Dress of the Boer legislators—Empty seats in the chamber—Wreaths where heroes sat—President Kruger's presence—His manner of speech—A memorable pronouncement—Pretoria burghers and the surrender—The defense of the capital abandoned—The Johannesburg mines spared—Men of profits prevail over men of action—More calumnies against president kruger.

On the 7th of May the Volksraad met in the palatial legislative building which with the Palace of Justice forms the chief architectural attractions of Pretoria. The Transvaal House of Commons was a well-lighted, handsome chamber, larger and far more attractive than the meeting place of English members of Parliament. The Chairman's dais was raised some three feet above the floor, with the President's seat to the right. Below this there were seats reserved for members of the Executive Council, and of the Administration; the latter officials being permitted to attend the sessions of the Raad to answer questions, but not being entitled to vote or otherwise to take part in the proceedings.

The members of the Raad sat in a horseshoe formation of seats in a manner similar to that of members of Continental legislatures; each member having his allotted chair, with a desk in front for writing and kindred purposes.

In an outer semicircle of seats, the members of the Second Raad took their places when a joint session of both Chambers became necessary.

Tiers of chairs were placed for visitors on the floor, beyond to the right and left of the " Raadsleden," and these were soon occupied by foreigners and others who were wishful to witness what looked likely to be the closing scene in the legislative life of the Transvaal Parliament.

It was to me a scene as pathetic as it was, in many respects, surprising. I had fully expected seeing the members, almost all of whom had been in the field for months, coming to their legislative duties with bandoliers and Mausers, as if only on a hurried leave from the lines in front of Roberts' moving columns, with a soldier's eagerness to get through with the needed speeches and resolutions so as to lose no time in returning to their commandoes again. But the Boers are in everything a people apart, with their own methods and manners; whether in warfare or in law-making. The members assembled, all in a uniform black dress, including frock coats, tall hats, and white ties. This was, it appears, the regulation costume prescribed by the sartorial rules of the Assembly, and each conformed to the ordinary obligation of this rule on this momentous occasion, as if no war was being waged any nearer to the threatened capital of the South African Republic than the Philippine Islands.

The dress to me was painfully suggestive of a funeral ceremony over the body of what would soon be a slain Republic.

On several seats wreaths of mourning were placed, denoting where those members who had died fighting at the front were wont to sit. General Jan Kock's vacant chair recalled his heroic stand at Elandslaagte, and the chivalry of England's soldiery in robbing this wounded officer of money and clothes, and leaving him thus exposed for ten hours without medical aid. The fate of Mr. Barnard, member for Rustenburg, who was killed by British Kaffirs at Deredepoort, on the 23rd of November, evoked even a more indignant feeling against the enemy that could enlist as allies in such a war the savages who butchered women and children on that occasion. General Joubert's chair bore tokens of a grateful remembrance, while the Vierkleur was thrown across the seat which General Piet Cronje, now in St. Helena, occupied before the war.

Men who had fought in noted battles were soon recognized, even in their semi-clerical attire, as with bronzed faces or scars telling of the severity of the struggle they had gone through, they entered and took their seats. General Lukas Meyer, Chairman of the Raad, who had fought so well from Talana Hill to Pieter's Heights, was easily known by his herculean and soldierly figure and handsome face. Ben Viljoen, the hero of Vaal Krantz, and the intrepid fighter of twenty battles, was there, as anti-Rooinek as ever. General Tobias Smuts, one of the heroes of Spion Kop, looking as genial and as modest as the brave man of real merit generally does on like occasions, was there, and a dozen more members who had borne a less prominent but equally valiant part in the struggle against the enemy.

Two noted members were conspicuously absent, Louis Botha and Jacob H. De la Rey. Both had gone to the front seven months previously, straight from their Parliamentary duties in that Chamber, and had within that time by their genius and military capacity written their names on the scroll of fame among the world's great commanders. They were, that day, fighting as usual like lions in front of overwhelming numbers; one as Joubert's successor in the headship of the Transvaal army, and the other as the most generally trusted officer of the Federal forces.

