[Sidenote: The Origin of the Recent War]
The origin of the war breaking out in the later months of the last year of the nineteenth century between the Boers and the British may be traced to the famous defeat of the latter at Majuba Hill in 1881, the influence of which was intensified by the failure of the Jameson Raid, that had a good cause, but was irresponsible and disorderly. The Boers were entirely persuaded by these incidental successes of their army that they could always get the better of those they called intruders into their own country, which they had made a long journey to find and shed a great deal of blood of the natives to conquer. Their preference in the two pilgrimages away from the Cape country was to become herdsmen, raising cattle, shooting game, farming in a rude way, and enjoying the right to which they attached great importance to hold property in man. The first chief objection they had to the English, who superseded the Dutch at the Cape, was that they had prejudices against human servitude, and the slaveholders were sensitive as to interference with their high privileges and thought themselves greatly aggrieved that their scriptural institution was disapproved. It is true the Boers established a civilization immensely superior to barbarism of the natives, but they indulged all the passions of slaveholders, and were but little advanced in civilization. Something akin to semi-barbarism seemed the normal condition of Africa for countless centuries, and the light dawned gradually in South Africa from the occupancy of territory by the Dutch, the Portuguese and the English successively, and it may be fairly said that broad daylight came with the English, who in the lower regions of the Dark Continent were the stronger and the more persevering antagonists of barbarous peoples and made the greatest advancements to civilization. It was the nerveless policy of dealing with South Africans following the British defeat at Majuba Hill that produced in the Boers contempt for English military capacity and the personal courage of English speaking people, and led them to enter upon the policy of restriction of English speaking immigrants that appeared in great numbers after the discoveries of diamond mines and gold mines, assuming indeed that new comers had no rights, civil or military, as citizens or squatters, that the Boers were bound to respect. [Sidenote: Boers' Policy Against Immigrants] So distinct was the impression the Boers made of their exclusive policy to govern the immense territory upon which they had settled for the purpose of raising cattle and ruling the natives, that the circulars sent abroad in the United States by the enemies of England to form public opinion favorable to the presumption of the Boers, presented the specific complaint urged on behalf of the Transvaal people and government that the British would not cease to be subjects of their "Empire," and must not be allowed a share in local government, because in the gold country they were three times as numerous as the Boers themselves. It seems reasonable to say the English had as good a right to improve upon the Transvaal methods of aiding the good works of progressive humanity beyond the Boer limitations as the Boers had to take grazing land and game and forests from the original savages. The Boers made war upon the savagry and therefore upon the natives and were intolerant in the extreme in their exactions. There were between the original African tribes and their earliest invaders many wars and constant rumors of wars, and bloodshed frequently and profusely. When the diamond and gold mines that interested the whole world were discovered, it was as righteous to work them as it was for the Boers to open farms where there had been only hunting grounds. The great cause of South African advancement demanded British organization then just as it had required Boer enterprise in the beginning.
[Sidenote: The Centre of the Diamond Mine Country]
It should be well understood for the location of influential events that the city of Kimberley is the center of the diamond mine country. The Boers do not seem to have had the spirit of adventure, the breadth of understanding and the executive faculty to interest themselves largely in the development of the unparalleled riches found under their feet. They parted with the farms containing gold in such quantity that they are believed to be the Ophir Land of Solomon, of which the Bible contains a specific and most interesting account, and they, disgusted with the discovery of this wealth, that they had the shrewdness to see threatened their supremacy, were resentful toward the immigrants--the gold and diamond seekers that poured into the Transvaal impetuously, as the Americans crossed the deserts and the mountains to possess California fifty years before.
[Sidenote: Characteristics of the Boers]
The Boers are people whose hardihood, bravery, manliness, high spirit, marksmanship with the rifle, attachment to the soil, and content as farmers, fortified with solemn appreciation of religious duty, compel respect, but they are at fault in their attitude of determined obstruction of progress in the Dark Continent that is chiefly committed to the English. They interfere not merely with the people who have found and worked the most productive mines of diamonds and gold ever known, they have held those who have done in Africa what the Americans did in their acquisitiveness in Mexico in contempt, and in the name of a "free republic" have been apostles of class and personal tyranny and ruthless in regard to the rights of those who have enriched their country and the world with their adventurous industry--with their organization of prospecting, engineering machinery, chemistry, transportation and mastery of the elements and forces that have in great and good works in Europe and America crowded a millennium into the nineteenth century.
It is easy to assert that as people cannot eat precious stones and metals, the things that are most beautiful and costly are less useful than corn and potatoes, and yet the human race for several thousand years has attached importance to the sands and rocks that have yielded diamonds in Golconda and Brazil and gold in California and Australia; and it is a record and tradition that the gold of California gave the nations of the earth "Californian good times," a phrase that was historical and an inspiration, and significant of the prosperity of the people of the generation that had its enjoyment. The diamond cannot be converted into food save by exchange, for the dust of the ground stone is rather imperishable than palatable and nourishing, but it is "a thing of beauty" that is "a joy forever;" and even if the prejudices of the Boers were inflamed against the most beautiful and enduring forms of value, that should not commend them as heroes of civilization; and it does not prove their Republicanism to refuse the rights of self-government to a people certainly among the most enlightened on the earth because they are in the majority in the great and flourishing communities, where they founded splendid cities, opened railroads and established a commerce additional to the world's wealth of more than one hundred millions of dollars a year. Whatever may be said to the contrary, these achievements should command the respect of all nations and peoples.
