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Character of the Bechuanas.--Thraldom of the Women.-Anecdote

of Mahuri's Humanity.-Famished State of the lower Classes. -Great Extension of the Bechuana, or Caffer Language.-Importance of the Bechuana Country, as a Field of Missions.-Mr. Moffat's Visit to Makabba, King of the Wankeets.

For the true character of a people, we must not look to the journals of travellers for information which they have picked up during their short visits; but to such as have resided among them, and have made themselves intimately acquainted with their language, their customs, and manners. In books of travels it is to be regretted that we seldom find a talent for detail connected with the comprehension of general principles : hence, many to whom science is indebted for the manner in which they have described the productions of foreign countries, have proved themselves most unfit persons to give opinions on the character and institutions of men. The surface of a country is more open to observation than the deep hidden springs of human actions; and no one who is not acquainted with man can describe him. When we observe men judging of any portion of the human race, through the medium of their prejudices and passions, and from insulated facts seizing upon general principles, we may rest assured that they are unsafe guides. In our admiration of some of the bold and peculiar features of an uncivilized tribe, such as that exhibited in the Bechuana Peetsho, we are apt to lose sight of their vices, and give them credit for a number of virtues which they do not possess. It is, perhaps, on this principle we are to account for the character of the Bechuanas, which has been drawn by the pen of Lichtenstein. In the pages

of that writer, they are represented as a people of an open, manly, and generous character, disdaining, in their wars and negotiations, any sort of chicane and deceit, “ a proof,” as he expresses it, “ of their natural rectitude and consciousness of strength.” To strangers they can be courteous, if they please. Such of them as have come to Griqua Town, and are within the colony, make industrious servants; and Europeans may travel with safety in their country, wherever the reports of the missionaries of Lattakoo have reached ; but on the general character of the people among whom the missionaries labour, we cannot bestow the praise of openness, generosity, humanity, or even courage. The following facts, related to me by the missionaries, furnish but a poor illustration of the magnanimity and rectitude which have been ascribed to them :

For some time after they settled at Lattakoo, whenever they received a visit from any of the people, they were obliged to watch them, and to put every thing they could purloin beyond their reach. So powerfully were the people actuated by this propensity, that they not only broke into their houses when they supposed they could do it without being detected, but they used to watch when the missionaries attended divine worship, and rob their houses on these occasions. The difficulty of putting a check to these petty depredations, obliged the missionaries at last to leave always one of the family at home; but it

is due, both to the credit of the people and the missionaries, to say, that that is a practice of which they have not any longer to complain.

The women are, among the Bechuanas, as among most other savage tribes, in a state of cruel vassalage. In a letter from Mrs. Moffat, the excellent wife of the missionary of that name, resident at Lattakoo, received only a few weeks ago, is the following faithful and affecting picture of the state of the females among this people. After describing the miseries and degradation of the Bushmen, she says:

“Even amongst the Bechuanas, who are not sunk so low as some other tribes, the women cultivate all the land, build the houses, which are a great labour, and have often to carry the wood on their heads for miles, while the men, comparatively active as they are, never condescend to lend a helping hand to them. Picture to yourself tender and gentle women, besides those constitutional infirmities appointed by an offended Creator, bending their delicate forms, tearing the rugged earth with a small iron-pick, or dragging immense loads of wood over the burning plains, wherewith to erect their houses, thus bearing the double weight of the curse on both sexes. When the ladies at home know these things, they will prize their own exalted privileges, and endeavour, by every means in their power, to impart them to others, who groan under such heavy oppression from proud and lofty man.

In their matrimonial alliances, the young females have no choice, the consent of the parents being all that is required. Their future husbands generally take a fancy to them when they are mere infants, and when the matter is settled with the parents, they are considered from that tender age as betrothed, and the right of the husband is considered as sacred as it afterwards becomes, when they have taken home their

young brides.

The magical influence of custom has so far destroyed anything like incongruity in this practice in the eyes of the Bechuanas, that they were frequently in the habit of asking Mr. and Mrs. Moffat if they had not found a husband for their daughter, (a child of three years of age,) and they always expressed surprise, when they were told that the missionaries would not consent to their daughter's forming any such connexion till such time as she should be grown up to a woman.

Inhumanity and cruelty form a leading feature in the character of almost all tribes in a savage state. When the belief of the immortality of the human soul has not a practical influence on the heart, the life of a man is no more regarded than that of a beast.

During my visit to Mateebé and his people, I had but too many illustrations of the truth of this opinion, and these illustrations were the more striking to me, as I had then ample opportunities of comparing Mahuri (Mateebé's brother) and his people, who were then deriving benefit from the instructions of the missionaries, with the body of the people who were following the king.

Before I left the Kuruman, Mahuri, and one or two of his people, came to me with a youth of about fifteen years of age, and requested me to take him under my protection to save his life. The account he

of him was as follows :-The people with Mateebé, from the long drought, were then suffering all the evils of famine. This young man, to preserve his life, had tole a kid, and eat it. The fact had been discovered, and some of Mateebé's people were then in pursuit of him, and I was informed by Mahuri, that they would certainly kill him the moment they found him. The circumstances of the case left me no room for hesitation; and when I called upon the boy to mount upon the front of my waggon, which was then ready to move, the pleasure which beamed in the countenance of this chief and his people, was scarcely less than that seen in the eyes of the young culprit, to whom it instantly imparted all the joy of a life rescued from certain death. During the first night after our arrival at the camp of Mateebé, he was concealed in the back part of my waggon; and in the morning, when he showed his head, I observed a smile upon his countenance, which indicated the most perfect security, while the people and the children gathered round him, and shaking their heads, exclaimed, “You are a happy fellow!” The business was of course easily settled with Mateebé, and the boy refusing to remain behind me, I brought him with me to the colony.


Such was the state of wretchedness to which many of Mateebé's people were reduced, that Mr. Gleig remarked, that although he had seen many famines in India, he had never seen the effects of famine in such a manner as he had witnessed at Lattakoo. Many of the common people were literally walking skeletons ; and those among them who were in possession of cattle, were really passing such of their neighbours as were perishing among the bushes, with the leaves in their mouths, with as much indifference as if they had been so many dogs *.

• They that be slain of the sword are better than they that die of hunger, for these pine away stricken through for want of the fruits of the field."-Lamentations iv, 9.

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