For many of the Khoekhoe, the church provided a centre to their lives, both emotionally and organisationally. During the first half of the nineteenth century, the missions had worked with singular success among the Khoekhoe. As a result, there were many devout Christians, who had used the teachings of the missionaries and the self-discipline which conversion entailed to gain control of their own lives, and develop a level of respectability which surprised, and indeed threatened, the image of the Khoekhoe prevalent in white settler society. There were also increasing numbers of Khoekhoe, particularly among the youth, who were becoming literate. What this meant was that, certainly in the LMS with its Congregational traditions, the members of the church increasingly wanted ecclesiastical control. They were becoming used to being elders and deacons, and one or two could look forward to being ordained as pastors.
The various documents in this chapter provide evidence of these tendencies, first with regard to the ideals within the Philipton church, and secondly with regard to the ordination of Arie van Rooyen as the first pastor of Khoesan descent, apart from James Read Junior. The letters were addressed to the Rev. J.J. Freeman, who was on a tour of inspection of the South African mission field. He was known to be sympathetic towards those of the missionaries who welcomed the emergence of church officials, ‘native assistants’ and, indeed, members of the clergy from among the ranks of the Khoekhoe. This was in contrast to those, notably Robert Moffat and Henry Calderwood, who were unable to accept the shift in the hierarchical relationship between missionary and convert that this entailed.
Document 45: Welcoming the Rev. J.J. Freeman, and what the Khoekhoe want of him
Hendrik Heyn, secretary to the Auxiliary Missionary Society, to the Rev. J.J. Freeman Respected Sir, the Deputation,
The Parent Society has been known to us for fifty years, and its history is bound up with the introduction of Christianity, of civilization and freedom among the Hottentot natives. And in the words of Mr. Fairbairn we can say, that the history of the Missionary Society is the history of Christianity, civilization, and freedom among the native tribes of this country. We heartily welcome you as the deputation of the Parent Society and we hope to enter cordially into all your plans.
Document 75: Willem Uithaalder to Governor Sir George Cathcart
25 May 1852
My Esteemed Sir; General
I embrace this opportunity to write you a letter. We inform you that we are exceedingly grieved in consequence of what we see with our eyes, that your Excellency fights with women and children, that is, makes war with them, for where all were fighting it was against men. Women and children we always excepted; that is according to proclamation. We hope not that Your Excellency will do the same as Sir H. Smith and Colonel Somerset. We were in the neighbourhood of Bathurst; there we fought men that had guns; these we shot down, and those who had no guns we excepted. This is according to proclamation.
And furthermore, if your Excellency wishes to speak with us, it is practicable for you to speak with us, because our hostilities are distinct from those of the Kafirs.
I, your servant
Document 98: On the privileges of Kat River burghers in war
By 1879, when the last of the frontier wars in the Eastern Cape broke out, a new political order was beginning to emerge. There was an increasingly large Xhosa Christian elite developing, for whom the politics of warfare began to seem outmoded and certainly unproductive. The call, made at the end of the war by Isaac Wauchope, to ‘Lay down the spear,/ Come out of the Hoho and Mnyube forests./ Fight with the Pen’ was more generally answered. A new form of modern politics was developing, in which parliamentary politics and the forerunners of the nationalist parties were seen as the way forward. Nevertheless, in the Kat River, the old reflexes were still in play. The following petition reviews the loyalist history of the Kat River Settlement, and returns to their previous grievances, all the way back to the meeting on the Vagrancy Bill fortyfive years earlier. At that meeting, Andries Hatha had sat behind the table recording the speeches that were made. Now in 1879 he once again chaired the meeting.
That your humble Petitioners are landed proprietors, of the Hottentot, Bastard, and other mixed races of the Colony, as above described, and they would beg to place before your Honourable House the fact that, since the establishment of the Kat River, otherwise called the Stockenstrom, Settlement in 1829, they were always designated, or according to European usage, belonged to that class who are supposed to enjoy certain privileges in boroughs, and who, besides other rights, have the privilege of returning one or more members to serve in Parliament.
