[Sidenote: The gold industry re-started.]
With the beginning of the year 1902, the question of the ultimate submission of the Boers had become a matter of months, or even weeks. The guerilla leaders had been beaten at their own game. In spite of the extension of the area of the war, the terrorising of the peaceably inclined burghers, the co-operation of the Afrikander nationalists, and the encouragement derived from Boer sympathisers in England, the most important districts of the Transvaal and half of the Orange River Colony were being restored to the pursuits of peace. The great industry of South Africa was re-established, and agriculture was not only resumed but even developing upon more enlightened principles within the protected areas of the two colonies; while in the Orange River Colony 150 new British settlers had been planted upon farms before the terms of the Vereeniging surrender were signed. The story of this steady progress is told by the mere items in the monthly records furnished by Lord Milner to the Home Government. The gold industry of the Rand recommenced in May, 1901, when, with permission to set 150 stamps at work, 7,439 oz. of gold were won. Up to November, when, as we have seen, the military situation for the first time permitted any considerable body of refugees to return, progress was slow; but in this month the output amounted to 32,000 oz. in round numbers. In December the number of stamps working had risen to 953, and the output to 52,897 oz. Henceforward the advance was rapid and sustained. In the remaining five months of the war (January to May, 1902), the number of stamps at work rose to 2,095, the monthly output to 138,600 oz., of the value of £600,000, and 30,000 additional British refugees had been brought back to their homes on the Rand, in view of the increasing certainty of employment afforded by the expanding gold industry. Thus, before the surrender of the Boer forces in the field, half of the British population had been restored to the Transvaal, and the gold industry had been so far re-established that its production had reached one-third of the highest annual rate attained before the war broke out. Nor must it be forgotten that during these last months the conditions of the refugee camps were being steadily improved, until, as already noted, the death-rate was ultimately reduced below the normal.
The Home Government had been unprepared for the military struggle precipitated by the ultimatum; Lord Milner was determined that, so far as his efforts could avail, it should not be unprepared for the economic conflict for which peace would be the signal. In a despatch of January 25th, 1902, he urged once more upon Mr. Chamberlain the importance of settling British colonists upon the land, and pressed for a "decision on the main issues" raised by this question.
[Sidenote: Land settlement.]
"This subject has for long occupied my attention," he wrote,
"and, in a tentative way, a good deal has been done. But we have
reached a point where little more progress can be made without a
decision on the main issues. The question is, whether British
colonisation is to be undertaken on a large and effective scale,
under Government control and with Government assistance, or to be
left to take care of itself, with whatever little help and
sympathy an Administration, devoid of any general plan, and with
no special funds devoted to the particular purpose, can give
it.... The principal consideration is the necessity of avoiding a
sharp contrast and antagonism in the character and sentiments of
the population between the country districts and the towns. If we
do nothing, we shall be confronted, sooner or later, with an
industrial urban population, rapidly increasing, and almost
wholly British in sentiment, and, on the other hand, a rural
population, wholly Dutch, agriculturally unprogressive. It is not
possible to contemplate such a state of affairs without grave
misgivings. We shall have to reinstate the bulk of our prisoners
upon their farms, and provide them with the means of starting
life anew, but unless we at the same time introduce some new
element we may be simply laying up the material for further
trouble. The land will remain as neglected, the attitude of the
rural population as unprogressive, and as much out of sympathy
with British ideas as ever.... To satisfy these demands, it is
clear that no small and makeshift scheme will suffice. Land
settlement must be undertaken on a large scale; otherwise,
however useful, it will be politically unimportant.
"The time is fast approaching when it will be absolutely
necessary to raise loans for both new colonies to meet expenses
arising immediately out of the war. I wish to place on record my
profound conviction that unless, in raising these loans, we
provide a substantial sum for the purchase of land and the
settlement thereon of farmers of British race, an opportunity
will be lost which will never recur, and the neglect of which
will have the most prejudicial effect on the future peace and
prosperity of South Africa. I do not, indeed, ask that these
first loans should include a sum as large as may ultimately be
required if land settlement is to assume the proportions which I
contemplate. But, if our first considerable undertakings in this
line are proving themselves successful, I foresee no difficulty
in obtaining more money later on, should we require it. What I do
fear is a check now, when we ought to be in a position to seize
every possible opportunity of getting hold of land suitable to
our purpose, and of retaining in the country such men as we want
to put on it. If we lose the next year or two we lose the game,
and without that power of acting promptly, which a ready command
of money alone can give, we shall begin to throw away
opportunities from this moment at which I am writing onwards.
"What I want to put plainly to His Majesty's Government are these
two questions: (1) Are we to be allowed to go on purchasing good
land, by voluntary agreement wherever possible, but compulsorily,
if necessary? And, assuming this question to be answered in the
affirmative, (2) what amount shall we be able to dispose of for
this purpose in the immediate future?"
[Footnote 319: Cd. 1,163.]
It had been arranged during Lord Milner's last visit to England that the large expenditure inevitably arising out of the economic reconstruction and future development of the new colonies, should be provided by a loan secured upon their assets and revenues. The purposes for which this immediate outlay was especially required were the acquisition of the existing railways and the construction of new lines, land settlement, the repatriation of the Boers, and the compensation of loyalists for war losses both in the new colonies and in the Cape and Natal. Lord Milner now proposed that the Home Government should decide to appropriate, out of the funds to be thus raised, a sum of £3,000,000 to land settlement, and that of this sum £2,000,000 should be spent in the Transvaal and £1,000,000 in the Orange Colony. The "development" loan, as it was called, was not issued until after Mr. Chamberlain's visit to South Africa in the (South African) summer of 1902-3; but Lord Milner's proposal was approved in principle, and he was enabled to employ the limited resources at his disposal in the purchase of blocks of land suitable for the purposes of agriculture in both colonies.
Apart from the progress thus achieved in this matter of supreme importance, as Lord Milner deemed it, to the future of South Africa, the preparation of the administrative machinery, the matériel of transport, and the supplies of all kinds required for the repatriation of the Boers, was pushed forward with increasing activity. At the same time certain other administrative questions were brought by him to the consideration of the Home Government during these months (January to May, 1902), with the result that the ink was scarcely dry upon the Treaty of Surrender before he was able to ask for, and obtain, decisions upon them.
[Sidenote: On the eve of peace.]
The telegrams which passed between Lord Milner and the Colonial Office on these matters, during the weeks immediately preceding and following the Vereeniging surrender, are significant. Beside the clear thrust of Lord Milner's calculated energy, Mr. Chamberlain's efforts to keep pace with the needs of the situation sink into comparative inertia. On April 18th Lord Milner telegraphs the particulars of the 10 per cent. tax which he proposes to levy on the net produce of the mining industry. The rate is high--twice as high as the gold tax under the Republic--and will yield an annual revenue of £500,000 or £600,000 on a basis of the present normal production of the mines; but he believes that it will be "accepted without serious opposition, if it is imposed while the industry is rapidly advancing." And he expresses the hope that the explanation which he has furnished will be "sufficient to show the principles" of the tax, and that he may publicly announce the decision on this matter of such general economic importance at once. Mr. Chamberlain, however, requires further information; and we find Lord Milner telegraphing on June 2nd: "I trust you will now agree to the tax on the profits of gold mines; I am anxious to publish the Proclamation in next Friday's Gazette." And to this Mr. Chamberlain replies on June 4th, "I agree to the imposition of a 10 per cent. tax on the profits of gold mines." On June 2nd, that is, two days after the terms of surrender have been signed at Pretoria, Lord Milner sends a "most urgent" telegram on the immediate financial position:
"The departments are still very busy with the estimates of the
new colonies and Constabulary. They are rather late this year,
but that was quite unavoidable. The result promises to be good.
