Page:EB1911 - Volume 27.djvu/215

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[Retrocession to 1899

James Leonard, at one time attorney-general of Cape Colony. Both the Leonards, as well as many of their followers, were South Africans by birth. They, in common with the great bulk of the Uitlanders, recognized that the state had every right to have its independence respected. But they asserted that a narrow and retrogressive policy, such as Kruger was following, was the very thing to endanger that independence. The soundness of these views and the legitimacy of Uitlander aspirations were recognized by a few Boer officials at Pretoria. Some prominent burghers even spoke at Uitlander meetings in favour of the Uitlander requests. At a later date, Chief Justice Kotze, when on circuit, warned the Boers that in its retrogressive action the government was undermining the grondwet or constitution of the state. It soon became evident that one course, and one only, lay open to President Kruger if he desired to avert a catastrophe. It was to meet in a friendly spirit those men who had by their industry converted a poor pastoral country into a rich industrial one, who represented more than half the inhabitants, who paid more than three fourths of the revenue, and who were anxious to join him as citizens, with the rights of citizenship. He chose a course diametrically opposite. In an interview accorded to seven delegates from the National Union, in 1892, he told Charles Leonard to “go back and tell your people that I shall never give them anything. I shall never change my policy. And now let the storm burst.” In 1894 there occurred an incident which not only incensed the Uitlanders to fury, but called for British intervention. Commandeering incident, 1894.A number of British subjects resident in the Transvaal, in spite of their having no political status, were commandeered to suppress a native rising. This led to a protest, and eventually a visit to Pretoria, from Sir Henry Loch the high commissioner. In the negotiations which followed, President Kruger at length agreed to extend “most favoured nation” privileges to British subjects in reference to compulsory military service, and five British subjects who had been sent as prisoners to the front were released. This result was not, however, achieved before President Kruger had done his utmost to induce Sir Henry Loch to promise some revision in favour of the Transvaal of the London Convention. Following this incident came a further alteration in the franchise law, making the franchise practically impossible to obtain. At a banquet given in honour of the German emperor’s birthday in Pretoria in January 1895, Kruger referred in glowing terms to the friendship of Germany for the Transvaal, which in the future was to be more firmly established than ever. This speech was public evidence of what was known to be going on behind the scenes. German Flirtation.The German consul at Pretoria at this juncture as a volatile, sanguine man, with visionary ideas of the important part Germany was to play in the future as the patron and ally of the South African Republic, and of the extent to which the Bismarckian policy might go in abetting an anti-British campaign. Whether he deceived himself or not, he led President Kruger and the Boers to believe that Germany was prepared to go to almost any length in support of the Transvaal if any opportunity occurred. His influence was an undoubted factor in the Kruger policy of that time.

The Delagoa Bay railway being at length completed to Pretoria and Johannesburg, Kruger determined to take steps to bring the Rand traffic over it. Drifts Incident.The Netherlands railway began by putting a prohibitive tariff on goods from the Vaal river. Not to be coerced in this manner, the Rand merchants proceeded to bring their goods on from the Vaal by wagon. Kruger then closed the drifts (or fords) on the river by which the wagons crossed. He only reopened them after the receipt of what was tantamount to an ultimatum on the subject from Great Britain.

In May 1895, on the urgent representations of Sir Henry Loch, the British government annexed Tongaland, including Kosi Bay, thus making the British and Portuguese boundaries conterminous on the coast of south-east Africa. In the previous month certain native territories between Tongaland and Swaziland had been annexed by Great Britain. Boer Road to the Sea Blocked.The Boers, who had failed to fulfil the conditions under which they might have secured Kosi Bay, nevertheless resented this action, which took away from them all chance of obtaining a seaport. Kruger telegraphed that “this annexation cannot be regarded by this government otherwise than as directed against this republic. They must therefore regard it as an unfriendly act, against which they hereby protest.” The protest was unheeded, the British government having realized the international complications that might ensue had the Transvaal a port of its own.

At this time the Uitlanders formed a majority of the population, owned half the land and nine-tenths of the property, and they were at least entitled to a hearing. When in August 1895 they forwarded one of their many petitions praying for redress of their grievances and an extension of the franchise, their petition, with over 35,000 signatures, was rejected with jeers and insult. One member of the Raad, during a debate in the chamber, called upon the Uitlanders to “come on and fight” for their rights if they wanted them. The words were but the utterance of an individual Raad member, but they were only a shade less offensive than those used by Kruger in 1892, and they too accurately describe the attitude of the Boer executive. In September a meeting of the chambers of mines and commerce was held at Johannesburg, and a letter on various matters of the greatest importance to the mining industry was addressed to the Boer executive. It was never vouchsafed an answer. What the next step should be was freely discussed. Some urged an appeal to the Imperial government; but others, especially men of colonial birth and experience, objected that they would be leaning on a broken reed. That men who had still the memory of Majuba in their hearts should have felt misgiving is not to be wondered at. At this juncture (October 1895) came overtures to the leading Uitlanders from Cecil Rhodes, then prime minister of Cape Colony, and from Dr Jameson, leading to the Jameson Raid. The “Jameson Plan.”To one or two men this scheme, subsequently known as the Jameson Plan, had been revealed in the previous June, but to the majority even of the small group of leaders it was not known till October or November 1895. The proposition came in a tempting hour. Rhodes and Jameson, after considerable deliberation, came to the conclusion that they might advantageously intervene between Kruger and the Uitlanders. They induced Alfred Beit, who was an old personal friend of Rhodes, and also largely interested in the Rand gold mines, to lend his co-operation. They then submitted their scheme to some of the Uitlander leaders. Between them it was arranged that Jameson should gather a force of 800 men on the Transvaal border; that the Uitlanders should continue their agitation; and that, should no satisfactory concession be obtained from Kruger, a combined movement of armed forces should be made against the government. The arsenal at Pretoria was to be seized; the Uitlanders in Johannesburg were to rise and hold the town. Jameson was to make a rapid march to Johannesburg. Meanwhile, in order to give Kruger a final chance of making concessions with a good grace, and for the purpose of stating the Uitlander case to the world, Charles Leonard, as chairman of the National Union, issued a historic manifesto, which concluded as follows:—

We have now only two questions to consider: (a) What do we want? (b) How shall we get it? I have stated plainly what our grievances are, and I shall answer with equal directness the question, What do we want? We want: (1) the establishment of this republic as a true republic; (2) a grondwet or constitution which shall be framed by competent persons selected by representatives of the whole people and framed on lines laid down by them—a constitution which shall be safeguarded against hasty alteration; (3) an equitable franchise law, and fair representation; (4) equality of the Dutch and English languages; (5) responsibility to the heads of the great departments of the legislature; (6) removal of religious disabilities; (7) independence of the courts of justice, with adequate and secured remuneration of the judges; (8) liberal and comprehensive education;