1922 Encyclopædia Britannica/Schreiner, William Philip
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Schreiner, William Philip
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SCHREINER, WILLIAM PHILIP (1837-1919), South African lawyer and statesman, the youngest son of a German missionary, was born in the district of Herschel, Cape Colony. He studied law at Cape Town and at Cambridge and London universities. He was called to the bar (Inner Temple) in 1882 and the same year returned to the Cape where he was admitted an advocate of the Supreme Court. He soon attained success and was for many years leader of the Cape bar. In 1893 Schreiner, who had been legal adviser to the High Commissioner since 1887, began his political career as attorney-general in the second Ministry of Cecil Rhodes. He resigned the same year, took the same portfolio again in Sept. 1894 and remained in office until the Jameson Raid brought about the downfall of the Rhodes Ministry. In 1898, having helped to bring about the fall of the Sprigg Ministry, Schreiner became Prime Minister of Cape Colony and held that position when the Anglo-Boer War of 1899-1902 began. During the crisis which preceded the outbreak of hostilities he allowed the passage of armaments to the Dutch republics, and when the war broke out he wished to keep Cape Colony neutral (see 5.244). Acute differences in the Cabinet caused Schreiner to resign office in June 1900. Later he advocated, unsuccessfully, the federation instead of the unification of the South African colonies. In 1914 he accepted the office of High Commissioner of the Union in London and held that post until his death. He died at Llandrindod Wells on June 28 1919. Schreiner married, in 1884, Frances, sister of F. W. Reitz, President of the Orange Free State. He was a brother of Olive Schreiner, the novelist. Schreiner was a man of high attainments, great industry and impressive speech. His qualities showed at their best at the bar, and the proper crown of his career would have been a seat on the bench. But as a politician he suffered from a lack of suppleness which disqualified him from becoming a popular leader. He had also too much of the cross-bench mind. He was a sincere friend of the natives, and, in 1908-9 successfully defended Dinizulu against the charges of treason and murder brought against him. He also went to London as a delegate of the Coloured Races Political Association to oppose restrictions in the Act of Union.