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Chapter 2

THE CAUSE OF QUARREL

There might almost seem to be some subtle connection between the
barrenness and worthlessness of a surface and the value of the
minerals which lie beneath it. The craggy mountains of Western
America, the arid plains of West Australia, the ice-bound gorges of
the Klondyke, and the bare slopes of the Witwatersrand veldt -- these
are the lids which cover the great treasure chests of the world.

Gold had been known to exist in the Transvaal before, but it was only
in 1886 that it was realised that the deposits which lie some thirty
miles south of the capital are of a very extraordinary and valuable
nature. The proportion of gold in the quartz is not particularly high,
nor are the veins of a remarkable thickness, but the peculiarity of
the Rand mines lies in the fact that throughout this 'banket'
formation the metal is so uniformly distributed that the enterprise
can claim a certainty which is not usually associated with the
industry. It is quarrying rather than mining. Add to this that the
reefs which were originally worked as outcrops have now been traced to
enormous depths, and present the same features as those at the
surface. A conservative estimate of the value of the gold has placed
it at seven hundred millions of pounds.

Such a discovery produced the inevitable effect. A great number of
adventurers flocked into the country, some desirable and some very
much the reverse. There were circumstances, however, which kept away
the rowdy and desperado element who usually make for a newly opened
goldfield. It was not a class of mining which encouraged the
individual adventurer. There were none of those nuggets which gleamed
through the mud of the dollies at Ballarat, or recompensed the
forty-niners in California for all their travels and their toils. It
was a field for elaborate machinery, which could only be provided by
capital. Managers, engineers, miners, technical experts, and the
tradesmen and middlemen who live upon them, these were the Uitlanders,
drawn from all the races under the sun, but with the Anglo-Celtic
vastly predominant. The best engineers were American, the best miners
were Cornish, the best managers were English, the money to run the
mines was largely subscribed in England. As time went on, however, the
German and French interests became more extensive, until their joint
holdings are now probably as heavy as those of the British. Soon the
population of the mining centres became greater than that of the whole
Boer community, and consisted mainly of men in the prime of life-men,
too, of exceptional intelligence and energy.

The situation was an extraordinary one. I have already attempted to
bring the problem home to an American by suggesting that the Dutch of
New York had trekked west and founded an anti-American and highly
unprogressive State. To carry out the analogy we will now suppose
that that State was California, that the gold of that State attracted
a large inrush of American citizens, who came to outnumber the
original inhabitants, that these citizens were heavily taxed and badly
used, and that they deafened Washington with their outcry about their
injuries. That would be a fair parallel to the relations between the
Transvaal, the Uitlanders, and the British Government.

That these Uitlanders had very real and pressing grievances no one
could possibly deny. To recount them all would be a formidable task,
for their whole lives were darkened by injustice. There was not a
wrong which had driven the Boer from Gape Colony which he did not now
practise himself upon others -- and a wrong may be excusable in 1885
which is monstrous in 1895. The primitive virtue which had
characterised the farmers broke down in the face of temptation. The
country Boers were little affected, some of them not at all, but the
Pretoria Government became a most corrupt oligarchy, venal and
incompetent to the last degree. Officials and imported Hollanders
handled the stream of gold which came in from the mines, while the
unfortunate Uitlander who paid nine-tenths of the taxation was fleeced
at every turn, and met with laughter and taunts when he endeavoured to
win the franchise by which he might peaceably set right the wrongs
from which he suffered. He was not an unreasonable person. On the
contrary, he was patient to the verge of meekness, as capital is
likely to be when it is surrounded by rifles. But his situation was
intolerable, and after successive attempts at peaceful agitation, and
numerous humble petitions to the Volksraad, lie began at last to
realise that he would never obtain redress unless he could find some
way of winning it for himself.

Without attempting to enumerate all the wrongs which embittered the
Uitlanders, the more serious of them may be summed up in this way.

1. That they were heavily taxed and provided about seven-eighths of
the revenue of the country. The revenue of the South African
Republic-which had been 154,000l. in 1886, when the gold fields were
opened-had grown in 1899 to four million pounds, and the country
through the industry of the newcomers had changed from one of the
poorest to the richest in the whole world (per head of population).