We can pay for all normal expenditure and the 6,000 South African
Constabulary out of revenue. But, as you know, there is nothing
provided for the various extraordinary items which have been
hitherto financed out of the £500,000 grant for relief and
re-settlement. In all my estimates I have relied on a loan for
this. As I understand, the loan is deferred. As the £500,000 is
nearly exhausted, and it would be disastrous if land settlement,
which latter is at last making good progress, were stopped,
especially at this juncture, I would ask for immediate authority
to spend another £500,000 on these purposes. This is independent
of the amounts which will be required under the last clause of
the Terms of Surrender, about which I will address you
immediately. I earnestly hope that there may be no delay in
acceding to this request. The work to be got through in the
immediate future is so enormous that, unless we can get the
fundamental questions of finance settled promptly, a breakdown
is inevitable. It would be a great relief to my mind to feel that
services already started and working well were provided for at
least for some months ahead, before I plunge into the new and
heavy job of restoring the Boer population, which will require
all my attention in the immediate future."
[Footnote 320: Cd. 1,163.]
Mr. Chamberlain's reply comes on June 18th:
"You may incur expenditure up to £500,000 more for relief and
re-settlement, pending the issue of the loan."
On June 10th Lord Milner telegraphs an outline scheme for repatriating the Boers. "As time presses," he concludes, "I am going ahead on these lines; but I am anxious to know that they have your general approval." The reply, dated June 18th, is: "The proposals are approved generally. Send by post a report on the details of the arrangement and the persons appointed." At the same time Lord Milner has been pressing for a decision on the question of land settlement. He has sent a despatch on May 9th containing full particulars of the terms upon which it is proposed to offer and to suitable applicants; and he now telegraphs, on June 20th:
[Sidenote: "It is vital to make a start".]
"If you could agree generally to the terms in my despatch, I
would immediately deal with some of the most pressing cases on
those lines. The terms may be improved upon later; meanwhile it
is vital to make a start."
There is land available, and there are men available--over-sea colonists, and yeomen with a knowledge of agriculture, who have fought in the war, and have, therefore, a first claim to be considered. But these desirable settlers cannot afford to wait in a country like South Africa, where the cost of living is abnormally high, without a definite prospect of employment.
"Unless something is done at once," he says, "there will be
bitter complaint. [The Transvaal] Government is already being
severely, though unjustly, criticised for the delay."
This is answered by Mr. Chamberlain's telegram of July 7th, in which he "concurs generally" in Lord Milner's proposals, and leaves him "full discretion to deal with the details of the scheme, which it is not possible to criticise effectively" in London.
In a telegram of June 21st we get the announcement of the formal initiation of Crown Colony government:
"I have this day read and published the Letters Patent," Lord
Milner says, "constituting the Government of the Transvaal, and
my Commission; and I have taken the prescribed oath."
And on July 3rd he suggests that an announcement should be made at once of the intention of the Home Government to enlarge the Legislative Councils of both colonies by the admission of a non-official element:
[Sidenote: Colonists and the settlement.]
"I felt at one time that in the case of the Transvaal this would
be unworkable," he adds, "but my present opinion is strongly to
the effect that we should seize the opportunity of the present
improved feeling between the Dutch and British in the new
colonies to commence co-operation between them in the conduct of
To this proposal Mr. Chamberlain gives his approval in a brief telegram of July 7th.
[Footnote 321: Cd. 1,163.]
Bare and jejune as are these telegrams, they tell us something of the spirit of relentless vigour by which Lord Milner drove the cumbrous wheels of Downing Street into quicker revolutions at the shifting of the scenes from war to peace. Within six weeks of the surrender of Vereeniging he was fully engaged in what he afterwards called "the tremendous effort, wise or unwise in various particulars, made after the war, not only to repair its ravages, but also to re-start the new colonies on a far higher plane of civilisation than they had ever previously attained." The story of this "tremendous effort," with its economic problems and its political agitations, must be reserved for a separate volume. It only remains, therefore, to relate the part which Lord Milner played in determining the conditions under which the republican Dutch were incorporated into the system of British South Africa.
[Footnote 322: At Johannesburg, March 31st, 1905. From The
Before we approach the actual circumstances which accompanied the surrender of the Boer forces in the field, it is necessary to recall the exchange of views on the subject of the settlement of the new colonies which took place between the Imperial authorities and the Governments of the Cape and Natal in the early months of the preceding year (1901). In these communications--the origin of which has been mentioned previously--the significance attached by loyalist opinion in South Africa to certain questions, necessarily left undetermined in Mr. Chamberlain's pronouncements of the general policy of the British Government, was fully disclosed. The Cape ministers, while recognising that full representative self-government should be conferred at an early date, unhesitatingly affirmed the necessity of maintaining a system of Crown Colony government until "such time as it was certain that representative institutions could be established, due regard being had to the paramount necessity of maintaining and strengthening British supremacy in the colonies in question." And as, in their opinion, "this consummation would be ultimately assured and materially strengthened by a large influx of immigrants favourably disposed to British rule," they expressed the hope that "no time would be lost after the conclusion of the war in putting into effect a large scheme of land settlement." More than this, with the object-lesson of the actual breakdown of representative government in their own Colony before their eyes, they added a recommendation that this British immigration should not be confined to the new colonies, but that a portion of the funds to be provided by the Imperial Government for this purpose should be allocated to the Cape Colony.
[Footnote 323: See p. 489.]
[Sidenote: The language question.]
In the minute furnished by the Natal Ministry the question of the settlement of the new colonies was discussed in greater detail, and in particular attention was drawn to the opportunities for the promotion of a federal union of British South Africa, which the establishment of British government in the former Republics would afford. The settlement of the new colonies, in their opinion, should be so treated as to become a preliminary stage in the creation of a federal administration which "should be accomplished, if possible, before intercolonial jealousies and animosities should have had time to crystallise and become formidable." The Natal ministers, therefore, insisted upon the importance of measures calculated to secure the predominance of the English language in the new colonies. In support of this recommendation they pointed out that the preservation of the "Taal" is purely a matter of sentiment. The Boer vernacular, so called, "has neither a literature nor a grammar"; it is distinct from "the Dutch language used in public offices and official documents." No one acquainted with the conditions of Boer life will dispute the truth of this contention. The Boer child, if he is to receive an education sufficient to qualify him for the public services, or for a professional or commercial career, must in any case learn a second language; and since to learn the Dutch of Holland is no less difficult--probably more difficult--to him than to learn English, the desire to have Dutch taught in schools in preference to English becomes a matter of political sentiment, and not of practical convenience. On the other hand, the strongest reasons exist for making English the common language of both races. Apart from its superiority to Dutch as the literary vehicle of the Anglo-Saxon world and the language of commerce, the predominance of the English language is a matter which vitally affects the success of British policy in South Africa.
"The general good of the new colonies and of South Africa
generally," the Natal ministers wrote, "requires the predominance
of the English language. The language question has done more,
probably, than anything else to separate the races and to provoke
They, therefore, recommend that--
"English should be the official and predominant language in the
higher courts, and in the public service--combined with such
concessions in favour of Dutch as justice, convenience, and
circumstances may require. Dutch interpreters should be attached
to all courts and to the principal public offices, and their
services should be available free of charge, in civil as well as
in criminal cases. English should be the medium of instruction in
all secondary schools, and in all standards in primary schools
situated in English districts, and in the higher standards in all
other primary schools. Dutch should be the medium of instruction
meanwhile in the lower forms in the Dutch districts, and it
should be taught in all schools where there is a reasonable
demand for it."
