A Century of Wrong/Capitalistic Jingoism – Second Period

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A Century of Wrong by Francis William Reitz
Capitalistic Jingoism – Second Period

Capitalistic Jingoism – Second Period.[edit]


[Sidenote: National sentiment in South Africa kindled by the Jameson Raid.]

The foregoing sketch has shown how deeply our people felt and resented the wrong that was done to them. It was to be expected that such a treacherous attack on the Republics, emanating from their own leader, would awaken the Africanders even in the remotest districts, and would bring fresh energy into the arena of politics. To give an instance of the measure of the feeling which had been quickened by the raid, a short extract is given below from an article published in the organ of the Africander party, Our Land, a few months after the Raid, an article which undoubtedly expressed the feeling of Africanders:–

Has not Providence over-ruled and guided the painful course of events in South Africa since the beginning of this year (1896)? Who can doubt it?

The stab which was intended to paralyse Africanderdom once and for all in the Republics has sent an electric thrill direct to the national heart. Africanderdom has awakened to a sense of earnestness and consciousness which we have not observed since the heroic war for Liberty in 1881. From the Limpopo as far as Cape Town the Second Majuba has given birth to a new inspiration and a new movement amongst our people in South Africa. A new feeling has rushed in huge billows over South Africa. The flaccid and cowardly Imperialism, that had already begun to dilute and weaken our national blood, gradually turned aside before the new current which permeated our people. Many who, tired of the slow development of the national idea, had resigned themselves to Imperialism now paused and asked themselves what Imperialism had produced in South Africa? Bitterness and race hatred it is true! Since the days of Sir Harry Smith and Theophilus Shepstone and Bartle Frere to the days of Leander Jameson and Cecil Rhodes, Imperialism in South Africa has gone hand in hand with bloodshed and fraud. However wholesome the effects of Imperialism may be elsewhere, its continual tendency in this country during all these years has been nothing else but an attempt to force our national life and national character into foreign grooves; and to seal this pressure with blood and tears.... This is truly a critical moment in the existence of Africanderdom all over South Africa. Now or never! Now or never the foundation of a wide-embracing nationalism must be laid. The Iron is red hot, and the time for forging is at hand....

... The partition wall has disappeared. Let us stand manfully by one another. The danger has not yet disappeared; on the contrary, never has the necessity for a policy of a Colonial and Republican Union been greater; now the psychological moment has arrived; now our people have awakened all over South Africa; a new glow illuminates our hearts; let us now lay the foundation stone of a real United South Africa on the soil of a pure and all-comprehensive national sentiment.

Such language caused the Jingoes to shudder--not because it was disloyal, because that it certainly was not, but because it proved that the Jameson Raid had suddenly awakened the Africanders, and that owing to this defeat of the Jingoes a vista of further and greater defeats widened out in the future. The Colonial Africanders would certainly have to be reckoned with, in case an annexation policy were followed with regard to the Republics.


[Sidenote: Victory of the Africander Party in the Cape Parliament.]

For some time the Jingoes cherished the hope that they would gain the majority in the Cape Parliament under an amended Redistribution Act. The General Election of 1898 took place, with the result that the Africander party obtained a small majority, and later, under a Redistribution Act forced upon them by the Jingoes, the majority of the former was considerably increased.


[Sidenote: The cry of disloyalty]

Instead of honestly admitting that the Africander victory was the natural result of the Jameson Raid, the Jingoes began, not only in South Africa, but also in England, to shout that the rule and supremacy of England in South Africa was menaced.


[Sidenote: The Transvaal must be humiliated.]

They contended that South Africa would be lost to England unless energetic intervention took place without delay, and that this menace to English rule was due to the Republican propaganda which the South African Republic had set in motion. That as long as the South African Republic refused to humiliate itself before British authority, but on the contrary kept its youthful head on high with national pride, other parts of South Africa would be inclined to follow its example, and there would thus be no certainty for British supremacy in this quarter of the globe. The South African Republic would have to be humiliated and to be crushed into the dust; the Africanders in other parts of South Africa would then abandon their alleged hope of a more extensive Republican South Africa.


[Sidenote: The necessity for constitutional means.]

But how was this humiliation to be brought about, and how, above all, was it to be brought about by those 'Constitutional means,' which, since the failure of the conspiracy, had become a sine qua non?

The new Governor of the Cape Colony and High Commissioner of South Africa, who had enjoyed the distinction of a brilliant university career, who had learnt humility and moderation at the feet of Mr. W.T. Stead, and who had learnt by his experience with the fellaheen in Egypt how to govern the descendants of the Huguenots and the 'Beggars of the Sea,' would know very well how to evolve 'Constitutional means' in order to humiliate the South African Republic, and to crush it into the dust.


[Sidenote: The suzerainty.]

There was at any rate the burning question of suzerainty, which the South African Republic had unconsciously and innocently raised in the following way:–

After the Jameson Raid the Volksraad had passed certain laws with a view of removing some of the causes of that movement, as, for example, the law by which dangerous individuals could be expelled from the State, and the law by which paupers and people suffering from contagious diseases could be prevented from entering the Republic. These laws were declared to be in conflict with Article XIV. of the London Convention. Violations of Article IV. were also said to have taken place in regard to certain extradition and other treaties, which had been concluded between the South African Republic and Foreign Powers.[1] On the 7th May, 1897, the Government of the South African Republic dispatched a very important reply to these accusations, in which, after fully stating the reasons why the Government differed from Her Majesty's Government, an appeal was made for arbitration as being the most suitable method of settling the dispute.[2]


[Sidenote: The appeal for Arbitration.]

