England's alleged " enlightened " objects in the war examined in the light of the South African record—The origin of the Boer —His colonization of Cape Colony—Mr. Froude's testimony— General Joubert's story of British injustice told in his letter to Queen Victoria—A dramatic sketch of Boer struggles and of persistent English oppression—Mr. Chamberlain's historic praise of the Boer race—His denunciation of " A National Crime."
THE present war is the third attempted conquest by the English of the third country which the Dutch race has settled and civilized in South Africa. This fact is purposely ignored in the various attempts which British writers are making to explain " the enlightened" motives with which an Empire, boasting of 300,000,000 subjects, has provoked a conflict with a little Republic of 150,000 souls, which possessed the richest gold mines in the world. It is a fact, however, which forms a material part of the case against the English in this instance, and somewhat discounts the character and value of the " reforming " purpose that lay behind the Jameson Raid, and which inspired and informed the equally altruistic spirit and intent of Mr. Joseph Chamberlain's diplomacy.
The first act of British aggression upon the land and liberty of the Boers is now near a hundred years old. It occurred in Cape Colony. This part of the dark continent had been selected by a company of Dutchmen as a desirable settlement. As early as 1652, a number of adventurers from Holland arrived there, and commenced the labor of founding a white community among the Kaffir races. They were followed by other contingents from time to time; among these being several hundred Huguenots, who had fled from the religious oppression of Louis XIV. in search of freedom of faith and of personal liberty at the Cape of Good Hope. These expatriated Frenchmen soon mingled with the hardy emigrants from the Netherlands, and in time helped to produce the sturdy, independence-loving race which has won the admiration of the world during the past three years by its courage and capacity in once more resisting the military might of the British Empire.
The Boers grew and prospered in Cape Colony. They conquered the Hottentots around them, and shed far less blood in subduing the natives to their rule than did any British settlement which was ever planted, among savage races. Towns were built, roads were made, lands were cultivated, and the Colony progressed in peace and in industry, unmolested by white foes, for seven generations.
Then the English arrived. The French Revolution had involved the Netherlands in the subsequent struggles between Napoleon and European powers, and near the end of the eighteenth century the British took possession of the Cape, in the role of a good friend anxious to protect the territory of a weak neighbor and ally. The Colony was restored to Holland in 1802, but was again taken by the English in 180G. The seizure on both occasions was declared to be in the interest of the House of Orange. The final retention of the Colony by the English put the object of their previous intervention in its proper light.
The Boers were violently opposed to the intrusion of the British, but were too weak to resist successfully a usurpation of their country by a Power which had done nothing whatever to develop or promote its prosperity or civilization. As Mr. James A. Froude says in his "Oceana": " They resented it; the hotter spirits resisted; they were called rebels, and were shot and hanged in the usual fashion."
The new rulers soon commenced their traditional policy of undermining the nationality of their unwilling subjects. The Dutch language was abolished in the courts, and schools were also ordered to be conducted in the English tongue. The Boers were made to feel by their British governors and officials that they were a subjugated people, with few rights or privileges left to them in the land of their birth beyond those enjoyed by the Kaffirs around them.
The native races were, in fact, preferred before them, and enjoyed a greater measure of toleration from the English than was shown by these to the former rulers of the country. This treatment naturally deepened the discontent of the Boers, and made the rule of the British more hateful and unbearable.
" We justified our conquest to ourselves," wrote Mr. Froude, " by taking away the character of the conquered, and we constituted ourselves the champions of the colored races against them, as if they were oppressors and robbers. . . . We had treated them unfairly as well as unwisely, and we never forgive those whom we have injured." (Oceana, pp. 84, 85.)
In one of the most eloquently pathetic letters ever written, the late Commandant-General Joubert told Queen Victoria, in June, 1899, five months before the present war was declared, the story of the Boer race, and of the continuity of her country's persistent oppression of his people from, 1806 down to the date when' he knew that England was once again resolved upon an act of spoliation. He related the systematic persecutions which drove the Dutch farmers into the Great Trek —into the abandonment of the country which they had, in a sense, created for white men. He told of the indignities to which the. Boers were subjected, and the hopeless outlook created for their' children in the settled purpose of their complete domination at the hands of English officials. It | was such a story as a doomed Thracian leader might have told to a Roman patrician on the eve of a gladiatorial display within the Colosseum.
