The Great Trek: Republicanism as Offshoot of Liberalism

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Published: Jun 17, 2020

Words: 1662|Pages: 4|9 min read

Published: Jun 17, 2020

Liberalism was a system that was used to protect the rights of life, property and liberty, where the society govern themselves as group not been control by a certain party. Cause of Great Trek that pointed to liberalism and pointed to and the pursuit of an own republic.

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The Dutch-speaking colonist movements that was known as “The Great Trek” was migration of the Boer who were travelling across the interior of Southern Africa seeking for land where they could set up their permanent homeland to live beyond the independent of British colonial rule. This movement was done by the some 1200 to 1400 Boers between the year 1835 and 1840s. The Boers were against the policies of British government because they were living differently from British and they wanted to force their rules and regulation on the Boers. It was fairly orderly mass rebellion against a breakdown of the security that the participants considered intolerable. The causes of The Great Trek were complex, many moved because all the land in the frontier districts had been taken from them, labour and security, which they felt unable to address due to a lack of representation, giving rise to a profound sense of marginalisation.

Because of shortage of land on the frontier and the situation did not seemed to decrease but it became worse between 1812 and the mid-1830s. During this time the Dutch’s families had to move to new homestead after pastures had been exhausted, but that was determined if there is a free land, a land that can be taken without paying money and would be converted into loan farm. In 1813 the British abolished the familiar loan farm system, and they implemented a system of quitrent ownership. This system of tenure made the Boers to move to North, and the market price of established farms rose and people left the colony aiming that they could obtain the land, many trek Boers sold their farms and moved to the other side of the border. In 1828 after the British announced the ordinance 50 lack of labour increased, the Ordinance was on favour of indigenous people, it freed them to their owner and made them to choose whom they want to work for, this caused dissatisfaction of the Boers. It got worse when owners loss a control authority over slaves or servants this happened on 01 December 1834 when the right of punishing slaves, slave trade and slavery was banned, the slaves were allowed to take their masters to court of law, this made slaves to do as the please because they were having freedom from their masters. Whereby, several of Voortrekker leaders were brushed with the law for punishing their servants. The grave insecurity on the frontier this happened when the farmers cattle were being stolen by Bushmen. The government was unable to control the influx, many frontier burgers did not know ho to cope because of these and many were experiencing heavy losses of flocks and herds and some were afraid of their lives. Aftern 1825, complaints against masters increased were administrative became major issue. There were no rights for burghers only blacks had one. The protection of the law was known as Governor D’Urban.

Political marginalisation- landless people left the colony but also wealthy farmers sold their farms cheaply because of lack of representation. There was no developed theory of racism among the frontier farmers. The lack of representative bodies would be used to represent the claims of the burghers, the abolition of the colleges of landdrost in 1828 was part of progressive overhaul of system administrative and remove all institution that frontier burghers trusted at the time they had major political and social transformation, the burghers left the colony because the British was not protecting their needs and they no representative instead the government was favouring blacks than them. The first Voortrekker governments (The decentralised government and administrative system during the Great Trek).

As the Voortrekkers were seeking for a permanent place to settle for their independent republic. The Great Trek leaders Louis Trichardt and Hans Van Rensburg opened a way for Dutch people to Transvaal, while Andries Potgieter, Maritz and Piet Retief found a settlement in the north. These leaders created solution to the problem they were facing by encouraging Boers to leave the Cape frontier so that they could be free from British control and they could choose their own cultural values in their own political system. The Voortrekkers wanted to be autonomy and have their own personal freedom. The philosophy of Afrikaners stated their request of action to the frontiersman and awoken the form of the idealist and the transformed the trek from a reckless rebellion in divinely inspired mission in Africa. On the 02 February 1837, Piet Retief published his manifesto in the “Grahamstown Journal” his manifesto was regarded as the voice of The Great Trek, he emphasised the idea of being autonomies wanted to be free from the British and rise up against the government rule of being equal with the servants, they pervasive with the lack of security they wanted protection from the British government because of the losses they sustained in frontier wars. The influence of the Difaqane/Mfecane on the republican ideal.

