The Xhosa And The Boers Frontier “republics”

In 1795 a burgher rebellion broke out. At the centre of it was a clash between the sheep farmers from the Sneeuwberg – who insisted that the energies of the district be spent on fighting the San and cattle farmers of the eastern and southeastern divisions ( Bruintjes Hoogte and Zuurveld) – who wanted the Xhosa driven over the border and their stolen cattle recaptured. Maynier had the backing of all the heemraden and burgher officers in deciding not to send a commando against the Xhosa at a time when the danger from the San was worse than ever. In February 1795 a party of armed burghers from the southeast appeared at the drostdy and ordered Maynier to leave the town. Claiming to be acting on behalf of the volkstem, the voice of the people, some of the heemraden and militia officers took over the administration. Wearing the tricolour cockade of the French revolution, they labelled the district government a ‘National Convention’, and refused to pay taxes to the Company or obey its laws.

In Swellendam, too, in June 1795, a group of 60 burghers terming themselves ‘Nationals’ deposed the landdrost who, along with Maynier, had led the unsuccessful 1793 commando. The rebels appointed their own ‘National’ landdrost and a new governing body, also called the ‘National Convention’, protested against the taxes and inflation, and asked for the indentureship system to be extended to Khoikhoi children, and for the right to hold San captives as property, which meant that they could buy and sell them like slaves. The Swellendam rebellion soon fizzled out, however.

The constitutional ideas of the rebels were murky. They did not proclaim republics, as is often assumed, but rather expressed the desire for their districts to fall directly under the new republic in the Netherlands. But cut off as they were from the Netherlands, no one could think of a mechanism to establish direct contact with the republican government in The Hague. All this, however, became immaterial in September 1795, when Britain took occupation of the Cape.

The rebels enjoyed only the shadow of power. After the 1795 uprising, the Cape government cut off the ammunition supply to the Graaff-Reinet burghers, leaving them exposed to attacks by the indigenous people. At a meeting in August 1796 the northern and western divisions decided to accept British authority. Early in 1797 the rebels on the eastern frontier capitulated.

The Dutch East India Company finally collapsed under a burden of debt in 1798. The Batavian Republic transferred the task of ruling its territories to the Council for Asiatic Possessions. Shortly after the Peace of Amiens was concluded in 1802 the council sent out two top officials, J.W. Janssens and J.A. de Mist, to assume control of the administration of the Cape. The Cape was now under direct control of the Dutch government. But war soon resumed in Europe and in 1806 the Cape once again was conquered by Britain. It was to remain a British colony for more than a century.

The coming of the British

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