THE CONFERENCE AT PRETORIA BETWEEN THE COMMISSION OF THE NATIONAL REPRESENTATIVES AND LORDS KITCHENER AND MILNER (MAY 19TH-MAY 28TH, 1902)
Minutes of the Conference held at Pretoria on May 19th, 1902, between Lord Kitchener and Lord Milner, representatives of the British Government, and Commandant-General L. Botha, Commander-in-Chief C.R. de Wet, General J.H. De la Rey, Judge J.B.M. Hertzog, and General J.C. Smuts, delegates of the national representatives, who had met at Vereeniging on May 15th, 1902.
Mr. N.J. de Wet acted as interpreter; Mr. O. Walrond was secretary for the English Government; and the Rev. J.D. Kestell and D. Van Velden acted in a similar capacity for the Commission.
The Conference met at ten o'clock in the morning at the house of Lord Kitchener. After having greeted each other, the members took their seats at the table in the centre of the room.
Commandant-General L. Botha opened the proceedings in the following words:
"Allow me to state that, although the negotiations have taken a longer time than we expected, I am able to assure your Excellencies that we are acting in good faith, and that everything has been done with the sole aim of concluding the peace which we all desire.
"I must also draw attention to the fact that everything we transact here must be submitted to our national representatives, in order to obtain their sanction."
The suggestion was then made that the proposals which the Commission was prepared to make should be laid before the Conference, whereupon the following letter was read to the meeting:
PRETORIA, 19th May, 1902.
To their Excellencies, Lord Kitchener and Lord Milner, Pretoria.
With a view to finally concluding the existing hostilities, and being fully empowered by the Government of the two Republics, we have the honour to propose the following points—in addition to the conditions already offered in the negotiations of April last—as a basis for negotiations:
(a) We are prepared to cede our independence as regards our foreign relations.
(b) We wish to retain self-government in our country, under British supervision.
(c) We are prepared to cede a part of our territory.
Should your Excellencies be prepared to negotiate on this basis, then the above-mentioned points can be elaborated.
We have the honour to be,
Your Excellencies' most obedient servants,
C.R. DE WET.
J.H. DE LA REY.
When this letter had been read, a discussion followed.
Lord Milner: "Considering the wide difference between this proposal and that made by His Majesty's Government, when we last met, I fear that I can hold out very little hope of any good results following negotiations on the basis you have suggested."
Lord Kitchener: "We can take those proposals into consideration, but I cannot see how it is possible to bring them into harmony with those of His Majesty's Government."
Commandant-General Botha: "If this is the position you take, we should like to receive from you a final answer to our proposals."
Lord Milner: "Do you wish us to refer your proposals to His Majesty's Government?"
Commandant-General Botha: "Yes, unless you have full powers to give us a final reply."
Lord Milner: "I am quite convinced that your proposal will be rejected; and I feel bound to say that to refer it, as it stands, to His Majesty's Government will only do you harm."
Commandant-General Botha: "If you have no power to decide upon this proposal here, we should like you to refer it to His Majesty's Government."
Lord Milner: "I have no objection to taking the responsibility of refusing your proposal on myself. The instructions received by myself and Lord Kitchener are quite clear on this point."
Commandant-General Botha: "I must then understand that when Lord Salisbury said that this war was not carried on with a view to annex territory, he did not mean it."
Lord Kitchener: "It is no longer a question of territory, for annexation is an accomplished fact."
Commandant-General Botha: "I am unable to see how our proposal is inconsistent with annexation."
Lord Milner: "I cannot now recall the exact words used by Lord Salisbury, but it is true that Lord Salisbury declared that his Government did not begin the war with the intention of obtaining territory. But in the course of the war circumstances developed in such a way that the decision to annex the Republics became a necessity, and the British Government have pronounced their firm intention not to withdraw from this decision."
Judge Hertzog: "I should like to be informed as to what the great difference is between the basis now proposed by us and that laid down by His Majesty's Government during the negotiations of last year—I do not mean the difference in details, but in principle."
Lord Kitchener: "Do you mean by your proposal that the Boers will become British citizens?"
General Smuts: "I cannot see that our proposal is necessarily in contradiction to that of last year. Our proposal only makes provision concerning the administration."
Lord Milner then quoted from the terms offered at Middelburg by the British Government the previous year:—
"At the earliest possible date military administration shall cease, and be replaced by civil administration in the form of a Crown Colony Government. At first there will be in each of the new Colonies a Governor, an Executive Council consisting of the highest officials, and a Legislative Council, which latter shall consist of a certain number of official members and also of a nominated non-official element. But it is the wish of His Majesty's Government to introduce a representative element as soon as circumstances permit, and, in course of time, to grant to the new colonies the right of self-government.
"It may be that I do not properly understand your proposal, but it seems to me to differ not only in detail, but also in spirit from the scheme I have just read to you."
Judge Hertzog: "I entirely agree with you that there is a difference in idea between the two proposals; but only such a difference in idea as might well be found between Colonies of the same State. In other words, one constitution is adapted for one colony, whilst another constitution is found fitting for another colony, but yet they all belong to the same Empire."
Lord Milner: "Exactly. There are different constitutions in different Colonies; but it seems to me that the policy laid down in your proposal differs from that laid down by His Majesty's Government."
Judge Hertzog: "I think that I am expressing the opinion of the whole Commission when I say that we wish for peace. I draw attention to this to show the way in which, according to my opinion, we should consider the matter. For if we on both sides are really desirous of coming to a settlement, we should not make too much of theoretical difficulties, so long as the practical aim has been obtained. For instance, the different Colonies which now are joined to form the United States once possessed constitutions differing much from one another. Now the constitution laid down in our proposal does not differ so much from that laid down in yours that a practical difference should arise therefrom; and such a practical difference would arise if you insisted upon carrying on negotiations on your own basis. I imagine that England has a certain object before her in South Africa, and I believe that that object can be as well obtained by our proposal as by that of Middelburg. I therefore ask, Is the difference so great that, in order for England to obtain her object, an entirely new status must be called into existence?"
Lord Milner: "We are comparing two different things. Here in the Middelburg scheme there are a number of definite proposals, which enter upon a great mass of particulars. I do not mean to imply that we have not the power to go into particulars. I perfectly understand that it lies within the power of Lord Kitchener and myself to carry on further deliberations with you about details, so as to throw light on any doubtful points, and, perhaps, to make such changes as would not fundamentally affect the scheme. As you say that your proposals are not in contradiction with those formulated at Middelburg, then there is no reason why you should not lay aside your proposals and discuss the Middelburg proposals, which are definite."
Judge Hertzog: "I quite admit that you, Lord Milner, are entitled to say that there is a fundamental difference between our proposals. But it is another question whether the difficulty that thus arises is of such a nature that we—those of us who on both sides are anxious to conclude peace—should not be able to find a solution to it satisfactory to both parties. I cannot answer that question; nor can I see why the same result would not be reached by negotiating on the basis proposed by us as by carrying on negotiations on the Middelburg proposal."
Lord Milner: "I understand, then, that you acknowledge that there is a fundamental difference between the two bases. Well, I do not think that we are empowered to negotiate on a basis differing from that laid down in the last report of His Majesty's Government, and also differing from the tenor of the Middelburg proposal. I may say that I believe that His Majesty's Government in their latest message went as far as it was possible for them to go with the object of meeting you. The whole spirit of the telegram was to that effect."
Commander-in-Chief de Wet: "I hope you will understand that I do not speak as a lawyer. (Lord Kitchener, laughing: "That's the case with me too!") I fully concur with what General Botha and Judge Hertzog have said in regard to our eagerness to establish peace. In order to be brief, I will only remark that I did not understand His Excellency, Lord Milner, to mean—any more than I myself meant—that we should go to the nation with the Middelburg proposal, with the idea of coming back with it unaltered."
