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    Chapter 4

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    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 hand.

    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 veldt 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

    '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

    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 varied from 25,000
    to 35,000 men. Mr. J. B. Robinson, a personal friend of President
    Kruger's and a man who had spent much of his life among the Boers,
    considered the latter estimate to be too high. The calculation had no
    assured basis to start from. A very scattered and isolated
    population, among whom large families were the rule, is a most
    difficult thing to estimate. Some reckoned from the supposed natural
    increase during eighteen years, but the figure given at that date was
    itself an assumption. Others took their calculation from the number
    of voters in the last presidential election: but no one could tell how
    many abstentions there had been, and the fighting age is five years
    earlier than the voting age in the republics. We recognise now that
    all calculations were far below the true figure. It is probable,
    however, that the information of the British Intelligence Department
    was not far wrong. According to this the fighting strength of the
    Transvaal alone was 32,000 men, and of the Orange Free State
    22,000. With mercenaries and rebels from the colonies they would
    amount to 60,000, while a considerable rising of the Cape Dutch would
    bring them up to 100,000. In artillery they were known to have about a
    hundred guns, many of them (and the fact will need much explaining)
    more modern and powerful than any which we could bring against them.
    Of the quality of this large force there is no need to speak. The men
    were brave, hardy, and fired with a strange religious enthusiasm. They
    were all of the seventeenth century, except their rifles. Mounted
    upon their hardy little ponies, they possessed a mobility which
    practically doubled their numbers and made it an impossibility ever to
    outflank them. As marksmen they were supreme. Add to this that they
    had the advantage of acting upon internal lines with shorter and safer
    communications, and one gathers how formidable a task lay before the
    soldiers of the empire. When we turn from such an enumeration of their
    strength to contemplate the 12,000 men, split into two detachments,
    who awaited them in Natal, we may recognise that, far from bewailing
    our disasters, we should rather congratulate ourselves upon our escape
    from losing that great province which, situated as it is between
    Britain, India, and Australia, must be regarded as the very keystone
    of the imperial arch.

    At the risk of a tedious but very essential digression, something must
    be said here as to the motives with which the Boers had for many years
    been quietly preparing for war. That the Jameson raid was not the
    cause is certain, though it probably, by putting the Boer Government
    into a strong position, had a great effect in accelerating matters.
    What had been done secretly and slowly could be done more swiftly and
    openly when so plausible an excuse could be given for it. As a matter
    of fact, the preparations were long antecedent to the raid. The
    building of the forts at Pretoria and Johannesburg was begun nearly
    two years before that wretched incursion, and the importation of arms
    was going on apace. In that very year, 1895, a considerable sum was
    spent in military equipment.

    But if it was not the raid, and if the Boers had no reason to fear the
    British Government, with whom the Transvaal might have been as
    friendly as the Orange Free State had been for forty years, why then
    should they arm? It was a difficult question, and one in answering
    which we find ourselves in a region of conjecture and suspicion rather
    than of ascertained fact. But the fairest and most unbiased of
    historians must confess that there is a large body of evidence to show
    that into the heads of some of the Dutch leaders, both in the northern
    republics and in the Cape, there had entered the conception of a
    single Dutch commonwealth, extending from Cape Town to the Zambesi, in
    which flag, speech, and law should all be Dutch. It is in this
    aspiration that many shrewd and well-informed judges see the true
    inner meaning of this persistent arming, of the constant hostility, of
    the forming of ties between the two republics (one of whom had been
    reconstituted and made a sovereign independent State by our own act),
    and finally of that intriguing which endeavoured to poison the
    affection and allegiance of our own Dutch colonists, who had no
    political grievances whatever. They all aimed at one end, and that end
    was the final expulsion of British power from South Africa and the
    formation of a single great Dutch republic. The large sum spent by
    the Transvaal in secret service money -- a larger sum, I believe, than
    that which is spent by the whole British Empire -- would give some
    idea of the subterranean influences at work. An army of emissaries,
    agents, and spies, whatever their mission, were certainly spread over
    the British colonies. Newspapers were subsidised also, and
    considerable sums spent upon the press in France and Germany.