2. That in spite of this prosperity which they had brought, they, the
majority of the inhabitants of the country, were left without a vote,
and could by no means influence the disposal of the great sums which
they were providing. Such a case of taxation without representation
has never been known.

3. That they had no voice in the choice or payment of officials. Men
of the worst private character might be placed with complete authority
over valuable interests. Upon one occasion the Minister of Mines
attempted himself to jump a mine, having officially learned some flaw
in its title. The total official salaries had risen in 1899 to a sum
sufficient to pay 40l. per head to the entire male Boer population.

4. That they had no control over education. Mr. John Robinson, the
Director General of the Johannesburg Educational Council, has reckoned
the sum spent on Uitlander schools as 6501. out of 63,0001. allotted
for education, making one shilling and tenpence per head per annum on
Uitlander children, and eight pounds six shillings per head on Boer
children-the Uitlander, as always, paying seven-eighths of the
original sum.

5. No power of municipal government. Watercarts instead of pipes,
filthy buckets instead of drains, a corrupt and violent police, a high
death~rate in what should be a health resort -- all this in a city
which they had built themselves.

6. Despotic government in the matter of the press and of the right of
public meeting.

7. Disability from service upon a jury.

8. Continual harassing of the mining interest by vexatious
legislation. Under this head came many grievances, some special to
the mines and some affecting all Uitlanders. The dynamite monopoly,
by which the miners had to pay 600,0001. extra per annum in order to
get a worse quality of dynamite; the liquor laws, by which one-third
of the Kaffirs were allowed to be habitually drunk; the incompetence
and extortions of the State-owned railway; the granting of concessions
for numerous articles of ordinary consumption to individuals, by which
high prices were maintained; the surrounding of Johannesburg by tolls
from which the town had no profit -- these were among the economical
grievances, some large, some petty, which ramified through every
transaction of life.

And outside and beyond all these definite wrongs imagine to a free
born progressive man, an American or a Briton, the constant irritation
of being absolutely ruled by a body of twenty-five men, twenty-one of
whom had in the case of the Selati Railway Company been publicly and
circumstantially accused of bribery, with full details of the bribes
received, while to their corruption they added such crass ignorance
that they argue in the published reports of the Volksraad debates that
using dynamite bombs to bring down rain was firing at God, that it is
impious to destroy locusts, that the word 'participate' should not be
used because it is not in the Bible, and that postal pillar boxes are
extravagant and effeminate. Such OBITER DICTA may be amusing at a
distance, but they are less entertaining when they come from an
autocrat who has complete power over the conditions of your life.

>From the fact that they were a community extremely preoccupied by
their own business, it followed that the Uitlanders were not ardent
politicians, and that they desired to have a share in the government
of the State for the purpose of making the conditions of their own
industry and of their own daily lives more endurable. How far there
was need of such an interference may be judged by any fair-minded man
who reads the list of their complaints. A superficial view may
recognise the Boers as the champions of liberty, but a deeper insight
must see that they (as represented by their elected rulers) have in
truth stood for all that history has shown to be odious in the form of
exclusiveness and oppression. Their conception of liberty has been a
selfish one, and they have consistently inflicted upon others far
heavier wrongs than those against which they had themselves rebelled.

As the mines increased in importance and the miners in numbers, it was
found that these political disabilities affected some of that
cosmopolitan crowd far more than others, in proportion to the amount
of freedom to which their home institutions had made them
accustomed. The continental Uitlanders were more patient of that which
was unendurable to the American and the Briton. The Americans,
however, were in so great a minority that it was upon the British that
the brunt of the struggle for freedom fell. Apart from the fact that
the British were more numerous than all the other Uitlanders combined,
there were special reasons why they should feel their humiliating
position more than the members of any other race. In the first place,
many of the British were British South Africans, who knew that in the
neighbouring countries which gave them birth the most liberal possible
institutions had been given to the kinsmen of these very Boers who
were refusing them the management of their own drains and water
supply. And again, every Briton knew that Great Britain claimed to be
the paramount power in South Africa, and so he felt as if his own
land, to which he might have looked for protection, was conniving at
and acquiescing in his ill treatment. As citizens of the paramount
power, it was peculiarly galling that they should be held in political
subjection. The British, therefore, were the most persistent and
energetic of the agitators.

