The Peace Negotiations - Between the Governments of the South African Republic and - the Orange Free State, etc....
by J. D. Kestell
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[Transcriber's note: Obvious printer's errors have been corrected, all other inconsistencies are as in the original. The author's spelling has been maintained.]


PRETORIA. 4th March, 1902.

Your Honour,

By direction of His Majesty's Government, I have the honour to forward enclosed copy of an Aide-Memoire communicated by the Netherland Minister to the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, together with his reply thereto.

I have the honour to be, Your Honour's Obedient Servant,

[Signature of Kitchener.]


Commanding-in-Chief, South Africa.

To His Honour, Mr. Schalk Burger.

Facsimile of the letter from Lord Kitchener upon which the Peace Negotiations were entered into.


Between the Governments of the South African Republic and the Orange Free State, and the Representatives of the British Government, which terminated in the Peace concluded at Vereeniging on the 31st May, 1902



Secretary to the Orange Free State Government



Secretary to the Government of the South African Republic









Introduction by S. W. Burger, M.L.A., Acting State President of the Late South African Republic xiii


CHAPTER I Preliminary Correspondence 1

CHAPTER II Proceedings at Klerksdorp 18

CHAPTER III First Negotiations at Pretoria 33

CHAPTER IV Vereeniging 46

CHAPTER V Further Negotiations at Pretoria 98

CHAPTER VI Vereeniging and Peace 138

APPENDIX—The Middelburg Proposals 210


The Signatories to the Peace Treaty on behalf of the South African Republic. Frontispiece

The Signatories to the Peace Treaty on behalf of the Orange Free State. Frontispiece

Facsimile of the letter from Lord Kitchener upon which the Peace Negotiations were entered into Facing Title page

Facing page

Facsimile of the copy of the reply from the Government of the South African Republic to Lord Kitchener's letter dated 4th March, 1902 6

Facsimile of Safe Conduct granted by Lord Kitchener 44

Facsimile of the Oath subscribed to at Vereeniging by the Delegates of the South African Republic 46

Facsimile of the Oath subscribed to at Vereeniging by the Delegates of the Orange Free State 46

Facsimile of a page of the Peace Proposals as submitted by the British Representatives and amended by the Boer Representatives. The alterations are in the handwriting of Generals Smuts and Hertzog 112

Facsimile of a page of the Peace Proposals as submitted by the British Representatives and amended by the Boer Representatives. The alterations are in the handwriting of General Smuts and Mr. Advocate N. J. de Wet 117

Facsimile of the original proposal by Commandant H. P. J. Pretorius, seconded by General Chris. Botha, to accept the British Peace Proposals 202

Facsimile of the document on which the voting on the proposal by Commandant H. P. J. Pretorius, seconded by General Chris. Botha, to accept the British Peace Proposals was recorded 206


The want has been repeatedly expressed of an official publication of the Minutes of the Negotiations which led to the Peace concluded at Vereeniging on May 31, 1902, events which have hitherto been a closed page in the history of the Boer War. As the Republics had ceased to exist, the question arose: Who could publish such Minutes? It is true that some very incomplete Minutes appeared in General de Wet's book, but although they were in all probability reliable, yet they had not the seal of an official document.

The only way in which the want could be met appeared to be for the Secretaries, who had been appointed by the two Republican Governments to minute the Negotiations, to publish those Minutes after they had been read and approved of as authentic by persons competent to do so.

This is what has been done by this publication, which places the reader in possession of all the correspondence leading up to the Negotiations, exact reports of what was said and done, not only at Vereeniging, but also previously at Klerksdorp, and, finally, all the Negotiations which took place at Pretoria between the two Republican Governments and the British Government, represented by Lord Kitchener and Lord Milner.

We, however, were not satisfied to publish this record, which we had most carefully taken down, merely on our own authority. We felt that, if only this and nothing more were done, the world would after all have only our word to rely upon, and that, although the record thus published would always serve as a highly reliable book of reference, it would lack the authority of a document properly authenticated by a body competent to do so.

In order, therefore, to obtain this desirable seal of authenticity to our record, we submitted our manuscript to President Steyn, Acting President Burger, the Chairman of the Meeting of Representatives of the People at Vereeniging (General C. F. Beyers), Generals Botha and Smuts for the South African Republic, and Generals de Wet and Hertzog for the Orange Free State, with the result that they all found our record to be a true and correct account of the Peace Negotiations.

So this book sees the light with their imprimatur, and we therefore publish it with the greatest confidence.

The Reader's attention is drawn to the following particulars:—

In respect of the speeches made by the members of the Republican Governments at Klerksdorp, and the speeches delivered later at Vereeniging by them and by the Delegates from the various Commandos, the reports are almost verbatim. The addresses of the Presidents and principal Generals especially were transcribed from the stenographic notes of D. E. van Velden, and revised by J. D. Kestell.

This completeness does not extend to what is published of the First Conference between the two Republican Governments and Lord Kitchener and Lord Milner, because no Secretaries were admitted to that Conference. Lord Kitchener had expressed the desire that no official notes should be taken, as the parties would first confer informally. What was discussed, however, has not been lost, for an account of what took place at this Conference was taken down by J. D. Kestell from the dictation of General Hertzog immediately after the conference was over, and revised by President Steyn and Mr. W. J. C. Brebner (Acting Government Secretary, Orange Free State), and appears in this book.

With reference to the Second Conference, however, we were present, and what is given is a verbatim account of the discussion.

Of some official documents in our possession, reproductions or facsimiles are given in the hope that the reader will find them of interest.

J. D. K. D. E. v. V.

Pretoria, October, 1908.



In connection with the publication, by the Rev. J. D. Kestell and Mr. D. E. van Velden, of the official minutes of the Peace Negotiations (together with the official correspondence relating thereto) between the British Government and the Governments of the Orange Free State and the South African Republic, which terminated in the Peace concluded at Vereeniging on May 31, 1902, I do not wish in this introduction to enter into details, but merely to confine my remarks to the great responsibility which rested upon us and to the question, "Was it necessary to conclude Peace?"

If it was a task of supreme importance to decide to enter upon the struggle which had been waged, if it was an arduous and difficult duty to carry on the struggle, it was much harder and more difficult to foresee what the result of that struggle would be, and still harder and more difficult to decide to give it up. With how much hope, fear, and anxiety was not the end looked forward to! And when the end came, what did it not cost us to persuade the head to do what the heart refused to perform? What was realised of that hope for which there had been such a struggle, for which so much had been suffered, so much endured, so much sacrificed—the Reader will find in this book. He will also find in it the correspondence which led up to, and was carried on during, the Peace Negotiations; the proceedings at our meetings at Klerksdorp, Pretoria, and Vereeniging; the opinions, views, and grounds upon which the leaders of the people acted, in so far as those were expressed. You will not, however, find here the struggle that took place at Vereeniging within every Delegate between the heart and the head; the intense effort which it cost us to bring ourselves to acknowledge to our powerful enemy that we had been overpowered, exhausted, and were unable to continue the struggle any longer; to acknowledge to ourselves and posterity that our sacrifices, the blood and tears that had been shed, the indescribable anxiety for wife and children, the suffering and death of the thousands of innocent women and children, the awful evils which had fallen to the lot of the rebels, had been all in vain; that we were about to lose all for which we had suffered and sacrificed. All this, I say, you do not find recorded here, but you may read it in the grey hairs of the Delegates to Vereeniging and of our people, in the deep wrinkles on their faces, and in the expression on the countenance of every Boer—that expression which cannot conceal what the soul had to endure. We had already sacrificed much, yet, in spite of all, the hope had inseparably clung to us that no sacrifice, no privation, no loss would be in vain. There at Vereeniging, however, we had to surrender what was dearest to us, we had to stand at the open grave of the two Republics, and we had to say with bowed heads: "We had not hoped, expected, willed for this, but—Thy will be done!"

