourse our nineteenth-century ideals; every month that passes is landing on our shores scores or hundreds of Englishmen to inhabit the land and mingle their blood with the great South African people of the future. "Wait a little," and in this matter "everything will come right." When that time comes, when common ideals animate us, and common blood runs through us, we will be absolutely one folk, but not before; and time is labouring for it.

But it may be said: "If we cannot by force, or by that subtle series of deceptions which in public matters we call policy, bring about this external union, at least we are bound to labour vigorously for internal union between the races if that will help forward our designs. At all costs and at all prices we must keep the Boer pleased with us, that we may carry out our plans with his consent."

Now, to this we would reply: "Union is a very beautiful thing whether between races or persons—but the most ideal marriage that ever was conceived may be bought too dearly; there is a price too high even for union, the price of the integrity of the parties composing it. As in the world of individuals, the union between a man and woman otherwise most desirable, may become a crying evil and a living death when, to attain to it, it is necessary for either or both to sacrifice that which is of more value than any union—their own integrity. If union be [327] not possible while each holds to what he or she believes to be best, if it be purchased at the price of whatever is highest in either character, then, however desirable such a union would on other terms have been, it becomes an unmixed evil, a prostitution and not a marriage. Only those souls united by what is greatest in each, not what is weakest and lowest, and reserving their integrity and independence, can form an enduring and noble union. Where this cannot be, it is better to wait, so by chance the day will come when both will see eye to eye; even if, as the lives of individuals are short and growth slow, the waiting for them should be eternal."

It is sometimes said: "We must pander to the Boer. We don't, of course, agree with his views on this and that matter, but union, you know, we are working for that! We don't believe that the quickest way to raise natives, and the best way, is to flog them; it's an antiquated idea; but the Boer likes it and we must vote for it for the sake of union. The Boer likes us so much if he thinks we share his little follies."

The native tribes have trusted us, have given themselves up to us; we pass them over to the Boer, for the sake of union. And so we barter point after point on a matter infinitely more important to the ultimate destiny of the country, for the sake of settling the difficulties of the hour. We barter our birthright of free, open speech and the frank defence of the lines which we rightly or wrongly believe to be those of justice and mercy at the shrine of a political chimera.

It is not by watering down our civilization and robbing it of its most developed attributes, it is not by affecting to sink to his level in the matters in which he is behind us, that we shall draw him into a great and ennobling union or that we shall in the end win his trust and confidence.

It is by standing firmly and serenely by our own highest traditions of development, it is by wisely and generously seeking to understand him, and in the end by infecting him with all that is best and greatest in ourselves, not by selling our birthright for a mess of pottage, [328] that the great and royal union of the two South African stems will be effected. It is not by the reckless bartering, on either side, of that which our convictions hold as best that any ennobling cementing between us can ever take place.

The seventeenth-century Boer has hardly less, perhaps much more, to teach us than we to teach him; let us each hold by our own till we have convinced and enlightened each other.

The one great lesson of a broad humanity, and the rights of man as man, which, amid fields of war, the European family has learnt in the last two hundred years, and which we, without any inherent virtue, have learnt from our fathers and imbibed from the life about us, we have to teach him. It is our contribution to the solution of the problem of our land; amid all the noise and hurry and fœtid decay which underlies much of our nineteenth-century civilization this knowledge is our great gain, and to betray ourselves on this matter is to rob our fellows of almost the only truly great and noble attribute we have to bring to our union, to which he brings much.

For the child of the seventeenth century, if he will but be true to his traditions and convictions, has much to bring to the union and to transmit to the people of the future. The seventeenth century, too, has its message for the nineteenth, a message which it needs not less than the seventeenth the nineteenth.

In the whirl and din of our material advancement, in the fierce struggle for external gains and progress, there is a side of life we have well nigh forgotten, and the Boer on his solitary South African plains has saved up a tradition we have forgotten and for need of which we may yet die. To a curious extent Boer and Englishman, if they will be faithful to their profoundest convictions, seem fitted to complete and complement each other's growth and make possible a people rarer than either might have produced alone.

While we bring to the Boer the doctrine of a higher humanity, the external literary culture which enlarges the power of the man, he has his own lessons for us. [329] While we have set gold on a pedestal and dance till we are drunk around it like the Israelites about their calf, the Boer, nurtured in his primitive solitude, still knows there are things our god cannot give us, and that material luxury and wealth are not the beginning and end of life, that the man is not greater because his name can stir three millions in the bank, that the cut of a coat is an accident, and that a man sees God as nearly face to face from the front box of his wagon as from the steps of a queen's palace.

A broad, simple conception of human life and its relations, without varnish or finesse, is, if he remains true, his contribution. And if through what is still, in many houses, the impenetrable wall of the Taal, our cry could reach him, we would adjure him, "Hou maar vas, Oom Piet; hou maar vas, Tant' Annie! We have one great lesson to teach you, but you have more to teach us! We will not pander to the one weak spot in your soul, where the trouble and conflict of ages and of tradition has made a gangrene; but, if we hold out firmly and teach you our lesson, teach us yours. Do not let yourself be blinded and misled. All is not gold that glitters. Our trains and our large houses and our grand French clothes, they are all very well; but the greatest men the world ever knew trod the sand with bare feet or rode upon an ass; and a train is better than an ox-wagon only when it carries better men; rapid movement is an advantage only when we move towards beauty and truth; all motion is not advance, all change is not development, and a train full of soldiers bent upon an inhuman attack is a more ghastly sight than a squad of Indians with their scalping knives and arrows on their prairie horses, in so far as the one mode of progression is more effective than the other. The size of our houses and the labour of a thousand weary hands upon our walls do not necessarily give us the happiness you would think. Believe us, the kiss of the man on the lips of the woman he loves, and the joy of the mother over her babe, can be as intense in the little house your own hands built as in a mansion raised and decorated by the hands of others. When a man accumulates too much [330] about him he gets buried under it. Our French clothes are very well; but do you know that in forty years time your portly figure in its black skirt and white kappie, if painted as they are to-day, would seem to the men of that time more things of beauty than the misproportioned productions of the fashions of the day. Hold but fast, Tant' Annie! Under that capacious waist of yours lie sleeping the ancestors of heroes of a larger, freer mould than would ever have sprung from you if the iron band of fashion had compressed you to a point. Hou maar vas! We have need of your simplicity to save us from the disease of our artificiality, we have need of your faith in the value of things that cannot be bought and sold, to save us from the terrible scepticism that is creeping over us, that perhaps there is nothing worth living for but success, and that success means wealth. Hou maar vas, Tant' Annie! Hou maar vas, Oom Piet! And if we will faithfully teach you our lesson and you will teach us yours, the day will come when we will build up between us a people of whom the world will not be ashamed. We will try to heal you of the disease that exists in your condition; we look to you to save us from the disease that battens on ours."

The question of the relation of Englishman and Boer differs from the question of the relation between Caucasian and African races in this, that, while our problem of relation to the Boer tends to simplify and finally to dissolve itself as the mere result of the course of time, the question of the relation of African and European races does not so tend to dissolve and solve itself.

When any two peoples inhabiting one country are so physically related that they have a powerful sexual attraction for each other, and that individuals brought face to face are unconscious of racial difference, the problem of union can be one of great moment, but cannot be one of permanent difficulty. Wait, do nothing, and in time, literally and not figuratively, love finds out the way, smoothes away difficulties, and makes of the two races one. Where races are so far removed that they are more or less sexually repellant to one another, that not difference [331] of speech and training divide them, but marked differences of physical and mental conformation, of colour and build, then, if these two races are obliged to inhabit the same territory, the difficulty of arranging for their happy and useful interaction becomes steadily greater as time passes, and does not tend to solve itself.

All thoughtful trainers of young children are aware that there are certain faults or defects extremely troublesome and unpleasant for the moment, but over which no wise elder ever seriously troubles themselves; they are aware that time will heal these things and of necessity do away with them; while there are faults, for the moment far less inconvenient, which every wise trainer regards as of infinite import because they are exactly those which tend to grow with years, and the teacher or parent who should devote all his energies to training down the boisterous noise and roughness of childhood which must naturally cure themselves with adolescence, and regarded with indifference the germs of selfishness or cruelty, which tend to ripen only with adult years, would be universally regarded as unfit for his labour.

Yet such often appears to be our action in South Africa. To render smooth our trivial and momentary difficulty with the Boer, which time will inevitably remove and smooth out, we are willing to complicate and make more difficult a problem which in thirty years' time Boer and Englishman's descendants will alike have to face in its huge proportions.

Every step in civilization, in education, in approach to the European, which the African makes, will render the problem more difficult, not necessarily more easy, of solution.

What we consider the attitude of the Englishman in South Africa should be to the alien, and especially the African, races beneath him, depends mainly on the view we take of his nature and his world-wide functions in the unfolding of human life on the globe generally.

There are four views on this matter.

Firstly, that of the average Englishman who has no view in the matter at all, who eats, sleeps, begets children, [332] and accumulates as little or as much wealth as he is able without ever reflecting that he forms part of a great people, or considering the future of the organism of which he is part. The views of these persons, by the vis inertiæ that they impart to the whole body of which they form part, are not without their powerful practical influence on the actual condition and action of the race.

There is a second view, held with more or less clearness or mental confusion, but with a great deal of vivacity and sometimes emotion, by a large number of Englishmen.

It is difficult to represent with justice and exactitude ideas that are held somewhat vaguely and with varying degrees of intensity by the individuals holding them, but we believe we most accurately sum up the views of this party by stating that they more or less vaguely hold that the whole world was made for the Englishman, much as in our childhood we were taught that the sun and stars were created to give light to the earth, which probably came into existence a few trillion years after many of the youngest of these. This party has a very vague but vigorously held conviction that at some time or in some way, which they do not specify, the English inhabitants of the British Isles invented all that is known as modern civilization; we have never heard it directly asserted that literature, art, science, and religion took their rise on the globe eight or nine hundred years ago in Britain, but it is tacitly assumed that it was so, if any logical structure is to be placed on the assertions made; in right of this inherent superiority over all earth's people, the same party assumes, still with a certain vagueness but with intense warmth, that the English race is destined ultimately to possess the whole planet and people it. How this is to be done—whether all earth's multifarious peoples, compared with whom the Englishmen on this earth are to-day but a handful, are to be exterminated by means of fire, of sword, of poison, or simply by infection with the diseases of our civilization, with our liquor and kindred institutions—is not often, perhaps ever, clearly stated. The strength of this party lies not in clear and lucid thought, but rather in somewhat florid assertion [333] which, questioned, leads quickly to irritation and warm blood.[77]

He takes it as understood that the Englishman is to dominate and populate the entire globe, and the descension to the questions of how and when, and the grounds for the desirability of such an occurrence, he regards as unpatriotic and childish.

This theory, in its most developed form, may be described as the upas-tree theory, which regards the inhabitants of the British Isles as a kind of growth which is bound to kill out and destroy by its mere existence all the other infinitely complex interesting forms of human life on all earth's vast continents, and to exist alone monarch over a bared earth, like a colossal upas-tree under whose shadow or among whose branches, according to the old fable, it was impossible for plant to flower or beast or bird to breathe.

Impossible and repulsive as this conception would appear to many minds, there is no doubt that, held more or less constantly or vaguely, it does colour the actions and thought of large numbers of folk and is a force to be reckoned with.

Thirdly, there is the view which is, generally, that of all non-English nations and peoples; not only do they not share the upas-tree theory with regard to the mission, the future, of the British people, but it is difficult to make them conceive that it is held by any wholly sane persons. To these non-English nations and peoples, the [334] English are an energetic folk, shrewd even beyond the Jew in business matters, and with a subtlety which in every civilized country has appended to their name the adjective "perfidious." To men, French, German, Russian, Dutch, who have grown up from childhood to adult years surrounded by the arts and civilization that are the common inheritance of the modern world from the ancient, and whose religion and history have never more than incidentally mentioned the name of Britain to them, there is something not merely astonishing but ludicrous in the conception that earth's vast millions, civilized and uncivilized, Asiatic and European, black and white, are to be swept away by this trading fragment of the race; nor is it possible to adduce logical grounds on which to convince them that it will be so. How the Englishman is going to crush out and annihilate the countless millions of China, India, Russia, Japan and Europe, and people the earth they now occupy with the descendants of his body, so that Englishmen may be all and in all on the earth, is inconceivable to those who consider that in the space of some hundreds of years the Briton has not been able to annihilate or gain racial possession of the little island at his side, that Ireland still contains as many Irishmen as it did a thousand years ago; that America, their earliest founded colony, is largely filled by Germans, Swedes, Jews and Irish; that India, though the wealth, wrung from its poverty, flows into English pockets, and affords a noble exercise ground for the sons of the upper English classes, still is as thickly inhabited by men of the darker races as it was before the Englishmen landed. Looking at these facts it is indeed difficult to maintain the position which implies, if it does not assert, that the earth of the future will be peopled by the fruit of British loins, and, when looking round and inquiring, "Where are the descendants of all the races of earth?"—the reply will be, "Gone!"

There is, however, yet a fourth view with regard to the functions and destiny of the English race in the future. It may be that those of us who hold it are, unknown to ourselves, still blinded by that mist of race prejudice [335] which, hanging before our eyes from the first moment of our birth, is perhaps more difficult for even the greatest and strongest man to brush aside than the obscuring vapours of personal egoism; nevertheless, it seems to some of us, looking at the matter with what impartiality we are capable of, that it is a view which is capable of being defended by logical argument, and that the hope founded on it is not wholly chimerical; moreover that it is a view, did they but give themselves time to contemplate it, that would win the assent of many who now seem to hold untenable views of the Englishman's upas-like powers.

We who hold this view are perfectly willing to allow that there have been, are, and will be races as great as and greater than ourselves in many if not in all respects. We not only know, but hold in mind the fact, that not much more than a thousand years ago our fathers were barbarians scarcely higher than the Kaffirs of to-day in the stage of culture and civilization they had reached; that even religion and the art of letters and of material civilization were brought to us by the higher barbarians of the Continent, who had received it as a relic from super-nations of antiquity, who in turn had received it from those wise small Semitic and Egyptian folk to whom mankind owe almost all they are; we did not receive it much more lustily than the Kaffir of to-day. And Alfred, like some white-skinned Khama, led or strove to lead his savage children to accept and prize a civilization and a learning they would never have invented and could hardly grasp.

We are aware that we have not been the leading race of the world in arts and science; that as those ancient fellow folk of ours, who are lost in the dawn of history, invented the alphabet and the art of inscription, and reading, and astronomy, and reared mighty palaces and wove rare garments when our fore-elders were dancing in hyperborean forests, or on Asiatic mountain peaks; so later all that the cultured man of to-day prizes in plastic art, philosophy and literary art was brought to a perfection in Greece which no people since has ever surpassed; and in Rome the arts of war and civil life were perfected and [336] the colossal buildings and paths which we have never even equalled were laid down while, naked barbarians, we still hunted and drank. We know that even in the last thousand years we cannot set our names higher than our fellows in the regions of art and learning. Beside the Euclids, the Copernicuses, the Galileos, Theophrastuses, of the old, and the Herschels and Keplers of the modern, world, we have indeed the superb name of Newton to set down, but it cannot out-glitter its compeers; nor can even our prince, Shakespeare, outweigh the names of Dante, Goethe, Voltaire; nor have we, till Charles Darwin of this century, ever possessed a man who in the world of thought has transformed it, as Luther or the French thinkers of the eighteenth century transformed it, great and beloved as to many of us of to-day are the names of our J. S. Mill and Spencer. In the lower world of military art we have produced none of those men of genius before whom the whole civilized world has trembled, Tamurlane, Alexander, Cæsar, Napoleon; even Alaric and Attila have had no counterpart among men of our blood. And perhaps no serene and impartial intellect can look at the history of the race and say we have ever produced a man who, in fame and extent of influence on the race, has equalled Moses, Jesus, Buddha, Confucius, Mohamet, Socrates and Plato, or even Paul. Even in the arts and mechanical inventions on which we so pride ourselves to-day, we start back with astonishment when we begin to examine how and when we came by them. While our fathers in skins or clotheless wandered in the wilds, the fertile brain of the Chinaman had not only invented the coarser or thicker woven fabrics, but had made from the thread of the silk-worm such silk as the most skilled looms in England can hardly yield to-day, and had formed porcelain of which our creations are a humble imitation; our savage forefathers, if they could have penetrated to the villas and cities of the Roman Empire, would have found them filled with articles of art and luxury, and of delicate manufacture, which he was slowly to be taught, and which to-day he often only imitates with difficulty. Our woollen manufactures were brought us from Flanders [337] and Holland, our silk from France, our muslins from India, our carpets from Persia, and even to-day there is scarcely a manufactured article except in iron work which is not manufactured better in some other country than with us, in spite of the vast bulk of shoddy work we produce for sale. Even in dress to-day we are not only unable in many instances to equal the delicacy and finish of foreign fabrics and ornaments, but we are absolutely dependent on the brains and taste of a foreign people for the cut and manufacture of our clothing, and the direction which our manufacture of textiles and fabrics shall to a large extent assume. Hardly any free savage or civilized people in the world has not been able to invent and determine for itself what class or shape of clothing is suited to its needs, but the great English people hangs with a servility, which would excite our ridicule were it not a matter of national shame, on the breath of the Frenchman's lips and the throb of a French man or woman's brain to determine how it shall clothe itself and what materials its manufactories shall produce; and one French woman, she may be a prostitute, or a public dancer, or a woman of fashion, hitches her dress at one point or wears a protuberant sleeve, and five millions of English all over the earth, with patient zeal and much labour, cast aside their old skirt and sleeves and strive to do as she did; and a few throbs of the brain of a French man milliner will determine that hundreds of thousands of English hats and bonnets are to be thrown aside, while with abject servility five millions of English women seek to cover their heads with what he has invented.

Such abject dependence on the thought and guidance of another people in a matter of daily concern can only be ascribed to the profound conviction of the whole people of the Frenchman's superiority to himself in this direction, and the conviction of the English woman that she is not, in matters of taste, the equal of the French woman, a humble conviction which reduces the English folk to a species of buffoonery, when, in the simple wild suburbs of Cape Town or amid the dust storms and heat of Johannesburg or Kimberley, they persist in following the [338] Frenchwoman and donning the garbs she with taste invented to harmonize with the artificial surroundings of a Paris home on the Champs Elysées!

