|Languages||Dutch, Zulu, English|
|Religion||Dutch Reformed Church|
|Prime Minister||Andries Pretorius|
|Historical era||The Great Trek|
|-||Established||12 October 1839|
|-||Battle of Blood River||16 December 1838|
|-||Alliance with Zulu||January 1840|
|-||Annexed by Britain||12 May 1843|
|This article needs additional citations for verification. (September 2009)|
The Natalia Republic was a short-lived Boer republic, established in 1839 by local Afrikaans-speaking Voortrekkers shortly after the Battle of Blood River. The republic was located on the coast of the Indian Ocean beyond the Eastern Cape, and was previously named Natália by Portuguese sailors. The republic was conquered and annexed by Britain in 1843. After the British annexation of the Natalia Republic, most local Voortrekker Boers trekked north into Transorangia, later known as the Orange Free State, and the Transvaal.
- 1 History
- 2 Natalia's government
- 3 Transfer to colonial government
- 4 Aftermath
- 5 See also
- 6 References
European settlement and setbacks
Long inhabited by varying cultures of indigenous Africans, the region was colonized and renamed in their language by the Portuguese. The first Europeans to settle the country were emigrant Boers from the Cape Colony, led by Piet Retief (c. 1780-1838). He was of Huguenot descent. Passing through the almost deserted upper regions, Retief arrived at the bay[clarification needed] in October 1837. During this journey, he chose a site for the capital of the future state which he envisioned. He went to the capital or kraal of the Zulu king, Dingane, to obtain a cession of territory for the Dutch farmers. Dingane consented on condition that the Boers recover cattle stolen by the Tlokwa chief. Retief managed that and, with the help of the Rev. F. Owen, a missionary living at Dingane's kraal, he drew up a deed of cession in English. Dingane and Retief signed it on 4 February 1838.
Two days later, Dingane ordered the execution of Retief and all of his party, 66 whites and 34 Khoikhoi servants. The Zulu king commanded his impis to kill all the Boers who had entered Natal. The Zulu forces crossed the Tugela the same day, and the most advanced parties of the Boers were massacred, many at a spot near where the town of Weenen now stands, its name (meaning wailing or weeping) commemorating the event. Other of the farmers hastily laagered and were able to repulse the Zulu attacks; the assailants suffering serious loss at a fight near Bushman River. In one week after the murder of Retief, the Zulus killed 600 Boers - men, women and children.
Hearing of the attack on the Boers, the British settlers at the bay sent a force to help them. Robert Biggar commanded 20 British and a following of 700 friendly Zulus and crossed the Tugela near its mouth. In a desperate fight (17 April), the British were overwhelmed and only four Europeans escaped to the bay. Pursued by the Zulus, the surviving inhabitants of Durban took refuge on a ship then in harbour. After the Zulus retired, fewer than a dozen Englishmen returned to live at the port; the missionaries, hunters and other traders returned to the Cape.
The Boers had repelled the Zulu attacks on their laagers; joined by others from the Drakensberg, about 400 men under Hendrik Potgieter and Piet Uys advanced to attack Dingane. On 11 April, they were attacked and with difficulty cut their way out. Among those slain were Piet Uys and his son Dirk, aged 15.
Battle of Blood River
Toward the end of the year, the Boers received reinforcements. In December 460 men set out under Boer General Andries Pretorius to take on the Zulus. On Sunday 16 December 1838, while laagered near the Umslatos River, they were attacked by more than 20 000 Zulus. Outnumbered more than 50 to 1, the Boers, led by Sarel Cilliers, made a covenant with God. With the power of their firearms and with their ox wagons in a laager formation and some excellent tactics, the Boers fought off the Zulu. After three hours, the Boers had killed an estimated 3,000 Zulus and had only three of their men wounded among them Pretorius. Jan Gerritze Bantjes kept a journal of the entire campaign and the Battle of Blood River as it became known. The Zulus withdrew in defeat, many crossing the river, and the water turned red with their blood which is why it is called the Battle of Blood River. The Boers celebrated the Day of the Covenant every year on 16 December and most of them attributed the victory to God.
