Rudyard Kipling truly said "the Boers are the most conservative people on earth." Habits and views which had prevailed two hundred years ago with their forefathers are still tenaciously preserved by them. We see this in matters of language, religion, in certain antipathies, and even in attire. They are justly famed for hospitality, not only amongst themselves, but also towards strangers, and a very pleasing trait, no doubt handed down from the seigneurial Huguenots, is the genial politeness which a stranger will receive in an otherwise wholly uncultured Boer family.
On his farm the Boer is chief and supreme after the patriarchal fashion—no thought of tolerating an equal or a rival in authority. Collectively also, as in governmental representation, he is extremely averse to the introduction of any foreign element; such a factor would meet with his undisguised suspicion and jealousy. It must be Boer supremacy, and to this strangers must submit; the Boers to figure as the only caste or military aristocracy privileged to carry arms, very much like the Samouris nobles of Japan, who from of old until recently had represented the feudal estate, and had made quite a famous cult of personal bravery, chivalry and devotion to their Mikado and for their independent caste. Long intercourse and inter-marriage with a Boer family would ultimately remove the barrier. With such rooted exclusiveness it is only in accord with Boer nature to be reluctant in admitting Uitlanders to burgher franchise, and the greater their numbers and influence of wealth the more would they be viewed as an innovating menace and their admittance to political equality be resisted.
Upon newly occupied farms a Boer will always seek to locate one or more squatters of his own nation upon allotments ultimately intended for the occupation of some of his own children as soon as they are grown up. The usual conditions for privileges of residence, grazing, and cultivation are that the squatter builds a dwelling and does all the other permanent improvements at his own cost, that he accounts to the owner for half or one-third of all products raised, and that he and his family should render services whenever required. When the squatter acquires land of his own he will in turn adopt similar feudal methods to get it improved and to obtain services without expense. Should the conditions accorded to the squatter result in advantages which prove any way lucrative to him, the owner would in nine cases out of ten immediately impose more exacting conditions, upon the plea of making provision for his own children. Such dependants are otherwise treated with familiar equality, as are also other white employees, and are admitted at the common table like any of the family, but below the salt.
To acquire farms is a Boer's greatest ambition. The love of land is his special passion, so that his children also may be independent owners of farms. Formerly such land acquisitions were made by encroachments upon the possessions of natives or by purchases from them and by barter, and failing those means, by conquest. Since 1885, however, the stipulations in connection with the Anglo-Swaziland settlement effectually barred expansion and encroachments in any direction. The Boers resent this check as an exceedingly sore point. There is not enough land for the sons who have since grown up. These cannot possibly compete with the educated Hollanders in quest of good positions, nor are they taught any handicrafts, and the galling prospect is inevitable that they will have to content themselves with very humble stations in life, dependent even upon the more prosperous Uitlanders. No wonder these Boers fell an easy prey to the seductions and deceptive fallacies of the Afrikaner Bond doctrine of conquest, for dispossessing England of her Colonies, and to resume a free hand for expansion northwards as well.
In connection with the stated inadequacy of spare land it is well to note that, of the two Republics, the Transvaal only possesses undeveloped Government reserve land. This is all situated in more or less low-lying and fever-stricken parts, large tracts being absolutely uninhabitable for that reason, especially in summer. Some of the rest is occupied on terms of lease by burghers, and has up to the present afforded scope for some of the less aspiring class. About one-quarter of the aggregate Transvaal farms are owned by Uitlander individuals or by companies who are mostly English. But the bulk of the land owned by burghers in both States has gradually become cut up by the process of succession into holdings so small as to admit of hardly any further division. There are, of course, numerous exceptions of wealthy farmers who can still bequeath to each of their sons a whole farm of 6,000 acres, or half a farm. In the face of these restrictive circumstances a scheme has been in preparation during the past years, promoted by the Bond coterie in Holland and the Governments of the two Republics, to effect a large emigration from Holland to those States. A company has thus been formed, called "Nederlandsche Emigratie Maatschappy voor Transvaal en Oranje Vry Staat." The prospectus describes the objects as agricultural, pastoral, and industrial, but, as "members," only such are invited as are disposed to join hands with the Boer cause. That scheme came into operation before the outbreak of the war. What else does it reveal but a thinly veiled recruiting device for auxiliaries against England?
