Oh, hear us for our native land,
The land we love the most:
Our fathers' sepulchres are here,
And here our kindred dwell;
Our children, too; how should we love
Another land so well?
After partaking of hot cross buns at the family table of a dear old English family the day before yesterday (Good Friday), I went to Walthamstow, and there heard a moving discourse delivered by the Rev. James Ellis on the sufferings and death of Christ for the redemption of mankind.
At my abode this morning, after receiving such tokens of friendship as Easter eggs and artistic picture cards, I attended an Easter service at the London University Hall and heard the little choir of four voices rendering mellifluous anthems to the glory of God. At the invitation of the Rev. R. P. Campbell this afternoon I went to Lloyds Park to tell the P.S.A. there about a South African Easter and to deliver at the same time the native message to the British public.
In the evening I went to the City Temple, where I listened to an intellectual Easter sermon, by the Rev. R. J. Campbell, on the triumph of Christianity, and heard the uniformed choir artistically sing doxologies to the risen Christ.
As I recall these services, I am transported in thought to St. Martin's Church in the heart of the "Free" State, 6,000 miles away, where thirty-seven years ago, as an unconscious babe in my godmother's arms, I went through my first religious sacrament, performed by an aged missionary who made the sign of the cross on my forehead and on my breast. I think also of another church on the banks of the Vaal River where, over twenty years ago, another missionary laid his white hands on my curly head and received my vow to forsake the Devil and all his works. I know that in these two places, as well as in all other native churches and chapels throughout South Africa, native congregations have this day been singing in their respective houses of worship and in a variety of tongues about the risen Christ. But thinking also of the lofty spires of the Dutch Reformed churches in the South African towns and dorps, I am forced to remember that coloured worshippers are excluded from them. Still, in these churches as well, Dutch men and Dutch women have this day been singing of the triumphs of the risen Christ. Yet to-morrow some of these white worshippers, in the workshops and in the parks, will be expressing an opposite sentiment to that conveyed in their songs of praise, namely, "Down with the verdoemde schepsels" (damned black creatures) — the Natives — for whom also, these white worshippers say, Christ died.
The Infant Christ, when King Herod sought to murder Him, found an asylum in Africa.
The Messiah, having been scourged, mocked, and forced to bear His cross up to Golgotha, and sinking under its weight, an African, by name Simon of Cyrene, relieved Him of the load.
To-day British troops are suffering untold agony in the trenches in a giant struggle for freedom. In this stupendous task they are assisted by sable Africans from the British, French, and Belgian colonies of the Dark Continent, thus fulfilling the Biblical prophecy, "From Africa (Egypt) I have called my son." But other Africans, again, are debarred by the South African Constitution on account of their colour from doing their share in this war of redemption. This prohibition surely carries the conviction that the native complaint against the South African Constitution is something more than a mere sentimental grievance.
The newspapers are telling us of "a growing spirit of justice in South Africa"; but in the face of what is happening to-day, the Natives are wondering if the word `justice', in this newspaper allegation, is not a misprint for `hatred', for up till as late as 1914 whole congregations have been arrested on leaving some of their farm chapels on "Free" State and Transvaal farms. They had their passes in their pockets, but the police contended that they had no special permits, signed by the landowners on whose farms the chapels are situated, to attend divine service at the particular places of worship on that particular day, and the courts upheld this contention. Up to five years ago no such sacrilegious proceedings interfered with the Sunday attendances of native worshippers in the same country, so that there is no mistake as to the kind of spirit that is "growing in South Africa".
* * * * *
When a man comes to you with stories about a "growing spirit of justice in South Africa", ask him if he knows that in 1884 there was a great debate in the Cape Parliament as to whether Natives should be permitted to exercise the franchise, and that the ayes had it. Ask him, further, if he thinks that such a proposal could ever be entertained to-day by any South African Parliament. If he is honest, he will be bound to say "no". Then ask him, "Where is your growing spirit of justice?"
* * * * *
In 1909, a South African Governor made a great speech in which he declaimed against the South African policy of pinpricking the blacks.
In 1911, another South African Governor authorized the publication of regulations in which, by prohibiting the employment of coloured artisans on the South African mines, the pinpricks were accentuated.
In 1913, a South African Governor signed the Natives' Land Act which made the Natives homeless in South Africa. Whereas the Government have announced their intention not to disfranchise the South African rebels, judging from the present legislative tendency we fear that, unless the Imperial Government can be induced to interfere, it is not improbable that should the rebels return to power after the general election
In 1916, there will be horrible enactments in store for the blacks.
* * * * *
In 1906, His Majesty's Government gave the Transvaal Colony self-government under a constitution which included a clause placing the voteless native taxpayers under the special protection of the Crown.
In 1907, His Majesty's Government likewise gave the Orange River Colony (now Orange "Free" State) self-government under a constitution which contained a similar provision. At this time the Governor of Natal, as representing the King, was Supreme Chief of the Zulus in that Colony. The Natives lived happily under these protecting reservations, and the white people had no complaint against the just restraint of the Imperial suzerainty.
In 1909, His Majesty's Government passed the Union Constitution, sweeping away all these safeguards. In that Act they practically told South Africa to do what she liked with the Natives in these three Colonies and South Africa is doing it. Where, then, is this "growing spirit"?
* * * * *
During the South African War in 1901, the Imperial Government
informed the Federal (Dutch) Government that no peace terms
could be considered which did not extend to the native races
the same privileges — the rights of the franchise — which are enjoyed
by the Natives of the Cape Colony.
