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

Chapter 6

THE RETROCESSION OF THE TRANSVAAL

The Queen's Speech--President Brand and Lord Kimberley--Sir Henry de
Villiers--Sir George Colley's plan--Paul Kruger's offer--Sir George
Colley's remonstrance--Complimentary telegrams--Effect of Majuba on the
Boers and English Government--Collapse of the Government--Reasons of
the Surrender--Professional sentimentalists--The Transvaal Independence
Committee--Conclusion of the armistice--The preliminary peace--Reception
of the news in Natal--Newcastle after the declaration of peace--Exodus
of the loyal inhabitants of the Transvaal--The value of property in
Pretoria--The Transvaal officials dismissed--The Royal Commission--Mode
of trial of persons accused of atrocities--Decision of the Commission
and its results--The severance of territory question--Arguments _pro_
and _con_--Opinion of Sir E. Wood--Humility of the Commissioners and
its cause--Their decision on the Keate award question--The Montsoia
difficulty--The compensation and financial clauses of the report of the
Commission--The duties of the British Resident--Sir E. Wood's dissent
from the report of the Commission--Signing of the Convention--Burial of
the Union Jack--The native side of the question--Interview between
the Commissioners and the native chiefs--Their opinion of the
surrender--Objections of the Boer Volksraad to the Convention--Mr.
Gladstone temporises--The ratification--Its insolent tone--Mr.
Hudson, the British Resident--The Boer festival--The results of
the Convention--The larger issue of the matter--Its effect on the
Transvaal--Its moral aspects--Its effect on the native mind.

--

When Parliament met in January 1881, the Government announced, through
the mediumship of the Queen's Speech, that it was their intention to
vindicate Her Majesty's authority in the Transvaal. I have already
briefly described the somewhat unfortunate attempts to gain this end by
force of arms: and I now propose to follow the course of the diplomatic
negotiations entered into by the Ministry with the same object.

As soon as the hostilities in the Transvaal took a positive form,
causing great dismay among the Home authorities, whose paths, as we all
know, are the paths of peace--at any price; and whilst, in the first
confusion of calamity, they knew not where to turn, President Brand
stepped upon the scene in the character of "Our Mutual Friend," and, by
the Government at any rate, was rapturously welcomed.

This gentleman has for many years been at the head of the Government of
the Orange Free State, whose fortunes he had directed with considerable
ability. He is a man of natural talent and kind-hearted disposition, and
has the advancement of the Boer cause in South Africa much at heart. The
rising in the Transvaal was an event that gave him a great and threefold
opportunity: first, of interfering with the genuinely benevolent object
of checking bloodshed; secondly, of advancing the Dutch cause throughout
South Africa under the cloak of amiable neutrality, and striking a
dangerous blow at British supremacy over the Dutch and British prestige
with the natives; and, thirdly, of putting the English Government under
a lasting obligation to him. Of this opportunity he has availed himself
to the utmost in each particular.

So soon as things began to look serious, Mr. Brand put himself into
active telegraphic communication with the various British authorities
with the view of preventing bloodshed by inducing the English Government
to accede to the Boer demands. He was also earnest in his declarations
that the Free State was not supporting the Transvaal; which, considering
that it was practically the insurgent base of supplies, where they had
retired their women, children, and cattle, and that it furnished them
with a large number of volunteers, was perhaps straining the truth.

About this time also we find Lord Kimberley telegraphing to Mr. Brand
that "if _only_ the Transvaal Boers will desist from armed opposition to
the Queen's authority," he thinks some arrangement might be made. This
is the first indication made public of what was passing in the minds
of Her Majesty's Government, on whom its radical supporters were now
beginning to put the screw, to induce or threaten them into submitting
to the Boer demands.

Again, on the 11th January, the President telegraphed to Lord Kimberley
through the Orange Free State Consul in London, suggesting that Sir
H. de Villiers, the Chief Justice at the Cape, should be appointed a
Commissioner to go to the Transvaal to settle matters. Oddly enough,
about the same time the same proposition emanated from the Dutch party
in the Cape Colony, headed by Mr. Hofmeyer, a coincidence that inclines
one to the opinion that these friends of the Boers had some further
reason for thus urging Sir Henry de Villiers' appointment as
Commissioner beyond his apparent fitness for the post, of which his
high reputation as a lawyer and in his private capacity was a sufficient
guarantee.

The explanation is not hard to find, the fact being that, rightly or
wrongly, Sir Henry de Villiers, who is himself of Dutch descent, is
noted throughout South Africa for his sympathies with the Boer cause,
and both President Brand and the Dutch party in the Cape shrewdly
suspected, that, if the settling of differences were left to his
discretion, the Boers and their interests would receive very gentle
handling. The course of action adopted by him, when he became a member
of the Royal Commission, went far to support this view, for it will be
noticed in the Report of the Commissioners that in every single point he
appears to have taken the Boer side of the contention. Indeed so blind
was he to their faults, that he would not even admit that the horrible
Potchefstroom murders and atrocities, which are condemned both by Sir H.
Robinson and Sir Evelyn Wood in language as strong as the formal terms
of a report will allow, were acts contrary to the rules of civilised
warfare. If those acts had been perpetrated by Englishmen on Boers, or
even on natives, I venture to think Sir Henry de Villiers would have
looked at them in a very different light.

In the same telegram in which President Brand recommends the appointment
of Sir Henry de Villiers, he states that the allegations made by the
Triumvirate in the proclamation in which they accused Sir Owen Lanyon
of committing various atrocities, deserve to be investigated, as they
maintain that the collision was commenced by the authorities. Nobody
knew better than Mr. Brand that any English official would be quite
incapable of the conduct ascribed to Sir Owen Lanyon, whilst, even
if the collision had been commenced by the authorities, which as it
happened it was not, they would under the circumstances have been amply
justified in so commencing it. This remark by President Brand in his
telegram was merely an attempt to throw an air of probability over a
series of slanderous falsehoods.

Messages of this nature continued to pour along the wires from day
to day, but the tone of those from the Colonial Office grew gradually
humbler; thus we find Lord Kimberley telegraphing on the 8th February,
that if the Boers would desist from armed opposition all reasonable
guarantees would be given as to their treatment after submission, and
that a scheme would be framed for the "permanent friendly settlement of
difficulties." It will be seen that the Government had already begun
to water the meaning of their declaration that they would vindicate Her
Majesty's authority. No doubt Mr. Chamberlain, Mr. Courtney, and their
followers, had given another turn to the Radical screw.

It is, however, clear that at this time no idea of the real aims of the
Government had entered into the mind of Sir George Colley, since on the
7th February he telegraphed home a plan which he proposed to adopt on
entering the Transvaal, which included a suggestion that he should grant
a complete amnesty only to those Boers who would sign a declaration of
loyalty.

In answer to this he was ordered to do nothing of the sort, but to
promise protection to everybody and refer everything home.

Then came the battle of Ingogo, which checked for the time the flow of
telegrams, or rather varied their nature, for those despatched during
the next few days deal with the question of reinforcements. On the 13th
February, however, negotiations were reopened by Paul Kruger, one of
the Triumvirate, who offered, if all the troops were ordered to withdraw
from the Transvaal to give them a free passage through the Nek, to
disperse the Boers and to consent to the appointment of a Commission.

The offer was jumped at by Lord Kimberley, who, without making reference
to the question of withdrawing the soldiers, offered, if only the Boers
would disperse, to appoint a Commission with extensive powers to develop
the "permanent friendly settlement" scheme. The telegram ends thus:
"Add, that if this proposal is accepted, you now are authorised to agree
to suspension of hostilities on our part." This message was sent to
General Wood, because the Boers had stopped the communications with
Colley. On the 19th, Sir George Colley replies in these words, which
show his astonishment at the policy adopted by the Home Government, and
which, in the opinion of most people, redound to his credit--

"Latter part of your telegram to Wood not understood. There can be no
hostilities if no resistance is made, but am I to leave Lang's Nek in
Natal territory in Boer occupation, and our garrisons isolated and short
of provisions, or occupy former and relieve latter?" Lord Kimberley
hastens to reply that the garrisons must be left free to provision
themselves, "but we do not mean that you should march to the relief of
garrisons or occupy Lang's Nek, if an arrangement proceeds."

