THE NATIVE RACES OF SOUTH AFRICA
GEORGE W. STOW, F.G.S., F.R.G.S.
20. THE GRIQUA CHIEFS
In carrying out this portion of our enquiry we will, for the sake of convenience and distinctness, do so under the following heads, viz. —
c. Barend Barends, of Boetsap, and
a. Adam Kok, of Philippolis.
We have already seen that this chief after his departure, or we might say expulsion from Griquatown, for three years lived quietly with his brothers at Campbell, a village which the Koks had founded, and that in 1823 he and his brother Cornelius accompanied Mr. Thompson to Griquatown, with the hope that some adjustment might be arrived at of the differences and grievances of which they complained. We have also seen that whilst there they readily and energetically responded in cooperation with Waterboer to the urgent appeal of the Batlapin for assistance in repelling the overwhelming invasion which threatened them, that they proceeded with their following of armed retainers to the scene of action and took a conspicuous part in the battle of Lithako, which ended in a victory which must be ever memorable in the annals of the country. Shortly after his return from this expedition, finding that no redress was to be obtained from the rulers of Griquatown, and evidently disgusted with his position, he abandoned Campbell to his brother, and commenced to lead a precarious, wandering life, without a habitation and without an aim. He crossed to the left bank of the Vaal, and settled for a time near Backhouse. He did not, however, remain here many months, but was found by Dr. Philip in 1825 wandering about in the valley of the Modder river, after which he settled at Philippolis.
In order to understand the terms upon which this settlement was made, it will be necessary to learn something of Philippolis itself. In earlier times missions among the Bushmen had been established at Tooverbjerg and Hephzibah on the southern side of the 'Nu-'Gariep. They were afterwards most unjustifiably suppressed, and the country in which they were was given to the Boers. The excuse for this arbitrary and iniquitous proceeding on the part of the colonial government was the alleged danger of allowing these hapless outcasts to congregate in any considerable number upon the immediate border, and thus were these unhappy and cruelly treated people unceremoniously driven from the last vestige of the enormous territory which had once belonged to their fathers to the south of the Great river, and without a place of asylum to fly to, their lives were left to the caprice and vindictiveness of the people for whose sole benefit they had been so unrighteously dispossessed.
Naturally indignant at such unworthy treatment, we can imagine many of the strong and manly returning once more to their rocks and caves, while a considerable number of the old and infirm were turned at once by this despotic mandate homeless into the wilds, and reduced to the greatest distress for the means of subsistence. Seeing this sad state of affairs, the missionaries at the earnest recommendation of the Rev. A. Faure, the minister of the Dutch reformed church at Graaff Reinet, exerted themselves worthily to obtain another home for them to the north of the river. It was then that the site of Philippolis was selected, and its establishment sanctioned by the government, out of compassion, we are told, for these people, and as some compensation to the missionaries for the deprivation of their former stations.
The Bushmen were the original possessors of the district of Philippolis, and it was with their approbation that the mission was commenced in it. We shall remember that Mr. Campbell in his visit in 1820 found that the Bushmen occupying this portion of the tract between the 'Nu 'Gariep and the Vaal had made greater advances towards comfort and a settled life than any others he met with in Southern Africa, having advanced from the hunter to the pastoral stage of existence.
The energetic missionary found Adam Kok, the ex-chief of Griquatown, wandering about with a few followers in the valley of the Great Reed or Gumaap river. Adam pressed very much to be allowed to settle with his people at the mission station of Philippolis, and Dr. Philip consented to his occupation of the grounds of that institution on certain conditions. These were that he was to be allowed to occupy the country as long as it should be found that he protected the mission and was a safe neighbour to the Colony. To this a rider was added that he should also protect the Bushmen.
After Adam's settlement at Philippolis a considerable number of people joined him, and the scattered remnants of his adherents flocked to their old chief once more. Jan Pienaar informs us, in his evidence at the Bloemhof arbitration case, as to the manner in which the original proprietors were disposed of. " The Bushmen," he says, " inhabited the country about Philippolis. We exterminated the Bushmen, and Dr. Philip gave us the country. We exterminated the Bushmen and the Koranas between the Hart and Vaal rivers, and occupied the country."
That this was no mere figure of speech appears plainly from the following extracts taken from the Graham's Town Journal, written by the Hon. Robert Godlonton, M.L.C., from which we shall find that these unfortunate Bushmen suffered great atrocities not only at the hands of the Koranas, but equally from those of the Griquas who followed them. In one portion of the country where two or three thousand of these people formerly lived, in 1843 but five small kraals of them were left.
Piet Krankuil, a Bushman captain, stated that " the greater part of the country then occupied by the Bastaards was previous to the encroachments of these people inhabited from time immemorial by his own nation, that he had to flee to the Colony and work for his food, because the Bastaards took away all their cattle and murdered their people, that he himself had been attacked several times and his people had been attacked and murdered, that the Bastaards perpetrated the most horrid cruelties upon his nation, that when they had overpowered a Bushman kraal they would make a large fire and throw in all the children and lambs and kids they could not take away with them, and if they could by any chance lay hands on a grown-up Bushman they would cut his throat ; that before the arrival of the Bastaards in their land there were more Bushmen residing in it than there were Bastaards in 1843, and that then there were only two kraals of his people left, containing a very inconsiderable number of inhabitants."
Mr. James Howell quotes another authority, who affirmed that in travelling through the Bastaard country a few years previously, he came upon a heap of bones, and on inquiring of a Griqua named Abram Jager the cause of their being there, this man informed him that he and others of his countrymen had caught thirty Bushmen at that spot and had cut their throats ! Such then was the protection which the hapless aborigines obtained from the Griquas of the new settlement of Philippolis. As the number of the original inhabitants diminished, the Griqua subjects of Adam Kok continued to increase, until the latter became installed as the chief of Philippolis, and was appointed also chief of the scattered Bergenaars.