[Footnote 324: Cd. 1,163.]
On the question of disarmament they wrote:
"In order to secure complete pacification, disarmament is
necessary. Re-armament should not be allowed until both the new
colonies are considered fit for self-government, and even then
the carrying of arms and the issuing of ammunition should be
contingent on the taking of the oath of allegiance."
[Sidenote: The native question.]
On the subject of the treatment of the natives in the new colonies, the remarks of the Natal ministers are weighty and pertinent.
"For a long while," they wrote, "the natives cannot be given
political rights. The grant of such rights would have the effect
of alienating the sympathy of English and Dutch alike, and would
materially prejudice the good government of the new colonies, and
be provocative of racial bitterness. In the meantime the natives
should be taught habits of steady industry.
"Officers appointed over the natives should be acquainted with
their language and customs.
"The assumption in England that colonists are unjust and brutal
to the natives has worked great harm, and both Dutch and English
have suffered from its influence.
"A native policy out of sympathy with colonial views is likely,
owing to the past history of South Africa, to arouse so strong a
feeling that even the just rights of natives would be
disregarded. It is essential, in the interests of the natives
themselves, generally, that the Home Government should work in
accord with colonial sentiments as a whole, and the great
influence of a colonial minister in sympathy with colonists will
secure far more reforms than will any attempt to over-rule local
[Footnote 325: Cd. 1,163.]
As one of certain immediately practicable steps in the direction of South African unity, the Natal Ministry advocated "reciprocity" in the learned professions and the Civil Services of the several colonies. To effect this purpose they recommended that uniform tests of professional qualifications should be adopted throughout South Africa, and that public officers should be allowed to proceed from the civil service of one colony to that of another, their separate periods of service counting as continuous "for pension and other purposes." They also put forward a claim for the incorporation of certain districts of the Transvaal and Orange River Colony into Natal. The justice of this claim, in so far as it referred to a portion of Zululand wrongfully annexed by the Transvaal Boers, was recognised by the Imperial Government, and the district in question was transferred to Natal on the termination of the war.
As High Commissioner, Lord Milner was bound to prevent the grant of any terms to the Boers inconsistent with the future maintenance of British supremacy in South Africa, now re-established at so great a cost. As the representative man of the British in South Africa, he was no less bound to see that the terms of surrender contained no concessions to the separatist aspirations of the Boer people calculated to form an obstacle to the future administrative union of the South African colonies. With this two-fold responsibility laid upon him, it is not surprising that his view both of what might be conceded safely to the Boer leaders, and of how it might be conceded, was somewhat different from that of the Commander-in-Chief. That the Boers themselves were conscious of being likely to get more favourable terms from Lord Kitchener than from the High Commissioner, is apparent from the anxiety which they displayed to deal exclusively with the former. In this object, however, they were entirely unsuccessful, since the Home Government indicated from the first their desire that Lord Milner should be present at the meetings for negotiation; and in the end the terms of surrender were drafted by him with the assistance of Sir Richard Solomon, the legal adviser to the Transvaal Administration.
[Sidenote: The peace negotiations.]
The actual circumstances in which the Vereeniging negotiations originated were these. Early in the year 1902, when, as we have seen, the ultimate success of the military operations directed by Lord Kitchener was assured, the Netherlands Government communicated their readiness to mediate between the British Government and the Governments of the South African Republic and the Orange Free State, with a view to the termination of hostilities. To this offer the British Government replied that, while they were sincerely desirous of terminating the war, the only persons whom they could recognise as competent to negotiate for peace were the leaders of the Boer forces in the field. Lord Kitchener was directed, however, to forward a copy of the correspondence between the British and Netherlands Governments to the Boer leaders. In acknowledging this communication Mr. Schalk Burger, as acting President of the South African Republic, informed Lord Kitchener that he was prepared to treat for peace, but that before doing so he wished to see President Steyn. He, therefore, asked for a safe-conduct through the British lines and back to effect this purpose. On March 13th, 1902, the Home Government authorised Lord Kitchener to grant this request, if "he and Lord Milner agreed in thinking it desirable." As the result of the consultation between Schalk Burger and Steyn, a conference of the Free State and Transvaal leaders was held at Klerksdorp, at which it was decided, on April 10th, to request the British Commander-in-Chief to receive representatives of the Boers personally, "time and place to be appointed by him, in order to lay before him direct peace proposals." The approval of the Home Government having been obtained, President Steyn, Mr. Schalk Burger, and Generals Botha, De Wet, and De la Rey met Lord Kitchener and Lord Milner on April 12th, at Pretoria. The proposals which the Boer representatives then put forward were wholly inadmissible. Nevertheless, Lord Kitchener telegraphed them to London with the remark:
"I have assured [the Boer representatives] that His Majesty's
Government will not accept any proposals which would maintain the
independence of the Republics, as this would do, and that they
must expect a refusal."
[Sidenote: Independence refused.]
On the day following the British Government replied that they could not
"entertain any proposals which were based upon the former
independence of the Republics, which had been formally annexed to
the British Crown."
Upon learning this reply President Steyn and his colleagues took up the position that they were not competent to surrender the independence of their country, since only the "people," meaning thereby the burghers still in the field, could do this. They asked, therefore, for an armistice to enable them to consult the burghers. This request was refused on the ground that no basis of agreement had, as yet, been reached. The Boer representatives then asked that the British Government should state the "terms which they were prepared to grant, subsequent to a relinquishment of independence"; while they on their side undertook to refer these terms to the people, "without any expression of approval or disapproval." In answer to this proposal Lord Kitchener was authorised to refer the Boer representatives to the offer made by him to General Botha at Middelburg twelve months before.
"We have received," telegraphed the Secretary for War on April
16th, "with considerable surprise the message from the Boer
leaders contained in your telegram of 14th April.
"The meeting was arranged at their request, and they must have
been aware of our repeated declarations that we could not
entertain any proposals based on the renewed independence of the
two South African States. We were, therefore, entitled to assume
that the Boer representatives had relinquished the idea of
independence, and would propose terms of surrender for the forces
still in the field.
"They now state that they are constitutionally incompetent to
discuss terms which do not include a restoration of independence,
but request us to inform them what conditions would be granted
if, after submitting the matter to their followers, they were to
relinquish the demand for independence.
"This does not seem to us to be a satisfactory method of
proceeding, or one best adapted to secure, at the earliest
moment, a cessation of the hostilities which have involved the
loss of so much life and treasure.
"We are, however, as we have been from the first, anxious to
spare the effusion of further blood, and to hasten the
restoration of peace and prosperity to the countries afflicted by
the war; and you and Lord Milner are therefore authorised to
refer the Boer leaders to the offer made by you to General Botha
more than twelve months ago, and to inform them that,
although the subsequent great reduction in the strength of the
forces opposed to us, and the additional sacrifice thrown upon us
by the refusal of that offer would justify us in imposing far
more onerous terms, we are still prepared, in the hope of a
permanent peace and reconciliation, to accept a general surrender
on the lines of that offer, but with such modifications in detail
as may be agreed upon mutually.
"You are also authorised to discuss such modifications with them,
and to submit the result for our approval.
"Communicate this to the High Commissioner."
[Footnote 326: For these, the "Middelburg" or "Botha" terms,
see above, p. 471, and forward; p. 568, note 2.]
[Footnote 327: Cd. 1,096.]
[Sidenote: Consulting the Burghers.]
