The failure of British administration in South Africa during the nineteenth century forms a blemish upon the record of the Victorian era that is at first sight difficult to understand. If success could be won in Canada, Australia and New Zealand, in India and in Egypt, why failure in South Africa? For failure it was. A century of wars, missionary effort, British expansion, industrial development, of lofty administrative ideals and great men sacrificed, had left the two European races with political ambitions so antagonistic, and social differences so bitter, that nothing less than the combined military resources of the colonies and the mother-country sufficed to compel the Dutch to recognise the British principle of "equal rights for all white men south of the Zambesi." Among the many contributory causes of failure that can be distinguished, the two most prominent are the nationality difficulty and the native question. But these are problems of administration that have been solved elsewhere: the former in Canada and the latter in India. Or, to turn to agencies of a different order, is the cause of failure to be found in a grudging nature--the existence of physical conditions that made it difficult for the white man, or for the white and coloured man together, to wring a livelihood from the soil? The answer is that the like material disadvantages have been conquered in Australia, India, and in Egypt, by Anglo-Saxon energy. We might apply the Socratic method throughout, traversing the entire range of our distinguishable causes; but in every case the inquiry would reveal success in some other portion of the Anglo-Saxon domain to darken failure in South Africa.
Nevertheless, in so far as any single influence can be assigned to render intelligible a result brought about by many agencies, various in themselves and operating from time to time in varying degrees, the explanation is to be found in a little incident that happened in the second year of the Dutch East India Company's settlement at the Cape of Good Hope. The facts are preserved for us by the diary which Commander Van Riebeck was ordered to keep for the information of his employers. Under the date October 19th, 1653, we read that David Janssen, a herdsman, was found lying dead of assegai wounds, inflicted by the Beechranger Hottentots, while the cattle placed under his charge were seen disappearing round the curve of the Lion's Head. The theft had been successfully accomplished through the perfidy of a certain "Harry," a Hottentot chief, who was living on terms of friendship with the Dutch--a circumstance which was sufficiently apparent from the fact that the raid was timed to take place at an hour on Sunday morning when the whole of the little community, with the exception of two sentinels and a second herdsman, were assembled to hear a sermon from the "Sick-Comforter," Wylant. It was the first conflict between the Dutch and the natives; for Van Riebeck had been bidden, for various excellent reasons, to keep on good terms with the Hottentots, and to treat them kindly. But the murder of a white man was a serious matter. Kindness scarcely seemed to meet the case; and so Van Riebeck applied to the Directors, the famous Chamber of Seventeen, for definite instructions as to the course which he must pursue.
[Sidenote: Van Riebeck's difficulty.]
He was told that only the actual murderer of David Janssen (if apprehended) was to be put to death; that cattle equal in amount to the cattle stolen were to be recovered, but only from the actual robbers; and that "Harry," if necessary, should be sent to prison at Batavia. But he was not otherwise to molest or injure the offending Hottentots. Excellent advice, and such as we should expect from the countrymen of Grotius in their most prosperous era. But unfortunately it was quite impossible for Van Riebeck, with his handful of soldiers and sailors, planted at the extremity of the great barbaric continent of Africa, to think of putting it into effect. He replied that he had no means of identifying the individual wrong-doers, and that the institution of private property was unknown among the Hottentots. The only method by which the individual could be punished was by punishing the tribe, and he therefore proposed to capture the tribe and their cattle. But this was a course of action which was repugnant to the Directors' sense of justice. It aroused, besides, a vision of reinforcements ordered from Batavia, and of disbursements quite disproportionate to the practical utility of the Cape station as an item in the system of the Company. In vain Van Riebeck urged that a large body of slaves and ten or twelve hundred head of cattle would be a great addition to the resources of the settlement. The Chamber of Seventeen refused to sanction the proposals of the commander, and, as its own were impracticable, nothing was done. The Beechranger tribe escaped with impunity, and the Hottentots, as a whole, were emboldened to make fresh attacks upon the European settlers.
[Sidenote: The Afrikander stock.]
This simple narrative is a lantern that sheds a ray of light upon an obscure subject. Two points are noticeable in the attitude of the home authority. First, there is its inability to grasp the local conditions; and second, the underlying assumption that a moral judgment based upon the conditions of the home country, if valid, must be equally valid in South Africa. By the time that the home authority had become Downing Street instead of the peripatetic Chamber of Seventeen, the field of mischievous action over which these misconceptions operated had become enlarged. The natives were there, as before; but, in addition to the natives, there had grown up a population of European descent, some thirty thousand in number, whose manner of life and standards of thought and conduct were scarcely more intelligible to the British, or indeed to the European mind, than those of the yellow-skinned Hottentot or the brown-skinned Kafir. A century and a half of the Dutch East India Company's government--a government "in all things political purely despotic, in all things commercial purely monopolist"--had produced a people unlike any other European community on the face of the earth. Of the small original stock from which the South African Dutch are descended, one-quarter were Huguenot refugees from France, an appreciable section were German, and the institution of slavery had added to this admixture the inevitable strain of non-Aryan blood. But this racial change was by no means all that separated the European population in the Cape Colony from the Dutch of Holland. A more potent agency had been at work. The corner-stone of the policy of the Dutch East India Company was the determination to debar the settlers from all intercourse--social, intellectual, commercial, and political--with their kinsmen in Europe. One fact will suffice to show how perfectly this object was attained. Incredible as it may seem, it is the case that at the end of the eighteenth century no printing-press was to be found in the Cape Colony, nor had this community of twenty thousand Europeans the means of knowing the nature of the laws and regulations of the Government by which it was ruled. So long and complete an isolation from European civilisation produced a result which is as remarkable in itself as it is significant to the student of South African history. This phenomenon was the existence, in the nineteenth century, of a community of European blood whose moral and intellectual standards were those of the seventeenth.
[Sidenote: The nationality difficulty.]
Our dip into the early history of South Africa is not purposeless. It does not, of course, explain the failure of British administration; but it brings us into touch with circumstances that were bound to make the task of governing the Cape Colony--a task finally undertaken by England in 1806--one of peculiar difficulty. The native population was strange, but the European population was even more strange and abnormal. If we had been left to deal with the native population alone we should have experienced no serious difficulty in rendering them harmless neighbours, and have been able to choose our own time for entering upon the responsibilities involved in the administration of their territories. But, coming second on the field, we were bound to modify our native policy to suit the conditions of a preexisting relationship between the white and black races that was not of our creation, and one, moreover, that was in many respects repugnant to British ideas of justice. Nor was this all. The old European population, which should have been, naturally, our ally and fellow-worker in the task of native administration, gradually changed from its original position of a subject nationality to that of a political rival; and, as such, openly bid against us for the mastership of the native African tribes.
