IV. INTERVIEW WITH DR. JAMES STEWART, MODERATOR (1899) OF THE FREE CHURCH OF SCOTLAND. LETTER OF MR. BELLOWS TO SENATOR HOAR, U.S.A. THE REV. C. PHILLIPS. EXTRACTS FROM THE "CHRISTIAN AGE," AND FROM M. ELISEE RECLUS, GEOGRAPHER. RETROCESSION OF THE TRANSVAAL. MR. GLADSTONE'S ACTION. ITS EFFECT ON THE TRANSVAAL LEADERS, AND ITS CONSEQUENCES FOR THE NATIVE SUBJECTS OF GREAT BRITAIN.
The Rev. Dr. James Stewart, of Lovedale Mission Institute, South Africa, who, in May, 1899, was elected Moderator of the General Assembly of the Scotch Free Church, imparted his views with regard to the Transvaal question to a representative of the New York Tribune on the occasion of his visit to Washington in the autumn of 1899, to attend the Pan-Presbyterian Council as a delegate from the Free Church of Scotland.
Dr. Stewart's title to speak on matters connected with the Transvaal rests upon thirty years' residence in South Africa.
On the morning of his election as Moderator of the General Assembly the Scotsman coupled his name with that of Dr. Livingstone as the men to whom the British Central Africa Protectorate was due.
The interview was published in the Tribune of September 24th, 1899.
Dr. Stewart said: -
"As to the principle politically in dispute, the British Government asks nothing more than this - That British subjects in the Transvaal shall enjoy - I cannot say the same privileges, but a faint shadow of what every Dutchman, as well as every man, white and black, in the Cape Colony enjoys. Every Dutchman in the Cape Colony is treated exactly as if he were an Englishman; and every subject of Her Majesty the Queen, black and white, is treated in the Transvaal, and has always been, as a man of an alien and subject race. The franchise is only one of many grievances, and it is utterly a mistake to suppose that England is going to war over a question of mere franchise. Let us be just, however. There are in the Cape Colony and out of it loyal Dutchmen, loyal as the day, to the British power, which is the ruling power. They know the freedom they enjoy under it, and the folly and futility of trying to upset it.
"No superfluous pity or sympathy need be wasted on President Kruger or the Transvaal Republic. The latter (Republic) is a shadow of a name, and as great a travesty and burlesque on the word as it is possible to conceive.
"Paul Kruger is at the present moment the real troubler of South Africa. If the spirit and principles which he himself and his Government represent were to prevail in this struggle, it would arrest the development of the southern half of the continent. It is too late in the day by the world's clock for that type of man or government to continue.
"The plain fact is this: - President Kruger does not mean to give, never meant to give, and will not give anything as a concession in the shape of just and necessary rights, except what he is forced to give. He wants also to get rid of the suzerainty. That darkens and poisons his days and disturbs his nights by fearful dreams. There is no excuse for him, and, as I say, there need be no sentiment wasted on the subject. Let President Kruger and his supporters do what is right, and give what is barely and simply and only necessary as well as right, and the whole difficulty will pass into solution, to the relief of all concerned and the preservation of peace in South Africa. If not, the blame must rest with him.
"I am sorry I cannot give any information or express any views different from what I have now stated. They are the result of thirty years' residence in Africa. But I would ask your readers to believe that the British Government are rather being forced into war than choosing it of their own accord. I would also ask your readers to believe that Sir Alfred Milner, the present Governor of Cape Colony, though undoubtedly a strong man, is also one of the least aggressive, most cautious, and pacific of men; and that he has the entire confidence of the whole British population of the Cape Colony. I know also that when he began his rule three years ago, he did so with the expectation that by pacific measures the Dutch question was capable of a happier and better solution than that in which the situation finds it to-day. The question and trouble to-day is, briefly, whether the British Government is able to give protection and secure reasonable rights for its subjects abroad."
