Information wanted—Spion Kop—in defence of Colonel Thorneycroft — Sannah's Post disaster and consequences—Mosar's Hoek disaster, Reddersburg—who is to blame? — the siege of Wepener — why so late in the Transvaal—General French—in future—the R.A.M.C. — our transport service and engineers — brilliance of our colonials — a questionable advance—our future policy—conciliation and justice —rebels and warriors—a suggestion.
June 25.—If in the preceding chapters I have dealt with my own personal adventures during the Boer war, I have done so more under compulsion than of my own free will, since the varied episodes of my six months in South Africa have been compiled from heterogeneous experiences, and not from continual contact with the two great forces which have successfully invaded the enemies' country. Still, I have not been so wrapt up in myself as to have been unable to note from time to time the general entourage of the war, and it is more to give an aspect of realism to what has appeared like a fairy tale than to keep for future reference deeds and misdeeds which must ever remain green in my own memory, that " idle reflections" on the campaign form the concluding chapter of my book. The peace of a smooth passage on the Tantallon Castle has given me time to collect my scattered senses, and to write calmly on all I have seen and heard since I left England in January; and though it is better to believe half one hears, especially in matters military, any remarks of criticism I may make are jotted down in the general interest, and in the knowledge that a servant of a leading newspaper is no servant if he does not speak straightforwardly and honestly according to his own unbiassed opinions, and for the benefit of the great British public.
The cause of the war, and the original disposition of our troops in Natal at its commencement, I shall leave to the political and military wranglers to thresh out; nor do I intend—with the one exception of Spion Kop—to criticise our early failures. I only touch on this never-to-be-forgotten disaster because, having subsequently joined Thorneycroft's Mounted Infantry, and been on patrol for ten days under that mountain and in its immediate vicinity, I have been able to see the country myself and to glean not only the regiment's opinion on the subject, but also that of many other interested and disinterested participators. There is little doubt that the key to the relief of Lactysmith was by the Acton Homes road, and once inserted into the lock of Spion Kop, there was nothing more to do but turn it in the right direction—to outflank and cut off the blockaders, and also the large force which was dis-puting our advance over the Tugela, Van Reenen's, Besuidenhuit's, the Koodoo, and Olivier's Hoek Passes would all have been ours, and the Boers' only means of retreat would have been by rail vid Elandslaagte. Why the hill was not held after it had been partially captured (it was never completely in our possession) has been the subject of much controversy and difference of opinion, but in no account have I heard mention of a thick fog which overhung the hill (and often does overhang it) on the fatal night. The publication of the various commanders' despatches, in my opinion out of place at that period of the war, and Lord Roberts's stringent and severe comment, rendered Sir Redvers Buller's position as untenable as Sir Charles Warren's or Colonel Thorney-croft's. When one strikes at an evil, one must strike at the root: and if in this instance the root was the officer commanding the Natal forces, surely there was some oue who could have succeeded him in the command, or he himself have been spared the ignominy of the Commander-in-Chief's, no doubt just, censure. The real fact is that General Buller was miles away from the scene of the battle. For that there is no excuse. In the second place, Sir Charles Warren, instead of forcing the fighting on the right of the Boer position (north of the Acton Homes road), hardly engaged them at all. Lastly, the "unwarrantable assumption of responsibility" by Colonel Thorneycroft, when General Woodgate had been mortally wounded, was not unwarrantable. It was authorised by Sir Redvers Buller, and Colonel Thorn eycroft was ordered to use his own discretion as to a retirement. What did he do? He retired after suffering terrible loss. He had no guns, and he could not get his reinforcements. That Colonel Thorneycroft will try and clear himself from Lord Roberts's imputation is more than doubtful, but if he does, he and many others will unfold a tale about a certain officer which, for the present, had better be left untold. The gallantry of Colonel Thorneycroft has hardly been recognised. His successful night-march when he led the brigade (which no one else would lead) to the exact spot and at the exact minute, and the triumph of the night surprise, have surely deserved more prominent mention. What we want to know is, where was Sir Redvers Buller, whose absence from the scene of operations — at any rate, from the scene of the main attack—has never yet been clearly explained?
