Native Races and the War
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NATIVE RACES AND THE WAR,
JOSEPHINE E. BUTLER.
LONDON: GAY & BIRD.
NEWCASTLE-ON-TYNE: MAWSON, SWAN, & MORGAN.
DEDICATED TO MY CHILDREN AND GRANDCHILDREN.
APOLOGY FOR "YET ANOTHER BOOK" ON THE SOUTH AFRICAN QUESTION.
FUTURE PEACE MUST BE BASED ON JUSTICE,--TO COLOURED AS WELL AS
WHITE MEN. DIFFERENCE BETWEEN LEGALIZED SLAVERY AND THE SUBJECTION
OF NATIVES BY INDIVIDUALS. THE TRANSVAAL IN 1877: ITS BANKRUPTCY:
ITS ANNEXATION BY GREAT BRITAIN: ITS LIBERATION FROM GREAT BRITAIN
IN 1881. CONVENTION OF 1881 SIGNED AT PRETORIA. BRITISH
COMMISSIONERS' AUDIENCE WITH 300 NATIVE CHIEFS. SPEECHES AND
SORROWFUL PROTESTS OF THE CHIEFS. ROYAL COMMISSION APPOINTED TO
TAKE EVIDENCE. EVIDENCE OF NATIVES AND OTHERS CONCERNING SLAVERY IN
THE TRANSVAAL. APPEAL OF THE CHRISTIAN KING KHAMA. LETTER OF
M'PLAANK, NEPHEW OF CETEWAYO. PREVALENCE OF CONTEMPT FOR THE NATIVE
RACES. SYMPATHY OF A NATIVE CHIEF WITH THE SUFFERINGS OF CHRIST.
In the midst of the manifold utterances and discussions on the burning question of to-day,--the War in South Africa,--there is one side of the subject which, it seems to me, has not as yet been considered with the seriousness which it deserves,--and that is the question of Slavery, and of the treatment of the native races of South Africa. Though this question has not yet in England or on the Continent been cited as one of the direct causes of the war, I am convinced,--as are many others,--that it lies very near to the heart of the present trouble.
The object of this paper is simply to bring witnesses together who will testify to the past and present condition of the native races under British, Dutch, and Transvaal rule. These witnesses shall not be all of one nation; they shall come from different countries, and among them there shall be representatives of the native peoples themselves. I shall add little of my own to the testimony of these witnesses. But I will say, in advance, that what I desire to make plain for some sincere persons who are perplexed, is this,--that where a Government has established by Law the principle of the complete and final abolition of Slavery, and made its practice illegal for all time,--as our British Government has done,--there is hope for the native races;--there is always hope that, by an appeal to the law and to British authority, any and every wrong done to the natives, which approaches to or threatens the reintroduction of slavery, shall be redressed. The Abolition of Slavery, enacted by our Government in 1834, was the proclamation of a great principle, strong and clear, a straight line by which every enactment dealing with the question, and every act of individuals, or groups of individuals, bearing on the liberty of the natives can be measured, and any deviation from that straight line of principle can be exactly estimated and judged.
When we speak of injustice done to the natives by the South African Republics, we are apt to be met with the reproach that the English have also been guilty of cruelty to native races. This is unhappily true, and shall not be disguised in the following pages;--but mark this,--that it is true of certain individuals bearing the English name, true of groups of individuals, of certain adventurers and speculators. But this fact does not touch the far more important and enduring fact that _wherever British rule is established, slavery is abolished, and illegal_.
This fact is the ground of the hope for the future of the Missionaries of our own country, and of other European countries, as well as of the poor natives themselves, so far as they have come to understand the matter; and in several instances they have shown that they do understand it, and appreciate it keenly.
Those English persons, or groups of persons, who have denied to the native labourers their hire (which is the essence of slavery), have acted on their own responsibility, and _illegally_. This should be made to be clearly understood in future conditions of peace, and rendered impossible henceforward.
That future peace which we all desire, on the cessation of the present grievous war, must be a peace founded on justice, for there is no other peace worthy of the name; and it must be not only justice as between white men, but as between white men and men of every shade of complexion.
A speaker at a public meeting lately expressed a sentiment which is more or less carelessly repeated by many. I quote it, as helping me to define the principle to which I have referred, which marks the difference between an offence or crime committed by an individual _against_ the law, and an offence or crime sanctioned, permitted, or enacted by a State or Government itself, or by public authority in any way.
This speaker, after confessing, apparently with reluctance, that "the South African Republic had not been stainless in its relations towards the blacks," added, "but for these deeds--every one of them--we could find a parallel among our own people." I think a careful study of the history of the South African races would convince this speaker that he has exaggerated the case as against "our own people" in the matter of deliberate cruelty and violence towards the natives. However that may be, it does not alter the fact of the wide difference between the evil deeds of men acting on their own responsibility and the evil deeds of Governments, and of Communities in which the Governmental Authorities do not forbid, but sanction, such actions.
As an old Abolitionist, who has been engaged for thirty years in a war against slavery in another form, may I be allowed to cite a parallel? That Anti-slavery War was undertaken against a Law introduced into England, which endorsed, permitted, and in fact, legalized, a moral and social slavery already existing--a slavery to the vice of prostitution. The pioneers of the opposition to this law saw the tremendous import, and the necessary consequences of such a law. They had previously laboured to lessen the social evil by moral and spiritual means, but now they turned their whole attention to obtaining the abolition of the disastrous enactment which took that evil under its protection. They felt that the action of Government in passing that law brought the whole nation (which is responsible for its Government) under a sentence of guilt--a sentence of moral death. It lifted off from the shoulders of individuals, in a measure, the moral responsibility which God had laid upon them, and took that responsibility on its own shoulders, as representing the whole nation; it foreshadowed a national blight. My readers know that we destroyed that legislation after a struggle of eighteen years. In the course of that long struggle, we were constantly met by an assertion similar in spirit to that made by the speaker to whom I have referred; and to this day we are met by it in certain European countries. They say to us, "But for every scandal proceeding from this social vice, which you cite as committed under the system of Governmental Regulation and sanction, we can find a parallel in the streets of London, where no Governmental sanction exists." We are constantly taunted with this, and possibly we may have to admit its truth in a measure. But our accusers do not see the immense difference between Governmental and individual responsibility in this vital matter, neither do they see how additionally hard, how hopeless, becomes the position of the slave who, under the Government sanction, has no appeal to the law of the land; an appeal to the Government which is itself an upholder of slavery, is impossible. The speaker above cited concluded by saying: "The best precaution against the abuse of power on the part of whites living amidst a coloured population is to make the punishment of misdeeds come home to the persons who are guilty of those misdeeds; and if he could but get his countrymen to act up to that view he believed we should really have a better prospect for the future of South Africa than we had had in the past."
With this sentiment I am entirely in accord. It is our hope that the present national awakening on the whole subject of our position and responsibilities in South Africa will--in case of the re-establishment of peace under the principles of British rule--result in a change in the condition of the native races, both in the Transvaal, and at the hands of our countrymen and others who may be acting in their own interests, or in the interests of Commercial Societies.
I do not intend to sketch anything approaching to a history of South African affairs during the last seventy or eighty years; that has been ably done by others, writing from both the British and the Boer side. I shall only attempt to trace the condition of certain native tribes in connection with some of the most salient events in South Africa of the century which is past.
In 1877, as my readers know, the Transvaal was annexed by Sir Theophilus Shepstone. There are very various opinions as to the justice of that annexation. I will only here remark that it was at the earnest solicitation of the Transvaal leaders of that date that an interference on the part of the British Commissioner was undertaken. The Republic was in a state of apparently hopeless anarchy, owing to constant conflicts with warlike native tribes around and in the heart of the country. The exchequer was exhausted. By the confession of the President (Burgers) the country was on the verge of bankruptcy. The acceptance of the annexation was not unanimous, but it was accepted formally in a somewhat sullen and desponding spirit, as a means of averting further impending calamity and restoring a measure of order and peace. Whether this justified or not the act of annexation I do not pretend to judge. The results, however, for the Republic were for the time, financial relief and prosperity, and better treatment of the natives. The financial condition of the country, as I have said, at the time of the annexation, was one of utter bankruptcy. "After three years of British rule, however, the total revenue receipts for the first quarter of 1879 and 1880 amounted to £22,773 and £47,982 respectively. That is to say, that, during the last year of British rule, the revenue of the country more than doubled itself, and amounted to about £160,000 a year, taking the quarterly returns at the low average of £40,000." Trade, also, which in April, 1877, was completely paralysed, had increased enormously. In the middle of 1879, the committee of the Transvaal Chamber of Commerce pointed out that the trade of the country had in two years risen to the sum of two millions sterling per annum. They also pointed out that more than half the land-tax was paid by Englishmen and other Europeans.
In 1881, the Transvaal (under Mr. Gladstone's administration) was liberated from British control. It was given back to its own leaders, under certain conditions, agreed to and solemnly signed by the President. These are the much-discussed conditions of the Convention of 1881, one of these conditions being that Slavery should be abolished. This condition was indeed, insisted on in every agreement or convention made between the British Government and the Boers; the first being that of 1852, called the Sand River Convention; the second, a convention entered into two years later called the Bloemfontein Convention (which created the Orange Free State); a third agreement as to the cessation of Slavery was entered into at the period of the Annexation, 1877; a fourth was the Convention of 1881; a fifth the Convention of 1884. I do not here speak of the other terms of these Conventions, I only remark that in each a just treatment of the native races was demanded and agreed to.
The retrocession of the Transvaal in 1881 has been much lauded as an act of magnanimity and justice. There is no doubt that the motive which prompted it was a noble and generous one; yet neither is there any doubt, that in certain respects, the results of that act were unhappy, and were no doubt unanticipated. It was on the natives, whose interests appeared to have had no place in the generous impulses of Mr. Gladstone, that the action of the British Government fell most heavily, most mournfully. In this matter, it must be confessed that the English Government broke faith with the unhappy natives, to whom it had promised protection, and who so much needed it. In this, as in many other matters, our country, under successive Governments, has greatly erred; at times neglecting responsibilities to her loyal Colonial subjects, and at other times interfering unwisely.
In one matter, England has, however, been consistent, namely, in the repeated proclamations that Slavery should never be permitted under her rule and authority.
The formal document of agreement between Her Majesty's Government and the Boer leaders, known as the Convention of 1881, was signed by both parties at Pretoria on the afternoon of the 3rd August, in the same room in which, nearly four years before, the Annexation Proclamation was signed by Sir T. Shepstone.
This formality was followed by a more unpleasant duty for the Commissioners appointed to settle this business, namely, the necessity of conveying their message to the natives, and informing them that they had been handed back by Great Britain, "poor Canaanites," to the tender mercies of their masters, the "Chosen people," in spite of the despairing appeals which many of them had made to her.
Some three hundred of the principal native chiefs were called together in the Square at Pretoria, and there the English Commissioner read to them the proclamation of Queen Victoria. Sir Hercules Robinson, the Chief Commissioner, having "introduced the native chiefs to Messrs. Kruger, Pretorius, and Joubert," having given them good advice as to indulging in manual labour when asked to do so by the Boers, and having reminded them that it would be necessary to retain the law relating to Passes, which is, in the hands of a people like the Boers, almost as unjust a regulation as a dominant race can invent for the oppression of a subject people, concluded by assuring them that their "interests would never be forgotten or neglected by Her Majesty's Government." Having read this document, the Commission hastily withdrew, and after their withdrawal the Chiefs were "allowed" to state their opinions to the Secretary for Native Affairs.
In availing themselves of this permission, it is noticeable that no allusion was made by the Chiefs to the advantages they were to reap under the Convention. All their attention was given to the great fact that the country had been ceded to the Boers, and that they were no longer the Queen's subjects. I beg attention to the following appeals from the hearts of these oppressed people. They got very excited, and asked whether it was thought that they had no feelings or hearts, that they were thus treated as a stick or piece of tobacco, which could be passed from hand to hand without question.
Umgombarie, a Zoutpansberg Chief, said: "I am Umgombarie. I have fought with the Boers, and have many wounds, and they know that what I say is true. I will never consent to place myself under their rule. I belong to the English Government. I am not a man who eats with both sides of his jaw at once; I only use one side. I am English. I have said."
Silamba said: "I belong to the English. I will never return under the Boers. You see me, a man of my rank and position; is it right that such as I should be seized and laid on the ground and flogged, as has been done to me and other Chiefs?"
Sinkanhla said: "We hear and yet do not hear, we cannot understand. We are troubling you, Chief, by talking in this way; we hear the Chiefs say that the Queen took the country because the people of the country wished it, and again, that the majority of the owners of the country did not wish her rule, and that therefore the country was given back. We should like to have the man pointed out from among us black people who objects to the rule of the Queen. We are the real owners of the country; we were here when the Boers came, and without asking leave, settled down and treated us in every way badly. The English Government then came and took the country; we have now had four years of rest, and peaceful and just rule. We have been called here to-day, and are told that the country, our country, has been given to the Boers by the Queen. This is a thing which surprises, us. Did the country, then, belong to the Boers? Did it not belong to our fathers and forefathers before us, long before the Boers came here? We have heard that the Boers' country is at the Cape. If the Queen wishes to give them their land, why does she not give them back the Cape?"
Umyethile said: "We have no heart for talking. I have returned to the country from Sechelis, where I had to fly from Boer oppression. Our hearts are black and heavy with grief to-day at the news told us. We are in agony; our intestines are twisting and writhing inside of us, just as you see a snake do when it is struck on the head. We do not know what has become of us, but we feel dead. It may be that the Lord may change the nature of the Boers, and that we will not be treated like dogs and beasts of burden as formerly; but we have no hope of such a change, and we leave you with heavy hearts and great apprehension as to the future." In his Report, Mr. Shepstone (Secretary for Native Affairs) says, "One chief, Jan Sibilo, who had been personally threatened with death by the Boers after the English should leave, could not restrain his feelings, but cried like a child."
In 1881, the year of the retrocession of the Transvaal, a Royal Commission was appointed from England to enquire into the internal state of affairs in the South African Republic. On the 9th May of that year, an affidavit was sworn to before that Commission by the Rev. John Thorne, of St. John the Evangelist, Lydenburg, Transvaal. He stated: "I was appointed to the charge of a congregation in Potchefstroom when the Republic was under the Presidency of Mr. Pretorius. I noticed one morning, as I walked through the streets, a number of young natives whom I knew to be strangers. I enquired where they came from. I was told that they had just been brought from Zoutpansberg. This was the locality from which slaves were chiefly brought at that time, and were traded for under the name of 'Black Ivory.' One of these slaves belonged to Mr. Munich, the State Attorney." In the fourth paragraph of the same affidavit, Mr. Thorne says that "the Rev. Dr. Nachtigal, of the Berlin Missionary Society, was the interpreter for Shatane's people, in the private office of Mr. Roth, and, at the close of the interview, told me what had occurred. On my expressing surprise, he went on to relate that he had information on native matters which would surprise me more. He then produced the copy of a register, kept in the Landdrost's office, of men, women, and children, to the number of four hundred and eighty (480), who had been disposed of by one Boer to another for a consideration. In one case an ox was given in exchange, in another goats, in a third a blanket, and so forth. Many of these natives he (Mr. Nachtigal) knew personally. The copy was certified as true and correct by an official of the Republic."
On the 16th May, 1881, a native, named Frederick Molepo, was examined by the Royal Commission. The following are extracts from his examination:--
"(_Sir Evelyn Wood_.) Are you a Christian?--Yes.
"(_Sir H. de Villiers_.) How long were you a slave?--Half-a-year.
"How do you know that you were a slave? Might you not have been an apprentice?--No, I was not apprenticed.
"How do you know?--They got me from my parents, and ill-treated me.
"(_Sir Evelyn Wood_.) How many times did you get the stick?--Every day.
"(_Sir H. de Villiers_.) What did the Boers do with you when they caught you?--They sold me.
"How much did they sell you for?--One cow and a big pot."
On the 28th May, 1881, amongst the other documents-handed in for the consideration of the Royal Commission, is the statement of a Headman, whose name also it was considered advisable to omit in the Blue book, lest the Boers should take vengeance on him. He says, "I say, that if the English Government dies I shall die too; I would rather die than be under the Boer Government. I am the man who helped to make bricks for the church you see now standing in the square here (Pretoria), as a slave without payment. As a representative of my people, I am still obedient to the English Government, and willing to obey all commands from them, even to die for their cause in this country, rather than submit to the Boers.
"I was under Shambok, my chief, who fought the Boers-formerly, but he left us, and we were _put up to auction_ and sold among the Boers. I want to state this myself to the Royal Commission. I was bought by Fritz Botha and sold by Frederick Botha, who was then veldt cornet (justice of the peace) of the Boers."
Many more of such extracts might be quoted, but it is not my motive to multiply horrors. These are given exactly as they stand in the original, which may all be found in Blue Books-presented to Parliament.
It has frequently been denied on behalf of the Transvaal, and is denied at this day, in the face of innumerable witnesses to the contrary, that slavery exists in the Transvaal. Now, this may be considered to be verbally true. Slavery, they say, did not exist; but apprenticeship did, and does exist. It is only another name. It is not denied that some Boers have been kind to their slaves, as humane slave-owners frequently were in the Southern States of America. But kindness, even the most indulgent, to slaves, has never been held by abolitionists to excuse the existence of slavery.
Mr. Rider Haggard, who spent a great part of his life in the Transvaal and other parts of South Africa, wrote in 1899: "The assertion that Slavery did not exist in the Transvaal is made to hoodwink the British public. I have known men who have owned slaves, and who have seen whole waggon-loads of Black Ivory, as they were called, sold for about £15 a piece. I have at this moment a tenant, Carolus by name, on some land I own in Natal, now a well-to-do man, who was for twenty years a Boer slave. He told me that during those years he worked from morning till night, and the only reward he received was two calves. He finally escaped to Natal."
Going back some years, evidence may be found, equally well attested with that already quoted. On the 22nd August, 1876, Khama, the Christian King of the Bamangwato (Bechuanaland), one of the most worthy Chiefs which any country has had the good fortune to be ruled by, wrote to Sir Henry de Villiers the following message, to be sent to Queen Victoria:--"I write to you, Sir Henry, in order that your Queen may preserve for me my country, it being in her hands. The Boers are coming into it, and I do not like them. Their actions are cruel among us black people. We are like money; they sell us and our children. I ask Her Majesty to pity me, and to hear that which I write quickly. I wish to hear upon what conditions Her Majesty will receive me, and my country and my people, under her protection. I am weary with fighting. I do not like war, and I ask Her Majesty to give me peace. I am very much distressed that my people are being destroyed by war, and I wish them to obtain peace. I ask Her Majesty to defend me, as she defends all her people. There are three things which distress me very much--war, selling people, and drink. All these things I find in the Boers, and it is these things which destroy people, to make an end of them in the country. The custom of the Boers has always been to cause people to be sold, and to-day they are still selling people. Last year I saw them pass with two waggons full of people whom they had bought at the river at Tanane (Lake Ngate).--Khama."
The visit of King Khama to England, a few years ago, his interview with the Queen, and his pathetic appeals on behalf of his people against the intrusion of any aggressors (drink being one of them), are fresh in our memory.
Coming down to a recent date, I reproduce here a letter from a Zulu Chief, which appeared in the London Press in November, 1899. This letter is written to a gentleman, who accompanied it by the following remarks:--"After I had read this very remarkable letter, I found myself half unconsciously wondering what place in the scheme of South African life will be found for Zulus such as this nephew of the last of the Zulu Kings. One thing I am fully certain of, that there are few natives in the Cape Colony (where they are full-fledged voters) capable of inditing so sensible an epistle. This communication throws a most welcome light upon the attitude of his people with respect to the momentous events that are in progress, and also it reveals to what a high standard of intellectual culture a pure Zulu may attain."
"Duff's Road, Durban,
November 3rd, 1899.
Sir,--I keenly appreciate your generous tribute to the loyalty of the Zulu nation during the fierce crisis of English rule in South Africa. It is the first real test of the loyalty of the Zulus, and as a Zulu who was once a Chief, I rejoice to see that the loyalty and gratitude of my people is appreciated by the white people of Natal.
It is, as you say, respected Sir, a tribute, and a magnificent one, to England's just policy to the Zulus. I dare to assert it is even a finer tribute to the natives' appreciation, not only of benefits already conferred, but of the spirit that actuated England in her dealings with him. I may disagree as to the lessons taught by Maxim guns, hollow squares, and the 'thin red line.' I think no one can have read Colonial history, chronicling as it does, the rise again and again of the native against Imperial forces, without feeling that he is influenced far less by England's prowess in war than by her justice in peace. My Zulu fellow-countrymen understand as clearly as anyone the weakness and the strength of the present time. If the Zulu wished to remember Kambula and Ulundi, this would be his supreme opportunity to rise and hurl himself across the Natal frontier. But I, having just returned from my native country, have been able to report to the Government at Pietermaritzburg that there is not the slightest symptom of disloyalty, not the idea of lifting a finger against the white subjects of the great and good Queen.
There is among the Chiefs and Indunas of my people an almost universal hope that the Imperial arms will be victorious, and that a Government which, by its inhumanity and relentless injustice, and apparent inability to see that the native has any rights a white man should respect, has forfeited its place among the civilised Governments of the earth, and should therefore be deprived of powers so scandalously abused--formerly by slavery, and in later years by disallowing the native to buy land, and utterly neglecting his intellectual and spiritual needs. There are wrongs to be redressed, and we Zulus believe that England will be more willing to redress them than any other Power. There is still much to be done in the way of educating and civilizing the mass of the Zulu nation. We Chiefs of that nation have observed that wherever England has gone there the Missionary and teacher follow, and that there exists sympathy between the authority of Her Majesty and the forces that labour for civilization and Christianity. We Zulus have not yet forgotten what we owe to the late Bishop Colenso's lifelong advocacy, or to Lady Florence Dixie's kindly interest. These are things that are more than fear of England's might, that keep our people quiet outside and loyal inside. This is not a passive loyalty with us. Speaking for almost all my fellow-countrymen in Zululand, I believe if a great emergency arises in the course of this history-making war, in which England might find it necessary to put their loyalty to the test, they would respond with readiness and enthusiasm equal to that when they fought under King Cetewayo against Lord Chelmsford's army. Again assuring you that the Zulu people are turning deaf ears to Boer promises, as well as threats, I remain, with the most earnest hope for the ultimate triumph of General Buller--who fought my King for half a year. Your humble and most obedient servant,
Son of Maguendé, brother of Cetewayo."
There is unhappily a tendency among persons living for any length of time among heathen people, to think and speak with a certain contempt for those people, at whose moral elevation they may even be sincerely aiming. They see all that is bad in these "inferior races," and little that is good. This was not so in the case of the greatest and most successful Missionaries. They never lost faith in human nature, even at its lowest estate, and hence they were able to raise the standard of the least promising of the outcast races of the world. This faith in the possibility of the elevation of these races has been firmly held, however, by some who know them best, and have lived among them the longest.
Mr Rider Haggard writes thus on this subject:--"So far as my own experience of natives has gone, I have found that in all the essential qualities of mind and body they very much resemble white men. Of them might be aptly quoted the speech Shakespeare puts into Shylock's mouth: 'Hath not a Jew eyes? hath not a Jew hands, organs, dimensions, senses, affections, passions?' In the same way, I ask, has a native no feelings or affections? does he not suffer when his parents are shot, or his children stolen, or when he is driven a wanderer from his home? Does he not know fear, feel pain, affection, hate, and gratitude? Most certainly he does; and this being so, I cannot believe that the Almighty, who made both white and black, gave to the one race the right or mission of exterminating or of robbing or maltreating the other, and calling the process the advance of civilization. It seems to me, that on only one condition, if at all, have we the right to take the black men's land; and that is, that we provide them with an equal and a just Government, and allow no maltreatment of them, either as individuals or tribes, but, on the contrary, do our best to elevate them, and wean them from savage customs. Otherwise, the practice is surely undefensible.
"I am aware, however, that with the exception of a small class, these are sentiments which are not shared by the great majority of the public, either at home or abroad."
A French gentleman, who has been for many years connected with the _Missions Evangéliques_ of France, related recently in my presence some incidents of the early experience of French Missionaries in South Africa. One of these had laboured for years without encouragement. The hearts of the native people around him remained unmoved. One day, however, he spoke among them especially of Calvary, of the sufferings of Christ on the Cross. A Chief who was present left the building in which the teacher was speaking. At the close, this Chief was found sitting on the ground outside, his back to the door, his head bent forward and buried in his arms. He was weeping. When spoken to, he raised his arm with a movement of deprecation, and, in a voice full of pity and indignation, said--"to think that there was no one even to give Him a drink of water!" That poor savage had known what thirst is. This one awakened chord of human sympathy with the human Christ was communicative. Other hearts were touched, and from that time the Missionary began to reap a rich harvest from his labours. In the midst of the elaborate services of our fashionable London churches is there often to be found so genuine a feeling as that which shook the soul of this Chief, and broke down the barrier of coldness and hardness in his fellow-countrymen which had before prevented the acceptance of the message of Salvation and of the practical obligations of Christianity among them? Men who are capable of rising to the knowledge and love of divine truth cannot be supposed to be impervious to the influence of _civilization_ properly understood.
[Footnote 1: The financial resources of the country at that time amounted to 12s. 6d.]
[Footnote 2: Quoted from Parliamentary Blue Book.]
[Footnote 3: Report made on the spot by Mr. Shepstone (not Sir Theophilus Shepstone), Secretary for Native Affairs.]
[Footnote 4: The name of that official was held back from publication at the time, as if his act were known by the Boers, it was believed it might have cost the man his life.]
THE CAUSES OF THE WAR DATE FAR BACK. THE FAULTS OF ENGLAND TO BE
SOUGHT IN THE PAST. A REVISED VERDICT NEEDED. DOWNING STREET
GOVERNMENT AND SUCCESSIVE COLONIAL GOVERNORS. M. MABILLE AND M.
DIETERLEN, FRENCH MISSIONARIES. EARLY HISTORY OF CAPE COLONY.
ABOLITION OF SLAVERY BY GREAT BRITAIN. COMPENSATION TO SLAVE
OWNERS. FIRST TREK OF THE BURGHERS.
There is nothing so fallacious or misleading in history as the popular tendency to trace the causes of a great war to one source alone, or to fix upon the most recent events leading up to it, as the principal or even the sole cause of the outbreak of war. The occasion of an event may not be, and often is not, the cause of it. The occasion of this war was not its cause. In the present case it is extraordinary to note how almost the whole of Europe appears to be carried away with the idea that the causes of this terrible South African war are, as it were, only of yesterday's date. The seeds of which we are reaping so woeful a harvest were not sown yesterday, nor a few years ago only. We are reaping a harvest which has been ripening for a century past.
