THIS has been much discussed and will be. The friends of peace regarded it as a sad commentary on the Hague Convention—then just concluded—which was an attempt to settle International disputes by arbitration. As negotiations had been going on for some years, and at last seemed to approach conciliation, the question comes—how was it, that in the end, the breach was widened, and fresh terms demanded by our Colonial Secretary—a question of vital importance, seeing that these new demands, with a warlike attitude, are given as the cause of the ultimatum of the Boers. In receding from interference in the Transvaal and allowing the Boers complete independence, the Gladstone Cabinet of 1881 acknowledged the freedom of the Republic as a sacred thing, and Mr. Chamberlain, who was in that Ministry, has explained that when the English Government annexed the Transvaal it was done involuntarily, with the sanction of the House of Commons, under a misapprehension of the facts, and with the idea that the Boers wished it. Even on the 8th of May, 1896, he declined, in a speech in the House of Commons, to discuss the contingency of an ultimatum to President Kruger, because "a war in South Africa would be one of the most serious wars that could possibly be waged. It would be in the nature of a civil war; it would be a long war, a bitter war, and a costly war, and it would leave behind the embers of a strife which I believe generations would hardly be long enough to extinguish. To go to war with President Kruger in order to force upon him reforms in the internal affairs of his State—in which Secretaries of State, standing in this place, have repudiated all right of interference—that would be a course of action as immoral as it would have been unwise."
Yet that is just what has been done. What new circumstances then had arisen that justified a vigorous policy of interference?
Sir Alfred Milner, our agent at Pretoria, has had much to do with the correspondence between Mr. Chamberlain and Mr. Kruger, and at an interview with the latter at Bloemfontein, when our Agent pressed for equal civil and political rights, the Boer President said that were he to yield on that point it would swamp the Republic and place the control of the Transvaal in the hands of the Outlanders; his own Burghers were only 30,000 in number, while the Outlanders who might qualify numbered over 60,000 or 80,000. All subsequent concessions as to the franchise were offered with such limitations and conditions as showed the same unwillingness to grant the rights which we extended to the Dutch in the Cape Colony, where they are in a majority.
In consequence of a deputation headed by Mr. Kruger, Lord Derby dropped the word Suzerainty in the 1887 convention as meaningless in this case, and only kept the power of veto as to foreign affairs.
The discovery of the goldfields of the Rand, which gave an output in one year of ten million pounds, led to a sudden inrush of capitalists and people of all sorts, characters, and races, and Johannesburg [The growth of this town was phenomenal. In 1886 there was not a single house on its site. It owes its existence entirely to the discovery of gold reefs 130 miles] became almost unmanageable under a lack of municipal and judicial control, which accentuated the old grievances.
Joubert had up to now led a Progressive Party for reforms, but Kruger was the Prime Minister of the Tories, and swayed the power. Mr. Rhodes, the erstwhile hero of the Afrikanders, had gone in for peaceful reforms, but in 1895 he joined the ranks of the revolutionists, and whilst our Colonial Office was, it is said, apprised of the new turn of events, arms and ammunition were smuggled into Johannesburg; then followed Dr. Jameson's ill-starred attempt to foment revolt.
Meanwhile, Sir Alfred Milner, after a long stay in London, returned to Pretoria, to resume the discussion of reforms, and now his tone corresponded to the altered view of the Colonial Office. On the 5th of May, 1889, he telegraphed a despatch to Mr. Chamberlain to show the urgent need for instant intervention:—
"The right of great Britain to intervene," he said, " to secure fair treatment of the Outlanders, was fully equal to her supreme interest in securing it. They were our subjects; only in very rare cases had they been able to obtain any redress by the ordinary diplomatic means. The true remedy was to strike at the root of all those evils. The case for intervention was overwhelming. The spectacle of thousands of British subjects kept permanently in the position of helots, constantly chafing under undoubted grievances, and calling vainly to Her Majesty's Government for redress, steadily undermined the influence and reputation of Great Britain and the respect for the British Government within the Queen's dominions. A mischievous propaganda in favour of making the Dutch Republic the permanent Power in South Africa, was producing a great effect upon a large number of fellow-colonists. Thousands of the Cape Dutch were being drawn into disaffection. Nothing could put a stop to this propaganda except some striking proof of the intention of Her Majesty's Government not to be ousted from its position in South Africa. This could best be done by obtaining for the Outlander a fair share in the government of the country."
