Inventory of Archives of the Secretary of the Burgher Military Council, 1718 - 1795

Fonds Specifications


Biographical History
The precise date on wich the Burgher Military Council was established and the circumstances that attended its origin could not be determined. The earliest reference to the council is to be found in the resolutions of the Council of Policy of 5 November 1699 when the military council recommended to the Council of Policy that the infantry section of the Cape Burgher Watch be divided into two sections. The council was again mentioned in a placcaat (act) issued on 8 April 1710. [1]
The earliest documents of this archives that could be traced, date back to 1712. Thus, there is a relatively long period during wich the body existed but for witch no documents were preserved.
Altough the Burger Military Council existed de facto from before 1712 , the administration and functions of this body were defined by the Council of Policy for the first time in 1768. [2]However, it can be accepted that the instructions whereby the council now functioned, were mainly a consolidation of the practise used since the creation of the body.
The main function of the Burgher Military Council was to exercise control over the Cape Burgher Watch, a body created to aid the garrison protect the Cape against attacks from outside as well as unlawful activities of the burghers.
The burgher watch, the existence of wich gave rise to the establishment of the Burgher Military Council as its controlling body, began to develop shortly after the creation of free burghers. In 1659, it was already decided to organize the burghers into a company of riflemen to halt attacks from hottentots and bandits. [3]The Cape burghers were converted into a watch in 1686 to maintain order in the Cape. [4]The militia would now guard the hospital in the same manner as the free burghers guarded the butchery (vleeshuis).
The watch that was created in 1686, apperently ceased to exist because in 1696 ten years later, it is again mentioned that a burgher was instituted wich would patrol around Cape Town during the night. [5]
With the first Britisch Occupation of the Cape in 1795, the burgher watch as well as the military council apparently ceased to exist, because after this date all traces, suggesting a further possible survival of the bodies concerned, disappeared.
Meagre information was traced on the establishment, development and functions of the post of secretary of the Burgher Military Council. In the council minutes of 3 January, 1724, one Jan de Waal is mentioned as having served the council as Scribe or Secretary. Certain Services for wich he received payment were also defined in the minutes. [6]His functions were as follows:
  1. Recording the minutes of the Burgher Military Council.
  2. Issuing of summonses to appear before the council.
  3. Handling the transfer of a burgher from one company to another at his own request.
A fourth function, namely the compilation of muster rolls of the Cape Burgher Watch was possibly also the responsibility of the secretary of the Burgher Military Council. This conclusion was reached as a result of the following:
The instructions of the Burgher Military Council approved by the Council of Policy on 6 September 1768 mentioned that the secretary of the Burgher Military Council would also act as secretary of the Cape Burgher watch.
The resolution of the Council of Policy of 26 Januari 1787 mentions that certain burghers were to register themselves at the office of the secretary of the burgher watch. Together with the fact that one of the functions of the secretary of the military council was the organization of the transfer of burghers from one company to another, it appears logical that the joint position of the secratary of the military council and secretary of the burgher watch, included the task of compiling the muster rolls.