A Life for a Life.
This the Englishmen in Johannesburg and foreigners of all nations could not possibly feel. They were not more bound to die to obtain control of the gold mines of Johannesburg for a man already wealthy or his confederates, than to assist
South Africans in defending them; or than we who visit the south of France or Italy for health should feel ourselves bound to remain and die if war breaks out between the Bonapartists and the Republicans, or the Pope and King. If by a process of abstract thought we have arrived at a strong conviction of a right, or human justice to be maintained by a cause with which we have no practical concern, we may feel morally compelled to take a part in it, but no man can throw it in our teeth if we refuse to die in a strange land for
A Cause that is Not Ours.
The Englishmen and others who refused to fight in Johannesburg, or fled rather than run the risk of remaining, pursued the only course open to wise and honourable men. Had they resolved to remain permanently in South Africa, and to become citizens of the Transvaal Republic, the case might have been otherwise. As it was, they could not run a knife into the heart of a people which had hospitably received them, and attempt to destroy a land in which they had found nothing but greater wealth and material comfort than in their own; and they could also not enter upon a deadly raid for a man whom personally the workers of Johannesburg cared nothing for, and with whom they had not a sympathy or interest in common. In leaving Johannesburg and refusing to fight, they pursued the only course left open to them by justice and honour.
Rightly to understand the problem before the little Transvaal Republic to-day, it is necessary for Englishmen to imagine not merely that within the space of ten or twelve years, forty millions of Russians, Frenchmen, and Germans should enter England, not in dribblets, and in time extending over half a century, so that they might in a measure be absorbed and digested into the original population, but instantaneously and at once; not merely that the large bulk of them did not intend to remain in England, and were there merely to extract wealth; not merely that the bulk of this wealth was exported at once to other countries enriching Russia, France, and Germany out of the products of English soil: that would be comparatively a small matter; but that the bulk of the wealth extracted was in the hands of a few persons, and that these persons were opposed to the continued freedom and independence of England, and were attempting by the use of the wealth they extracted from England to stir up Russia and France against her, that through the loss of her freedom they might the better obtain the command of her wealth and lands. When the Englishman has vividly drawn this future for himself, he will hold, as nearly as is possible, in a nutshell an image of the problem which the people and Government of the Transvaal Republic are called on to face to-day, and we put it straightly to him whether this problem is not one of
Infinite Complexity and Difficulty?
Much unfortunate misunderstanding has arisen from the simple use of the terms "capitalist" and "monopolist" in the discussion of South African matters. Without the appending of explanation, they convey a false impression. These terms, so familiar to the students of social phenomena in Europe and America, are generally used in connection with a larger, but a quite distinct body of problems. The terms "capitalism," "monopolist," and "millionaire" are now generally associated with the question of the forming of "trusts," "corners," etc., etc., and the question whether it is desirable that society should so organise itself that one man may easily obtain possession of twenty millions, while the bulk of equally intelligent and equally laborious men obtain little or nothing from the labour of humanity. This question is a world-wide question; it is not one in any sense peculiarly South African; it is a world-wide problem, which, as the result of much thought, careful consideration, and many experiments, the nations of the civilised world will be called upon to adjudicate during the twentieth century; but it is not the question with which South Africa stands face to face at this moment. The question before us is not, shall one South African possess twenty millions, live in his palace, live on champagne, have his yacht in Table Bay, and deck women with a hundred thousand pounds' worth of jewels, while the South African next door has nothing? This is not our question. Our problem is not the problem of America. In America there are many individuals possessing wealth amounting to many millions, but when the United States in their entirety is taken, the £40,000,000 of the richest individual sink to nothing. And were it the desire of the richest millionaire in the States
To Corrupt and Purchase