It will be seen that the definition of what vindication of Her Majesty's
authority consisted grew broader and broader; it now included the right
of the Boers to continue to occupy their positions in the Colony of
Natal.

Meanwhile the daily fire of complimentary messages was being kept up
between President Brand and Lord Kimberley, who alternatively gave
"sincere thanks to Lord Kimberley" and "fully appreciated the friendly
spirit" of President Brand, till on the 21st February the latter
telegraphs through Colley: "Hope of amicable settlement by negotiation,
but this will be greatly facilitated if somebody on spot and friendly
disposed to both, could by personal communication with both endeavour
to smooth difficulties. Offers his services to Her Majesty's Government,
and Kruger and Pretorius and Joubert are willing." Needless to say his
services were accepted.

Presently, however, on 27th February, Sir George Colley made his last
move, and took possession of Majuba. His defeat and death had the effect
of causing another temporary check in the peace negotiations, whilst Sir
Frederick Roberts with ample reinforcements was despatched to Natal.
It had the further effect of increasing the haughtiness of the Boer
leaders, and infusing a corresponding spirit of pliability or generosity
into the negotiations of Her Majesty's Government.

Thus on 2d March, the Boers, through President Brand and Sir Evelyn
Wood, inform the Secretary of State for the Colonies, that they are
willing to negotiate, but decline to submit or cease opposition. Sir
Evelyn Wood, who evidently did not at all like the line of policy
adopted by the Government, telegraphed that he thought the best thing
to do would be for him to engage the Boers, and disperse them _vi et
armis_, without any guarantees, "considering the disasters we have
sustained," and that he should, "if absolutely necessary," be empowered
to promise life and property to the leaders, but that they should be
banished from the country. In answer to this telegram, Lord Kimberley
informs him that Her Majesty's Government will amnesty _everybody_
except those who have committed acts contrary to the rules of civilised
warfare, and that they will agree to anything, and appoint a Commission
to carry out the details, and "be ready for friendly communications with
_any persons_ appointed by the Boers."

Thus was Her Majesty's authority finally re-established in the
Transvaal.

It was not a very grand climax, nor the kind of arrangement to which
Englishmen are accustomed, but perhaps, considering the circumstances,
and the well-known predilections of those who made the settlement, it
was as much as could be expected.

The action of the Government must not be considered, as though they were
unfettered in their judgment; it can never be supposed that they acted
as they did, because they thought such action right or even wise,
for that would be to set them down as men of a very low order of
intelligence, which they certainly are not.

It is clear that no set of sensible men, who had after much
consideration given their decision that under all the circumstances,
the Transvaal must remain British territory, and who, on a revolt
subsequently breaking out in that territory, had declared that Her
Majesty's rule must be upheld, would have, putting aside all
other circumstances, deliberately stultified themselves by almost
unconditionally, and of their own free will, abandoning the country,
and all Her Majesty's subjects living in it. That would be to pay a
poor tribute to their understanding, since it is clear that if reasons
existed for retaining the Transvaal before the war, as they were
satisfied there did, those reasons would exist with still greater force
after a war had been undertaken and three crushing defeats sustained,
which if left unavenged must, as they knew, have a most disastrous
effect on our prestige throughout the South African continent.

I prefer to believe that the Government was coerced into acting as
it did by Radical pressure, both from outside, and from its immediate
supporters in the House, and that it had to choose between making an
unconventional surrender in the Transvaal and losing the support of
a very powerful party. Under these circumstances it, being Liberal in
politics, naturally followed its instincts, and chose surrender.

If such a policy was bad in itself, and necessarily mischievous in its
consequences, so much the worse for those who suffered by it; it was
clear that the Government could not be expected to lose votes in order
to forward the true interests of countries so far off as the South
African Colonies, which had had the misfortune to be made a party
question of, and must take the consequences.

There is no doubt that the interest brought to bear on the Government
was very considerable, for not only had they to deal with their own
supporters, and with the shadowy caucus that was ready to let the lash
of its displeasure descend even on the august person of Mr. Gladstone,
should he show signs of letting slip so rich an opportunity for the
vindication of the holiest principles of advanced Radicalism, but
also with the hydra-headed crowd of visionaries and professional
sentimentalists who swarm in this country, and who are always ready
to take up any cause, from that of Jumbo, or of a murderer, to that of
oppressed peoples, such as the Bulgarians, or the Transvaal Boers.

These gentlemen, burning with zeal, and filled with that confidence
which proverbially results from the hasty assimilation of imperfect
and erroneous information, found in the Transvaal question a great
opportunity of making a noise: and--as in a disturbed farmyard the bray
of the domestic donkey, ringing loud and clear among the utterances of
more intelligent animals, overwhelms and extinguishes them--so, and
with like effect, amongst the confused sound of various English
opinions about the Boer rising, rose the trumpet-note of the Transvaal
Independence Committee and its supporters.

As we have seen, they did not sound in vain.

On the 6th of March an armistice with the Boers had been entered into
by Sir Evelyn Wood, which was several times prolonged, up to the 21st
March, when Sir Evelyn Wood concluded a preliminary peace with the Boer
leaders, which, under certain conditions, guaranteed the restoration of
the country within six months, and left all other points to be decided
by a Royal Commission.

The news of this peace was at first received in the Colony in the
silence of astonishment. Personally, I remember, I would not believe
that it was true. It seemed to us, who had been witnesses of what had
passed, and knew what it all meant, something so utterly incredible that
we thought there must be a mistake.

If there had been any one redeeming circumstance about it, if the
English arms had gained a single decisive victory, it might have been
so, but it was hard for Englishmen, just at first, to understand that
not only had the Transvaal been to all appearance wrested from them by
force of arms, but that they were henceforth to be subject, as they well
knew would be the case, to the coarse insults of victorious Boers, and
the sarcasms of keener-witted Kafirs.

People in England seem to fancy that when men go to the Colonies they
lose all sense of pride in their country, and think of nothing but their
own advantage. I do not think that this is the case, indeed, I believe
that, individual for individual, there exists a greater sense of
loyalty, and a deeper pride in their nationality, and in the proud name
of England, among Colonists, than among Englishmen proper. Certainly
the humiliation of the Transvaal surrender was more keenly felt in South
Africa than it was at home; but, perhaps, the impossibility of
imposing upon people in that country with the farrago of nonsense about
blood-guiltiness and national morality, which was made such adroit use
of at home, may have made the difference.

I know that personally I would not have believed it possible that I
could feel any public event so keenly as I did this; indeed, I quickly
made up my mind that if the peace was confirmed, the neighbourhood
of the Transvaal would be no fit or comfortable residence for an
Englishman, and that I would, at any cost, leave the country,--which I
accordingly did.

Newcastle was a curious sight the night after the peace was declared,
every hotel and bar was crowded with refugees, who were trying to
relieve their feelings, by cursing the name of Gladstone, with a vigour,
originality, and earnestness, that I have never heard equalled; and
declaring in ironical terms how proud they were to be citizens of
England--a country that always kept its word. Then they set to work
with many demonstrations of contempt to burn the effigy of the Right
Honourable Gentleman at the head of Her Majesty's Government, an
example, by the way, that was followed throughout South Africa.

Even Sir Evelyn Wood, who is very popular in the Colony, was hissed
as he walked through the town, and great surprise was expressed that
a soldier who came out expressly to fight the Boers, should consent
to become the medium of communication in such a dirty business. And,
indeed, there was some excuse for all this bitterness, for the news
meant ruin to very many.

But if people in Natal and at the Cape received the news with
astonishment, how shall I describe its effect upon the unfortunate loyal
inhabitants in the Transvaal, on whom it burst like a thunderbolt?