These people were a motley horde of savages, composed not only of some of the most turbulent of the Korana clans and of Griquas who refused to acknowledge Waterboer as chief, but their ranks were recruited by Bastaards from every part of the Colony. When at the height of their power, these miscreants spread dismay through all the tribes within their reach.
A Basutu chief who was despoiled by them gives the following account of the ruin of his clan. His town was suddenly attacked by a large party of men on horseback. Being a people they had never seen before, and not knowing the destructive nature of their weapons, the Basutu attempted to defend themselves, but seeing a great number of their people falling down dead and the enemy in spite of all they could do driving away their cattle, they at last gave way and ran off in all directions, leaving nearly all their cattle in the hands of the plunderers.
Some time after this, while removing to another part of the country where they hoped to be more secure, the same kind of people were discovered coming towards them. In a state of despair at the prospect before them, the chief desired his people to sit down, and said, " We shall all now be killed ! " The enemy then approached within about thirty yards of them, and, halting, asked them whether they would fight, to which the Basutu replied, " No ; come and take us all away with you ! " They were then desired to put away their weapons, which they did, when the enemy dismounting came in among them and selected such of the boys as were strong enough to go with them and carried them away. One woman resisted having her child taken from her by one of the band, who became so enraged that he took the infant from her back and killed it by dashing it upon the ground.
They then attacked another kraal in the neighbourhood, and took away a great number of cattle. Being thus deprived of their cattle, many of them ventured to follow on the trail of the marauders, hoping to get some food from those who had plundered them. Arriving near the spot where the Bergenaars lived, they met a number of others belonging to plundered tribes who were returning to their country, and who declared they would all be killed if they went on. Upon this hundreds went back reduced to the condition of wild Bushmen, or to obtain a subsistence by plundering other tribes.
Such then being the men by whom the hands of the chief of Philippolis were strengthened, the enormities which they committed upon the Bushmen of the neighbouring country cannot be a matter of surprise, for men who during their previous training were accustomed to disembowel their prisoners to gratify their vindictiveness could not be expected to show much mercy to the wretched Bushmen who came within their grasp. But of however questionable a description a considerable number of Adam Kok's new subjects may have been, the constant acquisitions that flocked to his standard from different quarters at length so far established his position that a convention was entered into between the Griquatown chief and himself. The former was at last obliged to acknowledge the reality of the claim set up by the rival Griquas, while his authority was still further strengthened by the treaty which was entered into between himself and one of the governors of the Cape Colony.
It will be unnecessary for our purpose to follow the career of this chief or that of his people further than to note that when his death took place at the end of 1837 or beginning of 1838, his oldest son Abraham assumed the chieftainship ; but the bulk of the old Griqua party objected to this self-assumption, and elected his brother Adam, the second son of the old chief, to rule them. Civil dissensions and quarrels broke out between the rival brothers and their several partisans, which ended in Abraham being ousted, when his younger brother Adam became thoroughly established in the office of chieftain. This is the Adam who migrated, not only with his own Griquas but also with a considerable number of those belonging to Waterboer, to a new land of promise, then called Nomansland, disposing of the territory of Griqualand East to the Free State authorities.
Cornelius Kok, Chief of Campbell.
We have already noticed the manner in which the Griquas profess to have discovered the springs at Campbell, and also the way in which the Koks acquired the right of cultivating land there. In addition to this, Waterboer, in his letter to the Rev. P. Wright, states that " Mr. Janz took possession of the fountains and valley in 1811 in the name of the London Missionary Society."
We must confess that it seems remarkably strange that an agent of a Society, the members of which have ever set themselves up as champions of the poor oppressed aborigines, could thus coolly annex a piece of territory for the behoof of another set of natives under their charge, without mentioning a single word about the Bushman proprietors, who we now know were living there. Waterboer also informs Mr. Wright that Mr. Janz and the other missionaries made an arrangement with a party of the Koks to make a settlement there as an outstation of Griqua-town. It would be difficult for any unprejudiced person to discover by what right this was done by men who declared their express mission was to benefit the natives, the place being still occupied by a Bushman captain and his people, against whom no cause of offence was ever alleged. Who were the real natives in this case ?
Waterboer tells us that these people (the Koks) removed to Knoffel Valley agreeably to the recommendation of the missionaries. It might have been added, who in this case usurped the rights of the true aborigines, as they did at Klaarwater, except that this was a more glaring and certainly a greater violation of justice than the former, for in this they had not the excuse of the country being unoccupied at the time of the seizure ; the original inhabitants were still residing there. It matters not whether there was only one or a thousand, they were there. And all right principle must surely tell us that the wrong inflicted on these poor people, for the benefit of their own protégés, was as great in the one case as the other. No idea of compensation was evidently ever thought of, until it was demanded of the Koks by the Bushman captain himself, and the purchase of the right to cultivate by them certainly would not entitle all the Griquas of Griqua-town to do the same. How these men, philanthropists by profession, could have allowed themselves to have been so blinded to the rights of men of another and weaker race than those belonging to their own mission, must appear to any disinterested person marvellous.
Dr. Philip, writing upon this purchase, gives as an instance " that at a very early period the Griquas (the Koks rather) had imbibed some principles of justice towards the Bushmen, from the missionaries." The exemplification of these principles of justice, Waterboer has informed us, was that one of their number had taken possession of Knoffel Valley without the slightest reference to its legitimate owners at all !
The Koks, on the other hand, who we have been told were sufficiently civilised even under the old Dutch regime to be classed as burghers, and who possessed landed property in the Cape Colony, knew that the proper way to obtain a just right was by purchase, and therefore advanced no objection to the demand made by the Bushman. The land undoubtedly belonged to the Bushman race, certainly not to the London Missionary Society, although it had been taken possession of in its name. If we refer to this transaction critically, we shall find that the Bushman's intention was evidently to give an individual right, certainly not a national one.
