Investigation of charges that Boers violated rules of war reserved for another book—British violations discussed in this—Chamberlain's hypocritical contention that concentration is a humane policy, forced upon British by Botha's military orders—These bear the contrary interpretation—Mllner contradicts Chamberlain—He avows concentration to be purely a military measure—Lord Roberts, while denying general policy of devastation, justifies specific acts—Buller makes threat to Botha that continued resistance by Boers will result in destruction of their homes—He fulfils it by burning Botha's farm—Burning of farms of De Wet and other Boer leaders—Cowardly nature of British warfare—Equaled only by the campaign of calumny carried on by British press and Government— Hypocrisy of the civilized world—Its shudders over Armenian outrages—Christian prayers for success of unchristian war— How England has mammonized the nations.

A detailed examination of the charges made against the Boers, by British officers and the English press, for alleged outrages against British wounded, the Red Cross flag, etc., is not possible in this volume. Any such investigation would, necessarily, demand a counter statement of Boer charges on these and upon other violations of the recognized rules of civilized warfare by the enemy. Such an investigation would require the space of another book, and abundant matter for such a supplementary volume is at my disposal, and will be published.

In the meantime, a statement made by Mr. Chamberlain in the House of Commons, on the 20th of January, 1902, relating to the causes which are now said by the English to have led to the formation of the concentration camps, requires some examination. These ' are the Colonial Secretary's allegations:

" In the first place I ask them to remember how the concentration camps arose. They will find that they arose because General Botha declared his intention of burning and destroying the farms, and of compelling the inhabitants to take action and join his forces. Lord Kitchener offered to General Botha to allow these people, the women and children, to remain in their own homes, and even undertook, as far as possible, to supply them with food, if General Botha would consent to their neutrality. General Botha's reply was clear and categorical. He said, ' I have the right to impress all these people. They will suffer if they do not come to me,' and when asked what was the alternative, he replied, ' You had better remove them out of the country, or otherwise I shall punish them.' (Ministerial cheers.) That is the first letter, but we have an intercepted letter from General Smuts to General Botha, in which he says, ' You know that with regard to the transport of women you instructed me to load them into the British lines.' (Ministerial cheers.) Then, Sir, for the humanity, unprecedented in the history of war, with which we, upon whom these women and children have been forced, have accepted the duty and responsibility in the name of humanity, we are accused of loathsome cruelty. (Ministerial cheers.)"

The dates of the letter of Botha's here referred to, and of the conversation between him and Lord Kitchener, are most important factors in the controversy, and Mr. Chamberlain did not mention them. Neither did the Colonial Secretary read the intercepted letters.

General Botha's circular—not a letter, as described—was dated the 3rd of December, 1900, and this is the document:

" From the Commandant-General to all Military Officers, Landrosts, etc.

"Whereas, it appears that there is a difference existing in the treatment of burghers who have surrendered their arms to the enemy, or have taken the oath of neutrality, and whereas it is desirable to lay down regulations for the even treatment of such burghers, therefore it is hereby resolved as follows:

" (1.) All Field Cornets are instructed to frame lists of all burghers in their wards who have laid down their arms, and taken the oath of neutrality. Herein is included the burghers who, on being called up, have again taken up arms.

" (2.) All persons liable to service whose names appear on the aforesaid lists, and who refuse, on being called up by the Field Cornet, to take up arms again, must immediately be sent up to the nearest jail for punishment according to law.

" (3.) The movable property of persons mentioned in (2) must be taken, and a proper inventory made by the Field Cornet concerned, in conjunction with his Commandant and his General of Division for commando purposes. Care must be taken in all cases that sufficient means of livelihood are left for the support of the wife and family.

" (4.) Burghers who are not fit for active service, and who have taken the oath of neutrality, must be called up before the Landrost or Field Cornet concerned therewith, to take an oath as set forth in the form below. Those who refuse to comply must be dealt with in terms of Law No. 4 of 1900.

" (5.) All Landrosts and Field Cornets must take heed that all passes or permits issued by the enemy are returned by the burghers who again take up or have taken up arms, and by burghers who have taken the oath in terms of (4).

" form of oath

"I, the undersigned burgher of the South African Republic, declare under oath that the oath of neutrality taken by me, in the hands of the enemy, was taken by me without the sanction of my military officers, and I consider the same null and void.