II. Under this designation they were called out in Kafir patrols, Kafir wars, expeditions, or campaigns, under their own commandants and field-cornets, subject to European generals or superior officers, and did eminent service, especially in the wars of 1835, 1846, and 1851 (and in the late Kafir war, as a militia, furnishing altogether over four hundred men, and now again in the Morosi war two hundred men, consisting of levies and volunteers, for the campaign against that rebel chief), under various commanders or general officers, as their Excellencies the late Sir B. D'Urban, Sir P. Maitland, Sir H. Somerset, Sir A. Stockenström, and many others, as the archives of the Colony may show.
Document 76: The rebels’ view of a post-rebellion society
Translation of a communication received by the Governor from certain Rebel Hottentots, now without the Colony, addressed jointly to the Governor and to the Parliament.
17 January 1855
The object of Memorialists is to give Your Excellency a short sketch of the causes of the later War.
These subjects of the British Government, placed under and governed by Laws carried out by Commissioners, or Functionaries, appointed by Government and regarded as faithful and upright persons in the execution of their several duties and offices connected therewith,—they were expected to be upright and impartial in the exercise of such duties, according to law; but have at last greatly to regret that prejudices against colour and condition existed, so that the poor and ignorant mostly became the sufferers where justice and lawfulness were to be exercised.
As a proof of the aforesaid, and to corroborate that injustice is more minded than praised, when it concerns the coloured classes, Memorialists will give a circumstance which occurred between Sir A. Stockenström and the white colonists relative to his administration as Lieut.-Governor of the Eastern Province: he was forcibly opposed, and the greatest discontent was shown, as if they could, or would, not agree with him. We do not know the reasons they had, for we had not opportunity of ascertaining it, and also took no part, and had no vote of approval or disapproval of his retaining the situation of Governor here.
Memorialists can judge, partly, as he is a person whom they love as far as they have witnessed his character, for under his orders they have done much service for the government, and he placed rich and poor under the law (as judges and rulers ought to do) on the same footing; and, partly, because there is no respect of colour or condition with him, who, in as far as we have studied his character, cared only (to the extent that God gave him knowledge and ability) to preserve peace and prosperity among Her Majesty's subjects in general, and who exerted himself, to the utmost of his power, to become acquainted with the circumstances and wants of Her Majesty's poor coloured subjects, and to apply remedies where possible.
Document 68: State of affairs in Theopolis
Graham's Town, 8 January 1851
Very loving friend Kieviet Pikeur
I take this opportunity to write to you about the present circumstances. I hope you will not take it amiss I did not write to you sooner, but I must say, that I never had any time to write you anything. This does not imply that I am afraid to write anything to my generation (tribe or nation).1 I am not afraid of anybody; but never got the matter in hand so well as at present. Therefore, dear friend Kieviet, I will write to you a little about present circumstances.
Know first then—That the Settlers intend to raise a Levy in their place; £2 is given to every body who is inclined to enter into this Levy service.
Secondly,—That to each Levy is appointed a Commandant, to see that each Levy shall be clothed, and that every one gets his pay, according to the Regulations of the Levy service, established by the settlers (you must not understand that it is the government, for I have received the printed paper last Friday night of the printingoffice, to see if anything was printed therein from the Queen) but there is nothing of the kind written from the part of government, nor of a Governor, and as far as I can understand, the government does not want to have any to do with us colored people—but that the government wants to have this war done (fought) by Settlers and Boers. It is for this reason, the Settlers try their utmost endeavours to raise a Levy Regiment of us colored people at their own expense; but the old people from near the burying ground are unwilling to enter into this service; they are as yet together; and then you must understand also, there is something between the English and the Boers, so you must be prepared for two dangers. Therefore you must try to call in your people who are gone out, for this is not a time to remain separated from each other. These words, dear Kieviet, are the truth. Collect your generation (tribe or nation) together, as much as you possibly can, and get guns, powder, and lead from the government, as quickly as possible to protect our place.
These two documents show that the Khoekhoe were concerned to maintain their autonomy in military matters. In general, the light cavalry of the Kat River militia and of the burgher (citizen) forces was seen as the most effective soldiery on the Cape's eastern frontier. Many of the men in these forces had previously served in the Cape Corps or its successor, the Cape Mounted Rifles, and a number, including all the signatories of Document 34, had been non-commissioned officers in those forces. In the war of 1835, they had always been led by their own field commandant (generally Commandant Christiaan Groepe) and field cornets. There can be no doubt that they resented being placed under regular British officers, who were less experienced in the ways of frontier warfare, and who probably treated the Khoekhoe under their command with a degree of racist disdain.
