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The Eastern Province
CAPE OF GOOD HOPE.
PART THE FIRST.
THE DISCOVERY AND OCCUPATION.
The discovery of the Cape of Gcod Hope stands prominently forward at the head of an order of events which have had the most marked and extraordinary influence on the progress of society, but which are so well known to the general reader as to require no recapitulation here.
It may, perhaps, seem to savour not a little of idle vanity for so obscure an ind idual as an Albany settler to pride himself upon the fact that the site of the rising and happy settlement, Algoa Bay, the land of his adoption, was the first spot in Southern Africa visited by Europeans when in search of a maritime path to the golden and gorgeous East.
History informs us it was on the anniversary of the festival called Holy Cross, in the year 1486, while sea-born Venice,
-“ the crowning city, whose merchants were princes, and whose traffickers were the honourable of the earth,”—
-was assembled under the magnificent roof of St. Mark's splendid cathedral, to celebrate the impressive ceremonials of religion, that two small and weather-beaten barks anchored off a rude islet in a remote and tempestuous ocean, and there, amid the roar of the untamed flood, its half-exhausted crew mingled their rough voices with its wild music, in holy anthems to the Redeemer of men. That crew was the gallant band under the illustrious, the ill-requited, but immortal BARTHOLOMEW Diaz, who had doubled the Cape
of Storms without being aware of it; and that little lonely island was the now really classic ground of Santa Cruz, in Algoa Bay. Little dreamt the proud worshippers in their glorious fane at Venice, that on that very day the sentence had gone
forth“ The sceptre is departed;" but so it was. Diaz, by his discovery at that precise moment, arrested the spring source of Venetian wealth and pre-eminence, plucked the oriental diadem from her imperial brow, and transferred to Portugal the sovereignty of
The illustrious Diaz, the Discoverer, whose purer fame has been obscured by the halo which surrounds the memory of the great Vasco de Gama, the Conqueror*, was the first navigator of the Southern Seas, sent out by King Henry of Portugal in search of India. He swept round the Cape, and after having made the western horn of the present Mossel Bay, named by him Cabo Vaccas, from the quantity of cattle he saw there, he pursued his course, and on Thursday, the 14th of September, 1486, he anchored in Algoa Bay. At this place the spirit of his mariners began to droop, and fearful of seas more boisterous than those they had hitherto encountered, they began to clamour, declaring they would proceed no further. Their objections, vexatious as they were to the ardent commander of the expedition, were couched in respectful but decided language. They alleged that their supplies were diminishing, that it was requisite to return and look after their small provision tender, from which they had parted; for should it be lost, they must inevitably starve. They urged that their commander should be satisfied with their past labours, as they would carry home to their own country more information than any previous navigators, “having discovered so much land ;” and they expressed a conviction that, as the coast appeared to trend further in the further they proceeded, they
The result to Venice of De Gama's voyage, in which he discovered India, is thus beautifully alluded by Rogers, in his poem “Italy:"
Thus did Venice rise,
must have left some great Cape behind them, and that they had better return and look for it.
Diaz, obliged to satisfy their scruples, and at the same time determined to carry home with him an authenticated proof of the obstacles which had opposed his further progress, landed on an island in the bay with the chief officers of his vessel and several seamen, trusting that the touching solemnities of religion he intended to celebrate might soften a decision so discouraging to an adventurous spirit like his own. He therefore caused the Sacrament to be administered at the foot of the cross, which he there planted with his own hands, and which has given the name to the island. Thus upon this rugged spot, at present only visited by the seal fisherman, and where European foot had never before trodden, were the symbols of Christianity first displayed in the Southern Ocean.
Having performed this ceremonial, Diaz made his officers swear to the opinions they were about to give as to what was best to be done for the King's service. With one voice they all declared for a return; and as he had been directed by his sovereign how to act in such an emergency, he made them sign a document to
that effect: this completed, he conjured them, like Columbus afterwards (in 1492), to indulge him by sailing only two or three days further, pledging himself, should nothing of importance be discovered, to accede to their wishes ; to which they agreed: and in this interval they found the present Great Fish River, which received the name of Rio d'Infante, from Joao Infante, Captain of the Santa Pantaleone, the first who landed at that spot. The Portuguese entered the river with their vessels, and remained there for three days ; but failing to procure any news of India from the natives (who the chronicler of the voyage says were savage sort of people”), they weighed anchor, and returned to Santa Cruz. Diaz (says the same narrator), when he left this scene of his labours, was melted even to tears, and parted with the cross he had set up on this barren rock," as if he had been leaving a son in perpetual banishment.” He was destined never to revisit this scene of his tender emotions, for he was drowned, eleven years afterwards, off the great Cape, to which he had given the name De los Tormentos, altered by his master, King Henry, to Boa Esperanza (Good Hope), at once his trophy and his tomb.
After the discovery of the Cape, the Portuguese fleets continued for several years to resort to various bays of the present colony for the purposes of refreshment, but that nation does not appear to have ever taken possession of any part of the territory for the purposes of a settlement, and its ships were soon chased out of the Eastern Seas and from their Indian empire by their zealous rival and indefatigable enemy, the Dutch. In 1614 the English, animated with the same spirit of enterprise as the Dutch in their search of the Eastern markets, attempted a settlement with a few convicts at Robben Island, in Table Bay, which was soon broken up by the slaughter of some of them in an affray with natives on the mainland, and the return of the remainder to England. In 1620, however, the commanders of two English ships, finding a Dutch fleet in Table Bay, and hearing that they intended forming a settlement there, resolved to anticipate them by taking an immediate and formal possession of the place in the name of their sovereign James I, which they carried into execution without molestation by the Dutch officers. Andreas Shilling and Humphrey Fitzherbert, the commanders of the vessels in question, then gave to the Lion's Rump, where