A Cauldron Of Conflict The Slagtersnek Rebellion Andries Stockenstrom

Andries Stockenstrom

Andries Stockenstrom

From an early age the young Andries Stockenstrom believed that justice fairly dispensed was the key to stability on the frontier. In 1811, the missionaries Johannes van der Kemp and James Read accused Landrost Cuyler of Uitenhage of blatantly favouring burghers over the Khoikhoi and demanded complete equality between colonists and the Khoikhoi. Although this stand ran into tough opposition from the burghers, Stockenstrom, who was then just eighteen and had grown up in the hierarchical social order of the Company, took a similar line to the missionaries on equality before the law – a view he would hold for the rest of his life. ‘Strict and equal justice at all costs is the only safe course,’ he maintained, later also extending this principle to the relationship between burghers and Xhosa.

Stockenstrom was a slave-owner himself and to some extent shared the paternalistic world-view of the Dutch speaking colonists. But with his strong commitment to the rule of law and justice, he supported the need for sweeping reforms. He was an articulate exponent of the view that colonists had to be won over to the cause of reform rather than have reforms imposed from outside. Unlike most well-educated people born at the Cape during the reign of the Company, he identified himself as an Afrikaner and a Boer. A brave, honest and fiercely independent man with no illusions about human nature, he shrank from the hypocrisy on all sides of the frontier conflict. In 1816 he observed that ‘the greatest majority of the Boer population is not opposed to equal justice to black and white’. The core problem, he believed, was the inadequacy of the legal system. Despite the establishment of some new districts, most farms were still a considerable distance from the towns, making it difficult for masters to lay complaints before the magistrate.

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