The reply to Mr. Chamberlain's dispatch on grievances.
Department of Foreign Affairs, Pretoria.
26th September, 1899.
The Government of the South African Republic has the honour to acknowledge the receipt of a copy of a certain dispatch dated 10th May, 1899, addressed to His Excellency the High Commissioner by the Secretary of State for the Colonies, in consequence of a petition sent to Her Majesty the Queen of Great Britain and Ireland. 21,684 signatures appear on this petition, and are said to have been affixed thereto by an equivalent number of British subjects resident at Johannesburg, in this Republic.
This Government notes that Her Majesty's Government have thought fit, on the grounds of the information already in their possession, to make investigation into the subject matter of the aforesaid petition, and, as a result of such investigation, to express to this Government their views on the administration of the internal affairs of this Republic, which said views they have at the same time communicated to the memorialists as an answer to their petition.
This Government may be permitted to point out that the Convention of London of 1884, entered into between this Republic and the Government of Her Britannic Majesty, guarantees to the South African Republic full and free internal administration without any interference from anyone whatever. As Lord Derby notifies in his dispatch of the 15th February, 1884: -
"Your Government will be left free to govern the country without interference, and to conduct its diplomatic intercourse, and shape its foreign policy, subject only to the requirements embodied in the fourth article of the new draft - that any treaty with a foreign State shall not have effect without the approval of the Queen."
In his despatch of the 4th February, 1896, the Colonial Secretary, Mr. Chamberlain, states: -
"In the next place, it is necessary that I should state clearly and unequivocally what is the position which Her Majesty's Government claim to hold toward the Government of the South African Republic. Since the Convention of 1884, Her Majesty's Government recognised the South African Republic as a free and independent Government as regards all its internal affairs not touched by the Convention."
In a telegram, also from Mr. Chamberlain, dated 26th March, 1896, the same statement is substantially made, viz.: - "Her Majesty's Government do not claim any rights under the Conventions to prescribe particular internal reforms which should be made in South African Republic."
This Government has always felt it a solemn duty for the Republic to adhere strictly to the Convention of 1884 in its entirety; at the same time, it has been consistent in protesting in the most forcible manner against any interference or intermeddling with the internal affairs of the Republic, and against the discussion or treatment of these affairs with or by any other than the Republic itself, and it can discover no reasons now which would either justify such interference or exempt it from the accusation of being a violation of the Convention of London.
This Government feels convinced that Her Majesty's Government would not favourably entertain a request from British subjects for intervention because the said British subjects are unwilling (as was agreed between this Republic and Her Majesty's Government in the Convention of London) to conform themselves to the laws of the land and to respect the legal institutions and customs of the South African Republic, and because they feel aggrieved that the laws are not altered in accordance with their demands.
The friendly relations so highly prized by this Government which have existed between this Republic and the United Kingdom, the other party to the Convention of London, have always been a safe guarantee to this Government against such a breach of the Convention on the part of Her Majesty's Government, and it greatly deplores the fact that Her Majesty's Government has now decided to act in conflict with the Convention of London by busying itself with the imaginary grievances of the Uitlanders, and making representations thereanent to this Government. Against such action this Government feels that it must earnestly and emphatically protest, and the Right Hon. Mr. Chamberlain could not take it amiss if this Government were to pay no further attention to the charges against its administration contained in the petition, or if they declined to discuss further the views of Her Majesty's Government about these charges.
This Government has, however, on more than one occasion, notified to Her Majesty's Government that it will attach great value to any suggestions which may be tendered in the interests of British subjects, and it will certainly lend a very willing ear to any friendly advice or hints which may be given by Her Majesty's Government as being the representative of a Power which, with this Republic and the Orange Free State, protects and fosters the paramount interests of South Africa.
His Honour the State President was animated by these sentiments when he accepted the courteous invitation of His Honour President Steyn to proceed to Bloemfontein in order to confer with Your Excellency about matters which are an equal source of interest to this Republic and Her Majesty's Government. These friendly sentiments now prompt it to take the liberty of drawing serious attention to the fact that Her Majesty's Government certainly appear to be supplied with insufficient and incorrect data about facts and occurrences from which erroneous ideas and conclusions are drawn, so that, although desirous of avoiding subjects the discussion of which would be contrary to the Convention, this Government nevertheless feels that it ought to convey to Her Majesty's Government the true position of affairs, and that it ought to point out how the latter is misled, the condition of affairs as depicted in the dispatch under reply being in all respects exaggerated, and in many instances entirely untrue.