[Sidenote: Antagonism to English Rule]
The English speaking inhabitants of the gold and diamond country of Africa are treated as hostiles by the Boers who were the first settlers and slaughtered the natives, and the English are held out of favor because they are so numerous and prosperous, and, it may be added, so superior in their intelligence and elevated in their purposes and resolute in their determinations, that the Boers must keep them disarmed and deny them the ballot and all consideration in local affairs. The English offense is that they have made the country flourish, have built cities in deserts, spanned rivers and penetrated mountains with roads of steel. These improvements may be bad for the peculiar civilization and hardy endowments of the Boers, but do not seem to vindicate the belligerent rancher in his ferocious antagonism to those who are leading in their day and generation those affairs that are working out the betterment of the race of man. There are boundaries that must be removed for the broad benefits of the general welfare of mankind that the forces of the age may overcome the most stubborn resistance to the triumphant processes by which civilization spreads abroad and acquires stability.
It is the semi-barbarous theory that gold and diamond hunters are offenders against liberty, that it is the holy duty of the Boers as cattle drivers and stalkers of game, to reduce intrusive English speaking people to a subordination down to the level of the native tribes, so that they may not become masters over the aristocracy of the African cowboys. What better title is there anywhere for self-government than a people in the majority? This is most obvious where racial questions arise, and there is more and more declared the rights of men under the sanction and rule of the majority to govern themselves. A higher civilization, greater property and educational qualifications and the output of "wealth beyond the dreams of avarice," are incidental to and co-operate with majority government in South Africa. But all this on behalf of Boerdom is denied.
The English have possessed a great quantity of land in Africa, and they are justified by the establishment of comparative peace under stable form of government, by the increase of prosperity of the people, irrespective of race or previous condition of servitude or of shades of color. The ancient despotism at the Cape which was a prohibition of progress, for it was the tyranny of an absolute monopoly, has been swept away; and there has been growth in human liberty as well as augmentation of wealth and comfort, and there is white light on the dismal shores of the Dark Continent.
[Sidenote: English Government in South Africa]
It has been the English policy to form a federation of colonies pressing by steady and encouraged advancement of the sovereign rights of intelligent people, forming states in South Africa. The objection to this first urged is that the British have insisted upon the flag of the Empire over the movement. That flag has not prevented the wonderful growth of Australia, for that world newly risen from the seas has become of imperial proportions. Under that flag in this new world are more remarkable experiments undertaken, testing the theories of municipal socialism and industrial unity than in any other part of the globe. Under the same flag the population of India has doubled. The inference is that it would not blast the bloom of Africa.
The racial complications on South Africa demand for the greatest good of the people at large (and we include in that phrase the greatest number of people) that the best form the rule of the land can take is that of British supremacy--this positively for an indefinite period of transition. It has been the British policy to set apart for natives a vast tract of good land, and that would seem to be better and more human than to devote them to extermination, unless they themselves insist upon exterminating others. In Natal over 500 miles of railroads have been constructed. These roads connect with harbors at Cape Town and Durban. The improvement of the country has turned out to the advantage of the military operations of the British. Good roads are a great help to a people, but, it must be admitted, they do favor the rapid movement of masses of armed men in these days as they did in those of the Romans.
[Sidenote: A Few Telling Statistics]
Consider the simple statistics of the productions of the territory contested between the British and the Boers. The yield of the diamond mines in 1897 was valued at $21,676,776, and the gold of the White Water range region in 1899, if the output continued as in September, was closely estimated at $76,647,375, putting that territory at the head of the gold producing regions of the world. With order, security for industry and its varied fruits, fair play for men of all races, the gold yield by the Transvaal would speedily equal one hundred millions annually. It is the result of an investigation by the use of the drills and the chemistry of experts that there is a certainty in the soil of an amount of gold equal to 3,500 millions of dollars, and probably a great deal more; and this addition to the metal that is the world's standard of value in the greater commercial and military transactions would, according to the logic of all examples in history, be a guarantee of good times for those identified with all the productive industries in the shops and on the farms. The yield of diamonds will be equal to the demands of trade, whatever it is. The store of them in the soil about Kimberley seems to be inexhaustible. It is these tremendous endowments of nature in the heart of South Africa that caused the immigration there, and has aroused the cupidity and excited the ambition of the Boers, causing them to array themselves against the growth of communities whose importance has been increasing so fast as to threaten the rule of the caste that has held the Transvaal with an iron hand.