The disasters at Sannah's Post and Mosar's Hoek (near Reddersburg), coupled with the great failure of the war—viz., the unsuccessful attempt to cut off Christian de Wet when he was attacking Wepener—are the only three individual items of mismanagement, or want of judgment, I intend to touch upon, though my imprisonment in Pretoria has led me to hope that a searching inquiry will be made into the Talana Hill and Nicholson's Nek fiascos, if only to clear some of the unfortunate victims' characters. The loss of guns, convoy, and prisoners at Saunah's Post by means of a cleverly devised ambush has been the subject of much interest to me since I had the opportunity of hearing Christian de Wet's own version of his success, besides that of most of the imprisoned officers. It would appear from newspaper reports that the affair has been magnified into a brilliant extrication from an unfortunate position by General Broadwood, instead of being condemned as a gross piece of carelessness on somebody's part. Whose fault it was the Commander-in-Chief himself probably knows; yet no blame seems to attach to any of the commanding officers concerned, but rather Victoria crosses and high eulogies for valour, discipline, and generalship have been substituted.
What was the position? General Broad wood felt compelled to evacuate Thaba Nchu in face of a grossly exaggerated report of a probable attack by overwhelming forces. He therefore retired on Sannah's Post, where a small detachment was protecting the waterworks. There is a rumour prevalent that General Broadwood asked twice for reinforcements, which were not forthcoming, and that on being summoned by the Commander-in-Chief the whole matter was hushed up, because General Broadwood faced up to Lords Kitchener and Roberts and attributed neglect to them. To revert to the disaster itself—the force, having marched into the little standing camp, started next morning to cross this dangerous spruit without an advance-guard of any kind! The assumption was that the detachment which General Broadwood joined must have had its outposts, and that the line of march was perfectly clear of the enemy, the only danger being to the rear.
There are three questions requiring answers: Were outposts or vedettes properly posted? did General Broadwood inquire into this before marching? and why was there no advance-guard? As every one knows, baggage-waggons, Cape-carts, and Scotch carts were at the head of the retiring column, and were followed by the artillery all limbered up, so that De Wet with 375 men had the British force at his mercy.
The seriousness of the above disaster lay not so much in our actual losses as in the "fillip" it gave to a hesitating foe. It was the night after the disaster that I crossed through the Boer lines at Loeew river (related in a previous chapter) from Maseru, and the following day, April 2, I was a prisoner in the Boer camp. There the elation at their victory was enormous. " One killed, two wounded," was reported on the Boer side! That number, however, is the average allowed per battle by the Transvaal Government! It was here I learnt the entire plans for cutting off another British detachment in the neighbourhood of Reddersburg, which, fully related in chap, xvi., brings me to reflection number 2. Who is to blame for the Mosar's Hoek, or, as it is better known, Reddersburg disaster on April 3 and 4? I had the effrontery, when I was for a second time made prisoner after that battle, to telegraph to Lord Roberts and to the ' Cape Times,' neither of which telegrams were probably sent by the Orange Free State Government, that "the Royal Irish Rifles fought gallant!}7 for twenty - four hours against overwhelming-odds, and without guns, and that no disgrace could attach to them, but that it was entirely General Gatacre's fault." In this case it was quite a privilege to me to be an unwilling but solitary correspondent. The story of how I arrived on the scene after my escape from the Boer camp need not again be entered into. The true facts of how this detachment found itself in its precarious position are as follows, and have been related to me by an officer, forming part of his report:—
" The three companies of the Royal Irish Rifles left Smithfield, March 29, for Dewetsdorf, where, on April 1, they were unexpectedly joined by two companies of mounted infantry from Springfontein. No orders as to what the three companies of the Royal Irish Rifles were to do at Dewetsdorf were issued. The two companies of the mounted infantry were so unexpected, that when they made their appearance at dusk on Sunday evening they ran the greatest danger of being fired on by the detachment of Royal Irish Rifles, who had that afternoon driven in a picket of the enemy. During the afternoon the officer commanding wired to the Assistant Adjutant-General, 3rd Division, that a few shots had been exchanged, and rumours existed that a commando had been invited to rescue Dewetsdorf from the British. In answer to this, at 3.30 a.m. on the morning of 2nd April, an order to remove the troops to Reddersburg immediately was received. The column accordingly left at 5 a.m. in a pelting shower. Owing to the state of the roads, the exhausted condition of the draught animals and of the mounted infantry cobs, the progress of the column Was very slow. Three of the latter actually died before 10 o'clock that morning. During the afternoon several men were noticed on some kopjes to the north of the road, and by the time a reconnaissance had been made the sun was setting. The column halted for the night at Peter Kelly's farm, leaving again at dawn next day. At about 10 a.m. a cloud of dust was reported from the north," &c.