Now when two statesmen are pitted against each other, of whom one is a man whose methods of attack are limited by nineteenth-century ideas, while the morality of the other, being that of the seventeenth century, permits him greater freedom of action, it is obvious that the first will be at a disadvantage. And this would be the case more than ever if the nineteenth-century statesman was under the impression that his political antagonist was a man whose code of morals was identical with his own. When once he had learnt that the moral standard of the other was lower than, or different from, his own, he would of course make allowance for the circumstance, and he would then be able to contest the position with him upon equal terms. But until he had grasped this fact he would be at a disadvantage.
Generally speaking, the representatives of the British Government, both Governors and High Commissioners, soon learnt that neither the natives nor the Dutch population could be dealt with on the same footing as a Western European. But the British Government cannot be said to have thoroughly learnt the same lesson until, in almost the last week of the nineteenth century, the three successive defeats of Stormberg, Magersfontein, and Colenso aroused it to a knowledge of the fact that we had been within an ace of losing South Africa. Many, indeed, would question whether even now the lesson had been thoroughly learnt. But, however this may be, it is certain that throughout the nineteenth century the Home Government wished to treat both the natives and the Dutch in South Africa on a basis of British ideas; and that by so doing it constantly found itself in conflict with its own local representatives, who knew that the only hope of success lay in dealing with both alike on a basis of South African ideas.
As the result of this chronic inability of British statesmen to understand South Africa, it follows that the most instructive manner of regarding our administration of that country during the nineteenth century is to get a clear conception of the successive divergences of opinion between the home and the local authorities.
At the very outset of British administration--during the temporary occupation of the Cape from 1795 to 1808--we find a theoretically perfect policy laid down for the guidance of the early English Governors in their treatment of the Boers, or Dutch frontier farmers. It is just as admirable, in its way, as were the instructions for the treatment of the Hottentots furnished by the Directors of the Dutch East India Company to Van Riebeck. In a despatch of July, 1800, the third Duke of Portland, who was then acting as Secretary for the Colonies, writes:
"Considering the tract of country over which these border
inhabitants are dispersed, the rude and uncultivated state in
which they live, and the wild notions of independence which
prevail among them, I am afraid any attempts to introduce
civilisation and a strict administration of justice will be slow
in their progress, and likely, if not proceeded upon with caution
and management, rather to create a spirit of resistance, or to
occasion them to emigrate still further from the seat of
government, than answer the beneficent views with which they
might be undertaken. In fact, it seems to me the proper system of
policy to observe to them is to interfere as little as possible
in their domestic concerns and interior economy; to consider them
rather as distant communities dependent upon the Government than
as subjects necessarily amenable to the laws and regulations
established within the precincts of Government. Mutual advantages
arising from barter and commerce, and a strict adherence to good
faith and justice in all arrangements with them, joined to
efficient protection and occasional acts of kindness on the part
of the Government, seem likely to be the best means of securing
Who would have thought that this statement of policy, admirable as it is at first sight, contained in itself the germ of a political heresy of the first magnitude? Yet so it was. The principle of non-interference, here for the first time enunciated and subsequently followed with fatal effect, could not be applied by a nineteenth-century administration to the case of a seventeenth-century community without its virtually renouncing the functions of government. Obviously this was not the intention of the home authority. There remained the difficulty of knowing when to apply, and when not to apply, the principle; and directly a specific case arose there was the possibility that, while the local authority, with a full knowledge of the local conditions, might think interference necessary, the home authority, without such knowledge, might take an opposite view.
[Sidenote: Slaghter's Nek.]
A very few years sufficed to show that the most ordinary exercise of the functions of government might be regarded as an "interference with the domestic concerns and interior economy" of the European subjects of the British Crown in South Africa. At the time of the permanent occupation of the Cape (1806) the population of the colony consisted of three classes: 26,720 persons of European descent, 17,657 Hottentots, and 29,256 returned as slaves. One of the first measures of the British Governor, Lord Caledon, was the enactment of a series of regulations intended to confer civil rights on the Hottentots, while at the same time preventing them from using their freedom at the expense of the European population. From the British, or even European point of view, this was a piece of elementary justice to which no man could possibly take exception. As applied to the conditions of the Franco-Dutch population in the Cape Colony it was, in fact, a serious interference with their "domestic concerns and internal economy." And as such it produced the extraordinary protest known to history as the "Rebellion" of Slaghter's Nek. There was no question as to the facts. Booy, the Hottentot, had completed his term of service with Frederick Bezuidenhout, the Boer, and was therefore entitled, under the Cape law, to leave his master's farm, and to remove his property. All this Bezuidenhout admitted; but when it came to a question of yielding obedience to the magistrate's order, the Boer said "No." In the words of Pringle, "He boldly declared that he considered this interference between him (a free burgher) and his Hottentot to be a presumptuous innovation upon his rights, and an intolerable usurpation of tyrannical authority."
And the danger of allowing the Boers to pursue their seventeenth-century dealings with the natives became rapidly greater when the European Colonists, Dutch and English, were brought, by their natural eastward expansion, into direct contact with the masses of military Bantu south and east of the Drakenberg chain of mountains--the actual dark-skinned "natives" of South Africa as it is known to the people of Great Britain. The Boer frontiersman, with his aggressive habits and ingrained contempt for a dark-skin, disintegrated the Bantu mass before we were ready to undertake the work of reconstruction. And therefore the local British authority soon learnt that non-interference in the case of the Boer generally meant the necessity of a much more serious interference at a subsequent date with both Boer and Kafir. And so non-interference, in the admirable spirit of the Duke of Portland's despatch, came to bear one meaning in Downing Street and quite another in Capetown.
[Sidenote: D'Urban's policy.]
The earliest of the three crucial "divergences of opinion," to which collectively the history of our South African administration owes its sombre hue, was that which led to the reversal of Sir Benjamin D'Urban's frontier policy by Charles Grant (afterwards Lord Glenelg) at the end of the year 1835. The circumstances were these. On Christmas Day, 1834, the Kafirs (without any declaration of war, needless to say) invaded the Cape Colony, murdering the settlers in the isolated farms, burning their homesteads, and driving off their cattle. After a six months' campaign, in which the Dutch and British settlers fought by the side of the regular troops, a treaty was made with the Kafir chiefs which, in the opinion of D'Urban and his local advisers, would render the eastern frontier of the Colony secure from further inroads. The Kafirs were to retire to the line of the Kei River, thus surrendering part of their territory to the European settlers who had suffered most severely from the invasion; while a belt of loyal Kafirs, supported by a chain of forts, was to be interposed between the defeated tribes and the colonial farmsteads. In addition to these measures, D'Urban proposed to compensate the settlers for the enormous losses which they had incurred; since, as a contemporary and not unfriendly writer puts it, the British Government had exposed them for fourteen years to Kafir depredations, rather than acknowledge the existence of a state of affairs that must plainly have compelled it to make active exertions for their protection.
