The Boer War, 1899

The Boers were descendents of Dutch-speaking colonists who had farmed the Cape Coast frontier since the mid 17th century; along with some Germans and French Huguenot immigrant farmers, they had formed a distinct cultural and language group (Afrikaans) in the southern part of the African continent. Unhappy with British rule in the Cape Colony, they had trekked north in the 1830s and 1840s to found their own independent states: the South African Republic (known by the British as the Transvaal) and the Orange Free State. British attempts to annex the Transvaal in 1877 met with resistance and a brief war in 1881 in which the British suffered an embarrassing defeat. The failed Jameson raid of 1895 reignited the tensions between the Transvaal Boer majority and the British-speaking uitlander population who were seeking greater political rights within the Boer-led government. The uitlanders had repeatedly petitioned the British parliament to intervene on their behalf, but the Crown had previously been reluctant to mobilize troops for what would be an expensive colonial war. However, the discovery of a massive gold deposit at Witwatersrand in the late 1880s provided an economic incentive to take a new interest in the plight of their compatriot uitlanders. In 1897, Transvaal President Kruger allied with Orange Free State President Steyn to raise forces to combat perceived British imperial interference. Hostilities erupted in October 1899, and over the next three years both sides fought a brutal war that would foreshadow the devastation of the World Wars in Europe. The British adopted a scorched earth policy to combat the guerrilla tactics of the Boers, and pioneered the use of concentration camps to control and neutralize both the Boer and African civilian populations. At least 27,000 Boer civilians probably just as many Africans died in the camps of disease and starvation. The brutal British tactics ultimately won out, and the allied forces of the Transvaal and the Orange Free State were finally annexed into the British colonial administration through the Treaty of Vereeniging in May 1902.


Boer guerrilla fighters, 1900


The British treatment of Boer civilians was widely condemned in Europe, as depicted in this French illustration of “The Gallant British”


The Humble Petition of British Subject resident on the Witwatersrand, South African Republic, to Her Most Gracious Majesty, Queen Victoria. April 1899. Top

Source: L.S. Amery, ed. The Times History of the War in South Africa 1899-1900 Vol. I, p. 356 et seq.

The Humble Petition of British Subject resident on the Witwatersrand, South African Republic, to Her Most Gracious Majesty, Queen Victoria.

Sheweth that: –

1. For a number of years, prior to 1896, considerable discontent existed among the Uitlander population of the South African Republic, caused by the manner in which the Government of the country was being conducted. The great majority of the Uitlander population consists of British subjects.

2. It was, and is, notorious that the Uitlanders have no share in the government of the country, although they constitute an absolute majority of the inhabitants of this State, possess a very large proportion of the land, and represent the intellect, wealth, and energy of the State.

3. The feelings of intense irritation which have been aroused by this state of things have been aggravated by the manner in which remonstrances have been met. Hopes have been held out and promises have been made by the Government of this State from time to time, but no practical amelioration of the conditions of life has resulted.

4. Petitions, signed by large numbers of Your Majesty’s subjects, have been repeatedly addressed to the Government of this State, but have failed of their effect, and have even been scornfully rejected.

5. At the end of 1895 the discontent culminated in an armed insurrection against the Government of this State, which, however, failed of its object.

6. On that occasion the people of Johannesburg placed themselves unreservedly in the hands of Your Majesty’s High Commissioner, in the fullest confidence that he would see justice done to them.

7. On that occasion also President Kruger published a proclamation, in which he again held out hopes of substantial reforms.

8. Instead, however, of the admitted grievances being redressed, the spirit of the legislation adopted by the Volksraad during the past few years has been of a most unfriendly character, and has made the position of the Uitlanders more irksome than before.

9. In proof of the above statement, Your Majesty’s petitioners would humbly refer to such measures as the following: –

The Immigration of Aliens Act (Law 30 of 1896);

The Press Law (Law 26 of 1896);

The Aliens Expulsion Law of 1896.

Of these, the first was withdrawn at the instance of Your Majesty’s Government, as being an infringement of the London Convention of 1884.

By the second the President is invested with the powers of suppressing wholly, or for a stated time, any publication which in his individual opinion is opposed to good manners or subversive of order. This despotic power he has not hesitated to exercise towards newspapers which support British interests, while newspapers which support the Government have been allowed to publish inflammatory and libellous articles, and to advocate atrocious crimes without interference.

The Aliens Expulsion Act draws a distinction between the Burghers of the State and Uitlanders which, Your Majesty’s petitioners humbly submit, is in conflict with the Convention of 1884. Thus, whilst Burghers of the State are protected from expulsion, British subjects can be put over the border at the will of the President, without the right of appealing to the High Court, which is, nevertheless, open to the offending Burgher. This law was repealed, only to be re-enacted in all its essential provisions during the last session of the Volksraad.

10. The promise made by the President with regard to conferring Municipal Government upon Johannesburg was to outward appearance kept; but it is an ineffective measure, conferring small benefit upon the community, and investing the inhabitants with but little additional power of legislating for their own municipal affairs. Of the two members to be elected for each ward, one at least must be a Burgher. Besides this, the Cargomaster is appointed by the Government, not elected by the people. The Burgomaster has a casting vote, and, considering himself a representative of the Government and not of the people, has not hesitated to oppose his will to the unanimous vote of the Councillors. The Government also possess the right to veto any resolution of the Council. As the Burghers resident in Johannesburg were estimated at the last census as 1,039 in number as against 23,503 Uitlanders, and as they belong to the poorest and most ignorant class, it is manifest that these Burghers have an undue share in the representation of the town, and are invested with a power which neutralises the efforts of the larger and more intelligent portion of the community. Every Burgher resident is qualified to vote, irrespective of being a ratepayer or property owner within the municipal area.

11. Notwithstanding the evident desire of the Government to legislate solely in the interests of the Burghers, and impose undue burdens on the Uitlanders, there was still a hope that the declaration of the President on the 30th of December, 1896, had some meaning, and that the Government would duly consider grievances properly brought before its notice. Accordingly, in the early part of 1897 steps were taken to bring to the notice of the Government the alarming depression in the Mining Industry, and the reasons which, in the opinions of men well qualified to judge, had led up to it.

12. The Government at last appointed a Commission consisting of its own officials, which was  empowered to inquire into the industrial conditions of the mining population, and to suggest such a scheme for the removal of existing grievances as might seem advisable and necessary.

13. On the 5th of August the Commission issued their report, in which the reasons for the then state of depression were fully set forth, and many reforms were recommended as necessary for the well-being of the community. Among them it will be sufficient to mention the appointment of an Industrial Board, having its seat in Johannesburg, for the special supervision of the Liquor Law, and the Pass Law, and to combat the illicit dealing in gold and amalgam.

14. The Government refused to accede to the report of the Commission, which was a standing indictment against its administration in the past, but referred the question to the Volksraad, which in turn referred it to a Select Committee of its own members. The result created consternation in Johannesburg, for, whilst abating in some trifling respects burdens which bore heavily on the mining industry, the Committee of the Raad, ignoring the main recommendations of the Commission, actually advised an increased taxation of the country, and that in a way which bore most heavily on the Uitlander. The suggestions of the Committee were at once adopted, and the tariff increased accordingly.

15. At the beginning of 1897 the Government went a step further in their aggressive policy towards the Uitlander, and attacked the independence of the High Court, which, until then, Your Majesty’s subjects had regarded as the sole remaining safeguard of their civil rights. Early in that year Act No. 1 was rushed through the Volksraad with indecent haste. This high-handed Act was not allowed to pass without criticism; but the Government, deaf to all remonstrance, threatened reprisals on those professional men who raised their voices in protest, and finally, on the 16th of February, 1898, dismissed the Chief Justice, Mr. J.G. Kotze, for maintaining his opinions. His place was filled shortly afterwards by Mr. Gregorowski, the Judge who had been especially brought from the Orange Free State to preside over the trial of the Reform prisoners in 1896, and who, after passing of the Act above referred to, had expressed an opinion that no man of self-respect would sit on the Bench whilst that law remained on the Statute Book of the Republic. All the Judges at the time this law was passed condemned it in a formal protest, publicly read by the Chief Justice in the High Court, as a gross interference with the independence of that tribunal. That protest has never been modified or retracted, and of the five Judges who signed the declaration three still sit on the Bench.

16. The hostile attitude of the Government towards Your Majesty’s subjects has been accentuated by the building of forts not only around Pretoria, but also overlooking Johannesburg. The existence of these forts is a source of constant menace and irritation to British subjects, and does much to keep alive that race-feeling which the Government of this State professes to deprecate. This feeling of hostility has infected the general body of Burghers. Most noticeable is the antagonistic demeanour of the police and of the officials under whom they immediately act.

17. The constitution and personnel of the police force is one of the standing menaces to the peace of Johannesburg. It has already been the subject of remonstrance to the Government of this Republic, but hitherto without avail. An efficient police force cannot be drawn from a people such as the Burghers of this State; nevertheless, the Government refuses to open its ranks to any other class of the community. As a consequence, the safety of the lives and property of the inhabitants is confided in a large measure to the care of men fresh from the country districts, who are unaccustomed to town life and ignorant of the ways and requirements of the people. When it is considered that this police force is armed with revolvers in addition to the ordinary police truncheons, it is not surprising that, instead of a defence, they are absolutely a danger to the community at large.

17a. Trial by jury exists in name, but the jurors are selected exclusively from among the Burghers. Consequently in any case where there is the least possibility of race or class interests being involved there is the gravest reason to expect a miscarriage of justice.

18. Encouraged and abetted by the example of their superior officers, the police have become lately more aggressive than ever in their attitude towards British subjects. As, however, remonstrances and appeals to the Government were useless, the indignities to which Your Majesty’s subjects were daily exposed from this source had to be endured as best they might. Public indignation was at length fully roused by the death at the hands of a police constable of a British subject named Tom Jackson Edgar.

19. The circumstances of this affair were bad enough in themselves, but were accentuated by the action of the Public Prosecutor, who, although the accused was charged with murder, on his own initiative reduced the charged to that of culpable homicide only, and released the prisoner on the recognisances of his comrades in the police force, the bail being fixed originally at 200 pounds, or less than the amount which is commonly demanded for offences under the Liquor Law, or for charges of common assault.

20. This conduct of a high State official caused the most intense feeling to prevail in Johannesburg. It was then thought that the time had arrived to take some steps whereby British subjects might for the future be protected from the indignities of which they had so long complained. It was therefore decided to make an appeal direct to Your Most Gracious Majesty, setting forth the grievances under which Your Majesty’s subjects labour. A petition was accordingly prepared and presented to Your Majest’s Vice-Consul on the 24th of December, 1898, by some 4,000 or 5,000 British subjects. The behaviour of those present was orderly and quiet, and everything was done to prevent any infringement of the Public Meeting Law.

21. Owing to a technical informality, Your Majesty’s Representative declined to transmit the petition to Your Majesty.

22. Immediately it became known that the petition would not go forward to Your Majesty, the Government ordered the arrest of Messrs. Clement Davies Webb and Thomas Robery Dodd, respectively the Vice-President and Secretary of the Transvaal Province of the South African League, under whose auspices the petition had been presented, on a charge of contravening the PUblic Meetings Act by convening a meeting in the open air. They were admitted to bail of 1,000 pounds each, five times the amount required from the man charged with culpable homicide.

