Oom Paul's People - Howard Hillegas

Causes of the Present Dissensions

The politicians and the speculators have been the bane of South Africa. Ill-informed secretaries of the British Colonial Office might augment the list, but their stupidity in treating with colonial grievances is so proverbial as to admit them to the rank of natural or providential causes of dissension. Until the Boer Government came into the foreground, the politicians and speculators used South Africa as a huge chessboard, whereon they could manipulate the political and commercial affairs of hundreds of thousands of persons to suit their own fancies and convenience.

It was a dilettante  politician who operated in South Africa and could not make a cat's-paw of the colonial secretary in Downing Street, and it was a stupid speculator who was unable to be the power behind the enthroned politician. And South Africa has been the victim. Hundreds of men have gone to South Africa and have become millionaires, but thousands remain in the country praying for money wherewith to return home. The former are the politicians and the speculators; the latter are the miners, the workingmen, and the tradespeople. It is a country where the man with a million becomes a multimillionaire, and the man with hundreds becomes penniless. It is the wealthy man's footstool and the poor man's cemetery. Men go there to acquire riches; few go there to assist in making it tenable for white men. Thousands go there with the avowed intention of making their fortunes and then to return. Those who go there as came the immigrants to America—to settle and develop the new country—can be counted only by the score. Of the million white people south of the Zambezi, probably one half are mere fortune-seekers, who would leave the country the very instant they secured a moderate fortune.

These have the welfare of the country at heart only in so far as it interferes or assists them in attaining their desired goal. They would ask that Portugal be allowed to rule all of South Africa if they received the assurance that the much-sought-after fortune could be secured six months sooner. They have no conscience other than that which prevents them from stabbing a man to relieve him of his money. They go to the gold and diamond fields to secure wealth, and not to assist in developing law and order, good government, or good institutions.

The other half of the white population is composed of men and women who were born in the country—Afrikanders, Dutch, Boers, and other racial representatives, and others who have emigrated thither from the densely populated countries of Europe, with the intention of remaining in the country and taking part in its government and institutions. These classes comprise the South Africans, who love their country and take a real interest in its development and progress. They know its needs and prospects, and are abundantly able to conduct its government so that it will benefit Boer, Englishman, Dutchman, Natalian, and native.

The defects in the Government of Cape Colony and Natal are the natural results of the handicaps that have been placed on the local legislation by the Colonial Office in London, who are as ignorant of the real conditions of their colonies as a Zulu chieftain is of the political situation in England. The colonial papers teem with letters from residents who express their indignation at the methods employed by the Colonial Office in dealing with colonial affairs. Especially is this the case in Natal, the Eden of South Africa, where the dealings of the Colonial Office with regard to the Zulus have been stupidly carried on. South African men of affairs who are not bigoted do not hesitate to express their opinion that Cape Colony and Natal have been retarded a quarter of a century in their natural growth by the handicap of the Colonial Office. Their opinion is based upon the fact that every war, with the exception of several native outbreaks, has been caused by blundering in the Colonial Office, and that all the wars have retarded the natural growth and development of the colonies to an aggregate of twenty-five years. In this estimate is not included the great harm to industries that has been caused by the score or more of heavy war clouds with which the country has been darkened during the last half century. These being some of the difficulties with which the two British colonies in South Africa are beset, it can be readily inferred to what extent the Boers of the Transvaal have had cause for grievance. In their dealings with the Boers the British have invariably assumed the role of aristocrats, and have looked upon and treated the "trekkers" as sans-culottes.

Cape Colony Government House


This natural antipathy of one race for another has given glorious opportunities for strife, and neither one nor the other has ever failed to take quick advantage. The struggle between the Boers and the British began in Cape Colony almost one hundred years ago, and it has continued, with varying degrees of bitterness, until the present day. The recent disturbances in the Transvaal affairs date from the conclusion of the war of independence in 1881. When the Peace Commissioners met there was inserted in the treaty one small clause which gave to England her only right to interfere in the political affairs of the Transvaal.