Upon learning the contents of this telegram, the Boer representatives put forward the request that their "deputation" in Europe, Mr. Abraham Fischer, Mr. Cornelius Wessels, and Mr. Wolmarans, might be allowed to return to South Africa to take part in the negotiations, and again asked for an armistice while the return of the deputation and the subsequent meetings of the burghers were taking place. Both these requests were refused on military grounds; but Lord Kitchener was willing to grant facilities to the Boer leaders to consult the burghers, and arrangements were made in the course of the next two days (April 17th-19th) for representatives of the Boer commandos in the field--exclusive of those in the Cape Colony--to be elected, and meet at Vereeniging, a small town on the Vaal near the border of the two colonies, on May 13th or 15th. During the month that followed, every possible assistance was rendered by the Commander-in-Chief to the Boer leaders with the object of enabling them to carry out these arrangements. Safe-conducts, under flags of truce, and passes for their officers and messengers, were freely granted; and the localities chosen for the commando assemblies, the places and dates of which had been notified to Lord Kitchener before the Boer representatives left Pretoria, were "scrupulously avoided" by the British troops. In spite, however, of the restrictions imposed upon the activity of the forces under his command, Lord Kitchener was able to report, on June 1st, that "good progress" had been made in the work of the campaign up to the actual cessation of hostilities.
[Footnote 328: This deputation was despatched in March, 1900,
to "win the sympathy of the nations," in De Wet's words.]
[Footnote 329: Cd. 986.]
The sixty Boer representatives--two for each commando--thus assembled at Vereeniging appointed, on May 18th, a special commission to treat for peace. The commissioners, who included Commandant-Generals Louis Botha and Christian De Wet, Generals Hertzog, De la Rey and Smuts, and President Steyn, Acting President Schalk Burger, and other civilians, proceeded at once to Pretoria, where, on May 19th, they met Lord Kitchener and Lord Milner in conference, and put forward the following three proposals as a basis of negotiation:
[Footnote 330: A full list of the names is to be found in the
Draft Terms of Surrender at p. 564.]
[Sidenote: The terms drafted.]
"(1) We are prepared to surrender our independence as regards
foreign relations. (2) We wish to retain self-government under
British supervision. (3) We are prepared to surrender a part of
What then happened can be told in the words of Lord Kitchener's telegram to the Secretary for War:
"Lord Milner and I refused to accept these terms as a basis for
negotiation, as they differ essentially from the principles laid
down by His Majesty's Government. After a long discussion,
nothing was decided, and it was determined to meet in the
afternoon. The Commission met again at 4 p.m., when Lord Milner
proposed a form of document that might be submitted to the
burghers for a 'Yes' or 'No' vote. There was a good deal of
objection to this, but it was agreed finally that Lord Milner
should meet Smuts and Hertzog with a view of drafting, as far as
possible, an acceptable document on the Botha lines. They
will meet to-morrow for that purpose. Lord Milner stipulated for
the assistance of Sir Richard Solomon in the preparation of the
[Footnote 331: These were the "Middelburg terms" of a year
ago. See note 2, p. 568.]
[Footnote 332: Cd. 1,096.]
The "long discussion" of May 19th, to which Lord Kitchener refers, is to be found in the minutes of the conferences held at Pretoria between May 19th and 28th. It affords an exhibition of gross disingenuousness on the part of the Boer commissioners. Almost in the same breath they allege that their proposal is "not necessarily in contradiction to" the Middelburg terms; admit that there is a "fundamental difference" between the two proposals, but ask that their own may be accepted, nevertheless, as the basis of negotiation; and finally maintain that, as it is "nearly equivalent" to the Middelburg terms, they need not "insist so much" upon it. To all this Lord Milner has but one answer: "It is impossible for us to take your proposal into consideration."
[Footnote 333: Smuts.]
[Footnote 334: Hertzog.]
[Footnote 335: De Wet.]
[Footnote 336: Botha.]
[Sidenote: Payment of Boer war debts.]
On May 21st the document drafted by Lord Milner and Sir R. Solomon in consultation with Mr. Smuts (General and ex-State Attorney of the Transvaal) and Mr. Hertzog (General and late Judge of the Free State High Court) on the preceding day, was read at a plenary meeting of the negotiators. In the main the document was accepted with little demur; but a long discussion arose on the question of the degree in which the the British Government would recognise the debts incurred by military and civil officers of the late Republics in the course of the war. The Boers desired that all Government notes and all receipts given by their officers for goods, whether commandeered or not, should be recognised to be part of the liabilities of the Republican Governments for which the new Government was to become responsible. Lord Milner, on the other hand, expressed the opinion that such a demand was very unreasonable. The British Government would take over, with the assets of the Republican Governments, all liabilities existing at the time when the war broke out, but it could not be expected to pay for expenses actually incurred by the Boer leaders in carrying on a war against itself, which was, in its later stages, at any rate, utterly indefensible. The British people, he said--
"would much prefer to pay a large sum at the conclusion of
hostilities with the object of bettering the condition of the
people who have been fighting against them, than to pay a much
smaller sum to meet the costs incurred by the Republics during
As, however, the principle of the recognition of these notes and receipts had been conceded in the Middelburg terms, he was willing, with Lord Kitchener's concurrence, to refer the matter to the Home Government, although he disapproved of the clause in question in the Middelburg terms.
This point was thus left to be settled by the Home Government, and the clause which they drafted to deal with it was that which ultimately became Article X. of the Terms of Surrender. That clause represented a compromise between the desire of the Boer leaders to have a definite sum allotted for the payment of debts contracted by them in the course of the war, and Lord Milner's desire to ignore these debts but to make a free grant for the relief of the Boer people. The British Government followed Lord Milner in making such a free grant--£3,000,000--and in rejecting the claim of the Boer leaders that this sum should be devoted to the payment of the promissory notes and receipts issued by them but it nevertheless allowed such notes and receipts to be submitted "as evidence of war losses" to the commissioners who were to be appointed to distribute the £3,000,000 grant.
The minutes of these discussions reveal very clearly the difference in the respective attitudes of the High Commissioner and the Commander-in-Chief. Lord Kitchener was the humane and successful general, anxious to bring the miseries of the war to an end, and anxious, too, to close a campaign which, in spite of its difficult and arduous character, had afforded little or no opportunity of reaping military honours commensurate to the skill and endurance of the army or the sacrifices of the nation. Lord Milner was the far-sighted statesman, responsible for the future well-being of British South Africa, and, above all, the jealous trustee of the rights and interests of the empire. At this meeting, when the draft terms are being discussed before they are telegraphed to London, Lord Milner is exceedingly careful to point out to the Boer commissioners that the actual text of the document, as expressed in English, when once accepted, must be regarded as the sole record of the terms of surrender. After reading the proposed draft, he says: "If we come to an agreement, it will be the English document which will be wired to England, on which His Majesty's Government will decide, and which will be signed." To Mr. Smuts' suggestion that it is not necessary to place a "formal clause" in the draft agreement, if the British Government is prepared to meet the Boer commissioners in a particular matter, he replies:
"As I look at the matter, the Government is making certain
promises in this document, and I consider that all promises to
which a reference may be made later should appear in it.
Everything to which the Government is asked to bind itself should
appear in this document, and nothing else. I do not object to
clauses being added, but I wish to prevent any possible
[Sidenote: Lord Milner's vigilance.]
And again, in the course of the same meeting, we find him saying: "You must put in writing every point that strikes you, and let them be laid before His Majesty's Government." And, to prevent any possible misconstruction of Lord Kitchener's statement, "there is a pledge that the matter [the question of the payment of receipts] will be properly considered," he says:
"Yes, naturally, if we put anything down in writing. I am
convinced that it is necessary to make it quite clear that this
document must contain everything about which there is anything in
the form of a pledge."
