Note:  Do not rely on this information. It is very old.

Cape Colony

Cape Colony, or the "Colony of the Cape of Good Hope," is a British possession in South Africa, comprising not only the colony proper, but the Port of St. John's in Pondoland, and Walfisch Bay with some adjoining islets in the German territory of Damaraland and Great Namaqualand. Originally consisting of a comparatively small area in the vicinity of the Cape of Good Hope, it now extends from the Indian Ocean to the South Atlantic, a stretch of 450 miles, and northward for 600 miles to the German Protectorate, the whole including Walfisch Bay, the latest annexation of the Transkei territories, and the Diamond Fields, being upwards of 234,000 square miles, with a coast-line of nearly 1,200 miles. At a distance of from 100 to 150 miles from the coast there are ranges of mountains known in different portions of their stretch across the country as the Kahlamba or Drakenberg, the Stormberg, the Zwarte Bergen, the Zuurberg, the Sneeuwberg, the Winterberg, the Nieuweveld Mountains, the Roggeveld, and the Kamiesberg. The average height of this mountainous belt is nearly 6,000 ft., the highest point being Catkin Peak (10,300 ft.), Compass Peak (8,300 ft.), and Bulbhouders Bank, which is 7,300 ft. above the sea. These mountains, however, actually consist of parallel ranges intersected by deep ravines or "kloofs," the central range, in which are the peaks named, being the "divide" between the coast-flowing streams and the tributaries of the Orange river in the north. From the sea to the foot of these mountains in the south-western part of the colony lies the chief grain and wine-producing country; in the south there are extensive forests, while tobacco and maize are largely cultivated in the almost tropical districts along the S.E. coasts. A series of terraces, or plateaux, of which the supporting walls are the ranges in question, form characteristic features of the colony from the sea inward. One of the most remarkable of these is the Great Karroo, an elevated region extending, from W. to E. between the two upper ranges for 300 miles, with a breadth of 70 miles. For the greater part of the year it is dry and barren, though, owing to its elevation (3,000 ft.), cool; but during the rainy season it is covered with a luxuriant pasture on which feed vast flocks of sheep, herds of cattle, and droves of horses. Here also ostrich farming is carried on, and though this industry is no longer so lucrative as in its earlier years, between 1866-90 over a thousand tons of feathers were exported from the Cape. The still more elevated country to the north of the mountains is a part of the great table-land of Africa. Like the more southern districts, it supports sheep. In addition it contains the chief mineral districts, including the gold and diamond fields which, within a few years, have so largely contributed to the world's wealth, and the prosperity of what was previously mainly an agricultural and pastoral colony.

The rivers of the Cape Colony, though numerous, are not navigable for large craft or for long distances, and most of them are useless for irrigating purposes, being, except when swollen by the rains, mere shallow torrents, flowing in deep "kloofs" with precipitous walls, while even the few which can float small craft through part of the coast region are so impeded by bars as to render their entrance difficult and dangerous. The coast again is deficient in good harbours, most of the anchorages being bays with wide mouths and shallow water. Table Bay (the harbour of Cape Town) is the principal port. False Bay, including Simon's Bay, is the Imperial naval station. Most of the Little Namaqualand copper is shipped from Port Nolloth on the N.W. coast. At Mossel Bay there is a fair anchorage; the same may be said for the Knysna river, and at Algoa Bay, owing to the establishment of Port Elizabeth on its western shore, there is much shipping, though, as in most of the other harbours, goods must be transferred to lighters, while Port Alfred, at the mouth of the Kowie river, East London, at the mouth of the Buffalo river, and St. John's river (acquired by purchase from the Pondo chief in 1878, and annexed to the Colony in 1884) are being much improved.