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The following was addressed by Mr. John Bellows of Gloucester, to Senator Hoar, United States, America, and was published in the New York Tribune, Feb. 22nd, 1900. Mr. Bellows, on seeing the publication of his letter, wrote the following postscript, to Senator Hoar: -
"As the foregoing letter was headed by the Editor of the New York Tribune, 'A Quaker on the War,' I would say, to prevent misunderstanding, that I speak for myself only, and not for the Society of Friends, although I entirely believe in its teaching, that if we love all men we can under no circumstances go to war. There is, however, a spurious advocacy of peace, which is based, not upon love to men so much as upon enmity to our own Government, and which levels against it untrue charges of having caused the Transvaal War. It was to show the erroneousness of these charges that I wrote this letter."
The following is the text of the letter: -
"Dear Friend, I am glad to receive thy letter, as it gives me the opportunity of pointing out a misconception into which thou hast fallen in reference to the Transvaal and its position with respect to the present war.
"Thou sayest: 'I am myself a great lover of England; but I do not like to see the two countries joining hands for warlike purposes, and especially to crush out the freedom of small and weak nations.'
"To this I willingly assent. I am certain that war is in all circumstances opposed to that sympathy all men owe one to another, and to that Greater Source of love and sympathy in which 'we live and move and have our being.' Where this bond has been broken, we long for its restoration; but it cannot but tend to retard this restoration, to impute to one or other of the parties concerned motives that are entirely foreign to its action. Peace, to be lasting, must stand on a foundation of truth; and there is no truth whatever in the idea that the English Government provoked the present war, or that it intended, at any time during the negotiations that preceded the war, an attack on the independence either of the Transvaal or of the Orange Free State. It is true that President Kruger has for many years carefully propagated the fear of such an attempt among the Dutch in South Africa, as a means of separating Boers and Englishmen into two camps, and as an incentive to their preparing the colossal armament that has now been brought into play, not to keep the English out of the Transvaal, but to realise what is called the Afrikander programme of a Dutch domination over the whole of South Africa. Thus, he a short time ago imported from Europe 149,000 rifles - nearly five times as many as the whole military population of the Transvaal - clearly with a view to arming the Cape Dutch in case of the general rising he hoped for. The Jameson Raid gave him exactly the grievance he wanted - to persuade these Cape Dutch that England sought to crush the Transvaal.
"An examination of the 'Blue Book,' which contains the whole of the correspondence immediately preceding the war, will at once show the patient efforts put forth by the London Cabinet to maintain peace. There are no irritating words used, and the last despatch of importance before the outbreak of hostilities, dealing with the insinuations just alluded to, is not only most courteous and conciliatory in tone, but it states that the Queen's Government will give the most solemn guarantees against any attack upon the independence of the Transvaal either by Great Britain or the Colonies, or by any foreign power. I am absolutely certain that no American reading that despatch would say that President Kruger was justified in seizing the Netherlands Railway line within one week after he had received it, and cutting the telegraph wires, to prepare for the invasion of British territory, in which act of violence lay his last and only hope of forcing England to fight; his last and desperate chance of setting up a racial domination instead of the freedom and equality of the two races that prevail in the Cape and Natal, and that did prevail in the Orange Free State.
"The cause of the dispute was this: In 1884 a Convention was agreed on between Great Britain and the Transvaal, acknowledging the independence of the Transvaal, subject to three conditions: that the Boers should not make treaties with foreign Powers without the consent of the paramount Power in South Africa, i.e., England; that they should not make slaves of the native tribes; and that they should guarantee equal treatment for all the white inhabitants of the country as respects taxation. As the whole war has risen out of Kruger's persistent refusal to keep his promises, both verbal and in writing, that he would observe this condition, I append the clause giving rise to the contention: -
"Article XIV. (1884 Convention). - 'All persons other than natives conforming themselves to the laws of the South African Republic will not be subject in respect to their persons or property or in respect of their commerce and industry to any taxes, whether general or local, other than those which are or may be imposed upon citizens of the said Republic.
