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Boer Politics By Yves Guyot Characters: 10384

Updated: 2017-11-30 00:04

1.-The "Gold Mines" Argument.

When Dr. Kuyper asserts that "the gold mines of the Rand became the misfortune of the Transvaal," it is clear, that in his endeavour to convince his readers, he has no regard to the facts of the case, but that his aim is to suggest the idea that England's sole object in the present war has been to possess herself of the gold mines. Here Dr. Kuyper employs the arguments of L'Intransigeant, La Libre Parole, and Le Petit Journal; for he is perfectly well aware that England will derive no benefit from the gold mines, nor will she take possession of them any more than she has done of the gold mines of Australia. They are private property.

Further, Dr. Kuyper well knows that the gold mines of the Rand were only discovered in 1886, and he himself states that the annexation of the Transvaal took place on April 12th, 1877. The annexation therefore was prompted by other motives than the possession of the gold mines, but Dr. Kuyper is careful not to suggest these to his readers.

He informs us that Sir Theophilus Shepstone "entered Pretoria at the head of a small army." In reality, he had with him five-and-twenty policemen. Why then did the Boers, "so essentially men of war and politics," permit this?

"Once again, the fate of the natives served as pretext," Mr. Kuyper adds "but the wheel of fortune turns; two years later the English, themselves, were at daggers drawn with the natives, and massacred 10,000 men, women and children." That is how Dr. Kuyper writes history! The pretext was not the fate of the natives, but the fate of the Boers, who, having gone to war with Sekukuni, had been beaten. This is admitted in the "Petition of Rights": "At first, our operations were not very successful, our opponents declare that we were unable to defend ourselves against the natives."

2.-Boer Anarchy.

The truth is, that after the Sand River Convention, the most complete anarchy existed among the Transvaal Boers; and that as much after the promulgation of their Constitution of 1857 as before. The republicans of Potchefstroom had taken the title of The South African Republic, but their Raad maintained authority only over a small district; Lydenburg, Zoutpansberg, Utrecht, formed themselves into independent republics. It is estimated that, at that time, the entire population of the Transvaal consisted of 8,000 Boers; admitting that this number comprised only the young men and adults capable of bearing arms, and old men, then each republic would be composed, approximately, of 2,000 men. On the death of Andries Pretorius and of Potgieter, who hated each other like poison, the son of Pretorius conceived the design of making himself master of the Orange Free State, so as to secure to himself later on the foremost position in the Transvaal. A war was on the point of breaking out, but came to nothing, as Pretorius hastily recrossed the frontier in the face of an advance by Boshof, the Free State President, at the head of a commando. This action, which demonstrated that his courage and resource were less lofty than his ambition, did not however prevent his being elected President of the South African Republic. In 1860 the union took place.

Notwithstanding his incursion and subsequent flight, Pretorius succeeded in getting himself elected president of the Orange Free State also. But the Transvaal burghers dreaded absorption by their neighbours, and deposed him. A petty civil war between his partisans and opponents was the consequence; several presidents were elected and deposed. Krüger, whom we now see making his appearance, and Schoeman, in turn, chased each other out of Potchefstroom. In 1864 Pretorius forsook the Free State, and was re-elected President of the Transvaal, Krüger contenting himself with the office of Commandant-General.

The Orange Free State was at war with the Basutos. The English Government intervened, and finally annexed Basutoland (1868).

In the same year, the Transvaal Government, disregarding the Sand River Convention, issued a proclamation extending their frontier in the east to the seaboard; in the West to Lake Ngami, and in the North to Mashonaland. The Portuguese and English Governments entered protests and the matter dropped.

No minister of the Reformed Dutch Church had accompanied the Boers in their Trek. They therefore formed themselves into a separate reformed Church, whose members called themselves "doppers" (round-heads). They allow no liberty of thought; they believe in literal inspiration. If they had ever heard of Galileo, they would have looked upon him as an impostor. They place the authority of the Old Testament above that of the New. There are three contending sects in the Transvaal, whose hostility is such that both before and after 1881 threats of Civil War were indulged in.

3.-The Boers saved by the English.

In 1871, the question of fixing the frontier between the Transvaal and the Barolongs, a Bechuana tribe, was submitted to arbitration. The decision was given by Mr. Keate, Governor of Natal. President Pretorius having accepted it, the Boers deposed him, and continued to occupy the territory to which they laid claim. Th

ey were at a loss whom next to elect as President.