They did not say much however, and indeed, there was nothing to be said,
they simply began to pack up such things as they could carry with them,
and to leave the country, which they well knew would henceforth be
utterly untenable for Englishmen or English sympathisers. In a few weeks
they came pouring down through Newcastle by hundreds; it was the
most melancholy exodus that can be imagined. There were people of all
classes, officials, gentlefolk, work-people, and loyal Boers, but
they had a connecting link; they had all been loyal, and they were all
ruined.

Most of these people had gone to the Transvaal since it became a British
Colony, and invested all they had in it, and now their capital was lost
and their labour rendered abortive; indeed, many of them whom one had
known as well to do in the Transvaal, came down to Natal hardly knowing
how they would feed their families next week.

It must be understood that so soon as the Queen's sovereignty was
withdrawn the value of landed and house property in the Transvaal went
down to nothing, and has remained there ever since. Thus a fair-sized
house in Pretoria brought in a rental varying from ten to twenty pounds
a month during British occupation, but after the declaration of peace,
owners of houses were glad to get people to live in them to keep them
from falling into ruin. Those who owned land or had invested money in
businesses suffered in the same way; their property remains, neither
profitable or saleable, and they themselves are precluded by their
nationality from living on it, the art of "Boycotting" not being
peculiar to Ireland.

Nor were they the only sufferers, the officials, many of whom had taken
to the Government service as a permanent profession, in which they
expected to pass their lives, were suddenly dismissed, mostly with a
small gratuity, which would about suffice to pay their debts, and told
to find their living as best they could. It was indeed a case of _vae
victis_,--woe to the conquered loyalists.[*]

[*] The following extract is clipped from a recent issue of
the "Transvaal Advertiser." It describes the present
condition of Pretoria:--

"The streets grown over with rank vegetation, the water-
furrows uncleaned and unattended, emitting offensive and
unhealthy stenches, the houses showing evident signs of
dilapidation and decay, the side paths, in many places,
dangerous to pedestrians; in fact, everything the eye can
rest upon indicates the downfall which has overtaken this
once prosperous city. The visitor can, if he be so minded,
betake himself to the outskirts and suburbs, where he will
perceive the same sad evidences of neglect, public grounds
unattended, roads uncared for, mills and other public works
crumbling into ruin. These palpable signs of decay most
strongly impress him. A blight seems to have come over this
lately fair and prosperous town. Rapidly it is becoming a
'deserted village,' a 'city of the dead.'"

The Commission appointed by Her Majesty's Government consisted of Sir
Hercules Robinson, Sir Henry de Villiers, and Sir Evelyn Wood, President
Brand being also present in his capacity of friend of both parties,
and to their discretion were left the settlement of all outstanding
questions. Amongst these, were the mode of trial of those persons who
had been guilty of acts contrary to the rules of civilised warfare, the
question of severance of territory from the Transvaal on the Eastern
boundary, the settlement of the boundary in the Keate-Award districts,
the compensation for losses sustained during the war, the functions of
the British Resident, and other matters. Their place of meeting was at
Newcastle in Natal, and from thence they proceeded to Pretoria.

The first question of importance that came before the Commission was
the mode of trial to be adopted in the cases of those persons accused
of acts contrary to the usages of civilised warfare, such as murder.
The Attorney-General for the Transvaal strongly advised that a special
Tribunal should be constituted to try these cases, principally because
"after a civil war in which all the inhabitants of a country, with very
few exceptions, have taken part, a jury of fair and impartial men, truly
unbiassed, will be very difficult to get together." It is satisfactory
to know that the Commissioners gave this somewhat obvious fact "their
grave consideration," which, according to their Report, resulted in
their determining to let the cases go before the ordinary court, and be
tried by a jury, because in referring them to a specially constituted
court which would have done equal justice without fear or favour,
"the British Government would have made for itself, among the Dutch
population of South Africa, a name for vindictive oppression, which no
generosity in other affairs could efface."

There is more in this determination of the Commissioners, or rather of
the majority of them--for Sir E. Wood, to his credit be it said, refused
to agree in their decision--than meets the eye, the fact of the matter
being that it was privately well known to them, that, though the Boer
leaders might be willing to allow a few of the murderers to undergo the
form of a trial, neither they nor the Boers themselves, meant to
permit the farce to go any further. Had the men been tried by a special
tribunal they would in all probability have been condemned to death, and
then would have come the awkward question of carrying out the sentence
on individuals whose deeds were looked on, if not with general approval,
at any rate without aversion by the great mass of their countrymen. In
short, it would probably have become necessary either to reprieve them
or to fight the Boers again, since it was very certain that they
would not have allowed them to be hung. Therefore the majority of
the Commissioners, finding themselves face to face with a dead wall,
determined to slip round it instead of boldly climbing it, by referring
the cases to the Transvaal High Court, cheerfully confident of what the
result must be.

After all, the matter was, much cry about little wool, for of all the
crimes committed by the Boers--a list of some of which will be found in
the Appendix to this book--in only three cases were a proportion of the
perpetrators produced and put through the form of trial. Those three
were, the dastardly murder of Captain Elliot, who was shot by his Boer
escort while crossing the Vaal river on parole; the murder of a man
named Malcolm, who was kicked to death in his own house by Boers, who
afterwards put a bullet through his head to make the job "look better;"
and the murder of a doctor named Barber, who was shot by his escort on
the border of the Free State. A few of the men concerned in the first
two of these crimes were tried in Pretoria: and it was currently
reported at that time, that in order to make their acquittal certain
our Attorney-General received instructions not to exercise his right of
challenging jurors on behalf of the Crown. Whether or not this is true
I am not prepared to say, but I believe it is a fact that he did
not exercise that right, though the counsel of the prisoners availed
themselves of it freely, with the result that in Elliot's case, the jury
was composed of eight Boers and one German, nine being the full South
African jury. The necessary result followed; in both cases the prisoners
were acquitted in the teeth of the evidence. Barber's murderers were
tried in the Free State, and were, as might be expected, acquitted.

Thus it will be seen that of all the perpetrators of murder and other
crimes during the course of the war not one was brought to justice.

The offence for which their victims died was, in nearly every case, that
they had served, were serving, or were loyal to Her Majesty the Queen.
In no single case has England exacted retribution for the murder of
her servants and citizens; but nobody can read through the long list
of these dastardly slaughters without feeling that they will not go
unavenged. The innocent blood that has been shed on behalf of this
country, and the tears of children and widows now appeal to a higher
tribunal than that of Mr. Gladstone's Government, and assuredly they
will not appeal in vain.

The next point of importance dealt with by the Commission was the
question whether or no any territory should be severed from the
Transvaal, and kept under English rule for the benefit of the native
inhabitants. Lord Kimberley, acting under pressure put upon him by
members of the Aborigines Protection Society, instructed the Commission
to consider the advisability of severing the districts of Lydenburg and
Zoutpansberg, and also a strip of territory bordering on Zululand and
Swazieland from the Transvaal, so as to place the inhabitants of the
first two districts out of danger of maltreatment by the Boers, and to
interpose a buffer between Zulus, and Swazies, and Boer aggression, and
_vice versa_.

The Boer leaders had, it must be remembered, acquiesced in the principle
of such a separation in the preliminary peace signed by Sir Evelyn Wood
and themselves. The majority of the Commission, however (Sir Evelyn Wood
dissenting), finally decided against the retention of either of these
districts, a decision which I think was a wise one, though I arrive
at that conclusion on very different grounds to those adopted by the
majority of the Commission.

