EXTENSION OF THE FRANCHISE.—MONSTER UITLANDER PETITIONS.—WHAT THE BURGHERS WISH.
Petitions were read praying for the extension of the franchise. The petitioners pointed out that they were all residents in the Republic, that the increase of the wealth of the country and the status of the country were due to their energy and wealth, that the number of the non-enfranchised far exceeded the number of the burghers, that taxation was so arranged that the non-enfranchised bore four-fifths of the taxes. The memorialists pointed out that one of the Republican principles was equality, but that notwithstanding the numerously signed memorials the Raad decided last year to make the Franchise Law so stringent that a new-comer could never obtain the franchise, and his children could only obtain it under severe conditions. They pointed out the danger of this, and prayed for admission under reasonable conditions.
The petitions came from every part of the country, including all the Boer strongholds, and some were signed by influential officials. One petition from Johannesburg was signed by 32,479 persons, and the total signatures amounted to 35,483.
Memorials to the same effect were read from a large number of farming districts, signed by 993 full burghers, who were anxious that the franchise should be extended to law-abiding citizens. These memorials contained the names of prominent farmers. There were nineteen of these last-named memorials, four of which came from different parts of the Pretoria district and three from Potchefstroom.
A memorial was read from Lydenburg, suggesting that ten years' residence in the country and obedience to the law be the qualification. This was signed by about a hundred burghers.
A number of memorials were read from Rustenberg, Waterberg, Piet Retief, Utrecht, Middelberg, Zoutpansberg, and Krugersdorp, signed by about 500 burghers, stating that while they valued the friendship of the peace-abiding Uitlanders they petitioned the Raad not to extend the franchise or alter last year's law.
A memorial from Krugersdorp was to the effect that the franchise should not be extended until absolutely necessary, and then only in terms of Art. 4 of the Franchise Law of 1894. This was signed by thirteen persons.
One was read from the Apies River and Standerton, praying that the children of Uitlanders born here should not be granted the franchise.
Memorials from other places, with 523 signatures, prayed that the existing Franchise Law should be strictly enforced.
Several petitions against the prohibition of the Election Committee were read.
A further memorial from the Rand was read, containing 5,152 signatures, pointing out that they objected to the memorial issued by the National Union, and they wanted the system of one-man-one-vote and the ballot system adopted before they asked for the franchise.
THE COMMITTEE'S RECOMMENDATIONS.
The Memorial Committee recommended that the law remain unaltered, because the memorials signed by full burghers requested no extension to take place.
Mr. LUCAS MEYER, who was chairman of the Memorial Commission, submitted a report, stating that he was in the minority and differed from his fellow-committeemen. There was not a single member of the Raad who would use his powers more towards maintaining the independence of the country than himself, but he was fully convinced that the Raad had as bounden duty to propose an alteration to last year's law. Proposals to do so had to emanate from the Raad. A large majority of memorialists who prayed for the extension were not burghers, but even those burghers who petitioned the Raad against the extension asked the Raad not to do so at present. That showed that they were convinced that sooner or later the extension would have to take place—cautiously perhaps, but the extension would come. Even the committee, the majority of whom were against him, recognised this. He repeated that it was his opinion that the time would come. Let the Raad then submit the proposal to the country, and if the majority of the burghers were against it, the Raad would have to stand or fall with the burghers; but at any rate they would be acting according to the will of the country, and could not be blamed for possible consequences. Recently the President said something had to be done to admit a portion of the people who were behind the dam, before the stream became so strong that the walls would be washed away and the country immersed in water. He hoped the Raad would favourably consider his proposal.
Mr. TOSEN said that when the proposals came to extend the franchise, such proposals had to come from old burghers, and so far the old burghers had not signified their willingness that this should be done. On the contrary, a large number of them were against it. They did not wish to exclude the new-comers for all eternity, but just now they should make no concession. It stood to reason that the new-comers could not have so much interest in the country as the old inhabitants. He cautioned the Raad against accepting the recommendations of Mr. Meyer. It would be contrary to Republican principles. Yes, he repeated it would be contrary to the principles of Republicanism, and were newcomers admitted to the franchise the old burghers would be deprived of all their rights. They would not dare to vote or exercise any of their privileges. Those persons who signed the petition for the franchise said they were peaceful and law-abiding citizens, but they gave a sign that they were not law-abiding, because they were against the law. The Election Law was there, and they should abide by it.