23. Thereupon Your Majesty’s subjects, considering the arrest of these two gentlemen a gross violation of the rights of British subjects and attempt to strain unduly against them a law which had already been represented to the Government as pressing most heavily upon the Uitlander population, decided to call a public meeting in an enclosed place, as permitted by the law, for the purpose of ventilating their grievances, and endorsing a fresh petition to Your Majesty.

24. Prior to holding the meeting the South African League ascertained from the Government, through the State ATtorney, that, as in their opinion the meeting was perfectly legal in its objects, the Government had no intention of prohibiting it.

25. The meeting took place on the 14th of January, 1899, at the Amphitheatre, a large iron building capable of holding from 3,000 to 4,000 people. Prior to the advertised hour of opening an overwhelmingly large body of Boers, many of whom were police in plain clothes and other employees of the Government, forced an entrance by a side door, and practically took complete possession of the building. They were all more or less armed, some with sticks, some with police batons, some with iron bars, and some with revolvers.

26. The mere appearance of the speakers was the signal for disorder to commence; the Boers would not allow the meeting to proceed, but at once commenced to wreck the place, break up the chairs, and utilise the broken portions of them as weapons of offence against any single unarmed Englishman they could find.

27. There were present several Government officials, Justices of the Peace, and Lieutenants of Police in uniform, and the Commandant of Police, but they were appealed to in vain, and the work of destruction proceeded, apparently with their concurrence. Several Englishmen were severely injured by the attacks of the rioters, but in no case was an arrest effected, although offenders were pointed out and their arrest demanded; nor, indeed, was any attempt made by the police to quell the riot. Up to the present time no steps have been taken by the Government towards prosecuting the ringleaders of the disturbance, nor has a single arrest been made, notwithstanding the fact that the police officials who were present at the meeting admitted that some of the rioters were well known to them.

28. Those of Your Majesty’s subjects who were present at the meeting were unarmed and defencless, and seeing that the rioters had the support of the police and of some of the higher officials of the State, they refrained from any attempt at retaliation, preferring to rely upon more constitutional methods, and to aly a full statement of their grievances before Your Most Gracious Majesty.

29. The condition of Your Majesty’s subjects in this State has indeed become well nigh intolerable.

30. The acknowledged and admitted grievances of which Your Majesty’s subjects complain prior to 1895 not only are not redressed, but exist today in an aggravated from. They are still deprived of all political rights, they are denied any voice in the government of the country, they are taxed far and above the requirements of the country, the revenue of which is misapplied and devoted to objects which keep alive a continuous and well-founded feeling of irritation, without in any way advancing the general interest of the State. Maladministration and speculation of public monies go hand in hand, without any vigorous measures being adopted to put a stop to the scandal. The education of Uitlander children is made subject to impossible conditions. The police afford no adequate protection to the lives and property of the inhabitants of Johannesburg; they are rather a source of danger to the peace and safety of the Uitlander population.

31. A further grievance has become prominent since the beginning of the year. The power vested in the Government by means of the Public Meetings Act has been a menace to Your Majesty’s subjects since the enactment of the Act in 1894. This power has now been applied in order to deliver a blow that strikes at the inherent and inalienable birthright of every British subject, namely, his right to petition his Sovereign. Straining to the utmost the language and intention of the law, the Government have arrested two British subjects who assisted in presenting a petition to Your Majesty on behalf of 4,000 fellow-subjects. Not content with this, the Government, when Your Majesty’s loyal subjects again attempted to lay their grievances before Your Majesty, permitted their meeting to be broken up and the objects of it to be defeated by a body of Boers, organised by the Government officials, and acting under the protection of the police. By reason, therefore, of the direct, as well as the indirect, act of the Government, Your Majesty’s loyal subjects have been prevented from publicly ventilating their grievances, and from laying them before Your Majesty.

32. Wherefore Your Majesty’s humble petitioners humbly beseech Your Most Gracious Majesty to extend Your Majesty’s protection to Your Majesty’s loyal subjects resident in this State, and to cause an enquiry to be made into grievances and complaints enumerated and set forth in this humble petition, and to direct Your Majesty’s Representative in South Africa to take measures which will secure the speedy reform of the abuses complained of, and to obtain substantial guarantees from the Government of this State for a recognition of their rights as British subjects.

And Your Most Gracious Majesty’s petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray, etc., etc.,

W. Wybergh, etc., P.O. Box 317,

Johannesburg, South African Republic,

And Others.

Speeches in Parliament Regarding the Transvaal Affair, 28 July 1899 Top

Source: Hansard. UK archives, HL Deb 28 July 1899 vol 75 cc621-64


My Lords, I rise to call attention to the Papers relating to the affairs of the South African Republic. If, during the present session of Parliament, nothing has been said in this House with regard to the existing state of affairs in the Transvaal, I am sure it is not because there has been any want of anxious interest in the subject. Every thinking person in this country has watched the progress of events in the Transvaal with deep interest, and even with great anxiety, and if we in this House had consulted our own inclinations, I am confident that from more than one part of the House questions would have been addressed to the Government, and Debates would have arisen. But I believe there has been in every part of the House a general feeling that we should be consulting the true interests of the country much better by maintaining silence until we were in possession of more accurate information, and until we were in a position to speak with no uncertain sound on these grave events. The reasons for silence now appear to me to have passed away in great measure, and in view of the early prorogation of Parliament, and the Debate on the Colonial Vote in another place, I think there is no longer any reason for the House to prolong the reticence which, up to the present time, it has observed. It is desirable, above all things, that the country should understand from Parliament, and from both Houses of Parliament, what are the opinions entertained with regard to this important matter, and it is perhaps even more important that the opinion of Parliament should be known throughout the whole of the world, and particularly in the South African Republic, the interests of which are more especially at stake. …I would remind your Lordships that when independence was restored to the South African Republic, it was with two conditions attached. One was that the suzerainty of this country should be preserved as the paramount power in South Africa; and the other was that there should be equality of persons in the sight of the law in the country which was restored. I was one of those who supported the course which Her Majesty’s Government then took…. I thought that this country was big enough not to make it necessary that the overwhelming force of this country should destroy a small force of Boers simply to show that we had the power to do so. There was another and still stronger reason—a reason to which I still attach great importance. We appreciated the feelings of the Dutch people, not only in the Transvaal and in the Orange Free State, but in the Cape Colony and throughout the whole of South Africa. We felt that if we had employed force against the Transvaal, and had insisted on retaining it in its dependence, a most painful feeling would have arisen throughout the whole of South Africa, which would have lasted for a number of years, the duration of which is was not possible to calculate. I hope, even at the present time, that this last reason has had some force. I believe the action of the Government of that time has been appreciated by the statesmen of the Orange Free State, and by the Dutchmen in the Cape Colony; and I am not altogether without some hope that some of the beneficent action, as I think, of Dutch statesmen may be owing to the fact that they know, and have realised by experience, that it is not the desire of this country to tyrannise over the Dutch Republics. So far, my Lords, as the South African Republic is concerned, I am sorry to be obliged to admit that Her Majesty’s Government were wrong in their action. The principles upon which the Government then acted have been proved by experience to have been too noble and too elevated for human nature as it at present exists. I am afraid that the authorities of the South African Republic attributed the action of Her Majesty’s Government to reasons very different from those which in reality actuated them, and I am afraid, looking back on the transaction as a whole, that we have had small encouragement indeed to repeat it if it were to fall to our lot to think of repeating it again. Ever since the Convention of 1881, and the subsequent Convention of 1884, the authorities of the South African Republic have been struggling to defeat both of the conditions which were imposed in those Conventions. They have struggled, and they are still struggling, to destroy the suzerainty of this country, and only the other day the President endeavoured to impress on Sir Alfred Milner the desirability, and even the necessity, of acceding to arbitration in regard to affairs between this country and the South African Republic. On this point, it is very desirable that President Kruger should clearly understand that no Government could exist for any time in this country which could be persuaded to give up the position of Great Britain as the paramount Power in South Africa. In fact, at one time we were on the point of having a disagreement with a great and friendly European Power on the question. With regard to the other condition—that there should be equality of persons in the sight of the law—I am afraid that we must admit that in this matter also the course of action of the Government of the South African Republic has not been what we might, I think, have reasonably expected it to be. At the time these Conventions were made, the great gold discoveries had not taken place in the Republic, and the Uitlanders were by no means so important a factor as they have since become. When the gold discoveries were made, immigration began to assume large proportions, and the Government of the Republic, I think not unnaturally, became suspicious, and began to fear that the greater power in the Government might eventually be seized by the Uitlanders. If, in safeguarding the franchise, and in insisting upon other conditions in regard to civil, and social matters, the Government had exercised something like moderation, I do not think that any fault would have been found with them in this country or elsewhere; but, unfortunately, they have given way to their fears, and have adopted a long course of restrictive legislation, the result of which is to be found in the Papers which have recently been presented to your Lordships’ House. What are the present grievances of the Uitlanders? I will not weary your Lordships by reading, Blue Books, but I will very shortly enumerate a few of them. The Uitlanders are practically excluded from the First Volksraad, the assembly which is omnipotent in that country. Public meetings, in the streets are prohibited by law, and. even when a public meeting was convened in a hall, with the consent of the Government, to consider the matters which we are to-day discussing, that meeting was broken up by Dutchmen who, if the papers speak correctly, were, many of them, in the employ of the Republic. With regard to the position of aliens, they can be expelled from the country by the Executive Authority simply at their free-will, so far as Uitlanders are concerned, though the law is different with regard to Dutchmen. If you turn to the law, there is no such thing as a Supreme Court, because the Judicial Assembly, which is called the Supreme Court, has now been obliged to swear that it will accept as law any resolution of the Volksraad. As to trial by jury, it is true that there is a jury, but the jurymen must all be Boers. With regard to the Press, newspapers can be suppressed, and frequently are suppressed, by the Executive Authority acting at its own freewill and discretion. If we consider the state of municipal life in that country, we find that in Johannesburg, the population of which consists of a little more than 1000 Boers, and between 23,000 and 24,000 Uitlanders, the Burgomaster is appointed by the Executive Authority, and half of the council must be Boers and must be elected by Boers. For the police, Boers alone are eligible, a state of things which cannot but occasion the gravest discontent. There is only one other matter to which I will allude—namely, the question of education. Although the Uitlanders are a large proportion of the population, and although they pay something approaching five-sixths of the taxes, the teaching of English is practically prohibited, except in some five or six schools which have been established after great pressure. These are some of the grievances of which the Uitlanders complain; and I think your Lordships will admit, and indeed everybody will admit, that the list is a most formidable one. I should like to ask whether any one can pretend that Great Britain has displayed any want of patience in her dealings with the South African Republic. The questions concerning the grievances of the Uitlanders which are now agitating that country have not been raised within the last few days or months—they have been going on for years; but so anxious has the Government of this country been to abstain from interference, that they have limited themselves to remonstrance where they might, with justice, have done more, and I believe they have abstained altogether from complaining in many instances where complaint ought to have been made. I doubt, my Lords, whether it would have been possible for the Government of this country to refrain so long from decided action, as they have done, were it not for one most deplorable circumstance. The circumstance to which I allude, as your Lordships are aware, is that which is known as the Jameson raid, It seems to me that that raid is one of the most unfortunate events in our history. I really hardly know words in which I can describe it. To me it is a question which was the greater—the folly or the criminality—of that insane attempt. How could any sensible man conceive that Great Britain, which possesses more colonies and more foreign establishments than any other country in the world, could consent to derive any advantage from what can only be described as an act of filibustering? It is only fair to say that though we have suffered much from that unfortunate and ill-advised attempt, we should have suffered much more had it not been for the promptness and energy of the Colonial Secretary. If Mr. Chamberlain had paused for only a few hours in dissociating Her Majesty’s Government from any responsibility for that affair, the expedition itself would have failed; and who would have believed that this country had not been ready to profit by it, and had not even been cognisant of it? Do you think that anything would have persuaded the Boers, and is it reasonable that anything could have persuaded them, that this country had not been privy to the raid, and that it dissociated itself from the transaction only because of its failure? I shall always think that Mr. Chamberlain deserves the gratitude of this country for the energy and the activity which he then displayed. He preserved our good faith and our good name, and if there was nothing else in his colonial administration which deserved praise, for his action in this matter, at any rate, the thanks of the country are certainly due to him. I must, however, at the same time say that we cannot justly ascribe the present state of affairs in the Transvaal to that ill-starred attempt, because new grievances have been added since, and continual refusals have been made to redress grievances which have been put forward by the Uitlanders, in a fair, open, and constitutional manner. The result is that a petition has been presented to Parliament by the Uitlanders, and more especially by the South African League….It is, it seems to me, most important that President Kruger should understand that whatever concessions are made must be real concessions, and not concessions which are given with one hand and taken away with the other by means of impossible conditions. I hope that he will be given to understand further that those concessions must be irrevocable, and that there must be guarantees that they are conceded once and for all, and are not to be taken away by future legislation. Our experience shows clearly that anything we obtain from President Kruger will only be obtained by continual pressure, and by pressure behind which there is a material guarantee of force. It would be a great mistake, I think, for us to conceal from ourselves the fact that it is useless to look to moral pressure alone. I regret that some of the newspapers in this country appear to have for their policy—their sole policy—a desire to attack the present Secretary for the Colonies, and they seem to consider that when they have done that their mission is accomplished, and that the interests of this country are a secondary matter, to be dealt with only in a secondary way. I think, further, that it would be most unfortunate if any Party or any statesman in this country were to give effect to language which would encourage Mr. Kruger in the course which he has thus far pursued. No language of that sort is likely to be heard in your Lordships’ House. I wish I were quite as certain with regard to other places. Personally, I enter my protest against the language used by the Leader of the Opposition in another place. Speaking at Ilford, on June 17, he said: “There are some newspapers which talk freely of the probability, and even of the necessity, of war, and the public mind has been much disturbed in consequence. I think it right to say plainly that I, for my part, can discern nothing in what has occurred to justify any warlike action or even military preparation. It appears to me that language of that sort is most likely to encourage very false views abroad.” If we are to trust, as he says, to the pressure of peaceful negotiation, I am afraid it will have no effect if there is no force behind it to back it up if need be. Her Majesty’s Government would, I think, have deserved the gravest condemnation if, at a time like the present, they had not taken every measure which was necessary to strengthen our forces so as to prepare for any eventuality that may occur in South Africa, however unfortunate and however unlikely that eventuality might be. Above all things, it is to be desired that very clear and unmistakable language should be used in expressing the opinion of Her Majesty’s Government. I am glad to think that up to the present time such has been the case. Firm and clear language is much more likely to avert than to cause war….Those who know Sir Alfred Milner know well that he is not a man who is addicted to violent language or deeds of violence, and that if he speaks clearly it is because, in the interests of the country and of peace, it is necessary to speak clearly. President Kruger must be made clearly to understand that his Government—the Government of the South African Republic—must be a tolerable Government, and one in which a man can enjoy some degree of liberty, some degree of justice, and some degree of representation, that if he perseveres in his present course he will in the end tire out the great and long-suffering patience of this country, and that, if a war ensues, he, and he alone, will be solely responsible for it. I hope, my Lords, that if by any misfortune it should at a later period become necessary to have recourse to action, it will be clearly understood that the war will be one in which the whole power of the British Empire will be engaged. I hope it will be clearly understood that it will not be a war to consist merely of one battle, and after that everything will go on as before. In a grave matter of this kind it cannot be too clearly explained what the results of a war must be; and I firmly believe a war of this kind would either put an end to the prestige of the British Empire, or it would put an end to the independence of the Transvaal State. These words are plain and simple, and may be looked upon as strong speaking; but they are not intended as words of menace. I do not speak in a sense at all unfriendly to the South African Republic. Her Majesty’s Government have no designs whatever against the independence or the liberty of the South African Republic. If they had at any time entertained such designs, ample opportunities have been given to them which they might have used. Hitherto they have been most patient, and they are continuing to be patient; but unless there is a change in the system of government in the Republic and in their policy, the Republic itself cannot be prosperous, and it may even ultimately cease to be independent…. If the administration of the South African Republic is not altered, what can be expected except a course of constant agitation and even insurrection, which will be judged throughout the civilised world as being justified by the circumstances which have led to it? Do they expect that this Government can stand by and receive all these petitions and make no response to them? How can we ignore those petitions when the understanding upon which we assented to the giving up of the Transvaal was that our fellow-countrymen should be treated with justice and liberality? It appears to me to be the plain duty of Her Majesty’s Government to prepare for any eventuality which can by any possibility arise, and, above all, never to desist from urging and putting forward the just and reasonable claims of the Uitlanders who at the present time live in the South African Republic.


