The Great Boer War
Arthur Conan Doyle

Part 1 out of 11



E-text editor's note: It may come as a surprise that the creator of
Sherlock Holmes wrote a history of the Boer War. The then
40-year-old novelist wanted to see the war first hand as a soldier,
but the Victorian army balked at having a popular author wielding a
pen in its ranks. The army did accept him as a doctor and Doyle was
knighted in 1902 for his work with a field hospital in
Bloemfontein. Doyle's vivid description of the battles is probably
thanks to the eye-witness accounts he got from his patients. This,
the best book on the Boer War I've encountered, is a long out of
print lost classic that I stumbled across in a Cape Town
second-hand bookstore.

Robert Laing.

Proofed by Sue Asscher














































During the course of the war some sixteen Editions of this work
have appeared, each of which was, I hope, a little more full and
accurate than that which preceded it. I may fairly claim, however,
that the absolute mistakes made have been few in number, and that I
have never had occasion to reverse, and seldom to modify, the
judgments which I have formed. In this final edition the early text
has been carefully revised and all fresh available knowledge has
been added within the limits of a single volume narrative. Of the
various episodes in the latter half of the war it is impossible to
say that the material is available for a complete and final
chronicle. By the aid, however, of the official dispatches, of the
newspapers, and of many private letters, I have done my best to
give an intelligible and accurate account of the matter. The
treatment may occasionally seem too brief but some proportion must
be observed between the battles of 1899-1900 and the skirmishes of

My private informants are so numerous that it would be hardly
possible, even if it were desirable, that I should quote their
names. Of the correspondents upon whose work I have drawn for my
materials, I would acknowledge my obligations to Messrs. Burleigh,
Nevinson, Battersby, Stuart, Amery, Atkins, Baillie, Kinneir,
Churchill, James, Ralph, Barnes, Maxwell, Pearce, Hamilton, and
others. Especially I would mention the gentleman who represented
the 'Standard' in the last year of the war, whose accounts of
Vlakfontein, Von Donop's Convoy, and Tweebosch were the only
reliable ones which reached the public.

Arthur Conan Doyle, Undershaw, Hindhead: September 1902.



Take a community of Dutchmen of the type of those who defended
themselves for fifty years against all the power of Spain at a time
when Spain was the greatest power in the world. Intermix with them
a strain of those inflexible French Huguenots who gave up home and
fortune and left their country for ever at the time of the
revocation of the Edict of Nantes. The product must obviously be
one of the most rugged, virile, unconquerable races ever seen upon
earth. Take this formidable people and train them for seven
generations in constant warfare against savage men and ferocious
beasts, in circumstances under which no weakling could survive,
place them so that they acquire exceptional skill with weapons and
in horsemanship, give them a country which is eminently suited to
the tactics of the huntsman, the marksman, and the rider. Then,
finally, put a finer temper upon their military qualities by a dour
fatalistic Old Testament religion and an ardent and consuming
patriotism. Combine all these qualities and all these impulses in
one individual, and you have the modern Boer--the most formidable
antagonist who ever crossed the path of Imperial Britain. Our
military history has largely consisted in our conflicts with
France, but Napoleon and all his veterans have never treated us so
roughly as these hard-bitten farmers with their ancient theology
and their inconveniently modern rifles.

Look at the map of South Africa, and there, in the very centre of
the British possessions, like the stone in a peach, lies the great
stretch of the two republics, a mighty domain for so small a
people. How came they there? Who are these Teutonic folk who have
burrowed so deeply into Africa? It is a twice-told tale, and yet it
must be told once again if this story is to have even the most
superficial of introductions. No one can know or appreciate the
Boer who does not know his past, for he is what his past has made

It was about the time when Oliver Cromwell was at his zenith--in
1652, to be pedantically accurate--that the Dutch made their first
lodgment at the Cape of Good Hope. The Portuguese had been there
before them, but, repelled by the evil weather, and lured forwards
by rumours of gold, they had passed the true seat of empire and had
voyaged further to settle along the eastern coast. Some gold there
was, but not much, and the Portuguese settlements have never been
sources of wealth to the mother country, and never will be until
the day when Great Britain signs her huge cheque for Delagoa Bay.
The coast upon which they settled reeked with malaria. A hundred
miles of poisonous marsh separated it from the healthy inland
plateau. For centuries these pioneers of South African colonisation
strove to obtain some further footing, but save along the courses
of the rivers they made little progress. Fierce natives and an
enervating climate barred their way.

But it was different with the Dutch. That very rudeness of climate
which had so impressed the Portuguese adventurer was the source of
their success. Cold and poverty and storm are the nurses of the
qualities which make for empire. It is the men from the bleak and
barren lands who master the children of the light and the heat. And
so the Dutchmen at the Cape prospered and grew stronger in that
robust climate. They did not penetrate far inland, for they were
few in number and all they wanted was to be found close at hand.
But they built themselves houses, and they supplied the Dutch East
India Company with food and water, gradually budding off little
townlets, Wynberg, Stellenbosch, and pushing their settlements up
the long slopes which lead to that great central plateau which
extends for fifteen hundred miles from the edge of the Karoo to the
Valley of the Zambesi. Then came the additional Huguenot
emigrants--the best blood of France three hundred of them, a
handful of the choicest seed thrown in to give a touch of grace and
soul to the solid Teutonic strain. Again and again in the course of
history, with the Normans, the Huguenots, the Emigres, one can see
the great hand dipping into that storehouse and sprinkling the
nations with the same splendid seed. France has not founded other
countries, like her great rival, but she has made every other
country the richer by the mixture with her choicest and best. The
Rouxs, Du Toits, Jouberts, Du Plessis, Villiers, and a score of
other French names are among the most familiar in South Africa.

For a hundred more years the history of the colony was a record of
the gradual spreading of the Afrikaners over the huge expanse of
veld which lay to the north of them. Cattle raising became an
industry, but in a country where six acres can hardly support a
sheep, large farms are necessary for even small herds. Six thousand
acres was the usual size, and five pounds a year the rent payable
to Government. The diseases which follow the white man had in
Africa, as in America and Australia, been fatal to the natives, and
an epidemic of smallpox cleared the country for the newcomers.
Further and further north they pushed, founding little towns here
and there, such as Graaf-Reinet and Swellendam, where a Dutch
Reformed Church and a store for the sale of the bare necessaries of
life formed a nucleus for a few scattered dwellings. Already the
settlers were showing that independence of control and that
detachment from Europe which has been their most prominent
characteristic. Even the sway of the Dutch Company (an older but
weaker brother of John Company in India) had caused them to revolt.
The local rising, however, was hardly noticed in the universal
cataclysm which followed the French Revolution. After twenty years,
during which the world was shaken by the Titanic struggle between
England and France in the final counting up of the game and paying
of the stakes, the Cape Colony was added in 1814 to the British

In all our vast collection of States there is probably not one the
title-deeds to which are more incontestable than to this one. We
had it by two rights, the right of conquest and the right of
purchase. In 1806 our troops landed, defeated the local forces, and
took possession of Cape Town. In 1814 we paid the large sum of six
million pounds to the Stadholder for the transference of this and
some South American land. It was a bargain which was probably made
rapidly and carelessly in that general redistribution which was
going on. As a house of call upon the way to India the place was
seen to be of value, but the country itself was looked upon as
unprofitable and desert. What would Castlereagh or Liverpool have
thought could they have seen the items which we were buying for our
six million pounds? The inventory would have been a mixed one of
good and of evil; nine fierce Kaffir wars, the greatest diamond
mines in the world, the wealthiest gold mines, two costly and
humiliating campaigns with men whom we respected even when we
fought with them, and now at last, we hope, a South Africa of peace
and prosperity, with equal rights and equal duties for all men. The
future should hold something very good for us in that land, for if
we merely count the past we should be compelled to say that we
should have been stronger, richer, and higher in the world's esteem
had our possessions there never passed beyond the range of the guns
of our men-of-war. But surely the most arduous is the most
honourable, and, looking back from the end of their journey, our
descendants may see that our long record of struggle, with its
mixture of disaster and success, its outpouring of blood and of
treasure, has always tended to some great and enduring goal.

The title-deeds to the estate are, as I have said, good ones, but
there is one singular and ominous flaw in their provisions. The
ocean has marked three boundaries to it, but the fourth is
undefined. There is no word of the 'Hinterland;' for neither the
term nor the idea had then been thought of. Had Great Britain
bought those vast regions which extended beyond the settlements? Or
were the discontented Dutch at liberty to pass onwards and found
fresh nations to bar the path of the Anglo-Celtic colonists? In
that question lay the germ of all the trouble to come. An American
would realise the point at issue if he could conceive that after
the founding of the United States the Dutch inhabitants of the
State of New York had trekked to the westward and established fresh
communities under a new flag. Then, when the American population
overtook these western States, they would be face to face with the
problem which this country has had to solve. If they found these
new States fiercely anti-American and extremely unprogressive, they
would experience that aggravation of their difficulties with which
our statesmen have had to deal.

At the time of their transference to the British flag the
colonists--Dutch, French, and German--numbered some thirty
thousand. They were slaveholders, and the slaves were about as
numerous as themselves. The prospect of complete amalgamation
between the British and the original settlers would have seemed to
be a good one, since they were of much the same stock, and their
creeds could only be distinguished by their varying degrees of
bigotry and intolerance. Five thousand British emigrants were
landed in 1820, settling on the Eastern borders of the colony, and
from that time onwards there was a slow but steady influx of
English speaking colonists. The Government had the historical
faults and the historical virtues of British rule. It was mild,
clean, honest, tactless, and inconsistent. On the whole, it might
have done very well had it been content to leave things as it found
them. But to change the habits of the most conservative of Teutonic
races was a dangerous venture, and one which has led to a long
series of complications, making up the troubled history of South
Africa. The Imperial Government has always taken an honourable and
philanthropic view of the rights of the native and the claim which
he has to the protection of the law. We hold and rightly, that
British justice, if not blind, should at least be colour-blind. The
view is irreproachable in theory and incontestable in argument, but
it is apt to be irritating when urged by a Boston moralist or a
London philanthropist upon men whose whole society has been built
upon the assumption that the black is the inferior race. Such a
people like to find the higher morality for themselves, not to have
it imposed upon them by those who live under entirely different
conditions. They feel--and with some reason--that it is a cheap
form of virtue which, from the serenity of a well-ordered household
in Beacon Street or Belgrave Square, prescribes what the relation
shall be between a white employer and his half-savage,
half-childish retainers. Both branches of the Anglo-Celtic race
have grappled with the question, and in each it has led to trouble.