"Loms Botha, " Commandant-General."

It will be seen by a study of this circular that it docs not, in any sense, bear out the interpretation placed upon its terms by Mr. Chamberlain. " Care must be taken," says General Botha, " in all cases that sufficient means of livelihood are left for the support of the wife and family," even of burghers who had sworn to give up the fight for the Republic.

There is not a syllable about burning the homes of such men, while in the intercepted letter written by General Tobias Smuts to General Botha, which is dealt with under date in the Diary of the War, it is shown that the Commandant-General actually degraded his friend and a brave officer from the rank of general for having burned the town or village of Bremersdorp, in Swaziland, after having driven a force of British and savages out of it.

With reference to the conversation between Lord Kitchener and General Botha, which took place at Middelburg, on the 28th of February, 1901, there is not a single word in Lord Kitchener's report of that interview which agrees with Mr. Chamberlain's statement in the House of Commons.

The report was presented to Parliament in March, 1901, and Lord Kitchener's despatch, dated March 1, is found on page 2. Its first sentence reads: " I have had a long interview with Botha, who showed very good feeling, and seemed anxious to bring about peace."

On the same page there occurs the following sentence: "He (Botha) referred to pecuniary assistance to repair burnt farms, and to enable farmers to start afresh. I said I thought some assistance would be given." In other words, at the very interview mentioned by the Colonial Secretary, the British Commander-in-Chief was promising Botha, as a condition of peace, money from the British Exchequer for the rebuilding of the Boer farms already burned by the English in the year 1900!

So much for the documents and conversation referred to by Mr. Chamberlain on the 20th of January, 1902.

Writing to the Uitlander Committee of Cape Town, early in September, 1901, Lord Milner, through his private secretary, made the following frank avowal of the cause which led to the formation of the concentration camps:

" The formation of concentration camps has been adopted purely on military grounds as a means of hastening the end of the war, which is, after all, the first interest of the refugees themselves; and as a military measure it is, his Excellency believes, succeeding.—London 'Morning Leader,' October 7, 1901."

In the Blue Book presented to Parliament in June, 1900 (" Correspondence between the Commander-in-Chief in South Africa and the Boer Commanders"), there are other facts and statements which blow to the winds the Colonial Secretary's " humanity " explanations.

On the 3rd of February, 1900, Presidents Kruger and Steyn addressed a communication to Lord Roberts, calling his attention to " the burning and blowing up of farmhouses and of the devastation to farms and of goods therein, whereby unprotected women and children are deprived of food and cover " (Blue Book, page 3).

Lord Roberts replies, saying that the charges thus made had not been substantiated, and that it was his intention to conduct the war with " as little injury as possible to peaceable inhabitants and private property."

On the 13th of May, Lord Roberts issued a proclamation from Bloemfontein, warning all persons against the wanton destruction of public or private property within the" territories of the Free State and South African Republic (p. 4).

On the 16th of May, General Botha replied to this proclamation (a copy of which Lord Roberts had sent to him), giving specific cases of such destruction, and adding: " Your troops continue to carry on the greatest barbarities " (p. 5).

Lord Roberts replies, on May 18, saying the cases referred to by General Botha " are found to be devoid of foundation."

General De Wet sends Lord Roberts, on the 19th of May, a list of farms burned by the British.

Lord Roberts answers by saying there were reasons why these farms were destroyed, which justified the action (p. 5).

On the 4th of July, General Botha addressed a further protest to Lord Roberts, and gave him another list of Boer farms burned by the English, including Botha's own farm, and that of Field Cornet Badenhorst, near Standerton.

On the 10th of July, General De Wet wrote to Lord Roberts, giving him a list of farms burned near Lindley and Heilbron, and declaring he would retaliate upon British property in the Free State and Cape Colony, "in order to put a stop to such barbarities," unless the farm-burning was discontinued by Lord Roberts' troops (p. 7).

On the 28th of July, Lord Roberts replied to General Botha, saying he had not yet received reports about farm-burning near Standerton, and expressing the hope that the reported destruction of Botha's own farm was unfounded. He, however, declares that, where telegraph or railway lines have been cut by Boer forces, farms in the vicinity will be destroyed.

