A Century of Wrong
by F. W. Reitz
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State Secretary of the South African Republic



"Audi Alteram Partem"




PAGE. PREFACE. By W.T. Stead. vii.










APPENDIX A.—Lord Derby's Dispatch on Convention of 1884 101 B.—The Annexation of the Diamond Fields 105 C.—The Reply to Mr. Chamberlain's Dispatch on Grievances 109 D.—The Final Dispatch of Mr. State Secretary Reitz 127 E.—The Text of the Conventions, 1852, 1881, and 1884 128



"In this awful turning point of the history of South Africa, on the eve of the conflict which threatens to exterminate our people, it behoves us to speak the truth in what may be, perchance, our last message to the world."

Such is the raison d'etre of this book. It is issued by State Secretary Reitz as the official exposition of the case of the Boer against the Briton. I regard it as not merely a duty but an honour to be permitted to bring it before the attention of my countrymen.

Rightly or wrongly the British Government has sat in judgment upon the South African Republic, rightly or wrongly it has condemned it to death. And now, before the executioner can carry out the sentence, the accused is entitled to claim the right to speak freely—it may be for the last time—to say why, in his opinion, the sentence should not be executed. A liberty which the English law accords as an unquestioned right to the foulest murderer cannot be denied to the South African Republic. It is on that ground that I have felt bound to afford the spokesman of our Dutch brethren in South Africa the opportunity of stating their case in his own way in the hearing of the Empire.

Despite the diligently propagated legend of a Reptile press fed by Dr. Leyds for the purpose of perverting public opinion, it is indisputable that so far as this country is concerned Mr. Reitz is quite correct in saying that the case of the Transvaal "has been lost by default before the tribunal of public opinion."

It is idle to point, in reply to this, to the statements that have appeared in the press of the Continent. These pleadings were not addressed to the tribunal that was trying the case. In the British press the case of the Transvaal was never presented by any accredited counsel for the defence. Those of us who have in these late months been compelled by the instinct of justice to protest against the campaign of misrepresentation organised for the purpose of destroying the South African Republic were in many cases so far from authorised exponents of the South African Dutch that some of them—among whom I may be reckoned for one—were regarded with such suspicion that it was most difficult for us to obtain even the most necessary information from the representatives of the Government at Pretoria. Nor was this suspicion without cause—so far at least as I was concerned.

For nearly a quarter of a century it might almost have been contended that I was one of the leading counsel for the prosecution. First as the friend and advocate of the Rev. John Mackenzie, then as the friend and supporter of Mr. Cecil Rhodes, and latterly as the former colleague and upholder of Sir Alfred Milner, it had been my lot constantly, in season and out of season, to defend the cause of the progressive Briton against the Conservative Boer, and especially to advocate the Cause of the Reformers and Uitlanders against the old Tory Administration of President Kruger. By agitation, by pressure, and even, if need be, in the last resort by legitimate insurrection, I had always been ready to seek the establishment of a progressive Liberal Administration in Pretoria. And I have at least the small consolation of knowing that if any of the movements which I defended had succeeded, the present crisis would never have arisen, and the independence of the South African Republic would have been established on an unassailable basis. But with such a record it is obvious that I was almost the last man in the Empire who could be regarded as an authorised exponent of the case of the Boers.

That in these last months I have been forced to protest against the attempt to stifle their independence is due to a very simple cause. To seek to reform the Transvaal, even by the rough and ready means of a legitimate revolution, is one thing. To conspire to stifle the Republic in order to add its territory to the Empire is a very different thing. The difference may be illustrated by an instance in our own history. Several years ago I wrote a popular history of the House of Lords, in which I showed, at least to my own satisfaction, that for fifty years our "pig-headed oligarchs"—to borrow a phrase much in favour with the War Party—had inflicted infinite mischief upon the United Kingdom by the way in which they had abused their power to thwart the will of the elected representatives of the people. I am firmly of opinion that our hereditary Chamber has done a thousand times more injury to the subjects of the Queen than President Kruger has ever inflicted upon the aggrieved Uitlanders. I look forward with a certain grim satisfaction to assisting, in the near future, in a semi-revolutionary agitation against the Peers, in which some of our most potent arguments will be those which the War Party has employed to inflame public sentiment against the Boers. But, notwithstanding all this, if a conspiracy of Invincibles were to be formed for the purpose of ending the House of Lords by assassinating its members, or by blowing up the Gilded Chamber and all its occupants with dynamite, I should protest against such an outrage as vehemently as I have protested against the more heinous crime that is now in course of perpetration in South Africa. And the very vehemence with which I had in times past pleaded the cause of the People against the Peers would intensify the earnestness with which I would endeavour to avert the exploitation of a legitimate desire to end the Second Chamber by the unscrupulous conspirators of assassination and of dynamite. Hence it is that I seize every opportunity afforded me of enabling the doomed Dutch to plead their case before the tribunal which has condemned them, virtually unheard.

In introducing A Century of Wrong to the British public, I carefully disassociate myself from assuming any responsibility for all or any of the statements which it contains. My imprimatur was not sought, nor is it extended to the history contained in A Century of Wrong, excepting in so far as relates to its authenticity as an exposition of what our brothers the Boers think of the way in which we have dealt with them for the last hundred years.

That is much more important than the endorsement by any Englishman as to the historical accuracy of the statements which it contains. For what every judicial tribunal desires, first of all, is to hear witnesses at first hand. Hitherto the British public has chiefly been condemned to second-hand testimony. In the pages of A Century of Wrong it will, at least, have an opportunity of hearing the Dutch of South Africa speak for themselves.

There is no question as to the qualifications of Mr. F.W. Reitz to speak on behalf of the Dutch Africander. Although at this moment State Secretary for President Kruger, he was for nearly ten years Chief Justice and then President of the Orange Free State, and he began his life in the Cape Colony. The family is of German origin, but his ancestors migrated to Holland in the seventeenth century and became Dutch. His grandfather emigrated from Holland to the Cape, and founded one of the Africander families. His father was a sheep farmer; one of his uncles was a lieutenant in the British Navy.

Mr. Reitz is now in his fifty-sixth year, and received a good English education. After graduating at the South African College he came to the United Kingdom, and finished his studies at Edinburgh University, and afterwards at the Inner Temple, where he was called to the Bar in 1868. He then returned to the Cape, and, after practising as a barrister in the Cape courts for six years, was appointed Chief Justice of the Orange Free State, a post which he held for fifteen years. He was then elected and re-elected as President of the Orange Free State. In 1893 he paid a lengthy visit to Europe and to the United Kingdom. After Dr. Leyds was appointed to his present post as foreign representative of the South African Republic, Mr. Reitz was appointed State Secretary, and all the negotiations between the Transvaal and Great Britain passed through his hands.

Mr. Reitz's narrative is not one calculated to minister to our national self-conceit, but it is none the worse on that account. Of those who minister to our vanity we have enough and to spare, with results not altogether desirable. In the long controversy between the Boers and the missionaries Mr. Reitz takes, as might be expected, the view of his own people.

An English lady in South Africa writing to the British Weekly of December 21st, in reply to the statement of the Rev. Dr. Stewart, makes some observations on this feud between the Boers and the missionaries, which it may be well to bear in mind in discussing this question. The lady ("I.M.") says:—

Dr. Stewart naturally starts from the mission question. I speak as the daughter of one of the greatest mission supporters that South Africa has ever known when I say that the earliest missionaries who came to this country were to a very large extent themselves the cause of all the Boer opposition which they may have had to encounter. When they arrived, they found the Boers at about the same stage of enlightenment with regard to missions as the English themselves had been in the time of Carey. And yet, in spite of prejudice and ignorance, every Boer of any standing was practically doing mission work himself, for when, according to unfailing custom, the "Books" were brought out morning and evening for family worship, the slaves were never allowed to be absent, but had to come and receive instruction with the rest of the family. But the tone and methods which the missionaries adopted were such as could not fail to arouse the aversion of the farmers, their great idea being that the coloured races, utter savages as yet, should be placed upon complete equality with their superiors. At Earl's Court we have recently seen something of how easily the natives are spoilt, and they were certainly not better in those days. When, however, the Boers showed that they disapproved of all this, the natives were immediately taught to regard them as their oppressors, and were encouraged to insubordination to their masters, and the ill-effects of this policy on the part of the missionaries has reached further than can be told. May I ask was this the tone that St. Paul adopted in his mission work among the oppressed slaves of his day?... It is not those who do not know the Boers, like Dr. Stewart, but those who know them best, like Dr. Andrew Murray, who are not only enamoured of their simple lives, but who know also that with all their disadvantages and their positive faults they are still a people whose rule of life is the Bible, whose God is the God of Israel, and who as a nation have never swerved from the covenant with that God entered into by their fathers, the Huguenots of France and the heroes of the Netherlands.