My Lords, I am sure your Lordships will be glad that this matter has been brought before the House. It would have been scarcely fitting if, before Parliament adjourns, this House had no opportunity of expressing an opinion on a matter of such vast importance to a vast proportion of Her Majesty’s subjects, and which deeply affects the supremacy and Imperial position of this country in South Africa. In considering the disabilities and difficulties under which the Uitlander population labour in the Transvaal, it is important to remember that they are suffering from injustices which have grown up during the last few years; they are not in the position of British subjects who have chosen to dwell in a foreign State in which they were aware that they would be deprived practically of all civil rights and religious liberties. The Uitlanders live in a State whose existence as an independent State was granted on, as a primary condition, the possession by its inhabitants of equal rights before the law. Your Lordships will remember that in the protocols of the Convention, in the minutes of the conference between Sir Evelyn Wood and President Kruger the latter stated, among other things, that “everyone would enjoy equal protection,” and that there would be no difference made “between anyone in respect of burghers’ rights.” It must also be borne in mind that the present helpless position of the Uitlander population is due to our own action, for, after the deplorable episode of the raid, at our instance, and on our promise of redress, they laid down their arms. We deprived them of the primary right of individuals and communities, an appeal to physical force as a last resort. The Transvaal Government has deprived them of access to independent Courts and denies them any share in legislative power. They are unable to seek redress either by process of law or by process of legislation or by process of force. I do not think it is necessary to state at any length the long list of grievances under which the Uitlanders suffer. The Uitlanders are three-fourths of the population, they pay practically the whole of the taxation, and yet they have absolutely no representation, and no voice whatever in the fiscal and commercial policy of the country. That three-fourths of a population paying practically the whole taxation of the State should have no representation is utterly repugnant to our political views, and especially, I should imagine, to the views of members of the Liberal Party; it is repugnant to all of us, except, perhaps, to one or two strange survivals who hold that an oligarchy, even the most corrupt oligarchy, is a form of government ideally perfect. Such a condition of things is incompatible with social stability, is certain to create constant and ever-increasing friction; it is a condition which cannot permanently endure, and is provocative of grave danger while it lasts. Practically speaking, the Uitlander population are deprived of all civil rights; their position is almost inconceivable to the people of this country. The nearest analogy here would be found in a condition of things in which a House of Commons elected by a quarter of the population, bitterly hostile to the remaining three-fourths, had power to overrule, alter, and reverse the decisions of the Courts of Law in any civil or criminal case—a condition of things so abnormal, so preposterous, that its real character is disguised by its very enormities from the people. In most civilised countries the police may be relied upon to act, on the whole, with justness and fairness, but the Papers presented to Parliament teem with instances of arbitrary action and brutal interference with British subjects on the part of the police. But it is unnecessary to recapitulate the Uitlander grievances. The High Commissioner was fully justified in saying that they were “genuine and deep-seated.” The right of public meeting is denied them; the Press is gagged; their children cannot be educated; the English language—the language of the majority of the inhabitants—is forbidden in Courts of law; decisions of the Courts can be set aside by a mere resolution of the Raad; disabilities attach to religion. It is plain from the published Papers that the majority of the inhabitants of the Transvaal are placed in a position repugnant to the commonest conception of political and social liberty in civilised States. With good reason the High Commissioner said that whilst these grievances remain unredressed “there can be no tranquillity in Her Majesty’s South African dominions”; their continuance “steadily undermines the influence and reputation of Great Britain,” and that “the case for intervention is overwhelming.” I think we are bound to consider not only the disabilities under which the white population in the Transvaal labour, but also the condition of the coloured natives, many of whom are subjects of the Queen. They are treated with less consideration than should be accorded to brute beasts. They are bullied, ill-treated, subjected to violence at the hands of the police without possibility of justice or redress; and worse than all are subjected to the body and soul destroying influence of the accursed illicit trade in liquor. There are about 120,000 natives employed in the mining industry. Some 30 per cent of the native labour is incapacitated—so the Papers presented to Parliament state—from the horrible effects of an abominable illicit liquor trade, connived at and encouraged by the Executive. Thirty per cent, of 120,000 men incapacitated! Conceive the amount of human misery and degradation involved in that shocking statement. Is it right, is it possible, for the British people, who have lavished blood and treasure in suppressing the slave trade, and have striven, not always with success, but on the whole honestly and successfully to mitigate the destructive effects of the vices of civilisation on native races, to sit idly by and see so disgraceful a state of things in a country over which our Queen is suzerain? There is another class of grievances to which I must also allude—namely, the commercial grievances. They are not so important, though undoubtedly they constitute distinct breaches of the Convention. But I have noticed frequently in the Press, and in some public speeches, that an attempt is made to show that matters like the dynamite and railway monopolies are grievances only of a few enormously rich men, who desire, if possible, to become richer. That is not the case. To use the High Commissioner’s words, it is “a wilful perversion of the truth.” … Such is the condition of affairs. The main industry of the country is crippled. The natives are destroyed by the illicit liquor trade; the Uitlanders are denied civil and religious liberty, are subjected to insults, disabilities and injustice of all kinds, and are not allowed the alternative of representation in the State of their adoption. What has been done in the way of remedy? Probably the simplest, the most efficacious, and best remedy would be the concession to the district inhabited by the Uitlander population of liberty to manage their own internal and purely local affairs for themselves, subject, of course, to such taxation as the State required. Unfortunately, however, that method did not at all commend itself to the President at the Bloemfontein Conference, for he utterly declined to consider it. There remained the question of the franchise, and I am sure this House will agree that in concentrating his attention on that point the High Commissioner acted with entire wisdom. Such a representation as is asked for is not intended to be used to swamp the Boer element, but to enable the Uitlanders, with the help of the more intelligent section of the Boers, to gradually ameliorate their condition and relieve themselves from an intolerable state of things…. No one wishes that the independence of the Transvaal should be interfered with, if it can possibly be avoided, but we have certain rights and certain duties under the Convention—rights which have undoubtedly been broken, and duties which we have not yet fulfilled. It is impossible for the people of this country to for ever endure the sight of their white fellow-countrymen being treated with every kind of indignity as a subject and inferior race. They cannot and will not permit natives to be destroyed wholesale for the sake of a nefarious and illicit trade in the vilest liquor: and of one thing I am certain, that the people of this country will never for one moment allow any interference with the Imperial position of this country as the paramount Power in South Africa. If there was the slightest indication of foreign interference, the country would jump to its feet as one man; it is not going to permit its power to be gradually undermined, and the confidence and affection of the loyal population to be alienated. The patience of the people is almost exhausted, and a settlement by one means or another will have to be arrived at speedily. You must accommodate your arguments to the nature of the people you are dealing with. There are individuals to whom you can say, “We have no reason to resort to force: we trust to your sense of justice and equity.” We have already tried that in regard to the South African Republic without success. We must remember that the people of the Transvaal and the President are afflicted by two delusions. The people are of opinion that this nation is a pusillanimous nation, and that under no circumstances will it fight. The President is under a different but equally pernicious delusion that the country is divided on the point, and not prepared to insist upon a settlement. A dangerous delusion, for I am very sure the people of this country have made up their minds that the matter must be settled, and settled once and for all; and there is abundant evidence that the whole Empire is in earnest. I hope, as we all hope, for a peaceful solution, but if that is to be achieved we must remove the delusions under which the Boers labour with regard to this country. Whatever steps are necessary to force upon President Kruger’s mind the conviction that we are in earnest, and that by diplomatic argument if possible, but if not, then by argument of a more cogent nature we are determined to secure, without much further delay, a satisfactory settlement—those steps will be steps in the way of peace.