The British Government in South Africa has always played the
unpopular part of the friend and protector of the native servants.
It was upon this very point that the first friction appeared
between the old settlers and the new administration. A rising with
bloodshed followed the arrest of a Dutch farmer who had maltreated
his slave. It was suppressed, and five of the participants were
hanged. This punishment was unduly severe and exceedingly
injudicious. A brave race can forget the victims of the field of
battle, but never those of the scaffold. The making of political
martyrs is the last insanity of statesmanship. It is true that both
the man who arrested and the judge who condemned the prisoners were
Dutch, and that the British Governor interfered on the side of
mercy; but all this was forgotten afterwards in the desire to make
racial capital out of the incident. It is typical of the enduring
resentment which was left behind that when, after the Jameson raid,
it seemed that the leaders of that ill-fated venture might be
hanged, the beam was actually brought from a farmhouse at Cookhouse
Drift to Pretoria, that the Englishmen might die as the Dutchmen
had died in 1816. Slagter's Nek marked the dividing of the ways
between the British Government and the Afrikaners.

And the separation soon became more marked. There were injudicious
tamperings with the local government and the local ways, with a
substitution of English for Dutch in the law courts. With vicarious
generosity, the English Government gave very lenient terms to the
Kaffir tribes who in 1834 had raided the border farmers. And then,
finally, in this same year there came the emancipation of the
slaves throughout the British Empire, which fanned all smouldering
discontents into an active flame.

It must be confessed that on this occasion the British
philanthropist was willing to pay for what he thought was right. It
was a noble national action, and one the morality of which was in
advance of its time, that the British Parliament should vote the
enormous sum of twenty million pounds to pay compensation to the
slaveholders, and so to remove an evil with which the mother
country had no immediate connection. It was as well that the thing
should have been done when it was, for had we waited till the
colonies affected had governments of their own it could never have
been done by constitutional methods. With many a grumble the good
British householder drew his purse from his fob, and he paid for
what he thought to be right. If any special grace attends the
virtuous action which brings nothing but tribulation in this world,
then we may hope for it over this emancipation. We spent our money,
we ruined our West Indian colonies, and we started a disaffection
in South Africa, the end of which we have not seen. Yet if it were
to be done again we should doubtless do it. The highest morality
may prove also to be the highest wisdom when the half-told story
comes to be finished.

But the details of the measure were less honourable than the
principle. It was carried out suddenly, so that the country had no
time to adjust itself to the new conditions. Three million pounds
were ear-marked for South Africa, which gives a price per slave of
from sixty to seventy pounds, a sum considerably below the current
local rates. Finally, the compensation was made payable in London,
so that the farmers sold their claims at reduced prices to
middlemen. Indignation meetings were held in every little townlet
and cattle camp on the Karoo. The old Dutch spirit was up--the
spirit of the men who cut the dykes. Rebellion was useless. But a
vast untenanted land stretched to the north of them. The nomad life
was congenial to them, and in their huge ox-drawn wagons--like
those bullock-carts in which some of their old kinsmen came to
Gaul--they had vehicles and homes and forts all in one. One by one
they were loaded up, the huge teams were inspanned, the women were
seated inside, the men, with their long-barrelled guns, walked
alongside, and the great exodus was begun. Their herds and flocks
accompanied the migration, and the children helped to round them in
and drive them. One tattered little boy of ten cracked his sjambok
whip behind the bullocks. He was a small item in that singular
crowd, but he was of interest to us, for his name was Paul
Stephanus Kruger.

It was a strange exodus, only comparable in modern times to the
sallying forth of the Mormons from Nauvoo upon their search for the
promised laud of Utah. The country was known and sparsely settled
as far north as the Orange River, but beyond there was a great
region which had never been penetrated save by some daring hunter
or adventurous pioneer. It chanced--if there be indeed such an
element as chance in the graver affairs of man--that a Zulu
conqueror had swept over this land and left it untenanted, save by
the dwarf bushmen, the hideous aborigines, lowest of the human
race. There were fine grazing and good soil for the emigrants. They
traveled in small detached parties, but their total numbers were
considerable, from six to ten thousand according to their
historian, or nearly a quarter of the whole population of the
colony. Some of the early bands perished miserably. A large number
made a trysting-place at a high peak to the east of Bloemfontein in
what was lately the Orange Free State. One party of the emigrants
was cut off by the formidable Matabeli, a branch of the great Zulu
nation. The survivors declared war upon them, and showed in this,
their first campaign, the extraordinary ingenuity in adapting their
tactics to their adversary which has been their greatest military
characteristic. The commando which rode out to do battle with the
Matabeli numbered, it is said, a hundred and thirty-five farmers.
Their adversaries were twelve thousand spearmen. They met at the
Marico River, near Mafeking. The Boers combined the use of their
horses and of their rifles so cleverly that they slaughtered a
third of their antagonists without any loss to themselves. Their
tactics were to gallop up within range of the enemy, to fire a
volley, and then to ride away again before the spearmen could reach
them. When the savages pursued the Boers fled. When the pursuit
halted the Boers halted and the rifle fire began anew. The strategy
was simple but most effective. When one remembers how often since
then our own horsemen have been pitted against savages in all parts
of the world, one deplores that ignorance of all military
traditions save our own which is characteristic of our service.

This victory of the 'voortrekkers' cleared all the country between
the Orange River and the Limpopo, the sites of what has been known
as the Transvaal and the Orange Free State. In the meantime another
body of the emigrants had descended into what is now known as
Natal, and had defeated Dingaan, the great Chief of the Zulus.
Being unable, owing to the presence of their families, to employ
the cavalry tactics which had been so effective against the
Matabeli, they again used their ingenuity to meet this new
situation, and received the Zulu warriors in a square of laagered
wagons, the men firing while the women loaded. Six burghers were
killed and three thousand Zulus. Had such a formation been used
forty years afterwards against these very Zulus, we should not have
had to mourn the disaster of Isandhlwana.

And now at the end of their great journey, after overcoming the
difficulties of distance, of nature, and of savage enemies, the
Boers saw at the end of their travels the very thing which they
desired least--that which they had come so far to avoid--the flag
of Great Britain. The Boers had occupied Natal from within, but
England had previously done the same by sea, and a small colony of
Englishmen had settled at Port Natal, now known as Durban. The home
Government, however, had acted in a vacillating way, and it was
only the conquest of Natal by the Boers which caused them to claim
it as a British colony. At the same time they asserted the
unwelcome doctrine that a British subject could not at will throw
off his allegiance, and that, go where they might, the wandering
farmers were still only the pioneers of British colonies. To
emphasise the fact three companies of soldiers were sent in 1842 to
what is now Durban--the usual Corporal's guard with which Great
Britain starts a new empire. This handful of men was waylaid by the
Boers and cut up, as their successors have been so often since. The
survivors, however, fortified themselves, and held a defensive
position--as also their successors have done so many times
since--until reinforcements arrived and the farmers dispersed. It
is singular how in history the same factors will always give the
same result. Here in this first skirmish is an epitome of all our
military relations with these people. The blundering headstrong
attack, the defeat, the powerlessness of the farmer against the
weakest fortifications--it is the same tale over and over again in
different scales of importance. Natal from this time onward became
a British colony, and the majority of the Boers trekked north and
east with bitter hearts to tell their wrongs to their brethren of
the Orange Free State and of the Transvaal.

Had they any wrongs to tell? It is difficult to reach that height
of philosophic detachment which enables the historian to deal
absolutely impartially where his own country is a party to the
quarrel. But at least we may allow that there is a case for our
adversary. Our annexation of Natal had been by no means definite,
and it was they and not we who first broke that bloodthirsty Zulu
power which threw its shadow across the country. It was hard after
such trials and such exploits to turn their back upon the fertile
land which they had conquered, and to return to the bare pastures
of the upland veld. They carried out of Natal a heavy sense of
injury, which has helped to poison our relations with them ever
since. It was, in a way, a momentous episode, this little skirmish
of soldiers and emigrants, for it was the heading off of the Boer
from the sea and the confinement of his ambition to the land. Had
it gone the other way, a new and possibly formidable flag would
have been added to the maritime nations.

The emigrants who had settled in the huge tract of country between
the Orange River in the south and the Limpopo in the north had been
recruited by newcomers from the Cape Colony until they numbered
some fifteen thousand souls. This population was scattered over a
space as large as Germany, and larger than Pennsylvania, New York,
and New England. Their form of government was individualistic and
democratic to the last degree compatible with any sort of cohesion.
Their wars with the Kaffirs and their fear and dislike of the
British Government appear to have been the only ties which held
them together. They divided and subdivided within their own
borders, like a germinating egg. The Transvaal was full of lusty
little high-mettled communities, who quarreled among themselves as
fiercely as they had done with the authorities at the Cape.
Lydenburg, Zoutpansberg, and Potchefstroom were on the point of
turning their rifles against each other. In the south, between the
Orange River and the Vaal, there was no form of government at all,
but a welter of Dutch farmers, Basutos, Hottentots, and halfbreeds
living in a chronic state of turbulence, recognising neither the
British authority to the south of them nor the Transvaal republics
to the north. The chaos became at last unendurable, and in 1848 a
garrison was placed in Bloemfontein and the district incorporated
in the British Empire. The emigrants made a futile resistance at
Boomplaats, and after a single defeat allowed themselves to be
drawn into the settled order of civilised rule.

At this period the Transvaal, where most of the Boers had settled,
desired a formal acknowledgment of their independence, which the
British authorities determined once and for all to give them. The
great barren country, which produced little save marksmen, had no
attractions for a Colonial Office which was bent upon the
limitation of its liabilities. A Convention was concluded between
the two parties, known as the Sand River Convention, which is one
of the fixed points in South African history. By it the British
Government guaranteed to the Boer farmers the right to manage their
own affairs, and to govern themselves by their own laws without any
interference upon the part of the British. It stipulated that there
should be no slavery, and with that single reservation washed its
hands finally, as it imagined, of the whole question. So the South
African Republic came formally into existence.

In the very year after the Sand River Convention a second republic,
the Orange Free State, was created by the deliberate withdrawal of
Great Britain from the territory which she had for eight years
occupied. The Eastern Question was already becoming acute, and the
cloud of a great war was drifting up, visible to all men. British
statesmen felt that their commitments were very heavy in every part
of the world, and the South African annexations had always been a
doubtful value and an undoubted trouble. Against the will of a
large part of the inhabitants, whether a majority or not it is
impossible to say, we withdrew our troops as amicably as the Romans
withdrew from Britain, and the new republic was left with absolute
and unfettered independence. On a petition being presented against
the withdrawal, the Home Government actually voted forty-eight
thousand pounds to compensate those who had suffered from the
change. Whatever historical grievance the Transvaal may have
against Great Britain, we can at least, save perhaps in one matter,
claim to have a very clear conscience concerning our dealings with
the Orange Free State. Thus in 1852 and in 1854 were born those
sturdy States who were able for a time to hold at bay the united
forces of the empire.

