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Chapter 3


Anxiety of Lord Carnarvon--Despatch of Sir T. Shepstone as Special
Commissioner to the Transvaal--Sir T. Shepstone, his great experience
and ability--His progress to Pretoria and reception there--Feelings
excited by the arrival of the mission--The annexation _not_ a foregone
conclusion--Charge brought against Sir T. Shepstone of having called up
the Zulu army to sweep the Transvaal--Its complete falsehood--Cetywayo's
message to Sir T. Shepstone--Evidence on the matter summed up--General
desire of the natives for English rule--Habitual disregard of their
interests--Assembly of the Volksraad--Rejection of Lord Carnarvon's
Confederation Bill and of President Burgers' new constitution--
President Burgers' speeches to the Raad--His posthumous statement
--Communication to the Raad of Sir T. Shepstone's intention to annex the
country--Despatch of Commission to inquire into the alleged peace with
Secocoeni--Its fraudulent character discovered--Progress of affairs
in the Transvaal--Paul Kruger and his party--Restlessness of
natives--Arrangements for the annexation--The annexation proclamation.


The state of affairs described in the previous chapter was one that
filled the Secretary of State for the Colonies with alarm. During his
tenure of office, Lord Carnarvon evidently had the permanent welfare
of South Africa much at heart, and he saw with apprehension that the
troubles that were brewing in the Transvaal were of a nature likely to
involve the Cape and Natal in a native war. Though there is a broad line
of demarcation between Dutch and English, it is not so broad but that
a victorious nation like the Zulus might cross it, and beginning by
fighting the Boer, might end by fighting the white man irrespective of
race. When the reader reflects how terrible would be the consequences of
a combination of native tribes against the Whites, and how easily such
a combination might at that time have been brought about in the first
flush of native successes, he will understand the anxiety with which all
thinking men watched the course of events in the Transvaal in 1876.

At last they took such a serious turn that the Home Government saw that
some action must be taken if the catastrophe was to be averted, and
determined to despatch Sir Theophilus Shepstone as Special Commissioner
to the Transvaal, with powers, should it be necessary, to annex the
country to Her Majesty's dominions, "in order to secure the peace and
safety of Our said colonies and of Our subjects elsewhere."

The terms of his Commission were unusually large, leaving a great deal
to his discretionary power. In choosing that officer for the execution
of a most difficult and delicate mission, the Government, doubtless,
made a very wise selection. Sir Theophilus Shepstone is a man of
remarkable tact and ability, combined with great openness and simplicity
of mind, and one whose name will always have a leading place in South
African history. During a long official lifetime he has had to do with
most of the native races in South Africa, and certainly knows them and
their ways better than any living man; whilst he is by them all regarded
with a peculiar and affectionate reverence. He is _par excellence_ their
great white chief and "father," and a word from him, even now that he
has retired from active life, still carries more weight than the formal
remonstrances of any governor in South Africa.

With the Boers he is almost equally well acquainted, having known many
of them personally for years. He possesses, moreover, the rare power of
winning the regard and affection, as well as the respect, of those about
him in such a marked degree that those who have served him once would
go far to serve him again. Sir T. Shepstone, however, has enemies like
other people, and is commonly reported among them to be a disciple of
Machiavelli, and to have his mind steeped in all the darker wiles of
Kafir policy. The Annexation of the Transvaal is by them attributed to
a successful and vigorous use of those arts that distinguished the
diplomacy of two centuries ago. Falsehood and bribery are supposed to
have been the great levers used to effect the change, together with
threats of extinction at the hands of a savage and unfriendly nation.

That the Annexation was a triumph of mind over matter is quite true, but
whether or not that triumph was unworthily obtained, I will leave those
who read this short chronicle of the events connected with it to judge.
I saw it somewhat darkly remarked in a newspaper the other day that the
history of the Annexation had evidently yet to be written; and I fear
that the remark represents the feeling of most people about the
event; implying as it did, that it was carried out, by means certainly
mysterious, and presumably doubtful. I am afraid that those who think
thus will be disappointed in what I have to say about the matter, since
I know that the means employed to bring the Boers--

"Fracti bello, fatisque repulsi"--

under her Majesty's authority were throughout as fair and honest as the
Annexation itself was, in my opinion, right and necessary.

To return to Sir T. Shepstone. He undoubtedly had faults as a ruler,
one of the most prominent of which was that his natural mildness of
character would never allow him to act with severity even when severity
was necessary. The very criminals condemned to death ran a good chance
of reprieve when he had to sign their death-warrants. He had also
that worst of faults (so called), in one fitted by nature to become
great--want of ambition, a failing that in such a man marks him the
possessor of an even and a philosophic mind. It was no seeking of his
own that raised him out of obscurity, and when his work was done to
comparative obscurity he elected to return, though whether a man of his
ability and experience in South African affairs should, at the present
crisis, be allowed to remain there, is another question.

On the 20th December 1876, Sir T. Shepstone wrote to President Burgers,
informing him of his approaching visit to the Transvaal, to secure, if
possible, the adjustment of the existing troubles, and the adoption of
such measures as might be best calculated to prevent their recurrence in
the future.

On his road to Pretoria, Sir Theophilus received a hearty welcome from
the Boer as well as the English inhabitants of the country. One of
these addresses to him says: "Be assured, high honourable Sir, that we
burghers, now assembled together, entertain the most friendly feeling
towards your Government, and that we shall agree with anything you may
do in conjunction with our Government for the progress of our State, the
strengthening against our native enemies, and for the general welfare of
all the inhabitants of the whole of South Africa. Welcome in Heidelberg,
and welcome in the Transvaal."

At Pretoria the reception of the Special Commissioner was positively
enthusiastic; the whole town came out to meet him, and the horses having
been taken out of the carriage, he was dragged in triumph through the
streets. In his reply to the address presented to him, Sir Theophilus
shadowed forth the objects of his mission in these words: "Recent events
in this country have shown to all thinking men the absolute necessity
for closer union and more oneness of purpose among the Christian
Governments of the southern portion of this Continent: the best
interests of the native races, no less than the peace and prosperity
of the white, imperatively demand it, and I rely upon you and upon your
Government to co-operate with me in endeavouring to achieve the great
and glorious end of inscribing on a general South African banner the
appropriate motto--'Eendragt maakt magt' (Unity makes strength)."