The publication of that despatch aided the warlike agitation after Sir Alfred Milner had failed to get satisfactory terms from Mr. Kruger, who said the demands meant practically the giving of the land away, without anything in return. Mr. Chamberlain took up the debate, with fresh demands, as to the use of English in the Volksraad and to go into conference on other difficulties, and if the reply to this message was negative or inconclusive, " Her Majesty's Government must reserve to themselves the right to reconsider the situation de novo, and to formulate their own proposals for a final settlement."
Then came from the Boer Government their view of the situation, and a hope expressed that the English Government would withdraw its demands. If they did this "it would put an end to the present state of tension, race hatred would decrease and die out, the prosperity and welfare of the South African Republic and of the whole of South Africa would be developed and furthered, and fraternisation between the different nationalities would increase." This not being considered worthy of an answer, there came the Boer last word to fight.
On the one side it is argued that the five years' franchise offered would have made the Outlanders the supreme rulers, without a grievance,—in fact that they would have become the contented subjects of another Power. On the other hand, it is contended that equal rights and obligations should have been granted by a professedly Christian State without regard to Dutch prejudices, or private interests. Whether there was an honest endeavour to come to a just settlement by conference, or whether it was regarded as impossible, are questions on which statesmen are divided in opinion.
At the beginning of March, 1900, the ministers of the Dutch Reformed Church, who have been accused of fomenting the anti-English prejudice, issued a manifesto, and in a reply to this, the Rev. J. S. Moffatt, of Mowbray, Cape Town—a minister of high repute among the English Protestants, states that the political part of it comes strangely from men "from the pulpits of whose church open sedition has been preached at the present juncture—men who in this very manifesto menace us with the disaffection of their people and with a long vendetta of race hatred and woe and sorrow."
The Dutch ministers declare that the " fear of slavery and oppression of the natives by the Boers is chimerical."
Mr. Moffat answers with facts—the native cannot own land by title, has no vote, must'not walk on the pavement, but in the road, must buy a pass to leave his tribal location, must wear a badge of servitude, must ride in railway compartments for "coloured people," and the law distinctly states that there is no equality between black and white in church and state. Till nearly two years ago the native could not get legal recognition of his marriage, and it costs him £3, with restrictions that make the concession almost valueless. For a native to go into a court of law is perfectly hopeless. One of the fundamental causes of the great trek in 1836, was the fact that the Boer found that under British rule he could not work his own will upon the native.
Another expression of opinion of importance was that of 40 ministers of various denominations presented in an address to Sir Alfred Milner, the British High Commissioner at Capetown, on April 12th, 1900, in which they approved of his policy and considered that after annexation the people of the two republics would be happy and prosperous. In reply to which, Sir Alfred said he reciprocated the sentiments of the address, and therefore desired that the settlement should be no patchwork, no compromise, but magnanimous and without vindictiveness.
As to the present intentions of this country the Prime Minister also spoke at the Lord Mayor's Banquet in November, 1899. He said:—
"We seek no goldfields: we seek no territory. What we desire is equal right for all men of all races, and security for our fellow-subjects and for the Empire. I will not ask by what means those results are to be obtained—the hour for asking that has not yet come— but these are the objects—these are the only objects— that we seek, and we do not allow any other consideration to cross our path."
Those who were for annexation did not like this moderate tone, when, after the defeat of Cronje in the Free State, the allied Presidents asked for an armistice for a settlement with independence, Lord Salisbury replied that when the time came for a settlement the English Government could not allow the independence that had existed—which was understood by some to mean that the two States would be added to our Colonies.
The Afrikander Bond.