Whether we allow it theoretically or only in practice, it is undoubtable that in the plastic arts we not only do not surpass, but cannot readily imitate other nations, ancient or modern. We have not only never produced a Phidias or a Praxiteles, but we have no Michaelangelo or Raphael or Tintoretto, like the Italian, no Albrecht Durer with the German, or even, if we except Turner, a man who can stand as a national representative beside Holbein and Rubens, and national painters of the Dutch and Flemish schools; and in the nineteenth century, great as has been our awakening in this respect, it is still to foreign schools that our artists go for instruction.

If we except our superb old abbeys and Gothic relics, which we share with the rest of Europe, our architecture is imitative, and, in the case of such buildings as St. Paul's, shows the grotesque folly of a people who, in an unsuitable climate and spot, will attempt in their search of the beautiful and harmonious to imitate the growths of other climates and conditions. The appalling hideousness of our cities when compared with those of any country in Europe, their grim indifference to harmony and beauty, and yet more appalling attempts to gain them, oppress the new arrival heavily.

In music we have produced no genius and no noble work; the Bachs, Mozarts, Beethovens, Mendelssohns, Wagners are Germans, and we have no men who can approach the lesser but great Italians, or even the Chopins and Meyerbeers. Our music, like the Elgin marbles and the divine gods in the British Museum, is all imported; and when we would raise a monument to our own glory, we rob Egypt of one of her obelisks which, as a ruin among desert sands, was divine, and plant it in damp ugliness on the oozing bank of our mercantile river to proclaim to all the world, "Here is a people with money to import anything; but not the skill to raise their own monuments!"

In the modern arts and manufactures, we have during [339] the last century taken a place in the front beside other peoples in right of a discovery hardly, if at all, less important in its practical effects than the electrical discoveries which in their inception we owe to the Italians and others; and in the daily and hourly small inventions and improvements in manufacture and the domain of practical science, England, if she holds her equal place, does no more than hold it beside the laboratories and workshops of France, Germany and Italy.[78] In the world of art, in those arts in which language is the medium, we are alone able to hold our heads proudly beside the best of modern peoples, not only because we possess a Shakespeare or a Chaucer, but because our literature as a whole is a noble accretion of the beautiful and great.

In that great and beneficent give and take which binds and has ever bound the children of men together, as the blood which flowing through the organs of the body blends and identifies it, we have received, like our fellows, all that humanity has thought or found, from the first and greatest discovery of fire by our prehistoric and perhaps Bushman-like ancestors, to the hardly less mighty invention of letters and arts, and we have also brought our quota to the common stock. But when we look at the matter impartially, the conviction must be forced upon every mind that, in arts and sciences, in manufacture and inventions, in spite of the contributions we have made, we are far more receivers from the common stock than contributors to it; that the world could still get on as far as religion, science, art, philosophy and material inventions are concerned without the Englishman, or were all he has contributed taken away; but the Englishman, if he lost all that in the last thousand years he has gained from Europe, and through it from all the earth, would be again a savage in aboriginal wildness.

And the question then suggests itself to us: Have we really so little to give to the common stock of our fellows? Are our assertions of our own greatness and [340] importance brought down to the fact that, while the majority of other nations owing to their continental position have been obliged to employ the mass of their folk as soldiers, and suffer in all ages from the devastations of war upon their own soil, we, guarded by our island condition, have been able to employ the mass of our working class and to use our abundant coal and iron to produce a larger bulk of a less finished quality of saleable articles than any other civilized people, whom we are therefore able, at the price of the health and joy of our working classes, to undersell in the nineteenth century? Is this the fact, that the narrow and fixed limits of our island home did not admit of our retaining all our population within its limits, and has compelled us to send out swarms of folk to America and all vacant or savage-peopled parts of the earth? Are these accidents our only claim to greatness and to the respect of mankind? When we are called perfidious and money-wringing from our own poor and the weak of all the peoples, is our character summed up, and is our function no higher in the modern world, no higher than that of the Phœnicians in the old, to be the carriers and traders of the race while the world has need of us and then to pass away when our work is done, leaving hardly a trace?

We believe that it is not.

When our wild German forefathers, Saxon, Danish or Frisian, landed in Britain and mingled their blood with the remnant of wild Britons who inhabited the fastnesses of the land, there was one great treasure common to all the barbarian peoples of Europe and Central Asia which they carried with them, the tradition and fact of personal freedom. The Greeks and the Romans believed themselves free; it was the freedom of an enfranchized minority reigning despotically over a vast body of women and slaves, and Athens, in her noblest days, contained thirty thousand free adult males, while her population numbered hundreds of thousands.

In Eastern civilization the proportion of free men was generally smaller, and the absolutely free and independent individual in the nations was sometimes only the solitary [341] despot who ruled. This is never the case with a nomadic people who, if they take captives, have no land for them to labour on, and no dungeons in which to confine them, and whose women and captives of war are therefore always more or less independent. Most of all was this so with our German ancestors, whose women were the most honoured part of the nation, supposed to possess a knowledge and insight which made their advice necessary on every great national question, who accompanied their husbands in peace and war, who gave them as wedding gifts no rose or lock of hair, but a sword and shield which were the man's most precious possessions throughout life, whose scorn and reproach were what the coward most dreaded, and who again and again led the tribes to conflict and victory, as when Velleda, the white-haired priestess, led the Germanic troops to Italy; and whose captives, when by rare chance they kept them alive, were in turn incorporated in the general body.

This absolute freedom and independence of almost a whole society was not peculiar to those northern races who conquered and peopled England, but to that profound consciousness of the necessity and importance of the preservation of individual freedom and the liberty of uncoerced personal action, so wholly distinct from that sometimes misnamed freedom in which the individual is bound to sink his individuality and personal inclination in that of the class or state to which he belongs and to submit abjectly to its rule—this freedom was not originally peculiar to the English, nor has it alone been kept by them. The Swiss in their mountains have preserved the blood and the speech of personal freedom of the Germanic races more pure than anywhere else on the surface of the earth, and nowhere, where that free barbarian blood spread itself, has the instinct and aspiration towards freedom become absolutely extinct. It has lived on in our brothers, the Dutch and French, and turns up again in their descendant, the African Boer; but when the matter is looked fairly in the face, we cannot avoid the deliberate conviction that, among great and dominant civilized people, the English race has kept more unsullied and borne highest, [342] though often half furled or drooping for a time, the flag of individual freedom, which our barbarian ancestors handed down to their European descendants. England has not been free from foreign conquest; she bent beneath the heel of the Conqueror nine centuries ago; but she forced on her conquerors her speech; she has not been without her serfs, but early they became freed men; she has not been without her tyrannies of kings and nobles, but always her people have risen up against it and in time asserted their liberty of action; the masses of her people may have seemed to be flat on their bellies under the feet of rulers as under the early Stuarts, but it was only to rise more resolute than ever under Cromwell, and to rebel against his form of tyranny, too, when his dictatorship promised no increase of freedom.

To-day, when the strife is between wealth, which in skilful hands has usurped a power over men's lives and national destinies which was not contemplated when the laws of property were framed, the men of England will amend these laws as they before amended the laws with regard to kings, so that the power shall be broken and the individual be free; but if they are true to their tradition of the past they will stop when the power of a class to diminish freedom has been broken, and, as the rule of the king or baron was never allowed to become an absolute tyranny, so the yet more powerful rule of the many will not be allowed to become the slavish submission of the few, and the right of the individual to do as he pleases while his act does not hurt his fellow will be as of old the goal at which we shall aim.

The majority of Englishmen love freedom, but they love it in three different ways. The majority love it as a possession for themselves alone; they will not be interfered with, nor will they have their freedom of action barred by any one or any thing; they are not careful of the freedom of others, nor are they at all reluctant to sacrifice and annihilate it entirely if it increases their own; but to their own they cling with tenacity.

This love of freedom the Englishman shares with most savage and nomadic barbarous peoples; it is found [343] in almost the highest perfection in the South African Boer. As a first step towards something higher it is invaluable; in its highest development its mere intensity makes it almost sublime, as is the attitude of the eagle when, having devoured all the lambs and rabbits it can find, it sails alone in the blue; it is an immensely higher quality than a mere servile submission in a people or an individual, and it is necessary as a foundation to the higher developing of the same feeling; but in itself it does not raise the nation or the person feeling it higher than the level of the noble savage.

There are a large number of us, though small compared to the first class, who love freedom for ourselves but also do not desire to grasp our liberty at the cost of others. We love liberty so dearly that we would not willingly inflict an injustice or a wrong on another, and we respect the freedom of others while we venerate our own. This love of freedom we share with all the great and noble souls that have ever existed, from the Persian prince, called the Lover of Justice or the Even-Handed, to the wise and just and far-seeing folk of every land to-day. It is a high and great, a noble, quality, but I do not think it makes us unique among the peoples of the world.

But there is yet a third way in which some of us love freedom. I do not know that any large and strong section of any people has ever loved it so before, though isolated individuals, Chinese, Indian, Jewish and Greek, have been irradiated by more or less of the glory of this passion; it is peculiar as a large racial and worldwide acting phenomenon to the English race and people. We love freedom not only for ourselves, but we desire with a burning passion to spread it broadcast over the earth; to see every human being safeguarded by it and raised to the level at which they may enjoy it; we desire freedom not only for ourselves but for humanity; and we labour to spread it. This I hold is the one great gift which England and England alone possesses; this is the quality which makes us unique among the nations of the earth; this is the gift which we have to contribute to the great common offertory of humanity.


The Greek has art and philosophy, the Jew religion, the Roman high civil organization; each nation and people of the past throws in its offering to the collection of humanity's common possessions. Even the Bushman, if we will keep him a little longer, will creep up and drop in his mite, if it be only by the light with which when, well studied, he will illumine the past, and the hope he gives us of the future of the race when we see what it has already risen from—but the Englishman puts in, I think, the noblest gift of all.

It is a rash hand that dares to lift itself to set the crown on its own head, yet more on that of its own nation; but I believe that, in virtue of this one quality and lacking so much else, we stand to-day the first race on earth, and that we dare to thank the fate that we are Englishmen.

We are not unaware of the objection that may be raised. All Englishmen have not this love, nor does our past or present history always exemplify it. All Greeks were not philosophers; they poisoned Socrates. All Jews are not religious geniuses; they drove Moses half mad, hanged Jesus and excommunicated Spinoza. Yet the one is the most philosophic and the other the most religious people that ever existed. It is not by the attitude of the lower mass (lower in development, however high in wealth or authority) that a people can be measured or compared with others; the most developed and highest growths must be compared as, when we seek to classify plants, we compare their flowers, not their roots. We know that the mass of our people allow and have allowed that love of wealth and luxury, which is the national disease of our people, to sap all other considerations. We know that for years we, the great apostles of freedom, were the slave dealers and breeders of the world, that thousands of folk among us have to-day their wealth, power, culture and freedom from material cares, because their fathers' ships were loaded with men and women between the decks, one half to die there of heat and filth, the others sold at a lordly profit. We too have had our thumbscrews, our dungeons, our wars for [345] lust of gain and power. We know that for years our sugar, cotton and coffee were wrung out of men's hands by the application of Englishmen's whips to their backs—but this too we know, that a time came when, as in times past, the leading section of the nation rose and did away with thumbscrews and dungeons and Star Chambers, so again it rose and declared the trade at an end; so too we know the world saw what it had never seen before (but what may be hoped will be seen many times again in different forms), part of a branch of the English speaking people, dominated by English ideas arise and pour out its blood like water, not for its own freedom, not for the freedom of its kind, but for a despised, scorned and feeble people. Some nations have set their slaves free, but only an English race speaking the English tongue and imbued with English ideals has shed its blood for them! This is a new thing under the sun. Many things have happened, but this never happened before. It is a new era. We know, none so well, how stained is our African record; we know with what envious eyes the government of English Ahabs eyes the patrimony of black Naboths and takes it, if necessary, after bearing false witness against Naboth; we know how Englishmen have crossed this continent and left behind them a trail of slime and gore such as few Arabic slave caravans leave; but we know that, with hearts full of soft concern for its inhabitants, and all the tenderness of strength and wisdom, Englishmen have trodden this continent and laboured among its lowest people; not Livingstone alone but a great corps of lesser unrecorded Livingstones whose names will be forgotten, but the fruits of whose lives will abide. And it was in South Africa that the English nation, when, in 1833, they voted twenty millions for the emancipation of slaves, expended over one million in buying freedom for the black man and Half-caste; and at the same time was promulgated in South Africa, by the will of the English people, the Magna Charta of the black man, which put, in the eye of the law, every free man, Hottentot or Kaffir, throughout the country, on the same level as the white.


In India our rule has been largely one of greed and self-seeking; we know that at Cawnpore, when an army of brave men, in making a last heroic stand for national freedom, killed a handful of white women and children, we, to be revenged on them, fell into inhuman and fiendish barbarities, which, if practised to-day by Boers or Kaffirs or by Frenchmen attacking Englishmen, would in our eyes brand them for ever as creatures beneath the human; we are silent about those horrors when with the fiendish savagery, not of Christians but of wild beasts, we made man after man, before we shot him, kneel down and lick up blood, so that to the horror of death might be added the horror of the fear of eternal damnation. I know no place in human history where barbarities more hellish are recorded, and when in drawing-rooms delicate-lipped women sing of Brave Havelock and his Highlanders, we see suddenly the sheen of the blood of a people fighting on their own soil for the freedom of their race, and we wish the delicate ladies could find something else to sing of.

All this we recognize, and we are willing to look the facts fully, if not unblushingly, in the face; but when all has been seen and said, this also must be allowed: that, though we have set our feet on the land over a hundred years, there are as many or more people of the aboriginal races in the land than when we came, and, if we should pass away from them to-morrow, all we shall have left them as our main legacy will be a certain knowledge of our language and laws, and they would not be a less free, rather a more free, people than when we found them. We have not been to them at least the upas-tree, killing out the race from beneath us, and if at times we have been conquerors and oppressors, and if more often we have made blunders, this one thing is certain, that perhaps not the majority of us, certainly not all of us, yet still a certain body of us, have meant well by them. We have meant to aid and raise them, to put them on an equality with ourselves, and the thought they were being crushed or murdered would be a blow to the most earnest sensibilities of our natures.


It may be replied: "Yes, that is your English cant; you alone of all people in the world have always a psalm in your mouth as you crunch the bones of your enemies, and, while you are putting the bread of the poor and needy in your own jaws, your eyes are turned upwards."

And this is to a certain extent true. Cant lies across our national character as a hideous deformity, peculiar to ourselves. As we have one virtue, so we also have this vice which is ours and ours alone; but is it not the shadow of that very virtue? The disease which is an indication of its opposite? There are times when our heart sickens that we are English, and the meanest and most brutal nation seems great when we compare its attitude with that greasy whine of affected sanctity and humanity with which, often as individuals and continuously as a people, we try to gloss over our acts of greed, injustice and self-seeking.

The Boer, if he wishes to annex a Native territory, says: "The damned Kaffir; I'll take his land from him and divide it among my children." The Frenchman says, if he wishes to possess a territory: "I shall take it for the glory of France and keep it for her honour." And this is noble, direct and manly, if perhaps cruel and unjust.

But the Englishman speaks not so. When he desires an adjoining Native territory, he sighs, and folds his hands; he says: "It's a very sad thing the way these Natives go on! They believe in witches and kill them. I really can't let this go on! It's my duty to interfere. I can't let these poor benighted people go on so!" He says nothing about the coal mines he wants to work in their country or the rich nature of their lands of which he has already got vast grants; so he turns on the Maxim guns, and he kills a few thousands to save the ten witches; and witchcraft is put an end to—but he has the lands and mines, and dishomed and beaten Natives work them for him. How much nobler is the Boer's attitude is obvious. When we want a territory on a larger scale we do not say we are stronger than those people, let us go and kill them and take command of [348] the land for the glory of the Englishman and the benefit of his trade.[79] We first send some Englishmen there till the people, knowing our character and that where one locust comes there come others, grow a little restive and show some displeasure at our fore-runners; then we draw ourselves together and say: "It is our duty to defend innocent men and women trusting to us who have ventured into a strange land" (how and why they came there we don't inquire), and so we draw out our guns in the name of a wronged humanity—and so conquer a new land; or we encourage our citizens to buy shares in a commercial enterprise, lend money may be, and then say: "It is our duty to take the management of its finance, and eventually of its government, because it is our duty not to allow innocent speculators to suffer." Whether the folk in the land will suffer we leave out of view for the moment, but we dwell on that great duty—till the land is ours. In the history of the world there was never a people whose record of relations with other peoples showed so hideous a record of falsehood and self-deception; other peoples have lied to each other; but that immeasurably more hideous lie, the lie told to oneself, has not been common. And we carry this hideous attitude into the relations of private life; it is the distinctive mark of the lower type of Englishwoman (often one of culture and philanthropic and religious inclinations) that she cannot speak the truth to herself, much less to others, with regard to her motives and actions. When she envies another and seeks to win her friend or lover from her, she does not, with the frank wild truth of the Italian or French woman, say: "I will undermine their friendship. I hate her. She has done me no harm but I will triumph over her." She says to herself: "It is my duty to show that man what that woman is," and so, in the performance of her duty, [349] she saves her conscience and attains her end. We cannot look fairly or frankly at our people in their private or public capacity without allowing that that is our deformed feature, our hideous and unique characteristic.

But what does it mean when we come to analyse it? Is it not simply that deference which the less developed and more brutalized part of our nation, aye, and of the separate individual himself, pays to the higher? Is it not that the English nation and English individual, bent on an act of injustice at variance with the most deep-lying conviction of its nature, is obliged to gloss it over or it could not attain its end?

If the French or Chinese or Russian Government is not obliged to gloss over the fact to the mass of its people that in undertaking a certain war it is thinking nothing of justice or injustice, not the benefit of the conquered, but simply of itself; is it not because there is no large body of the people strong enough to hamper it and perhaps tie its hands altogether if it did not cozen and blind them?

What is the action of the English Government under such conditions, when Pitt drags in the words justice, right, mercy, to shield itself, but a covert assertion that such a feeling does exist, which would not stand by it if it did not believe that the freedom and emancipation of others would be aided by its action?

