Character of the South African Boer.
[Sidenote: A Peculiar Type]
The Dutchmen of South Africa present in character and type one of the most peculiar racial results of all history. They came originally of a people who had proved its love of liberty and its faith in religion on many a well-fought field and in the pages of noble national annals. Yet they did not carry their qualities with them to the new land in any sufficient measure to overcome surrounding influences of a pernicious nature. They were raised from the lowest class in the home community and migrated practically for the wages offered them by the Dutch East India Company. In this respect the origin of the Colony was greatly different from that of New England, to which men of high character and earnest thought had migrated in order to obtain religious freedom; of Virginia, where men of the best English families and culture came in that adventurous spirit which has made the British Empire or the United States a present possibility; of French Canada, where Jesuits roamed the vast forests in a spirit of intense missionary zeal and where the scions of noble French families hunted in the wilderness of the West, or fought the Iroquois on the banks of the St. Lawrence; of English Canada, to which the United Empire Loyalists came from motives of loyalty to King and country.
[Sidenote: Their Religious Life]
As these Dutch settlers drifted into the Colony, over a period of a hundred years, they left every source of knowledge, refinement and high principle behind them. It is true they had their Bible. Upon its interpretation depended greatly their future development of character amid surroundings of absolute isolation, and it has been a permanent misfortune that they chose the natural view of narrow and ignorant men, and made their religious life one of practical devotion to the Old Testament dispensation in a most crude and sometimes cruel application. Around them on all sides were the moral laxities of savage life, the dangerous powers of slavery, the looseness incident to any small population of whites in the midst of great numbers of ignorant and superstitious natives. Their Government was intolerant in the extreme, they had no books or newspapers, they saw no intelligent visitors, and the naturally somewhat sombre character of the Dutchman developed under these conditions into a unique mixture of religious zeal, intolerant ignorance and qualified immorality. To this character was added the quality of undoubted bravery and into the general melting pot was thrown the further attributes, as time went on, of intense dislike and distrust of the Englishman and of absolute confidence and belief in themselves.
[Sidenote: Mixture of Huguenots and Dutch Culture]
The Huguenots, who joined the small Dutch population of 1689, brought a considerable element of culture and liberality of thought with them, but although many of the best families in Cape Colony, and South Africa generally, to-day trace their descent from these settlers, the effect upon the scattered masses of the people was very slight. The distinctive language and religion and culture to a large extent disappeared under laws which enforced uniformity and in time merged the Frenchman in the Boer. Of course, the influence was to some extent a good one and it yet dwells on the surface of affairs in such names as De Villiers and Joubert, Du Plessis and Le Seuer, or their local corruptions. A more potent factor in this evolution of character was the solitary nature of the settler's life. [Sidenote: Boer and American Colonist] Pioneers on the American continent were often alone with their families for a time in some advanced frontier location, but it was not usually a continuous isolation. As the years passed on other families joined them, settlements grew rapidly, and with these villages came the various amenities of social and civilized life. But the Boer seemed to catch from the wandering savages around him something of the spirit of their roaming life, and in this he was encouraged by the nature of his occupation and by the Government regulations, which simply charged him rental for three thousand acres of grazing ground without confining him to any specific location. He did not carve his farm out of some primeval forest, build a permanent home for his family on his own land, or cultivate the soil with the strenuous labor of his hands. During the century in which his racial type was developing the Dutch settler moved from point to point with his cattle in accordance with the season and the pasture, and lived an almost nomadic life. His covered wagon was to him what the wigwam has been to the savage of the American continent, while his skill in shooting held a somewhat similar place to that of the bow and arrow in Indian economy. Hence the accentuation of his intellectual narrowness by continued isolation and the strengthening of the physical frame at the expense of mental power.