From the very heterogeneous materials of which they were composed, the Griquas were not a united people, but were from the very beginning broken up into several sections, that were not only jealous, but almost hostile to one another. The original adherents and hunting companions of the ex-burgher Kok and his family and connections and their descendants formed one portion. These people were of much purer Hottentot blood than most of the others, having very much the same habits and customs as the Koranas and other Hottentot tribes. Among the Koranas, although all joined for general defence, each kraal or settlement had its own special head or captain, while each kraal considered itself perfectly independent of the others ; the bond of union was the appearance of a common enemy, which forced all those threatened to act in unison. The old Griqua party represented this phase of ideas.
Another section was composed of the more recent additions from the old colony, the new-comers bearing names which left very little doubt about their origin, and in addition to them emancipated slaves. The former of these formed the great strength of the Griqua-town party, who were ever striving, openly or secretly, to undermine the authority of every one opposed to their favourite ideas.
A third section might be termed the foreign, or imported element, composed of Koranas, Bachoana, and others taken under protection. The Koranas had their sympathies strongly attracted towards the old Griqua party ; the Bachoana appear never to have had their independence called in question, and would certainly side with the winning party.
This throws some light upon the point why the Koks and their adherents became obnoxious to those in power in Griquatown : they were stumbling-blocks in the way of the universal dominion of Griquatown, and must be removed. For many years attempts were made at short intervals by the missionary party to deprive Cornelius Kok of his authority, and frequent misrepresentations were made to the colonial government concerning him by the partisans of Waterboer ; but he managed to hold his own as an independent chief, and before his death transferred his rights unimpaired to his nephew Adam, then residing at Philippolis.
Barend Barends, the Chief of Boetsap.
We have already traced the early career of this Griqua chief, and the feuds which sprang up between him and the notorious Africaander. This life, affording little gain to either party, at length became unendurable to Barend Barends, who, wearied with the never-ending conflicts, migrated far from his undaunted antagonist, in which movement he was followed by Cornelius Kok of the Khamiesberg. Proceeding along the course of the river, he at length crossed it with his followers at its great southern bend, and settled for a time at Hardcastle and its neighbourhood. It was whilst staying here that Kok passed him and joined the missionaries, who by this time had pitched their tents at Klaarwater.
He had not, however, taken up his abode at this new settlement for any length of time before he discovered that the marauding excursions of his old and inveterate enemy were likely to become once more a source of annoyance. He therefore migrated still farther to the north-east, and passing Griquatown, finally settled at 'Tlaka-lo-tlou, or as it was afterwards called Daniel's Kuil. He was living at this place when Adam Kok left Griquatown, and was, as we have seen, an acknowledged chief of the Griqua people. In 1820 he was spoken of by Mr. Campbell as " another Griqua captain, though a man of better principles and morals than the others."
This Griqua chief became an ordained native teacher, as was the elder Waterboer, hence it will be easily understood that jealousies arose between them, and that as soon as it was found that he was not an upholder of the ambitious projects of the Griquatown party, he should be considered a stumbling-block in their way and pointed out as a Bergenaar by them. The cause of the ill feeling and opposition will be better understood when we learn that it was contrary to the wishes and remonstrances of the missionaries of Griquatown that he removed to Daniel's Kuil, where they state somewhat contemptuously, " a few disaffected individuals " joined him. But, fortunately for the cause of truth, we have been able to discover that he was chief of the most influential portion of the Griquas, viz. the Bastaards, for a considerable time before any of them crossed the Great river.
The great and real cause of offence, but one which they could not bring openly against him, was that he had invited Mr. Archbell, a member of the Wesleyan Missionary Society, to come and reside with him at Daniel's Kuil ; thus it was that in a short lime a controversy arose between the two rival Societies, the London and the Wesleyan, as to which had the right of teaching at Daniel's Kuil.
Mr. Archbell, the Wesleyan missionary at Boetsap, complained that although his mission had already established an outstation at Daniel's Kuil, after this arrangement had been made a missionary of the London Society had been sent to hold worship there. Dr. Philip assured the Rev. W. Shaw, the Superintendent General of Wesleyan Missions in South Africa, that the only right Barend had at Daniel's Kuil was the right of sowing corn there. A document was at last signed by Dr. Philip, the Rev. W. Shaw, and Mr. Archbell, that any dispute about the land should be decided by the chiefs and not by the missionaries. Under ordinary circumstances this proposition would appear fair, but in the present instance, as far as the Griquatown party were concerned, it might just as well have been left in the hands of their missionaries themselves, as the chief Waterboer had already acknowledged to his friend the Rev. P. Wright, that he considered himself responsible, not only to the people, but also to the London Missionary Society in every thing which had relation to the well-being of the (i.e. their) missions. Under such circumstances how could he be any other than their mouthpiece and the mere exponent of their wishes ?
The dominion of the belauded Griquas of Griquatown had been built up by zealous members of the London Society, its present ruler had not only been selected, but reared and trained by them, they were in possession of the only real authority, both religious and political, and could they, who had in their own hands and in their own special keeping the strings which guided every movement in the Griqua destinies, allow any encroachment on their self-defined domains, without an effort on their part to prevent it ? Mr. Shaw appeared to realise the position, and stated that under such peculiar circumstances there was nothing surprising that Barend and his friends, the Wesleyan missionaries, "should feel jealous and uneasy at the political chicanery of the chief and court at Griquatown."
In 1823 Barend accompanied the other Griqua chiefs with his retainers on their expedition to the rescue of the Batlapin, and aided in the victory gained by them over the Mantatees at Lithako. In the following year he and his followers had the glory of a second victory, single-handed, over a portion of the same great invading host.
