Bauhaus-Universität Weimar

The Cyclopaedia of Anatomy and Physiology, vol. 4: Pla [corr.: Ple] - Wri
Todd, Robert Bentley
difficult to say, but a more wretched-looking 
set of beings cannot easily be imagined. The 
average height of the men is considerably 
under five feet, that of the women little ex¬ 
ceeding four. Their shameless state of nearly 
complete nudity, their brutalised habits of 
voracity, filth, and cruelty of disposition, ap¬ 
pear to place them completely on a level with 
the brute creation, whilst the * clicking ’ tones 
of a language, composed of the most unpro¬ 
nounceable and, discordant noises, more re¬ 
semble the jabbering of apes than sounds 
uttered by human beings.”* 
Now, there is ample evidence that the Cape 
Bushmen are a degraded caste of the Hotten¬ 
tot race. They agree with the Hottentots in 
all the peculiarities of physiognomy, cranial 
conformation, &c., by which the latter are cha¬ 
racterised; and a careful comparison of the 
languages of the two races has shown that 
there is an essential affinity between them. 
It has been ascertained by Dr. Andrew Smith, 
that many of the Bushman hordes vary their 
speech designedly, by affecting a singular 
mode of utterance (employing the peculiar 
clapping or clicking of the tongue, which is 
characteristic of the Hottentot language, so 
incessantly, that they seem to be giving utter¬ 
ance to a jargon consisting of an uninterrupted 
succession of claps), and even adopting new 
words, in order to make their meaning unin¬ 
telligible to all but the members of their own 
community. According to the same autho¬ 
rity, nearly all the South African tribes who 
have, made any advances in civilisation, are 
surrounded by more barbarous hordes, whose 
abodes are in the wilderness and in the fast¬ 
nesses of mountains and forests, and who con¬ 
stantly recruit their numbers by such fugitives 
as crime and destitution may have driven 
from their own more honest and thriving 
communities. In this manner it has happened 
that within a comparatively recent period 
many tribes of Hottentots have been de¬ 
graded into Bushmen, through the oppres¬ 
sions to which they have been subjected at 
the hands of their more civilised neighbours. 
Now, although of the Hottentots them¬ 
selves we are accustomed to form a very low 
estimate, — our ideas of them having been 
chiefly derived from the intercourse of the 
Cape settlers with the tribes which have been 
their nearest neighbours, and which have un¬ 
fortunately undergone that deterioration which 
is so often found to be the first result of the 
contact of civilised with comparatively savage 
nations,—it appears from the accounts of 
them given by Dutch writers at the time of 
the first settlement of the Cape, that they 
were a people considerably advanced in civi¬ 
lisation, and possessed of many estimable 
qualities. Their besetting sins seem to be 
indolence and a love of drink (in this respect 
strongly resembling the Irish) ; yet when they 
can be induced to apply, they show no want 
of capacity or vigour. The testimony of 
* Lieut.-Colonel E. E. Napier’s Excursions in 
Southern Africa. 
Lieut.-Col. Napier is very strong as to their 
merits as soldiers when officered by Euro¬ 
peans ; “ and it has been,” he says, “ on the 
Cape Mounted Rifles, composed chiefly of this 
race, that many of the greatest hardships, 
fatigues, and dangers of the last and former 
Kaffir wars have principally fallen.” * It has 
been frequently said that the Hottentots differ 
from the higher races, in their incapacity to 
form or to receive religious ideas. This is, 
however, by no means true. The early Dutch 
settlers describe them as having a definite 
religion of their own ; and it was their obsti¬ 
nate adhesion to this, which was the real ob¬ 
stacle to the introduction of Christianity 
among them. When the attempt was per- 
severingly made and rightly directed, the 
Hottentot nation lent a more willing ear than 
any other race in a similar condition has done 
to the preaching of Christianity ; and no 
people has been more strikingly and speedily 
improved by its reception. 
Now, if we compare the condition of these 
people with that of the lowest members of 
the population of countries that claim to be 
most advanced in civilisation, we find that the 
difference is not so great as it might at first 
appear. Unfortunately, there is scarcely a 
civilised nation, in the very bosom of which 
there does not exist an outcast population, 
neither less reckless, nor less prone to the 
indulgence of their worst passions, than the 
miserable Bushmen, and only restrained from 
breaking loose by external coercion. The 
want of forethought and wild desire of re¬ 
venge, which are said to be among the most 
striking characteristics of the Bushmen, are 
scarcely less characteristic of those classes 
dangereuses, which, as often as the arm of the 
law is paralysed, issue from the unknown 
deserts of our great towns, and rival in their 
excesses of wanton cruelty, the most terrible 
exhibitions of barbarian inhumanity. So, 
again, there is nothing in the inaptitude of 
any barbarous tribe for religious impressions, 
which surpasses that of the young heathens 
of our own land, who, when first induced to 
attend a “ ragged school,” are recorded to 
have mingled “ Jim Crow ” with the strains of 
adoration in which they were invited to join, 
and to have done their best, by grimaces and 
gestures, to distract the attention of those 
who were fixing their thoughts on the solemn 
offering of prayer ; or of those who, after 
having joined with apparent sincerity in reli¬ 
gious worship, simultaneously took their de¬ 
parture as the hour approached for the break¬ 
ing up of the city congregations, in order that 
they might “ go to work,” as they expressed 
it ; that is, that they might exert their thievish 
ingenuity upon the dispersing crowds. Now 
if, on the one hand, we admit the influence 
of want, ignorance, and neglect, in accounting 
for the debasement of the savages of ourown 
* The conduct of this corps in the recent out¬ 
break (March 20. 1851), is stated by the Governor 
to have been most admirable. It was under its 
escort alone, that he forced his way through a 
country entirely in possession of the Kaffirs.


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