From the above statement it will be seen that no warning of danger had been issued from the Assistant Adjutant-General, 3rd Division, but suspicions had only been aroused by contact with a Boer patrol on April 1 and the sight of figures on kopjes on April 2. The history of the fight, related in another chapter, would have been fully told at an earlier date but for my imprisonment. The arrival of the British troops in Pretoria at once set agoing such gossipy exaggerations as to the true reason of the surrender that, in the interests of the Royal Irish Rifles, I feel compelled to again draw attention to chap, xvi, in the hope of eliciting some explanation. It would be interesting to know: (1) What was such a detachment doing between Dewetsdorf and Reddersburg, without a gun of any sort, and without any orders for duty to perform or warning of impending danger? (2) Where were its supports? (3) By whose authority was it brought into the trap? (4) Could the commanding officer, Captain M'Whinnie of the Royal Irish Rifles, have avoided surrender? It is impossible for me to answer the first question. The only thing I can recognise is that it was wrong—fundamentally wrong— to allow a force of such size (less than 500 men) to move in flank march through a notoriously hostile country, without any aim or object, miles from any supports, and without a gun. The second question has still to be answered. There was a small force at Eden-burg, about twelve miles distant by road; some troops (not many) at Smithfield and Helvetia, still farther away. Bloemfontein, thirty-five miles distant to the north, and Springfontein, quite as far to the south, were the only headquarters which could really afford to send reinforcements if necessary. To find a satisfactory solution to query No. 3 is difficult. I thought General Gatacre, of whose division this little force formed a detachment, and by wThom it was originally sent out from Springfontein, was the cause. I said so in my telegram to Lord Roberts and the ' Cape Times.' We all believed it. The occupation of Pretoria has introduced me to one of that General's staff, Captain M'Neill, of Montmorency's Scouts, who denies that any such orders were given by General Gatacre. Further, I understand that General Gatacre has been retired (probably on this account, as he went directly afterwards), but that he has gone home armed with certain telegrams and will demand an inquiry. If I have wronged him, I regret it exceedingly. On the other hand, another version of the affair reaches me that General Gatacre asked Lord Roberts's permission to move this detachment, and moved it without waiting for Lord Roberts's reply, which subsequently arrived forbidding it! What is one to believe?
I can answer the fourth question myself boldly and fearlessly. I had no interests in the little force. Rather had I cause to blame them for my capture, and for themselves opening fire on me when I drove into the battle in my Cape-cart! But when I heard at Pretoria that the Royal Irish Rifles " chucked " it; that they had no water; that they had no food; that their ammunition had given out; and that the white flag was hoisted by an irresponsible person, it is time that the only civilian except the Wesleyan minister and the black boys should have his say in defence of the Irishmen. In short, the Royal Irish Rifles and the few mounted infantry of the 5th Fusiliers fought splendidly: they had certainly had their last drop of water that morning, but men do not die of thirst within five hours of getting it; there was at least a ration per man in the transport waggons; they had plenty of ammunition to hold out all day; and if the white flag was hoisted originally by an unauthorised person, no surrender was made till eventualities pointed to a massacre, and the commanding officer himself held up his handkerchief. What did happen happened this way. The mounted infantry on the westernmost spur of the position (who had borne the brunt of the fighting the previous day and lost inter alia nearly all their officers) were rushed in the morning by some Boers who, during the night, had succeeded in concealing themselves under a ridge immediately below the position. It was on this spur (vide map, p. 243) the white flag was originally hoisted, and the Boers immediately began, from their newly acquired position at about 300 yards' range, enfilading those who were in the centre (and absolutely unable to fire in their direction from the formation of the kopje), and, missing us, the bullets found their billet in the backs of the men who were guarding the easternmost spur. In the last twenty minutes, as Captain Temple Smyth, R.A.M.C., told me, we had twenty-four casualties, and then, when a second white flag was hoisted (this time on the easternmost spur), Captain M'Whinnie, whose calmness and almost heroic energy were the subject of universal comment, recognised the hopelessness of the case, and himself held out the signal of surrender. Our casualties were about fifty, but remember that the previous night they were but eight, and we only fought three hours on the second day and lost twenty men in the last twenty-four minutes! The question of cutting our way through has been dealt with elsewhere: the question of leaving our transport before the fight began has also been touched on. The commanding officer had no information of the enemy's strength to justify him in doing the latter; he would, in my opinion, have been equally unjustified had he attempted to cut his way out to Reddersburg during the night— because our loss would have been probably enormous — because he had nothing that he knew of to gain if he did so—and because he felt certain that reinforcements would be forthcoming.