And before telegraphing the draft agreement to the Home Government he draws the attention of the commissioners in the most explicit language to the fact that the Middelburg proposal has been "completely annulled"; and that, therefore, if the draft agreement should be signed, there must be "no attempt to explain the document, or its terms, by anything in the Middelburg proposal."
The greatness of the debt owed by England and the empire to Lord Milner for the inflexible determination with which he penetrated, unmasked, and finally baffled the tortuous diplomacy of the Boer commissioners may be estimated from the fact that within three months of the signing of the Surrender Agreement at Pretoria, three out of their number asked the British Government to re-open the discussion and make, what Mr. Chamberlain rightly termed, "an entirely new agreement." As it was, Lord Milner's faultless precision during the whole progress of the negotiations at Pretoria provided the Home Government with a complete answer to the representatives of the Boer "delegates."
"It would not be in accordance with my duty," wrote Mr.
Chamberlain, "to enter upon any discussion of proposals of
this kind, some of which were rejected at the conferences at
Pretoria; while others, which were not even mentioned on those
occasions, would certainly not have been accepted at any time by
His Majesty's Government."
[Footnote 337: Mr. Chamberlain to Generals Botha, De Wet, and
De la Rey, August 28th, 1902. Cd. 1,284.]
[Sidenote: Approval of Home Government.]
At the close of the afternoon meeting (May 21st) the draft agreement was telegraphed to the Home Government. On the 27th Mr. Chamberlain informed Lord Milner by telegram that the Cabinet approved of the submission of this document with certain minor alterations, and with the new clause dealing with the grant of £3,000,000, to the Assembly at Vereeniging. Meanwhile the nature of the penalties to be inflicted upon the colonial rebels, a subject which had been discussed in private conversations between the Boer leaders and Lords Kitchener and Milner, but which was excluded from the "Terms of Surrender," had been settled by communications which had passed between Lord Milner and Mr. Chamberlain and the Governments of the Cape and Natal. The reason for this course was that the Home Government and Lord Milner, while they objected on principle to the treatment of rebels being made part of the agreement with the surrendering enemy, were nevertheless quite willing that the latter should be informed of the clemency which it was, in any case, intended to show to the rebels. The Terms of Surrender, in the form given to them by the Home Government, and the statement of the treatment to be meted out to the rebels by their respective Governments, were communicated to the Boer commissioners on May 28th. At the same time they were distinctly told that His Majesty's Government was not prepared to listen to any suggestion of further modifications of the Terms, but that they must be submitted to the assembly for a "Yes" or "No" vote as an unalterable whole. The Boer commissioners left at 7 o'clock in the evening of the same day for Vereeniging, and on the day following the Terms of Surrender were submitted to the "Yes" or "No" vote of the burgher representatives. One other point had been raised and settled between Lord Milner and the Home Government. Under the Proclamation of August 7th, 1901, certain of the Boer leaders were liable to the penalties of confiscation and banishment. Lord Milner was of opinion, however, that in view of the general surrender this proclamation should be "tacitly dropped," although property already confiscated under its terms could not, of course, be restored; and in this view the Home Government concurred.
The text of the document submitted to the burgher representatives at Vereeniging on May 29th was as follows:
"Draft Agreement as to the Terms of Surrender of the Boer Forces
in the Field, approved by His Majesty's Government.
"His Excellency General Lord Kitchener and his Excellency Lord
Milner, on behalf of the British Government, and Messrs. M. T.
Steyn, J. Brebner, General C. R. De Wet, General C. Olivier, and
Judge J. B. M. Hertzog, acting as the Government of the Orange
Free State, and Messrs. S. W. Burger, F. W. Reitz, Generals Louis
Botha, J. H. Delarey, Lucas Meyer, Krogh, acting as the
Government of the South African Republic, on behalf of their
respective burghers desirous to terminate the present
hostilities, agree on the following articles:
[Sidenote: The surrender agreement.]
"1. The burgher forces in the field will forthwith lay down their
arms, handing over all guns, rifles, and munitions of war in
their possession or under their control, and desist from any
further resistance to the authority of His Majesty King Edward
VII., whom they recognise as their lawful Sovereign. The manner
and details of this surrender will be arranged between Lord
Kitchener and Commandant-General Botha, Assistant
Commandant-General Delarey, and Chief Commandant De Wet.
"2. All burghers in the field outside the limits of the Transvaal
or Orange River Colony, and all prisoners of war at present
outside South Africa who are burghers will, on duly declaring
their acceptance of the position of subjects of His Majesty King
Edward VII., be gradually brought back to their homes as soon as
transport can be provided, and their means of subsistence
"3. The burghers so surrendering or so returning will not be
deprived of their personal liberty or their property.
"4. No proceedings, civil or criminal, will be taken against any
of the burghers surrendering or so returning for any acts in
connection with the prosecution of the war. The benefit of this
clause will not extend to certain acts, contrary to usages of
war, which have been notified by the Commander-in-Chief to the
Boer generals, and which shall be tried by court-martial
immediately after the close of hostilities.
"5. The Dutch language will be taught in public schools in the
Transvaal and Orange River Colony where the parents of the
children desire it, and will be allowed in courts of law when
necessary for the better and more effectual administration of
"6. The possession of rifles will be allowed in the Transvaal and
Orange River Colony to persons requiring them for their
protection, on taking out a licence according to law.
"7. Military administration in the Transvaal and Orange River
Colony will at the earliest possible date be succeeded by civil
government, and, as soon as circumstances permit, representative
institutions, leading up to self-government, will be introduced.
"8. The question of granting the franchise to the natives will
not be decided until after the introduction of self-government.
"9. No special tax will be imposed on landed property in the
Transvaal and Orange River Colony to defray the expenses of the
"10. As soon as conditions permit, a Commission, on which the
local inhabitants will be represented, will be appointed in each
district of the Transvaal and Orange River Colony, under the
presidency of a magistrate or other official, for the purposes of
assisting the restoration of the people to their homes, and
supplying those who, owing to war losses, are unable to provide
themselves with food, shelter, and the necessary amount of seed,
stock, implements, etc., indispensable to the resumption of their
"His Majesty's Government will place at the disposal of these
Commissions a sum of £3,000,000 for the above purposes, and will
allow all notes issued under Law 1 of 1900 of the South African
Republic, and all receipts given by officers in the field of the
late Republics, or under their orders, to be presented to a
Judicial Commission, which will be appointed by the Government,
and if such notes and receipts are found by this Commission to
have been duly issued in return for valuable considerations, they
will be received by the first-named Commissions as evidence of
war losses suffered by the persons to whom they were originally
"In addition to the above-named free grant of £3,000,000, His
Majesty's Government will be prepared to make advances on loan
for the same purposes free of interest for two years, and
afterwards repayable over a period of years with 3 per cent.
interest. No foreigner or rebel will be entitled to the benefit
of this clause."
[Footnote 338: Cd. 1,096. President Steyn was too ill to sign
the Agreement, and De Wet signed first of the Free State
representatives. He was declared President, in the place of
Steyn, at Vereeniging on the 29th.]
[Sidenote: Punishment of rebels.]
To this must be added the following statement as to the punishment of the colonial rebels, a copy of which was handed to the Boer commissioners on May 28th, after it (together with the Terms of Surrender) had been read to them by Lord Milner.
