Meet us on:
Entire Site
    Try our fun game

    Dueling book covers…may the best design win!

    Random Quote
    "The world is my country, all mankind are my brethren, and to do good is my religion."

    Subscribe to Our Newsletter

    Follow us on Twitter

    Never miss a good book again! Follow Read Print on Twitter

    Chapter 1

    • Rate it:
    • 2 Favorites on Read Print
    Launch Reading Mode Next Chapter
    Chapter 2
    Previous Chapter

    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 him.

    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 Emigrés, 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 Empire.

    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 p05session
    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 bad 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

    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 Bent 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 veldt.
    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

    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 ~ futile
    resistance at Boomplats, 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 Church.

    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 soldiers.

    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

    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 repetition.

    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.
    Next Chapter
    Chapter 2
    Previous Chapter
    If you're writing a Arthur Conan Doyle essay and need some advice, post your Arthur Conan Doyle essay question on our Facebook page where fellow bookworms are always glad to help!

    Top 5 Authors

    Top 5 Books

    Book Status
    Want to read

    Are you sure you want to leave this group?