"The mines brought so large a population to Johannesburg that it at last outnumbered by very far the entire Boer burghers in the State. Kruger, seeing that the inevitable effect of such an increase must be the same amalgamation of the new and old populations which was going on in Natal and Cape Colony, and to a smaller extent in the Orange Free State, unless artificial barriers could be devised to keep the races apart, at once set to to scheme modes of taxation that should evade Article XIV. of the Convention, throwing the entire burden on the Uitlanders, and letting the Boers, who were nearly all farmers, escape scot free. Farmers, for example, use no dynamite, miners do; and President Kruger gave a monopoly of its supply to a German, non-resident in the country, who taxed the miners for this article alone $2,600,000 a year beyond the highest price it could otherwise have been bought for. This was his own act, the Volksraad not being consulted. Besides the high price, the quality of the explosive was bad, often causing accident or death. When it did cause accident or death, the miners were prosecuted by the Government, from whose agent they were compelled to buy it, and fined for having used it!
"At the time the Convention was signed, in 1884, the franchise was obtainable after one year's residence. President Kruger determined to serve the Uitlanders, however, as George III.'s Government served the American Colonists, that is, tax them while refusing them representation in the control of the taxes. He went on at one and the same time increasing their burdens monstrously, while he prolonged the period of residence that qualified for a vote from one year to five, and so on, till he made it fourteen years - or fourteen times as long as when the Convention was signed. Nor was this all. He reserved the right personally to veto any Uitlander being placed on the register even after the fourteen years if he thought he was for any reason objectionable. That is, the majority of the taxpayers were disfranchised for ever! These Uitlanders had bought and paid for 60 per cent. of all the property in the Transvaal, and 90 per cent. of the taxes were levied from them; an amount equal to giving every Boer in the country $200 a year of plunder.
"Is a country that is so governed justly to be called a 'Republic?'
"But even the Boers themselves have been adroitly edged out of power by Paul Kruger. The Grondwet, or Constitution, provided that to prevent abuses in legislation, no new law should be passed until the bill for it had been published three months in advance. To evade this, Kruger passed all kinds of measures as amendments to existing laws; which, as he explained, not being new laws, required no notification! Finally, however, he got the Volksraad to rescind this article of the Grondwet; and now, as for some time past, any law of any sort can be passed by a small clique of Kruger's in secret session of the Raad without notice of any sort, and without the knowledge or assent of the people. The Boers have no more voice in such legislation than if they were Chinese. The Transvaal is only a Republic in the same sense that a nutshell is a nut, or a fossil oyster shell is an oyster.
"All that the British Government has ever contended for with President Kruger has been the fair and honourable observance of his engagement in respect of equal rights in Article XIV. of the 1884 Convention. This he has persistently and doggedly refused, while he has been using the millions of money he has wrung from the Uitlanders to purchase the material for the war he has been long years preparing on such a colossal scale to drive the English out of those Colonies in which they have given absolute equality to all. It is this very equality which has upset his calculations, by its leaving too few malcontents among the Dutch population to make any general rising of them possible in Natal or the Cape, on which rising Kruger staked his hope of success in the struggle. As for the Transvaal Boers, the only part they have in the war is to fight for their independence, which was never threatened until they invaded British territory, and thus compelled the Queen's Government to defend it.
"The only alternative left to England to refuse fighting would have been the ground that all war is wrong; but as neither England nor any other nation has ever taken this Christian ground, there was in reality no alternative. Is it fair to stigmatise England as endeavouring to crush two small and weak nations because they have been so small in wisdom and weak in common sense as to become the tools of the daring and crafty autocrat who has decoyed both friend and foe into this war? - I am, with high esteem, thy friend, - JOHN BELLOWS."