In the first place, this Government wishes to point out that, so far from the petition which gave rise to the despatch under reply having been signed by 21,684 British subjects, it appears indeed that it was signed by very few people in the South African Republic - leaving aside all mention of British subjects. This has been substantiated in many cases by sworn declarations, many of which were handed to His Excellency the High Commissioner during the Conference at Bloemfontein, and this Government feels that it may flatter itself that the British Government, after having examined these documents, will share with this Government the view that this memorial is in itself a matter of very slight importance, even although it may contain the signatures of a certain number of British subjects who hold the opinion that they are entitled to a change in the form of Government because, in violation of the Convention entered into between this Republic and Her Majesty's Government, they will not conform themselves to the laws of the land, but claim alterations therein at their own caprice.
This Government is all the more convinced that this memorial is of no great moment, and that it certainly does not express the feelings of all the so-called Uitlanders, because another memorial has been received by it from about 23,000 inhabitants of this Republic, nearly all Uitlanders, and amongst whom are several British subjects. The High Commissioner was informed that the signatures to this memorial were obtained in a perfectly bona fide way, and this information was supported by sworn affidavits. The purport of this memorial bore evidence to the fact that the thousands of Uitlanders who signed it were satisfied with the administration and the Government of this Republic, and did not share the views of the memorialists to Her Britannic Majesty in respect of what the latter considered to be legitimate grievances.
This Government may further be permitted to point out that although the Uitlander population may have co-operated in effecting an increase in the revenues of the State, principally, as His Excellency has been informed, in custom dues, prospecting licences, railway receipts, etc., so that the revenue in 1898 amounted to £3,983,360, the fact must not be lost sight of, on the other hand, that gold to the value of £20,000,000 was exported from the State during the same year 1898, almost entirely by the Uitlanders.
At the same time, it must not be forgotten that although the, chief item in custom dues is collected on goods which are imported at Johannesburg, yet these goods are not entirely used or consumed by the Uitlanders, for a considerable quantity is sent over the whole Republic by the wholesale merchants to the retail dealers who do business with the burghers in the villages and the country, so that much of what is imported into Johannesburg is destined for consumption by the original burgher of the Republic.
With regard to the contention that the mining industry is more heavily taxed than in any other country, and that the cost of the necessaries of life is higher, this Government desires to remark that this contention is entirely contradicted by facts and statistics. The value of goods imported into the South African Republic during 1898 amounted to £9,996,575, and the custom duties levied thereon to £1,058,224, or 10.6 per cent. Under the Customs Union of the adjacent British Colonies the import duties amounted to 15 per cent, of the value of the goods, a comparison which yields a difference of nearly 50 per cent. in favour of the Republic. When the matter is examined in detail the case is even stronger. In the Colonies certain articles, such as bread stuffs, are subject to a special duty of 2s., say about 30 per cent, of the value, in corn, and 40 per cent. in meal. In this Republic the duty on both the foregoing articles is 7-1/2 per cent.; butter is especially taxed at 3d. per pound, or 30 per cent., under the Customs Union, while in the Republic it is subject only to the 7-1/2 ad valorem duty. Coffee and other necessaries of life, on being compared, would show a similar difference, and this Government therefore trusts that Her Majesty's Government will exonerate it when it points out the incorrectness and unreliability of the information supplied to the Secretary of State, on which he bases his conclusion that the cost of living is unusually high in consequence of the taxation levied by the State; that such is not the case will be at once shown by a comparison with the taxation of the neighbouring Colonies.
The character of the financial administration must have been erroneously represented to Her Majesty's Government if it was simply stated that defalcations to an amount of L18,590 had taken place. It would ex facie appear from such a statement that the above defalcations had taken place during the past year; as a matter of fact, the Inspection Department, which has only recently been called into existence, reported over financial matters covering the years 1884 to 1896.