At the time of the Indian Mutiny, it was given out and believed by the world in general that the cause of that hideous revolt was a supposed attempt on the part of England to impose upon the native army of India certain rules which, from their point of view, outraged their religion in some of its most sacred aspects; (I refer to the legend of the greased cartridges). After the mutiny was over, Sir Herbert Edwardes, a true Seer, whose insight enabled him to look far below the surface, and to go back many years into the history of our dealings with India in order to take in review all the causes of the rebellion, addressed an exhaustive report to the British Government at home, dealing with those causes which had been accumulating for half-a-century or more. This was a weighty document,--one which it would be worth while to re-peruse at the present day; it had its influence in leading the Home Government to acknowledge some grave errors which had led up to this catastrophe, and to make an honest and persevering attempt to remedy past evils. That this attempt has not been in vain, in spite of all that India has had to suffer, has been acknowledged gratefully by the Native delegates to the great Annual Congress in India of the past year.
In the case of the Indian Mutiny, the incident of the supposed insult to their religious feelings was only the match which set light to a train which had been long laid. In the same way the honest historian will find, in the present case, that the events,--the "tragedy of errors," as they have been called,--of recent date, are but the torch that has set fire to a long prepared mass of combustible material which had been gradually accumulating in the course of a century.
In order to arrive at a true estimate of the errors and mismanagement which lie at the root of the causes of the present war, it is necessary to look back. Those errors and wrongs must be patiently searched out and studied, without partisanship, with an open mind and serious purpose. Many of our busy politicians and others have not the time, some perhaps have not the inclination for any such study. Hence, hasty, shallow, and violent judgments.
Never has there occurred in history a great struggle such as the present which has not had a deep moral teaching.
England is now suffering for her past errors, extending over many years. The blood of her sons is being poured out like water on the soil of South Africa. Wounded hearts and desolated families at home are counted by tens of thousands.
But it needs to be courageously stated by those who have looked a little below the surface that her faults have not been those which are attributed to her by a large proportion of European countries, and by a portion of her own people. These appear to attribute this war to a sudden impulse on her part of Imperial ambition and greed, and to see in the attitude which they attribute to her alone, the provocative element which was chiefly supplied from the other side. There will have to be a Revision of this Verdict, and there will certainly be one; it is on the way, though its approach may be slow. It will be rejected by some to the last.
The great error of England appears to have been a strange neglect, from time to time, of the true interests of her South African subjects, English, Dutch, and Natives. There have been in her management of this great Colony alternations of apathy and inaction, with interference which was sometimes unwise and hasty. Some of her acts have been the result of ignorance, indifference, or superciliousness on the part of our rulers.
The special difficulties, however, in her position towards that Colony should be taken into account.
It has always been a question as to how far interference from Downing Street with the freedom of action of a Self-Governing Colony was wise or practicable. In other instances, the exercise of great freedom of colonial self-government has had happy results, as in Canada and Australia.
Far from our South African policy having represented, as is believed by some, the self-assertion of a proud Imperialism, it has been the very opposite.
It seems evident that some of the greatest evils in the British government of South Africa have arisen from the frequent changes of Governors and Administrators there, _concurrently with changes in the Government at home_. There have been Governors under whose influence and control all sections of the people, including the natives, have had a measure of peace and good government. Such a Governor was Sir George Grey, of whose far-seeing provisions for the welfare of all classes many effects last to this day.
The nature of the work undertaken, and to a great extent done, by Sir George Grey and those of his successors who followed his example, was concisely described by an able local historian in 1877:--"The aim of the Colonial Government since 1855," he said, "has been to establish and maintain peace, to diffuse civilization and Christianity, and to establish society on the basis of individual property and personal industry. The agencies employed are the magistrate, the missionary, the school-master, and the trader." Of the years dating from the commencement of Sir George Grey's administration, it was thus reported:--"During this time peace has been uninterruptedly enjoyed within British frontiers. The natives have been treated in all respects with justice and consideration. Large tracts of the richest land are expressly set apart for them under the name of 'reserves' and 'locations.' The greater part of them live in these locations, under the superintendence of European magistrates or missionaries. As a whole, they are now enjoying far greater comfort and prosperity than they ever did in their normal state of barbaric independence and perpetually recurring tribal wars, before coming into contact with Europeans. The advantages and value of British rule have of late years struck root in the native mind over an immense portion of South Africa. They believe that it is a protection from external encroachment, and that only under the _ægis_ of the Government can they be secure and enjoy peace and prosperity. Influenced by this feeling, several tribes beyond the colonial boundaries are now eager to be brought within the pale of civilized authority, and ere long, it is hoped, Her Majesty's sovereignty will be extended over fresh territories, with the full and free consent of the chiefs and tribes inhabiting them."
It maybe of interest to note here that one of these territories was Basutoland, which lies close to the South Eastern border of the Orange Free State.
Between the Basutos and the Orange Free State Boers war broke out in 1856, to be followed in 1858 by a temporary and incomplete pacification. The struggle continued, and in 1861, and again in 1865, when war was resumed, and all Basutoland was in danger of being conquered by the Boers, Moshesh, their Chief, appealed to the British Government for protection. It was not till 1868, after a large part of the country had passed into Boer hands, that Sir Philip Wodehouse, Sir George Grey's successor, was allowed to issue a proclamation declaring so much as remained of Basutoland to be British territory.
It was Sir George Grey who first saw the importance of endeavouring to bring all portions of South Africa, including the Boer Republics and the Native States, into "federal union with the parent colony" at the Cape. He was commissioned by the British Government to make enquiries with this object (1858.) He had obtained the support of the Orange Free State, whose Volksraad resolved that "a union with the Cape Colony, either on the plan of federation or otherwise, is desirable," and was expecting to win over the Transvaal Boers, when the British Government, alarmed as to the responsibilities it might incur, vetoed the project. (Such sudden alarms, under the influence of party conflicts at home, have not been infrequent.)
For seven years, however, this good Governor was permitted to promote a work of pacification and union.
I shall refer again later to the misfortunes, even the calamities, which have been the result of our projecting our home system of _Government by Party_ into the distant regions of South Africa. There are long proved advantages in that system of party government as existing for our own country, but it seems to have been at the root of much of the inconsistency and vacillation of our policy in South Africa. As soon as a good Governor (appointed by either political party) has begun to develop his methods, and to lead the Dutch, and English, and Natives alike to begin to believe that there is something homogeneous in the principles of British government, a General Election takes place in England. A new Parliament and a new Government come into power, and, frequently in obedience to some popular representations at home, the actual Colonial Governor is recalled, and another is sent out.
Lord Glenelg, for example, had held office as Governor of the Cape Colony for five years,--up to 1846. His policy had been, it is said, conciliatory and wise. But immediately on a change of party in the Government at home, he was recalled, and Sir Harry Smith superseded him, a recklessly aggressive person.
It was only by great pains and trouble that the succeeding Governor, Sir George Cathcart, a wiser man, brought about a settlement of the confusion and disputes arising from Sir Harry Smith's aggressive and violent methods.
And so it has gone on, through all the years.
Allusion having been made above to the assumption of the Protectorate of Basutoland by Great Britain, it will not be without interest to notice here the circumstances and the motives which led to that act. It will be seen that there was no aggressiveness nor desire of conquest in this case; but that the protection asked was but too tardily granted on the pathetic and reiterated prayer of the natives suffering from the aggressions of the Transvaal.
The following is from the Biography of Adolphe Mabille, a devoted missionary of the _Société des Missions Evangéliques_ of Paris, who worked with great success in Basutoland. His life is written by Mr. Dieterlen (a name well known and highly esteemed in France), and the book has a preface by the famous missionary, Mr. F. Coillard.
"The Boers had long been keeping up an aggressive war against the Basutos (1864 to 1869), so much so that Mr. Mabille's missionary work was for a time almost destroyed. The Boers thought they saw in the missionaries' work the secret of the steady resistance of the Basutos, and of the moral force which prevented them laying down their arms. They exacted that Mr. Mabille should leave the country at once, which theoretically, they said, belonged to them.
"This good missionary and his friends were subjected to long trials during this hostility of the Boers. Moshesh, the chief of the Basutos, had for a long time past been asking the Governor of Cape Colony to have him and his people placed under the direction of Great Britain. The reply from the Cape was very long delayed. Moshesh, worn out, was about to capitulate at last to the Boers. Lessuto (the territory of Basutoland) was on the point of being absorbed by the Transvaal. At the last moment, however, and not a day too soon, there came a letter from the Governor of the Cape announcing to Moshesh that Queen Victoria had consented to take the Basutos under her protection. It was the long-expected deliverance,--it was salvation! At this news the missionaries, with Moshesh, burst into tears, and falling on their knees, gave thanks to God for this providential and almost unexpected intervention."
The Boers retained a large and fertile tract of Lessuto, but the rest of the country, continues M. Dieterlen, "remained under the Protectorate of a people who, provided peace is maintained, and their commerce is not interfered with, know how to work for the right development of the native people whose lands they annex."
Mr. Dieterlen introduces into his narrative the following remarks,--which are interesting as coming, not from an Englishman, but from a Frenchman,--and one who has had close personal experience of the matters of which he speaks:--
"Stayers at home, as we Frenchmen are, forming our opinions from newspapers whose editors know no more than ourselves what goes on in foreign countries, we too willingly see in the British nation an egotistical and rapacious people, thinking of nothing but the extension of their commerce and the prosperity of their industry. We are apt to pretend that their philanthropic enterprises and religious works are a mere hypocrisy. Courage is absolutely needed in order to affirm, at the risk of exciting the indignation of our _soi-disant_ patriots, that although England knows perfectly well how to take care of her commercial interests in her colonies, she knows equally well how to pre-occupy and occupy herself with the moral interests of the people whom she places by agreement or by force under the sceptre of her Queen. Those who have seen and who know, have the duty of saying to those who have not seen, and who cannot, or who do not desire to see, and who do not know, that these two currents flowing from the British nation,--the one commercial and the other philanthropic,--are equally active amongst the uncivilized nations of Africa, and that if one wishes to find colonies in which exist real and complete liberty of conscience, where the education and moralisation of the natives are the object of serious concern, drawing largely upon the budget of the metropolis, it is always and above all in English possessions that you must look for them.
"Under the domination of the Boers, Lessuto would have been devoted to destruction, to ignorance, and to semi-slavery. Under the English régime reign security and progress. Lessuto became a territory reserved solely for its native proprietors, the sale of strong liquors was prohibited, and the schools received generous subvention. Catholics, Protestants, Anglicans, French and English Missionaries, could then enjoy the most absolute liberty in order to spread, each one in his own manner, and in the measure in which he possessed it, evangelic truth.
"It is for this reason that the French missionaries feared to see the Basutos fall under the Boers' yoke, and that they hailed with joy the intervention of the English Government in their field of work, hoping and expecting for the missionary work the happiest fruits. Their hope has not been deceived by the results."
The clash of opposing principles, and even the violence of party feeling continued to send its echoes to the far regions of South Africa, confusing the minds of the various populations there, and preventing any real coherence and continuity in our Government of that great Colony. A good and successful Administrator has sometimes been withdrawn to be superseded by another, equally well-intentioned, perhaps, but whose policy was on wholly different lines, thus undoing the work of his predecessor. This has introduced not only confusion, but sometimes an appearance of real injustice into our management of the colony. In all this chequered history, the interests of the native races have been too often postponed to those of the ruling races. This was certainly the case in connexion with Mr. Gladstone's well-intentioned act in giving back to the Transvaal its independent government.
It has been an anxious question for many among us whether this source of vacillation, with its attendant misfortunes, is to continue in the future.
* * * * *
The early history of the South African Colony has become, by this time, pretty well known by means of the numberless books lately written on the subject. I will only briefly recapitulate here a few of the principal facts, these being, in part, derived from the annals and reports of the Aborigines Protection Society, which may be considered impartial, seeing that that Society has had a keen eye at all times for the faults of British colonists and the British Government, while constrained, as a truthful recorder, to publish the offences of other peoples and Governments. I have also constantly referred to Parliamentary papers, and the words of accredited historians and travellers.
The first attempt at a regular settlement by the Dutch at the Cape was made by Jan Van Riebeck, in 1652, for the convenience of the trading vessels of the Netherlands East India Company, passing from Europe to Asia. Almost from the first these colonists were involved in quarrels with the natives, which furnished excuse for appropriating their lands and making slaves of them. The intruders stole the natives' cattle, and the natives' efforts to recover their property were denounced by Van Riebeck as "a matter most displeasing to the Almighty, when committed by such as they." Apologising to his employers in Holland for his show of kindness to one group of natives, Van Riebeck wrote: "This we only did to make them less shy, so as to find hereafter a better opportunity to seize them--1,100 or 1,200 in number, and about 600 cattle, the best in the whole country. We have every day the finest opportunities for effecting this without bloodshed, and could derive good service from the people, _in chains_, in killing seals or in labouring in the silver mines which we trust will be found here."
The Netherlands Company frequently deprecated such acts of treachery and cruelty, and counselled moderation. Their protests however were of no avail. The mischief had been done. The unhappy natives, with whom lasting friendship might have been established by fair treatment, had been converted into enemies; and the ruthless punishment inflicted on them for each futile effort to recover some of the property stolen from them, had rendered inevitable the continuance and constant extension of the strife all through the five generations of Dutch rule, and furnished cogent precedent for like action afterwards, After 1652, Colonists of the baser sort kept arriving in cargoes, and gradually the Netherlands Company allowed persons not of their own nation to land and settle under severe fiscal and other restrictions. Among these were a number of French Huguenots, good men, driven from their homes by the revocation of the Edict of Nantes in 1690. Then Flemings, Germans, Poles, and others constantly swelled the ranks. All these Europeans were forced to submit to the arbitrary rules of the Netherlands Company's agents, scarcely at all restrained from Amsterdam. Unofficial residents, known as Burghers, came to be admitted to share in the management of affairs. It was for their benefit chiefly, that as soon as the Hottentots were found to be unworkable as slaves, Negroes from West Africa and Malays from the East Indies began to be imported for the purpose. In 1772, when the settlement was a hundred and twenty years old, and had been in what was considered working order for a century, Cape Town and its suburbs had a population of 1,963 officials and servants of the Company, 4,628 male and 3,750 female colonists, and 8,335 slaves. In these figures no account is taken of the Hottentots and others employed in menial capacities, nor of the black prisoners, among whom, in 1772, a Swedish traveller saw 950 men, women, and children of the Bushman race, who had been captured about a hundred and fifty miles from Cape Town in a war brought about by encroachment on their lands.
The Aborigines Protection Society endorses the following statement of Sparrman (visit to the Cape of Good Hope, 1786, Vol. II, p. 165,) who says, "The Slave business, that violent outrage against the natural rights of man, which is always a crime and leads to all manner of wickedness, is exercised by the Colonists with a cruelty that merits the abhorrence of everyone, though I have been told that they pique themselves upon it; and not only is the capture of the Hottentots considered by them merely as a party of pleasure, but in cold blood they destroy the bands which nature has knit between husband and wife, and between parents and their children. Does a Colonist at any time get sight of a Bushman, he takes fire immediately, and spirits up his horse and dogs, in order to hunt him with more ardour and fury than he would a wolf or any other wild beast.".
"I am far from accusing all the colonists," he continues, "of these cruelties, which are too frequently committed. While some of them plumed themselves upon them, there were many who, on the contrary, held them in abomination, and feared lest the vengeance of Heaven should, for all their crimes, fall upon their posterity."
The inability of the Amsterdam authorities to control the filibustering zeal of the colonists rendered it easy for the people at the Cape to establish among themselves, in 1793, what purported to be an independent Republic. One of their proclamations contained the following resolution, aimed especially at the efforts of the missionaries--most of whom were then Moravians--to save the natives from utter ruin: "We will not permit any Moravians to live here and instruct the Hottentots; for, as there are many Christians who receive no instruction, it is not proper that the Hottentots should be taught; they must remain in the same state as before. Hottentots born on the estate of a farmer must live there, and serve him until they are twenty-five years old, before they receive any wages. All Bushmen or wild Hottentots caught by us must remain slaves for life."
I have given these facts of more than a hundred years ago to show for how long a time the traditions of the usefulness and lawfulness of Slavery had been engrained in the minds of the Dutch settlers. We ought not, perhaps, to censure too severely the Boer proclivities in favour of that ancient institution, nor to be surprised if it should be a work of time, accompanied with severe Providential chastisement, to uproot that fixed idea from the minds of the present generation, of Boer descent. The sin of enslaving their fellow-men may perhaps be reckoned, for them, among the "sins of ignorance." Nevertheless, the Recording Angel has not failed through all these generations to mark the woes of the slaves; and the historic vengeance, which sooner or later infallibly follows a century or centuries of the violation of the Divine Law and of human rights, will not be postponed or averted even by a late repentance on the part of the transgressors. It is striking to note how often in history the sore judgment of oppressors has fallen (in this world), not on those who were first in the guilt, but on their successors, just as they were entering on an amended course of "ceasing to do evil and learning to do well."
In 1795, Cape Town was formally ceded by the Prince of Orange to Great Britain, as an incident of the great war with France, for which, six million pounds sterling was paid by Great Britain to Holland. British supremacy was formally recognized in this part of South Africa by a Convention signed in 1814, which was confirmed by the Treaty of Paris in 1815.
British rule for some thirty years after 1806 was perforce despotic, but for the most part, with some exceptions, it was a benevolent despotism. "They had the difficult task of controlling a straggling white community, at first almost exclusively composed of Boers, who had been too sturdy and stubborn to tolerate any effective interference by the Netherlands Company and other authorities in Holland, and who resented both English domination and the advent of English colonists which more than doubled the white population in less than two decades." "The Governors sent out from Downing Street had tasks imposed upon them which were beyond the powers of even the wisest and worthiest. Most of the English colonists found it easier to fall in with the thoughts and habits of the Boers than to uphold the purer traditions of life and conduct in the mother country, and it is not strange that many of the officials should have been in like case."
Great Britain abolished the Slave Trade in 1807, which prevented the further importation of Slaves, and the traffic in them.
The great Emancipation Act, by which Great Britain abolished Slavery in all lands over which she had control, was passed in 1834.
The great grievance for the Burghers was this abolition of slavery by Great Britain. According to a Parliamentary Return of March, 1838, the slaves of all sorts liberated in Cape Colony numbered 35,750. The British Parliament awarded as compensation to the slave owners throughout the British dominions a sum of £20,000,000, of which, nearly £1,500,000 fell to the share of the Burghers. Concerning this Act of Compensation there have been very divided opinions; there is not a doubt that the British Government intended to deal fairly by the former slave owners, but it is stated that there was great and culpable carelessness on the part of the British agents in distributing this compensation money. It seems that many of the Burghers to whom it was due never obtained it, and these considered themselves aggrieved and defrauded by the British Government. On the other hand, there are persons who have continually disapproved of the principle of compensation for a wrong given up, or the loss of an advantage unrighteously purchased. It is however to be regretted, that an excuse should have been given for the Boers' complaints by irregularities attributed to the British in the partition of the compensation money.
It has often been asserted that the first great Dutch emigration from the Cape was instigated simply by love of freedom on their part, and their dislike of British Government. But why did they dislike British Government? There may have been minor reasons, but the one great grievance complained of by themselves, from the first, was the abolition of slavery. They desired to be free to deal with the natives in their own manner.
Taking with them their household belongings and as much cattle as they could collect, they went forth in search of homes in which they hoped they would be no longer controlled, and as they thought, sorely wronged by the nation which had invaded their Colony. But they did not all trek; only about half, it was estimated, did so. The rest remained, finding it possible to live and prosper without slavery.
They crossed the Orange River, and finally trekked beyond the Vaal.
From 1833, Cape Colony, under British rule, began to be endowed with representative institutions. In 1854, the Magna Charta of the Hottentots, as it was called, was created. It was a measure of remarkable liberality. "It conferred on all Hottentots and other free persons of colour lawfully residing in the Colony, the right to become burghers, and to exercise and enjoy all the privileges of burghership. It enabled them to acquire land and other property. It exempted them from any compulsory service to which other subjects of the Crown were not liable, and from 'any hindrance, molestation, fine, imprisonment or other punishment' not awarded to them after trial in due course of law, 'any custom or usage to the contrary in anywise notwithstanding.' Among other provisions it was stipulated that wages should no longer be paid to them in liquor or tobacco, and that, in the event of a servant having reasonable ground of complaint against his master for ill-usage, and not being able to bear the expense of a summons, one should be issued to him free of charge. By this ordinance a stop was put, as far as the law could be enforced, to the bondage, other than admitted and legalized slavery, by which through nearly two centuries the Dutch farmers and others had oppressed the natives whom they had deprived of their lands."
The Boers who had trekked resented every attempt at interference with them on the part of the Cape Government with a view to their acceptance of such principles of British Government as are expressed above. Wearied by its hopeless efforts to restore order among the emigrant farmers, the British Government abandoned the task, and contented itself with the arrangement made with Andries Pretorius, in 1852, called the Sand River Convention. This Convention conceded to "the emigrant farmers beyond the Vaal River" "the right to manage their own affairs and to govern themselves, without any interference on the part of Her Majesty the Queen's Government." It was stipulated, however, that "no slavery is or shall be permitted or practised in the country to the north of the Vaal River by the emigrant farmers." This stipulation has been made in every succeeding Convention down to that of 1884. These Conventions have been regularly agreed to and signed by successive Boer Leaders, and have been as regularly and successively violated.
[Footnote 5: South Africa, Past and Present (1899), by Noble.]
[Footnote 6: Adolphe Mabille, Published in Paris, 1898.]
[Footnote 7: These and other details which follow are taken from Dutch official papers, giving a succinct account of the treatment of the natives between 1649 and 1809. These papers were translated from the Dutch by Lieut. Moodie (1838). See Moodie's "_Record_."]
[Footnote 8: Thunberg. "Travels in Europe, Africa, and Asia, between 1770 and 1779."]
[Footnote 9: Sir John Barrow (Travels in South Africa, 1806.) Vol ii. p. 165.]
[Footnote 10: Mr. Fox Bourne, Secretary of the Aborigines Protection Society.]
[Footnote 11: Parliamentary paper quoted by Mr. Fox Bourne. "Black and White," page 18.]
DR. LIVINGSTONE'S EXPERIENCES IN THE TRANSVAAL AND IN SURROUNDING
NATIVE DISTRICTS. LETTER OF DR. MOFFAT IN 1877. LETTER OF HIS SON,
REV. J. MOFFAT, 1899. REPORT OF M. DIETERLEN TO THE COMMITTEE OF
THE MISSIONS' EVANGÉLIQUES OF PARIS.
The following is an extract from the "Missionary Travels and Researches in South Africa," of the venerable pioneer, David Livingstone.
"An adverse influence with which the mission had to contend was the vicinity of the Boers of the Cashan Mountains, otherwise named 'Magaliesberg.' These are not to be confounded with the Cape Colonists, who sometimes pass by the name. The word 'Boer,' simply means 'farmer,' and is not synonymous with our word boor. Indeed, to the Boers generally the latter term would be quite inappropriate, for they are a sober, industrious, and most hospitable body of peasantry. Those, however, who have fled from English Law on various pretexts, and have been joined by English deserters, and every other variety of bad character in their distant localities, are unfortunately of a very different stamp. The great objection many of the Boers had, and still have, to English law, is that it makes no distinction between black men and white. They felt aggrieved by their supposed losses in the emancipation of their Hottentot slaves, and determined to erect themselves into a republic, in which they might pursue, without molestation, the 'proper treatment' of the blacks. It is almost needless to add, that the 'proper treatment' has always contained in it the essential element of slavery, namely, compulsory unpaid labour.
"One section of this body, under the late Mr. Hendrick Potgeiter, penetrated the interior as far as the Cashan Mountains, whence a Zulu chief, named Mosilikátze, had been expelled by the well known Kaffir Dingaan, and a glad welcome was given these Boers by the Bechuana tribes, who had just escaped the hard sway of that cruel chieftain. They came with the prestige of white men and deliverers; but the Bechuanas soon found, as they expressed it, 'that Mosilikátze was cruel to his enemies, and kind to those he conquered; but that the Boers destroyed their enemies, and made slaves of their friends." The tribes who still retain the semblance of independence are forced to perform all the labour of the fields, such as manuring the land, weeding, reaping, building, making dams and canals, and at the same time to support themselves. I have myself been an eye-witness of Boers coming to a village, and according to their usual custom, demanding twenty or thirty women to weed their gardens, and have seen these women proceed to the scene of unrequited toil, carrying their own food on their heads, their children on their backs, and instruments of labour on their shoulders. Nor have the Boers any wish to conceal the meanness of thus employing unpaid labour; on the contrary, every one of them, from Mr. Potgeiter and Mr. Gert Kruger, the commandants, downwards, lauded his own humanity and justice in making such an equitable regulation. 'We make the people work for us, in consideration of allowing them to live in our country.'
"I can appeal to the Commandant Kruger if the foregoing is not a fair and impartial statement of the views of himself and his people. I am sensible of no mental bias towards or against these Boers; and during the several journeys I made to the poor enslaved tribes, I never avoided the whites, but tried to cure and did administer remedies to their sick, without money and without price. It is due to them to state that I was invariably treated with respect; but it is most unfortunate that they should have been left by their own Church for so many years to deteriorate and become as degraded as the blacks, whom the stupid prejudice against colour leads them to detest.
"This new species of slavery which they have adopted serves to supply the lack of field labour only. The demand for domestic servants must be met by forays on tribes which have good supplies of cattle. The Portuguese can quote instances in which blacks become so degraded by the love of strong drink as actually to sell themselves; but never in any one case, within the memory of man, has a Bechuana Chief sold any of his people, or a Bechuana man his child. Hence the necessity for a foray to seize children. And those individual Boers who would not engage in it for the sake of slaves, can seldom resist the twofold plea of a well-told story of an intended uprising of the devoted tribe, and the prospect of handsome pay in the division of captured cattle besides. It is difficult for a person in a civilized country to conceive that any body of men possessing the common attributes of humanity, (and these Boers are by no means destitute of the better feelings of our nature,) should with one accord set out, after loading their own wives and children with caresses, and proceed to shoot down in cold blood, men and women of a different colour, it is true, but possessed of domestic feelings and affections equal to their own. I saw and conversed with children in the houses of Boers who had by their own and their master's account been captured, and in several instances I traced the parents of these unfortunates, though the plan approved by the long-headed among the burghers is to take children so young that they soon forget their parents and their native language also. It was long before I could give credit to the tales of bloodshed told by native witnesses, and had I received no other testimony but theirs, I should probably have continued sceptical to this day as to the truth of the accounts; but when I found the Boers themselves, some bewailing and denouncing, others glorying in the bloody scenes in which they had been themselves the actors, I was compelled to admit the validity of the testimony, and try to account for the cruel anomaly. They are all traditionally religious, tracing their descent from some of the best men (Huguenots and Dutch) the world ever saw. Hence they claim to themselves the title of 'Christians,' and all the coloured race are 'black property' or 'creatures.' They being the chosen people of God, the heathen are given to them for an inheritance, and they are the rod of divine vengeance on the heathen, as were the Jews of old.