Mr. Moffat, accompanied by a party of mounted Griquas under Barend Barends, who were upon a hunting and bartering expedition, came suddenly upon the advanced body of these invaders when in the Barolong territory. Mr. Moffat and his party narrowly escaped with their lives, the enemy having succeeded in surrounding them. On this occasion the small party of Griqua horsemen, being mounted and armed, succeeded not only in freeing itself, but in protecting from destruction a large clan of Barolong that must otherwise have been annihilated by the Bataung section of the Mantatee horde, which was still wandering about in a famishing condition. This victory gave an impetus to the ideas of Barend, which ultimately culminated in one of the greatest disasters that ever befell the Griqua arms.
The entrance of the Wesleyan missionaries into this part of the country was in 1822. Their first attempt to establish a mission in the Bachoana country failed, in consequence of the severe illness of one of the missionaries, but soon afterwards Mr. Archbell settled at Boetsap. This was at the time when Messrs. Hodgson and Broadbent were enabled to commence a mission at a large native town called Maquassie with the Barolong tribe. Sihunel, the father of Moroka, was the chief of this portion of the Barolong nation. The people belonging to this mission were soon afterwards driven away and scattered by powerful and warlike tribes, but they rallied again and finally settled at Thaba Nchu, the Black Mountain, or the Mountain of Gloom, where they still reside.
During the stay of the missionaries at Boetsap the chief Barend Barends continued his hunting expeditions into the interior, principally for the purpose of procuring ivory. Mosele-katze having in the meanwhile fixed his great place in the heart of the desolated country of the Bakuena, Barend on one of these occasions visited the den of this terrible Lion of the North, at the time that Mr. Moffat had his first interview with the great despot of the Abaka-Zulu or Matabili.
What he then saw, in traversing this war-stricken land, the ravaged cornfields, the blackened ruins of a multitude of towns, and the signs of indiscriminate slaughter of the wretched inhabitants, made such an impression upon his mind, and so worked upon his imagination that he at length laboured under the strong delusion that he was destined to sweep Moselekatze and his gang of blood-guilty warriors from the fine pastures and glens of the Bakone country, an idea to which the comparatively easy and bloodless victory he had gained single-handed over a portion of the Mantatee hordes in their attack upon the Barolong, in all probability gave rise, and which possibly made him imagine that could he inflict a similar crushing defeat upon the Matabili warriors, he would be able to emancipate the remnant of the subjugated tribes from the state of miserable thraldom to which they had been reduced by their pitiless conquerors.
Filled with this holy furor he determined to enter upon a crusade against them, and thus set himself up as the champion of the weak against the strong, of the oppressed against their oppressors. His aspirations were praiseworthy, but the natural instincts of his cattle-accumulating co-patriots frustrated the great object of his ambition, and covered his project with confusion and disaster.
A heterogeneous multitude of Griquas from every party except that of Waterboer, Koranas, and other tribes were collected, with sentiments as varied as the costumes they wore, but unanimous in their enmity to the Matabili king, and thus reinforced Barend sallied forth on what he considered a noble and daring enterprise. A long cavalcade of waggons and horsemen, with their magazines of destruction, moved up along the course of the Vaal towards the dominions of the haughty tyrant, while the company as they proceeded received fresh accessions from the Barolong and others who expected to come in for a share of the spoil.
Having arrived at the nearest point on the river to their destined goal, the expedition halted. Spies were sent out, who returned with the most glowing descriptions : the hills were living with the immense herds which grazed upon them, they were too numerous to be kraaled, the Matabili warriors were all far away, attacking some of the distant tribes to the north, none but old men and boys were left behind, and the cattle kept guard over themselves. The chance was too dazzling to be allowed to let slip. A thousand mounted Bastaards and Koranas dashed across the Vaal river, armed with guns and well provided with ammunition. This was in 1831.
A rapid, yet stealthy march was made, principally by night, until they arrived within a short distance of the much desired object of their enterprise. Halting the expeditionary force in a portion of the country favourable for concealment, their scouts were again sent forward to reconnoitre the positions of their unsuspecting foe. Barends himself was detained at the main camp on the Vaal, from the shattered state of his health, and was therefore compelled to remain in the rear when the advance was finally made. The scouting party quickly discovered the various positions of the enemy, and again the confident horsemen advanced, as much under cover as possible ; and then with the swoop of an eagle they were, almost before an alarm could be given, in the very centre of the vast herds of the Matabili chief.
Moselekatze was taken by surprise, and made ready to take refuge in his own jungle. The men who defended his outposts teeming with cattle either fell or fled in consternation, till the mass of captured cattle became too numerous to be guarded even by such a force ; while the sight of fat oxen and the lowing of kine captivated the souls of the invaders. Their retreat was as rapid as the encumbrance of their spoil would allow. The first and second day passed, and they were still hurrying homeward ; and by the end of the third day many miles intervened between them and their daring capture. They now believed themselves beyond all danger of pursuit. That night there was slaughtering and feasting and rejoicing in the camp. The jubilant warriors ate to their full. The female prisoners warned them of their danger, but elated with their success, they encamped in straggling detachments. "Shall a Kaffir dare to fight with a Griqua?" was the evening's watchword. About midnight, without a picket or sentinel on the watch, all self-secure, they rolled themselves in their karosses around their camp-fires, and fell asleep.
But before the day broke, just as the waning moon emerged from behind the mountain peak, a chosen band of veteran Matabili rushed upon the slumbering host, scattering confusion, terror, and death. An exultant yell first startled the stillness of the dawn, and their dreaded enemy was upon them. Hundreds were transfixed with the broad blades of the grim warriors ere they could throw off their cloaks, many never rose from the ground at all, those who did died heaped on one another, the blood of the dead and dying, running like streams, was trodden into mud. Horses and riders were butchered together. Such was the panic that even among those who could seize their weapons, many fell by the guns of their own comrades. Three alone, who formed a kind of outer horse-guard, managed to ensconce themselves in a thick bush, whence they kept up an incessant fire while their ammunition lasted, and then jumping on the first horses they could catch, rode for their lives, and were soon far from their pursuers.