In the meantime Cape Colony, in spite of these secessions, had
prospered exceedingly, and her population--English, German, and
Dutch--had grown by 1870 to over two hundred thousand souls, the
Dutch still slightly predominating. According to the Liberal
colonial policy of Great Britain, the time had come to cut the cord
and let the young nation conduct its own affairs. In 1872 complete
self-government was given to it, the Governor, as the
representative of the Queen, retaining a nominal unexercised veto
upon legislation. According to this system the Dutch majority of
the colony could, and did, put their own representatives into power
and run the government upon Dutch lines. Already Dutch law had been
restored, and Dutch put on the same footing as English as the
official language of the country. The extreme liberality of such
measures, and the uncompromising way in which they have been
carried out, however distasteful the legislation might seem to
English ideas, are among the chief reasons which made the illiberal
treatment of British settlers in the Transvaal so keenly resented
at the Cape. A Dutch Government was ruling the British in a British
colony, at a moment when the Boers would not give an Englishman a
vote upon a municipal council in a city which he had built himself.
Unfortunately, however, 'the evil that men do lives after them,'
and the ignorant Boer farmer continued to imagine that his southern
relatives were in bondage, just as the descendant of the Irish
emigrant still pictures an Ireland of penal laws and an alien

For twenty-five years after the Sand River Convention the burghers
of the South African Republic had pursued a strenuous and violent
existence, fighting incessantly with the natives and sometimes with
each other, with an occasional fling at the little Dutch republic
to the south. The semi-tropical sun was waking strange ferments in
the placid Friesland blood, and producing a race who added the
turbulence and restlessness of the south to the formidable tenacity
of the north. Strong vitality and violent ambitions produced feuds
and rivalries worthy of medieval Italy, and the story of the
factious little communities is like a chapter out of Guicciardini.
Disorganisation ensued. The burghers would not pay taxes and the
treasury was empty. One fierce Kaffir tribe threatened them from
the north, and the Zulus on the east. It is an exaggeration of
English partisans to pretend that our intervention saved the Boers,
for no one can read their military history without seeing that they
were a match for Zulus and Sekukuni combined. But certainly a
formidable invasion was pending, and the scattered farmhouses were
as open to the Kaffirs as our farmers' homesteads were in the
American colonies when the Indians were on the warpath. Sir
Theophilus Shepstone, the British Commissioner, after an inquiry of
three months, solved all questions by the formal annexation of the
country. The fact that he took possession of it with a force of
some twenty-five men showed the honesty of his belief that no armed
resistance was to be feared. This, then, in 1877 was a complete
reversal of the Sand River Convention and the opening of a new
chapter in the history of South Africa.

There did not appear to be any strong feeling at the time against
the annexation. The people were depressed with their troubles and
weary of contention. Burgers, the President, put in a formal
protest, and took up his abode in Cape Colony, where he had a
pension from the British Government. A memorial against the measure
received the signatures of a majority of the Boer inhabitants, but
there was a fair minority who took the other view. Kruger himself
accepted a paid office under Government. There was every sign that
the people, if judiciously handled, would settle down under the
British flag. It is even asserted that they would themselves have
petitioned for annexation had it been longer withheld. With
immediate constitutional government it is possible that even the
most recalcitrant of them might have been induced to lodge their
protests in the ballot boxes rather than in the bodies of our

But the empire has always had poor luck in South Africa, and never
worse than on that occasion. Through no bad faith, but simply
through preoccupation and delay, the promises made were not
instantly fulfilled. Simple primitive men do not understand the
ways of our circumlocution offices, and they ascribe to duplicity
what is really red tape and stupidity. If the Transvaalers had
waited they would have had their Volksraad and all that they
wanted. But the British Government had some other local matters to
set right, the rooting out of Sekukuni and the breaking of the
Zulus, before they would fulfill their pledges. The delay was
keenly resented. And we were unfortunate in our choice of Governor.
The burghers are a homely folk, and they like an occasional cup of
coffee with the anxious man who tries to rule them. The three
hundred pounds a year of coffee money allowed by the Transvaal to
its President is by no means a mere form. A wise administrator
would fall into the sociable and democratic habits of the people.
Sir Theophilus Shepstone did so. Sir Owen Lanyon did not. There was
no Volksraad and no coffee, and the popular discontent grew
rapidly. In three years the British had broken up the two savage
hordes which had been threatening the land. The finances, too, had
been restored. The reasons which had made so many favour the
annexation were weakened by the very power which had every interest
in preserving them.

It cannot be too often pointed out that in this annexation, the
starting-point of our troubles, Great Britain, however mistaken she
may have been, had no obvious selfish interest in view. There were
no Rand mines in those days, nor was there anything in the country
to tempt the most covetous. An empty treasury and two native wars
were the reversion which we took over. It was honestly considered
that the country was in too distracted a state to govern itself,
and had, by its weakness, become a scandal and a danger to its
neighbours. There was nothing sordid in our action, though it may
have been both injudicious and high-handed.

In December 1880 the Boers rose. Every farmhouse sent out its
riflemen, and the trysting-place was the outside of the nearest
British fort. All through the country small detachments were
surrounded and besieged by the farmers. Standerton, Pretoria,
Potchefstroom, Lydenburg, Wakkerstroom, Rustenberg, and Marabastad
were all invested and all held out until the end of the war. In the
open country we were less fortunate. At Bronkhorst Spruit a small
British force was taken by surprise and shot down without harm to
their antagonists. The surgeon who treated them has left it on
record that the average number of wounds was five per man. At
Laing's Nek an inferior force of British endeavoured to rush a hill
which was held by Boer riflemen. Half of our men were killed and
wounded. Ingogo may be called a drawn battle, though our loss was
more heavy than that of the enemy. Finally came the defeat of
Majuba Hill, where four hundred infantry upon a mountain were
defeated and driven off by a swarm of sharpshooters who advanced
under the cover of boulders. Of all these actions there was not one
which was more than a skirmish, and had they been followed by a
final British victory they would now be hardly remembered. It is
the fact that they were skirmishes which succeeded in their object
which has given them an importance which is exaggerated. At the
same time they may mark the beginning of a new military era, for
they drove home the fact--only too badly learned by us--that it is
the rifle and not the drill which makes the soldier. It is
bewildering that after such an experience the British military
authorities continued to serve out only three hundred cartridges a
year for rifle practice, and that they still encouraged that
mechanical volley firing which destroys all individual aim. With
the experience of the first Boer war behind them, little was done,
either in tactics or in musketry, to prepare the soldier for the
second. The value of the mounted rifleman, the shooting with
accuracy at unknown ranges, the art of taking cover--all were
equally neglected.

The defeat at Majuba Hill was followed by the complete surrender of
the Gladstonian Government, an act which was either the most
pusillanimous or the most magnanimous in recent history. It is hard
for the big man to draw away from the small before blows are struck
but when the big man has been knocked down three times it is harder
still. An overwhelming British force was in the field, and the
General declared that he held the enemy in the hollow of his hand.
Our military calculations have been falsified before now by these
farmers, and it may be that the task of Wood and Roberts would have
been harder than they imagined; but on paper, at least, it looked
as if the enemy could be crushed without difficulty. So the public
thought, and yet they consented to the upraised sword being stayed.
With them, as apart from the politicians, the motive was
undoubtedly a moral and Christian one. They considered that the
annexation of the Transvaal had evidently been an injustice, that
the farmers had a right to the freedom for which they fought, and
that it was an unworthy thing for a great nation to continue an
unjust war for the sake of a military revenge. It was the height of
idealism, and the result has not been such as to encourage its

An armistice was concluded on March 5th, 1881, which led up to a
peace on the 23rd of the same month. The Government, after yielding
to force what it had repeatedly refused to friendly
representations, made a clumsy compromise in their settlement. A
policy of idealism and Christian morality should have been thorough
if it were to be tried at all. It was obvious that if the
annexation were unjust, then the Transvaal should have reverted to
the condition in which it was before the annexation, as defined by
the Sand River Convention. But the Government for some reason would
not go so far as this. They niggled and quibbled and bargained
until the State was left as a curious hybrid thing such as the
world has never seen. It was a republic which was part of the
system of a monarchy, dealt with by the Colonial Office, and
included under the heading of 'Colonies' in the news columns of the
'Times.' It was autonomous, and yet subject to some vague
suzerainty, the limits of which no one has ever been able to
define. Altogether, in its provisions and in its omissions, the
Convention of Pretoria appears to prove that our political affairs
were as badly conducted as our military in this unfortunate year of

It was evident from the first that so illogical and contentious an
agreement could not possibly prove to be a final settlement, and
indeed the ink of the signatures was hardly dry before an agitation
was on foot for its revision. The Boers considered, and with
justice, that if they were to be left as undisputed victors in the
war then they should have the full fruits of victory. On the other
hand, the English-speaking colonies had their allegiance tested to
the uttermost. The proud Anglo-Celtic stock is not accustomed to be
humbled, and yet they found themselves through the action of the
home Government converted into members of a beaten race. It was
very well for the citizen of London to console his wounded pride by
the thought that he had done a magnanimous action, but it was
different with the British colonist of Durban or Cape Town, who by
no act of his own, and without any voice in the settlement, found
himself humiliated before his Dutch neighbour. An ugly feeling of
resentment was left behind, which might perhaps have passed away
had the Transvaal accepted the settlement in the spirit in which it
was meant, but which grew more and more dangerous as during
eighteen years our people saw, or thought that they saw, that one
concession led always to a fresh demand, and that the Dutch
republics aimed not merely at equality, but at dominance in South
Africa. Professor Bryce, a friendly critic, after a personal
examination of the country and the question, has left it upon
record that the Boers saw neither generosity nor humanity in our
conduct, but only fear. An outspoken race, they conveyed their
feelings to their neighbours. Can it be wondered at that South
Africa has been in a ferment ever since, and that the British
Africander has yearned with an intensity of feeling unknown in
England for the hour of revenge?

The Government of the Transvaal after the war was left in the hands
of a triumvirate, but after one year Kruger became President, an
office which he continued to hold for eighteen years. His career as
ruler vindicates the wisdom of that wise but unwritten provision of
the American Constitution by which there is a limit to the tenure
of this office. Continued rule for half a generation must turn a
man into an autocrat. The old President has said himself, in his
homely but shrewd way, that when one gets a good ox to lead the
team it is a pity to change him. If a good ox, however, is left to
choose his own direction without guidance, he may draw his wagon
into trouble.

During three years the little State showed signs of a tumultuous
activity. Considering that it was as large as France and that the
population could not have been more than 50,000, one would have
thought that they might have found room without any inconvenient
crowding. But the burghers passed beyond their borders in every
direction. The President cried aloud that he had been shut up in a
kraal, and he proceeded to find ways out of it. A great trek was
projected for the north, but fortunately it miscarried. To the east
they raided Zululand, and succeeded, in defiance of the British
settlement of that country, in tearing away one third of it and
adding it to the Transvaal. To the west, with no regard to the
three-year-old treaty, they invaded Bechuanaland, and set up the
two new republics of Goshen and Stellaland. So outrageous were
these proceedings that Great Britain was forced to fit out in 1884
a new expedition under Sir Charles Warren for the purpose of
turning these freebooters out of the country. It may be asked, why
should these men be called freebooters if the founders of Rhodesia
were pioneers? The answer is that the Transvaal was limited by
treaty to certain boundaries which these men transgressed, while no
pledges were broken when the British power expanded to the north.
The upshot of these trespasses was the scene upon which every drama
of South Africa rings down. Once more the purse was drawn from the
pocket of the unhappy taxpayer, and a million or so was paid out to
defray the expenses of the police force necessary to keep these
treaty-breakers in order. Let this be borne in mind when we assess
the moral and material damage done to the Transvaal by that
ill-conceived and foolish enterprise, the Jameson Raid.

