Page images
PDF
EPUB

This was the policy of defence which Mr. Molteno adopted, and he trusted that war might be altogether avoided between the whites and the natives by a wise and just treatment of the latter, and that every year which passed would see the peaceful development of the country raising a most effectual barrier to the recrudescence of barbarism ; and if the evil day must come for a struggle, then there would be no question which side was the stronger; in such an eventuality he knew he could rely upon the patriotism of the country to rise and crush the revolt, without placing any reliance on the aid of Imperial troops.

At King William's Town, where he received a deputation of native chiefs, he urged upon them the importance of coming into the Colony to see the railway works, and of earning money with which to purchase valuable property, such as cattle, sheep, and horses. The natives spoke of drink being a great curse to them, and Mr. Molteno said they should act as men, and be no longer children yielding to temptation; but if they desired the drink to be prohibited, then they must have the power to close canteens in their neighbourhood.

Addressing a cadet corps which paraded in his honour at King William's Town, he said he was very glad to see them, and he trusted that their example would be imitated in other parts of the Colony, and be the precursor of a great movement. The country must now rely upon itself, as it had accepted responsible government; and though they were young and knew nothing of politics, yet he would tell them a splendid career was now opened to colonial youths, who might rise to the highest positions in the country, a country which he, in common with Sir George Grey, believed had a great future in front of it; he hoped that among them might be a future Premier of this great country. He also mentioned the appointment of a Frontier Defence Commission, as a proof that the Government were alive to the great importance of this subject.

VOL. I.

Mr. Molteno had been all through this country twentyseven years before as a commandant under Sir Andries Stockenstrom—a time when it was overrun with Kaffirs after a devastating war. He constantly remarked how pleasant it was to see it now under such different and favourable conditions, and how gladly he observed the progress made, not only by the white inhabitants, but by the natives also. At Fort Beaufort he referred to the fact that 'twenty-seven years ago he was in the vicinity of Fort Beaufort defending the country; that was his first public act, and since then he had ever endeavoured to benefit the country. He touched a strong cord of sympathy when at Cradock he said: 'I had the honour of visiting Cradock on a previous occasion, in the year 1846, when as a burgher I was engaged with many of the old residents of the district in the defence of the frontier.' At Queenstown he said likewise that he was extremely pleased to see the progress made since he was there on commando in 1846. At Graaff Reinet, which was regarded as the capital of the midlands, and the old constituency of his staunch friend and supporter, Mr. Ziervogel, he was enthusiastically received, and discussed with the principal inhabitants the question of the route to be taken by their railway.

There can be no question that the experience of the first session of Parliament under responsible government, and this tour of Mr. Molteno, gave the complete quietus to the old separation cry, and to the east and west agitation; there was a complete revulsion of feeling, and the most determined opponents of responsible government now confessed its value. Mr. Probart, who had been a Member of Parliament for many years, while speaking at Graaff Reinet at the banquet given to Mr. Ziervogel, said that he had formerly opposed responsible government, but that he now saw that it was the right thing for the country.

The.Graaff Reinet Advertiser,' the organ of the midlands, and hitherto unconverted, now pointed out the importance of the government of colonists by themselves and not from a distance, and averred that this would tend to consolidate English and Dutch feeling, and bring to the front public men from both races. Even the “Star' of Grahamstown, the bitterest and wildest opponent of responsible government, declared that it was never really behind Cape Town in its desire for responsible government as opposed to Downing Street government, but circumstances prevented it expressing these sentiments,' and it particularly went on to attack the officials of the late Government for their high-handed and unsympathetic conduct. The Colony had, in fact, become one united country, and it only remained for the Seven Circles Bill to be passed in the next session of Parliament to bring the institutions of the country completely into harmony with public sentiment.