The sun rose upon a field red with blood, the accompanying stillness was the stillness of death, while a thousand corpses lay stark and gory, piled over the ground in hideous heaps. The cattle again fell into the hands of the remorseless victors, and none of the expeditionary force ever returned to boast of the herds of cattle which had been captured from the Matabili chief. The scene of carnage was visited by Moselekatze, and as he viewed the carcases of his foes, his exultation knew no bounds.
In a few days Barend, infirm in years, who as we have seen remained behind with the waggons several days' journey from where the catastrophe occurred, heard the tale of horror, and, half-convinced that he was not the man to give redemption to the Bakone, returned to his station to be greeted with the widows' wail. A conical mountain seen from a considerable distance in every direction, and near the Makakokan river, points to the spot where this terrible overthrow took place. Captain Harris, who visited it five years afterwards, describes it at that time as "a perfect Golgotha, thickly strewn with the whitened bones of men and horses, broken guns, and tattered clothing."
The immediate effect of this disaster was to spread a panic among the inhabitants of Boetsap, the Kolong valley. Great Platberg, and the surrounding country ; and dreading the vengeance of the implacable tyrant of the Matabili, tribe after tribe, Barolong, Bastaard, and Korana, gradually migrated to the more mountainous districts to the eastward. Barends himself retreated from Boetsap with a number of his followers to Namaqualand, where he wandered from place to place for a couple of years. In 1833 the Bastaards who had joined the station at Great Platberg left that place with the missionaries, and moved towards Basutuland. A body of Koranas who had also been for some time under the care of the missionaries accompanied them. In 1834 Barends himself rejoined them. The mountain near the present town of Ladybrand was called New Platberg by these emigrants, after the old station they had left.
The Griqua-Bastaards under Barend Barends settled between Makwatling and New Platberg, on a place called Groenkloof, near Mr. Daumas' mission station. Moshesh, who asserted some rights over the lands taken possession of, was glad to receive them, as the Griquas and Koranas possessed firearms and knew how to use them. He was well pleased at the prospect of having near neighbours in friendly alliance, who might aid in the general defence from any future attacks of the fierce Kaffir races that had so recently overrun the country.
Barend Barends remained the acknowledged chief at Newlands until just before his death, when, being taken ill, he travelled over to his old station at Boetsap for change of air. Here, however, bowed down with infirmity, and full of years, he ended his eventful career, shortly after his arrival.
Jan Bloem the Younger.
We have already seen that the Koranas took possession of the country, and that Jan Bloem the elder was elected chief of the numerous tribe of Springboks long before the advent of the Griquas, and therefore certainly antecedent to their unjustifiable claims to such an immense tract of Bushman territory. His son, Jan Bloem the younger, always declared his right to independence of action, but from beginning to end it was a grand scramble for land among these Griquas, each striving to obtain as much as possible. As it was with the Koranas and Kaffirs in their struggles for cattle, so it was with these people in their endeavours under missionary guidance to obtain great tracts of country. In both cases eventually the strongest kept possession of the coveted prize. The abstract matter of right never once interfered in the decision of the question.
During all these squabbles for land, it will be interesting to inquire how the original Bushman proprietors were benefited by the appropriation of their country by the intruders. The entire land was undoubtedly their primitive possession. They wandered about, where water was scarce, from fountain to fountain in small scattered bands, especially so on the great limestone plateau ending in the Griquatown valley, called the 'Kaap or Campbell Rand. They were numerous in the Kolong and Malalarene basin, and along the banks of the 'Gij-'Gariep and 'Gumaap, while in the large central plains between these two rivers they were not only more numerous, but they had commenced a more settled mode of existence, having adopted pastoral pursuits in conjunction with their hunter life. Some of them possessed considerable herds of cattle, and were more civilised than those met with in any other part of South Africa.
The Bushmen of this portion of the continent were more docile, more teachable, and more grateful for kindnesses done them than some of the other races. What then became of this, certainly, improvable race ? What benefit did they derive from their contact with races who looked down upon them as beings of an inferior grade ? Jan Pienaar has told us what was done with them in the country around Philippolis, and with those living between the Hart (Kolong) and Vaal rivers. " We exterminated them, we shot them down and occupied the country." The Griquatown people were exasperated against the Bushmen of the country around their mission station, and the Rev. J. Philip assures us that "hatred, in such a country, is always accompanied with danger to the object to whom it is directed." We need not therefore be surprised to discover that the cause of exasperation in the present instance disappeared.
Some millions of acres of their ancient hunting fields were thus absorbed by the intruding tribes of whose career we have been attempting to give a sketch, when another and still stronger race appeared in the field. The effect of their coming will necessarily be treated more fully when we consider the influence of the immigration of the European races. It will be sufficient here to allude to one incident connected with them, and thus prevent the necessity of returning to this portion of the country again, while at the same time it will give us rather a vivid idea of the manner in which land was obtained when, as was too frequently the case, it was not seized by mere brute force, and what sort of conditions were made in land transactions with the Bushmen.
Already in 1837, in the nineteen years which had elapsed since Mr. Campbell's visit, the kraals of the semi-pastoral Bushmen had disappeared. These portions of the Bushman race, which were said to be more civilised than others that were met with, were no longer to be found ; a few detached remnants of tribes, hunted about like wild beasts, were all that remained. Still notwithstanding the guns of the Korana, the Griqua, and the Boer had proved such terrible instruments of destruction, it was some few years before the last relics of the old race were dispossessed of the last acre of their ancestral possessions. The Blue book of the Bloemhof Arbitration affords us some light upon the subject. In it we find a copy of a deed of sale by a Bushman called therein David Danser to a Boer named Stephanus Fourie, of all the rights inherited from his father to the land from the Modder river to the Vaal upward to the Sand river, which he engages never to reclaim, and undertakes to remove with his people beyond the Vaal, for which he acknowledges the receipt as payment of a riding horse and seventy sheep.
