Last modified: 2006-01-28 by bruce berry
Keywords: diggers republic | free republic | diamond republic | griqualand west republic | adamantia |
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image by Bruce Berry, 10 June 1998
Do you have information about the flag of the Diggers' Republic formed
in the early 1870s in the diamond fields of South Africa, in what was
considered the Province of Griqualand West, a British colony? I have a
couple of pictures in books showing the flag flying. What qualifies a flag
to be listed or become "official"?
Ron Carlson, 09 June 1998
Some information on the flag of the Diggers' Republic:
The Diggers' Republic - also variously described as the Free (Diamond) Republic, the Klipdrift Republic, the Griqualand (West) Republic and the republic of Adamantia - existed for some months during the latter half of 1870 in the alluvial diamond fields of the Vaal River (former Cape Province in South Africa) between Hebron in the east and its confluence with the Harts River in the west.
The publicity surrounding the discovery of diamonds led to hundreds, and then thousands of people flocking to the diamondiferous territory which maps were, before long, to show as "Adamantia". Initially many of the diggers were British subjects from within South Africa, but as word spread further a field they flocked from almost every corner of the globe.
In the absence of any form of government control, the diggers framed a code of rules for the regulation and management of their affairs on the diggings. In the face of what they considered to be predatory claims by the Orange Free State and the Transvaal republics, and also from the Griqua Chief Nicolaas Waterboer, the diggers at Klipdrift, the principal centre on the diggings, also established a "Mutual Protection Association" with Stafford Parker, who had long traded in the area, as Commandant. Parker, a former able-bodied seaman in the Royal Navy, merchant seaman and painter was then a prominent general dealer and owner of a music saloon in Klipdrift.
The first real sign of political interference in the affairs of the diggers came the following month when the Transvaal Volksraad (Parliament) granted the exclusive right to mine for diamonds, other precious stones and minerals to three men with effect from 24 June 1870.
In a report filed from Klipdrift on 15 July 1870, the Argus newspaper correspondent reported that as a result of the news of this concession; "The diggers are in a fearful state of excitement ... and there is to be a meeting of what they proudly call the Provisional republic" tomorrow afternoon".
The following day the special correspondent of the Aliwal Observer, also writing from Klipdrift, reported that " ... several of the crowd ...were immensely cheered whenever ... they called for the diggers to declare for a 'Free Republic' ". He continued that "Great enthusiasm was manifested throughout" and the call "Parker and a republic" was received with cheers and an irregular salute of musketry.
Writing from the Pniel side of the Vaal River the next day (17 July 1870), the special correspondent of the Aliwal Observer noted "Union Jacks and British ensigns flying today". The ensigns referred to would presumably have been Red Ensigns.
Precisely when the diggers declared their "republic" with Stafford Parker as President is not clear from British correspondence, but various writers give the date as 30 July 1870. Both the Free State and Transvaal governments laid claim to the area and it is clear that the diggers did not take kindly to this interference.
In a letter to Lieut.-general Hay, Acting Governor of the Cape Colony,
Theodore Doms, political agent of the Baralong and Batlapin branches of
the Bechuana Nation wrote that on 16 September 1870, "a flag as hoisted
by (one part of) the Diggers (they have different political feelings),
viz. a white flag with the name Free (diamond symbol) republic, and the
Union Jack above, and an independent Government was proclaimed ..."
From this description it is not clear if the Union Jack positioned directly above the name or in the canton as with traditional British ensigns.
Bruce Berry, 10 June 1998