The two principal elements of the Boer nation were the settlers of the Dutch trading company at the Cape of Good Hope, sturdy farmers and tradesmen belonging to the proletarian class of Holland, and a subsequent contingent of French Huguenot refugees and their families who joined as colonists soon after the revocation of the Edict of Nantes. I mention below the names still existing which form a large proportion of the present Boer nation of Huguenot descent:—





Du prez

Du Toit

De la Bey



De Langue








Le Roux










De Meillon

De Marillac








De Villiers









de Clercq



Men of the best French stock, noted for honour, energy and perseverance, rather than recant their Protestant faith, abandoned seigneurial homes, high positions and lucrative callings to carve out fresh careers, and even to become humble farmers wherever they found asylums and tolerance, men who became very valuable accessions to the nations who received them and a correspondingly significant loss to France. To those two main elements were added sparse accessions from other nations at later intervals, and also a strain of aboriginal blood, of which a more or less faint tinge is still discernible in some families, an admixture which many deplore and others consider as most serviceable, supplying a subtle piquancy for perfecting the general stock.

The early Cape Governors aimed at the prompt assimilation of those French people with their own colonists—to make Dutchmen of them. Among other drastic enactments to enforce that object, no other language but Dutch was permitted to be used in public of pain of corporal punishment. Not a few noble Frenchmen were subjected to that indignity for inadvertent breaches of that draconian law, but, as conscientious observers of biblical commands which enjoin subjection to all governmental rule, they willingly submitted and obeyed. Intermarriages with their Dutch fellow-colonists further promoted assimilation into one cohesive community. At the same time the Huguenot faith was transmitted to their descendants, and had a marked influence in sustaining common religious fervour and consistency. They did not look for a reward or compensation for the sacrifices endured, for the sake of faith, by those refugees, though a gracious providence, as the sequel showed, held in store a most ample restitution—magnificent heirlooms for their later descendants, heirlooms which are now unhappily staked in this present war.

In 1814 a payment of six millions sterling received by the Prince of Orange closed the transfer of the Dutch Cape settlement to Great Britain. Immigration of English settlers followed and the area of the colony soon largely extended. As under the Dutch régime, the practice of slavery had continued until its abolition in 1833 by the ransom payable by the English Government to the owners of slaves. The Boer colonists deeply resented that act, and especially the next to impracticable condition which provided that payments could only be received in England instead of on the spot. Many were cheated of all their emancipation money by their appointed proxies or agents, or else had to submit to exorbitant charges and commissions; a great number voluntarily renounced all in disgust.

By that time the existence had become known of promising tracts of country lying north of the Orange River beyond the confines of the British colonies, and a large number of Boers combined with the intention of establishing an independent community northwards free from British restraint.

The British authorities appeared at that time not to fully realize that that movement was rife with future dangers and complications to their own colonial interests, that it meant the creation of a nucleus of a people openly averse to the English, and who would independently carry out practices in near proximity, especially in dealing with aborigines, which would seriously compromise them and become a standing menace against peaceful expansion and civilization.

It was, on the other hand, anticipated that the movement could only end in disaster, the people being too few to make a successful stand against the numerous hostile Kaffir tribes. The Government, therefore, refrained from preventive measures, and confined its efforts to discouraging the emigration and to reconcile the malcontents. Those efforts, however, proved fruitless; the people held to their project with resolute fearlessness and self-confidence, and were even content to sacrifice their farms and homesteads, their sale being in some cases forbidden by special enactment.

The terms of "Boer" and "Boer nation" do not convey or mean anything disparaging, rather the contrary. Boer simply means farmer, as a rule the proprietor of a farm of about 3,000 to 10,000 acres, who combines stock-breeding with a variety of other farming enterprises as well, according to the soil and locality. As a national designation, the term "Boer" conveys the distinction from the recently arrived Dutchman, who is called "Hollander." Hollanders, again, delight of late to claim the Boer nation as their kith and kin, but prefer to ignore the existence of the French Huguenot factor.

The great "trek," with families and movables, as the emigration movement is called, occurred in 1836; some families started even before, and other contingents followed shortly afterwards. After many vicissitudes and nearly twenty years of wanderings, and a nomadic life attended with untold hardships and dangers, intermittent conflicts with native tribes, and at times also contests with British forces, they were eventually permitted, under treaty with England, to settle down and to constitute the independent Orange Free State and Transvaal Republics. That was in 1854 and 1852 respectively.