the whole population for political purposes, he could not pay so much as II a head to the 80,000,000 inhabitants of the country. Further, the bulk of American millionaires are American! They differ in no respect, except in their possession of large wealth, in interest or affections, from the shoemaker in the alley or the farmer at his plough. They are American citizens. Their fate is bound up with that of the land they live in; their ambitions are American; if a great misfortune should overtake America to-morrow there is no reason to suppose that the heart of a Rockefeller or a Vanderbilt would not ache as that of the simplest cowboy in the States. When they die, it is to American institutions that they leave their munificent donations, and the colleges and public institutions of America are endowed by them. The mass even of that wealth they expend on themselves is expended in America, and, whether they will or no, returns to the people of the country in many forms. The millionaires of America are and remain Americans; and the J. Gould who should expend his millions in stirring up war between the North and South, or in urging England to attack and slay American citizens, would be dealt with by his fellow-subjects, whether millionaires or paupers, with expedition. The question whether the conditions which lead to such vast accretions of fortune in the hands of private individuals is a desirable one and of social benefit is an open one, and a fair field for impartial discussion; but, whatever decision is arrived at with regard to millionaires and private monopoly as they exist in Europe or the United States, it has little or no bearing on the problem of South Africa, which is totally distinct. South Africa is a young country, and taken as a whole it is an arid, barren country agriculturally. Our unrivalled climate, our sublime and rugged natural scenery,
The Joy and Pride
of the South African heart, is largely the result of this very aridity and rockiness. Parts are fruitful, but we have no vast corn-producing plains, which for generations may be cultivated almost without replenishing, as in Russia and America; we have few facilities for producing those vast supplies of flesh which are poured forth from Australia and New Zealand; already we import a large portion of the grain and flesh we consume. We may, with care, become a great fruit-producing country, and create some rich and heavy wines, but, on the whole, agriculturally, we are, and must remain, as compared with most other countries, a poor nation. Nor have we any great inland lakes, seas, and rivers, or great arms of the sea, to enable us to become a great maritime or carrying people. One thing only we have which saves us from being the poorest country on the earth, and should make us one of the richest. We have our vast stores of mineral wealth, of gold and diamonds, and probably of other wealth yet unfound. This is all we have.
Nature has given us nothing else; we are a poor people hut for these. Out of the veins running through rocks and hills, and the mud-beds, heavy with jewels, that lie in our arid plains, must be reared and created our great national institutions, our colleges and museums, our art galleries and universities; by means of these our system of education must be extended; and on the national side, out of these must the great future of South Africa be built up — or not at all. The discovery of our mineral wealth came somewhat suddenly upon us. We were not prepared for its appearance by wise legislative enactments, as in New Zealand or some other countries. Before the people of South Africa as a whole had had time to wake up to the truth and to learn the first
Great and Terrible Lesson
our diamonds should have taught us, the gold mines of the Transvaal were discovered.
We South Africans, Dutch and English alike, are a curious folk, strong, brave, with a terrible intensity and perseverance, but we are not a sharp people well versed in the movements of the speculative world. In a few years the entire wealth of South Africa, its mines of gold and diamonds, its coalfields, and even its most intractable lands from the lovely Hex River Valley to Magaliesberg, had largely passed into the hands of a very small knot of speculators. In hardly any instances are they South Africans. That they were not South Africans born would in itself matter less than nothing, had they thrown in their lot with us, if in sympathies, hopes, and fears they were one with us. They are not. It is not merely that the wealth which should have made us one of the richest peoples in the world has left us one of the poorest, and is exported to other countries, that it builds palaces in Park Lane, buys yachts in the Mediterranean, fills the bags of the croupiers at Monte Carlo, decks foreign women with jewels, while our citizens toil in poverty; this is a small matter. But those men are not of us! That South Africa we love whose great future is dearer to us than our own interests, in the thought of whose great and noble destiny lies the source of our patriotism and highest inspiration, for whose good in a far-distant future we, Dutch and English alike, would sacrifice all in the present — this future is no more to them than the future of the Galapago Islands. We are a hunting ground to them, a field for extracting wealth, for
Building up Fame and Fortune;
nothing more. This matter does not touch the Transvaal alone; from the lovely Hex River Valley, east, west, north, and south, our lands are being taken from us, and passing into the hands of men who not only care nothing for South Africa, but apply the vast wealth they have drawn from South African soil in an attempt to corrupt our public life, and put their own nominees into our parliaments, to grasp the reins of power, that their wealth may yet more increase. Is it strange that from the hearts of South Africans, English and Dutch alike, there is arising an exceedingly great and bitter cry, "We have sold our birthright for a mess of pottage! The lands, the mineral wealth which should have been ours to build up the great Africa of the future, has gone into strange hands! And they use the gold they gain out of us to enslave us; they strike at our hearts with a sword gilded with South African gold! While the gold and stones remained undiscovered in the bosom of our earth, it was saved up for us and for our grandchildren to build up the great future; it is going from us never to return; and when they have rifled our earth and picked the African bones bare, as the vultures clear the carcase of their prey, they will leave us with a broken skeleton!”
