The case of Sir Bartle Frere illustrates forcibly the inexpediency of allowing our party differences at home to sow the seeds of discord in a distant Colony, and the apparent injustices to which such action may give rise.

While in England Sir Bartle Frere was being censured and vilified, in South Africa an overwhelming majority of the colonists, of whatever race or origin, were declaring, in unmistakable terms, that he had gained their warmest approbation and admiration. Town after town and village after village poured in addresses and resolutions in different forms, agreeing in enthusiastic commendation of him as the one man who had grasped the many threads of the South African tangle, and was handling them so as to promise a solution in accordance with the interests of all the many and various races which inhabited it.

"In our opinion," one of these resolutions (from Cradock) says, "his Excellency, Sir Bartle Frere, is one of the best Governors, if not the best Governor, this Colony has ever had, and the disasters which have taken place since he has held office, are not due to any fault of his, but to a shameful mismanagement of public affairs before he came to the Colony, and the state of chaos and utter confusion in which he had the misfortune to find everything on his arrival; and we are therefore of opinion that the thanks of every loyal colonist are due to his Excellency for the herculean efforts he has since made under the most trying circumstances to South Africa...."[19]

Another, from Kimberley says: - "It has been a source of much pain to us that your Excellency's policy and proceedings should have been so misunderstood and misrepresented.... The time, we hope, is not far distant when the wisdom of your Excellency's native policy and action will be as fully recognized and appreciated by the whole British nation as it is by the colonists of South Africa."[20]

At Pretoria, the capital of the Transvaal, a public meeting was held (April 24th), which resolved that: -

"This meeting reprobates most strongly the action of a certain section of the English and Colonial Press for censuring, without sufficient knowledge of local affairs, the policy and conduct of Sir B. Frere; and it desires not only to express its sympathy with Sir B. Frere and its confidence in his policy, but also to go so far as to congratulate most heartily Her Majesty the Queen, the Home Government, and ourselves, on possessing such a true, considerate, and faithful servant as his Excellency the High Commissioner."

A public dinner also was given to Sir B. Frere at Pretoria, at which his health was drunk with the greatest enthusiasm; there was a public holiday, and other rejoicings.

Sir Bartle Frere was intending to go to Bloemfontein, in the

Orange Free State, to visit President Brand, with whom he was on cordial terms, and with whom he wished to talk over his plans for the Transvaal; but instructions came from Sir Michael Hicks-Beach to proceed to Cape Town. He therefore left Pretoria on May 1st. He was welcomed everywhere with the utmost cordiality and enthusiasm. At Potchefstroom there was a public dinner and a reception. On approaching Bloemhof he was met by a large cavalcade, and escorted into the township, where a triumphal arch had been erected, and an address was presented.

"At Kimberley he had been sworn in as Governor of Griqualand West. Fifteen thousand people, it was estimated, turned out to meet and welcome him. From thence to Cape Town his journey was like a triumphal progress, the population at each place he passed through receiving him in flag-decorated streets, with escorts, triumphal arches, illuminations, and addresses. At Worcester, where he reached the railway, there was a banquet, at which Sir Gordon Sprigg was also present. At Paarl, which was the head-quarters of the Dutch Afrikander league, and where some of the most influential Dutch families live, a similar reception was given him. Finally, at Cape Town, where, if anywhere, his policy was likely to find opponents among those who regarded it from a provincial point of view, the inhabitants of all classes and sections and of whatever origin, gave themselves up to according him a reception such as had never been surpassed in Capetown.

"In England, complimentary local receptions and addresses to men in high office or of exalted rank do not ordinarily carry much meaning. Party tactics and organization account for a proportion of such manifestations. But the demonstration on this occasion cannot be so explained. There was no party organization to stimulate it. It was too general to confer notoriety on any of its promoters, and Sir B. Frere had not personally the power, even if he had had the will, to return compliments. And what made it the more remarkable was that there was no special victory or success or event of any kind to celebrate."[21]

On reaching Cape Town, a telegraphic message was handed to him, preparing him for his recall, by the statement that Sir H. Bulwer was to replace him as High Commissioner of the Transvaal, Natal, and all the adjoining eastern portion of South Africa, and that he was to confine his attention for the present to the Cape Colony.