This appeal was couched in the following language:[3]

While it respects the opinion of Her British Majesty's Government, it takes the liberty, with full confidence in the correctness of its own views, to propose to Her British Majesty's Government the principle of Arbitration, with which the honourable the First Volksraad agreed, in the hope that it will be taken in the conciliatory spirit in which it is made. It considers that it has every reason for this proposal, the more so because the principle of Arbitration is already laid down in that Convention in the only case in which, according to its opinion at the time, a difference could be foreseen, to wit, with regard to Article I.; because it has already been proposed by Her British Majesty's Government, and accepted by this Government with regard to the difference in respect of Article 14 of the Convention arising in the matter of the so-called Coolie question, which was settled by Arbitration; because the Right Honourable the Secretary of State, Mr. Chamberlain, himself, in his letter of the 4th September, 1895, to His Excellency the High Commissioner at Cape Town, favours this principle in the same question, where he says: 'After 1886, as time went on, the manner in which the law was interpreted and was worked, or was proposed to be worked, gave rise to complaints on the part of the British Government, and as it seemed impossible to come to an agreement by means of correspondence, the Marquis of Ripon took what is the approved course in such cases, of proposing to the South African Republic that the dispute should be referred to Arbitration. This was agreed to ...,' because the principle of Arbitration in matters such as this appears to the Government to be the most impartial, just, and most satisfactory way out of the existing difficulty, and, lastly, because one of the parties to a Convention, according to all principles of reasonableness, cannot expect that his interpretation will be respected by the other party as the only valid and correct one. And although this Government is firmly convinced that a just and impartial decision might be obtained even better in South Africa than anywhere else, it wishes, in view of the conflicting elements, interests, and aspirations which are now apparent in South Africa, and in order to avoid even the appearance that it would be able or desire to exercise influence in order to obtain a decision favourable to it, to propose that the President of the Swiss Bondstate, who may be reckoned upon as standing altogether outside the question, and to feel sympathy or antipathy neither for the one party nor for the other, be requested to point out a competent jurist, as has already often been done in respect of international disputes. The Government would have no objection that the Arbitration be subject to a limitation of time, and gives the assurance now already that it will willingly subject itself to any decision if such should, contrary to its expectation, be given against it. The Government repeats the well-meant wish that this proposal may find favour with Her British Majesty's Government; and inasmuch as the allegations of breaches of the Convention find entrance now even in South Africa, and bring and keep the feelings more and more in a state of suspense, this Government will be pleased if it can learn the decision of Her British Majesty's Government as soon as possible.


[Sidenote: England refuses to arbitrate on ground of suzerainty.]

To this the British Government replied that according to the Convention of 1884, taken in conjunction with the preamble of the Convention of 1881, the South African Republic was under the suzerainty of Her Majesty, and that it was incompatible with the subordinate position of the South African Republic to submit to Arbitration any matters in dispute as to the construction of the Convention between it and the suzerain Power.

In order to avoid any misunderstanding as to this very remarkable document, the exact wording of the British dispatch is given:‐[4]

Finally, the Government of the South African Republic propose that all points in dispute between Her Majesty's Government and themselves relating to the Convention should be referred to Arbitration, the Arbitrator to be nominated by the President of the Swiss Republic. In making this proposal the Government of the South African Republic appear to have overlooked the distinction between the Conventions of 1881 and 1884 and an ordinary treaty between two independent Powers, questions arising upon which may properly be the subject of Arbitration. By the Pretoria Convention of 1881 Her Majesty, as Sovereign of the Transvaal Territory, accorded to the inhabitants of that territory complete self-government, subject to the suzerainty of Her Majesty, her heirs, and successors, upon certain terms and conditions, and subject to certain reservations and limitations set forth in 33 articles; and by the London Convention of 1884, Her Majesty, while maintaining the preamble of the earlier instrument, directed and declared that certain other articles embodied therein should be substituted for the articles embodied in the Convention of 1881. The articles of the Convention of 1881 were accepted by the Volksraad of the Transvaal State, and those of the Convention of 1884 by the Volksraad of the South African Republic. Under these Conventions, therefore, Her Majesty holds towards the South African Republic the relation of a suzerain who has accorded to the people of that Republic self-government upon certain conditions, and it would be incompatible with that position to submit to Arbitration the construction of the conditions on which she accorded self-government to the Republic.


[Sidenote: Reply of the Transvaal Government.]

In its celebrated reply of the 16th April, 1898, the Government of the South African Republic proved with unanswerable force that the preamble of the Convention of 1881 had been abolished, that Lord Derby had himself in 1884 proposed a draft Convention, in which the preamble was erased (see Appendix B.), and that by the ultimate acceptance of that proposal, the suzerainty had ceased to exist.[5]

On this account, as well as for other reasons, it contended that as no suzerainty existed between the two countries, the objection to Arbitration as a means of settling disputes would disappear, and the Government reiterated their appeal to have such differences or disputes disposed of by Arbitration.


[Sidenote: The object of the suzerainty dispute.]

Naturally this was exactly what Mr. Chamberlain did not want. He was opposed to Arbitration dispute, because it would have probably led to the humiliation of the British and not of the Boer Government. The suzerainty question was introduced in the meanwhile as a 'Constitutional Proposal,' which might be used for the purpose of humiliating the South African Republic.

In his answer to the arguments put forward by the South African Republic, Mr. Chamberlain could only persist in repeating his contention that suzerainty still existed, and did not even attempt to refute the statement that Lord Derby had himself erased the preamble of the Convention of 1881.[6] It was clearly his opinion that Lord Derby had, through stupidity and thoughtlessness, abandoned the suzerainty in 1884, just as Lord Russell had abandoned the idea of obtaining the South African Republic in 1852, so that he would now, just as Shepstone in 1877, have to try and disconcert the Republic by a display of force and inflexible determination, so as not to be deprived of these eminently 'Constitutional means.'


[Sidenote: The Transvaal a sovereign international state.]

His arguments in this dispatch, that both the suzerainty of Her Majesty and the right of the South African Republic to self-government were dependent upon the preamble of the Pretoria Convention, and that if the preamble were null and void, not only would the suzerainty but also the right to self-government disappear, were clearly designed to intimidate the South African Republic; but in other respects the argument was perfectly correct. Accordingly the Government of the South African Republic replied that it did not base its claim to self-government on the preamble of the Convention of 1881, nor on the Convention of 1884 (for no mention is made of self-government in that document), but simply on the ground of its being a sovereign international state.[7]

In other words, it contended that the Convention of London implied that the South African Republic was a sovereign international state, and that it was therefore superfluous in that Convention to specify or define its rights. Into this answer, which is not only juridically and historically correct, but which rests on the basis of common sense, the astute High Commissioner was able to read a menace to Her Majesty's Government, although the Government of the Republic distinctly stated in that reply that it adhered to the Convention of London, an assurance which it had already made hundreds of times.