Upon this phase of the controversy there is no necessity to dwell at present, beyond remarking that those who are at present most disposed to take up what may be regarded as the missionary side should not forget that they are preparing a rod for their own backs. The Aborigines Protection Society has long had a quarrel with the Boers, but if our Imperialists are going to adopt the platform of Exeter Hall they will very soon find themselves in serious disagreement with Mr. Cecil Rhodes and other Imperialist heroes of the hour. That the Dutch in South Africa have treated the blacks as the English in other colonies have treated the aborigines is probably true, despite all that Mr. Reitz can say on their behalf. But, whereas in Tasmania and the Australian Colonies the black fellows are exterminated by the advancing Briton, the immediate result of the advent of the Dutch into the Transvaal has been to increase the number of natives from 70,000 to 700,000, without including those who were attracted by the gold mines. In dealing with native races all white men have the pride of their colour and the arrogance of power. The Boers, no doubt, have many sins lying at their door, but it does not do for the pot to call the kettle black, and so far as South Africa is concerned, the difference between the Dutch and British attitudes toward the native races is more due to the influence of Exeter Hall and the sentiment which it represents than to any practical difference between English and Dutch Colonists as to the status of the coloured man. The English under Exeter Hall have undoubtedly a higher ideal as to the theoretical equality of men of all races; but on the spot the arrogance of colour is often asserted as offensively by the Briton as by the Boer. The difference between the two is, in short, that the Boer has adjusted his practice to his belief, whereas we believe what we do not practice. That the black population of the Transvaal is conscious of being treated with exceeding brutality by the Boers is disproved by the fact that for months past all the women and children of the two Republics have been left at the absolute mercy of the natives in the midst of whom they live.

The English reader will naturally turn with more interest to Mr. Reitz's narrative of recent negotiations than to his observations upon the hundred years of history which he says have taught the Dutch that there is no justice to be looked for at the hands of a British Government. The advocates of the war will be delighted to find that Mr. Reitz asserts in the most uncompromising terms the right of the Transvaal to be regarded as an Independent Sovereign International State. However unpleasant this may be to Downing Street, the war has compelled the Government to recognise the fact. When it began we were haughtily told that there would be no declaration of war, nor would the Republics be recognised as belligerents. The war had not lasted a month before this vainglorious boast was falsified, and we were compelled to recognise the Transvaal as a belligerent State. It is almost incredible that even Sir William Harcourt should have fallen into the snare set for him by Mr. Chamberlain in this matter. The contention that the Transvaal cannot be an Independent Sovereign State because Article 4 of the Convention of 1884 required that all treaties with foreign Powers should be submitted for assent to England may afford a technical plea for assuming that it was not an Independent Sovereign International State. But, as Mr. Reitz points out, no one questions the fact that Belgium is an International Independent Sovereign State, although the exercise of her sovereignty is limited by an international obligation to maintain neutrality. A still stronger instance as proving the fact that the status of a sovereign State is not affected by the limitation of the exercise of its sovereignty is afforded by the limitation imposed by the Treaty of Paris on the sovereign right of the Russian Empire to maintain a fleet in the Black Sea. To forbid the Tsar to put an ironclad on the sea which washes his southern coast was a far more drastic limitation of the inalienable rights of an Independent International Sovereign State than the provision that treaties affecting the interests of another Power should be subject to the veto of that Power, but no one has protested that Russia has lost her international status on account of the limitation imposed by the Treaty of Paris. In like manner Mr. Reitz argues that the Transvaal, being free to conduct its diplomacy, and to make war, can fairly claim to be a Sovereign International State. The assertion of this fact serves as an Ithuriel's spear to bring into clear relief the significance of the revival by Mr. Chamberlain of the Suzerainty of 1881. Upon this point Mr. Reitz gives us a plain straightforward narrative, the justice and accuracy of which will not be denied by anyone who, like Sir Edward Clarke, takes the trouble to read the official dispatches.

I turn with more interest to Mr. Reitz's narrative of the precise differences of opinion which led to the breaking-off of negotiations between the two Governments. Mr. Chamberlain, it will be remembered, said in his dispatch he had accepted nine-tenths of the conditions laid down by the Boers if the five years' franchise was to be conceded. What the tenth was which was not accepted Mr. Chamberlain has never told us, excepting that it was "a matter of form" which was "not worth a war." Readers of Mr. Reitz's narrative will see that in the opinion of the Boers the sticking point was the question of suzerainty. If Mr. Chamberlain would have endorsed Sir Alfred Milner's declaration, and have said, as his High Commissioner did, that the question about suzerainty was etymological rather than political, and that he would say no more about it, following Lord Derby's policy and abstaining from using a word which was liable to be misunderstood, there would have been no war. So far as Mr. Reitz's authority goes we are justified in saying that the war was brought about by the persistence of Mr. Chamberlain in reviving the claim of suzerainty which had been expressly surrendered in 1884, and which from 1884 to 1897 had never been asserted by any British Government.

Another point of great importance is the reference which Mr. Reitz makes to the Raid. On this point he speaks with much greater moderation than many English critics of the Government. Lord Loch will be interested in reading Mr. Reitz's account of the way in which his visit to Pretoria was regarded by the Transvaal Government. It shows that it was his visit which first alarmed the Boers, and compelled them to contemplate the possibility of having to defend their independence with arms. But it was not until after the Jameson Raid that they began arming in earnest. As there is so much controversy upon this subject, it may be well to quote here the figures from the Budget of the Transvaal Government, showing the expenditure before and after the Raid.

Public Special Sundry Military. Works. Payments. Services. Total. L L L L L 1889 75,523 300,071 58,737 171,088 605,419 1890 42,999 507,579 58,160 133,701 742,439 1891 117,927 492,094 52,486 76,494 739,001 1892 29,739 361,670 40,276 93,410 528,095 1893 19,340 200,106 148,981 132,132 500,559 1894[1] 28,158 260,962 75,859 163,547 521,526 1895[2] 87,308 353,724 205,335 838,877 1,485,244 1896 495,618 701,022 682,008 128,724 2,007,372 1897 396,384 1,012,686 248,864 135,345 1,793,279 1898[3] 163,451 383,033 157,519 100,874 804,877

Of the Raid itself Mr. Reitz speaks as follows:—

The secret conspiracy of the Capitalists and Jingoes to overthrow the South African Republic began now to gain ground with great rapidity, for just at this critical period Mr. Chamberlain became Secretary of State for the Colonies. In the secret correspondence of the conspirators, reference is continually made to the Colonial Office in a manner which, taken in connection with later revelations and with a successful suppression of the truth, has deepened the impression over the whole world that the Colonial Office was privy to, if not an accomplice in, the villainous attack on the South African Republic.

Nor has the world forgotten how, at the urgent instance of the Africander party in the Cape Colony, an investigation into the causes of the conflict was held in Westminster; how that investigation degenerated into a low attack upon the Government of the deeply maligned and deeply injured South African Republic, and how at the last moment, when the truth was on the point of being revealed, and the conspiracy traced to its fountain head in the British Cabinet, the Commission decided all of a sudden not to make certain compromising documents public.

Here we see to what a depth the old great traditions of British Constitutionalism had sunk under the influence of the ever-increasing and all-absorbing lust of gold, and in the hands of a sharp-witted wholesale dealer, who, like Cleon of old, has constituted himself a statesman.

When Mr. Reitz wrote his book he did not know that immediately after the Raid the British Government began to accumulate information, and to prepare for the war with the Republic which is now in progress. The reason why Mr. Reitz did not refer to this in A Century of Wrong was because documents proving its existence had not fallen into the hands of the Transvaal Government until after the retreat from Glencoe. Major White and his brother officers who were concerned in the Raid were much chaffed for the incredible simplicity with which he allowed a private memorandum as to preparations for the Raid to fall into the hands of the Boers. His indiscretion has been thrown entirely into the shade by the simplicity which allowed War Office documents of the most secret and compromising nature to fall into the hands of the Boers, showing that preparations for the present war began immediately after the defeat of the Raid. The special correspondent of Reuter with the Boers telegraphed from Glencoe on October 28th as follows:—

The papers captured at Dundee Camp from the British unveil a thoroughly worked out scheme to attack the independence of both Republics as far back as 1896, notwithstanding constant assurances of amity towards the Free State.

Among these papers there are portfolios of military sketches of various routes of invasion from Natal into the Transvaal and Free State, prepared by Major Grant, Captain Melvill, and Captain Gale immediately after the Jameson Raid.

A further portfolio marked secret styled "Reconnaissance Reports of Lines of Advance through the Free State" was prepared by Captain Wolley, on the Intelligence Division of the War Office, in 1897, and is accompanied by a special memorandum, signed by Sir Redvers Buller, to keep it secret.