But it is a poor cause which cannot bear to fairly state and honestly
consider the case of its opponents. The Boers had made, as has been
briefly shown, great efforts to establish a country of their own.
They had travelled far, worked hard, and fought bravely. After all
their efforts they were fated to see an influx of strangers into their
country, some of them men of questionable character, who outnumbered
the original inhabitants. If the franchise were granted to these,
there could be no doubt that though at first the Boers might control a
majority of the votes, it was only a question of time before the
newcomers would dominate the Raad and elect their own President, who
might adopt a policy abhorrent to the original owners of the
land. Were the Boers to lose by the ballot-box the victory which they
had won by their rifles? Was it fair to expect it? These newcomers
came for gold. They got their gold. Their companies paid a hundred
per cent. Was not that enough to satisfy them? If they did not like
the country why did they not leave it? No one compelled them to stay
there. But if they stayed, let them be thankful that they were
tolerated at all, and not presume to interfere with the laws of those
by whose courtesy they were allowed to enter the country.

That is a fair statement of the Boer position, and at first sight an
impartial man might say that there was a good deal to say for it; but
a closer examination would show that, though it might be tenable in
theory, it is unjust and impossible in practice.

In the present crowded state of the world a policy of Thibet may be
carried out in some obscure corner, but it cannot be done in a great
tract. of country which lies right across the main line of industrial
progress. The position is too absolutely artificial. A handful of
people by the right of conquest take possession of an enormous country
over which they are dotted at such intervals that it is their boast
that one farmhouse cannot see the smoke of another, and yet, though
their numbers are so disproportionate to the area which they cover,
they refuse to admit any other people upon equal terms, but claim to
be a privileged class who shall dominate the newcomers completely.
They are outnumbered in their own land by immigrants who are far more
highly educated and progressive, and yet they hold them down in a way
which exists nowhere else upon earth. What is their right? The right
of conquest. Then the same right may be justly invoked to reverse so
intolerable a situation. This they would themselves acknowledge.
'Come on and fight ! Come on!' cried a member of the Volksraad when
the franchise petition of the Uitlanders was presented. 'Protest!
Protest! What is the good of protesting?' said Kruger to
Mr. W. Y. Campbell; 'you have not got the guns, I have.' There was
always the final court of appeal. Judge Creusot and Judge Mauser were
always behind the President.

Again, the argument of the Boers would be more valid had they received
no benefit from these immigrants. If they had ignored them they might
fairly have stated that they did not desire their presence. But even
while they protested they grew rich at the Uitlander's expense. They
could not have it both ways. It would be consistent to discourage him
and not profit by him, or to make him comfortable and build the State
upon his money; but to ill-treat him and at the same time to grow
strong by his taxation must surely be an injustice.

And again, the whole argument is based upon the narrow racial
supposition that every naturalised citizen not of Boer extraction must
necessarily be unpatriotic. This is not borne out by the examples of
history. The newcomer soon becomes 'as proud of his country and as
jealous of her liberty as the old. Had President Kruger given the
franchise generously to the Uitlander, his pyramid would have been
firm upon its base and not balanced upon its apex. It is true that
the corrupt oligarchy would have vanished, and the spirit of a broader
more tolerant freedom influenced the counsels of the State. But the
republic would have become stronger and more permanent, with a
population who, if they differed in details, were united in
essentials. Whether such a solution would have been to the advantage
of British interests in South Africa is quite another question. In
more ways than one President Kruger has been a good friend to the
empire.

So much upon the general question of the reason why the Uitlander
should agitate and why the Boer was obdurate. The details of the long
struggle between the seekers for the franchise and the refusers of it
may be quickly sketched, but they cannot be entirely ignored by any
one who desires to understand the inception of that great contest
which was the outcome of the dispute.

At the time of the Convention of Pretoria (1881) the rights of
burghership might be obtained by one year's residence. In 1882 it was
raised to five years, the reasonable limit which obtains both in Great
Britain and in the United States. Had it remained so, it is safe to
say that there would never have been either an Uitlander question or a
great Boer war. Grievances would have been righted from the inside
without external interference.

