Seeing that twenty years of patient, loyal endeavours and friendly conciliatory proceedings following upon the rehabilitation of the Transvaal independence had utterly failed in advancing the object of uniting the English and Boer races, and that instead the existing gulf was ever widening through the spread of those fell Afrikaner Bond doctrines, it had become imperative, on the part of British statesmen, to employ special efforts to overcome the serious menace hanging over South Africa. The critical situation designedly brought about by the action of the Transvaal Government and by the influence of the Bond party indicated the remedy. A liberal franchise in favour of the Uitlanders would at one stroke correct that evil, and counteract the other impending danger as well. With a large accession of legitimized voters working in accord with England's desire for peace and progress, that good influence would be potent, first to shackle Bond action and ultimately to reduce it to Colonial limits. The Transvaal would then no longer be the giant ally, the arsenal, and the treasury of the Afrikaner Bond, and that organisation would then be checkmated into impotence for evil.
The success of such a remedial and defensive measure would naturally depend upon the adequacy of the franchise aimed at. Mr. Chamberlain and his colleagues were not a little sanguine in expecting that a five years' qualification for voting and a representation equal to one-fifth of the total number of seats in the Legislature would be effective for all that which was needed; nor could it be averred that the Transvaal burghers would be swamped out thereby.
The Bond chiefs did not fail to at once penetrate the object when the demand for a five years' franchise was made, and in vain did Sir Alfred display that firm attitude and exhaust his arguments at the historic Bloemfontein conference. He had pointed out to President Krüger in a rudimentary fashion which was no doubt convincing enough—that it was incompatible with professions of concord and desire for peace while persisting in excluding from representation a large majority of the population accustomed to and expecting liberal treatment, and which, moreover, held four-fifths of the wealth invested in the State. There could be no other result than a dangerous tension and alienation from the Government, instead of the peaceful co-operation so essential to security and progress. In these days of advanced ideas of personal and political liberty people will resist domination by a minority. They want to be consulted, and to have at least the opportunity of making their wishes known by means of representation. The right of petitioning could not meet that need, and in fact implied the recognition of an inferior status so repugnant to any one's sensibility. When people are ignored they resent even light impositions and taxes, but if allowed a voice will cheerfully submit to heavy burdens, because they then become, in a manner, self-imposed. Representation is the panacea against popular disaffection and for assuring governmental stability. To concede to Uitlanders one-fifth of the seats in the Legislature could not operate to the prejudice of burgher interests, but less would not meet the case.
It was, however, not President Krüger alone who had to decide—it affected the Bond as a whole. The diplomatic contest so far proved just the thing to ripen conditions for the meditated Bond coup d'état. An alternative offer of a seven years' franchise was interposed as a mere ruse. Never for a moment did the Afrikaner Bond leaders waver or quail in the face of resolute firmness, display of force, or even of moral pressure and notes of advice from imposing quarters, as Mr. Chamberlain had at first still fondly hoped. To the Bond it had all resolved itself to a mere question of time, of choosing the most opportune moment when to assume the aggressive. British attitude had only hastened the issue. Mr. Jan Hofmeyer had indeed been sent for from the Cape so as to assure that section of the Bond of Transvaal firmness, but he found no sign of flinching or of renouncing the common object laboured for so long and then so near fruition. The only difficulty was that British action had hastened the issue somewhat too fast. Hence the repeated hurried visits of the Bond leaders—Jan Hofmeyer, Abraham Fisher, and others—the frequent caucus meetings of the Executive in consultation with those delegates, the secret midnight sessions of the combined Volksraads and Executive, the prolonged telegraphic conferences between the two Presidents, and the final resulting word of "ready" which preceded the fatal war ultimatum. The Gordian knot had been in evidence many years ago; it is now recognised with regret that England had deferred action for cutting it much too long.
But why not agree to arbitration, it will be asked, that peaceable method so strenuously appealed for by the Transvaal Government and advocated by her partisans, to adjust all differences, of which the suzerainty claim and the Uitlander question appeared to be the principal ones? The reply is not that England was unwilling, but because the Transvaal was insincere, and the request was a cover for shameless duplicity, for, while it had been declared by the former that the claim to suzerainty would be left in abeyance and that infractions of convention which had been committed by the latter would be overlooked in consideration of future friendly relations and co-operation, the Transvaal Government in reality never for a moment meant to be content with less than British overthrow and complete Boer supremacy in South Africa, and efforts and intrigues were never relaxed, in concert with the Bond, to compass those objects.