Go to the Labyrinth of East London Lore


Keith Tankard
Updated: 14 October 2009
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In May 1835 -- during the 6th Frontier War -- Sir Benjamin D'Urban annexed the territory between the Keiskamma and the Kei Rivers and created the Province of Queen Adelaide. It was ruled by his Chief of Staff, Lieutenant Colonel Harry Smith.

Sir Benjamin's actions, however, angered the Colonial Office and he was warned to justify himself or abandon the territory. His procrastination thereupon brought forth the wrath of his superiors and so, in December 1836, Queen Adelaide Province was disbanded.

In 1846, however, the War of the Axe erupted -- a war which would cost Britain more than £1 million. A new colonial policy was urgent.

A plan of indirect rule was formulated: the creation of a protectorate between the Keiskamma and Kei Rivers to be known as British Kaffraria, in which the Chiefs would acknowledge the Queen and recognise their own subordination to a British military commander.

Sir Henry Pottinger was asked to implement the system and he accepted on condition to its being a claim to a higher position in India as soon as one became available. He also demanded that he be known as "High Commissioner" as well as "Governor".

When Sir Henry arrived at Cape Town in January 1847, however, he discovered that the war was still being waged. He believed it would not be wise to annex the territory until peace had been restored. In the meantime, his post in India materialised, and it was left to his successor to implement the plans.

When Sir Harry Smith set sail from Britain, however, his instructions for British Kaffraria -- called the Letters Patent -- had not yet reached him. He decided instead to settle the frontier in terms of the authority supposedly vested in him as High Commissioner.

His form of rule thereupon became an imitation of the dictatorial system he himself had used when he had controlled Queen Adelaide Province. The Colonial Office's carefully prepared plans were scrapped.

Until the official instructions arrived, Sir Harry was unable to install a civilian government in the territory. Although new Letters Patent arrived in 1850, they would not be published until a decade later. Martial law was therefore maintained.

In December 1854 Sir George Grey arrived as Governor, armed with yet another frontier plan: to make Black Englishmen of the amaXhosa. He brought out missionaries to spread the Word of God, and initiated two immigration schemes to settle White farmers in British Kaffraria.

The first of these involved mercenary soldiers of the British German Legion. Sir George also enlisted German peasant agriculturist families to support them.

As a result of these two schemes, the region took on a distinctly German flavour. It also saw a desperate protest from the amaXhosa who attempted to overthrow the British through the destruction of their own cattle -- an event known at the Cattle Killing Campaign.

It was only in 1860, when Sir George himself had been recalled, that the Letters Patent were at last published, turning British Kaffraria into a regular Crown Colony with a civilian government. Lieutenant Colonel John Maclean was appointed the territory's first -- and only -- Lieutenant Governor.

An economic recession during the early 1860s, however, put pressure on British Kaffraria. Unable to balance its books without support from the British Treasury, British Kaffraria was forced to look to the Cape Colony for salvation.

In 1866, therefore, the territory was incorporated into the Colony, thus ending a twenty year period of economic and political confusion.

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