Besides these there are specially executed maps of the Transvaal and Free State, showing all the natural features, also a further secret Report of Communications in Natal north of Ladysmith, including a memorandum of the road controlling Lang's Nek position.

Further, there is a short Military Report on the Transvaal, printed in India in August last, which was found most interesting. The white population is given at 288,000, of whom the Outlanders number 80,000, and of the Outlanders 30,000 are given as of British descent—which figures the authorities regard as much nearer the truth than Mr. Chamberlain's statements made in the House of Commons.

One report estimates that 4,000 Cape and Natal Colonists would side with the Republics in case of war, and that the small armament of the Transvaal consists of 62,950 rifles, and that the Boers would prove not so mobile or such good marksmen as in the War of Independence.

Further, the British did not think much of the Johannesburg and Pretoria forts.

A further secret Report styled "Military Notes on the Dutch Republics of South Africa," and numbers of other papers, not yet examined, were also found, and are to be forwarded to Pretoria.

The Free State burghers are now more than ever convinced that it was the right policy for them to fight along with the Transvaal, and they say, since they have seen the reports, that they will fight with, if possible, more determination than ever.

It may be contended, no doubt, upon our part that these private reports were none other than those which every Government receives from its military attaches, but it must be admitted that their discovery at the present moment is most inopportune for those who wish to persuade the Free State that they can rely upon the assertions of Great Britain that no design was made upon their independence. If at this moment the portfolios of a German Staff Officer were to fall into the hands of an English correspondent, and detailed plans for invading England were to be published in all the newspapers as having been drawn up by German officers told off for that purpose, it would not altogether tend to reassure us as to the good intentions of our Imperial neighbour. How much more serious must be the publication of these documents seized at Dundee upon a people which is actually at war.

The concluding chapter of Mr. Reitz's eloquent impeachment of the conduct of Great Britain in South Africa is devoted to a delineation of what he calls Capitalistic Jingoism. It is probable that a great many who will read with scant sympathy his narrative of the grievances of his countrymen in the earlier part, of the century will revel in the invective which he hurls against Mr. Rhodes and the Capitalists of the Rand. If happier times return to South Africa, Mr. Reitz may yet find the mistake he has made in confounding Mr. Rhodes with the mere dividend-earning crew, who brought about this war in order to diminish the cost of crushing gold by five or six shillings a ton. In the realisation of the ideal of Africa for the Africanders Mr. Rhodes might be more helpful to Mr. Reitz and the Dutch of South Africa than any other living man. Whether it is possible for them to forget and forgive the future alone will show. But at present it seems rather as if Mr. Reitz sees nothing between Africanderism and Capitalistic Jingoism but war to the death.

Mr. Reitz breaks off his narrative at the point immediately before the Ultimatum. Those curious politicians who begin their survey of the war from the launching of that declaration will, therefore, find nothing in A Century of Wrong to interest them. But those who take a fresh and intelligent view of a long and complicated historical controversy will welcome the authoritative exposition of the causes which, in the opinion of the authors of the Ultimatum, justified, and, indeed, necessitated that decisive step. To what Mr. Reitz has said it is only necessary to add one fact.

The Ultimatum was dated October 9th. It was the natural response to the menace with which the British Government had favoured them three days previous, when on October 6th they issued the formal notice calling out the Reserves for the avowed object of making war upon the South African Republic.

Whether they were right or wrong, it is impossible to withhold a tribute of admiration and sympathy for the little States which confront the onslaughts of their Imperial foe with such heroic fortitude and serene courage. As Dr. Max Nordau remarks in the North American Review for December:—

The fact that a tiny people faces death without hesitation to defend its independence against an enemy fabulously superior in number, or to die in the attempt, presents an aspect of moral beauty which no soul, attuned to higher things, will disregard. Even friends and admirers of England—yea, even the English themselves—strongly sense the pathos in the situation of the Dutch Boers, who feel convinced that they are fighting for their national existence, and agree that it equals the pathos of Leonidas, William Tell, and Kosciusko.

Over and above all else the note in the State Secretary's appeal which will vibrate most loudly in the British heart is that in which he appeals to his countrymen to cling fast to the God of their forefathers, and to the righteousness which is sometimes slow in acting, but which never slumbers or forgets. "It proceeds according to eternal laws, unmoved by human pride and ambition. As the Greek poet of old said, it permits the tyrant, in his boundless self-esteem, to climb higher and higher, and to gain greater honour and might, until he arrives at the appointed height, and then falls down into the infinite depths."

Who is there who remembers the boastings of the British press at the outbreak of the war can read without awe the denunciations of the Hebrew seers against the nations and empires who in arrogance and pride forgot the Lord their God?

"Behold, I am against thee, O thou most proud, saith the Lord God of Hosts: for thy day is come, the time that I will visit thee. And the most proud shall stumble and fall, and none shall raise him up."

This, after all, is the great issue which underlies everything. Is there or is there not in the affairs of men a Providence which the ancients pictured as the slow-footed Nemesis, but which we moderns have somewhat learned to disregard? "If right and wrong, in this God's world of ours, are linked with higher Powers," is the great question which the devout soul, whether warrior or saint, has ever answered in one way. When in this country a leading exponent of popular Liberalism declares that "morally we can never win, but that physically we must and shall," we begin to realise how necessary is the chastisement which has fallen upon us for our sins. If this interpretation of the situation be even approximately correct, the further we go the worse we shall fare. It is vain for us to kick against the pricks.

W.T. STEAD. January 1st, 1900.


[Footnote 1: 1894.—Year of Lord Loch's visit (in June) to Pretoria.]

[Footnote 2: 1895.—Conspiracy, culminating in the Raid.]

[Footnote 3: 1898.—First nine months.]


* * * * *



Once more in the annals of our bloodstained history has the day dawned when we are forced to grasp our weapons in order to resume the struggle for liberty and existence, entrusting our national cause to that Providence which has guided our people throughout South Africa in such a miraculous way.

The struggle of now nearly a century, which began when a foreign rule was forced upon the people of the Cape of Good Hope, hastens to an end; we are approaching the last act in that great drama which is so momentous for all South Africa; we have reached a stage when it will be decided whether the sacrifices which both our fathers and we ourselves have made in the cause of freedom have been offered in vain, whether the blood of our race, with which every part of South Africa has been, as it were, consecrated, has been shed in vain; and whether by the grace of God the last stone will now be built into the edifice which our fathers began with so much toil and so much sorrow.

[Sidenote: The alternative of Africanderdom.]

The hour has struck which will decide whether South Africa, in jealously guarding its liberty, will enter upon a new phase of its history, or whether our existence as a people will come to an end, whether we shall be exterminated in the deadly struggle for that liberty which we have prized above all earthly treasures, and whether South Africa will be dominated by capitalists without conscience, acting in the name and under the protection of an unjust and hated Government 7,000 miles away from here.

[Sidenote: The necessity of historical retrospect.]

In this hour it behoves us to cast a glance back at the history of this great struggle. We do so not to justify ourselves, because liberty, for which we have sacrificed everything, has justified us and screened our faults and failings, but we do so in order that we may be, as it were, sanctified and prepared for the conflict which lies before us, bearing in mind what our people have done and suffered by the help of God. In this way we may be enabled to continue the work of our fathers, and possibly to complete it. Their deeds of heroism in adventures with Bantu and Briton shine forth like guiding stars through the history of the past, in order to point out the way for posterity to reach that goal for which our sorely tried people have made such great sacrifices, and for which they have undergone so many vicissitudes.

The historical survey will, moreover, aid in bringing into stronger relief those naked truths to which the tribunal of impartial history will assuredly testify hereafter, in adjudging the case between ourselves and our enemy. And the questions which present themselves for solution in the approaching conflict have their origin deep in the history of the past; it is only by the light of that history that it becomes possible to discern and appreciate the drifting straws which float on the currents of to-day. By its light we are more clearly enabled to comprehend the truth, to which our people appeal as a final justification for embarking upon the war now so close at hand.

History will show convincingly that the pleas of humanity, civilisation, and equal rights, upon which the British Government bases its actions, are nothing else but the recrudescence of that spirit of annexation and plunder which has at all times characterised its dealings with our people.


The cause for which we are about to take up arms is the same, though in somewhat different form, as that for which so many of our forefathers underwent the most painful experiences centuries ago, when they abandoned house and fatherland to settle at the Cape of Good Hope, to enjoy there that freedom of conscience which was denied them in the land of their birth. In the beautiful valleys lying between the blue mountains of the Cape of Good Hope they planted the seed-germ of liberty, which sprang up and has since developed with such startling rapidity into the giant tree of to-day—a tree which not only covers a considerable area in this part of the world, but will yet, in God's good time, we feel convinced, stretch out its leafy branches over the whole of South Africa. In spite of the oppressive bonds of the East India Company, the young settlement, containing the noblest blood of old Europe as well as its most exalted aspirations, grew so powerfully that in 1806, when the Colony passed into the hands of England, a strong national sentiment and a spirit of liberty had already been developed.

