The British contention examined—Pretexts for intervention—Uitlander " grievances "—Captain March Phillips' description of these " wrongs "—How and why they were manufactured in Johannesburg—England debarred by the London Convention] from interfering in the domestic affairs of the Transvaal— Mr. Chamberlain's admissions—President Kruger's concession for the prevention of war—the perfidy of the colonial office—Mr. Chamberlain's ultimatum of the 22nd of September—The British Parliament summoned to meet and the reserves called] out—Mr. Kruger's "ultimatum"—Repeated efforts of the Transvaal to submit all matters in dispute with England to arbitration—Mr. Chamberlain's constant refusal—England prevents the admission of Transvaal representatives to the Hague Conference—Evidence of England's preparations for war in 1887—Lord Wolseley's effort to have war declared in June, 1899— Lord Lansdowne's astounding admissions—The British agent at Pretoria threatened war in August—" War foe matter of form "—The Colonial Secretary's confession in the House oil Commons—Mr. Herbert Spencer's condemnation of the policy pursued by the British Government.
The one fact upon which the English base the assertion that the Boers were the first to declare war, rests upon what has, been called Mr. Kruger's " ultimatum." This would be an unassailable position, and would conclusively establish the innocence of Great Britain if Mr. Kruger's despatch of the 9th of October, 1899, stood in the controversy as a solitary factor of provocation. We know that it bore no such character.
In all contentions, whether between individuals or States, a knowledge of previous occurrences directly bearing upon the conduct or explanatory of the motives of the parties to the dispute, is essential to the formation of a fair judgment. The question " who provoked the war," cannot be answered rightly without taking into account the events which led up to it and compelled the Boer Executive, " to push back the sword which was held to their throats," to use the graphic phrase employed by President Steyn in his letter to Lord Kitchener. The most cursory examination of a few notorious facts will prove that the real ultimatum which made the war inevitable was resolved upon and issued in London, and not in Pretoria.
The story of England's treatment of the Boer race from 1806 to 1896, as told by General Joubert in his letter to Queen Victoria –the usurpation of Cape Colony, the seizure of Natal, the grabbing of the Free State, and the annexation of the Transvaal in 1877—has some little bearing upon the charge, against the same Power that she deliberately provoked the present war in the spirit of persistent, national animosity towards the same people, and for the same predatory purposes which have inspired and directed British policy against them for a hundred years. England comes into court as the.violator of solemn treaties, and with her Empire in South. Africa actually covering the very territories which she had violently and fraudulently seized from the race who had settled and civilized them. Weighted down with the very proofs of her own past culpability, she innocently asks a jury of civilized public opinion to believe her when she declares." President Kruger began the present war in his ultimatum of the 9th of October,..1899!"
Let us see: The Jameson Raid of 1896, engineered and paid for by a British Colonial Prime Minister, connived at by the British Colonial Office, and actually carried out by officers holding commissions in the British army, was an act of war. The object of this criminal enterprise was to overthrown the Transvaal Republic and to obtain possession of the fabulously rich Rand Mines. It did not succeed, and the magnanimity of the Boers in sparing the lives of the captured freebooters who attempted the seizure, stands out in signal contrast to the action of the vindictive executioners of the brave and gallant Commandants Lotter and Scheepers, who were captured in British territory while engaged in legitimate warfare.
Of the Uitlander conspiracy which succeeded the Raid—financed and directed by the very capitalists who promoted the Jameson plot—it is quite unnecessary to speak at any length. Its objects were obvious to the Transvaal Government and to all who followed with any attention the movement for "the redress of the intolerable grievances" of the German Jews and the cosmopolitan adventurers which was carried on by the paid agents of Messrs. Rhodes, Beit, Echstein and Company in Johannesburg. One comment upon the "grievances" thus manufactured by a subsidized press—the honest and manly view of an upright British soldier who had been conversant with the whole situation in Johannesburg—will be enough to lay bare the hollow mockery, and the mercenary and mendacious character of the movement upon the existence of which Mr. Chamberlain and Sir Alfred Milner, grounded their pretext for a policy of war.