A few days after his arrival a commission was appointed, consisting of
Messrs. Henderson and Osborn, on behalf of the Special Commissioner, and
Messrs. Kruger and Jorissen, on behalf of the Transvaal Government, to
discuss the state of the country. This commission came to nothing, and
was on both sides nothing more than a bit of by-play.

The arrival of the mission was necessarily regarded with mixed feelings
by the inhabitants of the Transvaal. By one party it was eagerly
greeted, viz., the English section of the population, who devoutly
hoped that it had come to annex the country. With the exception of the
Hollander element, the officials also were glad of its arrival, and
secretly hoped that the country would be taken over, when there would be
more chance of their getting their arrear pay. The better educated Boers
also were for the most part satisfied that there was no hope for the
country unless England helped it in some way, though they did not like
having to accept the help. But the more bigoted and narrow-minded among
them were undoubtedly opposed to English interference, and under their
leader, Paul Kruger, who was at the time running for the President's
chair, did their best to be rid of it. They found ready allies in the
Hollander clientele, with which Mr. Burgers had surrounded himself,
headed by the famous Dr. Jorissen, who was, like most of the rulers of
this singular State, an ex-clergyman, but now an Attorney-general, not
learned in the law. These men were for the most part entirely unfit for
the positions they held, and feared that in the event of the country
changing hands they might be ejected from them; and also, they did all
Englishmen the favour to regard them, with that particularly virulent
and general hatred which is a part of the secret creed of many
foreigners, more especially of such as are under our protection. As may
easily be imagined, what between all these different parties and the
presence of the Special Commissioner, there were certainly plenty of
intrigues going on in Pretoria during the first few months of 1877,
and the political excitement was very great. Nobody knew how far Sir T.
Shepstone was prepared to go, and everybody was afraid of putting out
his hand further than he could pull it back, and trying to make himself
comfortable on two stools at once. Members of the Volksraad and other
prominent individuals in the country who had during the day been
denouncing the Commissioner in no measured terms, and even proposing
that he and his staff should be shot as a warning to the English
Government, might be seen arriving at his house under cover of the
shades of evening, to have a little talk with him, and express the
earnest hope that it was his intention to annex the country as soon as
possible. It is necessary to assist at a peaceable annexation to learn
the depth of meanness human nature is capable of.

In Pretoria, at any rate, the ladies were of great service to the cause
of the mission, since they were nearly all in favour of a change of
government, and, that being the case, they naturally soon brought their
husbands, brothers, and lovers to look at things from the same point
of view. It was a wise man who said that in any matter where it is
necessary to obtain the goodwill of a population you should win over the
women; that done, you need not trouble yourself about the men.

Though the country was thus overflowing with political intrigues,
nothing of the kind went on in the Commissioner's camp. It was not he
who made the plots to catch the Transvaalers; on the contrary, they made
the plots to catch him. For several months all that he did was to sit
still and let the rival passions work their way, fighting what the Zulus
afterwards called the "fight of sit down." When anybody came to see him
he was very glad to meet them, pointed out the desperate condition of
the country, and asked them if they could suggest a remedy. And that was
about all he did do, beyond informing himself very carefully as to
all that was going on in the country, and the movements of the natives
within and outside its borders. There was no money spent on bribery, as
has been stated, though it is impossible to imagine a state of affairs
in which it would have been more easy to bribe, or in which it could
have been done with greater effect; unless indeed the promise that some
pension should be paid to President Burgers can be called a bribe, which
it was certainly never intended to be, but simply a guarantee that after
having spent all his private means on behalf of the State he should not
be left destitute. The statement that the Annexation was effected
under a threat that if the Government did not give its consent Sir T.
Shepstone would let loose the Zulus on the country is also a wicked and
malicious invention, but with this I shall deal more at length further

It must not, however, be understood that the Annexation was a foregone
conclusion, or that Sir T. Shepstone came up to the Transvaal with
the fixed intention of annexing the country without reference to its
position, merely with a view of extending British influence, or, as
has been absurdly stated, in order to benefit Natal. He had no fixed
purpose, whether it were necessary or no, of exercising the full powers
given to him by his commission; on the contrary, he was all along most
anxious to find some internal resources within the State by means of
which Annexation could be averted, and of this fact his various letters
and despatches give full proof. Thus, in his letter to President
Burgers, of the 9th April 1877, in which he announces his intention
of annexing the country, he says: "I have more than once assured your
Honour that if I could think of any plan by which the independence of
the State could be maintained by its own internal resources I would
most certainly not conceal that plan from you." It is also incidentally
remarkably confirmed by a passage in Mr. Burgers' posthumous defence, in
which he says: "Hence I met Shepstone alone in my house, and opened up
the subject of his mission. With a candour that astonished me, he avowed
that his purpose was to annex the country, as he had sufficient grounds
for it, unless I could so alter as to satisfy his Government. My plan of
a new constitution, modelled after that of America, of a standing police
force of two hundred mounted men, was then proposed. He promised to give
me time to call the Volksraad together, and to _abandon his design_ if
the Volksraad would adopt these measures, and the country be willing to
submit to them, and to carry them out." Further on he says: "In justice
to Shepstone I must say that I would not consider an officer of my
Government to have acted faithfully if he had not done what Shepstone

