Mafeking, March 15th, 1900.
Colonel Baden-Powell has recently issued an order to all ranks in his command requesting the names of those who are willing to enlist in the special corps which are to be raised for purposes of patrolling the country when the war is terminated. If this be a sign of the times, a token by which we may read the lines of the policy by which Africa will be governed during the next few years, it is satisfactory at least to understand that we do not propose to take the risk of successful risings in the months to come in different Dutch centres. This war has shown us the folly of courting "compromise and Exeter Hall" in dealing with dissatisfied areas of the Empire. We have policed Burma, we patrol Ireland (but in a different sense), and in India we have incorporated and turned into admirable efficiency many of the hill tribes, but we cannot translate the native-born Republican nor convert the rebel Dutch without the almost certain contingency arising of their proving traitorous. There are many who know the Boer, and, knowing him and appreciating his strange strategy, his curiously warped mind, his natural aptitude for breaking his bond, would not trust him in any transaction where integrity of character and probity were the essential complement. There has been much opinion among colonials that the Imperial Government might, anxious to be as conciliatory as possible, enrol the Dutch for constabulary duties, giving, indeed, to the younger generation the preference, and thus enabling them to possess an employment definite, if not altogether lucrative. But in this we should be perpetrating against the loyal colonists of Cape Colony a grave injustice, for until the present generation of Dutch has passed away, taking with it the memories of the war, it will be unsafe, it will be unwise, to employ in any administrative capacity whatsoever, those men who, themselves nursing a rancour against Great Britain, will omit no opportunity to foster the traditional hatred of their forefathers. We have in France, and in the French animosity against Germany, a case which is identical, proving, as it does, how the prejudices of a people can be nurtured and kept evergreen through the sheer force of malignant sentiment; and there can be little doubt that time, and time only, is capable of removing from the minds of the Republican Dutch that feeling of detestation and contempt which has maintained them in their attitude of hostility towards us for so many decades. To them, for many years to come, the British will be a nation of iconoclasts; we may banish them, we may wipe out all traces of their misrule, and so obliterate the signs of their existence that historians may find it difficult to believe that they once lived. We may do all these things, but it will be impossible to govern their instincts by Act of Parliament, to curb their impulses by the rulings of the High Commissioner. It would therefore be thrice foolish to employ them in their own country and among their own people, and such action would imply that we intended to ignore uses to which the younger colonists can be so conveniently put. In South Africa, as in Australasia and in Canada, there is a large army of young men who loaf their hours away in the idleness of an agricultural life rather than seek some trade in the offices of the big cities. They achieve little that is profitable upon their farms, clinging tenaciously to such a livelihood, since it possesses finer natural elements in its intimacy with the life of the veldt than any form of metropolitan activity could give to them. There are, of course, many men who have been driven to the towns through the failure of their holdings, but in this present state of war these especially, and all those others, have answered eagerly to the call for volunteers, and in proving themselves worthy, have rendered excellent services to the State. The great majority of these men would willingly take service in the forces to which the order of the colonel commanding makes reference, and by this we have at hand an army extraordinarily adapted to colonial purposes, and needing only to be called out. Moreover, at a time when the Empire has seen how its various units have hastened to the aid of the Mother-country, would it not be well to create in each colony a permanent militia from the men who have so unanimously come forward; a force which would be to the colonies what the Imperial army is to India, and which would supersede the local defence forces in Australasia, approaching in its conception a fixed soldiery rather than one to which is given a certain number of exercises in the year? There would be no lack of numbers in any of the colonies, and in Africa we could make use of the Zulu, the Matabele, and the Cape Boys. We have long rested in fancied security, and not until China falls a prey to Russia and India passes from us, need we fear that Australasia can be taken from us by the combined fleets of the Powers of Europe; nevertheless, since we must reorganise our army, it would be no mean policy to place, once and for all, upon their true foundation the defences of our colonies.