There is a curious tale afloat about the proximity of reinforcements, and the hearing of the last shell fired and then complete silence.
It is said these reinforcements were close to Eeddersburg—five miles distant! All I can say is, that had they come on they conld have rescued us all. De Wet went off at once towards Edenburg—" to cut off another party," he said; and we were left within two miles of the battlefield for at least two hours, and spent the first night of our captivity at a farm not six miles distant, with only seventy or eighty men to guard us! Why did not the reinforcements come on? Shall we ever know if General Gatacre or Lord Roberts, or neither, were to blame for the isolation of this little gunless force?
And now for the last exposure of our weak generalship — what else can I call it? You will remember that almost immediately after the Sannah's Post and Reddersburg reverses Colonel Dalgety's force at Wepener was the subject of Christian de Wet's attention, and a somewhat protracted siege, coupled with the lying versions of the affair supplied us through the ' Volksstem,' gave rise to a feeling of anxiety that a third calamity on the Basutoland frontier was about to befall the British arms. The news that relief columns were on the move from the south and from the west towards Wepener and Dewetsdorf respectively, and that a third had occupied Thaba Nchu, made me write the few lines I did on the subject in chap, xxi., from within my prison walls in Pretoria. It was quite apparent to the world at large who knew anything about the configuration of the country, and the curious position of Wepener on the Caledon river, that De Wet had either made a mistake himself or the trap had been cunningly laid for him by the British Commander-in-Chief. There could be no escape for him with the Caledon river on the east frowningly refusing him permission to cross into the neutral territory of Basutoland. Yet he did escape! He escaped by trekking—trekking— trekking for three hard days (I met one of his commando in Pretoria), and three British divisions had the mortification of finding that they had been outwitted by one of the most cunning and volatile of Boer leaders. What has been the result? Christian de Wet, as I left, was breaking up our lines of communications, riding daringly through the eastern Free State, picking up detachments and even brigades of our militia and yeomen, and all because our generals were not sharp enough to close the door of the mouse-trap which had been so cleverly baited and prepared after the two previous reverses by Lord Roberts in the month of April.
Just a few more idle reflections. Was not the relief of Ladysmith effected by the relief of Kimberley and the surrendering of Cronje at Paardeberg? The last fight at Pieters was nothing but a necessary waste of ammunition. The next day, without a shot being fired, the road to Ladysmith would have been (as it was) open, so fine a rearguard action did the Boers fight during the previous fortnight, so long did we delay in our movements. One word more on this subject. We only arrived in the nick of time to save Sir George White and his troops. Starvation, unhealthi-ness, and consequent ravages by fever and scurvy were hard at work. Five hundred were buried in the month of February, and, judging by the absence of medicines and necessary diet, that number would have been doubled in March. Mafeking seems, by report, to have quite another story to tell. Thousands of sheep, hundreds of oxen! Yet the all-foreseeing B.-P. gave his men horse-flesh to eat! I wonder wdrich was the greater defence in the opinion of the authorities who know? From statements received, and personal observation in one case, the fall of Ladysmith was as hourly expected as the surrender of Mafeking was as distantly anticipated.
When I left Pretoria the general question was, "Where is Buller?" To his credit let it here be said, that the interruption in the telegraphic system for a whole week culminated in the news that he was through Laing's Nek: some said he was at Vrede, others at Volksrust. He could have been at either—his forces might have been at both. But why after Pretoria had been occupied?
