Print
The correspondence forwarded to the Colonial Office during the first half of the year 1900 by Lord Milner, and presented to the House of Commons in time for the Settlement debate of July 25th, furnishes a complete record of the origin of the "conciliation" movement. The whole of this interesting and significant collection of documents is worthy of attention; but all that can be done here is to direct the notice of the reader to one or two of its more salient features--features which illustrate the extraordinary condition of the Cape Colony, and explain how the disaffection of the Dutch subjects of the Crown was to be first aggravated, and then used as a means of saving the independence of the Republics. The position taken up by the Bond at the end of January (1900) in view of Mr. Schreiner's gradual conversion to the side of the Imperial Government, is sufficiently indicated in the resolution prepared for submission to the annual Congress, to which reference has been already[215] made. It was, in effect, a condemnation not only of the British Government, but of the Cape Government also, in so far as it had co-operated with the Imperial authorities, and a determination to prevent the war from being carried to a logical and successful conclusion by the incorporation of the Boer Republics into the system of British South Africa. The annual Congress, at which these opinions were to be affirmed, was announced to be held at Somerset East, on March 8th. Lord Milner, however, represented to Mr. Schreiner that it was very undesirable that such a demonstration should take place; and, through Mr. Schreiner's influence, the Congress was postponed. But the Prime Minister, in undertaking to use his influence with the Bond to prevent a denunciation of the policy of the Imperial Government at so critical a period, expressed the hope that the loyalists on their side would refrain from any public demonstration of an opposite character.

[Footnote 215: See p. 349.]

This abstinence from agitation, which was obviously desirable in the public interests at a time of intense political excitement, by no means suited the leaders of the Bond. Ons Land, in commenting upon the postponement of the Congress, incidentally reveals the real consideration which made it worth while for the Bond to promote an agitation of this kind. The Bond organ regrets that the Congress has been postponed. And why?

"It is said that the [South African] League would have held a
Congress had the Bond Congress been held. We have nothing to do
with what the League does or does not do; as a matter of fact,
its opinion has already been published in the Imperial
Blue-books. We were of opinion that it would have been the duty
of the Afrikander party to express itself at the Congress in
unmistakable terms, and resolutely, in order thereby to maintain
its true position and strengthen the hands of its friends in
England who have courageously and with self-sacrifice striven for
the good and just cause."[216]

[Footnote 216: Cd. 261.]

This, then, was the real object of the agitation--to "strengthen the hands of the friends of the Afrikander party in England." The writer of this article suggests, however, that there is still a prospect that the "good cause" may be promoted, after all, in the way which he desires.

[Sidenote: Origin of the movement.]

This prospect was speedily realised. With characteristic astuteness, the Bond leaders discovered a method by which their object could be achieved without exposing themselves to the reproach of "stirring up strife." The meetings were to be held, not as Bond meetings, but as "conciliation" meetings. The manner in which the machinery of the conciliation movement was originally set in motion will appear from the following telegram, which President Krüger sent to President Steyn, on January 20th--that is, a little more than a month before the Bond Congress was postponed:

"A certain E. T. Hargrove, an English journalist, about whom Dr.
Leyds formerly wrote that he had done much in Holland to work up
the peace memorial to Queen Victoria, has come here, as he says,
from Sauer and Merriman, who are ready to range themselves openly
on our side, to make propaganda in the Cape Colony, provided an
official declaration is given that the Republics only desire to
secure complete independence. He wished that I should write a
letter to Queen Victoria, but this I refused, and thought it
desirable that I should write a letter to him personally, in
which an answer is given to his question. He thinks that a great
propaganda can be made in the Cape Colony, whereby influence can
be brought to bear again on the English people and the world. I
myself do not expect much result, but think that a letter can do
good, and should be glad to have your opinion and observations as
soon as possible."[217]

[Footnote 217: Cd. 261.]

This telegram, one of the many documents found at Bloemfontein upon its occupation by Lord Roberts, is supplemented by the further facts disclosed by the investigations of the Concessions Commission, that a sum of £1,000 was advanced to Mr. Hargrove by the manager of the Netherlands Railway on February 3rd, 1900, and that this loan, paid in specie, was "debited to the account 'Political Situation,' to be hereafter arranged with the Government." The purposes for which Mr. Hargrove secured this large sum are stated in the following question and answer:

[Sidenote: Mr. Hargrove's £1,000.]

Q. 591. "Did he ask for money to carry out this object [i.e. to
stop the war on the assurance that the Boers wanted nothing more
than their independence]?"

MR. J. VAN KRETSCHMAR, General Manager of the Netherlands South
African Railway Company: "Yes; he said he had travelling expenses
to defray, a lot of publications to issue, and books to be
written, and he asked for money for these purposes."[218]

[Footnote 218: Cd. 624. The memorandum also noted that the
£1,000 was "paid at request of F. W. Reitz" (the State
Secretary). In the Concessions Commission the following
letter is published:

"GOVERNMENT OFFICES, PRETORIA.
7 April, 1899.

TO VAN KRETSCHMAR VAN VEEN, ESQ.,
DIRECTOR OF THE N.Z.A. RY. CO.

HON'D. SIR,--With reference to a letter of his Excellency the
Ambassador, dated 23 March last, with reference to Mr.
Statham and the latter's request for an assistance of £300
for furniture and such like, I have the honour to inform you
confidentially that the Executive Council has resolved to
grant this gentleman Statham an amount of £150. As, according
to previous agreement, a yearly allowance is paid to Mr.
Statham by your Company, I have the honour to request you
kindly to pay out to the said Mr. Statham the sum granted
him. His Excellency the Ambassador is likewise being informed
of this decision of the Executive Council.--I have, etc.,     

J. W. REITZ, State Secretary."
(Q. 608.)

Mr. Statham is understood to have been a frequent contributor
to those Liberal journals which sympathised with the Boer
cause. His allowance, however, had ceased before the war
broke out.]

Three months later President Krüger's telegram was laid before the two ministers whose names it contained by Mr. Schreiner, at Lord Milner's request, in order that they might have an opportunity of "repudiating or explaining the allegations affecting themselves which it contained." Both Mr. Merriman and Mr. Sauer denied that Mr. Hargrove had received any authority from them to use their names "in the manner which he appeared to have done." And on April 19th Mr. Merriman himself wrote to Mr. Hargrove to ask for an explanation. To this letter Mr. Hargrove replied immediately:

"This is not an answer to your note of this date, but is to ask
you to allow me to show your note to a friend of yours and of
mine. As it is marked 'private' I cannot do this until I hear
from you. Would you be so good as to send word by the driver of
the cab which waits?..."