In 1890 the inrush of outsiders alarmed the Boers, and the franchise
was raised so as to be only attainable by those who had lived fourteen
years in the country. The Uitlanders, who were increasing rapidly in
numbers and were suffering from the formidable list of grievances
already enumerated, perceived that their wrongs were so numerous that
it was hopeless to have them set right seriatim, and that only by
obtaining the leverage of the franchise could they hope to move the
heavy burden which weighed them down. In 1893 a petition of 13,000
Uitlanders, couched in most respectful terms, was submitted to the
Raad, but met with contemptuous neglect. Undeterred, however, by this
failure, the National Reform Union, an association which organised the
agitation, came back to the attack in 1894. They drew up a petition
which was signed by 35,000 adult male Uitlanders, a greater number
than the total Boer male population of the country. A small liberal
body in the Raad supported this memorial and endeavoured in vain to
obtain some justice for the newcomers. Mr. Jeppe was the mouthpiece of
this select band. 'They own half the soil, they pay at least three
quarters of the taxes,' said he. 'They are men who in capital, energy,
and education are at least our equals.

What will become of us or our children on that day when we may find
ourselves in a minority of one in twenty without a single friend among
the other nineteen, among those who will then tell us that they wished
to be brothers, but that we by our own act have made them strangers to
the republic?' Such reasonable and liberal sentiments were combated by
members who asserted that the signatures could not belong to
law-abiding citizens, since they were actually agitating against the
law of the franchise, and others whose intolerance was expressed by
the defiance of the member already quoted, who challenged the
Uitlanders to come out and fight. The champions of exclusiveness and
racial hatred won the day. The memorial was rejected by sixteen votes
to eight, and the franchise law was, on the initiative of the
President, actually made more stringent than ever, being framed in
such a way that during the fourteen years of probation the applicant
should give up his previous nationality, so that for that period he
would really belong to no country at all. No hopes were held out that
any possible attitude upon the part of the Uitlanders would soften the
determination of the President and his burghers. One who remonstrated
was led outside the State buildings by the President, who pointed up
at the national flag. 'You see that flag?' said he. 'If I grant the
franchise, I may as well pull it down.' His animosity against the
immigrants was bitter. 'Burghers, friends, thieves, murderers,
newcomers, and others,' is the conciliatory opening of one of his
public addresses. Though Johannesburg is only thirty-two miles from
Pretoria, and though the State of which he was the head depended for
its revenue upon the gold fields, he paid it only three visits in nine
years.

This settled animosity was deplorable, but not unnatural. A man imbued
with the idea of a chosen people, and unread in any book save the one
which cultivates this very idea, could not be expected to have learned
the historical lessons of the advantages which a State reaps from a
liberal policy. To him it was as if the Ammonites and Moabites had
demanded admission into the twelve tribes. He mistook an agitation
against the exclusive policy of the State for one against the
existence of the State itself. A wide franchise would have made his
republic firm-based and permanent. It was a small minority of the
Uitlanders who had any desire to come into the British system. They
were a cosmopolitan crowd, only united by the bond of a common
injustice. But when every other method had failed, and their petition
for the rights of freemen had been flung back at them, it was natural
that their eyes should turn to that flag which waved to the north, the
west, and the south of them -- the flag which means purity of government
with equal rights and equal duties for all men. Constitutional
agitation was laid aside, arms were smuggled in, and everything
prepared for an organised rising.

The events which followed at the beginning of 1896 have been so
thrashed out that there is, perhaps, nothing left to tell -- except
the truth. So far as the Uitlanders themselves are concerned, their
action was most natural and justifiable, and they have no reason to
exculpate themselves for rising against such oppression as no men of
our race have ever been submitted to. Had they trusted only to
themselves and the justice of their cause, their moral and even their
material position would have been infinitely stronger. But
unfortunately there were forces behind them which were more
questionable, the nature and extent of which have never yet, in spite
of two commissions of investigation, been properly revealed. That
there should have been any attempt at misleading inquiry, or
suppressing documents in order to shelter individuals, is deplorable,
for the impression left -- I believe an entirely false one -- must be
that the British Government connived at an expedition which was as
immoral as it was disastrous.