Document 34: Field cornets as leaders of Khoekhoe forces
Ludovick Peffer, Andries Pretorius, David Jantjie, Cobus Fourie, Fieldcornets, to Colonel William Sutton, 18 May 1846
Eland's river Post
Your having kindly allowed us respectfully to represent to His Excellency through yourself our wishes as to the way in which we may be allowed to serve Her Majesty during the present war, we humbly beg leave to state as follows:
1st That we are anxious to serve the government cheerfully and to the utmost of our power as burghers in the same manner as the Boers who serve under Sir Stockenström.
2nd That we do not wish for pay for doing as good subjects, but trust that the government will be mercifully pleased to give food to all who are now or may hereafter become destitute in consequence of the war being prolonged, as also some sort of clothing to those who are naked or nearly so and have not the means of purchasing it
Should it be in His Excellency's power to grant us any indulgence in any way he may think proper as a reward for any service we may be fortunate enough to perform, it will be thankfully received when the war is concluded.
In the aftermath of the rebellion, the world had changed. The inhabitants of the Kat River valley and of the mission stations no longer had the confidence to challenge the racist order that came to prevail in the Cape. The rebellion was crushing in its effects, even for those who had remained steadfastly loyal, as the Kat River valley was, as far as possible, opened up to white settlement. The levels of authority which the original settlers in the valley had held over their lives were undermined. Men of Khoekhoe descent were systematically excluded from any positions of responsibility, and any land that came free was granted to whites, under the pretext that this would provide a leavening of the racially exclusive settlement. In fact, of course, it was the beginning of a long process of dispossession.
In these circumstances, Khoekhoe politics turned increasingly inwards. Although on occasion Khoekhoe descendants did participate in public debates on a variety of issues, most notably on the attempts to partition the colony between the Western and the Eastern Provinces, in general political energy was expended on the details of the new settlement in the Kat River valley, and above all on the organisation of the various churches. It was both a sphere in which the Khoe could still wield power, and one which was under threat as the funding for mission churches declined and the call went up that congregations of converts, and increasingly of men and women brought up in the faith, should be financially self-supporting and independent.
On 9 May 1834, the Cape government published the draft of an ordinance ‘for the better suppression of Vagrancy in this Colony’. This would have allowed ‘every field commandant, field-cornet and provisional field-cornet’—in other words, the leaders of local farming society—to arrest anyone found in their jurisdiction who was suspected of having no ‘honest means of subsistence’ or unable to give a ‘satisfactory account of themselves’. The magistrate could then sentence such individuals to work on the public roads, until ‘some respectable person shall agree to take them into their service’.
This measure had two goals. The first was to turn back Ordinance 50, since white society had seen, or thought to have seen, so many Khoekhoe on the roads, and instinctively believed they were up to no good. The second was to prepare the ground for the emancipation of slaves, and to put in place legislation which would minimise the effects of that measure when it finally came into force.
The consequence was a storm of protest, to some extent orchestrated by Dr Philip, but nevertheless clearly representing the views of those who signed the petitions. A few of the Kat River settlers, who were managing to accumulate a bit of property and were afraid that this might be lost, were prepared to sign a petition in favour of the Vagrancy Act. In this they were put under pressure by the justice of the peace in the settlement, Captain Armstrong, and probably also by the Dutch Reformed minister, W.R. Thomson. However, these men did not compose the petition, as is evidenced by the non-standard nature of the Dutch in which it was written. The others, from the mission stations of Bethelsdorp, Theopolis, Zuurbraak (then known as the Caledon Institution) and Pacaltsdorp, from the Khoekhoe living in Grahamstown and from a majority of the Kat River settlers, are all replete with anxiety about a return to the situation before Ordinance 50, and with stories of what it had been like for the Khoekhoe in those times, and how much better their situation had become.