It is unfair to characterise all deficiencies as defalcations, for from the nature of the case a deficiency does not always constitute a defalcation. The report specified the sub-divisions of monies which had yet to be accounted for. The first item in such deficiencies amounted originally to L12,000, and of this L6,000 was afterwards collected, and the balance was only brought forward; another item of L10,808 11s. was brought forward in its entirety, but L3,000 of this was eventually collected and accounted for, while continual efforts were made to secure the balance. Many items not brought forward were collected long before and accounted for, while during the inspection of last year it was found that a sum of L800 yet remained to be paid in out of the deficiencies, which balance has been accounted for.
The contention that advances to officials amounting to £2,398,506 16s. 8d. have remained unaccounted for is also absolutely incorrect; and the endeavour to pass this circumstance off as constituting defalcations on the part of officials bears ample witness to the strong desire to mislead which has actuated the informants of Her Majesty's Government.
Any person who is even superficially acquainted with financial administration will readily admit that this is due to a system of accounting which was followed until recently by Her Majesty's Government, and which obtains in some British Colonies, in Natal, for instance, at the present moment.
This system may deserve condemnation; it does not, however, necessarily follow that because the advances may not be speedily accounted for they have been embezzled, and it does not appear either from the report of the Inspector of Offices, or from the debates of the Volksraad, that such accusations were made. But in addition to this a sum of at least £1,968,306 is included in the aforesaid total of £2,398,506 16s. 8d. (but which is not comprised in the customary advances), such as Orphan Chamber £80,000, Indigent Burghers £150,000, Postal Orders £60,000, various loans to School Committees, Sanitary Boards, and for Waterworks, Hospitals, Committees, monies placed at interest in Europe, provisional loans to Railway Companies, purchases of food stuffs and mules in time of famine, and many others.
Items, too, of considerable importance appear in the advances, although they have really been accounted for up to within a pound or two, because for one reason or another it has not been possible to write off the exact total, the amounts still to be accounted for having dwindled to a very insignificant figure.
The contention that during 1896 a sum of £191,837 was paid out of the Secret Service Money is also absolutely unfounded, for in that amount a sum of £158,337 was included which was used for special Government Works, as was expressly stated in a foot-note on page 44 of the Estimates for 1897. The Secret Service Fund for that year (1896) did not amount to more than £33,500. This faulty information, supplied to Her Majesty's Government, is apparently taken from the said Estimates, it would seem with the fixed determination to ignore the explanatory foot-note on page 44.
It is incorrect to state that the system of granting concessions remains in full force. Where the Right Hon. the Secretary of State in his despatch refers to industrial concessions, this Government may remark that these are privileges granted in order to stimulate and protect local industry, and the contention that these concessions will develop into practical monopolies is not supported by any evidence; results will show that misleading information has been given here as well.
With regard to the question of education which has been dealt with in the dispatch of the Right Hon. the Colonial Secretary, this Government wishes to point out that the amount expended on education during the year 1898 was £226,219 4s. 8d. In the former year it was less. Of this amount £36,503 17s. 2d. was devoted to Education on the Gold Fields (for State as well as for subsidized schools). As the number of scholars under Act 15, 1896, as well as that of the teachers, have considerably increased, the amount during the current year will probably be £53,000. The conditions on which this money is given are certainly not such as to exclude the children of Uitlanders from its benefits. According to Volksraad Resolution of 1st June, 1892 (and amendments), schools where a foreign language was the medium of instruction were entitled to a subsidy of 20s. per pupil per quarter for the lower standard, and 25s. for the middle standard, provided that certain requirements as to knowledge of the official language of the country were complied with. These requirements are a standard lower than that for children of burghers in the country, who are taught in schools governed by Law No. 8 of 1892.
Few, if any, Uitlanders avail themselves of this offer; the few who have done so are now satisfied with it, and continue to enjoy the privileges of the resolution, although it was only renewed in 1898 for those schools which made a bona fide use of it. Law No. 15, 1896, made provision for the children of poor parents and strangers on the proclaimed gold fields entirely at State expense, and 13 schools have been established by this law - with 51 teachers and about 1,500 scholars - at Barberton, Pilgrims' Rest, Kaapsche Hoop, Johannesburg (5, viz., 1 in von Brandis Street, 1 at Braamfontein, 1 at Union Ground, 1 at Vredesdorp, and 1 in Market Street), Maraisburg, Krugersdorp, Randfontein, Klerksdorp, and Nigel. In addition to these, preparations are being made for State schools at the City and Suburban, Bertramstownship, Johannesburg, and at Roodepoort (Krugersdorp).
