AN AFRICAN ADVENTURE
BY THE SAME AUTHOR
ADVENTURES IN INTERVIEWING
PEACE AND BUSINESS
S. O. S: AMERICAS'S MIRACLE IN FRANCE
THE BUSINESS OF WAR
THE REBIRTH OF RUSSIA
THE WAR AFTER THE WAR
LEONARD WOOD: PROPHET OF PREPAREDNESS
AN AFRICAN ADVENTURE
ISAAC F. MARCOSSON
AUTHOR OF "ADVENTURES IN INTERVIEWING," ETC.
NEW YORK: JOHN LANE COMPANY LONDON: JOHN LANE, THE BODLEY HEAD
COPYRIGHT . 1921 BY THE CURTIS PUBLISHING COMPANY
COPYRIGHT . 1921 BY JOHN LANE COMPANY
THE PLIMPTON PRESS NORWOOD . MASS . U.S.A
To THOMAS F. RYAN WHO FIRST BEHELD THE VISION OF AMERICA IN THE CONGO
From earliest boyhood when I read the works of Henry M. Stanley and books about Cecil Rhodes, Africa has called to me. It was not until I met General Smuts during the Great War, however, that I had a definite reason for going there.
After these late years of blood and battle America and Europe seemed tame. Besides, the economic war after the war developed into a struggle as bitter as the actual physical conflict. Discord and discontent became the portion of the civilized world. I wanted to get as far as possible from all this social unrest and financial dislocation.
So much interest was evinced in the magazine articles which first set forth the record of my journey that I was prompted to expand them into this book. It may enable the reader to discover a section of the one-time Dark Continent without the hardships which I experienced.
I. F. M.
NEW YORK, April, 1921
I. SMUTS 15
II. "CAPE-TO-CAIRO" 57
III. RHODES AND RHODESIA 103
IV. THE CONGO TODAY 139
V. ON THE CONGO RIVER 177
VI. AMERICA IN THE CONGO 225
LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS
King Albert Frontispiece
Groote Schuur facing page 28
General J. C. Smuts 44
Mr. Marcosson's Route in Africa 56
Cecil Rhodes 76
The Premier Diamond Mine 90
Victoria Falls 102
Cultivating Citrus Land in Rhodesia 110
The Grave of Cecil Rhodes 132
A Katanga Copper Mine 138
Lord Leverhulme 144
Robert Williams 144
On the Lualaba 150
A View on the Kasai 150
A Station Scene at Kongola 156
A Native Market at Kindu 162
Native Fish Traps at Stanley Falls 168
The Massive Bangalas 176
Congo Women in State Dress 176
Central African Pygmies 182
Women Making Pottery 190
The Congo Pickaninny 190
The Heart of the Equatorial Forest 198
Natives Piling Wood 204
A Wood Post on the Congo 204
Residential Quarters at Alberta 210
The Comte de Flandre 210
A Typical Oil Palm Forest 216
Bringing in the Palm Fruit 216
A Specimen of Cicatrization 220
A Sankuru Woman Playing Native Draughts 220
The Belgian Congo 224
Thomas F. Ryan 228
Jean Jadot 236
Emile Francqui 242
A Belle of the Congo 246
Women of the Batetelas 246
Fishermen on the Sankuru 254
The Falls of the Sankuru 254
A Congo Diamond Mine 260
How the Mines Are Worked 260
Gravel Carriers at a Congo Mine 266
Congo Natives Picking out Diamonds 266
Washing out Gravel 272
Donald Doyle and Mr. Marcosson 272
The Park at Boma 278
A Street in Matadi 278
A General View of Matadi 282
AN AFRICAN ADVENTURE
AN AFRICAN ADVENTURE
Turn the searchlight on the political and economic chaos that has followed the Great War and you find a surprising lack of real leadership. Out of the mists that enshroud the world welter only three commanding personalities emerge. In England Lloyd George survives amid the storm of party clash and Irish discord. Down in Greece Venizelos, despite defeat, remains an impressive figure of high ideals and uncompromising patriotism. Off in South Africa Smuts gives fresh evidence of his vision and authority.
Although he was Britain's principal prop during the years of agony and disaster, Lloyd George is, in the last analysis, merely an eloquent and spectacular politician with the genius of opportunism. One reason why he holds his post is that there is no one to take his place,—another commentary on the paucity of greatness. There is no visible heir to Venizelos. Besides, Greece is a small country without international touch and interest. Smuts, youngest of the trio, looms up as the most brilliant statesman of his day and his career has just entered upon a new phase.
He is the dominating actor in a drama that not only affects the destiny of the whole British Empire, but has significance for every civilized nation. The quality of striking contrast has always been his. The one-time Boer General, who fought Roberts and Kitchener twenty years ago, is battling with equal tenacity for the integrity of the Imperial Union born of that war. Not in all history perhaps, is revealed a more picturesque situation than obtains in South Africa today. You have the whole Nationalist movement crystallized into a single compelling episode. In a word, it is contemporary Ireland duplicated without violence and extremism.
I met General Smuts often during the Great War. He stood out as the most intellectually alert, and in some respects the most distinguished figure among the array of nation-guiders with whom I talked, and I interviewed them all. I saw him as he sat in the British War Cabinet when the German hosts were sweeping across the Western Front, and when the German submarines were making a shambles of the high seas. I heard him speak with persuasive force on public occasions and he was like a beacon in the gloom. He had come to England in 1917 as the representative of General Botha, the Prime Minister of the Union of South Africa, to attend the Imperial Conference and to remain a comparatively short time. So great was the need of him that he did not go home until after the Peace had been signed. He signed the Treaty under protest because he believed it was uneconomic and it has developed into the irritant that he prophesied it would be.
In those war days when we foregathered, Smuts often talked of "the world that would be." The real Father of the League of Nations idea, he believed that out of the immense travail would develop a larger fraternity, economically sound and without sentimentality. It was a great and yet a practical dream.
More than once he asked me to come to South Africa. I needed little urging. From my boyhood the land of Cecil Rhodes has always held a lure for me. Smuts invested it with fresh interest. So I went.
The Smuts that I found at close range on his native heath, wearing the mantle of the departed Botha, carrying on a Government with a minority, and with the shadow of an internecine war brooding on the horizon, was the same serene, clear-thinking strategist who had raised his voice in the Allied Councils. Then the enemy was the German and the task was to destroy the menace of militarism. Now it was his own unreconstructed Boer—blood of his blood,—and behind that Boer the larger problem of a rent and dissatisfied universe, waging peace as bitterly as it waged war. Smuts the dreamer was again Smuts the fighter, with the fight of his life on his hands.
Thus it came about that I found myself in Capetown. Everybody goes out to South Africa from England on those Union Castle boats so familiar to all readers of English novels. Like the P. & O. vessels that Kipling wrote about in his Indian stories, they are among the favorite first aids to the makers of fiction. Hosts of heroes in books—and some in real life—sail each year to their romantic fate aboard them.
It was the first day of the South African winter when I arrived, but back in America spring was in full bloom. I looked out on the same view that had thrilled the Portuguese adventurers of the fifteenth century when they swept for the first time into Table Bay. Behind the harbor rose Table Mountain and stretching from it downward to the sea was a land with verdure clad and aglare with the African sun that was to scorch my paths for months to come.
Capetown nestles at the foot of a vast flat-topped mass of granite unique among the natural elevations of the world. She is another melting pot. Here mingle Kaffir and Boer, Basuto and Britisher, East Indian and Zulu. The hardy rancher and fortune-hunter from the North Country rub shoulders with the globe-trotter. In the bustling streets modern taxicabs vie for space with antiquated hansoms bearing names like "Never Say Die," "Home Sweet Home," or "Honeysuckle." All the horse-drawn public vehicles have names.
You get a familiar feel of America in this South African country and especially in the Cape Colony, which is a place of fruits, flowers and sunshine resembling California. There is the sense of newness in the atmosphere, and something of the abandon that you encounter among the people of Australia and certain parts of Canada. It comes from life spent in the open and the spirit of pioneering that within a comparatively short time has wrested a huge domain from the savage.
What strikes the observer at once is the sharp conflict of race, first, between black and white, and then, between Briton and Boer. South of the Zambesi River,—and this includes Rhodesia and the Union of South Africa,—the native outnumbers the white more than six to one and he is increasing at a much greater rate than the European. Hence you have an inevitable conflict. Race lies at the root of the South African trouble and the racial reconciliation that Rhodes and Botha set their hopes upon remains an elusive quantity.
I got a hint of what Smuts was up against the moment I arrived. I had cabled him of my coming and he sent an orderly to the steamer with a note of welcome and inviting me to lunch with him at the House of Parliament the next day. In the letter, among other things he said: "You will find this a really interesting country, full of curious problems." How curious they were I was soon to find out.
