National Geographic : 1896 Nov
THE WITWATERSRAND AND on a par with men of any nationality. The struggle for exist ence and for freedom has saved them from mental stagnation. That they are backward as a race, according to our standards, is true. Much of the seventeenth century still clings to them, but they have lost none of the capacity for advance.* The most important of all the characteristics of the Transvaal Boer is his passion for freedom or, what in his case is tantamount to the same thing, his horror of British domination. In 1880 the women of the Transvaal urged their sons and husbands to arms, bidding them die like patriots, if need were. This passionate horror of English rule is an historical development. The Boers have had little opportunity to observe how mild and beneficent English rule can be under certain circumstances. Cape Colony passed into the possession of the British Crown by force of arms in 1806, and was formally ceded by the Prince of Orange in 1814. The white population of the Cape at that time consisted of the descendants of Dutch colonists and French Huguenots. The latter had found their way to Africa through Holland after the revocation of the Edict of Nantes in 1685. At no time did the Huguenots exceed one-sixth of the colonists, or, if the Dutch East India Company's servants are counted, one eighth of the total European population. The colonists had little intercourse with Europe during the 18th century. Like other colonists of the time, they owned slaves, their lives were pastoral and agricultural, and, except for the Bible, their studies were confined to woodcraft. The petty impositions of the Dutch East India Company had made them unscrupulous so far as transactions with the government were concerned; the incorrigi ble carelessness of Hottentot servants had weakened the habits of cleanliness which they had brought from Holland, and the possession of slaves had produced its usual deleterious effects. * Mr John Nixon, in his Story of the Transvaal, 1885, which certainly cannot be ac cused of partiality to the Dutch colonists, says: "I have the pleasure of numbering many intelligent and educated Boers among my acquaintance, and I desire to put on record my opinion that a 'good' Boer is quite equal to a good Englishman. Nay, in one respect he is better, for he adds to the virtues of an Englishman an unbounded and generous hospitality. . . . The educated Boer is a splendid stock. . . . No one can deny that on that day [Majuba] the Boers fought bravely and well." The Uitlanders commonly form an extremely unfavorable opinion of the Boer. They do not desire Boer hospitality and they see nothing of his qualities as a pioneer, while in business they find him suspicious, untrustworthy, and behind the age; but it would not be fair to judge of a people like the Boers entirely from a commercial standpoint. The Boer, on the other hand, is not without justification for suspecting English designs on his independence, and he can point to many promises of the British government which have not been fulfilled; but it is not fair to judge a people like the English entirely from a political standpoint.