Journal for the Study of Religion

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J.T. van der Kemp and his Critique of the Settler Farmers on the South African Colonial Frontier (1799-1811)

Johannes A. Smit


As first London Missionary Society (LMS) President of African Missions in South Africa, J.T. van der Kemp came into conflict with the settler farmers on the South African  frontier (1799-1811). This revolves around the fact that the settler farmers saw  themselves as settled in South Africa (and not as a temporary phenomenon as  perceived by the D.E.I.C.), that they supported the patriot and revolutionary  movements in the Netherlands/ Europe, and America, and were critical of both the British and the Dutch governments of their time. They in actual fact rebelled against these government, were slave holders, participated in the slave trade, and manifested ‘cruelty’ towards the Khoi and Xhosa on the frontier. This article unpacks these issues with specific reference to Van der Kemp’s South African texts as published by the LMS in their Transactions of the London Missionary Society Volumes I – III. Theoretically, I draw on some insights from works of Michel Foucault, especially with regard to  eighteenth and early nineteenth century ‘representational thought’, where ‘idea’ and ‘object’ are directly related.

Keywords: J.T. van der Kemp, settler farmers, frontier, patriot, rebellion, slavery, baptism, cruelty, Black Circuit Court

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