I called for him at his modest book-lined office in a street behind the Parliament Buildings and we walked together to the House. Heretofore I had only seen him in the uniform of a Lieutenant General in the British Army. Now he wore a loose-fitting lounge suit and a slouch hat was jammed down on his head. In the change from khaki to mufti—and few men can stand up under this transition without losing some of the character of their personal appearance,—he remained a striking figure. There is something wistful in his face—an indescribable look that projects itself not only through you but beyond. It is not exactly preoccupation but a highly developed concentration. This look seemed to be enhanced by the ordeal through which he was then passing. In his springy walk was a suggestion of pugnacity. His whole manner was that of a man in action and who exults in it. Roosevelt had the same characteristic but he displayed it with much more animation and strenuosity.
We sat down in the crowded dining room of the House of Parliament where the Prime Minister had invited a group of Cabinet Ministers and leading business men of Capetown. Around us seethed a noisy swirl which reflected the turmoil of the South African political situation. Parliament had just convened after an historic election in which the Nationalists, the bitter antagonists of Botha and Smuts, had elected a majority of representatives for the first time. Smuts was hanging on to the Premiership by his teeth. A sharp division of vote, likely at any moment, would have overthrown the Government. It meant a regime hostile to Britain that carried with it secession and the remote possibility of civil war.
In that restaurant, as throughout the whole Union, Smuts was at that moment literally the observed of all observers. Far off in London the powers-that-be were praying that this blonde and bearded Boer could successfully man the imperial breach. Yet he sat there smiling and unafraid and the company that he had assembled discussed a variety of subjects that ranged from the fall in exchange to the possibilities of the wheat crop in America.
The luncheon was the first of various meetings with Smuts. Some were amid the tumult of debate or in the shadow of the legislative halls, others out in the country at Groote Schuur, the Prime Minister's residence, where we walked amid the gardens that Cecil Rhodes loved, or sat in the rooms where the Colossus "thought in terms of continents." It was a liberal education.
Before we can go into what Smuts said during these interviews it is important to know briefly the whole approach to the crowded hour that made the fullest test of his resource and statesmanship. Clearly to understand it you must first know something about the Boer and his long stubborn struggle for independence which ended, for a time at least, in the battle and blood of the Boer War.
Capetown, the melting pot, is merely a miniature of the larger boiling cauldron of race which is the Union of South Africa. In America we also have an astonishing mixture of bloods but with the exception of the Bolshevists and other radical uplifters, our population is loyally dedicated to the American flag and the institutions it represents. With us Latin, Slav, Celt, and Saxon have blended the strain that proved its mettle as "Americans All" under the Stars and Stripes in France. We have given succor and sanctuary to the oppressed of many lands and these foreign elements, in the main, have not only been grateful but have proved to be distinct assets in our national expansion. We are a merged people.
With South Africa the situation is somewhat different. The roots of civilization there were planted by the Dutch in the days of the Dutch East India Company when Holland was a world power. The Dutchman is a tenacious and stubborn person. Although the Huguenots emigrated to the Cape in considerable force in the seventeenth century and intermarried with the transplanted Hollanders, the Dutch strain, and with it the Dutch characteristics predominated. They have shaped South African history ever since. This is why the Boer is still referred to in popular parlance as "a Dutchman."
The Dutch have always been a proud and liberty-loving people, as the Duke of Alva and the Spaniard learned to their cost. This inherited desire for freedom has flamed in the hearts of the Boers. In the early African day they preferred to journey on to the wild and unknown places rather than sacrifice their independence. What is known as "The Great Trek" of the thirties, which opened up the Transvaal and subsequently the Orange Free State and Natal, was due entirely to unrest among the Cape Boers. There is something of the epic in the narrative of those doughty, psalm-singing trekkers who, like the Mormons in the American West, went forth in their canvas-covered wagons with a rifle in one hand and the Bible in the other. They fought the savage, endured untold hardships, and met fate with a grim smile on their lips. It took Britain nearly three costly years to subdue their descendants, an untrained army of farmers.
A revelation of the Boer character, therefore, is an index to the South African tangle. His enemies call the Boer "a combination of cunning and childishness." As a matter of fact the Boer is distinct among individualists. "Oom Paul" Kruger was a type. A fairly familiar story will concretely illustrate what lies within and behind the race. On one occasion his thumb was nearly severed in an accident. With his pocket-knife he cut off the finger, bound up the wound with a rag, and went about his business.
The old Boer—and the type survives—was a Puritan who loved his five-thousand-acre farm where he could neither see nor hear his neighbors, who read the Good Word three times a day, drank prodigious quantities of coffee, spoke "taal" the Dutch dialect, and reared a huge family. Botha, for example, was one of thirteen children, and his father lamented to his dying day that he had not done his full duty by his country!
Isolation was the Boer fetich. This instinct for aloofness,—principally racial,—animates the sincere wing of the Nationalist Party today. Men like Botha and Smuts and their followers adapted themselves to assimilation but there remained the "bitter-end" element that rebelled in arms against the constituted authority in 1914 and had to be put down with merciless hand. This element now seeks to achieve through more peaceful ends what it sought to do by force the moment Britain became involved in the Great War. The reason for the revolt of 1914, in a paragraph, was Britain's far-flung call to arms. The unreconstructed Boers refused to fight for the Power that humbled them in 1902. They seized the moment to make a try for what they called "emancipation."
To go back for a moment, when the British conquered the Cape and thousands of Englishmen streamed out to Africa to make their fortunes, the Boer at once bristled with resentment. His isolation was menaced. He regarded the Briton as an "Uitlander"—an outsider—and treated him as an undesirable alien. In the Transvaal and the Orange Free State he was denied the rights that are accorded to law-abiding citizens in other countries. Hence the Jameson Raid, which was an ill-starred protest against the narrow, copper-riveted Boer rule, and later the final and sanguinary show-down in the Boer War, which ended the dream of Boer independence.
In 1910 was established the Union of South Africa, comprising the Transvaal, the Orange Free State, Natal and the Cape Colony which obtained responsible government and which is to all intents and purposes a dominion as free as Australia or Canada. England sends out a Governor-General, usually a high-placed and titled person but he is a be-medalled figure-head,—an ornamental feature of the landscape. His principal labours are to open fairs, attend funerals, preside at harmless gatherings, and bestow decorations upon worthy persons. First Botha, and later Smuts, have been the real rulers of the country.
The Union Constitution decreed that bi-lingualism must prevail. As a result every public notice, document, and time-table is printed in both English and Dutch. The tie of language is a strong one and this eternal and unuttered presence of the "taal" has been an asset for the Nationalists to exploit. It is a link with the days of independence.
Following the Boer War came a sharp cleavage among the Boers. That great farm-bred soldier and statesman, Louis Botha, accepted the verdict and became the leader of what might be called a reconciled reconstruction. Firm in the belief that the future of South Africa was greater than the smaller and selfish issue of racial pride and prejudice, he rallied his open-minded and far-seeing countrymen around him. Out of this group developed the South African Party which remains the party of the Dutch loyal to British rule. To quote the program of principles, "Its political object is the development of a South African spirit of national unity and self-reliance through the attainment of the lasting union of the various sections of the people."
Botha was made Premier of the Transvaal as soon as the Colony was granted self-government and with the accomplishment of Union was named Prime Minister of the Federation. The first man that he called to the standard of the new order to become his Colonial Minister, or more technically, Minister of the Interior, was Smuts, who had left his law office in Johannesburg to fight the English in 1900 and who displayed the same consummate strategy in the field that he has since shown in Cabinet meeting and Legislative forum. With peace he returned to law but not for long. Now began his political career—he has held public office continuously ever since—that is a vital part of the modern history of South Africa.
In the years immediately following Union the genius of Botha had full play. He wrought a miracle of evolution. Under his influence the land which still bore the scars of war was turned to plenty. He was a farmer and he bent his energy and leadership to the rebuilding of the shattered commonwealths. Their hope lay in the soil. His right arm was Smuts, who became successively Minister of Finance and Minister of Public Defense.
The belief that reconciliation had dawned was rudely disturbed when the Great War crashed into civilization. The extreme Nationalists rebelled and it was Botha, aided by Smuts, who crushed them. Beyers, the ringleader, was drowned while trying to escape across the Vaal River, DeWet was defeated in the field, De la Rey was accidentally shot, and Maritz became a fugitive. Botha then conquered the Germans in German South-West Africa and Smuts subsequently took over the command of the Allied Forces in German East Africa. When Botha died in 1919 Smuts not only assumed the Premiership of the Union but he also inherited the bitter enmity that General J. B. M. Hertzog bore towards his lamented Chief.
Now we come to the crux of the whole business, past and present. Who is Hertzog and what does he stand for?