[Sidenote: Justice of the Transvaal contention.]

This is the whole history of the suzerainty dispute between the two Governments. The South African Republic had asked for arbitration on certain questions, and England, with Mr. Chamberlain as spokesman, had refused, because a suzerain Power could not be expected to settle disputes with its vassal by means of arbitration. So that according to the new principles of International Law, based on the 'screw' ethics of Birmingham, it was to be judge and jury in its own disputes with other people.

The position taken up by our Government in this remarkable controversy is substantiated by the actions of Lord Derby during the negotiations about the Conventions, as well as by the following telegram, which he sent to the High Commissioner for communication to the two Republics:–

HIGH COMMISSIONER, CAPE TOWN.

To BRITISH RESIDENT, PRETORIA.

Please inform Transvaal Government that I have received the following from the Secretary of State: – 27th February. Convention signed to-day. New south-western boundary as proposed, following trade road. British Protectorate country outside Transvaal established with delegates' consent. They promise to appoint Border Commissioner inside Transvaal, co-operate with ours outside; Mackenzie – British Resident. Debt reduced to quarter million. Same complete internal independence in Transvaal as in Orange Free State. Conduct and control diplomatic intercourse Foreign Governments conceded. Queen's final approval treaties reserved. Delegates appear well satisfied and cordial feeling two Governments. You may make the above known.

This Convention is also substantiated by the express declarations of Lord Rosmead and the Rev. D.P. Faure to the effect that it was clearly understood, at the time the London Convention was concluded, that the suzerainty was abolished. It is unnecessary to add anything about the evidence of the Members of the Transvaal Deputation. The suzerainty has thus not the slightest shadow of existence; and yet, as will be proved, Mr. Chamberlain is prepared to go to war with the South African Republic over this question, a war which will, according to his intentions, result in Annexation.


[Sidenote: Uitlander grievances and Capitalistic agitation.]

While the two Governments were occupied with this question the Capitalists were not idle. They were busy fanning the flame in another direction. It was not only a fact that Rhodesia was an unexpected failure, but it had proved far richer in native wars than in payable gold mines. The Capitalist groups possessing the greatest interests in the Witwatersrand gold mines were also the most deeply interested in Rhodesia, and it naturally occurred to them that their Transvaal mines ought also to bear the burden of their unprofitable investments in Rhodesia--an adjustment which would, however, necessitate the amalgamation of the two countries, especially when the interests of the shareholders were considered.

In order to attain this object a continual agitation was kept up at Johannesburg, so that English shareholders living far away should be prepared for the day when the Annexation would take place on Constitutional lines.

The argument which was calculated to impress these European shareholders was that the administration of the South African Republic had created a situation which was most prejudicial to the financial interests of the mining industry. Viewed from this standpoint the Uitlander grievances were an inexhaustibly rich and payable mine.


[Sidenote: The Industrial Commission.]

This agitation first of all emanated directly from the Capitalists, and had assumed such proportions in 1897 that the Government decided to appoint a Commission of officials and mining magnates in order to enquire searchingly into the alleged financial grievances. As far as the Government was concerned, the chief findings of the Commission were:–

  1. That the price of dynamite (85 shillings per case of 50lbs.) was too high under the existing concession, and that a diminution in price was desirable either by cancellation of the concession, or by testing the legality of the concession in the High Court.
  2. That the tariffs of the Netherlands Railway Company for the carriage of coal and other articles were too high, and that it was necessary to expropriate the railway.
  3. That the import duties on necessaries of life were too high, and that the cost of living in Johannesburg for workmen was too high.
  4. That stringent measures ought to be adopted in order to prevent gold thefts, and that the law for the total prohibition of drink to native labourers ought to be more strictly enforced, and that there ought to be a more stringent application of the Pass Law (under which the traffic of the native labourers was regulated).
  5. With the object of carrying out the measures specified in Section 4, the Commission recommended that an Advisory Board should be nominated for the Witwatersrand gold fields for the purpose of advising the Government as to the enforcement of the said regulations.


[Sidenote: Results of the Commission.]

To what extent was effect given to these recommendations?


[Sidenote: Dynamite.]

1. As far as dynamite is concerned, it appeared that there was no chance of contesting the concession in the law courts with any success. Nor did the Volksraad or the Government feel justified in cancelling, without the consent of the owners, a contract which had been solemnly entered into, and upon which enormous sums of money had been expended. The Mining Industry was naturally eager for cancellation, even without adequate compensation; but the public were not at that time aware of a fact which was made public some months later, namely, that the De Beers Corporation intended to erect a dynamite manufactory, and that this agitation of the Capitalists was intended to obtain for themselves the control of this great source of income. People, however, knew that the Messrs. Chamberlain were interested in the English ammunition and dynamite house of Kynoch, but they hesitate to assume that the Colonial Secretary was actuated in his Transvaal policy by considerations of private financial interest.

The Government and Volksraad of the South African Republic adopted the wiser plan of lowering the price of dynamite to such an extent as to make it about equal to the local European price plus a protective tariff of 20s. per case.

It may here be remarked that Mr. Chamberlain, knowing how unpopular the Dynamite Concession was in the South African Republic, intimated to the Government of the South African Republic, in a very threatening manner, that the Concession was in conflict with the London Convention.

The answer of the Government to this communication was so crushing that Mr. Chamberlain did not again return to the subject. In this he was, no doubt, also actuated by the fact that the most renowned English and European jurists had advised that the concession was in no sense a breach of the Convention. This, however, only became known later, and it is merely referred to now so as to show that no stone was left unturned in order to find a means of humiliating the South African Republic.


[Sidenote: The Netherlands Railway Company.]

2. With regard to the Netherlands South African Railway Company, it would appear that the Capitalists have altered their opinion, and now think that the administration of the Company is as good as can reasonably be expected, and that expropriation is now unnecessary. Perhaps, from their point of view, it would be better to buy up the shares of the Company, and thus become themselves masters, instead of the Government, of this source of income.