After alluding to the fact that the English officials tried their utmost to prevent Piet Retief and his companions from providing themselves with ammunition on their departure from Cape Colony to face the savage foes and wild animals which would be encountered across the Drakensberg and the Orange River, General Joubert continued:
" Your Majesty, who can describe the sufferings they endured ? They ventured forth, trusting in God, to rid themselves of all human despotism, in search of a free land for their children and children's children. They wandered in small groups further and further, ever onward, until they arrived at the Vaal River. Here they pitched their tents and regarded the new country as their El Dorado. . . . Their hopes were short-lived. Moselekatse, head of a cruel Kaffir tribe, came with a large force of warriors from the far north, and attacked a small party of Boers near the river, no warning having reached them of the intended onslaught. The odds were twenty to one, but God gave them courage, and they not only repulsed the horde of savages, but succeeded in rescuing several children and several wounded women who had been captured by the Kaffirs. . . . Other parties of Boers from Cape Colony had gone eastward. . . . With these they (those who had fought as above) now decided to combine. Moselekatse, however, pursued them with a second expedition stronger than the previous contingent, commanding it not to return so long as there remained a Boer living. . . . The fleeing Boers reached Veehtkop, in the Orange Free State, where, recognizing the futility of continuing their flight, they built up a laager or camp with their wagons, and calmly awaited their pitiless foe. Prepared to die in the face of overwhelming odds, they nevertheless determined to fight manfully to the last, trusting in God. As the enemy pressed on, each Boer made the best use of his rifle, causing the smoke to ascend in such volumes to heaven that even the flying enemy imagined the Boers had been vanquished, and that their laager was in flames and its defenders utterly annihilated. We were afterwards told that when the intelligence reached Grahamstown, Cape Colony, your Majesty's subjects were so elated thereat that they celebrated the receipt of the news by bonfires and other illuminations, thinking that the last of the Boers had fallen."
General Joubert next told Her Majesty how the Boers, who had thus fought for their lives in search of a new home, crossed into Natal through the passes of the Drakensberg and united their fortunes with those of Betief, Maritz, and Uys; leaders who had trekked into that country when the party to which Joubert's father had attached himself had ventured, as related, to gain the Transvaal, and had encountered Moselekatse and his savage legions. He told how Betief and his followers purchased the region of Natal from Dingaan, its dominant Zulu chief, and obtained a written agreement from him for a Boer settlement in that region; and continued his story of how the Dutchmen settled in and fought for their second country, to be again ousted out of it by British power:
" It is doubtless known to your Majesty how this cruel and barbarous Chief (Dingaan) mercilessly and treacherously murdered Piet Eetief and his seventy men (whom he had invited to visit him), immediately afterwards sending out his commandoes to massacre those awaiting the return of Eetief and the unsuspecting women and children. Thus without warning were 600 helpless old men, women and children butchered in cold blood. ... A vessel arrived at Port Natal, and Captain Jarvis stepped on shore. ' Thank God, assistance was at hand; now no more starvation. No more fear of the sword of Dingaan. Succor has come at last.' Such were the thoughts of many a simple-minded Boer. But, alas! how soon was their joy to be turned into grief and indignation, for how horribly surprised were they to learn that, instead of having come to their aid, be was sent to forbid them to fight with the natives and to disarm them ! "
Joubert next relates how the Boers concealed their arms and ammunition from the prying eyes of Jarvis and his force, until they saw him take his departure. Two hundred men were then got together by Pieter Uys and Hendrick Potgieter, and they resolved to seek Dingaan in his lair and avenge the massacre of Retief and the 600 victims of England's protected savages. The Boers were, however, beaten in the fight and were compelled to retreat after having killed hundreds of their Kaffir foes, Uys and his little boy (a type of many a heroic lad who has fought and died in the present war against the whilom patrons of Dingaan) with several more farmers being slain in the fierce encounter.