Personally, I cannot see that it is the duty of England to play
policeman to the whole world. To have retained these native districts
would have been to make ourselves responsible for their good government,
and to have guaranteed them against Boer encroachment, which I do not
think that we were called upon to do. It is surely not incumbent
upon us, having given up the Transvaal to the Boers, to undertake the
management of the most troublesome part of it, the Zulu border. Besides,
bad as the abandonment of the Transvaal is, I think that if it was to
be done at all, it was best to do it thoroughly, since to have kept some
natives under our protection, and to have handed over the rest to the
tender mercies of the Boers, would only be to render our injustice more
obvious, whilst weakening the power of the natives themselves to combine
in self-defence; since those under our protection would naturally have
little sympathy with their more unfortunate brethren--their interests
and circumstances being different.

The Commission do not seem to have considered the question from these
points of view, but putting them on one side, there are many other
considerations connected with it, which are ably summed up in their
Report. Amongst these is the danger of disturbances commenced between
Zulus or Swazies and Boers, spreading into Natal, and the probability
of the fomenting of disturbances amongst the Zulus by Boers. The great
argument for the retention of some territory, if only as a symbol that
the English had not been driven out of the country, is, however,
set forth in the forty-sixth paragraph of the Report, which runs as
follows:--"The moral considerations that determine the actions of
civilised Governments are not easily understood by barbarians, in whose
eyes successful force is alone the sign of superiority, and it
appeared possible that the surrender by the British Crown of one of its
possessions to those who had been in arms against it, might be looked
upon by the natives in no other way than as a token of the defeat and
decay of the British Power, and that thus a serious shock might be given
to British authority in South Africa, and the capacity of Great Britain
to govern and direct the vast native population within and without her
South African dominions--a capacity resting largely on the renown of her
name--might be dangerously impaired."

These words coming from so unexpected a source do not, though couched
in such mild language, hide the startling importance of the question
discussed. On the contrary, they accurately and with double weight
convey the sense and gist of the most damning argument against the
policy of the retrocession of the Transvaal in its entirety; and
proceeding from their own carefully chosen commissioners, can hardly
have been pleasant reading to Lord Kimberley and his colleagues.

The majority of the Commission then proceeds to set forth the arguments
advanced by the Boers against the retention of any territory, which
appear to have been chiefly of a sentimental character, since we are
informed that "the people, it seemed certain, would not have valued the
restoration of a mutilated country. Sentiment in a great measure had
led them to insurrection, and the force of such it was impossible to
disregard." Sir E. Wood in his dissent, states, that he cannot even
agree with the premises of his colleagues' argument, since he is
convinced that it was not sentiment that had led to the outbreak, but a
"general and rooted aversion to taxation." If he had added, and a hatred
not only of English rule, but of all rule, he would have stated the
complete cause of the Transvaal rebellion. In the next paragraph of
the Report, however, we find the real cause of the pliability of the
Commission in the matter, which is the same that influenced them in
their decision about the mode of trial of the murderers and other
questions:--they feared that the people would appeal to arms if they
decided against their wishes.

Discreditable and disgraceful as it may seem, nobody can read this
Report without plainly seeing that the Commissioners were, in treating
with the Boers on these points, in the position of ambassadors from a
beaten people getting the best terms they could. Of course, they well
knew that this was not the case, but whatever the Boer leaders may have
said, the Boers themselves did not know this, or even pretend to look at
the matter in any other light. When we asked for the country back, said
they, we did not get it; after we had three times defeated the English
we did get it; the logical conclusion from the facts being that we got
it because we defeated the English. This was their tone, and it is not
therefore surprising that whenever the Commission threatened to decide
anything against them, they, with a smile, let it know that if it did,
they would be under the painful necessity of re-occupying Lang's Nek.
It was never necessary to repeat the threat, since the majority of the
Commission would thereupon speedily find a way to meet the views of the
Boer representatives.

Sir Evelyn Wood, in his dissent, thus correctly sums up the matter:--"To
contend that the Royal Commission ought not to decide contrary to the
wishes of the Boers, because such decision might not be accepted, is
to deny to the Commission the very power of decision that it was agreed
should be left in its hands." Exactly so. But it is evident that the
Commission knew its place, and so far from attempting to exercise any
"power of decision," it was quite content with such concessions as
it could obtain by means of bargaining. Thus, as an additional reason
against the retention of any territory, it is urged that if this
territory was retained "the majority of your Commissioners . . . would
have found themselves in no favourable position for obtaining the
concurrence of the Boer leaders as to other matters." In fact, Her
Majesty's Commission appointed, or supposed to be appointed, to do
Her Majesty's will and pleasure, shook in its shoes before men who had
lately been rebels in arms against Her authority, and humbly submitted
itself to their dicta.

The majority of the Commission went on to express their opinion, that
by giving away about the retention of territory they would be able to
obtain better terms for the natives generally, and larger powers for the
British Resident. But, as Sir Evelyn Wood points out in his Report, they
did nothing of the sort, the terms of the agreement about the Resident
and other native matters being all consequent on and included in the
first agreement of peace. Besides, they seem to have overlooked the
fact that such concessions as they did obtain are only on paper, and
practically worthless, whilst all _bona fide_ advantages remained with
the Boers.

The decision of the Commissioners in the question of the Keate Award,
which next came under their consideration, appears to have been a
judicious one, being founded on the very careful Report of Colonel
Moysey, R.E., who had been for many months collecting information on the
spot. The Keate Award Territory is a region lying to the south-west
of the Transvaal, and was, like many other districts in that country,
originally in the possession of natives, of the Baralong and Batlapin
tribes. Individual Boers having, however, _more suo_ taken possession
of tracts of land in the district, difficulties speedily arose
between their Government and the native chiefs, and in 1871 Mr. Keate,
Lieutenant-Governor of Natal, was by mutual consent called in to
arbitrate on the matter. His decision was entirely in favour of the
natives, and was accordingly promptly and characteristically repudiated
by the Boer Volksraad. From that time till the rebellion the question
remained unsettled, and was indeed a very thorny one to deal with. The
Commission, acting on the principle _in medio tutissimus ibis_, drew a
line through the midst of the disputed territory, or, in other words,
set aside Mr. Keate's award and interpreted the dispute in favour of the
Boers.

This decision was accepted by all parties at the time, but it has not
resulted in the maintenance of peace. The principal Chief, Montsoia, is
an old ally and staunch friend of the English, a fact which the Boers
were not able to forget or forgive, and they appear to have stirred
up rival Chiefs to attack him, and to have allowed volunteers from
the Transvaal to assist them. Montsoia has also enlisted some white
volunteers, and several fights have taken place, in which the loss of
life has been considerable. Whether or no the Transvaal Government
is directly concerned it is impossible to say, but from the fact that
cannon are said to have been used against Montsoia it would appear
that it is, since private individuals do not, as a rule, own Armstrong
guns.[*]

[*] I beg to refer any reader interested in this matter to
the letter of "Transvaal" to the "Standard," which I have
republished in the Appendix to this book.

Amongst the questions remaining for the consideration of the
Commissioners was that of what compensation should be given for losses
during the war. Of course, the great bulk of the losses sustained
were of an indirect nature, resulting from the necessary and enormous
depreciation in the value of land and other property, consequent on the
retrocession. Into this matter the Home Government declined to enter,
thereby saving its pocket at the price of its honour, since it was upon
English guarantees that the country would remain a British possession,
that the majority of the unfortunate loyals invested their money in
it. It was, however, agreed by the Commission (Sir H. de Villiers
dissenting) that the Boers should be liable for compensation in
cases where loss had been sustained through commandeering seizure,
confiscation, destruction, or damage of property. The sums awarded under
these heads have already amounted to about 110,000 pounds, which sum has
been defrayed by the Imperial Government, the Boer authorities stating
that they were not in a position to pay it.

In connection with this matter, I will pass to the Financial clauses of
the Report. When the country was annexed, the public debt amounted
to 301,727 pounds. Under British rule this debt was liquidated to
the extent of 150,000 pounds, but the total was brought up by a
Parliamentary grant, a loan from the Standard Bank, and sundries to
390,404 pounds, which represented the public debt of the Transvaal on
the 31st December 1880. This was further increased by moneys advanced by
the Standard Bank and English Exchequer during the war, and till the
8th August 1881, during which time the country yielded no revenue, to
457,393 pounds. To this must be added an estimated sum of 200,000 pounds
for compensation charges, pension allowances, &c., and a further sum of
383,000 pounds, the cost of the successful expedition against Secocoeni,
that of the unsuccessful one being left out of account, bringing up the
total public debt to over a million, of which about 800,000 pounds is
owing to this country.