Lord Milner: "No; if I gave that impression, I did not intend to do so. But I believe that when you went to your people with the last message from His Majesty's Government it was with the knowledge—which the message itself made clear—that His Majesty's Government was not prepared to take into consideration any terms which differed widely from the policy laid down in the Middelburg proposal."
Commander-in-Chief de Wet: "That was indeed what I understood; and accordingly we have now come with a proposal which does not differ very much from the Middelburg proposal."
General Smuts: "I thought that the vital principle your Government had in view was the destruction of our independence, and in our proposal the independence of the two Republics with regard to foreign relations is given up. I was therefore of opinion that the two parties might come to an arrangement on this basis. I did not think that for the restoration of peace the Middelburg terms were essential."
Lord Milner: "Not in the details, but in the general ideas. As the British Government has laid down a basis, and you have had weeks in which to consider the matter, it would never do for you now to put it on one side. Lord Kitchener has given your nation considerable time in which to take counsel; and now you come back, and, ignoring the Middelburg terms, you propose entirely different ones of your own, and say, let us negotiate on these. I do not believe that I and Lord Kitchener would be justified in doing this. But in case he is of another opinion, the British Government can be asked if they are prepared to set on one side all the former deliberations and begin again on a new basis."
Commander-in-Chief de Wet: "We cannot, of course, prevent Lord Kitchener from asking his Government any questions he pleases, but, at the same time, we request that you will cable our behests to the English Government."
Commandant-General Botha: "I cannot see that we are beginning again on a new basis, for, in consequence of the negotiations in April last, you were ordered by the British Government to encourage us to make fresh proposals. Our present proposal is the direct result of that order."
Lord Milner: "I did my best to get fresh proposals from you, but you would not make any. You forced the British Government into making proposals."
Commandant-General Botha: "I am of opinion that we must both work together in this matter of formulating proposals."
Lord Kitchener: "You were asked to make proposals, but you did not do so; and now, after the British Government has made a proposal, you yourselves come forward with one of your own."
General De la Rey: "I think that it was the encouragement given us by correspondence between the Netherlands and the British Government that caused us to make our proposals."
Lord Milner: "That correspondence was at the beginning of the negotiations."
Commander-in-Chief de Wet: "If we had been obliged to make a new proposal in April, we would not have been able to make one so fair, and so much to the advantage of the British Government, as our present one, for, not having consulted the nation, we would have been compelled to insist on entire independence."
Lord Milner: "I must remind you of what has taken place; not with the object of putting you in the wrong, but in order to make the position clear, for there are some points about it which are not very clear. You came and made a proposal. The British Government gave you a distinct answer—they refused to accept it. Their answer was perfectly outspoken, and perfectly intelligible. At the same time they said, 'We are anxious for peace; will you make other proposals?' You then said, 'No! we have no power to do so; we must first consult the nation.' We admitted that argument. Then you said, 'Let the British Government make proposals.' The British Government did so, and they are fully entitled to an answer. In what position do you think you are placing Lord Kitchener and myself? You come back with a totally fresh proposal, and do not say anything about ours. This is not fair treatment to the British Government, and we are not bound to take your proposal into consideration."
Judge Hertzog: "I have endeavoured to show that our reply really cannot be taken as ignoring the proposal of the British Government. The great question in the correspondence in April between us and the British Government was the question of independence; and now, after having consulted the nation, we come here and say that we are prepared to sacrifice in some degree our independence, and we indicate how far we will give it up. And, as General Smuts has said, that is the basis which we have laid down in our present proposal."
Lord Milner: "You say that you give up your independence as regards foreign relations."
Judge Hertzog: "Yes. But then you must understand that this is only a general principle, which we treat in detail later on."
General Smuts: "The independence is given up both in regard to our foreign relations and in regard to interior administration, which will be placed under the supervision of the British Government. So that the effect of these two articles is, that the independence is sacrificed, and that the two Republics will not in the future be able to be regarded as Sovereign States."
Lord Milner: "I understand perfectly well that they would not be Sovereign States any longer, but my intellect is not bright enough for me to be able to say what they really would be."
Lord Kitchener: "They would be a new kind of 'international animal.'"
General Smuts: "It has more than once happened in the course of history that difficulties have been solved by compromise. And this draft proposal goes as near as seems possible towards making us a Colony."
Lord Kitchener: "Do you accept the annexation?"
General Smuts: "Not formally; but I do not see in what way this proposal is in opposition to the annexation proclamation."
Lord Kitchener: "I am afraid I am not clever enough to comprehend this. There would be two Governments in one State. And how do you imagine that this arrangement could be carried on?"
General Smuts: "A more ample explanation will have to be given of the word 'supervision'; and I thought that this was just one of the points on which we could carry on further discussions and negotiations."
Lord Milner: "I am certainly not going to give up an explicit basis for a vague proposal."
Lord Kitchener: "I feel convinced that your proposal would never be able to be carried out in the practical governing of a country."
Commander-in-Chief de Wet: "I agree that our proposal has not been fully worked out, but neither have the Middelburg proposals. This was clearly indicated by Lord Kitchener and Lord Milner when these proposals were made, and they were only looked upon as a basis on which we could negotiate, so that the business might be begun. We naturally cannot compel the British Government to accept our proposal; but, at all events, it is a basis."
Lord Milner: "I am very anxious that these discussions should not end in smoke, and I shall not allow any formalities to stand in the way, but to abandon the definite proposals of Middelburg (March 7th) for a thing like this, and to begin a fresh discussion on the basis of something which is so very vague will surely land us in trouble. I believe we are quite entitled to keep you to the Middelburg proposal, which we might modify in regard to details."
Commandant-General Botha: "Perhaps it would be well if you would first give an answer to our proposals."
Commander-in-Chief de Wet: "I think that (unless your Excellencies have power to give a final answer to our terms) it would not be unfair if we were to ask you to lay our proposal before your Government."
Commandant-General Botha: "We are come here with the earnest intention of concluding peace; and I think that if our proposal is carried out Boer and Briton will be able to live side by side in this country. I presume that it is the wish of both parties to be fair and just, and to make a peace by which both can abide, and which will be permanent in South Africa."
Lord Milner: "That is certainly our aim."
Lord Kitchener: "Your proposal would involve important changes in our own—changes which, so far as I understand them, we should be unable to permit."
Commandant-General Botha: "I am of opinion that before a proposal is made from your side you should give a definite answer to ours."
Lord Kitchener and Lord Milner: "Well, then, change your proposal into ours."
Lord Milner: "I do not believe that the British Government is prepared to go any further to meet you than they have done in their last proposal. They think that they have already gone far in their efforts for peace—further, indeed, than the general opinion of the British public would warrant."
Lord Kitchener: "The difference between our proposals seems to be too great."
Commandant-General Botha: "We shall always remain under the supervision of the British Government."
Lord Kitchener: "Will you then consider yourselves British subjects? 'Supervision' is a new word, and 'suzerainty' has already caused us too much trouble."
Judge Hertzog: "The idea is not so very new. There are several kinds of different States, all belonging to the British Empire. For instance, there is Basutoland."
Lord Milner: "There are many different kinds, but this one is a new variety."
Judge Hertzog: "If your Excellencies could only understand us! We have no wish to lose a single minute. We have been to the nation, and we know what the nation wants and what their temper is. If, then, we are to make a proposal here, it must be:—Firstly, a proposal which shall meet the English Government in a fair way; and, secondly, a proposal which we are honestly convinced will be acceptable to our nation. And such a proposal we have laid before you. And now we are placed in a disadvantageous position, for we are here before your Excellencies, who have not full power finally to decide the matter."
Lord Kitchener: "We are in the same position as yourselves."