In a second letter, written on the same day (April 19th), and presumably after he had consulted the mutual friend in question, Mr. Hargrove wrote:

"Knowing as you do that I never told you of my proposed trip to
Pretoria, that I never talked the matter over with you in any
shape or form, you may be sure that when I got there I did not
speak or make promises in your behalf. But I did mention your
name in this way: I told President Krüger of a conversation I had
had with Mr. Sauer, in which I had asked him what his attitude
would be in the event of the Republics offering to withdraw their
forces from colonial territory on the condition that their
independence would be recognised. Mr. Sauer's reply was that, in
those circumstances he would, in his personal capacity, most
certainly urge the acceptance of that offer, and that, although
he could speak for himself only, he thought it probable you would
do the same."

Mr. Hargrove adds that the "misconception" embodied in President Krüger's telegram is due to the circumstance that it was probably "dictated in a hurry, amidst a rush of other business," and contained a "hasty and more or less careless account" of a "long talk" translated to the President by Mr. Reitz from English into Dutch.

Mr. Hargrove at the same time forwarded a copy of this letter to Mr. Sauer. With this latter minister of the Crown he enjoyed a more intimate acquaintance, since, as Lord Milner points out,[219] he had been Mr. Sauer's travelling companion during this latter's "well-meant, but unsuccessful, journey to Wodehouse, which was immediately followed by the rebellion of that district."

[Footnote 219: In his covering despatch, Cd. 261, p. 126. For
the circumstances of Mr. Sauer's visit to Dordrecht on the
occasion mentioned see note, p. 287.]

[Sidenote: The Graaf Reinet congress.]

This, then, was the character of the man who travelled throughout the Colony, addressing meetings of the Dutch population, in order that "the hands of the friends of the Afrikander party in England might be strengthened." At the People's Congress, held at Graaf Reinet (May 30th) he rose to his full stature. "The worst foes of the British Empire," he said,[220] "were not the Boers, but those who had set up the howl for annexation." And he concluded by urging his audience to renew their hopes, for he believed that "if they did everything in their power to show what was right they would win in the end." On the following day Mr. Hargrove was asked, in the name of the Congress, to continue his agitation in England. The Congress, however, did not propose to rely exclusively upon Mr. Hargrove's efforts. It resolved to send a deputation of Cape colonists "to tell the simple truth as they know it" to the people of Great Britain and Ireland.

[Footnote 220: As reported in The Cape Times, Cd. 261.]

There is one other fact which is disclosed by this official correspondence from the High Commissioner to the Secretary of State which cannot be overlooked. Mr. Merriman and Mr. Sauer both repudiated absolutely President Krüger's statement that Mr. Hargrove "had come here [i.e. to Pretoria], as he says, from Sauer and Merriman." In view of this repudiation, it is somewhat startling to find that the letters covering the minutes of the conciliation meetings, forwarded to Lord Milner from time to time with the request that they may be sent on to the Colonial Office, bear the signature of Mr. Albert Cartwright, as honorary secretary of the Conciliation Committee of South Africa. Mr. Albert Cartwright was editor of The South African News--that is to say, of the journal which, as we have noticed before, served as the medium for the expression of the political views of Mr. Merriman and Mr. Sauer. At the period in question The South African News rendered itself notorious by circulating the absurd, but none the less injurious, report that General Buller and his army had surrendered to the Boers in Natal and agreed to return to England on parole; by publishing stories of imaginary Boer victories; by eulogising Mr. Hargrove, whose acceptance of the £1,000 from the Netherlands Railway it definitely denied; and by its persistent and vehement denunciations of Lord Milner. At a later period Mr. Cartwright was convicted of a defamatory libel on Lord Kitchener, and condemned to a term of imprisonment.[221]

[Footnote 221: See p. 477.]

[Sidenote: Mischievous effects.]

The situation thus brought about is described by Lord Milner in a passage in the despatch[222] which covers the transmission of the newspaper report of the People's Congress at Graaf Reinet. After stating that in return for Mr. Schreiner's efforts to secure the postponement of the Bond Congress, he had himself persuaded the leaders of the Progressive party to abstain from any public demonstration of their opinions, he writes:

[Footnote 222: Cd. 261, despatch of June 6th, 1900.]

"There was a truce of God on both sides. Then came the
'conciliation' movement, and the country was stirred from end to
end by a series of meetings much more violent and mischievous
than the regular Bond Congress would have been, though, of
course, on the same lines. The truce being thus broken, it would
have been useless--and, as a matter of fact, I did not
attempt--to restrain an expression of opinion on the other side.
Hence the long series of meetings held in British centres to
pronounce in favour of the annexation of both Republics, and to
give cordial support to the policy of Her Majesty's Government
and myself personally. On the whole, the utterances at these
meetings have been marked by a moderation totally absent in the
tone of the conciliators. But no doubt a certain number of
violent things have been said, and a certain amount of
unnecessary heat generated. I do not think, however, that those
[the loyalists] who have held these meetings, under extraordinary
provocation, are greatly to blame if this has occasionally been
the case."

That the "conciliation" movement exercised a most injurious influence in a colony of which a considerable area was in rebellion or under martial law, and where the majority of the inhabitants were in sympathy with the enemy is obvious. But from the point of view of the Afrikander nationalists it was an intelligible and effective method of promoting the objects which they had in view. What is amazing is the part which was played in it by Englishmen, and the confident manner in which the promoters of the movement relied upon the political co-operation of the friends of the Boers in the ranks of the Liberal party in England. Every Afrikander who attended these meetings knew that he was doing his best to arouse hatred against the Englishman and sympathy for the Boer. The nature of the resolutions to which he gave his adherence left him in no doubt on this point.

"The war," said Mr. A. B. de Villiers, at the People's Congress,
"was the most unrighteous war that was ever pursued. The simple
aim was to seize the Republics. If that was persisted in,
Afrikanders would not rest.... Britain would efface the Republics
and make the people slaves. Race hatred would then be prolonged
from generation to generation."

