It must not be supposed that the intelligent Boer is non-existent; but, as I have said, he is in the minority. He reads the newspapers, and he has a great deal to say on both sides. He has very few personal prejudices; his whole concern is concentrated in a desire to further the progress of the country. His mind is developed; he does not regard the Englishman as an interloper; he wants 'to live and let live.'
There is, unfortunately, the other element, a most undesirable one—the Boer who is continually stirring up ill-feeling. You will find him everywhere, and he is always at it. If his own brother happened to be an educated man, he could not get on with him; his nature is despicable. President Kruger thinks that race hatred will gradually disappear, for 'wherever love dwells, prosperity must follow.' Can anyone imagine love existing in the nature of the man I have cited? President Kruger himself is an educated man, an able man in his own sphere. If he practises the art of brotherly love to the same extent that he preaches it, why does he not make some arrangement by which it would be possible to instil a portion of the sentiment into some of his erring children? Then we should have no more racial hatred to concern ourselves with; we should have instead the inspiring spectacle of a reclaimed Dutchman falling upon the neck of his English next-door neighbour and weeping.
At the same time, however, even supposing Oom Paul's influence were capable of producing such picturesque results, it would be well meantime if a little fundamental education could be introduced. This may seem impracticable at the first blush, considering that the population is so widely scattered, but no doubt there is some hidden solution. Ignorance is accountable in a great measure for the ill-feeling which exists between Dutch and English, and rancour cannot be removed until ignorance is ordered out through the back-door.
There is also the fact that the generality of the people exhibit little or no interest in the leaders of their Government. It is said that the perusal of biography ennobles and develops the mind. This is also the case when a man follows with interest and profit the mature reasoning and diplomatical tact of some of our present-day politicians. I say some of them, because not all of them exhibit that intellectual refinement which characterized the great Plato. Still, a great many people might acquire a tolerable education if they applied themselves to the perusal of newspapers in this way, and it is my firm belief that the Boers would benefit by such a course.
The average Boer does not know exactly the meaning of the word 'politics,' except that in most things he prefers to be conservative. He likes to move along very quietly, without any outside interference. He knows full well that he has sent his representative to Parliament, and he leaves that member severely alone. Sometimes the member calls a public meeting of his own accord, and the Boer attends that meeting, not because he is anxious to bring forward any matter affecting the welfare of his country or district, nor because the member has failed to satisfy him, but merely because he is desirous of meeting his fellow-men and discussing crops and Kaffirs and oxen and sheep and wool—in short, anything outside of politics, in which he professes no interest whatever. He is not interested in general measures for the benefit of the whole country; his attention is fully occupied with the affairs of his own particular piece of land, and so long as he himself prospers, he does not trouble about the prosperity or otherwise of his neighbours.
Oom Paul is the leading light, and should he elect to do this or that, he need exercise no discretion concerning the probable feeling of the country. He is the man at the wheel, and the crew have such implicit faith in him that he can practically steer where he wills. He may sometimes experience a little opposition in the House, but he is long-headed as well as hard-headed, and he invariably holds the trump card. He is not a Boer in the ordinary sense of the word; he is only a Boer in the sense that he smokes hard and prefers coffee. He lives in a very ordinary dwelling-house, and it is even stated that his vrouw starches and irons his dress-shirts, but this may only be surmise. At all events he does not allow these trifles to worry him, his renowned diplomacy being directed chiefly to the management of his cosmopolitan children, who are apt occasionally to wax troublesome and exceed the bounds of caution.
When a Government assumes a more or less aggressive attitude, or something tantamount, it is safe to predict that such a Government will encounter difficulties. It may be a good Government; but it will not be a successful one. The actions of any Government reflect upon the country, adversely or otherwise. In a country like the Transvaal, the Government is a weighty concern which does not so much consider the voice of the people as the preservation of its own individual sanctity. The presidential chair represents the universal criterion either for good or for evil, although it is not usually associated with evil. It practises the art of cabling—with Mr. Chamberlain for preference. The voice of the people is duly represented, but it is a very weak and halfhearted voice. There is not that hearty ring in it which is so marked when, for instance, a crowd of Englishmen greet their Queen. President Kruger represents the Transvaal burghers, and the requisitions which are published previous to the Presidential election are sufficient and convincing proof that he is a popular and highly respected man. These requisitions usually refer in a general way to the numerous difficulties through which Oom Paul has so ably piloted the country. According to such requisitions innumerable difficulties have assailed the poor country on all sides, and the general tone throughout would imply that they were insidious and uncalled for. The country had done nothing; the people had gone about their business innocently, and attended church regularly, and no thoughts of intrigue or anything resembling it had existed in their bosoms. Their desire was to govern the country honestly and with a view only to its prosperity, adopting precautions at the same time which would exclude the participation of foreigners—Englishmen, for example. They didn't believe in the English element; it was too dangerous. The President all the while tried to make out that he liked the English; but he didn't. Of course, a great Power like the Transvaal must keep up appearances. The German Emperor, for instance, doesn't say straight out that the English are a bad lot, and therefore Oom Paul must not display official ignorance by doing that which the German Emperor does not do. A man may not exactly be born a King, or a President, but he can learn a lot of useful little formalities by watching the other Kings and Presidents. It will be observed, therefore, that the Transvaal has all along been very docile and consequently very badly used. And because it has displayed the best and noblest qualities and on all occasions endeavoured to obviate friction with other people, it has been unjustly assailed and trampled upon.
Oom Paul is a very good man, but he kicks at the traces a great deal. He likes to go out of his way to find out what other people are saying about him, and he displays, moreover, another undesirable characteristic—he is suspicious. It is in the family; it is in the whole people. He is continually working himself up into the condition of a man whose highly-strung nerves convince him that the whole world is against him. He always imagined that everybody was working out plans of campaign by which it would be possible to annex the Transvaal to the British Empire. Fortunately there were other matters and other countries to consider, and if Oom Paul would just study a map of the world for a few weeks and reflect, he would probably find his position less irksome. But Oom Paul has a great deal to think about—he must think for the whole nation. The 'unfortunate affair which occurred after 1895' seems to trouble him a great deal. Despite the fact that the country was well paid for it, this incident seems fated to crop up at least every six months, and it will be handed down to generations untold, so that it may ever be kept green. It will be nurtured and well looked after, and the one regret will be that it does not bring in an annual income in proportion to the original amount.
The Boer's politics are summed up in the single word 'Defence.' He is not aggressive, but he is strong on Defence. Possession with him is ten points of the law—it is everything. Let the independence of his country be threatened, and he is at once a man of action. He figuratively converts his ploughshare into a sword, although the uses of that weapon are unknown to him. At the time of the Jameson Raid it may safely be asserted that there did not exist a single Boer—young or old—who was not in possession of a serviceable firearm and the full complement of ammunition. The Kantoors—i.e., the Government offices—were daily besieged by eager men as eager to possess themselves of the instruments and munitions of war. Every man was ready; farmers were no longer farmers, but soldiers, prepared to face the worst in the defence of their only love—their country.