Meent Jacobus Borcherds (1792 - 1844)

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About Meent Jacobus Borcherds

Borcherds, ds. Meent, Predikant.

  • 1762: Op 3 September gebore in Jemmigen, Friesland.
  • 1786: Kom op 19 April in Suid-Afrika aan en word benoem tot derde predikant van die N.G. gemeente van Kaapstad. Word in September na Stellenbosch verplaas.
  • 1795: Na die verowering van die Kaap deur Engeland skryf hy oor die veranderinge wat dit ook op Stellenbosch teweeggebring het.
  • 1802: Sy gedig "De Maan" word gepubliseer. 1825: Hy gee in die Nederduitsche Zuid-Afrikaansche Tijdschrift besonderhede oor Stellcnbosch.
  • 1832: Oorlede.

From Afrikaanse Kinder Ensiklopedie Deel XI 1962

His home 'la Gratitude' is mentioned as part of historic trail in Stellenbosch

A local historical conscience: Meent Borcherds

"Reverend Meent Borcherds from Stellenbosch was instrumental in nurturing this historic consciousness. He was the first poet whose work was published in South Africa and a permanent contributor to the NZAT from its inception in 1824 until his death. After his death, in 1832, his “Gedicht over de volksplanting” (Poem about the Settlement) (Borcherds 1832) was published posthumously in the NZAT. The poem, consisting of 528 lines, can be distinguished from other historic representations of nineteenth-century South Africa since it is one of a few texts dealing with pre-colonial history when most texts usually deal with colonial history after 1652.


The poem is regarded as a reaction to Researches in South Africa (1828) written by the Scottish missionary John Philip. Philip introduced his book, which dealt with the suppression and exploitation of the Khoisan, with a rather idealised description of the state in which the indigenous population lived before the Europeans arrived on the continent. According to Philip, before 1652 the indigenous population possessed qualities exemplary to Europeans in some respects, whereas they resembled a downtrodden Lumpenproletariat at the beginning of the nineteenth century. In his view, the colonists were to blame for their miserable position.


Borcherds refuted Philip’s allegations “poetically”. More than Philip, he adhered to the epistemological approach in accordance with the prevailing poetics in Europe during the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century and was of the opinion that, by using his imagination, he could access areas were ordinary mortals could not. In this way, he could reconstruct prehistoric life in the Cape – an unknown area until the emergence of modern archaeology. Empowered by his imagination, but in reality aided by the authoritative descriptions of the Khoikhoi in the Dutch translation of Kolb’s Caput bonae Spei hodiernum (1719), he gave a derogatory portrayal of the Khoikhoi describing them as filthy, promiscuous and wild nomads, who had been perfectly capable of creating this wretched life by themselves rather than by the colonists. On the contrary, the colonists could save them from the state of moral decay in which they had lived before 1652 and lead them to salvation since they could learn from the colonists’ Christian religion and morality.


Borcherds’s line of reasoning is intended as a justification of the colonial relations as they had developed by the nineteenth century. As opposed to Philip’s indictment of colonialism in South Africa and the glorification of natural life by the primitivists, Borcherds demonstrated that colonial rule had corrected the immoral lifestyle of the indigenous population by trying to convert them to Christianity. As far as I know, it is the first time in South Africa that historical arguments were used to cover up colonial practices."