[Footnote 1: The official returns showed that 456 farm-houses
had been wholly, and 350 partially, destroyed; and that 60
waggons, 5,715 horses, 111,930 head of horned cattle, and
161,930 sheep had been carried off by the Kafirs. And this
apart from the remuneration claimed by the settlers for
services in the field, and commandeered cattle and supplies.]
[Footnote 2: Cloete. See note, p. 16.]
The view of the home authority was very different. In the opinion of His Majesty's ministers at Downing Street the Kafir invasion was the result of a long series of unjustifiable encroachments on the part of the European settlers. D'Urban was instructed, therefore, to reinstate the Kafirs in the districts from which they had retired under the treaty of September, 1835, and to cancel all grants of land beyond the Fish River--the original eastern boundary of the Colony--which the Colonial Government had made to its European subjects from 1817 onwards; while, as for compensation, any indemnity was altogether out of the question, since the colonists had only themselves to thank for the enmity of the natives--if, indeed, they had not deliberately provoked the war with a view to the acquisition of fresh territory.
The divergence between these two opinions is sufficiently well marked. To trace the precise agencies through which two diametrically opposed views were evolved on this occasion from the same groundwork of facts would be too lengthy a business; but, by way of comment, we may recall two statements, each significant and authentic. Cloete, writing while the events in question were still fresh in his mind, says of Lord Glenelg's despatch: "A communication more cruel, unjust, and insulting to the feelings not only of Sir Benjamin D'Urban ... but of the inhabitants ... could hardly have been penned by a declared enemy of the country and its Governor." And Sir George Napier, by whom D'Urban was superseded, stated in evidence given before the House of Commons: "My own experience, and what I saw with my own eyes, have confirmed me that I was wrong and Sir Benjamin D'Urban was perfectly right; that if he meant to keep Kafirland under British rule, the only way of doing so was by having a line of forts, and maintaining troops in them."
[Sidenote: The Great Trek.]
This settlement of a South African question upon a basis of British, or rather non-South African, ideas was followed by events as notorious as they were disastrous. It must be remembered that in 1819-20 the first and only effort to introduce a considerable British population into South Africa had been successfully carried out when the "Albany" settlers, to the number of some five thousand, were established in this and other districts upon the eastern border of the Cape Colony. The colonial farmers who suffered from the Kafir invasion of 1834-5 were not exclusively Boers. Among them there were many members of the new British population, and the divergence of opinion between D'Urban and Lord Glenelg was all the more significant, since in this case the British settlers were in agreement with the Boers. It was no longer merely a divergence of views as between the local and the home authority, but as between the British in Britain and the British in South Africa. It must also be remembered that, in the same year as the Kafir invasion, a social revolution--the emancipation of slaves--had been accomplished in the Cape Colony by an Act of the British Parliament, in comparison with which the nationalisation of the railways or of the mines in England would seem a comparatively trifling disturbance of the system of private property to the Englishman of to-day. The reversal of D'Urban's arrangements for the safety of the eastern frontier was not only bad in itself, but it came at a bad time. Whether the secession of the Emigrant Farmers would in any case have taken place as the result of the emancipation of slaves is a matter which cannot now be decided. But, however this may be, the fact remains that two men so well qualified to give an opinion on the subject as Judge Cloete and Sir John Robinson, the first Prime Minister of Natal, unhesitatingly ascribe the determining influence which drove the Boers to seek a home beyond the jurisdiction of the British Government to the sense of injustice created by the measures dictated by Lord Glenelg, and by the whole spirit of his despatch. And this judgment is supported by the fact that the wealthier Dutch of the Western Province were much more seriously affected by the emancipation of slaves than the "Boers" of the eastern districts of the Colony; yet it was these latter, of course, who provided the bulk of the emigrants who crossed the Orange River in the years of the Great Trek (1835-8) We shall not therefore be drawing an extravagantly improbable conclusion, if we decide that the movement which divided European South Africa was due to a well-ascertained divergence of opinion between the home and local authorities--both British.
[Footnote 3: For the benefit of those who may desire to read
the passages in which these opinions are expressed, I append
the references. Cloete's opinion is to be found in his "Five
Lectures on the Emigration of the Dutch Farmers," delivered
before the Natal Society and published at Capetown in 1856. A
reprint of this work was published by Mr. Murray in 1899. Sir
John Robinson's opinion, which endorses the views of Mrs.
Anna Elizabeth Steenekamp as expressed in The Cape Monthly
Magazine for September, 1876, is to be found at pp. 46, 47
of his "A Lifetime in South Africa" (Smith, Elder, 1900).]
[Sidenote: The birth of the republic.]
[Sidenote: Sir George Grey.]
The results of this secession of something like one-fourth of the Franco-Dutch population are common knowledge. Out of the scattered settlements founded by the Emigrant Farmers beyond the borders of the Colony were created, in 1852 (Sand River Convention) and 1854 (Bloemfontein Convention), the two Boer Republics, which half a century later withstood for two years and eight months the whole available military force of the British Empire. The first effect of the secession was to erect the republican Dutch into a rival power which bid against the British Government for the territory and allegiance of the natives. Secession, therefore, made the inevitable task of establishing the supremacy of the white man in South Africa infinitely more costly both in blood and treasure. The British nation accepted the task, which fell to it as paramount power, with the greatest reluctance. The endless and apparently aimless Kafir wars exhausted the patience of the country, and the destruction of an entire British regiment by Ketshwayo's impis created a feeling of deep resentment against the great High Commissioner, whose policy was held--unreasonably enough--responsible for the military disaster of Isandlhwana. Two opportunities of recovering the lost solidarity of the Europeans were presented before the republican Dutch had set themselves definitely to work for the supremacy of South Africa through reunion with their colonial kinsfolk. That both were lost was due at bottom to the disgust of the British people at the excessive cost and burden of establishing a civilised administration over the native population in South Africa. But in both cases the immediate agency of disaster was the refusal of the Home Government to listen to the advice of its local representative. Sir George Grey would have regained the lost solidarity of the Europeans by taking advantage of the natural recoil manifested among the Free State Dutch from independence and responsibility towards the more settled and prosperous life assured by British rule. His proposal was to unite the Cape Colony, Natal, and the Free State in a federal legislature, consisting of representatives chosen by popular vote in the several states. In urging this measure he took occasion to combat the pessimistic views of South African affairs which were prevalent in England. The country was not commercially useless, but of "great and increasing value." Its people did not desire Kafir wars, but were well aware of the much greater advantages which they derived from the peaceful pursuits of industry. The colonists were themselves willing to contribute to the defence of that part of the Queen's dominions in which they lived. And, finally, the condition of the natives was not hopeless, for the missionaries were producing most beneficial effects upon the tribes of the interior. But the most powerful argument which Grey used was his ruthless exposure of the futility of the Conventions. By allowing the Boer emigrants to grow into independent communities the British Government believed that not only had they relieved themselves of responsibility for the republican Dutch, but that they had secured, in addition, the unfaltering allegiance of the larger Dutch population which remained behind in the Cape Colony. Grey assured the Home Government that in both respects it was the victim of a delusion bred of its complete ignorance of South African conditions. The Boer Republics would give trouble. Apart from the bad draftsmanship of the conventions--a fertile source of disagreement--these small states would be centres of intrigue and "internal commotions," while at the same time their revenues would be too small to provide efficiently for their protection against the warlike tribes. The policy of divide et impera--or, as Grey called it, the "dismemberment" policy--would fail, since the political barrier which had been erected was wholly artificial.
