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   Chapter 2 ENGLISH AND BOERS.[5]

Boer Politics By Yves Guyot Characters: 11766

Updated: 2017-11-30 00:04


1.-The Ideal of the Boers.

No French Pro-Boer has reproduced the portrait I have published, as given by Dr. Kuyper. It disturbs the conception presented to their readers by journalists, whose dishonesty is only equalled by their ignorance. Quoting his own statements, I have shown Boer relations with the natives; I will now proceed to show their relations with the English.

In addition to Dr. Kuyper's evidence, I will avail myself of a document from Boer sources: The Petition of Rights, addressed to the President of the Orange Free State, February 17th, 1881, and bearing Krüger's name at the head of the list of signatures. This document clearly shows not only the manner in which Boers write history, but also that, five years before the discovery of the Gold Mines, they cherished as their ideal, not only the preservation of their independence, but the driving out of the English from all South Africa: "From the Zambesi to Simon's Bay, Africa for the Afrikanders!" This is the rallying cry with which the document ends, and we find it repeated by Dr. Reitz, as the concluding words of his pamphlet, "A Century of Injustice."

2.-The English in South Africa.

Dr. Kuyper cannot forgive the English their occupation of the Cape. Yet, they had only followed the example of the Dutch who, during their war with Spain, 1568-1648, had seized the greater portion of the Portuguese colonies, because Portugal had been an ally of Spain. Holland had been forced into an alliance with France, and in exactly the same way, in 1794 and 1806, England seized the Cape. In 1814 she bought it from the Prince of Orange. Dr. Kuyper does not deny that the price was paid, but remarks that it did not replenish the coffers of the prince. Be that as it may, the treaty is none the less valid, and the "Petition of Rights" begins by protesting against "the action of the King of Holland who, in 1814, had ceded Cape Colony to England in exchange for Belgium." The English valued the newly acquired colony only as a naval station; they did not endeavour to extend the territory they occupied. Professor Bryce clearly shows in his "Impressions of South Africa" that if England had enlarged her possessions it had been in despite of herself, and solely to ensure their safety; although, from the treatise "Great Britain and the Dutch Republics," published in The Times, and reproduced in Le Siècle, it is evident that she had always considered that her rights in South Africa extended to the frontier of the Portuguese possessions; that is to say, to the 25° of latitude, in which latitude Delagoa Bay is situated.

Dr. Kuyper begins by himself putting us somewhat on our guard concerning his feelings towards England; for, not only does he decline to forgive her the occupation of Cape Colony, but also her triumph over Holland in the eighteenth century.

"Nowhere had resentment against 'perfide Albion' penetrated national feeling more deeply than in the Netherlands. Between the Dutch and English characters there is absolute incompatibility."

As a rule, I attach little faith to such generalities; in this case, I am sure, rightly. Forgetting his dictum of "absolute incompatibility" (p. 449), Dr. Kuyper, at p. 520, shows that, as far as he is concerned, it is only relative; for in speaking of England, he goes on to say:-

"Were I not a Dutchman, I should prefer to be one of her sons. Her habitual veracity is above suspicion; the sense of duty and justice is innate in her. Her constitutional institutions are universally imitated. Nowhere else do we find the sense of self-respect more largely developed."

Dr. Kuyper further admits that the "incompatibility" is relative as far as Afrikanders are concerned, it is only "absolute" as applied to the Boers. After giving us this example of the consistency of his views, Dr. Kuyper speaks of the English as being "unobservant." A reproach somewhat unexpected, when directed against the countrymen of Darwin. As a proof, he presents us with this metaphor, equally unexpected from the pen of a Dutchman-a dweller of the plains:-

"Because, in winter, the English had only seen in these insignificant river beds a harmless thread of frozen water, they took no thought of the formidable torrent which the thawing of the snow, in spring, would send rushing down to inundate their banks."

"The torrent" is of course the war now going on. Lord Roberts seems to be successfully coping with the "inundation."

3.-"The Crime."

Dr. Kuyper approves of the "Petition of Rights" of 1881. It sets forth that the South African Dutch do not recognise the cession made by the King of Holland in 1814; it does not admit that he had the right to "sell them like a flock of sheep." There have been Boers in rebellion since 1816.

One of these was a man named Bezuidenhout. In resisting a Sheriff who tried to arrest him, he was shot. His friends summoned to their aid a Kaffir Chief, named Gaika. The English authorities condemned five of the insurgents to be hanged. The rope broke. They were hanged over again.

Dr. Kuyper, and the "Petition of Rights" found their indictment of the British upon this event which they denominate "the Crime." The scene of the execution was named "Slachtersnek," "hill of slaughter."

This act of repression was violent, but it may possibly have been indispensable. At any rate, it bears but a very far off relation to the events of to-day. Dr. Kuyper in resuscitating, and laying stress upon it, follows a method well known in rhetoric; he begins by discrediting his adversary. However, despite his good intentions, he has not increased our admiration for the Boers by pointing out to us that the most serious grievances they can allege against the English are the protection accorded by the latter to the natives and slaves, and the final emancipation of the latter.