It does not come within the scope of this treatise to deal with the case of the Uitlanders, but I have given the foregoing, because it is a clear and concise statement of that case, and because it expresses the strong conviction that I and many others have had from the first, that the worst enemy the Boers have is their own Government. A Government could scarcely be found less amenable to the principles of all just Law, which exists alike for Rulers and ruled. These principles have been violated in the most reckless manner by President Kruger and his immediate supporters. The Boers are suffering now, and paying with their life-blood for the sins of their Government. Pity and sympathy for them, (more especially for those among them who undoubtedly possess higher qualities than mere military prowess and physical courage,) are consistent with the strongest condemnation of the duplicity and lawlessness of their Government.
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The Rev. Charles Phillips, who has been eleven years in South Africa, has given his opinion on the native question.
It was part of the Constitution of the Transvaal that no equality in Church or State should be permitted between whites and blacks. In Cape Colony, on the contrary, the Constitution insisted that there should be no difference in consequence of colour. Mr. Phillips enumerates the oppressive conditions under which the natives live in the Transvaal. They may not walk on the sidepaths, or trade even as small hucksters, or hold land. Until two years ago there was no marriage law for the blacks, and that which was then passed was so bad - a L3 fee being demanded for every marriage, with many other difficulties placed in the way of marriage - that the missionaries endeavoured to procure its abolition, and to return to the old state of things. No help is given towards the education of native children, though the natives pay 3 per cent. of the revenue, the Boers paying 7-1/2, and the Uitlanders 89-1/2. The natives have, therefore, actually been helping to educate the Boer children. "In 1896," says Mr. Phillips, "only L650 was granted to the schools of those who paid nine-tenths of the revenue, L63,000 being spent upon the Boer Schools. In other words, the Uitlander child gets 1s. 10d., the Boer child L8 6s. 1d. The Uitlander pays L7 per head for the education of every Boer child, and he has to provide in addition for the education of his own children."
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The following extract is from a more general point of view, but one which it is unphilosophical to overlook.
The Christian Age reproduces a communication from an American gentleman residing in the Transvaal to the New York Independent.
"The Boers," Mr. Dunn says, "are, as a race - with, of course, individual exceptions - an extraordinary instance of an arrested civilisation, the date of stoppage being somewhere about the conclusion of the seventeenth century. But they have not even stood still at that point. They have distinctly and dangerously degenerated even from the general standard of civilisation existing when Jan van Riebeck hoisted the flag of the Dutch East India Company at Cape Point. The great cardinal fact in connection with the Uitlander population is that, owing to their numbers and activity, they have brought in their train an influx of new wealth into the Transvaal of truly colossal dimensions. Thus, to sum up the distinctive and divergent characteristics of the two classes into which the population of the South African Republic is divided - the Boers, or old population, are conservative, ignorant, stagnant, and a minority; the Uitlanders, or new population, are progressive, full of enterprise, energy and work, and constitute a large majority of the total number of inhabitants.
"It has so happened, therefore, that the Boers, as the ruling and dominant class, have hopelessly failed to master or comprehend the new conditions with which they have been called upon to deal. They have not, as a body, shown either capacity or desire to treat the new developments with even a remote appreciation of their inherent value and inevitable trend. The Boer has simply set his back against the floodgates, apparently oblivious or indifferent to the fact that the hugely accumulating forces behind must one day burst every barrier he may choose to set up. That is the whole Transvaal situation in a sentence.
"It is necessary to point out, further, that this blind and dogged determination on the part of the Boers to 'stop the clock' affects not merely the Transvaal; it is vitally and perniciously affecting the whole of South Africa. But for the obstructiveness and obscurantism of the Transvaal Boers, the rate of progress and development which would characterise the whole South African continent would be unparalleled in the history of any other country. The reactionary policy of the Transvaal is the one spoke in the wheel. It must therefore be removed in the name of humanity and civilisation."