Judge Hertzog: "We offer you here what we know is in accordance with the mind of the nation; we cannot possibly do anything that is against it."
Lord Milner: "Are we to understand that the Middelburg proposals are not according to the mind of your people?"
General Smuts: "As yet no answer has been given to them. The only decision come to by the national meeting is that which we are now laying before you."
Lord Kitchener: "Are you prepared to set aside your present proposal and to hand in another one bearing a closer resemblance to that of Middelburg? We must try and find some middle course; and as we are here to endeavour to arrive at something definite, let us try to obtain a basis for discussion. Shall we make a new proposal?"
General Smuts: "As soon as there is a final answer to our proposal we shall be able to take a fresh one into consideration."
Lord Milner: "I believe that the fact that you have refused to enter upon the proposal made by the British Government justifies us in not considering your proposal. Let us rather say that your very refusal implies your answer to what we have proposed."
General Smuts: "I understand the position to be as follows—The British Government has declined our proposals, and at the same time holds fast to the old basis, but without prejudice to its power of making a new proposal."
Lord Milner: "The whole difference between you and myself is that I take the letter of 7th March to be the utmost concession that the British Government is able to grant; not that that letter binds us down to every clause of the proposal, but that it is an indication of how far our Government is prepared to go on the general question. Your answer, however, is no answer at all."
Lord Kitchener then read his telegram, dated 14th April. ["A difficulty has arisen in getting on with the proceedings; the representatives state that constitutionally they have no power to discuss terms based on the surrender of independence, inasmuch as only the burghers can agree to such a basis. Therefore, if they were to propose terms, it would put them in a false position with regard to the people. If, however, His Majesty's Government could state the terms which, subsequently to a relinquishment of independence, they would be prepared to grant, the representatives, after asking for the necessary explanations, and without any expression of approval or disapproval, would submit such conditions to their people."] "Clearly you have not kept to what you undertook in this telegram."
Commander-in-Chief de Wet: "If it had only been a question of our feelings being hurt by having to give an answer on the basis proposed to us by the British then it would not have been necessary for the people to come together at Vereeniging. But in matter of fact we have come here with a proposal, which, rightly understood, is nearly equivocal to the Middelburg proposal, and which meets the wishes of the English Government as far as possible."
Commandant-General Botha: "I do not see why we should insist so much on our proposal. If it is not to the mind of your Excellencies, if it is an unacceptable proposal, then let us have a definite answer to it."
Lord Milner: "We wish to have an answer to the proposal made by us."
General Smuts: "I do not see that any proposal has been made by the British Government. A certain basis only has been laid down, and therefore no formal answer is required."
Lord Milner: "Our proposal is six times as definite as yours, and I believe that the British Government is justified in wanting to know if your people are inclined to come to terms on the general lines which have been placed before them."
Lord Kitchener: "Here is quite an original suggestion: How would it be if you were to go back to your people and ask them if they would not make a proposal?"
General Smuts: "You must understand that the Middelburg proposal, with all that took place in April, has been read to the people. Their answer was neither 'Yes' nor 'No.' They simply elected the delegates. The delegates as yet have not given any answer. They are still considering the matter, and, in order to gain time, they have commissioned us to see whether we could not come to some arrangement."
Lord Milner: "We are getting away from the subject. Tell us what alterations you want, and then place our proposal before your people."
Lord Kitchener: "Should you agree that your proposal is not in opposition to the annexation, we shall have accomplished something."
General Smuts: "Is it your opinion that our proposal must be set aside?"
Lord Kitchener: "Yes, surely. It is impossible for us to act on it."
Lord Milner: "It is impossible for us to take your proposal into consideration. We can send it to England, but this would certainly tend to hinder the negotiations. This is my personal opinion, which naturally you are not bound to accept. All that we can say is, that this is the only answer that we can give you."
Lord Kitchener: "It would be better to draw up a new document, in which everything of importance would be noted down, and all unimportant matters left out."
General Smuts: "But paragraph 3 of our proposal has not even been mentioned. We are prepared to cede a part of our territory."
Lord Milner: "This would be in contradiction to the annexation of the whole. If the whole becomes annexed by us, how then can a part be ceded by you?"
General Smuts: "The ceded part would then become a Crown Colony, the remaining part being governed as is here proposed."
Lord Milner: "You mean that one part would become a British Colony of the ordinary type, and another part a protected Republic?"
Lord Kitchener: "Two forms of government in the same country would lead to great friction. Our proposals are too divergent. From a military point of view, the two forms of government could not co-exist. Before a year was over we should be at war again."
The meeting was then adjourned till the afternoon.
During the interval the Commission discussed the situation, and sent General J.C. Smuts to deliberate on several points with Lord Kitchener and Lord Milner.
The meeting opened again at four o'clock.
Lord Milner: "In consequence of an informal conversation with General Smuts, Lord Kitchener and I have drawn up a document, which will show the form in which, as we think, the only agreement that can be arrived at must be worded. It is a draft document, and we believe the Governments will be able to sign it. Our idea is that after it has been taken into consideration here it might be laid before the burghers, and you could ask them, 'Are you willing that we should put our signatures to it?'"
This document ran as follows:—"The undersigned, leaders of the Boer forces in the Veldt, accepting, in their own name, and in that of the said burghers, the annexations as mentioned in the proclamations of Lord Roberts, dated respectively the 24th May, in the year of our Lord nineteen hundred, and number 15, dated 1st day of September, in the year of our Lord nineteen hundred, and accepting as a consequence thereof their status of British citizens, agree herewith immediately to lay down their weapons, and to hand over all guns, small arms, ammunition, and stores in their possession, or under their hold, and to cease all further resistance against the Government of His Majesty King Edward Seventh, or his successors. They do this trusting in the assurance of His Majesty's Government that neither their personal freedom nor their property shall be taken away from them, or from the burghers who surrender with them; and that the future action of His Majesty's Government in relation to the consequences of the war shall be in harmony with the declaration mentioned below. It is clearly understood that all burghers who at present are prisoners of war, in order to be able to enjoy the above-mentioned assurance, will have to notify their acceptance of the status of British citizens."
Commandant-General Botha: "Are we to understand that our proposal is now altogether rejected?"
Lord Milner and Lord Kitchener: "Yes."
Commandant-General Botha: "Then I understand that you are going to be guided only by the Middelburg proposals?"
Lord Kitchener: "No; we can alter them."
Lord Milner: "This draft document was originally written out in order to be annexed to the Middelburg proposals. But instead of the Middelburg proposals, this document is now drawn up, in order to place us in the position to formulate the proposals differently."
General Smuts: "If the idea is then that the Middelburg proposals should be amended, would it not be best to do so now, and then to annex them to this document?"
Lord Milner: "That which will take the place of the Middelburg proposals has to be added as a schedule to this document, and we have to work out this schedule together."
General Smuts: "I think it would be far better if you were to alter the proposal yourselves, and then lay it before us for consideration; we could then see what we could do to meet you."
Lord Kitchener: "I think that a sub-committee should be formed by you in order to draw up the schedule."
Lord Milner: "My idea is that the schedule should be drawn up, so that it and the document could be taken into consideration together."
General Smuts: "We should like to consider first whether we will help in drawing it up."
Lord Milner: "I am willing to draw it up in conjunction with you, or to let it be drawn up by you alone, but, from past experience, I must decline to draw it up by myself."
General Smuts: "If we were to sign this document, would not the outcome be that we leaders made ourselves responsible for the laying down of arms by our burghers."
Lord Milner: "Yes. And should your men not lay down their arms it would be a great misfortune."
Lord Kitchener: "I do not think so, for if some of the burghers refused to lay down their arms, the signatories could not help it. There are sure to be some who are dissatisfied."
General Smuts: "The document does not mention this."
Lord Kitchener: "It can be amended."