4.-British Sphere o

f Influence in 1838.

In a few lines Dr. Kuyper draws a conventional picture of British policy with regard to the Boers, making it out to be ever greedy of power. The contrary is the truth. A vacillating and timid policy has been England's great mistake in South Africa; it is this very vacillation that has brought about the present war.

Dr. Kuyper bitterly reproaches the English for having in 1842, six years after the Great Trek, claimed those emigrants as British subjects. The Great Trek was similar to the emigration of the Mormons. The United States have never admitted that they were at liberty to found a separate State within the limits of the national possessions. If on the same ground alone English had proclaimed their suzeranity over the Boers who were endeavouring to form States in Natal, the Orange Free State, and the Transvaal, they would have been perfectly within their rights; but Dr. Kuyper forgets that as far back as 1836 England promulgated the Cape of Hope Punishment Act. The object of that Act was to repress crimes committed by whites under English dominion throughout the whole of South Africa, as far north as the 25° South Latitude; that is, as far as the Portuguese frontier; and it is so thoroughly imbued with that idea, that it specially excepts any Portuguese territory south of that latitude. It is thus proved that with the exception of the portions occupied by the Portuguese, England claimed, as comprised within her sphere of influence, the whole of the remaining South African territory. A certain number of Boers, irreconcilably opposed to British rule, so fully recognised this, that they trekked as far as Delagoa Bay. Another object of the Act was the protection of the Natives against the Boers. The constantly recurring and sanguinary conflicts between the Boers and the Zulus led England to extend her direct sovereign rights to Natal for the peace, protection and good government of all classes of men, who may have settled in the interior or vicinity of this important part of South Africa.

5.-England, the Transvaal, and the Orange Free State.

Far from being anxious to assume direct control over these territories, the Cape Government for a long time disregarded the petitions for annexation addressed to it by the inhabitants of Durban; until one fine day, a Dutch vessel laden with provisions for the Boers, arriving in Port Natal, the Captain, Smellekamp, took it upon himself to assure them of the protection of the King of Holland. Thereupon, England established a small garrison under the command of Captain Smith. It was attacked by the Boers; a volunteer, named Dick King, contrived to make his escape from the town, and after an adventurous journey reached Grahamstown. Troops were despatched by the Government, and it was incorporated with the Cape Colony; some of the Boers left Natal, some remained; their descendants are there to-day.

In 1848 the Government entered into a series of treaties known as the "Napier Treaties," for the constitution of Native States extending from Pondoland, on the frontiers of Natal, to the district of which Kimberley forms the centre (see Great Britain and the Dutch Republics). Great Britain demanded no more than peace and guarantees of security on her frontiers. Dr. Kuyper himself admits this, when he sums up in the following sentence, the history of the emancipation of the Transvaal and the Orange Free State.

"Natal was to remain an English Colony, but the English were to retire from the Orange and Vaal rivers; it was thus that the Independence of the Transvaal was recognised by the Treaty of Sand River, of 17th January, 1852; and the Independence of the Free State by the Convention of Bloemfontein, of 22nd February, 1854."

Dr. Kuyper is compelled to admit that England was not forced into this act of generosity, she having on the 29th August, 1848, defeated the Boers at Boomplaats, on the Orange table land.

But Dr. Kuyper forgets to say that the majority of the Free Staters were far from desiring the gift made to them by the British Government in 1854. They considered it not as a measure of liberation, but as an abandonment to the tender mercies of the Basutos. Some years later the Orange Free State entered into an arrangement with Sir George Grey, for forming a Confederation with Cape Colony. This was not ratified by the Cape Government.

Nor do we find that Dr. Kuyper takes notice of certain stipulations contained in the above Conventions; among others, the abolition of slavery, and free permission to merchants and missionaries to travel and settle where they pleased; which obligations continued to England the right of control over the administration and legislation of those States.

The development of subsequent events is explained by Dr. Kuyper in the simplest possible manner:-

"The promptings of selfish and aggressive materialism now took unchecked sway, and, although bound by solemn treaties which England could not thrust aside without open violation of pledged faith, she did not hesitate. The diamonds of Kimberley in the Free State flashed with a too seductive brilliancy, and the Gold Mines of the Rand became the misfortune of the Transvaal."

I would here observe to Dr. Kuyper that England's friendly relations with the Orange Free State, remained unbroken until October 9th, 1899, when, led away by Krüger's promises, it committed the folly of engaging in war with England.

As for the Transvaal, it was annexed by England in 1877, but not on account of the Gold Mines, which were only discovered ten years' later. Dr. Kuyper has a trick of neglecting dates, and arranging his facts after the fashion of an advocate who supposes that those whom he is addressing will be content with his assertions, and not trouble to verify them. For his rhetoric, I shall substitute the actual facts.

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