[Sidenote: The Africander spirit of liberty]

As is forcibly expressed in an old document dating from the most renowned period of our history, there grew out of the two stocks of Hollanders and French Huguenots "a united people, one in religion, united in peaceful reverence for the law, but with a feeling of liberty and independence equal to the wide expanse of territory which they had rescued as a labour of love from the wilderness of nature, or from its still wilder aboriginal inhabitants." When the Dutch Government made way for that of Great Britain in 1806, and, still more, when that change was sealed in 1814 by a transaction in which the Prince of Orange sold the Cape to Great Britain for L6,000,000 against the wish and will of the inhabitants, the little settlement entered upon a new phase of its history, a phase, indeed, in which its people were destined by their heroic struggle for justice, to enlist a world-wide sympathy on their behalf.

[Sidenote: England's native policy.]

Notwithstanding the wild surroundings and the innumerable savage tribes in the background, the young Africander nation had been welded into a white aristocracy, proudly conscious of having maintained its superiority notwithstanding its arduous struggles. It was this sentiment of just pride which the British Government well understood how to wound in its most sensitive part by favouring the natives as against the Africanders. So, for example, the Africander Boers were forced to look with pained eyes on the scenes of their farms and property devastated by the natives without being in a position to defend themselves, because the British Government had even deprived them of their ammunition. In the same way the liberty-loving Africander burgher was coerced by a police composed of Hottentots, the lowest and most despicable class of the aborigines, whom the Africanders justly placed on a far lower social level than that of their own Malay slaves.

[Sidenote: Slachter's Nek.]

No wonder that in 1815 a number of the Boers were driven into rebellion, a rebellion which found an awful ending in the horrible occurrence of the 9th of March, 1816, when six of the Boers were half hung up in the most inhuman way in the compulsory presence of their wives and children. Their death was truly horrible, for the gallows broke down before the end came; but they were again hoisted up in the agony of dying, and strangled to death in the murderous tragedy of Slachter's Nek. Whatever opinions have been formed of this occurrence in other respects, it was at Slachter's Nek that the first bloodstained beacon was erected which marks the boundary between Boer and Briton in South Africa, and the eyes of posterity still glance back shudderingly through the long vista of years at that tragedy of horror.

[Sidenote: The missionaries.]

This was, however, but the beginning. Under the cloak of religion British administration continued to display its hate against our people and nationality, and to conceal its self-seeking aims under cover of the most exalted principles. The aid of religion was invoked to reinforce the policy of oppression in order to deal a deeper and more fatal blow to our self-respect. Emissaries of the London Missionary Society slandered the Boers, and accused them of the most inhuman cruelties to the natives. These libellous stories, endorsed as they were by the British Government, found a ready ear amongst the English, and the result was that under the pressure of powerful philanthropic opinion in England our unfortunate people were more bitterly persecuted than ever, and were finally compelled to defend themselves in courts of law against the coarsest accusations and insults. But they emerged from the ordeal triumphantly, and the records of the criminal courts of the Cape Colony bear indisputable witness to the fact that there were no people amongst the slave-owning classes of the world more humane than the Africander Boers. Their treatment of the natives was based on the theory that natives ought not to be considered as mature and fully developed people, but that they were in reality children who had to be won over to civilisation by just and rigid discipline; they hold the same convictions on this subject to-day, and the enlightened opinion of the civilised world is inclining more and more to the same conclusion. But the fact that their case was a good one, and that it was triumphantly decided in their favour in the law courts, did not serve to diminish, but rather tended to sharpen, the feeling of injustice with which they had been treated.

[Sidenote: Emancipation of the slaves.]

A livelier sense of wrong was quickened by the way in which the emancipation of the slaves—in itself an excellent measure—was carried out in the case of the Boers.

Our forefathers had become owners of slaves chiefly imported in English ships and sold to us by Englishmen. The British Government decided to abolish slavery. We had no objection to this, provided we received adequate compensation.[4] Our slaves had been valued by British officials at three millions, but of the twenty millions voted by the Imperial Government for compensation, only one and a quarter millions was destined for South Africa; and this sum was payable in London. It was impossible for us to go there, so we were forced to sell our rights to middlemen and agents for a mere song; and many of our people were so overwhelmed by the difficulties placed in their way that they took no steps whatever to receive their share of the compensation.

Greyheads and widows who had lived in ease and comfort went down poverty-stricken to the grave, and gradually the hard fact was borne in upon us that there was no such thing as Justice for us in England.

[Sidenote: Slavery at the Cape.]

Froude, the English historian, hits the right nail on the head when he says:—

[5] "Slavery at the Cape had been rather domestic than predial; the scandals of the West India plantations were unknown among them.

Because the Dutch are a deliberate and slow people, not given to enthusiasm for new ideas, they fell into disgrace with us, where they have ever since remained. The unfavourable impression of them became a tradition of the English Press, and, unfortunately, of the Colonial Office. We had treated them unfairly as well as unwisely, and we never forgive those whom we have injured."

[Sidenote: The Glenelg policy.]

[6] But this was not all. When the English obtained possession of the Cape Colony by convention, the Fish River formed the eastern boundary. The Kaffirs raided the Colony from time to time, but especially in 1834, when they murdered, plundered, and outraged the helpless Colonists in an awful and almost indescribable manner. The Governor was ultimately prevailed upon to free the strip of territory beyond the Fish River from the raids of the Kaffirs, and this was done by the aid of the Boers. But Lord Glenelg, the Colonial Secretary, reversed this policy and restored the whole territory to the natives. He maligned the Boers in even more forcible terms than the emissaries of the London Missionary Society, and openly favoured the Kaffirs, placing them on a higher pedestal than the Boers. The latter had succeeded in rescuing their cattle from the Kaffirs, but were forced to look on passively while the very same cattle, with the owner's brand marks plainly visible, were sold by public auction to defray the cost of the commando. It was useless to hope for justice from Englishmen. There was no security for life and property under the flag of a Government which openly elected to uphold Wrong. The high-minded descendants of the proudest and most stubborn peoples of Europe had to bend the knee before a Government which united a commercial policy of crying injustice with a veneer of simulated philanthropy.

[Sidenote: The Dutch language.]

But it was not only in regard to the Natives that the Boers were oppressed and their rights violated. When the Cape was transferred to England in 1806, their language was guaranteed to the Dutch inhabitants. This guarantee was, however, soon to meet the same fate as the treaties and conventions which were concluded by England with our people at later periods.

The violator of treaties fulfilled its obligation by decreeing in 1825 that all documents were for the future to be written in English. Petitions in the language of the country and complaints about bitter grievances were not even acknowledged. The Boers were excluded from the juries because their knowledge of English was too faulty, and their causes and actions had to be determined by Englishmen, with whom they had nothing in common.

[Sidenote: The Great Trek.]

After twenty years' experience of British administration it had become abundantly clear to the Boers that there was no prospect of peace and prosperity before them, for their elementary rights had been violated, and they could only expect oppression. They were without adequate guarantees of protection, and their position had become intolerable in the Cape Colony.

They decided to sell home, farm, and all that remained over from the depredations of the Kaffirs, and to trek away from British rule. The Colony was at this time bounded on the north by the Orange River.

[Sidenote: Legality of the Trek.]

[7] At first, Lieutenant-Governor Stockenstrom was consulted; but he was of opinion that there was no law which could prevent the Boers from leaving the Colony and settling elsewhere. Even if such a statute existed, it would be tyrannical, as well as impossible, to enforce it.

The Cape Attorney-General, Mr. Oliphant, expressed the same opinion, adding that it was clear that the emigrants were determined to go into another country, and not to consider themselves British subjects any longer. The same thing was happening daily in the emigration from England to North America, and the British Government was and would remain powerless to stop the evil.

The territory to the north of the Orange River and to the east of the Drakensberg lay outside the sphere of British influence or authority, and was, as far as was then known, inhabited by savages; but the Boers decided to brave the perils of the wilderness and to negotiate with the savages for the possession of a tract of country, and so form an independent community rather than remain any longer under British rule.

[Sidenote: The Manifesto of Piet Retief.]

In the words of Piet Retief, when he left Grahamstown:—

We despair of saving the Colony from those evils which threaten it by the turbulent and dishonest conduct of vagrants who are allowed to infest the country in every part; nor do we see any prospect of peace or happiness for our children in a country thus distracted by internal commotions.

We complain of the severe losses which we have been forced to sustain by the emancipation of our slaves, and the vexatious laws which have been enacted respecting them.