[Sidenote: Boer Characteristics]
As the years passed on, however, and settlement increased; as the effects of English administration and laws were felt more and more throughout the regions owning the authority of the Cape Government; as, unfortunately, the growing inroads of the Kaffirs and their continuous raids made combination necessary amongst the Dutch farmers; as villages grew more numerous and occasional schools were to be found in the communities; some modification of these personal conditions might have been expected. Amongst the Dutch farmers of Cape Colony changes of this kind did occur. They adopted some of the customs of civilization, they lost a part of the more intense Boer narrowness and ignorance of the past, they developed a qualified interest in education of a racial character, they lived upon terms of slightly freer intercourse with their neighbors of both races, they had drilled into them a wholesome respect for the law and a more humane, or, at any rate, legal view of the natives position. But to the emigrant farmers of Natal, of the Orange River and the Vaal, these modifications of character were long indeed in coming, and to a great mass of them have never come at all. In their main pursuits the Boers of all South Africa are the same--owners of cattle and horses and dwellers upon ranches as widely separated from each other as conditions of population and law will permit. Of course, in Cape Colony and Natal, there are town and village Dutchmen sufficient to constitute a small class by themselves; and the slow-spreading influence of a persistent educational system is having its effect in other directions; while the natural increase of population has been doing its work in lessening the isolation of the farmers. So to some extent in the Orange Free State. Physically and mentally, however, the Dutch farmer is much the same everywhere in South Africa--tall, raw-boned, awkward in manner, slow of speech, fond of hunting whenever and wherever possible, accustomed to the open air, lazy as regards work, but active in pursuits involving personal pleasure. Especially has this latter quality been apparent in such amusements as war with the natives, or the English, or in predatory excursions into alien territory and the shooting of big game.
[Sidenote: Livingstone's Description of the Boers]
All these qualities have become accentuated in the two republics, while the latter ones have not been called into practical exercise of late years in the Colonies proper. The Boer of the Transvaal and the Free State is, in fact, a most peculiar type even in that region of the strangest inconsistencies. Authorities are not wanting who praise his general character in terms of the highest laudation. Mr. J. A. Froude, after spending a few crowded weeks in South Africa, declared with almost poetic enthusiasm of the Boers that they: "of all human beings now on this planet, correspond nearest to Horace's description of the Roman peasant soldiers who defeated Pyrrhus and Hannibal." Mr. F. C. Selous, who has hunted with and amongst them for years, found "no people in the world more genuinely kind and hospitable to strangers than the South African Dutch." Other less well-known travellers and public men have spoken in equally high terms of the Boer; while during the last few years a whole library of literature has been published on his behalf, and proves, if it does nothing else, that Englishmen have plenty of impartiality in dealing with such subjects. On the other hand, evidence accumulates that the character made by history and environment is in this case a permanent one; that the Boer of to-day is the natural and inevitable product of the past; and that the visitor, or traveller, or the interested advocate of racial and political theories, can no more turn over the pages of a record written in blood and sorrow throughout the wild veldt of South Africa than the Boer himself can, in Rudyard Kipling's phrase, "turn back the hands of the clock" in the region now under his control. Dr. Livingstone saw more of the emigrant farmer in the formative days of his republican and independent existence than any other Englishman, and he has described the strongest influence in his historic evolution as a distinct racial type in the following words:
"They are all traditionally religious, tracing their descent from some of the best men (Huguenots and Dutch) the world ever saw. Hence they claim to themselves the title of 'Christians,' and all the colored race are 'black property' or 'creatures.' They being the chosen people of God, the heathen are given to them for an inheritance, and they are the rod of divine vengeance on the heathen as were the Jews of old.... No one can understand the effect of the unutterable meanness of the slave system on the minds of those who, but for the strange obliquity which prevents them from feeling the degradation of not being gentlemen enough to pay for services rendered, would be equal in virtue to ourselves. Fraud becomes as natural to them as 'paying one's way' is to the rest of mankind."
 Dr. Livingstone's Missionary Travels. London, 1857.