It has also been frequently alleged in England, and always seems to be
taken as the groundwork of argument in the matter of the Annexation,
that the Special Commissioner represented that the majority of the
inhabitants wished for the Annexation, and that it was sanctioned on
that ground. This statement shows the great ignorance that exists in
this country of South African affairs, an ignorance which in this case
has been carefully fostered by Mr. Gladstone's Government for party
purposes, they having found it necessary to assume, in order to make
their position in the matter tenable, that Sir T. Shepstone and other
Officials had been guilty of misrepresentation. Unfortunately, the
Government and its supporters have been more intent upon making out
their case than upon ascertaining the truth of their statements. If they
had taken the trouble to refer to Sir T. Shepstone's despatches, they
would have found that the ground on which the Transvaal was annexed was,
not because the majority of the inhabitants wished for it, but because
the State was drifting into anarchy, was bankrupt, and was about to be
destroyed by native tribes. They would further have found that Sir
T. Shepstone never represented that the majority of the Boers were in
favour of Annexation. What he did say was that most thinking men in the
country saw no other way out of the difficulty; but what proportion of
the Boers can be called "thinking men?" He also said, in the fifteenth
paragraph of his despatch to Lord Carnarvon of 6th March 1877, that
petitions signed by 2500 people, representing every class of the
community, out of a total adult population of 8000, had been presented
to the Government of the Republic, setting forth its difficulties and
dangers, and praying it "to treat with me for their amelioration or
removal." He also stated, and with perfect truth, that many more would
have signed had it not been for the terrorism that was exercised, and
that all the towns and villages in the country desired the change, which
was a patent fact.

This is the foundation on which the charge of misrepresentation is
built--a charge which has been manipulated so skilfully, and with such a
charming disregard for the truth, that the British public has been duped
into believing it. When it is examined into, it vanishes into thin air.

But a darker charge has been brought against the Special Commissioner--a
charge affecting his honour as a gentleman and his character as a
Christian; and, strange to say, has gained a considerable credence,
especially amongst a certain party in England. I allude to the statement
that he called up the Zulu army with the intention of sweeping the
Transvaal if the Annexation was objected to. I may state, from my own
personal knowledge, that the report is a complete falsehood, and that
no such threat was ever made, either by Sir T. Shepstone or by anybody
connected with him, and I will briefly prove what I say.

When the mission first arrived at Pretoria, a message came from Cetywayo
to the effect that he had heard that the Boers had fired at "Sompseu"
(Sir T. Shepstone), and announcing his intention of attacking the
Transvaal if "his father" was touched. About the middle of March
alarming rumours began to spread as to the intended action of Cetywayo
with reference to the Transvaal; but as Sir T. Shepstone did not think
that the king would be likely to make any hostile movement whilst he
was in the country, he took no steps in the matter. Neither did the
Transvaal Government ask his advice and assistance. Indeed, a remarkable
trait in the Boers is their supreme self-conceit, which makes them
believe that they are capable of subduing all the natives in Africa,
and of thrashing the whole British army if necessary. Unfortunately, the
recent course of events has tended to confirm them in their opinion
as regards their white enemies. To return: towards the second week in
April, or the week before the proclamation of annexation was issued,
things began to look very serious; indeed, rumours that could hardly be
discredited reached the Special Commissioner that the whole of the Zulu
army was collected in a chain of Impis or battalions, with the intention
of bursting into the Transvaal and sweeping the country. Knowing
how terrible would be the catastrophe if this were to happen, Sir T.
Shepstone was much alarmed about the matter, and at a meeting with the
Executive Council of the Transvaal Government he pointed out to them
the great danger in which the country was placed. This was done in the
presence of several officers of his Staff, and it was on this friendly
exposition of the state of affairs that the charge that he had
threatened the country with invasion by the Zulus was based. On the 11th
of April, or the day before the Annexation, a message was despatched
to Cetywayo, telling him of the reports that had reached Pretoria,
and stating that if they were true he must forthwith give up all
such intentions, as the Transvaal would at once be placed under the
sovereignty of Her Majesty, and that if he had assembled any armies
for purposes of aggression they must be disbanded at once. Sir T.
Shepstone's message reached Zululand not a day too soon. Had the
Annexation of the Transvaal been delayed by a few weeks even--and this
is a point which I earnestly beg Englishmen to remember in connection
with that act--Cetywayo's armies would have entered the Transvaal,
carrying death before them, and leaving a wilderness behind them.

Cetywayo's answer to the Special Commissioner's message will
sufficiently show, to use Sir Theophilus' own words in his despatch on
the subject, "the pinnacle of peril which the Republic and South Africa
generally had reached at the moment when the Annexation took place." He
says, "I thank my Father Sompseu (Sir T. Shepstone) for his message. I
am glad that he has sent it, because the Dutch have tired me out, and
I intended to fight them once and once only, and to drive them over
the Vaal. Kabana (name of messenger), you see my Impis (armies) are
gathered. It was to fight the Dutch I called them together; now I
will send them back to their homes. Is it well that two men
('amadoda-amabili') should be made 'iziula' (fools)? In the reign of my
father Umpanda the Boers were constantly moving their boundary further
into my country. Since his death the same thing has been done. I had
therefore determined to end it once for all!" The message then goes on
to other matters, and ends with a request to be allowed to fight the
Amaswazi, because "they fight together and kill one another. This," says
Cetywayo naively, "is wrong, and I want to chastise them for it."

This quotation will suffice to convince all reasonable men, putting
aside all other matters, from what imminent danger the Transvaal was
delivered by the much-abused Annexation.

Some months after that event, however, it occurred to the ingenious
mind of some malicious individual in Natal that, properly used, much
political capital might be made out of this Zulu incident, and the story
that Cetywayo's army had been called up by Sir Theophilus himself
to overawe, and, if necessary, subdue the Transvaal, was accordingly
invented and industriously circulated. Although Sir T. Shepstone at
once caused it to be authoritatively contradicted, such an astonishing
slander naturally took firm root, and on the 12th April 1879 we have Mr.
M. W. Pretorius, one of the Boer leaders, publicly stating at a meeting
of the farmers that "previous to the Annexation Sir T. Shepstone had
threatened the Transvaal with an attack from the Zulus as an argument
for advancing the Annexation." Under such an imputation the Government
could no longer keep silence, and accordingly Sir Owen Lanyon, who was
then Administrator of the Transvaal, caused the matter to be officially
investigated, with these results, which are summed up by him in a letter
to Mr. Pretorius, dated 1st May 1879:--

1. The records of the Republican Executive Council contained no allusion
to any such statement.

2. Two members of that Council filed statements in which they
unreservedly denied that Sir T. Shepstone used the words or threats
imputed to him.