Overtures were made to Mr. Brand, President of the Orange Free State; but he wisely refused. They next turned to a Cape Afrikander, a former minister of the Dutch Reformed Church, Mr. F. Burgers, a capable, intelligent man. It was his desire to correct abuses; to repress the slavery that was being carried on under the name of "apprenticeship"; to introduce railways and schools; he claimed the right to impose taxation, he got to be credited, in the long run, with the belief that the devil's tail was not as long as it is represented in the old Bible pictures. When the Boers were defeated by Sekukuni, they looked upon it as a punishment from God for having a "free thinker" for President. The commandos disbanded themselves. At the same time Cetewayo, the Zulu Chief, was threatening the Boers in the south. Caught between two fires, without resources or organisation, annihilation was before them. Now the English, for their own security, had the greatest interest in preventing the extermination of white men by natives; and on that ground, apart from all sentimentality, they had never ceased to protest against the methods employed by the Boers, as the surest means of bringing about that result. Theophilus Shepstone, who possessed great influence over the Zulus, was sent to Pretoria. Unable, even with the help of their President, to bring any order into the Government of the Transvaal, he ended by annexing it on 12th April, 1877. He annexed it in order to save it. Had the English abandoned it to itself, the Boer territory would have been occupied by Basutos and the Zulus, and the Boers would have disappeared from the face of the earth.

4.-The Annexation of the Transvaal and the Conventions of 1881 and 1884.

M. Kuyper is very unjust when he reproaches the English with the massacre of the Zulus; for it was all to the profit of the Boers, who, it may be added, rendered no assistance. Once delivered from their native enemies by the English, the Boers appointed, December 16th, 1880, a triumvirate, composed of Pretorius, Krüger and Joubert. They demanded the re-instatement of the South African Republic, under British protection; they commenced attacking small detachments of English troops, and on February 27th they surrounded a force on Majuba Hill, killing 92 officers and men, General Colley among them, wounding 134, and taking 59 prisoners. That is what is called "the disaster of Majuba Hill." An army of 12,000 men was on the way out; Mr. Gladstone, in his Midlothian Campaign, had protested against the annexation; and, although, after he became Prime Minister, he supported it in the speech from the Throne, the hopes he had given to the separatists proved well founded, for after this defeat he became a party to the Convention of 1881, by which the independence of the Transvaal, under the suzerainty of England, was recognized.

5.-The Convention of 1881 inapplicable.

It must be confessed, that the Liberal Government committed a grave error. It seemed afraid of a rebellion among the Afrikanders of the Cape; and these quickly learned that threats only were needed to induce the English Government to yield to their demands. The English Garrison in Pretoria was withdrawn; no reparation was exacted from the Boers who, under the command of Cronje, had conducted themselves in an infamous manner at the siege of Potchefstroom, and had been guilty of actual treachery in the case of Captains Elliot and Lambert.

True, the Convention prescribed the suppression of slavery; gave guarantees for the safety of the persons and property of alien whites; placed the foreign relations of the Transvaal under the control of the British Government. But, in reality, it was of little value, for the English Resident was in the position of a man who has been conquered with the pretension of controlling the actions of the conquerer.

At the first election under the new conditions, Krüger, who represented the extreme reactionary party, was elected President, although he had accepted office under the British Government, while Joubert, who had declined any dealings with them, was defeated, being suspected of sympathising with the Uitlanders. His defeat does not prove him to have been in the minority. His partisans affirm, with a fair show of reason, that Mr. Krüger never greatly respected the sanctity of the ballot.

6.-Violation by the Boers.

The powerlessness of the British Government to ensure respect for the Convention of 1881, explains its consent to the modification of 1884. "It would be easy to find a casus belli in the behaviour of the Boers," said Lord Derby in the House of Lords. But the Government had no wish to find one, and added to the weakness it had displayed after Majuba a fresh show of weakness, which convinced Mr. Krüger that the violation of a convention was the easiest method of obtaining anything he wanted.

In point of fact, it is the British Government that is responsible for the present war, through having inspired President Krüger with the conviction, that he had only to continue in 1899 the policy which had succeeded so well in 1880.

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