We complain of the continual system of plunder which we have for years endured from the Kaffirs and other coloured classes, and particularly by the last invasion of the Colony, which has desolated the frontier district and ruined most of the inhabitants.

We complain of the unjustifiable odium which has been cast upon us by interested and dishonest persons, under the name of religion, whose testimony is believed in England to the exclusion of all evidence in our favour; and we can foresee, as the result of this prejudice, nothing but the total ruin of the country.

We quit this Colony under the full assurance that the English Government has nothing more to require of us, and will allow us to govern ourselves without its interference in future.

We are now leaving the fruitful land of our birth, in which we have suffered enormous losses and continual vexation, and are about to enter a strange and dangerous territory; but we go with a firm reliance on an all-seeing, just, and merciful God, whom we shall always fear and humbly endeavour to obey.

In the name of all who leave this Colony with me.


[Sidenote: The English in pursuit.]

We journeyed then with our fathers beyond the Orange River into the unknown north, as free men and subjects of no sovereign upon earth. Then began what the English Member of Parliament, Sir William Molesworth, termed a strange sort of pursuit. The trekking Boer followed by the British Colonial Office was indeed the strangest pursuit ever witnessed on earth. [8] The British Parliament even passed a law in 1836 to impose punishments beyond their jurisdiction up to the 25th degree south, and when we trekked further north, Lord Grey threatened to extend this unrighteous law to the Equator. It may be remarked that in this law it was specially enacted that no sovereignty or overlordship was to be considered as established thereby over the territory in question.

[Sidenote: The Trichardt Trek.]

The first trek was that of Trichardt and the Van Rensburgs. They went to the north, but the Van Rensburgs were massacred in the most horrible way by the Kaffirs, and Trichardt's party reached Delagoa Bay after indescribable sufferings in a poverty-stricken condition, only to die there of malarial fever.


[Footnote 4: Theal, History of the Boers, page 64.]

[Footnote 5: Oceana, page 34.]

[Footnote 6: Theal, page 62.]

[Footnote 7: Theal, 102.—Cachet.]

[Footnote 8: 6 & 7, William IV., ch. 57.]


[Sidenote: Murder of Piet Retief.]

The second trek was equally unfortunate. Piet Retief had duly paid for and obtained possession from Dingaan, chief of the Zulus, of that tract of territory now known as Natal, the latter, incited by some Englishmen, treacherously murdered him and his party on the 6th February, 1838; 66 Boers and 30 of their followers perished. The Great Trek thus lost its most courageous and noble-minded leader. [9] Dingaan then sent two of his armies, and they overcame the women and children and the aged at Boesmans River (Blaauw-krantz), where the village of Weenen now stands; 282 white people and 252 servants were massacred.

Towards the end of the year we entered the land of this criminal with a small commando of 464 men, and on the 16th December, 1838—since known as "Dingaan's Day," the proudest in our history—we overthrew the military might of the Zulus, consisting of 10,000 warriors, and burnt Dingaan's chief kraal.

[Sidenote: No extension of British territory.]

[10] After that we settled down peaceably in Natal, and established a new Republic. The territory had been purchased with our money and baptised with our blood. But the Republic was not permitted to remain in peace for long. The Colonial Office was in pursuit. The Government first of all decided upon a military occupation of Natal, for, as Governor Napier wrote to Lord Russell on the 22nd June, 1840, "it was apparently the fixed determination of Her Majesty's Government not to extend Her Colonial possessions in this quarter of the Globe." The only object of the military occupation was to crush the Boers, as the Governor, Sir George Napier, undisguisedly admitted in his despatch to Lord Glenelg, of the 16th January, 1838. The Boers were to be prevented from obtaining ammunition, and to be forbidden to establish an independent Republic. By these means he hoped to put a stop to the emigration. Lord Stanley instructed Governor Napier on the 10th April, 1842, to cut the emigrant Boers off from all communication, and to inform them that the British Government would assist the savages against them, and would treat them as rebels.

Twice we successfully withstood the military occupation; more English perished while in flight from drowning than fell by our bullets.

Commissioner Cloete was sent later to annex the young Republic as a reward for having redeemed it for civilisation.

[Sidenote: Protest of Natal]

[11] Annexation, however, only took place under strong protest. On the 21st February, 1842, the Volksraad of Maritzburg, under the chairmanship of Joachim Prinsloo, addressed the following letter to Governor Napier:—

We know that there is a God, who is the Ruler of heaven and earth, and who has power, and is willing to protect the injured, though weaker, against oppressors. In Him we put our trust, and in the justice of our cause; and should it be His will that total destruction be brought upon us, our wives and children, and everything we possess, we will with due submission acknowledge to have deserved from Him, but not from men. We are aware of the power of Great Britain, and it is not our object to defy that power; but at the same time we cannot allow that might instead of right shall triumph, without having employed all our means to oppose it.

[Sidenote: The Boer women]

[12] The Boer women of Maritzburg informed the British Commissioner that, sooner than subject themselves again to British sway, they would walk barefoot over the Drakensberg to freedom or to death. [13] And they were true to their word, as the following incident proves. Andries Pretorius, our brave leader, had ridden through to Grahamstown, hundreds of miles distant, in order to represent the true facts of our case to Governor Pottinger. He was unsuccessful, for he was obliged to return without a hearing from the Governor, who excused himself under the pretext that he had no time to receive Pretorius. When the latter reached the Drakensberg, on his return, he found nearly the whole population trekking over the mountains away from Natal and away from British sway. His wife was lying ill in the waggon, and his daughter had been severely hurt by the oxen which she was forced to lead.

[Sidenote: Suffering in Natal]

Sir Harry Smith, who succeeded Pottinger, thus described the condition of the emigrant Boers:—"They were exposed to a state of misery which he had never before seen equalled, except in Massena's invasion of Portugal. The scene was truly heart-rending."

This is what we had to suffer at the hands of the British Government in connection with Natal.

We trekked back over the Drakensberg to the Free State, where some remained, but others wandered northwards over the Vaal River.


[Footnote 9: Theal, pages 104—130.]

[Footnote 10: Theal, 169.]

[Footnote 11: Theal, 155.]

[Footnote 12: Theal, 179.]

[Footnote 13: Theal, 244.]


[Sidenote: Boomplaats]

[14] Giving effect to Law 6 and 7, William IV., ch. 57, the English appointed a Resident in the Free State. Pretorius, however, gave him 48 hours' notice to quit the Republic. Thereupon Sir Harry Smith mobilised an army, chiefly consisting of blacks, against us white people, and fought us at Boomplaats, on the 29th August, 1848. After an obstinate struggle a Boer named Thomas Dreyer was caught by the blacks of Smith's army, and to the shame of English reputation, was killed by the English Governor for no other crime than that he was once, though years before, a British subject, and had now dared to fight against Her Majesty's Flag.

Another murder and deed of shame in South Africa's account with England!

[Sidenote: Annexation of the Orange Free State]

In the meantime Sir Harry Smith had annexed the Free State as the "Orange River Sovereignty," on the pretext that four-fifths of the inhabitants favoured British dominion, and were only intimidated by the power of Pretorius from manifesting their wishes.

[Sidenote: Moshesh]

But the British Resident soon came into collision with Moshesh, the great and crafty head chieftain of the Basutos.

The Boers were called up to assist, but only 75 responded out of the 1,000 who were called up. The English had then to eat the leek. The Resident informed his Government that the fate of the Orange River Sovereignty depended upon Andries Pretorius, the very man on whose head Sir Harry Smith had put a price of L2,000. Earl Grey censured and abandoned both Sir Harry Smith and the Resident, Major Warden, saying in his despatch to the Governor dated 15th December, 1851, that the British Government had annexed the country on the understanding that the inhabitants had generally desired it. But if they would not support the British Government, which had only been established in their interests, and if they wished to be freed from that authority, there was no longer any use in continuing it.

[Sidenote: The Orange Sovereignty once more a Republic.]

The Governor was clearly given to understand by the British Government that there was in future to be no interference in any of the wars which might take place between the different tribes and the inhabitants of independent states beyond the Colonial boundaries, no matter how sanguinary such wars might happen to be.

In other words, as Froude says, [15] "In 1852 we had discovered that wars with the Natives and wars with the Dutch were expensive and useless, that sending troops out and killing thousands of Natives was an odd way of protecting them. We resolved then to keep within our own territories, to meddle no more beyond the Orange River, and to leave the Dutch and the Natives to settle their differences among themselves."

And again: [16] "Grown sick at last of enterprises which led neither to honour nor peace, we resolved, in 1852, to leave Boers, Kaffirs, Basutos, and Zulus to themselves, and make the Orange River the boundary of British responsibilities. We made formal treaties with the two Dutch States, binding ourselves to interfere no more between them and the Natives, and to leave them either to establish themselves as a barrier between ourselves and the interior of Africa, or to sink, as was considered most likely, in an unequal struggle with warlike tribes, by whom they were infinitely outnumbered."

