Hendrik A.L. Hamelberg as a young man
Hendrik Antonie Lodewijk Hammelberg, was born in the Netherlands in 1826, where he also completed his master’s degree in Law. In 1855, he decided to come to South Africa as a “test run”. His diary starts when he departs for Cape Town in October 1855. He describes the sea voyage, which took about two months, and his six-month stay in the Cape in detail. In July 1856 he departs for Bloemfontein by cape cart – a journey that took close to a month and which he diarises extensively.
Once in Bloemfontein, he started making arrangements to be allowed to practice as a lawyer and attorney. He opened a law practice and lead a comfortable existence. President Boshoff, the second president of the newly independent Republic of the Orange Free State, appointed him as die secretary of the Volksraad. Later he entered politics and was the member of parliament for district of Ondervalschriver for a short while. When Boshoff resigned in 1859, Hamelberg also resigned as member of parliament. However, when J.H. Brand was elected as president, Hamelberg was elected as member of parliament for the Bethulie constituency.
Bloemfontein in 1851, as seen from the North West (Painting by Thomas Bains)
As mentioned, Hamelberg was a well-educated man who completed his master’s degree in Law at the University of Utrecht. He had a very high opinion of his own ability – this led him to be a contentious, even hated, figure in some circles. He often wrote opinion pieces in the newspapers about reforms needed in state organizations. However, his tone was so affected and highbrow that the simple society of the Orange Free State developed a disapproval of him.
There were times when Hamelberg was popular in the community, especially when he offered his support to president Jan Brand during the negotiations with the Cape governor to try and solve the Basotho problem. He was also composing an anthem for the Free State, which he had set to music by the Dutch composer, Nicolai. He presented this song to the Volksraad on 23 February 1866, the 12th birthday of the republic. The song was accepted with gratitude and took effect immediately. This act is perhaps his strongest claim to a place in the history of the Orange Free State.