In 1884 a deputation from the Transvaal visited England, and at
their solicitation the clumsy Treaty of Pretoria was altered into
the still more clumsy Convention of London. The changes in the
provisions were all in favour of the Boers, and a second successful
war could hardly have given them more than Lord Derby handed them
in time of peace. Their style was altered from the Transvaal to the
South African Republic, a change which was ominously suggestive of
expansion in the future. The control of Great Britain over their
foreign policy was also relaxed, though a power of veto was
retained. But the most important thing of all, and the fruitful
cause of future trouble, lay in an omission. A suzerainty is a
vague term, but in politics, as in theology, the more nebulous a
thing is the more does it excite the imagination and the passions
of men. This suzerainty was declared in the preamble of the first
treaty, and no mention of it was made in the second. Was it thereby
abrogated or was it not? The British contention was that only the
articles were changed, and that the preamble continued to hold good
for both treaties. They pointed out that not only the suzerainty,
but also the independence, of the Transvaal was proclaimed in that
preamble, and that if one lapsed the other must do so also. On the
other hand, the Boers pointed to the fact that there was actually a
preamble to the second Convention, which would seem, therefore, to
have taken the place of the first. The point is so technical that
it appears to be eminently one of those questions which might with
propriety have been submitted to the decision of a board of foreign
jurists--or possibly to the Supreme Court of the United States. If
the decision had been given against Great Britain, we might have
accepted it in a chastened spirit as a fitting punishment for the
carelessness of the representative who failed to make our meaning
intelligible. Carlyle has said that a political mistake always ends
in a broken head for somebody. Unfortunately the somebody is
usually somebody else. We have read the story of the political
mistakes. Only too soon we shall come to the broken heads.

This, then, is a synopsis of what had occurred up to the signing of
the Convention, which finally established, or failed to establish,
the position of the South African Republic. We must now leave the
larger questions, and descend to the internal affairs of that small
State, and especially to that train of events which has stirred the
mind of our people more than anything since the Indian Mutiny.



There might almost seem to be some subtle connection between the
barrenness and worthlessness of a surface and the value of the
minerals which lie beneath it. The craggy mountains of Western
America, the arid plains of West Australia, the ice-bound gorges of
the Klondyke, and the bare slopes of the Witwatersrand veld--these
are the lids which cover the great treasure chests of the world.

Gold had been known to exist in the Transvaal before, but it was
only in 1886 that it was realised that the deposits which lie some
thirty miles south of the capital are of a very extraordinary and
valuable nature. The proportion of gold in the quartz is not
particularly high, nor are the veins of a remarkable thickness, but
the peculiarity of the Rand mines lies in the fact that throughout
this 'banket' formation the metal is so uniformly distributed that
the enterprise can claim a certainty which is not usually
associated with the industry. It is quarrying rather than mining.
Add to this that the reefs which were originally worked as outcrops
have now been traced to enormous depths, and present the same
features as those at the surface. A conservative estimate of the
value of the gold has placed it at seven hundred millions of

Such a discovery produced the inevitable effect. A great number of
adventurers flocked into the country, some desirable and some very
much the reverse. There were circumstances, however, which kept
away the rowdy and desperado element who usually make for a newly
opened goldfield. It was not a class of mining which encouraged the
individual adventurer. There were none of those nuggets which
gleamed through the mud of the dollies at Ballarat, or recompensed
the forty-niners in California for all their travels and their
toils. It was a field for elaborate machinery, which could only be
provided by capital. Managers, engineers, miners, technical
experts, and the tradesmen and middlemen who live upon them, these
were the Uitlanders, drawn from all the races under the sun, but
with the Anglo-Celtic vastly predominant. The best engineers were
American, the best miners were Cornish, the best managers were
English, the money to run the mines was largely subscribed in
England. As time went on, however, the German and French interests
became more extensive, until their joint holdings are now probably
as heavy as those of the British. Soon the population of the mining
centres became greater than that of the whole Boer community, and
consisted mainly of men in the prime of life--men, too, of
exceptional intelligence and energy.

The situation was an extraordinary one. I have already attempted to
bring the problem home to an American by suggesting that the Dutch
of New York had trekked west and founded an anti-American and
highly unprogressive State. To carry out the analogy we will now
suppose that that State was California, that the gold of that State
attracted a large inrush of American citizens, who came to
outnumber the original inhabitants, that these citizens were
heavily taxed and badly used, and that they deafened Washington
with their outcry about their injuries. That would be a fair
parallel to the relations between the Transvaal, the Uitlanders,
and the British Government.

That these Uitlanders had very real and pressing grievances no one
could possibly deny. To recount them all would be a formidable
task, for their whole lives were darkened by injustice. There was
not a wrong which had driven the Boer from Cape Colony which he did
not now practise himself upon others--and a wrong may be excusable
in 1885 which is monstrous in 1895. The primitive virtue which had
characterised the farmers broke down in the face of temptation. The
country Boers were little affected, some of them not at all, but
the Pretoria Government became a most corrupt oligarchy, venal and
incompetent to the last degree. Officials and imported Hollanders
handled the stream of gold which came in from the mines, while the
unfortunate Uitlander who paid nine-tenths of the taxation was
fleeced at every turn, and met with laughter and taunts when he
endeavoured to win the franchise by which he might peaceably set
right the wrongs from which he suffered. He was not an unreasonable
person. On the contrary, he was patient to the verge of meekness,
as capital is likely to be when it is surrounded by rifles. But his
situation was intolerable, and after successive attempts at
peaceful agitation, and numerous humble petitions to the Volksraad,
he began at last to realise that he would never obtain redress
unless he could find some way of winning it for himself.

Without attempting to enumerate all the wrongs which embittered the
Uitlanders, the more serious of them may be summed up in this way.

1. That they were heavily taxed and provided about seven-eighths of
the revenue of the country. The revenue of the South African
Republic--which had been 154,000 pounds in 1886, when the gold
fields were opened--had grown in 1899 to four million pounds, and
the country through the industry of the newcomers had changed from
one of the poorest to the richest in the whole world (per head of

2. That in spite of this prosperity which they had brought, they,
the majority of the inhabitants of the country, were left without a
vote, and could by no means influence the disposal of the great
sums which they were providing. Such a case of taxation without
representation has never been known.

3. That they had no voice in the choice or payment of officials.
Men of the worst private character might be placed with complete
authority over valuable interests. Upon one occasion the Minister
of Mines attempted himself to jump a mine, having officially
learned some flaw in its title. The total official salaries had
risen in 1899 to a sum sufficient to pay 40 pounds per head to the
entire male Boer population.

4. That they had no control over education. Mr. John Robinson, the
Director General of the Johannesburg Educational Council, has
reckoned the sum spent on Uitlander schools as 650 pounds out of
63,000 pounds allotted for education, making one shilling and
tenpence per head per annum on Uitlander children, and eight pounds
six shillings per head on Boer children--the Uitlander, as always,
paying seven-eighths of the original sum.

5. No power of municipal government. Watercarts instead of pipes,
filthy buckets instead of drains, a corrupt and violent police, a
high death-rate in what should be a health resort--all this in a
city which they had built themselves.

6. Despotic government in the matter of the press and of the right
of public meeting.

7. Disability from service upon a jury.

8. Continual harassing of the mining interest by vexatious
legislation. Under this head came many grievances, some special to
the mines and some affecting all Uitlanders. The dynamite monopoly,
by which the miners had to pay 600,000 pounds extra per annum in
order to get a worse quality of dynamite; the liquor laws, by which
one-third of the Kaffirs were allowed to be habitually drunk; the
incompetence and extortions of the State-owned railway; the
granting of concessions for numerous articles of ordinary
consumption to individuals, by which high prices were maintained;
the surrounding of Johannesburg by tolls from which the town had no
profit--these were among the economical grievances, some large,
some petty, which ramified through every transaction of life.

And outside and beyond all these definite wrongs imagine to a free
born progressive man, an American or a Briton, the constant
irritation of being absolutely ruled by a body of twenty-five men,
twenty-one of whom had in the case of the Selati Railway Company
been publicly and circumstantially accused of bribery, with full
details of the bribes received, while to their corruption they
added such crass ignorance that they argue in the published reports
of the Volksraad debates that using dynamite bombs to bring down
rain was firing at God, that it is impious to destroy locusts, that
the word 'participate' should not be used because it is not in the
Bible, and that postal pillar boxes are extravagant and effeminate.
Such obiter dicta may be amusing at a distance, but they are less
entertaining when they come from an autocrat who has complete power
over the conditions of your life.

From the fact that they were a community extremely preoccupied by
their own business, it followed that the Uitlanders were not ardent
politicians, and that they desired to have a share in the
government of the State for the purpose of making the conditions of
their own industry and of their own daily lives more endurable. How
far there was need of such an interference may be judged by any
fair-minded man who reads the list of their complaints. A
superficial view may recognise the Boers as the champions of
liberty, but a deeper insight must see that they (as represented by
their elected rulers) have in truth stood for all that history has
shown to be odious in the form of exclusiveness and oppression.
Their conception of liberty has been a selfish one, and they have
consistently inflicted upon others far heavier wrongs than those
against which they had themselves rebelled.

As the mines increased in importance and the miners in numbers, it
was found that these political disabilities affected some of that
cosmopolitan crowd far more than others, in proportion to the
amount of freedom to which their home institutions had made them
accustomed. The continental Uitlanders were more patient of that
which was unendurable to the American and the Briton. The
Americans, however, were in so great a minority that it was upon
the British that the brunt of the struggle for freedom fell. Apart
from the fact that the British were more numerous than all the
other Uitlanders combined, there were special reasons why they
should feel their humiliating position more than the members of any
other race. In the first place, many of the British were British
South Africans, who knew that in the neighbouring countries which
gave them birth the most liberal possible institutions had been
given to the kinsmen of these very Boers who were refusing them the
management of their own drains and water supply. And again, every
Briton knew that Great Britain claimed to be the paramount power in
South Africa, and so he felt as if his own land, to which he might
have looked for protection, was conniving at and acquiescing in his
ill treatment. As citizens of the paramount power, it was
peculiarly galling that they should be held in political
subjection. The British, therefore, were the most persistent and
energetic of the agitators.

But it is a poor cause which cannot bear to fairly state and
honestly consider the case of its opponents. The Boers had made, as
has been briefly shown, great efforts to establish a country of
their own. They had travelled far, worked hard, and fought bravely.
After all their efforts they were fated to see an influx of
strangers into their country, some of them men of questionable
character, who outnumbered the original inhabitants. If the
franchise were granted to these, there could be no doubt that
though at first the Boers might control a majority of the votes, it
was only a question of time before the newcomers would dominate the
Raad and elect their own President, who might adopt a policy
abhorrent to the original owners of the land. Were the Boers to
lose by the ballot-box the victory which they had won by their
rifles? Was it fair to expect it? These newcomers came for gold.
They got their gold. Their companies paid a hundred per cent. Was
not that enough to satisfy them? If they did not like the country
why did they not leave it? No one compelled them to stay there. But
if they stayed, let them be thankful that they were tolerated at
all, and not presume to interfere with the laws of those by whose
courtesy they were allowed to enter the country.