Color was added to the otherwise somber scene in the Chamber by the presence of the foreign consuls and attaches in their full-dress uniforms. The French, Russian, German, Italian, Belgian, Portuguese, and Netherlands representatives were in attendance, while Mr. Hay, nominally representing the United States, was a spectator of the proceedings.

There was a tedious amount of congratulatory speech-making of a purely ceremonial character before the President entered the Chamber. The Chairman congratulated the Eaad, and the oldest member replied in return courtesy, congratulating its Chairman. The same formality was gone through between the Second Raad and its sessional head, while each member of the Executive Council was next singled out for his special need of commendation, and a suitable reply was returned in due form.

In the midst of these distributions of mutual praise, President Kruger entered from behind the Speaker's chair, and immediately all the members and spectators rose as a mark of respect until the Chief Executive took his seat. Paul Kruger is not in any physical sense an impressive-looking man. He is massive in build, keenly observant of everybody and everything around him, and naturally attracts attention through the rank he holds, but especially from the fact that he is the one man of this generation who threw down gage of battle to the British Empire. You cannot well picture the man out of his fame, or you would regard him as a commonplace individual, of rough exterior and markedly unpolished manners, who might pass for anybody in particular, from a prosperous farmer to a successful city merchant. But when you know that the man before you is Paul Kruger, that he has been through life the watchful and valiant defender of Boer liberties, and that he has within the previous few months startled the whole civilized world by his work, you are compelled to beat back the prejudices of your eyes and do homage instead to the man whose acts have made him great, as he rises in the Assembly to which, in Grattan's language, he stood as one who had watched at its cradle and might mourn at its grave.

A silence as of a churchyard fell upon the whole Assembly, and again the suggestion of a funeral service was forced upon the mind, with the wreaths on the vacant chairs, the dark costumes of the members, and the long prayer in which the proceedings had been previously opened. The raucous voice of the speaker sounded like the valedictory address of a minister committing a body to the custody of a grave, and the suggestion was irresistibly conveyed that the President of the Transvaal was performing the burial service upon his own Republic.

Soon, however, this mortuary idea was dispelled. The President's voice became clearer and the words more coherent; the address ringing out in a mingled strain of invective and defiance. It was the first time I had heard him speak. His deficiency in intellectual culture, his reputed ignorance, and all the other English kindly testimonies to his want of Anglo-Saxon excellence, while read with some degree of skepticism, invited doubt as to Oom Paul's gifts of eloquent deliverance. He is, however, a natural orator; rugged in speech, lacking in measured phrase and in logical balance; but passionate and convincing in the unaffected pleading of his earnestness which is joined to a happy command of the Boer tongue in all its native power of persuasive expression.

The action of the hands during the delivery of the short Presidential address was in no way wanting in elocutionary gesture, embracing as it did all the well-known movements of finished platform speaking. There were a few notes in the left hand, but they were not once referred to. The Speaker soon lost himself in the warmth of his subject, and he held his audience spellbound until his final sentence was spoken with its defiant ring and meaning, " I am standing alone! Joubert is dead, Kock is dead, Wolmarans is dead. I stand alone. But God is with us. Shall we lose courage? Never! Never! Never!" and at each utterance of this word, the massive hand descended on the desk and made the Chamber resound with the emphasis of the blow. It was in every word, sentiment, and action the speech of Paul Kruger.

I give the following somewhat inaccurate report of this last utterance of the President before the Volksraad of the doomed little Republic as reported in the Boer press:

" His Honor said that extraordinary circumstances saw the Raad assembled under unique conditions. ' You know how, before the war, they agitated for the franchise. You know what concessions we made; how the burghers demurred and accused us of alienating from them their birthrights. In order to avert bloodshed, we conceded a seven years' franchise; afterwards, again to avert bloodshed, a five years' franchise, and in every case with retrospective power, so that all who so desired might instantly become citizens of this State. We did all this in our supreme efforts to preserve peace and avert war.