Respecting the Railway tariff, it is fair to assume that the cause of dissatisfaction has disappeared, for no complaints are now heard since the tariff was lowered in accordance with the recommendations of the Commission.


[Sidenote: Reduction of import duties]

This change in the tariff, together with the abolition of duties on nearly all necessaries of life have made a difference of about £700,000 in the income of the State during the last year. It will be admitted that this is an enormous item in comparison with the total income of the South African Republic. The above tends to show how anxious the Government of the South African Republic has been to remove all grievances as soon as it was proved that they actually existed.


[Sidenote: Liquor, Pass, and Gold Thefts Laws.]

3. As regards the administration of the Liquor Law, the Pass Law, and the Law dealing with Gold thefts, neither the Government nor the Volksraad felt at liberty to adopt the recommendation as to constituting an Advisory Board on the Witwatersrand. They decided to go deeper to the roots of the evil, and so altered the administration of the Laws that the evidences of dissatisfaction have disappeared. Indeed, no one ever hears of gold thefts now, and the representative bodies of the mining industry have repeatedly expressed their satisfaction with the administration of the Pass Law, and especially with that of the Liquor Law.


[Sidenote: The Liquor Law.]

In this very Liquor Law we have a test of a good administration. From the very nature of the drink question it is one of the most difficult laws that a Government can be called upon to administer, and the measure of success which has attended the efforts of the Government and its officials proves conclusively that the charges of incompetency so frequently brought against the Government of the South African Republic were devoid of truth, and were only intended to slander and to injure the Republic. A combined meeting of the Chamber of Mines, the Chamber of Commerce, and the Association of Mine Managers – the three strongest and most representative bodies on the Witwatersrand Gold Fields – passed the following resolutions, which speak for themselves:–[8]

  1. This combined Meeting, representing the Chamber of Mines, the

Chamber of Commerce, and the Mine Managers' Association, desires to express once more its decided approval of the present Liquor Law, and is of opinion that prohibition is not only beneficial to the Natives in their own interest, but is absolutely necessary for the Mining Industry, with a view of maintaining the efficiency of labour.

  1. This Meeting wishes to express its appreciation of the efforts

made to suppress the Illicit Liquor Trade by the Detective Department of this Republic since it has been placed under the administration of the State Attorney, and is of opinion that the success which has crowned these efforts fully disproves the contention that the Liquor Law is impracticable.

The first resolution was carried by an overwhelming majority, and the second unanimously.

Compare this declaration of the representatives of the Mining and Commercial interests of the Witwatersrand with the allegation repeated by Mr. Chamberlain in his great 'grievance' dispatch of the 10th May, 1899 –[9] that the Liquor Law had never been strictly enforced, but that this law was simply evaded, and that the Natives at the mines were supplied with drink in large quantities.

When Mr. Chamberlain wrote these words they were absolutely untrue, and, like all his grievances, are of an imaginary character.

The results have clearly shown that the Government was quite correct in its conclusion that it was better to alter the administration of the laws complained of, than to adopt a principle (the advisory board), the consequences and eventual outcome of which no one was able to foresee.


[Sidenote: The South African League.]

The agitation in connection with the report of the Industrial Commission was followed by a great calm. If it had not been that the handling of the Swazie difficulty by the British Government gave colour to suspicion, one might have thought that there was no cloud upon the horizon. To a superficial observer, the two Governments seemed to be on the best and most friendly footing, and some of us actually began to think that the era of the fraternal co-operation of the two races in South Africa had actually dawned, and that the cursed Raid and its harvest of race hatred and division would be forgotten. Certain circumstances, however, indicated clearly that the enemy was occupied in a supreme effort to cause matters to culminate in a crisis.

The South African League, a political organisation which sprang up out of, and owed its origin to, the race hatred which the Jameson Raid had called into being, and at the head of which Mr. Rhodes himself stands (a fact which places Capitalistic influence in a very clear light), began towards the latter part of last year to agitate against the Government in the most unheard-of way.

The individuals who stood at the head of this institution in Johannesburg were such that very little attention was paid to the League. It was, however, soon clearly shown that not only was the movement strongly assisted by the Capitalists, and strongly supported all along the mines, but that there was a close relationship in a mysterious way with Cape Town and London. The events of the last few months have brought this out very clearly. Meetings were arranged, memorials to Her Majesty about grievances were drawn up, and an active propaganda was preached in the Press; this all proved in a convincing way that a carefully planned campaign had been organised against the Republic.

As the Government of the South African Republic has set forth the trend of the agitation as well as the connection of the British Government with it in an official despatch, it is desirable to quote the language itself:–[10]

But this Government wishes to go further. Even in regard to those Uitlanders who are British subjects it is a small minority which, under the pretext of imaginary grievances, promotes a secret propaganda of race hatred, and uses the Republic as a basis for fomenting a revolutionary movement against this Government. Ministers of Her Majesty have so trenchantly expressed the truth about this minority that this Government wishes to quote the very words of these Ministers, with the object of bringing the actual truth to the knowledge of Her Majesty's Government, as well as to that of the whole world, and not for the purpose of making groundless accusations.

The following words are those of the Ministers of the Cape Colony, who are well acquainted with local conditions, and fully qualified to arrive at a conclusion":–

In the opinion of Ministers the persistent action, both beyond and within this Colony, of the political body styling itself the South African League in endeavouring to foment and excite, not to smooth and allay ill-will between the two principal European races inhabiting South Africa, is well illustrated by these resolutions, the exaggerated and aggravated terms of which disclose the spirit which informs and inspires them.

His Excellency's Ministers are one in their earnest desire to do all in their power to aid and further a policy of peaceful progress throughout South Africa, and they cannot but regard it as an unwise propagandism, hostile to the true interests of the Empire, including this Colony as an integral part, that every possible occasion should be seized by the League and its promoters for an attempt to magnify into greater events minor incidents, when occurring in the South African Republic, with a prospect thereby of making racial antagonism more acute, or of rendering less smooth the relations between Her Majesty's Government or the Government of this Colony and that Republic.

