The South African Republic an independent nation after the London convention—A country of peace and civilization—Civic order at Johannesburg—The Boer system of education—The Transvaal constitution—Democratic features—Principle of the referendum—Religious disabilities—The judiciary—The volksraad—Land laws—Herbert Spencer's comparison of the Transvaal with England before the Reform Bill—Author's comparison of Transvaal with England of the present.
The short spell of independence enjoyed by the Transvaal Boers under the Sand River Convention was too checkered to offer much encouragement to the various tasks of settled government. War followed war with native races, instigated by English agency, rendering the labor of internal administration difficult and spasmodic. The real, independent life of the Republic dates, therefore, from the signing of the London Convention of 1884. Reckoning from that year to the outbreak of hostilities in October, 1899, we have a small nation in full possession of its own freedom, of initiative and action, for a period of only fifteen years. It is, consequently, a Government of this age, confronted from 1890 until forced into the present conflict with unscrupulous English intrigue and combinations, that has been held up by the capitalist press to the opprobrium of the civilized world for faults and failures! Can it not be asked, in all fairness, whether there has ever been written in the history of nations a more grotesque parody of just criticism than that which applies the codes and standards of States hundreds of years in the enjoyment of freedom, to the acts of a nation of less than 150,000 souls, and judges thereby what it has and has not done for " human progress, civilization, and enlightenment," within the space of fifteen years? It is as if a child of tender age were denounced and cited for punishment because he had not developed the personal strength of a Sandow, or the mental equipment of a Herbert Spencer. And it is for the inevitable faults of inexperience, and for falsely accused failure, that this little State has been hounded down by its English enemies in the press of England and America, and handed over to the power of the British Empire for reform by strangulation.
No one who wanted to be a witness to the truth could travel through the Transvaal, either before war began or during its earlier progress, without seeing evidence everywhere of both careful and enlightened administration in its cities and towns, and of comfort and content in the homes and habits of the people. Pretoria is a city handsome in every sense. Its public edifices, notably its Government Buildings and Palace of Justice, would do credit to any European capital. Its streets are wide, and are lit with electric light. It possesses as good a telephone service as any British town of equal size, while the whole country is served with efficient railway and telegraphic systems. Pretoria impressed the visitor as a well-ruled city; bright, comfortable, and clean; furnished with an admirable market, and an abundant water supply. Its working classes were better housed than those of London, Manchester, or Dublin, while the taxation on wages in the Transvaal was much less than the amount which English working men have to pay annually in their own country.
Johannesburg alone, the center of the anti-Boer agitation, would amply vindicate Boer Government, and refute the false statements of its worst enemies, could the place have been seen by fair-minded men, and all the facts relating to its people, their character and pursuits, have been impartially considered. Here was the center of the richest gold mines in the world, inhabited by over 100,000 white people, and fully 80,000 Kaffirs who were employed in the mines of the town and locality. The whites embraced, along with the reputable classes, all the elements known to flock to such a center: men of the worst character and lowest passions; purveyors of prostitution, gamblers, cheats, sharpers, scoundrels, and loafers—all of alien, not one of Boer, blood. Not a single English critic has had the sense of fairness to take account of the difficulties in the way of the police and the administrators of justice in dealing with a city so inhabited, and containing within its limits more potential agencies, passions, and incitements to civic and social disorder than any other city in Christendom. And yet, what was the actual record of Johannesburg in its relation to law and order from 1890 to 1899? I assert in all confidence that there have been less murders, less rapes, less serious outrages on person and property, among the whole white population within this unique city during these ten years, than in any single city in England of equal population for a like period. Eighty thousand savages were kept under orderly control without undue severity, and made subject to civilized laws and customs in a manner reflecting the highest credit upon the police and magistracy of Johannesburg. General order was maintained without any violent interference with the liberty of citizens (less by far than occurs in Ireland to-day), and when it became necessary to the purposes of the plots and plans of Boer enemies within their gates to libel these police and officials of the law, all the cases which the model, moral Uitlander " reformers " could place at Sir Alfred Milner's disposal for his indictment of the State which Englishmen had conspired to destroy, embraced an alleged murder of an Englishman, which turned out to be, at worst, a case of manslaughter; the murder, by undetected ruffians, of a lady for her crusade against illicit drink traffic; an attack by a Field Cornet upon a*Cape Kaffir family; an organized disturbance of a Rhodesian meeting, and a few "minor instances of alleged failures of justice. These and nothing more. The meagerness of the list bore eloquent evidence to the success of the Government which had kept such a place in such order.