"Living in the midst of a native population much larger than themselves, and at fountains removed many miles from each other, they feel somewhat in the same insecure position as do the Americans in the Southern States. The first question put by them to strangers is respecting peace; and when they receive reports from disaffected or envious natives against any tribe, the case assumes all the appearance and proportions of a regular insurrection. Severe measures then appear to the most mildly disposed among them as imperatively called for, and, however bloody the massacre that follows, no qualms of conscience ensue: it is a dire necessity for the sake of peace. Indeed, the late Mr. Hendrick Potgeiter most devoutly believed himself to be the great peace-maker of the country.
"But how is it that the natives, being so vastly superior in numbers to the Boers, do not rise and annihilate them? The people among whom they live are Bechuanas, not Kaffirs, though no one would ever learn that distinction from a Boer; and history does not contain one single instance in which the Bechuanas, even those of them who possess firearms, have attacked either the Boers or the English. If there is such an instance, I am certain it is not generally known, either beyond or in the Cape Colony. They have defended themselves when attacked, as in the case of Sechele, but have never engaged in offensive war with Europeans. We have a very different tale to tell of the Kaffirs, and the difference has always been so evident to these border Boers that, ever since 'those magnificent savages,' (the Kaffirs,) obtained possession of firearms, not one Boer has ever attempted to settle in Kaffirland, or even face them as an enemy in the field. The Boers have generally manifested a marked antipathy to anything but 'long-shot' warfare, and, sidling away in their emigrations towards the more effeminate Bechuanas, they have left their quarrels with the Kaffirs to be settled by the English, and their wars to be paid for by English gold.
"The Bechuanas at Kolobeng had the spectacle of various tribes enslaved before their eyes;--the Bakatla, the Batlo'kua, the Bahúkeng, the Bamosétla, and two other tribes of Bechuanas, were all groaning under the oppression of unrequited labour. This would not have been felt as so great an evil, but that the young men of those tribes, anxious to obtain cattle, the only means of rising to respectability and importance among their own people, were in the habit of sallying forth, like our Irish and Highland reapers, to procure work in the Cape Colony. After labouring there three or four years, in building stone dykes and dams for the Dutch farmers, they were well content if at the end of that time they could return with as many cows. On presenting one to the chief, they ranked as respectable men in the tribe ever afterwards. These volunteers were highly esteemed among the Dutch, under the name of Mantátees. They were paid at the rate of one shilling a day, and a large loaf of bread among six of them. Numbers of them, who had formerly seen me about twelve hundred miles inland from the Cape, recognised me with the loud laughter of joy when I was passing them at their work in the Roggefelt and Bokkefelt, within a few days of Cape Town. I conversed with them, and with Elders of the Dutch Church, for whom they were working, and found that the system was thoroughly satisfactory to both parties. I do not believe that there is a Boer, in the Cashan or Magaliesberg country, who would deny that a law was made, in consequence of this labour passing to the Colony, to deprive these labourers of their hardly-earned cattle, for the very urgent reason that, "if they want to work, let them work for us, their masters," though boasting that in their case their work would not be paid.
"I can never cease to be most unfeignedly thankful that I was not born in a land of slaves. No one can understand the effect of the unutterable meanness of the slave system on the minds of those who, but for the strange obliquity which prevents them from feeling the degradation of not being gentlemen enough to pay for services rendered, would be equal in virtue to ourselves."
After giving his experience of eight years in Sechele's country, in Bechuanaland, Livingstone continues:--"During that time, no winter passed without one or two of the tribes in the east country being plundered of both cattle and children by the Boers. The plan pursued is the following: one or two friendly tribes are forced to accompany a party of mounted Boers. When they reach the tribe to be attacked, the friendly natives are ranged in front, to form, as they say, 'a shield;' the Boers then coolly fire over their heads till the devoted people flee and leave cattle, wives and children to their captors. This was done in nine cases during my residence in the interior, and on no occasion was a drop of Boer's blood shed. News of these deeds spread quickly among the Bechuanas, and letters were repeatedly sent by the Boers to Sechele, ordering him to come and surrender himself as their vassal, and stop English traders from proceeding into the country. But the discovery of lake Ngami, hereafter to be described, made the traders come in five-fold greater numbers, and Sechele replied, 'I was made an independent chief and placed here by God, and not by you. I was never conquered by Mosilikátze, as those tribes whom you rule over; and the English are my friends; I get everything I wish from them; I cannot hinder them from going where they like.' Those who are old enough to remember the threatened invasion of our own island, may understand the effect which the constant danger of a Boer invasion had on the minds of the Bechuanas; but no others can conceive how worrying were the messages and threats from the endless self-constituted authorities of the Magaliesberg Boers, and when to all this harassing annoyance was added the scarcity produced by the drought, we could not wonder at, though we felt sorry for, their indisposition to receive instruction.
"I attempted to benefit the native tribes among the Boers of Magaliesberg by placing native teachers at different points. 'You must teach the blacks,' said Mr. Hendrick Potgeiter, the commandant in chief, 'that they are not equal to us.' Other Boers told me 'I might as well teach the baboons on the rocks as the Africans,' but declined the test which I proposed, namely, to examine whether they or my native attendants could read best. Two of their clergymen came to baptize the children of the Boers, so, supposing these good men would assist me in overcoming the repugnance of their flock to the education of the blacks, I called on them, but my visit ended in a _ruse_ practised by the Boerish commandant, whereby I was led, by professions of the greatest friendship, to retire to Kolobeng, while a letter passed me, by another way, to the missionaries in the south, demanding my instant recall for 'lending a cannon to their enemies.'
"These notices of the Boers are not intended to produce a sneer at their ignorance, but to excite the compassion of their friends.
"They are perpetually talking about their laws; but practically theirs is only the law of the strongest. The Bechuanas could never understand the changes which took place in their commandants. 'Why, one can never know who is the chief among these Boers. Like the Bushmen, they have no king--they must be the Bushmen of the English.' The idea that any tribe of men could be so senseless as not to have an hereditary chief was so absurd to these people, that in order not to appear equally stupid, I was obliged to tell them that we English were so anxious to preserve the royal blood that we had made a young lady our chief. This seemed to them a most convincing proof of our sound sense. We shall see farther on the confidence my account of our Queen inspired. The Boers, encouraged by the accession of Mr. Pretorius, determined at last to put a stop to English traders going past Kolobeng, by dispersing the tribe of Bechuanas, and expelling all the missionaries. Sir George Cathcart proclaimed the independence of the Boers. A treaty was entered into with them; an article for the free passage of Englishmen to the country beyond, and also another, that _no slavery should be allowed in the independent territory_, were duly inserted, as expressive of the views of Her Majesty's Government at home. 'But what about the missionaries?' enquired the Boers. '_You may do as you please with them_,' is said to have been the answer of the Commissioner. This remark, if uttered at all, was probably made in joke: designing men, however, circulated it, and caused the general belief in its accuracy which now prevails all over the country, and doubtless led to the destruction of three mission stations immediately after. The Boers, 400 in number, were sent by the late Mr. Pretorius to attack the Bechuanas in 1852. Boasting that the English had given up all the blacks into their power, and had agreed to aid them in their subjugation by preventing all supplies of ammunition from coming into the Bechuana country, they assaulted the Bechuanas, and, besides killing a considerable number of adults, carried off 200 of our school children into slavery. The natives, under Sechele, defended themselves till the approach of night enabled them to flee to the mountains; and having in that defence killed a number of the enemy, the very first ever slain in this country by Bechuanas, I received the credit of having taught the tribe to kill Boers! My house, which had stood perfectly secure for years under the protection of the natives, was plundered in revenge. English gentlemen, who had come in the footsteps of Mr. Cumming to hunt in the country beyond, and had deposited large quantities of stores in the same keeping, and upwards of eighty head of cattle as relays for the return journeys, were robbed of all; and when they came back to Kolobeng, found the skeletons of the guardians strewed all over the place. The books of a good library--my solace in our solitude--were not taken away, but handfuls of the leaves were torn out and scattered over the place. My stock of medicines was smashed; and all our furniture and clothing carried off and sold at public auction to pay the expenses of the foray. I do not mention these things by way of making a pitiful wail over my losses, in order to excite commiseration; for though I feel sorry for the loss of lexicons, dictionaries, &c., &c., which had been the companions of my boyhood, yet, after all, the plundering only set me entirely free for my expedition to the north, and I have never since had a moment's concern for anything I left behind. The Boers resolved to shut up the interior, and I determined to open the country."
* * * * *
Mr. A. McArthur, of Holland Park, wrote on March 22nd of this year:--
"When looking over some old letters a few days ago, I found one from the late venerable Dr. Moffat, who was one of the best friends South Africa ever had. It was written in answer to a few lines I wrote him, informing him that the Transvaal had been annexed by the British Government. I enclose a copy of his letter."
Dr. Moffat's letter is as follows:--July 27th, 1877.
"My dear friend,
"I have no words to express the pleasure the late annexation of the Transvaal territory to the Cape Colony has afforded me. It is one of the most important measures our Government could have adopted, as regards the Republic as well as the Aborigines. I have no hesitation in pronouncing the step as being fraught with incalculable benefits to both parties,--i.e., the settlers and the native tribes. A residence of more than half a century beyond the colonial boundary is quite sufficient to authorize one to write with confidence that Lord Carnarvon's measure will be the commencement of an era of blessing to Southern Africa. I was one of a deputation appointed by a committee to wait on Sir George Clarke, at Bloemfontein, to prevent, if possible, his handing over the sovereignty, now the Free State, to the emigrant Boers. Every effort failed to prevent the blunder. Long experience had led many to foresee that such a course would entail on the native tribes conterminous oppression, slavery, _alias_ apprenticeship, etc. Many a tale of woe could be told arising, as they express it, from the English allowing their subjects to spoil and exterminate. Hitherto, the natives have been the sufferers, and might justly lay claim for compensation. With every expression of respect and esteem, I remain, yours very sincerely, Robert Moffat."
* * * * *
A letter from a Son of Dr. Moffat may have some interest here. It is dated December 20th, 1899.
The Rev. John Moffat, son of the famous Dr. Moffat, and himself for a long time resident in South Africa, has sent to a friend in London a letter regarding the relations of the British and Dutch races previous to the war. Mr. Moffat, throughout his varied experiences, has been a special friend to the natives. One of his younger sons, Howard, is with a force of natives 60 miles south west of Khama's town (at the time of writing, December 20th), and Dr. Alford Moffat, another son, was medical officer to 300 Volunteers occupying the Mangwe Pass, to prevent a Boer raid into Rhodesia at that point.
"1. _Had Steyn sat still and minded his own business_ no one would have meddled with him. Had Kruger confined himself strictly to self-defence, and _we_ had invaded _him_, we might have had to blame ourselves.
"2. To have placed an adequate defensive force on our borders before we were sure that there was going to be war would have been accepted (perhaps justly) by the Boers as a menace. We did not do it, out of respect for their susceptibilities.
"3. To most people in South Africa who knew the Boers it was quite plain that Kruger was all along playing what is colloquially known as the game of 'spoof.' He never intended to make the slightest concession.
"4. Take them as a whole, the Boers are not pleasant people to live with, especially to those who are within their power, as the natives have found out sufficiently, and as the British have found out ever since Majuba, and the retrocession of the Transvaal. The wrongs of the Uitlanders were only one symptom of a disease which originated at Pretoria in 1881, and was steadily spreading itself all over South Africa.
"5. With regard to the equal rights question, it is quite true that all is not as it ought to be in the Cape Colony. But the condition of the native in the Transvaal is 100 years behind that of our natives in the Cape Colony, and you may take it as a broad fact that in proportion as Boer domination prevails the gravitation of the native towards slavery will be accelerated."
In conclusion, Mr. Moffat has this to say of the "Boer dream of Afrikander predominance": "We, who have been living out here, have been hearing about this thing for years, but we have tried not to believe it. We felt, many of us, that the struggle had to come, but we held our peace because we did not want to be charged with fomenting race hatred." He refers to Ben Viljoen's manifesto of September 29th, and to President Steyn's manifesto, and State Secretary Reitz's proclamation of October 11th, and says, "When I read these in conjunction with the history of South Africa for the last 18 years, I see that the cause of peace was hopeless in such hands."
* * * * *
Almost contemporaneously with the expression of opinion of Dr. Moffat (in 1877), the following report was written by M. Dieterlen, to the Committee of the _Missions Evangéliques de Paris_:--
"Lessouto, June 28th, 1876.
"I must give you details of the journey which I have just made with four native evangelists; for no doubt you will wish to know why a missionary expedition, begun under the happiest auspices, and with the good wishes of so many Christians, has come to grief, on account of the ill-will of certain men, and has been, from a human point of view, a humiliating failure. Having placed myself at the head of the expedition, and being the only white man in the missionary group, I must bear the whole responsibility of our return, and if there is anyone to blame it is I.
"From our departure from Leriba, as far as the other side of Pretoria, our voyage was most agreeable. We went on with energy, thinking only of our destination, the Banyaïs country, making plans for our settling amongst those people, and full of happiness at the thought of our new enterprise. An excellent spirit prevailed in our little troop,--serious and gay at the same time; no regrets, no murmurings; with a presentiment, indeed, that the Transvaal Government might make some objection to our advance, but with the certainty that God was with us, and would over-rule all that man might try to do. We crossed the Orange Free State without hindrance, we passed the Vaal, and continued our route towards the capital of the Transvaal; we reached the first village through which we must pass--Heidelberg--and encamped some distance from there. There they told us that the Boers knew that we were about to pass, and if they wished to stop us, it would be there they would do it. Let us take courage, therefore, we said, and be ready for everything. We unharnessed, and walked through the village in full daylight, posting our letters, etc. No one stopped us or spoke to us, and we retired to our encampment, thanking God that He had kept us through this critical moment. Some days later, we approached a charming spot, within three hours of Pretoria, near a clear stream, surrounded with lovely trees and flowers; we took the Communion together, strengthening each other for the future. Monday, at nine o'clock, we reached Pretoria. We were looked at with curiosity; they read our names on the sides of my waggon, they seemed surprised, and held discussions among themselves; the Field Cornet himself saw us pass, they told me sometime later. But we passed through the town without opposition.
"We continued our way to the north-east full of thankfulness, saying to each other that after all the Government of the Transvaal was not so ill-disposed towards us. Our oxen continued to walk with sturdy steps; we had not yet lost one, although the cattle plague was prevalent at the time. Wednesday, at four o'clock in the evening, we left the house of an English merchant, with whom we had passed a little time, and who had placed at our disposal everything which we needed. Towards eight o'clock, by a splendid moonlight, I was walking in front of my waggon with Asser (one of the native missionaries), seeking a suitable place where we could pass the night, when two horsemen galloped up, and drawing bridle, brusquely asked for my papers, and seeing that I had not the papers that they desired, ordered us to turn round and go back to Pretoria. One of these men was the Sheriff, who showed me a warrant for my arrest, and putting his hand on my shoulder, declared me to be his prisoner. This, I may say in passing, made little impression on me. We retraced our steps, always believing that when we had paid some duty exacted for our luggage and our goods, we should be allowed to go in peace. Towards midnight they permitted us to unharness near a farm. The next morning these gentlemen searched all through the waggon of the native evangelists, and put any objects which they suspected aside. All this, with my waggon, must be sent back to Pretoria, there to be inspected by anyone who chose.
"That same day I arrived in Pretoria in a cart, seated between the Field Cornet and the Sheriff, who were much softened when they saw that I did not reply to them in the tone which they themselves adopted, and that I had not much the look of a smuggler. The Secretary of the Executive Council exacted from me bail to the amount of £300 sterling, for which a German missionary from Berlin, Mr. Grüneberger, had the goodness to be my guarantor. I made a deposition, saying who we were, whence we came, and where we were going, insisting that we had no merchandise in our waggon, only little objects of exchange by which we could procure food in countries where money has no value. We had no intention of establishing ourselves within the limits of the Transvaal; we were going beyond the Limpopo, and consequently were simple travellers, and were not legally required to take any steps in regard to the Government, nor even to ask a passport. All this was written down and addressed to the Executive Committee, who took the matter in hand.
"As they, however, accused us of being smugglers, and having somewhere a cannon, they proceeded to the examination of my waggon. They opened everything, ran their hands in everywhere, into biscuit boxes, among clothes, among candles, etc., and found neither cannon nor petroleum. The comedy of the smuggling ended, they took note of the contents of my boxes, and then attacked us from another side. They decided to treat me as a missionary. The Solicitor-General said to me that the Government did not care to have French missionaries going to the other side of the Limpopo. I said, 'these countries do not belong to the Transvaal;' to which they replied, 'Do you know what our intentions are? Have you not heard of the treaties which we have been able to make with the natives and with the Portuguese?' There! that is the reply which they made to me. They took good care not to inscribe it in the document in which they ordered us to leave the Transvaal immediately. These are things which they do not care to write, lest they should awaken the just susceptibilities of other Governments, or arouse the indignation of all true Christians. But there is the secret of the policy of the Transvaal in regard to us missionaries; they feared us, because they know our attachment to the natives, and our devotion to their interests.
"They then ordered me to retrace at once my steps, threatening confiscation of our goods and the imprisonment of our persons if we attempted to force a passage through the country. I had to pay £14 sterling for the expenses of this mock trial. They brought the four native Evangelists out of the prison where they had spent two nights and a day in a very unpleasant manner; they gave me leave to take our two waggons out of the square of the Hotel de Ville where they had been put, together with the Transvaal Artillery, some pieces of ordnance, a large Prussian cannon and a French mitrailleuse from Berlin.
"We were free, we were again united, but what a sorrowful reunion! We could hardly believe that all was ended, and that we must retrace our steps; so many hopes dissipated in a moment! and the thought of having to turn back after having arrived so near to our destination, was heart breaking. We were all rather sad, asking each other if we were merely the sport of a bad dream or if this was indeed the will of God. T resolved to make one more effort and ask an interview with the President of the Transvaal, Mr. Burgers. It was granted to me. I went therefore to the Cabinet of the President and spoke a long time with the Solicitor-General, protesting energetically against the force they had used against us, and I discussed the matter also with the President himself, but without being able to obtain any reasonable reply to the objections I raised. I saw clearly that I had to do with men determined to have their own way, and putting what they chose to consider the interests of the State above those of all Divine and human laws.
"Their Parliament (Raad) was sitting, and I addressed myself to two of its members whom I had seen the day before, and who had seemed annoyed at the conduct of the Government towards us. I besought them for the honour of their country, to bring before their Parliament a question on the subject; but they dared not consent to this, declaring that if the Government were to put the matter before the representatives of the country these latter would decide in our favour, but that they could never take the initiative.
"I had now exhausted all the means at my disposal. I did all I could to obtain leave to continue our journey, and only capitulated at the last extremity. I received a written order from the Government telling me to leave the soil of the Republic immediately.
"These gentlemen had made me wait a long time, perhaps because they found it more difficult and dangerous to put down on paper orders which it was much easier to give vocally. This note was only a reproduction of the accusations they had made against us from the beginning. They declared to us that we were driven from the country because we had introduced guns, ammunition, and a great quantity of merchandise, and because we had entered the Transvaal without a passport, in spite of the Government itself having recently proclaimed a passport unnecessary for evangelists going through the country. In this document they systematically misrepresented and violated the right which every white man had had until then of travelling without permission. From the beginning to the end of this document it was open to criticism, which the feeblest jurist could have made; but in the Transvaal, as elsewhere, might dominates right, and we have to suffer the consequences of this odious principle.
"We sorrowfully retraced the route towards the Vaal; this time no more joyous singing around our fire at night, no more cheerful projects, no more the hope of being the first to announce the glad Evangel among pagan populations. The veldt we traversed seemed to have lost its poetry and to have become desolate. To add to our misfortunes the epidemic seized our oxen. We lost first one and then a second,--altogether eight. Those which were left, tired and lean, dragged slowly and with pain the waggons which before they had drawn along with such vigour. At last we were in sight of Mabolela, and arrived at our destination, sorrowful, yet not unhappy, determined not to be discouraged by this first check. And now we were again at Lessouto, waiting for God to open to us a new door."
[Footnote 12: The extract commences at chapter II, page 29.]
[Footnote 13: Near Pretoria.]
[Footnote 14: Livingstone had given to the Chief, Sechele, a large iron pot for cooking purposes, and the form of it excited the suspicions of the Boers, who reported that it was a cannon. That pot is now in the Museum, at Cape Town.]
INTERVIEW WITH DR. JAMES STEWART, MODERATOR (1899) OF THE FREE
CHURCH OF SCOTLAND. LETTER OF MR. BELLOWS TO SENATOR HOAR, U.S.A.
THE REV. C. PHILLIPS. EXTRACTS FROM THE "CHRISTIAN AGE," AND FROM
M. ELISÉE RECLUS, GEOGRAPHER. RETROCESSION OF THE TRANSVAAL. MR.
GLADSTONE'S ACTION. ITS EFFECT ON THE TRANSVAAL LEADERS, AND ITS
CONSEQUENCES FOR THE NATIVE SUBJECTS OF GREAT BRITAIN.
The Rev. Dr. James Stewart, of Lovedale Mission Institute, South Africa, who, in May, 1899, was elected Moderator of the General Assembly of the Scotch Free Church, imparted his views with regard to the Transvaal question to a representative of the _New York Tribune_ on the occasion of his visit to Washington in the autumn of 1899, to attend the Pan-Presbyterian Council as a delegate from the Free Church of Scotland.
Dr. Stewart's title to speak on matters connected with the Transvaal rests upon thirty years' residence in South Africa.
On the morning of his election as Moderator of the General Assembly the _Scotsman_ coupled his name with that of Dr. Livingstone as the men to whom the British Central Africa Protectorate was due.
The interview was published in the _Tribune_ of September 24th, 1899.
Dr. Stewart said:--
"As to the principle politically in dispute, the British Government asks nothing more than this--That British subjects in the Transvaal shall enjoy--I cannot say the same privileges, but a faint shadow of what every Dutchman, as well as every man, white and black, in the Cape Colony enjoys. Every Dutchman in the Cape Colony is treated exactly as if he were an Englishman; and every subject of Her Majesty the Queen, black and white, is treated in the Transvaal, and has always been, as a man of an alien and subject race. The franchise is only one of many grievances, and it is utterly a mistake to suppose that England is going to war over a question of mere franchise. Let us be just, however. There are in the Cape Colony and out of it loyal Dutchmen, loyal as the day, to the British power, which is the ruling power. They know the freedom they enjoy under it, and the folly and futility of trying to upset it.
"No superfluous pity or sympathy need be wasted on President Kruger or the Transvaal Republic. The latter (Republic) is a shadow of a name, and as great a travesty and burlesque on the word as it is possible to conceive.
"Paul Kruger is at the present moment the real troubler of South Africa. If the spirit and principles which he himself and his Government represent were to prevail in this struggle, it would arrest the development of the southern half of the continent. It is too late in the day by the world's clock for that type of man or government to continue.
"The plain fact is this:--President Kruger does not mean to give, never meant to give, and will not give anything as a concession in the shape of just and necessary rights, except what he is forced to give. He wants also to get rid of the suzerainty. That darkens and poisons his days and disturbs his nights by fearful dreams. There is no excuse for him, and, as I say, there need be no sentiment wasted on the subject. Let President Kruger and his supporters do what is right, and give what is barely and simply and only necessary as well as right, and the whole difficulty will pass into solution, to the relief of all concerned and the preservation of peace in South Africa. If not, the blame must rest with him.
"I am sorry I cannot give any information or express any views different from what I have now stated. They are the result of thirty years' residence in Africa. But I would ask your readers to believe that the British Government are rather being forced into war than choosing it of their own accord. I would also ask your readers to believe that Sir Alfred Milner, the present Governor of Cape Colony, though undoubtedly a strong man, is also one of the least aggressive, most cautious, and pacific of men; and that he has the entire confidence of the whole British population of the Cape Colony. I know also that when he began his rule three years ago, he did so with the expectation that by pacific measures the Dutch question was capable of a happier and better solution than that in which the situation finds it to-day. The question and trouble to-day is, briefly, whether the British Government is able to give protection and secure reasonable rights for its subjects abroad."
* * * * *
The following was addressed by Mr. John Bellows of Gloucester, to Senator Hoar, United States, America, and was published in the _New York Tribune_, Feb. 22nd, 1900. Mr. Bellows, on seeing the publication of his letter, wrote the following postscript, to Senator Hoar:--
"As the foregoing letter was headed by the Editor of the _New York Tribune_, 'A Quaker on the War,' I would say, to prevent misunderstanding, that I speak for myself only, and not for the Society of Friends, although I entirely believe in its teaching, that if we love all men we can under no circumstances go to war. There is, however, a spurious advocacy of peace, which is based, not upon love to men so much as upon enmity to our own Government, and which levels against it untrue charges of having caused the Transvaal War. It was to show the erroneousness of these charges that I wrote this letter."
The following is the text of the letter:--
"Dear Friend, I am glad to receive thy letter, as it gives me the opportunity of pointing out a misconception into which thou hast fallen in reference to the Transvaal and its position with respect to the present war.
"Thou sayest: 'I am myself a great lover of England; but I do not
like to see the two countries joining hands for warlike purposes,
and especially to crush out the freedom of small and weak nations.'
"To this I willingly assent. I am certain that war is in all circumstances opposed to that sympathy all men owe one to another, and to that Greater Source of love and sympathy in which 'we live and move and have our being.' Where this bond has been broken, we long for its restoration; but it cannot but tend to retard this restoration, to impute to one or other of the parties concerned motives that are entirely foreign to its action. Peace, to be lasting, must stand on a foundation of truth; and there is no truth whatever in the idea that the English Government provoked the present war, or that it intended, at any time during the negotiations that preceded the war, an attack on the independence either of the Transvaal or of the Orange Free State. It is true that President Kruger has for many years carefully propagated the fear of such an attempt among the Dutch in South Africa, as a means of separating Boers and Englishmen into two camps, and as an incentive to their preparing the colossal armament that has now been brought into play, not to keep the English out of the Transvaal, but to realise what is called the Afrikander programme of a Dutch domination over the whole of South Africa. Thus, he a short time ago imported from Europe 149,000 rifles--nearly five times as many as the whole military population of the Transvaal--clearly with a view to arming the Cape Dutch in case of the general rising he hoped for. The Jameson Raid gave him exactly the grievance he wanted--to persuade these Cape Dutch that England sought to crush the Transvaal.