Nay, in the meanest souled Englishwoman, when she dare not say to herself openly: "I hate that woman and I will wrong her," but is obliged to bring in the blasphemed words duty, right, justice, to soothe her own soul—what is it but a testimony that, even in that poor specimen of the race, there lurks somewhere a feeling that right must be done, that for no gain to yourself can you take an unfair advantage. It is the low, insincere element in the woman striving to justify itself before the profound English conception of the absolute necessity of justice and fair play between all men. She dare not slander her fellow unless she has first silenced this.

An Englishman going to sit on the same jury with Boers to try a white man for killing a Kaffir dares not [350] say frankly and openly to himself before he goes in or has heard the evidence, as the old Boer does frankly and truly: "That man is not guilty; no white man shall be punished for the death of a black"; but he says, when he hears the evidence: "After all, one can never be certain that evidence is true; why should I set myself up to condemn a fellow man, perhaps to lifelong imprisonment, when it may be unjust? And is it not my duty to avoid stirring up ill-feeling between Dutch and English by bringing in a Boer guilty?" And he votes with the rest. But what is this hideous fraud but the cringing of the man's lower nature before the higher element in himself? If he dare once, only once, admit frankly in his own heart: "That man committed murder, but I am going to bring him in not guilty because these Boers buy in my shop," he would not dare to give the verdict, and, if he did, something even in that low groping nature would rise up and say: "You are not worthy to be an Englishman," and he would know the agony of remorse.

The Boer does not need to lie to himself because there is nothing in him that would rise up to reproach him if he did not. This hideous fraud in the nation and individual is evidence that there does exist a part which follows after justice and freedom for all men and which has to be blinded and silenced before wrong can be done; it does testify that. Even in the lowest English-speaking man or woman, somewhere, tucked away in the background of their being, is that awful and almost mysterious instinct of our people: "You can't wrong a fellow human being; a man is a man; and what is right for you is right for another. All men have a claim to fair play." And before this whisper the meanest man or woman of our race squirms when he tries to evade it, and, unable fully to understand it or explain it, it lives in the heart of our people, growing louder and stronger as the ages pass. We can no more tell you how and why we have it than the Greek can tell you why he had to make statues and love them; or the Roman laws and roads; or the German music. It [351] seems it is inborn in us. We may try to annihilate it by argument; we may try to cozen it by lies; but in each one of us stands this instinct pointing with its upraised finger the path we have to walk in. It is the mysterious birthright of every English man and woman. We may call it the love of freedom, of justice, but neither of these quite defines it; it is something more; it is the deep conviction buried somewhere in our nature, not to be eradicated, that man as man is a great and important thing, that the right to himself and his existence is the incontestable property of all men; and above all the conviction that not only we have a right and are bound to preserve it for ourselves, but that where we come into contact with others we are bound to implant it or preserve it in them. It is a profound faith, not in the equal talent, virtues, and abilities of men, but in the equal right of the poorest, most feeble, most ignorant, to his own freedom and to a perfect equality of treatment.

In all or almost all of us it is faintly present, and in the master minds which express our race it becomes a passion which in a thousand directions manifests itself, as the German instinct for music making now a Mozart and then a Beethoven, and the Greeks' artistic power making now a Phidias and then a Praxiteles. It is this which we believe and hold to be the peculiar attribute of the English people, our one gift which we have to contribute to the general sum of humanity's wealth—the desire not only to be free, but to make free—the consciousness of the importance of the individual as individual apart from any attributes of sex, nationality, talent or wealth. To us it has been given first among all peoples to perceive, though still dimly, the unity of all human creatures, and as a nation to endeavour to realize in our legislation and institutions and our relations with weak peoples our perception of the fact.[80]


To those of us who hold this view of the past history of the English race, of its present position and of the characteristic which constitutes its peculiarity and strength among the peoples of earth, the upas-tree theory with regard to its future growth is not only inconceivable but, could we conceive it as possible, we should hold it undesirable. And there is nothing from our point of view either in its past history or present condition to support the theory. The Spaniard attempted the upas-tree form of colonization and empire, but he has not succeeded. No nation who has produced any approach to a permanent organization has followed that line and succeeded by following it. The Roman, the Great Mogul, attempted, where they conquered, to spread the benefits and rights of their own organization to the affiliated people; it was not the number of her slaughters that made the Roman Empire the greatest the world has yet seen or her rule the most enduring; the conquests of Rome, when she had attained her widest empire, had not cost so many lives as many a barbarian conquest which depopulated whole territories and passed like a smoke or a pestilence leaving no mark behind; the Roman Empire attained to that endurance and power it held because Rome was not a upas-tree to the races she came into contact with, but because, if in a partial and incomplete manner, yet more than others, where she planted her standard, she sought to raise and instruct, not to exterminate. No one can study the history of that great folk in imperial growth without feeling that behind all lay a dim perception of something higher than mere national expansion; and in those wise methods, [353] which in the hour of her greatness she ordained, through which men of all nations and creeds might in time and by merit become Romans and by her medium spread everywhere the arts, the knowledge and the advantages peculiar to herself, we see the germ of the true idea of universal empire fitfully trying to incarnate itself. Rome fell because she herself became corrupted by wealth and the inequality of possession, but it took her three centuries to die, and it must never be forgotten that there were Gauls, Spaniards, Asiatics and Germans who fought as desperately in her cause at last as the children of the Seven Hills: so real a fact had been her empire, so true was her absorption of all peoples into herself. The Gaul, the Thracian, the Illyrian died generation after generation fighting for the Roman flag because it had conferred on them something that they valued, and rather than lose which they would die. It is not because she slaughtered but because she raised, not because she crushed but because she protected, that Rome reigned; and she is to some extent immortal and among us to-day still, not because of the men she slaughtered, which any savage or wild beast might have accomplished as well, but because she had something new and large to teach mankind, and she taught it to the race. There is not upon the earth to-day one pure blood Roman any more than there is one pure blood Greek, but Rome lives still in our institutions, in our learning, in our habits of thought; she has her part in every civilized individual; and, while the race continues on the planet and continues to grow, she will have her part in that growth, because, like Greece, she was one of the early forces which fed and shaped it; and her language, spoken by none, is still preserved because of the treasure imbedded in it; and in that large ultimate race of humanity she also will have her share because, while her blood will be fractionally represented in it, her thought will have played a large share in its creation.

Such empire and such immortality, only infinitely wider, deeper, and more indestructible, is that which we desire and hope for the English race, and language. We [354] believe that we also have our contribution to make to the growth of humanity. We believe that our sense of the importance of individual liberty, irrespective of individual conditions, is a larger contribution to the wealth of the race on earth than any folk has yet made; and we believe that our desire to impart it is a more potent means of extending our true empire, and with it our speech over the surface of the globe, than any mere strength of arm or valour in slaughtering. We believe that it is not impossible that the day will come when from north to south, from east to west, over the globe, our English spirit will have spread; when, as the art of reading and writing which was once the discovery and possession of some prehistoric race but which is to-day becoming the property of the globe, so that in a hundred years' time no child on the globe will be without it, so our English freedom will spread and the day will come when in that large united people of the future every man will say: "In that I am free I am English," and the language, when even possible freedom has been preached all the world over, may form the foundation of the world's speech.

We look forward to no time when our brilliant little Japanese brother with his love of flowers and beauty and simplicity and his keen intellectual insight, when our Russian mate with his idealism and grim intensity of emotion, and even the Kaffir with his high sense of honour and justice and his almost abnormally developed sense of social unity and obligation, shall have passed away for ever from among the things of earth and when we shall reign in his stead. Our dream of the future of our race is of no John Bull seated astride of the earth, his huge belly distended with the people he has devoured and his teeth growing out yet more than ever with all the meat he has bitten and looking around on a depeopled earth and laughing till all his teeth show and the peoples' bones rattle in his belly: "Ha! I reign alone now. I have killed them all out!"

If such a consummation were within the remotest grasp of possibility, the best thing the peoples of earth [355] could do would be to combine and kill the ogre while there was yet time. But no such consummation of his fate is conceivable. The North American has indeed died out before us as the Bushman almost died out before the Dutch and will utterly die out, unless with great care and at much expense we have the taste and the wisdom artificially to preserve him for future ages and to complete as far as possible the links in the chain of life; but we have not really killed them, they had not the power unless they were artificially preserved to grasp the conditions of a more complex existence. Negro, Indian, and even Irishman, they all tend to increase, not to die out, under our rule. Our dream of the future empire of our race is not of an empire over graves but in and through living nations. The future of our race is never prefigured in our minds by the upas but as a huge tree, among whose shelving roots and under whose protecting shadow, endless forms of life may spring up and flourish that might otherwise be destroyed, and in whose wide umbrageous branches every form of bird and creature shall find resting place and nourishment, a tree of life and not of death. We do not dream of our language that it shall forcibly destroy the world's speeches and all they contain, reigning in solitary grandeur, but, as gold in a ring binds into one circle rare gems of every kind and some of infinitely greater beauty than itself, so we dream that our speech being common may bind together and bring into one those treasures of thought and knowledge which the peoples of earth have produced, its highest function being that of making the treasures of all accessible to all.

We think of the great race of earth, which shall be in the future, not as composed of English blood with all the beauty and strength of other races and peoples excluded; but rather we figure it as a great temple reared up of material of every size and colour, from marble and alabaster to ebony and starred porphyry, but in which every stone and doorpost shall be cemented with the freedom that is the gift of our people. We look for the future growth of England not as the result of the merciless [356] slaughter of mankind or the use of force, but because, as time passes and we become freer ourselves, we shall spread our freedom wherever our foot touches, and whoever is trampled, oppressed or feeble on earth will gather to us and grow up under our shelter to strength; we look for the spread of our language, not because it is of necessity the finest and most complex and expressive instrument of thought, though, after our instinct for freedom, it is the noblest outgrowth of our race, having perchance not the music of the Italian, the exact brilliance of the French, the ready power of expressing deep and powerful emotion of the German, or the multiple advantages of other forms of speech, yet, like some great and complex organ with understops and pipes which skilfully managed may produce almost any effect, being fitted to equal and perhaps surpass any language in its breadth of power,[81] but because in this tongue will be preached the most valuable lesson humanity has yet to learn; because, wherever a people has come into contact with it, it has meant for them freedom and advance.

There is an old saying that a slave cannot breathe in the air of England because the moment his foot touches the shore he is freed. We look for an enlargement of this old parable in the future. We look for the time when it shall be said: "Slavery, injustice, the oppression of the weak by the strong, cannot exist in any land where an Englishman breathes; the moment his foot touches a shore, they pass away before him." And in this will lie the Englishman's power to dominate and his claim to immortality.

In the great nation that shall govern and cover the whole earth there may be found not one pure-blooded Englishman, any more than there is to-day one Greek or Roman on earth. He will as little be found in three hundred years' time in London or New York, as in Pekin or Yokohama. But what was great in him we believe will have encircled the globe; and English freedom will [357] extend from Greenland to Borneo when the Englishman shall have melted into something larger.

We know that this consummation is not inevitable or certain; dreams as large as this have been dreamed by races before and come to nought. We are not unaware that to carry this conquest out the English race must first free itself before it can consciously or unconsciously accomplish its missionary enterprise. During the last years there seems a pause in the generous outflow of English inspiration, and, where we appear to be bent on suppressing a slave trade, it will be manifest to the least observant looker-on that our Government is merely making that project a shield for financial and national aggressions. The truth is that all English-speaking countries are in the throes of a great effort demanding not less of the vital energies of our people in England, America and the Colonies than the old internal struggles which resulted in the freedom of Barons as opposed to the Monarchy, the freedom of the men of the middle class as opposed to the hereditary powers. What the future of the English race will be depends on the result of that conflict. If it results as we who share in its struggles believe, it will show the world when the strife is over, for the first time, a perfectly free land in which the superficial differences of sex and class shall be sunk in the greater personality of the human creature, in which every creature from its birth shall stand free and untrammelled and the inequalities between men shall not be those of artificial construction but of inherent deficiencies or powers; in which a new aristocracy shall be formed out of the great labour of the head or hand and not of those of great possessions, of those who give much to their fellows and not those who receive; when the child will be told to take off his hat and bow to the labourer who for sixty years has worked in the field for the community, or has thought for it in his chamber, and not to the woman who lies back in her carriage, consuming and having consumed without return the labour of hundreds, or the man who, in the gambling of the roulette table, the stock exchange or the share market, [358] has made his millions. It may be that the arrest in our outward efforts to extend our freedom and humanity's may be the result of this internal trouble and that when, before the race is exhibited for the first time in the history of the globe an absolutely free civilized people in which the individuality of the male and female, the powerful and the weak, are respected, we shall take up our work with renewed ardour, and, almost whether we will or no, the freedom we have attained for ourselves will infect all the race and constitute us its leaders. This may be; this is what there is some promise of ultimately being—but it may also not be. We may have become so much degraded by the ideal of existence which has been held before us, that the strife of our women and masses, which now seems an ennobling strife for more and nobler fields of labour, shall degenerate into a demoralizing strife after universal inaction and that our ideal as a race will be what is now merely the ideal of a class, existence on the labour of others without exertion—and then the English race will be degraded, as many have been before it, and the Russian, the Japanese and even the Kaffir must lead the world's people in their march; we cannot. We do not pretend there are not certain signs which suggest the possibility of ultimate failure, and make us fear for it. In a country like South Africa we see that, where the English and in truth any branch of the white race comes into contact with a more primitive dark, there is a hideous tendency at once to degenerate. We will not work. The most feeble and unrichly brained man or woman who could be worth their keep to humanity and perhaps as richly productive as a hand worker, but never as anything else, refuses the one order of labour he is fit for, and prefers a hideous dependency on society, which in Africa is ultimately a dependence on the dark races, rather than to undertake the one form of labour for which nature has fitted him. We see a hideous tendency to leave all the work of life to the dark races; for the moment this seems to leave us free for higher efforts, but as time passes surely it will enervate; like a rotten aristocracy we shall die out, [359] and the hands which for generations have made our roads, planted and reaped our fields, built our houses and tended our children, will at last be united to the brains that make the laws and govern the land, and we shall fade away. That the day may be far distant does not make less clear and painful the first symptoms of the disease of which all great conquering nations of the past have ultimately died. Again our hope, that the English working man and the woman when freed will impart their gain to all the world and so rule over life, is belied at least by two symptoms—that the man who is trying to free himself from the tyranny of class still does in certain instances strive fiercely to maintain that of sex, and that, as he gains or thinks he is gaining his own freedom, he strives jealously to exclude men who are not of his blood from sharing it. These are perhaps the two ugliest symptoms in the modern movement; and if it means anything but the action of a man who, nearly drowned, wrings the hands of his fellow off him and throws him back into the water, only that he may be able to gain the shore and return with a rope for his fellow—it is the most hopeless symptom that has appeared in our social growth for many years. In South Africa, where our national English greed for speedy wealth without exertion has made us, not satisfied with the dark labour of the country, introduce yet more from Asia, then when they have served us and filled our pockets, we attempt to refuse them the rights of citizens and labourers, the English love of freedom and fair play does not seem growing. There are countless other symptoms which give us cause for consideration and most anxious doubt. We are going to spread freedom and justice over the earth, but in Africa at present our doom seems to be to drag its natural wealth from its bowels, and to expend it in intensifying the luxury of the old world. We prefer, as a great South African millionaire once said, "the land to the Natives," and for a time that part of us which seeks to rule over nations and permeate the peoples seems silenced by that part of us which desires to fill its hands with the fruits of the land and the labour of its people—and then desires nothing more.


All this we see and see clearly. That a tree is full of buds does not prove that there will ever be fruit; that a child moves beneath its mother's heart is no certain promise that there will ever be a man; and, seeing clearly many conditions which may check its progress and even symptoms of conditions which may ultimately terminate its existence, nevertheless, while the buds are on the tree, we do not fail to dig and water, and, while the child is in the womb, we do not cease to prepare for its coming because of the possibility of its abortion.

To those of us who take this view of conditions, functions, difficulties and possible future of the English race, it is not very difficult to determine what in the little South African world our relations and course of conduct towards the black man and the alien races should be. The man who holds to the upas-tree function of the English race and the possibility and desirability of our exterminating and using entirely for our own advantage all the peoples of earth is not more confident as to what his line of action should be than we. Nay, we believe we are a little more confident, because we believe there lies in every Englishman, behind his philistinism and jingoism, something that makes the upas-tree line of action a little difficult to him.

We are not unaware of the difficulties and complexities of our position in this country, but upon all matters small and large we know our course. We are asked sometimes: "Well, but what do you intend this country to be, a black man's country or a white?" We reply we intend nothing. If the black man cannot labour or bear the strain and stress of complex civilized life, he will pass away. We need not degrade and injure ourself by killing him; if we cannot work here, then in time, wholly or in part, the white man will pass away; and the one best fitted to the land will likely survive—but this we are determined to do: we will make it a free man's country. Whether the ultimate race of this country be black, white or brown, we intend it to be a race permeated with the English doctrine of the equal right of each human to himself, and the duty of all to defend the freedom of it.


If it be suggested to us that the Natives of the land are ignorant, we have the reply to make that we are here to teach them all we know if they will learn—if they will not, they must fall.

If it be asked whether we think them our equals, we would reply: Certainly in love of happiness and their own lives—perhaps not in some other directions; but we are here to endeavour to raise them as far as it is possible; we are determined to make them a seed-ground in which to sow all that is greatest and best in ourselves.

If it be asked whether we are negrophiles, we reply: "No—we are trying to be but we are not yet. The white man in us yet loves the white as the black man loves the black. It would be a lie to say that we love the black man, if by that is meant that we love him as we love the white. But we are resolved to deal with justice and mercy towards him. We will treat him as if we loved him: and in time the love may come. When you pick up a lost child in the streets covered only with rags and black with dust, you have first to take it home and wash and dress it and then you want to kiss it. When we have dealt with the dark man for long years with justice and mercy and taught him all we know, we shall perhaps be able to look deep into each other's eyes and smile: as parent and child."