The Boer country at that time was considered of such little worth that Gladstone declared it was not of sufficient value to be honoured with a place under the British flag. To the vast majority of the British people it was a matter of indifference whether the Transvaal was an independent country or a dependency of their own Government. The clause which was allowed to enter the treaty unnoticed, and which during recent years has figured so prominently in the discussions of South African affairs, reads:

"The South African Republic will conclude no treaty or engagement with any state or nation other than the Orange Free State, nor with any native tribe to the eastward or the westward of the republic, until the same has been approved by her Majesty the Queen. Such approval shall be considered to have been granted if her Majesty's Government shall not, within six months after receiving a copy of such treaty (which shall be delivered to them immediately upon its completion), have notified that the conclusion of the treaty is in conflict with the interests of Great Britain, or of any of her Majesty's possessions in South Africa."

When the contents of the treaty were published to the Boer people, many of them objected strongly to this clause, and insisted that it gave the British too great power in the affairs of the republic, and a strenuous effort was made to have the offending clause eliminated. In the year 1883 a deputation, which included Paul Kruger, was sent to London, with a view of obtaining the abolition of the suzerainty. This deputation negotiated a new convention the following year, from which the word "suzerainty" and the stipulations in regard thereto were removed. In their report to the Volksraad, made in 1884, the deputation stated that the new convention put an end to the British suzerainty.

February 4, 1884, in a letter to Lord Derby, then in charge of British affairs, the deputation announced to him that they expected an agreement to be contained in the treaty relative to the abolition of the suzerainty. In his reply of a week later, Lord Derby made a statement upon which the Boers base their strongest claim that the suzerainty was abolished. He said:

"By the omission of those articles of the convention of Pretoria which assigned to her Majesty and to the British resident certain specific powers and functions connected with the internal government and the foreign relations of the Transvaal state, your Government will be left free to govern the country without interference, and to conduct its diplomatic intercourse and shape its foreign policy, subject only to the requirement embodied in the fourth article of the new draft, that any treaty with a foreign state shall not have effect without the approval of the Queen."

For a period of almost ten years the suzerainty of England over the Transvaal was an unknown quantity. With the exception of several Government officials, there were hardly any Englishmen in the country, and no one had the slightest interest in the affairs of the Transvaal Government. When gold was discovered in the Randt in quantities that equaled those of the early days of the California gold fields, an unparalleled influx of Englishmen and foreigners followed, and in several years the city of Johannesburg had sprung up in the veldt.

The opening of hundreds of mines, and the consequent increase in expenditures, made it necessary for the Transvaal Government to increase its revenues. Mining laws had to be formulated, new offices had to be created, hundreds of new officials had to be appointed, and all this required the expenditure of more money in one year than the Government had spent in a decade before the opening of the mines. The Government found itself in a quandary, and it solved the problem of finances as many a stronger and wealthier government has done.

Concessions were granted to dynamite, railway, electric light, electric railway, water, and many other companies, and these furnished to the Government the nucleus upon which depended its financial existence. Few of the concessions were obtained by British subjects, and when the monopolies took advantage of their opportunities, and raised the price of dynamite and the rates for carrying freight, the Englishmen, who owned all the mines, naturally objected. The Boer Government, having bound itself hand and foot when hard pressed for money, was unable to compel the concessionaries to reduce their rates.

At that period of the Randt's existence the speculators appeared, and soon thereafter the London Stock Exchange became a factor in the affairs of the Randt. Where the Stock Exchange leads, the politicians follow, and they too soon became interested in South African affairs. Then the treaty of 1883 was found in the Colonial Office archives, and next appears a demand to the Boer Government that all British residents of the Transvaal be allowed to vote. The Boers refused to give the franchise to any applicant unless he first renounced his allegiance to other countries, and, as the British subjects declined to accede to the request, the politicians became busily engaged in formulating other plans whereby England might obtain control of the country.

At that inopportune time Jameson's troopers entered the Transvaal territory and attempted to take forcible possession of the country; but they were unsuccessful, and only succeeded in directing the world's sympathy to the Boers. The Jameson raid was practically Cecil J. Rhodes's first important attempt to add the Transvaal to the list of South African additions he has made to the British Empire. The result was especially galling to him, as it was the first time his great political schemes failed of success.