To publish abroad such opinions as these was obviously to invite rebellion in the Cape Colony, to encourage the resistance of the Boers, and to embarrass the British authorities, both civil and military, throughout South Africa. This was precisely what the Afrikander nationalist desired to do. But what is to be thought of the Englishmen who, both in the Cape Colony and in England, took part in this "conciliation" movement? Surely they did not desire these same results. Were they, then, the comrades or the dupes of the Afrikander nationalists? This is a question upon which the individual reader may be left to form his own judgment.

[Sidenote: Comrades or dupes.]

This much, at least, is certain. What gave the Afrikander nationalists the power to bring about the second invasion of the Cape Colony, and to inflict a year and a half of guerilla warfare upon South Africa, was the co-operation of these Englishmen--whether comrades or dupes--who opposed the annexation of the Republics. The intense sympathy felt by the Afrikanders for their defeated kinsmen was natural; but the means by which it was enflamed were artificial. Lord Milner himself, with his accustomed serenity of judgment, refused to take a "gloomy view" of the question of racial relations in the Colony, still less in South Africa as a whole.

"If it is true," he wrote on June 6th, "as the 'conciliators' are
never tired of threatening us, that race hatred will be eternal,
why should they make such furious efforts to keep it up at the
present moment? The very vehemence of their declarations that the
Afrikanders will never forgive, nor forget, nor acquiesce, seems
to me to indicate a considerable and well-justified anxiety on
their part lest these terrible things should, after all, happen."

But while the Cape Colony was in the throes of this agitation, British soldiers were gallantly fighting their way to Johannesburg and Pretoria. During the six weeks of Lord Roberts's "prolonged and enforced halt" at Bloemfontein (March 13th--May 1st), and subsequently, while the Army was advancing upon the Transvaal, considerable progress was made in the work of clearing the Colony of the republican invaders and re-establishing British authority in the districts in which the Dutch had risen in rebellion. In the course of these operations a large number of rebels had fallen into the hands of the Imperial military authorities, and it was the question of the treatment of these colonial rebels that was destined to bring Mr. Schreiner into direct conflict with those of his ministers who still held the opinions of the Bond.

[Sidenote: The punishment of rebels.]

In the middle of April Lord Milner had received from Mr. Chamberlain a despatch containing a preliminary statement of the opinion of the Home Government upon the two questions of the compensation of loyalists and the punishment of rebels, and on April 14th he requested his ministers to give formal expression to their views upon the subjects to which Mr. Chamberlain had drawn his attention. A fortnight later Lord Milner reported to the Home Government the conclusions at which Mr. Schreiner and his fellow-ministers had arrived. Trial by jury for persons indicted for high treason must be abandoned, since it would be impossible for the Crown to obtain the necessary convictions, and a special tribunal must be established by statute. As regards the nature of the punishment to be inflicted upon the rebels, Mr. Schreiner wrote:

"Ministers submit that the ends of justice would be served by the
selection of a certain limited number of the principal offenders,
whose trials would mark the magnitude of their offence and whose
punishment, if found guilty, would act as a deterrent. For the
remainder, ministers believe that the interests both of sound
policy and of public morality would be served if Her Gracious
Majesty were moved to issue, as an act of grace, a Proclamation
of amnesty under which, upon giving proper security for their
good behaviour, all persons chargeable with high treason, except
those held for trial, might be enlarged and allowed to return to
their avocations."[223]

[Footnote 223: Cd. 264.]

The substance of the Ministers' Minutes containing these conclusions, and the arguments by which they were supported--notably an appeal to the "Canadian precedent"--were telegraphed to the Home Government, and on May 4th Mr. Chamberlain replied, also by telegram. While the people of Great Britain were animated by no vindictive feeling against "those who had been or were in arms against Her Majesty's forces, whether enemies or rebels"--did, in fact, desire that all racial animosity should disappear in South Africa at the earliest possible moment after the war was over--the "sentiments of both sides" must be taken into consideration. The consequences which would ensue from "the rankling sense of injustice" that would arise if the rebels were actually placed in a better position after the struggle was over than those who had risked life and property in the determination to remain "loyal to their Queen and flag," would be no less serious than the bad results to be anticipated from any display of a revengeful policy on the part of the loyalists. He continued:

"Clemency to rebels is a policy which has the hearty sympathy of
Her Majesty's Government, but justice to loyalists is an
obligation of duty and honour. The question is, how can these two
policies be harmonised? It is clear that, in the interest of
future peace, it is necessary to show that rebellion cannot be
indulged in with impunity, and above all that, if unsuccessful,
it is not a profitable business for the rebel. Otherwise the
State would be offering a premium to rebellion. The present
moment, therefore, while the war is still proceeding, and while
efforts may still be made to tempt British subjects into
rebellious courses, is in any case not appropriate for announcing
that such action may be indulged in with absolute impunity. And
if, as has been suggested, a great many of the Queen's rebellious
subjects are the mere tools of those who have deceived them, it
is important that these should be made aware individually that,
whatever their leaders may tell them, rebellion is a punishable
offence.

[Sidenote: Clemency and justice.]

"Up to this time very lenient treatment has been meted out to
rebels. Although, according to the law of the Cape Colony, and
under martial law, the punishment of death might have been
inflicted, in no case has any rebel suffered the capital penalty,
and the vast majority have been permitted for the present to
return to their homes and to resume their occupations. There are
many degrees in the crime of rebellion. Her Majesty's Government
desire that in any case means shall be found for dealing
effectually with: (1) The ringleaders and promoters; (2) those
who have committed outrages or looted the property of their loyal
fellow-subjects; (3) those who have committed acts contrary to
the usages of civilised warfare, such as abuse of the white flag,
firing on hospitals, etc. There remain (4) those who, though not
guilty, of either of those offences, have openly and willingly
waged war against Her Majesty's forces; (5) those who confined
themselves to aiding Her Majesty's enemies by giving information
or furnishing provisions; and (6) those who can satisfactorily
prove that they acted under compulsion. In the opinion of Her
Majesty's Government a distinction ought to be, if possible,
drawn between these different classes.