How the army gossips, and how eager we " men of the pen" seize on any subject of controversy! Here am I now coming to the subject of a man I scarcely know, and suggesting that General French's detractors are merely jealous of his success; for there is no need to hide the fact that the failure of the cavalry in this war, and of General French in consequence, has been an important topic in military circles both at home and on the field of battle. You will remember how, among all our early failures, his name alone was held up as the successful general. If you had been in South Africa you would have heard it said that his Brigade-Major, Haig of the 7th Hussars, had done it all. Be merciful! be gentle! be fair! Remember the fitness and freshness of his horses at the commencement of the campaign. Remember, too, the work he had to do in the worst season for horses in South Africa, and how in consequence he was severely handicapped. I prefer to rely on the words of the Swedish military attache, an unbiassed and eminent critic, who has seen war in America and war on the Turko-Greek frontier, and who says that General French has done splendidly. One word about him. I am told that he performed, altogether unnoticed by the press, a brilliant feat at the Modeler river, before the relief of Kimberley. He crossed the Klip Drift, charged between the two strong positions from which the passage of the drift had been endangered, and completely upset the Boer plan of operations with comparatively slight loss to his own force.
Certainly we have failed signally in cutting off our retreating foe, but to the dearth of horses and the weakness of those available may be also attributed in additional mitigation the extraordinary mobility of the Boer force. The Boers have never "stood" since Cronje's surrender, and in their retreats have consequently never blocked each other's means of escape! Moreover, they carry probably less than half the accoutrements and equipments with which we burden our horses, and they have the advantage in knowing the country and how to treat their ponies, which we have never yet mastered.
The day for cavalry is at an end except for scouting purposes. Frontal attacks are things of the past. Every attack will have in the future to be completed by a turning movement. Mobility will then be the essence of success. We must have a force, and a large one, of mounted infantry. They must be mounted on strong, hardy cobs or ponies, and their equipment or accoutrements must be reduced to a minimum weight.
As regards our artillery, it is easy to make comparisons and to forget to make allowances. There is no doubt that the Boer guns were magnificently served and of the latest pattern, but we have little authentic information to go upon as to the utility and success of our own weapons. Some say ours were outmatched. Others say that lyddite, like the pom-pom, has rather a moral than a deadly effect. One thing I believe is certain, that our mountain batteries were ineffective when the enemy could bring their artillery against us. The naval guns have played a prominent part in this war, thanks to Captain Hedworth Lambton, C.B., and Captain Scott, C.B.; nor have individual acts of heroism, such as Colonel Bullock's and the officers and men of Q Battery at Sannah's Post, been inconspicuous.
Full stop to criticism!—perhaps 'tis as well. Now that the success of our arms is assured, little good can accrue by the washing of dirty linen. Still, out of wrong may come right, and victims may yet become heroes, and even heroes victims, if the truth is told impartially to the world in general.
Of the R.A.M.C. in the field I know but little. Its organisation in Natal seemed very complete, and the same completeness has, I hope, been assured on the main line of advance, for I shudder when I remember the thousands of tents all crowded with fever-stricken and wounded patients which I left whitening the country round Bloemfontein. In a war which has shown the world an army of the bravest and never-to-be-denied soldiers, it would be inglorious to select any branch for special mention; but I cannot conclude this part of my summary without a word of praise for both our Transport and Supply arrangements, and the brilliant work of every branch of our Engineer force. The system of making "deviations" in place of repairing demolished bridges has been one of the wonders of the war, just as the marching capacity of our infantry has been splendidly exemplified. I was talking to the Turkish military attache at Pretoria, and asking him what he thought of the fighting. He told me his greatest pleasure and interest had been at our wonderful service of supplies. As for the fighting capacity of the Boers, he summed it up very cleverly when he said: " Le Boer se batte lachement. II se cache comme un renard, et il court comme un lievre!" To our Allies (I write as a Britisher) we owe an enormous meed of praise for their zeal and military excellence, — not so much perhaps to the South African Colonials as to those who have come from distant dependencies, especially Canada and Australia. The South Africans have done their duty magnificently, from a knowledge of clanger to their interests and loyalty to their mother country. But nowhere will the Colonial losses be more deplored, nor services more highly appreciated, than in the country which practically gave them birth, and which, through the wise and brilliant reign of a beloved Queen, has allowed them the opportunity of manifesting the advantages of our system of self-government, and their devotion to those from whom it was received.