But Rhodes is not the man to weep over disasters. Before the excitement over the raid had subsided, Rhodes had concocted a plan to inflict a commercial death upon the Transvaal, and in that manner force it to beg for the protection of the English flag. He opened Rhodesia, an adjoining country, for settlement, and by glorifying the country, its mineral and agricultural wealth, and by offering golden inducements to Transvaal tradespeople, miners, and even Transvaal subjects, he hoped to cause such an efflux from the Transvaal that the Government would be embarrassed in less than two years. The country which bears his name was found to be amazingly free from mountains of gold and rivers of honey, and the several thousand persons who had faith in his alluring promises remained in Rhodesia less than a year, and then returned to the Transvaal.

The reports of the Rhodesian country that were brought back by the disappointed miners and settlers were not flattering to the condition of the country or the justice of the Government. Of two evils, they chose the lesser, and again placed themselves under the Kruger Government. When revolution and enticement failed to bring the Transvaal under the British flag, Rhodes inaugurated a political propaganda. His last resort was the Colonial Office in London, and in that alone lay the only course by which he could attain his object.

Again the franchise question was resorted to as the ground of the contention, the dynamite and railway subjects having been so thoroughly debated as to be as void of ground for further contention as they had always been foreign to British control or interference. The question of granting the right of voting to the Uitlanders in the Transvaal is one which so vitally affects the future life of the Government that the Boers' concession of that right would be tantamount to presenting the country to the British Government.

Ninety-nine per cent. of the Uitlanders of the Transvaal are no more than transient citizens. They were attracted thither by the gold mines and the attendant industries, and they have no thought of staying in the Transvaal a minute after they have amassed a fortune or a competency. Under no consideration would they remain in the country for the rest of their lives, because the climate and nature of the country are not conducive to a desire for long residence. It has been demonstrated that less than one per cent. of the Uitlanders had sufficient interest in the country to pass through the formality of securing naturalization papers preparatory to becoming eligible for the franchise.

The Boer Government has offered that all Uitlanders of nine years' residence, having certain unimportant qualifications, should be enfranchised in two years, and that others should be enfranchised in seven years—two years for naturalization and five more years' resident—before acquiring the right to vote.

There is a provision for a property qualification, which makes it necessary for the naturalized citizen to own a house of no less value than two hundred and fifty dollars in renting value, or an income of one thousand dollars. The residence clause in the Transvaal qualifications compares favourably with those of London, where an Englishman from any part of the country and settling in the municipality is obliged to live two years and have certain property qualifications before acquiring the right of franchise.

In full knowledge of these conditions the Uitlanders insist upon having an unconditional franchise—one that will require nothing more than a two-years' residence in the country. The Boers are well aware of the results that would follow the granting of the concessions demanded, but not better so than the Uitlanders who make the demands. The latest Transvaal statistics place the number of Boer burghers in the country at less than thirty thousand. At the lowest estimate there are in the Transvaal fifty thousand Uitlanders having the required qualifications, and all of these would become voters in two years. At the first election held after the two years had elapsed the Uitlanders would be victorious, and those whom they elected would control the machinery of the Government. The Uitlanders' plan is as transparent as air, yet it has the approval and sanction of the English politicians, press, and public.

The propaganda which Rhodes and other politicians and stock brokers interested in the Transvaal gold mines inaugurated a short time after the Jameson raid has been successful in arousing the people in England to what they have been led to believe is a situation unequaled in the history of the empire-building. But there is a parallel case. At the same time the British Parliament was discussing the subject of the alleged injustice under which the English residents of the Transvaal were suffering, the colonial secretary was engaged in disposing of grievances which reached him from the Dutch residents of British Guiana, in South America, and which recited conditions parallel to those complained of by the Uitlanders. The grievances were made by foreign residents of English territory, instead of by English subjects in a foreign country, and consequently demanded less serious attention, but their justice was none the less patent. The three thousand native Dutch voters in British Guiana have no voice in the legislative or administrative branches of the colonial government, owing to the peculiar laws which give to the three thousand British-born citizens the complete control of the franchise. The population of the colony is three hundred thousand, yet the three thousand British subjects make and administer the laws for the other two hundred and ninety-seven thousand inhabitants, who compose the mining and agricultural communities and are treated with the same British contempt as the Boers. The Dutch residents have made many appeals for a fuller representation in the Government, but no reforms have been inaugurated or promised.