General De la Rey: "Well, then, there can be no peace, for one part of the burghers will hold back and continue the war."
Lord Milner: "If the national meeting agrees to give you power to sign this document, it will certainly mean that the burghers as a whole are agreeable; and those who after this do not submit will be—well, I do not know what I can call them—outlaws. But we will not consider such an eventuality possible."
General Botha: "We desire a peace that will be honourable to both parties. And, as I understand this document, we are leaving honour behind us, for we are now not only surrendering our independence, but we are allowing every burgher to be fettered hand and foot. Where is the 'honourable peace' for us? If we conclude peace, we have to do it as men who have to live and die here. We must not agree to a peace which leaves behind in the hearts of one party a wound that will never heal. I will do everything in my power to obtain peace. But it seems to me that this document asks too much of us, because, if I interpret it aright, it means that we must surrender our independence, that every one must give up his weapons, and that the leaders, in addition, must sign an undertaking to this effect."
Lord Milner: "All that we wish is that the people should live peacefully together as British citizens. If we do not obtain this, then I do not know what we do obtain."
Lord Kitchener: "I do not think that the Commandant-General realizes what the schedule contains. In it we state what we are ready to grant. Perhaps it would be best that the schedule should be arranged now, and then you will see that an honourable peace is proposed."
General Botha: "Well, then, explain the document."
Lords Kitchener and Milner: "You are to help us: we do not know what the burghers demand."
Commander-in-Chief de Wet: "By signing this document we shall place ourselves in the position which the Commandant-General has so clearly described."
General De la Rey: "We cannot form a judgment on anything that is not properly elaborated. I have no objection to the constitution of a sub-committee with the duty of helping in the work."
Commandant-General Botha: "I also have no objection, since I understand that it binds nobody to anything."
Lord Kitchener: "No, nobody will be bound."
General De la Rey: "We wish to have the matter concluded, so that we may know what is before us."
Commander-in-Chief de Wet: "I should like to have it clearly understood that I do not think there is the least chance of a Government of which Lords Kitchener and Milner are the heads being accepted. An arrangement of this nature would, it seems to me, be an insurmountable difficulty. When I feel so strongly in this matter, it would not be fair to their Excellencies for me to remain silent."
Lord Kitchener: "I think it would be better if General de Wet were to wait until he has seen the whole document before he gives his opinion."
It was then agreed that Judge Hertzog and General Smuts should act as a sub-committee, in order to draw up a complete draft with Lord Kitchener, who was to be assisted by Sir Richard Solomon.
The meeting then adjourned.
On Wednesday, 21st May, 1902, the Conference reassembled.
Lord Milner laid before the meeting the documents which he had drawn up with the help of the sub-committee. It was in the form of a contract, and the names of the members of both Governments were now filled in. The document was the same as that telegraphed, with the exception of Article 11, dealing with the notes and receipts and the sum of three million pounds.
It was read in Dutch and English, and ran as follows:—
"General Lord Kitchener of Khartoum, Commander-in-Chief, and His Excellency Lord Milner, High Commissioner, on behalf of the British Government;
"Messrs. S.D. Burger, F.W. Reitz, Louis Botha, J.H. De la Rey, L.J. Meijer, and J.C. Krogh, on behalf of the Government of the South African Republic and its burghers;
"Messrs. M.T. Steyn, W.J.C. Brebner, C.R. de Wet, J.B.M. Hertzog, and C.H. Olivier, on behalf of the Government of the Orange Free State and its burghers, being anxious to put an end to the existing hostilities, agree on the following points:—
"Firstly, the burgher forces now in the Veldt shall at once lay down their arms, and surrender all the guns, small arms and war stores in their actual possession, or of which they have cognizance; and shall refrain from any further opposition to the authority of His Majesty King Edward VII., whom they acknowledge as their lawful sovereign.
"The manner and details of this surrender shall be arranged by Lord Kitchener, Commandant-General Botha, Assistant-Commandant-General J.H. De la Rey, and Commander-in-Chief de Wet.
"Secondly, burghers in the Veldt beyond the frontiers of the Transvaal and of the Orange River Colony shall, on their surrender, be brought back to their homes.
"Thirdly, all prisoners of war, being at the time burghers out of South Africa, shall, on their declaring that they accept this status of subjects of His Majesty King Edward VII., be brought back to the farms on which they were living before the war.
"Fourthly, the burghers who thus surrender, or who thus return, shall lose neither their personal freedom nor their property.
"Fifthly, no judicial proceedings, civil or criminal, shall be taken against any of the burghers who thus return for any action of theirs in connexion with the carrying on of the war.
"Sixthly, the Dutch language shall be taught in the public schools of the Transvaal and of the Orange River Colony, where the parents of the children demand it; and shall be admitted in the courts of justice, wherever this is required for the better and more effective administration of justice.
"Seventhly, the possession of rifles shall, on taking out a license in accordance with the law, be permitted in the Transvaal and in the Orange River Colony, to persons who require them for their protection.
"Eighthly, military administration in the Transvaal and in the Orange River Colony shall, as soon as possible, be followed by civil government; and, as soon as circumstances permit it, a representative system tending towards autonomy shall be introduced.
"Ninthly, the question of granting the franchise to the natives shall not be decided until a representative constitution has been granted.
"Tenthly, no special tax shall be laid on landed property in the Transvaal and Orange River Colony to meet the expenses of the war.
"Eleventhly, a judicial Commission shall be appointed, to which the government bank notes, issued under Law No. 1 of the South African Republic, may be presented within six months. All such notes, if found to have been duly issued in conformity with the terms of the law, and if the presenting party shall have given consideration in value, shall be honoured, but without interest.
"All receipts issued in the Veldt by the officers of the late Republics, or by their orders, may also be presented to the said Commission within six months; and if they have been given bona fide in exchange for goods used by the burghers in the Veldt, they shall be paid in full to the persons to whom they were originally issued.
"The amount payable on account of the said Government's notes and receipts shall not exceed £3,000,000; and in case the whole amount of such notes and receipts accepted by the Commission should exceed that amount, a pro rata reduction shall be made.
"The prisoners of war shall be given facilities to present their notes and receipts within the above-mentioned six months.
"Twelfthly, as soon as circumstances shall permit, there shall be appointed in each district of the Transvaal and of the Orange River Colony a Commission, in which the inhabitants of that district shall be represented, under the chairmanship of a magistrate or other official, with a view to assist in the bringing back of the people to their farms, and in procuring for those who, on account of losses through the war, are unable to provide for themselves, food, shelter, and such quantities of seed, cattle, implements, etc., as are necessary for the resuming of their previous callings. Funds for this purpose, repayable by instalments extending over a number of years, shall be advanced—free of interest—by the Government."
Lord Milner: "If we come to an agreement, it will be the English document which will be wired to England, on which His Majesty's Government will decide, and which will be signed."
Commandant-General Botha: "Will not a Dutch translation be annexed?"
Lord Milner: "I have no objection to the addition of a Dutch translation. This, then, is the document which we are prepared to lay before the English Government."
Commandant-General Botha: "There are a few points on which I wish to speak. The first is in reference to the receipts given by our officers. It seems to me quite right that they should be mentioned in the paragraph about government notes. These receipts were issued, in accordance with instructions given by our Government, for the purchase of cattle, grain, and other necessaries for the support of our commandos; and the chief officers now present, as well as all other officers, have acted according to these instructions and issued receipts. Therefore I make this request. Some of these receipts were afterwards paid in part, and others in full, in government notes. But many were not paid at all. I do not believe that the amount is great, but it will strengthen our hands to be able to take up this affair honourably, for our honour is concerned in so far as we have signed the receipts. It will be a great point in our favour to be able to go before our delegates and tell them that they are guaranteed on this point, for most of them are officers."