"An examination of the 'Blue Book,' which contains the whole of the correspondence immediately preceding the war, will at once show the patient efforts put forth by the London Cabinet to maintain peace. There are no irritating words used, and the last despatch of importance before the outbreak of hostilities, dealing with the insinuations just alluded to, is not only most courteous and conciliatory in tone, but it states that the Queen's Government will give the most solemn guarantees against any attack upon the independence of the Transvaal either by Great Britain or the Colonies, or by any foreign power. I am absolutely certain that no American reading that despatch would say that President Kruger was justified in seizing the Netherlands Railway line within one week after he had received it, and cutting the telegraph wires, to prepare for the invasion of British territory, in which act of violence lay his last and only hope of forcing England to fight; his last and desperate chance of setting up a racial domination instead of the freedom and equality of the two races that prevail in the Cape and Natal, and that did prevail in the Orange Free State.
"The cause of the dispute was this: In 1884 a Convention was agreed on between Great Britain and the Transvaal, acknowledging the independence of the Transvaal, subject to three conditions: that the Boers should not make treaties with foreign Powers without the consent of the paramount Power in South Africa, i.e., England; that they should not make slaves of the native tribes; and that they should guarantee equal treatment for all the white inhabitants of the country as respects taxation. As the whole war has risen out of Kruger's persistent refusal to keep his promises, both verbal and in writing, that he would observe this condition, I append the clause giving rise to the contention:--
"Article XIV. (1884 Convention).--'All persons other than natives conforming themselves to the laws of the South African Republic will not be subject in respect to their persons or property or in respect of their commerce and industry to any taxes, whether general or local, other than those which are or may be imposed upon citizens of the said Republic.
"The mines brought so large a population to Johannesburg that it at last outnumbered by very far the entire Boer burghers in the State. Kruger, seeing that the inevitable effect of such an increase must be the same amalgamation of the new and old populations which was going on in Natal and Cape Colony, and to a smaller extent in the Orange Free State, unless artificial barriers could be devised to keep the races apart, at once set to to scheme modes of taxation that should evade Article XIV. of the Convention, throwing the entire burden on the Uitlanders, and letting the Boers, who were nearly all farmers, escape scot free. Farmers, for example, use no dynamite, miners do; and President Kruger gave a monopoly of its supply to a German, non-resident in the country, who taxed the miners for this article alone $2,600,000 a year beyond the highest price it could otherwise have been bought for. This was his own act, the Volksraad not being consulted. Besides the high price, the quality of the explosive was bad, often causing accident or death. When it did cause accident or death, the miners were prosecuted by the Government, from whose agent they were compelled to buy it, and fined for having used it!
"At the time the Convention was signed, in 1884, the franchise was obtainable after one year's residence. President Kruger determined to serve the Uitlanders, however, as George III.'s Government served the American Colonists, that is, tax them while refusing them representation in the control of the taxes. He went on at one and the same time increasing their burdens monstrously, while he prolonged the period of residence that qualified for a vote from one year to five, and so on, till he made it fourteen years--or fourteen times as long as when the Convention was signed. Nor was this all. He reserved the right personally to veto any Uitlander being placed on the register even after the fourteen years if he thought he was for any reason objectionable. That is, the majority of the taxpayers were disfranchised for ever! These Uitlanders had bought and paid for 60 per cent. of all the property in the Transvaal, and 90 per cent. of the taxes were levied from them; an amount equal to giving every Boer in the country $200 a year of plunder.
"Is a country that is so governed justly to be called a 'Republic?'
"But even the Boers themselves have been adroitly edged out of power by Paul Kruger. The Grondwet, or Constitution, provided that to prevent abuses in legislation, no new law should be passed until the bill for it had been published three months in advance. To evade this, Kruger passed all kinds of measures as amendments to existing laws; which, as he explained, not being new laws, required no notification! Finally, however, he got the Volksraad to rescind this article of the Grondwet; and now, as for some time past, any law of any sort can be passed by a small clique of Kruger's in secret session of the Raad _without notice of any sort, and without the knowledge or assent of the people_. The Boers have no more voice in such legislation than if they were Chinese. The Transvaal is only a Republic in the same sense that a nutshell is a nut, or a fossil oyster shell is an oyster.
"All that the British Government has ever contended for with President Kruger has been the fair and honourable observance of his engagement in respect of equal rights in Article XIV. of the 1884 Convention. This he has persistently and doggedly refused, while he has been using the millions of money he has wrung from the Uitlanders to purchase the material for the war he has been long years preparing on such a colossal scale to drive the English out of those Colonies in which they have given absolute equality to all. It is this very equality which has upset his calculations, by its leaving too few malcontents among the Dutch population to make any general rising of them possible in Natal or the Cape, on which rising Kruger staked his hope of success in the struggle. As for the Transvaal Boers, the only part they have in the war is to fight for their independence, which was never threatened until they invaded British territory, and thus compelled the Queen's Government to defend it.
"The only alternative left to England to refuse fighting would have been the ground that all war is wrong; but as neither England nor any other nation has ever taken this Christian ground, there was in reality no alternative. Is it fair to stigmatise England as endeavouring to crush two small and weak nations because they have been so small in wisdom and weak in common sense as to become the tools of the daring and crafty autocrat who has decoyed both friend and foe into this war?--I am, with high esteem, thy friend,--JOHN BELLOWS."
It does not come within the scope of this treatise to deal with the case of the Uitlanders, but I have given the foregoing, because it is a clear and concise statement of that case, and because it expresses the strong conviction that I and many others have had from the first, that the worst enemy the Boers have is their own Government. A Government could scarcely be found less amenable to the principles of all just Law, which exists alike for Rulers and ruled. These principles have been violated in the most reckless manner by President Kruger and his immediate supporters. The Boers are suffering now, and paying with their life-blood for the sins of their Government. Pity and sympathy for them, (more especially for those among them who undoubtedly possess higher qualities than mere military prowess and physical courage,) are consistent with the strongest condemnation of the duplicity and lawlessness of their Government.
* * * * *
The Rev. Charles Phillips, who has been eleven years in South Africa, has given his opinion on the native question.
It was part of the Constitution of the Transvaal that no equality in Church or State should be permitted between whites and blacks. In Cape Colony, on the contrary, the Constitution insisted that there should be no difference in consequence of colour. Mr. Phillips enumerates the oppressive conditions under which the natives live in the Transvaal. They may not walk on the sidepaths, or trade even as small hucksters, or hold land. Until two years ago there was no marriage law for the blacks, and that which was then passed was so bad--a £3 fee being demanded for every marriage, with many other difficulties placed in the way of marriage--that the missionaries endeavoured to procure its abolition, and to return to the old state of things. No help is given towards the education of native children, though the natives pay 3 per cent. of the revenue, the Boers paying 7-1/2, and the Uitlanders 89-1/2. The natives have, therefore, actually been helping to educate the Boer children. "In 1896," says Mr. Phillips, "only £650 was granted to the schools of those who paid nine-tenths of the revenue, £63,000 being spent upon the Boer Schools. In other words, the Uitlander child gets 1s. 10d., the Boer child £8 6s. 1d. The Uitlander pays £7 per head for the education of every Boer child, and he has to provide in addition for the education of his own children."
* * * * *
The following extract is from a more general point of view, but one which it is unphilosophical to overlook.
The _Christian Age_ reproduces a communication from an American gentleman residing in the Transvaal to the New York _Independent_.
"The Boers," Mr. Dunn says, "are, as a race--with, of course, individual exceptions--an extraordinary instance of an arrested civilisation, the date of stoppage being somewhere about the conclusion of the seventeenth century. But they have not even stood still at that point. They have distinctly and dangerously degenerated even from the general standard of civilisation existing when Jan van Riebeck hoisted the flag of the Dutch East India Company at Cape Point. The great cardinal fact in connection with the Uitlander population is that, owing to their numbers and activity, they have brought in their train an influx of new wealth into the Transvaal of truly colossal dimensions. Thus, to sum up the distinctive and divergent characteristics of the two classes into which the population of the South African Republic is divided--the Boers, or old population, are conservative, ignorant, stagnant, and a minority; the Uitlanders, or new population, are progressive, full of enterprise, energy and work, and constitute a large majority of the total number of inhabitants.
"It has so happened, therefore, that the Boers, as the ruling and dominant class, have hopelessly failed to master or comprehend the new conditions with which they have been called upon to deal. They have not, as a body, shown either capacity or desire to treat the new developments with even a remote appreciation of their inherent value and inevitable trend. The Boer has simply set his back against the floodgates, apparently oblivious or indifferent to the fact that the hugely accumulating forces behind must one day burst every barrier he may choose to set up. That is the whole Transvaal situation in a sentence.
"It is necessary to point out, further, that this blind and dogged determination on the part of the Boers to 'stop the clock' affects not merely the Transvaal; it is vitally and perniciously affecting the whole of South Africa. But for the obstructiveness and obscurantism of the Transvaal Boers, the rate of progress and development which would characterise the whole South African continent would be unparalleled in the history of any other country. The reactionary policy of the Transvaal is the one spoke in the wheel. It must therefore be removed in the name of humanity and civilisation."
* * * * *
M. Elisée Reclus, the great Geographer, an able and admittedly impartial Historian, wrote some years ago in his "Africa," Vol. 4, page 215:--
"The patriotic Boers of South Africa still dream of the day when the two Republics of the Orange and the Transvaal, at first connected by a common customs union, will be consolidated in a single 'African Holland,' possibly even in a broader confederacy, comprising all the Afrikanders from the Cape of Good Hope to the Zambesi. The Boer families, grouped in every town throughout South Africa, form, collectively, a single nationality, despite the accident of political frontiers. The question of the future union has already been frequently discussed by the delegates of the two conterminous Republics. But, unless these visions can be realized during the present generation, they are foredoomed to failure. Owing to the unprogressive character of the purely Boer communities and to the rapid expansion of the English-speaking peoples by natural increase, by direct immigration, and by the assimilation of the Boers themselves, the future 'South African Dominion' can, in any case, never be an 'African Holland.' Whenever the present political divisions are merged in one State, that State must sooner or later constitute an 'African England,' whether consolidated under the suzerainty of Great Britain or on the basis of absolute political autonomy. But the internal elements of disorder and danger are too multifarious to allow the European inhabitants of Austral Africa for many generations to dispense with the protection of the English sceptre.
"Possessing for two centuries no book except the Bible, the South African Dutch communities are fond of comparing their lot with that of the 'Chosen People.' Going forth, like the Jews, in search of a 'Promised Land,' they never for a moment doubted that the native populations were specially created for their benefit. They looked on them as mere 'Canaanites, Amorites, and Jebusites,' doomed beforehand to slavery or death.
"They turned the land into a solitude, breaking all political organization of the natives, destroying all ties of a common national feeling, and tolerating them only in the capacity of 'apprentices,' another name for slaves.
"In general, the Boers despise everything that does not contribute directly to the material prosperity of the family group. Despite their numerous treks, they have contributed next to nothing to the scientific exploration of the land.
"Of all the white intruders, the Dutch Afrikanders show themselves, as a rule, most hostile to their own kinsmen, the Netherlanders of the mother country. At a distance the two races have a certain fellow-feeling for each other, as fully attested by contemporary literature; but, when brought close together, the memory of their common origin gives place to a strange sentiment of aversion. The Boer is extremely sensitive, hence he is irritated at the civilized Hollanders, who smile at his rude African customs, and who reply, with apparent ostentation, in a pure language to the corrupt jargon spoken by the peasantry on the banks of the Vaal or Limpopo."
No impartial student of recent South African History can fail, I think, to see that the results of Mr. Gladstone's policy in the retrocession of the Transvaal have been unhappy, however good the impulse which prompted his action. To his supporters at home, and to many of his admirers throughout Europe, his action stood for pure magnanimity, and seemed a sort of prophetic instalment of the Christian spirit which, they hoped, would pervade international politics in the coming age.
To the Transvaal leaders it presented a wholly different aspect. It meant to them weakness, and an acknowledgment of defeat. "Now let us go on," they felt, "and press towards our goal, i.e., the expulsion of the British from South Africa." The attitude and conduct of the Transvaal delegates who came to London in 1883, and of their chiefs and supporters, throws much light on this effect produced by the act of Mr. Gladstone.
There can be no doubt that the desire to supplant British by Dutch supremacy has existed for a long time. President Kruger puts back the origin of the opposition of the two races to a very distant date. In 1881, he said, "In the Cession of the Cape of Good Hope by the King of Holland to England lies the root out of which subsequent events and our present struggle have grown." The Dutch believe themselves,--and not without reason,--capable of great things, they were moved by an ambition to seize the power which they believed,--and the retrocession fostered that belief,--was falling from England's feeble and vacillating grasp. "Long before the present trouble" says a Member of the British Parliament well acquainted with South African affairs, "I visited every town in South Africa of any importance, and was brought into close contact with every class of the population; wherever one went, one heard this ambition voiced, either advocated or deprecated, but never denied. It dates back some forty or fifty years." The first reference to it is in a despatch of Governor Sir George Grey, in 1858; and it is to be found more definitely in the speeches of President Burgers in the Transvaal Raad in 1877 before the annexation, and in his _apologia_ published after the annexation. The movement continued under the administration of Sir Bartle Frere, who wrote in a despatch (published in Blue book) in 1879, "The Anti-English opposition are sedulously courting the loyal Dutch party (a great majority of the Cape Dutch) in order to swell the already considerable minority who are disloyal to the English Crown here and in the Transvaal." Mr. Theodore Schreiner, the brother of the Cape Premier, in a letter to the "Cape Times," November, 1899, described a conversation he had some seventeen years ago with Mr. Reitz, then a judge, afterwards President of the Orange Free State, and now State Secretary of the Transvaal, in which Mr. Reitz admitted that it was his object to overthrow the British power and expel the British flag from South Africa. Mr. Schreiner adds; "During the seventeen years that have elapsed I have watched the propaganda for the overthrow of British power in South Africa being ceaselessly spread by every possible means, the press, the pulpit, the platform, the schools, the colleges, the legislature; and it has culminated in the present war, of which Mr. Reitz and his co-workers are the origin and the cause."
The Retrocession of the Transvaal (1881) gave a strong impulse to this movement, and encouraged President Kruger in his persistent efforts since that date to foster it. A friend of the late General Joubert,--in a letter which I have read,--wrote of Mr. Kruger as "the man who, for more than twenty years past, has persistently laboured to drive in the wedge between the two races. It has been his deliberate policy throughout."
I always wish that I could separate the memory of that truly great man, Mr. Gladstone, from this Act of his Administration. Few people cherish his memory with more affectionate admiration than I do. Independently of his great intellect, his eloquence, and his fidelity in following to its last consequences a conviction which had taken possession of him, I revered him because he seemed like King Saul, to stand a head and shoulders above all his fellows,--not like King Saul in physical, but in moral stature. Pure, honourable and strong in character and principles, a sincere Christian, he attracted and deserved the affection and loyalty of all to whom purity and honour are dear. I may add that I may speak of him, in a measure also as a personal friend of our family. I have memories of delightful intercourse with him at Oxford, when he represented that constituency, and later, in other places and at other times.
I recall, however, an occasion in which a chill of astonishment and regret fell upon me and my husband (politically one of his supporters), in hearing a pronouncement from him on a subject, which to us was vital, and had been pressing heavily on our hearts. I allude to a great speech which Mr. Gladstone made in Liverpool during the last period of the Civil War in America, the Abolitionist War. Our friend spoke with his accustomed fiery eloquence wholly in favour of the spirit and aims of the combatants of the Southern States, speaking of their struggle as one on behalf of liberty and independence, and wishing them success. Not one word to indicate that the question which, like burning lava in the heart of a volcano, was causing that terrible upheaval in America, had found any place in that great man's mind, or had even "cast its shadow before" in his thoughts. It appeared as though he had not even taken in the fact of the existence of those four millions of slaves, the uneasy clanking of whose chains had long foreboded the approach of the avenging hand of the Deliverer. This obscured perception of the question was that of a great part, if not of the majority, of the Press of that day, and of most persons of the "privileged" classes; but that _he_, a trusted leader of so many, should be suffering from such an imperfection of mental vision, was to us an astonishment and sorrow. As we left that crowded hall, my companion and I, we looked at each other in silent amazement, and for a long time we found no words.
As I look back now, there seems in this incident some explanation of Mr. Gladstone's total oblivion of the interests of our loyal native subjects of the Transvaal at the time when he handed them over to masters whose policy towards them was well known. These poor natives had appealed to the British Government, had trusted it, and were deceived by it.
I recollect that Mr. Gladstone himself confessed, with much humility it seemed to us, in a pamphlet written many years after the American War, that it "had been his misfortune" on several occasions "not to have perceived the reality and importance of a question _until it was at the door_." This was very true. His noble enthusiasm for some good and vital cause so engrossed him at times that the humble knocking at the door of some other, perhaps equally vital question, was not heard by him. The knocking necessarily became louder and louder, till at last the door was opened; but then it may have been too late for him to take the part in it which should have been his.
[Footnote 15: Speech of Mr. Drage, M.P., at Derby, December, 1899.]
VISIT OF TRANSVAAL DELEGATES TO ENGLAND. THE LORD MAYOR'S REFUSAL
TO RECEIVE THEM AT THE MANSION HOUSE. DR. DALE'S LETTER TO MR.
GLADSTONE. MR. MACKENZIE IN ENGLAND. MEETINGS AND RESOLUTIONS ON
TRANSVAAL MATTERS. MANIFESTO OF BOER DELEGATES. SPEECHES OF W.E.
FORSTER, LORD SHAFTESBURY, SIR FOWELL BUXTON, AND OTHERS. THE
LONDON CONVENTION (1884).
In 1883, two years after the retrocession of the Transvaal, the Boers, encouraged by the hesitating policy of the British Government, sent a deputation to London of a few of their most astute statesmen, to put fresh claims before Mr. Gladstone, and Lord Derby, then Colonial Minister. They did not ask the repeal of the stipulations of the Convention of 1881--that was hardly necessary, as these stipulations had neither been observed by them nor enforced by our Government, but what they desired and asked was the complete re-establishment of the Republic, freed from any conditions of British Suzerainty. This would have given them a free hand in dealing with the natives, a power which those who knew them best were the least willing to concede.
Sir R.N. Fowler was at that time Lord Mayor of London. According to the custom when any distinguished foreigners visit our Capital, of giving them a reception at the Mansion House, these Transvaal delegates were presented for that honour. But the door of the Mansion House was closed to them, and by a Quaker Lord Mayor, renowned for his hospitality!
The explanation of this unusual act is given in the biography of Sir R. Fowler, written by J.S. Flynn, (page 260.) The following extract from that biography was sent to the _Friend_, the organ of the Society of Friends, in November, 1899, by Dr. Hodgkin, himself a quaker, whose name is known in the literary world:--"The scene of Sir R. Fowler's travels in 1881 was South Africa, where he went chiefly for the purpose of ascertaining how he could best serve the interests of the native inhabitants. He left no stone unturned in his search for information--visiting Sir Hercules Robinson, the Governor of the Cape, Sir Theophilus Shepstone, Sir Evelyn Wood, Colonel Mitchell, Bishops Colenso and Macrorie, the Zulu King Cetewayo, the principal statesmen, the military, the newspaper editors, the workers at the diamond-fields, and many others. The result of his inquiries was to confirm his belief of the charges which were made against the Transvaal Boers of wronging and oppressing the blacks.
"It was the opinion of many philanthropists that the only way to insure good Government in the Transvaal--justice to the natives, the suppression of slavery, the security of neighbouring tribes--was by England's insisting on the Boer's observance of the Treaty which had been made to this effect, and the delimitation of the boundary of their territory in order to prevent aggression. With this object in view meetings were held in the City, petitions presented by Members of Parliament, resolutions moved in the House; and when at last it was discovered that Mr. Gladstone's Government was unwilling to fulfil its pledges in reference to South Africa, and that in consequence the native inhabitants would not receive the support they had been led to expect, considerable indignation was felt amongst the friends of the aborigines. The demand which they made seems to have been moderate. The Transvaal, which before the war, had been reckoned, for its protection, a portion of the British dominions, was now made simply a State under British Suzerainty, with a debt to England of about a quarter of a million (in lieu of the English outlay during the three years of its annexation), and a covenant for the protection of the 800,000 natives in the State, and the Zulu, Bechuana, and Swazi tribes upon its borders. The English sympathisers with these natives simply asked that the covenant should be adhered to. There was little chance of the debt being paid, and that they were willing to forego; but they maintained that honour and humanity demanded that the Boers should not be allowed to treat their agreement with us as so much waste paper.
"The Prime Minister and the Secretary of State for the Colonies received the Transvaal delegates graciously, but the doors of the Mansion House were shut against them. Its occupant at that time would neither receive them into his house nor bid them God-speed. He had made a careful study of the South African question, and he felt no doubt that this deputation represented a body of European settlers who were depriving the natives of their land, slaying their men, and enslaving their women and children. He desired to extend the hospitality of the Mansion House to visitors from all countries, and to all creeds and political parties; but the line must be drawn somewhere, and he would draw it at the Boers. The boldness of his action on this occasion startled some even of his friends. He was, of course, attacked by that portion of the press which supported the Government. On the other hand, he had numerous sympathisers. Approving letters and telegrams came from many quarters, one telegram coming from the 'Loyalists of Kimberley' with 'hearty congratulations.' As for his opponents, he was not in the least moved by anything they said. He held it to be impossible for any respectable person who knew the Boers to support them. This was no doubt strong language, but it was not stronger than that of Moffat and Livingstone; not a whit stronger either than that used by W.E. Forster, who had been a member of the Gladstonian Government."
Dr. Hodgkin prefaced this extract by the following lines, addressed to the Editor of the _Friend_:
"Dear Friend,--In re-perusing a few days ago the life of my late brother-in-law, Sir R.N. Fowler, I came upon the enclosed passage, which I think worthy of our consideration at the present time.
Of late years the disputes between our Government and the African Republic have turned so entirely on questions connected with the status of the settlers in and around Johannesburg, that we may easily forget the old subjects of dispute which existed for a generation before it was known that there were any workable goldfields in South Africa, and before the word "Uitlander" had been mentioned amongst us. I must confess that for my part I had forgotten this incident of Sir R.N. Fowler's Mayoralty, and I think it may interest some of your readers to be reminded of it at the present time. I am, thine truly,--THOMAS HODGKIN. Barmoor, Northumberland."
* * * * *
The late Dr. Dale, of Birmingham, was one of those whose minds were painfully exercised on the matter of the abandonment of the natives of the Transvaal to the Boers. An extract from his life was sent in February this year to the _Spectator_, with the following preface:--
"Sir,--I have been greatly impressed by the justice of much that has been said in the _Spectator_ on the fact that the present war is a retribution for our indifference and apathy in 1881. We failed in our duty then. We have taken it up now, but at what a cost! In reading lately the life of Dr. Dale, of Birmingham, I was struck by his remarks (pp. 438 and 439) on the Convention of Pretoria. These remarks have such a bearing on the present situation that I beg you will allow me to quote them:"--
"In relation to South African affairs he (Dr. Dale) felt silence to be impossible. He had welcomed the policy initiated by the Convention of Pretoria (1881) conceding independence to the Transvaal, but imposing on the Imperial Government responsibility for the protection of native races within and beyond the frontiers. In correspondence with members of the House of Commons and in more than one public utterance, he expressed his satisfaction that the freedom of the Boers did not involve the slavery of the natives. At first the outlook was hopeful, but the Boers soon began to chafe against the restrictions to which they were subjected.... The Rev. John Mackenzie brought a lamentable record of outrage and cruelty.... Dr. Dale particularly urged that the Government should insist on carrying out the 18th article of the Convention of Pretoria. 'The policy of the Government seemed to me both righteous and expedient, singularly courageous and singularly Christian. But that policy included two distinct elements. It restored to the Boers internal independence, it reserved to the British Government powers for the protection of native races on the Transvaal frontier. It is not unreasonable for those who in the face of great obloquy supported the Government in recognising the independence of the Transvaal, to ask that it should also use its treaty powers, and use them effectively for the protection of the natives.' To this statement the _Pall Mall_ (John Morley) replied that the suzerainty over the Transvaal maintained by us was a 'shadowy term,' and that those who demanded that our reserved rights should be enforced were bound to face the question whether they were willing to fight to enforce them. Was Dr. Dale ready to run the risk of a fresh war in South Africa? Dr. Dale replied, should the British Government and British people regard with indifference the outrages of the Boers against tribes that we had undertaken to protect?... 'If the Government of the Republic cannot prevent such crimes as are declared to have been committed in the Bechuana country, and if we are indifferent to them, we shall have the South African tribes in a blaze again before many years are over, and for the safety of our Colonists we shall be compelled to interfere.' In the ensuing Session the Ministerial policy was challenged in both Houses of Parliament, and in the Commons Mr. Forster indicted the Government for its impotence to hold the Transvaal Republic to its engagements. Dr. Dale wrote a long letter to Mr. Gladstone:--'If it had been said that power to protect the natives should be taken but not used, it is at least possible that a section of the party might have declined to approve the Ministerial policy.... The one point to which I venture to direct attention is the contrast, as it appears to me, between the declaration of Ministers in '81, in relation to the native races generally, and the position which has been taken in the present debate.' Mr. Gladstone's reply was courteous, but not reassuring."
* * * * *
Mr. Mackenzie, British Commissioner for Bechuanaland, came to England in 1882. In the following year the Delegates from the Transvaal came to London, and in 1884 the Convention was signed, which was called the "London Convention."
These years included events of great interest. Mr. Mackenzie wrote:--"On my way to England I met a friend who had just landed in South Africa from England. He warned me 'If you say a good word for South Africa, Mr. Mackenzie, you will get yourself insulted. They will not hear a word on its behalf in England; they are so disgusted with the mess that has been made.'
'They had good reason to be disgusted, but I want all the same to tell them a number of things about the true condition of the country.'
'They will not listen,' my friend declared, 'They will only swear at you.' This was not very encouraging, but it was not far from the truth as to the public feeling at that time.
Being in the----counties of England I was offered an introduction to the Editor of a well-known newspaper, who was also a pungent writer on social questions under a _nom de plume_ which had got to be so well known as no longer to serve the purpose of the writer's concealment of identity.
'You come from South Africa, do you,' said the great man; 'a place where we have had much trouble, but mean to have no more.'
'Trouble, however,' I answered, 'is inseparable from Empire. Whoever governs South Africa must meet with some trouble and difficulty, although not much when honestly faced.'
'I assure you,' he broke in, 'we are not going to try it again after the one fashion or the other. We are out of it, and we mean to remain so.'
'You astonish me,' I answered; 'what about the Convention recently signed at Pretoria (1881)? What about the speeches still more recently made in this country in support of it?'
'As to the Convention, I know we signed something; people often do when they are getting out of a nasty business. We never meant to keep it, nor shall we.'
I believe I whistled a low whistle just to let off the steam, and then replied calmly, 'Will you allow me to say that by your own showing you are a bad lot, a very bad lot, as politicians.'