Captain March Phillips, in his book "With Rimington," (London, Edward Arnold, publisher, 1901, pp. 105, 106) writing, both as a Uitlander and an English officer who had fought in the war, says:
"As for the Uitlanders and their grievances, I would not ride a yard or fire a shot to right all the grievances that were ever invented. The mass of Uitlanders (i.e. the miners and working men of the Rand) had no grievances. I know what I am talking about, for I have lived and worked among them. I have seen English newspapers passed from one to another, and roars of laughter roused by the ' Times' telegrams about these precious grievances. We used to read the London papers to find out what our grievances were: and very frequently they would be due to causes of which we had never even heard. I never met one miner or working man who would have walked a mile to pick the vote up off the road, and I have known and talked with scores and hundreds. And no man who knows the Rand will deny the truth of what I tell you.
" No; the Uitlanders the world has heard of were not these, but the Stock Exchange operators, manipulators of the money market, company floaters and gamblers generally, a large percentage of them Jews. They voiced Johannesburg, had the press in their hands, worked the wires, and controlled and arranged what sort of information should reach England. As for the grievances, they were a most useful invention, and have had a hand in the making of many fortunes. It was by these that a feeling of insecurity was introduced into the market which would otherwise have remained; always steady; it was by these that the necessary and periodic slump was brought about. When the proper time came, 'grievances,' such as would arrest England's attention and catch the ear of the people, were deliberately invented."
Mr. Chamberlain's demand for such an extension of the franchise J as would give to the Uitlanders thus described the virtual control of the Transvaal Government, was in every way worthy of the motives and morals of the very men and agencies by whom the Jameson Raid, for the same end, had been organized. It was cynical in its effrontery to the last degree of shameless audacity. For, apart from the patent hypocrisy of the demand, what were the fundamental rights of the Republic which these oppressed capitalist conspirators wanted to override?
The same Mr. Chamberlain, speaking in the House of Commons on the 8th of May, 1896, five months after the Jameson invasion of the Transvaal, clearly laid down the limits within which British intervention in the domestic affairs of the Republic were confined by the London Convention of 1884. He said:
" We do not claim, and never have claimed, the right to interfere in the internal affairs of the Transvaal. The rights of our action under the Convention are limited to the offering of friendly counsel, in the rejection of which, if it is not accepted, we must be quite willing to acquiesce."
There is no ambiguity about this language of the Colonial Secretary. It was his belief and declaration then that England would have as much right to insist upon a reform of the franchise in behalf of her subjects in the South African Republic, as she would to make a demand of a similar nature upon the Government of Holland. Yet, what happened?
At the Bloemfontein conference between President Kruger and Sir Alfred Milner—a conference suggested with sinister aim by Mr Chamberlain—the British High Commissioner demanded a five years' residential franchise for the alien population of the Transvaal. This, Mr. Kruger refused, and from that moment it became evident that Milner's policy of provocation would be to insist upon a reform which he believed the President would not concede, and the refusal of which on his part could be represented as a proof of Boer antagonism to England's " friendly counsel” and of a spirit of oppression towards the suffering Uitlanders.
Mr Kruger, however, changed his attitude when it became apparent to him what the true meaning of the Milner proposal was. He, therefore, offered, on the 19th of August, 1899, the five years' franchise which Milner had put forward at Bloemfontein. This proposal was made as a concession to his enemies to prevent the armed intervention for which the English war press was already clamoring. It was the choice between two evils, and was as great a sacrifice as any State could possibly make, with any due regard to its own rights and independence, in the hope of averting the crime of war. It was, however, of no avail with the representatives of that Power which had behind it the South African record of Great Britain, and saw within its reach the gold-fields of the Rand. In addition to the five years' franchise, the Boer Executive also proposed a reference of all the matters in dispute between the two Governments to an arbitral tribunal, which might be composed, exclusively, of English, Colonial, or Boer members, and whose President or Umpire should likewise be English, Colonial, or Boer.
" These offers," wrote Mr. Conyngham Greene, the British Agent at Pretoria, " I promised to recommend to you (the Colonial Secretary) for acceptance by Her Majesty's Government in return for waiving the proposal of a joint inquiry." (Blue Bookk, C. 9518, August, 1899, p. 45.)
