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result — the loss of independence — which must follow their mischievous policy in being led by the Transvaal. The mass of Boers in the Free State, deluded by a belief in Great Britain’s weakness, paid no heed to his remonstrances. Mr Fraser lived to see the fulfilment of these prophecies. After the British occupation of Bloemfontein he cast in his lot with the Imperial Government, realizing that it had fought for those very principles which President Brand and he had laboured for in bygone years.
On entering Bloemfontein in 1900 the British obtained possession of certain state papers which contained records of negotiations between the Transvaal and the Orange Free State. The evidence contained in these state records so clearly marks the difference between the pohcy of Mr Kruger and the pacific, commercial policy of President Brand and his followers, that the documents call for careful consideration. From these papers it was found that, in 1887, two secret conferences had taken place between representatives of the Republics, dealing with various political and economical questions. At the first of these conferences, held in Pretoria, the object of the Free State deputies were to arrange a general treaty of amity and commerce which would knit the states more closely together, and to come to some agreement with reference to the scheme for building a railway across the Free State from the Cape, to connect with a farther extension in the Transvaal to Pretoria. The deputation also urged the Transvaal to join the South African Customs Union. Both of these suggestions were strongly disapproved by Mr Kruger, inasmuch as they meant knitting together the Boer republics and the British possessions, instead of merely bringing the Free State into completer dependence on the Transvaal. From the minutes of this conference it is clear that the two deputations were practically at cross purposes. In the minds of President Kruger and his immediate followers one idea was dominant, that of ousting and keeping out at all costs British influence and interests. On the part of the Free State there was obviously a genuine desire to further the best interests of the state, together with the general prosperity of the whole of South Africa. In President Kruger's eyes British trade meant ruin; he desired to keep it out of the Republic at all costs, and he begged the Free State to delay the construction of their railway until the Delagoa Bay line was completed. He said, “Delagoa is a life or death question for us. Help us: if you hook on to the Colony you cut our throat. … How can our state exist without the Delagoa railway? Keep free.” With regard to the Customs Union, President Kruger was equally emphatic; he begged the Free State to steer clear of it. “Customs Unions,” he said, “are made between equal states with equal access to harbours. We are striving to settle the question of our own harbour peacefully. The English will only use their position to swindle the Transvaal of its proper receipts.” In response, Mr Fraser, one of the Free State delegates, remarked that a harbour requires forts, soldiers, ships and sailors to man them, or else it would be at the mercy of the first gunboat that happened to assail it. President Kruger replied that once the Transvaal had a harbour foreign powers would intervene. Mr Wolmarans was as emphatic as President Kruger. “Wait a few years. … You know our secret policy. We cannot treat the [Cape] Colony as we would treat you. The Colony would destroy us. It is not the Dutch there we are fighting against. Time shall show what we mean to do with them; for the present we must keep them off.”
The result of this conference was a secret session of the Transvaal volksraad and the proposition of a secret treaty Anti-British designs.with the Free State, by which each state should bind itself not to build railways to its frontier without the consent of the other, the eastern and northern frontiers of the Transvaal being excepted. The railway from Pretoria to Bloemfontein was to be proceeded with; neither party was to enter the Customs Union without the consent of the other. The Transvaal was to pay £20,000 annually to the Free State for loss incurred for not having the railway to Cape Colony. Such a treaty as the one proposed would simply have enslaved the Free State to the Transvaal, and it was rejected by the Free State volksraad. President Kruger determined on a still more active measure, and proceeded with Dr Leyds to interview President Brand at Bloemfontein. A series of meetings took place in October of the same year (1887). President Brand opened the proceedings by proposing a treaty of friendship and free trade between the two Republics, in which a number of useful and thoroughly practical provisions were set forth. President Kruger, however, soon brushed these propositions aside, and responded by stating that, in consideration of the common enemy and the dangers which threatened the Republic, an offensive and defensive alliance must be preliminary to any closer union. To this Brand rejoined that, as far as the offensive was concerned, he did not desire to be a party to attacking any one, and as for the defensive, where was the pressing danger of the enemy which Kruger feared? The Free State was on terms of friendship with its neighbours, nor (added Brand) would the Transvaal have need for such an alliance as the one proposed if its policy would only remain peaceful and conciliatory. At a later date in the conference (see Transvaal) President Brand apparently changed his policy, and himself drafted a constitution resembling that of the United States. This constitution appears to have been modelled on terms a great deal too liberal and enhghtened to please Mr Kruger, whose one idea was to have at his command the armed forces of the Free State when he should require them, and who pressed for an offensive and defensive alliance. Brand refused to allow the Free State to be committed to a suicidal treaty, or dragged into any wild policy which the Transvaal might deem it expedient to adopt. The result of the whole conference was that Kruger returned to Pretoria completely baffled, and for a time the Free State was saved from being a party to the fatal policy into which others subsequently drew it. Independent power of action was retained by Brand for the Free State in both the railway and Customs Union questions.
After Sir John Brand’s death, as already stated, a series of agreements and measures gradually subordinated Free State interests to the mistaken ambition and narrow views of the Transvaal. The influence which the Kruger party had obtained in the Free State was evidenced by the presidential election in 1896, when Mr Steyn received forty-one votes against nineteen cast for Mr Fraser. That this election should have taken place immediately after the Jameson Raid probably increased Mr Steyn’s majority. Underlying the new policy adopted by the Free State was the belief held, if not by President Steyn himself, at least by his followers, that the two republics combined would be more than a match for the power of Great Britain should hostilties occur.
In December 1897 the Free State revised its constitution in reference to the franchise law, and the period of residence necessary to obtain naturalization was reduced from five to three years. The oath of allegiance to the state was alone required, and no renunciation of nationality was insisted upon. In 1898 the Free State also acquiesced in the new convention arranged with regard to the Customs Union between the Cape Colony, Natal, Basutoland and the Bechuanaland Protectorate. These measures suggest that a slight reaction against the extreme policy of President Kruger had set in. But events were moving rapidly in the Transvaal, and matters had proceeded too far for the Free State to turn back. In May 1899 President Steyn suggested the conference at Bloemfontein between President Kruger and Sir Alfred Milner, but this act, if it expressed a genuine desire for reconciliation, was too late. President Kruger had got the Free State ensnared in his meshes. The Free Staters were practically bound, under the offensive and defensive alliance, in case hostilities arose with Great Britain, either to denounce the policy to which they had so unwisely been secretly party, or to throw in their lot with the Transvaal. War occurred, and they Boer War.accepted the inevitable consequence. For President Steyn and the Free State of 1899, in the light of the negotiations we have recorded, neutrality was impossible. A resolution was passed by the volksraad on the 27th of September declaring that the state would observe its obligations to theTransvaal whatever might happen. Before war had actually