In a letter to General De Wet, dated August 3, Lord Roberts definitely declares: " I have found it necessary (in consequence of alleged shooting of British from certain farmhouses) to take such steps as are sanctioned by the customs of war to put an end to these and to similar acts, and have burned down the farmhouses at or near which such deeds have been perpetrated."

On the 13th of August, Lord Roberts encloses a copy of a report from General Buller, in which this officer admits having ordered the burning of General Louis Botha's farm, along with several others in the Standerton district, because telegraph wires had been cut and the railway injured, and—the Boers had, in fact, continued opposing General Butler's forces.

The English general who thus admitted ordering the destruction of General Botha's farm, was he who previously had been driven four times across the Tugela by Botha—General Buller.

On the 15th of August, General Botha again brings under Lord Roberts' notice the continued burning of farms, and of women and children being driven from their homes and compelled to walk for miles to other shelter, owing to the looting of their conveyances. He complains of small bodies of British going about in the charac-ter of scouts, but who are robbers, committing theft under the guise of English soldiers. He further categorically denies the statements in General" Buller's report that there were any reasons beyond those prompted by the spirit of barbarism for the burning of his own and other farms near Standerton.

To this communication, Lord Roberts replied in a letter ending as follows:

" I should be failing in my duty to Her Majesty's Government and to Her Majesty's Army in South Africa if I neglected to use every means in my power to bring such irregular warfare to a conclusion. The measures which I am compelled to adopt are those which the customs of war prescribe as being applicable to such cases; they are ruinous to the country, entail endless suffering on your Honor's fellow countrymen, and must, I regret to inform your Honor, necessarily become more and more rigorous " (p. 12).

On the 2nd of September, Lord Roberts further wrote to General Botha, saying, inter alia:

"The orders I have at present issued, to give effect to these views, are that the farm nearest the scene of any attempt to injure the line or wreck a train is to be burnt, and that all farms within a radius of ten miles are to be completely cleared of all their stock, supplies, etc." (p. 12).

If any further proof were needed in refutation of Mr. Chamberlain's charges against General Botha they are found in the Colonial Secretary's own admissions, when he was defending Lord Roberts for the burning of farms a year before the interview between Lord Kitchener and the Transvaal Commandant-General had taken place. Speaking in the House of Commons, on the 7th of December, 1900, Mr. Chamberlain said:

"Lord Roberts was placed in the most difficult position. He had his base at least 1,500 miles away from his front in a most difficult country, and served only by a single line of railway. Any catastrophe to that railway might have been a catastrophe to the whole army. It is all very well to talk about humanity, but we must take into account humanity to our army. (Ministerial cheers.) It was the clear duty of Lord Roberts to take any steps in his power to prevent the cutting of the lines; accordingly it was proclaimed that in the case of destruction of the line persons in the vicinity would be held responsible, and farms might be destroyed."

The Colonial Secretary's statement on the 20th of January, 1902 ("the humanity, unprecedented in the history of war, with which we, upon whom these women and children have been forced, have accepted the duty and responsibility in the name of humanity," etc.), read in the light of the foregoing extracts from his own Blue Books, and specific assertions as quoted above, is nothing less than a gross insult to the public intelligence.

Further evidence is not needed with which to refute what Mr. Chamberlain's own documents completely deny; but two additional pieces of testimony will further illustrate the value that is to be attached to English Ministerial charges against the Boers. On the 4th of June, 1900, as related under that date in the Diary of the War, General Buller had an interview with General Christian Botha, near Laing's Nek. The English general's report of the conversation to Lord Roberts is printed at pages 85 and 86 of the " South African Despatches," Vol. II., February, 1901. General Buller reports himself as saying to Botha (p. 85): "If the war goes on, the Boers' stock would be lost, their homes destroyed, and their property would suffer a great deal of damage, and he wants to avoid that."

It was on the 24th of the following month this same chivalrous, English officer reported to Lord Roberts that he had burned Commandant-General Louis Botha's farm and others near Standerton.

In the Blue Book relating to the number of Boer farms burned by the British, which has been already quoted from, the following samples of the reasons given for the destruction of the homes of the men engaged in the war against the English are found:

" Destroyed because the owner was on commando, and the house near where the accident and destruction of Rhenoster Station took place. This man had taken an active part in destruction of line and station, so it was stated. Men's kits were found in this house.