This sum, with the characteristic liberality that distinguished them in
their dealings with the Boers, but which was not so marked where loyals
were concerned, the Commissioners (Sir Evelyn Wood dissenting) reduced
by a stroke of the pen to 265,000 pounds, thus entirely remitting an
approximate sum of 500,000 pounds, or 600,000 pounds. To the sum of
265,000 pounds still owing, must be added say another 150,000 pounds
for sums lately advanced to pay the compensation claims, bringing up the
actual amount now owing to England to something under half a million, of
which I say with confidence she will never see a single 10,000 pounds.
As this contingency was not contemplated, or if contemplated, not
alluded to by the Royal Commission, provision was made for a sinking
fund, by means of which the debt, which is a second charge on the
revenues of the States, is to be extinguished in twenty-five years.

It is a strange instance of the proverbial irony of fate, that whilst
the representatives of the Imperial Government were thus showering gifts
of hundreds of thousands of pounds upon men who had spurned the benefits
of Her Majesty's rule, made war upon her forces, and murdered her
subjects, no such consideration was extended to those who had remained
loyal to her throne. Their claims for compensation were passed by
unheeded; and looking from the windows of the room in which they sat in
Newcastle, the members of the Commission might have seen them flocking
down from a country that could no longer be their home; those that
were rich among them made poor, and those that were poor reduced to
destitution.

The only other point which it will be necessary for me to touch on in
connection with this Report is the duties of the British Resident and
his relations to the natives. He was to be invested as representative of
the Suzerain with functions for securing the execution of the terms
of peace as regards: (1.) The control of the foreign relations of the
State; (2.) The control of the frontier affairs of the State; and (3.)
The protection of the interests of the natives in the State.

As regards the first of these points, it was arranged that the interests
of subjects of the Transvaal should be left in the hands of Her
Majesty's representatives abroad. Since Boers are, of all people in the
world, the most stay-at-home, our ambassadors and consuls are not likely
to be troubled much on their account. With reference to the second
point, the Commission made stipulations that would be admirable if there
were any probability of their being acted up to. The Resident is
to report any encroachment on native territory by Boers to the High
Commissioner, and when the Resident and the Boer Government differ,
the decision of the Suzerain is to be final. This is a charming way of
settling difficulties, but the Commission forgets to specify how the
Suzerain's decision is to be enforced. After what has happened, it can
hardly have relied on awe of the name of England to bring about the
desired obedience!

But besides thus using his beneficent authority to prevent subjects of
the Transvaal from trespassing on their neighbour's land, the Resident
is to exercise a general supervision over the interests of all the
natives in the country. Considering that they number about a million,
and are scattered over a territory larger than France, one would think
that this duty alone would have taken up the time of any ordinary
man; and, indeed, Sir Evelyn Wood was in favour of the appointment of
sub-residents to assist him. The majority of the Commission refused,
however, to listen to any such suggestion--believing, they said, "that
the least possible interference with the independent Government of the
State would be the wisest." Quite so, but I suppose it never occurred
to them to ask the natives what their views of the matter were! The
Resident was also to be a member of a Native Location Committee, which
was at some future time, to provide land for natives to live on.

In perusing this Report it is easy to follow with more or less accuracy
the individual bent of its framers. Sir Hercules Robinson figures
throughout as a man who has got a disagreeable business to carry out,
in obedience to instructions that admit of no trifling with, and who has
set himself to do the best he can for his country, and those who suffer
through his country's policy, whilst obeying those instructions. He has
evidently choked down his feelings and opinions as an individual, and
turned himself into an official machine, merely registering in detail
the will of Lord Kimberley. With Sir Henry de Villiers the case is very
different, one feels throughout that the task is to him a congenial one,
and that the Boer cause has in him an excellent friend. Indeed, had he
been an advocate of their cause instead of a member of the Commission,
he could not have espoused their side on every occasion with greater
zeal. According to him they were always in the right, and in them he
could find no guile. Mr. Hofmeyer and President Brand exercised a wise
discretion from their own point of view, when they urged his appointment
as Special Commissioner. I now come to Sir Evelyn Wood, who was in the
position of an independent Englishman, neither prejudiced in favour
of the Boers, or the reverse, and on whom, as a military man, Lord
Kimberley would find it difficult to put the official screw. The results
of his happy position are obvious in the paper attached to the end of
the Report, and signed by him, in which he totally and entirely differs
from the majority of the Commission on every point of importance. Most
people will think that this very outspoke and forcible dissent deducts
somewhat from the value of the Report, and throws a shadow of doubt on
the wisdom of its provisions.

The formal document of agreement between Her Majesty's Government and
the Boer leaders, commonly known as the Convention, was signed by both
parties at Pretoria on the afternoon of the 3d August 1881, in the same
room in which, nearly four years before, the Annexation Proclamation was
signed by Sir T. Shepstone.

Whilst this business was being transacted in Government House, a curious
ceremony was going on just outside, and within sight of the windows.
This was the ceremonious burial of the Union Jack, which was followed to
the grave by a crowd of about 2000 loyalists and native chiefs. On the
outside of the coffin was written the word "Resurgam," and an eloquent
oration was delivered over the grave. Such demonstrations are, no
doubt, foolish enough, but they are not entirely without political
significance.

But a more unpleasant duty awaited the Commissioners than that of
attaching their signatures to a document,--consisting of the necessity
of conveying Her Majesty's decision as to the retrocession, to about a
hundred native Chiefs, until now Her Majesty's subjects, who had been
gathered together to hear it. It must be borne in mind that the natives
had not been consulted as to the disposal of the country, although they
outnumber the white people in the proportion of twenty to one, and that,
beyond some worthless paper stipulations, nothing had been done for
their interests.

Personally, I must plead guilty to what I know is by many, especially
by those who are attached to the Boer cause, considered as folly if not
worse, namely, a sufficient interest in the natives, and sympathy with
their sufferings to bring me to the conclusion, that in acting thus we
have inflicted a cruel injustice upon them. It seems to me, that as
they were the original owners of the soil, they were entitled to some
consideration in the question of its disposal, and consequently and
incidentally, of their own. I am aware that it is generally considered
that the white man has a right to the black man's possessions and land,
and that it is his high and holy mission to exterminate the wretched
native and take his place. But with this conclusion I venture to differ.
So far as my own experience of natives has gone, I have found that in
all the essential qualities of mind and body, they very much resemble
white men, with the exception that they are, as a race, quicker-witted,
more honest, and braver, than the ordinary run of white men. Of them
might be aptly quoted the speech Shakespeare puts into Shylock's mouth:
"Hath not a Jew eyes? hath not a Jew hands, organs, dimensions, senses,
affections, passions?" In the same way I ask, Has a native no feelings
or affections? does he not suffer when his parents are shot, or his
children stolen, or when he is driven a wanderer from his home? Does he
not know fear, feel pain, affection, hate and gratitude? Most certainly
he does; and this being so, I cannot believe that the Almighty, who
made both white and black, gave to the one race the right or mission of
exterminating, or even of robbing or maltreating the other, and calling
the process the advance of civilisation. It seems to me, that on only
one condition, if at all, have we the right to take the black man's
land; and that is, that we provide them with an equal and a just
Government, and allow no maltreatment of them, either as individuals or
tribes: but, on the contrary, do our best to elevate them, and wean them
from savage customs. Otherwise, the practice is surely undefensible.

