1922 Encyclopædia Britannica/Orange Free State

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Orange Free State (see 20.151), a province of the Union of S. Africa. At the 1911 census it had a pop. of 528,174 compared with 387,315 in 1904 — an increase of 26.67%. Whites numbered 175,189, coloured 352,985. In 1918 the white pop. was 181,678. The increase in pop. since 1904 was very largely due to the development of agriculture and stock farming, the province being essentially a pastoral region.

The only big town is the capital, Bloemfontein (pop. in 1911 26,925). While new settlers included many of British origin, the white inhabitants remained predominantly of Dutch descent. Nearly all the coloured people are Bantu and in 1911 the province had only 108 Asiatics. A higher proportion, 50.77 %, of the natives professed Christianity than in any other province of the Union.

There were in 1918 only 5,588 persons (all races and both sexes) engaged in factories in the province, but in Jagersfontein it possesses one of the chief diamond mines in S. Africa, and there is a group of small but rich diamond mines in the Boshof area, proclaimed in 1906, 1910 and 1912. There are coal mines by the Vaal at Vereeniging, which produced 469,000 tons in 1910 and 838,000 tons in 1919.

Dr. A. E. W. Ramsbottom was the first administrator, being succeeded by Mr. H. C. Wessels. Both had been members of the Ministry during the brief period (July 1907–May 1910) while the province had been a self-governing colony. The provincial administration at first continued the system of compulsory bilingual education enforced in 1908, but the struggle conducted by the English-speaking part of the people over the medium of instruction came virtually to an end in 1912, the provincial council having adopted, in the main though still with a bias in favour of the Dutch language, the proposal suggested by the Union Parliament that up to standard IV. instruction in the schools should be given in the “home language” of the scholar. In 1920 an ordinance was passed recognizing “Afrikaans,” i.e. the Taal or colloquial Dutch, as equivalent to Netherlands Dutch as a medium of instruction, and its adoption, for Dutch scholars, was very general. In most respects the provincial administration was progressive and was conducted on non-party lines. (For the administrative system see Cape Province.) Provincial expenditure rose from £511,000 in 1912–3 to £611,000 in 1917–8, the amount spent on education in the years named being £250,000 and £473,000 respectively.

The province was the stronghold of the Dutch Nationalists. Up to his death in 1916 ex-President Steyn, who lived near Bloemfontein, though he held no office, exercised very great influence on public affairs. In the crisis caused by the World War Steyn opposed operations against German S.W. Africa. There followed the rebellion of Gen. De Wet, the Free State being the principal theatre of the campaign. Gen. Hertzog, the parliamentary chief of the Dutch Nationalists and after Steyn’s death their undisputed leader, carried the Free State in the elections of 1915, 1920 and 1921. In Feb. of the last-named year, when he had declared for the secession of the union from the British Empire, his party won 16 out of the 17 constituencies into which the province was divided (see South Africa).

((F. R. C.))