"His Majesty's Government must place it on record that the
treatment of Cape and Natal colonists who have been in rebellion
and who now surrender will, if they return to their colonies, be
determined by the colonial Governments and in accordance with the
laws of the colonies, and that any British subjects who have
joined the enemy will be liable to trial under the law of that
part of the British Empire to which they belong.
"His Majesty's Government are informed by the Cape Government
that the following are their views as to the terms which should
be granted to British subjects of Cape Colony who are now in the
field, or who have surrendered, or have been captured since 12th
"With regard to the rank and file, they should all, upon
surrender, after giving up their arms, sign a document before the
resident magistrate of the district in which the surrender takes
place acknowledging themselves guilty of high treason, and the
punishment to be awarded to them, provided they shall not have
been guilty of murder or other acts contrary to the usages of
civilised warfare, should be that they shall not be entitled for
life to be registered as voters or to vote at any
Parliamentary Divisional Council, or municipal election. With
reference to justices of the peace and field-cornets of Cape
Colony and all other persons holding an official position under
the Government of Cape Colony or who may occupy the position of
commandant of rebel or burgher forces, they shall be tried for
high treason before the ordinary court of the country or such
special court as may be hereafter constituted by law, the
punishment for their offence to be left to the discretion of the
court, with this proviso, that in no case shall the penalty of
death be inflicted.
"The Natal Government are of opinion that rebels should be dealt
with according to the law of the Colony."
[Footnote 339: This was reduced to a period of five years.]
[Footnote 340: Cd. 1,096. As compared with the Middelburg
terms, the terms accepted at Vereeniging were slightly less
favourable to the Boers in respect of permission to possess
arms, and the use of the Dutch language; but the monetary
assistance promised to the repatriated burghers was more
generous. The free grant was raised from one million to three
millions, and the advances on loan were offered for the first
two years free of interest, and subsequently at only three
per cent. The greater destruction of property consequent upon
the prolongation of the war made this increased assistance
necessary and reasonable. It is noticeable, however, that
Lord Milner, alike in the Middelburg and Vereeniging
negotiations, although he was opposed to any payment of the
costs incurred by the Boer leaders in carrying on the war,
was prepared to go even farther than the Home Government in
the direction of a generous treatment of the Boers in all
other matters that concerned their material prosperity.
One variation as between the Middelburg and Vereeniging terms
is noticeable in view of the statement, made in the House of
Commons by the present (1906) Under-Secretary for the
Colonies (Mr. Winston Churchill), that the use of the word
"natives" in clause viii. of the Terms of Surrender prevented
the introduction of any legislation affecting the status of
Asiatics and "coloured persons" in the new colonies prior to
the establishment of self-government. This assertion was
based upon the contention that the word "natives" is
understood by the Boers to indicate the "native of any
country other than those of the European inhabitants of South
Africa." The actual text of the corresponding clause in the
Middelburg terms (Lord Kitchener's despatch of March 20th,
1901, in Cd. 528) is as follows: "As regards the extension of
the franchise to the Kafirs in the Transvaal and Orange River
Colony, it is not the intention of His Majesty's Government
to give such franchise before representative government is
granted to these colonies, and if then given it will be so
limited as to secure the just predominance of the white
races. The legal position of coloured persons will, however,
be similar to that which they hold in Cape Colony." Apart
from the fact that the Boers were debarred by Lord Milner's
specific statements either from going behind the English text
of the Vereeniging Terms of Surrender, or from "explaining
[the Vereeniging Terms] by anything in the Middelburg
proposal," it is difficult to see how this Middelburg clause
could have raised any presumption in the minds of the Boer
commissioners that the English word "native" was intended to
include not only the Kafirs (of which word it is a loose
equivalent, since the dark-skinned native of the Bantu
tribes, or the Kafir, has practically ousted the aboriginal
yellow-skinned natives of South Africa--the Bushmen and
Hottentots), but the "coloured people," or half-castes.
Lord Milner himself declared in the House of Lords (July
31st, 1906) with reference to Mr. Churchill's statement that
the question had not been raised, to the best of his belief,
by the Boer commissioners; and that in any case there was
nothing in the Vereeniging Agreement to prevent the Crown
Colony administration of the new colonies from legislating in
respect of "coloured persons." [And a fortiori in respect
of British Indians.] His words were: "The English text of the
treaty says 'natives' and does not say 'coloured people.' I
think that in the Dutch version the word 'naturellen' was
used. I venture to say that nobody familiar with the common
use of language in South Africa would hold either that
'natives' included coloured people, some of whom very much
more resemble whites than natives, or that 'naturellen'
included 'kleurlingen,' which is the universally accepted
Dutch word in South Africa for coloured people."]
[Sidenote: The last debates.]
[Sidenote: Accepting the inevitable.]
With the departure of the Boer commissioners from Pretoria the final stage of the protracted negotiations had been reached, but it still required three days of discussion (May 29th-31st) before the assembly at Vereeniging could be brought to accept the inevitable. On the morning of the 29th the delegates assembled in the tent provided by the British military authorities, and a report of the proceedings of the peace conferences at Pretoria, drawn up by the Boer commissioners on the preceding evening, was read. Mr. Schalk Burger, as Acting President of the South African Republic, then announced that the meeting was called upon to decide which of three possible courses should be taken--to continue the war, to accept the British terms, or to surrender unconditionally. The rest of the morning sitting, and part of the afternoon sitting, were occupied by the delegates in questioning the commissioners as to the meaning of the various Articles in the Terms of Surrender. According to the understanding between the Boer commissioners and the British authorities, the Surrender Agreement should have been submitted forthwith to the delegates for acceptance or rejection. This course was actually proposed, but a resolution to that effect was immediately negatived on the ground that "the matter was too important to be treated with so much haste." The explanation of the delay is probably to be found in the circumstance that, although the Boer leaders had left Pretoria convinced, as a body, of both the desirability and the necessity of accepting the British terms, each of them was anxious, individually, to avoid any action which would fix the responsibility of the surrender upon himself. They refrained, therefore, as long as possible from any decisive declaration, each one desiring that his neighbour should be the first to speak the final word. And so, instead of the question of submission being put to the vote immediately after the delegates had acquainted themselves with the actual meaning of the Surrender Agreement, two days were consumed in a long and protracted discussion, and the British terms were not accepted until the afternoon of Saturday, the 31st, the latest possible moment within the limit of time fixed by the British Commander-in-Chief. In this long debate Louis Botha consistently advocated submission; but De Wet spoke more than once in favour of continuing the war. One of the arguments used by the Free State Commander-in-Chief is instructive. "Remembering that the sympathy for us, which is to be found in England itself," he said, "may be regarded as being, for all practical purposes, a sort of indirect intervention, I maintain that this terrible struggle must be continued." The really decisive utterance seems to have come in the form of a long and eloquent speech delivered by Mr. Smuts, the substance of which lies in the fine sentence: "We must not sacrifice the Afrikander nation itself upon the altar of independence." From this moment the discussion increased in vehemence, until, in the words of the minutes, "after a time of heated dispute--for every man was preparing himself for the bitter end--they came to an agreement." Then a long resolution, drawn up by Hertzog and Smuts, and empowering the commissioners to sign the Surrender Agreement, was adopted by 54 to 6 votes.
[Footnote 341: The minutes of the final meetings of the
commando representatives--as also those of the earlier
meetings of May 15th to 17th--have been published by General
Christian de Wet in The Three Years' War.]
After the vote on the British terms had been taken, a resolution constituting a committee to collect funds for the destitute Boers was passed; and the Peace Commissioners, having telegraphed the decision of the delegates to Lord Kitchener, hastened back by train to sign the Surrender Agreement at Pretoria.