The few grievances which the Uitlanders had before the Jameson raid have been multiplied a hundredfold and no epithet is too venomous for them to apply to the Boers. The letters in the home newspapers have allied the name of the Boers with every vilifying adjective in the English dictionary, and returning politicians have never failed to supply the others that do not appear in the book.

Petitions with thousands of names, some real, but many non-existent, have been forwarded to the Colonial Office and to every other office in London where they would be received, and these have recited grievances that even the patient Boer Volksraad had never heard about. It has been a propaganda of petitions and letters the like of which has no parallel in the history of politics. It has been successful in arousing sentiment favourable to the Uitlanders, and at this time there is hardly a handful of persons in England who are not willing to testify to the utter degradation of the Boers.

Another branch of the propaganda operated through the Stock Exchange, and its results were probably more practical than those of the literary branch. It is easier to reach the English masses through the Stock Exchange than by any other means. Whenever one of the "Kaffir" or Transvaal companies failed to make both ends meet in a manner which pleased the stockholders, it was only necessary to blame the Boer Government for having impeded the digging of gold, and the stockholders promptly outlined to the Colonial Office the policy it should pursue toward the Boers.

The impressions that are formed in watching the tide of events in the Transvaal are that the Boer Government is not greatly inferior to the Government of Lord Salisbury and Secretary Chamberlain. The only appreciable difference between the two is that the Boers are fighting the cause of the masses against the classes, while the English are fighting that of the classes against the masses. In England, where the rich have the power, the poor pay the taxes, while in the Transvaal the poor have the power and compel the rich to pay the taxes. If the Transvaal taxes were of such serious proportions as to be almost unbearable, there might be a cause for interference by the Uitlander capitalists who own the mines, but there no injustice is shown to any one. The only taxes that the Uitlanders are compelled to pay are the annual poll tax of less than four dollars and a half, mining taxes of a dollar and a quarter a month for each claim for prospecting licenses, and five dollars a claim for diggers' licenses. Boer and Uitlander are compelled to pay these taxes without distinction.

The Boers, in this contention, must win or die. In earlier days, before every inch of African soil was under the flag of one country or another, they were able to escape from English injustice by loading their few possessions on wagons and "trekking" into new and unexplored lands. If they yield their country to the English without a struggle, they will be forced to live under a future Stock Exchange Government, which has been described by a member of the British Parliament as likely to be "the vilest, the most corrupt, and the most pernicious known to man."

The Boers have no better argument to advance in support of their claim than that which is contained in the Transvaal national hymn. It at once gives a history of their country, its many struggles and disappointments, and its hopes. It is written in the "taal" of the coun- try, and when sung by the patriotic, deep-voiced Boers is one of the most impressive hymns that ever inspired a nation.

The Transvaal Volkslied

The four-colours of our dear old land

Again float o'er Transvaal,

And woe the God-forgetting hand

That down our flag would haul!

Wave higher now in clearer sky

Our Transvaal freedom's stay! (Lit., freedom's flag.)

Our enemies with fright did fly;

Now dawns a glorious day.

Through many a storm ye bravely stood,

And we stood likewise true;

Now, that the storm is o'er, we would

Leave nevermore from you

Bestormed by Kaffir, Lion, Brit,

Wave ever o'er their head;

And then to spite we hoist thee yet

Up to the topmost stead!

Four long years did we beg—aye, pray—

To keep our lands clear, free,

We asked you, Brit, we loath the fray:

"Go hence, and let us be!

We've waited, Brit, we love you not,

To arms we call the Boer;" (Lit., Now take we to our guns.)

"You've teased us long enough, we troth,

Now wait we nevermore."

And with God's help we cast the yoke

Of England from our knee;

Our country safe—behold and look

Once more our flag waves free!

Though many a hero's blood it cost,

May all the nations see (Lit., Though England ever so much more.)

That God the Lord redeemed our hosts ;

The glory his shall be.

Wave high now o'er our dear old land,

Wave four-colours of Transvaal!

And woe the God-forgetting hand

That dares you down to haul!

Wave higher now in clearer sky

Our Transvaal freedom's stay!

Our enemies with fright did fly;

Now dawns a glorious day.