The advance of the British army, checked temporarily by the early failures of the war, was carried out by Lord Roberts, according to the original plan of Sir Redvers Buller, with masterly effect. The supersession of the original commander-in-chief by the appointment of a field - marshal could reflect at that time no discredit on Sir Redvers Buller's arrangements, but was in itself a necessity, owing to the great area of occupation. What mistakes Sir Redvers Buller and his generals made were soon discounted by Lord Roberts, who was able to profit by them. When he advanced he advanced quickly, and no possible counter-movement was unconsidered. Herein has lain his success. His delays, irksome as they may have been to those at home as well as to those at the front, were as necessary for the further successful development of his plan of operations as food is for a horse, and meat, clothing, and rest for the troops. Tactics are of a variety of colour, and I dare hardly here enter on a discussion which might fill a book as to the wisdom of the hurried march from Bloemfontein over the Vaal to Pretoria by means of the railway, which so far succeeded in its object as to conquer the Transvaal capital as well as the Golden City, but at the expense of leaving the right wing a long way in the rear to contend with a very hostile portion of the Orange River Colony. There is a grave responsibility attaching to this manoeuvre, and inasmuch as the early captures of Ladybrand, Dewetsdorf, Wepener, and Thaba Nchu, and their subsequent surrender to the Boer forces, taught us, or should have taught us, the lesson that precipitate and unconsidered action may cause us serious consequences, I earnestly hope that the arrival of this ship in British port will dispel the anxiety I entertain as to the safety of Heilbron, Ficksburg, Harrismith, Ladybrand, Winburg, and other places on the lines of communication. Our enormous forces must conquer in the end, and the end is very near; but just as General Buller's tardy arrival in the Transvaal has been a subject of general comment, and possibly prolonged warfare, owing to our unfortunate prisoners at Machadodorp, so too may Lord Koberts's splendid and direct march on the seat of government lose much of its aplomb by the slowness and apparent impotence of our forces in the east of the Free State to deal with the now admittedly clever and mobile General Christian de Wet.
However, I may pass in the darkness of the unconscious to another subject, and with the assumption that peace has been declared, that President Kruger and bis Government, scoundrels of the deepest dye, have disappeared either from the country, or at any rate from public notice, let us reflect for one moment on the future. What our policy is to be we have heard from London. The Transvaal and Orange Free State Governments have ceased to exist. Under new titles, our new possessions become dependent on, and colonies of, the British Government. So far so good. But how is the country to be ruled if the interests of the Dutch are to be kept on an equal footing with the British, and if the black' population, which is no inconsiderable one, is to receive fairer treatment than it has been accustomed to under the Boer Government? The very fact of there being; such a thing; as a black man is detrimental to the interests of the white emigrant labourer, yet necessary in the interests of civilisation. Just as the cheapest and best labour at home finds the readiest market, so too will it be found in South Africa. Where the black man can live on 10s. a-week, the white man will require 20s., and he will not be able to undergo the heat of the noonday sun as the Kaffir has been born to accustom himself to. Therefore, ye English emigrants to our new possessions, be careful before ye venture over tins vast tract of sea, lest ye be disappointed! I have met men of all grades, and I have seen sorrow depicted on many of their faces. Yet the man of skill and ability, the man with the least fearful character and greatest bull-dog tenacity, will undoubtedly make his mark. The Kaffir will reap the chief benefit from the British occupation, and the only doubt I have is whether he will profit and improve by the absence of the Boer lash!
As I reflect, I am reminded that on board, the ship on which I write is a party of Dutch farmers and a young English agitator, who pose as being on a homeward mission of pro-Boer conciliation. What their line of action will be I can scarcely prognosticate, but before the voyage is over I may have gleaned some details of their intention. Conciliation is all very well—I am entirely in favour of it—but for Bond representatives to come whining at this hour of the day for a crust of bread is like the whipped bully lying as to the cause of his treatment. Insult will be added to injury if any official notice is taken of this deputation; and though most of them have names which savour of foreign nationalities, yet they describe themselves as Dutch farmers and British subjects. The young man among them is of English extraction and of Harrovian education.
