issue was between a federal and a unitary form of government. Federation was supposed to afford protection to the smaller communities—Natal and the Orange River Colony—and in Natal there was much anxiety lest its interests should be overborne. Nevertheless the advocates of unification gained a complete victory and a form of government was agreed to which made the union of South Africa as close as that of the United Kingdom.
Among the other decisions of the convention were: the choice of Pretoria as the seat of administration and of Cape Town as the seat of the legislature, the renaming the Orange River Colony, Orange Free State Province; the provision of three membered constituencies and of proportional representation and the safe-guarding of the smaller communities by giving Natal and the Orange River colonies more members of parliament than they were entitled to on the voters basis.
The draft constitution was made public on the 9th of February 1909, and was adopted by the Transvaal parliament in its entirety. The Orange River parliament also approved with only slight alterations; the Natal parliament made some amendments, but they were of a minor character. The opposition to union among an influential number of old Natalians—intensely zealous for local independence—was however so marked that it was decided that before Natal was committed to union a referendum on the subject should be taken. Apart from this doubtful attitude of Natal, the chief danger to the draft constitution came from the Cape Dutch. The draft act, with its “one vote one value” principle, its three-membered constituencies and its scheme for proportional representation, threatened Dutch supremacy in the rural districts, and aroused the opposition of Hofmeyr, who secured the passage of amendments through the Cape parliament which destroyed the principle of equal rights. Such was the position when the convention reassembled in May at Bloemfontein to consider the amendment of the various legislatures. Through the firmness of the Transvaal delegates, supported by the Progressives, the principle of equal rights was retained; the concession made to the Cape was the abandonment of proportional representation, while one-membered constituencies were substituted for three-membered constituencies. The document embodying the alterations in the draft act was signed on the 11th of May and the convention dissolved. In June the referendum on union was taken in Natal, and resulted in a complete rout of the separatists. There voted, for the draft act 11,121, against it 3701—majority for union 7420.
South Africans had thus after seventy years of discord agreed upon union. It was a momentous step, the essential preliminary to that fusion of the white races of South Africa upon which the prosperity of the countryPassing of the Act of Union, 1909. depends; and a step rendering easier the ultimate attainment of imperial union. A delegation carried the draft act to England, and, recast in the form of an imperial bill, it was submitted to the parliament at Westminster. The imperial government made but one alteration of consequence—that explicitly placing the control and administration of matters “specially or differentially affecting Asiatics” in the sole control of the union parliament. The bill passed through parliament unaltered, the only jarring note in the debates in either house concerning the exclusion of natives from the franchise (save in the Cape province). This decision was deplored by all parties in the British parliament, but it was recognized that to alter a decision deliberately come to by South African statesmen would wreck the union. The measure, known as the South Africa Act 1909 received the Royal Assent on the 20th of September, and subsequently the 31st of May 1910—the eighth anniversary of the signing of the articles of peace at Pretoria—was fixed as the date for the formal establishment of the Union.
The interval between the passing of the South Africa Act and the establishment of union was employed by the various colonies in putting their houses in order. This task, on the economic side, was rendered easier by the gradual return of commercial prosperity. An agreement between the Transvaal and the Portuguese governments, concluded in April 1909, while the fate of the draft constitution was still in doubt, assigned to Lourenço Marques 50 to 55% of the import trade to the Rand, and (with certain exceptions) provided for free trade in native products between the Mozambique province and the Transvaal. The Portuguese further agreed to facilitate the recruitment of natives in their territory for work in the Rand mines, and in consequence Kaffirs were obtained in sufficient numbers to replace the Chinese coolies as they were repatriated. The agreement was to last ten years, and provision was made for its recognition by the government of the Union. The native protectorates, Basutoland, Swaziland and Bechuanaland had been left by the South Africa Act under direct imperial control. As to Natal and Zululand, there was a disposition to leave to the new government the task of dealing with the natives there but both the Transvaal and Natal adopted an Asiatic exclusion policy which gave rise to much friction. In the Orange River Colony, General Hertzog aroused much opposition by administering the education act in a way which forced the teaching of Dutch in a rather arbitrary fashion. This was a point of importance, inasmuch as, by the Act of Union, elementary education was left (for five years) in the hands of the provinces. The divergence of views was so great that shortly after the union had been established private schools were opened in opposition to those of the provincial administration.
In the autumn of 1909 it became known that Lord Selborne, whose services in bringing about the union were generally recognized, would not remain to represent the Crown in inaugurating the new form of government, and the choiceThe Union Established. of the British government fell on the home secretary, Mr Herbert Gladstone (who was in March 1910 created Viscount Gladstone of Lanark) as first governor-general of the Union. Lord Gladstone had the responsibility of summoning the first prime minister of the Union—a task rendered more difficult as the decision had to be taken before the first election to the Union parliament was held. There had been a strong agitation for a coalition cabinet, and negotiations took place to this end between General Botha and Dr Jameson. These efforts ended in failure. They had met with the determined opposition of Mr Merriman (the Cape premier), of the Orange Free State Boers, and of the Bond, which had lost the counsel of Hofmeyr. That typical leader of the Cape Afrikanders had died in London, whither he had gone as one of the delegates to lay the draft constitution before the British parliament. Towards the end of May, Lord Gladstone called upon General Botha to form a ministry, which was constituted from the ranks of the existing cabinets and included Natal ministers as well as strong Boer partisans like Mr Fischer and General Hertzog. Mr Merriman declined to serve under General Botha. The formal proclamation of the Union took place on the 31st of May.
The first general election, held on the 15th of September, was, perhaps inevitably, fought to a large extent on racial lines. The Dutch Afrikander candidates stood as “Nationalists,” while their opponents took the name of Unionists. In Natal the British section of the electorate (four-fifths of the whole) preferred to maintain an independent attitude. The elections, which resulted in a Nationalist majority of 13 over all other parties, showed that the Unionists were stronger than had been thought. They secured 37 seats, while 13 were held by Natal Independents. The polls were remarkable for the defeat of three ministers—General Botha (by Sir Percy Fitzpatrick) at Pretoria East, Mr Hull (by Sir George Farrar) on the Rand, and Mr Moor in Natal. General Botha decided to retain office, and seats for him and Mr Hull were found by means of by-elections. Mr Moor was nominated to the senate, as were, among others, Mr W. P. Schreiner and ex-President Reitz (who became president of that body). On the 4th of November the first session of the Union Parliament was opened by the duke of Connaught.
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