"Her Majesty's Government recognise the difficulty of indicting
for high treason all who have taken part with the enemy, and they
would suggest, for the consideration of your ministers, the
expediency of investing either the Special Judicial Commission
which, as stated in your telegram of 28th April, is contemplated
by your ministers, or a separate Commission, with powers to
schedule the names of all persons implicated in the rebellion
under the various heads indicated above. It would be necessary
to decide beforehand how the different categories should then be
dealt with. As regards 1, 2, and 3, they would, of course, be
brought before the Judicial Commission and tried by them. Might
not 4 and 5 be allowed to plead guilty, and be thereupon either
sentenced to a fine carrying with it disfranchisement, or
released on recognisances, to come up for judgment when called
upon (this also to involve disfranchisement), while 6 might be
subjected to disfranchisement alone? Her Majesty's Government
offer these as suggestions for the consideration of your
ministers.

"In regard to the reasons urged by your ministers in favour of a
general amnesty, Her Majesty's Government would point out that
they are of a highly controversial character, and it is
impossible to discuss them fully at a moment when an indication
of the views of Her Majesty's Government is urgently required.
Her Majesty's Government would only observe that the policy which
they have indicated in this telegram appears to them to be one
not merely of justice, but of clemency, which the whole white
population of the Colony might well accept as satisfactory, and
which should not, any more than the ordinary administration of
justice, encourage the natives to think that the two white races
are permanently disunited, while with especial reference to the
third reason, it may be observed that the expediency of the
action to be taken in such cases depends upon circumstances which
must vary greatly according to date and locality. In Lower Canada
in 1837-38 there was a revolt during peace against the Queen's
authority, founded on grievances under constitutional conditions
which were recognised as unsatisfactory by the Government of the
day, and altered by subsequent legislation. In the Cape there has
been adhesion to the Queen's enemies during war by those who
have not even the pretext of any grievance, and who have for a
generation enjoyed full constitutional liberty. In Canada the
insurrection was never a formidable one from a military point of
view; in the Cape it has added very largely to the cost and
difficulty of the war, and has entailed danger and heavy loss to
Her Majesty's troops."[224]

[Footnote 224: Cd. 264.]

[Sidenote: The ministry divided.]

This estimate of the guilt of the Cape rebels--moderate in the light of British colonial history, merciful beyond dispute as judged by the practice of foreign States--failed to commend itself to the Afrikander Ministry. On May 29th, when the full text of the Cape ministers' minutes and enclosures had reached the Colonial Office, Lord Milner inquired of Mr. Chamberlain, on behalf of his ministers, whether the disfranchisement proposed was for life or for a period only; and further, whether, in view of their fuller knowledge of the representations of the Cape Ministry, the views of the Home Government were still to be accepted as those expressed in the despatch of May 4th. To these questions Mr. Chamberlain replied, by telegram, on June 10th, that the Government continued to hold the opinion that the policy already suggested should be substantially adhered to; while, as to the period of disfranchisement, he pointed out that--

"conviction and sentence for high treason carried with it
disfranchisement for life, and if the offenders were spared the
other and severer penalties of rebellion, justice seemed to
demand that they should suffer the full political penalty.
Disfranchisement for life did not seem to Her Majesty's
Government to be a very serious punishment for rebellion."

[Sidenote: Mr. Schreiner resigns.]

On June 11th Lord Milner was informed by Mr. Schreiner that ministers were hopelessly divided on the subject of the treatment of the rebels, and that their differences could not be composed, and on the following day he replied that, if he could not receive the support of a unanimous Cabinet to which he, as Governor, was constitutionally entitled, he would be compelled, in the discharge of his duty, to seek it elsewhere. Mr. Schreiner's resignation, which was placed in Lord Milner's hands on the next day, was followed by the appointment, on June 18th, of a Progressive Ministry with Sir Gordon Sprigg as Prime Minister and Sir James Rose Innes as Attorney-General. Mr. Schreiner, in his memorandum of June 11th, had forwarded to Lord Milner documents containing particulars of the individual views of the members of his Cabinet. Mr. Solomon, the Attorney-General, was prepared to adopt a policy in respect of the treatment of the rebels, and the machinery by which that policy was to be carried out, which appeared to him to involve nothing that would prevent "complete accord between Her Majesty's Government and this Government on the question." And in this view both Mr. Schreiner and Mr. Herholdt concurred. But the remaining members of the Cabinet were entirely opposed to any policy other than that of granting a general amnesty to all rebels except the "principal offenders," and allowing these latter to be tried by the machinery of justice already in existence--i.e. by Afrikander juries. The minutes which they respectively addressed to the Prime Minister were bitter invectives directed alike against the Home Government and Lord Milner.

"We are asked," Mr. Merriman wrote, on his own and Mr. Sauer's
behalf, with reference to the suggestions of the Home Government,
"to deal with a number of men who have, at worst, taken up arms
in what they, however erroneously, considered to be a righteous
war--a war in which they joined the Queen's enemies to resist
what prominent men both here and in England have repeatedly
spoken of as a crime.... These men, irrespective of class, we are
asked to put under a common political proscription, to deprive
them of their civil rights, and by so doing (in fact, this is the
main commendation of the measure to the "loyals") to deprive
their friends and kinsfolk, who have rendered the Colony yeoman
service at the most critical time, of that legitimate influence
which belongs to a majority. We are asked, in fact, to create a
class of political 'helots' in South Africa, where we are now
waging a bloody and costly war ostensibly for the purpose of
putting an end to a similar state of affairs."

Of course, all this and much more might have been read at any time since the war began in the columns of The South African News, but in a minister's memorandum to the Prime Minister, and over the signature "John X. Merriman," its naked hostility arrests the mind. Dr. Te Water's memorandum, although much shorter than that of Mr. Merriman, is even more outspoken. To him, the direct representative of the republican nationalists in the Afrikander Cabinet, amnesty for the rebels is the "sound and proper policy." And naturally, since in his eyes the rebels themselves are--

"British subjects of Dutch extraction who, after vainly
endeavouring, by all possible constitutional means, to prevent
what they, in common with the rest of the civilised world,
believe to be an unjust and infamous war against their near
kinsmen, aided the Republics in the terrible struggle forced upon
them."[225]

[Footnote 225: Cd. 264.]

[Sidenote: A progressive ministry.]