If you look at your history of the Boer War you will see that one of the first Dutch Generals to take the field and one of the last to leave it was Hertzog, an Orange Free State lawyer who had won distinction on the Bench. He helped to frame the Union Constitution and on the day he signed it, declared that it was a distinct epoch in his life. A Boer of the Boers, he seemed to catch for the moment, the contagion that radiated from Botha and spelled a Greater South Africa.
Botha made him Minister of Justice and all was well. But deep down in his heart Hertzog remained unrepentant. When the question of South Africa's contribution to the Imperial Navy came up in 1912 he fought it tooth and nail. In fiery utterances attacking the Government he denounced Botha as a jingoist and an imperialist. Just about this time he made the famous speech in which he stated his ideal of South Africa. He declared that Briton and Boer were "two separate streams"—two nationalities each flowing in a separate channel. The "two streams" slogan is now the Nationalist battlecry.
Such procedure on the part of Hertzog demanded prompt action on the part of Botha, who called upon his colleague either to suppress his particular brand of anathema or resign. Hertzog not only built a bigger bonfire of denunciation but refused to resign.
Botha thereupon devised a unique method of ridding himself of his uncongenial Minister. He resigned, the Government fell, and the Cabinet dissolved automatically. Hertzog was left out in the cold. The Governor-General immediately re-appointed Botha Prime Minister and he reorganized his Cabinet without the undesirable Hertzog.
Hertzog became the Stormy Petrel of South Africa, vowing vengeance against Botha and Britain. He galvanized the Nationalist Party, which up to this time had been merely a party of opposition, into what was rapidly becoming a flaming secession movement. The South African Party developed into the only really national party, while its opponent, although bearing the name of National, was solely and entirely racial.
The first real test of strength was in the election of 1915. The campaign was bitter and belligerent. The venom of the Nationalist Party was concentrated on Smuts. Many of his meetings became bloody riots. He was the target for rotten fruit and on one occasion an attempt was made on his life. The combination of the Botha personality and the Smuts courage and reason won out and the South African Party remained in power.
Undaunted, Hertzog carried on the fight. He soon had the supreme advantage of having the field to himself because Botha was off fighting the Germans and Smuts had gone to England to help mould the Allied fortunes. The Nationalist leader made hay while the red sun of war shone. Every South African who died on the battlefield was for him just another argument for separation from England.
When Ireland declared herself a "republic" Hertzog took the cue and counted his cause in with that of the "small nations" that needed self-determination. "Afrika for the Afrikans," the old motto of the Afrikander Bond, was unfurled from the masthead and the sedition spread. It not only recruited the Boers who had an ancient grievance against Great Britain, but many others who secretly resented the Botha and Smuts intimacy with "the conquerors." Some were sons and grandsons of the old "Vortrekkers," who not only delighted to speak the "taal" exclusively but who had never surrendered the ideal of independence.
While the Dutch movement in South Africa strongly resembles the Irish rebellion there are also some marked differences. In South Africa there is no religious barrier and as a result there has been much intermarriage between Briton and Boer. The English in South Africa bear the same relation to the Nationalist movement there that the Ulsterites bear to the Sinn Feiners in Ireland. Instead of being segregated as are the followers of Sir Edward Carson, they are scattered throughout the country.
At the General Election held early in 1920,—general elections are held every five years,—the results were surprising. The Nationalists returned a majority of four over the South African Party in Parliament. It left Smuts to carry on his Government with a minority. To add to his troubles, the Labour Party,—always an uncertain proposition,—increased its representation from a mere handful to twenty-one, while the Unionists, who comprise the straight-out English-speaking Party, whose stronghold is Natal, suffered severe losses. Smuts could not very well count the latter among his open allies because it would have alienated the hard-shell Boers in the South African Party.
This was the situation that I found on my arrival in Capetown. On one hand was Smuts, still Prime Minister, taxing his every resource as parliamentarian and pacificator to maintain the Union and prevent a revolt from Britain—all in the face of a bitter and hostile majority. On the other hand was Hertzog, bent on secession and with a solid array of discontents behind him. The two former comrades of the firing line, as the heads of their respective groups, were locked in a momentous political life-and-death struggle the outcome of which may prove to be the precedent for Ireland, Egypt, and India.
Yet Smuts continued as Premier which means that he brought the life of Parliament to a close without a sharp division. Moreover, he manoeuvered his forces into a position that saved the day for Union and himself. How did he do it?
I can demonstrate one way and with a rather personal incident. During the week I spent in Capetown Smuts was an absorbed person as you may imagine. The House was in session day and night and there were endless demands on him. The best opportunities that we had for talk were at meal-time. One evening I dined with him in the House restaurant. When we sat down we thought that we had the place to ourselves. Suddenly Smuts cast his eye over the long room and saw a solitary man just commencing his dinner in the opposite corner. Turning to me he said:
"Do you know Cresswell?"
"I was introduced to him yesterday," I replied.
"Would you mind if I asked him to dine with us?"
When I assured him that I would be delighted, the Prime Minister got up, walked over to Cresswell and asked him to join us, which he did.
The significant part of this apparently simple performance, which had its important outcome, was this. Colonel F. H. P. Cresswell is the leader of the Labour Party in South Africa. By profession a mining engineer, he led the forces of revolt in the historic industrial upheaval in the Rand in what Smuts denounced as a "Syndicalist Conspiracy." Riot, bloodshed, and confusion reigned for a considerable period at Johannesburg and large bodies of troops had to be called out to restore order. At the very moment that we sat down to dine that night no one knew just what Cresswell and the Labourites with their new-won power would do. Smuts, as Minister of Finance, had deported some of Cresswell's men and Cresswell himself narrowly escaped drastic punishment.
When Smuts brought Cresswell over he said jokingly to me:
"Cresswell is a good fellow but I came near sending him to jail once."
Cresswell beamed and the three of us amiably discussed various topics until the gong sounded for the assembling of the House.
What was the result? Before I left Capetown and when the first of the few occasions which tested the real voting strength of Parliament arose, Cresswell and some of his adherents voted with Smuts. I tell this little story to show that the man who today holds the destiny of South Africa in his hands is as skillful a diplomat as he is soldier and statesman.
It was at one of these quiet dinners with Smuts at the House that he first spoke about Nationalism. He said: "The war gave Nationalism its death blow. But as a matter of fact Nationalism committed suicide in the war."
"But what is Nationalism?" I asked him.
"A water-tight nation in a water-tight compartment," he replied. "It is a process of regimentation like the old Germany that will soon merge into a new Internationalism. What seems to be at this moment an orgy of Nationalism in South Africa or elsewhere is merely its death gasp. The New World will be a world of individualism dominated by Britain and America.
"What about the future?" I asked him. His answer was:
"The safety of the future depends upon Federation, upon a League of Nations that will develop along economic and not purely sentimental lines. The New Internationalism will not stop war but it can regulate exchange, and through this regulation can help to prevent war.
"I believe in an international currency which will be a sort of legal tender among all the nations. Why should the currency of the country depreciate or rise with the fortunes of war or with its industrial or other complications? Misfortune should not be penalized fiscally."
I brought up the question of the lack of accord which then existed between Britain and America and suggested that perhaps the fall in exchange had something to do with it, whereupon he said: "Yes, I think it has. It merely illustrates the point that I have just made about an international currency."
We came back to the subject of individualism, which led Smuts to say:
"The Great War was a striking illustration of the difference between individualism and nationalism. Hindenberg commanded the only army in the war. It was a product of nationalism. The individualism of the Anglo-Saxon is such that it becomes a mob but it is an intelligent mob. Haig and Pershing commanded such mobs."
I tried to probe Smuts about Russia. He was in London when I returned from Petrograd in 1917 and I recall that he displayed the keenest interest in what I told him about Kerensky and the new order that I had seen in the making. I heard him speak at a Russian Fair in London. The whole burden of his utterance was the hope that the Slav would achieve discipline and organization. At that time Russia redeemed from autocracy looked to be a bulwark of Allied victory. The night we talked about Russia at Capetown she had become the prey of red terror and the plaything of organized assassination.
Smuts looked rather wistful when he said:
"You cannot defeat Russia. Napoleon learned this to his cost and so will the rest of the world. I do not know whether Bolshevism is advancing or subsiding. There comes a time when the fiercest fires die down. But the best way to revive or rally all Russia to the Soviet Government is to invade the country and to annex large slices of it."
These utterances were made during those more or less hasty meals at the House of Parliament when the Premier's mind was really in the Legislative Hall nearby where he was fighting for his administrative life. It was far different out at Groote Schuur, the home of the Prime Minister, located in Rondebosch, a suburb about nine miles from Capetown. In the open country that he loves, and in an environment that breathed the romance and performance of England's greatest empire-builder, I caught something of the man's kindling vision and realized his ripe grasp of international events.