[Sidenote: A Plea Unworthy of Consideration]
The very plea of the Boers that the English speaking people are too numerous to trust with the right of suffrage and too rich to be allowed a share of self-government, and that the discovery and developments of mines of gold and diamonds, the most concentrated and attractive forms of the wealth of Nature, is unworthy not only of deference but of consideration. It is opposed to the spirit and substance of the surprising realizations of the century that have made it the most memorable epoch in the history of man in the appropriation of the resources of the earth he inherits. Never until now has mankind had the labor and capital, the courage, the machinery, the intelligence, or the tools provided by marvelous inventions--the conquering capacity to give the gigantic continent of Africa--nearly 12,000,000 square miles--into the hands of the people who need room for industry, thus making an addition to the good land available for the lucrative employment of countless millions through the coming ages.
[Sidenote: A Magnificent Project]
There is one people, and one only on earth, that has the ability and the purpose, the will and the force, the experience and the energy to make this gift to mankind, and that power is the British Empire. Whatever the resources or the ambition or the faculties of other great nations, none with the exception of Great Britain is so situated as to make it possible to do this. British influence and territory, from the Cape of Good Hope to the mouth of the Nile, are interrupted by a space less than 600 miles, and 480 miles of that are navigable water! The British have thousands of miles of railroad there now, and the work to pierce Africa with lines of steel, on the lines of longitude, is under way. Less than the cost of the war caused by the obstruction of English enterprise in Africa by the boorishness of the Boers would have completed a safe and magnificent highway from Cape Town to Alexandria. After all, war will not stop, but will promote that project. The study of the war history will so advertise the marvels of Africa that the money will be found to build the road and its branches from the Mediterranean to the South Sea, and that speedily; and this will be recorded as one of the mightiest works of man--one that profoundly interests all nations and all races.
[Sidenote: England cannot Give up Africa]
England cannot afford to give up Egypt or South Africa, and, of course, will not do it, for there she fights for India, and for every form and feature of her imperialism. The world could not afford to have her give up Africa. If she was weak enough to be willing to do it, that weakness would mark her decline and declare her fall. The British Empire is the chosen instrument of Providence that rough-hews the ends of the earth, and that includes the conquest of Africa, for the sake of mankind. That Empire is the only one that has the enabling equipment to do the work, and the advancement will be the achievement of one of the proudest and most beneficent of all victories of men for man.
A great deal of the journalism of the world is wickedly and wretchedly wrong and extremely misleading in its treatment of this superb and lofty theme. The Boers have been cruelly deceived by interludes of feebleness displayed in the government of England, permitting a halting interference with the perpetuation of the policy that has made the British Empire what it is. It was this unfaithfulness that sacrificed Gordon at Khartoum. It is the same sort of moral malady, a choice of that which is inadequate, that would have surrendered the Philippines to an impostor and prevented the expansion of American commerce in Asia.
The Boers are men of strength and generously sustained with many virtues, but they have had the misfortune to be trained in narrow ways and are forced by deplorable circumstances of environment to fight for a cause without hope, for it is one that is against the courses of the stars and the irresistible currents of the forward movements of our generation--against the mastery of the world by man for man's own sake. This awful war is the bitter fruit of a want of candor among the nations and the races that have enlightenment, and of the incapacity of the obstructionists in South Africa to resist the blandishments of the crude vanity and the criminality of the tyranny that is based upon the ignorance whose violent presumption sheds the blood of heroes, but may not change the majestic progress of the twentieth century, in which all the living nations and vital people, the Boers and the British, shall participate--for it is duty and destiny.
[Sidenote: Opinions of the Canadians]
The substantial unanimity of the Colonial people in the support of the British Empire in asserting the rights of British civilization in South Africa as imperative, is an impressive circumstance and shows the solidity of the people of English speech--when the intense advocacy of the independent nationality of Ireland is eliminated--in support of the African policy of the British government. In the Dominion the contention between the party of the Administration and that of the Opposition is whether the one or the other has been the more zealous and practical friends of the Empire. There is not as much diversity of opinion and heat of political friction in British Africa over the continuance of the colonial system, supplemented by conquest, if needful, in the African crisis of the Empire, as there is in the United States in applying to the Philippine Archipelago, the great principles of the fathers that the Republic shall grow continuously as the generations come and go. The people of the United States, however, can better afford to refrain from accepting the goods the gods have provided for them in Asiatic waters and for the expansion and cultivation of our commerce with Asia and the increase of our puissance on the Pacific--than England can to be balked, beaten and discredited in Africa, which is the land of the great hereafter of Europeans, next to Europe itself.
The people of the United States can put aside their sublime opportunity of gaining at a stroke advantages on the greater ocean of the globe, that any other people would consider it irrational and suicidal to abandon, and yet go on, though it would be a collapse of ambition for Americans to acquiesce in conservative stagnation instead of moving on ever westward. They have possessions on and in the Pacific, including the states of California, Oregon and Washington, the territory of Alaska and the Aleutian, Hawaiian and Philippine Islands, greater than any other people. Why should they be bounded in enterprise in the way all the stars have led, any more than eastward whence comes the light of day? England can no more consent to give up Africa than yield India, Egypt, Malta, Gibraltar, Ireland, Scotland, Wales and the Isle of Wight. Indeed the greater growth of England's hereafter is in Africa, or the end of her greatness and the grave of her glory is there.