We are asked: "Why did you make peace? Why did you not persevere? Was there no hope? Had the last resources been exhausted, and was all your strength spent?" To these questions I must emphatically reply "Yes"; there was no means that had not been resorted to, no strength, no reasonable hope left. As rational beings we could see no grounds upon which to continue the struggle with any hope of success. It was, however, not the arms of the enemy which directly compelled us to surrender, but another sword which they had stretched out over us—namely, the sword of hunger and nakedness, and, what weighed most heavily of all, the awful mortality amongst our women and children in the Concentration Camps. I, as Acting State President, upon whom great responsibility rested, was convinced that it was time for us to conclude peace, not for the sake of ourselves, the leaders, but for the sake of the People, who were so faithful, in order to preserve the root that still remained, and in order not to allow our nation to be entirely exterminated; out of the ruins of our country to endeavour later on to develop a South African nationality, to build up the nation again, and to preserve the unity of the People. It was our conviction that the further prosecution of the war would mean the destruction of our national existence. Whether that conviction was correct or not, we confidently leave to the judgment of posterity.

Allow me also a reply to the question: "Why did we not conclude peace sooner?" A question which by some is even put reproachfully. My answer is that, as we fought for the retention of our Fatherland and our National honour, we, as men, could not give up the struggle before we had convincing proof that we had persevered and resisted to the uttermost. That proof was thrust upon us at Vereeniging, and now every one who defended his Fatherland to the last can bear his fate with an easy conscience, and the world is convinced with us that we fought to the bitter end. With all our disappointments we had further to experience that Great Britain, in addition to the tremendous forces with which her mighty Empire supplied, also availed herself of natives and other unjustifiable means. I wish merely to mention this.

At Vereeniging we began by looking up prayerfully to God, Who decides the destinies of men and nations, and became convinced that it was the right time to make peace, and that we were on the right road by concluding the Treaty of Vereeniging. My closing words at Vereeniging were: "Comrades, we stand beside the grave of both Republics, but not at the grave of our People. We have laid down our arms and concluded the struggle which has brought death, misery, and destruction. But now we have to enter upon another struggle, much greater and much nobler. It will be our duty to labour with vigour and sacrifice at the rebuilding of our nation. Therein lies a great work before us. Although our former functions have now lapsed, our calling and duty still remain. The People who have looked up to us and remained so faithful to the end will continue to look up to us, and rightly expect assistance and advice under the altered circumstances. Let it always be our aim to serve our People."

Have subsequent events not proved that our view was correct?

Peace! How was it received?

I think the answer must be: "With deep disappointment." The victors did not exult. Was it perhaps because they involuntarily felt that from the time when they, principally upon distorted representations, unjustifiably interfered with the affairs of the South African Republic, up to the Conference at Vereeniging, they had achieved no honour? Our People, especially the women and daughters in the Concentration Camps, were deeply dismayed. I have never seen a more impressive and sadder scene than the sight of the 4,000 women and children in the Merebank Concentration Camp, Natal, when I informed them that we had concluded peace, by which we had had to sacrifice our country. The question: "Is it for this that I sacrificed my husband, my son, my child?"—which resounded in my ears from the lips of the weeping women made the discharge of this, my last duty, also the most painful one. The deep conviction was there wrought in me that it was only their faith in God that enabled these women and children to endure what they had had to endure. May their patience, their courage, their faith, be transmitted to their descendants!

I would further like to say that it was hard for us all, especially for me, to be deprived, during the Negotiations at Vereeniging, of the advice and support of President Steyn, who was forced by illness to leave us during the early days of the negotiations. The absence of his strong shoulder made our task so much harder.


Pretoria, October, 1907.


In response to wishes very generally expressed, an English translation of "De Vredesonderhandelingen tusschen Boer en Brit in Zuid Afrika" (The Peace Negotiations between Boer and Briton in South Africa) is now placed before the Public.

Though the greatest care has been taken to ensure that the translation conveys to the reader exactly what the Dutch original contains, the latter remains the official record, from the Boer side, of the Peace Negotiations. The translator accepts all responsibility for the English translation.

In anticipation of any critical remarks that may be made, it is only due to state that the addition to the English translation of a few facsimiles of original documents and the few verbal improvements are by no means due to a desire to differentiate between the publications in the two languages, but are merely the improvements which, as every author knows, suggests themselves and are rendered possible by the publication of a later edition.

The Reader will not always find the translation of the speeches in idiomatic English, but it may be pointed out that in most cases that defect is due to the translator having aimed at preserving, as far as possible the stamp of originality as it exists in the original.

Pretoria, September, 1911.






By direction of His Majesty's Government, I have the honour to forward enclosed copy of an Aide-Memoire communicated by the Netherlands Minister to the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, together with his reply thereto.

I have the honour to be, Your Honour's obedient servant, KITCHENER, General, Commanding-in-Chief, South Africa.


Aide-Memoire communicated by the Netherlands Minister, January 25, 1902:—

1. It is the opinion of the Government of Her Majesty the Queen that the exceptional circumstances in which one of the belligerent parties in South Africa is situated, which prevents it from placing itself in communication with the other party by direct means, constitutes one of the causes for the continuance of this war, which continuously without interruption or termination harasses that country, and which is the cause of so much misery.

2. The circumstances are indeed exceptional, where one of the belligerent parties is entirely enclosed and isolated from the rest of the world; and where the representatives of the Boers in Europe are precluded from all communication with their Generals. This state of affairs has called into existence the difficulty that those in authority, who ought to negotiate in the interests of the Boers, are divided in two, and deprived of all means of deliberating with each other. It is plain that the Boer Delegates in Europe can do nothing because they are not acquainted with the condition of affairs in Africa, and that the Boers, who are under arms, must refrain from taking the initiative because they are not informed on the condition of affairs in Europe.

3. Further, the Delegates in Europe are tied by their credentials, which were issued in March, 1900, and which bind them so closely to the independence of the Republics, that they would not be warranted even to accept the restoration of the status quo ante bellum, if the method (of settling) the differences, which might arise, was not at the same time arranged.

4. These circumstances cause the question to arise whether an offer of good services could not be made by a neutral Power with the object of at least making it possible to open the way to negotiation, which could otherwise not be begun.

5. For these reasons it would be of importance to know whether it would be agreeable to the Government of His Britannic Majesty to make use of the good services of a neutral Power, if these good services would confine themselves to the task of bringing the negotiators appointed by both parties into communication with each other.

6. Perhaps the Government of Her Majesty the Queen could be considered as indicated to fulfil this task, because the Delegates of the Boers are on Netherland's ground and are accredited only to this Government.

7. If the Government of His Britannic Majesty concurs with this idea, there would be ground for the Government of Her Majesty the Queen to approach the Delegates of the Boers with the question whether they would undertake to proceed to Africa with the object of conferring with the heads of the Boers there, to return to Europe, after staying a limited time (say a fortnight), invested with authority making provision for every possible event, and giving them power to conclude a Treaty of Peace, which would be inviolably binding on the Boers in Europe as well as on the Boers in Africa.

8. In case of an answer in the affirmative, it would be necessary for the Government of His Britannic Majesty to give the Government of the Netherlands three safe-conducts, allowing the Boer Delegates to proceed free to South Africa, to remain there free for the stipulated time, and to return free to Europe. Further, it would be necessary that the British Government allow the use of a telegraphic code to indicate the place where the said Delegates could meet the Leaders of the Boers.

9. After their return the Government of Her Majesty the Queen would place them in communication with the Plenipotentiaries designated for that purpose by the Government of His Britannic Majesty, and voluntarily undertake to place at the disposal of these gentlemen all that is necessary for their meeting.

10. The Government of Her Majesty would then consider its task as completed.

11. It is very clear that, in spite of everything, the negotiations thus commenced might lead to nothing; but the possibility of the contrary is by no means excluded; and under the circumstances it appears to be desirable to try to open negotiations in the hope that they will bear fruit. And with the difficulty in view which exists for all belligerent parties to take the first step in this direction, it might be useful that a third party undertook to do so, and offered itself as mediator.