A popular conviction was fostered in England that President Kruger and his " oligarchy " were either the foes of education or were indifferent to the spread of instruction among the Boers. " Ignorant," " half-civilized," were common expressions used about them by speakers and writers who took no trouble to ascertain a truth which for the purposes of their argument they were not overanxious to find. Most of the talk of this kind was indulged in by persons who were probably thinking of the educational centers of Oxford and Cambridge, and of a much more recently organized English School Board system, as a proud contrast to the resources of the benighted Dutchmen of the Transvaal. But these Dutchmen had only fifteen or sixteen years of full self-governing existence in which to build up their educational centers and system, and the following is the record of what they have done for the instruction of the children of the people within that period :
Professor Mansvelt, Superintendent of Education in the State School of Pretoria, kindly supplied the facts and figures herein adduced.
In 1882 the pupils in the public schools of the South African Republic numbered 875. In 1898 they numbered 14,702; an increase of over 1,500 per cent, in fifteen years.
The character of the Boer system of instruction was threefold : primary, secondary, and higher education. Primary and secondary instruction were given in the village and ward schools. Higher education was confined to the upper classes of the State Girls' School and the State Boys' School (called the State Model School), in the State Gymnasium; an institution equivalent in teaching and in subjects to a French lycee or an English college. Then there was the State School of Mines, in which the character of the instruction approached more to a university teaching than to that of a high school.
The total number of schools (in 1898) in the Transvaal amounted to 509; 462 of these being rural (village and ward schools), and 47 urban schools.
The attendance, in the year quoted, averaged, for rural schools, 91 per cent., and in urban schools, 85.
Professors, certificated and other teachers numbered 830: 578 male, and 252 female, instructors; these teachers being divided, according to nationality, into 323 Europeans, mostly Dutch; 349 born in Cape Colony; and 158 born within the South African Republic.
The program of instruction covered reading, writing, arithmetic, sacred history, history of South Africa, the Dutch language, object lessons, recitation, geography, and singing, in the primary schools; while in the secondary and higher establishments the program embodied geometry, algebra, living languages, drawing and design, physiology, botany, zoology, chemistry, dead languages, bookkeeping, and technical instruction.
The sum expended by the Republic on its schools and scholars in 1882, amounted to £10,000. In 1898, the total amount so expended for that year was £227,000.
The salary of a male teacher was seldom below £120 per annum, " and all found." The majority of the ward and village teachers earned from £120 to £250. Teachers of State schools drew fixed salaries, from £150 to £500, according to rank and diploma. The professors of the State Gymnasium and of the School of Mines had a salary of £800 per annum.
The teaching of English was not prohibited in any school. It could be taught in all schools, if required by children's parents, after the third year's course. This applied to the children of Dutch parentage. To meet the requirements of the English population which had grown so rapidly in the Band district since 1886, the Government had erected State Schools in which English was the medium of instruction in all standards ; a few hours'" teaching of Dutch per week being, however, compulsory—a limit which was increased gradually as the pupils advanced in their knowledge of the official language of the Republic.
It will be seen from this summary of the facts and figures dealing with the educational provisions made by the "ignorant Boers " within a brief period of fifteen years, that they were neither hostile nor indifferent to intellectual culture, but were, on the contrary, as anxious for, and as generous in their support of popular education as any community of Anglo-Saxon people in any part of the British Empire.
The Republic itself had been described by its libelers as "a Republic in name only." They have been careful to deal in accusations and assertion, and not to invite a comparison between their statements and the truth. A reference to even the Grondwet of 1858, which has remained as the basis of the Transvaal Constitution, amended in 1896, will show that it was thoroughly democratic in principle and in purpose, if somewhat rustic in its machinery of law and general administration.