From 1780s in the territory from Delagoa Bay to the Tugela River a number of African chiefdom caught up in the conflict completing for power blocs. These wars were happening to these chiefdoms/kingdoms, the Zulu, Ndebele, Tswana, Pedi and so forth. Mfecane (crushing, scattering, forced dispersal, forced migration), this was time of warfare and chaos widespread between the African Kingdoms and Chiefdoms. Mfecane was portrayed in a positive light as ushering in a period of state building of innovative rules in South Africa and state strong enough to challenge while expansion in the interior. Mfecane occurred because of overpopulation due to the availability of serve food resources and the effect of climatic changes that caused drought and the long term environment degradation that led to the competition of land grading, the need to wield sufficient power to control access to trade with European countries, as ivory became a more and more desired item. All these led to what it is call “War of Shaka”, because all African Kingdom grown strength and wanted to have more power and be wealthy. The Difaqane (crushing, scattering, forced dispersal, forced migration), in 1750s internecine and civil wars struck the Hurutshe, Kwena, Rolong and so forth, in the former western Transvaal. This created an ongoing process whereby chiefdoms broke apart and allied with other powerful groups which led to fragmentation amongst groups, this intensified in the later eighteenth century. The Sotho-Tswana-speaking chiefdoms were perhaps no based on the same kind of militarism and chiefly autocracy as many of the Nguni, and were unable to withstand the scale and intensity of raiders who entered their territories from 1822. Voortrekker governments on the Highveld. In 1830s fewer Boers families moved from Cape frontier because of shortage of land and frontier pressure. The migration from Cape was not a single movement was known as the Great Trek “Voortrekker”. The Voortrekker groups went to the South of Highveld that was closed to the powerful kingdom of Moshoeshoe which is Lesotho on the east between Orange and Vaal River. The other group moved to North towards grassland near Mzilikazi Ndebele state, whereby later the Voortrekker and the Ndebele went into a conflict over resources such as water and pastureland and the Voortrekkers were able to defeat Mzilikzi tribe. In December 1836, the treks of Potieter and Maritz went to Thaba Nchu they elected a Burgerraad (Burger Council), Maritz as civilian president and Potgieter as military commander making and enforcing laws. When Retief arrive at Thaba Nchu he took over military commander and then Pietgieter became the president, the set up the Free Pronvince of New Hellend in South East Africa. Majority of Voortrekkers moved towards the Zulu land, in October 1837 Retief approached Dingane (the Zulu Kingdom leader) to negotiate permission to settle on his land the Tugela River. Dingane was afraid of the Voortrekkers and he did not want the settlers to undermine his authority. 1000 Voortrekkers started to spread to the upper of Tugela valley. After Dingane discovering what Voortrekkers did to Mzikilazi, he eliminated them by sending his Zulu regiments and kill several hundred Voortrekkers, women, men and children and take more than 35 000 herd of cattle and sheep. However, not all the Voortrekkers were killed those who survived avenged the death of Retief and his followers. The leader of Voortrekkers Andries Pretorius pleged that they will recall a victory as a sign of divine protection. They went into with Dingane with the help of Mponde, where 3000 Zulus died in the hand of Andries Pretorius and his followers at the Ncome River which later called Blood River. The Voortrekkers made sure that they divide and conquer at Natal, they splinted the Zulu Kingdom.

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The Republic of Natalia symbolised the highlight of republicanism. In 1939 the Voortrekkers Republic of Natalia was formed. Many people started to occupy the area of pastureland living according to their political system, whereby men acted according to their own values and only white males were allowed to vote. However, the British felt threatened by the formed of Natalia. In 1852 at the sand river contention Afrikaners at the North Vaal River were doing their affairs and self-governing themselves according to their Republic system rules which was Transvaal. In 1857 the constitutions was drawn up where legislative power was established, ammunition sale and land taxes were implemented and the Dutch Church was recognised. The Voortrekkers were happy that at the end the fought for what they have been always wanted which is freedom the feeling of regulating themselves. Even at the Orange Free State the rules were still the same, the Voortrekkers did not give a citizenship to anyone except themselves as other groups they were following the Roman-Dutch Common Law. To what extent was the non-white policy enshrined?

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The Great Trek: Republicanism as Offshoot of Liberalism. (2020, Jun 14). GradesFixer. Retrieved June 16, 2024, from
“The Great Trek: Republicanism as Offshoot of Liberalism.” GradesFixer, 14 Jun. 2020,
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