My Lords, I promise your Lordships that I shall not occupy much time in making a few general remarks in this Debate. This is a question upon which I feel very deeply. I am desirous, as a humble supporter of Her Majesty’s Government, to give the Government that support which I venture to think they deserve from those sitting on the back benches…. The grievances of the Uitlanders, which have been referred to, are generally admitted; I believe in this House no one would for a moment dispute the fact of their existence. I certainly shall not trouble your Lordships with any reference to them, but it has been asked by certain persons who sit in comfortable arm-chairs in this country, “What really do these Uitlanders complain of? They are making plenty of money, and their condition, after all, is not so very bad. They ought to be satisfied, and not bother us with their grievances.” It appears to me to be forming a very poor estimate of human nature to imagine that making money is a consolation, or a sufficient compensation, for suffering under intolerable political grievances. This is not the view, I am glad to say, which the Uitlanders in the Transvaal themselves take. They are determined not to rest till they have done their utmost to remove the grievances under which they are living, and to restore to the population, which is mainly a population of Her Majesty’s subjects, those rights which they receive in every other part of the South African Colonies, and the Orange Free State. But, my Lords, the larger question which underlies the grievances of the Uitlanders, and the relations of this country and the South African Republic, is that of the paramountcy or the suzerainty of Great Britain in South Africa,. Call it by what name you will, it means that we have made a claim before the world, that we have accepted responsibilities which cannot now be evaded, and we must bear in mind that in maintaining that claim and those responsibilities we are being keenly and closely watched by the eyes of all our Colonies and of the native population of South Africa. I will not detain the House further. I only wish to say that it is because I believe Her Majesty’s Government are fully alive to the great Imperial interests which this question involves; it is because I believe that they have determined not to recede in the slightest degree from the position which they have now publicly taken up; it is because I believe that any departure from this firm policy would be of the greatest danger to this country, not only as regards its position in South Africa, but that it would actually shake to the foundation the very Imperial existence of Great Britain—it is for those reasons that I have ventured to address your Lordships, and to give my most hearty and strenuous support to the Government in dealing firmly with this most difficult problem.


My Lords, Her Majesty’s Government have no complaint to make of the noble Lords who have brought forward this question. On the contrary, I think it would have been curious if Parliament had adjourned without any mention in either House of a subject of such widespread interest. The relations between Her Majesty and the dwellers across the Vaal River have always been regulated by instruments known as Conventions—there have never been between Her Majesty and those dwellers any Treaties of the form common between equal States or equal sovereign powers…. I do not think, again, that I shall be liable to correction when I say that on no single occasion since the Convention of Pretoria could the relations of Her Majesty’s Government and the Government of the Transvaal be properly described by the word satisfactory. On the contrary, those relations have been strained over and over again, almost to the verge of war. And how is it that the object aimed at has so signally failed in its effect? I think that to find the proper answer we must consider the difference in the point of view between the Boers and ourselves. They do not regard the reddition in the same light in which we regard it, nor have they ever admitted that the relations established in 1881 and 1884 between this country and themselves are of the nature which we regard them to be….The term suzerainty has been chosen as most conveniently describing superiority over a State possessing independent rights of Government subject to reservations with reference to certain specified matters…. But I apprehend, whether you call it a protectorate, or a suzerainty, or the recognition of England as a paramount Power, the fact is that a certain controlling power is retained when the State which exercises the suzerainty has a right to veto any negotiations into which the dependent State may enter with Foreign Powers. Whatever suzerainty meant in the Convention of Pretoria, the condition of things which it implied still remains; although the word is not actually employed we have kept the substance. We have abstained from using the word because it was not capable of legal definition, and because it seemed to be a word which was likely to lead to misconception and misunderstanding. Our conception of our mutual relations is based on those two statements. How far removed from our conception is that of the Government of the South African Republic your Lordships can imagine when I tell the House that in a recent despatch they have, in describing themselves, used the words “A Sovereign International State” with regard to the articles of the Convention of 1884, there has never apparently been a general similarity of interpretation on our part and on their part. At the present moment we have on record protests by this country against various infringements of the Convention by the South African Republic, and these serious differences between the two countries are only the successors of the differences of past years. I do not think it will be out of place to remind your Lordships what the late Lord Rosmead, then Sir Hercules Robinson, said on the subject in 1883. So long ago as the 23rd of November, 1883, Sir Hercules Robinson made the following observations as to the spirit in which the Boers were prepared to observe their engagements under the Convention of Pretoria:— The Transvaal burghers obviously do not intend to observe any conditions in it distasteful to themselves which Her Majesty’s Government are not prepared to insist on, if necessary by the employment of force. Her Majesty’s Government, I understand, do not feel justified in proceeding to this extremity, and no provision, therefore, of the Convention which is not agreeable to the Transvaal will be carried out, whilst what is agreeable will be observed without reference to the Convention. And, on the top of a state of affairs so difficult and so inharmonious as this, comes the treatment of the Uitlander population in the Transvaal. It is often said, in an airy way, “What is this Uitlander population? They are millionaires who want to make money, or they are German Jews.” I am not aware that even millionaires or German Jews have not the right to just treatment. But while there may be a score of millionaires and a few hundred German Jews, the Uitlander population consists of thousands of merchants, traders, professional men, artisans, and labourers—all the elements, in fact, that form the industrial community in any industrial centre in this country. And why are they in the Transvaal? They are there for the sole and only reason why an industrial community is to be found anywhere—because they sought employment, and because that was the place where employment sought them. I would ask you particularly to remember that they have an absolute right to be there—a right which Her Majesty’s Government reserved for them most expressly in the Convention of 1881. Not only have they a right to be there, but they have been welcomed there, and no wonder, for what have they not done for the country? They have made the country. They found it poor, and they made it rich. They found it weak, and they made it strong. They found it insignificant, and they made it of almost world-wide importance. Most of that community come from the United Kingdom. They find themselves living in the Transvaal under a code of laws and under an administration which hampers them at every turn, and the object of which apparently is to render the cost of production as high as possible, and which leaves every requirement of their domestic life unsatisfied, whether it is in respect of police protection, sanitation, or the education of their children, and at the same time imposes on them taxation on a higher scale and to a greater amount—to use the words of an eminent Frenchman, the President of the Chamber of Mines—”than in any other civilised country.” If you can picture the feelings of a man coming from the United Kingdom, try and enter into the feelings of the man coming from Cape Colony or from Natal—a man who is himself an Afrikander, and who is very likely tied to many families in the Transvaal by blood relationship. He has seen Dutchman after Dutchman come from the Transvaal and settle down near him in the Cape Colony. Whenever they have come they are allowed to enjoy equal privileges, equal rights, and equal liberties. The Dutchman in Cape Colony could say, think, speak, write as he liked; and if he wished to become a naturalised British subject everything was made easy for him. When this Afrikander of English extraction is led, in his turn, to go to the Transvaal, what does he find? He finds that under no circumstances can he become naturalised. Of course, I am speaking of the law as it was two months ago. If he wants to ventilate his grievances or his views in the Press, he is liable, as a journalist, to ruin by the suppression of his paper at the mere ipse dixit of the Executive Government. If he wishes to go to a public meeting and speak his mind, he cannot do so without permission; and, generally, if he has a stake in the country, there is hanging over him the risk that at the whim of the Executive, and without any appeal to a court of law, he may be expelled from the country. The courts of justice are practically closed to him in any question between himself and the Executive, because the courts are completely subservient to the Executive. He cannot even tell the laws under which he is living, for so complete is the instability of the Constitution of the Republic, and its code of laws, that a single resolution of a single Chamber of the Volksraad, passed in one afternoon, can override a law of years’ standing. The result, therefore, is that this is a question of the first magnitude. It is a question which is rending South Africa from end to end, which is paralysing business, and which is separating those who ought to be bound by the greatest ties of affection and confidence. What is really at stake? This question is not only of immense importance to South Africa, but it has been watched in every capital in the civilised world, and echoes of the question come back to us from all our colonies and the confines of the Empire. The question really is, whether British influence in South Africa is really, in fact, predominant, and not only so in theory. No other influence can secure a remedy for a division of sentiment so disastrous to South Africa. If it was unable to secure this remedy it would forfeit its right to claim predominance; if it were able to do so, but neglected to do so, it would fail in its duty. What is our title to interfere? We have, as has been stated in the Despatches, that general right which is inalienable in a civilised State to protect its subjects when it thinks they are hardly treated; and the Conventions, instead of being, as some misguided people seem to think, a bar to, and a diminution of, our general rights and position, are only an emphasis and an addition to them…. Her Majesty and chosen delegates of the Boers, and in these pourparlers, which are embodied in the Blue Books, will be found most categorical promises and assurances from President Kruger that in the Transvaal, to which internal independence was restored, there should be equality of treatment between white and white, between Englishmen and Dutchmen. Those assurances have not been kept. Every one of the laws which have caused the grievances of the Uitlander, every diminution of his individual liberty, and every restriction on his opportunities have been passed since the Conventions of 1881 and 1884, and in contravention of the assurances of President Kruger. In 1896 this withdrawal from the Uitlander of the privileges to which he had a right to consider himself entitled led him, as has already been stated in to-night’s debate, to an armed rebellion. It was on the request of the late Lord Rosmead, Her Majesty’s High Commissioner, that the men in arms laid down their weapons, and he only made that request to them to do so when President Kruger had made a promise that he would take into his best consideration, at an early date, the removal of their grievances. Therefore, I say our title to interfere is as strong as it can possibly be. It is said, “That may be, but we have been put out of court by the raid.” The raid has been properly characterised by previous speakers. The only effect of the raid, so far as this question is concerned, has been, as Sir Alfred Milner has so admirably pointed out, to give the present condition of affairs a longer lease of life, and to give President Kruger longer time in which to grant redress on his own voluntary action…. The right for which the Boers are contending is not the right to preserve their own habits in domestic life, but the right to misgovern the Uitlanders at Johannesburg. We have lately, my Lords, been through what has been called a crisis. That crisis, which came upon us with extraordinary rapidity, undoubtedly had its origin in the murder of the late Mr. Edgar, and in the breaking up of the meeting of protest at Johannesburg, because then, for the first time, those who are British subjects in the Transvaal sent a petition to Her Majesty imploring her interference. When that petition came, the Government had only two choices—one was to pass it by and say it was no concern of theirs, and the other was to admit that it was their concern, and to accept the consequent responsibility. The latter course was the one which was taken, and I believe I am accurate in saying that that course received the unanimous approbation of the country…. It is very unfortunate that President Kruger declined to take Her Majesty’s Government into his confidence, and to discuss with them the details of his scheme before the last Franchise Law was passed by the Volksraad. I must express the most earnest hope that President Kruger will yet accept the proposals which will be made to him for mutual consultation on this subject, because, as is evident, the position is still full of anxiety. Granted that the last proposals might form a basis for settlement, I cannot too strongly emphasize the absolute necessity for precision as to detail and precision as to the possibilities of the future…. The Uitlander population resident in the Transvaal must receive such an immediate, genuine, and effective share of representation in the First Volksraad as, when taken in conjunction with the other privileges of a full burgher of the Republic, will enable them to influence, without controlling, the government of the country. Our experience since 1881 has shown that I nothing could be more dangerous, or more fraught with future mischief, than any vagueness or indefiniteness in the terms of any arrangement which may be come to on this subject between Her Majesty’s Government and the Government of the South African Republic. A clear understanding, definitely recorded, is the only method of allaying any suspicion or fear that in the future another Volksraad, by fresh legislation, or another Executive, by acts of administration, might neutralize or impair the value of the concessions now made to the Uitlanders. The object, therefore, which Her Majesty’s Government have in view, is to secure the concession of the reforms necessary, and to secure it in such a form as to render future doubts about its real intention impossible. This being the object of Her Majesty’s Government, by what means do they propose to attain it? On the one hand, they are subjected to a constant pressure to provide an immediate and drastic solution for a difficulty of old standing and much complexity; on the other hand, they are being pressed to pledge themselves in advance to confine their action within definite diplomatic limits. Her Majesty’s Government will yield to such pressure neither on the one hand nor on the other. As the responsibility is theirs alone, so must they alone be judges of time and pace. They refuse emphatically to be hurried or bustled by any body of opinion, either in the United Kingdom or in South Africa. They have shown, and they mean to continue to show, great patience and consideration for the difficulties of others in dealing with this question; but they have set their hand to the plough, and will not turn back till the solitary, permanent cause of disturbance in South Africa, the inequality of treatment between the two white races in the South African Republic, is removed; and, with this task before them, they decline altogether to give any pledge which would limit the means at their disposal to secure the result which must be achieved.