    In the very nature of things a huge conspiracy of this sort to
    substitute Dutch for British rule in South Africa is not a matter
    which can be easily and definitely proved. Such questions are not
    discussed in public documents, and men are sounded before being taken
    into the confidence of the conspirators. But there is plenty of
    evidence of the individual ambition of prominent and representative
    men in this direction, and it is hard to believe that what many wanted
    individually was not striven for collectively, especially when we see
    how the course of events did actually work towards the end which they
    indicated. Mr. J. P. FitzPatrick, in 'The Transvaal from Within ' --
    a book to which all subsequent writers upon the subject must
    acknowledge their obligations -- narrates how in 1896 he was
    approached by Mr. D. P. Graaff, formerly a member of the Cape
    Legislative Council and a very prominent Afrikander Bondsman, with the
    proposition that Great Britain should be pushed out of South Africa.
    The same politician made the same proposal to Mr. Beit. Compare with
    this the following statement of Mr. Theodore Schreiner, the brother of
    the Prime Minister of the Cape:

    'I met Mr. Reitz, then a judge of the Orange Free State, in
    Bloemfontein between seventeen and eighteen years ago, shortly after
    the retrocession of the Transvaal, and when he was busy establishing
    the Afrikander Bond. It must be patent to every one that at that time,
    at all events, England and its Government had no intention of taking
    away the independence of the Transvaal, for she had just
    "magnanimously" granted the same; no intention of making war on the
    republics, for she had just made peace; no intention to seize the Rand
    gold fields, for they were not yet discovered. At that time, then, I
    met Mr. Reitz, and he did his best to get me to become a member of his
    Afrikander Bond, but, after studying its constitution and programme, I
    refused to do so, whereupon the following colloquy in substance took
    place between us, which has been indelibly imprinted on my mind ever

    'REITZ: Why do you refuse? Is the object of getting the people to take
    an interest in political matters not a good one?

    'MYSELF: Yes, it is ; but I seem to see plainly here between the lines
    of this constitution much more ultimately aimed at than that.

    'REITZ : What?

    'MYSELF: I see quite clearly that the ultimate object aimed at is the
    overthrow of the British power and the expulsion of the British flag
    from South Africa.

    'REITZ (with his pleasant conscious smile, as of one whose secret
    thought and purpose had been discovered, and who was not altogether
    displeased that such was the case) : Well, what if it is so?

    'MYSELF: You don't suppose, do you, that that flag is going to
    disappear from South Africa without a tremendous struggle and fight?

    'REITZ (with the same pleasant self-conscious, self satisfied, and yet
    semi-apologetic smile) : Well, I suppose not; but even so, what of

    'MYSELF: Only this, that when that struggle takes place you and I will
    be on opposite sides; and what is more, the God who was on the side of
    the Transvaal in the late war, because it had right on its side will
    be on the side of England, because He must view with abhorrence any
    plotting and scheming to overthrow her power and position in South
    Africa, which have been ordained by Him.

    'REITZ : We'll see.

    'Thus the conversation ended, but during the seventeen years that have
    elapsed I have watched the propaganda for the overthrow of British
    power in South Africa being ceaselessly spread by every possible means
    -- the press, the pulpit, the platform, the schools, the colleges, the
    Legislature -- until it has culminated in the present war, of which
    Mr. Reitz and his co-workers are the origin and the cause. Believe me,
    the day on which F. W. Reitz sat down to pen his ultimatum to Great
    Britain was the proudest and happiest moment of his life, and one
    which had for long years been looked forward to by him with eager
    longing and expectation.'

    Compare with these utterances of a Dutch politician of the Cape, and
    of a Dutch politician of the Orange Free State, the following passage
    from a speech delivered by Kruger at Bloemfontein in the year 1887:

    'I think it too soon to speak of a United South Africa under one flag.
    Which flag was it to be? The Queen of England would object to having
    her flag hauled down, and we, the burghers of the Transvaal, object to
    hauling ours down. What is to be done? We are now small and of little
    importance, but we are growing, and are preparing the way to take our
    place among the great nations of the world.'

    'The dream of our life,' said another, 'is a union of the States of
    South Africa, and this has to come from within, not from without. When
    that is accomplished, South Africa will be great.'

    Always the same theory from all quarters of Dutch thought, to be
    followed by many signs that the idea was being prepared for in
    practice. I repeat that the fairest and most unbiased historian
    cannot dismiss the conspiracy as a myth.