" Letters were sent to fighting General Lemmer to warn him of the consequences if he touched the telegraph line. He cut it three times, so his three wretched hovels at Zamenkomst, where the break occurred, were burnt.

" Izaak Buurman was the leader of a band which persistently attacked the railway line south of this section. In his house was found a roll of his commando.

" J. H. Visagie shot native scout " Bob," and had been on commando with the Wakkerstroomers since he is stated to have surrendered and taken the oath of neutrality.

" Men on commando in the immediate neighborhood, notice having previously been sent to the laager that their houses would be burned if they did not come in, or were not at their houses by the date.

" This house was burnt without orders, and culprits cannot be traced. The man, however, is one of the Magaliesberg snipers.

" This man was reported to have shot a man in Roberts's Horse while watering his horse, and so his house was burnt."

The same Blue Book contains this official record of the burning of the following home:


Name of Village or Farm.

Name of Owner.

Date of Destruction.

Reasons for De­struction.

Rhenoster River.


Christian De Wet.



This narrative of an unexampled struggle for National Freedom ' must close here, for the present. The conflict which it endeavors to describe still continues, and, if honorable conditions are not obtained as the price of peace, will go on until no Boers are left to defend a cause which British numbers alone have struck down.

The story of the war, as I have attempted to tell it, from the Boer point of view, is not, and necessarily could not be, a full or complete version of the whole campaign. Indeed, the later portion of the history has been mainly compiled from information gleaned through anti-Boer sources. Yet no British censorship can silence, and no stereotyped English laudation of its own prowess can keep back from the public everywhere, the knowledge of the continued, dauntless fight of this little nation of heroes for their country's independence. For fully two years and five months the Boers still in the field have fought against the crudest odds which ever enabled a purpose of naked wrong to triumph by the mere weight of brute force over a righteous cause heroically upheld. With commandoes decimated, homes destroyed, wives and children in prison camps, babies dying of " military measures," stock and food looted, crops uprooted, and devastation carried systematically by England's quarter of a million of men into almost every corner of the Transvaal and Free State, still the men who believe in God and freedom gave way only to death or to overwhelming opposition. Loss of artillery, of supplies, of almost everything except faith and courage, saw them at Vlakfontein, Itala, Brakenlaagte, Tweefontein, Tweebosh, and in a dozen other victories gallantly achieved, show the enemy, even when armed with artillery, how easily this war could have settled forever the question of who should rule in the Transvaal, if manhood and not numbers had to determine that right.

The other branches of the British task of killing two small States reflect an equal glory on British arms.

England not only poured her countless thousands of troops into South Africa, armed savages in her service, and burned Boer homes; she took the most unfair advantage of her puny antagonist which a spirit of vindictive malice could suggest. She had control of the cables, the ports, and of the press (having ordered the correspondents of independent papers out of the theater of operations), and, thus secure against either Boer or impartial testimony, her officers and news agencies commenced an ignoble campaign of calumny against the foemen who had won a world's kindly interest in a cause so splendidly upheld. Accusations of " murder " against General De Wet, of outrages upon wounded British against De la Rey, of the deliberate killing of Kaffirs—including Kaffir children ¦—against Botha's officers, and kindred charges, were cabled to London time and time again. The purpose of these methods of moral assassination was apparent to the public. It was to deaden or to kill the universal sympathy felt for the fate of the Republics by besmirching the fame and reputation of the men who had at Dundee, Nicholson's Nek, Stormberg, Magersfontein, Colenso, Spion Kop, and in a hundred other engagements humbled British arms in the dust, and exhibited to the Great Powers the weakness of England's boasted military might in the capacity of her officers and the fighting qualities of her troops.

And it was the generals and officers who had deliberately burned the homes of their adversaries in defiance of every code of soldierly honor, as well as of civilized warfare, who could thus also malign the characters of the Boer generals when these could not be heard in self-defense in the press of the world.

