A period of about twenty-five years following the establishment of the Orange Free State and Transvaal Republics was marked with much progress and prosperity in the Cape Colonies and Natal, both Republics also having cause to rejoice over similar advancement.
The evil influence which aimed at rending good relations between Boer and English became more apparent after 1881. During the preceding era the two races actually had been in a fair way towards friendly assimilation. Mutual appreciation was further stimulated by the reciprocal benefits arising from trade and economic relations. Intermarriages became more frequent under such friendly intercourse, a respectable Englishman being truly prized in those days as a Boer's son-in-law. The English language also largely advanced in favour and prestige not only among the Cape Colonial and Natal Boers, but also in both Republics, and anti-English sentiments were fast being supplanted by amity and goodwill.
The principal event in the Orange Free State during that period was a three years' exhaustive war with the Basuto nation, which ended in the latter's defeat in 1867. Their chief Moshesh then appealed for British intervention. The Basutos thus came under England's protection, and a peace resulted which has ever since continued, through British prestige and authority as well as good government. The Orange Free State gained a large tract of the territory conquered by that State, but had to renounce the rest.
Then, in about 1870, came the discovery of the diamond-fields, situated on the then still ill-defined western limits of the State. According to a boundary line claimed by Great Britain, those diamond-fields fell outside Free State territory. That State received £90,000 compensation for improvements and expenses incurred during its short occupation of that disputed strip of diamondiferous ground. The diamond-fields at Jagersfontein and Koffyfontein were subsequently discovered and lie deep within the confines of the State. President Brand had proved his sagacity and discretion in concluding the negotiations with England upon the question of the peace with the Basutos and then again in submitting to the boundary delimitations, it being contended even yet that the Orange Free State had the weightier arguments in its favour in both instances.
The people of that Republic proved however to be the ultimate gainers in those adjustments; they did not miss the more solid advantages attending the discovery of the diamond-fields. Believed of the grave responsibility involved in governing a turbulent population of foreign diggers, the geographical position of the Kimberley fields secured to the Free State farmers an almost entire monopoly in the supply of products; trade also flourished apace, all tending to enrich the inhabitants and the State revenue as well.
But the Orange Free State derived a permanent advantage, quite unique and more than compensating the apparent set-back suffered by the loss of the diamond-field territory and by British intervention in the Basuto war matter, in that the method of those procedures saddled England with the responsibility of guaranteeing the internal safety of the State from those hitherto unprotected borders "altogether at her own cost." The Keate award completed the British cordon around the Free State, excepting only in regard to the Transvaal frontier. No need thenceforth for costly military provisions for the protection of the State—it was, as it were, walled and fenced in at British expense, and the State revenue was thus for ever relieved of a very heavy item of expenditure, which could be devoted to the increase of the national wealth instead—a peaceful security accompanied with an intrinsic gain constituting a veritable and permanent heirloom for the people of that State.
It is notable that the position of the Orange Free State, without any other access to the sea-board than from colonial ports, made its status and welfare entirely dependent upon the friendly and loyal good faith of England. Up to the present unhappy war that State enjoyed unaltered the best relations without being ever subjected to even a trace of chicanery from the part of Great Britain.
By what illusion, it may well be asked, could that hitherto friendly people have been deluded to risk all in a disloyal breach with England by joining the Transvaal in a "Bond" issue against her best friend? Towards the Transvaal also had England proved her earnest desire to maintain an intercourse on the basis of sincere amity, desirous only of reciprocity, which indeed could be expected in willing return, seeing that England took upon her own shoulders to provide for the protection and welfare of the entire area of South Africa by sea and land, whilst both Republics freely participated in all the great benefits so derived. These considerations should substantially disprove the wicked aspersion lately made that British policy aimed at the subversion of republican autonomy in those two States. All that Great Britain needed and confidently expected in return for her goodwill was friendly adhesion, and a willing recognition of her paramountcy in matters affecting the common weal of South Africa as a whole, and also such reciprocity and mutual concern in the welfare of all as consistently comport with common interests. How fell and malignant the "influence" which operated a treacherous ingratitude and hostility instead!