This society has played so important a part in formulating public opinion in South Africa that some particulars about it will be interesting.
The Afrikander Bond is a political Association founded in 1880, for the purpose of quickening the interest of the farming population in political affairs. Under the Bond organisation he is an Afrikander who, whether by birth or by adoption, considers Africa as his home and its interests as his own. The first congress of the Bond was held at Graaff-Reinet in March, 1882.
The object of the Bond, as defined by Its general constitution, is as follows: "The formation of a South African nationality by means of union and co-operation as a preparation for the ultimate object, a United South Africa." The organisation consists of branches, one in each ward or field-cornetcy. These branches elect two delegates each, who constitute the district committee; the district committees, in their turn, elect two members each to form the provincial committee.
The provincial committee of the Colony, Free State, and the Transvaal elect two delegates each to form a central Bond committee, which can deal with no subjects except those which have reference to the interests of the States, and only such as have been referred to it by the provincial committees. In 1890 the Provincial Committee represented forty-three District Committees with 173 branches and 4,686 members; in 1896, sixty-three District Committees with 280 branches and 8,511 members. Its principles are as follows:—
1. The Afrikander National Party acknowledge the guidance of Providence in the affairs both of lands and peoples.
2. They include, under the guidance of Providence, the formation of a pure nationality and the preparation of our people for the establishment of a " United South Africa."
3. To this they consider belong—
(a) The establishment of a firm union between all the different European nationalities in South Africa, and
(b) The promotion of South Africa's independence (zelfstandigheid).
4. They consider that the union mentioned in Art. 3 (a) depends upon the clear and plain understanding of each other's general interest in politics, agriculture, stock-breeding, trade, and industry, and the acknowledgment of every one's special rights in the matter of religion, education, and language, so that all national jealousy between the different elements of the people may be removed, and room be made for an unmistakable South African National sentiment.
5. To the advancement of the independence mentioned in Art. 3 (b) belongs—
(a) That the sentiment of national self-respect and of patriotism towards South Africa .should above all be developed and exhibited in schools, and in families, and in the public Press.
(b) That a system of voting should be applied which not only acknowledges the right of numbers, but also that of ownership and the development of intelligence: and that is opposed as far as possible to bribery and compulsion at the poll.
(c) That our agriculture, stock-breeding, commerce, and industries should be supported in every lawful manner, such as by a conclusive (doeltreffeode) law as regards masters and servants, and also by the appointment of a prudent and advantageous system of Protection.
(d) That the South African Colonies and States, either each for itself or in conjunction with one another, shall regulate their own native affairs, employing thereto the forces of the land by means of a satisfactory burgher law; and
(e) That outside interference with the domestic concerns of South Africa shall be opposed.
6. While they acknowledge the existing Governments holding rule in South Africa, and intend faithfully to fulfil their obligation's in regard to the same, they consider that the duty rests upon those Governments to advance the interests of South Africa in the spirit of the foregoing articles; and whilst on the one side they watch against any unnecessary or frivolous interference with the domestic and other private matters of the burgher, against any direct meddling with the spiritual development of the nation, and against laws which might hinder the free influence of the Gospel upon the national life, on the other hand they should accomplish all the positive duties of a good Government, among which must be reckoned—
(a) In all their actions to take account of the Christian character of the people.
(b) The maintenance of freedom of religion for every one, so long as the public order and honour are not injured thereby.
(c) The acknowledgment and expression of the religious, social, and bodily needs of the people in the observance of the present weekly day of rest.
(d) The application of an equal and judicious system of taxation.
(e) The bringing into practice of an impartial and, as far as possible, economical administration of justice.
(f) The watching over the public honour, and against the adulteration of the necessaries of life, and the defiling of ground, water, or air, as well as against the spreading of infectious diseases.
7. In order to secure the influence of these principles, they stand forward as an independent party, and accept the co-operation of other parties only if the same can be obtained with the uninjured maintenance of these principles.
Such is the programme of principles adopted by the vote of a large majority at the Provincial Bond meeting held at Middelburg on March 4th, 1889.