Stoep Stories No 32
Sunday, 1st June 2014
Stoep Stories - Tales from the Karoo
Published by the Graaff-Reinet Heritage Society
ANDRIES STOCKENSTROM JUNIOR
This exceptional man whose influence extended throughout the Cape Colony during his career of great achievement was born in Cape Town in June 1791. The school he later attended there Pro Bono Publico had as its motto always strive for the greatest good of the greatest number without doing injury to the minority Stockenstrom lived his life by this preception.
When he was twenty years old his father Anders Stockenstrom who had been appointed Landdrost of Graaff – Reinet in 1804 commanded the Graaff – Reinet commando in the Fourth Frontier War. At the end of that year he was led into an ambush and murdered. By popular request young Andries was appointed leader of the combined Graaff – Reinet and Tulbagh commandos. His appointment as Deputy Landdrost of Graaff – Reinet followed swiftly several years later he was a Captain and Landdros of Graaff – Reinet probably the youngest man ever to be appointed to this important position. He was fully aware of the responsibility he was undertaking. This was as he himself described it to administer the arduous complicated administrative financial judicial and military functions in a territory embracing one third of the Colony with a suspicious half contented population and a frontier bordering for some 500 miles on various hostile tribes without one soldier to protect it.
It was an awful burden for the shoulders of an inexperienced uneducated youth of twenty two’But his nature and character fitted him to this task. He had a strength of mind and warmness of heart rarely met with. In the field he was a natural leader who shared the troubles of his men on commando. Cultured and tolerant he achieved high social standing and was able to mix with all sections of society from the humblest Boer to the highest official. Stockenstrom undertook many journeys in the course of performing his numerous duties. He must have had a very good constitution since visits to Cape Town and Grahamstown which must have been time consuming and arduous were passed off as mere trifles. He earned the nickname of “The Flying Dutchman".
At the time Graaff – Reinet had already been established for more than twenty years and it was natural that under the leadership of Stockenstrom it became the parent of the smaller communities in the area. Cradock and Grahamstown were founded in 1812 followed a year or two later bySomerset East and Beaufort West.
Another purposeful and determined man in the shape of the Rev Andrew Murray had now emerged as a leader in Graaff – Reinet and together with Stockenstrom they worked towards the establishment of Colesberg although the township was only granted by Sir Lowly by Sir Lowry Cole in 1830.Living by the motto of his old school which he applied strickly and strongly Stockenstrom found himself in the middle between all the sections of the inhabitants of the Colongy. Government the Boers and their opponents the missionaries and threatened by the indigenous peoples he was hard put to maintain order.He was at heart an Afrikaner serving a community that was overwhelmingly Dutch speaking in an English speaking Conlony.
The whole system of British Colonial administration earned his open contempt he dislikes its favouritism and its injustice their frontier commanders were described as pompous and imbecilic. The missionaries were viewed with bitterness particularly as a result of their misguided efforts with the Bushmen at Colesberg. He had difficulty in accommodating the philosophy and aims of John Philip so called Doctor a title he did not earn but which was bought for him by the London Missionary Society from the University of Columbia. Philip was ever ready to condemn the Boer which brought vigorous defence from Stockenstroom. Philip later brought serious charges against Stockenstrom which although investigated by a Commission of Enquiry in 1825 led nowhere.
Stockenstroom took a lead in the Cape Colony with regard to the abolition of slavery. When this finally happened in 1833 the method of compensation created great dissatisfaction. This parade of sham generosity as he described it was one of the contributory causes of the Great Trek in which Graaff – Reinet than he was at the Hardly had he settled into his position of Landdrost of Graaff – Reinet than he was at the centre of the tragedy of Slachtersnek where an abortive rebellion le to the execution of five frontier farmers who had surrendered while the instigators decamped. The harsh sentences and the inhuman executions when the rope broke in four cases during the process and these unfortunate men had to be hanged at intervals with the same rope created much ill feeling in the area the happening was later quoted as one of the causes of the Great Trek since frontier farmers felt detestation and mistrust in the British administration. Stockenstrom was thought to have played a major role but the court hearings and the sentences were out of his hands. He did however take a strong stand against the rebels and must have influenced the decisions. For this he became regarded as the enemyof the Boers. at the time he was 22 years old and regarded by the rebels with whom he attempted to negotiate, as an upstart youth.
In 1828 he ceased to be the Landrost of Graaff-Reinet and due to vigorous application of his ideals in truth, justice and humanity had become a national figure. in 1836 he became Lieutenant-Govenor of the Cape, but his fearless opposition to authority when he felt they were wrong and his negative attitude to the missionaries led to his dimissal in 1839. He was placated with a boronecy and a pension.