The CHAIRMAN called the speaker to order and advised him to keep to the point, whether it was desirable to extend the franchise or not.
Mr. TOSEN said he was cut short, but in a few words he would say that he would resist to the bitter end any attempt to alter the law as it at present stood. He spoke on behalf of his constituents and himself.
Mr. JEPPE, in the course of his speech, said: Who are the people who now demand from us a reasonable extension of the franchise? There are to begin with almost a thousand old burghers who consent to such extension. There are in addition 890 petitioners, also old burghers, who complain that the franchise has been narrowed by recent legislation. There are 5,100, chiefly from the Rand, who ask for extension subject to the ballot, the principle of which has already been adopted by you, and there is lastly a monster petition, bearing 35,700 names, chiefly from the Rand goldfields: and in passing I may mention that I have convinced myself that the signatures to it, with very few exceptions perhaps are undoubtedly genuine. Well, this petition has been practically signed by the entire population of the Rand. There are not three hundred people of any standing whose names do not appear there. It contains the name of the millionaire capitalist on the same page as that of the carrier or miner, that of the owner of half a district next to that of a clerk, and the signature of the merchant who possesses stores in more than one town of this Republic next to that of the official. It embraces also all nationalities: the German merchant, the doctor from Capetown, the English director, the teacher from the Paarl—they all have signed it. So have—and that is significant—old burghers from the Free State, whose fathers with yours reclaimed this country; and it bears too the signatures of some who have been born in this country, who know no other fatherland than this Republic, but whom the law regards as strangers. Then too there are the newcomers. They have settled for good: they have built Johannesburg, one of the wonders of the age, now valued at many millions sterling, and which, in a few short years, will contain from a hundred to a hundred and fifty thousand souls; they own half the soil, they pay at least three-quarters of the taxes. Nor are they persons who belong to a subservient race. They come from countries where they freely exercised political rights which can never be long denied to free-born men. They are, in short, men who in capital, energy and education are at least our equals. All these persons are gathered together, thanks to our law, into one camp. Through our own act this multitude, which contains elements which even the most suspicious amongst us would not hesitate to trust, is compelled to stand together, and so to stand in this most fatal of all questions in antagonism to us. Is that fact alone not sufficient to warn us and to prove how unstatesmanlike our policy is? What will we do with them now? Shall we convert them into friends or shall we send them away empty, dissatisfied, embittered? What will our answer be? Dare we refer them to the present law, which first expects them to wait for fourteen years and even then pledges itself to nothing, but leaves everything to a Volksraad which cannot decide until 1905? It is a law which denies all political rights even to their children born in this country. Can they gather any hope from that? Is not the fate of the petition of Mr. Justice Morice, whose request, however reasonable, could not be granted except by the alteration of the law published for twelve months and consented to by two-thirds of the entire burgher population, a convincing proof how untenable is the position which we have assumed? Well, should we resolve now to refuse this request, what will we do when as we well know must happen it is repeated by two hundred thousand one day. You will all admit the doors must be opened. What will become of us or our children on that day, when we shall find ourselves in a minority of perhaps one in twenty, without a single friend amongst the other nineteen, amongst those who will then tell us they wished to be brothers, but that we by our own act made them strangers to the Republic? Old as the world is, has an attempt like ours ever succeeded for long? Shall we say as a French king did that things will last our time, and after that we reck not the deluge? Again I ask what account is to be given to our descendants and what can be our hope in the future?
Mr. DE CLERCQ opposed the extension.
Mr. JAN DE BEER said he could not agree to the prayer for extension. The burghers would decide time enough when the dam was too full, or when fresh water was wanted. He had gone through the memorials, and some that wished an extension were unknown to him, even those who signed from his district. Very few persons were in favour of the extension. If the burghers wished it he would give it, he would agree to it. The people coolly asked the Raad to extend the franchise to 80,000 persons, men who were not naturalized and had nothing to lose. He did not mind extending the franchise to a few. When it was a small case he did not object, but when it came to giving away their birthright wholesale he kicked. He did not object to give the burgher right to persons who shot Kaffirs, or he had better say, persons who went into the native wars on behalf of the Transvaal, because they shed their blood for the country; but people who came here only to make money and that only did not deserve the franchise. Let them look at that book of signatures on the table with the 70,000 names. Who were they? (Laughter, and cries of 'Too much.') Well, 38,000 then. He had 'too much.' They were the persons, the millionaires side by side with mining workers whom Mr. Jeppe spoke of, but where did they find these people side by side? Nowhere! No, he would not grant an extension of the franchise.