"' But they were not satisfied. What did they Want? ' Documents in our possession show that, by manner of a devilish conspiracy—I will call it that—they had already schemed the annihilation of the two Republics as early as 1896. We were to be denied a national existence. We are now praying to God in the heavens for material help. We are struggling against a powerful and vindictive enemy, who seeks to destroy us.

"' God will answer our prayer. He will show the world that Might is not Eight; that it is well that small nations maintain a separate existence, and that He will not permit the might of a Goliath to crush us.

" ' Once more, to avoid further bloodshed, I appealed to the English nation.

"' I appealed to Chamberlain and Salisbury. What did they reply? They said that this miserable nation of Afrikanders must cease to exist. But God says it shall not!

"' God says it may exist, and we shall see who shall be arbiter, these politicians or our just God.

"' Our history has determined us never to surrender our heaven-given rights.

"' See what we have already accomplished! A small band of 30,000 has contested the right of way against over 200,000, and the 30,000 are still alive!

"' They may send thousands more—ay, hundreds of thousands.

"' I will not prophesy; but it is my firm conviction that God will say: " So far and no farther."

"' They say this people shall no longer exist.

"' But it is not for them to decide. God governs.

"' God reigns. To His decision we must bow; but He is with us.

"' Let us humiliate ourselves and put our trust in Him.

"'In this bitter and unequal struggle, even if England invade the land we will triumph.

"' " Houd moed." The whole world, our prisoners, every right-minded community is praying for us. We shall triumph, for we live in the Lord.

"' Let each man do his duty and we shall triumph as assuredly as the sun shines upon us from the sky.

"' We have " mooi gepraat of nie mooi gepraat." It availed nothing against our vindictive and voracious foe, our eternal foe, our everlasting enemy. Since 1836 we have been a free people, and with God's help we will remain so.

"' Let us be obedient to His teachings and stand like men.

"'I am standing alone, tho the State Secretary and Schalk Burger are giving me splendid and loyal assistance. But the old familiar faces of the Executive Council are no more. My right hand, Joubert, is dead; Kock is dead; Wolmarans is dead. I stand alone.

"'But shall we lose courage? Never! Never!! Never!!! We have the entire and whole-hearted and unanimous sympathy of peoples with us throughout the world.' "

The heroic old man's eloquence availed nothing with some of the commercial burghers of Pretoria who listened to the memorable utterance. The officials of the administration, too, were, according to report, divided in feeling; a few being in favor of making terms with the British, who were advancing each day nearer to the property, buildings, banking accounts, and other possibly perishable belongings of men who had made money out of the Transvaal Government, and who were ready to earn an honest penny out of the invading English on their arrival. There were only a very few of such men, and their names were widely known. Contractors, jobbers, lobbyists, mine agents, and syndicate men were hovering round, all counseling surrender, and denouncing any attempt at defending the capital against Roberts' irresistible march. In the hotels and in the streets pro-British partisans were openly advising capitulation, and promising the concession of most favorable terms by the English Commander-in-Chief when he should reach Pretoria, if the Republic would only lay down its arms. With this interested advice of English adherents, the citizens who were loyal in sentiment, but unwilling to sacrifice their business or have their savings confiscated, joined in the open advocacy of surrender, and in strong protest against Pretoria being subjected to the injury and ordeal of a siege.

Two questions agitated general attention during the days preceding Roberts' final advance from Kroonstad to Pretoria: Should Pretoria be defended to the death, as the world had been led to believe it would be? and, were the mines of Johannesburg to be made the medium of visiting poetic justice upon those who had provoked the war by means of the millions which the Rand had yielded to these cosmopolitan money-mongers? In the laagers where I had heard these questions discussed before coming back to Pretoria, the sentiment was unanimous in favor of blowing up the accursed mines. They were, to the true burgher mind and imagination, the source of all the evils which had befallen the State; the cause of ruined homes and of thousands of mourning homesteads. Justice, therefore, required that the capitalists of London, Paris, Berlin, and other places who had encouraged England to strike at the life of the Republic, should be punished in their invested wealth. The men who had fought held these views. Those who had not fought, but had made profits, were emphatically opposed to any extreme measures of the kind. It would alienate German, French, and American feeling, they urged; just as if such feeling had in any way effectively exerted itself to prevent the war. The men of profits prevailed. President Kruger allowed himself to be persuaded that the blowing up of the mines would be considered by European powers as contrary to the code of civilized warfare, and that the members of the Government could be held accountable for all injury done to foreign investors' interests in any destruction of property which was not the result of a necessary measure of legitimate warfare. He was destined to learn that, as a reward "for his forbearance in preventing the blowing up of the Johannesburg mines, English generals were to openly violate every single clause of the code of warfare agreed upon at The Hague, and that the, same civilized powers who would have had their sympathies alienated, forsooth, on account of injury done to property on the Rand, looked in absolute indifference at the burning, destruction, and violation of the farms, property, and homes of the Boer Republics.'