That is a fair statement of the Boer position, and at first sight
an impartial man might say that there was a good deal to say for
it; but a closer examination would show that, though it might be
tenable in theory, it is unjust and impossible in practice.

In the present crowded state of the world a policy of Thibet may be
carried out in some obscure corner, but it cannot be done in a
great tract of country which lies right across the main line of
industrial progress. The position is too absolutely artificial. A
handful of people by the right of conquest take possession of an
enormous country over which they are dotted at such intervals that
it is their boast that one farmhouse cannot see the smoke of
another, and yet, though their numbers are so disproportionate to
the area which they cover, they refuse to admit any other people
upon equal terms, but claim to be a privileged class who shall
dominate the newcomers completely. They are outnumbered in their
own land by immigrants who are far more highly educated and
progressive, and yet they hold them down in a way which exists
nowhere else upon earth. What is their right? The right of
conquest. Then the same right may be justly invoked to reverse so
intolerable a situation. This they would themselves acknowledge.
'Come on and fight! Come on!' cried a member of the Volksraad when
the franchise petition of the Uitlanders was presented. 'Protest!
Protest! What is the good of protesting?' said Kruger to Mr. W. Y.
Campbell; 'you have not got the guns, I have.' There was always the
final court of appeal. Judge Creusot and Judge Mauser were always
behind the President.

Again, the argument of the Boers would be more valid had they
received no benefit from these immigrants. If they had ignored them
they might fairly have stated that they did not desire their
presence. But even while they protested they grew rich at the
Uitlander's expense. They could not have it both ways. It would be
consistent to discourage him and not profit by him, or to make him
comfortable and build the State upon his money; but to ill-treat
him and at the same time to grow strong by his taxation must surely
be an injustice.

And again, the whole argument is based upon the narrow racial
supposition that every naturalised citizen not of Boer extraction
must necessarily be unpatriotic. This is not borne out by the
examples of history. The newcomer soon becomes as proud of his
country and as jealous of her liberty as the old. Had President
Kruger given the franchise generously to the Uitlander, his pyramid
would have been firm upon its base and not balanced upon its apex.
It is true that the corrupt oligarchy would have vanished, and the
spirit of a broader more tolerant freedom influenced the counsels
of the State. But the republic would have become stronger and more
permanent, with a population who, if they differed in details, were
united in essentials. Whether such a solution would have been to
the advantage of British interests in South Africa is quite another
question. In more ways than one President Kruger has been a good
friend to the empire.

So much upon the general question of the reason why the Uitlander
should agitate and why the Boer was obdurate. The details of the
long struggle between the seekers for the franchise and the
refusers of it may be quickly sketched, but they cannot be entirely
ignored by any one who desires to understand the inception of that
great contest which was the outcome of the dispute.

At the time of the Convention of Pretoria (1881) the rights of
burghership might be obtained by one year's residence. In 1882 it
was raised to five years, the reasonable limit which obtains both
in Great Britain and in the United States. Had it remained so, it
is safe to say that there would never have been either an Uitlander
question or a great Boer war. Grievances would have been righted
from the inside without external interference.

In 1890 the inrush of outsiders alarmed the Boers, and the
franchise was raised so as to be only attainable by those who had
lived fourteen years in the country. The Uitlanders, who were
increasing rapidly in numbers and were suffering from the
formidable list of grievances already enumerated, perceived that
their wrongs were so numerous that it was hopeless to have them set
right seriatim, and that only by obtaining the leverage of the
franchise could they hope to move the heavy burden which weighed
them down. In 1893 a petition of 13,000 Uitlanders, couched in most
respectful terms, was submitted to the Raad, but met with
contemptuous neglect. Undeterred, however, by this failure, the
National Reform Union, an association which organised the
agitation, came back to the attack in 1894. They drew up a petition
which was signed by 35,000 adult male Uitlanders, a greater number
than the total Boer male population of the country. A small liberal
body in the Raad supported this memorial and endeavoured in vain to
obtain some justice for the newcomers. Mr. Jeppe was the mouthpiece
of this select band. 'They own half the soil, they pay at least
three quarters of the taxes,' said he. 'They are men who in
capital, energy, and education are at least our equals.

What will become of us or our children on that day when we may find
ourselves in a minority of one in twenty without a single friend
among the other nineteen, among those who will then tell us that
they wished to be brothers, but that we by our own act have made
them strangers to the republic?' Such reasonable and liberal
sentiments were combated by members who asserted that the
signatures could not belong to law-abiding citizens, since they
were actually agitating against the law of the franchise, and
others whose intolerance was expressed by the defiance of the
member already quoted, who challenged the Uitlanders to come out
and fight. The champions of exclusiveness and racial hatred won the
day. The memorial was rejected by sixteen votes to eight, and the
franchise law was, on the initiative of the President, actually
made more stringent than ever, being framed in such a way that
during the fourteen years of probation the applicant should give up
his previous nationality, so that for that period he would really
belong to no country at all. No hopes were held out that any
possible attitude upon the part of the Uitlanders would soften the
determination of the President and his burghers. One who
remonstrated was led outside the State buildings by the President,
who pointed up at the national flag. 'You see that flag?' said he.
'If I grant the franchise, I may as well pull it down.' His
animosity against the immigrants was bitter. 'Burghers, friends,
thieves, murderers, newcomers, and others,' is the conciliatory
opening of one of his public addresses. Though Johannesburg is only
thirty-two miles from Pretoria, and though the State of which he
was the head depended for its revenue upon the gold fields, he paid
it only three visits in nine years.

This settled animosity was deplorable, but not unnatural. A man
imbued with the idea of a chosen people, and unread in any book
save the one which cultivates this very idea, could not be expected
to have learned the historical lessons of the advantages which a
State reaps from a liberal policy. To him it was as if the
Ammonites and Moabites had demanded admission into the twelve
tribes. He mistook an agitation against the exclusive policy of the
State for one against the existence of the State itself. A wide
franchise would have made his republic firm-based and permanent. It
was a small minority of the Uitlanders who had any desire to come
into the British system. They were a cosmopolitan crowd, only
united by the bond of a common injustice. But when every other
method had failed, and their petition for the rights of freemen had
been flung back at them, it was natural that their eyes should turn
to that flag which waved to the north, the west, and the south of
them--the flag which means purity of government with equal rights
and equal duties for all men. Constitutional agitation was laid
aside, arms were smuggled in, and everything prepared for an
organised rising.

The events which followed at the beginning of 1896 have been so
thrashed out that there is, perhaps, nothing left to tell--except
the truth. So far as the Uitlanders themselves are concerned, their
action was most natural and justifiable, and they have no reason to
exculpate themselves for rising against such oppression as no men
of our race have ever been submitted to. Had they trusted only to
themselves and the justice of their cause, their moral and even
their material position would have been infinitely stronger. But
unfortunately there were forces behind them which were more
questionable, the nature and extent of which have never yet, in
spite of two commissions of investigation, been properly revealed.
That there should have been any attempt at misleading inquiry, or
suppressing documents in order to shelter individuals, is
deplorable, for the impression left--I believe an entirely false
one--must be that the British Government connived at an expedition
which was as immoral as it was disastrous.

It had been arranged that the town was to rise upon a certain
night, that Pretoria should be attacked, the fort seized, and the
rifles and ammunition used to arm the Uitlanders. It was a feasible
device, though it must seem to us, who have had such an experience
of the military virtues of the burghers, a very desperate one. But
it is conceivable that the rebels might have held Johannesburg
until the universal sympathy which their cause excited throughout
South Africa would have caused Great Britain to intervene.
Unfortunately they had complicated matters by asking for outside
help. Mr. Cecil Rhodes was Premier of the Cape, a man of immense
energy, and one who had rendered great services to the empire. The
motives of his action are obscure--certainly, we may say that they
were not sordid, for he has always been a man whose thoughts were
large and whose habits were simple. But whatever they may have
been--whether an ill-regulated desire to consolidate South Africa
under British rule, or a burning sympathy with the Uitlanders in
their fight against injustice--it is certain that he allowed his
lieutenant, Dr. Jameson, to assemble the mounted police of the
Chartered Company, of which Rhodes was founder and director, for
the purpose of co-operating with the rebels at Johannesburg.
Moreover, when the revolt at Johannesburg was postponed, on account
of a disagreement as to which flag they were to rise under, it
appears that Jameson (with or without the orders of Rhodes) forced
the hand of the conspirators by invading the country with a force
absurdly inadequate to the work which he had taken in hand. Five
hundred policemen and three field guns made up the forlorn hope who
started from near Mafeking and crossed the Transvaal border upon
December 29th, 1895. On January 2nd they were surrounded by the
Boers amid the broken country near Dornkop, and after losing many
of their number killed and wounded, without food and with spent
horses, they were compelled to lay down their arms. Six burghers
lost their lives in the skirmish.

The Uitlanders have been severely criticised for not having sent
out a force to help Jameson in his difficulties, but it is
impossible to see how they could have acted in any other manner.
They had done all they could to prevent Jameson coming to their
relief, and now it was rather unreasonable to suppose that they
should relieve their reliever. Indeed, they had an entirely
exaggerated idea of the strength of the force which he was
bringing, and received the news of his capture with incredulity.
When it became confirmed they rose, but in a halfhearted fashion
which was not due to want of courage, but to the difficulties of
their position. On the one hand, the British Government disowned
Jameson entirely, and did all it could to discourage the rising; on
the other, the President had the raiders in his keeping at
Pretoria, and let it be understood that their fate depended upon
the behaviour of the Uitlanders. They were led to believe that
Jameson would be shot unless they laid down their arms, though, as
a matter of fact, Jameson and his people had surrendered upon a
promise of quarter. So skillfully did Kruger use his hostages that
he succeeded, with the help of the British Commissioner, in getting
the thousands of excited Johannesburgers to lay down their arms
without bloodshed. Completely out-manoeuvred by the astute old
President, the leaders of the reform movement used all their
influence in the direction of peace, thinking that a general
amnesty would follow; but the moment that they and their people
were helpless the detectives and armed burghers occupied the town,
and sixty of their number were hurried to Pretoria Gaol.

To the raiders themselves the President behaved with great
generosity. Perhaps he could not find it in his heart to be harsh
to the men who had managed to put him in the right and won for him
the sympathy of the world. His own illiberal and oppressive
treatment of the newcomers was forgotten in the face of this
illegal inroad of filibusters. The true issues were so obscured by
this intrusion that it has taken years to clear them, and perhaps
they will never be wholly cleared. It was forgotten that it was the
bad government of the country which was the real cause of the
unfortunate raid. From then onwards the government might grow worse
and worse, but it was always possible to point to the raid as
justifying everything. Were the Uitlanders to have the franchise?
How could they expect it after the raid? Would Britain object to
the enormous importation of arms and obvious preparations for war?
They were only precautions against a second raid. For years the
raid stood in the way, not only of all progress, but of all
remonstrance. Through an action over which they had no control, and
which they had done their best to prevent, the British Government
was left with a bad case and a weakened moral authority.

