| Our Empire Story|
|by H. E. Marshall|
|Vivid and picturesque account of the principal events in the building of the British Empire. Traces the development of the British colonies from days of discovery and exploration through settlement and establishment of government. Includes stories of the five chief portions of the Empire: Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, and India. Ages 10-16 |
THE COMING OF THE DUTCH
 AS ship after ship passed round the shores of Africa, the captains made rough sketches and maps, and named the
bays and rivers, mountains and headlands. And so it comes about that to this day, on South African coasts,
there is a mixture of Portuguese, Dutch, and British names.
But although all these nations, especially the Dutch and the British, used South Africa as a resting-place, it
was the Dutch who first thought of forming a colony there.
In 1602 the Dutch East India Company had been formed, and through it Holland grew to wealth and power, until
the Dutch became the carriers of the world. Fourteen years after the founding of the company a rule was made
that all ships going and coming from India must call at Table Bay, and the Cape began to be used as a kind of
post-office. When a ship called, the date and name were carved upon a stone, and beneath it letters were
buried. When the next ship arrived the letters were dug up and carried homewards or outwards as the case might
be, other letters being left for the next ship in its turn.
"WHERE NOW THE GREAT CITY OF CAPE TOWN STANDS, THEY SET UP THEIR TENTS AND HUTS."
It was not, however, until 1652 that the first colony was founded. About two years before that a Dutch ship
called the Haarlem had been wrecked in Table
 Bay. Fortunately the crew had been able to save, not only themselves, but most of the cargo and food, and to
come safely to land. There, on the very spot where now the great city of Cape Town stands, they set up their
tents and huts. Knowing that they might have a long time to wait for a ship to arrive, they dug the land round
and sowed seed which they had saved from the wreck. Soon they had plenty of fruit and vegetables and lived
very comfortably for about six months. Then a ship arrived which carried them safely home to Holland.
Two of the men who had been among the wrecked sailors were very much struck with the beautiful climate. For
they had been there in spring and summer. They had been surprised to find how easy it was to make things grow,
and when they got home they advised the Dutch to send out colonists and found a settlement at the Cape.
This, after a time, the Dutch East India Company decided to do. For so many of their sailors died of scurvy on
the long voyage to India that they thought it would be a good plan to have a garden at the Cape, where the
ships could always get fresh vegetables. They also decided to build a hospital there in which the sick men
might be left until they were better.
So three little ships were sent out from Holland to carry the first settlers to the Cape. There were about a
hundred men and five women. They were grave, stern-faced men and women not unlike our own Pilgrim Fathers. But
they did not flee from their country or from tyranny. They went at the command of their country to help it to
grow greater in trade and wealth.
The leader of this little band was a small man with a fiery temper named Jan van Riebeck. It is worth while
 to remember his name as he was the first Governor of the Cape which has grown to be such a great part of our
It was in April 1652 that the first settlers anchored in Table Bay. April is, as a rule, a beautiful month,
for the first rains have come and the great heat of summer is over. But this year no early rain had fallen,
the earth was baked hard and dry, all the grass and herbs were withered. This was not the beautiful land, gay
with flowers and greenness, that had been described to the colonists. So it was with heavy disappointed hearts
that they began to build Fort Good Hope, and try to dig the hard ground.
The work went on slowly. The men were sick and feeble after their long voyage. There was no green thing to
eat, and no fresh food of any kind except fish, and now and again a hippopotamus, which was looked upon as a
great delicacy. The ground was hard as iron, and needed pick-axes rather than spades to break it up. It was
useless to sow any seed, and there was no sign of rain. A fierce, dry, south-east wind blew, blinding the men
with dust as they tried to work, and nearly blowing them from the walls which they were building.
Day by day more men fell ill. Day by day fresh graves were dug. Those who could still work grew more and more
feeble, till at last the whole settlement seemed like one great hospital, and work of all kinds ceased.
Far from friends and home the little handful of white men dwindled and grew less. They saw few natives even,
and these were poor, wretched Hottentots whom they called Beachrangers. They were too poor to help the
colonists in any way, having no cattle, or possessions of my kind. Living a miserable life, they kept
 from starving by eating shell-fish or such refuse as they could pick up on the shores.
At last the rain came. But matters for a time were made worse. For the tents and frail wooden houses could not
keep out the rain which fell in torrents, and the misery of life grew greater than before.
But in the long-run the rain brought relief. For in a very short time, almost it seemed as if by magic, the
earth was once more covered with green, the ground became soft, the gardeners planted seeds, and soon the sick
men had fresh food enough. Then, as the grass grew, the Hottentots who had cattle drove them down to the Cape,
and Jan van Riebeck was able to buy them for bits of copper and tobacco. So for a time the sufferings of the
colonists were over.
For a little time all went well. But one drizzling wet Sunday, while all the colonists were at church in the
hall of the fort, the Beachrangers attacked the herdsman, killed him, and carried off all the cattle. As soon
as the theft was known the governor and his men mounted and rode after the thieves. But although they chased
them for several days they could not catch them, and were obliged to return to the fort disappointed.
So again the colonists had to suffer from hunger. They had indeed plenty of vegetables now, but they had
little else. And the Hottentots who had cattle would not sell them, for Riebeck had no more copper, and they
would not take anything else.
But in spite of all difficulties the little colony grew. After a time some of the settlers left the service of
the Company and were allowed to become farmers on their own account. They were called Free Burghers, but they
had really very little freedom, for they were
 not allowed to buy or sell with the natives. Anything they had to sell they were obliged to sell to the
Company, and the Company fixed the price. If a ship came into harbour they were not allowed to go near it for
three days, so that the Company might have a chance of buying or selling all they wanted first. They were not
even allowed to hunt or kill any wild animals, except lions, or leopards, or wild cats.
Those were the days of monopolies, and all these rules were made so that the trade of the Company might
prosper. The settlement at the Cape had been founded merely as a garden and a hospital for the Company's
servants, and they really did not care whether the Free Burghers got on well or not.
With so many rules to hamper them the Burghers found it hard to make a living, and the number of farmers did
not increase quickly. Indeed some who began farming for themselves gave it up and came back to the service of
For some time the natives were quite friendly, and the Dutch had to suffer nothing more than having their
cattle stolen every now and again. But when the Hottentots saw that the Dutch did not mean to leave the land
again, as other white people who came in ships had done, they began to grow angry. Then when they drove their
cattle to pastures which they or their fathers had used for years, and found them fenced in, or ploughed up,
they were more angry still. For the Dutch had never asked for the land and had paid nothing for it. They
simply took it.
Soon what is called the first Hottentot war began. But it was hardly a war, for the natives, knowing what
strange and deadly weapons the Dutch carried, never met them in battle. Now and again there were little
 skirmishes when four or five men would be killed, but nothing more. Then after about a year of this kind of
fighting an old chief, who was called the Fat Captain because he was so big and stout, came to Fort Good Hope.
With him came two men who had learned to speak Dutch, and after a great deal of talking peace was agreed upon.
A feast of rice and bread was then given to the Hottentots, and a dance followed which lasted two hours.
In the courtyard of the fort a tub filled with a kind of brandy was placed. Of this every man drank as much as
he liked. Then the savages formed in two long rows and began to dance, while their women sat on the ground
clapping their hands and singing a doleful chant. The men danced and danced until they could dance no longer,
and fell to the ground exhausted. Then they were carried out and laid on the grass outside the fort to sleep.
This went on until, at the end of two hours, only two men were left, and so the ceremony ended, and the
governor could say that he was at peace with all the people of South Africa.
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