Race hatred is, however, not so intense in South Africa as to enable a body with this propaganda, aiming at revolutionary objects, to obtain much influence in this part of the world; and one continually asks oneself the question – 'How is it that a body, so insignificant both in regard to its principles and its membership, enjoys such a large measure of influence?' The answer is that this body depends upon the protection and the support of Her Majesty's Government in England, and that both its members and its organs in the Press openly boast of the influence they exert over the policy of Her Majesty's Government. This Government would ignore such assertions; but when it finds that the ideas and the shibboleths of the South African League are continually echoed in the speeches of members of Her Majesty's Government, when it finds that blue books are compiled chiefly from documents prepared by officials of the South African League, as well as from reports and leading articles containing 'malignant lies' taken from the press organs of that organisation, thereby receiving an official character, then this Government can well understand why so many of Her Majesty's right-minded subjects in this part of the world have obtained the impression that the policy advocated by the South African League is supported by Her Majesty's Government, and is thus calculated to contribute to the welfare and blessing of the British Empire.

If this mistaken impression could be removed, and if it could be announced as a fact that the South African League, as far as its actions in the South African Republic are concerned, is only an organisation having as its object the fomentation of strife and disorder and the destruction of the independence of the Country, then it would very soon lose its influence, and the strained relations existing between the two Governments would quickly disappear. The Africander population of this country would not then be under the apprehension that the interests of the British Empire imperatively demand that the Republic should be done away with, and its people be either enslaved or exterminated. Both sections of the white inhabitants of South Africa would then return to the fraternal co-operation and fusion which was beginning to manifest itself when the treacherous conspiracy at the end of 1895 awakened the passions on both sides.

As a result of the continual agitation of the South African League, three occurrences were selected and elevated by Mr. Chamberlain into culminating instances of the Uitlander grievances. To give the world a clear insight into the nature of the grievances in general, extracts are given from the official accounts both of the British and the Republican account of these occurrences. There were three--the "Lombard affair," with reference to the maltreatment of coloured British subjects at Johannesburg; the 'Edgar case,' in connection with the shooting of an English subject by a police official; and the 'Amphitheatre occurrence,' in regard to a disorderly meeting of the South African League.


[Sidenote: a. The Lombard Incident.]

With regard to the 'Lombard incident,' Mr. Chamberlain says:&ndash[11]

As an instance of such arbitrary action the recent maltreatment of coloured British subjects by Field Cornet Lombard may be cited. This official entered the houses of various coloured persons without a warrant at night, dragged them from their beds, and arrested them for being without a pass. The persons so arrested were treated with much cruelty, and it is even alleged that one woman was prematurely confined, and a child subsequently died from the consequences of the fright and exposure. Men were beaten and kicked by the orders of the Field Cornet, who appears to have exercised his authority with the most cowardly brutality. The Government of the Republic, being pressed to take action, suspended the Field Cornet, and an enquiry was held, at which he and the police denied most of the allegations of violence; but the other facts were not disputed, and no independent evidence was called for the defence. The Government have since reinstated Lombard.

Unfortunately this case is by no means unparalleled. Other British subjects, including several from St. Helena and Mauritius, have been arbitrarily arrested, and some of them have been fined, without having been heard in their own defence, under a law which does not even profess to have any application to persons from those Colonies.

However long-suffering Her Majesty's Government may be in their anxious desire to remain on friendly terms with the South African Republic, it must be evident that a continuance of incidents of this kind, followed by no redress, may well become intolerable.

The answer of the Government of the South African Republic was as follows:–[12]

With reference to the Lombard case, this Government wishes to point out that no complaint was lodged with any official in this Republic for a full month after the illtreatment of Cape coloured people was alleged to have taken place, and that neither the Government nor the public was aware that anything had taken place. The whole case was so insignificant that some of the people who were alleged to have been illtreated declared, under oath, at a later period before a court of investigation that they would never have made any complaint on their own initiative. What happened, however?

About a month after the occurrence the South African League came to hear of it; some of its officials sent round to collect evidence from the parties who were alleged to have been illtreated, and some sworn declarations were obtained by the help of Her Majesty's Vice-Consul at Johannesburg (between whom and this League a continual and conspicuous co-operation has existed). Even then no charge was lodged against the implicated officials with the judicial authorities of the country, but the case was put in the hands of the Acting British Agent at Pretoria.

When the allegations were brought under the notice of this Government, they at once appointed a commission of enquiry, consisting of three members, namely, Landdrost Van der Berg, of Johannesburg, Mr. Andries Stockenstrom, barrister-at-law, of the Middle Temple, head of the Criminal Section of the State Attorney's Department, and Mr. Van der Merwe, Mining Commissioner, of Johannesburg; gentlemen against whose ability and impartiality the Uitlander population of the Republic have never harboured the slightest suspicion, and with whose appointment the Acting British Agent also expressed his entire satisfaction. The instructions given to those officials were to thoroughly investigate the whole case, and to report the result to the Government; and they fulfilled these instructions by sitting for days at a time, carefully hearing and sifting the evidence of both sides. Every right-minded person readily acknowledges that far greater weight ought to be attached to the finding of this Commission than to the declarations of the complainants, who contradicted one another in nearly every particular, and who caused the whole enquiry to degenerate into a farce.

According to the report, nothing was proved as to the so-called illtreatment; the special instances of alleged illtreatment turned out to be purely imaginary; but it was clearly proved and found that the complainants had acted contrary to law, and the Commission only expressed disapproval of the fact that the arrests and the investigation had taken place at night, and without a proper warrant. It fills this Government with all the greater regret to observe that Her Majesty's Government bases its charges on ex parte, groundless, and, in many respects, false declarations of complainants who have been set in motion by political hatred, and that it silently ignores the report of the Commission.


[Sidenote: b. The Edgar Case.]