The raiders were sent home, where the rank and file were very
properly released, and the chief officers were condemned to terms
of imprisonment which certainly did not err upon the side of
severity. Cecil Rhodes was left unpunished, he retained his place
in the Privy Council, and his Chartered Company continued to have a
corporate existence. This was illogical and inconclusive. As Kruger
said, 'It is not the dog which should be beaten, but the man who
set him on to me.' Public opinion--in spite of, or on account of, a
crowd of witnesses--was ill informed upon the exact bearings of the
question, and it was obvious that as Dutch sentiment at the Cape
appeared already to be thoroughly hostile to us, it would be
dangerous to alienate the British Africanders also by making a
martyr of their favourite leader. But whatever arguments may be
founded upon expediency, it is clear that the Boers bitterly
resented, and with justice, the immunity of Rhodes.

In the meantime, both President Kruger and his burghers had shown a
greater severity to the political prisoners from Johannesburg than
to the armed followers of Jameson. The nationality of these
prisoners is interesting and suggestive. There were twenty-three
Englishmen, sixteen South Africans, nine Scotchmen, six Americans,
two Welshmen, one Irishman, one Australian, one Hollander, one
Bavarian, one Canadian, one Swiss, and one Turk. The prisoners were
arrested in January, but the trial did not take place until the end
of April. All were found guilty of high treason. Mr. Lionel
Phillips, Colonel Rhodes (brother of Mr. Cecil Rhodes), George
Farrar, and Mr. Hammond, the American engineer, were condemned to
death, a sentence which was afterwards commuted to the payment of
an enormous fine. The other prisoners were condemned to two years'
imprisonment, with a fine of 2000 pounds each. The imprisonment was
of the most arduous and trying sort, and was embittered by the
harshness of the gaoler, Du Plessis. One of the unfortunate men cut
his throat, and several fell seriously ill, the diet and the
sanitary conditions being equally unhealthy. At last at the end of
May all the prisoners but six were released. Four of the six soon
followed, two stalwarts, Sampson and Davies, refusing to sign any
petition and remaining in prison until they were set free in 1897.
Altogether the Transvaal Government received in fines from the
reform prisoners the enormous sum of 212,000 pounds. A certain
comic relief was immediately afterwards given to so grave an
episode by the presentation of a bill to Great Britain for 1,677,
938 pounds 3 shillings and 3 pence--the greater part of which was
under the heading of moral and intellectual damage.

The raid was past and the reform movement was past, but the causes
which produced them both remained. It is hardly conceivable that a
statesman who loved his country would have refrained from making
some effort to remove a state of things which had already caused
such grave dangers, and which must obviously become more serious
with every year that passed. But Paul Kruger had hardened his
heart, and was not to be moved. The grievances of the Uitlanders
became heavier than ever. The one power in the land to which they
had been able to appeal for some sort of redress amid their
grievances was the law courts. Now it was decreed that the courts
should be dependent on the Volksraad. The Chief Justice protested
against such a degradation of his high office, and he was dismissed
in consequence without a pension. The judge who had condemned the
reformers was chosen to fill the vacancy, and the protection of a
fixed law was withdrawn from the Uitlanders.

A commission appointed by the State was sent to examine into the
condition of the mining industry and the grievances from which the
newcomers suffered. The chairman was Mr. Schalk Burger, one of the
most liberal of the Boers, and the proceedings were thorough and
impartial. The result was a report which amply vindicated the
reformers, and suggested remedies which would have gone a long way
towards satisfying the Uitlanders. With such enlightened
legislation their motives for seeking the franchise would have been
less pressing. But the President and his Raad would have none of
the recommendations of the commission. The rugged old autocrat
declared that Schalk Burger was a traitor to his country for having
signed such a document, and a new reactionary committee was chosen
to report upon the report. Words and papers were the only outcome
of the affair. No amelioration came to the newcomers. But at least
they had again put their case publicly upon record, and it had been
endorsed by the most respected of the burghers. Gradually in the
press of the English-speaking countries the raid was ceasing to
obscure the issue. More and more clearly it was coming out that no
permanent settlement was possible where the majority of the
population was oppressed by the minority. They had tried peaceful
means and failed. They had tried warlike means and failed. What was
there left for them to do? Their own country, the paramount power
of South Africa, had never helped them. Perhaps if it were directly
appealed to it might do so. It could not, if only for the sake of
its own imperial prestige, leave its children for ever in a state
of subjection. The Uitlanders determined upon a petition to the
Queen, and in doing so they brought their grievances out of the
limits of a local controversy into the broader field of
international politics. Great Britain must either protect them or
acknowledge that their protection was beyond her power. A direct
petition to the Queen praying for protection was signed in April
1899 by twenty-one thousand Uitlanders. From that time events moved
inevitably towards the one end. Sometimes the surface was troubled
and sometimes smooth, but the stream always ran swiftly and the
roar of the fall sounded ever louder in the ears.



The British Government and the British people do not desire any
direct authority in South Africa. Their one supreme interest is
that the various States there should live in concord and
prosperity, and that there should be no need for the presence of a
British redcoat within the whole great peninsula. Our foreign
critics, with their misapprehension of the British colonial system,
can never realise that whether the four-coloured flag of the
Transvaal or the Union Jack of a self-governing colony waved over
the gold mines would not make the difference of one shilling to the
revenue of Great Britain. The Transvaal as a British province would
have its own legislature, its own revenue, its own expenditure, and
its own tariff against the mother country, as well as against the
rest of the world, and England be none the richer for the change.
This is so obvious to a Briton that he has ceased to insist upon
it, and it is for that reason perhaps that it is so universally
misunderstood abroad. On the other hand, while she is no gainer by
the change, most of the expense of it in blood and in money falls
upon the home country. On the face of it, therefore, Great Britain
had every reason to avoid so formidable a task as the conquest of
the South African Republic. At the best she had nothing to gain,
and at the worst she had an immense deal to lose. There was no room
for ambition or aggression. It was a case of shirking or fulfilling
a most arduous duty.

There could be no question of a plot for the annexation of the
Transvaal. In a free country the Government cannot move in advance
of public opinion, and public opinion is influenced by and
reflected in the newspapers. One may examine the files of the press
during all the months of negotiations and never find one reputable
opinion in favour of such a course, nor did one in society ever
meet an advocate of such a measure. But a great wrong was being
done, and all that was asked was the minimum change which would set
it right, and restore equality between the white races in Africa.
'Let Kruger only be liberal in the extension of the franchise,'
said the paper which is most representative of the sanest British
opinion, 'and he will find that the power of the republic will
become not weaker, but infinitely more secure. Let him once give
the majority of the resident males of full age the full vote, and
he will have given the republic a stability and power which nothing
else can. If he rejects all pleas of this kind, and persists in his
present policy, he may possibly stave off the evil day, and
preserve his cherished oligarchy for another few years; but the end
will be the same.' The extract reflects the tone of all of the
British press, with the exception of one or two papers which
considered that even the persistent ill usage of our people, and
the fact that we were peculiarly responsible for them in this
State, did not justify us in interfering in the internal affairs of
the republic. It cannot be denied that the Jameson raid and the
incomplete manner in which the circumstances connected with it had
been investigated had weakened the force of those who wished to
interfere energetically on behalf of British subjects. There was a
vague but widespread feeling that perhaps the capitalists were
engineering the situation for their own ends. It is difficult to
imagine how a state of unrest and insecurity, to say nothing of a
state of war, can ever be to the advantage of capital, and surely
it is obvious that if some arch-schemer were using the grievances
of the Uitlanders for his own ends the best way to checkmate him
would be to remove those grievances. The suspicion, however, did
exist among those who like to ignore the obvious and magnify the
remote, and throughout the negotiations the hand of Great Britain
was weakened, as her adversary had doubtless calculated that it
would be, by an earnest but fussy and faddy minority. Idealism and
a morbid, restless conscientiousness are two of the most dangerous
evils from which a modern progressive State has to suffer.

It was in April 1899 that the British Uitlanders sent their
petition praying for protection to their native country. Since the
April previous a correspondence had been going on between Dr.
Leyds, Secretary of State for the South African Republic, and Mr.
Chamberlain, Colonial Secretary, upon the existence or
non-existence of the suzerainty. On the one hand, it was contended
that the substitution of a second convention had entirely annulled
the first; on the other, that the preamble of the first applied
also to the second. If the Transvaal contention were correct it is
clear that Great Britain had been tricked and jockeyed into such a
position, since she had received no quid pro quo in the second
convention, and even the most careless of Colonial Secretaries
could hardly have been expected to give away a very substantial
something for nothing. But the contention throws us back upon the
academic question of what a suzerainty is. The Transvaal admitted a
power of veto over their foreign policy, and this admission in
itself, unless they openly tore up the convention, must deprive
them of the position of a sovereign State. On the whole, the
question must be acknowledged to have been one which might very
well have been referred to trustworthy arbitration.

But now to this debate, which had so little of urgency in it that
seven months intervened between statement and reply, there came the
bitterly vital question of the wrongs and appeal of the Uitlanders.
Sir Alfred Milner, the British Commissioner in South Africa, a man
of liberal views who had been appointed by a Conservative
Government, commanded the respect and confidence of all parties.
His record was that of an able, clear-headed man, too just to be
either guilty of or tolerant of injustice. To him the matter was
referred, and a conference was arranged between President Kruger
and him at Bloemfontein, the capital of the Orange Free State. They
met on May 30th. Kruger had declared that all questions might be
discussed except the independence of the Transvaal. 'All, all, all!
' he cried emphatically. But in practice it was found that the
parties could not agree as to what did or what did not threaten
this independence. What was essential to one was inadmissible to
the other. Milner contended for a five years' retroactive
franchise, with provisions to secure adequate representation for
the mining districts. Kruger offered a seven years' franchise,
coupled with numerous conditions which whittled down its value very
much, promised five members out of thirty-one to represent a
majority of the male population, and added a provision that all
differences should be subject to arbitration by foreign powers, a
condition which is incompatible with any claim to suzerainty. The
proposals of each were impossible to the other, and early in June
Sir Alfred Milner was back in Cape Town and President Kruger in
Pretoria, with nothing settled except the extreme difficulty of a
settlement. The current was running swift, and the roar of the fall
was already sounding louder in the ear.

On June 12th Sir Alfred Milner received a deputation at Cape Town
and reviewed the situation. 'The principle of equality of races
was,' he said, essential for South Africa. The one State where
inequality existed kept all the others in a fever. Our policy was
one not of aggression, but of singular patience, which could not,
however, lapse into indifference.' Two days later Kruger addressed
the Raad. 'The other side had not conceded one tittle, and I could
not give more. God has always stood by us. I do not want war, but I
will not give more away. Although our independence has once been
taken away, God has restored it.' He spoke with sincerity no doubt,
but it is hard to hear God invoked with such confidence for the
system which encouraged the liquor traffic to the natives, and bred
the most corrupt set of officials that the modern world has seen.