The Marquis of LANSDOWNE to Baron GERICKE.

FOREIGN OFFICE, January 29, 1902.


You were good enough to lay before me on the 29th instant a communication from the Netherlands Government, in which it was proposed that, with the object of bringing the war to an end, His Majesty's Government might grant a safe conduct to the Boer Delegates now in Holland for the purpose of enabling them to confer with the Boer Leaders in South Africa. It is suggested that after the conference the Delegates might return to Europe with power to conclude a Treaty of Peace with this country, and the Netherlands Government intimate, in this event, they might at a later stage be instrumental in placing the Boer Plenipotentiaries in relation with the Plenipotentiaries who might be appointed by His Majesty's Government.

The Netherlands Government intimate that if this project commends itself to His Majesty's Government, they will inquire of the Delegates whether they are prepared to make the suggested visit to South Africa.

It may therefore be inferred that the communication which I received from you was made on the responsibility of the Netherlands Government alone, and without authority from the Boer Delegates or Leaders. His Majesty's Government have given it their best consideration, and whilst they entirely appreciate the motives of humanity which have led the Netherlands Government to make this proposal, they feel that they must adhere to the decision adopted and publicly announced by them some months after the commencement of hostilities by the Boers, that it is not their intention to accept the intervention of any foreign Power in the South African war.

Should the Boer Delegates themselves desire to lay a request for safe conduct before His Majesty's Government, there is no reason why they should not do so. But His Majesty's Government are obviously not in a position to express an opinion on any such application until they have received it, and are aware of its precise nature and the grounds on which the request is made.

I may, however, point out that it is not at present clear to His Majesty's Government that the Delegates retain any influence over the Representatives of the Boers in South Africa or have any voice in their councils. They are stated by the Netherlands Government to have no letters of credence or instructions later in date than March, 1900. His Majesty's Government had, on the other hand, understood that all powers of Government, including those of negotiation, were now completely vested in Mr. STEYN for the Boers in the Orange River Colony, and Mr. SCHALK BURGER for those in the Transvaal.

If this be so, it is evident that the quickest and most satisfactory means of arranging a settlement would be by direct communication between the Leaders of the Boer forces in South Africa and the Commander-in-Chief of His Majesty's forces, who has already been instructed to forward immediately any offers he may receive for the consideration of His Majesty's Government.

In these circumstances His Majesty's Government have decided that, if the Boer Leaders should desire to enter into negotiations for the purpose of bringing the war to an end, these negotiations must take place not in Europe, but in South Africa.

It should, moreover, be borne in mind that, if the Boer Delegates are to occupy time in visiting South Africa, in consulting with the Boer Leaders in the field, and in returning to Europe for the purpose of making known the result of their errand, a period of at least three months would elapse, during which hostilities would be prolonged, and much human suffering, perhaps needlessly, occasioned.

I have, &c., (Signed) LANSDOWNE.

To this letter Acting-President Schalk W. Burger, with the advice and consent of the Executive Council, replied as follows:—

To His Excellency Lord KITCHENER, Commander-in-Chief of the British Troops, Pretoria.



I have the honour to acknowledge the receipt of Your Excellency's letter dated the 4th inst., and to thank you for the transmission of the therein enclosed Confidential Memoranda exchanged between the Netherlands Minister and the Marquis of Lansdowne.

With reference to this communication, I have to say that I am desirous and prepared to make peace proposals, but, in order to be able to decide upon the terms thereof, it is indispensable that I should meet His Honour President Steyn, to enable us to make a proposal jointly, and, to expedite matters, I therefore respectfully request Your Excellency to give me and the Members of my Government a safe conduct through Your Excellency's lines to His Honour President Steyn and back.

I have the honour to be, Your Excellency's obedient servant, S. W. BURGER, Acting State President.

In reply to this letter Acting State President Burger received the following communication:—

PRETORIA, March 13, 1902.


I beg to acknowledge the receipt of Your Honour's letter of the 10th March, and to inform Your Honour that I shall be pleased to allow the safe conduct you ask for.

I shall be obliged if Your Honour would inform me of the number you propose to bring with you, and that you will send in to Balmoral a day in advance, so that an officer whom I shall designate for the purpose may meet Your Honour and see that all proper arrangements are made for your reception.

I shall order my troops immediately to withdraw from the neighbourhood in which Your Honour now is, and inform them of the safe conduct that is hereby given to Your Honour.

I have the honour to be, Your Honour's obedient servant, KITCHENER, General, Commanding-in-Chief South Africa.


Before making use of the opportunity thus obtained of meeting President Steyn, the Government of the South African Republic considered it necessary to ascertain where President Steyn with his Government was, so that he might be informed that the Transvaal Government, under safe conduct from Lord Kitchener, was en route to meet him and his Government. In the following letter Acting-President Burger requested Lord Kitchener to transmit the following telegram to President Steyn:—

To His Excellency LORD KITCHENER, Commander-in-Chief of the British Troops, Pretoria.



I have the honour to acknowledge the receipt of Your Excellency's letter of the 13th inst.

I thank Your Excellency for consenting to our travelling through Your Excellency's lines, and also for the order given to your troops to immediately withdraw from the neighbourhood where I at present am, and for the notice given them of the safe conduct extended to us.

In order to obviate delay I respectfully request Your Excellency to transmit the enclosed telegram to President Steyn, and to put me in possession of His Honour's reply thereto, on receipt of which I shall immediately inform Your Excellency a day in advance, as requested by you, of the time when we shall arrive at Balmoral.

Pending the receipt of Your Excellency's reply we shall remain at Roodepoort, near Rhenosterkop.

I have the honour to be, Your Excellency's obedient servant, S. W. BURGER, Acting State President.


FROM S. W. BURGER, Acting State President, Rhenosterkop, distr. Pretoria.


With reference to confidential Memoranda exchanged between the Netherlands Minister and Lord Lansdowne, which correspondence was kindly sent to me by His Excellency Lord Kitchener, I with the members of my Government, wish to proceed to meet you. For that purpose a safe conduct has been granted to us by Lord Kitchener. Be so good as to inform me as soon as possible where and when such meeting can take place.

To this the following reply was received by Acting-President Burger:—



I am placed in some difficulty by the receipt of Your Honour's dispatch enclosing a telegram which you request me to forward to His Honour Mr. Steyn.

Owing to recent military operations in the country South of the Vaal and East of the Railway, His Honour Mr. Steyn, with a following estimated at about Thirty Burghers, has left that district, and was last reported travelling in the vicinity of Bothaville. It is therefore not easy for me to communicate with him, especially as he does not at present make a prolonged stay in any one part of the country. For this reason I venture to suggest, for Your Honour's consideration, that it might save time, if you came now to Balmoral, where a special train would be placed at Your Honour's disposal. You might then travel to the neighbourhood of Kroonstad, where my Officers would give you every assistance to go out and meet His Honour Mr. Steyn, according to the latest information.

It will be understood that the safe conduct I had the pleasure of forwarding to Your Honour was for a definite purpose of passing my lines to meet Mr. Steyn, and will have to be renewed if any delay takes place in taking advantage of it.

I have the honour to be, Your Honour's obedient servant, KITCHENER, General, Commanding-in-Chief, South Africa.


The Transvaal Government then wrote to Lord Kitchener as follows:—

To His Excellency LORD KITCHENER, Commander-in-Chief of the British Troops, Pretoria.



I acknowledge the receipt of Your Excellency's communication dated the 18th inst., and have the honour to inform you in reply that we shall arrive at Balmoral on Saturday morning the 22nd inst., at 10 o'clock, to avail ourselves of Your Excellency's kind offer to allow us to travel to Kroonstad by rail, and to assist us from there to meet His Honour President Steyn.

I shall be accompanied to Kroonstad by five gentlemen, four white attendants, and one native servant. Furthermore we shall be escorted to Balmoral by some men who will take our vehicles and horses back from there.