[Footnote 4: Cetewayo.]
"Although these European countries are treated as separate
nations," he wrote, "their inhabitants bear the same family names
as the inhabitants of this Colony, and maintain with them ties of
the closest intimacy and relationship. They speak generally the
same language--not English, but Dutch. They are for the most part
of the same religion, belonging to the Dutch Reformed Church.
They have the same laws--the Roman Dutch. They have the same
sympathies, the same prejudices, the same habits, and frequently
the same feelings regarding the native races....
"I think that there can be no doubt that, in any great public, or
popular, or national question or movement, the mere fact of
calling these people different nations would not make them so,
nor would the fact of a mere fordable stream running between them
sever their sympathies or prevent them from acting in unison....
Many questions might arise in which, if the Government on the
south side of the Orange River took a different view from that on
the north side of the river, it might be very doubtful which of
the two Governments the great mass of the people would obey."
[Footnote 5: Despatch of November 19th, 1858, to Sir E. B.
The "divergence of opinion" between Capetown and Downing Street was complete. Grey was charged with "direct disobedience" for listening to the offers of the Free State inhabitants. Recalled by a despatch of June 4th, 1859, he was reinstated in August on condition that "he felt himself sufficiently free and uncompromised," both with the Cape Legislature and the people of the Free State, to be able personally to carry out the policy of the Home Government, which, said the despatch,
"is entirely opposed to those measures, tending to the resumption
of sovereignty over that State, of which you have publicly
expressed your approval in your speech to the Cape Parliament,
and in your answers to the address from the State in question."
Nor was that all. In his endeavours to establish a simple but effective system of European magistrates over the Kafirs beyond the eastern border of the Colony, he was hampered by the short-sighted economy of the Home Government. It seems incredible that a Colonial Governor, even at that epoch, should have been looked upon by Downing Street as a sort of importunate mendicant. But Grey's language shows that this was the attitude against which he had to defend himself.
[Sidenote: The burden of the empire.]
"I would now only urge upon Her Majesty's Government," he writes
on September 8th, 1858, "that they should not distress me more
than is absolutely necessary for the government and control of
the people of the country which lies beyond the Colony of the
Cape of Good Hope. Stripping the country as I am of troops [to
serve in putting down the Indian Mutiny], some great disaster
will take place if necessary funds are at the same time cut off
from me. I am sure, if the enormous reductions I have effected in
military expenditure are considered, the most rigid economists
will feel that the money paid by Great Britain for the control of
this country has been advantageously laid out."
These extracts are not pleasant reading. They were written at the time when the Imperial spirit was at its nadir. In the plain language of the Secretary of State for the Colonies in 1858, it was a time when ministers were "compelled to recognise as fact the increased and increasing dislike of Parliament to the maintenance of large military establishments in our colonies at Imperial cost." Yet one more passage must be cited, not so much because it is tinged by a certain grim humour--although this is a valuable quality in such a context--as because it affords an eminently pertinent illustration in support of the contention that the refusal of the Home Government to follow the advice of the "man on the spot" has been the operative cause of the failure of British administration in South Africa. The reply to the charge of "direct disobedience," which Grey formulates in one leisurely sentence, runs as follows:
[Footnote 6: Sir E. B. Lytton.]
"With regard to any necessity which might exist for my removal on
the ground of not holding the same views upon essential points of
policy as Her Majesty's Government hold, I can only make the
general remark that, during the five years which have elapsed
since I was appointed to my present office, there have been at
least seven Secretaries of State for the Colonial Department,
each of whom held different views upon some important points of
policy connected with this country."
[Sidenote: The discovery of diamonds.]
Grey was not by any means the only Governor of the Cape to show the home authorities how impossible it was to govern South Africa from Downing Street, and to urge upon them the necessity of allowing their representative, the one man who was familiar with local conditions, to decide by what methods the objects of British policy could be most effectively advanced. But it was not until some considerable time after the Colonial Department had been placed under a separate Secretary of State, and the Colonial Office had been constituted on its present basis, with a staff of permanent officials, that these protests produced any appreciable effect. What really aroused an interest in South Africa--that is to say a practical interest, as distinct from the interest created by the stories of missionary enterprise and travel, and by the records of Kafir warfare--was the discovery of diamonds in Griqualand West in 1870, and the subsequent establishment of the diamond industry at Kimberley. It was the first time that anything certain had occurred to show that the vast "hinterland" of the Cape might prove to be a territory of industrial possibilities. The earnings of the diamond mines provided the Cape Colony with a revenue sufficient to enable it to link together its main towns by a tolerable railway system. The industry, once established, attracted British capital and British population, and by so doing it did what Blue-books and missionary reports had failed to do: it brought the every-day life of the British Colonist in South Africa within the purview of the nation. Thanks to the Kimberley mines the Cape ceased to be thought of as a country whose resources were exclusively pastoral and agricultural.
The epoch of the next great divergence of opinion was a more hopeful time from an Imperialist point of view. Lord Beaconsfield, who was the first statesman to give practical expression to the belief that the maintenance of empire was not inconsistent with the welfare of the masses of the home population, was in power. British statesmen, and the class from which British statesmen are drawn, had begun to study Colonial questions in a more hopeful and intelligent spirit. Something had been learnt, too, of the actual conditions of South Africa. And yet it was at this epoch that what was, perhaps, the most ruinous of all the divergences of opinion between Capetown and Downing Street occurred.
[Sidenote: Sir Bartle Frere.]
