Located in an area of Bechuanaland, west of the Transvaal, Goshen existed as an independent nation for a short period; from 1882 to 1883 as the State of Goshen and, after unification with neighbouring Stellaland, as the United States of Stellaland (Dutch: Verenigde Staten van Stellaland) from 1883 to 1885.
During its history, Goshen, though small in size, became a focal point of conflict between the British Empire and the South African Republic, the two major players vying over the territory. After a series of claims and annexations, British fears of Boer expansionism ultimately led to its demise and, among other factors, set the stage for the Second Boer War of 1899–1902.
State of Goshen
Het Land Goosen (Dutch)
Motto: Gewapend en Regtvaardig
Dutch: Armed and Fair
Location of Goshen in Southern Africa (1882–1883)
|Nicolaas Claudius Gey van Pittius|
• Founding of Goshen
|24 October 1882|
• Unified as United States of Stellaland
|10,400 km2 (4,000 sq mi)|
|Currency||South African pound (£)|
Before the proclamation of Goshen, the land was under the control of competing Griqua and Tswana groups, while the United Kingdom laid claim to it as part of the emerging protectorate of British Bechuanaland. Two of the indigenous groups were under the leadership of chiefs Mankurwane and Montshiwa, whom the British regarded as "friendly," and another two under the leadership of chiefs Moshoette and Massouw.
In the mid-nineteenth century, voortrekkers (Boer settlers) established themselves in the region and in the early 1880s they supported Moshoette in his battles against Mankurwane and Montshiwa, helping to besiege Montshiwa's stronghold Mahikeng. Mahikeng fell on 24 October 1882 and, in gratitude, Moshoette ceded large portions of Mankurwane's land (416 farms of 3,000 morgen (2,563 hectares) each) to the Boer mercenaries who had supported him.
The mercenaries, led by Nicolaas Claudius Gey van Pittius, immediately declared independence (followed by an official proclamation on 21 November 1882), naming the new nation after the Book of Genesis's Land of Goshen, "the best of the land of Egypt given to Joseph", with its capital at Rooigrond ("Red Ground").
Goshen covered an area of 10,400 km2 (4,015 sq mi), with its northern border the Molopo River, and sharing a border with the Transvaal. It had an estimated population of 17,000, of whom approximately 2,000 were of European origin. Goshen's capital Rooigrond was little more than a fortified farm consisting of a collection of mud huts and a population of a few dozen, situated near Mafeking.
While the British government was at first unconcerned about the declaration of independence of Goshen and Stellaland, and felt it could not prevent such proclamations of independence, Cecil Rhodes recognised the economic implications of an independent Boer republic blocking the transit of goods between the Cape Colony and British Central Africa and began to agitate the Cape Colony Government to forcibly take control of the area.
As part of his plan to bring the United States of Stellaland under British rule, Rhodes and colleague Frank Thompson travelled to Stellaland in September 1884 to convince the locals of the advantages of Cape rule. While the Stellaland residents were receptive to Rhodes, Goshenites proved to be far more hostile; while Rhodes stayed at the Goshen border, Thompson visited Rooigrond to speak to the President Gey van Pittius, who was living in a tent. Gey van Pittius immediately arrested Thompson before eventually releasing him to tell Rhodes that Goshen remained independent and demanded British recognition of that independence.
In response to Rhodes' actions, on 16 September 1884, Transvaal's President Paul Kruger proclaimed Transvaal's annexation of Goshen and Stellaland in "the interests of humanity" and on 3 October, Transvaal's Director of Education, Reverend Stephanus du Toit, arrived in RooiGrand, made a fiery speech, renamed the town "Heliopolis" and raised the Transvaal flag.
As a result, the British told Kruger that annexation was unacceptable and December 1884, 4000 troops of the Bechuanaland Expeditionary Force, led by General Charles Warren, were sent from England to quell the Boers and force Goshen and Stellaland to capitulate. Warren met with no resistance and Goshen was subsequently incorporated into British Bechuanaland.