Page:EB1911 - Volume 25.djvu/496

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
History]
479
South Africa

favourably. It might have succeeded but for a vital difference which arose between the Uitlanders in Johannesburg and Rhodes. As Charles Leonard's manifesto stated, the reformers as a body, desired to maintain the autonomy of the Transvaal and the republican form of government; Rhodes wished the revolution to be accomplished under the British flag.[1] “I was not going to risk my position,” he stated subsequently, “to change President Kruger for President J. B. Robinson” (the only prominent Uitlander who stood aloof from the reform movement). This divergence of views manifested itself on Christmas Day 1895, and although, under pressure, Rhodes did not insist on the British flag, it was determined to postpone the rising. Jameson was so informed, nevertheless he precipitated the crisis by invading the Transvaal on the evening of December the 29th. The Transvaal government, meantime, had obtained some knowledge of what was being projected, and the Raid ended in a forced surrender (January 2, 1896) to a superior force of Boers. The Reform Committee, i.e. the Uitlander leaders, after holding Johannesburg for over a week, also surrendered, and by the 9th of January the plot had ended in complete failure. Mr Chamberlain still desired Kruger to grant immediate reforms and propounded a scheme of “Home Rule” for the Rand. The time was inopportune, however, for pressing the Transvaal on the subject, and nothing was done.[2]

The Jameson raid had a profound effect on the history of South Africa. It greatly embittered racial feeling throughout the country; it threw the Free State Boers completely on to the side of the Transvaal; it destroyed the alliance between the Dutch in Cape Colony and the Imperialists led by Rhodes. It did more, it divided British opinion, sympathy for the Boer republics leading in some cases to a disregard for the real grievances of the Uitlanders. It also gave a much desired opportunity for the intrusion of other powers in the affairs of the Transvaal;[3] and it led Kruger to revive the scheme for a united South Africa under a Dutch republican flag. This scheme found many supporters in Cape Colony. A suspicion that the Colonial Office in London was cognizant of Rhodes's plans further excited Dutch national feeling, and the Bond once more became actively anti-British. Rhodes had resigned the premiership of the Cape a few days after the Raid, and during the greater part of 1896 was in Rhodesia, where he was able to bring to an end, in September, a formidable rebellion of the Matabele which had broken out six months previously.

A section of the Dutch population was not however disposed to sacrifice the development of industries and commerce for racial considerations; while sharing the political aspirations of Kruger and Steyn the wiser among them wished for such a measure of reform in the Transvaal as would remove all justification for outside interference. Nevertheless the cleavage at the Cape between the Dutch and British grew. Sir Gordon Sprigg, who had become Premier of Cape Colony in succession to Rhodes, found his position untenable, and in October 1898 he was succeeded by a Bond ministry under Mr W. P. Schreiner. The term “Progressive” was now formally adopted by the British mercantile communities in the large towns and among the sturdy farmers of British descent in the eastern province. On returning to South Africa after the Raid inquiry at Westminster in 1897, Rhodes had intended to withdraw from Cape politics and devote his energies for a time entirely to Rhodesia, but the pressure put upon him by a section of the British colonists was so strong that he determined to throw in his lot with them.

In the Transvaal, meantime, the situation of the Uitlanders grew worse. The monopoly and concessions regime continued unchecked, the naturalization laws were not amended, while the judicature was rendered subservient to the executive (see Transvaal: History). The gold mining industry was fostered only so far as it served to provide revenue for the state, and large sums from that revenue were used in fortifying Pretoria and in the purchase of arms and ammunition. This process of arming the republic had begun before the Raid; after that event it was carried on with great energy and was directed against Great Britain. Kruger also sought (unsuccessfully) to have the London Convention of 1884 annulled, and he entered into a closer union with the Free State. Great Britain watched the development of Kruger's plans with misgiving, but except on points of detail it was felt for some time to be impossible to bring pressure upon the Transvaal. The retirement of Lord Rosemead (Sir Hercules Robinson) from the post of high commissioner was, however, taken advantage of by the British government to appoint an administrator who should at the fitting opportunity insist on the redress of the Uitlanders grievances.

Sir Alfred Milner (see Milner, Viscount), the new high commissioner, took up his duties at the Cape in May 1897. He Milner appointed High Commissioner.realized that one of the most potent factors in the situation was the attitude of the Cape Dutch, and in March 1898 at Graaff Reinet Milner called upon the Dutch citizens of the Cape, “especially those who had gone so far in the expression of their sympathy for the Transvaal as to expose themselves to charges of disloyalty to their own flag” to use all their influence, not in confirming the Transvaal in unjustified suspicions, not in encouraging its government in obstinate resistance to all reform, but in inducing it gradually to assimilate its institutions, and the temper and spirit of its administration, to those of the free communities of South Africa, such as Cape Colony or the Orange Free State. Moreover the Graaff Reinet speech showed that Milner was aware of the dangerous policy being followed by the Bond. The Dutch party at the Cape was shown to be incurring a heavy responsibility, especially as its leaders were aware, in the words of Mr J. X. Merriman, of “the inherent rottenness” of the Kruger régime. That party soon afterwards had it in its power to bring pressure officially upon President Kruger, for it was a few months after the delivery of the speech that Mr Schreiner became premier. To some extent this was done—but in a manner which led the Transvaal Boers to count in any event on the support of the Cape Dutchmen. In the Transvaal, as has been said, affairs were steadily going from bad to worse. An Industrial Commission, appointed (under pressure) by President Kruger in 1897 to inquire into a number of grievances affecting the gold industry, had reported in favour of reforms. The recommendations of the commission, if adopted, would have done something towards relieving the tension, but President Second Transvaal Reform Movement.Kruger and his executive refused to be guided by them. Once more the Uitlanders determined to make a further attempt to obtain redress by constitutional means, and the second organized movement for reform began by the formation in 1897 of a branch of the South African League.

At the end of 1898 the feelings of the Uitlanders were wrought up to fever pitch. The police service, which was violent where it should have been reasonable, and blind where it should have been vigilant, had long been a source of great irritation. On the 18th of December a Boer policeman, in pursuit of an Englishman named Edgar, whom he wished to arrest for an alleged assault on another man, entered his house and shot him dead. The deepest indignation was aroused by this incident, and was still further increased by the trivial way in which the case was dealt with by the court. The killing of Edgar was followed by

  1. In his evidence before the House of Commons Select Committee which inquired into the Raid, Rhodes did not object to the continued existence of the republic “for local matters,” but desired a federal South Africa under the British flag; see Blue Book (165) 1897 p. 21; also Sir Lewis Michell's Life of Rhodes, vol. ii. ch. xxx.
  2. Jameson and the other raiders were handed over to the British government for punishment. Four of the Reform leaders were condemned to death on the 27th of April, but the sentence was commuted to a fine of £25,000 each. For details of the Reform movement and Jameson Raid see Transvaal: History.
  3. Rhodes informed the House of Commons Select Committee that the belief that the Boers intended to introduce the influence of another foreign power in the already complicated system of South Africa “greatly influenced” him in promoting the revolt. Germany at the time of the Raid was prepared to intervene, and on the 3rd of January 1896 the German Emperor, by telegram, congratulated Kruger that “without appealing to the help of friendly powers” the Boers had overcome Jameson.