British at Port Natal
Returning south, Pretorius and his commandos found that the British had annexed Port Natal (now Durban) on 4 December with a detachment of the 72nd Highlanders from Cape Colony. While the governor of the Cape, Major-General Sir George Napier, had invited the emigrants to return to the colony, he had stated his intention to take military possession of the port. He wanted to prevent the Boers from establishing an independent republic on the coast with a harbour through which access to the interior could be gained as part of British plan to undermine the Boers' independence. Napier withdrew the Highlanders on Christmas Eve 1839.
Legislative power was vested in the volksraad (consisting of 24 members), while the president and executive were changed every three months. For issues of importance, a meeting was called of het publiek, that is, of all who chose to attend, to sanction or reject it. "The result," says the historian Theal, "was utter anarchy. Decisions of one day were frequently reversed the next, and every one held himself free to disobey any law that he did not approve of.. .. Public opinion of the hour in each section of the community was the only force in the land." (History of South Africa 1834 - 1854, chap. xliv.).
The Zulus continued to exist as a distinct and numerous people with their own dispensation within their own territory to the north and east, in the region known as Zululand. In 1840, Mpande (a.k.a., Panda), Dingane's half-brother, overthrew him, and Dingane was assassinated. The Boers allied with Mpande, creating a peace with the Zulus. This allowed for the creation and stability of the Natalia Republic.
The settlers were in loose alliance with and in quasi-supremacy over the Boer communities that had left the Cape and settled at Winburg and at Potchefstroom. They declared a free and independent state under the title of "The Republic of Port Natal and adjacent countries," and sought (September 1840) from Sir George Napier an acknowledgment of their independence by Great Britain.
Sir George did not give an answer but was sympathetic to the Boer farmers. He was disturbed when a commando force under Andries Pretorius attacked the Xhosa in December 1840. The national government declined to recognized Natalia's independence but proposed to trade with it if the people would accept a military force to defend against other European powers. Sir George communicated this decision to the volksraad in September 1841.
British and Dutch influences
The Boers strongly resented the contention of the British that they could not shake off British nationality though beyond the bounds of any recognized British possession, nor were they prepared to see their only port garrisoned by British troops. They rejected Napier's overtures.
In December 1841, Napier announced his intention to resume military occupation of Port Natal, with the excuse that the Boers' attack on the Xhosa. In February 1842 the settlers responded, with a document written by J. N. Boshoff (afterwards president of the Orange Free State). The farmers complained about the lack of representative government, and concluded by a protest against the occupation of any part of their territory by British troops.
Soon after, the Boers were encouraged in their opposition to Great Britain. In March 1842 a Dutch vessel sent out by G. G. Ohrig, an Amsterdam merchant who sympathized with the farmers, reached Port Natal. J. A. Smellekamp concluded a treaty with the volksraad assuring them of the protection of Holland. The Natal Boers believed the Netherlands to be one of the great powers of Europe, and were firmly persuaded that its government would aid them in resisting England.
Transfer to colonial government
Napier takes charge
The British government was still undecided as to its policy towards Natal. In April 1842 Lord Stanley (afterwards 14th earl of Derby), then secretary for the colonies in the second Peel Administration, wrote to Sir George Napier that the establishment of a colony in Natal would be attended with little prospect of advantage, but at the same time stated that the pretensions of the emigrants to be regarded as an independent community could not be admitted. Various measures were proposed which would but have aggravated the situation.