Groote Schuur is one of the best-known estates in the world. Cecil Rhodes in his will left it to the Union as the permanent residence of the Prime Minister. Ever since I read the various lives of Rhodes I had had an impatient desire to see this shrine of achievement. Here Rhodes came to live upon his accession to the Premiership of the Cape Colony; here he fashioned the British South Africa Company which did for Rhodesia what the East India Company did for India; here came prince and potentate to pay him honour; here he dreamed his dreams of conquest looking out at mountain and sea; here lived Jameson and Kipling; here his remains lay in state when at forty-nine the fires of his restless ambition had ceased.
Groote Schuur, which in Dutch means "Great Granary," was originally built as a residence and store-house for one of the early Dutch Governors of the Cape. It is a beautiful example of the Dutch architecture that you will find throughout the Colony and which is not surpassed in grace or comfort anywhere. When Rhodes acquired it in the eighties the grounds were comparatively limited. As his power and fortune increased he bought up all the surrounding country until today you can ride for nine miles across the estate. You find no neat lawns and dainty flower-beds. On the place, as in the house itself, you get the sense of bigness and simplicity which were the keynotes of the Rhodes character.
One reason why Rhodes acquired Groote Schuur was that behind it rose the great bulk of Table Mountain. He loved it for its vastness and its solitude. On the back stoep, which is the Dutch word for porch, he sat for hours gazing at this mountain which like the man himself was invested with a spirit of immensity.
It was a memorable experience to be at Groote Schuur with Smuts, who has lived to see the realization of the hope of Union which thrilled always in the heart of Cecil Rhodes. I remember that on the first night I went out the Prime Minister took me through the house himself. It has been contended by Smuts' enemies that he was a "creature of Rhodes." I discovered that Smuts, with the exception of having made a speech of welcome when Rhodes visited the school that he attended as a boy, had never even met the Englishman who left his impress upon a whole land.
Groote Schuur has been described so much that it is not necessary for me to dwell upon its charm and atmosphere here. To see it is to get a fresh and intimate realization of the personality which made the establishment an unofficial Chancellery of the British Empire.
Two details, however, have poignant and dramatic interest. In the simple, massive, bed-room with its huge bay window opening on Table Mountain and a stretch of lovely countryside, hangs the small map of Africa that Rhodes marked with crimson ink and about which he made the famous utterance, "It must be all red." Hanging on the wall in the billiard room is the flag with Crescent and Cape device that he had made to be carried by the first locomotive to travel from Cairo to the Cape. That flag has never been unfurled to the breeze but the vision that beheld it waving in the heart of the jungle is soon to become an accomplished fact.
It was on a night at Groote Schuur, as I walked with Smuts through the acres of hydrangeas and bougainvillea (Rhodes' favorite flowers), with a new moon peeping overhead that I got the real mood of the man. Pointing to the faint silvery crescent in the sky I said: "General, there's a new moon over us and I'm sure it means good luck for you."
"No," he replied, "it's the man that makes the luck."
He had had a trying day in the House and was silent in the motor car that brought us out. The moment we reached the country and he sniffed the scent of the gardens the anxiety and preoccupation fell away. He almost became boyish. But when he began to discuss great problems the lightness vanished and he became the serious thinker.
We harked back to the days when I had first seen him in England. I asked him to tell me what he thought of the aftermath of the stupendous struggle. He said:
"The war was just a phase of world convulsion. It made the first rent in the universal structure. For years the trend of civilization was toward a super-Nationalism. It is easy to trace the stages. The Holy Roman Empire was a phase of Nationalism. That was Catholic. Then came the development of Nationalism, beginning with Napoleon. That was Protestant. Now began the building of water-tight compartments, otherwise known as nations. Germany represented the most complete development.
"But that era of 'my country,' 'my power,'—it is all a form of national ego,—is gone. The four great empires,—Turkey, Germany, Russia and Austria,—have crumbled. The war jolted them from their high estate. It started the universal cataclysm. Centuries in the future some perspective can be had and the results appraised.
"Meanwhile, we can see the beginning. The world is one. Humanity is one and must be one. The war, at terrible cost, brought the peoples together. The League of Nations is a faint and far-away evidence of this solidarity. It merely points the way but it is something. It is not academic formulas that will unite the peoples of the world but intelligence."
Smuts now turned his thought to a subject not without interest for America, for he said:
"The world has been brought together by the press, by wireless, indeed by all communication which represents the last word in scientific development. Yet political institutions cling to old and archaic traditions. Take the Presidency of the United States. A man waits for four months before he is inaugurated. The incumbent may work untold mischief in the meantime. It is all due to the fact that in the days when the American Constitution was framed the stagecoach and the horse were the only means of conveyance. The world now travels by aeroplane and express train, yet the antiquated habits continue.
"So with political parties and peoples, the British Empire included. They need to be brought abreast of the times. The old pre-war British Empire, for example, is gone in the sense of colonies or subordinate nations clustering around one master nation. The British Empire itself is developing into a real League of Nations,—a group of partner peoples."
"What of America and the future?" I asked him.
"America is the leaven of the future," answered Smuts. "She is the life-blood of the League of Nations. Without her the League is stifled. America will give the League the peace temper. You Americans are a pacific people, slow to war but terrible and irresistible when you once get at it. The American is an individualist and in that new and inevitable internationalism the individual will stand out, the American pre-eminently."
Throughout this particular experience at Groote Schuur I could not help marvelling on the contrast that the man and the moment presented. We walked through a place of surpassing beauty. Ahead brooded the black mystery of the mountains and all around was a fragrant stillness broken only by the quick, almost passionate speech of this seer and thinker, animate with an inspiring ideal of public service, whose mind leaped from the high places of poetry and philosophy on to the hiving battlefield of world event. It seemed almost impossible that nine miles away at Capetown raged the storm that almost within the hour would again claim him as its central figure.
The Smuts statements that I have quoted were made long before the Presidential election in America. I do not know just what Smuts thinks of the landslide that overwhelmed the Wilson administration and with it that well-known Article X, but I do know that he genuinely hopes that the United States somehow will have a share in the new international stewardship of the world. He would welcome any order that would enable us to play our part.
No one can have contact with Smuts without feeling at once his intense admiration for America. One of his ambitions is to come to the United States. It is characteristic of him that he has no desire to see skyscrapers and subways. His primary interest is in the great farms of the West. "Your people," he once said to me, "have made farming a science and I wish that South Africa could emulate them. We have farms in vast area but we have not yet attained an adequate development."
I was amazed at his knowledge of American literature. He knows Hamilton backwards, has read diligently about the life and times of Washington, and is familiar with Irving, Poe, Hawthorne and Emerson. One reason why he admires the first American President is because he was a farmer. Smuts knows as much about rotation of crops and successful chicken raising as he does about law and politics. He said:
"I am an eighty per cent farmer and a Boer, and most people think a Boer is a barbarian."
Despite his scholarship he remains what he delights to call himself, "a Boer." He still likes the simple Boer things, as this story will show. During the war, while he was a member of the British War Cabinet and when Lloyd George leaned on him so heavily for a multitude of services, a young South African Major, fresh from the Transvaal, brought him a box of home delicacies. The principal feature of this package was a piece of what the Boers call "biltong," which is dried venison. The Major gave the package to an imposing servant in livery at the Savoy Hotel, where the General lived, to be delivered to him. Smuts was just going out and encountered the man carrying it in. When he learned that it was from home, he grabbed the box, saying: "I'll take it up myself." Before he reached his apartment he was chewing away vigorously on a mouthful of "biltong" and having the time of his life.
The contrast between Smuts and his predecessor Botha is striking. These two men, with the possible exception of Kruger, stand out in the annals of the Boer. Kruger was the dour, stolid, canny, provincial trader. The only time that his interest ever left the confines of the Transvaal was when he sought an alliance with William Hohenzollern, and that person, I might add, failed him at the critical moment.
Botha was the George Washington of South Africa,—the farmer who became Premier. He was big of body and of soul,—big enough to know when he was beaten and to rebuild out of the ruins. Even the Nationalists trusted him and they do not trust Smuts. It is the old story of the prophet in his own country. There are many people in South Africa today who believe that if Botha were alive there would be no secession movement.
The Boers who oppose him politically call Smuts "Slim Jannie." The Dutch word "slim" means tricky and evasive. Not so very long ago Smuts was in a conference with some of his countrymen who were not altogether friendly to him. He had just remarked on the long drought that was prevailing. One of the men present went to the window and looked out. When asked the reason for this action he replied:
"Smuts says that there's a drought. I looked out to see if it was raining."