This is vitriol-throwing, but it is none the less significant. These three men formed half of the six ministers to whom collectively, Lord Milner, as Governor of the Cape Colony, had to look for advice during the two critical years that the Afrikander party was in power. Fortunately, in his capacity of High Commissioner for South Africa, he was free to act without their advice, as the representative of the Queen. Even so, his achievement is little less than marvellous. Aided by Mr. Schreiner's pathetic sense of loyalty to the person of the sovereign, he had kept the Cape Government outwardly true to its allegiance. The long hours of patient remonstrance, the word-battles from which the Prime Minister had risen sometimes white with passionate resentment, had not been useless. By tact, by serenity of disposition, by depth of conviction, and latterly by sheer force of argument, Lord Milner had won Mr. Schreiner, not indeed to the side of England, but at least to the side of that Empire-State of which England was the head. With the Prime Minister went Sir Richard Solomon, Mr. Herholdt, and one or two of the Afrikander rank and file. Thus reinforced, the Progressives commanded a working majority in the Legislative Assembly, and the ascendancy of the Afrikander party was at an end.

Apart from the secession of Mr. Schreiner and his immediate followers, the Parliamentary strength of the Afrikander party was lessened by another circumstance, to which Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman referred in the debate on the South African Settlement in the House of Commons on July 25th. Certain members of the Cape Parliament, said the leader of the Liberal Opposition, had been arrested for high treason, with the result that the Afrikander party was deprived of their votes, and the balance of power between that party and the Progressive party was upset. And he protested against this manner of turning an Afrikander majority into a minority. The reply which these remarks on the part of this friend of the Afrikander party in England drew from the Government is instructive:

"May I remind the right honourable gentleman," said Mr. Balfour,
"that the balance of parties was disturbed by another and
different cause on which he has made no protest? Some members of
that Parliament, not sharing the views of those who are
imprisoned, are now fighting at the front and risking their lives
in the defence of the Empire. Their party is deprived of their
services in the Cape Parliament, and I should have thought that
this would have affected the right honourable gentleman much more
than the absence of men who, under any circumstances, must be
supposed to be under the darkest suspicion as to their view and
policy respecting the country to which they owe allegiance."

The Cape Parliament met under the new Ministry in July, and the chief business of the session, which lasted until the middle of October, was the passing of the Treason Bill. On July 9th Lord Milner was able to inform Mr. Chamberlain (by telegram) that the Bill had been prepared, and to indicate the nature of its main provisions. These were: (1) An indemnity for acts done under martial law; (2) the establishment of a Special Court to try cases in which the Attorney-General might decide to indict any person for high treason, such cases to be tried without a jury; (3) the establishment of a Special Commission to "deal with rebels not so indicted and to punish all found guilty with disfranchisement for five years from the date of conviction"; and (4) the legalisation of the already existing Compensation Commission. In a despatch dated July 26th--the day after the Settlement debate in the House of Commons--Mr. Chamberlain replied at length to the arguments put forward by the Schreiner Ministry in favour of a general amnesty, and exposed in particular the historical inaccuracy of the appeal to the "Canadian precedent." At the same time he stated that Her Majesty's Government, while they could not be a consenting party to a policy condoning adhesion to the enemy in the field, had no doubt that "such a measure of penalty as the mass of loyal opinion in the Colony considered adequate would meet with their concurrence." That is to say, the proposal of the Home Government for disfranchisement for life was not pressed, but was abandoned in favour of the lenient penalty originally proposed by Sir Richard Solomon, independently of any consideration of the views of the Colonial Office, and now adopted by the Progressive Ministry.

[Sidenote: The treason bill.]

In spite of its leniency, the Treason Bill met with the violent and protracted resistance of the Afrikander party in the Legislative Assembly. The opportunity thus afforded for the delivery of fierce invectives against the Imperial authorities was utilised to the full, and the fires of disaffection lighted by the "Conciliation" meetings were kindled anew into the second and more disastrous conflagration that culminated in the proceedings of the Worcester Conference (December 6th). In the Cape Parliamentary Reports the picture of this nightmare session is to be found faithfully presented in all its ugly and grotesque details. Two facts will serve to show to what a degree the members of the Legislative Assembly of this British colony had identified themselves with the cause of the enemy. The first is the circumstance that it was a common practice of the Afrikander members to refer in Parliament to the military successes of the Boers with pride as "our" victories. The second is the fact that Mr. Sauer, only three months ago a minister of the Crown, declared, in opposing the second reading of the Bill, that "a time would come when there would be very few Dutchmen who would not blush when they told their children that they had not helped their fellow-countrymen in their hour of need."[226] Morally, though not legally, the Afrikander members had gone over to the enemy no less than the rebels who had taken up arms against their sovereign. This was the "loyalty" of the Bond.

[Footnote 226: Cape Times, August 23rd, 1900.]

[Sidenote: Milner visits the colonies.]

The Treason Bill was promulgated, under the title of "The Indemnity and Special Tribunals Act, 1900," on October 12th. On the same day Lord Milner left Capetown for a brief visit to the Transvaal and Orange River Colony. The intention of the Home Government to place the administrative and economic reconstruction of the new colonies in his hands had been made known to him informally; and it was obviously desirable, therefore, that he should acquaint himself with the actual state of affairs as soon as possible. After a somewhat adventurous journey through the Orange River Colony, he reached Pretoria on the 15th, and remained at the capital until the 22nd. He then proceeded to Johannesburg, where he spent the next three days (October 22nd to 25th). At both places he made provisional arrangements, in consultation with Lord Roberts and Lord Kitchener, for the early establishment of so much of the machinery of civil administration as the exigencies of the military situation permitted. Leaving Johannesburg on the 25th, the High Commissioner stopped for the night at Kroonstad, en route for Bloemfontein. On the morning following he woke up to find the train still motionless, since the line had been cut by the Boers--an almost daily occurrence at this period of the war. After a few hours, however, the journey was resumed; but the High Commissioner's train was preceded by an armoured train as far as Smalldeel, from which point it ran without escort to Bloemfontein, where he remained until November 1st. Here, in addition to making the necessary arrangements for the beginning of civil administration in the Orange River Colony, Lord Milner had the satisfaction of inaugurating the career of the South African Constabulary under the command of Major-General Baden-Powell. The departure from Bloemfontein was delayed for a few hours by the destruction of the span of a railway bridge by the Boers; but at 12 o'clock the High Commissioner's train, again preceded by its armoured companion, was able to resume its journey southwards. In the course of the following day (November 2nd) the English mail, going northwards from Capetown, was met, and among other communications which Lord Milner then received was the despatch of October 18th enclosing the commissions under which he was appointed to administer the new colonies upon Lord Roberts's approaching return to England.