Lord Kitchener: "I understand that General Botha refers not to commandeer or requisition notes, but only to actual receipts issued on the Treasury."
Lord Milner: "I do not see any difference between these receipts and commandeer notes. The willingness of persons to sell goods makes no difference in a legal document."
Lord Kitchener: "I mean that it makes a difference whether it is an order on the Treasury or a requisition note. I should limit this (guarantee) to receipts on the Treasury, issued in consequence of a law that permitted a certain sum to be issued."
Commander-in-Chief de Wet: "No decision was come to in the Free State as to how much was to be issued."
Lord Kitchener: "Am I to understand by this that it is an unlimited amount, or does it come within the amount decided on by the Volksraad?"
General Smuts: "While the Government existed the Volksraad empowered it to issue notes up to a certain amount. And this was done. Moreover the officers in the Veldt had the right to make purchases for the commandos and to give receipts for them."
Lord Milner: "I can see no difference between receipts and requisition notes, and they have been issued for an unlimited amount."
General Smuts: "These receipts were issued under a totally different law. They were not paid out of the credit voted by the Volksraad."
Commander-in-Chief de Wet: "I would have it clearly understood that I quite agree with what has been said by the Commandant-General, namely that the honour of every officer is engaged for these documents, and if your Excellencies agree it will give us a strong weapon with which to return to the delegates."
Lord Milner: "The proposal is de facto that the British Government shall repay all the monies which the Republics borrowed with the object of fighting against England."
Commander-in-Chief de Wet: "Yet we have fought honourably, and if we give up our independence it is no more than fair that you should meet us in this matter."
Commandant-General Botha: "Am I to understand your position to be that we must surrender everything, and that whilst you take away the freedom of our country (which amounts to many millions) you at the same time refuse all responsibility for our debts. We had been recognized by you as belligerent, and so are entirely in our rights in asking that when you seize the riches of the country you shall also take its debts upon your shoulders. So long as the British Government reaches the great goal at which it is aiming, a matter so easily arranged as this should not cause any difficulty: we are not bickering about trifles, but are bringing forward what to us is a real hardship, and you must take it for granted that when we say something here we really mean it. And now we tell you that this matter is an obstacle in our way. Personally, we have not signed many receipts: it was the officers of lower rank who signed the greater number, and it is these very officers who form the majority of the national meeting at Vereeniging. In some instances, I may add, special persons were appointed for the purpose of carrying out this work."
Lord Milner: "We do not take over the assets without taking also the liabilities. We take over all the debts owed by the country before the war, and we have even agreed to take over a debt—a legal debt—in the shape of notes, which notes we are fully aware it only became necessary to issue on account of the war, and thus we are already paying a part of the cost incurred in fighting us. I think this is a very great concession; and when I agreed that it should be put down I said that I believed (and I still am of the same opinion) that the English Government would take exception to it, although I hope that this will not be the case. But to go further than this, and to ask us to pay not only a debt contracted under a law for the furtherance of the war, but also every debt contracted by every officer in the armies of both Republics, for the purpose of fighting us, is to my mind a most extravagant proposal. In answer to what General Botha has said, I may observe that the Commission appears to think that we have no persons behind us whose feelings and prejudices (if you use that word) we are bound to take into consideration. If this matter causes a difficulty among your burghers, I can only say that I am sure that your proposal will cause the British Government the greatest trouble when dealing with the nation, with whose feelings they have to reckon."
Commander-in-Chief de Wet: "I should like to explain the position of the Orange Free State. In the Transvaal a law was passed empowering the Government to issue £1,000,000; but in the Orange Free State nothing was done, as the Government possessed the right to pay with receipts, and we thought that a receipt was as good and as legal as a note; and therefore, from my point of view, the two are of equal importance."
Commandant-General Botha: "I might point out that we should not insist so much on the technical meaning of words—and this is especially true for your side, because we have assembled here with the aim of stopping the hostilities which cause you such great expenses every month; and our meeting may be able to bring these expenses to an end. Therefore, if you accept our proposal and pay these receipts, you might save almost enough to cover the cost you incur. It would be much cheaper to make an end of the war by co-operation than to let matters drift on. Therefore I believe that it is the duty of both parties to be willing to make concessions when obstacles appear."
General de Wet: "I can assure His Excellency, Lord Milner, that the people always believed that should everything be lost they still would be able to obtain this money due on receipts. If this is not granted, I cannot imagine what the results will be. I am afraid of the consequences; and I trust that you will do your best to meet our wishes."
Commandant-General Botha: "It will not be a very large sum, but we cannot give you the exact amount."
Commander-in-Chief de Wet: "You can well understand that our expenses are only a drop in the ocean compared with yours. If I am right, the Orange Free State had three quarters of a million when the war began, and the issue of receipts only started when that sum was exhausted. Your Excellencies must acknowledge that we have the same obligation of creditor through these receipts as we should have in any other case."
Commandant-General Botha: "You have already many of our notes in your possession. In one case alone there were fifty thousand hidden away, and found by you. I have stated privately to Lord Milner that what we are now striving to obtain has already been granted to us de facto by Lord Kitchener. In Lord Kitchener's Middelburg proposal the paying of the Government notes was refused, but there was a proviso that the receipts should be paid to the amount of one million. Should this now be withdrawn, surely such a withdrawal would form a deviation from the Middelburg proposal. The paying of notes is legal, and is on quite another footing, and I cannot understand how it could have been refused in the Middelburg proposal. That it should be granted now is only reasonable. But as regards the payment of receipts, although it was allowed then up to a certain amount, it is now withdrawn. At this present stage of the proceedings I think that a point which had already been practically conceded in the previous negotiations should not be allowed to form a stumbling-block to a final agreement. I believe that the amount is only small; I was for one year in conjunction with De la Rey in command of the forces of the South African Republic. During that period of time an account was kept of all the receipts, and only a short time back the books were still in our possession. These receipts were issued in an orderly manner, and each of them was duly entered in a book, as far as I was able to judge. These receipts amounted to quite a small sum; and although Lord Milner would draw back if the sum was very big, the question how far he will go can be settled when the proposal is accepted. Yet I personally think that there are no grounds for fear, and the amount is really far smaller than you imagine."
Lord Milner: "I do not think it is so much a question of amount. This paying of notes and requisition notes appears to me very unreasonable. I believe that in this matter I am only voicing the opinion of the great majority of the British nation when I say that my countrymen would much prefer to pay a large sum at the conclusion of hostilities with the object of bettering the condition of the people who have been fighting against them than to pay a much smaller sum to meet the costs incurred by the Republics during the war. Whether such a view is right or wrong, it is a view you have to reckon with. We do not wish to pay the accounts of both parties; and my opinion of the clause quoted from the Middelburg proposal is that that clause was one of its faults. But should anything of the kind become necessary, then I think that the paying of the notes is less objectionable than the paying of the requisition notes. I placed this point about the payment of notes in the draft because I thought that if it came to a choice between paying one or the other you would prefer that the notes should be paid. However, if it should be thought better to return on this point to the Middelburg proposal, although I am greatly against the clause, I will waive my objection to it if Lord Kitchener is agreeable."
General Smuts: "I am afraid that we cannot agree to this, for we thought that the notes would be beyond all dispute."