'That may be, but it does not alter the fact, which is as I state.'
'Well, I am an outsider, but I assure you that the English people, should they ever know the facts, will agree with me in saying that you are a bad lot. Such doctrines in commerce would ruin us in a day. You know that.'
'The people are with us. They are disgusted and heart-sore with the whole business.'
'I grant you that such is their frame of mind, but I think their attitude will be different when they come to consider the facts, and face the responsibilities of our position in South Africa. The only difficulty with me is to communicate the truth to the public mind.'
I was much impressed by this interview. Did this influential editor represent a large number of English people? Were they in their own minds out of South Africa, and resolved never to return?
... 'I do not know what you think, Mr. Mackenzie, but we are all saying here that Mr. Gladstone made a great mistake in not recalling Sir Bartle Frere at once. In fact, we are of opinion that Frere should have been tried and hanged.'
The speaker was a fine specimen of an Englishman, tall, with a good head, intelligent and able as well as strong in speech. He was a large manufacturer, and a local magnate. His wife was little and gentle, and yet quite fearless of her grim-looking lord. She begged that I would always make a deduction when her husband referred to South Africa. He could never keep his temper on that subject, My host abruptly demanded, 'But don't you think that Frere should have been hanged?'
'My dear, you will frighten Mr. Mackenzie with your vehemence, and you know you do not mean it a bit.'
'Mean it! Isn't it what everybody is saying here? At any rate I have given Mr. Mackenzie a text, and he must now give me his discourse.'
I then proceeded to sketch out the work which Sir Bartle Frere had had before him, its fatal element of haste, with its calamitous failures in no way chargeable to him. 'In short, I concluded, but for the grave blunders of others you would have canonized Sir Bartle Frere instead of speaking of him as you do. He is the ablest man you ever sent to South Africa. As to his personal character, I do not know a finer or manlier Christian.' ...
'I am quite bewildered,' said my host, at the end of a long conversation. 'I know more of South Africa than I knew before. But we shall not believe you unless you pitch into someone. You have not done that yet; you have only explained past history, and have had a good word for everybody.'
'Then, Sir,' I quickly answered, 'I pitch into you, and into your Governments, one after another, for not mastering the facts of South African life. Why do you now refuse to protect your own highway into the Interior, and at the same time conserve the work of the missionaries whom you have supported for two generations, and thus put an end to the freebooting of the Boers, and of our own people who joined them? At present there is a disarmed coloured population, disarmed by your own laws on account only of their colour; and there is an armed population, armed under your laws, because they are white; and you decline to interfere in any way for the protection of the former. You will neither protect the natives nor give them fair play and an open field, so that they may protect themselves.'
'Now, my dear,' said the little wife, 'I wonder who deserves to be hanged now? I am sure we are obliged to Mr. Mackenzie for giving us a clear view of things.'
'No, no, you are always too hasty,' said my host, quite gravely. 'The thing gets very serious. Do I rightly understand you, Mr. Mackenzie, that practically we Englishmen arm those freebooters (from the Transvaal,) and practically keep the blacks disarmed, and that when the blacks have called on us for protection and have offered themselves and their country to the Queen we have paid no heed? Is this true?'
'Every word true,' I replied.
'Then may I ask, did you not fight for these people? You had surely got a rifle,' said my host, turning right round on me.
'My dear, you forget Mr. Mackenzie has been a Missionary,' said his wife. 'You yourself, as a Director of the London Missionary Society, would have had him cashiered if he had done anything of the kind.'
'Nonsense, you don't see the thing. I assure you I could not have endured such meanness and injustice. I should have broken such confounded laws. I should have shouldered a rifle, I know,' said the indignant man as he paced his room.
'My dear, you would have got shot, you know,' said his wife.
'Shot! yes, certainty, why not?' said my host; and added gravely, 'A fellow would know _why_ he was shot. Is it true, Mr. Mackenzie, that those blacks were kind to our people who fled to them from the Transvaal, and that they there protected them?'
'Quite true,' I rejoined.
'Then by heaven,' said Mr.----, raising his voice--
'Let us go to supper,' broke in the gentle wife, 'you are only wearying Mr. Mackenzie by your constant wishes to hang some one.'
"I trust my friends will forgive me for recalling this conversation, which vividly pictures the state of people's mind concerning South Africa in 1882. I found that most people were incredulous as to the facts being known at the Colonial Office, and there was a uniform persuasion that Mr. Gladstone was ignorant that such things were going on."
I have given these interviews (much abridged) because they illustrate in a rather humourous way a state of mind which unhappily has long existed and exists to some degree to this day in England--an impatience of responsibility for anything concerning interests lying beyond the shores of our own Island, a certain superciliousness, and a habit of expressing and adhering to suddenly formed and violent opinions without sufficient study of the matters in question,--such opinions being often influenced by the bias of party politics. Our countrymen are now waking up to a graver and deeper consideration of the tremendous interests at stake in our Colonies and Dependencies, and to a greater readiness to accept responsibilities which once undertaken it is cowardice to reject or even to complain of.
At the request of the London Missionary Society, Mr. Mackenzie drew up an extended account of the Bechuanaland question, which had a wide circulation. He did not enter into party politics, but merely gave evidence as to matters of fact. There was surprise and indignation expressed wherever the matter was carefully studied and understood. Many resolutions were transmitted to the Colonial Secretary from public meetings; one which came from a meeting in the Town Hall of Birmingham was as, follows:--
"This meeting earnestly trusts that the British Government will firmly discharge the responsibilities which they have undertaken in protection of the native races on the Transvaal border."
Among the people who took up warmly the cause of the South African natives were Dr. Conder, Mr. Baines, and Mr. Yates of Leeds (who addressed themselves directly to Mr. Gladstone), Dr. Campbell and Dr. Duff of Edinburgh, the Rev. Arnold Thomas and Mr. Chorlton of Bristol, Mr. Howard of Ashton-under-Lyne, Mr. Thomas Rigby of Chester, and others.
A Resolution was sent to the Colonial Office by the Secretary of the Congregational Union of England and Wales, which had been passed unanimously at a meeting of that body in Bristol:--
"That the Assembly of the Congregational Union, recognising with devout thankfulness the precious and substantial results of the labours of two generations of Congregational Christian Missionaries in Bechuanaland, learns with grief and alarm that the lawless incursions of certain Boers from the Transvaal threaten the utter ruin of peace, civilization, and Christianity in that land. This Assembly therefore respectfully and most urgently entreats Her Majesty's Government, in accordance with the express provision of the Convention by which Self-Government was granted to the Boers, to take such steps as shall eventually put a stop to a state of things as inconsistent with the pledged word of England as with the progress of the Bechuanaland nations." Signed at Bristol, Oct. 1882.
"These," says Mr. Mackenzie, "were not words of war, but of peace; they were not the words of enemies, but of friends of the Transvaal, many of whom had been prominent previously in agitating for the Boers getting back their independence. They felt that this was the just complement of that action; the Boers were to have freedom within the Transvaal, but not licence to turn Bechuanaland (and other neighbouring native states) into a pandemonium."
There was a closer contact in Edinburgh with South Africa than elsewhere, owing to the constant presence at that University of a large number of students from South Africa. A public meeting was held in Edinburgh, among the speakers whereat were Bishop Cotterill, who had lived many years in South Africa; Mr. Gifford, who had been a long time in Natal; Professor Calderwood, and Dr. Blaikie, biographer of Dr. Livingstone. The Venerable Mr. Cullen, the first missionary traveller in Bechuanaland, who had often entertained Dr. Moffat and Dr. Livingstone in his house, was present to express his interest in that country. There were the kindest expressions used towards our Dutch fellow-subjects; but grave condemnation was expressed of the Transvaal policy towards the coloured people in making it a fundamental law that they were not to be equal to the whites either in Church or State.
A South African Committee was formed in London from which a largely supported address was presented to Mr. Gladstone.
The High Commissioner for Bechuanaland gave his impressions at several different times during that and the preceding year on the subject of the constant illegal passing of the Western Boundary line of the Transvaal by the Boers. Readers will remember that the delimitation of the western boundary of the Transvaal was a fixed condition of the Convention of 1881, a Convention which was continually violated by the Boers. No rest was permitted for the poor natives of the different tribes on that side, the Boers' land-hunger continuing to be one of their strongest passions. The High Commissioner wrote, "If Montsioa and Mankoroane were now absorbed, Banokwani, Makobi and Bareki would soon share the same fate. Haseitsiwe and Sechele would come next. So long as there were native cattle to be stolen and native lands to be taken possession of, the absorbing process would be repeated. Tribe after tribe would be pushed back and back upon other tribes or would perish in the process until an uninhabitable desert or the sea were reached as the ultimate boundary of the Transvaal State."
The Manifesto presented by the Transvaal delegates to the English people convinced no one, and its tone was calculated rather to beget suspicion. The following is an extract from that document:
"The horrible misdeeds committed by Spain in America, by the Dutch in the Indian Archipelago, by England in India, and by the Southern planters in the United States, constitute an humiliating portion of the history of mankind, over which we as Christians may well blush, confessing with a contrite heart our common guiltiness."
"The labours of the Anti-slavery and Protection of Aborigines Societies which have been the means of arousing the public conscience to the high importance of this matter cannot be, according to our opinion, sufficiently lauded and encouraged."
The manifesto then goes on to meet the charges concerning slavery and ill-treatment of natives brought against the Transvaal by a flat denial. "They may be true," they say, "as to actions done long ago, and they humbly pray to the Lord God to forgive them the sins that may have been committed in hidden corners. Believe us, therefore, Gentlemen, when we say that the opposition to our Government is caused by prejudice, and fed by misunderstanding. If you leave us untrammelled, we hope to God that before a new generation has passed, a considerable portion of our natives in the Transvaal will be converted to Christianity; at least our Government is preparing arrangements for a more thorough Christian mission among them."
A public Meeting was held at the Mansion House, called by the Lord Mayor, Sir R. Fowler, at which the Right Hon. W.E. Forster, referring to the Sand River and the other Conventions said: "can anything be more grossly unfair and unjust than on the one hand, to hand over these native people to the Transvaal Government, and on the other hand to do our utmost to prevent them from defending themselves when their rights are attacked? I cannot conceive any provision more contrary to that principle of which we are so proud--British fair play."
Speaking of the treatment of the Bechuanaland people by the Boers he said: "The story of these men is a very sad one; I would rather never allude to it again." He then referred to "the settlement of the western boundary of the Transvaal by Governor Keate, and the immediate repudiation of it by the Transvaal Rulers. Then came the Pretoria Convention only two years ago which added a large block of native land to the Transvaal. That was not enough. Freebooters came over, mostly from the Transvaal, and afterwards from other parts of the country. Representations and remonstrances were made to the Transvaal Government. There was a non possumus reply. 'We cannot stop them;' We seem to have good ground for believing that the freebooters were stimulated by the officers of the Transvaal Government. The result was that the native Chiefs of the people lost by far the larger portion of their land. They appealed to our Government, and we did nothing; there came again and again despairing appeals to England, and how were they met? I can only believe it was through ignorance of the question that it was possible to meet them as we did. It was proposed to meet them by a miserable compensation in money or in land, not to the people but to the few Chiefs, who to their credit, as a lesson to us, a great Christian Country said: 'We will not desert our people even if you desert us.' Then there followed utter disorder and disorganisation in Bechuanaland. Then came in the Transvaal Government and virtually said: 'Give us the country and we will maintain order; if owners of the land object we will put them down as rebels; we will take their land as we have taken Mapoch's, and apprentice their children. You have got tired of these quarrels, leave them to us; we will put a stop to them by protecting the robbers who have taken the land.'
"That practically is the demand. Are you prepared to grant it? I for my part say, that rather than grant it I would (a voice in the meeting--'fight!') yes, if necessary, fight; but I will do my utmost to persuade my fellow countrymen to make the declaration that, if necessary, force will be used, which, if it was believed in, would make it unnecessary to fight.
"The Transvaal Boers know our power, and the Delegates know our power. It is our will that they doubt. If I could not persuade my fellow countrymen that they meant to show that they would never grant such demands as these, I would rather do--what I should otherwise oppose with all my might,--withdraw from South Africa altogether. I am not so proud of our extended Empire as to wish to preserve it at the cost of England refusing to discharge her duties. If we have obligations we must meet them, and if we have duties we must fulfil them; and I have confidence in the English people that first or last they will make our Government fulfil its obligations. But there is much difference between first and last; last is much more difficult than first, and more costly than first. The cost increases with more than geometrical progression. There are people who say, (but the British nation will not say it;) 'leave us alone, let these Colonists and Boers and Natives whom we are tired of, fight it out as best they can; let us declare by our deeds, or rather by our non deeds that we will not keep our promise nor fulfil our duty.' Such a course as that would be as extravagantly costly as it would be shamefully wrong. This _laissez faire_ policy tends to make things go from bad to worse until at last by a great and most costly effort, and perhaps by a really bloody and destructive war, we shall be obliged to do in the end at a greater cost, and in a worse way, that which we could do now. It is not impossible to do it now. A gentleman in the meeting said it was a question of fighting. I do not believe this; but though born a Quaker, I must admit that if there be no other way by which we can protect our allies and prevent the ungrateful desertion of those who helped us in the time of need, than by the exercise of force, I say force must be exercised."
Readers will remark how extraordinarily prophetic are these words of Mr. Forster, spoken in 1883.
The "venerable and beloved Lord Shaftesbury," as Mr. Mackenzie calls him, spoke as follows:--
"This morning has been put into my hands the reply of the Transvaal delegates to the Aborigines Protection Society. I read it with a certain amount of astonishment and of comfort too,--of astonishment that men should be found possessing such a depth of Christianity, such sentiments of religion, such love for veracity, and such regard for the human race as to put on record and to sign with their own hands such a denial of the atrocities and cruelties which have been recorded against them for so many years. It is most blessed to contemplate the depth of their religious sentiments; they express the love they bear to our Lord and Saviour, and their desire to walk in His steps. All this is very beautiful, and, _if true_, is the greatest comfort ever given us concerning the native races. I will take that document as a promise for the future that they will act upon these principles, that they are Christians, and that they will act on Christian principles, and respect the rights of the natives. That is perhaps the most generous view to take of the matter; but, nevertheless, we shall be inclined to doubt until we _see_ that they have put these principles into practice.
"Let me come to the laws of the Transvaal. It is a fundamental law of that State that there can be no equality either in Church or in State between white and coloured men. No native is allowed to hold land in the Transvaal with such a fundamental law. It is nothing more than a necessary transition to the conclusion that the coloured people should be contemned as being of an inferior order, and only fit for slavery. That is a necessary transition, and it is for Englishmen to protest against it, and to say that all men, of whatever creed, or race, or colour, are equal in Church and State, and in the sight of God, and to assert the principle of Civil and Religious Liberty whenever they have the opportunity. I have my fears at times of the consequences of democratic action; but I shall never feel afraid of appealing to the British democracy on a question of Civil and Religious liberty. That strikes a chord that is very deep and dear to every Briton everywhere. They believe,--and their history shows that they act upon the belief,--that the greatest blessing here below that can be given to intellectual and moral beings is the gift of Civil and Religious liberty. Sensible of the responsibility we have assumed, we appeal to the British public, and I have no doubt what the answer will be. It will be that by God's blessing, and so far as in us lies, Civil and Religious liberty _shall_ prevail among all the tribes of South Africa, to the end that they may become civilized nations, vying with us in the exercise of the gifts that God has bestowed upon us."
Sir Henry Barkly, who had held the office of Governor of the Cape Colony, and of High Commissioner for a number of years, said:--
"Apart from other considerations, it is essential in the interests of civilization and of commerce that the route to the interior of the Dark Continent should be kept in our hands. It has been through the stations planted by our missionaries all along it, as far as Matabeleland, that the influence of the Gospel has been spread among the natives, and that the way has been made safe and easy for the traveller and the trader. Can we suppose that these stations can be maintained if we suffer the road to fall within the limits of the Transvaal? We need not recall our melancholy experience of the past in this region. I would rather refer to the case of the Paris Evangelical Society, whose missionaries were refused leave only a short time ago to teach or preach to the Basuto-speaking population within the Transvaal territory."
The Hon. K. Southey said:--
"I concur entirely with what has been said by the Right Hon. Mr. Forster with regard to slavery. It must be admitted that the institution does not exist in name; but in reality something very closely allied to it exists, for in that country there is no freedom for the coloured races. The road to the interior must be kept open, not only for the purposes of trade, but also as a way by which the Gospel may be carried from here to the vast regions beyond Her Majesty's possessions in that part of the world. If we allow the Transvaal State to annex a territory through which the roads to the interior pass, not only will there be difficulties put in the way of our traders, but the missionary also will find it no easy task to obey the injunction to carry the Gospel into all lands, and to preach it to all peoples."
Sir Fowell Buxton presented the following thought, which might with advantage be taken to heart at the present time:--
"We know how in the United States they have lately been celebrating the events that recall the time a century ago of the declaration of their independence. I will ask you to consider what would have been the best advice that we could have given at that time to the Government at Washington? Do we not know that in regard to all that relates to the well-being of the country, to mere matters of wealth and property, the best advice to have given them would have been, to deliver their country at once from all connection with slavery in the days when they formed her constitution."
* * * * *
Sir William M'Arthur, M.P., said:--
"I have never seen in the Mansion House a larger or more enthusiastic meeting, and I believe that the feeling which animates this meeting is animating the whole country. Any course of action taken by Her Majesty's Ministers towards the Transvaal will be very closely watched. I myself am for peace, but I am also for that which maintains peace, viz., a firm and decided policy."
* * * * *
The poor Chief, Mankoroane, having heard that the Transvaal Delegates would discuss questions of vital importance to his people, left Bechuanaland and went as far as Cape Town on his way to England to represent his case there. Lord Derby, however, sent him word that he could not be admitted to the Conference in London, where the ownership of his own country was to be discussed. Mankoroane then begged Mr. Mackenzie to be his representative, but was again told that neither personally nor by representative could he be recognised at the Conference in Downing Street, but that any remarks which Mr. Mackenzie might make on his behalf would receive the attention of Government. (Blue Book 3841, 92.)
The first and great question which the Transvaal Delegates desired to settle in their own interests was that of the Western boundary line, amended by themselves, which was represented on a map. They were informed that their amended treaty was "neither in form nor in substance such as Her Majesty's Government could adopt," there being "certain Chiefs who had objected, on behalf of their people, to be included in the Transvaal, and there being a strong feeling in London in favour of the independence of these natives, or (if they, the natives, desired it) of their coming under British rule." There was now brought before the delegates a map showing the addition of land which was eventually granted to the Transvaal, but the delegates would not agree to any such arrangement. Her Majesty's Government were giving away to them some 2,600 square miles of native territory, concerning which there was no clear evidence that its owners wished to be joined to the Transvaal. But this was nothing to the Transvaal demand, as shown by a map which they put in, and which included an _additional_ block of 4,000 square miles. Not finding agreement with the Government possible, the delegates then turned from that position, and took up the question of the remission of the debt which the Transvaal owed to England, saying that the wishes of the native chiefs should be consulted first about the boundary line. This was a bold stroke; they were professing to be representing the interests of certain chiefs, which was not the case.
Lord Derby telegraphed to the Cape on the 27th of Feb. 1884, the result of the protracted labours of the Conference at Downing Street, mentioning:--"British Protectorate established outside the Transvaal, with Delegates' consent. Debt reduced to quarter of a million." To many persons it seems that the Convention of 1884, rather than the Convention of 1881, was the real blunder. It is remarkable, however, as illustrating the small attention which South African affairs then received, that no party controversy was aroused over this later instrument. Very soon afterwards, however, the question became acute, owing to the action of Mr. Kruger; and then, it must be remembered, that Mr. Gladstone did not hesitate to appeal to the armed strength of the Empire in order to defend British interests and prevent the extension of Boer rule. That there was not war in 1884 was due only to the fact that Mr. Kruger at that time did not choose to fight. The raiders and filibusters were put down before by Sir Charles Warren's force, but Mr. Gladstone had taken every precaution in view of the contingency of a collision.
The conditions laid down in the Convention did not satisfy the Delegates, although they formally assented to them. Their disappointment began to be strongly manifested. They had stoutly denied that slavery existed in their country. This denial was challenged by the Secretary of the Aborigines Protection Society, who brought forward some very awkward testimonies and facts of recent date. It was suggested that President Kruger should for ever silence the calumniators by demanding a Commission of enquiry on this subject which would take evidence within and round the Transvaal as they might see fit. The Delegates took good care not to accept this challenge. The firmness of the British Government at that moment was fully justified by the actual facts of the case which came so strikingly before them, and their attitude was supported by public opinion, so far as this public opinion in England then existed. It was the Transvaal deputation itself which had most effectually developed it when they first arrived in London, though it was known they had many friends, and that numbers of the public were generally quite willing to consider their claims. They sat for three months in conference with members of Her Majesty's Government before coming to any decision. That decision was known as the London Convention of 1884.
The displeasure of the Boer Delegates matured after their return to the Transvaal, and was expressed in a message sent by the Volksraad to our Government not many months after the signing of the Convention in London.
In this document the Boers seem to regard themselves as a victorious people making terms with those they had conquered. It is interesting to note the articles of the Convention to which they particularly object. In the telegram which was sent to "His Excellency, W.E. Gladstone," the Volksraad stated that the London Convention was not acceptable to them. They declared that "modifications were desirable, and that certain articles _must_ be altered." They attached importance to the Native question, declaring that "the Suzerain (Great Britain) has not the right to interfere with their Legislature, and that they cannot agree to article 3, which gives the Suzerain a voice concerning Native affairs, nor to article 13, by virtue of which Natives are to be allowed to acquire land, nor to that part of Article 26, by which it is provided that white men of a foreign race living in the Transvaal shall not be taxed in excess of the taxes imposed on Transvaal citizens."
It should be observed here that this reference to unequal and excessive taxation of foreigners in the Transvaal, pointing to a tendency on the part of the Boers to load foreigners with unjust taxation, was made before the development of the goldfields and the great influx of Uitlanders.
The Message of the Volksraad was finally summed up in the following words: "we object to the following articles, 15, 16, 26, and 27, because to insist on them is hurtful to our sense of honour." (sic.)
Now what are the articles to which the Boer Government here objects, and has continued to object?
Article 15 enacts that _no slavery or apprenticeship shall be tolerated_.
Article 16 provides for religious toleration (for Natives and all alike.)
Article 26 provides for the free movement, trading, and residence of all persons, other than natives, conforming themselves to the laws of the Transvaal.
Article 27 gives to all, (Natives included,) the right of free access to the Courts of Justice.
Putting the "sense of honour" of the Transvaal Volksraad out of the question, past experience had but too plainly proved that these Articles were by no means superfluous.
[Footnote 16: "Austral Africa, Ruling it or Losing it," p. 157.]
[Footnote 17: When the Transvaal was annexed, in 1877, the public debt of that country amounted to £301,727. "Under British rule this debt was liquidated to the extent of £150,000, but the total was brought up by a Parliamentary grant, a loan from the Standard Bank, and sundries to £390,404, which represented the public debt of the Transvaal on the 31st December, 1880. This was further increased by monies advanced by the Standard Bank and English Exchequer during the war, and till the 8th August, 1881, (during which time the country yielded no revenue,) to £457,393. To this must be added an estimated sum of £200,000 for compensation charges, pension allowances, &c., and a further sum of £383,000, the cost of the successful expedition against Secocoemi, that of the unsuccessful one being left out of account, bringing up the total public debt to over a million, of which about £800,000 was owing to this country. This sum the Commissioners (Sir Evelyn Wood dissenting) reduced by a stroke of the pen to £265,000, thus entirely remitting an approximate sum of £500,000 or £600,000. To the sum of £265,000 still owing must be added say another £150,000 for sums lately advanced to pay the compensation claims, bringing up the actual amount owing to England to about a quarter of a million."--Report of Assistant Secretary to the British Agent for Native Affairs. (Blue Book 3917, 46.)]
[Footnote 18: "Austral Africa." Mackenzie.]
THE CAREER AND RECALL OF SIR BARTLE FRERE. UNFORTUNATE EFFECT IN
SOUTH AFRICA OF PARTY SPIRIT IN POLITICS AT HOME. DEATH OF SIR
BARTLE FRERE. THE GREAT PRINCIPLES OF BRITISH GOVERNMENT AND LAW.
HOPE FOR SOUTH AFRICA IF THESE ARE MAINTAINED AND OBSERVED. WORDS
OF MR. GLADSTONE ON THE COLONIZING SPIRIT OF ENGLISHMEN.
The case of Sir Bartle Frere illustrates forcibly the inexpediency of allowing our party differences at home to sow the seeds of discord in a distant Colony, and the apparent injustices to which such action may give rise.
While in England Sir Bartle Frere was being censured and vilified, in South Africa an overwhelming majority of the colonists, of whatever race or origin, were declaring, in unmistakable terms, that he had gained their warmest approbation and admiration. Town after town and village after village poured in addresses and resolutions in different forms, agreeing in enthusiastic commendation of him as the one man who had grasped the many threads of the South African tangle, and was handling them so as to promise a solution in accordance with the interests of all the many and various races which inhabited it.
"In our opinion," one of these resolutions (from Cradock) says, "his Excellency, Sir Bartle Frere, is one of the best Governors, if not the best Governor, this Colony has ever had, and the disasters which have taken place since he has held office, are not due to any fault of his, but to a shameful mismanagement of public affairs before he came to the Colony, and the state of chaos and utter confusion in which he had the misfortune to find everything on his arrival; and we are therefore of opinion that the thanks of every loyal colonist are due to his Excellency for the herculean efforts he has since made under the most trying circumstances to South Africa...."
Another, from Kimberley says:--"It has been a source of much pain to us that your Excellency's policy and proceedings should have been so misunderstood and misrepresented.... The time, we hope, is not far distant when the wisdom of your Excellency's native policy and action will be as fully recognized and appreciated by the whole British nation as it is by the colonists of South Africa."
At Pretoria, the capital of the Transvaal, a public meeting was held (April 24th), which resolved that:--
"This meeting reprobates most strongly the action of a certain section of the English and Colonial Press for censuring, without sufficient knowledge of local affairs, the policy and conduct of Sir B. Frere; and it desires not only to express its sympathy with Sir B. Frere and its confidence in his policy, but also to go so far as to congratulate most heartily Her Majesty the Queen, the Home Government, and ourselves, on possessing such a true, considerate, and faithful servant as his Excellency the High Commissioner."
A public dinner also was given to Sir B. Frere at Pretoria, at which his health was drunk with the greatest enthusiasm; there was a public holiday, and other rejoicings.