The administration of the Free State cost the British taxpayer too much. There was an idea, too, that if enough rope were given to the Boer he would hang himself.

A new Governor, Sir George Cathcart, was sent out with two Special Commissioners to give effect to the new policy. A new Treaty between England and the Free State was signed, by which full independence was guaranteed to the Republic, the British Government undertaking at the same time not to interfere with any of the Native tribes north of the Orange River.

As Cathcart remarked in his letters—the Sovereignty bubble had burst, and the silly Sovereignty farce was played out.

[Sidenote: The Diamond Fields]

[17] It must not be forgotten that as long as the Free State was English territory it was supposed to include that strip of ground now known as Kimberley and the Diamond Fields; English title deeds had been issued during the Orange River Sovereignty in respect of the ground in question, which was considered to belong to the Sovereignty, and to be under the jurisdiction of one of the Sovereignty Magistrates. At the reestablishment of the Free State it consequently became a part of the Orange Free State.

[Sidenote: The Basutos.]

Not fifteen years had elapsed since the Convention between England and the Free State before it was broken by the English. It had been solemnly stipulated that England would not interfere in Native affairs north of the Orange River. The Basutos had murdered the Freestaters, plundered them, ravished their wives, and committed endless acts of violence. After a bitter struggle of three years, the Freestaters had succeeded in inflicting a well-merited chastisement on the Basutos, when the British intervened in 1869 in favour of the Natives, notwithstanding the fact that they had reiterated their declaration of non-interference in the Aliwal Convention.

[Sidenote: The Diamond Fields.]

[18] To return to the Diamond Fields, as Froude remarks: "The ink on the Treaty of Aliwal was scarcely dry when diamonds were discovered in large quantities in a district which we had ourselves treated as part of the Orange Territory." Instead of honestly saying that the British Government relied on its superior strength, and on this ground demanded the territory in question, which contained the richest diamond fields in the world, it hypocritically pretended that the real reason of its depriving the Free State of the Diamond Fields was that they belonged to a Native, notwithstanding the fact that this contention was falsified by the judgment of the English Courts. [19] "There was a notion also," says Froude, "that the finest diamond mine in the world ought not to be lost to the British Empire."

The ground was thereupon taken from the Boers, and "from that day no Boer in South Africa has been able to trust to English promises."

Later, when Brand went to England, the British Government acknowledged its guilt and paid L90,000 for the richest diamond fields in the world, a sum which scarcely represents the daily output of the mines.

But notwithstanding the Free State Convention, notwithstanding the renewed promises of the Aliwal Convention[20]—the Free State was forced to suffer a third breach of the Convention at the hands of the English. Ten thousand rifles were imported into Kimberley through the Cape Colony, and sold there to the natives who encircled and menaced the two Dutch Republics.[21] General Sir Arthur Cunynghame, the British Commander-in-Chief in South Africa, admits that 400,000 guns were sold to Kaffirs during his term of office. Protests from the Transvaal and the Free State were of no avail.[22] And when the Free State in the exercise of its just rights stopped waggons laden with guns on their way through its territory, it was forced to pay compensation to the British Government.

"The Free State," says the historian Froude, "paid the money, but paid it under protest, with an old-fashioned appeal to the God of Righteousness, whom, strange to say, they believed to be a reality."

It seems thus that there is no place for the God of Righteousness in English policy.

So far we have considered our Exodus from the Cape Colony, and the way in which we were deprived of Natal and the Free State by England. Now for the case of the Transvaal.


[Footnote 14: Theal, 256-64. Hofstede.]

[Footnote 15: Oceana, page 31.]

[Footnote 16: Oceana, page 36.]

[Footnote 17: Froude, Oceana. Hofstede.]

[Footnote 18: Oceana, page 41.]

[Footnote 19: Oceana, page 40.]

[Footnote 20: Oceana, page 42.]

[Footnote 21: Cunynghame, page XI.]

[Footnote 22: Oceana, page 42.]


The disastrous fate of the Trichardt Trek has already been told. The Trichardts found the Transvaal overrun by the warriors of Moselikatse, the King of the Matabele and father of Lobengula. The other tribes of the Transvaal were his "dogs," according to the Kaffir term.

[Sidenote: Moselikatse.]

As soon as he heard of the approach of the emigrant Boers he sent out an army to exterminate them. This army succeeded in cutting off and murdering one or two stragglers, but it was defeated at Vechtkop by the small laager of Sarel Celliers, where the Boer women distinguished themselves by deeds of striking heroism.

Shortly afterwards the emigrant Boers journeyed across the Vaal River, and after two battles drove Moselikatse and his hordes across the Limpopo right into what is now Matabeleland. Andries Pretorius had come into the Transvaal after the Annexation of Natal, and lived there quietly, notwithstanding the price which had been put on his head after Boomplaats. The British Resident in the Free State, which at this time still belonged to England, was compelled to admit in a letter to the English Governor that the fate of the Free State depended upon the selfsame Pretorius. It was owing to his influence that Moshesh had not killed off the English soldiers. People had decided in England—to quote Froude once more—to abandon the Africanders and the Kaffirs beyond the borders to their fate, in the hope that the Kaffirs would exterminate the Africanders.

[Sidenote: The Sand River Convention.]

According to Molesworth, the English member of Parliament, the Colonial Office was delighted when the Governor received a letter in 1851 from Andries Pretorius, Commandant-General of the Transvaal Boers, in which he offered on behalf of his people to enter into negotiations with the British Government for a Treaty of Peace and Friendship. [23] The price put on his head was promptly cancelled, and when Sir Harry Smith was recalled in disgrace, Governor Cathcart was sent out to recognise the independence of the Boers. The Aberdeen Ministry declared through its representative in the House of Commons that they regretted having crossed the Orange River, as the Boers were hostile to British rule, and that Lord Grey had permitted it out of deference to the views of Sir Harry Smith, against his own better judgment and convictions. This policy was almost unanimously endorsed by the House of Commons.

The proposal of Pretorius was then accepted, and two Assistant Commissioners, Hogge and Owen, were sent out with Governor Cathcart, and met the Boer representatives at Sand River, a meeting which resulted in the Sand River Convention, respectively signed by both the contracting parties.

In this Convention, as in the later Free State Treaty, the Transvaal Boers were guaranteed in the fullest way against interference or hindrance on the part of Great Britain, either in regard to themselves or the natives, to whom it was mutually agreed that the sale of firearms and ammunition should be strictly forbidden. The British Commissioners reported that the recognition of the independence of the Transvaal Boers would secure great advantages, as it would ensure their friendship and prevent any union with Moshesh. It would also be a guarantee against slavery, and would provide for the extradition of criminals. [24] On the 13th May, 1852, great satisfaction was expressed by the Governor, Sir George Cathcart, in his proclamation that one of the first acts of his administration was to approve and fully confirm the Sand River Convention. On the 24th June, 1852, the Colonial Secretary also signified his approval of the Convention.

[Sidenote: Recognition of the South African Republic by Foreign Powers.]

The Republic was now in possession of a Convention, which from the nature of its provisions seemed to promise a peaceful future. In addition to Great Britain it was recognised in Holland, France, Germany, Belgium, and especially in the United States of America. The American Secretary of State at Washington, writing to President Pretorius on the 19th November, 1870, said:—"That his Government, while heartily acknowledging the Sovereignty of the Transvaal Republic, would be ready to take any steps which might be deemed necessary for that purpose."

But no reliance could be placed on England's word, even though it was embodied in a Convention duly signed and ratified, for when the Diamond Fields were discovered, barely seventeen years later, England claimed a portion of Transvaal territory next to that part which had already been wrested from the Free State. Arbitration was decided upon. As the Arbitrators could not agree, the Umpire, Governor Keate, gave judgment against the Transvaal. Thereupon it appeared that the English Arbitrator had bought 12,000 morgen (of the ground in dispute) from the Native Chief Waterboer for a mere song, and also that Governor Keate had accepted Waterboer as a British subject, which was contrary to the Convention. Even Dr. Moffat, who was no friend of the Boers, entered a protest in a letter to the Times, on the ground that the territory in question had all along been the property of the Transvaal.

[Sidenote: Sale of guns to Natives.]

But this was only one of the breaches of the Convention. When the 400,000 guns, about which Cunynghame and Moodie testify, were sold to the Kaffirs, the Transvaal lodged a strong protest in 1872 with the Cape High Commissioner. Their only satisfaction was an insolent reply from Sir Henry Barkly.

[Sidenote: Annexation of the Transvaal.]

