The want has been repeatedly expressed of an official publication of the Minutes of the Negotiations which led to the Peace concluded at Vereeniging on May 31, 1902, events which have hitherto been a closed page in the history of the Boer War. As the Republics had ceased to exist, the question arose: Who could publish such Minutes? It is true that some very incomplete Minutes appeared in General de Wet's book, but although they were in all probability reliable, yet they had not the seal of an official document.
The only way in which the want could be met appeared to be for the Secretaries, who had been appointed by the two Republican Governments to minute the Negotiations, to publish those Minutes after they had been read and approved of as authentic by persons competent to do so.
This is what has been done by this publication, which places the reader in possession of all the correspondence leading up to the Negotiations, exact reports of what was said and done, not only at Vereeniging, but also previously at Klerksdorp, and, finally, all the Negotiations which took place at Pretoria between the two Republican Governments and the British Government, represented by Lord Kitchener and Lord Milner.
We, however, were not satisfied to publish this record, which we had most carefully taken down, merely on our own authority. We felt that, if only this and nothing more were done, the world would after all have only our word to rely upon, and that, although the record thus published would always serve as a highly reliable book of reference, it would lack the authority of a document properly authenticated by a body competent to do so.
In order, therefore, to obtain this desirable seal of authenticity to our record, we submitted our manuscript to President Steyn, Acting President Burger, the Chairman of the Meeting of Representatives of the People at Vereeniging (General C. F. Beyers), Generals Botha and Smuts for the South African Republic, and Generals de Wet and Hertzog for the Orange Free State, with the result that they all found our record to be a true and correct account of the Peace Negotiations.
So this book sees the light with their imprimatur, and we therefore publish it with the greatest confidence.
The Reader's attention is drawn to the following particulars:--
In respect of the speeches made by the members of the Republican Governments at Klerksdorp, and the speeches delivered later at Vereeniging by them and by the Delegates from the various Commandos, the reports are almost verbatim. The addresses of the Presidents and principal Generals especially were transcribed from the stenographic notes of D. E. van Velden, and revised by J. D. Kestell.
This completeness does not extend to what is published of the First Conference between the two Republican Governments and Lord Kitchener and Lord Milner, because no Secretaries were admitted to that Conference. Lord Kitchener had expressed the desire that no official notes should be taken, as the parties would first confer informally. What was discussed, however, has not been lost, for an account of what took place at this Conference was taken down by J. D. Kestell from the dictation of General Hertzog immediately after the conference was over, and revised by President Steyn and Mr. W. J. C. Brebner (Acting Government Secretary, Orange Free State), and appears in this book.
With reference to the Second Conference, however, we were present, and what is given is a verbatim account of the discussion.
Of some official documents in our possession, reproductions or facsimiles are given in the hope that the reader will find them of interest.
J. D. K. D. E. v. V.
Pretoria, October, 1908.