Lord Milner arrived at Capetown on November 3rd. During his three weeks' absence the situation in the Cape Colony had changed for the worse. After the Treason Bill debates the anti-British propaganda, still carried on under the grotesque pretence of promoting "conciliation," had taken a different and more sinister form. To their denunciation of the Home Government and its treatment of the Republics, the Afrikander nationalists now added slander and abuse of the British and colonial troops in South Africa. In order to understand how such calumnies were possible in the face of the singular humanity with which the military operations of the Imperial troops had been conducted, a brief reference to the course of the war is necessary. The change from regular to guerilla warfare initiated by the Boer leaders in the later months of this year (1900), and the consequent withdrawal of British garrisons from insecurely held districts both in the Transvaal and Orange River Colony, were accompanied by the return to arms of many burghers who, on taking the oath of neutrality, had been allowed to resume their civil occupations. This breach of faith, whether voluntary or compulsory, compelled the British military commanders to adopt measures of greater severity in the operations undertaken for the reconquest of the revolted areas. The punishment inflicted upon the inhabitants of such areas, especially those adjoining the colonial border, although merciful in comparison with the penalties actually incurred under the laws of war by those who, having surrendered, resumed their arms, was considerably more rigorous than the treatment to which the republican Dutch had been originally subjected. This legitimate and necessary increase of severity, displayed by the British commanders in districts where the burghers had surrendered, and then taken up arms a second, or even a third time, was the sole basis of fact upon which the Afrikander nationalists in the Cape Colony founded the vast volume of imaginary outrage and inhumanity on the part of the Imperial troops which Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman was held subsequently to have endorsed by accusing the British Government of carrying on the war in South Africa by "methods of barbarism."[227]

[Footnote 227: June 14th; 1901 (Holborn Restaurant, and
elsewhere later). "Whatever Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman may
think or say, the German nation may think or say."--The
Vossische Zeitung.]

[Sidenote: Libels on the British troops.]

The weapon now adopted for the anti-British campaign was the circulation through the Bond Press, Dutch and English, of accounts of cruel or infamous acts alleged to have been committed by British soldiers, and described with every detail calculated to arouse the passionate resentment of the colonial Dutch. There is only one way in which the reader can be brought to understand the wantonly false and wholly disgraceful character of these libels. It is to place before his eyes the literal translation of two examples, printed in Dutch in The Worcester Advertiser of November 23rd, 1900; that is to say, in anticipation of the People's Congress, which was to be held less than a fortnight later (December 6th) at the little town in the Western Province so named. The article is headed: "Dreadful Murders perpetrated on Farmers, Women, and Children, near Boshoff:

[Sidenote: Two examples.]

"... This unfortunate man [a Boer prisoner] left behind him his
dear wife and four children. One or two days after his departure
there came a couple of heroes in the house of the unfortunate
woman, locked the doors and set fire to the curtains. The woman,
awfully frightened by it, was in a cruel way handled by these
ruffians, and compelled to make known where the guns and
ammunition were hidden. The poor woman, surrounded by her dear
children (who were from time to time pushed back by these
soldiers), answered that she could swear before the holy God that
there was not a single gun or cartridge or anything of that sort
hidden on that farm. In the meantime the curtains were destroyed
by the smoke and flames to ashes. The house, at least, was not
attacked by the flames, but the low, mean lot put at the four
corners of the house a certain amount of dynamite, to destroy it
in this way.

"The heroic warrior and commander over a portion of the civilised
(?) British troops knocked with great force at the door of the
house--where still the poor wife and children were upon their
knees praying to the Heavenly Father for deliverance--saying, 'I
give you ten minutes' time to acquaint me and point out to me
where the weapons and ammunition are hidden, and if you do not
comply I shall make the house and all fly into the air.' The poor
wife fell upon her knees before the cruel man; prayed the cruel
man to spare her and her children, where God was her witness
there was nothing of the kind on the farm, neither was there
anything stowed away in the house.

"Standing before him, as if deprived of her senses, [was] the
poor wife with her four innocent children, and when the ten
minutes had expired house and all were blown to atoms with
dynamite, and [there were] laid in ruins, the bodies of the
deplorable five. May the good God receive their souls with
Him!...

"A wife of a Transvaal Boer (who is still in the field, fighting
for his freedom and right) was lodging with one of her relations,
when, two days later, after she had given birth to a baby boy,
she was visited by seven warriors, or so-called Tommy Atkins; the
young urchin was taken away from its mother by its two legs, by
the so-called noble British, and his head battered in against the
bed-post until it had breathed its last, and thereupon thrown out
by the door as if it was the carcase of a cat or dog. Then these
damn wretches began their play with this poor and weak woman, who
only 48 hours before was delivered of a child. The poor wife was
treated so low and debauched by this seven that she, after a few
hours, gave up the spirit, and like her child [was] murdered in
the most dissolute manner.... Can we longer allow that our
fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters, relatives, yes, our
children, are murdered by these coward and common murderers? or
has not the time yet arrived to prevent this civilised nation, or
to punish them for their atrocities?"[228]

[Footnote 228: As translated in Blue-book, Cd. 547. Mr. de
Jong, the editor of the paper, was prosecuted (and convicted)
for the publication of this and another similar article
(December 28th).]

On November 26th The South African News published the translation of a letter to the Press, written by a member of the Legislative Assembly, in view of the same meeting:

"I am yet glad that another People's Congress will be held.

"It is our duty to speak now; it is more than time to protest, as
British subjects, against the extermination of defenceless women
and children....

"But, in Heaven's name, let the Congress be a People's Congress
in reality. Let no one or other stay away for one or other small
difficulty. Let members of Parliament, clergymen, yes, every man,
old or young, be present at Worcester on the 6th of December
next. Let them turn up in numbers. Let us use our rights as
British subjects in a worthy and decided manner. Let us at least
adopt three petitions or resolutions: (1) Praying Her Majesty,
our Gracious Queen, to make an end to the burning of homes and
the ill-treatment of helpless women and children; if not, that
they may be murdered at once, rather than die slowly by hunger
and torture; (2) a petition in which it be urged that the war
should be ended, and the Republics allowed to retain their
independence; and finally, a pledge that those who do not wish
to sign these petitions will no longer be supported by us in any
way.