The climate of the Cape Colony is, as a whole, extremely healthy, its dryness attracting visitors affected with pulmonary complaints just at the season when (owing to the reversion of the seasons) the northern hemisphere is most inclement. The coast region is damper than the far interior, where irrigation is requisite. But the atmosphere of the plateaux is the best and most exhilarating, the temperature seldom rising to 100° or falling to 23°, while the average number of rainy days is between seventy and ninety, either on the coast or in the interior, though in the latter the amount of rain is more, namely, about 19 in. at Port Elizabeth, and 34 in. at Cape Town. The eastern province is, therefore, more varied with grassy places and wooded watercourses than any other area, the Karroo bush not sufficing to cover the bare flat-topped hills which form such marked features of the dreary scenery of the western region, and much of the midland, though this bush affords excellent feeding for sheep, countless flocks of which graze in this seemingly desert plateau. But in the vineyard and agricultural country of the extreme south there are many pleasant looking districts, and some parts of the eastern province are actually beautiful.

The soil, as a rule, is thin, but very rich, and except where saline - as in some of the interior districts - only requires water to stimulate it into bearing the heaviest crops. A "veldt" or upland pasture which seems at one season a mere burnt-up waste, appears a week or two later luxuriant with "sweet" or "sour" grass, to apply the local names to the kind of herbage it bears, and after a "vlei" or shallow sheet of rain-water has lain on the most arid spots in the Karroo, the cattle wallow for weeks in the richest of forage. But, except in the south, a dam for the storage of water for irrigating purposes is one of the first requisites of every farm or settlement; for the Cape Colony, be it a little wetter or a little drier, is emphatically "a land of thirst." The summer months are December, January, February, when the dry S.E. trade-winds blow fiercely, "but in the eastern divisions heavy rains moderate the heat, though little of this reaches the west, being for the most part expended on the eastern slopes of the ranges mentioned. Hence, Namaqualand, like the German country to the north, is almost rainless.

The zoology of the colony is peculiar for the great assemblage of large animals within its bounds, as if they had been driven to take refuge in this area, and been unable to proceed any farther on account of the sea. The lion is now extinct in the settled districts, and buffaloes and elephants are preserved only in the Knysna and Zitzikama forests. But though lessened in number by the relentless persecution which they have met with from the colonists, and from professional hunters and sportsmen, numerous species of antelope, with monkeys, wild cats, porcupines, ant-eaters, tiger cats, jackals, "wild dogs," hyaenas, the "aardwolf" (Proteles), and other mammals keep their ground. The rhinoceros, giraffe, hippopotamus, eland, gnu, and some other species have been banished from the colony, and the quagga is believed to be extinct. Ostriches, once numerous, are now sparsely scattered, the supply of feathers being at present derived mainly from domesticated birds, or from regions beyond the Orange river. The secretary bird, the honey bird, and the weaver bird are among the peculiar species of its ornithology. Reptiles are still numerous. The cobra di capello and the puff-adder are among the venomous snakes; but the alligator is now seldom seen within the bounds of the colony. The honey bee is wild. Termites or white ants rear their conical mounds everywhere, and among venomous insects, or their allies, scorpions, tarantulas, and hornets may be enumerated.

Among useful plants the following timber trees deserve notice: Yellowwood, black ironwood, stinkhout, melkhout, and nieshout, and the assegai, or Cape lance-wood. Bulbous plants and heaths are most characteristic members of the flora. Our conservatories are filled with the latter, of which there are a large number of forms. Proteas, various species of iris, amaryllidaceae, pelargonium, spurges, the elephant's foot or Hottentot's bread, the stapelia or carrion flower, the Kei apple, gourds, water melon, etc., abound. The flora bears a general resemblance to that of Australia, but it is richer, and in certain orders attains a profusion which stamps it as peculiar. From Algoa Bay northwards the vegetation is essentially tropical. From Oliphant's Bay to Port Elizabeth there is a second type. From Beaufort West to near the Orange river there is a third division, while the Karroo and the Kalahari Desert form each a distinct botanical region.