[Sidenote: Impressions of James Bryce]
Mr. James Bryce, in his Impressions of South Africa, points out with evident truth that: "Isolation and the wild life these ranchmen led soon told upon their habits. The children grew up ignorant; the women, as was natural where slaves were employed, lost the neat and cleanly ways of their Dutch ancestors; the men were rude, bigoted, indifferent to the comforts and graces of life." [Sidenote: Opinion of Canon Knox Little] Canon Knox Little, so well known as a divine and a writer, declares that "it is probable that even the most corrupt of the South American republics cannot surpass the Government of the Transvaal in wholesale corruption," and then proceeds to analyze the Boer character in the following expressive terms: "They detest progress of any kind, are frequently regardless of truth and unfaithful to promises when falsehood, or betrayal of engagement, will suit their purpose. They are subject to alternations of lethargic idleness and fierceness of courage which characterize many wild animals. Some of them are, of course, not bad fellows to get on with, if there is no reason for crossing them. They delight in isolation, detest work, dislike paying taxes, hate all progressive ways, cling to the most wretched stationary stage of semi-civilization with unparalleled tenacity, and love what is called 'independence'--that is, selfish self-seeking up to the verge and over the verge of license. They are utterly uncultured--indeed, have no conception of what culture means; their very language is incapable of expressing high philosophical ideas; and the pastoral home life so much insisted upon by their panegyrists thinly veils in many cases--such is the testimony of the many credible witnesses who have lived among them--the most odious vices."
 Sketches and Studies in South Africa. By W. J. Knox Little, Canon Residentiary of Worcester. London, 1899.
[Sidenote: Misinterpretation of the Old Testament]
Similar quotations might be given from many sources and of the same repute and strength. But, leaving unfavorable generalizations on the one side to offset favorable ones on the other, it might be well to take the qualities of the people in detail and examine them from various points of view. Religion is perhaps the first and foremost influence. The creed of the Boer is based by universal admission upon the Old Testament. The love and light and liberty of the newer dispensation has no place in his belief or in his life. The Bible, as he reads it, permits slavery, tolerates concubinage, teaches the perpetual intervention of a personal Providence, and makes him as truly one of a chosen people as was ever Abraham, or Isaac, or Jacob. He lives upon the broad veldt of South Africa a patriarchal life not unlike in some respects that of the Hebrew of old, and he has thoroughly convinced himself that the British are to him what the Philistines were to the Jew, while the natives are intended to be his footstool as fully as ever were some of the surrounding races of Palestine to the heroes of Scripture. His religion is essentially a gloomy and serious one. There is no lighter side of life to him, and a text from the Old Testament is made to apply to most of the events of the day. Built into his character by isolation and intensified, in the crudest and wildest application, by an environment of inherited and continued ignorance, this religion has produced some very curious consequences. It has not made the Boer an enthusiast; it has simply rendered him contemptuous of all other creeds and sects to a degree of arrogance which is hard to meet and worse to endure. It has not had any softening influence, but rather a hardening one--making every prejudice stronger, every hatred more bitter, every avenue of intellectual expression more narrow and less susceptible to the forces of modern progress and education. It has developed into a more or less formal expression of defiant racial pride through the almost profane belief that the God of the Hebrews has become, essentially and entirely, the Providence of the Boers. The continuous use of Old Testament words and phrases has become a part of his individual life, though it usually means as little as do the continuous oaths of the cheerful sailor in the performance of his work. Ignorance has, in fact, crystallized the faith of his fathers into an extraordinarily narrow creed of which Tant' Sannie, in Olive Schreiner's Story of an African Farm, presents one of many picturesque embodiments:
"My mother boiled soap with bushes and I will boil soap with bushes. If the wrath of God is to fall upon this land (said Tant' Sannie, with the serenity of conscious virtue), it shall not be through me. Let them make their steam-wagons and their fire-carriages; let them go on as if the dear Lord didn't know what he was about when he gave their horses and oxen legs--the destruction of the Lord will follow them. I don't know how such people read their Bibles. When do we hear of Moses or Noah riding in a railway?"