"[No shopkeeper, attorney, doctor, master, or any one--no
victuals, meat, bread, meal, sheep, oxen, horses, vegetables,
fruit whatsoever will he sell to the jingoes until the wrong is
righted and compensated.]

"The dam is full. Our nation cannot, dare not, say with Cain, 'Am
I my brother's keeper?' There must be a way out for the
overflowing water. Disloyal deeds and talk are wrong. But if we,
as a nation, as one man, earnestly and decisively lay our hands
to the plough in a constitutional manner, and are determined, I
trust, through God's help, we shall--yes, we must--win."

The passage placed in brackets, in which this member of the Cape Parliament urges that all who may refuse to sign the two "petitions" should be rigorously boycotted, was omitted--without any indication of omission--by The South African News. Ons Land, on the other hand, expressed approval of the letter as it stood.[229]

[Footnote 229: Cd. 547.]

[Sidenote: The Worcester congress.]

These were the kind of stories, and the kind of appeals, with which the mind of the colonial Dutch had been inflamed by the nationalist leaders when the Worcester Congress met. The gathering is said to have consisted of between 8,000 and 10,000 persons; and its promoters claimed that a far larger number--120,000 persons--were represented by the deputies sent from ninety-seven districts in the Colony. At the close of the meeting a deputation was appointed to lay the resolutions passed by the Congress before the High Commissioner, and request him to bring them officially to the notice of the Home Government. It was composed of Mr. de Villiers, a minister of the Dutch Reformed Church; a member of the Legislative Council; the member of the Legislative Assembly for Worcester, and two others. This deputation was received by Lord Milner at Government House on December 11th, and the circumstances of the remarkable interview which then took place present a striking picture of the state of the Colony at this time, and of the extraordinary attitude which the mass of the Dutch population had assumed towards the representative of their sovereign. It is one of those illuminating occasions in which a whole situation is, as it were, gathered up into a single scene.

The disloyal purpose of the deputation is heightened rather than concealed by the disguise of the constitutional forms in which it is clothed. The scarcely veiled demand for the independence of the Cape Colony, now put forward by the Afrikander nationalists, is as magnificently audacious as the ultimatum. Knowing the infamous character of the methods by which the agitation in favour of the Boers was being promoted, Lord Milner might have been excused if he had given way to some strong expressions of indignation. No such note, however, is heard in his reply. He is as dry and passionless as an attorney receiving his clients. Yet his words are as frank as his manner is composed. To these delegates he speaks the most terrible truths with the same freedom as he would have used, if the business of their errand had been a pleasant interchange of compliments, instead of a grim defiance that might, or might not, be converted from words into deeds.

[Sidenote: Deputation to Lord Milner.]

Lord Milner, who is accompanied only by his private secretary, surprises the deputation at the outset by requesting that the resolutions may be read forthwith in his presence. They are:

"1. We, men and women of South Africa assembled and represented
here, having heard the report of the people's deputation to
England, and having taken into earnest consideration the
deplorable condition into which the peoples of South Africa have
been plunged, and the grave dangers threatening our civilisation,
record our solemn conviction that the highest interest of South
Africa demand (1) A termination of the war now raging, with its
untold misery and horror, as well as the burning of houses, the
devastation of the country, the extermination of a white
nationality, and the treatment to which women and children are
subjected, which was bound to leave a lasting legacy of
bitterness and hatred, while seriously endangering the future
relationship between the forces of civilisation and barbarism in
South Africa; and (2) the retention by the Republics of their
independence, whereby alone the peace of South Africa can be
maintained.

"2. That this meeting desires a full recognition of the right of
the people of this Colony to settle and manage its own affairs,
and expresses its grave disapproval of the policy pursued and
adopted in this matter by the Governor and High Commissioner, Sir
Alfred Milner.

"3. That this Congress solemnly pledges itself to labour in a
constitutional way unceasingly for the attainment of the objects
contained in the above resolutions, and resolves to send a
deputation to His Excellency Sir Alfred Milner to bring these
resolutions officially to the notice of Her Majesty's
Government."

These resolutions having been read, Mr. de Villiers proceeds to make two points. First, there will be no lasting peace in South Africa until the independence of the Republics is restored; unless this is done, race feeling will go on prevailing "for generations." And, second, it is the "devastation of property" and "the treatment of the women and children" by the British that has roused the colonial Dutch to assemble at the Congress. Mr. Pretorius, the member of the Legislative Council, then drives home both of these points by a short but emphatic speech, delivered in Dutch, in which he asserts that one of the consequences of the war will be a "never-ending irreconcilable racial hatred" between the British and Dutch inhabitants.[230] Lord Milner then rises from his chair and replies to the deputation:

[Footnote 230: It is scarcely necessary to point out that
this prophecy of continued racial hatred has been completely
falsified by events. The writer went out to South Africa a
second time in January, 1904, when two years had not passed
since the surrender of the Boers. The one thing, above all
others, that struck him, and every other visitor from
England, was the profound peace that reigned from end to end
of the land.]

[Sidenote: Lord Milner's reply.]

[Sidenote: War no longer justifiable.]