I am aware, however, that with the exception of a small class, these
are sentiments which are not shared by the great majority of the public,
either at home or abroad. Indeed, it can be plainly seen how little
sympathy they command, from the fact that but scanty remonstrance
was raised at the treatment meted out to our native subjects in the
Transvaal, when they were, to the number of nearly a million,
handed over from the peace, justice, and security, that on the whole
characterise our rule, to a state of things, and possibilities of wrong
and suffering which I will not try to describe.

To the chiefs thus assembled Sir Hercules Robinson, as President of the
Royal Commission, read a statement, and then retired, refusing to allow
them to speak in answer. The statement informed the natives that "Her
Majesty's Government, with that sense of justice which befits a great
and powerful nation," had returned the country to the Boers, "whose
representatives, Messrs. Kruger, Pretorius, and Joubert, I now," said
Sir Hercules, "have much pleasure in introducing to you." If reports are
true, the native Chiefs had, many of them personally, and all of them by
reputation, already the advantage of a very intimate acquaintance with
all three of these gentlemen, so that an introduction was somewhat
superfluous.

Sir Hercules went on to explain to them that locations would be allotted
to them at some future time; that a British Resident would be appointed,
whose especial charge they would be, but that they must bear in mind
that he was not the ruler of the country, but the Government, "subject
to Her Majesty's suzerain rights." Natives were, no doubt, expected to
know by intuition what suzerain rights are. The statement then goes on
to give them good advice as to the advantages of indulging in manual
labour when asked to do so by the Boers, and generally to show them how
bright and happy is the future that lies before them. Lest they should
be too elated by such good tidings, they are, however, reminded that it
will be necessary to retain the law relating to passes, which is, in
the hands of a people like the Boers, about as unjust a regulation as
a dominant race can invent for the oppression of a subject people, and
had, in the old days of the Republic, been productive of much hardship.
The statement winds up by assuring them that their "interests will never
be forgotten or neglected by Her Majesty's Government." Having read the
document the Commission hastily withdrew, and after their withdrawal
the Chiefs were "allowed" to state their opinions to the Secretary for
Native Affairs.

In availing themselves of this permission, it is noticeable that no
allusion was made to all the advantages they were to reap under
the Convention, nor did they seem to attach much importance to the
appointment of the British Resident. On the contrary, all their
attention was given to the great fact that the country had been ceded
to the Boers, and that they were no longer the Queen's subjects. We
are told, in Mr. Shepstone's Report, that they "got very excited," and
"asked whether it was thought that they had no feelings or hearts, that
they were thus treated as a stick or piece of tobacco, which could be
passed from hand to hand without question." Umgombarie, a Zoutpansberg
Chief, said, "I am Umgombarie. I have fought with the Boers, and have
many wounds, and they know that what I say is true. . . . I will never
consent to place myself under their rule. I belong to the English
Government. I am not a man who eats with both sides of his jaw at once;
I only use one side. I am English, I have said." Silamba said, "I belong
to the English. I will never return under the Boers. You see me, a man
of my rank and position, is it right that such as I should be seized
and laid on the ground and flogged, as has been done to me and other
chiefs?"

Sinkanhla said: "We hear and yet do not hear, we cannot understand. We
are troubling you, Chief, by talking in this way; we hear the Chiefs say
that the Queen took the country because the people of the country wished
it, and again that the majority of the owners of the country did not
wish their rule, and that therefore the country was given back. We
should like to have the man pointed out from among us black people who
objects to the rule of the Queen. We are the real owners of the country;
we were here when the Boers came, and without asking leave, settled down
and treated us in every way badly. The English Government then came and
took the country; we have now had four years of rest and peaceful
and just rule. We have been called here to-day, and are told that the
country, our country, has been given to the Boers by the Queen. This is
a thing which surprises us. Did the country, then, belong to the Boers?
Did it not belong to our fathers and forefathers before us, long before
the Boers came here? We have heard that the Boers' country is at the
Cape. If the Queen wishes to give them their land, why does she not give
them back the Cape?"

I have quoted this speech at length, because, although made by a
despised native, it sets forth their case more powerfully and in happier
language than I can do.

Umyethile said: "We have no heart for talking. I have returned to the
country from Sechelis, where I had to fly from Boer oppression. Our
hearts are black and heavy with grief to-day at the news told us, we are
in agony, our intestines are twisting and writhing inside of us, just as
you see a snake do when it is struck on the head. . . . We do not know
what has become of us, but we feel dead; it may be that the Lord may
change the nature of the Boers, and that we will not be treated like
dogs and beasts of burden as formerly, but we have no hope of such a
change, and we leave you with heavy hearts and great apprehension as
to the future." In his Report, Mr. Shepstone (the Secretary for Native
Affairs) says: "One chief, Jan Sibilo, who has been, he informed me,
personally threatened with death by the Boers after the English leave,
could not restrain his feelings, but cried like a child."

I have nothing to add to these extracts, which are taken from many such
statements. They are the very words of the persons most concerned, and
will speak for themselves.

The Convention was signed on the 3d August 1881, and was to be formally
ratified by a Volksraad or Parliament of the Burghers within three
months of that date, in default of which it was to fall to the ground
and become null and void.

Anybody who has followed the course of affairs with reference to the
retrocession of the Transvaal, or who has even taken the trouble to read
through this brief history, will probably come to the conclusion that,
under all the circumstances, the Boers had got more than they could
reasonably expect. Not so, however, the Boers themselves. On the 28th
September the newly-elected Volksraad referred the Convention to a
General Committee to report on, and on the 30th September the Report
was presented. On the 3d October a telegram was despatched through
the British Resident to "His Excellency W. E. Gladstone," in which the
Volksraad states that the Convention is not acceptable--

(1.) Because it is in conflict with the Sand River Treaty of 1852.

(2.) Because it violates the peace agreement entered into with Sir
Evelyn Wood, in confidence of which the Boers laid down their arms.

The Volksraad consequently declared that modifications were desirable,
and that certain articles _must_ be altered.

To begin with, they declare that the "conduct of foreign relations does
not appertain to the Suzerain, only supervision," and that the articles
bearing on these points must consequently be modified. They next attack
the native question, stating that "the Suzerain has not the right to
interfere with our Legislature," and state that they cannot agree to
Article 3, which gives the Suzerain a right of veto on Legislation
connected with the natives, to Article 13, by virtue of which natives
are to be allowed to acquire land, and to the last part of Article
26, by which it is provided that whites of alien race living in the
Transvaal shall not be taxed in excess of the taxes imposed on Transvaal
citizens.

They further declare that it is "infra dignitatem" for the President of
the Transvaal to be a member of a Commission. This refers to the Native
Location Commission, on which he is, in the terms of the Convention,
to sit, together with the British Resident, and a third person jointly
appointed.

They next declare that the amount of the debt for which the Commission
has made them liable should be modified. Considering that England had
already made them a present of from 600,000 pounds to 800,000 pounds,
this is a most barefaced demand. Finally, they state that "Articles 15,
16, 26, and 27, are superfluous, and only calculated to wound our sense
of honour" (sic).

Article 15 enacts that no slavery or apprenticeship shall be tolerated.

Article 16 provides for religious toleration.

Article 26 provides for the free movement, trading, and residence of all
persons, other than natives, conforming themselves to the laws of the
Transvaal.

Article 27 gives to all the right of free access to the Courts of
Justice.

Putting the "sense of honour" of the Transvaal Volksraad out of the
question, past experience has but too plainly proved that these Articles
are by no means superfluous.

In reply to this message, Sir Hercules Robinson telegraphs to the
British Resident on the 21st October in the following words:--

"Having forwarded Volksraad Resolution of 15th to Earl of Kimberley, I
am desired to instruct you in reply to repeat to the Triumvirate
that Her Majesty's Government cannot entertain any proposals for a
modification of the Convention _until after it has been ratified_, and
the necessity for further concession proved by experience."