3. Two officers of Sir T. Shepstone's staff, who were always present
with him at interviews with the Executive Council, filed statements to
the same effect.

"I have no doubt," adds Sir Owen Lanyon, "that the report has been
originated and circulated by some evil-disposed persons."

In addition to this evidence we have a letter written to the Colonial
Office by Sir T. Shepstone, dated London, August 12, 1879, in which
he points out that Mr. Pretorius was not even present at any of the
interviews with the Executive Council on which occasion he accuses him
of having made use of the threats. He further shows that the use of such
a threat on his part would have been the depth of folly, and "knowingly
to court the instant and ignominious failure of my mission," because
the Boers were so persuaded of their own prowess that they could not be
convinced that they stood in any danger from native sources, and also
because "such play with such keen-edged tools as the excited passions of
savages are, and especially such savages as I knew the Zulus to be, is
not what an experience of forty-two years in managing them inclined me
to." And yet, in the face of all this accumulated evidence, this report
continues to be believed, that is, by those who wished to believe it.

Such are the accusations that have been brought against the manner
of the Annexation and the Officer who carried it out, and never were
accusations more groundless. Indeed both for party purposes, and from
personal animus, every means, fair or foul, has been used to discredit
it and all connected with it. To take a single instance, one author
(Miss Colenso, p. 134, "History of the Zulu War") actually goes the
length of putting a portion of a speech made by President Burgers into
the mouth of Sir T. Shepstone, and then abusing him for his incredible
profanity. Surely this exceeds the limits of fair criticism.

Before I go on to the actual history of the Annexation there is one
point I wish to submit to my reader. In England the change of Government
has always been talked of as though it only affected the forty thousand
white inhabitants of the country, whilst everybody seems to forget
that this same land had about a million human beings living on it, its
original owners, and only, unfortunately for themselves, possessing a
black skin, and therefore entitled to little consideration,--even at the
hands of the most philanthropic Government in the world. It never seems
to have occurred to those who have raised so much outcry on behalf of
the forty thousand Boers, to inquire what was thought of the matter by
the million natives. If they were to be allowed a voice in their own
disposal, the country was certainly annexed by the wish of a very large
majority of its inhabitants. It is true that Secocoeni, instigated
thereto by the Boers, afterwards continued the war against us, but, with
the exception of this one chief, the advent of our rule was hailed with
joy by every native in the Transvaal, and even he was glad of it at the
time. During our period of rule in the Transvaal the natives have had,
as they foresaw, more peace than at any time since the white man set
foot in the land. They have paid their taxes gladly, and there has been
no fighting among themselves; but since we have given up the country
we hear a very different tale. It is this million of men, women, and
children who, notwithstanding their black skins, live and feel, and have
intelligence as much as ourselves, who are the principal, because the
most numerous sufferers from Mr. Gladstone's conjuring tricks, that can
turn a Sovereign into a Suzerain as airily as the professor of magic
brings a litter of guinea-pigs out of a top hat. It is our falsehood
and treachery to them whom we took over "for ever," as we told them, and
whom we have now handed back to their natural enemies to be paid off for
their loyalty to the Englishman, that is the blackest stain in all this
black business, and that has destroyed our prestige, and caused us to be
looked on amongst them, for they do not hide their opinion, as "cowards
and liars."

But very little attention, however, seems to have been paid to native
views or claims at any time in the Transvaal; indeed they have all along
been treated as serfs of the soil, to be sold with it, if necessary, to
a new master. It is true that the Government, acting under pressure
from the Aborigines Protection Society, made, on the occasion of the
Surrender, a feeble effort to secure the independence of some of the
native tribes; but when the Boer leaders told them shortly that they
would have nothing of the sort, and that, if they were not careful, they
would reoccupy Laing's Nek, the proposal was at once dropped, with many
assurances that no offence was intended. The worst of the matter is that
this treatment of our native subjects and allies will assuredly recoil
on the heads of future innocent Governments.

Shortly after the appointment of the Joint-Commission alluded to at the
beginning of this chapter, President Burgers, who was now in possession
of the Special Commissioner's intentions, should he be unable to carry
out reforms sufficiently drastic to satisfy the English Government,
thought it best to call together the Volksraad. In the meantime, it had
been announced that the "rebel" Secocoeni had sued for peace and signed
a treaty declaring himself a subject of the Republic. I shall have to
enter into the question of this treaty a little further on, so I will
at present only say that it was the first business laid before the Raad,
and, after some discussion, ratified. Next in order to the Secocoeni
peace came the question of Confederation, as laid down in Lord
Carnarvon's Permissive Bill. This proposal was laid before them in an
earnest and eloquent speech by their President, who entreated them
to consider the dangerous position of the Republic, and to face their
difficulties like men. The question was referred to a committee, and
an adverse report being brought up, was rejected without further
consideration. It is just possible that intimidation had something to do
with the summary treatment of so important a matter, seeing that whilst
it was being argued a large mob of Boers, looking very formidable with
their sea-cow hide whips, watched every move of their representatives
through the windows of the Volksraad Hall. It was Mr. Chamberlain's
caucus system in practical and visible operation.

A few days after the rejection of the Confederation Bill, President
Burgers, who had frequently alluded to the desperate condition of the
Republic, and stated that either some radical reform must be effected
or the country must come under the British flag, laid before the Raad a
brand new constitution of a very remarkable nature, asserting that they
must either accept it or lose their independence.

The first part of this strange document dealt with the people and their
rights, which remained much as they were before, with the exception that
the secrecy of all letters entrusted to the post was to be inviolable.
The recognition of this right is an amusing incident in the history of a
free Republic. Under following articles the Volksraad was entrusted with
the charge of the native inhabitants of the State, the provision for the
administration of justice, the conduct of education, the regulation of
money-bills, &c. It is in the fourth chapter, however, that we come
to the real gist of the Bill, which was the endowment of the State
President with the authority of a dictator. Mr. Burgers thought to save
the State by making himself an absolute monarch. He was to be elected
for a period of seven years instead of five years, and to be eligible
for re-election. In him was vested the power of making all appointments
without reference to the legislature. All laws were to be drawn up by
him, and he was to have the right of veto on Volksraad resolutions,
which body he could summon and dissolve at will. Finally, his Executive
Council was to consist of heads of departments appointed by himself, and
of one member of the Volksraad. The Volksraad treated this Bill in much
the same way as they had dealt with the Permissive Confederation Bill,
gave it a casual consideration, and threw it out.