[Sidenote: Prejudice Against Civilization]
It would appear, therefore, as beyond doubt, and the conclusion may be stated in very few words, that his religion has intensified the racial peculiarities of the Boer; has increased an already strong natural bigotry and tendency to superstition; and has helped to evolve a most unique and unpleasant personal character. What it has not done for him may be still further summarized. It has not taught him that "cleanliness is next to Godliness;" that morality is more than a matter of the color line; that honesty in word and action is a part of righteousness; that hatred toward his territorial neighbors, and malice or contempt toward his racial inferiors, are characteristics of anything rather than Christianity. Incidentally, it may be said that the Boer hates the slightest tendency toward show or display in his religious worship, and that he will obtrude his views of religion upon others at any and every opportunity. The Dutch Reformed Church is the State Church of the Transvaal, and has two branches--the Gereformeede, which believes in the singing of hymns during service, and the opposing Hervormde Dopper branch, which has been led by Paul Kruger since the disagreement of 1883 upon this subject. The matter has become a political one, and the party opposed to singing hymns has now been in power for a decade. To the Boers of both Republics the Nachtmaal, or annual Communion, is the great event of the year. Pretoria is the centre of the annual pilgrimage and the Mecca of all Boers at this period. From the ranch and farm and village they trek to that point in wagons loaded with supplies and holding the entire family. It is really a national holiday, as well as a religious festival, and is the one occasion upon which the Boer throws aside his love for solitude and shows himself willing to mix with his kind. Such is the religion of the Boer in its general results.
[Sidenote: Home Life and Morals]
Of his home life and morals much might be written. The families live far apart from each other in a house which forms the centre of some wide-stretching ranch or farm, and the larger the farm, the more isolated the situation, the fewer and further the neighbors, the better pleased is the Boer. In a limited sense only is he hospitable. Visitors are very few, and when they come on horseback and properly attended they are received in a sort of rude way. Englishmen are not considered desirable guests--unless they happen to be great hunters with many stories of the sport which the Boer loves so well. Poor men, or those who have met with misfortune, are spurned. The women of the republics are very ignorant, and as mentally feeble as might be expected from their surroundings and history. Physically, stoutness is the end and aim of female ambition, and to weigh two, or even three, hundred pounds is the greatest pride of the Dutch women of the veldt. They are invariably treated as the inferior sex, and even eat apart from the men. The Boer woman thinks little of dress, and in the house wears chiefly a loose and scantily made gown, which does for night as well as day. Out of doors, upon the weekly visit to church, something slightly better is used, together with an immense bonnet and a veil so thick as to make the face invisible. Next to the desire for fatness is the wish for a good complexion, and these two vanities constitute the special distinction of the Boer woman. She does little work and takes less exercise; except in times of war, when she sleeps as easily on the veldt as in a feather bed, and handles her gun as skilfully as does her husband. The Kaffirs and Hottentots and miscellaneous colored servants do the labor of both the kitchen and the farm. They do not share in the long prayers of the family, or indeed in any religious exercise, as the Boer regards them as animals not requiring salvation. The common belief is that they are descended from apes and baboons.
[Sidenote: The Homestead and Immorality]
The homesteads are small and unpretentious, and nearly always dirty in the extreme, as are the clothes and persons of the people themselves. Washing is perfunctory and generally the merest pretense. Of course water is frequently scarce, and this fact affords some excuse for what has now become a general habit and condition. As to the morals of the Dutch farmer facts speak stronger than words. In his relations with his own race his code is as strict as can be desired, and im that respect the home life is entirely moral. But no law, spiritual or human, controls him in regard to the negro women with whom he has been surrounded for centuries. And the result is a brutalization of his whole nature, a loss of all refinement in manners and the absence of any real respect for the sex. The Griquas, who have numbered thousands and constituted large and distinct communities in South Africa, and are still being added to, are the offspring of Boer and Hottentot unions; while the Cape-Boys are the result of similarly unrecognized relations between Boers and the Kaffir women. This immorality extends to the Boers all through South Africa in their relation with colored dependents, and it is not difficult to comprehend its degrading effect upon men, women and children alike.