To deprive him of his authority as regarded Natal, Zululand, the Transvaal - the Transvaal, which almost by his single hand and voice he had just saved from civil war - and expressly to direct Colonel Lanyon to cease to correspond with him, was to discredit a public servant before all the world at the crisis of his work.

Sir Bartle Frere's great object had been to bring about a Confederation of all the different States and portions of South Africa, an object with which the Home Government was in sympathy.

What was wanting to bring about confederation was confidence, founded on the permanent pacification and settlement of Zululand, the Transvaal, the Transkei, Pondoland, Basutoland, West Griqualand, and the border generally. How could there, under these circumstances, be confidence any longer? There was no doubt what he had meant to do. By many a weary journey he had made himself personally known throughout South Africa. His aims and intentions were never concealed, never changed. In confederating under his superintendence all men knew what they were doing. But he was now to be superseded. Was his policy to be changed, and how?[22]

It was expected by the political majority in England that as soon as Mr. Gladstone came into power, Sir Bartle Frere, whose policy had been so strongly denounced, would be at once recalled. When the new Parliament met in May, the Government found many of their supporters greatly dissatisfied that this had not been done. Notice of motion was given of an address to the Crown, praying for Sir B. Frere's removal. Certain members of parliament met together several times at the end of May, and a memorial to Mr. Gladstone was drawn up, which was signed by about ninety of them, and sent to him on June 3rd, to the following effect: -

"To the Right Hon. W.E. Gladstone, M.P., First Lord of the Treasury."

"We the undersigned, members of the Liberal party, respectfully submit that as there is a strong feeling throughout the country in favour of the recall of Sir Bartle Frere, it would greatly conduce to the unity of the party and relieve many members from the charge of breaking their pledges to their constituents if that step were taken."[23]

The first three signatures to this document were those of L.L. Dillwyn, Wilfrid Lawson, and Leonard Courtney.

This has been called not unjustly, "a cynically candid document." The "unity of the Party," and "pledges to constituents" are the only considerations alluded to in favour of the recall of a man to whose worth almost the whole of South Africa had witnessed, in spite of divided opinions concerning the Zulu War, for which he was only in a very minor degree responsible.

The Memorial to the Government had its effect; the successor of Sir Bartle Frere was to be Sir Hercules Robinson. He was in New Zealand, and could not reach the Cape at once; therefore Sir George Strahan was appointed ad interim governor, Sir Bartle being directed not even to await the arrival of the latter, but to leave by the earliest mail steamer.

At the news of his recall there arose for the second time a burst of sympathy from every town, village, and farm throughout the country, in terms of mingled indignation and sorrow.[24] The addresses and resolutions, being spontaneous at each place, varied much, and laid stress on different points, but in all there was a tone of deep regret, of conviction that Sir B. Frere's policy and his actions had been wise, just, and merciful towards all men, and of hope that the British Government and people would in time learn the truth.[25]

One from farmers of East London concludes: "May God Almighty bless you and grant you and yours a safe passage to the Mother Country, give you grace before our Sovereign Lady the Queen, and eloquence to vindicate your righteous cause before the British nation."[26]

The address of the Natives of Mount Cake is pathetic in its simplicity of language.

"Our hearts are very bitter this day. We hear that the Queen calls you to England. We have not heard that you are sick; then why have you to leave us? By you we have now peace. We sleep now without fear. Old men tell us of a good Governor Durban (Sir Benjamin Durban) who had to leave before his good works became law; but red coals were under the ashes which he left. Words of wicked men, when he left, like the wind blew up the fire, and the country was again in war. So also Sir George Grey, a good Governor, good to tie up the hands of bad men, good to plant schools, good to feed the hungry, good to have mercy and feed the heathen when dying from hunger, He also had to leave us. We do not understand this. But your Excellency is not to leave us. Natal has now peace by you; we have peace by you because God and the Queen sent you. Do not leave us. Surely it is not the way of the Queen to leave her children here unprotected until peace is everywhere. We shall ever pray for you as well as for the Queen. These are our words to our good Governor, though he turns his back on us."