The salient features of the Constitution are found in the following clauses :
1. This State shall be called "The South African Republic."
2. The form of Government of this State shall be that of a Republic.
3. It desires to be recognized and respected by the civilized world as a free and independent people.
6. Its territory shall be open to all strangers who comply with the laws of the Republic. All persons who may happen to be in the territory of this Republic shall have an equal claim to protection of person and property.
8 The people demands the highest possible social liberty, and expects to derive such from the maintenance of its religious belief, from the observance of its engagements, from its submission to law, order, and right, and from the vindication of the same.
10. The people shall not tolerate any slave traffic or slavery in this Republic.
19. The liberty of the press shall be permitted, provided that the printer and publisher shall be responsible for all libelous, insulting, and defamatory articles.
The principles of Government embodied in this Grondwet were, as a matter of fact, more democratic than those of the British Constitution. But, in any case, the framers of these laws and regulations were arranging a Constitution for themselves, and not for Englishmen; for a small community in the wilds of South Africa, and not for the satisfaction of external critics. They were called upon to mold a system of rule and to make laws, not for a mixed nation, nor for a complex society, but for a community of a few thousand families, all of one faith, virtually of one occupation, and of identical social standing. The framers of the Boer code had no " classes " to consider, no warring religious sects to protect from each other, no claims of hereditary right to trouble the possession or occupation of land, and no complicated system of land tenure to regulate. They were free from these great difficulties, and had only to provide for a people, few in number, who were not economically or otherwise in need of elaborate legislation. Still, the fundamental spirit underlying the Boer system of Government and laws was the unfettered power of the people to manage their own affairs.
The English have termed the Government of the Republic an " oligarchy," as becomes a nation of critics with a hereditary House of Lords having power to veto legislation demanded by the people. In Article 12 of the Grondwet it is provided that "the people shall place the legislative power in the hands of the Volksraad, the supreme authority of the country, consisting of representatives, or power-holders, of the people, elected by burghers entitled to vote, but subject to three months' time being allowed the people, if it so elect, to deliver to the Volksraad its opinion concerning any proposed law, with the exception of such laws as shall not permit of any delay."
Here we find a modified Referendum, adopted by these South African farmers at a time (1858) when to ask a vote for a laborer in England was considered revolutionary, and when the franchise was restricted to property qualification in a country which can now make the alleged denial of the franchise to aliens, in a small foreign State, in 1899, the pretended cause of a war.
It is true that membership of the Volksraad and offices in the Republic were reserved to the community of the State Church. Roman Catholics, and Protestants not subscribing to the tenets of the Heidelberg Catechism, were specifically disqualified for membership of the Chamber. This was a narrow and reactionary restriction, but it was only thirty years behind the British Parliament with respect to the non-admission of Catholics to the House of Commons who were not prepared to swear, before an assembly of Protestants, that the oldest faith in Christendom was " heretical and superstitious." Even to-day no Catholic can occupy either the Throne of England, the position of Lord Lieutenant of Ireland (a Catholic country), or that of the Lord Chancellor in the House of Lords, while the King of England's coronation oath is grossly insulting, in some of its expressions, to no less than ten millions of his subjects who are Roman Catholics. No true friend of the Boer cause defends the denial to Catholics and others the rights of religious equality. Still,, justice requires that the foregoing facts in the religious and social history of the Transvaal should be borne in mind, and also demands recognition of the fact that the Government of the Republic from 1890 to 1899 was surely, if slowly, adapting its laws and institutions to the needs and rights of its new population.
The administration of justice in the Transvaal was divided into courts, or departments, as follows : The High Court, sitting in Pretoria; a Circuit Court; a Landrost Court; Landrost Commissioners; and various other special Courts: such as Mine Commissioners, Native Commissioners, Field Cornets' Courts, and Resident Justices of the Peace.
Six judges constituted the High Court, and two formed a quorum. One judge attended regularly in camera.
Nine jurymen and one judge formed a Criminal Court. A unanimous verdict, as in England, was required in every criminal case.
There was no regular appeal from the decision of this Court, but no capital sentence could be carried out until the unanimous decision of the Executive Council, on a consideration of the facts of the case, was first obtained.