In 1902, the British Imperial and Dutch representatives signed the Peace terms
at Vereeniging. In these, the rights of the coloured citizens
were postponed till after the old Republics had responsible Government.
Responsible Government has since been granted, and has in turn
been succeeded by the Union. But when the Imperial Parliament,
In 1909, considered the Act of Union, English and Dutch South Africans came over and represented to the Imperial authorities that there would be a striking demonstration (or words to that effect) against the federation, and even against South Africa's relation to the Mother Country if native rights were as much as mentioned in the Constitution; and the South African Native Franchise has now receded as far off as the Greek calends. So where is that "growing spirit of justice"?
* * * * *
When you speak of converting Mohammedans, let the question be asked: "What must Mohammedans think of those whose religion having said `In the sweat of thy brow shalt thou eat bread,' they nevertheless uphold the policy of rulers who pass regulations debarring one section of the community from following an honest occupation in their native land? And what impression must be created in the minds of black converts who are subjected to discriminations, including prohibitions that were not in existence five years ago?"
And if in spite of beautiful voices that I have heard this Easter Sunday singing anthems concerning the triumph of the kingdom of love the British flag continues to defend the policy of repression and colour hatred in South Africa, then I fear that the black victims of this policy, many of them converted to Christianity through your efforts, might very well class your Easter anthems and their great teaching with the newspaper canard relative to a "growing spirit of justice in South Africa"; for our bitter experience proves that spirit to be at best but a dwindling one.
Two years ago I was alarmed by the impious utterances of a coloured man whose friendship I valued. He being influential among our people, I gently remonstrated with him lest through his action many of our people become unsettled in their faith. This was his explanation: He was going along an East Rand suburb at eleven o'clock one Sunday morning when the bells were ringing. He saw a number of people entering a Dutch church, and as he was far from home he mingled with them, intending to spend the hour at worship instead of continuing his walk. But no sooner was he inside than the usher jostled him out of the church, hailed a policeman and handed him in charge, so that he spent the next hour in the charge office instead of at chapel. On the Monday morning he was convicted by the East Rand Magistrate and fined 1 Pound for trespassing on a private place, to wit, a church. And that was a Dutch Reformed church, the State Church of South Africa. Others had reproached him before me for such utterances, he said, but he will have "no more of our religious mockery with its theoretical `Come unto Me' and its practical `1 Pound or a month with hard labour'."
John Ruskin, writing on `State Intervention', says:
"When a peasant mother sees one of her careless children fall into a ditch, her first proceeding is to pull him out; her second, to box his ears; her third, ordinarily, to lead him carefully a little way by the hand, or send him home for the rest of the day. The child usually cries, and very often would clearly prefer remaining in the ditch; and if he understood any of the terms of politics, would certainly express resentment at the interference with his individual liberty: but the mother has done her duty."
Ruskin goes further and depicts the calamities of a mother nation which, like a foxhunter, complies with the request of its daughter nations "to be left in muddy independence." [`Political Economy of Art': Addenda (J. E., Section 127)]
Let us appeal to you, in conclusion, to remember that the victorious Christ "has gathered your people into a great nation, and sent them to sow beside all waters and multiply sure dwellings on the earth. . . .
"Let not the crown of your pride be as a fading flower. But be equal to your high trust: reverent in the use of freedom, just in the exercise of power, and generous in the protection of the weak."
* * * * *
This has been the most strenuous winter that the writer has ever experienced: a dark, dreary winter of almost continuous rains, snowflakes, cold, mud and slush. Reading of the severity of English winters at a distance, I never could have realized that the life I have lived in England during the past four months was possible. An existence from which the sun's rays are almost always obliterated by the inclement weather, by snow and by fog. I cannot describe the sensations caused by the dismal gloom of the sunless days — a most depressing life — especially in December, when it would suddenly turn dark, compelling one to work by gaslight when the clocks indicated that it was high noon. Not till then did I realize why some people are said to worship the sun. I find that I have unlearned my acquaintance with the larger planets and heavenly bodies (a knowledge acquired since boyhood) because the winter fog and clouds have continually hidden the moon and stars from view.
* * * * *
But now that the country is throwing off its winter cloak and dressing itself in its green, gorgeous array; now that King Day shines in all his glory through the mist by day, and the moon and stars appear in their brilliancy in the evenings; now that, as if in harmony with the artistic rendering of Easter anthems by your choirs, the thrush and the blackbird twitter forth the disappearance of the foggy winter with its snow, sleet and wet; now that the flocks of fleecy sheep, which for the past four months have been in hiding and conspicuous by their absence, come forward again and spread triumphantly over the green as if in celebration of the dawn of the new spring; now that the violet and the daffodil, the marguerite and the hyacinth, the snowdrop and the bluebell, glorious in appearance, also announce, each in its own way, the advent of sunny spring, we are encouraged to hope that, "when peace again reigns over Europe", when white men cease warring against white men, when the warriors put away the torpedoes and the bayonets and take up less dangerous implements, you will in the interest of your flag, for the safety of your coloured subjects, the glory of your Empire, and the purity of your religion, grapple with this dark blot on the Imperial emblem, the South African anomaly that compromises the justice of British rule and seems almost to belie the beauty, the sublimity and the sincerity of Christianity.
Shall we appeal to you in vain? I HOPE NOT.