I think there is no broadminded and sympathetic man who can hear this cry without sympathy. The South African question is far other than the question, Shall one man possess twenty millions while his brother possesses none? It is one far deeper.
Nevertheless, there is another side to the question. Nations, like individuals, suffer, and must pay the price, yet more for their ignorance and stupidity than their wilful crimes. He who sits supine and intellectually inert while great evils are being accomplished, sins wholly as much as he whose positive action produces them, and must pay the same price. The man at the helm who goes to sleep cannot blame the rock when
the ship is thrown upon it, though it be torn asunder. He should have known the rock was there, and steered clear of it. It is perhaps natural
A Great Bitterness
should have arisen in our hearts towards the men who have disinherited us; but is it always just? Personally, and in private life, they may be far from being inhuman or unjust; they may be rich in such qualities; at most they remain men and brothers who differ in no way from the majority of us. We made certain laws and regulations; they took advantage of them for their own success; they have but pursued the universal laws of the business world and of the struggle of competition. It was we who did not defend ourselves, and must take the consequences. As long as any of these men merely use the wealth they extract from Africa for their own pleasures and interest we have not much to complain of, and must bear the fruit of our folly. The speculators who rule in Mashonaland were wiser than we; they ordained that 50 per cent, of all gold mining profits should go to the Government, and they retained all diamonds found as a Government monopoly. We were not wise enough to do so, and the nation must suffer. But poverty is not the worst thing that can overtake an individual or a nation. In that harsh school the noblest lessons and the sturdiest virtues are learnt. The greatest nations, like the greatest individuals, have often been the poorest; and with wealth comes often what is more terrible than poverty — corruption. Not all the millionaires of Europe can prevent one man of genius being born in this land to illuminate it; not all the gold of Africa can keep us from being the bravest, freest nation on earth; no man living can shut out from our eyes the glories of our African sky, or kill one throb of our exultant joy in our great African plains; nor can all earth prevent us from growing into a great, free, wise people. The faults of the past we cannot undo; but
The Future is Ours.
But when the men, who came penniless to our shores and have acquired millions out of our substance, are not contented with their gains, when they seek to dye the South African soil which has received them with the blood of its citizens — when they seek her freedom — the matter is otherwise.
This is the problem, the main weight of which has fallen on the little South African Republic. It was that little ship which received the main blow when eighty thousand souls of all nationalities leaped aboard at once: and gallantly the taut little craft, if for a moment she shivered from stem to stern, has held on her course to shore, with all souls on board.
We put it, not to the man in the street, who, for lack of time or interest, may have given no thought to such matters, but to all statesmen, of whatever nationality, who have gone deeply into the problems of social structure and the practical science of government, and to all thinkers who have devoted time and study to the elucidation of social problems and the structure of societies and nations, whether the problem placed suddenly for solution before this little State does not exceed in complexity and difficulty that which it has almost ever been a necessity that the people of any country in the past or present should deal with? When we remember how gravely is discussed the arrival of a few hundred thousand Chinamen in America, who are soon lost in the vast bulk of the population, as a handful of chaff is lost in a bag of corn; when we recall the fact that the appearance in England of a few thousand labouring Polish and Russian Jews amidst a vast population, into which they will be absorbed in less than two generations, forming good and leal English subjects, has been solemnly adverted upon as
A Great National Calamity,
and measures have been weightily discussed for forcibly excluding them, it will assuredly be clear to all impartial and truth-loving minds that the problem which the Transvaal Republic has suddenly had to deal with is one of transcendent complexity and difficulty. We put it to all generous and just spirits whether of statesmen or thinkers, whether the little Republic does not deserve our sympathy, the sympathy which wise minds give to all who have to deal with new and complex problems, where the past experience of humanity has not marked out a path — and whether, if we touch the subject at all, it is not necessary that it should be in that large, impartial, truth-seeking spirit, in which humanity demands we should approach all great social difficulties and questions?