The Malays and other Orientals, of whom there is a considerable population at Capetown, looked upon Frere, a former Indian Statesman, as their special property. The address from the Mahommedan subjects of the Queen says: -

"We regret that our gracious Queen has seen fit to recall your Excellency. We cannot help thinking it is through a mistake. The white subjects of Her Majesty have had good friends and good rulers in former Governors, but your Excellency has been the friend of white and coloured alike."[27]

*  *  *  *  *

The following letter is from Sir John Akerman, a member of the Legislative Council of Natal: -

"August 9th, 1880.

"Having become aware of your recall to England from the office of Governor of the Cape of Good Hope, etc., etc., I cannot allow your departure to take place without conveying to you, which I hereby do, the profound sense I have of the faithful and conscientious manner in which you have endeavoured to fulfil those engagements which, at the solicitation of Great Britain, you entered upon in 1877. The policy was not your own, but was thrust upon you. Having given in London, in 1876, advice to pursue a different course in South Africa from the one then all the fashion and ultimately confided to yourself, it affords me the greatest pleasure to testify to the consistency of the efforts put forth by you to carry out the (then) plan of those who commissioned you, and availed themselves of your acknowledged skill and experience. As a public man of long standing in South Africa, I would likewise add that since the days of Sir G. Grey, no Governor but yourself has grasped the native question here at all, and I feel confident that had your full authority been retained, and not harshly wrested from you, even at the eleventh hour initiatory steps of a reformatory nature with respect to the natives would have been taken, which it is the duty of Britain to follow while she holds her sovereignty over these parts."

Sir Gordon Sprigg wrote: -

"August 29th, 1880.

"I don't feel able yet to give expression to my sentiments of profound regret that Her Majesty's Government have thought it advisable to recall you from the post which you have held with such conspicuous advantage to South Africa. They have driven from South Africa 'the best friend it has ever known.' For myself I may say that in the midst of all the difficulties with which I have been surrounded, I have always been encouraged and strengthened by the cheerful view you have taken of public affairs, and that I have never had half-an-hour's conversation with your Excellency without feeling a better, and, I believe, a wiser man."

Madame Koopmans de Wet, a lady of an old family, Dutch of the Dutch, wrote to him, Nov. 16th, 1880: -

"It is with feelings of the deepest sorrow that I take the liberty of addressing these lines to you.... What is to be the end of all this now? for now, particularly, do the Cape people miss their Governor, for now superior qualities in everything are wanted. Dear Sir Bartle, you know the material we have; it is good, but who is to guide? It is plain to every thinking mind that our position is becoming more critical every day....

"But with deep sorrow let me say, England's, or rather Downing Street's treatment, has not tightened the bonds between the mother country and us. You know we have a large circle of acquaintances, and I cannot say how taken aback I sometimes am to hear their words. See, in all former wars there was a moral support in the thought that England, our England, was watching over us. Now there is but one cry, 'We shall have no Imperial help.' Why is this? We have lost confidence in a Government who could play with our welfare; and among the many injuries done us, the greatest was to remove from among us a ruler such as your Excellency was."

"As the day drew near, the Cape Town people were perplexed how to express adequately their feelings on the occasion. It was suggested that on the day he was to embark, the whole city should mourn with shops closed, flags half-mast high, and in profound silence. But more cheerful counsels prevailed.

"He was to leave by the Pretoria on the afternoon of Sept. 15th. Special trains had brought in contingents from the country. The open space in front of Government House, Plein Street, Church Square, Adderley Street, the Dock Road, the front of the railway station, the wharves, the housetops, and every available place, whence a view of the procession could be procured, was closely packed. The Governor's carriage left Government House at half-past four, - Volunteer Cavalry furnishing the escort, and Volunteer Rifles, Engineers, and Cadets falling in behind, - and amid farewell words and ringing cheers, moved slowly along the streets gay with flags and decorations. At the dock gates the horses were taken out and men drew the carriage to the quay, where the Pretoria lay alongside. Here the General, the Ministers, and other leading people, were assembled; and the 91st Regiment, which had been drawn up, presented arms, the Band played "God save the Queen," and the Volunteer Artillery fired a salute as the Governor for the last time stepped off African soil.