Judge Hertzog: "I do not think that your Excellency is representing the matter fairly when you say that you will not pay the bills of both parties. There is one thing to be taken into consideration as regards the Orange Free State, and which must be considered before everything else, and that is, that we have made no loans nor have we given any government notes. The notes we used were notes of the South African Republic, which had been sent to the Orange Free State. Our law was formed on the idea that in case of war all the costs should be paid by commission notes. The Orange Free State acted on this principle, and receipts were issued. If we take into consideration at the same time that we have been and still are recognized by you as belligerent, then we can only say: On our side we surrender everything that we possess, and we only ask the other party to acknowledge the fact that if we had contracted a loan it would have been to the charge of the British Government, who, in taking everything from us, renders itself responsible for our public loans. Lord Milner should understand that it is of just as much importance to us for the receipts to be paid as it is to the South African Republic for the loan, which it contracted before the war, to be taken over by the British Government. But I can even go further and give Lord Milner the assurance that we have acted more economically when issuing these receipts than we should have done had we contracted the loan previous to the war. Now we have only what is absolutely necessary to meet our present needs. So that Lord Milner must own that we find ourselves in the same position towards those who are in possession of receipts, as we should have occupied towards any other creditor we might have had before the war began. I must give my support to what the Commandant-General has said; and I can only repeat what I have already informally told Lord Milner, namely, that this difficulty is almost insurmountable."
Lord Milner: "We can refer this to our Government. But your proposal is altogether antagonistic to the Middelburg proposal, which absolutely rejected the idea of taking over all the debts of the two States."
Lord Kitchener: "I should like to know the amount."
General De la Rey: "My issue of notes amounts to between twenty and fifty thousand pounds; but I cannot say what the issue in receipt has been."
Lord Milner: "There really is a feasible compromise, namely, to allow the notes and receipts to come in and to establish the suggested limit of £1,000,000."
Lord Kitchener: "Would that meet your difficulty?"
Commandant-General Botha: "No."
Lord Kitchener: "Well, would two or three million be sufficient? We must have a limit before we can do anything."
Commander-in-Chief de Wet: "It is impossible to stipulate the amount."
Lord Kitchener: "If you were in a position to give a limit, it would simplify matters."
Commander-in-Chief de Wet: "I agree with that entirely, and I can quite understand the position in which you are placed. Yet it is absolutely impossible to assign an amount. Will you give us your permission to adjourn for a moment in order to discuss the matter?"
The meeting was then adjourned. It reassembled at 2.30 p.m.
Commander-in-Chief de Wet: "We have agreed to fix on a sum of £3,000,000 for the government notes and receipts; their amount paid pro rata can be lowered should this sum prove insufficient. We have drawn up an article to lay before the meeting."
General Smuts then read a draft which was inserted at the end of Article 11 in the draft agreement.
In answer to a question by Lord Kitchener, Commander-in-Chief de Wet said: "The prisoners of war on the different islands who are in possession of such notes should be given an opportunity of sending them in for payment."
Lord Milner: "What is the next point you wish to raise? We now understand what your position is."
Commandant-General Botha: "Am I to understand that you mean that we are getting away from the point in discussion?"
Lord Milner: "This document contains your view of the matter, so we are now aware of your idea."
Commandant-General Botha: "We must know what to say to the delegates."
Lord Kitchener: "Is this the only point you wish to bring forward, or are there others in addition?"
Commandant-General Botha: "There is another concerning the protection of debtors, which is a vital question for us."
Lord Milner: "We must not have any beating about the bush. Everything must appear in the document."
General Smuts: "Most of the debts contracted before the war will have to be paid after the war; and if the debtors cannot pay we are afraid that it will result in the ruin of a great part of the inhabitants. We should like to see steps taken to prevent this. If Lord Milner intends to take such steps, we should like to be informed what they are."
Lord Milner: "I think it would be best if you were to make a proposal on this point."
General Smuts: "Our proposal is roughly that all interest which became payable during the war should be joined to the principal, and that this should be payable six months after the war."
Lord Kitchener: "Is it necessary to make a proposal about this?"
General Smuts: "If the Government is prepared to meet us in this difficulty it will be unnecessary to place a formal clause in the draft agreement."
Lord Milner: "As I look at the matter, the Government is making certain promises in this document, and I consider that all promises to which a reference may be made later should appear in it. Everything to which the Government is asked to bind itself should appear in this document, and nothing else. I do not object to clauses being added, but I wish to prevent any possible misunderstanding."
General Smuts: "Well, in that case we are quite willing to propose such a paragraph."
Commandant-General Botha: "We waive this question, so that early measures may be taken to arrive at an understanding. In case a great number of the inhabitants become subjects of His Majesty, it is to every one's interest, and principally to that of the Government, that these people should not be ruined. They will be thrown upon the mercy of a Government, whose duty it is to study their interests. If steps are not taken to prevent it, speculators who have been buying up the liabilities will, as soon as peace is concluded, enforce them, and directly the Courts of Justice are opened they will issue summonses. Against this we have to be on our guard."
Lord Milner: "I agree with the Commandant-General. I think that as these people become subjects of His Majesty, then some provision will have to be made for them. But I believe it to be neither necessary nor advisable to point out in every particular case the way in which His Majesty's Government has to provide for these people. I think that an idea exists—perhaps it is a very natural idea—because we have been fighting against the burghers that, therefore, after peace has been concluded we shall still retain a feeling of enmity against them. Just the opposite, however, is the truth. Our endeavour will naturally be, from the moment hostilities cease, to gain the confidence of the people and to do our best to promote their welfare. But if we have to bind ourselves beforehand in regard to the manner in which we shall deal with all sorts of involved legal questions, further misunderstandings are certain to occur. If you have not confidence in us—that we shall try to be a righteous Government, and to maintain the balance between the different classes of His Majesty's subjects—then you must put in writing every point that strikes you, and let them be laid before His Majesty's Government, to see what they think about them."
Commander-in-Chief de Wet: "I trust that you will not think that we are trying to tie the hands of His Majesty's Government. There are many other points which will give the Government opportunity to win the confidence of the people. But about things which concern the financial position of burghers who are entirely ruined we feel it our duty to obtain definite promises. They will be a weapon in our hands when we return to the delegates."
Commandant-General Botha: "I do not quite understand, Lord Milner. I did not interpret Mr. Chamberlain's telegram in the sense that we had to present new proposals in order to bind our hands further. I thought that proposals were to be made with a view to establishing peace."
Lord Kitchener: "I do not think that it is altogether necessary to include this proposal in the document. It concerns the very involved legal questions as to what the rights of creditor and debtor shall be, and as to what the law in the Transvaal may be on the matter. I think that every one can rest assured that the interests of the Boers will be protected by the Government in every way; and this, whether the point is put down now or left in the hands of the Government with the recommendation from this Commission to take the matter into serious consideration.
"I think that I know of a better way to deal with this involved question. Let this matter be brought under the consideration of the Government. I may be mistaken, but, as far as I can see, it will prove a very thorny question for the lawyers, and will take a long time before it can be clearly stated. It is, however, the wish of us all that you should return to the delegates equipped in such a way that you will be able to arrive at a decision. You may rest assured that the matter which you have brought before us has been included in the minutes of this meeting. I do not think that it is necessary for you to go further than this. The matter can now be carefully considered, not only here, but also in England; and you may be quite sure that your interests will receive, in every way, full consideration."
General De la Rey: "I think that the matter has been sufficiently discussed in the presence of your Excellencies, and that it need not be placed in the draft contract, for by so doing one might stumble on legal questions."
Commander-in-Chief de Wet: "This is my point of view: There are two parties, and one of them is about to cease to exist. It is, therefore, natural that this party cannot allow a vital question to pass unnoticed. It is for this reason that I cannot agree that this matter should be omitted from the draft contract. It will not be necessary that the military Government which now exists should continue after the war."
Lord Kitchener: "But the question will have to be settled by the Civil Government. It is a matter for lawyers, and must be laid before them, and will require much consideration."
Commandant-General Botha: "When hostilities are concluded it will be possible to summon a burgher for a debt contracted before the war. I put this request because our law states that no burgher can be summoned till sixty days have elapsed since the conclusion of peace."
Lord Kitchener: "You may entirely rely upon this, that whenever the war is over each burgher will have the absolute right to obtain consideration for his position in every way, and that his interests will be protected under the new as under the old régime."