I also wish to inform Your Excellency that my guard is still here, where it will remain until our return.

I have the honour to be, Your Excellency's obedient servant, S. W. BURGER, Acting State President.

At this stage of the negotiations an express messenger was despatched to Commandant General Louis Botha, who was then in the South-Eastern districts of the South African Republic, to acquaint him with the decision of the Government, and with the correspondence with Lord Kitchener (of which copies were sent to him). Unfortunately, as it appeared later, the despatch rider did not reach General Botha.

On the morning of March 22nd, 1902, at ten o'clock the Members of the Executive Council, consisting of Acting State President S. W. Burger, State Secretary F. W. Reitz, and Messrs. L. J. Meyer and J. C. Krogh, arrived at Balmoral Station. The Executive Council was also accompanied by Mr. L. J. Jacobsz, Assistant State Attorney, and Mr. D. van Velden, Secretary of the Executive Council (the latter had arrived at Balmoral the previous day with the despatch of March 20th, 1902.)

When they approached the Station, Captain Marker, A.D.C. to Lord Kitchener, Major Leggett, who was connected with the Imperial Military Railways, and Captain Baird of the Intelligence Department, rode out to meet them. At 12 o'clock they left by special train for Kroonstad. There was an hour's delay at Pretoria while another train was being prepared. During this delay the Executive Council paid a visit to Lord Kitchener at his request. After that the journey was continued, and Kroonstad reached in the night.

On the following morning two despatch riders, Robberts and Hattingh, who had been brought with the Executive Council for that purpose, were sent out to find President Steyn. They took with them the following letter with annexures, consisting of copies of the letter of Lord Kitchener, dated March 4th, 1902, and the above-mentioned correspondence between the Netherlands and British Governments, which had been forwarded to Acting President Burger.

His Honour M. T. STEYN, State President, O.F.S., in the Veld.

KROONSTAD, March 24, 1902.


Herewith I send you copies of correspondence which has passed between us and Lord Kitchener, as a result of which I, with the Members of the Executive Council, have proceeded hither with the object of meeting Your Honour.

We learn that Lord Kitchener has sent, or that he intended to send, the same correspondence to Your Honour, but did not know where to find you. His opinion was, that you were somewhere to the west of the railway. I have therefore obtained a copy of the communication intended for Your Honour and send this also herewith.

We shall wait here until we learn where and when we can meet Your Honour.

Will you let us have this information as soon as possible and by the shortest way.

I have the honour to be, Your Honour's obedient servant, S. W. BURGER, Acting State President.

The despatch riders reached President Steyn on March 26th, and handed him the correspondence. The President thereupon immediately sent a despatch to General de Wet—who was at the moment on his way to General Badenhorst—summoning him to attend the proposed meeting, and replied to the Transvaal Government as follows:—

To His Honour S. W. BURGER, Acting State President of the S.A. Republic, Kroonstad.



I have the honour to acknowledge the receipt of Your Honour's despatch of the 24th inst., enclosing correspondence between Your Honour and His Excellency Lord Kitchener.

As I have been suffering from my eyes for six or seven weeks, and since, as you know, almost all our doctors have been captured or have left us, I was obliged to proceed to General de la Rey in order to place myself here under the medical treatment of Dr. von Rennenkampff.

I am still under that treatment and am therefore obliged to meet Your Honour in the South African Republic.

I am prepared to meet Your Honour in the neighbourhood of Klerksdorp or Potchefstroom, on any farm in that neighbourhood which His Excellency Lord Kitchener may consider most suitable, or even in one of those towns, if desirable. When fixing the place of meeting, I wish to leave it to Your Honour to obtain a guarantee from His Excellency Lord Kitchener for me and my Government, with the necessary attendants, that we shall be allowed quietly and unhindered to continue our work there for a definite time, as well as a safe-conduct to proceed unhindered to the place of meeting and to return thence unhindered.

I have the honour to be, Your Honour's obedient servant, M. T. STEYN, State President, O.F.S.

On receipt of the above letter the Government addressed the following communication to Lord Kitchener:—

To His Excellency LORD KITCHENER, Commander-in-Chief of the British Troops, Pretoria.

KROONSTAD, March 31, 1902.


Herewith I have the honour to send you copy of the letter this day received by me from President Steyn.

With reference thereto I request your Excellency to be so good as to furnish President Steyn with the safe-conduct desired by him, and further to inform us as well as His Honour where, in your opinion, the intended meeting can take place. Possibly Potchefstroom would be the most suitable place therefor.

As His Honour the Commandant-General and General de la Rey are both members of the Executive Council, I request Your Excellency kindly to send them the enclosed message, and also to furnish each of them with a safe-conduct to and from the place of meeting.

I further take the liberty of requesting you to forward the enclosed letter to President Steyn.

I have the honour to be, Your Excellency's obedient servant, S. W. BURGER, Acting State President.

The above-mentioned message to General Botha and to General de la Rey read as follows:—


With reference to confidential memoranda exchanged between the Netherlands Minister and Lord Lansdowne, which was sent to us by His Excellency Lord Kitchener, we have come under a safe conduct to meet President Steyn. This meeting will take place in a locality to be decided upon by Lord Kitchener. As we consider your presence necessary there, we have requested His Excellency to furnish you also with a safe-conduct thither and back.

Be so good as to come without delay on receipt hereof.

KROONSTAD, S. W. BURGER, March 31, 1902. Acting State President.

The letter to President Steyn referred to above was as follows:—

To His Honour PRESIDENT STEYN. KROONSTAD, March 31, 1902.


Acknowledging the receipt of Your Honour's letter of the 28th inst., I have, in pursuance of the desire therein expressed by you, requested Lord Kitchener to furnish you with a safe-conduct to such place as may be considered most suitable by His Excellency for the proposed meeting between us.

I have the honour to be, Your Honour's obedient servant, S. W. BURGER, Acting State President, S.A.R.

On April 1st, 1902, Lord Kitchener wrote as follows to Acting State President Burger:



The letters and safe-conducts Your Honour has requested me to send out to Mr. Steyn, Commandant General L. Botha, and General de la Rey will be forwarded at once. I consider Klerksdorp would be the best place for your meeting with these gentlemen.

I have the honour to be, Your Honour's obedient servant, KITCHENER, General, Commanding-in-Chief, South Africa.


The following letter was forwarded by Lord Kitchener to President Steyn:—



At the request of His Honour Mr. S. W. Burger, I beg to forward the enclosed letter, and at the same time to provide you with this a safe-conduct for Your Honour and your Executive to come to Klerksdorp and to return thence after your meeting with Mr. Burger and the Transvaal Government.

I have the honour to be, Your Honour's obedient servant, KITCHENER, General, Commanding-in-chief, South Africa.


President Steyn then addressed the following letter to Acting President Burger:—

To His Honour the Acting State President, S.A.R., S. W. BURGER, Klerksdorp.



I have the honour to acknowledge the receipt of Your Honour's letter, d.d. March 31st, 1902, with the safe-conduct from Lord Kitchener, to whom I have replied direct.

I hope to be at Klerksdorp on Wednesday, the 9th inst., if not prevented, with General de la Rey and my Executive Council.

I have the honour to be, Your Honour's obedient servant, M. T. STEYN, State President, O.F.S.



On April 6th the Government of the South African Republic left Kroonstad by rail, and arrived at Klerksdorp the next day, where they received the letter from President Steyn, mentioned above, as well as the following from General de la Rey:—

IN THE VELD, April 7, 1902.

His Honour The Acting State President, S.A.R., Klerksdorp.


I have the honour to acknowledge the receipt of Your Honour's telegram forwarded to me by His Excellency Lord Kitchener. I leave to-day with His Honour President Steyn for Klerksdorp, and hope, D.V., to arrive there on Wednesday next.

I have the honour to be, &c., J. H. DE LA REY, Asst. Commandant General.

On the evening of April 7th Commandant General L. Botha also arrived at Klerksdorp.