The noble Earl has, if I may be allowed to say so, spoken with his usual clearness and moderation, and I am sure that none of us have a word of complaint for the manner in which he has laid his statement before the House…. I wish now simply to make this declaration—I do not desire to raise any controversy, and I do not ask anyone to accept what I say, except as my own personal statement—that in the mind of Mr. Gladstone and of myself two motives alone influenced us in concluding that Convention. The one was the feeling that, in the annexation of the Transvaal, the full consent of the burghers themselves never having been obtained, there had been a certain amount of injustice; and the second, and very powerful motive indeed, was that we believed that if we had persevered with the war we should have run very serious danger of raising throughout South Africa a war of races—a war of a most extended kind, and one, whatever might have been the result—though I do not doubt the power of this country to carry such a war to a successful conclusion—which would have been in the last degree disastrous to South Africa. We thought that the condition in which such a war would have left the country would have rendered its government a task of enormous difficulty. Those were the two motives which actuated us at the time. To a certain extent—but by no means, I am happy to say, in so acute a form—the problem now presents itself again, because, in the whole consideration of this matter, you have to consider the feelings and the situation of the different populations in South Africa which are included in the Colonies and in the States which compose the whole of South Africa as it is generally known. And possibly the most important consideration of all—though I am far from neglecting the importance ofconsidering the feelings and the interests of the British population—is to consider how far it is possible so to frame your policy as to carry with you the sympathy of our Dutch fellow-subjects at the Cape. That is to a great extent the key of the position; neither do I think that it is by any means impossible to attain that end. Now, after the cession of the Transvaal, and for a considerable time, although there were very serious differences, no doubt, nothing very acute occurred, and there were decided symptoms that there was a settlement of passion and of feeling in South Africa gradually going on which, I think, might reasonably have been hoped to have led to a far more settled state of things. But then occurred two very remarkable incidents: first of all the enormous discovery of gold, which altered the whole condition of affairs in the Transvaal, and secondly, that most unfortunate and disastrous incident, the raid. My Lords, it is in vain to conceal from one-self that the raid, to use a familiar term, “put back the clock” a long way in South Africa, and in everything we do we must bear that in mind; and if some of our friends there were not too eager to take up the grievances of the Uitlanders—I mean some of our Dutch friends—I think they may be pardoned after such an occurrence as the raid, unjustifiable and disastrous as it was. But I in no way deny what the noble Earl and others have pointed out, that the condition of affairs, as regards the Uitlanders, is in the last degree unsatisfactory. It is not only unsatisfactory because we naturally feel that British subjects looking to the original Convention, looking to our natural feelings on the subject, ought to be treated with fairness by the Government of the South African Republic; but we also feel, and I think that is a deeper and a more important feeling, that the condition of affairs in the South African Republic is a standing danger to the whole of South Africa, and that until you arrive at some more favourable condition of things in that particular portion of South Africa you cannot look forward to that state of rest and contentment and of safety which we desire throughout the whole of our possessions there, and in those States which are connected with us. But, my Lords, after I have said that, I still must say another word—shall I say in excuse, for I can hardly use the worddefence—of President Kruger and those who are responsible for the Government of the Transvaal. Consider for a moment the position in which they found themselves. They, a small community of Dutch farmers, and living a purely rural life, suddenly found themselves invaded by a large and rather motley industrial population. Can we be surprised that such men felt alarmed and felt distaste at the idea that this new population should swamp them entirely, and destroy, as they imagined it would destroy, the condition of things which they had cherished and to which they were accustomed? I think if we put ourselves in their place we shall see that their action is not so surprising as some people imagine it to be. I do not say that it is justifiable, but I say that we must take into account their natural feelings in the matter, and we must also take into account the natural sympathy of the Dutch throughout South Africa with the Dutch of the South African Republic—a sympathy which, I believe, has not prevented them from giving to us loyal assistance in endeavouring to settle the questions which have arisen, but which at the same time is an element which always is one of difficulty, because, as the old saying is, “Blood is thicker than water,” and there is a natural feeling, of course, on the part of the Dutch of the whole of South Africa of sympathy with those of them who live in the South African Republic. …Have matters arrived at the point where you can say that war or great preparations for war are necessary? When I say preparations for war I do not mean to include in that such preparations as may put into proper order, if it is required, a force which you may have on the spot, because it is obviously the duty at all times of the Government to see that the force they have available in any part of the world is really available for any contingency which may occur. Putting that out of the question, I say myself, as far as I am able to judge from the Papers that have been laid before us, and the intelligence we have received from other sources, nothing has yet occurred which would justify war or lead us to anticipate that war is imminent, or, in point of fact, to justify us in considering that a case has arisen for war. I say no more than that, and I associate myself, therefore, with that declaration of my old colleague, which, I believe—and, in fact, I know—has no greater signification than that. My reason for making such a declaration is this, that it is impossible to conceal from oneself that there is a party, not only in South Africa, but, to a certain extent, there are those among us, who rather seem to wish to make it appear that we have arrived at such a crisis that threats of war are really necessary. Now, that is what I altogether deprecate. I believe myself that the proper course is that which is well described by Sir Alfred Milner in his recent speech—”a line of firm but friendly pressure.” That seems to me to be the line which at the present juncture is, if I may venture to say so, the duty of Her Majesty’s Government. More than that, I am quite willing to believe that that is the course which Her Majesty’s Government are pursuing—”a firm but friendly pressure.” Of course, none of us can absolutely pretend to foresee all the contingencies which may occur, and none of us, I suppose, would be prepared to bind ourselves absolutely as to what should be done in this or that contingency. But our duty at the present time—at least, my dutyis to give my opinion upon the question, Has a case now arisen where war is, in point of fact, a necessity? In my opinion no such case has arisen, and I do not believe that anyone does either this country or South Africa good service by declaring that it has. Let us have “firm but friendly pressure”—firm pressure, by all means—such a pressure as will make it plainly and clearly understood by all concerned that this country is in earnest. I in no way wish to diminish from that. No difficult matter can be carried through unless the country is in earnest; but I believe and hope that that earnestness will result in a peaceful settlement, and that it may lay the foundation for what we all desire—a lasting peace and tranquility in our South African dominions.