Dingaan and his Zulus followed up their victory, and, encouraged by their success, resolved to exterminate the Dutchmen. It was again a fight for life on the part of the Boers, and at Bosmans River, near where Louis Botha defeated the English about the end of November, 1899, the little commando entrenched itself. After three days' continuous fighting, against thousands of Zulu foes, it gained a complete victory over Dingaan. The Boers made a frightful carnage of their assailants. " For years afterwards the veldt was white with their bones." The victors lost but one man in this battle; a circumstance which the pious pilgrim farmers attributed to the protecting care of the Almighty.
Andreas Pretorius, one of the greatest of the Boer leaders, now appeared on the scene, having with other Boers left the Cape Colony to aid his kindred to hold the newly occupied country against the Zulu tribes. He organized a force of 400 men from all the Boer settlements, and with these set forth in search of Dingaan and his hordes. Pretorius was as wise as he was brave. He was an ideal Boer general and statesman, and he well merits the title of being the father of the Boer nation of our day. He utterly defeated Dingaan, and destroyed his power forever in Natal, on the 16th of December, 1838; a day which has ever since been celebrated as " Dingaan's Day " by the Boer people, and once or twice in the present war by Boer generals in a manner not agreeable to their English foes.
General Joubert continues:
" One would have thought, your Majesty, that the Boer after this would have been left alone to live peaceably, praising his God in the country he had bought so dear. But no! His cup of bitterness was not yet emptied. The yoke of oppression had not yet been broken. Scarcely had the Boers laid out the village of Pieter-maritzburg than threatening clouds began to gather and the alarm to sound again. Not the Kaffirs this time. No, a thousand times worse. The English came; an officer with a company of soldiers equipped with cannon and shell arrived. The officer was Captain Smith, and he came to annex the country as a possession of that mighty Empire, Great Britain—to make an end to our boasted independence and to destroy our peace."
The Boers were not tamely prepared to surrender the land for which they had sacrificed so much, and 200 of them attacked Smith and his men, putting them to flight and capturing their guns. English reinforcements soon arrived, however, and General Joubert tells what followed:
"The Boers were not trained to the use of cannon, and could not prevent the landing of a force stronger than themselves. They dared no longer fight the English, for the Kaffirs had already commenced to harass them from the rear. A Boer had been killed on his farm, another was murdered, and his wife and daughter subjected to the most inhuman treatment, ravished, and driven away naked. Others were assaulted and barely escaped with their lives. In this way the Kaffirs proved of great service to Captain Smith and his soldiers, who were besieged by the Boers, and had already been driven to the extremity of eating horseflesh, and who would undoubtedly have been obliged to capitulate had it not been for the harassing attacks of the Kaffirs in the rear of the Boers, which necessitated their hastening out to their farms in order to save their families from certain death. And thus it came to pass that the Boers lost their right to the territory of Natal which had been purchased with the blood of their slain."
England annexed Natal as she had already grabbed Cape Colony, and commenced at once the same policy of confiscation, of tyranny and of racial antagonism which drove the Boers out of their first homeland.
Other contingents of pilgrim farmers had in the meantime crossed the Orange River from Cape Colony, and settled in the region lying between that stream and the Vaal River. Thither many of the Natal Boers trekked after the destruction of the infant Republic beyond the Drakensberg. England was again on their track, and by an Act of the Imperial Parliament that whole territory, and the regions north to the Portuguese possessions, were declared to be within the sphere of British rule! The Orange Territory thus followed Natal into English hands, after Pretorius had fought Sir Henry Smith at Boomplaats in August, 1849, and the Boers were compelled, to retire over the Vaal River into the Transvaal. There a colony had already been established on a concession made by the Portuguese to Potgieter and Pretorius, and the town of Potchefstroom had been founded as the capital of the (third) new country to which the Boers had been driven by the English.
