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or the wrongs and sufferings of our fellow-subjects in the Transvaal, save in so far as may be requisite in order to demonstrate the necessity for a firm policy now.
Both the Orange Free State and the Transvaal enjoy a certain measure of internal independence by virtue of conventions with Great Britain, the Sovereign Power of South Africa ; but it is none the less true that both these States are in a certain sense still under a British Protectorate. Such independence as they possess is in reality based on British naval supremacy; the whole of South Africa lying at the mercy of the strongest navy.
There can be no doubt as to the magnitude of the present crisis. We are at the parting of the ways, and if we take the wrong way we may lose South Africa. If we lose South Africa we shall inevitably lose India and therewith our whole colonial empire. The question for England is one of life or death.
I have no hesitation in saying that no sacrifice would be too great that would assure to England for ever a peaceful and united South African Empire. Happily there are many well-informed people in this country who are conversant with the whole subject and recognise its vital importance; but there are also many who utterly fail to realise the momentous nature of the issues at stake. It is the timid, the wilfully blind, and the misinformed that need a note of warning. A recent issue of the Daily Chronicle contained an article demanding in the plainest terms the immediate recall of Sir Alfred Milner on account of the despatch cabled by him to Mr. Chamberlain. Those best acquainted with South Africa and equally free from prejudice and party bias endorse every word of that admirable despatch, which combines moderation with a perfect grasp of a most difficult subject. No British Ministry honestly desirous of maintaining the integrity and safeguarding the future of the Empire could hesitate for a moment as to the duty of supporting the High Commissioner in his fair and reasonable demands. Sir Alfred Milner is clearly right in treating the franchise as the root of the matter. As regards the oath of allegiance required from aliens desirous of obtaining the franchise, no renunciation of prior allegiance should be demanded, No oath should be required until full rights of citizenship are accorded, and then only in a form corresponding to that taken by a foreigner on becoming naturalised as a British subject. Mr. Kruger's proposals on this point are beneath serious argument. The rights of all white inhabitants of the Transvaal who are willing to become naturalised should be equal in all respects to those of the old burghers, and this equality should specially include equal rights for the Euglish and Dutch languages and equal educational privileges. At the least Englishmen in the Transvaal should have the same rights as Dutchmen enjoy in the Cape Colony, where members of the Legislature may speak in English or Dutch, where the same educational advantages are open to all, and where, even in courts of justice, though English is the official language, Dutch is so constantly heard and so well understood that the interpreter's duties are in many cases a mere formality. The contrast between the perfect freedom enjoyed by all classes in the great British Colony and the galling tyranny under which Englishmen have to live in the Transvaal is as light to darkness.
In view of the bad faith so often shown by the Pretoria Government it would be desirable to have material guarantees for the fulfilment of any contract, convention or promise that they may make. Their bad faith is beyond doubt or question. I need only instance their treatment of the leaders of the Reform Movement in Johannesburg in 1896. After receiving and treating with a deputation of those leaders, and utilising them for the purpose of inducing the inhabitants of Johannesburg to lay down their arms, the Pretoria Government broke their implied pledge of a general amnesty, arrested and tried the leaders, and ultimately extorted 220,0001. from them as the ransom of life and liberty. For a long period before and certainly ever since the retrocession of the Transvaal in 1881, the idea of a Dutch Republic to embrace the whole of South Africa has been, so to speak, in the air. It was and is the raison d'être of the Afrikander Bond, and no denials, no mere lip service, no protestations of loyalty to British rule can alter that fact. Nor is it to be wondered at. The military successes of the Dutch just before the retrocession of the Transvaal have given them an overweening sense of their own prowess, and a corresponding contempt for the English, whom they regard as poltroons by whom they would scorn to be led. This dominant idea is strengthened in their minds by every instance of weakness and vacillation on the part of the British Government, by every sign of what the Boers are pleased to call the cowardice of the English, to whom, ever since Majuba Hill, they habitually apply terms of abuse too foul for translation.
The question now comes to this : Who is to be master in South Africa ? If England is to be and remain the Paramount Power in reality and not merely in name, the time is come for her to assert and maintain her sovereign rights—by peaceful means if possible, by force of arms if need be.
War under modern conditions and with modern appliances and means of destruction is terrible; but bad as it is there are worse evils than war. Dishonour is worse than war for any nation, and for England loss of empire would be worse than war.
It must of course be conceded that all fair means of preserving peace with honour should be exhausted before recourse is had to an ultimatum to be followed by war. At what point then would war be justifiable as between England and the Transvaal, in view of the fact that England is bound to protect British subjects from intolerable
wrong at the hands of the Pretoria Government ? It is needless to refer to the position of aliens in the Transvaal who are not British subjects. The case stands thus. British subjects in the Transvaal are denied all rights of citizenship; they are insulted, plundered, and even murdered by their oppressors ; the Courts of Justice have been deprived of independence by the Executive and Legislature, so that they have neither safety nor redress. Their humble petitions have been openly flouted. Law-abiding petitioners to the number of 38,000 were in 1894 contumeliously treated as rebels. In short, the wellknown words of Rule Britannia’ are a mockery in the Transvaal, for there Britons are slaves to all intents and purposes. They may be robbed, beaten, imprisoned or murdered; their women may be grossly insulted; their houses may be broken into at any hour of the day or night by a ruffianly police force who are a terror to the peaceable and worse than useless against criminals; and if the unfortunate British householder remonstrates, he may be shot dead in his own room. The wretched Englishman in the Transvaal has no civil rights, no protection from the law courts ; in his case the verdicts of a Boer jury are a mere farce; he is unarmed and helpless-- an object of derision to his enemies. The money wrung from him has been expended mainly in fortresses, artillery, arms, ammunition, and mercenaries to overawe him and keep him permanently in subjection. Lastly, in his despair, he has appealed to his Queen. What answer is he to receive ? Is he to be told that England can do nothing for him, and that she has cast him off utterly ? If such be England's answer it is not only the English in South Africa, but the English in every colony in the Empire, that will want to know what is the use of professing allegiance to an effete State so honeycombed by intrigues and so split up by party differences at home as to be powerless to protect her sons abroad. This it is that the enemies of England long to see.