Sir Bartle Frere was intending to go to Bloemfontein, in the
Orange Free State, to visit President Brand, with whom he was on cordial terms, and with whom he wished to talk over his plans for the Transvaal; but instructions came from Sir Michael Hicks-Beach to proceed to Cape Town. He therefore left Pretoria on May 1st. He was welcomed everywhere with the utmost cordiality and enthusiasm. At Potchefstroom there was a public dinner and a reception. On approaching Bloemhof he was met by a large cavalcade, and escorted into the township, where a triumphal arch had been erected, and an address was presented.
"At Kimberley he had been sworn in as Governor of Griqualand West. Fifteen thousand people, it was estimated, turned out to meet and welcome him. From thence to Cape Town his journey was like a triumphal progress, the population at each place he passed through receiving him in flag-decorated streets, with escorts, triumphal arches, illuminations, and addresses. At Worcester, where he reached the railway, there was a banquet, at which Sir Gordon Sprigg was also present. At Paarl, which was the head-quarters of the Dutch Afrikander league, and where some of the most influential Dutch families live, a similar reception was given him. Finally, at Cape Town, where, if anywhere, his policy was likely to find opponents among those who regarded it from a provincial point of view, the inhabitants of all classes and sections and of whatever origin, gave themselves up to according him a reception such as had never been surpassed in Capetown.
"In England, complimentary local receptions and addresses to men in high office or of exalted rank do not ordinarily carry much meaning. Party tactics and organization account for a proportion of such manifestations. But the demonstration on this occasion cannot be so explained. There was no party organization to stimulate it. It was too general to confer notoriety on any of its promoters, and Sir B. Frere had not personally the power, even if he had had the will, to return compliments. And what made it the more remarkable was that there was no special victory or success or event of any kind to celebrate."
On reaching Cape Town, a telegraphic message was handed to him, preparing him for his recall, by the statement that Sir H. Bulwer was to replace him as High Commissioner of the Transvaal, Natal, and all the adjoining eastern portion of South Africa, and that he was to confine his attention for the present to the Cape Colony.
To deprive him of his authority as regarded Natal, Zululand, the Transvaal--the Transvaal, which almost by his single hand and voice he had just saved from civil war--and expressly to direct Colonel Lanyon to cease to correspond with him, was to discredit a public servant before all the world at the crisis of his work.
Sir Bartle Frere's great object had been to bring about a Confederation of all the different States and portions of South Africa, an object with which the Home Government was in sympathy.
What was wanting to bring about confederation was confidence, founded on the permanent pacification and settlement of Zululand, the Transvaal, the Transkei, Pondoland, Basutoland, West Griqualand, and the border generally. How could there, under these circumstances, be confidence any longer? There was no doubt what he had meant to do. By many a weary journey he had made himself personally known throughout South Africa. His aims and intentions were never concealed, never changed. In confederating under his superintendence all men knew what they were doing. But he was now to be superseded. Was his policy to be changed, and how?
It was expected by the political majority in England that as soon as Mr. Gladstone came into power, Sir Bartle Frere, whose policy had been so strongly denounced, would be at once recalled. When the new Parliament met in May, the Government found many of their supporters greatly dissatisfied that this had not been done. Notice of motion was given of an address to the Crown, praying for Sir B. Frere's removal. Certain members of parliament met together several times at the end of May, and a memorial to Mr. Gladstone was drawn up, which was signed by about ninety of them, and sent to him on June 3rd, to the following effect:--
"To the Right Hon. W.E. Gladstone, M.P., First Lord of the Treasury."
"We the undersigned, members of the Liberal party, respectfully submit that as there is a strong feeling throughout the country in favour of the recall of Sir Bartle Frere, it would greatly conduce to _the unity of the party and relieve many members from the charge of breaking their pledges to their constituents if_ that step were taken."
The first three signatures to this document were those of L.L. Dillwyn, Wilfrid Lawson, and Leonard Courtney.
This has been called not unjustly, "a cynically candid document." The "unity of the Party," and "pledges to constituents" are the only considerations alluded to in favour of the recall of a man to whose worth almost the whole of South Africa had witnessed, in spite of divided opinions concerning the Zulu War, for which he was only in a very minor degree responsible.
The Memorial to the Government had its effect; the successor of Sir Bartle Frere was to be Sir Hercules Robinson. He was in New Zealand, and could not reach the Cape at once; therefore Sir George Strahan was appointed _ad interim_ governor, Sir Bartle being directed not even to await the arrival of the latter, but to leave by the earliest mail steamer.
At the news of his recall there arose for the second time a burst of sympathy from every town, village, and farm throughout the country, in terms of mingled indignation and sorrow. The addresses and resolutions, being spontaneous at each place, varied much, and laid stress on different points, but in all there was a tone of deep regret, of conviction that Sir B. Frere's policy and his actions had been wise, just, and merciful towards all men, and of hope that the British Government and people would in time learn the truth.
One from farmers of East London concludes: "May God Almighty bless you and grant you and yours a safe passage to the Mother Country, give you grace before our Sovereign Lady the Queen, and eloquence to vindicate your righteous cause before the British nation."
The address of the Natives of Mount Cake is pathetic in its simplicity of language.
"Our hearts are very bitter this day. We hear that the Queen calls you to England. We have not heard that you are sick; then why have you to leave us? By you we have now peace. We sleep now without fear. Old men tell us of a good Governor Durban (Sir Benjamin Durban) who had to leave before his good works became law; but red coals were under the ashes which he left. Words of wicked men, when he left, like the wind blew up the fire, and the country was again in war. So also Sir George Grey, a good Governor, good to tie up the hands of bad men, good to plant schools, good to feed the hungry, good to have mercy and feed the heathen when dying from hunger, He also had to leave us. We do not understand this. But your Excellency is not to leave us. Natal has now peace by you; we have peace by you because God and the Queen sent you. Do not leave us. Surely it is not the way of the Queen to leave her children here unprotected until peace is everywhere. We shall ever pray for you as well as for the Queen. These are our words to our good Governor, though he turns his back on us."
The Malays and other Orientals, of whom there is a considerable population at Capetown, looked upon Frere, a former Indian Statesman, as their special property. The address from the Mahommedan subjects of the Queen says:--
"We regret that our gracious Queen has seen fit to recall your Excellency. We cannot help thinking it is through a mistake. The white subjects of Her Majesty have had good friends and good rulers in former Governors, but your Excellency has been the friend of white and coloured alike."
* * * * *
The following letter is from Sir John Akerman, a member of the Legislative Council of Natal:--
"August 9th, 1880.
"Having become aware of your recall to England from the office of Governor of the Cape of Good Hope, etc., etc., I cannot allow your departure to take place without conveying to you, which I hereby do, the profound sense I have of the faithful and conscientious manner in which you have endeavoured to fulfil those engagements which, at the solicitation of Great Britain, you entered upon in 1877. The policy was not your own, but was thrust upon you. Having given in London, in 1876, advice to pursue a different course in South Africa from the one then all the fashion and ultimately confided to yourself, it affords me the greatest pleasure to testify to the consistency of the efforts put forth by you to carry out the (then) plan of those who commissioned you, and availed themselves of your acknowledged skill and experience. As a public man of long standing in South Africa, I would likewise add that since the days of Sir G. Grey, no Governor but yourself has grasped the _native question here at all_, and I feel confident that had your full authority been retained, and not harshly wrested from you, even at the eleventh hour initiatory steps of a reformatory nature with respect to the natives would have been taken, which it is the duty of Britain to follow while she holds her sovereignty over these parts."
Sir Gordon Sprigg wrote:--
"August 29th, 1880.
"I don't feel able yet to give expression to my sentiments of profound regret that Her Majesty's Government have thought it advisable to recall you from the post which you have held with such conspicuous advantage to South Africa. They have driven from South Africa 'the best friend it has ever known.' For myself I may say that in the midst of all the difficulties with which I have been surrounded, I have always been encouraged and strengthened by the cheerful view you have taken of public affairs, and that I have never had half-an-hour's conversation with your Excellency without feeling a better, and, I believe, a wiser man."
Madame Koopmans de Wet, a lady of an old family, Dutch of the Dutch, wrote to him, Nov. 16th, 1880:--
"It is with feelings of the deepest sorrow that I take the liberty of addressing these lines to you.... What is to be the end of all this now? for now, particularly, do the Cape people miss _their_ Governor, for now superior qualities in everything are wanted. Dear Sir Bartle, you know the material we have; it is good, but who is to guide? It is plain to every thinking mind that our position is becoming more critical every day....
"But with deep sorrow let me say, England's, or rather Downing Street's treatment, has not tightened the bonds between the mother country and us. You know we have a large circle of acquaintances, and I cannot say how taken aback I sometimes am to hear their words. See, in all former wars there was a moral support in the thought that England, our England, was watching over us. Now there is but one cry, 'We shall have no Imperial help.' Why is this? We have lost confidence in a Government who could play with our welfare; and among the many injuries done us, the greatest was to remove from among us a ruler such as your Excellency was."
"As the day drew near, the Cape Town people were perplexed how to express adequately their feelings on the occasion. It was suggested that on the day he was to embark, the whole city should mourn with shops closed, flags half-mast high, and in profound silence. But more cheerful counsels prevailed.
"He was to leave by the _Pretoria_ on the afternoon of Sept. 15th. Special trains had brought in contingents from the country. The open space in front of Government House, Plein Street, Church Square, Adderley Street, the Dock Road, the front of the railway station, the wharves, the housetops, and every available place, whence a view of the procession could be procured, was closely packed. The Governor's carriage left Government House at half-past four,--Volunteer Cavalry furnishing the escort, and Volunteer Rifles, Engineers, and Cadets falling in behind,--and amid farewell words and ringing cheers, moved slowly along the streets gay with flags and decorations. At the dock gates the horses were taken out and men drew the carriage to the quay, where the _Pretoria_ lay alongside. Here the General, the Ministers, and other leading people, were assembled; and the 91st Regiment, which had been drawn up, presented arms, the Band played "God save the Queen," and the Volunteer Artillery fired a salute as the Governor for the last time stepped off African soil.
"There had been some delay at starting, the tide was ebbing fast, the vessel had been detained to the last safe moment, and she now moved out slowly, and with caution, past a wharf which the Malays, conspicuous in their bright-coloured clothing, had occupied, then, with a flotilla of boats rowing alongside, between a double line of yachts, steam-tugs and boats, dressed out with flags, and dipping their ensigns as she passed, and lastly, under the stern of the _Boadicea_ man-of-war, whose yards were manned, and whose crew cheered. The guns of the castle fired the last salute from the shore, which was answered by the guns of the _Boadicea_; and in the still bright evening the smoke hung for a brief space like a curtain, hiding the shores of the bay from the vessel. A puff of air from the south-east cleared it away, and showed once more in the sunset light the flat mass of Table Mountain, the "Lion's Head" to its right, festooned with flags, the mountain slopes dotted over with groups thickening to a continuous broad black line of people, extending along the water's edge from the central jetty to the breakwater basin. The vessel's speed increased, the light faded, and the night fell on the last, the most glorious, and yet the saddest day of Sir Bartle Frere's forty-five years' service of his Queen and country.
"For intensity of feeling and unanimity it would be hard in our time to find a parallel to this demonstration of enthusiasm for a public servant. The Cape Town people are by race and habit the reverse of demonstrative; yet it was noticed that day, as it had been noticed when Frere left Sattara (India) thirty years before, and again when he left Sind twenty-one years before--a sight almost unknown amongst men of English or German race in our day--that _men_ looking on were unable to restrain their tears. At Sattara and in Sind the regret at losing him was softened by the knowledge that his departure was due to a recognition of his merit; that he was being promoted in a service in which his influence might some day extend with heightened power to the country he was leaving. It was far otherwise when he left the Cape. On that occasion the regret of the colonists was mingled with indignation, and embittered with a sense of wrong."
The writer just quoted makes the following remarks:--
"No one who has not associated with colonists in their homes can rightly enter into the mixed feelings with which they regard the mother country. As with a son who is gone forth into the world, there is often on one side the conceit of youth and impatience of restraint, shown in uncalled for acts of self-assertion or in dogmatic speech; and on the other side a supercilious want of sympathy with the changed surroundings, the pursuits and the aspirations of the younger generation. It seems as if there were no bond left between the two. But a day of trial comes; parent or offspring is threatened by a stranger; and then it is seen that the old instinct and yearnings are not dead, but only latent. The mother country had hitherto not been forgetful of its natural obligations to its South African offspring."
"But those" he goes on to say, "who on that fateful evening watched the hull of the _Pretoria_ slowly dipping below the western horizon felt that if, as seemed only too probable, dismemberment of the British Empire in South Africa were sooner or later to follow, the fault did not lie with the colonists."
The mother country had, he asserts, sacrificed the interests of her loyal sons abroad to those which were at that moment pre-occupying her at home, and appearing to her in such dimensions as to blot out the larger view which later events gradually forced upon her vision. The words above quoted are strong, perhaps too strong, but if we are true lovers of our country and race and of our fellow creatures everywhere, we shall not shrink from any such warnings, though their wording may seem exaggerated. For we have a debt to pay back to South Africa; and if we cannot resume our solemn responsibilities towards her and her millions of native peoples, in a chastened, a wiser and a more determined spirit than that which for some time has prevailed, it would be better to relinquish them altogether. But we are beginning to understand the lesson written for our learning in this solemn page of contemporary history which is to-day laid open before our eyes and before those of the whole world.
I have recorded some few of the many testimonies in favour of Sir Bartle Frere, because he,--a man beloved and respected by many of us,--was the subject of a hastily formed judgment which continues in a measure even to this day, to obscure the memory of his worth.
A friend writes: "his letters are admirable as showing his statesmanlike and humane view of things, and his courage and patience under exasperating conditions. He returned to England under a cloud, and died of a broken heart."
Mr. Mackenzie, writing of his own departure from England in 1884 to return to South Africa, says:--
"The farewell which affected me most was that of Sir Bartle Frere, who was then stretched on what turned out to be his death-bed. He was very ill, and not seeing people, but was so gratified that what he had proposed in 1878 as to Bechuanaland should be carried out in 1884, that Lady Frere asked me to call and see him before I sailed.
"The countenance of this eminent officer was now thin, his voice was weaker; but light was still in his eye and the mind quite unclouded. 'Here I am, Mackenzie, between living and dying, waiting the will of God.'
'I expressed my hope for his recovery.'
'We won't talk about me. I wanted to see you. I feel I can give you advice, for I am an old servant of the Queen. I have no fear of your success now on the side of Government. Sir Hercules Robinson, having selected you, will uphold you with a full support. The rest will depend on your own character and firmness and tact. I am quite sure you will succeed. Your difficulties will be at the beginning. But you will get them to believe in you--the farmers as well as the natives. They will soon see you are their friend. Now remember this: get good men round you; get, if possible, godly men as your officers. What has been done in India has been accomplished by hard-working, loyal-hearted men, working willingly under chiefs to whom they were attached. Get the right stamp of men round you and the future is yours.'
"This was the last kindly action and friendly advice of a distinguished, noble-minded, and self-forgetful Christian man, who had befriended me as an obscure person,--our meeting-ground and common object being the future welfare of all races in South Africa. I went forth to complete my life work: he remained to die."
It was a costly sacrifice made on the Altar of Party.
My friends have sometimes asked me, what then is the ground of my hope for the future of our country and all over whom our Queen reigns? I reply,--my hope lies in the fact that above all party differences, above all private and political theories, above all the mere outward forms of Government and the titles given to these, there stand, eternally firm and unchangeable, the great principles of our Constitution which are the basis of our Jurisprudence, and of every Law which is inherently just. I use these words deliberately--"eternally firm and unchangeable." A long and deep study of these principles, and some experience of the grief and disaster caused by any grave departure from them, have convinced me that these principles are founded on the highest ethics,--the ethics of Christ.
The great Charter of our Liberties was born, as all the most precious things are, through "great tribulation," at a time when our whole nation was groaning under injustice and oppression, and when sorrow had purified the eyes of the noble "Seers" of the time, and their appeal was to the God of Justice Himself, and to no lower tribunal. These Seers were then endowed with the power to bend the will of a stubborn and selfish monarch, and to put on record the stern principles of our "Immortal Charter."
I have often longed that every school-boy and girl should be taught and well-grounded in these great principles. It would not be a difficult nor a dry study, for like all great things, these principles are simple, straight, and clear as the day. It is when, we come to intricacies and technicalities of laws, even though based on these great fundamental lines, that the study becomes dry, useful to the professional lawyer, but not to the pupil in school or the public generally.
The principles of our Constitution have been many times in the course of our national history disregarded, and sometimes openly violated. But such disregard and such violation have happily not been allowed to be of long duration. Sometimes the respect of these principles has been restored by the efforts of a group of enlightened Statesmen, but more frequently by the awakened "Common Sense" of the people, who have become aware that they, or even some very humble section of them, have been made to suffer by such violation. Again and again the gallant "Ship of our Constitution," carrying the precious cargo of our inalienable rights and liberties, has righted herself in the midst of storms and heavy seas of trouble. Having been called for thirty years of my life to advocate the rights of a portion of our people,--the meanest and most despised of our fellow citizens,--when those rights had been destroyed by an Act of Parliament which was a distinct violation of the Constitution, and having been driven, almost like a ship-wrecked creature to cling, with the helpless crew around me, during those years to this strong rock of principle, and having found it to be political and social salvation in a time of need, I cannot refrain, now in my old age, from embracing every opportunity I may have of warning my fellow countrymen of the danger there is in departing from these principles.
My hope for the future of South Africa, granting its continuance as a portion of our Colonial Empire, is in the resurrection of these great principles from this present tribulation, and their recognition by our rulers, politicians, editors, writers, and people at large as the expression of essential Justice and Morality.
France possesses, equally with ourselves, a record of these principles in its famous "Declaration of the Rights of Man," born also in a period of great national tribulation. That document is in principle identical with our own great Charter. But France has only possessed it a little more than a century, whereas our own Charter dates back many centuries; hence the character of our people has been in a great measure formed upon its principles, and they have been made sensitive to any grave or continued violation of them. In France, earnest and sometimes almost despairing appeals are now made to these fundamental principles expressed in their own great Charter by a minority of men who continue to see straight and clearly through the clouds of contending factions in the midst of which they live; but for a large portion of the nation they are a dead letter, even if they have ever been intelligently understood.
How far has South Africa been governed on these principles? I boldly affirm that on the whole, since the beginning of the last century, it is these principles of British Government and Law, so far as they have been enforced, which have saved that colony from anarchy and confusion, and its native populations from bondage or annihilation. But they have not been sufficiently strongly enforced. They have not been brought to bear upon those Englishmen, traders, speculators, company-makers, and others whose interests may have been in opposition to these principles.
A Swiss missionary who has lived a great part of his life in South Africa, writes to me:--"The whole of South Africa is to blame in its treatment of the natives. Take the British merchant, the Boer and Dutch official, the German colonist, the French and Swiss trader,--there is no difference. The general feeling among these is against the coloured race being educated and evangelized.... Only what can and must be said is this, that _the Laws of the English Colonies are just_; those of the Boer States are the negation of every right, civil and religious, which the black man ought to have." I have similar testimonies from missionaries (not Englishmen); but I regret to say that these good men hesitate to have their names published,--not from selfish reasons,--but from love of their missionary work and their native converts, to whom they fear they will never be permitted to return if the ascendancy of the present Transvaal Government should continue, and Mr. Kruger should learn that they have published what they have seen in his country. It is to be hoped that these witnesses will feel impelled before long to speak out. The writer just quoted, says:--"I firmly believe that the native question is at the bottom of all this trouble. The time is coming when, cost what it will, we missionaries must speak out."
In connection with this subject, I give here a quotation from the "Daily News," March 21st, 1900. The article was inspired by a thoughtful speech of Sir Edward Grey. The writer asks the reason of the loss of the capacity in our Liberal party to deal with Colonial matters; and replies: "It is to be found, we think, in want of imagination and in want of faith. There are many among us who have failed, from want of imagination, to grasp that we have been living in an age of expansion; or who, recognising the fact, have from want of faith seen in it occasion only for lamentation and woe. Failure in either of these respects is sure to deprive a British party of popular support. For the 'expansion of England' now, as in former times, proceeds from the people themselves, and faith in the mission of England is firmly planted in the popular creed." We recall a noble passage in which Mr. Gladstone stated with great clearness the inevitable tendency of the times in which we live. "There is," he said, "a continual tendency on the part of enterprising people to overstep the limits of the Empire, and not only to carry its trade there, but to form settlements in other countries beyond the sphere of a regularly organized Government, and there to constitute a civil Government of their own. Let the Government adopt, with mathematical rigour if you like, an opposition to annexation, and what does it effect? It does nothing to check that tendency--that perhaps irresistible tendency--of British enterprise to carry your commerce, and to carry the range and area of your settlement beyond the limits of your sovereignty.... There the thing is, and you cannot repress it. Wherever your subjects go, if they are in pursuit of objects not unlawful, you must afford them all the protection which your power enables you to give." "There the thing is." (But many Liberals have lacked the imagination to see it.) And being there, it affords a great opportunity; for "to this great Empire is committed (continued Mr. Gladstone) a trust and a function given from Providence as special and as remarkable as ever was entrusted to any portion of the family of man." But not all Liberals share Mr. Gladstone's faith. They thus cut themselves off from one of the chief tendencies and some of the noblest ideals of the time. Liberalism must broaden its outlook, and seek to promote "the large and efficient development of the British Commonwealth on liberal lines, both within and outside these islands."
[Footnote 19: Blue Book, C. p. 28, 2673.]
[Footnote 20: Blue Book, C. 2454, p. 57.]
[Footnote 21: Life and Correspondence of Sir Bartle Frere, by J. Martineau.]
[Footnote 22: Life and Correspondence of Sir Bartle Frere, by J. Martineau.]
[Footnote 23: The italics are my own.]
[Footnote 24: There are between sixty and seventy resolutions and addresses recorded in the Blue-book, all passed unanimously except in one case, at Stellenbosch where a minority opposed the resolution. The spokesman of the minority, however, based his opposition not on Frere's general policy, still less on his character, but as a protest against an Excise Act, which was one of Mr. Spring's measures.]
[Footnote 25: Life and Correspondence of Sir Bartle Frere.]
[Footnote 26: Blue Book, C. 2740, p. 46.]
[Footnote 27: Blue Book, C. 2740, p. 63.]
[Footnote 28: Life and Correspondence of the Right Hon. Sir Bartle Frere, by Martineau.]
[Footnote 29: In the sense in which the great Lord Chatham used the words.]
TRANSVAAL POLICY SINCE 1884. DELIMITATION OF BOUNDARY AGREED TO AND
NOT OBSERVED. THE CHIEF MONTSIOA. HIS COUNTRY PLACED UNDER BRITISH
PROTECTION. TRANSVAAL LAW. THE GRONDWET OR CONSTITUTION. THE HIGH
COURTS OF JUSTICE SUBSERVIENT TO THE VOLKSRAAD OR PARLIAMENT.
ARTICLE 9 OF THE GRONDWET REFERRING TO NATIVES. NATIVE MARRIAGE
LAWS. THE PASS SYSTEM. MISPLACED GOVERNMENTAL TITLES,--REPUBLIC,
The Boer policy towards the natives did not undergo any change for the better from 1881 and onwards.
At the time of the rising of the Boers against the British Protectorate, which culminated in the battle of Majuba Hill and the retrocession of the Transvaal, a number of native chiefs in districts outside the Transvaal boundary, sent to the British Commissioner for native affairs to offer their aid to the British Government, and many of them took the "loyals" of the Transvaal under their protection. One of these was Montsioa, a Christian chief of the Barolong tribe. He and other chiefs took charge of Government property and cattle during the disturbances, and one had four or five thousand pounds in gold, the product of a recently collected tax, given him to take care of by the Commissioner of his district, who was afraid that the money would be seized by the Boers. _In, every instance the property entrusted to their charge was returned intact_. The loyalty of all the native chiefs under very trying circumstances, is a remarkable proof of the great affection of the Kaffirs, and more especially those of the Basuto tribes, who love peace better than war, for the Queen's rule. I will cite one other instance among many of the gladness with which different native races placed themselves under the protection of the Queen.
In May, 1884, in the discharge of his office as Deputy Commissioner in Bechuanaland, and on behalf of Her Majesty, the Queen, Mr. Mackenzie entered into a treaty with the chief, Montsioa, by which his country (the Barolong's country) was placed under British protection, and also with Moshette, a neighbouring chief, who wrote a letter to Mr. Mackenzie asking to be put under the same protection as the other Barolong.
Mr. Mackenzie wrote:--"Whatever may have been the feelings of disapproval of the British Protectorate entertained by the Transvaal people, I was left in no manner of doubt as to the joy and thankfulness with which it was welcomed in the Barolong country itself.
"The signing of the treaty in the courtyard of Montsioa, at Mafeking, by the chief and his headmen, was accompanied by every sign of gladness and good feeling. The speech of the venerable chief Montsioa was very cordial, and so cheerful in its tone as to show that he hoped and believed that the country would now get peace.
"Using the formula for many years customary in proclamations of marriages in churches in Bechuanaland, Montsioa, amid the smiles of all present, announced an approaching political union, and exclaimed with energy, "Let objectors now speak out or henceforth for ever be silent." There was no objector.
"I explained carefully in the language of the people, the nature and object of the Protectorate, and the manner in which it was to be supported.
"Montsioa then demanded in loud tones: "Barolong! what is your response to the words that you have heard?"
"With one voice there came a great shout from one end of the courtyard to the other, "We all want it."
"The chief turned to me and said, "There! you have the answer of the Barolong, we have no uncertain feelings here." As I was unfolding the views of Her Majesty's Government that the Protectorate should be self-supporting, the chief cried out, 'We know all about it, Mackenzie, we consent to pay the tax.' I could only reply to this by saying that that was just what I was coming to; but, inasmuch as they knew all about it, and saw its importance, I need say no more on the subject.
"Montsioa, in the first instance, did not like the appearance of Moshette's people in his town. I told him I was glad they had come, and he must reserve his own feelings, and await the results of what was taking place. I was pleased, therefore, when in the public meeting in the courtyard, just before the signing of the treaty, Montsioa turned to the messengers of Moshette and asked them if they saw and heard nicely what was being done with the Barolong country? They replied in the affirmative, and thus, from a native point of view, became assenting parties. In this manner something definite was done towards effacing an ancient feud. The signing of the treaty then took place, the translation of which is given in the Blue Book.
"After the treaty had been signed, the old chief requested that prayer might be offered up, which was accordingly done by a native minister. The satisfaction of the great event was further marked by the discharge of a volley from the rifles of a company of young men told off for the purpose; and the old cannon of Montsioa, mounted between the wheels of an ox-waggon, was also brought into requisition to proclaim the general joy and satisfaction.