On the 26th of August, Mr. Chamberlain delivered a violent speech against the Transvaal at Highbury, and made no reference either to President Kruger's concession of the Milner franchise proposal, the offer to submit the whole question in dispute to arbitration, or to Mr. Greene's recommendation that these offers of a peaceful settlement should be accepted by England.
On the 31st of August Sir. Alfred Milner cabled from Cape Town that "British South Africa is prepared for extreme measures."
On the 22nd of September Mr. Chamberlain addressed a despatch to the Transvaal Government breaking off all negotiations, and announcing that the British Government "will formulate their own proposals tor a. final settlement” (Blue Book, C. 952l p17)
The entire press of England declared this despatch of the Colonial Secretary's to be the "ultimatum" of Her Majesty's Government. Preceding the receipt of this real ultimatum at Pretoria, State Secretary Reitz had addressed a communication to Mr. Conyngham Greene, on the 16th of September, in which he said:
"This Government wishes to state that it learns with a feeling of deep regret that it must understand that Her Majesty's Government withdraws from this invitation sent in your letter of the 23rd of August, and accepted by this Government, and substitutes in its place an put'rp.y npw proposa. . . . The proposal which has now lapsed was induced by suggestions given by the British Agent to the Transvaal State Attorney, and these were accepted by this Government in good faith and on express request, as equivalent to an assurance that the proposal would be acceptable to Her Majesty's Government." (Blue Book, C. 9521, p. 12.)
On September 25 the English army headquarters in Natal were removed from Ladysmith north to Dundee, nearer the Transvaal border.
On October 3 the British Parliament was officially summoned for a special session.
On October 7 the British Army Reserves were called out.
On October 9 Mr. Kruger's " ultimatum “ was delivered!
In face of this record of undeniable facts, Lord Salisbury and the apologists of the crime for which his Ministry will be forever made responsible in history, still declare, " The Boers began it! "
One or two more facts may not be out of place in further refutation of this truly impudent allegation.
From 1897 until the 9th of October, 1899, President Kruger pleaded for a reference of all matters in dispute between the Republic and Great Britain to arbitration. Again and again this proposal was pressed both by Dr. Leyds, when State Secretary, and subsequently by Dr. Reitz, in behalf of the Boer Government. With equal persistence Mr. Chamberlain refused to submit the English case to any such tribunal. Not alone did this refusal obtain, but, when the Transvaal asked for admittance to the Hague Conference to participate in the labours of promoting peaceful arbitration as a substitute when possible for the arbitrament of war, Great Britain objected, and, we have it upon the recent declaration of M, Bourgeois, a prominent French Delegate, that England gave the representatives of the other Powers the choice between, a British or a Boer attendance at the Conference.
In the secret document found upon a wounded British officer at Dundee, which was shown to me by the Transvaal Government in Pretoria, and from which I largely quote in a succeeding chapter, it is made evident, that war had been decided upon by England as far back as 1887, and that plans were being prepared in that year for the advance of a British army through both the Free State and the Transvaal. By June, 1899, these plans were matured; at least in the belief of Lord Wolseley, Commander-in-Chief of the British army, as the following evidence will show:
On the 15th of March, 1901, Lord Lansdowne, speaking in the House of Lords, made this candid and astounding admission:
" He (Lord Wolseley) wished us to mobilise an army corps. He suggested to us that we might occupy Delagao Nay … I would remind him that he pressed these measures upon me, as he says, in the month of June (1899) with the expression of his desire that the operations might begin as soon as possible. Why? In order that we might get the war over before the month of November, 1899. My lords, the idea of forcing the pace in such a manner as to complete the subjugation of the two Republics by the month of November, 1899, was, I frankly confess, one that did not at all commend itself to Her Majesty's Government. But do not let it be supposed that all this time we were sitting with our hands folded! . . . We earnestly desired to have the country with, us. We believe the country was not ready for war in the months of June and July, 1899”
No! England was not ready for the war in June, 1899, but Mr. Chamberlain believed she was fully prepared for the conflict when he broke off negotiations with the Transvaal on the 22nd of the following September. And yet the Government whose War Secretary made the above statement, and whose Colonial Secretary issued the ultimatum of September, 1899, now want a world which has read both to believe that it was Mr. Kruger's despatch of October 9th which must be held responsible for the hostilities that followed!
