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DIAMONDS


The discovery of diamonds in South Africa was made by a curious accident. One day a trader travelling along in the neighbourhood north of Cape Colony happened  to stop at a farm. While there, he was interested in a small child who was toying with a bright and singularly lustrous pebble. His curiosity was aroused, and he suggested that the thing might be rare enough to be of some  value. Thereupon the stone was sent to an expert in Grahamstown, who declared it to be a diamond. The stone weighed twenty-one carats and was valued at £500. From that date search was made in and around the locality, and more  diamonds, smaller and of inferior quality, were found. During the years 1867-68 nothing very active was done, though now and again these precious stones were discovered near the Vaal River.

In the month of March, 1869, the  world was startled and began to open its eyes. The diamond known as "the Star of Africa,', weighing some eighty-three carats in its raw state, was obtained from a Hottentot. This in4ividual had been in possession of the  valuable property for some time, and had kept it solely on account of its rarity as a charm. The stone was eventually sold for the sum of £11,000.

The north bank of the Vaal where the discoveries were made was, at that time,  a species of "No-Man's-Land." The southern bank belonged to the Free State, but for the other side there were many claimants, none of whom could prove a title to it. The community of miners which there gathered was  consequently lawless and ruffianly, and its mode of government was distinctly primitive.

The various claimants, notably the Griqua Captain, Nicholas Waterboer, commenced disputes regarding the valuable portion of the Free  State territory, and finally it was decided to submit to British arbitration. President Brand refused the offer, but President M. W. Pretorius of the South African Republic, who had grievances against the Barolong, Batlapin,  and Griqua tribes, agreed. A Court was appointed, the Governor of Natal acting as empire. The interests involved were many, and on the subject of their rights the various claimants seemed somewhat hazy. The Free State was not  represented, and the umpire, acting on the evidence of Mr. Arnot (the agent of Nicholas Waterboer) gave judgment against the South African Republic and allowed the claim of the Griqua Captain, including in the award the tract  claimed by him in the Free State. The complicated situation is thus described by Mr. Bryce in his "Impressions of South Africa"

"As Waterboer had before the award offered his territory to the British  Government, the country was forthwith erected into a Crown Colony, under the name of Griqualand West. This was in 187£. The Free State, whose case had not been stated, much less argued, before the umpire, protested, and was  after a time able to appeal to a judgment delivered by a British Court, which found that Waterboer had never enjoyed any right to the territory. However, the new Colony had by this time been set up, and the British flag  displayed. The British Government, without either admitting or denying the Free State title, declared that a district in which it was difficult to keep order amid a turbulent and shifting population ought to be under the  control of a strong power, and offered the Free State a sum of £90,000 in settlement of whatever claim it might possess. The acceptance by the Free State, in 1876, of this sum closed the controversy, though a sense of injustice  continued to rankle in the breasts of some of the citizens of the Republic. Amicable relations have subsisted ever since between it and Cape Colony, and the control of the British Government over the Basutos has secured for it  peace in the quarter which was formerly most disturbed

"These two cases show how various are the causes, and how mixed the motives, which press a great power forward even against the wishes of its statesmen. The Basutos  were declared British subjects, partly out of a sympathetic wish to rescue and protect them, partly because policy required the acquisition of a country naturally strong, and holding an important strategical position.  Griqualand \Vest, taken in the belief that Waterboer had a good title to it, was retained after this belief had been dispelled, partly perhaps because a population had crowded into it which consisted mainly of British subjects,  and was not easily controllable by a small State, but mainly because Colonial feeling refused to part with a region of such exceptional mineral wealth. And the retention of Griqualand West caused, before long, the acquisition  of Bechuanaland, which in its turn naturally led to that northward extension of British influence which has carried the Union Jack to the shores of Lake Tanganyika.

Griqualand \Vest, whose capital is the salubrious Kimberley,  was settled in 1833 by the Griquas or Baastards, a tribe of Dutch Hottentot hdf-breeds. As we have seen, the territory was claimed by the chief Waterboer, and his claim was allowed by the Governor of Natal. When he subsequently  ceded his rights, the province was annexed to Cape Colony, but with independent jurisdiction. In 1881 it became an integral part of Cape Colony. Griqualand East comprises No-Man's-Land, the Gatberg and St. John's River  territory, under eight subordinate magistrates.

A word, before passing on, of Kimberley. This town, hitherto known as the City of Diamonds, has now the distinction of being the casket where Mr Rhodes, with the price of £5000  on his head, was incarcerated. Its real birth dates from 1869-70, when £1 the world rushed out to win fortune from its soil. Happily at that time Mr. Cecil Rhodes happened to be in the neighbourhood. With his usual gift of  foresight, he recognised that some process of amalgamating the various conflicting claims and interests, and merging them in one huge whole, would be necessary if the value of diamonds was to be kept up. He invented a scheme,  and succeeded-the great corporation, the De Beers Consolidated Mining Company limited the output of diamonds to an annual amount such as Europe and the United States were able to take at a price high enough to leave an adequate  profit. This arrangement has, in a measure, had the effect of depopulating the place. At least it has thinned it of the crowd of adventurers who previously infested the region and struggled to maintain an independent existence  there, in the absence of these loafers the town is civilised, and comparatively refined. There are groves of gum-trees to promote shade, and thickets of prickly pear, which have ever a rural, though touch-me-not aspect. The  low-storeyed houses, built bungalow-wise, have an air of capaciousness and ease; and further out, in Kenilworth, there are comfortable dwellings, surrounded with trees, and suggestive of a certain suburban picturesqueness. This  region owes 'its cheerful and well-ordered aspect entirely to Mr. Rhodes, who is at the same time the parent and the apostle of all progress in South Africa.

The diamonds have their home in beds of clay, which are usually  covered with calcareous rock. These beds are the remains of mud pits, due to volcanic action. Mr. Bryce, in his "Impressions of South Africa, says

"Some of the mines are worked to the depth of 1200 feet by shafts  and subterranean galleries. Some are open, and these, particulary that called the Wesselton Mine, are an interesting sight. This deep hollow, one-third of a mile in circumference and 100 feet deep, enclosed by a strong fence of  barbed wire, is filled by a swarm of active Kaffir workmen, cleaving the 'hard blue' with pickaxes1 piling it up on barrows, and carrying it off to the wide fields, where it is left exposed to the sun, and, during three months,  to the rain. Having been thus subjected to a natural decomposition, it is the more readily brought by the pickaxe into smaller fragments before being sent to the mills, where it is crushed, pulverised, and finally washed to get  at the stones. Nowhere in the world does the hidden wealth of the soil and the element of chance in its discovery strike one so forcibly as here, where you are shown a piece of ground a few acres in extent, and are told, 'Out  of this pit diamonds of the value of £12,000,000 have been taken.' Twenty-six years ago the ground might have been bought for £50."

To encourage honesty in the miner good wages are given, and ten per cent. is allowed to  finders of valuable stones who voluntarily deliver these to the overseer. Apropos of this subject, Mr. Bryce relates an amusing tale, which, if not true, is certainly ben Irovalo:

"I heard from a missionary an  anecdote of a Basuto who, after his return from Kimberley, was describing how, on one occasion, his eye fell on a valuable diamond in the clay he was breaking into fragments. While he was endeavouring to pick it up he perceived  the overseer approaching, and, having it by this time in his hand, was for a moment terribly frightened, the punishment for theft being very severe. The overseer, however, passed on. 'And then,' said the Basuto, 'I knew that  there was indeed a God, for He had preserved me.