If the noble Earl felt, in dealing with this question, that he was hampered by the present state of the transactions which are going on, he will not be surprised if I confess that I am of a similar impression, but to a much greater degree, in view of the events that are actually passing, and the unfortunate effect which any ill-judged words might have. I, therefore, shall accept the suggestion which is made to me by the clock, that I should not be very lengthy in my remarks. The point that struck me most was the gallant attempt of the noble Earl to defend the action of President Kruger. It was very amiable on his part, and showed a great willingness to undertake the conduct of forlorn hopes. To my mind, the protocol which has been so often referred to, and which recorded a conversation between Sir Evelyn Wood and President Kruger when the Convention of 1881 was under negotiation, is really the great condemnation of the action of President Kruger. It was stated as clearly as possible in that protocol, and was evidently the object of the action of the two Powers at the time, that an era of friendly co-operation should be introduced, in which both races should have, under the conduct of both Governments, the utmost equality it was possible to confer on them. That was the guiding principle of the Government in 1881. I do not affect to sympathise with the view they took. I was in a different position from Lord Camper-down, who opened this Debate; I did not support it at the time; on the contrary, I resisted it to the utmost of my power. I thought it was a policy tainted with the fault, which is a virtue in many men’s eyes, but in my eyes is almost the most dangerous fault a policy can have—it was an optimistic policy. It was an undue belief in the effect of amiable acts not supported by requisite strength. The noble Earl shakes his head; he disclaims the possession of any feelings of amiability at the time; but, at all events, it was a belief that, in acting on the feelings of the Dutch population, and invoking their gratitude by setting up this Transvaal Republic, you would avoid any danger of further friction or difficulty with them. The fallacy of that calculation was that you were acting on the morrow of a very conspicuous, if not a very great, defeat, and that your motives were, in the general apprehension, much more largely tinged with prudence than amiability. Attempts to obtain gratitude of persons are very seldom successful if those persons have the impression that you are very much afraid of them at the same time. However, that was, no doubt, the view of our policy to which President Kruger assented in that well-known protocol, and it was the view to which he was bound throughout the rest of his political career in connection with the Transvaal State to devote himself. But he took the exactly opposite line. Throughout the whole of the period that has elapsed since 1881, his one effort has been to separate the English and the Republican Government—to draw the two nations into two camps, to give the Dutch a superiority to which their numbers gave them no title over the English, and to reduce the English to the condition almost of a conquered, certainly of a subjugated, race. I do not entirely blame him for the kind of panic which appeared to have seized on him and his advisers at the irruption of the gold diggers in 1886. It was not a very attractive population at first sight, and it is quite conceivable that they might have felt some anxiety lest those gold diggers should be able to so completely dominate the government that the Dutch might suffer precisely the disadvantages which the British Uitlanders are suffering now. I can understand and I can, to some extent, make allowance for that apprehension; but where I blame him was that, when this difficulty came upon him, instead of remembering the engagements which he had entered into with the English Queen—instead of remembering the recognition of the position of England which in those two Conventions is, at all events, to a very great extent manifestly and unquestionably recognised—he placed himself in an attitude of sheer opposition, and never came to the English Government to consult them as to how this great and marvellous phenomenon of the irruption could be dealt with. I do not think any one could have said to him, “You are bound to allow your Dutch population to be overwhelmed and swept away”; but it is obvious that, with goodwill and consideration, institutions might have been arranged which would have given sufficient protection to the Uitlanders and the Digger population, without entirely annihilating the Dutch….with respect to our present policy, it has been so very well and clearly stated by my noble friend, Lord Selborne, that it would be idle for me to repeat it. His words are exactly those I should have chosen. We have to rescue British subjects from treatment which we should not think it right to endure in any country, even if there were no conventional engagements between us, but which it is doubly wrongful that we should permit when the very terms of the protocols and Conventions of 1881 and 1884 obviously protect them from any such disgraceful a fate. How we are going to do this, how we intend to apply a remedy to dissipate this great evil, that naturally I cannot examine in detail. I agree with the noble Earl opposite that the advances which have been made are to a certain extent hopeful: and if they are genuinely carried out, and if they show a real desire to eliminate this racial inequality and put the two races fairly and honestly on the same footing, I think that we may look forward to a peaceful solution of a crisis which is undoubtedly complicated and anxious. How long we are to consider this solution, what patience we are bound to show—these things I will not discuss, for a reason the noble Earl suggested to me. We have to consider, not only the feelings of the inhabitants of the Transvaal, but what is much more important to us, the feelings of our fellow-subjects at the Cape. That is a consideration we must bear carefully in mind. We should be deeply responsible if any undue impatience or irritation on our part should cause an angry termination of a controversy that otherwise might have been the subject of a peaceful solution. But I can only say what, in one form or another, has been said by many members of Her Majesty’s Government—I prefer to use the words of my noble friend, Lord Selborne—we have put our hands to the plough, and we do not intend to withdraw them from it.

Mr. Balfour on the Transvaal (speech), 28 July 1899 Top

Source: Times London. “Mr. Balfour on the Transvaal.” 28 July 1899, p. 8

….while we have been happy in avoiding foreign difficulties and foreign complications, we have unfortunately been brought face to face with a new phase, a yet further scene in that prolonged and in many respects unsatisfactory drama which has now been played out for a generation, or more than a generation in our South African possessions. Our memories, perhaps fortunately, are short, and the public hardly realize how chronic or how embarrassing have been the questions that have been pressed upon the Government of the day, whether Liberal or Conservative or Unionist, from time to time by the peculiar constitution of South African society. At the present time, I do not pretend to minimize the fact that we are face to face with one of those problems, or one aspect of those perennial problems, justly calculated to cause anxiety both to those who are responsible for the government of the Empire and to those on whose support the Government must essentially rely. I do not mean to anticipate a debate which may take place – which must take place – in the House of Commons tomorrow, but I may be permitted, perhaps, to say that one of the essentials, one of the roots, of all the misunderstandings which in this country have complicated the issues is the attempt which many people conscientiously endeavour to carry out of considering the affairs of the Transvaal as if they were the affairs of an isolated community – an island, let us say, separated from any great Continental area, an island situated in the Atlantic or the Indian Ocean. That is entirely to  misunderstand both the present crisis, or the present difficult, with which we have to deal, and the train of historical circumstances which have led up to that difficulty. If the Transvaal were indeed an isolated community, far removed from our South African possessions, we should have, no doubt, to keep a vigilant eye upon the interests of that great body of our fellow countrymen who find employment there, and we should have to see that no gross injustice were done to those of our own flesh and blood, born of our race, speaking our language, and still subjects of the Queen. But that would be a comparatively simple problem. The problem which we have actually to face is a very different and much more difficult problem, fo, after all, the South African Republic is an area in the middle of our South African possessions, and not differing from those possessions either in the general character of the country or in the races which inhabit it.

That being so, we have not merely to consider the grievances or the difficulties of the Uitlanders; we have to consider how those difficulties and how those grievances react upon the possessions for which we have even a more direct and a more obvious responsibility than we have in connexion with our countrymen in the Transvaal. Now I do not wish to comment upon that settlement of 1881 from which, no doubt, it would be possible to trace all the difficulties with which we have now to deal; but let us not do injustice to Mr. Gladstone and to those who were responsible for that arrangement. They never would have entered into it, they never would have restored to the Transvaal the independence which they could have destroyed, unless they had supposed that in the Transvaal the same rights and the same liberties would be extended both to the English and to the Dutch races which are already extended to those races in every other part of our South African dominions. They never contemplated the possibility in 1881 that by a series of laws, one more stringent than another, the Uitlanders would be excluded from every position, from every right which Englishmen and Dutchmen alike possess in the Orange Free State, in the Cape Colony, in Natal, and elsewhere. They never contemplated for a moment that this process of establishing by law more and more effectually an oligarchical rule of a relatively small section of the population would be enforced by so amazing a provision as that which puts every Coty of law in the Transvaal under the direct control of the Executive, differentiating in this respect, so far as I know, the Transvaal not only from every free government in the world, but from every government describing itself as civilized. That was  a contingency never contemplated.

But let me remind you of a fact which is too often forgotten – that those who were responsible for carrying on at the time the negotiations with the Boer Government did think it their duty to ask whether equal privileges were to be extended to all inhabitants of the Transvaal; and if you look back to the protocols of those negotiations you will see that it was distinctly stated by those responsible for the interests of the Transvaal on that occasion that equal rights were extended and were to be extended in the Transvaal to men of all nationalities, as they are at this moment in the Orange Free State or in our own colonies. Unhappily – most unhappilty for the interests of the Transvaal, for the interests of the Uitlanders, for the interests of South Africa tat large – those pledges then explicitly given have not been fulfilled, it is because the Government of the Transvaal have not pursued the policy to which they pledged themselves in 1881, that all our difficulties now arise. You know only too well how embarrassing this has been both to the home Government and the colonial Governments ever since. You know how nearly on more than one occasion it has led to war. You will remember, perhaps, the expedition which Mr. Gladstone sent out at a cost of three-quarters of a million – more than three-quarters of a million – to deal with one of the phases of the controversy which ever since has been going on with the Transvaal. I hope- I earnestly hope – that we shall not be forced to follow the policy which Mr. Gladstone was obliged to follow now some 14 years ago.

But it is manifest that the present position cannot be indefinitely prolonged. If endless patiences, endless desire to prevent matters from coming to extremity, if all the resources of diplomacy are utterly ineffectual to untie the knot, other means must inevitably be found by which that know must be loosened. But, my lords and gentlemen, while saying that with a full sense both of the gravity of the words I use and of the serious issues which they may portend, I would not have us separate this afternoon with only this dark indication of policy – this indication of policy which can only be, and ought only to be, resorted to in the last instance – as the thought on which we separate.

Personally, I take a more sanguine view of the situation, and I take it for this reason – that, if I rightly understand, the proposals made by the Transvaal Government, that Government is in principle prepared to grant that immediate representation of the Uitlander interest in the Volksraad which, however inadequate if you measure it by our standard of redistribution, is at all events real and substantial, and which carries with it the germ of every future reform which may make the South African Republic, as I think, a useful member of the great South African confederacy of the States and colonies, and may solve for ever the differences which have so unhappily come between them and us. In principle, I saw, I understand that that representation is conceded. I cannot believe that those responsible for the Transvaal policy could be so ill-advised as to withdraw in detail what they have given in the gross – to take back with one hand what they have given with another, to destroy by minute and vexatious regulations that which, broadly speaking, they have indicated their desire to grant; and if I am right, as I hope I am, in attributing these broad and statesmanlike views to the Transvaal Government, then, in spite of all that we have gone through, in spite of all the indications pointing in the opposite direction, we may trust that the negotiations now going on will lead to a final settlement of the differences which, while they last, endanger not the prosperity of the Transvaal alone, but that of the whole South African continent. It is manifestly impossible that that in the face of the world, in the eyes of the native population and of our Dutch fellow-subjects, we should permanently submit free-born Englishmen to being treated as if they were an inferior race. That is an impossible policy. That is a policy which, whether this Government be in office or not, those responsible for the destinies of the country cannot permanently acquiesce in. But I hope – I hope with an expectation which I trust is not too sanguine – that, as so much has in principle been granted, we shall find it not impossible in matters of detail to come to such an arrangement with the Government of the South African Republic as shall for ever put an end to an inequality and an injustice which, deleterious as it is to our interests, to the interests of the Cape, to the interests of Natal and of our other dependencies in that part of the world, is most of all pernicious and even fatal to the Government which attempts to keep it up. I have been tempted by the gravity of the theme into a speech somewhat longer than I intended to deliver., but I have, I think sufficiently indicated my view of the present position of our relations with the Transvaal. I do not wish you to take a despairing view of the situation. I take no such view myself, but it would be folly to pretend that all difficulties have been solved, and I should be ill doing my duty to you and to my country if I openly proclaimed peace when, after all, it may turn out that there is no peace. It would be folly to say that everything is settled when everything is not settled, and I can only hope that patience and moderation on our side will be met with similar qualities on the part of the Transvaal Government. If that be so, then, if I have the honour to address your union on a similar occasion next year, I may be happy in congratulating you on the solution of one of the most difficult problems which have ever threatened the prosperity of our great colonial Empire.