We can imagine this unfortunate Bushman, surrounded by armed men, signing away of his own free will the birthright of his tribe for a riding horse and some threescore sheep !
As a sequel to this we find Major Warden addressing the high commissioner on the 3rd of August 1850 upon this very purchase, as follows : "Upon reaching Van Wyk's Vlei I found the farmers assembled at the house of the fieldcomet Fourie. Their complaints were solely against a Bushman, Captain 'Kousopp. This man has by means of some agent addressed letters to most of the farmers residing in Fourie's ward, stating that the country belongs to him ('Kousopp), and desiring them immediately to quit their farms. I sent for the Bushman, and the following day he made his appearance with some twenty of his followers. The Bushmen who acknowledge 'Kousopp as their chief have within the last few months committed several thefts of cattle from the Boers on the Modder river. I therefore dealt with 'Kousopp in a summary manner, and threatened to lodge him in gaol if he caused any more trouble to the farmers. The Van Wyk's country was purchased by the Boers many years ago from the Bushman David Danser, and now comes another claimant for the same, stating that he was ever considered a greater chief than Danser, and that his father had all the Bushmen of that part of the country under him for many years. I told 'Kousopp that His Excellency's proclamation had long ago settled all such matters, and given the land to the Boer occupants. I beg to recommend that twelve miles along the Vaal river and six towards the Middle Veld, adjoining the country allotted to David Danser and the Korana captain Goliath, be given to the Bushman 'Kousopp."
Such then were some of these astounding purchases of land. The land was purchased from the Bushmen was of course the declaration. Yes ! purchased, a riding horse and seventy fat-tailed sheep, valued in those days at some four shillings and six-pence each, for upwards of two and a quarter millions of acres of land ! What a premium for fraud and forgery ! There can be but very little doubt that at that time there were many documents of a similar class that were pure forgeries in existence, which professed to be deeds of sale of extensive pieces of land, which had they been critically examined, bore the stamp of fraud upon the very face of them.
Even in such instances, where a document was drawn up in the Bushman's presence, what did the unfortunate who put his hand to the cross know of the actual contents of the paper in front of him, or the extent of the land which it proposed to alienate ? The witnesses around him were all men possessed of an insatiable land-hunger. If disputes afterwards arose, as the real truth dawned upon him, and he became troublesome, an accidental ricochet would give a quietus to an inconvenient dispute. Men thus hungering after land, and only too eager to grasp it on any conditions, did not trouble their heads about the rights of the man who professed himself willing to make it over to them ; and thus entire tribes were wrongfully dispossessed by the machinations of one evil designer.
Land, once taken possession of, was taken over without recurrence, and no errors were allowed or acknowledged after the transaction was completed, whoever might have been the parties concerned. What justice could be expected to be shewn to such a race as the Bushmen, when, as we have seen, even missionaries apportioned out their country to the very men who afterwards confessed that they annihilated its old possessors ?
The closing scenes in the history of this tribe have been preserved, and the writer was fortunate enough in 1874 and 1879 to obtain a narrative of them, and thus to be able to rescue them from the oblivion which threatened to overtake them in a few years. These Bushmen have left many evidences of their former occupation of this portion of South Africa. And even after this questionable sale it was not until many a desperate struggle had taken place that their annihilation or expulsion was achieved. Several places are yet pointed out where, under some of their more daring leaders, they attempted to rise and expel the invaders, and others where they turned at bay upon their pursuers, and standing back to back neither asked nor expected quarter, until the last man fell in his death throes upon a heap of his slaughtered compatriots.
'Kousopp, the Bushman chief mentioned by Major Warden as protesting against the alienation of his country by the fraudulent action of David Danser, was in reality the acknowledged paramount Bushman chief of the entire country. He was called Scheel Kobus by the Dutch emigrant farmers. He was the son of 'Twa'goup, who was killed by a lion whilst out hunting in the days of the elder Bloem, at the pan a little to the north-west of the present Hebron, on the left side of the Vaal.
'Twa-'goup was one of the great Bushman captains. He ruled over the clans of the 'Gij-'Gumaap or Modder river proper, the 'Nu-'Gumaap, or the Riet river above its junction with the Modder, as well as of the 'Gumaap itself or the Great Riet river, and thence stretching across the Middle Veld to the 'Gij-'Gariep or Vaal. After his father's death, the headquarters of 'Kousopp were at the two spitzkopjes to the left of the 'Gumaap and opposite Koedoesberg, which was known to the Bushmen by the name of 'Kun-'kgoap. It was when the captain 'Kousopp fell back towards the Vaal, that another clan or portion of the tribe retreated to the stronghold amid the rocky islands of the 'Gumaap.
On a knoll near the eastern end of the great pan at Alexander Fontein some old ruins were pointed out to the writer in 1872, by Mr. Wessels, the proprietor of the farm. These ruined walls were the remains of a flat-roofed tenement belonging to some of the early emigrant Boers ; and it was here also that these Bushmen determined to make one more effort to clear the country of their obnoxious presence. At this place therefore some three hundred of them surprised and beleaguered a party of seven Boers, who managed to ensconce and defend themselves from behind the parapet of the fiat roof. The besiegers tried to set fire to the building, but failed in the attempt. For three days the little garrison was vigorously besieged, and as determinedly defended themselves, their elevated position preventing their assailants from taking it by storm, although several times they essayed to do so. One of the defenders of the place was shot, when on the third day they were relieved by the approach of a commando which came to succour them. The Bushmen now in their turn fled, and were closely pursued for many miles to their retreat, the stronghold among the rocky islands spoken of. This place, near the present homestead of the Wildemans, had long formed, among their rocky fastnesses, a secure retreat, which for a considerable time proved an impregnable fortress, where they had been able to repel successive attacks made upon them by the Koranas, the Griquas, and the Boers.