    And to this one may retort, why should they not conspire? Why should
    they not have their own views as to the future of South Africa? Why
    should they not endeavour to have one universal flag and one common
    speech? Why should they not win over our colonists, if they can, and
    push us into the sea? I see no reason why they should not. Let them
    try if they will. And let us try to prevent them. But let us have an
    end of talk about British aggression, of capitalist designs upon the
    gold fields, of the wrongs of a pastoral people, and all the other
    veils which have been used to cover the issue. Let those who talk
    about British designs upon the republics turn their attention for a
    moment to the evidence which there is for republican designs upon the
    colonies. Let them reflect that in the one system all white men are
    equal, and that on the other the minority of one race has persecuted
    the majority of the other, and let them consider under which the
    truest freedom lies, which stands for universal liberty and which for
    reaction and racial hatred. Let them ponder and answer all this
    before they determine where their sympathies lie.

    Leaving these wider questions of politics, and dismissing for the time
    those military considerations which were soon to be of such vital
    moment, we may now return to the course of events in the diplomatic
    struggle between the Government of the Transvaal and the Colonial
    Office. On September 8th, as already narrated, a final message was
    sent to Pretoria, which stated the minimum terms which the British
    Government could accept as being a fair concession to her subjects in
    the Transvaal. A definite answer was demanded, and the nation waited
    with sombre patience for the reply.

    There were few illusions in this country as to the difficulties of a
    Transvaal war. It was clearly seen that little honour and immense
    vexation were in store for us. The first Boer war still smarted in our
    minds, and we knew the prowess of the indomitable burghers. But our
    people, if gloomy, were none the less resolute, for that national
    instinct which is beyond the wisdom of statesmen had borne it in upon
    them that this was no local quarrel, but one upon which the whole
    existence of the empire hung. The cohesion of that empire was to be
    tested. Men had emptied their glasses to it in time of peace. Was it
    a meaningless pouring of wine, or were they ready to pour their
    hearts' blood also in time of war? Had we really founded a series of
    disconnected nations, with no common sentiment or interest, or was the
    empire an organic whole, as ready to thrill with one emotion or to
    harden into one resolve as are the several States of the Union? That
    was the question at issue, and much of the future history of the world
    was at stake upon the answer.

    Already there were indications that the colonies appreciated the fact
    that the contention was no affair of the mother country alone, but
    that she was upholding the rights of the empire as a whole, and might
    fairly look to them to support her in any quarrel which might arise
    from it. As early as July 11th, Queensland, the fiery and
    semitropical, had offered a contingent of mounted infantry with
    machine guns; New Zealand, Western Australia, Tasmania, Victoria, New
    South Wales, and South Australia followed in the order named. Canada,
    with the strong but more deliberate spirit of the north, was the last
    to speak, but spoke the more firmly for the delay. Her citizens were
    the least concerned of any, for Australians were many in South Africa
    but Canadians few. None the less, she cheerfully took her share of the
    common burden, and grew the readier and the cheerier as that burden
    came to weigh more heavily. From all the men of many hues who make up
    the British Empire, from Hindoo Rajahs, from West African Houssas,
    from Malay police, from Western Indians, there came offers of service.
    But this was to be a white man's war, and if the British could not
    work out their own salvation then it were well that empire should pass
    from such a race. The magnificent Indian army of 150,000 soldiers,
    many of them seasoned veterans, was for the same reason left
    untouched. England has claimed no credit or consideration for such
    abstention, but an irresponsible writer may well ask how many of those
    foreign critics whose respect for our public morality appears to be as
    limited as their knowledge of our principles and history would have
    advocated such self denial had their own countries been placed in the
    same position.

    On September 18th the official reply of the Boer Government to the
    message sent from the Cabinet Council was published in London. In
    manner it was unbending and unconciliatory; in substance, it was a
    complete rejection of all the British demands. It refused to
    recommend or propose to the Raad the five years' franchise and the
    other measures which had been defined as the minimum which the Home
    Government could accept as a fair measure of justice towards the
    Uitlanders. The suggestion that the debates of the Raad should be
    bilingual, as they have been in the Cape Colony and in Canada, was
    absolutely waived aside. The British Government had stated in their
    last dispatch that if the reply should be negative or inconclusive
    they reserved to themselves the right to 'reconsider the situation DE
    NOVO and to formulate their own proposals for a final settlement.' The
    reply had been both negative and inconclusive, and on September 22nd a
    council met to determine what the next message should be. It was short
    and firm, but so planned as not to shut the door upon peace. Its
    purport was that the British Government expressed deep regret at the
    rejection of the moderate proposals which had been submitted in their
    last dispatch, and that now, in accordance with their promise, they
    would shortly put forward their own plans for a settlement. The
    message was not an ultimatum, but it foreshadowed an ultimatum in the