If it is said to us that our idea of the function of the English race is all very well, but in reality all that races seek is self-aggrandisement, we reply that we are fully aware of this tendency to the most blatant self aggrandisement in our people, but we know also other tendencies; and Washington, Lincoln, John Brown, Florence Nightingale, Josephine Butler, John Stuart Mill, Howe, Livingstone, Moffat, and the multitudes who harmonize with and follow them, are not less truly English. In every land where the English race is growing, in Australia, New Zealand, America, England and even South Africa, side by side with its less specialized elements we have this broad humanitarian element, as surely and unfailingly developed in every land, and on this we build our hope. This element, which we believe to be ultimately the [362] dominant and vital element in our people, is animated entirely by one instinct and works to one end. We do not follow ultimately either the Union Jack or the Stars and Stripes. Over our heads waves always a larger and wider flag, inscribed with that one word, "Freedom," which being fully interpreted means justice and liberty for all, or, being yet more simplified: Do unto all men as you would they should do unto you. Under that standard we range ourselves to conquer. We regard it as the true flag of our race, beneath which we are willing to die, but which, British, American, Australian, New Zealander or even South African, we are never willing to see fall. It is this English standard which alone we would see planted in every country of the earth. It is this unseen flag, waving over our heads, which stimulates us to persevere in our course; it is this which we believe constitutes the ultimate glory of the English people.

If we are asked how we can expect any folk ever to dominate in the world as a power everywhere spreading freedom and imparting its benefits to all, when in all the history of the past such a thing is not recorded of any people, we reply that it is useless to talk to us in Africa of what has been, as though it of necessity limited what shall be in the world of human growth. Outside our doors, even as we write and think, sits cowering the little human ape Bushman, and, when we turn from him to the Kaffir working in our kitchen and the bust of Shakespeare on the mantleshelf, we do not only hope and believe but we see physically before our material eyes the infinite growth of humanity, the unmeasurable power of change and the arrival of entirely new traits which is possible in the human creature. You may as well try to stop a great people on its line of growth by telling it that no people has ever done before what they are attempting to do, as you could stop the creative mind of a genius in its labour by telling it that work had never been done before. "Exactly so," replies the artist, "I know man has never seen the face I see and am trying to paint or the fact I see and am trying to record; that [363] is my joy, I am doing an entirely new thing and through me humanity grows a little in a new direction."

It is exactly because we believe no nation on the earth has ever manifested just this desire, not only to be free, but to make free, that we are filled with an almost infinite hope as to our function and future. This is why we value it more highly than all the qualities we share with other peoples. It is our stroke of genius, our new contribution to human growth.

If we are asked how, looking round on the little world of South Africa to-day, we dare to entertain such lofty conceptions of the function and future of our race, we reply: "Yes, we dare." We are not blind to the self-seeking and injustice which surround us on every hand. We are not for a moment blind to the fact that sometimes, where we seem to be defending the Native, we are merely using him as a rod with which to strike our white brothers of another speech; we do not forget that English hands have in this country flogged men to death and that, because the man killed was of a dark race, we as an English community have not dared to do more than inflict a fine. We are aware how devoid of any consciousness of large racial function are a mass of our English-speaking folk and how completely devoid of any aim but that of self-betterment are numbers of our units; but, looking these facts directly in the face and allowing all they mean, we yet do not give up hope.

Is it absolutely nothing that in this country there are to be found men who, whether as judges or when serving on juries, are not only incorruptible before the forces of gold or personal interest but before the much more terrible corruption of racial prejudice and passion? Is it nothing that there are men among us in whose hands the most miserable feeble Bushman or Hottentot is as sure of rigid justice as though he were a royal prince or millionaire? Is it not something that there is throughout the length and breadth of the land hardly an Englishman who dares to use the power of a dominant people without making for himself a screen of lies, behind which to hide from his conscience when she comes to [364] seek for him, that there is hardly a man or woman among us who dares to act to one of the subject races as they could not be acted to without first shielding themselves behind an excuse? Is it nothing that, poor as our rule is, at least while the people of England have still held rule in the land, the Native races have drawn to our standard, and at least, comparing us with others, have recognized that our flag meant justice and freedom for those who stood under it? Is it nothing that in the space of fifty years England has sent out to us at least once a man who in his capacity as ruler bent with an unfeigned solicitude over every element in our complex people and endeavoured to tighten the reins of sympathy between Englishman, Boer and Native, and to see, unblinded by that intense passion for their own people which all deep natures feel but which high natures control, the needs and the failings and the sufferings of each section and sought to remedy them? Is it nothing that, at least once, we have had an English ruler who possessed all passion for impartiality and humanity which characterizes a race fitted to rule over empires of varied peoples, and that among men more closely South African we have one who, though a Jew by name and descent, was an Englishman by language and education, through a long life consistently and without intermission sought to enforce practically the ideal of English rule as a great freeing impartial force? Is it nothing that, in addition to the names of such men as Sir George Grey and Saul Solomon upon our South African record, and with the story of such lives as Livingstone and Moffat mingled with that of our English occupancy of the country we have also the names of at least a few hundred individuals less known but following in their steps and animated by the same principle?

Have we not heard it said again and again by the Boer: "You Englishmen know no difference between one man and another; you treat a black man as if he was yourself"; and in that one saying have we not ground for hope?

But it may be asked us whether we do not see a [365] possibility of our hopes for the English race and its future falling to the earth; we reply: "We do; we recognize that it is possible that we may not even kill out the black races of Africa but that, a seething and ignorant mass, they may live under us, at last infecting us and dragging us down to themselves; we know it is possible that our conception of the English race, as possessed of a vast fertilizing and liberating power which shall spread from it till it permeates the whole race, may be mistaken and the result of national egoism and mental refraction; we know that the twentieth century, instead of being, as we dream, the great blossoming time of the English race, as the fourth century before Jesus was of the Greek, may be the century of our decay; that the spread of the consciousness of the unity of all men and the importance of their individual freedom may be not for us to spread but for some other people; and that when we have shown the world how lucifer matches can be made for one penny the gross by girls who work for three shillings a week; and that, if you can make guns which discharge so many bullets a minute, you can bring down so many unarmed black men in a minute; and that, if a few men can gain a grant of the mineral wealth of half a continent, they can buy mistresses, palaces, titles, governments, and roll in gold as if it had been water—then our work will be done. We know that this is possible, and I suppose there are moments of horrible bitterness when to all of us it has seemed almost more than possible."

If it be asked us: Even if our view be true and the function and destiny of the English race be what we hope it, what after all is the use of our striving to bring it nearer; may we not in our individual action be mistaken, and, where we believe ourself to be helping a great race to walk in the path which shall serve all humanity, we are simply sacrificing ourselves to no purpose? we reply: "We know this. Under the sea millions of insects work, and, as the ages pass, they raise at last a bank that in time becomes an island on which great trees grow and the sun shines. The work of no [366] one insect is necessary to the growth; the almost invisible speck of coral he makes may be broken off and crushed to powder, and the work yet grows; but by just such an infinite accretion of specks the island rises, and the wide instinct which compels all to contribute their part builds at last the island.

"So we work, only not quite unconsciously. If our individual addition be worthless and be broken off—well—we are obeying the deepest necessity of our being; we are working on in the only direction we know of, and, unlike our fellow insects of the sea, we, where we work, have dreams of the future land, not that will be, but that may be—and which we believe we are building."

A man far out at sea on a dark night, struggling with the waves in his small boat, sees far away a light he thinks to be the harbour light and strikes towards it; knowing he may be mistaken, and that long before daybreak man and boat may be engulfed, he still strikes towards it, labouring without certainty of ever reaching it but with unalterable will and determination, because it is the only light he sees.

So we, realizing the possibility that we are mistaken, and knowing the chances of failure, yet strike for what seems to us the largest possibility open to our race and to ourselves as part of that race.

In the South Africa of to-day the three varieties of Englishmen, those indifferent to the future of their race and those consciously labouring for it, with opposing ideals and conceptions of the ends to be sought, are working out, whether we will or no, the future of the land, and dealing with the vast twentieth-century problem of the mixture and government of mixed peoples; the verdict upon our solution of which cannot be pronounced by the men of this age, but only by the future.



The events of the last nine, and especially the last seven, years have thrown a curious light upon two statements in Chapter I, written in 1892:

Firstly: the statement that the political division of South Africa into separate and self-governing states are divisions "of immense importance and by all means to be preserved."

Secondly: the statement that there does exist a subtle internal union between all African states, which causes them to be, in spite of their complex and mixed structure, in a profound sense, one, and makes it impossible to attack and injure any one state without injuring all.

South Africa forms naturally one national and distinct entity, widely dissevered from any other national entity, European or otherwise. It may be said that Australia, Canada, and New Zealand contain also the germs which will ultimately develop into distinct national entities; and this is undoubtedly true. As no sane man supposes that an infant will remain perpetually unweaned, or that a healthy sapling will not ultimately form its own bark, so it is inevitable that all healthy off-shoots from European peoples must ultimately form independent nations. But the position of these young countries is not analogous with that of South Africa; and as regards Australia, and especially New Zealand, it is in some respects fundamentally unlike our own.

This difference lies in the groundwork of our national structure, and must be manifest to anyone who has given a few years to the impartial study of the problems which beset European races planted in new lands.

One is probably not very far from the truth in stating that, roughly speaking, out of every thirty men and women born in Australia and New Zealand, from twenty-five to twenty-eight will be found to be of purely or almost purely English descent—using the word English as it is popularly, though misleadingly, used to include Keltic Irishmen and Scots.


In South Africa, from the Zambesi to the mouth of the Orange River, southward to the sea, there are roughly calculated to be about 8,000,000 (eight millions) of souls. Now, out of this population, about 800,000, roughly speaking, are whites, about 400,000 being Dutch-Huguenot, about 260,000 British, and about 100,000 of other European nationalities. As regards persons of unmixed English blood, this is probably an over calculation, as a large number of persons popularly passing as "English" in South Africa are of blended French, Dutch, German and other extractions. But, accepting the persons of Irish, Scottish and English descent even at 300,000, they comprise about one-and-one-eighth of an Englishman in each thirty of the population. Or, to put the matter in another and more obvious light: Were to-morrow the entire population of purely or mainly British descent to leave Australia and New Zealand, those lands would at once be almost wholly depopulated. A few Maoris and quickly dwindling Australian aborigines, with a handful of Frenchmen, Germans, Swedes or Italians, and a sprinkling of Chinamen and other Asiatics, would be all that would be left. Practically, the lands would have been transformed into almost primeval solitudes. The working man, who forms the bulk of all nations, would have disappeared, and with him the farmer, the merchant, the professional man and the speculator. There would be no Australia and no New Zealand in the social sense, were all men of British descent suddenly to leave those lands.

In South Africa, on the other hand, a condition entirely the reverse would be maintained. Were every man and woman of pure British descent to disappear to-morrow, no vital diminution in the entire bulk of our population would have taken place. The vast labouring classes who build our roads and bridges, cultivate our fields, tend our flocks, perform our domestic labour and work in our mines, would be left here almost entirely untouched in the persons of our dark citizens, who form an element in our population rapidly and always increasing, and of primary importance. From the Malay fisherman, cab driver, or washerwoman, to the Bantu herdsmen and mining hands and domestic servants, our labouring class, save in the person of a few skilled overseers and workmen, would still be here untouched. Our large white farming class would be but little reduced, while more than half our professional class, our doctors, lawyers, judges and civil servants would be left in numbers amply sufficient for the needs of the country; and while, in our seaport towns and mining centres, a large number of those engaged in commerce and speculation would be gone, at least 100,000 Jews and Europeans of all nationalities engaged in these occupations would still be left, in addition to a good number of Dutch-Huguenot descended inhabitants so employed.


An element of importance, indeed, would have been abstracted from our complex communities, an element containing much of that which is noblest and most valuable in our national life, and also much that is sordid and unhealthy—but the South African people, the seed-beds of the great South African nation of the future, would still remain, as far as mere numbers are concerned, practically undiminished and untouched. The removal of the Anglo-Saxon element would affect South Africa as the sudden abstraction of its Jewish inhabitants of Great Britain would affect that land. The nation would be left intact, though an important and powerful element had disappeared.

In eighty years' time, when New Zealand and Australia are powerful and independent nations, probably infinitely exceeding in health and virility the inhabitants of the little islands in the North Sea, from which the first white Australians and New Zealanders came, their inhabitants will differ profoundly from the inhabitants of Ireland, Scotland or England, in manners, in appearance, and in tastes, habits, and political and social institutions. They will certainly no more dream of having their policy of peace or war dictated to them nor their governors forced upon them by any of the electors of Great Britain, than a healthy and sane man of forty allows his great grandmother to dictate to him the hour of his retiring or the way in which he shall spend his pence (even now an Australian-born man may be distinguished almost at once from an Englishman born in Britain, and a spirit of independence and self-respect has grown not only in Canada, but in Australia and New Zealand); yet the population of these countries may quite possibly, even in eighty years' time, bear rather more resemblance to the inhabitants of the British Isles than to any other folk.

In South Africa, on the other hand, in eighty years' time there will also be a great and independent nation, but it will be unique. It will be wholly unlike any other in the world. It will not be French or Dutch, though a large proportion of the blood in the veins of its white inhabitants will descend from these races; it will not be Russian nor Jewish, though Russian Jews are plentiful here; it will not be German, though German merchants, missionaries, doctors and agriculturists are to be found in every corner of the country; it will not be Scotch nor Irish, and assuredly it will not be English, though the blood of all these nationalities, Keltic and Teutonic, will be blended in the veins of the white South African of the future—it will be simply South African.

So also our vast dark South African race will not be wholly Negroid. The blood of the brave Bantu folk may predominate, but it will be a race largely blended of Asiatic and other peoples; [370] there will be strains of Dutch and French blood through the slave, of English blood through the English soldiers, and the Malay, the Indian, and even the Hottentot will have place in it. It will be simply the great South African Dark Race, and assuredly not English. These two great blended varieties, dark and light, will form the South African nation of the future, their two streams of life, keeping, it may be, racially distinct for ages, but always interacting side by side and forming our South African nation.

Our South African national structure in the future will not and cannot be identical with that of any other people, our national origin being so wholly unlike that of any other; our social polity must be developed by ourselves through the interaction of our parts with one another and in harmony with our complex needs. For good or evil, the South African nation will be an absolutely new thing under the sun, perhaps, owing to its mixture of races, possessing that strange vitality and originality which appears to rise so often from the mixture of human varieties: perhaps, in general human advance, ranking higher than other societies more simply constructed; perhaps lower—according as we shall shape it: but this, certainly—it will be a new social entity, with new problems, new gifts, new failings, new accomplishments.

To-day, the different white elements of the South African nation are already entering upon a stage of rapid combination; South Africans whose ancestors were of English, French, German, Irish or Dutch descent are so rapidly intermarrying that, not in eighty, but in sixty years' time, if a man should pass through South Africa calling out for Frenchmen, Englishmen, Dutchmen or Germans, he would hear hardly a voice answer him; the reply will then be,—"We are all South Africans here."

That we cannot be an English nation is certain; but in the past there has appeared no reason why we should not ultimately be a nation bound by ties of friendly feeling to England—as America might have been, had England left her internal concerns untouched a hundred years ago; as Australia and Canada may yet be, if she abstains from interfering with their internal affairs and does not shoot down the men born on their soil.

Personally, we have always desired that this should be so.

While it has always appeared that the first and most pressing care of the far-seeing and balanced South African statesman must lie in seeking to maintain the integrity and cultivate the individuality and strengthen the internal organization of each of the separate states, in order that each might have an individuality and an internal organization strong enough to make local self-government a sufficient counterpoise to the central power whenever federation was attempted; [371] while, on the other hand, the hardly, if at all, secondary obligation upon the far-seeing South African statesman must lie in the direction of labouring to produce such co-operation and friendliness between the different South African states as might, at the end of another forty or sixty years, find them in a position naturally and spontaneously to federate upon equal terms: to federate, as in the case of the Swiss cantons, where the different divisions are not necessarily of one language or even race, but their geographical position and their interest make them, as regards the outer world, essentially one people.

The federation we desired to see would then have been of a nature not strong enough to produce the incalculable evils of an over-centralized and universal government extending over a vast and diverse territory and over large numbers of diverse peoples, while yet it would have been strong enough to have united the different South Africa states against external aggression, to preserve internal peace, and to have formed a powerful central court for arbitration on all interstatal differences: a national structure which would combine as largely as possible the advantages of large and small states.

All nations, all those organized bodies of men which have contributed greatly to the advance of humanity, have been organized in comparatively small numbers, and have occupied geographically small spaces. To this rule there appears to have been no exception in the past; and its cause is to be found deep in the psychologic structure of the human creature.

Greece, which has probably on the whole contributed more to the fund total of the human race on earth, intellectually and spiritually than any other individual folk, was, even were all its states taken together, not so large as a minute fragment of South Africa. And even Greece was only Greece and enabled to accomplish that which she did by the intensely individual and autonomous development of minute separate parts. Athens, which territorially and in numbers was hardly larger than the Cape Peninsula, and Sparta, no larger than a small English county, have yet left the whole world immortally richer for their individual existences, in a manner which would not have been possible had they been more merged under one rule or forced into a common form of organization. The Jews, while that religion and literature were developing which has transformed Europe and reacted on the whole world, were but a small closely inter-bred tribe inhabiting a few stony valleys and plains. Holland, when she took the lead for civil and intellectual freedom, and won it, crushing to earth the unwieldy bulk of the Spanish Empire, was a tiny folk buried among a handful of sand-dunes in a remote [372] corner of Europe, her whole territory so minute it might be carved out of Russian or Chinese Empires to-day without sensibly abridging them. England herself, when in Queen Elizabeth's reign she had already produced that noble language which is one of her greatest productions, and was developing those representative institutions and that literature which are her pride, when she had produced Chaucer, Shakespeare and Bacon, that England possessed neither an Ireland nor a Scotland nor any spot of earth beyond her own borders, and her entire population was no greater than that which to-day may be found diseased, ragged, and on the border of starvation, inhabiting the back slums of a few of her great Imperial cities.

What humanity has attained in culture, in virtue, in freedom, in knowledge, and in the fullest development of the individual, it has owed to small, close, natural and spontaneous organizations of men—small tribes, small states, and, oftenest, to mere cities organized on a natural basis, with but a few miles of territory beneath their walls, owning their sway. Great empires, which have always originally sprung from such an individual, strong and healthful, national organization, but which have finally begun extending themselves by force over alien territories and over peoples not organically and spontaneously or even geographically bound to themselves, have always spelt decay and disease, not merely to themselves as larger social organizations, but to the very individual human creatures comprised within their bulky, unwieldy and unnatural entities.