In August, 1899, the British Agent in Pretoria, in a conversation with Attorney-General Smuts, said: " Her Majesty's Government, who had given pledges to the Uitlanders, would be bound to assert their demands and, if necessary, to press them by force." In fact, the choice presented to the Transvaal by England's representatives was one between a five years' franchise and war, with the obvious resolve on the part of the Power which had signed the Sand River, Aliwal North, and London Conventions, to force a conflict upon the little Republic, franchise or no franchise. This resolve is removed from the category of all doubt by Mr. Chamberlain's own admissions.
On the 19th of October, 1899—eight days after war had been declared—the historic encounter between the Colonial Secretary and Sir Edward Clarks occurred in the House of Commons—The (then) member for Plymouth argued that the war could have been, and should have been, avoided, owing to the extent of the concessions made to the British demands by the Transvaal Executive, and continued as follows:
" Sir Edward Clarke—' The extraordinary incident that has marked the proceedings of this evening has been the statement of the Colonial Secretary that the answer to that proposal (i.e., the five years' franchise proposal) might have been taken as an acceptance. That was the phrase he used, but it is an ambiguous phrase, and I should like to know—Was that answer intended as an acceptance?'
"Mr. Joseph Chamberlain—'At that time we thought the proposal of the Transvaal extremely promising. We intended to send a most conciliatory answer, accepting, as far as it was humanly possible for us to do so, their proposal, and, as the only point of difference was the internal intervention, I thought myself it would be accepted.'
" Sir E. Clarice—' Then I take it that it was intended to be an acceptance of that proposal. Now, Mr. Speaker, if that were so, if, in fact, the Colonial Secretary intended to accept the proposals of the Transvaal, then undoubtedly this amendment is proved up to the hilt.'
" Mr. J. Chamberlain—' The honorable member harps upon the word " acceptance." He must remember he asked me the question whether we intended to accept. I, myself, should have thought that the Boers would have taken it as an acceptance, but I suppose it may be properly described as a qualified acceptance. We did not accept everything, but we accepted at least nine-tenths of the whole.'
" Sir E. Clarice—' Really, this becomes more and more sad. It is dreadful to think of a country of this kind entering upon a war, a crime against civilization, when this sort of thing has been going on. Why, in the very next sentence, the right honorable gentleman says : " It is on this ground that her Majesty's Government have been compelled to regard the last proposal of the Government of the South African Republic as unacceptable in the form in which it has been presented."'
" Mr. J. Chamberlain—' In the form.'
" Sir E. Clarice—' Is it a matter of form?'
" Mr. J. Chamberlain—' Yes.'"
—(Hansard, pp. 307-311,1st Vol., Autumn Session, 1899.)
In other words, a week after hostilities had begun the statesman who had succeeded in forcing war upon the Transvaal confessed that this "crime against civilization" was resorted to on account of "a matter of form"! It was thus that England precipitated a combat which she had obviously determined upon from the very commencement; despite all her hollow professions in favor of peace, and dishonest demands for franchise concessions.
This conduct, as represented by the language and threats of Mr. Chamberlain and Sir Alfred Milner throughout the whole negotiations, provoked the following censure and judgment from the greatest of living philosophers and thinkers. Writing to Mr. Leonard Courtney, M. P., Mr. Herbert Spencer said : '
" I rejoice that you and others are bent on showing that there are some among us who think the national honor is not being enhanced by putting down the weak. Would that age and ill-health did not prevent me from aiding.
" No one can deny that at the time of the Jameson Raid the aim of the Uitlandprs and the raiders was to usurp the Transvaal Government, and he must be wilfully blind who does not see that what the Uitlanders failed to do by bullets they hope presently to do by votes; and, only those who, while jealous of their own independence, regard but little the independence of people who stand in their way, can fail to sympathize with the Boers in their resistance to political extinction.
" It is sad to see our Government backing those whose avowed policy is expansion, which, less politely expressed, means aggression, for which there is still a less polite word readily guessed. On behalf of these the big British Empire, weapon in hand growls out to the little Boer Republic, 'Do as I bid you !'
I have always thought that nobleness is shown in treating tenderly those who are relatively feeble, and even sacrificing on their behalf something to which there is a just claim. But if current opinion is right I must have been wrong.—Yours truly, "Herbert Spencer."