"But alas! such feelings were destined to be of short duration. While we were thus employed at Mafeking, the openly-declared enemies of the Imperial Government, and of peace and order in Bechuanaland, had been at their appropriate work elsewhere within the Protectorate. Before sunset the same evening, I was surprised to hear the Bechuana war cry sounded in Montsioa's Town, and shortly afterwards I saw the old chief approaching my waggon, followed by a large body of men.
"'Monare Makence!' (Mr. Mackenzie), 'the cattle have been lifted by the Boers,' was his first announcement. I shall never forget the scene at that moment. The excitement of the men, some of whom were reduced to poverty by what had taken place, and also their curiosity as to what step I should take, were plainly enough revealed on the faces of the crowd who, with their chief, now stood before me.
"'Mr. Mackenzie,' said Montsioa, 'you are master now, you must say what is to be done. We shall be obedient to your orders.' 'We have put our names on your paper, but the Boers have our cattle all the same,' said one man.
Another shouted out with vehemence, 'please don't tell us to go on respecting the boundary line. Why should we do so when the Boers don't?'
'Who speaks about a boundary line?' said another speaker, probably a heavy loser. 'Is it a thing that a man can eat? Where are our cattle?'
"As I have already said, I shall never forget the scene in which these and similar speeches were made at my waggon as the sun went down peacefully--the sun which had witnessed the treaty-signing and the rejoicings at Mafeking. Its departing rays now saw the cattle of the Barolong safe in the Transvaal, and the Barolong owners and Her Majesty's Deputy Commissioner looking at one another, at Mafeking."
Mr. Mackenzie then resolved what to do, and announced that he would at once cross the boundary and go himself to the nearest Transvaal town to demand redress. There was a hum of approval, with a sharp enquiry from Montsioa,--did he really mean to go himself? "Having no one to send, I must go myself," Mackenzie replied. The old Chief, in a generous way, half dissuaded him from the attempt. "The Boers cannot be trusted. What shall I say if you do not return?" "All right, Montsioa," replied Mackenzie, "say I went of my own accord. I will leave my wife under your care."
"Poor old fellow," writes Mackenzie, "brave-hearted, though 'only a native,' he went away full of heaviness, promising me his cart and harness, and an athletic herd as a driver, to start early next morning."
Mr. Mackenzie had little success in this expedition. He was listened to with indifference when he represented to certain Landdrosts and Field Cornets that he had not come to talk politics, but to complain of a theft. Those to whom he spoke looked upon the cattle raid not as robbery, but as "annexation" or "commandeering." A man, listening to the palaver, exclaimed: "Well, anyhow, we shall have cheap beef as long as Montsioa's cattle last." At the hotel of the place Mr. Mackenzie met some Europeans, who were farming or in business in the Transvaal. They said to him: "Mr. Mackenzie, we are sorry to have to say it to you, for we have all known you so long, but, honestly speaking, we hope you won't succeed; the English Government does not deserve to succeed after all that they have made us--loyal colonists--suffer in the Transvaal. For a long time scarcely a day has passed without our being insulted by the more ignorant Boers, till we are almost tired of our lives, and yet we cannot go away, having invested our all in the country."
"Many such speeches were made to me," says Mackenzie, "I give only one."
I cannot find it in my heart to criticize the character of the Boers at a time when they have held on so bravely in a desperate war, and have suffered so much. There are Boers and Boers,--good and bad among them,--as among all nations. We have heard of kind and generous actions towards the British wounded and prisoners, and we know that there are among them men who, in times of peace, have been good and merciful to their native servants. But it is not magnanimity nor brutality on the part of individuals which are in dispute. Our controversy is concerning the presence or absence of Justice among the Boers, concerning the purity of their Government and the justice of their Laws, or the reverse.
I turn to their Laws, and in judging these, it is hardly possible to be too severe. Law is a great teacher, a trainer, to a great extent, of the character of the people. The Boers would have been an exceptional people under the sun had they escaped the deterioration which such Laws and such Government as they have had the misfortune to live under inevitably produce.
A pamphlet has lately been published containing a defence of the Boer treatment of Missionaries and Natives, and setting forth the efforts which have been made in recent years to Christianize and civilize the native populations in their midst. This paper is signed by nine clergymen of the Dutch Reformed Church, and includes the name of the Rev. Andrew Murray, a name respected and beloved by many in our own country. It is welcome news that such good work has been undertaken, that the President has himself encouraged it, and that a number of Zulus or Kaffirs have recently been baptized in the Dutch Reformed Church of the Transvaal. But the fact strikes one painfully that in this pleading, (which has a pathetic note in it,) these clergymen appear to have obliterated from their mind and memory the whole past history, of their nation, and to have forgotten that the harvest from seed sown through many generations may spring up and bear its bitter fruit in their own day. They do not seem to have accepted the verdict, or made the confession, "we and our fathers have sinned." They seem rather to argue, "our fathers may have sinned in these respects, but it cannot be laid to our charge that we are continuing in their steps."
No late repentance will avail for the salvation of their country unless Justice is now proclaimed and practised;--Justice in Government and in the Laws.
Their Grondwet, or Constitution, must be removed out of its place for ever; their unequal laws, and the administrative corruption which unequal laws inevitably foster, must be swept away, and be replaced by a very different Constitution and very different Laws. If this had been done during the two last decades of Transvaal history, while untrammelled (as was desired) by British interference, the sincerity of this recent utterance would have deserved full credit, and would have been recognized as the beginning of a radical reformation.
The following is from the last Report of the Aborigines Protection Society (Jan., 1900). Its present secretary leans towards a favourable judgment of the recent improvements in the policy of the Transvaal, and condemns severely every act on the part of the English which does not accord with the principles of our Constitutional Law, and therefore this statement will not be regarded as the statement of a partisan: "It is laid down as a fundamental principle in the Transvaal Grondwet that there is no equality of rights between white men and blacks. In theory, if not in practice, the Boers regard the natives, all of whom they contemptuously call Kaffirs, whatever their tribal differences, pretty much as the ancient Jews regarded the Philistines and others whom they expelled from Palestine, or used as hewers of wood and drawers of water, but with added prejudice due to the difference of colour. So it was in the case of the early Dutch settlers, and so it is to-day, with a few exceptions, due mainly to the influence of the missionaries, whose work among the natives has from the first been objected to and hindered. It is only by social sufferance, and not by law, that the marriage of natives with Christian rites is recognised, and it carries with it none of the conditions as regards inheritance and the like, which are prescribed by the Dutch Roman code in force with white men. As a matter of fact, natives have no legal rights whatever. If they are in the service of humane masters, mindful of their own interests and moral obligations, they may be properly lodged and fed, not overworked, and fairly recompensed; but from the cruelties of a brutal master, perpetrated in cold blood or a drunken fit, the native practically has no redress."
The Rev. John H. Bovill, Rector of the Cathedral Church, Lorenço Marquez, and sometime Her Majesty's Acting Consul there, has worked for five years in a district from which numbers of natives were drawn for work in the Transvaal, has visited the Transvaal from time to time, and is well acquainted with Boers of all classes and occupations. He has given us some details of the working out--especially as regards the natives--of the principles of the Grondwet or Constitution of the Transvaal.
To us English, the most astonishing feature, to begin with, of this Constitution, is that it places the power of the Judiciary below that of the Raad or Legislative Body. The Judges of the Highest Court of Law are not free to give judgment according to evidence before them and the light given to them. A vote of the Raad, consisting of a mere handful of men in secret sitting, can at any time override and annul a sentence of the High Court.
This will perhaps be better understood if we picture to ourselves some great trial before Lord Russell and others of our eminent judges, in which any laws bearing on the case were carefully tested in connection with the principles of our Constitution; that this supreme Court had pronounced its verdict, and that the next day Parliament should discuss, with closed doors, the verdict of the judges, and by a vote or resolution, should declare it unjust and annul it.
Let us imagine, to follow the matter a little further on the lines of Transvaal justice, that our Sovereign had power to dismiss at will from office any judge or judges who might have exercised independence of judgment and pronounced a verdict displeasing to Parliament or to herself personally! Such is law and justice in the Transvaal; and that country is called a Republic! "This is Transvaal justice," says M. Naville; "a mockery, an ingenious legalizing of tyranny. There are no laws, there are only the caprices of the Raad. A vote in a secret sitting, that is what binds the Judges, and according to it they will administer justice. The law of to-day will perhaps not be the law to-morrow. The fifteen members of the majority, or rather President Kruger, who influences their votes, may change their opinion from one day to the next--it matters not; their opinion, formulated by a vote, will always be law. Woe to the judge who should dare to mention the Constitution or the Code, for there is one: he would at once be dismissed by the President who appointed him."
It was prescribed by the Grondwet that no new law should be passed by Parliament (the Volksraad) unless notice of it had been given three months in advance, and the people had had the opportunity to pronounce upon it. This did not suit the President; accordingly when desirous of legalizing some new project of his own, he adopted the plan of bringing in such project as an addition or amendment to some existing law, giving it out as _no new law_, but only a supplementary clause. Law No. 1 of 1897 was manipulated in this manner. By this law, the Judges of the High Court were formally deprived of the right to test the validity of any law in its relation to the Constitution, and they were also compelled to accept as law, without question or reservation of any kind, any resolution passed at any time and under any circumstances by the Volksraad. This Law No. 1 of 1897 was passed through all its stages in three days, without being subjected in the first instance to the people.
But I am especially concerned with what affects the natives.
Article 1 of this section says:--A native must not own fixed property.
(2) He must not marry by civil or ecclesiastical process.
(3) He must not be allowed access to Civil Courts in any action against a white man.
Article 9 of the Grondwet is not only adhered to, but is exaggerated in its application as follows:--"The people shall not permit any equality of coloured persons with white inhabitants, neither in the Church, nor in the State."
"These principles" says Mr. Bovill, "are so engrained in the mind of an average Boer that we can never expect anything to be done by the Volksraad for the natives in this respect. It appears inconceivable," he continues, "that a Government making any pretence of being a civilized power, at the end of the nineteenth century, should be so completely ignorant of the most elementary principles of good government for such a large number of its subjects."
As to the access by the natives to the Courts of Law.
"If you ask a native he will tell you that access to the law-courts is much too easy, but they are the Criminal Courts of the Field Cornets and Landdrosts. He suffers so much from these, that he cannot entertain the idea that the Higher Courts are any better than the ordinary Field Cornets' or Landdrosts'. However, there are times when with fear and trepidation he does appeal to a Higher Court. With what result? If the decision is in favour of the native, the burghers are up in arms, crying out against the injustice of a judgment given in favour of a black against a white man; burghers sigh and say that a great disaster is about to befall the State when a native can have judgment against a white man. The inequality of the blacks and superiority of the white (burghers) is largely discussed. Motions are brought forward in the Volksraad to prohibit natives pleading in the Higher Courts. Such is the usual outcry. Summary justice (?) by a Landdrost or Field Cornet is all the Boer would allow a native. No appeal should be permitted, for may it not lead to a quashing of the conviction? The Landdrost is the friend of the Boer, and he can always "square" him in a matter against a native. "It was only to prevent an open breach with England that these appeals to the Higher Courts were permitted in a limited degree."
No. 2.--The Native Marriage Laws. "Think," says Mr. Bovill, "what it would mean to our social life in England if we were a conquered nation, and the conquerors should say: 'All your laws and customs are abrogated; your marriage laws are of no consequence to us; you may follow or leave them as you please, but we do not undertake to support them, and you may live like cattle if you wish; we cannot recognise your marriage laws as binding, nor yet will we legalise any form of marriage among you.' Such is in effect, the present position of the natives in the Transvaal.
"I occasionally took my holidays in Johannesburg, and assisted the Vicar, during which time I could take charge of Christian native marriages, of which the State took no cognisance. A native may marry, and any time after leave his wife, but the woman would have no legal claim on him. He could marry again as soon as he pleased, and he could not be proceeded against either for support of his first wife or for bigamy. And so he might go on as long as he wished to marry or could get anyone to marry him. The same is applicable to all persons of colour, even if only slightly coloured--half-castes of three or four generations if the colour is at all apparent. All licenses for the marriage of white people must be applied for personally, and signed in the presence of the Landdrost, who is very cautious lest half-castes or persons of colour should get one. Colour is evidently the only test of unfitness to claim recognition of the marriage contract by the Transvaal State.
"The injustice of such a law must be apparent; it places a premium on vice. It gives an excuse to any 'person of colour' to commit the most heinous offences against the laws of morality and social order, and protects such a one from the legal consequences which would necessarily follow in any other civilised State."
Mr. Bovill has an instructive chapter on the "Compound system," and the condition of native compounds. This is a matter which it is to be hoped will be taken seriously to heart by the Chartered Company, and any other company or group of employers throughout African mining districts." The Compound system of huddling hundreds of natives together in tin shanties is the very opposite to the free life to which they are accustomed. If South African mining is to become a settled industry, we must have the conditions of the labour market settled, and also the conditions of living. We cannot expect natives to give up their free open-air style of living, and their home life. They love their homes, and suffer from homesickness as much as, or probably more than most white people. The reason so many leave their work after six months is that they are constantly longing to see their wives and children. Many times have they said to me, 'It would be all right if only we could have our wives and families with us.'"
"The result of this compound life is the worst possible morally."....
"We must treat the native, not as a machine to work when required under any conditions, but as a raw son of nature, very often without any moral force to control him and to raise him much above the lower animal world in his passions, except that which native custom has given him."
The writer suggests that "native reserves or locations should be established on the separate mines, or groups of mines, where the natives can have their huts built, and live more or less under the same conditions as they do in their native kraals. If a native found that he could live under similar conditions to those he has been accustomed to, he will soon be anxious to save enough money to bring his wife and children there, and remain in the labour district for a much longer period than at present is the case.
"It would be a distinct gain to the mining industry as well as to the native."
Mr. Bovill goes into much detail on the subject of the "Pass Laws." I should much desire to reproduce his chapter on that subject, if it were not too long. That system must be wholly abolished, he says: "it is at present worse than any conditions under which slavery exists. It is a criminal-making law. Brand a slave, and you have put him to a certain amount of physical pain for once, but penalties under the Pass Law system mean lashes innumerable at the direction of any Boer Field Cornet or Landdrost. It is a most barbarous system, as brutal as it is criminal-making, alone worthy of a Boer with an exaggerated fear of and cowardly brutality towards a race he has been taught to despise."
Treating of the prohibition imposed on the Natives as to the possession in any way or by any means of a piece of land, he writes: "Many natives are now earning and saving large sums of money, year by year, at the various labour centres. They return home with every intention of following a peaceful life; why should they not be encouraged to put their money into land, and follow their 'peaceful pursuits' as well as any Boer farmer? They are capable of doing it. Besides, if they held fixed property in the State, it would be to their advantage to maintain law and order, when they had everything they possessed at stake. With no interest in the land, the tendency must always be to a nomadic life. They are as thoroughly well capable of becoming true, peaceful, and loyal citizens of the State as are any other race of people. Their instincts and training are all towards law and order. Their lives have been disciplined under native rule, and now that the white man is breaking up that rule, what is he going to give as a substitute? Anarchy and lawlessness, or good government which tends to peace and prosperity?
"We can only hope for better times, and a more humane Government for the natives, to wipe out the wrong that has been done to both black and white under a bastard civilization which has prevailed in Pretoria for the past fifteen years. The Government which holds down such a large number of its subjects by treating them as cut-throats and outlaws, will one day repent bitterly of its sin of misrule."
* * * * *
Tyranny has a genius for creeping in everywhere, and under any and every form of government. This is being strikingly illustrated in these days. Under the name of a Republic, the traditions of a Military Oligarchy have grown up, and stealthily prevailed.
When a nation has no recorded standard of guiding principles of government, it matters not by what name it may be called--Empire, Republic, Oligarchy, or Democracy--it may fall under the blighting influence of the tyranny of a single individual, or a wealthy clique, or a military despot.
Too much weight is given just now to mere names as applied to governments. The acknowledged principles which underlie the outward forms of government alone are vitally important, and by the adherence to or abdication of these principles each nation will be judged. The revered name of _Republic_ is as capable of being dragged in the mire as that of the title of any other form of government. Mere names and words have lately had a strange and even a disastrous power of misleading and deceiving, not persons only, but nations,--even a whole continent of nations. It is needful to beware of being drawn into conclusions leading to action by associations attaching merely to a name, or to some crystallized word which may sometimes cover a principle the opposite of that which it was originally used to express. Such names and words are in some cases being as rapidly changed and remodelled as geographical charts are which represent new and rapidly developing or decaying groups of the human race. Yet names are always to a large part of mankind more significant than facts; and names and appearances in this matter appeal to France and to Switzerland, and in a measure to the American people, in favour of the Boers.
Among the concessions made by Lord Derby in the Convention of 1884, none has turned out to be more unfortunate than that of allowing the Transvaal State to resume the title of the "South African Republic." In South Africa it embodied an impossible ideal; to the outside world it conveyed a false impression. The title has been the reason of widespread error with regard to the real nature of the Transvaal Government and of its struggle with this country. If "Republican Independence" had been all that Mr. Kruger was striving for, there would have been no war. He adopted the name, but not the spirit of a Republic. The "Independence" claimed by him, and urged even now by some of his friends in the British Parliament, is shown by the whole past history of the Transvaal to be an independence and a freedom which _involve the enslavement of other men._
A friend writes:--"In order to satisfy my own mind I have been looking in Latin Dictionaries for the correct and original meaning of 'impero,' (I govern,) and 'imperium.' The word 'Empire' has an unpleasant ring from some points of view and to some minds. One thinks of Roman Emperors, Domitian, Nero, Tiberius,--of the word 'imperious,' and of the French 'Empire' under Napoleon I. and Napoleon III. The Latin word means 'the giving of commands.' All depends on whether the commands given are _good_, and the giver of them also good and wise. The Ten Commandments are in one sense 'imperial.' Now, I think the word as used in the phrase _British Empire_ has, in the most modern and best sense, quite a different savour or flavour from that of Napoleon's Empire, or the Turkish or Mahommedan Empires of the past. It has come to mean the 'Dominion of Freedom' or the 'Reign of Liberty,' rather than the giving of despotic or tyrannical or oligarchic commands. In fact, our Imperialism is freedom for all races and peoples who choose to accept it, whilst Boer _Republicanism_ is the exact opposite. How strangely words change their weight and value!
"And yet there still remains the sense of 'command' in 'Empire;' and in the past history of our Government of the Cape Colony there has been too little wholesome command and obedience, and too much opportunism, shuffling off of responsibility, with self-sufficient ignorance and doctrinaire foolishness taking the place of knowledge and insight. Want of courage is, I think, in short, at the bottom of the past mismanagement."
* * * * *
The assertion is repeatedly made that "England coveted the gold of the Transvaal, and hence went to war." It is necessary it seems, again and again, to remind those who speak thus that England was not the invader. Kruger invaded British Territory, being fully prepared for war. England was not in the least prepared for war. This last fact is itself a complete answer to those who pretend that she was the aggressor.
In regard to the assertion that "England coveted the gold of the Transvaal," what is here meant by "England?" Ours is a representative Government. Are the entire people, with their representatives in Parliament and the Government included in this assertion, or is it meant that certain individuals, desiring gold, went to the Transvaal in search of it? The expression "England" in this relation, is vague and misleading.
The search for gold is not in itself a legal nor a moral offence. But the inordinate desire and pursuit of wealth, becoming the absorbing motive to the exclusion of all nobler aims, is a moral offence and a source of corruption.
Wherever gold is to be found, there is a rush from all sides; among some honest explorers with legitimate aims, there are always found, in such a case, a number of unruly spirits, of scheming, dishonest and careless persons, the scum of the earth, cheats and vagabonds. The Outlanders who crowded to the Rand were of different nations, French, Belgians and others, besides the English who were in a large majority. The presence and eager rush of this multitude of gold seekers certainly brought into the country elements which clouded the moral atmosphere, and became the occasion of deeds which so far from being typical of the spirit of "England" and the English people at large, were the very reverse, and have been condemned by public opinion in our country.
But, admitting that unworthy motives and corrupting elements were introduced into the Transvaal by the influx of strangers urged there by self-interest, it is strange that any should imagine and assert that the "corrupting influence of gold," or the lust of gold told upon the British alone. The disasters brought upon the Transvaal seem to be largely attributable to the corrupting effect on President Kruger and his allies in the Government, of the sudden acquisition of enormous wealth, through the development, by other hands than his own, of the hidden riches within his country.
What are the facts? In 1885 the revenue of the Transvaal State was a little over £177,000. This rose, owing to the Outlanders' labours, and the taxes exacted from them by the Transvaal government to £4,400,000 (in 1899). Thus they have increased in the proportion of 1 to 25. "If the admirers of the Transvaal government, who place no confidence in documents emanating from English sources, will take the trouble to open the _Almanack de Gotha_, they will there find the financial report for 1897. There they will read that of these £4,400,000, salaries and emoluments amount to nearly one-quarter--we will call it £1,000,000,--that is, £40 per head per adult Boer, for it goes without saying that in all this the Outlanders have no share. If we remember that the great majority of the Boers consist of farmers who do not concern themselves at all about the Administration, and who consequently get no slice of the cake, we can judge of the size of the junks which President Kruger and the chiefly foreign oligarchy on which he leans take to themselves. The President has a salary of £7,000--(the President of the Swiss Confederation has £600)--and besides that, what is called "coffee-money." This is his official income, but his personal resources do not end there. The same table of the _Almanack de Gotha_ shows a sum of nearly £660,000 entitled "other expenses." Under this head are included secret funds, which in the budget are stated at a little less than £40,000 (more than even England has), but which always exceed that sum, and in 1896 reached about £200,000. Secret Service Funds!--vile name and viler reality--should be unknown in the affairs of small nations. Is not honesty one of the cardinal virtues which we should expect to find amongst small nations, if nowhere else? What can the chief of a small State of 250,000 inhabitants do with such a large amount of Secret funds?
"We can picture to ourselves what the financial administration of the Boers must be in this plethora of money, provided almost entirely by the hated Outlander. An example may be cited. The Raad were discussing the budget of 1898, and one of the members called attention to the fact that for several years past advances to the amount of £2,400,000 had been made to various officials, and were unaccounted for. That is a specimen of what the Boer _régime_ has become in this school of opulence." M. Naville continues:--"We do not consider the Boers, as a people, to be infected by the corruption which rules the administration. The farmers who live far from Pretoria have preserved their patriarchal virtues: they are upright and honest, but at the same time very proud, and impatient of every kind of authority.... They are ignorant, and read no books or papers--only the Old Testament; but Kruger knew he could rouse these people by waving before them the spectre of England, and crying in their ears the word 'Independence.' And this is what disgusts us, that under cover of principles so dear to us all, independence and national honour, these brave men are sent to the battlefield to preserve for a tyrannical and venal oligarchy the right to share amongst themselves, and distribute as they please, the gold which is levied on the work of foreigners."
[Footnote 30: Parliamentary Blue Book, 4194, 42.]
[Footnote 31: Austral Africa, Chap. 4, pages 235-250.]
[Footnote 32: Austral Africa, p. 233 and on.]
[Footnote 33: Natives under the Transvaal Flag. Revd. John H. Bovill.]
[Footnote 34: It is stated on the authority of _The Sentinel_ (London, June, 1900), that Mr. Kruger was asked some years ago to permit the introduction in the Johannesburg mining district of the State regulation of vice, and that Mr. Kruger stoutly refused to entertain such an idea. Very much to his credit! Yet it seems to me that the refusal to legalize native marriages comes rather near, in immorality of principle and tendency, to the legalizing of promiscuous intercourse.]
[Footnote 35: Natives under the Transvaal Flag, by Rev. J. Bovill.]
[Footnote 36: La question du Transvaal, by Professor Ed. Naville, of Geneva.]
THE THEOLOGY OF THE BOERS. EXPLOITATION OF NATIVES BY CAPITALISTS.
BRITISH COLONIZING.--ITS CAUSES AND NATURE. CHARACTER OF PAUL
KRUGER AS A RULER. THE MORAL TEACHINGS OF THE WAR. OUR
RESPONSIBILITIES. HASTY JUDGMENTS. DENUNCIATIONS OF ENGLAND BY
ENGLISHMEN. THE OPEN BOOK. MY LAST WORD IS FOR THE NATIVE RACES.
Even in these enlightened days there seems to be in some minds a strange confusion as to the understanding of the principle of Equality for which we plead, and which is one of the first principles laid down in the Charter of our Liberties. What is meant in that charter is _Equality of all before the Law_; not by any means social equality, which belongs to another region of political ideas altogether.
A friend who has lived in South Africa, and who has had natives working for and with him, tells me of this confusion of ideas among some of the more vulgar stamp of white colonists, who, my friend observes, amuse themselves by assuming a familiarity in intercourse with the natives, which works badly. It does not at all increase their respect for the white man, but quite the contrary, while it is as little calculated to produce self-respect in the native. My friend found the natives naturally respectful and courteous, when treated justly and humanely, in fact as a _gentleman_ would treat them. Above all things, they honour a man who is just. They have a keen sense of justice, and a quick perception of the existence of this crowning quality in a man. Livingstone said that he found that they also have a keen eye for a man of pure and moral life.
The natives in the Transvaal have never asked for the franchise, or for the smallest voice in the Government. In their hearts they hoped for and desired simple legal justice; they asked for bread, and they received a stone. It does not seem desirable that they should too early become "full fledged voters." Some sort of Education test, some proof of a certain amount of civilization and instruction attained, might be applied with advantage; and to have to wait a little while for that does not seem, from the Englishwoman's point of view at least, a great hardship, when it is remembered how long our agricultural labourers had to wait for that privilege, and that for more than fifty years English women have petitioned for it, and have not yet obtained it, although they are not, I believe, wholly uncivilized or uneducated.
The Theology of the Boers has been much commented upon; and it is supposed by some that, as they are said to derive it solely from the Old Testament Scriptures, it follows that the ethical teaching of those Scriptures must be extremely defective. A Swiss Pastor writes to me: "It is time to rescue the Old Testament from the Boer interpretation of it. We have not enough of Old Testament righteousness among us Christians." This is true. Those who have studied those Scriptures intelligently see, through much that appears harsh and strange in the Mosaic prescriptions, a wisdom and tenderness which approaches to the Christian ideal, as well as certain severe rules and restrictions which, when observed and maintained, lifted the moral standard of the Hebrew people far above that of the surrounding nations. When Christ came on earth, He swept away all that which savoured of barbarism, the husk which often however, contained within it a kernel of truth capable of a great development. "Ye have heard it said of old times," He reiterated, "_but I say unto you_"--and then He set forth the higher, the eternally true principles of action.
Yet if the Transvaal teachers and their disciples had read impartially (though even exclusively) the Old Testament Scriptures, they could not have failed to see how grossly they were themselves offending against the divine commands in some vital matters. I cite, as an example, the following commands, given by Moses to the people, not once only, but repeatedly. Had these commands been regarded with as keen an appreciation as some others whose teaching seems to have an opposite tendency, it is impossible that the natives should have been treated as they have been by Boer Law, or that Slavery or Serfdom should have existed among them for so many generations. The following are some of the often-repeated commands and warnings:
Ex. xii. _v_ 19.--"One law shall be to him that is homeborn, and unto the stranger that sojourneth among you."