The chief industries of the Cape are sheep, horse, and cattle rearing, ostrich farming, viticulture, and the growing of wheat, barley, oats, maize, and tobacco, though as yet the domestic demand for the latter has not been met. In 1896 the colony contained approximately 2,303,582 cattle, 14,409,434 sheep, 4,939,258 goats, 387,590 horses, 94,570 mules and asses, and 224,953 tame ostriches. Most of the country is in pastoral farms, estates of from 3,000 to 15,000 acres being not uncommon, though of these immense tracts little is under the plough. The copper mines of Namaqualand are very rich, gold is mined in the Knysna districts, and manganese in the Paarl. Some coal is raised, though not enough for colonial use and the requirements of the steamers calling. Iron is abundant in many places, so is lead, and zinc blende, though their smelting are industries which belong to the future. Building stones and marbles are plentiful, and precious stones of various kinds are reckoned among the wealth of the colony. But none of its products are equal in value to the diamonds, which, since 1867, have been dug in the North, Kimberley being the centre of this lucrative industry, which, by the latest statistics, are worth nearly £4,326,000 per annum, and in twenty-two years produced six tons of gems, valued (though many were small, "off colour," and otherwise almost worthless) at £39,000,000.

Manufactures are still in their infancy; Cape wines and brandy, being now more carefully prepared, are beginning to find a market, and the exportation of fruit to the northern hemisphere at a time when the supplies in Europe and North America are exhausted is likely to be a source of great profit in the future. Waggon and furniture making, fishing and the preserving of fish, tanning, leather work, iron founding, the weaving of woollens, biscuit-baking, jam and jelly making, and the digging of guano on the little islets off the West coast complete the more notable list of colonial industries.

The population of the Cape, including the Transkeian territories, East Griqualand, and Tembuland, is at present about 1,527,000. Of these about 376,000 are of European descent. In the western district the Dutch and the Dutch language preponderate, but the English are most numerous in the eastern districts. They are also regarded as the most enterprising, and though both languages are in official use, and the rivalry between the two races - the old colonial stock and the new, whose advent in any numbers dates from the beginning of this century - is still keen and at times evenly-balanced, the English tongue, like the British people, is likely to gain the upper hand. The native population belong to the Kaffir, Hottentot, and Bushmen races. The two latter, though, like the former, on the increase, are the least numerous: they do not comprise more than 13 per cent. of the colonial population, while the former, in all its numerous branches, is estimated to make up 40 per cent. of the Cape people. There are about 1-1/2 per cent. of Malays, and 12 per cent, of mixed races. The native population is progressing, and forming the great preponderance of labourers, permit little room for the introduction of many poor whites, except skilled artisans. They have ceased to give much trouble. In the dependencies of the Transkei, East Griqualand, and Tembuland, there are altogether about 411,000 aborigines. The population of the chief towns was, at the date of the last census: - Cape Town (exclusive of soldiers and shipping), 51,251; Grahamstown, 10,498 ; Port Elizabeth, 23,266; Kimberley, 28,718; and Beaconsfield, 10,478, with municipal governments all formed on the English model, though, like the general government, largely tinctured with the Dutch system on which they were engrafted. Good roads and railroads afford easy access to most parts of the colony. The former are traversed mainly by bullock waggon, or by mule teams. The latter, with a few exceptions, are public property, the capital expended on the 2,253 miles now open for traffic being at the date of the last financial return £20,487,072, showing a cost of £9,093 per mile. More than 6,300 miles of telegraph thread the colony. Including volunteers, the Colonial forces number 6,584 officers and men; but every male citizen is liable to military duty. The public revenue for 1894-5 was £5,416,612, the expenditure £5,388,157. The public debt is £27,533,978, including £2,675,417 contracted by towns and other corporate bodies, though guaranteed in the general revenue. The total exports in 1895 amounted to £16,904,756, and the imports to £19,094,880, the greater part of the trade being with the United Kingdom.