Out of the above-named 13 schools, English is the medium of instruction in four, and of the remaining nine English is the medium for the children of English-speaking parents, and Dutch for those of Dutch-speaking parents. In these nine schools a little more time is devoted to learning Dutch in each standard than was the case in the former standard, so that equality in both languages is reached at the 5th standard.
Altogether there are 27 Dutch Africander or Hollander teachers, and 24 teachers of English origin in these 13 schools. The Dutch Africander or Hollander teachers are obliged to possess a thorough knowledge of English, and have either to pass an examination or produce a certificate to that effect.
The object of the system of education in this Republic is to ensure in the first place the foundation of general knowledge. Law No. 8, 1892, provides this for the children of the original Boer population in their mother tongue, in which the necessary schoolbooks must be written, with this understanding, however, that in the 3rd standard three hours, and in the higher ones four hours, per week out of the 25 must be devoted to education in a foreign language.
With regard to the schools formed under the above-mentioned Resolution, teaching is carried on through the medium of a foreign language, but at least 5 hours per week must be devoted to the study of the official language of the country.
Of the 13 schools formed under Law 15 of 1896, the children of strangers are instructed in their own language, while the number of hours for instruction in and by means of Dutch is increased in each standard.
According to a Resolution of the First Volksraad, dated the 8th August, 1898, Article 731, a certain number of the School Board members required by Article I of Law 15 of 1896 have to be nominated and chosen by the Executive Council out of enfranchised persons (Article 2, Law 8, 1893) proposed by the fathers of the school children, on the understanding that the persons so chosen shall constitute less than half of the whole School Board, and further, that the persons so proposed shall always be double the number of the people actually nominated. The above facts clearly prove, according to the opinion of this Government, that Her Majesty's Government has also been misled in respect to the matter of education. It is clear that one-fourth of the whole educational vote has been devoted to the gold fields, so that the children of Uitlander residents can make use of it; that proper provision is made for education in the mother tongue whatever it may be, while at the same time compulsory education of the language of the country is also provided for. That both by the Resolution of the 1st June, 1892, as well as by the Law 15 of 1896, more has actually been done for the Uitlanders than for the original inhabitants, and that more time is given to the mother tongue of the children in the schools on the gold fields of this Republic than in any country in the world, and that here again information of a misleading character must have been given to His Excellency and the British Government.
Law No. 15, 1896, and the schools thereby established have been defended by Englishmen in various newspapers. (See the S.A. News, 10th May, 1899; The Star, 22nd March, 1899; Manchester Guardian, etc.).
With reference to the Municipality of Johannesburg, this Government desires to remark that in accordance with the promise made in 1896, the grant of Municipal Administration was made to the inhabitants of Johannesburg by which the control of that town and its suburbs was conferred upon them.
Her Majesty's Government seem to think that this Municipality does not answer its purpose, in the first place because half of the members must be naturalized burghers (not fully enfranchised burghers as the dispatch under reply erroneously contends), and in the second place because the financial powers of the town council are restricted.
With regard to the first objection, it is impossible that this should be a great grievance, because a residence of two years in the Republic is sufficient for naturalisation; as a matter of fact, more than the necessary half of the members are burghers; this shows conclusively that the requirement of burghership is in no sense an obstacle. The objection as to the restriction of the financial powers of the council is not conclusive, because there is no Municipality in the world the financial powers of which are not restricted by the law under which they are created, and the restrictions in the case of the town council of Johannesburg are the usual ones in such cases.
The Advisory Board recommended by the Industrial Commission would have proved inefficient because the laws with the administration of which that body would have had to concern itself can be carried out in a better and more efficient way by an official like the State Attorney, who has almost unlimited power and means of doing so. This is exactly what has happened. All complaints with regard to gold thefts have actually disappeared; one no longer hears of complaints as to the operation of the pass law; while latterly, as Her Majesty's Government must be well aware, the Chamber of Mines and other bodies of the Witwatersrand have repeatedly expressed their satisfaction with the stringent way in which the liquor law has been upheld. No local body, however well informed, would have been able to do what the State Attorney has done in this matter, and that is sufficient justification of the action of both Government and Volksraad in refusing to establish such an Advisory Board.