General Joubert omitted at this point in his letter to Queen Victoria to remind her that, while her soldiers were thus employed in taking countries from the Boers as fast as these could conquer and settle them, the Kaffirs were causing trouble to their British protectors. The Basutos rose in revolt against the English in the Orange River Settlement, and the latter appealed to the Boers to help quell the insurrection. The Boers rightly refused, and it became necessary to recognize how difficult, if not impossible, it would be for the English troops in South Africa at the same time to hold the Boers in subjection, and to keep the Basutos and other tribes under control, now that these had ceased to make the Dutchmen the sole objects of their murdering and cattle-raiding warfare.
Joubert passed over this chapter in the story of British aggression, and continued his letter as follows:
" It had by this time begun to dawn upon your Majesty's Government that it was more politic to leave the Boer severely alone than to be everlastingly pursuing him from place to place. With the object of assuring the Boers that they would not be interfered with north of the Vaal River, and could administer their own affairs, your Majesty's special Commissioner, Mr. C. M. Owen, was sent (to the Boers) with the result that a Convention was entered into on the 16th of January, 1852, signed by your Majesty's Commissioners, Major Hogg and Mr. Owen; the first three articles of which read as follows :
"'Art. I. Her Majesty's Commissioners, on behalf of the British Government, do absolutely guarantee to the emigrant farmers north of the Vaal River the right of administering their own affairs, and of governing in accordance with their own laws, without any interference whatsoever on the part of the British Government, and that no extension shall be made by the said Government north of the Vaal; with the additional assurance that it is the fervent desire of the British Government to maintain peace and free trade, and to promote a friendly understanding with the emigrant Boers occupying or still to occupy the said territory; and it is further understood that these terms are to be mutually adhered to.
"' Art. II. Should there arise any misunderstanding regarding the meaning of the word Vaal River, the question shall be decided by a mutually appointed Commission.
"' Art. III. That Her Majesty's Commissioners disavow all compacts of whatever nature with the colored natives north of the Vaal.'"
Two years subsequently, the freedom and independence conceded to the Transvaal in the Sand River Convention was, likewise, under a duly signed treaty, obtained by the Orange Free State, and both Republics were thus recognized and declared by England to be two sovereign States, absolutely free from all British rule or interference.
Mr. Froude, the English historian, relates in his book " Oceana " the shameful breach by his country of these treaties, and I will leave General Joubert's letter to Queen Victoria for a moment so as to support his testimony by the evidence of so thoroughly conservative a British writer as the author already quoted.
" The ink on the treaty of Aliwal North" (the Convention recognizing the independence of the Free State), says Mr. Froude, " was scarcely dry when diamonds were discovered in large quantities in a district which we had ourselves treated as a part of the Orange Territory before our first withdrawal, and which had ever since been administered by Orange Free State magistrates. There was a rush of diggers from all parts of the country. . . . There was a notion that the finest diamond mine in the world ought not to be lost to the British Empire. ... It was an ill hour we lent ourselves to an aggression for which there was no excuse. Lord Kimberley gave his name to the new Settlement. The Dutch were expelled. The manner in which we acted was insolent in its cynicism. We had gone in as the champions of the Chief Waterboer. We gave Waterboer and his Griquas a tenth of the territory. We kept the rest and all that was valuable ourselves. . . . The treaty of Aliwal North is our all sufficient condemnation. This one action has been the cause of all the troubles which have since befallen South Africa." (Oceana, pp. 40,41-)
Returning to General Joubert's letter: he touches briefly upon the disgraceful transaction so strongly denounced by Mr. Froude, and reminds Queen Victoria of the additional breach of the treaty of Sand River in the forcible seizure of the Transvaal by Sir Theophi-lus Shepstone and a British force on the 12th of April, 1877, on the pretexts that the Republic was too weak to resist native insurrections—instigated by British agency—and that some of the burghers favored the introduction of English rule. The Commandant-General continues :
" Your Majesty is probably aware that the Boers, notwithstanding their indignation at this great wrong, submitted to the law and preserved order, intending to petition your Majesty against this manifestly unjust breach of the Convention, committed in your Majesty's name. They, therefore, without a murmur permitted the publication of the British proclamation announcing the act of annexation. When, however, they wanted to have a proclamation printed, declaring to the world their rights, Major Clarke ordered his men to open fire on them—and this without previous warning or the proclaiming of war. Thus, on December 16, 1880, war was declared by England against the Boers, regardless of the Convention of 1852, wherein their independence was guaranteed to them."