Commandant-General Botha: "I understand that perfectly. But the possibility exists that syndicates may be formed to buy up all the debts, and the people may be ruined before a single burgher is in the position to earn anything or to have his position restored."
Lord Kitchener: "I quite agree with what the Commandant-General has said, and he is quite right to bring the question up. Yet I do not think that the draft contract is the best place in which to bring it forward. Once peace is a fact, then it will be the duty of every one to draw the attention of the Government to what is required to aid the nation; but to bring up difficulties at the present moment, and to attempt to right them, seems to be an endless task, and one for which this document was not destined."
Commander-in-Chief de Wet: "I am of opinion that this is a matter which should be settled by a proclamation; but I want to have as many weapons as possible in my hands when I return to the national delegates, and one of the first questions that will be asked me is this, 'What guarantee do we possess that we shall not be ruined by our creditors?' It would not be much trouble to you to give us now a draft of the proclamation which would be issued as soon as peace is concluded."
Lord Kitchener: "But this would be something quite apart from the matter under discussion."
Commander-in-Chief de Wet: "Yes."
Lord Milner: "What is the good then?"
Commander-in-Chief de Wet: "It is such a vital question for us that you cannot take it amiss if we insist upon it, for we have to give up everything."
Lord Kitchener: "Of course, no one is blaming you."
Lord Milner: "But without any thought of blame, I must point out that the effect of their proposal would be that another clause would have to be inserted in the draft contract, undertaking that such a proclamation would be issued."
Lord Kitchener: "I think that as long as the delegates receive an assurance that the Government will take this matter into consideration, in the interests of their subjects, whom they are bound to protect, that such an assurance ought to suffice. There should be no written undertaking, but only a promise that the matter shall receive attention. It is not advisable after the subject has been brought before the Government to press the matter further. The feelings of the burghers, moreover, in other ways than this, will be brought before Lord Milner."
Commander-in-Chief de Wet: "If we wished to do so, we could insist upon many other little points, but we only bring up vital questions."
Lord Kitchener: "This is one of the questions which, when once brought under the consideration of the Government cannot be put aside; and you may tell the burghers that their interests will be protected as fully as is possible. I think that, in so complicated a matter, this ought to be sufficient for them. All that is debated here is recorded in the minutes, and these minutes will be considered not only here, but also in England. Are you satisfied with this?"
Commandant-General Botha: "Yes, so far as I am concerned."
Commander-in-Chief de Wet: "I also am satisfied."
Lord Milner: "I hope it is quite understood that if the matter is allowed to remain where it is, my Government will be under no obligation to treat the matter in any particular way."
Lord Kitchener: "But there is a pledge that the matter will be properly considered."
Lord Milner: "Yes, naturally; if we put anything down in writing. I am convinced that it is necessary to make it quite clear that this document must contain everything about which there is anything in the form of a pledge."
Lord Kitchener: "There is, then, a pledge that the point upon which you have touched will be considered in your interests."
General Smuts: "There still remains the question of the payment of receipts."
Lord Kitchener: "That will be placed before the Government. The sum is an essential point; I believe the amount to be considerable. I should now like to know that it is understood that we are agreed about all these draft proposals, including your amendments, and that there are no further questions to be brought forward—it is necessary to know this, as they would have to be telegraphed to England."
Commander-in-Chief de Wet: "We have no further points to raise."
Lord Milner: "The telegram that I shall despatch is as follows:
'The Commission is prepared to lay before their burgher meeting the following document (in the event of it being sanctioned by His Majesty's Government), and to ask of the meeting a "Yes" or "No."'
"Is that satisfactory?"
Commander-in-Chief de Wet: "Yes, naturally. Only I cannot say that this document has my approval. Yet I shall be content to abide by the decision of the delegates."
Judge Hertzog: "I should not like to think that we are bound to use our influence with the delegates."
Lord Milner: "I think that is understood. I understand that the members of the Commission are not bound in respect of the opinions they may express before the burghers. They are only bound, if the British Government approves of the document, to lay it before the people. I propose to send the following telegram:
'The Commission is prepared to lay the following document before the burgher meeting at Vereeniging, for a "Yes" or "No" vote, in the event of His Majesty's Government approving of it.'
"I want also to state that we have completely deviated from the Middelburg proposal. I believe everyone is fully aware that the Middelburg proposal has been annulled altogether. Should an agreement be arranged in conformity with this document, and signed, then no attempt must be made to explain the document, or its terms, by anything in the Middelburg proposal."
The meeting was now adjourned.
WEDNESDAY, MAY 28TH, 1902.
The Commission met Lord Kitchener and Lord Milner at eleven o'clock with the purpose of hearing the British Government's answer to the draft proposal sent by their Lordships.
Lord Milner read the following memorandum:
"In answer to the telegram composed at our last meeting with the consent of the Commission and of which the members have received a copy, the following message has been received from His Majesty's Government:—
'His Majesty's Government sanctions the laying before the meeting for a "Yes" or "No" vote the document drawn up by the Commission and sent by Lord Kitchener on the 21st May to the Secretary of War, with the following amendments:
'The final proposal made by the British Government, on which the national representatives at Vereeniging have to answer "Yes" or "No."
'General Lord Kitchener of Khartoum, Commander-in-Chief, and His Excellency Lord Milner, High Commissioner, on behalf of the British Government;
'Messrs. S.W. Burger, F.W. Reitz, Louis Botha, J.H. De la Rey, L.J. Meijer, and J.C. Krogh on behalf of the Government of the South African Republic and its burghers;
'Messrs. M.T. Steyn, W.J.C. Brebner, C.R. de Wet, J.B.M. Hertzog, and C.H. Olivier on behalf of the Government of the Orange Free State and its burghers, being anxious to put an end to the existing hostilities, agree on the following points:
'Firstly, the burgher forces now in the Veldt shall at once lay down their arms, and surrender all the guns, small arms, and war stores in their actual possession, or of which they have cognizance, and shall abstain from any further opposition to the authority of His Majesty King Edward VII., whom they acknowledge as their lawful sovereign.
'The manner and details of this surrender shall be arranged by Lord Kitchener, Commandant-General Botha, Assistant-Commandant-General J.H. De la Rey, and Commander-in-Chief de Wet.
'Secondly, burghers in the Veldt beyond the frontiers of the Transvaal and of the Orange River Colony, and all prisoners of war who are out of South Africa, who are burghers, shall, on their declaration that they accept the status of subjects of His Majesty King Edward VII., be brought back to their homes, as soon as transport and means of subsistence can be assured.
'Thirdly, the burghers who thus surrender, or who thus return, shall lose neither their personal freedom nor their property.
'Fourthly, no judicial proceedings, civil or criminal, shall be taken against any of the burghers who thus return for any action in connexion with the carrying on of the war. The benefit of this clause shall, however, not extend to certain deeds antagonistic to the usages of warfare, which have been communicated by the Commander-in-Chief to the Boer Generals, and which shall be heard before a court martial immediately after the cessation of hostilities.
'Fifthly, the Dutch language shall be taught in the public schools of the Transvaal and of the Orange River Colony when the parents of children demand it; and shall be admitted in the Courts of Justice, whenever this is required for the better and more effective administration of justice.
'Sixthly, the possession of rifles shall, on taking out a licence in accordance with the law, be permitted in the Transvaal and the Orange River Colony to persons who require them for their protection.
'Seventhly, military administration in the Transvaal and in the Orange River Colony shall, as soon as it is possible, be followed by civil government; and, as soon as circumstances permit it, a representative system tending towards autonomy shall be introduced.
'Eighthly, the question of granting a franchise to the native shall not be decided until a representative constitution has been granted.
'Ninthly, no special tax shall be laid on landed property in the Transvaal and Orange River Colony, to meet the expenses of the war.