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M. Elisee Reclus, the great Geographer, an able and admittedly impartial Historian, wrote some years ago in his "Africa," Vol. 4, page 215: -
"The patriotic Boers of South Africa still dream of the day when the two Republics of the Orange and the Transvaal, at first connected by a common customs union, will be consolidated in a single 'African Holland,' possibly even in a broader confederacy, comprising all the Afrikanders from the Cape of Good Hope to the Zambesi. The Boer families, grouped in every town throughout South Africa, form, collectively, a single nationality, despite the accident of political frontiers. The question of the future union has already been frequently discussed by the delegates of the two conterminous Republics. But, unless these visions can be realized during the present generation, they are foredoomed to failure. Owing to the unprogressive character of the purely Boer communities and to the rapid expansion of the English-speaking peoples by natural increase, by direct immigration, and by the assimilation of the Boers themselves, the future 'South African Dominion' can, in any case, never be an 'African Holland.' Whenever the present political divisions are merged in one State, that State must sooner or later constitute an 'African England,' whether consolidated under the suzerainty of Great Britain or on the basis of absolute political autonomy. But the internal elements of disorder and danger are too multifarious to allow the European inhabitants of Austral Africa for many generations to dispense with the protection of the English sceptre.
"Possessing for two centuries no book except the Bible, the South African Dutch communities are fond of comparing their lot with that of the 'Chosen People.' Going forth, like the Jews, in search of a 'Promised Land,' they never for a moment doubted that the native populations were specially created for their benefit. They looked on them as mere 'Canaanites, Amorites, and Jebusites,' doomed beforehand to slavery or death.
"They turned the land into a solitude, breaking all political organization of the natives, destroying all ties of a common national feeling, and tolerating them only in the capacity of 'apprentices,' another name for slaves.
"In general, the Boers despise everything that does not contribute directly to the material prosperity of the family group. Despite their numerous treks, they have contributed next to nothing to the scientific exploration of the land.
"Of all the white intruders, the Dutch Afrikanders show themselves, as a rule, most hostile to their own kinsmen, the Netherlanders of the mother country. At a distance the two races have a certain fellow-feeling for each other, as fully attested by contemporary literature; but, when brought close together, the memory of their common origin gives place to a strange sentiment of aversion. The Boer is extremely sensitive, hence he is irritated at the civilized Hollanders, who smile at his rude African customs, and who reply, with apparent ostentation, in a pure language to the corrupt jargon spoken by the peasantry on the banks of the Vaal or Limpopo."
No impartial student of recent South African History can fail, I think, to see that the results of Mr. Gladstone's policy in the retrocession of the Transvaal have been unhappy, however good the impulse which prompted his action. To his supporters at home, and to many of his admirers throughout Europe, his action stood for pure magnanimity, and seemed a sort of prophetic instalment of the Christian spirit which, they hoped, would pervade international politics in the coming age.
To the Transvaal leaders it presented a wholly different aspect. It meant to them weakness, and an acknowledgment of defeat. "Now let us go on," they felt, "and press towards our goal, i.e., the expulsion of the British from South Africa." The attitude and conduct of the Transvaal delegates who came to London in 1883, and of their chiefs and supporters, throws much light on this effect produced by the act of Mr. Gladstone.
There can be no doubt that the desire to supplant British by Dutch supremacy has existed for a long time. President Kruger puts back the origin of the opposition of the two races to a very distant date. In 1881, he said, "In the Cession of the Cape of Good Hope by the King of Holland to England lies the root out of which subsequent events and our present struggle have grown." The Dutch believe themselves, - and not without reason, - capable of great things, they were moved by an ambition to seize the power which they believed, - and the retrocession fostered that belief, - was falling from England's feeble and vacillating grasp. "Long before the present trouble" says a Member of the British Parliament well acquainted with South African affairs, "I visited every town in South Africa of any importance, and was brought into close contact with every class of the population; wherever one went, one heard this ambition voiced, either advocated or deprecated, but never denied. It dates back some forty or fifty years." The first reference to it is in a despatch of Governor Sir George Grey, in 1858; and it is to be found more definitely in the speeches of President Burgers in the Transvaal Raad in 1877 before the annexation, and in his apologia published after the annexation. The movement continued under the administration of Sir Bartle Frere, who wrote in a despatch (published in Blue book) in 1879, "The Anti-English opposition are sedulously courting the loyal Dutch party (a great majority of the Cape Dutch) in order to swell the already considerable minority who are disloyal to the English Crown here and in the Transvaal." Mr. Theodore Schreiner, the brother of the Cape Premier, in a letter to the "Cape Times," November, 1899, described a conversation he had some seventeen years ago with Mr. Reitz, then a judge, afterwards President of the Orange Free State, and now State Secretary of the Transvaal, in which Mr. Reitz admitted that it was his object to overthrow the British power and expel the British flag from South Africa. Mr. Schreiner adds; "During the seventeen years that have elapsed I have watched the propaganda for the overthrow of British power in South Africa being ceaselessly spread by every possible means, the press, the pulpit, the platform, the schools, the colleges, the legislature; and it has culminated in the present war, of which Mr. Reitz and his co-workers are the origin and the cause."
