Page:EB1911 - Volume 20.djvu/181
Orange Free State
farmers in this district, unlike their fellows dwelling farther north, were willing to accept British rule, and this fact induced Mr Justice Menzies, one of the judges of Cape Colony then on circuit at Colesberg, to cross the Orange and proclaim (October 1842) the country British territory, a proclamation disallowed by the governor, Sir George Napier, who, nevertheless, maintained that the emigrant farmers were still British subjects. It was after this episode that the treaties with Adam Kok and Moshesh were negotiated. The treaties gave great offence to the Boers, who refused to acknowledge the sovereignty of the native chiefs. The majority of the white farmers in Kok’s territory sent a deputation to the British commissioner in Natal, Henry Cloete, asking for equal treatment with the Griquas, and expressing the desire to come on such terms, under British protection. Shortly afterwards hostilities between the farmers and the Griquas broke out. British troops were moved up to support the Griquas, and after a skirmish at Zwartkopjes (May 2, 1845) a new arrangement was made between Kok and Sir Peregrine Maitland, then governor of Cape Colony, virtually placing the administration of his territory in the hands of a British resident, a post filled in 1846 by Captain H. D. Warden. The place chosen by Captain (afterwards Major) Warden as the seat of his court was known as Bloemfontein, and it subsequently became the capital of the whole country.
The volksraad at Winburg during this period continued to claim jurisdiction over the Boers living between the Orange Annexation by Great Britain.and the Vaal and was in federation with the volksraad at Potchefstroom, which made a similar claim upon the Boers living north of the Vaal. In 1846 Major Warden occupied Winburg for a short time, and the relations between the Boers and the British were in a continual state of tension. Many of the farmers deserted Winburg for the Transvaal. Sir Harry Smith became governor of the Cape at the end of 1847. He recognized the failure of the attempt to govern on the lines of the treaties with the Griquas and Basutos, and on the 3rd of February 1848 he issued a proclamation declaring British sovereignty over the country between the Orange and the Vaal eastward to the Drakensberg. The justness of Sir Harry Smith’s measures and his popularity among the Boers gained for his policy considerable support, but the republican party, at whose head was Andries Pretorius (q.v.), did not submit without a struggle. They were, however, defeated by Sir Harry Smith in an engagement at Boomplaats (August 29, 1848). Thereupon Pretorius, with those most bitterly opposed to British rule, retreated across the Vaal. In March 1840 Major Warden was succeeded at Bloemfontein as civil commissioner by Mr C. U. Stuart, but he remained British resident until July 1852. A nominated legislative council was created, a high court established and other steps taken for the orderly government of the country, which was officially styled the Orange River Sovereignty. In October 1849 Moshesh was induced to sign a new arrangement considerably curtailing the boundaries of the Basuto reserve. The frontier towards the Sovereignty was thereafter known as the Warden line. A little later the reserves of other chieftains were precisely defined. The British Resident had, however, no force sufficient to maintain his authority, and Moshesh and all the neighbouring clans became involved in hostilities with one another and with the whites. In 1851 Moshesh joined the republican party in the Sovereignty in an invitation to Pretorius to recross the Vaal. The intervention of Pretorius resulted in the Sand River Convention of 1832, which acknowledged the independence of the Transvaal but left the status of the Sovereignty untouched. The British government (the first Russell administration), which had reluctantly agreed to the annexation of the country, had, however, already repented its decision and had resolved to abandon the Sovereignty. Lord Grey (the 3rd earl), secretary of state for the colonies, in a despatch to Sir Harry Smith dated the 21st of October 1851, declared, “The ultimate abandonment of the Orange Sovereignty should be a settled point in our policy.” A meeting of representatives of all European inhabitants of the Sovereignty, elected on manhood suffrage, held at Bloemfontein in June 1852, nevertheless declared in favour of the retention of British rule. At the close of that year a settlement was at length concluded with Moshesh, which left, perhaps, that chief in a stronger position than he had hitherto been. (See Basutoland: History.) There had been ministerial changes in England and the ministry then in power — that of Lord Aberdeen — adhered to the determination to withdraw from the Sovereignty. Sir George Russell Clerk was sent out in 1853 as special commissioner “for the settling and adjusting of the affairs” of the Sovereignty, and in August of that year he summoned a meeting of delegates to determine upon a form of self-government. At that time there were some 15,000 whites in the country, many of them recent emigrants from Cape Colony. There were among them numbers of farmers and tradesmen of British blood. The majority of the whites still wished for the continuance of British rule provided that it was effective and the country guarded against its enemies. The representations of their delegates, who drew up a proposed constitution retaining British control, were unavailing. Sir George Clerk announced that, as the elected delegates were Independence forced on the Boers.unwilling to take steps to form an independent government he would enter into negotiations with other persons. “And then,” writes Dr Theal, “was seen the strange spectacle of an English commissioner addressing men who wished to be free of British control as the friendly and well-disposed inhabitants, while for those who desired to remain British subjects and who claimed that protection to which they believed themselves entitled he had no sympathizing word.” While the elected delegates sent two members to England to try and induce the government to alter their decision Sir George Clerk speedily came to terms with a committee formed by the republican party and presided over by Mr J. H. Hoffman. Even before this committee met a royal proclamation had been signed (January 30, 1854) “abandoning and renouncing all dominion” in the Sovereignty. A convention recognizing the independence of the country was signed at Bloemfontein on the 23rd of February by Sir George Clerk and the republican committee, and on the 11th of March the Boer government assumed office and the republican flag was hoisted. Five days later the representatives of the elected delegates had an interview in London with the colonial secretary, the duke of Newcastle, who informed them that it was now too late to discuss the question of the retention of British rule. The colonial secretary added that it was impossible for England to supply troops to constantly advancing outposts, “especially as Cape Town and the port of Table Bay were all she really required in South Africa.” In withdrawing from the Sovereignty the British government declared that it had “no alliance with any native chief or tribes to the northward of the Orange River with the exception of the Griqua chief Captain Adam Kok.” Kok was not formidable in a military sense, nor could he prevent individual Griquas from alienating their lands. Eventually, in 1861, he sold his sovereign rights to the Free State for £4000 and removed with his followers to the district now known as Griqualand East.
On the abandonment of British rule representatives of the people were elected and met at Bloemfontein on the 28th of Republican rule.March 1854, and between that date and the 18th of April were engaged in framing a constitution. The country was declared a republic and named the Orange Free State. All persons of European blood possessing a six months’ residential qualification were to be granted full burgher rights. The sole legislative authority was vested in a single popularly elected chamber styled the volksraad. Executive authority was entrusted to a president elected by the burghers from a list submitted by the volksraad. The president was to be assisted by an executive council, was to hold office for five years and was eligible for re-election. The constitution was subsequently modified but remained of a liberal character. A residence of five years in the country was required before aliens could become naturalized. The first president was Mr Hoffman, but he was accused of being too complaisant towards Moshesh andresigned, being succeeded in 1855 by Mr J. N. Boshof, one of