[Sidenote: Lack of Education]
Ignorance is universal and pronounced. It is more than a mere lack of education. Such as there is amongst the wealthier portion of the rural population consists in the occasional visit of some travelling schoolmaster--generally a broken-down Englishman, or drunken Hollander who has failed in every other pursuit. Even this measure of instruction is not supported by the poorer farmers. Schools in the Transvaal are very rare, though more frequently found in the Free State. Distances are, of course, considerable, and for this reason alone organized education would be difficult. In late years the well-to-do frequently engage tutors--usually of rather doubtful qualifications--for six months and in order to teach the children to read and write. But of anything more than this they do not dream, and the great majority of the adults can do neither. The Old Testament they are taught until they know it by heart, and do not really require to read it. Of literature, history, astronomy, the sciences, political economy, the nations of the world, nothing is known to the average Boer of the veldt. He believes the earth to be a flat and solid surface around which the sun revolves. A member of the Transvaal Volksraad is on record as having jeered at the English view of the matter. He declared that the earth couldn't move because he had often for hours at a time watched upon the veldt to see if a certain kopje gave any sign of motion. As to the sun, didn't Joshua bid it stand still, and how could he have done that if it was already stationary and the world went round it? No native Dutchman of South Africa has shown literary ability. Its only poet is Pringle--a Scotchman. Its only writer is Mrs. Cornwright-Schreiner--the daughter of a German. Its only historian is Dr. Theal--a Canadian. New ideas are to the Boer a source of dread; improvements are spurned as either impious or unnecessary. Cures for infectious sheep disease or for rinderpest amongst the cattle are opposed as contravening the intentions of Providence. Compulsory education is as heartily and vigorously denounced in Cape Colony, where the most intelligent members of the race are to be found, as is compulsory vaccination.
[Illustration: THE LAST CARTRIDGE. An incident in the battle of Glencoe.]
[Illustration: QUEEN VICTORIA AT BALMORAL, OCTOBER 22, 1899. Writing letters of sympathy to the near relations of the killed and wounded at the battle of Glencoe.]
Taxation in the republics of to-day is as strongly and sincerely disliked as it was in the days of the Great Trek, or of the little republics in the time of Pretorius. Had the Government of the Transvaal depended upon its ordinary revenues, or upon the taxation of its own people for munitions of war and for the great armament of the present day, it would have long since been overthrown by the Boers themselves. Like the Chinaman, the Dutch farmer reveres the practices and precepts of his equally ignorant father or grandfathers. They did not endure taxation, neither will he. His method of cultivating the soil affords another illustration of this quality. It is that of Syria and Palestine. Corn is still trodden under the foot of the ox, and the little agricultural work carried on is done by native servants. There is, of course, a better class of South African Dutchmen than the Boer of the veldt. But it is limited in number, outside of Cape Colony, and the latter constitutes the really important subject for consideration. For some of his qualities the Boer cannot be seriously blamed. Surliness of manner, uncouthness in appearance, aversion to strangers, ignorance of the outer world, religious superstition, are all matters in which he does not stand alone, and which are the natural products of an isolated life. So also is the fact of his being stupid and lazy in ordinary life, and only keen, alert and quick when he stands on the veldt with gun in hand and his horse by his side intent upon the game of sport or the greater game of war. But there is no adequate excuse for his continued hatred of the Englishman, for his tyranny toward inferiors and colored people, for his personal immorality, or for the phenomenal arrogance of his conduct and character. The higher class Boer of the towns in the Free State, and of Pretoria itself, may eliminate some of the more evident barbarisms of his veldt brother, but there remains the same extraordinary ignorance of external conditions, the same monumental conceit, the same absence of truthfulness and honor, the same arrogance and hatred of British power and progress. Added to this is the political corruption arising, in the Transvaal, out of conditions in which poor and ignorant farmers have obtained and held, through designing adventurers from Holland, the entire government and control of a State in which gold is being produced in immense quantities, and lavished, as opportunity offers, for the purchase of privileges or powers not obtainable through the usual channels of popular government.