We put it further to such intelligent minds as have impartially watched the action and endeavours of the little Republic in dealing with its great problems, whether, when all the many sides and complex conditions are considered, it has not manfully and wonderfully endeavoured to solve them?
It is sometimes said that when one stands looking down from the edge of this hill at the great mining camp of Johannesburg stretching beneath, with its heaps of white sand and debris mountain high, its mining chimneys belching forth smoke, with its seventy thousand Kaffirs, and its eighty thousand men and women, white or coloured, of all nationalities gathered here in the space of a few years, on the spot where fifteen years ago the Boer's son guided his sheep to the water and the Boer's wife sat alone at evening at the house door to watch the sunset, we are looking upon one of the most wonderful spectacles on earth. And it is wonderful; but, as we look at it, the thought always arises within us of something more wonderful yet — the marvellous manner in which a little nation of simple folk, living in peace in the land they loved, far from the rush of cities and the concourse of men, have risen to the difficulties of their condition; how they, without instruction in statecraft, or traditionary rules of policy, have risen to face their great difficulties, and have sincerely endeavoured to meet them in a large spirit, and have largely succeeded. Nothing but that
Curious and Wonderful Instinct
for statecraft and the organisation and arrangement of new social conditions which seems inherent as a gift of the blood to all those peoples who took their rise in the little deltas on the north-east of the continent of Europe, where the English and Dutch peoples alike took their rise, could have made it possible. We do not say that the Transvaal Republic has among its guides and rulers a Solon or a Lycurgus; but it has to-day, among the men guiding its destiny, men of brave and earnest spirit who are seeking manfully and profoundly to deal with the great problems before them in a wide spirit of humanity and justice. And, we do again repeat, that the strong sympathy of all earnest and thoughtful minds, not only in Africa, but in England, should be with them.
Let us take as an example one of the simplest elements of the question, the enfranchisement of the new arrivals. Even those of us, who with the present writer, are sometimes denominated "the fanatics of the franchise,”who hold that that state is healthiest and strongest, in the majority of cases, in which every adult citizen, irrespective of sex or position, possesses a vote, base our assertion on the fact that each individual forming an integral part of the community has their all at stake in that community; that the woman's stake is likely to be as large as the man's, and the poor man's as the rich, for each has only his all, his life; and that their devotion to its future good and their concern in its health is likely to be equal; that the State gains by giving voice to all its integral parts. But the ground is cut from under our feet when a large mass of persons concerned are not integral portions of the State, but merely temporarily connected with it, have no interest in its remote future, and only a commercial interest in its present. We may hold (and we personally very strongly hold) that the moment a stranger lands in a country, however ignorant he may be of its laws, usages, and interest, if he intends to remain permanently in it and incorporate all his life and interest with it, he becomes an integral part of the State, and should as soon as possible be given the power of expressing his will through its legislature; but the
Practical and Obvious Difficulty
at once arises of determining who, in an uncertain stream of strangers who suddenly flow into a land, is so situated! I may go to Italy, accompanied by two friends, we may hire the same house between us (to use a homely illustration); there may be no external evidence of difference in our attitude; yet I may have determined to live and die in Italy; I may feel a most intense affection for its people and its institutions, and a great solicitude, over its future; the first man who accompanies me may feel perfectly indifferent to land and people, and be there merely for health, leaving again as soon as it is restored; the second may be animated by an intense hatred of Italy and Italians; he not only may not wish well to the nation, but may desire to see it downtrodden by Austria and its inhabitants destroyed. By enfranchising me the moment I arrived, the Italian nation would gain a faithful and devoted citizen who would sacrifice all for her in time of danger and devote thought in times of peace; in enfranchising immediately the second man, they would perform an act entirely negative and indifferent without loss or gain either way; in enfranchising the third man they would perform an act of minor social suicide. Yet it would be impossible at once and from our superficial study to discover our differences!