[Footnote 342: Three of the members of this committee,
Generals Botha, De Wet, and De la Rey, were instructed to
proceed to Europe for the purposes of this appeal.]
Late in the afternoon of May 31st, Lord Milner, who had returned to Johannesburg on the 28th, and had been busily engaged on administrative matters while the discussion at Vereeniging was going on, was informed that Lord Kitchener wished to speak to him on the telephone. Then, along the wire, in the familiar voice of the Commander-in-Chief, came the welcome words: "It is peace." There was just time to pack up and catch the half-past six train, which brought the High Commissioner to Pretoria at a quarter past eight. Lord Milner and his staff, when at Pretoria, habitually stayed at the former British Agency, but this night he dined with Lord Kitchener; and here, at Lord Kitchener's house, the Boer commissioners appeared at about 10 o'clock, and just before eleven (May 31st) the Surrender Agreement was signed.
[Footnote 343: The actual surrender of the arms in the
possession of the burgher and rebel commandos was carried out
with admirable promptitude. Three weeks after the agreement
had been signed Lord Kitchener was able, in a final despatch
from Capetown on June 23rd, to record his "high appreciation
of the unflagging energy and unfailing tact" with which
Generals Louis Botha, De la Rey, and Christian de Wet had
facilitated the work of the British commissioners appointed
to receive the surrender of the burghers in the Transvaal and
Orange River Colony. Nor were the Boer and rebel commandos in
the Cape Colony less expeditious in surrendering to General
French. In all 21,226 burghers and colonial rebels, of whom
11,166 were in the Transvaal, 6,455 in the Orange River
Colony, and 3,635 in the Cape, laid down their arms. Lord
Kitchener's last words (despatches of June 21st and 23rd),
addressed respectively to the Colonial Governments and the
Secretary of State for War, are noticeable and characteristic
utterances. His message to the former was:
"I find it difficult in the short space at my disposal
to acknowledge the deep obligation of the Army in South
Africa to the Governments of Australia, New Zealand,
Canada, Cape Colony, and Natal. I will only say here
that no request of mine was ever refused by any of these
Governments, and that their consideration and generosity
were only equalled by the character and quality of the
troops they sent to South Africa, or raised in that
And of the troops, which under his command had successfully
accomplished a military task of unparalleled difficulty, he
"The protracted struggle which has for so long caused
suffering to South Africa has at length terminated, and
I should fail to do justice to my own feelings if at
this moment I neglected to bear testimony to the
patience, tenacity, and heroism which has been displayed
by all ranks of His Majesty's forces, Imperial and
Colonial, during the whole course of the war. Nothing
but the qualities of bravery and endurance in our troops
could have overcome the difficulties of this campaign,
or have finally enabled the empire to reap the fruits of
all its sacrifices."]
[Sidenote: Admissions of the Boer leaders.]
The words used by the Boer leaders in the course of the debates at Vereeniging afford culminating and conclusive evidence of the hollowness of the two allegations upon which both the Boer sympathisers in England and the hostile critics of the British people abroad, based their denunciations of the policy and conduct of the war in South Africa. The war was unnecessary; it was a war of aggression forced upon the Boers by the British Government, said the enemies of England, and those Englishmen who, like Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman, wrote and spoke as though they belonged to the enemy. Very different is the account of the origin of the war, which Acting President Schalk-Burger gave to the remnant of his fellow countrymen in this day of truth-telling.
"Undoubtedly we began this war strong in the faith of God," he
said; "but there were also one or two other things to rely upon.
We had considerable confidence in our own weapons; we
under-estimated the enemy; the fighting spirit had seized upon
our people; and the thought of victory had banished that of the
possibility of defeat."
And Mr. J. L. Meyer, a member of the Government of the Republic, and one of the few progressive Boers whose judgment had not been clouded by the fever of war passion, said: "In the past I was against the war; I wished that the five years' franchise should be granted;" and this "although the people had opposed" the measure. And Mr. Advocate Smuts, State-Attorney to the late South African Republic, and then a general of the Boer forces in the field, said: "I am one of those who, as members of the Government of the South African Republic, provoked the war with England." This is evidence which we may believe, since in the circumstances in which these men met the Father of Lies himself would have found no occasion for departing from the truth.
[Sidenote: The Burgher camps.]
No less conclusive is the admission, made with perfect frankness now that shifts and deceits and calumnies were no longer of any use, that the Boers, whatever they said, had proved by their acts that they regarded the burgher camps as havens of refuge, not "methods of barbarism"; and that it was Lord Kitchener's refusal to admit any more Boer non-combatants to the shelter of the British lines that brought the guerilla leaders to Pretoria to sue for peace. On May 29th General de Wet, in a last effort to induce the burghers to prolong the war, said:
"I am asked what I mean to do with the women and children. That
is a very difficult question to answer. We must have faith. I
think also we might meet the emergency in this way--a part of the
men should be told off to lay down their arms for the sake of the
women, and then they could take the women with them to the
English in the towns."
But Commandant-General Louis Botha doubted the possibility of any longer carrying this plan into effect.
"When the war began," he said, on May 30th, "we had plenty of
provisions, and a commando could remain for weeks in one spot
without the local food running out. Our families, too, were then
well provided for. But all this is now changed. One is only too
thankful nowadays to know that our wives are under English
protection. This question of our woman-folk is one of our
greatest difficulties. What are we to do with them? One man
answers that some of the burghers should surrender themselves to
the English, and take the women with them. But most of the women
now amongst us are the wives of men already prisoners. And how
can we expect those not their own kith and kin to be willing to
give up liberty for their sakes?"
And at the earlier meeting (May 16th) he said:
"If this meeting decides upon war, it will have to make provision
for our wives and children, who will then be exposed to every
kind of danger. Throughout this war the presence of the women has
caused me anxiety and much distress. At first I managed to get
them into the townships, but later on this became impossible,
because the English refused to receive them. I then conceived the
idea of getting a few of our burghers to surrender, and sending
the women in with them. But this plan was not practicable,
because most of the families were those of prisoners of war, and
the men still on commando were not so closely related to these
families as to be willing to sacrifice their freedom for them."
Equally illuminating is the testimony which General Botha bore to the efficiency of Lord Kitchener's system of blockhouses and protected areas.
[Sidenote: The blockhouse system.]
"A year ago," he said on May 16th, "there were no blockhouses. We
could cross and recross the country as we wished, and harass the
enemy at every turn. But now things wear a very different
aspect. We can pass the blockhouses by night indeed, but never by
day. They are likely to prove the ruin of our commandos."
"There is a natural reason, a military reason, why [we have
managed to hold out so long]. The fact that our commandos have
been spread over so large a tract of country has compelled the
British, up to the present time, to divide their forces. But
things have changed now; we have had to abandon district after
district, and must now operate on a far more limited territory.
In other words, the British Army can at last concentrate its
forces upon us."
To this may be added his admission (May 30th) of the impossibility of again attempting to raise a revolt in the Cape Colony.
"Commander-in-Chief de Wet ... had a large force, and the season
of the year was auspicious for his attempt, and yet he failed.
How then shall we succeed in winter, and with horses so weak that
they can only go op-een-stap?"
[Footnote 344: An onomatopoeic expression for the step of a
Elsewhere the minutes of the burgher meetings afford even more direct evidence of the fact that it was the desperate condition of the Boers, and not any desire to make friends with a generous opponent, that led them to surrender. "To continue the war," says General Botha on May 30th, "must result, in the end, in our extermination."... The terms of the English Government "may not be very advantageous to us, but nevertheless they rescue us from an almost impossible position." And Acting-President Schalk-Burger: "I have no great opinion of the document which lies before us: to me it holds out no inducement to stop the war. If I feel compelled to treat for peace" ... it is because "by holding out I should dig the nation's grave.... Fell a tree, and it will sprout again; uproot it and there is an end of it. What has the nation done to deserve extinction?" De Wet himself and the majority of the Free State representatives advocated the continuation of the war at the Vereeniging meetings. But in the brief description of the final meeting which he gives in his book, he writes:
[Footnote 345: The Three Years' War.]