The old veteran next tells the story of the "war of freedom," which culminated in the victory of Majuba, gained by himself, but of which personal achievement he makes no mention in his narrative. He pays a glowing tribute of praise to the action of Mr. Gladstone in effecting the settlement which followed Majuba.
"Actuated by a generous and noble impulse he caused the unjust war to cease and restored the honor of Great Britain by transforming an act of violence into a magnanimous deed. . . . The Boers were free again, and they hoped it would now go better with them. They vainly imagined so. Poor Transvaal ! You have hardly survived one disaster, when two others stand staring you in the face.
" Unfortunately a rich gold mine was discovered in our country. Poor and abandoned men began soon to flock to this new El Dorado, and were presently followed by a legion of unscrupulous speculators. Afterwards certain ambitious capitalists arrived on the scene, who knew how to use their influence and were indifferent as to what role they played or of what became of the country so long as they could increase their wealth tenfold. And to what end did they eventually apply their gold, derived from the Transvaal mines ? Let history tell your Majesty, and it will prove that it was not devoted to the good of the country or the welfare of their fellowmen; but, on the contrary, to the detriment of the country whose hospitality they were enjoying.
" Their object was to overthrow the Government and to rob the people of their liberty, by force if necessary. As they had money in abundance, the proceeds of the gold they had won from the mines, they bought thousands of rifles and (some) Maxim cannons for the purpose of using them against the people of the Transvaal. With this aim in view, they had made a compact with one Cecil Ehodes to undertake a raid into the Transvaal, Dr. Jameson acting as the tool. . . . Altho we had it in our power to refuse to grant quarter or pardon to Jameson and his gang of freebooters, we did not shoot them down as perhaps another military power would have done, or even follow the example of Slachter's Nek.
The thought that they were British subjects sufficed for the Boers not to treat them according to their deserts, but to hand them over to the law officers of your Majesty to be dealt with as your Majesty deemed fit. And what is the thanks we get for our magnanimity for liberating Jameson, Rhodes' henchman? Instead of thanks, we are cursed with the revival of the Johannesburg agitation of 1895-96. . .
" Will your Majesty permit a small weak State to be oppressed and overthrown by the world-renowned power and might of Great Britain simply owing to the misrepresentations of the persons I have already mentioned ?
" Such is the inquiry of him who considers it an honor and a privilege to extol your Majesty the Queen of Great Britain and Ireland and Empress of India. . . . He will never believe that your Majesty will suffer the sacred rights of a weak, peace-loving people to be violated in your name, and South Africa to be cast into grief and mourning.
" Such is the wish and prayer of your Majesty's most humble petitioner,
"P. J. Joubert."
As a postscript to General Joubert's vain appeal to the British monarch to avert a war against the South African Republic, the following eloquent testimony to the historic justice of the Boer cause, and outspoken denunciation of the wrong and iniquity of any British attempt to annex the Transvaal or to destroy its independence, will not be inappropriate :" The Boers are animated by a deep and even stern religious sentiment, and they inherit from their ancestors—the men who won the independence of Holland from the oppressive rule of Philip II. of Spain—they inherit from them their unconquerable love of freedom and liberty. Are they not qualities which commend themselves to men of the English race ? Is it against such a nation that we are to be called upon to exercise the dread arbitrament of arms ? These men settled in the Transvaal in order to escape foreign rule. They had had many quarrels with the British. They left their homes in Natal as the English Puritans left England for the United States, and they founded a little Republic of their own in the heart of Africa. In 1852 we made a treaty with them, and we agreed to respect and guarantee their independence; and I say under these circumstances, is it possible we could maintain a forcible annexation of the country, without incurring the accusation of having been guilty, I will not say of national folly, but I say of national crime ?" (The Right Honorable Joseph Chamberlain, M. P., at Birmingham, June 7, 1881: Authorized edition of speeches—1885—pp. 18-19.)