Rome, indeed, in the inflated and diseased days of her Imperial expansion, produced a Marcus Aurelius, as an unpruned and dying rose tree may produce one last gorgeous bloom; but, at the very time she held within her city walls the vastest hybrid population which had ever been gathered into one spot on earth, and her enervated limbs stretched across the world, it is doubtful whether she contained one-tenth as many individuals of civic virtue and intellectual and moral virility as were once to be found within her when her body social consisted of the small city on the seven hills and the plains and hills about it, which a man might walk across in a day.

An empire based on force and controlled from a centre may indeed best be likened to an individual, naturally healthy and virile, who at a certain stage in his existence absorbes more nutriment than he requires, and who lays on a vast mass of adipose tissue, more especially abdominally, thus weighting the centres of life, leading to disease in the extremities, and finally ending in the death of the whole organism through heart failure.

Mere size and weight, whether in the world of animal organization or social structure, is never necessarily indicative of vitality and longevity. The antediluvian creatures, whose bones alone are now [373] left us in the earth's crust, infinitely exceeded in size any extant forms of life, but have had to give place to the more concentrated birds and beasts of our day, as the hippopotamus is to-day passing while the ant and the man remain. No madness more complete can possess a human brain than the conception that mere accretion in size and weight, whether in the individual or national organism, is necessarily an increase in strength or vitality, unless there be an increased interaction between all parts and an increase in the central vitality. One jelly-like tentacle of the deep sea octopus measures twelve feet, but the whole creature is lower in the scale of life, and probably expends less nervous force, than the bee or the humming bird. Increased size may, under certain conditions, spell increased strength; it may also spell death.

Had it been possible, for example, in the days of Charlemagne for one central power permanently to crush the diverse individual nationalities which Europe has tended to divide herself into; had England, France, Holland, Germany, Switzerland and Italy been dominated over and crushed by one central power, so that their individual course of evolution along diverse lines had been stayed, and had they been forcibly bound under one rule into one large organism; the loss to the human race on earth would probably have been incalculable.

Europe during the last thousand years would probably not have contributed much more to the sum total of human advance, in the direction of freedom and many-sided intellectual growth, than the vast Chinese Empire has contributed during the same period, or than the Roman Empire contributed during the last long centuries of its bloated existence.

The national organization, controlled from one point and comprising a too vast multitude of humans, must, from that mere fact of size alone and apart from any other defect, tend to become inert. Even supposing free representative institutions universally to prevail, as they never have in any empire, past or present—(for in the British Empire of to-day a few million voters control the entire central government of Great Britain, while in India alone there are over two hundred millions of British subjects who have no representative institutions whatever and who are dominated over by the central body of voters)—and supposing each individual within a vast empire to be endowed with a share in its government, the share of power and control would be exceedingly minute and infinitesimal as regards the central power, and the bulk of citizens would be, of necessity, so far removed from that centre that that intensity of civic life and consciousness of responsibility, which alone makes democratic government healthful, and which exists easily [374] in a small state or a tribe, where the government is as it were under the eyes of all and where each individual tells sensibly on the body politic, cannot exist.

Yet further, the inertness caused by mere excess of numbers under a central rule is but one cause of the inefficacy and unhealthiness of all vast empires. A central government, extending its sway over widely severed and diverse parts of the earth's surface and therefore over bodies of humans in diverse social and physical conditions, is a yet more fertile source of social disease and of enervation and deterioration to the individuals comprised in the body. The very fact, that the government and institutions of a wide empire are exactly suited to the wants of the original central dominant body, makes it impossible that the same government and institutions should be equally suited to peoples geographically remote and under socially diverse conditions. Each shell-fish lives best and healthfully only in the shell it has itself secreted; the cuttle-fish glides through the sea better in its own coarse chalky shield than were it forced into the most elaborate and gorgeous mantle that was ever developed by a nautilus: and human institutions or governments are good or bad exactly as shells are, not abstractedly, but as they harmonize with the wants of the living creatures they are bound to. As even the hermit crab, who makes his home in the shells he has not secreted, can only live and develop on condition of his choosing his own shell; forced between the pearled valves of an oyster or a mussel he will die miserably; so even a noble and virile alien people, when compelled to adapt themselves to the institutions and government developed with regard to the needs of humans in other lands and under distinct conditions, is bound miserably to decay if not to become extinct.

The central government of a vast empire, if it spreads its control over diverse or unlike territories or peoples, spells death and disease to them, not necessarily because it is evil in itself, but because it has not been gradually and spontaneously evolved with regard to the needs of the diverse units themselves. The better the shell fits the form of the creature who secreted it, the more deadly it may be when forced artificially over another.

Freedom and health for a folk desiring a tribal head is the right to possess him and to live and die for him; for a people with republican instincts is the right to republican institutions; for folk with an inclination towards monarchy, a monarchical rule; national slavery is the compulsory participation in alien institutions. Were an empire based on force yet ruled entirely by a desire to govern for the benefit of the subject nations and not for the subject powers (as none up to the present has ever been), it would still be a disease-producing, freedom-limiting institution; but, based as all empires [375] up to the present have been, on self interest, Imperialism spells the death of all healthful human readjustments and developments.

Even where the parts of a large body social are not held together by merely external force, where a very great degree of real homogeneity does exist between all its parts, the evils of a much centralized rule are always manifest. It may be questioned whether even France, which is essentially one entity in many respects, has not suffered during the last century, and does not owe many of her difficulties and political perturbations, to that system of over-centralized control and uniformity of local institutions introduced by Napoleon, which has not left sufficient autonomy and self control to the really, in many minor respects, distinct provinces of France; and it is more than open to question whether Germany, almost compelled as she has been in self defence to sacrifice the independence and individuality of her component states during the last twenty years, has not intellectually and morally lost almost as much as she would by foreign domination, by her more centralized government: while in England the attempt forcibly to incorporate Ireland with herself, and govern a closely allied yet differing people, though divided only by a narrow strip of sea, has resulted in centuries of social disease and suffering for Ireland and of moral disease and instability for England.

Imperialism is the euphonious title of a deadly disease which under certain conditions tends to afflict the human race on earth. It increases in virulency in proportion as it is extended over more distant spaces and more diverse multitudes, till it becomes at last the death shroud of the nations.

It is undoubtedly true that the existence of more rapid means of intercommunication have, during the last centuries, made possible the existence of larger health aggregates than were possible in earlier times, when the small tribe and the city with a few leagues of earth about it formed invariably the largest national organization which was compatible with full social health and the highest human development. To-day, New York and San Francisco are in fact almost as close to each other as Athens and Sparta were two thousand years ago; but even to-day no vast social organism, large both as to numbers and geographical extent, such as the United States of America, could possibly exist with even tolerable healthfulness, were it not for the fact of the complete internal autonomy, individual organization and strength of its separate component states; and, above all, for the important and controlling fact, that the bond between the different states is not Imperial, is not the domination of one central state over others, but an equal confederacy of all.

Had the United States of America been united on the Imperial basis of one state dominating and guiding others, not even the more [376] or less homogeneous nature of its peoples, or the internal autonomy of its separate states, could have kept its vast masses in even that condition of social health and freedom in which we find them to-day.

And further, were the separate states of America not conterminous, but widely scattered over the earth, that powerful and vital confederacy as it now exists would be impossible. If New Hampshire were in America, Maine in India, and Virginia in Northern Russia, the band which to-day naturally and strongly unites them could not exist.

Few persons who have not given special study to the subject appear to grasp adequately the extent of variation which mere geographical division and the exposure to extremely unlike physical conditions produces in human individuals and in human societies, demanding a corresponding difference in government and institutions. Were two infants removed from each other at birth, the one to be brought up in Finland and the other in India, the mere climatic and physical differences would, at the end of forty years, have rendered them highly dissimilar both in physical constitutions and in many intellectual and material wants, while their descendants at the end of six generations would certainly represent distinct human varieties, for which distinct laws and institutions would be requisite. The effects of geographical severance, dissimilarities in climate and physical surroundings, can never for a moment be lost sight of, in dealing with national questions, without fatal results.

Even in the United States of America, in spite of its territorial continuity and the more or less homogeneous nature of its mixed population and the strongly autonomous structure of its separate states, it is still almost open to question (though this is a matter only to be dealt with by one who has long and closely studied the constitution of the United States from within) whether the political life of that vast mass of humanity might not be healthier, its vitality greater, and the individuality of the separate citizens more strengthened, if the whole were divided into two or even three federal bodies instead of one. This at least is certain, that if ever America be tempted to lay aside her great fundamental principle of Equal Federation and geographical continuity, and to adopt in her corporate capacity the principle of Imperial rule by dominating and subjecting distant lands and alien peoples whom she does not absorb into her body politic on equal terms, then she will have introduced into her national life an element which will first morally, and finally materially, disorganize her and in the end lead to the break-up of her great and at present virile body politic; and the world will have to look elsewhere for the most advanced type of social evolution.

Napoleon attempted to unite Europe by breaking down its states [377] with iron and re-cementing them with blood under the centralized control of France. His attempt failed, as all Imperialistic attempts must ultimately fail which seek to accomplish by force a union which can only healthily come into being through internal necessity and the gradual co-adaptation of ages. And if across the years the dim outline of the Confederate States of Europe may already be seen looming by the attentive eye, it is certain that not the Imperial nightmare, but the noble dream of a free and equal union, will find its realization in that confederacy.

If one turns further from the consideration of the separate states and organizations as they exist to-day to the far wider inquiry, what is the desirable and possible ultimate form of organization for the entire human race? it has always appeared to us that there can be but one answer.

Probably no powerful and far-seeing mind entertains as possible, and still less regards as desirable were it possible, the existence in the future of a world in which all the interesting and many-sided varieties into which the human race has blossomed during its evolution on earth are cut down and supplanted by any one single variety, more particularly if that variety be not one to which the far-seeing and powerful mind belongs! A Frenchized, Germanized, Russianized, Englishized, Chineseized globe is a nightmare, perhaps only seriously conceived of as a possible reality in the mind of the ignorant man in the street of all nations, eaten up, as such minds are, by a stupendous national egoism, such as might be entertained by an ant who believed his noble ant heap would ultimately cover the whole globe. The ideal of a one-nation-dominated globe can as little satisfy a broad human intelligence as the ideal of a zoological garden populated solely by hippopotami would satisfy a broadly scientific one.

To ourselves it has always appeared inevitable that, if continued growth and development of the race are to be maintained, and humanity to blossom into its fairest and most harmonious development possible on earth, progress must always necessarily be along two lines. On the other hand, not only must the independence and freedom of the separate individuals advance, but the independence and individuality of each human variety must continue to increase; while, on the one hand, a certain broad sympathy, rising from an interchange of material and intellectual benefits and a perception of the profound unity which underlies all human diversity, must draw together the different human varieties and races; as to-day the recognized bonds of the family and the nation unite diverse individuals. As the loftiest form of individual relationship is not the forcible bond which binds the slave and the animal to its [378] master, nor even the relation of individuals identical in blood or character, but the noble companionship of persons wholly distinct, equally free, equally independent, complementing by their diversity each other's existence; so the ideal of international and racial relationships is not one of subjection and dominance or of identity, but of complementary interaction.

The ultimate chant of the human race on earth is not to be conceived of as a monotone chanted on one note by one form of humanity alone, but rather a choral symphony chanted by all races and all nations in diverse tones on different notes in one grand complex harmony. The vision of the Hebrew prophet when he cried out that the lamb and the wolf should yet lie down together and the weaned child put its hand in the cockatrice's den is the negation of the desire that the lion, having consumed the lamb, should lie alone switching his tail on his sand heap, and the cockatrice, having stung the young child to death, should peer forth from the door of its den on a landscape he had rendered desolate. Not in the extermination of earth's varied races, or the dominance of any one over all, or the annihilation of those complexities and varieties in humanity which form its beauty, not in a universal Imperial rule, but in a free and equal federation of all, lies the ultimate goal of humanity, which, being reached, alone can its fairest proportion be attained.

It is difficult to believe that the first twenty-five years of the twentieth century will have passed away before that wave of exploitation and destruction, vomited forth by the nations of Europe, led by England in her drunken orgie of Imperialism, based on capitalism, and which now threatens to sweep across the earth, disrupting and destroying its peoples and their individuality, will have met with the command, "Hereto shalt thou come and no further!" and the drenched peoples of earth, after their blood bath, shall again lift up their heads.

Already, to-day, he who notes keenly may feel faintly and from afar the first suck-in which is ultimately to withdraw that wave and leave the deluged and devastated earth to pursue its own slow complex path of progress.

To anyone holding this view with regard to the ultimate development of humanity at large, one and only one attitude is possible in dealing with the problems and questions concerning our own smaller South African world. For one holding the view, it is impossible to regard with other than sympathy each of our South African states, or to desire anything but their strength and development, while at the same time he desires a growing bond of sympathy and fellowship between all.


For myself, I have never been able to regard other than with deep well-wishing the different political organisms into which South Africa has more or less spontaneously divided itself; and have been compelled to desire to see them each rather strengthened and individualized than dominated and crushed by, or even merged into, another. I have not only desired that the Free State and Transvaal might each grow into strong, highly organized social entities, but one is compelled to desire (though at present without much hope of realization) that such small native states as Basutoland or even Pondoland might be left for fifty or sixty years to pursue their own internal course of evolution, and so enabling some of our native folk to attain to a fuller and more natural development than is possible if they are all forced into the vortex of our so-called modern material civilization. I have regretted the annexation of Bechuanaland to the Cape Colony, and should deeply regret the amalgamation of Mashona and Matabeleland with any other African state, or the merging of Natal and the Cape Colony into one; believing all these territories are quite large enough ultimately to form healthy units: and I have been quite unable to go with the monopolists and speculators in the past, who have desired for their own reasons that English influence should be eliminated. I have no more desired its elimination than I have regretted the existence of the Germans in Damaraland or the Portuguese on the east coast, believing that by the complexity of our elements was produced a healthy friction, preventing that dominance of any one central, overbearing power, which is the death of true freedom. I have never desired for my birthland that all interstatal lines should be broken down and the whole welded into one uniform mass with only a shadow of self-government in its separate parts: an ideal so dear to the heart of the autocrat in all ages, whether capitalist or military despot, who recognizes in each strong interstatal line or conservative institution a kind of embankment resisting his central despotism. Rather, if the truth be told, I have nourished with regard to England's part in South Africa a very lofty ambition. I have desired that my motherland might play a very high part, such as perhaps some great people may in the future play in the world's history at large. I have dreamed that it was possible for the influence of England always to make itself felt as a freeing, co-ordinating element among our varying states and peoples, an element which made for the strengthening and protecting of all weaker and smaller states and peoples; I have dreamed that England, desiring nothing for herself, might be able to hold the balance between all our states and peoples; I have desired for her an Empire, an eternal Empire, not based on force but on the reverence and faith of all peoples struggling for freedom [380] throughout the earth. I have dreamed that when, in forty or sixty years' time, South Africa, its states grown internally strong enough, healthfully and without sacrificing their different systems of internal self-government to federate, federated, took her place beside the world's other large national entities, though the majority of her inhabitants could never be English in descent, and South Africa would be a nation as independent and self-controlling as America or France, that yet a peculiarly close and tender bond might for ever bind her to England.

Among human relationships there is one which, though not common, perhaps few beings have been so fortunate as not once to have seen realized, and which constitutes one of the bravest and fairest in the whole domain of human fellowships. It is the bond which exists between a large and generous woman, who, through marriage having thrown into her hands children not her own by blood, yet through all their infancy and early childhood guards and labours for as her own, asking nothing for herself, giving all: desiring not to use her power for her own ends, not favouring those of her own blood unduly, but seeking to aid those in her power to attain most successfully to the freedom and independence of adult life.

Those who have been so fortunate as at least once to have seen a woman so nobly using her powers will also have seen her rewarded by a love and devotion from the children not her own yet greater than that which is often given to a mother by the children of the blood.

Such is the bond I have dreamed should permanently bind England to South Africa.

One has indeed desired that a bond of good fellowship should bind all nations to our own young nation at the South. We, here, guarded by the vast expanses of our southern seas on every hand, with our wild, tempestuous and rocky coasts and our few and easily guarded harbours, are indeed singularly well situated by nature, when once internally united, for living in peace and freedom, untouched by foreign strife. But I, at least, have deeply desired that, with the men and women in the little Island in the North, a peculiarly tender bond should unite us; rising from the memory of great benefits conferred, without self-seeking, when the people of Great Africa were small and young, and England old and strong.

Even ten years ago it seemed to me not wholly unreasonable to hope that this ambition might yet be realized.

True, there had been in the past even then terrible and grievous mistakes on the part of England; the step-mother of the South African people was, one knew, a step-mother with a not quite certain temper; but when one remembered that England had in the past sent out to South Africa such men as Sir George Grey, that fresh [381] from Ireland came Sir William Porter, and that in spite of astonishing occasional aberrations there had frequently been a tendency on the part of the ruling power in England to make for a course of rectitude in South Africa, I do not think that dream was wholly unjustifiable, or that one who dreamed it need necessarily have been deemed a madman. Even ten years ago it still seemed within the range of possibility that, when the time came for the official separation between England and South Africa (as it must come between all lands and the old peoples on the other side of the globe; as it will come to Australia and New Zealand and Canada), that when that time came, little as was England's share in the blood of South Africa, there might yet be a tough cable of affection stretching across the six thousand miles of sea, and binding the hearts of South Africans, Dutch, English, German, French or African in origin, to the hearts of the people in the little Isles of the North.

To-day, England has made the realization of that dream an impossibility.

The first deadly blow was struck at its attainment when, by the instalment of the Chartered Company and the lending of her flag and her sword to a handful of wealthy or aristocratic speculators, she, by condoning their actions towards the African native in Matabeleland and more especially in Mashonaland, made it clear to the intelligent native all over South Africa that from England, under the capitalist control, and under the flag of England, when held aloft by speculators there is nothing to be looked for: that tenderer were the mercies to be hoped for from the roughest Boer or African-English Colonist than from the foreign speculators who acted in England's name.

A little later, by countenancing the Raid made upon a European South African state by the same corporation, England, through condonation of their conduct by princelings and politicians, made it clear to the bulk of the white Africans also that, however true to nobler and older traditions might be the hearts of a large section of the English people, the Union Jack was now fallen into the hands of those who had made it dangerous to the peace of Africa; that the flag we had loved as the flag of freedom was become a "Commercial Asset" and waved over the heads of marauders.

