previous question” (June 29). Thus ended an attempt which lacked the element essential to success—spontaneity.
Confederation had, for the time being, ceased to be a living issue some time before its formal shelving by the Cape parliament. The Kaffir War of 1878 was followed by war with the Zulus. Frere, believing that the Zulu power was a standing menace to the peace of South Africa, and that delay in dealing with Cetywayo would only increase the danger, sent an ultimatum to the chief in November 1878. The invasion of Zululand began in January 1879, and was speedily followed by the disaster at Isandhlwana and by the defence of Rorke's Drift and of Eshowe. But at the battle of Ulundi in July the Zulu power was crushed, and a little later Cetywayo was taken prisoner (see Zululand: History). The removal of the Zulu danger did not, however, restore harmony between the British and the Boers in the Transvaal. The malcontent Boers became a powerful element in the country. They were largely influenced by an important section of the Dutch community in western Cape Colony, which carried on a campaign against annexation, seeing in it a blow to the ideal they had begun to entertain of a united South Africa of a Dutch republican type. Sir Garnet Wolseley, at this period (June 1879–May 1880) high commissioner of South-East Africa, gave the Transvaal a legislative council, but the members were all nominated. This could not be regarded as a redemption of the promise of a liberal constitution, and it had an injurious, though limited, effect on the Boer community. After the receipt in December 1879 of the reports of Mr Gladstone's speeches during his Midlothian campaign—in which he denounced annexation as obtained by means dishonourable to Great Britain—the Boers expected nothing less than the retrocession of the country.
There was one strong reason against retrocession, concerning which the Boers—if they gave it thought—would naturally be silent. To the British mind in general it was apparently non-existent. It had, however, been seen and its strength recognized by Sir Garnet Wolseley during his brief governorship of the Transvaal. Wolseley, in a despatch dated the 13th of November 1879 said:—
in quantities, and there can be little doubt that larger and still more valuable goldfields will sooner or later be discovered. Any such discovery would soon bring a large British population here. The time must eventually arrive when the Boers will be in asmall minority, as the country is very sparsely peopled; and would it not therefore be a very near-sighted policy to recede now from the position we have taken up here, simply because for some years to come the retention of 2000 or 3000 troops may be necessary tore consolidate our power.
As Lord Morley in his Life of Gladstone says, “this pregnant and far-sighted warning seems to have been little considered by English statesmen of either party at this critical time or afterwards, though it proved a vital element in any far-sighted decision.”
The result of the general election of 1880 was to place Mr Gladstone in power. The new administration, notwithstanding Mr Gladstone's public utterances, declared their intention of retaining British sovereignty in the Transvaal, coupling with that decision a pious hope for the speedy accomplishment of confederation so as to allow of free institutions being given to Natal and the Transvaal. The disillusionment occasioned by this decision caused the Boer delegates then at the Cape to help to wreck the federation proposals (see supra). But if unwilling at the time to undo the work of Sir T. Shepstone, the Liberal cabinet were prepared to get rid of the chief British representative in South Africa—partly to please the extreme Radicals among their followers. Accordingly on the 2nd of August 1880 Frere received a telegraphic despatch from Lord Kimberley (the new secretary of state for the colonies) announcing his recall Frere's task was one of extreme Recall of Sir Bartle Frere.delicacy; he chose to face difficulties rather than evade them, and had he been unfettered in his action might have accomplished much more than he was able to do; in its main lines his policy was sound. (See Frere, Sir Henry Bartle.)
Finding that the Gladstone administration would not give up the Transvaal voluntarily, the Boers now determined on rebellion. Hostilities began in December 1880, and eventually a series of engagements ended in the rout (Feb. 27, 1881) of a small British force which had occupied Majuba Hill the previous evening. The killed included the general in command, Sir George Colley. Meanwhile the resolution of Mr Gladstone and his colleagues to keep the Transvaal had been shaken by the Boer declaration of independence. After the first engagements this resolution was further weakened; and when, after a British reverse at Ingogo (Feb. 8), overtures were made by Majuba.Mr Kruger on behalf of the Boers, the cabinet was strongly inclined to come to terms. The news of Majuba did not turn it from its purpose. Opinions will always differ as to the course adopted by the Liberal government. “We could not,” wrote Mr Gladstone, “because we had failed on Sunday last, insist on shedding more blood.” It is at all events abundantly clear that had the Boers not resorted to arms they would not have gained the support of the cabinet.
Sir Evelyn Wood, who had succeeded Colley as general in command and governor of Natal, under instructions from home, concluded a treaty of peace on the 22nd of March. The terms agreed upon were elaborated in a convention signed at Pretoria in August following. By this instrument the Transvaalwas granted self-government subject to British suzerainty and the control of the foreign relations of the state. In 1884 the Gladstone administration made further concessions by the London convention of that year. This last document still, however, reserved for Great Britain certain rights, including the power of veto over treaties concluded by the Transvaal with any power other than the Orange Free State. But the success of the Transvaal Boers both in war and diplomacy had quickened the sense of racial unity among the Dutch throughout the country, and there arose a spirit of antagonism between the Dutch and the British which affected the whole future of South Africa.
Before, however, dealing with the relations between the British and the Boers subsequent to 1881 brief reference may be made to affairs in which other powers were concerned; affairs which were the prelude to the era of expansion associated with the career of Cecil Rhodes. In 1868 the Europeans in Great Namaqualand and Damaraland petitioned for annexation to Germany in South Africa.Great Britain. Eventually (1878) only Walfish Bay and a small strip of adjacent territory were annexed. In 1883 Germany entered the field and during 1884–1885, owing to the procrastinating policy of the Cape and British governments, all the coast between the Orange and the Portuguese frontier, save Walfish Bay, was placed under German protection (see Africa, §5). The eastern boundary of German South-West Africa was fixed in 1890, the frontier running through the Kalahari Desert. Bechuanaland, the region between the German colony and the Transvaal, was secured for Great Britain. It was not on the west coast only that Germany made efforts to secure a footing in South Africa. In September 1884 an attempt was made to secure St Lucia Bay, on the coast of Zululand. Here, however, Great Britain stood firm. St Lucia Bay had been ceded to the British by the Zulu king Panda in 1843, and this cession has always been regarded as valid. Eventually Germany agreed to make no annexation on the east coast of Africa south of Delagoa Bay. With the proclamation of a British protectorate over the coast of Pondoland in January 1885 the coast-line from the
- Had Shepstone's promise been redeemed at an early date, it might well have extinguished the agitation for independence.
- It is remarkable that the Liberal government, despite this aspiration, and despite stronger language used by Mr Gladstone, did nothing to give the Boers any real self-government. Sir Bartle Frere pressed the new administration, as he had the Conservative government, on this point without effect.
- Frere sailed for England on the 15th of September. His successor, Sir Hercules Robinson, reached the Cape at the end of January 1881.
- Morley's Life of Gladstone, bk. viii. ch. 3, “Majuba.”