1922 Encyclopædia Britannica/Beyers, Christian Frederick

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BEYERS, CHRISTIAN FREDERICK (1869-1914), S. African general, was born in Cape Colony in 1869 and went as a young man to the Transvaal, where he took a prominent part on the Boer side in the S. African War, winning high distinction in the field and bearing the rank of general when peace was made in 1902. Gen. Beyers had much influence, as soldier and statesman, among the Dutch-speaking people of S. Africa, and was, with Gen. Botha and Gen. Smuts, though in a less degree than they, one of the recognized leaders of the Transvaal Dutch. When responsible government was granted to the Transvaal, Beyers became speaker of the Lower House. He showed in the speaker's chair remarkable gifts. He was acute, tolerant and rigidly impartial, thus making a deep impression upon English-speaking S. Africans, who would have supported his claims to be the first speaker of the first S. African House of Assembly, had they been pressed by Gen. Botha, the first Prime Minister. Instead, Beyers was made commandant-general of the Citizen Forces of S. Africa, and in that capacity paid a visit to Great Britain, Germany, Switzerland and Holland in 1912. A man of fine physique, of passionate nature, and of profound religious convictions, Beyers, as commandant-general of S. Africa, was entertained with marked attentions during his visit to Germany by the Kaiser. When the World War broke out, he set himself in almost open opposition to the policy of the Botha Government. For some months this opposition smouldered. Then, at a moment when the S. African expeditionary force was being mobilized for the invasion of German S.W. Africa, and when rebellion was already smouldering among the irreconcilables of the S. African Dutch, Beyers resigned his post as commandant-general in a letter addressed to Gen. Smuts, then Minister of Defence, and published in Het Volk, an anti-Government journal. In this letter he declared that he had always disapproved the Government's intention to invade German S.W. Africa and that this disapproval was shared by the great majority of the Dutch-speaking people of the Union. Gen. Smuts replied in a stern letter declaring that the war was a test of the loyalty to their pledged word of the Dutch-speaking people, and accepting Beyers' resignation. A few weeks later Beyers took the field as a leader of the rebellion against the Government, only to be overwhelmed by the Government troops under the command of Gen. Botha, to be driven from pillar to post as a fugitive, and to be drowned on Dec. 7 1914 while trying to escape from his pursuers by crossing the Vaal river. His body was recovered two days later, and with his death the rebellion was brought to an ignominious end.