I think this struck the death-blow to the noblest possibilities of the English Empire over the hearts of South Africans; but there was even then hope left.

To-day (writing in the last months of the year 1900), guided by the hands of the same men, England is attempting to crush the independence of our two Republican states. Whether for a time she will succeed or not is still a matter of doubt. But that she has committed suicide in South Africa is a matter for no doubt.


Should she succeed in carrying out the speculators' dream of breaking down all the interstatal lines which have stood out as so many small ramparts behind which freedom could hide and which broke into parts the wave of capitalist aggression as it swept on; should England by forcible means, succeed, violently and against their will, in combining to-day all South African states under one central foreign government and forcing them prematurely into a national union, she may indeed form the United States of South Africa forty years sooner than they would spontaneously have been formed—but it will not be for herself.

England should clearly understand: It is not for herself that she is to-day attempting violently and by force to push open the rose of the South Africa national existence before its time. She will never wear it.

We have not desired it should be forced thus. A flower pushed artificially open by coarse fingers always has something ragged in its appearance; its bloom is never so fair and harmonious as one that has opened spontaneously under the influence of sun and air. We regret the premature and violent opening of our South African rose. But, let England mark this well; it is not for herself that she has torn and forced it: it will never bloom on her bosom.

Among all the elements connected with our complex South African world, England has had most to gain by its division into separate states. She has had more influence in South Africa than in Australia or New Zealand or Canada, simply because of its strongly politically divided structure. Once break up these parts and cement them thoroughly with human blood, shed on the battlefield and the scaffold, into one solid whole, and South Africa can stand alone: it will have passed suddenly amid the heat and anguish of battle and martyrdom through adolescence on to manhood.

Should England succeed for a time in crushing the two Republics, and, by means of keeping a hundred thousand armed men always on the soil, and, through blood and fire, succeed in holding them down for a moment, or should she not succeed—she has equally brought half a century nearer the time when she will have in South Africa not the hoof of one war horse, not the foot of one of her soldiers shall she be able to land on South Africa's shores. Fate has allowed England to make her choice between forming a fostering and sheltering element to our national germ, to remain for ever bound by ties of affection and gratitude to the great nation which in the future must rise from our blended peoples, or being the dominator and oppressor of an hour: then to depart for ever.

The lower element in the English nation has chosen, and by that choice she and we must now abide.

Out of the whitened bones of the English soldiers who have [383] fallen bravely fighting in South Africa fate is rearing up a great cairn, beneath which lie buried for ever the noblest possibilities of the English people.

The regeneration of nations, as of individuals, is possible, and for the English people there may still be a great and noble future, a future which shall produce in the little Island of the North men worthy to be successors to the noblest of her sons of the past. She may still walk in the path of freedom and humanity, though she can no more lead; but it can only be when, after mighty and agonizing social upheavals, she has reorganized her own social structure.

What ails the race to-day in the little Island of the North is that there has been an irruption of the lower and more sordid elements in her body politic over its entire surface, where they have formed as it were an upper crust: as over some green land there might be a physical eruption of scoriæ and sulphurous lava forming a crust over what had been once green fields and fruitful plains. Never, till the healthier strata within the nation have arisen and cracked up and thrown off the plutocratic crust which has caked over its national existence, will vigour and health be restored to it.

The future may have a great task in store for that little Island of the North we once loved so and towards which our hearts still call; she may yet lead the world by showing how a community may so reorganize and reshape itself that it may pass from death to life. But she will now have to move along her own path; we on ours—till, it may be, across the ages, we meet again, in the free confederacy of all the world's peoples.

A terrible and irrevocable "Might have been" has been written by fate over the possibilities of England in South Africa.

The little vessel of the North Sea may still be sound, but, while her sails are manned and her rudder guided as they are to-day, she drifts towards the rocks. It may be that after the shock she will recover herself and re-man her vessel: for

Her timbers yet are sound,
And she may float again!

It may be that her flag washed from its stain will be no more a "Commercial Asset," and that it may yet float free in the air, the banner of freedom, peace and justice of our dreams—

Our glorious Semper Eadem,
The banner of our pride!

—but while it remains in the hand of those who hold it to-day she can but follow the march of humanity, from its rear.

While England is given over to the hands of a plutocracy, she cannot lead or guide other nations on the path towards freedom.

We are trying to save ourselves: let her try to save herself.



When chapter III was first published several years ago as an article in an English review, slight and perfunctory as is its manner of dealing with the vast question of the intermingling of distinct human breeds, I was surprised at the number of letters I received from every part of the world, written by persons themselves of mixed varieties. It was as though the passing reference to a subject seldom dealt with had removed a valve, allowing free utterance to much pent-up feeling. Had these letters not been confidential, and therefore unpublishable, they would have formed an invaluable commentary on the article.

"Why," writes in effect a cultured and intellectual man of mingled race, the son of an English planter and a pure Negro woman in the West Indies, but who had received a university training in Europe, "Why should I have anything to do with that dark race which I hate and loathe and despise, and not cling wholly to that white race which I love and admire?" And yet he adds later, "There are moments of bitterness when I feel I could break wholly with my father's people and throw my lot in with my mother's, and live for them and with them. They would not despise me. And yet the shrinking from them is too intense."

The first of these sentences throws a strong light on the mental attitude from which arise the mingled sorrows and wrongs of the man of dark and light blood at the present day, and which rises, as we have said, not so much from the manner in which other men regard him as from the attitude he assumes towards one part of himself; while the last sentence indicates perhaps the only manner in which the inter-breeding of widely distinct varieties might, even at the present day, become a matter of great gain to humanity, were those of mingled blood large and strong enough to expend themselves rather in aiding and leading the weaker than in seeking to identify themselves with the, for the moment, stronger of their two parent races.


Without exception the writers, from whatever part of the world, understood from how profoundly sympathetic a standpoint their condition had been considered. It was therefore the more surprising when one Englishman in South Africa stated that the paper was intended as an attack on the men of mingled colour.

So far from this being the case, it has always appeared to me that no element in our complex South African community is under so deep an obligation to any other as is the white man racially to the Half-caste. The obligation to cultivate and aid him to overcome the difficulties of his position appears to me morally imperative, and, if possible, more so than in the case of the pure-bred natives. From my earliest childhood a curious and almost painful sympathy has attracted me toward this sad son of man, from the time when, hardly more than an infant, I first heard pure-blooded Bantu servants laugh scornfully at their half-coloured fellows; and yet more when I noted men and women of refinement and culture insulted and made to shrink within themselves by those immeasurably their intellectual inferiors, but who had no trace of the blood of the African race.

To-day the question of the mixture of totally distinct human breeds is one which practically touches South Africa as but a few other countries. In the century which is coming it will be the world's question. Already to-day the swift means of inter-communication and the exploitation of Asia and Africa by European speculators and politicians are breaking down all those walls which for ages have kept man of distinct breeds more or less geographically distinct, and which through the æons of the past have made possible that slow differentiation of the different branches of humanity into stable and fixed varieties. Before the twentieth century is half over, the Mongolian, the Aryan, and the African will be found everywhere inhabiting the same laps of earth and forming parts of the same bodies politic. The Chinaman will be found in every land, the European will have interfiltrated throughout Africa, and the question, which to-day is a practical question for South Africa and a few other countries, will be the master question of the race.

Is it possible, and, if possible, desirable, that the different distinct human breeds, whom it has taken nature countless ages to elaborate in her workshop and turn out in stable form, should, when living side by side as parts of the same social organism, remain distinct?

Is the race of man on earth, in the future, as in the present, to consist of distinct types, or is the whole body of humanity to become racially one fused uniform mass?

To these questions of so weighty an import to humanity, only [386] the ages that are coming can yield an adequate answer; but they are undoubtedly questions of master import to the race.

This one thing at least is certain—that the conviction that it is undesirable that any two distinct human breeds should mingle does not necessarily imply superiority or inferiority in either.

In my kennels I may have greyhounds and mastiffs, poodles and lap-dogs, bulldogs, St. Bernards. Because I desire to keep them distinct I do not therefore hold one breed as superior to the other. My greyhound may not be more interesting and valuable than my puppy lap-dog, or the poodle than the bull. Each may have his own charm and purpose, and if I refuse to mingle them recklessly, it is not because I value any so little, but all so much. It may indeed be said that by mingling my greyhounds with my bulldogs I might at last hit upon a new creature having virtues possessed by neither parent form. This also is true. But shall I move carelessly where my varieties are each so fair and desirable in my eyes in their own way?

It may be that the ideal human creature, for whom the centuries wait, may yet be found a human, half Chinaman, half Aryan, or African-Aryan and Mongolian blend: but the more valuable and rare each human breed is, the more does one shrink from destroying it where all is so dark.

Vandals may in a few hours wreck the Gothic cathedral which it was the work of countless generations to raise; and the rare and multiform human varieties, which it has taken nature countless millenniums to elaborate and fix in her workshop, and which add so greatly to the variety and charm of earth, may in a few generations be destroyed for ever. It is ill destroying the artistic work of man or nature till we know that from its destruction we are able to rear up something more worthy.

The lap-dog who lies upon my knee, the mastiff who guards my house, are both so wholly desirable that I desire to see neither of them extinguished. Shall we value our human varieties less than my dogs?

Yet probably, and I should say more than probably, where nature herself obliterates the distinction of race, and allows a mighty and permanent affection between man and woman to cross its limits of race, then I should be inclined to say nature herself gives a sanction which may set the lesser utilities at defiance and consecrates the union of distinct breeds; but without so mighty a permit it is perhaps well that we who are but children in this matter, and cannot see farther than our hands can reach, should pause and move with caution. For the future of the race on earth is bound up in this matter.



I have been asked to write an account on the domestic life of the South African Boer. If the term "Boer" be used to signify, as it sometimes is, the entire population of South Africa which is descended from the early Dutch settlers of two or three hundred years ago, and of the French Huguenots, who, driven from their native land in the seventeenth century, landed in South Africa and mingled their blood with that of the earlier settlers, the task would not be an easier one than to write a description of the domestic life of the whole American people. For the Africanders, as the Dutch-French-Huguenots descendants now call themselves, are not at the present day less complex and many-graded than the Americans themselves. In our cities and towns they form a large proportion of our most cultured and brilliant citizens, whose domestic life differs not at all from that of other cultured South Africans, English, French, or Germans in descent. Many of our most brilliant lawyers and able politicians and professional men are of this race: and year by year the names both of men and women of this race increasingly fill our lists of successful university students.

If, however, the term "Boer" be taken, as it should be, to signify only that portion of the race who have remained farmers (the word "Boer" literally means a farmer), and who in the outlying districts of the Cape Colony, the Orange Free State, Natal, and the Transvaal, have preserved unchanged the language, manners and ideas of their forefathers of the seventeenth century, then the task is far more easy. For this wonderful and virile folk—driven into the wilds of Africa a couple of centuries ago—are not merely dominated in their domestic and in their public life by old ideals and methods, but a strange uniformity exists everywhere.

Whether we find the primitive Boer on the wide grass plains of the Transvaal and the Free State, the Karoo plains of central and western Cape Colony, or the bush lands nearer the coast, in [388] appearance, ideas, and, above all, in habits and the arrangement of his domestic life, a complete and unique conformity exists.

The typical South African Boer lives on his own land, a farm, covering a stretch of country; it may be six, twelve, eighteen or more miles in length. On the spot where his homestead now stands, it may be that a few generations ago his grandfather or great-grandfather, on his first journey into the wilds in search of a new home, drew up his great ox-wagon beside some slowly oozing fountain, or on the banks of some stream with inexhaustible pools, which had never yet been visited by the foot of white man, and determined here to fix his home. He called the place perhaps "Jakals' Fontein," from the number of jackals which came down to drink or watch for prey the first night; "Wilde Kats Draai," from the wild cat they killed next day; or "Ti'er Kloof," from the huge tiger-leopard killed in the ravine beyond the fountain; and there, after a longer or shorter struggle with wild beasts or poisoned-arrow-shooting Bushmen, he built his house and kraals, and settled himself and his descendants.

Here, as the years passed, and leopard, lion, and wild dog became exterminated, and the wild bucks on whose flesh in early days he lived became more rare, he raised his little square or oblong house of rough stones or unburnt bricks; behind his house, surrounded by walls of rough stone or high-piled branches of the mimosa thorn, he built his kraals (or enclosures for the stock to sleep in at night), which were always placed very close to the house, that they might be more easily protected from wild beasts or savages.

By-and-by he generally built a dam, larger or smaller, as the case might be, for catching the rain-water, which in rainy seasons floods the plains, or which might be fed by his fountain if strong enough. Here his stock came to drink at evening; and if the supply of water were large enough, he often enclosed a small patch of land below the dam with a stone wall, planted a few fig and peach trees, and made a small garden.

Behind the house was built a large brick oven, often whitewashed on the outside, where the good wife (who in earlier days had had to content herself with a hollowed-out antheap as an oven) might bake her bread. Behind the house was raised a large wagon-house, open on the side from which least rain came, where the great ox-wagon and cart, if there were one, might stand sheltered from sun and rain; and then the typical Boer homestead, as we know it, and as it exists to the present day, was complete.

As sons and daughters grew up and married, additional rooms were often built on for them, to the old farm-house, or small houses were built near, or at a few miles' distance on the same farm, where [389] at some other fountain the stock was watered. But in each case the new homestead repeated the features of the old.

If one travel across some great African plain to-day, the hoofs of one's horse sinking step by step into the red sand, or crunching the gravel on some rocky ridge, far off across the plain one may mark some distant flat-topped table mountains rising up against the sky on the horizon; but for the rest, a vast, silent, undulating plain, broken, it may be, by small hillocks, or "kopjes," of iron-stones, stretches about one everywhere. After travelling five or six miles further, one may discern, at the foot of some distant kopje, a small white or dark speck; as one approaches nearer the practised eye perceives it is a homestead.

As one approaches yet nearer along the sandy wagon-track, slowly all the details of the place become clear—the house, the dam, almost or quite dry, if it be the end of a long, thirsty season, the little patch of dark green contrasting with the miles of red-brown veld about it, the wagon-house, and the great dark square patches, which are the kraals. And yet, so clear is the air, making objects distinctly visible at a long distance, one may ride on for an hour before the road, which has led straight as an arrow across the plain, takes a little turn, and the farmhouse is reached.

If it be the middle of a hot summer's afternoon a great stillness will reign about the place; not a soul will be seen stirring; the doors and the wooden shutters of the windows will be closed; a few hens may be scratching about in the red sand on the shady side of the house, and a couple of large Boer dogs will rise slowly from the shadow of the wagon house, and come toward you silently, with their heads down. If a coloured servant should appear from the back of the house, or a little face peep from behind the oven, it will be well to call to them to call off the dogs, for the African Boer dog is a peculiar species of mastiff, with a touch of the bull-dog, celebrated for his silent savageness.

After the dogs have been called off, the servant or child will go into the house to rouse the master of the house, who, with the rest of the family, is still taking his afternoon siesta, made necessary to all by the intense heat of summer and by the early rising, which is the invariable rule on an African farm. Presently the upper half of the door opens, and then the lower, and the master of the house appears, his eyes a little blinded by the glare of the afternoon sun after the cool darkness of the house.

He will step down from the low, raised stone platform before the door, and come to meet you—a tall, powerful man of over six feet in height, large-boned and massive, with large hands and feet, a long brown beard, and keen, steady, somewhat deep-set eyes. [390] He will extend his hand to you with the greatest courtesy, inquire your name, and whether you do not wish to off-saddle, and will call a servant to take your horse.

When you have entered the house with him, you will find yourself in a square room, large as compared with the whole size of the house. The floor is generally earth—soil forming the huge antheaps which cover the plains being generally taken for this purpose, which, damped with water, and well pounded down, forms an exceedingly hard floor. In the centre of the room is a bare square table, neatly finished off, but often of home construction, having been made by the father or grandfather of the present owner. Round the sides of the room are arranged some chairs and a long wooden sofa of the same make, the seats of which are formed, not of cane, but of thin thongs of leather interlaced.

At one side of the room against the wall stands a small square table. On it stands the great coffee-urn, and the work of the house-mother. Beside it, in her elbow-chair, in which she has hastily seated herself to welcome the stranger, she herself sits, dressed in black, often with a little black shawl across her shoulders, and a white handkerchief round her throat.

At her feet is a little square wooden stove, with a hollow inside, in which may be put a small brazier of live coals in cold weather, the heat arising through small ornamental holes cut in the wood of the top. Exactly such wooden stoves may be seen in the paintings of Flemish interiors by the old Dutch artists of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.

The good wife politely extends her hand to you, asks you to be seated, and you take your place on the wooden sofa. Except the tables and chairs, the room contains little or nothing. On the wall may be a rough gun-rack, containing half a dozen guns, from the old clumsy flint-lock gun of a century ago—which may have brought down many an elephant and lion in the old days and defended the lives of wives and children—to the most elegant modern Mauser or Martini-Henry. But the guns are more often kept in the bedroom, on the wall near the head of the bed.

One thing, however, is never missing. Either in a little closed window with a crochet cloth thrown over it, on the housemother's little table, on the centre table, or in a little cupboard in the wall, is always to be found the great family Bible. It holds a place altogether unique in the economy of the Boer life. It is not alone that on its front pages are to be found solemnly inscribed the names of the ancestors, the births, deaths, or marriages of his children, and often a brief record of the date of the most momentous events in his own or his family's history; it is not alone that for generations [391] this book has represented the sole tie between his solitary and often nomadic family and the intellectual life of culture of mankind; it is not alone that any culture or knowledge he possesses, other than that gained from the material world about him, has been all spelled out of its pages, but the visible external volume forms the Lares and Penates of his household, the sacred central point.

It is treated with respect; no other book is ever laid upon it; it is opened reverentially; it is carried wherever he wanders; it is consulted not merely as a moral, but also a material guide. The pages are solemnly opened and the finger brought down upon a passage, which is spelled out, and recovery or death of a child, and even such matters as the whereabouts of lost cattle, are believed to be indicated by its contents; as Enoch Arden's wife believed, when she brought her finger down on the passage about the palm-tree, that it indicated Enoch's death.