In the aftermath of Hintsa's War, fought between the Cape Colony and the amaXhosa from Christmas 1834 to the end of 1835, three missionaries of the London Missionary Society (LMS), Dr John Philip and the James Reads, father and son, went to England, accompanied by two of their converts, the Xhosa chief Jan Tzatzoe and Andries Stoffels. Stoffels was by this time about 60, and had lived for many years in Bethelsdorp, before moving to the Kat River. He was renowned as the finest orator among the Eastern Cape Khoekhoe and was the mission's prize convert. During their stay in Britain, the men gave testimony before the Select Committee (of the House of Commons) on Aborigines (British Settlements), and also attended the May meeting of the LMS in Exeter Hall. Stoffels's long speech to this gathering has been described as ‘an extraordinary statement of Khoekhoe dependence on missionaries’. At the same time, it was an attempt to call in the bargain which the Khoekhoe had made with the same missionaries, that the pay-off for conversion and the remodelling of Khoe life along evangelical Christian lines would be recognition of their civil rights.
Document 21: Stoffels before the Select Committee on Aborigines
4938. Chairman: Are you a native of South Africa?—Yes.
4939. Do you belong to the Hottentots?—Yes.
4940. Were you one of the Kat River settlers?—Yes.
4941. Did you live for some years at Bethelsdorf before you went to the Kat River?—Yes, I lived at Bethelsdorf a long time.
4942. What is your age?—Between 50 and 60.
4943. Will you give the Committee a little outline of your life; where did you spend your early years?—We lived in the mountains till the missionaries, Vanderkemp and Read, came amongst us, then I came amongst human beings.
4944. How many years is it since you lived at Bethelsdorf?—I went to Bethelsdorf, when Dr. Vanderkemp left Graaff Reinet to come to Bethelsdorf; I then left Zuurveldt to come to the missionary station.
4945. You knew Dr. Vanderkemp?—Yes.
4946. Was he a good man?—Yes.
4947. Did he labour hard for the benefit of the Hottentots?—Yes; it was after Dr. Vanderkemp and Mr. Read came among us that we put off our skins and put on clothes.
After the end of war between the Cape Colony and the amaXhosa in 1820, a large tract of country was proclaimed as ‘neutral’, and theoretically to remain uninhabited either by the colonists or by the amaXhosa. In fact, as was predictable, people from both sides moved in and tried to establish themselves there. These included Maqoma, a leading Xhosa chief, with his large following, who crossed the low hills from the Tyhume valley to settle in the upper Kat River valley. In 1829, however, the British proceeded to expel him and those around him. The pretext for this action was Maqoma's attack on a group of the abaThembu, north across the mountains, but the deeper reason had to do with the maintenance of a buffer between the amaXhosa and the increasingly profitable colonial farms to the west of the Kat River, for instance in the Koenap valley or the region of modern Adelaide. The land in question was then distributed among several hundred Khoekhoe families, mainly from the mission stations elsewhere in the Eastern Cape or from among those who had served in the Cape Corps as soldiers. Most claimed to be of Gona descent, but there were also those who had an (acknowledged) European father and a Khoekhoe mother, and who were known as ‘Bastards’.
The Kat River Settlement, as it came to be called, was created to be a ‘breastwork’, protecting the colony from future Xhosa incursions. In order to make this possible, the Khoekhoe were granted plots of land which were small by colonial South African standards, but were viable because an extensive irrigation system was created in the valley. The settlement's inhabitants also constructed two churches and numerous schools. These formed the localities where they gave expression to their views on numerous aspects of colonial life. In particular, the Philipton church congregation, served by the experienced missionary the Rev. James Read, and also his son and namesake, became the centre for the conversations in the course of which Khoekhoe views of the world were enunciated.
During the 1830s, in the cold hills to the north of the Kat River valley, between the headwaters of the White Kei and Cacadu rivers, a small group of ‘Bushmen’ congregated under the leadership of a man known only by his isiXhosa name, Madolo, or its various anglicisations. Exactly who these people were, it is difficult to say. Some at least were the descendants of those who had lived in the region for many generations, and had painted on its rocks. Others may have been the descendants of Khoekhoe who had lost cattle, or escaped slaves, or even on occasion a European deserter from the army. Madolo himself had been based in rock shelters on the Kei River, but had been forced higher into the hills by pressure from the abaThembu, especially those under Maphasa. There, in 1839, they were met by James Read Senior, who started a mission among them. Although Read visited the Bushman station when he could, the main work was done by Khoe ‘native assistants’ from the Kat River and by James Read's younger son, Joseph.
