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قراءة كتاب The Mission; or Scenes in Africa

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‏اللغة: English
The Mission; or Scenes in Africa

The Mission; or Scenes in Africa

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دار النشر: Project Gutenberg
الصفحة رقم: 7

wheat-straw, and it is employed by the Dutch to polish wood and brass, on that very account. We know but little yet, but we do know that mineral substances are found in the composition of most living animals, if not all; indeed, the colouring-matter of the blood is an oxide and phosphate of iron.”

“I can now understand why you are so enthusiastic in the science, Mr Swinton, and I regret much that the short time which will be occupied in the remainder of our voyage will not enable me to profit as I should wish by your conversation; for when we arrive at the Cape, I fear our pursuits will lead us different ways.”

“I presume they will, for I am about to penetrate as far as possible into the interior of the country,” replied Mr Swinton, “which of course is not your intention.”

“Indeed, but it is,” replied Alexander; “I am about to do the same, although perhaps not in the same direction. May I ask your intended route, if not too inquisitive?”

“Not at all; I can hardly say myself. I shall be guided by the protection I may fall in with. Africa is a wide field for science, and I can hardly go anywhere without being well rewarded for my journey; and I will say, that should it meet both our views, I should be very glad if we were to travel in company.”

Mr Fairburn, who had come on deck, had been standing close to them at the latter portion of the conversation, and made the observation—

“I think it would be a very good plan if Mr Swinton would venture to go where you are bound, Mr Wilmot, but you can talk of that another day, when you have been longer together. There is nothing that requires more deliberation than the choice of a travelling companion; any serious imperfection of temper may make a journey very miserable. Now, Wilmot, if you are tired of natural history, and wish to change it for the painful history of human nature, I am ready to continue my observations.”

“With great pleasure, sir.”

“I hope you have no objection to my reaping the benefit also?” said Mr Swinton.

“Oh, most certainly not,” replied Mr Fairburn, “although I fear you will not gain much information, as you have been at the Cape before. In a former conversation with Mr Wilmot I have pointed out the manner in which the Cape was first settled, and how the settlers had gradually reduced the original possessors of the land to a state of serfdom; I will now continue.

“The Dutch boors, as they increased their wealth in cattle, required more pasture, and were now occupying the whole of the land south of the Caffre country: the Caffres are wild, courageous savages, whose wealth consists chiefly in cattle, but in some points they may be considered superior to the Hottentots.

“The weapon of the Hottentot may be said to be the bow and arrow, but the Caffre scorns this warfare, or indeed any treachery; his weapons are his assaguay, or spear, and his shield; he fights openly and bravely. The Caffres also cultivate their land to a certain extent, and are more cleanly and civilised. The boors on the Caffre frontier were often plundered by the bushmen, and perhaps occasionally by some few of the Caffres who were in a lawless state on the frontier; but if any complaint was made to the Caffre chiefs, every redress in their power was given: this, however, did not suit the Dutch boors.

“They had entered the Caffre country, and had perceived that the Caffres possessed large herds of cattle, and their avarice pointed out to them how much easier it would be to grow rich by taking the cattle of the Caffres than by rearing them themselves. If the bushmen stole a few head of cattle, complaints were immediately forwarded to Cape Town, and permission asked to raise a force, and recover them from the Caffres.

“The force raised was termed a Commando, and was composed of all the Dutch boors and their servants, well-armed and mounted: these would make an incursion into the Caffre territory, and because a few head of cattle had been stolen by parties unknown, they would pour down upon the Caffres, who had but their assaguays to oppose to destructive fire-arms, set the kraals or villages in flames, murder indiscriminately man, woman, and child, and carry off, by way of indemnification for some trifling loss, perhaps some twenty thousand head of cattle belonging to the Caffres.

“The Caffres, naturally indignant at such outrage and robbery, made attacks upon the boors to recover the cattle, but with this difference between the Christian boor and the untutored savage: the boors murdered women and children wantonly, the Caffres never harmed them, and did not even kill men, if they could obtain possession of their property without bloodshed.”

“But how could the Dutch government permit such atrocities?”

“The representations made to the government were believed, and the order was given in consequence. It is true that afterwards the government attempted to put a stop to these horrors, but the boors were beyond their control; and in one instance in which the home government had insisted that punishment should be inflicted for some more than common outrage on the part of the boors, the Cape governor returned for answer, that he could not venture to do as they wished, as the system was so extensive and so common, that all the principal people in the colony were implicated, and would have to be punished.

“Such was therefore the condition of the colony at the time that it fell into the possession of the English—the Hottentots serfs to the land, and treated as the beasts of the field; the slave-trader supplying slaves; and continual war carried on between the boors and the Caffres.”

“I trust that our government soon put an end to such barbarous iniquities.”

“That was not so easy; the frontier boors rose in arms against the English government, and the Hottentots, who had been so long patient, now fled and joined the Caffres. These people made a combined attack upon the frontier boors, burnt their houses to the ground, carried off the cattle, and possessed themselves of their arms and ammunition. The boors rallied in great force; another combat took place, in which the Hottentots and Caffres were victorious, killing the leader of the boors, and pursuing them with great slaughter, till they were stopped by the advance of the English troops. But I cannot dwell long upon this period of the Cape history; these wars continued until the natives, throwing themselves upon the protection of the English, were induced to lay down their arms, and the Hottentots to return to their former masters. The colony was then given up to the Dutch, and remained with them until the year 1806, when it was finally annexed to the British empire. The Dutch had not learned wisdom from what had occurred; they treated the Hottentots worse than before, maiming them and even murdering them in their resentment, and appeared to defy the British government; but a change was soon to take place.”

“Not before it was necessary, at all events,” said Alexander.

“It was by the missionaries chiefly that this change was brought about; they had penetrated into the interior, and saw with their own eyes the system of cruelty and rapine that was carried on; they wrote home accounts, which were credited, and which produced a great alteration. To the astonishment and indignation of the boors, law was introduced where it had always been set at defiance; they were told that the life of a Hottentot was as important in the eye of God, and in the eye of the law, as that of a Dutch boor, and that the government would hold it as such. Thus was the first blow struck; but another and a heavier was soon to fall upon those who had so long sported with the lives of their fellow-creatures. The press was called to the aid of the Hottentot, and a work published by a missionary roused the attention of the public at home to their situation. Their cause was pleaded in the House of Commons, and the Hottentot was emancipated for ever.”