After we have been seated for a few moments the other members of the family will troop in, one by one, and shake hands, and seat themselves on the chairs round the room; nine or ten children between the ages of eighteen and two years, and perhaps a married son and daughter-in-law, and an old grandmother, who has her own elbow-chair near the window. For the Boer ideal of family life is patriarchal, and two or three generations are often housed under one roof. Presently the eldest daughter makes coffee in the urn, a little Kaffir maid bringing in a small, brazier of live coals to place under it. Then coffee is poured out in cups, or basins, and handed round to each person.

By the time the coffee has been drunk, the afternoon is beginning to grow old; the heat is rapidly lessening, and the soft evening breeze beginning to stir the air. The farmer lights his pipe, and invites you to fill yours from his large tobacco-bag, made of cony's skin or little kid's. Then he invites you to accompany him to the kraals, towards which from different points on the plain the flocks may already be seen tending. Then comes the busy and delightful hour—sunset on an African farm. Everywhere there is bustle and stir; in the cow-kraals the calves are bleating and putting their noses through the gate to get through to their mothers as they are being milked; and one by one, the sheep and the goats are being counted in at the gates of the great kraals.

The Kaffir maids are busy preparing the churn for the fresh milk, and lighting the kitchen fire for supper. The children are romping outside, inspired by the cool evening wind; even the old grandmother seats herself on the back doorstep to watch the stir, and to see the pink sunset slowly deepen into grey as the night [392] comes down. The dark gathers quickly, and soon the whole family are again gathered in the great front room.

On really old-fashioned farms a little Kaffir maid then comes in with a small tub of hot water and a cloth, and washes the feet of old and young, after which the family sit down to the evening meal, generally composed of boiled mutton, bread, and coffee. After supper, it is not long before the whole family retire for the night into the small bedrooms opening to the right and left of the sitting-room, and by eight o'clock often the whole household is in bed and asleep, the old Boer dog, stealing softly round the house, being the only creature moving, and the occasional bleating of sheep and goats being the only sounds that break the stillness.

At half-past three or four the next morning, however, you will be early aroused by the sound of bustling and movement. Every one is getting up. The Kaffir maid has already made the fire, and by the time you enter the sitting-room the eldest daughter is already pouring out coffee at the little table, by the light of a candle, although the grey dawn-light is already creeping in at the door.

As soon as he has had his coffee, the Boer with his sons goes out to the kraals to let out the stock. Long before the sun rises the flocks are already wending their way across the plain to their different pastures, with their Kaffir herdsmen behind them.

Then if you be the typical African traveller, anxious to get on his way before the heat of the day rises, you will have another cup of coffee, and bidding good-bye to your hosts, by the time the sun rises you will be already on your way across the plain, and the farm-house with its kraals and dam be already but a small speck behind you.



At the present day it is by no means uncommon for men to spend the greater part of their lives and large stores of wealth in a sometimes futile search for the scattered fragments of antiquity. A few broken Greek marbles, or Nineveh mud tablets, or battered leaves of Egyptian papyrus, are considered an ample return for half a lifetime of labour and the expenditure of thousands. We are apt to regard with a scorn not unmixed with malevolence the men of a bygone age who allowed treasure of so priceless a value to humanity to be wantonly destroyed.

Yet, at the present day in South Africa, a destruction of materials far more priceless and irrevocable goes on in our midst in the full light of our nineteenth-century humanitarian culture. It is possible that in the course of time a new Phidias may arise in our midst, and produce statues comparable to, if not identical with, those of the old world, and the learning and lore of the old Egyptians and Chaldeans lost in their destroyed mud tablets or papyrus leaves may yet be re-evolved from the human brain; but there is a reckless and callous destruction now going on in our midst of that which can by no conceivable possibility be restored to humanity when once it is destroyed from the surface of the globe. Future generations will probably regard as intelligent and wise benefactors of their race the men who burnt the Library in Alexandria, and destroyed the Parthenon at Athens, when they are compared, in certain aspects, with the inhabitants of Southern Africa and the modern world.

For the moment we are so entirely bent on advancing the claims of a material civilization, which we are inclined to regard as the all-in-all of life, that more subtle, if equally practical, and important considerations are apt to be forgotten.

This view is forced on us when we consider the reckless and entirely wanton destruction of the one form of production for which the African continent, and more especially its southern portions, [394] stands pre-eminent among the world's divisions—our astonishing fauna.

From gorilla and grey parrot on the east coast, and chimpanzee on the west, to the endless varieties of antelope and pachydermatous quadrupeds which at one time overran the south, no part in the globe has been within the memory of man, and even still is, so rich in beautiful and rare forms of sub-human life; no other presents the same vast field for scientific research.

How quickly this condition of things is passing away the most rapid glance at the present condition of South Africa will show. Hardly a year passes away without some rare and interesting form of life becoming extinct. The hippopotami, elephants, and antelopes which once grazed on the shores of Table Bay have for a century not been seen there, and the vast herds which covered our up-country plains in the memory of those living have absolutely been extinguished, leaving nothing behind but a few horns and skins, the few last wandering individuals, who in the natural course of things will be exterminated within the next few years. Before the middle of the twentieth century is reached (probably much sooner) the rifle, the railway train and the plough will so entirely have modified the conditions of existence that not only all forms of life indigenous to Southern, but to Central and Tropical Africa will have passed away.

From a sentimental and emotional standpoint this is to be regretted, but there are deeper interests than the merely emotional and poetical at stake. In an age when the study of a single small, deep-sea creature of a form intermediate between the vertebrate and invertebrate orders has thrown a flood of light on our biological knowledge, and when the discovery of a few fossilized hoofs has helped to revolutionize our view of vital phenomena; when even the man in the street, perceiving the practical advantages which science has conferred on him, has ceased to jeer, and regards it with a certain vague, if unreasoning, respect, it is not necessary to dwell at length on the fact that the loss of these multitudinous forms of life, by crippling and limiting the field of scientific study, must inflict a direct and serious loss on human knowledge and progress. But perhaps it is only the man more or less interested in the results of scientific research who can fully appreciate the importance of preserving for the future all forms of natural life, from the lion and crocodile to the humblest wood-dove and fly.

Some years back, finding it necessary to gain what information was obtainable with regard to the domestic and social habits of the higher apes, we found that all the information to be obtained from the latest works on the subject amounted to little more than [395] nil; and that for a personal inspection of these creatures in their natural state three distinct journeys into separate and most inaccessible parts of the globe would be necessary.

We then proceeded to study the few isolated specimens to be found in the Zoological Gardens of Europe. We found a few crestfallen looking animals, transported at an immense cost from tropical Africa or elsewhere, necessarily confined in small, comparatively dark cells, kept alive by a continual expenditure of coal and artificial heat, and then rarely saved from consumption, and requiring the constant care and attention of an able-bodied man; they resembled as little, seated on their heaps of straw and coughing, the creature in its natural and active social condition amidst the sunshine of a tropical forest, as a mummy represents an ancient Egyptian. After a vast expenditure of money, less was to be learnt from them than might be gained with regard to a troop of South African baboons when watched for a few hours from behind the stones of a kopje.

Considering these things, the conclusion inevitably forces itself upon us that our position with regard to the study of animal life is yet far from an ideal one. With one-third the expenditure of energy and money which goes to form our half-dozen small zoological collections in Europe, a vast preserve for wild animals immeasurably superior to anything which exists for scientific ends might be formed and maintained in any tropical or sub-tropical country. Our small existing collections may serve to bring curious specimens under the eyes of scientific men, and subserve certain useful purposes; but for many forms of study they are absolutely futile, and as a means of keeping in existence specimens which would otherwise become extinct, they have no claim to consideration. The ideal zoological garden would be a vast tract of country in some tropical or subtropical region, where all creatures but those habituated to extreme cold would freely exist in a state of nature, limited only by mutual struggle; it should be a tract diversified, if possible, by swamp, forest, and hills, and divided as far as might be by natural features from the surrounding country; and where no such barriers existed it should be as far as possible artificially cut off. It should contain not merely the creatures indigenous to the country, but should serve as a receptacle for those which could not elsewhere be preserved from extinction. It should form, so to speak, a vast natural preserve, existing not primarily for the purposes of the sportsman, but of science, and in which the rifle should be almost unknown. In connection with this might in time spring up large zoological gardens in the narrower sense of the term, where isolated specimens might be immured for the purposes of certain studies; but for many years [396] its far more important function would be simply the keeping in existence a large number of forms of animal life which would else become annihilated. Wildly Utopian as this scheme appears at first sight, consideration will show it is not beyond the range of feasibility, though beset with difficulty. The first, and for many years the most insuperable, difficulty has lain in the fact that no such tract as was necessary was obtainable anywhere. The existence of a strong, civilized government would be necessary to guarantee its retention for the desired purpose, and where a civilized government exists, there, as a rule, is a more or less dense population. The individual, as a rule, precedes the government, and apart from the fact that land then becomes too precious to be appropriated for such a purpose, both the land and the fauna have, as a rule, become so much modified and destroyed that it would take half a century to reproduce natural conditions. Such considerations have made in the past the whole scheme appear purely Utopian.

At the present moment, however, there exists in South Africa, by a rare and exceptional combination of circumstances, a condition which removes it from the realm of the purely ideal to that of the remotely practical. The sudden and unprecedented movement of the north-east of Southern Africa, where a powerful and well-organized form of civilized government is rapidly establishing itself in a vast territory, sparsely inhabited by natives, and as yet little, or at all, by Europeans, and where certain low-lying tracts are not at the present moment fitted for immediate occupation or for ordinary cultivation, and will certainly not be so used till the immense tracts of salubrious and valuable land about them have been fully utilized, yields a possibility of the realization of this plan, which has not occurred before and will probably not occur again. Were a large tract of this country granted or bought at a nominal price, and freedom from intrusion guaranteed, and were the interests of scientific Europe and America aroused and directed to this matter, and a body of scientific men and practical travellers formed for the direction and management of the scheme, it might pass into the region of the practical and obtainable. Innumerable as the smaller difficulties of detail would be, they would probably not be insurmountable. Such a subsidiary difficulty, for instance, would rise from the fact that such a preserve should not border anywhere upon a densely populated tract of country, and that it would be necessary to leave a belt of country some miles in width around it, to be inhabited on exceptional conditions. Were the interest of scientific Europe and America fully aroused, and the feasibility of the scheme proved, money would not be the thing wanting for its completion.

The sum now expended in warming the cell of one anthropoid [397] ape in Europe would build a stone wall a mile long in Mashonaland, and did the contributions take the form of donations giving the donors a permanent interest in the scheme and its management they might be largely increased. Apart entirely from the noblest scientific aspect, the undertaking might in the end prove itself successful in the purely commercial sense. Not only would the existence of such a preserve serve in time, as the creatures became extinct elsewhere, to attract scientific visitors to the land; but (curious as such an idea now appears, in a country, where for years our struggle has been to obtain an initial control over the animal and vegetable productions of Nature, and where all artificial productions are naturally valued at something above their real worth) it is possible that the mere animals themselves might, in the course of sixty or eighty years, prove as lucrative a source of wealth to the scientific body to which they belonged as if the original capital had been invested in gold mines or corn fields. It is difficult at the present moment to realize that in a generation and a half, when streams of immigration have swept east and west, north and south, across the continent, the tusks of an elephant, the skin of an antelope, or the body of a giraffe, or a live lion, may possess a purely commercial value, which would cause them to equal in worth a handful of Kimberley diamonds or a claim at Johannesburg. Apart from the always increasing interest which would attach scientifically to such a preserve of primitive forms, the vulgar curiosity which to-day runs after the lion-van and stands gaping at the Zoological Gardens on a Saturday afternoon, would find its gratification in the products of the tract; and it is not impossible that in a future generation, if the crude thirst for destruction remains unslaked in human nature, Nimrods may be found who would gladly expend much of their superfluous wealth in paying for attaining to the blissful consciousness of having destroyed the life of a creature of whose kind only a few score exist in the world. It may be objected that were such a scheme workable, and however remotely a possible success, it would long since in a commercial age have been grasped and carried out. But a scheme whose monetary success cannot be looked for during the limits of a lifetime is not one which presents seductive allurements to the purely commercial investor. It is a scheme peculiarly fitted to be worked out in the interests of science, which are practically indestructible and in the presence of which a thousand years are but as one day.

In Central and Southern Africa to-day primitive nature is making its last stand on the surface of the globe. It is here or nowhere that a minute relic of it must be retained for the civilized world of the future. If it be possible for any plan to be matured [398] and carried out for the preserving of our fauna, it will undoubtedly be regarded by men of the future as action along that obvious, practical, and rational line which it was impossible for us to avoid seeing, and much as we should regard the action of men who had saved for us the treasures of antiquity in sealed chest and buried chambers. If no such plan is maturable and workable during the next fifty years, science will permanently have lost great possibilities, and South Africa that which constitutes its greatest attraction. It is certainly not by persistently following in the steps of other divisions of the globe, but by resolutely grasping our own opportunities and striking out her own paths, that Africa can ever attain to her rightful position among the world's divisions.

At the present moment in the low-lying districts of Mashonaland, which till all the vast salubrious and productive tracts about them have been fully peopled and cultivated, will lie waste, we have one of the last, and probably the best, opportunities which will ever occur of finding a field in which we may preserve our rare and wonderful fauna. But to be successfully carried out the scheme should be worked on a colossal scale, and by the international interaction of all interested in science; our preserve should be the World's Zoological Garden.

Printed in Great Britain by

[1] It was at the end of 1838.—S.C.C.S.

[2] Reimpje = raw leather strips.

[3] Krantzes = precipices.

[4] If I were compelled to name the most poetical and completely ideal human creature I have met in the course of somewhat complex travels, I should name a Swede whom I once met in Italy.

[5] Stoep = veranda.

[6] Fig = Mesembryanthemum.

[7] She visited the Falls in 1911.

[8] Written 1892.

[9] See Theal's invaluable works on South Africa, more especially his artistic and finished volume, Cape Commanders; also Noble's History of South Africa, etc.

[10] Lammervanger (lamb-catcher) = an eagle.

[11] Roads now scar the mountain side; and within the last months the Block House has been turned into a convict station; so the strange shadow of the nineteenth century civilized man casts itself month by month further across our land.

[12] (Footnote added in 1906.) This I wrote in 1892. I could not write it now.

[13] The permanent and fixed type of the Jewish variety of the human race, which enables it to transmit its physical and mental characteristics with perfect truth even when crossed with another race, was probably created by the fact that the Jews were all descended from one or a very small body of ancestors, and bred rigorously in and in. Their own very suggestive legend states that the original founder mated with his own sister, which would make it almost impossible for the true Jews to revert to any but one type. So it is possible to understand how the Boer, in the course of a few generations, has formed a type fixed and marked, both mentally and physically, only when we consider how small was the number of individuals from which he originally sprung, and how he must of necessity have bred in and in, cousin marrying cousin again and yet again. There probably often land in a large American and Australian port, on a single day, more European emigrants than the number which composed the whole original stock of the Boer, including all French additions; there is therefore no possibility of the average colonist forming so quickly an equally marked type. Even to-day it is not uncommon to find a Boer three times related to his own wife; she may be his first cousin on his father's side, his second cousin on his mother's side, a fourth cousin through a maternal grandmother, and there may have been antecedent intermarriages of which there is no record. The children of such a marriage inheriting an almost homogeneous blood from both sides, can hardly fail to be some fixed type. On the other hand, the Boer race has probably been preserved from the dangers of interbreeding by the fact that the small original stock were of such very distinct national types.

[14] Yes, we once all believed that.

[15] (Footnote added in 1900.) Yet England killed it in America a century ago, and she is killing it in South Africa to-day.

[16] Springbok-Fountain, Cattle Pen, Jackal's-Fountain, Cat's Head.

[17] Let it be remarked that this passage was written in 1892, and printed in England in 1894.

[18] Though the Scotch of Burns's best poems comes nearer to it.

[19] It must of course be understood that a great deal of real Dutch of Holland is used in South Africa. The Bible is written in it, the services of the church are more or less conducted in it, and students learn to speak it almost correctly.

[20] This view with regard to the possible origin of the Taal (whether it be of any or of no value) was first suggested to us by a somewhat curious case which came under our own observation. A young man from one of the German-speaking Swiss cantons arrived in South Africa, and immediately married a Dutch girl. Both parents could speak a little English. They went immediately to live in a remote and out of the world spot among the mountains, where they seldom came into contact with other Europeans. Here their children were born. Neither of the parents were educated people. When I came into contact with them a most curious phenomenon had developed itself; the whole family spoke a language which was not Dutch nor German nor English, but a most curious blending of all three, and the words, from whichever language taken, had exactly the same clipt form we find in the Taal. There was not one member of the family who could speak a single sentence correctly in any of the three languages. They had, in fact, developed a new language for themselves. No doubt their children learnt English and Dutch later when they went into the world; but, had the descendants of that family been preserved distinct for a couple of generations, a new and astounding variety of human speech would have been formed. One of the most remarkable points was that each member of the family spoke in exactly the same manner.

[21] This view was propounded and backed by the votes of a majority in the Transvaal Parliament recently.

[22] It may be truly remarked that among the uncultured in Europe the same faith in ghosts and witches and even more appalling superstitions are rife; and this is certainly the case. But what is peculiar is that this unscientific attitude is formed in men often of unusual ability and high practical gifts.

[23] "I can read," said an intelligent woman in our presence, "but only the first of John and the fifth of Matthew." Who shall say how much she lost and how much she gained!

[24] This is a view we have heard seriously expressed by some Kaffirs.

[25] Kaffir: A loose term, derived from the Arabic, and sometimes employed to signify all dark-skinned Africans, but generally used in the Colony to designate this particular branch of the Bantu people.

[26] So considerable is the aptitude for abstract study displayed by the Bantu, that there are cases in which even Bantu females, preparing for the matriculation examination of the Cape University, are found not to be inferior to the average male Europeans sharing the same course of study.

[27] "I cannot understand you," said a thoughtful Bantu to us once; "a man can have his own cow and his own knife, but land is for all."