The colony (which consists of seventy divisions, and the dependencies of sixteen districts) has since 1872 been under responsible government, the governor alone being appointed by the Crown. The Legislative Council consists of twenty-two elected members, and the House of Assembly of seventy-six elected members, with ministers responsible to the Colonial Legislature. The suffrage is high, though no distinction is made between whites or natives in the exercise of the franchise. The governor of the Cape also holds the office of Imperial High Commissioner for South Africa, in which capacity he takes a general supervision over the Imperial interests in the different colonies and conducts the correspondence between the Imperial authorities and the two South African republics. He also acts as governor-in-chief over the native territories under Imperial protection or administration.

Cape history begins more than four centuries ago, the native struggles having left no records behind them. Bartolomeo Diaz, a Portuguese, was the first European to sight (in 1486) the Cape of Good Hope, which he named "Cabo de todos los tormentos" - the Cape of all the storms - the more auspicious name it now bears ("Cabo de Buena Esperanza") indicating King John II. of Portugal's well-founded hope that it was the halting-place on a new and easier route to India. But with the exception of a formal proclamation of the country as British, which act of Admirals Fitz-Herbert and Shellinge in the reign of James I. was never recognised as effective, no attempt was made to colonise it until the year 1652, when the Dutch East India Company brought some settlers from Holland. These were increased from time to time by Germans, Flemings, and a few Poles or Portuguese, and in 1686 by a large number of French Protestants, who left their country on the revocation of the Edict of Nantes. The descendants of these people constitute the present "Boer," or "Dutch" population, though the most influential among them are really of French descent. At that time the country was occupied for only a little distance around Cape Town, and was looked upon less as a colony than as a, station for the supply of ships. The government was a monopoly of the narrowest, most oppressive description, and to the irksome restrictions then put upon private enterprise has been traced that dislike to all regular government, and that love for "trekking" beyond its influence which, though less marked among the modern Boers, existed long before the British rule began. The natives were either driven from their lands or reduced to serfdom, while Malays and negroes were imported as slaves. In 1795, to prevent the colony falling into the hands of the French revolutionists, whosr views the discontented settlers shared, the British, at a request of the Stadtholder, took possession of it. In 1802 it was re-ceded to Holland, but on the renewal of the war in 1806 again captured, and in 1815, on the payment of £6,000,000, finally ceded to its present owners. Since that date, the chief events in its history are as follows: - 1811-12, first Kaffir war; 1819, second Kaffir war; 1820, four thousand British settlers introduced into the eastern districts; 1829, all natives not slaves declared on the same footing as Europeans before the law; 1834, third Kaffir war: 1835, "trekking" of the Boers beyond the Orange river owing to the emancipation of slaves in the colony, and the founding of Natal and the "Free" States; 1846, fourth Kaffir war, and extension of colonial boundary to the Kei river; 1853, introduction of representative government arising out of the agitation against the dispatch of convicts to South Africa, though these were never actually landed; 1857, the suicide of 50,000 Amaxos owing to the spread of a religio-political fanaticism, and the resettlement of their country by 2,000 members of the German Crimean legion, and other colonists from Prussia and Mecklenburg; 1865, British Kaffraria annexed; 1867, diamonds discovered in Griqualand West; 1871, Griqualand West proclaimed a colony; 1872, introduction of responsible government; 1877-8, Gaeka and Gealeka rebellion; 1879-81, Basuto war; 1880, amalgamation of Griqualand West with the Cape; 1883, separation of Basutoland from the colony; 1884, establishment of German Protestants over Great Namaqualand, and the country north of the Orange river, with the exception of Walfisch Bay, annexed to the colony; 1887, incorporation of the Transkeian territories (except most of Pondoland); 1889, Customs union between Cape and Orange Free State, and extension of railway from Orange river to Bloemfontein; 1890, new government with Mr. Rhodes as premier, and an expedition from the Cape to Mashonaland, etc. 1895-6, Jameson raid and resignation of Mr. Rhodes.