The President, meanwhile, was doing his best to convince the Raad of
the danger of the country; that the treasury was empty, whilst duns were
pressing, that enemies were threatening on every side, and, finally,
that Her Majesty's Special Commissioner was encamped within a thousand
yards of them, watching their deliberations with some interest. He
showed them that it was impossible at once to scorn reform and reject
friendly offers, that it was doubtful if anything could save them, but
that if they took no steps they were certainly lost as a nation. The
"Fathers of the land," however, declined to dance to the President's
piping. Then he took a bolder line. He told them that a guilty nation
never can evade the judgment that follows its steps. He asked them
"conscientiously to advise the people not obstinately to refuse a union
with a powerful Government. He could not advise them to refuse such a
union. . . . He did not believe that a new constitution would save
them; for as little as the old constitution had brought them to ruin, so
little would a new constitution bring salvation. . . . If the citizens
of England had behaved towards the Crown as the burghers of this State
had behaved to their Government, England would never have stood so long
as she had." He pointed out to them their hopeless financial position.
"To-day," he said, "a bill for 1100 pounds was laid before me for
signature; but I would sooner have cut off my right hand than sign that
paper--(cheers)--for I have not the slightest ground to expect that,
when that bill becomes due, there will be a penny to pay it with."
And finally, he exhorted them thus: "Let them make the best of the
situation, and get the best terms they possibly could; let them agree to
join their hands to those of their brethren in the south, and then from
the Cape to the Zambesi there would be one great people. Yes, there was
something grand in that, grander even than their idea of a Republic,
something which ministered to their national feeling--(cheers)--and
would this be so miserable? Yes, this would be miserable for those who
would not be under the law, for the rebel and the revolutionist, but
welfare and prosperity for the men of law and order."

These powerful words form a strong indictment against the Republic,
and from them there can be little doubt that President Burgers was
thoroughly convinced of the necessity and wisdom of the Annexation. It
is interesting to compare them, and many other utterances of his made at
this period, with the opinions he expresses in the posthumous document
recently published, in which he speaks somewhat jubilantly of the
lessons taught us on Laing's Nek and Majuba by such "an inherently
weak people as the Boers," and points to them as striking instances of
retribution. In this document he attributes the Annexation to the desire
to advance English supremacy in South Africa, and to lay hold of the way
to Central South Africa. It is, however, noticeable that he does not in
any way indicate how it could have been averted, and the State continue
to exist; and he seems all along to feel that his case is a weak one,
for in explaining, or attempting to explain, why he had never defended
himself from the charges brought against him in connection with the
Annexation, he says: "Had I not endured in silence, had I not borne
patiently all the accusations, but out of selfishness or fear told
the plain truth of the case, the Transvaal would never have had the
consideration it has now received from Great Britain. However unjust the
Annexation was, my self-justification would have _exposed the Boers to
such an extent_, and the state of the country in such a way, that it
would have deprived them both of the sympathy of the world and the
consideration of the English politicians." In other words, "If I had
told the truth about things as I should have been obliged to do
to justify myself, there would have been no more outcry about the
Annexation, because the whole world, even the English Radicals, would
have recognised how necessary it was, and what a fearful state the
country was in."

But to let that pass, it is evident that President Burgers did not take
the same view of the Annexation in 1877 as he did in 1881, and indeed
his speeches to the Volksraad would read rather oddly printed in
parallel columns with his posthumous statement. The reader would be
forced to one of two conclusions, either on one of the two occasions he
is saying what he does not mean, or he must have changed his mind. As
I believe him to have been an honest man, I incline to the latter
supposition; nor do I consider it so very hard to account for, taking
into consideration his natural Dutch proclivities. In 1877 Burgers is
the despairing head of a State driving rapidly to ruin, if not to actual
extinction, when the strong hand of the English Government is held out
to him. What wonder that he accepts it gladly on behalf of his country,
which is by its help brought into a state of greater prosperity than
it has ever before known? In 1881 the wheel has gone round, and great
events have come about whilst he lies dying. The enemies of the Boers
have been destroyed, the powers of the Zulus and Secocoeni are no more;
the country has prospered under a healthy rule, and its finances have
been restored. More,--glad tidings have come from Mid-Lothian, to the
"rebel and the revolutionist," whose hopes were flagging, and eloquent
words have been spoken by the new English Dictator that have aroused
a great rebellion. And, to crown all, English troops have suffered one
massacre and three defeats, and England sues for peace from the South
African peasant, heedless of honour or her broken word, so that the
prayer be granted. With such events before him, that dying man may well
have found cause to change his opinion. Doubtless the Annexation was
wrong, since England disowns her acts; and may not that dream about
the great South African Republic come true after all? Has not the
pre-eminence of the Englishman received a blow from which it can never
recover, and is not his control over Boers and natives irredeemably
weakened? And must he,--Burgers,--go down to posterity as a Dutchman who
tried to forward the interests of the English party? No, doubtless the
Annexation was wrong; but it has done good, for it has brought about the
downfall of the English: and we will end the argument in the very words
of his last public utterance, with which he ends his statement: "South
Africa gained more from this, and has made a larger step forward in the
march of freedom than most people can conceive."

Who shall say that he is wrong? the words of dying men are sometimes
prophetic! South Africa has made a great advance towards the "freedom"
of a Dutch Republic.