Mr. Chamberlain represented the Edgar case in the following way:–[13]

But perhaps the most striking recent instance of arbitrary action by officials, and of the support of such action by the Courts, is the well-known Edgar case. The effect of the verdict of the jury, warmly endorsed by the Judge, is that four policemen breaking into a man's house at night without a warrant, on the mere statement of one person, which subsequently turned out to be untrue, that the man had committed a crime, are justified in killing him there and then because, according to their own account, he hits one of them with a stick. If this is justification, then almost any form of resistance to the police is justification for the immediate killing of the person resisting, who may be perfectly innocent of any offence. This would be an alarming doctrine anywhere. It is peculiarly alarming when applied to a city like Johannesburg, where a strong force of police armed with revolvers have to deal with a large alien unarmed population, whose language in many cases they do not understand. The emphatic affirmation of such a doctrine by Judge and jury in the Edgar case cannot but increase the general feeling of insecurity amongst the Uitlander population, and the sense of injustice under which they labour. It may be pointed out that the allegation that Edgar assaulted the police was emphatically denied by his wife and others, and that the trial was conducted in a way that would be considered quite irregular in this country, the witnesses for the defence being called by the prosecution, and thereby escaping cross-examination.

The answer of the Government of the South African Republic was:–[14]

The Edgar case is referred to by your Government as the most striking recent instance of arbitrary action by officials, and of the support of such action by the Courts,'

and this case is quoted as a conclusive test of the alleged judicial maladministration of this Republic; it will, therefore, be of interest to pause for a moment and consider it. What are the true facts?

A certain Foster, 'an Englishman,' was assaulted and felled to the ground, without any lawful cause, by a man named Edgar during the night of the 18th December, 1898; he lay on the ground as if dead, and ultimately died in the hospital. Edgar escaped to his room, and some police came on the scene, attracted by the screams of the bystanders. Amongst the police was one named Jones. When they saw the man who had been assaulted lying as if dead, they went to Edgar's apartment in order to arrest him as a criminal (he had, indeed, rendered himself liable for manslaughter, and apparently for murder). As he was caught in the very act, the police officers were, according to the Laws, not only of this Republic, but of all South Africa and of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, justified in breaking open the door in order to arrest the culprit. While doing so, Edgar, with a dangerous weapon, struck Jones a severe blow. Under the stress of necessity the latter shot Edgar, from the effects of which he died. The question is not if Jones was justified in taking this extreme step, for the State Attorney of the Republic had already given effect to his opinion that this was a case for the jury by prosecuting him for manslaughter. The question is solely whether any jury in any country in the world would have found a man guilty of any crime under the circumstances set forth, and whether, if they did not find him guilty, the fact of their doing so would have been stamped and branded as a flagrant and remarkable instance of the maladministration of Justice.

This Government is convinced that the English judicial administration affords numberless instances where the facts are as strong as in this case, and it cannot see why an occurrence which could happen in any part of the world would be especially thrown in their teeth in the form of an accusation.

This Government does not wish to pass over in silence the censure which has been passed by Her Majesty's Government on the Public Prosecutor of Johannesburg, by whom the prosecution of this case was conducted; the fact that being of pure English blood, that he received his legal training in London, that he is generally respected by the Uitlander population on account of his ability, impartiality, and general character, will naturally not be of any weight with Her Majesty's Government against the facts of his action in calling witnesses for the prosecution who were intended for the defence, and thus rendering an imaginary cross-examination abortive.

This Government only wishes to point out that the fact that the Edgar case is the strongest which Her Majesty's Government has been able to quote against the administration of Justice in this Republic affords the strongest and most eloquent proof possible that, taking it in general, the administration of Justice on the gold fields of this Republic not only compares favourably with that on other and similar gold fields, but even with that of old and settled countries.

The untrue representations of this occurrence in the Press prove conclusively that the newspapers of the Witwatersrand, the atrocity-mongering tactics of which constitute a share of the organised campaign against the Republic and its Government, have been compelled to resort to mendacious criticisms on imaginary instances of maladministration, which were often simply invented. Where the Press is forced to adopt such methods, the true grievances must of necessity be unreal.


[Sidenote: c. The Amphitheatre occurence.]

I now give Mr. Chamberlain's accusations about The the Amphitheatre occurrence: –[15]

Some light upon the extent to which the police can be trusted to perform their delicate duties with fairness and discretion is thrown by the events referred to by the petitioners, which took place at a meeting called by British subjects for the purpose of discussing their grievances, and held on the 14th of January in the Amphitheatre of Johannesburg. The Government were previously apprised of the objects of the meeting, and their assent obtained, though this was not legally necessary for a meeting in an inclosed place. The organisers of the meeting state that they were informed by the State Secretary and the State Attorney that anyone who committed acts of violence or used seditious language would be held responsible, and in proof of the peaceful objects of the meeting, those who attended went entirely unarmed, by which it is understood that they did not even carry sticks. So little was any disturbance apprehended that ladies were invited to attend, and did attend. Yet, in the result, sworn affidavits of witnesses of different nationalities agree in the statement that the meeting was broken up almost immediately after its opening, and many of the persons attending it were violently assaulted by organised bands of hostile demonstrators, acting under the instigation and guidance of persons in Government employ, without any attempt at interference on the part of the police, and even in some cases with their assistance or loudly expressed sympathy.

The Government of the South African Republic has been asked to institute an inquiry into these disgraceful proceedings, but the request has been met with a flat refusal.

This accusation was answered in the following manner: –

The Amphitheatre occurrence is used by Her Majesty's Government to show how incapable the police of the Witwatersrand are to fulfil their duties and to preserve order. The League meeting was held at the so-called Amphitheatre at Johannesburg, with the knowledge of the State Secretary and State Attorney, and the accusation is that in spite of that fact the uproar which arose at that meeting was not quelled by the police. The following are the true facts: – Mr. Wybergh and another, both in the service of the South African League, informed the State Secretary and the State Attorney that they intended to call this meeting in the Amphitheatre, and asked permission to do so. They were informed that no permission from the authorities was necessary, and that as long as the meeting did not give rise to irregularities or disturbances of the peace, they would be acting entirely within their rights. Their attention was then drawn to the fact that owing to the action and the propaganda of the South African League, this body had become extremely unpopular with a large section of the inhabitants of Johannesburg, and that in all probability a disturbance of the peace would take place if a sufficient body of the police were not present to preserve order. To this these gentlemen answered that the police were in very bad odour since the Edgar case, that the meeting would be a very quiet one, and that the presence of the police would contribute or give rise to disorder, and that they would on those grounds rather have no police at all.