A dispatch from Sir Alfred Milner, giving his views upon the
situation, made the British public recognise, as nothing else had
done, how serious the position was, and how essential it was that
an earnest national effort should be made to set it right. In it he

'The case for intervention is overwhelming. The only attempted
answer is that things will right themselves if left alone. But, in
fact, the policy of leaving things alone has been tried for years,
and it has led to their going from bad to worse. It is not true
that this is owing to the raid. They were going from bad to worse
before the raid. We were on the verge of war before the raid, and
the Transvaal was on the verge of revolution. The effect of the
raid has been to give the policy of leaving things alone a new
lease of life, and with the old consequences.

'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, does steadily undermine the influence and reputation of
Great Britain within the Queen's dominions. A section of the press,
not in the Transvaal only, preaches openly and constantly the
doctrine of a republic embracing all South Africa, and supports it
by menacing references to the armaments of the Transvaal, its
alliance with the Orange Free State, and the active sympathy which,
in case of war, it would receive from a section of her Majesty's
subjects. I regret to say that this doctrine, supported as it is by
a ceaseless stream of malignant lies about the intentions of her
Majesty's Government, is producing a great effect on a large number
of our Dutch fellow colonists. Language is frequently used which
seems to imply that the Dutch have some superior right, even in
this colony, to their fellow-citizens of British birth. Thousands
of men peaceably disposed, and if left alone perfectly satisfied
with their position as British subjects, are being drawn into
disaffection, and there is a corresponding exasperation upon the
part of the British.

'I can see nothing which will put a stop to this mischievous
propaganda but some striking proof of the intention of her
Majesty's Government not to be ousted from its position in South

Such were the grave and measured words with which the British
pro-consul warned his countrymen of what was to come. He saw the
storm-cloud piling in the north, but even his eyes had not yet
discerned how near and how terrible was the tempest.

Throughout the end of June and the early part of July much was
hoped from the mediation of the heads of the Afrikander Bond, the
political union of the Dutch Cape colonists. On the one hand, they
were the kinsmen of the Boers; on the other, they were British
subjects, and were enjoying the blessings of those liberal
institutions which we were anxious to see extended to the
Transvaal. 'Only treat our folk as we treat yours! Our whole
contention was compressed into that prayer. But nothing came of the
mission, though a scheme endorsed by Mr. Hofmeyer and Mr. Herholdt,
of the Bond, with Mr. Fischer of the Free State, was introduced
into the Raad and applauded by Mr. Schreiner, the Africander
Premier of Cape Colony. In its original form the provisions were
obscure and complicated, the franchise varying from nine years to
seven under different conditions. In debate, however, the terms
were amended until the time was reduced to seven years, and the
proposed representation of the gold fields placed at five. The
concession was not a great one, nor could the representation, five
out of thirty-one, be considered a generous provision for the
majority of the population; but the reduction of the years of
residence was eagerly hailed in England as a sign that a compromise
might be effected. A sigh of relief went up from the country. 'If,'
said the Colonial Secretary, 'this report is confirmed, this
important change in the proposals of President Kruger, coupled with
previous amendments, leads Government to hope that the new law may
prove to be the basis of a settlement on the lines laid down by Sir
Alfred Milner in the Bloemfontein Conference.' He added that there
were some vexatious conditions attached, but concluded, 'Her
Majesty's Government feel assured that the President, having
accepted the principle for which they have contended, will be
prepared to reconsider any detail of his scheme which can be shown
to be a possible hindrance to the full accomplishment of the object
in view, and that he will not allow them to be nullified or reduced
in value by any subsequent alterations of the law or acts of
administration.' At the same time, the 'Times' declared the crisis
to be at an end. 'If the Dutch statesmen of the Cape have induced
their brethren in the Transvaal to carry such a Bill, they will
have deserved the lasting gratitude, not only of their own
countrymen and of the English colonists in South Africa, but of the
British Empire and of the civilised world.'

But this fair prospect was soon destined to be overcast. Questions
of detail arose which, when closely examined, proved to be matters
of very essential importance. The Uitlanders and British South
Africans, who had experienced in the past how illusory the promises
of the President might be, insisted upon guarantees. The seven
years offered were two years more than that which Sir Alfred Milner
had declared to be an irreducible minimum. The difference of two
years would not have hindered their acceptance, even at the expense
of some humiliation to our representative. But there were
conditions which excited distrust when drawn up by so wily a
diplomatist. One was that the alien who aspired to burghership had
to produce a certificate of continuous registration for a certain
time. But the law of registration had fallen into disuse in the
Transvaal, and consequently this provision might render the whole
Bill valueless. Since it was carefully retained, it was certainly
meant for use. The door had been opened, but a stone was placed to
block it. Again, the continued burghership of the newcomers was
made to depend upon the resolution of the first Raad, so that
should the mining members propose any measure of reform, not only
their Bill but they also might be swept out of the house by a Boer
majority. What could an Opposition do if a vote of the Government
might at any moment unseat them all? It was clear that a measure
which contained such provisions must be very carefully sifted
before a British Government could accept it as a final settlement
and a complete concession of justice to its subjects. On the other
hand, it naturally felt loth to refuse those clauses which offered
some prospect of an amelioration in their condition. It took the
course, therefore, of suggesting that each Government should
appoint delegates to form a joint commission which should inquire
into the working of the proposed Bill before it was put into a
final form. The proposal was submitted to the Raad upon August 7th,
with the addition that when this was done Sir Alfred Milner was
prepared to discuss anything else, including arbitration without
the interference of foreign powers.

The suggestion of this joint commission has been criticised as an
unwarrantable intrusion into the internal affairs of another
country. But then the whole question from the beginning was about
the internal affairs of another country, since the internal
equality of the white inhabitants was the condition upon which
self-government was restored to the Transvaal. It is futile to
suggest analogies, and to imagine what France would do if Germany
were to interfere in a question of French franchise. Supposing that
France contained as many Germans as Frenchmen, and that they were
ill-treated, Germany would interfere quickly enough and continue to
do so until some fair modus vivendi was established. The fact is
that the case of the Transvaal stands alone, that such a condition
of things has never been known, and that no previous precedent can
apply to it, save the general rule that a minority of white men
cannot continue indefinitely to tax and govern a majority.
Sentiment inclines to the smaller nation, but reason and justice
are all on the side of England.

A long delay followed upon the proposal of the Secretary of the
Colonies. No reply was forthcoming from Pretoria. But on all sides
there came evidence that those preparations for war which had been
quietly going on even before the Jameson raid were now being
hurriedly perfected. For so small a State enormous sums were being
spent upon military equipment. Cases of rifles and boxes of
cartridges streamed into the arsenal, not only from Delagoa Bay,
but even, to the indignation of the English colonists, through Cape
Town and Port Elizabeth. Huge packing-cases, marked 'Agricultural
Instruments' and 'Mining Machinery,' arrived from Germany and
France, to find their places in the forts of Johannesburg or
Pretoria. Men of many nations but of a similar type showed their
martial faces in the Boer towns. The condottieri of Europe were as
ready as ever to sell their blood for gold, and nobly in the end
did they fulfill their share of the bargain. For three weeks and
more during which Mr. Kruger was silent these eloquent preparations
went on. But beyond them, and of infinitely more importance, there
was one fact which dominated the situation. A burgher cannot go to
war without his horse, his horse cannot move without grass, grass
will not come until after rain, and it was still some weeks before
the rain would be due. Negotiations, then, must not be unduly
hurried while the veld was a bare russet-coloured dust-swept plain.
Mr. Chamberlain and the British public waited week after week for
their answer. But there was a limit to their patience, and it was
reached on August 26th, when the Colonial Secretary showed, with a
plainness of speech which is as unusual as it is welcome in
diplomacy, that the question could not be hung up for ever. 'The
sands are running down in the glass,' said he. 'If they run out, we
shall not hold ourselves limited by that which we have already
offered, but, having taken the matter in hand, we will not let it
go until we have secured conditions which once for all shall
establish which is the paramount power in South Africa, and shall
secure for our fellow-subjects there those equal rights and equal
privileges which were promised them by President Kruger when the
independence of the Transvaal was granted by the Queen, and which
is the least that in justice ought to be accorded them.' Lord
Salisbury, a little time before, had been equally emphatic. 'No one
in this country wishes to disturb the conventions so long as it is
recognised that while they guarantee the independence of the
Transvaal on the one side, they guarantee equal political and civil
rights for settlers of all nationalities upon the other. But these
conventions are not like the laws of the Medes and the Persians.
They are mortal, they can be destroyed. . .and once destroyed they
can never be reconstructed in the same shape.' The long-enduring
patience of Great Britain was beginning to show signs of giving

In the meantime a fresh dispatch had arrived from the Transvaal
which offered as an alternative proposal to the joint commission
that the Boer Government should grant the franchise proposals of
Sir Alfred Milner on condition that Great Britain withdrew or
dropped her claim to a suzerainty, agreed to arbitration, and
promised never again to interfere in the internal affairs of the
republic. To this Great Britain answered that she would agree to
arbitration, that she hoped never again to have occasion to
interfere for the protection of her own subjects, but that with the
grant of the franchise all occasion for such interference would
pass away, and, finally, that she would never consent to abandon
her position as suzerain power. Mr. Chamberlain's dispatch ended by
reminding the Government of the Transvaal that there were other
matters of dispute open between the two Governments apart from the
franchise, and that it would be as well to have them settled at the
same time. By these he meant such questions as the position of the
native races and the treatment of Anglo-Indians.

On September 2nd the answer of the Transvaal Government was
returned. It was short and uncompromising. They withdrew their
offer of the franchise. They re-asserted the non-existence of the
suzerainty. The negotiations were at a deadlock. It was difficult
to see how they could be re-opened. In view of the arming of the
burghers, the small garrison of Natal had been taking up positions
to cover the frontier. The Transvaal asked for an explanation of
their presence. Sir Alfred Milner answered that they were guarding
British interests, and preparing against contingencies. The roar of
the fall was sounding loud and near.

On September 8th there was held a Cabinet Council--one of the most
important in recent years. A message was sent to Pretoria, which
even the opponents of the Government have acknowledged to be
temperate, and offering the basis for a peaceful settlement. It
begins by repudiating emphatically the claim of the Transvaal to be
a sovereign international State in the same sense in which the
Orange Free State is one. Any proposal made conditional upon such
an acknowledgment could not be entertained.