Krueger’s Message to the British Government on the 5-year franchise proposal, 16 August 1899 Top

Source: T.R.H. Davenport. 1966. The Afrikaner Bond. New York: Oxford University Press.

Although we fully acknowledge and appreciate your good intentions, we however regret that it is no longer possible for us to further accede to extravagant and impudent demands of British Government. It was in co-operation with you and on your advice that we lowered the franchise and accepted joint Commission of Enquiry, acting under the same conviction which you probably shared. All this was to no avail….We are determined not to go any further than we have latterly done, and we are convinced that we cannot accept Secretary [of] State [for] Colonies’ proposals regarding franchise after 5 years residence, now that all assurances of our independence embodied in our proposals has been taken away…We are fully impressed with the very serious position in which we are placed, but with God before our eyes we cannot go further without endangering, if not totally destroying, our independence. The Government, Parliament and people are unanimous on this point.

Ultimatum of the South African Republic to the British Empire, 9 October 1899 Top

Source: L.S. Amery, ed. The Times History of the War in South Africa 1899-1900 Vol. I, p. 356 et seq.

…Even while friendly correspondence was still going on an increase of troops on a large scale was introduced by Her Majesty’s Government and stationed in the neighbourhood of the borders of this Republic. Having regard to occurrences in the history of this Republic which it is unnecessary here to call to mind, this Government felt obliged to regard this military force in the neighbourhood of its borders as a threat against the independence of the South African Republic, since it was aware of no circumstances which could justify the presence of such military force in South Africa and in the neighbourhood of its borders. In answer to an enquiry with respect thereto, addressed to His Excellency the High Commissioner, this Government received, to its great astonishment, in answer, a veiled insinuation that from the side of the Republic an attack was being made on Her Majesty’s Colonies and at the same time a mysterious reference to possibilities whereby it was strengthened in its suspicion that the independence of this Republic was being threatened. As a defensive measure it was therefore obliged to send a portion of the Burghers of this Republic in order to offer the requisite resistance to similar possibilities. Her Majesty’s unlawful intervention in the internal affairs of this Republic in conflict with the Convention of London, 1884, caused by the extraordinary strengthening of troops in the neighbourhood of the borders of this Republic, has thus caused an intolerable condition of things to arise whereto this Government feels itself obliged, in the interest not only of this Republic but also of all South Africa, to make an end as soon as possible, and feels itself called upon and obliged to press earnestly and with emphasis for an immediate termination of this state of things and to request Her Majesty’s Government to give it the assurance

(a) That all points of mutual difference shall be regulated by the friendly course of arbitration or by whatever amicable way may be agreed upon by this Government with Her Majesty’s Government.

(b) That the troops on the borders of this Republic shall be instantly withdrawn.

(c) That all reinforcements of troops which have arrived in South Africa since the 1st June, 1899, shall be removed from South Africa within a reasonable time, to be agreed upon with this Government, and with a mutual assurance and guarantee on the part of this Government that no attack upon or hostilities against any portion of the possessions of the British Government shall be made by the REpublic during further negotiations within a period of time to be subsequently agreed upon between the Governments, and this Government will, on compliance therewith, be prepared to withdraw the armed Burghers of this Republic from the borders.

(d) That Her Majesty’s troops which are now on the high seas shall not be landed in any port of South Africa.

This Government must press for an immediate and affirmative answer to these four questions, and earnestly requests Her Majesty’s Government to return such an answer before or upon Wednesday the 11th October 1899, not later than 5 o’clock p.m., and it desires further to add that in the event of unexpectedly no satisfactory answer being received by it within that interval it will with great regret be compelled to regard the action of Her Majesty’s Government as a formal declaration of war, and will not hold itself responsible for the consequences thereof, and that in the event of any further movements of troops taking place within the abovementioned time in the nearer directions of our borders this Government will be compelled to regard that also as a formal declaration of war.

Krueger’s Response to British Ultimatum Top

Source: Martin Meredith. 2007. Diamonds, Gold and War: the Making of South Africa. New York: Simon & Schuster.

I am sworn to uphold the independence of my country, and I have the very best reason for believing that Chamberlain and Milner are determined to rob me of that independence. Can you give me the assurance that if I consider all their demands, others will not be sprung upon me which no self-respecting President could for a moment entertain? If we are to lose our independence, let it be taken from us by force, but do not ask me to be a consenting party. I am sorry that you think war can end only in the destruction of the Republic, but do you not believe that there is a power above greater than that of England which will see that right and justice will prevail?

Kruger’s notification to Steyn on intention to start war with British, 19 September 1899 Top

Source: Cecil Headlam. 1931. The Milner Papers: South Africa 1897-1899. London: Cassell & Company.

We regret it is no longer possible for us further to comply with the far-reaching and insolent demands of the British Government…Our franchise proposal of five years was under the express declaration and understanding that the British Govt. should accept our conditions…We are firmly resolved to go no step further than we have already done, and we are convinced that we cannot accept the proposal of Chamberlain with regard to franchise after five years; residence….You, yourself, gave your approval if we gave the present franchise as we were doing. With God before our eyes, we feel that we may not go further without endangering our independence, if not wholly destroying it. This Government and people are unanimous on this point.

Two Speeches of President Kruger at the Decisive Sitting of the First and Second Volksraad of 2 October 1899 Top

Source: Paul Kruger. 1902. The Memoirs of Paul Kruger: four times president of the South African Republic. New York: The Century Co.

Honorable Sirs,

To tell you what is in my mind: you know how the Lord transplanted this people to this country and led it here amid miracles; so that we should have to say, “Lord, I no longer believe in Thee,” if things came to such a pass with  us that now, when thousands of enemies are assailing us, we voluntarily surrendered the land which He gave us and not we ourselves. Let us trust in God and together offer up our prayers to the Lord. He is waiting for our entreaties and He will be with us. The decision rests with Him, and He will decide, not on lies, but on the ground of truth.

You are familiar with the course of events and know how the Volksraad and the people have yielded in everything that was demanded. First, it was a question of the franchise. Three times we yielded in this matter and I repeat, so that it may appear upon the minutes, that it is a lie to say that we were not willing to treat those who came from abroad as our equals.

When the Convention of 1881 was concluded, there were only a few English here; and what was it that they wanted? They were quite willing to be treated on an equal footing with our burghers, but registered themselves as British subjects; they preferred to remain foreigners rather than become subjects of this state.

You know, moreover, that, under the Convention of 1884, at the time of the Blue Mountains commando, they refused to take the field with our burghers, although by so doing they would have at once received the franchise. I brought the matter three times before the Raad and begged it to pass a resolution that they must defend the country; and the Volksraad confirmed that all who took part in the war should obtain the franchise. Then Loch came here and complained that the English were not treated as the most favored nation. I thereupon again issued another proclamation, because I thought that there might really be people to be found who wished to stand on an equal footing without burghers; I did this, although the Convention (of 1884) expressly prescribes that they shall possess not equal political, but equal commercial rights. Now think – we are standing before the Lord and let each of us send his prayer on high to the Lord – where can they say that, with regard to trade, they were less favored than our own burghers? Nowhere. They were, in this respect, even more favorably placed than our burghers. They could take gold and anything they liked out of the country and they could even obtain political rights, but they would not have them. The High Commissioner demanded that we should extend the franchise and we had already done more; we even tried, afterwards, to treat them, the Uitlanders, on an equal footing with our burghers, but they declined.

In this respect, therefore, there is no injustice on our side. We can appear frankly before our Lord. He will decide and De decides not by virtue of lies, but according to justice and truth. Let us therefore send up our prayers to Him on high, that He may guide us, and then, if thousands come, the Lord will guide us in right and justice until, perhaps, we shall be freed once and for all from all these cares. I place myself wholly in His hands….

We so often forget what the Lord has done. I will not speak again of the War of Independence, in which the Lord so visibly and wonderfully aided us. But was it otherwise in the Jameson Raid? They aimed thousands of shells and balls at us, while we shot only with rifles; and how wonderfully was the course of the bullets ordered! Three of us fell, while the enemy had hundreds killed and wounded. And who ordered the flight of the bullets? The Lord. He spared us then, to prove to us that He rules all things. The Lord will also protect you now, even if thousands of bullets fly around you. THat is my faith and also my constant prayer for myself, for the burghers and for all who fight with us. I will say once more that the Lord will guide us: He will decide and show to us that He rules and none other.

[Second Speech]

It gives me great confidence to see that the Raad is with me. I know that, like myself, it believes in God’s Word. If you search that Word, you will find that God, when He punishes and chastises His people, does not do so in such a way that He delivers that people wholly into the hands of its enemies. We too, when we chastise our children, do not allow others to beat them. When the people, that is, the people of Israel, fell away from God and committed idolatry, it was punished and almost fell into slavery. But you see in the Old Testament how, when thousands of enemies then come to annihilate God’s people, the people trusts to God, its Creator and Redeemer.

Gentlemen, you have heard how they mock at us for appealing to the Lord. That is a blasphemy against God, and we trust therefore that the Lord will not let it go unpunished. The Lord chastises us, but He will not suffer Himself to be blasphemed.

One brief word more. Moses was a man of God, and the Lord spoke with him; but, at a time of great stress and combat, his friends had to stay up his hands, for he was but a weak mortal. Aaron had to support him in the faith. So let us too remember our generals and fighting generals in our prayers, and unceasingly offer our prayers to God. Let us support them in their faith and let us not forget to strengthen with our prayers the men who have to conduct the Government.

Opening Speech of President Steyn at the Annual Session of the Volksraad of the Orange Free State at Kroonstad, 2 April 1900. Top

Source: Paul Kruger. 1902. The Memoirs of Paul Kruger: four times president of the South African Republic. New York: The Century Co.

Mr. President and Gentlemen,

Although the enemy is in possession of Bloemfontein and I have been obliged temporarily to remove the seat of government to Kroonstad, I nevertheless open your usual annual session full of firm confidence in the future, and I heartily bid you welcome.

1. In spite of your efforts and the efforts of both Governments to preserve peace, a war has been forced upon the South African Republic by the British Government. And the Orange Free State has been true to her obligations, and, in accordance with your resolution, ranged herself on the side of the Sister Republic when, on the 18th of October, war broke out between the South African Republic and the British Government.

2. The Republics picked up the gauntlet with no other object than that of defending their independence, which cost our forefathers so much blood and which is so dear to us, to the uttermost. Thanks to the Almighty, our arms were blessed in a manner which not only struck the world with amazement, but far exceeded our own expectations. Although the capture of General Cronje’ and his gallant burghers and the occupation of Bloemfontein were heavy blows to us, I am nevertheless glad to be able to say that our burghers are still full of courage and determined to continue to fight for the preservation of our dearly purchased independence, and, if necessary, like so many of our dear ones, to die as brave and never-to-be-forgotten heroes…[naming of members of the Raad who have been killed].

3. The enemy, not content with his greatly superior force, has sought to obtain still further advantages by a constant abuse of the Red Cross and the white flag, against which abuse I have been obliged to make a protest to the neutral Powers. Ay, the mighty British Empire has not disdained, in this conflict with two small Republics, to make use of crafty proclamations in order to divide our little people. I have pointed, in a counter-proclamation of my own, to the craftiness and danger of this communication, and am glad to be able to say that, so far as I know, comparatively few have been so cowardly and faint-hearted as to surrender voluntarily.