The Government now passes on to the discussion of the administration of justice, of which so much is made in the dispatch under reply.
With regard to these allegations, this Government perceives that much importance is attached in the dispatch to the so-called Lombard incident, the so-called Edgar case, and the so-called Amphitheatre occurrence.
A brief consideration of the facts referring to these three matters will show how unfounded are the accusations of Her Majesty's Government.
With reference to the Lombard incident, this Government wishes to point out that no complaint was lodged with any official in this Republic for a full month after the illtreatment of Cape coloured people was alleged to have taken place, and that neither the Government nor the public was aware that anything had taken place. The whole case was so insignificant that some of the people who were alleged to have been illtreated declared under oath at a later period before a court of investigation that they would never have made any complaint on their own initiative. What happened, however?
About a month after the occurrence the South African League came to hear of it; some of its officials sent round to collect evidence from the parties who were alleged to have been illtreated, and some sworn declarations were obtained by the help of Her Majesty's Vice-Consul at Johannesburg (between whom and this League a continual and conspicuous co-operation has existed). Even then no charge was lodged against the implicated officials with the judicial authorities of the country, but the case was put in the hands of the Acting British Agent at Pretoria.
When the allegations were brought under the notice of this Government, they at once appointed a commission of enquiry consisting of three members, namely, Landdrost Van der Berg, of Johannesburg, Mr Andries Stockenstrom, barrister-at-law of the Middle Temple, head of the Criminal Section of the State Attorney's Department, and Mr. Van der Merwe, mining commissioner, of Johannesburg; gentlemen against whose ability and impartiality the Uitlander population of the Republic have never harboured the slightest suspicion, and with whose appointment the Acting British Agent also expressed his entire satisfaction. The instructions given to these officials were to thoroughly investigate the whole case, and to report the result to the Government; and they fulfilled these instructions by sitting for days at a time, and carefully hearing and sifting the evidence of both sides. Every right-minded person readily acknowledges that far greater weight ought to be attached to the finding of this Commission than to the declarations of the complainants, who contradicted one another in nearly every particular, and who caused the whole enquiry to degenerate into a farce.
According to the report, nothing was proved as to the so-called illtreatment; the special instances of alleged illtreatment turned out to be purely imaginary; it was clearly proved and found that the complainants had acted contrary to Law, and the Commission only expressed disapproval of the fact that the arrests and the investigation had taken place at night, and without a proper warrant. It fills this Government with all the greater regret to observe that Her Majesty's Government bases its charges on ex parte, groundless, and in many respects false declarations of complainants who have been set in motion by political hatred, and that it silently ignores the report of the Commission.
The Amphitheatre occurrence is used by Her Majesty's Government to show how incapable the police of the Witwatersrand are to fulfil their duties and to preserve order. The League meeting was held at the so-called Amphitheatre at Johannesburg, with the knowledge of the State Secretary and State Attorney, and the accusation is that in spite of that fact, the uproar which arose at that meeting was not quelled by the police. The following are the true facts: - Mr. Wybergh and another, both in the service of the South African League, informed the State Secretary and the State Attorney that they intended to call this meeting in the Amphitheatre, and asked permission to do so; they were informed that no permission from the authorities was necessary, and that as long as the meeting did not give rise to irregularities or disturbances of the peace, they would be acting entirely within their rights. Their attention was then drawn to the fact that owing to the action and the propaganda of the South African League, this body had become extremely unpopular with a large section of the inhabitants of Johannesburg, and that in all probability a disturbance of the peace would take place if a sufficient body of the police were not present to preserve order. To this these gentlemen answered that the police were in very bad odour since the Edgar case, that the meeting would be a very quiet one, and that the presence of the police would contribute, or give rise to, disorder, and that they would on those grounds rather have no police at all. The State Secretary and State Attorney thereupon communicated with the head officials of the police at Johannesburg, with the result that the latter also thought that it would be better not to have any considerable number of police at the meeting. The Government accordingly, on the advice of these officials of the League as well as their own police officials, gave instructions that the police should remain away from the meeting; they did this in perfect good faith, and with the object of letting the League have its say without let or hindrance. The proposed meeting was however advertised far and wide. As the feeling amongst a section of the Witwatersrand population was exceedingly bitter against the League, a considerable number of the opponents of that body also attended the meeting. The few police who were present were powerless to quell the disorder, and when the police came on the scene in force some few minutes after the commencement of the uproar, the meeting was already broken up. Taken by itself, this occurrence would not be of much importance, as it is an isolated instance as far as the gold fields of this Republic are concerned, and even in the best organised and best ordered communities irregularities like the above occasionally take place.
