Subscribe for ad free access & additional features for teachers. Authors: 267, Books: 3,607, Poems & Short Stories: 4,435, Forum Members: 71,154, Forum Posts: 1,238,602, Quizzes: 344

Introduction


"I am told that these men (the Boers) are told to keep on agitating in
this way, for a change of Government in England may give them again
the old order of things. Nothing can show greater ignorance of English
politics than such an idea. I tell you there is no Government--Whig
or Tory, Liberal, Conservative, or Radical--who would dare, under any
circumstances, to give back this country (the Transvaal). They would not
dare, because the English people would not allow them."--(Extract
from Speech of Sir Garnet Wolseley, delivered at a Public Banquet in
Pretoria, on the 17th December 1879.
)

"There was a still stronger reason than that for not receding (from
the Transvaal); it was impossible to say what calamities such a step
as receding might not cause. . . . For such a risk he could not make
himself responsible. . . . Difficulties with the Zulu and the frontier
tribes would again arise, and looking as they must to South Africa as
a whole, the Government, after a careful consideration of the
question, came to the conclusion that we could not relinquish the
Transvaal."--(Extract from Speech of Lord Kimberley in the House of
Lords, 24th May 1880. H. P. D., vol. cclii., p. 208.
)

--

INTRODUCTION

The writer on Colonial Affairs is naturally, to some extent, discouraged
by the knowledge that the subject is an unattractive one to a large
proportion of the reading public. It is difficult to get up anything
beyond a transient interest in the affairs of our Colonial dependencies;
indeed, I believe that the mind of the British public was more
profoundly moved by the exodus of Jumbo, than it would be were one of
them to become the scene of some startling catastrophe. This is the
more curious, inasmuch as, putting aside all sentimental considerations,
which indeed seem to be out of harmony with the age we live in: the
trade done, even with such comparatively insignificant colonies as our
South African possessions, amounts to a value of many millions of pounds
sterling per annum. Now, as the preachers of the new gospel that hails
from Birmingham and Northampton have frequently told us, trade is
the life-blood of England, and must be fostered at any price. It is
therefore surprising that, looking on them in the light of a commercial
speculation, in which aspect (saith the preacher) they are alone
worthy of notice, a keener interest is not taken in the well-being and
development of the Colonies. We have only to reflect to see how great
are the advantages that the Mother Country derives from the possession
of her Colonial Empire; including, as they do, a home for her surplus
children, a vast and varied market for her productions, and a wealth of
old-fashioned loyalty and deep attachment to the Old Country--"home,"
as it is always called--which, even if it is out of date, might prove
useful on emergency. It seems therefore, almost a pity that some Right
Honourable Gentlemen and their followers should adopt the tone they do
with reference to the Colonies. After all, there is an odd shuffling of
the cards going on now in England; and great as she is, her future looks
by no means sunny. Events in these latter days develop themselves very
quickly; and though the idea may, at the present moment, seem absurd,
surely it is possible that, what between the rapid spread of Radical
ideas, the enmity of Ireland, the importation of foreign produce, and
the competition of foreign trade, to say nothing of all the unforeseen
accidents and risks of the future, the Englishmen of, say, two
generations hence, may not find their country in her present proud
position. Perhaps, and stranger things have happened in the history of
the world, she may by that time be under the protection of those very
Colonies for which their forefathers had such small affection.

The position of South Africa with reference to the Mother Country
is somewhat different to that of her sister Colonies, in that she is
regarded, not so much with apathy tinged with dislike, as with downright
disgust. This feeling has its foundation in the many troubles and
expenses in which this country has been recently involved, through local
complications in the Cape, Zululand, and the Transvaal: and indeed is
little to be wondered at. But, whilst a large portion of the press has
united with a powerful party of politicians in directing a continuous
stream of abuse on to the heads of the white inhabitants of South
Africa, whom they do not scruple to accuse of having created the recent
disturbances in order to reap a money profit from them: it does not
appear to have struck anybody that the real root of this crop of
troubles might, after all, be growing nearer home. The truth of the
matter is, that native and other problems in South Africa have, till
quite lately, been left to take their chance, and solve themselves as
best they might; except when they have, in a casual manner, been made
the _corpus vile_ of some political experiment. It was during this long
period of inaction, when each difficulty--such as the native question in
Natal--was staved off to be dealt with by the next Government, that the
seed was sown of which we are at present reaping the fruit. In addition
to this, matters have recently been complicated by the elevation of
South African affairs to the dignity of an English party question.
Thus, the Transvaal Annexation was made use of as a war-cry in the
last general election, a Boer rebellion was thereby encouraged, which
resulted in a complete reversal of our previous policy.