The State Secretary and State Attorney thereupon communicated with the head officials of the police at Johannesburg, with the result that the latter also thought that it would be better not to have any considerable number of police at the meeting. The Government accordingly, on the advice of these officials of the League as well as their own police officials, gave instructions that the police should remain away from this meeting; they did this in perfect good faith, and with the object of letting the League have its say without let or hindrance. The proposed meeting was, however, advertised far and wide. As the feeling amongst a section of the Witwatersrand population was exceedingly bitter against the League, a considerable number of the opponents of that body also attended the meeting. The few police who were present were powerless to quell the disorder, and when the police came on the scene in force some few minutes after the commencement of the uproar, the meeting was already broken up. Taken by itself, this occurrence would not be of much importance, as it is an isolated instance as far as the gold fields of this Republic are concerned, and even in the best organised and best ordered communities irregularities like the above occasionally take place.

The gravity of the matter, however, lies in the unjust accusation of Her Majesty's Government – that the meeting was broken up by officials of this Republic, and that the Government had curtly refused to institute an enquiry.

This Government would not have refused to investigate the matter if any complaints had been lodged with it, or at any of the local Courts, and this has been clearly stated in its reply to Her Majesty's request for an investigation.

This Government objects strongly to the systematic way in which 'the local authorities are ignored, and the continual complaints which are lodged with the Representatives of Her Majesty about matters which ought to be decided by the Courts of this Republic. Instead, however, of complaining to Her Majesty's Government after all other reasonable means of redress have been vainly invoked, they continually make themselves guilty of ignoring and treating with contempt the local Courts and authorities by continually making all sorts of ridiculous and ex parte complaints to Her Majesty's Government in the first instance; Her Majesty's Government is also thereby placed in the equivocal and undesirable position of intermeddling in the internal affairs of this Republic, which is in conflict with the London Convention. Had the complaints been lodged with this Government, or with the proper officials or Courts, the facts could have been very easily arrived at, and it would have been proved that the few officials who were present at the meeting as a section of the public had done their best to prevent the irregularities, and that some of them had been hurt in their endeavours to preserve order. Instead of expressing their disapproval of such complaints, and referring the petitioners to the local Courts, Her Majesty's Government accepts those complaints, and gives them an official character by forwarding them for the information of this Government, and by publishing them in blue books for the information of the world.

Her Majesty's Government will readily acknowledge that there is no State in the world with any sense of dignity, however weak and insignificant it may be, which can regard such matters with an indifferent eye; and when the relations of the two Governments are strained, then the mainspring must be looked for in this action of its subjects, which is not disapproved of by Her Majesty's Government, and not in imaginary or trumped-up grievances.

I have now examined the principal financial and administrative grievances of the English Uitlanders. I say English Uitlanders advisedly, because complaints are seldom or ever heard from other nationalities, either directly or by means of diplomatic representations.

Can it be contended with the slightest shadow of right and fairness that these grievances afford a reason for intervention? What crimes have been committed here against humanity or the law of nations? Do not the recorded grievances and abuses find a parallel in occurrences which are taking place every day in the most civilised countries? One can with perfect justice apply to the present circumstances the language which the Russian Government used in stigmatising the illegal intervention of the British Government in the internal affairs of the Kingdom of Naples:–[16]

We would understand that, as a consequence of friendly forethought, one Government should give advice to another in a benevolent spirit; that such advice might even assume the character of exhortation; but we believe that to be the furthest limit allowable. Less than ever can it now be allowed in Europe to forget that sovereigns are equal among themselves, and that it is not the extent of territory, but the sacred character of the rights of each, which regulates the relations that exist between them. To endeavour to obtain from the King of Naples concessions as regards the internal government of his States by threats, or by a menacing demonstration, is a violent usurpation of his authorities, an attempt to govern in his stead; it is an open declaration of the right of the strong over the weak.

In spite of all its hypocritical accusations, the British Government is perfectly well aware that, notwithstanding the unparalleled difficulties with which the Government and the Legislature have had to contend, the administration of the South African Republic is on a sound basis, and can, indeed, be favourably compared with that of other countries in a similar position.

It knows full well that the grievances which are used, by means of blue books, to stir up and excite the altruistic and humane feelings of the British public are for the most part imaginary, and that even if they were perfectly genuine, they nevertheless afford no ground for a justifiable interference in the internal affairs of the Republic. It is therefore necessary to have recourse to 'Constitutional means' of another description.


[Sidenote: Equal political rights.]

The third and last 'Constitutional' method which Mr. Chamberlain has had recourse to in order to forcibly intermeddle in the internal affairs of the South African Republic is the claim of equal rights for all the white inhabitants of the South African Republic. In this claim he has also followed the inspiration of Mr. Rhodes, for after the Jameson Raid Mr. Rhodes was prepared with a new programme for the 'progressive policy' of South Africa, and made use of the formula 'Equal rights for all white people south of the Zambesi.' Mr. Rhodes altered this cry afterwards, with an eye to the coloured vote in the Cape Colony, to 'Equal rights for all civilised persons south of the Zambesi.'

In due time the echo resounded from Downing Street 'Equal political rights for all persons in the South African Republic.' This formula may be either desirable or undesirable as a political aspiration in South Africa. But it is somewhat strange that Mr. Chamberlain should be one of the leaders of the party in England which has strenuously opposed the policy of manhood suffrage. In our case, however, Mr. Chamberlain does not confine himself to friendly advice, but he demands the franchise for all Uitlanders.

The South African Republic already possesses a franchise law, according to which every person is entitled to the full franchise after a seven years' residence in the Republic. But Mr. Chamberlain goes much further, and claims a far more extensive franchise. On what grounds does he base his claim?

[Sidenote: The Royal Commission.]

He appeals to the discussions which formed a prelude to the Convention of 1881. In the discussions, however, mention is only made of burgher rights or civil rights, with reference to which all possible equality has continuously existed since the Sand River Convention. To safeguard the equality of those civil as distinguished from political rights, Art. 12 of the Pretoria Convention provides 'all persons (Her Majesty's loyal subjects) will have full liberty to reside in the country with the enjoyment, of all civil rights, and protection for their persons and property.'