I wish to draw particular attention to the last part of this message,
which is extremely typical of the line of policy adopted throughout
in the Transvaal business. The English Government dared not make any
further concession to the Boers, because they felt that they had already
strained the temper of the country almost to breaking in the matter. On
the other hand, they were afraid that if they did not do something, the
Boers would tear up the Convention, and they would find themselves face
to face with the old difficulty. Under these circumstances, they have
fallen back upon their temporising and un-English policy, which leaves
them a back-door to escape through, whatever turn things take. Should
the Boers now suddenly turn round and declare, which is extremely
probable, that they repudiate their debt to us, or that they are sick
of the presence of a British Resident, the Government will be able
to announce that "the necessity for further concession" has now been
"proved by experience," and thus escape the difficulty. In short, this
telegram has deprived the Convention of whatever finality it may have
possessed, and made it, as a document, as worthless as it is as a
practical settlement. That this is the view taken of it by the Boers
themselves, is proved by the text of the Ratification which followed on
the receipt of this telegram.

The tone of this document throughout is, in my opinion, considering from
whom it came, and against whom it is directed, very insolent. And it
amply confirms what I have previously said, that the Boers looked upon
themselves as a victorious people making terms with those they have
conquered. The Ratification leads off thus: "The Volksraad is not
satisfied with this Convention, and considers that the members of the
Triumvirate performed a fervent act of love for the Fatherland when
they upon their own responsibility signed such an unsatisfactory state
document." This is damning with faint praise indeed. It then goes on to
recite the various points of object, stating that the answers from the
English Government proved that they were well founded. "The English
Government," it says, "acknowledges indirectly by this answer (the
telegram of 21st October, quoted above) that the difficulties raised
by the Volksraad are neither fictitious nor unfounded, inasmuch _as it
desires from us the concession_ that we, the Volksraad, shall submit
it to a practical test." It will be observed that English is here
represented as begging the favour of a trial of her conditions from the
Volksraad of the Transvaal Boers. The Ratification is in these words:
"Therefore it is that the Raad here unanimously resolves not to go into
further discussion of the Convention, _and maintaining all objections
to the Convention_ as made before the Royal Commission or stated in the
Raad, and for the purpose of showing to everybody that the love of peace
and unity inspires us, _for the time and provisionally_ submitting the
articles of the Convention to a practical test, _hereby complying with
the request of the English Government_ contained in the telegram of the
13th October 1881, proceeds to ratify the Convention."

It would have been interesting to have seen how such a Ratification as
this, which is no Ratification but an insult, would have been accepted
by Lord Beaconsfield. I think that within twenty-four hours of its
arrival in Downing Street, the Boer Volksraad would have received a
startling answer. But Lord Beaconsfield is dead, and by his successor it
was received with all due thankfulness and humility. His words, however,
on this subject still remain to us, and even his great rival might
have done well to listen to them. It was in the course of what was, I
believe, the last speech he made in the House of Lords, that speaking
about the Transvaal rising, he warned the Government that it was a very
dangerous thing to make peace with rebellious subjects in arms against
the authority of the Queen. The warning passed unheeded, and the peace
was made in the way I have described.

As regards the Convention itself, it will be obvious to the reader that
the Boers have not any intention of acting up to its provisions, mild
as they are, if they can possibly avoid them, whilst, on the other hand,
there is no force at hand to punish their disregard or breach. It is all
very well to create a Resident with extensive powers; but how is he to
enforce his decisions? What is he to do if his awards are laughed at and
made a mockery of, as they are and will be? The position of Mr. Hudson
at Pretoria is even worse than that of Mr. Osborn in Zululand. For
instance, the Convention specifies in the first article that the
Transvaal is to be known as the Transvaal State. The Boer Government
have, however, thought fit to adopt the name of "South African Republic"
in all public documents. Mr. Hudson was accordingly directed to
remonstrate, which he did in a feeble way; his remonstrance was politely
acknowledged, but the country is still officially called the South
African Republic, the Convention and Mr. Hudson's remonstrations
notwithstanding. Mr. Hudson, however, appears to be better suited to
the position than would have been the case had an Englishman, pure and
simple, been appointed, since it is evident that things that would
have struck the latter as insults to the Queen he represented, and his
country generally, are not so understood by him. In fact, he admirably
represents his official superiors in his capacity of swallowing rebuffs,
and when smitten on one cheek delightedly offering the other.

Thus we find him attending a Boer meeting of thanksgiving for the
success that had waited on their arms and the recognition of their
independence, where most people will consider he was out of place. To
this meeting, thus graced by his presence, an address was presented by
a branch of the Africander Bond, a powerful institution, having for its
object the total uprootal of English rule and English customs in South
Africa, to which he must have listened with pleasure. In it he, in
common with other members of the meeting, is informed that "you took
up the sword and struck the Briton with such force" that "the Britons
through fear revived that sense of justice to which they could not be
brought by petitions," and that the "day will soon come that we shall
enter with you on one arena for the entire independence of South
Africa," i.e., independence from English rule.

On the following day the Government gave a dinner, to which all those
who had done good service during the late hostilities were invited, the
British Resident being apparently the only Englishman asked. Amongst the
other celebrities present I notice the name of Buskes. This man, who
is an educated Hollander, was the moving spirit of the Potchefstroom
atrocities; indeed, so dark is his reputation that the Royal Commission
refused to transact business with him, or to admit him into their
presence. Mr. Hudson was not so particular. And now comes the most
extraordinary part of the episode. At the dinner it was necessary that
the health of Her Majesty as Suzerain should be proposed, and with
studied insolence this was done last of all the leading political
toasts, and immediately after that of the Triumvirate. Notwithstanding
this fact, and that the toast was couched by Mr. Joubert, who stated
that "he would not attempt to explain what a Suzerain was," in what
appear to be semi-ironical terms, we find that Mr. Hudson "begged to
tender his thanks to the Honourable Mr. Joubert for the kind way in
which he proposed the toast."

It may please Mr. Hudson to see the name of the Queen thus
metaphorically dragged in triumph at the chariot wheels of the
Triumvirate, but it is satisfactory to know that the spectacle is not
appreciated in England: since, on a question in the House of Lords, by
the Earl of Carnarvon, who characterised it as a deliberate insult, Lord
Kimberley replied that the British Resident had been instructed that
in future he was not to attend public demonstrations unless he had
previously informed himself that the name of Her Majesty would be
treated with proper respect. Let us hope that this official reprimand
will have its effect, and that Mr. Hudson will learn therefrom that
there is such a thing as _trop de zele_--even in a good cause.

The Convention is now a thing of the past, the appropriate rewards have
been lavishly distributed to its framers, and President Brand has at
last prevailed upon the Volksraad of the Orange Free State to allow him
to become a Knight Grand Cross of Saint Michael and Saint George,--the
same prize looked forward to by our most distinguished public servants
at the close of the devotion of their life to the service of their
country. But its results are yet to come--though it would be difficult
to forecast the details of their development. One thing, however, is
clear: the signing of that document signalised an entirely new departure
in South African affairs, and brought us within a measurable distance
of the abandonment, for the present at any rate, of the supremacy of
English rule in South Africa.

This is the larger issue of the matter, and it is already bearing fruit.
Emboldened by their success in the Transvaal, the Dutch party at the
Cape are demanding, and the demand is to be granted, that the Dutch
tongue be admitted _pari passu_ with English, as the official language
in the Law Courts and the House of Assembly. When a country thus
consents to use a foreign tongue equally with its own, it is a sure
sign that those who speak it are rising to power. But "the Party"
looks higher than this, and openly aims at throwing off English rule
altogether, and declaring South Africa a great Dutch republic. The
course of events is favourable to their aspiration. Responsible
Government is to be granted to Natal, which country not being strong
enough to stand alone in the face of the many dangers that surround her,
will be driven into the arms of the Dutch party to save herself from
destruction. It will be useless for her to look for help from England,
and any feelings of repugnance she may feel to Boer rule will soon be
choked by necessity, and a mutual interest. It is, however, possible
that some unforeseen event, such as the advent to power of a strong
Conservative Ministry, may check the tide that now sets so strongly in
favour of Dutch supremacy.