It had been arranged that the town was to rise upon a certain night,
that Pretoria should be attacked, the fort seized, and the rifles and
ammunition used to arm the Uitlanders. It was a feasible device,
though it must seem to us, who have had such an experience of the
military virtues of the burghers, a very desperate one. But it is
conceivable that the rebels might have held Johannesburg until the
universal sympathy which their cause excited throughout South Africa
would have caused Great Britain to intervene. Unfortunately they had
complicated matters by asking for outside help. Mr. Cecil Rhodes was
Premier of the Cape, a man of immense energy, and one who had rendered
great services to the empire. The motives of his action are obscure
-- certainly, we may say that they were not sordid, for he has always
been a man whose thoughts were large and whose habits were simple. But
whatever they may have been -- whether an ill-regulated desire to
consolidate South Africa under British rule, or a burning sympathy
with the Uitlanders in their fight against injustice -- it is certain
that he allowed his lieutenant, Dr. Jameson, to assemble the mounted
police of the Chartered Company, of which Rhodes was founder and
director, for the purpose of co-operating with the rebels at
Johannesburg. Moreover, when the revolt at Johannesburg was
postponed, on account of a disagreement as to which flag they were to
rise under, it appears that Jameson (with or without the orders of
Rhodes) forced the hand of the conspirators by invading the country
with a force absurdly inadequate to the work which he had taken in
hand. Five hundred policemen and three field guns made up the forlorn
hope who started from near Mafeking and crossed the Transvaal border
upon December 29th, 1895. On January 2nd they were surrounded by the
Boers amid the broken country near Dornkop, and after losing many of
their number killed and wounded, without food and with spent horses,
they were compelled to lay down their arms. Six burghers lost their
lives in the skirmish.

The Uitlanders have been severely criticised for not having sent out a
force to help Jameson in his difficulties, but it is impossible to see
how they could have acted in any other manner. They had done all they
could to prevent Jameson coming to their relief, and now it was rather
unreasonable to suppose that they should relieve their reliever.
Indeed, they had an entirely exaggerated idea of the strength of the
force which he was bringing, and received the news of his capture with
incredulity. When it became confirmed they rose, but in a halfhearted
fashion which was not due to want of courage, but to the difficulties
of their position. On the one hand, the British Government disowned
Jameson entirely, and did all it could to discourage the rising; on
the other, the President had the raiders in his keeping at Pretoria,
and let it be understood that their fate depended upon the behaviour
of the Uitlanders. They were led to believe that Jameson would be
shot unless they laid down their arms, though, as a matter of fact,
Jameson and his people had surrendered upon a promise of quarter. So
skillfully did Kruger use his hostages that he succeeded, with the help
of the British Commissioner, in getting the thousands of excited
Johannesburgers to lay down their arms without bloodshed. Completely
out-manoeuvred by the astute old President, the leaders of the reform
movement used all their influence in the direction of peace, thinking
that a general amnesty would follow; but the moment that they and
their people were helpless the detectives and armed burghers occupied
the town, and sixty of their number were hurried to Pretoria Gaol.

To the raiders themselves the President behaved with great generosity.
Perhaps he could not find it in his heart to be harsh to the men who
had managed to put him in the right and won for him the sympathy of
the world. His own illiberal and oppressive treatment of the newcomers
was forgotten in the face of this illegal inroad of filibusters. The
true issues were so obscured by this intrusion that it has taken years
to clear them, and perhaps they will never be wholly cleared. It was
forgotten that it was the bad government of the country which was the
real cause of the unfortunate raid. From then onwards the government
might grow worse and worse, but it was always possible to point to the
raid as justifying everything. Were the Uitlanders to have the
franchise? How could they expect it after the raid? Would Britain
object to the enormous importation of arms and obvious preparations
for war? They were only precautions against a second raid. For years
the raid stood in the way, not only of all progress, but of all
remonstrance. Through an action over which they had no control, and
which they had done their best to prevent, the British Government was
left with a bad case and a weakened moral authority.

The raiders were sent home, where the rank and file were very properly
released, and the chief officers were condemned to terms of
imprisonment which certainly did not err upon the side of
severity. Cecil Rhodes was left unpunished, he retained his place in
the Privy Council, and his Chartered Company continued to have a
corporate existence. This was illogical and inconclusive. As Kruger
said, 'It is not the dog which should be beaten, but the man who set
him on to me.' Public opinion -- in spite of, or on account of, a
crowd of witnesses -- was ill informed upon the exact bearings of the
question, and it was obvious that as Dutch sentiment at the Cape
appeared already to be thoroughly hostile to us, it would be dangerous
to alienate the British Africanders also by making a martyr of their
favourite leader. But whatever arguments may be founded upon
expediency, it is clear that the Boers bitterly resented, and with
justice, the immunity of Rhodes.