[Sidenote: Love of Liberty]
What of the Boer love of freedom? There is no more admirable quality in the world than love of liberty; no greater inspiration to gallant deeds, to high ideals, to noble practices. But there are different kinds of liberty. The Iroquois of North American history stalked through his noble forests in all the pride of physical power and the freedom to torture and slaughter his red enemy or white foe whenever and wherever he could. He loved liberty in the sense of doing what he liked. The Dublin assassins of Lord Frederick Cavendish, the Chicago bomb-throwers, the lovers of lynch-law in Southern States, the anarchists of Paris or St. Petersburg, all have feelings of the fiercest nature in favor of freedom. License, however, is not true liberty, nor is the love of independence amongst the Boers a regard for freedom in the ordinary sense of that much-abused word. Of course, there is much that is admirable in the feeling, as there is in any sentiment or aspiration for which men will fight and die--as there was in the freebooting instincts of the old-time Scottish clans; as there was in the loyal passion of the Scottish Highlanders for "Bonnie Prince Charlie;" as there was in the prolonged and desperate struggle of the Southern States for a dying cause; as there is even in the Filipino desire for a sort of wild freedom. In the case of the Boer, however, it is simply an instinctive desire for solitude and for the free practice of certain inbred tendencies, such as hunting, slave-holding and ranching. It can hardly be said to be connected with questions of government or constitution. No Government at all would suit the Boer if it were practicable, and his record shows that an oligarchy is no less agreeable to him than was the one-time division of 15,000 settlers into four republics. He knows little of the struggles of his reputed ancestors in Holland for freedom of the higher kind, and for that equality of religious and racial rights which he is now the first to spurn, and to even fight in order to prevent others from obtaining in parts of South Africa.
[Sidenote: Change of Policy]
So long as the Boer love for independence was simply a fond regard for isolation, which inflicted no serious injury upon other white people around him, the British Empire and its citizens had no right to interfere or to do more than laugh at its crudities and, perhaps, denounce its cruelties to inferior races. But, when the so-called passion for independence became an aggressive passion for territorial acquisition, and the love for license to do as he liked with his own colored population was lost sight of in a widely manifested desire to acquire control over outside native tribes, the issue became an Imperial one, and raids upon Basutoland, Bechuanaland, Zululand, Mashonaland and Tongaland marked the direct pathway to present developments. This policy of extension, however, required statecraft, a quality somewhat lacking amongst the rude legislators of Pretoria or Bloemfontein. It also needed money, the supply of which, before the discovery of gold, was sadly deficient. [Sidenote: Government of Dutch Adventurers] President Brand, of the Free State, was a statesman, but, in the ordinary sense of the word, was never a Boer, and would have nothing to do with the more aggressive ambitions of the Transvaal rulers. President Kruger had plenty of native ability, and from the time of his taking hold of affairs in the Transvaal dates its growth in strength and influence. He is, however, of German extraction, although one of the boys who participated in the original Great Trek. Dr. F. W. Reitz, who ultimately became so strong a personality in the Government of both republics, was also of German origin. So with Hofmeyr of Cape Colony. President Steyn, of the Free State, is the son of a Dutchman, but one who was a resident of Bloemfontein and not a Boer in the popular sense of the term. Dr. W. J. Leyds, the cleverest manipulator and schemer of South African history, is a Hollander, as was Dr. E. J. P. Jorrissen, one of the Dutch negotiators of the Convention of 1881.
These facts illustrate an interesting phase of the situation. It was not from the ranks of the Boers that men came who were capable of making the Transvaal an arsenal of military power, a close corporation of clever financial government, the head of the great Afrikander movement of the past decade, a force of organized strength for the destruction of British rule in South Africa, and a diplomatic factor at the capitals of Europe. The Boers were, and are, simply the instruments of clever adventurers from Holland. The "Hollanders" first came to the front in South Africa during the early days of the Free State. They controlled its incipient constitution for some years, and helped, incidentally, to check and then kill the agitation for reincorporation in the Empire. They caused President Brand some trouble during the preliminary period of his administration, but then gradually settled down into the quiet and comfortable occupancy of such offices as required more education than the average Boer possessed. These they still hold to a considerable extent. After Brand's death their governing influence became greater; they joined and organized the Afrikander Bund in the State, and then stood shoulder to shoulder with President Reitz and his successor, Steyn, until the development of events brought them into closer relationship with fellow-Hollanders in the Transvaal under the common leadership of Kruger and the clever manipulation of Reitz and Leyds.