'Tenthly, as soon as circumstances permit there shall be appointed in each district in the Transvaal and the Orange River Colony a Commission, in which the inhabitants of that district shall be represented, under the chairmanship of a magistrate or other official, with the view to assist in the bringing back of the people to their farms, and in procuring for those who, on account of losses in the war are unable to provide for themselves, food, shelter, and such quantities of seed, cattle, implements, etc., as are necessary for the resuming of their previous callings.
'His Majesty's Government shall place at the disposal of these Commissions the sum of £3,000,000 for the above-mentioned purposes, and shall allow that all notes issued in conformity with Law No. 1, 1900, of the Government of the South African Republic, and all receipts given by the officers in the Veldt of the late Republics, or by their order, may be presented to a judicial Commission by the Government, and in case such notes and receipts are found by this Commission to have been duly issued for consideration in value, then they shall be accepted by the said Commission as proof of war losses, suffered by the persons to whom they had originally been given. In addition to the above-named free gift of £3,000,000, His Majesty's Government will be prepared to grant advances, in the shape of loans, for the same ends, free of interest for two years, and afterwards repayable over a period of years with three per cent. interest. No foreigner or rebel shall be entitled to benefit by this clause.'
Lord Milner: "In making this communication to the Commission we are instructed to add that if this opportunity of concluding an honourable peace is not taken advantage of within a time to be fixed by us, then this conference shall be regarded as closed, and His Majesty's Government shall not be bound in any way by the present terms. I have, in order that there may be no mistake about these terms, made a copy of the documents and of Lord Kitchener's telegram, also of the amendments and additions determined on by His Majesty's Government, and of the memorandum to which I have just drawn your attention."
A debate now followed on the time that should be allowed for the discussion of the proposals at Vereeniging, and it was agreed that Commandant-General Botha should propose a term that very day before the Commission left Pretoria.
It was subsequently settled that the delegates must arrive at a decision before Saturday evening, May 31st.
General Botha asked if there were any objection to the delegates erasing any paragraph of the proposal sent by the British Government.
Lord Milner: "There must be no alteration. Only 'Yes' or 'No' is to be answered."
Commandant-General Botha: "I think that the burghers have the right to erase any article they may wish, for they have the right to surrender unconditionally."
Lord Milner replied that the burghers certainly had the power to do so, but the document of the British Government could not be changed.
There now followed an informal discussion about the colonists who had been fighting on the side of the Republics.
Lord Milner communicated what the British Government's intentions were with regard to these colonists; and read the following document:—
"His Majesty's Government has to formally place on record that the colonists of Natal and the Cape Colony who have been engaged in fighting and who now surrender shall, on their return, be dealt with by the Colonial Governments in accordance with the laws of the Colonies, and that all British subjects who have joined the enemy shall be liable to be tried under the law of that part of the British Empire to which they belong.
"His Majesty's Government has received from the Government of Cape Colony a statement of their opinion as regards the terms to be offered to British subjects of the Cape Colony who are still in the Veldt or who have surrendered since April 12th, 1901. The terms are as follows:—In regard to the burghers, they all, on their surrender, after having laid down their arms, shall sign a document before a resident magistrate of the district in which their surrender has taken place, in which document they shall declare themselves guilty of high treason; and their punishment, in the event of their not having been guilty of murder, or of other deeds in contradiction to the customs of civilized warfare, shall be that for the rest of their lives they shall not be registered as voters, nor shall they be able to vote in Parliamentary, district, or municipal elections. As regards justices and veldtcornets of the Cape Colony, and all other persons who had occupied official positions under the Government of Cape Colony, and all who held the rank of commandant in the rebel or burgher forces, they shall be brought on the charge of high treason before the ordinary Courts of the country, or before such special Courts as later on may legally be constituted. The punishment for their misdeeds shall be left to the discretion of the Court, with this reservation, that in no case shall capital punishment be inflicted.
"The Government of Natal is of opinion that the rebels should be judged by the laws of the Colony."
The meeting now adjourned.
The secretaries and Messrs. de Wet and J. Ferreira, with the help of lawyers, set themselves the task of making copies of the proposal of the British Government for the use of the national representatives at Vereeniging. This work kept them engaged until the evening.
At seven o'clock the Commission left Pretoria and returned to Vereeniging.
THE MIDDELBURG PROPOSAL.
LORD KITCHENER TO COMMANDANT-GENERAL BOTHA.
PRETORIA, March 7, 1901.
With reference to our conversation at Middelburg on the 28th February, I have the honour to inform you that, in the event of a general and complete cessation of hostilities, and the surrender of all rifles, ammunition, cannon and other munitions of war in the hands of the burghers, or in Government depots, or elsewhere, His Majesty's Government is prepared to adopt the following measures.
His Majesty's Government will at once grant an amnesty in the Transvaal and Orange River Colony for all bonâ fide acts of war committed during the recent hostilities. British subjects belonging to Natal and Cape Colony, while they will not be compelled to return to those Colonies, will, if they do so, be liable to be dealt with by the laws of those Colonies specially passed to meet the circumstances arising out of the present war. As you are doubtless aware, the special law in the Cape Colony has greatly mitigated the ordinary penalties for high treason in the present case.
All prisoners of war, now in St. Helena, Ceylon, or elsewhere, being burghers or colonists, will, on the completion of the surrender, be brought back to their country as quickly as arrangements can be made for their transport.
At the earliest practicable date military administration will cease, and will be replaced by civil administration in the form of Crown Colony Government. There will, therefore, be, in the first instance, in each of the new Colonies, a Governor and an Executive Council, composed of the principal officials, with a Legislative Council consisting of a certain number of official members to whom a nominated unofficial element will be added. But it is the desire of His Majesty's Government, as soon as circumstances permit, to introduce a representative element, and ultimately to concede to the new Colonies the privilege of self-government. Moreover, on the cessation of hostilities, a High Court will be established in each of the new Colonies to administer the laws of the land, and this Court will be independent of the Executive.
Church property, public trusts, and orphan funds will be respected.
Both the English and Dutch languages will be used and taught in public schools when the parents of the children desire it, and allowed in Courts of Law.
As regards the debts of the late Republican Governments, His Majesty's Government cannot undertake any liability. It is, however, prepared, as an act of grace, to set aside a sum not exceeding one million pounds sterling to repay inhabitants of the Transvaal and Orange River Colony for goods requisitioned from them by the late Republican Governments, or subsequent to annexation, by Commandants in the field being in a position to enforce such requisitions. But such claims will have to be established to the satisfaction of a Judge or Judicial Commission, appointed by the Government, to investigate and assess them, and, if exceeding in the aggregate one million pounds, they will be liable to reduction pro rata.
I also beg to inform Your Honour that the new Government will take into immediate consideration the possibility of assisting by loan the occupants of farms, who will take the oath of allegiance, to repair any injuries sustained by destruction of buildings or loss of stock during the war, and that no special war tax will be imposed upon farms to defray the expense of the war.
When burghers require the protection of firearms, such will be allowed to them by licence, and on due registration, provided they take the oath of allegiance. Licences will also be issued for sporting rifles, guns, etc., but military firearms will only be allowed for purposes of protection.
As regards the extension of the franchise to Kaffirs in the Transvaal and Orange River Colony, it is not the intention of His Majesty's Government to give such franchise before representative Government is granted to those Colonies, and if then given it will be so limited as to secure the just predominance of the white race. The legal position of coloured persons will, however, be similar to that which they hold in the Cape Colony.
In conclusion I must inform Your Honour that, if the terms now offered are not accepted after a reasonable delay for consideration they must be regarded as cancelled.
I have, etc.,
Commander-in-Chief British Forces, South Africa.
To His Honour, Commandant-General Louis Botha.