Paul Kruger's power was asserted, and the holes which had been drilled into the shafts of the wealthiest gold mines did not receive the explosives which were to have wiped out £100,000,000 worth of English and other foreign investments. The old man to whom the stock jobbers of London had sent the blackguard message on the declaration of war, " For what you are about to receive may the Lord make you truly thankful," rose above resentment, and thus saved the property of some of his most despicable and unmanly foes.

The expectant world was equally astonished at the refusal of the Boers to 'defend Pretoria. A prolonged stand was universally expected to be made at the capital, where a circle of surrounding hills, at a* convenient distance from the town, with strong forts commanding the country at the three most vulnerable points of approach, led the public everywhere to count upon a determined and resourceful resistance. Stories had been widely circulated of wonderful siege guns which would be found mounted on the Pretoria forts, with'a range of ten miles; of labyrinthian fortifications, underground magazines, and of mines innumerable, planted over the perimeter of the threatened city. It turned out that there were no such guns in existence, and no such mines, and the resolution which the Executive arrived at, under the circumstances, not to challenge Roberts to a final combat within the area of the town's situation, Was subsequently shown to be eminently practical and wise. It was Christian De Wet's plan, and not that of the military critic in far-off Europe who wanted a big fight to a finish at Pretoria, which was calculated to cost England the more men, money, and prestige before the finish was to be finally fought according to Boer plans-and purposes.

During these last days of the Transvaal capital, statements of the most outrageous character were industriously circulated night and day against the President by pro-British agents within Pretoria and a few recreant burghers. He had taken all the gold from the treasury; had commandeered the deposits in the banks; was secretly negotiating a surrender with Lord Roberts, and was ready to fly to Europe with all his wealth, etc., etc. All this and kindred calumnies against the now doomed Republic were the work of a few men who had fattened upon the State in its strength and prosperity, and who were now hungry to participate, as they expected, in a new regime in which this treasonable work against the falling little State was hoped to pave the way for future favor and reward.

The bullion which had been taken to a place of security, was part of that which had resulted from the working of some of the richest Rand mines by the Government. This resort to the mines for the necessary means of carrying on the conflict forced upon the Republic was a perfectly legitimate proceeding under the laws of the State. Charters were given and titles were registered under a Constitution which claimed the reasonable use of all property within the State when it was essential to utilize such means in defense of the country against external aggression. The Transvaal Executive made use only of such mines as would yield the money required in a continuance of the war, and the bullion round which so many English falsehoods were woven, with the purpose of libeling the character of the President, was the residue of what the Government had commandeered from the mines in the service of the State.

Contractors in Pretoria and merchants at Delagoa Bay had been paid in bullion for work done or for goods supplied to the Government, and gold shipped to Europe by these persons was put down by English correspondents as Mr. Kruger's mercenary provision for his selfish exile in Holland.

What the President and the Executive had really done was the simple result of the decision arrived at, in conjunction with General Botha, not to defend the city. The bullion in the treasury was consequently removed eastward to a place of safety, not by Mr. Kruger, but by the Government, for the obvious purpose of meeting the further expenses of the war, and the liabilities already incurred. This done and certain State papers also being secured, the President and the members of his administration stood ready to evacuate the capital when the right moment of departure should arrive.