Middelberg Proposal

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Middelberg Proposal  (1901) 
by Herbert Kitchener
A precursor to the Peace of Vereeniging, The Middelberg Proposal is a letter from British General Herbert Kitchener addressed to General Louis Botha of the South African Republic entailing details on a proposed peace agreement. After the release of this letter in 1901, both parties went into discussions over the final treaty, the Peace of Vereeniging, signed May 31, 1902, thereby ending the South African Wars. Without this preliminary letter, the final Treaty may not have been successful.[1]


THE MIDDELBERG PROPOSAL:
Lord Kitchener to Commandant-General Botha:

Pretoria, March 7, 1901

Your Honour,—

With reference to our conversation at Middelberg on the 28th February, I have the honour to inform you that, in the event of a general and complete cessation of hostilities, and the surrender of all rifles, ammunition, cannon and other munitions of war in the hands of the burghers, or in Government depots, or elsewhere, His Majesty’s Government is prepared to adopt the following measures:

His Majesty’s Government will at once grant an amnesty in the Transvaal and Orange River Colony for all bonâ fide acts of war committed during the recent hostilities. British subjects belonging to Natal and Cape Colony, while they will not be compelled to return to those Colonies, will, if they do so, be liable to be dealt with by the laws of those Colonies specially passed to meet the circumstances arising out of the present war. As you are doubtless aware, the special law in the Cape Colony has greatly mitigated the ordinary penalties for high treason in the present case.

All prisoners of war, now in St. Helena, Ceylon, or elsewhere, being burghers or colonists, will on the completion of the surrender, be brought back to their country as quickly as arrangements can be made for their transport.

At the earliest practicable date military administration will cease, and will be replaced by civil administration in the form of Crown Colony Government. There will, therefore, be in the first instance, in each of the new Colonies, a Governor and an Executive Council, composed of the principal officials, with a Legislative Council consisting of a certain number of official members to whom a nominated unofficial element will be added. But it is the desire of His Majesty’s Government, as soon as circumstances permit, to introduce a representative element, and ultimately to concede to the new Colonies the privilege of self-government. Moreover, on the cessation of hostilities, a High Court will be established in each of the new Colonies to administer the laws of the land, and this Court will be independent of the Executive.

Church property, public trusts, and orphan funds will be respected.

Both the English and Dutch languages will be used and taught in public schools when the parents of the child desire it, and allowed in Courts of Law.

As regards the debts of the late Republican Governments, His Majesty’s Government cannot undertake any liability. It is, however, prepared, as an act of grace, to set aside a sum not exceeding one million pounds sterling to repay inhabitants of the Transvaal and Orange River Colony for goods requisitioned from them by the late Republican Governments, or subsequent to annexation, by Commandants in the field being in a position to enforce such requisitions. But such claims will have to be established to the satisfaction of a Judge or Judicial Commission, appointed by the Government, to investigate and assess them, and, if exceeding in the aggregate one million pounds, they will be liable to reduction pro rata.

I also beg to inform Your Honour that the new Government will take into immediate consideration the possibility of assisting by loan the occupants of farms, who will take the oath of allegiance, to repair any injuries sustained by destruction of buildings or loss of stock during the war, and that no special war tax will be imposed upon farms to defray the expense of the war.

When burghers require the protection of firearms, such will be allowed to them by licence, and on due registration, provided they take the oath of allegiance. Licences will also be issued for sporting rifles, guns, etc., but military firearms will only be allowed for purposes of protection.

As regards the extension of the franchise to Kaffirs in the Transvaal and Orange River Colony, it is not the intention of His majesty’s Government to give such franchise before representative Government is granted to those Colonies, and if then given it will be so limited as to secure the just predominance of the white race. The legal position of coloured persons will, however, be similar to that which they hold in the Cape Colony.

In conclusion I must inform Your Honour that, if the terms now offered are not accepted after a reasonable delay for consideration they must be regarded as cancelled.

I have, etc.,

KITCHENER, GENERAL,

Commander-in-Chief British Forces, South Africa.

To His Honour, Commandant-General Louis Botha.

Reference[edit]

  1. Martin Evans, Encyclopedia of the Boer War (Santa Barbara: ABC-CLIO, 2000), 359.