To those who know the life of the mounted police in Burma, of the constabulary in the West Indies, and of the police in Canada, the duties of the corps that are raised for South Africa will be at once comprehended. They would both police and administer the areas of the Transvaal and the Orange Free State, and it may be that they will be affiliated with the British South Africa Police corps that are already enrolled. The life is enjoyable, there is much sport, and for a few years to come there is sure to be trouble, at odd intervals, among the Dutch. It is, perhaps, doubtful whether the man from home will be quite adapted to such work, since, in a very high degree, a knowledge of the Dutch language will be indispensable, and much valuable time will be lost in acquiring some smattering of this tongue and in teaching the recruits to ride, to shoot, and to drill. But life in the mounted constabulary has also possessed so great a fascination for the average Englishman that, should the Government decide to make eligible the men from home, any paucity among the colonial applicants can be at once remedied. Care, however, should be taken that the colonial men who came forward on behalf of the colony in its hour of peril, should be given the first refusal, and a greater financial consideration should be meted out than, with the exception of the Canadian police, has hitherto been customary. The economy of Africa is high priced, and it will be eminently difficult for men to live upon their pay should they have to forfeit any large proportion of it for extras, the cost of which might well be borne by the Government itself. There has been a great outcry about the higher rates of pay which are drawn by the colonial corps now serving at the front as compared with the wretchedly inadequate wages of the regulars, and it is a great pity that we, who can be so foolishly magnanimous, cannot disavow the petty economies of the service at a moment like the present. Five shillings a day is small enough when men have to provide their entire equipment, but to argue that because the War Office is supplying the kit the rate should be reduced, since the main source of expenditure be removed, is to incline towards a policy of expenditure which is penny wise and pound foolish. We read recently, and with infinite zest, that the artillery by which Mafeking is defended includes a battery of field guns and four heavy pieces. This, of course, is a grotesque exaggeration. We have no heavy ordnance, and our field pieces are obsolete muzzle-loading monstrosities. Had the War Office paid attention to its work, and supplied this advanced outpost of the Empire with efficient artillery, instead of rushing up to Mafeking an improvised field battery, it would be possible to ignore the attempt to curtail the pay of the colonial forces, since, if Africa had been prepared for war, it is improbable that Great Britain would have been compelled, in order to crush the combined forces of the Republics, to summon to her aid men from her colonial dependencies. But we did not do this, and if we be now reaping the fruits of an impotent administration, we should be sufficiently generous to accept the responsibility for the expenditure, and to desist from an endeavour to bolster up accounts by imposing upon the colonial contingents the effects of an economy which aims at sparing a few thousand pounds by saving some portion of their pay. Moreover, if it be true that the colonial contingents which have been enrolled since war began, are receiving ten shillings a day, why should not that rate be accepted as the standard of pay for all colonial forces under arms? In relation to Mafeking, where the question of compensation has become acute, such addition to the pay of the defenders of the town as would increase their rate to ten shillings would be a felicitous manner of recognising the gallant work which the garrison has performed, and provide at the same time, a practical exposition of official appreciation for the units of the defence.
If this be the one question of moment, in reference to the other problem—the pastoral and agricultural future of the country—there is little doubt that Africa—more especially these western districts, where agricultural and pastoral pursuits are widely followed—will require the assistance of the capitalist before the mere emigrant from England can make much headway. In a sense Mafeking is the central market for farm produce for areas which stretch far into the Transvaal, and which, lacking the propinquity of a local market, are compelled to send their products across the border. Many of these districts have proved to possess valuable mining qualities, so that it is possible we shall see in a few years the development of towns which, owing their existence to the mines, will attract the trade which now finds its bent in the Mafeking market. But the hope here is of railway communication with Johannesburg and Pretoria, and the consequent opening out and settlement of the Bechuanaland Protectorate, and it is in this respect the capitalist will be the Alpha and Omega of the countryside; for the youngster who goes to Australasia with five hundred pounds and leases a property will be unable to obtain a hearing up here until the economy of daily life has been reduced to a less expensive order. There is a golden future here, but much gold will have to be poured into the lap of Mother Nature before any very satisfactory results are gained. The cost of transit is prohibitive, and there is a scarcity of water, which will make wells a necessity. There is much cheap labour, but the present mode of existence of the farming class is one which favours a bare sufficiency, and for the remainder a state of placid idleness.
The insufficient development of South Africa in respect to its agricultural and pastoral resources is largely due to the unprogressiveness of the Boer or South African farmer. He personifies useless idleness, and contents himself with raising a herd of a few hundred head of cattle; he seldom plants a tree; seldom digs a well; seldom makes a road; and has an unmitigated contempt for agriculture and agriculturists. His ploughs, harrows, and utensils of husbandry are clumsy, ill-formed, and, where they exist at all, are hopelessly antiquated. He cannot be prevailed upon to make any alteration whatsoever in the system of his agriculture. His ancestors were farmers, and he himself does not conceive it to be his duty to alter methods which were already obsolete when he was a child. The English farmer, with good training, active disposition, and accurate knowledge of how and where to institute radical reforms, possessing capital, might find both home and fortune in these areas. It is a good cattle country, and with a careful reorganisation in the management of the cattle-farms across the border—a reorganisation which should extend throughout all agrestic or nomadic communities in the Transvaal—it should receive material assistance from the farms of the western border of the Transvaal that are already stocked. The Dutch farmer, living the life of the patriarch of old, leaves everything to nature, and does not, as a rule, combine the varieties of farming which his property would sustain. He remains a stock-breeder, or a grower of cereals: the combination of the two is usually too complex. It will be therefore a good thing should a different basis of management be inculcated, and when this be accomplished, greater facilities for stocking their farms will be held out to the intending colonists who may favour the country, but for the time the new-comers should check their eagerness, since, above all things, capital will be necessary to their salvation.