Hunted like wild beasts whenever they were found wandering over the wide spreading plains which they had inherited from their fathers, their extinction became a mere matter of time in an unequal struggle between the primitive bow and arrow, with which they fought, and the deadly gun in the hands of their invaders. Wherever there was cover, there they tenaciously clung to their favourite haunts, and when attacked, fearlessly and courageously defended their rock citadels ; but at the time when they made the retreat to which we have alluded, 'Kousopp with the main portion of the tribe had migrated towards the Vaal, while many of the other tribes of their countrymen had been annihilated or driven from the country.
A few rock chippings of great antiquity are found scattered about on some of the flat rocks of this island-refuge, and although only representing animals of the chase, these rude works of art are the ancient title-deeds of their race to the wide-spread plains around them, which had been occupied not only by themselves, but by their remote ancestors.
But the grand testimonials of the great antiquity of their occupation are to be found some miles lower down the same river, recorded on the polished and striated rocks of the Blaauw Bank. This latter place affords us an instance not of a grim rock-fortress amid precipitous gorges, where the death struggle of a tribe has taken place, but a spot that must have been, during the time of their undisturbed sovereignty, a place memorable to their race, where thousands of square feet of the highly polished rock surface are covered with innumerable mystic devices, intermingled with comparatively few animal figures. This must have been a palace residence of the most highly mystic of their race, of men who held something more than the mere chieftainship of a tribe.
It must have been a high place, where they gathered for their festivals of dancings and mysterious rites or counsel, a place where for generations their leaders who were the most skilled in the emblematic lore, the symbols of which were engraved around, awed their less initiated brethren with frantic orgies, or vehement recitals of the traditions of the renowned and daring hunters from whom they themselves had sprung, or still more ancient myths of times yet more remote, when, as they believed, men and animals consorted on more equal terms than they themselves, and used a kindred speech understood by all!
The sculptors of the innumerable symbols here found covering the rocks were in all probability the ancestors of the tribe of 'Twa'goup, while he himself was possibly descended from the great mystic of mystics who designed them, and who lived at the time when they believed that they and the lions shared the world between them.
Far other was the character of the retreat among the rocky islands. Here was no place adapted for festive meetings, but rather one to which they could retire as their pitiless invaders pressed closer and closer round on every side, outnumbered but still not beaten. This doubtless became the great stronghold of the ancient 'Gumaap tribe, to which they fell back when they made the dread discovery that there were other and stronger races of men upon the earth than themselves, and that these strangers, who must have appeared to them like giants, were gradually invading and possessing themselves of the best of their country.
Soon the dire struggle for very existence commenced around them, and this became their last and only place of refuge. It was a struggle that was to be maintained until this hapless remnant of untamed and primitive hunters was hemmed in by their restless pursuers, filled with implacable hate and thirsting for their blood. It was here that, finding no hope of escape, they turned upon their insatiate foes for the last time, and then fell one after the other beneath a storm of bullets, until the last man had let fly the only arrow left, and then, alone, disarmed, but still unconquered, and taunting his enemies, he saw the murderous guns all levelled at him ; then, muffling his head in his kaross, that none might see a death-pang on his face, he stood erect, and with a dauntless front received the deadly fire that had been poured upon his tribe, and falling back without a groan, he marked with his blood the extinction of his clan.
Nor, as we shall see, was the fate of 'Kousopp and the remainder of his tribe less tragical than that of those who chose the 'Gumaap as their place of refuge. Had these men belonged to a more civilised race, the determined struggle which they made for their country and their freedom would have been deemed heroic, and such a place as the rocky islands of the 'Gumaap would have been held sacred as having witnessed one of these closing scenes, and remained for ever a landmark in the history of a nation of brave and fearless men.
'De'coie, called by the voortrekkers De 'Goep and David Danser, was, as we have seen, the petty captain who sold the ground to the Boers. When 'Kousopp heard of this transaction, he protested vehemently against it, and a quarrel took place between them. Shortly after this a son of 'De'coie died rather suddenly, when his father imagined that his death had been caused by witchcraft, and that one of the Goliath Koranas was the sorcerer who had worked the evil. 'De'coie demanded the alleged offender from Goliath, that he might be put to death, when Goliath denied the accusation, and refused to comply with the demand. War then broke out between the Goliaths and 'De'coie's Bushmen, and a great battle took place between them near Platberg, 'Ker-by-'kaam or Red Krantz.
'De'coie was assisted by some of the Lynx Koranas. They succeeded in defeating the Goliaths, and depriving them of everything they possessed. 'De'coie then fell back with the spoil he had secured to the 'Gu-maam, i.e. Spruit, or as they sometimes called it 'Gum-'Gariep, the Little river, now known as Vet river. Finding out that their enemy had fled, the Goliaths rallied and followed on the trail of the Bushmen, and overtook them at 'Gum-'Gariep. Taking them by surprise, they recaptured the cattle, but they had not proceeded far when they were again overtaken by the Bushmen, and fell into an ambuscade prepared for them, when they once more lost their cattle, and were obliged to return with a single ox, the only hoof they had managed to keep.
Irritated with this second repulse, on their way back they fell upon the remaining Lyxx Koranas out of revenge for the part a portion of their tribe had taken, seized their cattle, and returned with them to Goliath's stronghold, a large island in the 'Gij-'Gariep, below 'Ker-by-'kaam or Platberg. A short time after this 'De'coie, the traitor who fraudulently sold the country, died.