    In the meantime, upon September 21st the Raad of the Orange Free State
    had met, and it became more and more evident that this republic, with
    whom we had no possible quarrel, but, on the contrary, for whom we had
    a great deal of friendship and admiration, intended to throw in its
    weight against Great Britain. Some time before, an offensive and
    defensive alliance had been concluded between the two States, which
    must, until the secret history of these events comes to be written,
    appear to have been a singularly rash and unprofitable bargain for the
    smaller one. She had nothing to fear from Great Britain, since she had
    been voluntarily turned into an independent republic by her and had
    lived in peace with her for forty years. Her laws were as liberal as
    our own. But by this suicidal treaty she agreed to share the fortunes
    of a State which was deliberately courting war by its persistently
    unfriendly attitude, and whose reactionary and narrow legislation
    would, one might imagine, have alienated the sympathy of her
    progressive neighbour. There may have been ambitions like those
    already quoted from the report of Dr. Reitz's conversation, or there
    may have been a complete hallucination as to the comparative strength
    of the two combatants and the probable future of South Africa; but
    however that may be, the treaty was made, and the time had come to
    test how far it would hold.

    The tone of President Steyn at the meeting of the Raad, and the
    support which he received from the majority of his burghers, showed
    unmistakably that the two republics would act as one. In his opening
    speech Steyn declared uncompromisingly against the British contention,
    and declared that his State was bound to the Transvaal by everything
    which was near and dear. Among the obvious military precautions which
    could no longer be neglected by the British Government was the sending
    of some small force to protect the long and exposed line of railway
    which lies just outside the Transvaal border from Kimberley to
    Rhodesia. Sir Alfred Milner communicated with President Steyn as to
    this movement of troops, pointing out that it was in no way directed
    against the Free State. Sir Alfred Milner added that the Imperial
    Government was still hopeful of a friendly settlement with the
    Transvaal, but if this hope were disappointed they looked to the
    Orange Free State to preserve strict neutrality and to prevent
    military intervention by any of its citizens. They undertook that in
    that case the integrity of the Free State frontier would be strictly
    preserved. Finally, he stated that there was absolutely no cause to
    disturb the good relations between the Free State and Great Britain,
    since we were animated by the most friendly intentions towards
    them. To this the President returned a somewhat ungracious answer, to
    the effect that he disapproved of our action towards the Transvaal,
    and that he regretted the movement of troops, which would be
    considered a menace by the burghers. A subsequent resolution of the
    Free State Raad, ending with the words, 'Come what may, the Free State
    will honestly and faithfully fulfill its obligations towards the
    Transvaal by virtue of the political alliance existing between the two
    republics,' showed how impossible it was that this country, formed by
    ourselves and without a shadow of a cause of quarrel with us, could be
    saved from being drawn into the whirlpool. Everywhere, from over both
    borders, came the news of martial preparations. Already at the end of
    September troops and armed burghers were gathering upon the frontier,
    and the most incredulous were beginning at last to understand that the
    shadow of a great war was really falling across them. Artillery, war
    munitions, and stores were being accumulated at Volksrust upon the
    Natal border, showing where the storm might be expected to break. On
    the last day of September, twenty-six military trains were reported to
    have left Pretoria and Johannesburg for that point. At the same time
    news came of a concentration at Malmani, upon the Bechuanaland border,
    threatening the railway line and the British town of Mafeking, a name
    destined before long to be familiar to the world.

    On October 3rd there occurred what was in truth an act of war,
    although the British Government, patient to the verge of weakness,
    refused to regard it as such, and continued to draw up their final
    state paper. The mail train from the Transvaal to Cape Town was
    stopped at Vereeniging, and the week's shipment of gold for England,
    amounting to about half a million pounds, was taken by the Boer
    Government. In a debate at Cape Town upon the same day the Africander
    Minister of the Interior admitted that as many as 404 trucks had
    passed from the Government line over the frontier and had not been
    returned. Taken in conjunction with the passage of arms and cartridges
    through the Cape to Pretoria and Bloemfontein, this incident aroused
    the deepest indignation among the Colonial English and the British
    public, which was increased by the reports of the difficulty which
    border towns, such as Kimberley and Vryburg, had had in getting cannon
    for their own defence. The Raads had been dissolved, and the old
    President's last words had been a statement that war was certain, and
    a stern invocation of the Lord as final arbiter. England was ready
    less obtrusively but no less heartily to refer the quarrel to the same
    dread Judge.