The Retrocession of the Transvaal (1881) gave a strong impulse to this movement, and encouraged President Kruger in his persistent efforts since that date to foster it. A friend of the late General Joubert, - in a letter which I have read, - wrote of Mr. Kruger as "the man who, for more than twenty years past, has persistently laboured to drive in the wedge between the two races. It has been his deliberate policy throughout."
I always wish that I could separate the memory of that truly great man, Mr. Gladstone, from this Act of his Administration. Few people cherish his memory with more affectionate admiration than I do. Independently of his great intellect, his eloquence, and his fidelity in following to its last consequences a conviction which had taken possession of him, I revered him because he seemed like King Saul, to stand a head and shoulders above all his fellows, - not like King Saul in physical, but in moral stature. Pure, honourable and strong in character and principles, a sincere Christian, he attracted and deserved the affection and loyalty of all to whom purity and honour are dear. I may add that I may speak of him, in a measure also as a personal friend of our family. I have memories of delightful intercourse with him at Oxford, when he represented that constituency, and later, in other places and at other times.
I recall, however, an occasion in which a chill of astonishment and regret fell upon me and my husband (politically one of his supporters), in hearing a pronouncement from him on a subject, which to us was vital, and had been pressing heavily on our hearts. I allude to a great speech which Mr. Gladstone made in Liverpool during the last period of the Civil War in America, the Abolitionist War. Our friend spoke with his accustomed fiery eloquence wholly in favour of the spirit and aims of the combatants of the Southern States, speaking of their struggle as one on behalf of liberty and independence, and wishing them success. Not one word to indicate that the question which, like burning lava in the heart of a volcano, was causing that terrible upheaval in America, had found any place in that great man's mind, or had even "cast its shadow before" in his thoughts. It appeared as though he had not even taken in the fact of the existence of those four millions of slaves, the uneasy clanking of whose chains had long foreboded the approach of the avenging hand of the Deliverer. This obscured perception of the question was that of a great part, if not of the majority, of the Press of that day, and of most persons of the "privileged" classes; but that he, a trusted leader of so many, should be suffering from such an imperfection of mental vision, was to us an astonishment and sorrow. As we left that crowded hall, my companion and I, we looked at each other in silent amazement, and for a long time we found no words.
As I look back now, there seems in this incident some explanation of Mr. Gladstone's total oblivion of the interests of our loyal native subjects of the Transvaal at the time when he handed them over to masters whose policy towards them was well known. These poor natives had appealed to the British Government, had trusted it, and were deceived by it.
I recollect that Mr. Gladstone himself confessed, with much humility it seemed to us, in a pamphlet written many years after the American War, that it "had been his misfortune" on several occasions "not to have perceived the reality and importance of a question until it was at the door." This was very true. His noble enthusiasm for some good and vital cause so engrossed him at times that the humble knocking at the door of some other, perhaps equally vital question, was not heard by him. The knocking necessarily became louder and louder, till at last the door was opened; but then it may have been too late for him to take the part in it which should have been his.
[Footnote 15: Speech of Mr. Drage, M.P., at Derby, December, 1899.]