The British Government, however, was prepared to accept the five
years' 'franchise' as stated in the note of August 19th, assuming
at the same time that in the Raad each member might talk his own

'Acceptance of these terms by the South African Republic would at
once remove tension between the two Governments, and would in all
probability render unnecessary any future intervention to secure
redress for grievances which the Uitlanders themselves would be
able to bring to the notice of the Executive Council and the

'Her Majesty's Government are increasingly impressed with the
danger of further delay in relieving the strain which has already
caused so much injury to the interests of South Africa, and they
earnestly press for an immediate and definite reply to the present
proposal. If it is acceded to they will be ready to make immediate
arrangements. . .to settle all details of the proposed tribunal of
arbitration. . .If, however, as they most anxiously hope will not
be the case, the reply of the South African Republic should be
negative or inconclusive, I am to state that 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

Such was the message, and Great Britain waited with strained
attention for the answer. But again there was a delay, while the
rain came and the grass grew, and the veld was as a mounted
rifleman would have it. The burghers were in no humour for
concessions. They knew their own power, and they concluded with
justice that they were for the time far the strongest military
power in South Africa. 'We have beaten England before, but it is
nothing to the licking we shall give her now,' cried a prominent
citizen, and he spoke for his country as he said it. So the empire
waited and debated, but the sounds of the bugle were already
breaking through the wrangles of the politicians, and calling the
nation to be tested once more by that hammer of war and adversity
by which Providence still fashions us to some nobler and higher



The message sent from the Cabinet Council of September 8th was
evidently the precursor either of peace or of war. The cloud must
burst or blow over. As the nation waited in hushed expectancy for a
reply it spent some portion of its time in examining and
speculating upon those military preparations which might be needed.
The War Office had for some months been arranging for every
contingency, and had made certain dispositions which appeared to
them to be adequate, but which our future experience was to
demonstrate to be far too small for the very serious matter in

It is curious in turning over the files of such a paper as the
'Times' to observe how at first one or two small paragraphs of
military significance might appear in the endless columns of
diplomatic and political reports, how gradually they grew and grew,
until at last the eclipse was complete, and the diplomacy had been
thrust into the tiny paragraphs while the war filled the journal.
Under July 7th comes the first glint of arms amid the drab monotony
of the state papers. On that date it was announced that two
companies of Royal Engineers and departmental corps with reserves
of supplies and ammunition were being dispatched. Two companies of
engineers! Who could have foreseen that they were the vanguard of
the greatest army which ever at any time of the world's history has
crossed an ocean, and far the greatest which a British general has
commanded in the field?

On August 15th, at a time when the negotiations had already assumed
a very serious phase, after the failure of the Bloemfontein
conference and the dispatch of Sir Alfred Milner, the British
forces in South Africa were absolutely and absurdly inadequate for
the purpose of the defence of our own frontier. Surely such a fact
must open the eyes of those who, in spite of all the evidence,
persist that the war was forced on by the British. A statesman who
forces on a war usually prepares for a war, and this is exactly
what Mr. Kruger did and the British authorities did not. The
overbearing suzerain power had at that date, scattered over a huge
frontier, two cavalry regiments, three field batteries, and six and
a half infantry battalions--say six thousand men. The innocent
pastoral States could put in the field forty or fifty thousand
mounted riflemen, whose mobility doubled their numbers, and a most
excellent artillery, including the heaviest guns which have ever
been seen upon a battlefield. At this time it is most certain that
the Boers could have made their way easily either to Durban or to
Cape Town. The British force, condemned to act upon the defensive,
could have been masked and afterwards destroyed, while the main
body of the invaders would have encountered nothing but an
irregular local resistance, which would have been neutralised by
the apathy or hostility of the Dutch colonists. It is extraordinary
that our authorities seem never to have contemplated the
possibility of the Boers taking the initiative, or to have
understood that in that case our belated reinforcements would
certainly have had to land under the fire of the republican guns.

In July Natal had taken alarm, and a strong representation had been
sent from the prime minister of the colony to the Governor, Sir W.
Hely Hutchinson, and so to the Colonial Office. It was notorious
that the Transvaal was armed to the teeth, that the Orange Free
State was likely to join her, and that there had been strong
attempts made, both privately and through the press, to alienate
the loyalty of the Dutch citizens of both the British colonies.
Many sinister signs were observed by those upon the spot. The veld
had been burned unusually early to ensure a speedy grass-crop after
the first rains, there had been a collecting of horses, a
distribution of rifles and ammunition. The Free State farmers, who
graze their sheep and cattle upon Natal soil during the winter, had
driven them off to places of safety behind the line of the
Drakensberg. Everything pointed to approaching war, and Natal
refused to be satisfied even by the dispatch of another regiment.
On September 6th a second message was received at the Colonial
Office, which states the case with great clearness and precision.

'The Prime Minister desires me to urge upon you by the unanimous
advice of the Ministers that sufficient troops should be dispatched
to Natal immediately to enable the colony to be placed in a state
of defence against an attack from the Transvaal and the Orange Free
State. I am informed by the General Officer Commanding, Natal, that
he will not have enough troops, even when the Manchester Regiment
arrives, to do more than occupy Newcastle and at the same time
protect the colony south of it from raids, while Laing's Nek,
Ingogo River and Zululand must be left undefended. My Ministers
know that every preparation has been made, both in the Transvaal
and the Orange Free State, which would enable an attack to be made
on Natal at short notice. My Ministers believe that the Boers have
made up their minds that war will take place almost certainly, and
their best chance will be, when it seems unavoidable, to deliver a
blow before reinforcements have time to arrive. Information has
been received that raids in force will be made by way of Middle
Drift and Greytown and by way of Bond's Drift and Stangar, with a
view to striking the railway between Pietermaritzburg and Durban
and cutting off communications of troops and supplies. Nearly all
the Orange Free State farmers in the Klip River division, who stay
in the colony usually till October at least, have trekked, at great
loss to themselves; their sheep are lambing on the road, and the
lambs die or are destroyed. Two at least of the Entonjanani
district farmers have trekked with all their belongings into the
Transvaal, in the first case attempting to take as hostages the
children of the natives on the farm. Reliable reports have been
received of attempts to tamper with loyal natives, and to set tribe
against tribe in order to create confusion and detail the defensive
forces of the colony. Both food and warlike stores in large
quantities have been accumulated at Volksrust, Vryheid and
Standerton. Persons who are believed to be spies have been seen
examining the bridges on the Natal Railway, and it is known that
there are spies in all the principal centres of the colony. In the
opinion of Ministers, such a catastrophe as the seizure of Laing's
Nek and the destruction of the northern portion of the railway, or
a successful raid or invasion such as they have reason to believe
is contemplated, would produce a most demoralising effect on the
natives and on the loyal Europeans in the colony, and would afford
great encouragement to the Boers and to their sympathisers in the
colonies, who, although armed and prepared, will probably keep
quiet unless they receive some encouragement of the sort. They
concur in the policy of her Majesty's Government of exhausting all
peaceful means to obtain redress of the grievances of the
Uitlanders and authoritatively assert the supremacy of Great
Britain before resorting to war; but they state that this is a
question of defensive precaution, not of making war.'

In answer to these and other remonstrances the garrison of Natal
was gradually increased, partly by troops from Europe, and partly
by the dispatch of five thousand British troops from India. The 2nd
Berkshires, the 1st Royal Munster Fusiliers, the 1st Manchesters,
and the 2nd Dublin Fusiliers arrived in succession with
reinforcements of artillery. The 5th Dragoon Guards, 9th Lancers,
and 19th Hussars came from India, with the 1st Devonshires, 1st
Gloucesters, 2nd King's Royal Rifles and 2nd Gordon Highlanders.
These with the 21st, 42nd, and 53rd batteries of Field Artillery
made up the Indian Contingent. Their arrival late in September
raised the number of troops in South Africa to 22,000, a force
which was inadequate to a contest in the open field with the
numerous, mobile, and gallant enemy to whom they were to be
opposed, but which proved to be strong enough to stave off that
overwhelming disaster which, with our fuller knowledge, we can now
see to have been impending.

As to the disposition of these troops a difference of opinion broke
out between the ruling powers in Natal and the military chiefs at
the spot. Prince Kraft has said, 'Both strategy and tactics may
have to yield to politics '; but the political necessity should be
very grave and very clear when it is the blood of soldiers which
has to pay for it. Whether it arose from our defective
intelligence, or from that caste feeling which makes it hard for
the professional soldier to recognise (in spite of deplorable past
experiences) a serious adversary in the mounted farmer, it is
certain that even while our papers were proclaiming that this time,
at least, we would not underrate our enemy, we were most seriously
underrating him. The northern third of Natal is as vulnerable a
military position as a player of kriegspiel could wish to have
submitted to him. It runs up into a thin angle, culminating at the
apex in a difficult pass, the ill-omened Laing's Nek, dominated by
the even more sinister bulk of Majuba. Each side of this angle is
open to invasion, the one from the Transvaal and the other from the
Orange Free State. A force up at the apex is in a perfect trap, for
the mobile enemy can flood into the country to the south of them,
cut the line of supplies, and throw up a series of entrenchments
which would make retreat a very difficult matter. Further down the
country, at such positions as Ladysmith or Dundee, the danger,
though not so imminent, is still an obvious one, unless the
defending force is strong enough to hold its own in the open field
and mobile enough to prevent a mounted enemy from getting round its
flanks. To us, who are endowed with that profound military wisdom
which only comes with a knowledge of the event, it is obvious that
with a defending force which could not place more than 12,000 men
in the fighting line, the true defensible frontier was the line of
the Tugela. As a matter of fact, Ladysmith was chosen, a place
almost indefensible itself, as it is dominated by high hills in at
least two directions.

Such an event as the siege of the town appears never to have been
contemplated, as no guns of position were asked for or sent. In
spite of this, an amount of stores, which is said to have been
valued at more than a million of pounds, was dumped down at this
small railway junction, so that the position could not be evacuated
without a crippling loss. The place was the point of bifurcation of
the main line, which divides at this little town into one branch
running to Harrismith in the Orange Free State, and the other
leading through the Dundee coal fields and Newcastle to the Laing's
Nek tunnel and the Transvaal. An importance, which appears now to
have been an exaggerated one, was attached by the Government of
Natal to the possession of the coal fields, and it was at their
strong suggestion, but with the concurrence of General Penn Symons,
that the defending force was divided, and a detachment of between
three and four thousand sent to Dundee, about forty miles from the
main body, which remained under General Sir George White at
Ladysmith. General Symons underrated the power of the invaders, but
it is hard to criticise an error of judgment which has been so
nobly atoned and so tragically paid for. At the time, then, which
our political narrative has reached, the time of suspense which
followed the dispatch of the Cabinet message of September 8th, the
military situation had ceased to be desperate, but was still
precarious. Twenty-two thousand regular troops were on the spot who
might hope to be reinforced by some ten thousand colonials, but
these forces had to cover a great frontier, the attitude of Cape
Colony was by no means whole-hearted and might become hostile,
while the black population might conceivably throw in its weight
against us. Only half the regulars could be spared to defend Natal,
and no reinforcements could reach them in less than a month from
the outbreak of hostilities. If Mr. Chamberlain was really playing
a game of bluff, it must be confessed that he was bluffing from a
very weak hand.

For purposes of comparison we may give some idea of the forces
which Mr. Kruger and Mr. Steyn could put in the field, for by this
time it was evident that the Orange Free State, with which we had
had no shadow of a dispute, was going, in a way which some would
call wanton and some chivalrous, to throw in its weight against us.
The general press estimate of the forces of the two republics


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