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    Chapter 39

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    Chapter 40
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    It only remains in one short chapter to narrate the progress of the
    peace negotiations, the ultimate settlement, and the final
    consequences of this long-drawn war. However disheartening the
    successive incidents may have been in which the Boers were able to
    inflict heavy losses upon us and to renew their supplies of arms and
    ammunition, it was none the less certain that their numbers were
    waning and that the inevitable end was steadily approaching. With
    mathematical precision the scientific soldier in Pretoria, with his
    web of barbed wire radiating out over the whole country, was week by
    week wearing them steadily down. And yet after the recent victory of
    De la Rey and various braggadocio pronouncements from the refugees at
    The Hague, it was somewhat of a surprise to the British public when it
    was announced upon March 22nd that the acting Government of the
    Transvaal, consisting of Messrs. Schalk Burger, Lucas Meyer, Reitz,
    Jacoby, Krogh, and Van Velden had come into Middelburg and requested
    to be forwarded by train to Pretoria for the purpose of discussing
    terms of peace with Lord Kitchener. A thrill of hope ran through the
    Empire at the news, but so doubtful did the issue seem that none of
    the preparations were relaxed which would ensure a vigorous campaign
    in the immediate future. In the South African as in the Peninsular
    and in the Crimean wars, it may truly be said that Great Britain was
    never so ready to fight as at the dawning of peace. At least two
    years of failure and experience are needed to turn a civilian and
    commercial nation into a military power.

    In spite of the optimistic pronouncements of Mr. Fischer and the
    absurd forecasts of Dr. Leyds the power of the Boers was really
    broken, and they had come in with the genuine intention of surrender.
    In a race with such was not enough that the
    government should form its conclusion. It was necessary for them to
    persuade their burghers that the game was really up, and that they had
    no choice but to throw down their well-worn rifles and their
    ill-filled bandoliers. For this purpose a long series of negotiations
    had to be entered into which put a strain upon the complacency of the
    authorities in South Africa and upon the patience of the attentive
    public at home. Their ultimate success shows that this complacency
    and this patience were eminantly the right attitude to adopt.

    On March 23rd the Transvaal representatives were despatched to
    Kroonstad for the purpose of opening up the matter with Steyn and De
    Wet. Messengers were sent to communicate with these two leaders, but
    had they been British columns instead of fellow-countrymen they could
    not have found greater difficulty in running them to earth. At last,
    however, at the end of the month the message was conveyed, and
    resulted in the appearance of De Wet, De la Rey, and Steyn at the
    British outposts at Klerksdorp. The other delegates had come north
    again from Kroonstad, and all were united in the same small town,
    which, by a whimsical fate, had suddenly become the centre both for
    the making of peace and for the prosecution of the war, with the eyes
    of the whole world fixed upon its insignificant litter of houses. On
    April 11th, after repeated conferences, both parties moved on to
    Pretoria, and the most sceptical observers began to confess that there
    was something in the negotiations after all. After conferring with
    Lord Kitchener the Boer leaders upon April 18th left Pretoria again
    and rode out to the commandos to explain the situation to them. The
    result of this mission was that two delegates were chosen from each
    body in the field, who assembled at Vereeniging upon May 15th for the
    purpose of settling the question by vote. Never was a high matter of
    state decided in so democratic a fashion.

    Up to that period the Boer leaders had made a succession of tentative
    suggestions, each of which had been put aside by the British
    Government. Their first had been that they should merely concede
    those points which had been at issue at the beginning of the war. This
    was set aside. The second was that they should be allowed to consult
    their friends in Europe. This also was refused. The next was that an
    armistice should be granted, but again Lord Kitchener was obdurate. A
    definite period was suggested within which the burghers should make
    their final choice between surrender and a war which must finally
    exterminate them as a people. It was tacitly understood, if not
    definitely promised, that the conditions which the British Government
    would be prepared to grant would not differ much in essentials from
    those which had been refused by the Boers a twelvemonth before, after
    the Middelburg interview.

    On May 15th the Boer conference opened at Vereeniging. Sixty-four
    delegates from the commandos met with the military and political
    chiefs of the late republics, the whole amounting to 150 persons. A
    more singular gathering has not met in our time. There was Botha, the
    young lawyer, who had found himself by a strange turn of fate
    commanding a victorious army in a great war. De Wet was there, with
    his grim mouth and sun-browned face; De la Rey, also, with the
    grizzled beard and the strong aquiline features. There, too, were the
    politicians, the grey-bearded, genial Reitz, a little graver than when
    he looked upon 'the whole matter as an immense joke,' and the
    unfortunate Steyn, stumbling and groping, a broken and ruined man.
    The burly Lucas Meyer, smart young Smuts fresh from the siege of
    Ookiep, Beyers from the north, Kemp the dashing cavalry leader, Muller
    the hero of many fights -- all these with many others of their
    sun-blackened, gaunt, hard-featured comrades were grouped within the
    great tent of Vereeniging. The discussions were heated and
    prolonged. But the logic of facts was inexorable, and the cold still
    voice of common-sense had more power than all the ravings of
    enthusiasts. The vote showed that the great majority of the delegates
    were in favour of surrender upon the terms offered by the British
    Government. On May 81st this resolution was notified to Lord
    Kitchener, and at half-past ten of the same night the delegates
    arrived at Pretoria and set their names to the treaty of peace. After
    two years seven and a half months of hostilities the Dutch republics
    had acquiesced in their own destruction, and the whole of South
    Africa, from Cape Town to the Zambesi, had been added to the British
    Empire. The great struggle had cost us twenty thousand lives and a
    hundred thousand stricken men, with two hundred millions of money;
    but, apart from a peaceful South Africa, it had won for us a national
    resuscitation of spirit and a closer union with our great Colonies
    which could in no other way have been attained. We had hoped that we
    were a solid empire when we engaged in the struggle, hut we knew that
    we were when we emerged from it. In that change lies an ample
    recompense for all the blood and treasure spent.

