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German Settlers to the Eastern Cape

Plans for creating
Black Englishmen

Keith Tankard
Updated: 14 October 2009
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The Colonial Office needed a rethink on Southern Africa in the aftermath of the Mlanjeni War. This included independence to the Boers beyond the Orange and Vaal Rivers, and Representative Government for the Cape to make the colonists responsible for their actions.

The task of ushering in the new system was handed to Sir George Grey. He was the imperial blue-eyed boy, wallowing in his apparent New Zealand success and he arrived at the Cape already armed with his programme for British Kaffraria.

He wanted to convert the amaXhosa to civilization and Christianity. To do this, he needed to create employment, thus making them dependent upon money which, in turn, would break the power of the Chiefs.

He also needed civil institutions like schools, hospitals and mission stations but the key feature was an immigration of some 5,000 retired military officers. This would create a population of some 25,000 -- once the wives and children were included -- and the men would form the nucleus of a frontier army.

Fundamental to the scheme was money. Sir George estimated that the plan would cost about £45,000 per year but the funds could not be raised locally. He had therefore to prize it from a reluctant British Treasury.

He did so through a series of bluffs. The Governor had in his hand what he believed was a reasonable set of cards but, like any good poker player, he had to make his hand look better than theirs.

He therefore launched a series of threats, knowing that the Colonial Office was probably ignorant of the true state of affairs. He was also aware that the Imperial Government was paranoid about the possibility of another frontier war.

He therefore warned of a pending conflict that would make the Mlanjeni War look like a tea-party -- but which could be prevented by adopting of his own "inexpensive" plan.

Within only three days of his arrival at the Cape -- even before visiting the frontier -- Sir George was already reporting what his subordinates would call "the curious war scare". He allowed a mere week to pass before further inflaming these fears.

He saw the panic in the eyes of the Colonial Office. All their cards carried pictures of war: both in South Africa and in Russia. Sir George therefore upped the stakes.

The Mlanjeni War, he argued, had cost £1 million per year. The next war would be far more expensive and would demand an even greater army but at a time when Britain was already deeply involved on the Crimean Peninsula.

Another three days passed before the Governor was ready with his final solution: the acculturation of the Xhosa people, with the resulting financial implications. The offer was irresistible: maintenance of peace at a comparatively cheap price.

The Colonial Office threw in its cards. It accepted Sir George's proposal in its entirety, put up the money and urgently advertised for pensioner soldiers to emigrate to British Kaffraria.

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