The PRESIDENT said he wished to say a few words on the subject, and the first thing he had to say was that those persons who signed the monster petition were unfaithful and not law-abiding.
Mr. JEPPE: I deny that.
The PRESIDENT: Yes—I repeat unfaithful.
Mr. JEPPE (excitedly): I say they are not!
The CHAIRMAN: Order, order!
The PRESIDENT then endeavoured to qualify his remarks by reasserting that these people were disrespectful and disobedient to the law, because they were not naturalized. 'Now,' asked His Honour triumphantly, 'can you contradict that? No, you cannot. No one can. The law says that they must be naturalized, and they are not.' Speeches had been made that afternoon, His Honour proceeded, urging that the rich should be made burghers and not the poor. Why not the poor as well as the rich, if that were the case? But he was against granting any extension, saving in cases like that he mentioned the other day. Those who went on commando were entitled to it, but no others. Those persons who showed they loved the country by making such sacrifices were entitled to the franchise, and they should get it. These memorials were being sent in year by year, and yearly threats were made to them if they did not open the flood-gates. If the dam was full before the walls were washed over, a certain portion of the water had to be drained off. Well, this had been done in the case of commando men. They were the clean water which was drained off and taken into the inner dam which consisted of clean water, but he did not wish to take in the dirty water also. No, it had to remain in the outer dam until it was cleaned and purified. The Raad might just as well give away the independence of the country as give all these new-comers, these disobedient persons, the franchise. These persons knew there was a law, but they wished to evade it; they wished to climb the wall instead of going along the road quietly, and these persons should be kept back. He earnestly cautioned the Raad against adopting Mr. L. Meyer's proposal.
Mr. D. JOUBERT said excitement would not avail them. They had to be calm and deliberate. Now, what struck him was first who would give them the assurance, were they to admit the 35,000 persons who petitioned them for the franchise, that they would maintain the independence of the country inviolate and as a sacred heritage? They had no guarantee. He could not agree with the request of the petition (here the speaker became excited, and gesticulating violently, continued), and he would never grant the request if the decision was in his hands.
Mr. A.J. WOLMARANS said that his position on this question was that he would not budge an inch.
Mr. JAN MEYER impugned the genuineness of the petition, and said he had represented Johannesburg in the Raad for some time, and could tell them how those things were worked. They were nearly all forgeries. He stated that as there were only 40,000 people in Johannesburg it was impossible that 38,000 of them signed. Therefore they were forgeries. The speaker concluded by saying that as long as he lived he would never risk the independence of the country by granting the franchise, except in accordance with the law. It was unreasonable to ask him to give up his precious birthright in this thoughtless manner. He could not do it—he would not do it!
Mr. PRINSLOO said that he had gone through the petitions from Potchefstroom, and certainly he had to admit that many of the signatures were not genuine, for he found on these petitions the names of his next-door neighbours, who had never told him a word about their signing such petitions.
Mr. OTTO again addressed the Raad, endeavouring to prove that memorials from Ottos Hoop contained many forgeries. He said that he did not consider the Johannesburg people who signed in that wonderful and fat book on the table to be law-abiding, and he would have none of them. The Raad had frequently heard that if the franchise were not extended there would be trouble. He was tired of these constant threats. He would say, 'Come on and fight! Come on!' (Cries of 'Order!')
Mr. OTTO (proceeding): I say, 'Come on and have it out; and the sooner the better.' I cannot help it, Mr. Chairman, I must speak out. I say I am prepared to fight them, and I think every burgher of the South African Republic is with me.
The CHAIRMAN (rapping violently): Order, order!
Mr. OTTO: Yes, this poor South African Republic, which they say they own three-fourths of. They took it from us, and we fought for it and got it back.