As a crowning act in these deeds of shame came the Annexation of the Transvaal by Shepstone on the 12th April, 1877. Sir Bartle Frere was sent out as Governor to Cape Town by Lord Carnarvon to carry out the confederation policy of the latter. Shepstone was also sent to the Transvaal to annex that State, in case the consent of the Volksraad or that of the majority of the inhabitants could be obtained. The Volksraad protested against the Annexation. The President protested. Out of a possible 8,000 burghers, 6,800 protested. But all in vain.

Bishop Colenso declared that: [25] "The sly and underhand way in which the Transvaal has been annexed appears to be unworthy of the English name."

The Free State recorded its deepest regret at the Annexation.

Even Gladstone, in expressing his regret, admitted that England had in the Transvaal acted in such a way as to use the free subjects of a kingdom to oppress the free subjects of a Republic, and to compel them to accept a citizenship which they did not wish to have.

But it was all of no avail.

Sir Garnet Wolseley declared: "As long as the sun shines the Transvaal will remain British Territory." He also stated that the Vaal River would flow backwards to its source over the Drakensberg before England would give up the Transvaal.

[Sidenote: Pretexts for the Annexation.]

Shepstone's chief pretexts for the Annexation were that the Transvaal could not subdue Secoecoeni, and that the Zulus threatened to overpower the Transvaal. As far as Secoecoeni is concerned, he had shortly before sued for peace, and the Transvaal Republic had fined him 2,000 head of cattle. With regard to the Zulus, the threatened danger was never felt by the Republic. Four hundred burghers had crushed the Zulu power in 1838, and the burghers had crowned Panda, Cetewayo's father, in 1840.

Sir Bartle Frere acknowledged in a letter to Sir Robert Herbert dated 12th January, 1879, that he could not understand how it was that the Zulus had left Natal unmolested for so long, until he found out that the Zulus had been thoroughly subdued by the Boers during Dingaan's time. Just before the Annexation a small patrol of Boers had pursued the Chief Umbeline into the very heart of Zululand. But Bishop Colenso points out clearly what a fraudulent stalking horse the Zulu difficulty was. There had been a dispute of some years standing between the Transvaal and the Zulus about a strip of territory along the border, which had been claimed and occupied by the Boers since 1869. The question was referred to Shepstone before the Annexation, while he was still in Natal, and he gave a direct decision against the Boers, and in favour of the Zulus. There was thus no cause on that account for the fear of a Zulu attack upon the Transvaal. But scarcely had Shepstone become administrator of the Transvaal when he declared the ground in dispute to be British territory, and discovered that there was the strongest evidence for the contention of the Boers that the Zulus had no right to the ground. Bulwer, the Governor of Natal, appointed a Boundary Commission, which decided in favour of the Zulus, but Shepstone vehemently opposed their verdict, and Bartle Frere and the High Commissioner (Wolseley) followed him blindly.[26] The result was that England sent an ultimatum to the Zulus, and the Zulu War took place, which lowered the prestige of England among the Natives of South Africa.

It will thus be seen that Shepstone's two chief reasons for the Annexation were devoid of foundation.

It was naturally difficult for the Secretary of State to justify his instructions that the Annexation of the Transvaal was only to take place in case a majority of the inhabitants favoured such a course, in face of the fact that 6,800 out of 8,000 burghers had protested against it.

But both Shepstone and Lord Carnarvon declared without a shadow of proof that the signatures of the protesting petitions were obtained under threats of violence. The case, indeed, was exactly the reverse. When the meeting was held at Pretoria to sign this petition, Shepstone caused the cannons to be pointed at the assemblage. As if this were not enough, he issued a menacing proclamation against the signing of the petition.

When these pretexts were thus disposed of, they relied on the fact that the Annexation was a fait accompli.

Delegates were sent to England to protest against the Annexation, but Lord Carnarvon told them that he would only be misleading them if he held out any hope of restitution. Gladstone afterwards endorsed this by saying that he could not advise the Queen to withdraw her Sovereignty from the Transvaal.

When it was represented that the Annexation was a deliberate breach of the Sand River Convention, Sir Bartle Frere replied, in 1879, that if they wished to go back to the Sand River Convention, they might just as well go back to the Creation!

It is necessary here not to lose sight of the fact that the ground, which according to the Keate award in 1870 had been declared to lie beyond the borders of the Republic, was now included by Shepstone as being a part of the Transvaal.

There were, however, other matters which under Republican administration were branded as wrong, but which under English rule were perfectly right. In the Secoecoeni War under the Republic the British High Commissioner had protested against the use of the Swazies and Volunteers by the Republic in conducting the campaign.

Under British administration the war was carried on at first by regulars only, but when these were defeated by the Kaffirs, an army of Swazies, as well as Volunteers, was collected. The number of the former can be gathered from the fact that 500 Swazies were killed. The atrocities committed by these Swazi allies of the English on the people of Secoecoeni's tribe were truly awful.

Bishop Colenso, who condemned this incident, said, with regard to the results of the Annexation of the Republic, that the Zululand difficulty, as well as that with Secoecoeni, was the direct consequence of the unfortunate Annexation of the Transvaal, which would not have happened if we had not taken possession of the country like a lot of freebooters, partly by "trickery," partly by "bullying." Elsewhere he said: "And in this way we annexed the Transvaal, and that act brought as its Nemesis the Zulu difficulty."

That the British Government had all along considered the Zulus as a means of annihilating the Transvaal when a favourable opportunity occurred, is clear from a letter which the High Commissioner, Sir Bartle Frere, wrote to General Ponsonby, in which he says:—[27] "That while the Boer Republic was a rival and semi-hostile power, it was a Natal weakness rather to pet the Zulus as one might a tame wolf who only devoured one's neighbours' sheep. We always remonstrated, but rather feebly, and now that both flocks belong to us, we are rather embarrassed in stopping the wolfs ravages."

And again in a letter to Sir Robert Herbert:—[28] "The Boers were aggressive, the English were not; and were well inclined to help the Zulus against the Boers. I have been shocked to find how very close to the wind the predecessors of the present Government here have sailed in supporting the Zulus against Boer aggression. Mr. John Dunn, still a salaried official of this Government, thinking himself bound to explain his own share in supplying rifles to the Zulus in consequence of the revelations in a late trial of a Durban gun-runner, avows that he did so with the knowledge, if not the consent, and at the suggestion of (naming a high Colonial official) in Natal. There can be no doubt that Natal sympathy was strongly with the Zulus as against the Boers, and, what is worse, is so still."

Under such circumstances did the Annexation take place. The English did not scruple to make use of Kaffir aid against the Boers, as at Boomplaats, and it was brought home in every possible way to the British Nation that a great wrong had been committed here; but even the High Commissioner, though he heard the words issue from our bleeding hearts, wished that he had brought some artillery in order to disperse us, and misrepresented us beyond measure.

Full of hope we said to ourselves if only the Queen of England and the English people knew that in the Transvaal a people were being oppressed, they would never suffer it.

[Sidenote: The War of Freedom.]

But we had now to admit that it was of no use appealing to England, because there was no one to hear us. Trusting in the Almighty God of righteousness and justice, we armed ourselves for an apparently hopeless struggle in the firm conviction that whether we conquered or whether we died, the sun of freedom in South Africa would arise out of the morning mists. With God's all-powerful aid we gained the victory, and for a time at least it seemed as if our liberty was secure.

At Bronkorst Spruit, at Laing's Nek, at Ingogo, and at Majuba, God gave us victory, although in each case the British troopers outnumbered us, and were more powerfully armed than ourselves.

After these victories had given new force to our arguments, the British Government, under the leadership of Gladstone, a man whom we shall never forget, decided to cancel the Annexation, and to restore to us our violated rights.


[Footnote 23: Molesworth.]

[Footnote 24: Theal, 305.]

[Footnote 25: 30th April, 1877, Letter to the Rev. La Touche.]

[Footnote 26: Martineau, The Transvaal Trouble, page 76.]

[Footnote 27: Martineau, The Transvaal Trouble, page 69.]

[Footnote 28: The Transvaal Trouble, page 76.]


[Sidenote: Pretoria Convention.]

An ordinary person would have thought that the only upright way of carrying a policy of restitution into effect would have been for the British Government to have returned to the provisions of the Sand River Convention. If the Annexation was wrong in itself—without taking the Boer victories into consideration—then it ought to have been abolished with all its consequences, and there ought to have been a restitutio in integrum of that Republic; that is to say, the Boers ought to have been placed in exactly the same position as they were in before the Annexation. But what happened? With a magnanimity which the English press and English orators are never tired of vaunting, they gave us back our country, but the violation of the Sand River Convention remained unredressed. Instead of a sovereign freedom, we obtained free internal administration, subject to the suzerain power of Her Majesty over the Republic. This occurred by virtue of the Convention of Pretoria, the preamble of which bestowed self-government on the Transvaal State with the express reservation of suzerainty. The articles of that Convention endeavoured to establish a modus vivendi between such self-government and the aforesaid suzerainty. Under this bi-lateral arrangement the Republic was governed for three years by two heterogeneous principles—that of representative self-government, and that represented by the British Agent. This system was naturally unworkable; it was also clear that the arrangement of 1881 was not to be considered as final.