When you come to Smuts in this analogy you behold the Alexander Hamilton of his nation, the brilliant student, soldier, and advocate. Of all his Boer contemporaries he is the most cosmopolitan. Nor is this due entirely to the fact that he went to Cambridge where he left a record for scholarship, and speaks English with a decided accent. It is because he has what might be called world sense. His career, and more especially his part at the Peace Conference and since, is a dramatization of it.
To the student of human interest Smuts is a fertile subject. His life has been a cinema romance shot through with sharp contrasts. Here is one of them. When leaders of the shattered Boer forces gathered in Vereeniging to discuss the Peace Terms with Kitchener in 1902, Smuts, who commanded a flying guerilla column, was besieging the little mining town of O'okiep. He received a summons from Botha to attend. It was accompanied by a safe-conduct pass signed "D. Haig, Colonel." Later Haig and Smuts stood shoulder to shoulder in a common cause and helped to save civilization.
Smuts is more many-sided than any other contemporary Prime Minister and for that matter, those that have gone into retirement, that is, men like Asquith in England and Clemenceau in France. Among world statesmen the only mind comparable to his is that of Woodrow Wilson. They have in common a high intellectuality. But Wilson in his prime lacked the hard sense and the accurate knowledge of men and practical affairs which are among the chief Smuts assets.
Speaking of Premiers brings me to the inevitable comparison between Smuts and Lloyd George. I have seen them both in varying circumstances, both in public and in private and can attempt some appraisal.
Each has been, and remains, a pillar of Empire. Each has emulated the Admirable Crichton in the variety and multiplicity of public posts. Lloyd George has held five Cabinet posts in England and Smuts has duplicated the record in South Africa. Each man is an inspired orator who owes much of his advancement to eloquent tongue. Their platform manner is totally different. Lloyd George is fascinatingly magnetic in and out of the spotlight while Smuts is more coldly logical. When you hear Lloyd George you are stirred and even exalted by his golden imagery. The sound of his voice falls on the ear like music. You admire the daring of his utterance but you do not always remember everything he says.
With Smuts you listen and you remember. He has no tricks of the spellbinder's trade. He is forceful, convincing, persuasive, and what is more important, has the quality of permanency. Long after you have left his presence the words remain in your memory. If I had a case in court I would like to have Smuts try it. His specialty is pleading.
Lloyd George seldom reads a book. The only volumes I ever heard him say that he had read were Mr. Dooley and a collection of the Speeches of Abraham Lincoln. He has books read for him and with a Roosevelt faculty for assimilation, gives you the impression that he has spent his life in a library.
Smuts is one of the best-read men I have met. He seems to know something about everything. He ranges from Joseph Conrad to Kant, from Booker Washington to Tolstoi. History, fiction, travel, biography, have all come within his ken. I told him I proposed to go from Capetown to the Congo and possibly to Angola. His face lighted up. "Ah, yes," he said, "I have read all about those countries. I can see them before me in my mind's eye."
One night at dinner at Groote Schuur we had sweet potatoes. He asked me if they were common in America. I replied that down in Kentucky where I was born one of the favorite negro dishes was "'possum and sweet potatoes." He took me up at once saying:
"Oh, yes, I have read about ''possum pie' in Joel Chandler Harris' books." Then he proceeded to tell me what a great institution "Br'er Rabbit" was.
We touched on German poetry and I quoted two lines that I considered beautiful. When I remarked that I thought Heine was the author he corrected me by proving that they were written by Schiller.
Lloyd George could never carry on a conversation like this for the simple reason that he lacks familiarity with literature. He feels perhaps like the late Charles Frohman who, on being asked if he read the dramatic papers said: "Why should I read about the theatre. I make dramatic history."
I asked Smuts what he was reading at the moment. He looked at me with some astonishment and answered, "Nothing except public documents. It's a good thing that I was able to do some reading before I became Prime Minister. I certainly have no time now."
Take the matter of languages. Lloyd George has always professed that he did not know French, and on all his trips to France both during and since the war he carried a staff of interpreters. He understands a good deal more French than he professes. His widely proclaimed ignorance of the language has stood him in good stead because it has enabled him to hear a great many things that were not intended for his ears. It is part of his political astuteness. Smuts is an accomplished linguist. It has been said of him that he "can be silent in more languages than any man in South Africa."
Lloyd George is a clever politician with occasional inspired moments but he is not exactly a statesman as Disraeli and Gladstone were. Smuts has the unusual combination of statesmanship with a knowledge of every wrinkle in the political game.
Take his experience at the Paris Peace Conference. He was distinguished not so much for what he did, (and that was considerable), but for what he opposed. No man was better qualified to voice the sentiment of the "small nation." Born of proud and liberty-loving people,—an infant among the giants—he was attuned to every aspiration of an hour that realized many a one-time forlorn national hope. Yet his statesmanship tempered sentimental impulse.
In that gallery of treaty-makers Lloyd George, Clemenceau, and Wilson focussed the "fierce light" that beat about the proceedings. But it was Smuts, in the shadow, who contributed largely to the mental power-plant that drove the work. Lloyd George had to consider the chapter he wrote in the great instrument as something in the nature of a campaign document to be employed at home, while Clemenceau guided a steamroller that stooped for nothing but France. The more or less unsophisticated idealism of Woodrow Wilson foundered on these obstacles.
Smuts, with his uncanny sense of prophecy, foretold the economic consequences of the peace. Looking ahead he visualized a surly and unrepentant Germany, unwilling to pay the price of folly; a bitter and disappointed Austria gasping for economic breath; an aroused and indignant Italy raging with revolt—all the chaos that spells "peace" today. He saw the Treaty as a new declaration of war instead of an antidote for discord. His judgment, sadly enough, has been confirmed. A deranged universe shot through with reaction and confusion, and with half a dozen wars sputtering on the horizon, is the answer. The sob and surge of tempest-born nations in the making are lost in the din of older ones threatened with decay and disintegration. It is not a pleasing spectacle.
Smuts signed the Treaty but, as most people know, he filed a memorandum of protest and explanation. He believed the terms uneconomic and therefore unsound, but it was worth taking a chance on interpretation, a desperate venture perhaps, but anything to stop the blare and bicker of the council table and start the work of reconstruction.
At Capetown he told me that for days he wrestled with the problem "to sign or not to sign." Finally, on the day before the Day of Days in the Hall of Mirrors at Versailles, he took a long solitary walk in the Champs Elysee, loveliest of Paris parades. Returning to his hotel he said to his secretary, Captain E. F. C. Lane, "I have decided to sign, but I will tell the reason why." He immediately sat down at his desk and in a handwriting noted for its illegibility wrote the famous memorandum.
What of the personal side of Smuts? While he is intensely human it is difficult to connect anecdote with him. I heard one at Capetown, however, that I do not think has seen the light of print. It reveals his methods, too.
When the Germans ran amuck in 1914 Smuts was Minister of Defense of the Union of South Africa. The Nationalists immediately began to make life uncomfortable for him. Balked in their attempt to keep the Union out of the struggle they took another tack. After the Botha campaign in German South-West Africa was well under way, a member of the Opposition asked the Minister of Defense the following question in Parliament: "How much has South Africa paid for horses in the field and the Nationalists sought to make some political capital out of an expenditure that they remounts?" The Union forces employed thousands of called "waste."
Smuts sent over to Army Headquarters to get the figures. He was told that it would take twenty clerks at least four weeks to compile the data.
"Never mind," was his laconic comment. The next day happened to be Question Day in the House. As soon as the query about the remount charge came up Smuts calmly rose in his seat and replied:
"It was exactly eight million one hundred and sixty-nine thousand pounds, ten shillings and sixpence." He then sat down without any further remark.
When one of his colleagues asked him where he got this information he said:
"I dug it out of my own mind. It will take the Nationalists a month to figure it out and by that time they will have forgotten all about it." And it was forgotten.
Smuts not only has a keen sense of humor but is swift on the retort. While speaking at a party rally in his district not many years after the Boer War he was continually interrupted by an ex-soldier. He stopped his speech and asked the man to state his grievance. The heckler said:
"General de la Rey guaranteed the men fighting under him a living."
Quick as a flash Smuts replied:
"Nonsense. What he guaranteed you was certain death."
Like many men conspicuous in public life Smuts gets up early and has polished off a good day's work before the average business man has settled down to his job. There is a big difference between his methods of work and those of Lloyd George. The British Prime Minister only goes to the House of Commons when he has to make a speech or when some important question is up for discussion. Smuts attends practically every session of Parliament, at least he did while I was in Capetown.
One reason was that on account of the extraordinary position in which he found himself, any moment might have produced a division carrying with it disastrous results for the Government. The crisis demanded that he remain literally on the job all the time. He left little to his lieutenants. Confident of his ability in debate he was always willing to risk a showdown but he had to be there when it came.
