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THE GROWTH OF THE TRANSVAAL


Fifty years ago there was no Transvaal (written in 1902). To-day its area is rather  larger than Great Britain. It extends over some 75,000,000 acres.

Originally, at the time of the great Trek, a small portion of land was seized from natives who fled before the pioneers, and settled in what is now  known as Matabeleland. Other Boers soon joined their comrades, and, by applying the steady policy of "grab and hold" (a policy that, unfortunately, has not been imitated by ourselves), they gained strip on strip and  acre on acre of land till the Transvaal became the vast province it now is. It expanded first into a portion of Zululand; later. on, lapped over into Swaziland. By degrees it encroached on the British boundaries, and most  probably would have gone on encroaching had not active steps been taken to save the north from the invaders.

The original Voertrekkers, or pioneers, came in three detachments. British-born subjects, but  discontented with British civilisation, they moved on from Natal, whence they were chased by the Union Jack, and settled themselves first in land captured from King Umziligatze, secondly in Lydenburg and Dekaap, and thirdly in  the Zulu country. The history of this Zululand expansion remains to be told. At present it is interesting to follow the geographical growth of the state which has become so troublesome, and whose self-assertion has increased  according to its size.

Originally each Boer was entitled to a farm with a minimum of 6ooo acres of the "Transvaal," and this custom of apportioning 6ooo-acre farms lasted as long as the Kaffir lands  lasted. The Boers, always working on the principle that " God helps those who help themselves," helped themselves freely, sometimes with bloodshed and sometimes without, until they became owners of vast tracts of  country, whose boundaries had never been discussed, far less fixed. Land was apparently cheap at that time, for trustworthy authorities declare that it was purchasable at from a farthing to a penny per acre.

The area of the Transvaal before the Boers began to migrate practical experience are indined to agree. They declare that the Boer of the past was a very much finer fellow than the Boer of the present-finer morally and  physically; and that in his obstinate determination to resist the march of progress he has allowed himself to suffer deterioration. The reason for this deterioration is not difficult to comprehend. In the first place, as we all  know, nothing in creation stands still. We must advance, or we go back. Both in moral and in mental qualities we must maintain our vitality, or practiodly ossify!

The Boer, from having been essentially a sporting man and a free and a robust tiller of the soil, has come under the influence of schemers, who have played upon his natural avarice, and polished his inherent  cunning, till these qualities have expanded to the detriment of those earlier qualities for which the Boer of to-day still gets credit, but which are fast dying out of the national character.

In one respect there  has been little change. In the matter of his native piety he remains as he was. The Boer, if one may use a phrase recently coined by Lord Roseflery, is an "'Old Testament Christian." No one can describe his race  better than the writer who says of the original settlers in 1652, that  "they are a mixture in religion of the old Israelite and the Scotch Covenanter." There is some question about Boer hypocrisy, and Dr. Theal says on the subject, "Where side by side with expressions of gratitude  to the Cfeator are found schemes for robbing and enslaving natives, the

genuinenness. of their religion may be doubted." But it must be remembered that in bygone centuries the world's morality differed much from that of the present day, and therefyre the Boer, who has not progressed  in proportion to the world at large, can scarcely be judged by the ethics of the world at large.' To be just, we must look at him as a being apart, and place him always in the frame of the seventeenth century. Some historians  declare' that the Boer borrowed.. from the French refugees much religious sentiment. Other authorities-and these, considering the Boer disinclination to expansion, seem to be right-declare that under the French influence he  deteriorated.

He was by nature bloodthirsty and cruel, but these qualities always found for themselves a comfortable apology in the Old Testament. The Boer prided himself on his likeness to the Israelite of old, and his enemies  to the Canaanite, whom it was doing God a service to destroy. He kept all the rites of the Church with rigid punctuality. He partook of the Communion (the Nachtmaal) once every three months, and the whole community gathered  together from great distances to share it. The observances were made the occasion for rejoicing and merrymaking.