In the meantime, both President Kruger and his burghers had shown a
greater severity to the political prisoners from Johannesburg than to
the armed followers of Jameson. The nationality of these prisoners is
interesting and suggestive. There were twenty-three Englishmen,
sixteen South Africans, nine Scotchmen, six Americans, two Welshmen,
one Irishman, one Australian, one Hollander, one Bavarian, one
Canadian, one Swiss, and one Turk. The prisoners were arrested in
January, but the trial did not take place until the end of April. All
were found guilty of high treason. Mr. Lionel Phillips, Colonel Rhodes
(brother of Mr. Cecil Rhodes), George Farrar, and Mr. Hammond, the
American engineer, were condemned to death, a sentence which was
afterwards commuted to the payment of an enormous fine. The other
prisoners were condemned to two years' imprisonment, with a fine of
2,OOOL. each. The imprisonment was of the most arduous and trying
sort, and was embittered by the harshness of the gaoler, Du
Plessis. One of the unfortunate men cut his throat, and several fell
seriously ill, the diet and the sanitary conditions being equally
unhealthy. At last at the end of May all the prisoners but six were
released. Four of the six soon followed, two stalwarts, Sampson and
Davies, refusing to sign any petition and remaining in prison until
they were set free in 1897. Altogether the Transvaal Government
received in fines from the reform prisoners the enormous sum of
212,000L. A certain comic relief was immediately afterwards given to
so grave an episode by the presentation of a bill to Great Britain for
1,677,938L. 3s. 3d.-- the greater part of which was under the heading
of moral and intellectual damage.

The raid was past and the reform movement was past, but the causes
which produced them both remained. It is hardly conceivable that a
statesman who loved his country would have refrained from making
some effort to remove a state of things which had already caused such
grave dangers, and which must obviously become more serious with every
year that passed. But Paul Kruger had hardened his heart, and was not
to be moved. The grievances of the Uitlanders became heavier than
ever. The one power in the land to which they had been able to appeal
for some sort of redress amid their grievances was the law courts. Now
it was decreed that the courts should be dependent on the
Volksraad. The Chief Justice protested against such a degradation of
his high office, and he was dismissed in consequence without a
pension. The judge who had condemned the reformers was chosen to fill
the vacancy, and the protection of a fixed law was withdrawn from the
Uitlanders.

A commission appointed by the State was sent to examine into the
condition of the mining industry and the grievances from which the
newcomers suffered. The chairman was Mr. Schalk Burger, one of the
most liberal of the Boers, and the proceedings were thorough and
impartial. The result was a report which amply vindicated the
reformers, and suggested remedies which would have gone a long way
towards satisfying the Uitlanders. With such enlightened legislation
their motives for seeking the franchise would have been less
pressing. But the President and his Raad would have none of the
recommendations of the commission. The rugged old autocrat declared
that Schalk Burger was a traitor to his country for having signed such
a document, and a new reactionary committee was chosen to report upon
the report. Words and papers were the only outcome of the affair. No
amelioration came to the newcomers. But at least they had again put
their case publicly upon record, and it had been endorsed by the most
respected of the burghers. Gradually in the press of the
English-speaking countries the raid was ceasing to obscure the
issue. More and more clearly it was coming out that no permanent
settlement was possible where the majority of the population was
oppressed by the minority. They had tried peaceful means and failed.
They had tried warlike means and failed. What was there left for them
to do? Their own country, the paramount power of South Africa, had
never helped them. Perhaps if it were directly appealed to it might do
so. It could not, if only for the sake of its own imperial prestige,
leave its children for ever in a state of subjection. The Uitlanders
determined upon a petition to the Queen, and in doing so they brought
their grievances out of the limits of a local controversy into the
broader field of international politics. Great Britain must either
protect them or acknowledge that their protection was beyond her
power. A direct petition to the Queen praying for protection was
signed in April 1899 by twenty-one thousand Uitlanders. From that time
events moved inevitably towards the one end. Sometimes the surface was
troubled and sometimes smooth, but the stream always ran swiftly and
the roar of the fall sounded ever louder in the ears.

Arthur Conan Doyle