During the early nineteenth century, there was increased pressure on the inhabitants of South Africa's (and Lesotho's) mountains, probably in part because the introduction of British-made blankets enabled larger numbers of people to survive the winters in the area. It is thus not so surprising that during the War of the Axe, Madolo fought for the British, with a force estimated at 200 men, under the leadership of Joseph Read. Though they fought well throughout the war, they did not receive the rewards in land that they had expected. This was to influence greatly their subsequent actions.
Document 43: On San land rights
Captain Madoor and others to the Rev. J.J. Freeman
Freemanton, 29 August 1849
Much respected Sir and Father
It is with the greatest pleasure that we bid you welcome to Freemanton, on your arrival from England, and we hope that your coming to the Churches of South Africa will be a blessing.
Before the war we had begun to be very prosperous, but now through the war we are altogether ruined. All the inhabitants here were obliged to leave everything they had, and to help the colonial Government against the Kaffirs.
Document 36: Canteens near Bethelsdorp
For the effects of drink and the work of temperance societies among the Khoekhoe, see Document 9.
3 May 1847
Memorial to Sir Henry Young, (Lt. Governor) from inhabitants of Bethelsdorp.
That memorialists have been informed that the present proprietors of a portion of the estate Perseverance situated on the High Road to Graham's Town at the Wagon Drift of Zwartkops River intend establishing a canteen at said place for the sale of wine and brandy. That being convinced canteens are prejudicial to morals any where, one in such a situation as the above named will prove especially injurious to the morals of many who constantly travel the road, they consider it a duty to bring the subject under Your Honor's notice. Memorialists conceive there are several weighty objections to the erection of a Canteen at such a place; the distance from Port Elizabeth being only 11 miles, and from Uitenhage 8 or 9 miles such an establishment is unnecessary. The injurious effects which would be produced on the labouring classes daily passing would be exceedingly great. As numbers of waggons employed in the conveyance of Government stores and goods for merchants are constantly passing, doubtless the canteen would prove a snare to many leaders and drivers, many would become intoxicated, and rendered unfit to proceed on their journey with their wagons. Memorialists believe that a canteen would not merely be a cause of detention to many wagons, but from the numbers who would meet together to drink much quarrelling, fighting and other disorderly conduct would take place. Leaders and drivers being unable to manage their teams the number of accidents on the road especially when the river is high, would be greatly increased. Memorialists beg also to state that there is no Police at hand whose officers might check any disorderly conduct which would undoubtedly arise.
Memorialists therefore most humbly solicit your Honor to take these circumstances into consideration and that it may please your Honor to direct that no Licence for opening a canteen at Zwartkops River drift be granted.
And your Memorialists as in duty bound will ever pray.
James Kitchingman, missionary & 55 inhabitants.
During the last days of 1850, war broke out again between the amaXhosa and the Cape Colony. In previous wars, the Khoekhoe had almost all sided with the colonial forces, despite attempts by the Xhosa chiefs to woo them, and despite the erroneous belief on the part of some colonial officials that the Khoekhoe could not be trusted. But in what came to be known as Mlangeni's War, after the Xhosa war prophet who did much to bring about the war, a substantial proportion of the colonial Khoekhoe fought on the side of the amaXhosa, so that what became known as the Kat River Rebellion developed alongside Xhosa attempts to dislodge the colonists from what they saw as their land.
To some extent the label ‘Kat River Rebellion’ was inappropriate, on two counts. Many of those who participated in the rebellion came from outside the Kat River Settlement, and a majority of the inhabitants of the valley remained loyal to the British. Nevertheless, it was within the valley, and among its inhabitants, that the most serious debates took place. Here it became a civil war. As James Read wrote: ‘A rebellion is quite different from foreign warfare. In the latter you know your enemy. Not so in the former, in which there are currents and counter-currents—sympathies and counter sympathies. Distrust is the only general feeling, and that enervates every power and foils every attempt. I would rather be in twenty wars than in one rebellion.’