After all, what is there unfair or unreasonable in the demands formulated and advocated by Sir Alfred Milner? If those demands err at all it is on the side of moderation. In my opinion, and in the opinion of many who think with me, they do not go far enough even with regard to the franchise, and I should have added the reestablishment of the independence of the High Court as a condition sine quâ non. 'In any case those demands, as they stand, must be deemed and taken to be the irreducible minimum below which Her Majesty's Government cannot now go without dishonour.
What was the condition of the Transvaal before the Uitlanders came in? Is it or is it not true that the Boers left to themselves could never have developed the mineral wealth which alone saved their State from bankruptcy ?
The Pretoria Government first invited the Uitlanders to come and settle in the Transvaal in order to develop the country under laws
which at that time secured to the aliens all the rights and privileges which they then desired. Then, in spite of the London Convention, with that signal bad faith which seems to be ingrained in their character, the ignorant oligarchy at Pretoria styling themselves a Republic proceeded to pass a series of laws calculated to reduce the Uitlanders to the status of helots, and the so-called Republic itself to a kind of government only fit for a comic opera. They have achieved their objects thus far, but the time is now come when they must be made to retrace their steps or take the consequences. Doubtless a peaceful solution, if still possible, would be infinitely the best in every point of view, and if I say, Prepare for war,' it is because I so earnestly desire peace and because I am well assured that there can be no peace till the Boers are convinced that the British Government is prepared to go all lengths to obtain, and if need be to secure permanently, the requisite reforms in the government of the Transvaal. The present corrupt government must be mended or endedby peaceful means if possible, and if not, then by force of arms. The Transvaal Boers themselves would be the chief gainers if the Augean stables of Pretoria could once be effectually cleansed. Lasting peace will only be secured in the Transvaal when the Boer is relegated to his true position, with equal rights as compared with all other white
He is not in his true position so long as he can keep his feet on the Englishman's neck. If the necessary changes can only be effected by war, I for one would say, “Let there be war.' It is better to die the death of a soldier than live the life of a slave.
It is often said that hostilities between the English and Dutch in the Transvaal would bring about a general rising of the Dutch throughout the British South African colonies, as well as in the Orange Free State, and a civil war throughout South Africa. This, however, is open to doubt. Much would depend on the justice or otherwise of our cause, and more still would turn on our success or failure in the first operations in such a war.
If the Orange Free State burghers be well advised they will not actively interfere in what does not really concern them. In the event of war, if our measures are well taken and success crowns our efforts there will be little or no danger of an extensive rising against British rule either in the Cape Colony or Natal. On the other hand, if we fail this time we shall lose South Africa, and with South Africa the true key to the East, to say nothing of our other colonies. If we fail it will be entirely due to the unhappy party divisions which are sapping the vital strength of England as a world-power. The government at Pretoria watch keenly every move in the game of English home politics, and still place their main reliance on the efforts of those in England who are ever ready to take sides against their own country, no matter how just her quarrel. The strange perversity of such views must always remain a wonder to those Englishmen who are acquainted with the conditions of life in any outlying dependency of the Empire.
The loss of the American colonies to England was the heaviest blow she ever experienced. The division of the Anglo-Saxon race thus effected was one of the greatest misfortunes that ever befell ! humanity at large. Had our race remained united Peace Conferences would hardly have been needed. The united Anglo-Saxons could have guaranteed the peace of the world. England lost the American colonies because she had acted wrongly in fighting against her own children. If England loses South Africa it will be because she cannot or will not fight to protect her own children. With the example and warning of America before us shall we pursue a policy certain to result in the loss of the South African colonies, a policy of submission and surrender, of shrinking from duty and danger, a policy bound to culminate in disaster and to earn the lasting contempt even of the Boers themselves ? Shall we not rather gird up our loins for the battle, if battle there must be? We seek peace and earnestly desire it. Having formerly concluded an ill-advised and badly drawn convention with the Transvaal we are prepared, as in duty bound, to abide by the results of our own past weakness and stupidity. Let the Transvaal Government act justly according to the law of the God whose name they so often take in vain, and they will have nothing to fear from us.
But if the Pretorian oligarchy imagine and act on the belief that they, and not we, are the masters of South Africa, and that they have the power, as they undoubtedly have the will, to wrest from us the true centre of our Colonial Empire, then the issue between us can only be settled in one way, and the sooner we have a fleet in Delagoa Bay and an army of occupation in the Transvaal, the better for us and for all who come after us.
SIDNEY SHIPPARD (late Administrator and Chief Magistrate of British Bechuanaland).