This has been a digression, but I hope not an uninteresting one. To
return--on the 1st March, Sir T. Shepstone met the Executive Council,
and told them that in his opinion there was now but one remedy to be
adopted, and that was that the Transvaal should be united with English
Colonies of South Africa under one head, namely the Queen, saying at the
same time that the only thing now left to the Republic was to make the
best arrangements it could for the future benefit of its inhabitants,
and to submit to that which he saw to be, and every thinking man saw to
be, inevitable. So soon as this information was officially communicated
to the Raad, for a good proportion of its members were already
acquainted with it unofficially, it flew from a state of listless
indifference into vigorous and hasty action. The President was censured,
and a Committee was appointed to consider and report upon the situation,
which reported in favour of the adoption of Burgers' new constitution.
Accordingly, the greatest part of this measure, which had been
contemptuously rejected a few days before, was adopted almost without
question, and Mr. Paul Kruger was appointed Vice-President. On the
following day, a very drastic treason law was passed, borrowed from the
Statute book of the Orange Free State, which made all public expression
of opinion, if adverse to the Government, or in any way supporting the
Annexation party, high treason. This done, the Assembly prorogued itself
until--October 1881.

During and after the sitting of the Raad, rumours arose that the Chief
Secocoeni's signature to the treaty of peace, ratified by that body, had
been obtained by misrepresentation. As ratified, this treaty consisted
of three articles, according to which Secocoeni consented, first to
become a subject of the Republic, and obey the laws of the country;
secondly, to agree to a certain restricted boundary line and, thirdly,
to pay 2000 head of cattle; which, considering he had captured quite
5000 head, was not exorbitant.

Towards the end of February a written message was received from
Secocoeni by Sir T. Shepstone, dated after the signing of the supposed
treaty. The original, which was written in Sisutu, was a great
curiosity. The following is a correct translation:--

"For Myn Heer Sheepstone,--I beg you, Chief, come help me, the Boers are
killing me, and I don't know the reasons why they should be angry with
me; Chief, I beg you come with Myn Heer Merensky.--I am Sikukuni."

This message was accompanied by a letter from Mr. Merensky, a well-known
and successful missionary, who had been for many years resident in
Secocoeni's country, in which he stated that he heard on very good
authority that Secocoeni had distinctly refused to agree to that article
of the treaty by which he became a subject of the State. He adds that he
cannot remain "silent while such tricks are played."

Upon this information, Sir T. Shepstone wrote to President Burgers,
stating that "if the officer in whom you have placed confidence has
withheld any portion of the truth from you, especially so serious a
portion of it, he is guilty of a wrong towards you personally, as
well as towards the Government, because he has caused you to assume an
untenable position," and suggesting that a joint commission should be
despatched to Secocoeni, to thoroughly sift the question in the interest
of all concerned. This suggestion was after some delay agreed to, and a
commission was appointed, consisting of Mr. Van Gorkom, a Hollander,
and Mr. Holtshausen, a member of the Executive Council, on behalf of the
Transvaal Government, and Mr. Osborn, R.M., and Captain Clarke, R.A., on
behalf of the Commissioner, whom I accompanied as Secretary.

At Middelburg the native Gideon who acted as interpreter between
Commandant Ferreira, C.M.G. (the officer who negotiated the treaty on
behalf of the Boer Government), and Secocoeni was examined, and also two
natives, Petros and Jeremiah, who were with him, but did not actually
interpret. All these men persisted that Secocoeni had positively refused
to become a subject of the Republic, and only consented to sign the
treaty on the representations of Commandant Ferreira that it would only
be binding, as regards to the two articles about the cattle and the
boundary line.

The Commission then proceeded to Secocoeni's town, accompanied by a
fresh set of interpreters, and had a long interview with Secocoeni. The
chief's Prime Minister or "mouth," Makurupiji, speaking in his presence,
and on his behalf and making use of the pronoun "I" before all the
assembled headmen of the tribe, gave an account of the interview between
Commandant Ferreira in the presence of that gentleman, who accompanied
the commission and Secocoeni, in almost the same words as had been used
by the interpreters at Middelburg. He distinctly denied having consented
to become a subject of the Republic or to stand under the law, and added
that he feared he "had touched the feather to" (signed) things that
he did not know of in the treaty. Commandant Ferreira then put some
questions, but entirely failed to shake the evidence; on the contrary,
he admitted by his questions that Secocoeni had not consented to become
a subject of the Republic. Secocoeni had evidently signed the piece of
paper under the impression that he was acknowledging his liability to
pay 2000 head of cattle, and fixing a certain portion of his boundary
line, and on the distinct understanding that he was not to become a
subject of the State.

Now it was the Secocoeni war that had brought the English Mission into
the country, and if it could be shown that the Secocoeni war had come
to a successful termination, it would go far towards helping the Mission
out again. To this end, it was necessary that the Chief should declare
himself a subject of the State, and thereby, by implication acknowledge
himself to have been a rebel, and admit his defeat. All that was
required was a signature, and that once obtained the treaty was
published and submitted to the Raad for confirmation, without a whisper
being heard of the conditions under which this ignorant Basutu was
induced to sign. Had no Commission visited Secocoeni, this treaty would
afterwards have been produced against him in its entirety. Altogether,
the history of the Secocoeni Peace Treaty does not reassure one as
to the genuineness of the treaties which the Boers are continually
producing, purporting to have been signed by native chiefs, and as
a general rule presenting the State with great tracts of country in
exchange for a horse or a few oxen. However fond the natives may be of
their Boer neighbours, such liberality can scarcely be genuine. On the
other hand, it is so easy to induce a savage to sign a paper, or even,
if he is reticent, to make a cross for him, and once made, as we all
know, _litera scripa manet_, and becomes title to the lands.

During the Secocoeni investigation, affairs in the Transvaal were
steadily drifting towards anarchy. The air was filled with rumours;
now it was reported that an outbreak was imminent amongst the English
population at the Gold Fields, who had never forgotten Von Schlickmann's
kind suggestion that they should be "subdued;" now it was said that
Cetywayo had crossed the border, and might shortly be expected at
Pretoria; now that a large body of Boers were on their road to shoot
the Special Commissioner, his twenty-five policemen and Englishmen
generally, and so on.

Meanwhile, Paul Kruger and his party were not letting the grass grow
under their feet, but worked public feeling with great vigour, with the
double object of getting Paul made President and ridding themselves
of the English. Articles in his support were printed in the well-known
Dutch paper "Die Patriot," published in the Cape Colony, which are so
typical of the Boers and of the only literature that has the slightest
influence over them, that I will quote a few extracts from one of them.