The gravity of the matter, however, lies in the unjust accusation of Her Majesty's Government - that the meeting was broken up by officials of this Republic, and that the Government had curtly refused to institute an enquiry.
This Government would not have refused to investigate the matter if any complaints had been lodged with it, or at any of the local Courts, and this has been clearly stated in its reply to Her Majesty's request for an investigation.
The Government objects strongly to the systematic way in which the local authorities are ignored, and the continual complaints which are lodged with the Representatives of Her Majesty about matters which ought to be decided by the Courts of this Republic. Instead, however, of complaining to Her Majesty's Government after all other reasonable means of redress have been vainly invoked, they continually make themselves guilty of ignoring and treating with contempt the local Courts and authorities, by continually making all sorts of ridiculous and ex parte complaints to Her Majesty's Government in the first instance; Her Majesty's Government is also thereby placed in the equivocal and undesirable position of intermeddling in the internal affairs of this Republic, which is in conflict with the London Convention. Had the complaints been lodged with this Government, or with the proper officials or Courts, the facts could have been very easily arrived at, and it would have been proved that the few officials who were present at the meeting as a section of the public had done their best to prevent the irregularities, and that some of them had been hurt in their endeavours to preserve order.
Instead of expressing their disapproval of such complaints, and referring the petitioners to the local Courts, Her Majesty's Government accepts those complaints, and gives them an official character by forwarding them for the information of this Government, and by publishing them in blue books for the information of the world.
Her Majesty's Government will readily acknowledge that there is no State in the world with any sense of dignity, however weak and insignificant it may be, which can regard such matters with an indifferent eye; and when the relations of the two Governments are strained, then the mainspring must be looked for in this action of its subjects, which is not disapproved of by Her Majesty's Government, and not in imaginary or trumped-up grievances.
The Edgar case is referred to by your Government as "the most striking recent instance of arbitrary action by officials, and of the support of such action by the Courts," and this case is quoted as a conclusive test of the alleged judicial maladministration of this Republic; it will therefore be of interest to pause for a moment and consider it. What are the true facts?
A certain Foster, "an Englishman," was assaulted and felled to the ground, without any lawful cause, by a man named Edgar during the night of the 18th December, 1898; he lay on the ground as if dead, and ultimately died in the hospital. Edgar escaped to his room, and some police came on the scene, attracted by the screams of the bystanders. Amongst the police was one named Jones. When they saw the man who had been assaulted lying as if dead, they went to Edgar's apartments in order to arrest him as a criminal (he had indeed rendered himself liable for manslaughter, and apparently for murder). As he was caught in the very act, the police officers were, according to the Laws not only of this Republic, but of all South Africa and of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, justified in breaking open the door in order to arrest the culprit. While doing so, Edgar, with a dangerous weapon, struck Jones a severe blow. Under the stress of necessity the latter shot Edgar, from the effects of which he died. The question is not if Jones was justified in taking this extreme step, for the State Attorney of the Republic had already given effect to his opinion that this was a case for the jury by prosecuting him for manslaughter. The question is solely whether any jury in any country in the world would have found a man guilty of any crime under the circumstances set forth, and whether, if they did not find him guilty, the fact of their doing so would have been stamped and branded as a flagrant and remarkable instance of the maladministration of justice.
This Government is convinced that the English Judicial administration affords numberless instances where the facts are as strong as in this case, and it cannot see why an occurrence which could happen in any part of the world should be especially thrown in their teeth in the form of an accusation.