    The following were in brief the terms of surrender

    1. That the burghers lay down their arms and acknowledge themselves
    subjects of Edward VII.
    2. That all prisoners taking the oath of allegiance be returned.
    3. That their liberty and property be inviolate.
    4. That an amnesty be granted-save in special cases.
    5. That the Dutch language be allowed in schools and law-courts.
    6. That rifles be ~lowed if registered.
    7. That self-government be granted as soon as possible.
    8. That no fr~nchise be granted for natives until after self-governinent.
    9. That no special ~nd tax be levied.
    10. That the people be helped to reoccupy the farms.
    11. That £3,000,000 be given to help the farmers.
    12. That the rebels be disfranchised and their leaders tried, on
    condition that no death penalty be inflicted.

    These terms were practically the same as those which had been refused
    by Botha in March 1901. Thirteen months of useless warfare had left
    the situation as it was.

    It had been a war of surprises, but the surprises have unhappily been
    hitherto invariably unpleasant ones. Now at last the balance swung
    the other way, for in all the long paradoxical history of South
    African strife there is nothing more wonderful than the way in which
    these two sturdy and unemotional races clasped hands the instant that
    the fight was done. The fact is in itself a final answer to the
    ill-natured critics of the Continent. Men do not so easily grasp a
    hand which is reddened with the blood of women and children. From all
    parts as the commandos. came in there was welcome news of the
    fraternisation between them and the soldiers; while the Boer leaders,
    as loyal to their new ties as they had been to their old ones, exerted
    themselves to promote good feeling among their people. A few weeks
    seemed to do more to lessen racial bitterness than some of us had
    hoped for in as many years. One can but pray that it will last.

    The surrenders amounted in all to twenty thousand men, and showed that
    in all parts of the seat of war the enemy had more men in the field
    than we had imagined, a fact which may take the sting out of several
    of our later mishaps. About twelve thousand surrendered in the
    Transvaal, six thousand in the Orange River Colony, and about two
    thousand in the Cape olony, showing that the movement in the rebel
    districts had always been more vexatious than formidable. A
    computation of the prisoners of war, the surrenders, the mercenaries,
    and the casualties, shows that the total forces to which we were
    opposed were certainly not fewer than seventy-five thousand well-armed
    mounted men, while they may have considerably exceeded that number.
    No wonder that the Boer leaders showed great confidence at the outset
    of the war.

    That the heavy losses caused us by the war were borne without a murmur
    is surely evidence enough how deep was the conviction of the nation
    that the war was not only just but essential -- that the possession of
    South Africa and the unity of the Empire were at stake. Could it be
    shown, or were it even remotely possible, that ministers had incurred
    so immense a responsibility and entailed such tremendous sacrifices
    upon their people without adequate cause, is it not certain that, the
    task once done, an explosion of rage from the deceived and the
    bereaved would have driven them for ever from public life? Among high
    and low, in England, in Scotland, in Ireland, in the great Colonies,
    how many high hopes had been crushed, how often the soldier son had
    gone forth and never returned, or come back maimed and stricken in the
    pride of his youth. Everywhere was the voice of pity and sorrow, but
    nowhere that of reproach. The deepest instincts of the nation told it
    that it must fight and win, or for ever abdicate its position in the
    world. Through dark days which brought out the virtues of our race as
    nothing has done in our generation, we struggled grimly on until the
    light had fully broken once again. And of all gifts that God has
    given to Britain there is none to compare with those days of sorrow,
    for it was in them that the nation was assured of its unity, and
    learned for all time that blood is stronger to bind than salt water is
    to part. The only difference in the point of view of the Briton from
    Britain and the Briton from the ends of the earth, was that the latter
    with the energy of youth was more whole-souled in the Imperial cause.
    Who has seen that Army and can forget it -- its spirit, its
    picturesqueness -- above all, what it stands for in the future history
    of the world? Cowboys from the vast plains of the North-West,
    gentlemen who ride hard with the Quorn or the Belvoir, gillies from
    the Sutherland deer-forests, bushmen from the back blocks of
    Australia, exquisites of the Raleigh Club or the Bachelor's, hard men
    from Ontario, dandy sportsmen from India and Ceylon, the horsemen of
    New Zealand, the wiry South African irregulars -- these are the
    Reserves whose existence was chronicled in no Blue-book, and whose
    appearance came as a shock to the pedant soldiers of the Continent who
    had sneered so long at our little Army, since long years of peace have
    caused them to forget its exploits. On the plains of South Africa, in
    common danger and in common privation, the blood brotherhood of the
    Empire was sealed.

    So much for the Empire. But what of South Africa? There in the end
    we must reap as we sow. If we are worthy of the trust, it will be left
    to us. If we are unworthy of it, it will be taken away. Kruger's
    downfall should teach us that it is not rifles but Justice which is
    the title-deed of a nation. The British flag under our best
    administrators will mean clean government, honest laws, liberty and
    equality to all men. So long as it continues to do so, we shall hold
    South Africa. When, out of fear or out or greed, we fall from that
    ideal, we may know that we are stricken with that disease which has
    killed every great empire before us.
    Chapter 40
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