The judges of the High Court were invested by the Grondwet with jurisdiction over every person in the Republic, without distinction. They had to be duly qualified in jurisprudence, and held their positions for life.
A Circuit Court was constituted like a similar court in England; one judge of the High Court visiting districts periodically, and trying cases which could not be adjudicated upon by minor courts.
The two leading judges of the Transvaal High Court at the outbreak of the war, Chief Justice Gregorouski and Mr. Justice Morice, were both strongly pro-British in their personal feelings and predilections.
One of the most serious charges brought against the Boer Government was that the independence of the High Court was deliberately taken away by a Volksraad resolution early in 1897. This allegation was a wilful distortion of the real facts, which were these : Two judges of the High Court had, for the first time, called in question the law-making power of a resolution of the Volksraad; they claiming for the High Court a right to test (toets-ingsrecht) the constitutional validity of such resolution by comparison with the Grondwet of 1858. What the Volksraad did, in face of this pronouncement, was to affirm that a resolution of that body had always been the source of law, and must continue to possess that power if not vetoed by the people. This resolution or law was put in force without the three months' prior publication mentioned in Article 13 of the old Grondwet, but on the ground of the urgency of the case, as provided for in the power given for dispensing with that provision; the Volksraad claiming that the decision of the High Court judges had unsettled the law and created judicial confusion.
The Volksraad was compelled to assert its paramount authority in the making and in the changing of laws, but it did not in any way interfere with the independence of the High Court in administering the laws thus made. It was as if two English judges had declared that no new law passed by Parliament would have binding effect unless it was, in their opinion, in conformity with the laws which obtained a generation ago. In fact, what the two Transvaal judges tried to do was to set themselves above the Parliament of the country, with judicial power to restrict the law-making Assembly in its supreme right under the Constitution to make and mold the laws of the Republic.
Landrosts' Courts performed similar duties to County Courts in England, only jurisdiction was limited in civil cases to certain amounts in dispute as to property, and in criminal cases to the infliction of fines, or imprisonment not to exceed a term of six months.
Native Commissioners dealt with cases arising out of illegalities committed by Kaffirs. Competent interpreters attended such Courts, and assisted the plaintiffs or the accused, as the case might be. Crime of a serious character among Kaffirs had, however, to be dealt with in a Circuit Court.
The land laws of a nation who were land workers in both agricultural and pastoral pursuits were necessarily simple, being framed for themselves by men of the people. No country in Europe can boast of a better land system, or of one more favorable to the chief and foundation of all industries. The system was an occupier ownership, subject to a tax by the State; not per acre but per farm. This tax was not to exceed forty rix dollars (rix dollar: about one shilling and six pence) or to be less than six rix dollars and a half, annually; the amount between the extremes to be regulated according to valuation by authorized persons. Owners of farms or of ground values living outside the Transvaal were to pay double taxes; a just principle applied to absentees, tho involving only a moderate penalty.
Land Commissioners held Courts for the settlement of disputes as to boundaries and other matters of a non-judicial nature arising out of land occupation. Burghers noted for their knowledge of land and for their reputation as wise, competent men were selected as Commissioners in each district. Appeals lay from all these minor Courts to either the Circuit Court or the High Court at Pretoria.
The transfer and registration of land was made quite simple, and involved no costly lawyer's search for title and the rest. All such sales were to be registered in the Landrost's office; the cost in the case of the transfer and registration of a farm being less than ten shillings. All surveyed or inspected farms were to be transferred within six months from date of sale, or the fees were doubled.
Such were the laws and Constitution, briefly summarized, of the Boer nation, which a class-ruled England, boasting of hereditary law-makers, and of a land system the most reactionary in principle to be found in the civilized world, condemned as unsuited to the requirements of the Uitlander population of the Band!