This Government does not wish to pass over in silence the censure which has been passed by Her Majesty's Government on the Public Prosecutor of Johannesburg, by whom the prosecution of this case was conducted; the fact that he is of pure English blood, that he received his legal training in London, that he is generally respected by the Uitlander population on account of his ability, impartiality, and general character, will naturally not be of any weight with Her Majesty's Government against the facts of his action in calling witnesses for the prosecution who were intended for the defence, and thus rendering an imaginary cross-examination abortive.
This Government only wishes to point out that the fact that the Edgar case is the strongest which Her Majesty's Government has been able to quote against the administration of justice in this Republic affords the strongest and most eloquent proof possible that, taking it in general, the administration of justice on the gold fields of this Republic not only compares favourably with that on other and similar gold fields, but even with that of old and settled countries.
The untrue representations of this occurrence in the Press prove conclusively that the newspapers of the Witwatersrand, the atrocity-mongering tactics of which constitute a share of the organised campaign against the Republic and its Government, have been compelled to resort to mendacious criticisms on imaginary instances of maladministration which were often simply invented. Where the Press is forced to adopt such methods, the true grievances must of necessity be unreal.
Her Majesty's Government now proceeds to discuss certain laws of this Republic, with the object of showing that the Uitlander population is also oppressed by the legislature of this country, the Press Law, the Aliens Expulsion Law, and Law No. 1 of 1897 being especially instanced. But it can also be proved that the population of the gold fields have no solid grounds of complaint in regard to the laws in question.
Respecting the existing Press Laws, No. 26 of 1896, and No. 14 of 1898, it is necessary to remark that no printer, issuer, or editor of a newspaper can be prosecuted unless he has made himself guilty of criminal libel, so that the principle of the Grondwet of 1858 has in this respect been rigidly adhered to. Her Majesty's Government will at once see that these laws cannot in any way bear harshly upon the writing public, a fact which is clearly borne out by the way in which the newspapers of this country are edited. Nowhere else in the world has the liberty of the Press so degenerated into license. No newspaper in any country in the world would for one moment dare to speak of the Government, the Legislature, and authorities of the country as the Star, the Transvaal Leader, and similar newspapers do every day in this Republic.
The imaginary nature of these grievances is not dispelled by the fact that the power is vested in the State President of prohibiting either entirely or provisionally the circulation of any printed matter which is contrary to good morals or public order, because the very same Supreme Court, which in the opinion of Her Majesty's Government only exists at the mercy of this Government, has pronounced that it has no power to prohibit the circulation of any newspaper; the freedom of the regular Press thus remains as unrestricted as under the old Grondwet.
As a matter of fact, any person who has any practical experience of the Press of this Republic will regard the accusation as ridiculous, and as evincing an entire ignorance of the true facts. This power has not been exercised by the Judges on many occasions, but only once, and in that instance the High Court annulled the decision.
With regard to the Aliens Expulsion Law, this, like the Press Law, ought to be estimated according to its spirit and operation. Since this law has come into force the State President has only on one occasion made use of the power vested in him of expelling an undesirable individual, and his action was endorsed by the approval of the Press and the public of the country. As similar laws exist in nearly every civilised country in the world, it is difficult to see why such a law in this Republic should prove so objectionable in the eyes of Her Majesty's Government.
With regard to Law No. 1 of 1897, and the dismissal of Chief Justice Kotze by virtue of its provisions, this Government can only state that it was with the bitterest regret that it felt itself compelled, in consequence of the arbitrary action of the said Chief Justice, to take comprehensive measures in order to prevent absolute constitutional and judicial disorder and chaos. It was an instance where a Chief Justice in conflict with a law existing for, at least, forty years, and in direct contradiction of his own decisions, suddenly adopted and applied a new principle, which affected the legality of the laws of the Republic, and produced real constitutional chaos. Would not any other Government under similar circumstances have done exactly what this Republic did, namely, pass a special law in this unusual case, in order to remove the exceptional difficulties?
This law was only applicable to this particular instance, and became inoperative immediately after its application; and this Government cannot understand how suspicion can therefore fall upon the impartial administration of Justice in this Republic. If the Government had acquiesced in the position taken up by the late Chief Justice, then all titles dependent upon Volksraad resolutions would have been called in question, which would not only have dealt a heavy blow to existing rights, but also have plunged the administration of Justice in great uncertainty and doubt.