What has been said about the ignorance and illiteracy of the Boers may be admitted to apply to the great majority of the grown-up and of the more maturely aged population; those of youthful age have of late years had the benefit of a better education than had before been possible to provide. But the great drawback consists in the still very imperfect knowledge of High Dutch, and it will take many years yet before a more general proficiency in that language will qualify the youth for more than purely elementary studies. There are numerous exceptions, however, of very creditably educated Boers, whose parents have been able to get them taught at Colonial schools, such as the Stellenbosch seminary, and even in Holland. Besides this, there are the children and grandchildren of the many educated Hollanders who have continued to stream into the Republics since 1854, and who had the advantage of learning High Dutch from their parents. Those, as a rule, bestowed great attention to their children's education, and in many cases sent them to Holland to complete their studies. The greatest factor of the educated Dutch element in South Africa consists of the mass of Hollanders itself, who have made their way to the Republics, and especially to the Transvaal, during the past eighteen years, among whom are many of highest European attainments, so that altogether a big muster is made up of well-instructed people, comparing well enough with other nations, and ample to meet all the exigencies of the two rapidly developing Republics. This educated contingent is being continuously supplemented by like arrivals from Holland, including eminent technical experts and scientists. It is a well-known feature that many chief posts of the administration are filled by aged, uneducated burghers who are altogether without the qualification required for the exercise of their function, but this drawback is effectually remedied by the expedient of providing proficient Hollanders as working adjuncts and secretaries, in which manner all the branches of the administration are nevertheless efficiently and most creditably served. Hundreds of young Boers are admitted as supernumeraries into the various offices to prepare them for responsible positions later on.
Dundee Secret Dossier
The greatest stir was made upon the discovery of secret documents left behind by the British military at the hurried evacuation of Dundee (Natal).
It was made public that those documents contained all the details of a plan of invading the Orange Free State, and that it furnished most incontestable proofs of British designs as early as 1896 against the independence of both Republics. It was promised to publish those details, but this has not yet been done. It appears, however, that no incriminating details exist. Nevertheless, the matter has been made to serve calumniating reports on a considerable scale in the pro-Boer Press abroad, declaring that those documents conveyed absolute proofs of England's perfidious intentions of attacking the Orange Free State unawares, whilst all the time professing friendly relations and undertaking to respect the complete integrity of the Republican status of both States. What actually has transpired is that the whole thing was a mare's nest, simply and nothing more than military information under cover marked "secret," giving topographical and other details upon the Orange Free State—a proceeding which is carried out by all military authorities of any pretensions to prudent activity in the information department, and no more construable into actual hostile intentions than are other geographical surveys for general instructions or for school use.
The incident again shows the absence of tangible grounds for accusations against England when a foolish invention as the one cited must do duty for such, and to rekindle race hatred.
The interest and the manipulation devoted to that fabrication by the pro-Boer Press have, however, scored another success to Bond propaganda in fixing the belief with Boer partisans, of England's really predetermined designs to annex both Republics. Every Boer has since been more than ever so persuaded, the conviction fanning the fervour of patriotism and stimulating his eagerness to resist the would-be ravishers of his country.
Considering, on the other hand, that the English Government had known much about the Afrikaner Bond menace, it is singular that precautionary measures had halted with that bare effort of making military observations. The only way to account for this apparent lethargic inaction is the assumption that a persevering patience and friendly attitude was expected in time to effectually dissipate all trouble in South Africa, and that a display of anxiety or of force would have frustrated such peaceable tactics. In refutation of the aspersion against England, it may be sufficient to point to the fact that during those very years (1896-7) both Republics were in a condition of complete helplessness through the rinderpest scourge which was then raging. If any hostile designs had in reality existed they could have been carried out with utmost ease then, as that scourge presented no obstacle to England. But it was the programme of peace which was pursued as undeviatingly then as since, with a constancy which refused to be foiled.
Pamphlet entitled A Hundred Years of Injustice
A mass of so-called proof against England of her guilt in provoking the present war and justifying the Boer attitude was presented to the public in South Africa and abroad in November last in the shape of a voluminous pamphlet entitled A Hundred Years of Injustice (published both in English and Dutch, and later even translated into French). That production covers Boer history and its troubles with England up to 1881. It then travels over the diplomatic appeals of the Transvaal delegation, which resulted in the renewed convention of 1884. Then it wades through all the mire of academic squabble re suzerainty, etc. After exhausting the Jameson episode with bitter invective, and seeking applause for the Transvaal Government for its professed desire to conciliate and to propitiate England by the offer of a seven years' franchise, the reader is, in conclusion, 'treated to a literary display of pyrotechnic denunciations and prophetic burdens against wicked Albion, with appeals to divine justice for righting the cause of an innocent nation so foully driven to a war of pure self-defence.
Lest he be taken unawares the reader of that pamphlet would do well to note the significant fact in connection with those preferred accusations and aspersions that not a single act construable to the prejudice of England is adduced dating after the Anglo-Transvaal peace of 1881, that peace which had been mutually understood to close up all by-gones. But the recriminations all revert to previous history, nothing having occurred since 1881 to form real grounds for accusations. There had, on the contrary, been an exhibition of unwearied friendly endeavours on the part of Great Britain to maintain loyal peace with an ever-shifty and truculent Government, and to induce it to desist from scandalous intrigue against imperial interests in South Africa, and to adopt a more rational attitude towards Uitlanders, which in itself would have precluded troubles like that of the Johannesburg revolt and the Jameson raid.