To provide a plausible justification for the contemplated overthrow of the little Republic, and for the annexation of the country to the British Empire, it became a necessary part of the capitalist-Uitlander plot, and of the correlated Chamberlain-Milneri diplomacy, to libel the Boer State, and to hold up its institutions, laws, and customs to the ridicule and contempt of other nations. The reptile Rhodesian organs of Johannesburg and Cape Town forged the calumnies, and the capitalist press of Great Britain, the British Colonies, and, largely, of America, spread the fabrications broadcast and created a prejudice against a government which was1 so persistently and skilfully maligned. What rendered this propaganda of defamation the more damaging to the Transvaal was the circumstance that there was a modicum of fact and of foundation at the bottom of the Uitlander charges. Just as a lie that is half a truth is, on that account, the worst kind of falsehood to refute, so were these accusations against the Republic rendered more damaging than if they were mere baseless inventions.
The Transvaal Government was far from being an ideal Commonwealth, and its laws were not free from defects. The best friends of the Boer cause admitted these shortcomings, and were advocates of reform, but the crusade of lies carried on by the capitalist newspapers was in no way justified by the actual facts of Transvaal laws and administration.
The greatest thinker of our time, himself an Englishman of unquestioned patriotism, raised his powerful voice against the systematic hounding down of the little Republic by prejudiced critics on the score of its alleged reactionary tendencies. Writing to the chairman of an English meeting, Mr. Herbert Spencer, the great philosopher, has said:
" Has there been prepared and published a comparison between the Constitution and doings of the so-called Boer oligarchy, and the Constitution and doings of the English oligarchy before the Reform Bill? It would embrace, among other items :
" 1. England: Permanent exclusion from the franchise of the greater part of the population, tho of the same blood.
" 1. Transvaal: Temporary exclusion from the franchise of a moiety of the population consisting of aliens.
"2. England: The corn monopoly, maintained by the whole of the landed classes for the benefit of their cause; semi-starvation of the poor.
"2. Transvaal: The dynamite monopoly, said to be maintained by the Boer oligarchy for personal ends at the cost of a sprinkling of greedy capitalists.
" 3. England: The determination of the landed classes to maintain their monopoly, constitutional and material, over crime only by the danger of revolution.
"3. Transvaal: The much smaller opposition to reform on the part of the ruling classes in the Transvaal.
" 4. England: The corruption set down in the Black Book familiar in pre-Reform days.
" 4. Transvaal: The corruption ascribed to the Boer oligarchy." — (London "Daily News," September 27, 1900.)
The comparison which Mr. Herbert Spencer has suggested between Transvaal laws and government may, however, be partly made, not with what obtained in the England of thirty or forty years ago, but with the very England which has attempted to justify this war for, among other reasons, the alleged " oligarchical " character of the Boer Volksraad and government, and the reactionary nature of their legislation. The following twelve points of comparison between present England and the Boer Transvaal when hostilities broke out on the 11th of October, 1899, will further illustrate the glaring inconsistency of the British authors of the war.
COMPARISON OF ENGLISH AND BOER GOVERNMENTS
1. An hereditary monarchy. The people have no voice in the selection of the head of the State.
2. Legislature: A House of Lords absolutely independent of the people's votes. Can veto all legislation without having to undergo an ordeal of election.
A House of Commons elected by some 6,000,000 of voters in a population of some 40,000,000 (Great Britain and Ireland). Property and wealth have plural voting, and the cost of election expenses is so great that working men are all but debarred from membership of Parliament.
3. Roll of Voters. Registration laws enable agents of the Tory or wealthy classes to disfranchise almost any number of voters by making objections and compelling working men and others to attend Registration Courts to sustain their claims. A voter must reside almost two years in a district before he can exercise a right to take part in an election.
4. Members of Parliament are not paid, even for their postage. An expense of fully £200 a year is incurred by the most economical member in attending to his public duties for which he receives no compensation.
5. Referendum. No such law. Parliamentary elections every seventh year; but liable to take" place more frequently.
6. Taxation. Largely levied upon articles of consumption required by the masses of the people. Average daily wage of an ordinary British working man about 5s.
7. Land Laws. The land of England monopolized by the landlord, or aristocratic, class, who own the House of Lords and largely control the House of Commons, and, therefore, resist proposals of land reform which would interfere with their monopoly.
8. Land Tax. The land of England paid almost all the expense of government, up to the period of the Long Parliament. The landlords contracted subsequently to pay 4s. in the pound on the valuation of their estates. If this tax were paid to-day upon present valuation it would realize over £30,000,000 for the Exchequer. It is paid, however, on a valuation which is more than 150 years old, and only realizes about £900,000 annually.