It seems to me, however, to be a question worthy of the consideration
of those who at present direct the destinies of the Empire, whether it
would not be wise, as they have gone so far, to go a little further and
favour a scheme for the total abandonment of South Africa, retaining
only Table Bay. If they do not, it is now quite within the bounds of
sober possibility that they may one day have to face a fresh Transvaal
rebellion, only on a ten times larger scale, and might find it difficult
to retain even Table Bay. If, on the other hand, they do, I believe
that all the White States in South Africa will confederate of their own
free-will, under the pressure of the necessity for common action, and
the Dutch element being preponderant, at once set to work to exterminate
the natives on general principles, in much the same way, and from much
the same motives that a cook exterminates black beetles, because she
thinks them ugly, and to clear the kitchen.

I need hardly say that such a policy is not one that commands my
sympathy, but Her Majesty's Government having put their hand to the
plough, it is worth their while to consider it. It would at any rate
be in perfect accordance with their declared sentiments, and command an
enthusiastic support from their followers.

As regards the smaller and more immediate issue of the retrocession,
namely, its effect on the Transvaal itself, it cannot be other than
evil. The act is, I believe, quite without precedent in our history,
and it is difficult to see, looking at it from those high grounds of
national morality assumed by the Government, what greater arguments
can be advanced in its favour, than could be found to support the
abandonment of,--let us say,--Ireland. Indeed a certain parallel
undoubtedly exists between the circumstances of the two countries.
Ireland was, like the Transvaal, annexed, though a long time ago, and
has continually agitated for its freedom. The Irish hate us, so did the
Boers. In Ireland, Englishmen are being shot, and England is running the
awful risk of bloodguiltiness, as it did in the Transvaal. In Ireland,
smouldering revolution is being fanned into flame by Mr. Gladstone's
speeches and acts, as it was in the Transvaal. In Ireland, as in the
Transvaal, there exists a strong loyal class that receives insults
instead of support from the Government, and whose property, as was the
case there, is taken from them without compensation, to be flung as a
sop to stop the mouths of the Queen's enemies. And so I might go on,
finding many such similarities of circumstances, but my parallel, like
most parallels, must break down at last. Thus--it mattered little to
England whether or no she let the Transvaal go, but to let Ireland go
would be more than even Mr. Gladstone dare attempt.

Somehow, if you follow these things far enough, you always come
to vulgar first principles. The difference between the case of the
Transvaal and that of Ireland is a difference not of justice but of
cause, for both causes are equally unjust or just according as they
are viewed, but of mere common expediency. Judging from the elevated
standpoint of the national morality theory however, which, as we know,
soars above such truisms as the foolish statement that force is a
remedy, or that if you wish to retain your prestige you must not allow
defeats to pass unavenged, I cannot see why, if it was righteous to
abandon the Transvaal, it would not be equally righteous to abandon
Ireland!

As for the Transvaal, that country is not to be congratulated on its
success, for it has destroyed all its hopes of permanent peace, has
ruined its trade and credit, and has driven away the most useful and
productive class in the community. The Boers, elated by their success in
arms, will be little likely to settle down to peaceable occupations,
and still less likely to pay their taxes, which, indeed, I hear they
are already refusing to do. They have learnt how easily even a powerful
Government can be upset, and the lesson is not likely to be forgotten,
for want of repetition to their own weak one.

Already the Transvaal Government hardly knows which way to turn for
funds, and is, perhaps fortunately for itself, quite unable to borrow,
through want of credit.

As regards the native question, I agree with Mr. H. Shepstone, who,
in his Report on this subject, says that he does not believe that the
natives will inaugurate any action against the Boers, so long as the
latter do not try to collect taxes, or otherwise interfere with them.
But if the Boer Government is to continue to exist, it will be bound
to raise taxes from the natives, since it cannot collect much from its
white subjects. The first general attempt of the sort will be the signal
for active resistance on the part of the natives, whom, if they act
without concert, the Boers will be able to crush in detail, though with
considerable loss. If, on the other hand, they should have happened,
during the last few years, to have learnt the advantages of combination,
as is quite possible, perhaps they will crush the Boers.

The only thing that is at present certain about the matter is that there
will be bloodshed, and that before long. For instance, the Montsoia
difficulty in the Keate Award has in it the possibilities of a serious
war, and there are plenty such difficulties ready to spring into life
within and without the Transvaal.

In all human probability it will take but a small lapse of time for
the Transvaal to find itself in the identical position from which we
relieved it by the Annexation.

What course events will then take it is impossible to say. It may be
found desirable to re-annex the country, though, in my opinion,
that would be, after all that has passed, an unfortunate step; its
inhabitants may be cut up piecemeal by a combined movement of native
tribes, as they would have been, had they not been rescued by the
English Government in 1877, or it is possible that the Orange Free State
may consent to take the Transvaal under its wing: who can say? There is
only one thing that our recently abandoned possession can count on for
certain, and that is trouble, both from its white subjects, and the
natives, who hate the Boers with a bitter and a well-earned hatred.

The whole question, can, so far as its moral aspect is concerned, be
summed up in a few words.

Whether or no the Annexation was a necessity at the moment of its
execution,--which I certainly maintain it was--it received the
unreserved sanction of the Home Authorities, and the relations of
Sovereign and subject, with all the many and mutual obligations involved
in that connection, were established between the Queen of England and
every individual of the motley population of the Transvaal. Nor was this
change an empty form, for, to the largest proportion of that population,
this transfer of allegiance brought with it a priceless and a vital
boon. To them it meant--freedom and justice--for where, on any portion
of this globe over which the British ensign floats, does the law even
wink at cruelty or wrong?

A few years passed away, and a small number of the Queen's subjects in
the Transvaal rose in rebellion against Her authority, and inflicted
some reverses on Her arms. Thereupon, in spite of the reiterated pledges
given to the contrary--partly under stress of defeat, and partly
in obedience to the pressure of "advanced views"--the country was
abandoned, and the vast majority who had remained faithful to the Crown,
was handed to the cruel despotism of the minority who had rebelled
against it.

Such an act of treachery to those to whom we were bound with double
chains--by the strong ties of a common citizenship, and by those claims
to England's protection from violence and wrong which have hitherto
been wont to command it, even where there was no duty to fulfil, and
no authority to vindicate--stands--I believe--without parallel on our
records, and marks a new departure in our history.

I cannot end these pages without expressing my admiration of the
extremely able way in which the Boers managed their revolt, when once
they felt that, having undertaken the thing, it was a question of
life and death with them. It shows that they have good stuff in them
somewhere, which, under the firm but just rule of Her Majesty, might
have been much developed, and it makes it the more sad that they should
have been led to throw off that rule, and have been allowed to do so by
an English Government.

In conclusion, there is one point that I must touch on, and that is the
effect of the retrocession on the native mind, which I can only describe
as most disastrous. The danger alluded to in the Report of the Royal
Commission has been most amply realised, and the prevailing belief in
the steadfastness of our policy, and the inviolability of our plighted
word, which has hitherto been the great secret of our hold on the
Kafirs, has been rudely shaken. The motives that influenced, or are said
to have influenced, the Government in their act, are naturally quite
unintelligible to savages, however clever, who do believe that force
is a remedy, and who have seen the inhabitants of a country ruled by
England, defeat English soldiers and take possession of it, whilst those
who remained loyal to England were driven out of it. It will not be
wonderful if some of them, say the natives of Natal, deduce therefrom
conclusions unfavourable to loyalty, and evince a desire to try the same
experiment.

It is, however, unprofitable to speculate on the future, which must be
left to unfold itself.

The curtain is, so far as this country is concerned, down for the moment
on the South African stage; when it rises again, there is but too much
reason to fear that it will reveal a state of confusion, which, unless
it is more wisely and consistently dealt with in the future than it has
been in the past, may develop into chaos.


H. Rider Haggard

Sorry, no summary available yet.