At the end of this year a change took place in the Cabinet. The Chief Justiceship had become vacant, owing to the resignation from failing health of Sir Sydney Bell, and it rested with the ministry to appoint his successor. Mr. Molteno gave further evidence of that power of discrimination of character which he possessed in a high degree, and which is of enormous value to the statesman. He had long recognised the valuable qualities of his AttorneyGeneral; but the latter was young, and there were older lawyers among the judges who would resent his appointment, and it might be said, Why take a young man from politics where few good men could be spared, and whose chance would come later on? But Mr. Molteno had found the best man for the post, and was resolved to put him in this place; he felt that he might be out of office when a vacancy of this kind occurred again, and now he had his opportunity he did not mean to be deterred from following his own judgment. The appointment was made, and has been justified in the most ample manner. It gave rise

to heart-burnings and jealousies, and indeed one of the oldest and best-trained lawyers went into Court every day, note-book in hand, with the express purpose of pulling to pieces and exposing the inexperience and incapacity of this youthful Chief Justice; but after a whole year spent in this work he was compelled to confess himself beaten, and to acknowledge the soundness of the decisions delivered by the new Chief Justice.

Mr. Molteno selected as his new Attorney-General Mr. Jacobs, who had been Attorney-General of Kaffraria, and acting Attorney-General in the absence of Mr. Griffiths ; he was a very sound lawyer, and was possessed of the greatest power of application, industry, and assiduity, but with a constitution physically too weak for his mental powers.

· Sir H. De Villiers writes in April 1899 : · Within a year after Mr. Molteno's appointment, the health of the Chief Justice, Sir Sydney Bell, broke down, and it became necessary to appoint a successor. As Attorney-General I advised that the appointment should be offered to Mr. William Porter, whose long and valuable services as Attorney-General deserved this recognition, and whose excellent qualities of head and heart had endeared him to the people of this country. It was arranged that Mr. Molteno and I should personally call on Mr. Porter and make him the offer, but all our persuasive powers failed to induce him to accept the appointment. It was then decided by the rest of the Cabinet that the offer should be made to me. I had always acted in perfect harmony with the Premier, and I knew that he was extremely loth to part with me as a colleague. Rightly or wrongly, however, he believed that the interest of the country required my appointment, and with the disinterestedness which marked his career he sacrificed his own political interests to what he believed to be the good of the country. I was naturally also disinclined, at the comparatively early age of thirty-one, to sacrifice my political and professional prospects in exchange for the responsible position of Chief Justice ; but after a long and earnest conversation with the Premier I was induced to accept the appointment. Thus ended my association with him in politics, but I am happy to say that our personal friendship continued unabated to the end of his life.'

229

CHAPTER X

ADMINISTRATION OF RESPONSIBLE GOVERNMENT (continued).

1873–75

Langalibalele outbreak-Decisive action of Government-Surrender of the

Chief- Session of 1874–Seven Circles Bill—Great Railway Scheme-Success of both-Position of Cabinet vindicated-Refusal to introduce AsiaticsIncrease of Salaries of Public Servants-Establishment of Public LibrariesBridge over the Orange River-Success of Responsible Government-Mr. Porter leaves the Cape.

ABOUT this time there occurred an incident which brought out the vigour of the new form of government in the field of native policy and administration. Langalibalele, the chief of the Hlubis, a man who was connected by marriage with the principal tribes of the Transkei, and who was regarded by the natives far and near as the greatest magician and witch-doctor as well as a powerful chief, refused with his people to obey the registration law of Natal, and the authorities of the latter Colony determined to take steps to arrest him. This led to a conflict with the Natal forces and an immediate commotion among the natives. The chief fled into Basutoland, and it was felt that if he were successful there might be a general rising, and no one could tell where the conflagration, once lighted, might extend to. The Cape Government immediately sent the Frontier Armed and Mounted Police into Basutoland, where they had an excellent effect in confirming the wavering and suppressing the disloyal; and in a few days Langalibalele was handed over to them by the natives themselves. Thus promptitude and vigour, the two essentials in all movements against the

« PreviousContinue »