"There were sixty of us there, and each in turn must answer Yes
or No. It was an ultimatum--this proposal of England. What were
we to do? To continue the struggle meant extermination."
[Sidenote: Boer claim to independence.]
Even more significant than these admissions is the spirit in which the question of submission is discussed. There is no recognition of the moral obliquity of the Boer oligarchy, or of the generosity of the British terms. Physical compulsion is the sole argument to which their minds are open. At the very moment when the sixty representatives agreed to accept the British terms, and thereby to acknowledge the sovereignty of the British Crown, they passed a resolution affirming their "well-founded" claim to "independence." History may well ask, On what was this claim based? Judged by the ethical standard, the Boers had shown themselves utterly unworthy of the administrative autonomy conferred upon them by Great Britain. Judged by the laws of war, they had been saved from the alternatives of physical annihilation or abject submission by the almost quixotic generosity of the enemy who fed and housed their non-combatant population. From a constitutional point of view, the presence of Article IV. in the London Convention was in itself sufficient to refute the claim of the republic to be a "sovereign international state."
[Footnote 346: [The Transvaal Government]--"or rather the
President and his advisers--committed the fatal mistake of
trying to maintain a government which was at the same time
undemocratic and incompetent.... An exclusive government may
be pardoned if it is efficient; an inefficient government, if
it rests upon the people. But a government which is both
inefficient and exclusive incurs a weight of odium under
which it must ultimately sink; and this was the kind of
government which the Transvaal attempted to maintain. They
ought, therefore, to have either extended their franchise or
reformed their administration" (Bryce, Impressions of South
Africa, 2nd Ed., 1900). Mr. Bryce is not likely to have been
unduly severe. "The political sin of the Transvaal against
the Uitlander, therefore, was no mere matter of detail--of
less or more--but was fundamental in its denial of elementary
political right." And again: In the Transvaal "an armed
minority holds the power, compels the majority to pay the
taxes, denies it representation, and misgoverns it with the
money extorted" (Captain Mahan, The Merits of the Transvaal
Dispute, 1900 [included in The Problem of Asia]). To
these, perhaps, I may be permitted to add the following words
spoken by myself in 1894--more than a year before the
Raid--and published in 1895 (South Africa: a Study,
etc.):--"The Boer has still to justify his possession of
these ample pastures, these rich and fertile valleys, and
these stores of gold and of coal. If he can enlarge his mind,
if he can reform existing abuses, if he can expand an archaic
system of government and render it sufficiently elastic to
meet the requirements of an enlarged population and important
and increasing industries--well and good. If not, let the
Boer beware; for he will place himself in conflict with the
intelligence and the progress of South Africa. Then the
Boer system will be condemned by a higher authority than the
Colonial Office or the opinion of England; and from the high
court of Nature--a court from which no appeal lies--the
inexorable decree will go forth: 'Cut it down; why cumbereth
it the ground?'"]
[Footnote 347: See admissions of the Boer Generals quoted
[Footnote 348: "The South African Republic will conclude no
treaty or engagement with any state or nation other than the
Orange Free State, nor with any native tribe to the eastward
or westward of the Republic, until the same has been approved
by Her Majesty the Queen." Captain Mahan writes: "In refusing
the Transvaal that independence in foreign relations which
would enable other states to hold it directly accountable,
Great Britain retained, in so far, responsibility that
foreigners should be so treated as to give no just cause for
reclamations.... Great Britain, by retaining the ultimate
control of foreign relations, and by her well-defined purpose
not to permit interference in the Transvaal by a foreign
Power, was responsible for conditions of wrong to foreign
citizens within its borders. She had surrendered the right to
interfere, as suzerain, with internal affairs; but she had
not relieved herself, as by a grant of full independence and
sovereignty she might have done, from responsibility for
injury due to internal maladministration, any more than the
United States was relieved of the responsibility to Italy [in
the case of the Italian citizens lynched at New Orleans] by
the state sovereignty of Louisiana" (Ibid.). And, says the
same writer, a fortiori was Great Britain justified in
interfering on behalf of her own subjects.]
[Sidenote: Effect of surrender terms.]
Obviously the quality of mercy was strained to the point of danger by the grant of terms to such a people. It will always remain a question whether it would not have been better policy, instead of negotiating at all, to wait for that unconditional surrender of the Boers which, as the discussion at Vereeniging clearly shows, could only have been deferred for a very few months. But, granting that the course actually pursued was the right one, little fault can be found with the terms actually agreed to. No doubt they were generous, but they gave the British Government practically a free hand to shape the settlement of the country, and left it to them to decide at what time, and by what stages, to establish self-government in the new colonies. The two respects in which the Vereeniging terms seemed at first sight dangerously lenient were the undertaking to allow the Boers to possess rifles for their protection and the recognition of the Dutch language in the law courts and public schools. Yet both of these concessions are justified by considerations of practical convenience and sound policy. In respect of the first it must be remembered that in certain districts of the Transvaal the population is composed of a very small number of Europeans, almost exclusively Boers, living in isolated homesteads, together with a native population many times as numerous and still under the immediate authority of its tribal chiefs. The refusal to allow the Boers thus circumstanced to provide themselves with the only weapons sufficient to protect them against occasional Kafir outrages and depredations would have thrown a heavy responsibility upon the new administration, or involved it in an altogether disproportionate expenditure on European and native police. At the same time, in view of the smallness of the Boer population in such districts, the necessity for obtaining a licence (required under the clause in question) provided the Government with an efficient remedy against incipient disaffection. For under the licence system--a system generally adopted as a check upon the acquisition of arms by the natives in South Africa--the number of rifles possessed by the Boers in any particular district would be known to the Government; while, at the same time, the power to refuse or withdraw the privilege of possessing a rifle from any person believed to be disaffected to British rule would form an additional safeguard.
In respect of the second concession, there could be no question, of course, as to the desirability of hastening the general adoption of English as the common language of the Europeans of both races in South Africa. But any attempt to proscribe the Dutch language would have resulted in creating an obstinate desire to preserve it on the part of the Boers, coupled with a sense of injury; and would, therefore, have retarded rather than advanced the object in view. In these circumstances the decision to rely mainly upon the natural inclination of the more enlightened Boers to secure for their children the material advantages which a knowledge of English would bring them, was the right one. And the policy which this clause allowed the new administration to pursue may be described as that of a modified "free trade in language"--that is to say, free trade up to, but not beyond, the point at which the toleration of Dutch would not impede the convenient and efficient discharge of the ordinary business of administration. It is doubtful, however, whether either of these concessions were justifiable except on the assumption that full self-government would not be granted to either of the new colonies until a British or loyalist majority was assured.
[Sidenote: Free initiative secured.]
But, whatever the ultimate result of the Terms of Vereeniging, their immediate effect was to leave the High Commissioner with complete freedom of initiative, but with a no less complete responsibility for the complex and difficult task of economic and administrative reconstruction which now awaited him. How this task--at once more congenial and more especially his own--was discharged is a matter that must be left for a second volume. In the meantime the conclusion of the Surrender Agreement is no unfitting stage at which to bring the review of the first period of Lord Milner's administration to a close.