"I accede to your request to bring these resolutions to the
notice of Her Majesty's Government. I think it is doubtful
whether I ought to do so, but in view of the prevailing
bitterness and excitement it is better to err, if one must err,
on the side of conciliation and fairness. And, having regard
especially to the fact that one of the resolutions is directed
against myself, I wish to avoid any appearance of a desire to
suppress its companions on account of it. But, having gone thus
far on the road of concession, I take the liberty, in no
unfriendly and polemical spirit, of asking you quite frankly what
good you think can be done by resolutions of this character? I am
not now referring to the resolution against myself. That is a
matter of very minor importance. The pith of the whole business
is in resolution number one, a resolution evidently framed with
great care by the clever men who are engineering the present
agitation in the Colony. Now, that resolution asks for two
things--a termination of the war, and the restoration of the
independence of the Republics. In desiring the termination of the
war we are all agreed, but nothing can be less conducive to the
attainment of that end than to encourage in those who are still
carrying on a hopeless resistance the idea that there is any,
even the remotest chance, of the policy of annexation being
reversed. I am not now speaking for myself. This is not a
question for me. I am simply directing your attention to the
repeatedly declared policy of Her Majesty's Government, a policy
just endorsed by an enormous majority of the nation, and not only
by the ordinary supporters of the Government, but by the bulk of
those ordinarily opposed to it. Moreover, that policy is approved
by all the great self-governing colonies of the Empire, except
this one, and in this one by something like half the white
population, and practically the whole of the native. And this
approving half of the white population, be it observed, embraces
all those who, in the recent hour of danger, when this Colony
itself was invaded and partially annexed, fought and suffered
for the cause of Queen and Empire. I ask you, is it reasonable to
suppose that Her Majesty's Government is going back upon a policy
deliberately adopted, repeatedly declared, and having this
overwhelming weight of popular support throughout the whole
Empire behind it? And if it is not, I ask you further: What is
more likely to lead to a termination of the war--a recognition of
the irrevocable nature of this policy, or the reiteration of
menacing protests against it? And there is another respect in
which I fear this resolution is little calculated to promote that
speedy restoration of peace which we have all at heart. I refer
to the tone of aggressive exaggeration which characterises its
allusions to the conduct of the war. No doubt the resolution is
mild compared with some of the speeches by which it was
supported, just as those speeches themselves were mild compared
with much that we are now too well accustomed to hear and to
read, in the way of misrepresentation and abuse of the British
Government, British statesmen, British soldiers, the British
people. But even the resolution, mild in comparison with such
excesses, is greatly lacking in that sobriety and accuracy which
it is so necessary for all of us to cultivate in these days of
bitterly inflamed passions. It really is preposterous to talk,
among other things, about 'the extermination of a white
nationality,' or to give any sort of countenance to the now fully
exploded calumny about the ill-treatment of women and children.
The war, gentlemen, has its horrors--every war has. Those horrors
increase as it becomes more irregular on the part of the enemy,
thus necessitating severer measures on the part of the Imperial
troops. But, having regard to the conditions, it is one of the
most humane wars that has ever been waged in history. It has
been humane, I contend, on both sides, which does not, of course,
mean that on both sides there have not been isolated acts
deserving of condemnation. Still, the general direction, the
general spirit on both sides, has been humane. But it is another
question whether the war on the side of the enemy is any longer
justifiable. It is certainly not morally justifiable to carry on
a resistance involving the loss of many lives and the destruction
of an immense quantity of property, when the object of that
resistance can no longer, by any possibility, be attained. No
doubt, great allowance must be made for most of the men still
under arms, though it is difficult to defend the conduct of their
leaders in deceiving them. The bulk of the men still in the field
are buoyed up with false hopes. They are incessantly fed with
lies--lies as to their own chance of success, and, still worse,
as to the intention of the British Government with regard to them
should they surrender. And for that very reason it seems all the
more regrettable that anything should be said or done here which
could help still further to mislead them, still further to
encourage a resistance which creates the very evils that these
people are fighting to escape. It is because I am sincerely
convinced that a resolution of this character, like the meeting
at which it was passed, like the whole agitation of which that
meeting is part, is calculated, if it has any effect at all,
still further to mislead the men who are engaged in carrying on
this hopeless struggle, that I feel bound, in sending it to Her
Majesty's Government, to accompany it with this expression of my
strong personal dissent."[231]

[Footnote 231: Cd. 547.]

The comment of Ons Land upon Lord Milner's reply to the Worcester Congress deputation was an open defiance of the Imperial authorities and a scarcely veiled incitement to rebellion. Mr. Advocate Malan, the editor, who had been elected for the Malmesbury Division upon the retirement of Mr. Schreiner--now rejected by the Bond--wrote:[232]

[Footnote 232: As stated in a Central News telegram,
published in London on December 14th, 1900.]

"Sir Alfred Milner considers the request of the Afrikanders for
peace and justice unreasonable. The agitation has now reached the
end of the first period--that of pleading and petitioning. A deaf
ear has been turned to the cry of the Afrikanders and their
Church. But the battle for justice will continue from a different
standpoint--by mental and material powers. The path will be hard,
and sacrifices will be required, but the victory will be
glorious!"

There were, of course, some voices that were raised, among both the republican and colonial Dutch, in favour of more moderate counsels. In the preceding month (November) Mr. Melius de Villiers, the late Chief Justice of the Free State, wrote to a Dutch Reformed minister in the Cape Colony to beg him to use all his influence against the efforts being made in the Cape Colony to encourage the Boers to continue the struggle. "However much I loved and valued the independence of the Free State," he says, "it is now absolutely certain that the struggle on the part of the burghers is a hopeless and useless one." And he then suggests that the Dutch Reformed ministers in the Cape Colony, instead of petitioning the Queen to grant the independence of the Republics, should intercede with ex-President Steyn and the Federal leaders and induce them to discontinue the fight. Women's Congresses and People's Congresses, held to denounce the barbarities perpetrated in the war, will avail nothing; but the Dutch Reformed Church could fulfil no higher mission than this genuine peace-making. "It may go against their grain to urge our people to yield," he adds, "but it seems to me a plain duty."[233] But such voices were powerless to counteract the effect produced upon the Boers by the demonstrations of hatred against the British Government, manifested by men whose minds had been inflamed by the infamous slanders of the Imperial troops to which the "conciliation" movement had given currency.

[Footnote 233: Cd. 547.]

[Sidenote: Second invasion of the colony.]

On the morning of December 16th, five days after he had received the Worcester Congress deputation, Lord Milner heard that the burgher forces had again crossed the Orange River between Aliwal North and Bethulie. Before them lay hundreds of miles of country full of food and horses, and inhabited by people who were in sympathy with them. On the 20th martial law was proclaimed in twelve additional districts. On the 17th of the following month the whole of the Cape Colony, with the exception of Capetown, Simon's Town, Wynberg, Port Elizabeth, East London, and the native territories, was placed under the same military rule. In the words of a protest subsequently addressed by the Burgher Peace Committee to their Afrikander brethren, the "fatal result of the Worcester Congress had been that the commandos had again entered the Cape Colony." The friends of the Boers in England, duped by the Afrikander nationalists, had involved England and South Africa in a year and a half of costly, destructive, and unnecessary war.

Parent Category: Books
Category: Worsfold: Lord Milner's Work in South Africa
Hits: 2096