The CHAIRMAN: Order!
Mr. OTTO: They called us rebels then. I say they are rebels.
Loud cries of 'Order!'
Mr. OTTO: I will say to-day, those persons who signed the memorials in that book are rebels.
The CHAIRMAN: Will you keep order? You have no right to say such things. We are not considering the question of powers, but the peaceful question of the extension of the franchise to-day; and keep to the point.
Mr. OTTO: Very well I will; but I call the whole country to witness that you silenced me, and would not allow me to speak out my mind.
The PRESIDENT said they had to distinguish between trustworthy persons and untrustworthy, and one proof was their going on commando, and the other was their becoming naturalized. People who were naturalized were more or less worthy, and if they separated themselves from the others who would not get naturalized, and petitioned the Raad themselves, the Raad would give ear to their petition. He strongly disapproved of the Raad being deceived in the manner it had been by the forged signatures.
Mr. R.K. LOVEDAY, in the course of an address dealing exhaustively with the subject, said: The President uses the argument that they should naturalize, and thus give evidence of their desire to become citizens. I have used the same argument, but what becomes of such arguments when met with the objections that the law requires such persons to undergo a probationary period extending from fourteen to twenty-four years before they are admitted to full rights of citizenship, and even after one has undergone that probationary period, he can only be admitted to full rights by resolution of the First Raad? Law 4 of 1890, being the Act of the two Volksraads, lays down clearly and distinctly that those who have been eligible for ten years for the Second Raad can be admitted to full citizenship. So that, in any case, the naturalized citizen cannot obtain full rights until he reaches the age of forty years, he not being eligible for the Second Raad until he is thirty years. The child born of non-naturalized parents must therefore wait until he is forty years-of age, although at the age of sixteen he may be called upon to do military service, and may fall in the defence of the land of his birth. When such arguments are hurled at me by our own flesh and blood—our kinsmen from all parts of South Africa—I must confess that I am not surprised that these persons indignantly refuse to accept citizenship upon such unreasonable terms. The element I have just referred to—namely, the Africander element—is very considerable, and numbers thousands hundreds of whom at the time this country was struggling for its independence, accorded it moral and financial support, and yet these very persons are subjected to a term of probation extending from fourteen to twenty-four years. It is useless for me to ask you whether such a policy is just and reasonable or Republican, for there can be but one answer, and that is 'No!' Is there one man in this Raad who would accept the franchise on the same terms? Let me impress upon you the grave nature of this question, and the absolute necessity of going to the burghers without a moment's delay, and consulting and advising them. Let us keep nothing from them regarding the true position, and I am sure we shall have their hearty co-operation in any reasonable scheme we may suggest. This is a duty we owe them, for we must not leave them under the impression that the Uitlanders are satisfied to remain aliens, as stated by some of the journals. I move amongst these people, and learn to know their true feelings, and when public journals tell you that these people are satisfied with their lot, they tell you that which they know to be false. Such journals are amongst the greatest sources of danger that the country has. We are informed by certain members that a proposition for the extension of the franchise must come from the burghers, but according to the Franchise Law the proposition must come from the Raad, and the public must consent. The member for Rustenberg says that there are 9,338 burghers who have declared that they are opposed to the extension of the franchise. Upon reference to the Report, he will find that there are only 1,564 opposed to the extension. Members appear afraid to touch upon the real question at issue, but try to discredit the memorials by vague statements that some of the signatures are not genuine, and the former member for Johannesburg, Mr. J. Meyer, seems just as anxious to discredit the people of Johannesburg as formerly he was to defend them.
The CHAIRMAN advanced many arguments in favour of granting the franchise to the Uitlander, but nevertheless concluded by stating that as the Raad with few exceptions were against the extension, he would go with the majority. He was not, he said, averse to the publication of Mr. Meyer's proposition, because the country would have to decide upon it; still he could not favour the extension of the franchise in the face of what had been said during the debate. Let the Raad endeavour to lighten the burden of the alien in other respects. Let the alien come to the Raad with his grievances, and let the Raad give a patient ear unto him, but he really was not entitled to the franchise.