"There had been some delay at starting, the tide was ebbing fast, the vessel had been detained to the last safe moment, and she now moved out slowly, and with caution, past a wharf which the Malays, conspicuous in their bright-coloured clothing, had occupied, then, with a flotilla of boats rowing alongside, between a double line of yachts, steam-tugs and boats, dressed out with flags, and dipping their ensigns as she passed, and lastly, under the stern of the Boadicea man-of-war, whose yards were manned, and whose crew cheered. The guns of the castle fired the last salute from the shore, which was answered by the guns of the Boadicea; and in the still bright evening the smoke hung for a brief space like a curtain, hiding the shores of the bay from the vessel. A puff of air from the south-east cleared it away, and showed once more in the sunset light the flat mass of Table Mountain, the "Lion's Head" to its right, festooned with flags, the mountain slopes dotted over with groups thickening to a continuous broad black line of people, extending along the water's edge from the central jetty to the breakwater basin. The vessel's speed increased, the light faded, and the night fell on the last, the most glorious, and yet the saddest day of Sir Bartle Frere's forty-five years' service of his Queen and country.

"For intensity of feeling and unanimity it would be hard in our time to find a parallel to this demonstration of enthusiasm for a public servant. The Cape Town people are by race and habit the reverse of demonstrative; yet it was noticed that day, as it had been noticed when Frere left Sattara (India) thirty years before, and again when he left Sind twenty-one years before - a sight almost unknown amongst men of English or German race in our day - that men looking on were unable to restrain their tears. At Sattara and in Sind the regret at losing him was softened by the knowledge that his departure was due to a recognition of his merit; that he was being promoted in a service in which his influence might some day extend with heightened power to the country he was leaving. It was far otherwise when he left the Cape. On that occasion the regret of the colonists was mingled with indignation, and embittered with a sense of wrong."[28]

The writer just quoted makes the following remarks: -

"No one who has not associated with colonists in their homes can rightly enter into the mixed feelings with which they regard the mother country. As with a son who is gone forth into the world, there is often on one side the conceit of youth and impatience of restraint, shown in uncalled for acts of self-assertion or in dogmatic speech; and on the other side a supercilious want of sympathy with the changed surroundings, the pursuits and the aspirations of the younger generation. It seems as if there were no bond left between the two. But a day of trial comes; parent or offspring is threatened by a stranger; and then it is seen that the old instinct and yearnings are not dead, but only latent. The mother country had hitherto not been forgetful of its natural obligations to its South African offspring."

"But those" he goes on to say, "who on that fateful evening watched the hull of the Pretoria slowly dipping below the western horizon felt that if, as seemed only too probable, dismemberment of the British Empire in South Africa were sooner or later to follow, the fault did not lie with the colonists."

The mother country had, he asserts, sacrificed the interests of her loyal sons abroad to those which were at that moment pre-occupying her at home, and appearing to her in such dimensions as to blot out the larger view which later events gradually forced upon her vision. The words above quoted are strong, perhaps too strong, but if we are true lovers of our country and race and of our fellow creatures everywhere, we shall not shrink from any such warnings, though their wording may seem exaggerated. For we have a debt to pay back to South Africa; and if we cannot resume our solemn responsibilities towards her and her millions of native peoples, in a chastened, a wiser and a more determined spirit than that which for some time has prevailed, it would be better to relinquish them altogether. But we are beginning to understand the lesson written for our learning in this solemn page of contemporary history which is to-day laid open before our eyes and before those of the whole world.

I have recorded some few of the many testimonies in favour of Sir Bartle Frere, because he, - a man beloved and respected by many of us, - was the subject of a hastily formed judgment which continues in a measure even to this day, to obscure the memory of his worth.

A friend writes: "his letters are admirable as showing his statesmanlike and humane view of things, and his courage and patience under exasperating conditions. He returned to England under a cloud, and died of a broken heart."

Mr. Mackenzie, writing of his own departure from England in 1884 to return to South Africa, says: -

"The farewell which affected me most was that of Sir Bartle Frere, who was then stretched on what turned out to be his death-bed. He was very ill, and not seeing people, but was so gratified that what he had proposed in 1878 as to Bechuanaland should be carried out in 1884, that Lady Frere asked me to call and see him before I sailed.

"The countenance of this eminent officer was now thin, his voice was weaker; but light was still in his eye and the mind quite unclouded. 'Here I am, Mackenzie, between living and dying, waiting the will of God.'

'I expressed my hope for his recovery.'