When Sir Bartle Frere was sent out to South Africa to carry out a definite scheme for the union of the Republics with the British colonies in a federal system, British statesmen and the educated classes in general had adopted the views expressed by Grey twenty years before. Tardily they had learnt to recognise both the essential unity of the Dutch population and the value of the country as an industrial asset of the empire. But, in the meantime, the centre of political power had shifted in England. The extension of the franchise had placed the ultimate control of British policy in South Africa in the hands of a class of electors who were, as yet, wholly uneducated in the political and economic conditions of that country. The divergence of opinion between the home and the local authority became in this case wider than ever. In short, it was the will of the nation that caused Frere to be arrested midway in the accomplishment of his task, and gave a mandate in 1880 to the Liberal party to administer South Africa upon the lines of a policy shaped in contemptuous indifference of the profoundest convictions and most solemn warnings of a great proconsul and most loyal servant of the Crown.
The facts of Frere's supersession and recall are notorious: the story is too recent to need telling at length. We know now that, apart from the actual discovery of the Witwatersrand gold-mines, all that he foresaw and foretold has been realised in the events which culminated, twenty years later, in the great South African War. The military power which at that time (1877-80) stood in the way of South African unity under the British flag was the Zulu people. The whole adult male population of the tribe had been trained for war, and organised by Ketshwayo into a fighting machine. With this formidable military instrument at his command Ketshwayo proposed to emulate the sanguinary career of conquest pursued by his grandfather Tshaka; and he had prepared the way for the half-subdued military Bantu throughout South Africa to co-operate with him in a general revolt against the growing supremacy of the white man. Frere removed this obstacle. But in doing so he, or rather the general entrusted with the command of the military operations, lost a British regiment at Isandlhwana. This revelation of the strength of the Zulu army was, in fact, a complete confirmation of the correctness of Frere's diagnosis of the South African situation. His contention was that England must give evidence of both her capacity and her intention to control the native population of South Africa before she could reasonably ask the republican Dutch to surrender their independence and reunite with the British colonies in a federal system under the British flag. A native power, organised solely for aggressive warfare against one of two possible white neighbours, constituted therefore, in his opinion, not only a perpetual menace to the safety of Natal, but an insuperable obstacle to the effective discharge of a duty by the paramount Power, the successful performance of which was a condition precedent to the reunion of the European communities. The only point in dispute was the question whether the powers of Ketshwayo's impis had been exaggerated. To this question the disaster of Isandlhwana returned an emphatic "No."
[Footnote 7: Chaka.]
[Sidenote: The recall of Frere.]
The divergence of opinion between Frere and Lord Beaconsfield's cabinet was trivial as compared with the profound gulf which separated his policy from the South African policy of Mr. Gladstone. After the return of the Liberal party to power in the spring of 1880, Frere was allowed to remain in office until August 1st, when he was recalled by a telegraphic despatch. But, as Lord Kimberley pointed out to him, there had been "so much divergence" between his views and those of the Home Government that he would not have been allowed to remain at the Cape, "had it not been for the special reason that there was a prospect of his being able materially to forward the policy of confederation." This prospect, of course, had then been removed by the failure of the Cape Government, on June 29th, to bring about the conference of delegates from the several States, which was the initial step towards the realisation of Lord Carnarvon's scheme of federal union.
The vindication of Frere's statesmanship has been carried, by the inexorable logic of events, far beyond the sphere of Blue-book arguments. But it is impossible to read this smug despatch without recalling the words which Mr. Krüger wrote to Mr. (now Lord) Courtney on June 26th of the same year: "The fall of Sir Bartle Frere will ... be useful.... We have done our duty and used all legitimate influence to cause the conference proposals to fail." That is to say, it was known to these faithful confederates of that section of the Liberal party of which Mr. Courtney was the head, that the Gladstone Government had determined to recall Sir Bartle Frere three days before "the special reason" for maintaining him at the Cape had disappeared.
[Sidenote: Frere's forecast.]
But what we are really concerned with is the nature of the opinions upon the central question of South African administration which Frere put forward at this critical period. With these before us, the most elementary acquaintance with the events of the last ten years will suffice to indicate the profound degree in which his knowledge of South African conditions surpassed the knowledge of those who took upon themselves to reverse his policy. What, above all, Frere realised was, that a point had been reached at which the whole of South Africa must be gathered under the British flag without delay. He had noted the disintegrating influences at work in the Cape Colony and the strength of the potential antagonism of the republican Dutch. The annexation of the Transvaal was not his deed, nor did either the time or the manner in which it was done command his approval. But he asserted that British rule, once established there, must be maintained at all costs. With this end in view, he urged that every responsibility incurred by England in the act of annexation must be fulfilled to the letter. Utilising the information which he had gained by personal observation during his visit to the Transvaal in 1879, and availing himself of the co-operation of President Brand, of the Free State, and Chief Justice de Villiers, in the Cape Colony, he drafted a scheme of administrative reform sufficient to satisfy the legitimate aspirations of the Boers for self-government without endangering the permanency of British rule. It included proposals for administrative and financial reforms framed with a view of reducing the cost of government to the lowest point consistent with efficiency, for the reorganisation of the courts of law, for the survey of the proposed railway line to Delagoa Bay, and full details of a system of representative government. This measure he urged upon the Colonial Office as one of immediate necessity, since it embodied the fulfilment of the definite promises of an early grant of self-government made to the Boers at the time of annexation.
[Footnote 8: The receipt of the despatch in which these
valuable recommendations were made was not even acknowledged
by the Colonial Office. Frere himself gives the outlines of
his proposals in an article published in The Nineteenth
Century for February, 1881.]
He recognised the value of Delagoa Bay as an essential factor in the political and commercial system of a united South Africa, and he earnestly recommended its acquisition by purchase from the Portuguese Government. His perception of the extreme importance of satisfying all legitimate claims of the Boers, and his acute realisation of the danger of allowing the Transvaal to become a "jumping-off ground" either for foreign powers or Afrikander Nationalists, are exhibited in due relationship in a private memorandum which he wrote from the Cape at the end of July, 1879:
"Any reliance on mere force in the Transvaal must react
dangerously down here in the old colony, and convert the Dutch
Country party, now as loyal and prosperous a section of the
population as any under the Crown, into dangerous allies of the
small anti-English Republican party, who are for separation, thus
paralysing the efforts of the loyal English party now in power,
who aim at making the country a self-defending integral portion
of the British Empire. Further, any attempt to give back or
restore the Boer Republic in the Transvaal must lead to anarchy
and failure, and probably, at no distant period, to a vicious
imitation of some South American Republics, in which the more
uneducated and misguided Boers, dominated and led by better
educated foreign adventurers--Germans, Hollanders, Irish Home
Rulers, and other European Republicans and Socialists--will
become a pest to the whole of South Africa, and a most dangerous
fulcrum to any European Power bent on contesting our naval
supremacy, or injuring us in our colonies.