Now, if there is any country dependent on England that requires the
application to the conduct of its affairs of a firm, considered, and
consistent policy, that country is South Africa. Boers and Natives are
quite incapable of realising the political necessities of any of
our parties, or of understanding why their true interests should be
sacrificed in order to minister to those necessities. It is our wavering
and uncertain policy, as applied to peoples, who look upon every
hesitating step as a sign of fear and failing dominion, that, in
conjunction with previous postponement and neglect, has really caused
our troubles in South Africa. For so long as the affairs of that
country are influenced by amateurs and sentimentalists, who have no real
interest in it, and whose knowledge of its circumstances and conditions
of life is gleaned from a few blue-books, superficially got up to enable
the reader to indite theoretical articles to the "Nineteenth Century,"
or deliver inaccurate speeches in the House of Commons--for so long will
those troubles continue.

If I may venture to make a suggestion, the affairs of South Africa
should be controlled by a Board or Council, like that which formerly
governed India, composed of moderate members of both parties, with an
admixture of men possessing practical knowledge of the country. I do not
know if any such arrangement would be possible under our constitution,
but the present system of government, by which the control of savage
races fluctuates in obedience of every variation of English party
politics, is most mischievous in its results.

The public, however, is somewhat tired of South Africa, and the reader
may, perhaps, wonder why he should be troubled with more literature on
the subject. I can assure him that these pages are not written in order
to give me an opportunity of airing my individual experiences or ideas.
Their object is shortly--(1.) To give a true history of the events
attendant on the Annexation of the Transvaal, which act has so
frequently been assigned to the most unworthy motives, and has never
yet been fairly described by any one who was in a position to know
the facts; (2.) To throw as much publicity as possible on the present
disgraceful state of Zululand, resulting from our recent settlement in
that country; (3.) To show all interested in the Kafir races what has
been the character of our recent surrender in the Transvaal, and what
its effect will be on our abandoned native subjects living in that
country.

It may, perhaps, seem an odd statement, considering that I have lived
in various parts of South Africa for about six years, and have, perhaps,
enjoyed exceptional advantage in forming my opinions, when I say that my
chief fear in publishing the present volume, is lest my knowledge of my
subject in all its bearings should not be really equal to the task. It
is, I know, the fashion to treat South African difficulties as being
simple of solution. Thus it only took Sir Garnet Wolseley a few weeks
to understand the whole position of Zulu affairs, and to execute his
memorable settlement of that country: whilst eminent writers appear to
be able, in scampering from Durban _via_ Kimberley to Cape Town in a
post-cart, to form decided opinions upon every important question
in South Africa. The power of thus rapidly assimilating intricate
knowledge, and of seeing straight through a wall whilst ordinary
individuals are still criticising the bricks, is no doubt one of the
peculiar privileges of genius--which is, perhaps fortunately for South
Africa--rare. To the common run of mind, however, the difficulty of
forming a sound and accurate judgment on the interlacing problems that
disclose themselves to the student of the politics of South-Eastern
Africa, is exceedingly great and the work of years.

But although it is by no means perfect, I think that my knowledge of
these problems and of their imminent issues is sufficiently intimate
to justify me in making a prophecy--namely, that unless the native and
other questions of South-Eastern Africa are treated with more honest
intelligence, and on a more settled plan than it has hitherto been
thought necessary to apply to them, the British taxpayer will find that
he has _by no means_ heard the last of that country and its wars.

There is one more point to which, although it hardly comes within the
scope of this volume, I have made some allusion, and which I venture to
suggest deserves the consideration of thinking Englishmen. I refer to
the question of the desirability of allowing the Dutch in South Africa,
who are already numerically the strongest, to continue to advance with
such rapid strides towards political supremacy. That the object of
this party is to reduce Englishmen and English ideas to a subordinate
position in the State, if not actually to rid itself of our rule and
establish a republic, there is no manner of doubt. Indeed, there exists
a powerful organisation, the Africander Bond, which has its headquarters
in the Cape, and openly devotes its energies to forwarding these ends,
by offering a sturdy opposition to the introduction of English emigrants
and the use of the English language, whilst striving in every way to
excite class prejudices and embitter the already strained relations
between Englishman and Boer. In considering this question, it is as well
not to lose sight of the fact that the Dutch are as a body, at heart
hostile to our rule, chiefly because they cannot tolerate our lenient
behaviour to the native races. Should they by any chance cease to be the
subjects of England, they will, I believe, become her open enemies. This
of itself would be comparatively unimportant, were it not for the fact
that, in the event of the blocking of the Suez Canal, it would be, to
say the least, inconvenient that the Cape should be in the hands of a
hostile population.

In conclusion, I wish to state that this book is not written for any
party purpose. I have tried to describe a state of affairs which has for
the most part come under my own observation, and events in which I have
been interested, and at times engaged. That the naked truths of such
a business as the Transvaal surrender, or of the present condition of
Zululand, are unpleasant reading for an Englishman, there is no doubt;
but, so far as these pages are concerned, they owe none of their
ugliness to undue colouring or political bias.

Windham Club, St. James' Square, June 1882.

H. Rider Haggard

Sorry, no summary available yet.