[28] There are a few Half-castes now in South Africa who are results of the union of Englishmen with the Boer Half-castes who are the result of slavery; and even a few who are the result of the union of Englishmen, principally soldiers, with the aboriginal natives. But the mass of Half-castes were in existence seventy years ago when the English first began to people the country. It need hardly be said that the preponderance of Half-castes who owe their origin to the Boer in no way indicates any superiority in the matter of sexual self-respect on the part of the English. There exists at the present day in our seaport towns, under the ægis of the English flag, and legislated for by the English Government, a traffic between English soldiers and sailors and the lowest class of Half-caste women, more anti-social, and, if it be possible, more degrading than any relation between the ancient slave-holders and their female slaves. Yet, as the women concerned in this traffic belong very largely to that unhappy class, not one in fifty of whom is fruitful, and whose children, when such are born, generally die in infancy, there is no very great effect produced on the population of the country; the thousands of Half-castes born every year being mainly the result of unions between Half-castes. It should be well borne in mind, in dealing with this subject, that so rapid is the rate of human increase under even tolerably favourable conditions, that four Half-castes born two hundred years ago, might easily be the progenitors of at least two hundred Half-castes at the present day, without any further admixture of European blood.

[29] Except in Johannesburg.

[30] (Added in 1896.) We are not referring to that which takes place when Englishmen, untrammelled by any public opinion, are absolutely dominant over a crushed native race, as in the territories north of the Limpopo to-day. We shall deal with this, to an Englishman most sorrowful matter, at some future date.

[31] We must, of course, be understood to speak generally. There are to be found, among the lowest class of our Half-castes, women of the most spotless sexual integrity and of irreproachable sexual pride. But one is undoubtedly justified in stating, that, generally speaking, the Half-caste is less sexually self-respecting than the white woman, or even than the black woman is till she has been totally severed from her own social surroundings and therefore practically reduced to much the same condition as the Half-caste. In her native state the Bantu woman is in many respects in a higher sexual position than large numbers of civilized females. Of the price paid for her at her marriage she receives nothing, it passes to her family. She not only supports herself by her own labour, but is the mainstay of the society in which she exists, largely feeding and clothing it by her exertions. Her position is probably much farther from that of the female who lives idly and parasitically on society through the sale of her sex functions than is that of most European women, married or single.

[32] Of course the same law of reversion might, under certain conditions, produce development and not retrogression. If, as is sometimes held (though we ourselves are very strongly of the opposite opinion), the Hottentots and Bushmen of South Africa are not human creatures caught in the very act of developing from lower forms, but are the result of degeneration from some higher type; then the creature resulting from a cross between the two might revert to that higher type, and be of higher social feeling and loftier intellectual power than either. We have ourselves in only one instance met an individual who was a cross between the English and Kaffir races, though we are aware that several such exist in South Africa. This man was certainly merely a composite of the two races, without any tendency to revert to a lower type. He was the son of an English gentleman, his mother was a wild Kaffir woman who had not been draggled under the feet of civilization. The man was proud, determined, resolute. Self-educated, he raised himself to a post of high trust under the English Government; he combined the dash and courage of the Kaffir with the pride and intelligence of the Englishman. He had the fault which is common to both his parent races, of being cruel and indomitable when opposed; but of the vices supposed to be inseparable from Half-castism, servility, and insincerity, he had not a trace. He was a man and a gentleman. But, whether if such crosses were common such men would generally arise, is quite another question.

[33] This somewhat surprising result has been arrived at by Havelock Ellis in the course of his scientific studies on the nature and causes of genius. He has drawn up tables of interest showing the relations of genius to race.

[34] It is interesting to note that two of America's most celebrated literary men, Bret Harte and Walt Whitman, are both of mingled Dutch and English descent.

[35] We are far from implying that there are no pure sub-varieties of Europeans even at the present day. In sequestered valleys and villages there undoubtedly are still folk who have not mingled their blood for at least two thousand years, and the inhabitants of certain Welsh valleys, Cornish hamlets, and villages in Brittany and Spain, though now divided from each other by speech, and nationality, may be absolutely of one blood and one descent. That even the artificial national lines which were drawn in the middle ages, and which form the basis of our national divisions at the present day, do coincide in some ways with more or less organic distinctions, we fully allow. In that great medley of Teutonic peoples who inhabit the German Empire to-day, there does really appear one mental characteristic which might almost mark them off from the rest of Europeans as a distinct variety; this is the musical talent. All the greatest composers have been Germans, almost every peasant and burgher you meet finds music an important element in his existence. Yet is this peculiarity wholly organic? The English are the least musical of all European nations, yet it is notorious that a family of English children reared in Germany exhibit often the same serious passion for music, the same knowledge of it, and even the same power of producing it. No two European nations are more unlike than the French and English, yet perhaps the most typical Frenchman we ever met was an Englishman born in Paris. And there can be little doubt that a French boy reared from birth in English surroundings would share the true Anglican worship for rough outdoor games, and if fed plentifully from youth upward on large quantities of beef, pudding, and ale, and leading an outdoor life, would at least as much resemble the typical John Bull of big belly, double chin, and red face, as do the Englishmen of America and the Colonies! The fact is that nine-tenths of what are popularly known as national peculiarities are not even skin-deep. This is proved when men of different nationalities are thrown into the crucible of Colonial life; after two generations spent there, if exposed to the same conditions and using the same speech, the nationality is almost undiscoverable. We in the Colonies, who stand at a vantage for perceiving how real up to a certain point are the European national peculiarities, and yet how essentially superficial, know that even the Irishman, whose peculiarities are more marked than those of any other purely European race, cannot with any certainty be distinguished from his fellows of other blood after a couple of generations, if born in a Colony. Even in the case of the Semitic Jew who does form a distinct variety, breeding more or less true, national characteristics are vulgarly attributed to blood which are undoubtedly the result of circumstance. A Jew severed from his social atmosphere and brought up in a society in which wealth was at a discount and scientific and literary attainment at a premium, would no doubt turn that intellectual fertility which is the gift of his blood into those directions; and though his descendants would undoubtedly inherit his nose, they would probably show no inherent tendency to lend money at sixty per cent.

[36] Thus supposing, for example, a cross between English and Japanese. Both these have now attained to the same high point of intellectual and social developments, the Japanese being probably more artistic and refined, the Englishman possibly more dominant. If these varieties developed from ancestors lower in the scale of growth than either are at present, then their offspring might revert to that type and be lower than either parent form; but it is also quite possible that other factors may come into play, and the extreme refinement and artistic instinct of the Japanese, combining with the coarser virility of the Englishman, might produce a creature higher in the scale of life and more desirable than either parent species. All that we are qualified to assert in the present infantile stage of our knowledge is, that there is a danger, and we are inclined to believe a very great danger, of reversion to the lower primitive type where two widely severed varieties cross, that humanity may by that process lose the results of hundreds of years of slow evolution.

[37] Such as the case of Eva the Hottentot, who married in the early days Van Meerhof, and one of whose daughters married a well-to-do Cape farmer.

[38] There may be, as we before said, rare cases in which the crossing of black and white races in the first instance was not the result of primitive lust, but of profound self-abnegating affection and sympathy; in which the man or woman has deliberately selected one of the darker race for life-long companionship, and has been willing to endure all that scorn and social contumely could conflict for the sake of that companionship. Where honour and affection and life-long marriage bind a man and woman of diverse breeds, it is difficult to speak. Perhaps so mighty a love has laws of its own; and the children of such a union might be far better born and better trained than the children of average pure-breed marriages. It can only be said that such cases are so rare that practically they need hardly be considered in studying the Half-caste problems of our day.

[39] We are well aware of the argument that, by bridging the cavity which yawns between race and race, the Half-caste serves to make possible a more kindly sense of union between the two. We see the weight of this argument, and allow something for it, even much; but, so enormous is the amount of suffering inflicted by the intermingling of the dark and light races in South Africa to-day, that no hypothetical gain seems to justify it.

[40] This was written in the April of 1891, when large treks were being organized in the Free State and Transvaal.

[41] Sloot = watercourse.

[42] Wildebeest = the gnu.

[43] Vley = depression with water.

[44] Hartebeest = an antelope.

[45] There seems some tendency in South African climate and conditions of life to produce this physical type, as it is often closely approximated to by the descendants of British settlers. The South Africans as a whole appear to be larger, and not quite so closely knit as the European folk.

[46] (Footnote added in 1901.) This passage was written ten years ago, and printed as it stands five years ago. It possibly throws some light on the success of the Republicans in the conflict with the British Empire to-day.

[47] We are, of course, speaking generally.

[48] That this, and more especially the absence of excitement and change, and not anything racial, is the cause of the large size and great weight, sometimes running to over 300 pounds, of Boer women, is certain, as their descendants, when leading the ordinary modern life, are in no way remarkable for size or weight.

[49] Dag = "Day."

[50] Dassie = coney.

[51] Travelling in the north of the Colony along the banks of the Orange in our childhood, we were once compelled to pass the night in the house of a very wealthy farmer. At bedtime we were shown into a room with three bedsteads. In one slept the father, mother, and the young infant, in another the grandmother and two of the younger children; in a large four-poster in the other corner were two girls of fourteen and sixteen and a youth of nineteen. On this bed we were asked to lie down, and about one o'clock our company was added to by a huge Boer bull-dog, which lay at the foot, and successfully, even for a child, prevented sleep.

[52] See Note D, The Domestic Life of the Boer.

[53] The spoons being generally of very soft metal, are easily destroyed by rough usage.

[54] Smous = hawker.

[55] Hart-kwaal = heart-complaint.

[56] Nachtmaal = Holy Communion.

[57] It is perhaps hardly necessary to repeat that by the term "Boer" it is not intended to signify all the Dutch-descended inhabitants of South Africa, but only such as have retained the old seventeenth century habits and ideas of their forefathers, and who speak only the "Taal." Probably almost half the inhabitants of South Africa of Dutch or French descent now speak English, and are often entirely indistinguishable from the other inhabitants of the country; the interest therefore which attaches itself to the Boer who has preserved until to-day the manners and ideas of two centuries ago does not attach to them. We shall deal with such persons later among the other nineteenth century folk of South Africa.

[58] That on the higher planes of development, where the individuality becomes complex and varied, the unions of Socrateses with their Xanthippes, or fruitless celibacies, are not universal, can only be accounted for by the fact that, unlike the artificial blocks which the carver may shape as he will, the men and women of any society or age are part of one organic body and, except where unhealthy social conditions prevent their being exposed to the action of the same forces, will tend to develop in the same direction, and again to meet on the higher planes of growth as they did in the lower. Therefore the most highly developed and individualized men and women of any society, if they have been exposed to the action of the same cultivating forces, may often be compared to those delicate and intricate puzzles carved from one ball of ivory by the Chinese, which only need to be brought into juxtaposition to show how admirably they harmonize and how essentially they form but one whole.

[59] Speaking of the Boer insurrection of 1815, Sir Andries Stockenstrom in his Autobiography says of two families of Boers, who were surrounded by British soldiers: "They placed themselves in a position of defence under their wagons. One of the soldiers by whom they were surrounded having ventured within range, entreating them to surrender, was shot dead on the spot. The fire was, of course, returned. Bezuidenhout's wife, reloading the guns as they were discharged, kept encouraging her husband and brother Fabre not to surrender; until at last Bezuidenhout fell dead, riddled with bullets, and she and Fabre were seized dangerously wounded, as well as her son, a boy of twelve, slightly."

[60] This was written in 1890, nine years before the War of the Republics began.

[61] It is hardly necessary to state that we are not referring to the labouring classes in modern societies, in which, when the male and female are both exposed to the same conditions of labour, the same intellectual homogeneity is to be observed. The position of these women differs, however, from that of the Boer woman in the less social consideration they enjoy, this depending on causes too complex to be here entered on.

[62] We glance at this matter briefly here as we have dealt with it in detail in Women and Labour.

[63] Tante = Auntie.

[64] To prevent misunderstanding, it is necessary to state that the term Boer, like the term Highland clansman, is more than a mere designation of race. Had Scott been asked to describe a typical Highland clansman, he would at once have described him with certain manners, ideas, virtues and wants, forming an absolutely true picture of the ancient clansman, which yet might not in any way apply to the Duke of Argyle or other cultured descendant of the Highlander, who, though being the Chief of a Highland clan, and possessing possibly no drop of foreign blood, would yet belong to a wholly different type of civilization. Probably not one half of the descendants of the Boers are Boers to-day, in the sense of speaking only the Taal and abiding by seventeenth-century manners and customs; and in twenty-five years there will not, we regret to think, be a Boer born in South Africa, though there will be more than half a million South Africans of Dutch-Huguenot descent. Serious political miscalculation is the result of the misconception that all Dutch-Huguenot South Africans are primitive Boers. In childhood we remember having heard that a Scotch Highlander was coming on a visit; and our disappointment when, instead of a clansman, speaking Gaelic, wearing a kilt, and playing the bagpipes, a delicate young man, much addicted to reading Tennyson and playing Beethoven, appeared, was probably much like that which awaits the foreigner who still in all South African Dutchmen expects to see the Boer.

[65] On December 15, 1899, was fought the battle of Colenso.

[66] Some persons going to visit the grave found the hand of one of the dead men, supposed to be that of Theunis de Klerk, protruding from the earth with the finger pointing right upward. It was taken to indicate that the men had been buried alive. But there is no reason necessarily to believe this. The soldiers had probably thrown only a thin layer of earth over the bodies, which being buried immediately while still warm, the muscles had probably contracted after death and forced the hand out with the rigid finger.

[67] It was a younger son of this noted family who so distinguished himself for bravery in a later Zulu war, when fighting side by side with English soldiers, and who is reported, with I know not how much truth, to have saved the life of a noted English General.

[68] Having, it is said, closed the doors so that he could not escape.

[69] Mosilikatsi and Umsilikazi (Umsiligaas, p. 238) are the same person—S.C.C.S.

[70] The yet later story of how another attempt was made by the same hands in new and subtler form, beguiling by misrepresentation a great people into lending them its national mantle to cover the grotesque misshapenness of their nakedness, in order the more easily to grasp the gold and land, and with it the independence of this little nation—this, and much that followed, is known in rough outline to all. But for the present we have gone far enough to be able roughly to estimate what the position is of the African Boer and of his nineteenth century descendant in South Africa, at the present day.

[71] There are three species of mier-kat generally known in South Africa, two of which are mild and easily tamed, and the red mier-kat, a creature absolutely fearless and which no one has ever succeeded in taming.

[72] A young Englishman, coming out to Africa some years ago, for the purpose of distinguishing himself by shooting some big game, and hearing there was an old Boer on a farm near by who had the reputation of having been a most noted hunter, endless lions having fallen to his gun, in addition to large game and bucks, determined to visit him. He returned much disappointed. Instead of finding the house filled with trophies of the chase, which he hoped he might perhaps purchase, he found not one skin or pair of horns in the little three-roomed house. After very much difficulty, and as a matter of politeness to the stranger, the old man was at last induced to recount one or two hunting stories. The thing which he appeared to be most proud of was a frame of everlasting flowers which a daughter of his, who had been to school, had made and placed round a cheap print on the wall. He asked the young man whether they had those flowers in his country; and, when told they had not, smiled softly to himself at the manifest superiority of South Africa. It is, of course, not only the true Boer hunter who manifests this simplicity. If the works of the great African hunter, F. C. Selous, with their unvarnished tale of occurrences, be compared with the gilded narratives of some persons who have once shot a tiger from the back of an elephant or a tree-platform, the same unconscious simplicity will be manifest, dividing the man who can do the thing from the man who desires it to be thought that he can do it.

[73] (Note added in 1899.) This was illustrated when speaking some time back to a young Boer who was present at Doorn Kop, where Jameson surrendered, and who took part in that fight. We asked him what he thought of Jameson's men. He replied, slowly and quietly, that they were "flukse kerels" ("smart men"), adding: "You see, it was not that we were better men than they were, but God was with us!"

[74] "Hold fast, Aunt Annie! Hold fast, Uncle Piet!" practically meaning, "Stand where you are and hold your ground."

[75] It is clear how large an advantage this gives the Boer in case of war. A Boer nation containing 30,000 adult males has the entire 30,000 from whom to select its most efficient generals and leaders; while in a vast Empire like that of England the choice is confined to so small a body as to be absolutely minute when compared to the bulk of the people. What Oliver Cromwells, Cronjes and de Wets there may be slumbering among the hard-handed farmers and working-men of England no man knows or ever will know. The strength of the dominating oligarchy is too great.

[76] That is, the Cape Colony.


One skinny Frenchman,
Two Portugee,
One jolly Englishman,
He lick all three!

We remember in our childhood to have heard an improved version of this statement to the effect that one Boer might equal four niggers, but one Englishman would lick fifty Boers. We remember lying in our bed at night and pondering over this problem—why with such terrible partiality the God who loves all equally, should have confined all courage and fighting power to the inhabitants of Great Britain—and we had before us a vivid picture of the one solitary British soldier standing on a kopje waving his gun, while before him fled frantically fifty powerful Boers armed to the teeth but making no endeavour to secure him. The adventure of Majuba Hill came strangely to terminate this vision, nor have we ever been able to recall it save as an exploded nightmare.

[78] It is remarkable that Edison, the great American, who has so perfected electrical invention, is, like Whitman and Bret Harte, largely Dutch in his origin, his forefathers having come from Holland a hundred years ago.

[79] He does not add: And so did my fathers two hundred years ago, and all Europe and the Bible expresses faith in them; "thou shalt not suffer a witch to live, says God"; for this kind of Englishman is not of a discerning and analytical disposition. He never goes farther than the matter in hand; and the matter in his own hands seldom stretches farther than the length of his own nose.

[80] It is perhaps not only by good fortune that among us should have arisen Charles Darwin. Those who study his early work, the Voyage of the Beagle, when as yet he was only perceiving faintly the relation of things which he afterwards so clearly grasped, will see, curiously manifest in almost every page of that work, those great English qualities of love and freedom and human equality in freedom. Neither does it seem anything but fitting and natural that the man who first brought evidence to convince the world of the identity of all life, seen and vaguely indicated by the world's poets, from Lucretius to Goethe and Shelley, should have been an Englishman. It is not wonderful that the man who, in his youth, felt so keenly the pain of seeing the savage ill-treated or the coloured man slighted, should have been he to whom the mystery and meanings of the humblest forms of life should have been made clear and that, from the stripes on the wing of the bird and the life and motions of the worm, he should have read the open lessons that others had overlooked. Foreign peoples often wonder that he should have appeared among us, but he appeared in our own line of growth; he is an efflorescence that naturally and rightly belongs to us. He was our Englishman at his highest.

[81] How far does the passion of a workman for the tool he works with speak in us here?




Inconsistencies in hyphenation and punctuation have not been corrected.

The book cover image was created by the transcriber and is placed in the public domain.


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