I watched him as he sat in the House. He occupied a front bench directly opposite Hertzog and where he could look his arch enemy squarely in the eyes all the time. I have seen him sit like a Sphinx for an hour without apparently moving a muscle. He has cultivated that rarest of arts which is to be a good listener. He is one of the great concentrators. In this genius, for it is little less, lies one of the secrets of his success. During a lull in legislative proceedings he has a habit of taking a solitary walk out in the lobby. More than once I saw him pacing up and down, always with an ear cocked toward the Assembly Room so he could hear what was going on and rush to the rescue if necessary.
In the afternoon he would sometimes go into the members' smoking room and drink a cup of coffee, the popular drink in South Africa. In the old Boer household the coffee pot is constantly boiling. With a cup of coffee and a piece of "biltong" inside him a Boer could fight or trek all day. Coffee bears the same relation to the South African that tea does to the Englishman, save that it is consumed in much larger quantities. I might add that Smuts neither drinks liquor of any kind nor smokes, and he eats sparingly. He admits that his one dissipation is farming.
This comes naturally because he was born fifty years ago on a farm in what is known as the Western Province in the Karoo country. He did his share of the chores about the place until it was time for him to go to school. His father and his grandfather were farmers. Inbred in him, as in most Boers, is an ardent love of country life and especially an affection for the mountains. On more than one occasion he has climbed to the top of Table Mountain, which is no inconsiderable feat.
There are two ways of appraising Smuts. One is to see him in action as I did at Capetown, while Parliament was in session. The other is to get him with the background of his farm at Irene, a little way station about ten miles from Pretoria. Here, in a rambling one-story house surrounded by orchards, pastures, and gardens, he lives the simple life. In the western part of the Transvaal he owns a real farm. He showed his shrewdness in the acquisition of this property because he bought it at a time when the region was dubbed a "desert." Now it is a garden spot.
Irene has various distinct advantages. For one thing it is his permanent home. Groote Schuur is the property of the Government and he owes his tenancy of it entirely to the fortunes of politics. At Irene is planted his hearthstone and around it is mobilized his considerable family. There are six little Smutses. Smuts married the sweetheart of his youth who is a rarely congenial helpmate. It was once said of her that she "went about the house with a baby under one arm and a Greek dictionary under the other."
Most people do not realize that the Union of South Africa has two capitals. Capetown with the House of Parliament is the center of legislation, while Pretoria, the ancient Kruger stronghold, with its magnificent new Union buildings atop a commanding eminence, is the fountain-head of administration. With Irene only ten miles away it is easy for Smuts to live with his family after the adjournment of Parliament, and go in to his office at Pretoria every day.
I have already given you a hint of the Smuts personal appearance. Let us now take a good look at him. His forehead is lofty, his nose arched, his mouth large. You know that his blonde beard veils a strong jaw. The eyes are reminiscent of those marvelous orbs of Marshal Foch only they are blue, haunting and at times inexorable. Yet they can light up with humor and glow with friendliness.
Smuts is essentially an out-of-doors person and his body is wiry and rangy. He has the stride of a man seasoned to the long march and who is equally at home in the saddle. He speaks with vigour and at times not without emotion. The Boer is not a particularly demonstrative person and Smuts has some of the racial reserve. His personality betokens potential strength,—a suggestion of the unplumbed reserve that keeps people guessing. This applies to his mental as well as his physical capacity. Frankly cordial, he resents familiarity. You would never think of slapping him on the shoulder and saying, "Hello, Jan." More than one blithe and buoyant person has been frozen into respectful silence in such a foolhardy undertaking.
His middle name is Christian and it does not belie a strong phase of his character. Without carrying his religious convictions on his coat-sleeve, he has nevertheless a fine spiritual strain in his make-up. He is an all-round dependable person, with an adaptability to environment that is little short of amazing.
Now let us turn to another and less conspicuous South African whose point of view, imperial, personal and patriotic, is the exact opposite of that of Smuts. Throughout this chapter has run the strain of Hertzog, first the Boer General fighting gallantly in the field with Smuts as youthful comrade; then the member of the Botha Cabinet; later the bitter insurgent, and now the implacable foe of the order that he helped to establish. What manner of man is he and what has he to say?
I talked to him one afternoon when he left the floor leadership to his chief lieutenant, a son of the late President Steyn of the Orange Free State. Like his father, who called himself "President" to the end of his life although his little republic had slipped away from him, he has never really yielded to English rule.
We adjourned to the smoking room where we had the inevitable cup of South African coffee. I was prepared to find a fanatic and fire-eater. Instead I faced a thin, undersized man who looked anything but a general and statesman. Put him against the background of a small New England town and you would take him for an American country lawyer. He resembles the student more than the soldier and, like many Boers, speaks English with a British accent. Nor is he without force. No man can play the role that he has played in South Africa those past twenty-five years without having substance in him.
When I asked him to state his case he said:
"The republican idea is as old as South Africa. There was a republic before the British arrived. The idea came from the American Revolution and the inspiration was Washington. The Great Trek of 1836 was a protest very much like the one we are making today.
"President Wilson articulated the Boer feeling with his gospel of self-determination. He also voiced the aspirations of Ireland, India and Egypt. It is a great world idea—a deep moral conviction of mankind, this right of the individual state, as of the individual for freedom.
"Never again will Transvaal and Orange Free State history be repeated. No matter how a nation covets another—and I refer to British covetousness,—if the nation coveted is able to govern itself it cannot and must not be assimilated. It is one result of the Great War."
"What is the Nationalist ideal?" I asked.
"It is the right to self-rule," replied Hertzog. "But there must be no conflict if it can be avoided. It must prevail by reason and education. At the present time I admit that the majority of South Africans do not want republicanism. The Nationalist mission today is to keep the torch lighted."
"How does this idea fit into the spirit of the League of Nations?" I queried.
"It fits in perfectly," was the response. "We Nationalists favor the League as outlined by Wilson. But I fear that it will develop into a capitalistic, imperialistic empire dominating the world instead of a league of nations."
I asked Hertzog how he reconciled acquiescence to Union to the present Nationalist revolt. The answer was:
"The Nationalists supported the Government because of their attachment to General Botha. Deep down in his heart Botha wanted to be free and independent."
"How about Ireland?" I demanded.
The General smiled as he responded: "Our position is different. It does not require dynamite, but education. With us it is a simple matter of the will of the people. I do not think that conditions in South Africa will ever reach the state at which they have arrived in Ireland."
Commenting on the Union and its relations to the British Empire Hertzog continued:
"The Union is not a failure but we could be better governed. The thing to which we take exception is that the British Government, through our connection with it, is in a position by which it gets an undue advantage directly and indirectly to influence legislation. For example, we were not asked to conquer German South-West Africa; it was a command.
"Very much against the feeling of the old population, that is the Dutch element, we were led into participation in the war. Today this old population feels as strongly as ever against South Africa being involved in European politics. It feels that all this Empire movement only leads in that direction and involves us in world conflicts.
"One of the strongest reasons in favor of separation and the setting up of a South African republic is to get solidarity between the English and the Dutch. I cannot help feeling that our interests are being constantly subordinated to those of Great Britain. My firm conviction is that the freer we are, and the more independent of Great Britain we become, the more we shall favor a close co-operation with her. We do not dislike the British as such but we do object to the Britisher coming out as a subject of Great Britain with a superior manner and looking upon the Dutchman as a dependent or a subordinate. There will be a conflict so long as they do not recognize our heroes, traditions and history. In short, we are determined to have a republic of South Africa and England must recognize it. To oppose it is fatal."
"Will you fight for it?" I asked.
"I hardly think that it will come to force," said the General. "It must prevail by reason and education. It may not come in one year but it will come before many years."
Hertzog's feeling is not shared, as he intimated, by the majority of South Africans and this includes many Dutchmen. An illuminating analysis of the Nationalist point of view was made for me by Sir Thomas Smartt, the leader of the Unionist Party and a virile force in South African politics. He brought the situation strikingly home to America when he said:
"The whole Nationalist movement is founded on race. Like the Old Guard, the Boer may die but it is hard for him to surrender. His heart still rankles with the outcome of the Boer War. Would the American South have responded to an appeal to arms in the common cause made by the North in 1876? Probably not. Before your Civil War the South only had individual states. The Boers, on the other hand, had republics with completely organized and independent governments. This is why it will take a long time before complete assimilation is accomplished. A second Boer War is unthinkable."
We can now return to Smuts and find out just how he achieved the miracle by which he not only retained the Premiership but spiked the guns of the opposition.
When I left Capetown he was in a corner. The Nationalist majority not only made his position precarious but menaced the integrity of Union, and through Union, the whole Empire. For five months,—the whole session of Parliament,—he held his ground. Every night when he went to bed at Groote Schuur he did not know what disaster the morrow would bring forth. It was a constant juggle with conflicting interests, ambitions and prejudices. He was like a lion with a pack snapping on all sides.