The period of the franchise was increased in 1882 from one year to five years, without, however, any protest from Her Majesty's Government, and in 1884 it was provided in the new Convention of that year in the most express and clear way possible that: –

(Art. XIV.). – All persons, other than natives, conforming themselves to the laws of the South African Republic (a) will have full liberty with their families, to enter, travel, or reside in any part of the South African Republic; (b), they will be entitled to hire or possess houses, manufactories, warehouses, shops, and premises; (c), they may carry on their commerce either in person or by any agents whom they may think fit to employ; (d), they will not be subject, in respect of their persons or property, or in respect of their commerce or industry, to any taxes, whether general or local, other than those which are or may be imposed upon citizens of the said Republic.

In this way all white Uitlanders were guaranteed in their rights of free movement, ownership, and possession of property, trade, and commerce, and equal taxation with the burghers. There is no mention of political rights, nor has there ever been before this year – 1899. The Government of the South African Republic would be acting strictly in terms of the Convention if it informed Mr. Chamberlain that it alone has to determine upon the Franchise, as being a question of a purely internal nature; and further, that in claiming the right in terms of that Convention to force the Government to adopt a particular Franchise Law Mr. Chamberlain is the party who is violating the Convention.


[Sidenote: The Bloemfontein Conference.]

The Government of the South African Republic, however, took up a higher position; the State President went to Bloemfontein for the purpose of discussing even internal affairs in a friendly spirit with the High Commissioner – inter alia – the question of the franchise, as he was actuated by the wish to consolidate and promote the peace of South Africa.[17] Sir Alfred Milner said there: 'If the question could be settled upon a broad and firm basis, the tension would disappear and everything come right in time.' He has done his best latterly to prove that he did not say or mean anything of the kind, that the franchise question was only one of the burning internal matters in which Her Majesty's Government interested itself, and that a favourable understanding about the franchise would in no way pave the way to an agreement as to the other points of difference.


[Sidenote: Sir Alfred Milner's attitude.]

The attitude of Sir Alfred Milner in this and other questions is, however, of such a nature that it is better to say nothing about his conduct, but to leave him to the judgment of public opinion and history. No agreement being possible between the parties, President Kruger left Bloemfontein and amended the Franchise Law in such a way that the Orange Free State, the Africanders of Cape Colony, and even Mr. Schreiner, Premier of the Cape Colony, publicly signified their approval of the amendments which had been made.


[Sidenote: The joint Commission of Enquiry.]

Mr. Chamberlain now discarded the appearance of friendliness, and began to adopt a menacing tone in his communications to the Government of the South African Republic. He proposed that the question as to whether the new Franchise Law was satisfactory or not should be discussed by a Joint Commission.

In the meanwhile, owing to informal conversations between the State Attorney and the British Government, there seemed to be a reasonable prospect of a speedy and satisfactory settlement.[18] The British Government, on being sounded by its agent, announced that if a five years' franchise, unhampered by complicated conditions, and with a quarter representation for the gold fields, were conceded, it would be prepared to consider the conditions, upon which the proposal depended, on their merits, and would not consider such a proposal as a refusal to accept the Joint Enquiry. The conditions were that (a) no further interference should take place; (b), that the claim of suzerainty should drop; and (c) that further disputes should be settled by Arbitration. As soon, however, as the proposal was formally made the British Government refused to accept the condition with regard to the dropping of the suzerainty claim, notwithstanding the fact that the High Commissioner had declared in an official dispatch that the suzerainty controversy appeared to him to be etymological and not political.[19] Shortly afterwards the British Government made what was practically the same proposal, but without the condition as to the dropping of the suzerainty claim.


[Sidenote: Bad faith of the British Government.]

As the Government of the South African Republic attached a vital importance to this condition, in view maintaining its international status, it refused to accept the proposal in this form; it, however, now reverted to the invitation for a joint enquiry, which it agreed to accept, but the British Government replied that it was too late, and that as a matter of fact it no longer adhered to the invitation.

Here we see in the clearest light –

(1). That, although the High Commissioner had stated that the suzerainty was only a question of etymological importance, that although the British Government had never been able to refute the arguments advanced by the South African Republic as to the abolition of the suzerainty in 1884, the British Government was nevertheless determined not to abandon its pretension, and is now prepared to make war in South Africa over this point.

(2). That the British Government invites the South African Republic to a joint enquiry, and, when this invitation, which had never been withdrawn, is accepted, the acceptance is refused with every mark of contempt.

Is there any instance in the history of civilised diplomacy of such trickery and such callous jugglery with the highest interests of South Africa?

Can anyone wonder that South Africa has lost all confidence in British statesmanship?

The British name has been sullied in this part of the world by many perfidious actions, but of a truth I cannot instance any more despicable and repellent incidents than those which have marked the course of events during the last few months.

And the consequence of this trickery will be written with the blood and the tears of thousands of innocent people.


References[edit]

  1. Dispatches of 12th August, 1896; 21st August, 1896; 17th February, 1897. C. 8423 and C. 8721.
  2. Dispatches of the 6th March, 1897. C. 8423.
  3. Dispatch, 7th May, 1897. No. 3, C. 8721.
  4. Dispatch, October, 1897. No. 7, C. 8721.
  5. Dispatch, 16th April, 1898. No. 4, C. 9507.
  6. Dispatch. C. 9507. Page 33.
  7. Dispatch, 17th March, 1899. C. 9507.
  8. 17th August, 1899.
  9. Dispatch, 10th May, 1899. No. 83, C. 9345.
  10. Dispatch of the Transvaal Government, 26th September, 1899. Appendix C.
  11. Dispatch, 10th May, 1899. Blue Book, C. 9345. Page 229.
  12. Dispatch. Appendix C.
  13. Dispatch, 10th May, 1899. C. 9345. Page 229.
  14. Appendix C.
  15. Dispatch, 10th May, 1899. Blue Book, C. 9345. Page 229.
  16. Life of Prince Consort, Vol. III., p. 510.
  17. Blue Book, C. 9404.
  18. Blue Book, C. 9530.
  19. Blue Book, C. 9507, p. 6.