'We won't talk about me. I wanted to see you. I feel I can give you advice, for I am an old servant of the Queen. I have no fear of your success now on the side of Government. Sir Hercules Robinson, having selected you, will uphold you with a full support. The rest will depend on your own character and firmness and tact. I am quite sure you will succeed. Your difficulties will be at the beginning. But you will get them to believe in you - the farmers as well as the natives. They will soon see you are their friend. Now remember this: get good men round you; get, if possible, godly men as your officers. What has been done in India has been accomplished by hard-working, loyal-hearted men, working willingly under chiefs to whom they were attached. Get the right stamp of men round you and the future is yours.'

"This was the last kindly action and friendly advice of a distinguished, noble-minded, and self-forgetful Christian man, who had befriended me as an obscure person, - our meeting-ground and common object being the future welfare of all races in South Africa. I went forth to complete my life work: he remained to die."

It was a costly sacrifice made on the Altar of Party.

My friends have sometimes asked me, what then is the ground of my hope for the future of our country and all over whom our Queen reigns? I reply, - my hope lies in the fact that above all party differences, above all private and political theories, above all the mere outward forms of Government and the titles given to these, there stand, eternally firm and unchangeable, the great principles of our Constitution which are the basis of our Jurisprudence, and of every Law which is inherently just. I use these words deliberately - "eternally firm and unchangeable." A long and deep study of these principles, and some experience of the grief and disaster caused by any grave departure from them, have convinced me that these principles are founded on the highest ethics, - the ethics of Christ.

The great Charter of our Liberties was born, as all the most precious things are, through "great tribulation," at a time when our whole nation was groaning under injustice and oppression, and when sorrow had purified the eyes of the noble "Seers" of the time, and their appeal was to the God of Justice Himself, and to no lower tribunal. These Seers were then endowed with the power to bend the will of a stubborn and selfish monarch, and to put on record the stern principles of our "Immortal Charter."

I have often longed that every school-boy and girl should be taught and well-grounded in these great principles. It would not be a difficult nor a dry study, for like all great things, these principles are simple, straight, and clear as the day. It is when, we come to intricacies and technicalities of laws, even though based on these great fundamental lines, that the study becomes dry, useful to the professional lawyer, but not to the pupil in school or the public generally.

The principles of our Constitution have been many times in the course of our national history disregarded, and sometimes openly violated. But such disregard and such violation have happily not been allowed to be of long duration. Sometimes the respect of these principles has been restored by the efforts of a group of enlightened Statesmen, but more frequently by the awakened "Common Sense"[29] of the people, who have become aware that they, or even some very humble section of them, have been made to suffer by such violation. Again and again the gallant "Ship of our Constitution," carrying the precious cargo of our inalienable rights and liberties, has righted herself in the midst of storms and heavy seas of trouble. Having been called for thirty years of my life to advocate the rights of a portion of our people, - the meanest and most despised of our fellow citizens, - when those rights had been destroyed by an Act of Parliament which was a distinct violation of the Constitution, and having been driven, almost like a ship-wrecked creature to cling, with the helpless crew around me, during those years to this strong rock of principle, and having found it to be political and social salvation in a time of need, I cannot refrain, now in my old age, from embracing every opportunity I may have of warning my fellow countrymen of the danger there is in departing from these principles.

My hope for the future of South Africa, granting its continuance as a portion of our Colonial Empire, is in the resurrection of these great principles from this present tribulation, and their recognition by our rulers, politicians, editors, writers, and people at large as the expression of essential Justice and Morality.

France possesses, equally with ourselves, a record of these principles in its famous "Declaration of the Rights of Man," born also in a period of great national tribulation. That document is in principle identical with our own great Charter. But France has only possessed it a little more than a century, whereas our own Charter dates back many centuries; hence the character of our people has been in a great measure formed upon its principles, and they have been made sensitive to any grave or continued violation of them. In France, earnest and sometimes almost despairing appeals are now made to these fundamental principles expressed in their own great Charter by a minority of men who continue to see straight and clearly through the clouds of contending factions in the midst of which they live; but for a large portion of the nation they are a dead letter, even if they have ever been intelligently understood.