    On October 2nd President Steyn informed Sir Alfred Milner that he had
    deemed it necessary to call out the Free State burghers -- that is, to
    mobilise his forces. Sir A. Milner wrote regretting these
    preparations, and declaring that he did not yet despair of peace, for
    he was sure that any reasonable proposal would be favourably
    considered by her Majesty's Government. Steyn's reply was that there
    was no use in negotiating unless the stream of British reinforcements
    ceased coming into South Africa. As our forces were still in a great
    minority, it was impossible to stop the reinforcements, so the
    correspondence led to nothing. On October 7th the army reserves for
    the First Army Corps were called out in Great Britain and other signs
    shown that it had been determined to send a considerable force to
    South Africa. Parliament was also summoned that the formal national
    assent might be gained for those grave measures which were evidently

    It was on October 9th that the somewhat leisurely proceedings of the
    British Colonial Office were brought to a head by the arrival of an
    unexpected and audacious ultimatum from the Boer Government. In
    contests of wit, as of arms, it must be confessed that the laugh has
    been usually upon the side of our simple and pastoral South African
    neighbours. The present instance was no exception to the rule. While
    our Government was cautiously and patiently leading up to an
    ultimatum, our opponent suddenly played the very card which we were
    preparing to lay upon the table. The document was very firm and
    explicit, but the terms in which it was drawn were so impossible that
    it was evidently framed with the deliberate purpose of forcing an
    immediate war. It demanded that the troops upon the borders of the
    republic should be instantly withdrawn, that all reinforcements which
    had arrived within the last year should leave South Africa, and that
    those who were now upon the sea should be sent back without being
    landed. Failing a satisfactory answer within forty-eight hours, 'the
    Transvaal Government will with great regret be compelled to regard the
    action of her Majesty's Government as a formal declaration of war, for
    the consequences of which it will not hold itself responsible.' The
    audacious message was received throughout the empire with a mixture of
    derision and anger. The answer was dispatched next day through Sir
    Alfred Milner.

    '10th October.-- Her Majesty's Government have received with great
    regret the peremptory demands of the Government of the South African
    Republic, conveyed in your telegram of the 9th October. You will
    inform the Government of the South African Republic in reply that the
    conditions demanded by the Government of the South African Republic
    are such as her Majesty's Government deem it impossible to discuss.'

    And so we have come to the end of the long road, past the battle of
    the pens and the wrangling of tongues, to the arbitration of the
    Lee-Metford and the Mauser. It was pitiable that it should come to
    this. These people were as near akin to us as any race which is not
    our own. They were of the same Frisian stock which peopled our own
    shores. In habit of mind, in religion, in respect for law, they were
    as ourselves. Brave, too, they were, and hospitable, with those
    sporting instincts which are dear to the Anglo-Celtic race. There was
    no people in the world who had more qualities which we might admire,
    and not the least of them was that love of independence which it is
    our proudest boast' that we have encouraged in others as well as
    exercised ourselves. And yet we had come to this pass, that there was
    no room in all vast South Africa for both of us. We cannot hold
    ourselves blameless in the matter. ' The evil that men do lives after
    them,' and it has been told in this small superficial sketch where we
    have erred in the past in South Africa. On our hands, too, is the
    Jameson raid, carried out by Englishmen and led by officers who held
    the Queen's Commission; to us, also, the blame of the shuffling,
    half-hearted inquiry into that most unjustifiable business. These are
    matches which helped to set the great blaze alight, and it is we who
    held them. Rut the fagots which proved to be so inflammable, they
    were not of our setting. They were the wrongs done to half the
    community, the settled resolution of the minority to tax and vex the
    majority, the determination of a people who had lived two generations
    in a country to claim that country entirely for themselves. Behind
    them all there may have been the Dutch ambition to dominate South
    Africa. It was no petty object for which Britain fought. When a nation
    struggles uncomplainingly through months of disaster she may claim to
    have proved her conviction of the justice and necessity of the
    struggle. Should Dutch ideas or English ideas of government prevail
    throughout that huge country? The one means freedom for a single race,
    the other means equal rights to all white men beneath one common
    law. What each means to the coloured races let history declare. This
    was the main issue to be determined from the instant that the clock
    struck five upon the afternoon of Wednesday, October the eleventh,
    eighteen hundred and ninety-nine. That moment marked the opening of a
    war destined to determine the fate of South Africa, to work great
    changes in the British Empire, to seriously affect the future history
    of the world, and incidentally to alter many of our views as to the
    art of war. It is the story of this war which, with limited material
    but with much aspiration to care and candour, I shall now endeavour to
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