"There is no escaping from the responsibility which has already
been incurred, ever since the British flag was planted on the
Castle here. All our real difficulties have arisen, and still
arise, from attempting to evade or shift this responsibility....
If you abdicate the sovereign position, the abdication has always
to be heavily paid for in both blood and treasure.... Your object
is not conquest, but simply supremacy up to Delagoa Bay. This
will have to be asserted some day, and the assertion will not
become easier by delay. The trial of strength will be forced on
you, and neither justice nor humanity will be served by
postponing the trial if we start with a good cause."
Could not the man who foresaw these dangers have prevented them? It is impossible to resist the momentum of this thought.
[Sidenote: The retrocession.]
The events by which this forecast was so closely realised are not likely to be effaced from the memory of this generation. Frere had scarcely left the Colony from which he had been recalled by the joint efforts of Mr. Krüger and Lord (then Mr.) Courtney before the former, with his fellow triumvirs, had raised the Vier-kleur upon the still desolate uplands of the Witwatersrand. The attempt to put down by force the Boer revolt of 1880-81 failed. Mr. Gladstone's cabinet recoiled before the prospect of a war in which the Boers might have been supported by their kinsmen in the Free State and the Cape Colony. The retrocession of the Transvaal under the terms of the Pretoria Convention (1881) was followed by further concessions embodied in the London Convention of 1884. It is absolutely established as fact that Mr. Gladstone's Government intended, by certain articles contained in both conventions, to secure to all actual and potential British residents in the Transvaal the enjoyment of all the political rights of citizenship possessed by the Boers. But it is equally certain that the immediate contravention of Article XVI. of the Pretoria Convention, when in 1882 the period of residence necessary to qualify for the franchise was raised from two to five years, was allowed to pass without protest from the Imperial Government. And thus a breach of the Convention, which the discovery of the Witwatersrand gold-fields (1886) and the subsequent establishment of a great British industrial community made a matter of vital importance, was condoned. A few years more and the country which prided itself upon being the home of liberty and of free institutions was confounded by the spectacle of a South Africa of its own making, in which a British majority denied the franchise in a Dutch Republic, contrasted with a Dutch minority dominating and controlling the machinery of responsible government in a British colony.
This situation brings us (to use a military phrase) within striking distance of the objective of the present work--the personality and efforts of the man who administered South Africa in the momentous years of the struggle for equal rights for all white men from the Zambesi to Capetown.
If the records set out in the preceding pages leave any impression upon the mind, it is one that must produce a sense of amazement, almost exasperation, at the thought of the many mistakes and disasters that might have been avoided, if only greater weight had been attached to the advice tendered to the British Government by its local representative in South Africa. And with this sense of amazement a generous mind will associate inevitably a feeling of regret for the injustice unwittingly, but none the less irreparably, inflicted upon loyal and capable servants of the Crown--an injustice so notorious that it has made South Africa the "grave of reputations." Apart from the pre-eminence with which the period of Lord Milner's administration is invested by the occurrence within it of a military conflict of unparalleled magnitude, Lord Milner stands out in the annals of South Africa as the first High Commissioner whose knowledge of South African conditions was allowed to inspire the policy of the Home Government, and who himself was recognised by the Government and people of Great Britain as voicing the convictions and aspirations of all loyal subjects of the Crown in that province of the empire.
The state of affairs with which Lord Milner was called upon to deal was in its essence the situation sketched by Frere twenty years before in the memorable forecast to which reference has been made. But the working of the forces indicated by Frere as destined, if unchecked, to drive England one day to a life-and-death struggle for her supremacy in South Africa, had been complicated by an event which cannot be omitted altogether from a chapter intended, like a Euripidean prologue, to prepare the mind of the spectator for the proper understanding of the characters and action of the drama. This event is the Jameson Raid.
[Sidenote: The Jameson raid.]
In order to see the Jameson Raid in its true perspective, it is not sufficient to place it in relationship to those familiar and notorious events by which it was followed. It must also be placed in relationship to the no less clearly defined events by which it was preceded. Thus placed it becomes the direct outcome of the refusal of the Imperial Government to use the advice of its local representative--or, more precisely, of the refusal to base its policy on South African instead of British conditions: and, as such, it convinced the Imperial Government of the need of reviving the power of its local representative. In other words, it is a connecting link between the High Commissionerships of Frere and Milner. The events which followed the recall of Frere were accepted by the British inhabitants of South Africa as a practical demonstration of the inherent viciousness of the system under which the decision of cardinal questions of South African administration was left in the hands of the House of Commons, a body in which they were not represented; which met 6,000 miles away; whose judgment was liable to be warped by irrelevant considerations of English party politics; and one which was admittedly unfamiliar with the country and peoples whose interests were vitally affected by the manner in which these questions were decided. The lesson of the retrocession was taken to heart so earnestly that, fifteen years later, the majority of the British residents in the Transvaal refused to support a movement for reform which involved the re-establishment of Imperial authority, while among those who were loyal to the British connection throughout South Africa its effect was to make them think, as did Rhodes, that the machinery of the various local British governments must be dissociated as much as possible from the principles and methods of the Home Government. Hence the necessity for what Rhodes called the "elimination of the Imperial factor." The expression, as he afterwards explained, was in no way inconsistent with attachment to the British connection. As read in the context in which it was originally used, it meant merely that the European population of Bechuanaland, being mainly Boer immigrants, could be administered more successfully by officers responsible to a government which, like that of the Cape Colony, was well versed in South African conditions, than by officers directly responsible to the Imperial Government. The phrase was a criticism of Downing Street, and still more of English party government. In short, Rhodes was convinced that if a system of British administration, based on South African conditions, was ever to be carried on successfully, the local British authority, and not the Home Government, must be the machine employed; and in order to allow it to work freely, its action must be made as independent as possible of Downing Street. For Downing Street was an authority which blew hot or cold, in accordance with the views of the party for the time being in power.
[Footnote 9: The Crown Colony--not the Protectorate--annexed
by the Cape Colony in 1895.]
[Footnote 10: Rhodes's words were: "If we do not settle this
[i.e. the question of Bechuanaland] ourselves, we shall see
it taken up in the House of Commons on one side or the other,
not from any real interest in the question, but simply
because of its consequences to those occupying the
Ministerial benches. We want to get rid of Downing Street in
this question, and to deal with it ourselves, as a
[Sidenote: New forces.]