In this atmosphere, though, the most essential values and opinions of the Eastern Cape Khoekhoe came to the surface.
Document 59: Hermanus Matroos's revolt
The first major incidents in the rebellion were instigated by Hermanus Matroos, or Ngxukumeshe, the son of a runaway slave and his Xhosa wife, who had been building up what amounted to a Xhosa chieftainship in the Blinkwater valley, on the basis of the work he had done as interpreter for the British over many years. By late 1850, he had become disillusioned with the British, essentially because they did not remunerate him for his work during the War of the Axe.
Document 49: On vagrancy and the representative assembly: a petition to the Aborigines
Protection Society, London
Kat River, 8 March 1849
We heard long ago that your humane society exists but little thought we should be soon necessitated to avail ourselves of its protective shield against the unsatiable thirst of Colonial oppression.
The writings of several English travellers, the Commissioners of Inquiry, the Minutes of the parliamentary Committee which sat in 1836, the remarks of the Rev. Dr. Philip, and the statements of Missionaries, will have shewn you the state to which our forefathers were reduced by the oppression of the Whites; and that, though nominally free, we are in a worse state than the poor slaves who were bought with money; and that in the land of our fathers, an area of country larger than England, we have scarcely an inch of land on which to set our feet, the Kat River and the sterile spots at the Missionary Institutions excepted.
You are aware of what efforts were used to obtain our civil emancipation and to get the Charter of our liberties, the 50th Ordinance, passed. For a long time (since 1834 at least) the spirit of oppression seemed to have been silent; but lately it appears to have received new impulses and the Colonists are proceeding with accelerated speed and fixed determination, and are bent on bringing the Coloured population under the influence of vagrant acts. The question is now before the Legislative Council, in which we have no voice whatever, and there is every likelihood of its passing. We also see in the Papers that the Colonists have resolved to send an accredited Agent home, Dr. Atherstone of Graham's Town to support the prayer of the Colonists to have a Representative Assembly for this Colony.
The object of our writing you is to request you to pray the Colonial Minister to disallow the passing of a Vagrant Law, as well as granting a Representative Assembly for this Colony, both of which will be used as engines of oppression against the Coloured races of this Colony.
This we can prove by recent speeches and writings of the Colonists.
Document 4: The inhabitants of Bethelsdorp
These two petitions, both dated January 1829, were presented by the inhabitants of Bethelsdorp, the London Missionary Society station on the outskirts of what became Port Elizabeth. They had seized the moment immediately after the promulgation of Ordinance 50 in order to make claims to land. The petitions were presented in Cape Town by Saxe Bannister, a former attorney-general of New South Wales, who was visiting the Eastern Cape during his return from Australia. He was a prominent supporter of the rights of those who in the twentieth century would become known as ‘indigenous peoples’.
The Memorial of divers inhabitants of the district of Uitenhage, sprung principally from the Gona and other Hottentot tribes,
That Memorialists have long been members of Bethelsdorp and can appeal confidently to their Missionaries and neighbours for testimony of their conduct as mechanics; and in their various pursuits.
That hitherto want of land has checked the natural increase of their cattle, and deprived memorialists of the just reward of industry; nevertheless, under great disadvantages, some of them have acquired waggons, oxen, cows, goats, sheep and other property; and all possess competent skill in husbandry and as mechanics.
That they wish to obtain grants upon certain tracts situated near the sea, between the Bosjesman and Sunday rivers, together with the Gora and lands adjacent in Uitenhage, at about half-way from Bethelsdorp to Theopolis and to settle there.
That they have been informed of applications being recently made for the said lands; but they submit their own claims to be superior to those of any other persons whatever, and especially to the claims of individuals already possessing extensive farms.
That memorialists know the value of instruction for their children, and of suitable means of religious communion for themselves; and trust to obtain the benefit of the provision recommended by His Majesty's Commissioners of Inquiry in that behalf; to which they doubt not they may be able, hereafter, in a reasonable time to contribute.
That it may be right to impose certain conditions upon memorialists, in order to secure these grants to their children.
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