President Steyn, accompanied by his Executive Council and by General de la Rey, left the farm Weltevreden on April 7th, and arrived at Klerksdorp at 12 o'clock on April 9th.

The British authorities gave accommodation to the Free State Government in the Old Town, while the Transvaal Government was accommodated in the New Town.

The first meeting between the two Governments took place on Wednesday afternoon, April 9th, at three o'clock, in a large tent which had been pitched for that purpose some little distance out of the town.

There were present, representing the South African Republic:—

The Acting State President, S. W. Burger. The State Secretary, F. W. Reitz. The Commandant General, Louis Botha. General de la Rey. Mr. L. J. Meyer. Mr. J. C. Krogh.

Also Mr. L. J. Jacobsz, Asst. State Attorney; Mr. N. J. de Wet, Military Secretary of the Commandant General; Mr. I. S. Ferrerra, Military Secretary of General de la Rey, and Mr. D. van Velden, Secretary of the Executive Council.

Representing the Orange Free State:—

President M. T. Steyn. Chief Commandant C. R. de Wet. General J. B. M. Hertzog. General C. H. Olivier. Acting Government Secretary W. J. C. Brebner.

Further: Revd. J. D. Kestell, Acting Secretary of the Executive Council, and Mr. B. J. du Plessis, Private Secretary to President Steyn.

The Acting State President of the South African Republic was elected Chairman.

After the meeting had been opened with prayer, the Chairman spoke as follows:—

As you are aware, we have for some time been desirous of meeting one another. The correspondence between the Netherlands Minister and Lord Lansdowne was sent us by Lord Kitchener, under instructions from his Government. I consider the transmission by the British Government of this correspondence as an invitation from England to the two Republics to discuss the question of peace. Having placed this interpretation upon England's action, I requested a safe-conduct from Lord Kitchener, in order to be enabled to meet the President and Government of the Orange Free State. These circumstances suggested to us that the opportune time to meet one another had arrived. When we see another Government trying to do something for us, I think that we ought to make use thereof. It was impossible for us to meet the Free State Government in another way, and though it was hard for us to make use of the enemy, our cause is of too great importance for us to consider that. I regret that we had to remain at Kroonstad for such a long time. This was certainly not desirable. Faithful, however, to our compact, we can do nothing without the Orange Free State. I considered that it was time for us, the Leaders of the People, to meet each other and discuss matters fully, with our eyes fixed on God. We must face our condition as it really is. Our object is to make a proposal for the restoration of peace. The terms of such a proposal must be discussed by us. If we had not availed ourselves of this opportunity, I would not have been able to justify my actions to the People. I believe all will agree with me that it has become necessary for us to take such a step.

The Meeting then desired to have a brief review from the three Generals of the conditions in their respective districts.

The Commandant General of the South African Republic said, that after the fight at Bakenlaagte the enemy proceeded against him with eighteen columns. Almost all the cattle in his District was taken. By the building of block houses the space on the High Veld was limited very much. The lines of block houses were only about three or four hours' ride from each other. He had to leave the High Veld to try to lead the enemy away, and proceeded to the Vryheid district. He explained how the block house lines on the High Veld ran. In the course of their last operations the enemy captured about 1,000 men on the High Veld, of which the half were good men. The speaker then enumerated the numerical strength of his commandos. He had eight commandos under him, numbering 5,200 men. Food, he said further, was scarce. There was hardly a sheep to be seen in his division, and in one district, which he mentioned, there were only 20 head of cattle. In some other districts conditions were more favourable, and they could not complain of want. There were no mealies whatever, except what was standing in the fields. The question of horses also caused anxiety. Four hundred of his men went on foot. He concluded by bringing to the notice of the Governments the fact that Zulus had been armed against him. The Swazies, with the exception of a small number, were well disposed. On the whole the spirit of the burghers was good. Only here and there could dejection be discerned.

Chief Commandant de Wet said that innumerable hostile forces had continually operated against him during the last eight or ten months. He, with his Government, were so surrounded by the enemy in the North-eastern districts of the Free State, that they had to fight their way out. Seven hundred burghers were then captured, but among them there were many grey-beards, boys, and other men not capable of serving, so that the number of serviceable burghers captured was not more than 250. As regards cattle, if one compared the present condition with that before the war, you would have to say, "There are no cattle." However, there were sufficient for the burghers and families. In the Western and South-western portions of the Free State almost all the burghers laid down their arms when the great forces of the enemy marched through there for the first time. The Commandos there were consequently very weak. They had enough corn in those districts for a full year. Cattle, however, were so scarce that bulls and rams were slaughtered. From the division where General Brand commanded, the enemy at an earlier stage of the war removed all cattle, but now they had large herds again and sufficient corn to last for a year. In the South-eastern portion of the Free State matters were much the same as in the South-western. In the districts of Boshof and Hoopstad there were many sheep and cattle, and there was no want of mealies. The numerical strength in the entire State amounted to 5,000 men, and there were many burghers in the Cape Colony. The spirit of all the burghers was splendid.

General de la Rey informed the meeting that he still had 2,000 men under arms. By means of a line of block houses the enemy had divided the Western districts, and thus made matters difficult for him. Zeerust and Rustenburg were still intact. The approach to his food-districts was also hampered by block houses, much to his detriment. There were between 1,800 and 2,000 men who fought. There were also others who had no horses. These he concealed, and if a burgher fell or was wounded, one of them was brought out to take his place. The burghers were also destitute of the necessary clothes. Mealies were still abundant, and they had a fair number of cattle, but at the present moment the British had all the mealie and Kaffir-corn fields in their possession, and if they should cut these fields off by a block house line, his food would be in their hands. With reference to the Cape Colony, he had about 1,800 men there, and General de Wet about 600. He saw a chance of still continuing the war.

The Members of the Transvaal Government then reported that they had met General Kritzinger at Kroonstad. He had received permission from the British to see President Steyn, and he had greatly regretted that the President had not been there. With regard to the Cape Colony he had not given a hopeful prospect to the Transvaal delegates. He stated that the entire force there amounted to from 1,800 to 2,000 men. There was a great want of horses, and the enemy made it impossible for the commandos to get them, as not only horses and mules, but also donkeys were taken possession of by the enemy. He also said that many Colonists had laid down their arms.

To this President Steyn and General de Wet replied that at the time when General Kritzinger made the above statements he was not competent to express an opinion on the state of affairs in the Cape Colony from personal observation, because after his rather protracted visit to the Free State he had barely returned to the Cape Colony when he was captured at Hanover, badly wounded.

The Meeting then proceeded to the discussion of the question whether they would request a personal interview with Lord Kitchener, or make him a proposal in writing.

President Steyn said that, as far as he was concerned, there was only one condition upon which he could make peace, and that was: Independence. His opinion was still the same as a year ago, and he saw nothing to make him change. It was plain to him that the enemy continually climbed down from the position they had taken up. If the enemy did not wish the Republics to remain independent, the struggle must continue. This was what the burghers also desired. Rather than make terms with the British he would submit unconditionally to them for ever.

State Secretary Reitz said that to make terms and to give up the country were two distinct matters. They should try to grasp the position in which England stood. If England consented to the existence of the independence of the Republics, she would be done for. For that reason it was probable that England would not lend her ear to the two Republican Governments if independence was immediately insisted upon. The question therefore was whether terms could not be offered. The Republics were the weaker party, and therefore they could make the offer. That would also be proof that they were prepared to make peace. They should make a proposal of some kind or other. The making of such a proposal did not signify that thereby their independence was sacrificed, but that the question of independence was not for the time being under discussion.

President Steyn was of opinion that the enemy should be compelled to state what terms they were prepared to give.

Mr. Krogh thought that a conference with the British should first be requested, but no proposals made for the present.

General de la Rey said that the Republics should make a proposal for the restoration of peace, especially after what the Netherlands Government had done. It could not be expected that the British would now make a peace proposal.