4. In order to prevent further bloodshed and to assure the civilized world once more that it is not our intention to annex the neighboring colonies, but that we are pursuing an entirely different object, namely the defence of our liberty and our rights, His Honor the State President of the South African Republic and I have written a letter to His Excellency the Prince Minister of Great Britain with a view to the restoration of peace. But, instead of aiding us in our endeavours, he has sent us a reply which will be laid before you and which clearly shows that this war had no other object from the commencement than the destruction of the two Republics.

5. Even as I, and the Executive Raad with me, had already attempted everything in order to preserve peace, so we lose sight of nothing to-day that could serve to restore peace. The Government of the South African Republic and our own Government have therefore decided to send a commission consisting of Messrs. A. Fischer, member of the Executive Raad, C.H. Wessels, President of the Volksraad, and A.D. Wolmarans, member of the Executive Raad of the South African Republic, to Europe and America to ask for the civilized Powers for their intervention for the prevention of further bloodshed. That their labors may be blessed with success is and must be the object of all our prayers.

6. By Virtue of the plenary powers that have been given me, I have concluded a loan with the South African Republic.

7. It will be impossible for us to proceed to the usual debates. I would therefore propose to you to adjourn them to a later date and to discuss only those questions and decrees that shall be laid before you.

I conclude with the sincere prayer that, in the name of the Thrice Holy God, we may all be granted strength to keep up the sacred struggle for freedom and justice upon which we entered in all seriousness and to continue it energetically to the end. For God forbid that we should lightly surrender the independence which we bought with our blood. I have done.

Opening Speech of President Kruger at the Ordinary Session of the First and Second Volksraad of the South African Republic at the Joint Sitting of 7 May 1900 Top

Source: Paul Kruger. 1902. The Memoirs of Paul Kruger: four times president of the South African Republic. New York: The Century Co.


I once more have great pleasure in cordially welcoming you in this house of assembly and in venturing to give thanks to God, who rules the Universe and who has protected and preserved you, so that you can once more, with His help, devote all our strength to the interests of our dear country and people.

1. Some members of your Raad have informed me that, in consequence of the war, which compels their presence with the commandos, they were unable to obey the summons to attend this meeting.

2. The war in which our country is engaged with England has, in addition to the many valuable victims which its has already exacted from among the burghers of both States, also demanded its victims from the legislative and executive bodies, in consequence of which we have to lament the deaths of our meritorious fellow-members [lists names and battles in which they were killed]….

6. I am deeply touched by the proof of loyalty on the part of the people of our sister Republic, who has shown by this act that she was determined to fulfill the obligations which she had made by treaty with the people of the South African Republic. In such a glorious fashion have the old ties been confirmed and strengthened which already existed between the peoples inhabiting either bank of the Vaal River. The sister Republic clearly saw that united action was necessary; for an attack on the independence of the South African Republic also implies a threat against the independent existence of the Orange Free State. The energy and unbounded faith in the future of the Afrikander Nation which our sister Republic displayed in her attitude have set the people and the Government of the South African Republic a magnificent example, have strengthened us in the struggle for our existence which as been forced upon us by the war with Great Britain and are of even greater moral value for the outer world and for all who follow the struggle of a small people for its existence. The least, therefore, in my opinion, that our duty towards our loyal brothers and fellow-Afrikanders in the Orange Free State demands of us is that I should, at this place of your assembly, express, as your interpreter, our sincere and deep-felt sense of gratitude. God bless them for their devotion to the cause of freedom! …

8. While visiting the various laagers, I was also at Bloemfontein, where I agreed with His Honor the State President of the Orange Free State to send a joint dispatch to the British Government, in which, after referring to the fact that we had not sought war and desired no increase of territory, we proposed to open friendly negotiations on the basis that both Republics should be recognized as sovereign international states and receive the assurance that those of Her Majesty’s subjects who had assisted us in this war should suffer no damage in person or property. From the reply of the British Government, which shall be laid before you, you will see that the Government was always and is still determined to destroy the independent existence of the two Republics.

9. Even if our legislation in past years and our negotiations with the British Government had not shown that we were ready to do everything to preserve peace, we are, now that war has broken out in spite of our efforts to prevent it, prepared to do everything and to leave nothing untried to restore peace. With this object, I have agreed with his Honor the State President of the Orange Free State to send [lists names and positions of delegates] for our Republic, to Europe and America with the commission, in the name of the people and the Governments of the South African Republic and the Orange Free State, to petition for the restoration of the peace on the basis of the independence of the two Republics.

10. The presence in our fighting lines of attaches who have been deputed by different states to follow the progress of the war, points to the great interest which the Governments of those states take in the methods of warfare of our Republics. At the same time I rejoice to find that the sympathy of well-nigh the whole world is on our side in this struggle for right and liberty and that different countries have sent detachments of the Red Cross as ambulances to he battle-fields to allay the pain and suffering of our wounded, while at the same time funds are being collected, not only in Europe, but also in America and Asia, to help the widows and orphans of the slain. I am, therefore, but carrying out your wishes when I here express our gratitude for those self-sacrificing actions of noble humanity.

11. I have been compelled to make a protest to the different neutral Powers against various actions which are in conflict with international law and with warfare as practised between civilized nations, as, for instance, against the abuse of the Red Cross and the white flag, the ill-treatment of the wounded on the battle-field and of prisoners of war, and the employment of natives to fight against the Republics….

And with this gentlemen, I conclude. May the Ruler of Nations vouchsafe to gird us with the strength to bring to a desired end this unequal and violent strife, upon which we have entered in His name for our sacred right. May the burghers and officers, inspired from on high with strength and with a sense of duty both towards those brave men who have given their lives for the preservation of the fatherland and towards the coming generation that expects to receive a free fatherland at their hands, feel impelled to continue the war and to remain steadfast. And thus may the South African race, whose future was always hopeful, now at last develop into a mighty tree and prove by its actions that we are worthy of taking our place in the ranks of the nations. God in His Heaven help us to attain that end! I have done.

Although it is not my custom, allow me to add a few words to my speech: the situation of the country is such that I make this public request to be permitted to give an explanation of my address.

You know how the franchise was insisted upon before the war began. You know that the Government yielded, after obtaining the consent of the Raad, although this body saw objections to such a course, until even the burghers made representations, as though we were about to surrender almost all our rights. The Government had in view the prevention of bloodshed. The Raad then agreed to the seven years; franchise and also that all persons who had been here for more than seven years could acquire the franchise immediately. There were then nearly 30,000 who were able to acquire the franchise at once, and so much had been yielded that, if all of these had obtained the franchise, they could have outvoted the old burghers. It was only to prevent bloodshed that we yielded so much as this. Nevertheless they were not contented, and declared that they wanted to have the franchise after five years.

Our burghers were against this, and there were also members of the Raad who would not grant it; but, notwithstanding, the Government made a proposal, because they had perceived that it was not a question of the franchise, but that this was a pretext full of pharisaical hypocrisy; for documents had been found showing that, as early as 1896, it had been decided that the two independent Republics must cease to exist. I can express myself in no other terms than by calling it a “devilish fraud.” They talked of peace, while the decision had already been taken to destroy us. Even, therefore, if we had yielded more, if we had even said that the franchise could be acquired after one year’s residence, that would not have been accepted. For it had appeared from documents that this people should no longer be a free people. As I stated in my speech, the Government, in order to avoid bloodshed, made a far-reaching proposal to Chamberlain and Salisbury; and what was the answer? You have read that document, and, although I cannot repeat the text of the document word for word, it amounts to this, that they are angry at ever having recognized us as an independent nation, and that, in spite of all the conventions that had been made, they will never acknowledge that this nation is independent.

Honorable sirs, I must speak out and say what I have in my mind. Psalm 83 speaks of the attacks of the Evil One on Christ’s Kingdom, which must no longer exist. And now the same words come from Salisbury, for he too says, “This people must not exist,” and God says, “This people shall exist.” Who will win? Surely, the Lord. You now see the artifices which already at that time were being employed; also how our people was willing to surrender its rights, and that the Executive Raad went so far in yielding that we almost lost our country. It was not, however, their intention to obtain those rights: they wanted our country, which was no longer to be independent. All the rest would not have satisfied them.

Let us take note of this and observe the artful cunning which this matter implies. They wrote to the Orange Free State that they had nothing against that State, but only against this Republic. They thus hoped to separate the two Republics, whereas it has appeared from the documents that neither of the two was to continue to exist. See the deceit contained in this. For the documents show that, as early as 1896, after the Jameson Raid, this was decided upon; and yet they persisted in declaring that, if the Orange Free State would lay down her arms, that country would continue to exist. The Orange Free State then resolved not to lay down her arms, and together we began.

We were 40,000 men; but we had to guard against Kaffirs on every side, and the commandant of Mafeking had even written to us that certain Kaffir captains would assist him, and we know that, altogether, those numbered 30,000 fighting Kaffirs. That number of Kaffirs alone was almost as great as the number of our combatants, while in addition there arrived over 200,000 English troops. And that was what we had to fight against….

Honorable sirs, you must not think that all who fight against us belong to the Beast; there are certainly hundreds of the children of God among them, who, however, are forced to act as they do from fear of the Beast; but God knows all hearts. We did not seek that the blood that lies on the ground should be shed, for we had surrendered all our rights; but when they wished to murder us, we could yield no more….

Look at the blood that has been shed here on earth. What is the cause of it? We have wanted peace and our liberty, ever since 1836, and the Lord has given them to us, and shall the Lord ever lay his Hand to a thing to withdraw it again? No, but let us humble ourselves before the Lord. There is no doubt that eventually the Lord will lead us to victory. The day of grace is not far off for His people. Let us not doubt, but remain true to God’s word and fight in His name. When the water shall rise to our lips and we humble ourselves earnestly before the Lord, then shall the day of Grace have come. Let each then acknowledge that it is the Lord’s hand that sets us free and none other, so that man may not glorify himself. The Lord only employs man to carry out His will….

It is wonderful to see how unanimously the other Powers are on our side, and how all Europe prays for us with one voice; and shall the Lord reject those prayers? Oh no, trust in the Lord and let us persevere under Him, and He will perform miracles. Even if it goes so far that I am sent to St. Helena. For then the Lord will bring back the people and set it free; and the same judgment shall fall upon Babylon, the cause of all the blood that has been shed. We are fighting for the liberty that God gave us. I say again: If brothers from this Raad and private persons, who fought in the name of the Lord and believed, should fall by the word, then – God’s word says it – they are sacrificed on the altar to the greater glory of His name and of the glorious Church which is waiting to be revealed in this sign of the times. The Church must be tried and purified, and therefore I cannot believe that it will be permitted that we shall be destroyed but this extraordinary war. The war will last until the Lord says, “Hitherto, but no further.” Keep to that and fight with me! I place myself in the hands of the Lord. Whatever He may have decided for me, I shall kiss the rod with which He strikes me, for I too am guilty.

Let each humble himself before the Lord. I have spoken.


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