Napier took the initiative however, and dispatched Captain J. Charlton Smith with a garrison to occupy Port Natal. They arrived on 4 May 1842, much to the vehement demands from the Boers that the British should leave. Captain Smith (according to his Dispatch of 25 May 1842), who had hitherto been at pains to avoid hostilities and in favour of conciliation, on receiving an "insolent" letter demanding that the force he commanded should immediately quit Natal, followed up the removal by armed men of a quantity of cattle belonging to the troops deemed it absolutely necessary that some steps should be taken in order to prevent a repetition of such outrages. He therefore determined, after mature consideration, to march and attack their camp at the Congella. A Royal Artillery boat was fitted with a howitzer and the sergeant in charge of the boat was given instructions to drop down the channel to within 500 yards of Congella and await the troops in order that they might form under the cover of its fire, aided by that of two six-pounders which accompanied Captain Smith's force. To Smith's mortification, the boat failed to arrive until it was too late to be of any use and, besides, took up a position too distant for her fire to be of much effect. Though Smith was informed the Boers (the Emigrant Farmers) suffered severe losses in the action, the result for Smith's force was a disaster and the loss of life very severe. Smith retreated to his camp, where he was besieged until 26 June 1842, when Lieutenant-colonel A. J. Cloete's relief force arrived in the war ship Southampton.
Finally, in deference to the strongly urged views of Sir George Napier, Lord Stanley, in a despatch of 13 December, received in Cape Town on 23 April 1843, consented to Natal becoming a British colony. The institutions adopted were to be as far as possible in accordance with the wishes of the people, but it was a fundamental condition "that there should not be in the eye of the law any distinction or disqualification whatever, founded on mere difference of colour, origin, language or creed."
Sir George then appointed Mr Henry Cloete (a brother of Colonel Josias Cloete) a special commissioner to explain to the Natal volksraad the decision of the government. There was a considerable party of Natal Boers still strongly opposed to the British, and they were reinforced by numerous bands of Boers who came over the Drakensberg from Winburg and Potchefstroom. Commandant Jan Mocke of Winburg (who had helped to besiege Captain Smith at Durban) and others of the "war party" attempted to induce the volksraad not to submit, and a plan was formed to murder Pretorius, Boshoff and other leaders, who were now convinced that the only chance of ending the state of complete anarchy into which the country had fallen was by accepting British sovereignty.
Extent of the colony
In these circumstances the task of Mr Henry Cloete was one of great difficulty and delicacy. He behaved with the utmost tact and got rid of the Winburg and Potchefstroom burghers by declaring that he should recommend the Drakensberg as the northern limit of Natal. On 8 August 1843 the Natal volksraad unanimously agreed to the terms proposed by Lord Stanley. Many of the Boers who would not acknowledge British rule trekked once more over the mountains into what became the Orange Free State and Transvaal provinces to seek their freedom and independence. At the end of 1843 there were not more than 500 Dutch families left in Natal.
Cloete, before returning to the Cape, visited Mpande and obtained from him a valuable concession. Hitherto the Tugela River from source to mouth had been the recognized frontier between Natal and Zululand. Mpande gave up to Natal all the territory between the Buffalo and Tugela rivers, now forming Klip River county.
Proclaimed a British Colony of Natal in 1843, it became a part of Cape Colony in 1844. The power of the volksraad did not truly end until 1845, when an effective British administration was established under Martin West as lieutenant-governor. After the Anglo-Zulu War of 1879, the British defeated the Zulu army, and annexed Zululand to Natal in 1893. One of the four founding provinces of South Africa, it is now KwaZulu-Natal. This province is still home to the Zulu nation, which forms the majority of the population and Zulu is the official language, but it also has a large ethnic East Indian population, as well as Boer-descended residents in the north and ethnic British descendants, mainly in the cities.
- Battle of Congella
- Dick King
- KwaZulu-Natal Province
- South African Republic
- Orange Free State
- Boer republics
- Timothy Joseph Stapleton, Faku: rulership and colonialism in the Mpondo Kingdom (c. 1780-1867), Wilfrid Laurier Univ. Press, 2001, ISBN 0889203458, p. 64