The Acting State President of the South African Republic said the war had done away with the Status quo ante bellum. Other proposals should therefore be made. The question was: what proposals? If Lord Kitchener agreed to a conference with them, he would ask: what do you propose? In his opinion the two Governments should ask and concede as much as it was in their power to do. To retain their independence, they should concede something. It was better for them to make a proposal first. If the enemy made the first proposal it would be much more difficult for them (the Boers) to get some point or other conceded, than to obtain the alteration of a proposal made from the Republican side. The matter should be considered from all sides, and its seriousness, especially, should not be lost sight of. If no change came, many of the burghers, forced by sheer necessity, would go over to the enemy. Amongst the people there were always the courageous and the disheartened. And the two elements were still amongst them. A burgher who was with them to-day went to lay down his arms to-morrow. The cause became weaker day by day. Every man who was lost was gone, and his place could not be filled up. The question was whether it was better to continue until the people were exterminated, man, woman and child, than to try to come to terms. Or, on the other hand, to continue until they obtained what they wanted, only to find that the people were extirpated. For whose benefit would the struggle then have been carried on? It should seriously be considered whether the decision taken last year should be adhered to, or whether an attempt should be made to obtain for the people what was possible to obtain. If they must surrender unconditionally, the time should be fixed for doing so, and not delayed till all were captured or killed. They should not be lead away too much by their feelings. If he acted emotionally he would say, "Continue." But they should use their heads.

After this the meeting adjourned to the following morning.


The meeting was resumed. General L. J. Meyer was the first speaker. He said that if anyone intended to continue the struggle he would stand by him, but they should first consider how great the responsibility was that rested on the two Republican Governments. The principal matter that should be taken into consideration was what is to the advantage of the people. Unless a miracle occurred nothing could save the people. He knew what their condition was as regarded food and ammunition. Their cause—whatever might be said—had not improved since June, 1901, but had gone backward. They should not shut their eyes to facts. The rebellion in the Cape Colony was, after all, feeble, and the cause was not progressing there. Would it not be possible to conclude a federal union with the two Colonies? An offensive and defensive treaty? Friendship in trade? If all attempts in these directions came to nothing, could they not be satisfied with an "encumbered independence"? and if England did not want this, and refused to concede anything, the time would have arrived for the matter to be laid before the people.

Chief Commandant de Wet said he did not wish to boast when he said that the enemy had concentrated their greatest forces against him, and that he had at his disposal the smallest forces; but as far as he was concerned there could be no mention of the surrender of their independence. Their cause had progressed since last June. The places of the burghers whom they lost in the Republics were filled by recruits in the Cape Colony. He had sufficient food, clothes, and ammunition for more than a year. Before he conceded an iota of their independence he would allow himself to be banished for ever.

State Secretary Reitz asked whether they should not discuss some questions first. Should they not, for example: (1) Request an armistice; (2) Try to get into communication with their Deputation; (3) Make proposals in which the following points were raised: (a) Customs Convention; (b) Postal Union; (c) The Franchise; (d) Their Foreign Affairs; (e) Amnesty for Colonial Burghers; (f) Their relation to other Powers; (g) The Paramount Power of England, and (4) In order that they did not at once repulse the British by using the word "Independence," would it not be better to use another word instead, for instance, "Self-government"?

General Hertzog said that the Constitution of the Republics did not permit the Governments to meddle with the independence. That was most severely punishable under Roman-Dutch law. The Governments could not part with the independence of the Republics without authority from the people. They should request a conference with Lord Kitchener on the basis of their independence. All they heard was from British sources, and they therefore did not know what the true condition of affairs was. What assurance had they that England was not willing to give them their independence, if she could retain the Cape Colony?

General de la Rey also thought that they should demand their independence. They should concede only what was forced from them.

General Hertzog, seconded by General Olivier, then submitted a draft resolution to the meeting, which was referred to a committee consisting of the two Presidents, the State Secretary, and General Hertzog.

After an adjournment the committee handed in a draft resolution, which was accepted and dispatched to Lord Kitchener.

The resolution read as follows:—

Resolution passed at Klerksdorp by the Governments of the South African Republic and the Orange Free State.

"The Governments of the South African Republic and the Orange Free State having met with reference to the transmission to them of the correspondence which passed in Europe between the Government of His Majesty the King of England and the Government of Her Majesty the Queen of the Netherlands concerning the desirability of giving the Governments of these Republics an opportunity of communicating with their plenipotentiaries in Europe, who still continue to enjoy the confidence of both the Republics;

"Considering the spirit of reconciliation (rapprochement) which is apparent on the part of the Government of His Britannic Majesty, as well as to the desire therein expressed by Lord Lansdowne on behalf of his Government to cause this struggle to come to an end;

"Are of opinion that this is a suitable time to again show their willingness to do all in their power to terminate this war; and

"Consequently resolve to make certain proposals to Lord Kitchener as representing the Government of His Britannic Majesty, which can serve as a basis for further negotiations with the object of establishing the desired peace;

"It is further the view of both these Governments that in order to accelerate the attainment of the desired object, and to prevent misunderstandings as much as possible, His Excellency Lord Kitchener be requested to meet the two Republican Governments personally, at a time and place to be appointed by him, in order to enable them to submit to him direct peace proposals, which they are prepared to make, in order thus by means of direct discussion and conference with him immediately to solve all questions which may arise, and thereby to ensure that this meeting shall bear the desired fruit."

This resolution was forwarded to Lord Kitchener under covering letter signed by the two Presidents.

In the afternoon, after a general discussion, the same Committee was appointed to make a draft of the points which could be conceded to the British.

The meeting adjourned till the following morning.

APRIL 11, 1902.

On meeting again the following morning, the Committee submitted the following document:—

"Proceeding from the basis that they do not recognise the annexation, the two Governments are prepared to conclude peace by conceding the following matters:—

1. The concluding of a perpetual Treaty of friendship and peace, including:—

(a) Arrangements relative to a Customs Convention.

(b) Post, Telegraph and Railway Union,

(c) Fixing of the Franchise.

2. Dismantling of all State Forts.

3. Arbitration in all future differences between the contracting parties, an equal number of arbitrators to be appointed by each party from their subjects, with an umpire to be chosen by both parties.

4. Equal educational rights for both the English and Dutch languages.

5. Mutual amnesty.

Mr. Krogh asked whether the following could not be included in the proposal:—"The conclusion of an offensive and defensive Treaty with England."

President Steyn remarked that if they themselves offered to conclude an offensive and defensive treaty with England, they would thereby alienate all other nations from them. England would use such proposal to kill all the sympathy other nations had for them.

The meeting did not consider it advisable to add anything to the proposal, and accepted it as submitted by the Committee.

Mr. L. J. Jacobsz inquired whether, although it was plain that the Governments were not competent to decide on questions touching the independence of the Republics, they could not raise the point. If England did not accept the proposal of the Republican Governments, and the matter had to be laid before the people, it would be well if those Governments knew what England was prepared to give instead of the independence. The question should be thoroughly taken into serious consideration by their Governments, because, in his opinion, matters had not improved, but become worse since June, 1901.

General Hertzog was of opinion that the Republican outlook had improved during the past year. As proof thereof he pointed to the good spirit that prevailed amongst the burghers. They were determined to persevere. He also pointed to the engagements that had taken place since June, 1901. Then it had also been said that the cause was hopeless, and that no engagement of any importance could still be fought. He also showed that they knew nothing of the real condition of the enemy. The Republics being so shut off made that impossible. They should bear in mind that the enemy also had a hard time of it. England could not continue indefinitely to enlist soldiers and to borrow money. He was not yet prepared to surrender his independence.