After drawing a very vivid picture of the wretched condition of the
country as compared to what it was when the Kafirs had "a proper
respect" for the Boers, before Burgers came into power, the article
proceeds to give the cause of this state of affairs. "God's word," it
says, "gives us the solution. Look at Israel, while the people have a
godly king, everything is prosperous, but under a godless prince
the land retrogrades, and the whole of the people must suffer.
Read Leviticus, chapter 26, with attention, &c. In the day of the
Voortrekkers (pioneers), a handful of men chased a thousand Kafirs and
made them run; so also in the Free State War (Deut. xxxii. 30; Jos.
xxiii. 10; Lev. xxvi. 8). But mark, now when Burgers became President,
he knows no Sabbath, he rides through the land in and out of town on
Sunday, he knows not the church and God's service (Lev. xxvi. 2-3) to
the scandal of pious people. And he formerly was a priest too. And what
is the consequence? No harvest (Lev. xxvi. 16), an army of 6,000 men
runs because one man falls (Lev. xxvi. 17, &c.) What is now the
remedy?" The remedy proves to be Paul Kruger, "because there is no other
candidate. Because our Lord clearly points him out to be the man, for
why is there no other candidate? Who arranged it this way?" Then follows
a rather odd argument in favour of Paul's election, "Because he himself
(P. Kruger) acknowledges in his own reply that he is _incompetent_, but
that all his ability is from our Lord. Because he is a warrior. Because
he is a Boer." Then Paul Kruger, the warrior and the Boer, is compared
to Joan of Arc, "a simple Boer girl who came from behind the sheep." The
Burghers of Transvaal are exhorted to acknowledge the hand of the Lord,
and elect Paul Kruger, or look for still heavier punishment. (Lev. xxvi.
18 _et seq_.) Next the "Patriot" proceeds to give a bit of advice to
"our candidate, Paul Kruger." He is to deliver the land from the Kafirs.
"The Lord has given you the heart of a warrior, arise and drive them," a
bit of advice quite suited to his well-known character. But this chosen
vessel was not to get all the loaves and fishes; on the contrary, as
soon as he had fulfilled his mission of "driving" the Kafirs, he was to
hand over his office to a "good" president. The article ends thus: "If
the Lord wills to use you now to deliver this land from its enemies, and
a day of peace and prosperity arises again, and you see that you are not
exactly the statesman to further govern the Republic, then it will be
your greatest honour to say, 'Citizens, I have delivered you from the
enemy, I am no statesman, but now you have peace and time to choose and
elect a _good_ President.'"

An article such as the above is instructive reading as showing the low
calibre of the minds that are influenced by it. Yet such writings
and sermons have more power among the Boers than any other arguments,
appealing as they do to the fanaticism and vanity of their nature, which
causes them to believe that the Divinity is continually interfering on
their behalf at the cost of other people. It will be noticed that the
references given are all to the Old Testament, and nearly all refer to
acts of blood.

These doctrines were not, however, at all acceptable to Burgers' party,
or the more enlightened members of the community, and so bitter did the
struggle of rival opinions become that there is very little doubt that
had the country not been annexed, civil war would have been added to its
other calamities. Meanwhile the natives were from day to day becoming
more restless, and messengers were constantly arriving at the Special
Commissioner's camp, begging that their tribe might be put under the
Queen, and stating that they would fight rather than submit any longer
to the Boers.

At length on the 9th April, Sir T. Shepstone informed the Government
of the Republic that he was about to declare the Transvaal British
territory. He told them that he had considered and reconsidered his
determination, but that he could see no possible means within the State
by which it could free itself from the burdens that were sinking it
to destruction, adding that if he could have found such means he would
certainly not have hidden them from the Government. This intimation was
received in silence, though all the later proceedings with reference
to the Annexation were in reality carried out in concert with the
Authorities of the Republic. Thus on the 13th March the Government
submitted a paper of ten questions to Sir T. Shepstone as regards the
future condition of the Transvaal under English rule, whether the debts
of the State would be guaranteed, &c. To these questions replies were
given which were on the whole satisfactory to the Government. As these
replies formed the basis of the proclamation guarantees, it is not
necessary to enter into them.

It was further arranged by the Republican Government that a formal
protest should be entered against the Annexation, which was accordingly
prepared and privately shown to the Special Commissioner. The annexation
proclamation was also shown to President Burgers, and a paragraph
eliminated at his suggestion. In fact, the Special Commissioner and the
President, together with most of his Executive, were quite at one as
regards the necessity of the proclamation being issued, their joint
endeavours being directed to the prevention of any disturbance, and to
secure a good reception for the change.

At length, after three months of inquiry and negotiation, the
proclamation of annexation was on the 12th of April 1877 read by Mr.
Osborn, accompanied by some other gentlemen of Sir T. Shepstone's staff.
It was an anxious moment for all concerned. To use the words of the
Special Commissioner in his despatch home on the subject, "Every effort
had been made during the previous fortnight by, it is said, educated
Hollanders, and who had but lately arrived in the country to rouse the
fanaticism of the Boers and induce them to offer 'bloody' resistance to
what it was known I intended to do. The Boers were appealed to in the
most inflammatory language by printed manifestoes and memorials; . . .
it was urged that I had but a small escort which could easily be
overpowered." In a country so full of desperadoes and fanatical haters
of anything English, it was more than possible than though such an act
would have been condemned by the general sense of the country, a number
of men could easily be found who would think they were doing a righteous
act in greeting the "annexationists" with an ovation of bullets. I
do not mean that the anxiety was personal, because I do not think the
members of that small party set any higher value on their lives than
other people, but it was absolutely necessary for the success of the act
itself, and for the safety of the country, that not a single shot should
be fired. Had that happened it is probable that the whole country would
have been involved in confusion and bloodshed, the Zulus would have
broken in, and the Kafirs would have risen; in fact, to use Cetywayo's
words, "the land would have burned with fire."