And, in point of fact, both parties in England acquiesced in this judgment of the South African British. During the years between Frere's recall and the appointment of Lord Milner (1880-1897) the High Commissioner was a decreasing force. Both Lord Rosmead and Lord Loch did little to mould the destiny of South Africa: not because they lacked capacity, but because it was the determination of the Home Government to leave the difficult problem of South African unity to local initiative. On the other hand, the progress which was made in this direction by local initiative, aided as it was by the fortuitous discovery of the Witwatersrand gold-fields, was considerable. The highlands of South Central Africa were acquired for the British race, and the Boer was effectively prevented from carrying the Vier-kleur beyond the Limpopo; the railway, drawn through the Free State by the magnet of the Rand, disturbed the retirement of the republican Dutch; and finally the Cape Colony and Natal were linked together with the Free State in a Customs Union. But the development of the mineral resources of the country led to the appearance of a new factor in South African politics. The comparative decline in the activity of the High Commissioner had been accompanied by the establishment and growth of powerful industrial corporations. It is easy to understand how a man like Rhodes, with the wealth and influence of De Beers and the Chartered Company at his command, might seek, by an alliance with the "great houses" of the Rand, to find in private effort an instrument for remedying the deficiencies of the Imperial Government even more appropriate than the local governmental action upon which he had previously relied. For the work of these industrial corporations had powerfully enlisted the interest and sympathy of the British public. The Jameson Raid was an illegitimate and disastrous application of an otherwise meritorious and successful effort to strengthen the British hold upon South Africa by private enterprise. It was at once the measure of Imperial inefficiency, and its cure.
One other circumstance must be recalled in estimating the extent to which the Home Government had earned the distrust of the British population in South Africa. Only eighteen months before the Raid the High Commissioner, Lord Loch, had gone to Pretoria carrying a despatch in which the grant of a five years' franchise was advocated on behalf of the Uitlanders. His instructions were to present this despatch, and press upon President Krüger personally the necessity for giving effect to its recommendations. These instructions were cancelled at the last moment by Lord Ripon, because the German Ambassador had made representations in London that such action would be regarded as an interference with the status quo in South Africa, and, as such, detrimental to German interests in that country. And six months later President Krüger, in attending a "Kommers" given by the German Club at Pretoria in honour of the Kaiser Wilhelm II.'s birthday, alluded to Germany as a grown-up power that would stop England from "kicking" the child Republic.
[Footnote 11: June, 1894.]
[Footnote 12: January 28th, 1895.]
[Sidenote: Rhodes's Plan.]
The Raid was, therefore, a short cut to baffle German intrigue and solve the problem of South African unity at one blow. For to Rhodes the enfranchisement of the Uitlanders meant the withdrawal of the Transvaal Government from its opposition to his scheme of commercial federation. It is obvious that one ground of justification, and one only, can be found for the usurpation of the functions of government by a private individual, or group of individuals. This justification is success. It has been the custom to represent Dr. Jameson's decision to "ride in" as "an act of monumental folly," alike from a political and a military point of view. But this opinion overlooks the fact that the affair may have been so planned in Rhodes's mind that success did not depend upon the victory of the Uitlanders, aided by Jameson's troopers, but on the presence of the High Commissioner in the Transvaal under such conditions as would make the intervention of the Imperial Government at once imperative and effectual. The representative of the Imperial Government, backed by a Johannesburg in armed revolt against the Boer oligarchy, would find himself--so Rhodes thought--in a position highly favourable to the successful prosecution of the demands which had already been put forward on behalf of British subjects resident in the Transvaal. And in order that this essential part of the plan might be carried out without a moment of unnecessary delay, Rhodes kept a train, with steam up, in the station at Capetown ready to speed Lord Rosmead northwards directly the news of Dr. Jameson's arrival at Johannesburg should have reached him. Once Jameson's force had "got through," he relied upon the Reform Committee, however incomplete its preparations, being able to hold Johannesburg for a couple of days against any force the Boers could bring. Nor in the light of what happened, during the war, both at Mafeking and Kimberley, can this expectation be thought extravagant. Here his responsibilities would have ended. The High Commissioner and the Imperial Government would have done the rest. To indulge in metaphor, the Imperial locomotive was to be set going, but the lines on which it was to run were those laid down by Mr. Rhodes.
[Footnote 13: It is worth noticing that even the presence of the German Marines at Delagoa Bay was counterbalanced--whether by chance or design--by the coincidence of the arrival of a British troopship with time-expired men from the Indian garrison, off Durban.]
If this was the essence of Rhodes's plan, it would matter comparatively little whether the Reformers had, or had not, completed their preparations, or whether Dr. Jameson had 1,200 or 500 men. Certainly some such assumption is necessary to account for the fact that Rhodes treated his confederates at Johannesburg as so many pawns on a chess-board. It is equally necessary to account for Dr. Jameson's action. "Twenty years friends, and now he goes in and ruins me," was Rhodes's comment on the news that Dr. Jameson had "ridden in," in spite of his own orders to the contrary and the message to the same effect which Captain Heany had delivered on behalf of the Reformers. But what if Dr. Jameson knew, or thought that he knew, that Rhodes's object in forcing the insurrection was not to make the Uitlanders reduce Krüger, but to compel the Imperial Government to step in? In this case he may well have thought that what was essential was not that the rising should be successful, but that there should be a rising of any kind; provided that it was sufficiently grave to arrest the attention of the world, and claim the interference of the Imperial Government.
According to Mr. Chamberlain the continued inaction of the Imperial Government in the eighteen months that had passed since Lord Loch's visit to Pretoria in June, 1894, was due to two circumstances. In the first place, "the Uitlanders and their organs had always deprecated the introduction into the dispute of what is called in South Africa the 'Imperial factor'"; and in the second, the "rumours" of violent measures "were continually falsified by the event." Obviously, if Rhodes forced an insurrection with the intention of removing these obstacles--if, that is to say, the intervention of the Imperial Government, and not the success of the insurrection, was his primary object--the temerity of Dr. Jameson's invasion is materially diminished. Now Mr. Chamberlain's statement, made under date February 4th, 1896, i.e. five weeks after the Raid, is perfectly consistent with the view of the attitude of the Reformers expressed by Rhodes on the day before the Raid took place.
[Sidenote: The reformers divided.]
Dr. Jameson's force, it will be remembered, started on the evening of Sunday, December 29th, 1895. Up to three days before--the 26th--nothing had occurred to interfere with the final arrangement, telegraphed to Dr. Jameson from Capetown, that the movement in Johannesburg would take place on Saturday, the 28th. The circumstances which caused the Reformers to alter their plans were explained by Rhodes in an interview with Sir Graham Bower, the Imperial Secretary, at Capetown on the same Saturday, the 28th, with his accustomed vivacity. The Johannesburg insurrection, he said--
"had fizzled out as a damp squib. The capitalists financing the
movement had made the hoisting of the British flag a sine quâ
non. This the National Union rejected, and issued a manifesto
declaring for a republic. The division had led to the complete
collapse of the movement, and it was thought that the leaders
would make the best terms they could with President Krüger."