Commandant General Botha said that they could not take it amiss in one another if there was no unanimity of views. They had gathered together confidentially, and should treat one another open-heartedly. There was nothing that urged him personally to terminate the struggle. He could flee about as well as anyone else, but when he considered the circumstances, he was bound to say, "We are becoming weaker." They were being forced out of those parts of the country which were the best for them, and to which they had clung most tenaciously. He wished to prove from facts that they had become weaker. In the Northern and South-eastern parts of the Republic they had 9,570 men a year ago. Now they had there only 5,200 men, a reduction thus of 4,370 men. At their meeting on June 20th last year he had said that they should throw the responsibility of the continuance of the war more upon the people. They should then have said plainly that only faith and perseverance could save them, and that there was no other means of salvation. However, the majority of them had taken another view. What he then specially relied upon was the Cape Colony, on the strength of the reports that they received from there. Their reports were to the effect that 2,000 burghers had risen in the Cape Colony. Now, according to the statements of Generals de Wet and de la Rey, there were about 600 of his (General Botha's) burghers and of the Free State burghers together in the Cape Colony; altogether there were about 2,600 burghers under arms there. There has therefore been no further rising during the past year. He was firmly convinced that they could expect nothing from the rebellion in the Cape Colony. The time for a big rising there was past. It appeared that their men were scattered over that Colony in small groups, and effected nothing. They had to live on those people who were well disposed towards them (the Boers), and the result was that those people were treated very harshly by the enemy, and would be compelled later to assist the latter to drive those groups of rebels out of the country. Already many Colonists had been hanged. Their cause was often compared to that of the American Colonists, but it was not clear to him how that comparison could be made. The enemy (the British) had about 40,000 men in America, and America had more than one million inhabitants. She also had the support of France, and a means of importing supplies. They (the Boers) had no such means of importing what was necessary, and there was no proper communication with the outside world. The forces of the enemy in the country were much greater than the entire male population of the two Republics. Their population had now been reduced to 15,000 or 16,000 men. Had they grounds for saying that they with 15,000 men could achieve what 50,000 burghers could not do? They were becoming so weak that he was afraid that they would afterwards no longer be considered a party that had to be reckoned with. It was not impossible that they would afterwards be declared rebels, and then a mutual murdering would take place. He did not think that it could be expected of him to co-operate towards that end. They could not speak of "right," because they knew from sad experience that the stronger party did just what it wanted to. Their people were too good to allow matters to proceed so far. Scheepers was already under the sod, and whom must they shoot for him? Not an ordinary soldier, but an officer, for only officers were equal to their burghers. If the enemy continued to capture burghers as they had done during the last year, then they would within a short time become too weak to effect anything. They had indeed during the last year had such successful engagements that they could hardly account for it themselves, but it was also equally true that the best part of their country was being made uninhabitable for their commandos. In the High Veld there was no more food for their people. They could not bring food there either, because if wagons with provisions were sent thither the enemy captured the greater part of them. He had already informed his Government and General de la Rey that he would be obliged to give up certain portions of the country, and they would have to discuss whither the commandos of those parts had to go.

How must this war end? Must they wait until everyone had been captured? or should they, for the sake of their people, adopt another course? His Government, his officers, and he himself, could say: "Let the enemy carry out their proclamations concerning us. We have nothing more to lose. We have fought for nothing else than our country, and wish to have that back or nothing else. Banish us, banish the Government." But then, what about the People? The People could not be banished. Was there now not still a chance to save something for the People? He considered this point worthy of consideration. For their Leaders he thought it would be easier to continue till they died a manly death, or till they were banished to far-off islands, than to submit to the yoke of the enemy; but they had a duty towards the People.

The State Secretary thought it would be best for the People themselves to elect persons to make their views clear to the Government.

At this juncture a telegram was received from Lord Kitchener stating that he was prepared to have a personal interview with the two Republican Governments, and requesting them to come to Pretoria that same evening.



Early the next morning, Saturday, April 12th, 1902, the two Republican Governments, travelling in separate trains, arrived at Pretoria, and at nine o'clock a meeting with Lord Kitchener took place in his house.

Lord Kitchener expressed the desire that they should first confer informally, and that the Secretaries should withdraw.

The Secretaries then left the chamber, and therefore the discussion that ensued between Lord Kitchener and the Governments cannot be communicated officially.

However, we publish the following report, embracing what took place at the interview on April 12th, 1902, with Lord Kitchener, and at the interview with Lord Kitchener and Lord Milner on April 14th and following days, which was taken down by the Rev. J. D. Kestell immediately afterwards, as communicated to him by General Hertzog. The report was immediately revised by President Steyn and by the Government Secretary, Mr. W. J. C. Brebner. This report can therefore be considered as secondary evidence of great value.

After a few everyday observations, President Steyn remarked that Lord Kitchener might begin.

Thereupon Lord Kitchener began. He spoke in the tone of a person who had a grievance. He wished, he said, to say something concerning what he had been reported as having said in February, 1901, when he negotiated with General Louis Botha. In connection with those negotiations, he declared that he had been misrepresented, wrong motives having been imputed to him. It had been said, for instance, that he had aimed at the destruction of the Boers. He could, however, assure them that no such thing had ever been his intention. Those who said so grossly misrepresented him. (Whether what he said was aimed at General Botha, nobody can say—he mentioned no names. He spoke, however, in the tone of a person who considered that he had been unfairly treated.) "But," he suddenly said, "that is past. I only say this because no official minutes are being kept, everything must take place here informally and in a friendly manner ... I understand that you have something to propose. You can do so now."

Acting President S. W. Burger then introduced the question. He said that both the Governments had drawn up a proposal at Klerksdorp, and then proceeded to read the proposal, article by article.

(State-Secretary F. W. Reitz acted as interpreter between the two parties.)

Then President Steyn spoke. He thanked Lord Kitchener for the readiness with which he had consented to meet the Governments, and assured him that they were earnestly desirous that the war should cease. He also wished, he said, to make an explanation, and this was with respect to a misunderstanding which the British Government was apparently labouring under in regard to the position of the Deputation in Europe in relation to the Leaders of the burghers in South Africa. From the correspondence of Lord Lansdowne with the Netherlands Government, it seemed as if the Government of His Britannic Majesty were in doubt as to whether the Deputation in Europe still represented the Boers in the field. That they still represented the Boers President Steyn declared was most certainly the case. They still enjoyed the fullest confidence of both Governments. Coming to the matter at issue, the President said that the Governments and the People were very desirous that Peace should be restored. But the Peace that was to be restored should be a lasting one, and that was the reason for the proposals being of the nature submitted by the Governments. They had come there to attain no other object than that for which the People had fought until this moment.

Here Lord Kitchener interrupted President Steyn with a question which seemed to express great astonishment. He drew up his shoulders, threw his head forward to one side, and asked, "Must I understand from what you say that you wish to retain your Independence?"

President STEYN: Yes, the people must not be reduced to such a condition as to lose their self-respect, and be placed in such a position that they will feel themselves humiliated in the eyes of the British.

Lord KITCHENER: But that could not be; it is impossible for a people that has fought as the Boers have done to lose their self-respect; and it is just as impossible for Englishmen to regard them with contempt. What I would advise you is, that you submit to the British flag, and now take advantage of the opportunity to obtain the best terms as regards self-government and other matters.

President STEYN: I would like to know from Your Excellency what sort of self-government it would be? Would it be like that of the Cape Colony?

Lord KITCHENER: Yes, precisely so.

President STEYN: I thank Your Excellency. I put the question merely for information.

Lord Kitchener then proceeded to say that one should bear in mind the case of the British Colonies. "The Colonies," he said, "were proud of their own nationality. If anyone, for instance, asked a Colonist in Australia whether he was an Englishman, then his answer would be, 'No, I am an Australian.' And yet such a man felt himself to be one with the British nation, and was proud to call himself a British subject."

President Steyn then said that this comparison would not hold. In the case of British Colonies one had to do with communities which from the beginning had grown up under the British flag, with all the limitations attached thereto. These Colonies had not possessed anything which they had had to surrender, and having had nothing to lose they could have nothing to complain of. In the case of the Boers it was quite different. The Africanders in the two Republics were an independent people. And if that independence were taken away from them they would immediately feel themselves humiliated, and a grievance would arise which would necessarily lead to a situation similar to that now existing in Ireland, which situation was mainly due to the fact that Ireland was a conquered country.