It will therefore be easily understood what an anxious hour that was
both for the Special Commissioner sitting up at Government House, and
for his Staff down on the Market Square, and how thankful they were
when the proclamation was received with hearty cheers by the crowd. Mr.
Burgers' protest, which was read immediately afterwards, was received in
respectful silence.

And thus the Transvaal Territory passed for a while into the great
family of the English Colonies. I believe that the greatest political
opponent of the act will bear tribute to the very remarkable ability
with which it was carried out. When the variety and number of the
various interests that had to be conciliated, the obstinate nature of
the individuals who had to be convinced, as well as the innate hatred of
the English name and ways which had to be overcome to carry out this
act successfully, are taken into consideration: together with a thousand
other matters, the neglect of any one of which would have sufficed to
make failure certain, it will be seen what tact and skill, and knowledge
of human nature were required to execute so difficult a task. It must be
remembered that no force was used, and that there never was any threat
of force. The few troops that were to enter the Transvaal were four
weeks' march from Pretoria at the time. There was nothing whatsoever
to prevent the Boers putting a summary stop to the proceedings of the
Commissioner if they had thought fit.

That Sir Theophilus played a bold and hazardous game nobody will deny,
but, like most players who combine boldness with coolness of head and
justice of cause, he won; and, without shedding a single drop of blood,
or even confiscating an acre of land, and at no cost, annexed a great
country, and averted a very serious war. That same country four years
later cost us a million of money, the loss of nearly a thousand men
killed and wounded, and the ruin of many more confiding thousands, to
surrender. It is true, however, that nobody can accuse the retrocession
of having been conducted with judgment or ability--very much the

There can be no more ample justification of the necessity of the issue
of the annexation proclamation than the proclamation itself--

First, it touches on the Sand River Convention of 1852, by which
independence was granted to the State, and shows that the "evident
objects and inciting motives" in granting such guarantee were to promote
peace, free-trade and friendly intercourse, in the hope and belief that
the Republic "would become a flourishing and self-sustaining State, a
source of strength and security to neighbouring European communities,
and a point from which Christianity and civilisation might rapidly
spread toward Central Africa." It goes on to show how these hopes have
been disappointed, and how that "increasing weakness in the State itself
on the one side, and more than corresponding growth of real strength
and confidence among the native tribes on the other have produced their
natural and inevitable consequence . . . that after more or less of
irritating conflict with aboriginal tribes to the north, there commenced
about the year 1867 gradual abandonment to the natives in that direction
of territory, settled by burghers of the Transvaal in well-built towns
and villages and on granted farms."

It goes on to show that "this decay of power and ebb of authority in
the north, is being followed by similar processes in the south under
yet more dangerous circumstances. People of this State residing in
that direction have been compelled within the last three months, at the
bidding of native chiefs and at a moment's notice, to leave their farms
and homes, their standing crops . . . all to be taken possession
of by natives, but that the Government is more powerless than ever
to vindicate its assumed rights or to resist the declension that is
threatening its existence." It then recites how all the other colonies
and communities of South Africa have lost confidence in the State,
how it is in a condition of hopeless bankruptcy, and its commerce
annihilated whilst the inhabitants are divided into factions, and the
Government has fallen into "helpless paralysis." How also the prospect
of the election of a new President, instead of being looked forward to
with hope, would, in the opinion of all parties, be the signal for civil
war, anarchy, and bloodshed. How that this state of things affords the
very strongest temptation to the great neighbouring native powers to
attack the country, a temptation that they were only too ready and
anxious to yield to, and that the State was in far too feeble a
condition to repel such attacks, from which it had hitherto only been
saved by the repeated representations of the Government of Natal. The
next paragraphs I will quote as they stand, for they sum up the reasons
for the Annexation.

"That the Secocoeni war, which would have produced but little effect
on a healthy constitution, has not only proved suddenly fatal to the
resources and reputation of the Republic, but has shown itself to be a
culminating point in the history of South Africa, in that a Makatee
or Basutu tribe, unwarlike and of no account in Zulu estimation,
successfully withstood the strength of the State, and disclosed for the
first time to the native powers outside the Republic, from the Zambesi
to the Cape, the great change that had taken place in the relative
strength of the white and black races, that this disclosure at once
shook the prestige of the white man in South Africa, and placed
every European community in peril, that this common danger has caused
universal anxiety, has given to all concerned the right to investigate
its cause, and to protect themselves from its consequences, and has
imposed the duty upon those who have the power to shield enfeebled
civilisation from the encroachments of barbarism and inhumanity." It
proceeds to point out that the Transvaal will be the first to suffer
from the results of its own policy, and that it is for every reason
perfectly impossible for Her Majesty's Government to stand by and see a
friendly white State ravaged, knowing that its own possessions will be
the next to suffer. That H. M. Government, being persuaded that the only
means to prevent such a catastrophe would be by the annexation of the
country, and, knowing that this was the wish of a large proportion of
the inhabitants of the Transvaal, the step must be taken. Next follows
the formal annexation.

Together with the proclamation, an address was issued by Sir T.
Shepstone to the burghers of the State, laying the facts before them
in a friendly manner, more suited to their mode of thought than it was
possible to do in a formal proclamation. This document, the issue
of which was one of those touches that ensured the success of the
Annexation, was a powerful summing up in colloquial language of the
arguments used in the proclamation strengthened by quotations from the
speeches of the President. It ends with these words: "It remains only
for me to beg of you to consider and weigh what I have said calmly and
without undue prejudice. Let not mere feeling or sentiment prevail over
your judgment. Accept what Her Majesty's Government intends shall be,
and what you will soon find from experience, is a blessing not only to
you and your children, but to the whole of South Africa through you, and
I believe that I speak these words to you as a friend from my heart."

Two other proclamations were also issued, one notifying the assumption
of the office of Administrator of the Government by Sir T. Shepstone,
and the other repealing the war-tax, which was doubtless an unequal and
oppressive impost.

I have in the preceding pages stated all the principal grounds of the
Annexation and briefly sketched the history of that event. In the next
chapter I propose to follow the fortunes of the Transvaal under British

H. Rider Haggard

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