Num. ix. _v_ 14.--"If a stranger shall sojourn among you, ... ye shall have one ordinance, both for the stranger, and for him that was born in the land."
Num. xv. _v_ 15.--"One ordinance shall be both for you of the congregation, and also for the stranger that sojourneth with you, an ordinance for ever in your generation: as ye are so shall the stranger be before the Lord."
Verse 16.--"One law and one manner shall be for you, and for the stranger that sojourneth with you."
Lev. xix. _v_ 33.--"And if a stranger sojourn with thee in your land, ye shall not vex him."
Verse 34.--"But the stranger that dwelleth with you shall be unto you as one born among you, and thou shalt love him as thyself; for ye were strangers in the land of Egypt."
Verse 35.--"Ye shall do no unrighteousness in judgment, in mete-yard, in weight, or in measure."
Although the natives of the Transvaal were the original possessors of the country, they have been reckoned by the Boers as strangers and foreigners among them. They have treated them as the ancient Jews treated all Gentiles as for ever excluded from the Commonwealth of Israel,--until in the "fulness of time" they were forced by a great shock and terrible judgments--to acknowledge, with astonishment, that "God had also to the Gentiles granted repentance unto life," and that they also had heard the news of the glorious emancipation of all the sons of God throughout the earth.
Not only is the non-payment, but even delay in the payment of wages condemned by the Law of Moses. Is it possible that Boer theologians, who quote Scripture with so much readiness, have never read the following?
Lev. xix. _v_ 13.--"Thou shalt not defraud thy neighbour, neither rob him: the wages of him that is hired shall not abide with thee all night until the morning."
Deut. xxiv. _v_ 14.--"Thou shalt not oppress an hired servant that is poor and needy, whether he be of thy brethren, or of the strangers that are in thy land, within thy gates."
Verse 15.--"At his day thou shalt give him his hire, neither shall the sun go down upon it; for he is poor, and setteth his heart upon it: lest he cry against thee unto the Lord, and it be sin unto thee."
Jer. xxii. _v_ 13.--"Woe unto him that buildeth his house by unrighteousness, and his chambers by wrong; that useth his neighbour's service without wages, and giveth him not for his work."
Mal. iii. _v_ 5.--"And I will come near to you to judgment; and I will be a swift witness against ... those that oppress the hireling in his wages, the widow, and the fatherless, and that turn aside the stranger from his right, and fear not me, saith the Lord of hosts."
The following is from the New Testament, but it might have come under the notice of Boer theologians and Law makers:--
The epistle of St. James v. _v_ 4.--"Behold the hire of the labourers who have reaped down your fields which is of you kept back by fraud, crieth; and the cries of them which have reaped are entered into the ears of the Lord of Sabaoth."
Verse 3.--"Your gold and your silver is cankered, and the rust of them shall be a witness against you."
Jer. xxxv. _v_ 17.--"Because ye have not proclaimed Liberty every man to his neighbour, behold I proclaim Liberty for you, saith the Lord, to the Sword, to the pestilence, and to the famine."
I am aware that there will be voices raised at once in application to certain English people of the very commands here cited; and justly so, so far as that application is made to individuals or groups of persons who have transgressed not only Biblical Law but the Law of our Land in their dealings with native races; and the warning conveyed to us in such recriminations must not and, I believe, will not be unheeded.
The following occurs in a number of the "Ethical World," published early in the present year:--"We know that capitalists, left to themselves, would mercilessly exploit the labour of the coloured man. That is precisely the reason why they should not be left to themselves, but should be under the control of the British Empire. It is a reason why Crown colonies should supersede Chartered Companies; it is a reason for much that is often called 'shallow Imperialism.' If the present war had been staved off, and if, by mere lapse of time and increase of numbers _without British intervention_, the Outlanders had come to be the masters of the South African Republic, they might have established a system of independent government quite as bad as that now in existence, though not hardened against reform by the same archaic traditions."
To my mind some of the published utterances of the Originator and members of the "Chartered Company" are not such as to inspire confidence in those who desire to see the essential principles of British Law and Government paramount wherever Great Britain has sway. There is the old contemptuous manner of speaking of the natives; and we have heard an expression of a desire to "eliminate the Imperial Factor."
This elimination of the Imperial Factor is precisely that which is the least desired by those who see our Imperialism to mean the continuance of obedience to the just traditions of British Law and Government. The granting of a Charter to a Company lends the authority (or the appearance of it) of the Queen's name to acts of the responsible heads of that company, which may be opposed to the principles of justice established by British Law; and such acts may have disastrous results. It is to be hoped that the present awakening on the subject of past failures of our government to enforce respect for its own principles may be a warning to all concerned against any transgression of those principles.
Continental friends with whom I have conversed on the subject of the British Colonies have sometimes appeared to me to leave out of account some considerations special to the subject. They regard British Colonization as having been accomplished by a series of acts of aggression, solely inspired by the love of conquest and desire for increased territory. This is an error.
I would ask such friends to take a Map of Europe, or of the World, and steadily to regard it in connection with the following facts. Our people are among the most prolific,--if not the most prolific,--of all the nations. Energy and enterprise are in their nature, together with a certain love of free-breathing, adventure and discovery. Now look at the map, and observe how small is the circumference of the British Isles. "Our Empire has no geographical continuity like the Russian Empire; it is that larger Venice with no narrow streets, but with the sea itself for a high-road. It is bound together by a moral continuity alone." What are our Sons to do? Must our immense population be debarred from passing through these ocean tracts to lands where there are great uninhabited wastes capable of cultivation? What shall we do with our sons and our daughters innumerable, as the ways become overcrowded in the mother land, and energies have not the outlets needful to develop them. Shall we place legal restrictions on marriage, or on the birth of children, or prescribe that no family shall exceed a certain number? You are shocked,--naturally. It follows then that some members of our large British families must cross the seas and seek work and bread elsewhere.
The highest and lowest, representing all ranks, engage in this kind of initial colonization. Our present Prime Minister, a "younger son," went out in his youth,--as others of his class have done,--with his pickaxe, to Australia, to rank for a time among "diggers" until called home by the death of the elder son, the heir to the title and estate. This necessity and this taste for wandering and exploring has helped in some degree to form the independence of character of our men, and also to strengthen rather than to weaken the ties of affection and kinship with the Motherland. Many men, "nobly born and gently nurtured," have thus learned self-dependence, to endure hardships, and to share manual labour with the humblest; and such an experience does not work for evil. Then when communities have been formed, some sort of government has been necessitated. An appeal is made to the Mother Country, and her offspring have grown up more or less under her regard and care, until self-government has developed itself.
The great blot on this necessary and natural expansion is the record (from time to time) of the displacement of native tribes by force and violence, when their rights seemed to interfere with the interests of the white man. Of such action we have had to repent in the past, and we repent more deeply than ever now when our responsibilities towards natives races have been brought with startling clearness before those among us who have been led to look back and to search deeply into the meanings of the present great "history-making war."
The personality of Paul Kruger stands out mournfully at this moment on the page of history. Mr. FitzPatrick wrote of him in 1896, as follows:--
"_L'Etat c'est moi_, is almost as true of the old Dopper President as it was of its originator; for in matters of external policy and in matters which concern the Boer as a party, the President has his way as completely as any anointed autocrat. To anyone who has studied the Boers and their ways and policy ... it must be clear that President Kruger does more than represent the opinion of the people and execute their policy: he moulds them in the form he wills. By the force of his own strong convictions and prejudices, and of his indomitable will, he has made the Boers a people whom he regards as the germ of the Afrikander nation; a people chastened, selected, welded, and strong enough to attract and assimilate all their kindred in South Africa, and thus to realize the dream of a Dutch Republic from the Zambesi to Cape Town.
"In the history of South Africa the figure of the grim old President will loom large and striking,--picturesque as the figure of one who, by his character and will, made and held his people; magnificent as one who, in the face of the blackest fortune, never wavered from his aim or faltered in his effort ... and it maybe, pathetic too, as one whose limitations were great, one whose training and associations,--whose very successes had narrowed and embittered and hardened him;--as one who, when the greatness of success was his to take and to hold, turned his back on the supreme opportunity, and used his strength and qualities to fight against the spirit of progress, and all that the enlightenment of the age pronounces to be fitting and necessary to good government and a healthy State.
"To an English nobleman, who in the course of an interview remarked, 'my father was a Minister (of the Queen),' the Dutchman answered, 'and my father was a shepherd!' It was not pride rebuking pride; it was the ever present fact which would not have been worth mentioning but for the suggestion of the antithesis. He, too, was a shepherd,--a peasant. It may be that he knew what would be right and good for his people, and it may be not; but it is sure that he realized that to educate would be to emancipate, to broaden their views would be to break down the defences of their prejudices, to let in the new leaven would be to spoil the old bread, to give to all men the rights of men would be to swamp for ever the party which is to him greater than the State. When one thinks of the one century history of that people, much is seen which accounts for their extraordinary love of isolation, and their ingrained and passionate aversion to control; much, too, that draws to them a world of sympathy; and when one realizes the old President hemmed in once more by the hurrying tide of civilization, from which his people have fled for generations--trying to fight both fate and Nature--standing up to stem a tide as resistless as the eternal sea--one realizes the pathos of the picture. But this is as another generation may see it. We are now too close--so close that the meaner details, the blots and flaws, are all most plainly visible, the corruption, the insincerity, the injustice, the barbarity--all the unlovely touches that will bye and bye be forgotten--sponged away by the gentle hand of time, when only the picturesque will remain."
And now that his sun is setting in the midst of clouds, and the great ambition of his life lies a ruin before him, and age, disappointment, and sorrow press heavily upon him, reproach and criticism are silenced. Compassion and a solemn awe alone fill our hearts.
A late awakening and repentance may not serve to maintain the political life of a party or a nation; but it is never too late for a human soul to receive for itself the light that may have been lacking for right guidance all through the past, and God does not finally withdraw Himself from one who has ever sincerely called upon His name.
I beg to be allowed to address a word, in conclusion, more especially to certain of my own countrymen,--among whom I count some of my valued fellow-workers of the past years. These latter have been very patient with me at times when I have ventured a word of warning in connection with the Abolitionist war in which we have together been engaged, and perhaps they will bear with me now; but whether they will do so or not, I must speak that which seems to me the truth, that which is laid on my heart to speak. I refer especially to the temper of mind of those whose present denunciations of our country are apparently not restrained by considerations derived from a deeper and calmer view of the whole situation.
When God's Judgments are in the earth, "the people of the world will learn righteousness." Are we learning righteousness? Am I, are you, friends, learning righteousness? I desire, at least, to be among those who may learn something of the mind of God towards His redeemed world, even in the darkest hour. But you will tell me perhaps that there is nothing of the Divine purpose in all this tribulation, that God has allowed evil to have full sway in the world for a time. Others among us, as firmly believe that there is a Divine permission in the natural vengeance which follows transgression, that we are never the sport of a senseless fate, and that God governs as well as reigns.
"God's fruit of justice ripens slow;
"Men's souls are narrow; let them grow,
"My brothers, we must wait."
Many among us are learning to see more and more clearly that the present "tribulation" is the climax of a long series,--through almost a century past,--of errors of which till now we had never been fully conscious,--of neglect of duty, of casting off of responsibility, of oblivion of the claims of the millions of native inhabitants of Africa who are God's creatures and the redeemed of Christ as much as we,--of ambitions and aims purely worldly, of a breathless race among nations for present and material gain.
There are hasty judges it seems to me who look upon this war as the _Initial Crime_, a sudden and fatal error into which our nation has leapt in a fit of blind passion aroused by some quite recent event, and chiefly chargeable to certain individuals living among us to-day, who represent, in their view, a deplorable deterioration of the whole nation. The evils (which are not chiefly attributable to our nation) which have led up to this war, and made it from the human point of view, inevitable, are all ignored by these judges. Like the servant in one of the Parables of Christ, who said "my Lord delayeth his coming," (God is nowhere among us,) and began to beat and abuse his fellow-servants, they fall to inflicting on their fellow citizens unmeasured blows of the tongue and pen, because of this war. Their hearts are so full of indignation that they cannot see anything higher or deeper than the material strife. They judge the combatants, our poor soldiers, the first victims, with little tenderness or sympathy. When King David was warned by God of approaching chastisement for his sins as a ruler, he pleaded that that chastisement should fall upon himself alone, saying, "these sheep (the people) what have they done?" We may ask the same of the rank and file of our army. What have they done? It was not they who ordained the war, and so far as personal influence may have gone to provoke war, many of those who sit at home at ease are more to blame than the men who believe that they are obeying the call of duty when they offer themselves for perils, for hardships, wounds, sickness, and lingering as well as sudden death.
God's thoughts, however, are "not as our thoughts," nor "His ways as our ways." The record I might give of spiritual awakening and extraordinary blessing bestowed by Him at this time in the very heart of this war on these, the "first victims" of it, would be received I fear with complete incredulity by those to whom I now address myself. Be it so. The sources of my information are from "the front," they are many and they are trustworthy. It seems to me that in visiting the sins of the fathers on the children, or of rulers on the people, the Great Father of all, in His infinite love has said to these multitudes: "Your bodies are given to destruction, but I have set wide open for you the door of salvation; you Shall enter into my kingdom through death." And many have so entered.
The following is the expression of the thought of many of our humble people at home, who are neither "jingoes" nor yet impatient judges of others. The Journal from which the extract is taken represents not the wealthy nor ambitious part of society, but that of the middle class of people, dependent on their own efforts for their daily bread, among whom we often find much good sense:--"Some persons are humiliated for the sins and mistakes they see in other people. As for themselves, their one thought is 'If my advice had been taken the country would never have been in this pass!' This is the expression of an utterly un-Christian self-conceit. Others, again, take delight in recording the sins of the nation. That our ideals have been dimmed, that a low order of public morality has been openly defended in the highest places, and that the reckoning has come to us we fully believe. Yet it is possible to judge the heart of our people far too harshly. It is a sound heart when all is said and done. We fix our eyes upon the great and wealthy offenders; but it must be remembered that the British people are not wealthy. The number of rich men is small. Most of us, in fact, are very poor. Even those who may be called well off depend on the continuance of health and opportunity for their incomes. The vast majority of those who believe that our cause is righteous are not exultant jingoes, neither are they millionaires. They are care-worn toilers, hard-worked fathers and mothers of children. They have in many cases given sons and brothers and husbands to our ranks; their hearts are aching with passionate sorrow for the dead. Many more are enduring the racking agony of suspense. Multitudes, besides, spend their lives in a hard fight to keep the wolf from the door. Already they are pinched, and they know that in the months ahead their poverty will be deeper. Yet they have no thought of surrender. They do not even complain, but give what they can from their scanty means to succour those who are touched still more nearly. It is quite possible to slander a nation when one simply intends to tell it plain truths. The British nation, we are inclined to believe, is a great deal better and sounder than many of its shrillest censors of the moment. And, for our part, we find among our patient, brave, and silent people great seed-beds of trust and hope."
These are noble words, because words of faith--worthy of the Roman, Varro--to whom his fellow-citizens presented a public tribute of gratitude because "he had not despaired of his country in a dark and troubled time."
It can hardly be supposed that I underrate the horrors of war. I have imagination enough and sympathy enough to follow almost as if I beheld it with my eyes, the great tragedy which has been unfolded in South Africa. The spirit of Jingoism is an epidemic of which I await the passing away more earnestly than we do that of any other plague. I deprecate, as I have always done, and as strongly as anyone can do, rowdyism in the form of violent opposition to free speech and freedom of meeting. It is as wholly unjustifiable, as it is unwise. Nothing tends more to the elucidation of truth than evidence and freedom of speech from all sides. Good works on many hands are languishing for lack of the funds and zeal needful to carry them on. The Public Press, and especially the Pictorial Press, fosters a morbid sentiment in the public mind by needlessly vivid representations of mere slaughter; to all this may be added (that which some mourn over most of all) the drain upon our pockets,--upon the country's wealth. All these things are a part of the great tribulation which is upon us. They are inevitable ingredients of the chastisement by war.
I see frequent allusions to the "deplorable state of the public mind," which is so fixed on this engrossing subject, the war, that its attention cannot be gained for any other. I hear our soldiers called "legalized murderers," and the war spoken of as a "hellish panorama," which it is a blight even to look upon.
But,--I am impelled to say it at the risk of sacrificing the respect of certain friends,--there is to me another view of the matter. It is this. In this present woe, as in all other earthly events, God has something to say to us,--something which we cannot receive if we wilfully turn away the eye from seeing and the ear from hearing.
It is as if--in anticipation of the last great Judgment when "the Books shall be opened,"--God, in his severity and yet in mercy (for there is always mercy in the heart of His judgments) had set before us at this day an open book, the pages of which are written in letters of blood, and that He is waiting for us to read. There are some who are reading, though with eyes dimmed with tears and hearts pierced with sorrow--whose attitude is, "Speak, Lord, for Thy servant heareth."
You "deplore the state of the public mind." May not the cloud of celestial witnesses deplore in a measure the state of _your_ mind which leads you to turn your back on the opened book of judgment, and refuse to read it? Does your sense of duty to your country claim from you to send forth such a cry against your fellow-citizens and your nation that you have no ears for the solemn teachings of Providence? Might it not be more heroic in us all to cease to denounce, and to begin to enquire?--with humility and courage to look God in the face, and enquire of Him the inner meanings of His rebukes, to ask Him to "turn back the floods of ungodliness" which have swelled this inundation of woe, rather than to use our poor little besoms in trying to sweep back the Atlantic waves of His judgments.
It is good and necessary to protest against War; but at the same time, reason and experience teach that we must, with equal zeal, protest against other great evils, the accumulation of which makes for war and not for peace. War in another sense--moral and spiritual war--must be doubled, trebled, quadrupled, in the future, in order that material war may come to an end. We all wish for peace; every reasonable person desires it, every anxious and bereaved family longs for it, every Christian prays for it. But _what_ Peace? It is the Peace of God which we pray for? the Peace on Earth, which He alone can bring about? His hand alone, which corrects, can also heal. We do not and cannot desire the peace which some of those are calling for who dare not face the open book of present day judgment, or who do not wish to read its lessons! Such a peace would be a mere plastering over of an unhealed wound, which would break out again before many years were over.
There seems to me a lack of imagination and of Christian sympathy in the zeal which thrusts denunciatory literature into all hands and houses, as is done just now. It would, I think, check such action and open the eyes of some who adopt it, if they could see the look of pain, the sudden pallor, followed by hours and days of depression of the mourners, widows, bereaved parents, sisters and friends, when called upon to read (their hearts full of the thought of their beloved dead) that those who have fought in the ranks were morally criminal, legalized murderers, "full of hatred," actors in a "hellish panorama." Some of these sufferers may not be much enlightened, but they know what love and sorrow are. Would it not be more tender and tactful, from the Christian point of view, to leave to them their consoling belief that those whom they loved acted from a sense of duty or a sentiment of patriotism; and not, just at a time of heart-rending sorrow, to press upon them the criminality of all and every one concerned in any way with war? I commend this suggestion to those who are not strangers to the value of personal sympathy and gentleness towards those who mourn.
No, we are not yet looking upon hell! It may be, it _is_, an earthly purgatory which we are called to look upon; a place and an hour of purging and of purifying, such as we must all, nations and individuals alike, pass through, before we can see the face of God.
Mr. Fullerton, speaking in the Melbourne Hall, Leicester, on Jan. 7th of this year, said:--"The Valley of Achor (Trouble), may be a Door of Hope." "You say the Transvaal belongs to the Boers; I say it belongs to God. If it belongs specially to any, it belongs to the Zulus and Kaffirs, on whom, for 100 years, there have been inflicted wrongs worthy of Arab slave dealers. What has the Boer done to lift these people? Nothing. As a Missionary said the other day, 'A nation that lives amongst a lower race of people, and does not try to lift them, inevitably sinks.' The Boers needed to be chastised; only thus could they be kept from sinking; only thus can there be hope for the native races. Who shall chastise them? Another nation, which God wishes also to chastise. Is therefore God for one nation and not for another? May He not be for one, and for the other too? If both pray, must He refuse one? Perhaps God is great enough to answer both, and bringing both through the fire, purge and teach them."
It would have been bad for us if we had won an early or an easy victory. We should have been so lifted up with pride as to be an offence to high Heaven. But we have gone and are going through deep waters, and the wounds inflicted on many hearts and many homes are not quickly healed. In this we recognise the hand of God, who is faithful in chastisement as in blessing.
Many have, no doubt, read, and I hope some have laid to heart, the words which Lord Rosebery recently addressed to the Press, but which are applicable to us all at this juncture. They are wise and statesmanlike words. Taking them as addressed to the Nation and not to the Press only, they run thus: "At such a juncture we must be sincere, we must divest ourselves of the mere catchwords and impulses of party.... We must be prepared to discard obsolete shibboleths, to search out abuse, to disregard persons, to be instant in pressing for necessary reforms--social, educational, administrative, and if need be, constitutional.
"Moreover, with regard to a sane appreciation of the destinies and responsibilities of Empire, we stand at the parting of the ways. Will Britain flinch or falter in her world-wide task? How is she best to pursue it? What new forces and inspiration will it need? What changes does it involve? These are questions which require clear sight, cool courage, and freedom from formula."
In the conscientious study which I have endeavoured to make of the history of the past century of British rule in South Africa, nothing has struck me more than the unfortunate effects in that Colony of our varying policy inspired by political party spirit in the Mother Country; and consequently I hail with thankfulness this good counsel to "divest ourselves of mere catchwords and impulses of party, to discard obsolete shibboleths, to free ourselves from formula, and to disregard persons," even if these persons are or have been recognized leaders, and to abide rather by principles. "What new forces and inspiration do we need," Lord Rosebery asks, for the great task our nation has before it? This is a deep and far-reaching question. The answer to it should be sought and earnestly enquired after by every man and woman among us, who is worthy of the name of a true citizen.
My last word must be on behalf of the Natives. When, thirty years ago, a few among us were impelled to take up the cause of the victims of the modern white slavery in Europe, we were told that in our pleadings for principles of justice and for personal rights, we ought not to have selected a subject in which are concerned persons who may deserve pity, but who, in fact, are not so important a part of the human family as to merit such active and passionate sympathy as that which moved our group. To this our reply was: "We did not _choose_ this question, we did not ourselves deliberately elect to plead for these persons. The question was _imposed upon us_, and once so imposed, we could not escape from the claims of the oppressed class whose cause we had been called to take up. And generally, (we replied,) the work of human progress has not consisted in protecting and supporting any outward forms of government, or the noble or privileged classes, but in undertaking the defence of the weak, the humble, of beings devoted to degradation and contempt, or brought under any oppression or servitude."
It is the same now. My father was one of the energetic promoters of the Abolition of Slavery in the years before 1834, a friend of Clarkson and Wilberforce. The horror of slavery in every form, and under whatever name, which I have probably partly inherited, has been intensified as life went on. It is my deep conviction that Great Britain will in future be judged, condemned or justified, according to her treatment of those innumerable coloured races, heathen or partly Christianized, over whom her rule extends, or who, beyond the sphere of her rule, claim her sympathy and help as a Christian and civilizing power to whom a great trust has been committed.
It grieves me to observe that (so far as I am able to judge) our politicians, public men, and editors, (with the exception of the editors of the "religious press,") appear to a great extent unaware of the immense importance of this subject, even for the future peace and stability of our Empire, apart from higher interests. It _will_ be "imposed upon them," I do not doubt, sooner or later, as it has been imposed upon certain missionaries and others who regard the Divine command as practical and sensible men should do: "Go ye and teach _all_ nations." All cannot _go_ to the ends of the earth; but all might cease to hinder by the dead weight of their indifference, and their contempt of all men of colour. Dr. Livingstone rebuked the Boers for contemptuously calling all coloured men Kaffirs, to whatever race they belonged. Englishmen deserve still more such a rebuke for their habit of including all the inhabitants of India, East and West, and of Africa, who have not European complexions, under the contemptuous title of "niggers." Race prejudice is a poison which will have to be cast out if the world is ever to be Christianized, and if Great Britain is to maintain the high and responsible place among the nations which has been given to her.
"It maybe that the Kaffir is sometimes cruel," says one who has seen and known him,--"he certainly requires supervision. But he was bred in cruelty and reared in oppression--the child of injustice and hate. As the springbok is to the lion, as the locust is to the hen, so is the Kaffir to the Boer; a subject of plunder and leaven of greed. But the Kaffir is capable of courage and also of the most enduring affection. He has been known to risk his life for the welfare of his master's family. He has worked without hope of reward. He has laboured in the expectation of pain. He has toiled in the snare of the fowler. Yet shy a brickbat at him!--for he is only a Kaffir! "However much the Native may excel in certain qualities of the heart, still, until purged of the poison of racial contempt, that will be the expression of the practical conclusion of the white man regarding him; "Shy a brickbat at him. He is only a nigger."
A merely theoretical acknowledgment of the vital nature of this question, of the future of the Native races and of Missionary work will not suffice. The Father of the great human family demands more than this.
"Is not this the fast that I have chosen?
To loose the bands of wickedness,
To undo the heavy burdens,
To let the oppressed go free,
And that ye break every yoke?"
(ISAIAH lviii. 6.)
I have spoken, in this little book, as an Abolitionist,--being a member of the "International Federation for the Abolition of the State regulation of vice." But I beg my readers to understand that I have here spoken for myself alone, and that my views must not be understood to be shared by members of the Federation to which I refer. My Abolitionist friends on the Continent of Europe, with very few exceptions, hold an opinion absolutely opposed to mine on the general question here treated. It is not far otherwise in England itself, where many of our Abolitionists, including some of my oldest and most valued fellow-workers, stand on a very different ground from mine in this matter. I value friendship, and I love my old friends. But I love truth more. I have very earnestly sought to know the truth in the matter here treated. I have not rejected evidence from any side, having read the most extreme as well as the more moderate writings on different sides, including those which have reached me from Holland, France, Switzerland, Germany, and the Transvaal, as well as those published in England. Having conscientiously arrived at certain conclusions, based on facts, and on life-long convictions in regard to some grave matters of principle, I have thought it worth while to put those conclusions on record. J.E.B.
[Footnote 37: The Transvaal from Within. FitzPatrick.]
[Footnote 38: This may also be true of the Boer combatants sacrificed for the sins of their rulers, but I prefer only to attest that of which I have full proof.]
[Footnote 39: "British Weekly."]
[Footnote 40: An Expression reported to have been used by Mr. Morley.]
[Footnote 41: _Daily News_, June 4th, 1900.]
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