Now you can see why he sat in that front seat in the House morning, noon and night. He placated the Labourites, harmonized the Unionists, and flung down the gauntlet openly to the Nationalists. Throughout that historic session, and although much legislation was accomplished, he did not permit the consummation of a single decisive division. It was a triumph of parliamentary leadership.
When the session closed in July,—it is then mid-winter in Africa,—he was still up against it. The Nationalist majority was a phantom that dogged his official life and political fortunes. The problem now was to take out sane insurance against a repetition of the trial and uncertainty which he had undergone.
Fate in the shape of the Nationalist Party played into his hands. Under the stimulation of the Nationalists a Vereeniging Congress was called at Bloenfontein late last September. The Dutch word Vereeniging means "reunion." Hertzog and Tielman Roos, the co-leader of the secessionists, believed that by bringing the leading representatives of the two leading parties together the appeal to racial pride might carry the day. Smuts did not attend but various members of his Cabinet did.
Reunion did anything but reunite. The differences on the republican issues being fundamental were likewise irreconcilable. The Nationalists stood pat on secession while the South African Party remained loyal to its principles of Imperial unity. The meeting ended in a deadlock.
Smuts, a field marshal of politics, at once saw that the hour of deliverance from his dilemma had arrived. The Nationalists had declared themselves unalterably for separation. He converted their battle-cry into coin for himself. He seized the moment to issue a call for a new Moderate Party that would represent a fusion of the South Africanists and the Unionists. In one of his finest documents he made a plea for the consolidation of these constructive elements.
In it he said:
Now that the Nationalist Party is firmly resolved to continue its propaganda of fanning the fires of secession and of driving the European races apart from each other and ultimately into conflict with each other, the moderate elements of our population have no other alternative but to draw closer to one another in order to fight that policy.
A new appeal must, therefore, be made to all right-minded South Africans, irrespective of party or race, to join the new Party, which will be strong enough to safeguard the permanent interests of the Union against the disruptive and destructive policy of the Nationalists. Such a central political party will not only continue our great work of the past, but is destined to play a weighty role in the future peaceable development of South Africa.
The end of October witnessed the ratification of this proposal by the Unionists. The action at once consolidated the Premier's position. I doubt if in all political history you can uncover a series of events more paradoxical or perplexing or find a solution arrived at with greater skill and strategy. It was a revelation of Smuts with his ripe statesmanship put to the test, and not found wanting.
At the election held four months later Smuts scored a brilliant triumph. The South African Party increased its representation by eighteen seats, while the Nationalists lost heavily. The Labour Party was almost lost in the wreckage. The net result was that the Premier obtained a working majority of twenty-two, which guarantees a stable and loyal Government for at least five years.
It only remains to speculate on what the future holds for this remarkable man. South Africa has a tragic habit of prematurely destroying its big men. Rhodes was broken on the wheel at forty-nine, and Botha succumbed in the prime of life. Will Smuts share the same fate?
No one need be told in the face of the Smuts performance that he is a world asset. The question is, how far will he go? A Cabinet Minister at twenty-eight, a General at thirty, a factor in international affairs before he was well into the forties, he unites those rare elements of greatness which seem to be so sparsely apportioned these disturbing days. That he will reconstruct South Africa there is no doubt. What larger responsibilities may devolve upon him can only be guessed.
Just before I sailed from England I talked with a high-placed British official. He is in the councils of Empire and he knows Smuts and South Africa. I asked him to indicate what in his opinion would be the next great milepost of Smuts' progress. He replied:
"The destiny of Smuts is interwoven with the destiny of the whole British Empire. The Great War bound the Colonies together with bonds of blood. Out of this common peril and sacrifice has been knit a closer Imperial kinship. During the war we had an Imperial War Cabinet composed of overseas Premiers, which sat in London. Its logical successor will be a United British Empire, federated in policy but not in administration. Smuts will be the Prime Minister of these United States of Great Britain."
It is the high goal of a high career.
When you take the train for the North at Capetown you start on the first lap of what is in many respects the most picturesque journey in the world. Other railways tunnel mighty mountains, cross seething rivers, traverse scorching deserts, and invade the clouds, but none has so romantic an interest or is bound up with such adventure and imagination as this. The reason is that at Capetown begins the southern end of the famous seven-thousand-mile Cape-to-Cairo Route, one of the greatest dreams of England's prince of practical dreamers, Cecil Rhodes. Today, after thirty years of conflict with grudging Governments, the project is practically an accomplished fact.
Woven into its fabric is the story of a German conspiracy that was as definite a cause of the Great War as the Balkan mess or any other phase of Teutonic international meddling. Along its highway the American mining engineer has registered a little known evidence of his achievement abroad. The route taps civilization and crosses the last frontiers of progress. The South African end discloses an illuminating example of profitable nationalization. Over it still broods the personality of the man who conceived it and who left his impress and his name on an empire. Attention has been directed anew to the enterprise from the fact that shortly before I reached Africa two aviators flew from Cairo to the Cape and their actual flying time was exactly sixty-eight hours.
The unbroken iron spine that was to link North and South Africa and which Rhodes beheld in his vision of the future, will probably not be built for some years. Traffic in Central Africa at the moment does not justify it. Besides, the navigable rivers in the Belgian Congo, Egypt, and the Soudan lend themselves to the rail and water route which, with one short overland gap, now enables you to travel the whole way from Cape to Cairo.
The very inception of the Cape-to-Cairo project gives you a glimpse of the working of the Rhodes mind. He left the carrying out of details to subordinates. When he looked at the map of Africa,—and he was forever studying maps,—and ran that historic line through it from end to end and said, "It must be all red," he took no cognizance of the extraordinary difficulties that lay in the way. He saw, but he did not heed, the rainbow of many national flags that spanned the continent. A little thing like millions of square miles of jungle, successions of great lakes, or wild and primitive regions peopled with cannibals, meant nothing. Money and energy were to him merely means to an end.
When General "Chinese" Gordon, for example, told him that he had refused a roomful of silver for his services in exterminating the Mongolian bandits Rhodes looked at him in surprise and said: "Why didn't you take it? What is the earthly use of having ideas if you haven't the money with which to carry them out?" Here you have the keynote of the whole Rhodes business policy. A project had to be carried through regardless of expense. It applied to the Cape-to-Cairo dream just as it applied to every other enterprise with which he was associated.
The all-rail route would cost billions upon billions, although now that German prestige in Africa is ended it would not be a physical and political impossibility. A modification of the original plan into a combination rail and river scheme permits the consummation of the vision of thirty years ago. The southern end is all-rail mainly because the Union of South Africa and Rhodesia are civilized and prosperous countries. I made the entire journey by train from Capetown to the rail-head at Bukama in the Belgian Congo, a distance of 2,700 miles, the longest continuous link in the whole scheme. This trip can be made, if desirable, in a through car in about nine days.
I then continued northward, down the Lualaba River,—Livingstone thought it was the Nile—then by rail, and again on the Lualaba through the posts of Kongolo, Kindu and Ponthierville to Stanleyville on the Congo River. This is the second stage of the Cape-to-Cairo Route and knocks off an additional 890 miles and another twelve days. Here I left the highway to Egypt and went down the Congo and my actual contact with the famous line ended. I could have gone on, however, and reached Cairo, with luck, in less than eight weeks.
From Stanleyville you go to Mahagi, which is on the border between the Congo and Uganda. This is the only overland gap in the whole route. It covers roughly,—and the name is no misnomer I am told,—680 miles through the jungle and skirts the principal Congo gold fields. A road has been built and motor cars are available. The railway route from Stanleyville to Mahagi, which will link the Congo and the Nile, is surveyed and would have been finished by this time but for the outbreak of the Great War. The Belgian Minister of the Colonies, with whom I travelled in the Congo assured me that his Government would commence the construction within the next two years, thus enabling the traveller to forego any hiking on the long journey.
Mahagi is on the western side of Lake Albert and is destined to be the lake terminus of the projected Congo-Nile Railway which will be an extension of the Soudan Railways. Here you begin the journey that enlists both railways and steamers and which gives practically a straight ahead itinerary to Cairo. You journey on the Nile by way of Rejaf, Kodok,—(the Fashoda that was)—to Kosti, where you reach the southern rail-head of the Soudan Railways. Thence it is comparatively easy, as most travellers know, to push on through Khartum, Berber, Wady Halfa and Assuan to the Egyptian capital. The distance from Mahagi to Cairo is something like 2,700 miles while the total mileage from Capetown to Cairo, along the line that I have indicated, is 7,000 miles.