Lord Kitchener replied that Ireland could not serve as a parallel, seeing that it had never had self-government.

To this President Steyn replied that the Irish had self-government, and that in a measure that had never yet been granted to any Colony, seeing that they were represented in the Imperial Parliament. Their power also in this respect was so great that the Irish vote, under a strong man like Parnell, could turn the scale in a Parliamentary question one way or another.

Lord Kitchener then said that he was himself an Irishman, and therefore better able to judge in regard to Irish affairs. He proceeded to say that what was contemplated by the British Government was self-government for the Boers, preceded by military rule for a certain period; that this military rule as a preliminary measure was indispensable at the commencement of Peace for the establishment and maintenance of law and order; that as soon as this period had elapsed self-government would be substituted for it, and that then the Boers could annul any measure or law made by the military authorities. He remarked, however, that he felt sure that much that was good would be introduced by the military government, which they would not desire afterwards to rescind. But the People would have it in their power to decide in every case.

A desultory discussion followed now, and Lord Kitchener urged that the Governments should make a proposal in accordance with what he had suggested; and both the Presidents replied that the Governments, according to the constitutions of the Republics, were not qualified to make any proposals whereby the Independence of the Republics would be touched.

When Lord Kitchener saw that he could make no progress he moved about impatiently in his chair, and said, again with the same gesture as before: that if the Governments wished he would telegraph their proposal to his Government, but he could surmise—he did not know officially what they would do in England—what he said was merely his own opinion—but he could surmise what the answer would be.

The Presidents then expressed their desire that Lord Kitchener should transmit the proposal that had been made by them; but the latter thought that it was not desirable to communicate it in the form in which it had been laid before him. He thought it could be drafted in a more acceptable form. Thereupon he took a pencil and roughly drafted the preamble of a cablegram. He read it aloud, and asked whether anybody wished to make any remark upon it, in order to make the cablegram still more acceptable, and whether they wished to appoint anyone for this purpose. Mr. Reitz was nominated, and the preamble of Lord Kitchener, with the points of the proposal (modified, as will be observed), was thus drawn up, approved of by all, and, on the adjournment of the meeting, transmitted to the British Government.

The telegram read as follows:—


"... The Boer Representatives wish to lay before His Majesty's Government that they have an earnest desire for peace, and that they have consequently decided to ask the British Government to end hostilities and to enter into an agreement of peace with them. They are prepared to enter into an agreement by which, in their opinion, all future wars between them and the British Government in South Africa will be prevented. They consider this object may be attained by providing for the following points:—

1. Franchise.

2. Equal rights for Dutch and English languages in educational matters.

3. Customs Union.

4. Dismantling of all forts in Transvaal and Free State.

5. Post, Telegraph, and Railway Union.

6. Arbitration in case of future differences, and only subjects of the parties to be the arbitrators.

7. Mutual amnesty.

... But if these terms are not satisfactory, they desire to know what terms the British Government would give them in order to secure the end they all desire."

After this conversation with Lord Kitchener the two Republican Governments consulted with each other, and agreed that when they again met the representative of the British Government they would very clearly declare their standpoint, namely, that in the matter of Independence it was the People alone that could constitutionally decide.

Early on Monday morning, April 14th, Lord Kitchener sent to the members of both Governments a copy of the following cablegram which he had received from his Government. He also stated that Lord Milner would take part with him in the conference.

The cablegram was as follows:—


"... His Majesty's Government sincerely share the earnest desire of the Boer Representatives, and hope that the present negotiations may lead to that result. But they have already stated in the clearest terms, and must repeat, that they cannot entertain any proposals which are based on the continued Independence of the former Republics which have been formally annexed to the British Crown. It would be well for you and Milner to interview Boer Representatives and explain this. You should encourage them to put forward fresh proposals, excluding Independence, which we shall be glad to receive."

At ten o'clock the members of the two Republican Governments again assembled in Lord Kitchener's house.

Lord Milner entered the room after the members of the Governments had assembled, and was introduced to them by Lord Kitchener. He (Lord Milner) greeted the Presidents as "Mr. Steyn and Mr. Burger." But later, during the conference, he addressed each (was it inadvertently?) as "President."

Before the conference was continued, Lord Milner spoke a few words. He also wished to remove erroneous impressions. He declared that it had been alleged that he was not well disposed towards the Boers. That was incorrect. He could give the assurance that he wished to promote the interest of the Boers; and that he, like themselves, desired peace.

Thereupon Lord Kitchener laid on the table the cablegram, dated April 13th, from the British Government. Without entering into discussion on it, the President pointed out that it was impossible for the Republican Governments to act in accordance with the desire of the British Government, seeing that, as had already been said on Saturday, they were not qualified to discuss the question of Independence before having consulted the People.

Lord MILNER: May I ask if the prisoners-of-war will also be consulted?

President STEYN: Your Excellency surely cannot be in earnest in putting this question?

Lord MILNER (in a tone of annoyance): Yes, certainly.

President STEYN: How can the prisoners-of-war be consulted?—they are civilly dead. To mention one practical difficulty: suppose the prisoners should decide that the war should be continued, and the burghers on commando that it should not—what then?—

Lord Kitchener and Lord Milner, seeing the absurdity of it, laughed aloud. They quite agreed with President Steyn, and admitted that the difficulty raised by him was to the point.

Lord Kitchener, however, wished to draw attention to the word "excluding" in the answer of the British Government. He put it that the words "excluding Independence" rendered a discussion, as to Dependence or Independence, superfluous. The question should now be discussed as if Independence were finally excluded; and assuming this, such proposals should be made as it was thought would be acceptable as well for the Boers as for the British Government.

President Steyn then pointed out again that it was beyond the power of the Government to do so. They had no right to make a proposal that even assumed the exclusion of Independence.

Lord Kitchener and Lord Milner here again agreed with the President. Both said at the same time, "We agree—we agree."

Meanwhile it had been urged several times that Lord Kitchener should request his Government to make such proposals as might be regarded as some measure of compensation, and which could, as such, be laid before the People, in case the question of surrendering their Independence were laid before them. This looked as if the Republican Governments were convinced that their cause was hopeless, and as if they, not being competent to sacrifice the independence, only waited for the decision of the people on that point. The fact, however, is that the members of the Governments never thought of such a thing, and that they were convinced that if they consulted the People, the People to a man would say: "We want to retain our Independence, and if England does not agree to that, we shall go on with the war."

The Representatives of the British Government would not, however, be persuaded that their Government should make any proposals, and after much discussion Lord Milner said that it appeared to him that they had come to a "dead-lock."

"It seems so to me too," said Lord Kitchener, "and that is just what I wish to avoid. Would the gentlemen not," he continued, "first consult about this privately? If so, Lord Milner and I can retire from the room for a while, and the result of your deliberations can, when you are ready, be communicated to me."

It was then agreed to adjourn till three o'clock in the afternoon.

At three o'clock they again met the Representatives of the British Government.

President Steyn then began by saying (in the spirit of the resolution that had been taken), that the Republican Governments, having taken the reply of the British Government into consideration, had concluded that they could make no proposal on the basis therein suggested; but as they were desirous of seeing Peace restored, they requested (1) that one of their delegates [in Europe] should obtain a safe-conduct to come hither, and that, if it were deemed inadvisable to allow him to return, he might remain somewhere in South Africa, on parole, till the war was over; (2) that an armistice should be agreed upon in order to enable the Republican Governments to consult the People regarding the question of Independence.

Lord Kitchener said, "This comes as a surprise on us!"

The question as to allowing a member of the Deputation to come over was now left unanswered. It had already been discussed in the forenoon, and then Lord Kitchener had said, that it concerned a military question regarding which he himself had to decide, and that he could not grant the request, because it would be an exceptional mode of proceeding to which he could not consent.

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