A Century of Wrong/The Orange Free State
The Orange Free State.
Giving effect to Law 6 and 7, William IV., ch. 57, the English appointed a Resident in the Free State. Pretorius, however, gave him 48 hours' notice to quit the Republic. Thereupon Sir Harry Smith mobilised an army, chiefly consisting of blacks, against us white people, and fought us at Boomplaats, on the 29th August, 1848. After an obstinate struggle a Boer named Thomas Dreyer was caught by the blacks of Smith's army, and to the shame of English reputation, was killed by the English Governor for no other crime than that he was once, though years before, a British subject, and had now dared to fight against Her Majesty's Flag.
Another murder and deed of shame in South Africa's account with England!
[Sidenote: Annexation of the Orange Free State]
In the meantime Sir Harry Smith had annexed the Free State as the 'Orange River Sovereignty,' on the pretext that four-fifths of the inhabitants favoured British dominion, and were only intimidated by the power of Pretorius from manifesting their wishes.
But the British Resident soon came into collision with Moshesh, the great and crafty head chieftain of the Basutos.
The Boers were called up to assist, but only 75 responded out of the 1,000 who were called up. The English had then to eat the leek. The Resident informed his Government that the fate of the Orange River Sovereignty depended upon Andries Pretorius, the very man on whose head Sir Harry Smith had put a price of £2,000. Earl Grey censured and abandoned both Sir Harry Smith and the Resident, Major Warden, saying in his despatch to the Governor dated 15th December, 1851, that the British Government had annexed the country on the understanding that the inhabitants had generally desired it. But if they would not support the British Government, which had only been established in their interests, and if they wished to be freed from that authority, there was no longer any use in continuing it.
[Sidenote: The Orange Sovereignty once more a Republic.]
The Governor was clearly given to understand by the British Government that there was in future to be no interference in any of the wars which might take place between the different tribes and the inhabitants of independent states beyond the Colonial boundaries, no matter how sanguinary such wars might happen to be.
In other words, as Froude says, 'In 1852 we had discovered that wars with the Natives and wars with the Dutch were expensive and useless, that sending troops out and killing thousands of Natives was an odd way of protecting them. We resolved then to keep within our own territories, to meddle no more beyond the Orange River, and to leave the Dutch and the Natives to settle their differences among themselves.'
And again: 'Grown sick at last of enterprises which led neither to honour nor peace, we resolved, in 1852, to leave Boers, Kaffirs, Basutos, and Zulus to themselves, and make the Orange River the boundary of British responsibilities. We made formal treaties with the two Dutch States, binding ourselves to interfere no more between them and the Natives, and to leave them either to establish themselves as a barrier between ourselves and the interior of Africa, or to sink, as was considered most likely, in an unequal struggle with warlike tribes, by whom they were infinitely outnumbered.'
The administration of the Free State cost the British taxpayer too much. There was an idea, too, that if enough rope were given to the Boer he would hang himself.
A new Governor, Sir George Cathcart, was sent out with two Special Commissioners to give effect to the new policy. A new Treaty between England and the Free State was signed, by which full independence was guaranteed to the Republic, the British Government undertaking at the same time not to interfere with any of the Native tribes north of the Orange River.
As Cathcart remarked in his letters – the Sovereignty bubble had burst, and the silly Sovereignty farce was played out.
[Sidenote: The Diamond Fields]
It must not be forgotten that as long as the Free State was English territory it was supposed to include that strip of ground now known as Kimberley and the Diamond Fields; English title deeds had been issued during the Orange River Sovereignty in respect of the ground in question, which was considered to belong to the Sovereignty, and to be under the jurisdiction of one of the Sovereignty Magistrates. At the reestablishment of the Free State it consequently became a part of the Orange Free State.
[Sidenote: The Basutos.]
Not fifteen years had elapsed since the Convention between England and the Free State before it was broken by the English. It had been solemnly stipulated that England would not interfere in Native affairs north of the Orange River. The Basutos had murdered the Freestaters, plundered them, ravished their wives, and committed endless acts of violence. After a bitter struggle of three years, the Freestaters had succeeded in inflicting a well-merited chastisement on the Basutos, when the British intervened in 1869 in favour of the Natives, notwithstanding the fact that they had reiterated their declaration of non-interference in the Aliwal Convention.
[Sidenote: The Diamond Fields.]
To return to the Diamond Fields, as Froude remarks: 'The ink on the Treaty of Aliwal was scarcely dry when diamonds were discovered in large quantities in a district which we had ourselves treated as part of the Orange Territory.' Instead of honestly saying that the British Government relied on its superior strength, and on this ground demanded the territory in question, which contained the richest diamond fields in the world, it hypocritically pretended that the real reason of its depriving the Free State of the Diamond Fields was that they belonged to a Native, notwithstanding the fact that this contention was falsified by the judgment of the English Courts. 'There was a notion also,' says Froude, 'that the finest diamond mine in the world ought not to be lost to the British Empire.'
The ground was thereupon taken from the Boers, and 'from that day no Boer in South Africa has been able to trust to English promises.'
Later, when Brand went to England, the British Government acknowledged its guilt and paid £90,000 for the richest diamond fields in the world, a sum which scarcely represents the daily output of the mines.
But notwithstanding the Free State Convention, notwithstanding the renewed promises of the Aliwal Convention – the Free State was forced to suffer a third breach of the Convention at the hands of the English. Ten thousand rifles were imported into Kimberley through the Cape Colony, and sold there to the natives who encircled and menaced the two Dutch Republics. General Sir Arthur Cunynghame, the British Commander-in-Chief in South Africa, admits that 400,000 guns were sold to Kaffirs during his term of office. Protests from the Transvaal and the Free State were of no avail. And when the Free State in the exercise of its just rights stopped waggons laden with guns on their way through its territory, it was forced to pay compensation to the British Government.
'The Free State,' says the historian Froude, 'paid the money, but paid it under protest, with an old-fashioned appeal to the God of Righteousness, whom, strange to say, they believed to be a reality.'
It seems thus that there is no place for the God of Righteousness in English policy.
So far we have considered our Exodus from the Cape Colony, and the way in which we were deprived of Natal and the Free State by England. Now for the case of the Transvaal.
- Theal, 256-64. Hofstede.
- Oceana, page 31.
- Oceana, page 36.
- Froude, Oceana. Hofstede.
- Oceana, page 41.
- Oceana, page 40.
- Oceana, page 42.
- Cunynghame, page XI.
- Oceana, page 42.