How far has South Africa been governed on these principles? I boldly affirm that on the whole, since the beginning of the last century, it is these principles of British Government and Law, so far as they have been enforced, which have saved that colony from anarchy and confusion, and its native populations from bondage or annihilation. But they have not been sufficiently strongly enforced. They have not been brought to bear upon those Englishmen, traders, speculators, company-makers, and others whose interests may have been in opposition to these principles.

A Swiss missionary who has lived a great part of his life in South Africa, writes to me: - "The whole of South Africa is to blame in its treatment of the natives. Take the British merchant, the Boer and Dutch official, the German colonist, the French and Swiss trader, - there is no difference. The general feeling among these is against the coloured race being educated and evangelized.... Only what can and must be said is this, that the Laws of the English Colonies are just; those of the Boer States are the negation of every right, civil and religious, which the black man ought to have." I have similar testimonies from missionaries (not Englishmen); but I regret to say that these good men hesitate to have their names published, - not from selfish reasons, - but from love of their missionary work and their native converts, to whom they fear they will never be permitted to return if the ascendancy of the present Transvaal Government should continue, and Mr. Kruger should learn that they have published what they have seen in his country. It is to be hoped that these witnesses will feel impelled before long to speak out. The writer just quoted, says: - "I firmly believe that the native question is at the bottom of all this trouble. The time is coming when, cost what it will, we missionaries must speak out."

In connection with this subject, I give here a quotation from the "Daily News," March 21st, 1900. The article was inspired by a thoughtful speech of Sir Edward Grey. The writer asks the reason of the loss of the capacity in our Liberal party to deal with Colonial matters; and replies: "It is to be found, we think, in want of imagination and in want of faith. There are many among us who have failed, from want of imagination, to grasp that we have been living in an age of expansion; or who, recognising the fact, have from want of faith seen in it occasion only for lamentation and woe. Failure in either of these respects is sure to deprive a British party of popular support. For the 'expansion of England' now, as in former times, proceeds from the people themselves, and faith in the mission of England is firmly planted in the popular creed." We recall a noble passage in which Mr. Gladstone stated with great clearness the inevitable tendency of the times in which we live. "There is," he said, "a continual tendency on the part of enterprising people to overstep the limits of the Empire, and not only to carry its trade there, but to form settlements in other countries beyond the sphere of a regularly organized Government, and there to constitute a civil Government of their own. Let the Government adopt, with mathematical rigour if you like, an opposition to annexation, and what does it effect? It does nothing to check that tendency - that perhaps irresistible tendency - of British enterprise to carry your commerce, and to carry the range and area of your settlement beyond the limits of your sovereignty.... There the thing is, and you cannot repress it. Wherever your subjects go, if they are in pursuit of objects not unlawful, you must afford them all the protection which your power enables you to give." "There the thing is." (But many Liberals have lacked the imagination to see it.) And being there, it affords a great opportunity; for "to this great Empire is committed (continued Mr. Gladstone) a trust and a function given from Providence as special and as remarkable as ever was entrusted to any portion of the family of man." But not all Liberals share Mr. Gladstone's faith. They thus cut themselves off from one of the chief tendencies and some of the noblest ideals of the time. Liberalism must broaden its outlook, and seek to promote "the large and efficient development of the British Commonwealth on liberal lines, both within and outside these islands."


[Footnote 19: Blue Book, C. p. 28, 2673.]
[Footnote 20: Blue Book, C. 2454, p. 57.]
[Footnote 21: Life and Correspondence of Sir Bartle Frere, by J. Martineau.]
[Footnote 22: Life and Correspondence of Sir Bartle Frere, by J. Martineau.]
[Footnote 23: The italics are my own.]
[Footnote 24: There are between sixty and seventy resolutions and addresses recorded in the Blue-book, all passed unanimously except in one case, at Stellenbosch where a minority opposed the resolution. The spokesman of the minority, however, based his opposition not on Frere's general policy, still less on his character, but as a protest against an Excise Act, which was one of Mr. Spring's measures.]
[Footnote 25: Life and Correspondence of Sir Bartle Frere.]
[Footnote 26: Blue Book, C. 2740, p. 46.]
[Footnote 27: Blue Book, C. 2740, p. 63.]
[Footnote 28: Life and Correspondence of the Right Hon. Sir Bartle Frere, by Martineau.]
[Footnote 29: In the sense in which the great Lord Chatham used the words.]