'Kousopp, indignant that his land was thus unjustly and unceremoniously seized, determined to carry on a war of reprisals to the bitter end. No inducement could prevail on him and his people to cease from the depredations they carried on against the intruding Boers. Horses, cattle, sheep, alike fell into the hands of the angry chief, houses were destroyed, and several of the farmers and their servants lost their lives. Frequent demands were made upon him for the restitution of the stolen property. His invariable answer was, " Restore my land, and I will cease from troubling you ! Give me back the land of my fathers, and there shall be peace ! "
The climax, however, at length arrived. Having seized the entire flocks of one Jan Venter, he drove them to his retreat in the great islands in the 'Gij 'Gariep or Vaal, below Hebron. Here they were demanded, and refused as before upon the same plea. The Bushmen feasted and danced, the sheep disappeared, the lambs only were left. Venter sent him word that he was coming to fetch them. A strong commando was assembled, when finding that his enemies were coming in force, he retreated from his islands to the precipitous portion of the river lower down. Here the Boers surrounded his position. A few Griquas who had joined 'Kousopp managed to fight their way out, but he would not deign to retreat farther. He defended himself desperately ; but his determined courage availed him nothing, he and his people fell to a man. Men, women, and children were alike shot down, not one was spared, not a soul escaped. Thus perished the last great captain of the Bushman tribes of the Vaal, and since then there has been, as the Koranas described it, peace in the land.
We have now traced the movements of all these Hottentot tribes as far as we are able, and the bearing their migrations have had upon the destinies of the Bushman race. We will now in conclusion take a short review of the character of the favoured Griquas, who had been under such special care and training for a considerable period, gathering our data from those who can throw some light upon the cause of their rapid decadence and the complete collapse of the Utopian scheme of a regenerated kingdom of " poor natives " under the fostering care of their politico-religious guardians.
We have already pointed out that the Griqua power was at its height about 1825-6, at the time when Waterboer had made the Griquatown influence felt as far as Sannah's Poort, now Fauresmith. It will not be necessary to trace the various stages of its decline, as the very materials of which the commonwealth was composed were unstable and worthless, and the principles adopted by those at the helm were not only visionary, but in direct opposition to the teachings of past history.
In the portion of Southern Africa now under consideration, where the upholders of the old missionary system were able to carry out for a long period of years their pet schemes perfectly untrammelled, where they appropriated lands at their pleasure, built up tribes and made and unmade chiefs at their discretion, taking for their example the priests and prophets of old who anointed or denounced the petty kings of their time as they excited their displeasure or pandered to their priestly assumptions, the outcome has been miserably unproductive ; for if we calmly and dispassionately ask the question, what have been the results ? there can be but one truthful reply, failure, utter failure !
We have already expressed astonishment that men who could speak so pathetically of " the poor natives " could not see the inconsistency of upholding the fictitious rights of their protégés at the expense of another race, whose land had been coolly appropriated because it was weaker than themselves. We have seen both at Klaarwater and Knoffel Valley that Bushman rights were never for a moment thought of. It was never considered whether such a primitive race had a right to any country at all, that, in the opinion of these simple-minded gentlemen, must be reserved for " the poor native," frequently, however, rich in cattle ! So that when land, more land, was required, the original and rightful owners were treated as mere ciphers in the calculation.
Much has been said about the cruel treatment the Griquas have received with regard to their land. They acquired it simply, as we have seen, by the law of might. The Korana testimony upon this point is conclusive. Their right was established by the extinction of the ancient race, to whom it originally belonged. They seized it by violence, and retained it by bloodshed.
The habit of marauding was persisted in up to a very recent period, and whenever an opportunity offered, they endeavoured to enrich themselves by the plunder of weaker tribes. As it was with the Koranas, so it was with many of the Griquas, feasting and revelry so long as the supply afforded by the last capture lasted, then, like our own borderers of old, " boot and saddle " as soon as the store of beeves required replenishing. Being armed with guns, they considered themselves a great power among the natives, and were generally successful, although the terrible disaster which befell the expedition against the herds of Moselekatze proved that they could sometimes meet with reverses.
As we now know that during the Hottentot rebellion of 1850 several parties of Kat river and Theopolis Hottentots held prayer meetings before they proceeded to attack or attempt to murder their old masters, so we can imagine that a good supply of cheap beef would not interfere with any energetic devotional exercises in which they from time to time engaged to hoodwink their spiritual teachers, while the excuse of hunting gave a plausible reason for every expedition in which they might engage.
Much as we deplore the cruelty of the Bergenaars, what shall we say of the so-called mild and unoffending Christian Griquas, under a missionary chief, when we learn that in 1839 some Bushmen had been lately destroyed by a party of them in the neighbourhood of Griquatown. " A party of Bushmen who had taken refuge in a cave refused to surrender ; they were destroyed," says Mr. Backhouse, " by setting on fire fuel collected at the cave's mouth ! "
During one of the writer's visits to Griquatown, the man under whom these atrocious instructions were carried out was pointed out to him. He was one Joubert, a field captain or commandant of Waterboer. Some 120 or 130 men, women, and children, the entire remnant of the tribe, had fled to the cave for refuge. Fearing to come out and surrender themselves to the tender mercies of those who summoned them, they refused to obey, when great piles of brushwood were heaped before the cave, and the last of the unfortunate wretches within was suffocated by order of this monster. Not a soul escaped !
It will not be necessary to pursue the history of these tribes further. Their decline was even more rapid than their exaltation. When the writer first visited Griquatown in 1872, with the exception of the chief's residence with its enclosures and two or three other houses, Griquatown was in ruins, and the winds were gradually blowing holes even into the roof of their sanctuary. The missionaries for some cause or other had long deserted the station, and when Waterboer the younger made over the country to the British authorities, a few hundred Griquas of all sizes composed the dilapidated nation. But to the true aborigines of the country the evil had been done. Oppressed, defrauded, hunted down like wild beasts, the Christian bullets and the suffocating smoke had accomplished the task imposed upon them, and the numerous tribes of aborigines that once filled the valleys of the Kolong, the 'Gij and 'Nu 'Gariep all had vanished from the face of the earth. A few miserable fugitive outcasts were alone to be found here and there, while the rocks their great ones had sculptured were the only testimony of their former occupation.
The Native Races of South Africa
01. Editor's Preface
15. The Koranas
17. The Griquas
24. The Barolong