The PRESIDENT again counselled the Raad not to consent to the publication of Mr. Meyer's proposal. He did not want it put to the country. This business had been repeated from year to year until he was tired of it. And why should they worry and weary the burghers once more by asking them to decide upon Mr. Meyer's motion? There was no need for it. There was no uncertainty about it. The burghers knew their minds, and their will, which was supreme, was known. The way was open for aliens to become burghers; let them follow that road and not try to jump over the wall. They had the privilege of voting for the Second Raad if they became naturalized, and could vote for officials, and that was more than they could do in the Cape Colony. In the Colony they could not vote for a President or any official. They were all appointed. They could only vote for Raad members there. And why should they want more power here all at once? What was the cause of all this commotion? What were they clamouring for? He knew. They wanted to get leave to vote for members of the First Raad, which had the independence of the country under its control. He had been told by these people that 'if you take us on the same van with you, we cannot overturn the van without hurting ourselves as well as you.' 'Ja,' that was true, 'maar,' the PRESIDENT continued, they could pull away the reins and drive the van along a different route.
Mr. JEPPE, again speaking, said there was one matter he must refer to. That was his Honour's remarks about the petitioners, calling them disobedient and unfaithful. The law compels no one to naturalize himself. How then could these petitioners have disobeyed it? Of course we should prefer them to naturalize. But can we be surprised if they hesitate to do so? Mr. Loveday has told you what naturalization means to them.
The PRESIDENT agreed that these people were not obliged by law to naturalize, but if they wanted burgher rights they should do so, when they would get the franchise for the Second Raad; and upon their being naturalized let them come nicely to the Raad and the Raad would have something to go to the country with, and they would receive fair treatment; but, if they refused naturalization and rejected the Transvaal laws, could they expect the franchise? No. Let Mr. Jeppe go back and give his people good advice, and if they were obedient to the law and became naturalized they would not regret it; but he could not expect his people to be made full burghers if they were disobedient and refused naturalization. Let them do as he advised, and he (the President) would stand by them and support them.
Mr. JEPPE said: His Honour has again asked me to advise the people of Johannesburg what to do regarding the extension of the franchise. He says they must first naturalize and then come again. Then he holds out hopes that their wishes will be met. Why then does he not support Mr. Meyer's proposal, which affects naturalized people only? What is it I am to advise the people of Johannesburg? I have had many suggestions from different members. You, Mr. Chairman, seem to support the hundred men from Lydenburg who suggest ten years' residence as a qualification. Mr. Jan Meyer suggests that those who came early to the goldfields should memorialize separately, and he would support them. Others say that only those who are naturalized should petition, and that if a few hundreds petitioned instead of 35,000, their reception would be different. Well, we have had one petition here wherein all these conditions were complied with. It was not signed by anyone who had not been here ten years, or who is not naturalized, or who could at all be suspected of being unfaithful, nor could any exception be taken to it on the ground of numbers, since it was signed by one man only, Mr. Justice Morice, and yet it was rejected. Gentlemen, I am anxiously groping for the light; but what, in the face of this, am I to advise my people?
Mr. JAN DE BEER endeavoured to refute Messrs. Jeppe's and Loveday's statements, when they said a man could not become a full member until he was forty. They were out of their reckoning, because a man did not live until he was sixteen. He was out of the country. In the eyes of the law he was a foreigner until he was sixteen. (Laughter.) The member adduced other similar arguments to refute those of Messrs. Jeppe and Loveday, causing much laughter.
Mr. LOVEDAY replied to the President, especially referring to his Honour's statement that he (Mr. Loveday) was wrong when he said that a person would have to wait until he was forty before he could obtain the full rights. He (Mr. Loveday) repeated and emphasized his statements of yesterday.
The CHAIRMAN said there was no doubt about it. What Mr. Loveday said regarding the qualifications and how long a man would have to wait until he was qualified to become a full burgher was absolutely correct. It could not be contradicted. The law was clear on that point. There was no doubt about it.
Mr. JAN DE BEER: Yes; I see now Mr. Loveday is right, and I am wrong. The law does say what Mr. Loveday said. It must be altered.
The debate was closed on the third day, and Mr. Otto's motion to accept the report of the majority of the Committee, to refuse the request of the memoralists, and to refer them to the existing laws, was carried by sixteen votes to eight.