The telegrams which reached Dr. Jameson between the 26th and 29th contained the same facts, with the further information that Captain Heany was travelling by special train to him with a message direct from the Reformers. In these circumstances it is said that Rhodes at Capetown imagined as little as the Reform leaders at Johannesburg that Dr. Jameson would cross the frontier. That, however, there was another point of view from which the situation might present itself to Dr. Jameson is shown by the fact that Mr. Chamberlain, in reply to the High Commissioner's telegram reporting the substance of Rhodes's statement to Sir Graham Bower, at once inquired of Lord Rosmead, "Are you sure Jameson has not moved in consequence of the collapse?"
[Footnote 14: Afternoon of Monday, December 30th.]
Was Mr. Chamberlain right? Did Dr. Jameson see in the fact that the Reformers were divided on such an issue only an additional reason for carrying out a plan which had for its object to compel the Imperial Government to intervene in the affairs of the Transvaal before it was too late; that is to say, before the British population had definitely committed itself to the policy of a purged republic, but a republic under any flag but that of Great Britain? Such a policy was not merely possible. It seemed inevitable to the vivacious French observer who wrote, not from hearsay, but "with his eyes upon the object," in December, 1893:
"The Transvaal will never be an English colony. The English of
the Transvaal, as well as those of Cape Colony and Natal, would
be as firmly opposed to it as the Boers themselves, for they have
never forgiven England for letting herself be beaten by the Boers
at Majuba Hill and accepting her defeat, a proceeding which has
rendered them ridiculous in the eyes of the Dutch population of
South Africa.... With me this is not a simple impression, but a
[Footnote 15: "John Bull & Co.," by "Max O'Rell," 1894.]
[Sidenote: Jameson's decision.]
If these were the considerations which weighed with Dr. Jameson, his decision to "ride in" was inconsistent neither with friendship nor with patriotism. When Captain Heany had read from his pocket-book the message from the Reformers, Jameson paced for twenty minutes outside his tent. Having re-entered it, he announced his determination to disregard Heany's message no less than Rhodes's telegram. It was a momentous decision to take after twenty minutes' thought. Had he a reasonable expectation of carrying out the plan as Rhodes conceived it, in spite of the change in the position of affairs at Johannesburg? Had he any reason to believe that Rhodes desired him to force the insurrection in spite of his telegrams to the contrary? It is the answers to these questions that make the Raid, as far as Dr. Jameson is concerned, an "act of monumental folly," or a legitimate assumption of personal responsibility that is part of the empire-builder's stock-in-trade. The answer to the second question remains a matter of speculation. The answer to the first is to be found in the record of the expedition. Dr. Jameson reached Krügersdorp at three o'clock on Wednesday, January 1st. A few hours before a cyclist had brought him congratulatory messages from the Reform leaders. The goal was almost within sight. What prevented Sir John Willoughby from taking his little force safely over the remaining twenty miles from Krügersdorp to Johannesburg was the merest accident: the few hours' delay caused, naturally enough, by Dr. Jameson's desire that his force should be met and escorted by a small body of volunteers from the Rand. He did not want, as he said, to go to Johannesburg as "a pirate." Sir John Willoughby's evidence is perfectly definite and conclusive on the point. If the force had pushed on by road from Krügersdorp to Johannesburg on Wednesday evening--had not, in Willoughby's words, "messed about" at Krügersdorp in expectation of the welcoming escort--Johannesburg would have been reached in safety on Thursday morning. With Dr. Jameson in Johannesburg and Lord Rosmead speeding northwards in his special train, the way would have been prepared for that decisive and successful action on the part of the Imperial Government which Rhodes had desired to bring about.
[Sidenote: Why the raid failed.]
But, unsuccessful as was the actual expedition, the decision to "ride in" had secured the intervention of the Imperial Government. If intervention could have done what Rhodes expected of it, Dr. Jameson's decision to "ride in" would have gained, at the cost of few lives and no increase of the national debt, what the war gained four years later at the cost of twenty thousand lives and £220,000,000. As it was, it failed to win the franchise for the Uitlanders. Why did not Lord Rosmead, with so strong a Colonial Secretary as Mr. Chamberlain at his back, brush the Raid aside, and address himself to the removal of the greater wrong that gave it birth? If Lord Rosmead had acted in the spirit of Mr. Chamberlain's despatches; if he had reminded the Government of the Republic from the first "that the danger from which they had just escaped was real, and one which, if the causes which led up to it were not removed, might recur, although in a different form"; if he had used "plain language" to President Krüger; and if, above all, he had remembered--as Mr. Chamberlain reminded him--that "the people of Johannesburg had surrendered in the belief that reasonable concessions would have been arranged through his intervention, and until these were granted, or were definitely promised to him by the President, the root-causes of the recent troubles would remain,"--might he not yet have saved South Africa for the empire without subjecting her to the dread arbitrament of the sword?
[Sidenote: Mr. Chamberlain.]
It is in the answer to this question that we find the actual cause of the utter failure of Rhodes's plan. The truth is that success in any real sense--that is to say, success which would have strengthened British supremacy and promoted the union of European South Africa--was impossible. The sole response which Lord Rosmead returned to Mr. Chamberlain's counsels was the weary confession: "The question of concessions to Uitlanders has never been discussed between President Krüger and myself." The methods employed by Rhodes were so questionable that no High Commissioner could have allowed the Imperial Government to have derived any advantage from them. To have gained the franchise for the Uitlanders as the result of violent and unscrupulous action, would have inflicted an enduring injury upon the British cause in South Africa for which the enfranchisement itself would have been small compensation. The disclosure of these methods and, with them, of the hollowness of Rhodes's alliance with the Afrikander Bond, alarmed and incensed the whole Dutch population of South Africa. What this meant Lord Rosmead knew, and Mr. Chamberlain did not know. The ten years' truce between the forces of the Afrikander nationalists and the paramount Power was at an end. To combat these forces something better than the methods of the Raid was required. Non tali auxilio, nec defensoribus istis! No modern race have excelled the Dutch in courage and endurance. In Europe they had successfully defended their independence against the flower of the armies of Spain, Austria, and France. The South African Dutch were not inferior in these qualities to the people of the parent stock. If such a race, embarked upon what it conceived to be a struggle for national existence, was to be overcome, the hands of the conqueror must be clean as well as strong. None the less the active sympathy with the Uitlanders exhibited in Mr. Chamberlain's despatches was welcomed by the British as evidence that the new Colonial Secretary was more alert and determined than his predecessors. For the first time in the history of British administration in South Africa, Downing Street had shown itself more zealous than Capetown. It was the solitary ray of light that broke the universal gloom in which South Africa was enshrouded by the catastrophe of the Raid.