19 min

Episode 175 - A whip around the world in 1849 and a wide-angle view of Cape Society History of South Africa podcast

    • History

This is episode 175 - and we’re back in the Cape circa 1849 and thereabouts.

Before we dive into the latest incidents and events, let’s take a look at what was going on globally as everything is connected.

In France, citizens are able to use postage stamps for the very first time, a series called Ceres, which is also a place in the Western Cape. The Austrian Army invades Hungary entering the countries two capitals, which back in 1849 were called Buda and Pest. Next door, Romanian paramilitaries laid into Hungarian civilians, killing 600 in what we’d call ethnic cleansing.

The second Anglo-Sikh war was on the go in India, and the British suffered a defeat at the Battle of Tooele, while across the ocean in Canada, the Colony of Vancouver Island was established. This is important because that’s where one of my ancestors eloped later in the 19th Century for the metropolis that was Beaufort West.

Elizabeth Blackwell was awarded her M.D, thus becoming the first women doctor in the United States, and the Corn Laws were officially repealed by the UK Parliament. These were tariffs and trade resctrictions on imported food — including all grains like Barley, wheat and oats. I mention this because the repeal spelled the death knell to British mercantilism — skewing the value of land in the UK, raised food prices there artificially, and hampered the growth of manufacturing.

The Great Famine of Ireland between 1845 and 1852 had also revealed a real need to produce alternative food supplies through imports. It was this change that led to free trade finally being ushered into Britain — and of course this created opportunities for Southern African farmers.

It’s also the year the first Kennedy arrives in America, a refugee of the Irish Famine.

More prosaic perhaps, in New York on a cold February day, President James Knox Polk became the first president to have his photograph taken, while Minnesota became a formal US territory and the settlement of Fort Worth in Texas is founded.

In July, a slave revolt at the Charleston Workhouse breaks out led by Nicholas Kelly, but plantation owners manage to suppress the revolt and hang 3 of the leaders including Kelly. Later in September, African-American abolitionist and hero Harriet Tubman escaped from slavery.
And importantly for our story, Sir Benjamin D’Urban, after whom Durban in KZN is named and one of the Governors of the Cape, died in Montreal, Canada.

Back to the Cape, because the anger at Harry Smith’s new policies were curing, nay, ripening, stewing, brewing amongst the amaXhosa.

Arriving in the Eastern Cape, Harry was committed to reinstating the D’Urban system with which he had been associated - and which Lord Glenelg back in the colonial office has rejected.

But now Earl Grey was in the colonial hot seat back home and he gave the thumbs up. Smith set to work sorting out the administration, appointing members of the settler elite to official positions including Richard Southey as his personal secretary. AS a close colleague of Grahamstown Journal Editor and rabid anti-Xhosa Robert Godlonton, he was chosen for his anti-black bias.

If you remember how Smith had arrived, placing his foot on amaXhosa chief Maqoma’s neck, and his new edicts including the creation of British Caffraria — the previously known ceded territory —you can imagine how he was regarded further east.
What is not common knowledge these days is that there was great demand for children under the age of ten to work in the Western Cape. Of course, this was not a proper labour environment, and the shift meant that these young boys and girls, and their mothers and fathers, were being turned into indentured labourers. This was a free market situation of the amaXhosa being able to hawk their labour for a fair price.

Many were told they would be paid a wage, only to find that the terms of contract were vague, they were now receiving unspecified promises and the fabric of rural life

This is episode 175 - and we’re back in the Cape circa 1849 and thereabouts.

Before we dive into the latest incidents and events, let’s take a look at what was going on globally as everything is connected.

In France, citizens are able to use postage stamps for the very first time, a series called Ceres, which is also a place in the Western Cape. The Austrian Army invades Hungary entering the countries two capitals, which back in 1849 were called Buda and Pest. Next door, Romanian paramilitaries laid into Hungarian civilians, killing 600 in what we’d call ethnic cleansing.

The second Anglo-Sikh war was on the go in India, and the British suffered a defeat at the Battle of Tooele, while across the ocean in Canada, the Colony of Vancouver Island was established. This is important because that’s where one of my ancestors eloped later in the 19th Century for the metropolis that was Beaufort West.

Elizabeth Blackwell was awarded her M.D, thus becoming the first women doctor in the United States, and the Corn Laws were officially repealed by the UK Parliament. These were tariffs and trade resctrictions on imported food — including all grains like Barley, wheat and oats. I mention this because the repeal spelled the death knell to British mercantilism — skewing the value of land in the UK, raised food prices there artificially, and hampered the growth of manufacturing.

The Great Famine of Ireland between 1845 and 1852 had also revealed a real need to produce alternative food supplies through imports. It was this change that led to free trade finally being ushered into Britain — and of course this created opportunities for Southern African farmers.

It’s also the year the first Kennedy arrives in America, a refugee of the Irish Famine.

More prosaic perhaps, in New York on a cold February day, President James Knox Polk became the first president to have his photograph taken, while Minnesota became a formal US territory and the settlement of Fort Worth in Texas is founded.

In July, a slave revolt at the Charleston Workhouse breaks out led by Nicholas Kelly, but plantation owners manage to suppress the revolt and hang 3 of the leaders including Kelly. Later in September, African-American abolitionist and hero Harriet Tubman escaped from slavery.
And importantly for our story, Sir Benjamin D’Urban, after whom Durban in KZN is named and one of the Governors of the Cape, died in Montreal, Canada.

Back to the Cape, because the anger at Harry Smith’s new policies were curing, nay, ripening, stewing, brewing amongst the amaXhosa.

Arriving in the Eastern Cape, Harry was committed to reinstating the D’Urban system with which he had been associated - and which Lord Glenelg back in the colonial office has rejected.

But now Earl Grey was in the colonial hot seat back home and he gave the thumbs up. Smith set to work sorting out the administration, appointing members of the settler elite to official positions including Richard Southey as his personal secretary. AS a close colleague of Grahamstown Journal Editor and rabid anti-Xhosa Robert Godlonton, he was chosen for his anti-black bias.

If you remember how Smith had arrived, placing his foot on amaXhosa chief Maqoma’s neck, and his new edicts including the creation of British Caffraria — the previously known ceded territory —you can imagine how he was regarded further east.
What is not common knowledge these days is that there was great demand for children under the age of ten to work in the Western Cape. Of course, this was not a proper labour environment, and the shift meant that these young boys and girls, and their mothers and fathers, were being turned into indentured labourers. This was a free market situation of the amaXhosa being able to hawk their labour for a fair price.

Many were told they would be paid a wage, only to find that the terms of contract were vague, they were now receiving unspecified promises and the fabric of rural life

19 min

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