By this law the Judges, instead of being brought under the influence of the Executive Council, were really placed in the same constitutional position as any Judge in the Supreme Court of England, who is unable to question the validity of any law.
This Government has now traversed the various contentions of Her Majesty's Government, which have been submitted in order to prove that the policy of this Government, with regard to the Uitlander population and the administration of the laws, especially on the gold fields, are the causes of the strained relationship at present existing between the two Governments.
This Government believes that this explanation and answer will clearly show that these causes are in no way sufficient to have resulted in the aforesaid tension. It is of opinion that the source of evil must be sought for elsewhere, and it trusts that Her Majesty's Government will not take it in bad part if it now proceeds to explain what the real root of the evil is from its point of view; and in the first place it remarks as a very noticeable and prominent fact that although there are thousands of subjects of other Powers in Johannesburg, there are few complaints heard from them or from their Governments about the so-called grievances of the Uitlanders. If these grievances existed in reality, and if they pressed equally on all so-called Uitlanders (and Her Majesty's Government does not contend that in this respect a difference is made between British subjects and subjects of other Powers), how does it happen that the complaints always come from British subjects, and that the subjects of other Powers, as a rule, express their sympathy with this Government and promise it their support?
But this Government wishes to go further. Even in regard to those Uitlanders who are British subjects, it is a small minority which, under the pretext of imaginary grievances, promotes a secret propaganda of race hatred, and uses the Republic as a base for fomenting a revolutionary movement against this Government. Ministers of Her Majesty have so trenchantly expressed the truth about this minority that this Government wishes to quote the very words of these Ministers with the object of bringing the actual truth to the knowledge of Her Majesty's Government, as well as to that of the whole world, and not for the purpose of making groundless accusations.
The following words are those of the Ministers of the Cape Colony, who are well acquainted with local conditions and fully qualified to arrive at a conclusion: -
"In the opinion of Ministers the persistent action, both beyond and within this Colony, of the political body styling itself the South African League in endeavouring to foment and excite, not to smooth and allay, ill-will between the two principal European races inhabiting South Africa is well illustrated by these resolutions, the exaggerated and aggravated terms of which disclose the spirit which informs and inspires them.
"His Excellency's Ministers are one in their earnest desire to do all in their power to aid and further a policy of peaceful progress throughout South Africa, and they cannot but regard it as an unwise propagandism, hostile to the true interests of the Empire, including this Colony as an integral part, that every possible occasion should be seized by the League and its promoters for an attempt to magnify into greater events minor incidents when occurring in the South African Republic, with a prospect thereby of making racial antagonism more acute, or of rendering less smooth the relations between Her Majesty's Government or the Government of this Colony and that Republic."
Race hatred is, however, not so intense in South Africa as to enable a body with this propaganda, aiming at revolutionary objects, to obtain much influence in this part of the world; and one continually asks oneself the question - "How is it that a body so insignificant, both in regard to its principles and its membership, enjoys such a large measure of influence?" The answer is that this body depends upon the protection and the support of Her Majesty's Government in England, and that both its members and its organs in the Press openly boast of the influence they exercise over the policy of Her Majesty's Government. This Government would ignore such assertions, but when it finds that the ideas and the shibboleths of the South African League are continually echoed in the speeches of members of H.M. Government, when it finds that blue books are compiled chiefly from documents prepared by officials of the South African League, as well as from reports and leading articles containing "malignant lies" taken from the Press organs of that organisation, thereby receiving an official character, then this Government can well understand why so many of Her Majesty's right-minded subjects in this part of the world have obtained the impression that the policy advocated by the South African League is supported by Her Majesty's Government, and is thus calculated to contribute to the welfare and blessing of the British Empire.
If this mistaken impression could be removed, and if it could be announced as a fact that the South African League, as far as its actions in the South African Republic are concerned, is only an organisation having as its object the fomentation of strife and disorder and the destruction of the independence of the country, then it would very soon lose its influence, and the strained relations existing between the two Governments would quickly disappear. The Africander population of this country would not then be under the apprehension that the interests of the British Empire imperatively demand that the Republic should be done away with and its people be either enslaved or exterminated. Both sections of the white inhabitants of South Africa would then return to the fraternal co-operation and fusion which was beginning to manifest itself when the treacherous conspiracy at the end of 1895 awakened the passions on both sides.