This, in brief, is the way you make the trip that Rhodes dreamed about, but not the way he planned it. There are various suggestions for alternate routes after you reach Bukama or, to be more exact, after you start down the first stage of the journey on the Lualaba. At Kabalo, where I stopped, a railroad runs eastward from the river to Albertville, on the shores of Lake Tanganyika. Rhodes wanted to use the 400-mile waterway that this body of water provides to connect the railway that came down from the North with the line that begins at the Cape. The idea was to employ train ferries. King Leopold of Belgium granted Rhodes the right to do this but Germany frustrated the scheme by refusing to recognize the cession of the strip of Congo territory between Lake Tanganyika and Lake Kivu, which was an essential link.
This incident is one evidence of the many attempts that the Germans made to block the Cape-to-Cairo project. Germany knew that if Rhodes, and through Rhodes the British Empire, could establish through communication under the British flag, from one end of Africa to the other, it would put a crimp into the Teutonic scheme to dominate the whole continent. She went to every extreme to interfere with its advance.
This German opposition provided a reason why the consummation of the project was so long delayed. Another was, that except for the explorer and the big game hunter, there was no particular provocation for moving about in certain portions of Central Africa until recently. But Germany only afforded one obstacle. The British Government, after the fashion of governments, turned a cold shoulder to the enterprise. History was only repeating itself. If Disraeli had consulted his colleagues England would never have acquired the Suez Canal. So it goes.
Most of the Rhodesian links of the Cape-to-Cairo Route were built by Rhodes and the British South Africa Company, while the line from Broken Hill to the Congo border was due entirely to the courage and tenacity of Robert Williams, who is now constructing the so-called Benguella Railway from Lobito Bay in Portuguese Angola to Bukama. It will be a feeder to the Cape-to-Cairo road and constitute a sort of back door to Egypt. It will also provide a shorter outlet to Europe for the copper in the Katanga district of the Congo.
When you see equatorial Africa and more especially that part which lies between the rail-head at Bukama and Mahagi, you understand why the all-rail route is not profitable at the moment. It is for the most part an uncultivated area principally jungle, with scattered white settlements and hordes of untrained natives. The war set back the development of the Congo many years. Now that the world is beginning to understand the possibilities of Central Africa for palm oil, cotton, rubber, and coffee, the traffic to justify the connecting railways will eventually come.
Shortly after my return from Africa I was talking with a well-known American business man who, after making the usual inquiries about lions, cannibals and hair-breadth escapes, asked: "Is it dangerous to go about in South Africa?" When I assured him that both my pocket-book and I were safer there than on Broadway in New York or State Street in Chicago, he was surprised. Yet his question is typical of a widespread ignorance about all Africa and even its most developed area.
What people generally do not understand is that the lower part of that one-time Dark Continent is one of the most prosperous regions in the world, where the home currency is at a premium instead of a discount; where the high cost of living remains a stranger and where you get little suggestion of the commercial rack and ruin that are disturbing the rest of the universe. While the war-ravaged nations and their neighbors are feeling their dubious way towards economic reconstruction, the Union of South Africa is on the wave of a striking expansion. It affords an impressive contrast to the demoralized productivity of Europe and for that matter the United States.
South Africa presents many economic features of distinct and unique interest. A glance at its steam transportation discloses rich material. Fundamentally the railroads of any country are the real measures of its progress. In Africa particularly they are the mileposts of civilization. In 1876 there were only 400 miles on the whole continent. Today there are over 30,000 miles. Of this network of rails exactly 11,478 miles are in the Union of South Africa and they comprise the second largest mileage in the world under one management.
More than this, they are Government owned and operated. Despite this usual handicap they pay. No particular love of Government control,—which is invariably an invitation for political influence to do its worst,—animated the development of these railways. As in Australia, where private capital refused to build, it was a case of necessity. In South Africa there was practically no private enterprise to sidestep the obligation that the need of adequate transportation imposed. The country was new, hostile savages still swarmed the frontiers, and the white man had to battle with Zulu and Kaffir for every area he opened. In the absence of navigable rivers—there are none in the Union—the steel rail had to do the pioneering. Besides, the Boers had a strong prejudice against the railroads and regarded the iron horse as a menace to their isolation.
The first steam road on the continent of Africa was constructed by private enterprise from the suburb of Durban in Natal into the town. It was a mile and three-quarters in length and was opened for traffic in 1860. Railway construction in the Cape Colony began about the same time. The Government ownership of the lines was inaugurated in 1873 and it has continued without interruption ever since. The real epoch of railway building in South Africa started with the great mineral discoveries. First came the uncovering of diamonds along the Orange River and the opening up of the Kimberley region, which added nearly 2,000 miles of railway. With the finding of gold in the Rand on what became the site of Johannesburg, another 1,500 miles were added.
Since most nationalized railways do not pay it is interesting to take a look at the African balance sheet. Almost without exception the South African railways have been operated at a considerable net profit. These profits some years have been as high as L2,590,917. During the war, when there was a natural slump in traffic and when all soldiers and Government supplies were carried free of cost, they aggregated in 1915, for instance, L749,125.
One fiscal feature of these South African railroads is worth emphasizing. Under the act of Union "all profits, after providing for interest, depreciation and betterment, shall be utilized in the reduction of tariffs, due regard being had to the agricultural and industrial development within the Union and the promotion by means of cheap transport of the settlement of an agricultural population in the inland portions of the Union." The result is that the rates on agricultural products, low-grade ores, and certain raw materials are possibly the lowest in the world. In other countries rates had to be increased during the war but in South Africa no change was made, so as not to interfere with the agricultural, mineral and industrial development of the country.
Nor is the Union behind in up-to-date transportation. A big program for electrification has been blocked out and a section is under conversion. Some of the power generated will be sold to the small manufacturer and thus production will be increased.
Stimulating the railway system of South Africa is a single personality which resembles the self-made American wizard of transportation more than any other Britisher that I have met with the possible exception of Sir Eric Geddes, at present Minister of Transport of Great Britain and who left his impress on England's conduct of the war. He is Sir William W. Hoy, whose official title is General Manager of the South African Railways and Ports. Big, vigorous, and forward-looking, he sits in a small office in the Railway Station at Capetown, with his finger literally on the pulse of nearly 12,000 miles of traffic. During the war Walker D. Hines, as Director General of the American Railways, was steward of a vaster network of rails but his job was an emergency one and terminated when that emergency subsided. Sir William Hoy, on the other hand, is set to a task which is not equalled in extent, scope or responsibility by any other similar official.
Like James J. Hill and Daniel Willard he rose from the ranks. At Capetown he told me of his great admiration for American railways and their influence in the system he dominates. Among other things he said: "We are taking our whole cue for electrification from the railroads of your country and more especially the admirable precedent established by the Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul Railway. I believe firmly in wide electrification of present-day steam transport. The great practical advantages are more uniform speed and the elimination of stops to take water. It also affords improved acceleration, greater reliability as to timing, especially on heavy grades, and stricter adherence to schedule. There are enormous advantages to single lines like ours in South Africa. Likewise, crossings and train movements can be arranged with greater accuracy, thereby reducing delays. Perhaps the greatest saving is in haulage, that is, in the employment of the heavy electric locomotive. It all tends toward a denser traffic.
"Behind this whole process of electrification lies the need, created by the Great War, for coal conservation and for a motive power that will speed up production of all kinds. We have abundant coal in the Union of South Africa and by consuming less of it on our railways we will be in a stronger position to export it and thus strengthen our international position and keep the value of our money up."
Since Sir William has touched upon the coal supply we at once get a link,—and a typical one—with the ramified resource of the Union of South Africa. No product, not even those precious stones that lie in the bosom of Kimberley, or the glittering golden ore imbedded in the Rand, has a larger political or economic significance just now. Nor does any commodity figure quite so prominently in the march of world events.
In peace, as in war, coal spells life and power. It was the cudgel that the one-time proud and arrogant Germany held menacingly over the head of the unhappy neutral, and extorted special privilege. At the moment I write, coal is the storm center of controversy that ranges from the Ruhr Valley of Germany to the Welsh fields of Britain and affects the destinies of statesmen and of countries. We are not without fuel troubles, as our empty bins indicate. The nation, therefore, with cheap and abundant coal has a bargaining asset that insures industrial peace at home and trade prestige abroad.
South Africa not only has a low-priced and ample coal supply but it is in a convenient point for distribution to the whole Southern hemisphere,—in fact Europe and other sections. On past production the Union ranked only eleventh in a list of coal-producing countries, the output being about 8,000,000 tons a year before the war and something over 10,000,000 tons in 1919. This output, however, is no guide to the magnitude of its fields. Until comparatively recent times they have been little exploited, not because of inferiority but because of the restricted output prior to the new movement to develop a bunker and export trade. Without an adequate geological survey the investigations made during the last twelve months indicate a potential supply of over 60,000,000 tons and immense areas have not been touched at all.