10. Class Legislation. The present Government of England has carried two measures in the Parliament responsible for the war which openly benefited the land-owning classes at the expense of the common Exchequer. The English Agricultural Rating Act was an indirect gift of the supporters of Lord Salisbury's Government of £10,000,000 in a period of four years. The act was renewed again last year.
The Local, or County Government Act for Ireland passed in 1898 provided for the Irish landlord supporters of the Ministry by relieving them of rates and taxes on their property amounting to about £300,-000 a year.
10. Pauperism. Every fortieth person in the population of England is a pauper. About one out of every seven working men over the age of 60 in England dies an inmate of a workhouse.
11. Drunkenness, Crime and Degradation. In 1899 over 200,000 persons were prosecuted for drunkenness in England and Wales.
In Part I. Criminal Statistics, 1899 (Parliamentary Blue Book), page 136, the following statistics of crime are given for that year: Murders, 121; convictions for same, 65, leaving 36 murders unpunished; attempted murders, 71; manslaughter, 201; felonious wounding, 259; malicious wounding, 1,001; rapes, indecent assaults on females, and defilement of young girls, 1,330; unnatural offences, 200; bigamy, 115.
A report of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children quoted from on p. 44, says that 10,790 children were " immorally outraged" in England and Wales, 307,904 "neglected and starved," 59,209 "assaulted and ill-treated," and that 7,686 were found to be " sufferers in other ways" since that society commenced its humane labors.
There were a total of 76,000 indictable offenses committed in England and Wales in 1899, for which crimes 53,359 persons were apprehended, leaving over 20,000 crimes unpunished.
There are supposed to be upward of 50,000 prostitutes in London alone, at the present time.
12. England's Army. This army, according to Rudyard Kipling, ought to be, or is, made up of brutes and gentlemen. Of the presence within it of the former, such conduct as that of the Lancers at Elandslaagte, and the reports of General Kitchener give ample evidence.
The Transvaal of 1899
1. A Republic. The President elected every seven years by manhood suffrage.
3. A Volksraad of two Chambers, both elective by the people on a franchise of burgher or manhood suffrage. No official election expenses incurred by candidates in contests for either Chamber.
3. Roll of Voters. No registration laws. All burghers arriving at the age of twenty-one and having their names inscribed on the Field Cornet's roll are entitled to vote in elections.
4. Members of both Volksraads were paid an average of £3 per day while engaged in Pretoria in attending to the legislative concerns of the Republic.
5. Referendum. I have already! alluded to this enlightened Boa law. In addition to the power thus recognized in the people, the elections for the Volksraad occurred every fourth year.
7. Taxation fell chiefly upon capital and wealth. Workers were likewise taxed in necessaries, as in England, but the (Uitlander) working man in the Transvaal earned from 15s. to 25s. per day.
The Land Laws of the Transvaal have been already described. They favorably compare with the most enlightened laws of Europe.
8. The Transvaal Land Tax has been referred to. It fell equally on all owners of land, and contributed, in a small tax on each farm, to the revenues of the State. Absentee landowners had to pay double taxes.
9. The various charges made by the Uitlander enemies of the Boers against the Volksraad, but not proved. I deal with these allegations in the next chapter.
10. There was no pauperism in the Transvaal. Relief was sometimes given to poor farmers when their crops were injured by locusts, but it was voted by the Volksraad for special reasons. The workhouse had no place in the social system of the Boers.
11. There was little if any drunkenness in the Transvaal before the advent of the Uitlanders. Crime was very rare. There were no brothels except when introduced by the same foreign element. It is almost safe to say there was not a single house of ill fame in the Republic before the arrival of the Johannesburg "reformers" from England and her colonies12. The Transvaal Army Officers are elected by the burghers. A National Militia composed of the best and most patriotic men in the Republic, and requiring no pay. Had the male population of England volunteered to fight in this war in the same proportion as Transvaal burghers did, no less than 3,000,000 Englishmen—not of the Kipling Tommy Atkins kind—would have asked for arms, without pay.