[Sidenote: Anti-English Influence]
In the Republic beyond the Vaal they first came into prominence under the administration of President Burgers, who, after his visit to Europe in the early seventies, brought some individual Hollanders back with him. But the bankrupt State did not possess sufficient attractiveness to draw very many adventurers from anywhere during the immediately succeeding years; and it was not until the discovery of gold, in 1884, and the prospect of the country becoming wealthy arose, that clever and adventurous natives of Holland began to think seriously of entering into the heritage they have since acquired. They did come, however, and in time acquired control of the chief offices in the State outside of the Presidency and Vice-Presidency; of the educational system, such as it was; of the railways and taxes and customs. It was not hard for them to see that the more isolated they could keep the Boer of the veldt the better it would be for their permanent success, and that the more they could estrange the Transvaal from Great Britain and the British Colonial system of South Africa the easier it would be to preserve the Republic and its riches for their own use and control. From these considerations it was natural and easy to take advantage of President Kruger's anti-British ambitions, of the machinery of the Afrikander Bund at the Cape, and of the money of the Uitlanders, in order to build up a great movement against British power in combination with the Free State; and to transform the republic of emigrant farmers into a strong, though small, military power. Plenty of foreigners and foreign help--especially German--was available, and out of that prominent Boer characteristic of hatred of England and the other one of pride in his own fighting records and belief in his own invincibility in war, were built up the military structure of the year 1899.
[Sidenote: War a Big Game Hunt]
To the fighting qualities of the Boer many tributes have been and more will be paid in the future. It is essentially a product of his environment. The student of British wars with the Kaffirs and of the interminable succession of struggles fought by the Boer with Hottentots and Bushmen in early Colonial days; with the Kosas on the frontiers of Cape Colony and the Zulus in Natal; with the Matabeles in the pioneer days of the republics, and with the Basutos during more than a decade in the history of the Free State; with the Bapedis of the Transvaal and the Bechuanas of the northern and western borders; with the Baramapulana of the Limpopo River and the Swazis of the southeastern border; will understand how much of native guile and savagery there is in the Boer method of warfare, and why it is so difficult for troops trained in other kinds of fighting to meet it when combined with European science in armament and trained skill in the management of great guns. Added to the quality of native cunning in warfare is an alertness of movement derived from long and hereditary skill in hunting wild animals and living constantly on horseback; as well as in fighting continuously a wily and ambush-making native foe. As with the Kaffir himself, laziness disappears when the game of the Boer is on the horizon, and it matters not whether the quarry be animal or human, the hunter and fighter becomes at once a creature of the veldt; a very part and parcel of the country around him. He knows every foot of South African soil. In the words of Pringle, referring to the emigrant farmer of earlier years:
"Afar in the desert I love to ride,
With the silent Bush-boy alone by my side:
Away--away--in the wilderness vast,
Where the White Man's foot hath never passed,
And the quivered Koranna or Bechuan
Hath rarely crossed with his roving clan:
A region of emptiness, howling and drear,
Which man hath abandoned from famine and fear."
Those days are passed; but the instinct remains, the knowledge has become hereditary, and, through the love of hunting which still continues in the breast of the Boer, it is to-day a practical and potent force. To the average Dutch farmer maps are therefore unnecessary, and the Drakensberg is as familiar in its every detail of mountain and kopje and rainless river as are the rooms of his own home on the rolling plains of the Transvaal or the Orange Free State. Hence it is that the general peculiarities of his complex character combine to make him a soldier and enemy whom it is no easy task to subdue--even for the legions of Britain and her allied Empire.