And what about Conciliation? From the extreme leniency with which we, as soldiers, have treated the person and property of our foe, from the general desire for pacification which we, as diplomatists, have shown from the commencement of hostilities, the word conciliation is evidently intended to be the main plank in our platform in what is now known as the Settlement. But we must not conciliate in a way which will prove detrimental to Justice. In this word lies wrapt the whole crux of the situation. The Britisher, the Volunteer, the Colonial, and, more than all, the Dutchman and loyal subject, must be considered. Not only must he be considered, but he must be compensated. No considerations of gold or diamond mines must damp the quick and thorough recompense for those who have served their country and suffered through the losses of the war. Colonial and loyalist first, millionaire afterwards. Moreover, the position of the British taxpayer must not be overlooked. The war was forced on us. We had to defend or lose our possessions, and we did the right thing. Leave the Uitlander question out of sight. I hate the subject. It has been exaggerated. Deal only with Kruger as an impossible negotiator. Have no sympathy with the Hollander, but maintain the seat of Government at Pretoria. Lend a helpful hand to the dopper Boer. Do all these under a tactful governor, and the great death-roll of 1899-1900 will not have been entirely unjustifiable. On the other hand, leave it to chance, and take the advice of the money - grubber, and England's prestige will have been lost for ever. The country can pay six millions per annum without feeling it. Therefore conciliate, and do not conciliate from Downing Street. As time smoothes sorrow, so when you and I are old men we will find that satisfaction will be the offspring of sorrow, and that the poor uneducated Boer will have learnt to realise the swindle of his previous Government and to enjoy the contentment of the British rule.
One word more on matters political in South Africa. The rebel in Cape Colony and Natal is in a different position to the Free Staters and Transvaal Boers who have fought as warriors would fight for the independence of their country. Rightly or wrongly, these latter have but done what any other country's soldiers would do who were ordered to occupy the field. Wrongly they invaded our possessions, but the blame for this lies with the Kruger-Steyn Government, and not with the men themselves. Not so the rebels. British subjects all, they have dared to raise their arm against their Queen, and justly have they deserved death. But be it to our credit as a merciful and just nation that we do not exact the extreme penalty which treason demands. In many cases extenuating circumstances may be urged, such as the fact of the Boer invasion, and their consequent compulsion to fight or be shot. They had no protection at first, and though it can hardly be called an extenuating circumstance, the fact that many were Dutchmen born in the colony, and had therefore no oath of allegiance to take, may weigh in their favour. Personally, I have little sympathy for them. The chances of possible aggrandisement and their well - known racial hatred, coupled with the irritation of the Bond preachings, cannot mitigate their action. To the loyalists who have suffered, their loyalty, though it was a duty, will not go unnoticed. But to those who have been caught red-handed, or who have come back like erring sheep to beg for mercy, justice must be done; and as the eventual settlement is certain to tax the resources of the cleverest diplomatist if further bloodshed in South Africa is to be averted, I would for a moment draw attention to the present and possible future constitution of our courts.
When I was in prison, I heard that the Lord Chief-Justice was on his way to preside over a specially constituted court for the trial of these rebels. He had not arrived when I left Cape Town, and several sentences of imprisonment and fines had already been meted out. I do not challenge the Tightness of these sentences, nor the correctness of the convictions; but the political opponents in the Cape Colony are trying to make capital out of the coustitution and action of the courts. To satisfy them, to satisfy ourselves, to satisfy everybody, we should immediately constitute a special judge and jury who should, if possible, have no connection with South African affairs. The appointment of the Lord Chief-Justice would be enormously popular, and would dispel any anxiety from our minds that men are being arrested, convicted, and sentenced by juries who, from the serious outcome of the rebellion, are, or possibly might be, prejudiced by either personal or political motives. " Eendracht maakt macht" was the motto of the Transvaal; " Union is strength " is one of our great principles, and to attain it we must, now and immediately, give justice to all. If, too, in the quelling of rebellious warfare in the Free State and Transvaal we are going to recognise the international principle, as Lord Roberts has done by his proclamation in May, that a capital of a country, once taken, constitutes that country the possession of the victor, and that men who still fight are considered rebels, we shall find ourselves face to face with still greater trouble. The principle is wrong—must be wrong; and I earnestly trust that the extreme penalty for the continuation of hostilities in the Free State will not be enforced on those who are now giving our forces the greatest difficulty in their subjugation. Viva! South Africa! God save the Queen!