There are to-day 45,000 women watching 50,000 children inside of barbed wire fences surrounded by British soldiers, arms in hand, in South Africa. They are imprisoned in camps in which 14,000 of these children have died already of sickness induced by the cold and the privations inflicted upon them in one year. They were taken from their homes by England's troops as a military measure, and they are still imprisoned as a means of subduing the spirit of resistance of husbands, fathers, and sons fighting for independence. These women are bearing their sufferings in a spirit of the noblest patriotism. They address no appeal or reproach to the burghers in the field on account of the hardships to which they are subjected. Their children die before their eyes, but they still defiantly bid their country's defenders to continue the fight against the callous and unmanly foe that can disgrace civilized humanity by warring upon the helpless as well as the combative section of the two Republics. These are, surely, nobler heroines than those of romance who are loved and honored for the imaginary devotion with which they remain true to some idea that has kinship with the bravery of men engaged in a just and holy cause. But the world looks on—the civilized Christian world of churches, and of preachers of the Gospel, and of novel readers—at this barbarous spectacle in South Africa, with about as much real indignation as if Lord Kitchener and his 220,000 troops were inflicting all the horrors of British warfare upon a Commonwealth of criminals or brigands, and not upon two little Republics made up of one of the bravest races in Europe, and of the most intensely and sincerely Protestant Christian people on earth.

This same world of churches and of moralists is that which a few years ago called out hysterically for the punishment of Turkey on account of outrages perpetrated upon Armenian Christians. America, Great Britain, France, were appealed to in behalf of a people who do not possess a single racial quality or moral trait that could compare with the Christian manliness of the Boer nation. Had 14,000 Armenian children been slain by " the military measures" of Abdul Hamid, the ships of France, America, and of England would have entered the Dardanelles in obedience to the outraged feelings of a united Christian world. But Abdul Hamid does not own gold mines, or regulate the money-markets of Paris, New York, and Berlin from Constantinople. He has not this " Christian " advantage. Moreover, he is a Mohammedan. He is outside the pale of Christianity, and can therefore be coerced into a compliance with the humane mandate of an interested Christian public opinion.

England has killed 14,000 Christian children, has imprisoned 45,000 Christian women in barbed wire enclosures, has devastated two Christian countries where there was less poverty and less vice than in any other Christian community in the world, and has armed savages to help her in a war which had its origin in motives as base and as odious as ever prompted a Sultan of Turkey to burn an Armenian village or to massacre his rebellious subjects.^ And yet Cardinal Vaughan, [It is now a question of something more than of what is lawful. The question is, Shall the British Empire be allowed to fall to pieces by supineness and by want of determination and self-denial? The answer is, No.  "This Empire has been raised up by the same Providence that called the Roman Empire into existence, and as God used the one towards the attainment of His own Divine purposes of mercy, so does lie seem to be using the other. " While we realize with grateful confidence the most honorable mission with which God seems to have entrusted us, we must endeavor not to be altogether unworthy of it, and must determine to make God, both in national and private life, the first object of our love and service. And then, we must be ready personally and collectively to make every sacrifice necessary or useful for the fulfilment of His trust.  " For these purposes, you will please to recite on Sundays, until further orders, after the principal Mass or at Benediction, the prayers to be found in the 'Manual' among the 'Occasional Prayers,' and headed 'In Times of Calamity.'  "Herbert Cardinal Vaughan."] in the name of the Catholic Church of England, the Archbishop of Canterbury in behalf of the Protestants, and Mr. Hugh Price Hughes for the Nonconformists, of the same enlightened Christian nation, piously call down God's blessing upon the arms which are killing and exterminating a little Christian nation in South Africa. And the United States, Austria, and other countries, equally Christian, enlightened, and humane, sell horses and supplies to the power which wages such a war.

The explanation of this horrible anomaly in the moral standards of the day is not far to seek. England, by her money markets and press and commerce; by her howling hypocrisy in pulpit and Parliament; has successfully mammonized the world. By her rationalistic missionaries, her newspapers, and the influence of her wealth, she has morally debased Christianity, and has enthroned the creed of human cupidity in the Temple out of which the gentle Savior of Nazareth, with his gospel of love and of justice and humanity, once banished the money changers. This is why Cardinals and Archbishops, papers and stock exchanges, politicians and cabinets, look on as unmoved at the horrors of the concentration camps as the Herodian High Priests probably did at the measures which carried out the wholesale murder of the Judean children 1,900 years ago. It also explains why a United States, a France, and a Germany continue, at least in their Governments, the passive spectators of the most dishonorable and unchristian war which has ever disgraced a civilized age.

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Category: Davitt: Boer Fight for Freedom
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