[Sidenote: The London Convention.]

The suzerainty was above all an absurdity which was not possible to reconcile with practical efficacy. So with the approval of the British Government a Deputation went to London in 1883, in order to get the status of the Republic altered, and to substitute a new Convention for that of Pretoria. The Deputation proposed to return to the position as laid down by the Sand River Convention, and that was in fact the only upright and statesmanlike arrangement possible. But according to the evidence of one of the witnesses on the British side, the Rev. D.P. Faure, the Ministry suffered from a very unwholesome dread of Parliament; so it would not agree to this, and submitted a counter proposal (see Appendix A.), which eventually was accepted by the Deputation, and the conditions of which are to-day of the greatest importance to us.

This Draft was constructed out of the Pretoria Convention with such alterations as were designed to make it acceptable to the Deputation. The preamble under which complete self-government, subject to the suzerainty, was granted to the Republic was deliberately erased by Lord Derby, then Secretary of State for the Colonies, so that the suzerainty naturally lapsed when the Draft was eventually accepted. In order to make it perfectly clear that the status of the Republic was put upon another basis, the title "Transvaal State" was altered to that of the "South African Republic." All articles in the Pretoria Convention which gave the British Government any authority in the internal affairs of this Republic were done away with. As far as foreign affairs were concerned, a great and far-reaching change was made. It was stipulated in Article 2 of the Pretoria Convention that "Her Majesty reserves to herself, her heirs and successors (a), the right from time to time to appoint a British Resident in and for the said State, with such duties and functions as are hereinafter defined; (b), the right to move troops through the said State in time of war or in case of the apprehension of immediate war between the Suzerain Power and any Foreign State or Native tribe in South Africa; and (c) the control of the external relations of the said State, including the conclusion of treaties and the conduct of diplomatic intercourse with Foreign Powers, such intercourse to be carried on through Her Majesty's diplomatic and consular officers abroad."

This was superseded by Article 4 of the Convention of London, which was to the following effect:—

"The South African Republic will conclude no treaty or engagement with any State or Nation other than the Orange Free State, nor with any Native tribe to the eastward or westward of the Republic, until the same has been approved by Her Majesty the Queen.

"Such approval shall be considered to have been granted if Her Majesty's Government shall not, within six months after receiving a copy of such treaty (which shall be delivered to them immediately upon its completion), have notified that the conclusion of such treaty is in conflict with the interests of Great Britain, or any of Her Majesty's possessions in South Africa."

The right of the British Government to exercise control over all our foreign relations, and to conduct all our diplomatic negotiations through its own Agent, was thus replaced by the far more slender right of approving or disapproving of our treaties and conventions after they were completed, and then only when it affected the interests of Great Britain or Her Majesty's possessions in South Africa.

[Sidenote: Status of the Republic.]

It was this Article 4 which gave an appearance of truth (and an appearance only) to Lord Derby's declaration in the House of Lords that although he had omitted the term of suzerainty, the substance thereof remained. It would have been more correct to have said that owing to the lapse of suzerainty the South African Republic no longer fell under the head of a semi-suzerain State, but that it had become a free, independent, sovereign international State, the sovereignty of which was only limited by the restriction contained in Article 4 of the Convention. Sovereignty need not of necessity be absolute. Belgium is a sovereign international State, although it is bound to observe a condition of permanent neutrality. The South African Republic falls undoubtedly under this category of States, the sovereignty of which is limited in one or other defined direction. But the fact of its sovereignty is nevertheless irrefutable. It will be pointed out later how this position, which is undoubtedly the correct one, has been consistently upheld by the Government of the South African Republic, but it is necessary now to revert to the historical development.



[Sidenote: The gold fields.]

In 1886 gold was discovered in great quantities and in different parts of the South African Republic, and with that discovery our people entered upon a new phase of their history. The South African Republic was to develope within a few years from a condition of great poverty into a rich and prosperous State, a country calculated in every respect to awaken and inflame the greed of the Capitalistic speculator. Within a few years the South African Republic was ranked among the first gold-producing countries of the world. The bare veldt of hitherto was overspread with large townships inhabited by a speculative and bustling class brought together from all corners of the earth. The Boers, who had hitherto followed pastoral and hunting pursuits, were now called upon to fulfil one of the most difficult tasks in the world, namely, the management of a complicated administration, and the government of a large digging population, which had sprung up suddenly under the most extraordinary circumstances. And how have they acquitted themselves of the task? We quote the following from a brilliant pamphlet by Olive Schreiner, who possesses a deeper insight into the true condition of affairs in South Africa than has been vouchsafed to any other writer on the same subject:—

[29] "We put it to all generous and just spirits, whether of statesmen or thinkers, whether the little Republic does not deserve our sympathy, which wise minds give to all who have to deal with new and complex problems, where the past experience of humanity has not marked out a path—and whether, if we touch the subject at all, it is not necessary that it should be in that large impartial, truth-seeking spirit in which humanity demands we should approach all great social difficulties and questions?"

"It is sometimes said that when one stands looking down from the edge of this hill at the great mining camp of Johannesburg stretching beneath, with its heaps of white sand and debris mountain high, its mining chimneys belching forth smoke, with its seventy thousand Kaffirs and its eighty thousand men and women, white or coloured, of all nationalities, gathered here in the space of a few years on the spot where, fifteen years ago, the Boer's son guided his sheep to the water and the Boer's wife sat alone at evening at the house door to watch the sunset, we are looking upon one of the most wonderful spectacles on earth. And it is wonderful; but as we look at it the thought always arises within us of something more wonderful yet—the marvellous manner in which a little nation of simple folk, living in peace in the land they loved, far from the rush of cities and the concourse of men, have risen to the difficulties of their condition; how they, without instruction in statecraft or traditionary rules of policy, have risen to face their great difficulties, and have sincerely endeavoured to meet them in a large spirit, and have largely succeeded. Nothing but that curious and wonderful instinct for statecraft and the organisation and arrangement of new social conditions which seem inherent as a gift of the blood to all those peoples who took their rise in the little deltas on the north-east of the Continent of Europe where the English and Dutch peoples alike took their rise could have made it possible. We do not say that the Transvaal Republic has among its guides and rulers a Solon or a Lycurgus, but it has to-day, among the men guiding its destiny, men of brave and earnest spirit, who are seeking manfully and profoundly to deal with the great problems before them in a wide spirit of humanity and justice. And we do again repeat that the strong sympathy of all earnest and thoughtful minds, not only in Africa, but in England, should be with them."

If one compares the gold fields of the Witwatersrand with those of other countries, it is certain that the former can claim to be the best governed mining area in the world. This is the almost unanimous verdict of people who have had a lengthy experience of the gold fields of California, Australia, and Klondyke.

As far as South Africa is concerned, it is only necessary to instance the diamond fields of Griqualand West when they were directly administered by the British Government. They then afforded a continual spectacle of rebellion, rioting, and indescribable uncertainty of, and danger to, life and property.

In Appendix B. are certain extracts from the evidence of eye witnesses as to the chaos which characterised the condition of the diamond fields when under British rule—a condition which differs from that of the Witwatersrand gold fields as night from day. Reference will be made later on to the administration of the gold fields of the South African Republic. For the present it is necessary to glance at certain forces which had been developed on the diamond fields of the Cape Colony, and which have introduced a new factor of overwhelming importance into the South African situation.

[Sidenote: Capitalism.]

The development of British policy in South Africa had hitherto been influenced at different times, and in a greater or less degree, by the spirit of Jingoism, and by that zeal for Annexation which is so characteristic of the trading instincts of the race. It was, however, a policy that had been conducted in other respects on continuous lines, and it might be justified by the argument that it was necessary in the interests of the Empire. But Capitalism was the new factor which was about to play such an important role in the history of South Africa. The natural differences in men find their highest expression in the varieties of influence which one man exercises over another; this influence can either be of a religious, moral, political, or purely material nature. Material influence generally takes the form of money, or the financial nexus, as an English writer has termed it. An unusual combination of this form of influence leads to Capitalism just as an unusual combination of political influence leads to tyranny, and an unusual combination of religious influence to hierarchical despotism. Capitalism is the modern peril which threatens to become as dangerous to mankind as the political tyranny of the old Eastern world and the religious despotism of the Middle Ages were in their respective eras.

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