But, until then, progress in the British colonies and peaceful relations with the several Kaffir nations had at times been sadly impeded by the aggressive native policy pursued by the Boers after the pattern adopted from the previous Dutch régime, which admitted of slavery, whilst English law had abolished and forbade that practice as contrary to a soundly moral method of civilizing natives and inimical to prosperous and peaceable colonial progress. Broils and wars between Boers and Kaffirs had been almost incessant, and intervals of peace only proved their mutually latent hostility. Besides being occasionally engaged in unavoidable wars with neighbouring tribes themselves, it became frequently incumbent upon the British military authorities to intervene in conflicts induced by the Boers, alternately protecting them against natives and natives against the Boers, and all that at the unnecessary expenditure of much blood and treasure.

The Boer occupation of Natal was found to be wholly prejudicial to British interests on aforesaid accounts, and was, besides, contrary to the express declaration of the Boer emigrants at the time of their exodus from the Cape Colony, which was that their new settlements should be located north of the Orange River. Stepping in to the eastward and claiming part of the littoral constituted a rivalry in conflict with that understanding, and England therefore considered it within her rights to expel the Boers from Natal, and to proceed with the colonization there with British settlers instead. That temporary occupation of Natal had been fraught to the Boers with most stirring episodes—some of the most melancholy description, and others representing records of really unsurpassed heroism, which can but arouse deepest emotions and admiration in any reader of their history. There was the treacherous massacre of Retief and Potgeiter and his party by the Zulu king Dingaan at his military kraal, followed by other wholesale massacres of men, women, and children at Weenen and other Boer camps in Natal. Then came the punitive expedition of 450 Boers, armed with flint-locks only, who utterly defeated Dingaan's most redoubtable impi of 10,000 warriors, and resulted in the complete overthrow of that Zulu monarch.

When that punitive Boer commando was about to start upon its mission it was solemnly vowed to observe a day of national thanksgiving each year if Divine aid were vouchsafed to accomplish the object. That brilliant victory had occurred on the 16th December, 1838, and the day has ever since been religiously observed as had been vowed. The celebrations in the Transvaal take place at Paarden-kraal, near Johannesburg, and some other accessible and central camping grounds, where the burghers with their families congregate in thousands—a sort of feast of tabernacles, lasting three days, undeterred by the most boisterous weather. The declaration of independence fell on that same date at Paarden-kraal in 1879, and it was also in December of the succeeding year that the Boers proved victorious over the British troops in Natal, after which the Transvaal had its independence generously restored by the Gladstone Ministry (subject to treaty 1881).

On those anniversaries stirring speeches would be made by the elder leading men, rehearsing the events of the nation's history so as to grave them upon the minds of the younger, and to revive the thankful memories of the elder people. It is only in human nature that unsympathetic feelings against the English would intrude upon the thanksgivings on those occasions, especially as it continues yet to be averred that the British authorities had incited the Zulu king Dingaan to those massacres. Nevertheless, except in instances of implacable natures, the predominant sentiments at those gatherings were those of gratitude to the Almighty and good-will towards all men. After the peace of 1881, it used to be publicly recognised that the English were entitled thenceforth to a first place in the nation's friendship, and that the retrocession put a term to all recriminations applying to previous dates.

The sequel has shown that soon afterwards another spirit was allowed to intrude to displace those good and just sentiments, and that without any reason or provocation and despite a persistently loyal and sincere attitude of friendship and confidence observed towards the Boers by the, British Government and the English people in South Africa. As instances may be cited: (1) England's conceding spirit in assenting to a modification of the convention of 1881 and agreeing to that of 1884; (2) genial treatment of the colonial Boers on perfect equality with English colonists, sharing in the privileges of self-government, the Dutch language also raised to equal rights with English; (3) most harmonious relations with the Orange Free State; (4) reduction of transit duties for goods to the Republics to 5 per cent, and later to 3 per cent.; (5) unrestricted privilege for the importations of arms and ammunition to both Republics. In lieu of friendly reciprocity the return began to be rancorous mistrust and revival of hatred.

In the course of our study to account for this sad and unwarrantable change on the part of the Boers we will be following the trail of the serpent and track it right up to its Hollander lair and to its at first unsuspected product, the Afrikaner Bond.